NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Week Two Takeaways
by Dennis Ranahan

Whenever the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have opened a season with two wins they have advanced to the playoffs. The Bucs have done it this season while their prized quarterback, Jameis Winston, is missing while serving a four game suspension. If Patrick Mahome hadn’t tossed a record 10 touchdown passes in his first two weeks as the Kansas City Chiefs starter, we might be spending all of our energy recapping the first two weeks of Buccaneers backup quarterback and current star, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Tampa Bay has not only won their first two games this season, they have downed two teams that they would have thought to be their greatest challenge, the New Orleans Saints and defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles.

The wins have been much more pinned to the play of Fitzpatrick than the Buccaneers defense. The Harvard graduate outdueled Drew Brees on his home field in the opener, winning 48-40, and last Sunday, led the Bucs to a win over the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, 27-21.

Now Tampa Bay hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. In a turnaround from recent years, it is the Bucs that come into this game undefeated while the Steelers are still looking for their first win.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have many things in common. First, they are both undefeated while beating quality opponents, the Chiefs wins came over the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers on the road. The Chiefs now open their home season with a visit from the San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers got a win last Sunday at home after losing their opener in Minnesota. San Francisco is still confronting a terrible number in expectations versus qualifications. In simple language, their hype is far above their talent level.

The Chiefs skyrocket will not last, teams with bad defenses always fade.

We can also anticipate a mess in Tampa Bay before this season wraps. They have won a couple games because Fitzpatrick was great. What happens when Winston returns from his four game exile, who is the starter?

It is interesting to note that while many view Fitzpatrick as a journeyman backup, in fact he has been a starter in 9 of his most recent 11 seasons during a 14-year career. For a smart guy, he does hold a degree from Harvard, Fitzpatrick tosses some real dumb passes at critical times. His mistakes by season end have always cost his team a playoff berth. In fourteen years, with seven different teams, Fitzpatrick has neither led or been on a team that cracked the playoff field.

Fortunately, for the Buccaneers, they are not relying on Fitzpatrick to get them to the playoffs. Although, two weeks ago no one had any doubts that when Winston returned from his suspension he would step in as Tampa Bay's starter, that could now be open for debate. The one time first pick in the draft has had mixed review during his first three professional seasons in Florida, which followed a college career also played in our 27th state. One more note on Florida, all three of their NFL teams are leading their divisions with 2-0 marks, that list includes the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Buccaneers.

What if Fitzpatrick continues to play well and lead victories over the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday and a final game of the month matchup with the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field?

Do the fans cry for the organization to stick with the smart guy who has never earned a playoff berth, or celebrate the return of Winston like he can take them to the next level? After all, Winston truly does have a skill set more likely to win a postseason game than Fitzpatrick possesses.

Kansas City and Tampa Bay also share a strong probability that their quick starts are unsustainable. How many wins they will rack up before they collapse is subject to debate.

What is not open to debate is how good the Los Angeles Rams have looked over the first two weeks of the season. It seemed they played their preseason in the first half of their Monday Night Football opener against the Raiders on the road. Oakland led at halftime, but the rested starters who Head Coach Sean McVay had decided to nearly eliminate from preseason play, stormed the Oakland Coliseum in the second half while outscoring the Silver and Black 23-0 over the final 30 minutes. Six days later, they scored 34 unanswered points in shutting out the Arizona Cardinals. That’s a 57-0 margin for the Rams over the past three quarters of football.

This week, they host the Los Angeles Chargers, who lost their opener at home to the Chiefs before getting their first win last Sunday in Buffalo, 31-20 over the Bills.

As good as the Rams are, the moment a team has a lasp where they think they can win with how they played in past weeks, is where that team will stumble.

The Rams will probably beat the Chargers this week, they are simply too good not too, but this rise to number one ranking carries with it a ticking time bomb from a motivational perspective. The Rams will sleep walk through a game that they think is easy, and maybe or maybe not pull out the straight-up decision but never appear capable on that day to beat the double digit point spread.

The Cincinnati Bengals are 2-0 atop the AFC North Division and the Miami Dolphins are alone in first place in the AFC East. Last week, Miami took down highly touted New York Jets rookie quarterback, Sam Darnold. This week’s Thursday night game is in Cleveland, and Darnold will start against a Browns team that selected the only quarterback to be chosen in front of him, Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.