Previewing NFL Week 3

It’s a bit early for the NFL to have its biggest game of the season, but the Kansas City-Baltimore game fits that category.

The winner will be favored to go to the Super Bowl as the AFC team. Among other things, the game is the youngest QB matchup of MVPs with 22-year-old Lamar Jackson facing 24-year-old Patrick Mahomes.

The Mahomes-Jackson matchup may be the Manning-Brady matchup of this generation.

One key factor is that the Chiefs No. 2 receiver, Sammy Watkins, is questionable with a concussion and neck injury. He will be missed if he can’t play.

The surprising thing is the game will be played on Monday night instead of Sunday night. The NFL will be looking closely at the TV ratings for this game.

—The big question this week is whether the defenses start catching up to the offenses. First two weeks were all offense – most yards, touchdowns and points. Did the offense get an edge because of the lack of an offseason?

—The NFL continues to do a good job containing COVID-19. The Falcons’ A.J. Terrell became the first player to be placed on the COVID list – which means he tested positive or was exposed to it – since the season started. The players must be taking the proper precautions and the league has already warned them to stay out of bars and clubs or face fines.

—The window may be closing for the Eagles and Falcons, who were both in the Super Bowl a few years back but now look like they won’t be returning any time soon. Both are 0-2 and Atlanta has a tough task against 2-0 Chicago while the Eagles face 0-2 Cincinnati. Neither the Eagles nor the Falcons can afford to fall to 0-3 if they are to be contenders.

—Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Philip Rivers are all 1-1 after losing their openers and winning their second games. Brady’s Bucs go to Denver, Newton’s Patriots go to Las Vegas and Rivers’ Colts hosts the hapless Jets. Bucs and Colts should win easily but the Patriots could face a tough test against the Raiders.

—Jalen Ramsey is toning down his act in Los Angeles. While he said Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen was “trash” when he was in Jacksonville, he now says he is “talented” as Rams defense prepares to face the Bills.

—Rookie Justin Herbert makes his second start for the Chargers against Carolina and this time he has a week to prepare. He was a surprise starter against the Chiefs last week when a doctor punctured Tyrod Taylor’s lung giving him a shot for cracked ribs. Herbert might have upset the Chiefs if coach Anthony Lynn hadn’t taken the ball out of his hands by not going for it on fourth-and-1 in OT. A first round pick, Herbert was supposed to be the quarterback of the future but the future may have already started for him. If he plays well, Taylor may not get the job back.

NFL Week 2 in review

How fitting that a Seattle-New England game came down to the final play on the one-yard line just like their Super Bowl classic.

This time, the Seahawks won when they stuffed Cam Newton. But the interesting thing is Bill Belichick cost his team 20 seconds on the final drive when he failed to call time out with the team at the 29.

They might have had more than one play at the one if he hadn’t waited until there were three seconds left to call his final time out.

–Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes pulled out another comeback over the Chargers to go to 2-0 and set up what could be a preview of the AFC title game when the Chiefs meet 2-0 Ravens next Monday night. The Ravens beat Houston.

–Chargers coach Anthony Lynn blew a chance to upset the Chiefs when he punted on 4th-and-1 in overtime. Better to go for it than to give the ball to Mahomes.

–Despite the loss, the Chargers seemed to find out that rookie quarterback Justin Herbert is the quarterback they thought he was when they picked him on the first round. He made an impressive showing as last-minute replacement for Tyrod Taylor. Taylor was sidelined when the team doctor punctured his lung when he tried to give him a pain killing shot for his cracked ribs. Taylor may never get the job back. 

–Two aging quarterbacks who changed teams, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, bounced back from opening game losses to post victories. Meanwhile, another old quarterback, Drew Brees, lost so all three quarterbacks at 1-1.

–Dan Quinn of Atlanta and Matt Patricia are on the hot seat as they both blew leads to fall to 0-2. The Falcons became the first team to score 39 points and not get a turnover and lose. And the players apparently weren’t drilled on the onside kick rules when they watched as Dallas recovered the ball. Patricia has now lost 11 in a row and the Lions have blown double digit leads four games in a row.

–Coaches keep making mistakes on when to go for two. New Dallas coach Mike McCarthy went for two while down nine points. They failed to make it, remaining two scores down but were rescued when Atlanta botched an onside kick.

–Eleven teams — Jets, Dolphins, Broncos, Bengals, Texans, Giants, Eagles, Lions, Vikings, Falcons and Panthers – are off to an 0-2. With the playoffs expanded from 12 to 14 teams, it may be easier to overcome an 0-2 this year, but none of these teams have the look of a playoff contender. But it is likely that 21 teams are now fighting for 14 playoff spots.

–It’s interesting that there are not only 11 teams at 0-2, there are the same number at 2-0. They are the Cards, Rams, Seahawks, Packers, Bears, Bills, Chiefs, Raiders, Ravens, Steelers and Titans. Look for the majority of them to make the 14-team playoffs although I would never bet on a team with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback.

NFL Week 2 preview

The NFL’s second week got off to a good start when none of the Bengals and Browns players tested positive for COVID-19.

Now the question is what happens before the weekend games now that the players are no longer in the training camp lockdown.

The success of the season depends on the players being cautious, staying home and wearing masks. The league has already warned them they can be fined for going to clubs and bars.

—After the TV ratings took a dip for the three nights of prime-time games last week, the Thursday night Browns-Bengals game got a slight uptick over last year even though it was competing against the NFL and NHL. But it was still the lowest-rated Thursday opener since 2011, so it remains to be seen how the ratings will be going forward.

—Joe Burrow is off to an 0-2 start, which is not unusual for a rookie quarterback – even the first pick in the draft – but he is showing promise. In the Browns game he became the first quarterback to throw 60 or more passes without a pick and threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns.

—Two veteran quarterbacks who each changed teams this year and threw two picks in losing their openers will attempt to avoid 0-2 starts. Tom Brady of the Bucs has the easier task against Carolina while Philip Rivers of the Colts has the tougher assignment against Minnesota.

—In the Sunday night game, New England goes to Seattle for their second game against the Seahawks since their Super Bowl meeting when Russell Wilson threw the infamous interception. Wilson is now in his prime and Brady has been replaced by Cam Newton, so the Seahawks have the edge. It’s also oldest coaching matchup in history when Bill Belichick faces Pete Carroll, who was replaced by Belichick two decades ago after the Patriots fired him. Carroll is 69 and Belichick is 68. Unless they play in a Super Bowl, the teams won’t meet again for another four years. Will they still be on the sidelines?

—The doubleheader game CBS is sending to most of the country Sunday afternoon is the Chiefs at the Chargers. Gus Bradley gets the assignment of trying to figure out how to stop Patrick Mahomes.

—Countless number of fans were knocked out of survivor pools when the Jaguars stunned the Colts with the help of Rivers two picks. Now the Jaguars try to show it wasn’t a fluke when they go to Tennessee where they haven’t won since 2013. They have also lost seven of the last nine.

NFL Week 1 review

The most noteworthy thing about Kickoff Weekend – calling it the first weekend of the season is so passé – is that the players and team personnel stayed in their training camp bubble and avoided the Covid 19 virus.

From September 6-12, just two players and five personnel tested positive.

Now that they are out of camp, the challenge for the players club personnel will be to continue to follow the safety guidelines. The league has told the players they can be fined if they go to bars and clubs.

The success of the season depends on the players being responsible.

–The players also showed they don’t need preseason games to be ready to start the season as most of the games were well played. Maybe the public needs them to get in the mood to watch football. The TV ratings for the prime-time games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights were all down. As well as the CBS Sunday games. What saved the day was Tom Brady’s debut in Tampa Bay. That was the Fox doubleheader game and it was up eight per cent. The Fox regional games were up seven per cent. Now the question is whether the ratings will improve in the coming weeks. The drop will be blamed on some on the league’s promotion of social justice, but it is uncertain if that was a major factor.

–Two aging quarterbacks who changed teams, Brady and Philip Rivers, both threw two picks – Brady’s second was a Pick Six – and lost to the Saints and Jaguars. Brady’s second one was an obvious poor throw, but coach Bruce Arians raised some eyebrows by blaming Brady for misreading the coverage on the first one. The Colts didn’t punt once in their loss to the Jaguars, but Rivers’ two picks and the Colts’ failure to convert on a fourth down instead of taking a field goal made the difference.

–The Kansas City Chiefs looked like a team that can repeat by opening with an easy win over the Texans. They now the Chargers on the road and then play at the Ravens on Monday night and then are home against the Patriots. If they start off 4-0, there will be talk about them running the table because the Saints may be their only tough foe the rest of the way.

–Bill Belichick plugged in Cam Newton at quarterback, changed the offense to suit his running style and beat the Dolphins. But Belichick doesn’t figure to win another Super Bowl as long as Patrick Mahomes stays healthy in Kansas City.

–The Lions blew a 17-point fourth period lead against the Bears but still could have won it if rookie D’Andre Swift hadn’t dropped a pass in the end zone with six seconds left.

–Kickers were shaky as they missed 19 field goal attempts, the worst first weekend record since 1982. Is this a trend or just a fluke? We will see.

–The officials also called only 18 offensive holding calls, a 78 per cent drop from the first week last year. Did the league tell the officials they were calling too many ticky tacky holding calls? This bears watching.     

NFL Week 1 quick takes

The most significant thing about the opening weekend is that there is an opening weekend.

The NFL and the players did a great job of limiting the number of Covid cases while they were in the NFL bubble.

Now things get more challenging as teams start to travel and players are out and about now that camp is over.

—It’s not surprising the NFL ratings for the Chiefs-Texans game were down 12 percent from last year’s opener between the Bears and Packers. It was still the highest-rated sporting event since the Super Bowl and highest show since the Academy Awards. There were several factors involved in the drop, but the big questions now are whether ratings will recover during the season.

—The most depressing part of the Chiefs-Texans game was the fans booing the Unity Moment. It shows this country is far from unified on the issue of social justice.

—Dak Prescott has to be saluted for going public with his depression problems, despite Skip Bayless’ inane comments that illustrate why many victims are reluctant to go public with depression issues. Meanwhile, Prescott faces a tough first three weeks facing the Rams, Falcons and Seahawks before the Cowboys play the Browns in Week 4.

—The most interesting thing about this weekend is that the Pats will play their first game with Tom Brady on the roster since 2008 and Brady will play his first NFL game not in a Patriots uniform. Brady will duel Drew Brees while Cam Newton replaces Brady and meets Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Dolphins.

—The Steelers figure to beat the Giants to give them a 17-2 mark on Monday Night Football under Mike Tomlin. By contrast, Tomlin is 8-7 in the playoffs, which is the same mark Sean Payton has.