NFL Team Grades for Week 3

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NFL Team Grades for Week 3

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    It’s been a wonky NFL season thus far in 2018, and Week 3 was no different.

    Carson Wentz made his return. Marcus Mariota came off the bench to replace Blaine Gabbert. Adrian Peterson rumbled over the Green Bay Packers like it was 10 years ago. The Detroit Lions steamrolled the New England Patriots. And the Buffalo Bills whipped the Minnesota Vikings—as precisely no one predicted.

    Oh, and the Cleveland Browns got their first win since the Obama administration.

    There was plenty of good, bad and ugly in Week 3, plus a little bit of weird. How did your favorite team grade out? Let’s dig in.

         

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Chicago Bears

    Result: Lost 16-14

    The Arizona Cardinals aren’t the only winless team remaining, but there’s a possibility they may be the worst. They managed to jump out to a 14-point first-quarter lead and still botched the home game against the Chicago Bears.

    On a positive note, the Arizona defense showed some signs of life where it hadn’t through the first two weeks. The blitz was effective in disrupting the Chicago passing game, and it forced a pair of turnovers. On the other side, the offensive game plan continues to baffle.

    David Johnson got just 12 carries—with Arizona having the lead for nearly the entire game. He also got just four receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown. That’s not a bad stat line, but it’s underwhelming for one of the top pass-catching backs in the NFL.

    Johnson wasn’t even on the field when the Cardinals faced a 3rd-and-2 in Bears territory just inside the final two-minute warning. Rookie Josh Rosen threw an interception on the next play.

    Rosen got into the game because head coach Steve Wilks wanted to give the team a spark, according to Kevin Zimmerman of ArizonaSports.com. Perhaps the thought of turning over things to Rosen full time will provide fans with some hope. Sunday’s loss, however, was pure disappointment.

    Week 3 Grade: D-

    Season Grade: F

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: New Orleans Saints

    Result: Lost 43-37 (OT)

    If you’re a fan of NFL shootouts, you probably loved the game between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. If you’re a fan of the Falcons, though, you probably came away disappointed.

    Atlanta did some good things, to be sure. Matt Ryan (374 yards, five touchdowns) threw the ball up and down the field, and rookie wideout Calvin Ridley (146 yards, three touchdowns) had his coming-out party. However, Atlanta’s defense—which dominated in Week 1 and at least made some key plays in Week 2—was nowhere to be found.

    New Orleans racked up 534 yards, 32 first downs and didn’t commit a turnover. The Saints also drove down the field in overtime and won on a Drew Brees touchdown run. He had two touchdown runs in the game, the 19th and 20th of his career.

    The Falcons also got next to nothing out of their running game. Yes, Devonta Freeman was out, but just 2.2 yards per carry as a team is unacceptable.

    Atlanta’s passing attack looked as dangerous as any in the league, but the Falcons won’t be title contenders if the rest of the team is as much of a liability as it was Sunday.

    Week 3 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: C

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Denver Broncos

    Result: Won 27-14

    The Baltimore Ravens bounced back from a tough Week 2 loss to beat the Denver Broncos in convincing fashion. Early in the game, though, it didn’t look like this would be the case.

    The Broncos led 14-7 in the first quarter. But Baltimore went on to score the final 20 points, while the Denver offense became listless. The Broncos did get into scoring position once early in the fourth quarter, but Case Keenum threw a red-zone interception.

    The same Ravens defense that was repeatedly gashed by long pass plays in Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals allowed an average of just 5.6 yards per pass play against Denver. It sacked Keenum three times and limited Denver to just 293 yards of total offense.

    Joe Flacco (25-of-40 for 277 yards and a touchdown) was efficient throwing the ball, and we again saw how much improved his receiving corps is compared to last season. The ground game, though, continues to be an issue. Baltimore averaged just 2.8 yards per run.

    Week 3 Grade: B

    Season Grade: B

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Minnesota Vikings

    Result: Won 27-6

    Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott’s decision to take over defensive play-calling (according to him, it’s still a collaborative effort) is looking like the right move. The Minnesota Vikings didn’t have an answer for his defense for nearly four full quarters and only found points in garbage time.

    While the dramatic turnaround of Buffalo’s defense should be the big takeaway, all the buzz has been about rookie quarterback Josh Allen. The Wyoming product finished 15-of-22 for 196 yards and a touchdown while rushing for two more.

    Allen still has a lot to learn about being an NFL signal-caller—avoiding unnecessary hits is lesson No. 1—but it’s hard to deny his athleticism and arm strength. Both were on full display against the Vikings, and it was easy to see the raw potential that made the Bills fall in love with him.

    There is still work to do with Allen and the Buffalo offense as a whole—it averaged just 3.4 yards per rush and was a mere 4-of-13 on third down—but this was a huge step in the right direction for a team that looked like it was going nowhere fast.

    Week 3 Grade: A+

    Season Grade: C-

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    Week 3 Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

    Result: Won 31-21

    In case you had any doubts, Christian McCaffrey proved he is an NFL every-down back Sunday. He rushed for 184 yards and caught two passes for 10 yards to help power the Carolina Panthers to a win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

    McCaffrey didn’t do it alone, of course. Cam Newton did his own damage on the ground (36 yards, two touchdowns) and completed some timely passes to keep the Cincinnati defense off balance. The Panthers’ own defense played a bend-but-don’t-break style that produced enough big plays (four interceptions) to come out on top.

    It wasn’t a perfect day, though. Newton watched his wide receivers drop more passes, and this is a trend that needs to stop. The defense was also repeatedly gashed by big plays on the ground (Cincinnati averaged 5.1 yards per rush) and through the air (7.7 yards). If not for those interceptions—one of which was on a game-ending Hail Mary—the final outcome might have been different.

    Carolina should look to tighten up its defense during the Week 4 bye.

    Week 3 Grade: B

    Season Grade: B-

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    Week 3 Opponent: Arizona Cardinals

    Result: Won 16-14

    The Bears are now in sole possession of first place in the NFC North. That’s quite an accomplishment, but the way Chicago got there Sunday was about as ugly as it could be.

    It quickly found itself in a 14-0 hole against the winless Cardinals. The defense stiffened from there and gave the offense enough chances to respond, and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears offense did their best to stay in it.

    Trubisky’s final stat line (24-of-35 for 220 yards and an interception) doesn’t look terrible, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. He struggled with his vertical passing, he made several poor decisions, and he turned over the ball twice.

    Chicago was able to lean on its defense and running game to get a win over Arizona, but it shouldn’t have had to. The Bears invested in pass-catchers and an offensive head coach in Matt Nagy to aid in Trubisky’s development. He still looks like the same unsteady quarterback he was as a rookie.

    Trubisky is going to have to be better next week with the high-octane Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to town.

    Week 3 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: C

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Carolina Panthers

    Result: Lost 31-21

    The Bengals had a lot working against them Sunday. They were on the road against a good Panthers team and without starting running back Joe Mixon (knee). They also lost top wide receiver A.J. Green to a groin injury during the game.

    According to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Green doesn’t believe the injury is serious.

    Cincinnati fought hard but made some tactical errors and mistakes. The offense didn’t lean enough on the ground game—Giovani Bernard only had 12 carries but gained 61 yards—and Andy Dalton tossed four interceptions.

    To be fair to Dalton, one pick came on a pass batted in the air and another on a last-second Hail Mary.

    The Bengals were clearly not the better team Sunday, but fans shouldn’t be too discouraged by the loss. It’s imperative, though, that Cincinnati cleans up its mistakes and its game plan before traveling to take on the Falcons next week.

    Week 3 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: B-

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: New York Jets

    Result: Won 21-17

    The debut of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield only came because starter Tyrod Taylor left the game with a concussion. Mayfield engineered a strong comeback, though, and we finally got a real glimpse of what the 2018 Browns can be.

    The offense played fast with Mayfield (17-of-23 for 201 yards) under center, there was an energy on both sides of the ball, and Cleveland did something it failed to do in each of the first two weeks. It finished.

    If we were only grading the Mayfield-led Browns, they would get an “A+.” They were that close to perfect. After the rookie came into the game, Cleveland dominated. They went on a 21-3 run and picked off Sam Darnold on each of the New York Jets’ final two drives.

    We have to grade four quarters, though, and Cleveland did not play well before Mayfield entered. Taylor had a disastrous game, special teams allowed a blocked punt and the defense surrendered two Isaiah Crowell rushing touchdowns.

    It’s only one game, of course, but head coach Hue Jackson’s decision to sit Mayfield heading into this is looking like a clear “F.”

    Week 3 Grade: B+

    Season Grade: C+

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    Week 3 Opponent: Seattle Seahawks

    Result: Lost 24-13

    Last week, we saw what the Dallas Cowboys’ identity was going to be in 2018. This team was going to dominate on the ground offensively and up front defensively. It would get just enough big plays out of Dak Prescott and just enough stops from the secondary to win, as it did in Week 2.

    Unfortunately, Dallas followed this game plan precisely against the Seattle Seahawks and came up short.

    It frequently pressured Russell Wilson. It limited the Seahawks to 2.9 yards per rush. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 127 yards, and the Cowboys averaged 8.7 yards per running play.

    The problem was the Cowboys couldn’t stop Wilson from buying time and making big plays downfield. The other problem was that Prescott couldn’t do the same.

    In fact, Prescott was a borderline disaster, going just 19-of-34 for 168 yards and two interceptions at CenturyLink Field. He regularly failed to sense pressure in the pocket—he was sacked five times—and he didn’t complete a pass longer than 20 yards.

    If Prescott and the passing game don’t improve sooner rather than later, his status as Dallas’ starter beyond 2018 could be in doubt.

    Week 3 Grade: D+

    Season Grade: C-

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    Week 3 Opponent: Baltimore Ravens

    Result: Lost 27-14

    The Broncos might have a familiar problem at quarterback. Case Keenum was supposed to be the answer—at least for the near future—but he hasn’t been as efficient or as careful with the football as the Broncos would like.

    Keenum had a red-zone interception against Baltimore on Sunday and now has five picks on the season. That’s a big problem for a team with enough of a running game and enough defensive talent to win with a game manager at quarterback—so long as he is careful with the ball.

    Against the Ravens, though, managing the game wasn’t enough. Running back Phillip Lindsay was ejected for throwing a punch in the second quarter, and the Broncos needed Keenum to take over with the passing game. Though he completed 22 of his 34 attempts, Keenum failed to challenge Baltimore deep. This made defending the Denver offense less of a challenge.

    The defense deserves some blame too, though, as it allowed Baltimore to convert eight of 16 third-down attempts and failed to preserve an early lead.

    Week 3 Grade: D

    Season Grade: C

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    Week 3 Opponent: New England Patriots

    Result: Won 26-10

    Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions got off to a slow start in 2018, but they came out firing for their head coach against his former team. What happened next was a complete thrashing of the Patriots by the previously winless Lions.

    Patricia’s defensive game plan was masterful. Aside from an interception, the offense was nearly flawless. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looked even more pedestrian than he did last week against the Jaguars. Kerryon Johnson became the first Lions player to rush for at least 100 yards since 2013.

    From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, the Lions looked like the more motivated team.

    “No one knows us better than Matt does,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Patricia, per Michael David Smith of Yahoo Sports.

    Whether or not Detroit dominated because Patricia knew how to expose his former team, there wasn’t much for Lions fans to dislike.

    Week 3 Grade: A+

    Season Grade: C+

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    Week 3 Opponent: Washington Redskins

    Result: Lost 31-17

    Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been 100 percent healthy since the first half of Week 1. However, his health wasn’t why the Packers couldn’t knock off the Washington Redskins.

    Rodgers (27-of-44 for 265 yards and two touchdowns) played well considering his knee injury.

    The problem for Green Bay was that it couldn’t stop Washington’s offense. Alex Smith regularly connected on long pass plays (he had 220 yards on just 12 completions), and Adrian Peterson (120 yards, two touchdowns) rumbled over the Packers defense like he was back in a Vikings uniform.

    Because of an early 14-0 hole, the Packers didn’t run often—they had just 17 attempts despite averaging 5.9 yards per carry. This left Rodgers open to hits and sacks (he took four of them). When Clay Matthews tried sacking Smith, though, he was flagged for unnecessary roughness…for the third week in a row.

    “I think they’re getting soft,” Matthews said of the NFL, per Lindsay Jones of The Athletic.

    Week 3 Grade: D+

    Season Grade: C-

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    Week 3 Opponent: New York Giants

    Result: Lost 27-22

    The Houston Texans were widely expected to be a relevant team in 2018 with J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Deshaun Watson back in the lineup. While Watson has started showing glimpses of the phenom he was as a rookie, the Houston defense has been a disappointment.

    That defense allowed Eli Manning to look about seven years younger and struggled to defend the second level.

    While Watson (385 passing yards, 36 rushing yards) did his best to bring back the Texans from an early deficit, the offensive line didn’t do enough to protect him. He was frequently hurried and hit. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Watson suffered bruised ribs as a result.

    Watson didn’t get much help on the ground either. Alfred Blue and Lamar Miller combined for just 23 yards on 14 carries.

    This was a winnable game at home and against an average opponent. Unfortunately, Houston couldn’t take advantage and finds itself in trouble. At 0-3, Houston is firmly in the AFC South basement.

    Week 3 Grade: D

    Season Grade: D+

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    Week 3 Opponent: Philadelphia Eagles

    Result: Lost 20-16

    The Indianapolis Colts got back Andrew Luck in Week 1 after missing him for all of last year. The Philadelphia Eagles got back Carson Wentz on Sunday after losing him just before the end of the 2017 regular season. Wentz got the better end of the duel, and the Eagles edged out the Colts as a result.

    Give Indianapolis credit, though. It hung tough with the defending Super Bowl champs. The new-look defense bent often but kept the Colts in the game. In fact, Indy held a three-point lead in the third quarter and then again in the fourth.

    There were two big issues. One was an Indianapolis run defense that was battered to the tune of 152 yards and 4.3 yards per carry—even though Eagles backs Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles were injured and didn’t dress. The second problem was that Luck and the passing offense couldn’t find cracks in Philadelphia’s defense with any consistency.

    Luck attempted 40 passes but finished with a mere 164 yards and a touchdown.

    Indianapolis isn’t a playoff team, but it showed against Philadelphia that it might not be that far away.

    Week 3 Grade: C

    Season Grade: C

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    Week 3 Opponent: Tennessee Titans

    Result: Lost 9-6

    Talk about a letdown. The Jacksonville Jaguars were riding high after smashing the Patriots in Week 2. However, they crashed hard against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, losing a snoozer of a game that also let down fans of offensive football.

    Jacksonville was without starting running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring), but it should have had little trouble against a Titans team with a questionable quarterback situation. Blaine Gabbert started for Tennessee but exited with a concussion. This left Marcus Mariota and his numb throwing hand to lead the offense.

    That’s right—Jacksonville thumped Tom Brady but couldn’t get the better of Gabbert and half of Mariota.

    Blake Bortles (155 yards) failed to push the ball downfield, and a number of penalties (eight for 75 yards) regularly put the Jaguars behind the starting block. Divisional games can be tough, but this was a complete failure for a team with championship aspirations.

    Week 3 Grade: F

    Season Grade: C+

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    Week 3 Opponent: San Francisco 49ers

    Result: Won 38-27

    Patrick Mahomes is the truth. I’ll be the first to admit I thought his development as an NFL signal-caller would take some time and that the Kansas City Chiefs would take a step back with him at the helm instead of Alex Smith.

    I was way wrong.

    Mahomes is making it look easy to play quarterback, and he had another stellar game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. He finished with 314 yards and three touchdowns. He now has 13 touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

    Mahomes’ 13 touchdowns are the most by a quarterback in the first three games of a season in league history.

    It’s good that Kansas City’s offense is ridiculous, though, because the defense sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. The Chiefs surrendered 406 yards of total offense to the 49ers, and they have just six sacks and one interception on the season.

    Week 3 Grade: A-

    Season Grade: B+

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    Week 3 Opponent: Los Angeles Rams

    Result: Lost 35-23

    In a battle for Los Angeles supremacy, the Chargers and Rams faced off Sunday afternoon. For a while, the bout was pretty even.

    Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense traded punches with the Rams throughout the first half, heading into the break with an eight-point deficit only because the Rams recovered a blocked punt in the end zone. That special teams gaffe proved to be huge, as the Chargers outscored them 17-14 the rest of the way.

    Rivers (226 yards, two touchdowns) was good. So were the Chargers running backs—Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler combined for 127 rushing yards and a touchdown. Ultimately, though, the Rams just had too many weapons on offense and defense for the Chargers to overcome.

    The defense was a major liability for the second time this season, with the first being against Kansas City. On Sunday, the Chargers surrendered 521 yards of total offense while getting just a single sack on Jared Goff. Yes, the Chiefs and Rams have two potent offenses, but the defense has to be better if the Chargers are going to be taken seriously as possible playoff contenders.

    Week 3 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: C

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Los Angeles Chargers

    Result: Won 35-23

    The Rams roster oozes talent on both sides of the ball, and Los Angeles hadn’t found itself in a second-half dogfight until this week. The Rams’ big-money defense was tested by the Chargers, who have a bevy of talented players of their own.

    Even though the Rams had a second-half lead, they had to keep scoring. Goff and Co. rose to the occasion, and Goff ended up with one of his best games as a pro. He finished 29-of-36 for 354 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Todd Gurley did his part with 105 yards of hard running and a touchdown of his own.

    It was far from a perfect day, though. The Rams defense showed it still is susceptible to the run—it allowed an average of 7.1 yards per carry—and lost cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters to injury.

    According to Pro Football Talk, Talib suffered an ankle sprain, while Peters is dealing with a calf strain.

    With an angry Vikings team coming to town Thursday, the Rams aren’t going to have a lot of time to retool their defense.

    Week 3 Grade: B-

    Season Grade: B+

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Oakland Raiders

    Result: Won 28-20

    Don’t look now, but the Miami Dolphins are 3-0 and sitting in sole possession of first place in the AFC East. They got there by completing a comeback from 10 points down in the second half against the Oakland Raiders.

    Now, the Raiders aren’t very good, and it’s fair to wonder if any of the teams Miami has beaten are particularly solid. However, you can only play the teams in front of you, and Sunday’s comeback was a testament to both Miami’s drive and its creativity.

    Ryan Tannehill (289 yards, three touchdowns) torched the Raiders defense repeatedly during the comeback, and he particularly shone on deep passes. He also got an assist from wideout Albert Wilson’s 52-yard touchdown pass.

    The defense made enough stops late to get the win, but it does deserve some criticism for allowing the Dolphins to get in a hole in the first place. Is Miami ready for a showdown with the Patriots? We’ll find out next Sunday.

    Week 3 Grade: B-

    Season Grade: B

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Buffalo Bills

    Result: Lost 27-6

    There were plenty of letdowns in Week 3, but none stood out more than Minnesota’s. After an emotional tie against the rival Packers last week, the Vikings may have overlooked the Bills. That proved to be a big mistake.

    Not having Dalvin Cook hurt, but that’s not an excuse for melting down against Buffalo’s pass rush. Kirk Cousins was sacked four times, fumbled three times (lost two) and tossed an interception. You’re not going to win many games when your quarterback is constantly under pressure and frequently coughs up the ball.

    You’re also not going to win often when your defense cannot stop a quarterback on the ground. The Vikings defense made rookie Josh Allen (39 yards, two touchdowns) look like Cam Newton, and his scrambling opened up some easy throws and downfield plays.

    Had the Bills offense not gone on cruise control in the second half, this game could have been uglier than it already was for the Vikings.

    Week 3 Grade: F

    Season Grade: C-

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    Week 3 Opponent: Detroit Lions

    Result: Lost 26-10

    The death knell has been rung prematurely for the Patriots before, so we can’t say a second consecutive loss is a season-ender. Still, the loss to the Lions was a bad one, and it does hint at some big issues for the defending AFC champions.

    The problem isn’t just that Brady (14-of-26 for 133 yards) was bad, though he was. It’s that pass-catchers not named Rob Gronkowski couldn’t get open downfield. It’s that the defense couldn’t consistently stop the run or the pass. It’s that even when the Patriots pulled back within three points, they let the Lions stomp on their necks and put the contest out of reach.

    It’s that New England looked outclassed in virtually every facet, even more so than in last week’s loss to the Jaguars. It’s that this is the first time the Patriots have lost by double digits in back-to-back games since 2002.

    If this is the same team the Patriots field the rest of the season, they aren’t going to reach the playoffs.

    Week 3 Grade: F

    Season Grade: D+

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    Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Atlanta Falcons

    Result: Won 43-37 (OT)

    The Saints offense bounced back in a big way after struggling against the Browns in Week 2. New Orleans moved the ball almost at will, and quarterback Drew Brees (396 yards, five total touchdowns) was virtually unstoppable.

    Brees also surpassed Brett Favre for the most career completions.

    Alvin Kamara (124 yards) and Michael Thomas (129 yards) were spectacular in the receiving game, and the Saints got enough from the rushing attack—thanks in large part to a long run by backup quarterback Taysom Hill—to keep the Atlanta defense on its heels.

    Unfortunately, things weren’t quite so breezy on the defensive side of the ball. The Saints were once again forced to engage in a shootout, and that could be the way they need to win most games this season.

    New Orleans is 2-1, but it’s fair to wonder where last year’s upstart defense has gone and if it can come back in time to make the Saints legitimate NFC contenders.

    Week 3 Grade: C+

    Season Grade: C+

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    Week 3 Opponent: Houston Texans

    Result: Won 27-22

    OK, so maybe Eli Manning isn’t done after all. While the veteran wasn’t good in his first two games, he wasn’t getting prime protection either. His line did better against Houston, and the end result was a 25-of-29, 297-yard, two-touchdown day.

    “Eli played a good game,” head coach Pat Shurmur said, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. “I should say a damn good game. Pretty fair game for the offense, if I do say so myself.”

    Manning was helped by some strong running by Saquon Barkley and a 100-yard day from Odell Beckham Jr.

    New York’s defense wasn’t quite as crisp. Though it did pressure Deshaun Watson early and often, it also allowed 16 second-half points and nearly allowed Houston to mount a comeback. The Giants are going to have to figure out how to do a better job in pass coverage sooner rather than later. Brees and the Saints are coming to town next week.

    Week 3 Grade: B-

    Season Grade: C

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    Week 3 Opponent: Cleveland Browns

    Result: Lost 21-17

    It’s difficult to bash the Jets for losing on the road, on a short week, with a rookie quarterback against an opportunistic defense. Still, they had a 14-0 lead and blew it to a rookie quarterback who has gotten nearly zero first-team reps as a pro.

    Plenty of people deserve blame for blowing the two-touchdown lead, including head coach Todd Bowles. He could not keep his team disciplined—it had two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties—and couldn’t get his defense to adjust after Baker Mayfield took over at quarterback.

    Darnold also deserves some blame for making poor decisions and forcing throws down the stretch. He’s obviously still learning, but even a rookie should know that being careless with the ball will cost his team games.

    While the narrative has rightfully been around the Browns getting their first win since 2016, the fact that the Jets melted down cannot be ignored.

    Week 3 Grade: D-

    Season Grade: C-

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    Week 3 Opponent: Miami Dolphins

    Result: Lost 28-20

    It’s unclear whether Jon Gruden is struggling to make late-game adjustments or if his new-look, older roster is running out of gas, but one thing is certain through three weeks. The Raiders cannot figure out how to finish games. They blew another second-half lead in Miami.

    A lot went right for Oakland early. Derek Carr was uncorking deep passes, 33-year-old Jordy Nelson (173 yards, one touchdown) looked like a more youthful version of himself and the backfield was productive. Everything fell apart, though, and a defense that doesn’t make timely plays (just one sack, no turnovers Sunday) played a big part.

    Oakland has just three sacks and one interception on the year.

    At this stage, the Raiders look like they might be the NFL’s worst team, but to be fair, they’ve faced good competition. The Broncos, Dolphins and Rams are a combined 8-1 right now. They’ll face the 1-1-1 Browns at home next weekend, and we’ll get a better idea of just where this team stands.

    Week 3 Grade: D

    Season Grade: D+

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    Week 3 Opponent: Indianapolis Colts

    Result: Won 20-16

    You can’t tell from the final score, but the Eagles played a sensational game against the Colts—at least relative to the kind of game Philadelphia wants to play. It was a physical, low-scoring affair in which the Eagles defense finally stiffened late with the game on the line.

    Carson Wentz wasn’t perfect in his return to action, but he was more than serviceable (and an improvement over Nick Foles). He finished 25-of-37 for 255 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

    More impressive was Philadelphia’s rushing attack. Despite not having Jay Ajayi or Darren Sproles, the Eagles managed to rack up 152 yards on the ground. Only 10 of those yards came from Wentz himself. The running game played a big role in Philadelphia’s 11-minute game-winning drive.

    This wasn’t a pretty victory, but it’s the kind you want to see in Wentz’s return if you’re an Eagles fan. Philadelphia showed that it is deep at running back, still has a clutch defense—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have cast some doubt—and, most importantly, that Wentz is healthy and at least close to 100 percent.

    Week 3 Grade: B+

    Season Grade: B-

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    Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

    Week 3 Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Result: Won 30-27

    The Pittsburgh Steelers need to be concerned. There are problems with this team that even the return of Le’Veon Bell won’t fix. A win is a win, and the Steelers have to be happy they got one over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road, but it was an ugly win that showed just how flawed the team is.

    The defense played well in the first half, and it did grab three interceptions. It also fell apart in the second half and allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 411 yards and three scores.

    The defense struggling in the second half has been a theme this year. It allowed 14 points to the Browns, 21 to the Chiefs and 17 to the Bucs. 

    Pass protection is also an issue, as Roethlisberger was sacked three times Monday night and has been sacked eight times through three games. He was sacked just 21 times all last season. The Steelers aren’t the same team as last year and look nothing like legitimate playoff contenders.

    Still, a win is a good start, and Pittsburgh will have a chance to build off it against the rival Ravens next week.

    Week 3 Grade: C

    Season Grade: C

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    David Eulitt/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs

    Result: Lost 38-27

    The 49ers didn’t have quite enough firepower to trade blows with the high-flying Chiefs on Sunday. They did run the ball well—Matt Breida and Alfred Morris combined for 157 yards—and they did get some chunk plays out of the passing game. It just wasn’t enough to match Mahomes, who has been nearly flawless thus far.

    What’s even more unfortunate is the reality that San Francisco may have lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the year. The former Patriot was carted off the field after suffering what appeared to be a non-contact injury.

    According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, an MRI on Monday showed that Garoppolo suffered a torn ACL.

    San Francisco is still a rebuilding team, and it faced the league’s most dangerous offense in a hostile environment. No loss is good, but this one wasn’t an abject failure. With Garoppolo lost, though, this will be unquestionably viewed as the worst game of the season.

    Week 3 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: C

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    Week 3 Opponent: Dallas Cowboys

    Result: Won 24-13

    It wasn’t pretty, but the Seahawks finally put together a total team effort.

    Russell Wilson threw for 192 yards and two touchdowns. The defense logged five sacks and three takeaways. Running back Chris Carson topped the 100-yard mark, and the Seahawks cruised in their home opener.

    Now, there are still obvious issues. The offensive line is a liability, and the running game is a work in progress. Yes, Carson got 100 yards, but he also averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. Rookie first-rounder Rashaad Penny (three carries) continues to be a small part of the offense.

    Seattle’s run defense, which has now given up an average of 5.1 yards per carry, was again an issue.

    This was a solid win for a Seahawks team in desperate need of one. However, this wasn’t the kind of victory that should make anyone suddenly believe Seattle is going to be a contender.

    Week 3 Grade: B-

    Season Grade: C

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    Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Result: Lost 30-27

    It’s hard to believe the Buccaneers will jump at the chance to return Jameis Winston to the starting lineup. Yes, Fitzpatrick threw three picks and the Buccaneers lost, but he also became the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in three consecutive games.

    The offense has a rhythm and an energy with Fitzpatrick under center that we’ve never seen with Winston there. 

    The Tampa Bay defense did an admirable job in the second half, which allowed the Buccaneers to get back into the game, but the reality is that the secondary is still a liability. The running game (where is Ronald Jones?) is still a work in progress too, so if the explosive pass plays aren’t going to be there, Tampa is going to struggle to pick up wins.

    Jameis Winston will be back at work in Week 4, but playing him against the Bears and disrupting the offensive chemistry on a short week would be foolish. Yes, this loss is going to sting, but there are areas of the roster that need tinkering that don’t include the quarterback position.

    Week 3 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: B-

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    Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

    Result: Won 9-6

    Mariota is supposed to be Tennessee’s franchise quarterback, but he sat behind Gabbert for the second straight week because of an elbow injury that has left him without 100 percent feeling in his throwing hand. Mariota came off the bench, though, and helped the Titans win a game that had more to do with their running game and swarming defense.

    Tennessee totaled 150 yards on the ground and just 83 net yards passing. Yet, the Titans allowed just 232 yards of offense. The defense brought Blake Bortles back to earth, while the offense did enough to give kicker Ryan Succop more opportunities than his Jacksonville counterpart.

    Succop was 3-of-4 on field-goal attempts.

    Things haven’t been pretty through the first three weeks of the season, but the Titans found a way to win two consecutive games, division contests at that. Perhaps it’s a testament to the coaching of Mike Vrabel, but Tennessee has gutted its way to a 2-1 record and first place in the AFC South.

    Week 3 Grade: C+

    Season Grade: C+

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Week 3 Opponent: Green Bay Packers

    Result: Won 31-17

    Had Rodgers been at 100 percent, the Redskins might have lost. He wasn’t, though, and Washington didn’t. The defensive front was able to consistently pressure him. While this didn’t lead to game-changing mistakes, it prevented him from carrying his team.

    Washington didn’t need just one player. Alex Smith (220 yards passing, 20 yards rushing) and Adrian Peterson (120 yards, two touchdowns) led a precise, efficient offense that finished drives with points five times.

    We saw the return of aggressive Smith too. He completed passes of 46 and 50 yards.

    “We had them on their heels in the first half,” Smith said, per John Keim of ESPN.com. “They didn’t have a very good beat on what we were doing, run and pass. It was fun when you’re playing that like that and rolling offensively.”

    The offense got Washington off to a strong start. The defense finished. Washington is now 2-1 and tied for first place in the NFC East.

    Week 3 Grade: A

    Season Grade: B

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