Surprising Performances in NFL’s First Two Weeks

Week 2 concluded Monday night as Matt Ryan and the Falcons held off a late surging Broncos team led by Peyton Manning. With the exception of the Broncos’ first quarter, both teams have looked strong in their first two games, but that was expected. It’s the unexpected performances that are the interesting ones.

It’s been just two weeks, so there’s bound to be some flukes, but so far, several players have turned some heads with their play. And it’s not all for good reasons.

Despite his poor play, Vick has found a way to win games for the Eagles.

Michael Vick: After an incredible 2010 season, Vick regressed a bit last season, upping his interception total from 6 to 14. So far this year, Vick is making it look like that regression is exponential; he’s matched the 6 interceptions he threw in 2010 and it took him just two games. Even more surprising than his struggles is the fact that he somehow has led the Eagles to two wins. Vick has led Philadelphia to consecutive come from behind victories with last minute touchdown drives. His inaccuracy will come back to haunt him eventually, but thus far he’s been escape his struggles.

Drew Brees: When coach Sean Payton was suspended for the season, two theories arose regarding the Saints success this year. Either Drew Brees, who is as much an extension of his coach as any quarterback in the league, would step up in Payton’s absence and lead New Orleans to another winning season, or the lack of Payton’s offensive mind and leadership would derail the Saints. So far, the latter seems to be the case. Brees has looked very un-Breesish, completing just 54% of his passes and tossing 4 interceptions. Qualitatively, he doesn’t seem to have the same control over the game that has made him so dominant for the past half decade. The Saints are 0-2 and Brees will have to step up his game if he hopes to get his team back on track.

Spiller has looked like a superhero this season.

CJ Spiller: A year ago, Spiller had 561 rushing yards. In just two games this season, he’s already reached haf that amount, totaling 292 rushing yards. With Fred Jackson’s injury, Spiller has become the feature back of Buffalo’s offense and has embraced the role. Adding to his gaudy rushing yards are some equally impressive stats: 10.1 yards per carry, 3 rushing touchdowns, and 72 receiving yards.

Chris Johnson: CJ2K may need to change his Twitter handle soon. After rushing for 2,000 yards in 2009, Johnson barely cracked a thousand last season. If he gains that many this year, it’ll be a surprise. In 2 games this year, Johnson has 19 carries for 21 yards. Yes, that’s 1.1 yards per carry, good for last in the NFL. With a longest run of 7 yards, Johnson looks beyond washed up in his fifth year in the league.

Darren McFadden: The knock on Run-DMC has always been his durability, not his ability to gain yards. So far, McFadden hasnt dealt with injuries, but hes notched just 54 yards in two games, averaging 2.1 yards per carry. After averaging over 5 yards per cary the past two years, McFadden is playing well below his norm. He’s also been struggling in the passing game. He’s been targeted the second most in the league with 25 passes thrown his way, but he’s only been able to come up with 15 of those. He had two particularly egregious drops Sunday against the Dolphins.

Larry Fitzgerald: In this case, Fitzgerald is more of a victim than a culprit. He has just 5 catches for 67 yards in two games, far below the numbers his fellow star receivers are putting up. But this is much the results of poor quarterback play, as the position battle between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton never got resolved during the preseason.

This is terrifying.

Clay Matthews: Matthews’ play has been more eye-opening than surprising. His 6 sacks not only double the second highest total this year, but also match the number he had all of last year. He’s played out of his mind thus far.


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