Ahh that’s better. A bit of redemption for my slow start with regard to early season picks. After struggling to a 15-17 record through the first two weeks, my 12-4 record for week three puts me up over the .500 mark for the season with a record of 27-21. With the league playing out the way I largely suspected last week, I’ll try and duplicate my success in week four.
Let’s be honest, the Bengals are scary good. I don’t care who they’ve played. They’re beating the teams they are supposed to beat and doing so handily. Don’t believe me? They’re outscoring opponents 80-33 good for a point differential of +47, far and away the best in the league.
Denver did us the favor of making the Super Bowl rematch watchable with a furious fourth quarter rally, showing that the 2014 version of the offense may actually be better than 2013. That said, the 2014 defense may very well be worse. The high-priced unit is 30th in total yards allowed. Yikes.
3. San Diego:
The Chargers are for real. The Bolts waltzed into a fired up Ralph Wilson and dispatched of the streaking Bills. So they’re contenders for the Wild Card; the next step (down the road) will be fighting the Broncos for the AFC West.
4. New England:
The Patriots scraped by the Raiders. The defense saved the day and looks to be a legit top-ten unit, but what is up with the offense. Someone beyond the Gronkelman duo has to step up and give Tom Brady something to throw to before the Pats doing something rash and not-win the division.
Andrew Luck was on a mission. Sure it was the mission-equivalent of Tampa Bay taking out their Thursday night humiliation on a local pee-wee squad, but a win is still a win. The Colts earned the all-important first win and with Luck on his A-game, the Colts should be back on top of the AFC South in short order.
The Ravens pulled off the nail-biter against the Browns (hey guess who called that!), improving to 2-1 in both overall record and in the division. It appears that I pegged the wrong Smith to be the play maker for this team. Steve is proving he still has some juice left in his legs, but some one really needs to tell Torrey the season started. Keep an eye on Lorenzo Taliaferro moving forward. The fourth-round power back may emerge as the new starter if he can start to string together a few strong starts.
Wow…who are these guys? Few had Pittsburgh waltzing into Carolina and coming away with a win. Fewer still would have predicted that the Panthers training staff would still be scraping the remnants of their defense out of the Bank of America turf. The Steelers offensive line had it’s best performance in over a decade. Seriously. They mauled arguably the best front seven in the league all night long. Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount each went over the century mark and Big Ben was dishing Superbowl 43-esque dimes, and Antonio Brown just keeps being awesome. The Ben-Bell-Brown trio could carry this team to quite a few wins, but the injuries to Tayl0r-Shazier-Jones could damper and hamper the ceiling for this Pittsburgh roller coaster.
So the Bills’ stampede stumbled a bit against San Diego. The offense was somewhat inept, especially in trying to run the ball, with F-Jax and Spiller combining for a meager 59 yards. The end result was not pretty, but there’s still optimism for a team with a sound defense and a developing quarterback moving forward. They may not be quite legitimate contenders for postseason play just yet, but they’re close.
The epitome of scrappy, Cleveland has played the role of hard-luck loser in two of the last three weeks. Brian Hoyer is proving to be a capable quarterback and the committee of young running backs have given him a steady backbone to lean on. If this team can hover around .500 until Josh Gordon returns…no I won’t do that to you Cleveland. You are too familiar with expectations and failure. But protect that little flame of optimism; it may soon grow.
The real Ryan Fitzpatrick stood up and the Texans fans sat down. Fitzmagic threw three ivy-league picks and the Giants and Rashad Jennings ate up the defense with a little side of Victor Cruz Salsa. I hate to say I told you so Houston fans but expect more of the same with nothing positive on the quarterback horizon (paging Dr. Mallet) there’s not much of a positive outlook for the Texans.
11. New York Jets:
Another week. Another confounding loss. Yes the refs played their part, but get this; good teams take that fumble and field position and go down the field and score a touchdown anyway. Bad teams use it as a crutch. With all that went down, the Jets still had a chance to tie the game at the end, but couldn’t close (I stand by the notion that the ball was uncatchable on 4th down). Finding ways to lose continues to be a recurring issue with this team.
12. Kansas City:
Kniles Davis looks like a quality football player. I wish there were more players like him on the Chiefs offense. Travis Kelce has some serious upside as a tight end, but the lack of talent at receiver, offensive line and dare I say quarterback leave me with little to be impressed with. Add into the equation that you have to play Denver again and San Diego twice and you have all the ingredients of a third-place finish.
The Titans were at a big disadvantage at facing the largely superior Bengals Sunday. It showed. A 33-7 loss showed that this Titans team is in dire straights without a quarterback of note.
Still sour on the Dolphins. The appearance a dead-end team still looks to be legitimate, especially after suffering a blow out at the hands of the Chiefs.
Like the Vikings, the Jaguars are banking on a premiere rookie quarterback without much of a running game or defense to back him up. The Jaguars get Cecil Shorts back, adding to an already-impressive receiver corps. Also like the Vikings, it looks as if there just isn’t enough requisite talent to be a contender…this season.
The Raiders stink and will continue to stink. Derek Carr has a pulse, but the running game and defensive players not named Khalil Mack don’t. Marcus Mariota should start checking out apartments in the Oakland area.
Seattle proved two things Sunday: 1. The defense is not what it was a year ago. 2. It doesn’t matter, the offense is better. The Legion of Boom folded in the final minute of the game, allowing Manning to go 80-yards for six and a pair of pennies. On came Russell Wilson, who turned in his own 80-yard touchdown drive, like ending Peyton’s last visit to CenturyLink (he christened it in its first ever preseason game back in ‘02) in a big old helping of (older) Manning Face.
The Eagles are great at coming back from the dead, but how many more 1-UP’s do they have left? San Fran may prove to be the Bowser that this team has yet to encounter.
The Cardinals are silencing the critics. It doesn’t seem to matter who’s under center-Palmer or Stanton-with a talented trio of Fitzgerald, Floyd, light-speed rookie John Brown, and fleet-of-foot runner Andre Ellington, this team is to slow down. The week off should provide the Birds with a chance to prepare for Peyton in two weeks.
The NFC’s Jeckyll and Hyde, had the Cheeseheads hiding as Aaron Rodgers sputtered and the defense did just enough to lose. A key division win and a strong defensive outing against what I thought was a good offense bumps the Lions back up into top five and possibly into the driver seat of the NFC North.
5. New Orleans:
I don’t care that they’re only 1-2; one or two bounces the other way and they’re 3-0. The defense showed signs of life, albeit against a poor Minnesota offense, but no one wants a part of a well-rounded Saints squad in the dome down on the bayou. Good luck Dallas.
Gritty win for the Bears on the road. Yes the refs helped them out, but the Chicago red-zone defense stood tall all game long, including the final drive in which Geno Smith could have tied the game. Kyle Fuller looks like a superstar after just three games, and if the Bears wide outs can stay healthy, watch out NFC North.
7. San Francisco:
Another dud from the 49ers. It’s too early to panic but cause for concern is present. It won’t get any easier hosting the Eagles this week. One thing is for certain; San Francisco can’t afford to lose any more ground in the NFC West.
So Carolina took one on the chin Sunday night. The Steelers steamrolled the vaunted Carolina front seven for 264 yards rushing and 37 points (one score was the result of a special teams gaffe). Equally concerning is the continually-ailing Cam Newton who was abused by a previously-listless Steelers pass rush. Despite the game being mostly out of reach, Panthers fans should be a bit concerned that Newton was pulled in the early fourth, especially after his preseason injuries. With a brutal stretch of schedule on tap, the Panthers need him to be healthy if they want to remain relevant.
9. Green Bay:
What has happened to this team? Rodgers if off, Lacy has fallen off with the common denominator being an awful offensive line. The defense still remains lifeless and now Clay Matthews is questionable for a huge division match up against the Bears.
The Falcons this low? Yeah. Sure they blew out the Buccaneers but when you’re handed five turnovers, you should win by 42. They’re lucky the bumbling Tampa offense couldn’t capitalize on their own four turnovers. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devin Hester could win this team some games just as their lack of defense and a running game could lose them a fair share.
The Redskins could very well catapult up these ranks if Kirk Cousins can continue to string together impressive performances. The 2012 fourth-round pick could be Jay Gruden’s dream match for his new offense. The defense has the pass rush necessary to pressure quarterbacks and force turnovers but it remains to be seen how they will overcome the loss of DeAngelo Hall for the season. The Potential is there but reaching it is another story.
To quote Stephen A. Smith. Stop It. Just Stop It. The Dallas Cowboys may be 2-1, but after making Austin Davis look like a young Tom Brady don’t try and sell me on the falsehood that the Cowboys are a contender. DeMarco Murray is great-sure. He also is injury and fumble prone. Tony Romo is not back to his full health and continues his occasional meltdown-inducing throw. Dez Bryant continues to rah-rah-rah on the sideline and admittedly produce points, but the rest of the team is sagging. Good luck digging yourself out of a 21-point deficit against New Orleans this week.
13. New York Giants:
Life in the Big Apple! Rashad Jennings has shouldered a heavy load thus far in 2014. Finally there to help share the weight were Eli and Victor Cruz. First-round rookie Odell Beckham Jr. may finally be healthy enough to play; though he’s green and inexperienced, his speed and return skills could be a huge boost to an inconsistent offense.
It’s Teddy-time! The last pick of the first round has secured a starting spot by default following Matt Cassel’s season-ending injury. At the beginning of the season, with AP in tow, this move would have put the Vikings over the hump…if you’re asking me. Now without AP, this Vikings team appears to be sunk. That said, Bridgewater carried Louisville throughout his college career. Could the same be in store for Minnesota? Probably not this year, especially with security-blanket Kyle Rudolph out for at least the next six weeks.
15. St. Louis:
Austin Davis gave it the old college try. If nothing else, 2014 will serve to see if his impressive performance against the Cowboys was an aberration or if the Rams have something in the third-year undrafted quarterback. As long as the Rams secondary continues its string of breakdowns and miscommunication however, this is still a four-win team.
16. Tampa Bay:
Can the Buccaneers bounce back? Pittsburgh has a proclivity to play down to opponents in trap games, but it appears that there really is no quarterback worth starting on this roster. Mike Glennon will get a look moving forward but if Thursday’s performance was any indication, Tampa will be looking to win the Mariota sweepstakes as well.