- Tyler Moody
Rank ‘Em: Top 10 NFL teams through 3 weeks
By Tyler Moody
1) Atlanta Falcons – I know most people would have New England in this spot, but let’s be honest, the Falcons were essentially one tremendous Julian Edelman catch away from walking into this year as the defending champs.
Through three weeks of the season, they look like the team that should be the defending champ. They returned virtually the same roster and have upgraded with a now healthy star-corner in Desmond Trufant. What’s not to like, right? Some will say they should have lost to Detroit, but the Lions are quickly proving their upgrades on defense are for real.
Atlanta features the best QB-WR combo in the game, the best RB duo, a top-10 offensive line and speed across the board on defense that is anchored by an elite pass rush. The only thing missing from this team is Kyle Shannahan. Though they lost Shannahan, the same system remains in place and Matt Ryan has shown complete mastery of the system, especially pre-snap at the line of scrimmage. Most NFL games are won during the pre-snap chess match. Right now, Matt Ryan is as good as anyone in the league at deciphering defenses and making adjustments before the play. Until I see real regression from this team, they’re the one to beat in my mind.
Just like last year, the Falcons are in the top 5 in nearly every offensive category and are middle of the road on defense. That is the recipe for success with this team.
2) New England Patriots – Heading into the season it seemed like blasphemy to have the Pats in any spot but number one. That feels far from the case three weeks in. They were thoroughly outplayed by Kansas City to start the campaign and it took one of Brady’s best games in years to defeat a Houston Texans team led by a rookie quarterback.
No need to panic though, right? RIGHT! They still have the game’s best coach and quarterback of all time. Is there reason to believe that in his age 40 season that Brady will regress? Sure, there is, but until it is definitive how could you bet against this team. They have suffered through some injuries to start the season, especially at the skill positions. As players regain their health, I fully expect the Patriots to turn into the juggernaut that was predicted before the season.
The Patriots rank 1st in total offense (shocker) yet they’re dead last in points allowed. One of those trends I expect to continue. The other, I do not.
3) Kansas City Chiefs – If you go by the “head-to-head this team should be ranked higher than that team because they beat them” theory then I guess you would have KC above New England but I can’t ascribe to that. At least, not in this case. Yes, the Chiefs do look great to start the season and their mauling of New England on opening day shows what they’re capable of but I just couldn’t put them any higher than 3.
The emergence of Kareem Hunt has given this team what they were missing last year with Jamaal Charles out with injuries. What a lot of people are missing here, is Andy Reid actually moved up in the third round so he could draft Kareem Hunt. Reid and the scouting brass had Hunt on their mind to be the starter before Spencer Ware’s injury. That injury opened the door wide open for Hunt to burst through and he will never look back. Couple this newfound running game with Alex Smith’s understanding that he must open up his reads and throw downfield more often, and you have a Chief’s offense that is pretty potent. Obviously, having weapons like Travis Kelce and Tyreke Hill make Smith’s job easier but Alex has shown he can work the ball to other guys in the offense like Chris Conley.
We know the story with Andy Reid, though. An amazing regular season coach who struggles to get wins in the playoffs. That will be where this team’s real test lies. Regardless, the future is very bright in Kansas City. If Patrick Malhomes develops into the quarterback they believe he can be, KC will have absolutely destroyed this year’s draft by nabbing a franchise QB and RB in one draft. Sound familiar Cowboy’s fans?
Similar to last year, the Chiefs have allowed the 28th most yards in the league, yet they’re 7th in points allowed. They do a tremendous job of stiffening up in the red zone.
Kareem Hunt and their running game currently leads the National Football League.
4) Detroit Lions – Maybe my love for Matt Stafford is showing or maybe the Lions defense is showing real improvement. Either way, it feels like the top 3 teams have separated themselves from the field and then there is a big group of teams vying for the spots behind them. I feel the most confident in the improvements that I have seen from Detroit, though. Most notably on defense.
The Lions are literally an inch away from being undefeated and would have done so by beating the defending NFC Champs. They dropped 35 points on Arizona while creating 4 turnovers on defense. They followed that up by only allowing 10 points to the Giants. While they did give up 30 to Atlanta, they intercepted Matt Ryan three times in the contest. Plus, no one holds Atlanta under 30 it seems.
If the newly added speed for Detroit can stay healthy, I truly believe they can be one game better than the Packers at the end of the season to win the division. Regardless, it appears as if Detroit is headed for a playoff spot even if they have to settle for a wild card.
Detroit currently sits in the middle of the pack in nearly every category. It shows consistency across the board. Though some may feel it will lead to regression towards the middle of the pack. Matt Stafford is the equalizer for me in that department.
5) Green Bay Packers – I still don’t trust their defense. They have looked better and they do a good job against the run, for the most part. I just can’t trust them against teams that have upper-level quarterbacks. Atlanta put 34 on the board against them and it felt like it could have been more.
When you’re talking Packers it always comes back to Aaron Rodgers, though. The most talented quarterback in the game. Can he carry this team by himself again, is the question? He won’t have to dig them out of the cellar like he did last year, but it is apparent that he will have to continue to be the catalyst for this team. As much as I love Ty Montgomery, the running game hasn’t been consistent even though Ty “FLEX” is putting up good fantasy numbers.
In the end, it feels like Green Bay’s season ranking will come down to their head-to-head matchups against Detroit. It is why I have them 4 and 5 because you’re splitting hairs between the two. Two teams that are incredibly similar but I see a bit more from the Lion’s defense out of the gates. Yes, I know, don’t forget about Minnesota. We will get to them in a minute.
Much like Detroit, the Packers are middle of the road in most statistical categories, at the moment. Aside from passing yards, where Rodgers is only behind Tom Brady.
6) Oakland Raiders – Oakland is a team that would have made some real noise in the playoffs last year had they not lost Derek Carr to a broken leg. They looked good in week 1 dominating the game against Tennessee and in week 2 they obliterated the Jets 45-20. Then, there is, what feels like an anomaly. They were curb stomped for four quarters against the Washington Redskins. The ‘Skins came out with a tremendous game plan on defense. They bracketed Amari Cooper and let their star Josh Norman put the brakes on Michael Crabtree’s fast start to the year.
While they didn’t look great against Washington, it really feels like this team will gain momentum as the season progresses. They have solid talent at every single position. The only place I would like to see them show more is with their offensive line play. On paper, they have one of the better lines in the league. The eye test shows they have not been creating large running lanes for the backs, aside from a couple runs late in the game against the Jets. Marshawn Lynch looks healthy enough to make things happen, as long as this line can create some lanes. I fully expect to see that in the coming weeks. Even though I have Kansas City above Oakland, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see the Raiders eventually win the West.
Oakland has allowed the 7th most yards this season, which is a bit scary but their ability to create sacks with the pass rush should limit that as the season progresses.
7) Pittsburgh Steelers – I am putting Pittsburgh in the seven-spot based way more on sheer talent that productivity, up to this point. Le’veon Bell and Antonio Brown are still clearly the best RB-WR tandem in the league. Julio and Devonte Freeman could change that eventually, but for now the Steeler’s stars rule the roost.
The question mark, in my mind, is Ben Roethlisberger. Way too many of Big Ben’s passes have been off target to start the season. The return of Martavis Bryant should eventually propel the passing game to new heights, but if Ben really is feeling the wear and tear of a long career, maybe they’ll never reach their full potential.
While Le’Veon has gotten off to a slow start, I am expecting him to return to his normal form over the next few weeks and regain his stranglehold on “best running back”.
The Steeler’s glaring weakness is stopping the run. The Chicago Bears completely exploited that last week. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen ran wild in the Bears’ overtime victory. The Steeler’s have allowed the 3rd fewest yards against their defense but the 11th most rushing yards. A good secondary, but soft up the middle.
In a weak division, the Steeler’s should win enough games to eventually be the champion, but they have problems to fix if they want to be a real contender for a Super Bowl.
8) Los Angeles Rams- Ah, I can’t believe I am doing this, but I can’t seem to get the Ram’s off of my mind when I think about this year’s “most improved team”. Most will probably think I am crazy for having them as a top 10 team, but let’s face it Sean McVay has turned things around, in a hurry.
Yes, I am probably over-hyping them. Yes, I probably have recency bias, but what I have seen from them through three weeks is impressive. Not to mention, The Seahawks and Cardinals both have major holes that I don’t see getting fixed anytime soon.
The Rams currently lead the NFL in points per game at 35.7. They’re 7th in yards per game with 375. Todd Gurley is tied for the league lead in touchdowns. Obviously, there is going to be some regression with this offense. Yet, it is incredibly foolish to write off what they have looked like through the first three weeks. Sean McVay is the REAL DEAL when it comes to play design. He has made Jared Goff look like a real NFL qb. Pair him with Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and rookie slot guy, Cooper Kupp, and you have a real team in Los Angeles.
I will not be surprised, at all, when LA drops 28+ on the Cowboy’s this week and beat them in Dallas. I will be even less surprised when they win the NFC West.
9) Minnesota Vikings – Do I really have to write about Minny? I have never and probably never will be a fan of what they do up north. They’re off to a hot start, just like last season. Just like last season, it feels fraudulent to me.
The defense is for real, no doubt about it. While the offense has started the season putting up the second most yards per game, I just can’t buy into it. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are a tremendous receiving duo and Dalvin Cook looks like he will be a top-12 running back in this league for years to come. So, why can’t I buy into the Vikings? Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater. All three, more than likely, will start for the Vikings at qb this season. All three are guys I can NOT see leading a team to a record that is worthy of a playoff spot. While they may appear to be a top 10, at the moment, just like last season I believe they will fade.
In the end, it probably falls mostly on the fact that I believe more in Detroit and Green Bay. Minnesota will have to steal a couple of those games before I would feel comfortable saying they will wear the NFC North crown at the end of the season.
10) Philadelphia Eagles/Dallas Cowboys – I just can’t make up my mind on these two teams, yet. Both have shown the good and the bad out of the gates. Philly gets the definitive nod on defense but I still prefer the Cowboy’s offense, even if they have sputtered at times here early in the year.
We will revisit these two teams later in the season once they have played one another and I will have a separate Dallas Cowboy’s article coming soon. I have too much to say about the holes on defense to fit into the back end of this article.
There is so much more to say about all of these teams. You can expect it very soon as REALShreveport.com prepares to go live!
Honorable Mentions : Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks