Week three of the 2015 NFL regular season proved that there doesn’t need to be a slew of shocking upsets for us to have a highly entertaining week of professional football. For the second week in a row, we saw a premier quarterback suffer a significant injury that will keep him off the field for at least a month. We saw several amazing performances from some of the game’s biggest names, and more notably, from a handful unexpected players. We saw seven teams improve to 3-0 and four teams, two of which were playoff teams in 2014, drop to 0-3.
We could go on for pages, but in the interest of sparing you some time, we’ll just jump right into the seven biggest takeaways from week three. Here they are.
1. Adrian Peterson is still an elite running back
After carrying the ball only 10 times for 31 yards in the Vikings’ week-one loss to the San Francisco 49ers, many people around the league were wondering if Peterson’s days as a dominant ball carrier were over. After back-to-back impressive performances, those thoughts have been officially squashed. In the Vikings’ last two games, which were both wins, Peterson carried the ball a total of 49 times — he had 29 carries in week two and 20 carries in week three — for a total of 260 rushing yards and two touchdowns. One would have to assume that the Vikings have noticed the correlation between getting the ball in Peterson’s hands and their success in the win/loss column, which leads us to believe that they will continue to give their six-time All-Pro running back a heavy workload. All said, over the last two weeks, Peterson, at 30-years-old, has started to closely resemble the player who won the 2012 NFL MVP award.
2. Andy Dalton is playing like an MVP candidate
For the first four years of his NFL career, Dalton played well enough for the Cincinnati Bengals to make the playoffs. Once the postseason rolled around, however, Dalton’s play has always taken a serious turn for the worse. That could all be changing in 2015. It’s still early, but Dalton appears to have elevated his game from being a game-manager, to a game-changer. Here is a look at his stat line through the first three games of the season:
- 66.3% completion percentage
- 866 passing yards
- 8 touchdown passes
- 1 interception
- 9.4 yards per pass attempt
- 121.0 quarterback rating
- 1 rushing touchdown
While his stats have clearly been impressive, we are more impressed by the fact that he has the Bengals off to a 3-0 start with two of those wins coming on the road. If he continues to play at the level he has thus far, Dalton will undoubtedly be an MVP candidate by the end of the season and the Bengals will be in contention for a first-round bye in the AFC Playoffs.
3. The Oakland Raiders are starting to show signs of life
The outlook for the Raiders’ 2015 season was looking incredibly bleak after their embarrassing home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in week one. After a shocking upset win over the Baltimore Ravens in week two, and a week-three road win over the Cleveland Browns — which happened to be their first road win since week 11 of the 2013 season — this once proud franchise is now in position to win three of their first four games of the season for the first time since 2002. We still believe that this team will finish the year with a sub-.500 record, but thanks to quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and linebacker Khalil Mack, we can now finally say that there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future in Oakland.
4. It’s the New England Patriots, then everyone else in the AFC
It’s still early in the season, but the Patriots have already started to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in the AFC. The Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals are the only other undefeated teams in the conference, and while both teams have been impressive, they still have far more to prove than the defending Super Bowl champions. Furthermore, the Patriots have a schedule that gives them a legitimate chance at finishing the regular season with a 16-0 record. If they end up with home field advantage throughout the playoffs and avoid any catastrophic injuries, the Patriots have to be considered the overwhelming favorites to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 50.
5. It’s looking like Joe Philbin will be the first head coach that gets fired in 2015
Expectations for the Dolphins in 2015, both within their organization and among experts around the NFL, were sky high after their aggressive spending spree this offseason. That said, with a 1-2 record up to this point, they have been arguably the most disappointing team in the league this season. As a result, Joe Philbin, who was already on the hot seat coming into the season, is starting to look like he will be the first head coach to face the chopping block in 2015. After back-to-back embarrassing losses, the Dolphins are now facing a must-win game against the New York Jets in week four. With an extremely difficult schedule remaining, a loss for the Dolphins against the Jets will likely signify the beginning of the end of the Joe Philbin-era in Miami.
6. When Aaron Rodgers is rolling, the Green Bay Packers are nearly unbeatable
Anybody who follows the NFL knows that Rodgers is really good. The reigning NFL MVP has been so good in 2015 that he has officially ended any debate over who is the best offensive player in the league. More importantly, though, Rodgers is making it clear that when he is firing on all cylinders, the Packers are almost impossible to slow down. In week three, the 30-year-old signal caller picked apart the Kansas City Chiefs for 333 yards and five touchdowns. While those numbers would be impressive against the league’s worst defense, the fact that he did it against the Chiefs, who have one of the league’s best defenses, is astonishing. On top of that, he turned in a similarly dominant performance against the Seattle Seahawks and their elite defense in week two. At this point, the Packers, mainly due to the play of Rodgers, are our heavy favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 50.
7. If the Denver Broncos get things going offensively, they are going to be scary
If you are a fan of defensive-minded football and haven’t had a chance to watch the Broncos in 2015, you are truly missing out. Granted, it has only been three games, but behind a dominant pass-rush and arguably the league’s best secondary, Denver is on track to have one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. What we’re about to say may sound odd to you, especially since Peyton Manning is their quarterback, but it could actually be the Broncos’ offense that keeps them from competing for a Super Bowl title in 2015. They have looked substantially better in their last six quarters of action, but they have still failed to establish any semblance of an effective rushing attack, and their young offensive line still remains a work in progress. With that being said, if their offense can continue to improve and ends up being an above average unit, the Broncos will be extremely difficult for any team in the league to beat.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.