NFL Report Cards: Team-by-Team Grades for Week 3

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 29, 2015

NFL Report Cards: Team-by-Team Grades for Week 3

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Great teams do not win close games. That's an old sportswriter's tale passed down from generation to generation, something to make the local fans feel good when the home team squeaks out a win on a 57-yard field goal.

    Lucky teams win close games. Great teams win big, honking blowouts...except when they are facing other great teams.

    There's nothing meaningless about crushing the Jaguars or shutting out the Bears. The Seahawks proved that they are still who they claim to be by blanking a bad opponent. For a team that has nothing to prove, the Patriots spend a lot of effort proving things, and they showed the Jaguars who's boss even though the Jaguars already knew.

    We expect Patriots and Seahawks blowouts. It's the unexpected lopsided wins that made grading Week 3 such a challenge. The Bills dominated the Dolphins: Which team does that say more about? The Vikings looked like the most physical team in the NFL while crushing the Chargers: Does that negate their soft and fluffy loss in the season opener?

    The most convincing blowout of all may have been the one the East Coast ignored. Even the Patriots and Seahawks could not seize complete control of their games by the middle of the first quarter. There's only one team in the NFL that can beat a divisional foe by 40 points and barely generate any buzz. That team leads off our blowout-heavy report card.

    Reminder: These are the weekly report cards, not the power rankings. Every week is a clean slate. The season-long report card is in the final slide.

Arizona Cardinals: A

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Cardinals 47, 49ers 7

    Offense: Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Johnson for four touchdowns. Your 2009 fantasy team is finally scoring points! A.

    Defense: Yeah, Colin Kaepernick was practically serving up footballs with celery and blue cheese dressing. The Cardinals defense still had to catch them and run them into the end zone. A-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Bruce Arians knew old buddy Ben Roethlisberger got carted off in an early game, but he still left Carson Palmer on the field late in the fourth quarter of a blowout. Just because Bill Belichick does something doesn't mean it's a good idea. A-minus.

    Looking Ahead: The Rams head to the desert to silence the "Cardinals are for real" chatter, not realizing time and the schedule will eventually do it for them.

Buffalo Bills: A

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Bills 41, Dolphins 14

    Offense: Tyrod Taylor (277 yards, three touchdowns) was effective both on the move and in the pocket. Karlos Williams (12-110-1) spelled the gimpy LeSean McCoy, who still managed to contribute an early touchdown catch. A.

    Defense: Eight different defenders were credited with hits on Ryan Tannehill. Preston Brown intercepted two passes. Ronald Darby broke up three passes and intercepted a fourth. Most of the Dolphins' positive plays came in second-half silly time. A.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Greg Roman has started to find a balance between roll-out plays, special Percy Harvin plays and conventional runs and pocket passes. The Bills committed just five penalties and bounced back well from the Patriots loss. A.

    Looking Ahead: The Giants travel to Buffalo for the first time since 2007. Like typical New York City dwellers, the Giants think upstate New York is the Mongolian wilderness. Also like typical New York City dwellers, they live in North Jersey.

New England Patriots: A

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    Stew Milne/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Patriots 51, Jaguars 17

    Offense: It was a home game against Florida International. A.

    Defense: It was a home game against Florida International. A.

    Special Teams/Coaching: There is no justification whatsoever for leaving Tom Brady in for the fourth quarter of a lopsided home game against Florida International. No, I AM LORD BELICHICK AND I SUFFER NOT THE IMPUDENCE OF MORTALS WHO QUESTION MY JUDGEMENT is not an actual justification. B-plus.

    Looking Ahead: A second straight bye week.

Minnesota Vikings: A-

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Vikings 31, Chargers 14

    Offense: Adrian Peterson ran a little less but did a little more on a 20-126-2 afternoon. Teddy Bridgewater "Game Manager and Proud of It!" T-shirts go on sale next week: Bridgewater threw one bad interception but enough third-down completions to keep the Chargers offense semi-balanced. Norv Turner served a healthy dose of multi-tight end sets and challenged the Chargers to beat them in the trenches. It was a challenge they chose not to accept. B-plus.

    Defense: Medieval battles were less gruesome than what the Vikings did to the Chargers offensive line. Everson Griffen (1.5 sacks, five quarterback hits) looked like the winner of an Alan Page for a Day contest. A.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Turner and Mike Zimmer saw a physical advantage and pressed it. The more battered the Chargers were, the more linebackers Zimmer sent on the blitz and the more wide bodies Turner added to the offense. A.

    Looking Ahead: Vikings at Broncos is shaping up like a heavyweight boxing bout.

Green Bay Packers: A-

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Packers 38, Chiefs 28

    Offense: Aaron Rodgers was not just an All-Pro quarterback Monday night. He was also the Packers' most dangerous rusher and his own blocker. Rushing the passer is the one thing the Chiefs do exceptionally well, but Rodgers calmly spun away from defenders, scanned the field for mismatched young cornerbacks and delivered surgical strikes. He also caused at least four Chiefs penalties. A.

    Defense: The Packers stayed at home, refused to get fooled by misdirection and waited for the Chiefs to get into trouble that Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce couldn't solve. Things got a little too sloppy too soon in the second half. B-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: The Chiefs capitalized when Rodgers couldn't convert on 4th-and-5, but the failed conversion was a sensible gamble. Some wasted timeouts kept Mike McCarthy from challenging a loopy fourth-down spot that handed the Chiefs a first down late in the game. Then again, Rodgers called the timeouts, and Rodgers earned some benefit of the doubt. A-minus.

    Looking Ahead: A visit with the 49ers, the archrivals who could have been.

Seattle Seahawks: B+

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Seahawks 26, Bears 0

    Offense: One offensive touchdown? Six first-half points? Twelve minutes of first-half time of possession? Thomas Rawls as a late-game featured back? The Seahawks totally meant for their offense to look like this. C.

    Defense: The official statistical "Gamebook" for the media always lists the 10 longest offensive plays for each team. A six-yard pass to Martellus Bennett and a five-yard run by Matt Forte made the list for the Bears. It was that kind of afternoon. A-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Tyler Lockett, the Richard Sherman-Ricardo Lockette Punt-Return Improv Comedy Troupe and Steven Hauschka filled in for the offense this week. Of course, there is something poetic about trouncing the Bears with defense and punt returns. A.

    Looking Ahead: Beware the Lions: the best 0-3 team in the NFC. (In your face, Saints!)

Atlanta Falcons: B+

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Falcons 39, Cowboys 28

    Offense: Devonta Freeman (30-141-3) showed up for the Matt Ryan-Julio Jones party. The offensive line slowly took over the game. Roddy White (no targets in 65 snaps) has essentially taken the last two weeks off, but he deserves a day off now and then. A-minus.

    Defense: The Cowboys dominated the line of scrimmage early. The Falcons then figured out they planned to run on first down and never throw to the outside receivers. William Moore got a gift-wrapped interception from Brandon Weeden. Adrian Clayborn and Vic Beasley delivered key fourth-quarter sacks. C-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Kyle Shanahan drew up a very Shanahan game plan full of zone runs and play-action passes. This somehow surprised the Cowboys. Richard Smith made defensive adjustments when the Cowboys became predictable, and Dan Quinn kept the Falcons playing smart, confident football. A.

    Looking Ahead: The Texans have been named honorary members of the NFC East.

Denver Broncos: B+

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Broncos 24, Lions 12

    Offense: When Gary Kubiak abandons the run, you know the running game had it coming. Peyton Manning successfully stuck some accurate downfield throws and did not immediately run to the sideline for a rubdown, a dietary fiber supplement or a scornful letter to the editor. C-plus.

    Defense: Four sacks, three turnovers, 1.5 yards-per-rush allowed. The Lions had only one extended touchdown drive, though thanks to Demaryius Thomas' weird "Whee! I'm a helicopter!" fumble, it was nearly enough. A.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Aqib Talib's blocked extra point made a huge difference, and Chris Harris Jr.'s long return of the kick almost made history. (Extra-point history, but still history.) Brandon McManus was McMagic again from 48 yards. Kubiak called a 4th-and-1 bomb before halftime; he spent his whole career setting us up for that one play. A.

    Looking Ahead: The Vikings, marauding harassers of veteran quarterbacks, are coming to Denver. This might be a good time to get that running game working.

Cincinnati Bengals: B+

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Bengals 28, Ravens 24

    Offense: Excellent early, clutch late and dreadful for about 15 game minutes starting with Andy Dalton's end-zone interception and ending when A.J. Green morphed into Dominic Toretto and drove a muscle car through the Ravens secondary. The Bengals would rate higher if that case of the January Shakes did not nearly cost them the game. B-plus.

    Defense: Just like the offense. Steve Smith Sr. was the only player the Bengals had to stop, but they spent a critical portion of the game not stopping him. Everything else was in midseason form. B-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: The game plans were sound; the Bengals would have led 21-0 at half if not for some zany chapter-and-verse Calvin Johnson rule interpretation that turned a Tyler Eifert touchdown into a fourth-down incompletion. A three-touchdown lead would have prevented all of the late-game drama. Marvin Lewis staved off a case of mass PTSD when the Ravens took a lead. A-minus.

    Looking Ahead: The Chiefs coming off a short week and a flight? More Bengals afternoon delight!

New York Giants: B

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    This Week's Result: Giants 32, Redskins 21

    Offense: The 32-point result is misleading. Defense and special teams set up the first two Giants scores. The offense then settled in for a long evening of dropped passes, mid-range field goals and Odell Beckham Jr. decoy routes before a late-evening pull-away. Eli Manning looked sharper in the second half, which is a sentence Giants fans have waited three weeks to read. B.

    Defense: The run defense held the Redskins to 88 yards and forced several short-yardage stops. The short-handed secondary played well, though it was aided by Kirk Cousins' inaccuracy. The Giants don't mount much pass rush even when they blitz, but they didn't need much pressure to force Cousins mistakes Thursday night. B.

    Special Teams/Coaching: An early blocked punt tilted the game the Giants' way. Three Josh Brown field goals kept the Giants inching ahead when they weren't executing well on offense. The late-game touchdown illustrated that Tom Coughlin doesn't plan to spend fourth quarters second-guessing himself. A-minus.

    Looking Ahead: The last time the Giants traveled to Buffalo was 2007, one of their Super Bowl years. It could be an omen: The Giants looked pretty terrible early in 2007, too.

Oakland Raiders: B

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Raiders 27, Browns 20

    Offense: Derek Carr gets more impressive each week. Amari Cooper mixes great plays (eight catches for 134 yards) with rookie blunders (a potentially devastating late-game fumble), but the great increasingly outweighs the bad.

    Marcel Reece got to reminisce about the days when he was the star of the Raiders offense by recording a 7-10 split of two Browns defenders on a 55-yard run. The next step for the Raiders offense is improving the fit and finish: better play at the ends of drives and in the fourth quarter, getting tight ends more involved and so on. B.

    Defense: Underneath pass coverage is an adventure: Linebackers stand in zones like their feet are spiked to the turf. Charles Woodson used up the last of his veteran moxie to race across the field to intercept a pass to Travis Benjamin, who was already planning his touchdown celebration. On the plus side, an early goal-line stand helped the offense seize control of the game. C.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Special teams were the Browns' problem; the Raiders just watched them implode. The Raiders play hard on both sides of the ball and don't make many dumb mistakes, but Jack Del Rio cannot be happy about the fact the Browns lingered in the rearview mirror until the final seconds. B.

    Looking Ahead: The Raiders are early road favorites against the Bears. Repeat: The Raiders are favorites on the road!

Philadelphia Eagles: B

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    Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Eagles 24, Jets 17

    Offense: It looked like the greatest show on turf to Eagles fans who were starting to think the outside zone run was purposely designed to lose four yards. In reality, the Eagles gained just 231 net yards and sustained just two long scoring drives. Ryan Mathews gained 128 scrimmage yards and scored a touchdown in relief of DeMarco Murray, but he also fumbled and dropped two passes, one of which landed in his belly and would have gained at least 25 yards. C.

    Defense: The undermanned run defense allowed just 2.9 yards per carry. Byron Maxwell handled Brandon Marshall well enough to pull the emergency brake on the "overpaid free-agent bust" talk, while the rest of the secondary intercepted and broke up most of Ryan Fitzpatrick's never-ending pasta bowl of deep passes. B-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Darren Sproles delivered a punt-return touchdown. Seyi Ajirotutu justified his "special teams ace" reputation by cradling an onside kick. Chip Kelly slowed the tempo down and moved Sam Bradford under center: a pair of concessions to conventionalism that must have pained him but showed that Kelly can separate his philosophy from his reality. A-minus.

    Looking Ahead: The Eagles are starting to look a little less Eagles-like just as the Redskins are starting to look much more like the Redskins.

Carolina Panthers: B

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    This Week's Result: Panthers 27, Saints 22

    Offense: Greg Olsen (8-134-2) was unstoppable, even though he was the one skill-position player the Saints had to stop. Cam Newton threw for 315 yards with two scores, rushed for a touchdown and made smart decisions with the ball all afternoon. B.

    Defense: Josh Norman is about to start getting some "shutdown corner" notice, which will be followed quickly by "he's not a shutdown corner because I saw him give up one 20-yard catch in the second quarter" backlash. The Panthers were too generous with short passes early and late in the game and lacked a consistent pass rush. The Jared Allen trade will make a difference in that department. B-minus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: The Panthers allowed a punt-return touchdown, albeit under strange circumstances. A penalty negated a muffed punt on the previous play, and it took the referees about 15 minutes to make the call and respot the ball.

    Ron Rivera continues to get mileage out of the little things: challenging a spot to force fourth down, going for 4th-and-1 instead of settling for a field goal and milking the option threat while letting Newton run a mostly conventional offense out of funky pistol formations. B-plus.

    Looking Ahead: The Panthers hope to have Luke Kuechly back to stop the pesky Buccaneers.

Houston Texans: C+

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    Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Texans 19, Buccaneers 9

    Offense: Ryan Mallett is the only quarterback in the NFL who appears incapable of tucking in his shirttail. Mallett took what the Buccaneers gave him on short slants and cobbled together a passing offense between overthrown screen passes, leaping and diving receptions by his receivers and strip-sack fumbles negated by penalties. More importantly, Bill O'Brien remembered to call some running plays, and Alfred Blue responded with 139 yards and a touchdown. C.

    Defense: J.J. Watt had his quietest day in a long time, registering just one tackle for loss and three hits on Jameis Winston. However, Johnathan Joseph stepped in to break up five passes thrown in Mike Evans' general direction. Quintin Demps stepped in front of a sixth pass to Evans before Evans could make a play on it. B.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Randy Bullock missed a field goal and an extra point, but Buccaneers counterpart Kyle Brindza was worse. The Texans looked better than they did in the first two games, but let's not bend over backward to give the coaches credit: The Buccaneers stayed in this game too long, and the Texans needed too many missed field goals, timely penalties and Winston rookie moments to pull out a narrow victory. C-plus.

    Looking Ahead: The Falcons don't miss many field goals and are a lot harder to stop when they focus on a single receiver.

Pittsburgh Steelers: C+

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    Billy Hurst/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Steelers 12, Rams 6

    Offense: Very good early, very bad late. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger's injury had something to do with that, but the Steelers needed (and now need even more) someone besides Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown to make a play on offense. C-plus.

    Defense: The run defense was excellent. The pass defense held the Rams to just two third-down conversions and generated big plays when the Steelers needed them. A-minus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: The offensive game plan was a little conservative even before Big Ben got hurt, but there's nothing wrong with playing turtle ball against the Rams defense. Josh Scobee converted his field goals, while Jordan Berry won the punting duel. Thanks to Berry, the average Rams drive started at the 19-yard line. B.

    Looking Ahead: Four to six weeks of Michael Vick, starting with a Thursday night visit from the Ravens.

Tennessee Titans: C+

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Colts 35, Titans 33

    Offense: Marcus Mariota played better than his stat line indicates, and his stat line is pretty darn good: 27-of-44 for 367 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. One of those interceptions bounced out of Delanie Walker's arms, and some early-game dropped passes resulted in stalled drives. Unfortunately, Walker's tip-drill became a pick-six. Mariota's second interception was a telegraphed rookie mistake over the middle during the Colts' fourth-quarter comeback, and the Titans are still trying to make sense out of their running back rotation. B-minus.

    Defense: It played well for about 50 minutes, then cracked during a 98-yard fourth-quarter Colts drive. The final score does not reflect what a difficult time the Colts had moving the ball for most of the afternoon. B.

    Special Teams/Coaching: The Titans led 27-14 with 12 minutes left and the Colts pinned at their own 2-yard line, then beat themselves with a succession of minor mistakes and one major one (the Mariota interception).

    Many of the mistakes were just growing pains for a rebuilding team, and the Titans have to be happy with Mariota's resilience on the final drive. No one likes to talk about moral victories in the NFL, but this game gave the Titans a lot to build upon. Still, the coaching staff must find a way to finish a game like this one. C-minus.

    Looking Ahead: After that wild Colts game, the Titans earned a week off.

Indianapolis Colts: C

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    Weston Kenney/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Colts 35, Titans 33

    Offense: Andrew Luck threw two interceptions to give the Titans a 13-point lead, then threw two touchdowns to spark a comeback. Jay Cutler had some games like that during his transition from stat-accumulating mega-prospect to the Lord of the Memes. Just sayin'.

    Frank Gore (14-86-2) had a real role—in the first half, anyway—and Phillip Dorsett made a crucial touchdown catch on 3rd-and-20. But the Colts discovered an offensive lineman worse than Lance Louis. His name is Hugh Thornton, and he should return to the bench from whence he came. C.

    Defense: Dwight Lowery's pick-six was mostly luck. The Colts front seven played fairly well, but Marcus Mariota carved up the secondary for much of the afternoon. C-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: The Pat McAfee fake punt was swell, but the Colts shouldn't need to resort to fake punts against the Titans. Yes, the Colts earned a lower rating than the Titans, despite the win. The Patriots or Seahawks would get the same treatment if the Jaguars or Bears took their games down to the last two-point conversion.

    It's great the Colts pulled themselves together to prevent an upset, then prevent a comeback, but this wasn't the emphatic statement the organization was hoping to make. B-minus.

    Looking Ahead: The Jaguars travel to Indy. If the Colts need a fourth-quarter comeback to win, everyone should be fired.

New Orleans Saints: C

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Panthers 27, Saints 22

    Offense: Luke McCown dinked and dunked efficiently early in the game, but the Saints had no vertical offense whatsoever, turning every execution lapse into a drive killer. Mark Ingram (14-50-1, five catches for 49 yards) played well, but the running game averaged just 2.9 yards per carry. Benjamin Watson continued the plague of open-field fumbles after receptions. C.

    Defense: Brandon Browner gave up long receptions to Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn Jr. The play-action pass was a source of constant mystery for the Saints defense. When Cam Newton kept the football on a bootleg touchdown, Saints defenders had no idea what to do; cornerback Damian Swann, standing between Newton and the end zone, appeared to turn around and block. Every time the defense commits a 12-men-on-the-field penalty, Sean Payton imagines pulling Rob Ryan's hair out by its roots. D-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Marcus Murphy's punt-return touchdown should have been a tone-setter; instead, the Saints defense gave the points right back. Payton may have cobbled together the best possible McCown game plan, but the Saints almost go out of their way to squander opportunities these days. C-plus.

    Looking Ahead: Brandon Weeden vs. (maybe) Luke McCown in prime time? Can we fix Drew Brees up with a robot arm instead?

Baltimore Ravens: C

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Bengals 28, Ravens 24

    Offense: Steve Smith Sr. (13-186-2) would have been totally justified if he ripped a urinal off the locker room wall and flung it at his teammates after this game. Smith's A-plus and everyone else's D-minus balance out to a C.

    Defense: Can anyone cover A.J. Green? No? Then can anyone tackle A.J. Green? No? Well, can someone get to Andy Dalton without a big blitz? No? Sigh. C.J. Mosley is the only teammate who can look Smith in the eye right now. C-minus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Yes, Justin Tucker, even you let Angry Steve down by missing a field goal. John Harbaugh played aggressively when he called for a second-quarter fake punt and some fourth-down conversions, then settled for a 21-yard field goal when the Ravens had a chance to tie the game and seize momentum. (Don't tell me momentum isn't real. It's real when the Bengals think it's real.)

    The 0-3 Ravens could legitimately be 3-0; Harbaugh is supposed to be one of the coaches who makes little advantages work for him in close games. C-minus.

    Looking Ahead: Seventh Chance Stars of Yesteryear Productions proudly presents: "An Evening with Michael Vick."

New York Jets: C

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    Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Eagles 24, Jets 17

    Offense: If Geno Smith played the way Ryan Fitzpatrick did this weekend (35-of-58, 283 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, two of them in the fourth quarter), the talk-radio crowd would be arming disgruntled backup defenders with two-by-fours and tales of nonrefundable airline tickets.

    Brandon Marshall spent the week talking about how awesome and underappreciated he is, which for both Marshall and any Jets receiver is a prelude to something stupid, like a "think-fast" lateral fumble to spoil a 10-catch performance. C-minus.

    Defense: The secondary completely shut down the Eagles' deep-passing game, if the Eagles actually have a deep-passing game. The Eagles snaked together just enough slippery outside runs and underneath passes to take advantage of good field position and build a lead. B-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Chan Gailey's offensive game plan consisted largely of downfield challenges to the Eagles secondary, and Gailey abandoned the run too quickly in a game that never quite became desperate. It's one thing to attack Byron Maxwell with Marshall a few times. It's another to pretend Fitzpatrick to Devin Smith is Tom Brady to Randy Moss. C-minus.

    Looking Ahead: The Jets travel to London, which is an awfully long way to go just to slap the Dolphins around.

Dallas Cowboys: C-

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Falcons 39, Cowboys 28

    Offense: It was excellent for precisely half the game. Joseph Randle rushed for 92 first-half yards and minus-five second-half yards; does that mean he put meat back on the bone?

    Brandon Weeden played within himself, but there are not many NFL victories within Weeden. Lance Dunbar caught 10 passes for 100 yards, a few of them meaningful. Jason Witten rose from his hospital bed to catch six passes and plead for someone to help out in the second half. C-minus.

    Defense: It's one thing to lack an answer for Julio Jones. It's another thing to get plowed under by Devonta Freeman. The Cowboys defense couldn't get off the field in the second half. C-minus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: This loss is on the staff. Jason Garrett fell into a predictable run/short pass/short pass/punt pattern in the second half. Rod Marinelli's defense knew what was coming but couldn't stop it. The Cowboys played the second half like they are planning to hunker down on both sides of the ball until all of the playmakers return. That's not how football works. D.

    Looking Ahead: Brandon Weeden vs. Luke McCown in the Big Easy. The cutaway shots to Bourbon Street may be better than the game.

Detroit Lions: C-

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Broncos 24, Lions 12

    Offense: Joique Bell rushed 10 times for six yards. Bell can usually be counted on to gain exactly one yard per carry, so he had an off game. The Lions remembered they employ Theo Riddick in the fourth quarter, and Riddick caught most of his eight passes when the game was already decided. So yes, this was another example of the Lions not knowing what to do with themselves when not throwing to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. C-minus.

    Defense: The Broncos were stuck at 14 points for most of the game and needed a bold fourth-down gamble before halftime just to get there. The Lions defense applied eight hits to Peyton Manning and held the Broncos to 41 rushing yards. B-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: A blocked Matt Prater extra point changed the trajectory of the game in a way that it should not have. The Lions played the second half as if there was just no way to come back from a 14-12 deficit. D.

    Looking Ahead: The Lions travel to Seattle on Monday night. Let's hope they realize abandoning the run and force-feeding two receivers against the Legion of Boom is a bad idea. It's bound to happen sometime.

St. Louis Rams: C-

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    Billy Hurst/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Steelers 12, Rams 6

    Offense: The Rams are in denial about their lack of running game and have reached the point where they might as well punt on third downs. Maybe they should move to Canada. D-minus.

    Defense: Twelve points and a KO of Ben Roethlisberger: Don't blame these guys. A-minus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Johnny Hekker attempted a fake punt but threw an incomplete pass. If your quarterback cannot convert on third down, don't expect your punter to do it on fourth down. If you have any idea who Frank Cignetti really is or what he stands for, then you must be able to read more into stuffed handoffs and incomplete passes than I can. D.

    Looking Ahead: The Rams love playing divisional spoiler against leaders like the Cardinals. They just never extend that love to non-divisional games.

Kansas City Chiefs: C-

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Packers 38, Chiefs 28

    Offense: Yes, Jeremy Maclin finally caught a touchdown pass when the game got out of hand: the first touchdown by a Chiefs receiver since Len Dawson hooked up with Otis Taylor in Super Bowl IV (or something like that).

    But for most of the evening, 3rd-and-long has become an insurmountable obstacle; even the comeback was built out of strange spots and Chiefs linemen pouncing on Alex Smith's fumbles. Opponents are no longer falling for the Chiefs' myriad misdirection plays: When Andy Reid called a pitchout to De'Anthony Thomas, three defenders met him when he took the toss. C-minus.

    Defense: The pass rush kept Aaron Rodgers on the move and the run defense contained Eddie Lacy and James Starks. But the injury-riddled secondary couldn't match up with Packers receivers, and Rodgers quick-snapped his way to a 12-man penalty whenever he needed five quick yards. C-minus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Bob Sutton's blitz packages made the best of a bad situation. Reid seriously thinks handing off to Charles over and over again during two-minute drills is a viable strategy. Reid was never a clock-management wizard, but he used to at least call passes. C-minus.

    Looking Ahead: The Bengals mark the final trip in the Chiefs' nightmare of an early schedule.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: D+

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    Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Texans 19, Buccaneers 9

    Offense: Jameis Winston figured out what Mike Evans can do, and the Texans didn't have to worry about covering anyone else for the rest of the game. Evans caught seven passes for 101 yards, but Winston targeted Evans 17 times, throwing a telegraphed interception and several ill-timed or off-target shots in the dark. D-plus.

    Defense: The Buccaneers defense didn't play poorly, but it gave up far too many free releases and quick passes underneath against a quarterback with the accuracy of a boardwalk palm reader. A better opponent would have put up 28 points. C.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Kyle Brindza missed three field goals and an extra point. A quick look at the final score shows what those misses signified. D-minus.

    Looking Ahead: The Buccaneers face the Panthers, a team that wins as ugly as the Buccaneers lose.

Washington Redskins: D+

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    Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Giants 32, Redskins 21

    Offense: Kirk Cousins suffered his eighth multi-interception game in 17 career starts and misfired on several early red-zone passes that would have changed the complexion of the game. Robert Griffin III had only four multi-interception games in 37 appearances, but whatever. The running game took a big step backward after the Rams game, and Matt Jones (11-38-0) had a rookie moment when he fumbled while diving for a touchdown. D-plus.

    Defense: The Giants led by nine points on a blocked punt and a short post-interception touchdown drive before the Redskins defense had a chance to warm up. The Redskins cornerbacks dissuaded Eli Manning from throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. for much of the evening. The run defense was stout, and the Giants settled for three field goals. Eventually, the combined forces of DeAngelo Hall's injury and playing from behind forced the Redskins to crack. C-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: An early-game blocked punt hurt much more than the garbage-time kickoff-return touchdown helped. Remember the deadly three-tight end attack the Redskins used against the Rams? Jay Gruden doesn't. D.

    Looking Ahead: The Eagles still have more questions than the Redskins right now, but they also have more potential answers.

Cleveland Browns: D+

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    Aaron Josefczyk/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Raiders 27, Browns 20

    Offense: Gary Gronkowski had a great game. Oops, that's Gary Barnidge, the 30-year-old knock-around tight end who is somehow the Browns' top possession receiver. The Raiders have problems with underneath coverage. Anyway, Barnidge went 6-105-1 while Josh McCown fumbled and stumbled his way to 341 yards and an unlikely last-ditch comeback. C-minus.

    Defense: The Browns tackled poorly and tried to compensate for it by taking bad angles in the open field. Derek Carr was untouched all afternoon. D.

    Special Teams/Coaching: A dumb roughing-the-kicker penalty by Barkevious Mingo sparked the Raiders' first touchdown drive. A muffed punt by Travis Benjamin gave the Raiders the ball back in the fourth quarter when they were trying to ice the clock.

    Some will question the decision to start McCown over Johnny Manziel, but when the defense takes the afternoon off, a journeyman tight end has to play make-believe Jerry Rice and the special teams play with their brains switched off, it may be better off not exposing Manziel to the results. D-minus.

    Looking Ahead: The Browns catch the Chargers on the road after two straight losses for San Diego. Something's gotta give.

San Diego Chargers: D+

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Vikings 31, Chargers 14

    Offense: Every time a Chargers offensive lineman got injured, Philip Rivers' protection got a little less protective. By late in the third quarter, roughing the passer on a screen pass was as good as it was going to get for the Chargers offense.

    Rivers survived with some bruises and a pocket clock in need of recalibration. Offensive linemen Orlando Franklin (ankle) and King Dunlap (concussion at the end of a miserable game) are likely to be gone a while. The Chargers had no answer for Everson Griffen; Stevie Johnson had to chip-block him at one point. D.

    Defense: It's one thing when Adrian Peterson is breaking tackles. When Jarius Wright is going Beast Mode, it's time to worry about the fundamentals. Steve Williams made a big play on an end-zone interception, but it was another afternoon when the Chargers' defensive big plays could be listed individually without screwing up the word count. D.

    Special Teams/Coaching: A holding penalty on a field goal allowed the Vikings to drive for a touchdown instead. It's hard to fault the coaches when eight different people play on the offensive line, and pointing out the defense lacks playmakers every week isn't going to turn John Pagano into Buddy Ryan. C.

    Looking Ahead: The Chargers offensive line is accepting applications. Knowledge of how to block the Browns defense is a plus.

Jacksonville Jaguars: D

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Patriots 51, Jaguars 17

    Offense: Blake Bortles spread the ball around well early, though he got little help from his running game. Really, a play here and a play there, and this would have been more of a 48-27 loss. D.

    Defense: Paul Posluszny had the most Paul Posluszny game of Paul Posluszny's career: 14 solo tackles and four assists, with most of the tackles coming after the Patriots built a 30-10 lead and started aiming handoffs straight at the middle linebacker. At least Poz made his presence known; most of his teammates were standing around saying, "Wow, is this really Foxborough? I think Rob Gronkowski just ran past me!" D-minus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: It's year three of the program. Gus Bradley has to do more to keep his team from getting a collective case of the Foxborough Yips. D.

    Looking Ahead: Ooh, back-to-back trips to Foxborough and Indianapolis? At least the NFL didn't wedge a trip to London in between: Someone got mixed up and scheduled the Dolphins instead.

Chicago Bears: D

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Seahawks 26, Bears 0

    Offense: Matt Forte has been given special permission to drop the lowest grade. Everyone else gets an F.

    Defense: Pernell McPhee and Jarvis Jenkins each had a pair of sacks. The Seahawks were 0-of-6 on first-half third-down conversions. But this isn't 2006: The Bears defense isn't going to win any games for them without offensive help. C-plus.

    Special Teams/Coaching: The Bears gave up a kickoff-return touchdown and a long trick-play punt return. John Fox has coached Jimmy Clausen for two different organizations and knew since the day he was hired Clausen was his backup quarterback. If he and Adam Gase cannot customize a game plan that allows Clausen to throw for at least 100 yards, they need to rethink their roster decisions. D.

    Looking Ahead: The Raiders are coming to Soldier Field. This may be a good time to try to slow down the Quitmobile.

San Francisco 49ers: D-

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Cardinals 47, 49ers 7

    Offense: Colin Kaepernick almost won a Super Bowl three years ago, right? And it wasn't a Rex Grossman thing, where he stood around and waited for punt-return touchdowns. He was a big part of the 49ers success. Am I remembering this correctly? It is all starting to feel like some kind of dream or hallucination. F.

    Defense: There's not much a defense can do when the offense leads 14-0 after six minutes. But that doesn't mean the defense cannot do anything. For example, covering Larry Fitzgerald would be nice. D.

    Special Teams/Coaching: It's hard to lay too much at the feet of the coaching staff: It didn't order Kaepernick to float telegraphed pick-sixes to Cardinals defenders. If Jim Tomsula has some kind of knack for stopping a runaway freight train of despair (hopefully one that doesn't involve donning a Jim Harbaugh mask and khakis and shouting "I'm back!"), now is the time to display it. D.

    Looking Ahead: Here come the Packers, the team the 49ers embarrassed in the playoffs 400 years ago. Wait, four years ago. And in the 2013 playoffs. Yeah, those happy memories keep getting fuzzier.

Miami Dolphins: F

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Bills 41, Dolphins 14

    Offense: The results of the Dolphins' first-half possessions: punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, interception, interception, kneel. That's international Morse code for surrender. F.

    Defense: No sacks, no pass defense and no reason to pin all of the problems on Ndamukong Suh. D.

    Special Teams/Coaching: Joe Philbin ran out of ideas two years ago. He has now gotten around to admitting it. This week's Philbin moment (non-press conference edition) was a 4th-and-3 punt near midfield when trailing 17-0 in the second quarter. That sent a clear message to the players: Time to pack for London!

    Looking Ahead: Yes, London. The Dolphins face the Jets in what will be a morning game in the United States. Look for Philbin to fly the Dolphins to London early so they can adjust to disappointing in a different time zone.

Year-to-Date Grades

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Here are the weighted college-style GPAs for all 32 teams after three weeks. A 4.0 is an "A," a 3.0 a "B," all the way down to what your roommate's GPA was before switching his major from organic chemistry to sports journalism:

    1. New England Patriots: 3.93

    2. Green Bay Packers: 3.65

    3. Arizona Cardinals: 3.52

    4. Cincinnati Bengals: 3.48

    5. Atlanta Falcons: 3.13

    6. Buffalo Bills: 3.06

    7. Denver Broncos: 3.05

    8. Carolina Panthers: 3.03

    9. Minnesota Vikings: 2.97

    10. Pittsburgh Steelers: 2.93

    11. New York Jets: 2.76

    12. Seattle Seahawks: 2.54

    13. Oakland Raiders: 2.50

    14. Dallas Cowboys: 2.36

    15. New York Giants: 2.32

    16. Tennessee Titans: 2.32

    17. Washington Redskins: 2.32

    18. Kansas City Chiefs: 2.10

    19. Baltimore Ravens: 2.00

    20. San Diego Chargers: 1.93

    21. Houston Texans: 1.89

    22. St. Louis Rams: 1.89

    23. Cleveland Browns: 1.87

    24. Detroit Lions: 1.78

    25. Philadelphia Eagles: 1.68

    26. New Orleans Saints: 1.67

    27. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1.57

    28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1.54

    29. San Francisco 49ers: 1.48

    30. Indianapolis Colts: 1.42

    31. Chicago Bears: 1.25

    32. Miami Dolphins: 1.11