2015 NFL Week 3 Power Rankings

Week 3 Game Balls

Offense — A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals. Caught 10 passes for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns. Both TDs gave the Bengals fourth-quarter leads.

Defense — Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Arizona Cardinals. Preston Brown, Dwight Lowery, and Mathieu all had 2 interceptions this week, with one of the two returned for a touchdown. Mathieu gets my game ball because he made a few other plays, too.

Special Teams — Justin Bethel, ST, Arizona Cardinals. Two solo tackles, a forced fumble, and he downed a punt at the 1-yard line, setting up a safety on the next play. Bethel also had a 21-yard interception return for a touchdown on defense.

Rookie — Jordan Hicks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles. Team-leading 9 tackles, plus an interception and a fumble recovery. This was his first start in the NFL. Forced into the lineup because of injuries last week, Hicks had 7 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. This kid has earned a full-time starting position.

Honorable Mentions: QB Aaron Rodgers, LB Preston Brown, PR Darren Sproles

Five Quick Hits

* The Rams' pregame pyrotechnics set the field on fire and delayed the game by half an hour. I wish teams would tone that stuff down, the fireworks and the military flyovers and stuff.

* This year, the NFL is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl. The Seahawks are celebrating their 40th anniversary. They're both a year early. It's true that this season will end with Super Bowl L, but the first Super Bowl was I, not 0. This is Seattle's 40th season in the NFL, which means next year will be their 40th anniversary. If you get married in 2015, 2016 will mark your first anniversary, not second. If your first season was 1976, 2015 is your 40th year of operation, but your 39th anniversary.

* The Dolphins had a pretty average defense last year, and the thought was that adding Ndamukong Suh this season would elevate them to greatness. Through three games, the Dolphin defense has exactly one sack, tied for worst in the NFL.

* The Patriots and Rams are tied for the NFL lead, 13 sacks each.

* Jared Allen, who had 5.5 sacks in 18 games as a Bear, now joins the Panthers, where I think he'll be more effective. A good trade by Carolina, which gave up almost nothing to acquire Allen.

Week 3 Rant: Steve Smith's Last Name is "Smith"

I'm almost positive that I'm the only person who cares about this. But it drives me crazy to hear announcers credit a catch to "Smith, Sr." or "Beckham, Jr."

1. If you have a suffix in your name — junior, senior, III, etc. — it doesn't change your last name. If you're discussing Martin Luther King, Jr., you don't say, "Dr. King, Jr.," when you refer to him by his surname. If you really want to say "Steve Smith Senior" every time you refer to the man, knock yourself out. But if you omit his first name and refer to him by last name, it's just Smith. "Smith Senior" would be a terrible last name.

2. Steve Smith, Jr., is 1 year old. If you just say Smith, I'm not going to get confused and think that maybe it's his infant son who just made a 50-yard touchdown reception.

With that off my chest, let's proceed to the Week 3 NFL Power Rankings. Brackets indicate previous rank.

1. New England Patriots [2] — Tom Brady passed for the 400th and 401st TDs of his regular-season career. LeGarrette Blount rushed for 3 touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski had 100 yards. Stephen Gostkowski made 6 extra points and 3 field goals. They tripled the opponent's score, 51-17. Business as usual.

2. Green Bay Packers [1] — What Aaron Rodgers does with his hard count, and the resulting free plays, is sensational. He has a 135.4 passer rating. Rodgers is as complete and dominant a quarterback as you could ask for. The defense also played well on Monday night, sacking Alex Smith seven times. Mike Daniels deserving drew praise from the announcers.

3. Cincinnati Bengals [3] — Won a game in which neither team's defensive backs could tackle anyone, and neither team could run effectively (combined 51 att, 122 yds, 2.4 avg). It was an uneven defensive performance, and the Ravens repeatedly converted 3rd-and-long, but Andy Dalton continues to play well — his 121.0 passer rating leads the AFC (only Aaron Rodgers is higher) — and A.J. Green is a truly elite talent. Keep an eye on center Russell Bodine; Baltimore nose tackle Brandon Williams beat Bodine very badly several times.

4. Arizona Cardinals [5] — Lead the NFL in scoring, with a 42.0 average and at least 31 points in every game. All three wins were by double-digits, and they lead the NFL (by far) in point differential, +77. The Patriots are next, +49. Arizona's opponents are a combined 1-8.

5. Denver Broncos [4] — Continue to win with defense, and this was Peyton Manning's best game of 2015. But their ground game is impotent. The Broncos rank 31st in rushing yardage (57.0/gm) and 32nd in rushing average (2.59/att). As Tony Dungy pointed out, the offense is totally one-dimensional right now: short- and medium-range passes. They need to develop an effective run game or a serious downfield pass attack.

6. Seattle Seahawks [6] — There aren't a lot of negatives following a 26-0 win. But the Seahawks had only one offensive touchdown, with the other scores coming on field goals and a kick return. The Seahawks went 5/16 on third down and 0/2 in the red zone, against a defense that is not very good. Only Alex Smith has taken more sacks this season than Russell Wilson.

Also, man that was a boring game. I don't mind defensive battles, but that was bad offense more than good defense.

7. Buffalo Bills [7] — The defense is everything we expected, and Tyrod Taylor looks more like Cam Newton than Tim Tebow. Taylor has a 116.1 passer rating.

8. New York Jets [8] — Lost a fumble, threw 3 interceptions, allowed a punt return TD, and played with Darrelle Revis limited by injury, plus their lead running back and two of their top three receivers inactive. They still nearly won. They lead the NFL in fewest points allowed (41). I'm not worried.

9. Kansas City Chiefs [9] — Finally broke their TDs-to-WRs streak, but they continue to struggle on third down, and the lack of explosive plays in the passing game is a major reason why. Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif had a very rough night against Green Bay, as Alex Smith took seven sacks and now "leads" the NFL in that statistic (13). The Chiefs' depleted secondary was apparent and problematic on Monday night, but suspended CB Sean Smith returns next week.

10. Atlanta Falcons [14] — In his 2015 NFL Predictions, Chase Stuart called new HC Dan Quinn his "Coach of the Year favorite". So far, I'd probably go with Bruce Arians, but Quinn is probably the front-runner at this point. Have you seen Atlanta's schedule? It is totally plausible that the Falcons could go into the bye 8-1 or 9-0. They don't play another team with a winning record until the Vikings in Week 12. Right now, it looks like the toughest remaining game on their schedule is ... at Carolina. Unless Matt Ryan or Julio Jones gets hurt, I think the Falcons are already a playoff lock.

11. Carolina Panthers [13] — Despite all the long INT returns in Week 3, Josh Norman's pick in the end zone might be the most impressive defensive play of the week. Cam Newton and Greg Olsen continue to play brilliantly in the absence of any other offensive weapons. The Panthers are undefeated, but the teams they've beaten are a combined 2-7. They play a tougher remaining schedule than Atlanta, with games against the Packers and Seahawks, and the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, when Romo and Dez should be back.

12. Houston Texans [15] — It's a classic formula in pro football: defense and the run game. They held the Buccaneers to 2.9 yards per rush, a 69.3 passer rating, 1/12 on third downs, and no points in the red zone. Meanwhile, Alfred Blue carried 31 times for 139 yards (4.5 avg), out of the team's 187. Ryan Mallett was unimpressive (227 yds, 75.6 rating). It didn't matter this week, but the lack of an effective passing game could be the difference between this team making the playoffs or not.

13. Minnesota Vikings [24] — Same story as Houston. Adrian Peterson leads the NFL in rushing (291 yds), but it's not apparent that QB Teddy Bridgewater can hold up his end of the offense. Bridgewater had 121 yards and a 50.9 passer rating against San Diego, and he really hasn't had a good game yet this season. His best performance was Week 2 against the Lions, but that was game management, as Bridgewater only had 18 pass attempts, for 153 yards.

Defensive end Everson Griffen had a big day against the Chargers, including 1.5 sacks, 5 QB hits, and a deflected pass. The Vikings actually got outgained by nearly 100 yards, and the Chargers killed them on third down conversions (47% - 33%), but Chad Greenway's 91-yard INT return for a touchdown, with a huge convoy of teammates protecting him, settled the game.

14. Baltimore Ravens [16] — First 0-3 start in franchise history. They're the only 0-3 team in the AFC, and it's going to be really hard for them to make the playoffs, but I don't think they're a bad team. Every loss was by single digits, and against teams that are a combined 8-1.

15. San Diego Chargers [11] — Statistically, their pass defense is excellent, 3rd in the NFL. A closer look shows it's pretty average: 87.6 passer rating allowed, compared to the league average of 89.6, and 7.01 net yards per attempt, almost half a yard worse than the average of 6.59. What's clear is that their run defense is poor, one of five teams that's already allowed over 400 yards on the ground, with a 4.9 average against.

Philip Rivers is off to a weird start. He has lots of positive plays (74.5 completion percentage, 8.7 yards per attempt), but also lots of negative ones (4 INT, 10 sacks). Rivers is the only QB with more than 2 INT who also has more than 8 sacks. Two of Rivers' four picks got returned for touchdowns, tied (with Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning) for worst in the league.

16. Philadelphia Eagles [20] — Took a 24-0 lead, and barely held on for a 24-17 win. Sam Bradford played another crappy game (108 yds, 73.2 rating), but Ryan Mathews rushed for over 100 yards. I didn't see this game, so I'm curious whether the ground attack ran more smoothly in the absence of DeMarco Murray.

17. Dallas Cowboys [17] — I hate what modern passing rules have done to the record books. Brandon Weeden now holds the Dallas Cowboys franchise record for consecutive completions. Weeden went 22-of-26 on Sunday, but the Cowboys lost. That passing line includes 12-of-12 to the running backs, 6-of-8 to tight end Jason Witten, and 4-of-6 to wide receivers. Dallas went 1/6 on third down, and that will happen when you never throw to your WRs.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers [10] — Get Le'Veon Bell back, lose Ben Roethlisberger. Maybe Michael Vick will fill in as capably as DeAngelo Williams. And maybe we'll all get a free pony! It's estimated that Roethlisberger will be out for six weeks.

19. Indianapolis Colts [18] — Four of the same five starting offensive linemen as last year. Hugh Thornton, the new face, got three holding penalties on Sunday. Andrew Luck has thrown 7 interceptions — at least two in each game — the most in the NFL. No one else has more than 5. The Colts finally got a win, but it was a close, comeback win over a team they should have beaten easily. Last season, Indianapolis beat the Titans by a combined 68-27.

20. St. Louis Rams [12] — Last in the NFL in offensive yardage. Against Pittsburgh, the Rams had just 258 yards, 12 first downs, and 6 points. They were 2/12 on third and fourth downs. Their leading rusher was a wide receiver who had one carry for 24 yards. The one time they reached the red zone, they had two false start penalties, forcing them to settle for a field goal. It's hard to believe this team scored 34 against the Seahawks in Week 1.

21. Miami Dolphins [19] — Last week, I mentioned the Wembley curse. This week, the Jets and the Dolphins, who play at Wembley Stadium in Week 4, both lost upsets at home. Since the NFL's London series began, teams are 7-17 (.292) the week before making the trip to England.

22. New York Giants [27] — We sometimes say, "Team X didn't win, Team Y lost". The Giants didn't play great on Thursday night. Washington had more yards and more first downs, but failed to respond to adversity. The Giants kept it together, which isn't easy in a 60-minute game, but this wasn't the kind of win that makes you think they're a great team.

23. Washington [21] — They've had disastrous special teams issues for several years now, and the blocked punt in the first quarter dictated momentum for the rest of the first half. This is arguably the second time in three games that they've lost on special teams; I don't know what it takes to convince this staff that special teams are important. Washington played a sloppy game, exemplified by critical turnovers: 2 interceptions, a lost fumble, and the blocked punt. You can't go -4 in turnovers and expect to win.

24. Oakland Raiders [31] — I don't want to jump to conclusions after only three games, but their offense looks totally different than last season. Derek Carr is creating plays rather than just managing the game. Latavius Murray looks like the real deal. And Amari Cooper has added an undeniable explosive element to the offense. The Raiders rank among the NFL's top 10 in points and yardage.

25. Detroit Lions [25] — Last year, they had one of the best defenses in the NFL. Subtract Ndamukong Suh (signed with Dolphins) and DeAndre Levy (injury), and you have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Cris Collinsworth alluded to this a couple of times, but doesn't it seem like there are periods of the game when they just forget about Calvin Johnson? They have one of the few receivers who is open even when he's covered, a guy who looked to be in prime form on Sunday night, and when they desperately need a quick score, Matthew Stafford won't even look at his side of the field.

26. Cleveland Browns [22] — They did fall behind early — it was 17-3 at halftime — but I'm not sure 14 rushes and 54 dropbacks was the success formula they were looking for. Injuries in the secondary were a problem this week, as K'Waun Williams missed the game due to a concussion, and Joe Haden injured his ribs.

27. San Francisco 49ers [23] — They were outgained 446-156 and 28 first downs to 10. Colin Kaepernick threw 4 INTs, including two pick-sixes in the first quarter. The Niners are last in the NFL in scoring. Insult to injury, they've allowed 40 points in back-to-back games.

28. Tennessee Titans [28] — Led 27-14 in the fourth quarter. Then this happened:

Colts 98-yard touchdown drive
2 plays, -3 yards, interception (:50)
Colts 11-yard touchdown pass (:06)
3-and-out, 0 yards (:24)
Colts 69-yard touchdown drive (2:38)

Their 13-point lead turned into an eight-point deficit in four minutes.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars [29] — Faced an excellent Patriots offense, but it is just unacceptable to give up 35 first downs, 11/14 third down conversions, and 6 touchdowns.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [30] — Kicker Kyle Brindza went 1/5 on Sunday. He missed an extra point, a 33-yard field goal, a 41-yard field goal, and a 57-yard field goal. He made a 58-yarder (which is weird). Brindza will remain the team's kicker, according to head coach Lovie Smith, but he can't have another week like this.

The loss isn't just on Brindza, though. The Bucs committed 10 penalties for 4 Houston first downs. They went 1/12 on third downs, allowed 30 first downs, and lost time of possession by 12:32.

31. New Orleans Saints [26] — Nasty list of inactives included QB Drew Brees, G Jahri Evans, LB Dannell Ellerbe, CB Keenan Lewis, and S Jairus Byrd. Brees remains uncertain for Week 4, and without him, the Saints are a team without any obvious strengths. Luke McCown completed 18 of his first 19 passes against Carolina, but with no TD passes.

32. Chicago Bears [32] — Punted on all 10 possessions, including six three-and-outs. They finished the game with 7 first downs, 146 yards, and 0 points.

Comments and Conversation

October 1, 2015

Paul Krause's Biggest Fan:

Your perspective is so western-centric! In Korea, all babies are considered one-year old when they’re born and ages increase with the new year. So, a baby born on December 31is actually two years old the next day. I write this for all of the NFL fans in Seoul, Pusan, Chinhae, and even Pyongyang for whom these NFL anniversaries could actually be a year late. And Ken Stabler still stinks.

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