By RYAN BRAUCH
Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season seemed to be filled with easy wins for several playoff contenders. The Vikings, Patriots and Packers all seemed to have an easy route to their second win of the season, but there is a reason the games are actually played. Nothing is guaranteed and all three Super Bowl contenders took a loss on Sunday. Whether it was poor planning and preparation by the favored teams or great execution from the underdogs, it made for a thrilling Sunday.
The week started with the Cleveland Browns earning their first win in nearly two years in a comeback against the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football. After a shockingly slow and mediocre start by Browns’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor, head coach Hue Jackson chose to turn to the first overall pick in the 2018 draft, Baker Mayfield. Down 14-0 minutes before halftime, Mayfield got the most out of his team and led the team down the field for a field goal, to make the game 14-3 before halftime.
Feeding off of their new quarterback’s energy, the team worked their way back into the game, winning 21-17 in front of an emotional Cleveland crowd. Although the Browns were three point favorites, they were underdogs in the eyes of most NFL fans after enduring the long losing streak. By ending their drought, Cleveland lit a fire underneath some of the other underdog teams in Week 3.
After an amazing Thursday Night Football game, the stage is set for the Buffalo Bills to take on the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis. The Vikings were 16.5 point favorites heading into the game, as they were about to kickoff against an 0-2 Bills team without starting running back Lesean McCoy. For a Vikings team that made it all the way to the NFC Championship round in 2017, this seemed like an easy win.
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen did not hesitate in leading the Bills down the field for a touchdown on the initial drive of the game. Buffalo’s defense with the help of defensive ends Trent Murphy and Jerry Hughes had two back-to-back strip sacks on Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins, allowing Buffalo to quickly increase their lead to 17-0. The Bills defense did not stop there, seemingly coming up with an answer for every look the Vikings’ offense gave them. When the final whistles blew, Buffalo was heading home with a 27-6 win, the first win in Josh Allen’s young career.
Meanwhile at FedEx Field, the Redskins were warding off a Packers team led by Aaron Rodgers. Despite being the away team, the Packers were three point favorites to win the game, but the Redskins attacked early in the game, riding a 28-10 lead at halftime. Amidst a third quarter push to get back in the game, Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews had a big sack on Redskins’ quarterback Alex Smith that drew a penalty flag for roughing the passer.
This season NFL referees have been cracking down on the roughing the passer penalties, causing an uproar amongst players and fans alike. This specific penalty cost Matthews a sack and allowed the Redskins to continue their drive, wasting valuable time the Packers could have used to climb back into the game. In the end, the Redskins were able to snag a 31-17 home victory from a Packers team that looked flustered at times and struggled on third down.
To finish off the weekend of upsets, the Lions were able to push past the Patriots to get their first win of 2018. When the schedule was released for the 2018 season, Lions’ rookie head coach Matt Patricia had this game circled on his calendar. Not only are the Patriots an NFL superpower, they also happen to be the “alma mater” so to speak, for Patricia who spent the last 14 seasons with the Patriots in a variety of coaching roles.
What Patricia did not know, is that this game would be even more crucial because his Lions were 0-2 heading into Week 3. Detroit was able to capitalize on a New England team that just did not look like themselves, as coveted wideout Julian Edelman sat on the sideline serving a four game suspension, alongside newly acquired deep threat Josh Gordon. The win was huge for a Lions team that was starving for a victory.
Week 3 gave NFL fans far more questions than answers, as three playoff contenders went down with a loss. In a season where many thought they had it all figured out, we are now left scratching our heads, as the league has begun to even out. These underdog victories have certainly set a big stage for Week 4.