Week 3 in the NFL provided plenty more fodder for an early-season discovery process to help separate the best teams in the league from the worst.
A whopping seven teams improved to 3-0 on Sunday, and five fell to 0-3 before Monday night. The only tie so far this season makes for one more undefeated team and one more winless team in those groups.
The really good and really bad teams are easier to order in Sporting News’ NFL power rankings. As for the mess of 2-1 and 1-2 clubs, the results so far this season have created a muddled middle of surprises and disappointments.
Here’s sorting all that out to see how all the teams stack up against each other going into Week 4.
— Mahomes set up for more records
— Cowboys send rest of NFL message
— Browns must learn from mistakes
The Patriots didn’t have the cleanest dominance against the Jets, but considering they were recovering from the Antonio Brown whirlwind, they still proved many times over that they are complete without him offensively no matter who’s out there. Their defense is the real story, having yet to give up a touchdown.
Patrick Mahomes is everythingfor this team. He is headed toward running away with MVP again with even bigger numbers. He is in complete command, and he isputting his team in position to win every week, taking the pressure offany other potential problem areas, namely the defense.
They didn’t have their best offensive stuff early against the Dolphins with Dak Prescott looking human again. Their defense also did more bending than expected. Now is a good time for a real test, and it comes against the Saints in New Orleans.
The Rams are so well coached by Sean McVay that they have adjusted again with Todd Gurley yet to smash and Jared Goff in a bit of a post-contract funk. Scheme and play design are allowing them to generate enough offense. In the meantime, Aaron Donald has gotten major help from Clay Matthews to turn the defense into a higher-energy, more disruptive force.
Aaron Rodgers isn’t lighting things up, but he hasn’t needed to do sowith the Packers’ re-dedication to using the running game the right way and the defense makingmore big plays. After facing three tricky defensesearly, watch out for Rodgersto be the usual big factor as thestakes get raised against other playoff-caliber teams.
The 49ers also were sloppy offensively, making what should have been a blowout victory over the Steelers into a win they needed to save in the last minute. Overall, Kyle Shanahan is on fire with his play-calling, and big plays continue to come from Robert Saleh’s revamped defense.
The Vikings will be fine in any game when they can go crazy running with Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison while their defense shuts down its opponent before garbage time. At some point, however, their playoff worthiness needs to be determined by Kirk Cousins.
The Ravens reminded us that their personnel losses make for a unit that isn’t as good as their usual defense, especially when facing a team like the Chiefs. Also, Lamar Jackson won’t find things easy every week. They’re still the best, most complete team in what has become a weak AFC North.
Without Drew Brees, Sean Payton had a chance to show off his coaching chops. Between situating his team on the West Coast, motivating his players so well and getting them to manufacture enough points despite more defensive issues, his work against the Seahawks was impressive. Now he has to do it again at home against the red-hot Cowboys.
The Bills are 3-0 for the first time since 2011. But they finished 3-10 that season and landed last in the AFC East. This year, they get their big shot at first place next week at home against the Patriots.
File Frank Reich under excellent coaching early in the season. Jacoby Brissett has settled into the offensive system to make it work without Andrew Luck. The defense played over its head without its best player, Darius Leonard, against the Falcons. Adam Vinatieri got back on track, too. They remain strong AFC South favorites.
The Seahawks will be haunted by that loss to the Saints — at home, making a handful of critical mistakes. This is not the Seahawks’ defense of old, and their game plan of power running doesn’t do much when they give up big leads. They’re back to being highly dependent on Russell Wilson.
Deshaun Watson had a great gut check game against the Chargers. J.J. Watt and the defense also came alive at the right time to make their mark despite some major weaknesses in the back seven.
The Lions are the quietest and weirdest of the undefeated teams. They would be 3-0 if not for their confusing meltdown against the Cardinals, but they showed us real mettle with Matt Patricia in taking down the Chargers and Eagles back-to-back. The Packers might need to sweat this team in the division.
Given the hot start of their division foes, the Bears need a statement road win over the Redskins. They easily could be 0-2, and that grinding, low-scoring style won’t cut it in a division loaded with quarterbacks.
Carson Wentz is doing his best while shorthanded in the passing game, and the Eagles still can’t run the ball in important spots. But Jim Schwartz’s defense has more holes up front than expected, allowing a shaky secondary to be exposed. And now it gets to see Rodgers.
Here we go again with early-season frustration for Philip Rivers and Anthony Lynn. They had every chance to beat the Lions and Texans, and they blew it with mistakes. They were fortunate to win the Colts game in overtime, as well. They can forget about matching the Chiefs this season.
The Falcons are struggling defensively, and way too much is on Matt Ryan to bail them out — much like last season. It won’t get any better with Keanu Neal going down with another injury.
They put in a worthy defensive effort despite missing all of their starting secondary against the Rams, but again, Baker Mayfield and the offense were the major letdown. The offensive line is shaky, sure, but Mayfield seems skittish and too OBJ-reliant.
How about Kyle Allen? He was better equipped with his health to operate Norv Turner’s passing offense to a tee in Arizona, which in turn got Christian McCaffrey going again. The question now: Has he given the Panthers more reason to keep Cam Newton on the shelf?
Garnder Minshew has brought the offense to life, and as we saw late against the Titans, it will start to facilitate Leonard Fournette as a rushing force. Of course, when the defense is playing like “Sacksonville” again, both of their jobs are much easier.
The Titans’ great vibes from their Week 1 beatdown of the Browns has faded fast. They might need to make a tough decision on Marcus Mariota sooner than expected.
How about Daniel Jones? He showed what youthful exuberance and athleticism can bring to an offense, and he did much of his impressive comeback work without Saquon Barkley. Although that injury loss and a horrible defense will keep Jones from winning much more as a rookie, he immediately justified the high draft pick.
The Buccaneers need to embrace their status as a full-fledged passing offense and not force anemic running. Bruce Arians should be trusting Winston more, not less. Putting the QB in a shell after a sizzling first half and waiting to long to bring him back out late against the Giants was a mistake.
Mason Rudolph made a few plays thanks to his wide receivers, but he seemed overwhelmed for most of his first start. Minkah Fitzpatrick did help the defense, and although he can play every position, he can’t be everywhere at once.
Derek Carr has survived and produced OK without Antonio Brown, but he is not going to win much when the running game and run defense are non-existent.
Kyler Murray remains exciting to watch, but as expected, the Cardinals are on a roller-coaster offensively with Kilff Kingsbury. The real problem for Arizona, still without Patrick Peterson, has been its defense behind the pass rush.
The Broncos want to be all about the running game and defense. But they won’t win with Joe Flacco leading such an inconsistent passing game.
The Bengals have gone pass-happy with Andy Dalton, but they made a good pivot back to featuring Joe Mixon more in their big (but failed) comeback in Buffalo. Again, the defense is the bigger problem.
Will Case Keenum be the next quarterback to be replaced by a young potential stud? The Bears’ defense can expedite that move.
The Jets are hanging in there with motivated defense and special teams, but Le’Veon Bell is on a lonely island in that offense.
Hey, they got into the red zone and scored a couple times against the Cowboys, and they made a couple plays on defense. Then there was the rest of the game.
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