When defense suddenly stops mattering...
By: Jimbo X
Season Point Differential: (+77)
The most impressive thing about the Cardinals win over San Francisco on Sunday wasn't that the team won by a 40 point margin of victory. Instead, it was how they won by a 40 point margin of victory: two touchdown passes from Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald, two touchdown runs from Chris Johnson and two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Right now, the Cards have the League's absolute best offense (even outgunning the high-scoring Patriots), and if that wasn't scary enough? They're also putting up the third best defensive numbers in the NFL.
New England Patriots
Season Point Differential: (+49)
Just three games into the 2015 season and Tom Brady already has more than 1,000 passing yards. To give you an idea just how much air mileage the dude is racking up, his 358 yard, two TD performance in Sunday's 51-17 thrashing of the Jaguars actually constitutes a a step backwards for the first ballot Hall of Famer. Lost in all the gloriously premature hubbub about the team going 16-0 again is the impressive run game approach the Pats utilized against the Jags; they had four TDs on the ground, with LeGarrette Blount alone racking up three touchdown rushes for 78 yards.
Season Point Differential: (+32)
After last week's demoralizing loss to arch rivals New England, Rex Ryan's Bills made the Miami Dolphins suffer, absolutely pulverizing the Fins 41-14. Tyrod "T-Mobile" Taylor went 21 out of 29, recorded three touchdowns and posted nearly 300 yards in the air in a downright stellar performance, while unsung halfback hero Karlos Williams collected 110 yards on the ground and hit endzone for a solo TD. The defense also shined: they sacked Ryan Tannehill twice, picked up three interceptions and smacked the dog shit out of him no less than eight times.
Season Point Differential: (+29)
The Ravens made it a close one, but the Bengals were still able to waltz out of week 3 undefeated with a 28-24 win over their divisional adversaries. QB Andy Dalton had a stellar game, with 383 yards and three touchdowns, while A.J. Green had 227 receiving yards and 2 TDs. The running back corps underperformed with just 86 total yards and no touchdowns, but really, when you are racking up so many points by air, why bother trying to move the rock on the ground?
Green Bay Packers
Season Point Differential: (+28)
What more needs to be said about Aaron Rodgers performance on Monday night? 333 yards and five touchdown passes, with James Jones and Randall Cobbs combining for four TD receptions and well over 200 yards after the catch. Overshadowed somewhat, however, was the Packers' steady run game in their 38-28 victory over the Chiefs: despite having no touchdowns on the ground, they nonetheless moved the rock smoothly, collecting 123 rushing yards against one of the League's more efficient front sevens.
New York Jets
Season Point Differential: (+27)
When Geno Smith get sucker-punched out of the regular season, the doomsayers had a field day. Well, making all of those people look like a bunch of triple-A knaves in hindsight, the Jets are easily the best defensive team in the National Football League right now. Of course, that still doesn't mean they can't have some bad showings, as demonstrated by Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Eagles. The takeaway here? It don't matter how good your secondary is, if your QB is going to throw three interceptions per game -- and your receivers are going turn the ball over twice -- not even the best defensive core in the League is going to be enough to win you ball games.
Season Point Differential: (+25)
Peyton Manning, who obliterated NFL passing records just two seasons ago, has slowed down considerably in 2015. Alas, he looked in tiptop shape Sunday night, as his 324 passing yards and two touchdowns helped power the Broncos to a 24-12 victory over a struggling Lions squad. That said, with a run game that could barely post 40 yards against a subpar Detroit defense, you really have to wonder how this team is going to fare later in the season ... especially as some unexpected interdivisional competition slowly awakens in the Bay Area.
Season Point Differential: (+24)
Well, the good news is, the Steelers got Le'Veon Bell back for week three. The bad news is, they lost Big Ben for four-to-six weeks in the very same game. With arguably the best half-back and wide receiver in the game, this Steelers team is designed to rack up the points; the question now is, can Pittsburgh count on a way-past-his-prime Mike Vick to deliver the ball into the capable hands of Antonio Brown and company?
THE PLAYOFF HOPEFULS
Season Point Differential: (+23)
Next to the Jets, the Panthers have the League's absolute best defense. That said, that stellar D couldn't prevent the Saints from giving Carolina a close call, as Cam Newton and company barely scraped by last Sunday with a 27-22 win. The decisive factor, obviously, was Carolina's chief signal caller; Newton -- despite not having "seniority" for a few beneficial penalty calls -- nonetheless racked up some serious yardage (315) and two touchdowns by air, both of which wound up in the mitts of Greg Olsen (who, as it should probably be noted, had 134 yards on just eight receptions.)
Season Point Differential: (+17)
Another week in the NFL, and another come-from-behind victory by the Falcons. At one point down 21-7, Matt Ryan slowly came to live, as the new-but-not-that-new-look Dirty Birds wound up with a 38-28 victory over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. With Devonta Freeman racking up three touchdowns and 141 yards on the ground and Julio Jones reeling in two TDs with 164 yards, the Falcons are quickly becoming one of the most versatile offensive threats in the League ... and with a much improved defense from last year on top of it.
Season Point Differential: (+13)
The 'Hawks improved to 1-2 on the season Sunday, throttling the hapless Bears 26-0. With 235 yards on the day, Russell Wilson looked much improved, despite being sacked four times by what is statistically the worst defense in the NFL. With about 400 yards of total offense, the Seahawks looked like their old selves again -- that said, with Marshawn Lynch 50/50 for week 4's tilt against the Lions, it is awfully tempting to finger the "upset alarm" button for Monday night.
Season Point Differential: (+12)
Despite being 1-2 and losing a close one to the Colts Sunday, the Titans -- at the moment -- remain the best looking team in an absolutely ghastly AFC South. Mariota broke even on a TD to INT ration at two a piece, but in the process, he racked up an impressive 367 yards, which was well over a hundred more than Andrew Luck tossed in Indy's microscopic 35-33 win over Tennessee. This team may not be suited for a playoff run quite yet, but there's no denying they are going to be a fun team to watch throughout the season.
Season Point Differential: (+10)
Terry Bridgwater (121 yards, an INT and no TDs) has a forgettable day, but AP certainly didn't. America's favorite (alleged) child abuser ran wild in the Vikes' resounding 31-14 victory over the Chargers, accumulating 126 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. You have to give some love to the defense, too, as they sacked Philip Rivers four times, picked him off once and forced him to turn the ball over, before finally knocking him out of the game altogether.
New York Giants
Season Point Differential: (+6)
Eli Manning had two touchdowns and 279 yards in the G-Men's 32-21 victory over the 'Skins. Both Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham, Jr. and his stupid haircut had good nights, combining for two TD receptions and nearly 200 yards all by themselves. The defense, however, just kind of phoned it in: they let an underpowered Washington offense rack up a good 400 yards against them, with Matt Jones not even really playing.
Season Point Differential: (0)
At the beginning of Sunday's game against the Falcons, Joseph Randle looked like a stud. That said, despite rushing for three touchdowns and 87 yards, it wasn't enough to keep the Brandon Weeden-commandeered Cowboys from overcoming a late onslaught of points from Matty Ice and pals. The backup QB looked decent enough with 232 yards, but none of his air strikes put points on the board. The Cowboys run game might be enough to overcome the loss of Tony Romo against some teams, but as Atlanta proved, their ground attack just isn't enough offensively to get the job down against the NFL's upper-tier units.
Season Point Differential: (-4)
Kirk Cousins had a TD and 316 yards in the team's Thursday night loss to the Giants. Of course, Cousins also threw an INT, while Matt Jones accumulated only 38 yards on 11 carries and lost a costly fumble. This Sunday's Battle-For-2-and-2 against Philadelphia, needless to say, could be all kinds of ugly, folks.
THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK
Season Point Differential: (-4)
Talk about coming out of the Blue ... Alfred Blue, that is. The no-name back had 139 yards and ran it in for a TD in the Texans' 19-9 win over the Bucs. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins (1 TD, 101 yards) also looked solid, while QB Ryan Mallett finished with a "meh" 228 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. And of course, there's also the defense, which hit Jameis Winston six times and limited Tampa Bay to just 57 yards. In a gloriously substandard AFC South, that kind of play -- as hard as it may be to interpret -- might just be enough to win them the division.
Season Point Differential: (-5)
The Eagles got their first win of the season against a damn good Jets team on Sunday. Although Sam Bradford only tossed the ball for 108 yards, he still managed a touchdown and no interceptions, and the Eagles running back corps -- led by Ryan Matthews -- accumulated a fair 123 yards and one touchdown on the ground. It may not be too much to be excited about, but in an injury-hampered NFC East, any late September win could have huge implications come January.
Season Point Differential: (-9)
Granted, the team's 27-20 victory over the Browns was a close game, with the Raiders almost giving it away at the end, but you can't help but feel impressed by this team's emerging offense. For the second week in a row, Derek Carr had over 300 yards passing, with running back Latavious Murray and star wideout Amari Cooper both posting 130 plus yards apiece. And with Charles Woodson making the last second INT, for a week at least, the spirit of 2002 was alive and well in Raider Nation.
Kansas City Chiefs
Season Point Differential: (-10)
At 1-2, the Chiefs aren't exactly struggling to get their offense going, but they are struggling quite a bit with sloppy play. Case in point? Alex Smith's two fumbles and interception in Monday night's 38-28 loss to the the Packers. With the Chiefs only able to muster 75 rushing yards -- not to mention Smith being sacked no less than seven times -- you really have to start asking some hard questions about this team's offensive line.
Season Point Differential: (-14)
The winless Ravens find themselves in an unfamiliar realm; for the first time since the team's inception, they are struggling to win games with a lackluster defense. Offensively, Sunday's 28-24 loss provides the Maryland faithful both some succor and even more reasons to be concerned about the team's fortunes. While Joe Flacco tossed the ball for 362 yards, the team could only muster a poor 36 yards rushing throughout the entire game.
Season Point Differential: (-14)
Pro Bowler Joe Haden is supposed to be one of the best defenders in the League. Well, he sure didn't look like it Sunday, as Raiders wunderkind Amari Cooper burnt his ass for well over 130 yards in the Browns' 27-20 loss to Oakland. Gary Barnidge was the offensive MVP for sure (106 yards, one TD), but the run game looked god awful, accumulating just 39 yards on the day. Don't let Josh McCown's 316 yards and two TD passes fool you; this is a team that's still a complete mess at quarterback, and with Johnny Football champing at the bit on the sideline, expect plenty of drama throughout the rest of the season.
St. Louis Rams
Season Point Differential: (-17)
After upsetting the Seahawks in week one, Nick Foles and the boys haven't really looked all that awe-inspiring. In a fugly 12-6 loss to the Steelers that's memorable solely because the the Rams almost sat the Ed Jones Dome on fire (and secondly, because the grounds crew though they could put out AstroTurf infernos with vaccuum cleaners), Foles had an INT and no TD passes, while the Rams running back corps had just 71 yards on 18 carries.
San Diego Chargers
Season Point Differential: (-17)
With Rivers getting injured, the Chargers had to make magic work with Kellen Clemens, who managed to toss just as many TD passes as the starter did on literally a fourth as many pass attempts in San Diego's 31-14 loss to Minnesota. Keenan Allen (133 yards, two touchdowns) is definitely the team's greatest offensive weapon, but the question is obvious: just how good is a multifaceted receiver if he ain't got a reliable quarterback to hit him?
ANXIOUSLY AWAITING THE DRAFT
Season Point Differential: (-23)
After a really good week one performance, the new look Fins are starting to look like rotten tuna. While Rishard Matthews got two touchdowns and 113 yards in Sunday's 41-14 curb stomping at the cleats of the Bills, nobody else on the receiving corps could find the endzone. Nor did the run game -- which only racked up 102 yards on the day -- look all that impressive. The big concern, however, has to be the team's lagging defense: the Fins couldn't sack "T-Mobile" once, and on the whole, they let Buffalo chalk up more than 400 total yards of offense.
Season Point Differential: (-24)
The Colts got their first win of the season ... BARELY ... in a Big 12 style gun fight with Tennessee. Despite tossing two TDs, Andy Luck posted a relatively low 260 yards, got sacked three times and got smacked around four more. With Frank Gore's two TD day, the rushing game looked all right, but that defense still has lots of work to be done. If these dudes can't keep Dorial Green-Beckham and Kendall Wright out of the endzone, what's going to happen when they have to stop a Gronk or an Antonio Brown?
New Orleans Saints
Season Point Differential: (-24)
The Saints are still looking for their first win of the season, and despite coming away empty-handed over the weekend, there were a few glimmers of hope to be found in their 27-22 loss to Carolina. Backup QB Luke McCown went 31 for 38 and had 310 yards, but unfortunately, he couldn't convert any of them into touchdowns. The special teams unit, at least, found a way to hit the endzone; Marcus Murphy had well over 150 yards and TD on five kick and punt returns.
Season Point Differential: (-27)
Thanks in no small part to having arguably the League's most potent offensive and defensive players, the Lions have been a consistent playoff-caliber team for the last four seasons. That said, with Donkey Kong Suh taking up residence in South Beach and the UGA/Georgia Tech QB-WR tandem failing to light up the scoreboards anymore, the tenants of Ford Field are playing much more like the dreadful 2008 team than the 2014 squad who almost sent the Cowboys packing in the wildcard round. That the team was only able to put up a measly 28 rushing yards against the Broncos in Sunday night's 24-12 loss ought to send a shiver down the spine of any longtime Lions fan.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Season Point Differential: (-31)
With 261 yards, Jameis Winston certainly looked better than Ryan Mallett in the Bucs' 19-9 loss to the Texans on Sunday. With a no-name receiving corps, the former FSU star had some success, as Mike Evans and Louis Murphy rumbled downfield for about 170 combined. Alas, the run game remains a complete non-factor, as Doug Martin and Charles Sims, together, could only muster 57 yards on the day. Then, there's Bobby Rainey's two lost fumbles ... the less said about that, the better.
Season Point Differential: (-42)
As hard as it may be to believe, the Jaguars -- despite being crushed by the Pats by 34 points over the weekend -- are still the top team in a sadsack AFC South. Blake Bortles had about as good a day as he could've on Sunday, racking up 242 yards and chucking two TD passes against a ferocious Patriots secondary, but they never could get the run game going. The Jags go toe-to-toe with the de-surgent Colts on Sunday, for control of what very well could be the worst division in modern NFL history (yes, even worse than last year's abysmal NFC South.)
San Francisco 49ers
Season Point Differential: (-48)
Colin K. had one of the absolute worst showing by an NFL QB in recent memory on Sunday, as he threw four interceptions and accumulated an astonishingly low 67 yards of offense in the Niners' embarrassing 47-7 loss to the Cardinals. He ultimately finished the game with a 3.2 QBR -- a sum so absurdly low, you have to wonder if the coaching staff isn't thinking about benching him for week four.
Season Point Differential: (-59)
Well, this is uncharted territory: priding themselves for decades as a defensive juggernaut, the ill-fated Bears now find themselves sans a win and the unfortunate title holders for worst defensive team in the whole dadgum League. The Bears blowout loss to Seattle is just the latest setback in a season that's already shaping up to be one of the most miserable in the franchise's history. With Jimmy Clausen in the pocket and the team giving up more points than anybody in the NFL, how does Chicago's management respond? By literally trading away their best defensive player for peanuts. What's the record for absolute earliest a National Football League team has given up on a season? Whatever it is, this Bears team looks destined to shatter it.