Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap early-week action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the Pittsburgh Steelers perspective.
AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs, Postponed
The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs won’t play on Sunday after Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. Newton did not get the news until Saturday morning, which threw a wrench into the Patriots plan heading into the game in Kansas City.
Newton has the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history with 62, and the Patriots coaching staff is clearly aware. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has done an excellent job maximizing the former Panther’s unique skillset, as he is tied for the league lead with four rushing scores. Newton has also put questions regarding his shoulder health to bed early on, consistently pushing the ball downfield and completing 68% of his passes.
Chiefs starter Patrick Mahomes is coming off a dominant performance against the Ravens that saw him throw for 385 yards and four scores. The reigning Super Bowl MVP has been near perfect to start the year, tossing for nine touchdowns and 898 yards with no interceptions.
Mahomes is also one of the few players Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has yet to figure out. In three career games against New England, Mahomes has thrown for eight touchdowns and an average of 310 yards per game.
Owning the league’s best rushing offense, the Patriots must control the ball and keep it away from Mahomes and a Chiefs offense that has scored points on an astonishing 55.2% of their offensive drives this season.
Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys, 1:00 p.m., WPGH-TV
With this week’s Steelers-Titans matchup postponed until Week 7, fans will be freed up to watch a battle between two of Pittsburgh’s historic rivals in the Cowboys and Browns.
Off to a great start with their first winning record since 2014, the Browns enter AT&T Stadium with one of the most potent rushing attacks in football. With 511 rushing yards through through three games, Cleveland is tied with the Rams for the third-most in football. The one-two punch of running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt has worked wonderfully, and the added balance has had a noticeable impact on quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has tossed five touchdowns and just two picks thus far. Mayfield had five interceptions through Week 3 in 2019.
Cleveland should have no difficulty running the ball on an injury-plagued Dallas defense, but the Browns’ defense will have a significant challenge of their own facing quarterback Dak Prescott and his retooled receiving core.
Prescott leads the league in pass attempts (143), completions (96) and yards (1,188). He has also combined for eight touchdowns, with five through the air and three on the ground. While he has no scored yet, star wideout Amari Cooper has already caught 25 passes for 267 yards. Rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb has been no slouch either, with 16 receptions for 230 yards.
Defensive end Myles Garrett will have to get to Prescott early and often Sunday, providing support upfront for Denzel Ward and the Browns’ secondary.
Los Angeles Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
When Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert makes his third-career start Sunday in pursuit of his first win, the 22-year-old will be facing off against one his likely childhood idols in Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Herbert has looked good since being thrust into the starting lineup Week 2, completing 69.5% of his passes and tossing for over 300 yards in consecutive games. He will be tested again this week, facing a Tampa Bay defensive unit that has intercepted four passes, tied for the second-most in the league. It will be paramount for Herbert to value the football if he is to secure his first victory as a starter.
On the defensive side, Los Angeles’ formidable secondary will have their hands full attempting to slow an explosive Tampa receiving core. Even without star safety Derwin James, the Chargers have allowed just three passing touchdowns this season. Conversely, Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans is tied for the league-lead with four touchdown receptions.
If Chargers cornerbacks Desmond King II and Casey Heyward Jr. can slow down Evans and company, they will have a great opportunity to get back to .500.
Buffalo Bills at Las Vegas Raiders, 4:25 p.m., CBS Regional
Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen looks to continue his impressive start to the 2020 season, as the undefeated Bills look to continue their winning ways against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium.
Allen has been phenomenal through three games, completing 71.1% of his passes for 1,038 yards and ten touchdowns with just one interception. He is second in the league in both passing yards and touchdowns, trailing just Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson, respectively. Allen has eclipsed the 300-yard mark each game this season, and tossed for 415 yards against Miami on Sept. 20.
The former Wyoming Cowboy has been deadly on the ground as well, having also rushed for two scores this season. Allen’s 19 career rushing touchdowns are the second-most by a quarterback through his first three seasons in NFL history.
He will face his stiffed test yet in the Raiders’ pass defense, who have allowed just three scores through the air this season, the second-fewest in the league. John Gruden’s club has not faired as well defending the run, as they have already surrendered the six rushing touchdowns, the second-most. If the Raiders make life difficult for Allen through the air, he should still find success with his legs.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
Denver Broncos 37 New York Jets 28
Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals. 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
Baltimore Ravens at Washington, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers, Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN