10 things you need to know from NFL Week 3
Here are the 10 things you need to know coming out of Week 3 of the NFL season:
1. The Niners should be concerned about Colin Kaepernick’s play.
It’d be easy to chalk up Kaepernick’s atrocious game grade in the Niners’ 47-7 loss to Arizona, the second-worst of any QB in Week 3, to an off day, especially coming off his surprisingly strong performance in a Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh. But the fact is, there is a concerning trend in Kaepernick’s performance, dating back to his debut in 2012 (his highest career grade of +6.0 came in Week 17), as he has experienced a drop-off in performance every year, based on his grades.
As Sam Monson explained in an article on Monday, Kaepernick is still a very talented quarterback capable of high-level play—but his bad performances can be downright awful, to the point that they bring into question his long-term future with the team.
It’s fair to wonder how much longer the Niners will stick with Kaepernick as their starting QB. There are still occasional positive elements to his game, but he is settling in near the bottom of our QB grades overall, without much indication that he’ll rebound any time soon.
2. That looked a lot like the old Adrian Peterson.
The Vikings running back ranked near the bottom of our grades at the position through two weeks, but after a very strong performance in a Week 3 win over the Chargers during which he broke a ridiculous 10 tackles and earned the highest game grade of the week for any running back, it appears as though Peterson is back to (or at least close to) his old self.
That’s very good news for a 2-1 Vikings team entering a big Week 4 showdown at undefeated Denver, owner of the highest-graded defense in the NFL. There are a lot of good pieces on this Vikings team, including our No. 8-ranked QB in Teddy Bridgewater, our top-ranked safety in Harrison Smith, and a lot of productive players on the defensive side of the ball. We’re going to get a sense of just how good they are, and whether its questionable offensive line can hold up against the Broncos’ best-in-the-NFL pass rush next week.
3. The Bengals might actually be different this season.
The AFC North obviously sets up very well for Cincinnati, given the Ravens’ 0-3 start and the MCL injury to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger that’s going to keep him out 4-6 weeks. But beyond that, there are a lot of reasons to like this Bengals team as an AFC title contender.
1.) QB Andy Dalton is off to the highest-graded start to his career, by a high margin.
2.) His receiving options behind A.J. Green are a lot better this year in WR Marvin Jones and TE Tyler Eifert.
3.) Starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth has allowed just one pressure through three games and is the most underrated OT in the NFL right now.
4.) Adam Jones is the highest-graded cornerback in the NFL through three games.
5.) Geno Atkins looks like he is fully recovered from his 2013 ACL tear, ranking as our No. 2 defensive tackle.
4. Larry Fitzgerald is remaking himself as a stud slot receiver.
Sam Monson explained this in excellent detail on Monday, but the short version is this: After playing some at the slot and tight end positions last season, and largely looking out of place, Fitzgerald has lined up in the slot for 58.9 percent of his snaps and caught every pass thrown to him from that position so far. He’s also having a great year overall, ranking third in our WR grades after earning the highest marks at his position in the NFL for Week 3.
His reemergence has certainly helped Carson Palmer, our No. 3-graded QB through three weeks. It’s one of many reasons Arizona has to be taken seriously as an NFC contender.
5. But, don’t concede the NFC West to the Cardinals just yet.
This is for a few reasons, starting with the fact that the Cardinals’ three wins have come against the Saints, Bears, and 49ers—which might constitute the easiest three-game stretch Arizona will see all season.
But more importantly, the Seahawks’ defense looked really good after Kam Chancellor’s return, as they didn’t have a single defender earn a negative grade this week. Seattle’s defense missed just one tackle after a combined 17 missed tackles in Weeks 1 and 2. Their pass rush has been a strong suit, with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett ranking as our No. 1 and No. 3 4-3 defensive ends, respectively, and if the Seahawks can overcome their poor offensive line play and any further injury issues for star RB Marshawn Lynch, they’ll be right in the mix for the NFC West title.
6. It’s not Ndamukong Suh’s fault the Dolphins are off to a bad start.
While Miami’s big-money free agent has been an easy target during the team’s 1-2 start—including a blowout loss to Buffalo in Week 3—he’s actually our No. 6-graded defensive tackle through three weeks, and the top-performing player on the team.
The bigger issues are the play of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the offensive line. While it’s hard to defend Tannehill’s lack of production (he’s off to the worst three-game start of his career, ranking in the bottom 10 of our QB grades), he has been under a ton of interior pressure, with Jamil Douglas and Dallas Thomas grading out as the two worst guards in the NFL in pass protection through three games.
7. There’s still cause for concern in Philadelphia.
A Week 3 win over the Jets, combined with a Week 4 matchup with the Redskins, certainly provides the Eagles with a more positive outlook than they had last week. However, Philadelphia fans shouldn’t get too excited just yet. Sam Bradford still ranks as the fourth-worst QB in our grading system, and the running game produced an abysmal 0.15 yards before contact per carry average against the Jets—not exactly a positive sign that the offense is fixed.
8. Andrew Luck is the third-worst quarterback in our grades.
Similar to the Eagles note, Colts fans shouldn’t view the team’s win over the Titans as a cure-all, even with a soft Week 4 opponent (the Jaguars) on the schedule. Luck again earned a negative grade, his seventh negative grade in his last 10 games. Pass protection continues to be an issue, with the Colts ranking No. 27 out of 32 in our pass-block grades.
9. The Packers are going to be just fine without Jordy Nelson.
Jordy Nelson finished last season ranked No. 2 in our wide receiver grades, so when he was lost for the season with an offseason injury, it certainly appeared to be a huge gap to fill for Green Bay. The Packers have been fine so far, however, due to excellent play from Randall Cobb and James Jones. Cobb and Jones earned our 2nd- and 12th-highest game grades for Week 3, respectively, and through three games rank No. 5 and No. 10, respectively, at the position. Even with Davante Adams possibly out for a few weeks with an ankle injury, the Packers’ passing offense hasn’t missed a beat.
10. The Lions might be the 0-3 team in the worst shape.
For starters, Detroit gets the Seahawks in Week 4, a team that appears to be returning to its elite defensive form following the aforementioned addition of Kam Chancellor in Week 3. Lions QB Matthew Stafford has the lowest grade of any quarterback through three games, the running game ranks No. 30, and his pass protection is No. 31.