Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

The NFL doesn’t have a dominant team after Week 3, as evidenced by the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins being the lone unbeatens left at 3-0. Both Philadelphia and Miami are good teams, but there are plenty of teams sitting at 2-1 that remain Super Bowl contenders. 

The league has a lot of parity at the moment, yet we’re starting to get some separation from the contenders — even if the records don’t show it on the standings sheet. Some teams are starting to display the same problems every week, a reason why they are struggling to win games in a wide-open league. The contenders are showcasing why they will be in the mix come December and January. 

What problems — or strengths — arose from each team after Week 3? These are the Week 3 takeaways that arose from each team. 

The top receivers need to come back: Easy to focus on the slow starts here, but the Cardinals are badly hurting without DeAndre Hopkins (suspension), Rondale Moore (hamstring), and Antoine Wesley (groin). A.J. Green suffered a hip injury in the first half of Sunday’s loss, so that’s four of the top five wide receivers out. 

Marquise Brown is the only significant playmaker on the outside, which hurt Arizona in the red zone when the Cardinals had 19, 16, and 17-play drives and ended up with field goals. Zach Ertz dropping two passes — one in the end zone — didn’t help either.

Arizona needs its playmakers back to help Kyler Murray out. Fortunately, they’re coming soon.  

Marcus Mariota isn’t getting benched any time soon: Credit to Arthur Smith for trusting his starting quarterback to throw the football, as the Seahawks boxed the Falcons in and forced Mariota to throw. Smith dialed up the passing game in the first half, having Mariota throw the ball 14 times for 183 yards as he averaged 13.1 yards per attempt. 

The Falcons targeted Kyle Pitts early and allowed Mariota to get into a rhythm with some big plays downfield. Mariota finished 13 of 20 for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception, setting the stage for Cordarrelle Patterson’s huge day on the ground.  

Atlanta trusts Mariota. He’s the quarterback for 2022. 

Lamar Jackson is dominating behind a fourth-string left tackle: What Jackson is doing is incredible through three games, but Sunday’s performance may have been the best game he had this year. Jackson threw for four touchdowns, ran for one, and rushed for 100 yards in becoming the second player ever to accomplish that feat — Randall Cunningham was the other in 1990. 

So why is what Jackson doing so impressive? He has a fourth-string left tackle protecting his blind side in Daniel Faalele — yet is still able to put up video game numbers each and every week. Ronnie Stanley is still recovering from that injured ankle, Ja’Wuan James suffered from an Achilles injury in Week 1, and Patrick Mekari left Sunday with an ankle sprain. 

In came Faalele, the team’s fourth-round pick to play the position. That’s how thin Baltimore is at left tackle and Jackson is still putting up incredible numbers as the Ravens are averaging 33 points per game to lead the NFL. 

Little mistakes need to be eliminated if Buffalo actually wants to go to Super Bowl: The Bills were 0-7 in one-score games since the start of last season for a reason — and Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins showcased why Buffalo can’t win these close games. 

Josh Allen fumbled inside his own 10-yard line that led to a Miami score and mishandled a snap on a spike that took away a potential field goal try. He also skipped a pass on fourth-and-goal to a wide open Isaiah McKenzie that would have won the game for the Bills. Allen wasn’t the only one to have a small miscue as Tyler Bass missed a 38-yard field goal, McKenzie couldn’t get out of bounds to stop the clock on the final play, and Matt Milano dropped in interception that should have been returned for a score. 

The Bills have to clean these little things up in close games, or else they’ll be known for not being able to finish the job. 

Where is the deep passing game?: Carolina has three plays of 50-plus yards this season, tied for the most in the NFL. That’s incredible considering there are no deep passes or intermediate routes that are consistently run. Baker Mayfield is missing receivers on crossing routes and can’t connect on passes in the middle of the field. 

Mayfield attempts 8.6% of his passes for 20-plus yards (21st in NFL), yet has only attempted them six times on the year. The Panthers have Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore on their team and are horrifically misusing them. 

Hurting Justin Fields’ development is hurting Darnell Mooney’s development: Mooney might as well have his face on a milk carton at this rate, because he’s disappeared through three games. His two catches for 23 yards Sunday were a season high, as he has just four catches for 27 yards on the season. 

Mooney had only two catches for four yards entering Week 3 and has only 11 targets. This is the result of the Bears attempting only 45 passes through three games, hurting the development of Fields — but also his top pass catcher in Mooney. 

A downfield threat for his first two seasons, Mooney is anything but that now. This falls on the Bears coaching staff. 

The run game is a problem: The revamped offensive line protected Joe Burrow in Sunday’s win over the Jets, but the run game is significantly worse than the unit that helped Cincinnati get to the Super Bowl last year. The Bengals had just 28 carries for 69 yards (2.5 yards per carry) against a Jets defense that allowed 184 yards the prior week to the Browns. 

Cincinnati’s rushing totals have gone down each game and putting the pressure on Joe Burrow to make plays with his arm. On a short week this week, it would be beneficial to get Joe Mixon and the ground game going. Mixon has just 163 yards and averaging 2.8 yards per carry through three games while the Bengals average 3.3 yards per carry as a team (30th in NFL). 

Cleveland Browns

Jacoby Brissett following the blueprint laid out for him: Give Brissett all the credit in the world. He’s managing the game exactly the way Cleveland designed him to — make the throws needed and don’t turn the ball over. He completed 21 of 31 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in Thursday’s win over the Steelers. 

Brissett is targeting his top playmakers in Amari Cooper and David Njoku — and finding them for 190 of Brissett’s passing yards. The Browns quarterback knows his role until Deshaun Watson returns, only having one giveaway in three games. 

Regardless of what’s coming up for the Browns, they’ll be in games with their rushing offense and defense with the way Brissett takes care of the football. 

Cooper Rush should play one more week: If Dak Prescott needs another week to return, so be it. Rush has shown over the last two weeks he’s more than capable of getting the job done over the last two starts. In Monday’s win over the Giants, Rush went 21 of 31 for 215 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions with a 98.2 passer rating — leading Dallas to 17 unanswered points in the second half.

Dallas’ offense hasn’t been great under Rush, but he’s been good enough to get the job done and win games. Rush has been efficient and hasn’t turned the football over. The offensive line has even improved, giving up just one sack in the two games Rush has started because he’s getting rid of the football quicker. 

Prescott should take his time. Dallas is fine with Rush under center right now. 

Penalties have improved, but offense is still sloppy: The Broncos had just five penalties for 30 yards in Sunday’s win over the 49ers — a much significant improvement over the 25 penalties Denver had over the first two weeks. At least Denver got that problem fixed, because the offense still isn’t scoring. 

The unit looks dysfunctional, averaging just 14.3 points and not putting up over 16 points in any of the three games.  Denver is averaging 348 yards per game and the total yardage has decreased in each of the three games. The Broncos need Russell Wilson to freelance and run the offense in order to score points, which shows how poor of a job Nathaniel Hackett has done to this point. 

If the Broncos can’t score 20 points against the Raiders, they have a serious problem. 

Time to finish games and collect wins: The Lions are going to play hard for Dan Campbell and give teams fits in the process, but Sunday’s loss to the Vikings was a game Detroit should have won. Detroit was up 24-14 heading into the fourth quarter before allowing 14 unanswered points in the final frame  to allow Minnesota to steal a win at home. 

Dan Campbell didn’t drain enough time off the running clock while trying to add to a three-point lead, as Detroit was snapping the ball with 10 seconds remaining on a running play clock. The Lions were even running the ball in that situation. Detroit was 4 of 6 on fourth down, yet Campbell decided to kick a 54-yard field goal — which was missed (Austin Seibert missed a 48-yard kick earlier in game) — and Minnesota earned short field as Kirk Cousins drove the Vikings easily down the field against a gassed defense to take the lead with 45 seconds left. 

The Lions are 8-10-1 over the last four seasons in games they lead by double digits, so this isn’t just a Campbell thing. They averaged 3.4 yards per play in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over once. It’s time to seal these wins if Detroit wants to build a consistent winner. 

Packers have a Super Bowl-caliber defense: Take the final drive where Tom Brady drove the Buccaneers down the field aside (Brady appears to do that to everybody), the Packers defense turned in a very impressive performance in Sunday’s win. Green Bay got to Brady three times and held Tampa Bay to just two field goals in 59 minutes. They forced two takeaways and held Tampa Bay to just 203 yards on 11 possessions. 

Even though the Buccaneers got a touchdown on their final possession, the Packers stopped Tampa Bay’s conversion attempt to preserve the win. Through three weeks, the Packers have allowed just 15 points per game and 302.7 yards per game — both sixth in the NFL. 

With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and an offense that’s improving by the week, Green Bay appears set to compete for another Super Bowl. 

Houston has the worst run defense in the NFL: The Texans are last in run defense for a reason, showcasing how poor they are in a loss to the Bears which they allowed 281 yards on the ground. Houston hasn’t had a game which they allowed fewer than 149 yards rushing this year, allowing 5.6 yards per carry (second-worst in NFL). 

Houston has given up an average of 202.3 rushing yards a game and lead the league with 36 missed tackles against the run — 12 more than the second-highest team. Until the Texans fix this deficiency, they won’t be winning many games.  

Alec Pierce is the No. 2 wide receiver Matt Ryan needs: the Colts have been waiting for someone besides Michael Pittman to show up in the passing game. Enter Pierce, who had no career catches on two targets in his one game played. 

The Colts invested a second-round pick in Pierce for days like Sunday, as he finished with three catches for 61 yards. Included in that was a 14-yard completion that set up Jelani Woods’ go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. 

If Matt Ryan is going to win games for the Colts, he needs a No. 2 wideout. Pierce showed why he can be that player. 

The defense can win Jacksonville the AFC South: The turnaround of the Jaguars defense has been incredible, as evidenced when they held the Chargers high-powered offense to just 10 points in Sunday’s win. Devin Lloyd is a playmaking linebacker in coverage while Josh Allen and Trayvon Walker are getting to the quarterback and forcing incompletions. 

Jacksonville has some good young players on this unit with Lloyd, Walker, Allen, and Tyson Campbell leading the way. The Jaguars are fourth in the NFL in points allowed 12.7 and have the No. 1 ranked rush defense (55 yards per game and no rushing touchdowns allowed) while leading the league in interceptions (six). 

This unit flies across the field and gets to the football quick. Jacksonville is the best team in the AFC South as a result. 

Patrick Mahomes is still working on his timing with his wideouts: The Chiefs are deeper at wide receiver, but Sunday’s loss to the Colts demonstrated the faces are still new. Mahomes missed Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster on deep balls earlier in the game, which would have set up easy points for Kansas City. 

Smith-Schuster did have a nice 53-yard reception for the Chiefs that was mostly created from gaining separation from his defender and getting yards after the catch. That’s the timing Mahomes is looking to gain with his new wideouts on the weeks to come. 

The receivers aren’t fully used to where Mahomes is placing his passes and Mahomes is still working on where they’ll be on the field. More game reps will improve this as the season goes on. 

Las Vegas Raiders

Defense got off to another slow start: Perhaps it was playing two hours ahead of schedule (Vegas essentially had a 10 a.m. start time), but the Titans offense took the Raiders defense to the woodshed in the first half of Sunday’s loss. The Raiders gave up three consecutive touchdown drives of 75-plus yards to start the game (which only happened twice in the entire league last year). 

Vegas gave up 239 yards of offense after three possessions, then just 122 in seven possessions the rest of the way. The Raiders have given up 17 and 24 points in the first half of two of their three games this season, forcing the offense to come back on both occasions — and lead to inevitable losses. 

The Raiders have plenty of issues in starting 0-3. This is just one of the many. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Rashawn Slater’s injury is devastating: Slater appears to be out for the season with a torn biceps tendon, terrible news for an offensive line that badly needed him healthy. With Justin Herbert’s injury lasting for several weeks (or months), it would have been beneficial for the Chargers to keep him upright until the injury heals. 

That injury may get worse if Storm Norton is the replacement for Slater at left tackle. Norton is a liability in pass protection and played a significant role in Herbert getting hit a lot on the right side last year. Now, he’s in line to protect Herbert’s blind side — for 14 games with a rib cartilage injury. 

The Chargers may have to look at the left tackle trade market over the next few weeks — for Herbert’s sake. 

Running back situation needs to be resolved: The Rams decided Sunday was Cam Akers’ turn to handle the workload again, giving him 12 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown. Akers was fine, but he had a fumble at the goal line that makes the running back situation even more murkier.

Darrell Henderson had just four carries in Week 3 after averaging 11.5 through the first two weeks. His touches have decreased from 18 to 10 to four while Akers increased from three to 17  — then decreased to 12. 

Who McVay will go with against the 49ers next week is a mystery, but Akers appears to be the guy. The running back-by-committee is fine, but is Akers in the doghouse as a result of the fumble? Will the No. 1 back be Henderson next week? 

Miami Dolphins

Melvin Ingram is one of the best late offseason signings: The impact Ingram has had on the Dolphins since arriving in May can’t be understated, especially after how he performed in Sunday’s win over the Bills. Ingram sacked Josh Allen on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, had a strip-sack, and recovered a fumble — all in the first half. 

Ingram has two sacks and a defensive touchdown in three games for the Dolphins, a veteran leader that’s significantly impacting a defense that ranks in the top 10 in the NFL in pressures. He’s far from done in this league. 

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota may actually have a good offensive lineman: The Vikings have been horrific when it come sto drafting in the trenches, yet may have finally found a good player in Christian Darrisaw. Through three games, Darrishaw has only given up five pressures — including zero in Sunday’s win over the Lions.

Darrisaw is still young, but the Vikings finally may have a left tackle to build around. The interior of the offensive line still needs a lot of work, but they have a player in Darrisaw. The Vikings may know how to draft and develop offensive linemen after all. 

Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson have to carry the offense: Even if Mac Jones’ ankle injury is minor, the Patriots have to continue to run their offense  through their two running backs. Harris and Stevenson had a combined 23 carries for 114 yards and two touchdowns for New England Sunday — as the Patriots were able to put up 27 points. 

New England has issues turning the ball over and on the offensive line, but Harris and Stevenson are good enough to mask all those deficiencies. The Patriots averaged 5.2 yards per carry Sunday and didn’t turn the football over running the ball, quite the opposite can be said of Jones and the passing game. 

Matt Patricia seems to have a rhythm going with Harris and Stevenson. He needs to continue using both of them to help put points on the board. 

Too many turnovers: The Saints have committed nine turnovers in their first three games this year and are minus-6 in the turnover department. New Orleans’ defense isn’t living up to par with the lack of takeaways and the missed tackles (five missed tackles in two of three games), but the offense is giving the ball away at an alarming rate. 

New Orleans has eight turnovers in its last two games (three fumbles lost, five interceptions), a recipe for losing football games. Jameis Winston hasn’t helped with poor decisions, but the entire offense is to blame here. The Saints just aren’t playoff caliber with the way they are turning the ball over. 

New York Giants

The offensive line isn’t improved like we thought: The Giants gave up 23 pressures in Monday’s loss to the Cowboys, the most any offensive line has given up in at least 12 years. Dallas finished with five sacks and 12 quarterback hits, constantly getting pressure on Jones and forcing him to run for his life. 

Jones has been been pressured on at least 43% of his dropbacks in every game this season, a damning statement on how poor the offensive line has been in pass protection. The Giants offensive line has better talent, but hasn’t made the progress we thought prior to Monday’s loss. 

New York Jets

Zach Wilson’s return should ignite the offense: Joe Flacco leads the league in pass attempts (155), yet the Jets felt one dimensional due to trailing most of the three games Flacco has been under center. They have Breece Hall and Michael Carter, but can’t get the ground game going — only averaging 84 rush yards a game (26th in NFL) and failing to record a rushing touchdown through three weeks. 

New York has good young wideouts and Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore, along with Hall and Carter in the ground game. With Wilson’s mobility to move outside of the packet, his return should create a more balanced offense that can put points on the board. 

Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox are far from over the hill: Graham had a dominant performance in Sunday’s win over Washington, finishing with 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hits in a performance which the Eagles finished with nine sacks. Cox was just as dominant too, having 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits. 

Graham and Cox had a combined eight pressures Sunday and have 18 total on the season. Both lead the Eagles with three sacks while Graham has six quarterback hits and Cox has five.

Graham is 34 and coming off a torn Achilles while Cox is 32. Both starts have been impressive for two players on the back nine of their NFL careers. They are still productive players in this league, early candidates for Pro Bowl berths. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Mitch Trubisky shouldn’t be the starter: This is something to keep harping on until the Steelers actually bench Trubisky, yet that doesn’t appear likely for the next several weeks. Trubisky had another subpar performance in Thursday’s loss to the Browns, not turning the ball over but not doing enough to will Pittsburgh past the 20-point threshold. 

Pittsburgh’s offense has put up 16, 14, and 17 points through three games (had a defensive touchdown in Week 1) and Trubisky is last amongst qualified quarterbacks in yards per attempt (5.5), touchdown percentage (1.9%), and has the fourth worst passer rating of 32 qualified quarterbacks (77.7). 

Kenny Pickett can’t be worse at this point. The Steelers still have a chance in the AFC North after all. 

San Francisco 49ers

Losing Trent Williams is a massive blow to the offense: Williams isn’t a skill position player, but San Francisco needs him to run Kyle Shanahan’s zone-run offense to its highest ability. Williams is going to miss multiple weeks with that high ankle sprain, meaning Jaylon Moore or Colton McKivitz will fill in at left tackle. 

San Francisco had just three points and committed two turnovers with Williams out (five possessions), totaling only 76 yards. 

We’ll see if the 49ers can run the ball efficiently with Williams out, as they had only four carries for 20 yards after Williams left the game in the second half. This week will provide a much larger sample size. 

Seattle Seahawks

About time D.K. Metcalf was more involved: One of the biggest concerns with the Seahawks through two games as the lack of targets for Metcalf, who’s too good a player to have just 13 targets through two weeks. That changed Sunday, as Metcalf was targeted 12 times in Sunday’s loss — putting up five catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.

Geno Smith threw the ball up to Metcalf’s catch radius in the end zone during the second quarter to tie the game, a welcome sight to see. Metcalf is still averaging 8.4 yards per catch through three games, which is abysmal and showcases how lackluster Seattle’s pass offense is. 

Sunday was a start, but Metcalf needs to get the ball more — specifically downfield. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady needs his receivers back: This may be repeated by the week, but Brady was throwing to Russell Gage, Cole Beasley (who just signed with Tampa Bay last week), Breshad Perriman, and Jaelon Darden at wide receiver in Sunday’s loss to the Packers. 

Mike Evans was suspended and Chris Godwin and Julio Jones are nursing injuries. Evans will be back this week, but the Buccaneers should take the long-term view on Godwin and Jones. 

Tom Brady isn’t washed up yet. He needs his top playmakers back before we can make that verdict. 

Tennessee Titans

Conservative play in second half almost cost team again: The Titans second-half scoring has been atrocious this year, scoring just seven points in just three games — and none since Week 1. The second-half possessions were even worse for Tennessee in Sunday’s win, running 23 plays for 86 yards with an interception, turnover on downs, and no points. 

Tennessee has been outscored 57-7 in the second half this year and the conservative play calling hasn’t helped matters. Simply put, this must improve. 

Carson Wentz holds onto the ball too long: This was a problem in Philadelphia and Indianapolis with Wentz, issues that continue to persist in Washington. Wentz was sacked a career-high nine times in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, but at least four of those sacks were attributed to Wentz just trying to make a play instead of taking the checkdown option. 

This still hasn’t gotten through to Wentz as he leaves his offensive line out to dry — and the Commanders offensive line isn’t very good to begin with. Quicker passes and decisions will eliminate the problem, but Wentz has to be willing to do it himself. Washington is figuring out that may not be easy for its quarterback. 





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