— A mere 12 days ago, the 2009 season was new and shiny. No games had been played, everybody had a right to feel pretty good about their chances, optimism reigned.
And 12 days later? We’re getting a feel for what these 32 teams are all about.
These are the five stories to keep an eye on as we enter Week 3.
1. Put up or shut up
It’s time for the Titans and Patriots to see if there’s fire to go along with that smell of smoke.
Tennessee is 0-2; New England is 1-1 and a Leodis McKelvin fumble away from being 0-2. Both teams are facing 2-0 clubs this weekend — the Titans travel to New York to face the Jets; New England hosts Atlanta. The Patriots can be merely concerned. The Titans need to worry.
The last time Tennessee played the Jets was last November when they were 10-0. When the Jets left Nashville, the Titans were 10-1, recipients of a 34-13 whipping. Now, after allowing Houston to drop 34 on them in Week 2, it’s clear the transition to an Albert Haynesworth-free defense under new coordinator Chuck Cecil is not going to be seamless. The Jets still haven’t allowed a touchdown this season so the Titans can scratch the idea of winning in a shootout. They’re staring down the barrel of an 0-3 start.
The Patriots are out of it offensively. And with middle linebacker Jerod Mayo down with an MCL injury, their defense isn’t much better. Atlanta’s looked solid in both of their wins. Crisp. And if New England can’t deal with Matt Ryan and Atlanta, next week they get a faceful of Joe Flacco and the Ravens, another bunch that’s been very impressive so far.
2. Battle of unbeatens
The lone game between 2-0 teams this week takes place at Minnesota where the Vikings play the 49ers. Get this: 49ers coach Mike Singletary gets to coach against Brett Favre, after playing against him back in 1992 when Favre was in his first year as the Packers starter and Singletary was in the final year of his Hall of Fame career.
There are a few other storylines, too.
You have the league’s No. 1 rusher, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and the league’s No. 3 rusher, San Francisco's Frank Gore. You have Singletary’s team facing off against the defense of his former Bears teammate, Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. And, most intriguing, you have a team that figured to be among the NFC’s elite — Minnesota — going against a San Francisco team that is quickly becoming a team to take very seriously (6-1 in its last seven games dating back to last season).
This will be the first game for the 49ers outside of the NFC West and it should be the first harsh test for the Favre-led Vikings after wins over Cleveland and Detroit.
3. Coaches on the hot seat
Which coach comes out of next Monday night’s game with the word “embattled” affixed to his name, John Fox or Wade Phillips?
The Carolina Panthers are 0-2 and have allowed 66 points in two games. The M.O. of the Fox Era with the Panthers has been to follow a good year with a down one (or two). Since Fox took over in 2002, the Panthers have had three winning seasons. Each time they failed to answer the bell the following year.
Now they go to Jerry World where, after the Cowboys repeatedly shot themselves in the foot vs. the Giants on Sunday. Phillips is on thin ice as it is. A second home loss to a team as out-of-sorts as Carolina will have the buzzards making flight plans to North Texas.
4. Saint marching on
Can New Orleans keep it up? They’ve rolled up 93 points in two games and are now sizing up the Bills to see what they can drop on them.
Here’s a question: Will the Bills continue to run their no-huddle offense and risk handing the ball back to Drew Brees time after time given the potency New Orleans has shown so far? Brees has only been sacked twice in 68 attempts and the Bills have managed just three sacks in their first two games. If you don’t get to Brees it’s pitch-and-catch all day. In short, yeah, the Saints can keep it up.
5. What's latest out of Philly?
The Eagles quarterback situation is going to bear watching all week. A decision on whether or not Donovan McNabb can play will likely come right down to Sunday.
Meanwhile, backup Kevin Kolb — who wasn’t awful in the Eagles 48-22 loss to the Saints — is going to be sharing at least some of the snaps with Michael Vick, who’s eligible to play this week. And then there’s Jeff Garcia, who carried the Eagles to the playoffs in 2006 in relief of McNabb is standing on the sidelines watching the proceedings.
What’s that saying, if you have two quarterbacks you don’t really have one? Well now the Eagles are juggling four. The Eagles play winless Kansas City on Sunday.