Week two is now in the books, and it wasn't without some truly surprising performances on both sides of the ball. Key players were unexpectedly shut down, while elsewhere rookies emerged onto the scene as true difference makers.
There's some exciting match-ups that loom large in week three, but before we move on let's take a look back at week two and see just why things played out like they did.
Recapping the Top Match-ups to Watch
Miami DE Cam Wake vs Indianapolis RT Gosder Cherilus
It wasn't enough to get the Colts a win, but there may have been no bigger upset this weekend than Gosder Cherilus's decisive handling of Cam Wake. Just a week after Wake was nearly unstoppable rushing the passer, Cherilus kept Wake from making any impact at all in the game.
What's more impressive is that he did it mostly on his own. While Indianapolis occasionaly gave Cherilus help with a chip from a running back or tight end, for the majority of snaps Cherilus was matched up on Wake one on one. For a team that has has some inconsistency along the offensive line, it's a huge development for the Colts. Even though they didn't get the win, its a great sign for the Colts that their offensive line is taking steps forward, and it bodes well for the rest of the season.
St. Louis CB Cortland Finnegan vs ATL WRs Julio Jones and Harry Douglas
Thanks in no small part to fellow defensive back Janoris Jenkins getting abused for most of the game, Cortland Finnegan didn't give up a ton of catches against the Falcons on Sunday. Matt Ryan stayed away from Finnegan's side of the field for most of the game, and only ended up targeting receivers covered by Finnegan four times.
That's where the positives ended for the feisty cornerback, unfortunately. Finnegan gave up a reception on all four of those targets, which ended up totaling 60 yards. To top that off, Finnegan was a tremendous liability in the running game, taking horrible angles more often than not, and missing tackles when he was in the position to make a play.
We're only two weeks into the season, but there has to be some serious concern about Finnegan's level of play to this point in St. Louis. If things don't turn around quickly, that big contract he signed last season could prove to be one expensive mistake for the Rams.
Oakland QB Terrelle Pryor vs Jacksonville's Defense
Terrelle Pryor didn't put up the same sort of eye catching numbers as he did in week one, but the didn't keep the Raiders from knocking of the Jaguars for their first win of the season. Pryor's stats weren't pretty, as he threw for just 127 yards while completing 15 of 24 passes. With those sorts of stats, it's obvious that the Oakland game plan was to use short, quick passes to make sure Pryor only had to make simple plays.
What wasn't in the game plan, however, was the fact that Raiders' receivers continually had to make tough catches on plays that ended up going for short gains. Pryor was off target for most of the afternoon, and he was often bailed out by some great plays by his targets. That made it almost impossible for them to make any gains after the catch, though
It' wasn't a great game for Pryor, but don't underestimate the impact he had on the game. Jacksonville's defense was so focused on stopping Pryor in the running game that they often times lost track of Darren McFadden which led to his racking up 129 yards, and ultimately carrying Oakland to the win. That's nice against a team like the Jaguars, but Pryor will need to make plays with his legs and his arm next Monday night against Denver.
Historically, it's taken wide receivers up to three years to develop into play makers at the game's highest level. This season, on the other hand, it took only two weeks for this year's crop of first round wide receivers to have huge impacts.
From week two's opening kickoff, rookies were making plays. Cordarelle Patterson took the opening kick all the way back for a touchdown. As has been expected, the rest of the game was much more quiet for Patterson however. He didn't see a ton of snaps on offense for the second week in a row. To his credit, he did catch all three passes thrown his way, and since he made those targets count it's likely his role in Minnesott'a offense will continue to grow.
A glance at the box score would tell you that Tavon Austin had a solid game for St. Louis, catching six passes and scoring two touchdowns. And while the Rams certainly won't complain about Austin finding the end zone twice, there's was still something to be desired from Austin's performance. He had several drops in the game, and wasn't able to do much after the catch on Sunday. If he can continue to step up his game, his role should only continue to expand.
No one in this group had a better day than did DeAndre Hopkins. With the Texans struggling to get ahead of Tennessee and Andre Johnson leaving the game with an injury, Houston made Hopkins the key target in their passing attack, and he came through big time. Finishing the day with seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown is almost always going to make a wide receiver happy. But when you have the day that Hopkins did, which included some absolutely massive plays, including the game winning touchdown catch in overtime, that stat line will look even sweeter.
– The Titans drafted Chance Warmack in no small part due to the fact that they'd be facing JJ Watt at least twice a year for the forseeable future. Unfortunately for Tennessee, the rookie's debut against the dominate defensive lineman went about as you'd except. Watt thoroughly dominated Warmack, and the pressure he created on Jake Locker was a huge part of the Texans' win.
– It's taken plenty of time, but Buffalo's Mario Williams is finally looking like the player the Bills were hoping for when they threw that big contract at him. He was seemingly breathing down Cam Newton's neck all game long, and it forced Newton to hurry throws and make bad decisions throughout the game.
– It's a good thing that the Eagles have Brandon Boykin in the secondary, because the rest of the defensive backfield is simply atrocious. It might just be the worst group in the league, and Philadelphia may want to consider acquiring some bodies there before the trading deadline if they want to win games consistently this season.
– Ziggy Ansah was mostly absent in his first NFL game last weekend, but he saw the field much more often this week and was able to log a couple of quarterback hurries. He's got plenty more growing to do before he is an every down player, but the Lions will clearly be able to capitalize on his talent this season.
– For the first time in awhile, Jake Long looked like a player that was worthy of a high first round selection. He did a great job of protecting Sam Bradford, but unfortunately Bradford wasn't really ever able to capitalize.