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2012 NFL Grades, Week 3: Chaos reigns supreme in parity-filled NFL

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

What a freaking Sunday. It shouldn't be that big of a surprise, but the later games of Week 3 were far less interesting and insane than the first group, although the Raiders and Broncos are trying to make things interesting as their games wind down.

What all of the action proved though is this: The NFL is insane, and we know nothing. If someone told you before the season began that the Saints would be 0-3 after playing the Redskins, Panthers and Chiefs (18 wins combined last season) and that the Cardinals would be 3-0 after playing the Seahawks, Eagles and Patriots (28 wins combined last season), you would have had them institutionalized. But that's where we are, and it's proof of just how much parity truly exists in the NFL.

I broke the drama from the 1 p.m. action in an earlier-than-usual version of Sorting the Sunday Pile, and I'll keep updating over there, so check back early and often for a breakdown of the week's biggest stories.

But first, knee-jerk reactions to your team! In terms of how teams performed, it's really, really difficult to find anyone that truly emerged from the maw as a team that's tough to beat, but I'd put the Falcons up there with just about anyone right now after they handled the Chargers in San Diego on a short week. Of course, it's pretty obvious that whoever ends up on the top of the heap after this week will just lose to the Vikings anyway, so I'm not sure how much anyone wants to become the team to beat.

TeamGradeAnalysis
Bengals 38, Redskins 31

B

Great, creative playcalling day for Jay Gruden, whose offense scored a pair of touchdowns out of the wildcat. But Cincy's defense is a major concern. They can't slow anyone down, even with a 14-point lead. Benjarvus Green-Ellis had a TD, but also a stinker of a day with 17 carries, 38 rushing yards and his first career fumble.

C+

Three fumbles (one lost) for Robert Griffin III don't help. Dodged a bullet with Trent Williams. 'Skins are going to be involved in a lot of shootouts this season, because that defense isn't stopping anyone either. Very nice job to come back twice by RG3, though.
Bears 23, Rams 6

B-

Great defensive effort by Chicago in a potential upset special, and the Bears closed out St. Louis nicely. But let's not act like the problems on offense are going to go away. Jay Cutler keeps turning the ball over and the offensive line simply cannot protect him.

C-

Sam Bradford was running for his life all game and the results (18/35 for 152 yards and two picks) showed. Defense tried to keep them in this game, but their offense was just bad all day long. That will happen for thee Rams against better defenses.
Bills 24, Browns 14

B

The injury to C.J. Spiller could be devastating, but Tashard Choice stepped up nicely. Good all-around effort from Buffalo in this one and a big road win, their first since Week 1 in 2011.

C+

Cleveland's 0-3 and they're not going to win many games this year. But it's been impressive seeing them hang with teams through three games. Bad day for Trent Richardson, but one nice run. Good job, good effort?
Cowboys 16, Buccaneers 10

B-

This game shouldn't have been so close, but Tony Romo seemed intent on Romoing Tampa back into competitiveness. If we were handing out individual grades, Brandon Carr would get an A+ for making Vincent Jackson an absolute non-factor.

D-

Great game for Gerald McCoy, everyone else was pretty unimpressive. Adrian Clayborne could be seriously injured. Josh Freeman threw for 3.93 yards per attempt. Ew. And of course Greg Schiano did his attack-the-kneeldown play at the end of the game for the second week in a row. What a joke.
Jaguars 22, Colts 17

B

Cecil Shorts is Blaine Gabbert's go-to guy in the clutch, apparently. Sure does look like Maurice Jones-Drew is back, huh? This was the first not-terrible effort from Jaguars defense this season, and they still allowed 313 passing yards to Andrew Luck.

C

Two big plays allowed to Shorts and MJD killed Indy, along with no real ability to stop the Jaguars offense (think about that statement) in the second half.
Dolphins vs. Jets

C-

A road win is a road win, I guess, but it's hard to think the Jets are happy with this one. The offense is back to being the dysfunctional mess we thought it was. And if Darrelle Revis is out for any significant length of time, you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

C-

Brutal loss for a young team. You can't get put in the position they did, and you can't let a team like the Jets march down for the field goal late in the fourth.
Vikings 24, 49ers 13

C-

Alex Smith finally threw a pick, but much more concerning is the bread-and-butter problems for the Niners. Their defense limited Adrian Peterson to 86 yards on 25 carries, but couldn't keep Christian Ponder at bay, and Frank Gore/Kendall Hunter only ran the ball 16 times.

A

Ponder's yards per attempt (5.66) was bad, but he threw two touchdowns (both to tight end Kyle Rudolph) and ran for another. Great defensive effort for Minny here. A stunning win and a reminder of just how much parity exists in the NFL.
Chiefs 27, Saints 24 (OT)

C+

Hello, Jamaal Charles! Kid's still got his speed and had a big game even without the 91-yard teeter. Chiefs looked terrible most of the day but New Orleans melted down

F

The Saints looked like they were cruising to a win and somehow coughed up an 18-point, second-half lead. The defense continues to embarrass and the offense isn't as potent/efficient without Sean Payton. The nightmare for New Orleans continues unabated.
Titans 44, Lions 41

C+

They won, but they also gave up 14 points in 18 seconds to Shaun Hill. Even weirder/more worrisome: they scored 44 points and Jake Locker led them in rushing for the third-straight week. Another unimpressive defensive effort from the Titans.

D+

The furious rally to get into overtime shouldn't block out the rest of a bad game from Detroit. Their defense was torched by Locker and the bold decision to try and pick up a first down (and then get a touchdown) in overtime backfired for Jim Schwartz in his homecoming to Tennessee.
Texans 31, Broncos 25

B+

Big win for Houston who just beat their first quality opponent. They ran the ball well, played good defense and Matt Schaub looked strong. But being up 31-11 to start the fourth quarter and letting Denver back in the game late is kind of concerning. They still closed in a big road win though.

C

A more sensible world might involve the suggestion that Peyton Manning still needs time to get his body right. But we need snap judgements dammit! He's clearly finished. Just kidding. His game is concerning though. Broncos aren't on the same level as the Texans right now.
Falcons 27, Chargers 3

F

Beat. Em. Down. The offensive line couldn't protect Philip Rivers at all. San Diego committed four turnovers. A defense that looked to be emerging was completely lost against Atlanta's offensive attack.

A

Coming off a short week, Atlanta went out west and annihiliated an undefeated Chargers team. Three receivers had touchdowns, four had five-plus receptions and Michael Turner ran well. The defense pressured Rivers all day and picked him twice. NFC South race looking like a laugher early.
Cardinals 27, Eagles 6

F

Michael Vick completing 45.9 percent of his passes is a recipe for disaster any week, especially if he fumbles twice. Getting greedy down 17-0 at halftime cost them a defensive touchdown. Defense was outclassed by Kevin Kolb. Good thing they were already 2-0 before this debacle.

A

The Kolb redemption tour continues! He couldn't justify his trade with a win, but going 17/24 for 222 yards and two touchdowns didn't hurt. This is one of the best defenses in the NFL and people still aren't giving them enough credit. What a stunning 3-0 start to the season.
Raiders 34, Steelers 31

B

Darren McFadden (18 carries, 113 yards) finally got going and that was big for the Raiders. Palmer and the wideouts looked much better late. Really hope Darrius Heyward-Bey is OK. Happy birthday, Dennis Allen.

C-

Steelers wasted a great day from Ben Roethlisberger because the defense got torn apart late by Carson Palmer. Couldn't run late and that resulted in not being able to close this game out.
Ravens 31, Patriots 30

B-

Two good teams playing an entertaining game and someone had to lose. The Pats are now below .500 for the first time since 2003. That's ... insane. Tom Brady was very good, and Joe Flacco was better.

B+

Honestly, I just want to give them an A+++++++ for Torrey Smith, but this game very nearly didn't pan out well. The defense needs work, but this was an impressive, balanced effort. What a clutch freaking drive by Joe Flacco at the end of this game.
Giants 36, Panthers 7

A

Starting running back and No. 1 wideout on the sidelines? NBD. Giants executed in ever facet of the game and embarrassed the Panthers. Carolina once cut Andre Brown: he outrushed DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined on Thursday.

F

How on earth can you come out flat in Cam Newton's first-ever appearance on national television? Offense was too cute, the defense had no answer for simplicity from the Giants and special teams were a nightmare. Horrible overall performance.

C+

A great second-half rebound by Green Bay was totally nullified by bad calls from the refs in the fourth quarter, including a game-changing disaster of a call to end the game. None of that should take away the fact that the Packers offensive line was a joke in the first half.

C+

Seattle was bailed out by the refs late in the game on Monday night after a bad second half. The Seahawks defense looked spectacular during the first half. They need to take the leash off of Russell Wilson and the passing game a little bit.
 
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