*Week 3 saw the return of the Packers' offense, the emergence of Trevor Siemian: offensive juggernaut and Carson Palmer show shades of regression. Here is what we've learned so far: *
- The Vikings defense continues to shake up the top of the NFC power teams. One week after serving up Aaron Rodgers' worst game in years, Minnesota absolutely destroyed Cam Newton and the Panthers offense in the second half Sunday.
Trailing 10-0 late in the first quarter, Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter threw Michael Oher to the turf before tossing Newton down for a safety. The play started a pass rushing deluge for Minnesota, the team finishing with eight sacks and 12 QB hits.
- After a fast start by Newton, the Panthers had no answers for Minnesota's depth and creativity up front. Everson Griffen led the way with three sacks and three tackles for loss, but Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith and especially Mike Zimmer's varied looks deserve credit for continually scrambling Carolina's offensive circuitry. This was the most impressive effort we've seen by any defense all season. Newton came into the game as the best QB in football and wound up getting picked off three times.
- After two dominant weeks to start the season, Kelvin Benjamin's only target of the game came with a few minutes remaining. It should have resulted in an interception after a miscommunication with Newton. The return of Xavier Rhodes was a big factor as Minnesota's physical cornerbacks allowed zero catches to Benjamin and fellow starting receiver Devin Funchess.
*-- Gregg Rosenthal *
- The Aaron Rodgers-Jordy Nelson connection looked like its 2014 form in the first half. Nelson got open with ease against Lions defensive backs early, grabbing six of his seven first-half targets for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers diced up an undermanned Detroit defense, throwing four touchdowns on 12-of-18 passing through two quarters for 174 yards.
- Despite the win, it's hardly a game that will quell Cheesehead Nation. Not only did the offense get ultra conservative, Dom Capers' defense got torched by Matthew Stafford. Sans Clay Matthews, Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett, the Packers' D allowed wide open passes receivers the final three quarters. After getting beat by Sam Bradford last week, the young Packers secondary continues to go through growing pains.
- Marvin Jones was so wide open I wondered at certain points if Packers players knew he was an eligible receiver. Jones was sublime on sideline targets. There is no question he is the Lions No. 1 receiver.
*-- Kevin Patra *
- Cincinnati's defense keyed on C.J. Anderson and the ground game, forcing Siemian to make tough intermediate and downfield throws for the first time this season. After watching Siemian attempt fewer passes of 20 or more yards than any quarterback through two games, the Broncos made a concerted effort to get the ball to Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas with a chance to make plays. Siemian obliged, dialing up chain-moving throws to Sanders to go with touchdown bombs of 41 and 55 yards for Sanders and Thomas, respectively.
- Jeremy Hill gashed the heart of Denver's defense for more rushing yards on the opening drive (65) than the Bengals had managed in either of the first two games. With the exception of a series of contested catches by A.J. Green, the offense went to sleep thereafter. A third-down drop by Green came back to haunt Cincinnati when Siemian responded to Andy Dalton's 15-play field-goal drive with consecutive touchdown drives to pull away late in the fourth quarter.
- Broncos edge rusher Shane Ray, last year's first-round draft pick, was already playing more snaps per game than veteran DeMarcus Ware. With Ware sidelined, Ray stayed on the field in obvious pass-rushing situations, tallying a career-high three sacks -- including back-to-back sacks in a two-play sequence late in the third quarter. In the last five games going back to the 2015 playoffs, the Broncos have held Tom Brady, Cam Newton (twice), Andrew Luck and Dalton to a collective passer rating under 70.0.
*-- Chris Wesseling *
- Victory aside, Miami's offense remains a streaky operation. Ryan Tannehill threw a pair of first-half interceptions including an ugly 27-yard pick six to Cleveland's Briean Boddy-Calhoun. The Dolphins quarterback settled down from there, though, retaking the lead with a pretty 42-yard scoring strike to Jarvis Landry (7/120/1) in the third. Tannehill's offense struggled late, though, with three straight punts and a lost fumble before punting again to open overtime. Still, the ever-up-and-down Dolphins passer had the last laugh, directing a three-play, 44-yard touchdown drive march in OT to put the game on ice.
- Cleveland refused to give up. Browns rookie signal-caller Cody Kessler rotated snaps with quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-passer-again Terrelle Pryor, who led the team in passing, targets and receiving yards after the first quarter before finishing with 165 yards off 12 touches and another 35 yards through the air as Cleveland's most versatile weapon. The former Ohio State star played with overt passion, overtaking the game for stretches with a direct-snap score on the ground and grabs of 18, 25 and 40 yards.
- Cody Parkey was pulled off the street midweek and missed field goals from 41 and 42 yards before hooking the would-be game-winner from 46 yards out. It's a lot to ask for a cowed free agent to light up the skies, but the misses completely sunk Cleveland.
-- Marc Sessler
- Jay Gruden needed this one, and we could tell. What other coach has his punter -- Tress Way -- bomb his first NFL pass on a fourth-and-12 near midfield with the team trailing by one in the third quarter? The team's defensive backfield is still a mess and Kirk Cousins is not yet inspiring us to call him a franchise quarterback. Not yet. But now the NFC East seems to be settling into its yearly period of mayhem and the Redskins are on the board.
- In terms of Beckham-Norman, there was one clear winner. Josh Norman can -- and will -- say that his team got the win and that's all that matters. Odell Beckham caught seven passes for 121 yards with Norman shadowing him for a majority of the afternoon. If we were scoring the game within the game, this one was no contest.
- Emotions were high. Referees talked with both Beckham and Norman before Sunday's game, though reportedly not together because neither wanted to be around the other. Norman was attempting to set Beckham off throughout the day, once lifting the receiver like a figure skater after Beckham faked a fade route in the corner of the end zone. Beckham required pep talks from Eli Manning and several members of the coaching staff after a sideline tirade that saw him whip his helmet into the kicking net.
*-- Conor Orr *
- After using the undermanned defenses of the Browns and Bears to springboard into the national spotlight, Wentz was expected to face a litmus test against the Steelers, a perennial AFC contender. Wentz promptly delivered Pittsburgh's most lopsided loss in nearly three decades. Wentz drew comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger all week, including coach Doug Pederson's note that his rookie boasts Roethlisbergian downfield vision when the play breaks down. That attribute was perfectly encapsulated when Wentz escaped pressure to float a perfect pass toward Darren Sproles for a 73-yard touchdown. The play captured Wentz at his finest, showcasing his pocket presence, athleticism, vision and feathery touch.
- Wentz's scorching start has obscured the boffo effort by Jim Schwartz in his first year as Eagles defensive boss. After entering the game second only to Seattle in Football Outsiders' defensive metrics, Philadelphia shut down one of the league's most explosive offensive attacks. Led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and emerging edge rusher Brandon Graham, the front seven pushed the pocket all afternoon, stifling the Steelers' prolific ground game and putting consistent heat on Roethlisberger.
- As impressive as Roethlisberger's receivers were in the season-opening victory over the Redskins, they have been underwhelming since. Markus Wheaton dropped three passes in his season debut Sunday, while slot receiver Eli Rogers was suffered a toe injury that kept him out for the final two quarters. Sammie Coates continues to benefit from Roethlisberger's status as the best deep passer in football, but is a far cry from Martavis Bryant as the second fiddle to Antonio Brown. All Pro tailback Le'Veon Bell is returning from suspension just in time to add a playmaking spark in home games versus the Chiefs and Jets the next two weeks.
*-- Chris Wesseling *
- All those worries about Seattle's offense? Ship that chatter to outer space. Russell Wilson riddled the Niners for 243 yards and a touchdown at a meaty 10.6 yards per throw before leaving with an apparent left knee injury. Wilson was pulled from the tilt with 10 minutes left in the third quarter after his left leg was rolled up on in ugly fashion. The magical passer returned just one play later, but backup Trevone Boykin took over for good on the following drive. Wilson is now dealing with a knee sprain in addition to a high-ankle sprain on his right leg. His health is obviously huge news heading into Week 4.
- Seahawks running back Christine Michael lived up to the billing. Unencumbered by committee duties, The Woke Bloke ripped through San Francisco for 106 yards on 20 totes, using his power and burst to victimize the opponent. Michael opened the scoring with a 41-yard touchdown run on Seattle's third play from scrimmage. Highlights aside, though, he repeatedly challenged defenders, spun out of tackles and battled for extra yardage. We like Thomas Rawls, but Michael, who finished with two scores, has earned the chance to fly as the volume-heavy hot hand while Seattle prepares for the Jets, Falcons and Cardinals over their next three dates.
- Blaine Gabbert started 9-of-10 passing, which serves as another example of a football box score's oft-meaningless nature. The offense fell massively flat against Seattle's premier defense, with Gabbert (14-of-25 passing for just 119 yards) generating seven punts and converting just 4-of-15 third downs. After predictably shining in Week 1, the 49ers have given up an outrageous 83 points over the past two weeks.
*-- Marc Sessler *
- The Chiefs moved to 2-1 by letting the Jets destroy themselves. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six interceptions and Kansas City recovered two fumbles, including one that was run back for a score on a kickoff. Add it all up and the Jets had eight turnovers. Alex Smith did his Alex Smith thing -- leading a dink-and-dunk assault against a New York defense which had been torched with deep strikes heading into Sunday. The defense was especially impressive in the red zone, forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick to attempt several low-percentage throws that led to game-changing results.
- Fitzpatrick followed one of the best games of his career (his Joe Namath impression in Week 2 at Buffalo) with his absolute worst. The Jets quarterback threw six interceptions -- including two crushing end-zone picks in the second half -- and seemed completely lost all afternoon. By the fourth quarter, every Fitzpatrick throw seemed to be a free-for-all -- it will be the most reckless performance you'll see from a quarterback all season. It's this version of Fitzpatrick -- erratic and mistake-prone -- that led the Jets to dig in hard during the offseason contract stalemate. The veteran's confidence will be tested after what was an all-time stinker.
- Travis Kelce lived up to the Baby Gronk moniker, taking advantage of soft underneath coverage by the Jets to put up his best numbers of the season. On his biggest play of the day -- a 42-yard catch-and-run gainer -- he ran away from Jets safety Calvin Pryor then ran over safety Marcus Gilchrist. Impressive stuff.
*-- Dan Hanzus *
- The Cowboys' green rookies looked like vested veterans in Dallas' dismantling of the Bears on Sunday night. Led by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys' offense moved down the field against an overmatched Chicago front with deliberate ease for much of the evening; Dallas held the ball for more than 35 minutes and executed three scoring drives of five-plus minutes.
- Missing: the Cowboys pass rush. Please to return to Jerry Jones, P.O. Box 82288, Jerrahworld, TX. Without their suspended ends, the Dallas defense has failed through three games to put together consistent pressure against opposing quarterbacks.
- Brian Hoyer is serviceable as Jay Cutler's replacement while the starter rehabs a thumb injury, but without a sturdy line and a healthy stable of backs, he will struggle against tougher pass rushes.
*-- Jeremy Bergman *
- Breaking his seven-game touchdown drought, T.Y. Hilton's 63-yard catch-and-run with less than two minutes to go secured the Colts' back-and-forth victory over the Chargers. The wideout was on the receiving end of a clutch fourth-and-8 conversion just two plays earlier. Hilton was Andrew Luck's go-to target all night, amassing 174 yards on eight receptions, his most since Week 14 of 2014. With Donte Moncrief out, Hilton took control of the receiving corps and victimized promising Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett in the process.
- Melvin Gordon is no Danny Woodhead. The Chargers, decimated by injuries on the offensive side of the ball, turned to Gordon, tight end Hunter Henry and scat back Dexter McCluster to try to replace the production of San Diego's injured starters, but it wasn't the same. Gordon earned 2.2 yards per carry and combined with McCluster for just 52 yards on passes out of the backfield. The Chargers offense will be kicking themselves for failing to take advantage of Indy's ailing defense.
- In a must-win game, the Colts' franchise quarterback delivered in a big way. Luck, coming off a sub-par performance in Denver, found his groove again at Lucas Oil's friendly confines, throwing for 331 yards and a touchdown and leading Indy's game-winning drive inside the two-minute warning. It's the second home game in a row during which the Colts have taken the lead with a late-game, Luck-led drive. Behind an offensive line that lost two starters mid-game -- Joe Reitz and Jack Mewhort -- Luck evaded Chargers pass rushers for much of the second half just long enough to keep Indy's season alive.
*-- Jeremy Bergman *
- It was a knock-down, drag-out contest you'd typically see between two league heavyweights, but instead it was two middling squads with uncertain paths. Which Buccaneers team would we get this week: the 31-21 winners in Week 1, or the squad decimated by turnovers and a swarming Cardinals defense in Week 2? Well, it was neither, sort of. Both teams made mistakes that each seemed to follow with another. They held serve on positive plays and errors, making for an entertaining contest.
- The game's highlights opened with each team giving the other a gift: the Rams' Case Keenum tossed one directly to Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander, who had nothing but green in front of him for a pick-six; then Charles Sims dropped a pass (thanks to a hit from Trumaine Johnson) that landed in Los Angeles arms, setting the Rams up with great field position that ended in a Todd Gurley touchdown. It was very much call and response of both teams. Anything you can lose, we can lose better.
- A few days after the depth chart suddenly opened up due to the release of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Bucs tight end Cameron Brate caught five passes for 46 yards and two touchdowns, including an impressive, one-handed catch just outside the goal line for six. Brate's role will likely only increase as he has just blocking tight end Luke Stocker to battle for catches.
-- Nick Shook
- The Bills fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman last week after an abysmal 0-2 start. The Bills -- sans wideout Sammy Watkins (foot) -- relied on running back LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 110 yards in 17 carries with two touchdowns, to fill the void. McCoy's touchdowns mark the first time the back has scored multiple rushing TDs since Week 16 of the 2013 season. Sunday's tilt featured a taste of receiver Robert Woods (6 rec., 51 yards).
- Cardinals running back David Johnson was the only bright spot of the team's offense. Johnson racked up two touchdowns (19 carries for 83 yards) against a Bills defense who held Arizona to two total yards at the halftime. The usually reliable Carson Palmer threw four interceptions with a mere 261 yards passing.
- Rex Ryan -- who is typically known for his bold decisions -- seemed to be a little too conservative in the first quarter prior to the Bills' offense taking off. Ryan sent out the field goal unit when the Bills were fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Certainly was a head scratcher so early in the game.
-- Andie Hagemann
- Derek Carr's stat line doesn't look impressive at first glance -- 21/35 for 249 yards, along with tossing a touchdown and a pick. However he had a very solid performance overall that was hampered by several drops and offensive penalties.
One of Carr's most impressive traits is his ability to avoid getting sacked. Heading into Sunday's game, Oakland had allowed just one quarterback takedown, the fewest in the league. While he was sacked once by Tennessee, the Raiders' promising young quarterback highlighted his pocket awareness on one particular play in the third quarter.
Carr immediately faced trouble on a play-action, and evaded three Titans pass rushers and scrambled to his right. He still managed to keep his eyes down the field, throwing across his body on the run and finding Michael Crabtree for 29 yards. That toss was part Aaron Rodgers, part Tony Romo, and it showed just how special of a player Carr can be in the NFL.
- The Titans' young quarterback on the other hand, couldn't take advantage of a Raiders defense that was historically bad over the first two games of the season. Marcus Mariota was intercepted twice, lost a fumble and came up short leading Tennessee to a game-tying touchdown on the team's final drive of the game.
- Congratulations to the Titans for ending a dubious streak. Offseason acquisition DeMarco Murray rushed for 114 yards on 16 carries, the first time Tennessee has had a 100-yard rusher in a game since 2013. That former 39-game absence without a player reaching the 100-yard plateau was the second-longest one in the league. It doesn't hold a candle to the Colts' streak though, as heading into Sunday's game with the Chargers, Indy has gone 51 consecutive games without a player reaching the century mark on the ground.
*-- Max Meyer *
- Both teams had multiple opportunities in the fourth quarter to take control of the game and yet it felt like the Ravens and Jaguars were trying their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as there were five turnovers between them. After the Ravens took the lead on a long Justin Tucker field goal, Blake Bortles threw his second interception of the quarter to end a poorly designed drive during which Bortles took a bad sack and the Jags had to use their last timeout.
- It seems Bortles has seriously regressed this season, and there really aren't any excuses given the wealth of offensive weapons surrounding him. He's continued to make poor decisions when under pressure and lobbed too many passes into the middle of the field Sunday against the Ravens.
- The game ended up being decided by less than a field goal. That difference came when the Jaguars were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct to end the first half, giving Tucker a chance to boot a 42-yard field goal on an untimed final down. The Jaguars head to London next week to face the Colts. The past two seasons, a coach has lost his job after his team lost overseas (Dennis Allen, Joe Philbin). Could coach Gus Bradley be in danger of being the third if Jacksonville starts 0-4?
*-- Mark Ortega *