Week 3 takeaways: Panic time for Cowboys, Raiders?

The Buffalo Bills upset the Minnesota Vikings in a big way, Baker Mayfield made his debut, and the New Orleans Saints outlasted the Atlanta Falcons in a NFC South OT battle. And it might be time to panic for the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders, among others.

All that and more in Week 3’s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Jump to a matchup:
NO-ATL | IND-PHI | CIN-CAR | GB-WSH | SF-KC
DEN-BAL | BUF-MIN | TEN-JAX | NYG-HOU | OAK-MIA
LAC-LAR | DAL-SEA | CHI-ARI | NYJ-CLE


The Saints are 2-1 by the skin of their teeth, but they still have major problems on defense after allowing Matt Ryan to throw for 374 yards and five touchdowns. The Saints have already taken turns benching cornerbacks Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams, and they also lost nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson to an ankle injury during Sunday’s win. With the Giants up next on the road, Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara will have to continue playing at an extraordinary level to carry the defense. — Mike Triplett

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Saints QB Drew Brees breaks Brett Favre’s record for career completions with an 18-yard pass to Michael Thomas.

Even despite the loss, scoring at a high clip might have to be the formula for success the rest of the season, as it was during the Falcons’ Super Bowl run in 2016. Injuries have decimated the defense, with starting free safety Ricardo Allen suffering what appeared to be a significant leg injury Sunday. The offense needs to be explosive and find better success running the ball in order to keep the depleted defense off the field in Week 4 against Cincinnati. — Vaughn McClure


Carson Wentz is back up and running, and things should only get smoother from here. There were moments of rust in Wentz’s 2018 debut but he looked healthy and appeared to trust the knee. Expect him to play more and more like himself moving forward, beginning next week at the Titans. — Tim McManus

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Making his season debut, Carson Wentz throws his first touchdown pass on a 13-yard strike to Dallas Goedert.

The offense is the reason why the Colts are 1-2. They were only 1-of-5 in the red zone on Sunday, even after the defense forced two turnovers inside the Eagles’ 20-yard line (the Colts only came away with two field goals). “It’s a letdown for us offensively,” receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “The defense, they played their hearts out again. We have to match the defense’s intensity.” The Colts could back on track next week against the winless Texans. — Mike Wells


Cam Newton seemed surprised when told that running back Christian McCaffrey, who’d never rushed for more than 66 yards in an NFL game, had 184 yards on Sunday. “That’s it?” he said. McCaffrey ran effectively between the tackles as he did in college. The entire offensive output was more like what offensive coordinator Norv Turner envisioned when he was hired, as Newton also rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two more. Carolina enters the bye week at 2-1. — David Newton

The Bengals couldn’t stop the run and didn’t help themselves by committing four turnovers and failing to capitalize on offensive opportunities late in the game. They couldn’t come up with that killer turnover like they did in the first two weeks (although they came close) and several Bengals players felt like they beat themselves. Considering how many missed opportunities they had, there’s reason to be hopeful they’ll turn it around with linebacker Preston Brown likely making his return next week against Atlanta. — Katherine Terrell


The Redskins’ offense looked exactly like it wanted to in the first half with strong runs by Adrian Peterson and the passing game attacking both short and long. It led to a 28-point outburst, but Washington failed to maintain any success in the second half. Still, the Redskins were aggressive going down the field and attacking through the air. It’s hard to expect that every week from this offense, but Washington will have to play that way next week to have any chance against the high-scoring Saints. — John Keim

The Packers barely beat the Bears in the opener, got away with a tie in Week 2 after the Vikings’ kicker missed a pair of OT field goals and then got rocked on Sunday by the Redskins. In some ways, the Packers are probably lucky to be 1-1-1 heading into next Sunday’s game against the Bills. But after a woeful performance from both sides of the ball, the Packers need to re-group quickly or else this season could get away from them. — Rob Demovsky


Patrick Mahomes has the ability to turn a busted play into a big play. He did just that on one of his three second-quarter touchdowns against the 49ers and now his receivers know never to quit on a play because the ball might be coming their way. Wide receiver Chris Conley, who caught the TD on the busted play, said, ‘That’s the magic of Pat.” Mahomes now has 13 touchdown passes, a record for the first three games of an NFL season, and he looks to add to the number next Monday night in Denver. — Adam Teicher

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Patrick Mahomes throws a quick pass to Sammy Watkins, who breaks a tackle and does the rest on Mahomes’ 3rd TD of the day.

Sunday’s loss was essentially meaningless compared to the loss of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said he fears Garoppolo has a season-ending ACL injury in his left knee. That injury comes after an offseason spent signing Garoppolo to a massive contract and building an offense around him. Without Garoppolo, the Niners turn back to C.J. Beathard, and while they believe in Beathard in his second season, it’s hard to imagine the them competing for the postseason without Jimmy G. — Nick Wagoner


John Brown has cemented his role as the Ravens’ top playmaker after making five catches for 86 yards against the Broncos. A free-agent addition from Arizona, Brown now leads Baltimore with 222 yards receiving, an 18.5-yard average and two touchdown catches. He could play a big role in next Sunday night’s game in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers have given up an NFL-worst nine completions of 25 or more yards in the first two weeks of the season. — Jamison Hensley

The Broncos showed a decided lack of discipline on Sunday with 13 penalties that cost them by coach Vance Joseph’s estimate “at least 20 points.” They also allowed Joe Flacco to finish with 277 yards passing. With Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes next Monday night, they need to get things turned around quickly in the secondary. “We’re stagnant right now and we can’t be stagnant … that has to be fixed,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr said. — Jeff Legwold


The Bills showed they have the talent, especially on defense, to be closer to a .500 team than the abomination they appeared to be through the first two games of the season. The performance of Josh Allen — who ran for two touchdowns and threw for another — was exactly what the Bills needed from their rookie, but their defensive turnaround is just as notable. Their highly-paid defensive line showed up in a big way with back-to-back strip sacks of Kirk Cousins to begin the game, setting the tone for a first half in which Buffalo allowed only 46 yards, their fewest given up in a first half since 2004. — Mike Rodak

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Josh Allen goes airborne and leaps over LB Anthony Barr for a 10-yard gain, giving the Bills a first down.

A short turnaround couldn’t come at a better time for the Vikings. Minnesota moves on from Allen and prepares for Jared Goff and the Rams’ explosive offense, which will give the Vikings a much harder test on the road but also the benefit of not having to stew over what went wrong on Sunday. Getting Dalvin Cook back for the Vikings is critical for an offense that relies on the run game. — Courtney Cronin


Wesley Woodyard (12 tackles and a sack) sparked a defense that held Jacksonville to 232 total yards. Marcus Mariota, who didn’t start at QB because of an injured elbow, came on in relief after Blaine Gabbert suffered a concussion and helped the Titans beat Jacksonville for the third straight time. Tennessee, who will hold the edge in the division until they meet the Jags in December, hosts the Eagles next Sunday. — Turron Davenport

The Jaguars’ offense did nothing in the loss to the Titans, which is confusing considering how well the unit played in a victory over New England the week before. Leonard Fournette didn’t play in that game, either, but it was clear Sunday they need him against a tough, physical front like that of the Titans. Fournette has missed two games with an injured right hamstring, and while he practiced on a limited basis last week, the team held him out. The expectation is he’ll be able to play in a critical home game on Sunday against the Jets before Jacksonville goes on the road. — Mike DiRocco

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Jaguars QB Blake Bortles speaks to the team’s lack of offense in Jacksonville’s loss to Tennessee.


Eli Manning and the Giants offense showed enough life to give them optimism this season is salvageable. They scored 20 points in the first half and drove down the field when they needed it most late in the fourth quarter, using a Sterling Shepard touchdown to secure their first September win since 2016. Manning finished 25-of-29 passing for 297 yards, providing hope that the offense on the field Sunday will carry over into next week against the Saints. — Jordan Raanan

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Eli Manning hits Sterling Shepard for a 7-yard score to widen the Giants’ lead.

The Texans need to figure out how to “stop hurting themselves,” according to Deshaun Watson, if they’re going to find any consistency on offense. Houston again struggled in the red zone, and the Texans couldn’t overcome another sluggish first half. Houston goes on the road next week to Indianapolis, where the Texans have to come out swinging against the 1-2 Colts. — Sarah Barshop


All summer the Dolphins swore they weren’t the same old Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill had a near-perfect passer rating on Sunday, and he’s completed 70 percent of his passes in all three games. But it’s this team’s ability to fight back and overcome adversity that makes it look different than previous Miami teams. Leading the AFC East at 3-0 and heading into Foxborough for a contest against the Patriots, the Dolphins have an opportunity to show us just how real they are this season. — Cameron Wolfe

For the third time in three games, the Raiders lost despite getting off to a hot start and holding a halftime lead. Oakland has outscored its opponents by a combined 35-17 in the first half, but has been outscored 64-17 after halftime. It’s even more bleak in the fourth quarter, when Oakland has been outscored by a cumulative 37-3. And yet, Marshawn Lynch sees a silver lining. “To be honest with you, it’s like we’re just a play away, a check away from being, probably, the most explosive offense in the league.” — Paul Gutierrez


Jared Goff took command of the offense in the victory over the Chargers, completing passes to six playmakers and even scrambling for 16 yards of his own. The Rams’ offense has now posted 30-plus points in each of their three games, but as they prepare for a quick turnaround on Thursday night against the Vikings, the biggest question is whether their star-studded defense will be ready after cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib left the game Sunday because of injuries. — Lindsey Thiry

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Jared Goff throws a dart to WR Cooper Kupp, who breaks a tackle on the way to a 53-yard touchdown.

For the second time in three weeks, the Chargers faced one of the best offenses in the NFL and laid an egg. In the battle of Los Angeles, the Rams moved the ball at will against the Chargers, finishing with 521 total yards. Yes, the Chargers are missing one of their best defensive players in Joey Bosa, but if they want to truly compete for an AFC West title, the Bolts have to get more consistent production from their defense. — Eric D. Williams


The Seahawks aren’t dead yet. If Russell Wilson and the run game keep executing like they did Sunday, and if their defense keeps taking the ball away like it has through three games, Seattle still has chance to contend for playoffs. It all adds an extra layer of intrigue to the Earl Thomas situation. It would be an easier call to trade Thomas if the Seahawks had no shot of competing this season, but Thomas is playing well — he had two more interceptions Sunday — and the Seahawks still have some hope with a good chance to get to 2-2 next week in Arizona. — Brady Henderson

The Cowboys’ offense continues to go nowhere. They converted just 3-of-13 third-down opportunities against Seattle, bringing their season total to 8-of-34. Dak Prescott passed for 168 yards and was intercepted twice and sacked five times. Ezekiel Elliott ran well but had a costly penalty and a fumble. And yet Jerry Jones is not calling into question the performance of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. “There is no vote of confidence, no lack of confidence,” Jones said. “We’re 1-2. We’re not hitting on all cylinders. I have a lot of confidence that we can get into games and hit on cylinders. We just got to come back and get to work.” — Todd Archer


The Bears have a “special” defense, according to head coach Matt Nagy, but the offense isn’t where it needs to be yet. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize we’re winning games because of our defense but that doesn’t mean our offense isn’t a part of this or our special teams,” Nagy said. Still, Chicago’s defense is so dominant behind Khalil Mack that the Bears should be in most games this year. But to beat the good teams, the Bears have to be more consistent on offense, beginning with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who missed several downfield throws in the Bears’ comeback win. — Jeff Dickerson

The short-term future of the Cardinals’ quarterback position is in flux after rookie Josh Rosen replaced starter Sam Bradford in the fourth quarter after blowing a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Cardinals coach Steve Wilks did not commit to a starter for next week’s game against Seattle, saying he wanted to evaluate the film on both quarterbacks before he made a decision. Under Bradford on Sunday, the Cardinals’ offense struggled after putting up two touchdowns early. But Rosen threw a pick and was sacked while completing 4-of-7 passes for 36 yards. — Josh Weinfuss


The Browns start a new era at quarterback when they travel to Oakland. Baker Mayfield earned the start with his excellent play in just more than a half against the Jets, completing nearly three-quarters of his passes and throwing for over 200 yards. Mayfield will be the 30th quarterback to start a game for the Browns since 1999, and they hope No. 31 doesn’t arrive for a long time. — Pat McManamon

Sam Darnold, coming off arguably his worst game thus far, needs to regain his confidence quickly because he faces perhaps the league’s best defensive team in the Jaguars in Week 4. He had a 38.2 passer rating last week and admitted he was tentative with his reads against the Browns. This is his first encounter with adversity. He’d benefit with a more aggressive game plan than last week. — Rich Cimini

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