Blythe Hastings ’23
The NFL has been the league to watch lately, with eight games being decided by three points or less. Long gone are the days of the blowout—the fourth quarter is as important as ever, and the quarterbacks are the ones to thank. Below are the top six ranked teams based on ESPN coverage/stats and quarterback performance. Tua Tagovailoa is off to the start every Dolphins fan dreamed of in his third NFL season. He ranks second in the league in passing yards and is already halfway to matching his career high in touchdown passes with eight. He also leads the NFL in QBR and is second in yards per attempt. The new coaching staff and improved supporting cast around him seems to have unlocked the potential Miami saw when he was drafted No. 5 overall in 2020, and it’s a big reason the Dolphins are the AFC’s lone unbeaten team entering Week 4. The Dolphins are 3-0.
While the Bills are coming off their first loss, Josh Allen has had an MVP-candidate start to the season. He has the league’s lowest rate of off-target throws (8.0%) and leads in passing first downs (49) as well. Allen’s completion percentage (71.2%) and interception percentage (1.5%) would both be career bests. Still, things haven’t been perfect. The Bills need to work on evening out the offense as Allen is also the team’s leading rusher (113 yards), but the fifth-year quarterback has set the groundwork early for yet another impressive season. The Bills are 2-1.
Jalen Hurts is one of the early favorites to be league MVP. His production on the ground remains strong—he ranks second among quarterbacks in rushing yards (167) and first in rushing touchdowns (three)—but it’s his improvement as a passer that has put the NFC on notice. Hurts is completing 67.3% of his passes, compared with his career average of 60%. He ranks third in passing yards (916) and is sixth in QBR (74.8). His standout play is the No. 1 reason the Eagles are 3-0.
Graded against most of his peers, Patrick Mahomes is off to a great start with eight touchdown passes and one interception. But his season, by his expectations, has been uneven. He had a great game in the opener against the Cardinals, throwing for 360 yards and five touchdowns. His production has not been as great since, particularly in the loss Sunday to the Colts, when the Chiefs had numerous chances to put the game away and failed repeatedly. The Chiefs are 2-1.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has played well, but the offense as a whole needs to improve. Coach Sean McVay said after the Week 3 victory in Arizona that he thinks the offense is “just continuing to learn our identity.” Stafford, who threw five interceptions in the first two games, did not throw one against the Cardinals, and the offense did enough to win the game. Stafford has thrown just four touchdowns through three weeks. He is playing without wide receiver Van Jefferson, who is on injured reserve, and is continuing to lean on Cooper Kupp, whose target share has increased (35%) from the 2021 season (32%). The Rams are 2-1.
Lamar Jackson has played at an MVP level. He has accounted for 87% of the Ravens’ offense, beating teams with his arm and with his legs. He leads the NFL with 10 touchdown passes and ranks second with a 78.7 QBR. Jackson, though, remains just as dangerous running the ball, producing the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL (243) and the best rushing average (9.35 yards per carry). The Ravens are still without their All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanle, and their No. 1 running back J.K. Dobbins, just returned on Sunday. Baltimore leads the league in scoring (33 points per game) because Jackson is the best dual-threat quarterback in NFL history. The Ravens are 2-1.