The 2018 season was only two years ago, but it might as well have been another lifetime ago for two of the NFL’s current starting quarterbacks. Carson Wentz was coming off a season-ending ACL injury, but before that he was an MVP front-runner who threw 33 touchdown passes in 13 games. His Philadelphia Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl with him on the sideline, and the team was expected to be even better with him back in the fold. Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill was coming off a 2017 season that was completely lost to an ACL injury. He was heading into what would turn out to be his final season with the Miami Dolphins, the team that drafted him eighth overall in 2012.

The two signal callers appeared to be headed in completely different directions the ensuing offseason. Wentz signed a four-year contract extension worth $128 million, making him one of the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks, while Tannehill was traded to the Tennessee Titans and became the backup for Marcus Mariota. In the 18 months or so since then, their respective worlds have completely flipped.

Wentz is struggling to keep the winless Eagles afloat, while Tannehill has the Titans off to an undefeated start. Is Tannehill suddenly and inexplicably a better football player than Wentz? That may not be the case, but in a league where quarterbacks are ultimately judged by wins and losses, things are certainly trending that way through the first three weeks of the 2020 season.

There’s a lot to learn about Wentz’s struggles, Tannehill’s successes — and more — by diving into the numbers to know from Week 3. So let’s jump right into it.

2

Carson Wentz threw two interceptions in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 23-23 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, marking his third straight game with multiple picks. That matches the number of multi-interception outings Wentz had the previous three seasons combined (2017-19). Wentz has an NFL-high six picks through three weeks; he hasn’t thrown more than seven in a single season since his rookie year.

Wentz was under the microscope before the season, but mostly due to his injury history. When healthy, the Eagles could usually count on him to perform at a high level. That is changing in 2020. He’s missing throws that used to look easy and his mistakes are largely to blame for Philly’s 0-2-1 record. Wentz still has heroic moments, like his seven-yard touchdown run to tie the game at the end of regulation, but they’re starting to become the exception and not the norm. Second-round draft pick and 2019 Heisman finalist Jalen Hurts is getting sprinkled into the game plan, as head coach Doug Peterson searches for an offensive spark. Wentz’s starting job isn’t in any real danger, but other franchise quarterbacks around the league aren’t ceding snaps to experimental rookies. This is creating an interesting dynamic that puts additional pressure on Wentz at a time when he’s never been shakier.

7

After punching in two scores on the ground in a 36-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, the New England Patriots now have seven rushing touchdowns on the season. That is the most in the NFL. The 2-1 Patriots haven’t missed Tom Brady’s arm yet in 2020, mostly due to the success they’ve experienced running the ball. Although he did not have one in Week 3, quarterback Cam Newton has scored four of New England’s seven rushing touchdowns.

The Patriots are averaging 178 rushing yards per game, and that’s helped them win the time-of-possession battle in three straight outings. New England hit a new season-high for rushing yards (250) against the Raiders, as both Sony Michel (117 yards) and Rex Burkhead (2 rushing touchdowns) enjoyed breakout games on the ground. By minimizing turnovers and taking the air out of the ball (no, not like that), head coach Bill Belichick is continuing his winning ways with a slightly different formula this season.

12

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill edged out a 31-30 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday and is now 12-4 in his last 16 starts (including the playoffs). Since he took over for Marcus Mariota as Tennessee’s starter halfway through last season, the Titans have been one of the NFL’s toughest teams to beat. That’s not to say they dominate their opponents, though; Tannehill’s squad has managed to start this season 3-0 despite going 0-3 against the spread.

Week 3 vs. the Vikings was Tannehill’s toughest outing of the season. It was his first without a touchdown pass and also his first with an interception. Tannehill fumbled twice, but was lucky enough not lose either one. The bright spot in the box score was his yardage, a season-high of 321. Thirty-four of those yards came on a crucial game-winning drive in which he completed four of his six pass attempts. The 32-year-old veteran won’t find himself on many MVP ballots in 2020, but his past 16 outings are no fluke. Call him a “system quarterback” all you want; head coach Mike Vrabel’s system is working and Tannehill is winning. For that, he deserves more credit than he’s currently getting.

14

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tossed five more touchdown passes in Sunday’s 38-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys, raising his season total to 14 TD passes through three weeks. Wilson is building a considerable lead on the rest of the NFL in this category. Buffalo’s Josh Allen is the only other passer with double-digit touchdown strikes (10) in 2020. What makes his lead even more impressive is the fact that he ranks 16th in the league with only 103 pass attempts.

Wilson has been incredibly efficient and is almost playing mistake-free (only one interception on the season). The “Let Russ Cook” experiment appears to be working, and the Seahawks are lucky that’s the case. They rank dead last in overall defense, and their pass defense is particularly porous. Seattle has surrendered an average of 430.7 passing yards per game this season; that’s 80 more yards per game than the next closest team (Atlanta, 350.3). Wilson better keep that arm loose, because he’s in for several more shootouts like the one we saw in Week 3.

16

The Atlanta Falcons held a 16-point fourth-quarter lead over the Chicago Bears before eventually losing by a final score of 30-26. They are now the first team in NFL history to lose back-to-back games despite leading by 15-plus points in the fourth quarter of each game. I wrote last week that Atlanta’s next devastating collapse might be the one that ultimately costs head coach Dan Quinn his job, and I now believe there’s no possible way the 0-3 Falcons can overcome this reputation of historic meltdowns while he remains the coach.

The Falcons falling apart somewhat overshadows the Bears becoming comeback artists. Chicago’s Week 3 win marked the second time this season that the Bears have overcome a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter and won (the first time was Week 1 vs. the Lions). The franchise only had one such win in its first 100 years of existence. Somehow, the Bears have pulled this off and started 3-0 without consistent quarterback play. It’s unclear who will start moving forward — Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles — but if the Bears could be far more dangerous than anyone realized if one of the two can settle in as the clear-cut starter.

80

In his third game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a 28-10 win over the Denver Broncos, quarterback Tom Brady finally found wide receiver Chris Godwin for a touchdown. Godwin is the 80th player to catch a touchdown pass from Brady, extending an all-time NFL record. Brady has now connected with three new pass-catchers for a touchdown since joining the Bucs. Ironically, one guy he hasn’t found in the end zone yet is tight end Rob Gronkowski. That could be coming soon, though, as Gronk set new season highs with six catches for 48 yards in Week 3.

The hype surrounding Tampa Bay took a significant hit after Brady threw two interceptions in a Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints, but his team has rebounded with two straight wins since then. The Buccaneers are currently alone atop the NFC South standings and look like the front-runners to win the division. Critics were a little too quick to declare Brady “washed” after his first game with the Bucs, as the 43-year-old quarterback still has something left in the tank. He’s not Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson, but with the help of a Tampa Bay defense that currently ranks among the NFL’s top 10 units, Brady is capable of leading this team to the playoffs.

400

 Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers threw his 400th career touchdown pass in a 36-7 win over the New York Jets on Sunday. That puts Rivers in pretty rare company, as he’s only the sixth quarterback in NFL history to hit the 400-TD mark. The others are Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Dan Marino. Also on Sunday, Rivers joined that same exact group as the only quarterbacks to throw for 60,000 yards.

From a statistical standpoint, Rivers has a very strong case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only thing that would make it air-tight is a Super Bowl ring. In 16 season with the Chargers, Rivers never made it to Super Bowl Sunday. Could the Colts provide him that opportunity in Year 17? Indy’s defense has really stepped up since getting diced by Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew in Week 1, and Rivers is doing his part to keep the offense moving. Through three weeks, he leads the entire NFL with a completion percentage of 78.3. Moving forward, he’ll need to throw more than one touchdown per game.

2,114

Go ahead and celebrate, Cleveland. With their 34-20 win over the Washington Football Team on Sunday, the Browns are above .500 for the first time in 2,114 days (Dec. 14, 2014). It’s been a long and arduous journey, but the Browns may have finally turned a corner. It only took four general managers, five head coaches and 10 different starting quarterbacks to make it happen.

Speaking of starting quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield snapped a streak of eight straight games with at least one interception with his unblemished performance in Week 3 (previously the NFL’s longest active streak). Cleveland has now scored more than 30 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2007. At 2-1 with two straight wins, some of the hype that surrounded — and maybe swamped — the Browns before the start of last season is seemingly coming to fruition one year later. Better late than never. 

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