Miami Dolphins 3-0. Throw away everything else and that’s all that should matter at this moment for them and their fans. It’s been a long time since this franchise generated such a justifiable hype. Celebrate it.
For those who aren’t emotionally invested, it’s worth taking a closer look under the hood.
The Dolphins are clearly better this season. They have been adding talent over the past few years and it is finally paying off. It’s probably a playoff team. For many years, 76 percent of teams who start 3-0 advance to the playoffs and it’s easier now as the playoffs expanded to 14 teams for the 2020 season. The Dolphins look like they’ve got the right coach in Mike McDaniel, Tyreke Hill’s trade has changed offense, and Tua Tagovailoa is making progress. The defense has lost a lot of yards and points in the last two weeks, but there is talent on this side of the ball. They also have a one-game lead over the Buffalo Bills after Sunday with a head-to-head win, which is important for tiebreaks.
But it’s hard to buy the Dolphins as AFC East’s new favorite, and it’s really hard to believe they can be anything more. Miami had a great, memorable week 2 comeback, but you can only return if the game has been played very poorly for most of the game. The Dolphins lost 35–14 to the Baltimore Ravens before heating up in the fourth quarter. In Week 3, the Bills beat Miami 497-212, going 90 games to 39 for Miami, with Buffalo holding the ball 40-40. The Bills dominated the game and lost on the scoreboard. It happens. The Bills should have won, but Josh Allen passed with a short hand to a wide-open Isaiah McKenzie in the end zone late in the game. The Bills lost on the road by two points, with several players starting with either injuries or problems due to the heat. Not that the Dolphins dominated the game.
And it’s all right. Miami leads 3-0 and has a great victory in his pocket for the rest of the season. The Ravens’ victory will grow old too. For a team that has made the playoffs just once since 2008 and hasn’t won a playoff since 2000, there’s nothing wrong with a move this season that doesn’t include their launch into the Super Bowl contenders. Dolphins are much better. They look like a playoff team. They have a promising coach and can treat their quarterback a lot better than they did three games ago. Everything is positive. Now let’s see what happens next.
Here is the strength rating after week 3 of the NFL season:
32. New York Jets (1-2, last week: 28)
The Jets played two good minutes all season. They were leading 22 seconds. The comeback against Cleveland was incredible, but this was a clear exception. I know I’m supposed to say that we can’t judge them until we see them with Zach Wilson, but do you believe he’s changing this team? Me neither.
31. Houston Texans (0-2-1, LR: 31)
The Texans would have been 1-2 if they hadn’t decided to try for first place in the first week with Rex Burkhead, giving him all the playing time to get past rookie Dameon Pierce. It was one of the strangest coaching decisions of the season. Here it is corrected. Pierce had 80 yards on 20 carries on Sunday, had some good runs and will improve from now on. Houston still won’t do well overall.
30. Seattle Seahawks (1-2, LM: 27)
The Seahawks selected Kenneth Walker III in the second round. On Sunday, nine pictures were taken of him. One of its three carriers it was fantastic. The Seahawks gave more shots to DJ Dallas than to Walker. In related news, the Seahawks lost at home to the Falcons.
29. Atlanta Falcons (1-2, OT: 32)
Finally, the Falcons drew Kyle Pitts with 87 yards on five catches. They took their first win of the season. Must be a match. The Falcons have been pretty good this season, much better than their track record or their line-up would suggest. They won’t be an easy way out.
28. Chicago Bears (2-1, LM: 29)
Justin Fields has 23 completions in three games. This calendar year, every decision the Bears have made, including hiring a defensively oriented coach, no additional free agents on offense, choosing defense first and continuing to play the call, seems to indicate they don’t have faith in Fields.
27. Carolina Panthers (1-2, LM: 30)
Christian McCaffrey, one of the greatest receiving running backs with two 100-rushing seasons on his record, has 10 shots for 57 yards in three games. One of the signs of a bad coaching staff is when they don’t understand how to use the strengths of their best players.
26. Washington Commanders (1-2, LM: 24)
Pocket awareness sometimes fails Carson Wentz, and it certainly did when he was fired nine times on Sunday. I’ll chalk it up to facing a good Eagles defense because before that, Washington’s offense was mostly good. But it’s a reminder that there will be ugly games.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2, LM: 23)
Perhaps the Steelers know that Kenny Pickett isn’t ready and launching him now will set him back. But it didn’t look like that in preseason. Other than that, I can’t think of any reason not to start Pickett right now. Mitchell Trubisky is not the answer. What’s the point in waiting?
24. New York Giants (2-1, LM: 22)
I hope you didn’t buy too much into that 2-0 start. The Giants haven’t arrived yet, but they’re better. They have a much better head coach. The work continues and Monday evening showed it.
23. Las Vegas Raiders (0-3, HB: 18)
It’s funny that this is the only 0-3 team in the NFL. They are not bad. They are only 13 points behind. But they are also 0-3 in a tough conference that is unlikely to feature wildcard participation with less than 10 wins. This is a huge hole. The first step is to figure out how Davante Adams can have 12 and 36 yards in the last two games. It’s unforgivable.
22. Arizona Cardinals (1-2, HB: 17)
I don’t know how the Cardinals will fix it. No, the return of DeAndre Hopkins will not turn them into top 10 hitters. James Conner never picked up where he left off last season. Kyler Murray isn’t doing enough for a $230 million quarterback. Cliff Kingsbury doesn’t seem to know the answers. And the defense isn’t good enough to keep them at odds. This season could be a terrible one for the Cardinals.
21. New England Patriots (1-2, LM: 19)
In the next few weeks, either Mc Jones will give 100 percent due to a high ankle sprain or Brian Hoyer will take over. I’m not sure how an offense that already had its problems (even though Sunday was better) gets so much better than this scenario. The next few weeks are critical for the Patriots. They need a few wins to stay relevant.
20. Tennessee Titans (1-2, LM: 26)
The Titans have rediscovered their winning formula. They won’t play well from behind because that minimizes Derrick Henry and puts more pressure on Ryan Tannehill. If they can take the initiative and lean on Henry, they will be a different team. This is easier said than done, but we know what the Titans need to do going forward.
19. Detroit Lions (1-2, LM: 21)
The Lions blew it up on Sunday. They should have gone for it in fourth and fourth place with just over a minute left, but decided instead to hit a 54-yard field goal, which Dan Campbell says he regrets. This is where the history of the Lions is a problem. Other teams can lose such a game and while it hurts, it doesn’t follow them. Detroit, who now deserves much more than a 1-2 record, will find it hard not to think that they are still the same old Lions.
18. New Orleans Saints (1-2, OT: 16)
The good news is that rookie wide receiver Chris Olove seems like a great choice. On Sunday, he had nine catches for 147 yards, a week after receiving a ton of air yards, but was unable to better connect with Jameis Winston. The bad news is that there’s nothing more to love about the Saints’ attack right now.
17. Los Angeles Chargers (1-2, LM: 8)
Oh oh Did the Chargers take a hard hit on Sunday, not because they lost to Jacksonville, but at home 38-10? And they lost a fantastic left tackle from Rushon Slater to a torn bicep. This is one of their best players this season. Edge rusher Joey Boza went down with a serious groin injury. They were already without center Corey Linsley, defenseman JC Jackson and wide receiver Keenan Allen, and quarterback Justin Herbert was clearly playing the offense. The Chargers aren’t finished this season, but if you had high hopes for them, it’s time to recalibrate.
16. San Francisco 49ers (1-2, HB: 10)
The defense must be out of themselves. Eight completions were allowed in one loss. In the second loss, the Broncos had five points deep in the fourth quarter, and two of those points were scored by Jimmy Garoppolo when he sent Dan Orlovsky. The good news is that San Francisco’s defense is great and will help them break out of this 1-2 start.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (1-2, HB: 15)
The Bengals did what they should have done against a bad Jets team. They play at home against a good team of Dolphins on Thursday and that will be the best barometer of where they will be this season.
14. Denver Broncos (2-1, LM: 12)
The Broncos’ offense has looked terrible for three games. All the cries of Nathaniel Hackett’s game control overshadowed the fact that Russell Wilson didn’t look good either. I have to be patient, considering it’s only three games after an off-season of total change, but it’s been three terrible offensive games. There must be some legitimate concern.
13. Indianapolis Colts (1-1-1, LM: 14)
The Colts couldn’t care less what it looked like, they needed a win and got it against a good team of Chiefs. They’ll get the Titans at home this week and if they win that they’ll be right back on track at AFC South in no time. All of a sudden, a huge rematch against the Jaguars comes early in Week 6.
12. Dallas Cowboys (2-1, LV: 20)
Dallas could be…