Last week just proved that this NFL season is full of surprises.
We saw late comebacks from the Jets, Dolphins, and Cardinals. We saw the 49ers forced to turn to Jimmy Garoppolo after Trey Lance suffered a season-ending injury. Nate Hackett almost blew it again for the Denver Broncos. The New York Giants went to 2-0 on the season. The Jacksonville Jaguars won a game. We’ve truly entered the Twilight Zone.
Maybe this week we’ll return to some sense of normalcy? We have some fun matchups in each conferences’ respective East divisions, a chance for the Ravens to redeem themselves after last week’s stunning collapse, and a Game of the Week featuring two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play.
Welcome to Week 3 of the NFL season. Here are the Dailymail.com picks for games to keep an eye on…
Game 1: Baltimore Ravens (1-1) @ New England Patriots (1-1)
Sunday afternoon was a train wreck in slow motion for fans of the Baltimore Ravens.
The team was up 28-7 at the half, then 35-14 over the Miami Dolphins by the end of the third quarter. Lamar Jackson had become the first quarterback with a 75+ yard rushing touchdown and a 75+ yard pass in the same game. A win was a foregone conclusion.
Then came one of the worst single-quarter defensive collapses in NFL history. Tua Tagovailoa ended the day with six touchdowns – tying a franchise record – with the last one going to Jaylen Waddle with 0:14 remaining. A late drive from Jackson fell short of success and dropped the Ravens to 1-1.
In the fourth quarter, the Ravens were outscored 28-3, a scoreline very familiar with fans of their next opponents the New England Patriots.
Their win Sunday over the Steelers was ugly. Very ugly. Each quarterback had a touchdown and an interception. Neither team had over 50 percent conversion of third downs. Neither team was able to break 20 first-downs.
Mac Jones survived the game without a single sack to his name and 252 yards of passing, a positive sign after the previous week’s blowout against the Dolphins.
In a positive for the Patriots defense, they allowed under 250 yards for the first time since last year’s Week 13 win over the Bills in terrible conditions. Last Sunday marks the fifth time in the last two seasons that took place.
They’ll need to put in a similar effort this weekend if they hope to get a win in their season home opener in Foxborough.
Game 2: Buffalo Bills (2-0) @ Miami Dolphins (2-0)
It’s a tale of two wins for the teams at the top of the AFC East.
On one hand, we have a dominant Bills team who easily rolled over last year’s No. 1 seed in the AFC as if they were made out of paper. Josh Allen found top receiver Stefon Diggs three times for touchdowns, with another to Reggie Gilliam for good measure.
Tennessee’s top weapon – running back Derrick Henry – was neutralized by a Bills defense that allowed only 187 total yards. It’s thrown the AFC South into chaos, with no clear dominant force as the Titans slipped to 0-2.
It was less of an act of aggression than it was the Bills bending the Titans against their will, forcing them to sit there and take what they were giving them. It was a truly dominant performance.
On the other hand, we have the Dolphins, who must have performed some ancient ritual to a God none of us are aware of in order to make their wildest comeback come true. Tagovailoa didn’t just have the best performance of his career – it’s by far the best performance of any quarterback so far this season.
Let’s just look at the stats: 36 completions for 469 yards and six total touchdowns. Only two other Dolphins have thrown for that many scores before and their last names are Brian Griese and Dan Marino. In the fourth quarter alone, Tua passed for four touchdowns – one to River Cracraft, one to Jaylen Waddle for his second of the day, and two TDs to Tyreek Hill who scored both from over 40 yards out.
This will be a game between two teams with different aspirations. Miami is out to prove the rest of the NFL wrong for ever doubting them. Buffalo sees this as a mere annoyance to deal with on the way to what could be an inevitable Super Bowl run. Either way, it’s a great way to bring back what once was the premier rivalry in the AFC East.
Game 3: Los Angeles Rams (1-1) @ Arizona Cardinals (1-1)
While one could have expected the Rams to lose terribly to the Bills in their opening game, a more distressing sign came in last week’s win over the Atlanta Falcons.
After being up 28-3 at one point, the Rams let up 24 points in the second half to let the Falcons be within four points. The Falcons stalled out on an interception, but forced a safety to make it 31-27. After the kickoff, Atlanta’s Marcus Mariota was sacked and fumbled the football giving the Rams the win.
The Rams did gain more yards than the Falcons did, but both teams turned the ball over three times. Each quarterback had two interceptions – expected from Mariota, but shocking from Stafford.
It stands to reason that the Rams need a gut check to return to their winning ways from last season. Unfortunately, they face a Cardinals team that just loves to score points.
Even in their week 1 loss, they put up 21 points. Last week, they needed overtime to beat the Las Vegas Raiders. Thanks to a fumble return for a touchdown, they came out the victors.
Kyler Murray threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He ran one in himself as time expired, then completed a pass for the second two-point conversion of the night to force OT.
If this stands to be a shootout, the Cardinals have a good chance of winning, especially as the Rams’ defense has taken a massive step back from last year. However, if it’s a close affair, that may benefit Los Angeles. The Cardinals have given up the fifth most yards of any defensive unit in the league – as well as the most points in the league.
Consider it’s only Week 3 of the season and do with that information what you will, but up until Sunday’s overtime, Arizona hasn’t consistently shown the defensive resilience needed to keep their team in the game. Maybe they will this Sunday.
Game 4: Dallas Cowboys (1-1) @ New York Giants (2-0)
The New York Football Giants are 2-0 for the first time since the 2016 season. It needs to be said how important that is. In eight of the last 10 seasons, the Giants haven’t won any of their first two games.
Let me put that another way. Since the 2013 season, when the Giants didn’t go 2-0, they went 0-2 four times, 0-3 once, 0-5 twice, and 0-6 once. In other words, the Giants have been a factory of sadness and mediocrity the past 10 seasons.
But there’s hope in New York with these Giants. The games they’ve won haven’t been magnificent. Both wins came within one score. Daniel Jones hasn’t thrown for 190 yards once in either of them. Hope lies with running back Saquon Barkley, the main reason behind the Giants owning the fifth best rushing offense in the league.
The defense hasn’t been that remarkable when it comes to turnovers with a total of three. They also have let the opposing offense rack up a combined 624 total yards of offense.
Maybe the key is persistence under pressure, something they’ve managed to do twice. They’ll need to keep persisting against the Cowboys at home this week.
Cooper Rush did well for himself in his first start since Dak Prescott went down with an injury. He completed 19 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown against a Bengals defense that struggled letting up yards all day. Top target Noah Brown hauled in five catches for 91 yards and a touchdown.
What Dallas lacks in offense, they make up for in defense. The Cowboys own the sixth best defense in total yards-per-game, but where they could seriously do well this coming weekend is in the pass rush – where they have eight sacks, good for 3rd best in the league.
Expect the Cowboys to rush Daniel Jones heavily this game, one that could have a major impact on the NFC East race as they play catchup to the Eagles.
Game of the Week: Green Bay Packers (1-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)
At the end of it all, Brady-Rodgers pt. 5 was going to take headlines even if both teams were 0-2.
Aaron Rodgers seemed to struggle adjusting to the new wide receivers he was working with in the first game of the season. Any of that worry was slightly settled down this past Sunday against Chicago.
Rodgers hit Sammy Watkins for 93 yards on just three completions. Elsewhere, Randall Cobb, Romeo Doubs, Allen Lazard, and Robert Tonyan caught multiple passes. However, nobody had five targets all game – with Rodgers throwing 19/25 for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
Green Bay is settling into the idea of being a run-first offense. Aaron Jones picked up 132 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Backup AJ Dillon saw more carries (18), but less yards (61).
Tampa Bay didn’t show to be offensively competent for most of Sunday’s 20-10 win over the Saints, which remained either a 3-0 game or a 3-3 game up until the 7:41 mark of the 4th quarter.
Tom Brady threw for 190 yards, an almost embarrassingly low mark. He hasn’t thrown for less than this since… oh would you look at that, October 18 against the Packers when he only got 166 yards in a 38-10 win.
The run game wasn’t much more impressive, with only 72 total yards combining for 260 total yards of offense.
Brady will be without his top pass catcher Mike Evans after he was suspended for fighting Marshon Lattimore in Sunday’s game. With injuries potentially keeping Chris Godwin and Julio Jones out as well, Brady and Rodgers could very well be on a level playing field – with no star wideouts for either team.