Week 3 of the NFL season is where we, as fans, normally start to realize which teams are for real and which teams are pretenders. While there are a few 2-0 teams that haven’t looked very impressive, Week 3 should give us a better understanding of where each stands in the current NFL landscape.
The San Francisco 49ers have arguably looked like the worst 2-0 team in the league. After almost blowing a 24 point lead to the Lions in Week 1 and squeaking by the Eagles 17-11 in Week 2, Shanahan, Garoppolo, and company have their first real test of 2021 in Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers — a rematch of the 2019 NFC Championship Game. While the Packers looked just happy they didn’t lose Aaron Rodgers during their Week 1 game against the Saints, they turned things around in Week 2, dominating their favorite punching bag, Detroit. Theoretically, the Niners match up incredibly well with Green Bay. As a run-first offense, the 49ers can stay away from Packers’ DBs Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes for a majority of the game. However, all four of the 49ers’ halfbacks on the team’s initial 53-man roster are questionable at best for this Sunday. The only one with a history of success against Green Bay, Raheem Mostert, is out for certain.
The 49ers’ lack of experience in the backfield could end up being their downfall. Despite the fact that the 49ers have won six of their last nine meetings with Green Bay, they always struggle when they can’t get the run going. Even though the Packers have given up the fifth-most rushing yards in the league up to this point, most of those yards came from Alvin Kamara in Week 1, and the Niners don’t have anyone close to Kamara’s talent level. Plus, the Packers are one of only four teams to have not allowed a rushing touchdown on the season (Steelers, Cowboys, Bills). I haven’t seen enough from Jimmy Garoppolo to trust him to win the 49ers games. If this game is close in the fourth, I expect Aaron Rodgers to pull out the win far more than his 49ers counterpart.
There are two other games that everyone should be excited for: Chargers at Chiefs and Rams at Bucs. These games are… oh, my goodness. Just… perfection. Finally, Week 3 gives us some fireworks! Chargers/Chiefs is a matchup that’s been talked about since the start of the offseason. Justin Herbert was a phenomenal rookie and has shown through the first two weeks that he can still sling the pigskin with the best of them. Now, with a new head coach, Rashawn Slater protecting his blind side (he’s looked great by the way), and a healthy Austin Ekeler in the backfield, it’s Herbert’s time to show Mahomes who’s in charge of the AFC West.
On the other side of the aisle though, Mahomes does not take losses too kindly. The fewest number of points the Chiefs have scored over a two-game stretch since Mahomes took over was 37 during Weeks 5 & 6 of the 2019 season. That’s also one of only two times in his career, he’s lost two games in a row. Both of those losses came at home as well. Over his career, Mahomes has been better on a per-game basis in every single major statistical category when on the road. If the Chargers want to strike, they need to do it now. A loss for the Chiefs here would put the Chiefs in last place in the AFC West for the first time in a long time. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the last time. It was definitely… OK, probably… before the Alex Smith era. That’s all I know.
Rams/Bucs is also sure to be a great matchup. Through two weeks, the Bucs’ defense hasn’t looked as stout against the pass as it did in 2020. Through two weeks, the Buccaneers have allowed Matt Ryan and Dak Prescott to complete 72.6 percent of their passes (fifth-highest rate in the NFL) for 684 yards (4th-most in the NFL) and five touchdowns (tied for the sixth-most). While the Bucs have been able to come away with four interceptions as well (tied for second), they have not faced an offensive unit as complete as the Rams yet. The Bucs are very good at stopping the run, but with the Rams’ backfield as banged up as it is, it was already unlikely that the Rams were going to run the ball often.
Not to mention, the Bucs love to pass more than anyone in the NFL. Currently, they have the second-highest pass rate in the NFL, only trailing the Jacksonville Jaguars who probably have such a high pass percentage because they trail by 20 at halftime every week. The Rams’ secondary is good. Jalen Ramsey is still a dominant corner, and with Antonio Brown’s availability in question after testing positive for COVID, Brady will have a tougher time against this Rams defense. Keep in mind, Antonio Brown led the Buccaneers in receptions and yards during their matchup against the Rams last season. That slot position is going to be enormously important for Tampa Bay as it’s likely Mike Evans will be shadowed by Ramsey once again. I like Scotty Miller, but he’s not someone who can get open and find soft spots in zone coverage like AB. The Rams have improved since these teams last met. If AB is gone, the Bucs will have slightly regressed. Never bet against Brady, but be cautious.
The last thing to look out for this Sunday is the Miami Dolphins. Tua Tagovailoa is out with fractured ribs. With their starting quarterback out, how will the Miami Dolphins respond? There were many people last year who believed the Dolphins were better without Tua under center. Now, the chickens have come to roost for those Dolphins fans. They said the Dolphins were better off…okay, how do you like Jacoby Brissett, huh? How do you like getting shut out by a divisional opponent, huh? How do you like them apples, HUH?!
Obviously, the Dolphins don’t want to start the season 1-2, but with how solid Derek Carr has looked early in the season, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Miami’s offense can keep up with the Raiders. If the Dolphins can keep the game close though, they will inspire hope that their team can bounce back once Tua returns. I believe the Dolphins have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. I also believe that the Raiders are a team that plays to their level of competition. That combination could make for a much closer game than people are anticipating. I’m excited to see it.
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