Every NFL season brings new surprising underdog-stories and disappointments. After three weeks the standings look a lot different to how analysts predicted them to be and there have been a bunch of things going on around the league that not a lot of people saw coming. Here are some of them:
Wentz and the Eagles starting 3-0:
Philly’s new signal-caller is better than advertised. You get to know that when you hear Steelers defenders talk about how impressed they are with his preparation, magical plays where he scrambles and fires bombs down the field and just in general the way he has been able to pick defenses apart. What is nearly as impressive as the number two overall pick is how good the Eagles defense has been. Fletcher Cox has been even more disruptive in their new 4-3 scheme where he can penetrate more, Brandon Graham is becoming a terror off the edge and their entire linebacking corp is simply flying around. Even though the Browns and Bears might be at the bottom end among NFL rankings, right now Philadelphia ranks first in points and second in yards allowed.
Patriots finding a way to stay undefeated without Brady and even Garappolo:
Last Thursday’s 27-0 shutout of the Texans has to be one of the very best jobs in coaching I’ve ever seen. The defense was all over them while getting extremely physical with their biggest offensive weapon DeAndre Hopkins and frustrating him. The kept everything in front of them and took Houston’s new explosiveness. And they were the ones starting a third-string rookie QB. As long as Jimmy G was on the field they were destroying the Dolphins in week two and they started their season with a huge win on the road against what many thought at that point might have been the best team in the league. The defense has been outstanding and the weakness of their team – the offensive line – has been much improved and giving them a potent ground attack with Legarette Blount running over defenders.
Sam Bradford making the Vikings a Super Bowl contender:
I know it’s still early in the season and the former number one overall pick has only appeared in two games for the Vikes, but his play has been phenomenal. In his two games with Minnesota he has outplayed the reigning MVP from 2014 and 2015 in Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton. Even without Adrian Peterson the offense is producing points with Stefon Diggs becoming a superstar and Bradford’s ability to scan the field. Of course the main reason for their great start has been their outstanding young defense. They have talent at every level – Linval Joseph might the league’s premier run-stuffing D-tackle, Everson Griffen and second-year man Danielle Hunter create havoc off the edge, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr form one of the best linebacker duos in the league, Harrison Smith has to be one of the elite safeties in the NFL and even though they might need some more time to develop I love their young cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and even rookie Mackensie Alexander along with the vets. The entire unit is well-coached and disciplined. Even with some issues in pass protection I’d have to say this is the best team in the NFC right now.
The NFC powerhouses starting 1-2:
Last year the two teams in the NFC Championship game – the Panthers and Cardinals – were clearly the top in their conference. Cam Newton was taking over the league in his MVP-season and had a game-changing defense frequently giving him the ball again, while the Cardinals were probably the most complete squad out there. Both quarterbacks have not found their 2015 form and neither squad has played up to their potential. I still think both those teams will make the playoffs when all is said and done, but right now they are looking up at a bunch of other very good teams.
The Raiders underperforming defense:
Even though Raiders fans are probably cool with starting 2-1 the organization can’t be happy yet about how their defense has performed. Sean Smith has been one of the worst players at his position so far, Reggie Nelson hasn’t really scared opposing quarterback’s to throw the ball deep and they rank last in total yards allowed. With the likes of Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin putting pressure on passers and all the money they spent in the offseason to improve their secondary they can’t be thrilled about being dead-last against the pass. Although they only allowed ten points to the Titans last weekend they gave up 79 points combined the prior two weeks.
The hospitality of Revis Island:
No matter the way NFL fans talked about the decline of Revis last season in an exaggerated fashion, this year it’s pretty hard to find a way to deny he’s just not the player he once was. Receivers have run by him, they have created separation with quickness and have simply made him look bad – something nobody has really been able to say for the last decade. He just doesn’t quite have the athleticism he possessed over the course of his illustrious career and as a result of that he hasn’t been able to stay patient and read receivers’ hips to stay on them. As a bump-and-run corner he’s still a quality starter, because of how good he is disrupting opponents at the line of scrimmage, but he can’t take away one half of the field anymore.
The struggles of second-round kicker Roberto Aguayo:
If you invest that much in a kicker with guys like Vonn Bell, Kevin Byard and Darian Thompson still on the board who could bring some playmaking to the back end of your defense he has to be great. The former Seminole hasn’t been so far. He has already missed an extra-point and two FGs from just over 40 yards. Usually kickers get fired for doing that if it happens over a quarter or third of the season. You can’t simply do that if you select him that early though. I really liked their two picks ahead of him in a very competitive corner Vernon Hargreaves and an explosive edge rusher in Noah Spence, but Aguayo has to overcome his early struggles for me to say he was worthy of a second round selection. For his and the Bucs’ defense – he was outstanding in college.
Jared Goff not seeing the field at all:
When the Rams traded up for the number one overall pick they didn’t shy away from saying whoever they draft will start for them week one. Yeah, how did that work out? Goff disappointed in training camp and the preseason showing he’s not quite ready for NFL defenses. He struggled with basics like taking a snap as well as going through his reads quickly resulting in a lot of hits leading to inaccurate passes and sacks. He didn’t even dress up in the season opener and is still penciled in as the number three QB. L.A.’s new squad is 2-1 without him fielding an opportunistic defense, last season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in Todd Gurley and one of the most electric offensive weapons in Tavon Austin. The Cal Bear will have to impress with more than just his pure accuracy to earn the starting job.
Matt Ryan playing like the best quarterback in the league:
With Cam Newton hungry to get back to the Super Bowl, Aaron Rodgers getting his favorite target back and Carson Palmer having one of the most complete receiving corps in the league who would have thought Matt Ryan would lead the league in passer rating after three weeks. Not only did he play great statistically, he showed us he’s not just about getting the ball to Julio Jones. In fact Jacob Tamme and Mohamed Sanu have hauled in more receptions than the freakish Jones. Despite playing with a defense that has given up thirty points a contest Matty Ice has been able to sling the ball around and lead their offense to the top spot in total yards and points. With the dynamic one-two-punch of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman getting the ground game going and being important assets to the passing game this offense could put up big numbers over the course of the entire season.
The Jaguars’s slow start:
For all the talk about how improved Jacksonville’s defense is and how much firepower their offense already had last season their 0-3 start has to be very disappointing for the team and their fans. They rank second-to-last in rush yards with just 55 a contest while only putting up 18 points a game. On the othe hand they give up 28 on average. That makes a difference of ten points. There’s no way any team can win more games than they lose that way. On a positive note Gus Bradley’s bunch just put up a good fight with the undefeated Ravens and face off with their divison rival Colts, who just scratched off their first win last Sunday.
Certainly not surprising: Browns already starting their third different QB
Yeah, at least you have the Cavaliers Ohio.