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NFL Week 3 storylines, including 49ers and Cowboys looking to continue dominating

nfl week 3
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Week 3 storylines offer us a whole heck of a lot to look at. From Saquon Barkley’s status for the New York Giants against the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday Night Football to Joe Burrow’s latest calf issue, injuries have become a major storyline.

Several disappointing teams find themselves at 0-2 on the season. Losses during NFL Week 3 would put them at 0-3. This is pretty much an elimination spot for the playoffs given that only one team since 2002 has made the postseason after starting with three consecutive losses.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Dallas Cowboys have been absolutely dominant through two weeks. They join the aforementioned 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles as the class of the NFL. Is Dallas set for a let down against a vastly inferior Arizona Cardinals team on the road Sunday?

Related: Unlock Fantasy Sports Success! Get FREE Insights & Tips From Dr. Roto and His Team Of Big-Money Fantasy Winners

These are among the top NFL Week 3 storylines. Let’s look at one for all 32 teams heading into this week.

NFL Week 3 storylines

New York Giants: The Saquon-less Barkley’s

nfl week 3 storylines: new york giants at san francisco 49ers
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Saquon Barkley will likely be sitting this one out after suffering a sprained ankle in New York’s comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals last week. It’s not great news for a Giants offense that’s going up against one of the best defenses in the NFL on a short week.

Meanwhile, starting left tackle Andrew Thomas is also unlikely to go in this one after missing Week 2. The Giants will need Daniel Jones to pick up where he left off in the second half this past Sunday while taking on a 49ers team that’s won 12 consecutive regular-season games. Good luck!

San Francisco 49ers: Avoid that short-week let down

As noted above, San Francisco heads into this home game having won 12 consecutive regular-season games. Brock Purdy is 7-0 as a starter for the 49ers. They are averaging 32.6 points in those seven starts while outscoring their opponents by 16.3 points per.

However, they were tested by the Los Angeles Rams in a 30-23 win last week. On a short turnaround, it will be interesting to see if San Francisco is able to get up for this game. Anything is possible when it comes to Thursday Night Football.

Indianapolis Colts: A-Rich’s status

The status of Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (concussion protocol) is up in the air. He exited last week’s win over the Houston Texans. Veteran backup Gardner Minshew responded by completing 19-of-23 passes for 171 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions.

It will be a more difficult task in Baltimore if Minshew has to take QB1 snaps with Richardson sidelined. As an aside, we just want to see Richardson healthy after being banged up in each of his first two NFL regular season games. The kid has been electric when on the field.

Baltimore Ravens: The Flowers are blooming

nfl week 3 storylines: baltimore ravens, zay flowers
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The Ravens find themselves at 2-0 for the first time since 2020. A lot of that has to do with the sweet music Lamar Jackson has found with rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers. The two have been in an absolute zone through two weeks, with Flowers catching 13-of-15 targets for 140 yards. Seven of his 13 catches have also gone for first downs.

With Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) banged up, the expectation is that Flowers will continue to see a nice amount of targets against Indianapolis. If so, he could dominate as Baltimore looks to go 3-0 for the first time since 2016.

Tennessee Titans: Off the schneid

Tennessee snapped an eight-game losing streak with a win over the Los Angeles Chargers last week. They are now tied atop the mediocre AFC South with a Week 3 game looming in Cleveland against the Browns.

Taking on an offense that’s without star running back Nick Chubb and has struggled big time this season, we’re intrigued to see if the Titans can start a win streak. Their defense is yielding just 2.7 yards per rush on the season, which could put this one on the mistake-prone Deshaun Watson.

Cleveland Browns: Dashaun’s follies

nfl week 3 storylines: deshaun watson, cleveland browns
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A lot of the focus in Cleveland following its Week 2 loss has been on the season-ending injury star running back Nick Chubb suffered. For good reason. He’s the team’s best offensive player and makes things go on that side of the ball. Said injury also gave Deshaun Watson a bit of a break in the news cycle after a three-turnover performance. That won’t continue should the quarterback continue to struggle at home Saturday against the Tennessee Titans.

In eight starts as the Browns’ starter dating back to last season, Watson has accounted for nine touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions. He didn’t even look the part of a starter-caliber quarterback in last week’s loss to Pittsburgh. Criticism will come his way should the Browns fall to Tennessee or if their offense comes up small once again.

Atlanta Falcons: It’s Bijan Robinson’s world

nfl week 3: atlanta falcons
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After last week’s 183-yard domination against Green Bay, this rookie ranks second in the NFL in rushing and third among running backs in receiving yards. It’s almost like Robinson was the generational running back most figured when the 2023 NFL Draft was approaching.

The former Texas star now leads Atlanta into Detroit to take on fellow rookie Jahmyr Gibbs and the Lions. At 2-0 on the season, these Falcons are looking to start 3-0 for the first time since 2017. Coincidentally, this is the last time they made the playoffs. Robinson will have something to say about it before Sunday’s game is done.

Detriot Lions: Will the real Lions please stand up?

One of the top NFL Week 3 storylines has to be how Dan Campbell’s squad responds after last week’s home loss to Seattle. It came on the heels of what many believed was a franchise-altering road win over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. It also has the Lions on notice heading into Sunday’s action.

“Well, certainly that’s a disappointing loss. That was hard,” Campbell said following Week 2’s loss. If this team wants to be taken seriously as a division title contender and a top team in the NFC, it simply must play more consistent football. Giving up 28 first downs and nearly 400 yards of offense like we saw last week certainly isn’t that.

New Orleans Saints: Winning’ ugly

This isn’t the Sean Payton and Drew Brees version of the Saints that fans in the Bayou have become accustomed to. At 2-0 for the first time since 2003, New Orleans is relying on a combination of great defense and opportunistic offense to get things done.

The Saints’ defense ranks fifth in the NFL in points allowed and fourth in total yardage. Marshon Lattimore has returned to earlier-career form to yield a mere 16.7% completion and zero QB rating when targeted on the season. He’ll have to join the rest of New Orleans’ defense to step up against a young and high-powered Packers offense in Green Bay.

Green Bay Packers: Gotta love his game

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
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Jordan Love heads into Sunday’s action having thrown six touchdowns compared to zero interceptions on the season. He’s one of the top NFL Week 3 storylines by himself. The idea of Green Bay potentially having yet another franchise quarterback should be of major concern to opposing NFC teams after the run of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers of the past three-plus decades.

Love and his Pack will be tested at home against one of the best defenses in the NFL after falling to the Atlanta Falcons a week ago. We’re intrigued to see how he does at home against New Orleans in this one.

Related: NFL Week 3 quarterback rankings

Houston Texans: Cookin’ in Houston

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
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The Texans might be 0-2 on the season, but quarterback C.J. Stroud is performing at a higher level than any other rookie quarterback in the game. The Ohio State product is completing 64% of his passes for 626 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions through two games.

“This kid is made of all the right stuff. Happy to have him on board — our team is happy to have him on board. We just have to play better, complimentary football around him,” Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans said of Stroud heading into Week 3.

That’s the biggest key here. Despite Stroud’s success, the Texans find themselves winless. Their offensive line has allowed 11 sacks of the quarterback while Houston’s defense is yielding the sixth-most points in the game. That must change come Sunday in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Dominating in Duval

Trevor Lawrence and Co. laid an egg at home against the defending champion Chiefs last week, scoring just nine points in defeat. It was a disappointing performance for an offense that dropped 31 points in Week 1 against Indianapolis.

The good news for these Jags? They return to the friendly confines of Duval for another home game against an AFC South opponent. Dating back to last season, Jacksonville is 3-1 at home against divisional opponents while averaging north of 25 points per game. Doug Pederson’s squad has to hope Sunday’s outing against Houston is a get-right game before two difficult matchups against the Falcons and Bills.

Denver Broncos: It’s not all Russ

Following last week’s loss to Washington, the Broncos are 4-13 with Russell Wilson starting at quarterback. We can blame him for a lot of those failures. However, what we’ve seen this season is not all on the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Denver’s defense has blown two fourth-quarter leads in two games. It ranks in the bottom 10 in points allowed. These two outings also came against average competition at home. Set to take on the high-flying Miami Dolphins on the road come Sunday, the onus is going to be on Denver’s defense to hold up. If not, the Broncos will fall to 0-3 on the season and pretty much find themselves eliminated from playoff contention before October even hits.

Miami Dolphins: Tua’s Fins rolling

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
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Miami’s offense was not the juggernaut in last week’s win as we saw in the season opener against the Chargers. Perhaps, that had to do with the Patriots actually boasting a better defense than their AFC counterparts further west.

What we do know is that Tua Tagovailoa is still leading an offense that’s averaging 30 points per game. He’s on pace to shatter the single-season NFL mark for passing yards. We’re fully expecting this to continue in Week 3 against a questionable Broncos defense. Though, the status of star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (concussion protocol) is something to watch.

Los Angeles Chargers: Brandon Staley’s seat is inferno

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Tennessee Titans
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To say that Staley is on the hot seat following last week’s disaster class of a loss to the Tennessee Titans would be an understatement. Los Angeles is 0-2 on the season despite Justin Herbert playing stellar football (3 TD, 0 INT, 102.0 QB rating).

It’s been all about the Chargers’ defense this season. They are yielding 31.5 points per game and a 116.0 QB rating to opposing signal callers. Isn’t Staley’s bread-and-butter supposed to be on that side of the ball? Given the way the Chargers’ first two seasons under the head coach ended, a loss Sunday in Minnesota could have us talking about him getting his walking papers. As it should.

Minnesota Vikings: Stepping up for Cousins

Is Kirk Cousins playing MVP football? That might be pushing it some. But he’s been darn good through two weeks. The veteran threw for nearly 400 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions in last week’s narrow loss to the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Unfortunately, Cousins is not getting any type of help on offense. Running backs Alexander Mattison and Ty Chandler have combined for 62 yards on 23 rushing attempts this season. They have been utterly useless. Sure the offensive line shares in some of the blame. But if this rushing attack doesn’t step up against the Chargers on Sunday, the Vikings are looking at an 0-3 record and a long remainder of the season.

New England Patriots: What’s this feeling, Bill?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
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Bill Belichick’s Patriots find themselves at 0-2 on the season for the first time since 2001. To put this into perspective, the average price for a gallon of gas was $1.22 while current Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was a mere three years old. The question is now where does New England go from here?

We know the history. Only 11% of teams that start a season 0-2 have gone on to make the playoffs since 1990. Over the course of the past 22 years, only one 0-3 team has earned a postseason spot. With rumors continuing to pop up about Belichick’s future in New England a road win against his “former” Jets squad must be in the cards. It’s one of the major NFL Week 3 storylines.

New York Jets: Wilson!!!!

All I can see when watching tape of Zach Wilson’s performance last week against the Dallas Cowboys is Tom Hanks on a deserted island shouting “WILSON” as he loses his only companion, a volleyball. At this point, one has to wonder how many people support this version of Wilson after he threw three interceptions in the Jets’ first game without Aaron Rodgers, who is lost for the remainder of the season with a torn Achilles.

We already know the disfunction that defined Wilson and the Jets last season. He was seen as immature. He lost the locker room. He lost his starting job. Could things potentially spiral if Wilson struggles at home against the Patriots? Perhaps, New York looks at the veteran free agent and trade markets for an upgrade. Simply put, Wilson is not it.

Buffalo Bills: Finding that rhythm

The Las Vegas Raiders seemed to be the tonic that Josh Allen and his Bills needed last week after he turned the ball over four times in a season-opening loss to the Jets. Allen completed 31-of-37 passes for 274 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

“It was still ‘be me’,” Allen said after the game. “Let our guys make some plays and our guys did make some plays.” The reward for this performance is a road date against a Washington Commanders team that’s undefeated on the season. A loss in Week 3 would give away all of the good feeling that came with last Sunday’s win, much like Allen has done with the football far too often in recent road games (10 turnovers in his past five away dates).

Washington Commanders: Daniel who?

NFL: Washington Commanders at Denver Broncos
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With a home win on Sunday over Buffalo, the Commanders will move to 3-0 for the first time since Joe Gibbs was their head coach back in 2005. Coincidentally enough, this also represnts the last time Washington actually won a postseason game.

The common theme in Maryland has been the change of culture from disgraced former owner Daniel Snyder to Josh Harris after the latter bought the team earlier this year. Just imagine how big a home win against a Super Bowl contender would be for these Commanders. It would help the organization further rid itself of the stench of the Snyder era.

Carolina Panthers: Young growing pains

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
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This isn’t as much about rookie No. 1 pick Bryce Young as it is about his offensive line and the former Heisman winner learning the nuances of Frank Reich’s offense. Through two games heading into Week 3 against the Seahawks, Carolina is averaging less than 14 points per outing. Young has been sacked six times and pressured on north of 25% of his dropbacks.

Whether it’s Reich calling the plays or handing duties over to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, something needs to change in short order. At 0-2, Carolina would need a miracle to compete for a playoff spot. It’s now all about the progression of Young under center. It’s now in this that every other component responsible on offense, Reich included, must do their part.

“You know, we make a couple of plays here and there, and next thing you know, you’ve got 28, 30 points. I just, I know that’s true,” the head coach told reporters ahead of Week 3. No better time than Sunday in the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle Seahawks: The 12th man?

The vaunted Seahawks home field was nowhere to be find in a blowout 30-13 Week 1 loss to the division-rival Los Angeles Rams. Seattle then went on the road this past Sunday and defeated the Detroit Lions. It’s pretty much a reversal from the majority of Pete Carroll’s tenure with the Seahawks.

They are now 8-10 at home in their past 18 games. Prior to that, the Seahawks had won 16-of-21 in the Pacific Northwest. Why is this such a big deal heading into Sunday’s action against a lesser Panthers team? Seattle is not going to compete with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West if the team continues to play mediocre football inside the friendly confines. A new streak must start against the Panthers. It’s that simple.

Dallas Cowboys: Big D rising again

nfl week 3 storylines: dak prescott
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Sportsnaut’s NFL power rankings has Dallas at No. 1 heading into Sunday’s action agains the lowly Arizona Cardinals in the desert. This is debatable with the Eagles and 49ers also able to stake claim to that position. What isn’t debatable is just how dominant the ‘Boys have been through two weeks.

Dallas ranks first in the NFL in scoring (35.0 PPG) and first in points allowed (5.0 PPG). It defense has yielded the fewest total yards and passing yards, too. Heck, Micah Parsons is an NFL MVP candidate at this early point in the season.

“He’s definitely playing better than he ever has, which is saying a lot. You haven’t seen it all yet, for sure,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said of the pass rusher ahead of Week 3.

With all of this said, there has to be some hesitation on the part of Cowboys fans given their failures in recent seasons. Every time this team seems to reach elite status, it falls back to earth. Playoff losses to the 49ers over the past two years are prime examples of this. Dallas needs to put its boot on the Cardinals’ proverbial throat Sunday and not look back. Anything short of that would be disappointing.

Related: NFL Week 3 defense rankings

Arizona Cardinals: Moral victories

Jonathan Gannon’s squad led at halftime agains the Commanders in their season opener, only to lose. Arizona was up 20-0 at home against the New York Giants last week, only to go on and lose. We know this is one of the least-talented teams in the NFL. That’s been known for some time. But it’s nice to see the Cardinals compete through two weeks.

Can Arizona have another moral victory at home against the dominant Cowboys? The team finds itself as 12-point home dogs. Even a single-digit game would paint the Cardinals in a good light. Unfortunately, we’re just not seeing that happen against this iteration of the Cowboys.

Chicago Bears: Fields of failure

NFL: Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has been written about Fields’ struggles through the first two games of the season. Opposing NFL teams are noticing him struggling seeing the field as the Bears’ offensive line acts as a turnstile in front of the young quarterback (10 sacks allowed in two games).

Over the course of his first 27 NFL starts, Fields has thrown 26 touchdowns compared to 24 interceptions. He’s averaging 156.6 passing yards per game. Needless to say, this is not going to get it done against the defending champion Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday. But there’s really no confidence that things are going to change.

Kansas City Chiefs: Murder was the case

In the most laughable NFL Week 3 matchup, the Chiefs find themselves as 12.5-point home favorites against Chicago. An argument could actually be made that this is on the low end of the spectrum. Kansas City’s defense came to play big time last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, yielding a mere nine points in a road win.

While there are still some concerns on offense (22nd in the NFL in scoring), Patrick Mahomes and Co. are prime for a breakout game. Taking on a Bears team that’s lost 15 in a row dating back to last season and 10 consecutive on the road, there’s no reason for Kansas City to allow this one to be close. If that happens, the alarms will be ringing throughout Arrowhead.

Pittsburgh Steelers: ‘O Canada’

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp
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How bad has the Steelers’ offense been under Matt Canada through two games? This unit has scored a total of 19 points with 24 first downs. Canada has led Pittsburgh to a bottom-10 ranking in total offense in each of his first two seasons. Despite a home win over the Browns in Week 2, fans were heard chanting “fire Canada.” Head coach Mike Tomlin spoke on this leading up to NFL Week 3.

“I appreciate their passion. I share their passion. We all do. Man, we love our fans, man. They inspire us. They challenge us,” Tomlin said of the chants. Now, that doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence in his offensive play caller. A bad showing on the road Sunday night could lead to the chants getting louder and potentially coming from Tomlin’s office in the locker room.

Las Vegas Raiders: Sin City Sunday night

The Raiders’ comeback Week 1 win in Denver gave into reality this past Sunday with a 38-10 road loss to the Buffalo Bills. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo struggled (two interceptions). Running back Josh Jacobs actually put up negative-two yards on the ground. Meanwhile, the defense yielded 450 total yards of offense and 29 first downs.

There’s good news heading into Sunday Night Football. Vegas isn’t taking on Josh Allen and the Bills. It is going up against a Steelers offense that we mentioned above is among the worst in the NFL through two weeks. Can the Raiders win their home opener and move to 2-1 on the season or will this be the start of another losing streak?

Related: NFL Week 3 power rankings

Philadelphia Eagles: Hurting a bit

Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb said after Week 2 that he spoke with Eagles star Jalen Hurts. The conversation was interesting in that Hurts is said to be playing at roughly 70% stemming from the shoulder injury that cost him two games last season.

This makes sense to an extent given that Hurts has not necessarily been the same passing the ball this season (6.5 yards per attempt compared to 8.0 last season). It’s at least something to monitor for the undefeated Eagles.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Baking up a win

NFL: Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Baker Mayfield has been one of the revelations thus far this season. Heading into NFL Week 3, the former No. 1 pick is completing 69% of his passes for 490 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He has Tampa Bay at a surprising 2-0 as the team gets ready to host the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.

Tampa will want to make a statement at home in front of a national television audience. It could very well happen with Mayfield and Co. taking on an Eagles defense that has yielded seven passing touchdowns compared to one interception for a 106.7 QB rating to opposing signal callers.

Los Angeles Rams: Do surprise

Last week’s 30-23 “home” loss to San Francisco was a bit of a surprise in that most expected the 49ers to go into Southern California and run roughshod over the Rams. This didn’t happen. Despite throwing two interceptions, Matthew Stafford kept the team in the game with north of 300 passing yards. Rookie fifth-round pick Puka Nacua caught a resounding 15 passes, too.

Many expected Sean McVay’s squad to challenge the league’s worst in an attempt to tank for USC star quarterback Caleb Williams in the 2024 NFL Draft. That has not yet happened. Visiting the winless Cincinnati Benglas in a rematch of Super Bowl LVI, we’re intrigued to see how this goes.

Cincinnati Bengals: Cleatless Joe?

nfl week 3: joe burrow
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While there is no concrete update on the calf injury Joe Burrow reaggravated last week, the Vegas line has moved Monday night’s game from the Bengals being 6.5-point favorites to mere 2.0-point favorites. That could be an indication Burrow will not suit up.

The Bengals find themselves at 0-2 for the second consecutive season. Last year saw them become one of the 11% to start with that mark since 1990 and earn a spot in the second season. We’re not as excited about the Bengals’ odds in 2023 given their struggles through two games and this nagging injury. But Cincinnati might be forced to play the NFL’s newly-minted highest-paid player if the team wants to salvage its season.