By Julie Buehler
Week 3 is over, here’s what we know and here’s what we still have to learn.
What we know: Only 2 divisions in the NFL have no unbeaten teams, the NFC East and the AFC South. The NFC East offered a 13-3 team last year and the AFC South had it’s leader in the AFC title game last year, so if anyone thinks these divisions won’t produce teams poised to make a deep playoff run, you haven’t been watching football long enough.
While the Cowboys are struggling mightily with injuries, the Skins and Giants look woefully confused week in and week out, the Eagles needed a nice reality check to reign in the bubbling egos in Philly. That team is going to be fine, and shockingly good once it gels.
Meanwhile the Colts will win the South, get their defense healthy and their wide receivers to stop dropping passes and Andrew Luck will once again remind us why he’s Andrew Luck and that team will challenge the likes of the Broncos and Patriots and Bengals for AFC supremacy.
Might not look like it now, but give it time.
Speaking of the Bengals, Andy Dalton is playing at a level in this early season that we haven’t seen out of him before, the offense is running with pristine balance and most importantly, the big man, Geno Atkins is BACK.
He was coming off an ACL injury through last season and he’s healthy and back to bulldozing offensive linemen once again. I had them as a Super Bowl team in 2013, but once Atkins went down, so did their hopes of a deep playoff run, but this year, there’s something different about the team. They know how to step on the throat of an opponent and I always favor teams who’ve been knocking on the door for a while to finally see it swing open. Kinda rooting for the Bengals, Cinci is going to be fun to watch all season long.
As will the Raiders. Yes, I said it, and yes, I felt like I was sucked into the Black Hole and its subsequent inebriation Week 1 by picking the Raiders to beat the Bengals. I was wrong that week. Then I thought I was wrong about the Raiders and picked an underwhelming Ravens team in Week 2. Wrong again. Then, despite a 15-game losing streak in the Eastern Time Zone, I went with my initial assessment of the Raiders as they took a trip to the Dawg Pound and I picked them to beat the Manziel-less Browns. Now 2-1 on the season, every Raider fan thinks this means their team will make the playoffs. And while it’d be great to shed some light in the Black Hole, the way the Chargers and Chiefs are playing, that might not be too much of a stretch, especially if the Steelers are without Big Ben closer to the 6 weeks, not the 4.
I’m not sold on the Jets, but I’m totally sold on the Bills.
On to the NFC.
While the Niners got torched in the desert, there should be more conversation about the impressive offensive creativity and execution of the 3-0 Cardinals rather than the dumpster fire Jed York created last January. That’s not surprising. The Niners have some talent, but will get beat by teams that love to throw down field. Their cornerbacks are newly anointed and they have an aggressive defensive coordinator that likes to stick his guys on an island. That means they’ll get burned frequently. But their offense is the opposite of the Cardinals. It’s poorly executed thus far, lacking creativity and just terrible. In fact, the Niners have a league-low 45 points scored in 3 games. The Cardinals scored 47 on them this past week alone.
Let’s move on.
The NFC South is the ONLY division with 2 3-0 teams. This is the same division that was won with a 7-8-1 record last year.
It’s hard to believe that the Chicago Bears got worse at playing football than they were last year. But they are. Fact.
In Week 2 against the Cardinals, they allowed 48 points. More than any Bears team had ever allowed before. Meanwhile, through 3 weeks, they’ve scored 46 points. So do the math. The Bears have scored fewer points on the season than the Cardinals did spanking them (much like the Niners, misery loves company).
They’re so bad, they traded Jared Allen and Jon Bostic, last year’s leading tackler, for conditional 6th round picks in 2016.
Oh, and Jay Culter.
I really didn’t have a reason to mention him, but every Bears fan loves to find a way to blame him for something, so there you go.
We’re through 3 weeks and 3 teams have cracked 100 points… can you name them?
As you’ve likely deduced, the Cardinals are the NFL’s top scoring offense. The Pats are an obvious number 2. So who’s number 3?
The Packers? Nope.
The Broncos? Hardy har har.
The Steelers? Not after Big Ben went limp.
The Bengals? The Falcons? The Chargers? The Ravens?
Nope, no, and nein (that’s German).
It’s the Bills. From Buffalo. The 3rd best scoring offense in the NFL.
No, I have not been drinking, it’s true.
They are a playoff team. Period.
That’s what we know, but we still have a lot to learn. Like why so many are pointing to past year’s stat lines and believing THIS year’s player will do the same.
I love how many people are comparing the stats of this year’s Aaron Rodgers to his epic 2011 season and this year’s “chip-on-shoulder” Tom Brady to his record setting 2007 season.
Newsflash: BOTH of those men lost in the playoffs to a New York Giants team that fielded a ferocious pass rush.
It’s amazing how much the mainstream NFL media falls for the yearly narrative of early season offensive success. It’s remarkable how easily swayed they are towards correlating similar stat lines to similar circumstances.
But reality is point differential has done a far better job predicting postseason success, and thus Super Bowl Championships, than anything a quarterback does.
But our sports culture is so QB-crazed, it generally ignores the importance of a well-choreographed secondary, a smart, stout linebacking corp and the destructive nature of a pass rush UNTIL a Brady or Rodgers is sitting on their arses at the end of a playoff game watching Eli Manning advance in the tourney.
IF either one of the Packers or Pats had a reliable defense, I’d think they’re Super Bowl teams. But scheming Clay Matthews free is not going to work for the whole season and the Patriots defense is a shadow of itself last year.
So let the fantasy football crazed minds do the talking and oozing love-fest with their big-play guys, I’m going to be watching for the defenses that field consistently tough, well-executed units.
Congrats to the Pats, Broncos, Bengals, Cardinals, Packers, Falcons and Panthers. 3-0 is a nice place to be, even if it only lasts another week.
Julie Buehler hosted the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day for 3 years, but now she can be exclusively seen on KMIR sharing the coolest stories in sports. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in to KMIR’s nightly news or KMIR.com for her sports reports.