Since 1995, only 2% of teams that have begun a season 0-3 have gone on to make the playoffs, and that number won’t be going up anytime soon. There are four teams currently winless (the Saints, Jaguars, Bears, and Browns), and I’ve seen enough to stick a fork in all of them. While an 0-3 start typically dooms a team’s playoff hopes, winning the first three games of the year doesn’t make you a lock, as just 74% of 3-0 teams make the postseason. That means out of the Patriots, Ravens, Broncos, Eagles, and Vikings, we should expect at least one to be watching the games in January from their living rooms. It surely won’t be either the Patriots, who have gone 3-0 WITHOUT Tom Brady, or the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos, whose defense alone should carry them to the playoffs. While the Ravens are undefeated, they’ve only played teams with one total win so far. The Eagles look strong now but have yet to play a division game in what is always a tight NFC East. Lastly, the Vikings have shocked everyone so far, but seriously, how far can they go with these injuries?
Week 3 was one of those weeks where it feels like the NFL’s just messing with you. The Texans forget how to not fumble a kick return and get shut out by Jacoby Brissett’s Patriots? Sure. The Bills force five turnovers in an emphatic win over the Cardinals? Of course. The Rams, who scored nine points in their first two games, drop 37 in Tampa Bay? Why not? The Jets turn it over EIGHT times including SIX interceptions from Ryan Fitzpatrick? A ton of crazy things happened on Sunday, and I haven’t even mentioned the Vikings scoring 22 unanswered in Carolina or the Eagles beating the Steelers by 31 or how the Falcons and Saints combined for 77 points while star receivers Julio Jones and Brandin Cooks combined for just three catches and 29 yards. While I try to process everything that happened, take a look at my latest power rankings.
32: Browns (0-3, LW: 32) Well, the Browns looked like a real team on Sunday, so there’s something. Cody Kessler, the team’s fifth different starting quarterback in their last five games, looked pretty solid, while triple-threat Terrelle Pryor combined for 200 total yards passing, running, and receiving. They actually should’ve won this game, but Cody Parkey missed not one, not two, but three field goals. Browns misery continues.
31: Bears (0-3, LW: 31) The Bears didn’t even pretend to be in the game against the Cowboys, going down 24-3 at halftime before Brian Hoyer padded the stats in the second half of their 31-17 loss. On paper, the Bears have a chance to get in the win column this week, home against Detroit. But good luck with that.
30: Saints (0-3, LW: 28) For what was once the hardest place to play in the NFL, teams are now more than happy to play in New Orleans, where the home team has gone 7-11 over the past three seasons. The Falcons’ two-headed monster of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 296 total yards and four touchdowns.
29: Jaguars (o-3, LW: 27) Blake Bortles needs to stop throwing interceptions in order to take his game to the next level. He’s thrown six already, and all the lost possessions are taking away chances to win games. Another winnable matchup home against the Colts, but so much for the sleeper team of the year.
28: 49ers (1-2, LW: 25) Remember that first game against the Rams, where the 49ers won 28-0 and actually looked good? Well, that incredible defense has allowed 83 points in the two games since, including 37 to the Seahawks who managed just 15 points in their two other games. On offense, it might not be much longer before we see Colin Kaepernick.
27: Buccaneers (1-2, LW: 22) Poor clock management prematurely ended the Bucs’ game-winning drive following the lightning delay against the Rams. However, it’s a situation the Bucs never should have been in in the first place. The Rams scored 38 points. Come on. No team has allowed more points than the Bucs this season (101), and until that changes, the Bucs won’t be able to contend.
26: Dolphins (1-2, LW: 24) Yes, the Dolphins did just drop in the rankings following a win. They tried their very best to lose against the Browns, including fumbling the ball in the last minute of regulation to give the Browns the ball in field-goal range, but alas, the Browns weren’t having it, and let the Dolphins win anyways. Similar to the Jaguars, people have been saying it’s Miami’s year for a while now, and it just never is.
25: Titans (1-2, LW: 21) Number-wise, the Titans have been pretty identical to their opponents this season. However, their -5 turnover differential stands out, and with a passing game lacking weapons, you need every chance you can get. Good thing they’re in football’s worst division.
24: Bills (1-2, LW: 30) Hey! There’s the Bills defense that disappeared week 2 against the Jets! And I guess firing the offensive coordinator might not have been a bad idea either! In all reality, this is a Bills team that’s likely not going anywhere, but their performance against Arizona last week was among the best in the league, and maybe it’s the beginning of a season turnaround. What’s that? Patriots next week? Nevermind.
23: Lions (1-2, LW: 23) No drop for the Lions this week after they nearly came back on the Packers after trailing 31-3 early. Matthew Stafford’s having a much better year than anticipated without Calvin Johnson, but the Lions’ problems, per usual, have resided more on defense than offense. I’ll use this time to brag about drafting Theo Riddick in my fantasy league.
22: Rams (2-1, LW: 29) The Rams are 2-1? For real? In the most unexpected twist of the last two weeks, the Rams now find themselves leading the NFC West with the tiebreaker advantage over the Seahawks. I don’t know how this happened, or what to think about it. Well done, I guess. But I’m still not buying this team finishing with more than five wins at the end of the year. Prove me wrong.
21: Redskins (1-2, LW: 26) The Skins handed a painful, painful loss to my Giants this week, and reminded us all why they actually won the NFC East a year ago. The Redskins were able to make big plays on both sides of the ball when they needed to, with deep bombs to DeSean Jackson and timely picks of Eli Manning earning them a deserved first win and decent jump up in the rankings.
20: Chargers (1-2, LW: 19) I still don’t really know what to make of the Chargers, who are looking competitive despite injury setbacks but have been unable to pull out wins. We still haven’t seen Joey Bosa, either. I think this a better football team than they get credit for, but you have to be able to finish games. Great opportunity against the Saints this week.
19: Jets (1-2, LW: 12) I’ll do my best LeBron James impression: “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven.” The Jets turned the ball over eight times, a stunning number that’s hard to believe, especially considering how good the offense looked against the Bills. If that’s not a wake-up call, I don’t know what is. All I know is Ryan Fitzpatrick better get his act together or risk being booed off the field.
18: Colts (1-2, LW: 20) It was far from pretty, but the desperate Colts will take a win any way they can get it. Indianapolis was able to slow down the Chargers running attack with Melvin Gordon and allow only one touchdown on the Chargers’ four trips to the red zone. The defense did enough to put Andrew Luck in a position to take the lead late, and T.Y. Hilton was able to break free for a 63-yard game-winning touchdown.
17: Giants (2-1, LW: 10) Sloppiness doomed the Giants on Sunday, as they turned the ball over three times for the second consecutive week and committed 128 yards worth of penalties. To make matters worse, leading rusher Shane Vereen is undergoing season-ending surgery, leaving the Giants undermanned entering the hardest stretch of their schedule, with matchups against the Vikings, Packers, and Ravens ahead.
16: Falcons (2-1, LW: 17) Matt Ryan might be the best quarterback in football so far, and the Falcons offense is absolutely rolling, averaging a league-leading 34.7 points per game. They set the tone in their shootout win over the Saints, and the combination of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman is destroying defenses week in, week out. The Falcons should not be taken lightly.
15: Raiders (2-1, LW: 18) Needing a strong defensive performance, the Raiders actually got one in a 17-10 victory over the Titans. If they can manage to knock off the undefeated Ravens, we could be looking at a Raiders team that will be a strong wild-card contender.
14: Texans (2-1, LW: 6) I can’t imagine how that could’ve been any worse. The Texans ran just a few plays in Patriots territory the whole game, as turnovers and missed tackles dictated an embarrassing performance. All the storylines were about Jacoby Brissett, but ultimately Brissett didn’t need to do much, as the Texans self-destructed on the field.
13: Cardinals (1-2, LW: 5) After their destruction of the Bucs in week 2, I thought the Cardinals were back to being the Super Bowl contenders of 2014 and 2015. Wrong. Carson Palmer threw four interceptions as the Cards looked terrible in a road loss to the Bills. It remains a very winnable division, but Arizona needs to string together some positive momentum going forward, and it starts with a week 4 home matchup against the Rams.
12: Bengals (1-2, LW: 9) Despite back-to-back losses, I still like the Bengals this year. The Steelers and Broncos are tough matchups, and despite going 0-2, they played well. The pass defense’s struggles against Trevor Siemian are concerning, but I still think this is a playoff team. They should look very good against the Dolphins this week.
11: Cowboys (2-1, LW: 14) Dak Prescott’s a funny quarterback. He’s looked good in all three games, but never great. He does exactly what you want from a rookie- makes strong reads, takes easy completions, and doesn’t turn the ball over. Dak is good enough to lead the Cowboys to a good season. The question is, does he stay the quarterback when Tony Romo is healthy?
10: Ravens (3-0, LW: 16) You’ve heard it all before. For the third week in a row, the Ravens play a bad team, don’t look all that impressive, and come away with a close win. Now they play the Raiders. It’s their first chance to get a solid win on the record. But hey, they’ve taken care of business so far, and deservedly have a spot in the top 10.
9: Chiefs (2-1, LW: 15) Three weeks, three different Chiefs teams. In week 1, they pulled off a miraculous comeback to defeat the Chargers. In week 2, they didn’t do much of anything against the Texans. In week 3, they thoroughly dominated the Jets from start to finish. So who are the Chiefs? That’s a great question. They’re good, not great, and almost identical to last year’s Chiefs. The AFC could have a fun wild card race.
8: Steelers (2-1, LW: 4) Raise your hand if you saw that one coming (if you’re raising your hand, you’re a liar). The team I called the best offense in the NFL just two weeks ago managed just three points against the Eagles. DeAngelo Williams, with 237 rushing yards in weeks 1 and 2, managed just 21 yards on eight carries. I’m going to call this one a fluke. The Eagles played an incredible game, showing they’re the best team in Wentzylvania right now, but I still think the Steelers have the league’s best offense by the end of the year, especially with LeVeon Bell back from suspension.
7: Panthers (1-2, LW: 3) The Panthers have already lost more games in the regular season this year than last year. Similar to the Steelers, I don’t think there’s huge cause for concern here. They lost to the Broncos and Vikings, both top-3 teams in the power rankings. Cam Newton will find his rhythm, and the Panthers should still win the NFC South. They might not be as good as last year, but hardly any teams look particularly good this year.
6: Seahawks (2-1, LW: 13) Well, sometime between week 2 and week 3, the Seahawks were reminded how to play offense. That’s as much a relief for Seahawks fans as a scary sign for everyone else. However, the team sustained two big injuries against the 49ers. Thomas Rawls will miss multiple weeks with a fibula injury, and Russell Wilson is questionable for Sunday with a sprained MCL. Former TCU QB Trevone Boykin is the backup.
5: Packers (2-1, LW: 8) It’s really a similar story for the Panthers, Seahawks, and Packers. I don’t think any of them are as good as they were a year ago (or for the latter two, the past few seasons), but ultimately they all still have the pieces, and should remain very competitive and likely all finish with double-digit wins. For the Packers, it was an important win against the Lions mainly just to quiet the critics. Now they’ll have a bye week.
4: Eagles (3-0, LW: 11) Speaking of byes, the Eagles are the other team that has one during week 4, and I’m not sure they want it so early anymore. Carson Wentz has turned the whole country into believers in just three weeks, and the Eagles have looked more impressive than any other team in the league thus far. It’s going to take a lot more than a bye to cool down the hype train.
3: Vikings (3-0, LW: 7) Does it really matter who the Vikings have on the field or who they, or where they play anymore? This is the best defense in football, period. They shut down Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton in back-to-back weeks and look incredible thus far. I’m scared for my Giants.
2: Broncos (3-0, LW: 1) The Broncos would like to challenge my above statement that the Vikings are the league’s best D. Easily a top-2 unit, the Broncos D once again had a big performance against the Bengals, slowing down Cincy’s passing attack and conceding just three points in the second half. However, it was more about offense in this game, as Trevor Siemian came to life, throwing for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. They didn’t move down a slot based on anything they did.
1: Patriots (3-0, LW: 2) When you defeat a team as good as the Texans 27-0 with your third-string quarterback, you just have to move up to number one. The things the Patriots have been able to do without Tom Brady and (for the most part) Rob Gronkowski are insane. It just proves how incredible this coaching staff is. We love to hate them, but ultimately these guys are the best in the business. Who knows if they’ll ever lose the AFC East.