UPDATE – The Buffalo Bills fell to the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 on a last second field goal by Bengals kicker Mike Nugent as time expired in the fourth quarter.
Three weeks into the NFL season, there are only three undefeated teams left. And before the season started, no one would have guessed the last three teams to be standing.
The defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers were an obvious choice, and have continued the dominating play that carried them through the postseason and to the Super Bowl last year.
The Detroit Lions were a trendy pick after the preseason to make a playoff run, but with their youth, they have been a surprise with a strong aggressive defense and a high powered offense.
The biggest surprise of the undefeated trio is clearly the Buffalo Bills, who have taken down Kansas City, Oakland and New England with a surprising collection of young talent.
We break down the games below, and the chances for each of the teams to make it to 4-0.
Buffalo Bills (3-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-2), Sunday, 1:00pm ET
The Bills bring the top scoring offense in the league to Cincinnati to face Andy Dalton and the Bengals on Sunday. Buffalo has assembled this top ranked offense around a collection of young players, and a few veterans that were castoffs from other teams.
The offense starts with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who came to the NFL as a 7th round draft pick from Harvard and spent two years in St. Louis, and two years in Cincinnati before signing with the Bills before the 2009 season. This is his first year as a preseason starter, and he has made the most of it. The Bills are averaging over 37 points per game, and Fitzpatrick has a QB efficiency rating of 103.5, with 9 TDs and 841 passing yards.
Buffalo’s running attack is led by Fred Jackson who, with 303 yards rushing and 115 yards receiving, is averaging almost 140 yards per game from scrimmage. Jackson was undrafted by the NFL out of division III Coe College, and came to the Bills via the Sioux City Bandits and NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire.
The Bills have a pair of young wide receivers who each have 20 catches and over 230 yards – Stevie Johnson is in his fourth year, and David Nelson is in his second year. Throw in TE Scott Chandler, who has three years in the league and is on his fourth team, with 9 receptions and 4 touchdowns, and you have the most unique offensive cast in the league.
The Bills will be stacking up against a Bengals offense that largely retooled in the offseason after the departure of Carson Palmer and the trade of Chad Ochocinco to New England. Cincinnati’s offense is led by rookie QB Andy Dalton, who has been solid, throwing for 570 yards and 3 TDs.
The Bengals drafted A.J. Green to replace Ochocinco, and he has already become the team’s top receiver with 15 receptions for 194 yards and 2 TDs. Their rushing attack has been led by Cedric Benson who has 244 yards through 3 games.
The Bills will be favored against a young Bengals team that is still struggling to find its identity and consistency. Expect Buffalo to extend to 4-0.
Detroit Lions (3-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1), Sunday, 1:00pm ET
The Detroit Lions have been on a winning streak going back to last season, when they won their final four regular season games, then all four of their preseason games this year, plus their first three regular season games. An 11-game winning streak (yes, ok, we did count the preseason games) is nothing to scoff at in Detroit who started last season 2-10 and is only three years removed from their “perfect” 0-16 season.
The Lions offense is led by a healthy Matt Stafford, who has thrown for 977 yards and 9 TDs in three games, and receiver Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, who has 6 TDs and 225 yards, and is on pace to make a run at the single season TD record of 23 by Randy Moss in 2007.
The Lions defense is anchored by Ndamukong Suh who has been living up to his preseason goal to become the most feared defensive player in the league. The Lions have the best point differential in the league, outscoring their opponents by 55 points through 3 games, for an average margin of victory of 18.
The Lions visit the Dallas Cowboys, who have been riding Tony Romo’s gutsy performances the last two weeks after an opening week loss to the New York Jets. Romo has thrown for 944 yards and 4 TDs in three games, despite having broken ribs and a punctured lung in game two, which continued to cause him pain throughout their week three victory over Washington.
Dallas has squeaked by the last two weeks, with a come from behind overtime victory over the 49ers and a come from behind victory over the Redskins, in a game where the Cowboys scored 6 FGs and no TDs.
While we have a lot of respect for Dallas and for Romo in particular, it’s really difficult to see them pulling off another come from behind miracle, particularly the way the Lions have been playing. Dallas is in a position to give the Lions the toughest game of any of the 3-0 teams this week, but if Suh gets to Romo early the game could get ugly. This looks like another Lions win as well, as they extend to 4-0.
Denver Broncos (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (3-0), Sunday, 4:15pm ET
Finally, the defending champs host a Denver Broncos team that is struggling to find its identity.
Green Bay has been playing dominating football, and look even stronger than last year’s Super Bowl winner, as they are healthier than they were last year and they have made a few key additions.
Rookie Randall Cobb is averaging over 45 yards per kickoff return, aided by his 108 yard return for a TD in week one against the Saints.
Superbowl MVP Aaron Rodgers is leading the league with an astronomical QB efficiency rating of 120.9, throwing for 917 yards, and 8 TDs with only 1 INT.
Running backs Ryan Grant and James Starks have combined for over 300 yards on the ground.
The Broncos are 28th in the league in rushing, and quarterback Kyle Orton has been hearing chants for Tim Tebow at home games.
The Broncos have been banged up and ran no practices in pads this week to try to help the team get healthy in time for the Packers. Pro Bowlers Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil are both listed as questionable for this week, and wide receivers Eddie Royal and Demaryus Thomas are both out.
The Broncos look overmatched going in, and with injured stars on defense against a Packers offense that is scoring 33 points per game, this looks like another victory for the Packers. Expect them to extend to 4-0 as well.
We’ll see how our predictions fare, but right now – we expect to be previewing the same three undefeated teams going into week five.
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