The Top Week 3 NFL Storylines: Trevor Lawrence, Justin Herbert and the Legitimacy of the Lions
Plus, is the coach of the league's only 0-3 time on the hot seat?
With the third edition of Monday Night Football in the books, the third week of regular-season NFL action is now completely wrapped up. While we can’t get to everything — like Tua Tagovailoa possibly playing through a concussion — here are four of the top Week 3 NFL storylines to appear over the course of the season’s third slate of 16 games and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em. (ICYMI, here’s what went down last week.)
Buy: Trevor Lawrence is starting to get it
Drafted No. 1 overall out of Clemson prior to last season, Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence slogged through a disastrous rookie campaign that was derailed before it began thanks to the tyranny of former head coach Urban Meyer.
Largely regarded as an afterthought despite a 24-0 victory over Indianapolis in Week 2 following a loss to start the season, the Jaguars went on the road on Sunday and stomped the Chargers in Los Angeles. With new coach Doug Pederson looking on from the sidelines, Lawrence completed 28-of-39 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns in the 38-10 upset win that also saw Jacksonville wideouts Christian Kirk (six catches, 72 yards, one touchdown) and Zay Jones (10 catches, 85 yards, one touchdown) come to play.
Sunday’s performance was the second time in Lawrence’s career he threw three touchdown passes and it appears that he may be primed for a breakout year in his second season as a professional quarterback. After throwing 12 touchdowns and a league-leading 17 interceptions last season, Lawrence already has six touchdowns to go along with just one interception this season and, more importantly, the Jaguars are amazingly the only team over .500 in the AFC South at 2-1.
Now top 10 in the NFL in both points scored and points allowed with the second-best point differential in the NFL (+46) behind only the Buffalo Bills (+53), the Jaguars are one of the NFL’s biggest surprises to start the season and the play of Lawrence is the biggest reason why. With a slate of winnable games (Giants, Texans, Colts) on the schedule following what projects to be a tough matchup in Week 4 against the undefeated Eagles, the Jaguars could keep their positive momentum rolling for the month, if not longer.
“Obviously, the way we have played, you can’t deny that we are a really good team,” Lawrence said after Sunday’s win. “But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what they say about us; we know who we are. Our only goal Sunday is to win the game, and the way people think about us, it doesn’t matter. Every week we are going to prepare the same way. We’re going to be ready to play. We have a bunch of competitors so it’s been a lot of fun.”
It’s also been a lot of fun to see Lawrence finally delivering on the potential that got him selected at the top of the Draft because each win for the Jags just underscores what a mess things were in Jacksonville last season with Meyer in charge.
Sell: The Chargers can survive without Justin Herbert
A game-time decision heading into Week 3’s game against the Jags after suffering fractured rib cartilage in Week 2 against the Chiefs, third-year quarterback Justin Herbert was able to play through the pain on Sunday to complete 25-of-45 passes for 297 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble.
Unfortunately for Herbert and the Chargers, that wasn’t nearly enough and, as noted above, the Chargers were destroyed by the Chargers despite playing at home. The loss dropped LA, a trendy Super Bowl pick for many, to 1-2 on the season and puts the Chargers a game back of both the Broncos and Chiefs in the AFC’s best division.
It clearly wasn’t the best day for Herbert, who made a few shaky throws throughout the day but had the highlight of the week with a strike to Jalen Guyton to open the second half, but the Chargers needed him out there. After all, if LA can’t win games with Herbet playing, imagine how much worse off the team would be with him on the sidelines.
It’s a tough situation for all involved as the injury will probably be bothersome to Herbert for the rest of the season, but the Chargers have to keep putting their franchise quarterback in harm’s way if the team is going to have a chance to win ballgames as second-string LA QB Chase Daniel is a clear downgrade. To his credit, Herber seems to realize that and explained afterward when he took the field and played all 60 minutes of a game that wasn’t all that close.
“It’s what the team needs and sometimes you have to put your goals behind the team and I think that’s what’s most important,” Herbert, who completed just 55.6% of his passes in the loss, said. “I felt like I was safe out there and I didn’t want to quit on the team.”
That’s a good thing for the Chargers because they aren’t going anywhere without Herbert leading the way.
Buy: The Lions will flirt with a .500 record
Losers of two of their first three games, the Detroit Lions nonetheless have a +2 point differential on the season and have scored an NFC-best 95 points thus far this season. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Lions appear to have one of the best offenses in the NFL and second-year wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown appears to be turning into somewhat of a superstar.
The Lions, who won 17 games over the previous four seasons combined entering this season, are probably not a playoff team. However, they are certainly not the doormat they have been in recent years and should be competitive for the rest of this season — and maybe beyond.
Detroit’s defense has been terrible to start the season, but the offense, which managed a touchdown in every quarter this season before being held out of the end zone in the fourth against the Vikings on Sunday, can put up enough points to hang with any team in the league. Somewhat of a reclamation project after he was traded to Detroit following an up-and-down start to his career in Los Angeles, quarterback Jared Goff had 277 passing yards with a TD and an interception against Minnesota over the weekend and appears to have come back this season as an improved player. If Goff can keep it up is another matter entirely, but so far, so good.
The early returns on Goff and Lions’ offense have been strong enough that Detroit is favored by six points against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4, the first time the franchise has been favored by six or more points since 2018 when they opened the season under former coach Matt Patricia as 6.5-point favorites over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
Despite being favored, the Lions were destroyed 48-17 and lost the game. This year’s team is only going to lose plenty of games, but this version of the Lions is not going to be getting blown out by double-digits and could end up stealing some wins. Had it not been for some questionable coaching decisions from head coach Dan Campbell on Sunday, the Lions may have been able to snatch a win against the Vikings in a game they lost by just four points.
The Lions aren’t there yet, but they are close and getting closer. Maybe they’ll even sniff .500 for the first time this decade.
Sell: Josh McDaniels is in real trouble at 0-3
Thirty of the NFL’s 32 teams have at least one win through the first three weeks for the second time since 2002, joining the 2012 season. Unfortunately for first-year Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels, the 0-3 Raiders are not one of them.
That’s a tough spot for McDaniels, who is now 1-10 in is last 11 games as a head coach dating back to his days in Denver running things for the Broncos, to be in as the Raiders were expected to contend for a playoff spot this season despite playing in the ultra-competitive AFC West.
Expectations for the team were likely a topic of discussion for McDaniels when he was pulled into a lengthy closed-door meeting with team owner Mark Davis following Sunday’s 24-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon in Nashville. Off to the worst start since 2018, the Raiders have their work cut out for them if they are going to right the ship as they’ll host the Denver Broncos next week before traveling to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs.
That being the case, there’s a real chance that the Raiders could head into their bye week in Week 6 without a win, an outcome that would certainly have some Vegas fans calling for Davis to admit he made a mistake and pull the plug on McDaniels. That reaction, while somewhat understandable, would be a mistake.
It may turn out that McDaniels, who almost became the coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2018 before changing his mind at the last minute and returning to his role coordinating the offense for the Patriots, can’t coach and is better suited to a secondary role, but the Raiders need to give themselves some time to figure it out.
Admittedly, giving McDaniels that time will be difficult to do if the Raiders, who’ve lost their first three games by an average of just 4.33 points and playing hard, drop their next two games as only one NFL team since 2000 that has started 0-3 rebounded to make the playoffs, let alone 0-5. But, given that Davis got rid of former coach Rich Bisaccia and general manager Mike Mayock to bring in McDaniels and new GM Dave Ziegler even though Las Vegas made the postseason last year, he needs to let the season play out and go from there.
“We’re going to have to learn how play a full 60 minutes and earn the right to win,” McDaniels, who is just 5-20 as a head coach after starting 6-0 with the Broncos in 2009, said after Sunday’s loss. “This league requires a lot of mental toughness, and nobody likes losing. It should hurt when we lose. We all feel shitty.”
As they should. But McDaniels’s job should also remain safe — for now.
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