What a week this was. From the wild Thursday night game to the incredible finishes and stunning performances what a week this was. With all the recent talk of how the product in the NFL has declined and the lack of competition and no close games, this past week solved all of those concerns. Even though we haven’t yet made it out of the first quarter of the season teams are already writing the story of the 2017 season. Here’s one takeaway for each team from the latest chapter.
Ravens- the Ravens must have been dealing with some serious jet-lag when they took the field Sunday against the Jaguars. Joe Flacco completed 8 of 18 pass attempts with 2 interceptions and no touchdowns. The Baltimore defense was equally as bad allowing 44 points and 4 touchdown passes from Blake Bortles. After 10 takeaways in their first two games no one was expecting this kind of performance. However, this was the first game the Baltimore Ravens franchise had ever played that wasn’t in America and I would still expect to see the team back to its usual self next week when they welcome their rivals, the Steelers, into Baltimore.
Steelers- For whatever reason the Steelers vaunted offense is not clearing the bar. An offense that features Big Ben, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon should score more than 17 points against the Bears.
Bengals- How about this Bill Lazor guy? Under their new offensive coordinator, the Bengals rolled to two touchdowns on their first two drives. Even though the offense couldn’t put away Aaron Rodgers and the Pack at the end, this game will serve as a jumping off point for the rest of their season.
Browns- saying this was not Deshone Kizer’s best day is an understatement. The rookie signal-caller was 22/47 with 2 touchdowns and 3 picks. The Browns made the score close at the end but the Colts had this game in hand.
Jaguars- this week the Jaguars looked more like the team that beat the Texans 29-7 and ekes like the team that lost to the Titans 37-16. The Jaguar’s defense almost blanked the Ravens. Jacksonville will have a chance to flex its muscles again next week against the Jets.
Titans- After their most recent performance, the Titans offensive line is ready to challenge for the title of best in football. Taylor Lewan, Quinton Spain, Ben Jones, Josh Kline, and Jack Conklin absolutely dominated the Seattle defense and for now, DeMarco Murray silenced all the people calling for Derrick Henry.
Colts- Colts fans have to be relieved that after expecting Scott Tolzien to start the first few games of this season the organization swung a deal for Jacoby Brissett. The second-year pro filled the game tape with a multitude of big plays and positive moments. The celebration will be short lived however as this team travels to Seattle to take on an angry Seahawks team.
Texans- Even though coach Bill O’Brien feels that there are no moral victories there is a lot of positives to take away from this loss. After underperforming the first two games of the season, the Texans pass-rushing trio of Mercilus, Watt, and Clowney got back to their old selves registering 3 sacks and a forced fumble combined. Deshaun Watson also kept New England’s defense off balance for much of the game and after players from both sides remarked how impressed they were with him.
Bills- After only managing 3 points a week ago against the Panthers expectations were low with an even more stingy defense in the Denver Broncos coming to town. But the Bills were ready and after a first quarter where they totaled only 10 yards the Bills managed 6 scoring drives and converted in key spots to put the game away. Even after a win against a quality team, things don’t get any easier next week when the Bills travel to play the defending NFC champions.
Patriots- Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve never lost a game, I just ran out of time.” The same can be said of Tom Brady. After trailing late all it took was a little Brady magic as he overcame a 2nd and 20 and a 3rd and 18 to get the Pats into the endzone. At 40 years old he completed 5 of 8 deep passes for 185 yards and 3 touchdowns and continues to defy logic about how aging players should perform. Brady’s heroics shouldn’t overshadow the poor offensive line play and shaky defense that put New England in a hole. This team is good right now but it’s still a far cry from the one people expected to be 16-0.
Dolphins- Jay Cutler giveth and Jay Cutler taketh away. After leading Miami to a close victory in Week 2 the league was reintroduced to the ugly side of Jay Cutler. It wasn’t all his fault though, not much can be expected from an offense when your leading rusher ends up with 16 yards on 11 carries and the other team just wants it more than you.
Jets- For Jets fans hoping for a tank and an 0-16 season to lock up Sam Darnold came away disappointed. Fans on the other end of that spectrum were excited to see the Jets play inspired football, avoid major mistakes and put together a great defensive game that should have ended in a shutout had it not been for a last play touchdown.
Chiefs- It’s hard to go 3-0. Only the Chiefs and the Falcons have remained unbeaten after Week 3. Kareem Hunt again put on a show but the real star of the game was KC’s defense which forced 3 interceptions and gave the conservative offense short fields.
Broncos- What a difference a week makes. After eviscerating the Cowboys defense Siemian came back down to earth when he was forced to make throws on third down after C.J. Anderson, who had been Denver’s driving force offensively, carried 8 times for 36 yards with 32 of them coming on one play. The Broncos will look to bounce back against the division rival Raiders next week.
Raiders- Coming into the game most expected the Oakland defense to have a rough go of it, what no one expected was the Oakland offense to have an outing that was just as bad or possibly worse but that’s exactly what happened Sunday night. Last season when he was part of MVP consideration QB Derek Carr was sacked only 16 times. Against the Redskins he was sacked 4 times and his two 1000 yard receivers from last year were nowhere to be found combining for 2 catches for 13 yards and two drops. Marshawn Lynch was a nonfactor as the Raiders O-line couldn’t push anybody around. The offense will be tested again when it travels to Denver next week.
Chargers- Through the first 2 games of the season it had looked like Philip Rivers had transcended his mistake-prone times but against an old foe he fell back on old habits throwing 3 INTs. Still winless the only bright spot, albeit an incredibly bright one, is their duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Ingram had 3 sacks on the day and both he and Bosa were in the backfield all day. If this keeps up those two will become the most feared pass rush duo in the league.
Packers- down big at home – no problem, throw a pick six – no problem, defense allowing a team that hadn’t scored a touchdown to score 3 – no problem. When the game is on the line, money on the table let Aaron Rodgers go to work. During the game however it didn’t look too much like Rodgers game. He threw only the second pick six of his career and looked skittish for most of the game behind a line that gave up 6 sacks. They’ll need to get it together for a quick turnaround as the Bears come to town on a Thursday night. Last thing – for your “really?” moment; that was Aaron Rodgers first ever win in OT, really.
Vikings- coming in it looked like Jameis Winston and an explosive Buccaneers offense would take over a game in which Sam Bradford was out with an injury. However (Steven A voice) that prognostication couldn’t have been further than what happened. Case Keenum seems to have a knack for beating the Buccaneers as he’s now 3-0 against them in his career with 793 passing yards and 7 touchdown passes across those games. Keenum had a lot of help from Dalvin Cook who has become the unquestioned bell cow back carrying 27 times for 97 yards and a TD. The Minnesota defense also came up big picking off Jameis Winston 3 times and playing overall suffocating defense. With 3 teams in the division 2-1, the Vikings have a chance to take the number 1 spot in the division with a win against the Lions.
Lions- It just seems to be the fate of the lions to have their games decided by a wild sequence in the last minute of the game. The Lion’s defense was impressive picking off reigning MVP Matt Ryan 3 times returning 1 for a touchdown. Controversial ending aside, theLionss had many chances to win but Matt Stanford couldn’t get anything going consistently without a presence in the run game. This is a big week for the NFC north with 3 teams at 2-1 and all the teams playing division games. With a win over the Vikings, the could make an important statement in the division.
Bears- These are the types of games the Bears can win. Games where they take advantage of opportunities and run the ball. A lot. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Combined for 216 yards on 35 carries. Through 3 games Tarik Cohen has the most targets and catches of all running backs. Until Mitch Trubisky gets a shot this team will have to rely on its two young running backs to win games. And of course, we have to talk about Marcus Cooper. He now joins an infamous group of players who had a touchdown but because of cockiness, unawareness, or pure stupidity fumbled the ball and cost his team 6 points.
Falcons- the Falcons are 3-0 right now, a lucky 3-0 but undefeated none the less. Opening the season against 3 NFC north teams their blowout of the packers is bracketed by scares from the bears and the lions. It’s still too early to call it for any team but despite what their record suggests they have been less than perfect. During his MVP season, Matt Ryan didn’t have a multi-interception game but he threw 3 on Sunday almost throwing away the game in the process. The Falcons have one more game next week before their bye so they have time to get themselves in order before mid-season.
Panthers- Something is not quite right with Cam Newton. The 2015 MVP has not regained that form that won him the award. Throwing 3 INTs against one of the worst secondaries in football is never a good sign. The only bright spot was first round rookie Christian McCaffrey catching 9 balls for 101 yards. Struggling to stay relevant in the division race, the Panthers have a tough one next week when they travel to Foxborough to take on the Patriots.
Buccaneers- 2 games into their 2017 season the Buccaneers have put together two very different performances. After blowing out the Bears in their first game Tampa Bay’s offense could not get it together against a stingy Minnesota unit. Their Franchise QB Jameis Winston threw 3 INTs and the ground game only managed 26 yards. Equally concerning was the Buccaneers defensive effort against a team missing its starting quarterback. There’s still reason for optimism though Doug Martin comes back in two weeks and the 0-3 New York Giants come to Florida in what could be a good bounce back game.
Saints- The Ted Ginn revenge game really wasn’t. The former Panthers wideout caught 2 balls for 44 yards and a TD with 1 carry for 15 yards. The biggest takeaway from this game is Sean Payton admitting that he still hasn’t quite figured out how to best utilize his 3 running backs. New Orleans has a chance next week to get to .500 with a win against a Miami Dolphins team still seeking direction.
Eagles- what a joy it is to watch Carson Wentz develop and progress. The second year quarterback is loads more athletic than defenses seem to realize dazzling defenses with one “wow” run or escape each week. There’s a lot to like about a close win against a division rival the fact that the Eagles let the Giants get back into this one is concerning. If it hadn’t been for rookie Jake Elliot and his rookie record 61 yard buzzer beater field goal the Eagles could be answering questions about an epic collapse if things hadn’t gone their way in OT. Sitting atop the division the Eagles visit the underperforming chargers next week.
Cowboys- Dallas did not get off to a particularly good start on Monday night. After a rough first quarter, the offense steadily improved eventually rolling to 28 on four touchdowns from Dak and Zeke. The defensive MVP is split between DE Demarcus Lawrence who seems to be turning into the premier pass rusher the Cowboys envisioned he would be when they took him in the second round, and rookie cornerback Jordan Lewis who was all over the field with good coverage and sound tackling. After rebounding well from their loss to Denver and a poor start on Monday night, Dallas will take on the suddenly hot Los Angelos rams offense.
Redskins- it was almost a dominant performance in all three phases from the Washington Redskins on Sunday night. The secondary led by Josh Norman nabbed 2 INTs and their pass rushers bullied the Oakland offensive line racking up 6 sacks on Derek Carr. Kirk Cousins completed 25 of 30 passes for 3 touchdowns and no interceptions and Chris Thompson had another dominant all-purpose performance. The Redskins will have an opportunity to show that Sunday night wasn’t a fluke when they take on the undefeated Chiefs on Monday night.
Giants- almost. They almost did it. After a late rally and big plays from their wide revivers the giants had finally reached 20 points for the first time in their last 10 games. 0-3 is not the way any team with playoff hopes wants to start the season. The Giants have major problems along their offensive line and under center and they may be too big for the defense and OBJ to overcome. The Giants have a chance to turn their season around next week when they visit an also underperforming Buccaneers team.
Rams- The youngest head coach in NFL history is off to a good start sitting atop the division at 2-1 with two 40 point games under his belt. He’s gotten there with inventive offense and an enterprising defense. After a disappointing 2016, Todd Gurley looks to be back to what we saw in the first few games of 2015. We’ll get a good look at whether this Rams team is legit or not when they take on the Dallas Cowboys next week.
Seahawks- We know the Seahawks offensive line is a problem but who would have that now the Seattle defense might be a problem. This unit was manhandled in the second half of the game as it appeared that Mike Mularkey’s “exotic smash mouth” offense wore them down. Russell Wilson’s career passing day was overshadowed by his defense which gave up two touchdowns of over 50 yards including the first rushing touchdown 75 yards or more since 2009. Seattle will have to hope that it can sort itself out defensively and return to form against the Colts next to get to .500.
Cardinals- There was a lot of bad Monday night from the Arizona Cardinals but let’s start with the good; Larry Fitzgerald is Amazing. He finished with 13 grabs for 149 yards and a score. He was absolutely electric out there making one spectacular catch after another. Now for the bad. Bruce Arians playcalling and game management were atrocious in the final quarter and the offensive line couldn’t block three rushers. Their season is on life support right now but a home game against an 0-3 Niners team could be just what the doctor ordered.
49ers- Despite their 0-3 start it can be argued that the 49ers have had a successful season so far. In their Thursday night loss to the Rams, the Niners showed a fortitude and fight not seen since the Jim Harbaugh era. Kyle Shanahan takes his squad next week to take on a reeling Arizona in a game where the 49ers could find some success in the win-loss column as well.