Now that there are three weeks of football in the books, things are becoming much clearer. The Patriots are good, the Browns and Bears are not. However, there are still teams and players across the league that are nearly impossible to gauge. Are the Eagles legit? Are the Cardinals going to go 4-12? Is Atlanta the best team in the NFC South?
While it will take several more weeks to answer those questions, there's no need to overreact certain trends taking shape in the NFL. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s happened most recently, but let’s not etch any of these determinations in stone after just three games.
Here are seven of the biggest overreactions from Week 3.
USA Today SportsJeremy Brevard
Matt Ryan is the best quarterback in the NFL
The Falcons quarterback has been one of the biggest surprises of 2016. He leads the NFL with a ridiculous 9.42 yards per attempt and 119.0 passer rating and has completed 70.9 percent of his passes. More important, he’s thrown only one interception, which was an issue for him last season. There’s no question he’s been great and deserves to be mentioned with the 10 best quarterbacks in the league, but that’s as far as that goes. He’s not the NFL’s premier signal-caller.
Sure, Ryan has gotten off to the best start of his career, and he’s showed he can have success without Julio Jones. But he’s not better than Aaron Rodgers, or Tom Brady, or Cam Newton, or even Russell Wilson. His numbers from Monday night (240 yards and two touchdowns) as well as this season as a whole might cause you to think he’s vaulted into the conversation as the top QB, but he hasn’t, and he probably never will. Check out who he's faced. The Saints’ pass defense is horrendous, as is Oakland’s. Tampa Bay’s isn’t much better, either, as all three teams rank toward the bottom in passing yards allowed this season.
Getty ImagesJonathan Bachman
The Patriots could win with WR Julian Edelman at quarterback
Bill Belichick and the Patriots have won with just about every warm body they’ve inserted at quarterback over the past decade or so. From Matt Cassel to Jimmy Garoppolo to now Jacoby Brissett, the Patriots have found a way to be successful regardless of their quarterback’s talent. But – and this is a crucial, all-important “but” – they could not win with Edelman under center.
The reason this ridiculous possibility was even born is because Garoppolo and Brissett are currently dealing with injuries and aren’t certain to play this week. Additionally, Edelman was the presumed emergency backup last week when Brissett was the only active quarterback. Edelman’s dad, who has seen him play since he was a youngster, even admits his son wouldn’t be successful as an NFL quarterback. He could do it, sure, but not with any success. He’d have to throw short passes only over the middle and rely on his athleticism to make plays. Belichick is a wizard, but this is one scenario he wouldn’t win.
Getty ImagesJared Wickerham
Arizona is a bad team
The Cardinals are not a bad team. Their 1-2 record may indicate such, but they’re one of the 10 best teams in football and remain a Super Bowl contender. Arizona’s loss to the lowly Bills was embarrassing, disappointing and shocking all at the same time, but let’s consider the situation. The Bills were intrinsically motivated by the firing of offensive coordinator Greg Roman and felt as though they were playing for coach Rex Ryan’s job. Arizona played a 1 p.m. game on the East Coast, which is never easy for a West Coast team. Not to mention, the Cardinals were coming off of a dominant win over the Buccaneers and likely had a bit of a hangover from that game.
The Cardinals will bounce back from this game and get back on track. Expect that to happen this week against the Rams and in games against the 49ers and Jets before hosting the Seahawks in the most important matchup of their season. Bruce Arians and the coaching staff need to tinker with the offense to involve David Johnson more and refrain from taking deep shots on seemingly every single play. This is largely the same roster that was dominant in 2015.
Trevor Siemian is the Broncos’ long-term answer at quarterback
The Broncos spent a first-round pick on Paxton Lynch in this year’s draft, and they did so after trading up with the Seahawks. Because of that, they’ve already committed to giving him a legitimate shot at being the franchise quarterback. So where does that leave Trevor Siemian? In somewhat of a limbo. So long as he keeps playing as well as he has, he’ll be the starter. However, he’s bound to slip up and have more performances like the season opener (two interceptions) than the one he had Sunday (four TD passes).
Siemian has looked impressive thus far, but by no means does this make him the long-term answer at quarterback. Whether it’s later in 2016 or a year down the line, Lynch is going to get his chance and prove he -- not Siemian -- is the franchise quarterback.
The Ravens are one of the five best teams in the NFL
The Ravens are one of five teams currently undefeated at 3-0. This does not, however, make them one of the five-best teams in the league. Their opponents have a combined record of 1-8, and Baltimore’s largest margin of victory was six in Week 1 against the Bills. The Ravens almost lost to the Browns, for crying out loud. The defense has been surprisingly good, but their receivers are nothing to get excited about. And at running back, Justin Forsett is a shell of the player he was two years ago.
The Cardinals, Packers, Seahawks and Panthers are all substantially better than the Ravens and would undoubtedly be favorites against them – likely even on the road. Expect Baltimore to come back down to earth in the coming weeks, when it faces the Raiders, Giants and Steelers. The Ravens have the worst point differential of any 3-0 team since the 2004 Jaguars. That team wound up going 9-7.
Rex Ryan’s job is safe
The Bills came away with the most surprising win of the weekend on Sunday, dominating the Cardinals 33-18. It came just a week after the Bills fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman, which made the victory even more shocking, seeing as they put up 33 points with a new play-caller. This does not, however, secure coach Rex Ryan’s job. One win doesn’t make him safe, or prevent the front office and ownership from canning him. It saves him for now, sure. But for good? Absolutely not.
The Bills are 1-2 and have almost no shot of winning the AFC East over the unflappable Patriots. They actually take on Bill Belichick’s squad this week, which should be a great test for Buffalo. Ryan still has a long way to go before he ensures he won’t be replaced – like playoff-berth-far. Until the Bills start winning regularly, his chair will remain warm. Roman was not the Bills’ problem, but the Ryan brothers might be.
The Panthers will miss the playoffs
Carolina is sitting at 1-2 after three games, but those two losses came against a pair of the best teams in football: the Broncos and Vikings. It’s not time for the Panthers to hit the panic button, and there will probably never be a time for that. After all, they have Cam Newton and a stout defense that limited the Vikings for three quarters. The Panthers are still going to make the playoffs, and they’re going to do so by winning the NFC South, which is littered with defenses incapable of stopping the run.
They don’t have the easiest schedule, but with three consecutive divisional games coming up, they should be able to make some noise in the South. After that, they’ll get a serious test when they host the Cardinals. If Carolina can make it out of that stretch above .500, it will be on track for a playoff berth. Sunday’s game was a matter of facing one of the toughest defenses in the NFL while showing an inexplicable negligence for getting Kelvin Benjamin the ball.