Ranking to 0-3 Teams
4.) Chicago Bears = 0-3 (45-83)
Well, that was a nightmare. This whole season is a nightmare. If anything good comes out of this year, the Bears can see that they are working off various timelines and windows right now, and the one that absolutely needs to get closed is the Cutler one. Eight years is enough, and this team needs to fully rebuild, and getting rid of the QB who never quite worked out is the first step.
3.) Cleveland Browns = 0-3 (54-84)
Great to see some fight, and better than that to see some inventiveness. The Browns are run by a lot of smart people with varied backgrounds, and of course took a lot of flak for it. But if the ideas born out of this strange factory are things like alternating QBs and making Terrelle Pryor into a triple-threat, and being very aggressive on 4th down. These are really interesting avenues that the Browns are looking into, and I'm interested to see years from now if it goes well if they will still be so inventive.
2.) Jacksonville Jaguars = 0-3 (54-84)
Gus Bradley just has to go, right? His defense plays one good game out of three. The offense is laughably mediocre. It is easy to say that Blake Bortles is a bust, and maybe he is, but forget the offense. This comes down to Gus Bradley and that teams inability to build a defense that is worth a damn despite investing pick after pick and high-dollar free agents. It may be a good result if he doesn't come back on that trip back from London.
1.) New Orleans Saints = 0-3 (79-96)
The Saints are pretty clearly the best 0-3 team in the NFL, but the fact that they are 0-3 is still just jarring. Their inability to win at home is just jarring. Even when their defense was bad in years past they could be a safe pick to win at home. I don't even think it is that their defense is so bad (and it is), but their offense doesn't have the same dynamism that it used to. In years past I often criticized the Saints about their inability to get as much YAC from their short throws in road games, but that has now started to stretch into their home games as well.
Ranking the 1-2 Teams
13.) Miami Dolphins = 1-2 (64-67)
The Dolphins may have rid themselves of one coach who earned his stripes coordinating an offense run by an All-Time Great QB, but maybe they just went and replaced him (Joe Philbin) with another (Adam Gase). The Dolphins may seem to have a strategy, but if the end result is needing three missed field goals by Cody Parkey to beat the Browns, it is not a working strategy.
12.) San Francisco 49ers = 1-2 (73-83)
Their Week 1 28-0 win is looking more and more like a facsimile of their big Week 1 win last year on MNF. The 49ers offense is so useless right now. Maybe it is Blaine Gabbert, but to me it is more and more Chip Kelly. Good defenses, like Seattle's certainly, just dominate that offense. The Panthers did as well aside from one blown coverage. The 49ers offense is just a disaster right now, and I can't believe Kaepernick can be any worse than this.
11.) Tennessee Titans = 1-2 (42-57)
I honestly think that if they just lost all of the stupid power running and options and pitchback and full-back nonsense that Mike Mularkey likes to no end, that this could actually be a decent team. The Titans have a QB who is good when not made to work within a ridiculous offense better suited for 1976. The defense has a lot of good players and are coached well. Too bad they are wasting this with just awful coaching and tactics.
10.) San Diego Chargers = 1-2 (87-73)
I feel so bad that the Chargers have had to live with this injury nonsense again and again. To lose Keenan Allen one week, Danny Woodhead and now Manti T'eo. Philip Rivers had to deal with this in 2010, when he had maybe his best personal season. He dealt with it last year, and now again. I really wish the Chargers and Titans worked out their trade a few years back to send him to Tennessee when Whisenhunt was there.
9.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers = 1-2 (70-101)
The defense the Buccaneers have shown the past two weeks, against two teams that have been fairly mediocre on offense in their other two games, is what I feared when they fired Lovie Smith. The offense has been fine, with two good performacnes and one disaster, but up-and-down is to be expected with an erratic second year QB and a bad OL, but the defense has been very, very poor. Even the Falcons moved the ball at will, and if not for their inability to score in the red zone, the Buccaneers would probably be 0-3.
8.) Detroit Lions = 1-2 (81-85)
In every way, that was such a classic Lions vs. Packers performance from the 2009-2014 period in Lambeau, where the Lions would play like they were drunk for a half, but make a few big plays, and then make a spirited but ultimately seriously fruitless comeback attempt. I'll give them credit for at least stopping the Packers in the second half, but you could as rightly say that Mike McCarthy stopped the Packers.
7.) Washington Redskins = 1-2 (68-92)
That was a really impressive win. Their defense was still on the whole unable to stop the Giants, but really played well in the red zone. Kirk Cousins finally looked good, but more than that his receivers looked good. The Redskins took advantage of some 2012-2015 Giants mindlessness, but we have to give them credit for being in position to do so.
6.) Indianapolis Colts = 1-2 (81-95)
The Colts have an easy schedule, and as we've seen by the Texans last performance, a still-easy division, and they may have saved their season with the long Luck to Hilton TD. TY Hilton remains a really, really good player, and even Phillip Dorsett has started to show signs. What the Colts need the most right now, especially with their defensive issues with pass rush, is for Andrew Luck to play like a Top-5 QB. He can do it in spurts, but he needs to do it for weeks.
5.) Buffalo Bills = 1-2 (71-68)
I honestly should have seen that coming. The Rex Ryan way is to every now and then inspire his team to play balls-out, especially on defense, for specific matchups. I potentially could say him doing the same thing this upcoming in New England as well. The Bills definitely have a chance to go on a run, and all the right elements are there, but it will come down to whether Rex can inspire them more than once a month.
4.) New York Jets = 1-2 (62-78)
That was probably the worst game Ryan Fitzpatrick will play this year. In fact, it would be close to historically unprecedented for him to have a game that bad again. Which should, in a way, be a good thing when the score of that game removing defensive TDs was 10-3. The Jets defense is still great, but it was surprising to see that offensive performance. I am really interested to see them go up against the Seahawks this upcoming week. That D-line is just amazing, and will keep them in most games. They just need to ensure Fitzpatrick keeps them in games.
3.) Arizona Cardinals = 1-2 (79-63)
The Cardinals are in an interesting place. They really should have won that New England game, but they didn't, and know despite all the talent in the team, they've had to face big deficits twice. The Cardinals still have oodles of talent, and won't play a desperate 0-2 team with the motivator of Rex Ryan, but there needs to be an analysis of how to play against teams now that they know the Cardinals pet plays, like the deep ball.
2.) Cincinnati Bengals = 1-2 (56-75)
That was a surprising loss, and while Andy Dalton becomes just another QB that the Broncos can hang up on the wall like a pelt, it was an alarming performance. The defense was really good for most of that game, and sometimes guys like Demaryius Thomas and Emannual Sanders just go off. Hopefully Tyler Eifert will return soon and add some juice to an offense that is sputtering at the moment.
1.) Carolina Panthers = 1-2 (76-70)
That loss reminded me a lot of their 2013 Divisional Round loss to the 49ers, where they dominated the game early (the Panthers really did cruise to that 10-0 lead) but ultimately just could not get anything going late. I would chalk that up to just a bad performance, and it was never natural to expect them to be as good as last year, but the Panthers need to block better, need to defend better, and while their next game won't challenge the former, it definitely will challenge the latter.
Ranking the 2-1 Teams
10.) Los Angeles Rams = 2-1 (46-63)
The comparisons to the 2015 Vikings, the team that lost the 10:30PM EST MNF Week 1 game in San Francisco, are becoming stronger and stronger. The Rams offense finally woke up, and while they have a track record of not being able to carry that over week to week, the defense remains a really good unit. The Rams have definitely rebounded to respectability on offense and that always was good enough for them to go back to that 7-9 range that is so befitting Jeff Fisher and his team(s).
9.) Houston Texans = 2-1 (42-53)
John Elway remains a really, really good GM. He did not bite on the Osweiler craze, knowing from years of practices and spotty play that he was not as good as that 5-2 record. Osweiler is just not a top-level QB and is very generously overpaid. Their defense is still good enough to have them Rams their way to 9 or 10 wins, but the ceiling really may not be too much higher this year than they were last year when they were Wild Card fodder.
8.) Dallas Cowboys = 2-1 (77-60)
I'm still not a huge believer in Dak Prescott, but I am a believer that the Cowboys may be in a good enough position when Romo returns to make a run in 2016. The season will really come down to whether Romo can come back and stay healthy. I'm not going crazy about a win over one of the worst teams in the NFL, but the Cowboys defense has done a lot better than I would have expected given their talent drain through cuts and suspensions.
7.) New York Giants = 2-1 (63-61)
That was a really bad loss. The Giants had an opportunity to make a statement by pushing the defending Division champs into an 0-3 hole - a record no team in the current playoff format era (since 2002) has climbed out of it to make the playoffs. The Giants really have a red zone problem they need to fix. It showed up time and time again the past two weeks and made two games where they, aside from the red zone, completely outplayed their opponent. The Giants are not a trustable team, they never have been apart from 2008, but they had a chance to be something different. They still do, but losing a home divisional game, and blowing a 21-9 lead in the process, is not a good way to start.
6.) Oakland Raiders = 2-1 (80-79)
If the Raiders put their best foot forward on both sides of the ball, this could be a scary team. For the first time, their defense really showed up, but this time their offense sputtered in the 'green zone' (40 yard line to 20 yard line). The offense, especially the run game, is really clicking, but I feel like too often they play like they know they have Janikowski and can get a long field goal if needed. That has to stop. The Raiders have the potential. 8-8 is the minimum expectation. They have a manageable schedule coming up and need to bank wins by having both sides complement and not alternate.
5.) Atlanta Falcons = 2-1 (104-91)
I want to reserve judgement on their offense until these next three games are over where they have to play the Carolina, Denver and Seattle defenses. The Falcons have taken advantage of playing three of probably the worst five or six defensive units in the league. But still, they look just amazing, especially in the run game. Their OL has really improved their run blocking this year. Julio Jones hasn't even hit top speed yet. The defense still has major issues, but they can 2011 or 2013 Saints their way to 10-11 wins.
4.) Kansas City Chiefs = 2-1 (69-49)
Well, I guess the Chiefs still have a pretty good defense then. I still think they need to find secondary pass rushers without Houston - and even when he comes back I don't expect him to be near 100%. Having Marcus Peters and Eric Berry in that secondary really helps. The Chiefs offense still needs work, and their running back trio is far less impressive this season than last, but if they can even get two interceptions a game, they should be in the clear and make the AFC West really interesting.
3.) Pittsburgh Steelers = 2-1 (65-66)
Well, that was quite surprising. I'm not sure what was worse about that game for the Steelers. Was it the 34 points allowed to an offense led by a rookie QB? Or was it scoring just 3 points despite having an overflowing bevy of skill position players and a great QB. I am truly shocked someone held a healthy Steelers offense to less than 10 points. I would wage that was the least amount of points they score this year, but still, it was quite shocking.
2.) Seattle Seahawks = 2-1 (52-37)
The defense is still fantastic, and that will carry the team at the end of the day, but there has to be a serious worry about Russell Wilson's ability to stay healthy for the full season. I would consider sitting him against the Jets, especially with the bye coming up. That OL is still a problem, and if Russell is not healthy they really have no shot. The offense really had a tough time moving the ball at all with Trayvon Boykin in the game.
1.) Green Bay Packers = 2-1 (75-67)
I wouldn't say Aaron Rodgers is completely back, but he never was really all that gone either. Why I really still like the Packers is mostly due to their defense, which has been great so far. Matthew Stafford hit some big plays after Demarious Randall went out, but their run defense has been far and away the best in the league, and they've been able to maintain a pass rush even with a gimpy Clay Matthews. The defense can carry them while the offense comes back in full.
Ranking the 3-0 Teams
5.) Baltimore Ravens = 3-0 (57-44)
As someone who picked the Ravens to make the playoffs with a wild card this is a good start. I do get that there is a glaring black mark on their 3-0 start which is their list of opponents. From the Bills at home, to the Browns and Jaguars, they have played teams that are 1-8 total. The Ravens showed major calm in stealing a win from Jacksonville that probably shouldn't have been in doubt anyway, but this is also a team that overcame a 0-20 deficit on the road. The Ravens are not a good 3-0, but they are not a terrible one either.
4.) Philadelphia Eagles = 3-0 (92-27)
The Eagles had the best point differential after each of the first two weeks. It looked like they were probably going to cede that distinction when the Patriots shutout Houston, but then they went and won 34-3. In reality, they have been the best team through three weeks, but they have the same schedule questions on their first two wins that Baltimore has. I think they are basically the 2011 49ers reborn right now, however, with an ex-QB coach, a weird offense and a great defense. It all makes sense. We doubted that team, and they were a fumbled punt away from a Super Bowl appearance.
3.) Minnesota Vikings = 3-0 (64-40)
The Vikings defense is really special, and better than that they are deep. This is what happens when you draft three defensive players in the first round in 2013-14 and they are all coming together at the same time, and you surround those players with like eight other excellent ones. If Sam Bradford can stay healthy and competent - and his 18-28 for 178 yards is totally competent given the defense he was playing himself - the Vikings will be scary.
2.) New England Patriots = 3-0 (81-45)
I'll make an admission, if Tom Brady had retired, and I knew this year would be fully run by Garoppolo and Brisett, I may want the Patriots to go 19-0 - I would want them to show the world that Tom Brady was a cog in their machine rather than the machine himself, that he meant less to the Patriots than people realized. Alas, he is coming back in two weeks, they'll probably be 4-0, and they will continue to haunt my dreams.
1.) Denver Broncos = 3-0 (84-57)
I'll make another admission, Trevor Siemian is giving the Broncos more at the moment than Peyton Manning did in 2015. So if that is true, and the defense is 90% as good as it was last year - which seems true through three games - this team is really terrifying. Given the schedule they've played, including two teams that despite their 1-2 record I feel are legitimate contenders in Carolina and Cincinnati, the Broncos may have earned this #1 spot on merit anyway.
1.) New England Patriots = 14-2
2.) Denver Broncos = 12-4
3.) Pittsburgh Steelers = 11-5
4.) Indianapolis Colts = 9-7
5.) Cincinnati Bengals = 10-6
6.) Oakland Raiders = 10-6
1.) Minnesota Vikings = 12-4
2.) Carolina Panthers = 12-4
3.) Arizona Cardinals = 11-5
4.) Philadelphia Eagles = 10-6
5.) Seattle Seahawks = 11-5
6.) Green Bay Packers = 11-5
Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games
15.) Tennessee Titans (1-2) @ Houston Texans (2-1) (1:00 - CBS)
14.) Cleveland Browns (0-3) @ Washington Redskins (1-2) (1:00 - CBS)
13.) Detroit Lions (1-2) @ Chicago Bears (0-3) (1:00 - FOX)
12.) Indianapolis Colts (1-2) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) (London - CBS)
I call it "Someone may not make it back over that pond alive" Sunday Morning, as the first London game comes at a time where we can continue a nice little London tradition. Two straight years someone has been fired after the first London game. Last year it was Joe Philbin, the year before Dennis Allen. This time Gus Bradley, who would be a ridiculously bad 12-40 if they lose, seems like the easy candidate, but I wouldn't put it past Jim Irsay to can Pagano if they fall to 1-3 in a bad performance to Jacksonville.
11.) Dallas Cowboys (2-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-2) (4:25 - FOX)
10.) New Orleans Saints (0-3) @ San Diego Chargers (1-2) (4:25 - FOX)
I call it "This would have been so much more fun five and ten years ago" Sunday, as FOX's two premier doubleheader late games have a lot of nice nostalgia to them, but little actual substance. The Cowboys are still missing Romo, and the 49ers these days are a sad reminder both of college coach's having a hard time in the NFL, and how short that Harbaugh renaissance was. Five years ago these two played a great OT game in San Francisco. The Cowboys won it, but in reality it was the Harbaugh 49ers coming out party. For the Saints, it is Drew Brees's first game in San Diego since he left, but since he got the better end of that deal hard to imagine he'll be too charged up. It is more sad that these two teams that used to be offensive powers, that played arguably the only good game we've ever had in London (a Chargers 39-38 win in 2008) are now a combined 1-5.
9.) St. Louis Rams (2-1) @ Arizona Cardinals (1-2) (4:25 - FOX)
8.) Miami Dolphins (1-2) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) (TNF - NFLN)
I call it "If they lose, there are serious questions to be asked" Thursday and Sunday, as two preseason favorites (or more truthfully, my two preseason favorites to make the Super Bowl) have started out 1-2, including losing their home opener. Neither the Cardinals or Bengals can afford to slip to 1-3. These would be hurtful loses to either. The Bengals already have tough competition in their division, and Arizona would create tough competition by pushing the Rams to 3-1 if they win. At the end, though, I don't expect either of the 1-2 teams to be challenged too much. A desparate good team is still scary.
7.) Denver Broncos (3-0) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) (4:05 - FOX)
6.) Buffalo Bills (1-2) @ New England Patriots (3-0) (1:00 - CBS)
I call it "If the win, let's just go straight to the AFC Title Game and let them duke it out" Sunday, as both the Broncos and Patriots, the two teams that met up in 2013 and 2015 to spar for the AFC Title, get a chance to start 4-0. And these wouldn't be normal 4-0 starts. Both were integrating in new QBs. The Broncos start may actually be more surprising given how many people were passing over them as favorites in that division. Still, while things are changing rapidly in the NFC seemingly, things are more or less staying the same in the AFC.
5.) Seattle Seahawks (2-1) @ New York Jets (1-2) (1;00 - FOX)
4.) Oakland Raiders (2-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (3-0) (1;00 - CBS)
3.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) (SNF - NBC)
2.) New York Giants (2-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (3-0) (MNF - ESPN)
I call it "Just a lot of fun football" Sunday and Monday, as there are four really nice games. I wish one of those two 1PM games were in the late time-slot as it would have given me one game in each window. Either way, these are just four really nice contests. The Seahawks and Jets should be a defensive struggle. The Raiders and Ravens should be a nice offense vs. defense match (if the Raiders do win, they would be 3-1, and 3-0 on the road). The Chiefs and Steelers a game between two teams that are really well coached and managed on Sunday Night, which is never not a bad thing, and finally a rare MNF game that seems really exciting, and one that ended up better looking now than it shaped up to be when the schedule came out. Just good stuff all around.
1.) Carolina Panthers (1-2) @ Atlanta Falcons (2-1) (1:00 - FOX)
I call it "Are they for real" Sunday, as the Falcons finally get a real test for their suddenly unstoppable offense. In the last two weeks, the Falcons scored 80 points (73 after removing a pick-6), but that came against what have been probably the two worst defenses in the NFL. The Panthers are not that. Their defense has been great, as a great deal of teh points they gave up in the last two games were off of defense, special teams or short fields. The Panthers themselves need to find their mojo back, and there is no better way than to beat the suddenly hot darlings again in their own building and stake their claim back to this division.