Sunday Coffee: NFL News & Notes Week 3
All Access Football contributor Bo Marchionte goes around the league for NFL Week 3
Good morning! We are waking up from a great Saturday of college football and look forward to what the NFL Week 3 schedule has on tap for us.
The league has plenty of injuries taking center stage. Dallas Cowboys stud defensive back Trevon Diggs tore his ACL in practice, Cincinnati Bengals gunslinger Joe Burrow re-aggravated his calf injury and Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson is out with a concussion. Those are just a few of the big name NFL stars who will be absent as Week 3 begins.
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On Thursday Night Football, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the New York Giants 30-12. The 49ers were in control the entire way; however, the Giants kept it respectable compared to their Week 1 debacle against Dallas in the opener, losing 40-0. Now here’s a tam-by-team glance to help give you give you a Sunday jolt!
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New England Patriots
Bill Belichick hopes to avoid an 0-3 start against the former team he was the HC of the NYJ, but never coached. The offense revolves around the run game and Rhamondre Stevenson. Last season, he rushed for 5.0 yards per carry on 210 carries for 1,040 yards. After two weeks, his average is a putrid 2.8 yards per carry and it hasn’t helped that the Patriots offense is passing the football and not allowing the power running back to find a rhythm which most running backs crave. Mac Jones attempted 96 passes in the first two games and his 66 completions led the entire league entering Week 3. Compared to last season, after two weeks he went 42-of-65 passing. Obviously, OC Bill O’Brien is placing a larger emphasis on getting vertical but will that change as the Patriots look for win number one.
The ‘Fins stand alone in first place of the division at 2-0 and will play their first home game of the season when they host the 0-2 Denver Broncos. This could be a high scoring game with each team possessing flammable passing attacks. Denver’s Russell Wilson has five end zone throws after two weeks and only Jordan Love and Kirk Cousins (six) have more. Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa has four over eight quarters of action into the 2023 season. Expect Denver to pull out all the stops to avoid an 0-3 start.
Second year running back James Cook received the most carries of his career (17) against Las Vegas, as the Bills downed the Raiders 38-10. Josh Allen put together one of his better performances of late and it can’t go unnoticed. It's in conjunction with the team finally committing to running the football and taking the ball out of Allen’s hands. As good as he is, there is a point where the football must attack a defense from different situations and allow Cooks to establish a Bills running game that’s been invisible since Allen has risen to MVP caliber heights.
New York Jets
The Jets front office must make a move for a quarterback. The injury of Aaron Rodgers allowed Zach Wilson to resurface as the team’s starting quarterback. Make no mistake about it, spending a few months watching Rodgers this off-season didn’t fast forward his progress and ability to play quarterback at an average level in the National Football League. It’s déjà vu of last season, where the defense plays out of their minds only to watch the offense offer up zilch. Last week, even the defense was butchered by the Cowboys offense and the Jets received a whipping on both sides of the football. For HC Robert Saleh to keep this locker room invested in winning they will need to immediately explore every opportunity to acquire another signal-caller and put Wilson back where he belongs. On the bench.
The Raiders have had the winning formula against the Steelers of late. Losers of three of their last nine games against the franchise, Pittsburgh is looking to find an offensive identity and get the sour taste of their win against Cleveland out of their mouths. Never have I walked into a winning locker room with such a ho-hum feeling of victory. The defense played great but the offense has continued to struggle. Last week, James Cook thrashed the Raiders defense for 9.0 yards per carry and that could be a welcoming door for Najee Harris. The Steelers’ running back is searching for a breakout game to help re-establish the Pittsburgh ground attack.
The Nick Chubb injury is going to linger if DeShaun Watson continues to look like a huge waste of money. Last week, he looked bad running the ball and even worse in the pocket. He has done nothing since returning from his suspension to reassure the Browns faithful that ownership made the right move by acquiring the former Houston Texans quarterback. In 2020, the last season Watson played for the Texans; he led the NFL that season with 4,823 yards passing, with a 70.2 completion percentage. During his four years in Houston, his average was 66.9 and after eight starts in Cleveland it has dipped to 56.6, which is like getting a D- in reading and arithmetic. It’s a failing grade and at his price it’s unacceptable. Without the best running back in the game, the task of putting points on the board in Cleveland just got that much tougher. A sliver of hope is Browns DC Jim Schwartz, who held the title of senior defensive assistant (2021-22) in Tennessee the last two years. Cleveland hosts the Titans this weekend and Schwartz should have a good idea on how to attack his former team.
Zac Taylor is not alone but he gets called out because his franchise quarterback is hurting and the team refuses to run the football more. In today’s NFL, teams abandon the run early or don’t try to run it at all. It only places more wear and tear on the quarterbacks. Joe Burrow is the marquee name of the roster and he alone will carry this team as far as it’s going to go. Resting him in the short-term, and/or feeding Joe Mixon and company is the way to help Burrow get back to being Mr. Joe Cool.
After two weeks, the Ravens have what was considered a tough division – in the bag! It’s early, way too early but with a 2-0 record and the Indianapolis Colts on deck this weekend, a 3-0 start would really help entice the theory that the AFC North race is over. If their other three division opponents suffer losses this weekend (and Monday), it could be just enough to keep the Bengals, Browns and Steelers at arm’s length for the entirety of the season.
The enigma of the National Football League. Who are the Colts? Beating the Ravens in Baltimore in Week 3 could go a long way in saying they’re a sleeper team in the AFC for a wildcard berth. However, an embarrassing would place them amongst the bottom feeders in the NFL. Anthony Richardson has proven to be very effective but injury prone and will miss the game with a concussion. He left the end of his first game with a knee problem, so monitoring his health week-to-week could be an unpleasant issue for a quarterback who appeared poise to dominate in ways such as former NFL MVP Cam Newton.
C.J. Stroud looks like the best of the rookie quarterbacks thus far. The Texans’ record hasn’t indicated it but nonetheless, Stroud has looked poised in the pocket and has done a tremendous job of working without a lot of impact players on the offensive side of the ball. In 91 passing attempts, the former Ohio State quarterback has not thrown one single interception. Only five other starting quarterbacks (Joshua Dobbs, Justin Herbert, Baker Mayfield, Dak Prescott and Geno Smith) have zero picks through their first two games this season and 49ers Brock Purdy is interception-less after three games.
Former Houston Oilers head coach Jeff Fisher spent 17 seasons as the man in charge between 1994-2010. Fisher was the coach when the team moved from Houston to Tennessee and it’s funny how much this franchise remains the same under the direction of Mike Vrabel. Much likethe Titans of yesteryear under Fisher, Tennessee continues to be the bridesmaid and never the bride. Last week, Vrabel got a win for his team against a Los Angeles Chargers roster that on paper would beat the Titans every single time. Vrabel and Fisher more similar than you may think with their ability to get their teams to over-achive. Vrabel continues to out-coach his opponents but eventually mediocre seasons wear out a fan base.
The most foolish thing you can do is eye up the schedule and predict wins and losses. Looking ahead at the Jaguars next six games, it’s possible they are 7-1 or 6-2 heading into their Week 9 bye week. Two home games against the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons, let’s say put them at 3-1, then off to Buffalo for a tough Bills matchup. Maybe 4-1 or 3-2. Two road games against the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers, which they would likely be favored, would put them right around the win total listed above.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are 0-2, losing to both Miami and Tennessee (OT against Titans) in very close games. Brandon Staley is on the hot seat and if this team sinks to 0-3 with a loss to the winless Vikings in Minnesota, it could turn the heat up to high on Staley. Hired for his defensive expertise the New York Giants are the only team that has allowed more yards on defense. The catch is this, New York has played in three games and has given up 1,085 yards. The Chargers, with just two games under their belt, have given up 877 total yards of offense. It reminds me of Adam Gase, a so-called ‘offensive guru,’ whose offenses were some of the worst in the league under his direction. Staley must win on Sunday!
The lenience ggiven to Russell Wilson since his trade to Denver has been more than applicable. However, concern is growing that this MVP-type talent is fading into the abyss of ‘has-beens’ in the National Football League. Dig a little deeper and you will find that last season, Wilson was sacked a league leading 55 times for a league leading 368 yards lost. After two games, Wilson has been on his back nine times already. Only four other teams have given up more sacks this season. This puts the onus on right tackle Mike McGlinchey who signed a five-year deal worth $87.5 million ($50 million guaranteed), earlier this spring in free agency. The Broncos also signed guard Ben Powers to help fortify the offensive line. McGlinchey, according to grades from Pro Football Focus, was the team’s worst offensive lineman against the Washington Commanders last week. So, Wilson will take the brunt of criticism as the o-line in Denver continues to struggle.
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes is an absolute stud—the best player in the league by far and second place a long way away. Mahomes after two games has a passer rating of 88.1 and his career average is 105.2, so there is definitely an early season completion rate shortage in Kansas City. That also means his average passing yards per game has taken a hit. A career average of 302 yards passing per game is currently at sitting at 265.1 yards per game after two weeks.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders were 12th in points scored last season and currently rank 30th in the league. That’s a significant drop in production. It’s early in the season and it’s not the point of pressing the panic button but the often under-appreciated Derek Carr is no longer with the team to take the brunt of the blame. Carr is in New Orleans and enjoying a 2-0 start in a weak NFC South division. Las Vegas plays the lifeless Steelers offense this weekend, who rank 26th in points scored. All signs point to a low scoring affair, but these offenses are long overdue.
(All Access Football Contributor & Winnipeg Blue Bombers Scout Bo Marchionte Pictured Above)
Dak Prescott became interception prone last season and it cost the Cowboys. In the first two games of the 2023 season, there isn't a blemish on his stat sheet and that’s saying something. Consider this; the last time he went two straight games without an interception was actually a four-game stretch to end the 2021 season going from Week 14 to Week 17 without turning the football over via the pass. The Cowboys next opponent is the Arizona Cardinals whose defense has two interceptions on the season and will be looking to force Prescott into his first miscue of the year.
Has the moment finally arrived where the Commanders get to reap the benefits of their draft investments along the defensive line? Washington is tied with Dallas for the most sacks in the league (10). First round picks Jonathan Allen (2017), Daron Payne (2018), Montez Sweat (2019) and Chase Young (2020) are collaborating to become one of the most productive fronts in the NFL. The much-anticipated return of Young occurred last week after missing the previous 23 of his last 26 games. Montez Sweat leads the talented bunch with three sacks.
Super Bowl hangover? I know the team is 2-0 but the Eagles appear to be a little off early into the 2023 season. With two minutes and thirty-nine seconds left in the first quarter of Week 1 against the Patriots, Philly held a 16-0 lead over New England. At that moment the Eagles looked exactly like the fast strike scoring machine from last season. Then the momentum stopped and the Pats rallied with a chance to win the game, closing the gap to 25-20 before the final whistle. In their second game against Minnesota, the Eagles ran wild on the Vikings but also allowed them to score 14 points in the fourth quarter. The Eagles ranked 8th in points allowed last season and currently stand 16th in 2023 under the same category. That is 50% worse than they were last season.
New York Giants
The Giants played the 49ers tough last Thursday but they have shown that they can’t hang with the elite teams in the league. Dallas and San Francisco look like tough outs for anyone to face but New York will gain the upper hand on the mid-level or bottom dwellers of the league to obtain victory. The offense lacks explosive plays and the defense lacks the ability to stop explosive plays. The 9-7-1 record last season looks mighty hard to duplicate with the current state of the Giants roster.
Is everyone finally catching up with the fact that Justin Fields isn’t a starting quarterback in the National Football League. He is 5-22 as a starting quarterback and please be reminded the Bears held the first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft. In case you don’t know, that honor goes to the worst team in the league the previous year. The razzle-dazzle of him escaping the pocket is fun to watch but now defensive coordinators know he can’t pass the football, so they will blanket him and take away the run, forcing him to sit uncomfortably in the pocket. Mitchell Trubisky was never this bad.
The Lions are going to get what they hoped for this weekend. Rookie Jahmyr Gibbs will be the featured back with David Montgomery missing time due to a thigh injury. The Detroit front office had to have a little bit of a sour taste in their mouths as they watched former Lions second-round pick D’Andre Swift destroy the Minnesota defense for 175 yards rushing on 28 carries and one touchdown. Swift looked like a man possessed playing in front of his hometown of Philly. Gibbs was taken with the 12th overall pick in 2023, leaving expectations high for the former Georgia running back. Now the verdict is out if he can better the other ex-Georgia running back (Swift).
Green Bay Packers
What to make of Jordan Love in his debut season with Green Bay. He is tied for the league lead in touchdowns passes (6) with Kirk Cousins and hasn’t thrown an interception. The Jets, Falcons and Raiders are the only other teams with less passing attempts than the Packers and Love’s 55.8 completion percentage ranks third worst amongst starting quarterbacks, ahead of only Zach Wilson (53.1) and Deshaun Watson (55.1). His top target Christian Watson has yet to play and backfield option Aaron Jones missed Week 2, leaving the limited sample size a mixed bag. Surely, the Cheeseheads of Wisconsin must be happy with this performance thus far but it’ll be curious to see how those statistics grade out over the season.
New Orleans Saints
Welcome back Michael Thomas! Once considered the most dominant receiver in the league, this 30-year wideout finally appears healthy in 2023. Missing the entire 2021 season and appearing in just three games last season, Thomas has been a big benefactor this season for the Saints offense. Last season, he played in just three games, catching 16 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns. Early into this season, Thomas has caught 12 passes for 116. Since 2020, Thomas has combined for 68 catches for 725 yards and three touchdowns. Hard to imagine, in 2019 he led the NFL with 149 receptions for 1,725 yards.
The Falcons might be the 2023 version of the 2022 New York Giants. Atlanta has beaten the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers with the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars on tap for the next two weeks. Arthur Smith is executing his plan with a solid defense (8th in points allowed) and a potent running game featuring Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson. Will this scheme hold up against the tougher teams in the league? We will find out soon enough.
Once the season begins and the glaring needs of every team becomes evident, it makes you wonder how teams bypass opportunities to sign top players. The Panthers traded away D.J. Moore in the deal to acquire the No. 1 overall pick to select rookie quarterback Bryce Young. The Panthers took rookie Jonathan Mingo with the 39th overall pick in this year's draft but two rookies learning on the fly isn’t exactly the recipe for success. Money is the undisputed leader when acquiring a free agent and while players proclaim winning is important, the team that coughs up the most cash wins the day. Carolina could have coughed up some cash for the likes of maybe DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr., it could have advanced the learning curve for both Young and Mingo.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bravo Baker Mayfield for the early season success. Will he and the Buccaneers sustain their winning ways? Seems unlikely but it’s just as unlikely as their 2-0 start. Tampa Bay has revamped their roster with aging veterans to become one of the younger rosters in the league. With 13 rookies on the team, the Buccaneers are using a mixture of Tom Brady era leftovers and new blood in their early success. Mayfield is the catalyst with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Los Angeles Rams
Sean McVay would get my early vote on Coach of the Year. The Rams are 1-1, beating the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 1 and playing the 49ers extremely tough in Week 2, losing 30-23. Rookie fifth round pick Puka Nacua looks like Cooper Kupp 2.o on the Rams offense, leading the league in targets (35) and receptions (25). Disgruntled running back Cam Akers was jettisoned off by Minnesota, swapping a conditional sixth-round pick in 2026, while the Vikings will get a conditional seventh-round pick in 2027. Basically, the Vikings gave up nothing. Remember, both Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips work with Akers during their time with the Rams, so they are very familiar with him and must feel comfortable in acquiring Akers.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan has this team clicking on all cylinders. Against the Giants on Thursday the trio of Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle looked like men amongst boys, as the Giants bounced off them like ping pong balls, as they ran up and down the field. Add in the fortress up front defensively and the 49ers own all the ingredients needed for a Super Bowl run.
Geno Smith played a hell of a football game against the Detroit Lions. In Week 1, he was far from the man under center that he was in Week 2. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performance should be cause for concern, as Smith aims to disprove his success from last season wasn’t a one hit wonder type affair. In the blowout loss to the Rams, Smith went 16-of-26 for 112 yards and one touchdown. Against the Lions, he completed 32 of his 41 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Smith completed nearly 80% of his passes against the Lions with a 78% completion rate that helped Seattle win their first game of the season.
The Cardinals gave up 31 points to the Giants in the second half last week, losing 31-28. A demoralizing loss for a team that has enough obstacles in their path to blow a 20-0 half-time lead. Rookie head coach Jonathan Gannon faces the task of getting his team up for the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3. If Gannon’s Cardinals can pull off a miracle win, or play the Cowboys tough, it’ll be a good testament to the rookie coach's ability to motivate his mediocre roster.
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