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.
NFL Week 3
- Chicago is the worst undefeated team in the league
If I told you that Coach Matt Nagy benched franchise quarterback Mitchell Trubisky after giving away an easy pick while trailing by thirteen in the third quarter of a game with the winless Falcons, and THEN, replacement quarterback Nick Foles came in and threw an interception on his first possession as well, you’d probably think that the Bears were a pretty bad team. Well, they are, and they aren’t. No team is good when the quarterback is benched for performance issues, but there’s a pretty big catch. The Bears came back to beat the woeful Falcons and are now 3-0, tied for the lead in the NFC North with the Packers. What’s more, the Bears currently have a better record than the Baltimore Ravens. Think about that for a second. Trubisky’s maddening inconsistency seems to have gotten the better of Nagy, but let’s remember that Foles has fared far better as an emergency backup for his entire career. Assuming that he’ll become a legitimate QB1 at this point is just folly. But I’m not sure that Trubisky gives them a better chance, unless this serves as a wake-up call. Which is unlikely, as Foles has already been named the week four starter. While it’s nice to be out to a 3-0 start, it probably doesn’t mean too much long term. The Bears have bested the Lions, Giants and Falcons, who have only one win between the three of them.
- Seattle is the best team in the NFC West, and thus, the NFC
Yeah. I said it. A lot can change between now and the NFC title game, especially with the injuries that Seattle suffered on Sunday to safety Jamal Adams and running back Chris Carson (more on that one in a minute), but until someone finds a way to slow down Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, it’s going to be hard to get past the Seahawks. Look, maybe the Saints just aren’t what we expected, they’ve lost two already. The Niners are a walking M.A.S.H. unit. Green Bay has a fatal flaw on defense. Who else is there in the NFC? Brady’s Buccaneers? Maybe? Chicago? Nope, they benched their QB and haven’t played a winning team yet. Seattle just finds ways to win as Russell Wilson gets better and better late in games. While on the subject, what feels worse for teams? Getting blown out early? Or having a lead of less than seven points over Wilson and the Seahawks with five minutes to play? I suspect the creeping dread of the latter is what keeps opposing coaches up at night.
- Cam Newton looked shaky against Las Vegas. It didn’t matter.
Without a doubt, this was Cam Newton’s worst start as a Patriot. He knows it. Newton even graded himself a C on the day, when asked. He threw for only 162 yards with a TD and an INT on 17/28 passing. Some of that was scheme related and the Patriots did what the Patriots do. They adjusted to a Raider defense that gave them problems early and pulled away, never looking back. The Patriot running backs were stifled up the middle early, but started bouncing to the edges and racked up a whopping 250 rushing yards (Newton had only 27) with Sony Michel leading the way for 117 yards on only nine carries. That’s 13 yards per attempt. Yikes. Rex Burkhead was the nightmare though, accounting for 49 yards each rushing and receiving and three total touchdowns, most of which involved him going airborne, upside down, or both. If not for an exceptionally improbable end of the first half touchdown drive by Las Vegas and a garbage time score, this game could easily have been a monster blowout. New England wasn’t perfect, but they dispatched a tough, undefeated AFC West contender on a day when they could have fallen apart with that reshuffled offensive line. We’ll see over the next four weeks if they can really contend going forward: they’ll face both Super Bowl teams and the undefeated division-leading Bills before the midway point of the season.
- Atlanta is (again) historically bad at closing games out
I had this one in last week, but if Atlanta is going to keep blowing big leads, I’m going to keep pointing it out like Nelson Muntz.
The Falcons were up twenty in week two before succumbing, this week they were up 26-10 heading into the fourth quarter. In the third quarter, while leading, Atlanta picked off both Trubisky, who got benched, and then Foles on his first possession. Atlanta had more rushing yards, fewer turnovers, a better third down conversion rate and they were playing a team that had just benched their star quarterback. How on earth do you lose that game? In fact, no team in NFL history has ever blown fifteen-plus point leads in back to back games. Until now. The Falcons are 0-3 for the first time since 2007.
- The Gator Roll has no place in football
If you haven’t seen the play that injured Chris Carson’s knee, that’s ok. Because it happened after the play was over. Cowboys DT Trysten Hill tackled Carson, then, on the ground, performed the “gator roll” technique, dragging the Seattle running back’s lower body with him. While the technique can theoretically be used to keep body weight off an opposing player, that’s not what happened. Hill twisted Carson’s legs, and the strain might will cost Carson at least a few weeks on the I/R list. Hill also hit Russell Wilson helmet-to-helmet later in the game, so I think that the commissioner’s office is probably going to have some words with Hill. And probably fine him at least a game check. That being said, the move that Hill used on Carson is one of those things that should probably be removed from the game. It has no upside and the potential for catastrophic injury, you get it.
- Baltimore got rolled
Mike Tyson famously said: “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.” The Ravens got punched in the mouth on Monday Night Football in a game with Kansas City that was nowhere near as close as the 34-20 final score. Baltimore could manage only ninety-seven passing yards as Lamar Jackson was utterly stifled by the Super Bowl champs. Jackson wasn’t intercepted but fumbled twice and was sacked four times by a relentless Chiefs defense that had clearly heard enough about the Ravens offense. Kansas City more than doubled the Ravens offensive output, 517 yards to 228, and converted on over three-quarters of their third down attempts. Late in the game, with the Ravens threatening to make a game of it, the Chiefs dialed up blitz after blitz, resulting in back to back sacks for a loss of eighteen yards and then a failed attempt at a fourth down Hail Mary. I’m not sure if the Ravens went in overconfident, or if Coach Harbaugh just did a poor job preparing his team (unlikely), but Baltimore was nowhere near ready for what happened in prime time. That being said, I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see the Ravens finish the season atop the AFC standings, it took a bad loss to Cleveland last season to wake the dragon.
- The Bills and Rams are both good
The Bills were a wildcard team a year ago. The Rams were the first team outside the playoff bubble. I was suspecting that one of these teams was probable a paper tiger, but after seeing them go at it, I’m pretty certain that both of these units got better. It looked like Buffalo was going to roll the Rams early, but a furious comeback in the second half, fueled by a Buffalo interception and lost fumble, got the Rams back on top with twenty-nine unanswered points with a few minutes to play. But Josh Allen has a knack for these things, putting together his eighth game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, going seventy-five yards for the score. There’s some talk in L.A. about the fourth-and-eight pass interference call, and while there’s maybe something to discuss, the Rams are the last team on earth that get to talk about pass interference calls.
- Tennessee isn’t rolling, yet
Yes. I know that the Titans are 3-0. But they’ve needed a Stephen Gostkowski field goal in the final two minutes of each and every game to escape with wins. In fact, Gostkowski did the lion’s share of the scoring in week three, connecting on six field goals, including two in the final four minutes of play. Yes, Derrick Henry ran for over one hundred yards and two touchdowns against a spotty Vikings defense, but Tennessee couldn’t contain Dalvin Cook, who mauled the Titan defense for 200 all-purpose yards (181 on the ground). All told, the Titans have beaten three teams with one win between them by a combined total of six points. I know that the Titans were a shock to the system last year, beating New England and Baltimore in their magical playoff run, but they’ll need to be more consistent down the stretch to pull off upset wins like that again.
- Alvin Kamara is a monster
O.K. maybe we didn’t just learn this, but his performance against the Packers deserves some attention. 44.7 fantasy points. Did y’all listen to me last week when I told you he’d have himself a day against that Packers defense? Sure, Kamara only ran for 58 yards, but he did it on just six rushes, including a monster 49-yarder that made the Packers look downright silly. Dude averaged 9.7 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per catch for a total of 197 scrimmage yards and those two receiving TDs. Yes, the Packers won the game, but Kamara’s hybrid performance shows us how the Pack can be outscored. Honestly, New Orleans just didn’t run the ball enough
10. The cracks are showing…
Unlike the NBA, NHL and WNBA, the NFL isn’t playing in a bubble. It’s just not practical with teams of this size, so we get it. That being said, we all knew that Covid-19 would rear its head sometime this season, and now we need to have a look at what’s really possible and practical. Following the Titans week three win, three players and five staffers tested positive. While there have been no positive tests as yet in Minnesota, both teams have suspended in-person activities for the time being. If the situation in Tennessee gets any worse, or some positive tests emerge on the Vikings roster, the week four games against Pittsburgh and Houston might come into question. If more teams are affected, the dominos will start to fall very quickly. I so desperately want to be wrong about this, but I fear that I’m not.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.
Image Source: AP Images