Which 3-0 Team Is Best: Cardinals, Falcons or Texans?
The parity of the NFL has been on full display in 2012, and that leaves us a simple question with a difficult answer: Which 3-0 team is best?
Let's break down each of the unbeaten teams and determine who is the best at this point in the young NFL season.
Yes, somehow, someway, the team with the worst quarterback situation heading into the season has looked better than almost anyone else in the league.
Tough defense that doesn't allow many points and an offense that is just good enough to get by. Seriously, the offense ranks only 29th in passing and 27th in rushing.
The team's top running back, Ryan Williams, barely has over 100 yards. Larry Fitzgerald has found the end zone only once, and Kevin Kolb has less than 500 yards passing.
Still, this team finds ways to win, and against impressive opponents nonetheless. Beating the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 may have only been a mild upset, but who saw statement wins coming against the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles?
The Cardinals defense continues to prove it is good enough to keep this team competitive, even against tough opposition. Five forced fumbles and 12 sacks so far show that Arizona is here to stay.
Whether they are the best team in the league is another matter entirely. Arizona's offense is simply nowhere near good enough to consider this team on the same level as Atlanta or Houston.
Is there a better word to describe the play of the Falcons so far? Atlanta has outscored their opponents by a combined score of 94-47.
Matt Ryan has eight touchdowns to just one interception. Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones all have at least 189 yards receiving, and the Falcons defense has an astounding seven interceptions.
What we have come to expect from this team is inconsistency and then a stumble once the playoffs roll around. While that issue cannot be addressed until later, the Falcons have made a strong case for being the best team in football.
The offense has sound balance and is creating matchup problems for defenses. The defense is causing a high turnover rate and ensuring that the Falcons are not even playing close games.
Forcing three turnovers from Peyton Manning in the first quarter of Week 2 showcased their defensive prowess and proved that Atlanta is going to be a force moving forward.
Some wondered how the Texans would respond on defense after parting ways with Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans. It turns out Houston is just fine.
Players like J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing have made the transition seamless, and the defense has allowed just 42 points through three weeks.
When you couple that statistic with the fact that Houston has scored 88 points, right there is an easy recipe for success.
Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster are leading the offensive juggernaut we all expected to see, and there have been pleasant surprises form role players like Ben Tate and Kevin Walter.
The Texans play in a particularly weak AFC South division, and that should make their path to the postseason a lot easier than most of the other teams in the league.
Houston is formidable in every aspect of the game, and having five home games in the next seven weeks gives them a chance to build an insurmountable lead in the division, and possibly the conference as well.
Which 3-0 Team is Best?
The reality is that this is a two-horse race.
While Arizona's start is wildly impressive, the Cardinals still have a lot to prove before being considered on a level consistent with the Texans and Falcons.
The choice between Atlanta and Houston, however, is extremely difficult. Their passing attacks are almost completely equal, as both are top-five units in the league.
Houston does have the better defensive weapons and rushing game, though, and that gives them the edge.
The Texans are the best 3-0 team in the NFL, but Atlanta is not far behind.
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