1. Seahawks - It took some overtime heroics but Seattle took down the AFC frontrunners once again in a Superbowl rematch that had Peyton Manning playing more like the scared game manager than Russell Wilson. Seattle’s defense is THAT good and I really don’t see many offenses around the league that can push passed them.
2. Broncos - Well it was definitely closer than the last time these two teams met but even a conservative effort from Peyton and the Broncos came up just short of mounting a victory over last year’s Superbowl champions. Ditching Moreno may come back to hurt them if Ball can’t get his act together, especially if Denver’s approach is aimed to be much more balanced this year.
3. Eagles - After yet another comeback victory, Nick Foles has stepped forward as a force to be reckoned with in this league. The dude got hammered all game long behind a piecemeal offensive line of backups and yet he still hung in the pocket to make enough plays to seal the victory for Philadelphia over the vengeful DeSean Jackson and his lowly Washington Redskins. Though playing against that many backups made Washington’s defense look much better than they actually are, Philly’s offense seems to be good enough to get them out of virtually any situation.
4. Cardinals - I was big on Arizona’s outstanding defense last year and somehow they look even better this year. They’ve been absolutely clutch not giving up a single touchdown in the fourth quarter through their first 3 games and are immovable against the run game, especially on the goal line. And with the emergence of yet another standout receiving option, it doesn’t look like it matters who’s under center (except maybe Matt Leinert).
5. Patriots - The Patriots barely avoided an upset to the Raiders this week and I’m definitely thinking I bought into this team at the wrong time. The offensive line looks completely incapable of protecting Brady and even with a healthy Gronk, the passing game is limited at best. Ridley’s continued slump in production does nothing to bail the offense out and somehow despite all the changes in the offseason, the defense still shows a lot of room for improvement. This team’s performance has not been encouraging in the opening three weeks but it’s the Patriots, just when I start to doubt them they’ll probably be in the AFC title game again, a touchdown from another Superbowl run. Or has the AFC competition finally caught up to them? Has Billichick’s ego and desire to outthink the room pushed this team backwards? Is the regime nearing it’s end? Am I reading way too much into a 2-1 football team?
6. Bengals - Say what you want about Andy Dalton (I sure do), this team’s defense is smothering. He and AJ Green (mostly AJ thought) give this team just enough to make sure their defenses’ immaculate play doesn’t go unrewarded. They might be the closest parallel to last year’s Seattle team with their bone crushing defense and game managing offense. Crazy to think about how the tables have turned for Marvin Lewis and his “Bungles”. It seemed like an almost certainty that he was about to take the ceremonial axe after numerous shortcomings during the Palmer-Ocho era but after riding themselves of their former franchise players, the team looks to be more stable than ever. Maybe more teams will think twice before throwing their coach under the bus for the team’s under performance instead of holding the players accountable….nah!
7. Bears - Chicago’s already pretty thin on the defensive side of the ball but with all of these injuries piling up, this team could be in some serious trouble. Their offense seems to have just enough to keep them afloat but not nearly as explosive as I was anticipating they’d be with a healthy Jay Cutler. But it’s still early so hopefully enough of this squad can survive the regular season to get the Bears limping into the playoffs.
8. 49ers - Weren’t the 9ers 1-2 last year when everyone started selling San Fran stock? They’ve lost to some very good teams early on with some key players still inactive, so I’m not ready to give up on this team just yet. They are definitely lacking in the pass rush and are the most penalized team in the league thus far so hopefully Harbaugh can use the early hole they’re in as a learning tool before a mutiny breaks out and Frisco finds themselves trying to reestablish their identity at the bottom of the deepest division in football.
9. Panthers - Without steady run support from DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers offense was exposed as Pittsburgh piled on the points and Carolina struggled to keep their heads above water. Newton’s a serviceable quarterback but he’s still not to the point in his career where he can move the offense on his own, especially with the incredibly thin receiving corps he’s been handed after this offseason. The defense is good enough but they’ve got to get some help from the offense.
10. Chargers - The Philip Rivers revival tour continues as San Diego tore through yet another unbeaten team this week. Albeit, a win over Buffalo isn’t quite the resume booster a win over Seattle is, the Chargers look to be every bit as dangerous as they were last year. Their defense is slowly improving but it’s Rivers’ relentless attack at the opposition with his surprisingly deep roster of receiving options that has San Diego unexpectedly right back in the thick of the playoff hunt once again.
11. Lions - Detroit’s had their moments this year but really the only thing that trumped their deficiencies this Sunday was Green Bay’s inexplicable offensive erosion. Detroit’s got a decent enough pass rush to cover up their lackluster secondary and the offense has enough weapons to leap out in front early but their still seems to be that ora of “same ol’ Lions” lingering with their bonehead mistakes, missed opportunities and overall undisciplined attitude. Which is exactly what I dreaded seeing a spineless coach like Caldwell take over an already unruly locker room. If the team can get their attitudes in check, there’s no reason they can’t be real contenders this year. But that was the case last year too…
12. Falcons - After being pummeled by the Bengals a week ago, Atlanta found themselves on the right side of a bludgeoning this week against division rival Tampa Bay in an incredibly high scoring effort from not only the offense, but the defense and special teams as well. This team’s got an incredible amount of talent on offense but I’m still waiting to see them succeed against a top tier team.
13. Steelers - After an embarrassing Thursday night in Baltimore, Pittsburgh found themselves on the other end of a one sided beat down in the prime time spotlight once again. Antonio Brown is an absolute stud receiver and with Le’Veon Bell and LeGearatte Blount reaching their full potential as one of the most lethal one-two punches in football, this offense is one of the most explosive in the league. It’s just their aging defense that will continue to hold them back.
14. Colts - You didn’t really think they’d lose to the Jaguars did you? After squandering the lead at home against the Eagles a week ago, Andrew Luck never let his foot off the gas against the helpless Jaguars. He’s a one man wrecking ball and until Indy gets him a solid supporting cast, that’s all he’ll ever be. The o-line is incredibly detrimental to anything the offense tries to put together and without Robert Mathis, the defense doesn’t seem to have any pull whatsoever. They’ll likely get a playoff birth due to their dreadful divisional competition and a puncher’s chance in a wildcard weekend due to Luck’s ability alone but this team isn’t ready to take that next step forward.
15. Saints - New Orleans finally got a win under their belt but if I’m a Saints fan, I wouldn’t really be pounding my chest over it. Minnesota held New Orleans’ offense for most of the game and really only outlasted the Vikings due to their own inability to score. The defense looked better but up against a backup QB and running back, so would most teams. Right now, this team looks nowhere near the Superbowl contenders everyone predicted they’d be.
16. Packers - Green Bay’s hasn’t had a solid defense since they’re Superbowl run but at least their offense has always been reliable. Well until this year. Pressure has always bothered Rogers but it seems to be much a real concern this year as the quarterback doesn’t seem to ever be comfortable. Lacey has added some much needed run support but Rogers still can’t seem to break out of his funk. I’m not sure what it is but without a breakaway offense to keep up with the smash mouth defenses of the NFC, this team is dead in the water.
17. Bills - Buffalo took their first loss of the season this week at the hands of the Chargers, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Buffalo’s offense has been pretty outstanding in the first couple of weeks but it’ll be interesting to see what level of consistency this team can contain under E.J. Manual, who was anything but consistent in his rookie year. His sophomore effort looks to be much more promising but we’ll see how far he can take them.
18. Ravens - Baltimore really lucked out in landing veteran Steve Smith in the offseason to lead the lackluster passing game. Flacco’s never looked the same since his historic Superbowl run and no matter who the running back is, this team has an identity crisis on its hands. They’re clearly not a pass first team with no established running entity and a feisty young defense without any of the personality past Ravens brought. They just don’t do any one thing well, but aren’t necessarily awful either. Mediocrity personified in a football team.
19. Cowboys - Dez Bryant pulled out a huge game winning catch to avoid a stunning upset to the third string lead St.Louis Rams this Sunday. But that doesn’t mean the Cowboys are on track again. They gave up an absurd amount of yards to a passing game that was obliterated by the Vikings in week 1, which leads me to believe this Cowboys defense is in for another long season. Good luck trying to dig your team out of the holes the defense is bound to get you in Romo.
20. Jets - New York’s got plenty of defensive firepower (as they have throughout Rex Ryan’s tenure) but even against a Chicago defensive unit made up of almost entirely backups, they still don’t have enough offensive talent to take advantage of it (as they have throughout Rex Ryan’s tenure).
21. Texans - Without Arian Foster to back him up, Ryan Fitzpatrick did what always seems to do, in throwing the ball to the wrong team 3 times for the Texans’ first loss of the season. Even more embarrassing than throwing more turnovers than Eli Manning was the amount of yardage the G-Men were able to rack up on the Houston defense. It’s nice to see Houston get some early W’s after their unbelievable losing streak last year but let’s all come back to reality about this team’s potential.
22. Dolphins - Miami really hasn’t done much since their week 1 upset of New England and Tannehill leads the underwhelming bunch in a very dull looking offense. Throwing the ball 43 times and completing about half of those passes for just 205 yards, Tannehill doesn’t seem to be stepping forward as we expected he might after a promising season last year. He’s got to get things going if the Dolphins are going to stand a chance at finishing better than last year.
23. Browns - Hoyer and the Browns have been more than competitive in their opening three 3 weeks and I still believe this team is capable of making some waves this season. Just maybe not as many without the last year’s league leading reciever. This year’s Cleveland squad should end up just like last year’s: momentarily surprisingly but overall a little less than an average team. The defensive and offensive lines are there and as soon as they’re skill positions fill out in maybe a year or two worth of draft picks, this team will be primed to take control of the AFC North. But a lot could happen between now and then, so who knows why I’m already speculating about the 2016 Cleveland Browns, three games into the 2014 season…
24. Vikings - Even without their starting quarterback and running back, Minnesota hung right in there with the Saints until a costly penalty late in the game gave the Saints a first down on what would have been another three and out and an opportunity for the Vikings to take the lead in the low scoring 9-13 game. Instead, New Orleans scored on the go ahead touchdown and held Minnesota to retain their first win of the season. And even though the offense looks fairly restricted due to Peterson’s absence, the defense is head and shoulders above where they were last year.
25. Rams - After blowing an early 21-0 lead over the struggling Cowboys, St.Louis unraveled in the closing minutes to ruin everyone’s day by securing a Dallas comeback win. But this really just shows you how good St. Louis’ defense is. They’re down to their third string QB and Tony Romo’s mistakes still almost gift wrapped them a victory.
26. Redskins - Kirk Cousins has given this Washington team new life and nearly lead this underachieving Redskins squad over the unbeaten Eagles. But of course the Washington defense squandered the lead and any chance for hope in the nation’s capitol, per usual. Many more performances like this and I think RG3 may be making more Subway commercials than starts.
27. Giants - New York finally looked liked a respectable football team again as Rashad Jennings came into his own and ran all over the Texan defense for Houston’s first loss and New York’s first win. Eli looked much more relaxed with a reliable back to support him, which is something he’s missed since their last Superbowl run. Let’s just hope Jennings is a reliable source of offense and not just a momentary burst of momentum.
28. Titans - After that explosive opener against the Chiefs, Tennessee has fizzled out fast. And nothing exposes your less than stellar offense like going up against the Bengals. I do think Jake Locker is better than he’s been given credit for but he can’t do it alone, they need a consistent running game or go to receiver if they’re trying to avoid slipping into obscurity yet again.
29. Chiefs - Kansas City finally secured their first win of the season at the expense of the floundering Dolphins. Alex Smith and the KC offense did pretty much whatever they wanted to and never looked back. But don’t expect that kind of offensive output on a regular basis, it was only the Dolphins after all.
30. Raiders - Hey, they almost beat the Patriots. Cool.
31. Buccaneers - Tampa Bay looked absolutely inept on Thursday night against the Falcons as they watched 56 straight rack up on their helpless defense. The Bucs added a lot to the offensive side of the ball but the defense is so far behind that it doesn’t matter. And McCown may not be an elite quarterback but nobody could be expected to succeed with the pressure this awful offensive line is allowing. Lovie may have bitten off more than he can chew taking over in Tampa.
32. Jaguars - Jacksonville was on the wrong end of their second consecutive blowout as Andrew Luck diced through the Jaguars even more mercilessly than Kirk Cousins did with the Jags the previous week. And who would have thunk, Blake Bortles got some playing time already here 3 weeks into the season. I guess Jacksonville is the only place still convinced Henne’s a capable starter in this league.