The NFL season is through three games, and not much makes sense right now—The Dolphins are undefeated, the Texans and Raiders have nothing to show for so far, and the Browns have won a game. It’s still early, and there are a lot of adjustments to be made, but here are my takeaways from Week 3.
Good luck stopping the Rams and Chiefs
There are high-powered offenses, and then there’s what the Rams and Chiefs are doing—through three games, these two have combined for a whopping 208 points—Patrick Mahomes is off to the best start in NFL history, throwing 13 touchdowns through three games and breaking Peyton Manning’s record of 12. The Chiefs are on pace to score 85 touchdowns this season, which would shatter the 2013 Broncos’ record of 76.
As for the Rams, their offense is dynamic, and their defense is loaded. They have the best running back in the league right now, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. Despite Mahomes’ hot start, the Rams should still be considered the better team, as they are currently allowing 12 PPG, an NFL-best. Both teams have match-ups against solid defenses coming up this week—the Rams welcome the Vikings in this week’s best game, and the Chiefs travel to Denver in a critical division match-up.
Slow start for big-name teams
The Patriots and Falcons are under .500. The Steelers are still not right in the locker room. The Packers and Vikings looked completely incompetent after week three losses. It could be a result of rusty starts, or it could lie in deeper roots, which I’m now going to overreact to three games into the season.
To start with, I still think all five of these teams are going to make the playoffs—they’ll figure things out as the season goes on, but they should not sit back and relax right now. To start things off, the Steelers are dysfunctional—they had a big win against the Buccaneers to get back on track, but they need to trade Le’Veon Bell to get that burden off their back and someone has to step up in that locker room as a leader. For the Patriots, I can’t say that Brady is falling off a cliff yet, but Belicheck has to start making adjustments before New England digs itself into too big a hole.
Moving to the NFC, the Falcons have gone through a tough schedule thus far—@ Philadelphia, vs. Carolina, vs. New Orleans, but this team should be 3-0. A porous redzone effort against the Eagles cost them game one, and allowing 13 straight in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Saints cost them game three. And evidently, the concept of a tie has a serious effect on team morale—Rodgers is clearly not right, and the Packers came out flat against the Redskins. And the Vikings got WORKED by the Bills at home.
I think these teams will right the ship, but it’s worth looking into these rough starts.
Sacking the quarterback is officially a pastime
I don’t even know what to say anymore.
I completely understand the notion that the NFL wants to protect the quarterback—after all, the league is better when the best quarterbacks are playing. But at some point, enough is enough.
Clay Matthews was called for his third roughing the passer penalty in three games, and each has come at a critical moment in the game—the first was Matthews fault against the Bears game, he admitted it himself. The second cost the Packers a victory against Minnesota. The third did not cost the Packers by any means (I’ll discuss that more later), but it’s a matter of principal—Matthews beat his block and sacked Smith with the ball still in his hands—quick physics lesson: when a big person tackles another big person, gravity is going to do its job. Matthews made a tackle.
End of rant.
The future of the NFL is in good hands with young quarterbacks
The 2018 first round quarterback picks have all seen action by now, and, other than Josh Rosen, who was thrown into his first NFL action against a good Bears defense at the end of the game, have shown flashes of brilliance. Josh Allen and the Bills tore apart one of the best defenses in the league in Minnesota, Sam Darnold had a brilliant debut in week one against the Lions, and Baker Mayfield came in and led the Browns to their first win in 635 days.
Of course, all these young guns will have their growing pains, as we’ve seen through the first couple weeks. But the talent is there, and the NFL is in good hands.
Packers must put together two halves
The Packers could easily be 0-3. But they also could be 3-0 if they put together full games each week.
The Bears game was a tale of two halves, and the Packers came away with a slim win on an incredible comeback down 20 points.
Against Minnesota, the Packers led 17-7 at halftime—the defense was playing well, and the offense was doing enough to maintain the lead. But the defense completely fell apart in the fourth quarter, allowing 22 points as the Vikings forced overtime.
And last week, the defense forgot to show up in the first half and dug themselves into a 28-10 hole. In the second half, the Packers outscored the Redskins 7-3, and the defense allowed six passing yards.
Where was that in the first half? The offense struggled for sure, but when you give up 28 points in the first half, that’s tough for any offense to come back from. The big play from the game was the Matthews hit, but that Packers played poor all around. McCarthy and co. need to figure things out, and quickly.