Week 4 is already underway in St. Louis tonight, as the 49ers look to get back on track after a terrible two week stretch. The home team Rams, meanwhile, look for a big divisional upset in the early stages of the season. With 3 weeks in the books, some teams seem to have issues, some are exceeding expectations, while others simply, as Denny Green so eloquently put, are who we thought they were. Lets review the first 3 weeks.
NOT LOOKING GOOD
New York Giants – Has any team looked worse than the Giants so far? A -61 net point differential, good for 2nd worst in the league, thanks to a defense allowing 38 points per game. The Giants have no running game and Eli has thrown 8 interceptions already. With road games at Kansas City and Chicago in the near future, paired with 2 games verses the ultra-productive Eagles offense, things may look even worse by the time their week 9 bye rolls around. Tom Coughlin may decide it’s time to retire and a top 10 draft pick could be in the team’s future. Jake Matthews would make sense so Pugh can slide inside and Eli can have a second to look downfield. The 4 sacks in the first quarter and 6 in the first half last week versus Carolina were unacceptable.
Washington Redskins – If you read my sophomore slump post, you know I was very down on both RG3 and Alfred Morris this year. I was worried about RG3’s knee early in the season and thought teams would be able to load the box to slow down Morris. Griffin has responded by throwing for over 300 yards a game, but the team has been slow to start and the defense has been the worst in the league. They have been unlucky to play Philadelphia, Green Bay and Detroit in the early going, but I’m not convinced the defense has the talent to rebound too much. Away games at Oakland and at division leader Dallas are sandwiched around a bye that the team desperately needs to use to get things back on track
Pittsburgh Steelers – Only 51.7 rushing yards per game means the team’s offense has to relay on Big Ben and the passing game, but the offensive line hasn’t been able to give him any time. Todd Haley’s play calling has been a big issue and I’m not sure things will get better as long as he is calling plays. After a long trip to Wembley Stadium in England, the team gets a much needed bye week before playing 3 of their next 4 games on the road. The Steelers have the talent to turn things around but they are also in a deep hole and it very well could be a throw away season.
BETTER THAN EXPECTED
Kansas City Chiefs – A rejuvenated Andy Reid is running a fairly conservative passing offense and they team is running the ball (9th in the league in rushing attempts!!). The defense ranks 3rd in scoring, 9th in yards and leagues the league in sacks while only allowing opponents to convert on 28% of their 3rd downs. With 4 of their next 5 games coming at home, including matchups with the Giants, Raiders and Browns, this team could be racing out to high win totals and will put Andy Reid back in the playoffs. The biggest concern for the team will be injuries, because they lack depth at pretty much every position.
Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins are 3-0 and have already beat Indy and Atlanta. Ryan Tannehill has taken the next step in his 2nd year in the league and really looks like a great pick. I still don’t know if I believe this team can sustain their success for the rest of the year, and a mid-season stretch with a short away trip to Tampa Bay followed by home games versus San Diego, Carolina and the New York Jets will determine how their season ends.
New Orleans Saints – Their offense isn’t surprising, and really the win total isn’t either. If anything, 23.3 points per game sounds low for this team. The shocker here is their top 5 defense after being bad at a record-setting level last season. Many people, myself included, have been very negative towards Rob Ryan’s abilities as a coach, but whatever he is doing this year is outstanding.
New York Jets – The other Ryan, Rex, is doing a heck of a coaching job as well this year as the Jets are 2-1. The team was the butt (sorry) of quite a few jokes going into the season but the team is playing solid football. Bilal Powell is underrated and Stephen Hill is ready to breakout on in the mold of the other tall, fast receivers from Georgia Tech (See Johnson, Calvin and Thomas, Demaryius). The team lacks talent all around, but as long as the defense keeps playing like a top 10 unit, Geno can learn on the go. They weren’t projected to get much more than a few wins and with 2 on the books already, this season can be considered a success.
THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE
Jacksonville Jaguars – As expected the Jags have the worst offense and one of the worst defenses in the league. Blaine Gabbert has already missed 2 games, but with Chad Henne unimpressive in those 2 starts, Gabbert is returning as the starter and fans are already clamoring for local favorite Tim Tebow. I really expected that MJD was the running back headed to Indy last week, but its possible injuries have caught up with him for good now. Teddy Bridewater can start looking for homes in the Jacksonville area.
Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos – These teams are playing as expected, but in their cases, that is a good thing. These were the favorite teams in their respective conferences and after 3 games, they still are. The Broncos are 1st yards and scoring, and Peyton Manning is playing at MVP level, possibly better, with 12 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and has completed 73% of his passes. This offense is impossible to match up against with Thomas, Decker, Welker and breakout player of the year Julius Thomas. The defense is still good enough to get by, even without Champ Bailey and Von Miller, just wait till they are both back. Looking at the schedule, the upstart Chiefs and a week 16 game at Houston are the only games that scare me, but honestly, by week 16 the games might not even matter for them, as they will have the #1 seed locked up. Start the 16-0, to rest or not to rest talk now.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, have the 4th most points scored and have the #1 defense, allowing only 27 points TOTAL. This team might be unbeatable at home and has great depth across the board. They play at Houston and at Indy the next 2 weeks and still have road games at Atlanta and the rematch at San Fran, but its hard to see them losing more than 3 games total.