Looking back at NFL Week 4

At the quarter pole, there are only three unbeaten teams left – Chiefs, Patriots and the surprising 49ers. But the two conference have very different looks.

The AFC race still looks like a two-team battle featuring the Patriots and Chiefs. Both survived scares on the road Sunday, finding a way to win. Their game on Dec. 8 may be for homefield advantage in the AFC title game.

It is a different story in the NFC, which is a wide-open race with the 49ers at unbeaten at 3-0 and six teams – Rams, Seahawks, Cowboys, Saints, Bears and Packers — all at 5-1. No team has emerged as the team to beat.

On the bottom in the race for the No. 1 pick, Miami remains a clear favorite as its tanking plan is working to perfection.

But Washington is so dysfunctional that it may challenge the Dolphins. They meet in two weeks with the loser in good position to get the top pick. The Dolphins also play the 0-4 Bengals on Dec. 22.

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Previewing NFL Week 4

The list of unbeaten teams was cut by one Thursday night when the Packer lost to the Eagles.

That leaves three AFC teams and three NFC teams at 3-0 plus Detroit is unbeaten at 2-0-1.

Barring ties, the list of unbeatens will shrink Sunday with the 3-0 Bills and 3-0 Pats and Lions and 3-0 Chiefs playing each other. The 3-0 49ers have a bye and the Rams figured to beat Tampa Bay to go to 4-0.

That leaves Dallas going for 4-0 at New Orleans, a tough place to play even with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback for the Saints.

Flve teams are 0-3 in the AFC and two of them, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, will meet. Miami figures to fall to 0-4 against the Chargers and the 0-3 Broncos are favored against the 1-2 Jaguars and the 0-3 Jets have a bye.

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Looking back at NFL Week 3

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:

Positives
–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.

Negatives

–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.

Previewing NFL Week 3

It’s very interesting that nine teams started off 2-0 and nine teams started off 0-2 this year.

Last year, seven started off 2-0 but only two of them made the playoffs. Six started off 0-2, then two of them made the playoffs. So we’ll see what the early records wind up meaning.

It’s noteworthy that four teams that started off 2-0 and ended up with losing records – the Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins — started off 0-2 this year.  The Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs are only teams to start off 2-0 both years. Last year, both Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks started off 0-2 and are 2-0 this year.

Game of the Week

Two young guns, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, will duel in Kansas City. Both have thrown seven touchdown passes and no picks in their first two games. The NFL apparently didn’t expect this to be a big early season game. It not only isn’t being played in primetime, but it isn’t even a late-afternoon game. It is being played at noon in Kansas City.

Game of the Weak

None of the 0-2 teams are playing this weekend, so Carolina’s trip to Arizona, which is 0-1-1, qualifies. Kyle Allen is expected to start for 0-2 Carolina because Cam Newton has a foot injury. It’s a chance for Kyler Murray to get his first NFL win for the Cardinals.

Five things to watch

–Can the NFL quarterbacks stay healthy this week? Five teams – the New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, Panthers, Jaguars and New York Jets – have their starters on the shelf because of injuries or illness. A sixth, Indianapolis, lost its starter when Andrew Luck retired and a seventh, the New York Giants, benched their starter, Eli Manning. Ben Roethlisberger is out for year with an elbow injury, Drew Brees is out for several weeks with a thumb injury and Nick Foles is out until November with a broken clavicle. Despite all the backups playing, Colin Kaepernick, remains unsigned.

Luke Falk gets the start for the Jets because Sam Darnold has mono and Trevor Siemian was sidelined for the year by a Myles Garrett hit that got a roughing-the-passer penalty. The Jets go to New England and are underdogs by slightly more than 20 points.  Miami is also an underdog by more than 20 in Dallas. It is the first time since 1993 that two teams have been underdogs by more than 17 in the same week and the first time since the 1987 strike season that two have been underdogs by more than 20.

Mason Rudolph steps into the starting lineup for Pittsburgh at San Francisco. The Steelers must believe in him because they traded their 2020 first round to Miami for cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick. It is the first time they traded a first-round pick since 1967, two years before Chuck Noll was hired and turned the team into a dynasty. If Rudolph flops, the Steelers won’t have a first-round pick to try to get a young quarterback.

Teddy Bridgewater decided to stay in New Orleans rather than sign with another team and battle for a starting job. He wasn’t going to play in New Orleans as long as Brees was healthy. Well, now that Brees is out indefinitely with his thumb injury, Bridgewater gets to start at Seattle. This is his chance to show he can be an NFL starter. His future will be determined the next few weeks.

–The Patriots have outscored their foes by 73 points in their first two wins. With the next game up against the Jets, they should become the first modern team to outscore their foes by more than 99 points in the first three since the 1968 Dallas Cowboys outscored their foes 132-33. Kind of fitting in the NFL’s 100 season that the all-time record was set in the league’s first year, when the Rock Island Independents outscored their foes 119-0.

Looking back at NFL Week 2

The NFL puts a lot of emphasis on protecting the quarterbacks, but they still keep going down.

Two quarterbacks who’ve won Super Bowls, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, went down Sunday and will undergo surgery.

Big Ben is out for the year, while the New Orleans Saints hope Brees will be back in six weeks from his thumb injury — but that may be optimistic.

They join Andrew Luck, who retired, Nick Foles, who broke his clavicle, and Sam Darnold, who has mono, on the sidelines.

Monday night, Darnold’s backup, Trevor Siemian, went down on a late hit by Myles Garrett and was lost for the season. So the New York Jets are down to third-team QB Nick Falk. And then on Tuesday, the Panthers announced that Cam Newton’s status is up in the air for Sunday because he aggravated a foot injury.

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