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Big questions from NFL Week 3, plus the good (Raheem Mostert) and bad (Jets offense) from every game

Big questions from NFL Week 3, plus the good (Raheem Mostert) and bad (Jets offense) from every game
  • PublishedSeptember 24, 2023

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Week 3 of the NFL season started Thursday night with a San Francisco 49ers victory over the New York Giants.

On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints started off hot but allowed the Green Bay Packers to come back from a 17-0 deficit to win after quarterback Derek Carr left with a shoulder injury. The Miami Dolphins‘ running backs ran all over the Denver Broncos in a 50-point blowout, the Buffalo Bills‘ defense crushed the Washington Commanders, and the Indianapolis Colts kicked a late field goal to force overtime, and then kicked another to beat the Baltimore Ravens.

Our NFL Nation reporters are reacting to all the action, answering lingering questions coming out of each game and picking out who — or what — is rising and falling for every team. Let’s get to it.

Jump to a matchup:
NYG-SF | TEN-CLE | ATL-DET | NO-GB
DEN-MIA | LAC-MIN | NE-NYJ | BUF-WSH
HOU-JAX | IND-BAL

Colts

Should the Colts rethink their season goals? The Colts expected this would be a rebuilding year with rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson learning to be a franchise quarterback. In this game, without Richardson, the defense continued to establish itself as a force and should continue to keep the Colts in games with a manageable schedule the rest of the way. The running game has performed solidly and should be improved when Richardson returns, but the defense has risen to the occasion and put the rest of the NFL on notice.

Stock up after the win: RB Zack Moss. Despite coping with a lower-body injury throughout the second half, Moss finished with 122 yards on 30 carries for just the second 100-yard game of his career.

Stock down after the win: The Colts’ secondary. There were way too many wide-open receivers in this game, allowing Lamar Jackson at one point to complete his first 10 attempts of the game — the most consecutive completions to start a game in Ravens history. — Stephen Holder

Next game: vs. Rams (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Ravens

What happened to Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense? The Ravens’ offense was missing four injured starters in left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center Tyler Linderbaum, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Justice Hill. It showed. The Ravens produced as many turnovers (fumbles by Jackson and running back Kenyan Drake) as touchdowns. Baltimore couldn’t push the ball downfield and relied on the legs of Jackson, who ran for over 100 yards for the first time since Week 3 of last season.

Stock up after the loss: Safety Kyle Hamilton. His three sacks were the most in the first half by a defensive back in NFL history. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Hamilton sacked Gardner Minshew in under four seconds each time.

Stock down after the loss: Ravens’ run defense. Baltimore gave up 122 yards to Zack Moss, who became the second 100-yard rusher against the Ravens over the past 29 games. — Jamison Hensley

Next game: at Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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Matt Gay drills a 53-yard game-winning FG for Colts

Matt Gay splits the uprights for a 53-yard game-winning field goal for the Colts.

Dolphins

Are the Dolphins the best team in the NFL right now? Miami’s offense just put up 726 yards with one of the best playmakers in the league, Jaylen Waddle, on the sideline while in the concussion protocol. Through three games, the Dolphins rank first in offensive expected points added, yards per play and per game and points per drive. Miami’s defense also forced multiple turnovers for the second straight game. Next week’s showdown with the Buffalo Bills will provide some answers about league superiority.

Stock up after the win: RB De’Von Achane. In his first prominent role, the rookie compiled 233 total yards and four total touchdowns. It doesn’t matter who’s healthy next week, Achane needs to be featured in this offense moving forward.

Stock down after the win: C Connor Williams. The Dolphins’ starting center didn’t botch any snaps after doing so multiple times in each of the team’s first two games, but he did commit two holding penalties on the same drive and eventually left with a groin injury. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: at Bills (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Broncos

How badly do the Broncos need a win in Chicago next week? As badly as they’ve needed one over the past eight years, because the schedule won’t be doing Denver any favors after next week. After yielding over 700 yards to the Dolphins, the Broncos will travel to a Bears team that has had issues on and off the field. If Denver can’t beat the Bears, wins will be hard to come by with two games against the Chiefs and one vs. the Bills in the ensuing five weeks. It could be one of the worst starts in franchise history.

Stock up after the loss: Rookie WR Marvin Mims Jr. The Broncos have still offered little to explain why Mims’ snap count remains so low on a team that so obviously needs his explosiveness. He had 113 yards on two receptions against the Commanders, and Sunday he had 73 yards on three receptions — and five targets — and was repeatedly standing on the sideline when the Broncos were in a three-wide look.

Stock down after the loss: Rushing defense: The Dolphins gained 350 yards rushing. It was the most Denver has allowed since 2000, and the third most in franchise history. Miami entered the game 15th in rushing yards per game (107.5) through the first two weeks. — Jeff Legwold

Next game: at Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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De’Von Achane’s 67-yard rushing TD gives the Dolphins 70 points

De’Von Achane’s goes 67 yards to give the Dolphins a 70-20 lead over the Broncos.

Packers

What kind of lift could this give the young Packers? Down 17-0 through three quarters and without their best running back, most explosive receiver, top-two offensive linemen and best cornerback, the Packers had nothing going for them. Now, they have every reason to believe they can do something special even if they’re still going to be without Aaron Jones, Christian Watson, David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins and Jaire Alexander a little while longer. A week after Jordan Love couldn’t muster a single completion on a potential game-winning drive, he masterfully led three fourth-quarter scoring drives.

Stock up after the win: LB Rashan Gary. So far, it doesn’t look like last year’s torn ACL has impacted him at all. With his first career three-sack game Sunday, the Packers might want to lock up Gary with an extension sooner rather than later. He is playing on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal worth $10.892 million this season.

Stock down after the win: Offensive discipline. They had seven offensive penalties in the first three quarters, and they were of all varieties. They had three false starts, two holds, an illegal formation and a pass interference. — Rob Demovsky

Next game: vs. Lions (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)


Saints

How will the offense function if Derek Carr misses time? The Saints gave Carr a four-year deal to try to fix some of the offensive problems from last year, and the offense couldn’t do anything once he left the game with an injured right shoulder, with a comeback attempt ending in a missed field goal attempt. If Carr misses time, can the Saints’ offense work without him or will it look similar to the offense that struggled in 2022? So far, not so good.

Stock up after the loss: CB Alontae Taylor. The Saints’ defense had a big drop-off in the second half, but it’s hard to deny that Taylor played one of the best games of his career. He got his first career sack and set a career high with five pass breakups.

Stock down after the loss: The offensive line. The OL wasn’t responsible for the play that injured Carr, but the group hasn’t jelled the way the team had hoped. The unit posted a 33.3% pass block win rate and a 38.5% pass rush win rate against the Packers. Guard Cesar Ruiz left the game early with a concussion, leading to another bad day for the unit. — Katherine Terrell

Next game: vs. Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Chargers

What’s wrong with the Chargers’ secondary? The Chargers’ pass defense has been among the worst in the NFL. Whenever opposing teams needed an explosive play, they have gotten them. There was a 70-yard strike in the Chargers’ Week 2 loss to the Titans, a 47-yard pass against the Dolphins in Week 1, and a 53-yard one to Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson on Sunday. The Chargers won thanks to an offense near the top of the league in yards and points scored per game, but this team will struggle to win consistently as long as it allows passing-yard totals like the Vikings’ 345 from Sunday.

Stock up after the win: WR Keenan Allen. The receiver had 18 catches for 215 yards, setting the team record for single-game receiving yards — and he also threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams.

Stock down after the win: CB J.C. Jackson. The Chargers signed Jackson last offseason to a five-year, $82.5 million deal to be a corner who could shadow No. 1 receivers. But against Jefferson, perhaps the league’s best receiver, Jackson was a healthy inactive. — Kris Rhim

Next game: vs. Raiders (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)


Vikings

Did the Vikings just kiss their season goodbye? An unexpected 0-3 start, including two at home and with some tough opponents ahead on the schedule, will leave the Vikings in a struggle to make the playoffs. In the Super Bowl era, only 2.4% of 0-3 teams have overcome such a start to make the postseason. Yes, that statistic spans 14-game, 16-game and 17-game seasons. But it hasn’t happened since the NFL expanded the regular season to 17 games. The last 0-3 team to make the playoffs was the 2018 Houston Texans.

Stock up after the loss: RB Alexander Mattison. A week after a tough game in Philadelphia, and four days after the Vikings acquired Cam Akers from the Rams, Mattison rushed for a season-high 93 yards on 20 carries.

Stock down after the loss: Pass defense. The Chargers threw at will against the Vikings, who allowed a stunning 445 total passing yards (on 41 completions) and will have to go back to the drawing board after a scheme that was largely unable to pressure quarterback Justin Herbert. — Kevin Seifert

Next game: at Panthers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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Vikings defender almost intercepts pass, results in Chargers TD

Akayleb Evans almost intercepts Justin Herbert’s pass, but instead tips it to Joshua Palmer for a touchdown.

Texans

Can rookie QB Stroud keep up his hot start? C.J. Stroud threw for 280 yards in his third start and became the third quarterback in NFL history to pass for 900 yards through their first three career games. Stroud finished with a passer rating of 118 and threw two touchdowns — and he’s yet to throw an interception. Whenever Stroud needed to make throws, he made them — as he had two passes longer than 40 yards to rookie receiver Tank Dell. If the No. 2 overall pick can keep this up, Rookie of the Year honors might be on the table.

Stock up after the win: WR Tank Dell. The rookie keeps getting better. He caught five passes for 145 yards and a touchdown, which included a 68-yard catch to help put the game out of reach.

Stock down after the win: WR Nico Collins. He had only 34 yards on two catches with a drop after a career-high 146 yards last week. — DJ Bien-Aime

Next game: vs. Steelers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Jaguars

Did the Jaguars’ run last year give them false hope? It’s starting to look like it. The Jaguars won five in a row at the end of the season to win the division, but the last three QBs they beat — Zach Wilson, Davis Mills and Joshua Dobbs — haven’t recorded a win as a starter this season. They rallied from 27-0 to beat the Chargers in the first round of the playoffs but are just 1-3 since. The offense that was supposed to be one of the best came into Sunday’s game ranked 31st in third downs and 17th in yards per game. The Jaguars just got routed at home by a winless team down eight starters and led by a rookie QB.

Stock up after the loss: TE Evan Engram. Not much to pick from, but Engram set a season high with seven catches for 67 yards and now leads the team with 18 catches this season. He’s been the most consistent pass-catcher through three games and has outperformed WR Calvin Ridley, who had two end-zone drops and two penalties against the Texans.

Stock down after the loss: Special teams. K Brandon McManus had a field goal attempt blocked and missed another, but the most embarrassing thing was allowing Texans FB Andrew Beck to return a kickoff 85 yards for a TD — the first time a fullback has done that since Jacksonville’s Derrick Wimbush in 2005. — Mike DiRocco

Next game: vs. Falcons in London (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET)

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0:35

Is Tank Dell’s target share sustainable?

Eric Moody breaks down Tank Dell’s epic fantasy game against the Jaguars.

Patriots

Did Ezekiel Elliott show he can be a bigger part of the offense? One of the top questions when the Patriots signed Elliott in the offseason was how much he had left in the tank. The eight-year veteran, who said last week that he felt fresh because he hadn’t played much through two weeks (50 snaps), had his best game as a Patriot by finishing with 80 yards on 16 carries — at one point turning to his trademark post-carry celebration to keep feeding him. The Patriots visit the Cowboys, where Elliott spent the first seven years of his career, next Sunday.

Stock up after the win: TE Pharaoh Brown. In the first two games, Brown played a total of 14 offensive snaps. He was a bigger part of the plan Sunday, with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien calling on the 3-TE package more regularly, and he delivered a 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown on a blown coverage by the Jets.

Stock down after the win: Roster depth. Starting DT Davon Godchaux (ankle) and reserve DT Daniel Ekuale (elbow) were knocked out of the game in the first half, and starting LG Cole Strange (knee) left in the second half and didn’t return. — Mike Reiss

Next game: at Cowboys (Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET)


Jets

Should the Jets stick with Zach Wilson or turn to Tim Boyle? It would be a desperation move after only three games, but the offense has produced only two touchdowns in Wilson’s two starts. He was dreadful for 3 1/2 quarters, looking tentative in the pocket. All three sacks, including a safety, were on him. He wasn’t helped by a predictable game plan that failed to use their top weapons, Garrett Wilson (5 catches for 48 yards) and Breece Hall (12 carries for 18 yards). The backup is journeyman Boyle, who has only three career starts. Wilson showed some life with a late scoring drive, probably giving the coaching staff enough reason to stay with him, but his job security will be an issue if he continues to sputter.

Stock up after the loss: P Thomas Morstead. He had eight punts, with a gross average of 51 yards per punt. A solid game, but it’s bad when the punter is the star of the game.

Stock down after the loss: The offensive line. With LT Duane Brown on injured reserve, the Jets shuffled the line, moving Mekhi Becton to left tackle, sliding Alijah Vera-Tucker to right tackle and inserting rookie Joe Tippmann to right guard. The pass protection (three sacks) was spotty, and the running game (38 yards) was weak. — Rich Cimini

Next game: vs. Chiefs (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

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Matthew Judon comes up huge with a safety

Matthew Judon gets to Zach Wilson and sacks him in the end zone for a safety.

Lions

Are we finally seeing the Lions’ pass-rushing power? The pass rush posted a single sack in the first two weeks, but looked much sharper versus Atlanta. In the first quarter, they wasted little time as linebacker Derrick Barnes and defensive lineman Benito Jones registered back-to-back sacks. They would end with seven total sacks on Atlanta quarterback Desmond Ridder, with two by Detroit’s Aidan Hutchinson in addition to Charles Harris, Alim McNeill and rookie Jack Campbell registering hits. They’ll need another big lift from the defense as they head to Lambeau Field for a Thursday night game in Green Bay.

Stock up after the win: TE Sam LaPorta. The rookie became the first tight end to catch five or more receptions in each of his first three career games since the NFL-AFL merger, totaling a season-high eight receptions for 84 yards. He also scored his first career touchdown off a 45-yard-deep middle pass from Jared Goff.

Stock down after the win: OL Penei Sewell. The Lions racked up 10 penalties for 119 yards, including two offensive holding flags by the former Pro Bowler Sewell. Against better teams, those mistakes could prove costly. — Eric Woodyard

Next game: at Packers (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)


Falcons

Should there be concern with Atlanta’s offense? Reasonable concern, yes, especially on the road. Unlike the season’s first two weeks, the offense never found a rhythm. Quarterback Desmond Ridder was under duress Sunday and had clear accuracy problems — including missing WR Drake London on a key fourth-down conversation attempt, completing 21 of 37 passes for 201 yards and a sack-fumble lost. Playcalling accentuated offensive woes and the run game averaged 2.2 yards per carry. Atlanta’s last touchdown on the road came from Cordarrelle Patterson on Dec. 18, 2022 — almost nine quarters ago.

Stock up after the loss: LB Kaden Elliss. Making a return to where his father, Luther, starred for the Detroit Lions in the 1990s, Elliss was all over the field with 10 tackles and a tackle for loss.

Stock down after the loss: Offensive line. Ridder was sacked seven times and the run game was essentially unable to get going because the blocking could not hold up. — Michael Rothstein

Next game: vs. Jaguars in London (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET)

Bills

Can the Bills defense keep this level of pressure going? Buffalo’s defense made sure that Sam Howell‘s day was anything but easy, pressuring him on 69.2% of plays, while blitzing on just 16.2%. The pressure helped result in seven sacks, four interceptions, including an AJ Epenesa pick-six, and just three points for Washington. The Commanders offense came into the day scoring the second-most points per game (27.5) but tied for the second-most sacks allowed (10), so the Bills ability to continue this success against better lines and other quarterbacks will be significant moving forward.

Stock up after the win: LB Terrel Bernard. In just his third start at middle linebacker for the Bills, Bernard continues to star. He helped the defense get off to a strong start against the Commanders with two sacks — the firsts of his career — and an interception in the first quarter in addition to a fumble recovery.

Stock down after the win: Red-zone offense. There’s not much to nit-pick in a performance that saw backup quarterback Kyle Allen enter the game with over eight minutes to play, but Buffalo started the game 0 for 2 in red zone offense and could have pulled away even sooner had they scored touchdowns. Instead, they settled for 36- and 32-yard field goals on those possessions. — Alaina Getzenberg

Next game: vs. Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Commanders

How does Sam Howell respond to his worst game? Howell made one bad decision after another — often while attempting to make a big play — leading to four picks. He must manage situations better. At times he took sacks he shouldn’t and was sacked seven times overall. Howell’s strength has been responding to bad situations. Part of being a young quarterback is bouncing back. It won’t be easy, though: Washington plays at Philadelphia on Sunday. But this will be a pivotal week and game for Howell.

Stock up after the loss: RB Brian Robinson Jr. It’s really hard to single out a positive aspect of this loss but Robinson now has rushed for a combined 157 yards the past two games, including 70 on 10 carries Sunday. Robinson has been running with vision and power. The Commanders just need to keep games close so he can be more effective. His running ability can help limit the pressure on Howell.

Stock down after the loss: Offensive line. Washington allowed nine sacks, its most in a game since last season vs. the Eagles. While Sam Howell did not help himself, the protection also failed. Howell has now been sacked 19 times in two games. There’s enough quick pressure to prevent Howell from finding lanes; sometimes it’s the tackles and other times the backs fail picking up pressure. Regardless, it continues to plague the offense. — John Keim

Next game: at Eagles (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Browns

Just how elite is this Browns defense? Cleveland showed that stopping the run is no longer the Achilles’ heel it was last season. Tennessee’s Derrick Henry had minus-seven yards rushing in the first half, the fewest in any half of his All-Pro career. Through three games, the Browns have now allowed just a single field goal from the red zone. This is looking like a complete, top-five defense with no apparent weakness.

Stock up after the win: DE Myles Garrett. The NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate (front-runner?) had 2.5 sacks in the first half alone, including a takedown of quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the final play of the second quarter, eliminating a potential Titans field goal.

Stock down after the win: Running game. The Titans have a stout front, and Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt both made plays, but it’s clear Cleveland’s rushing attack won’t have the same devastating effect minus injured All-Pro running back Nick Chubb. They rushed for a total of 78 yards on Sunday. — Jake Trotter

Next game: vs. Ravens (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Titans

Can the Titans offense get any worse? The Titans offense was so bad, it got the ball on the Browns’ 17-yard line off a Sean Murphy-Bunting forced fumble and recovery, then went backwards nine yards in three plays before Nick Folk‘s 44-yard field goal. Tennessee finished with a pitiful 94 yards of offense. Fortunately for the Titans, they won’t face a pass-rusher like Garrett until Week 9 when they play T.J. Watt and the Steelers. In the meantime, Tennessee has to find a way to not get dominated up front and put together drives to score points.

Stock up after the loss: CB Sean Murphy-Bunting. The cornerback got flagged for a couple of questionable defensive holding calls but he tackled well on the perimeter and turned in the play of the day for the Titans when he stripped the ball from Browns receiver Elijah Moore and recovered the ball to put Tennessee in scoring position.

Stock down after the loss: OT Andre Dillard. The tackle was outmatched by Garrett to the point where he gave up 2.5 sacks, and was called for holding and a false start, reducing the number of plays offensive coordinator Tim Kelly could call. — Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. Bengals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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Amari Cooper is wide-open for a 43-yard TD

Deshaun Watson finds a wide-open Amari Cooper for a 43-yard Browns touchdown.

Thursday

49ers

After scoring 30 points in each of their three wins, how much better can they be? Here’s something the rest of the league might not want to hear: The 49ers believe they can be a lot better. Aside from their opening week blowout against Pittsburgh, San Francisco has showed some warts, whether it was the first half defensive struggles against the Rams or the first half offensive problems against the Giants. Even after throwing for 310 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants, quarterback Brock Purdy said he will have a “bad taste” in his mouth from the plays he missed. That’s exactly the type of never satisfied response coach Kyle Shanahan wants from his players and what they hope can push them over the top after only their second 3-0 start in the past 25 years.

Stock up after the win: WR Ronnie Bell. The seventh-round rookie out of Michigan helped fill in for injured starter Brandon Aiyuk by grabbing his first NFL touchdown in the first half and contributing on special teams.

Stock down after the win: Penalty discipline. The Niners continue to rack up penalties with nine infractions for 71 yards against the Giants and are now averaging 9.3 penalties and 71 penalty yards per game, a number they need to bring down sooner than later. — Nick Wagoner

Next game: vs. Cardinals (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


Giants

Who will be back for next Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks? This isn’t a deep Giants team. It can’t afford to be down four crucial starters (including perhaps their two best players in LT Andrew Thomas and RB Saquon Barkley) like they were against the 49ers. Fortunately for the Giants, Thomas has said he’s made progress with his hamstring and there is a good chance he returns soon. Left guard Ben Bredeson (concussion) also now has time, and the left side of the O-line should be back intact. It’s Barkley and OLB Azeez Ojulari who are the question marks. It’s not an especially encouraging sign that Barkley told Amazon’s Taylor Rooks that he’s dealing with a high ankle sprain. Given his history, it might be prudent to wait a few more weeks for his return.

Stock up after the loss: LB Micah McFadden. He had 10 tackles, including four for a loss in San Francisco. This is the second time in three games that McFadden has played a strong game. The second-year linebacker is proving he’s a capable starting player.

Stock down after the loss: OC Mike Kafka/coach Brian Daboll. The Giants have to find a way to get the ball into rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt‘s hands. There is no way in a game like that he should be on the field to run just 13 routes and not get a touch. Hyatt was the key to the Giants’ victory the prior week in Arizona. — Jordan Raanan

Next game: vs. Seahawks (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

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