NFL Week 3 winners and losers: Jaguars are a surprise contender; Bills run game struggles

Week 3 in the NFL was a wild one.

The highlight came in the early window and featured two AFC East teams that entered undefeated. But it was the Miami Dolphins who withstood the Buffalo Bills in spite of a "butt-punt," which was oddly exactly as it sounds.

Elsewhere in the AFC, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson put Baltimore on his back and is putting up a stats unlike any we have seen in NFL history, carving teams in the passing game while slipping past them on the ground.

And while the NFC East appears to be wide open, one team that may already be playing itself out of contention is the Washington Commanders.

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Here are the winners and losers from Sunday's slate.


Dolphins winning in different ways

In their opener, the Dolphins rushed to a big lead to beat the Patriots. In Week 2, Tua Tagovailoa dropped four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to erase a 21-point deficit against the Ravens. Against the presumptive Super Bowl favorites Sunday, the Dolphins did it on defense, withstanding Josh Allen and the Bills.

Buffalo ran 90 offensive plays to Miami's 39. It outgained Miami 497-212. It converted 11 third downs to Miami's three. But when the Dolphins needed a stop (with an assist from that South Florida heat), they got it. The Bills (2-1) launched a 17-play drive that reached Miami's 2-yard line. On a pivotal fourth-and-goal, Miami held after Allen skipped his pass to Isaiah McKenzie short, one of Miami's two red zone stops. If red zone defense is just one of the several ways the Dolphins can win, they may be more than just a surprise, they may be primed for a run.

The AFC South-leading Jaguars

Jacksonville took advantage of Chargers injuries, but this is a different team under coach Doug Pederson. The Jaguars (2-1) snapped an 18-game road losing streak that was the eighth-longest in NFL history.  Suddenly — with the rest of the AFC South shuffling in mediocrity — the Jags could be a surprise division contender.

They're erasing the stain of Urban Meyer's brief tenure and the most notable change is with quarterback Trevor Lawrence (28-of-39 passing for 262 yards with 3 touchdowns). Pederson has directed Lawrence to be more decisive and get the ball out of his hands quicker. Against the Chargers (1-2), he averaged a career-low 2.39 seconds in time to throw, neutralizing the Chargers' pass rush and allowing Jacksonville's playmakers to work in space. Most impressively, however, and an indicator of the potential of this team, Jacksonville leads the NFL in turnover differential (+7) just one season after it was dead last (-20).

Trevor Lawrence threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in the Jaguars' 38-10 win over the Chargers.
Trevor Lawrence threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in the Jaguars' 38-10 win over the Chargers.

The price of Lamar Jackson's contract

If the Ravens (2-1) didn't want to fully guarantee quarterback Lamar Jackson's contract during offseason negotiations, it's time now to reconsider. In Baltimore's 37-26 victory against New England, Jackson, again, did it all. He also reinforced his stature as one of the few players for whom it's necessary to tender a market-setting offer.

Jackson was efficient, especially against the blitz, completing 18-of-29 passes for just 218 yards. But he also totaled 107 rushing yards on just 10 carries and scored five total touchdowns. He's acting as his own agent, so both sides agreed to break talks until after the 2022 season so that Jackson could focus on football. Baltimore will have the use of the franchise tag, but that doesn't solve Jackson's long-term status with the team. In any case, if he keeps playing at this pace, the price to keep him will only soar.

And Roquan Smith's, too

The Bears are in a similar spot. Smith, the anchor in the middle of Chicago's defense, staged a hold-in during training camp and later requested a trade in August, though he eventually returned to practice. After a couple of shaky performances to start 2022 as Chicago (2-1) transitioned to a 4-3 scheme, his future in Chicago seemed even more tenuous. That changed Sunday.

Smith was all over the field against the Texans (0-2-1). His 16 combined tackles led the NFL in Week 3, with only Monday's game left to play. He also had one pass defended an interception deep in Texans territory that came with 1:13 left to play in a tied game. It set up the Bears' game-winning field goal. There was more. Smith also posted two tackles for loss, one of which was a stuff on a third-and-1 from Chicago's 2-yard line late in the third quarter that prevented a touchdown.


HELP WANTED: Bills rushing game

Despite their loss to the Dolphins (3-0), the Bills remain a threat to win not only the AFC but the Super Bowl, too. To get there, however, Buffalo must address what has been its most substantial fault over the last two seasons: a rushing attack that is disregarded and insufficiently used.

To be clear, injuries and the effect of the Miami heat affected Buffalo's play Sunday. But the Bills (2-1) far too often have abandoned the rushing attack in the course of gameplay, putting far too much pressure on quarterback Josh Allen. Against the Dolphins, Buffalo ran 90 offensive plays; just 15 were carries by players other than Allen. It gets worse. Dating back to the start of last season, the Bills have lost eight games, including the divisional round classic against the Chiefs. In those defeats, Buffalo players not named Josh Allen have limped to 457 combined rushing yards — just 57.1 per game.

The state of play on Sunday night

There were drops and fumbles, head-scratching coaching decisions, we even saw an Orlovsky in the Sunday night demolition of well-played football between the 49ers and the Broncos. An Orlovsky, for those wondering, is when a quarterback is attempting to pass from their own end zone but steps on the back line for a safety.

In the case of Jimmy Garoppolo, it was a good thing because the pass he threw would've been a pick-six. This was a game in which the Broncos (2-1) put up nine three-and-outs, the most in Russell Wilson's career. The 49ers (1-2) converted their first (and only) third down of the game with 3:31 left to play. Two snaps later Garoppolo lofted a pass into triple coverage that was intercepted. Punters Corliss Waitman of the Broncos and Mitch Wishnowsky of the Niners combined for 17 punts for 838 yards. All this to say neither team should be proud of what it put on the field.

Washington in the NFC East

Box scores can sometimes be deceptive. Case in point: the Commanders. While not great, Carson Wentz finished 25-of-43 for 211 yards in a beatdown against the Eagles. Washington (1-2) converted 6-of-17 third-down conversions (35%) at a higher clip than Philadelphia. The Commanders trailed the Eagles in first downs by only one.

That doesn't tell the story of Washington's ineptitude, as its offense tallied many of those stats after the game was all but over. The Commanders gave up nine sacks, four of which came in the first quarter, and six of which came in the first half. Wentz's numbers? Headed into intermission, he was 3-of-10 for 24 yards and the team had minus-16 net passing yards due to all the sacks. Washington was 1-of-7 on third downs at the half. It's early in the 2022 season but this isn't a team destined for a playoff run: it's headed for a high draft pick.

Kansas City's (not so) special teams

There's plenty of blame to go around; in the middle of the fourth quarter, for example, future Hall of Fame tight end Travis Kelce saw a pass glance off his fingers in the end zone that would've given the Chiefs a two-score lead. Instead, Kansas City (2-1) brought out its field goal unit two plays later and backup placekicker Matt Ammendola — replacing the injured Harrison Butker — pushed a 34-yard attempt wide left.

It wasn't the worst play of Kansas City's special teams unit. Far from it, actually. In the first quarter, receiver Skyy Moore muffed a punt deep in Kansas City territory; the Colts (1-1-1) scored a touchdown three plays later. Also in the first, Ammendola missed an extra point. In the fourth, before the missed 34-yarder, the Chiefs (who have generational quarterback Patrick Mahomes) opted for a fake field goal on a fourth-and-10 that wouldn't have been converted even if the pass would've been completed.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL Week 3 winners, losers: Jaguars, Dolphins are surprise contenders