Kyle Allen, the Undefeated 49ers and the NFL Sack Record: Buying or Selling Week 3’s Top NFL Storylines
Shaquil Barrett of the Bucs already has eight sacks and is on pace for 40
With Week 3 of the season now wrapped up following the Bears cleaning up on the Redskins on Monday Night Football, we can start digesting everything that happened beginning with the rise of Gardner Minshew on Thursday Night Football. While we can’t get to everything — like Daniel Jones seizing the reins for the Giants and Antonio Brown being unemployed (for now) — here are five of the top storylines to emerge following Week 3 of the season, and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em.
Buy: The Ravens are a legit Super Bowl contender
With red-hot quarterback Lamar Jackson leading them, the Baltimore Ravens rolled into Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Chiefs … and lost.
But even though it was a 33-28 losing effort in Kansas City, the Ravens showed they can hang with best the NFL has to offer and, if things break their way, beat ’em.
On Sunday, the biggest problem the Ravens faced was themselves as dumb penalties and questionable decision-making led to short fields and points for the Chiefs and scores being taken off the board for Baltimore.
In the first half, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh opted to go for it on fourth down twice from his side of the field and the Ravens were able to convert. A third attempt at a fourth-down conversion near midfield was stuffed and the Chiefs took advantage of the short field with a quick touchdown.
Harbaugh also chose to go for 2-point conversion attempts three times and came up empty every time. Had he simply kicked the extra points, the Ravens would have been trailing by three fewer points in the fourth quarter and could have managed the clock and their playcalling accordingly.
So, the Ravens defense took dumb penalites on the way to surrendering 503 yards of total offense, Harbaugh was too aggressive with his playcalling and Jackson (267 passing and 46 rushing yards), who lost for just his second time in 10 games as a starter, had a subpar game … and the team only lost by five points on the road.
The Ravens didn’t win, but they are legit and could certainly beat the Chiefs in the right circumstances were there to be a rematch. In a weak AFC, that certainly gives Baltimore a shot at making the Super Bowl in Miami.
Sell: The 49ers are as good as their 3-0 record suggests
After knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in San Francisco thanks to a last-second TD pass from Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers are now 3-0 on the season and have a home game with the Cleveland Browns (1-2) on the schedule next following their bye week.
The combined record of their first three opponents? 1-8.
To give the Niners credit, they’ve taken advantage of the soft opening the NFL schedule gods handed them and have beaten up on inferior competition. With the Browns coming to town in Week 4, that trend may continue as Cleveland has been far short of the Super Bowl sleeper many had them pegged as entering the season.
In fact, of San Francisco’s remaining 13 games, only seven come against teams with winning records so, thanks to the 3-0 start, they probably have a legit chance at finishing at 9-7 or 8-8.
But that’s in a best-case scenario as the Niners and Garoppolo have yet to play a quality opponent and there’s a good chance they’ll fold when they do.
With just as many touchdowns (five) as turnovers on the season, Garoppolo is averaging fewer than 250 passing yards per game and has failed to display the form that led the 49ers to hand him a fat contract prior to last season.
Up to this point, the Niners’ defense has been the team’s most valuable asset but that may not continue to be the case as the club faces stiffer competition from division foes like the Seahawks, Rams and even the air-raiding Cardinals going forward.
Sure, the San Fran defense can deal with Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston and backup Mason Rudolph, but how will they fare in six games against Jared Goff, Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray (not to mention Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan). We’re guessing they won’t go undefeated.
Buy: Shaquil Barrett will set the NFL sack record
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett collected three sacks on Thursday Night Football in Week 2 against the Panthers and followed that up by notching another four against the Giants in Week 3 to give him eight on the season already.
Since 1982, when the sack was first officially tracked, only Mark Gastineau recorded that many sacks this early in the season when he had eight through three games in 1984. Gastineau set a then-record of 22 sacks that year which has only been bested once when Michael Strahan got 22.5 in 2001.
“He’s just wearing out left tackles,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said on Sunday.
Barrett is currently on pace for a 42-sack season, which of course, he will not be able to get. However, given Tampa’s upcoming schedule, it certainly seems possible that he challenges Strahan’s mark.
In the next six weeks, the Bucs have four games against teams that rank in the bottom third of the NFL in sacks allowed per game in the Seahawks (2.7), Panthers (2.7), Cardinals (5.3) and Titans (5.7).
To break Strahan’s mark of 22.5 sacks, Barrett has to average just 1.15 sacks per game over the final 13 games of Tampa’s season.
Playing on a one-year deal worth just $4 million, Barrett, a free agent earlier this year who received little interest, has all the incentive in the world to hit that mark and break Strahan’s record in the process.
Sell: The Colts fading away in the AFC South
At 2-1 and tied for first place in the AFC South, the Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts are one of the best stories of the young NFL season.
With Jacoby Brissett under center and early Coach of the Year candidate Frank Reich calling plays from the sideline, the Colts have won two games in a row after narrowly losing their season opener on the road to the Chargers.
Though he won’t make many highlight reels, Brissett has been very steady thus far for Indianapolis and has thrown seven touchdowns compared to just a single interception. Running back Marlon Mack has also been solid in the backfield averaging nearly five yards per carry and 100 rushing yards per game.
Already in good position in the division, the Colts have a very winnable home game against the Raiders coming up. From there, they take on the Chiefs and the Texans (which is also somewhat winnable), followed by four straight games against some of this season’s worst teams (Broncos, Steelers, Dolphins, Jaguars) thus far.
Will they win the division? Probably too early to tell. But history suggests that, Luck or no Luck, the Colts — who have had only one losing season since the “Suck for Luck” campaign of 2011 — will be a bigger factor down the stretch than some might realize.
Buy: Panthers should ride Kyle Allen as far as possible
Playing in place of an injured Cam Newton, quarterback Kyle Allen helped the Panthers secure their first win of the season by leading Carolina to a 38-20 win over the Cardinals in the desert.
Allen, who was playing in his home state against his former college teammate Kyler Murray, threw four touchdowns in the win.
The Panthers have already announced Newton will be out again in Week 4 thanks to his lingering mid-foot sprain and Allen will be starting — and that’s the way it should be.
It hurts, but the truth is that Newton’s play earlier this year and dating back to last season has been light miles away from the standard he set while winning the 2015 league MVP.
Until he’s fully healthy, not just healthy enough to play, Newtown should sit and Allen, who finished with a 144.4 QB rating (the second-best mark in franchise history) on Sunday, should be under center for the Panthers.
“He had good command of what we were doing and spread the ball around, which is what I like to see because then you can’t focus on one guy,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said on Monday. “The one thing I have always said about Kyle that impresses me is he handles those things. He’s always cool. He’s kind of aloof to things that happen and that he can’t control. So he’s always one of those guys that goes on to the next play.”
As long as Allen, who also won his lone start last season, continues to do that, the Panthers should stick with him.
At worst, they’ll see what they have in the second-year quarterback and can potentially use him as a trade chip as there are plenty of teams in need of a serviceable QB. At best, they’ll continue to win games and right a season which was in serious danger of getting off the rails before Allen stepped up on Sunday in Arizona.
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