To help celebrate the NFL’s 100th season, each week will feature an NFL 100 Game of the Week. Each game is a nod to a momentous game played, a fierce rivalry that spans decades, a matchup of original teams and/or a game in which history was made . The NFL has designated the Chargers-Dolphins contest as the NFL100 GAME OF THE WEEK because it honors one of the most thrilling games ever played, the Epic in Miami. On Jan. 2, 1982, at the Orange Bowl, Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN FOUTS led his Chargers to an incredible 41-38 overtime win over the Dolphins. In a thrilling AFC Divisional playoff that Sports Illustrated called, “The Game No One Should Have Lost,” the Dolphins overcame a 24-0 first-quarter deficit. Pro Football Hall of Fame coach DON SHULA inserted backup quarterback DON STROCK to spark the Dolphins, who capitalized on four Miami takeaways to capture their first lead in the fourth quarter. But the Chargers cashed in their own takeaways, including a PETE SHAW fumble recovery that halted a potential game-icing Dolphins drive with less than 5 minutes left. On the Dolphins’ doorstep with under a minute on the clock and submerged by Miami’s pass rush, Fouts threw a blind, 9-yard pass in the direction of his intended receiver, Pro Football Hall of Famer KELLEN WINSLOW. The overthrown pass, however, sailed into the arms of Charger JAMES BROOKS for a game-knotting touchdown. In a 38-38 game, Strock then quickly maneuvered the Dolphins into field-goal position, where the 6-foot-5 Winslow deflected UWE VON SCHAMANN’s kick to force overtime. In the extra frame, each team orchestrated long drives, only to see their kickers miss field goals, including another Chargers block, this time by LEROY JONES. Finally, Fouts engineered a 74-yard drive to set up ROLF BERNIRSCHKE’s game-ending 29-yard field goal and – 13 minutes, 52 seconds, into OT – San Diego advanced, 41-38. Fouts and Strock combined for 856 yards passing. Five players topped 100 yards receiving. Following the season, Miami advanced to two of the next three Super Bowls.
The NFL rolls into Week 4 with two significant early trends that separate this year from any of the previous 99 seasons: Quarterbacks are getting younger, and the league-wide passer rating, the highest it’s ever been through three weeks, is on an upward slope. This week, the NFL concludes a September that has seen both the highest collective passer rating ever through three weeks, and the most starting quarterbacks (20 in Week 3) age 26 or younger in league history. Meanwhile, each week continues to produce close games and stirring second-half comebacks, and rookies continue to progress into household-name territory.
CLOSE GAMES INCREASINGLY COMMON: Through the first three weeks, 23 of 48 games (47.9 percent) have been decided by six points or less. Only one other time in league history (24 in 2013) has the final margin been six points or fewer in more games over three weeks of NFL play. Plus, 26 of 48 games (54.2 percent) have been decided by seven points or less, tied for third in league history after three weeks.
The most games decided by six-or-fewer points, and seven-or-fewer points, through three weeks in NFL history:
|Games decided by six points or fewer||Games decided by seven points or fewer|
REBOUNDS ALSO ON THE RISE: Four teams that missed the postseason in 2018 – the BUFFALO BILLS (3-0), DETROIT LIONS (2-0-1), GREEN BAY PACKERS (3-0) and SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (3-0) – are undefeated through the first three weeks. Since the current playoff format began in 1990, this year marks just the fourth time that at least four teams have started the season undefeated through their first three games after missing the postseason the previous year. It also happened in 2002, 2003 and 2013.
If Buffalo, Detroit and Green Bay win this week, the league will have four undefeated teams through the first four weeks, among those that didn’t qualify for the postseason the prior year (including 3-0 San Francisco, on its bye in Week 4). It’s happened once previously, when Carolina, Denver, Kansas City and Minnesota opened 4-0 in 2003, after missing the playoffs in 2002. The Panthers advanced to Super Bowl XXXVIII that season.
HIGHEST PASSER RATING EVER THROUGH THREE WEEKS: NFL passers have compiled a 94.3 rating through three weeks, while the average age among starting quarterbacks has decreased each week.
The highest aggregate passer ratings through a season’s first three weeks in NFL history:
ROOKIES PREVALENT ON NFL LANDSCAPE: Through three weeks, 11 of 32 NFL teams have rookies leading or tied for their team lead in passer rating, rushing yards, receiving yards, tackles or interceptions. That includes Pittsburgh, whose rookie linebacker DEVIN BUSH not only leads the Steelers with 29 tackles; he also leads the league with three fumble recoveries.
Last week in his first NFL start, New York Giants rookie quarterback DANIEL JONES passed for 336 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 112.7 passer rating. He also added two rushing touchdowns, including the game-winning 7-yard score with 1:16 remaining, in his team’s 32-31 win at Tampa Bay. Since at least the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, Jones is the first rookie with at least 300 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the same game.
A look at rookies who lead their teams or are tied for their team lead through three weeks:
|PASSER RATING*||TEAM||RATING||RUSHING YARDS||TEAM||YARDS|
|Gardner Minshew||JAX||110.6||Josh Jacobs||OAK||228|
|Daniel Jones||NYG||109.7||David Montgomery||CHI||147|
|Kyler Murray||ARI||79.0||Miles Sanders||PHI||106|
|*min. 40 attempts|
|Marquise Brown||BAL||282||Ryan Connelly||NYG||1|
|Terry McLaurin||WAS||257||Darnell Savage||GB||1|
ROOKIES GETTING TO QUARTERBACK: For the first time since 1982, when individual sacks became an official statistic, five rookies have at least 1.5 sacks entering Week 4. The CAROLINA PANTHERS have two of those five: BRIAN BURNS and CHRISTIAN MILLER each have 2 sacks. Jacksonville defensive end/linebacker JOSH ALLEN (2), New England defensive lineman CHASE WINOVICH (2) and New York Giants defensive end/linebacker OSHANE XIMINES (1.5) round out the group.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK: Two games on Sunday feature a battle of undefeated foes, both in the early afternoon window. New Era Field in Buffalo hosts a clash of the 3-0 teams atop the AFC East (1:00 PM ET, CBS). The NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, whose point-differential (89) is 36 points higher than No. 2 Dallas (53), play the BUFFALO BILLS, off to their best start since they began 3-0 in 2011. Buffalo seeks its first 4-0 start since 2008.
No NFL division has seen multiple teams start 3-0 since 2015, in the NFC South (Atlanta and Carolina). This season, both the AFC East and the NFC West (Rams and 49ers) have a pair of 3-0 teams.
At Ford Field in Detroit (1:00 PM ET, FOX), the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (3-0) meet the DETROIT LIONS (2-0-1), who with a win would be undefeated through four games for the first time since opening 5-0 in 2011.
CONSISTENT CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS: Both the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS and LOS ANGELES RAMS have authored a 3-0 encore after meeting in Super Bowl LIII. The defending Super Bowl teams haven’t started that well in 21 years, when both the DENVER BRONCOS and GREEN BAY PACKERS were 3-0 to start the 1998 season after clashing in Super Bowl XXXII. The last time both Super Bowl teams were 4-0? It was also the Broncos and Packers in 1998.
STRONG STARTS: On Sunday Night Football, the DALLAS COWBOYS make a trip to their neighboring state to meet the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (8:20 PM ET, NBC). The Cowboys with a win would be off to their best start in 12 years, since opening 5-0 in 2007. With a win last Sunday over the Steelers, San Francisco is off to its best start in 21 years. The 49ers are on a bye this week but can advance to their first 4-0 start in nearly three decades with a win at home over Cleveland on Monday, October 7. Seven teams are 3-0 entering Week 4.
The LOS ANGELES RAMS and KANSAS CITY CHIEFS have each started 3-0 for a second consecutive season. The last time the same two NFL teams opened 3-0 in back-to-back years was 2015-16 (Denver and New England). The last time the same two teams opened 4-0 in consecutive seasons was 1968-69, when the Rams and DALLAS COWBOYS accomplished the feat.
The last time each of the other 3-0 teams improved to 4-0:
|TEAM||LAST 4-0 START||SEASON RESULT|
|San Francisco||1990||NFC Championship|
|Green Bay||2015||NFC Divisional|
|New England||2015||AFC Championship|
CONTAGIOUS COMEBACKS: In 12 of 48 games (25 percent), a team has come back to tie or win after trailing in the fourth quarter.
NFL SCHEDULE, SEPTEMBER 26, 29-30
(All times Eastern)
|Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers||8:20 PM||FOX/NFLN
|Washington Redskins at New York Giants||1:00 PM||FOX|
|Sunday||Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals||4:05 PM||FOX|
|Tennessee Titans at Atlanta Falcons||1:00 PM||CBS||Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams||4:05 PM||FOX|
|Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens||1:00 PM||CBS||Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears||4:25 PM||CBS|
|New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills||1:00 PM||CBS||Jacksonville Jaguars at Denver Broncos||4:25 PM||CBS|
|Kansas City Chiefs at Detroit Lions||1:00 PM||FOX||Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints||8:20 PM||NBC|
|Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans||1:00 PM||FOX||Monday|
|Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts||1:00 PM||CBS||Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers||8:15 PM||ESPN|
|Los Angeles Chargers at Miami Dolphins||1:00 PM||CBS||Byes: New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers|