Michael Lavery gives us his takeaways from a fantastic week three of the 2021 NFL Season.
With the frantic frenzy of weeks one and two now behind us, many expected the dust to settle on the NFL landscape as we returned to the status quo of good teams winning and bad teams losing. Well… it didn’t exactly go as planned. The beauty of this sport is the ever-diversifying nature of success. One team’s success can never be guaranteed, and the threat of defeat is always around the corner (Or hiding in your division). Week three proved further that the NFL’s model of equity is perhaps the best in all of sports with some big upsets and surprising results. It is safe to say we were not starved of entertainment this weekend. With that being said, here is my week three takeaways article, enjoy!
Steelers looking worse for wear
The AFC North is one of the most youthful divisions in football in terms of talent and it is only going to get younger. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their Quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben’s age showed on Sunday as the Steelers fell to the Bengals in an embarrassing 24-10 loss at home. While a large portion of the blame can definitely be placed on the Steelers’ banged up defence – who lost their 75-game sack streak – it would be impossible to look at this game and not worry about the state of the Steelers’ offence and the man behind centre. Roethlisberger threw the ball 58 times on Sunday, an astonishing amount for any quarterback never mind an aging one. To the contrary, Joe Burrow only threw for 18 pass attempts yet still managed 3 touchdowns. It’s clear that the Steelers defence is carrying this team and the longer it stays unhealthy, the greater the peril for this franchise.
Hawks in big trouble
A cloud of mediocrity hangs over Seattle as the Seahawks lost their second straight game to fall below .500 on the season. While last week’s game against the Titans went to the wire in overtime, the Seahawks were embarrassed in regulation in Minnesota against the Vikings. Kirk Cousins completed 30 passes on 38 attempts for a total of 323 yards and three touchdowns, carving up a Seattle defence that failed to show up. With Dalvin Cook being sidelined it was the turn of Alexander Mattison who ran for 112 yards of 26 rushing attempts. You have to fear what might have been for Seattle had Cook been active for this game. A less than ideal start to the season for Seattle, who now play two division rivals in the 49ers and the Rams in back-to-back weeks. If Seattle put in a performance like the one on Sunday against those teams, they will very quickly find themselves with a 1-4 record.
HISTORY! Not once, but twice in the same day! An historic Sunday in the NFL saw one all-time record equaled and another all-time record absolutely smashed. First, to Jacksonville: It was 7-7 with two seconds remaining on the clock in the first half between the Jaguars and the Cardinals. With the ball at midfield many expected Kyler Murray to take a knee and move to halftime – but instead the Cardinals field goal unit came on to attempt what would have been an NFL record breaking 68-yard field goal. Matt Prater’s kick came up short, landing in the arms of the Jacksonville returner, Jamal Agnew. 109 fascinating yards later and Agnew and the Jaguars had just equaled the record for the longest play in NFL history. Appropriately dubbed the “kick six”, I highly doubt we’ll see another one of those this season.
Act Two: Detroit, Michigan. In what has perfectly been described as the most “Lions way possible” to lose a match, Jared Goff and Dan Campbell’s side faced late heartbreak at the hands, or should I say at the feet, of Justin Tucker and the Baltimore Raven’s. Tucker hit good on a 66-yard game winning field goal as time expired in the motor city. Although he may have a favourable deflection to be thankful for, it comes as little shock to most that the man to break the record for the longest field goal ever recorded is one of, if not the greatest to ever kick in the National Football League. Justin Tucker’s kick on Sunday will live long in the memories of most and will be remembered as a record breaker
Contenders or Pretenders The opening month of the season always comes with an unpredictability warning attached. Fresh off a long off season, some teams come flying out of the gate while others faulter. Some are graced with the good fortune of an easy schedule and others have to run a gauntlet in their first three or four games. This season is no different. When looking at the records across the league, the anomalies and surprising results jump out at you from a mile away – but is it time we took some of these teams seriously?
First up, the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are 3-0 to start the season but many people have stated their concern that this is due to a fortuitous schedule to start the season. The Broncos opponents so far this season are a combined 0-9. They beat the Giants on opening day before torturing Trevor Lawrence in week two and this past weekend they shut out Zach Wilson and the winless New York Jets. Now – as the saying goes, you can only beat what is in front of you. And that’s true, but the problem is the hype and the momentum that grows with these consecutive wins and how it can sometimes spiral out of control. The Bronco’s have the Ravens, Steelers, Raiders and Browns up in the next four games and based on the current form of those teams it would be no surprise to see the Broncos back to a 4-3 or 3-4 record.
The Raiders are 3-0 and have had a few heads turn in the past couple of weeks. Two overtime victories in the first three games of the season prove that this team have the mental capacity to see out hard fought victories. Sandwiched in between the two overtime wins was a convincing victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jon Gruden and Derek Carr finally seem to have found some rhythm together and with the Los Angeles Chargers up next, they will have the chance to prove themselves as a post season threat against a divisional opponent.
The Carolina Panthers have done an excellent job in game management so far this season. Their defence has been playing lights out and has been all over the field disrupting opposing offences. The problem with the Panthers is like that of the Broncos in that they have yet to face a team of any real caliber yet. It took a while to get the wheels in motion on opening weekend against the Jets, but they still managed to secure the win - followed by back-to-back convincing wins against the Saints and the Texans. It remains to be seen just what type of team the Panthers are this season but with games against the Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings and Giants up next, it is not inconceivable to imagine this team with a 7-0 or 6-1 record.
The Los Angeles Rams mean business. They are 3-0 and have put in solid performances in all three games so far. Most notably, their win over the Tom Brady led Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Sean McVay looks revitalized and energized and looks to have his squad playing the exact type of football he wants to see. The Ram’s have a lot of potential to make a very deep playoff run and perhaps Superbowl experience
New York Football in dire straits My final takeaway from this past weekend is the unfortunate state of football for both New York teams. Both winless and looking utterly hopeless from top to bottom. The Giants seem unable to seal off games as they lost on a game ending field goal to the Atlanta Falcons. The New York Jets and Zach Wilson haven’t been able to get going at all and Robert Saleh’s head coaching debut is off to a brutal start. New York is one of the two biggest markets in football and to have two teams which might be contending for the number one overall pick is a sad state of affairs and one that doesn’t look to be ending any time soon.
With the season now well and truly underway, this is the part of the season where we will start to see the true identities of teams shine through. We have still such a long way to go but when the Lombardi is lifted aloft in February, these are the wins and losses that we will look back on and remember as the games that shaped the champions.