Whatever magic was in the air on Saturday around the nation during college football games was still lingering one day later for NFL Week 3.
The unthinkable happened more than a few times. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Minnesota Vikings — 17-point favorites at home against the Buffalo Bills — getting roasted by the team many considered to be the worst in the league.
We’ll dive into that and much more taking a look at the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 3.
Winner: Baker revives the Browns
We all know the story. The Cleveland Browns have been a cursed franchise for decades. They came into Thursday night’s game with exactly one win in their last 34 tries. It had been 635 days since that last win.
Tyrod Taylor had an awful start for the Browns against the New York Jets. He had negative net passing yards when he had to exit with a concussion. At that point, the Jets held a 14-0 lead late in the second quarter.
Then Mayfield came into the game and flipped the script. Putting together a nearly flawless performance, he led the Browns to a comeback win, giving his team some real hope that things might finally be turning around for the first time in years.
Not surprisingly, head coach Hue Jackson is expected to name Mayfield the starter going forward, per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com.
Loser: Vikings get embarrassed at home by…the Bills?
Nobody saw this coming. In fact, it’s hard to imagine the Buffalo Bills had any inkling that they’d absolutely railroad the Minnesota Vikings after what transpired the first two weekends of the season.
That’s why they play the games.
Minnesota was a mess, embarrassing itself in front of the loyal Vikings fans on a regular basis. Kirk Cousins lost two fumbles early, leading to a shocking 17-0 lead by the Bills in the first quarter. He ended up turning the ball over three times total, and the Vikings didn’t even make it to Buffalo territory until the fourth quarter.
On the other side, the Vikings — who have one of the best defenses in the league, mind you — got repeatedly burned by the Bills. It was just a crazy game that perfectly illustrated the parity that exists in the NFL.
Winner: Rams offense is a juggernaut
How do you stop the Los Angeles Rams? That’s a question no team has been able to answer with any success so far this season. On Sunday, Jared Goff and Co. dropped 35 points on the Los Angeles Chargers. That’s now three games in a row where they scored at least 33 points.
There are just too many stars on this team — defenses really do have to pick their poison. For instance, on Sunday Todd Gurley went off for 156 yards and a touchdown, Robert Woods caught 10 passes for 104 yards with two touchdowns, while Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp combined to catch 11 passes for 161 yards and a score.
Along the way, Jared Goff became just the third quarterback in NFL history with at least 350 passing yards and a completion percentage of at least 75 percent in consecutive games, per Adam Caplan of ESPN.
This offense is just a juggernaut. Good luck stopping it.
Loser: Bad Blake Bortles dooms Jags
The Jacksonville Jaguars knocked Blaine Gabbert out of Sunday’s game early, forcing Marcus Mariota — who’s dealing with an elbow injury that causes a lack of feeling in his throwing hand — to play. Jacksonville’s defense held Tennessee to 83 yards through the air, allowed just 15 total first downs, and nine points.
Yet the Jags lost.
Blaine Gabbert, fresh off a magnificent performance against the New England Patriots, was highly ineffective. He completed a decent percentage of his passes (21 of 34) but managed just 155 total passing yards. Jacksonville’s offense finished with just 12 first downs, and put up just six points.
That’s embarrassingly bad.
Winner: Cam and Run CMC carry the Panthers
For the most part, Carolina’s offense is a two-man show right now. It’s a really good show, though.
Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey absolutely dominated the gridiron on Sunday at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. Newton threw for two touchdowns and ran in two more. McCaffrey touched the ball 30 times (more of that please, Norv Turner), romping for 194 yards, with all but 10 of that coming on the ground.
The Panthers are doing an amazing job of scheming around their offensive line deficiencies right now. This showed up big time as they negated one of the best defensive lines in the NFL en route to a 31-21 win.
Loser: David Johnson continues to be criminally underutilized
The Arizona Cardinals have at their disposal one of the best all-around offensive weapons in the NFL. They know it, too, based on the sweet contract extension he landed before the season began.
They might need a reminder, however.
On Sunday, in a very winnable game that saw Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen combine to turn the ball over four times, Johnson received 12 carries and was targeted in the passing game just four times. His 21-yard touchdown catch was one of the most electric plays of Sunday’s game.
You’d think a player of his caliber, who can do so much damage both on the ground and through the air, would be featured more. Yet through three games, Johnson has touched the ball a total of 44 times.
Arizona’s quarterbacks aren’t the answer. If the Cardinals are going to get anything going, it has to start with feeding this guy. They aren’t doing it, and the results speak for themselves.
Winner: Carson Wentz leads Eagles to victory in first game back
It wasn’t pretty, but in his first game back from knee surgery last year, Carson Wentz led his team to victory on a messy field in the rain on Sunday, much to the delight of his home fans.
The Eagles were shorthanded in a big way for this game due to injuries to their receiving corps and running back group. Wentz was also under heavy pressure all game long and endured five sacks. But when his team needed him to come through he did, engineering a 17-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter, down by three points, that culminated with the game-winning touchdown.
All told, Wentz completed 25-of-37 passes for 255 yards with a touchdown to rookie tight end Dallas Goedert (watch here). Now the Eagles are 2-1 and in great shape to make a push to defend their crown.
Loser: 49ers lose game, and Jimmy G
The San Francisco 49ers got absolutely blown out of the water in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium, as the Kansas City Chiefs put 35 points on the board in their first five possessions in the game.
While the defense did stiffen somewhat in the second half, the Chiefs didn’t need another point to win the game. That said, for a while it looked like Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. were going to make a game out of it. They engineered two straight touchdown-scoring drives to open the second half to cut the lead to nine points.
Then disaster struck. Garoppolo was trying to gain a few extra yards down the left sideline when he initiated contact with a defender. Then he went down in a heap, ultimately needing to be carted into the locker room with what the 49ers fear was a torn left ACL.
Just a brutal blow for this team.
Winner: Saquon Barkley carries G-Men to first win
It would be easy to focus on Eli Manning’s razor-sharp day as a passer. He only missed on four of his 29 attempts, and he didn’t turn the ball over. That’s awesome.
The thing that stood out the most, however, was how rookie Saquon Barkley was the catalyst for all that success through the air. On the game’s opening drive, he ran 30 yards on three carries, including a 15-yard touchdown.
Barkley’s ability to gash Houston on the ground opened up the rest of the offense for Manning and Co. The rookie finished Sunday’s game with 117 yards on 21 touches, 17 of which were runs. If he continues to gash teams on the ground like this, then New York will have a chance in every game.
Loser: The Dallas passing game is on life support
The Dallas Cowboys are so bad in the passing game that they’re making bad defenses look good. The Seattle Seahawks entered Sunday’s game having allowed 509 yards through the air at a 7.2 yards-per-attempt clip, and had only generated three sacks going against the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants — two teams with pretty substandard offensive lines.
On Sunday, Seattle’s defense looked like the Legion of Boom once more. Dak Prescott was sacked five times for 31 yards, and he finished with just 168 yards on 19-of-34 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Through three games now, Prescott has a grand total of 498 yards passing. He’s averaging 5.65 yards per attempt. He’s struggling like crazy to connect with his receivers outside the hash marks.
This offense is barely alive right now. If not for Ezekiel Elliott, things would be even worse.
Winner: Old Man Peterson still has the juice
The Washington Redskins really took it to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, winning 31-17. The Washington defense deserves a ton of credit for corralling Green Bay’s offense. But the player of the game was none other than Adrian Peterson.
For the second time in the first three games this year, Peterson was highly effective on the ground. He rushed for 120 yards on 19 carries, punching the ball in twice from two yards out for touchdowns.
Age certainly does not appear to have slowed this man down. If he can sustain this type of production into the latter stages of the 2018 season, then Washington will have a shot to make the playoffs.
Loser: Denver not getting 2017 version of Case Keenum
Through three games, it seems pretty clear that the Denver Broncos aren’t going to see last year’s version of Case Keenum very often in 2018.
During Sunday’s 27-14 loss to Baltimore, Keenum completed 22-of-34 passes. That’s not awful. But neither was it impressive. He failed to throw a touchdown for the second straight game and threw his fifth interception of the season, which should have gone for six points if not for a block in the back penalty that negated the return.
The Broncos won last weekend in spite of Keenum, not because of him. And on Sunday, they lost in large part because he couldn’t get anything consistent going through the air. The past two Sundays combined, he’s managed just 414 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
This is not what the Broncos were expected when they opted not to take a rookie quarterback, paying Keenum a nice sum in free agency instead.
Winner: Drew Brees adds to HOF resume
No quarterback in the history of the league has more completions than Drew Brees, who passed Hall of Famer Brett Favre on Sunday to move into first place on the all-time list.
By itself, that achievement would have been worthy of mentioning Brees as a winner this week. But that’s hardly all he did on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. The veteran gunslinger piled up 396 yards and three touchdowns passing in the overtime win.
Even more stunning, Brees scored two times on the ground. The first was a pretty incredible seven-yard scamper during which he juked two Falcons defenders out of their shoes, and the second of which was the game-winner.
Loser: Andy Dalton morphs into turnover machine
Heading into Sunday’s game against Baltimore, only two quarterbacks had thrown more touchdown passes than Andy Dalton in the past 16 games.
Red Rocket did throw two more touchdowns, but he also threw four interceptions in a losing cause. Three of those occurred in the second half when A.J. Green was on the sideline with a groin injury, and the Panthers converted those turnovers into 17 points.
In a game that was decided by 10 points, it’s clear that Dalton and his receivers deserve a huge portion of blame for the loss.
Winner: Josh Allen was darn-near perfect
Josh Allen has slogged through the first couple of games this year, entering Sunday’s game having completed half his passes while throwing one touchdown and two interceptions. The Bills in general looked like awful, too.
So, it was a huge surprise when Allen shredded arguably the best passing defense in the NFL en route to a blowout road win. The rookie completed 15-of-22 passes for 196 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He also punched in two rushing scores and was responsible for one of the most electric highlights of this weekend’s action (watch here).
This performance certainly should give Bills fans hope that there are brighter days ahead.
Loser: Raiders continue to be awful late in games
The Oakland Raiders are now 0-3 to open the season. All three losses can be pinned on some truly awful late-game performances.
On Sunday in Miami, the Raiders entered the fourth quarter up by three points. Then the Dolphins absolutely torched Oakland’s defense on a trick-play touchdown. Albert Wilson looked to be on a reverse run before he lobbed a perfect pass to Jakeem Grant, who had nobody within 10 yards of him. Gone.
Derek Carr then proceeded to march the Raiders down the field into the red zone before throwing an interception to Xavier Howard. Two plays later, Albert Wilson found a crease as Oakland’s defensive front was dominated up front, and he went 74 yards for six.
Including the 14 points given up by Oakland’s defense in the fourth quarter on Sunday, the Raiders have now allowed 37 fourth-quarter points in the first three games of the season.
Winner: The student teaches the master
Given the way Sunday went for so many teams, it shouldn’t have been surprising that Matt Patricia’s winless Detroit Lions took Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots behind the woodshed.
But we were still pretty surprised.
Patricia’s defense absolutely owned Josh McDaniels and the New England offense on Sunday night. A lot of this had to do with the Patriots missing key players, but Tom Brady was shut down in a big way. That’s never easy to do.
Just as impressive, after slogging through the first two games, Detroit’s offensive line woke up and played as a formidable unit, leading to the first 100-yard rusher (Kerryon Johnson) in 70 games.
It was a strong overall game for Patricia and the Lions, who desperately needed this win.
Loser: Houston has a big problem
The Houston Texans are in serious trouble. It’s trouble that most savvy analysts predicted would manifest throughout the season, and it all stems from the team not fielding an NFL-caliber offensive line.
The Giants entered Week 3 with just one sack on record. They had three sacks Sunday, and Deshaun Watson was hit a staggering 11 times. Just as bad, Texans players not named Watson managed to rush for 23 yards on 14 carries. New York had previously allowed 137.5 rushing yards per game.
Watson is still such a raw quarterback. The Texans are currently in danger of doing him permanent harm, because if he continues to take beatings like the ones he’s taken so far this year (10 sacks so far) he’ll develop bad habits that could end up becoming permanent.
Winner: Patrick Mahomes makes more NFL history
What goes up must come down, unless his name is Patrick Mahomes. Right now, Mahomes’ stock continues to skyrocket after yet another monster game from the second-year quarterback.
Starting in his first game at Arrowhead Stadium, Mahomes passed for 314 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions as the Chiefs beat the 49ers. In the process, he passed the legendary Peyton Manning for the most touchdowns thrown in the first three games of a season in NFL history.
At his current pace, Patrick Mahomes is set to finish the 2018 NFL season with 4,779 yards, 69 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Loser: NFL roughing the passer rule is an abomination
For the second Sunday in a row, the NFL’s new rule about protecting quarterbacks bit Clay Matthews in the behind. Matthews was hit with a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty during Sunday’s game against Washington on a hit that was even more baffling that last Sunday’s.
Matthews hit Alex Smith in the chest. His own head was nowhere near Smith’s head. He did not touch Smith’s legs or “burp” him to the turf (watch here). Instead, he wrapped him up as you’re taught to do, his arms around Smith’s shoulders. There’s really no other way he could have effectively tackled Smith without risking no tackle at all.
The worst part about all this is that the league immediately said it was the correct call.
We’re all for safety. Protecting these players should be a high priority. But what’s happening right now is not football. It’s nothing close to football. And if this is what the league is going to continue to enforce going forward then defenders are absolutely screwed.