Five teams made quarterback changes in Week 3. Four were predicated by injury. The one that wasn’t probably had the biggest impact of all. Daniel Jones, Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater, Mason Rudolph and Luke Falk all made their first start of 2019 on Sunday. That is probably the order I would rank their performances as well. It was a wild week of NFL action and now we have seven* teams left undefeated (the Lions are 2-0-1 thanks to their Week 1 tie to Arizona.)
Not surprisingly, the Patriots remain at the top. Kansas City is right behind them. In fact, the top six teams did not move this week, but it feels like the gap between the top two is widening. There is a ton of uncertainty for teams 7-32. Parity continues to reign in the NFL. It is becoming harder to rank these teams every week, but here we go.
1. New England Patriots: 3-0 (Last Week: 1)
Looking at the Patriots schedule, we should probably just glue them down in the top spot until at least Week 8. New England’s next four games feature Buffalo, New York (Jets and Giants) and Washington. Assuming the Pats can escape Buffalo unscathed, it seems safe to guess they will start 7-0. The Patriots were barely bothered by the Jets, allowing just 105 yards of total offense. They won’t get to play Luke Falk every week, but this team is humming through easy and underperforming competition.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: 3-0 (Last Week: 2)
The Chiefs defense let the Ravens back into the game late, but took a 23-6 lead into the half. They did allow 203 yards on the ground at 6.3 yards per clip. That is to be expected playing a team like Baltimore. However, it is cause for concern as Kansas City is allowing the sixth-most yards per game and a league-worst 6.2 yards per carry. Thankfully, the offense is good enough to make up for pretty much all of that with Patrick Mahomes leading the way. The offense is championship ready if the defense can ever catch up.
3. Los Angeles Rams: 3-0 (Last Week: 3)
This was not the type of performance you would expect from a team playing against a backup secondary. All four defensive backs for the Browns were unavailable on Sunday night, yet Jared Goff threw two interceptions and looked far from sharp. The running game struggled to get on track as well. The Rams emerged with another win, but this was another sluggish start for a supposedly prolific offense. Thankfully, the defense is playing well enough to lead the way. Los Angeles runs deep with defensive playmakers and that matters while the offense spins its wheels.
4. Green Bay Packers: 3-0 (Last Week: 4)
Green Bay has won three straight, and each game the offense has looked a little bit better. Aaron Rodgers is still not lighting the world on fire, but he doesn’t have to be. The defense is playing lights out right now, allowing 11.7 points per game and 12 sacks in three games. The offeseason signings of Preston and Za’Darius Smith is looking pretty good right about now. These are luxuries the Packers offense have not had in a long time, so the lack of offensive consistency is not hurting them. Yet. Things will get really tough with Philly and Dallas up next.
5. Dallas Cowboys: 3-0 (Last Week: 5)
Dallas demolished Miami 31-6 to move to 3-0. That doesn’t really tell the full story. The Cowboys defense lacked precision, allowing Josh Rosen to get into a rhythm a few times in the game. There is nothing to really panic about, but America’s team has not been tested yet. Dallas has faced New York, Washington and Miami, three of probably the five worst teams in the league. On the bright side, the Cowboys had two 100-yard rushers as Tony Pollard joined Ezekiel Elliott over the century mark on Sunday. If that formula works again in New Orleans, Dallas should be 4-0.
6. Baltimore Ravens: 2-1 (Last Week: 6)
Baltimore is close to contending. Lamar Jackson seems to reach another level in the fourth quarter of games, as he did yet again in Kansas City. It doesn’t make up for the lackluster three quarters that preceded it, especially because the Ravens lost, but it was fun to watch. The potential for this team to be great is there. They need to find just a bit more consistency on offense. Mark Andrews getting back to full strength will be a big help. The scary thing for the Ravens defense was this was a banged up Chiefs offense that hung 33 points and 503 yards of total offense on them. This could be a potential playoff matchup and Baltimore has work to do before then.
7. Houston Texans: 2-1 (Last Week: 8)
Are the Texans really the number seven team in the league? Beats me. Pretty much everything outside the top five is really hard to predict. Houston lost to New Orleans in a wild game to open the season. That was with Drew Brees under center as well. Since then, they have beaten a tough Jaguars team and outlasted the Chargers. The defense is solid and Deshaun Watson is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Will Fuller has stepped up so far this season to complement DeAndre Hopkins. Someone has to win the AFC South and the Texans have to be the favorite to do so right now.
8. Minnesota Vikings: 2-1 (Last Week: 9)
Kirk Cousins took care of the ball, but honestly, he didn’t have to make a ton of plays after halftime. Cousins attempted just 21 passes as Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison tore apart the Raiders defense. In turn, Minnesota bottled up Josh Jacobs and held everyone other than Darren Waller in check. With four sacks, including a pair from Eric Wilson, this Vikings defense turned in another great performance, this time without the slow start. The offense still has room to improve, but this team is looking like a likely playoff participant.
9. Chicago Bears: 2-1 (Last Week 10)
For one half, the Bears were back! Unfortunately for Chicago, NFL games have two halves. Chicago played fine after halftime, but nowhere near the same level as it had in the first two quarters. Mitchell Trubisky looked better, but still has a lot to prove. He was still overwhelmingly average on the whole, throwing a terrible red zone interception and missing a couple of open receivers. It also helped to be playing against a terrible Washington defense. Still, this is the type of football the Bears won a lot of games playing last year. Trubisky did enough to power the offense after the defense put him in great position thanks to a ridiculous number of turnovers. It has been ugly, but Da Bears are 2-1.
10. New Orleans Saints: 2-1 (Last Week: 11)
Turns out that Teddy Bridgewater can still sling it. That may be exaggerating things slightly. He only threw for 177 yards, but he took care of the ball and fed New Orleans’ two best playmakers. You can make as much or as little of Seattle’s 20 fourth quarter points. The Saints lead 27-7 entering the final quarter, so I have a feeling they took their foot off the gas a little bit. Russell Wilson even threw a meaningless touchdown on the final play of the game. There is a ton of talent on this team even without Drew Brees.
11. Indianapolis Colts: 2-1 (Last Week: 15)
Andrew Luck who? I’m joking of course, but this was another solid showing from Indy. Jacoby Brissett is not putting up MVP-type numbers like his predecessor, but he is playing efficient, turnover-free football. Even with a couple injuries on defense, the Colts have enough playmakers to pick up a solid win over the Falcons. The concern now turns to T.Y. Hilton, who aggravated a quad injury on Sunday. If he is unable to go, that is a major blow to the offense.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: 1-2 (Last Week: 7)
Injuries certainly played a factor, but so did undisciplined play. The Eagles gave up a kick-return touchdown, lost two fumbles and allowed Carson Wentz to be sacked three times. Philly drops to 1-2, now tied with the Giants in the NFC East. Getting everyone back on the field will help, but this is a bad look for a team that had high hopes for the season. The one positive note, the run defense looks great. Only the Patriots are allowing fewer yards per carry through the first three weeks of the season. If the Eagles can clean up the mistakes, they should be able to bounce back.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-2 (Last Week: 12)
This loss was more excusable, but the Chargers are going to run out of passable defeats very quickly. Already two games behind the Chiefs, this team is already seeing hopes of winning the division fade. The offensive line needs to play better after giving up five sacks. If not for a superhuman effort from Keenan Allen, this could have been a blowout. There were some positives for Los Angeles, but the time for moral victories is long gone. Thankfully, the Chargers have a chance to get back on track with a trip to Miami up next.
14. San Francisco 49ers: 3-0 (Last Week: 17)
I will admit, I was definitely not among the people who predicted a 3-0 start for the 49ers. It was far from a convincing performance as Jimmy Garoppolo struggled again. His two interceptions to go with the team’s three fumbles shows the offense still has a ways to go. It also shows a lot of perseverance and resilience. Unfortunately, not every team is going to be breaking in a new quarterback. San Francisco will need to do a much better job taking care of the football if they want to keep this winning streak rolling.
15. Buffalo Bills: 3-0 (Last Week: 20)
The Buffalo Bills are 3-0! Granted it took a fourth-quarter comeback against the Bengals, but hey it’s still a win. Buffalo continues to ride its incredible defense and an offense that is just good enough to pull out close victories. Things get a lot harder this week though with a trip to New England on the horizon. Josh Allen is continuing to develop as a passer and this team probably isn’t really ready to join the playoff conversation, but they are playing some good football.
16. Detroit Lions: 2-0-1 (Last Week: 25)
Say hello to the undefeated Lions. That is not a sentence I figured I would be typing at this point in the season. Detroit survived tough tests from Los Angeles and Philadelphia. There is still a lot, and I mean a lot, of room for improvement. Overall though, this team is playing well in all three phases. Matt Stafford still hasn’t been great, but the Lions are finding ways to win. That will likely come to an end with the Chiefs next on the schedule, but Detroit is right in the thick of the NFC North conversation.
17. Seattle Seahawks: 2-1 (Last Week: 14)
That was pathetic. Russell Wilson’s late-game heroics made the scoreline respectable, but Seattle laid an egg on Sunday. It was the first home loss in September under Pete Carroll and it showcased a lot of the troubling themes we’ve seen so far from the Seahawks. The offense came out flat for the third straight week. Chris Carson lost the handle on the ball for the third time in as many weeks as well. The road to the playoffs is looking tougher with both San Francisco and Los Angeles sitting at 3-0. Wins against the Steelers and Bengals look less impressive given their combined 0-6 record as well. Time for Seattle to shake up the rust and step up.
18. Cleveland Browns: 1-2 (Last Week: 16)
A high-level look at the Cleveland Browns tells one very clear story: this team is not ready to compete for a title yet. The defense played about as well as you could have asked against the Rams, but the offense was totally lost. Baker Mayfield struggled to hit throws once again. Freddie Kitchens made some questionable decisions as a playcaller. This group will likely be good by the end of the year, but there is still a lot of growth needed to reach the playoffs. If the offense can clean up some of the mistakes, the defense is playing well enough to win a number of games down the stretch.
19. Atlanta Falcons: 1-2 (Last Week: 13)
Atlanta is one Nelson Agholor drop away from likely being 0-3. Keanu Neal had season-ending surgery for the second year in a row. The Falcons just got carved up by Jacoby Brissett. It has been a bumpy ride for this group, struggling through injuries and a total lack of a running game. Now the gameplan likely changed after falling behind early, but Atlanta needs to establish the run early and take some pressure off both Matt Ryan and the defense. Ryan played about as well as you could hope with a league-leading 92.8 QBR in Week 3 too. The good news is the Falcons are just one game back in the NFC South.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-2 (Last Week: 21)
Minshew Mania is sweeping through the state of Florida, having migrated down from Pullman, Washington. Gardner Minshew led the Jaguars to a pivotal divisional win. Well he guided the team while the defense battered Marcus Mariota. Sacksonville came up with an absurd nine sacks against Tennessee and took a lot of pressure off the offense. This team is still building offensively, but the defense is championship ready. If Minshew can take the next step, Jacksonville might just make some noise.
21. Carolina Panthers: 1-2 (Last Week: 26)
You no doubt heard about Daniel Jones, but lost in that story was the 2019 debut of Kyle Allen. Not too familiar with him? I can’t say I blame you. He signed with the Panthers last year as an undrafted free agent after a bizarre college career. He played relatively well in his lone start last season against the Saints in Week 17. Then he started this week for an injured Cam Newton and threw four touchdowns against the Cardinals. Arizona’s defense is terrible, but Kyle Allen is now 2-0 as a starter. Turns out Carolina has depth at quarterback.
22. Tennessee Titans: 1-2 (Last Week: 18)
Oh boy. Marcus Mariota was just sacked again as you read this. The Titans surrendered nine sacks in Jacksonville. Mariota did throw for 300 yards, but it feels like an empty stat when he managed to lead just one scoring drive. Derrick Henry managed a woeful 2.6 yards per carry. That win over Cleveland feels like a lifetime ago. Mike Vrabel needs to find a way to get this offense on track. The next four games will decide this season for Tennessee.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers: 0-3 (Last Week: 19)
Last week was maybe time to panic. Now it is time to panic. The Steelers are 0-3. Mason Rudolph was average at best in first start. James Connor continues to sputter. Here is the bright side of this, Minkah Fitzpatrick made an instant impact. He came up with two forced turnovers in San Francisco. The defense actually played fairly well, even if it wasn’t great against the run. Jimmy Garoppolo never looked comfortable. Pittsburgh only had one sack, but came up with five turnovers. That is about as much help as Rudolph could have asked for, and he couldn’t find a way to pull out the win. Pittsburgh needs to win against Cincinnati, otherwise there will be some rumbling about a full-scale rebuild.
24. Oakland Raiders: 1-2 (Last Week: 22)
What happened to the team that smacked around the Broncos Week 1? The Raiders got slammed by Minnesota, going down 21-7 very quickly. Derek Carr was unimpressive, Josh Jacobs was underutilized and Darren Waller is incredible. Waller had 13 catches for 134 yards as the true lone bright spot on this Raiders team. Oakland’s defense is not good enough to win games for an underwhelming offense. Jon Gruden’s team is in trouble with six straight contests against teams 2-1 or better coming up.
25. Denver Broncos: 0-3 (Last Week: 23)
Missing: Broncos defense. Last seen: 2018. What the hell happened to this team? Through three weeks, there is just one team who has yet to record a sack. Shockingly, it’s the one that has Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. This team’s identity for the last five years has been on defense. With three straight game without a sack or forced turnover, the fear of facing them is gone. Joe Flacco has been rough, but he hasn’t had much help. He suffered six more sacks on Sunday in Green Bay. This is looking more and more like a lost season.
26. New York Giants: 1-2 (Last Week: 31)
Holy Daniel Jones. That was a fun way to start his NFL career with the largest Giants comeback in the Super Bowl era. Let’s calm down on the “this validates the Giants’ pick” talk. It is way too early for that. It was an impressive start though against a Tampa team that had 10 days to prep for this. The bad news is that Saquon Barkley will miss four to eight weeks with a high ankle sprain. There are some other major concerns too. Mike Evans shredded the secondary and Wayne Gallman did not do much in the wake of Barkley’s injury. An easy week against Washington is on tap, but Minnesota and New England follow.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1-2 (Last Week: 24)
That was brutal. Tampa blew a massive second-half lead, then had a chance to win as time expired, but Matt Gay missed the game-winning field goal. It’s hard to put this totally on the kicker. He did make his first four kicks. The defense is a problem. Cam Newton missed probably a dozen open receivers in Week 2. Daniel Jones did not miss those open receivers. Anyone who thought this pass defense was fixed quickly realized they were wrong. The Bucs took a step forward last week, but this feels like two steps back.
28. Washington: 0-3 (Last Week: 27)
If you watched only the second half of Monday Night Football, you might have thought Washington had a solid game, despite the loss. If you watched only the first half, you might have seen a team challenging the Dolphins for the crown of worst in the league. Case Keenum had to the worst game of his pro career. Adrian Peterson was ineffective. Thankfully, Terry McLaurin looks like a steal for this team, making history as the first rookie receiver to start his career with at least five catches and a touchdown in his first three games. It is only a matter of time before Dwayne Haskins takes over, but given the offensive line woes, maybe it is best for now to leave Keenum under center.
29. New York Jets: 0-3 (Last Week: 29)
Defensively, the Jets are probably in the top 15 in the league. Unfortunately, New York’s offense might be the worst in the NFL. The Luke Falk-led offense managed a shocking 105 yards of total offense. Now this was an overmatched quarterback making his first career start after beginning the season on the practice squad against the defending Super Bowl champions. Things were bound to be bad. This might have been worse than expected. It is clear the return of Sam Darnold is not going to magically fix this offense. Adam Gase has a lot of work to do.
30. Arizona Cardinals: 0-2-1 (Last Week: 28)
There was a little bit of good in there, but a lot of bad. Arizona’s secondary got destroyed by a guy making his second career start and first one of the season. Kyler Murray had a game to forget even if he did rack up 69 yards rushing. I know this offense is predicated around throwing the ball all over with four receivers spread out, but more needs to be done to integrate David Johnson. He had all of 11 carries against Carolina and picked up just 3.4 yards per attempt. He is easily the best offensive player Arizona has right now. This rebuild was never supposed to be quick, but there needs to be some improvement in key areas.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: 0-3 (Last Week: 30)
Somewhat surprising stat of the week. The NFL’s leader in passing yards after three weeks is obviously Patrick Mahomes. Second is Andy Dalton. Yeah, I didn’t see that coming either. The Bengals nearly pulled off a comeback, but the offense made too many mistakes to account for what was actually a solid day from the defense. As he so often has, Dalton left Cincy fans with a bitter taste in their mouths by tossing a game-ending interception on the potential game-winning drive. The Bengals are rocketing toward a top-five pick and likely a new quarterback next season. The bigger issue might be finding an offensive line to ensure that new signal caller doesn’t get pummeled.
32. Miami Dolphins: 0-3 (Last Week: 32)
Another week, another uninspiring loss for the Dolphins. Josh Rosen got the start this week in place of Ryan Fitzpatrick, but it made little difference. Rosen had some flashes of decent play, but the Dolphins have neither the skill position players, nor the offensive line for that to matter. Make no mistake, this was Miami’s best showing yet, but that’s not really saying much. The conversation is quickly turning to what the Fins will do with their three first round draft picks. Which I will be talking about a little bit on the Aftermath’s NFL Draft Podcast this week.
Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your mailbox. Enter your email in the text box to the right at the top of the page to subscribe.