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Everything you need to know about Week 3 in the NFL

WEEI
September 24, 2018 - 10:18 am
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By JOHN ANDERSON

Here it is, Week 3 in a nutshell. You're welcome ...

Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold (for one half)

This game is only going to further invigorate the anti-Tyrod crowd. Tyrod Taylor is a very good quarterback who was not having a great game before going down with an unfortunate injury. This doesn’t mean it was wrong to bring in Baker Mayfield, or that it would have been wrong regardless of an injury to Taylor. It’s clear after one half that Mayfield will be great. He executed tight window throws against a pretty good Jets defensive backfield behind two tackles that can’t tell a pass rusher from a pineapple. Mayfield’s success especially stands out when juxtaposed with that of Sam Darnold, who played similarly in the Jets’ first two games but saw less appealing numbers on the stats sheet. The Jet’s porous offensive line could barely handle Myles Garrett and the Browns’ D-line, and Darnold struggled mightily under the pressure. And to everyone’s surprise, Hue Jackson has yet to come out and name Tyrod Taylor the starter. It’s the most anti-Browns story ever, but anyone who’s been watching closely can see the story starting to arc.

FINAL SCORE: Browns 21, Jets 17

INJURIES: Browns QB Tyrod Taylor
 

RIP Defense August 20, 1920 - September 24, 2018

It’s hard to tell whether the woes either team’s offense experienced the past two weeks are gone for good or if the Saints and Falcons have major problems on the defensive side of the ball. The Saints returned most of their defensive starters from a season ago, added slot CB Patrick Robinson and drafted DE Marcus Davenport. The unit let up 48 points to a Tampa Bay offense that saw success against an Eagles defense that we know is great, but held off a Browns offense that we know struggled with Tyrod Taylor under center. It’ll be telling if New Orleans’ defense continues this mercurial story against offenses that fall on either side of the binary “good” or “bad” scale, at least as far as the eye test is concerned. Meanwhile, the Falcons lost safety Ricardo Allen to a calf injury, adding another crucial name to an injury report that already includes fellow safety Keanu Neal with a torn ACL and elite cover linebacker Deion Jones, who will return at some point this season. Luckily for the Falcons, their upcoming schedule features either a soft defense or a mistake-prone QB. Steve Sarkisian’s offense improved just at the right time, as the Falcons unleashed first-round rookie WR Calvin Ridley, who scored three TDs yesterday, just five days after starting left guard Andy Levitre was lost for the season with a torn triceps. With a weakened offense line and gameplans that may or may not involve outscoring offenses that have the ability to tear up their defense, a task Drew Brees did not make easy for the Falcons, Steve Sarkisian’s play calling is going to have to be near impeccable.

FINAL SCORE: Saints 43, Falcons 37

INJURIES: Falcons S Ricardo Allen; Saints CB Patrick Robinson

Redskins defense a force to be reckoned with

The Redskins had the best defense in the league coming into this game. What better test for the legitimacy of a defense than one-legged Aaron Rodgers and the Packers? It may not have made much of a difference since the Packers’ receivers struggled to get open in this game, but this game only emboldens how crucial health is to the Redskins’ success. Last season Washington’s defensive line, in addition to their offensive line and running backs, were massacred with injuries. Well, this year players like Matt Ioannidis and 2017 first-round pick Jonathan Allen are back and wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines.

FINAL SCORE: Redskins 31, Packers 17

INJURIES: Packers DT Muhammad Wilkerson; Redskins RT Morgan Moses

Wentz’ return overshadowed by surprise from Colts

The assumption coming into to 2018 was that the Colts’ defense would resume its perennial mediocrity while the question was whether or not Andrew Luck would resume his elite form. Well, it just so happens that former Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus’ had transformed this Colts defense into something at which to marvel. The switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 has been very successful. Jabaal Sheard and Margus Hunt are thriving even against stout offensive line such as that of the Eagles. But this isn’t to set up a take that Andrew Luck ISN’T himself. Sure, Luck’s YPA is way down compared to pre-shoulder surgery and the Colts did bring in Jacoby Brissett to throw the Hail Mary at the end of this game, but the bottom line is that Luck is making throws only a handful of other QBs can make and he’s kept the Colts in every game so far this season. Carson Wentz did return, however, and played extremely well in his return. The Eagles have their guy back and Philly fans no longer have to worry about Nick Fauxles digging a hole too deep for Wentz to dig them out of.

FINAL SCORE: Eagles 20, Colts 16

INJURIES: Eagles S Rodney McLeod

Will Vontae Davis try to rejoin the Bills?

So this game happened today. The theory floated around this week that this was a massive trap game for the Vikings given they just TIED the Packers are looking ahead to a Thursday night matchup against the Rams. I typically don’t buy into stuff like that, but here are some aspects to consider: Kirk Cousins historically has struggled under pressure, the Vikings offensive line isn’t very good which is often overlooked because of how good the team is as a whole, Dalvin Cook sat this game out with an injury, the Bill’s front seven is pretty good on paper and was enhanced this offseason and there’s enough in the back end between Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer to bail out the pass rush. This isn’t to say the outcome of this game or the 27-0 halftime deficit wasn’t shocking, but the rationale was out there for the Bills to have success against Minnesota’s offense. Turnovers lead to short fields for Josh Allen and Chris Ivory and were heavy contributors to the first half deficit but Mike Zimmer’s halftime adjustments are worth mentioning. The Vikings let up zero points in the second half. Against the Rams last season the Vikings’ defense notably let up a touchdown on the first drive then bullied the Rams’ offense the rest of the game. Part two of that affair comes this Thursday.

FINAL SCORE: Bills 27, Vikings 6

INJURIES: Vikings CB Trae Waynes

It may be time to talk about the Dolphins

Just as everyone suspected, the Dolphins and for now the Buccaneers join the Chiefs and Rams as the last undefeated teams in the NFL. Now it’s time to decide whether to take the Dolphins seriously. As Ryan Tannehill enters his seventh season one may assume he’s following the Alex Smith formula of taking seven years to have his breakout season. But for the first time in his career, Tannehill is not being ragdolled by opposing defenses week-in and week-out. Through 2016 Tannehill was by far the most sacked QB in the league, and even after missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL he was still sixth on that list. It may help that Tannehill went against teams in the Titans, Jets and Raiders who notoriously lacked pass rushes last season, but the problem before was that even teams thought to not have pass rushes were sacking Tannehill. That’s why Adam Gase starting cutting linemen mid-season in 2016. Luckily Tannehill had some help when Philly Special Fever found its way to Miami’s playbook, resulting in a jet-reverse-pass from Albert Wilson to Jakeem Grant resulted in a 52-yard touchdown. Now Tannehill just needs some help from his defense, which beat Marcus Mariota AND Blaine Gabbert in week one. That’s two QBs in one game, and in a TROPICAL STORM.

FINAL SCORE: Dolphins 28, Raiders 20

INJURIES: Dolphins DE William Hayes and Andre Branch

Case Keenum leads the NFL in interceptions

Well, he’s tied with Matt Stafford, Derek Carr, Sam Darnold, and Andy Dalton but five in three games when you’re Case Keenum is notable. The Broncos are getting what they signed on for in Keenum: a confident passer who often forgets his arm isn’t the strongest and will say “screw it” and toss the football into a vicious pit of defenders. Except Keenum doesn’t say “screw it” like Favre did. Keenum doesn’t think to say “screw it.” He indiscriminately thors the ball directly to linebackers in the red zone, who in turn take it the other way for six. But he takes chances, a lot more than Trevor Siemian did, but the Broncos could get fed up with this real quick, especially if their offensive line continues to play as well as it has through three weeks.

FINAL SCORE: Ravens 27, Broncos 14

INJURIES: Broncos CB Tramaine Brock

Bengals are legit, Andy Dalton is not

Last year’s 30th-ranked rushing defense was introduced to one Christian McCaffrey on Sunday in Carolina, as the Panthers’ running back gashed the Bengals’ defense for 184 yards on the ground. The Panthers’ offense didn’t win in the ways they have as of late: Cam Newton wasn’t breaking tackles all over the field and Mike Tolbert hasn’t punched the ball in from one yard out for the Panthers since 2016. It was the combination of McCaffrey and Andy Dalton’s mistakes that did the Bengals in this one. Dalton broke 350 yards but his four interceptions were ultimately what may have decided the 10-point loss for Cincinnati. Inconsistent performances have been Andy Dalton’s calling card since he entered the league in 2011, and this game showed why the Bengals will never get far with him.

FINAL SCORE: Panthers 31, Bengals 21

INJURIES: Bengals WR AJ Green

Texans fall to 0-3

Pat Shurmur finally decided to bench RT Ereck Flowers. This was widely regarded as a good move, although Flowers should not have made the team in the first place, let alone been a starter. Well, it worked, as the Giants leaned on Saquon Barkley and were able to close out the game despite JJ Watt’s best attempts to ruin the party, recording three sacks. Eli Manning was sacked once more in the game for a grand total of four, but Eli turned in an incredible performance passing, going 25-of-29 for 297 yards and two TDs. This could be it for the Texans’ 2018 campaign, as only three teams to start 0-3 since 1990 have made the postseason.

FINAL SCORE: Giants 27, Texans 22

INJURIES: Giants TE Evan Engram; Texans LG Senio Kelemete

Bortles back to normal Bortles

While Bortles didn’t turn the ball over, that’s about the list of positives end. The Jaguars couldn’t make anything happen offensively and were beaten by a one-armed Marcus Mariota after they attacked Blaine Gabbert, demanding he atone for his failures after Jacksonville used their first-round pick on him 2011. Mariota was supposed to rest another week, but the Gabbert injury forced the 2015 second-overall pick into action. While it was mostly quick plays and handoffs, the Titans defense did enough to temporarily put Tennessee in first place in the AFC South.

FINAL SCORE: Titans 9, Jaguars 6

INJURIES: Titans QB Blaine Gabbert; Jaguars DE Calais Campbell

49ers fear torn ACL for Jimmy G

The Chiefs did was the Chiefs do in the first half. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes had Kansas City up 35-10 at halftime, but only added a field goal in the second half. Kyle Shanahan is a great coach, famous for his halftime adjustments, who undoubtedly threw some wrinkles at Patrick Mahomes that worked against Mahomes’ weaknesses. Unfortunately, San Fran’s comeback efforts were thwarted when Jimmy Garoppolo decided to try to plant his left leg and cut upfield only to seemingly suffer some ligament damage. The Niners were down by 14 with a little over four minutes left and Shanahan decided to kick a field goal. Sometimes good coaches do dumb things.

FINAL SCORE: Chiefs 38, 49ers 27

INJURIES: 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo, CB Richard Sherman; Chiefs OLB Dee Ford

Rams win Battle of LA

The second Chargers CB Jason Verrett went down with a major injury for the third time in three years everyone should’ve bailed on the Chargers. They’re cursed. Maybe it’s everyone on the outside’s fault for making the Chargers out to be something they’re not, but if they can’t do more damage to a team that lost both its starting CBs in this game then what team will they have success against? The offense makes enough mistakes that they won’t outscore teams like the Chiefs and the whole operation is unlucky enough that Keenum might complete passes into triple coverage. At least the Rams showed they can put up big numbers against what should be a decent defense, but maybe the Rams still have yet to face a real defense.

FINAL SCORE: Rams 35, Chargers 23

INJURIES: Rams CBs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib

"America’s Game Of The Week" was the worst game of the week

The NFL and its broadcast partners need to stop making these two teams out to be something they’re not. The Seahawks have a guy named Russell Wilson and that’s it. The Cowboys are historically relevant but have been stagnant since Aaron Rodgers must’ve laid a curse on Dallas’ offense in the 2016 Divisional Round. The Cowboys at least always had the offensive line to work with, but now even that’s been sullied as Dak Prescott is becoming one of the more sacked quarterbacks in the league thanks to injuries and poor play on the offensive line.

FINAL SCORE: Seahawks 24, Cowboys 13

Cardinals lose faith in Sam Bradford

Arizona more than doubled their total 2018 output in point this game, and the defense showed up and took advantage of an error-prone Mitchell Trubisky. But after not sniffing a point since the first quarter, the Cardinals finally lost the lead in the fourth and Steve Wilks made the decision to bench Sam Bradford with four minutes left in the game in favor of 10th overall pick Josh Rosen. Rosen entered the game, promptly threw an interception, got another chance, promptly threw a pick-six which was nullified due to offsides, and was unable to move the ball down the field. Because if there’s a time to throw a rookie QB to the wolves, it’s with four minutes left in a game with a backup tackle attempting to block Khalil Mack.

FINAL SCORE: Bears 16, Cardinals 14

Patriots dynasty declared dead for fourth year in a row

Despite Detroit missing their top pass rusher in Ziggy Ansah, the Lions’ pass rush laid waste to the Patriots’ O-line and Tom Brady all night. Brady was all over the place, at one point executing a very un-Brady like maneuver of dropping his eyes and engaging in a game of Frogger with pass rushers. The Patriots’ offense was hopeless against a mediocre Lions defense, and Josh McDaniel’s insistence on giving Sony Michel McCaffrey-level touches was asinine. Matt Stafford picked up where Blake Bortles left off and his underneath routes all night, occasionally mixing in a few deeper completions as well as Detroit’s “running game” of dink ‘n’ dunks out of the backfield. This resulted in Kerryon Johnson being the first 100-yard rusher in a Lions uniform since Reggie Bush did it on Thanksgiving in 2013. The Patriots have some issues but it’s nothing they haven’t dealt with and overcame in the past. Julian Edelman is back from suspension in two weeks, Josh Gordon will be on the field in no time, and the injuries to Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung shouldn’t sideline them too long.

FINAL SCORE: Lions 26, Patriots 10

MNF: Steelers @ Buccaneers MNF 8:25 ESPN

John Andersen is an award-winning NFL journalist and has written books on Michael Pittman and Leodis McKelvin (maybe). You can follow John on Twitter @_JohnAndersen.

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