Like a poem written by Steve Sabol and narrated by John Facenda, complete with a score composed by Sam Spence, the 2021 NFL season somehow continues to get better as it rolls along.
Week 3 featured five games decided in the final minute of regulation or overtime. One of those contests ended with the longest field goal in NFL history, JUSTIN TUCKER’s 66-yarder to lift Baltimore. Eleven of 16 games in Week 3 were within one score (eight points) in the final quarter.
What’s in store for Week 4? Take a deep breath.
For starters, this week features a clash of undefeated NFC West rivals in Los Angeles, and TOM BRADY and ROB GRONKOWSKI returning to New England, where Brady needs 68 passing yards to break the NFL’s career record. ANDY REID returns to Philadelphia with an opportunity to become the first coach in NFL annals to win 100 games with one franchise and 100 with another.
If that’s not enough, how about a pair of resurgent division leaders, the CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-0) and DALLAS COWBOYS (2-1), at AT&T Stadium, or two of the most prolific passers in league history, BEN ROETHLISBERGER and AARON RODGERS, at Lambeau Field?
The week begins Thursday night with a primetime matchup of the last two No. 1 overall selections in the NFL Draft, JOE BURROW and TREVOR LAWRENCE, and it ends on Monday night when the head-turning LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (2-1) host the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (3-0), off to their best start in 19 years.
Intermission is over, so get to your seats. Dim the house lights and cue the orchestra. Here comes Week 4.
LATE-GAME DRAMA: Through Week 3, NFL teams have scored the winning points in the final minute of the fourth quarter or in overtime on 11 occasions. Just one other year has produced more such games at this point of a season.
WORKING OVERTIME: For the first time since 2018, at least one NFL game has gone to overtime in each of the season’s first three weeks. The league has had overtime games in each of the first four weeks of a season on only four occasions: 2018, 2002, 1983 and 1979.
WILD, WILD NFC WEST: Five teams, including four that missed the playoffs last year (Arizona, Carolina, Denver and Las Vegas) are 3-0. Two of the undefeated teams are NFC West rivals that will meet at SoFi Stadium, where the ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-0) travel to clash with the LOS ANGELES RAMS (3-0) on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, FOX). Arizona is tied for the league lead with 34.3 points per game, while the Rams rank third with 31.7.
- With a rushing touchdown on Sunday, Arizona quarterback KYLER MURRAY would become the first quarterback in NFL history to run for a touchdown in each of his team’s first four games of a season. Murray has rushed for a touchdown in each of his team’s first three games for the second season in a row. The only other quarterbacks with a rushing touchdown in each of their team’s first three games of a season since 1970 are Pro Football Hall of Famer TERRY BRADSHAW (1972) and CHARLIE FRYE (2006).
- Murray, who passed for 316 yards in last week’s win at Jacksonville, aims to lead the Cardinals to their best start in nine years, when they opened 4-0 in 2012. The last time Arizona began 3-0 was 2015, when the Cardinals advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
- The Rams’ COOPER KUPP leads the NFL in both receiving yards (367) and touchdown catches (five). He’s also tied for the league lead with 25 receptions.
- Last week, Rams wide receiver DESEAN JACKSON recorded a 75-yard touchdown reception in the team’s win over Tampa Bay. He became the fifth player in the Super Bowl era to register 10 career touchdowns of at least 75 yards, joining DEVIN HESTER (14 touchdowns), DANTE HALL (11), JOSH CRIBBS (10) and TYREEK HILL (10).
- Rams quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD has established a blistering pace through his first three games with the Rams, ranking second in the league with a 129.8 passer rating and tied for second with nine touchdown passes. He’s only the sixth player since 1950 to throw nine-or-more touchdown passes in his first three starts with a team. If he throws for three more touchdowns on Sunday against the Cardinals, he would join elite company.
REUNION GAMES: Three notable individuals come back to their former NFL homes this week. Chiefs head coach ANDY REID makes a return to Philadelphia, where the Eagles (1-2) host Kansas City (1-2) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS). Meanwhile, Tampa Bay (2-1) is at New England (1-2), where the Buccaneers’ tandem of TOM BRADY and ROB GRONKOWSKI make a return to Foxboro on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC).
- For Reid, head coach of the Eagles from 1999-2012, it’s a second return trip, following his first game at Lincoln Financial Field with the Chiefs in 2013. Reid has won each of his two games against the Eagles, including a 2017 victory at Arrowhead Stadium. This week, Reid can become the first head coach in NFL history to win 100 games, including the postseason, with multiple franchises. He’s 99-45-0 in nine years with the Chiefs and was 140-102-1 in 14 years with the Eagles, including the postseason. Overall, Reid’s 239 career victories rank fifth all-time.
- Reid is also one of just seven coaches to take multiple teams to the Super Bowl.
AFC WEST SHOWDOWN TO CLOSE WEEKEND: Last week, the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (3-0) overcame a 14-point deficit to defeat Miami, 31-28, in overtime and became the fourth team to win two overtime games within its first three games of a season, joining the 1995 Atlanta Falcons, 1995 Kansas City Chiefs and 1994 Detroit Lions. This week, the Raiders battle the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (2-1) on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN).
- In the Raiders’ overtime win against Miami, quarterback DEREK CARR passed for 386 yards and two touchdowns with one interception for a 95.7 rating, leading the team to its first 3-0 start since 2002, when they advanced to the Super Bowl. Carr, who enters Week 4 with an NFL-best 1,203 passing yards, is the fourth player with at least 1,200 passing yards through his team’s first three games of a season in NFL history, joining TOM BRADY (1,327 passing yards in 2011), RYAN FITZPATRICK (1,230 in 2018) and Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (1,221 in 2000).
- Dating back to Week 16 of last season, Carr has recorded at least 325 passing yards in five consecutive games, joining RICH GANNON (six games with the Raiders in 2002), DREW BREES (five games with the Saints in 2011) and Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (five games with the Rams in 2000 and five games with the Cardinals in 2008) as the only players to pass for 325 yards in five straight games in NFL history.
- The Raiders lead the NFL with 471.0 total yards of offense per game.
- Last week in a win at Kansas City, Chargers quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT passed for 281 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 125.0 rating, including the game-winning touchdown pass with 32 seconds remaining. Herbert became the fifth player in the Super Bowl era to record five games with at least three touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his first two seasons, joining LAMAR JACKSON (six games), Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (six), PATRICK MAHOMES (five) and DAK PRESCOTT (five).
STIFF TEST ON TAP FOR COWBOYS: Four games this week feature two teams with at least two wins, including the CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-0) at the DALLAS COWBOYS (2-1) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).
- The Panthers are 3-0 for the first time since they opened 14-0 in 2015 en route to a berth in Super Bowl 50. Carolina’s defense leads the NFL in fewest total yards allowed per game (191.0) and ranks second in fewest points allowed per game (10.0).
- Panthers quarterback SAM DARNOLD is 8-2 in 10 career starts when passing for at least 270 yards, including 3-0 this season.
- Carolina linebacker HAASON REDDICK has 12 sacks over his past seven games, dating back to Week 14 of last season. Prior to Reddick, the last player with that many sacks over a seven-game span was Rams defensive lineman AARON DONALD, who registered 12.5 over a seven-game stretch in 2018.
- Last week, Dallas quarterback DAK PRESCOTT completed 21 of 26 passes for 238 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 143.3 rating. He now has 20 career games with three-or-more touchdown passes.
- The Cowboys, who lead the NFL with eight takeaways and are tied for first with a plus-five turnover margin, have at least two takeaways in seven straight games (dating to Week 14 of last season), the longest active streak in the league.
- Dallas cornerback TREVON DIGGS is tied for the NFL lead with three interceptions, while two Cowboys rookies, linebacker MICAH PARSONS and defensive tackle OSA ODIGHIZUWA, are tied for the team lead with 1.5 sacks.
DERBY CITY PIPELINE: Starting quarterbacks from the University of Louisville, both first-round draft choices selected 32nd overall, will lead their teams when the BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-1) meet the DENVER BRONCOS (3-0) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS). Baltimore’s LAMAR JACKSON, selected at the end of the first round by the Ravens in 2018, and Denver’s TEDDY BRIDGEWATER, taken by the Vikings to close the first round in 2014, both hail from South Florida.
- In 40 career starts, Jackson now has 90 touchdowns (70 passing, 20 rushing) and joined PATRICK MAHOMES (107 touchdowns) and Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO (95) and KURT WARNER (91) as the only quarterbacks with at least 90 combined passing and rushing touchdowns in their first 40 career starts.
- Last week as time expired in Detroit, Baltimore kicker JUSTIN TUCKER converted a game-winning 66-yard field goal, the longest field goal in NFL history. Tucker, who also converted a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter last week, has seven career games with multiple 50-yard field goals, tied with BRANDON MCMANUS (seven games) and MATT PRATER (seven) for the most such games in NFL history.
- Tucker is now 20-for-20 on career field goals attempted either in overtime or the final minute of the fourth quarter.
- In the league rankings, Baltimore is first with 185.3 rushing yards per game while Denver’s defense is second against the run, allowing just 59.3 rushing yards per game.
- Denver, which also leads the NFL in fewest points allowed per game (8.7), is off to its best start since opening 4-0 in 2016.
- Sunday’s game is a rematch of a thrilling 2012 AFC Divisional playoff in Denver, won by the Ravens, 38-35, on JUSTIN TUCKER’s 47-yard field goal in double overtime. With 31 seconds remaining in regulation, Tucker’s extra point knotted the game, following Joe Flacco’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones. Baltimore used the win as a springboard to a victory in Super Bowl XLVII three weeks later.
LEGENDS AT LAMBEAU: Sunday’s game between the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (1-2) and the GREEN BAY PACKERS (2-1) at Lambeau Field (4:25 PM ET, CBS) is significant because it comes more than a decade after starting quarterbacks BEN ROETHLISBERGER and AARON RODGERS met in Super Bowl XLV. This week’s contest will mark the first time two starting quarterbacks have met 11-or-more seasons after a Super Bowl matchup. Prior to this week, the longest stretch was 10 years, when Roethlisberger and MATT HASSELBECK met on Dec. 6, 2015, 10 years after they squared off in Super Bowl XL.
- Rodgers ranks seventh in NFL history with 418 career touchdown passes and this week can advance to No. 5 on the all-time list. Against Pittsburgh, he can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (420) and PHILIP RIVERS (421). Rodgers also ranks 10th all-time in passing yards (51,894) entering Week 4.
- Roethlisberger has 399 career touchdown passes and can become the eighth quarterback all-time to reach 400. He also has 61,149 career passing yards and can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (61,361) for the sixth-most passing yards in NFL history.
- Last week, Pittsburgh rookie running back NAJEE HARRIS totaled 14 receptions for 102 yards. Harris’ 14 catches tied SAQUON BARKLEY (Sept. 16, 2018) and ROY HELU (Nov. 6, 2011) for the most single-game receptions by a rookie running back in NFL history.
ALLEN WRENCH: The BUFFALO BILLS (2-1) host the HOUSTON TEXANS (1-2) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS) in a rematch of an exciting 2019 Wild Card playoff. In that contest, Buffalo quarterback JOSH ALLEN put the Bills on the board by catching a 16-yard touchdown pass and wound up with 92 rushing yards and 264 passing yards, but Houston stormed back with timely plays, including a fourth-quarter sack and forced fumble by the Texans’ WHITNEY MERCILUS, and Houston prevailed in overtime, 22-19.
- Since that game, Allen has led the Bills to a 17-5 record, including the postseason.
- Last week, Allen passed for 358 yards and four touchdowns, and added one rushing touchdown in the Bills’ win over Washington. Allen became the fourth player in NFL history to record multiple career games with at least 300 passing yards, four touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown, joining DREW BREES (four games), AARON RODGERS (three) and Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (two). Allen’s first such game was Week 3 of the 2020 season, when he registered 311 passing yards with four touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown.
- Plus, among players in their first four NFL seasons, Allen is the fifth player ever to record five games with at least 300 passing yards and four touchdown passes. Only PATRICK MAHOMES (nine games), Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO (nine) and KURT WARNER (six), and ANDREW LUCK (six) have accomplished the feat during their first four years in the league.