With three games in the books, the NFL season already is starting to take shape.
In the AFC, it looks like a two-team race for the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. Along with Buffalo, they’re the only 3-0 teams in the conference, and the Bills meet the Patriots on Sunday.
Considering the Bills’ history against the Patriots, they figure to be vying for a wild-card spot, not the AFC East title. The Baltimore Ravens also don’t appear ready to challenge the top two after losing to the Chiefs.
Five AFC teams — the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos — are 0-3.
In the NFC, it’s a more open race with four teams at 3-0 – the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. And the Detroit Lions are unbeaten at 2-0-1, while the New Orleans Saints are 2-1 and showed they can win with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback.
And while the Philadelphia Eagles may be the most disappointing team in the league at 1-2, you can’t rule them out. Washington is the only 0-3 team in the conference, while Arizona is 0-2-1.
Now a look at what happened last weekend:
–New York Giants GM David Gettleman got a lot of flak for making Daniel Jones the sixth pick in the draft when he may have been able to get him in the middle of the round, but Jones justified his faith in him in his first start. He led the team back from an 18-point deficit to beat the Tampa Bay Bucs 32-31. The Giants got a break when Matt Gay missed a 34-yard field goal attempt for the game-winner after coach Bruce Arians took a delay penalty to move the kick back five yards. That was a head-scratching move. But Arians said Gay was more effective five yards back. He also missed two extra points. Still, Jones passed for 336 yards, ran for two more and didn’t throw a pick. It’s too early to make snap judgments, but that’s what we do and the Giants may have found their QB of the future.
—Patrick Mahomes. What else is there to say about him? He threw for 374 yards and three touchdowns to beat the Ravens, 33-28. The Chiefs have now scored 26 or more points in a record 24 games in a row and done it every game Mahomes has started the last two years.
–Teddy Bridgewater wanted to stay with the Saints even though he knew he would be a backup. And the Saints were willing to pay him as an insurance policy in case Drew Brees got hurt. The Saints cashed in their policy when Brees was hurt a week ago. Bridgewater made his first start in Seattle and led the Saints to a 33-27 victory. He passed for 177 yards and two touchdowns without a pick. He can hold the fort until Brees gets back and shows once again how important a backup quarterback is.
–New England coach Bill Belichick, who likes to run up the score and often leaves Tom Brady in the game when the Pats are way ahead, actually did the prudent thing and pulled Brady with a 30-0 lead on the Jets so he didn’t risk Brady getting hurt. Rookie Jarrett Stidham came in and the Jets converted two takeaways, including a Stidham interception, into touchdowns. Better to lose the shutout than risk losing Brady.
—Kyle Allen got his second start of his career against the Cardinals and he threw for four touchdowns to lead Carolina to the victory in place of ailing Cam Newton. They don’t have to rush Newton back and already announced he is out for next week.
–Rookie coaches aren’t making an impact. The seven of them are 4-16-1, and five of them – Vic Fangio, Adam Gase, Zac Taylor, Brian Flores and Kliff Kingsbury — don’t have a victory. Kingsbury is 0-2-1, and the other four are 0-3.
—Case Keenum threw three picks and lost two fumbles for the Redskins in a 31-15 loss to the Chicago Bears. On one of the fumbles he jumped up over the pile, extended the ball and got it knocked out of his hands. That only works on the goal line when it is a score once it is extended over the goal line. A veteran like Keenum should know better. It won’t be long before rookie Dwayne Haskins gets the call even though coach Jay Gruden said he is sticking with Keenum because the season isn’t lost.
–In case you doubted that holding calls are subjective, note that the officials averaged 5.7 per game in the first 33 games. After all the complaints about too many calls, director of officials Al Riveron held a conference calls with referees. They dropped to 2.9 per game in Week 3.
–Baltimore coach John Harbaugh went for two after three of the Ravens’ four touchdowns and didn’t make any, costing his team three points in a five-point loss. He even went for two when a touchdown cut the deficit to 11 points in the fourth quarter when an extra point would have cut it to 10, so the Ravens would have needed a touchdown and field goal to tie.
–Cleveland coach Freddie Kitchens didn’t have a good game making decisions in the loss to the Rams. He called a draw play on fourth-and-nine and with the Browns having a first-and-goal with all three timeouts, he didn’t call a running play or target Odell Beckham. He needs an offensive coordinator to call plays. The Browns are losing while he is learning the play calling. Why he was hired as the head coach in the first place is puzzling.