The third week of the NFL season is not the time for any grand conclusions, but in spite of that, I’ll say: This year feels very stratified, very early. There is a cluster of very good teams at the top that feel like they could all be matched up in down-to-the-wire contests in any given week. There is a vast expanse of teams in various stages of rebuild who are not qualified to be contenders. And then there are the New York Jets.
Without further ado, let’s dive in, shall we?
1. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)
Last week: Win at Baltimore 34-20
Next week: vs. New England
Consider Weeks 1 and 2 something of a preseason. The score-in-an-instant, empty-the-bag-of-tricks Chiefs were back on Monday night, with Patrick Mahomes firing off ridiculous throws with ease for four passing TDs, plus one rushing score—against an excellent Ravens defense, no less.
2. Seattle Seahawks (3-0)
Last week: Win vs. Dallas 38-31
Next week: at Miami
This is the stuff of MVP votes, even if it’s ridiculous to be talking about that in September: Seattle is winning because of Russell Wilson’s brilliance, and in spite of a defense that is yielding nearly 500 yards per game.
3. Green Bay Packers (3-0)
Last week: Win at New Orleans 37-30
Next week: vs. Atlanta (Monday)
So, Aaron Rodgers had a point about the Packers flying under the radar. Shame on us for not assigning the proper weight to the motivational furor unleashed when his team drafted his would-be replacement. Will Jordan Love have the same effect Jimmy Garoppolo did on Tom Brady, inciting the Patriots’ second dynasty years? Time will tell, but what’s certain is that after Sunday night, the Packers are no under-the-radar team.
4. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Last week: Loss vs. Kansas City 34-20
Next week: at Washington
Monday night was a frustrating one for the Ravens, who couldn’t find a rhythm on offense or get the Chiefs off the field on defense. Their weakness as a team has been coming back from behind, and while they did close a 27-10 halftime deficit to one score, missed opportunities from both QB Lamar Jackson and his offensive teammates prevented them from closing the gap—on the scoreboard, and with the defending champs.
5. New England Patriots (2-1)
Last week: Win vs. Las Vegas 36-20
Next week: at Kansas City
We wondered for so long what the post-Brady Patriots would look like. But just three games in, Cam Newton is fitting in as if this was the succession plan all along. As a result, this upcoming week’s annual matchup with the Chiefs has not lost any of its luster.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0)
Last week: Win vs. Houston 28-21
Next week: at Tennessee
I’m not a big fan of stats like the Steelers have beaten three teams who are a combined 0-9, especially this early in the year when Pittsburgh has accounted for one-third of each of its opponent’s losses. The Steelers’ offense and defense have both been off at times, but at the end of the Texans win, we got a glimpse of what it looks like when they put everything together.
7. Buffalo Bills (3-0)
Last week: Win vs. Los Angeles Rams 35-32
Next week: at Las Vegas
Josh Allen has passed for more than 300 yards in each game, rattling off 10 TDs with only one interception. He’s sent a message to those skeptical of how big a leap forward he’d take in his third season—myself included—and the role Stefon Diggs has played in that leap has so far justified the draft capital Buffalo gave up to trade for an ace receiver.
8. New Orleans Saints (1-2)
Last week: Loss vs. Green Bay 37-30
Next week: at Detroit
There’s been a lot of chatter about Drew Brees’s arm, but you can’t ignore that this is an offense stumbling while arguably the best receiver in the game is sidelined with a high ankle sprain. As Michael Thomas works his way back to health, this is definitely the week for Sean Payton to try the officials-at-practice or pushups-for-every-penalty tricks to cut down on the team’s killer flags.
9. Los Angeles Rams (2-1)
Last week: Loss at Buffalo 35-32
Next week: vs. New York Giants
The Rams got off to a sluggish start in a 1 p.m. EST game, but there were plenty of positives in Jared Goff leading the team on four consecutive TD drives to rally L.A. out of a 25-point deficit. The very questionable fourth-down DPI call that led to the Bills’ game-winning TD was a brutal way to lose, but they say PI calls (or no-calls) even out over time, right?
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)
Last week: Win at Denver 28-10
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Tom Brady didn’t throw an interception. Rob Gronkowski, finally proving he’s not just a blocking tight end (we kid), had six catches. Sure, it was Denver, but the Bucs are looking better and better (however, their pewter uniforms are decidedly not).
11. Tennessee Titans (3-0)
Last week: Win at Minnesota 31-30
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh
Sunday’s win against the Vikings may just be the Titans’ identity: Sometimes ugly, but they find ways to win.
12. Arizona Cardinals (2-1)
Last week: Loss vs. Detroit 26-23
Next week: at Carolina
The rolling Cardinals hit an unexpected speed bump. Kyler Murray’s impossible-to-defend juke move TD was offset by his three interceptions.
13. San Francisco 49ers (2-1)
Last week: Win at New York Giants 36-9
Next week: vs. Philadelphia
It’s a testament to the depth on the 49ers’ roster that, despite missing 10 starters (and an extended stay out East amid a pandemic), they won decisively on Sunday. And it’s a testament to the scheduling gods that they will ride out a soft part of the schedule as they wait for players with non-season-ending injuries to return.
14. Las Vegas Raiders (2-1)
Last week: Loss at New England 36-20
Next week: vs. Buffalo
The Raiders faced a tall task, following up a triumphant Monday night win against the Saints with a trip to Foxborough on a short week. There’s a lot of optimism around this team, particularly its young talent, but things won’t get much easier with the red-hot Bills coming to town this week.
15. Dallas Cowboys (1-2)
Last week: Loss at Seattle 38-31
Next week: vs. Cleveland
One of the arguments for the Cowboys’ predicted resurgence this year was the fact that they were 1-6 in one-score games last season. Surely that luck would have to turn, right? Well, the Cowboys have already lost two one-score games this year and were a Falcons’ on-side kick recovery away from losing a third.
16. Indianapolis Colts (2-1)
Last week: Win vs. New York Jets 36-7
Next week: at Chicago
Philip Rivers threw his 400th career TD pass in a performance that was not flashy, but did not need to be.
17. Chicago Bears (3-0)
Last week: Win at Atlanta 30-26
Next week: vs. Indianapolis
The QB switch came both earlier, and later, than we expected. After Mitchell Trubisky’s come-from-behind rally in Week 1, we probably wouldn’t have pegged Nick Foles taking over in Week 3. But it was also a surprise that the job didn’t belong to Foles coming out of camp. Now, it does.
18. Cleveland Browns (2-1)
Last week: Win vs. Washington 34-20
Next week: at Dallas
It says more about the franchise than this current team that the 2-1 Browns now have their first winning record since 2014. Neither of their wins have been great upsets, but Kevin Stefanski has smartly centered the offense on the ground game and the defense responded last week to the new head coach’s challenge.
19. Los Angeles Chargers (1-2)
Last week: Loss vs. Carolina 21-16
Next week: at Tampa Bay
Rookie QB Justin Herbert was one dropped lateral on a hook-and-ladder play away from leading the Chargers on a game-winning 99-yard drive, but a tough loss to the Panthers is now followed by a cross-country trip to visit Tom Brady’s Bucs.
20. Houston Texans (0-3)
Last week: Loss at Pittsburgh 28-21
Next week: vs. Minnesota
The Texans have had a formidable opening month with games against the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers, all among the best teams in the conference and league right now. But what those three losses have made clear is that the Texans are not now in that company.
21. Miami Dolphins (1-2)
Last week: Win at Jacksonville 31-13
Next week: vs. Seattle
Fitzmagic returned on Thursday night against the Jaguars to stave off, for now, the calls for Tua. They’ll need a lot more of it this week with Russell Wilson coming to town.
22. Atlanta Falcons (0-3)
Last week: Loss vs. Chicago 30-26
Next week: at Green Bay (Monday)
Dan Quinn’s players rallied last season for him to keep his job, but after two consecutive weeks of blown double-digit leads, the sixth-year head coach is back in the same fight. A trip to Green Bay against the resurgent Aaron Rodgers, though, is not the prescription for a rebound.
23. Detroit Lions (1-2)
Last week: Win at Arizona 26-23
Next week: vs. New Orleans
Just as Matt Patricia’s seat was close to its flashpoint, the Lions broke through with a surprise win over the surging Cardinals, sparked by three (and nearly four) interceptions of Kyler Murray. But Patricia, and his defense, still have much to prove after club ownership made clear when retaining him last season that they expect to be a playoff contender.
24. Minnesota Vikings (0-3)
Last week: Loss vs. Tennessee 31-30
Next week: at Houston
Kirk Cousins threw six interceptions in all of 2019. Three games into the 2020 season, he’s already matched that total. And so in Houston this week, two teams that were in the playoffs last season will meet, each searching for their first win a month into the season.
25. Carolina Panthers (1-2)
Last week: Win at Los Angeles Chargers 21-16
Next week: vs. Arizona
This was a quality first win for Matt Rhule, on the other side of the country and without injured star RB Christian McCaffrey.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)
Last week: Loss vs. Miami 31-13
Next week: at Cincinnati
The Jaguars made a Week 1 statement that they were not tanking, but it’s tough to win games when you have sloughed as much talent as the Jaguars have since their 2017 AFC Championship Game appearance.
27. Philadelphia Eagles (0-2-1)
Last week: Tie vs. Cincinnati 23-23
Next week: at San Francisco
Doug Pederson said that in hindsight, instead of punting on fourth-and-12 with 19 seconds left in overtime, thus playing for a tie against a Bengals team that won two games last season, he maybe would have chosen to go for it. But the fact that he didn’t in that moment hinted at a lack of confidence in Carson Wentz.
28. Washington Football Team (1-2)
Last week: Loss at Cleveland 34-20
Next week: vs. Baltimore
Ron Rivera is sticking with Dwayne Haskins, after he turned the ball over four times in the loss to Cleveland, but the coach acknowledged there is a “cutoff point” at which it’s no longer fair to the rest of the locker room to keep playing the second-year QB. The question now is how close Rivera is to reaching that.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2-1)
Last week: Tie at Philadelphia 23-23
Next week: vs. Jacksonville
Joe Burrow scared a lot of people in Ohio when he looked to be in pain after receiving a blow from Malik Jackson on Sunday, but he returned after missing one play. This Bengals season is about one thing alone, and that is the development of the No. 1 overall pick.
30. Denver Broncos (0-3)
Last week: Loss vs. Tampa Bay 28-10
Next week: at New York Jets (Thursday)
The Broncos were without almost as many key players as the 49ers last week, but their back-ups did not fare anywhere near as well as Nick Mullens. The good news is that both the Jets and the Broncos cannot lose Thursday night’s game.
31. New York Giants (0-3)
Last week: Loss vs. San Francisco 36-9
Next week: at Los Angeles Rams
The focus has quickly turned to “does this roster have enough talent,” with a spotlight on GM Dave Gettleman, but it’s in everyone’s best interests in East Rutherford if they can get to a point by the end of the season where they have some confidence that Daniel Jones should continue to be their starting quarterback.
32. New York Jets (0-3)
Last week: Loss at Indianapolis 36-7
Next week: vs. Denver (Thursday)
The Jets are the worst team in football.