Joe Paige | Sports Editor
As we enter week four of this extended eighteen game NFL season there’s already plenty of great stories around the league, throughout the first three weeks we have witnessed twenty-seven of the league’s thirty-two teams get handed at least one loss thus leaving only five undefeated teams, three of them in the NFC and two of them in the AFC.
Starting with the Arizona Cardinals who are on fire moving up 3-0 going into week five, QB1 Kyler Murray is playing like an MVP candidate. The former 2019 no. 1 pick completed 28 of 34 passes for 316 yards, rushed 7 times for 19 yards, and only threw one interception in a 31-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. At the end of the second quarter with 3 seconds left the Cardinals attempted a 68-yard field goal but fell short into the hands of wide receiver Jamal Agnew who would go on to run for a 109-yard touchdown, which would tie for the longest touchdown in NFL history, leading to a 13-7 deficit at halftime. Heading into the second half Kyler Murray really stepped up connecting with veteran wide receiver A.J. Green who would go on to gain 112 yards that afternoon. One thing to be slightly concerned with is the durability of star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins who is currently playing with injured ribs, wasn’t playing like the dominant trademark performances we’re used to seeing from him, but Arizona should be fine with other weapons at his position like Christian Kirk to pick up the pieces. The Cardinals will head to Inglewood California for week 5 to play another undefeated team the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon.
Two undefeated teams who played against each other on Sunday both with high expectations for this season, the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Newly acquired Matthew Stafford outgunned the seven-time Superbowl champion finishing with 343 yards and 27 completions with zero interceptions. On the other hand, Tom Brady looked frustrated every step of the way, he rushed for one score and threw for 432 yards but would only get one touchdown. The reigning Superbowl MVP was constantly pressured by a Rams defense led by last season's defensive player of the year defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Brady was sacked three times on Sunday. This was arguably the biggest regular season game for Matthew Stafford who was a part of a blockbuster trade this offseason which sent former 2016 no. 1 pick quarterback Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions, this game was a test to see if Matthew Stafford could keep with a sharp Tampa Bay offense and prove his place in this league as an Elite quarterback. Tom Brady will head to New England to face his former team, the Bucs are the favorites to win the game but we’ll see how the former Patriot handles himself on Sunday against a 1-2 New England team.
The Denver Broncos have gotten off to a good start so far winning their last three games against the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets who all have 0-3 records, the Broncos haven’t had a 3-0 start since 2016 which they would be AFC champions and would later go on to win the Superbowl. Denver completely demolished the New York Jets on Sunday in a 26-0 win, running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams both ran for touchdowns in the first half and Denver's defense held the Jets offense for the entire game, New York had five first downs in their first six possessions but similarly to Jacksonville last week did not complete a single play in the redzone. QB1 Teddy Bridgewater continued to impress since the last two games by completing 19 of his 25 passes finishing with 235 yards against his former team completing 77% of his passes on the season so far. Now comes the hard part, next Sunday they take a trip east to Pittsburgh where the Steelers will be playing with urgency after losing their last two games at home, and week six they face another undefeated team the Las Vegas Raiders with two overtime wins and who also stand at the top of the AFC West. Even though they may have had a secure defensive outing against the Jets Sunday their overall defense remains frugal, allowing 222 yards per game and 3.6 yards per rushing attempts so far this season. Linebacker Alexander Johnson got two sacks on rookie quarterback Zach Wilson along with veteran linebacker Von Miller getting one on him as well, so the broncos didn’t miss outside linebacker Bradley Chubb this weekend who is reported to undergo arthroscopic surgery Wednesday September 29 after going down in the beginning of his week one debut, he hopes to return sometime before the end of the regular season.
The Raiders haven’t been 3-0 since 2002, they’ve beaten the Steelers, Ravens, and Dolphins who all won 10 games last season. Week 3 they played a close game against the Miami Dolphins Sunday that went into overtime, they were playing an injured Miami team that was missing its star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who’s been subbed by backup Jacoby Brissett who did a pretty good job in keeping the Dolphins afloat that afternoon. Brissett finished the game going 32 for 49 for 215 yards but throughout most of the game Miami’s offense couldn’t find a rhythm, even though the offense would conflict at times the backup quarterback was solid even though they couldn’t get the win. Daniel Carlson kicked a 22-yard field goal with just seconds left to seal the victory for Las Vegas, QB1 Derek Carr played good as well who’d finish throwing 386 yards and two touchdowns, Carr got one interception in the first half but that’d be the Raiders only turnover that whole game. One of those touchdowns being from wide receiver Hunter Renfrow who emerged as one of Carr’s favorite targets catching five passes for 77 yards, running back Peyton Barber turned up in overtime rushing for a career-high 111 yards and one touchdown. This resilient Raiders team will face the Los Angeles Chargers in week 5 on Monday night football hoping to leave the game remaining undefeated.
Although the Carolina Panthers sit at the top of the NFC South the biggest story out of Carolina is their star running back Christian McCaffery who’ll be out a few weeks with a hamstring injury. Last year McCaffery signed a 4-year $64 million extension with the Panthers making him the highest annually paid running back in the league, coming off an all-pro season and not missing a single game in his career. Last season the fear of his usage rate began to rise as he suffered an ankle sprain and a shoulder injury that’d knock him out of 13 games, this offseason the debate to cut down on his usage rate was up in the air but McCaffery is a gamer and is willing to keep going, there’s nothing wrong with that but at the end of the day as much of an iron man as he is he’s still only human. In week two against the Saints McCaffery left the game with calf cramping but would return later in the game, Thursday night against the Texans he suffered a hamstring strain, this is a massive blow to the Panthers as he’s only in year 2 of his deal. This injury is most likely going to keep him out for a few weeks leaving more questions than answers, and as unexpected as it is to say, Christian McCaffery is becoming injury-prone. Carolina will have to manage without the services of the star running back as they stay in Texas for week five to face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.