By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and the Denver Nuggets managed to overcome the disappointment of Game 2’s last-second defeat to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers soundly in Game 3. For the first time in the series, the Nuggets came out in attack mode during the first half, getting strong two-man play out of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. Wing Jerami Grant also had his best game of the playoffs, going for 26 points while providing length on the defensive end. Denver’s defense was pivotal to the victory, keeping the Lakers out of fast-break opportunities and contesting L.A.’s attempts from deep and in the mid-range. Denver now trails the Lakers 2-1 heading into Thursday’s pivotal Game 4.
New Orleans fell to the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night thanks to another less-than-impressive performance from quarterback Drew Brees. Continuing a trend that began with last season, Brees seems allergic to testing defenses downfield. Without superstar receiver Michael Thomas (ankle), this ominous trend spelled doom for the Saints. Brees is becoming solely reliant on his receivers producing after the catch. The Saints boast a roster capable of winning plenty of games in 2020. However, for the first time in years, the quarterback position may hold the team back from contending for a championship.
Already sporting an offensive line decimated by injuries, the Eagles lost left guard Isaac Seumalo to injured reserve due to a knee injury suffered in Week 2. Though far from a star, Seumalo was a steady force along the offensive line for the Eagles, who have already lost All-Pro guard Brandon Brooks and starting left tackle Andre Dillard to season-ending injuries. Without a win on the season entering Week 3, the Eagles somehow hope a patchwork offensive line can offer a struggling Carson Wentz enough time to make some plays. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long season for the franchise.
Running back Saquon Barkley suffered a torn ACL on Sunday, and the New York Giants officially ended his season by placing the star on injured reserve. Barkley is a rarity for the Giants—a franchise player worth building around. His loss creates a massive hole for the already talent-starved Giants. New York will piece together a backfield out of veterans Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman, and Devonta Freeman. Without a win entering Week 3, the Giants will be in the hunt for the first overall pick in 2021.
Like Barkley, Christian McCaffrey is one of the few superstars at the running back position. Also like Barkley, McCaffrey as forced from action on Sunday due to injury. McCaffrey is expected to miss the next four-to-six weeks with a high-ankle sprain, leaving a massive hole in Carolina’s offense. Without McCaffrey, the team’s offense will struggle for points, and without the benefit of an injury to blame, Carolina’s defense may be the worst in the NFL. The Panthers have lost back-to-back games to open the season, and it isn’t easy to foresee the Panthers putting up many wins.
Continuing the rash of injuries afflicting the NFL, receiver Courtland Sutton of the Denver Broncos suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2. Coming off a breakout season, Sutton was poised to do big things this year. Unfortunately, his 2020 season ended in his first game following a Week 1 absence due to a shoulder injury. Losing Sutton is a severe blow for a Broncos team looking to develop its offense around quarterback Drew Lock. Then again, Lock is also looking at a multi-week absence due to a shoulder injury. The Broncos signed veteran Blake Bortles to serve as back-up to Jeff Driskel during Lock’s time on the sidelines. The Broncos are also without a win heading into Week 3.
Tomorrow night, the Jacksonville Jaguars will take on the Miami Dolphins to kick-off Week 3. The Jaguars are 1-1 on the season and have been far more exciting than expected thanks to the strong play of quarterback Gardner Minshew. Miami spent the off-season adding pieces to its secondary, but with cornerback Byron Jones questionable for the game with a groin injury, Minshew is poised for another solid showing. D.J. Chark, who emerged as a legitimate star-level receiver in 2019, will look to take advantage of Jones’s likely absence and get on track following a slow start to the season. It won’t often happen for the rebuilding Jaguars this season, but this is a game Jacksonville enters expected to win.