The Games that Shaped the 2019 Season: Week 3
The 2019 season began on September 5th 2019 and culminated at Super Bowl LIV on February 5th 2020. However, in between those games at Soldier Field in Chicago and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, the season took a number of twists, all of which impacted the path to Super Bowl LIV for many teams. In this series we will take a look back at the games that shaped the 2019 NFL season, with this article focusing on Week 3.
Week 3 naturally brings with it major intrigue in the NFL season because it a delicate balancing moment in the seasons of many of these teams. For teams who have started 2-0, remaining unbeaten through three weeks historically given teams a close to 75% chance of making the playoffs. Meanwhile, starting 0-2 leaves you hanging on a cliff edge, as just 2% of teams starting 0-3 had made the playoffs since 1995.
As for the 1-1 teams, Week 3 still brings with it a massive potential swing in their playoff chances. 2-1 teams make the playoffs 52% of the time, while 1-2 teams manage it just 25% of the time. Week 3 may not seem that important in the grand scheme of things, but it can be an early final nail in the coffin for bad teams, and a huge boost for anyone who comes out of it with two or three wins already under their belt.
Week 3 contain one of the potential games of the season when the Kansas City Chiefs hosted the Baltimore Ravens. In the battle of the two young quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes came out on top 33-28, with the Ravens requiring 15 points in the fourth quarter to make it close. That game had little impact on the season, as the Ravens still claimed the #1 seed despite a loss to what would turn out to be their closest challengers.
Cincinnati Bengals 17 - 21 Buffalo Bills
What a strange game this one turned out to be. After dismissing the New York Giants in Week 2, the 2-0 Buffalo Bills should have been coming back to Buffalo riding high to face an 0-2 Cincinnati Bengals team. The Bills did jump out to a 14 point lead by half time, but then forgot how to play football following half time.
Andy Dalton got the Bengals going in the second half, leading his team back from that 14-point deficit to take the lead 17-14 with under five minutes to play. After having to rally late against the New York Jets in Week 1, the Bills needed another rally in Week 3.
Once again Josh Allen would step up in a big way. He opened the drive with two completions for 56 yards. He would then add a further 21 yards on the ground himself before handing the ball to the veteran Frank Gore, who plunged in for the one-yard touchdown to give the Bills the lead. Andy Dalton once again rallied his Bengals team, leading them to the Buffalo 28-yard line, before he was picked off in the end zone by Tre’Davious White looking for the win.
What was the games significance?
This game was another huge swing game for the Bills in 2019. To be 3-0 having been literally two plays away from being 1-2 makes a huge difference. This start would be just the confidence boost the Bills needed, both in their abilities and in Allen’s abilities to lead them in the clutch. At 3-0 the Bills had positioned themselves perfectly to take on the Patriots in the AFC East, while also giving themselves the inside track at one of the AFC wildcard spots.
For the Bengals this game was yet another moment of close but yet so far. Having lost in Seattle by just one point in Week 1, the Bengals were now 0-3, having lost two road games by a total of five points. It would be the story of the Bengals season, as they would go 0-6 in one-score games on their way to a 2-14 record and the number one overall pick in 2019.
Houston Texans 27 - 20 Los Angeles Chargers
These two teams came into this Week 3 game with very strange feelings around them. Both were 1-1 through two weeks, with four close games between them and now facing a potentially important game in terms of AFC tie-breakers further down the line.
The Chargers would jump out to a 10-0 lead before leading 17-7 at half time. Frustratingly for them, they would score just three points in total in the second half of the game. The Texans came out after the half and scored 20 points in 20 minutes of game action, with Jordan Akins’ two touchdowns giving them a 10-point lead. Despite a field goal with over seven minutes left, and a long final drive, the Chargers could not get closer than the Texans 24-yard line as they attempted to tie the game up in the final moments.
What was the games significance?
This game would prove to be a huge pivot point for both of these teams. The Texans struggled again in a Week 4 loss to the Carolina Panthers, but leaving that game 2-2 meant they still had a platform with which to launch their AFC South challenge. They would finish just one game ahead of the Titans at seasons end, but things could have shaped up very differently had they of been 1-3 entering their Week 5 game against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Chargers would bounce back themselves to 2-2 in Week 4 against the Dolphins. However, three straight losses left them reeling at 2-5, a position just four percent of teams have recovered from to make the playoffs. Had they have found themselves entering their Week 8 game at 3-4, their playoff chances would have been 19% and their two wins would have seemed less like damage control and more like a start of a hot second half run.
Pittsburgh Steelers 20 - 24 San Francisco 49ers
This game was a test for both teams entering Week 3. The 49ers had two road wins, but against teams in the Buccaneers and Bengals that many had lo expectations for entering the season. Meanwhile, the Steelers had lost to two perennial playoff teams in the Patriots and Seahawks, while losing their starting quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger.
This game ended up being one of the strangest of the entire season. The 49ers turned the ball over a frankly ridiculous five times, with two interceptions and three fumbles, before scoring the winning touchdown with just 1:15 left on the clock after James Conner fumbled the ball for the Steelers on their own 24-yard line. Incredibly it still took the 49ers nine plays to go 24 yards to take the lead in what was perhaps the sloppiest match of any division winner in 2019.
What was the games significance?
Despite the performance the 49ers came away from Week 3 with a 3-0 record on their way to an 8-0 start. Their five turnover performance in this game would see them turn the ball over more times as many times in this game as they would in the remainder of that perfect start. However, the crucial element is they escaped 3-0 in a season where 13-3 would prove just good enough to clinch the NFC’s #1 seed.
As for the Steelers, this frustrating loss would mean an 0-3 start for the franchise. Despite rallying to 8-5, the Steelers could not make the playoffs in 2019. This game did emphasise just how much of a turnover machine the Steelers defense would be in 2019, as they turned the ball over more than any other defense in the NFL in 2019.
Image credit: AP Photo/John Munson, Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer