* Kansas City apparently knew what they were doing when they let Sean Smith walk, as Marcus Peters has been one of the best CBs in the league so far this season. One thing I didn’t notice until checking some past depth charts: it was actually Peters, not Smith, who lined up on the left side when they were both there.
* Through 3 weeks, the stories of the league are the Eagles and Vikings. Appropriate, given the QB exchange made right before the start of the season. It’s clear at this point why Philly bypassed Chase Daniel and started Wentz immediately. Currently he’s the top graded QB at PFF, and as such, CERTISMANIA has officially begun. Over in Minnesota, we see why the team felt like they had to make the move for Bradford: they thought the rest of the roster was good enough to be a Super Bowl contender this year, and were afraid to waste the opportunity by playing Shaun Hill all year.
* Though the QBs have gotten the most attention, neither Philly nor Minnesota have been exceptionally prolific passing games; they are merely the 17th and 28th ranked passing offenses. What has been exceptional are their #1 and #3 ranked defenses. That’s not terribly surprising for Minnesota, who was #5 last year, but Phily was #28. What’s different? The immediate answer is Jim Schwartz, and dumping the 3-4 for the 4-3. In essence, it’s the reverse of what the Bills did in hiring Rex Ryan and dumping Schwartz’s defense, which was the worst recent case of team self-sabotage outside of, well, The Harbaugh Incident.
Schwartz’s defenses are built around the defensive line, and just as he maximized the talent of Kyle Williams in Buffalo, he’s now getting Fletcher Cox to be the destructive force he was schemed out of in the two-gapping 3-4 front of Billy Davis. Likewise, the way he turbocharged Jerry Hughes’ career lining him out wide next to Williams, Brandon Graham has taken a huge step forward lining up with his hand on the ground on the same side as Cox. The two of them have been a wrecking ball, around which the rest of the defense feasts on the chaos.
* From the sound of things, Gus Bradley is not in imminent danger of firing, but another blowout loss without a win or two to counterbalance them may change that fast. I’ve long suspected that Doug Marrone has been given some indication that he’d be the go-to replacement in an interim situation, and that he’s stayed in Jacksonville with the thought that it’s the most realistic path for him to get back into a head coaching position (he was brought in for interviews with 5 different teams this offseason for head coaching vacancies, but did not receive any offers).
* So far, my praise of the 49ers offensive line has held up. Through 3 games, they’re tied for 1st in fewest combined sacks + QB hits, as well as FO’s adjusted sack rate. Gabbert’s throwing-balls-into-ground woes can’t be blamed on lack of protection.
* Chip Kelly mentioned Kaepernick not being 100%, but now he’s being more specific. Kaepernick's body weight being below his 225 lb playing weight is what Kelly is stating needs to change before Kaepernick will get consideration for the top spot. Which again sets this team up for a QB change sometime by midseason, with Kaep now back in the weight room regaining his previous form.
* 0 sacks combined for Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald. Not something I thought we’d see after 3 weeks. But while Donald leads the league in hurries, Mack is far down the list. According to Del Rio, Mack is facing double teams every snap, and the rest of the defense isn’t doing enough to force opponents out of that.
This was a good week to gain some ground, as the Oddsmakers went 2-3. Bighoppa's 5-0 week has him sitting comfortably in 1st.
Carolina at Atlanta: Carolina was absolutely dismantled by the Minnesota Vikings defense last week. Atlanta has been flying high on offense, scoring 24, 35, and 45 points over the first 3 weeks. Still, even with the Falcons at home, Vegas gives 1-2 Carolina a 3 point edge in this contest. The good news for Newton, after taking a beating last week, is that Atlanta has generated no pass rush this year, tied for next-to-last with 3 sacks. I think Carolina is too good to go down 1-3, but their defense has to keep Atlanta from turning the game into a track meet.
Seattle at NY Jets: Another interesting Vegas line, tied for the narrowest of the week at 2.5 points. I can only surmise that Vegas is assuming that an epic meltdown of FitzTragic has to mean a strong bounce-back of FitzMagic. That, and they must not put much faith in recovery water. Wilson practiced Wednesday and seems hell-bent on suiting up Sunday. His effectiveness may be questionable, but Seattle’s #2 ranked defense should be enough to hold off anything but the absolute strongest FitzMagic.
Denver at Tampa Bay: I like the straightforwardness of Yahoo’s headline: Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo, second-round pick, keeps on missing. There’s little sugarcoating it: the misses basically cost the team last week’s game. Dirk Koetter sees a different problem, though: the Bucs are passing too much. Hard to argue that back-to-back weeks with 52 and 58 pass attempts is just a leeeetle bit much. As a fantasy owner of Doug Martin/Charles Sims handcuffs, I’d sure like to see some more balance. Obviously they need to score touchdowns and not settle for field goal attempts. I expect they’ll make for a closer game this week, but not enough to beat Denver.
Kansas City at Pittsburgh: Last week’s 3 point effort from Pittsburgh was pitiful, but they get Le’Veon Bell back this week, which changes the offensive dynamic for the team completely. Kansas City may or may not get their own stud back, Jamaal Charles, back this week. KC’s defense has been solid across the board: top half of the league against the pass and run, 1st in takeaways, and 1st in (fewest) penalties, so it will be a challenge for Pittsburgh to get rolling. Also concerning is the Steelers D’s complete lack of pass rush: they have managed only 1 sack this season, and it came on a play in which Andy Dalton held the ball for 7 seconds. Pittsburgh is the favorite on the road, but I’m taking a Kansas City upset win.
NY Giants at Minnesota: Not much more needs to be said about Minnesota. Their defense is a wrecking ball (even with Sharrif Floyd missing), so much so that having the 28th ranked passing and 32nd ranked rushing attack hasn’t stopped them. A +8 turnover differential (9 takeaways, only 1 giveaway) has a lot to do with it too. New York has the opposite turnover situation (1 takeaway, 7 giveaways). Despite that, this feels like a trap for Minnesota, who realistically are going to have to start moving the ball better than that to maintain their winning trend. I’m taking New York in a game where their turnover rate regresses back towards the mean, and doesn’t give Minnesota so many short fields to grind out into Blair Walsh field goals.
Yep, I took all 5 road teams.
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Week 3 Results
Rat Boy: 1-4
Season to Date
Rat Boy: 8-7