You’ll see that starting with this week’s Airing it Out we’re making some slight adjustments to the layout of this column and to our NFL coverage in general.
But don’t worry, if you can’t tell the difference you’re not going to get in trouble like when you failed to notice your girlfriend’s new hair color.
Just know that the new format is better and now with twice the gluten and three times the MSG.
You win some, you lose some
Week three in the NFL saw four teams fall from the ranks of the undefeated and three teams get their first win (KC, NYG, IND).
The Bills and Texans both fell back to Earth after improbable two-and-oh starts, while the Panthers’ vaunted defense was lit up at home by the Steelers for 454 total yards with an impressive 264 coming on the ground. Pittsburgh thrashed Carolina 37-19, reminding us that even the best teams are prone to having an off night.
Denver nearly pulled out a miracle comeback at Seattle, but the Seahawks held on 26-20 in overtime to deny the Broncos their Super Bowl revenge.
So that leaves just three teams with a goose egg in the loss column: the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals.
The Eagles won a barn-burner 37-34 over the Kirk Cousins-led Redskins, while the Bengals rolled 33-7 over the Titans and the Cards proved that they belong in the NFC West title conversation after dropping the 49ers 23-14.
So the question on everyone’s mind is, “How far can each of these teams go without experiencing the agony of defeat?”
Both Arizona and Cincinnati will spend week four resting at home for their BYE while Philly travels to San Francisco to face a Niners team that will be hungry for a win after suffering two straight losses.
While I’d personally love to see the red-and-gold drop to 1-3 on the season, I think that the buck stops here for the Eagles. Philadelphia has been down by 10 in each of their three wins and while Kaepernick and the Niners imploded at home against the Bears, in general this isn’t a team that you can front a big lead to and get away with it.
The Cardinals will be the next to fall with a trip to Mile High in week five. But should Arizona beat Manning and the Broncos in Denver to improve to 4-0, the rest of the league will officially be put on notice.
The Bengals have a tough but winnable match-up against the Pats in Foxboro, followed by a home game versus the Panthers and a visit to Indy to take on Andrew Luck and the Colts.
We’re all a bit surprised at how dominant the Bengals have been in 2014, but I don’t see them knocking off three playoff teams in a row, no matter how many times Sanu hits Andy Dalton for a touchdown.
Not only did Dalton make a great grab, he broke a tackle and dove to the pylon for the score. Pure awesomeness!
Bottom line? I don’t see any of these teams rolling into mid-November undefeated like the Chiefs did in 2013.
Team on the rise
Since 2008, the San Francisco 49ers have only lost to the Arizona Cardinals once … err, make that twice.
Ignore Anquan Boldin’s “that crap cost us another game” nonsense. He’s been in the league far too long to whinge about the refs. The Cards topped the Niners fair and square, and have now won two games straight with their back-up quarterback Drew Stanton at the helm.
Sure, Carson Palmer’s no Tom Brady, but when you’re undefeated and still missing your starting QB it’s pretty hard to resist being all smiles.
During last year’s late season run and all throughout the off-season, the Cardinals players and staff let it be known that they weren’t afraid of the Seahawks and the Niners. Now that they’re backing those words up with actions, it’s time to give the Cards some much-deserved respect.
Team on the decline
There’s one word that can describe both Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy three weeks into the 2014 NFL season: disappointing.
Green Bay is 1-2 and looking less and less like a Super Bowl contender with each passing week.
They were blown out in Seattle, squeaked past the mediocre Jets at home, and put up a measly seven points in Sunday’s loss at Detroit.
There’s still plenty of time to turn things around, but Rodgers sure is making a lot of people look foolish for anointing him as the unequivocal best quarterback in the NFL.
Commentary Box Sports Top 10 Power Rankings
Part of our new format will be to feature weekly Power Rankings.
For those of you unfamiliar with Power Rankings, this is how it works:
1. Power Rankings do consider a team’s overall performance over the course of the season but are generally meant to reflect how the teams are playing right now. So don’t get your panties in a bunch if your team loses a couple games and drops out of the top 10.
2. As the season wears on it’s clearly going to be the case that teams will be ranked higher than clubs that beat them. Shit happens. Good teams lose to crappy ones. Life isn’t fair. Choose one of these three motivational lines to get over it.
3. Positions are assigned by me. Meaning that the rankings are merely my opinion. If you disagree with my opinion, don’t have an aneurism … instead, share this article on social media and tell all your mates how much of an idiot I am.
Without further ado, here we go.
Rank 1 – Bengals
A lot of folk rolled their eyes when the Bengals re-signed Andy Dalton to be “the guy” in Cincy. He’s only led the team to three straight playoff appearances after nearly two decades of mediocrity at best.
The Bengals’ D is allowing just 11 points per contest and they’re rushing for 121.7 yards per game.
The Steelers are supposed to regain the grip on the AFC North, but it looks like nobody informed the Bengals.
Rank 2 – Cardinals
It’s hard to argue with the first-place team in the best division in football. While I fully expect to see Seattle eventually take the NFC West, for now the Cards are undefeated and are enjoying their view from the top.
I’ve got Arizona above the Eagles here simply because the Philly defense has given up an average of 26 points per game, good for sixth-worst in the league.
Guess who is second-best? The Cardinals. They’ve only given up 45 points all season.
Rank 3 – Eagles
It’s kind of an unspoken rule that any team that’s undefeated deserves a higher ranking than teams with a loss. I’m going to roll with this for now, but I don’t like the fact that Philly has needed to come back from a double-digit defeat every single week. Over the long haul you can’t always expect to rally in a shootout.
Rank 4 – Seahawks
Seattle edged out Denver in the week’s best game and match-up of the two top clubs in the league, but it will take a few weeks to fully overcome the loss to the Chargers.
Rank 5 – Broncos
In last Sunday’s 4th quarter, Peyton Manning showed that he is both fallible and infallible. Throwing an INT with the game on the line and then pulling a six-play, game-tying drive out of his arse when the game was REALLY on the line.
Denver’s offense has proven to be stoppable when faced with a top-tier defense, but this machine will roll all season long over any team with a mediocre secondary.
Rank 6 – Chargers
Since losing a heartbreaker in the opener to Arizona, the Bolts have defeated the Super Bowl champions and won a game on the road against the 2-0 Buffalo Bills.
If Philip Rivers stays hot, don’t be surprised if San Diego stays in the Top 10 for the indefinite future.
Rank 7 – Patriots
New England has looked less than dominant in 2014, but they’ve won two straight and still feature the second best quarterback in the AFC, even if Brady’s numbers don’t light up the Christmas tree like they used to.
Rank 8 – Panthers
This week’s loss was ugly. No doubt about it. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here.
Carolina’s got a nasty defense. One that’s good enough to ride back to the playoffs. We’ll give them a mulligan and see if Luke Kuechly and company can get back on track next Sunday at Baltimore.
Rank 9 – Falcons
If you slipped on a wet bathroom floor, cracked your skull on the toilet and somehow forgot about 2013, you’d be wondering why Atlanta’s ranked all the way down here at No.9 when they lead the NFL in Total Offense, Passing Yards and Scoring.
They looked ugly enough in week two to stay skeptical. Weeks four and five feature two games on the road, at Minnesota and at New York Giants. When the Dirty Birds get it done outside of the Georgia Dome we’ll talk.
Rank 10 – Bears
There are about a half dozen teams that could occupy this slot. The Bills, Ravens and Steelers are all 2-1, and realistically the Saints are going to wind up in the Top 10 just as soon as they get above .500, but for now I’m rolling with Chicago.
The Bears are two plays away from being 0-3, but the thing is … they’re not.
Great teams find a way to win the close games and while it’s too early to call the Bears great, things are looking up.
Follow Commentary Box Sports on Social Media!