Starting 11 — Comebacks are contagious, Rodgers-Brady, Bills-Dolphins on tap in Week 3
MATT LAFLEUR made sure his team had the correct mentality in the Lambeau Field locker room on Sunday night.
“We’ve gotta have the mindset that it’s zero-zero,” Green Bay’s coach told NBC at halftime, his team leading 24-7. “I think you could see it all across the league this week. So right now, one play at a time; it’s zero-zero.”
No lead is safe in the NFL. That was never more evident than last week when, for the first weekend in 30 years, three teams overcame fourth-quarter deficits of 13-or-more points to win. And games are extremely close. This year, 12 games have already been decided by three points or fewer, more than any previous NFL season through two weeks.
So don’t let a comeback sneak up on you like a no-look pass from MATTHEW STAFFORD. It’s a hallmark of the NFL. Comebacks and close games are contagious. Which games will showcase that excitement this week?
The Starting 11 entering Week 3…
1. HARDWARE HEAVEN: No game in NFL history has featured starting quarterbacks with six combined Super Bowl MVPs … until Sunday. AARON RODGERS (MVP of Super Bowl XLV) leads the Packers into Raymond James Stadium (4:25 PM ET, FOX) to play TOM BRADY (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XLIX, LI, LV) and the Buccaneers.
• The game also will be just the third in NFL annals to pair starting quarterbacks with seven combined Associated Press MVPs (Rodgers won the honor in 2011, 2014, 2020 and 2021; Brady earned it in 2007, 2010 and 2017). Rodgers played in the last such game, against Pro Football Hall of Famer and five-time MVP PEYTON MANNING on Nov. 1, 2015. Brady played in the first contest, against Manning on Nov. 2, 2014.
• Including the postseason, Rodgers and Brady have squared off as starters on four prior occasions. The winner of each of the last two regular-season meetings (Brady in 2018 and 2020) has gone on to win the Super Bowl.
• Rodgers, the reigning back-to-back MVP, will face the league’s top scoring defense through two weeks. Head coach TODD BOWLES and the Buccaneers are allowing only 6.5 points per game.
2. NUMBER OF THE WEEK – 75: Baltimore’s LAMAR JACKSON last week became the first player in NFL history to record both a rushing touchdown and touchdown pass of at least 75 yards in the same game. This week, the Ravens (1-1) meet NEW ENGLAND (1-1) at Gillette Stadium on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX). Since Jackson entered the league in 2018, New England’s defense has allowed just 18.5 points per game, best in the NFL.
3. HOPE IS ALIVE AND WELL: This week, a quartet of teams that finished last season with four-or-fewer wins – DETROIT (1-1), JACKSONVILLE (1-1), the NEW YORK GIANTS (2-0) and the NEW YORK JETS (1-1) – have an opportunity to start 2-1 or better. That has not happened in 21 years. The last time four teams that finished the previous season with four-or-fewer wins rebounded the following season to win at least two of their first three games was 2001 (Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland and the San Diego Chargers).
• With a home win over Dallas (1-1) on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN/ABC), the Giants can improve to 3-0. Since 2006, five teams have started 3-0 the year after winning four-or-fewer games. Four of those five teams made the playoffs. The last to do it, the 2019 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS, advanced to the Super Bowl.
4. SPOTLIGHT – INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: Since the Dolphins selected XAVIEN HOWARD in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Miami cornerback leads the NFL with 27 interceptions. On Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Howard lines up opposite STEFON DIGGS, who ranks third in the NFL over the same time with 563 receptions.
• Only six remaining teams are undefeated entering Week 3, including BUFFALO (2-0) and MIAMI (2-0).
• Dolphins quarterback TUA TAGOVAILOA leads the NFL with 739 passing yards and Miami ranks first in the AFC with 427.0 yards per game.
• Last week, Miami’s TYREEK HILL and JAYLEN WADDLE became the first teammates in NFL history to each record at least 10 receptions, 150 receiving yards and two TD receptions in the same game.
• Buffalo, meanwhile, has allowed the fewest yards in the AFC, 215.0 per game.
5. SPOTLIGHT – TEAM MATCHUP: The LOS ANGELES RAMS (1-1) are tied for the NFL lead with seven takeaways. On Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), they travel to face the ARIZONA CARDINALS (1-1), who have only one giveaway, tied for fewest in the league.
6. STREAK SPEAK: This week, each NFC East club plays a division game. PHILADELPHIA (2-0) is at WASHINGTON (1-1) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX) and the 2021 division winner DALLAS (1-1) is at the NEW YORK GIANTS (2-0) on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN/ABC). The NFC East has had a different division champion in each of the last 18 seasons (2004-21), the league’s longest streak since the 1970 merger. The AFC West had 14 different division champions from 1987-2000 and the NFC South had 12 different division champions from 2002-13, the second- and third-longest streaks since 1970, respectively.
7. DID YOU KNOW?: LOVIE SMITH returns with the HOUSTON TEXANS (0-1-1) to face the franchise he led to a Super Bowl berth in 2006, the CHICAGO BEARS (1-1). Smith and Bears head coach MATT EBERFLUS are members of the coaching tree of Pro Football Hall of Famer TONY DUNGY. That tree also includes current head coaches MIKE TOMLIN and FRANK REICH as well as former NFL head coaches JIM CALDWELL, ROD MARINELLI and LESLIE FRAZIER, currently Buffalo’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.
8. UNDER-THE-RADAR STORYLINE: SAN FRANCISCO (1-1) visits DENVER (1-1) on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC). Niners head coach KYLE SHANAHAN was a wide receiver at Cherry Creek High School in suburban Denver when the Bruins captured the 1996 Colorado Class 5A state championship. Growing up, Shanahan three times lived in the Denver area, where his dad Mike was a Broncos assistant on two occasions and head coach from 1995-2008. … General manager JOHN LYNCH and seven members of San Francisco’s current coaching staff also have Centennial State connections, having either played or coached for the Broncos or played or coached at Colorado State University.
9. TREND TIME: DETROIT (1-1) travels to MINNESOTA (1-1) for an NFC North showdown on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX). Each of the last three games in the series have been decided by two points.
10. THIS WEEK IN NFL HISTORY: Sept. 17, 1972 (50 years ago) – Nine months after their epic Christmas playoff classic, the MIAMI DOLPHINS and KANSAS CITY CHIEFS meet again, this time to open the season in the first official game at Arrowhead Stadium. BOB GRIESE throws a touchdown to MARLIN BRISCOE and LARRY CSONKA bullies his way to 118 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown as the Dolphins begin the road to the only perfect season in NFL history with a 20-10 victory.
11. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST: The JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (1-1) enter the week leading the AFC South. They also lead the NFL in takeaway ratio (plus-five) heading into their Week 3 trip to SoFi Stadium, where they face the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (1-1) on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, CBS).
WEEK 3 NFL SCHEDULE
(All times Eastern)
Thursday, September 22
Pittsburgh at Cleveland Prime Video 8:15
Sunday, September 25
New Orleans at Carolina FOX 1:00
Houston at Chicago CBS 1:00
Kansas City at Indianapolis CBS 1:00
Buffalo at Miami CBS 1:00
Detroit at Minnesota FOX 1:00
Baltimore at New England FOX 1:00
Cincinnati at New York Jets CBS 1:00
Las Vegas at Tennessee FOX 1:00
Philadelphia at Washington FOX 1:00
Jacksonville at Los Angeles Chargers CBS 4:05
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona FOX 4:25
Atlanta at Seattle FOX 4:25
Green Bay at Tampa Bay FOX 4:25
San Francisco at Denver NBC 8:20
Monday, September 26
Dallas at New York Giants ESPN/ABC 8:15
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