The Bucs were supposed to stink without Tom Brady. Then came Baker Mayfield

{Photograph}: Chris O’Meara/AP

When Tom Brady lastly retired, the NFC South was set to be extensive open. In any case, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers determined to exchange maybe the very best participant in NFL historical past with Baker Mayfield, finest recognized for his disappointing stint with the Cleveland Browns, which ended along with his teammates’ dads weighing in on his faults and faint reward for his comedian performing chops. The Bucs’ divisional rivals, the New Orleans Saints, had been among the many groups seeking to make the most of Brady’s retirement.

Heading into the groups’ first assembly of the 12 months, the 2-1 Saints may take first place by defeating the Buccaneers, who had been additionally 2-1 after a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. In concept, New Orleans had the benefit at quarterback, having signed four-time Professional Bowler Derek Carr. Carr didn’t have a single landing go throughout Sunday’s 26-9 Tampa Bay victory. In distinction, Mayfield went 25-for-32 and threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns.

Mayfield’s 4 years with the Browns had been so disappointing that the crew made the past controversial resolution to amass Deshaun Watson. Thus far, it’s a choice that has not paid off. An injured Watson didn’t take the sphere for the Browns on Sunday. As an alternative, backup Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw three interceptions in a 28-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. However at this level, it’s clear that Cleveland’s institutional issues run deep sufficient that the mess goes past uncertainty on the QB place.

“That is solely the second time in my professional profession that I’ve had a training employees that permit me play to my full potential,” Mayfield said after the win, earlier than crediting Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay for reviving his profession after a failed stint in Carolina. “McVay understood what I’m able to however nobody else earlier than that did.”

If this appears like Mayfield was taking a shot on the Browns, it’s as a result of there isn’t a conceivable universe the place he was not taking one. And why wouldn’t he? His profession was left for lifeless after he was labeled “not ok to be a Cleveland Brown”. Given his present success – and the concurrent struggles of his former franchise – he has earned the proper to take that shot.

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Perhaps it helps that no person is anticipating him to be the Subsequent Brady. Throughout Tampa Bay coaching camp, in truth, it wasn’t even sure he would beat out 2021 second-rounder Kyle Trask for the beginning gig. He might not even be the long-term resolution, on condition that he solely signed a one-year deal. One assumes that Mayfield is on the lookout for a multi-year contract to be a starter someplace, one thing which might have gave the impression of a tall order simply two months in the past.

The groups he has crushed this season – the Saints, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings – are hardly Tremendous Bowl contenders. However Mayfield has a 69.6% completion ranking this season, is on tempo to throw for 29 touchdowns and greater than 3,500 yards and is seventh amongst NFL starters in QBR ranking, forward of the likes of Lamar Jackson, Trevor Lawrence and Jalen Hurts. Mayfield will in all probability revert to the imply at some stage, however chances are high that Trask will stay on the bench for the foreseeable future.

MVP of the week

Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Payments. Early on, the Miami Dolphins-Buffalo Payments recreation seemed like it will come right down to which crew held the opposite to a discipline aim first, as they traded touchdowns through the first half. Finally, nonetheless, Buffalo’s offense found out Miami’s protection because the Payments emerged on high of the AFC East with a 48-20 victory over their rivals. A key motive? Diggs’s three receiving touchdowns. That’s the third time he has completed the feat for the Payments, setting a new team record. He additionally notched 120 receiving yards.

Stefon Diggs shares a drink with fans during the Bills’ win over the Dolphins

Stefon Diggs shares a drink with followers through the Payments’ win over the Dolphins. {Photograph}: Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Photographs

Stat of the week

Zero. That’s what number of first-half touchdowns the Cincinnati Bengals have scored this season, a significant motive why they’re now 1-3.

In truth, no Bengal scored a landing within the crew’s 27-3 loss to the Titans (Tennessee operating again Derrick Henry managed one more passing touchdown than Joe Burrow on Sunday). Whereas there’s nonetheless loads of soccer left, the Bengals are backside of the aggressive AFC North and can want a pointy turnaround to make the playoffs. It’s been a tough begin for a crew that had severe Tremendous Bowl hopes a month in the past and Burrow is clearly nonetheless not totally match.

Video of the week

The winless Minnesota Vikings discovered themselves within the gap early towards the equally struggling Carolina Panthers with Kirk Cousins giving up a 99-yard pick-six. On condition that it was primarily a 14-point swing to begin the sport, it felt like Minnesota had been doomed from the beginning.

Nonetheless, the Panthers additionally began the season 0-3 for a motive. Regardless of this early hiccup, the Vikings had been capable of recuperate and pull off a 21-13 comeback win for his or her first victory of the season. The Panthers, in the meantime, are 0-4 and can be within the hunt for the 2024 No 1 total choose in the event that they hadn’t already traded it away – the rapid future appears to be like grim in Carolina.

Elsewhere across the league

• The Kansas Metropolis Chiefs had been 17-0 up within the first quarter of Sunday Night time Soccer towards the New York Jets and the primary query was whether or not a crew would rating 70 factors for a second week in succession. Then one thing occurred: Zach Wilson – yep, that Zach Wilson – began taking part in out of his pores and skin, and Patrick Mahomes – yep, that Patrick Mahomes – began throwing interceptions underneath strain from the excellent Jets protection. By the third quarter the rating was tied at 20-20. Essential drops by the Jets, a fumble by Wilson and a questionable late penalty that negated what would have been a New York interception helped the Chiefs edge the sport 23-20. But it surely was a formidable battle by the Jets, and notably from Wilson, who had endured the weighty scorn of the New York media for the previous couple of weeks. “He made loads of huge time throws, so I used to be happy with him to go and present out,” mentioned Mahomes of Wilson after the sport. The fumble apart, Wilson was glorious, going 28 of 39 for 245 yards, two touchdowns and nil interceptions. He was so good, in truth, that NBC restricted itself to only the 84 photographs of Taylor Swift whooping it up within the stands. Do we all know if Wilson is single?

Zach Wilson … a good NFL quarterback?

Zach Wilson … a great NFL quarterback? {Photograph}: Adam Starvation/AP

• Khalil Mack maybe isn’t the constant gamechanger he was when he was named the 2016 defensive participant of the 12 months. However that doesn’t imply he by no means modifications video games. He had six sacks within the Los Angeles Chargers’ 24-17 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders – the NFL single recreation file in seven. The Chargers had constructed a 24-7 lead earlier than, in true Chargers vogue, they virtually let the Raiders again in. It was largely right down to Mack – and a late Asante Samuel Jr interception – that they didn’t blow this one as they so usually have previously.

• In a recreation between two winless groups, it seemed just like the Chicago Bears had been about to salvage some dignity by beating up on the presumably much more flea-bitten Denver Broncos. There was excellent news for the Bears within the contest: Justin Fields performed maybe his finest recreation as knowledgeable, throwing for 4 touchdowns and 335 yards and staking his crew a 28-7 lead.

Then, sadly, Chicago’s porous protection grew to become the story of the sport and allowed 24 straight factors. Russell Wilson, who had been higher within the first half than the scoreboard indicated, ended the sport with one fewer landing than Fields but in addition one fewer interception. On this battle between a resistible drive and a extremely moveable object, the Broncos managed to go away with the momentum by successful 31-28 on Wil Lutz’s 51-yard game-winner.

• The Payments’ win over the Dolphins got here at a price. Cornerback Tre’Davious White suffered a suspected torn achilles and the harm comes lower than a 12 months after he got here again from a torn ACL. “He’s been via rather a lot. And generally you marvel, proper? Why issues like that occur twice, you realize, to somebody,” Payments head coach Sean McDermott mentioned after the sport. On a extra optimistic be aware, Damar Hamlin performed in his first regular-season recreation since his cardiac arrest.

• It’s actually been a turnaround from the time when the Jacksonville Jaguars had been the NFL’s comfort prize to the UK, despatched abroad to lose. The Trevor Lawrence period guarantees to be completely different and England’s unofficial Different Soccer crew simply dealt with the Atlanta Falcons 23-7 on Sunday, capitalizing on two Desmond Ridder interceptions.

Ridder is seemingly not making mates amongst his teammates. With the Falcons already down 17-0, receiver Mack Hollins didn’t really feel it was an applicable time to return his quarterback’s high-five. It might haven’t meant something, however in a league the place each little bit of physique language is analyzed, it grew to become the enduring picture of Atlanta’s abroad embarrassment.

• The Philadelphia Eagles headed into Sunday as one of many NFL’s final undefeated groups and for a spell it seemed just like the Washington Commanders had been going to problem that standing. Philadelphia took a late lead however surrendered it within the final second (actually) on a landing throw from Sam Howell to Jahan Dotson. The Eagles received 34-31 in time beyond regulation on Jake Elliott’s discipline aim. Nick Sirianni’s crew have an undefeated file however the Eagles head coach is aware of that they nonetheless have work to do.

• San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was near good in his (unbeaten) crew’s 35-16 victory over the surprisingly spicy Arizona Cardinals, finishing 20 of his 21 passes, throwing for one landing and passing for an additional. He had assist from a four-touchdown efficiency by Christian McCaffrey, who ran for 106 yards and added one other 71 as a receiver. As for the Cardinals, Kyler Murray isn’t coming again any time quickly however Joshua Dobbs has been an in a position stand-in – the NFL’s biggest rocket scientist/QB had two touchdowns on Sunday and, like Purdy, has but to throw an interception this season.

• The Los Angeles Rams had a dramatic time beyond regulation win of their 29-23 defeat of the Indianapolis Colts. Puka Nacua’s offensive rookie of the 12 months marketing campaign continues: he had 163 receiving yards, which he capped off with the game-sealing landing catch in time beyond regulation.

• CJ Stroud already appears to be like like an NFL-caliber quarterback simply 4 video games into his skilled profession. Towards the Pittsburgh Steelers, he threw for 306 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 30-6 residence win because the Texans improved to 2-2. The Steelers in the meantime, dropped to 2-2 and will have misplaced their beginning QB Kenny Pickett to a knee harm.

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