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The 2-0 Teams: Contender vs. Pretender

September 23, 2021 The 2-0 Teams: Contender vs. Pretender

By: Carlos Alvarez

Evaluating the NFL’s 2-0 Teams Heading Into Week 3

Seven NFL teams are still unbeaten entering Week 3 of the season, but who is for real? And who is simply a beneficiary of the schedule? The seven undefeated teams hail from just three divisions — two from the AFC (West) and five from the NFC (South and West). That means divisional matchups will certainly twist the narrative as the season goes on. It’s time to play Contender vs. Pretender with the league’s early-season elite.


Contender vs. Pretender


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The defending Super Bowl champs are off to the hottest start in the league after a narrow win against the Cowboys (31-29) and a blowout of the Falcons (48-25). Little can be determined about the validity of either opponent, but Tom Brady already leads the NFL with 9 TDs, and the Bucs are once again eyeing the Lombardi Trophy. Verdict: Contender


Las Vegas Raiders

One of the early-season surprises thus far is the Raiders. Las Vegas packaged two grind-it-out wins over tough AFC North opponents in the Ravens (33-27, OT) and Steelers (26-17). QB Derek Carr has been sensational (66.7% completion, 817 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT). Two tough wins early on spells success for Vegas. Verdict: Contender


Carolina Panthers

One of the biggest surprise 2-0 teams is the Panthers. Carolina only beat the Jets by five in Week 1 (19-14), and we saw how awful New York was in Week 2. But the Panthers beat the Saints handedly in Week 2 (26-7), raising questions about if their early-season success means they’re for real. The good news? They have a favorable schedule through October, but things get tough after November. Verdict: Pretender


Denver Broncos

The resurgence of QB Teddy Bridgewater has Broncos fans excited after a 2-0 start, but let’s pump the brakes. Bridgewater has been nearly perfect (77.1% completion, 592 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs), but Denver’s first two opponents were the Giants (27-13) and Jaguars (23-13). They also play in the AFC West where the Raiders (2-0), Chiefs (1-1) and Chargers (1-1) are tough outs. Verdict: Pretender


San Francisco 49ers

The NFC West is undoubtedly the toughest division in football, and they round out the last three 2-0 teams with Seattle (1-1) holding the only loss. San Francisco has Super Bowl aspirations, but beating the Lions (41-33) and Eagles (17-11) by a touchdown apiece isn’t that eye-opening. We still think they’re challengers come playoff time. Verdict: Contender


Los Angeles Rams

The revamped Rams are off to a hot start with new QB Matthew Stafford. His 599 yards and 5 TDs through two weeks has him with the third-highest QBR in the league, and the highest among undefeated teams. The Rams put up 61 points in two wins against the Bears and Colts… two terrific defenses. Verdict: Contender


Arizona Cardinals

Buckle up for the coming out party of QB Kyler Murray. The Cardinals blew up the first two weeks of the season behind Murray’s 740 total yards and 9 TDs (7 passing, 2 rushing). Arizona has the second-highest scoring offense through two weeks behind only the Bucs, and Murray is quickly becoming a heavy favorite in the MVP race. Verdict: Contender


A 2-0 start doesn’t mean much in a 17-game season, but keep an eye on these teams. One franchise usually takes a zero in the loss column deep into October/November. The Panthers have a shot at 3-0 tonight.


Thursday Night Football (Tonight)

Panthers at Texans (8:20 pm ET)


Additional Storylines

Yahoo! Sports: Trust Index: Which of the NFL’s 2-0 Teams Do We Trust?

DraftKings: Breaking Down the NFL Standings Coming Out of Week 2

USA Today: Ranking the NFL’s 0-2 Teams: Which Ones Still Have Hope to Save Their Seasons?


Photo: Icon Sportswire / Getty Images