The third week of the 2014 NFL season has come to an end, and we still have a lot more questions than answers. Three teams remain undefeated, and three teams remain winless. The rest of the league is clumped into what remains the NFL's continued move toward an entire league of 8-8 teams!
The undefeated teams
The final three undefeated teams are the Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, and Cincinnati Bengals. How many people had those teams as the final three in the NFL? The Eagles and Bengals are certainly less shocking than the Cardinals.
Cardinals: Much credit to Bruce Arians, as he is doing a solid job with a team that lost a lot of talent in the offseason. Add in having to game-plan with Drew Stanton the last two weeks, and that's not too shabby. I don't know how long it will last, but they're on top of the NFC West. They edged out a solid Chargers squad, beat a bad Giants team, and benefited from a second straight 49ers collapse. I still don't know for certain what the Cardinals deal is, but they're 3-0, and that's really all that matters for now.
Next opponent: They have a bye in Week 4, and then travel to face the Denver Broncos. Their odds of remaining undefeated cannot be all that good.
Eagles: They're coming out to San Francisco this Sunday, and even with two collapses, the 49ers were installed as 4.5-point favorites. The Eagles had to come back from 17 down to beat the Jaguars, then claimed a close road win at Indianapolis, and edged out Washington this past week. The Eagles are actually the first team since at least 1940 to start a season 3-0 in spite of trailing by 10 points in each game. There is no doubting they are a talented team, but that 3-0 record might not be quite as pristine as one might think (although I'd give my right arm for a 3-0 49ers record right now!).
Next opponent: Yep, coming out west to face the 49ers. Let's hope the 49ers take that goose egg.
Bengals: I thought they would be solid coming into this season, but they have been the best team in the league through three weeks. They lead the NFL in point differential, with wins at the Ravens, and at home against the Falcons and Titans. That is not a murderer's row of opponents, but the Bengals have handled their business. It's only three weeks, but they are a serious contender in my mind.
Next opponent: They have a bye in Week 4, then travel to face the New England Patriots in Week 5. Could all three undefeated teams have their first loss by the end of Week 5?
The NFC West
The Cardinals hold a one game lead on the Seahawks, and a two game lead on the 49ers and Rams. Much like the 49ers, the Rams put together an ugly second half collapse. The Rams collapse was uglier, but in the context of the 49ers second straight collapse, I'd say San Francisco's was worse to some extent. Who knew I'd be arguing the 49ers had the worse collapse!
Week 4 is an odd one for the NFC West. The 49ers are the only team in action, with the Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks all on bye. I like having the bye later in the season, although I would probably prefer it earlier this year to get Tramaine Brock, Anthony Davis, Vernon Davis, and Vance McDonald all back sooner rather than later. Instead, the 49ers do not get their bye until Week 8.
After the bye, the Cardinals travel to face the Broncos, the Seahawks will be in my neck of the woods to face Washington, and the Rams will travel to face the Eagles. That Week 5 will also see the 49ers host the Kansas City Chiefs. There might be a story line or two in there.
49ers upcoming opponents
After the Eagles, the 49ers welcome the Kansas City Chiefs to town. The Chiefs got off the schneid with a win at the Miami Dolphins. The Chiefs have a lot of work to do, but a win in Miami counts the same as any other. The Chiefs host the Patriots on Sunday Night Football late this weekend, and 1-3 would not be out of the realm of the possible by the end of that. Of course, while the 49ers are favored against the Eagles, there is a chance they too could be 1-3 heading into that game. Would anybody have bet on BOTH teams being 1-3 at that point?
The other interesting upcoming opponent is the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers have plenty of games before that Week 10 affair, but we already have an idea about the Saints. They are 1-2 with two road losses and a home win. They were not overly impressive in beating the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and it is clear they are not a particularly good road team. Of course, the 49ers have to go into the Superdome to get a victory, and will be doing it without Aldon Smith, and probably NaVorro Bowman. We'll see what the next few weeks bring for the Saints (and, I suppose, the 49ers).