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NFL Week Three takeaways – What we discovered, huge response questions and stat leaders for each sport

Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season introduced us some wild endings. By way of a frenetic ultimate two minutes, the Chargers edged previous Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs after Kansas Metropolis struggled with ball safety. The Ravens prevented an upset loss to the Lions with a record-setting 66-yard discipline objective from Justin Tucker that rang off the crossbar and went by to finish the sport. The Falcons received a battle of winless groups, hitting a discipline objective to beat the Giants.

Elsewhere, the Cardinals overcame an early deficit in opposition to the Jaguars to roll to 3-0, and the Steelers’ offensive points continued in a loss to the Bengals. The Browns’ move rush was throughout Justin Fields within the rookie’s beginning debut with the Bears, and the Titans bought an enormous AFC South win. And the Saints and Payments posted assertion wins — together with 43 factors from Buffalo’s offense.

Our NFL Nation reporters react to all of it, with the key takeaways and lingering questions from this week’s motion — and what all of it means going ahead. Plus, they every take a look at the larger image with their present group confidence score — a 0-10 grade of how they really feel concerning the group’s future outlook popping out of the week. Let’s get to it.

Soar to:
LAC-KC | WSH-BUF | NO-NE
CHI-CLE | BAL-DET | IND-TEN
CIN-PIT | ARI-JAX | ATL-NYG
CAR-HOU

Ravens

What to know: The Ravens can nonetheless win so long as they’ve Lamar Jackson and Justin Tucker. After the depleted Baltimore protection allowed scores on Detroit’s ultimate three drives, Tucker received the sport with an NFL-record 66-yard discipline objective as time expired. The kick bounced off the crossbar and in. The profitable kick was arrange by Jackson, who transformed a fourth-and-19 with a 36-yard move to Sammy Watkins. The protection bought blindsided two days earlier than the sport, when it misplaced 4 gamers, together with Professional Bowl pass-rusher Justin Houston and prime run-stuffer Brandon Williams, to the COVID-19 protocol. In complete, Baltimore performed with out 13 gamers who counted at the very least $1 million in opposition to the wage cap, both due to harm or COVID-19. — Jamison Hensley

Can Marquise Brown overcome his three essential drops? Brown went from being Lamar Jackson’s No. 1 receiver to his No. 1 legal responsibility in Detroit. Brown’s three drops within the first half — probably the most any participant has had within the first half of a sport since 2015 — took away from Jackson’s most correct passing day of the season. Brown’s drops totaled 97 air yards and all got here on throws of 25-plus yards, together with a superbly thrown one in the long run zone. This was uncharacteristic for Brown, who had no drops on 32 such targets in his profession. However by the third drop, it was evident that the drops had gotten in his head. — Hensley

Hensley’s confidence score (0-10): 7.8, no change from final week. This was the epitome of a entice sport. The Ravens have been coming off an emotional win over the Chiefs and confronted one of many worst groups within the NFL. However Baltimore continues to determine tips on how to win in probably the most dramatic methods.

Subsequent sport: at Broncos (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


Lions

What to know: The newest loss was one more heartbreaker for Lions followers. The protection did all the things to make the sport aggressive till the waning seconds, when Lamar Jackson accomplished a fourth-and-19 move to Sammy Watkins for 36 yards. It arrange Justin Tucker’s NFL-record 66-yard discipline objective on the buzzer. After going ahead with the choice to hunt a commerce for veteran linebacker Jamie Collins and play the youthful guys like Derrick Barnes and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, the defensive position was relentless, sacking Jackson 4 instances. However Jackson and Tucker discovered a strategy to pull it out on the finish. — Eric Woodyard

Is the Lions’ backfield for actual? Swaggy & Swifty. That is the nickname for the Detroit Lions backfield that includes D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. The run sport has been an Achilles heel of the Lions for a lot of the post-Barry Sanders period, however this duo continued to be one of many sturdy factors of the squad with one other strong efficiency, not solely on the bottom, however within the air. Swift (47 yards and one TD dashing; seven receptions for 60 yards) and Williams (42 yards and a TD dashing; two catches for 25 yard) helped preserve Detroit within the sport and in place for a significant upset. — Woodyard

Woodyard’s confidence score (0-10): 5, up from 4.5. Not like the primary two weeks, the Lions confirmed their potential once they’re aggressive for a complete sport, limiting errors.

Subsequent sport: at Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Falcons

What to know: After three weeks, it is clear Cordarrelle Patterson goes to be a multifaceted choice on offense for Atlanta all season. Patterson had 20 yards dashing (on seven carries) and a team-high 82 yards receiving. He is a participant quarterback Matt Ryan clearly counts on and will be harmful from a number of spots on the sphere. In different phrases, for those who’re searching for a gentle menace on a sometimes-shaky Falcons offense (that confirmed potential within the fourth quarter), Patterson is likely to be it. — Michael Rothstein

The place was Kyle Pitts in Atlanta’s offense Sunday? The rookie tight finish and No. Four total choose within the draft had began to appear like he could be a constant choice within the Atlanta offense — one of many few constants the Falcons would have. Then got here Sunday, when Pitts did not even see his first goal (a 10-yard catch) till the 11:20 mark within the fourth quarter. He was focused once more in the long run zone on Atlanta’s game-tying drive leading to a move interference name, and he had an enormous 25-yard reception on the Falcons’ game-winning drive. However too usually, Pitts was ignored. If Atlanta desires offensive success, that may’t occur. — Rothstein

Rothstein’s confidence score (0-10): 5, up from 4.8. Atlanta confirmed it will probably win a detailed sport in opposition to a comparable group. It does not imply the Falcons are a great group, however it presents a glimpse that they’re shopping for into what Arthur Smith is making an attempt to construct.

Subsequent sport: vs. Washington (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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Matt Ryan sells the handoff, then flicks a TD move to Lee Smith for a one-yard rating.


Giants

What to know: If they don’t seem to be going to beat the Falcons at dwelling on Eli Manning Day, the place are the wins coming from on the schedule? The Giants (0-3) play subsequent at New Orleans, at Dallas, vs. Rams, vs. Panthers, at Chiefs, vs. Raiders, after which at Bucs. Yikes! They need to preserve saying they’re solely frightened about this week and what they will management in the meanwhile. The remainder of us are involved about the place this season is headed and who will probably be accountable for this mess. — Jordan Raanan

How dangerous are these accidents? The Giants misplaced large receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton to hamstring accidents. Blake Martinez had a non-contact knee harm. Prized offseason acquisition Kenny Golladay was out and in of the sport coping with a hip harm and star working again Saquon Barkley even seemed a bit banged up. Can this group survive this kind of harm onslaught? Their margin of error appeared minimal previous to Sunday. — Raanan

Raanan’s confidence score (0-10): 1.2, down from 3.2. They misplaced at dwelling to Atlanta on Eli Manning Day regardless of having the lead within the fourth quarter. And the schedule is actually powerful for the subsequent seven video games.

Subsequent sport: at Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Payments

What to know: Josh Allen had his greatest sport of the season, and it wasn’t significantly shut. He completed the sport finishing 32 of 43 passes for 358 yards, 4 passing touchdowns, together with two to large receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and one dashing landing. Allen put collectively an entire sport and had a efficiency that echoed his MVP runner-up end from the 2020 season. Within the first half alone, Allen threw three touchdowns and solely threw six incompletions. He efficiently stepped up within the pocket and prevented strain, and helped put the sport out of attain by main the offense on a 98-yard, 17-play drive that took greater than eight minutes off the clock within the third quarter. Throws downfield have been a difficulty to begin the season, however Allen took a step ahead in that space Sunday. He accomplished 10 of 15 for 200 yards and two TDs on throws of greater than 10 yards downfield, tied for his second-most completions on these throws in a sport in his profession. — Alaina Getzenberg

Is the dearth of constant move rush a priority going ahead? That is the query that can observe the Payments all through the season. Getting the move rush proper was the most important want for the group this offseason, which is why Buffalo’s first two picks of the 2021 NFL draft have been invested in that space. Towards an inexperienced Taylor Heinicke, nevertheless, the Payments’ protection had only one sack, courtesy of defensive deal with Star Lotulelei, and 6 quarterback hits. The protection had a great day with three takeaways, however it struggled to persistently make Heinicke uncomfortable. Towards the higher offensive strains and quarterbacks forward on the Payments’ schedule, this will probably be a difficulty to keep watch over. — Getzenberg

Getzenberg’s confidence score (0-10): 7.7, up from 7.3. The Payments nonetheless have some huge assessments forward of them, however Josh Allen and the offense seemed unstoppable at instances, one thing that had not been the case but this season. Total Buffalo put collectively its most full sport but — a constructive signal for issues to return.

Subsequent sport: vs. Texans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Washington

What to know: Washington QB Taylor Heinicke is a good story, however he isn’t the long-term answer and that should not be stunning. He can nonetheless assist this group, however that is laborious to do when enjoying with a protection that may’t cease anybody, which places strain on him to move all sport. He must be a part of a balanced assault or the issues present extra. He confirmed his willpower — witness the diving 4-yard landing run — however he additionally forces throws in an try to do an excessive amount of and erase huge deficits with one move. That led to each of his interceptions and practically extra. — John Keim

The place is Chase Young? The query earlier than the season: Will the 2020 defensive rookie of the 12 months change into one of many NFL’s top-five move rushers? Proper now, the defensive finish is nowhere shut. By way of three video games he has no sacks, compelled no turnovers and hasn’t utilized sufficient strain. A lot extra was anticipated from a participant who was a No. 2 total choose of the draft. Younger has proven flashes, however this protection wants playmakers, and within the second half of final season that is what Younger grew to become. Groups pay quite a lot of consideration to him as they did final season, however he must develop extra of a method to change into a constant pressure. He isn’t the one problem, he is simply the one with probably the most expertise who can present an enormous enhance. — Keim

Keim’s confidence score (0-10): 4, down from 5.2. Till the protection performs a great sport, the arrogance score will hover on this space. Washington performs too many good quarterbacks this season, so if its play would not enhance, it is going to be a very lengthy season.

Subsequent sport: at Falcons (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Cardinals

What to know: The Cardinals’ offense is as deep and various as it has been in years. They’d two 100-yard receivers in A.J. Green and Christian Kirk. Inexperienced had his first 100-yard sport as a Cardinal with 112. Kirk added 104. Having weapons like that at Kyler Murray‘s disposal allowed Arizona to return again from a nine-point deficit to win. That is what Arizona did not have final season however has been the distinction between profitable and shedding this season. — Josh Weinfuss

What does it say concerning the Cardinals that they are nonetheless profitable video games wherein they wrestle? It reveals that they don’t seem to be the identical group that went 3-6 to shut out final season. This 12 months’s Cardinals can take a success and bounce again, which can serve them nicely within the hunt for the playoffs whereas going through the likes of the Rams, 49ers and Seahawks in a brutal NFC West. However what occurs in the event that they wrestle in opposition to a group higher than the Jaguars? Can they recuperate? To be decided. For now, Arizona is 3-0. The final time that occurred was 2015, which is the final time Arizona went to the playoffs. — Weinfuss

Weinfuss’ confidence score (0-10): 8.5, down from 8.6. That Arizona was capable of come again from 9 to win by 12 reveals that they’ve the resiliency and firepower to make a run, however there’s some concern that they have been down 9 at one level to one of many worst groups within the NFL.

Subsequent sport: at Rams (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

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Byron Murphy returns Trevor Lawrence’s interception for a 29-yard landing.


Jaguars

What to know: The Jaguars don’t have any margin for error. They lastly get the run sport going, return a missed discipline objective try 109 yards for a landing, and maintain Arizona to only 1-of-9 on third down, but nonetheless lose by double digits — their 18th consecutive loss since profitable the 2020 season opener. They need to just about play good they usually haven’t got the personnel to try this. — Mike DiRocco

Is it time to be involved about Trevor Lawrence? Sure, and no. He is simply the fourth QB for the reason that 1970 merger to throw a number of interceptions in his first three begins (he has seven) and solely Peyton Manning and Alex Smith are No. 1 picks which have thrown extra of their first three profession begins (every threw eight). His second INT was a nasty throw on a trick play, although he did get pressured by J.J. Watt. However he is not likely getting quite a lot of assist, both. Jacob Hollister could not maintain onto a move that hit him within the fingers and was intercepted on the bounce. His receivers don’t get a lot separation. And it would not assist to be chasing factors and caught in an apparent passing state of affairs (which occurred within the fourth quarter Sunday). It was going to be a tricky activity for him as a rookie due to the dearth of playmakers on the roster. He has to undergo these struggles to develop however the Jaguars want him to chop down on the errors to have an opportunity to win video games. — DiRocco

DiRocco’s confidence score (0-10): 2.5, down from 2.6. It jumps somewhat bit as a result of the Jaguars lastly bought James Robinson concerned (87 yards dashing), compelled their first turnover, and made one other huge play on particular groups, however they’re nonetheless turning the ball over an excessive amount of and never making sufficient performs in key conditions.

Subsequent sport: at Bengals (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

Titans

What to know: The Titans’ move rush is rising regardless of not having Bud Dupree concerned. Defensive coordinator Shane Bowen blended in just a few well timed blitzes to get strain. However most of it was coming from the entrance 4. Outdoors linebacker Ola Adeniyi has been within the zone as of late. Adeniyi had 1.5 sacks right now with one other one being negated by an unlawful contact name on Chris Jackson. Jeffery Simmons is changing into a pressure up the center as nicely. Though they are not getting sacks in bunches, the move rush is impacting the quarterback and inflicting incompletions. They need to get one other alternative to have an effect subsequent week in opposition to the Jets’ spotty offensive line and rookie QB Zach Wilson. — Turron Davenport

Can the Titans persistently win with out contributions from Julio Jones and A.J. Brown within the passing sport? Julio Jones and A.J. Brown have been anticipated to supply quite a lot of fireworks for the Titans’ offense. That wasn’t the case within the Titans’ win over the Colts. A primary-quarter hamstring harm saved Brown from returning. Jones did not play for a lot of the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, the Titans continued to push ahead with Nick Westbrook-Ikhine main the way in which. Derrick Henry additionally contributed with one other 100-plus rushing-yard efficiency. That labored this week in opposition to a sputtering Colts offense, however it will probably’t be the method they rely on from week to week. They’re going to want greater performances from Jones and Brown to compete with the highest groups within the AFC. — Davenport

Davenport’s confidence score (0-10): 6.5, no change from 6.5. It wasn’t fairly, however the Titans did what they have been alleged to do: beat the Colts. An emotional win just like the one they expertise in Week 2 might have arrange a letdown sport this week, particularly in opposition to a bodily division opponent just like the Colts. That wasn’t the case, and the Titans at the moment are 2-1 heading into subsequent week’s contest in opposition to the Jets.

Subsequent sport: at Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Colts

What to know: The protection compelled three turnovers. The offense did not flip the ball over. What did these issues get the Colts? One other loss and their first 0-Three begin since 2011 — simply the third time that has occurred since 1998. Quarterback Carson Wentz tried to shake off two dangerous ankles to play, however the offense was fairly watered down due to his well being. The Colts targeted extra on making an attempt to get the ball out of Wentz’s fingers extra rapidly so he did not need to scramble round within the pocket, because it was apparent that he was nowhere close to 100 % wholesome. Wentz completed 19-of-37 for 194 yards, however the Colts struggled to get in the long run zone. Indianapolis was 1-of-Three within the purple zone. The Colts had a ultimate probability to steal a victory on the street, however the Titans chewed up greater than seven minutes of the clock to ship the Colts to their third straight loss. — Mike Wells

Will the Colts ever get wholesome? The Colts proceed to lose physique after physique. All-Professional guard Quenton Nelson left the sport within the second quarter with a proper ankle harm. The ankle harm goes with the again harm he is already coping with. Beginning security Khari Willis left the sport within the fourth quarter with cramps and DE Kwity Paye left earlier with a hamstring ailment. Accidents have been a standard theme for the Colts all season. The Colts went into the sport already with out receiver T.Y. Hilton and proper deal with Braden Smith. Who is aware of when Wentz will get again to being wholesome, and it is clear that linebacker Darius Leonard is missing his strongest attribute – velocity – as a result of an ankle harm. — Wells

Wells’ confidence score (0-10): 4.6, down from 5. Accidents to approach too many key gamers. Lack of a constant protection. No deep threats down the sphere. Every part that has gone mistaken for the Colts has, and there is not any finish in sight to those points, particularly with the subsequent two video games additionally on the street, at Miami and Baltimore.

Subsequent sport: at Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Chargers

What to know: Brandon Staley has been preaching all offseason about wanting to construct a group that excels within the fourth quarter. Nicely he bought one, with assist from a stellar day from QB Justin Herbert, a 4-yard, game-winning TD move to Mike Williams with 32 seconds left and a key move interference name on Chiefs S Deandre Baker that arrange the go-ahead landing. Herbert accomplished 26 of 38 passes for 281 yards and 4 touchdowns. Herbert was upset after the Dallas loss and and got here out firing. However the protection was upset too, intercepting Patrick Mahomes twice and recovering two Chiefs fumbles. — Shelley Smith

What can the Chargers do earlier within the sport to place themselves in higher place to win? Staley has stated the group would not want to ascertain the run sport to arrange the play-action, however it might be good, because the Chargers actually did not run the ball successfully till the fourth quarter. That stated, Herbert was 8-of-Eight within the first half on play-action, so perhaps Staley has some extent concerning the working sport. Slicing down on unlawful movement penalties would assist, too, because the Chargers had a landing move to Gabe Nabers erased by a movement penalty. — Smith

Smith’s confidence score (0-10): 6, up from 4. Do not make Herbert mad — or the protection. They nonetheless want to scrub up the movement penalties, although.

Subsequent sport: vs. Raiders (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

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Mike Williams’ second landing catch of the sport places the Chargers forward for good in a win over the Chiefs.


Chiefs

What to know: The Chiefs’ defensive issues look removed from solved. They have been improved in opposition to the run in opposition to the Chargers, although that was a low bar to clear. They’re nonetheless having bother dashing the quarterback or stopping a passing assault. The Chiefs cannot be a lot worse within the purple zone, the place opponents have scored 11 touchdowns in 12 journeys. — Adam Teicher

Can the Chiefs flip their season round? It may require some defensive enchancment, which seems to be unlikely. The Chiefs are nonetheless formidable on offense and able to huge issues, however opponents are decided to make them go with out the massive play and transfer their approach down the sphere in smaller increments. It may be troublesome for them to persistently put up huge numbers with out getting extra huge performs. In addition they need to stop with the turnovers. — Teicher

Teicher’s confidence score (0-10): 6, down from 7. It is not possible to imagine within the Chiefs as a official Tremendous Bowl contender except they enhance considerably on protection and stop turning the ball over once they have it on offense.

Subsequent sport: at Eagles (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Saints

What to know: The Saints aren’t sunk. This was a really spectacular and necessary bounce-back efficiency after their collapse in Carolina final week. Particularly by the protection, which has been dwelling as much as its vow to change into the brand new identification of the group with out Drew Brees. The Saints (2-1) will ultimately get extra reinforcements again from accidents and suspension, and this efficiency enormously helps them keep afloat as they head towards their first actual dwelling sport in opposition to the Giants subsequent week. — Mike Triplett

Can QB Jameis Winston settle in after his early highs and lows? He principally did that Sunday, enjoying it comparatively secure in a sport that didn’t require him to pressure a lot (and the Saints’ move safety was enormously improved from final week, although standout left deal with Terron Armstead bought harm within the first quarter). Winston accomplished simply 13 of 21 passes for 128 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers. However Winston nonetheless threw up a few dangerous passes that have been paying homage to previous woes. And we nonetheless do not know the way he’ll carry out in a nail-biter for the reason that Saints have not had one but. — Triplett

Triplett’s confidence score (0-10): 7.5, up from 6.8. The Saints are nonetheless removed from good – final week being a scary reminder. However this confirmed how a lot their protection, run sport, teaching and veteran management can nonetheless make an affect.

Subsequent sport: vs. Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Patriots

What to know: If the Patriots cannot shield Mac Jones higher, it may be a protracted season. The Saints protection pressured Jones on 12 of his 21 first-half drop backs (57%), and Jones was 4-of-11 for 28 yards and an interception when pressured, in line with ESPN’s Stats & Data. When Jones had time, the outcomes have been higher, however it simply did not occur sufficient. The projected return of beginning proper deal with Trent Brown (proper calf pressure) ought to assist, however the safety issues appear to go deeper than only one participant. — Mike Reiss

How are the Patriots presumably going to maintain tempo with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers subsequent week? Everybody knew there could be rising pains with Jones, however so long as he protected the soccer and the offensive line might preserve him upright, they’d at the very least have an opportunity. Neither of these issues occurred persistently sufficient Sunday. Now with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady returning to Foxborough in one of many NFL’s most anticipated video games, it appears like one aspect is sort of a stick of dynamite able to an enormous spark at any second (Tampa Bay) whereas the opposite is puttering together with the necessity to play good to have an opportunity (New England). The Patriots have been removed from good Sunday in a drubbing that was laborious to look at at instances. — Reiss

Reiss’ confidence score (0-10): 4, down from 6.2. Blocked punts. Kickoffs out of bounds. Protection breakdowns resulting in touchdowns. Careless ball safety. The Patriots would have had bother beating most groups with this kind of effort.

Subsequent sport: vs. Bucs (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

Browns

What to know: The Browns’ move rush utterly overwhelmed Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields, who took extra sacks (9) than he accomplished passes (six). Myles Garrett led the way in which with 4.5 sacks, breaking the Browns’ single-game report. Although Chicago’s offense with Fields was hopeless, Cleveland confirmed the potential it has to get after the passer, with Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney combining for 11 quarterback pressures. A dynamic move rush is an enormous motive why the Browns have the potential to function one of many league’s prime defenses by season’s finish. — Jake Trotter

Can Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. construct off this 2021 debut? Mayfield and OBJ have been clicking from the start, beginning with a third-down conversion over the center of the sphere on the opening drive. In his first look for the reason that season-ending knee surgical procedure final 12 months, Beckham completed hauling in 5 of his 9 targets for 77 yards. Coming into the season, Mayfield and Beckham owned the second-worst completion fee (54.6%) of any QB-WR duo within the league relationship again to 2019. However Sunday, they confirmed they could have lastly unlocked their chemistry collectively. — Trotter

Trotter’s confidence score (0-10): 7.4, down from 7.5. Regardless of some troubles ending off drives and defending Mayfield, the Browns received going away behind a dominant fourth quarter.

Subsequent sport: at Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Bears

What to know: Any probability for a redo? Justin Fields’ extremely anticipated NFL beginning debut turned out to be an entire dud. Fields and the remainder of the offense have been utterly over-matched by the Browns, who made life depressing for the rookie quarterback. The Bears failed to dam anybody, and Fields’ throws have been principally off the mark. He additionally held onto the ball too lengthy. Sunday was burn-the-tape horrible. Chicago’s protection saved them within the sport so long as potential, however the sport by no means felt as shut because the rating indicated. — Jeff Dickerson

Does Andy Dalton truly begin once more when wholesome? Most of us laughed off Matt Nagy’s declaration that Dalton remained Chicago’s beginning quarterback when wholesome. Who’s laughing now? The Bears offense was so putrid — not all of it Fields’ fault, clearly — that it’s important to ponder whether Dalton ultimately will get one other crack at it. The Bears’ offense is so dangerous it may not matter who performs quarterback. However in equity to Dalton, the offense seemed OK in Week 2 earlier than the veteran quarterback injured his left knee. The very fact that is nonetheless open for debate reveals you ways horrible the offense performed in Cleveland. — Dickerson

Dickerson’s confidence score (0-10): 3.5, down from 5. The Bears’ offense is just offensive.

Subsequent sport: vs. Lions (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Bengals

What to know: The Bengals’ win confirmed they will contend within the AFC North. Cincinnati went on the street, every week after a reasonably flat loss to a middling Chicago group, and thumped Pittsburgh. The massive play was a 34-yard landing from Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to rookie Ja’Marr Chase, which put set the course. Cincinnati has received two straight in opposition to the Steelers. However this one, early within the season and with the season nonetheless within the stability, is probably the most vital of the coach Zac Taylor period. — Ben Child

Is that this Bengals group ok to compete for a playoff bid? Sure. By way of three weeks, we have discovered that the protection is certainly legit. And the offense, after a rocky week with public questions on playcalling, shined behind the Burrow-to-Chase connection that yielded huge touchdowns. Cincinnati has the squad to push for a wild-card spot in December. — Child

Child’s confidence score (0-10): 6.8, up from 5.5. The Bengals’ all-around efficiency in opposition to the rival Steelers reveals a group sustaining progress in a season with long-term implications.

Subsequent sport: vs. Jaguars (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)


Steelers

What to know: Lacking so many key items, the Steelers protection cannot be the magic band-aid for the offense. Taking part in with out exterior linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, the Steelers protection ended its 75-game sack streak within the loss to the Bengals. The offense continued to sputter, placing the protection in troublesome positions. After holding Cincinnati to a discipline objective, the Steelers protection bought a three-play breather earlier than a nasty interception by Ben Roethlisberger put them again on the sphere at their very own 19. The Bengals scored three performs later. And for the second week in a row, the Steelers protection could not preserve a lid on the deep performs and gave up a protracted landing to Ja’Marr Chase within the ultimate seconds of the second quarter. The protection remains to be the energy of the group, however the offensive ineptitude is weakening each side of the ball. — Brooke Pryor

Is that this the brand new regular for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or can he flip it round? It is a small pattern dimension, however by three weeks, indicators level to this being the brand new regular — hardly what he or the Steelers hoped for after bringing the 39-year-old again for one more season. Roethlisberger threw one of many worst interceptions of his profession within the third quarter when he tried to throw to a closely coated JuJu Smith-Schuster and as an alternative put it proper within the intestine of Logan Wilson. For one more Sunday, Roethlisberger seemed out of sync along with his receivers. It is not all Roethlisberger’s fault — enjoying behind a line with lingering rising pains is not simple — however a number of the avoidable errors weren’t, nicely, prevented. Not solely did Roethlisberger throw the third-quarter choose, he additionally took a sack within the first half after holding onto the ball far too lengthy. Roethlisberger is one away from getting into the 400-touchdown membership, but when he and the offense preserve enjoying like the primary three weeks, he’ll hover on the cusp for fairly some time. — Pryor

Pryor’s confidence score (0-10): 4.4, down from 5.7. With every passing week, the win in opposition to the Buffalo Bills feels increasingly like a fluke; if the offense cannot get it collectively and the protection cannot play just like the ’85 Bears, that can proceed to be the case.

Subsequent sport: at Packers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Panthers

What to know: Operating again Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) and cornerback Jaycee Horn (damaged foot) will miss some video games with accidents, however the Panthers confirmed within the 24-9 win over the Texans they’ve what it takes to win with out two of their greatest stars. This does not imply Carolina can stick with Tampa Bay and Kansas Metropolis with out them, however with a 3-Zero begin, and a considerably mushy schedule the subsequent month, they are often aggressive and win video games to maintain them in playoff competition. As left deal with Cameron Erving stated, “We’re a soccer tam. We’re not the Carolina Christian McCaffreys.” — David Newton

Can Sam Darnold carry the offense with out McCaffrey? Granted, this was the Texans, however Darnold within the second half performed perhaps in addition to he has at any level in his NFL profession. He stayed throughout the offense and made performs along with his arm and legs. His quarterback sneak for a landing gave him two for the sport, one thing he’d by no means completed since getting into the league. He even had a 32-yard run known as again due to a penalty. I am beginning to imagine the Panthers made the fitting gamble in buying and selling for him. He is powerful. Or as Matt Rhule stated, he has “moxie.” — Newton

Newton’s confidence score (0-10): 6.9, up from 6.4. This may need been larger have been it not for the accidents to McCaffrey and Horn, however the protection is for actual and Darnold is healthier than anticipated.

Subsequent sport: at Cowboys (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Texans

What to know: Texans coach David Culley stated QB Davis Mills did precisely what the Texans requested him to within the offense by way of not doing an excessive amount of and making an attempt to “make a throw to try to get one thing going.” Culley additionally identified that Mills didn’t flip the ball over and noticed development in that space from his preseason performances. But when the Texans are going to win video games with quarterback Tyrod Taylor on injured reserve, Mills must do greater than that going ahead. Can he use the subsequent 10 days Houston has earlier than going to Buffalo to proceed to enhance on this offense? — Sarah Barshop

Can Houston return to its Week 1 success within the run sport? The Texans struggled to run the ball on Thursday night time, combining for 42 yards on 17 carries. Culley stated when Houston got here out for the second half, it was targeted on making an attempt to “set up the run once more.” The Texans could not do this, and Culley stated he thought the most important motive the offense struggled was as a result of they could not set up any consistency on the bottom. “We have now to have the ability to (run the ball),” Culley stated. “That is who we’re. It will not get any simpler subsequent week because the Payments entered Week Three permitting a median of simply 73 dashing yards per sport, which was the seventh-best within the NFL. — Barshop

Barshop’s confidence score (0-10): 2.0, no change from 2.0. The Texans confirmed promise of their first two video games, particularly with Taylor beneath middle, however it was clear that they don’t seem to be able to persistently compete with the very best groups within the NFL.

Subsequent sport: at Payments (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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