The Baltimore Ravens took care of business in Jacksonville on Sunday.
The win over the Jaguars was not pretty, but style points are irrelevant with a 3-0 record. Joe Flacco looked more comfortable than he has since 2013 during his team-record streak of 21-straight completions. If the Ravens can find a way to jump start their running game, the offense has the potential to be special. The Ravens revamped defense has used improved speed to swarm to the ball, control the middle of the field and create timely interceptions. So far, the optimism surrounding the undefeated Ravens is well founded.
All three of the AFC North divisional foes experienced defeat in Week 3. The Bengals fell to 1-2 after allowing Trevor Siemien and the Broncos to throw for over 300-yards and four touchdowns in Cincinnati. A shorthanded Browns team played well enough to take the Dolphins to overtime in Miami, but their defense could not keep Jay Ajayi out of the end zone at the end. And Pittsburgh suffered an embarrassing loss in Philadelphia, failing to score a touchdown, while rookie QB Carson Wentz exposed their vulnerable pass defense. The Ravens currently hold sole possession of first place in the division, and are the healthiest team in the North.
Elsewhere in the AFC, the New England Patriots are threatening to run away with the East again. Using their third-string quarterback, they shutout a quality Texans team to claim their third win. Houston remain perched atop the South with Indianapolis, Tennessee and Jacksonville all struggling.
The AFC West is shaping up as a highly competitive division. Denver is undefeated with a couple impressive wins on their resume. The Broncos look strong, teams will have to exploit their vulnerable interior run defense and force Siemian into mistakes to knock them off their stride. The Chiefs forced eight turnovers during an impressive home victory over the Jets. The Raiders are also 2-1 following an improved defensive showing against Tennessee.
The Ravens will face all four NFC East teams later this season, this could prove to be a challenge. Rookie signal callers Wentz of the Eagles and Dak Prescott of the Cowboys have proven to be poised, playmaking quarterbacks so far. The undefeated Eagles are probably the biggest surprise of the young season. The Giants lost to the Redskins at home in Week 3, but their receivers will present scary matchups for the Ravens.
Minnesota is leading the NFC North with a 3-0 mark. The Vikings defense dominated the Panthers in Carolina with eight sacks and three interceptions. The Packers rebounded with a win over Detroit, but their roster has displayed some flaws. Seattle and Arizona, the preseason favorites, have not been the juggernauts they were billed as. The Cardinals have two losses after a surprising defeat in Buffalo. The Seahawks earned a home win over the 49ers in Week 3, but Russell Wilson incurred a potentially impactful knee injury in the process.
Looking forward to Week 4, the Ravens return to Baltimore to face the Raiders. Elvis Dumervil’s potential return could elevate the pass rush when the team squares off against another talented roster. Oddsmakers have installed the Ravens as early four-point favorites.
The Bengals hope to get back into the win column when they host the Dolphins on Thursday, although Marvin Lewis is 8-20 in all primetime matches with Cincinnati. Le’Veon Bell’s return from suspension should aid the Steelers at home against the Chiefs on Sunday night. The Chiefs own dynamic RB, Jamaal Charles, might make his debut next weekend, and they have given Pittsburgh trouble in recent meetings.
It was imperative for the Ravens to get off to a strong start against the beatable teams on their early schedule. So far. so good. Historically, teams who start the season 3-0 have a 74% chance of making the playoffs. Odds of earning a postseason bid increase to 83% for teams that begin 4-0.