The third Sunday of NFL action this season offered us a glimpse of what to expect moving forward.
In continuing with a theme of surprises this season, the Buffalo Bills went into Minnesota as heavy road dogs, only to come away with a shocking blowout win over Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. New England went into Detroit and laid a complete egg against former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
A bit further south, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs continued their early-season excellence against the San Francisco 49ers. That game included a devastating injury to one of the most talked about players in the league.
All the while, the New Orleans Saints won a shootout against the division-rival Atlanta Falcons. At about the same time, the Miami Dolphins defeated a struggling Oakland Raiders team to move to 3-0 on the season. These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 3 action.
Tom Brady just doesn’t have any weapons
This might change once Julian Edelman returns from suspension and Josh Gordon make his Patriots debut. But Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions was a prime example of this future Hall of Fame quarterback simply not having the weapons to succeed in today’s NFL. Brady has worked with lackluster receiving options in the past. That’s known. None of them compared to him attempting to win a football game with Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett as his wide receivers. That came out on a big way in Sunday’s 26-10 defeat against the Lions in Detroit.
With Matt Patricia and Co. sending two or even three players to cover Rob Gronkowski, Brady was helpless throughout the evening. He completed 13-of-25 passes for 129 yards with a touchdown and an interception. It’s Brady’s smallest yardage output in a full game since back in 2013. It might not be panic time in New England. But with the Dolphins at 3-0 and the Pats now losers of two consecutive, it could get to that point soon. That’s where getting Edelman and Gordon in the mix will be huge.
Buffalo did what?
Considered by most to be the worst team in the NFL heading into Week 2, Buffalo was near 17-point dogs on the road against a Super Bowl-caliber Minnesota Vikings squad. Josh Allen was making his first career regular season road start. What could go wrong for Kirk Cousins and the Vikings here? Well, every darn thing. From the get, Allen and his Bills offense was in domination mode. That included 245 total yards en route to a 27-0 halftime lead. At the same time, Minnesota had racked up two first downs and 46 total yards. It led to boo birds at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The second half was pretty much the same story here. Outside of a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Minnesota was shut out by the Bills’ defense. Cousins himself was downright horrible before garbage time. Meanwhile, Stefon Diggs was held to 17 receiving yards on 10 targets by Tre’Davious White. The NFL, where anything can happen on any given Sunday.
Seahawks defense shows up in a big way
We can focus on the Cowboys’ lack of substance in the passing game until we’re blue in the face. That’s fine. Dak Prescott was downright horrible Sunday. His offensive line was eaten alive. The receivers couldn’t get open. Again, Dallas was a mess. But we also have to give Seattle’s some credit for utterly dominating a lesser offense. Led by Earl Thomas and his two interceptions, this defense gave up 13 points and just north of 300 total yards. It also held Dallas to 3-of-13 on third-down attempts.
This version of the Seahawks is not perfect. They might not even sniff .500 when all is said and done. Last week’s loss to the Bears shows us just how imperfect the Seahawks are. But at least for one day, the Legion of Boom showed up in a big way. In an NFC West that’s been weakened due to the Jimmy Garoppolo injury, that’s no small news.
The Texans are a complete mess
A season that started with high expectations is now on the verge of going down in flames. Taking on another winless team in the form of the New York Giants at home on Sunday, most figured this would be a get-right game for Deshaun Watson and Co. It was not to be.
Despite J.J. Watt turning back the clock to the tune of three sacks, Houston’s defense was shredded by Eli Manning and Co. That included 21 first downs and nearly 400 total yards of offense. As it relates to Watson and Co., they turned the ball over twice on New York’s side of the field. That included an interception in the end zone on a drive that could have made it a one-score game. It were these missed opportunities that led to a 27-22 loss and an 0-3 start to the season. The question now is whether head coach Bill O’Brien lasts much longer in Houston.
End of Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh?
On the verge of sitting out Pittsburgh’s third regular season game due to a holdout, reports surfaced early Sunday morning that the Steelers were listening to offers for this All-Pro running back. It makes sense. Bell has no future in Pittsburgh. A rift has grown between him and his teammates. Second-year back James Conner has played well in Bell’s stead. Why not look to move the impending free agent as a way to get something for him?
Now, with just a bit more a month until the Oct. 30 trade deadline, it looks like Bell will in fact be traded. Sure things are complicated when it comes to his contract and pending free agent status. But the drama that’s currently unfolding in Pittsburgh just isn’t sustainable. There’s a dark cloud hanging over the organization, one it has not seen in decades. Look for the process to be expedited a bit and Bell to be traded here soon. Where? Well, that’s anyone’s guess. But we have suggestions.
49ers’ season goes up in flames
What started out as a good old-fashioned butt-whooping culminated in San Francisco’s season pretty much coming to an end. Down 35-7 at one point late in the second quarter, Jimmy Garoppolo was on the verge of leading the 49ers back to within one score. That’s when disaster struck for the franchise quarterback and his team. Attempting to pick up extra yards on a run, Garoppolo’s left knee buckled on the grass at Arrowhead. He immediately clutched for his knee an was ultimately carted off to the locker room.
The injury itself looked bad. And following San Francisco’s 38-27 loss to the Chiefs, the team was fearful that he did in fact suffer a season-ending torn ACL. Now forced to go with C.J. Beathard for the remainder of the season, San Francisco can kiss any playoff aspirations goodbye. Just brutal stuff.
Finally some balance from Giants’ offense
After seeing himself utilized more in the passing game than on the ground last week, rookie running back Saquon Barkley provided his Giants with the lift they needed to avoid an 0-3 start to the season. Shockingly, Barkley was targeted just five times by Eli Manning in New York’s 27-22 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday. He also added 82 yards on 17 attempts for a total of 117 yards, including a touchdown. That’s the way this generational talent needs to be used moving forward.
For the Giants, it created the balance this team has not had it in years. It also allowed Manning to play a great all-around game en route to completing 25-of-29 passes for 297 yards without an interception. This is big news for a Giants squad that selected Barkley No. 2 overall as a way to find the balance that had been missing in recent years. And in reality, it could have salvaged the team’s season.
Alex Smith, Adrian Peterson get it going again
After struggling big time last week in a loss to Indianapolis, this veteran backfield responded big time in a surprising win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Playing within the confines of the game, Smith completed 12-of-20 passes for 220 yards and two scores. Meanwhile, Peterson went off to the tune of 120 yards and two scores in the 31-17 win.
If these two are able to continue this high level of play, Washington could be a surprise playoff team in the NFC. Its defense did wonders against a hobbled Aaron Rodgers, leading many to wonder if that unit is underrated. All said, Sunday was a great day for the men in burgundy.
Have the Rams clinched yet?
The Rams are quite simply a beast. Through three games, Sean McVay’s squad has outscored their opponents by a combined 66 points. That now includes a 35-23 win over the Chargers in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. While dealing with injuries to corners Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, Los Angeles’ offense decided to pick up the slack. Jared Goff completed 29-of-36 passes for north of 350 yards with three touchdowns. Todd Gurley added 156 total yards and a league-best fifth touchdown to the mix.
It’s readily apparent that Los Angeles is the class of the NFC through three weeks. Based on some struggles we’ve seen in Minnesota and Philadelphia, that’s magnified even further. Now that Arizona might have a rookie starter in Josh Rosen moving forward and assuming the 49ers will be without Jimmy Garoppolo for the remainder of the season, the only question here is when Los Angeles clinches its second consecutive NFC West title.
Joe Flacco continues to play great
After a minor hiccup in a loss to the Bengals last week, Mr. Flacco returned to the form we saw Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills. Taking on an elite-level Denver Broncos defense, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback could do no wrong. He vastly outplayed Case Keenum, completing 25-of-40 passes for 277 yards without a single interception. That included completions to eight different receivers.
Baltimore’s defense did the rest, holding the Broncos to less than 300 total yards. That included less than 170 yards after Denver put up 14 points within the game’s eight minutes. If Flacco continues to play at this level and with an elite defense, the sky is the limit for Baltimore. Then again, we’re all expecting him to regress back to the mean. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
Mitchell Trubisky is not the answer in Chicago
Chicago might have come out on top against a talent-depleted Cardinals squad on Sunday. Khalil Mack showed out in a big way once again. The likes of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen did work in the backfield en route to overcoming a 14-0 first quarter deficit. That’s fine. It has the Bears at 2-1 on the season.
Even then, it’s becoming readily apparent that Trubisky is not the answer for the Bears this season. He struggled to hit wide open receivers against a bad defense. He struggled with progressions throughout the game and held on to the ball far too long. It’s a continuation of what we saw over the first two weeks of the season. And it’s now clear that any hope for the Bears to be playing meaningful January football rests on both their rushing attack and an elite-level defense. If they’re forced to rely on Trubisky, it’s not going to end swimmingly.
Saints offense is just ridiculous
It really is like playing Madden on rookie level. We all know Drew Brees is one of the greatest quarterbacks in modern NFL history. He proved that again on Sunday, breaking a longstanding league record in the process. But it’s what we saw from the rest of this offense is what should scare opposing NFC defenses.
In taking out the division-rival Atlanta Falcons, 43-37, in overtime, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas showed out big time. Kamara put up 190 yards on 31 touches. That included a ridiculous 15 catches. Meanwhile, Thomas added 10 receptions for 129 yards on 10 targets. Through three games, the third-year pass catcher has hauled in 38-of-40 passes for nearly 400 yards. Sure the Saints’ defense is a mess, but this team is as much fun to watch as any in the league.
Aaron Rodgers is nowhere near 100 percent
The backdrop of a soggy day in the nation’s capital on Sunday was Rodgers’ knee injury and whether it would come back to haunt the Packers. While the MVP candidate didn’t play bad football by any means, it was apparent that he’s nowhere near 100-percent healthy. After seeing right tackle Bryan Bulaga go down to injury, Rodgers found himself sacked four times by a swarming Redskins defense. He was not mobile in the pocket and didn’t necessarily have the arm strength we’ve become accustomed to seeing.
Leading up to Sunday’s game, there was concern in Green Bay that Rodgers injury will only get worst as the season progresses. Playing him in bad conditions seemed to make little sense. And while the quarterback seemingly survived, we’re now left wondering whether he’ll be 100 percent at any point in the season moving forward.
It’s Josh Rosen time in Arizona
The Cardinals made this perfectly clear when they decided to replace Sam Bradford under center with the team down by two points and just over four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Bears. While Rosen did not lead his team back to a win, he should now be both the current starter and the future starter in the desert.
Sure head coach Steve Wilks has not yet named Rosen the starter. But it’s the same situation we’re seeing in Cleveland. Rosen will be under center Week 4 against the Seahawks. It couldn’t come at a better time for a squad that’s now scored 20 combined points in three games. Whew.
Just lose, baby!
For a while there, it looked like the Oakland Raiders were going to get their first win of the new Jon Gruden era. Jordy Nelson showed out early on, absolutely dominating the Miami Dolphins through the first quarter. Oakland’s defense stepped up and looked to be an improved version of its prior self. But much like what we saw in Denver last week, the Raiders couldn’t get out of their way.
Miami tallied 21 points and 240-plus yards in the second half — overcoming a dismal first half performance. Meanwhile, a Derek Carr interception in the end zone with less than three minutes left and his Raiders down by just four points pretty much put an end to this game. It was followed up by Ryan Tannehill leading the Dolphins on a game-clinching 80-yard drive that was capped off by a 74-yard touchdown to Albert Wilson. Now at 0-3 on the season and with a rift growing within the organization, the Raiders themselves are a complete and utter mess.
The Chiefs are just unstoppable
Kansas City might boast the most dynamic offense since Kurt Warner was leading the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis. It really is something to behold. And it came out in droves against an overmatched San Francisco 49ers squad on Sunday. Kansas City headed to halftime with a 35-10 lead, having scored a touchdown on all five of its first-half drives. Patrick Mahomes put up 252 first half yards and three scores, including this wizard-like touchdown to Chris Conley.
Kansas City might have let San Francisco back in the game in the second half. It’s a bit of a concern given the team’s defense just isn’t that good. Even then, Mahomes has 13 touchdowns through three games. And when he’s on, there’s not a defense in the NFL that can stop this juggernaut. It’s simply remarkable.
Kirk Cousins deserved ever boo that came his way
Captain Kirk was anything but steady during what was an disastrous overall performance from the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Whether they took the game against Buffalo for granted or something completely different, there’s a major disconnect here. Talent-wise, there’s no reason why the Bills should have stayed with Minnestoa on the road. And when the team opened up a 27-0 lead, a leadership vacuum was never filled on the field for the Vikings.
This led to the boo birds being thrown in Cousins’ direction throughout the entire second half. And for good reason. He was taking on a rookie quarterback in Josh Allen who completely outplayed his veteran counterpart. In the process, any good vibes that came with Cousins choosing Minnesota during free agency was thrown completely out the window. That’s what happens when you drop a home game to the least-talented team in the NFL, 27-6.
Carson Wentz wins in return to action
We have to hand it to the Eagles’ defense here. In his first action since December of last year, Wentz was a bit rusty. He opened up the game with a 79-yard scoring drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to rookie Dallas Goedert. After that, the Eagles put up just 13 points in a narrow win over Indianapolis.
While we’re not going to focus too much on Wentz, it’s important to note that he stood in there while being sacked five times. His knee looked healthy. And in the end, the third-year quarterback put up a solid effort.
However, it’s all about Philadelphia’s defense. This unit allowed Andrew Luck to toss for 164 yards on 40 attempts. The secondary stepped up big time and the Colts had nowhere to go on the ground. Assuming Wentz continues to progress with more time under center, these Eagles are going to be just fine. Sunday’s 20-16 win over the Colts magnified that to a T.