Rookie quarterbacks shine in Week 3
We’re just three weeks into the season and some big storylines are already starting to unfold. Rookie quarterbacks are already starting to make an impact on their teams. First, in Week 1 it was Sam Darnold winning his first career start. In Week 3, Baker Mayfield saw his first real taste of NFL action on Thursday night when he entered the game for the Browns. After Tyrod Taylor got off to a slow start, Hue Jackson decided to make the quarterback switch and it paid off big time. Mayfield finished the game with 201 yards on 17 of 23 attempts, and although he didn’t throw for a touchdown, he still (technically) found a way to get into the endzone.
Not only did the Browns get to see their quarterback of the future in action, but for the first time since Week 16 of the 2016 season, the Cleveland Browns won a game. Offseason addition Carlos Hyde provided a huge chunk of the offense, rushing for 98 yards and two touchdowns. In the end, the Browns beat the Jets 21-17 to earn their first win of the season. While it’s early in the year, the win was a reason to celebrate in Cleveland and there was more than enough Bud Light for everyone.
For the Jets, the loss was disappointing because 1) it’s Cleveland and 2) they held a 14-3 lead at halftime. Sam Darnold struggled against the Browns defense, throwing for just 169 yards and two interceptions. The lone bright spot for the Jets this game was their running game, as Bilal Powell rushed for 73 yards on 14 carries and Isaiah Crowell rushed for both New York touchdowns in the game.
Mayfield has already been announced as the starting quarterback for Week 4, but it was only a matter of time before the first overall pick beat out Taylor for the starting job. While the people in Cleveland are excited about the performance of their rookie quarterback, he’s not the only one. Sam Darnold of the Jets, Josh Rosen of the Cardinals, and Josh Allen of the Bills have all taken over the starting jobs for their teams. That means four of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the past draft are now starting, while Lamar Jackson has been seeing some action in Baltimore behind the elite Joe Flacco.
Speaking of Josh Allen though, he carried the Bills to one of the biggest upsets in decades against the Minnesota Vikings. I don’t think anybody would have expected the Bills to beat the Vikings, yet they exploded for 27 points in the first half on Sunday and that’s all they needed to win. Allen completed 15 of his 22 passing attempts for 196 yards and a touchdown, but also rushing for two touchdowns as well. In fact, Allen’s rushing ability gave us one of the best highlights of the week.
The Bills defense forced three turnovers, while the Vikings defense came away with none. Kirk Cousins played okay, throwing for 296 yards and a touchdown, but looked average at best for most of the game. While this doesn’t mean that the Bills are better than we thought or that the Vikings are worse (I still think we’ll see the Vikings deep into January), it highlights that anything can happen on Sunday. It was clear that injuries hurt the Vikings, especially the loss of Dalvin Cook in the running game. Without him, the Vikings were limited to just 14 yards on six carries. It’s an embarrassing loss for Minnesota, but it could be the wake up call they need to get their season on track.
Three weeks into the season there are only three teams left with a perfect record: the Rams, Chiefs, and Dolphins. There are also only three teams left without a win: the Cardinals, Texans, and Raiders. Now, a few things stand out about the undefeated teams. First, the Rams defense has only given up 36 points through three games, including a shutout against the Cardinals. It’s clear that the additions of Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have been key in improving their defense, and Brandin Cooks provides Jared Goff with another weapon on offense. The Chiefs have relied on the arm of Patrick Mahomes to win while the defense has struggled, allowing the third most points per game with 30.7. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have gotten off to a hot start and now stand alone at the top of the AFC East standings while the Patriots, Jets and Bills have all struggled.
Looking at the winless teams, some of them are moving in the right direction while some seem to be going nowhere fast. As I mentioned earlier, the Cardinals have made the switch from Sam Bradford to Josh Rosen in a move that everyone saw coming. While Rosen still has to prove himself in the NFL, he gives the Cardinals a better chance to win than Bradford does, evident by their performances this past week. The Texans have come up just short in each of their games this season. They were unable to complete a second half comeback against the Patriots in Week 1, lost to the Titans by 3 points in Week 2, and lost by 5 to the Giants this week. They’ll find their stride as Deshaun Watson becomes more comfortable in his return to action following a season-ending knee injury last year. While things are looking positive for the Cardinals and Texans moving forward, the same can’t be said for the Raiders. Derek Carr has thrown for just 2 touchdowns but 5 interceptions. More concerning is the defense, which seems to have a big hole for some reason…
It might just be because they traded away one of the best defensive players in the NFL just before the season started and Oakland doesn’t have anybody to fill the gap left by Mack. The Raiders are showing some signs of life, but their playoff chances are already starting to slip away and it’s not even October yet.
In case you missed it, check out the Week 2 recap here.