Last year when Marshawn Lynch returned to football there was a little bit of rust at the beginning of the season. Then in the final half of 2017 Lynch turned things around and was running like we were used to seeing him in the past. All of that set Marshawn Lynch up for what would be a successful first three weeks of the 2018 season. Lynch has rushed for 170 yards and 3 touchdowns up to this point and that’s been one of the lone bright spots for Oakland. The Jon Gruden era hasn’t got off to a great start but give Lynch credit for proving that he’ll still do his job no matter what the circumstances are. Gruden and Lynch’s styles seem like they would clash but so far there hasn’t been any public spats or anything like. Instead it seems like Derek Carr is growing frustrated with his coach and that means Lynch is even more valuable. Marshawn Lynch has a chance to be the one constant for this football team and everyone already looks at this guy like an “A list celebrity” because of his impressive track record. The Raiders might tank but Marshawn Lynch is only adding to his legacy by racking up stats and proving that he’s still a beast on the field. We’re at the point where Lynch could honestly extend his career for three or four more years because he still has a lot of gas left in the tank. Therefore Lynch might have another shot at a big pay day. The 5x Pro Bowler’s contract is over at the end of this year. Right now Marshawn Lynch has been so good that Oakland has no choice but to re-sign him. Letting Lynch go would be the nail in the coffin for Gruden and the black hole would tear down the Oakland Alameda Coliseum if that were to happen. The truth is it doesn’t really matter someone will sign Marshawn Lynch and there will probably be another $5M dollars coming his way.
If you like high scoring games and not a lot of defense then the Rams and Vikings Thursday Night Football match up was a must-see. Both quarterbacks in this contest combined for 8 touchdown passes and there was 69 total points when it was all said and done. Jared Goff had his best night as a pro throwing for 465 yards, 5 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Two things really stood out about Goff and that was his throw power and his accuracy. On one play Goff threw a deep ball strike to Cooper Kupp which was just out of the reach of two defenders. Then Goff aired out a 47 yard bomb to Brandin Cooks. Truthfully that pass was over 60 yards downfield because Goff was at least 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage and Cooks was five yards in the end zone. When the former number 1 overall pick plays like this the Rams are almost unbeatable. Kirk Cousins didn’t play bad for the Vikings but he did have a costly fumble late in the 4th quarter. John Franklin-Meyers strip sacked Cousins and Los Angeles was able to recover the football then close out of the game. Cousins finished his night with 422 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs were outstanding for Minnesota’s offense as well. Thielen recorded 135 yards and 1 touchdown. Stefon Diggs was consistent too he hauled in 11 receptions for 123 yards. It seems like every receiver caught a touchdown for Los Angeles. Four different wide outs got in on the scoring action and three different players went over the 100 yards receiving mark. Cooper Kupp led the way with 162 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. Brandin Cooks was explosive like he always is with 116 yards and 1 touchdown. Then there was Robert Woods who contributed 101 yards and 1 touchdown. Most teams would like to have just one of those players on their roster but LA is lucky to have all of them. Aaron Donald set the pace for the Rams defense. Donald had 5 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 TFLs. Ramik Wilson was also tough he chipped in 7 tackles and 2 TFLs. Minnesota’s best defender was Danielle Hunter who put up 6 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 TFL. Eric Kendricks was the other standout for Mike Zimmer’s defense. Kendricks contributed 7 tackles and 1 TFL. It’s very possible the Rams end up winning their next twelve games and become the fifth team to finish the regular season undefeated. However only one of those ball clubs would go on to win the Super Bowl and that was the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
When you watch Bill Belichick and see him conduct his team with a little bit of an attitude it’s very rarely questioned. Belichick is a 5x Super Bowl winning head coach and his methods have achieved more than most people can dream of. That’s why it’s so hard to watch Packers head coach Mike McCarthy try to emulate Belichick. McCarthy has won a Super Bowl but it’s the lack of originality and the fact that Belichick is so much more successful. First off McCarthy needs to develop his own style and prove that’s he not just riding Aaron Rodgers’ coattails. It takes a level of creativity to be the artist of your own image and brand but McCarthy just stole everything Belichick had already done. The other concern is McCarthy doesn’t carry enough weight to act like that. When Tom Brady went down Belichick put together a winning season with Matt Cassel. McCarthy is dead in the water if Rodgers can’t suit up and lately Green Bay’s commander has been losing his cool on the sidelines too. Last game Mike McCarthy almost fought a referee and that doesn’t send a good message to the guys in that locker room. When the highest ranking coach is losing control the team is going to end up following suit. Things are getting to the point where the Packers need to win this season or a change could end up happening. This organization already fired their offensive and defensive coordinators this past off-season (Which was probably requested by the board of directors). Obviously that’s a clear indication of what’s to come next if they don’t produce some results quickly. So if you read between the lines it’s apparent that Mike McCarthy has a ton of pressure on his shoulders right now. Maybe that’s why we see him so frustrated all the time because he’s starting to realize everything is slipping away.
Through the first three weeks we’ve seen some pretty notable performances from Patrick Mahomes, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Todd Gurley but Cam Newton’s impact for the Carolina Panthers can’t be overlooked. Newton has quietly returned to his MVP caliber form and that’s helped his team improve to 2-1 over the first three games. Just take a look at the former number 1 overall pick’s numbers and you’ll see that Newton has already scored 8 total touchdowns. By producing so much offense by himself it lessens the burden on all the other offensive’s player’s shoulders. Therefore Cam Newton is going above and beyond his call of duty and that’s exactly what you want from your leader. We always talk about leading from the front and that means the best players have to produce the most. Not only that but Cam Newton is the face of this franchise. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with those expectations but Newton has proved time and time again that he can handle the responsibility. People always knew Cam was a threat on the ground running the ball but he’s come a long way as a passer too. Most of those 8 TDs have come through the air and even last year in the playoffs Newton was delivering strikes with better accuracy than we’ve seen from him in the past. Newton actually reached out to Tom Brady and asked the future Hall of Famer to mentor him a little bit. It’s very possible that Brady gave the dual-threat signal caller some tips when it comes to approaching the game and reading coverages. All we know is Cam Newton has made some tremendous strides and the results are being displayed on the field. Carolina is right in the thick of things and they look like they’re a true contender after the first quarter of the season.
Charity of the day: Center for Biological Diversity
Losing two straight games is something that doesn’t happen very often in New England and that’s why things will really spiral out of control if the Pats lose three in a row. To make things even more challenging Bill Belichick’s team will take on the undefeated Miami Dolphins this weekend. Tom Brady will have to play better than he did against the Lions if he hopes to keep the ship afloat. Falling to 1-3 would be a lot of ground to make up and if the Patriots don’t make the playoffs we could see this whole organization disband. To be honest New England still might break up even if they win it all. Everyone knows Tom Brady seriously considered parting ways with Belichick due to the coaching staff preferring Jimmy Garoppolo over him. That insulted Brady and all off-season we’ve heard about the friction between both sides. You have to wonder if that’s played a role in the team’s regression? One other notable problem has definitely been the revolving door at the wide receiver position. The Patriots have signed and released several wide receivers (Eric Decker, Jordan Matthews, and Corey Coleman) and they haven’t been able to build any continuity. How is anyone supposed to master the rhythm and timing of the passing game if they aren’t getting any chance to develop chemistry with Brady? Look it’s easy to see that a lot of New England’s problems are starting to build up to a boiling point. Everything will be fine if they can pull out a win against Miami and you know they’re motivated after going through a rough two weeks. The problem is if things don’t go their way against the Dolphins then the media will come after Belichick and Brady like we haven’t seen in a very long time. There might even be some finger pointing too because we know both Belichick and Brady are on the cusp of airing out their grievances.
Charity of the day: Center for Biological Diversity
Sometimes for whatever reason people are going to bet against you. We see it all the time throughout the draft process when NFL talent evaluators are playing favorites and boosting the stock of any players they personally prefer. It happened to Mike Evans when everyone put Sammy Watkins over him back in the 2014 draft. Then history repeated itself when D.J Moore was selected before Calvin Ridley. The problem with that whole situation is Calvin Ridley was hands down the best receiver in all of college football a season ago. People undervalued Ridley’s abilities after an average combine performance but all of those scouts forgot to plug in the tape and watch the 23 year old receiver operate. If they did that they would’ve seen a guy who has a knack for getting behind the secondary and those are the same skills were seeing on display with Atlanta. Calvin Ridley has been so good that he leads the entire NFL with 4 touchdown receptions. Obviously that has helped bolster this Falcons passing attack and think about all the weapons they have. Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Ridley are a trio of wide outs who can get into the end zone three or four times a game. At some point Ridley is going to be the top guy of that bunch if he keeps catching touchdowns at such a high rate. Jones has always been the one who received all the attention but Ridley is starting to make a name for himself. The real winner is Matt Ryan because this a very quarterback friendly situation to be in. One of those three players is going to get it open and if not they can usually make something happen in a one on one situation. Calvin Ridley in particular has shown that early on and good things tend to happen when a rookie starts their career off so strong.
Playing running back in the National Football League is one of the toughest things to do. Not only does is take a level of athleticism that is second to none. Ball carriers in pro football also have to endure a ton of big hits and contact on just about every single play. Luckily for Cleveland they have a player who has been holding up well under those circumstances. In fact Carlos Hyde has actually flourished since joining the Browns and there’s no doubt he’s been one of the biggest free agent acquisitions of the past off-season. Kirk Cousins has somewhat underachieved so far with the Vikings while Hyde is in the process of turning around Cleveland. With 203 rushing yards and a league leading 4 touchdowns Carlos Hyde is a guy who can carry a huge portion of the offensive responsibility on his shoulders. We all know it’s a long season and Hue Jackson must do his best to keep Baker Mayfield healthy. That’s why the Browns should rely on Carlos Hyde’s legs as the primary attack. Hyde is such a good football player and he’ll only get better with an increased workload. Myles Garrett and the defense are going to do their job. By running the ball more it’ll control the time of possession and keep Cleveland’s defense well rested. All of those tactics can end up being the difference between winning and losing games. A lot of teams have gotten away from that gritty style of the play but so many Super Bowl champions have won it all with those methods. Everyone wants to pass these days and have an offense that is appealing to the fan base but it drifts away from the fundamentals of the game. Carlos Hyde is this organization’s chance to implement a ground and pound mentality. It’s been such a long time since the Browns have had that opportunity and it’s one they should seriously consider heading into the next thirteen games.
Ben Roethlisberger knew the Steelers had to respond to all of the adversity they faced early on in the season and the Pittsburgh quarterback started off the game hot against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Roethlisberger had 3 touchdowns and nearly 300 passing yards in the first half alone. That was too much for the Buccaneers to overcome but they definitely made it close. Tampa Bay’s defense shut out the Steelers in the third and fourth quarters. Ryan Fitzpatrick rallied Tampa Bay within 3 points but they couldn’t catch the breaks they needed at the end. Roethlisberger threw for 353 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception in the win. Vance McDonald had huge night too he hauled in 112 receiving yards and 1 touchdown. JuJu Smith-Schuster was the other notable Pittsburgh receiver he finished with 116 yards. Antonio Brown and Ryan Switzer also caught touchdowns and it was a great night for the Pittsburgh offense. Tampa Bay was led by Ryan Fitzpatrick who threw for 441 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Fitzpatrick was the first NFL player to throw for 400 yards in three straight games. Mike Evans was the Bucs top receiver with 137 yards and 1 touchdown. Chris Godwin and Cameron Brate also found the end zone at one point or another (Both throws were from Fitzpatrick). Defensively Bud Dupree led the way for the black and yellow with 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 interception that he returned for a touchdown. Mike Hilton and Terrell Edmunds also picked off Fitzpatrick and helped the Steelers get out in front early in the game. Jason Pierre-Paul was solid for the Buccaneers he recorded 5 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. The other notable defender was Lavonte David he had a team high of 9 tackles. Give Mike Tomlin and the Steelers credit for persevering through that rough patch over the first two weeks. Obviously they couldn’t afford to lose and now they’ll have a shot at turning things around. The Bucs on the other hand will have to regroup and decide if they should stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick for the rest of the year? Based off everything we’ve seen from Fitzpatrick there’s no way Tampa Bay can turn the page on him. Jameis Winston will have to stay in a back up role until Fitzpatrick losses the job.
Most football fans like back and forth action and that’s why the Saints and Falcons week three game was the perfect event for spectators. Drew Brees and Matt Ryan combined for 10 touchdowns but there was one other star who really deserves some recognition. That player was Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas and boy what a year he’s having. Thomas leads the entire NFL with 398 yards and he’s clearly not the easiest receiver to line up against. Defensive backs are better off playing soft coverage on Thomas and trying to minimize his output but people want to go head up with him. That hasn’t went well for anyone and at some point team’s have to concede to Thomas and admit that they can’t guard this guy. Give up the underneath stuff and try to takeaway any big plays. To be fair though no matter what coverage teams run against Michael Thomas he’s going to end up winning that battle. He’s just physically superior than those undersized cornerbacks and Thomas’ ball skills are second to none. It takes extreme concentration in order to haul in those passes when a defender is trying to take your head off. Michael Thomas has show he can do that as well as anyone and now the former 2nd round pick is challenging Antonio Brown for the title of best receiver in the NFL. Brown has been the best but Thomas is emerging faster than anyone we’ve seen in a very long time. For the 2018 season there’s no doubt Thomas has been better and you have to wonder if there’s a passing of the torch going on? Michael Thomas is doing everything he can to seize the throne and he very well could wind up the receiving champion (most receiving yards). Playing with the future Hall of Famer Drew Brees doesn’t hurt either but Thomas has worked hard to be the number one pass catcher in New Orleans and it’s been a lot of fun to watch him dominate on Sundays.
The last time the Detroit Lions had a 100 yard rusher it was 2013 and Kerryon Johnson was still in high school. Luckily though the Lions had Johnson in their line up against the New England Patriots and boy did the rookie showcase his talents. Johnson ran hard on every snap showing off impressive footwork and spectacular ball carrier vision. The 2017 SEC Offensive Player of the Year (Johnson) was patient when he needed to be but also a downhill runner at times. It’s the combination of speed and power which makes this guy such a unique running back and it appears the Lions have a star. Johnson had 16 carries and produced 101 yards for Detroit’s offense. New England struggled to contain him and that was one of the key story lines in this match up. The other was Matthew Stafford’s big day. Stafford outplayed Tom Brady and really tilted the odds in Matt Patricia’s team’s favor. When the final whistle blew Stafford had thrown for 262 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay were on the receiving end of each of Stafford’s touchdown passes. Jones finished the night with 69 yards while Golladay had 53 yards. The Lions defense was led by Eli Harold who recorded 3 tackles and 2 sacks. Darius Slay had a clutch interception late in the game to seal the victory and New England didn’t get the best night from Brady. The future Hall of Famer threw for 133 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. That one TD was to James White on a halfback fade out of the backfield. Outside of that there wasn’t much going on. Rob Gronkowski hauled in 51 receiving yards and Sony Michel rushed for 50 yards. Defensively this organization wasn’t much better. Duron Harmon was the top defender for the Patriots he went for 8 tackles. Ja’Whaun Bentley also contributed 5 tackles and an interception in a losing effort. Detroit gets their first win of the season and Matt Patricia does it against his former team. As far as New England goes they need to regroup after two straight losses because they are falling apart right before our eyes. You have to wonder if the culture is toxic in Foxborough?