Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez | Getty Images
Raise your hand if you predicted the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles would be the last two undefeated teams in the NFL heading into Week 4?
I am certainly not one of them. The Dolphins outlasted the Buffalo Bills in an absolute slugfest of a game in the hot and humid Miami conditions to win 21-19 despite the Bills running 90 plays. On the other hand, the Eagles dominated the Washington Commanders 24-8 (24-0 at halftime) as they sacked their old quarterback, Carson Wentz, nine times.
After a week where four NFL teams suffered their first loss of the season, here are my top 10 teams heading into Week 4.
10. Minnesota Vikings (2-1)
Previous Ranking: N/A
Outside of primetime, Kirk Cousins has shown glimpses of being the franchise QB the Minnesota Vikings expected to have when they acquired him in 2018. On Sunday, the Vikings were trailing most of the game against the new and improved Detroit Lions. Cousins led two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, including a game-winning 28-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn with 45 seconds to go. The Vikings won 28-24 to give them their second division win of the season despite Justin Jefferson being held to 14 yards on three receptions. They are now in London and will look to pick up their first win away from home this season as they take on the New Orleans Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1)
Previous Ranking: N/A
This is not a typo.
The Jaguars have entered these rankings for the first time since I started writing them back in 2019. Under new head coach Doug Pederson, Trevor Lawrence has found a groove and had an efficient performance on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers with 262 passing yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. James Robinson has been effectively utilized by Pederson, which was rewarded with 100 rushing yards and a 50-yard touchdown on Sunday. The defense shut down the Chargers offense, holding Justin Herbert and the offense to 10 points one week after shutting out the Indianapolis Colts. Jacksonville will be tested on Sunday as they head to Philadelphia for a battle with Pederson’s former team in the Eagles.
8. Green Bay Packers (2-1)
Previous Ranking: 9
While the Green Bay Packers won on Sunday at Tampa Bay, there is little optimism to take away from the win if you are a fan of the Packers. The offense failed to score a single point in the second half and needed a Buccaneer delay of game penalty to prevent the game from going into overtime in the 14-12 victory. Green Bay’s defense played a solid game, but faced a Buccaneer team without their top-three wide receivers. On a positive note, rookie WR Romeo Doubs had a solid game with 73 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions. The Packers schedule will allow the team to build momentum and confidence in the coming weeks, starting with a visit from the Brian Hoyer-led New England Patriots on Sunday, who lost QB Mac Jones for some time with a high-ankle sprain.
7. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Previous Ranking: 8
Lamar Jackson put on another dazzling performance on Sunday against the Patriots, showing why he must be given a huge long-term contract with the Baltimore Ravens. He threw four touchdown passes (Mark Andrews caught two of them) while completely torching the Patriots on the ground for 107 yards and a touchdown. After the defense collapsed in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins last weekend, they allowed a bunch of yards to the Patriots’ offense (321 yards from Jones through the air) but intercepted him three times and stripped Nelson Agholor of the ball in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory 37-26. Issues with yards allowed remain and it will be tested to the maximum on Sunday as they will face Josh Allen and the Bills, who are wanting to bounce back after losing at Miami.
6. Los Angeles Rams (2-1)
Previous Ranking: 7
Speaking of teams that bent on Sunday but didn’t break, the Los Angeles Rams did not allow a single touchdown in their 20-12 win at Arizona this past Sunday. Kyler Murray threw for 314 yards, but was often stymied whenever he entered Rams territory. Matthew Stafford was not impressive, but didn’t turn the ball over in a game where the Rams got rushing touchdowns from Cooper Kupp (first one of his career) and Cam Akers. It has been a shaky start for the defending champions this season, but LA is 2-1 heading into a crucial division showdown on Monday Night Football. The Rams will face the San Francisco 49ers in a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship game where they ended a six-game losing streak against the 49ers with a 20-17 victory.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)
Previous Ranking: 3
Tampa Bay lost on Sunday against the Packers, but concerns are only short term for the Buccaneers. Mike Evans was suspended for the game after an incident with Marshon Lattimore during their Week 2 win at New Orleans and they will have Chris Godwin and Julio Jones back in the coming weeks. Even with the adversity, Tom Brady nearly led a vintage game-tying touchdown drive and would have completed it if not for a delay of game on the two-point conversion attempt. With Hurricane Ian (I send good thoughts to everyone in the path of the storm) hitting Tampa, there is a good chance their next game against the Kansas City Chiefs (Super Bowl 55 rematch) will be moved to Minneapolis on Sunday. Currently, the Buccaneers are practicing in Miami.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (2-1)
Previous Ranking: 2
Simply put, the Chiefs lost at Indianapolis on Sunday after an incredible special teams meltdown. Kicker Matt Ammendola (who took over for injured kicker Harrison Butker) missed a field goal and an extra point in the 20-17 loss and punt returner Skyy Moore muffed a punt that set up the Colts first touchdown. Patrick Mahomes attempted to put the Chiefs in field-goal range late in the game, but threw an interception with a few seconds to go. It was a loss that left many Chief fans feeling frustrated as the Colts had previously been shut out by the Jaguars. Alas, Butker is returning to practice and could play on Sunday against the Buccaneers (location TBD).
3. Miami Dolphins (3-0)
Previous Ranking: 6
Mike McDaniel is already a frontrunner for Coach of the Year after the job he has done with the Dolphins so far in 2022. Tua Tagovailoa looks completely different from the conservative play we saw to start his career as he is throwing the ball down the field with the accuracy and precision we saw at Alabama. His bomb to Jaylen Waddle allowed the Dolphins to gain the lead against the Bills in the fourth quarter, which they kept for a win and first place of the AFC East, their first win against Buffalo since Dec. 2, 2018. They have little time to celebrate, however, as they will face the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals in “The Jungle” on Thursday Night Football. Miami had to arrive in Cincinnati earlier than anticipated due to Hurricane Ian.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0)
Previous Ranking: 4
Throughout the first three weeks of the season, the Eagles stand atop the NFC in the standings and on paper. Jalen Hurts has completely transcended his game from a game manager that ran the league’s best rushing attack to one that has dominated opponents both through the air and on the ground. Against the Commanders on Sunday, Hurts threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns with DeVonta Smith flexing his talent for 169 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions. The Eagles defense punished their former QB Carson Wentz with nine sacks. Philly looks as legit as any team in the league and will now welcome their former coach Doug Pederson and the Jaguars to town on Sunday.
1. Buffalo Bills (2-1)
Previous Ranking: 1
I understand that the Bills lost on Sunday, but considering the injuries and the weather, it is incredible they nearly won the game. The conditions were completely hot and humid, causing many Bills players excessive fatigue and cramps. Below is their injury list and game stats.
No Van Roten
Bobbled snap before the half
Misfire from Allen to McKenzie late
Davis dropped TD
Milano dropped the pick-6 https://t.co/H18bbL0vFS
— Matt Warren (@MattRichWarren) September 25, 2022
Bills outgained Dolphins 497-212!
3rd downs 67-%-38%
Josh Allen threw for 400 yds
Time of possession 40:40–19:20
Held Tyreek Hill to 2 rec for 33 yards
All this despite an incredible amount of injuries before and during game
A few critical plays they didn’t make were difference
— Sal Capaccio 🏈 (@SalSports) September 25, 2022
Make no mistake about it, the Bills are still the best team in the NFL when healthy and still almost beat a legit contender with the aforementioned injuries. If they can get some of their players rested and healthy against the Ravens on Sunday, they should return to their winning ways.