A pair of very, very different streaks are on the line on Sunday when most of the NFL wraps up its September slate. The Broncos, who are looking like one of the best teams in the early part of the season, are trying to extend an impressive streak. The Saints, however, are trying to end an unfortunate one.
The Broncos have won eight September games in a row — a trip to Buffalo to face a rebuilding Bills team is the only thing standing in their way of making it nine straight. The Broncos’ last loss came in the final week of Sept. 2014 (in overtime, no less). Since 2013, they’re 14-1 in the month.
The Saints are the September darlings’ mirror image. They haven’t won a game in September since 2014 and are currently riding a nine-game losing streak in the ninth month. A divisional matchup against the Carolina Panthers and their top-ranked defense is up next. If the Saints pull off the road victory, they’ll get in the win column for the first time this year and can finally listen to Earth, Wind & Fire again.
Aaron Rodgers is looking for that elusive win ... over the Bengals?
Aaron Rodgers is inarguably one of the best quarterbacks of the past decade. He has 100 wins as a starter if you include the playoffs. But curiously, there’s one opposing team that he has yet to beat in his career: the Cincinnati Bengals.
Aaron Rodgers has beaten every NFL team except the Bengals and @Packers at least once in his career (inc. playoffs).— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) September 18, 2017
GB hosts CIN in Week 3
Rodgers is 0-2 against the Bengals, with just a 73.5 quarterback rating — one of his lowest marks against any team — in those two contests.
So far this season, Rodgers has had one “glaring” weakness: He’s already thrown two whole picks, a notably high number for a guy whose career high in interceptions is 13, which came in his first year as a starter. But the Bengals face long odds at Lambeau Field. They’re 0-2 and fired their offensive coordinator after going eight quarters without scoring a touchdown.
In short, Rodgers shouldn’t have much trouble crossing the Bengals off his list and becoming the seventh quarterback to beat 31 different teams. Although, if you ask Rodgers, he already has a win over 31 teams:
Aaron Rodgers on Cincy being only team he hasn't beaten, except #Packers: "I've beaten the Packers a few times. I've had couple bad games."— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) September 20, 2017
While two losses against one team is a coincidence, three would be a trend if the Bengals manage to spring the upset.
The Browns are favored in a game for the first time in two years
The most interesting thing about the Browns’ matchup with the Colts this weekend is that one of these 0-2 teams has to win. And for the first time since 2015, the Browns are actually favored.
But Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton says a Browns win isn’t happening.
"Can't go down 0-3. I don't think we've been down 0-3 since I've been here. So, it can't happen, it won't happen," Hilton said, via the Indianapolis Star.
Neither of these teams is playing decent football. But unless we’re all blessed with a tie on Sunday, either Cleveland or Indianapolis will walk away with a victory, and that alone makes it worth watching.
Cleveland struggled last week against the Ravens, and rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer had a particularly bad day. Kizer left the game for a while with a migraine, and even though he was able to return, his play suffered, and he turned the ball over four times. But in Week 1, Cleveland kept it close against the Steelers.
Indianapolis got blown out by the Rams in Week 1 but made it a game against the Cardinals last week and lost in overtime. Andrew Luck is still out, and the Colts are rolling with Jacoby Brissett in Week 3. Brissett is better than Scott Tolzien, sure. But he threw for 216 yards with no touchdowns and a pick against the Cardinals last week.
The bottom line is this: These teams seem to be pretty evenly matched on paper. So not only will one of them break its winless streak so far this season, but it might actually be a pretty good game.
Will Lions OL Graham Glasgow finally get his turn to celebrate?
This offseason, the NFL decided to chill a bit on penalizing celebrations. So far, most players have been rather restrained in their touchdowns, but a few have tapped into their creative potential. In their win over the Giants on Monday night, Lions receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones acted out a pingpong game, while left guard Graham Glasgow looked on awkwardly:
We’re holding them to that. If Tate or Jones makes it into the end zone, Glasgow better get a chance to shine.
As long as the Lions game against the Falcons — the only matchup between 2-0 teams this week — doesn’t devolve into a field-goal fest, we should get some kind of sporty celebration when either team scores a touchdown.
Are the Chargers going to lose in gut-punch fashion again?
The Chargers came into the 2017 season as a betting favorite against the Broncos but have since fallen into an 0-2 hole behind two devastating losses. In Week 1, a blocked 44-yard field-goal attempt erased a last-minute chance to send their season opener to overtime. In Week 2, Younghoe Koo lined up for another 44-yarder with 10 seconds on the clock as Los Angeles trailed Miami 19-17 — and the rookie kicker pushed it wide right.
Heartbreaking defeat is a Chargers tradition, no matter how much the current team wishes that wasn’t the case:
#Chargers HC Anthony Lynn on two close losses: We're not going to flinch. We're not the same old Chargers. It's just two games— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) September 21, 2017
In 2016, nine of their 11 losses were by one possession or less. On Sunday, they’ll face a Chiefs team that looks like the class of the NFL through two weeks. Kansas City is a 3-point favorite in Los Angeles, which seems like the perfect spread for a Chargers team just good enough to get fans’ hopes up before crushing them.
The Jaguars return to London to ruin football for the United Kingdom
Sunday marks the fifth straight year in which the Jaguars have played in England, and the NFL may have selected the worst possible opponent for Jacksonville’s overseas showcase. The Jags struggled against Tennessee last week, scoring only three points in the first three quarters before adding a pair of touchdowns in garbage time. In Week 3, they’ll face a Ravens defense that ranks second in the league in scoring and has forced more turnovers than anyone else.
That’s terrible news for Blake Bortles, the embattled Jacksonville quarterback who has just one more win (12) than pick-sixes (11) in his career.
Deshaun Watson faces the biggest challenge yet: a game in Foxborough
Deshaun Watson won a national championship last year at Clemson, and he won his first game as an NFL starting quarterback last week. But this week, it gets even harder:
Look out Deshaun Watson: No rookie QB has gone into NE & beaten Belichick since he took over in 2000. 0-8, 5 TD, 16 INT, 50.7 passer rating— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) September 20, 2017
Watson will take on the Patriots, led by a head coach who enjoys finding new and creative ways to overwhelm young quarterbacks. Last week’s win came against the hapless Bengals and featured some mediocre passing numbers — 125 passing yards and only 5.2 yards per attempt, well lower than the stats Brock Osweiler averaged in his regrettable Houston tenure.
He’ll have the chance to face the league’s 31st-ranked passing defense Sunday, but the odds of a big performance are decidedly not in Watson’s favor. With a better-than-expected pass rush and the cornerback combo of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore still waiting to sync up, it could be a long day for the rookie.