NFL Week 3 Round-Up

A comprehensive look back at all of Sunday's action.

LEAD OFF

We'll get to the fall of Patriot Nation, the surprise leaders of the AFC, the devastating knee injury to San Francisco's star quarterback and overtime craziness in Atlanta shortly. But let's start in Minneapolis where the NFC favourite Minnesota Vikings hosted the hapless Buffalo Bills who came in as 16.5 point underdogs. Frankly it was a surprise they even made it to US Bank Stadium given the fact their social media team had no idea where to find the Twin Cities on a map.

When they did get there, the Bills, who'd started the season looking like the NFL's worst team, made the league sit up and take notice as they put their foot on the gas and never relented, jumping out to a 24-0 lead after just 18 minutes. They hit, harried and hassled Kirk Cousins all day, stopping the Vikings from crossing midfield until midway through the third quarter and winning 27-6. And frankly it wasn't that close. They did so on the arm - and feet - of their rookie passer Josh Allen who at least for this week proved he belongs.

The kid from Wyoming is still very much a work in progress, but on this day he looked like the sort of finished article that the Bills Mafia have craved since Jim Kelly's retirement in 1996. On Saturday night, tiny Old Dominion had beaten mighty Virginia Tech, the nation's 13th best team in one of the greatest upsets in college football history. This wasn't quite on that scale but in NFL terms it was fairly seismic.

There were seismic happenings in Detroit as well as the visiting Patriots lost their second straight game, falling 26-10 to the Lions who are coached by former long time New England defensive co-ordinator Matt Patricia. We've been here before with early season Patriot struggles, but this feels different. The offense doesn't frighten anyone and defensively they lack talent at all three levels. Ultimately this will only mean something if they start losing games in November when it really matters. But the dynasty looks as though it might just be on its last legs and could be handed a knockout blow on Sunday.

That blow could come in the form of the 3-0 Miami Dolphins, who now lead the AFC East by two games thanks to their come from behind victory against the Oakland Raiders. The win was fuelled by another terrific performance from quarterback Ryan Tannehill who put himself firmly in the MVP race in only his third game back after 19 months out with injury. Miami's fast-break offense shocked the Raiders in the 4th quarter heat as free-agent signee Albert Wilson threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Jakeem Grant on a gadget play. "Anytime there’s a big-shot call or a trick play, you can feel the offensive line kind of get excited,” Tannehill said afterwards. “I think there was some excitement leaving the huddle. During the week in practice, he was kind of consistent on making a perfect throw."

Then, after Xavien Howard had intercepted Derek Carr in the endzone, Wilson took a flip pass from Tannehill and raced 74 yards to seal the game, finding time to high five Grant as he raced to the endzone and in doing so became only the third player in NFL history with a 50+ yard TD catch and 50+ yard TD pass in the same game.

After much national media criticism for an offseason that saw head coach Adam Gase trade away wide receiver Jarvis Landry and cut star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, this is early evidence that Gase made the right decisions. It's been five years since the Dolphins have started a season 3-0 and they haven't won in New England since 2008. Expect Miami's speed on both sides of the ball to cause the Patriots problems, but their start to the season will only be truly validated if they can win in Foxboro on Sunday. The bell tolls for the 2018 Miami Dolphins. For Oakland, the decision to trade superstar defesive end Khalil Mack just before the start of the season continues to confound as they fall to 0-3.

THIS AND THAT

The most exciting game of the weekend was in Atlanta where the Falcons and Saints duelled in a breathtaking NFC South battle that saw ten lead changes. In the end, it was the venerable one, Drew Brees, who had the final say, rallying the Saints in the 4th quarter before tying the game on a 7-yard touchdown run with a little over a minute to play in regulation, using a spin move to evade two Falcons defenders.

He then scored the game-winner in overtime to seal a 43-37 win, on a day where he passed Hall of Famer Brett Favre for most completions in NFL history. Brees's Superman act ruined a breakout performance from Falcon's rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley. The first round pick out of Alabama had 7 catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns in a losing effort.....Elsewhere in the NFC South, Carolina outlasted Cincinnati thanks to 184 yards rushing from Christian McCaffery. The Bengals got outplayed but not by much. Andy Dalton's four interceptions didn't help and they now face a deadly stretch of six games against Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Tampa and New Orleans that will define their season.......Speaking of season defining, the injury to San Francisco's star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ticks that box. By the time you read this the worst fears of the 49ers will have likely been confirmed: that the Eastern Illinois signal caller who signed a 5 year, $137.5 million dollar deal in the off-season has torn his ACL. CJ Beathard will be asked to lead the Niners the rest of the way, although it's not beyond the realms of possibility that GM John Lynch tries to engineer a trade for a veteran passer such as Robert Griffin III of Baltimore. To compund matters, the 49ers lost 38-27 to Kansas City for whom Patrick Mahomes threw his 11th, 12th and 13th touchdown passes of his already extraordinary first season. Nine different Chiefs players have caught touchdowns through three games. The NFL record for an entire season is thirteen.

Life can come at you fast in the NFL. Just ask Jacksonville. Seven days after easing past New England, the Jaguars came unstuck against Tennessee in a battle of field goals. Titans kicker Ryan Succop proved the difference in a 9-6 win. “We just didn’t execute. We have to make plays. We get the opportunity, we need to make the play,” said quarterback Blake Bortles afterwards......The Bears sit atop the NFC North after they came from behind to beat a very bad Arziona side who turned to rookie quarterback Josh Rosen four the final five minutes after Sam Bradford had flattered to deceive for much of the contest. If they have any hope moving forwards this season then Rosen needs to take over full time.

Carson Wentz calmed the fears of Philadelphia fans in his first start since tearing his ACL against the Rams last season. Almost nine months to the day since the injury, he showed flashes of his old self going 25-for-37 with a touchdown, an interception and a fumble, but leading the Eagles on two long scoring drives and helping them past the Colts 20-16.......There was joy in the nation's capital as Washington comfortably beat an off-colour Green Bay Packer team, hobbled by a gimpy Aaron Rodgers. The league's best passer struggled to move the pocket on his injured knee and with Jay Gruden's defense causing him all sorts of problems, he looked distinctly average in the loss. There was also a second straight controversial roughing the passer penalty on Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews whose hit on Kirk Cousins a week ago extended the game when he was penalised by referee Tony Corrente. The Vikings, given that reprieve, tied things up with a touchdown and two-point conversion late in regulation. This time Matthews ran directly at Washington QB Alex Smith and sacked him, without hitting the quarterback in the head or below the knee as prohibited by NFL rules. But Matthews, according to the NFL, violated the directive that a defender cannot land on a quarterback with most or all of his body weight and drew a flag. In years past the league has shot itself in the foot over the 'catch rule' - when is a catch not a catch. It's now punching itself in the face by asking players to run fast and tackle correctly but somehow not fall on their prey. Speaking to The Athletic after the game, Matthews was at a loss: "Unfortunately this league is going in a direction that a lot of people don't like. I think they're getting soft. The only thing hard about this league is the fines they're laying down on guys like me who play the game hard."

The Giants recorded their first win of the season thanks to a vintage performance from Eli Manning who was helped by his triumverate of skill position stars, Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shephard. The hotseat for Texans head coach Bill O'Brien may be warming considerably as they're far too talented to be 0-3......A sloppy and undisciplined Denver performance allowed Baltimore to move to 2-1 on the season as they beat the Broncos just a little more than the Broncos beat themselves. Rookie running back Phillip Lindsay was ejected for throwing a punch and neither QB Case Keenum or head coach Vance Joseph did their long term job prospects much good......Speaking of long term job prospects, it wasn't too long ago that people were talking about a Hall of Fame career for Dallas passer, Dak Prescott. But after suffering through a difficult second season in 2017 he's seen his star fall even further this campaign as he struggles for consistency. With an injury hit offensive line and a much depleted receiver corps, Prescott isn't helped by those around him. But the great ones elevate their teams and he's done little elevating so far. Yesterday's defeat to Seattle was another example of that as Seahawks signal caller Russell Wilson - with far less weapons at his disposal than Prescott - rallied his troops to a 24-13 win and showed what happens when you have an elite signal caller. Earl Thomas's second interception of the game and subsequent decision to bow in front of a Cowboy bench who decided not to trade for him in the off-season was a kick in the teeth for the Dallas front office.

And in the battle of Los Angeles it was the Rams who came out victorious and firmly moved themselves into the NFL's elite with another strong offensive performance. Jared Goff threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns to lead Sean McVay's men who now face a short week ahead of a huge NFC match-up against the Vikings on Thursday night.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Two of the NFL's biggest surprises meet tonight as unbeaten Tampa take on winless Pittsburgh and who'd have thought we'd have written that two weeks ago? The wheels look to be coming off for Mike Tomlin whilst it's arrow up for the Bucs and their 35 year old quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick who's directed two huge wins so far over NFC powerhouses New Orleans and Philadelphia. The Steelers have looked all at sea on defense since linebacker Ryan Shazier was injured last season and with star running back Le'veon Bell absent again and likely to be traded, it will take a herculean effort if they're to overcome a rampant Tampa team.

Prediction: Tampa 42-24 Pittsburgh