WEEK 3: FIVE AFC TEAMS LOOK TO STAY PERFECT
While no guarantee, wins early in the season lay a foundation for future success – 75.4 percent of teams (86 of 114) that started 3-0 since 1990 made the playoffs.
Entering Week 3, five of the NFL’s eight 2-0 teams reside in the AFC – Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Miami and New England – and hope to move to 3-0 in Week 3.
“We’re just trying to get better every week,” says Broncos head coach JOHN FOX. “The old adage is, ‘It’s not where you start the race, it’s where you finish the race.’ I think our guys have done a pretty good job of focusing on that thus far, after two games. It’s about getting better every day and every week.”
A look at the five AFC teams to start 2-0:
DENVER: Dating back to 2012, Denver has won 13 consecutive regular-season games, the longest current streak in the NFL. The Broncos hope to extend the mark on Monday night against their long-time rivals, the Oakland Raiders.
Four-time NFL MVP PEYTON MANNING aims to lead Denver to their first 3-0 start since 2009. Manning, who leads the NFL with nine touchdown passes this season, is the only player in NFL history to have nine passing touchdowns and no interceptions through the first two weeks of a season.
“Peyton has great talent around him and he’s so good at understanding what defenses are doing and putting that talent in position to succeed,” says former NFL quarterback and NFL Network analyst KURT WARNER. “It’s not just like we’re out there calling a play; he can change the play, he reads defenses, he understands what he sees before they do it.”
On defense, the Broncos have had no shortage of takeaways. Under the direction of defensive coordinator JACK DEL RIO, the Broncos have registered an NFL-best six interceptions through Week 2.
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HOUSTON: The Texans aim for their second 3-0 start in franchise history (5-0 in 2012). Houston is the first team since the 1970 merger to win each of its first two games of the season on the game’s final play.
“This is what championship caliber teams do,” says former NFL running back and NFL Network analyst LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON. “No matter what happens throughout a course of a ballgame, they find themselves in the game and able to win it at the end of the game.”
Texans quarterback MATT SCHAUB has directed a Texans offense that ranks second in the AFC this season in passing yards per game (304.5) and rushing yards per game (146).
“This is one of the most balanced teams in football,” says former NFL head coach and NFL Network analyst STEVE MARIUCCI. “This is a pretty complete team.”
Veteran go-to wide receiver ANDRE JOHNSON is off to a fast start. Through Week 2, Johnson has 20 receptions, tied for an NFL-best, and leads the AFC with 222 receiving yards.
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KANSAS CITY: The Chiefs, who finished with a 2-14 record a year ago, seek to become the fifth team in NFL history to start 3-0 after losing 14 or more games the previous season. A win would also give Kansas City a 3-0 start for the first time since 2010.
Head coach ANDY REID will face his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, on Thursday. Reid aims to become the first Chiefs head coach to open a season with three straight wins in his first season with the team.
One key factor for the club has been playing mistake-free football. Through Week 2, Kansas City is tied for the second-best turnover ratio (+4) in the NFL. Through Week 2 of last season, the Chiefs were last in the NFL with a -6 turnover ratio.
“We try to eliminate the turnovers and we try to score points on offense,” says Reid. “The opposite way, don’t let them score and have some takeaways and normally good things happen. There’s a lot of emphasis on that, and the guys are doing a nice job.”
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MIAMI: The Dolphins aim for a 3-0 record to start the season for the first time since 2002. Miami, which registered both wins on the road (at Cleveland and Indianapolis), will host Atlanta in its home opener on Sunday.
“I think Miami’s legit,” says former NFL head coach and NBC analyst TONY DUNGY.
The Dolphins have been led by a stingy defense that applies pressure on the quarterback. Through Week 2, Miami is tied for a league-high 9 sacks.
“It’s only two games in and it’s a long season,” says Dolphins cornerback BRENT GRIMES. “But if we keep it up, we’ll be happy with what we do by year’s end.”
Offensively, Miami has been led by second-year quarterback RYAN TANNEHILL. The former first-round pick has passed for 591 yards with two touchdowns versus one interception and a 94.2 passer rating in 2013. In Week 2, Tannehill registered his second career game with 300+ passing yards in a 24-20 win at Indianapolis.
“Having gone through an NFL season and an offseason program as a starter, he has grown into the position and has tremendous confidence,” says Dolphins offensive coordinator MIKE SHERMAN. “He shows me great composure when he’s on the field.”
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NEW ENGLAND: The Patriots have started the season with two wins decided by three points-or-fewer against AFC East rivals Buffalo (23-21) and the New York Jets (13-10).
“Last year we were 1-2 and we ended up having a great season, so I’m glad we started out 2-0 with two wins in the division,” says Patriots quarterback TOM BRADY.
Brady, who has a 76-13 (.854) record at home, the best winning percentage among quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (minimum 50 starts), aims to improve that mark on Sunday at home against Tampa Bay.
With a win, the Patriots will register their first 3-0 start to a season since 2007 when New England posted an undefeated regular-season record (16-0).