As is well documented, all seven of the head coaches in new positions suffered a loss in week one of the season. Instead of exclusively looking back at that abject failure (on the surface at least) I wanted to look forward to week two and see which coaches are most likely to put a mark in the win column for 2018.
Jon Gruden: Raiders @ Broncos
Week one served to answer a lot of difficult questions swirling around about Gruden’s roster management (I doubt that anyone still thinks GM Reggie McKenzie has any power in that organisation). The Raiders managed one sack against the Rams and aside from a stellar performance from Jared Cook they looked feeble in the passing game and the running game. Despite all of that, the Raiders were still in the game in the 4th quarter when they were only 10 points behind the Rams, so maybe not all is lost.
The Bronco’s in week two isn’t as tough as the Rams, but it’s still a difficult match up. The Raiders will need to do their utmost to protect Carr against a formidable pass rush in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. If they get to Carr, expect sacks or INTs. Gruden has come out and said that the Raiders need to get Amari Cooper going. He’s not wrong, but that need applies to all his wide receivers. The top two (Cooper and Nelson) combined for 32 yards on Monday night. Ok, so they were playing against two great cornerbacks, but still, 32 yards?
Chances of a win in week 2? Not likely – 2/10
Matt Nagy – Seahawks @ Bears
Nagy and the rest of the Bears team and fans will have been gutted to lose to the Packers on Sunday night. A 20 point lead and against a less than fit superstar QB with nine minutes left in the third quarter. Unfortunately the less than fit superstar QB was Aaron Rodgers and the rest is history. Nagy and his team will take heart from the Bears first half display though and of course that of newly acquired linebacker Kahlil Mack who was unstoppable. Nagy displayed poor game management skills in the 4th quarter when they chose a pass play on 3rd and 1 when the run game was working well. The failure of that play stopped the clock and gave Rodgers more time for the comeback (which ultimately he didn’t need).
The Week 2 matchup looks good for the Bears on paper as the Seahawks offensive line gave up multiple sacks and pressures to a pass rush led by Von Miller. Mack will be watching that, and with another weeks practice, be licking his lips. I almost feel sorry for Russell Wilson (almost). The Bears need to do what they did in the first half against the Packers, and carry on doing it in the second half! The offence looked good and Trubisky should have similar amounts of time to find his receivers.
Chances of a win in week 2? Good. This Seahawks team might not be quite as bad as we first thought but it’s not what it was a few years ago. At home, I would expect the Bears to get the win – 7/10
Matt Patricia – Lions @ 49ers
Monday nights defeat to a Jets team led by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold will be hard for Patricia to watch. The Lions run game was ineffective, Stafford had a very off day and was injured (I expect him to play this week still) and the defence gave up 48 points. At home. Against the Jets. Does Patricia need to go back to square one? Probably not, but he and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter need to have a huddle about play calling and figure out how to get that running game working.
Going to the 49ers will not be an easy game but they can take heart that the 49ers defence (especially the backfield) is probably not as good as that of the Jets. I don’t expect Stafford to throw as many INTs again and I would expect a bit more joy out of the running game. Saying that, the offence for the 49ers will be looking to bounce back after their loss to the Vikings.
Chances of a win in week 2? It’s quite well balanced but as they’re away from home I’m going to give the 49ers a slight edge – 4/10
Frank Reich – Colts @ Redskins
The Colts came through their game with the Bengals with a fit Andrew Luck. That’s almost a win in itself considering the recent history of their stellar quarterback. Alas it wasn’t a win though with the Bengals playing well and getting a deserved win. The Colts O-Line looked far from fixed and struggled to protect Luck or create any holes for a running game that was almost as bad as Detroit’s (not quite though). The defence needs to tighten up in both the pass and run game, though it has to be said they were playing against a top ten receiver in AJ Green and an improving young running back in Joe Mixon.
Whilst in week 2, there will be a let up in the receiver corps they’re playing, Washington do have what looks to be a rejuvenated Adrian Peterson which will be a concern to the Colts defence. My bigger concern though would be the defensive line the Colts have to contend with and that of Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne. If there’s not a significant improvement in the O-Line play then Luck could be in for a painful day at the office.
Chances of a win in week 2? Again, not out of the question but the Redskins looked ok against a poor Cardinals team and at home I would expect them to win – 3/10
Pat Shurmur – Giants @ Cowboys
Like the Bears, the Giants had a tough week 1 opponent when the Jacksonville Jaguars showed up in the Meadowlands. Saying that, despite the loss, they played ok. Sure, Eli wasn’t setting the world alight but he also wasn’t throwing multiple INTs or getting sacked. In fact, he was only sacked twice which, when you consider the strength of the Jags pass rush last year, is actually pretty good and could point to improvements in the O-Line play. Saquon Barkley pleased his admirers with a TD run and OBJ recorded over 100 receiving yards.
In week two, the Giants head to Arlington to play the Cowboys who had a pretty disappointing match against the Panthers. They need to get Zeke running the ball more (only 15 attempts in week one) which means the Giants defensive line probably needs to up it’s game slightly. Given the troubles the Cowboys have in the passing game though and a defence that isn’t as strong as the Jags, I would expect the Giants fans to be hopeful of a win. Also in past years, Eli has enjoyed playing the Cowboys both home and away.
Chances of a win in week 2? I think there’s a good chance and would probably give the Giants the edge in what will likely be a close match: 6/10
Mike Vrabel – Texans @ Titans
The Titans weren’t great against the Dolphins and what’s more, Mariota went out injured and now his favourite target, Delanie Walker, is out for the season. The defence wasn’t great against a rebuilding Miami offence which doesn’t bode well when they play the Texans with Deshaun Watson having a game under his belt following his season ending injury in 2017. The backfield was better than it has been previously and on paper they’ve got some good experience there which should look to exploit the relative inexperience of Watson at the NFL level.
Dion Lewis proved to be an effective weapon in both the run and pass game and the Titans will need to utilise him more in lieu of a like for like replacement for Delanie Walker. Derek Henry had a disappointing game recording an average of 2.6 yards per carry off 10 attempts. Whatever else, the likelihood of beating the Texans will rely on having a fully fit Mariota playing. Blaine Gabbert isn’t a bad backup but realistically, he’s going to find it difficult against a defence where JJ Watt has another game under his belt to build his fitness and game speed.
Chance of winning in week 2? Even with Mariota, this is a tough matchup against a team I expect to see improve: 3/10
Steve Wilks – Cardinals @ Rams
I could make this short and sweet but indulge me a little and let me pad it out a bit!
Arizona weren’t great against the Redskins, on any side of the ball. Bradford was so poor that if he plays that badly again then I expect to see Rosen take the field. Only 153 passing yards and an INT isn’t good enough and got sacked twice – I expect that number to go up in week two when they face the Rams. David Johnson had only nine attempts for 37 yards – it could be that the Cardinals are easing him back in but if I were them I’d be giving him much more work.
Chances of winning in week 2? I could keep going for longer but the Rams are good, the Cardinals are not: 1/10