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Around The NFL: NFC East Wide Open, More Takeaways From Week 2

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What have we learned this week

New England Patriots vs New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It was one of those special days when the New York Giants weren’t playing so there was a lot of football free to be consumed. The trade off is all attention will have to be paid to the Giants on Monday night, which is either a gift or curse depending on how you’re feeling heading into the game.

With 28 teams in action on Sunday, here are a few takeaways from Week 2 in the NFL:

No Dominant Team in NFC East

As is typically the case, the NFC East figured to be a bloodbath of teams beating up on each other. That usually extends to few standout performances when those teams play outside the division. The Philadelphia Eagles almost had some late game heroics, but were largely outplayed by a much better Kansas City Chiefs team. The Washington Redskins did need late game heroics from Kirk Cousins to get past the Los Angeles Rams after falling to the Eagles in Week 1.

Then there were the Cowboys. During last year’s run to 13-3, there was no time when the Cowboys really got beaten down. Their two regular season losses to the Giants were both closely contested and the Week 17 loss to the Eagles featured Mark Sanchez throwing 17 passes. Then the loss to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs was decided by just three points.

But late Sunday afternoon, the Denver Broncos completely dominated Dallas. With no running game -- Ezekiel Elliott had nine rushes for eight yards -- Dak Prescott had to throw 50 times. Prescott could lead a team with his arm, but throwing 50 times against the Denver secondary is going to lead to success for no one.

Now potentially there could be four 1-1 teams in the NFC East after two weeks.

The Patriots Aren’t Dead

After the Chiefs defeated the New England Patriots in Week 1, all the typical stories came out that typically come out when New England loses because that itself is atypical. There were questions of Tom Brady finally falling of the aging cliff and whether the Patriots as a whole were just done.

The reality is the Chiefs were uniquely qualified to give the Patriots a game. They worked all offseason to run that option-heavy game plan they took into the opening Thursday and still used pieces on Sunday against the Eagles. They also don’t have dominant outside receivers on offense, which is a spot where the Patriots spend the offseason bulking up to defend by keeping Malcolm Butler and signing Stephon Gilmore.

All the doubts were really put to rest when the Patriots went up 20-3 on the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter. New England is going to continue to be dangerous because of all the ways the team can unleash different weapons on offense. The Patriots were using multiple looks with similar personnel against the Saints on Sunday, a defense that doesn’t need to be confused to be bad. Unlike the NFC East, the AFC East has one dominant team and nothing else, so even if the Patriots do need to work out some kinks, they have the entire regular season to do so before their games matter.

There’s No Super Bowl Hangover In Atlanta

Speaking of dangerous offenses, the Atlanta Falcons picked up where they left off on Sunday night against the Packers. There was some concern about the switch from Kyle Shanahan to Steve Sarkisian at offensive coordinator last week when a game against the Chicago Bears was closer than expected. It appeared the offense wasn’t wasn’t going to be as versatile as it had been under Shanahan, but those concerns were eased a bit when the Falcons opened Mercedes Benz Stadium.

The Falcons were able to do as they pleased on offense against the Packers, with Julio Jones tallying four catches and 95 yards in the first half. Atlanta is another team that has an almost endless supply of weapons and when the Packers clamped down on coverage against Jones in the second half, Matt Ryan was able to go to Mohamed Sanu in the passing game. Through two weeks, Ryan is second in yards per attempt at 9.9, behind only Sam Bradford, who didn’t play in Week 2.

Atlanta is now 2-0 with games against the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills before a Week 5 bye. The schedule gets a little tougher after the bye with games against the Patriots, Cowboys, and Seattle Seahawks, two of which are on the road, in a five-week stretch.

Philip Rivers Can Only Do So Much

Heading into the season, the Los Angeles Chargers were a popular pick as a breakout team. There was a lot of statistical evidence to back that up. Point differential and pythagorean win expectation has been shown to be a better indicator of future success than wins in the previous season. Over the past two seasons, the Chargers have been expected to six and 7.7 games while winning four and five, respectively. The Chargers were the only team in the league to fall two or more wins below their pythagorean expectation in each of the past two seasons.

Usually when a team underperforms that much, it’s due to close losses. That’s been the case for the Chargers in the past and it now continues to be in Los Angeles. In Week 1, Rivers drove the Chargers down the field at the end of the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game with a 44-yard field goal, but it was missed. On Sunday against the Dolphins, Rivers again drove the Chargers down the field at the end of the fourth quarter, this time with a chance to win the game, but another 44-yard field goal was missed.

Rivers is currently 10th among quarterbacks in yards per attempt while throwing four touchdowns against just one interception. He’s also only taken two sacks in two games. However, the Chargers sit at 0-2, already underperforming their pythagorean expectation by 0.9 wins. The schedule doesn’t get much easier for the Chargers, either. They host the Chiefs and Eagles before going on the road against the Giants and Oakland Raiders. Then they host the Broncos before going east to play the Patriots before a Week 9 bye.

A lack of regular season and playoff success has been held against Rivers in the latter part of his career, but he’s just one man with only so much control.