The best division hands down in the league had another barn burning Sunday of football. I feel comfortable dishing this not-so-hot take because the four teams own the top cumulative record, and each has gone net positive in points for their first two games. The only other division to match that is the AFC West, and just barely, with the Chargers holding onto the plus side by a single point.
While the strong group has managed to flex their muscles, this week aired out some of their weaknesses, too. These games came down to the final minutes, or seconds, or OT. Here are the results.
Rams 27, Colts 24 - Los Angeles 2-0
The McVay-Stafford partnership continued to pay massive dividends for the Rams. Behind an early hookup with Cooper Kupp, who posted career numbers, they jumped out to an early lead on the road. However, the veteran quarterback lacked the crispness of his stellar debut after banging his right thumb on DeForest Buckner’s helmet.
After one of the more bizarre punt snafus you’ll ever see, the Colts briefly went up 21-17 early in the fourth quarter, but Stafford, ever the cool customer, responded immediately. He turned around and orchestrated scoring drives to recapture the lead twice to ensure victory.
While the Rams looked in control, even as things briefly got away from them, a few things became clear. The void left by Brandon Staley and other key pieces has brought on some obvious regression to the formerly top-ranked unit. Yet, they still possess high-level playmakers, like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, who can wreck games on their own.
On the flip side, the running attack lacks a certain pop without Cam Akers. They’re averaging 3.4 yards per carry, which is a far cry from the 4.8 in their Super Bowl season. But maybe that doesn’t matter, as the days of Jared Goff crumbling down the stretch are long gone. Stafford has always had the clutch gene, collecting 31 fourth-quarter comebacks for his career, and McVay has no issues trusting his new field general.
Cardinals 34, Vikings 33 - Arizona 2-0
In what must be the most chaotic game of the young season, the game’s most chaotic player looked like a burgeoning superstar on the verge of an MVP-level season. Kyle Murray played ringleader in this circus matchup that featured eight lead changes and a missed 37-yard field goal that would’ve sealed the deal for the Vikings with time expiring.
Murray accumulated five total touchdowns, including one on the ground and two interceptions. If you count the one that went the other way off his first pick, you could give him credit for a sixth score. There’s still a rollercoaster quality to watching this offense operate, but there’s no denying the highs are getting higher.
"Kyler Murray... You are ridiculous!" pic.twitter.com/ynHdbTDnA5— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 21, 2021
How much of that success can be attributed to Kliff Kingsbury is another question altogether. No coach could ever diagram the kind of wild off-kilter plays that Kyler seems to make routine, but a little more structure might go a long way in harnessing the best from an offense that’s teaming with weapons like DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, and A.J. Green.
While the fearsome Chandler Jones personally dismantled the Titans with five sacks in Week 1, the defense left a fair amount to be desired against the Vikings. Most experts would agree that getting locked into a shootout with Kirk Cousins isn’t exactly where you want to be as a contender. All the better to add to the general chaotic energy that vibrates off this team, like an out-of-control steam locomotive.
Titans 33, Seahawks 30 OT - Seattle 1-1
In the most satisfying turn of events Sunday, the Seahawks managed to let a two-touchdown lead slip away in the fourth quarter. The most perfect twist of the knife was the missed PAT on their last score that didn’t extend the margin to fifteen points, keeping the door open just enough. The only thing worse than an overtime collapse for the fans must’ve been the pre-game Macklemore concert. (Don’t click that link. You’ve been warned.)
It all started when Derrick Henry began to run roughshod over defenders in the second half. The rumbling back matched the most rushing yards ever put up against a Seattle defense under Pete Carroll. Draw from that what you will since Henry might be the most singular talent ever to play his position when considering his size and speed combo.
More telling might be the utter lack of pressure on Ryan Tannehill behind a backup left side of the line. Instead, he slung the ball around for 347 yards and a called-back Julio Jones touchdown that would’ve tipped the scales on this game sooner.
Meanwhile, on the Seattle offense, past-time astronaut Russell Wilson keeps launching moonballs like a man who’s trying to disprove the law of gravity. He had three absolutely absurd shots, a pair to Tyler Lockett, one for 51 yards, and another for a 63-yard touchdown.
Then, Wilson dialed up Freddie Swain for a deep connection of 68 and a score. The man’s commitment to exploring space tops Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos combined.
However, his fourth-quarter and change didn’t reach the same dizzying heights. The offense had a hard time sustaining drives and seemed to have issues playing ahead. While a downfield aerial attack can build a lead, it isn’t the most effective strategy to put a stranglehold on a game. Clearly, Seattle has the raw power on offense to compete with anyone.
What does all this add up to? Each team is supremely talented but has its own distinct flaws. Perhaps, the NFC West might be the best but most winnable division in recent memory.