I don’t remember the exact quote from the ESPN 30 for 30, but I remember Curt Schilling saying something to the effect of, “It was never as close as it felt like.”
Schilling, of course, was referring to Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, a game the Red Sox won 10-3 on the strength of two Johnny Damon home runs and a brilliant pitching performance from Derek Lowe (I feel like nobody remembers how good Lowe was back in his prime).
As a Red Sox fan, I can tell you exactly why that game felt so close. It’s because the Red Sox were in the exact same scenario a year earlier when Grady Little stuck with an exhausted Pedro Martinez and well, you know the rest. So when Terry Francona turned to Martinez as a relief pitcher in Game 7 (why Tito, why?), a year after one of the great collapses in postseason baseball history, the fan base was understandably skittish.
That’s my extremely roundabout way of saying, I think the Falcons still have some demons. Everything was going their way against the Packers. Devonta Freeman was eating. So was Julio. Aaron Rodgers—who makes mistakes about as often as we have leap years—threw a dang backwards pass that turned into a Falcons touchdown.
But then things got quiet at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Like pin-drop quiet. Rodgers led a do-or-die touchdown drive to begin the fourth quarter, trimming Atlanta’s lead to 18. Then Green Bay cut it to 11. This is fine.
That’s as close at it ever got, but I had to text my friend Doug, a lifelong Falcons fan from Connecticut (I don’t get it either), “Were you sweating?” His answer: “Of course I was. The Falcons proved no lead is safe last year.”
Just like Pedro Martinez when fans showered him with “Who’s your daddy?” and “1918” chants, Matt Ryan’s mind had to be thinking one thing when the Packers mounted their late comeback: 28-3. Those numbers, you’ve seen them on signs, t-shirts, even championship rings, aren’t going away. Any time things get even a little bit dicey for Atlanta, fans will immediately be transported back in time to the second half of Super Bowl LI, when the Falcons let a title and a 25-point lead fall through their fingertips.
And who knows how Sunday would have played out had the Packers been playing with a full deck. Green Bay spent much of the game without last year’s NFL receiving touchdown leader Jordy Nelson as well as Randall Cobb, who bowed out with a shoulder injury. Atlanta deserves credit for taking care of business against an elite opponent—after all, the Packers were No. 1 in these Power Rankings just last week. But the ghosts of Super Bowl LI remain.
Now to the undefeated Chiefs, who come in at No. 1 this week.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 2
Thought Kareem Hunt’s extraordinary Week 1 was just a flash in the pan? The 22-year-old proved otherwise with another masterpiece in Week 2 (109 yards from scrimmage, two touchdowns). Travis Kelce has topped 100 yards receiving in seven of his last 12 games going back to last year including a 103-yard effort Sunday against Philadelphia.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 6
It was the Devonta Freeman show Sunday as the Falcons opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium in style with a win over the Packers. Freeman bullied his way to 84 yards on 19 carries while converting a pair of goal-line touchdowns. After gashing Green Bay for 180 yards in last year’s NFC title game, Julio Jones stole the show again by going for 108 yards on five catches.
3. New England Patriots
Last Week: 3
Angry Tom Brady carved up the Saints’ listless D like a Thanksgiving turkey in Week 2, slinging three touchdowns including this beauty to Rob Gronkowski. But it’s not all good news for New England. Malcolm Butler played fewer snaps than usual while Brandin Cooks was invisible in his return to New Orleans. Phillip Dorsett’s 68 yards Sunday were his most since last year’s opener against the Lions (career-high 94 yards).
4. Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 5
One of these weeks I’ll get it right. Of course I went all in on a Derek Carr/Amari Cooper stack in DFS, only to have Michael Crabtree reel in six catches for 80 yards and three touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch’s Oakland homecoming couldn’t have gone much better. The 31-year-old cashed in on the goal line for his first touchdown since 2015 while cutting a rug on the sidelines. This is happiness in its purest form.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 4
After snoozing through Week 1, Martavis Bryant erupted for a team-high 91 yards in Sunday’s decisive win over the Vikings. The 91 yards were his most in a game since Week 13 of 2015. Le’Veon Bell averaged just 3.2 yards per carry against the Vikings but still finished with 91 yards from scrimmage on 31 touches. That kind of volume is hard to come by in fantasy, which explains his hefty price tag on FanDuel ($8,700 this week).
6. Denver Broncos
Last Week: 15
Denver’s defense was surprisingly soft against the run last year but the Broncos were anxious to change that narrative Sunday against Dallas. They succeeded, limiting Ezekiel Elliott to a career-low eight yards on nine carries. Don’t look now but former seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian is tied for the league lead with six touchdown passes. His 106.9 quarterback rating is higher than Tom Brady’s (106.2).
7. Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 1
The Packers have played three games in Atlanta (postseason included) since the start of last year. They’ve lost all three. Green Bay never stood much of a chance on Sunday with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb both hampered by injuries. The Packers may have come up short, but Ty Montgomery salvaged the day for fantasy owners with another brilliant performance, compiling 110 yards from scrimmage with two touchdowns. FanDuel reacted accordingly by bumping his price up from $6,500 to $7,200 this week.
8. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 8
The Seahawks have played two games but have just one touchdown to show for it. If there’s any solace to be taken in Seattle’s slow start (Russell Wilson owners can’t be happy), at least the team’s messy backfield is finally taking shape. Seventh-round rookie Chris Carson should be the lead back going forward after out-touching Thomas Rawls 21-5 in Week 2.
9. Detroit Lions
Last Week: 9
Ameer Abdullah steamrolled the Giants for a career-best 86 yards in Week 2. It was a low bar to clear—his previous career-high was only 67 yards—but it’s still progress. Eric Ebron scored his annual touchdown on Monday night while leading the team with 42 receiving yards. Meanwhile it’s been slim pickings for Marvin Jones, who has hauled in just three-of-seven targets for 64 yards to start the season.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 7
It hasn’t been a good start for Dez Bryant. He ranks second in the league in targets with 25 but only 35th in catches (nine). Ezekiel Elliott endured the worst game of his career in Sunday’s loss to Denver and had his effort questioned for giving up on this play. Jason Witten hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down (I mean that figuratively, of course), leading all tight ends with 17 catches through two weeks.
11. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 18
Has Buck Allen become, dare I say it, a must-start in fantasy leagues? He certainly made a compelling case Sunday against Cleveland, leading the Ravens with 101 yards and a touchdown on 19 touches. Ben “Yes, I’m Still in the League” Watson broke out for 91 yards in Week 2, his most in a game since Week 8 of 2015. It might be time for fantasy owners to cut bait on Mike Wallace, who has nabbed just two catches for 15 yards through his first two games.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 10
Jacquizz Rodgers didn’t do anything highlight-reel-worthy in last week’s opener, though he did provide a goal-line touchdown in a lopsided win over the Bears. Mike Evans will try to extend his touchdown streak to four games Sunday versus Minnesota, though shutdown corner Xavier Rhodes could throw a wrench in that plan.
13. Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 12
We’ve got a running back controversy brewing in Tennessee. It appears Derrick Henry has graduated from sidekick to leading man, or at least that’s how it looked in Sunday’s demolition of Jacksonville. He rushed for a career-high 92 yards in that game while out-touching supposed workhorse DeMarco Murray 14-10. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Delanie Walker’s rushing touchdown on Sunday was the first of his 12-year career.
14. Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 17
So what did we learn about the Dolphins in Week 2? We learned Jarvis Landry is still a monster in PPR, even when he’s averaging only six yards per catch. We also learned that DeVante Parker, Jay Cutler’s favorite target throughout the summer, is the real deal. The former first-round pick led the team with 85 yards in Sunday’s nail-biter against the Chargers despite a difficult matchup with shutdown corner Casey Hayward. And if any of you were worried about Jay Ajayi’s workload this year, don’t be. He rumbled to 122 yards on 28 carries in the opener.
15. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 13
Apparently Sam Bradford’s MRI was hard to read because of all the scar tissue on his surgically-repaired left knee. Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a red flag or anything. The offense predictably sputtered in his absence, scoring just nine points with journeyman Case Keenum under center Sunday at Pittsburgh. Only two players have rushed for more yards than Dalvin Cook (191) through the first two weeks.
16. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 11
A week after leading the team with 14 carries, LeGarrette Blount saw just six snaps in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City. Always a poor fit for Doug Pederson’s pass-heavy scheme, it doesn’t seem like Blount is long for Philadelphia. If you’re not plugging Zach Ertz into your DFS lineup every week, you’re doing it wrong. He leads all tight ends with 190 receiving yards and has averaged over 90 yards per game since Week 13 of last season.
17. Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 16
A broken foot will end Greg Olsen’s consecutive games played streak at 160. Barring something unheard of, it will also end his streak of three straight 1,000-yard seasons. It’s been a rough start for Christian McCaffrey, who ranks 39th out of 47 rushers in yards per carry (2.7). Through two weeks the Panthers have outscored their opponents by a convincing 32-6 margin.
18. Washington Redskins
Last Week: 21
Rob Kelley was running rampant (12 carries for 78 yards) on the Rams before a rib injury sent him to the sidelines in Week 2. Fourth-round rookie Samaje Perine will lead the backfield if Kelley has to miss Sunday night’s game against Oakland. The Redskins have to get more out of Jamison Crowder, who has averaged just 23.5 yards with no touchdowns over his last six games dating back to last season.
19. New York Giants
Last Week: 14
Here’s a thought—let’s stop putting the Giants on in primetime. Seriously, does this offense really look fit for national television? They’re a Sunday Ticket streaming team at best. Maybe New York’s offense wouldn’t be as stagnant if the team had any semblance of a running game. Instead, second-year back Paul Perkins has spent much of the first two weeks trapped in quick sand (26 yards on 14 carries). Rashad Jennings must be at home thinking, “I lost my starting job to this guy?” No Twitter, that’s the wrong Brandon Marshall.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 19
None of Arizona’s running backs stood out with David Johnson sidelined in Week 2, but Chris Johnson was the best of a lackluster bunch, leading the team with 44 yards on 11 carries. J.J. Nelson has quietly averaged 65.4 yards with seven touchdowns over his last seven games dating back to last season. With John Brown still nursing a quad injury, Nelson should be one of the most sought-after players on waivers this week.
21. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week: 20
Todd Gurley had his best game in ages in Week 2. The 2015 Rookie of the Year rolled the Redskins for 88 rushing yards and another 48 receiving while punching in a pair of touchdowns. Second-round rookie Gerald Everett put on a clinic in that game (three catches for 95 yards) before bowing out with a thigh injury. Tavon Austin’s 2017 salary ranks fourth among wide receivers. That’s good loot for a guy who's pulled in just two catches for 12 yards through his first two games.
22. Houston Texans
Last Week: 25
DeAndre Hopkins leads the league with 29 targets through two weeks, though he’s caught less than half of them (14 receptions for 128 yards). After being scarcely used in the opener, third-round rookie D’Onta Foreman saw 12 carries in Week 2, though he averaged just 3.3 yards per attempt. Among quarterbacks, only Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor has rushed for more yards than Deshaun Watson this season (83).
23. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week: 23
It’s a new year in a new (soccer) stadium with a new head coach, but it’s the same old Chargers, losing games in predictably heart-wrenching fashion. A week after having his kick blocked by Shelby Harris on the game’s final play, undrafted rookie Younghoe Koo shanked what would have been the game-winner Sunday versus the Dolphins. Melvin Gordon can’t stop running into brick walls (2.5 yards per carry this year), but at least Keenan Allen has shown well with 14 catches for 135 yards in the early going. Props to Antonio Gates for finally breaking Tony Gonzalez’s record for most touchdowns by a tight end.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 22
The Jags got boat-raced by the Titans in Week 2, but fantasy owners still got what they needed from Allen Hurns, who impressed with six catches for a game-high 82 yards and a touchdown. All of his yards came after halftime, which has been a theme for him throughout his career. Coming off a brutal game against Tennessee (20-for-34, 223 yards, three turnovers), Blake Bortles will be on his last lifeline when the Jaguars travel to London to play the Ravens this week.
25. New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 24
The Saints are 0-2 for the fourth time in as many seasons. No team has allowed more yards than New Orleans this year and only one (the Jets) have yielded more points. None of those are promising developments, though at least Marshon Lattimore is holding his own. The 11th overall pick in April’s draft quieted Brandin Cooks before going down with a concussion in Week 2 and carries PFF’s No. 12 cornerback grade out of 104 qualifiers this year.
26. Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 26
After ransacking the Jets for 190 rushing yards in Week 1, it was back to reality for the Bills in Week 2. LeSean McCoy’s nine rushing yards Sunday were his fewest in a game since Week 17 of his rookie year in 2009. Newcomer Jordan Matthews hasn’t done much to move the needle in his first two games, catching just five balls for 91 yards with no touchdowns.
27. Chicago Bears
Last Week: 29
Week 2 probably wasn’t good for Mike Glennon’s job security (three turnovers including two interceptions), but can we really expect better from second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky? Chicago’s top receivers last week were Kendall Wright and Deonte Thompson. The running game was also nonexistent, featuring a combined 20 yards on 16 carries from Tarik Cohen and a nicked-up Jordan Howard. With Pittsburgh and Green Bay next up on the schedule, it could be a while before the Bears put one in the win column.
28. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 27
Going the first two games without a touchdown is one thing. Going the first two games without a touchdown at home—well that’s when it’s time to fire your offensive coordinator. New OC Bill Lazor will be tasked with reviving Andy Dalton, who currently holds the league’s worst quarterback rating at 47.2. Cincinnati’s offense could also use a healthy Tyler Eifert, who is questionable for Week 3 with back and knee injuries.
29. Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 28
Rashard Higgins tacked on 95 yards in last week’s loss to Baltimore. That’s more yards than he had all of his rookie season (77 in 16 games). The 22-year-old should play a big role in the Browns’ passing game with Corey Coleman (broken hand) on the shelf. Look ma, no hands! Well actually Duke Johnson needed one hand to haul in this pass from Kevin Hogan, but it was still pretty sweet.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 30
Carlos Hyde showed the Seahawks a thing or two by breaking off 124 yards on 15 carries Sunday. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to win games when your starting quarterback is averaging a paltry 4.71 yards per attempt with a QB rating hovering around 60. In eight quarters of football, the Niners have yet to score a touchdown.
31. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 31
Former Patriots third-string QB Jacoby Brissett completed just 20-of-37 passes for 216 yards and an interception in his Colts debut, but didn’t throw any pick-sixes. Scott Tolzien was benched after letting the Rams take two INTs to the house in Week 1. Jack Doyle was expected to struggle without Andrew Luck but instead he’s hauled in 10-of-11 targets for a respectable 120 yards, which ranks eighth among tight ends.
32. New York Jets
Last Week: 32
Not a great week for the Jets. They got embarrassed by the Raiders, then whined about Marshawn Lynch’s sweet dance moves. A forgotten man in Seattle (except that one time he came down with one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history), Jermaine Kearse has impressed with 11 catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games as a Jet.
Biggest Jump: Broncos
Biggest Drop: Packers