What we learned from last week:
One week after Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan carved up the Carolina defense for two passing TDs and two rushing TDs, the Panthers came out Sunday with the clear intention of having none of the same from the red rifle (not to be confused with red rocket) Andy Dalton. It was a rough game for Cincinnati, with 4 INTs from Dalton and a costly injury to WR A.J. Green on the first drive of the second half. The Bengals defense had difficulty containing Cam Newton with a struggling pass rush on Sunday, giving up 2 rushing TDs to the Carolina QB that would complement his 150 passing yards and 2 passing TDs.
Christian McCaffery had himself a game as well, racking up an impressive 184 yards on 28 carries. While the outcome was definitely a disappointment to Bengals nation, their passing game was able to function nicely in the absence of A.J. Green. WR Tyler Boyd secured 6 catches for 132 yards and a TD while TE Tyler Eifert hauled in 6 catches for 74 yards. The Bengals will go back to the drawing board and hope to get on track as they sport a record of 2-1 heading into week 4.
The stiff arm heard round the world….has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? Okay maybe it wasn’t heard around the world, sports world maybe, but Vance McDonald‘s thunderous stiff arm that laid waste to TB safety Chris Conte helped to characterize an exciting, high flying Monday night showdown between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. It looked as if Fitzmagic was running on empty with a 30-10 score in the first half, but never one to be outdone, the bearded wonder that is Fitzmagic mustered up 411 yards, 3 TDs, and 17 unanswered points in the second half to put Pittsburgh on their heels in what proved to be a near victory for the Buccaneers.
Enter Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers defense. Big Ben had a huge night, going 30/38 for 353 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT which was further complemented by 4 INTs, one of which a pick 6, by the Pittsburgh defense. Considering that the Steelers organization has been marred by controversy as of late, the win was done in classic Steelers fashion, taking them to 1-1-1 on the season.
In what initially appeared to be a high scoring shootout and another tough day for Baltimore, the Ravens scored 17 unanswered points on Sunday to secure a win over the Denver Broncos, looking like a much different team than the one that suffered a tough loss at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals in week 2. To be honest, the Broncos didn’t exactly do themselves any favors with their performance. 120 yards on 13 penalties and a 2nd quarter ejection for Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay made Sunday’s game an uphill battle for Denver.
Nevertheless, the real MVP of the game was the Ravens offensive line, with ironclad pass protection that kept Joe Flacco relatively clean and away from Von Miller, who finished the game with no sacks. With time to throw, Flacco carved up the Bronco’s defense for 277 yards and a TD while Alex Collins and Buck Allen made solid contributions with a rushing TD each. Now 2-1 on the season, the Ravens will look to stay on track as we head into week 4 showdown with rivals Pittsburgh.
Bakermania has arrived people, and his transition into the starting role in Cleveland couldn’t have been more storybook and more organic. It wasn’t so much a coach’s decision, nor was it a call from the higher ups. On Thursday Night Football in the premier game of the evening, an injury to then QB Tyrod Taylor led for Mayfield to be called up to the ranks of the number ones, and that’s when it happened.
The energy in the stadium changed and football fans around the world (or at least in Ohio) waited to see what his first NFL action would look like, and just like that, Bakermania began. Down 14 points to the Sam Darnold led New York Jets, Mayfield’s play uplifted that of his teammates with the likes of Carlos Hyde rushing for 98 yards and two TDs on 23 carries and Jarvis Landry hauling in 8 receptions on 15 targets for 103 yards.
Even their defense picked up their already impressive play, securing two interceptions to seal the deal late in the game. It wasn’t perfect, but nothing ever is and neither is their record on the year of 1-1-1, but be sure to keep your eyes open, because the Cleveland Browns have arrived.
What to watch for:
I am getting the feeling I am starting to sound like a homer without really being a Cleveland fan, but Baker Mayfield is now going to have to chance to show the world whether or not his 17/23 and 201 yard performance on Thursday is what we can come to expect from the former Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma. In his first NFL start, Mayfield and the Browns will travel across the country to visit the Oakland Raiders in what should be an exciting match up.
While the expectation is that all Browns skill players will continue to get a boost from Mayfield under center, the rookie QB will need to bring his A-game if the Browns are going to continue their long-awaited success. Now if only Khalil Mack was still around…
Who brings the boom:
Okay, I promise I’m not an actual Cleveland fan, but even when taking a purely objective approach to the question, I still find myself thinking that the Browns are finally on to something here. The Cleveland defense is for real, sporting the likes of Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, and Jabrill Peppers, and they’re only getting better. While they haven’t been completely lights-out on the season, this defensive unit will surely give Derek Carr and the Raiders offense all they can handle come next Sunday.
Who drops the ball:
It all started so well, but something tells me that the Cincinnati Bengals are going to find themselves at 2-2 after their week 4 matchup with Atlanta. The Falcons have been sporting a high octane style of offense as of late, with Matt Ryan going off for 374 yards and 5 TDs in an overtime loss against the Saints in week 3. Playing on the road for the second week in a row and WR A.J. Green’s status for Sunday currently unknown, the Bengals are going to have their hands full against a determined 1-2 Falcons team.
Cincinnati Bengals 20, Atlanta Falcons 27
Baltimore Ravens 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 31
Cleveland Browns 21, Oakland Raiders 23