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NFL Week 3: 10 burning questions, including Tua Tagovailoa’s statement game

Vincent Frank

NFL Week 3 starts Thursday with the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers renewing their rivalry on Amazon Prime Thursday night. Does Pittsburgh quarterback Mitch Trubisky have a short leash?

Sunday’s action includes Dan Campbell’s surprising Detroit Lions heading to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings. Are the young Lions prepared for a statement game?

As for the biggest matchup on the NFL Week 3 slate, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will do battle. Is Brady ready to overcome early-season struggles against the two-time reigning MVP? These are among the 10 burning questions heading into the third week of the 2022 NFL season.

Related: NFL Week 3 power rankings

Can the Jacksonville Jaguars be taken seriously?

nfl week 3: jacksonville jaguars at los angeles chargers
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Jacksonville has outscored the Indianapolis Colts by a combined margin of 50-11 over the past two games dating back to Week 18 of last season. In its other nine games since November 7 of 2021, Jacksonville is winless and has found itself outscored by 148 points. One has to wonder whether the Jaguars’ success against Indianapolis is a mirage or if they have turned a corner under new head coach Doug Pederson and second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

What we do know is that Jacksonville is a late-game Week 1 meltdown from being 2-0 on the season. Lawrence has been brilliant throwing to the likes of Christian Kirk, Evan Engram and Zay Jones (74% completion).

Defensively, the Jags might have the single best pair of young pass rushers in the game. Rookie No. 1 pick Travon Walker and Josh Allen have combined for five QB hits and three sacks in two games. It’s going to get difficult going up against Justin Herbert and the Chargers in Southern California in NFL Week 3. If these Jags are competitive, it will show us that they might have finally turned the corner after years of misery in Duval.

Related: NFL Week 3 QB rankings

Who will shine between Jameis Winston and Baker Mayfield in must-win NFC matchup?

nfl week 3 burning questions: baker mayfield, jameis winston
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

An appropriate answer here could be neither one. Dealing with that was likely a lot of pain last week, Jameis Winston threw three interceptions in a performance that harkened back memories of his 30-interception 2019 campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s been well below average for the New Orleans Saints through two games.

Meanwhile, average would be an improvement from the current iteration of Baker Mayfield with his winless Carolina Panthers. They rank 30th in passing offense at 168 yards per game. Mayfield sits in between Cooper Rush and Geno Smith in yards per completion. He’s been nothing more than a backup-caliber quarterback through two weeks.

Carolina sits at 0-2 heading into this NFL Week 3 matchup. Head coach Matt Rhule is firmly on the hot seat. Desperation could call on him to go in another direction with P.J. Walker or wait until Sam Darnold returns from injury to pull the plug on Mayfield. As for New Orleans, head coach Dennis Allen has an ace in the hole in Andy Dalton currently riding the pine.

Russell Wilson attempts to solve San Francisco 49ers equation

nfl week 3: san francisco 49ers at denver broncos
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As a member of the Seattle Seahawks throughout his first 10 NFL seasons, Wilson enjoyed a tremendous amount of success against San Francisco. He boasts a 16-4 career regular-season record and has accounted for 36 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. 49ers fans know this all too well.

But there’s a different feeling heading into “Sunday Night Football” with Wilson struggling as a member of the Denver Broncos and San Francisco’s defense looking flawless. Wilson completed just 14-of-31 pass attempts in Denver’s ugly home win against the Houston Texans last week.

As for the 49ers’ defense, it has made opposing quarterbacks look silly thus far on the young season. All said, San Francisco is giving up 138 net passing yards per game and a 73.1 QB rating. It is going to be tough sledding for Russ come Sunday night in Mile High. If he can’t outplay Jimmy Garoppolo at home and lead Denver to a win, it will tell us a lot about the trajectory of the team moving forward.

Related: NFL Week 3 defensive rankings

Can Dan Campbell’s Detroit Lions make a statement in Minneapolis?

nfl week 3: detroit lions at minnesota vikings
Kirthmon F. Dozier-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s give Detroit’s start to the season some perspective. Its offense has put up 71 points through the first two games. The team scored 66 points to close out the final two games of the 2021 campaign. Both would represent the most points this Lions organization has scored during a two-game span since back in 2017. As for the run to open the 2022 season, you have to go back to the 2011 season when Detroit boasted a 10-6 record under Jim Schwartz. Remember him?

The Lions’ start doesn’t seem to be a fluke. Quarterback Jared Goff (six TD, one INT) seems to be much more comfortable in offensive coordinator Ben Johnson’s scheme. Running back D’Andre Swift has dominated to the tune of 262 total yards and an average of 10.5 yards per touch. Meanwhile, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown just tied the NFL record for the most consecutive games with eight-plus receptions.

With a date against the Minnesota Vikings in NFL Week 3, Detroit can more than prove that it is a legitimate playoff contender in the NFC. Detroit has not won in Minneapolis since 2017. It would also be a major statement game in the NFC North after the Vikings’ implosion against Philadelphia this past Monday night.

First win or lost season? Titans and Raiders do battle

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Las Vegas Raiders
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Ouch. The Raiders blew a 20-0 halftime lead in Josh McDaniels’ home debut as their head coach last week, only to fumble the thing away in overtime against the Arizona Cardnals. It was an ugly scene inside Allegiant Stadium, including one fan being investigated for hitting Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. For a team that earned a playoff spot last season and had high expectations heading into the 2022 campaign, this has to be seen as disaster.

“It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of helping us to finish these kinds of things out if you get ahead and that’s what we’re going to work hard to do as we go forward.”

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels heading into NFL Week 3

Both of the Raiders’ losses this season have come by one score. In each, it’s been about an inability to close the game out. Veteran quarterback Derek Carr even went as far to say recently that they “have to learn how to win.” That’s not a great statement after earning a playoff spot last season.

The good news for Vegas is that it is going up against another winless team in that of the Titans who were humiliated by the score of 41-7 by a vastly superior Bills team last week. Tennessee also opened the season with an ugly home loss to the New York Giants. Ryan Tannehill is a shell of his former self under center. The trade of A.J. Brown has impacted Tennessee’s offense big time. Meanwhile, star running back Derrick Henry has struggled through two games.

Tennessee is in transition mode under head coach Mike Vrabel. The Raiders still have playoff aspirations. How big is this NFL Week 3 game for both squads? Only six teams since 1980 have made the playoffs after starting 0-3. The odds increase significantly with a 1-2 record. All eyes will be on Nashville Sunday afternoon. That’s for sure.

Related: Updated NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

Which head coach will find himself further on the hot seat?

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Commanders
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Will the Washington Commanders move off Ron Rivera in-season? That seems highly unlikely. It’s more likely that defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio gets his walking papers given how bad that unit has performed through two games (29.0 PPG). But it’s all about leadership in the sideline. Washington’s ugly start Week 2 against the Detroit Lions doesn’t paint Rivera in the best of lights. It now must take on the red-hot Philadelphia Eagles this week. Another ugly loss will make Rivera’s seat that much hotter.

Speaking of being on the hot seat, Rivera’s former Carolina Panthers squad could be the first team to fire its head coach this season. Matt Rhule has Carolina at 0-2 on the season with the two losses coming by a combined five points. He’s now a disastrous 10-25 as the Panthers’ head coach. An 0-3 start to the campaign could very well lead to Rhule’s departure long before Carolina even hits its Week 13 bye. That’s especially true with games coming up against the Cardinals, 49ers, Rams and Buccaneers after the Panthers’ Week 3 outing in New Orleans.

Will the Cincinnati Bengals get their first win?

nfl week 3: cincinnati bengals at new york jets
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

It was barely sustainable last season when Joe Burrow was sacked a league-high 51 times. While Cincinnati was able to overcome that and surprisingly win the AFC, these pass-protection issues are back at the forefront. Burrow has gone down 13 times in two games (a pace of 111 sacks). That’s just disgusting.

“I think we’ve given up too many sacks, absolutely,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said after Week 2 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Ya think? Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s offensive line has failed to open up running lanes for star running back Joe Mixon (3.0 yards per attempt).

Losing in the trenches is not a sign of a winning team. With Cincinnati’s defense having recorded all of two sacks in as many games, this has been an all-too common theme thus far in the 2022 season. Typically, an outing against the New York Jets would seem to be the tonic for these struggles. That’s until we look at what Joe Flacco and Co. did in their comeback win over the Cleveland Browns last week. A loss here for Cincinnati would be disastrous, likely sending it to a lost season. And in reality, it’s all about how the lines play on both sides of the ball.

Related: Fantasy football players set to rebound in NFL Week 3

Tom Brady looking to overcome early-season “struggles”

nfl week 3 burning questions: tom brady
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady has looked like anything but a seven-time Super Bowl champion through the first two games of the season, completing 59% of his passes with two touchdowns and one interception for an 82.8 QB rating. For the greatest of all-time, this represents his second ugly start in three seasons with the Buccaneers.

Is there added concern due to Brady’s advanced age of 45, his lack of training camp reps and a drama-filled offseason? We can’t be sure of that. What we do know is that he was playing without receivers Chris Godwin and Julio Jones in Week 2. He’ll also be without Mike Evans due to suspension during NFL Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers.

Taking on Aaron Rodgers adds another element to this matchup, too. With that said, Brady will also be going up against one of the best defenses in the NFL as he deals with depth issues at wide receiver.

“It’s a tough game. It’s a big challenge. I got a lot of studying on the plane last night. It’s a new defensive coordinator since the last time we played them and they have some really talented players on defense, really physical up front, some great edge rushers. Rashan Gary is a former Michigan guy that I love and he’s a great player, rushes the quarterback so well.”

Tom Brady heading into NFL Week 3

Throughout his brilliant career, Brady has proven to be up to the task when faced with adversity. Despite his Buccaneers 2-0 start to the season, that’s the situation he’s in from a micro perspective.

Related: NFL Week 3 MVP rankings

Will Mitch Trubisky get the hook for the Pittsburgh Steelers?

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers
David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

Through two games, the Pittsburgh Steelers are averaging 18.5 points per. They rank 28th in the NFL in passing offense and are coming off an absolutely disastrous outing in which this unit put up 243 total yards. Is this enough for head coach Mike Tomlin to consider a change under center? He didn’t seem completely locked in to Mitch Trubisky as a long-term option following last weekend’s loss to the New England Patriots.

“I’m going to exercise appropriate patience and continue to teach and ask the guys to continue to learn in an effort to continue to push this train down the track and get better. I think that if anyone is sitting here on Monday in Week 2 of this thing feeling happy, they’re probably wrong or misinformed.”

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin heading into NFL Week 3

Trubisky is completing less than 60% of his passes while averaging a laughable 5.1 yards per attempt through two weeks. He’s struggled with accuracy, held on the ball too long and isn’t consistently getting past his first read. That sounds very much like a rookie-caliber quarterback to us. Should Trubisky struggle early against the Browns in Cleveland Thursday evening, it would not be a surprise if an actual rookie in Kenny Pickett gets a shot. Then again, this could be on offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Who the heck knows at this point?

NFL Week 3 brings Tua Tagovailoa up against Josh Allen

NFL: London Games-Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa had his coming-out party against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2. He led Miami to 28 fourth-quarter points en route to pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in modern NFL history. That fourth-quarter performance saw the former Alabama standout complete 13-of-17 passes for 201 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Heading into Week 3 against the juggernaut that is the Buffalo Bills, Tua has entered the NFL MVP conversation.

This could end up being a defining moment for the third-year quarterback. He’s taking on a Super Bowl favorite in that of the Bills at home. The dominating Josh Allen wil be tossing the rock around South Beach. If Miami is able to pull off the home upset, Tua and Co. will announce their presence as a legit early-season conference title contender.