All eyes were on Joe Burrow, given that the No. 1 overall pick from the 2020 NFL Draft was making his first primetime start in the NFL. Burrow played well at times, but it didn’t matter at all because of how his defense performed. Cincinnati’s stop unit missed practically every tackle in sight, as the Browns bulldozed right through the opponent with its two elite running backs.
This game was epitomized by one drive in the fourth quarter. The Bengals fought hard to fight back from a double-digit deficit to draw to within five with about six minutes remaining. All they needed to do was get one stop to give themselves a chance to secure a game-winning touchdown. This proved to be way more difficult than it sounded, as it took the Browns just three plays to reach the red zone, with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt both exploding for long gains. A few snaps later, Hunt waltzed into the end zone to put the game out of reach.
Both Chubb and Hunt enjoyed monstrous performances, as they each scored twice. Chubb rumbled for 124 yards on 22 carries, while Hunt gained 86 rushing yards on just 10 carries to go along with a pair of receptions for 15 receiving yards. Cincinnati’s defensive line was pushed around quite easily, while the rest of the defense whiffed on countless tackles. New nose tackle D.J. Reader was carted off the field last week, so it was assumed that his return would help stop the rush. This was obviously not the case, but perhaps things will improve once fellow defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels return to action.
Baker Mayfield was able to capitalize on the running game with play-action. He misfired just seven times, going 16-of-23 for 219 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The pick was his only mistake, as he didn’t see William Jackson.
There was some speculation that Odell Beckham Jr. had poor chemistry with Burrow, but that talk will disappear this week. Beckham led his team in receiving with four grabs for 74 yards and a touchdown. Jarvis Landry (3-46) was next on the stat sheet.
As for Burrow, he didn’t get much help from his offensive line, but he performed well considering the circumstances. He went 37-of-61 for 316 yards and three touchdowns. There were some mistakes, including a poor sack taken on the second drive, a Myles Garrett-forced strip-sack that turned into a touchdown and a pass behind A.J. Green on third down, but Burrow had way more positives than negatives. He was especially clutch on fourth downs, converting all five opportunities, and scoring the all-important back-door touchdown at the very end.
Burrow’s top receiver was Tyler Boyd, who caught seven of his eight targets for 72 yards and a touchdown. Boyd nearly caught a second touchdown, but dropped his sole misconnection with Burrow in the end zone. Green, meanwhile, saw more targets (13), but came up with only three grabs for 29 yards. Like Boyd, Green dropped a touchdown. He saw tougher coverage than Boyd did because he was matched up against Denzel Ward, so perhaps he’ll rebound next week.
Burrow’s second touchdown was thrown to tight end C.J. Uzomah, who caught four passes for 42 yards. Unfortunately, Uzomah was carted off the field in the second half, allowing young tight end Drew Sample (7-45) to serve as a capable replacement.
Joe Mixon didn’t have much running room against Cleveland’s talented defensive line, as he mustered just 46 yards on 16 carries. He helped his PPR owners, however, securing four receptions for 40 receiving yards.
Bears 17, Giants 13
There was plenty of cause for optimism for the Giants entering the 2020 season, but that has quickly disappeared. They went toe-to-toe with the Steelers in the opener, but all hope ended in this contest on a sequence of plays. Saquon Barkley appeared to hyperextend his left arm on a tackle in the opening half, and yet he somehow managed to remain in the game. However, two plays later, Barkley hurt his knee, forcing him to leave permanently. The Giants fear as though he tore his ACL, which would effectively end any sort of chance they had of reaching the playoffs.
Daniel Jones, meanwhile, was a turnover machine, giving the Bears free possessions throughout the early stages of the afternoon. He was strip-sacked on the first drive as a result of holding the ball too long in the pocket, then threw an interception when he released the ball off his back foot. This all gave the Bears a 17-0 lead, so it seemed as though Chicago would cruise to an easy victory.
The Giants, however, did not give up, as the mounted a fierce comeback. The offense began clicking in the second half, and new cornerback James Bradberry made a great play when he ripped an interception away from a Chicago receiver. The Giants had a chance to win at the very end, but some questionable play-calling allowed the Bears to come away with the victory.
Jones finished 25-of-40 for 241 yards and the aforementioned interception. He held on to the ball too long at times, but it was nice to see him bounce back following a slow start. There’s some optimism for Jones going forward because he’ll have easier matchups than Chicago and Pittsburgh, but he’ll likely have to traverse the rest of the season without Barkley.
Speaking of Barkley, his disappointing 2020 campaign likely ends with him gaining 28 yards on four carries. His backup, Dion Lewis, mustered only 20 yards on 10 carries, though he scored a touchdown.
Evan Engram led the Giants with six catches for 65 yards, though he was targeted on Jones’ interception. Golden Tate (5-47) was next, though he was guilty of offensive pass interference on the final dirve. Darius Slayton (3-33) dropped a pass on third down in the red zone.
The Bears, meanwhile, are 2-0 now despite Trubisky starting at quarterback. Trubisky made some nice throws in this game, finishing 18-of-28 for 190 yards and two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Trubisky was excellent in the opening half, but couldn’t do much following intermission. His picks occurred then, with the one that was his fault being a pass toward Allen Robinson that was off the mark, allowing Bradberry to pop it up into the air.
It’s fair to wonder how much longer this luck will continue. Last week, the Bears were able to benefit from all of the injuries Detroit suffered at corner. This time, Trubisky was lucky that a fourth-and-1 attempt late in the game popped into the air and landed into the arms of right tackle Bobby Massie.
Trubisky threw to Robinson more than anyone else, but the top receiver was limited to just three catches for 33 yards. Anthony Miller, meanwhile, failed to secure any of his three targets. This includes a dropped touchdown in the opening quarter.
David Montgomery, like Barkley, seemed to suffer an injury on a nasty fall, but he was able to remain in the game. He ended up leading the team in both rushing and receiving. He gained 82 yards on 16 carries and caught three passes for 45 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Cowboys 40, Falcons 39
The Cowboys gave themselves no chance to win this game. Dak Prescott was strip-sacked early in the first quarter, setting up a Matt Ryan touchdown to Calvin Ridley. Ezekiel Elliott fumbled on the next possession, giving the Falcons yet another touchdown, this time a Ryan throw to Hayden Hurst. Another miscue, a failed fake punt, granted Atlanta with a free field goal after the team took over in Dallas territory. And if that wasn’t enough, tight end Dalton Schultz fumbled the ball to give the Falcons yet another field goal.
Including the botched fake punt, the Cowboys committed four turnovers in less than a half of action to give the Falcons a 29-10 lead entering intermission. Dallas crept back, but the Falcons blew open the game with a 39-24 lead in the fourth quarter. This game should’ve been finished, but the Cowboys didn’t get the memo. Following a touchdown, Dallas opted for an onside kick in the final minute of regulation. The attempt was short and had no chance of going 10 yards. Except, the ball didn’t get the memo either. It kept rolling and rolling until it went 10 yards, and Dallas pounced on it. Following a big play by CeeDee Lamb, the Cowboys moved themselves into position to attempt the game-winning field goal, which Greg Zuerlein converted from 46. And just like that, the Cowboys pulled off the most improbable of victories.
Prescott posted some incredible numbers amid the comeback. He went 34-of-47 for 450 yards and a touchdown, and he also scrambled five times for 18 rushing yards and THREE more touchdowns. He may have had an ugly start, and he missed two plays when he was tested for a concussion, but he came through in the clutch despite missing both of his offensive tackles.
Lamb, who had the great play to put the Cowboys into position to win the game, ended up leading his team in receiving with six grabs for 106 yards. Amari Cooper was close, snatching six balls for 100 yards, including an incredible one-handed catch in the second half.
Neither Lamb nor Cooper scored, and the same can be said of Michael Gallup (2-58). Schultz was the Dallas player who hauled in the lone receiving touchdown, as he secured nine of his 10 targets for 88 yards, making amends for his early fumble.
Elliott just missed out on a big game. He rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries to go along with the aforementioned lost fumble. Elliott appeared to score a second time, but replay review showed that he was inches shy of the goal line.
As for the Falcons, it’ll be difficult for them to bounce back from such a crushing defeat. They would’ve prevailed had they not made some blunders themselves in the second half. This includes some drops from Julio Jones, including one bomb on a pass from Justin Gage on a trick play. Jones had a miserable game overall, catching just two passes for 24 yards.
Ridley, conversely, was a monster. He reeled in seven of his 10 targets for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Gage (6-46) and Hurst (5-72) also scored.
Ryan posted great numbers, going 24-of-36 for 273 yards and four touchdowns. This was a great matchup for Ryan, as Dallas has one of the worst defenses in the NFL, especially with Leighton Vander Esch out of the lineup.
The Falcons couldn’t run the ball to secure the victory at the end. It appears as though Todd Gurley is shot, as he was restricted to just 61 yards on 21 tries.
Packers 42, Lions 21
The Packers won this game easily if the score is the only indication, but it didn’t seem as though they’d be able to coast to a victory for a healthy portion of the afternoon. They trailed for most of the opening half, as the Lions opened this game by ramming the ball down their throat. The first possession saw Kerry Johnson run five times, with his fifth attempt being a plunge into the end zone to go up 7-0. Detroit was on fire to start, opening the afternoon 5-of-5 on third down. The first failure on third down occurred on a third-and-long as a result of an unsportsmanlike penalty.
The Lions led 14-3 following the first quarter, but it almost seemed as though they remembered how terrible they are after that. They were 1-of-7 on third down for the rest of the afternoon.
Meanwhile, Green Bay’s offense couldn’t be stopped unless the Packer players made mistakes. Green Bay scored 39 points in the final three quarters, as Detroit’s injury-ravaged defense had no answer for Aaron Rodgers or Aaron Jones.
Beginning with Rodgers, the future Hall of Famer went 18-of-30 for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers may not look great, but Rodgers endured six drops in this contest, including one by Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the end zone. Had the Packer receivers not been guilty of so many miscues, the Packers would’ve posted a point total in the 50s.
Jones, meanwhile, blew open this game with a 75-yard touchdown run to begin the second half. This was one of many special plays he made in this contest, with another one being a great, leaping catch. Jones tallied 168 yards and two touchdowns on only 18 carries, and he also happened to lead the team in receiving with four catches for 68 receiving yards and a third score. Given how good Jones is, one has to wonder why the Packers used a second-round pick on a plodding receiver when they could have upgraded the receiving corps.
Speaking of the beleaguered receiving corps, Davante Adams was a big disappointment, snatching just three balls for 36 yards before leaving the game with a hamstring injury. He was outgained by both Valdes-Scantling (3-64) and Allen Lazard (3-45), though the two combined for three drops. Tight end Robert Tonyan (2-25) was also guilty of a drop, but he at least found the end zone.
Detroit’s tight end, T.J. Hockenson, was more productive, as he led his team with four catches for 62 yards. With Kenny Golladay out, Matthew Stafford had to lean on Hockenson and Marvin Jones (4-23), who scored a touchdown.
Speaking of Stafford, the veteran quarterback went 20-of-33 for 244 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The pick went back for six, as Stafford was heavily pressured in his own end zone.
The Lions split the workload between their three backs. Curiously, Kerryon Johnson received just three carries after his five-attempt opening drive that was so successful. Johnson ended up with 32 yards and a score on eight tries, finishing behind Adrian Peterson (7-41), whose production came mostly on a 25-yard burst that was aided by a block that could have been called a hold.
D’Andre Swift, meanwhile, didn’t do much on the ground (5-12), but caught five passes for 60 receiving yards. The Lions need to focus on feeding their young running backs rather than giving carries to Peterson. This should be obvious, so I’m not sure why the Detroit coaching staff doesn’t understand this simple concept.
Colts 28, Vikings 11
The Vikings were expected by many to win the NFC North, but they’re now 0-2 with a pair of hideous performances. There are many reasons for this, but the most prominent one is Kirk Cousins. The highly paid quarterback has not lived up to his pair of contracts the Vikings have given him thus far, and that’s an understatement.
By the time this was a 28-3 game, Cousins was 7-of-22 for 61 yards and three interceptions. You read that right. He was 7-of-22 for 61 yards and three interceptions, and that doesn’t include a safety he took as a result of holding the ball for an eternity, which would be the second in as many weeks.
Cousins completed some passes in garbage to slightly improve his numbers – he finished 11-of-26 for 113 yards – but they were still terrible and won’t allow the coaching staff and fans to forget his two awful picks, as the first one was an irresponsible downfield heave into double coverage. Cousins’ second interception was a Hail Mary attempt right before halftime, so that wasn’t his fault. However, the third pick was all on Cousins, as he fired a pass way behind his intended receiver.
The Vikings strongly need to consider tanking for Trevor Lawrence. Cousins is a loser, and he’s paid way too much. Lawrence would be a much better, cheaper option. With the season already in shambles, Minnesota should strongly consider tanking.
Cousins has been exposed with Stefon Diggs gone. He understandably threw the most to Adam Thielen, but the should-be slot receiver managed to secure just three of his eight targets for 31 yards. He finished only behind Justin Jefferson (3-44) on the receiving chart.
Dalvin Cook wasn’t able to run the ball very much because of the huge deficit. Still, he didn’t have a poor fantasy performance, thanks to a garbage-time touchdown. He gained 63 yards and the score on 14 tries.
The Colts had more success running the ball, as the Vikings clearly miss the opted-out Michael Pierce. In his first start, Jonathan Taylor tallied 101 yards and a touchdown on 26 attempts. He looked great, as there was one instance in which he nearly broke defensive back Holton Hill’s ankles with a nasty juke move. Surprisingly, Nyheim Hines saw just one touch. Perhaps Frank Reich didn’t like Hines’ matchup against the Viking linebackers, though Anthony Barr left early with an injury.
Philip Rivers mostly avoided making multiple mistakes like he did last week. He didn’t commit any blunders that hurt him in this contest, as he was a near-perfect 19-of-25 for 214 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pick wasn’t his fault, with the pass popping out of tight end Mo Alie-Cox’s hands near the goal line. The ball sailed into the arms of a Minnesota defender on an unfortunate bounce. That said, Rivers was strip-sacked when he had poor ball security on a second-and-27 situation in the third quarter.
Speaking of Alie-Cox, he took full advantage of Jack Doyle’s absence by catching five of his six targets for 111 yards. He finished way ahead of any other Colt in receiving yardage, as Michael Pittman (4-37) was the closest. T.Y. Hilton (3-28) was next, but would’ve had a much better game had he not dropped a 44-yard touchdown.
The dark cloud over this victory for the Colts were two injuries. One was to Malik Hooker, who injured his Achilles’ tendon. The second was to emerging second-year receiver Parris Campbell, who was carted off the field with a nasty-looking leg injury on the opening offensive drive of the afternoon. Fortunately, he avoided a torn ACL.
Bills 31, Dolphins 28
Though many didn’t recognize it, as evidenced by the Bills being favored 5.5 points on the road, this was a tough spot for Buffalo. The team was down its top two linebackers, Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, while the well-coached Dolphins would be playing their white jerseys in the hot, Miami weather. The weather actually didn’t cooperate, as there was about a 40-minute delay due to lightning, but the Dolphins fought the Bills fiercely throughout the afternoon. Buffalo, however, managed to prevail, thanks to some heroics from Josh Allen.
Allen struggled with some sloppy turnovers against the Jets, but there was no sign of that in this contest. Instead, Allen showed signs of great development, as he was able to dissect Miami’s defense with ease. It helped that the Dolphins lost one of their star cornerbacks, Byron Jones, but that doesn’t change the fact that Allen was excellent. His accuracy, especially on touch passes, has improved tremendously. Following a misfire on his initial third down to Stefon Diggs, Allen delivered his throws exactly where his receivers needed them amid a mistake here and there, including a potential interception in the third quarter when Allen didn’t see a Miami defender in the flat. Still, the CBS color analyst asked, “How can you not be impressed with how Allen is dealing right now?”
Allen finished 24-of-35 for 417 yards and four touchdowns. He didn’t do much scrambling – four rushes, 18 yards – but that’s a great sign for Allen’s progression. His fantasy owners may not like it, but fewer Allen rushing yards amid victories means that the young quarterback is growing.
All four of Allen’s touchdowns went to different players. This includes Diggs, who had another monstrous afternoon; he caught eight of his 13 targets for 153 yards. Diggs, who made a great, leaping catch in traffic in the second quarter, has been a huge boon for Allen, and we can see how Kirk Cousins is struggling without him. Another of Allen’s touchdowns went to John Brown, who secured four receptions for 82 yards. Cole Beasley (5-70) also played well, but didn’t find the end zone. He was tackled inches shy of it on the second drive.
The Bills continued to split the workload between their two backs almost evenly, with Devin Singletary receiving more carries than Zack Moss, 10-8. Singletary predictably outgained Moss, 56-37. Singletary is a better player than Moss, so it doesn’t make too much sense that the workload split is close to 50-50.
With Buffalo’s top two linebackers sidelined, the Dolphins had a chance to win this game. Ryan Fitzpatrick attacked the middle of the field very effectively, targeting Mike Gesicki as often as possible. The athletic tight end took advantage of the opportunities, catching eight of his 11 targets for 130 yards and a touchdown. This includes a brilliant one-handed catch on a drive that brought the Dolphins into the red zone.
That possession, however, was ruined by Preston Williams dropping a touchdown. Williams had a miserable afternoon, securing just one of his five targets for 26 yards. This blown opportunity would ultimately doom the Dolphins, who needed that score to potentially win the game. Williams finished well behind Gesicki and DeVante Parker (5-53), who caught a touchdown.
Fitzpatrick tossed two scores on a nice afternoon in which he went 31-of-47 for 328 yards. Again, he shoud’ve thrown three scores, but Williams had the ball fly right through his hands.
The Dolphins continued to split the workload between three backs. Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida both received seven carries, turning them into 46 and 37 yards, resepctively. Jordan Howard scored a touchdown, but did nothing else (5 carries, 4 yards.)
49ers 31, Jets 13
If there was any doubt that the Jets were demoralized by Adam Gase and his decision to trade away his best player, that was gone when the 49ers scored an 80-yard touchdown on the very first play of the afternoon. Raheem Mostert blazed past New York’s inept defense, setting the miles-per-hour record over the past two years in the process.
This was far from the only big play the Jets surrendered, as they completely embarrassed themselves by allowing a 55-yard run to Jerick McKinnon on a third-and-31 play in the third quarter. Yes, the 49ers converted a third-and-31 with a run. Meanwhile, Mostert appeared to score on another huge run – this time, a 67-yard sprint – but a Mike McGlinchey hold nullified it.
San Francisco won easily, but there was a huge dark cloud over the victory, as the team will have to be concerned with a pair of new injuries on top of the players who were already hurt. Nick Bosa was carted off the field in the middle of the first quarter with a potential torn ACL, and if that wasn’t bad enough, Jimmy Garoppolo missed the entire second half with an ankle injury. Mostert also left the game with a knee injury. Luckily for the 49ers, they were battling the Jets, so it didn’t matter how many players got hurt.
Garoppolo was 14-of-16 for 131 yards and two touchdowns in one half of action. He gave way to Nick Mullens, who completed most of his passes – 8-of-11 for 71 yards – but he threw an interception as well. I wouldn’t put the pick on him, as his intended target appeared to run the wrong route and slipped as a result.
The two 49er quarterbacks were able to lean on their two running backs, as Mostert and McKinnon nearly combined for 200 rushing yards. Mostert finished with 92 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts, yet could’ve had a much better afternoon if it wasn’t for McGlinchey’s hold. McKinnon tallied 77 yards on three attempts.
Both of Garoppolo’s touchdowns went to Jordan Reed, who snatched seven of his eight targets for 50 yards. Reed, who started for the injured George Kittle, finished only behind Kendrick Bourne (4-67) on the receiving list. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk didn’t do much, hauling in just two passes for 21 yards.
As for the worst team in the NFL, Sam Darnold was able to collect some garbage-time stats, as his line of 21-of-32 for 179 yards and a touchdown was misleading. Darnold had just 65 receiving yards by intermission. He was better than he was last week, but was battling an injury-ravaged 49er defense. Darnold has regressed, which is why I have the Jets selecting Trevor Lawrence in my 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
To be fair, Darnold didn’t have many options at his disposal. His leading receivers were Chris Hogan (6-75) and Braxton Berrios (6-59). The latter caught Darnold’s sole touchdown. Breshad Perriman (2-12) was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury.
With Le’Veon Bell out, Frank Gore handled most of the workload. This was Adam Gase’s wet dream, as the inept coach saw the geriatric runner muster just 63 yards on 21 carries. Gore was predictably stuffed on a fourth-and-1 near the red zone.
Rams 37, Eagles 19
The Eagles were getting several key players back from injury, including Lane Johnson, Miles Sanders and Javon Hargrave. They should have been way more competitive than they were in last week’s embarrassing loss to the Redskins. While the offense moved the chains more effectively, it was the defense that was responsible for the defeat this time.
The Rams out-schemed the Eagles very easily. Philadelphia was constantly fooled by play-action fakes and end-arounds. Thanks to incredibly inept linebacker play, the Los Angeles tight ends were constantly open, especially on the play-action fakes. Meanwhile, the Eagles couldn’t rattle Jared Goff with pressure because Sean McVay wisely kept in his tight ends to block. It was quite evident that the Rams were able to crush the Eagles with a colossal coaching advantage, as McVay out-dueled Doug Pederson with ease.
Philadelphia was incredibly helpless to defend Higbee. The young tight end secured all five of his targets for 54 yards, scoring three touchdowns in the process. Higbee finished only behind Cooper Kupp (5-81), who made a blunder with a fumbled kickoff return. Robert Woods, meanwhile, didn’t do much as a receiver – two catches, 14 yards – but scored on one of the aforementioned end-arounds. Rookie Van Jefferson (4-45) made a great diving catch along the sideline in the opening quarter.
Thanks to McVay making things so easy, Jared Goff barely missed whenever he threw. Goff finished 20-of-27 for 267 yards and three touchdowns. His first incompletion occurred when there were just three minutes remaining in the opening half. Goff was particularly effective on third down, converting 7-of-12 tries.
Cam Akers started over Malcolm Brown, which was a surprise. Akers gained 13 yards on three carries before leaving the game with a rib injury. Darrell Henderson and Brown split the carries the rest of the way, with Henderson outgaining Brown, 81-47. Henderson, who scored, nearly had two touchdowns, but Goff overthrew him in the end zone. Henderson will be worth adding in fantasy leagues.
Miles Sanders led all running backs in rushing in this game, finishing with 95 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts. It was nice for the Eagles to have Sanders back in the lineup, but he hurt them to start the afternoon when he fumbled on the opening drive. He also dropped a pass in the second quarter.
Carson Wentz was also responsible for a hideous turnover. He was moving the chains well in the third quarter and appeared to be commanding the Eagles to a lead after starting with a 21-3 deficit. However, Wentz fired a shot into the end zone into double coverage, which allowed the Rams to open up their advantage even further.
Wentz finished 26-of-43 for 242 yards and a pair of interceptions. Wentz didn’t play well, as he seemed to see the field poorly. He had a touchdown available to him in the second half, but didn’t see his teammate in the end zone.
DeSean Jackson led the Eagles in receiving with six grabs for 64 yards, though he dropped a pass in the third quarter. He finished ahead of Zach Ertz (5-42) and Dallas Goedert (4-30). First-round rookie wideout Jalen Reagor caught four passes for 41 yards, but had a big drop near the goal line.
Steelers 26, Broncos 21
The Steelers know what the Broncos are going through, as they experienced it last year. The injury bug has claimed Von Miller and several other Denver players already, and now Drew Lock was the latest victim. Lock got hurt in the opening quarter and eventually left the game, echoing what happened with Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2 last year.
Lock will eventually be hoping to bounce back like Roethlisberger has thus far in 2020. Roethlisberger was solid in the opener, and he continued to play as well in this game despite missing two starting offensive linemen. Roethlisberger finished 29-of-41 for 311 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It wasn’t a great performance by Roethlisberger, as he had a second potential pick that was dropped in the end zone. His actual interception was a poor decision on his part, staring down a receiver when he had an infinite amount of time in the pocket.
Roethlisberger had some great throws, however, and this includes his 84-yard bomb touchdown to rookie Chase Claypool. The Notre Dame product was second on the team in receiving with his three grabs for 88 yards. He finished right behind Diontae Johnson’s eight catches for 92 yards and a score. Johnson also had a return touchdown, but that was nullified by a penalty. He fumbled an end-around as well, but managed to recover the loose ball.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, JuJu Smith-Schuster reeled in seven balls for 48 yards. It was a disappointing result in the wake of A.J. Bouye’s injury, but he saw eight targets.
It was incredibly disappointing to see James Conner get the exclusive workload when it’s quite apparent that Benny Snell is the better player. Conner posted great numbers – 16 carries, 106 yards, one touchdown – but more than half of his yardage came on a 59-yard burst at the very end of the game when the Broncos stopped trying. That said, Snell didn’t do himself any favors by losing a fumble near midfield at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
While the Snell fumble was instrumental in the Broncos keeping this to within one score in the fourth quarter, they deserve major credit for hanging around despite the Lock injury. When Jeff Driskel stepped in, I didn’t think Denver had a chance against Pittsburgh’s great defense. Driskel was lucky in receiving some help from Pittsburgh and some sloppy penalties, but he did fine considering the circumstances.
Driskel finished 18-of-34 for 256 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The pick wasn’t even his fault, as the ball sailed right through Courtland Sutton’s hands. That said, Driskel made some mistakes, including one instance in the red zone where he didn’t see an open K.J. Hamler in the end zone, opting to take a poor sack instead. On the very next play, he overthrew Noah Fant for an easy touchdown. Driskel’s accuracy was inconsistent all afternoon, and he showed poor pocket awareness. He has a nice arm, but he’s slow to process information.
Speaking of Sutton and Fant, they finished first and third in receiving; Sutton caught three passes for 66 yards, opening with a great back-shoulder catch on the first drive. However, he left the game early with leg cramps. Fant, meanwhile, snatched four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. Sandwiched in between was Jerry Jeudy (4-62), who was knocked out of the contest with a horrible hit to the head from Devin Bush. Fortunately, Jeudy was able to return to action. He dropped a pass in the third quarter.
With Phillip Lindsay out with an injury, Melvin Gordon handled the full workload. He tallied 70 yards on 19 carries.
Buccaneers 31, Panthers 17
Tom Brady is still learning how to play with his new team, and that was apparent in this game. He performed better than he did at New Orleans in the opener, but he still had some miscommunications with his new teammates that fully prevented the Buccaneers from running away with a blowout victory.
One such instance occurred in the second quarter, with the Buccaneers being guilty of a fumble because Brady and Ronald Jones botched a handoff. There was another blunder later, as Brady threw an interception in the red zone because he overthrew Rob Gronkowski as a result of heavy pressure. These two plays prevented the Buccaneers from putting this game away despite their 21-0 lead.
The Panthers hung around and eventually clawed to within seven points. It appeared as though they’d at least get the cover, but a 46-yard Leonard Fournette touchdown secured the front-door cover for the Buccaneers, who beat the eight-point spread.
Brady finished 23-of-35 for 217 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned pick. Brady did well, but wasn’t remotely great. In addition to his mistakes, Brady also badly underthrew a wide-open Justin Watson on one play. Brady still connected with Watson on the flea-flicker, but had the pass been on the money, it would’ve gone for a touchdown rather than a 36-yard connection.
That said, Brady made some terrific throws as well. He threw a precise strike down the seam to Mike Evans for a long gain that helped set up the initial touchdown of the afternoon. He and Evans made another pretty connection after that on a back-shoulder throw into the end zone to extend the lead to 14-0. It was as if Brady and Evans had played together for half a decade. Brady later appeared to throw a second touchdown to LeSean McCoy, but the veteran running back dropped the ball.
Back to Watson, he was second on the team in receiving with two catches for 48 yards. He was given an opportunity to play because of Chris Godwin’s injury, and his numbers should’ve been better. He finished only behind Evans and his seven grabs for 104 yards and a touchdown. The disappointing Scotty Miller caught just two passes for 11 yards, though he drew a deep pass interference flag.
As for Fournette, his long touchdown put him over the century mark, as he tallied 103 yards and two touchdowns on 12 attempts. That might be it for Ronald Jones, who was given just seven attempts, which he turned into 23 yards and a score. Meanwhile, McCoy dropped a pair of passes, including one in the end zone.
It might be it for Christian McCaffrey as well. McCaffrey continued to struggle against the Buccaneers, as he was limited for 59 yards on 18 carries. However, he helped out his fantasy owners with two touchdowns as well as four catches for 29 receiving yards. The bad news, however, is that McCaffrey suffered an injury and will undergo testing on Monday.
Being in a large deficit for most of the afternoon, Teddy Bridgewater had to throw early and often. The afternoon began poorly for him, as he tossed an interception on a horrible overthrow to McCaffrey and then lost a fumble on a strip-sack by rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Bridgewater rebounded in the second half, finishing 33-of-42 for 367 yards and a pair of interceptions.
One of Bridgewater’s best throws was a tremendous back-shoulder connection to D.J. Moore for a deep gain. Bridgewater appeared to have a chance to tie the game at 21 after crawling out of a 21-0 deficit, but a poor pass behind Moore turned into an interception, giving the Buccaneers a short field to work with. Minutes later, Tampa Bay kicked a field goal to give itself a two-score lead in the fourth quarter.
Thanks to garbage time, two Panther receivers eclipsed the century barrier: Moore (8-120) and Robby Anderson (9-109). Anderson drew an interference flag in the red zone.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Jaguars are a tipped pass away from being 2-0. So much for tanking! They could end their chances of landing Trevor Lawrence by beating the Dolphins on Thursday night.
The Titans improved to 2-0 after Ryan Tannehill made some clutch throws and a couple Jacksonville interceptions on critical plays tipped the balance to Tennessee. Jaguars quarterback Garner Minshew played really well, but had some bad luck, with both of those picks coming from tipped passes. My projection, as well as the projections many others, that the Jaguars will land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft looks very doubtful with how Minshew is playing. The Titans, meanwhile, once again did not cruise, but they executed in crunch time to start the year 2-0.
The Jaguars blew coverage on a misdirection play on the opening drive, leaving tight end Jonnu Smith wide open on the backside of the field. That led to a 63-yard gain, and two snaps later, Smith made a leaping touchdown catch on a perfectly placed place by Ryan Tannehill for a quick lead. On the ensuing drive, Gardner Minshew used his feet to convert a fourth-and-3, but a few plays later, he tossed a pass that was flew low and was picked off by Titans rookie Kristian Fulton, who returned it 45 yards into Jaguars territory. Tennessee took advantage by scoring with Corey Davis, who made a leaping grab in the back of the end zone over C.J. Henderson for a 14-0 lead.
The Jaguars responded when Minshew connected with D.J. Chark for 45 yards. A few plays later, Minshew threw a well-placed pass to Tyler Eifert (3-36-1) for a touchdown. The Titans then used Derrick Henry to move the ball down the field, and a short touchdown pass to Smith finished the drive.
Minshew led a scoring drive midway through the third quarter, utilizing short passing and finished off by James Robinson charging up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown. Tennessee then got moving with Henry and Davis (3-36-1) moving the chains. Tannehill made a phenomenal play while Josh Allen was bearing down on him, laying out a dime to Adam Humphries for an 18-yard score. Gostkowski, however, missed the extra point.
Robinson kept the Jaguars moving, ripping off a 39-yard run before a short touchdown pass to Keelan Cole (6-58-1) made it 30-23 Tennessee early in the fourth quarter. Following Gostkowski’s lead, Lambo missed the extra point. Midway through the fourth quarter, Minshew laid out a beautiful pass to Chris Thompson for a 14-yard score. Lambo hit this extra point to tie the game at 30.
An excellent run by Derrick Henry late in the game a got the Titans moving, and a huge pass interference penalty on Myles Jack moved the Titans into field goal range. Gostkowski then hit a 49-yarder to put the Titans up 33-30. Soon after, Justin Simmons batted a pass, and Harold Landry came down with the deflection to secure Tennessee’s win.
Tannehill was 18-of-24 for 239 yards and four touchdowns. Henry ran for 84 yards on 25 carries.
With A.J. Brown out of the lineup, Jonnu Smith stepped up and led the Titans in receiving with 84 yards on four receptions and two scores.
Minshew was 30-of-45 for 339 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Chark had 84 yards on four receptions.
James Robinson ran well for the Jaguars with 102 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I don’t know why I dropped the unit count on this game to just one. I had a great Week 2, but this was a mistake on my part.
If the Arizona defense can play like this every week, the team is going to be a serious contender in the NFC. Washington was shutout in the first half and had only three points entering the fourth quarter. The Cardinals improves to 2-0 and have upside to only get better as their young players gain experience and continuity.
The Cardinals made their opening drive look easy, with Murray ripping up the Washington defense with legs and arm. DeAndre Hopkins had an excellent run after the catch to set up a first-and-goal, and a few plays later, safety Landon Collins blew his coverage assignment to let Hopkins get wide open in the back of the end zone for an easy touchdown. On the next Arizona drive, Collins tried to redeem himself when he jumped a route for an interception to set up the Redskins at the Cardinals’ 19-yard line. Collins was just reading the eyes of Murray, and the young quarterback did not look safety coverage away, instead staring down his target.
Washington, however, gave the football right back when Jordan Phillips hit Dwayne Haskins’ arm and Chandler Jones caught the errant ball for an interception. The turnovers continued when the Redskins fumbling a punt that Arizona recovered inside the Washington 20. A few plays later, Murray took a nifty designed run for a 14-yard touchdown. A 54-yard pass to Andy Isabella and a 48-yard pass to Christian Kirk set up Zane Gonzalez’s field goals to make it 20-0 at halftime.
Late in the third quarter, Washington finally got on the scoreboard thanks to a field goal drive. The Cardinals’ offense responded with Murray connecting with DeAndre Hopkins for 25 yards, and that drive ended with Murray running the ball into the end zone from 21 yards out. The Redskins finally got into the end zone when Dwayne Haskins hit a slant to Terry McLaurin for a 24-yard touchdown. Haskins soon hit Steven Sims for a 30-yard completion, and on the next play, Antonio Gibson ran the ball into the end zone from 11 yards out. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Cardinals holding a 27-15 lead. Zane Gonzalez added another field goal late in the fourth quarter to pad Arizona’s victory.
Murray was 26-of-38 for 286 yards a touchdown and an interception through the air. On the ground, he ran for 67 yards and two touchdowns over eight carries. Murray will be even better when he throws to some open receivers underneath rather than pushing for big plays downfield when it isn’t really there.
Hopkins had eight receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Drake ran for 86 yards on 20 carries.
Haskins was 19-of-33 for 223 yards and a touchdown, but the majority of his production came in garbage time.
Gibson led the Redskins on the ground with 55 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
McLaurin notched seven receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Chiefs 23, Chargers 20
Andy Reid is a master when having extra time to prepare for a game, but something he didn’t anticipate was who the starting quarterback of the Chargers would be. There was no indication that it would be Justin Herbert, but the rookie was given the nod due to Tyrod Taylor’s surprise chest injury. Herbert was thrown into the fire with no preparation ahead of this game, but looked like an experienced veteran on most instances.
Herbert was mostly excellent in his first start despite suffering an early drop from a scrub receiver. Herbert moved the chains well throughout the afternoon, achieving 28 first downs and converting 6-of-13 third-down attempts. One such conversion as a brilliantly placed pass in between two Kansas City defenders to Keenan Allen, who hauled in the ball as he was about to get hit. It didn’t all go well for Herbert, as he made a huge mistake when he threw late and way across his body, which resulted in an interception.
Still, this didn’t bother Herbert, who led a field goal drive at the end of regulation after the Chiefs made a comeback. The game ultimately went to overtime, but the Chargers blew it when head coach Anthony Lynn opted to punt on a fourth-and-1. Sure, the Chargers were on their own 34-yard line, but giving Patrick Mahomes possession in overtime would’ve ended the game, regardless of where the Chiefs would start. That turned out to be the case, as Mahomes put the Chiefs into position to kick the game-winning field goal to improve to 2-0.
Herbert went 22-of-33 for 311 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned interception. He also scrambled four times for 18 rushing yards and a second touchdown. Herbert was very impressive, and the few Charger fans who still exist must feel very optimistic about the team’s outlook going forward with Herbert at the helm.
Allen stands to benefit from Herbert. The reliable receiver caught seven of his 10 targets for 96 yards, finishing just ahead of Hunter Henry (6-83). Mike Williams (2-14) didn’t do much.
Austin Ekeler continued to lose work to Joshua Kelley, who handled 23 carries in comparison to Ekeler’s 16. However, Ekeler outgained Kelley, 93-64. Ekeler was also a big part of the passing game, catching four passes for 55 receiving yards.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, never had a lead in regulation, yet Mahomes saved the day with his usual fourth-quarter heroics. Mahomes was just 8-of-19 for 60 yards and a touchdown in the opening half, yet completed the game 27-of-47 for 302 yards and a pair of scores to go along with six scrambles for 54 rushing yards. The Chargers’ unbelievably talented defensive front smacked Mahomes around quite brutally throughout the afternoon, but the reigning Super Bowl MVP had the last laugh.
Two Kansas City players nearly logged 100 receiving yards, with Tyreek Hill (5-99) and Travis Kelce (9-90) both scoring touchdowns. Sammy Watkins, conversely, was knocked out with a concussion after catching just one pass for 11 yards.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a brilliant debut, but struggled in his second game. The Chargers limited him to just 38 yards on 10 carries. Edwards-Helaire at least salvaged his PPR output with six catches for 32 receiving yards.
Ravens 33, Texans 16
It’s evident by now that Deshaun Watson is clearly not the same quarterback without DeAndre Hopkins. Bill O’Brien thought that trading one of the top receivers in the NFL for a decrepit running back and a second-round pick was a good decision, but this strategy has clearly backfired. Watson has struggled immensely through two games thus far in 2020.
This is not an attack on Watson, by any means; it’s just an observation that he has no help, which is the point. The Texans had no one to stretch the field in this game, with Will Fuller coming on and off the field with an injury. It was all on Watson and a myriad of pedestrian receivers, all while getting no protection from a miserable offensive line. Watson also got no help from O’Brien, who called a terrible play on an early fourth-and-1 on his own 35. Watson couldn’t complete a pass because of heavy pressure, and this set up a Baltimore touchdown to make the score 10-0.
Later in the opening half, Watson threw an interception on a telegraphed pass. Watson made a poor decision, but Marcus Peters showed some great instincts on the play. Watson later missed David Johnson for a big gain on an overthrow.
Watson finished 25-of-36 for 275 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He moved the chains well at times in between the 20s, but his offensive line collapsed whenever the Texans would get close to the end zone. This is why they settled for so many field goals. If Hopkins were on the team, the Texans would be able to open up the offense more, but O’Brien doesn’t believe he needs someone of Hopkins’ caliber.
With Hopkins gone and Fuller injured, the leading receiver for the Texans was Brandin Cooks, who hauled in five passes for 95 yards. He ended up just ahead of Randall Cobb (5-59) and Jordan Akins (7-55). Watson’s sole touchdown went to Darren Fells (2-23).
Houston predictably failed to run the ball well, as David Johnson was limited to 34 yards on 11 carries. Thank goodness the Texans acquired him for Hopkins.
While the Texans couldn’t run well with their decrepit running back, the Ravens absolutely bulldozed the opposition in this contest. Four players tallied 48 rushing yards or more, which was impressive. Remarkably, the leader in rushing wasn’t Mark Ingram, Lamar Jackson or J.K. Dobbins. It was Gus Edwards, who gained 73 yards on just 10 carries. He had one more attempt than Mark Ingram, who tallied 55 yards and a touchdown on nine tries. Dobbins barely did anything, but picked up 48 yards, thanks to a 44-yard scamper. Dobbins was very explosive on that run, which made me wonder why he didn’t get much work.
Jackson, meanwhile, scrambled just seven times in Week 1, only to see that figure rise to 16 times in this contest. The Texans actually did a good job of limiting him, as Jackson managed “just” 54 yards on the 16 runs. This didn’t matter, however, as Jackson was very efficient as a passer. He misfired just six times, going 18-of-24 for 204 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson didn’t have to throw very much, so the Baltimore receiving numbers were suppressed. Marquise Brown led the team with five catches for 42 yards. Mark Andrews, meanwhile, caught only one pass for 29 yards.
Seahawks 35, Patriots 30
There was some question about the Patriots’ ability to compete for a playoff spot in the wake of Tom Brady’s departure. Those concerns are no longer valid despite the loss, given how impressive Cam Newton was in this defeat.
Playing without James White, who lost his father to a car accident, Newton did a great job of moving the chains against one of the better defenses in the NFL. The Seahawks have a stellar secondary and a talented linebacking corps, and yet Newton engineered so many successful drives. The Patriots achieved 29 first downs and converted 7-of-12 third downs. Newton found himself down a pair of scores, but he led a touchdown drive and then nearly gave the Patriots a lead with a few seconds remaining. However, his attempted plunge into the end zone was thwarted by Delano Hill, leaving the Patriots just yards shy of pulling off the upset victory.
Newton finished 30-of-44 for 397 yards, one touchdown and an interception to go along with 11 scrambles, 47 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground. Newton’s interception was thrown a bit behind his receiver, though cornerback Quinton Dunbar deserves all of the credit for making a great jump on the pass. Newton also had a potential pick-six dropped by Dunbar, who couldn’t quite pilfer the potential turnover. Still, Newton was great otherwise, and he should give the Patriots a fighting chance to beat the Bills for the divisional crown.
It turns out Newton loves throwing to Julian Edelman just as much as Brady once did. Edelman snared eight of his 11 targets for a whopping 179 yards. Second-year N’Keal Harry also played well, snatching eight passes for 72 yards.
With White out, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead split the touches. Michel mustered only 19 yards on seven attempts, while Burkhead did some damage as a receiver, catching four balls for 47 receiving yards.
As great as Newton was in this game, Russell Wilson was better. Wilson threw a whopping five touchdowns to go along with 21-of-28 passing for 288 yards. Wilson also scrambled five times for 39 rushing yards. He was guilty of an interception as well, but that wasn’t his fault because Greg Olsen had a ball pop out of his hands and into the arms of Devin McCourty.
Wilson’s five touchdowns went to different players, with D.K. Metcalf leading the charge (4-92) despite seeing tight coverage from Stephon Gilmore. Tyler Lockett (7-67) was next on the stat sheet, followed by Wilson’s other scorers, David Moore (3-48), Chris Carson (3-26) and Fred Swaim.
Speaking of Carson, he tallied 72 yards on 17 carries to go along with his receiving yards and score.
Raiders 34, Saints 24
The ESPN announcers made note that the Raiders, under Jon Gruden, had never beaten a team with a winning record. That changed tonight, as the Raiders christened their new stadium in Las Vegas with an unexpected victory over a team many project to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
It didn’t appear as though the Raiders would pull the upset in the early stages of the evening. They fell behind by 10 points twice in the opening half, trailing 10-0 and 17-7. Making matters worse, stellar guard Richie Incognito was knocked out of the game with an injury, joining talented right tackle Trent Brown on the sidelines. The Raiders weren’t doing much offensively, while the Drew Brees couldn’t be stopped.
Then, everything changed. The Raiders began rattling Brees, while Gruden and offensive coordinator Greg Olson discovered a major weakness in the Saints’ defense: Malcolm Jenkins. The perennial Pro Bowl safety re-joined New Orleans following a long stay in Philadelphia, but doesn’t appear to be anything close to his former self. Derek Carr repeatedly targeted Jenkins, whose only victories this year might have to be bullying his quarterback into changing his beliefs. Jenkins’ struggles allowed Carr to connect early and often to Darren Waller, who had a night to remember.
Waller is the fastest tight end in the NFL, and before long, he might end up becoming the best. The Raiders looked incredibly helpless to defend Waller, who caught 12 of his 16 targets for 103 yards and a touchdown. Henry Ruggs, meanwhile, caught just one pass for four yards, but drew a clutch pass interference flag late in the game to set up a clinching field goal.
Carr had a strong game on paper, going 28-of-38 for 282 yards and three touchdowns. He played well, but there were still some lingering instances where he had some opportunities downfield, yet neglected to take a shot. This has been the frustrating aspect of Carr’s game in the pros thus far, and it’s something Gruden and Olson will need to fix if the Raiders want to make a deep trip into the playoffs.
In the meantime, the Raiders will continue to ride Josh Jacobs. The second-year running back missed a bit of action in the medical tent, but managed to return to the field. It’s a shame for his owners, as Jacobs likely would’ve hit the century mark had he not missed any action. Jacobs finished with 88 yards on 27 carries.
Jacobs’ counterpart, Alvin Kamara was the centerpiece of the Saints’ offense with Michael Thomas out of the lineup. Kamara did everything, rushing for 79 yards on just 13 carries and catching all nine of his targets for 95 receiving yards. He also scored twice. With Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley injured, Kamara is now the favorite to lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage.
All the media is talking about is the decline of Brees, who has posted the fewest aerial yards per attempt of any quarterback over the past 15 years through two games, save for the 2009 version of Brett Favre, who was decrepit. It’s too early to say that Brees is done, especially given that he didn’t have Michael Thomas at his disposal. Emmanuel Sanders was nowhere to be found either; he didn’t catch a single pass until the final drive of the game.
Brees had a middling fantasy stat line, going 26-of-38 for 312 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pick occurred because Brees was hit by Maurice Hurst and didn’t have the time to notice where the intercepting linebacker, Nicholas Morrow, was in coverage.
Save for Kamara, the Saints’ leader in receiving was Tre’Quan Smith, who caught five passes for 86 yards, though he dropped a pass. Sanders (1-18) also committed a drop. Jared Cook (2-13) caught Brees’ sole touchdown.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.