Puka Nacua entered Week 3 with the second-most receiving yards in the NFL, which easily makes the fifth round pick out of BYU one of the league’s biggest surprises of the season before he even plays in his third career game. That will happen on Monday night against the surprising 0-2 Cincinnati Bengals and there’s a good chance that by the end of the week, Puka will still have more yards than superstar Ja’Marr Chase, who goes into this game with only 70 on 10 catches.
The Rams and Bengals have not played like most expected them to before the season started and whether that continues will have to be seen on Monday night. Until then, here are the NFL’s biggest surprises after (almost) three full weeks of play.
The Broncos gave up more points in Week 3 than 18 teams have allowed all season
The 0-3 Denver Broncos are not feeling any better off with Sean Payton than they did with Nathaniel Hackett. In fact, a year ago, Denver was 2-1 and not even in their Christmas Day blowout to the Rams did the Broncos get as embarrassed as they were in Week 3: Dolphins 70, Broncos 20
18 teams have allowed fewer than 70 points all season, while two have allowed exactly 70, while four teams haven’t played their third game yet. (It wouldn’t be surprising if all four teams stayed under 70 for the season.)
There is talk of defensive coordinator Vance Joseph getting one of the quickest exits of all-time for a coordinator. Notably his previous team, the Arizona Cardinals, has shown remarkable improvement after ranking 31st in points allowed in 2022.
This is a Vance Joseph stat https://t.co/dAuJcRyozl— Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom) September 25, 2023
The Broncos can’t trade Russell Wilson due to his contract, they can’t afford the cap hit. Perhaps their only way out would be waiving him and seeing if a team picks him up on waivers?
Everybody associated with Denver looks and feels awful right now, except for maybe rookie Marvin Mims, who had a kickoff return touchdown, but they still only lost their first two games by a combined three points. However, there are two gigantic tests coming up as the Broncos next play the Bears and Jets.
If Sean Payton loses consecutive games to Justin Fields and Zach Wilson after a historic 50-point loss to the Dolphins, how is this not the lowest point in franchise history?
The Cardinals are better than the Cowboys?
Not only did Arizona beat the Cowboys rather easily on Sunday, 28-16, they’re two fourth quarter collapses away from being 3-0. This is a team nobody expected before the season would win three games all year. They blew fourth quarter leads to the Commanders and Giants but finally held on and got a win, proving to everyone that they legit wanted to be 3-0 and aren’t looking ahead to Caleb Williams just yet.
In fact, Josh Dobbs has been a better quarterback than at least, I would say, a dozen quarterbacks in the NFL right now.
Josh Dobbs to Hollywood Brown Cardinals vs Cowboys pic.twitter.com/240MZAwvWQ— Trebornotslar (@Trebornotslar) September 24, 2023
Dobbs went 17-of-21 for 189 yards and rushed for 55 yards against a Cowboys defense that was unanimously called “the best unit in football” a day ago.
The Cardinals may not look nearly as potent against the San Francisco 49ers next week, and then they’ve got games against the Bengals, Rams, Seahawks, Ravens, and Browns. But head coach Jonathan Gannon isn’t laying down for a high draft pick and sort of like Nick Sirianni a couple years ago, who became the butt of jokes on Twitter for “weird press conference”, it seems like he’s having the last laugh.
The Colts lead the AFC South
Nothing in the AFC South has gone as expected, except for maybe the Titans looking old and boring. The Colts beat the Ravens in overtime, improving to 2-1 and leading the division by a game. The team played well with Anthony Richardson, but maybe even better for Gardner Minshew, who followed up 19-of-25 for 171 yards and a touchdown last week with 27-of-44 for 227 yards and a touchdown against Baltimore.
Jonathan Taylor may have also made the worst business decision of the year, as Zack Moss rushed for 122 yards on 30 carries, giving him 230 yards in two games. How could the Colts possibly cave into Taylor’s contract demands while they’re playing this well and have found his potential replacement?
Call me crazy but I don’t think the Miami Dolphins need Jonathan Taylor— ThatsGoodSports (@BrandonPerna) September 24, 2023
First place for Indy means two-game losing streak for Jacksonville, as the Jaguars lost 37-17 to the Texans in Week 3. They have played like one of the worst teams in football since beating the Colts in Week 1 and strange as it is to say, Trevor Lawrence has not been as good as C.J. Stroud, Minshew, or even Richardson.
Stroud, the second overall pick of the draft, threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars, putting him over 600 yards in the last two weeks. Rookie Tank Dell had 145 receiving yards, giving him 251 on the year, which is another surprise given that he fell to the third round.
The only thing that might be expected in the division would be Ryan Tannehill getting benched for one of Tennessee’s two young backups, Malik Willis or Will Levis. Tannehill had 13 completions for 104 yards in the Titans’ 27-3 loss to the Browns, who are now 2-1. Tannehill has just one touchdown through three games, so how many more losses before the Titans and Jets strike a deal here?
Tua Tagovailoa has been the NFL’s best QB
Patrick Mahomes is the NFL’s best quarterback, that’s an open and shut case, so let’s clear that up first. But Tua’s had the best season so far and I don’t see anything slowing the Dolphins down as long as he’s healthy.
After going 23-of-26 for 309 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday, Tua has over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in three games. He has the NFL’s best receiver and another top-10 receiver and the NFL’s most innovative offensive coach and an improved offensive line. Running back De’Von Achane had 203 rushing yards, Raheem Mostert had 82 yards, and they combined for EIGHT total touchdowns against the Broncos.
The two running backs did.
Usually when times get as good as they’ve been for Miami, it means that a hard fall is somewhere on the horizon. I don’t know, maybe that will come true. For now, the NFL’s MVP has to reside on the NFL’s best offense and pretty clearly that’s the Miami Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa.
It’s only been three games. It’s been a hell of a three games.
The Vikings are 0-3
It had to be either Brandon Staley or Kevin O’Connell on Sunday and in the end it turned out to be O’Connell. He’s the one who stays winless through three weeks, making everyone said that the Vikings were “one-score game flukes” last season look absolutely right. Minnesota has lost by three points, six points, and four points in their three losses.
But two of their next three opponents are also 0-3: The Panthers in Week 4 and the Bears in Week 6.
The Vikings still look like a much better team than Chicago, probably the early favorites right now to “earn” the number one pick in the 2024 draft and to select Caleb Williams. The Bears have lost to the Packers, Bucs, and Chiefs and they haven’t belonged on the field with any of those teams, whether it be Kansas City or Tampa Bay. The Packers blew out the Bears and have not played that well in the two games since, though they squeezed out an 18-17 win over the Saints on Sunday.
I can’t say that the Chicago Bears being the worst team is a surprise though. Did we really all forget...last season?
Justin Fields playing without overthinking looks a lot like Justin Fields playing while overthinking.— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) September 24, 2023
The Panthers being 0-3 is more surprising, but hindsight says that they stripped their roster of resources to get Bryce Young and don’t have enough good players on the team to mask the struggles of being a rookie quarterback. Carolina lost to the Seahawks on Sunday without Young, as Andy Dalton started his first game of 2023 and did fine but the Panthers defense is just not very good.
The Rams do not play the Vikings, Bears, or Panthers this season.
The worst teams left on the schedule, by win-loss record only, would be the 0-2 Bengals, 1-2 Cardinals, and 1-2 Giants. Every other team is 3-0 or 2-1.