The Wrap - Week 3

There is something special going on in Buffalo and it centres on the Bills' exciting young quarterback Josh Allen, who wowed us once again on Sunday night during his team's last-gasp 35-32 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

The Bills have been a credible team under Sean McDermott, reaching the playoffs in two of the past three seasons. But they have not always been a fun watch, relying on an elite defense on more than a few occasions.

Not in 2020.

Buffalo are off to the same 3-0 start they achieved in 2019, but they are not the same team. On offense, they are more explosive, more dangerous, more entertaining and they look more capable of going toe to toe with the likes of Baltimore and Kansas City in scoring free-for-alls at the business end of this season.

Allen is the major reason and he is off to a red-hot start this year. Allen accounted for five touchdowns on Sunday as he threw for 311 yards and four scores and added a run into the endzone for another six points. Big, strong and never short on confidence, Allen has been a revelation in producing 12 offensive touchdowns in three games (10 passing and 2 rushing). That is a new club best through three games, breaking the mark of 10 set by the legendary Jim Kelly in a Super Bowl-reaching 1991 campaign.

I'm not very good on horse racing and animal analogies here so I reckon there's a good chance I get this wrong! But Allen is a bit like a young and aggressive colt who has not yet been broken in and fully tamed. Hopefully, you get my point.

Every now and then, Allen will make you put your head in your hands as he launches an ill-advised lateral into the flat with the game on the line – as he did against the Rams on Sunday night. Or as he did during last year's playoff game at Houston. He can be impetuous and reckless at times but that comes from a confidence that his coaches will not want to diminish in any way.

There is far more good than bad coming from Allen at the moment and that's why Buffalo boast the league's leading offense in points per game (31), yards per game (434) and passing yards (330). And he doesn't shrink in the harsh spotlights that shine right into a quarterback's eyes at the end of games.

Allen came up big for the Bills last night with the game on the line, fourth downs needing to be converted and Aaron Donald in his face time and again. Allen delivered with the game-winner to Tyler Kroft with 15 seconds remaining, giving him seven game-winning drives dating back to the start of last season – most in the NFL.

The third-year passer impresses with his cannon arm, strong body and athletic ability that allows him to gain crucial yards with his feet before hurdling defenders. But most impressive last night was his courage under pressure with a big game slipping away from the Bills, who had led 28-3 but found themselves down 32-28 with four and a half minutes remaining.

They always say that quarterbacks have to stand the test of time before we should get too excited about them. I've seen enough from Allen… the Buffalo Bills have their man and a very good one at that.

Who's Hot…

Russell Wilson… Seattle's magic man became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw at least four touchdown passes in each of his first three games to start a season, leading the Seahawks to a stunning 38-31 win over Dallas in an instant classic. Wilson was affected at times by a resurgent Dallas pass rush (the rebirth of Aldon Smith is quite the story), but not enough to stop him throwing for 315 yards and five touchdowns. It would have been six but for D.K. Metcalf's selfish and foolish preening towards the endzone that resulted in a fumble of Leon Lett proportions and a major missed opportunity in the first half. Wilson is playing at an NFL MVP level through the first three weeks of this season and he might have to keep up the pace because Seattle are wobbly on defense and every game could be a down-to-the-wire adventure.

Stephen Gostkowski… The former New England Patriot has shaken off that Week 1 showing in which he missed four kicks for his new team, the Tennessee Titans. Gostkowski did end that season opener by kicking the game-winning 25-yarder against Denver and followed up with the game-clinching 49-yarder to beat Jacksonville in Week 2. But Gostkowski topped that effort last night as Tennessee struggled to get the ball into the endzone in Minneapolis. Gostkowski went six of six on field goals, including three from over 50 yards. He nailed the game-winner from 55 yards in a thrilling 31-30 win over the Vikings that has Tennessee off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2008.

Aaron Rodgers… Watching Rodgers nonchalantly roll to his left and launch a 50-yard bomb downfield to Allen Lazard with a mere flick of his wrist was a thing of beauty in the Superdome on Sunday night. Rodgers was in sublime form and continues to make a mockery of the fact his receiving targets are not supposed to be all that. Rodgers threw for 283 yards, three touchdowns and no picks in Green Bay's 37-30 win at New Orleans. He put on a masterclass, shredding the Saints with pin-point passes and that famed hard count that gave him a free play to set up a touchdown in the first half. Number 12's 'Stick it to Management' revenge tour is off to a fast and impressive start. The Packers are 3-0 and have topped the 35-point mark in three straight games for the first time since Weeks 9-11 of 2011. With Rodgers in this form, the Packers are real contenders in a wide open NFC.

Who's Not…

The Atlanta Falcons… There can surely be no way back for Dan Quinn as head coach of the Falcons. He has described Sunday's defeat to Chicago as "crushing." Blown leads and defensive letdowns are becoming a theme in Atlanta. They led Dallas 20-0, 29-10 and 39-24 in Week 2… and lost. Last night, the Falcons stormed into a 26-10 lead before falling 30-26 to the Nick Foles-led Bears. The defense has completely and utterly fallen apart in those losses but it should also be noted that once things began to spiral out of control, the offense did very little to hold up its end of the bargain and keep the scoreboard ticking over or, at the very least, the clock ticking. Quinn got a stay of execution, so to speak, with a hot streak at the end of 2019. But I cannot see him surviving many more weeks in Atlanta. Those losses have been painful and historic – not an ideal combination for an under-pressure coach. This team is on the floor.

Carson Wentz… The offensive line woes are having an impact on Philadelphia's star quarterback, who is still waiting to celebrate his first victory of 2020 after Sunday's 23-23 sister-kisser with Cincinnati. Wentz is harassed and having to run a lot, as evidenced by his nine scrambles for 65 yards and an overtime-forcing touchdown against the Bengals. But it cannot be the only reason for such poor play. A lot of this is on Wentz, who has followed up a hot finish to 2019 with a smelly start to 2020. He is missing some easy throws and for the third game in a row, Wentz tossed up at least two interceptions in a contest and leads the NFL with seven giveaways in three weeks. He is fortunate not to have fans in the stadium in Philadelphia this season. They'd be booing him all the way back to the Dakotas and calling for Jalen Hurts.

Darren Waller… In the week leading up to Sunday's contest between the Las Vegas Raiders and New England Patriots, Bill Belichick heaped praise on Silver and Black tight end Darren Waller. Fresh from 12 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown against New Orleans, Waller must have hit himself on the head as soon as he heard New England's head coach singing his name. Belichick's classic approach of taking away the opponent's best weapon was in full effect and the writing was on the wall for Waller. He caught just two passes for nine yards in Las Vegas' 36-20 loss the Patriots. Classic Belichick. At least Waller can now move on and get catching those passes again for the remainder of the season.

The Fast Five…

1) The Los Angeles Chargers lost again on Sunday, falling 21-16 to the Carolina Panthers. But Anthony Lynn's men are entertaining with Justin Herbert at quarterback. On the final play of the game, Herbert completed a pass to Keenan Allen that was the old hook and ladder play. Allen tossed the ball back to Austin Ekeler but he couldn't reel it in with the endzone wide open. Our very own Efe Obada recovered to give the Panthers the win. It was just one more wild play in an amazing NFL weekend. Herbert is the future for the Chargers, though.

2) When he was replaced five minutes into the second half, the pain was etched all over the face of Chicago's Mitchell Trubisky. He won a training camp quarterback battle with Nick Foles but held the job for just two and a half games. Given that Foles then threw for 188 yards and three touchdowns (he had two other scores overturned) in just under a half of action, it's hard to see Trubisky get his job back. If he fades away into backup quarterback obscurity, let me say one final time that the Bears selected Trubisky ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in the same draft. Ouch!

3) Tom Brady became the oldest player in NFL history to throw three touchdown passes in a game as he completed a hat-trick in a 28-10 win at Denver at the age of 43 years and 55 days. While that's a nice stat, what is more important is that Brady looked more like… well, like Tom Brady. He was on the same page as Chris Godwin and Mike Evans as both men caught touchdowns and this Bucs offense is rounding into shape. Brady had a QB rating of 78.4 in Week 1, 80.3 in Week 2 and 115.8 on Sunday.

4) New England's run-first attitude was on full display in a smash-mouth win over the Raiders. The Pats dialled up 38 runs for 250 yards and two scores compared to just 30 pass plays. We'll see if it is sustainable and enough, but it does offer up the Pats' best hope for success.

5) Alvin Kamara may have been on the losing side on Sunday night but not for the want of trying. The Saints' running back was sensational. Please check out his 52-yard catch and run for a touchdown. It will be one of the best plays you see this season.

Fact of the Week

The Atlanta Falcons blew a 15-point fourth quarter lead against Dallas in Week 2 and followed that collapse in Week 3 as they threw away a 16-point advantage against Chicago on Sunday. The Falcons became the first team in NFL history to blow consecutive fourth-quarter leads of 15 points or more and lose.

Finish That Sentence

Each week in this spot I ask readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we do on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go…

From Richard James (@britbearsfan1) With Nick Foles at quarterback, the Bears offense is… in good hands providing he can stay healthy. We all know the short-term impact Foles has been able to have on his teams. But can he last the distance or is he just a bridge who allows the Bears to move on from Trubisky? There will be much excitement over Foles but he did lose the Jacksonville job last season, albeit with injuries playing a part.

From Goshdarn Pandemic (@Grey_and_pointy) The unluckiest team so far this season has been… the Houston Texans. Did you see their schedule? Brutal. Houston opened with losses to Kansas City, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, facing two NFL MVPs and a Super Bowl winner at QB. Take heart, Texans fans. The last time your team started 0-3 was in 2018 and you ended up 11-5 and champions of the AFC South.

From Dean Faccini (@DeanFaccini) The quarterback I feel the most sorry for is… Deshaun Watson. See above. I think this is a special talent capable of competing for a Super Bowl each and every season. He just doesn't have enough talent around him and that's on Texans head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien.

From Nick Jackson (@nickjacksradio) The reason 31 other teams passed on Cam Newton is… because of his recent injury history. And the Patriots shouldn't get a medal for signing Cam after he sat on the shelf for three months. I don't think he was a part of their plan for 2020 until they realised filling Tom Brady's gigantic shoes might be too much for Jarrett Stidham. Credit New England for playing to Cam's strengths though and he looks fun to watch again.

From Steven (@rocksteady331) Adam Gase should stay because… life is funnier and better when the New York Jets suck!

Final Thought…

I think it's fair to say that things have gone pretty well for the NFL through the first three weeks of the season. Scoring is at an all-time high with teams putting up 5.9 points per game and 38 teams have topped 30 points in games this season – the most through three weeks in NFL history. And comebacks – many of them crazy and frantic – have been a theme of this young campaign with 10 teams overcoming deficits of 10 points or more to win. That's the second-most through three weeks in NFL history. There have been bumps in the road, including the navigation of the first-in season positive Covid-19 test in Atlanta and I would love to see fewer injuries, of course. But this is an entertainment business and in the words of Russell Crowe's character in Gladiator: "Are you not entertained?" I certainly am and long may it continue. Roll on Week 4.

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