Ten observations from another football weekend:
▪ How good can the Dallas Cowboys be? I’m curious, becuase rookie quarterback Dak Prescott is off to a really good start and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 140 yards on 30 carries in the Cowboys’ win over the Chicago Bears. Admittedly, the Bears might be the worst team in the NFL. But Prescott, so far, has completed 66 of 99 pass attempts in three games. He was 19 of 24 against Chicago for 248 yards. He has yet to throw an interception, although he also has just one touchdown pass. Prescott ranks No. 2 in total quarterback rating and Elliott, of course, isn’t his only weapon. Wide receivers Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams are formidable. Dallas could be a real threat in the NFC East.
▪ Speaking of the NFC East, did anyone see the Eagles blitzing Pittsburgh the way they did Sunday, 34-3? If you answer “yes” to that question, you have an honesty issue. See someone. So far, rookie QB Carson Wentz is doing very well and the Philly defense shut down Pittsburgh’s running attack. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown had some moments, but it was the Eagles’ defense that stood out Sunday. And so did the ageless Darren Sproles, who caught six passes for 128 yards and one touchdown. The former Kansas State star is 33 and still as quick and difficult to grasp as ever.
▪ The NFL is built around parity, which makes every week a mystery. I’ve never been able to decide whether that’s good or bad. Take Minnesota’s win at Carolina on Sunday, another outcome few could have predicted given the Vikings’ injury woes. But Minnesota’s defense clamped down and quarterback Sam Bradford avoided miscues. The Vikings forced three Cam Newton interceptions and won despite amassing only 211 yards of offense. Minnesota and Philadelphia are two of the five unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL. Who woulda thunk it?
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▪ Another of those unbeatens is the Baltimore Ravens, who went to 3-0 with a 19-17 win over Jacksonville on Sunday. The Baltimore defense has been strong early on in close wins over Buffalo, Cleveland and the Jaguars. Given the Bills’ shocking 33-18 win Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals, would anybody like to predict total wins this season for Buffalo, Cleveland and Jacksonville? I have the over/under at 16. Still, Baltimore has the NFL’s second-ranked defense through three weeks. So, while it’s not shocking that New England and Denver are unbeaten through three weeks, it’s more than surprising that Minnesota, Philly and Baltimore join them.
▪ Give the Chiefs credit for putting the defensive stop on the New York Jets during a 24-3 win at Arrowhead on Sunday. But has a quarterback ever played worse than Ryan Fitzpatrick? He was historically bad with six interceptions and while the KC secondary deserves a lot of the credit, many of Fitzpatrick’s throws were thrown directly into coverage. They had no chance. And all I could think of while watching was the fuss made over Fitzpatrick during his contract negotiations with the Jets during the summer. I know he’s been a serviceable QB through the years, but it’ll be interesting to see how Fitzpatrick bounces back against the Seattle Seahawks next week.
▪ The sheer numbers — 114-34 — don’t add up to a coach being fired. But it was time for Les Miles to go at LSU. Most coaches, even the abnormally successful ones, have a shelf life. Miles, whose personality doubles as a lightning rod, simple brought too much attention on himself. LSU sees itself as the No. 1 challenger to Alabama in the SEC and with good reason — the Tigers used to be just that. No more. Miles’ offense became too stale, his quarterbacks too bland. And his clock management was drawing criticism nearly every week. LSU is likely to go hard after Houston coach Tom Herman, who is doing incredible things with the Cougars. But a bunch of other schools are going to go after Herman. Meanwhile, Miles is sure to end up somewhere that can offer him a fresh start. Maybe he’ll be Bill Snyder’s successor at Kansas State. I just threw that one out there.
▪ Wisconsin wasn’t expected to do much this season. Yet the Badgers are 4-0 after knocking off Michigan State, 30-6, Saturday. This is where the party ends, though, I suspect. Wisconsin plays at Michigan this week and is at home against Ohio State on Oct. 15.
▪ Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was correctly being hyped as a top candidate for the Heisman Trophy going into the season. Former OU quarterback Trevor Knight, now at Texas A&M, was not. However, Knight is off to a great start with the Aggies and he was electric in leading A&M to a 45-24 win over Arkansas on Saturday. The Aggies outscored the Hogs 28-7 in the second half and Knight finished with 157 rushing yards on only 10 carries. He also completed 12 of 22 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
▪ Has Baylor, which beat Oklahoma State, 35-24, in the Big 12 opener for both teams, established itself as the team to beat in the conference? Too early to say, really, but the Bears are in the mix, which is a big accomplishment considering the upheaval of the offseason. Give new coach Jim Grobe a lot of credit because it doesn’t look like the Bears have missed a beat.
▪ Texas Tech gets Kansas in Lubbock on Thursday night. And while the Red Raiders’ defense is deplorable, I fear for what quarterback Patrick Mahomes II will do to the Jayhawks’ secondary. Mahomes has passed for nearly 1,500 in three games and eight Texas Tech receivers have more than 100 yards. Scary. Meanwhile, Kansas State and West Virginia meet Saturday afternoon in an intriguing Big 12 opener for both. The winner could challenge for a championship. I’ve been impressed early on with Kansas State’s defense, although more so by how it played in a loss to Stanford than by how the Wildcats performed in wins over Florida Atlantic and Missouri State. Lastly, kudos to K-State coach Bill Snyder for sitting running back Charles Jones after his touchdown run Saturday against Missouri State. Jones dropped the ball just as he crossed the goal line, then struck a pose for the crowd. The play was reviewed and ruled a touchdown, but Snyder wasn’t pleased and after the game talked about K-State’s policy of handing the ball to an official after a touchdown. Discipline has been one of Snyder’s trademarks and he’s not about to relent. Good for him.