NFL Power Rankings 2018: Week 4

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1. Los Angeles Rams: 4-0 (Last Week: 1)
Talk about a shootout! Thursday Night Football treated us to a thriller in the Coliseum. It is not there yet, but Sean McVay is starting to form the Greatest Show on Turf 2.0. Jared Goff tore apart the Vikings defense to the tune of 450+ yards and five touchdowns. With the number four scoring defense in the league, LA is the team to beat in the NFL. A win in Seattle could make this division race a formality for the Rams going forward.

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2. Kansas City Chiefs: 4-0 (Last Week: 2)
The Monday Night Football stage proved to be just the latest chapter in the legend of Patrick Mahomes. The kid from Texas Tech went over 300 yards again and had two scores. Kareem Hunt had a break out game as well. The defense is still struggling but did just enough for a fourth quarter comeback to be possible. Kansas City has a massive matchup with Jacksonville ahead. Top scoring defense, meet top scoring offense. Something has to give.

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3. Jacksonville Jaguars: 3-1 (Last Week: 4)
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Jaguars won it going away against the Jets. Blake Bortles had another stellar day. Jacksonville leads the league in just about every meaningful statistical category on defense. The concern was the turnovers. The Jags had three of them without forcing one from New York. The Jets aren’t enough of a threat on offense for that to matter, but that is something Doug Marrone is going to have to fix heading into a matchup with the Chiefs.

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4. New England Patriots: 2-2 (Last Week: 6)
What’s that? It’s been 8 years since anyone won the AFC East over the Patriots? Right. New England smacked Miami 38-7, silencing all of the talk about the end of an era. This team is not as talented as in years past, but still more than good enough to win the division. The Pats get Julian Edelman back this week as it gets set for to host Indy on Thursday night.

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5. Chicago Bears: 3-1 (Last Week: 7)
All of a sudden, Chicago is having some flashbacks to the 2006 NFL season when an incredible defense carried it to a Super Bowl appearance. This time though, Da Bears have a much better quarterback than Rex Grossman. Mitch Trubisky launched six touchdown passes in a rout of the Buccaneers. Matt Nagy almost has to feel disappointed his team is off this week after firing on all cylinders against Tampa.

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6. Baltimore Ravens: 3-1 (Last Week: 8)
Baltimore took care of business on Sunday Night Football, winning the best current rivalry in the NFL. Joe Flacco played great and the Ravens defense shut down the high-powered Steelers offense. Jim Harbaugh’s defense is giving up the second fewest yards and third fewest points per game. The next step for Baltimore is finishing drives with touchdowns. Justin Tucker kicked four field goals in the second half.

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7. Minnesota Vikings: 1-2-1 (Last Week 5)
It would be really easy to look at the scoreline and think the Vikings just aren’t as good as a year ago. Minnesota played a much better football game on the road with a short week against the best team in the league. At the same time, the Vikings are one Clay Matthews roughing the passer penalty away from being 1-3. The schedule doesn’t get much easier as Mike Zimmer prepares for a road trip to Philly for a rematch of the NFC title game.

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8. Philadelphia Eagles: 2-2 (Last Week: 3)
The message so far has been to wait until this team gets healthy. It might take a bit of time for all those previously injured players to gel again as the Eagles drop another close game on the road. Looking at the box score, its tough to figure out where Philly faltered after posting 432 yards of offense and forcing a turnover on defense. The biggest issue was Tennessee going 3-3 on fourth down, all of them coming in overtime. Doug Peterson has some soul searching to do as the Vikings come to town desperate for a win.

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9. New Orleans Saints: 3-1 (Last Week: 15)
The Saints are at their best when they run the ball efficiently. It keeps the defense off the field and allows Drew Brees to utilize the play action passing game. In fact, they were 9-1 last season when eclipsing the 100-yard mark on the ground and 3-5 when failing to top 100 yards. Efficiently is putting it mildly as well after averaging 5.3 yards per carry against the Giants. Alvin Kamara had a field day with 181 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. Mark Ingram also returns from suspension this week as New Orleans heads home to host Washington.

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10. Carolina Panthers: 2-1 (Last Week: 10)
An early off week for the Panthers allows them to hopefully solve a few of the issues plaguing the secondary. It will start by taking the week to integrate newly-signed safety Eric Reid. Carolina gave up the third most yards per play in its first three games. The cure for that might be the struggling Giants offense, who visits this week after managing only 18 points against what has been a terrible Saints defense this season.

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11. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-1 (Last Week: 16)
With several games heading to overtime, the Bengals might have played in the best game of the weekend and it finished in regulation. Beating the Falcons in Atlanta is a big statement for Cincy. The secondary needs to step up after allowing 432 yards passing and three touchdowns. The Bengals have also allowed opponents to convert 57 percent of their third downs, the worst mark in the league. Cincinnati has the firepower, now the defense needs to take some pressure off Andy Dalton until Joe Mixon is back.

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12. Green Bay Packers: 2-1-1 (Last Week: 12)
Aaron Rodgers said the Packers were terrible following a shutout over the Bills. The offense might not have been great, but the defense played lights out. Green Bay sacked Josh Allen seven times, forcing a fumble, and picked him off twice. Buffalo only mustered 145 yards of total offense. For a team that has struggled on defense this season, these are all good signs.

Falcons logo13. Atlanta Falcons: 1-3 (Last Week: 11)
Another week, another heart-breaking close loss for the Falcons. The Bengals have looked sharp this season on offense, so the struggles on defense are somewhat understandable, especially given how many injuries the team has suffered. Calvin Ridley also continues to emerge for the offense. Scoring points isn’t the problem. Dan Quinn needs to return to his defensive roots and find ways to hide its weaknesses on that side of the ball.

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14. Washington: 2-1 (Last Week: 14)
The week off couldn’t have gone much better for Washington. Both the Eagles and Giants lost. The Cowboys failing in their late comeback would’ve been the icing on the cake, but Washington is still atop the division. It has a tough week ahead with the Saints on Monday night, but Jay Gruden got an extra week to find ways to slow down this New Orleans offense.

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15. Tennessee Titans: 3-1 (Last Week: 20)
Mike Vrabel showed everyone that he has the guts to win football games as a head coach in the NFL. The Titans converted on three fourth downs in overtime to topple the defending champs. The offense took a little while to get going, but Marcus Mariota finally scored a touchdown. It was a poor game plan from Philly, but Vrabel and his staff put together a great game plan to maximize what little talent it has at the skill positions on offense. The Titans are going to be tough to beat.

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16. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-2-1 (Last Week: 9)
It is time to consider that maybe the Steelers just aren’t that good. Ben Roethlisberger missed open receivers and for the first time this season, Pittsburgh really missed Le’Veon Bell, who announced he will return during week 7. The defense actually improved in a bend don’t break sort of way, but this team has a lot of questions and not too many answers after four weeks of football.

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17. Miami Dolphins: 3-1 (Last Week: 13)
Dolphins, meet Earth. Miami came down hard in a blowout against New England. Ryan Tannehill accomplished nothing under center, the running game was MIA and, despite two interceptions, the defense was gashed by Patriot running backs all game long. The Dolphins proved to everyone they are not a contender, not even really close to one, with that loss.

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18. Denver Broncos: 2-2 (Last Week: 18)
Denver came agonizingly close to an impressive upset. The ground game and defense powered the Broncos to a 23-13 lead, but faltered down the stretch when it mattered most. This is a gritty team capable of hanging with the top teams in the league. Case Keenum needs to make more plays to push the Broncos over the hump from just competing to winning.

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19. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-2 (Last Week: 19)
This was bad, but it could’ve been worse. The Chargers squeaked out a win over the battered 49ers. Los Angeles showed heart in the comeback, but it should never have been required. The defense allowed too many big plays and could struggle again with the Raiders coming to town after finally showing up on offense.

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20. Seattle Seahawks: 2-2 (Last Week: 22)
Seattle is an entirely different team on the road. It played poorly enough to lose to Arizona, but the Cardinals couldn’t get out of their own way to pull off the upset. The one positive is the Seahawks looked comfortable running the ball even without Chris Carson. They head home for a date with the Rams and a chance to pull off a major upset. No matter how shaky Seattle might be, going to CenturyLink Field and winning is still one of the hardest things to do in football.

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21. Dallas Cowboys: 2-2 (Last Week: 23)
Ezekiel Elliott is making a legitimate case for the MVP award this season. The former Buckeye leads the league in rushing by almost 100 yards through four weeks. He is also second in yards from scrimmage only behind Alvin Kamara. The reason MVP might be in order is only Cole Beasley has more receiving yards for Dallas this season. Zeke is doing it all right now for the Cowboys, who might need his heroics again in Houston to go above .500.

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22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-2 (Last Week: 17)
Goodbye FitzMagic, hello quarterback controversy. Neither Ryan Fitzpatrick nor Jameis Winston played well in a 48-10 laugher against the Bears. The Bucs defense picked up right where it left off, which is giving up massive gains through the air and occasionally frustrating running backs. This is much more the Tampa team many expected to see this season, and it could cost Dirk Koetter his job.

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23. Indianapolis Colts: 1-3 (Last Week: 21)
After a tough start, the Colts really turned things around to force overtime and almost pull off the comeback. Andrew Luck put up great numbers, but still does not look like the same quarterback he was before his injury. The running game didn’t produce much, but Nyheim Hines caught a pair of touchdowns out of the backfield. Frank Reich has achieved some positive things in Indy, but the Colts have a long way to go.

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24. New York Giants: 1-3 (Last Week: 24)
The Giants limited Drew Brees and Mike Thomas, but totally forgot about Alvin Kamara, letting him rumble for 181 yards of offense and three touchdowns. Offensively, New York has not threatened to throw it downfield and cannot find a way to establish a consistent running game. It seems like the Giants need to start thinking about the future, looking for a long-term answer at quarterback and completely rebuilding this offensive line.

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25. Detroit Lions: 1-3 (Last Week: 25)
Going into Dallas to earn a win after pulling off a major upset against New England would have caused many to forget the woeful start to the season. Instead, the Lions are 1-3 and seem unsure how to utilize the talent they have. Kerryon Johnson did not get the ball enough against the Cowboys and Matt Stafford continues to do a lot. The defense had no answer for Ezekiel Elliot though. With Green Bay visiting this week, Detroit needs to have a much better game plan.

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26. Cleveland Browns: 1-2-1 (Last Week: 26)
Heading to the West Coast is really tough. There is a lot to take away from this game. The positives are the offense can score a ton of points and the defense can generate turnovers. The negatives are the defense can give up a ton of points and the offense can commit a lot of turnovers. If Baker Mayfield can find some ways to clean up his game (four turnovers in Oakland), the Browns should start winning games.

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27. Houston Texans: 1-3 (Last Week: 28)
It required a bit of luck, no pun intended, to beat the Colts after Indy failed to convert from midfield on fourth down. That set up the Texans for the game-winning field goal in overtime. Deshaun Watson played great. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney combined for four sacks. However, the secondary gave up over 450 yards and four touchdowns. The task this week will be containing Ezekiel Elliott.

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28. New York Jets: 1-3 (Last Week: 27)
It is games like these that set the Jets back a few years. Todd Bowles seems to be trending ever closer to an exit in New York. Blake Bortles tore apart the Jets defense and New York never adjusted. Bowles continues to blitz on third down in any part of the field and Jaguars were ready for it every time. It is hard to fire a coach after drafting a rookie quarterback, but for the sake of Sam Darnold’s development, the Jets are better off doing it this year rather than waiting.

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29. Oakland Raiders: 1-3 (Last Week: 31)
At times, it seems like the Raiders are trying to lose. Oakland made a ton of mistakes on both sides of the ball and benefitted from several questionable calls by the officials. Still, it was a win nonetheless, Jon Gruden’s first in ten years. The Raiders offense showed up against what had been a good Browns defense. Oakland is going to need the offense to keep clicking to even have a chance with how poorly the defense continues to play.

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30. San Francisco 49ers: 1-3 (Last Week: 30)
For those who thought San Francisco would just go quietly into the night after losing Jimmy Garoppolo, this was a big surprise. The 49ers came extremely close to knocking off the Chargers. C.J. Beathard knows this offense well after starting several games last season. It is unlikely Kyle Shanahan and company win a ton of games the rest of the way, but they seem like they will at least be competitive.

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31. Buffalo Bills: 1-3 (Last Week: 29)
Reality set in once again for the Bills after shocking the Vikings at home in week 3. Josh Allen is still a rookie and this offensive line still isn’t good. Green Bay sacked Allen seven times in the contest. If Buffalo cannot find a way to keep the kid from Wyoming clean, he will continue to force the errors we saw in the second half in Green Bay.
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32. Arizona Cardinals: 0-4 (Last Week: 32)
Quietly, Josh Rosen might have had the best week of any of the rookie quarterbacks who started. He only threw for 180 yards and a touchdown, but he considering the Cardinals dropped at least three passes in the game and Phil Dawson missed two field goals, he did a lot to put his team in a position to win. It was improvement from the previous week in Chicago which featured an awful final few minutes for the kid from UCLA. If David Johnson can get on track, this Cardinals offense should be decent at least with Rosen at the helm.

Could Earl Thomas be the Solution to the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell Problem?

The first and third-most talked about contract disputes (Khalil Mack is safely at number two) in the NFL this year have dragged on into the regular season. If you are a football fan, you no doubt know that Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will not sign his franchise tag tender. You likely also know the Seahawks are locked in a heated dispute with safety Earl Thomas. Both are elite level players responsible for a lot of the success these two teams have had in recent years, but both seem equally intent on playing elsewhere in order to get a bigger paycheck. Speculation about where each could land continues to roll on, but it is possible Seattle and Pittsburgh could solve the other’s problem.

So far this year, Pittsburgh has been burned in the secondary. The Steelers have allowed the fifth most passing yards and are tied with the Saints for the most passing touchdowns given up. For Seattle, this team has stated it would like to get back to running the ball more. Unfortunately, the Seahawks rank 25th in rushing yards and have the third worst yards per carry average in the league. Even with a bevy of options in the backfield, no one has managed to really take control.

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Bell has missed 15 games over the past three seasons with the Steelers. (Wikimedia Commons)

The truth is, the Steelers no longer need Bell. He would still be an upgrade over James Connor, but the second year back from the University of Pittsburgh ranks eight in yards from scrimmage so far this year. The need to patch up the secondary is a big one. Earl Thomas would be a huge upgrade over Sean Davis. Pro Football Focus ranks Davis as the 41st safety in the league. Thomas tops the list.

For Seattle, they have a number of young backs, but the chance to add Le’Veon Bell and potentially reduce the number of hits Russell Wilson takes would be massive. Bell had the second most yards from scrimmage in the league last year. His ability as a pass blocker and pass catcher would take a ton of pressure off Wilson. Even though Seattle has a couple of young running backs, none of them will ever come close to playing at the same level as Bell as he enters his prime.

Financially, there is some interesting movement here. Bell is going to want a massive extension. Todd Gurley set the market in a lot of ways for running backs when he negotiated his extension with the Rams. CBS Sports reported back in July Bell wanted roughly $17 million per year in the deal, turning down a massive five-year $70-million offer from Pittsburgh. Seattle might be willing to go a little higher to land him. Using Spotrac, I put together a contract that pays Le’Veon an average of $15.1 million per year in the form of a 5-year $75.5-million deal. That is still short of his asking price, but it tops the Steelers’ last offer.

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Thomas has 28 career interceptions, including three this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

Thomas wants to be paid as well. Eric Berry is the highest paid safety in the league out in Kansas City. The Steelers already have a Bell-sized opening in their cap number, so absorbing Thomas’ cap hit this season would be no big deal. Signing Thomas to something like a 4-year $48 million contract should appease him. It would put him in the same category as Berry and Tyrann Mathieu in terms of average salary.

These are just some rough numbers I ran, but both seem like realistic contracts for each of them to sign. Bell and Thomas both desperately need a change of scenery. It checks a lot of boxes for both teams, filling a need, sending the player to the opposite conference to avoid playing them again and moving on from a player that clearly no longer wants to be part of the organization.

NFL Power Rankings 2018: Week 3

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1. Los Angeles Rams: 3-0 (Last Week: 1)
The first battle for Los Angeles since 1994 ends in favor of the Rams. Jared Goff played a great game, save a redzone interception. The special teams bailed him out by blocking the ensuing punt and recovering for a touchdowns. There were some key injuries though. With a short week ahead and going on the road, week 4 will be very telling for Los Angeles.

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2. Kansas City Chiefs: 3-0 (Last Week: 4)
Records continue to fall as Patrick Mahomes continues to ball in Kansas City. The Chiefs have dominated teams through the first three weeks of the season. All three of their wins have been solid. The Chargers, Steelers and 49ers were all considered to be among the better teams in the league this year. The secondary might be terrible, but no one has even come close to slowing down Andy Reid’s high-powered offense.

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3. Philadelphia Eagles: 2-1 (Last Week: 6)
Carson Wentz was back and managed to knock off some rust. It was a bit of an ugly win for the Eagles, but a win nonetheless. Philly should be getting healthier over the next few weeks as the trio of Alshon Jeffrey, Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi all set to return soon. With their MVP-caliber quarterback back in action, we could see the Eagles return to the form that led them to the Super Bowl in the near future.

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4. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-1 (Last Week: 2)
And this is where the parity in the NFL kicks in once again. After the Jaguars beat the Patriots, they were riding high atop the AFC. Then they crashed back down to Earth with a loss to the short-handed Titans. Jacksonville faced a lot of the issues it struggled with in the past as the defense played lights out, but the offense struggled to score points. The Jets are on the schedule next, which should be a win, but the Jags lost to New York last year and with how this NFL season is going, nothing is for certain.

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5. Minnesota Vikings: 1-1-1 (Last Week 3)
In other results that continue to make no sense, Minnesota laid an egg against Buffalo. The offensive line forgot how to block and Kirk Cousins was responsible for three turnovers. The Bills deserve a lot of credit for winning, but the Vikings played like it was the NFC Championship game. With a short week, Minnesota desperately needs to turn things around quickly heading to Los Angeles for a matchup with the Rams.

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6. New England Patriots: 1-2 (Last Week: 5)
Take your hand off the panic button. It was not a good week for New England. There is no question this team is not as good as it was a year ago. The Patriots still have a lot to figure out, but they are still the best team in the AFC East and one of the top three teams in the AFC. A win over the currently undefeated Dolphins would do a lot to silence doubters.

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7. Chicago Bears: 2-1 (Last Week: 9)
I will be honest, after the performance the Bears put on against the Cardinals, I don’t feel great about having them at seventh. However, who would you put ahead of them? This defense has been among the best in the league. It hasn’t really beaten anyone significant yet, but will get a chance to prove itself against Tampa Bay and Miami in its next two games. Also, trust in Matt Nagy. He seems like he is going to figure out what ails the offense before too long.

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8. Baltimore Ravens: 2-1 (Last Week: 14)
One week after being embarrassed by Andy Dalton, the Ravens bounced back. Bend but don’t break proved to be the solution for Balitmore’s defense en route to an important win over Denver. It seems odd to call a week 3 game important, but it was a victory over another AFC team that could be the difference in what seems like it will be a tough AFC North.

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9. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-1-1 (Last Week: 12)
That second half did not do much to comfort anyone and Pittsburgh looks as undisciplined as ever, but it picked up a win, and a road win at that. Ben Roethlisberger picked up right where he left off against Kansas City. Unfortunately, the secondary reverted to its woeful ways after halftime. Still, four forced turnovers is a good place to start for the Steelers. If they can avoid committing as many penalties, wins should become easier to come by.

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10. Carolina Panthers: 2-1 (Last Week: 18)
I will admit, heading into the season, I was very skeptical of this Panthers team. Most of my concerns were with the offense though and after three weeks, a lot of them have been alleviated. Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey work well together on the ground and Carolina can create just enough passing downfield to keep the defense honest. After intercepting Andy Dalton four times as well, it seems like this team is only getting better as the season rolls on.

Falcons logo11. Atlanta Falcons: 1-2 (Last Week: 8)
Even though the Falcons beat the Panthers in week 2, Atlanta has lost some big pieces in the meantime. Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, Andy Levitre, Devonta Freeman, Riccardo Allen and Takk McKinnley all find themselves on the injury report, and some of them aren’t coming back. The offense seems to be hitting its stride, scoring over 30 points each of the last two weeks, but if the defense cannot get healthy, it might not matter for the Falcons.

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12. Green Bay Packers: 1-1-1 (Last Week: 7)
Sure it was a road game, but that was not the performance we are used to seeing from the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers and the offense mustered only 17 points. The defense was gashed by countless big plays. The Packers have not looked like a great team through three weeks. There are only so many times Rodgers can tell everyone to relax.

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13. Miami Dolphins: 3-0 (Last Week: 17)
It is hard to know what to make of the Dolphins quite yet. They trailed at home against Oakland, but scored 21 points in the second half to pull off the comeback. Ryan Tannehill has played extremely well through the first three weeks of the season, but the running game disappeared against the Raiders. Despite being 3-0, Miami has yet to really secure a statement win. Beating the Patriots this week would certainly qualify.

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14. Washington: 2-1 (Last Week: 19)
The parity in the NFL is reaching an interesting point. One week after falling flat against Indianapolis, Washington nearly doubled up Green Bay. The rushing attack came up huge as Adrian Peterson feasted on the Packers defense. Alex Smith put up solid numbers, but only completed 12 passes. It was a huge improvement, but there is still room to grow.

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15. New Orleans Saints: 2-1 (Last Week: 22)
This seems a lot more like the Saints team we know. Drew Brees turned back the clocks with a vintage performance, setting the NFL record for career completions in the process. New Orleans might have the most dangerous offense in football outside of Kansas City when it gets going. Mark Ingram is only two weeks away from returning as well. Now, if someone could just teach them to play defense.

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16. Cincinnati Bengals: 2-1 (Last Week: 10)
One week after tossing four touchdown passes, Andy Dalton threw four interceptions. The lack of consistency make the Bengals a tough team to trust, but they were missing Joe Mixon and A.J. Green left the game with an injury as well. Cincy still leads the suddenly very competitive AFC North, but faces a tough test with a trip to Atlanta on the horizon.

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17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-1 (Last Week: 11)
It might seem like a bit of a steep drop, but this was exactly what every Buccaneers fan feared would happen. Tampa Bay’s offense committed four turnovers in the first half, including a pick-six by Ryan Fitzpatrick. It battled back in the second half, and the defense actually pitched a shutout, but the damage was already done. If not for some shaky kicking by Chris Boswell, this game might have even been a bit further out of reach when Tampa started to make its late push. Jameis Winston returns this week as well, potentially throwing this team into chaos about who should start at quarterback.

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18. Denver Broncos: 2-1 (Last Week: 15)
A lot of the concerns about this Broncos team came to light in the loss to the Ravens. Case Keenum was rather pedestrian throwing for under 200 yards with no touchdowns and the running game could not bail Denver out. This is still a team more than capable of competing for a playoff spot, but with a trip to Arrowhead upcoming, the offense needs to get into gear.

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19. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-2 (Last Week: 16)
It is easy to look at the scoreline and think the Chargers were a step below the Rams, but Anthony Lynn’s squad put up a good fight. If not for a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown, this game would’ve been a whole lot closer. Last year’s first round pick Mike Williams flashed some of his potential and the ground game looked solid. If Los Angeles can use the rushing attack early to control the tempo, the Chargers should start winning more games.

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20. Tennessee Titans: 2-1 (Last Week: 23)
Thankfully for the Titans, style points are worth nothing in the NFL. The thing holding Tennessee back from being higher on this list is the battered situation of its quarterback group. Marcus Mariota can barely grip a football and Blaine Gabbert took a nasty shot to the head. The Titans will probably need to score a few more points with the defending champs coming to town.

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21. Indianapolis Colts: 1-2 (Last Week: 21)
The defense came to play. The offense was almost nowhere to be found. Indy managed just 209 yards of total offense for a pathetic 3.7 yards per play. The sad truth is that Andrew Luck might never truly be the same quarterback he was back in 2015 before all these injuries piled up. The evidence was never clearer than watching Jacoby Brissett come off the bench to attempt the potential game-winning Hail Mary pass.

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22. Seattle Seahawks: 1-2 (Last Week: 27)
All I’m going to say is the Seahawks better pay Earl Thomas soon. The veteran safety intercepted two passes against Dallas and made life a lot easier for the Seattle offense. Chris Carson cracked the hundred-yard mark, but it took him 32 carries. Overall, this was a massive improvement for the Seahawks, but the jump was from dreadful to below average. This team still has a lot to prove.

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23. Dallas Cowboys: 1-2 (Last Week: 20)
Turnovers killed the Cowboys as the offense sputtered once again on the road. Dallas is sticking to its gameplan as Ezekiel Elliott is tied for the league lead in rushing yards through the first three weeks. However, the poor play in the secondary and the inability to generate a downfield passing threat are huge red flags. This team is missing Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

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24. New York Giants: 1-2 (Last Week: 25)
Pat Shurmer deserves a lot of praise for his handling of this game. He kept the Giants moving the ball efficiently on the ground and kept Eli Manning about as clean as possible considering the talent level on the offense line and on the Texans’ defensive front. Heading home with a win is crucial for this team, but the defense will need to turn it up a notch with the Saints coming to visit.

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25. Detroit Lions: 1-2 (Last Week: 28)
Wow. This does not make up for how poorly the Lions played to open the season, but it means a lot for how Detroit fans view Matt Patricia. The Lions finally had a 100-yard rusher as rookie Kerryon Johnson crossed the century mark. Matt Stafford was solid if unspectacular. The secondary played some of the best football I’ve seen in Detroit in a long time. The win means a lot, but it will mean a lot more if the Lions can go into Dallas and build on the positives.

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26. Cleveland Browns: 1-1-1 (Last Week: 29)
LeBron who? OK, that’s definitely pushing it, but it felt a bit like Cleveland found its new king on Thursday night as Baker Mayfield came off the bench to lead a second-half comeback and end the Browns’ 19-game losing streak. There is no looking back now and the extra prep the team got heading into a matchup with Oakland could have the Browns on the cusp of a winning record for the first time since November of 2014.

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27. New York Jets: 1-2 (Last Week: 24)
Just in case anyone had forgotten, the Jets reminded the whole league they are still a rebuilding team after losing in Cleveland. It was part of a tough schedule to open the season travel wise as New York played it’s third game in 10 days. Still, Sam Darnold showed he is a rookie with a lot to learn and the defense still cannot generate a pass rush without blitzing. It could be a long season for the Jets.

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28. Houston Texans: 0-3 (Last Week: 26)
For a team as talented as the Texans supposedly are, it is unbelievable they are one of just three teams in the league without a win. The pass rush showed up against New York, as did the passing game, but Houston still came up short. Bill O’Brien has to figure out what is holding this team back and fast. Dropping to 0-4 with a loss to the Colts would end its season.

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29. Buffalo Bills: 1-2 (Last Week: 31)
I’m not going to claim for even a second that I saw this coming, but I did think the Bills looked a lot better in week 2. They looked even better thrashing Minnesota at home with a 27-6 victory. Josh Allen showed why he was a top-10 pick in the draft and Buffalo found a way to move the ball on the ground even without LeSean McCoy. This team is still far from contending, but it might be a bit more competitive than most initially thought.

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30. San Francisco 49ers: 1-2 (Last Week: 13)
And with that, the 49ers hopes for a successful season end. Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a torn ACL, meaning he is done for the year. San Francisco is already at 1-2 and started 1-10 last year before Garoppolo took over as quarterback. On the bright side, a high draft pick for a team that already has a franchise quarterback can be a very valuable asset.

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31. Oakland Raiders: 0-3 (Last Week: 30)
John Gruden said in an interview that he wouldn’t take the Raiders money if he wasn’t successful. It is time to start handing it back over. Oakland is arguably the worst team in the league. The major difference separating it from Arizona is the fact it is not starting a rookie quarterback. Oakland is being outscored by about 10 points per game and owns the worst turnover ratio in the league. The Raiders do have an easy schedule remaining, but need to drastically improve for this not to seem like a season that set the franchise back several years.

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32. Arizona Cardinals: 0-3 (Last Week: 32)
Well, all of the rookie quarterbacks taken in the top-10 are now in control of the starting role. Josh Rosen will likely join Baker Mayfield in making his first NFL start in week 4. It was a rough start for Rosen as he threw two interceptions to close the game. One was called back for an offsides penalty, but Rosen still took a sack to eventually end the contest. Even though it was a close game, Arizona still looks like the worst team in the NFL.

Colin Kaepernick Succeeded

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Kaepernick was the starting quarterback for San Francisco in the Super Bowl back in 2013 against Baltimore. (Wikimedia Commons)

Like it or not, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick succeeded when he started taking a knee during the national anthem. He also shed some light on the NFL’s clear lack of a moral compass.

It has been almost two years since the start of the controversial protest. In that time, the meaning, message and significance of Kaepernick’s actions have become part of national news and debate. That alone means he has accomplished a lot.

Kaepernick has explicitly stated his protest is about police brutality and racial inequality, two major issues that face our country today. Regardless of which side of the conversation you stand on, you cannot deny that the conversation is happening.

Without trying to get too political here, I want to focus more on the overall impact of Kaepernick’s protest. It has raised awareness across the country about important issues. It is because of him that these conversations are being had. Washington Post writer Kent Babb quoted an NFL owner in September of 2017 as saying, “The thing that he’s done probably more effectively than any team community relations staff or owner or coach could do for other players is [point out] that they do have the ability to affect the national dialogue.”

National dialogue has certainly been impacted. A small group of players across the NFL joined in with the protest. Fans boycotted the league because it could not curb the behavior. The president tweeted about it regularly, attacking commissioner Roger Goodell for not stopping the behavior.

Several other NFL players formed the Players Coalition, working for social change. They credited Kaepernick for starting a movement. Back in May, that group partnered with the NFL to dedicate about $90 million to battling social inequality.

For Kaepernick, it is more than just a protest. In 2017, he donated $1 million to various charities across the country. Greg Bishop and Ben Baskin do an excellent job profiling the choices he made in making these contributions and break down where the money went.

Then of course there is the Nike ad. The fact that Nike was willing to take this risk says a lot about the state of the NFL right now. The league had no idea this campaign was coming and it is meant to inspire. It has sparked protest from those who view any association with Kaepernick as disrespectful to the military, but the message from the ad is actually quite inspiring, encouraging kids to chase their dreams.

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Kaepernick has thrown for 72 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in 69 career games. (Wikimedia Commons).

There are still drawbacks. The message is often times misconstrued and the debate can quickly turn into personal attacks of someone’s character. Many feel that Kaepernick is ignorant in his action, especially with the Nike ad slogan, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Perhaps that mantra is a little too on the nose when one of the main critiques of his protest is that it disrespects the military, people who genuinely sacrifice their lives for our freedom. In my opinion, Nike probably went a bit too far. Kaepernick sacrificed his NFL career for his protest, but the idea of “sacrificing everything” is better-suited to describe members of the armed forces.

At the same time, Kaepernick has sacrificed a lot of his own personal gains in order to continue this protest. Without the controversy that surrounds him, he would certainly be on an NFL roster, making several millions of dollars. And yes, he would be on an NFL roster if he had never knelled during the national anthem. Robert Griffin III is currently a member of the Baltimore Ravens. The last time the two of them played in the regular season, Kaepernick put up far better numbers, throwing 16 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions in 12 games. Griffin managed a meager two touchdowns and three interceptions in five appearances. Kaepernick also had more passing yards and rushing yards per game and the two had identical completion percentages. Simply stated, Kaep was the better player. Yet, it is RG3 who finds himself on an NFL roster.

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Griffin is currently the third quarterback on the Ravens’ roster.

I’m not saying Kaepernick should be starting anywhere, but he is good enough to be a backup quarterback. He has plenty of experience and was on a team that reached the Super Bowl in 2013. I mean Nathan Peterman has a job! That guy has thrown two touchdown and seven interceptions, and owns a career completion percentage of 43! The point is, Kaepernick would most certainly be on an NFL roster if not for the anthem protest.

You can dispute how much of a sacrifice this really is, but when you look at the number of NFL players that hold out or complain about not being paid enough money, Kaepernick is holding himself to a higher standard.

The fact he isn’t on a roster, but Mychal Kendricks has a roster spot is possibly the most disappointing part of this whole issue. Kendricks was indicted and charged with insider trading at the beginning of this month. He now faces 25 years in prison for his crimes. After the news broke regarding the charges, the Cleveland Browns released him. Just a few weeks later, he is now starting for the Seattle Seahawks.

Kendricks’ presence juxtaposed to Kaepernick’s absence illustrates the hypocrisy of the NFL. The fact that a convicted criminal is on a roster ahead of a man standing up for social change is disgusting. You might not like what Kaepernick kneels for or the message he is promoting, but he is not a criminal. He is acting upon a constitutional right to peacefully protest. The willingness of NFL owners to sign players who are criminals just reminds everyone the league is a business and willing to look the other way as long as the negative publicity does not effect the bottom line. It also underlines the reality that off-the-field issues can be over looked, though it continues to prevent Kaepernick from being in an NFL jersey.

Editor’s note: Since I first published this, there were signs that this controversy is no longer going to bar players from being in the league. Former 49ers safety Eric Reid signed with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday. Reid was the first player to join Kaepernick in taking a knee during the national anthem back in 2016. This does not solve everything, but it is progress. Reid, much like Kaepernick, deserves to be on an NFL roster.

People on both sides of the issue have been offended or hurt by the words spoken and actions taken. Unfortunately, that is often how change comes about. It requires patience and perseverance.

And Kaepernick has proven that he will be patient in his pursuit of change. Two years later, he still does not have an NFL contract. He rarely makes public appearances. He continues to embark on philanthropic missions.

Love him or hate him, Kaepernick has started a movement, he has sparked a conversation and he has forever changed how athletes will view their platform. On those grounds, his protest has definitely been a success.