The NFL season is still in its early stages, so there are plenty of takeaways to be had. Here are the biggest ones from the third week of the NFL season.
4:45 p.m. Eastern Time
ESPN’s NFL Nation
The third week of the NFL season in 2021 had several unexpected outcomes. After Kansas City battled with ball security, the Chargers edged over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in a frantic final two minutes. With a record-setting 66-yard field goal from Justin Tucker that rang against the crossbar and went through to finish the game, the Ravens averted an upset defeat to the Lions. The Falcons defeated the Giants on a field goal to win a game between two winless teams.
In other games, the Cardinals defeated the Jaguars to get to 3-0, while the Steelers’ offensive woes continued in a loss to the Bengals. In Justin Fields’ first start with the Bears, the Browns’ pass rush went all over him, and the Titans won a crucial AFC South game. The Saints and Bills both won big games, with Buffalo’s offense scoring 43 points.
The key takeaways and lingering concerns from this week’s events — and what it all means moving forward — are discussed by our NFL Nation writers. Furthermore, they consider the larger picture with their present team confidence rating, which is a 0-10 assessment of how they feel about the team’s future prospects at the end of the week. Let’s get started.
BAL-DET | IND-TEN CIN-PIT | ARI-JAX | ATL-NYG CAR-HOU | LAC-KC | WSH-BUF | NO-NE CHI-CLE | BAL-DET | IND-TEN CIN-PIT | ARI-JAX | ATL-NYG CAR-HOU
What to know: As long as Lamar Jackson and Justin Tucker are on the team, the Ravens can win. Tucker won the game with an NFL-record 66-yard field goal as time expired, after the weakened Baltimore defense surrendered touchdowns on Detroit’s last three possessions. The kick went in after bouncing against the crossbar. Jackson set up the game-winning goal by converting a fourth-and-19 with a 36-yard throw to Sammy Watkins. The defense was caught off guard two days before the game when it lost four players to the COVID-19 protocol, including Pro Bowl pass-rusher Justin Houston and top run-stuffer Brandon Williams. Due to injury or COVID-19, Baltimore was forced to play without 13 players who accounted for at least $1 million against the salary limit. Jamison Hensley (Jamison Hensley)
Will Marquise Brown be able to overcome his three key drops? In Detroit, Brown went from being Lamar Jackson’s No. 1 receiver to becoming his No. 1 liability. Brown’s three drops in the first half, the most by any player in a game’s opening half since 2015, overshadowed Jackson’s most accurate passing day of the season. Brown’s 97 air yards came on passes of 25 yards or more, including one in the end zone that was flawlessly delivered. Brown had no drops on 32 such targets throughout his career, which was atypical of him. However, after the third drop, it was clear that the droplets had entered his mind. Hensley’s words
Hensley’s confidence level (0-10) is 7.8, same from the previous week. This was the pinnacle of a ruse. The Ravens were coming off an emotional victory against the Chiefs and were facing one of the NFL’s weakest teams. Baltimore, on the other hand, continues to find out how to win in the most spectacular manner possible.
The Broncos will be the opponent in the next game (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What you should know: For Lions supporters, the recent defeat was just another heartbreaker. The defense did all it could to keep the game close until the final seconds, when Lamar Jackson delivered a 36-yard throw to Sammy Watkins on fourth-and-19. It set up Justin Tucker’s 66-yard field goal at the buzzer, which established an NFL record. The defensive line was persistent in sacking Jackson four times after the decision to pursue a trade for veteran linebacker Jamie Collins and use younger players like Derrick Barnes and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. However, Jackson and Tucker managed to pull it off in the end. Eric Woodyard’s remark
Is the Lions’ backfield really legit? Swifty and Swaggy. The Detroit Lions’ backfield, which includes D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, is known by this moniker. For most of the post-Barry Sanders era, the Lions’ run game has been their Achilles heel, but this combination has continued to be one of the team’s strong points, not just on the ground but also in the air. Swift (47 yards and a touchdown on the ground; seven receptions for 60 yards) and Williams (42 yards and a touchdown on the ground; two catches for 25 yards) kept Detroit in the game and in position to pull off a big upset. — In the woods
Woodyard’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 5, up from 4.5. Unlike the previous two weeks, the Lions have shown their potential when they are competitive for the duration of a game while minimizing errors.
The next game will be against the Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: After three weeks, it’s obvious that Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson will be a versatile offensive option all season. Patterson had a team-high 82 yards receiving and 20 yards running (on seven touches). He’s a guy quarterback Matt Ryan obviously trusts, and he’s capable of being dangerous from a variety of positions on the field. In other words, Patterson might be the answer if you’re searching for a consistent threat on a Falcons offense that has shown promise in the fourth quarter. Michael Rothstein is a writer and producer.
Kyle Pitts was nowhere to be seen in Atlanta’s offense on Sunday. The rookie tight end, who was selected fourth overall in the draft, seemed to be a reliable option in Atlanta’s offense, one of the few constants the Falcons would have. Then there was Sunday, when Pitts didn’t see his first target (a 10-yard grab) until 11:20 of the fourth quarter. On Atlanta’s game-tying drive, he was targeted again in the end zone, which resulted in a pass-interference penalty, and he had a huge 25-yard catch on the Falcons’ game-winning drive. Pitts, on the other hand, was often overlooked. That can’t happen if Atlanta wants to be successful on offense. — According to Rothstein
The confidence rating of Rothstein (0-10) is now 5, up from 4.8. Atlanta demonstrated its ability to win a tight game against a similar opponent. It doesn’t necessarily imply that the Falcons are a good team, but it does show that they believe in Arthur Smith’s vision.
The next game is against Washington (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Matt Ryan sells the handoff and then throws a 1-yard touchdown ball to Lee Smith.
What to know: Where are the victories coming from on the schedule if they can’t defeat the Falcons at home on Eli Manning Day? The Giants (0-3) are scheduled to face the Saints, Cowboys, Rams, Panthers, Chiefs, Raiders, and Buccaneers in the coming weeks. Yikes! They want to keep insisting that they’re just concerned with this week and what they can manage right now. The rest of us are worried about where this season is going and who will be held responsible. Jordan Raanan is a writer.
How serious are these wounds? Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, both wide receivers with the Giants, have hamstring issues. Blake Martinez suffered a non-contact injury to his knee. With a hip issue, prized offseason addition Kenny Golladay went in and out of the game, and star running back Saquon Barkley even looked a little bruised up. Can the squad withstand such a barrage of injuries? Prior to Sunday, it seemed to have a little margin for error. Raanan’s words
Raanan’s confidence level (0-10) is 1.2, down from 3.2 before. Despite holding the lead in the fourth quarter, they fell to Atlanta at home on Eli Manning Day. And the following seven games are on a brutal schedule.
The next game is against the Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What you should know: Josh Allen had his finest game of the season, and it didn’t even come close to being close. He completed 32 of 43 passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns, two to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and one on the ground. Allen played a full game and a performance that was reminiscent of his MVP runner-up finish in the 2020 season. Allen threw three touchdowns and just six interceptions in the first half. By guiding the offense on a 98-yard, 17-play drive that chewed more than eight minutes off the clock in the third quarter, he effectively stepped up in the pocket and evaded pressure, helping to put the game out of reach. Throws downfield were a problem early in the season, but Allen improved in that area on Sunday. On throws of more than 10 yards downfield, he completed 10 of 15 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns, tying for the second-most completions in a game in his career. Alaina Getzenberg is a writer who lives in New York City.
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Is the absence of a consistent pass rush a cause for worry in the future? This is the question that will hound the Bills all season long. The team’s first priority this offseason was to improve the pass rush, which is why the first two choices in the 2021 NFL Draft went to that position. The Bills’ defense, on the other hand, only managed one sack and six quarterback hits against an untested Taylor Heinicke, thanks to defensive lineman Star Lotulelei. The defense had a nice day with three interceptions, but it failed to make Heinicke uncomfortable on a regular basis. This will be a problem to watch against the better offensive lines and quarterbacks on the Bills’ schedule. Getzenberg’s words
Getzenberg’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 7.7, up from 7.3. The Bills still have a few tough games ahead of them, but Allen and the offense looked unbeatable at moments, something they hadn’t done all season. Overall, Buffalo played its most complete game yet, which bodes well for the future.
The Texans are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke is a compelling tale, but he isn’t the long-term answer, which isn’t unexpected. He can still assist this team, but it’s difficult when you’re up against a defense that can’t stop anybody, putting pressure on him to pass the whole game. He must be a part of a well-balanced assault, or his weaknesses will become more apparent. He demonstrated his willpower with a diving 4-yard touchdown run, but he sometimes forced passes in an effort to do too much. That resulted in both of his interceptions, as well as the possibility of more. ‘John Keim’
What happened to Chase Young? Will the 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year become one of the top-five pass-rushers in the NFL? That was the question before the season. Right now, the defensive end isn’t even close to being ready. He has 0 sacks, no forced turnovers, and hasn’t provided enough pressure in three games. A guy selected second overall in the draft was supposed to provide so much more. Young has showed glimpses, but this defense needs playmakers, and that’s exactly what Young became in the second part of last season. Teams are paying close attention to him, as they were last season, but he has to establish a more consistent approach if he wants to be a constant force. He isn’t the only problem; he’s just the one with the greatest ability who can make a significant difference. Keim’s words
Keim’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 4, down from 5.2. The confidence rating will remain in this range until the defense performs well. This season, Washington will face far too many excellent quarterbacks, so if its performance does not improve, it will be a lengthy season.
The Falcons are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What you should know: The Cardinals’ offense is as rich and varied as it’s ever been. A.J. Green and Christian Kirk were both 100-yard receivers for the team. With 112 yards, Green recorded his first 100-yard game as a Cardinal. Kirk tacked on another 104. With such weapons at Kyler Murray’s disposal, Arizona was able to rally from a nine-point hole to win. This is something Arizona lacked last season but has proven to be the difference between winning and losing this year. Josh Weinfuss (@JoshWeinfuss)
What does it say about the Cardinals that they continue to win games in which they are outmatched? It demonstrates that they are not the same squad that finished last season with a 3-6 record. This year’s Cardinals have the ability to absorb a blow and bounce back, which will help them in their quest for the playoffs against teams like the Rams, 49ers, and Seahawks in the NFC West. But what if they have trouble facing a club that is better than the Jaguars? Will they be able to recover? It is yet to be decided. Arizona is currently 3-0. The previous time this occurred was in 2015, when Arizona made the playoffs for the first time. Weinfuss’s words
Weinfuss’ confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 8.5, down from 8.6. The Cardinals’ ability to come back from nine points down to win by 12 points indicates that they have the resilience and firepower to make a run, but the fact that they were down nine points at one point against one of the poorest teams in the NFL raises some concerns.
The next game will be against the Rams (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
Trevor Lawrence’s interception is returned for a 29-yard score by Byron Murphy.
What you should know: The Jaguars don’t have any room for mistake. They eventually get the run game going, return a missed field goal 109 yards for a score, and limit Arizona to 1-of-9 on third down, but they still lose by double digits for the 18th time since winning the season opener in 2020. They need to play almost flawlessly, and they don’t have the personnel to do it. Mike DiRocco’s remark
Is Trevor Lawrence anything to be worried about? Both yes and no. He’s just the fourth quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw multiple interceptions in his first three starts (he’s thrown seven), and only Peyton Manning and Alex Smith have thrown more in their first three starts (both threw eight). Lawrence’s second interception came on a trick play, and he was under pressure from J.J. Watt. But he’s not receiving much assistance either. Jacob Hollister couldn’t hang on to a ball that bounced off his hands and was intercepted. The receivers for Lawrence aren’t gaining much separation. It also doesn’t help when you’re chasing points and find yourself in a clear passing scenario (which happened in the fourth quarter Sunday). Because of the dearth of playmakers on the team, it was going to be a difficult job for him as a rookie. He has to go through these challenges in order to mature, but the Jaguars also need him to cut down on his errors if they are to have a chance to win games. DiRocco’s words
DiRocco’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 2.5, down from 2.6. It rises a little because the Jaguars finally got James Robinson involved (88 yards running), forced their first turnover, and made another huge special teams play, but they’re still giving the ball over too often and failing to make critical plays.
The Bengals are the team’s next opponent (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: Despite the absence of Bud Dupree, the Titans’ pass rush is improving. Shane Bowen, the defensive coordinator, put in a couple opportune blitzes to create pressure. The most of it, though, came from the front four. Lately, outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi has been in the zone. Today, Adeniyi got 1.5 sacks, one of which was nullified by an unlawful contact call on Chris Jackson. Jeffery Simmons is also developing into a powerhouse in the middle. The pass rush is forcing opposition quarterbacks to make errors, even if they aren’t generating sacks in large numbers. It should have another chance to make an impact against the Jets’ shaky offensive line and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson next week. Turron Davenport (Turron Davenport)
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Can the Titans win regularly without the passing game contributions of Julio Jones and A.J. Brown? The Titans’ offense was expecting a lot of pyrotechnics from Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. In the Titans’ victory against the Colts, that was not the case. Brown did not return after suffering a hamstring injury in the first quarter. For the most of the fourth quarter, Jones sat out. The Titans, on the other hand, kept pressing forward, led by Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. Derrick Henry added another 100-yard running effort to his resume. This worked against a faltering Colts offense this week, but it can’t be the Titans’ go-to strategy every week. To compete with the best clubs in the AFC, they’ll need more from Jones and Brown. Davenport, Iowa
Davenport’s confidence level (0-10) is 6.5, same from the previous week. The Titans accomplished what they were meant to do: defeat the Colts, despite the fact that it wasn’t beautiful. An emotional victory like the one they had in Week 2 might have set them up for a letdown game this week, particularly against the Colts, who are a tough division opponent. That was not the case, as the Titans are now 2-1 going into their matchup with the Jets next week.
The next game will be against the Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: Three turnovers were forced by the defense. The offense did not commit any turnovers. What did the Colts get out of it? Another defeat brings them to 0-3 for the first time since 2011 — and just the third time since 1998. Quarterback Carson Wentz attempted to play with two injured ankles, but his health limited the offense’s effectiveness. The Colts concentrated on getting the ball out of Wentz’s hands as soon as possible so he wouldn’t have to scramble about in the pocket, since he was clearly not 100 percent healthy. Wentz completed 19 of 37 passes for 194 yards, but the Colts were unable to score. In the red zone, the Colts were 1-of-3. The Colts had one last opportunity to win on the road, but the Titans ate up more than seven minutes of time to condemn the Colts to their third consecutive defeat. Mike Wells’ remark
Will the Indianapolis Colts ever be healthy? The Colts are still looking for players. Quenton Nelson, an All-Pro guard, exited the game in the second quarter with a right ankle injury (on top of the back ailment he currently had). Khari Willis, the starting safety, departed the game in the fourth quarter with cramps, while DE Kwity Paye had left earlier with a hamstring injury. The Colts have been plagued by injuries throughout the season. They were already without receiver T.Y. Hilton and right tackle Braden Smith going into the game. It’s anyone’s guess when Wentz will be fit again, and linebacker Darius Leonard’s best asset — speed — is clearly missing due to his ankle injury. Wells’s
Wells’ confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 4.6, down from 5. Too many important players have been injured. There isn’t a constant defense. There are no major dangers on the horizon. Everything that has gone wrong for the Colts has gone wrong, and there seems to be no end in sight, particularly with the next two games on the road, at Miami and Baltimore.
The Dolphins are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What you should know: Brandon Staley has preached the importance of building a squad that thrives in the fourth quarter during the summer. With the assistance of a great day from quarterback Justin Herbert, a 4-yard game-winning touchdown throw to Mike Williams with 32 seconds remaining and a crucial pass interference penalty on Chiefs S Deandre Baker, he got one. Herbert threw for 281 yards and four touchdowns on 26 of 38 passing attempts. After the Dallas defeat, Herbert was enraged and came out blazing. The Chiefs’ defense, on the other hand, was stunned, intercepting Patrick Mahomes twice and recovering two fumbles. Shelley Smith says:
What can the Chargers do early in the game to improve their chances of winning? Although Staley has said that the team does not need to establish the run game to set up the play-action, it would be great if they did, since the Chargers did not run the ball efficiently until the fourth quarter. However, Herbert went 8-of-8 on play-action in the first half, so Staley may be correct about the running game. Cutting down on illegal-motion penalties would also help, as a touchdown throw to Gabe Nabers was wiped out by a motion penalty for the Chargers. ‘Smith’
Smith’s confidence level (on a scale of one to ten) is now at 6, up from 4. Make sure you don’t irritate Herbert or the defense. However, the squad still has to straighten up their motion penalties.
The Raiders are the team’s next opponent (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
In a victory against the Chiefs, Mike Williams’ second touchdown reception of the game puts the Chargers in front for good.
What you should know: The Chiefs’ defensive issues seem to be far from resolved. Against the Chargers, they were better against the run, but that was a low bar to cross. They’re still struggling to get to the quarterback and halt a throwing offense. In the red zone, the Chiefs can’t be much worse, since opponents have scored 11 touchdowns in their last 12 visits. Adam Teicher’s remark
Is it possible for the Chiefs to turn their season around? It will require some defensive improvement, which seems improbable. On offensively, the Chiefs are still dangerous and capable of huge things, but opponents are determined to force them to go without the big play and progress down the field in smaller chunks. It will be tough for them to produce high statistics on a regular basis without additional big plays. They must also stop committing turnovers. Teicher’s words
Teicher’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 6, down from seven. It’s hard to see the Chiefs as genuine Super Bowl contenders until they drastically improve their defense and stop turning the ball over when they have it on offense.
The Eagles are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What you should know: The Saints aren’t doomed. After their meltdown in Carolina last week, this was a very remarkable and crucial comeback effort. Especially by the defense, which has lived up to its promise of becoming the team’s new identity in the absence quarterback Drew Brees. The Saints (2-1) will ultimately get more reinforcements back from injuries and suspensions, but this performance is crucial as they prepare for their first meaningful home game against the Giants next week. Triplett, Mike
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Will Jameis Winston, the quarterback, be able to settle down after his early highs and lows? He largely did that on Sunday, keeping it safe in a game when he didn’t have to push himself too much (the Saints’ pass protection was much better from last week, despite the loss of star left tackle Terron Armstead in the first quarter). Winston threw for 128 yards on 13 of 21 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Winston did, however, throw a few of dangerous passes that were reminiscent of his previous misfortunes. And, since the Saints haven’t played in a nail-biter yet, we don’t know how he’ll fare in one. Triplett’s
The confidence rating of Triplett (0-10) is now 7.5, up from 6.8. Last Sunday served as a sobering reminder that the Saints are still far from flawless. However, this demonstrated how important their defense, run game, coaching, and senior leadership can still be.
The next game is against the Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What to know: If the Patriots can’t improve their protection of Mac Jones, it’ll be a long season. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, the Saints’ defense pressed Jones on 12 of his 21 first-half dropbacks (57 percent), and Jones went 4-of-11 for 28 yards and an interception when pushed. The outcomes were better when Jones had more time, but it didn’t happen often enough. Although the expected return of starting right tackle Trent Brown (right calf strain) should assist, the protection issues seem to be more widespread. — Reiss, Mike
Next week, how are the Patriots going to stay up with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers? Jones was always going to suffer growing pains, but as long as he could protect the football and the offensive line could keep him upright, they’d have a shot. Neither of those things occurred on Sunday in a consistent manner. Now that Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is returning to Foxborough for one of the NFL’s most anticipated games, it feels like one side is a stick of dynamite ready to explode at any moment (Tampa Bay), while the other is plodding along with the need to play flawlessly to have a chance (New England) (New England). The Patriots were far from flawless in a thrashing that was at times difficult to witness. — Reiss
Reiss’ confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 4, down from 6.2. Punts that have been blocked. Kickoffs are thrown out of bounds. Coverage lapses result in touchdowns. Ball security is sloppy. With this level of effort, the Patriots would have struggled to defeat most teams.
The Buccaneers are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What to know: Justin Fields, the Bears’ rookie quarterback, was totally overpowered by the Browns’ pass rush, who was sacked nine times more than he completed passes (six). With 4.5 sacks, Myles Garrett set a new single-game record for the Browns. Though Fields’ offense was hopeless, Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney combined for 11 quarterback pressures, demonstrating Cleveland’s ability to go after the passer. A strong pass rush is one of the reasons the Browns may have one of the best defenses in the league at the end of the season. Jake Trotter’s remark
Will Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. be able to improve on their debut in 2021? Mayfield and OBJ got off to a fast start, converting a third-down conversion across the middle of the field on the first drive. Beckham caught five of his nine receptions for 77 yards in his first outing since undergoing season-ending knee surgery last year. Mayfield and Beckham had the second-worst completion percentage (54.6 percent) of any QB-WR combination in the NFL going back to 2019. However, they seemed to have finally unlocked their connection together on Sunday. ‘Trotter’
Trotter’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 7.4, down from 7.5. Despite having some issues completing drives and protecting Mayfield, the Browns prevailed by a comfortable margin thanks to a dominating fourth quarter.
The next game will be against the Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What you should know: Is there a possibility for a reshoot? Justin Fields’ much-anticipated NFL starting debut was a total disaster. The Browns thoroughly outmatched Fields and the rest of the offense, making life difficult for the rookie quarterback. Fields’ passes were largely off the target, and the Bears failed to stop almost everyone. He also clung to the ball for much too long. Sunday was the worst day of my life. The defense of Chicago kept the club in the game for as long as possible, but the game never felt as close as the score suggested. Dickerson, Jeff
Is Andy Dalton going to start again now that he’s healthy? When Matt Nagy said Andy Dalton would remain Chicago’s starting quarterback if he was healthy, most of us scoffed. Who’s the one who’s laughing now? The Bears offense was so bad — obviously not all of it was Fields’ fault — that you have to wonder whether Dalton will get another chance. Because the Bears’ offense is so poor, it may not even matter who starts as quarterback. To be fair to Dalton, the offense seemed to be in good shape in Week 2 until the veteran quarterback hurt his left knee. The fact that this is still up for discussion demonstrates how bad Cleveland’s offensive was. Dickerson’s words
Dickerson’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 3.5, down from 5. The offense of the Bears is simply offensive.
The Lions are the team’s next opponent (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What you should know: The Bengals’ victory shown that they can compete in the AFC North. A week after a disappointing defeat to a mediocre Chicago club, Cincinnati went on the road and thrashed Pittsburgh. The key play was Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s 34-yard touchdown pass to youngster Ja’Marr Chase, which set the tone. The Bengals have won their last two games against the Steelers. But this one, coming so early in the season and with so much riding on it for both teams, is the most important of the Zac Taylor era. – Ben Little
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Is this Bengals squad capable of contending for a postseason berth? Yes. We’ve discovered that the defense is legitimate after three weeks. After a difficult week marked by public concerns about playcalling, the offense shone thanks to the Burrow-to-Chase connection, which resulted in two huge touchdowns. In December, Cincinnati has the team to contend for a wild-card berth. — Little one
Baby’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 6.8, up from 5.5. The Bengals’ overall performance versus the Steelers demonstrates a club making steady improvement in a season with long-term ramifications.
The Jaguars are the team’s next opponent (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
What you should know: The Steelers’ defense can’t be the offense’s magical Band-Aid with so many important players out. The Steelers’ defense saw their 75-game sack run come to an end in Sunday’s defeat to the Bengals, despite playing without outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. The offense continued to stutter, leaving the defense in a bind. After limiting Cincinnati to a field goal, the Steelers’ defense had a three-play break before Ben Roethlisberger’s poor interception put them back on the field at their own 19. Three plays later, the Bengals scored. And, for the second week in a straight, the Steelers’ defense couldn’t stop the deep ball, allowing Ja’Marr Chase to score a long touchdown in the closing seconds of the second quarter. The team’s defense remains its strength, but offensive incompetence is hurting both sides of the ball. Brooke Pryor is an actress who plays Brooke Pryor.
Is this quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s new normal, or can he turn things around? It’s just three weeks, but indications point to this being the new normal, which isn’t exactly what he or the Steelers planned expecting after bringing him back for another season. In the third quarter, Roethlisberger threw one of his worst interceptions of his career as he attempted to throw to a tightly covered JuJu Smith-Schuster but instead fired it straight into Logan Wilson’s stomach. Roethlisberger appeared out of rhythm with his receivers once again on Sunday. It’s not all Roethlisberger’s fault; playing behind a line with lingering growing pains isn’t easy — but some of the preventable errors were made. Roethlisberger not only threw the interception in the third quarter, but he also took a sack in the first half after hanging on to the ball for much too long. Roethlisberger is one touchdown short of joining the 400-yard club, but if he and the offense keep playing like they did the first three games, he’ll be there for a long time. Pryor’s words
Pryor’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 4.4, down from 5.7. The victory over the Buffalo Bills seems more and more like a fluke with each passing week; if the offense can’t get it together and the defense can’t play like the 1985 Bears, that will remain the case.
The next game will be against the Packers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
What to know: Injuries to running back Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) and cornerback Jaycee Horn (broken foot) likely keep them out of several games, but the Panthers proved in their 24-9 victory against the Texans that they can win without two of their best players. This doesn’t mean the Panthers can keep up with Tampa Bay without them, but with a 3-0 start and a relatively easy schedule over the next month, they can be competitive and win games to keep themselves in postseason contention. “We’re a football tam,” left tackle Cameron Erving remarked. We’re not the Christian McCaffreys of Carolina.” David Newton is an author.
Is it possible for Sam Darnold to lead the offense without McCaffrey? Granted, it was the Texans, but Darnold performed as good as he has in any half of his NFL career in the second half. He remained in the offense and used his arm and legs to make plays. His quarterback sneak for a touchdown gave him two for the game, which was the first time he’d done so since joining the league. A 32-yard run was even called back due to a penalty. I’m beginning to think the Panthers made the correct decision in acquiring him. He’s a rough guy. He has “moxie,” as Matt Rhule put it. Newton’s words
Newton’s confidence rating (0-10) is now 6.9, up from 6.4 before. If it hadn’t been for the injuries to McCaffrey and Horn, this number would have been greater, but the defense is legit, and Darnold is better than anticipated.
The Cowboys will host the next game (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
What you should know: QB Davis Mills accomplished precisely what the Texans wanted of him in the offense, according to Texans coach David Culley, by not doing too much and attempting to “make a pass to try and get something going.” Mills did not give the ball over, according to Culley, indicating that he has improved in this area since his preseason outings. Mills will have to do more in the future if the Texans are to win games with quarterback Tyrod Taylor on injured reserve. Is he able to take advantage of the 10-day gap between now and next week’s game in Buffalo to continue to develop this offense? Sarah Barshop is a writer.
Will Houston be able to replicate their rushing prowess from Week 1? On Thursday night, the Texans struggled to run the ball, gaining just 42 yards on 17 attempts. When Houston came out for the second half, Culley stated the team was focused on attempting to “reestablish the run.” The Texans couldn’t do it, and Culley believes the greatest reason for the offense’s struggles was the team’s inability to maintain consistency on the ground. Culley said, “We have to be able to (run the ball).” “We are what we are.” It won’t get any easier next Sunday, as the Bills entered Week 3 with the NFL’s top running defense, allowing just 73 yards per game on average. — Bar & Grill
The confidence rating of Barshop (0-10) is 2.0, unchanged from 2.0. The Texans showed potential in their first two games, particularly with Taylor at quarterback, but it was obvious that they weren’t ready to compete with the top teams in the NFL on a regular basis.
The Bills’ next game is on the road (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
The nba is a basketball league that is currently in season. There were many takeaways from the NFL games last week.
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