octobre 4, 2023

NFL The Final Word: Neil Reynolds on Micah Parsons, Travis Kelce, Mike McDaniel, the Atlanta Falcons and running back woes | NFL News

7 min read

Micah Parsons, Travis Kelce and Mike Evans played starring roles for their teams in Week Two of the NFL season

It was another NFL weekend that delivered plenty of drama, excitement and big performances, and it was a reminder that stars matter. That is where I will begin my takeaways from Week Two in the NFL…

1) Star players matter

Coaches always talk about depth and the bottom third of their roster being important, but the superstars do make a difference to NFL teams. The Kansas City Chiefs were not at their best against the Jacksonville Jaguars but Patrick Mahomes delivered just enough with a couple of touchdown passes. Travis Kelce, back from injury, caught a key scoring pass and Chris Jones, in his first game of the season, had 1.5 sacks.

Look around the league and it’s the exact same thing. Micah Parsons dominated the New York Jets as the Cowboys romped to a 30-10 victory; TJ Watt had a key fumble recovery touchdown for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who needed all the defensive help they could get; and Mike Evans had a huge day for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 171 receiving yards and a touchdown. When teams can rely on their star players, it can make a world of difference.

Watch Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons' best plays from their win over the New York Jets

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Watch Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons’ best plays from their win over the New York Jets

Watch Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons’ best plays from their win over the New York Jets

2) Dallas dominant again

The Dallas Cowboys look complete. Through two games, they’ve thrashed both the New York teams in the Giants and the Jets, scoring 70 points with just 10 in return. The defense is dominant; Micah Parsons is the most destructive game-wrecking defender in the NFL today. Comparisons to the all-time great Lawrence Taylor are absolutely fair. I can’t wait to see what Parsons does next.

The running game looks lively with Tony Pollard mixing in some Deuce Vaughn, and Dak Prescott isn’t having to take any risks. He hasn’t thrown an interception in the first two games and he’s got the excellent CeeDee Lamb downfield. The Cowboys are in good shape. We always talk about the AFC being fierce in terms of fighting for that spot to get to the Super Bowl, but the NFC could be just as competitive when you put Dallas in the conversation with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.

Highlights of the Cowboys' 30-10 win over the Jets

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Highlights of the Cowboys’ 30-10 win over the Jets

Highlights of the Cowboys’ 30-10 win over the Jets

3) Pay the running backs

Week Two was a sad reminder of why running backs need to get paid and need to get the same kind of financial security as other positions in the NFL. Because the running back position, whether we like it or not, is getting overlooked and being taken advantage of, I think. Saquon Barkley was the reason the New York Giants produced the largest comeback in team history to beat the Cardinals 31-28, but he got banged up at the end of that game.

On Monday Night Football, Nick Chubb suffered a gruesome season-ending injury in Cleveland’s loss to the Steelers. You just don’t want to see that, for Chubb especially, a consummate professional, a team guy, a real professional, a leader. Now his future is uncertain. And remember that Barkley was on a one-year deal. There is concern among running backs because they get used a lot and put their bodies on the line but are not rewarded the same way as other positions.

4) Concerns for the league’s 0-2 teams

Highlights of the Baltimore Ravens' 27-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals

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Highlights of the Baltimore Ravens’ 27-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals

Highlights of the Baltimore Ravens’ 27-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals

I think the two most frustrating teams for me in the early stages of this season are the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Chargers are 0-2 but they could have been 2-0; they lost by two points to the Dolphins in Week One and lost in overtime by three points to the Titans in Week Two. They keep wasting Justin Herbert – he threw for over 300 yards again in another loss, but it’s on him as well, he’s got to start winning some of these late games. The Chargers always seem to find a way to lose, and that must destroy their fans.

The Bengals are a mystery. They lost in Week One to the Browns and on Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens. Protecting Joe Burrow has to be key. I’m not panicking yet because these Bengals started 0-2 last year and were one drive from reaching the Super Bowl. But there has to be concern in Ohio because it’s another slow start.

5) Allen shines after Week One struggles

I want to give some credit to Bills quarterback Josh Allen, because he was under a lot of scrutiny after his Week One display in New York, where he turned the ball over four times with three interceptions. Nobody has thrown more interceptions in the period since Josh entered the NFL.

It should also be noted that nobody has accounted for more touchdowns, either. Allen rides high and low, but it was definitely a high on Sunday as the Bills beat the Raiders 38-10. He threw three touchdown passes, took much better care of the football and reminded us why he is one of the very elite players in the NFL. Star players matter and Buffalo’s biggest star shone bright on Sunday.

Player of the Week – D’Andre Swift, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles were getting booed by their own fans early in the first quarter of Thursday night’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, so went back to basics. They turned to the ground and D’Andre Swift had a career-high 175 rushing yards and one touchdown on 28 carries. He can play all over the formation; I saw him in training camp split out in the slot as well as playing in the backfield. When the Eagles needed stability, he provided it.

Highlights of the Philadelphia Eagles' 34-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings

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Highlights of the Philadelphia Eagles’ 34-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings

Highlights of the Philadelphia Eagles’ 34-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings

Play of the Week – Terry McLaurin’s TD vs Broncos

I could have gone with Russell Wilson’s Hail Mary, which was twice deflected before Brandon Johnson reeled it in for the Denver Broncos against the Washington Commanders. But Denver failed on the two-point conversion and lost, so that will be an honourable mention.

I’m staying with the same game, though – Sam Howell’s touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin in the third quarter to tie the score and complete Washington’s fightback, from which they went on to win the game. It was an excellent strike, with Sam Howell on the money to Terry McLaurin, splitting three defenders, for a 30-yard touchdown to spark that comeback win. It maybe showed us what Howell can do moving forward.

Coach of the Week – Mike McDaniel, Miami Dolphins

Mike McDaniel has led Miami to two road wins to start the season, including Sunday’s 24-17 win over the New England Patriots. The great Bill Belichick was determined not to let Tyreek Hill beat the Patriots after going over 200 yards receiving in Week One. Hill had five catches for 40 yards. Belichick dared the Dolphins to be patient, so Mike McDaniel ran the football 30 times for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

Raheem Mostert led the way with 18 carries for 121 yards and two scores. Miami still had their moments in the passing game but it was much more careful, cautious and more strategic. Tua Tagovailoa threw for 249 yards and a touchdown, but this win was about Miami showing they can secure victories in a hostile environment in a different way.

On my radar… the 2-0 Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons have made a 2-0 start to the 2023 season. They are far from perfect and I’m not sure if they got into a shootout how much they could rely on Desmond Ridder, but they are feisty, competitive and probably the most physical team when it comes to running the football. They commit to the run. In Sunday’s 25-24 win over the Packers, they ran the football 45 times for 211 yards, a 4.7 average and a touchdown.

Bijan Robinson had a big day with 19 carries and 124 yards; I’m really impressed with that rookie. But they do spread it around – Tyler Allgeier had 16 carries, Ridder took off on 10 runs and had the only rushing touchdown. The Falcons are a team I’m intrigued to see how they fare moving forward. They have some really good young players on that offensive side of the ball.

Week Three begins Thursday night with the New York Giants at the San Francisco 49ers from 1.15am in the early hours of Friday; watch the Chicago Bears at the Kansas City Chiefs from 9.25pm on Sunday, live on Sky Sports NFL.

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