It’s not clear if Jacoby Brissett will be back under center for the Patriots on Sunday, but they keep finding a way to win. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)
Interceptions came in bunches and told the story of a lot of the Week 3 games. Leading the pick parade was Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with six. Shortly before training camp Fitzpatrick signed a one-year, $12 million deal, which seems awfully high for his services. Arizona’s Carson Palmer is struggling to regain his 2015 form. He threw four INTs against a desperate Bills defense. Cam Newton threw three in the Panthers’ loss to the Vikings, but that was overshadowed by the eight sacks he took. Lastly, Blake Bortles added three more to his resume in a loss to Ravens. Bortles now has 41 career INTs to go with his 51 TDs. It’s time for Jacksonville to draft another quarterback.
Patriots fans won’t like seeing their team in the No. 2 spot after Thursday’s shutout of the Texans, but the uncertainty of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett’s health is cause for concern. Coach Bill Belichick did a great job getting his team ready on a short week, but if both backups are dealing with injuries, and Rob Gronkowski is only being used a decoy, they’ll have to wait one more week to jump to the top of the pile. The Denver defense just keeps doing its thing. John Elway clearly made the right decision when he allowed Brock Osweiler to walk. The biggest surprise of the season is how well Carson Wentz and the Eagles are playing. I originally thought that Eli Manning and the Giants were the only contenders in the NFC East, but both the Eagles and the Cowboys have shown they can play with rookies under center.
The Ravens are a fraudulent 3-0 based on the teams they’ve played, but Joe Flacco has a championship pedigree and looked good on Sunday, completing 21 passes in a row at one point. The Ravens are on top of the AFC North, with the Bengals and Steelers at 2-1, which means this division, per usual, will come down to the wire.
1. (1 last week) Broncos (3-0) — Trevor Siemian continues to play better than Peyton Manning did last year, and Brock Osweiler this year. The losses of Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan haven’t slowed down the defense one bit. After a failed head coaching stint in Dallas, Wade Phillips realized that he’s better suited as a defensive coordinator. A dominant win on the road keeps the Broncos on top for another week.
2. (2) Patriots (3-0) — Bill Belichick rarely gets considered for the NFL Coach of the Year award because his teams are expected roll out of bed and go 12-4. Thursday night’s win should change that. Belichick had three days to prepare Jacoby Brissett, and the most exciting moment must have been when Belichick got to run the option in an NFL game.
3. (12) Eagles (3-0) — Doug Pederson and the Eagles front office are getting a lot of praise for nailing the decision to trade Sam Bradford and go with rookie Carson Wentz, who’s been simply amazing in his first three games. Wentz has yet to throw a pick in his first 102 passes. But the real shocker was holding the Steelers offense to just three points. Philly leads the league allowing only nine points per game. This team is recovering from the Chip Kelly era a lot faster than we all thought it would.
4. (11) Vikings (3-0) — The Sam Bradford trade isn’t looking so bad anymore. Even though his numbers aren’t great, neither were Teddy Bridgewater’s. The defense won’t be able to win the game for the Vikings every week. Bradford only passed for 171 yards, and the combo of Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata only rushed for 60 yards. That won’t do for long.
5. (3) Steelers (2-1) — Obviously the Steelers laid an egg on Sunday, and Todd Haley needs to throw out that offensive game plan, but this team is still the third best in the AFC. Antonio Brown caught 12 balls for 140 yards but just couldn’t find the end zone. Expect the Steelers to bounce back in a big way in Week 4 as they host the Chiefs on Sunday night, with RB Le’Veon Bell returning from suspension.
6. (7) Bengals (2-1) — For the first time in five years the Bengals are 1-2. I won’t kill them for only putting up 17 points against the best defense in the league. They still are good, and this loss could help them if they play Denver again in the playoffs. However, it likely now will be on the road.
7. (10) Packers (2-1) — After a rocky first couple of weeks, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers WRs finally looked like themselves. Rodgers threw four TDs, all in the first half, to throttle the Lions. I’m still a little hesitant to say the offensive woes are fixed. Let’s see them do this on the road.
8. (8) Ravens (3-0) — The Ravens are undefeated after three games vs. some of the weakest teams in the league. With wins over the Bills, Browns and Jags (all by six points or less) Baltimore is the worst of the unbeaten bunch. Steve Smith Sr. still is making big plays. He now has 132 straight games with a catch.
9. (15) Falcons (2-1) — For a guy with a defensive pedigree coming out of Seattle, Dan Quinn sure put together a good offensive unit. Atlanta is tops in the NFL with 448 yards per game. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are the best RB tandem in the league, and they shouldered the load on Monday night as Julio Jones was silenced as he battles a calf injury.
10. (16) Cowboys (2-1) — Just when Dallas fans thought the season would be over before it started, a pair of rookies have led the charge to open the season 2-1. Ezekiel Elliot carried the ball 30 times and broke the 100-yard mark (140, actually) for the first time in his young career and Dak Prescott has thrown the ball 99 times without an interception.
11. (13) Chiefs (2-1) — Let’s be honest, the Chiefs largely benefited from a disastrous day by the Jets offense. It’s not every week that a QB hands you six interceptions, but the win counts all the same and keeps Kansas City within a game of the AFC West-leading Broncos.
12. (5) Panthers (1-2) — After putting up 46 points against the 49ers, the Panthers turned right around and laid an egg against the Vikings. Cam Newton was sacked eight times and picked off three times. They’ll bounce back.
13. (4) Giants (2-1) — The G-Men took a big step back after two solid weeks to start the season. Odell Beckham Jr. was winning the battle on the field but is 0-1 vs kicking nets.
14. (9) Texans (2-1) — Bill O’Brien will never get another chance like that again. No one would have blinked if J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney had monster games and pressured a rookie quarterback into turning over the ball multiple times. Instead, O’Brien’s team wasn’t ready to play on a short week and was embarrassed on national television.
15. (18) Raiders (2-1) — At 2-1, the Raiders are playing exactly to expectations. Pundits and fans alike thought this team could contend for a playoff spot. Oakland’s schedule has been pretty easy so far, with wins over the Saints and Titans. The real test comes in the second half of the season with games against the Panthers, Chiefs and Broncos (twice).
16. (22) Rams (2-1) — Case Keenum threw for the Rams’ first touchdown of the season early in the game, but he then turned right around and threw a pick-six. The defense had been playing well over the first two weeks but had to make a big play late just to seal a win over the Bucs. In a year when young QBs have hit the ground running, Jared Goff remains on the bench.
17. (19) Seahawks (2-1) — Where the hell has this offense been? After back-to-back putrid performances in the first two weeks of the season, Seattle went OFF at home vs. the 49ers. However, Pete Carroll left his star QB in the game a little too long. Russell Wilson was tackled trying to escape the pocket and sprained his left MCL. Fortunately for Seattle, the defense is allowing only 12 points a game, and the only other supposed threat in the division, Arizona, looks lost.
18. (6) Cardinals (1-2) — The Cardinals were supposed to have one of the best offenses in the league, but they can’t seem to get started. They’ve yet to score in the first quarter of any of their games. Carson Palmer throwing four picks on Sunday doesn’t help.
19. (17) Chargers (1-2) — San Diego made mistakes all over the field on Sunday and had numerous chances to put the game away but couldn’t do it. Muffed punts and fumbles down the stretch pushed the Chargers to 1-2 in a division with three teams vying for playoff spots.
20. (16) Lions (1-2) — The secondary was gashed by the Packers early and often Sunday. Detroit’s offense isn’t good enough to make up for the 28 points per game that the defense is allowing. Every week Jim Caldwell is the coach of this team is a bad one.
21. (25) Bills (1-2) — A predictably good performance by a team with its coach on the hot seat. A Week 3 win over the Cards will keep the Pegulas at bay, but the Ryan brothers are on a collision course with a Week 10 firing.
22. (20) Buccaneers (1-2) — Any time your QB throws the ball 58 times, something is going wrong. It’s feast or famine with James Winston as he threw for four TDs in Week 1 and four INTs in Week 2. Last week he put up big numbers but costly turnovers led to points for LA.
23. (31) Redskins (1-2) — The second edition of Josh Norman vs. OBJ goes to Norman as the Redskins upset the Giants on the road. Kirk Cousins threw a pair of TDs and staved off a locker room that was ready to throw him out the door a week earlier.
24. (14) Jets (1-2) — Ryan Fitzpatrick had a laughable performance on Sunday, throwing six INTs, including four in the fourth quarter. A bigger problem going forward will be the rapid decline of Darrelle Revis and the albatross of a contract hanging around Woody Johnson’s neck.
25. (24) Colts (1-2) — T.Y. Hilton had been held scoreless for the first two games of the year but finally broke through with a 63-yard catch and run for a TD in the final minutes of Sunday’s win. Hilton amassed 174 yards receiving to help get the Colts their first win of the season. After watching the Texans get worked on Thursday night, the AFC South is seemingly wide open again.
26. (28) Dolphins (1-2) — Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins deserved to lose to the Browns on Sunday. Tannehill threw an egregious pick-six and then fumbled with 21 seconds left in the game. The fumble gift-wrapped the game for Cleveland, but a missed field goal bailed out Miami.
27. (23) 49ers (1-2) — Not that any of us thought Blaine Gabbert was about to embark on some sort of a career renaissance in San Francisco, but he struggled mightily on Sunday in a hostile environment. Chip Kelly’s offense was 0-for-10 on third down to start the game. It’s just about time for Colin Kaepernick.
28. (26) Titans (1-2) — Two more picks for Marcus Mariota and no TDs lead to another Titans loss. At the time of last year’s draft, Mariota and Jameis Winston seemingly were even on the draft boards, but it looks like the product of a Chip Kelly Oregon Ducks team won’t work in the NFL.
29. (29) Saints (0-3) — It appears that Rob Ryan was NOT the problem in New Orleans. What good is Drew Brees throwing for 354 yards per game if the defense is allowing 32 points per game? This is the fourth time Drew Brees and the Saints have started the season 0-3. But let’s go ahead and extend Sean Payton for another five years.
30. (30) Browns (0-3) — Terrelle Pryor is the best player on his team at two positions. If he could kick, the Browns would have won on Sunday. Kicker Cody Parkey missed three FG attempts, including a chance at the game-winner as time expired.
31. (27) Jaguars (0-3) — New week, same story with Blake Bortles. The guy LOVES to throw picks, and does it better than anyone in the league. Amazingly, the Ravens tried to give the game away, but Bortles took a sack with less than a minute to go (with no timeouts) and then forced a high throw for the game-sealing INT. He’s awful, and Gus Bradley will be fired before the season’s over.
32. (32) Bears (0-3) — No Jay Cutler, same results. With QB duties passed on to journeyman Brian Hoyer, the Bears fell to the Cowboys 24-3 at half and scored a pair of garbage-time TDs to make it seem close. John Fox has only been in Chicago for two years, but both times he’s started the season 0-3.