The Torch NFL Week 3 Recap: Five unbeaten teams remain

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Quarterback Matthew Stafford (#9), in his first season behind the center for the Los Angeles Rams, has his team looking like the early favorite to win this season’s Super Bowl.

“Agnew… brings it out of the end zone… Agnew… still running!… AGNEW!! DOWN THE SIDELINE!! AGNEW!! TOUCHDOWN JACKSONVILLE!! A-HUNDRED-AND-NINE YARDS!!! INCREDIBLE!” 

These were the words Gus Johnson used from the broadcast booth as Jamal Agnew ran back a missed 68-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half in the Cardinals-Jaguars game. About an hour or two later, the Baltimore Ravens’ fantastic place kicker Justin Tucker would nail a game-winning 66-yard field goal to thrust the Ravens over the Detroit Lions. That would be the longest made field goal in NFL history. The NFL had its “breakout week” in week 3. Here’s how it all went down:

The Unbeaten – Contenders vs. Pretenders: Heading into week 4, only five teams remain undefeated: the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Rams

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers defense has looked stellar so far, and is near the top of the NFL in almost every statistical metric. Their offense has been playing well without stud running back Christian McCaffery. They lost rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn to a broken foot, a big loss considering how well he had been playing in his first action as an NFL corner. However, they traded for last year’s ninth overall pick cornerback C.J. Henderson from Jacksonville to help them out. The Panthers have one of the youngest teams in the NFL, with an average age of just over 25 years old. And, while they do have a very bright future, lack of experience might be their fatal flaw should they make the postseason. It doesn’t help that they’re in the same division as the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The jury is out on Carolina for this season, but they’re worth keeping an eye on for the future. Verdict: Pretenders

Denver Broncos: The angel on The Torch’s hypothetical shoulder says that the Broncos are 3-0. The devil, though, says that the teams they’ve beaten have a combined record of 0-9. Although the schedule thus far has been on the easier side, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has shown why head coach Vic Fangio chose him as Denver’s QB1. They’ve scored over 23 points in every game so far, and defensively, most recently pitched a shutout against the Jets. The next four weeks on the Broncos schedule will be their most difficult, with their opponents having a combined record of 8-4, including 3-0 division rival Las Vegas Raiders. This team, at least on paper, is capable of making, and potentially winning a playoff game, and they’ve looked the part through three weeks. So, for now, they’re contenders. But the NFL will watch closely over the next couple of weeks as the tests get tougher for the Broncos to prove their legitimacy. Verdict: Contenders

Las Vegas Raiders: After getting off to a slow start in the first half against Baltimore in week 1, the Raiders have looked absolutely sensational since. Derek Carr – yes, that Derek Carr – leads the league in passing yards through three weeks. Denzel Perryman is fourth in solo tackles and Trayvon Mullen is tied for sixth in passes defended. Everyone in Vegas is exceeding expectations against what many consider to be at least decent quality opponents. The Raiders, however, are notorious for their inconsistencies and have yet to play any of their AFC West division rivals. There’s no reason to believe the Raiders will slow down anytime soon, but, like the Broncos, their darkest days are ahead of them. Verdict: Pretenders

Arizona Cardinals: The NFC West is the most fun division in football, and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray might be the most fun player. The Cardinals offense is electric; they’re tied for the league lead in points per game with 34.3, and they’re second in the NFL in total yards per game behind only Las Vegas. Murray has looked like an MVP candidate, edge rusher Chandler Jones has looked like a defensive player of the year candidate, and life is good for now in the desert. The Cardinals week 4 matchup in Los Angeles against their division rival Rams will be their toughest test yet, and the first NFC West divisional matchup fans will get to enjoy. The Redbirds look much better and more consistent than the 8-8 record they put up last season. This team has the talent to make a deep playoff run.  Verdict: Contenders

Los Angeles Rams: The Rams should be at the top of everyone’s power rankings. They’re sitting at 3-0, they just beat the reigning champs, they have a potential coach of the year candidate in Sean McVay, they have a potential offensive player of the year candidate in wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and quarterback Matthew Stafford is finally showing the league what he’s truly capable of. The Rams are the real deal, The Rams are the best team in football right now and have a legitimate opportunity to be the second team in a row to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Verdict: Contenders

This week’s focus: the AFC North – Let’s start at the top with, believe it or not, the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are 3-1 (having played their fourth game of the season in last night’s Thursday night win 24-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars), but the Steelers looked more bad than the Bengals looked good in their week 3 matchup. 

Ben Roethlisberger’s arm hasn’t looked the same since his elbow injury in 2019, and it’s gotten so bad that 30 of his 38 completions against the Bengals were under five air yards. The offensive line is porous as well, meaning first round rookie running back Najee Harris can’t get anything going on the ground, and defensively the secondary is easily penetrable. It’s likely that until the Steelers make the tough decision to move on from Big Ben, this might be head coach Mike Tomlin’s first losing season in his 15 years as head coach at Pittsburgh.

On the other hand, Bengals rookie Ja’Marr Chase has been as advertised. He has at least one touchdown in every game through the first three games and has become a prominent deep threat and trusted target for quarterback Joe Burrow. Zac Taylor has not looked like a head coach on the hot seat, either. It’s encouraging for Cincinnati to get a big win over a division rival.

People might forget how genuinely awful the Ravens-Lions game was until Justin Tucker kicked that field goal. Marquise Brown became a twitter meme for dropping the football, and the Ravens’ usually high-powered rushing offense was held to just over 100 yards. If this game proved anything other than that Justin Tucker is the greatest kicker in NFL history, it’s that the Lions are probably better than people give them credit for. The Ravens have a tough matchup against the 3-0 Broncos looming in week 4.

Myles Garrett is a defensive player of the year candidate. The Cleveland Browns’ former number one overall pick had 4.5 sacks on Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Cleveland had nine sacks in total. The Browns’ defense looks much improved this season, and they picked right back up where they left off offensively as well. Odell Beckham Jr is back after tearing his ACL last season. He hauled in five catches on nine targets for 77 yards. There’s a lot to be excited about for Browns fans this season.

Fantasy Waiver Wire Add of the Week – Chuba Hubbard, RB – Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey went down with a hamstring injury against the Texans, so all fantasy players should be selling their soul to pick up his handcuff, Chuba Hubbard. Last year Mike Davis produced over 1,000 total yards in McCaffrey’s absence and earned himself a starting job in Atlanta. Chuba Hubbard is a must-add.

Fantasy Buy Low of the Week – Tyreek Hill, WR – Kansas City Chiefs: After a dominant week 1 performance, Hill has produced just 15.6 fantasy points combined in the last two weeks. He obviously won’t be cheap, but for those in need of a superstar receiver, Hill’s price will never be lower. Go get him.

Fantasy Sell High of the Week – Adam Thielen, WR – Minnesota Vikings: Thielen has been putting up very solid fantasy numbers through three weeks, and he’s had at least a touchdown in every game. With all the weapons in that offense, it’s hard to imagine he can keep that pace up. At this point in the season there might be some real value to be had for Thielen. Try and flip him for someone with a brighter future.

Highlight Reel:

Play-by-Play announcer Gus Johnson loses his mind when Jamal Agnew returns a short field goal attempt 109 yards for a TD  https://youtu.be/uxBm4HaPJXU 

Justin Tucker nails the longest field goal in NFL history to win the game over the Lions  https://youtu.be/JJNLVT2luxg 

Myles Garrett appears to teleport while rushing through the Bears’ offensive line  https://twitter.com/pff/status/1442972435595202573?s=21 

 

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