Last week’s N.F.L. lineup took out a fair number of notable players with injuries, while some surprising teams — the Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders and Arizona Cardinals — got out to 2-0 records that have bitten some bettors. Of course, Week 3 is about when play starts to level off and coaches who hadn’t had the luxury of a preseason settle into routine. Or not.
In any case, contenders should start to take shape this week before Monday night’s matchup between Patrick Mahomes’s Kansas City Chiefs and Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens shows everyone where the championship bar is set.
Here’s what you need to know:
Don’t count out Dak.
Dak Prescott is trying to mount another Cowboys comeback. Despite dropped passes (several by running back Ezekiel Elliott) and penalties, Prescott led the Cowboys down the field on a three-play drive that ended with a 42-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, his second score of the day.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Cowboys trailed 30-22 and had the ball again. Coach Mike McCarthy went for it on 4th-and-1 near midfield, and Prescott on a keeper ran for the first down. Then he hit receiver Michael Gallup on a gorgeous 43-yard pass and reception. The Cowboys went for the two-point conversion to tie the score, but Noah Brown was stuffed at the goal line by Seattle’s Ugo Amadi. Dallas trails Seattle, 30-28.
J-E-T-S, Mess, Mess, Mess.
It’s only Week 3, but the calls for the New York Jets to fire Coach Adam Gase are growing. The Jets suffered their third straight drubbing to start the season, getting blown out by the Colts in Indianapolis, 36-7.
After finishing 7-9 last year, the Jets (0-3) have already been outscored by 57 points. The Colts ran roughshod over the Jets defense, highlighted by quarterback Philip Rivers, who threw for his 400th career touchdown.
Hard to believe, the Jets offense has been worse. Quarterback Sam Darnold went 17-29 for 168 yards passing with one score and three interceptions. That’s a 47.0 passer rating if you’re keeping score at home.
Gase was billed as an offensive guru when he arrived in the Meadowlands last January. But heading into Week 3, the Jets’ offense was dead last in the N.F.L. and Sunday’s performance, if that’s the word for it, is unlikely to pull them out of the cellar.
Russell Wilson is getting the best of Dak Prescott so far.
The Seahawks quarterback threw three first-half touchdown passes to wide receiver Tyler Lockett, then started the second half by hitting tight end Jacob Hollister for a fourth score.
Wilson has looked shaky at times, under-throwing receivers and having to scramble out of pressure. But the Seahawks have made the most of Cowboys penalties and two turnovers by quarterback Dak Prescott, one interception and one fumble.
Wilson is 16-23 for 199 yards and four scores. Prescott is 13-22 for 181 yards and one score.
The Seahawks are rolling, 30-15, early in the third quarter.
Dak Prescott is trying to out-duel Russell Wilson.
Seattle Seahawks (2-0) Russell Wilson says he’s the best quarterback in the N.F.L. Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys (1-1) have been trying to prove him wrong.
Despite intense pressure from the Cowboys defensive line, Wilson has found wide receiver Tyler Lockett for two touchdown passes. The Cowboys helped the Seahawks by committing defensive interference twice on the second 11-play touchdown drive that put the Seahawks up 16-9 midway through the second quarter.
Wilson is 9-15 for 157 yards passing.
Prescott, in the last year of his rookie contract, had his own point to make. Running back Ezekiel Elliott scored the Cowboys first touchdown. Prescott hit receiver Cedrick Wilson for a 40-yard touchdown score. The Cowboys’ extra point attempt was tipped, and Dallas trails, 16-15.
Tom Brady is driving like Tom Brady against Denver.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking at home in Denver, where they are visiting for the time in eight years. Quarterback Tom Brady capitalized on a blocked punt by throwing a 10-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Chris Godwin, who sat out last week while recovering from a concussion. The Buccaneers added a field goal to go up, 10-0, against the injury-depleted Broncos in the first quarter.
Brady was 8 of 12 passing for 63 yards in the first quarter. In the second quarter, he connected with another top receiver, Mike Evans, for another touchdown pass. Brady was 4-4 on third down on the drive, which put the Bucs up, 17-3.
Denver quarterback Jeff Driskel is playing his second game this season because of a shoulder injury to Drew Lock.
Bengals-Eagles ends in the saddest tie.
Sometimes a game isn’t about one team’s will to win but how much that team doesn’t want to lose. In this case, Cincinnati played just well enough not to lose as the Eagles tried everything in their power to hand them the win and both teams finished with a 23-23 tie.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz played under duress all day but miraculously swarmed into the endzone on a 7-yard run that helped Philadelphia tie the Bengals at the end of regulation.
In an exercise in futility, the Bengals possessed the ball first in overtime and managed a single first down before being forced to punt from their own 43-yard line. Cincinnati had just 14 total yards of offense in four overtime possessions.
The Eagles had the best chance to put us all out of our misery, lining up to kick a 59-yard field goal with 19 seconds left, but were whistled for a false start. The subsequent 5-yard penalty put Philadelphia out of range. The Eagles punted, the Bengals ran one play, and everyone went home.
Steelers stifled the Texans to go 3-0.
Don’t call the end of the Ben Roethlisberger era yet. The Pittsburgh Steelers won their third straight game to open the season, beating the Houston Texans, 28-21, behind the running of James Conner and a stifling defense that held the Texans scoreless in the second half.
The Texans knew the start of the season was going to be tough, having to face the Super Bowl Champion Kansas Chiefs, the Baltimore Ravens and the Steelers. Unfortunately, their performance matched their expectations. With the loss to the Steelers, they are now 0-3 and in last place in the A.F.C. South.
The Texans jumped out to an early 11-point lead. But Conner piled up 109 yards running the ball and Roethlisberger spread the ball around, throwing for two touchdown passes.
Two seasons ago, the Texans also started 0-3 but managed to win their division. With games against the Packers and Patriots among others, repeating that feat will not be easy.
Josh Allen leads Buffalo up, around, and back to beat the Rams.
It had been all Buffalo for most of three quarters, with Josh Allen guiding his team to a huge lead. A revival of the Rams offense and two remarkably costly turnovers — one of which seemed to come on a blown call — turned things around.
Given the ball one last time, down 4 with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left, Allen was both lucky and good.
On the final drive, Allen:
made several difficult throws
stepped out of several sure-thing sacks
was called for a rare face-mask penalty while trying to keep a play alive
was given new life after a fourth down incompletion was erased by a questionable penalty
and then threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft.
Allen threw for more than 300 yards for a third consecutive game — he’d never thrown for 300 in a game coming into the season — and the Bills survived at home despite an uncharacteristically poor performance from the team’s defense, which looked positively inept in the second half.
No one blows a lead like Atlanta.
It’s getting to be a habit — and not a good one. For the second time in two weeks, the Atlanta Falcons blew a double-digit lead and lost in dispiriting fashion. This time, the Chicago Bears scored 20 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 26-10 deficit, dropping the Falcons to 0-3.
Last week, the Falcons blew a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter to the Dallas Cowboys and botched an onside kick. This week, the Bears defense completely shut down Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense. That bought time for quarterback Nick Foles, who replaced Mitchell Trubisky, to throw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and push the Bears to 3-0.
The loss could spell trouble for Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who is in the last year of his contract and has not had a winning record since 2017.
Cam Newton and the Patriots finish off the Raiders.
Trailing by three points after the first quarter, the New England Patriots (2-1) regrouped and focused on a multidimensional running attack to overwhelm the visiting Las Vegas Raiders (2-1) in a 36-20 victory at Gillette Stadium. New England’s Rex Burkhead rushed for three touchdowns as the Patriots outscored the Raiders 23-10 in the second half.
New England quarterback Cam Newton had an uneven start to the game, throwing a costly interception deep in Patriots territory and making some questionable decisions on other passing attempts. But as New England increasingly focused on its running attack behind Burkhead and backfield mate Sony Michel, whose runs of 38 and 48 yards led to two Patriots third-quarter touchdowns, every facet of the Patriots offense appeared to settle down and operate more efficiently.
The Patriots led 23-10 after three quarters then pulled away on Burkhead’s final touchdown and a sack of Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr in the end zone, which resulted in a fumble recovered by New England’s Deatrich Wise Jr. The Raiders scored last on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Carr to Hunter Renfrow.
The Eagles’ very bad day is in their hands.
After falling behind, 23-16, to the 0-2 Bengals at home, Philadelphia has the ball at their own 43-yard line with two minutes left in the fourth with a chance to salvage some respectability.
Carson Wentz was intercepted by LeShaun Sims at the Eagles’ 44-yard line, looking for Zach Ertz on 3rd-and-7 from their own 28 with 1:50 left in the third quarter. The pick, Wentz’s second of the day, set up a 31-yard field goal for the Bengals to put Cincinnati up, 20-16, early in the fourth.
Philadelphia has had ball security issues all day, with Wentz and backup Jalen Hurts each having fumbled though the Eagles recovered both. The Eagles inefficacy has left the window open juuuuuuust enough for Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, who has gone 24 of 32 for 227 yards and two touchdown passes. It hasn’t been pretty but Cincinnati held onto the ball for almost seven minutes, eating up clock on a 12-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard field goal to stack their lead to 23-16.
Bills lose the most dangerous lead in the N.F.L.
What’s the most dangerous lead in football? 28-3.
The Falcons famously collapsed after running up that score against New England in Super Bowl LI, and the Buffalo Bills are flirting with a similar collapse at home against the Rams, with a 28-3 lead in the third quarter having turned into a 32-28 deficit with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left to play.
The Bills’ defense has looked absolutely gassed, giving up huge chunks of yardage in the running game early and now being picked apart by Jared Goff, who is repeatedly finding Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp for huge gains.
Momentum seemed to shift on a controversial interception, and the Rams’ go-ahead touchdown was set up by a strip-sack by Aaron Donald. Now Josh Allen has to try to lead his team to victory to avoid one of the most shocking losses in recent memory.
Pats steady the ship in second half against the Raiders.
The Patriots appear to have made wise adjustments at halftime and have been confidently imposing their will on the Raiders in the third quarter, pulling ahead 23-10 on a 5-yard spinning, diving touchdown run by Rex Burkhead and a 32-yard field goal by Nick Folk.
Both scores were set up by brilliant dashes by running back Sony Michel, one for 38 yards and the second for 48 yards. Michel has 112 rushing yards on seven carries. The Patriots have focused on their running attack for the last two quarters, though Cam Newton (seven rushing yards on five carries) has mostly been handing off the football and concentrating on throwing short passes to his backs and outside receivers.
Rams answer Bills to set up wild 4th quarter.
The Rams are somehow making a game of this. With 14 unanswered points they have narrowed Buffalo’s lead to 28-17 late in the third quarter, showing no signs of giving up on the road.
After a touchdown by Stefon Diggs made it 28-3, the Rams immediately went 75 yards on eight plays, scoring on a goal-line run from Jared Goff.
On Buffalo’s ensuing possession, Los Angeles was able to force a rare mistake out of Josh Allen, or at least a mistake out of the officials.
Trying to keep a play alive while under intense pressure, Allen threw a wild deep pass to tight end Tyler Kroft, who clearly pushed off a defender before grabbing the ball out of the air. As Kroft fell to the ground, safety John Johnson III reached in and hugged the ball, with the players crashing to the turf together.
The call on the field was pass interference — which was declined — and an interception for Johnson, but Mike Pereira, Fox’s rules analyst and the N.F.L.’s former vice president of officiating, said he believed the call was incorrect. Pereira said Kroft clearly caught the ball and shared possession of it with Johnson as he hit the ground, which should have been ruled a catch (which would then have been overturned by the penalty).
Regardless, the Rams’ offense got the ball back and needed just three plays to go 59 yards, with Goff hitting Robert Woods for a 25-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
The Bills are running circles around the Rams, literally and figuratively.
Already up 21-3 to start the second half, Buffalo’s defense forced Los Angeles to turn the ball over on downs. The Bills then went 52 yards on seven plays, scoring a fairly shocking touchdown when Stefon Diggs simply ran a circle around Jalen Ramsey. The All-Pro cornerback looked helpless as Josh Allen hit Diggs for a 4-yard touchdown.
The touchdown and extra-point have Buffalo up, 28-3.
Derek Carr’s quick drive keeps Patriots within sight.
Two scores in the final minute of the first half brought some life to what had been a desultory game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots mixed a variety of running plays and short, precise passes on a 12-play, 86-yard drive that put them ahead, 13-3, with 42 seconds left in the second quarter. A 7-yard pass from Newton to N’Keal Harry moved the Patriots to the Las Vegas 11-yard line, and on the next play, Newton tossed a swing pass to running back Rex Burkhead.
Burkhead eluded several Raiders with a powerful move upfield then dove over a trio of defenders at the goal line for a touchdown.
Taking over at their own 39-yard line with 34 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Las Vegas benefited from a 28-yard pass interference penalty and a 26-yard pass from Carr to Hunter Renfrow that was initially signaled a touchdown. A replay review showed that Renfrow’s knee was down just before the goal line. On the next play, Carr threw to tight end Foster Moreau in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown that cut the Patriots lead to 13-10 with six seconds left in the half.
Texans find their offense against Steelers.
It’s a shootout in Pittsburgh, with the Houston Texans showing some signs of life against the Pittsburgh Steelers. At halftime, the Texans are leading, 21-17.
Houston opened its season with two brutal games, losing handily to Kansas City and then Baltimore. A road game against a team as good as Pittsburgh seemed like it would lead to even more pain, but thus far Deshaun Watson has found room to work against the Steelers’ terrific defense and he refused to wilt, even when the Steelers scored on consecutive drives to briefly take the lead late in the second quarter.
Watson has completed 14 of 18 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, and David Johnson ran in a third, giving Houston more points in the first half than the team had in either of its losses over the first two weeks.
While Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled thus far, its offense has largely kept up with Watson. Ben Roethlisberger has 128 passing yards and two touchdowns, including a beautiful 28-yarder to JuJu Smith-Schuster. And the Steelers already have 79 yards on the ground against a Houston defense that is remarkably vulnerable should Pittsburgh decide to grind things out in the second half.
Pittsburgh will have the ball to start the second half.
Josh Allen is having himself a day.
The breakout third-year quarterback is putting on a show in Orchard Park, N.Y., and he has the Bills leading the Rams, 21-3, at halftime.
Mixing deep passes with bruising runs, Allen has made life miserable for the Rams’ defense. He has completed 10 of 14 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns while running in another score. And he has rarely looked better than he did late in the second quarter when he dropped an eerily accurate 29-yard pass into Cole Beasley’s hands in traffic, displaying a newfound accuracy on long passes that is no longer seeming like a blip.
Two plays later, Allen lofted a floater over a defensive lineman’s hands and into those of tight end Tyler Kroft, who pulled in a 3-yard touchdown.
Buffalo’s defense, meanwhile, seems to have largely figured things out after a somewhat uneven start to the season. The Rams have been able to put up some yardage, particularly on the ground — and are winning on time of possession so far — but the Bills have limited them to just a field goal thanks to some well-timed sacks and an interception.
Tannehill’s first pick comes at the wrong time.
Ryan Tannehill picked an inopportune time to throw his first interception of the season, and the Tennessee Titans are trailing the Minnesota Vikings, 14-6, midway through the second quarter.
The Titans were up 6-0 until late in the first quarter thanks to a pair of field goals, but things turned around in a hurry.
The Vikings went 76 yards on seven plays, scoring on a 39-yard touchdown run from Dalvin Cook.
Looking to answer, Tennessee went 42 yards to the Minnesota 29-yard line, but then Tannehill made an incredibly rare mistake, throwing deep into the end zone only to have the pass intercepted by safety Harrison Smith.
Given the ball back, and some momentum, Minnesota’s offense went right back to work, going 88 yards on 10 plays, scoring on a 16-yard pass from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen.
For Tannehill, the costly interception was just his seventh in 13 starts for Tennessee. He’s thrown 28 touchdown passes in that span.
Derek Carr fumble leads to Patriots field goal.
A sack of Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr by Patriots defensive end Chase Winovich caused a fumble recovered by New England’s Lawrence Guy at the Raiders’ 40-yard line. New England turned to reserve running back J.J. Taylor for three successive runs that gained 15 yards. Rex Burkhead then busted up the middle for 17 yards.
Taylor picked up five more yards to advance to the Las Vegas 5-yard line where the drive stalled after two failed Cam Newton passing attempts. Folk’s 23-yard field goal gave New England a 6-3 lead with 7:56 remaining in the first half.
Cam Newton bounces back from Raiders interception.
After a lethargic, sloppy first quarter, the New England Patriots rallied early in the second to tie the visiting Las Vegas Raiders, 3-3, on a 33-yard field goal by Nick Folk. A 15-yard pass from Cam Newton, who had an unimpressive first quarter, to wide receiver Julian Edelman and a 15-yard face mask penalty on Las Vegas, set up the New England score.
On the previous Patriots possession, a poor decision by Newton led to an interception that moved the Las Vegas Raiders deep into the Patriots’ territory. Scrambling on a third-and-8, Newton appeared to be running around his right end then suddenly tossed a pass in the direction of tight end Devin Asiasi. Raiders safety Johnathan Abram stepped in front of Asiasi for the pick and returned it to the New England 14-yard line.
With the turnover, the Raiders took a 3-0 lead on a 29-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson with 18 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Newton has completed five of 11 passes for 35 yards. With an early two-yard rush, he passed Randall Cunningham for career rushing yards by a quarterback. Cunningham had been second all-time at 4,928.
Buffalo’s 4th-down try is the charm.
The Bills are nothing if not persistent. In a fairly wild set of plays, Buffalo had multiple touchdowns called back, but eventually scored on a 1-yard pass from Josh Allen to tight end Lee Smith.
That the Bills kept going was a sign that the team’s offense is truly maturing. Devin Singletary had done nearly all of the work in getting his team from their own 43-yard line to the Rams’ 1, both running and catching the ball with ease as the Rams focused on Buffalo’s wide receivers. At the goal line though, things got complicated.
First, Allen threw to Stefon Diggs for a 1-yard touchdown pass that was reversed after a review showed the ball had hit the ground. Then Allen threw to Diggs again, with an apparent touchdown being nullified by penalties. A direct snap to Singletary went nowhere, but Buffalo didn’t give up, going for it on 4th-and-goal. That time Allen was able to deliver a touchdown that counted.
As great as that offensive persistence was for the Bills, it was just as important for the team to see its defense come up with a huge stop. On the drive before Buffalo’s touchdown, the Rams had gotten all the way to the Bills’ 24-yard line and appeared on the verge of scoring. A pair of sacks pushed Los Angeles back, and then Samuel Sloman was unable to connect on a 53-yard field goal attempt.
On the drive after the Buffalo touchdown? The Bills got an interception. It’s looking like it could be a long day for Los Angeles.
Calvin Ridley factors in big for the Falcons
Knowing that their defense has been making things easy for opponents, the Atlanta offense came out of the gate with a bang. On their first play from scrimmage, Matt Ryan launched the ball deep down the right side of the field, with Calvin Ridley pulling it in at Chicago’s 20-yard line and then stumbling his way to the 1 for a 63-yard gain.
After Todd Gurley failed to score on a goal-line carry, Ryan found tight end Hayden Hurst for a touchdown and an early 6-0 lead.
Atlanta is going to need a huge day from Ridley since Julio Jones is out with a hamstring injury and the team’s already porous defense will be without cornerback A.J. Terrell, who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Chicago answered with a field goal, making it 6-3 near the end of the first quarter.
How real is that hot start?
Through two games, the Los Angeles Rams (2-0) appear to have exorcised last year’s demons and the Buffalo Bills (2-0) seem like a team on the verge of greatness. But how real is either start? We might get an idea when they face each other in Orchard Park, NY. It might have been the game of the week if not for Monday night’s game between Kansas City and Baltimore.
So far, the Rams grinded out a Week 1 win over Dallas and then won a laugher against Philadelphia in Week 2. Between health and defensive depth, neither of those teams can really compare to the Bills, who also come into this game looking red-hot on offense.
Is Buffalo’s offense, with the addition of wide receiver Stefon Diggs, really this good? Can the Bills defense get back to last season’s dominance? How much of the Rams’ success over the last two weeks was a function of poor competition? Can cornerback Jalen Ramsey erase Diggs, forcing Josh Allen to beat Los Angeles with John Brown and Cole Beasley?
This game may offer some clarity as to which of these teams we need to take seriously going forward.
The fury over the sound.
N.F.L. team have been confined to playing in-stadium audio — crowd noise, music, prerecorded chants — at 70 decibels during games, the level of a moderate conversational hum. The team-controlled production has had some miscues so far, as some have played the noise after a play was called dead or pushed the “cheers” button when the home team had actually lost.
That’s getting tweaked this week, since the N.F.L. told teams with fewer than 2,500 fans present they could lift the volume to 80 decibels, and teams with 2,500 or more fans in their stadiums that they weren’t required to play the fake noise at all.
That could be good news for Carson Wentz. On at least two different players during the Eagles’ Week 2 loss to the Rams, TV viewers heard boos for the Philadelphia offense at home, a bit of local custom that couldn’t have been welcome. The team will continue to play without fans in attendance today against the 0-2 Cincinnati Bengals.
This week, one exception could create a huge lift. According to the NFL Network, the in-stadium music and audio prompts (“It’s 3rd down!”, train whistles) that had previously been capped at 75 decibels now have no volume limit and only need to be silenced when the play clock hits gets down to 20 seconds.
The Minnesota Vikings said the team will blast the Gjallarhorn on third downs today, which should help a defense that has allowed a 50 percent conversion success rate in the red zone so far this season.
Davante Adams may try to play tonight.
The Packers offense has been incredible through two weeks, scoring a combined 85 points, but a Sunday night matchup against New Orleans will be a lot more difficult without wide receiver Davante Adams, who is doubtful with a hamstring injury.
There have been some media reports that Adams will try to prove to the team that he can go full-speed before game-time, which might allow him to play, but if he is limited or inactive, it will dramatically change Green Bay’s approach, with a heavy emphasis on running back Aaron Jones.
Helping level the playing field for the Packers is the Saints being without wide receiver Michael Thomas, who is hoping to be back from a high ankle sprain for Week 4.