Goal-line Stand: Broncos looking legit with Trevor Siemian at the helm

Updated: September 21, 2017
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The NFL is a week-to-week league, and there’s no telling which teams will be relevant once the playoffs approach. But there are so many games to play before we get to that point … and that’s the fun part.

Early in the season, opinions and perspectives can change in the blink of an eye. One week a team can look dominant, the next week that same team could have a lackluster performance and leave everyone scratching their heads. It’s the NFL in a nutshell.

This week, we take a look at the Denver Broncos and their impressive start with Trevor Siemian running the show, the Atlanta Falcons picking up where they left off last season, the Houston Texans‘ new starting quarterback, Deshaun Watson, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who may be as good as advertised.


First-and-goal: Trevor Siemian manning the quarterback position for Denver

After a season-opening victory against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys entered their Week 2 matchup against the Broncos riding momentum and drenched in confidence. But that quickly came to a halt when they ran up against Siemian & Co. on Sunday. The Broncos were completely dominant, defeating Dallas 42-17 and limiting Ezekiel Elliott to just eight rushing yards on nine carries.

It said a lot about this Broncos team and the direction they’re headed under new head coach Vance Joseph. They’ve jumped out to a 2-0 start and appear to have found the quarterback to lead their offense at an efficient level. Siemian backed up his 219-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1 with a 231-yard, four-touchdown game against the Cowboys.

He’s getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers and allowing them to flourish. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have been targeted a combined 30 times through two games. That’s one way to keep your top-two receivers happy. And Siemian also seems to be more comfortable tucking the ball when things break down and running for a few yards. He has 11 rushing attempts this season, when he had a total of just 28 in 14 games all of 2016.

Not to mention, C.J. Anderson is healthy and providing a much-needed boost in the backfield. The fifth-year back has rushed for 199 yards and a touchdown so far this season. The Cowboys got a hefty dosage of Anderson, as he bruised them with 25 rushing attempts.

We already knew about the Broncos and their daunted defense, but now the offense has joined the party.


Second-and-goal: Atlanta got back to its Falcon ways against the Packers 

It was deja vu for Green Bay on Sunday night in Atlanta.

The Packers were crushed (44-21) by the Falcons in the NFC Championship game last season, which led to a Super Bowl appearance for the dirty birds. And yeah, Atlanta eventually went on to blow a 28-3 lead and lose to Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots. But the football world is over that now — well, I think.

After a lackadaisical victory over the Chicago Bears in Week 1, the Falcons got back to their brand of football against the Packers. The offense showed flashes of its high-power potential and the defense rose to the occasion in making life difficult for Aaron Rodgers. The Falcons rushed for 141 yards on the night and Julio Jones had his usual impact with five receptions for 108 yards.

The Falcons are still a team to be reckoned with in the NFC — and the NFL as a whole. Matt Ryan has looked more confident than ever following his MVP campaign. And I believe the offense is out to prove that it can be just as good without Kyle Shanahan calling the plays.

The defense is blazing fast and could cause problems for opposing quarterbacks all season. Vic Beasley Jr. continues to wreak havoc along the defensive line and Desmond Trufant also returned this year, the Falcons’ top cornerback.


Third-and-goal: Have the Texans (finally) found themselves a quarterback?

He still has a lot to learn about the NFL and the speed of the game. But Deshaun Watson may be just what the doctor ordered in Houston.

After taking over for Tom Savage in the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Watson officially got his first career start — which came on his 22nd birthday — on Thursday Night Football against the Cincinnati Bengals. He wasn’t perfect by any means, as there were times where he was slow in going through his progressions and held on to the ball a little long. But the dual-threat quarterback also gave us a preview of what he has to offer.

One play after being leveled by All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, Watson lined up in a shotgun formation and had a Clemson flashback. He showcased his escapability in the pocket, split a few defenders and maneuvered his way into the end zone on a 49-yard score.

Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Bengals, went into complete shock. You could probably hear a pin drop.

It was the longest rushing touchdown by a Texans quarterback in franchise history. He also became the first rookie quarterback to win his first start on the road in a primetime game since the Philadelphia Eagles‘ Joe Webb did it in 2010, according to ESPN.

Brock Osweiler wasn’t the answer at QB last season in Houston, but Bill O’Brien just might’ve hit the jackpot by drafting Watson.


Fourth-and-goal: Maybe, just maybe, the Buccaneers are the real deal 

One week after having their season opener postponed due to Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay took the field at home against the Bears and obliterated them, 29-7. The Bucs were leading 29-0 for the majority of the contest, as Chicago didn’t score until the 1:43 mark of the fourth quarter.

The Buccaneers had a ton of hype surrounding them this year. With additions on both sides of the ball — DeSean Jackson at wide receiver, Chris Baker along the D-line and T.J. Ward at safety — they appear to be a playoff-worthy team.

Against the Bears, the defense, which was ranked 23rd in total yards surrendered in 2016, forced four turnovers and limited Chicago to just 20 yards rushing.

Jameis Winston played a clean game, throwing for 204 yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions. And he did a nice job spreading the ball around, targeting six players three times or more. Mike Evans, of course, had the most with nine, while Jackson, who at times complains about his lack of touches, had seven. Evans led the way for the receiving corps, catching seven passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. Many expect another big year for the 6-foot-5 Pro-Bowl wideout.

It was just one game, but the Bucs could be a force in the NFC South. I think they’ll have the Falcons looking over their shoulders quite a bit throughout the season.

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