In the NFL, margins separating the good from the bad are razor thin. It’s no wonder that every single year teams over or underachieve in relation to their off-season hype.
Three weeks in there are three teams in particular giving analysts more than a few nuggets to scratch their head with.
Atlanta Falcons – This Team is Legit
The Falcons are tied for first place with the Carolina Panthers in perhaps the weakest division in the NFL – but the real surprise is less their 3-0 record and more the return of Atlanta’s once-feared high-powered offense.
Matt Ryan leads the NFC in passing yards with 946 and is second only to Tom Brady in the entire NFL.
Julio Jones appears to be showing no signs of his past injury problems as he leads the league in receiving yards with 440.
Devonta Freeman is averaging a respectable 61.3 yards per contest but more importantly is tied for the league lead in rushing scores with 4.
Watch out, this team could be a real contender to actually win a playoff game instead of just being happy to be there.
Baltimore Ravens – John Harbaugh Learns How to Lose
The Ravens aren’t as bad as their 0-3 record shows – but playing in the same division as the Bengals and Steelers could spell lights out for a team that is off to its worst start in franchise history.
The loss of Terrell Suggs has truly highlighted how important he was to their identity on defense.
Maybe Terrell Suggs was the most important defensive player in the league? This Ravens defense looks miserable without him.
— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) September 27, 2015
Detroit Lions – Suh What?
Ok, so Ndamukong Suh is hardly making waves in his new uniform – but there’s no doubt that the Lions simply aren’t the same without him.
After three games Detroit has given up 83 points for an average of 27.7 per game. That’s too many.
Tasty Tidbits from Week 3
Both the Seahawks and the Colts got into the win column this week but the victories were not without asterisks.
OK, sure, Seattle absolutely smothered the Bears and shutouts in this league are rare. Very rare. But it’s still worrisome to see just one offensive touchdown scored in a 26-0 rout.
Then again, Tyler Lockett looks as though he could be Devin Hester reincarnate. It’s too early to anoint anyone anything, but with two return touchdowns in his first three weeks, this kid could be the most dangerous return man the NFL has seen in a while.
— NFL (@NFL) September 27, 2015
Andrew Luck threw two more picks and needed a ridiculous 4th-quarter comeback to squeak past the Tennessee Titans.
I fear we may have given Luck the Title of Future G.O.A.T. a wee bit too soon. Yes, more passes means more INTs but no championship caliber quarterback turns the ball over multiple times every single week. Not even Favre in his top gun-slinging days was as loose with the football as Andrew Luck.
Offensive Player of the Week
It’s hard to pass on Aaron Rodgers, who laid 5 touchdown passes down on the reeling Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau, but we’re going to give the honors to AJ Green for getting it done on the road.
Green hauled in 10 passes for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Andy Dalton has looked great this season but you’ve got to wonder how much of his aura revolves around tossing the rock to Mr. Green. Seriously, AJ’s an animal.
Defensive Player of the Week
Preston Brown of the Buffalo Bills picked off a pair of Ryan Tannehill passes on Sunday, helping Bills fans recover from the previous week’s “almost but not quite” failed comeback attempt against the Patriots.
He added an impressive 7 tackles to beef up an already impressive stat line.
Preston Brown modest on his pick-6: “It just fell into my hands and I had to do something with it.” pic.twitter.com/X22EoHgx7h
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) September 27, 2015
Team on the Rise
How about those Oakland Raiders?
After coming out of the gates with a turd in week one the Silver & Black have rattled off two straight victories.
Their 77 total points is good for 10th in the league, and guess what? The Raiders are actually favored on the road this weekend when they visit the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
The Bears, however, hope that history is on their side:
Last time #Bears started 0-3 in 2003, they beat Raiders in Week 4 at Soldier Field on Paul Edinger’s 48-yard FG as time expired.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 30, 2015
Team on the Decline
The Miami Dolphins were supposed to compete for the AFC East title with Ryan Tannehill putting up his best numbers to date.
So far the Fins have scored just 51 total points. Good for fifth to last in the NFL.
And to double down on clubs biting the dust in the early going here, the 49ers are finally starting to fall apart as I predicted them to. Their once vaunted defense has given up more points (93) than every team not named the Bears, and Colin Kaepernick is coming off the worst game of his career.
At one point the SF quarterback was 5 for 10 for 33 yards and 4 interceptions. The first two picks went back the other way for 2 Arizona touchdowns.
He just so happened to throw two pick 6s faster than any player since 1925. Well, that’s as far back as they kept track.
I would make a joke about Colin Kaepernick, but he already is one.
— Tom Brady’s Ego (@TomBradysEgo) September 27, 2015
Just in Case You Missed It
–The Arizona Cardinals are now 16-2 in Carson Palmer’s last 18 starts.
–Tom Brady is on pace to throw for 5,931 yards.
–Tyrod Taylor has 7 TD passes and a 70% completion rating. No Bills QB since Jim Kelly has achieved this through the first three games of the season.
–The Minnesota Vikings have brushed off their opening day loss. The Vikes have won 2 straight games without huge performances by Adrian Peterson.
Games to Look Forward to in Week 4
Jaguars @ Colts –Every team in the AFC South is 1-2. Pull off the upset and Jacksonville could be both .500 and in first place quarter of the way into the campaign. This possibility alone is worth the price of entrance.
Panthers @ Buccaneers –Cam Newton vs. Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay. Carolina is undefeated but not as good as their record shows. If the Bucs’ young quarterback can get it going against a tough Panthers defense this game could get interesting.
Chiefs @ Bengals –Kansas City needs this game. Cincinnati is one of the hottest teams in the league. Could get interesting.
Vikings @ Broncos –Peyton Manning looked like himself out there last week, tossing 300+ yards with multiple long bomb touchdowns. And Denver’s defense has wreaked havoc on opponents all season long. Looks like a great test to see if Teddy Bridgewater and the boys are ready for the big time.