After three weeks of professional football, the NFL continues to deliver excitement and drama week after week. This past week included no shortage of surprising outcomes and intriguing developments.
New York Jets vs. Cleveland Browns
On Thursday night, for the first time in 635 days, the Cleveland Browns won a football game. This game started very slowly and with hardly anything worth getting excited about. Late in the first half, Cleveland trailed 14-0 before No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield entered the game for injured starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Mayfield ran a beautiful two-minute drill in his first drive to set up a field goal to cut the score to 14-3 before the half. In the second half, it was all Mayfield and the Browns who outscored the Jets 18-3. Mayfield finished 17/23 for 201 yards and led two excellent touchdown drives that culminated in short Carlos Hyde rushes for scores. The future is upon us in Cleveland as Mayfield will start for the Browns this week and he hopes to bring his winning pedigree to the Browns fanbase that has only known a losing culture for decades.
New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
In this shootout in Atlanta, the Saints had their second consecutive overtime game. This game, again, went their way as they came out on top 43-37 over their NFC South rival. Matt Ryan was awesome for the Falcons, throwing for 374 yards and five touchdowns (three to rookie receiver Calvin Ridley), but the Falcons defense could not get a stop at home whenever it needed one. On the other side, Drew Brees was awesome as usual, throwing for nearly 400 yards and five total touchdowns (two rushing), including a game-winning rushing touchdown in overtime. Additionally, Brees became the NFL all-time leader in career completed passes, passing Brett Favre.
Buffalo Bills vs. Minnesota Vikings
In the most shocking result of the weekend, the lowly Bills walloped the presumed Super Bowl-contending Vikings on the road in Minnesota. The Bills opened as 16.5-point underdogs and went on to win 27-6. Rookie quarterback Josh Allen was awesome, throwing for a touchdown and rushing for two more, and the Bills defense stifled Kirk Cousins and the Vikings defense all game, forcing three Cousins turnovers.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Through three weeks, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense continue to be the story of the NFL. Everybody expected the Chiefs to regress after trading away experienced signal-caller Alex Smith in favor of the young Mahomes, but instead they’ve been the most potent offense in the league and are off to a dominant 3-0 star. Mahomes threw for three more touchdowns on Sunday in the Chiefs’ 38-27 win over San Francisco, pushing his season touchdown total to 13, which puts him on pace to shatter Peyton Manning’s single season record of 55 touchdowns (Mahomes is at a 69-touchdown pace). While it seems inevitable the Chiefs will come back to Earth at some point, they are undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in the AFC this season. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the 49ers lost their $137 Million franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a torn ACL in this game. At 1-2 and without their quarterback, the 49ers season already seems to be a wash.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Los Angeles Rams
In the crosstown battle for Los Angeles, the Rams proved why they will be the team to beat in the NFC this season. The Rams are unquestionably the most complete team in football with its potent offense led by Todd Gurley and Jared Goff and stacked defense led by the likes of Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Marcus Peters. This game against the talented Chargers did nothing but showcase why the Rams are the class of the league as Jared Goff threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns while Todd Gurley added 105 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Week four in the NFL has a number of intriguing matchups to watch for as this is generally the time it becomes clear which teams are for real and which are not. The drama gets started on Thursday night with a huge matchup between the Vikings and Rams in Los Angeles. Additionally, big divisional matchups between the Dolphins and Patriots as well as the Ravens and Steelers on Sunday night could have major playoff implications, even this early in the season. On Monday night, the Chiefs will look to move to 4-0 and keep their offense rolling against the tough Broncos defense in Denver.