Week 3 of the NFL season ― the last before the first string of byes ― is known as a defining week of football. Contenders and pretenders become far more evident, and hot quarterback play often halts with road tests. Week 3 of the 2016 season only reaffirmed this.
Here are the three most important things we learned.
The Eagles Are For Real
This shouldn’t have been much of a question mark, but after completely dominating Pittsburgh in a 34-3 rout, we can confidently call the undefeated Eagles the real deal. As we examined last week, it all starts with 23-year-old rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who has yet to commit a single turnover while amassing a 103.8 quarterback rating ― seventh best in the league ― along with five touchdown passes. Wentz has developed an instant connection with young receivers Jordan Matthews (204 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Nelson Agholor, both of whom struggled immensely in 2015 with Sam Bradford under center. And Wentz has been buoyed by a surprising Philly defense.
Trevor Siemian Is More Than Just A Game Manager
Siemian, drafted in the seventh round last year before nearly retiring to pursue a real estate career, is still undefeated after going on the road to Cincinnati and beating one of the league’s better defenses. And in doing so, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns in a road debut. To put that number in perspective, consider that his boss ― John Elway ― only did it six times throughout his Hall of Fame career.
This stuff just doesn’t happen ― not in this league, not with that lack of pedigree, and certainly not this early on in a career. But Siemian ― playing for just above the league minimum at $525,000 ― defied logic Sunday, when he led Denver to a fourth-quarter comeback, which included a gorgeous deep ball to Demaryius Thomas that iced the game. His perfect 158.3 fourth quarter QBR says it all. Not unlike Wentz, Siemian ― attempting to guide the Broncos to a second consecutive world championship ― displayed an uncanny ability to audible out of bad plays, only to find the correct play. “He didn’t just play. He played big in the game today,” Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak said.
The Pats Are Really Good
Surprise, surprise. After Jimmy Garappolo tried his best Tom Brady imitation, rookie third-rounder Jacoby Brissett performed admirably against a Houston defense we thought was pretty good. The bigger story here though, is New England’s rare ability to game plan and scheme regardless of who’s under center. With Brady set to return in Week 5, the Patriots will only get that much better, particularly with a defense that has allowed a mere six red-zone trips in three games, according to ESPN.com.
Credit defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, along with Jamie Collins ― a longtime favorite of mine ― who might just be the premier linebacker in pro football. We must not forget about cornerback Malcolm Butler, who has undoubtedly become one of the elite cover guys around. It’s simply a formality that Bill Belichick and company will march onto an eighth consecutive AFC East title, and 14th in 15 seasons.