1. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) Def. Los Angeles Chargers 24-10. Last Week: 1
In a week full of shockers and near-upsets, the top team held serve, picking off Philip Rivers three times in the first half and running Kareem Hunt down their opposition’s throat yet again. Hunt’s fourth quarter 69-yard touchdown run to ice the game gave him a 50-plus yard score in each of his first three career games. He’s the first player in NFL history to do that, and only Billy Sims began his career with more yards from scrimmage. Hunt is averaging 8.5 yards per carry right now. Okay, we’re done. For this week.
2. Atlanta Falcons (3-0) Def. Detroit 30-26. Last Week: 3
The secondary is still a concern, but they kept Detroit out of the endzone for most of the day and when it mattered most. Matt Ryan and the offense recovered from some early interceptions to fire on all cylinders. They’ve absorbed some close calls, but the Falcons are one of only two undefeated teams left standing. Take out the Super Bowl, and they haven’t lost since Dec. 4 against the Chiefs last season, the only other undefeated squad.
3. New England Patriots (2-1) Def. Houston 36-33. Last Week: 4
What’s that? Tom Brady isn’t done? Color us shocked. More of note than Brady doing what he’s done for the better part of 17 seasons was Brandin Cooks induction into the New England offense with five catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdowns came in the second half, including the game winner and it’s ensuing two point conversion (which Cooks also caught.)
4. Green Bay Packers (2-1) Def. Cincinnati 27-24 (OT.) Last Week: 7
That Jordy Nelson, not too banged up then. While it wasn’t the domination many were expecting from the Packers against the Bengals, they came out on the right end of this nailbiter, unlike a week ago. It might be something about Aaron Rodgers that his receivers seem to grow on trees, or perhaps Geronimo Allison is about to take the NFL by storm. Or perhaps the Bengals can’t tackle.
5. Washington (2-1) Def. Oakland 27-10. Last Week: 18
And Washington did that to the Raiders without Jordan Reed playing or Terrelle Pryor contributing. Since a shaky Week 1, this team has turned in two great performances, including that road victory over the Rams that looks pretty impressive after we see what they’re capable of. Chris Thompson is lighting the league on fire, but can someone give the man some touches? He’s been by far Washington’s most dangerous threat this season and somehow remains their third-oft turned to back.
6. Oakland Raiders (2-1) Lost to Washington 27-10. Last Week: 2
Since we used up the whole Washington post talking about their offense, let’s talk about their defense by describing what they just did to the Raiders. Derek Carr passed 100 yards…eventually. One receiver made it over ten yards receiving, and his name wasn’t Amani Cooper or Michael Crabtree. Marshawn Lynch held to 18 yards on the ground. Seven first downs. 128 total yards. This offense better get things sorted out by the time they walk into Denver next weekend.
7. Detroit Lions (2-1) Lost to Atlanta 30-26. Last Week: 9
Detroit moves up in the rankings despite losing due to a ton of less-than-impressive performances at the top of the list and the fact that they sort-of beat the Falcons. For a little bit. This is a team I can’t wait to see take on the Packers. Unfortunately, we’ll all have to wait until Monday night of Week 9 for that. But at least it means there are some prime time games to salivate over this season.
8. Denver Broncos (2-1) Lost to Buffalo 26-16. Last Week: 6
The Broncos aren’t the first team to blow a game going West to East at 1 p.m.. They’ll be back in more comfortable confines next week facing the Raiders at home. A win their would signal to Oakland and the Chiefs that not only are the Broncos back, they never really left. Jamaal Charles (nine carries for 56 yards against Buffalo) is looking pleasantly like the threat he used to be for Kansas City, so it’ll be interesting to see whether Denver leans more on him or keeps him at the usage he’s been successful with.
9. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) Def. Arizona 28-17. Last Week: 12
The Cowboys absorbed some early troubles to thunder back behind Dak Prescott and a will-not-be-denied touchdown by Dez Bryant. Prescott looked flawless by the end of the game Monday night, running the read-option up and down the field, rolling out and hitting Brice Butler for a 53-yard gain when everyone was waiting for Ezekiel Elliot to run out the clock, and, as he always does, holding onto the football.
10. Tennessee Titans (2-1) Def. Seattle 33-27. Last Week: 17
After watching Derrick Henry steal the headlines (and many thought, soon the starting role) over the first two weeks, DeMarco Murray rebounded to the tune of 115 rushing yards in Week 3, most of them coming on a 75-yard touchdown that put the Titans up 30-14 late. The Titans have their chance to stake their claim to the division this week in Houston. The Texans offense will be hard-pressed to match the big plays on display in Tennessee this week.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) Def. New York Giants 27-24. Last Week: 15
An absolutely brutal way for Darren Sproles’ season to end: a broken arm and torn ACL on the same play. Speaking as someone who has been a fan of Sproles since he and Kansas State turned the college football season upside down in a 35-7 rout of number one Oklahoma in the 2003 Big XII Championship, if this was to be his final season, it’s been a heck of a ride for NFL fans.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) Lost to Chicago 23-17 (OT.) Last Week: 5
Weren’t the Steelers supposed to be the explosive offense on display here? The longest play of the day for Pittsburgh was 25 yards. Ben Roethlisberger and Martavis Bryant failed to connect deep and Le’Veon Bell continued to serve as the greatest advertisement against holding out of camp. Another year, and another Steelers team content to have some of their worst performances against some of their worst opponents.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) Def. Baltimore 44-7. Last Week: 20
As terrible an idea as it is, maybe the Jaguars should move to London. They jump to 3-0 in their last three appearances across the pond, across a period of time where they have nine victories in total. That total may be quickly increasing: a trip to the Jets is the next stop for a team staking their claim to the AFC South with smash mouth football and really stingy pass defense. For a closer examination of that last bit, just check out the Ravens blurb.
14. Minnesota Vikings (2-1) Def. Tampa Bay 34-17. Last Week: 16
After Case Keenum (25-for-33, 369 yards, 3 TD) took apart a pretty good defense this week, could we have a three quarterback controversy brewing in Minnesota? Pencil that down as unlikely, though accurately predicting when we see Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater again may be equally so. Dalvin Cook continued to do his part among rookie running backs, turning in 169 total yards Sunday.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) Lost to Minnesota 34-17. Last Week: 8
Minnesota’s defense was always going to be a tough test for Tampa’s fledgling offense, but holding them to nine rushes for 26 yards was a little above and beyond. It’ll be easier to stick to the ground game with Doug Martin back, and that’s just what the Buccaneers will have going forward. Unfortunately, the defense that just let Stefon Diggs do whatever he liked will now have to figure out a way to combat Odell Beckham Jr. next weekend.
16. Seattle Seahawks (1-2) Lost to Tennessee 33-27. Last Week: 10
It’s been a tough early road schedule for the Seahawks to be sure, but all they have to their name at this point is a three-point victory over the 49ers. The touchdowns finally came this week, with Russell Wilson chucking four, but with some of the offenses questions answered, concerns are bound to creep in about the defense following this performance.
17. Carolina Panthers (2-1) Lost to New Orleans 34-13. Last Week: 14
It’s been a long time (a Week 15 win over Washington last season?) since the Panther offense and Cam Newton looked dynamic or even impressive. While Kelvin Benjamin’s MRI coming back negative helps, if this passing game can’t get going against the Saints, when is it going to happen?
18. Los Angeles Rams (2-1) Def. San Francisco 41-39. Last Week: 19
The NFL’s best offense (it’s a true statistical fact and all) has 107 points through three games, almost half of their league low 224 scored in all of 2016. We’re not saying they’re better than the Greatest Show on Turf, but we are saying the 99 Rams only scored 100 points through their first three games so, you decide.
19. New Orleans Saints (1-2) Def. Carolina 34-13. Last Week: 25
The offense finally got going inside the redzone, and let Willie Lutz do his damage from 50 yards. Alvin Kamara is doing more to make his case as Mark Ingram’s primary backup than Adrian Peterson is: 20 touches for 139 yards, a 38 yard catch last week and a 25-yard scamper for his first career score this weekend. Compare that to Peterson’s 23 carries for 77 yards and things might be about to get a whole lot more awkward in New Orleans.
20. Houston Texans (1-2) Lost to New England 36-33. Last Week: 21
Yeah, moral victories, etc., but not a lot of people expected Houston to be leading late in New England, or DeShaun Watson to walk into Foxborough and throw for 300 yards. The only thing left to wonder about with Watson is why Houston didn’t let him spend the off-season as the starter. Another pedestrian performance by Lamar Miller (six straight games without topping four yards per carry going back to last season) might leave the door open for another rookie: D’Onta Foreman.
21. Chicago Bears (1-2) Def. Pittsburgh 23-17 (OT.) Last Week: 28
The Bears were slicing through the Steelers long before Tarik Cohen went 55 yards for the game winning score – I mean, 36 yards to set-up the game winning score. He and Jordan Howard combined for 266 total yards against Pittsburgh Sunday. For anyone wondering how the Bears can beat the Steelers while fumbling five times and throwing for 101 yards, there’s your answer.
22. Buffalo Bills (2-1) Def. Denver 26-16. Last Week: 26
One of the most surprising (and oddly, least heralded) upsets on a weekend full of them. Perhaps it was that the Bills just quietly and calmly outplayed the Broncos instead of hitting a game winning field goal or dismantling them completely on another continent. Finding a receiving threat (LeSean McCoy has 10 receptions more than any wide receiver on the roster) would be nice, but with a trip to Cincinnati upcoming, Buffalo has a real chance to stay number one in the AFC East.
23. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) Lost to Jacksonville 44-7. Last Week: 11
You know your team is dedicated to running the football when they go down 44-0 and finish with 25 rushing attempts to 29 pass plays. With Joe Flacco churning out a passer rating of 12.0 (and what does it take for a zero, honestly?) and yards per attempt of 1.6, it might not have been the worst call, either. As for the defense, they allowed 44 points to the Jaguars, in case you missed it.
24. Arizona Cardinals (1-2) Lost to Dallas 28-17. Last Week: 22
What looked, early on, like a really positive performance from Carson Palmer and the Cardinals was thwarted by an inability to stay on the field on third down, get off the field on defense, and match the Cowboys big play for big play. Hard to figure out how you wind up with 17 points when you don’t turn the ball over and Larry Fitzgerald catches 13 balls for 149 yards, but that’s how.
25. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) Def. Cleveland 31-28 Last Week: 31
Sure, it’s just a home win against Cleveland, and one the Colts almost let slip away at that. But there’s no denying how impressive Jacoby Brissett’s debut was. If the Colts finally have someone other than a former Wisconsin journeyman to take over when Andrew Luck goes down, they may be able to focus on the rest of the team.
26. New York Jets (1-2) Def. Miami 20-6. Last Week: 32
Frustrating an opponent into unforced errors, rushing for 100 yards at a three yard per carry clip, Robby Anderson breaking loose for a 70-yard touchdown. If anyone pictured the Jets winning a game this season, this is exactly how they must have pictured it.
27. Miami Dolphins (1-1) Lost to New York Jets 20-6. Last Week: 13
It’s hard to turn in a more disappointing performance than the Ravens this weekend, but Miami sure tried. Falling far enough behind the Jets that you can’t even run the football is rough (although, were they really that far behind? One frustrated Jay Ajayi owner says no.) You couldn’t dial up a better cure for the passing game if you tried however, as the Saints come to town next week.
28. New York Giants (0-3) Lost to Philadelphia 27-24. Last Week: 24
The Giants beleaguered offensive line managed to avoid allowing any sacks to a fearsome Philadelphia front seven, but the team still couldn’t generate any offense through three quarters until Odell Beckham Jr. put them on his back in the fourth. It’s good they have him back, but if they’re going to receive a performance like that and still lose…
29. Los Angeles Chargers (0-3) Lost to Kansas City 24-10. Last Week: 23
It always feels dirty to blame Philip Rivers for anything happening to the Chargers, but 20-for-40 for 237 yards and three interceptions isn’t much of a help. The 14-year veteran threw 20 interceptions for just the second time in his career last season, and after three games he’s on pace for 21 in 2017.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) Lost to Green Bay 27-24 (OT.) Last Week: 30
An encouraging performance against the Packers that showed Cincinnati had at least some life in it this season was pretty spoiled by that ending. The Bengals will have to keep up and pick up the effort if they want to get a win before their in-state rivals this week and avoid last place in the division.
31. San Francisco 49ers (0-3) Lost to Los Angeles Rams 41-39. Last Week: 27
The 49ers sure looked like a different team (and offense) Thursday night, but a missed extra point, failed two-point attempt, and, oh yeah, 41 points allowed to the Rams will haunt them for a little while. At least until they complete the division trifecta and lose a close game to the Cardinals this week.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-3) Lost to Indianapolis 31-28. Last Week: 29
Don’t fret, Browns fans. You’ve got at least two more excellent chances for wins: this week against the Bengals, and at the Jets the following week. And wouldn’t you just love to get a win before Cincinnati?