There were more entertaining games in Week 2 thanks to the high-scoring affair between the Seahawks and the Lions. But there was also more disappointment from the Bengals and Chargers—two 0–2 teams with star-studded rosters.
The Browns aren’t winless (1–1), but they suffered the biggest loss of Week 2 after coach Kevin Stefanski announced that he expects running back Nick Chubb to miss the remainder of the season after he exited Monday night with a gruesome knee injury.
Cleveland will have a tough time adjusting without Chubb, but it’s too early to count them out as playoff contenders. As always, let’s not overreact this early when it comes to the big picture. Instead, let’s focus on Week 3. Here are our winners and losers from the past week.
The days of the best quarterback in the NFL being underpaid didn’t last long. Mahomes and the Chiefs agreed to a restructured deal that pays the two-time MVP $208.1 million between 2023 and 2026, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. It’s reportedly the largest contract in NFL history over a four-year span.
The Chiefs took care of Mahomes after he fell to eighth among quarterbacks in average annual salary during an offseason in which Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts all signed massive contract extensions that paid them more than $51 million per year. Mahomes was making $45 million per year on his outdated deal of 10 years for $450 million, which he signed in 2020.
At the time, some thought Mahomes left money on the table by signing through the next decade, but it allowed the Chiefs breathing room to spend money in free agency to field competitive rosters on a yearly basis. Mahomes bet on himself—and trusted the Chiefs to return the favor—that his success and winning ways would eventually create an opportunity to restructure the lengthy deal.
After delivering a second Super Bowl to Kansas City, it’s safe to say Mahomes earned the new cashflow that’s coming his way over the next three years. He also has the option of getting another payday after 2026.
Watching the Rams’ rookie fifth-round pick in training camp, it was easy for me to predict that he’d crack the starting lineup as the No. 3 wide receiver behind Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson. I was wrong. Nacua is a star in the making and is already one of the better No. 2 wide receivers in the league—he’ll soon be up there with the Bengals’ Tee Higgins and the 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk.
Besides all the records Nacua has set through his two career games, it’s impressive how Nacua has taken over Kupp’s role in Sean McVay’s offense, which requires meticulous routes, running for jet sweeps, blocking and other various roles that tend to go to tight ends. He’s also quickly earned the trust of Matthew Stafford, evident by the 20 targets Nacua saw vs. the 49ers and the 15 targets in Week 1 vs. the Seahawks.
It’s going to be fun seeing how McVay utilizes Nacua—who has a league-high 25 catches for 266 yards—when Kupp returns from his hamstring injury.
Baltimore delivered a complete performance in its road win against the Bengals.
The Ravens’ defense contained Burrow & Co. for nearly three quarters, as Jackson and the offense built a double digit lead, allowing them to play the game on their terms. After the Ravens established a rhythm through the air, they returned to their old ways of running the ball to seal the victory and improve to 2–0.
With tight end Mark Andrews back on the field, Jackson appeared more comfortable in offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s offense. The former MVP distributed the ball to a variety of targets, including rookie Zay Flowers and Nelson Agholor—they combined for 125 receiving yards. Jackson completed 72.7% of his passes, going 24-of-33 for 237 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
If the Ravens continue to be committed to the new offensive scheme, perhaps they’ll emerge as a legit Super Bowl contender before Halloween. The lack of depth defensively could be an issue down the line, but the unit is off to a strong start during in wins against the Bengals and Texans.
It hasn't been pretty, but maybe coach Ron Rivera was right about Sam Howell.
After falling behind 21–3 in Denver, Howell orchestrated an impressive comeback win by leaning on wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who was on the receiving end of Howell’s 30-yard touchdown strike to tie the game in the third quarter. Washington also had a balanced attack with running back Brian Robinson Jr. recording 18 carries for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
Credit to Howell, who finished 27-of-39 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, for guiding the Commanders to back-to-back comeback victories—they overcame a 16–10 deficit against Arizona in Week 1. They need to play better in the first half, but they have the luxury of playing with a productive defense, which sacked Russell Wilson seven times Sunday.
Time will tell whether Howell will develop into the long-term answer in Washington, but he’s been the right quarterback for right now, as the undefeated Commanders head into a tough home matchup against the Bills. We should know more about Howell and the Commanders after Week 3.
Remember when many laughed about Baker Mayfield competing with Kyle Trask for the starting QB job in Tampa Bay?
Well, not many are laughing after Mayfield delivered a sensational performance (26-of-34, 317 yards, one touchdown) in the 27–17 victory over the Bears to give the Buccaneers a 2–0 start. Mayfield has completed 69.1% of his passes and hasn’t thrown an interception.
Probably the one loss the Buccaneers have taken this season is not working out a contract extension with Mike Evans, who’s well on his way to recording his 10th consecutive season with at least 1,000 receiving yards.
Evans, who recorded six catches for 171 yards and one touchdown against the Bears, has quickly developed a connection with Mayfield—a dynamic pairing not many saw coming this season.
Bengals and Chargers
I’m grouping these 0–2 squads because they were expected to be two of the better teams in a loaded AFC.
The Bengals overcame an 0–2 record last season by winning 12 of their final 14 regular-season games. But they might have dug themselves a bigger hole this season, with Burrow possibly not being available in Week 3 due to his aggravated calf injury. Even if he plays, beating the Rams at home on Monday Night Football won’t be easy after Los Angeles defeated the Seahawks in Week 1 and kept it close in the loss to the 49ers last week.
The winless Chargers will play on the road against the Vikings, who are also looking to avoid an 0–3 start, making this an early must-win game for both teams. (You don’t need me to remind you how difficult it is for teams to advance to the postseason after starting the season with three consecutive losses.)
Last week, I wrote Brandon Staley is running out of excuses for why his defense hasn’t been consistent over two-plus seasons. They were beaten again frequently downfield against Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who only had four incompletions Sunday—FOUR! Do yourself a favor and start all Vikings offensive players in fantasy football because the Chargers’ defense hasn’t shown signs of improvement, despite a roster filled with Pro Bowlers.
As I mentioned in my column Monday night, the Browns lost the focal point of their offense in Nick Chubb and are going to need Deshaun Watson to finally step up and make more plays than he did during the defeat to the Steelers. Perhaps this will force Stefanski to ditch his run-heavy approach and operate more of a spread offense, which Watson had during his time with the Texans.
Watson’s struggles since he arrived in Cleveland don’t appear to stem from a bad fit schematically. He’s had accuracy issues, something the Browns are going to need him to figure out if they want to contend for a postseason spot without Chubb.
The Chiefs have a dominant defense with Chris Jones on the field, so I don’t want to discredit their performance in Jacksonville. But it was surprising seeing Trevor Lawrence struggle in a game that many expected to be high scoring.
It was a disappointing performance that makes you question whether the Jaguars are ready to enter the conversation as one of the best teams in the league. Sure, they’ll probably win the subpar AFC South, but they’re currently a tier below the Chiefs, Ravens, Dolphins and Bills in the AFC.
The Jaguars have winnable games coming up against the Texans and the undefeated Falcons, who have a much improved defense. The Jaguars’ next real test will come Oct. 8 at Buffalo.
It’s time for the Jets to explore trades for a starting-caliber quarterback because Wilson’s inconsistent performances will probably prevent them from competing for a playoff spot.
New York’s defense and Garrett Wilson are too good to hinge their season on a quarterback who continues to show he’s not ready to be a starter in the NFL. Zach Wilson, the third-year quarterback, finished 12-of-27 for 170 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in the loss to the Cowboys.
It’s not entirely Wilson’s fault; the Jets’ offensive line had another sluggish performance. Perhaps a different quarterback would also struggle, but they need a signal-caller who won’t commit costly turnovers.
I get that Justin Fields doesn’t have the same surroundings as Lawrence or Tua Tagovailoa, but he was supposed to play better in his third season after Chicago made a handful of notable moves to improve the offense.
After two games, Fields continues to be inconsistent as a passer, despite having DJ Moore as his No. 1 target this season. Fields has completed 60.6% of his passes and has thrown for two touchdowns and three interceptions.
But similar to Wilson in New York, it’s not entirely Fields’s fault for the Bears’ 0–2 start. The new-look offensive line allowed six sacks and 10 quarterback hits in the loss to the Buccaneers.
At this rate, Fields might be forced to revert to his old ways of running often and abandon this patient approach with the passing game. Fields only had three rushing yards against a very good Tampa Bay defense.