NFL Week 3 Report: Contenders & Pretenders

Eric LawheadCorrespondent ISeptember 28, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 29:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets throws a pass against the New York Giants on August 29, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

With one game left for Week Three, we as fans can begin to see who is standing out and who is falling down in the NFL. There have been many surprises so far and we are beginning to see who are the contenders and who are the pretenders.

To give you an idea of how far along this season has progressed through three weeks:

The Lions have as many wins as the Steelers (one). The Bengals are starting to turn heads. Brett Farvre actually lead the Vikings to a win, not Adrian Peterson. The Seahawks wore lime green uniforms (which I thought were great, by the way). And the Browns and Bucs have already benched their starting QB's.

Now let's get on to who has a chance at the Lombardi Trophy this season and who really doesn't.


1.  New York Giants - They win in different ways every week, it seems. Last week, Eli did some magic, this week he throws for under 200 yards. Their defense is rejuvenated with the re-addition of Osi Umenyiora; they have continued to be dominant.

With two divisional wins under their belt, they already are a force to be reckoned with in the NFC East.

2.  Minnesota Vikings - Even when Adrian Peterson doesn't rush for 100 yards, the Vikings can still find a way to win. Brett Favre wasn't wearing Wranglers or buying a TV at Sears, but he was throwing a beautiful game-winning touchdown with 0:02 left.

Their win over the 49ers was validation of their prowess after doubts they were any good with wins over the lowly Browns and Lions.

3.  Chicago Bears - Sure they looked like garbage in the week one thanks to a four INT game from Jay Cutler. But since then they have looked great. Even with the loss of two of their three starting linebackers, they still seem to lock it down when it counts.

Two key third-quarter takeaways helped Cutler and the Bears fight back from a 13-0 deficit. Devin Hester, while not the No. 1 they want him to be yet, had a great catch and run on the game-winning score. Should be a great race in the NFC Central.

4.  Baltimore Ravens - Sure they just recently beat the hapless Browns, but they didn't just beat them. They manhandled them. Their defense is looking stout, even without Rex Ryan running the defense. Joe Flacco is making a name for himself and the sophomore slump isn't in the cards in Baltimore.

Even an old, come out-of retirement receiver in Derek Mason is looking good with a 100+ yard game under his belt. And their three-headed running monster is a force to be reckoned with. It's weird, Baltimore used to be known as a defensive winning team, and that may still be the case, but their offense sure is looking great, too.

5.  New York Jets - J-E-T-S-JETS-JETS-JETS! Who would have thought a rookie could look this good. Mark Sanchez looks like a veteran out there, and with wins over New England and Tennessee, they look like they're for real. With Rex Ryan at the helm, they are starting to buy into the defensive philosophy. 

Sure, it's only three weeks, but can't we have a little fun here? Watch out for the Jets.

On the verge

1.  New England Patriots

2.  Philadelphia Eagles



1.  Carolina Panthers - They play in one of the better divisions in football and they play in the NFC. Even if they go 8-8, they won't make the playoffs. This is already starting out to be a disappointing season and if it continues, John Fox may not make it the entire year, even if he does wear a suit. Firesale time in Charlotte.

2.  Tennessee Titans - It's tough to start 0-3 and come back. They play in a division with Indy and Houston, who will be tough to beat. Who knows? It might be time to give the Vince Young experience another shot.

Sure, they lost their first two games by a combined six points; it's still a loss and there are no such things as moral victories. Jeff Fisher still may be one of the top-three coaches in the league, but it's going to be tough to make a whole lot of noise come the end of the season.

3.  Arizona Cardinals - Congratulations, you made it to the Super Bowl last season. But that doesn't mean you get a free ride there again. In a division where 8-8 might make the playoffs, they may not get there.

Kurt Warner can only throw to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin so many times. Teams will defend that. They need to get a running game back and Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells may not be the answer this season.

4.  Miami Dolphins - Sure they went from 1-15 to 11-5 in one season. Brady's back and the Jets are better without Favre. The division is tough and 9-7 won't even cut it there. Pennington's shoulder is banged up and Chad Henne is never going to be the answer (maybe it's my I hateful Michigan-heart talking) to lead a team.

5.  Dallas Cowboys - The biggest and greatest stadium does not win championships. Players do, and with the loss (yes, I said loss) of Terrell Owens, they are worse off than ever. They have to rely on second-rate wideouts and putting too much on the legs of a banged up Marion Barber.

Sure, Tony sent a coyote to eat Jessica's dog, but that can't keep him from throwing fourth-quarter interceptions. Sorry Jerry, the stadium won't be seen in the playoffs this year.

On the verge

1.  Pittsburgh Steelers

2.  Green Bay Packers