Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/26/12

Three Up

Atlanta Falcons: Now, if only they could stay off the police blotter. The Falcons are putting up dominating numbers through three games this season (including two wins on the road). Head Coach Mike Smith has abandoned his more conservative approach in prior years to take advantage of perhaps the best offensive trio of pass catchers in the league (Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez).

Quarterback Matt Ryan is finally realizing his vast potential, throwing eight touchdowns to one interception thus far. The fourth ranked defense also leads the league with seven interceptions. Normally considered a team only successful inside the Georgia Dome, Atlanta’s 27-3 win over San Diego was conducted in a dominant manner.

Arizona Cardinals: The unequivocal choice for biggest surprise thus far, the Cardinals defense is suffocating opponents to the tune of 13 points per game. After shocking the world and going into New England and dominating the Patriots for most of that game, the Cardinals kept the ball rolling, physically pounding an over matched Eagles team. Kevin Kolb continued his conservative yet effective play (four TDs and 0 INTs in 59 pass attempts), and Arizona was able to force Philly into three likely turnovers.

Arizona is one of those teams that plays great when ahead. They can lock down opposing receivers without having to blitz, and can control the time of possession on offense.

Chicago Bears: Perhaps the most maddeningly inconsistent team in football, perhaps taking on the stigma attached to their star quarterback. The Bears defense throttled Sam Bradford for six total sacks and two interceptions (including one pick-six). The division is there’s for the taking, as the Vikings aren’t for real and the Packers can’t run the ball. For the Bears to succeed, Jay Cutler needs to play within himself and not turn the ball over. Chicago’s defense certainly has the linebackers (Urlacher, Briggs, Peppers), and Tim Jennings is turning into a ball hawk with four interceptions. 

Three Down

New York Jets: If not for two Dan Carpenter missed field goals, the Jets would be 1-2. Either way, the team’s best player is out for the year with a torn ACL. Not only is Darrelle Revis the heart and soul of the team, his shutdown coverage of half of the field allows Rex Ryan to blitz at will. The Jets don’t have depth either, so don’t expect Kyle Wilson to come in and fill in a similar fashion as Revis. They also can’t do anything of significance on offense, and the Tim Tebow mess is only going to get worse.

New Orleans Saints: How bad do they miss Sean Payton right now? They sure wouldn’t be in a position to be potentially 0-4 (next week they travel to equally desperate Green Bay). After going up 24-6 against the win less Kansas City Chiefs at the Superdome, the Saints simply imploded. The defense allowed more than 500 yards and the Saints couldn’t run the ball. Drew Brees doesn’t look right and the team could soon be headed for an implosion.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Not only did they drop a game to a poor Oakland squad, the injuries to Troy Polamalu and James Harrison have to be disconcerting. The defense isn’t getting any younger, and without those two in the lineup, Darren McFadden was able to carve up the Steelers defense. They have failed to run the ball effectively in the absence of Rashard Mendenhall, however, Ben Roethlisberger is playing at a high level. The Ravens are the class of the AFC North right now, but there is still time for Pittsburgh to turn things around. 



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