NFL Week 3: What teams have impressed after three weeks? Dolphins, Eagles, Ravens, Jaguars
As we head into Week 4 of the regular season, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Miami Dolphins are the last undefeated teams still standing in the NFL.
While the sample size might be small, there are some teams that have come out of nowhere to join the conversation as early season contenders not just to make the playoffs, but win the division and beyond. These are the early season unexpected stand outs through three weeks of the NFL’s regular season.
Miami Dolphins: 3-0, first in AFC East
It was a roller coaster of a season last year for the Miami Dolphins, who became the only team in NFL history to win seven straight games and lose seven straight games in the same season. Their offseason was marred with a dark cloud that loomed over Hard Rock Stadium as former coach Brian Flores accused the franchise of racism in their hiring practices and said the owner of the team offered him bonus checks for every game the Dolphins lost while he was at the helm.
Through the cloud shined a ray of light when the Dolphins brought in Tyreek Hill in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs. Hill would pair up Jaylen Waddle and Tua Tagovailoa in what was expected to convert the Dolphins into a scoring juggernaut, but I don’t think anyone knew this quick of a turnaround was coming.
First year coach Mike McDaniel came in and immediately changed the culture in Miami, and you can tell that his players are buying in. The 39-year-old has led his team to three straight wins over two playoff teams from last year, and Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens to begin their campaign.
They have proven they can win in a shootout or a slugfest, but their most impressive win of the season came over the weekend when they took down divisional rivals and AFC favorites the Buffalo Bills in a 21-19 home victory. The Dolphins proved last year that they can go on hot streaks, and that was with a fraction of the talent they have on this year’s squad.
Philadelphia Eagles: 3-0, first in NFL East
Nick Sirianni’s team snuck into the playoffs last year in Jalen Hurts’s second season in the league. The young QB was still cutting his teeth in a season in which he led the Eagles to the playoffs, but there were many around the City of Brotherly Love who weren’t in love with Philly’s QB1.
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone around the city say anything negative about the now third year quarterback. The Eagles are 3-0 through the first three weeks of the season and it has a lot to do with their high flying offense led by their conductor, Hurts. Philly is leading the league in yards per game, averaging a total of 447 yards per contest.
It’s their blend of a deadly rushing game and Hurts’ newly improved passing game that has propelled the Eagles into the NFL’s early season elite. Miles Sanders leads the team in rushing with 74 yards a game while Hurts is right behind him at 55.7 yards a contest. The passing game is the third best in the league as Hurts is throwing for almost 300 yards a game. Bringing in A.J. Brown was always going to make the Eagles’ offense more potent, but he has become a top five receiver in the league with Philly, while averaging 103 yards a game.
The defense gave a little scare in the second half of the Lions game in Week 1, when they almost gave up a 17 point fourth quarter lead. Since allowing 35 points to Detroit, they held Washington and Minnesota to a combined 15 points.
They love an underdog in Philly, but if the Eagles keep playing like they have been, they will be underdogs no more.
Baltimore Ravens: 2-1, tied for first in AFC North
Don’t forget how good of a team the Ravens are with a healthy Lamar Jackson. They may have missed the playoffs last year as Jackson was sidelined for the final stretch of the season with an ankle injury, but these first three weeks should be a reminder that when Jackson is healthy he will always be an MVP candidate and the Ravens will always be contenders in the AFC.
Baltimore knows how to light up the scoreboard, and they have proven that the opening stretch of the season. They have scored 24 points or more in each of their first three games and their top ranked scoring offense leads the league at 33 points a game.
Jackson’s 250 yards passing per game may not be at the top of the league charts, but his 10 passing touchdowns are. He is also tied for fifth in rushing yards heading into Week 4, he and Christian McCaffrey each have 243 yards and Jackson nudges the head to head comparison with two rushing TDs, whereas the Panthers running back has just one.
If there is one weakness for the Ravens, it’s their secondary. They showed how vulnerable they are in the fourth quarter of the Miami game when the Dolphins dropped 24 fourth quarter points. The Patriots had been struggling to score, but put up 26 points this Sunday against Baltimore.
Lamar Jackson is good enough to win the Ravens games. He’s probably good enough to get Baltimore to the playoffs on his own. But if this team is going to be a serious contender, then their defense has to lock down as the season goes on.
Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-1, first in AFC South
They are the surprise of the first three games of the year, and if you said you forecast the Jacksonville Jaguars having this good of start then you’re lying. I don’t even think head coach Doug Peterson could have imagined his first year in Jacksonville going this well at this point of the season.
It was only a matter of time before all of the high draft picks the Jags have had over the last few years started to pay off, and it seems like those picks are bearing fruit this season. The Jags started the season locked in a high scoring tussle with the Commanders. It was an uncomfortable ending to a game in which the Jags had their chances to win, but in the end looked like a team that didn’t know how to close out games.
In the next two games they wouldn’t have to worry about closing out the fourth quarter, because they were so far ahead of the Colts and the Chargers that they cruised to victory in the final 15 minutes. The 28-0 beat down they put on the Colts was one of the more eye opening results of the first three weeks of the season.
One of the most impressive things about the Jaguars up until now is their turnover ratio. They have committed just one turnover through three games, and have forced seven. Their lone turnover came off of an interception in the opener against Washington, but since then Trevor Lawrence has been spot on. The league leader in interceptions last year looks much more poised in the pocket and it’s paying off for the Jaguars.