Sports in this Day and Age: A look at last and next week’s NFL games

This column seeks to cover significant current events in the sporting world as it navigates the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With a full slate of games this past weekend, there was plenty of action and intrigue throughout the National Football League (NFL). Battles between unbeatens, injuries, penalties and even a tie made week three of the 2020 NFL season one to remember. After a review of last week’s notable games, we will preview the slate for this week.

Starting the week off last Thursday was the Miami Dolphins (1-2) against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) in a lopsided matchup that ended in a 31-13 win for Miami. Ryan Fitzpatrick was the star of the game, throwing for two touchdowns and running the ball in for another score. This matchup was interesting, as last year Miami tanked their season in order to grab a high draft pick, while Jacksonville looks to be poised to do the same this year. Miami ended a two-game losing streak while Jacksonville dropped their second of the season.

Sunday’s games provided a lot of intrigue, as nine of the 14 games played that day were decided by a score or less. Here we will break down some of the most notable, starting with the Detroit Lions (1-2) who barely edged out the Arizona Cardinals (2-1) 26-23 thanks to a Matt Prater field goal that put the Lions ahead as time expired. 

The Lions are no stranger to close fourth-quarter games, as last season they had several games where they gave up leads in the fourth quarter. Up until Detroit’s win on Sunday, they were on an 11-game losing streak stretching back to last season. The turnover battle was the difference in the game, as both Matthew Stafford and Kyler Murray threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns, while Murray also threw three interceptions whereas Stafford did not throw an interception.

Next on the list of noticeable games was the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2-1) who faced off against the Philadelphia Eagles (0-2-1) in a nail-biter. Late in the fourth quarter, with Cincinnati leading 23-16, Carson Wentz led the Eagles down the field and scored on a seven-yard run to tie the game with 21 seconds left in regulation. Those proved to be the last points scored in the game; even after going into overtime, neither team could find the endzone, although the Eagles did get close to being in field goal range several times only to be pushed back by costly mistakes and penalties. After the clock hit zero in overtime, both teams were still tied 23-23, leading to the first tie of the season.

Sunday’s primetime game was also a nail-biter, as Aaron Rogers’s Green Bay Packers (3-0) visited the New Orleans Saints (1-2) and pulled out a 37-30 win in the Big Easy. Injuries helped the Packers along, as the Saints were playing without star wide-receiver Michael Thomas and lost offensive lineman Andrus Peat to an ankle injury late in the first half. However, that did not seem to slow the Saints down much as they went into the second half with a 17-13 lead and were tied with the Packers at 27 apiece at the end of the third quarter. 

Penalties were an issue for the Saints late in the game, with two consecutive pass interference calls allowing the Packers to score the touchdown that would end the Saints’s hopes for a comeback. This has been an issue all season, as they now have had a total of 24 penalties for 331 yards through three games.

Last week’s games ended on Monday as the Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) led by Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (MVP) Patrick Mahomes easily cruised past the Baltimore Ravens (2-1) with a score of 34-20. The Chiefs held League MVP Lamar Jackson to just 97 yards passing, and the Baltimore offense faltered under the pressure — ending the day with 228 yards overall compared with the Chiefs’s 517 total yards. 

Many have predicted that these two teams would be the frontrunners in the American Football Conference; however this game has shown that the race may not be as close as some have predicted. The loss snaps the Ravens’s 14 game regular season win streak while extending the Chiefs’s overall win streak to 12. Despite the lopsided score, both sides fought hard in their first matchup of the season.

Other notable games from this past weekend included the Buffalo Bills (3-0) defeating the Los Angeles Rams (2-1) 35-32 to remain undefeated even after the Bills blew a 25-point lead, and the Tennessee Titans (3-0) squeaking by the Minnesota Vikings (0-3) 31-30. Recently, both the Titans and the Vikings have closed their practice facilities after nine people connected to the Titans tested positive for COVID-19, including three players.

Next week’s notable games include the Lions and Saints, Bills and Raiders (2-1) and the Patriots (2-1) against the Chiefs all on Sunday, Oct. 4. Next week’s schedule will conclude on Monday, Oct. 5 with the Falcons (0-3) facing the Packers.