NFL: Antonio Brown, Big Ben in decline and marvellous Mahomes

Luke Bradshaw
Sports Writer
Brees hurt against the Rams (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

We run through the talking points from the NFL’s second week.

Age taking its toll

An elite era of quarterbacks has seen the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger continue to defy father time, break records and put up exceptional numbers. This week, Brady and Rodgers aside, they stuttered. In Los Angeles, Rivers’ attempt to force a pass to Keenan Allen, rather than attempt a field goal, meant the Chargers lost at home to Detroit, while Brees injured his thumb in the first game under coach Sean Payton in which the Saints have failed to score a touchdown.

It’s in Pittsburgh, however, where things look the worst. The Steelers lost Big Ben after an elbow injury took him off the field. He returned shortly after, only to throw an interception and head back down the tunnel in their loss to the Seahawks. It leaves his side 0-2 and with issues afoot...

No Bs left?

Ben Roethlisberger injured at Heinz Field (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

You don’t have to cast your mind too far back to remember Big Ben as one part of the “three Bs”, alongside Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell – a thrilling Steelers offence that lit the league up. With the latter two seeking greater guaranteed money elsewhere they both forced trades out of Pittsburgh, and both have touchdowns to their names this season already. Ben, on the other hand, is struggling.

Backing your franchise quarterback, who has two Super Bowls to his name, is totally understandable, but problems remain in Pittsburgh. After two losses they now go to San Francisco, have divisional games against the Bengals and Ravens, and host the Chargers before their bye. They could easily be 1-5 by then, all the while Brown keeps, in his own words, “business booming” in Foxborough.

All right for Antonio

Tom Brady congratulates Antonio Brown (Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL’s decision to allow Brown to take the field, despite a civil lawsuit filed last week in which he was accused of sexually assaulting a former trainer, continues to play out as the league conducts its own investigations this week. He vehemently denies the allegations and, whether he continues to play or not, it looks like the Patriots will rumble on regardless, as they always do.

That said, there was an unerring sense of efficient brilliance when Brady found Brown for his first Patriots touchdown. He was the 72nd different receiver to catch a TD pass from Brady and, aside from Randy Moss, is the best of the bunch. It’s likely both will be in the AFC Championship game.

Mahomes will be MVP

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (Photo by Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s hard not to see the Chiefs being there too. He may not have Kareem Hunt or Tyreek Hill at his disposal, but Patrick Mahomes still has plenty of weapons around him, and all of them look better because of him. After going 10-0 down, last season’s MVP threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns in the second quarter to blow the Raiders away.

The Chiefs were actually quite poor before and after, but the sheer explosiveness and schemes set by Andy Reid were something to behold. Sometimes players have a second year slump, Mahomes is getting better.

Kind schedule or Super Bowl bound?

Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

Perhaps a bit of both for the Dallas Cowboys. There aren’t many more gentle opening schedules you could be given than the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins. So far, Dallas have passed two of the three with relatively little fuss, with Dak Prescott looking assured when driving his team in offense. Regardless of the opponents faced, it means the Cowboys are likely to head into a matchup against the Saints in good form.

The result against New Orleans will dictate the narrative from then on. Lose and it will be the reality check that brings them back down to Dallas with a bump. Win, go 4-0 with two poor teams in their division and a Super Bowl run is very much on the cards.

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