The Big LeadThe Big Lead

Ranking the NFL's Unbeaten Teams Through Week 3

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 22: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after throwing a touchdown  pass against the Miami Dolphins in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

After tonight's Chicago-Washington game, the NFL will have completed the first three weeks of football. In these three weeks, only eight teams have yet to lose a game. These teams will change, some dramatically, over their remaining 13 games, but historically speaking, teams with quick starts to the season are the ones we'll be talking about in January. Let's take a look at those teams and see who could continue to avoid a mark in the loss column and who could start moving the other direction in short order.

8. Buffalo Bills

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 22: Cody Ford #70 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates after a touchdown during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at New Era Field on September 22, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The Bills have started their season without a loss and face a litmus test when the Patriots come to Orchard Park in Week 4. Their hot start has been driven by a very Buffalo team-- an elite and stingy defense complemented by a run-first, ball-control offense. So far, the formula has worked to perfection; the Bills have averaged 150 rushing yards per game and the defense has given up an average of 299 total yards per game, which would have ranked fourth in the NFL last season. The reason to be concerned? Turnovers, in regards to both units.

The Bills have forced seven turnovers in three games. Forcing an average of two turnovers per game is possible, but it seems unsustainable for a unit with no elite name like past defenses who have hit that mark. On the flip side of things, the offense has turned the ball over six times in three games. That, obviously, is not good. Josh Allen is still growing as a quarterback, and as such is prone to all sorts of turnovers, especially given how much time he spends out of the pocket. The Bills have a formula here that will help them win games, but a playoff appearance seems like their ceiling.

7. San Francisco 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo is rounding back into form, which is great news. Kyle Shanahan remains an elite offensive schemer who can get guys the ball with 20 yards of space to work with on the regular. Their defensive front is looking as dangerous as they hoped it would after bringing in Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, which has made their secondary look better than the talent on paper would suggest.

But they've also beaten the Bucs, Bengals, and Big Ben-less Steelers. Garoppolo is certainly getting there, but isn't the QB his contract says he is yet. They turned the ball over five times against Pittsburgh and kept the Steelers in the game far longer than they deserved to be. The quality of wins, in terms of strength of their opponent and how well they actually played, are much lower than their compatriots on this list. But you can see what the Niners are trying to accomplish, and that's more than we've seen since the last five games of 2017.

6. Detroit Lions

Despite their absolute best efforts, the Lions have yet to lose a game. They did tie against the Cardinals, but that is not a loss, even if it really felt like one after Detroit dominated for three quarters. They nearly blew a huge game on the road against the Eagles after Malcolm Jenkins blocked what would have been a game-sealing field goal with less than two minutes left. But they didn't!

There have been blunders, but there's a lot to like about Matthew Stafford in this offense. Similarly, the defense has struggled at times, but when things click, they've looked like an above-average unit. In years past, the Lions absolutely would have lost to the Cardinals and Eagles. That's just how things go for Detroit. The fact that they did not already gives this year an optimistic feel. As is, they have a ways to go, but the Lions look like a tough team to beat.

5. Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 22: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass as Adam Gotsis #99 of the Denver Broncos pursues in the first quarter at Lambeau Field on September 22, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Denver Broncos v Green Bay Packers | Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The biggest surprise of this Packers season has to be their defense, which has gotten off to a great start and looks to be the disruptive unit that Aaron Rodgers has never had on his side before with eight turnovers to start the season. An unsustainable pace, to be sure, but they're talented and play fast.

The offense, on the other hand, has gotten off to a slower start than many anticipated, and there's definitely some concern there. Rodgers has only thrown for 647 yards through three games, and while their overall point total has increased over the course of the year, the unit has yet to click. A team with Rodgers can never be counted out, but it still feels like the Packers are a long way from where they need to be to seriously compete for a title.

4. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have looked excellent through their first few games, and it feels as though that will continue. Dak Prescott is averaging nearly 10 yards per attempt and looks as good as he has in his young NFL career. Ezekiel Elliott is still warming up, a frightening prospect given he's already averaging over five yards per carry. The defense has looked solid and more than capable of holding the leads the offense has given them.

The biggest knock against Dallas is the opponents they've mowed down. Starting the year with the Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins is about as easy as it gets. Dallas has beaten them handily, which is what good teams do against bad teams. But they've yet to face a real test, and that makes it hard to judge how good they are when compared to the top teams in the league.

3. Los Angeles Rams

CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 22: Clay Matthews #52 of the Los Angeles Rams celebrates a fourth quarter tackle with Aaron Donald #99  during a game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Rams v Cleveland Browns | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Many thought the Rams might get off to a slow start this year, a symptom of the Super Bowl hangover that was a possibility after Los Angeles fell as flat as possible on the big state. That has not been the case. They look... well, they look like the Rams. Jared Goff is comfortable throwing the ball to every level of the field, Todd Gurley looks healthy, and Aaron Donald remains the best player in the league.

The fact that they look the same remains the problem when thinking about their Super Bowl contention. The defense stepped up in February, but for most of 2018 that unit was a big issue. They don't look much better this season. While the Patriots may be one of the only teams to actually pull it off, the blueprint to stopping the Sean McVay steamroller is out there. They're championship contenders, but until they reach the unstoppable levels they did last year against top-level competition, they'll remain below the cream of the crop.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

Unlike most teams on this list, the Chiefs faced a stiff test in the early going when Baltimore came to town for Week 3. They reiterated, for the scarce number who thought otherwise, that they remain one of the very best teams in the league. Patrick Mahomes has been just as good through three games this year as he was in 2018. Tyreek Hill may have gone down, but two other speedsters (Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson) have taken his place. The defense looks better, and even marginal improvement in that direction should be considered a plus.

It's just tough to put the Chiefs above the Patriots until they can prove they can beat Brady and Belichick. We'll have to wait until December to see that particular matchup, so until then, the Chiefs are who we thought they were-- the best team in the NFL that doesn't reside in New England.

1. New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Deatrich Wise Jr. #91 and Chase Winovich #50 of the New England Patriots high five during the fourth quarter of a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
New York Jets v New England Patriots | Billie Weiss/Getty Images

The Patriots have had an... interesting week, and absolutely none of it had to do with what happened on the football field. But it was business as usual for New England against the Jets this week, as it has been all season, despite the Antonio Brown situation. Their defense has yet to allow a touchdown and Josh Gordon looks like he's getting back to his 2013 self, which is scary to imagine in tandem with Tom Brady.

Scarier than that is how much the Patriots can improve. Despite the big point totals, their offense hasn't had an all-around good game yet, and the run game has struggled to get going at any point in the first 180 minutes of football. They haven't had their full offensive line healthy since Week 1. They're no longer hilariously unstoppable like they would have been with Brown, but the Patriots possess elite units on both sides of the ball and can scheme around every team in the league. Their opening slate hasn't been too difficult, admittedly, but New England has dominated, and it's extremely hard to justify any spot lower than the top.