Football is back, baby! OK, football has been back for a few weeks now, but in Week 3 we finally got what we crave out of the NFL: offense.
After two largely lethargic weeks, the NFL was under fire for quality of play and lack of offense. Thinkpieces were being written, and the gang of merry soap-boxers who love to be trendy and cool by loudly expressing their disdain for the NFL were prancing and preening on social media.
They can be quiet now. The NFL isn't a perfect product, but Week 3 was a delightful explosion of high-scoring games, close calls and frisky underdogs.
All told, the over went 11-3 against the spread during the early- and late-afternoon games, with points piling up at a high rate. The Rams-49ers game on Thursday night, which was abetween two teams that typically don't ooze offense, should have been a clue about what was coming.
The Bills bit back as home underdogs against the Broncos, the Jaguars served the Ravens a 40-burger for brunch in London, the Bears upended the Steelers in a wild and wacky game and even the Jets had a stand-up performance to win their first game of the year in a near whitewashing of the Dolphins.
For two weeks the NFL looked like it might be obnoxiously top heavy in 2017; Sunday featured a whopping six different 2-0 teams losing and really muddling the water when it comes to the standings. Only the Falcons and Chiefs remain unbeaten just three weeks in to the season.
Let's dive into some of the biggest stories from around the league.
Titans looking strong
A Week 1 loss to the Raiders put a sour taste in people's mouths when it came to the Tennessee Titans, but the last three weeks have proved them to be a consistent and viable contender, a team you can trust because of the portable nature of their offense. They are physical at the point of attack and love to try to pound the ball with both DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.
Sunday was a prime example of what the Titans want to do, with Tennessee simply wearing down a talented Seattle defense.
In the first half, the Seahawks averaged 3.46 yards per play over 46 plays. They struggled out of the gate, managing four punts on four first-quarter possessions. But a strong second quarter generated nine points and caused the Seahawks defense to fatigue. The third quarter was proof, with the Titans ripping off three quick-strike scores for touchdowns to take a huge lead. All told, the Titans averaged more than 10.4 yards per attempt in the second half, despite basically taking knees on their final two possessions to wrap up the 33-27 win.
One of those touchdowns, a 75-yard scamper by Murray, proved the No. 1 back in Tennessee is perfectly healthy, with Murray cutting all over the field as he sent Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas scrambling on what is the longest run allowed by the Seahawks defense since 2009.
Derrick Henry was bottled up for most of the day after folks expected a big performance out of the backup; Fantasy owners might be frustrated about the situation, but the Titans should be thrilled. They have a physical rushing offense and a two-headed monster in Murray and Henry. Don't sleep on the weapons surrounding Marcus Mariota either -- Jonnu Smith is already emerging as a second option at tight end behind Delanie Walker, and for all the hype around Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews has really been a steady contributor.
Russell Wilson ended up with four touchdowns and 373 yards but the Titans defense played well too, holding Seattle to seven first-half points and snuffing out the Seattle rushing attack for the entire day. Wilson eventually threw 49 passes, a ratio the Seahawks do not want on a regular basis.
The Titans could easily be 3-0 at this point -- the Raiders game was closer than it appeared -- and they have handled the Seahawks and Jaguars in impressive fashion. Their offense can wear you down and Mariota is an efficient triggerman. This is a dangerous offense.
The Golden Tate Rule
The Detroit Lions have a healthy habit of storming back late in games. They've been pulling off improbable wins in the fourth quarter for two years now thanks to Matthew Stafford, and they probably should have had another one on Sunday against the Falcons were it not for a controversial decision by the referees to overturn a would-be Golden Tate touchdown.
After Tate scored, the play was reviewed because all scoring plays are reviewed. Alberto Riveron and the cabal of NFL officials at the league's HQ decided that Tate was being touched while possessing the ball before crossing the plane of the goal line.
There is an argument out there that Tate did not have possession of the ball until after he was touched, but when you slow down the play, it is pretty clear that Tate should be ruled short of the goal line.
Walt Coleman's crew ruled that there should be a 10-second runoff (there were eight seconds remaining) and the Falcons won the game without another play being run. That stinks on the principle of competitive balance, because you want to see the game end on a football play. But the rule is in place to run off 10 seconds for a reason: It would have been inherently unfair to the Falcons for Detroit to get what essentially amounts to a free play by having the clock stopped and being allowed to line up and attempt another play.
The real burn here might not be the runoff itself but the amount of time that was on the clock. If you look at the broadcast version of the play, it appears as if Tate was down and touched with 11 seconds on the clock.
So in theory the Lions should have been given the ball with one second remaining on the clock from the half-yard line, with the clock set to start immediately. Basically a free play, provided Detroit managed to get the snap off. That probably would have been more fair -- if Tate had been ruled down initially, the Lions likely could have sprinted up to the line and gotten a snap off for one final play. They certainly believe it was possible.
There are no guarantees on either of those things happening, and it would have felt weird giving the Lions an extra play. But you can bet the runoff situation will forever be known as "The Golden Tate Rule." For a franchise with so much ... experience with the referees, that's something Lions fans would probably prefer to avoid.
Kansas City explosion
We talked about this a bit last week in Chargers 24-10 in Los Angeles: the Chiefs on offense. This hasn't been the case the entire time that Andy Reid has been in Kansas City., but it bears repeating after the Chiefs claimed another victim by downing the sad-sack
Once again, Alex Smith was efficient if not dangerous, completing his only pass more than 20 yards down the field for a touchdown to Tyreek Hill. That 30-yard pass and a Kareem Hunt run late for 69 yards and a score were this week's two big plays for the Chiefs, with the latter sealing the game.
That's the third straight game featuring a score of 50-plus yards for Hunt, making him the first ever player in NFL history to have one in the first three games to start a career. Hunt also topped 100 yards from scrimmage for the third game in a row, the first player to do so since Matt Forte in 2009.
Hunt is, as many Fantasy owners know, a difference maker. He is a home run waiting to happen and he can generate explosive plays in the passing game and running game. Kansas City is a different team with him in the backfield.
What caught my eye looking back at Reid's history is that, just like in Philadelphia, he quickly turned things around in Kansas City. The Chiefs have won 11, 9, 11 and 12 games in each of his first four seasons. After a five-win season in his first year in Philly, Reid ripped off 11, 11, 12 and 12 wins. In Reid's sixth season with the Eagles, the team finally broke through for a big playoff run before losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Long way to go, but it has some familiarity to it.
Two sneaky rookies
The main takeaway from the Bengals-Packers game could be that Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton should not be allowed to decide when Cincinnati uses timeouts. Lewis called timeout to ice Mason Crosby on an extra point with 17 seconds left instead of saving it to try and push the ball downfield to A.J. Green and set up a game-winning field goal.
You could also point out that it's wild how Aaron Rodgers won the first overtime of his career (he was 0-6 before Sunday) while simultaneously beating the final NFL team he had yet to beat in the Bengals.
Lawson, a highly-productive player in the SEC, fell into the fourth round and looks like a pass-rushing steal for the Bengals in the early going. He's part of a dangerous defensive line; the Bengals are 0-3 and probably dead in the water, but they're going to be a problem for people.
The Packers might very well have a chance at winning the Lombardi Trophy this year. If they do, Josh Jones could be a big part. Jones, drafted in the second round out of NC State, was swarming Andy Dalton in blitz packages and laying wood all day against Cincy.
Jones is perfect for this defense (and, really, any defense) because of his versatility. He flies like a safety, can move around to multiple cornerback positions and hits like a linebacker. If he produces DROY-level play throughout the season, the Packers defense can be special.
Stop, drop and roll
It wouldn't be a recap of the NFL week that was if we didn't mention the bizarre Odell Beckham Jr. situation involving his touchdown celebration after scoring his first TD of the year.
Beckham got down on his hands and knees, crawled around the end zone,.
Asked about it afterwards, Beckham said "I'm a dog, so I acted like one."
Give us all of the hot takes on this one.
If the New York Post doesn't sneak some sort of urine-related pun ("URINE IN REAL TROUBLE NOW, GIANTS"?), I don't know why we're even bothering anymore.
Beckham also made an incredible second touchdown catch before raising his fist after the score.
Anyone who thinks that Beckham is a problem for the Giants is off their rocker. New York's in a bad spot at 0-3 now, but they looked substantially better with Beckham back and playing strong football. He can be a weird dude and make some dumb mistakes, but the issues are heavily outweighed by his talent.