NFL Week 3 Tier List: The RAMS are the Best Team in the League

This will probably be my last week doing the record-based tiers given that things will start getting a lot more complicated with more games played starting soon.

I know we still have Monday Night Football, but I’m going to publish this now and then update it with the Cowboys and Eagles after the game tonight.

Tier 1: Unbeaten Teams

  1. Rams: I thought the Rams would win that game against the Bucs, but I didn’t expect them to win so handily. It really wasn’t a close game. The Rams were clearly the superior team for 60 minutes. They’re the clear-cut best team in the NFC right now, and I think they’re the best team in the NFL. Sean McVay is fired up and sprinting down the field to celebrate with his guys–it just looks like the Rams are on a mission this season. Matthew Stafford, turns out the guy is actually pretty damn good when he actually has a competent team and coaching staff around him. Imagine that. Stafford just makes the Rams so much more explosive on offense. His ability to launch it deep to DeSean Jackson makes the Rams offense unbelievably dangerous. No longer does McVay have to engineer these 10-12 play drives and be perfect on every play call like he did with Jared Goff. Now, he can just open it up and let Stafford sling it down the field, picking up 20, 30, 40 yards at a time. That’s how you win games in the NFL. It’s why the Chiefs have been so good the past 3-4 years: big plays. The more plays you run on offense, the more chances you have of screwing something up. Big plays allow you to basically “steal” possessions in games. They’re the most efficient way to score. Big plays = more points. It sounds obvious, but the fact is that it’s just really hard to score points in this league when you aren’t good at throwing it deep. You have less margin for error, and you have to be basically perfect. Now that the Rams have the big play element to their offense, paired with that defense, they are going to be incredibly tough to beat.
  2. Cardinals: It’s not really surprising that they had some trouble with the Jags early in that game. This is pretty typical for western teams that have to travel all the way to the east coast and play an early game. But the Cardinals were able to get it together and pull away with a 31-19 win. The biggest improvement for them is their defense. With Kyler Murray and D-Hop, you know the offense is always going to be good. But now that they have a competent defense, this team is dangerous. I don’t think they’re on the Rams’ level, but hey, they’re headed to SoFi this Sunday, so we’ll find out just how good the Cardinals are real soon.
  3. Raiders: Vegas tried to give that game away early, but there’s just something about them this season. They believe they’re going to win. They’ve got a confidence and a swagger about them. Maybe it has a lot to do with that amazing stadium now officially being open to the fans, and the team is feeding off the crowd energy or something. But the Raiders just look like they’re not afraid of anyone right now. I know he’s not showing up a bunch in the stat sheet, but I like the improvement I’ve seen from Henry Ruggs. He’s getting open deep more consistently now. Derek Carr has missed him a few times, but you gotta figure they’ll get on the same page eventually.
  4. Broncos: Another week, another dominating defensive performance. Now, the Broncos have had the league’s easiest schedule thus far (Giants, Jags, Jets), but they’ve won all three games pretty easily. Their running game with Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams has looked great. The next four weeks will tell us a lot about this team: Ravens at home, at Steelers, Raiders at home, at Browns. It does suck that they just lost WR KJ Hamler for the season to a torn ACL, though. That’s on top of losing Jerry Jeudy for 6-8 weeks to a high ankle sprain.
  5. Panthers: I don’t want to overreact and praise their defense too much because they were up against a rookie QB on a short week, but the Panthers look pretty tough. It sucks that they lost rookie first round cornerback Jaycee Horn with a broken ankle, but it looked like it might have been a torn achilles given the way he went down non-contact. They dodged a bullet there. The Panthers still have yet to beat a truly good team, given that the Saints were so short-handed last week. But the Panthers also have a really favorable schedule going forward: Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, Giants, Falcons, Patriots are their next six games. Then they go to Arizona, but that’s not til November 14. I’m not saying I expect Carolina to start this season 9-0, because I think they’ll at least lose to either the Cowboys, Vikings or Patriots, but it’s certainly not out of the question. The end of their schedule, though, is a gauntlet: they finish at Bills, vs. Bucs, at Saints, at Bucs. That is a meat-grinder of a final month.

Tier 2: One-Loss Teams

  1. Buccaneers : The Rams were continually taking deep shots and straight-up abusing the banged-up Tampa secondary. I would say it’s nothing to worry about because their DBs will eventually get healthy, but the Tampa secondary was the weak-link on that team last season, so this is not just some anomaly. Brady makes his return to New England next Sunday night. That’ll be must-see TV.
  2. Browns: Myles Garrett sacked poor Justin Fields like 15 times. Okay, it was actually 4.5 times, but still. Cleveland sacked Fields a total of 9 times. I know the Bears are a terrible offense with a rookie QB, but the Browns’ defense looks to be coming together. Odell Beckham is back and looks like his normal self. This is starting to look like a very complete team. Cleveland might be the best team in the AFC right now. I think if I had to make a Super Bowl pick for the AFC right this very second, I would take the Browns.
  3. Chargers: Huge win for the Chargers on the road in Kansas City. They look like a real team. Mike Williams has really emerged for LA as a high-quality wide receiver, and it shouldn’t be a surprise given that the guy was A. a beast at Clemson, and B. drafted 7th overall. I don’t know why Anthony Lynn didn’t make him a bigger part of the offense; maybe it was the injuries he was constantly suffering. But still, it seemed like he was primarily used as a deep threat under Anthony Lynn. Now the new Chargers’ coaching staff is taking full advantage of his tools: he’s a big dude who can go up and get the ball, and Herbert looks his way a lot in the end zone, which is why he came up with 2 TDs.
  4. Saints: I think we can safely say the loss to Carolina was a fluke given that the Saints were missing 8 coaches plus a bevy of key defensive players. Or maybe Carolina is just really good. But the Saints looked great up in New England. They harassed Mac Jones all game, picking him off 3 times including a pick-six. They didn’t move the ball great on offense, but that’s a pretty solid Patriots defense. The Saints are clearly building a team identity here based on defense, but I just wonder if their offense is explosive enough to really compete at the highest level. It’ll help a lot when Michael Thomas comes back, but the big question mark is still Jameis Winston: we know he has the arm to throw for 5,000 yards, but I don’t think Sean Payton wants that out of him given the high-risk of turnovers. Will the Saints be able to open that offense up more for Jameis while at the same time limiting the interceptions? They need to find the sweet spot here.
  5. Packers: Green Bay looked like the better team last night, and they got hosed by the refs quite a few times, so they probably did deserve to win. What was most impressive was their defense. They were ferocious up front, constantly harassing Jimmy G. That’s the key for Green Bay: if their defense can be this good consistently, they’re a Super Bowl team. Davante Adams is always open, and Aaron Rodgers always finds him. I guess we just chalk week 1 up as a throwaway game, because Green Bay looks like they’re back to normal.
  6. 49ers: You never, ever leave time on the clock for Aaron Rodgers. It’s as simple as that. San Fran got bailed out a few times by the refs, but they did enough to win that game last night. They were a completely different team in the second half. If they just handled the clock a little better, they would have stole that game. Also, why were they not doubling Davante Adams on that last drive? You know where Aaron Rodgers is going with the ball. How do you not double him? Single coverage isn’t enough with Davante. I really want to know why San Fran didn’t double him and take their chances on some other Packers receiver beating them. I also thought San Fran should have run the ball more, too. They had 40 passing attempts to 20 rushing attempts. Trey Sermon, their lead back, only got 10 carries. I know San Fran was down early so you tend to abandon the run at that point, but San Fran is a running team. They are not at their best unless they’re running the ball. Remember the 2019 NFC Championship against Green Bay? Jimmy G threw the ball 8 times. And the 49ers won in a blowout. I know they’ve dealt with a lot of running back injuries this season and it was Trey Sermon’s first game as a pro, but I want to see San Fran run the ball more.
  7. Bills: Like the Packers, I guess we just chalk week 1 up as a fluke for Buffalo. Josh Allen looked incredible against the Washington defense. That game was basically over in the first half. With the defense apparently coming around in Buffalo, they’re going to be a problem.
  8. Cowboys: The moment you saw the tears streaming down Dak’s face during the National Anthem, you knew Philly didn’t have a chance. First game back in front of the full home crowd after that horrific injury he suffered last year–fuggetaboutit. It feels like things are finally coming together in Dallas. Mike McCarthy still doesn’t know how to manage the clock but that’s okay when you win by three TDs. Dallas has a defense now. Turns out a big part of the issue last season was the defensive coordinator, as now Dan Quinn has turned that defense around. I know a lot of people think of Dan Quinn as the Falcons coach who blew the 28-3 lead, but before that he was the defensive coordinator for the Legion of Boom Seahawks. The guy knows what he’s doing when it comes to defense. Trevon Diggs looks like a Pro Bowler back in the secondary, and credit Jerry Jones for getting Micah Parsons in the draft. People questioned the pick but Parsons already looks like a high-impact player and is probably the favorite for defensive rookie of the year at this point. Jerry–or maybe it’s mostly his son, Stephen–is a really underrated drafter. Other than Amari Cooper, you look at all the great players on that Cowboys roster, they’re draft picks. It’s a lot of home-grown talent. Dallas is now the clear front-runner in the NFC East, and nobody else in that division looks to be on their level.
  9. Ravens: Do you give them credit for winning a game they should have lost? Or do you knock them for struggling with the Lions? Probably a bit of both. I think given that they just beat the Chiefs last week, the Ravens do obviously deserve the benefit of the doubt. But they could easily be 0-3 right now. This is not a sustainable model in the NFL the way the Ravens are winning games.
  10. Bengals: So the Bengals are actually a good team I guess? They just embarrassed the Steelers. The Joe Burrow-Ja’Marr Chase connection is already lethal. But the Bengal defense is the real story here: they look damn good. Completely stonewalled the Steelers running game, and harassed Big Ben all day. That game felt like the little brother who finally beats his big brother in driveway basketball. The Bengals are no longer the doormats of the AFC North. I don’t know if I believe in them just yet, but I want to. Just give me a few more quality wins and I’m on board.
  11. Titans: They dominated the hapless Colts, and now look to be at team that is back on the right track after getting smoked by Arizona in week 1. The biggest positive sign for Tennessee is that their defense looked pretty good against Indy, holding them to only 265 yards. The Titans obviously have a great offense, but will their defense be able to get it done? That’s the only question that matters with them.

Tier 3: Two-Loss Teams

  1. Chiefs: Huh? What are the Chiefs doing in this tier? They’re in last place in the AFC West? It’s hard to believe they already have two losses. Mahomes threw an ugly late INT that basically gave the Chargers the game. They fumbled away the game last week against Baltimore. If not for a botched punt, Cleveland probably beats them in week 1. The Chiefs could easily be 3-0 this season, but they could also be 0-3 too. Something is off with them. And now we get news that Andy Reid was taken away from the game in an ambulance because he was feeling ill. Praying for a speedy recovery for Coach Reid. I’m sure the Chiefs will turn it around, but they just don’t look quite right at the moment.
  2. Seahawks: I don’t get the Seahawks. They started off looking unstoppable, jumping out to a 17-7 lead. But they ended up down 21-17 at the half. And they didn’t score another point for the rest of the game–they lost 30-17. Kirk Cousins was masterful, 30-38 passing for 323 yards and 3 TDs, and a 93.3 QBR. The Seahawks defense couldn’t do a thing against him. Nor could they stop Alexander Mattison on the ground, who was filling in for the injured Dalvin Cook. The Seahawks allowed the Vikings’ backup running back to go for 112 yards, plus another 59 yards receiving. Last week Seattle was up 14 on Tennessee in the 4th quarter and ended up losing in OT. The Seahawks seem to build up leads and then just fall apart. I don’t understand what’s happening. They’re clearly good enough to score points and get leads, but they just don’t play full games.
  3. Vikings: The Vikings really should be 3-0 right now. They just dominated the Seahawks. Last week, their kicker missed a game-winning field goal at the buzzer. And in week 1, Dalvin Cook fumbled in OT as the Vikings were driving and probably going to win the game, allowing the Bengals to kick a game-winning field goal. Still, though, you are what your record says you are. The biggest concern for Minnesota this year has been their defense, but in this game they stepped up big against one of the league’s most dangerous offenses. That’s an encouraging sign.
  4. Patriots: The Saints defense did to Mac Jones what Bill Belichick’s defenses usually do to rookie QBs. Jones had 3 INTs and the Pats couldn’t get much going offensively. Given the fact that they’re breaking in a rookie QB (and the NFL has not been kind to any of the 4 rookie QBs that have gotten major playing time this season), the formula for this Patriots team was always going to be running the ball and playing strong defense, but it’s kind of tough to play strong defense when your offense turns the ball over 3 times, including a pick-six. If you look at the box score, the Patriots only allowed the Saints to gain 252 yards of total offense in the game. The Pats themselves had 300. The difference was the turnovers. Anytime you look at a lopsided game’s box score and don’t see a major discrepancy in total yards, yards per play and total first downs, the culprit is usually turnovers. And that was the case in this game. 3 for New England, 0 for New Orleans. This is part of the growing pains process for Mac Jones.
  5. Steelers: Pittsburgh outgained Cincy 342-268, ran 77 offensive plays to just 42 for Cincy, won time of possession by 10 minutes, and held the Bengals to just 3-9 on third down while going 9-19 on third down themselves. Yet they still lost by 14. Turnovers weren’t lopsided either: the Steelers had 2 to the Bengals’ 1. So what happened in this game? Well, the Steelers simply cannot run the ball. Najee Harris had 14 carries for 40 yards. Big Ben had to throw the ball 58 times because the run game was dysfunctional. It might seem like Big Ben was slinging it all over the field, but 19 of those 58 pass attempts were to Najee, who caught a whopping 14 passes. It generally isn’t a good thing when your running back is your leading receiver. Pittsburgh was just 1-3 in the red zone. Plus, Big Ben’s 2 INTs both happened in Pittsburgh territory and gave the Bengals easy TDs. When you’re as limited offensively as Pittsburgh is (and they were without their leading receiver Diontae Johnson), you simply cannot afford to be giving away 14 points. The Steeler defense looked pretty good even without TJ Watt, but they were unable to get to the QB. The Steelers had a streak of 75 games with at least one sack coming into this game, but that streak ended Sunday. Meanwhile Cincy sacked Big Ben 4 times. I really do believe the problems for this Steeler team start up front: their offensive line is just terrible.
  6. Texans: They couldn’t get a thing going offensively, which is understandable given they were starting rookie Davis Mills at QB in place of the injured Tyrod Taylor. They hung tight with Carolina in the first half of that game, but understandably couldn’t keep up for a full 60 minutes. I still think the Texans have greatly exceeded expectations this year. They were expected to be not only the worst team in the league but the worst team in NFL history given how bad their offseason was.
  7. Eagles: They just were no match for the Cowboys. Jalen Hurts has some flashes of brilliance, like that 4th quarter TD pass to Greg Ward, but it’s gotta be hard for him having to learn a whole new offense basically twice in a year span. He also had that pick-six, though, plus another pick early in the game. The Eagles are already feeling the impact of losing Brandon Graham, as their defense simply couldn’t stop the run against Dallas. Coach Nick Sirianni looks like a bit of a clown after wearing that “BEAT DALLAS” shirt and then getting boatraced by three TDs.
  8. Washington: So much for that vaunted defense. Josh Allen ripped them to shreds. With Fitz Magic on the injured reserve list, the Washington offense was never going to be anything special. They were expecting to rely on their defense, but their defense hasn’t been good at all. 43 points to the Bills, 29 points to the Giants (who got held to 14 by the Falcons), and 20 in week 1 at home to Justin Herbert and the Chargers. Washington just isn’t very good right now.
  9. Dolphins: Who the hell throws a screen pass in their own endzone? Kudos to the Dolphins for rallying to force OT even with Tua out and Brissett starting, but you kind of got the feeling the Raiders were always going to win that game no matter what. I just don’t know what the Dolphins’ identity as a team is. I guess it would be defense given Brian Flores’ coaching background, but they didn’t look particularly great on defense outside of that fluky pick-six early in the game.
  10. Bears: 1 net passing yard in the game. One. Outgained in total offense 418 to 47. That’s just jaw-dropping stuff. And Matt Nagy is supposed to be an offensive genius. Fields was 6-20 for 68 yards passing, but was sacked 9 times for -67 yards, equating to +1 net passing yard. Wasn’t much better on the ground, either: David Montgomery ran 10 times for 34 yards. Cleveland won time of possession by almost 20 minutes. I guess the positive is that the Bears didn’t turn the ball over at all. Somehow Fields didn’t have any picks or fumbles despite being sacked 9 times and hit a total of 15 times. He only had 20 passing attempts! I don’t know what the Bears are doing right now, honestly. They were so committed to starting Andy Dalton that they didn’t devise an offensive gameplan for Justin Fields in the event Dalton got hurt. Matt Nagy should be fired on the spot for allowing his first round rookie QB to be abused like he was. Justin Fields is part of the Bears’ future plans, Matt Nagy isn’t. Just cut your losses now before your rookie QB gets seriously injured out there and loses all confidence. Now do you see why the Bears can never “find” a franchise quarterback? It’s not that they always pick the wrong guy. It’s that no quarterback on the face of the planet could ever succeed in that offensive system. Chicago is where QB talent goes to die. It is a black hole for QBs–Chicago and the NY Jets. I don’t know how anyone keeps their job after a game like this, to be quite honest. When you lose the total yardage battle 418-47, that is completely unacceptable for a so-called professional football team. The Bears have good players, too. Those players do not deserve this. They have been utterly failed by their head coach. What adjustments did he make when it became clear his offensive line could not block the Browns’ pass rush? None. If the Bears had any self-respect as a franchise, they would dismiss Matt Nagy immediately. I know the Browns are a really good team, but getting dominated this badly in the NFL is unacceptable.
  11. Falcons: Good for them, I guess. I still don’t know what the plan is in Atlanta. They’re not winning a Super Bowl with this roster, but they’re not in a full rebuild yet, either. What is actually the goal for the Atlanta Falcons? Just wait until a few more years come off Ryan’s contract and they can move him without it it costing them a fortune? It feels like they’re in football no-man’s land; purgatory. They’re clearly not competing for a Championship, but they’re also not yet in a full rebuild. Gross. It’s kinda depressing to think about honestly.

Tier 4: Winless Teams

  1. Colts: I’m putting the Colts at the top of the list in this tier because they were good last year, and because they played the Rams tough last week. I really don’t know what to say. I feel like the Colts should be good, because they have a good amount of talent. But I also can’t really look at any of the three games they lost this year and say, “Well they shouldn’t have lost that game.” The Colts are a decent team, but they’ve just played three teams that are better than they are: the Seahawks, the Rams and the Titans. You’d like to see the Colts step up and beat a good team, but the reality is they should be 0-3 right now.
  2. Lions: Oh. My. Goodness. I feel so bad for the Lions. They really deserved to win that game. Losing on a 66-yard field goal is the most Lions thing ever. Now that Cleveland is good, Detroit is the new Factory of Sadness. What makes it even worse is that the refs missed a blatant delay of game by Baltimore on that last-minute drive. Detroit is playing hard under Dan Campbell, though. They’re really out there biting kneecaps and leaving it all on the field. For some reason I do believe the wins will start coming, maybe not a bunch of them this season, but I like the way the Lions compete. If they can get some more talent and maintain the culture into next season, they’re going to be a problem in the NFC North.
  3. Jaguars: Well, at least they looked somewhat competitive in this game. They were actually up 20-10 on Arizona at one point in the second half, but then just fell apart. The Jags simply are not good enough to compete for 60 minutes with a team like the Cardinals. Trevor Lawrence is still getting used to the NFL and has a lot of growing to do. I’m actually pretty impressed with Jacksonville’s effort in this game. They looked way better than they did in week 1. They were not a professional football team in week 1, but they were definitely a professional football team in week 3. Things are kinda, sorta starting to trend in the right direction. Trevor Lawrence, though, needs to cut down on those INTs. I don’t know if it’s bad decision making, bad blocking, receivers not getting open, the playcaller asking him to do too much, or he just needs more time to get acclimated to the NFL but he leads the league in turnovers right now. That’s gotta stop.
  4. Giants: Another week, another game lost on the final play of the game. This week, the winless Falcons broke the Giants’ hearts. Daniel Jones simply isn’t the answer. At least Saquon looked good.
  5. Jets: They’re just so bad. 26-0 loss, outscored 51-6 in their past 2 games. And it ain’t getting any easier with the Titans coming to town next week. I’m gonna let Jets Kid handle this one:

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