NFL snap judgements, week three: Bills stun the Vikings, Drew Brees gets it done and the Patriots fall to 1-2

Alex Finnis
The Telegraph
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen helped the Bills to a shock victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday - Getty Images North America
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen helped the Bills to a shock victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday - Getty Images North America

What a season this is. I mean, not for people whose job it is to try and predict anything, but for fans of topsy turvy games and blowing up narratives this has been the best start to an NFL campaign in years.

Three weeks in and there are only about three teams you could confidently say are contenders, or around 25, depending on how you look at it.

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Here’s everything we learned from a third straight week of - let’s be honest - silly NFL fixtures.

The Bills beat the Vikings, and now nothing makes sense anymore

If there’s any game that defines this weird, nonsensical NFL season, it’s this one. Rarely does a team go into a fixture such a heavy favourite as the Vikings did on Sunday against Buffalo, and yet somehow the Bills dominated them in every aspect of the game.

Kirk Cousins threw the ball more than double as many times Josh Allen did, and yet the Vikings could only muster a measly six points - a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph - over 60 minutes. Allen, meanwhile, looked assured and encouraging for a Bills team who were simply wretched over the first two weeks.

Buffalo may once again do just enough this season to cheat themselves out of a top-tier draft pick. It’s honestly a talent.

The Patriots have some very real concerns

<span>Kerryon Johnson finally broke the Lions' long streak without a 100-yard rusher</span> <span>Credit: (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski) </span>
Kerryon Johnson finally broke the Lions' long streak without a 100-yard rusher Credit: (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

Three days after the Browns snapped their dismal 635-day winless streak, the Lions broke a painful 70-game stretch without a 100-yard rusher. Kerryon Johnson managed exactly one yard more as Matt Patricia’s Lions stunned his former employer and dumped the Patriots into a 1-2 hole.

New England showed exactly why they traded for Josh Gordon - with ‘Flash’ kept on the sidelines with a hamstring injury the Pats’ receiver room was so devoid of a deep threat even Tom Brady couldn’t make magic happen. Rob Gronkowski was their top receiver with just 51 yards, and they struggled to put anything together on the ground too.

With the Dolphins cruising at 3-0 in the AFC East, Bill Belichick has some big, tough questions to ask of his Patriots ahead of their divisional clash next weekend.

The 49ers’ season may be dust

The San Francisco 49ers fear Jimmy Garoppolo may have torn his ACL. If those fears are realised they may as well put ice on their season right now.

Even with Garoppolo the Niners have looked at least a season away from contending in the NFC, but when his left leg buckled on a fourth quarter scramble their fans may have well started to etch the gravestone for their 2018 hopes.

On the other side the Chiefs offense showed once again why it’s the most talked about unit in the NFL right now. They had 35 points on the board before the first half was even out, and Patrick Mahomes completed 24 of his 38 pass attempts for 314 yards and three touchdowns. Are third straight AFC Offensive Player of the Week honours on the way?

The Saints edge an overtime divisional thriller

<span>Drew Brees pulled off a vital comeback for the Saints in Atlanta</span> <span>Credit: (Jason Getz/USA Today) </span>
Drew Brees pulled off a vital comeback for the Saints in Atlanta Credit: (Jason Getz/USA Today)

It took a Drew Brees rushing touchdown in overtime for the Saints to see off their bitter rivals from Atlanta in a compelling offensive clash in New Orleans. Rookie receiver Calvin Ridley blew up for 146 yards and three scores for the Falcons but it wasn’t enough to see them past a Saints team which relied heavily on Alvin Kamara in both the running and passing game.

Kamara finished just shy of 200 all-purpose yards as the Saints came from behind to give themselves a chance of sitting top equal in the NFC South come week four. Ryan Fitzpatrick may have something to say about that, of course.

The Ravens prove they’re a legit AFC contender

This Ravens-Broncos matchup looked like a game in which one team would get found out. In the end it was the 2-0 Broncos who displayed their frailties and missed rookie revelation Phillip Lindsay for much of the game after the running back got himself ejected for throwing punches.

It was an ugly game in which the Ravens receiving corps again looked worlds apart from anything they’ve had in recent memory. Joe Flacco finally has an armoury of diverse, interesting weapons and is putting them to good use. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baltimore sitting on top of the AFC North come New Year.

Adrian Peterson drills a hole through the Packers

<span>Adrian Peterson is proving he still has plenty left in the tank</span> <span>Credit: (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) </span>
Adrian Peterson is proving he still has plenty left in the tank Credit: (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

So far this season the Redskins have looked great, then totally useless, then great again. It’s no coincidence that both those great days came when Adrian Peterson looked like the league-leading rusher of old.

Peterson averaged more than six yards a carry as he racked up 120 yards and two scores in the ground, while tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis both had big days against a defense which didn’t know how to contain them.

Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, looks crocked, and wasn’t able to inspire the magical one-legged comeback that helped the Packers beat the Bears in week one. He won’t want to, but may need some time on the sidelines to get healthy.

The Rams look like the best team in the NFL right now

In a league where the Patriots and Eagles look fallible, the Steelers are imploding and the Vikings are getting beat up by the Bills, the LA Rams are showing week after week why they were one of the favourites for the Super Bowl coming into the season.

This team doesn’t really have a weak spot, and was comfortable in seeing off the Chargers in a battle for LA supremacy that in all honesty was decided more than a year ago. This week it was Robert Woods who was Jared Goff’s favourite target after Brandin Cooks had a huge game in week two, while Todd Gurley once again put up more than a century of yards on the ground.

I’m not saying the Rams are a 16-0 team, but they’re suddenly big favourites in what could be a decisive NFC clash with Minnesota next Sunday.

The Christian McCaffrey breakout game has arrived

<span>Christian McCaffrey had his biggest game to date in a Panthers jersey</span> <span>Credit: (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek) </span>
Christian McCaffrey had his biggest game to date in a Panthers jersey Credit: (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)

With Joe Mixon out for the Bengals, all eyes were on second-year Panther Christian McCaffrey in the backfield, and he dominated the Cincinnati defense in his best display for Carolina to date. The Stanford project chalked up 184 yards over 28 carries at an average of 6.6 per attempt, proving a point to all those naysayers who insist he can’t run between the tackles.

Cam Newton scored two touchdowns with his legs as the Panthers saw off a dangerous Bengals team, but it was the defense who won the game. Andy Dalton was intercepted four times - one by British defensive end Efe Obada in his first NFL game - as the unit got its swagger back after an off week in Atlanta.

Eli Manning rolls back the years

The Giants finally put a display together in condemning the Texans to 0-3 and getting out of their own worrying slump. Manning completed 25 of his 29 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns and unleashed both Odell Beckham Junior and Sterling Shepard out wide, at last making use of the embarrassment of riches at his disposal.

Manning was supported by an 82-yard display from Saquon Barkley on the ground and three sacks of Deshaun Watson from his defense.

It was again too little too late from Houston, who keep missing opportunities in an open AFC South. Watson again struggled with accuracy, completing just 24 of his 40 passes for 385 yards, two touchdowns and a pick.

<span>The Miami are a surprise 3-0 heading into their clash with the Patriots in week four</span> <span>Credit: (Steve Mitchell/USA Today) </span>
The Miami are a surprise 3-0 heading into their clash with the Patriots in week four Credit: (Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

Elsewhere in the NFL…

  • The Miami Dolphins climbed to an unlikely 3-0 by knocking down the Raiders and ensuring Jon Gruden made the worst possible start in his return to Oakland. The one positive for the Californians? A huge 173-yard game from Jordy Nelson.

  • Carson Wentz looked only a little ring rusty as his Eagles edged past the Colts in a tight affair in Philadelphia. The bigger concern was about his opposite number - Andrew Luck gave way to backup Jacoby Brissett for a late hail mary attempt, showing Luck’s arm strength still isn’t fully back following his long layoff.

The Titans levelled up with the Jaguars atop the AFC South by overcoming Jacksonville 9-6 in a touchdown-free game in Florida. For all Blake Bortles’ heroics against New England last week he just couldn’t get anything going on Sunday. A disappointing reality check for the Jags.

The Chicago Bears now sit alone on top of the NFC North after coming from behind to beat the Cardinals and moving to 2-1. Sam Bradford was yanked from the field in favour of Josh Rosen late in the fourth quarter in what should signal a new era under the rookie in Arizona.

A big game from running back Chris Carson ensured the Seahawks didn’t fall to an ignominious 0-3 against the Cowboys. Dak Prescott was intercepted twice as the same troubling questions continued to plague the Dallas receiver room. Are they going to rue cutting Dez Bryant after all?

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