Week 3 is in the books and we only have one more week of football in September. It was a week of a lot of unexpected results. (I went 0-5 in my picks! Sheesh!) Let’s look back and see what we learned.
5 things We Learned in Week 3
1. The NFC East title is the Dallas Cowboys’ title to lose. Philadelphia is still learning the Chip Kelly system. Washington is a mess of uncertainty with Robert Griffin III. New York is a turnover machine. The Cowboys, under Tony Romo, are famous for fast starts only to burn out in December. This may be the year they can buck that trend especially if DeMarco Murray continues to play at a high level. That’s not to say they will run away with the division, but as of now they are the most consistent team in the division.
2. The Miami Dolphins keep finding ways to win. They have a below average defense. Their offense is ranked lower than their defense. Yet, they have won all 3 of their games, including 2 wins over teams who were in the playoffs last season (Colts, Falcons). Unfortunately, for the Dolphins they play in the same division as the Patriots who seem to be getting better on offense (although the Patriots schedule has been more than favorable for them thus far). Both the Dolphins and Patriots have tough opponents this week (Dolphins at Saints, Patriots at Falcons) so we may have a good barometer of where these teams are going into October.
3. The Saints are back. Last season the Saints had a long year with the ramifications of “BountyGate” forcing head coach Sean Payton to be away from the team. New Orleans is not a surprise on offense; everyone knows what Drew Brees can do. Defensively, the Saints are ranked in the top 5 in yardage allowed. This is a significant improvement thus far from being ranked dead last in yards allowed last season. They are 2-0 including an opening season win over their division rival (and probably only competition) Falcons.
4. Parody. You hear it almost every week. There are fewer teams in the league that are in the top echelon than usual. Denver and Seattle (my Super Bowl picks) both look like the favorites in their respective conference. Besides them, there are a lot of question marks. New England, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, and Kansas City are all undefeated but many of these teams have faced weak schedules and/or haven’t looked as strong as Denver and Seattle. Wins are the most important stat in any sport (except college football where polls are more important) but it’s hard to judge where these teams are this early in the season even though they’ve won all their games.
5. The AFC has been better than the NFC. The AFC has won 11 out of 14 interleague games so far in 2013. In 8 of the interleague games in Week 3, 6 were won by the AFC team. The AFC played 5 out of the 6 of last year’s NFC playoff teams and won 4 of those games including upsets of Cleveland over Minneosta, Indy over San Francisco, and Cincinnati over Green Bay. In Week 2, the AFC West dominated the NFC East, winning all 3 interleague matchups. Is this relevant? Not really. The NFC won over 60% of the interleague games last year and an AFC team (Baltimore Ravens) would go on to win the Super Bowl. The interleague matchups mean little when it comes to tiebreakers but could affect playoff seedings and/or participation (or the lack thereof).
Let’s look at where these teams are heading into the last week of September.
Week 4 (Meaningless) Power Rankings
1. Denver Broncos
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Chicago Bears
5. Miami Dolphins
6. New England Patriots
7. Kansas City Chiefs
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Cincinnati Bengals
10. Indianapolis Colts
5 games to watch in Week 4
Last week’s record (0-5) Season record (6-9)
Sunday, September 29th: Chicago Bears (3-0) at Detroit Lions (2-1)
The Bears are coming off a Sunday night beat down of the Pittsburgh Steelers. On display was their defense which forced 5 turnovers and scored 2 defensive touchdowns. As we have seen in the past, the Bears are tough to beat when their defense and special teams scores touchdowns. Their defense may face the toughest test of the season to date in Detroit. Matthew Stafford ranks 3rd in the NFC in passing, already totaling over 1000 yards. The Lions took a hit this week losing Nate Burleson (12th in the NFC in receiving yards) indefinitely to a broken arm he sustained in a car crash. This may allow the Bears defense to focus solely on Calvin Johnson. Because of this, I expect the Bears to win.
My pick: Chicago Bears
Sunday, September 29th: Seattle Seahawks (3-0) at Houston Texans (2-1)
This is one of many great interleague matchups this weekend. Houston has not looked terribly impressive in their two wins and looked especially flat in their loss against Baltimore this past week. Seattle has looked dangerous in all their home games but looked somewhat vulnerable in their only road game against Carolina. Seattle ranks 7th in offense in yards gained and number 1 in defense in yards allowed. Houston ranks 8th in offense and number 2 in defense. That’s a pretty even matchup statistically. The biggest difference may be the turnovers they force. Seattle is ranked 1st in the NFL with 10 forced turnovers. Houston is near the bottom with only 1 forced turnover. Seattle will force enough turnovers to win.
My pick: Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, September 29th: New York Jets (2-1) at Tennessee Titans (2-1)
This is quietly one of the best AFC matchups of the day. The Jets and the Titans have both gone 2-1 seemingly without notice outside their respective fan bases. Both teams were not expected to do great this year but one of these teams will leave 3-1 after a quarter of their games. Each team wants to prove they belong. Both teams are in the top 10 in yards allowed defensively. The Jets have had a considerably better passing game than the Titans despite having a rookie quarterback under center (Geno Smith). Both teams are tied for 7th in the league in rushing yards with 401. The Titans rushing attack is led by a familiar face, Chris Johnson. The Jets rushing attack is led by a relative unknown player, Bilal Powell, who the Jets drafted in 2011 in the 4th round. I expect this to be a low scoring game. For whatever reason, I’ll go with the visiting team.
My pick: New York Jets
Sunday, September 29th: New England Patriots (3-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2)
The Falcons may be 1-2 but they are by far the best team the Patriots have played this season. Bill Belichick needs to send the schedule-makers a thank you card for scheduling his first three games against the Bills, Jets, and Buccaneers. This has allowed Tom Brady some time to establish himself with the rookie wide receivers. Matt Ryan will be the best quarterback the Patriots defense has faced this season by far (E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, Josh Freeman) and will have to contend with Julio Jones who leads the league in receiving. The Falcons really need a win here to keep up with the Saints and I think they get it here against the Patriots.
My pick: Atlanta Falcons
Monday, September 30th: Miami Dolphins (3-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-0)
Monday night in the Superdome has been an annual stop ever since Hurricane Katrina. Nobody expected that this matchup would be against two 3-0 teams. The Saints and the Dolphins both look to move to 4-0 after this matchup. The Dolphins are below average in yards allowed/gained in defense and offense respectively. The Saints are near the top on offense and rank 1st overall in defense. The Dolphins need to be flawless on offense, not turning the ball over, to stay in the game. The Saints home field advantage on Monday night will prove to be ‘magical’ yet again.
My pick: New Orleans Saints
The last week of September will be fun to watch. Enjoy!
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