NFL Week 3: Team Tiers

Playing in the NFL is like trying to climb Mt. Everest. Without the right preparation, and the stars aligning, it is almost impossible to get very far. Many people get to base camp, but not much further, for one reason or another. Only the best and most prepared make it all the way to the top.

As the NFL season unfolds, more will be revealed about each team. Ultimately, all teams are aiming for a Super Bowl victory, but only the best will get there. Each week, we will look at how each team is faring in their quest to climb the mountain.

At the Summit

The same teams remain undefeated after Week 3, and as the cream of the crop of the NFL. The New England Patriots continue to be untested after a comfortable win over the New York Jets. Their Week 4 matchup with the Buffalo Bills will be more revealing. Likewise, the Kansas City Chiefs earned their stripes with a win over the Baltimore Ravens, who pushed them more than the Chiefs’ previous two opponents.

The Dallas Cowboys continue to go from strength to strength, although like the Patriots, had an easy opponent in the Miami Dolphins. The Los Angeles Rams continue to win in different ways, and are looking more comfortable each week. Quarterback Jared Goff was finding his rhythm during the second half, and they never looked like losing this week.

On the Ascent

Stabilising

A handful of teams continue to lurk behind the top contenders, but lack the wins over tough opponents on their resume. The Green Bay Packers are improving week to week on Offense, and have the Defense to match. The Buffalo Bills also remain undefeated, but had to come from behind against the lowly Cincinnati Bengals.

The Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans each have one loss, all coming from quality opponents. The Ravens had a chance late against the Chiefs but couldn’t get it done with an aggressive game plan. The Vikings are winning games on the back of Running Back Dalvin Cook, but need to toughen up on Defense and get more out of QB Kirk Cousins. The Texans are also moving the ball well but need to be more convincing on both sides of the ball.

Finding Their Feet

Prior to the season I wrote about how the Detroit Lions could be in the playoff conversation. They are currently undefeated and have beaten preseason contender favourites in the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers. Hanging with the Chiefs in Week 4 will catapult them into the conversation of top teams.

Similarly, the San Francisco 49ers are stacking up wins, although they have only played teams with one win between them to date. They have a bye week coming up before getting the Cleveland Browns. They could be playing for first place in the division in their Week 6 matchup with the Rams, which will be the true measure of their abilities.

The Seattle Seahawks were caught off-guard against the New Orleans Saints, giving up a Special Teams TD and struggling to close down RB Alvin Kamara. While they made an attempt to comeback, the Seahawks might rue not getting a win here. The Indianapolis Colts have had success on both sides of the ball, but are winning by small margins.

Base Camp

A handful of teams have a fortunate record that may not last much longer. The Chicago Bears’ Defense dominated the first half against the Washington Redskins. QB Mitchell Trubisky looked better with his movement in the pocket, but needs to take another step. Conversely, the New Orleans Saints have won two games thanks to the leg of Kicker Wil Lutz, and while backup QB Teddy Bridgewater is starting, it’s fair to question how many wins they can muster.

The Los Angeles Chargers and Atlanta Falcons have had tough opening slates, and should get wins in Week 4 against meagre opponents. Yet until they execute, they can’t be considered contenders. Likewise, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles also need to start notching wins if they are to be considered potential playoff teams.

On the Descent

Despite their strong start to the season, the Tennessee Titans have had successive losses thanks largely to their tepid Offense. The Oakland Raiders also have had strong games from Tight End Darren Waller and RB Josh Jacobs, but aren’t striking fear in the hearts of opponents. While their single wins keep them both alive for now, they need to sort out how they can win more games.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are on the verge of dropping to the bottom few teams in the NFL, but continue to show signs of life at the hands of QB Mason Rudolph. The Carolina Panthers managed to get their first win with their backup QB Kyle Allen, and are well and truly alive in the NFC South. The Cleveland Browns are a major mystery, as they have playmakers across the roster but can’t piece it all together for a full game. All three teams could find themselves competing or out of the race in a matter of weeks.

Stuck at the Airport

Losing Touch

The New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both have one win, but look to be on the precipice of a lost season. The Giants edged out the Bucs with some late plays from rookie QB Daniel Jones in his first start, but are still two games behind the Cowboys in the division. It’s also harder for the Bucs to game plan for a QB with little tape. The Buccaneers remain a game behind in the NFC South, but their inability to close out this game suggests they aren’t the real deal. Both teams are still wildcards at best.

The Denver Broncos have had a rough start to their season, but also haven’t been out of the contest in their three matchups so far. A win seems close, but they also can see their season rapidly fading away as the Chiefs run away with the division. The Arizona Cardinals are still looking for a win, and might have three playoff teams in their division. They are desperate for more upper echelon talent to be able to overpower opponents.

Life Support

Things are getting dire for the NFL’s cellar-dwellers. The Miami Dolphins should consider losing by less than 15 points a win at this point. The New York Jets have been extremely unlucky with health, and are a few weeks away from focusing on 2020. Both of these teams also have the undefeated Patriots and Bills in their division, adding to their struggles.

The Washington Redskins have had a few areas to be positive about, but have been unable to put it together for a whole game. While they are unlikely to remain winless for too long, the question remains about how long Case Keenum will start at QB with rookie Dwayne Haskins ready to step in. The Defense has been sound so far, and with a more inspiring QB the season could still be salvaged. The Cincinnati Bengals are also stale on Offense, and could look to make a QB change before too long.

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