Any given Sunday is right. Sometimes, we need a reminder that no matter how foregone a conclusion a game may seem, if you’re watching two NFL teams play, anything can happen. After a lackluster start to the season and President Trump’s comments on National Anthem protests, Week 3 was incredibly important for the NFL. It more than delivered, with the most exciting, unpredictable round of games in recent memory.
Let’s start with the upsets. Sunday’s early game saw the Jaguars, the NFL’s seemingly appointed “London’s team” take on the Ravens at Wembley Stadium across the pond. What resulted were numerous variations on the internet of a joke that went kind of like this: “the Ravens took their protest a step further by protesting the actual game itself.” Heck, that might be one of the better explanations I’ve heard for how a team that had allowed just 10 points in their first two games found themselves at one point down 44-0.
Just a week ago, the Broncos humiliated the Cowboys, making a statement that the Denver D was best in the league and that Trevor Siemian was a star in the making. Hopes weren’t too high for the Bills, coming off a 9-3 loss in Carolina that easily takes the cake for most boring game of the year thus far. Yet, back home in Buffalo, the Bills took care of business, 26-16.
We witnessed the Bears taking down the Steelers in overtime in a game that included one of the stupidest plays and most bizarre rule applications in NFL history, and the Jets (yes, the Jets!!!) ending the potential 0-16 season much earlier than anticipated. And let’s not forget the smackdown Kirk Cousins and the Redskins put on the Raiders during Sunday Night Football.
Sure, there were surprises galore, but even the games won by the favorites featured bizarre endings. Who could’ve guessed that Aaron Rodgers would need overtime to lead his Packers to a victory over the Bengals, or that Tom Brady had to pull some magic to lead a game-winning drive at home against Houston? The Eagles beat the Giants on a last-second 61-yard field goal from a rookie kicker, and the Lions came just a yard short of handing the Falcons their first loss of the year.
Alright- let’s talk about that Bears play. Chicago leads 14-7 with six seconds left in the first half, but Chris Boswell is out to attempt a 35-yard field goal for the Steelers to cut it to 14-10 heading into the locker room. The kick is blocked, flying directly into the hands of Marcus Cooper, who’s off to the races. It’s the easiest touchdown he’ll ever score, but at around the 10-yard line, Cooper slows down dramatically, practically walking into the end zone. He never looks over his shoulder, and just as he’s about to cross the goal line, Vance McDonald, who’s been chasing the whole time, knocks the ball loose.
It’s reminiscent of Leon Lett’s Super Bowl gaffe, but if not for the difference in stakes, this one is much worse. Lett slows down alright, but Cooper’s hardly even moving. But things don’t end there. Normally, if the ball was fumbled out of the end zone, it would be a touchback- halftime, in this case. However, the Steelers, in an attempt to recover the ball and prevent a Bears touchdown, accidentally knock the ball out of the back of the end zone. That’s an illegal bat. By rule, the Bears get the ball at the spot of the fumble for one, untimed down. Starting from the one, the Bears offense snaps the ball but commits a false start. After the five-yard penalty, the field goal unit comes out, and it’s 17-7 Bears.
Total madness. Then again, that’s exactly what the entire week was like, and as a result, the Power Rankings are nuts. I’m someone who preaches not overreacting to a single week’s results, but not a single team from #6-28 on the list is within two spots of where they were last time. Let’s have a look.
1. Chiefs (3-0, LW: 1) OK, Kareem Hunt is just ridiculous. It was another 172 yards and a touchdown on just 17 carries against the Chargers, giving Hunt over 500 total yards and six total touchdowns in just his first three career games. Hunt, like the Chiefs as a whole, looks unstoppable right now. Kicker Cairo Santos has been sent to the IR, though, giving rookie Harrison Butker a shot for at least eight weeks. The Chiefs host the Redskins in what should be an electric Monday night matchup.
2. Falcons (3-0, LW: 3) What a great game this was from what so far has been the two most impressive teams in the NFC. Matt Ryan entered this game having gone nine contests without throwing an interception but tossed three to the Detriot defense, including a Glover Quin pick-six. Still, the Falcons’ weapons on offense- Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel, Tevin Coleman- were all able to get it going, putting together six scoring drives before the team’s first punt, which didn’t take place until late in the fourth quarter. Action all around and a too close for comfort finish, Falcons fans will feel relieved to get the road win in a matchup of 2-0 teams.
3. Patriots (2-1, LW: 2) Tom Brady saves the day again, leading a game-winning drive in the final two minutes and change that included first-down completions on both 3rd & 12 and 3rd & 18 before 25-yard TD strike to Brandin Cooks. TB12 dominated, throwing for 378 yards and five touchdowns, but despite giving up a fumble-six, he never should have been down in crunch time against Deshaun Watson’s Texans to begin with. A year after leading the league in points allowed, the Pats are dead last through three weeks and are giving up a league-high 461 yards per game as well. Only two other teams are even within 90 yards of that number.
4. Packers (2-1, LW: 6) It had been over seven years since Aaron Rodgers’ last and only career pick-six, but all impressive streaks come to an end eventually. Rodgers still exceeded 300 yards and had three touchdown passes, but needed a 72-yard strike to Geronimo Allison in overtime to put away the Bengals at Lambeau, which isn’t exactly a great sign. Regardless of circumstances, the Packers usually just find ways to win games. However, their next opponent, the Bears, has already played Atlanta and Pittsburgh tough, knocking off the latter.
5. Lions (2-1, LW: 7) They were so close. It was death by 10-second runoff for the Lions, who had a game-winning touchdown from Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate called back just inches short of the goal line. It’s rare to see a team move up multiple spots following a loss, but even though I have them a spot behind the Packers right now, Detroit has been more impressive so far, and I like the Lions as a dark horse Super Bowl contender going forward. They have a chance to really prove when they visit Minnesota in Week 4. Just ask the Saints and Bucs- it’s no easy task winning Minnesota.
6. Cowboys (2-1, LW: 9) Dallas played the field position game, getting the ball at the Cardinals’ 33, 46, and midfield on three of their four touchdown drives. Looking to come back from a blowout defeat in Denver, the Cowboys offense had a solid game, but more importantly avoided turnovers and capitalized on their opportunities to prevail, 28-17. They’ll face off against the highest scoring offense in the NFL next week, home against the Rams.
7. Titans (2-1, LW: 11) For the second straight game, the Titans score at least 21 straight points in the second half to blow open a huge lead. This time, it comes against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. DeMarco Murray finally broke out this week with a 75-yard rushing touchdown, and his partnership with Derrick Henry looks scary. Points shouldn’t be the problem for the Titans. Russell Wilson had a field day over the air but had far too many three and outs in Tennessee’s 33-27 win. With a very favorable schedule in the four games leading into their bye, the Titans could jump out to a big AFC South lead.
8. Raiders (2-1, LW: 7) To call that performance surprising would be an understatement. The high-powered Oakland offense finished with only 128 total yards, running just seven plays in Washington territory, six of which came by way of Redskins fumbles that gave the Raiders the ball in the red zone. The seventh was Derek Carr’s second interception. There’s no room for error in the AFC West, making the Raiders’ next game in Denver all the more important as both teams try to keep pace with the Chiefs.
9. Eagles (2-1, LW: 13) And now the points scored by quarter of the Eagles-Giants game. 1st quarter: 0. 2nd quarter: 7. 3rd quarter: 7. 4th quarter: 37. No typos here. 45 minutes in, the Eagles had done a great job of running the football and preventing big plays from Big Blue. Add in a couple red zone fourth-down stands, and it was a fairly comfortable 14-0 lead. Then things got crazy, with the Giants scoring 21 points in five and a half minutes. The Eagles answered, and the Giants struck back. The Eagles answered again, and got the ball back with 13 seconds. A completion to Alshon Jeffery set up rookie Jake Elliott with a 61-yard attempt for the win, and it was good. The loss of Darren Sproles for the year will be a big one, but there’s nothing like a rivalry win in dramatic fashion.
10. Redskins (2-1, LW: 15) One of the most dynamic players in the league, Chris Thompson made the most of Rob Kelley’s absence. Although being the most successful rusher in a committee with Samaje Perine and Mack Brown, the pass-catching back did his best work through the air, catching six balls for 150 yards and a score in a statement victory, 27-10, over the Raiders. Kirk Cousins was on fire, and the defense set the tone early, intercepting Derek Carr on his first pass of the game. You’d be hard-pressed to find a team as good as the Raiders shut down so thoroughly. The NFC East race is on.
11. Steelers (2-1, LW: 5) It’s time to start questioning things. The Steelers had an easy go of it in Week 2 against a Case Keenum-led Vikings team, but the offense has yet to look truly impressive this season, ranking 22nd in the league in yards per game. Additionally, there was just no stopping Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen on the ground. Week 4’s encounter with the Ravens is a really interesting one- a pair of 2-1 rivals coming off upset losses. Can they right the ship?
12. Broncos (2-1, LW: 8) A week removed from limiting Ezekiel Elliott to an astonishing eight yards rushing, the Broncos did it again- holding LeSean McCoy to just 21 yards on 14 carries. Unfortunately, that’s about all that went right. Despite allowing an efficient passing day from Tyrod Taylor, Denver was keeping this pretty even with the Bills, up 16-13 midway through the third quarter. And then there were the last four drives: interception, turnover on downs, interception, turnover on downs. Needless to say, that’s not going to get the job done.
13. Vikings (2-1, LW: 18) Have yourself a day, Case Keenum! Filling in once again for Sam Bradford, the ex-Houston QB had the best day of his career, picking apart the Bucs for 369 yards and three TDs. As a whole, the Vikings offense nearly hit 500 yards and led 28-3 before settling for a 34-17 win that included three Jameis Winston picks. A different Minnesota seems to show up every week, so we’ll see how they fare against an impressive Lions team.
14. Seahawks (1-2, LW: 10) Once again, the offense started painfully slow, picking up just one first down over the first six drives. The passing attack finally got moving later on, resulting in a gaudy 373 yard/4TD stat-line, but it wasn’t enough to match Marcus Mariota’s seven scoring drives. At 1-2, the Seahawks need to bounce back strong against the Colts, but then will head back on the road to face the Rams. Seattle is a poor road team and has lost four of five in St. Louis/Los Angeles.
15. Jaguars (2-1, LW: 24) WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA. WHOA. WHOA. WHOOOOOAAAA. SLOW DOWN. Is this the Jaguars, the Jacksonville Jaguars, in the top half of the rankings? Is that even possible? I can hardly believe it either, but what do you expect? In their home away from home, the Jaguars were firing on all cylinders. Blake Bortles threw four touchdowns while Joe Flacco could only manage 28 yards passing and two interceptions before being pulled after three quarters. That’s two blowout victories, and yea, there’s a blowout loss sandwiched in between, but it looks like that says more about the Titans than it does Jacksonville.
16. Buccaneers (1-1, LW: 12) And the hype dies quickly. Tough to blame Jameis when the team rushes only nine times for 26 yards, never picking up more than four in a play all game long. Doug Martin’s suspension lasts just one more week, but it’s an important home opportunity against the Giants before the Patriots come to town. Hopes are high for the young team in Dirk Koetter’s second year at the helm.
17. Rams (2-1, LW: 22) Outside of Rams and 49ers fans, there weren’t many people excited for this Thursday night matchup, but boy did it deliver. It seemed like another Rams-Colts after LA picked off Brian Hoyer on the first play of the game and Todd Gurley (who would have three TDs in the first half) scored on play #2, but it quickly turned into a barnburner as the two NFC West teams scored touchdown after touchdown. Sean McVay’s offense cracked 40 points for the second time in three games, but it was the defense who prevented a two-point conversion and forced a turnover on downs to end the game 40-38.
18. Ravens (2-1, LW: 14) See, this is why you can’t get too high on the Ravens. Through two weeks, they had as many takeaways as points allowed (10). Then this happens, the kind of game you can’t really explain. Ryan Mallett prevented the shutout with a touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson in garbage time, but a 44-7 loss…man. Nick Boyle led Ravens receivers with 14 yards, a number bested by six Jaguars. That’s all you really need to know. They would have fallen further, but they’re 2-1. We can’t forget how good they can be.
19. Bills (2-1, LW: 26) Who says the Bills are a run-first offense? Everybody? Well…they are right, but Buffalo proved they could get the job done through the air at home against the Broncos, who entered that matchup as hot as just about anyone. All of a sudden, the Bills are 2-1 and looking pretty competitive. Let’s not forget how close they were to beating the Panthers on the road, either. Alright, let’s not get ahead of ourselves- the team travels to Atlanta next week, where the Falcons made the Packers look terrible. Still, it’s a pretty easy schedule for the Bills overall, and they could surprise some people down the road.
20. Saints (1-2, LW: 23) Just two percent of teams who start 0-3 make the playoffs, and the Saints were well aware. After all, they started 0-3 in both 2015 and 2016. New Orleans entered the game just 1-11 in September since 2014, but finally were able to piece it together for a huge 34-13 road victory against the Panthers. Drew Brees was sacked just once, and the offense gained some much needed balance: 29 throws to 27 runs which went for 149 yards. However, what’s more important is that the defense came to play- recording three picks and allowing just 13 points. They should build upon that momentum in London next week when they play the Dolphins.
21. Panthers (2-1, LW: 26) How much you want to bet Cam Newton’s missing Greg Olsen right about now? Things got ugly in an NFC South battle, and it won’t get any easier anytime soon. How does at the Patriots, at the Lions, vs. the Eagles sound? Not great? Thought so. Christian McCaffrey accounted for 101 receiving yards, but outside of a couple long drives, the Panthers didn’t do much of anything. I’d put money on a drop to 2-4.
22. Texans (1-2, LW: 25) The beast known as Jadeveon Clowney strikes again, recovering a Tom Brady fumble and taking it to the house. Just keeping this one close would’ve been a positive sign, but the Texans did more than that, nearly pulling off the upset and falling 36-33. Deshaun Watson had just 125 passing yards in his first start but threw for 301 against the Patriots, and added another 41 on the ground. At 1-2, the Texans are trail the Jaguars and Titans in the AFC East. After already falling to the Jags, the Texans face an important matchup with the Titans back in Houston in Week 4.
23. Bears (1-2, LW: 27) It’s time to start getting used to the idea of the Bears as more than an easy victory. If they’re 23-17 season-opening loss to the Falcons didn’t prove it, they just beat the Steelers by the same score. Chicago has an above-average defense which should keep them in games barring turnovers like we saw in Week 2, and I’m really intrigued by how much the running back pairing of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen can accomplish. When they rush for 216 yards and two touchdowns while also being the team’s leading pass-catchers, Mike Glennon doesn’t need to do much. Amazingly, Glennon completed just one pass for nine yards to a wide receiver in their victory against Pittsburgh.
24. Cardinals (1-2, LW: 19) Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t stop. With an offense searching for a spark, Fitzgerald, now in his 14th season, caught 13 of 15 targets for 149 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, as the offensive struggled, leading to six sacks on Carson Palmer and a running attack that couldn’t go much of anywhere. Without David Johnson, Arizona will struggle to get things going offensively. There’s a good opportunity for a win at home against the 49ers next week, but this would’ve been a big one as you can’t expect much more from Palmer.
25. Giants (0-3, LW: 21) The Giants score 24 points in the fourth quarter in Philadelphia, and still manage to allow two field goals in the final minute of the game to blow it. Good grief. Eli Apple was exposed time and time again on Sunday, giving up two pass interference penalties that amounted to 77 yards and eventually two Eagles touchdowns and the catch to Alshon Jeffery that set up the game-ending kick. Eli Manning finally got the offense going in the fourth quarter with three TD passes, and that’s because he got rid of the ball in 1.86 seconds, on average. That’s .39 seconds faster than any other QB in Week 3. You can’t get sacked if the defense has no time to pressure. The Giants are playing for their season in Tampa this week.
26. Chargers (0-3, LW: 20) Suddenly, those close losses to the Broncos and Dolphins don’t look nearly as good. Then again, neither do the Chargers after a difficult offensive performance that confirmed benching Russell Wilson for Philip Rivers was one of the worst fantasy mistakes I’ve ever made. To have a chance at the playoffs, the Chargers first have to avoid last place in the AFC West. That already seems impossible, so goodnight, 2017 Chargers. Dream of finding a city that wants you there.
27. Jets (1-2, LW: 32) Victorious. The Jets completely shut down the Dolphins and Jay Ajayi, who could hardly reach the line of scrimmage on most of his carries, ending with just 16 yards. New York totaled nine tackles for loss and seven hits on Jay Cutler, while Josh McCown looked like a real solid quarterback for the second straight week. He’s completed over 70% of passes for 415 yards and three TDs over the stretch. It’s not going to be a fun year, but it won’t be as bad as we thought, either.
28. Dolphins (1-1, LW: 17) And way down we go. This is what happens when you lose to the Jets, a team some people thought would go 0-16. Sure, it was on the road, but it also wasn’t close. Miami would’ve been held scoreless if not for a Jay Cutler-DeVante Parker connection on the game’s final play purely for consolation. This was Jets. The Dolphins better learn to score, or else they’ll be pulling a Ravens in London.
29. Colts (1-2, LW: 31) Here’s how bad we thought the Colts were without Andrew Luck. They had the ideal matchup- home against the Browns- and were still one-point underdogs. That must’ve really got to Jacoby Brissett, who had a career game, throwing for 259 yards and a touchdown while finding the end zone on the ground two more times. His favorite target, of course, was T.Y. Hilton, who came alive for 153 yards and a TD. The Browns made a late charge, but it wasn’t enough to erase a 28-7 deficit.
30. Bengals (0-3, LW: 30) Hey, an offensive touchdown! After going without a touchdown and only nine total points through two games, Andy Dalton found A.J. Green on the first drive of the game for six and hit Giovani Bernard for another two drives later. Worth noting was the use of Joe Mixon as the primary back, who had a fairly average 18 carries for 62 yards. It’s good to see Cincinnati show signs of life, but they’d better do more than that and pick up a win against the Browns, or we’re going to start hearing some rumors.
31. 49ers (0-3, LW: 29) Geez. San Fran scored just 12 points- no touchdowns- in their first two games, and now 39 points still aren’t enough? Even after a failed two-point conversion that would’ve completed a 15-point fourth-quarter comeback, the Niners recovered the onside kick and seemed destined to get in position for a game-winning field goal. However, an offensive pass interference call setting up 3rd and 20 did in the offense that had scored TDs on four of five second-half drives. At least they had a chance.
32. Browns (0-3, LW: 27) Familiar territory for the Browns. Even still, it’s hard to drop five spots into last place, but it was a perfect storm. The Jets, Colts, and Bears all won while the Bengals took the Packers to OT and the 49ers nearly upset the Rams. For the bottom five teams in the league, they all had a heck of a week. Meanwhile, DeShone Kizer threw another three interceptions, and the Browns had killed all their timeouts, leaving them just 23 seconds for a potential game-winning drive. Somehow, I think I’m taking the Browns a second week in a row, this time at home against the Bengals.