I wanted to start writing a brief wrap-up column as soon as possible after the NFL week ended. It turned out “Monday Morning Quarterback” was already taken. So I decided to wait until after the Monday night game. It turned out “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” was taken as well. But, as I am still essentially a fan at home (setting aside my gambling interests and this blog) I am just an armchair quarterback, especially compared to our other writers. So this seemed appropriate. Also, I like armchairs.
Power rankings to follow.
SEE YOU IN FEBRUARY
1. Seattle (3-0). The most complete team in the league right now.
2. Denver (3-0). The team didn’t miss a beat with Ryan Clady out at left tackle, but then, they were playing the Raiders. They still look significantly better than anyone below them, and Von Miller will be coming back eventually.
THE “LEGAL WEED BOWL” PARTY-CRASHERS
3. New Orleans (3-0). Looked much sharper this week than the last two, although I think people are overstating their showing against Tampa Bay. The young players in the front seven have looked solid so far, as has Kenny Vaccaro.
4. Green Bay (1-2). Fluky loss to the Bengals puts them in a dangerous hole for the division crown, but they still look like a top team and there’s plenty of time to right the ship.
5. New England (3-0). Shut down Tampa Bay. I didn’t see the game, so I’m still not sure how to evaluate it vs. their offensive struggles in the first two weeks.
6. San Francisco (1-2). I’m baffled that Indianapolis stopped them so easily. Could just be a bad game, but I think this team will struggle without a #1 receiver and without Aldon Smith.
7. Chicago (3-0). Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer’s work rebuilding the offensive line and designing an offense suited to the team’s strengths has paid off so far. They haven’t dominated a game yet, but they’re playing well.
8. Cincinnati (2-1). I shudder to think of what this team might do with a legitimate quarterback. Cincinnati has a great defense and several great young skill players.
9. Miami (3-0). I haven’t watched much of the Dolphins, so they’re hard for me to evaluate. what I’ve seen of Ryan Tannehill looks good, although I still worry about their offensive line.
FIGHTIN’ FOR A PLAYOFF SPOT
10. Baltimore (2-1). I definitely wasn’t expecting to rank them this high, but then they made the Texans look foolish last week. I’m still not sold on them, in part because the Texans may not be as good as they have been recently.
11. Atlanta (1-2). When Atlanta was getting all the breaks, they won close games. Now they aren’t, and they’re losing them. They’re also not nearly as aggressive on fourth down as they were from 2008-11. Injuries are finally piling up for the first time in the Mike Smith-Matt Ryan era. They can still play, but they will likely struggle.
12. Carolina (1-2). Boy, where would THIS team go if Ron Rivera wasn’t so outrageously conservative in his decision-making? We saw a brief glimpse of it on Sunday, but it needs to become a trend before I believe in it. I’m still not sold on Mike Shula as the new OC, either.
13. Houston (2-1). Barely beating two ~20th-ranked teams followed by getting pummeled at Baltimore suggests this team isn’t as good as the two-time division-winning Texans teams it succeeds. Duane Brown is a big loss while he’s out, but the offense was deeply uncreative even with him, and Gary Kubiak is conservative to the point of not seeming to understand that points win games, not yardage or time of possession.
14. Dallas (2-1). I might have been wrong about Monte Kiffin. The Dallas defense has been playing pretty well so far this season, and even with the holes on the offensive line, the skill players are getting it done. They certainly look like the division favorites at this point– it’s possible no one else finishes above .500.
15. Indianapolis (2-1). I have no idea where that defensive performance came from. I don’t expect them to perform at this level all season, but the fact that they can is certainly a surprise to me and means they could figure to finish much better than I expected. I think they actually are in a position to maximize Trent Richardson’s value, and if they make a run into the playoffs, the trade will have been worth it.
16. Kansas City (3-0). They look much better. The defense is legit. Their schedule is soft and they’ll probably make the playoffs. That said, I’m not convinced they can hang with the big boys with that passing attack.
PLAYOFFS UNLIKELY, BUT WITH CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
17. Detroit (2-1). I haven’t seen enough of their play so far, but I gather they’re pretty much what I expected them to be– which still includes “capable of blowing a game to a worse team”.
18. Philadelphia (1-2). The Eagles came crashing back to Earth after week 1’s offensive explosion. I still believe in that offense, but man, is that defense dire. (Lord only knows why they’re trying to make a bunch of 4-3 defensive players play in a 3-4.)
19. San Diego (1-2). Better than I thought they would be before the season. I may have to start watching the Chargers to get an idea of what they’re doing that’s working better than I expected. Same with our next team, but to an even greater extreme.
20. Tennessee (2-1). I have to give the Titans some credit; their defense is significantly better than I expected. I’m still not sold on Jake Locker– he’s just not an accurate passer– but his athleticism and the talent on the rest of the offense allow him to do just enough that they can get by with a win. (A good young quarterback, though, and this team has the weapons to transform into an explosive offense.)
THINGS ARE LOOKING DIRE
21. NY Giants (0-3). I’m not really sure what’s going on here. Through three games, the Giants have done nothing particularly well. Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t healthy, which hurts the pass rush, which hurts the entire defense, but I still don’t understand why the offense looks so discombobulated. Maybe Eli has senioritis.
22. NY Jets (2-1). The offense looked a little better against the Bills. I think it’s still a long way from elevating them to anything like a contender, though. The defense looks solid as ever, which is why I think they should keep Rex Ryan, but they have to do something to get more talent, both coaching and playing, on offense.
23. Cleveland (1-2). I probably shouldn’t raise them this much just for beating Minnesota, but the addition of Josh Gordon makes up for the departure of Trent Richardson, and I’ve always thought they had the potential to be a solid young defense. This ranking is more of a response to how some of the teams who fell below them looked, than a promotion on its own merits.
24. Washington (0-3). They can’t play defense, so if RG3 isn’t operating at full capacity, they have nothing. Shanahan screwing up RG3 in that Seattle game is unforgivable.
25. Pittsburgh (0-3). They were more competitive against Chicago than I expected, but they’ve still just looked like a mess on offense for the most part. The Steelers have steadily gotten worse the last few seasons.
26. St. Louis (1-2). Each week has been worse than the one before. They had no running game with Daryl Richardson out, and they didn’t have the horses to stop DeMarco Murray or Dez Bryant. Sam Bradford is starting to seem like he’ll never stop being too conservative in his decision-making to be The Guy.
27. Buffalo (1-2). They’ve got a long way to go– they just looked raw against the Jets. So much of this team’s future depends on E.J. and C.J. (no word on T.J., the other E.J., or J.T.) Alex Carrington’s injury could really impact the pass rush, as he’s pretty good for an unknown player. Kiko Alonso seems to be off to a good start.
28. Oakland (1-2). Let’s hope Terrelle Pryor’s concussion doesn’t keep him out too long, because I really enjoy watching him. This team doesn’t have much talent, but their QB is, I think, one of their brighter spots in their future. (I’d be thrilled if he got himself a Marqise Lee or Sammy Watkins to throw to next year.)
29. Tampa Bay (0-3). Too much talent to be playing like this. Schiano and Freeman are both in trouble.
30. Minnesota (0-3). Yeah, they’ve played three close games, but I just don’t see the upside here. The pass rush isn’t getting it done, and that’s one of the only reliable units on the team.
31. Arizona (1-2). As much as I loved the Cardinals’ draft this year, this team still has holes and an ultimately limited offensive ceiling, which really caps their peak.
32. Jacksonville (0-3). Blaine Gabbert comes back next week. Two more weeks after that and we get to find out if Justin Blackmon can make a difference.