The NFL is really all about wild, wild west early on.
With the NFL season in full swing, we’re getting a better picture of what to expect this season, and through three weeks, there are plenty of surprises across the league, mostly happening out in the AFC and NFC West.
The 3-0 Cardinals sit tied with the Rams atop the NFC West right now, with Kyler Murray’s MVP candidacy pushing Arizona closer to contender than they have been in recent years. In the AFC, the undefeated Raiders and Broncos both sit tied atop the division — while the mighty Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs fall to 1-2 and in the cellar of the division.
The good news: It’s just Week 3, so 14 games remaining will likely tell the story.
Here are your Week 3 winners and losers:
NFL Week 3 winners and losers
Winner: Daniel Jones, Giants
The Giants may have lost (again) and wasted another good Daniel Jones performance (again) but Jones’ positive trend through the first three games this season is a uncomfortable but fair trade-off for New York’s 0-3 start.
Turnovers have plagued Jones through the first two years of his Giants career, but this year he’s kept it pretty clean, and with that, he’s limiting questions of his viability as a franchise passer moving forward for the Giants.
Not to say Jones has been perfect, because that’s not necessarily the case: He still has the pocket awareness of a toddler in a crib and his ball placement leaves something to be desired. But without Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard for most of Sunday’s matchup vs. the Falcons, Jones went 24-of-35 passing for 266 yards. No touchdowns, though.
Jones has been one of the lone stars of the Giants’ early season — and he may stay that way if New York doesn’t turn it around, and turn it around fast.
Loser: Matt Nagy, Bears
It might be the Windy City, but there’s no excuse for the Bears offense to blow like this.
The Bears were handed a massive, demoralizing L at the hands of the Myles Garrett and the Browns on Sunday. It was a loss so bad it should count for two.
Justin Fields was hit all game vs. the Browns, sacked nine times in the 26-6 drubbing. Fields was sacked nine times in the loss, throwing the ball 20 times and connecting on just six passes. Nagy and the coaching staff should hold a lot of responsibility for how bad Fields got battered and how atrocious the offense looked.
Just consider it: Knowing Fields was the passer of the future and will be in game sooner rather than later, the coaching staff’s inability to adjust — or worse, gameplan — for Fields’ unique skillset means that there seems to be very little coaching happening in Chicago. That can’t happen for a guy in his fourth season as head coach.
Winner: Justin Tucker, Ravens
All the hype surrounding numbers this year, abut “66” might be one of the most impressive.
Even with the help of the crossbar, Justin Tucker ekeing in the 66-yard field goal to get the Ravens the win and escape Detroit with their second win of the season is only a good thing. The kick masked Hollywood Brown’s two touchdown-pass drops and gave Baltimore a big win over a surprisingly gutty and gritty Lions team.
Loser: Rookie quarterbacks
As it turns out, maybe you should give rookie passers more than two weeks before anointing them saviors, or busts or OK, or bad or anything, really.
The Bears’ Justin Fields, Patriots’ Mac Jones, Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence and Jets’ Zach Wilson all were cooked like football Sunday chili in Week 3, and all were handed losses on Sunday. The Ls brought the 2021 NFL Draft starting QB records to a combined 1-9 altogether, with Lawrence, Wilson and Fields all still searching for their first win.
That might be unfair, considering all the situations and expectations are different, but so far, none of the rookie passers have exactly been lighting the league on fire. Wow. Consider that — Rookies playing poorly.
Who’da thunk it?
Winner: Matthew Stafford, Rams
Stafford’s national coming-out party is off to a great start with the 3-0 Rams knocking off the defending champion Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon. Stafford has been money so far for Sean McVay, certainly rewarding the faith for Les Snead and the Rams to send two future first-round picks to the Lions for his services.
LA’s divorce with Jared Goff has worked out well for everybody involved: Stafford threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns in the win on Sunday, while Goff gets a second chance at starting in Detroit, and he hasn’t exactly blown the opportunity just yet. That counts for something, right?
Loser: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
The Steelers’ situation feels eerily familiar to that of what the Giants went though with Eli Manning in 2019: Saddled with aging franchise passers and pretty bad offensive lines, the both teams opted to draft running backs in an effort to take the pressure off their QBs and mask issues elsewhere.
While the options for future passer weren’t exactly rampant (they never are) this past offseason for Pittsburgh, the Steelers opted to select Najee Harris in the first round to try and mask the issues of Roethlisberger. That hasn’t exactly worked so far, and the 39-year-old looks markedly worse at his point than he did last year.
With a one-TD, two-INT performance on Sunday, the Steelers fell to 1-2 on the year and are now staring at a division that may be primed to pass them by, with each team boasting a young QB of their own.
Here’s hoping Roethlisberger and the Steelers don’t regret their decision to run it back again. So far, it doesn’t look promising.
Winner: Broncos defense
Even without Bradley Chubb, the Broncos defense destroyed the Jets at home and pushed Denver to their first 3-0 start since 2016, the last year of Peyton Manning’s tenure.
Yes, the win was against the hapless, winless Jets, but good defenses take advantage of bad offenses and don’t rest on their laurels and reputation. We’ll see how far Teddy Bridgewater can carry the offense, but the Denver defense so far is certainly holding up its end of the bargain: They’ve allowed just 26 points through their first three games. That’ll play.
Loser: John Mara, Giants
Mara, Giants owner, was booed by Giants fans during the Eli Manning number retirement ceremony on Sunday afternoon. That’s not a great look for a pretty proud NFL franchise.
But, who can blame the Giants faithful? New York is 0-3 and got pantsed by the Falcons at the buzzer on Sunday afternoon. What’s worse: They’re actually wasting good games from Daniel Jones, who has been pretty turnover-free through three games so far this season.
The Giants are facing a tough stretch in their schedule, with road games vs. the Saints and Cowboys before returning home to play the Rams. It’s early, but their playoff window might slam shut if they don’t pick up some wins in the coming weeks.
Winner: Los Angeles football
The Rams and Stafford look like early Super Bowl contenders.
The Chargers and Justin Herbert look like legitimate threats in the AFC West after upending the Chiefs on Sunday.
While there were more Cowboys fans in attendance last Sunday than there were Chargers fans, Justin Herbert will be sure to make sure that won’t be the case moving forward if he continues to play how he did on Sunday.
Loser: New York football
I mean, good god, can it get any worse for New York football?
The Jets and Giants are a combined 0-6 to start the season and they once again are winless in the month of September.
The worst part about it: Both NYC teams aren’t exactly finding new ways to lose. The Jets have looked noncompetitive through three games and the Giants have lost heartbreakers through their first three games. Same old song and dance.
The losses by the #Giants and #Jets mean they closed the month a combined 0-6. Over the last 10 seasons, the NY teams are 20-49 in September, with just one winning opening month for each team in that span.
The NFL’s biggest market. Two teams. Irrelevant before October. Again.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) September 26, 2021
Maybe one day NYC pigskin fans can get through September without looking forward to Knicks basketball.
Well, there’s always next year, Jets and Giants fans. Again.