Detroit Lions – What We Learned: They’re not the same old Lions.
The Lions roared to a 36-27 victory over the Washington Commanders, after suffering a close loss to the Eagles in Week 1. They may have found a solid pass rush as the defense sacked Commanders QB Carson Wentz a total of 5 times in this matchup. While several of those sacks were due to Wentz simply holding on to the ball for too long, Lions rookie edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson recorded 3 sacks, which set the franchise single game record for a rookie. The real key to this game, however, was Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. St. Brown, who posted one of the best PFF Grades from the 2021 rookie class (79.9), is possibly turning into one of the best receivers in the NFL. He led the Lions in both receiving yardage and rushing yardage, accumulating a total of 184 yards to pair with 2 touchdowns through the air and seeing a massive 35.3% target share. The second year player has 8 straight catches in 8 straight games, with Michael Thomas and Antonio Brown being the only other players to have ever succeeded in accomplishing that. The incredible performance by St. Brown earned him a 87.7 PFF grade on the day.
To add to the success in the air, Lions running back De’Andre Swift yet again found a way to score, this week on a 22 yard dump-off from QB Jared Goff. While the catch initially looked like it was going nowhere, Swift found open space and avoided tackles all the way to the end zone. The RB had 5 targets on the week, and you can look to see that utilization continue.The 2022 12th overall pick WR Jameson Williams is also looking to join the team on the field some time this year and could be a contributor down the stretch. While it may sound like a bold take, the Lions have a chance to threaten for an NFC Wild Card playoff spot if these young players can keep things flowing like this.
Los Angeles Rams – What We Learned: The 2022 Rams are still a competitive team.
Week 1 was not good for the reigning Superbowl Champion Rams. The Bills humiliated them in their home opener. This week, however, they managed to get a win over a surprisingly frisky Atlanta Falcons team, 31-27. While the Rams are still suffering from losing former LT Andrew Whitworth and WR Odell Beckham Jr. in the offseason, they managed to stop the bleeding. Against the Bills, the Rams offensive line sans Whitworth gave up an astounding seven sacks and a total of SIXTEEN QB hits. PFF had them at #21 in their offensive line rankings coming out of Week 1. This week they gave up just a single sack and two total QB hits; a stark improvement.
WR Allen Robinson, the perceived replacement for OBJ, finally got some real action and made his presence felt totaling 4 catches on 5 targets, with 53 yards and a touchdown. He would have had a second score if not for an odd clock stoppage by the officials. WR Cooper Kupp is still the key to this offense (108 yards, 2 touchdowns), particularly with the running game still inconsistent. While the running back room in LA totaled 91 yards, RB Cam Akers averaged just 2.9 yards a carry. Of some concern was the fact that the Rams gave up a 25 point lead in the second half, before ultimately securing the win. If the Rams can find a way to put four good quarters together every week, watch out!
New England Patriots – What We Learned: The Patriots are not a raging dumpster fire.
The 17-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers is exactly what New England needed. The Patriots were coming off an utterly embarrassing loss to the division rival Miami Dolphins in Week 1. Alarm bells had been ringing all offseason regarding the Pats offensive scheme and coaching staff. The preseason, coupled with Week 1, caused widespread panic across the state of Massachusetts. Seeing the Pats eke out a close one in Pittsburgh is of some encouragement, albeit without Pittsburgh’s injured pass rusher TJ Watt on the field. As noted by many before the game, the Patriots have not gone 0-2 since 2001, and staving off the Steelers is just the boost they need to get their season headed in the right direction. Nelson Agholor is finally beginning to pay off some of his 22 million dollar deal, snagging 6 balls for 110 yards and a touchdown. He attracted a 17% target share with an average catch going for over 18 yards. Agholor should find plenty of success in week 3 against a Ravens defense that was torched by the Dolphins for 469 yards in the air. The Pats running game also got rolling this week, although in a rather odd manner. Almost all of the offensive plays run by the Patriots this week came in the shotgun, rather than under center. This is not the wide-zone offense that was touted in the offseason. Nevertheless, Patriots RBs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson ran for an average of almost 5 yards a carry and totaled 118 yards on the ground. The offensive line also looked significantly improved from last week’s loss, and kept QB Mac Jones upright all day, giving up just three QB hits and zero sacks. Perhaps the Patriots can be a competitor this year after all, provided that they can build on this Week 2 performance.