We’re back, people. Your weekly look-around the NFL for the best performances, worst chokes, and most questionable prognostications. If I didn’t mention your team this week, no worries. Good, bad, or meh, I’ll be getting to everyone in due time.
1. Baltimore is very much for real
Set aside the fact that they lost on the road to the Chiefs for one second. Let’s look at HOW they lost. Baltimore trailed the favored Chiefs 23-6 at halftime before making a game of it late. Lamar Jackson struggled mightily in the first half, going 7-18 before settling down the stretch. Ravens running back Mark Ingram was a force, scoring three TDs and gaining over 100 yards. Patrick Mahomes recorded his worst (relative term) outing thus far this season, taking an 11-yard sack and recording season lows in yards per attempt and total passing yardage. The point is, that Ravens defense held the gaudiest offense in the NFL within striking range. If they can keep up with the Chiefs, they can keep up with anyone.
2. Cam Newton might be done for
After an aborted 2018 campaign that fizzled as Cam’s shoulder weakened, the Panthers had high hopes for their franchise QB in 2019. Things aren’t going well. The foot ailment that has him sidelined isn’t a simple sprain as was initially reported. According to The Athletic’s Joe Person, the foot injury is actually a much more complex Lisfranc injury, which can include both a fracture as well as torn ligaments. Rehab can be very, very long. I’m not sure we’ll see Superman again this season, if at all. It’s more bad news for a Carolina team that seems snake bitten.
3. That Patriot defense isn’t having its normal early struggles
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a Patriots defense that generally underperforms early in the season, only to turn up the heat as the weather grows colder. This season, they’re coming out of the gate hot. How hot? New England leads the league in total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and passing yards allowed. They’re allowing third down conversions at a meager 13% that’s really, really low, considering that the average of the TOP TEN defenses is double that rate. This week they held Le’Veon Bell to a paltry 35 yards on 18 carries. They’ve also only allowed one scoring play in the first three weeks, a field goal by the Steelers in week one. Since then they’ve pitched a shutout. The fourteen points versus the Jets came by way of a muffed punt and an interception return for a TD (after Tom Brady had been pulled). In other words, this defense hasn’t allowed a TD since the AFC Championship game last year…yikes. Grain of salt time for Fitzy though, the three teams they’ve beaten up on aren’t exactly playoff contenders.
4. The Giants might have something in Daniel Jones
Mea culpa. I thought it was a bad idea to throw the young QB into the mix this early in the season. But clearly, he’s injected some energy into a lifeless Giants team that had no business winning on the road against a Tampa Bay team that should be better than them in all three phases of the game. Jones and the G-men roared back from a 28-10 halftime deficit and to squeak out a tough road win, 32-31 behind his 336 yards and 2 TDs. Welcome to the NFL, rookie.
5. Jalen Ramsey is worth every penny
O.K. Maybe I’m wrong here. But shouldn’t the Jaguars at least consider pacifying their best player? He’s away from the team currently with flu-like symptoms, but he was on the field last week after his trade request. The guy clearly wants to win games, and he wants to be paid like a top tier corner. The Jags could help him out with at least one of those, and an argument can easily be made that with a healthy Nick Foles, these Jags are in the mix.
6. Trent Williams is, too
I know. Holdouts featuring offensive linemen aren’t exactly hot topics in the sports journalism sphere. But here’s the deal. Washington has a young quarterback that they’d like to get on the field in Dwayne Haskins. They shouldn’t put him in until they have the best available protection for him. That means paying left tackle Trent Williams. Not to mention that Washington’s running game has been non-existent with the cobbled together O-line. Get the big man back on the field. He’s worth a top-tier contract. No question.
7. Todd Gurley is on a pitch count
Maybe? I’m trying to wrap my head around this one. Sean McVay has said he needs to get Gurley more involved…but McVay calls the plays. Gurley is a special weapon. But the Rams are 3-0 and Gurley is averaging only fourteen attempts per game. Given how Gurley wore down at the end of the season last year, and was a crucial non-factor in the Super Bowl, I’m willing to wager that the Rams are being intentionally cautious with their most important weapon so he’ll be fresher for the end of the season and the playoffs. It’s either that, or the unthinkable: Gurley still isn’t right from his injuries last season and is still rounding into form. I prefer to believe the former.
8. The Saints are very much alive
I told y’all that if the Saints could navigate this six-game stretch without Drew Brees at 3-3, they’d still make the playoffs. Well, beating the Seahawks on the road is a heck of a way to get that started (I gave them no chance in this one). Alvin Kamara was an absolute beast and Tedy Bridgewater was more than capable to the task of navigating that tough Seattle defense on the road. Bridgewater is one of the best paid backups in the league, and he’s earning every penny over the next few weeks if he keeps the Saints at the top of the NFC South.
9. The Steelers are in big trouble
Two. That’s the number of passes that Mason Rudolph completed that travelled more than one yard in the air this week, according to the stat guys at the Associated Press. That’s godawful. The Steelers defense forced three fumbles and two interceptions in the road test against the Niners. They should have pulled it off. But they just aren’t the same Steelers anymore. Proof? I’m glad you asked.
The 0-3 Steelers are a bottom five offense by points and yardage, and the defense? Well it isn’t any better. At all. They also rank in the bottom five in both categories. They have a scoring differential of -36 over the first three weeks of the season…after a tight loss in San Francisco…only Miami and the Jets are worse league wide. These guys are a legitimate contender for the first overall pick in next year’s draft.
10. The Texans are better than you think they are
After Andrew Luck walked away from football, I told you that the Texans were in prime position to reap the rewards and dominate the AFC South for the next couple of years. I stand by that. The Jags may be on the upswing with Gardner Minshew lifting them above a Titans team that seems doomed to mediocrity under Marcus Mariota, but the Texans are on a roll. In week three, they bested a playoff caliber Chargers team on the road. This is notable for two important reasons. 1) Deshaun Watson was the best quarterback on the field, gashing L.A. for 351 yards and three TDs in the air. 2) More importantly, the vaunted Chargers pass rush only sacked Watson twice. Last season, Watson was a glorified tackling dummy. If week three is any indication, he can be far more dangerous and well-protected as the season rolls on.