The toughest division in the NFL? Easy. Top to bottom, it’s the AFC West where three teams are undefeated, and take your pick: Any of them can win it.
I’m talking about Oakland, Kansas City and, yes, Denver, a surprise 42-17 winner over Dallas Sunday. What made that beatdown so significant was not only how lopsided it was but where it occurred — in Denver. Yeah, I know, the Broncos historically are tough there, but Dallas is tough everywhere.
In fact, that was only the third road defeat for Dak Prescott in his two years as the Cowboys’ starter and only the second time he suffered two interceptions.
So now we have Oakland, Kansas City and Denver at 2-0, with the Raiders having the edge at quarterback, and the Chiefs and Broncos excelling on defense. Oakland is 2-0 for the first time since 2002, the year the Raiders went to their last Super Bowl. Kansas City is the defending division champion, won 24 of its last 28 regular-season games and appears to be the best balanced. And Denver? Well, the Broncos are a longshot, mostly because of quarterback Trevor Siemian, but you just saw what a revitalized running game can do for him.
So take your pick.
- Let’s hear it for Miami and Tampa Bay. Both were at a disadvantage, driven from their homes and having to wait a week before playing because of Hurricane Irma … yet both opened with wins. That’s the good news. The bad? Unlike 30 others, there will be no byes the next 15 weeks.
- Dear CBS: Where was “Heidi” when we needed it?
- Mike Gillislee, 2017 = LeGarette Blount, 2016.
- With Joe Flacco’s back an issue, Baltimore went into this season determined to improve a defense that carried this franchise for years. So what happened? Through two games that defense has 10 takeaways, eight sacks and allowed 10 points. Mission: Accomplished.
- So DeShone Kizer bows out with a migraine. Browns’ fans share your pain, DeShone. They suffer them every week.
- If I’m Ron Rivera, I’m worried. My quarterback (Cam Newton) isn’t right, and his security blanket (Greg Olsen) is sidelined indefinitely with a broken foot.
- It took over seven quarters, but that’s the Russell Wilson we’ve been waiting to see.
- Hard to believe that was the first time in Tom Brady’s career he threw three first-quarter touchdown passes. Not so hard to believe it happened against the Saints.
- Memo to Baltimore offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg: When you get a chance, drop your former boss, Andy Reid, a thank-you. Without him, you’d never have Jeremy Maclin.
- So this is what happens when you stack the line against LeSean McCoy: Three points and 103 net yards passing. Time to talk vertical, guys.
- Green Bay has met its nemesis, and its name is Matt Ryan. He’s beaten the Pack three straight times over the past 11 months, with eight touchdown passes and no interceptions.
- Le’Veon Bell went from 10 carries last week to 27 Sunday and promised that more “explosive plays” will come. I like his chances. The Steelers play Chicago next.
- I don’t care how good Drew Brees is. He can’t outscore his defense.
- The Chargers have been last in the AFC West each week since Oct. 22, 2015. Honest.
- Green Bay needs a dose of good news after that lost game and all those lost players, and here it is: The Bengals are next on the schedule.
- Maybe someone should give Sean Payton an alarm clock. His Saints are off to their fourth consecutive 0-2 start.
- I don’t care if Carson Palmer set a franchise record for 300-yard games. The Cards are going nowhere with him. Time to draft another quarterback.
- Class move by the Steelers: On an afternoon when the team honored former president Dan Rooney, they awarded the game ball to Art Rooney II, Dan’s oldest son.
- New home, same result: That was the Chargers’ sixth loss by three or fewer points in their last 15 games. “It’s kind of hard to believe this is happening again,” said defensive lineman Joey Bosa. No, it isn’t.
- So that’s what Dallas will look like when/if Zeke Elliott sits down.
Atlanta offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Now that’s more like the 2016 Falcons, and here’s the proof: They put up 24 on Green Bay in the first half of last year’s conference championship game, and they did it again Sunday night. That should back off Sarkisian’s critics for at least a week.
Former Chargers’ fans in San Diego. This is your lucky day, people. The Chargers lost. And that means free tacos at El Pollo Grill in Bonita, Cal., just south of San Diego. No lie. Owner Victor Lopez, a disgruntled former Chargers’ fan, is offering each customer a free taco the day after a Chargers’ loss. He said he wants the team to go winless, no matter what it will cost him, and so far, so good.
Denver running back C.J. Anderson. Love anyone with those initials. He’s running hard and he’s running well, and he ran all over Dallas.
Rams’ running back Todd Gurley. OK, so his team didn’t win, but don’t fault Gurley. He ran for 85 yards and scored twice. He ran for 85 yards just once last year.
Chargers’ tight end Antonio Gates. With 112 career touchdown catches, he leads all tight ends. Just wish it happened in San Diego, not L.A.
Kareem Hunt fantasy-football owners. He’s this year’s Ezekiel Elliott.
Kansas City coach Andy Reid. That makes him 9-3 vs. his former assistants.
Miami coach Adam Gase. Not only did he win his season opener, but Younghoe Koo’s botched field goal spared him the trouble of explaining the inexplicable — taking a TO with 10 seconds left.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers hired him to pump up their offense, but in two games they haven’t score a touchdown and rank 30th in points with 12 (only Cincinnati and the Giants, who play Monday, are worse). Oh, yeah, they’re also 0-2.
Denver tackle Garett Bolles. The Broncos’ first-round draft pick, he was an important cog in a retooled offensive line. But he just left with a serious ankle injury (the Broncos suspect it’s broken), and, when you’re overly emotional as they cart you off on a cart, it’s a sign you’re not coming back soon … if at all.
Rams’ quarterback Jared Goff. Maybe last week was an aberration after all.
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. There’s no overstating how devastating the loss of guard Marshal Yanda is to Flacco & Co. He’s out for the season. Ankle injury.
Chargers’ president Dean Spanos. He was booed when he appeared on the stadium big screen … but it was at home … and it was in the first regular-season game in his new city. Welcome to L.A., Dean.
Tennessee running back DeMarco Murray. He’s sluggish, he’s ineffective and he’s running behind Derrick Henry now.
Philadelphia’s rushing game. The Eagles’ leading rusher? Try Carson Wentz … 55 yards on four carries. The Eagles haven’t had a back gain 50 yards in either of their first two games, the first time that’s happened since 1989.
Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles. To channel Denny Green, he is who we thought he was.
THE SUNDAY REPORT CARD
CBS analyst Tony Romo. For the second straight week, he was calling plays before they happen. True story: Just before the Saints’ Brandon Coleman caught a touchdown pass, Romo said, “Look for the fade inside to 16 (Coleman).” Too bad the Pats didn’t. Maybe someone should hire the Red Sox trainers to relay Romo’s calls to New England’s sidelines.
Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian. With four touchdown passes, he’s this week’s Alex Smith. If the Broncos can protect him with a running game they may be better than OK.
Kansas City defensive defensive end Chris Jones. Three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. Any questions?
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins. He wasn’t great, but he didn’t have to be. He just had to be good in the last minute, and he was. Yeah, Kirk, I like that.
Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Granted, that was a horrible decision in overtime … correction: A horrible throw … but he did OK the previous 60 minutes. Put it this way: He was a significant upgrade from Scott Tolzien. Of course, Joe Jacoby would have been a significant upgrade.
The Jacksonville pass rush. The Jags had 10 sacks a week ago; they had one Sunday. Now on sale, 50 percent off: “Sacksonville Jags” T-shirts.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott. That 68.6 passer rating was the second worst of his career in games where he played more than a half … and that can happen when the offense is one-dimensional. And the Cowboys were, running only 14 times for 40 yards. “I just simply didn’t make the plays,” said Prescott.
Jets’ punt returner Kalif Raymond. Two games, three muffed punts. Not good, but very Jet-like.
Saints’ defense. Now I know why Sam Bradford looked so sharp last week. BTW, that was the first time the Saints allowed 30 first-half points since … well, since Jan. 1, 2017. All together now: They stink.
Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott. Nice effort. A career-low 8 yards rushing and zero pursuit on an interception return. “He absolutely quit on his team,” said Hall-of-Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, now with the NFL Network.
SUNDAY’S HALL OF FAMER
NEW ENGLAND QB TOM BRADY
A week ago, skeptics wondered if Brady finally hit his tipping point. Well, rewind videotape to Sunday’s win, and you have your answer. It made Brady 43-10 following a loss and was his 10th 400-yard passing performance. What’s more, it was also his 52nd with three touchdowns and no interceptions, breaking the career record he shared with Peyton Manning.
SUNDAY’S HALL OF SHAMER
SAN DIEGO PK YOUNGHOE KOO
For the second straight week, he blows a last-second field goal. A week ago, it was one to tie the Broncos, and, OK, so it wasn’t his fault. It was blocked. But Sunday? Nope, this was all on him, with Koo pushing a game-winning 44-yarder wide right to turn to botch another game.