LOS ANGELES — There’s a lot to be learned after just three weeks of a football season, yet at the same time it’s still a little early to come to conclusions about teams and players’ fate. I’m sure we all don’t expect Peyton Manning to keep this up or the Giants to be this dreadful, though surely we’re all surprised by Trent Richardson’s trade and Josh Freeman’s benching. This we do know: there are several teams and players performing very poorly and a few teams who look really good. One or two will stay on this path and everyone else will go up and down as the season ebbs and flows towards Super Bowl XLVIII.
That’s just how the National. Football. League. works. And why we live and die with it each week and why we love it. I can’t wait to see what Week 4 will bring. Until then, let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) (32) — Of course, the game I bench Maurice Jones-Drew, since he’s playing against the vaunted Seattle defense, at home no less, he scores a late, garbage touchdown. Thank goodness that didn’t cost me a win, since my team is terrible. Then I really would’ve thrown something at my television. Even more so than watching the crappy “Dexter” finale.
31.) Minnesota Vikings (0-3) (30) — We’re about two more brutal losses to teams of the Browns quality (no offense, Cleveland) from me starting a Free Adrian campaign.
30.) Tampa Bay Bucanneers (0-3) (29) — How much would you pay to watch a webcam of the Bucs lockerroom? $2? $5? I think there’s some mess going on in there that I’m guessing is pretty damn interesting. Oh, and good luck, Mike Glennon, you’re gonna need it. And it’s time for a decent haircut, you’re a starting NFL quarterback now.
29.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3) (28) — When my dad knows the Steelers are in trouble, they really are. Seriously, how are they going to score points outside of Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown breaking free on a long bomb?
28.) Washington Redskins (0-3) (24) — Preseason Week 3 went about as well as it could go, right? And did you know this is the first time EVER the Giants and Redskins have both started the year 0-3?
27.) New York Giants (0-3) (20) — The Giants are only this high because they’ve shown in the past it doesn’t matter how they start, they always seem to make it interesting down the stretch. How many more losses before the New York media starts calling for Tom Coughlin’s job?
26.) Cleveland Browns (1-2) (31) — So apparently the formula is: trade your best player, start your 3rd string QB and start winning games. Which team will be the next to follow this to Ws?
25.) Oakland Raiders (1-2) (25) — I really hope Terrelle Pryor isn’t hurt long term because he could become a special player. Though it might be time to have the conversation about the end of Darren McFadden, or at him being in need of a change of scenery to inject some life into his career.
24.) Carolina Panthers (1-2) (27) — Thirty-eight points?! Where did that come from this week? And does it say more about the Panthers being capable of turning this season around (they’re on a bye this upcoming week) or how miserable this Giants season is going to be?
23.) Arizona Cardinals (1-2) (22) — Almost positive this Cardinals team is going to be the one this season where I have no idea what to write about it each week. Most weeks it’ll probably be a lot of me gushing about the Honey Badger.
22.) St. Louis Rams (1-2) (21) — The Rams are the Cardinals are very similar in the respect that both have quarterbacks who aren’t really good but can make plays every once in a while, have solid skill guys who are underused, and defenses who could be great but something or another holds them back. Doesn’t help they play in the hardest division in football.
21.) Buffalo Bills (1-2) (24) — Not sure why but I like this team. I like E.J. Manuel. I like Doug Marrone. And I like that Manuel likes throwing to Stevie Johnson (have I mentioned that before?) They went up against a tough Jets team (can’t believe I just typed those words) on the road and nearly won. They’re going to be OK here in a bit.
20.) New York Jets (2-1) (26) — A month ago, I really thought we’d be talking about the temperature of Rex Ryan’s hot seat, not a 2-1 team with a rookie quarterback playing decently and a defense near the top of the league. Just amazing. When you think you have the NFL figured out, you realize you have no idea.
19.) Detroit Lions (2-1) (18) — The Lions got their first-ever win in Washington last week and then in the most bizarre story we’ve had this season, Nate Burleson broke is arm in a car accident when he was distracted by falling pizza and then hit the median. Your move, Bengals.
18.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) (16) — We know the Eagles don’t play any defense, but we also know the Eagles are still figuring out their own offense. Since the first half of the win against the Redskins they’ve been punked by the Chargers and Chiefs. I still think they’re going to be OK though. Not enough to make the playoffs but enough to lay the foundation.
17.) San Diego Chargers (1-2) (15) — Tennessee has proven to be a tough, hard-fighting team, so there’s no shame in losing to them. It seems like the AFC West is going to be more than a Denver runaway and the Chargers aren’t going to be an easy beat this year.
16.) Baltimore Ravens (2-1) (17) — I don’t know how the Ravens are above .500 but somehow they are. Very good win last week. Emotional with the retiring of Ray Lewis’s number and they found a way. That’s going to be their M.O. this season: finding a way.
15.) Dallas Cowboys (2-1) (14) — See what happens when DeMarco Murray gets his carries? Now if only he could run against the Rams each week he’d be in Adrian Peterson territory. I happen to think Dallas will beat San Diego this week which will set the ‘Boys up nicely this season, but we’ll see. They’re bound for a stinker.
14.) Houston Texans (2-1) (7) — There’s something about the Texans I don’t like. I can’t put my finger on it. Matt Schaub has done some Matt Schaub-like things this year. Arian Foster seems a bit disgruntled. Andre Johnson is dinged. But J.J. Watt is still awesome, but how long can he carry this team?
13.) Tennessee Titans (2-1) (13) — I haven’t seen more than a few seconds of the Titans play but I know Warren Sapp loves their defense. And when a first ballot Hall of Famer tells you something, you listen. Jake Locker is also proving to be very dangerous with his feet, which is something you can’t ever prepare for.
12.) Indianapolis Colts (2-1) (19) — Andrew Luck bent his old coach over his leg and gave him a spanking last week. I don’t know how else to explain what happened against the 49ers. Trent Richardson’s first carry in the blue and white was a touchdown and Indy’s defense made Colin Kaepernick look like a novice back there. This could be a dangerous team.
11.) Atlanta Falcons (1-2) (10) — I’m not convinced the Falcons could be fine without Steven Jackson, but an unhealthy Roddy White is really limiting Matt Ryan’s vertical attack. His offensive line isn’t giving him much, either, but this still is an explosive offense and a playoff team.
10.) New England Patriots (3-0) (8) — It’s hard to be undefeated yet still drop each week in the rankings, but that’s just what the Patriots have done thus far. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but Tom Brady hasn’t been good through three games, tantrums, dropped passes or not. He’s missed a lot of throws. But as long as the defense keeps bringing its A Game, the Pats will be OK.
9.) Green Bay Packers (1-2) (5) — Their running backs ran hard, aside from Jonathan Franklin’s late-game fumble, and the defense was opportunistic, Aaron Rodgers made a couple bad throws late in the game which cost Green Bay. This is still a dangerous team but the jury is out if it’s playoff bound.
8.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) (9) — Andy Dalton is a good, not great, quarterback. He’s taken this team to the playoffs the last two seasons. He has playmakers all around him and a good defense. The Bengals should win the AFC North going away and contend in the conference. They should.
7.) Miami Dolphins (3-0) (12) — Raise your hand if you saw an undefeated start from the Dolphins coming? Anyone? Didn’t think so. Their running backs aren’t great and you can’t name one of their receivers other than Mike Wallace. But they play hard, Mr. Lauren Tannehill is slingin’ it and Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan are pinching the ends like mofos. They’re gonna be in the hunt all season.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (1-2) (4) — I still think the 49ers are good. I still think Colin Kaepernick is a superstar in the making, but as someone said to me last weekend, he’s feeling himself a little too much. He’s buying into his own hype a little too much. Take him favoriting all the “hate” tweets this week. Why? How does that motivate you?
5.) Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) (11) — What an awesome scene in Philly last week. Really proud of the fans for showing Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb the respect they deserved. Too bad they couldn’t show the same gratitude when the two of them were leading the Eagles to NFC East titles and conference championship games. Chiefs are making the playoffs. Mark it down. That defense and zero turnovers, along with Jamaal Charles, they might even beat Denver.
4.) New Orleans Saints (3-0) (6) — Would you believe the Saints are 4th in Total Defense (295.7 ypg) and 6th in Offense (404.3 ypg)? Jimmy Graham is out of his mind right now and though it appears New Orleans has zero running game right now, at least it doesn’t have to worry about always being in a shootout with teams.
3.) Chicago Bears (3-0) (3) — Jay Cutler has the mojo working so far but before we all get carried away, myself included, let’s remember he’s gotten off to hot starts each of the last few seasons with the Bears with nothing to show for it. So while he looks great now, let’s not count the cubs before they’re done hibernating.
2.) Denver Broncos (3-0) (2) — Actual Yahoo headline on Tuesday: “Is it too early to give Peyton Manning the 2013 NFL MVP?” Manning’s stat line this season is ridiculous with 1,143 yards, 12 TDs and ZERO picks, not to mention his 73% completion rate, only 4.2% higher than his previous career high, but MVP? After 3 weeks? Slow the truck down, people.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (3-0) (1) — Yes, the Seahawks gave up 17 points to the Jaguars. Yes, that is unacceptable. Yes, they’ve won 10 in a row at home. No, they will not lose at home this season. Yes, they are The Man until there’s a something in the “L” column.
LOS ANGELES — With a third of the regular season down we have exactly one undefeated team (Atlanta) and no longer any winless ones (thanks, Cleveland), and here’s what we know in the National. Football. League.
I’m not convinced any team is great but there’s at least eight teams who are terrible, that’s for certain. The NFL is very medium-heavy right now. There’s at least 10 teams that could be Super Bowl contenders but every single one is missing something to put them over the top or in the driver’s seat.
Oh, and did anyone notice that neither the 49ers or Giants wore any pink on Sunday? Kinda strange given that the league is so gung-ho on it. More on the pink phenomenon next week. Let’s find out who’s the man.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (record: 1-5) (last week: 30) — Hey, all you fans who were booing Matt Cassel last week, which basically means you were clamoring for Brady Quinn, how’d that 22-of-38, 180-yard, 2-interception performance from the former EAS spokesman taste? Did I mention that you lost 38-10 and Quinn had a 48.7 Passer Rating? You’re on your way to the No. 1 pick, your coach getting fired and at least another 3 years before another playoff game. Now you’re done.
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) (32) — The best part about the bye week: moving up a spot when someone proves themselves crappier than you. And because I know you were all wondering, my Maurice Jones-Drew fill-in this week in fantasy, Mr. Brandon Bolden, got me a whopping 28 yards rushing for 1.87 points. #FreeMJD
30.) Carolina Panthers (1-4) (27) — It’s probably a good thing the Panthers had a bye this week or they might have fallen to the bottom of these rankings with another stink bomb of a showing. Seriously, I couldn’t be any lower on this team. Just showing me nothing. And DeAngelo Williams says something about his terrible game in Week 5 and how that shows fantasy owners how they could never be real GMs. Sheesh. Get a life, bro.
29.) Tennessee Titans (2-4) (31) — Not only did I pick the Titans to win last Thursday because I was pulling for my brother and knew that if Tennessee pulled the upset he’d be the best possible postgame, on-set guest, but Matt Hasselbeck then went out and delivered! Couldn’t have been happier for handsome, bald men everywhere. And how great was his son on the set? I seriously thought he was going to decapitate that poor, throwback Kurt Warner bobblehead.
28.) Cleveland Browns (1-5) (29) — What did I tell you last week? I said the Browns, while winless, could at least put points on the board, and therefore should not and would not be ranked last in this poll. And how did they respond? Only went out and made me look good by dropping 34 on the Bengals at home for their first win of the season. And happy 67th birthday Brandon Weeden! Went out and threw for a couple of touchdowns, including a 71-yarder to Josh Gordon.
27.) Oakland Raiders (1-4) (28) — As I explained to Jantzen on Sunday night, Carson Palmer is probably the best bad player in the league who’s actually not that terrible, but he stinks. The thing is, if you think about all of that put together, it makes total sense. The Raiders really should’ve upset the Falcons on Sunday but shot themselves in the foot on numerous occasions. Palmer threw for 353 yards but had a costly pick six in a tie game, then came down and led a game-tying drive. One minute he’s great, the next he’s bad and then he’s great and then he’s bad again. Plus, if the Raiders defense could stop anyone or get to the quarterback (4 sacks) they’d have more than 1 win. I don’t think they’re that far off.
26.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) (15) — It’s official: this Eagles team is garbage and Michael Vick should be benched and Andy Reid fired. That’s whatevery Philly fan is saying this week. And lo and behold, Reid ousted Juan Castillo. Right, because it’s his fault the offense is terrible (27th in scoring). I guess the Eagles 12th ranked defense was too low. Sheesh. Though 30th in sacks is kind of inexcusable. Who knows. This is a one-win team disguised at .500.
25.) Buffalo Bills (3-3) (26) — I honestly have no idea how Buffalo won in Arizona last weekend and I’m not convinced they’re any good. In fact, let me ask my huge Bills fan buddy, Shawn. Me: “how would you assess the Bills at this point?” Him: “Crap… Being a Bills fan is a complete waste of time.” That settles it.
24.) Detroit Lions (2-3) (24) — Anyone else think it’s hilarious that Nate Burelson said the Lions have been too busy trying to better off the field that they’ve gotten too nice on it. Yeah, that’s not the problem, Nate. The problem is that your coach is an a-hole, Matthew Stafford is 24th in Passer Rating and Yds/Attempt and 17th in completion %, and your offense is 18th in scoring despite being 2nd in total yards. You can’t win if you can’t score. And you can’t score if Calvin Johnson has only 1 touchdown.
23.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) (25) — Sure, the Bucs beatdown the Chiefs last week, who are a catastrophe of an organization right now, but it was still nice to see them handle their business against a team they should. Josh Freeman had his best game of the season (328 yards, 3 TD, INT) and we had a Mike Williams sighting for the second straight game.
22.) Indianapolis Colts (2-3) (18) — Gotta be honest, didn’t see Sunday’s disaster against the Jets coming. Sure, like most, I expected a bit of a letdown after the emotional comeback against Green Bay in Week 5, but that was a legitimate stinkfest against the Jets. It was by far Andrew Luck’s worst game as a pro (3 turnovers, 0 TDs, 51.3 Passer Rating) and Indy’s 3rd ranked defense made Mark Sanchez and Co. look like superstars, which we all know, they are not.
21.) New York Jets (3-3) (23) — If the Jets beat the Patriots this week, I’ll hunt down Roger Lodge and shave his head on the Jim Rome show.
20.) New Orleans Saints (1-4) (22) — Is it possible the Saints come out of their bye week and go on a run and make some noise in the December playoff race? Sure. That’s possible. However, look at the schedule: 2 with the Bucs and Falcons, Broncos, 49ers, Giants, Cowboys, Eagles. Yeah, that’s tough.
19.) Dallas Cowboys (2-3) (20) — I honestly don’t know what to do about the Cowboys. But I do know that Dez Bryant can’t blame the side judge for him dropping the game-tying 2-point conversion. You’re having a career day buddy, cap it off with a great play to keep your team alive. And I’m guessing those 24-hour a day bodyguards Jerry Jones is making you pay for are working?
18.) St. Louis Rams (3-3) (17) — Brandon Gibson, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis and Brian Quick. No, they’re not the members of the newest boyband sweeping the pop music scene, they’re Sam Bradford’s “weapons” at wide receiver. Though I do like the rookie Daryl Richardson in the backfield. Looked nice last week with 99 total yards.
17.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) (12) — The Bengals freefall continues. No excuse to lose to the Browns if you want to be taken seriously as an AFC contender. None. What. So. Ever. And I know I said this a couple weeks ago, but A.J. Green just continues to make the impossible possible. He’s hands down the best receiver in the NFL right now. Imagine if he had someone other than the Red Rocket throwing him the ball, too. Scary, scary thought.
16.) Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3) (8) — I love Matt Hasselbeck, that is pretty well documented, but the Steelers should not have lost that game last Thursday to the Titans. It appears the injuries are finally catching up with Pittsburgh. Between Polamalu, Harrison and Woodley, and Mendenhall the defense is battered and the running game is inconsistent. Ben Roethsliberger has to sling it all over the yard and that’s not a recipe for success.
15.) Miami Dolphins (3-3) (21) — Not sure why, but I’m starting to like this Dolphins team. And just think, 7 weeks ago they were at the bottom and I was geared up for a season of Lauren Tannehill picture posts and now, while near the bottom of the league in total offense (22nd) and defense (27th), they’re at .500 and a couple of Dan Carpenter field goals from being 5-1.
14.) San Diego Chargers (3-3) (10) — What’s great about the Chargers is they’re good enough to build a 24-0 lead against a quality team like Denver, appear to have it all working, and then in the blink of an eye (or in this case a 12-minute halftime), bad enough to go out and give up 35 straight and fuel talks of their coach getting fired and how their QB hasn’t played well in 18 months. At least Antonio Gates is playing well again.
13.) Arizona Cardinals (4-2) (14) — Consecutive losses. The QB you wanted, then didn’t want but were forced to start anyway is now out for a while after his ribs got separated from torso which leaves with the guy you didn’t want at first, then wanted but couldn’t play because HE got hurt. But hey, at least SOMEONE is passing the ball to Larry Fitzgerald (5 catches in his first 2 games, 31 in the last 4), which has led me to the decision to temporarily suspend the #FreeFitz campaign.
11.) Minnesota Vikings (4-2) (7) — My buddy Slade, a huge Redskins fan, was shocked I picked the Vikings last week and dutifully rubbed it in my face Sunday night. Likewise, friend of the website Jimmy had this to say: “Looking like the ViQueens of last year … yup, we are the ViQueens this week … it’s ok, 14-2 will take the division and give us home field.” Ah, sure.
12.) Washington Redskins (3-3) (19) — Remember when I asked if you’d change the channel whenever Robert Griffin had the ball? How about now after that 76-yard touchdown run and Landover Leap? I’m shocked My Good Friend Robert played in the first place after that hit he took by Sean Weatherspoon of the Falcons (and no shock the league is investigating the Redskins handling of the situation), let alone pulled that ridiculous run off. Been beyond impressed with this kid so far. And I’ll say this every week: hope he keeps it smart and stays on the field.
10.) Denver Broncos (3-3) (13) — That was some Peyton Manning performance in the second half in San Diego, wasn’t it? It was hilarious scrolling Twitter during the first half, with everyone throwing the dirt on his grave, and then in the second half, when everyone was singing his praises. Twitter is great like that. He looked good, no doubt, but let’s not forget the Chargers totally pissed down their own leg and virtually gave it Denver. I’ll say it now: no way the Broncos win a playoff game.
9.) New England Patriots (3-3) (4) — Are the Patriots the best 3-3 team ever? Perhaps. But this goes back to last season, where they reached the Super Bowl despite having the 31st ranked defense; you can’t rely on Brady and Co. to carry you each week because you’re going to play a pesky team like the Seahawks at their place and have dumb mistakes cost you. Seriously, that game should’ve been a 3 or 4 score game in the 4th Quarter and there wouldn’t have been any chance for Russell Wilson late-game heroics. The way New England consistently gives up big plays in the secondary show how much Belichick has blown it in the Draft in recent years.
8.) Seattle Seahawks (4-2) (16) — I still have the Seahawks behind the 49ers because I don’t trust Russell Wilson, but damn that was a great throw to beat the Patriots, wasn’t it? As the ball was hurtling through the cold, wet, northwest air I knew where it would land. And wouldn’t you know Sidney Rice was behind the inept Patriots secondary. Oh, and yes, I realize I lost the bet with the Schaffers and “boat race” will not be appearing on The League this season. Such a sad moment for catchphrase pushers everywhere.
7.) San Francisco 49ers (4-2) (2) — After outscoring opponents 79-3 in their previous two games, the 49ers got boatraced by the Giants 26-3 on Sunday in a rematch of the 2011 NFC Championship game. This was telling from San Fran’s perspective. Complete no-show at home with the national TV audience. That’s two games now where this has happened. Real confusing. Not sure what to make of this. Oh, right, it’s Joe Buck’s fault.
6.) Houston Texans (5-1) (3) — Everyone talked about how the Texans really didn’t play anyone through their first fives games; really, they just beat the Broncos, when you think about it. Well, they got their chance on the big stage Sunday night and showed the NFL world what they’re made of. They might has well been playing two-hand touch on the set of “Hey, Dude!” And I know you love it when I talk about my fantasy team, but I was down 22 and change with Arian Foster and the Texans Defense going into Monday night and ended up winning thanks to that B.S. blocked punt and TD with 5:30 left.
5.) New York Giants (4-2) (11) — This could be the best team in football and they’d be higher if I didn’t think they weren’t capable of laying an ostrich egg against the Redskins this weekend. I’ve never seen a team in recent memory play to the level of their opponent more than the Giants. Eli Manning is an absolutely G. The defense remains their biggest question mark. If the 49ers had a better offense I’d be more impressed by holding them to 3 points. Stopping my Good Friend Robert on Sunday will be a good measuring stick.
4.) Green Bay Packers (3-3) (9) — You just know Aaron Rodgers read every last word written about how he and the Packers offense were out of sync, would never capture that 2011 magic again, etc. and then he came out and said Eff You, Guys, I’m Still James Bond Here. How many fantasy owners out there had Rodgers AND Nelson going. How’d that taste?
3.) Chicago Bears (4-1) (5) — There were so many sack/fumbles and Pick 6’s this week I had to double check the schedule to make sure the Bears had a bye. But yup, exactly zero of those were a result of Jay Cutler flashing that patented false bravado and doing something stupid. Weird. Could’ve sworn he was involved.
2.) Baltimore Ravens (5-1) (6) — Yes, the loss of Ray Lewis is a big one. Any time your heart and soul isn’t out on the field, it’s a blow, but losing Ladarius Webb will prove more costly. You may have heard this, but the NFL is a passing league and if you can’t stop the pass, you’re in big trouble (ask the Patriots). Onus on Joe Flacco more now than ever.
1.) Atlanta Falcons (6-0) (1) — Was this week our first sign of chinks in the Matty Ice MVP armor? I’d say so. His first two interceptions Sunday were bad throws and the third he just got lit up and it floated like a wounded quail. However, it says a lot that in these games where he’s played poorly, or the team has trailed in the 4th quarter, that he’s brought them back and won the game or put them in position for a winning field goal. That’s what you call onions and the foundation of an MVP season.