After the first two weeks of the season, a whopping eight NFL teams are in a state of flux at the quarterback position. The Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Giants all have endured at least one change at quarterback, with only the Colts having the luxury of getting a heads up before the season opener.
Twenty quarterbacks age 26 or under are starting this week, including two who already played on Thursday night. There haven’t even been 19 such starters in an NFL week in 32 years and 20 is a first in the Super Bowl era.
One of Week 3′s highlights is a showdown between two of the 26-and-under set, men who also happen to be two of the most exciting quarterbacks this season: Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. The fireworks might be a little soggy, though, on a rainy day in Arrowhead Stadium.
Sunday’s action concludes with what should be a good game between the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns, even if the latter team is coming off a short week following Monday night’s win over the Jets.
All times Eastern.
|1||Bengals at Bills||CBS|
|1||Lions at Eagles||Fox|
|1||Jets at Patriots||CBS|
|1||Raiders at Vikings||Fox|
|1||Ravens at Chiefs||CBS|
|1||Falcons at Colts||CBS|
|1||Broncos at Packers||Fox|
|1||Dolphins at Cowboys||Fox|
|4:05||Giants at Buccaneers||Fox|
|4:05||Panthers at Cardinals||Fox|
|4:25||Steelers at 49ers||CBS|
|4:25||Saints at Seahawks||CBS|
|4:25||Texans at Chargers||CBS|
|8:20||Rams at Browns||NBC|
The early shift
Bengals (0-2) at Bills (2-0), 1, CBS
Cincinnati’s defense held the Seahawks in check in a season-opening loss but gave up 572 total yards (including 259 rushing) in a Week 2 loss to the 49ers. More troubling was the defense’s inability to pressure Jimmy Garoppolo, failing to come up with a sack after getting four against Russell Wilson. Quarterback Andy Dalton ranks second in the NFL in passing yards (729) and first in completions (61). For the Bills, Josh Allen has completed 68 percent of his passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns in the last six quarters. With a rushing touchdown against the Giants, he became the second-fastest quarterback in NFL history to score 10 rushing touchdowns (in his 14th game). Cam Newton accomplished the feat in his 11th.
Lions (1-0-1) at Eagles (1-1), 1, Fox
The banged-up Eagles, facing a quick turnaround with a Sept. 26 game against the Packers, skipped practice Wednesday, opting for a walk-through and prayers that pass catchers Dallas Goedert and Alshon Jeffery heal quickly, with DeSean Jackson already declared out. A home game might be just what they need; the Eagles have the NFL’s second-best home winning percentage (.778) since 2016. (The Patriots’ is .862.) The Lions are somewhat mystifying. They led the Cardinals, 24-6, before settling for a tie and beat the Chargers narrowly at home in Week 2. The defense came up with a late interception of a Philip Rivers pass to key the win over the Chargers and has forced three turnovers.
Jets (0-2) at Patriots (2-0), 1, CBS
Pity the Jets. Coach Adam Gase hopes to have quarterback Sam Darnold back from his bout with mono around Week 5 (“if his spleen bursts, we have a problem”) and his replacement, Trevor Siemian, suffered a season-ending ankle injury Monday night, leaving Le’Veon Bell as the backup quarterback to Luke Falk. Now, on a short week, they go on the road to play the Patriots and the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense. The Patriots have their own drama, having released Antonio Brown on Friday after less than two weeks. The Patriots’ defense leads the NFL, which means that Bill Belichick vs. Luke Falk will be (sarcasm alert) a bit of a mismatch. The Patriots have outscored the Steelers and Dolphins by 73 points; another dominating performance could put them into historical territory. If the Patriots allow nine or fewer points on defense, they’d set a record for fewest points allowed over the first three games in the Super Bowl era. Running back James White will not play because his wife is giving birth.
Raiders (1-1) at Vikings (1-1), 1, Fox
Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook is the league’s early rushing leader, with 265 yards and three touchdowns. He also has the longest gain, running 75 yards for a touchdown at Green Bay. The Vikings still have to be smarting at letting a victory get away in Green Bay. An offensive pass interference call on Cook negated a TD pass to Stefon Diggs that could have cut the lead to five in the third quarter. Then there was that horribly ill-advised Kirk Cousins toss that the Packers intercepted in the end zone. Although his body of work might suggest otherwise, Cousins promised that next time he’s in that situation, “I’m going to throw it away.” Oakland has the league’s worst pass defense (facing Patrick Mahomes will do that to a team). The Raiders’ best hope may be running back Josh Jacobs; the Vikings gave up 144 yards rushing to the Packers.
Ravens (2-0) at Chiefs (2-0), 1, CBS
The rap on the Ravens and Jackson is that they haven’t faced stiff competition, compiling an 82-27 scoring advantage against Miami and Arizona. Jackson has completed 41 of 57 passes for 596 yards, seven touchdowns and a 145.2 passer rating while carrying the ball 19 times for 126 yards. “Not bad for a running back,” he cracked. Baltimore has the NFL’s top-ranked offense, but much of that is attributable to the bloodbath victory over the Dolphins. The Chiefs aren’t known for their defense, but this is a far more formidable team than either of the Ravens’ first two opponents. K.C. is second in the AFC in yards and points. Mr. Mahomes will be playing in his 20th NFL game and, through 19 games, no NFL player has had more passing yards (6.202), passing touchdowns (57) or a higher passer rating (114.5 with a minimum of 100 attempts) over his first 20 games.
Falcons (1-1) at Colts (1-1), 1, CBS
Averaging only 65 yards rushing (fifth worst in the NFL), the Falcons are in desperate need of establishing the run. Julio Jones bailed them out last week in a win over the Eagles, but Matt Ryan’s three interceptions could be a sign of a problem, and the Colts’ pass defense is stout. The biggest Colts story last week surrounded kicker Adam Vinatieri and his seemingly ageless right leg. That leg, like Vinatieri, will turn 47 in December and last week’s dismal performance, in which he missed two of three extra-point attempts, left him vaguely hinting at retirement.
Broncos (0-2) at Packers (2-0), 1, Fox
Green Bay has relied more on its defense than on the talents of Aaron Rodgers as the offense has managed 31 points in games against the Bears and Vikings defenses (ranked fourth and 15th in the league). The quarterback has had flashy moments, but hasn’t passed for more than 209 yards in either game as he and new coach Matt LaFleur continue to work out the kinks. Last week, Rodgers wore a list of plays on a wristband for the first time in his career. The Broncos lost their home opener to the Bears on a last-second field goal and rank 28th in the NFL with 30 points scored. Adding Joe Flacco to an offense that has been one of the NFL’s worst doesn’t appear to have helped.
Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0), 1, Fox
The Dolphins gave up somewhere around the end of the first quarter of their opener, so how on earth are they to beat the Cowboys, a team with the NFC’s top-ranked offense (averaging 484 yards and 33 points)? Miami, shut out at home for the first time in nine years last week by the Patriots, has the worst point differential (minus 92) of any team in modern NFL history through two games. The Cowboys, winners of five of the last six games between the teams, are chasing their first 3-0 start since 2008. The apparently tanking Dolphins haven’t had an 0-3 start since 2011.
Giants (0-2) at Buccaneers (1-1), 4:05, Fox
Here’s how to add intrigue to what might not have been the sexiest game on the schedule: Swivel from a two-time Super Bowl winner to a rookie at quarterback in an attempt to save your season and transition to the future. The Giants did just that, with Eli Manning moving to the bench and Daniel Jones getting the start in Tampa. Manning put the best spin on it he could, saying, “I’m not dying, and the season’s not over.” No, but it would be close to being over with another loss. This much is certain: The team cannot waffle between the two men. It committed to Jones and, barring injury, it must stick with him. Tampa quarterback Jameis Winston had a turnover-free game against the Panthers, so perhaps Bruce Arians’s work with him is starting to pay off.
Panthers (0-2) at Cardinals (0-1-1), 4:05, Fox
The NFC South is the only division without a two-win team, but the Panthers seem ill-suited to capitalize now that Cam Newton is out and undrafted second-year quarterback Kyle Allen is under center. Allen appeared in two games last season, completing 20 of 31 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns (one of 53 yards) and had a 113.1 passer rating. The Cardinals were able to move the ball against the Ravens, but settled for three field goals inside the 5-yard line. Kyler Murray keeps them in games, but now Kliff Kingsbury must add a running game to the mix.
Steelers (0-2) at 49ers (2-0), 4:25, CBS
Look out, Steelers: Kyle Shanahan’s offense is beginning to fulfill its promise with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo leading the way. In a rout of the Bengals last week, the 49ers put up 572 yards on offense, with four pass plays of 30 or more yards (and six of 20 or more) and nine runs of 10 or more yards. With the NFC West shaping up as the league’s toughest division, the Niners can’t afford a letup. Also, just plain, look out, Steelers. This is already shaping up as a lost season for them, with Ben Roethlisberger out for the duration because of elbow surgery. This was going to be Mason Rudolph’s team soon, anyway, but the transition is coming sooner than expected. Running back James Conner was optimistic that a knee injury wouldn’t prevent him from playing.
Saints (1-1) at Seahawks (2-0), 4:25, CBS
Since hiring Pete Carroll in 2010, the Seahawks have gone 15-0 at home in the month of September. With Drew Brees out six to eight weeks after having surgery for a thumb injury, Teddy Bridgewater will make only his second start in three years, but Sean Payton wasn’t ruling out using Taysom Hill in an effort to keep Seattle guessing. Even Brees, though, might have struggled in CenturyLink Field. Bridgewater, who hasn’t started a road game since the 2015 regular-season finale when he was with the Vikings, will face a tough challenge.
Texans (1-1) at Chargers (1-1), 4:25, CBS
If the Texans (who’ve lost by two points and won by one) are to take advantage of a middling AFC South, winning this game would be a good place to start. They must do a better job of protecting quarterback DeShaun Watson, who was sacked four times by the Jaguars. While Chargers running back Melvin Gordon continues to hold out, Austin Ekeler has averaged 4.3 yards per carry, gaining 124 yards in two games. Despite having over 400 yards offense, the Chargers were doomed by a Philip Rivers interception late in the loss against the Lions. Rivers’s career 120.6 passer rating against the Texans is his second highest against any opponent.
The night game
Rams (2-0) at Browns (1-1), 8:20, NBC
The Browns, the league’s offseason darlings, beat the Jets on Monday night, but Baker Mayfield only really flashed last season’s form on a pass to Odell Beckham Jr. (made terrific by Beckham’s one-handed effort). Running back Nick Chubb could help matters by improving on his 3.9-yard average. Jared Goff had a nice all-around game against the Saints, with receiver Cooper Kupp breaking the Saints. Goff has beaten AFC teams eight consecutive times, but the Rams have to stop Myles Garrett, who had three sacks against the Jets.
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