1 – Ram Jam (Bam-ba-lam)
The Detroit Lions may not win a lot of games this year, but their former #1 overall pick QB sure will. Matthew Stafford, freed from the cage of a destitute franchise, looks like he’s settled in nicely in the concrete jungle of LA. The Rams looked poised to be a top contender in the NFC entering the season and an early season win against the Bucs may prove big down the stretch when vying for the #1 seed and homefield advantage.
Stafford’s line of 27/38, 343 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs is about as good as it gets. Cooper Kupp leads the league in receiving yards and the offense looks discipline and firing on all cylinders. With this impressive win under their belt, they can assert themselves atop the NFC in the next two weeks if they can take care of the Cardinals at home and Seattle on the road. It was always a danger to let Sean McVay get his hands on a talent like Stafford and it looks like he’s going to make the league pay.
2 – A Tale of Two GOATs
The endings in the Chargers/Chiefs and Packers/49ers games were eerily similar. Both the Chargers and 49ers held the ball with a chance to go ahead and win the game late. The Chargers went for a late 4th down instead of attempting a long FG, presumably to not allow Mahomes a chance to come back. They converted and then continued to go for a TD, eventually doing so on a fade to Mike Williams. Leaving time on the clock (and missing the extra point), the Chargers left the door open for a Mahomes miracle. It was stunning that they wouldn’t have just run the clock down to 3 seconds and kicked a 20 yard field goal to end it. Alas, the Chargers did hold on for victory.
Fast forward to the night game and the 49ers, down 6, needed a TD to take the lead. However, they scored with 37 seconds left on the clock, leaving Rodgers just enough time to march down for a FG attempt, which of course he did and the Packers won. I can’t criticize Kyle Shanahan too much here as his defense should have been able to preserve this victory and his offense needed to get into the end zone but it does go to show you that the thinking on how to close out games late has changed over the years. These great QBs need to be watching from the bench as the other team bleeds the clock out to the end. Give them no chance or they will burn you.
3 – Myles Garrett Selected to his 3rd Pro Bowl
I kid, I kid. But seriously, Garrett’s 4.5 sacks against the Bears in a dominant performance will essentially be enough for the outstanding defensive end to take the early lead in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. In his 5th season, now playing for a competitive Browns team, Garrett is in the perfect position to take home the hardware.
The Browns were my favorites to win the AFC North and look for Garrett to pad those sack numbers throughout the year as the Browns salt away wins. The Browns have yet to play a division game so that means the offensive lines of the Steelers and Bengals will be terrorized four times at some point this season. A lot has to go right for a pass rusher to rack up sacks, but with those four games, Garrett should have a chance to shatter his personal best (13) and potentially flirt with that magic 20 number.
4 – Lions gonna Lion?
Look, I’m not one to pile on, but the poor Lions lost in the most Lions way yesterday. Beating a better Ravens team at home yesterday, the Lions just needed Justin Tucker to miss a 66-yard field goal and Dan Campbell could grab a relaxing double shot victory espresso. But, Tucker takes a crow hop, loads up his magnificent right leg, and bounces the longest field goal in NFL history off the cross bar and through for a 19-17 victory.
Here’s what I will say for the Lions. They’re playing hard and despite a dearth of talent, they’ll be annoying the rest of the year. Lions fans can celebrate games like this that allow them to see some fun things about their team and preserve the idea of a top 5 pick to secure a QB of the future. There are worse places to be as an NFL fan.
5 – A Bridge in the Rockies
I’m not sure we know much about the Denver Broncos yet. They have wins against the 0-3 Giants, 0-3 Jaguars, and 0-3 Jets. The Broncos didn’t make up the schedule and you can only play the teams in front of you, but I can’t help but at least be curious if Vic Fangio has a shot at taking this squad to the playoffs. We know the secondary is stacked with talent and Von Miller is off to a hot start with four sacks.
Ultimately, it will come down to Teddy Bridgewater and if he can provide the steady hand at the helm that Drew Lock simply couldn’t. Bridgewater is an easy-to-like guy on his fifth team (if we count the 2018 Jets preseason) since coming into the league in 2014. I’m pulling for him.
6 – Fire the Judge
One of my favorite bets this preseason was taking the under on Giants wins. Yes, it’s too early to take a victory lap just yet on the Giants, but there does appear to be a new plume of smoke rising from a tire fire in New Jersey. The 0-3 Giants won’t get an easier game than the one they just dropped to the Falcons for a while. Here’s what their slate looks like: at Saints, at Cowboys, vs Rams, vs Panthers, at Chiefs, vs Raiders, at Bucs. Sure, the Panthers and Raiders are surprising 3-0 teams, but they’re certainly better than the Giants right now. It’s hard to see anything better than a 2-8 start for the Giants and honestly, an 0-10 start wouldn’t completely shock me.
It’s early, but I don’t believe in the coaching staff or the QB. Tough combination in the modern NFL. The best assets the Giants own right now are their two 2022 1st round picks (including the Bears selection).
7 – Who will be the Last Undefeated Team?
The 3-0 teams are mostly surprises. The Rams make complete sense and they knocked off one of the other teams, the Bucs, that could have been an unsurprising 3-0 had the schedule not squared the two up for a September tilt. The aforementioned Broncos may just be a reflection of the early season schedule, playing three teams that could wind up with top five picks.
The rest of the crew – Cardinals, Panthers, and Raiders – are much more surprising. I’ll admit to being wrong about the Cardinals. I thought their defense would regress, which doesn’t look to be the case, but I’m still not sure Kliff Kingsbury is a good coach. Their road gets interesting real quick with the Rams, 49ers, and Browns. I like what the Raiders are doing on offense, but I still don’t believe in their defense. They’re probably better than I gave them credit for coming into the year, but I’m not quite willing to believe in them as a legitimate playoff contender. The Panthers are certainly a pleasant surprise here. They play Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, Giants, and Falcons in their next five. They could be the last undefeated team standing and wow wouldn’t that be a shocker. Joe Brady is about to be at the top of a lot of head coach searches.
8 – Put it on the Board
Brady will break Drew Brees’s career passing yardage mark next week in New England when the Bucs travel to play the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. Drew Brees is currently working for the NBC SNF crew. Yes, this is crazy dumb how this works out.
Clearly the league calculated how many games it would take Brady to break the record and then schedule the Patriots for that week. But it’s also a bit of luck that Brady stayed on schedule combined with the luck that the Patriots host the Bucs (or any NFC team) once every eight seasons. Sometimes, things just work out and I think it’s pretty dang cool.
For those of you sick of watching Brady break records, I think this might be the last one because I think he owns them all.
9 – Here’s your Trainee Badge
Rookie QBs are going to struggle. Here are the lines for the rookie first round signal callers that started Week 3:
Justin Fields 6/20, 68, 0TD, 0INT
Trevor Lawrence 22/34, 219, 1TD, 2INT
Zach Wilson 19/35, 160, 0TD, 2INT
Mac Jones 30/51, 270, 1TD, 3INT
This game is hard. The 2021 rookie QB class might end up as one of the best ever or it might end up as producing plenty of busts or, more likely, somewhere in between. To expect any of these guys to set the league on fire every week out of the box is just plain silly. The degree of difficulty in this league remains absurdly high.
10 – Justin Freaking Fields
This is the dedicated space for Justin Fields.
We wanted better.
He wanted better.
Luckily, the Bears host the Lions next weekend. It will get better.
What are your thoughts on the NFL this week? Sound off below in the comments and be sure to find me on Twitter @gridironborn.