Two weeks into the NFL season, the common refrain for all teams and commentators alike is: “It’s still early.” That said, teams that start the season 2-0 have made the playoffs at a 62 percent clip since 1990. Taking it one step further, of the 28 Super Bowl winning teams in that time period, 64 percent have started 2-0.
While that leaves plenty of room for error, it does generate good vibes for those teams that have opened the season with consecutive victories. One of those teams, the Los Angeles Rams, was considered to be among the Super Bowl contenders prior to the start of the season. After a pair of dominant performances to open the season, they look capable of fulfilling that potential. The Rams, with head coach Sean McVay, have a battle against their crosstown rivals, the Chargers, on CBS this weekend.
To get insight into the matchup, we caught up with The NFL Today studio analyst Nate Burleson. The NFL Today featuring Nate, fellow studio analysts Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason and Phil Simms along with host James Brown, airs on Sunday afternoons throughout the season beginning at 12 p.m. Eastern Time. (Editor’s note: The conversation below has been lightly edited for the sake of clarity and brevity.)
CBS Local Sports: Chargers-Rams was your Week 1 Super Bowl pick, does that seem to still be on track in your mind after the first two weeks of the season?
Nate Burleson: No, I’m only going to keep half of it. I’m still loving the Rams and what they bring to the table. It seems like they’re just heating up. They’re basically Steph Curry, we know that in the second and third quarter they’re going to hit a lot of threes. That’s what I feel like this offense is. As they get into the season and get into a rhythm it’s only going to get better.
However, the more underrated part of their team is that teams haven’t scored on them. They’re out there shutting teams down. What they were trying to build on the defensive side of the ball is really starting to take shape.
As far as the Chargers, there were a couple teams that I was hoping would be able to exorcise demons from the past. For the Chargers it was starting fast and not losing those close games late. It seems that they are more similar to who they were last year.
CBS Local Sports: With the Chargers and Rams matching up on Sunday, (4:05 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS) what’s the matchup you’re watching for?
Nate Burleson: Defensively, the Chargers have some superstars. Of course, there’s concern about Joey Bosa’s health, but you’ve got Melvin Ingram on the other side who’s an absolute monster. Casey Heyward in the secondary is one of the best in the business. That combination of an All-Pro corner in Hayward and a dominant edge guy in Ingram going up against the wide receiving corps of the Rams and the best running back in football Todd Gurley. That’s the matchup I’m watching.
CBS Local Sports: Also on CBS, the Denver Broncos head to Baltimore to take on the Ravens after a pair of heart-stopping wins to open the season. What changes does Denver need to make in order to avoid needing those late comebacks?
Nate Burleson: It’s looking like we’re going to need to name Case Keenum “Comeback Case”. You’re watching these games and just when you think Case Keenum might not have the chemistry or rhythm with the offense, he makes throws at the right time.
It’s very similar to what he did in Minnesota. There were times when people were calling for his job and asking for him to be benched. Now, he’s in a position where a team paid him to be exactly what he is, which is a guy that helps teams start 2-0.
But, to answer your question, they have to get off to a fast start. There are teams that say it and teams that do it. You have to jump out to an early lead and maintain that. From Case, we’ve seen some beautiful throws and touchdowns but we’ve also seen some interceptions which have cost them.
So, for Case, it’s about taking care of the ball which is what we praised him for in Minnesota. He has to go into these next few games saying: “Alright, let’s get touchdowns, make sure I know where to go with the ball, and take care of the ball.”
CBS Local Sports: Finally, one question on the Bills who have had a rough start to the season. They head to Minnesota this week with rookie quarterback Josh Allen making his second start. Was there anything you saw from Allen last week that was encouraging and can be built upon the rest of the year?
Nate Burleson: Yes. Exactly what we thought about him when he came in, that he’s a guy who can make huge throws with that big arm. He showed that last week.
There is a part of me as a wide receiver that loves the fact that he has a little bit of that gunslinger in him. The mentality, not the mindset or the football IQ or even the physical skillset. Just the mindset of being able to take risks, there is something to that.
There are still guys playing with that mentality that we love like Philip Rivers, he’ll gun it in there. Matt Stafford. Brett Favre, one of the greatest of all-time, he never thought twice about throwing that ball into tight windows. I love that about Josh Allen.
What I don’t like is that right now, he doesn’t have enough wisdom in the NFL, doesn’t have a strong enough resume, and doesn’t have enough experience to make those decisions. At this point, safer is better for Josh Allen.
When you’re established and have been in this league for a couple years and know the ups-and-downs, can read defenses and have that efficiency, like Carson Wentz, you can take those risks.
For Josh Allen I would say, go through your progressions, and make sure your worst-case scenario is check it down, take the sack or throw it out of bounds.