While less chaotic than weeks past, Week 3 in the NFL had still its own unique moments. But among all other things, it reminds us that titles don’t matter.
The AFC West is “the best division in the league”? Maybe so, but three of the teams lost while the fourth won an 11-10 slobber-knocker on Sunday night against a team who is a member of the NFC West which is believed to be “the best in that conference.”
What about Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers as a quarterback pairing? A shootout in the making with the alleged “greatest of all time” and the “defending two-time MVP”… that ended with a score of 14-12.
It is that vibe that brings us Week 4 of The Student of the Game’s Match Up Mania. Where preconceived notions are put on trial — and are sometimes found guilty (looking at you, 0-3 Raiders). This week, we look at games with teams that are to be weighed and measured as contenders. And the docket for these squads of unsure repute is our feature for this week’s MuM.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Philadelphia Eagles
I know I went on the air in several places and said that I would bet the Jags who were gettings seven points playing in Los Angeles against the Chargers. While I was smart enough to say that, I was never brave to say that Jacksonville would put up 38 points no matter how many times I’ve tried to claim that Trevor Lawrence had Peyton Manning-esque qualities. But the Bolts are injury-riddled in pure snake-bitten fashion in 2022, which leads us to Sunday in Philadelphia.
I’ve been higher on Jalen Hurts as an NFL quarterback than most Eagles fans, which is a low bar considering how they’ve booed both Donovan McNabb and Santa Clause in the past. But in spite of that, the Eagles have gotten the hype train following them in the NFC. Winning the NFC East is now an expectation and to be believed in Philly as an elite team they’ll need to win games like this one. Just like if the Jags are expected to be favorites in the AFC South, winning this game is also a big part of that.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A rematch of Super Bowl LV, it’s a fascinating scenario where the situation is reversed from the playing of that world championship affair. Going into that contest, Chiefs’ field general Patrick Mahomes was standing behind an offensive line dealing with injuries and unrest. Going into this game, it’s the Bucs’ Tom Brady who will have protection issues in a game where both offenses and defenses are quite stacked when 100%. And health is the issue that might be what decides the game overall. Brady’s line and receiver corps are currently short key guys nicked up from injury.
That being said, expect this game to be one that’s entertaining in some form or fashion.
Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers
With both offenses facing questions and criticism surrounding their quarterbacks who have achieved past success, this Monday night NFC Championship game rematch is the first of two NFC West clashes that will have playoff implications.
Going into the season, the Rams were seen as clear favorites to return to the postseason, and then Los Angeles quarterback Matthew Stafford faced struggles, albeit in a win over the soon to be holders of the potential 2023 top overall NFL Draft-pick Falcons. After playing the Cards last week, picking up another divisional game over the Niners might serve to beat back some critics.
As for San Francisco, with Trey Lance out for the foreseeable future and Jimmy Garoppolo freaking fans out by stepping out of the back of the end zone, moving forward safely is certainly in doubt. And that’s without the injury to veteran left tackle Trent Williams. But through all the chatter, many analysts haven’t changed their mind on whether the Niners are a playoff team (yet). When Week 18 ends, people could see this contest as to why certain teams made (or missed) the playoffs…or it could signal the start of a coming collapse as well.