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Monday, October 21, 2019

15 key questions for NFL Week 3

Lamar Jackson

Week 3 got started with an unmemorable Thursday night game between the Titans and Jaguars, but there should be better things to come once Sunday gets underway. The most intriguing game is a clash between Lamar Jackson’s Ravens and Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs, but it’s far from the only exciting thing on the schedule.

What are we watching for in Week 3? Here are 15 key questions to be answered.

1. Can the Bengals stop anyone on defense?

There’s very little to like about how Cincinnati plays defense. Only the Miami Dolphins, who aren’t even trying to field a competitive team, have been worse against the pass than the Bengals have this season. Josh Allen might not be best poised to take advantage of that, but he’s a solid dual-threat quarterback with the ability to take Cincinnati apart. If Jimmy Garoppolo could do it, it’s certainly on the table for him as well.

2. What does Josh Rosen have in store as Miami’s starter?

There’s no real upside or intrigue for the Dolphins, who are the worst team in the league by some distance. There is at least one talking point as they look poised to give Josh Rosen the nod as their starting quarterback. Dallas is a tough matchup, and Rosen is in a bad situation with little talent around him. Still, there’s a question of how much of a future he has with the organization, and this is a good chance for him to show that he shouldn’t be written off as an NFL starter.

3. Is the Packers’ defense for real?

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine seems to be doing a very good job with his unit in Green Bay. The Packers have stifled quarterback opposition so far. Granted, they were facing Mitchell Trubisky and Kirk Cousins, who both have their own issues, but the five turnovers they’ve forced is impressive in any context. Another favorable matchup — it’s tough to see Joe Flacco torching anyone at this point — should bode well for a Packers defense that has to be growing in confidence.

4. Can Matt Ryan start to clean it up this week?

Ryan wasn’t bad against the Philadelphia Eagles, and his team won the game. However, his three interceptions mean he has started the season by throwing five in two weeks. Ryan would do well to clean that up, as that total is obviously very high. The Colts will be down several key defensive players, so the stage is set for Ryan to have a solid week. His decision-making could stand to be a bit better, so that will bear watching.

5. How will Lamar Jackson and the Chiefs’ defense respond to their first true tests against each other?

Both Jackson and the Kansas City defense have jumped out to strong starts in 2019. However, Jackson has faced two weak defenses in Miami and Arizona, while the Chiefs have had favorable matchups with the Jaguars and Raiders. This is a huge test for both sides. Kansas City worked hard to overhaul their defense this offseason, while Jackson is in a high-flying new offense tailored to his skillset. Whichever unit performs best this week will have the upper hand.

6. How much do the Vikings trust Kirk Cousins?

Cousins is fresh off a two-interception performance in a loss to Green Bay, and there appears to be some growing discontent surrounding his showing. The Raiders are probably vulnerable here, but the question is whether Minnesota will trust Cousins to put them to the sword. Their running game looks robust behind Dalvin Cook, and they may choose to ride that instead, making Cousins more of a game manager. Either way, he has to cut down on the bad reads and stupid interceptions one way or another.

7. Will the Patriots be better off without Antonio Brown?

The AB experiment in New England lasted just 11 days before they let him go. He never really had a chance to grow into the team’s offense, but he had plenty of time to cause distractions. Were the Patriots busy dealing with the situation surrounding him and distracted from focusing on their jobs and the task at hand? Will they be out to prove they can run up the scoreboard even without him? They’ve looked great on both sides of the ball and should be able to prove it again in Week 3.

8. Can the Eagles dig deep and overcome their injury situation?

The Eagles have been rocked by injuries on both sides of the ball. They’ll be short DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery at receiver, while Malik Jackson and Timmy Jernigan will both sit out on the defensive side of things. The team opted for a walkthrough on Wednesday, which is not unprecedented, but is certainly unusual so early in the season. One would think this would benefit the Lions, but Philly still has talent. They’ll have to dig deep if they want to win this.

9. Can Kyle Allen take advantage of a favorable matchup and get Carolina on track?

Cam Newton appears to be a no-go this week, but if there’s a team you have to play your backup quarterback against, the Cardinals and their vulnerable defense aren’t a terrible choice. Kyle Allen will likely get the nod here. The Panthers have struggled lately and need a boost, and while Allen certainly isn’t better than Newton, he may help shake things up. The matchup is good and winnable even without Newton here, though Allen’s performance bears watching.

10. Will Daniel Jones pick up where he left off in preseason?

The Giants have finally made the long-awaited quarterback move, as Daniel Jones starts in Week 3. He was excellent during the preseason, but this is a different animal with a fully-stocked Tampa Bay defense waiting for him. It’s hard to see Jones doing any worse than Eli Manning was doing, so there’s that, at least. His athleticism should give the offense more life. If nothing else, this should prove to be a valuable barometer of where Jones is at as a starting quarterback and how much developmental work he has left to do.

11. Can Philip Rivers outplay Deshaun Watson?

The Texans-Chargers matchup brings us a very interesting quarterback duel. Philip Rivers may well have to outplay Deshaun Watson in this one. Watson was underwhelming in Week 2, but this figures to be a more open game than that one, which should benefit both quarterbacks. Whoever can limit the mistakes and make the most big plays may win this, and both quarterbacks have it in them against two defenses who can certainly give them up.

12. Does Mason Rudolph have what it takes to keep the Steelers competitive?

Rudolph had a season to sit and watch behind Ben Roethlisberger, which should help as he takes the reins of the offense this week. Still, this is sooner than he’d have anticipated. Rudolph still has some talent around him, and he may well be able to step in and manage a game effectively. The Seahawks are a tough foe, and Rudolph probably would’ve preferred an easier opponent to get started with, but don’t be surprised if he looks competent in Roethlisberger’s stead.

13. How will the Saints handle their quarterback situation?

There will be no Drew Brees now or for the foreseeable future in New Orleans, meaning the Saints will have an interesting setup this week. Teddy Bridgewater figures to do most of the passing, but it’s fair to expect the Saints will mix in Taysom Hill rather heavily, and they’ll also feature two quarterbacks at times. The Saints will have to get creative to score consistently without Brees, so how they use their two quarterbacks will be one of the week’s more intriguing storylines.

14. Can the Browns come up with a signature performance against a quality team?

The Browns beat the New York Jets handily in Week 2, but there were a lot of flat moments against a team that they should be beating every time. It gets tougher in Week 3 as they host the Los Angeles Rams. Jared Goff has consistently not been as good away from home, so the Browns have an opening here. They were bad against Tennessee at home in Week 1, and a rebound performance and win over the reigning NFC champions would do a lot to boost confidence both inside and outside of the organization.

15. Can Mitchell Trubisky grind out another result?

The Bears don’t always play pretty, and expect Monday night’s game in Washington to be on the rough side. Neither offense is particularly great, so this one should be a grinder between Trubisky and Case Keenum. Trubisky managed to help win such a game in Week 2 with his team’s late rally over the Denver Broncos, so the Bears are well-equipped here. Trubisky is definitely not what the Bears thought he’d be yet, but he’s good enough and experienced enough to win this one.



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