Reactions to Potentially Premature Week Three NFL Storylines

The beginning of any NFL season generates many storylines. Some of these storylines have been expected, such as the dominance of the Los Angeles Rams, who have won each of their first three games by more than ten points.

However, some of the most interesting stories so far have been surprises. These include the sophomore breakout of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Steelers’ struggles up until this past Monday, and the dominance of Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick that may keep usual starter, Jameis Winston, on the bench. Let us look at some of the most surprising headlines from the first three weeks of the season.

Will Jameis Winston be the backup QB in Tampa moving forward?

Before the regular season began, Buccaneers GM Jason Licht surprised many when he said that Winston would not be guaranteed to reclaim his start- ing job once his suspension concludes.

“[If ] Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin, whoever it is, is playing lights out, I don’t think it’s fair right now just to say, ‘Yes, automatically, [Jameis] is going to be the guy,” Licht said to ESPN.

To say that Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers’ offense has been playing lights out is an understatement.

In the games against the New Orleans Saints (Week One) and Philadelphia Eagles (Week Two), which most pundits pegged as two losses before the season even started, Fitzpatrick passed for a league-leading 819 yards, 8 touchdowns, just one interception, and a QBR of 95 (out of 100). Most importantly, he gave Tampa two wins through the first two weeks. Fitzpatrick has done more than enough to retain his starting job after week three.

Will the Steelers miss the playoffs?

While many analysts picked them to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, the beginning of the season for the Steelers has been nothing short of a disaster, from the handling of the Le’Veon Bell contract situation to struggling on the field. First and foremost, it does not look like Bell will return to the team anytime soon.

In fact, reporter and analyst Adam Schefter tweeted this Sunday that the team is now fielding trade offers for the disgruntled running back.

The Steelers’ on-field performance has not been much better either, with a 0-1-1 record that easily could have been 0-2. In a Week One tie against the Cleveland Browns, Ben Roethlisberger committed five turnovers, and in a week two loss to the Chiefs, their defense allowed a quarterback making his third career start to throw for six touchdowns.

However, I still believe that the Steelers can win the AFC North because of their overall team talent, led by Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown, but they have issues on both sides of the ball that they need to fix.

Is Patrick Mahomes an MVP candidate?

Drafted in the first round out of Texas Tech in 2017, Mahomes sat behind Alex Smith all of his rookie season. When Smith was dealt to Washington in the offseason, Mahomes became the starting quarterback.

His production in the first three weeks of the season has been record-setting. His 13 touchdown passes are more than any other player has ever thrown in the first three weeks of a season. What is even more impressive is how well Ma- homes has been spreading the ball around to different targets. Nine different players have caught touchdowns for Kansas City so far this season. With the offensive weapons that they have around Mahomes, and his arm talent, expect the Kansas City offense to continue to put up unreal numbers this season.

Are the Browns finally good?

For the Browns, there is nowhere to go but up after going a combined 1-31 in 2016 and 2017. First year GM John Dorsey looks like he nailed both of the top-five picks that they had. Cornerback Denzel Ward, the former Ohio State Buckeye, has the makings of a true shutdown defender with two interceptions and a forced fumble in his first three games, while Baker Mayfield came off the bench to lead the Browns to a comeback win against the New York Jets.

They have a star pass rusher in Myles Garrett, and Jarvis Landry has been a great addition. The success of the Browns depends on Mayfield, who hopes to be the first franchise quarterback that they have had since their expansion in 1999.

Even with their promising future, I cannot yet say that they are a good team, since they just won their first game for the first time since December 24, 2016.

Will the Raiders regret bringing back Jon Gruden as head coach?

Oakland gave Gruden a 10-year/$100 million contract to become their head coach. This contract looks even worse considering how the Raiders are still winless through three weeks. Gruden never met with star pass rusher Khalil Mack, who was in the last year of his contract, before trading him to the Chicago Bears one week before the season began. Gruden is already making big decisions for the Raiders without consulting anyone else.

So far, they have missed Mack badly. Through three games, the Raiders have had only three sacks and one forced fumble. On the other hand, Mack has shined in Chicago, amassing four sacks and three forced fumbles alone.

If the Raiders do not nail the two first-round draft picks that they will receive from the Bears, then this trade will go down as one of the worst the league has seen in a long time. If these struggles continue, the hiring of Jon Gruden will be- come an all-time blunder, given the years and money that Oakland has committed to him.

Contact Matthew Frankle at [email protected].