We are now 3 weeks into the NFL season and every week we do learn a little more and more. There are still 7 teams without a loss and 4 teams without a win. Of those 11 teams I would say the two that are the most surprising are the 3-0 Falcons and the 0-3 Ravens. But of those 11 teams should any be feeling really smug, or really frightened? What about the other 21 teams? Do any of them have reason to hit the panic button yet?
NOW you can panic (or feel smug)
There are two teams that had post-season aspirations that, if things don’t change in a hurry stand no chance, and ironically one of them has a winning record.
Let’s start with the 0-3 team that has the biggest reason to be worried, the Baltimore Ravens. We told you last week that losing Suggs for the year was a killer on D, and the fact that Joe Flacco’s only reliable option on offense was Steve Smith also spelled doom. Now it gets worse for the Ravens, as not only did they lose a heartbreaker at home to the Bengals, now just 4 days later, they travel to Pittsburgh to face their most bitter rival.
While Big Ben may not be playing in this game, Michael Vick has been a winner at QB in the past, and the weapons on offense for the Steelers with Le’Veon Bell back, Antonio Brown and reliable Heath Miller, the Ravens will have a very tough time.
The schedule makers did them no favors by putting this game on a short week, but you have to play what’s in front of you. If the Ravens fall to 0-4 (0-2 in the division), they will be at least 3 if not 4 games back, a hill that is almost insurmountable. The one glimmer of hope for Ravens fans is that they have lost all 3 games by a total of 14 points, meaning one play could have meant the difference between a win and a loss. Of course, nothing would make the Steelers faithful happier than putting an early nail in the Ravens coffin.
The winning team that a loss would be just devastating for is the Dallas Cowboys. Yes they currently sit at 2-1 and in first place in the NFC East. But they only have a one game lead over the entire division, and they are still without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. They are also marching into Saints territory, which once upon a time was a daunting task, but this season the Saints are winless and have lost 6 straight at the Superdome.
So why would a loss be so bad for this Cowboys team? Last week against the Falcons, Brandon Weeden missed on only 4 of his 26 passes, and they got 3 touchdowns on the ground from Joseph Randle and yet they still lost. Not only did they lose, but they twice blew a two touchdown lead.
So, while the concern was on how was the offense going to survive the losses of Romo and Bryant, it was the defense who let them down, giving up 39 points to a Falcons team that typically struggles to score on the road, and 438 yards.
So, while I am not sure you can expect the kind of games the Cowboys got from Weeden and Randle again, they will need to be even better to overcome the defensive shortcomings. That is something they cannot do, and it may be too late when Romo and Bryant do finally return.
Rookies Who Shined
Now before we hear all you Raider fans screaming about Amari Cooper not being listed here, the idea is to list guys who we haven’t listed before. Cooper looks like he could be on here every week, and I will say he will be back. That being said, this week we have a pair of unheralded running backs that led their teams to much needed victories, and just for fun we added a wide-out who is in his first year with his team.
Starting in Buffalo where LeSean McCoy was going to be the lead back in Rex Ryan’s ground and pound offense. But McCoy has been suffering from leg issues, so enter fifth round pick Karlos Williams out of Florida State. In what was a huge game for both the visiting Bills and the Dolphins, it was Williams who shined outgaining the entire Dolphins team 110 yards to 102.
Williams did all his damage on just 12 carries, and scored a touchdown for good measure. With McCoy looking like he will miss this week against the Giants, we will get an extended look at this kid and see if the Bills really do have a diamond in the rough.
Up in the Pacific Northwest the recipe for success for the last few seasons has been a healthy dose of Marshawn Lynch. But it looks like that workload has finally taken its toll on Beast Mode. Just when you thought Fred Jackson would get his time to shine, instead it was undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls who got the call, and boy did he answer with authority.
Rawls rushed for a total of 104 yards in the game, including 98 in the second half to help salt this game away and give the Seahawks their first win on the season. Rawls, out of Central Michigan, has now put his name firmly on the depth chart and has given Pete Carroll another weapon at his disposal.
The last guy on this list is by no means a rookie. But what he did was momentous, so huge that he had to get a mention somewhere, and here seemed like the perfect place. Especially considering he’s a “rookie” when it comes to playing on this team, as it is his first year there.
That’s right, I am referring to Chiefs wide out Jeremy Maclin, because late in the third quarter of Monday Night Football, Maclin caught a touchdown pass from Alex Smith. It is the FIRST TD pass caught by a wide receiver of the Chiefs since Chase Daniel hit Dexter McCluster in the final game of the 2013 season. Maclin finished with 8 catches for 141 yards in the loss, but it was the one touchdown that he caught that puts him on this list.
Failure to Appear
Colin Kaepernick will be the only name on this list, and to be honest, the 49ers would have been better off if Kaepernick had failed to appear. But appear he did and after two of his first four throws of the game, the Cardinals were winning 14-0 because Kap threw not one but TWO pick sixes.
It didn’t get much better than that for the guy who everyone thought was going to be the next big thing, as he finished a miserable day in the desert with 9 completes for a total of 67 yards and 4 interceptions. Is it any wonder the 49ers were absolutely destroyed 47-7 by the Cardinals? Two words for you Kap, Yuck and Poo.
The biggest injury of the week happened when Big Ben went down against the Rams. The hit itself seemed relatively tame, but it is not the size of the hit, like real estate it is all about location, location’ location.
Big Ben will miss 4-6 weeks, leaning on the 6 week side, with a sprained MCL in his left knee, leaving Pittsburgh with Michael Vick as the lead dog in their offensive attack. Besides the MCL sprain, Roethlisberger also suffered a bone bruise, according to the source.
Ironically the Steelers, a team whose vicious trademark is a stout defense, have been relying on their offense this season to beat people as opposed to beating them up. That’s why the loss of Big Ben may prove to be really costly.
There were a few other injuries in Week 3 that may prove costly, DeMarco Murray was a late scratch with a hamstring issue, but the drop off to Ryan Matthews doesn’t seem to be that bad at all. Marshawn Lynch, Sammy Watkins, Marquise Lee and Vernon Davis all suffered some kind of leg ailment in their respective games, but none of them are expected to miss any time.