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What is the strongest division in the NFL?
According to the NFL dot com Power Rankings, it’s the NFC North … and it’s not particularly close. For the second straight week, I have the Packers, Bears and Vikings all taking up real estate in the top 10. The one NFC Norris team not in the top 10? That would be the undefeated Detroit Lions, whose fan base will soon organize a “Fire Hanzus” rally that will make the “Millen Man March” look like the Catalina Wine Mixer.
I understand your rage … but I cannot be manipulated or coerced by it. You have a wonderful city.
Let’s get to it.
NOTE: The previous rankings referenced in the lineup below are from the Week 3 Power Rankings.
No. 4 The
Cowboys are 3-0 for the first time since 2008, but their
31-6 win over the Dolphins wasn’t quite as easy as the final score seems to indicate. The feeble
Dolphins played even with their heavily favored opponent for the game’s first two quarters. It wasn’t until
Kenyan Drake fumbled inside the Dallas 10-yard line late in the second quarter that momentum swung toward Big D for good.
Dak Prescott continues to cruise, throwing two touchdown passes (both to Amari Cooper) and running for another score. Prescott got hot in the third quarter, going 9 of 9 for 137 yards and a touchdown. A 10-6 lead at the half was 24-6 after three quarters. Turn out the lights. Here’s a great stat,
courtesy of The Athletic: Through three games, Prescott is a perfect 22 of 22 for 384 yards and three touchdowns in the third quarter. I want to know what he’s eating in the locker room at halftime.
No. 7 You can imagine Brian Gutekunst throwing out the classic Michael Jordan
“I can’t believe I’m this good, either” shoulder shrug as he walked into team headquarters early Monday morning. Every move the
Packers GM made to improve his team’s defense has been genius through three weeks. On Sunday,
Preston Smith and
Za’Darius Smith combined for five sacks and a forced fumble in a
27-16 win over the Broncos. Money well spent on the pair of pass rushers who have been a huge upgrade over last year’s combo of
Clay Matthews and
Nick Perry. Despite a season high in points scored, the
Packers’ offense remains a work in progress. It’s on head coach Matt LaFleur to make the necessary adjustments and keep Green Bay moving after working through the initial game script. The
Packers have started fast and cooled off considerably in each of the past two weeks.
No. 12Dawson Knox, have a day. With the
Bills down three late in the fourth quarter, Buffalo’s rookie tight end hauled in a
Josh Allen pass and morphed into an evolutionary Gronk. His
49-yard catch-and-run sent New Era Stadium into a frenzy and set up
the Bills’ go-ahead touchdown. The seven-play, 78-yard drive was a minor masterpiece by the
Bills, providing the latest evidence that Allen has taken the next step as a quarterback in Year 2. Buffalo had coughed up a 14-0 lead in this game, and a loss would have undone much of the progress of the season’s first two weeks. But Allen — with a huge helping hand from his Baby Gronk — wouldn’t allow that to happen. The
Bills are 3-0 and welcome the 3-0
Patriots to their house
on Sunday. This is the biggest
Bills game in a
long time. Circle them wagons!
No. 13 The
49ers are 3-0 for the first time since 1998.
Sunday’s win was a minor miracle; not many teams finish a game with five turnovers — including three inside the opponent’s 20-yard line — and come out clean on the other side. Consider it a testament to the team’s resolve, and the continued progress of
Jimmy Garoppolo, who wiped away two
Steelers second-half leads with touchdown drives. Jimmy G’s final numbers were pedestrian, but both his interceptions came on passes that probably should have been caught by his intended targets. He delivered a solid performance — and looks more comfortable with each passing week, a very good sign. The most important statistic from the win? The
49ers’ defense held the
Steelers to just six points off the
49ers’ five turnovers. Early bye weeks are never preferred, but there’s something to be said for staying undefeated for another 14 days without playing a snap.
No. 9 The
Bears took all the drama out of
Monday night, racing to a 28-0 lead in the first half before cruising to the finish line. It was another big day for Chicago’s vaunted defense, which forced
Case Keenum into five turnovers, including
a pick-six by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Khalil Mack led the charge in the front seven, stuffing the stat sheet with two sacks and two forced fumbles. On offense, it was a game — a half, really — of progress for
Mitchell Trubisky, who threw three touchdown passes and looked much more comfortable than what we saw against the
Taylor Gabriel caught all three of those Trubisky touchdown passes before leaving the game with a concussion. The next step for Trubisky is stacking some solid performances to bury the chatter of those who see him as the team’s weak link.
No. 10 Three weeks into the season, the
Vikings’ offensive philosophy is apparent: This is
Dalvin Cook’s team. You see it on the field and even during the pregame introductions, where Cook has bumped
Kirk Cousins for top billing. The third-year running back set a franchise record with his third consecutive 100-yard game to start the season in
an easy 34-14 win over the Raiders. Minnesota is averaging 193.7 yards per game on the ground and has rolled up more yards rushing than passing during its 2-1 start. Cook is the unquestioned star of the attack, but he’s not alone.
Alexander Mattison has shown excellent burst when given the opportunity;
a 10-yard touchdown run was an impressive feat of athleticism by the third-round rookie. The middling
Raiders provided a perfect get-right opponent for Cousins, who bounced back with a solid effort after an alarming performance
last week in Green Bay.
No. 16 My apologies to the
Saints. Yes, they lost
Drew Brees to a thumb injury in Week 2, but this team goes well beyond one star. That was apparent Sunday in Seattle, where Sean Payton’s team delivered a complete effort in
a 33-27 win that was not nearly as competitive as the final score indicates. New Orleans scored on
a 53-yard punt return, and
a fumble recovery — kudos to the officials for not blowing the play dead prematurely, an error that killed the
a week earlier.
Teddy Bridgewater started slowl
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