When Teddy Bridgewater went down, NFL writers feverishly scrubbed the Vikings from their preseason Super Bowl predictions. Last week, they lost Adrian Peterson for the year. Everyone wondered if that Week 2 against the Packers might be their last. Not many were picking them this week against on the road against the Panthers -- they were 7-point underdogs.
All they managed to do this week was beat up Cam Newton and hold the Panthers to just 10 points in a 22-10 win. They’re winning similar to how the Broncos did last year, scoring enough points with a so-so offense that doesn’t turn the ball over and suffocates opponents with the defense.
The Vikings picked off Newton three times. They have a league-best +8 turnover ratio. Minnesota sacked Newton EIGHT times, and they now lead the NFL with 15 sacks through three games.
You see what I’m getting at here.
When the season started, we just assumed the Patriots would have to squeak by during Tom Brady’s absence. They went 2-0. Then, they lost Jimmy Garoppolo, and went into last Thursday night’s game as underdogs with rookie Jacoby Brissett under center. They’re 3-0, just like Minnesota.
Nothing seems capable of derailing either of these teams.
The Packers season isn’t over after all
Green Bay’s offense failed to score 20 points in a loss to the Vikings last week. Turns out, scoring points against that team is not easy! We overlooked that fact. It’s become so easy to take Aaron Rodgers and that offense for granted that when they’re not exploding for 30 points and flinging long-ass touchdown passes, we tend to think something’s wrong.
Maybe something was wrong, but it apparently seems to be fixed. Rodgers was 15-of-24 passing for 205 yards, no interceptions, and four touchdowns, all of which he threw in the first half of a 34-27 win over the Lions.
Fire Gus Bradley
Jacksonville had the chance to win this game, several of them. A blocked kick, interceptions that turned into interceptions (Blake Bortles had three of them) and a slow start to the game doomed them.
This was a home game, too, another close loss, an ugly one at that, in front of fans who’ve had enough.
The Jags are 0-3 in Bradley’s fourth season as head coach, one with a roster loaded with talent. Instead of anything positive, we’re talking about Bortles regressing, a defense that’s had its aggressiveness sapped and a head coach who has nothing but dumb platitudes to offer.
"As the head coach, I'm the problem solver."— John Oehser (@JohnOehser) September 25, 2016
--Jaguars HC Gus Bradley
They’re playing the Colts in the U.K. next week. Those London games have been brutal for coaches in the past. If Bradley can’t find a way to win, he has the chance to be the third coach in three seasons to get fired after a loss at Wembley.
Jim Schwartz isn’t a jerk
I don’t want to take anything away from Carson Wentz’s incredible start to his career (three games, no picks) but the biggest difference in Philadelphia is defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Beating up on the Bears and Browns was easy enough. But it’s not so easy to limit the Steelers to three points.
This is largely the same personnel collection that made the Eagles one of the reliably worst defenses in the league from week to week under Chip Kelly. Schwartz has found a way to turn that group, which always had talented players like Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, etc., into one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL right now. They sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times. Antonio Brown finished the game with 140 yards, but he never found the end zone. The other receivers barely had room to breathe.
What’s his secret?
Malcolm Jenkins: "Jim (Schwartz) is not as big a jerk as you might think." pic.twitter.com/hwoxmS9OcW— Keith Groller (@KeithGroller) September 26, 2016
There’s already talk about Schwartz getting another shot at a head coaching gig in 2017. And in a league where Mike Mularkey and Dirk Koetter can get head coaching job, it makes a world of sense for someone to hire him. I hope he stays with the Eagles for another year or so, long enough to groom a successor there and enough time to make sure he can handle the pressures of captaining his own ship again.
Another great week for rookie quarterbacks
If Wentz can get through his next two games without throwing an interception, he should be able to beat Tom Brady’s record of 162 pass attempts without an interception to start his career.
The Eagles’ rookie already has his name in the record books. He’s the first rookie with 100 attempts (102), 60 receptions (66), and five touchdowns without a pick.
Look at the other rookie signal callers playing this season. The Patriots created a winning game plan for Jacoby Brissett with not even a full week to prepare. Cody Kessler didn’t really standout in his debut as the Browns’ newest starter (their third this season), but he completed 21 of 33 passes for 244 yards and no picks.
Seahawks rookie Trevone Boykin became the first rookie to throw an interception this season, filling in for an injured Russell Wilson in a drubbing of the 49ers.
Dak Prescott finished the night 19-of-24 passing with 248 yards and one touchdown line in a win against the Bears. He added another 36 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown. It’s probably too soon to start talking up a quarterback controversy whenever Tony Romo does return, but the Cowboys would probably be fine without the veteran.
Speaking of all these rookies finding success, tell me again why the Rams can’t get Jared Goff ready to play?
The Browns found new ways to be sad
Cleveland added kicker Cody Parkey on Saturday. His second day with the team didn’t go very well. He missed three field goals in a 24-30 overtime loss on the road to the Dolphins.
It wasn’t all bad though, thanks to Terrelle Pryor. Coach Hue Jackson used Pryor as the second half of a quarterback platoon with Kessler. Pryor’s mostly a wide receiver, but he was the signal caller at Ohio State back in his college days. He was 3-of-5 with 25 yards passing. Putting him at QB also set up read-option plays that the Dolphins defense couldn’t account for. He ran it four times for 21 yards and a touchdown.
Pryor was also the Browns’ leading receiver with eight catches on 14 targets and 144 yards. He was the first player since Frank Gifford in 1969 to finish a game with 120+ receiving yards, 30 passing yards and 20 rushing yards.
He was a one-man force, which made it especially strange that the Browns didn’t use him on their final drive in overtime. He was targeted once on that drive, resulting in a 9-yard gain to give the Browns a first down. But they opted against the kind of creativity that kept them in the game up to that point.
Earlier in the week, Pryor said he’d do anything to help the Browns win, even cut off a finger. He didn’t have to that, but he did everything else. Unfortunately, the results were the same in the end.
Watch: Browns kicker Cody Parkey had a rough day
Buffalo Bills 33, Arizona Cardinals 18
Denver Broncos 29, Cincinnati Bengals 17
Green Bay Packers 34, Detroit Lions 27
Baltimore Ravens 19, Jacksonville Jaguars 17
Washington 29, New York Giants 27
Oakland Raiders 17, Tennessee Titans 10
Seattle Seahawks 37, San Francisco 49ers 18
Los Angeles Rams 37, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32
Indianapolis Colts 26, San Diego Chargers 22
Kansas City Chiefs 24, New York Jets 3
Dallas Cowboys 31, Chicago Bears 17
The Browns got off to a terrible start in rookie QB Cody Kessler's debut. But we did get to see QB-turned-WR Terrelle Pryor take snaps under center. And catch a few passes. And run the ball a couple of times. And play defense to guard against a Hail Mary. And he probably sold concessions at halftime, too. And he almost beat the Dolphins by himself, until the Browns got in the way.
Patrick Peterson snagged a magnificent one-handed interception against the Bills. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it's been their one highlight of the game.
Packers CB Damarious Randall had the most savage pick of the day when he stole the ball right out of Eric Ebron's hands.
The Packers kick returner once again took advantage of the NFL's rule book to get an opposing kicker to kick out of bounds.
Jamison Crowder's 50-yard punt return was made possible by his incredible juke on the Giants.
The Cardinals got burned by a bad snap again.
Allen Robinson's catch in the end zone was ruled incomplete ... and then overturned. Here's why it was a touchdown.
The Lions committed the biggest pass interference penalty in at least 15 years.
Tyler Lockett had no mercy for 49ers punter Bradley Pinion.
Caraun Reid with the FAT GUY -- er, rumblingest, bumblingest, stumblingest TD!
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw SIX interceptions against the Chiefs. Needless to say, it was the worst passing performance so far this season.
Jalen Ramsey is a rookie, but he isn't afraid to trash talk anyone -- including Steve Smith, the king of trash talk.
Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland left against the Giants with an ankle injury and was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
Safety DeAngelo Hall is done for the year with a torn ACL.
Giants rookie cornerback Eli Apple was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Packers tight end Jared Cook was carted to the locker room with an ankle injury.
The Vikings' injuries continue. Guard Alex Boone was carted off with a hip injury.
Chargers linebacker Manti Te'o was carted off the field with a non-contact leg injury.
Russell Wilson injured his left leg, but only left for one play. Soon after, though, the Seahawks shut him down due to their commanding lead over the 49ers.