And so we reach the end of week three and what a week it was. Shock results, injury catastrophes and winless streaks broken by a new star of Cleveland. Here goes…
Browns 21 – 17 Jets
What better place to start than in Cleveland where Hue Jackson’s Browns finally got that illusive win. Fair to say, Jackson had little input into the decision that turned the game in the Browns favour. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was having a poor game, completing only four passes from 14 attempts and a measly 19 yards. Taylor went down with a concussion and Jackson turned to their boy wonder Baker Mayfield. Immediately the offence seemed to pick up pace and challenge the Jets making a brilliant comeback in the second half.
Mayfield finished the game with 17 completions from 23 attempts and 201 yards. There were no TDs but equally there were no INTs. Carlos Hyde enjoyed a birthday treat with 93 rushing yards and two TDs.
On the other side, Darnold and the Jets offence struggled against a good Browns defence. Darnold had a completion rate below 50% and two INTs, one of which being quite similar to an INT he threw last week. Denzel Ward forced a fumble in a rookie season that could well see him claim defensive rookie of the year if he carries on in this vein of form.
Falcons 37 – 43 Saints
Ah who needs defence! This was a classic shootout between two outstanding quarterbacks in good form. Those with either Matt Ryan or Drew Brees in their fantasy line-ups were loving it! Both QBs threw for nearly 400 yards each, Brees had three TDs and ran in another two whilst Ryan had five.
Calvin Ridley for the Falcons announced his arrival in the NFL with three TD grabs and 146 passing yards. Once again the Falcon’s achieved 100% red zone efficiency but their third down efficiency fell to 36%. They’ll look forward to when Freeman comes back even though Coleman was serviceable.
Lead changes were common in this game, especially so in the 4th quarter where the two teams combined for 30 points. In overtime, Brees led the Saints on a methodical charge ending in a dive over the line for the winning score. The Falcon’s have demonstrated that the injuries to their defence are starting to take their toll but few teams will have the ability to match what Drew Brees and the Saints have.
Couple of records worth noting -Drew Brees now has the most completions in the history of the game and Michael Thomas has the most catches over a three game stint.
Redskins 31 – 17 Packers
The top two quarterbacks from the 2005 draft went toe to toe again and the No.1 pick won out. Both played well but it was the Redskins defence that got the better of the game. They got to Rodgers four times, forcing one fumble. The former Alabama duo of Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne in the defensive line combining for three of the sacks.
On the other side, the Packers weren’t able to penetrate the Redskins offensive line, a unit which is continuing to improve week on week. Two other veterans also shined in this match, Adrian Peterson running for 120 yards and two TDs. Whilst another play would have tugged at the heartstrings of many a 49er fan, Smith passing to tight end Vernon Davis for a 50 yard gain.
Of course the talking point of this match is going to be the penalty on Clay Matthews for his hit on quarterback Alex Smith. By the letter of the law, it was an illegal hit as he did come down on Smith. But, in my humble opinion, the law is a crock of shit if it means players can no longer tackle the quarterback with a hit that wasn’t reckless. Ironic that this law was conceived after Green Bay’s Rodgers was injured after a hefty fellow landed on him last year…
Eagles 20 – 16 Colts
Carson Wentz made a winning comeback for the Eagles who moved to 2-1. It’ll take some time for him to become game fit but it was a good first outing after a long term injury. Wentz threw for 255 yards, a TD and an INT. His two tight ends, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert each drew 73 yards in the passing game with the latter scoring his first TD in the NFL. I’d expect to see more of both players in the future as the Eagles continue to utilise two tight end sets. In the absence of Jay Ajayi, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement each ran for 56 yards, the former scoring a TD.
Andrew Luck was quite poor but chasing the game had to throw 40 times, completing 25 passes for just 164 yards. The longest play was just 29 yards and when Brissett came on for a final hail mary attempt questions were beginning to be asked about Luck’s arm strength. To be fair, he’s coming back from a long period out of the game and I don’t think it’s too much of a shock to say he’s not quite at 100% arm strength yet. Luck even confessed to it as much in a press conference afterwards.
One positive for the Colts will be the effort put in by their defence. Star rookie, Darius Leonard recorded another nine solo tackles and two sacks, like Denzel Ward, numbers and form that will see him in the running for defensive rookie of the year.
Vikings 6 – 27 Bills
I had trouble typing that. And I still don’t know what to make of the result. Simply put, the Bills were good and the Vikings weren’t.
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen threw 22 times completing 15 of them for 196 yards and a TD. He also demonstrated his athleticism with 10 rushing attempts – more than the entire Vikings team managed – and two touchdowns.
The Vikings were down early and had to chase the game, hence Kirk Cousins attempting 55 throws and whilst he connected on 40 of them, there was only one TD to tight end Kyle Rudolph. No Delvin Cook meant the running game was non-existent with only six rushing attempts during the whole match for the Vikings. Cousins struggled against a rejuvenated Bills defence that forced him to fumble the ball three times, losing possession twice.
It was a bad performance and there’ll need to be significant improvements when the Vikings face the Rams on Thursday night.
Dolphins 28 – 20 Raiders
The powerhouse of the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins move to 3-0 with a win over the hapless Gruden led Raiders. There’s possibly something wrong with the conditioning of the Raiders players as in each of their games to date, they’ve been in them in the first half before falling apart in the second half. Or maybe Gruden’s adjustments at half time are just all backfiring.
Anyway, Tannehill had a good day against a defence that lacks teeth. But good pass rushers are just really hard to find, ain’t that right Jon? Tannehill threw for 289 and three TDs, a performance good enough to show that he’s settling right back into game action. Adam Gase’s play calling is getting more eccentric and it’s having a positive effect, a version of the ‘Philly Special’ used when wide receiver Albert Wilson received the ball after the snap and threw what turned out to be a TD pass to Jakeem Grant. A third down efficiency rate of just 25% will be a concern to Gase and maybe he needs to have more confidence in his running game with little action from Drake and Tannehill leading the rushing charts for the Dolphins with 26 yards. The linebacker pair of Alonso and Baker racked up seven solo tackles each and Xavian Howard continued to impress at cornerback, picking off Carr twice and shutting out Amari Cooper. A low point for the Miami defence came when defensive end William Hayes tore his ACL as he tried to contort his body during a tackle to try and prevent himself getting flagged for landing on the QB. Who’d have thought that a rule designed for a player safety has led to players getting injured……
Carr’s two INTs were matched with just one TD, Jordy Nelson showing the form of old with the reception as well as 173 yards, a majority of the total of 345 yards thrown by him. The Raiders managed to run a bit but nothing to get excited about with Lynch recording 64 yards at an average yards per carry of 3.3. The defence was also pretty lame.
Ravens 27 – 14 Broncos
Denver scraped a win against the Raiders in week two and didn’t look convincing so it was no surprise to see them undone by a decent looking Ravens side.
Joe Flacco had a fairly ordinary game but it was enough to secure the win. 277 yards, one touchdown and no INTs aren’t stats to write home about but when you’re facing Case Keenum on the other side then you don’t really have to be brilliant.
Sadly for the Bronco’s, Keenum continues to be just less than average. 192 yards and one INT against a tough defence show that perhaps he’s not worth all of those 20 million dollars he’s getting. Royce Freeman took over the primary backfield duties after Lindsey was ejected from the game for throwing a punch. Freeman managed just over four yards a carry for 53 yards but, like Keenum, struggled against a stout defensive line. The Bronco’s were only able to get into the end zone three times, and convert on just one of those. There’s a decent enough stable of receivers available to Keenum but between him and them, they’re not producing any big plays. Longest pass play of the night for the Bronco’s was 22 yards. A dink and duck passing game is fine, but you need a strong running game to go with it and that was lacking in this match.
The everlasting Terrell Suggs is still going strong, forcing a fumble from his 1.5 sacks and making a further four tackles. Rookie linebacker Kenny Young recorded eight solo tackles on a productive night.
Panthers 31 – 21 Bengals
This was a good match between two good teams that I expect to be vying for a playoff spot come the end of the season.
Questions have started to be raised about Christian McCaffrey’s ability as a running back after achieving 100+ receiving yards last week but few rushing attempts. He answered his critics this week in a big way with a 184 yard rushing game. Whilst he didn’t score any TDs it put the Panthers in a position for Cam to get two rushing TDs on top of the 36 rushing yards. He didn’t need to throw all that much with all that ground production. Just the 150 yards but two TDs, a good day indeed.
Dalton came back down to earth this week with four INTs. Without running back Joe Mixon he was asked to pass more, with 46 attempts this week to only 13 rushing attempts, 12 of which went to Bernard. The defence fared no better with only one sack against a strangely dominant Carolina O-Line.
Texans 22 – 27 Giants
The battle of two 0-2 teams ended with the Giants securing their first win of the year.
The Manning to Beckham combination bounced back this week. 109 yards for Beckham who feasted on lackluster Texans backfield. Manning threw two TDs and 297 yards even with the constant pressure applied to him by the Texans pass rush – JJ Watt alone sacked him three times as he looked back in form, though against a less than average O-Line. Though were at least able to give Saquon Barkley a few holes as he ran for 82 yards and a TD.
On the other side, DeShaun Watson threw for 385 yards and a touchdown. His one INT went to linebacker Alec Ogletree. For the Texans it was red zone efficiency that was their issue, only two successful attempts from five. The ground game was pretty terrible, Watson the highest achiever with 36 yards. Lamar Miller had 10 yards from 10 carries and lost a fumbled ball.
Jaguars 6 – 9 Titans
What the hell happened to the Jaguars from last week!? The one positive I can find in the Jaguars performance was that Bortles didn’t throw an INT. He also didn’t throw a TD and his completion rate dropped versus the game against New England. All of this must be incredibly frustrating for the Jag fans!
Both defences played well but they didn’t have a massive amount to do as this was a lesson on how not to play offence. Mariota returned to field after initially being named behind Blaine Gabbert, an injury to Gabbert causing the change. When he came on he rushed for 51 yards and threw for a further 100.
Needless to say, third down efficiency for both teams was poor around the 35% mark for both teams. The Jags didn’t make it to the red zone and on the two trips the Titans had there, they failed to convert. Here watch the “highlights”
Chiefs 38 – 27 49ers
Patrick Mahomes carries on his tremendous run of form but it’ll be his opposing quarterback that grabs the headlines, not in a good way. 49er QB Jimmy Garoppolo is out for the season after tearing his ACL whilst trying to gain some yards on a run.
Back to Mahomes though who threw three first half TDs to give the Chiefs a lead that the 49ers weren’t able to get close to. Travis Kelce recorded the most yards but the TDs went to Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley and Demetrius Harris. Mahomes showing the signs of a more cultured QB by spreading the ball around on scoring plays.
The 49ers did fight back though, and whether Kansas took their foot off the gas or the 49er defence improved considerably, Kansas were restricted to three points in the second half. Goodwin marked his return with a TD but overall, the wide receivers had a game to forget as well. George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk recording the most yardage with the latter going in for a TD. To make matters worse for the 49ers, Richard Sherman was also injured and is out for a few weeks. Just an afternoon to forget all round really.
Rams 35 – 23 Chargers
The battle of LA and I really enjoyed this match. The Rams offence, steered by McVay looks incredible. Brandon Cooks is apparently the piece they were missing from last year as he’s settled in and looked great when not only going deep but also being brave going across the field to take catches. Gurley continued his good form with another 100+ game and a TD, something he just makes look easy these days. Goff threw for a total of 354 yards, three TDs and an INT. Robert Woods with two of the TDs on an impressive afternoon and his partner in crime Cooper Kupp with the other. On the podcast last week we said how good this receiver corps is and they continue to display that. Kupp in particular with a sure set of hands.
The Chargers also played well, and probably against most other teams with this sort of performance would have got a win. Rivers didn’t turn the ball over himself but two fumbles (one by Keenan Allen and another by Austin Eckler) did a good proportion of the damage. Derwin James had a good game but made a horrible mistake when he intercepted the ball in the end zone and instead of kneeling, ran it back to the one yard line putting the offence into a tough spot.
Seahawks 24 – 13 Cowboys
Even though this was played in Seattle, I expected the Cowboys to win this game with their defensive line producing against what is a weak Dallas O-Line. The pass rush only got to Wilson twice though as the Seahawks leant on a rushing attack led by Chris Carson who rushed 32 times for 102 yards and a TD. Yards per rush stat hardly one to shout about but it got the job done on the night for the Seahawks with Wilson throwing for another two TDs.
The Cowboys offence is starting to become a real worry. Devoid of several starting members of the O-Line they look unable to get anything going in the pass game. Luckily they have Zeke who rushed for 127 yards but his performance was let down by his quarterback who managed a measly 168 yards, one TD and two INTs. 4th year tight end, Geoff Swaim was the leader in terms of receiving yards and receptions. Tavon Austin got the one TD though really the pass was about half a yard in distance and Austin did the rest with his speed. Sean Lee got injured. Again. Aside from that, I would be getting pretty worried about this offence if I were a Cowboys fan.
Cardinals 14 – 16 Bears
The Cardinals were really disappointing in their first two games of the season but showed a big improvement in their match up against the Bears. The offence were up against a good Bears defence who continue to be led by the miraculous Kahlil Mack who this week got another two sacks and a forced fumble (Jon!! Jon Gruden!! I found a good pass rusher!). Bradford decided to turn up this week and whilst he did throw two INTs he at least matched it with two TDs. David Johnson’s performance is still very poor though as he recorded an average of just 2.5 yards per carry – 31 yards in total.
The Bears offence also never really got going. Trubisky failed to find the end zone and threw an interception. Trey Burton has started off his career in Chicago well and was the top receiver with 55 yards. Jordan Howard scored the only TD for the Bears but they needed three field goals from kicker Cody Parkey to seal the win.
Josh Rosen came in for Arizona’s final drive of the game after an injury to Sam Bradford (not seen that before). The first round pick was oft billed as the most pro-ready QB in the draft class looked assured in the pocket and whilst he did throw an INT which ended the game, I think the Cardinal fans will be hopeful on what he can produce moving forward now that he has been named starter
Lions 26 – 10 Patriots
Another result few of us saw coming. The Pats were poor last week against the Jags and the Lions ended well against the 49ers so maybe it was a complete shock. The game also pitted master against apprentice as former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia took on Belichick.
Brady had a very poor day as he completed 14 passes from 26 and 133 yards. The TD he threw was matched by an INT to ball hawk Darius Slay. The lack of receiving options is really starting to show for New England though as of the six players who made receptions, only two were wide outs. Edelman has one more game out and Josh Gordon will presumably come in soon but it can’t come soon enough for Brady and co. Pats third down efficiency was just 22%.
Stafford was the better QB on the night throwing for 262 yards, two touchdowns and an INT. Detroit have a trio of solid receivers now with Marvin Johnson, Tate and Golliday and with an improving running game the offence looks like it could become more dangerous. One area of concern will be their red zone efficiency which stood at only 25%. Maybe finding a big bodied tight end would help…
Buccaneers 27 – 30 Steelers
This was billed as somewhat of a shootout and it didn’t fail to deliver as both quarterbacks threw for big yardage and three TDs a piece. The key difference was that Roethlisberger threw only one INT to Fitzpatrick’s three. The other difference in this game was the rushing performances of both teams. In essence, the Steelers have a rushing attack, the Bucs don’t. It means Fitzpatrick has to throw more which will undoubtedly lead to mistakes. He still had a good game though and there’s no chance that Winston comes in next week now that his suspension is over. Both pass rush attacks were in good form with three sacks each but both QBs were strong in the pocket with a lot of throws delivered under pressure.
The best play of the game for me was McDonalds TD. Not so much for the catch and run to the end zone but for a huge hand off that saw him break free. Jesse James was a big contributor last week but McDonald took the reins as lead tight end in week 3 and didn’t disappoint. In terms of catches and yards, Juju Smith-Schuster again out did star receiver Antonio Brown though Brown did score a TD.
Fitzpatrick becomes the first QB to record three consecutive 400+ passing yard games. Again, the Bucs receivers are all making plays. Jackson had a slightly quieter game but Evans, Godwin and Howard all went over 70 yards. If they can sure up their defence there really could be a four team battle for the NFC South.