Injuries are always a story in the NFL, but this week the names are big. Houston end J.J. Watt appears done for the season with a disk injury in his back; Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has a sprained MCL in his knee and may not play this week; Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee and is questionable; Washington safety DeAngelo Hall tore the ACL in his knee and is done for the season; Chicago running back Jeremy Langford will miss four to six weeks with an ankle injury; New York Giants running back Shane Vereen tore his triceps and is on injured reserve; San Diego linebacker Manti Te’o tore his Achilles’ tendon and is done for the season. No one should get too alarmed about this being an injury epidemic. It happens every year. Good players get hurt and it can affect the playoff landscape. The best teams find a way to get through it. Just ask the New England Patriots.
It’s time to go across the pond for No. 15 in the London series and this year fans can wake up at 8:30 a.m. to see the mighty Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) play the indefatigable Indianapolis Colts (1-2). Hold you yawns. The problem with this series is one of the team has to be pretty bad and have a modest following because no one else is willing to give up a home game to play in London. Jacksonville will be playing for the fourth time in eight years. Detroit, Buffalo, Miami, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Oakland have all been participants. This year, there will be three games in London. The Jaguars and Colts will play at Wembley Stadium, on Oct. 23 the Los Angeles Rams will host the Giants in the first game at Twickenham Stadium, and on Oct. 30 Cincinnati will host Washington at Wembley. The other international game will be played between the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans in Mexico City on Nov. 21. As it’s been reported before, the Packers won’t be playing in London or Mexico anytime soon. They would never give up a home game and other teams won’t give up a home game against them because their fans travel so well and fill all the open seats.
After putting a bruising on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, the Vikings defense next has the Giants’ Eli Manning on its radar. What it did to the Panthers solidifies it as one of the top defenses in the NFL. Not even the Denver Broncos shut Carolina down the way Minnesota did in Carolina. The Giants won’t be a pushover because of their great receiving corps and the fact that head coach Ben McAdoo is well-schooled in playing the Vikings in a dome setting, having coached with the Packers. The Lions, who were blown out in the first half against Green Bay last week, at least can hang their hats on a good second half. They are heading into Chicago where the Bears have a quarterback problem, whether Jay Cutler is healthy or not. The Lions have won the last six meetings between the two teams and quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown seven touchdown passes in the last two meetings.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Player to watch: Steelers WR Antonio Brown has 24 100-yard receiving games since 2013, more than any player in the NFL
Recent history: The Steelers have won three of the last four, but lost in Kansas City, 23-13, last season.
Key statistic: The 28-point margin in Pittsburgh’s 31-3 loss to Philadelphia was the largest in coach Mike Tomlin’s tenure.
Bottom line: The Steelers defense has a problem. It has given up 300 yards passing in all three games this season and has given up 100-all-purpose-yard performances each of the last two weeks. The offense didn’t help out in the loss to the Eagles, but it’s unlikely the Steelers won’t bounce back, especially with the return of running back Le'Veon Bell from suspension. The Chiefs have been feasting on turnovers – led by cornerback Marcus Peters’ four interceptions -- and come into the game with a plus-5 turnover margin. They may have to mix things up a little on offense given the Steelers just played the Eagles, led by Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s student, Doug Pederson. The Steelers didn’t handle the Eagles offense very well and will be facing an even better practitioner in quarterback Alex Smith.
BY THE NUMBERS
3 Consecutive years the team will be playing on Sunday night the week after the bye when it takes on the New York Giants Oct. 9.
24 Punters with at least nine attempts who have a better gross average than Jake Schum’s 41.8 this season.
1 Teams who have committed fewer penalties than the team’s season total of 12.
128 Rushing yards allowed this season, the fewest one of its defenses has given up since the NFL started compiling individual stats in 1933, according to the team. The previous low of 151 yards occurred in 1996.
387 Combined yards of the top two receiving performances this season, both accomplished against the team’s defense (Marvin Jones, 205; Stefon Diggs, 182)
11.5 Combined sacks the top three players in the NFC – all from the North -- have through the first three weeks (Vikings’ Everson Griffin, 4; Lions’ Kerry Hyder, 4; Packers’ Nick Perry, 3.5).
8 Sacks the Vikings had against the Panthers in Week 3, the third most on the road in franchise history.
1 Takeaways the Lions have this season, tied with Seattle and the New York Giants for fewest in the NFL.
2.1 Yards per carry the Vikings are averaging this season.
120.2 Passer rating of the Lions’ opponents this season.
9 Teams whose average drive start is beyond the 25-yard-line, the spot where the ball is placed this season after a touchback.
36:47 Average time of possession the Philadelphia Eagles have posted through three games, the best of any team.
93.7 Percentage of kickers who have been successful converting extra points this season (208 of 222).
75.6 Percent of teams who started the season 3-0 who qualified for the playoffs since 1990.
11 Holding penalties that have been accepted against the Oakland Raiders, most in the NFL.