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Week 3 of the NFL season was a dramatic week filled with tension, shootouts and incredible storylines. As we transition into the quarter-pole of the season before the bye weeks start occuring, here is a look back at my takeaways from Week 3.
- Don’t write off the Detroit Lions yet
Coming into Week 3, many already wrote off the Lions after two tough losses to the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers to open the season. The Lions faced the red-hot 2-0 Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in Arizona, a place where the Lions have a 1-8-1 record at since the Cardinals were rebranded as the Arizona Cardinals. The Lions picked off Kyler Murray three times and Matt Prater kicked a game-winning 39-yard field goal in the final seconds to give the Lions their first win of the season.
They were boosted by the return of leading wide receiver, Kenny Golladay, who missed the first two games with a hamstring injury. He gave the passing game more potency and made the offense more three-dimensional. Their upcoming schedule is favorable with games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons after their Week 5 bye week. If they can steal a win on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, expect this team to push for a wild card spot.
2. Buffalo’s defense looks very shaky
The Buffalo Bills last season were anchored by a young and tenacious defense led by all-pro cornerback Tre’Davious White. They were third in total defense and fourth in passing defense. It made up for an offense in the bottom 10 of yards per game.
This season, however, has been a completely different story through the first three games of the season. The Bills are fourth in total offense and second in total offense, which was needed to score a late touchdown to defeat the Los Angeles Rams 35-32. The offense was placed in this position as the defense let the Rams come all the way from a 28-3 second half deficit to take a late 32-28 lead. The Bills’ total defense is 21st while the passing defense is fifth-worst. Josh Allen has been spectacular but the defense needs to pick up their 2019 form if they are going to contend in the AFC. Their matchup this Sunday at the Las Vegas Raiders will be instrumental in the Bills figuring out what is wrong with their defense so far in 2020.
3. Watch out for the San Francisco 49ers
Yes. The 49ers played the New York Jets and Giants the last two weeks, possibly the two worst teams in the NFL. However, Sunday’s 36-9 win over the Giants saw the 49ers re-introduce an effective weapon last season in their Super Bowl run, the wide receiver sweep. In the 49ers’ first two games, not a single wide receiver had a rushing attempt as their top-two receivers were injured. Against the Giants, rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk in his debut rushed three times for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Using this misdirection and play design opens up many different options for Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers’ offense. It allows backup quarterback Nick Mullens to utilize the passing game (343 yards against the Giants) and running room for Jerrick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson. While the 49ers are still incredibly banged up (they put tight end Jordan Reed on short-term injured reserve), they are expected to get top wide receiver Deebo Samuel either this week or the following week. With home games against the winless Philadelphia Eagles and mediocre Miami Dolphins, they should be 4-1 before playing the Rams in a crucial game, a game in which they could have more players available for.
4. The Minnesota Vikings’ playoff hopes are already in peril
Coming into this season, many expected the Vikings to either win the NFC North or take a wild card spot, especially after winning at New Orleans in the playoffs last season. Cousins finally won a big game and Dalvin Cook solidified himself as an elite running back. They got LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson to replace Stefon Diggs so that did not appear to be an issue (which it hasn’t).
Here we are heading into Week 4 and the Vikings sit at 0-3 after losing a heartbreaking 31-30 game to the Tennessee Titans. Cousins has struggled to maintain consistency in 2020 but what’s most alarming is the defense. They have allowed 292.3 yards per game, the third most in the NFL and have only sacked the QB three times in three games (only the Carolina Panthers have fewer with two). With star linebacker Anthony Barr out for the season and pass rusher Danielle Hunter on IR, they don’t have the personnel to make up for these losses.
Also, Zimmer’s defensive genius is not what it used to be. The Vikings play a methodical, zone defense which focuses on discipline, not allowing the big play and making open-field tackles. This kind of defense doesn’t work as well in the new and explosive NFL and teams are starting to torch them more and more. This combined with the injuries mean Zimmer has to adjust or the Vikings are going to sink to the depths of mediocrity.