Week 3 of the 2013 NFL regular season is officially behind us, and Week 4 is rapidly approaching. With Thursday night football set to denote the quarter mark of the season, every active team is looking for a win to improve momentum.
Here's how every team is looking entering this momentous week of action.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 3: 45-17 loss at Seattle Seahawks
Week 4: vs. Indianapolis Colts
For the fourth consecutive week, the Jacksonville Jaguars open up the power rankings in the No. 32 spot. The 0-3 Jags fell 45-17 to the Seattle Seahawks and still haven't finished a game with a single-digit deficit.
The only thing that Jacksonville is contending for is the No. 1 overall draft choice.
Jacksonville allowed 31 consecutive points before finally scoring a touchdown of its own, using a Maurice Jones-Drew rushing score to end the shutout. While the Jaguars may have scored two times on the ground, they also picked up 51 total rushing yards to remind the world of how poor the offense is.
Cecil Shorts III continues to be a revelation at wide receiver, but until Jacksonville finds a franchise quarterback, points will be scarce, and losses will continue to pile up.
It won't get any easier for the Jags in Week 4, as they prepare to play host to the Indianapolis Colts. With a defense that ranks dead last in opponent rushing yards, facing Andrew Luck, Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson spells disaster.
As pessimistic as this may sound, it would be more shocking for Jacksonville to win a game this season than to see it go 0-16.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 3: 23-3 loss at New England Patriots
Week 4: vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have jumped into contention for the first overall draft choice in 2014. After two last-minute defeats against the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints, the Bucs fell 23-3 to a New England Patriots team that had been previously underwhelming.
Something needs to change in Tampa Bay.
Through three games, quarterback Josh Freeman is completing 45.7 percent of his passes with two touchdowns, three interceptions and a fumble. Even as Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin has come to life by amassing 232 rushing yards over the past two weeks, the offense has been putrid.
During Week 4, rookie Mike Glennon will get his first career start and look to end the Freeman era.
I'm in with the crowd questioning the head coach, but this organization has an issue when it comes to quarterback play. No quarterback in franchise history has received a second contract.
Bucs have made the move: Benching Josh Freeman for Mike Glennon, per league source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 25, 2013
The Bucs managed to cut down on turnovers in Week 3, but players whom we expect to see at the top of their game blew multiple defensive assignments. Rookies tore the Bucs' revamped secondary apart, and at game's end, Tampa seemed close to disinterested.
Call for Greg Schiano's job if you'd like, but there's something to be said about a team that's blatantly giving up on its second consecutive head coach.
30. Cleveland Browns
Week 3: 31-27 win at Minnesota Vikings
Week 4: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Cleveland Browns shocked the world in Week 3 by defeating the Minnesota Vikings 31-27 in their first game without running back Trent Richardson. Color me a pessimist, but I call that a reaction to the league's doubts more than it was a breakout performance.
Cleveland is still one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Brian Hoyer went off for 321 passing yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions during his season debut. The 27-year-old turned heads with his ability to lead Cleveland, while Jordan Cameron caught three touchdowns and Josh Gordon had 10 receptions for 146 yards and a score.
The issue? Cleveland may have topped 100 yards rushing, but its top three rushers combined for four total carries.
Take away the big play from Cleveland's run game, and it becomes clear that there truly is none. Willis McGahee picked up nine yards on eight carries, while Chris Ogbonnaya had 23 yards on two carries.
Don't expect Cleveland to have three players averaging upward of 11 yards per carry very often. This team is still a top-pick contender.
29. New York Giants
Week 3: 38-0 loss at Carolina Panthers
Week 4: at Kansas City Chiefs
The New York Giants hit a new low during Week 3, going from a team that had struggled through two weeks to being an absolute mess. Eli Manning threw another interception, the defense only managed one quarterback hit, and the run game totaled 60 yards.
The end result was a 38-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
The Giants are the NFL's comeback kids, riding Manning's fourth-quarter mastery to emerge from even the most unfavorable situations. At this point, however, the Giants seem to lack the personnel to even begin to think about contending.
It all starts with Manning throwing eight interceptions through three games.
Until the Giants can start taking care of the football, they will continue to be in unfavorable situations. That's bad news for New York, as it's about to face the league leader in sacks, the Kansas City Chiefs, in Week 4.
It's time for Manning to start protecting possession before the Giants fall to 0-4.
28. Minnesota Vikings
Week 3: 27-31 vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 4: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
It's one stunning thing to lose 31-27 to the Cleveland Browns. It's an even more shocking development when a team falls 31-27 to the Browns at home.
That's what happened to the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings allowed Browns tight end Jordan Cameron to catch three touchdown passes, including the game-winner with 51 seconds remaining. Christian Ponder failed to throw a single touchdown in response, and the Vikings offensive line allowed six sacks and five tackles for loss.
The defense came up with three interceptions and a fumble recovery, but it still wasn't enough.
When it comes down to it, the Vikings lack the caliber of play at quarterback and along the offensive line to contend. Ponder may end up developing into a serviceable player, but he's constantly under pressure and struggles to throw the ball deep.
Adrian Peterson may have been hoping for a 2,500-yard rushing season, but he'll be lucky to reach 1,500 if Ponder can't provide supporting fire.
27. Oakland Raiders
Week 3: 37-21 loss at Denver Broncos
Week 4: vs. Washington Redskins
The Oakland Raiders have a bright future with Terrelle Pryor playing the quarterback position. During Week 3, those dreaming of the future were reminded of the present, as Oakland lost 37-21 to the Denver Broncos.
It was a rude awakening, to say the least.
Pryor was 19-of-28 for 281 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions against Denver. He also ran the ball four times for 36 yards. Even as Darren McFadden put on one of the worst performances of his career, Pryor managed to stand tall in the pocket and make strong throws.
The problem for Oakland is that these aren't future rankings.
The Raiders may become a perennial postseason contender with Pryor under center, but they have a long way to go at other positions. Denarius Moore and Rod Streater are having quality seasons at wide receiver, but Oakland has holes all over the offense and defense.
It'll take a few more drafts before Pryor can reach his full potential with this organization.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 3: 23-40 vs. Chicago Bears
Week 4: at Minnesota Vikings
The Pittsburgh Steelers have dropped to 0-3, and sadly there are no signs of encouragement. The defense is playing well, and Ben Roethlisberger is far from the source of Pittsburgh's issues, but the run game is nonexistent, and the Steelers can't force turnovers.
To make matters worse, Roethlisberger is beginning to feel the repercussions of a banged-up offensive line.
He threw two interceptions and committed three fumbles against the Chicago Bears, taking three hard sacks in the process. The run game managed to pick up a season-high 80 yards, but that came on 3.8 yards per attempt.
Antonio Brown was a monster with nine receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns, but having one player step up at a time isn't the way to win football games.
Pittsburgh is now 0-3 with no reason to believe in a potential improvement. Le'Veon Bell could help the run game, but he's a rookie who has never taken a regular-season snap.
Roethlisberger is still a superstar, and Mike Tomlin is one of the league's best head coaches, but this team is in trouble.
25. Washington Redskins
Week 3: 20-27
Week 4: at Oakland Raiders
The Washington Redskins began the season with back-to-back games in which the offense was terrible in the first half and explosive in the third and fourth quarters. During Week 3, the Redskins put up points early and collapsed late.
One way or another, the Redskins have dropped to 0-3.
Robert Griffin III has posted three consecutive games with at least 320 passing yards, but he's come on too late. The games have been decided by the time he gets going, and against the Detroit Lions, he failed to throw a single touchdown and had an interception and three fumbles.
Even still, we can't blame the quarterback without acknowledging the defense.
The Redskins' pass rush was nonexistent, managing just one sack against the Lions. For the season, the Redskins rank 31st in pass defense and 30th against the run.
People will point to the quarterback, but Washington has issues all over the roster.
24. Arizona Cardinals
Week 3: 7-31 loss at New Orleans Saints
Week 4: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Arizona Cardinals opened the season with a 27-24 loss to the St. Louis Rams and followed up with a 25-21 win over the Detroit Lions. Rather than making a positive statement against the New Orleans Saints in Week 3, the Cardinals fell 31-7.
That's what you'd call a deflating loss.
Arizona ran for a touchdown during the opening minutes of the first quarter, and that was all the offense did. Carson Palmer was 18-of-35 for 187 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, getting sacked four times.
The run game was decent, picking up 86 yards on 16 carries, but it managed 46 of those yards on three long rushes.
Defensively, the Cardinals' stout run defense allowed New Orleans to top 100 yards, and the pass defense was torched for 342 yards and three scores. To add insult to injury, Arizona allowed Drew Brees to scramble for a seven-yard touchdown.
It was a long day for Arizona, and a Week 4 meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can't come soon enough.
23. Buffalo Bills
Week 3: 20-27 loss at New York Jets
Week 4: vs. Baltimore Ravens
For the second time in three weeks, the Buffalo Bills were in position to pull off an upset of a division rival. With 9:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, however, the Bills allowed a 69-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Santonio Holmes and proceeded to lose 27-20.
Buffalo has promise, but a close loss does nothing in the standings.
EJ Manuel has been strong at quarterback but did show signs of inexperience against the Jets. Steve Johnson had another big game with six catches for 86 yards, while Fred Jackson ran the ball seven times for 72 yards, but Buffalo trailed for too long to create balance.
Even when the Bills did run the football, C.J. Spiller was flat-out terrible.
Outside of Week 2, Spiller has struggled, while Jackson has emerged as the most productive back in Buffalo. Fantasy football owners may not want to hear it, but Jackson has done everything necessary to reclaim his spot as the starter.
Ten carries for nine yards and two fumbles just aren't enough to keep Spiller in the driver's seat.
22. San Diego Chargers
Week 3: 17-20 loss at Tennessee Titans
Week 4: vs. Dallas Cowboys
If you're ever looking for the most entertaining NFL game on television, find the one featuring the San Diego Chargers. Through three games, the Chargers are 1-2 with two three-point losses and a three-point win.
If nothing else, they are the most dramatic team in football.
During Week 3, San Diego entered the fourth quarter with a 17-10 lead but fell victim to a 34-yard touchdown pass from Jake Locker to Justin Hunter with 35 seconds remaining. It was the second time in three weeks that the Chargers have lost in the final minute.
At some point, heartbreak will become turmoil.
Philip Rivers isn't to blame, as he was 20-of-24 for 184 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Danny Woodhead added 86 yards of total offense, and the Chargers managed to be in a position to win once again but came up short.
Until it learns how to close out, San Diego will continue to lose close games.
21. Carolina Panthers
Week 3: 38-0 win vs. New York Giants
Week 4: Bye
The Carolina Panthers enter their bye week with a record of 1-2 after losing by single digits to the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks and blowing out the New York Giants 38-0. If we've learned anything from those three games, it's that Carolina is a team to watch in 2013.
How could we say any different after Cam Newton snapped a two-game dry spell with a four-touchdown performance against New York?
Newton was 15-of-27 for 223 yards, three passing touchdowns and an interception against the Giants. He also ran the ball seven times for 45 yards and a score, helping to re-establish his star power as a dual-threat quarterback.
DeAngelo Williams, meanwhile, has topped 80 yards rushing in all three games, going for 120 on 23 carries in Week 3.
The true story for Carolina has been its defense, as the shutout was a continuation of the Panthers' dominance. Carolina came up with seven sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery, as its vaunted front seven imposed its will on the Giants' run and pass games.
Carolina returns to action in Week 5 when it faces the Arizona Cardinals in an attempt to reach .500.
20. St. Louis Rams
Week 3: 7-31 loss at Dallas Cowboys
Week 4: vs. San Francisco 49ers
The St. Louis Rams opened the season with a 27-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals. As a result, countless fans and analysts labeled the Rams as a team that would contend for the postseason in 2013.
Since then, St. Louis has been underwhelming.
The Rams lost 31-7 to the Dallas Cowboys just one week after falling 31-24 to the Atlanta Falcons in a game that was more lopsided than it seemed. Tony Romo completed passes at will, DeMarco Murray ran all over the Rams, and St. Louis fell to 1-2.
Now the Rams are preparing for a Week 4 battle against the San Francisco 49ers to determine which team will drop to 1-3.
The Rams are falling behind early and have thus been unable to establish the run as they attempt 47 passes per game. With this predictable approach to offense, they have struggled to move the football and have dropped below .500.
With the Seattle Seahawks pulling away and the 49ers coming to town, the Rams' division title dreams could be on the line during Week 4.
19. New York Jets
Week 3: 27-20 win vs. Buffalo Bills
Week 4: at Tennessee Titans
The post-Mark Sanchez era has begun with a bang, as the New York Jets have moved to 2-1 with wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills. The only loss the Jets have suffered was a 13-10 road defeat to the New England Patriots.
It's too soon to talk postseason, but New York has a shot.
The defense is picking up where it left off, ranking sixth against the run and seventh against the pass. That balanced defensive attack is keeping the score low and the offense in every game.
Bilal Powell is looking like the player who will help the offense match the defense's intensity and production.
He carried the ball 27 times for 149 yards against the Bills, effectively winning the position battle between him and Chris Ivory. With Powell in the backfield, the Jets can return to the ground-and-pound formula that helped them reach two conference championship games under Rex Ryan.
As for Geno Smith, he picked up his first career 300-yard passing performance against Buffalo. Expect many more with Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes running wild.
18. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 3: 16-26 loss vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 4: at Denver Broncos
The Philadelphia Eagles opened the season with an explosive 33-27 win over the Washington Redskins. Since then, Philly has lost consecutive games to AFC West opponents, dropping to 1-2 on the season with a Week 4 matchup against the Denver Broncos looming.
Chip Kelly's club is in trouble.
LeSean McCoy continues to torch the opposition after running for 158 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in Week 3. He leads all players with 395 rushing yards in 2013, sitting a full 98 above the next leading rusher.
Without consistent quarterback play, however, his numbers won't lead to wins.
Michael Vick's struggles have been overblown, but he was poor against the Kansas City Chiefs. DeSean Jackson is still having a strong season, and the Eagles defense has been adequate, but Philadelphia is below .500 and about to begin a three-game road trip.
If nothing else, Philly can hold onto its ferocious pass rush.
17. Tennessee Titans
Week 3: 20-17 win vs. San Diego Chargers
Week 4: vs. New York Jets
The Tennessee Titans entered Week 3 as a 1-1 football team with a mountain of pressure on quarterback Jake Locker. He had failed to produce at anything close to an elite level and had begun to develop into more of a weakness than a reliable strength.
Locker proceeded to throw for 299 yards, run for 68 and post two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 15 seconds remaining.
That's what Tennessee expected when it drafted him No. 8 overall in the 2011 NFL draft. Pairing a powerful arm with swift motion as a scrambler, Locker is a game-changing quarterback who can take over games.
Tennessee will need him to continue doing so if the Titans have any plans of reaching the playoffs.
Chris Johnson continues to have a quietly strong season, topping 90 yards in consecutive games and going for 256 on the season through three outings. Rookie Justin Hunter only has one reception, but it was the game-winner.
Many young players on this roster need to improve, but if Locker can continue playing like this, Tennessee will be fun to watch.
16. Detroit Lions
Week 3: 27-20 win at Washington Redskins
Week 4: vs. Chicago Bears
The Detroit Lions picked up a gutsy 27-20 road win over a Washington Redskins team that was desperate for a victory. Despite allowing more than 400 total yards of offense, Detroit limited Washington's scoring outburst and moved to 2-1.
Unfortunately, the Lions just lost one of Matthew Stafford's most trusted receivers. Burleson caught six passes for a game-high 116 yards during Detroit's 27-20 win over Washington.
Calvin Johnson is still available, and Joique Bell had 132 yards of total offense against the Redskins, but losing Burleson is a serious blow. With Reggie Bush already nursing an injury, the Lions cannot suffer any more blows to offensive playmakers.
Fortunately, the defense has been strong, holding opponents to a league-best mark of 26.5 percent on third-down conversion attempts. Unfortunately, the Lions are also 25th in first downs via passing plays during the 2013 season.
The upside is present, but health is the biggest question mark for Detroit.
15. Dallas Cowboys
Week 3: 31-7 win vs. St. Louis Rams
Week 4: at San Diego Chargers
The Dallas Cowboys began the season with an ugly win over the New York Giants and a gritty loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. During Week 4, the Cowboys erupted against a strong St. Louis Rams defense en route to a 31-7 win.
When it was all said and done, the Cowboys walked away as the class of the NFC East.
DeMarco Murray led the charge with 26 carries for 175 yards and a touchdown, also catching three passes for 28 yards. Tony Romo provided the supporting fire with a close-to-flawless performance, going 17-of-24 for 210 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Dez Bryant, Gavin Escobar and Dwayne Harris caught the touchdowns, displaying just how well Romo saw the field.
Defensively, DeMarcus Ware led a pass rush that tallied six sacks against an improved Rams offensive line that hadn't allowed a single one through two weeks. Ware had two, while preseason star George Selvie continued his rise up the ranks with his second sack of the season.
Dallas will need Selvie to continue stepping up, as Anthony Spencer will miss the rest of the season, per Jordan Woy, Spencer's agent.
Anthony Spencer will have microfracture surgery. He has the most tackles, 2nd-most sacks of any Cowboys player since start of 2009 season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 24, 2013
As the only team with a winning record in the NFC East, Dallas shouldn't panic just yet.
14. San Francisco 49ers
Week 3: 27-7 loss vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 4: at St. Louis Rams
Before the San Francisco 49ers fans erupt with claims that they're better than this ranking, let's touch on the facts. If any other team was 1-2 with consecutive losses by at least 20 points, this ranking would be too high.
There comes a point when quality of play outweighs name value, and that's what's happening in San Francisco.
The only way to describe this start is that San Fran is falling victim to the Super Bowl curse, struggling one year after losing in the big game. One week after losing 29-3 at the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers lost 27-7 at home to the Indianapolis Colts.
Injuries to Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree hurt, but the 49ers have no excuse for how poorly they have played.
After throwing for 412 yards in the season opener, Colin Kaepernick has gone 26-of-55 during his past two games with no touchdowns, four interceptions and two fumbles. The defense, meanwhile, has allowed more rushing touchdowns during the past two games than it did during the entire 2012 regular season.
Until the 49ers turn things around, cries for a higher ranking are based on what fans believe and not what actually is.
13. Atlanta Falcons
Week 3: 23-27 loss at Miami Dolphins
Week 4: vs. New England Patriots
The Atlanta Falcons have lost two games by a combined margin of 10 points. They've also dismantled the St. Louis Rams en route to a 31-24 victory that was significantly more lopsided than the score would suggest.
Unfortunately, wins and losses are measured, and quality performances are not.
The Falcons will be without running back Steven Jackson until Week 7 due to injury, per Adam Schefter of ESPN. In his absence, Jacquizz Rodgers picked up 86 yards on 18 carries against the Dolphins, and Jason Snelling had 111 yards of total offense and a receiving touchdown.
Atlanta will need every one of those yards in Week 4 against the New England Patriots.
Matt Ryan is still playing at a high level, and Julio Jones leads the NFL in receiving yards, but Atlanta could be in danger. Two road losses to quality opponents aren't season ending, but the New Orleans Saints are already 3-0 with a win over the Falcons.
A loss to New England and a Saints win in Week 4 could spell the beginning of the end for Atlanta in the hunt for the NFC South.
12. Green Bay Packers
Week 3: 30-34 loss at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 4: Bye Week
The Green Bay Packers stormed back from 14 points down by scoring 30 unanswered against the Cincinnati Bengals. Then just like that, Green Bay squandered the lead to fall to 1-2 on the season.
That back-and-forth battle sums up the Packers' first three games. It also shines light on a glaring weakness:
I can't be the only one who was shocked to see that number.
Pack fact! Aaron Rodgers is 5-17 as starting QB in gms decided by 4 pts or less.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) September 23, 2013
The Packers have played well in both of their losses, and each happened to come on the road against a postseason team from a year ago. During Green Bay's only home game, it dominated the Washington Redskins 38-20.
You'll have a tough time finding a genuine reason to panic in Green Bay, as this team just isn't playing poorly. Road losses to the 49ers and Bengals were disappointing, but the Packers performed well in both outings and remain a title contender.
It doesn't hurt that the Packers' third-string running back, Johnathan Franklin, picked up 103 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
11. Houston Texans
Week 3: 9-30 loss at Baltimore Ravens
Week 4: vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Houston Texans put on two consecutive concerning performances to open up the 2013 NFL regular season. After escaping with a 31-28 win over the San Diego Chargers, Houston proceeded to need overtime to beat the Tennessee Titans 30-24.
During Week 3, Houston's weaknesses were exposed during a 30-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
This was one of the oddest performances that you'll ever see from the Texans. Despite holding Joe Flacco without a passing touchdown and limiting Baltimore to one offensive score all game, Houston still managed to lose by 21 points.
The most puzzling truth about the Texans 30-9 loss is that not only did they play excellent defense, but the offense only committed one turnover, Matt Schaub completed 71.4 percent of his passes, and Arian Foster averaged 4.5 yards per carry. With 14 penalties, however, Houston shot itself in the foot.
It was one of the strangest games Houston will ever play, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Houston underwhelmed for the third consecutive week and will now face the Seattle Seahawks in a high-stakes game.
It's time to put up.
10. Indianapolis Colts
Week 3: 27-7 win at San Francisco 49ers
Week 4: at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Indianapolis Colts opened the season with a 21-17 win over the Oakland Raiders that embodied the identity of this team. The potential is there for an offensive eruption, but the Colts are a squad that will grind out wins.
During Week 3, Indianapolis fought through three grueling quarters and took over in the final five minutes to win 27-7 at the San Francisco 49ers to set the football world ablaze.
Say what you will about the Niners' recent struggles, but a road win against San Francisco is something few teams have been able to earn. Since 2011, the 49ers are 14-3-1 at Candlestick Park during regular-season games, including the Week 3 loss to Indianapolis.
After watching the Colts take a 20-point road win over the defending NFC champions, it's clear that Indianapolis is legitimate.
Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 95 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, Trent Richardson found the end zone on his first carry with Indianapolis, and Andrew Luck ran for a score against the 49ers. With a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars looming, Indianapolis is now in position to move to 3-1.
Chuck Pagano's squad is going to be fun to watch in 2013.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 3: 34-30 win vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 4: at Cleveland Browns
The Cincinnati Bengals blew a 14-point lead, allowed 30 consecutive points, came back from 16 down and then took the lead on a 58-yard fumble recovery by Terence Newman. In the end, all of that madness led to a monumental 34-30 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
Words can't describe how big this win was for Cincinnati.
The Bengals have the dominant defense and the offensive skill players to contend but have long struggled against quality opponents. During the 2012 season, the Bengals had just two wins against postseason teams.
Don't get too excited about those two, either—Cincy earned a Week 3 victory over the Washington Redskins and a Week 17 win vs. the Baltimore Ravens when all starters were benched after a matter of minutes.
During Week 3 of 2013, the Bengals displayed heart that wasn't there in 2012. From Andy Dalton's poise in the pocket to the defense's refusal to give up, the Bengals did everything necessary to win.
In turn, Cincinnati has become a true player in the AFC.
8. Miami Dolphins
Week 3: 27-23 win vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 4: at New Orleans Saints
The Miami Dolphins are one of the biggest surprises of the 2013 NFL regular season, starting off at 3-0 after going 7-9 in 2012. After consecutive road wins over Cleveland and Indianapolis, the Dolphins returned home for a 27-23 victory against the Atlanta Falcons.
When a team starts the season with two out of three on the road and emerge 3-0, the hype is legitimate.
Upon evaluating the statistics, the Dolphins have no business being 3-0, as nothing about this team screams "postseason contender." Miami has no form of a consistent running game, has struggled against the pass and isn't doing much better against the run.
The stat sheet just can't measure resiliency.
Ryan Tannehill has two interceptions and five fumbles but has bounced back with four passing touchdowns on a completion percentage of 66.4. The defense has let the opposition drive the field but ranks seventh in opponent third-down conversion percentage at 32.5.
It hasn't been a string of sexy wins, but Miami is 3-0 with victories over two very high-quality teams.
7. Baltimore Ravens
Week 3: 30-9 win vs. Houston Texans
Week 4: at Buffalo Bills
The Baltimore Ravens aren't the same team that won the Super Bowl last season, but that may not be a bad thing. After two underwhelming performances to open the season, the Ravens took a 30-9 win over the Houston Texans in Week 3.
It may not be better, but Baltimore's defense is focused on proving the critics wrong.
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have combined for 5.0 sacks through three games, Arthur Jones has 2.0, and Haloti Ngata continues to dominate the run. Daryl Smith has a team-high 25 tackles, rookie Matt Elam had five tackles against Houston, and Josh Bynes has been a revelation at linebacker.
With these players coming together, Baltimore is allowing 7.5 points per game since the Week 1 meltdown.
The Ravens defeated the Texans by scoring just one offensive touchdown, receiving points from Smith's pick-six and Tandon Doss' 82-yard punt return for a score. In turn, Baltimore survived a rare week without superstar running back Ray Rice.
It's natural to give the defending Super Bowl champions the benefit of the doubt, and after Week 3, it's clear that Baltimore is still a force in the AFC.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 3: 26-16 win at Philadelphia Eagles
Week 4: vs. New York Giants
The Kansas City Chiefs are a steady football team with a great head coach, a balanced offense and a smothering defense. Using each of those traits, the Chiefs have reached 3-0 after wins over Jacksonville, Dallas and Philadelphia.
Andy Reid's revenge tour through the NFC East concludes in Week 4 when Kansas City faces the New York Giants.
Thus far, Jamaal Charles has 375 yards of total offense, while quarterback Alex Smith has 669 passing yards and 114 on the ground. Even as Dwayne Bowe has struggled to get going, Donnie Avery has picked up the slack, and Smith has taken care of the football.
From there, it's been all about the defense.
Justin Houston has 7.5 sacks through three games, Dontari Poe has 3.5, and the Chiefs have a league-best 15.0 as a team. Four separate players have interceptions, Houston has two fumble recoveries, and Eric Berry has an interception, a fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown.
There isn't much else to it but this: Kansas City is one heck of a football team.
5. Chicago Bears
Week 3: 40-23 win at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 4: at Detroit Lions
The Chicago Bears have long experienced success during the first half of the NFL regular season. For the first time in a long time, however, the Bears have created a system of balance offensively.
With the passing game flourishing, the run game moving well and the defense picking up two touchdowns in Week 3, Chicago is dangerous.
This shouldn't be too surprising, as head coach Marc Trestman was the offensive coordinator who led the 2002 Oakland Raiders to league-best marks in total offense and passing yards. During that season, Rich Gannon won league MVP, and the Raiders reached the Super Bowl.
Jay Cutler is doing a fair impersonation of Gannon in 2013.
Cutler is currently completing 67.3 percent of his passes, with six touchdowns to three interceptions. Brandon Marshall has 20 receptions for 269 yards and two touchdowns, while Alshon Jeffery has 13 catches for 104 yards, and Martellus Bennett has three touchdown receptions.
Paired with a defense that leads the league in turnovers forced and a running back, Matt Forte, who has 363 yards of total offense, Chicago is a legitimate NFC contender. A win over Detroit in Week 4 would give the Bears a comfortable lead in the NFC North and make this fantasy even more real.
Keep an eye on Chicago.
4. New England Patriots
Week 3: 23-3 win vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 4: at Atlanta Falcons
The New England Patriots finally remembered how to play football during Week 3, defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-3. The win moved New England to 3-0 and displayed the chemistry being developed between Tom Brady and his rookie wide receivers.
It's about time.
The Patriots struggled to get through Week 1 and Week 2, narrowly escaping division rivals en route to a shaky 2-0 record. Against the Bucs, however, the defense was dominant, and Brady found rookie Kenbrell Thompkins for two touchdowns.
With Rob Gronkowski soon to return, Brady and the Patriots are in prime position to return to contention.
Say what you will about the way they've played, but the Patriots have struggled to reach 3-0, while many other contenders are sitting at 1-2. That will to win is what makes Brady the future Hall of Famer that he is, and it's what separates New England from many other teams.
The Patriots will need to develop more consistency, but 3-0 is a great place to be.
3. New Orleans Saints
Week 3: 31-7 win vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 4: vs. Miami Dolphins
During the first three weeks of the 2013 NFL regular season, the New Orleans Saints have relied upon their defense to win games. The result has been a 3-0 start with the most recent victory coming against the Arizona Cardinals.
The 31-7 demolition of Bruce Arians' team reminded us that New Orleans was 13-3 the last time Sean Payton coached a full season.
Drew Brees finally woke up from his slow start in the red zone, completing 29-of-46 passes for 342 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Jimmy Graham had nine receptions for 134 yards and two scores, while Marques Colston caught five balls for 71 yards.
Believe it or not, Brees also ran for a touchdown and helped New Orleans reach 104 yards on the ground.
Defensively, New Orleans' play against the pass continues to be a bright spot, as the Saints came up with four sacks and two interceptions. Rookie Kenny Vaccaro had his first pick, fellow rookie Glenn Foster managed his first sack, and Cameron Jordan now has 3.0 sacks through three games.
Don't lose sight of the fact that Sean Payton led this team to 13 wins in 2011. New Orleans is the real deal.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Week 3: 45-17 win vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 4: at Houston Texans
The Seattle Seahawks have started the season as hot as any team in the NFL that deserves to be ranked No. 1. Not only did Seattle shut down Carolina's offense, but it embarrassed the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.
After a 45-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the only thing separating Seattle from No. 1 is the team that hasn't done anything to lose the top spot.
Quarterback Russell Wilson was 14-of-21 for 202 yards against Jacksonville, throwing four touchdowns and one interception. The Seahawks also managed 156 total rushing yards, while three separate players had at least five receptions and both Zach Miller and Sidney Rice caught two touchdown passes.
Balance is the name of the game, and Seattle has an extraordinary amount of it.
Defensively, the Seahawks rank third in the NFL with five interceptions and second with five fumble recoveries. Most importantly, star pass-rusher Chris Clemons has finally returned from injury and should help to further improve Seattle's defense.
A Week 4 road game against the Houston Texans will be tough, but Seattle has established itself as a force to be reckoned with.
1. Denver Broncos
Week 3: 37-21 win vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 4: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
During Week 3, the Denver Broncos defeated the Oakland Raiders 37-21 to move to 3-0 on the season. The 16-point win marked the slimmest margin of victory that Denver has posted through three weeks after defeating the past two Super Bowl champions by a combined mark of 40 points.
Good luck to the banged-up AFC.
Through three games, Peyton Manning has completed 73.0 percent of his passes and gone off for 1,143 yards, 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. Four separate receivers have at least 14 receptions, displaying just how potent this offensive attack can be.
If you still don't believe the hype, try the fact that Manning is outdueling the entire league.
If that doesn't do it for you, how about Manning already ranking as one of the top-10 quarterbacks in NFL history?
Peyton Manning has 12 TD passes this season. No other team has more than 12 TOTAL TDs in 2013.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 25, 2013
The truth of the matter is, the most concerning sign for the competition is how well Denver has played defensively. With Champ Bailey and Von Miller on the sidelines, Denver still has eight sacks, six interceptions and 17 tackles for loss.
The Seahawks were a genuine contender for No. 1, but Denver hasn't done anything to lose the top spot.