Week 2 doubles as the equalizer.
After finally viewing games that matter for the first time since February, it's understandably human to draw rock-solid conclusions coming out of Week 1.
Viewed in a bubble, last Sunday would suggest that Tampa Bay's Ryan Fitzpatrick is a raging god who spent the offseason couched in a deep-state CIA operation to turn ginger-bearded late-30-somethings into scenery-changing NFC South on-field assassins.
Props to Fitzy, but Week 2 and beyond typically course-correct these outlier narratives, bringing players and teams who overachieved back to earth.
The second wave of tilts also allows for clubs, coaches and players on the hot seat to get back in the good graces of their followers.
With that in mind, here are nine bounce-back candidates who matter most in Week 2:
Lions coach Matt Patricia: While Monday's loss to the Jets was nothing less than a flaming implosion for Detroit, even more concerning are the whispers from NFL Network's Mike Garafolo noting that Lions veterans were already "griping" about first-year coach Matt Patricia during the summer. Unhappy with a heap of new team rules and grueling practices, Detroit's holdovers haven't exactly warmed up to Bill Belichick's longtime understudy, per Garafolo. That said, this doesn't look like a cadre of players deserving a break after getting wiped away on national television by a Jets team resembling Patriots 2.0. The schedule doesn't ease up, as Patricia must now venture west to tangle with a familiar face in ex-New England (and current 49ers) signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo. Long plane ride home if the Lions nap their way through another game.
Cleveland's offensive line:Browns fans can find plenty to like about Sunday's slugfest with Pittsburgh, which ended in a brutal tie. I've never witnessed Ben Roethlisberger badgered and bruised in such fashion by Cleveland's defense, especially when Myles Garrett cast his front-door-sized shadow over the aging Steelers quarterback. Still, when six defensive takeaways lead to just 21 offensive points against your archrival, there's blame to go around. Mother Nature jacked up both teams, but I came away wondering if Joe Thomasretired one year too early. Cleveland's tackle play on both sides of the line raised a burning red flag. Book-end Desmond Harrison and right tackle Chris Hubbard easily earned two of the team's lowest offensive grades on the day from Pro Football Focus, while the entire front five allowed Steelers pass-rusher T.J. Watt to morph into a level-beyond-human terror. After hurting the attack with multiple false starts -- two on Harrison alone -- Cleveland's line must get its act together before squaring off against ...
A Saints defense that drifted through last Sunday completely asleep at the wheel:The throttling Tampa registered against the New Orleans secondary was arguably the week's biggest stunner. The Bucs made it clear in August they can toss the ball, but this was a Saints squad anchored by Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore and coming off a campaign that saw New Orleans finally impact games on defense. Losing to the Browns at home -- after crumbling in the Superdome to the Bucs -- would serve as nothing less than a crisis for Sean Payton and friends.
Mitchell Trubisky: We want our young quarterbacks to grow up overnight. Long gone are the winding days when guys like Joe Theismann waited until Year 5 to start more than six games. Now in his second season, Trubisky offered moments to appreciate against the Packers. He's a compelling fit for Matt Nagy's offense, with a solid arm and enticing mobility. On Sunday night, though, he struggled when it mattered most, failing to march the Bears into winning position after a one-legged Aaron Rodgers pulled off the impossible. In a poetic turn, Trubisky will have the chance to make right in prime time again as the Bears angle for the win column against a rebranded (and far less fearsome) Seahawks defense on "Monday Night Football."
The entire Buffalo Bills operation: The Bills are in a fix. With floundering quarterback Nathan Peterman playing like an area librarian against the Ravens -- and AJ McCarronhaving been shipped out the door -- it's on to the next guy. Seventh overall pick Josh Allen will be tossed into the fray against the Bolts, weighed down from the start by a talent-poor attack and a half-baked offensive line. It's shaping up to be a long season. Fans in Western New York might want to carbon-freeze themselves until next September, but Sean McDermott lacks that option. It's up to Buffalo's head coach to show ownership he can keep his players focused until the end.
The collective mental psyche of the Los Angeles Chargers: The Bills make for a juicy target come Sunday, but the Chargers have issues of their own. Last week's loss to the high-flying Chiefs came imbued with a handful of deeply familiar Bolts-ian tendencies of old: an injured superstar in Joey Bosa; a late, soul-crushing pick from an otherwise heroic Philip Rivers; special teamers watching Tyreek Hill soar by; and (stop me if you've purchased a ticket to this movie before) a missed 48-yard field-goal try by Caleb Sturgis that sealed L.A.'s fate. If the roster-talented Chargers find a way to stumble against Buffalo, color me convinced that a coven of SoCal-area witches has cast dark magic on this beguiling franchise.
Matt Ryan and Atlanta's red-zone offense Anyone else sense a lingering pang of depression when teams come out of the gate making the same brand of mistakes they authored last season? I trust the Falcons to correct the red-zone issues we saw against the Eagles -- or do I? This is a well-coached team, but the offense is under more pressure than ever to flip the switch after the defense lost a pair of centerpieces (Deion Jones and Keanu Neal) in Week 1. Ryan's MVP campaign feels light years away, but there's plenty of talent in Atlanta. It's too early to panic.
Dak Prescott and the floundering Dallas attack: In 1959, the United States Army took on a covert project to construct Camp Century, a military scientific research base nestled below the icy depths of Greenland, which was at the time a county of Denmark. Falling under the top-secret umbrella of Project Iceworm, the complex was to serve as a launch site for nuclear missiles within arm's reach of Soviet Russia. Military brass jumped ship on Project Iceworm after realizing the "constantly moving ice was too unstable and would have deformed and perhaps even collapsed the tunnels."
SMASH CUT TO: INT. AT&T STADIUM -- "Sunday Night Football" against the G-Men, where equal mysteries are at play: Will the Cowboys unearth anyone resembling a starting wideout? Will the line overcome the loss of rugged centerTravis Frederick and turn the corner after Dak Prescott took a whopping six sacks in last Sunday's offensive brownout vs. the Panthers? Stay tuned.
In real life, we're a week into the season, and Gruden has already called out Carr in the media for failing to make plays against the Rams, saying, per The Athletic's Vic Tafur: "Wideout Amari] Cooper was open deep, he was open a couple times. [For whatever reason, we didn't go there."
It's nothing Gruden needed to vent publicly. Coaches typically go out of their way to shield the quarterback before working out the kinks off-screen. It's been a long and trying stretch for Carr, who fractured his fibula two Decembers ago before playing through last season with a transverse process fracture in his back. With the Raiders burning bright on everyone's radar after shipping away Khalil Mack, the clock is ticking on a Gruden-Carr buddy comedy that delivers more laughs than tears come Sunday.