Two weeks into the longest NFL regular season in history, there are very few solid answers around the league. But some interesting questions have been raised.
Here’s a look at three surprising teams sitting at 2-0 and three disappointing teams at 0-2 and how the immediate future shapes up for each:
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Derek Carr leads the league with 817 passing yards on a league-high 93 attempts. He’s completing 66.7% of his attempts with four touchdowns and one interception, putting his name into the extremely early MVP conversation.
That’s a good sign for a franchise that has never seemed to be happily married to the quarterback since Jon Gruden returned as head coach.
Even more encouraging is the caliber of competition the Raiders have beaten. They opened the season with a thrilling Monday night victory against the Baltimore Ravens and followed that up last week by outlasting the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road.
It’s more than enough to get people talking about Las Vegas as a real contender in the AFC. The question, of course, is whether this hot start is sustainable.
If Carr can continue to play at this level, the Raiders will be a tough out each and every week.
Staying out West with another hot quarterback, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals are fortunate to be among the 2-0 crowd. The Minnesota Vikings missed a 38-yard field goal that would have won Sunday’s game.
But a win is a win, and Arizona has beaten two teams that are expected to be playoff contenders. The Week 1 road demolition of the Tennessee Titans in a 38-13 victory opened plenty of eyes.
So has Murray’s early play. He’s completed an absurd 73.5% of his passes for 689 yards and seven touchdowns. The three interceptions are a concern, but he’s also rushed 10 times for 51 yards and two more scores.
Though a tough division is a concern – much like it is for the Raiders -- if the Arizona defense can hold teams well enough and the 5-foot-10, 207-pound Murray can stay healthy, this could be a breakthrough season in the desert.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list, Matt Rhule’s team earned a lot of attention with a 26-7 win Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Unlike the other two teams in this group, the defense is leading the way in Carolina.
Through two weeks, the Panthers have surrendered a total of 21 points and 380 yards – leading the league in both categories.
Sam Darnold has been good enough at quarterback, completing 68.5% of his passes for 584 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, and star running back Christian McCaffrey has 324 yards from scrimmage and one TD.
But the key is a defense that already has 10 sacks – led by three from new addition Haason Reddick – and four takeaways.
It’s unlikely the Panthers can dethrone the defending world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South, but a wild-card berth is certainly possible if the defense continues to play at a high level.
The list of 0-2 teams begins with an injured quarterback and an underachieving offensive line and defense.
New passer Carson Wentz has not been the problem in Indy. He’s completed 65.2% of his passes for 498 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but they are impressive in light of the fact he already has absorbed six sacks and 21 quarterback hits.
That beating already has taken a toll with Wentz questionable this week after spraining both ankles in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Meanwhile, a defense expected to take the next step this season has just four sacks and has given up 55 points – ranked 23rd in the league. With a three-game road trip to Tennessee, Miami and Baltimore on tap, things might get worse before they get better for the Colts.
With all the chaos surrounding Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota was a popular pick to win the NFC North this preseason.
Instead, the Vikings have doomed themselves with avoidable mistakes. The aforementioned missed field goal against Arizona stings, but this is a team that has already been penalized 15 times in two weeks.
Both losses were heartbreakers. Joe Burrow led a game-winning drive late in a 27-24 decision against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1, and Minnesota really should have beaten the Cardinals.
But the defense has surrendered 61 points and 840 total yards, suggesting deeper problems exist.
The Jaguars weren’t expected to be contenders this season, but they are supposed to take a step forward in their first season under head coach Urban Meyer.
A 37-21 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 1 was demoralizing, and No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence is off to a disappointing start. He’s completed just 50% of his passes for 450 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions.
The defense has not helped, giving up a total of 60 points and 847 yards to the Texans and Denver Broncos.
Add in reports of discord between Meyer – who made his name as a college coach at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State – and other members of the organization, and the Jags are not generating the kind of positive vibes hoped for after a headline-grabbing offseason.