Unfortunately, a great Sunday of football was overshadowed by over 200 players kneeling for the National Anthem. It even seemed like some of the teams/players might have more worried about kneeling than the actual game they were playing in, which could’ve affected how they played. But a lot happened on the field, and we are surprisingly left with only two undefeated teams standing after three weeks: The Falcons and the Chiefs.
1. Atlanta Falcons (3-0) | Last week: 1
Matt Ryan had gone nine games without throwing an interception, but the Lions picked him off three times on Sunday—though one was tipped in the air off a pass he threw too hard at running back Tevin Coleman, and the other went right off Mohamed Sanu’s hands. Still, the ten-second runoff rule ensured they were just able to pick up a huge win in Detroit. They’ll now return home against a stingy Buffalo defense, but they should be able to get another victory.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) | Last week: 2
When Spencer Ware went down with a season-ending knee injury in the preseason, rookie Kareem Hunt was seen as someone capable of filling in for him—but it’s unlikely anyone saw this coming. With his 69-yard touchdown run against the Chargers, Hunt became the first player in NFL history to score a 50+ yard touchdown in each of his first three career games. Hunt seems to wear defenses down, and it’s something that should help late in the year to go along with all the other talent the Chiefs have.
3. New England Patriots (2-1) | Last week: 3
Over his last two games, Tom Brady has thrown for 825 yards, eight touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The late-game magic of Brady once again came into play, as there really wasn’t much doubt he would lead his team down the field for a game-winning touchdown against the Texans. Now the Pats will host the Panthers, who they had a controversial ending against in their last meeting in 2013.
4. Minnesota Vikings (2-1) | Last week: 9
Even without Sam Bradford, the Vikings blew out the Buccaneers, as Case Keenum threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns, with both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen dominating in the win. The defense was also dominant against Jameis Winston and the Bucs, and shutdown corner Xavier Rhodes frustrated Mike Evans enough that the big receiver had a sideline outburst. More great news is that Bradford’s second opinion from Dr. James Andrews went well, as he doesn’t have any structural damage to the knee. Hopefully he can get back for this week in a big game against the Lions, but Keenum will attempt to keep it up if not.
5. Green Bay Packers (2-1) | Last week: 6
Aaron Rodgers uncharacteristically threw another interception—his third in three games, with two coming at Lambeau. But he did toss three scores and turned it on when the Packers were down and needed it against Cincinnati. He drew another one of his patented free plays in overtime and hit second-year Geronimo Allison for 72 yards, setting up the game-winning field goal by Mason Crosby. Green Bay will host the Bears on Thursday night.
6. Tennessee Titans (2-1) | Last week: 10
The running game of the Titans showed up in a big way against the Seahawks, as DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry pounded the ball, including a 75-yard touchdown by Murray. Marcus Mariota also might’ve played his best game of the year against a tough defense, and the team rattled off 21-straight points—showing the upside they have. The defense didn’t play great, but the Seahawks were due for a good offensive game eventually. The Titans also should’ve have a punt return touchdown by athletic rookie corner Adoree’ Jackson, but what in my opinion looked like a bad clipping call brought it back.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) | Last week: 4
This team simply is not as formidable on the road as they are at home, which is why I’m not as high on them as most people. Can you believe Alejandro Villanueva is being criticized for walking out of the tunnel and standing up for the National Anthem? Things have clearly become twisted. While it wasn’t handled perfectly, I commend the Steelers for wanting to focus on football though, and I agree with Bill O’Reilly’s thoughts as expressed in The Hill about it: The players that want to kneel or not participate in the Anthem can stay in the locker room, while also giving them opportunities to talk about social issues with the press. That is what I would do if I were an owner running an NFL team. It’s a business, after all, and the vast majority of fans are unhappy with Anthem protests.
8. Detroit Lions (2-1) | Last week: 12
Detroit’s loss to Atlanta was about as close a loss imaginable, as Golden Tate was down just inches before the end zone on the final play of the game. It was initially ruled a touchdown, but after a review and ten-second runoff rule (because the Lions had no timeouts) it meant the game was over. Despite the home loss, the Lions move up the rankings, and it’s looking obvious they are for real. The defense has played well this year, and the offense appears to have more balance than they’ve had in recent years.
9. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) | Last week: 5
That was a shocking loss in London to the Jaguars, and the only reason the Ravens aren’t falling down the rankings more is because the Jags are used to the trip across the pond. Joe Flacco had one of the worst games of his career in the game, but he and the Ravens will look to bounce back on Sunday against the division rival Steelers. After getting torched by Blake Bortles, Baltimore should be laser-focused on top of its game against Big Ben and company.
10. Denver Broncos (2-1) | Last week: 7
It stretches over the last couple of seasons with different coaching staffs, but the Bills were 10-4 in their last 14 home games—Buffalo is not an easy place to win. After his amazing start to the season, Trevor Siemian’s two-interception performance is as slight concern—but it was only one game against a tough defense. He should bounce back at home against Oakland this Sunday.
11. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) | Last week: 13
Dak Prescott bounced back in a big way from their Week 2 loss to the Broncos, as he had an excellent all-around game on Monday night against Arizona. The defense started off looking shaky, but they tightened up as the night went on and held on at the end. Despite the improvement over the course of the game, the secondary remains a major concern for Dallas, and they’ll need to continue their improvement there to match up with some of the elite NFC teams.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) | Last week: 17
In one of the funniest moments of the week, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz promised rookie kicker Jake Elliott he’d give him his game check if Elliott kicked a game-winning 61-yard field goal. Well, the rookie did it, and it looks like he more than doubled his earnings while giving the Eagles a big win in the process. Head coach Doug Pederson’s decision-making, including going for it on a fourth-and-seven from the Giants 43-yard-line and giving momentum to a team doing nothing offensively, is mind-boggling. But they’re 2-1 and looking to improve to 3-1 against the Chargers this week.
13. Washington Redskins (2-1) | Last week: 19
The season didn’t start off great for the Redskins, but they’ve bounced back with two wins over the Rams and Raiders, while completely blowing Oakland out on Sunday night. Kirk Cousins looks to be hitting his groove, while the defense is starting to thrive under new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. The Redskins have the coaching and quarterback to remain contenders this season. And how about Chris Thompson’s start to the season?
14. Oakland Raiders (2-1) | Last week: 8
Maybe the Raiders were a little distracted after the majority of the team sat down for the National Anthem, because they did not show up against the Redskins on Sunday night. The defense was torched from the start, the run game couldn’t do anything, and the normally solid offensive line struggled mightily while Derek Carr had one of his worst games in recent memory. It doesn’t get much easier traveling to Denver this week.
15. Carolina Panthers (2-1) | Last week: 11
In a game against a team that was giving up a ton of yardage through the first two games, the Panthers couldn’t do much of anything on offense. Instead of improving against the subpar defense, Cam Newton got worse, throwing three interceptions in the loss to the Saints. The defense let Drew Brees pick them apart at home, and things aren’t looking up with the team having to hit the road to go up north and face Tom Brady and the Pats.
16. Houston Texans (1-2) | Last week: 18
Despite the loss to the Patriots, the Texans and rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson played a solid game. Watson had some superb passes and flashed his major athleticism as he went over 300 yards for the first time in his career and threw a couple of touchdowns—including a dime to tight end Ryan Griffin in the end zone. It looks like Watson is only going to get better the more he plays, so the Texans have considerable upside moving forward—especially when J.J. Watt and the defense get on track.
17. Seattle Seahawks (1-2) | Last week: 14
Russell Wilson and the offense finally got it going, as Wilson threw for a career-high in yardage along with four touchdowns in the loss to the Titans. The run game and defense are now what’s problematic. The defense still has a lot of talent, but it didn’t come together against Tennessee, who had two touchdowns of over 50 yards in the game. A matchup against the Colts in Seattle should go a lot better—but things on the sideline could get ugly for them in the primetime matchup if the Colts are able to surprise everyone.
18. Miami Dolphins (1-1) | Last week: 15
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase gave an honest and blunt assessment of the offense when he said it was “just garbage.” While they’ve shown flashes, the offense has not been what Gase envisioned over the last two years. Look for them to increase the tempo in London on Sunday, but they’ll have to stay ahead of the sticks and move the ball, because Drew Brees is on the other side of the field.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) | Last week: 22
Blake Bortles threw four touchdowns and Marcedes Lewis caught three of them against the normally elite Ravens defense in a crazy London blowout that almost no one expected. Now they’ll face the Jets and try to play like they did in Weeks 1 and 3—not the way they played in Week 2, when they gave up 37 points to the Titans.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) | Last week: 16
Three interceptions from Jameis Winston, a lights-out performance by Case Keenum, and a sideline outburst from Mike Evans was exactly what the Bucs don’t want to see. The injuries on defense showed up against the Vikings; and, more important, Winston’s tendency to turn the ball over also did—something that cannot happen if this team is going to compete in the tough NFC. Now the Bucs need to face a desperate 0-3 Giants team.
21. Los Angeles Rams (2-1) | Last week: 24
This might be too low for the Rams, but the defense gave up a lot of yardage and the made mistakes in their win over the 49ers. If they get another win over the Cowboys, they’ll probably shoot up the power rankings. I’ve never seen a coach sit down on the sideline like Sean McVay has this season, which was pretty funny and shows the presence of Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator is huge for the young head coach.
22. Buffalo Bills (2-1) | Last week: 26
The trade of Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby obviously meant a decrease in talent for the Bills, but there was no way new head coach Sean McDermott was not going to have his team ready to play this season. They’ve showed up each week, and they have two wins to show for it. Now they’ll try to shut down a high-flying Falcons offense in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
23. New Orleans Saints (1-2) | Last week: 23
With their backs against the wall, Drew Brees, Sean Payton, and the Saints came through with a win on the road against the Panthers. The defense played much better than they did in the first two games, as they picked Cam Newton off three times and made sure the game was never really in doubt. A win this Sunday in London could bring the team together and build some momentum if they’re .500 entering the bye.
24. Arizona Cardinals (1-2) | Last week: 21
The start for the Cardinals couldn’t have been much better, as they scored a touchdown on their opening drive against the Cowboys. In the end, the Cowboys pulled away as Arizona dropped to 1-2. There are no must-wins this time of year, but a loss to the 49ers on Sunday would be devastating—the game should be an indicator of where the Cardinals are at this season in what could be a subpar NFC West.
25. Chicago Bears (1-2) | Last week: 27
Second-year running back Jordan Howard broke out for a huge game to help carry the Bears to an overtime win against the Steelers. Howard showed a lot of emotion after his game-winning, walk-off touchdown in overtime, and it could be something that rallies Chicago heading into Thursday night against the Packers. Keep an eye on Leonard Floyd, who played great against Green Bay last season and could be up against backup tackles in the game.
26. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) | Last week: 28
Jacoby Brissett played very well in a win over the Browns, and he should continue to get better and better the more he plays. T.Y. Hilton got going with one of his long touchdowns—his first of the year—and number one corner Vontae Davis could be back against the Seahawks this Sunday. They need Andrew Luck back to be AFC contenders, but a steady ship while he’s out could go a long way.
27. Los Angeles Chargers (0-3) | Last week: 20
Philip Rivers simply did not play well on Sunday against the Chiefs after he had a very good start to the year despite the team’s 0-2 start. The defense kept the Chargers in it for some time against Kansas City, but a back-breaking Kareem Hunt touchdown basically sealed a third-straight loss to open the season. They need to take advantage of Philadelphia’s corners in Week 4.
28. New York Giants (0-3) | Last week: 25
After yet another slow start, the Giants exploded for 24 points in the fourth quarter of their near-comeback against the Eagles. Getting the ball out fast behind the shaky offensive line is something Eli Manning and the Giants should continue to emphasize, but it’d be nice if the run game could get going. On the other side of the ball, they need to tighten up the run defense.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) | Last week: 29
The Bengals came out with new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and looked great, jumping to a 21-7 halftime lead against the Packers in Lambeau. But after the quick start, the offense scored only three points in the second half and Aaron Rodgers and the Pack stormed back to win in overtime. There were certainly encouraging things to take from the game for the Bengals though, and they need to get a win in Cleveland this Sunday.
30. New York Jets (1-2) | Last week: 31
Todd Bowles deserves a lot of credit for having his team bounce back to shut down the Dolphins after their 25-point loss to Oakland in Week 2. Jay Ajayi was limited to 16 yards on 11 carries by the Jets, and the Dolphins didn’t score any points until the final play of the game. They’ll look to keep it going this week as they remain home to face the Jaguars.
31. San Francisco 49ers (0-3) | Last week: 30
Because of their offensive breakout after not scoring a touchdown in the first two games, the 49ers made last Thursday night one of the most exciting games of the year already. Brian Hoyer bounced back in a major way after his bad interception on the first play of the game, and the running game led by Carlos Hyde continues to look really good.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-3) | Last week: 32
The more Deshone Kizer plays, the more it looks like the Browns would’ve had a better chance to win games with Cody Kessler under center after he played well as a rookie. It’s not an unfair statement, as Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said himself he doesn’t think Kizer should’ve left school early. Cleveland just needs to hope Kizer starts to show progression and get better the more he plays.