Through three weeks of the NFL, we've seen some great action, and we've seen some terrible football. But more distressingly, we've seen a lot of injuries. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger was the latest victim – if you haven't seen his gruesome knee injury, don't look it up. Just know that knees should not bend the way his did.
Big Ben joins a host of other players who have missed time already this season from injuries, and part of that is due to a lackluster product on the field. In particular, offensive lines have not been playing as well, and it's resulting in quarterbacks and running backs getting hurt.
It's not all bad, though! Here are a few of the highlights from Week 3.
Most Entertaining Game of the Week
Divisional matchups usually have that extra oomph to them. They're big games, since they're crucial in determining playoff seeding (and sometimes, who makes the playoffs at all). What's more, the teams in a division tend to have an extra disdain for each other, so the hits are that much more bone-crunching. The Bengals/Ravens game Sunday was no exception. These two teams almost always play each other close; last year both of their games were decided by a touchdown or fewer. That trend continued, as the Bengals squeezed out a win, 28-24. But this game had just about everything: Andy Dalton scrambled for a touchdown, threw an 80-yard bomb to A.J. Green, and had a fumble returned 41 yards by C.J. Mosley. Steve Smith Sr. caught a 50-yard touchdown pass, and there were four touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the game. As Smith Sr. and Green caught two touchdowns apiece, this was surely a record for most touchdowns scored by players with periods in their name, too. The Bengals move to 3-0, while the Ravens have started 0-3 for the first time in franchise history.
Who Earned His Paycheck?
Speaking of a pair of touchdowns, it seemed like EVERYONE who scored on Sunday did so at least twice. Green, Smith Sr., Julio Jones, Larry Fitzgerald, Keenan Allen, Rishard Matthews, Greg Olsen, Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore and Chris Johnson all found the end zone twice. On top of that, Devonta Freeman, Joseph Randle, LeGarrette Blount punched it in three times. Just some spectacular performances all around by a solid group of players, many of whom were considered washed up as recently as last year.
It's rare that fullbacks get any love, but Atlanta's Patrick DiMarco deserves a shout out for just being a blocking machine. He absolutely flattened a defender en route to Freeman's first touchdown, and was flying all over the field, making blocks high and low to help his backs get more yards. Freeman came into the game averaging fewer than two yards per carry this season, and he finished with 141 yards on 30 carries. DiMarco is a big reason for that. And just for good measure, he added a four-yard catch, as well.
The Arizona Cardinals are on pace to be the highest-scoring football team in NFL history. Of course, there's still a long way to go, but right now they're averaging 42 points a game. They've done it via incredibly efficient red zone production, scoring touchdowns on 11 of 12 red zone drives, and the only time they had to settle for a field goal was because poor clock management left only one second on the clock at the end of the first half against San Francisco. They've also averaged two return touchdowns per game the past two weeks. Their four return scores through three weeks is just one behind all of last season. Neither of those rates can reasonably be expected to continue, but even so, Arizona is good enough with Carson Palmer at the helm to legitimately challenge for a Super Bowl.
Their likely opponent should they reach the Super Bowl? Through three weeks, it's hard to argue against the New England Patriots. Fans are already salivating at the thought of another 16-0 season, and after scoring more points through the first three weeks than any other season in franchise history, why not go a little wild? Keep in mind the last time the team went undefeated, it was after the whole Spygate scandal. It's not like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick need any extra motivation, but sticking it to the NFL certainly doesn't hurt. Brady threw for the 400th touchdown pass of his career and the Pats didn't punt once in a 51-17 victory over the poor Jacksonville Jaguars.
Aaron Rodgers at home is a nearly unstoppable force, and this win was probably a little extra special for him, as he beat Alex Smith, who was taken 23 picks earlier than Rodgers back in the 2005 NFL Draft. He was his usual efficient self on Monday night, going 24 for 35 for 333 yards and five touchdowns. That gives him 10 scores on the year and no interceptions through the first three games. Only one other player has done that: Peyton Manning in 2013. Rodgers has now gone 16 starts, 486 attempts, and 43 touchdowns without throwing an interception at home. Green Bay was predicted to win the NFC North before the season, but with Chicago and Detroit already banged up and looking like they may never win a game and the Vikings being an untested team, the Pack could run away with the division before too long.
Whose Performance Deserves A "Needs Improvement?"
Starting backup Jimmy Clausen (now 1-10 in his career) and missing their projected starting two wide receivers, you weren't expecting much of the Bears offense. Boy, did they deliver. Totaling just 146 yards in 46 plays, the Bears only converted seven first downs, were 3-for-13 on third down, and Clausen finished 9 for 17 for 63 yards. About the only positive on offense was that Chicago didn't turn the ball over. And even though they won 26-0, the Seahawks didn't look great for much of this game. They slept walked through the entire first half, and if not for Tyler Lockette returning the opening kick of the second half back for 105 yards, who knows if they ever would have gotten anything going. This was just a painful offensive game to watch in general.
While we're on the topic of painful things, the effort the 49ers has put out the past two weeks is physically causing harm to anyone watching their games. They've allowed a combined 90 points, and Colin Kaepernick looked especially anemic in this one, throwing two hideous pick sixes within the first six minutes of the game. That included one to Justin Bethel, who was playing his first defensive snap all season. Kaep did add a rushing score and 46 yards on the ground, but 9-for-19, 67 yards passing, two sacks and four interceptions doesn't quite cut it. After a Week 1 win, it seemed like maybe San Francisco wouldn't be nearly as bad as everyone thought after a fire sale this offseason, but if this keeps up…hey, at least the city's had three baseball championships in the past five years, right?
Ryan Tannehill had dropped back 157 times in a row without throwing an interception. He tossed three in Sunday's loss to the Bills, including a back-breaking one with under two minutes left in the first half. That made it 24-0, and it would get to 27-0 before the Dolphins even put points up on the scoreboard. Tannehill hasn't made the leap he was expected to this year, particularly after signing a big contract in the offseason. The rest of the Dolphins haven't looked much better. There was one play where the defense looked like they were in the middle of a game of "Simon Says" and nobody had told them "Simon Says 'play defense.'" Tyrod Taylor had such an easy pass to Chris Hogan that even you or I could have successfully made the throw.
Bucs rookie kicker Kyle Brindza knocked in a 58-yard field goal in the second quarter of Tampa Bay's game against Houston. Great start. The good times ended there, though, as Brindza proceeded to miss an extra point, a 33-yard field goal, a 41-yarder, and one from 57 yards out. Considering that's 10 potential points and the Bucs lost 19-9, you could say that had an effect on the game.
Despite escaping with a 35-33 win, the Colts have looked rough this season. Indianapolis found themselves down 27-14 after giving up 27 straight points, then stormed back with 21 in a row of their own before hanging on for the two-point victory. Uneven is the most polite way to describe the Colts' play thus far; they lead the league in drives ending with a turnover, which has happened a whopping 26.5% of the time. They're starting drives from their own 23.2 yard line on average, third-worst in the NFL, and Andrew Luck has made a ton of poor decisions with the football, which explains the absurd turnover rate. To add a curious cherry on top, the Colts are the only team in the league yet to hit a field goal this season – they're 0 for 2. On the bright side, their next two games are against division foes Houston and Jacksonville, and Andrew Luck has won 14 straight games against AFC South opponents. Things could turn out alright for the Colts after all.
Five Fun Facts From Week 3
The combined scores from the three afternoon games – Seattle/Chicago, Buffalo/Miami and Arizona/San Francisco – was 114-21.
With their win over the Redskins, the Giants have beaten them 97 times. That's the most wins for any franchise over a single opponent in NFL history.
New England's Stephen Gostkowski has made 425 extra points in a row, an NFL record.
In Week 14, 2013, Dwayne Bowe caught a touchdown for the Chiefs. 659 days went by before another Kansas City receiver scored a touchdown. Jeremy Maclin finally ended the drought in Monday night's loss to the Packers.
Back in Week 1, #1 overall pick Jameis Winston threw his first career interception against the Titans. It was returned for a touchdown. This week, the Titans' Marcus Mariota threw his first career interception against the Colts. It was returned for a touchdown.
Five Predictions For Week 4
Last Week: 4-1
Hey, look at that! Thanks to Cincinnati and Atlanta's late heroics, and Arizona and Carolina's overall dominance, I'm sitting pretty after three weeks. And if Detroit hadn't collapsed down the stretch, this could have been an undefeated week. Let's cherish this success now, because surely it won't last. Here are five picks for Week 4.
Baltimore -2.5 over PITTSBURGH
An 0-3 team is rarely favored, but this line is taking into account the Steelers being without Big Ben. Michael Vick has been with Pittsburgh for just over a month, which isn't very much time at all to learn an NFL playbook. Since Vick has never run a Todd Haley-style offense before, it could be tough sailing for a couple of weeks, particularly with a short week here. Despite looking really bad at times, the Ravens haven't lost a game by more than six points this year. I think they finally get their first win of the season.
Oakland -3 over CHICAGO
Let me reiterate that Jimmy Clausen stat again: He is 1-10 as a starter. Is Oakland's defense as good as Seattle's? Not at all, but the Raiders have looked good against bad opponents this year. And take it from a Bears fan: they are not a good team.
ARIZONA -6.5 over St. Louis
The Rams' defense has been pretty on point this year, so it's likely Arizona doesn't reach their 42-point average in this game. But St. Louis has been MIA on offense the past two weeks, and while they've been good home underdogs with Jeff Fisher at the helm, they haven't been a good road team. Until the Cards stumble, it's hard not to back them.
Carolina -3 over TAMPA BAY
This definitely makes me a little leery, but the Panthers defense continues to be strong, even missing a few pieces throughout various games this season. And Cam Newton just played his best game of the year, perhaps even one of the best of his career. I think he'll easily win the battle of #1 picks against Jameis Winston, and even if the Bucs don't miss three field goals, Carolina should win by a touchdown.
New York Giants +6 over BUFFALO
The Giants have had a very difficult time with closing out games. They've given up two double-digit leads, and sure didn't make life easy against Washington this past week, either. But they've finally gotten a win, and with a long layoff to prepare for the Bills, they should be able to keep this one close. After all, their two losses are just by five points combined.