Throughout the 2016 NFL season, we’ll examine rising and falling trends in the NFL ranging from teams to players to controversial calls and much more.
Heading into Week 3, we’re seeing a star emerge in Minnesota and an offence struggling mightily in the Northwest.
The Minnesota Vikings have themselves a bonafide star in their second-year wideout, the NFL’s leading receiver through two games.
Diggs showed flashes in his rookie season but has thrown an official coming-out party over the first two weeks of the 2016 campaign. With games of 103 and 180 yards with two different quarterbacks, Diggs has accounted for nearly 60 percent of the the Vikings’ total passing offence thus far.
And it didn’t take long for Diggs to get on the same page with his new QB. Sam Bradford was 9-for-11 Sunday night when throwing to No. 14, and it was pretty clear the two have established a great rapport in the two-plus weeks since Bradford’s arrival.
It’s been a while, but it looks like the Vikings have a true No. 1 receiver for the first time since Randy Moss.
The Giants Defence
It’s not often that big-money spending pays off in the NFL. Rarely do teams that shell out piles of cash in free agency reap the benefits, especially so early in the season, but the nearly $200 million the Giants dolled out this spring have paid immediate dividends.
Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins—who ranked as the Giants’ top player in Week 2’s matchup against the Saints, according to Pro Football Focus—have all played crucial roles on a much-improved defence that allowed the most yards in the NFL last season.
Not to be overlooked, Jason Pierre-Paul is back to his old self after last summer’s devastating fireworks injury and has helped turn New York’s defensive line into one of the league’s best through two weeks.
Only time will tell if this trend continues, but any team that slows a Drew Brees-led offence has got to be doing something right.
To say Gordon’s rookie season was tumultuous would be an understatement.
In 14 games, the Chargers running back averaged just 45.8 yards per game (3.5 per carry), failed to record more than 88 yards in any contest and didn’t score a single touchdown before a knee injury ended his debut season prematurely.
With the pressure on to prove his first year in the NFL was a momentary blip, Gordon has shot out of the gates in 2016. He racked up the first two touchdowns of his career in a Week 1 loss to the Chiefs, averaging a respectable 4.07 yards a carry in just 14 touches. The 23-year-old followed that up in Week 2 by passing the century mark for the first time as a pro and getting in the endzone once more, again surpassing the four-yards-per-rush mark.
Now, with Danny Woodhead done for the season it’ll be up to the sophomore to carry the load in San Diego.
The Seahawks Offence
The Seahawks defence is one of the best in the league. Also, water is wet.
But it could be a long year in Seattle if the offence can’t get it together. The injury to Russell Wilson has immobilized the quarterback, highlighting the weaknesses this unit faces when its No. 1 playmaker can’t use his legs to make plays.
But what’s really hurting the Seahawks is terrible play along the offensive line, a unit that struggled last season and had hopes of being improved in 2016. It isn’t.
Wilson has done a nice job even with the injury and porous blocking in front of him. But now with injuries to top receiver Doug Baldwin and running back Thomas Rawls, the outlook for the Seahawks doesn’t look great heading into a Week 3 clash with the 49ers.
The No. 4–overall pick didn’t blow anyone away in his NFL debut against the Giants—Elliott scored a touchdown but gained just 2.5 yards a rush—and his early-career struggles continued Week 2 against Washington.
Praised for his big-play ability, Elliott has managed just one run over 10 yards in his first two games—a mid-third quarter gain of 21 yards Sunday—while recording six negative plays over the two-week span. These struggles were compounded by a pair of fumbles in Sunday’s victory over their division rival.
There’s no reason to believe these struggles are a sign of long-term problems for Elliott, but the rookie hasn’t had the immediate impact many believed he would in Dallas.
The Raiders Defence
The Raiders were expected to take the next step towards contention this season, with both the offence and defence drawing praise ahead of a season that appeared wide open in the AFC West.
One half of Jack Del Rio’s team has held up its end of the bargain. The other? It’s failed miserably.
Oakland focused mainly on bringing in defensive talent in free agency—Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson, Bruce Irvin—but the unit continues to be the team’s Achilles’ heel.
After being torched for 420 yards by Drew Brees in Week 1, Oakland’s leaky defence gave up nearly 530 to the Atlanta Falcons including a monster day from Julio Jones.
The Raiders are at risk of wasting what looks like a top-five offence, with plenty of work to do on the other side of the ball to become a real factor in the AFC West.