We know that there are no truly great teams in the NFL this season, but there might be a few really, really bad ones.
This week we were subjected to some of the worst of the worst the league has to offer.
We’re not talking about the mercurial teams that play in New Jersey or western New York — we’re talking about truly awful teams like the Browns, Dolphins, Bears and 49ers.
This is not garden variety bad — these teams are finding new, creative ways to be awful. The Browns and Dolphins went to overtime in a battle of inferiority in South Florida Sunday and the Browns, after winning the coin toss in overtime, opted to play defense first. That’s some next-level stuff. A touchdown on the opening drive wins the game, and the Cleveland Browns, the poster child for inferiority in the NFL, had the gall to look across the field to Ryan Tannehill and dare him to win the game. The Dolphins didn’t score on that possession, but the Browns couldn’t capitalize — Miami won with a touchdown later in overtime.
That’s the kind of bad we’re dealing with in the NFL this season.
The NFL wants parity — it craves it. You can sense the glee coming out of the league office when they send out one of their frequent press releases explaining how many close games they have.
Parity requires balance, and the NFL might not have enough good teams to cancel out the bad. We didn’t even include the Jaguars, Colts, Lions or Titans in the original list of garbage.
There’s hope that balance can be found. New England has looked stellar, despite the fact their quarterback depth chart currently consists of a hungover Boston Bro (Saturdays are for the boys, bro!), former Colt quarterback Jeff George and the cardboard cutout of Gronk from New England-area Dunkin Donuts franchises.
The Vikings and Broncos provide us some hope as well, so long as you’re one of the nine Americans who have no interest in consistent offensive play.
It’s three weeks, perhaps things will get better, but as of now, it sure looks like there’s more bad than good in the NFL right now, and no amount of celebrated mediocrity can divert attention away from that developing truth.
Anyway, on with the games:
Thursday: Patriots 27, Texans 0
Bill Belichick is a golden god of coaching, and Thursday night, his genius turned Bill O’Brien into a living embodiment of the Mr. Krabs meme. New England’s defense is full of no-names, but is spectacular. That offense is going to be super scary when Tom Brady gets back, though Belichick should, just for grins, limit his playing time to prove a point to anyone who has doubteds him at any point in his career.
The Texans are fine. Their destiny of going 10-6 was in no way set off course by this loss.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY SportsGreg M. Cooper
Bills 33, Cardinals 18
Ousted offensive coordinator Greg Roman was never the problem in Buffalo, but Sunday’s surprising win over the stubborn Arizona Cardinals will convince a lot of people that he was. Having Tyrod Taylor run it nine times for 76 yards is not a replicable formula for success, but I for one am thrilled to see how Rex Ryan uses this confidence next week against New England…
The Cardinals are too talented to play this poor. The over-reliance on the deep ball has stifled the team’s offense and Carson Palmer needs to be more patient and conservative if Arizona is to stand a shot going forward this season. One area I don’t expect improvement — that linebacking corps. Woof.
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY SportsTimothy T. Ludwig
Vikings 22, Panthers 10
Are the Vikings really good? The Vikings might be really good. That or the Panthers are going to be a six- or seven-loss team this year because that offensive line is shaky and the defensive secondary is garbage. But I like option 1, so let’s go with that for now. Reality can take over in a few weeks.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY SportsJeremy Brevard
Broncos 29, Bengals 17
Is Trevor Siemian good? Trevor Siemian might be really good. That or the Bengals are going to be a six- or seven-loss team this year because that offensive line is shaky and the defensive secondary is garbage. But I like option 1, so let’s go with that for… wait, this feels familiar… What’s going on?
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY SportsAaron Doster
Packers 34, Lions 27
The Aaron Rodgers redemption game, as it shall be known until he has another bad game in a week or two, was pretty spectacular, but you can’t help but feel the Packers’ fate rides entirely on the swashbuckling quarterback’s ability to do ridiculous things with a football, like throw it 70 yards without his feet set. Forgive me if I’m not keen to build a house on that foundation, much less bet said house.
The Lions are bad, but you knew that already.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY SportsBenny Sieu
Ravens 19, Jaguars 17
The Ravens have an amazing ability to play down to their competition while simultaneously making Joe Flacco look really, really good. As of now, Flacco's status is firmly over the line and into “elite” territory. He could be back in second-tier level of “He gets paid how much? I guess that makes sense” soon, though.
The Jaguars continue to be the worst-coached team in football. I’m not in the slightest bit kidding when I say that Les Miles would do well there.
Oh, and Steve Smith talked trash.
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY SportsLogan Bowles
Dolphins 30, Browns 24 (Overtime)
If you have any physical evidence of this game, burn it immediately. The Browns got a nice performance from rookie QB Cody Kessler and a spectacular performance from Terrelle Pryor (who has been in the NFL for seven years, all of which were apparently building up to this moment) and still lost to a Dolphins team that is the football equivalent of a man falling down the stairs. Who cares if he tumbled? He wanted to reach the bottom and did. The joke is on you…
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Washington 29, Giants 27
Highlights: Odell Beckham being carried like a rowdy drunk girl at a party, being taken out by a kicking net and then inexplicably crying over a Week 3 game. The football was the equivalent of two drunk people from the aforementioned party vomiting all over the back of an Uber, so let’s just remember Beckham’s emotional roller coaster, presented by [insert one of the receiver’s 97 sponsors here.] These two 8-8 teams deserve each other.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner
Raiders 17, Titans 10
The Titans are a bad team, but we knew that already. The Raiders are also a bad team -- sorry anyone who picked them to win the AFC West this year. This game was trash, so it’s only appropriate the lasting highlight was an offensive lineman jumping head-first into a pile of humanity, only to land a crippling 15-yard penalty and be pulled from the game because of concussion protocol.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Seahawks 37, 49ers 18
By the end of the season, Russell Wilson is going to be playing with an exoskeleton preventing his battery of torn ligaments and broken bones in his limbs from collapsing his body at the slightest movement.
Hey, Chip Kelly, I hear the LSU job opened up. It’s OK to admit that you made a mistake in taking over the worst roster in the NFL.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY SportsTroy Wayrynen
Rams 37, Buccaneers 32
The Rams are 2-1 and atop the NFC West, just as we all predicted at the beginning of the season… Both of these teams have major problems, but at least the Rams came in with low expectations. Tampa Bay’s hyper-aggressive defense was pitiful Sunday — it’s not like tackling is important, fellas. Jameis Winston wasn’t the problem, but he’s going to need some blocking or wide receiver separation sometime soon.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY SportsJonathan Dyer
Colts 26, Chargers 22
Andrew Luck isn’t a bad quarterback, he just plays for a bad team that took on another bad team Sunday and won. So hopefully that settles that.
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY SportsThomas J. Russo
Chiefs 24, Jets 3
It’d be fun to ascribe significance to this game — the Jets stink, Kansas City is a Super Bowl contender — but something about it felt particularly flukey, and that’s beyond the eight Jets turnovers. The fact that the Chiefs didn’t win by 40 was concerning. The Jets are going to live by Fitz and die by Fitz, and this is a quarterback who was signed on July 27, so let’s not expect 14 wins, people.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY SportsDenny Medley
Eagles 34, Steelers 3
The Steelers will be fine, they just ran into the SINGLE GREATEST QUARTERBACK TO EVER PLAY THE GAME in Carson Wentz.
In all seriousness, the rookie couldn’t be more impressive right now, and I’m loving what I’m seeing from a team that looked pretty underrated heading into the season. I am not kidding when I say we need to start talking about the Eagles as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, even if they’re a darkhorse.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY SportsBill Streicher
Cowboys 31, Bears 17
The Bears made six selections before Dallas selected Dak Prescott in the 2016 NFL Draft. I deeply enjoy the fact that Brian Hoyer is going to create a quarterback controversy in Chicago where the only result is pure, unadulterated sadness and a bit of cholesterol.