This Sunday will be remembered in history for a myriad of reasons. Political actions all across the league were the lead story on major news outlets, as players unified after President Trump disparaged Colin Kaepernick for his protest during the national anthem. While there were plenty of fireworks and hot takes to be had before any of the kickoffs, the games themselves did not disappoint. There were wild finishes all across the NFL and Sunday saw 11 of the 14 underdog teams cover the spread. It was a week that reminded the world just how fun football can be, and here are the four most important on-field takeaways from the week that was.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers offense might not be all it was chalked up to be
After being lauded as one of the most explosive units in football during the preseason, the Steelers offense has looked very pedestrian through the first three weeks. Pittsburgh ranks 19th in yards per game per ESPN with 302.2. The vaunted triplets of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell are all finally healthy and on the field, but the offense has yet to look like the juggernaut many predicted they would be. Bell has yet to find his rhythm after sitting out almost the entirety of the preseason holding out for a new contract. He is averaging just 3.5 yards per attempt and has not made the kind of all-around impact that was expected of him. Brown remains one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers, topping 100 yards in two of the three games. Big Ben has looked out of sorts during the first three weeks, unable to connect on the downfield strikes that have been a hallmark of this offense during the past three seasons. The Steelers have faced a stiff Vikings defense and a much improved Bears unit, which could be a contributing factor to the slow start, though. Things could still pick up for Pittsburgh given their explosive playmakers, but thus far, the Steelers offense has been nothing short of mediocre.
- The Joe Flacco elite argument is pretty much dead
Everyone’s favorite barbershop debate “Is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback?” may have been settled with his benching Sunday in London. Flacco managed a whopping 28 yards on 8-18 passing including two interceptions before being sent to the bench in favor of Ryan Mallett. After two less than inspiring performances to start the season against Cincinnati and Cleveland (a combined 0-6), Flacco’s clunker at Wembley against Jacksonville may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. He picked the absolute perfect time to go on a historic playoff run during his contract year in 2012 en route to a Super Bowl, and was paid well for it. Since signing his extension, Flacco has thrown 80 touchdowns to 61 interceptions and the Ravens have floated around a .500 winning percentage. He may still be the starting quarterback next Sunday, but the days of asking if he is at all elite, are done.
- Aaron Rodgers might just will the Packers to a division title
In the past it was easy to hand Green Bay the NFC North crown, due mostly to the incompetence of the rest of the division. This year not only do Minnesota and Detroit look like real threats to win the division, but the Packers are a deeply flawed and injured team. The pass defense was once again carved up by a star receiver in AJ Green. This was done by a Bengals team that was unable to score a touchdown in either of their previous two games. And yet, when the game ended it was Green Bay who was on top once again because of the wizard who wears number 12. He engineered another comeback victory, and pulled out all his tricks in the fourth quarter and overtime. The Packers have a myriad of injuries all over the roster and the offensive line is in shambles headed into a short week, but so long as Rodgers is under center, it’s difficult to bet against them finishing atop the North once again.
- Parody is still king in the NFL
Five 2-0 teams lost on Sunday, two of them to 0-2 teams. Denver fell at Buffalo a week after looking like world-beaters against Dallas. Oakland traveled cross country to Washington and looked absolutely lifeless on Sunday Night Football. The Steelers slept walked their way to a loss to the Bears, despite Chicago’s best effort to give the game away. Even the hapless New York Jets, who many predicted would not win a single game this season, managed to get a victory against the Jay Cutler led Miami Dolphins. The NFL is the highest variance league in all of sports, partially because of the fact that there are only 16 games in the season. Another reason for it is because the talent gap between the supposed good teams and the bottom-feeders is not as wide as in a league like the NBA. The unpredictability and randomness of the NFL is why Las Vegas sports books remain undefeated, and why fans keep coming back every Sunday to catch the action.