Week 2 of the 2021 NFL season featured surprise performances and unfortunate injuries across the board. Sam Darnold and the Panthers are now 2-0 after dominating a Saints team that overwhelmed Green Bay in Week 1. The Bills bounced back with a convincing blowout win in Miami, the Rams squeezed out a win in Indianapolis and Derek Carr and the Raiders topped the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
It was a tough week for other quarterbacks around the league, too. Zach Wilson threw four interceptions against New England; the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa, Colts’ Carson Wentz, Bears’ Andy Dalton and Texans’ Tyrod Taylor exited with injuries; and Jalen Hurts couldn’t lead the Eagles past the 49ers.
In the late games, Tom Brady led the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers to a big win over the Falcons and Russell Wilson and the Seahawks lost in overtime to the Titans. The Cowboys kicked a winning field goal as time expired, while the Vikings missed a late field goal and the Cardinals prevailed.
Our NFL Nation reporters react to it all, with the major takeaways and lingering questions from this week’s action — and what it all means going forward. Plus, they each look at the bigger picture with their current team confidence rating — a 0-10 grade of how they feel about the team’s outlook coming out of the week. Let’s get into it. (Games are added throughout Sunday and again following Monday Night Football.)
What to know: As long as the Ravens have Lamar Jackson, their season isn’t over. The short-handed Ravens upset the AFC’s best team — and Jackson’s self-described “kryptonite” — because of his playmaking. It doesn’t matter that Baltimore was without All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, its top two running backs or 12 other players on injured reserve. Jackson put Baltimore on his back against the Chiefs, throwing for 239 yards and rushing for 108 yards and two touchdowns. It looked like the Ravens had no chance of winning after Jackson threw a pick-six on his second pass of the game. But Jackson sealed his first win over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs with a run on fourth-and-1 with 1:05 remaining. — Jamison Hensley
Can the Ravens’ pass defense be fixed? For the first time in their 26-year history, the Ravens allowed more than 30 points in each of their first two games of a season. This is what happens when a defense gives up so many big plays in the passing game. Yes, the Ravens were going against Patrick Mahomes. But Baltimore has to find a way to cover and tackle better. The Ravens surrendered three touchdown passes of more than 30 yards. Fortunately, Baltimore’s defense acquitted itself by forcing two key turnovers in the fourth quarter. — Hensley
Hensley’s confidence rating (0-10): 7.8, up from 6.5. It was easy to write off the Ravens after an overtime loss in Las Vegas in the opener and the numerous injuries, but the Ravens showed they still have enough to upset the Chiefs.
Next game: at Lions (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Their defensive problems look like they’re with the Chiefs to stay. For the second straight week, they had to score 30-plus in order to win but fell short this time. The woeful play against the Ravens is more concerning for the Chiefs than it was in the opener against the Browns. The Ravens were depleted at running back and on the offensive line, but they still piled up more than 30 points and almost 500 yards against K.C. — Adam Teicher
How often can the Chiefs outscore their woeful defense? They answered the challenge against the Browns with three second-half touchdowns, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire‘s fumble killed the potential go-ahead drive against the Ravens. It’s going to be difficult for the Chiefs to continue to operate on offense with no margin for error. This is starting to look like 2018 all over again. — Teicher
Teicher’s confidence rating (0-10): 7, down from 7.5. There’s no reason to be bullish on the Chiefs, given their considerable defensive weakness. They weren’t able to outscore the Ravens and might have a similar issue next week against the Chargers.
Next game: vs. Chargers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Lamar Jackson fakes out the defense and flips into the end zone to give the Ravens the lead late in the fourth quarter.
What to know: Receiver Julio Jones and quarterback Ryan Tannehill seem to have worked out the kinks. The two connected six times on eight targets for 128 yards in Seattle. One of the incompletions was a straight-up drop, but the other one was a touchdown that was reversed. Tannehill consistently went to Jones when he needed a play. Their best connection was a 50-yard bomb in which Tannehill laid out the ball perfectly for Jones to track it down on the post. After struggling in their debut together last week, they seem to have found their timing. — Turron Davenport
Why is the defense giving up so many chunk plays? The Titans’ defense gave up three plays of 50 yards or more against the Seahawks. Tyler Lockett got things started with a 51-yard gain in the first quarter and then he broke free for a 63-yard touchdown in the second. Freddie Swain broke free for a wide-open 68-yard touchdown on a blown coverage between Chris Jackson and Kristian Fulton. It comes down to one thing: discipline. Titans safety Bradley McDougald was caught flat-footed because of the play-action on Lockett’s first deep catch. Rookie Elijah Molden let Lockett cross his face for the second big catch. — Davenport
Davenport’s confidence rating (0-10): 6.5, up from 4.5. The Titans went into a hostile environment and gritted out a tough win and always seem to rise to the occasion in moments like this.
Next game: vs. Colts (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: This was as tough of a loss as the Seahawks have suffered in recent memory. They were at home, with fans at Lumen Field for the first time in 630 days. They were playing a team with O-line issues, which made it a favorable matchup for Seattle’s strong pass rush. And they led 24-9 at halftime only to allow 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and overtime. It’s one thing to have no answer for Derrick Henry. But the Seahawks shot themselves in the foot — missing a PAT that would have avoided OT and committing 10 penalties for 100 yards. And this time, they didn’t have any late Russell Wilson magic to bail them out as their offense meekly went three-and-out on its final drive. With as strong as the NFC West looks — every other team won Sunday to improve to 2-0 — the Seahawks don’t have a margin for error to lose games like this that they should have won. — Brady Henderson
Will cornerback play hold the Seahawks’ defense back? That’s been their iffiest-looking position group since they let Shaquill Griffin walk in free agency. The roster and lineup shuffling the Seahawks did before the opener didn’t change that. Nor did the way Tre Flowers and D.J. Reed played in Week 1 when they got a soft landing against a Colts receiver corps that was without T.Y. Hilton. They didn’t hold up as well against the much better duo of Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. Flowers was in coverage on Jones’ 51-yard catch and whiffed on a tackle attempt on Derrick Henry’s 60-yard touchdown run, though Jamal Adams may have also erred on the play. Reed’s big mistake was mental — a 15-yard taunting penalty. Pete Carroll has said the competition is still on at cornerback. And by this point, Sidney Jones should be getting comfortable enough in Seattle’s defense to push Flowers for playing time. — Henderson
Henderson’s confidence rating (0-10): 7.5, down from 8.7. Wilson and the offense faltered late Sunday, but he still looks like the best quarterback in the division, and the season is only two weeks old.
Next game: at Vikings (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: What Dak Prescott missed most in his absence due to a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle 11 months ago were moments like Sunday with the game on the line. It wasn’t the prettiest of game-winning drives, but Greg Zuerlein‘s 56-yard field goal with no time left on the clock gave Prescott his 11th fourth-quarter win of his career and a 20-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. How the Cowboys won this game will be up to folks to decide, but Prescott completed all five of his passes for 35 yards on the final drive. The Cowboys avoided their first 0-2 start since 2010 and a win is a win, especially for a team that had won just six of Mike McCarthy’s first 17 games. — Todd Archer
Can the Cowboys continue to live this way? The offense has to play nearly perfect for them to win. Tony Pollard had more than 100 yards on the ground, and Ezekiel Elliott had a rushing touchdown. The Cowboys scored touchdowns on two of three red zone opportunities. They had 13 first downs in the first quarter, a team record, but barely had the ball in the second half. It’s a one-possession league, as Mike McCarthy likes to say, but there’s no way they can live like this for 15 more games. — Archer
Archer’s confidence rating (0-10): 6.1, down from 7.5. The Cowboys were helped greatly by the Chargers. Greatly. The Chargers had two passing touchdowns wiped out by penalties and Justin Herbert was picked off in the end zone.
Next game: vs. Eagles (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: How in the world did the Chargers lose this game? Despite controlling the ball for most of the second half, the Chargers were done in by penalties and ill-timed turnovers. The Chargers were flagged 12 times for 99 yards, two of which cost them touchdowns and six that took away first downs. Not to mention an interception by quarterback Justin Herbert in the end zone and a missed field goal that bounced off the upright at the end of the first half. — Shelley Smith
How can the Chargers better execute in the red zone when they play in Kansas City next week? Their confidence has to be shot after two games of turnovers and penalties in scoring territory. Justin Herbert made good plays to get the Chargers in position to score, completing 31 of 41 passes for 313 yards, and running back Austin Ekeler was a bigger part of the offense, catching nine passes for 61 yards and rushing for another 54 yards. If not for the mistakes, they would be 2-0 now, so better concentration and execution is key. — Smith
Smith’s confidence rating (0-10): 4.0, down from 5.4. Penalties and turnovers are a killer and holding this team back.
Next game: at Chiefs (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Kyler Murray is playing at an MVP level. He put this Cardinals offense on his shoulders Sunday and carried it, throwing for 400 yards and three touchdowns — and two interceptions — while running for another 31 yards. Murray made big plays when Arizona most needed them, like spinning out of a sack to throw a 77-yard touchdown to Rondale Moore. Without that, Arizona loses. Or getting out of another sack to find DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown early in the game. There might be other players playing better, none may be as valuable to their teams as Murray is to the Cardinals. — Josh Weinfuss
Is the Cardinals’ offense good enough to carry this team to the playoffs? In one word: yes. But it needs help. Arizona’s offense has proved through two games that it stacks up against any in the league this season. It’s that good. Kyler Murray is playing at an MVP level and he has enough weapons around him to keep defenses on their heels all game. The Cardinals can score with anyone in the NFL, putting up 38 in Week 1 and 34 Sunday in a win over the Vikings. — Weinfuss
Weinfuss’ confidence rating (0-10): 8.6, down from 9. The Cardinals’ offense continued to look impressive, even dominant at times, but the defense caused Arizona’s confidence rating to drop a bit.
Next game: at Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Vikings are in dire straits just two weeks into the 2021 season. A 34-33 loss to the Arizona Cardinals put them in an 0-2 hole, and with Seattle and Cleveland coming to Minnesota in Weeks 3 and 4, the outlook for this team and its postseason chances already looks bleak. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, 50 of 59 teams in the Super Bowl era to start the season with two losses on the road have missed the playoffs, including the Vikings back in 2013. — Courtney Cronin
How can the Vikings’ defense stop giving up big plays? Kyler Murray torched Minnesota’s secondary with his deep ball, going 6-of-7 for 200 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on throws of 15-plus yards downfield. You know who else likes to throw it deep? Russell Wilson, the quarterback the Vikings face at home next week. Wilson mirrors so much of what Murray did to frustrate Minnesota’s D, including his ability to escape the pocket and make massive, accurate throws on the run and remain unfazed with defenders barreling down on him. Murray was 6-of-10 for 140 yards, two TDs and an INT when pressured. — Cronin
Cronin’s confidence rating (0-10): 4.5, down from 5. The Vikings had every opportunity to beat Arizona and failed to do so, and special-teams miscues proved costly.
Next game: vs. Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady threw five touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, with safety Mike Edwards helping to seal the victory with two fourth-quarter pick-sixes of Matt Ryan. But the Buccaneers also fell asleep at the wheel in the second half — allowing the Falcons to cut a 28-10 lead to 28-25 in the third quarter. Putting four quarters together and cutting out turnovers — Brady coughed up the ball on a sack-fumble in the first quarter — will continue to be a point of emphasis as their schedule heats up over the next two weeks, with road trips to the Los Angeles Rams next week and then the New England Patriots in Week 4. — Jenna Laine
How will the Bucs’ pass defense respond after giving up over 300 yards in back-to-back weeks? Without starter Sean Murphy-Bunting and with their other starter, Carlton Davis, nursing a hamstring injury, plus their third corner Jamel Dean leaving briefly because of injury, the Bucs’ secondary held it together. Despite surrendering more than 300 passing yards, the defense intercepted Ryan three times (Shaq Barrett had one in addition to Edwards’ two picks). Things unraveled with cornerback Ross Cockrell struggling against Falcons star receiver Calvin Ridley on man coverage on a 3-yard touchdown, but Edwards, a backup safety and big nickel, lived up to the billing this coaching staff had for him all summer: a ball hawk. He’ll have more opportunities with the rash of injuries. — Laine
Laine’s confidence rating (0-10): 7, same as Week 1. This got uncomfortably close, but the Bucs showed they’re finishers. Can they do it against tougher competition on the road over the next two weeks?
Next game: at Rams (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: If there was any question before, there shouldn’t be now. The Falcons have essentially no margin for error if they want to be competitive against the better NFL teams this season. Atlanta hung in for most of Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers — cutting it to a 3-point game at the start of the fourth quarter. But a critical mistake here (a Matt Ryan pick-six), another critical error there (another Ryan pick-six) and the close game became another blowout. There was more promise for the Falcons in Week 2 than Week 1 — the offense moved the ball, the defense created pressure on Tom Brady — but just not enough for it to matter. Luckily for Atlanta, it faces three midlevel or worse teams next in the Giants, Washington and the Jets. How the Falcons fare there will determine the rest of the season. — Michael Rothstein
How does the defense cope if CB A.J. Terrell misses any time? Terrell, who had two diving pass breakups and is Atlanta’s top defensive back, left the game in the third quarter with a concussion. If he’s forced to miss time, it’ll be a huge blow for the Falcons’ already-thin defense. On Sunday, Atlanta used converted-in-camp safety T.J. Green as an outside corner. That did not go well. Atlanta has players to build on — but depending on Terrell’s progress, it’s going to have a massive hole in the secondary. — Rothstein
Rothstein’s confidence rating (0-10): 4.8, up from 4.2. Yes, this is higher than a week ago. Even in another final-score bad loss for the Falcons there were more positives than in Week 1 against Philadelphia — which probably says exactly where Atlanta is so far this season.
Next game: at Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Win the turnover battle, win the game. After a disappointing season-opening loss in which the Patriots fumbled four times (losing two), they were the recipients of some gifts from rookie Jets QB Zach Wilson (four INTs) and ultimately did enough to take advantage of them. At the same time, they cleaned up their ball security issues (for the most part) and didn’t have a turnover. The Patriots are 167-18 under Bill Belichick (2000-present) when they have a positive turnover differential. — Mike Reiss
How much is the Patriots’ offense holding things back with rookie QB Mac Jones? Those hoping to see the Patriots open things up in Jones’ second career start were disappointed, as it was mostly a conservative approach. Jones was 22-of-30 for 186 yards without a touchdown or interception. He hasn’t had many long downfield throws. There are reasons for this, of course, starting with some shaky pass protection — particularly at right tackle. (Yasir Durant started and was replaced by Justin Herron.) The return of starting right tackle Trent Brown (calf) next week would be a significant boost. — Reiss
Reiss’ confidence rating (0-10): 6.2, down from 6.5. Until the Patriots get their struggles in pass protection sorted out, it’s hard to imagine them competing with some of the top teams in the NFL.
Next game: vs. Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: QB Zach Wilson was brutal. The much-ballyhooed rookie threw four interceptions, all coming in his first 10 pass attempts — a performance that conjured up scary memories of Sam Darnold‘s “ghost” game against the Patriots in 2019. Wilson was too aggressive, forcing passes downfield instead of taking safe checkdowns. He got away with that at BYU; he’s not in Utah anymore. The most disconcerting thing: Unlike last week, he wasn’t under heavy pressure. No, this was all on Wilson, who delivered an all-time clunker. — Rich Cimini
How will coach Robert Saleh handle his first taste of adversity? The first-year coach is 0-2 and his team hasn’t played sound, complementary football in six of eight quarters. And now he has to go on the road to face the Broncos, another tough defensive team. Welcome to the Jets, Coach. Before training camp, Saleh said he wouldn’t learn about his team’s character until it faced adversity. He welcomed it. He just got a heavy dose. No one expects the Jets to make the playoffs; they will be measured by progress. This isn’t progress. — Cimini
Cimini’s confidence rating (0-10): 3.0, down from 3.5. Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson got schooled by Bill Belichick & Co., joining a long list of predecessors.
Next game: at Broncos (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: It wasn’t pretty, but the Browns finally took care of what was left of the Houston Texans, who suffered numerous injuries over the course of the game. Tougher tests for Cleveland await. And the Browns — particularly a defense that struggled to get off the field Sunday — will have to be better if they are to make noise in the AFC this season. — Jake Trotter
When will Jarvis Landry return? The Pro Bowl receiver left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury. The Browns already are without their other starting wideout, Odell Beckham Jr., who has yet to make his debut off last year’s knee surgery. To keep the passing game afloat, Cleveland will need Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookies Anthony Schwartz and Demetric Felton to step up for as long as its big-money wideouts are out. — Trotter
Trotter’s confidence rating (0-10): 7.5, down from 8.0. With eight new starters, it’s not a surprise to see Cleveland’s defense endure some struggles early on in the season, even against the Texans.
Next game: vs. Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Going into halftime, the Texans had to feel confident tied at 14 against a good Cleveland Browns team. But when they ran back out onto the field, it was rookie quarterback Davis Mills under center, as Taylor was ruled out with a hamstring injury. It remains to be seen how long Tyrod Taylor will miss, but Mills was inconsistent in his half as a starter, finishing 8-of-18 for 102 yards, a touchdown and an interception. — Sarah Barshop
Can the Texans win with Mills? Mills struggled on his first two series before settling in for a solid third drive, which got the Texans to within a field goal. But with a short week to prepare for a 2-0 Panthers team that beat the Saints on Sunday, he will face another test. Mills struggled in the preseason, but this will be the Texans’ chance to give him what might be an extended look to determine whether he should be in their future plans at the position. — Barshop
Barshop’s confidence rating (0-10): 2.0, down from 3.5. The Texans showed they can play with a very good team in the loss, but it’s hard to be confident that this team can win consistently without Taylor.
Next game: vs. Panthers (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: The fast start against two young quarterbacks, with one more on the horizon. The Broncos, now 2-0 after Sunday’s win in Jacksonville, frustrated the Giants’ Daniel Jones in the season opener and proved to be a difficult puzzle for Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence on Sunday, too — Lawrence had 99 yards passing at the start of the fourth quarter with an interception. The Broncos have New York Jets rookie Zach Wilson on the docket next for a chance at what could be their first 3-0 start since they started 4-0 in 2016. Before the wins the past two weeks, the Broncos had been 0-for-September in coach Vic Fangio’s first two seasons. — Jeff Legwold
When will the Broncos see Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, at their best, in the defense at the same time? Since Chubb tore his ACL in a Week 4 game in 2019 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the coveted pass-rush pairing of Miller and Chubb has been a star-crossed affair. On Sunday, Chubb and Miller played in the same game for the first time since 2019 — Miller missed all of the 2020 season after ankle surgery, and Chubb missed the season opener last week with an ankle injury — but Chubb did not play in the second half because of an injury. He will be evaluated Monday in Denver. The Broncos’ defense handled its business after Chubb’s departure, but the number that continues to show what the Broncos have hoped to get back to is that in the 21 games the two have played at least some together, they have 30.5 combined sacks. — Legwold
Legwold’s confidence rating (0-10): 8.0, up from 7.8. The Broncos didn’t always look smooth on offense, but quarterback Teddy Bridgewater continues to push them through rough spots, and the defense is better than it’s been at any point since Super Bowl run in 2015.
Next game: vs. Jets (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
Noah Fant finishes off a 75-yard scoring drive with a 14-yard TD pass from Teddy Bridgewater.
What to know: The Jaguars need to get QB Trevor Lawrence a lot more help — at wide receiver, tight end and along the offensive line. Lawrence didn’t play well against Denver, so let’s get that out of the way first. But the Jaguars don’t have a playmaker whom defenses have to plan to stop. Marvin Jones Jr. is a solid receiver, but Laviska Shenault Jr. isn’t a game-breaker and DJ Chark Jr. had just one catch. The tight ends don’t help much in the passing game. Upgrading both tackle spots is a major need. The Jaguars can’t address those issues until the offseason and have defensive issues to fix. But if you’re building around Lawrence, the offense needs to be the priority. — Mike DiRocco
What’s wrong with K Josh Lambo? He’s not dealing with an injury this season but could be feeling the residual effects of a hip injury that cost him much of last season. The player fans nicknamed “Lambomatic” because he rarely missed hasn’t hit at all yet in 2021. He went 0-for-2 against the Broncos and is 0-for-3 this season. Although two misses were from 50-plus yards, he had made 12 of 13 kicks from 50-plus coming into his fourth season with the Jaguars. When your offense struggles to score points — especially when it’s close early in games — you can’t have an inconsistent kicker. Expect the Jaguars to bring in some kickers for workouts this week. — DiRocco
DiRocco’s confidence rating (0-10): 2.6, up from 2.5. The Jaguars at least fixed the procedural issues they had in Week 1 (everybody was able to line up correctly and they didn’t have to burn a couple of timeouts in the first quarter), but the offense is still a major work in progress.
Next game: vs. Cardinals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Rookie quarterback Justin Fields took every offensive snap after halftime as Andy Dalton (knee injury) watched from the sideline. Fields had modest numbers (6-of-13 for 60 yards and seven rushing attempts for 35 yards), but he brings an element of excitement Dalton does not. Fields is such a threat to run that he often freezes defenders. Some of Fields’ best plays against the Bengals occurred when he was running outside the pocket. The first-round pick also had a sure touchdown pass dropped by Allen Robinson in the fourth quarter. The downside: Fields threw a really bad pick late in the game. A finished product he is not … yet. — Jeff Dickerson
Can the offense drastically improve under Fields? The offense still struggles no matter which quarterback is under center. The group is heavily penalized and often sloppy. That being said, Fields is a playmaker, and the Bears desperately need more playmakers on offense. Because of Fields’ dynamic athleticism, it is reasonable to expect the offense to improve, but probably not by leaps and bounds. However, if the Bears’ defense gets after the quarterback and takes the ball away in bunches like in Week 2 — coupled with Fields’ emergence — then the Bears are in a much better position to succeed this year. — Dickerson
Dickerson’s confidence rating (0-10): 5.0, up from 2.0. Defense, defense, defense.
Next game: at Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Cincinnati squandered an opportunity to start the season with good momentum. After a dramatic Week 1 overtime win over the Vikings, the Bengals were in position to start 2-0 in a year in which they were expected to turn the corner. Instead, against Bears rookie backup quarterback Justin Fields, the Bengals had a flat performance that led to a deep hole the team couldn’t dig out of. That puts more pressure on the Bengals and third-year coach Zac Taylor heading into a Week 3 road game at Pittsburgh. — Ben Baby
Was the Bengals’ offensive improvement they displayed in Week 1 for real? Sunday’s game showed all the old flaws the Bengals have displayed the past two seasons — shaky play along the offensive line and a very stagnant offense. The performance shared too many similarities with a Bengals team that has been one of the worst in the league the past two seasons. — Baby
Baby’s confidence rating (0-10): 5.5, down from 7.0. Fluky finish that featured two late TDs aside, Cincinnati looked flustered offensively against a Bears defense that surrendered 34 points in a Week 1 loss to the Rams.
Next game: at Steelers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Rams’ defense is on pace for another dominant season. Despite allowing quarterback Carson Wentz and the Colts to march to the goal line twice in the first half, defensive lineman Aaron Donald & Co. proved they could come up with two big-time stops, which included an interception by linebacker Troy Reeder and a turnover on downs. To seal the victory, cornerback Jalen Ramsey intercepted backup quarterback Jacob Eason with 2:13 to play. First-year defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has said since his arrival in L.A. that stats are for losers, while imploring his unit to produce “make a difference” plays. They’ve certainly embraced the message. — Lindsey Thiry
What is the status of running back Darrell Henderson Jr.? After the Rams lost running back Cam Akers to a season-ending injury before training camp, coach Sean McVay expressed confidence in Henderson’s ability to take over the starting role, though he voiced concern about Henderson’s durability. Those concerns proved prophetic when Henderson was sidelined late in the third quarter after suffering a rib injury. Sony Michel, who was acquired in a late preseason trade with the New England Patriots, and rookie Jake Funk took over in his absence. — Thiry
Thiry’s confidence rating (0-10): 8.0, same as Week 1. Holding steady at 8.0, given the Rams performed unevenly across all three phases but proved they could grind out a road win in front of a hostile crowd.
Next game: vs. Buccaneers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know:Wentz’s right ankle injury is the biggest thing that the Colts have to worry about now and going forward, but they would not be 0-2 for the first time under coach Frank Reich had they been a better red zone team. The Colts had two drives inside the Rams’ 20-yard line only to come away with no points on either possession. The most embarrassing of the two drives was on the opening series, when the Colts had the ball first-and-goal from the Rams’ 1-yard line. They attempted to run up the middle three straight times only to get stuffed on each one, and then Wentz was sacked when the Eagles went for it on fourth down. There were only three times a team ran four plays from the 1-yard line and failed to score on a drive last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Colts have come away with no points three times when reaching the opponent’s red zone in the first two games of the season. Reich is supposed to be an innovative playcaller, but he continues to struggle in that area with the Colts. — Mike Wells
Can Carson Wentz survive the season taking a constant pounding? To Wentz’s credit, he extended a number of plays by being able to scramble to make things happen for the Colts. But for as much as Wentz scrambled, he also took way too many unnecessary hits, including on a play in which he suffered an ankle injury midway through the fourth quarter when his right leg was twisted while being taken to the ground by Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald. Wentz was sacked three times and hit an additional 11 times to bring his season total up to six sacks and 21 hits. That’s not what Wentz and the Colts envisioned when they brought him to Indianapolis during the offseason. — Wells
Wells’ confidence rating (0-10): 5.0, down from 5.8. Their rating drops due to Wentz’s health and the fact that the Colts are about to play three straight road games against teams that made the playoffs last season. They could be 0-5 the next time they play a game in Indianapolis.
Next game: at Titans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Raiders, off to a 2-0 start, are for real. How else to describe a team that traveled across the country on a short week to play in the NFL’s early window without injured Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs and with a makeshift offensive line that needed more duct tape? Derek Carr was extremely sharp, going 28-of-37 for 382 yards and two TDs, including a 61-yarder to Henry Ruggs III in the fourth quarter after he had his surgically repaired right ankle rolled up on a 9-yard touchdown pass to Foster Moreau in the third. — Paul Gutierrez
How will the Raiders address their offensive line injuries? Well, getting left guard Richie Incognito up and running this week would do wonders for one. But the bigger deal is at right tackle, where first-rounder Alex Leatherwood was lost at halftime with an oblique injury … after having a rough go of it against T.J. Watt with a hold, a false start and a sack allowed. The Raiders’ O-line had three backups in play — John Simpson at left guard, Jermaine Eluemunor at right guard and Brandon Parker, who acquitted himself well in place of Leatherwood. — Gutierrez
Gutierrez’s confidence rating (0-10): 8.2, up from 8.1. Yes, just one-tenth of one point more than last week, but even with so many injuries, things are trending positively for the Raiders, who play host to the Dolphins on regular rest next week.
Next game: vs. Dolphins (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: With the offense sputtering for the second week in a row, the Steelers’ defense, now down four starters due to injury, couldn’t pick up the slack to shut down the Raiders’ passing game. Joe Haden and Devin Bush were inactive prior to kickoff, and T.J. Watt joined them on the sideline late in the first half with a groin injury. Nose tackle Tyson Alualu went out early with an ankle injury that appeared to be severe. The Steelers accomplished their goal of mostly neutralizing Darren Waller, but Derek Carr, with 382 yards passing, made them pay with a 61-yard touchdown to Henry Ruggs III and a 9-yard score to Foster Moreau. — Brooke Pryor
Where is the new-look offense? The Steelers fired coordinator Randy Fichtner and promoted quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator in the offseason, but the hallmarks of a Canada offensive scheme — the misdirection, the pre-snap motion — were largely absent for the second week in a row. Canada’s most obvious influence was on JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s first career rushing touchdown, when he scored on a 3-yard run off an inside handoff on an end-around. The offensive line, a known work in progress, didn’t look improved from Week 1 and allowed Roethlisberger to be hit 10 times. Trai Turner was also ejected in the fourth quarter for unsportsmanlike conduct after spitting toward a Raiders player. Outside of spurts of explosive plays, especially when they went no-huddle, the offense looked disjointed and uninspiring — things that could be fixed in time, but haven’t improved two games into the season. — Pryor
Pryor’s confidence rating (0-10): 5.7, down from 6.8. The Steelers showed they can win with a dominant defense a week ago, but when the defense was battered and not playing lights-out against the Raiders, it couldn’t make up for the offensive shortcomings.
Next game: vs. Bengals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: It’s early, but the 49ers are already showing they can win games in vastly different ways, which is usually the sign of a team capable of contending. One week after winning a high-scoring game in Detroit, the 49ers outslugged the Eagles in an ugly fistfight, the type of game that native Philadelphia son Rocky Balboa would truly appreciate. San Francisco’s offense slept through most of the first half, and although the 49ers’ defense gave up some big plays, it repeatedly found ways to keep the Eagles out of the end zone. Sunday’s win marked the fifth time in franchise history that the 49ers went to 2-0 with both wins on the road. — Nick Wagoner
Will the 49ers run out of running backs? After losing Raheem Mostert last week, the 49ers turned to rookie Elijah Mitchell as the starter, and he got most of the work before a late shoulder injury sent him to the sideline. JaMycal Hasty replaced him and was running well before he departed because of an ankle issue. Rookie Trey Sermon suffered a head injury on his first carry, forcing Mitchell to gut it out to the finish. It’s already been an ugly start on the injury front for this group, which can’t welcome veteran Jeff Wilson Jr. back from his knee injury soon enough. — Wagoner
Wagoner’s confidence rating (0-10): 6.8, up from 6.5. It’s hard to bolster this number too much given the continued injury questions, but to come out of this long east trip 2-0 is worth a little bump before the competition ramps up in the coming weeks.
Next game: vs. Packers (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
The Eagles try the famous “Philly Special” play again, but the 49ers sniff it out and get the fourth-down stop.
What to know: The Eagles still have some growing up to do. A very winnable game slipped through their hands. There were technical mistakes, such as Jalen Reagor stepping out of bounds to negate a would-be touchdown. And they failed to capitalize on opportunities, particularly following Quez Watkins‘ 91-yard reception that led to zero points. Meanwhile, some of the young playmakers such as Jalen Hurts (12-of-23, 190 yards) and DeVonta Smith (two catches on seven targets) cooled after strong performances in Week 1. Philadelphia still looks like a better team than expected through two weeks — particularly on defense — but Sunday was a reminder that growing pains are still ahead. — Tim McManus
How will they respond to their first bit of adversity? Not only was it a stinging loss, but a couple of key veterans in guard Brandon Brooks (chest) and defensive end Brandon Graham (ankle) suffered worrisome injuries. Rookies Landon Dickerson and Tarron Jackson saw increased roles in their absence, with mixed results. Coach Nick Sirianni likens each week in the NFL to a round in a boxing match. We’ll see how they respond to a series of body blows when they travel to take on the rival Dallas Cowboys next Monday night. — McManus
McManus’ confidence rating (0-10): 5.9, down from 6.3. Two Pro Bowl players got hurt. The Eagles need their key vets to stay healthy and contribute this season. Not a great start toward that objective.
Next game: at Cowboys (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
What to know: The trade for quarterback Sam Darnold continues to look smart. Surrounded by good coaching and dependable weapons, he has become consistent and efficient. On one of Darnold’s many big plays Sunday, he showed patience, played it smart and checked down to Christian McCaffrey in stride. Darnold topped 200 yards passing in the first half for the second straight week, something no Carolina quarterback had done. Confidence is building. — David Newton
How much of Carolina’s 2-0 start is due to playing a bad Jets team and an undermanned Saints team? You can’t discount that, and next up is a weak Houston team on Thursday night. But you also can’t discount Darnold’s play combined with the contributions of running back Christian McCaffrey and a defense that has a lot of young, talented pieces. That gives the Panthers a chance every week. They needed a fast start to the season. So far, so good. — Newton
Newton’s confidence rating (0-10): 6.4, up from 5.1. The defense has come together quickly and has the talent to disrupt any offense. It’s no fluke.
Next game: at Texans (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Saints have now had two stunning results the first two weeks, following a dominant win over Green Bay in Week 1 with a disturbing flop at Carolina. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, considering how much attrition they faced this week (missing nine starters because of injuries/suspension, missing eight assistant coaches because of COVID-19 and being displaced for three weeks by Hurricane Ida). But the depth concerns we had coming into the year are real problems, especially on offense. — Mike Triplett
Was this an anomaly for Jameis Winston and the Saints’ offense? Not entirely. Winston was under relentless pressure all day, leading to his first two interceptions and first four sacks of the season. (“Bad Jameis” came out when he tried to force desperate deep balls at the end of each half.) We expect better from New Orleans’ proven offensive line — despite center Erik McCoy being sidelined by a calf injury. And we know how much better the offense can be after Winston threw five touchdowns last week. But there are legitimate concerns about the Saints’ lack of dynamic playmakers at wide receiver and tight end after they’ve struggled to get open consistently. — Triplett
Triplett’s confidence rating (0-10): 6.8, down from 8.1. There is hope if the Saints can stay afloat the next few weeks, with so many key players expected back by Week 7 or 8. But we know now that they can’t overcome every hurdle.
Next game: at Patriots (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Bills’ defense showed up against Miami. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was knocked out of the game early with a rib injury, and Buffalo made life difficult for backup Jacoby Brissett, holding the Dolphins scoreless. The Bills had an all-around dominant performance with 6 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, 9 tackles for loss and 3 takeaways. In rookie Greg Rousseau‘s return to his college stadium, the first-round pick put on a show with 2 sacks, 5 tackles, 2 quarterback hits and 2 tackles for loss. The win ties the Bills’ largest margin of victory in the past 25 seasons (the previous time was in 2014 vs. Jets) and was their first shutout since a 16-0 win in 2016 against a New England Patriots team also quarterbacked by Brissett. — Alaina Getzenberg
Are Josh Allen‘s inconsistencies a concern going forward? The Bills took an early lead in the first quarter with two touchdown drives. After that, the team stumbled to 30 net yards combined on the next four possessions. Some of the issues came from Allen continuing to have trouble connecting with his receivers, especially downfield. In the first half, on passes thrown more than 10 yards downfield, he completed 1 of 5 passes for 35 yards and an interception, per ESPN Stats & Info. Through two games, Allen has completed 6 of 14 passes intended for Emmanuel Sanders, and his combined completion percentage (56%) ranks far below last season’s 69%. — Getzenberg
Getzenberg’s confidence rating (0-10): 7.3, up from 6.3. It wasn’t pretty at times, but the Bills put together a complete game against the Dolphins thanks to strong games from their young pass-rushers and a solid day for the team’s rushing offense (143 yards on 30 carries), after a disappointing opener.
Next game: vs. Washington (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was knocked out of the game with a rib injury early in the first quarter and did not return. His departure seemed to suck the life out of Miami’s sideline before it could ever get going. Jacoby Brissett was admirable as his replacement, but the Dolphins’ offense fell flat in its first shutout loss since 2019. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
What went wrong with the Dolphins’ offense? Tagovailoa was pressured on four of his six snaps before his injury — including two sacks on the Dolphins’ opening drive. Things didn’t necessarily improve from there, as the Bills finished the game with six sacks and 11 QB hits. Miami’s offensive line is quickly materializing as its weakest unit, which is especially disappointing considering the draft capital spent on it over the past two drafts. If the Dolphins can’t improve up front, the ceiling for their offense is limited moving forward. — Louis-Jacques
Louis-Jacques’ confidence rating (0-10): 5.0, down from 6.5. The sole reason it’s even this high is the stellar play of Miami’s defense — which was outstanding considering it held the Bills to six consecutive empty drives to end the first half before the wheels fell off in the second. The Dolphins’ offense has become a legitimate concern this season.
Next game: at Raiders (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
What to know: Taylor Heinicke doesn’t have a big arm, is small and has durability issues. But what he does have is this: It. And while it might be hard to describe, when players fall in love with a guy’s game and point to his swagger, you know that’s what he has. Whether Heinicke magic continues for a couple of games or much more remains to be seen. Those other attributes will matter over the long haul. But that doesn’t change the fact that players respond to him and are confident in him — and that he continues to deliver. — John Keim
Is the defense OK? The unit needs to play far more disciplined or it’s going to have issues when it faces better offenses than New York’s. It’s about staying in gaps, doing its job and playing with more maturity. Washington’s defense — the front in particular — entered the season with high expectations. It’s supposed to be the reason this team contends in the NFC East. After two games, this group has failed to live up to the hype. — Keim
Keim’s confidence rating (0-10): 5.2, up from 5.0. Heinicke has provided a shot of hope, but the defense’s issues — knowing the remaining quarterbacks on the schedule — must get fixed.
Next game: at Bills (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: The Giants just don’t seem to know how to win. This time they let the game slip away on multiple occasions, with the final mistake being when they jumped offsides on a last-second field goal attempt, giving Washington the second chance it needed to win. “Yeah, it was a pretty tough one,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. That’s an understatement. The Giants are 0-2 for the fifth straight year, and need to learn how to win. Or as Joe Judge likes to stress, learn how not to lose. — Jordan Raanan
What is wrong with the Giants’ defense? This group is not pressuring the quarterback and is allowing big plays all over the field. The Giants had just four pressures against Washington and have allowed 57 points in the first two games. They allowed 27 or more points only three times all of last season. — Raanan
Raanan’s confidence rating (0-10): 3.2, down from 4.2. It’s not looking good after two weeks. An 0-2 hole is not something the Giants can’t escape in a 17-game season, but it sure is prohibitive and familiar.
Next game: vs. Falcons (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)