Five quick takes on Week 3 in the NFL:
1. Time for the NFL to polish off its “Any Given Sunday“ line. The NFL loves to sell the idea that any team can win on any given Sunday, even though it tends to be divided into the haves and have-nots. But eight underdogs had their day last weekend. The Buffalo Bills, supposed the worst team in the league, stunned the Minnesota Vikings, 27-6, in the largest point-spread upset in 23 years. And the Jacksonville Jaguars defense allowed only three field goals but still lost to a Tennessee team that had Blaine Gabbert and an injured Marcus Mariota playing quarterback. And the New England Patriots lost by 10 points or more in successive weeks for only the third time in the Bill Belichick regime and the first time since 2002. And the Cleveland Browns won a game for the first time in 635 days, although it wasn’t an upset. Overall, six underdogs won and two others covered. It is the kind of week the NFL loves.
2. With more states planning to legalize gambling on NFL games, it will be interesting to see if bettors take the plunge on games with big spreads in the future. The Vikings were favored over the Bills by 16.5-17.5 points, and many bettors were reluctant to give that many points or take them. The Westgate SuperBook told The Buffalo News it was a lightly bet game, although fans in survivor pools tended to get crushed with all the underdogs winning. But The Mirage said it was their biggest game of the day. Westgate said two betters wagered $9,000 and $18,000 on the Vikings to win straight up in an attempt to win $450 and $1,000. But the South Point sportsbook took two $1,000 bets on the Bills, and the bettors won $12,000 and $11,000. The lesson is that betting on NFL games is risky, but there can be a big reward if you hit on a big underdog.
3. What do we make of New England suffering two double-digit losses in a row? The team appears in decline, but we thought that in 2014 when they fell to 2-2 after a 41-14 loss at Kansas City. They then won seven in a row and went on to win the Super Bowl when the Seattle Seahawks decided not to run from the one-yard-line. And there were extenuating circumstances in their two losses. Jacksonville wanted revenge after losing the AFC title game, while Detroit is coached by former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Now the Patriots play three home games in a row against two unbeaten teams (Miami and Kansas City) sandwiched around a Thursday night game against the Indianapolis Colts. The next three weeks should determine whether the Patriots are in decline.
4. The NFL seems to be intent on ruining the games with its insane roughing-the-passer rules. Clay Matthews of Green Bay got his weekly roughing-the-passer penalty, and four were called in the Steelers-Bucs game. On top of that, Miami defensive end William Hayes was lost for the season with a torn ACL when he tried to avoid putting his body weight on Derek Carr and fell awkwardly. The NFL needs to fix this, and the sooner, the better. Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers was lost for the season with a torn ACL when he didn’t run out of bounds while scrambling.
5. Patrick Mahomes threw three more touchdowns in the Chiefs’ win over the 49ers to give him 13 in the first three games. That broke Peyton Manning’s record of 12 in the first three in 2013. Nobody is getting too excited because the Chiefs got off to a 5-0 start last year, finished 12-4 and lost their first-round playoff game to Tennessee. Meanwhile, Ryan Fitzpatrick became the first quarterback to throw for 400 yards in his first three games, but he also threw three picks on three consecutive passes against the Steelers in the first half and fell behind 23-7 halftime. Fitzpatrick came back to cut the deficit to three points, but the Bucs still lost 30-27. Still, he figures to keep his job at least another week even though Jameis Winston returned Tuesday from his three-game suspension.