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NFL Week 3 Winners and Losers – If the Saints’ defense is really this good, look out NFC

Frank Schwab
Shutdown Corner

A winning team on Sunday allowed just 247 yards (and only 161 passing), gave up seven points and looked very strong on defense.

Yep, it was the New Orleans Saints.

Last year, the Saints set an NFL record for most yards allowed in a season. They switched their scheme to a 3-4 and suffered some major injuries, including one to top pass rusher Will Smith. But somehow, new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has figured out which buttons to push.

Of course, they were facing the inept Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The Cardinals' offensive line is a sieve, the running game doesn't exist, and Carson Palmer hasn't been a good quarterback in about six years (even though people still talk about him like he's decent, which is cute). But, this is still impressive, and they've been impressive on defense through three weeks.

The Saints have given up 17, 14, and 7 points in their three wins. Drew Brees is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and tight end Jimmy Graham can't be covered. We knew that already. Nobody realized that the Saints might be pretty good on defense too. If the Saints' defense is legit, watch out. We know the Saints' offense will be one of the best in the league. A top defense might make them unstoppable in the NFC.

Here are the other winners and losers from Week 3:

WINNERS

Russell Wilson being a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick: Well, that's two straight weeks for Wilson over Kaepernick (and Wilson wasn't too shabby in Week 1).

Wilson looked great in the late set of games for Seattle, while Kaepernick struggled for the second week in a row. Say what you will about Wilson playing the terrible Jaguars on Sunday, but it's not like the Colts are known for their passing defense either.

By the time Indianapolis took a 20-7 lead with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter, Kaepernick was 8-of-16 for 86 yards in the 49ers' loss to the Colts. Kaepernick has failed to pass for more than 150 yards, throw a touchdown pass or complete half of his attempts in either of San Francisco's last two games. Wilson, by the way, threw for 202 yards and four touchdowns and was pulled in the third quarter. Last week, Wilson and his Seahawks outplayed Kaepernick and his 49ers. Considering Wilson is a better quarterback right now, that result wasn't too unexpected. The gap between the NFC West rival quarterbacks widened again on Sunday.

DeMarco Murray: Murray's talent is unquestionable. The Cowboys tailback has had problems staying healthy. But he's healthy now and playing very well.

Murray had 175 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Rams, and the Cowboys rolled to a 31-7 win. Dallas clearly looks like the best team in the NFC East (really, who else would it be? That division is horrendous), and a big part of the reason is Murray can give them balance. Now we'll see if he can stay healthy for most of the season.

Ron Rivera: It's possible that Rivera saved his job on Sunday. Had the Panthers been 0-3 with two home losses headed into a bye week, one would assume Carolina's brass would have had some serious internal discussions about Rivera's future.

There's no need for that now. Rivera and the Panthers looked fantastic against the Giants (or was it that the Giants looked that bad?) in a 38-0 win. Quarterback Cam Newton came alive with 223 passing yards, 45 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. The defense swarmed the Giants all day.

The Panthers are still underachieving at 1-2. They lost two games they could have easily won. But for now, Carolina and Rivera can feel pretty good about themselves going into the bye week.

Geno and the Jets: Did you think the Jets would be 2-1? Did you think Geno Smith would post a line like 16-of-29 for 331 yards and two touchdowns at any point as a rookie, especially in his first month? Well, both happened in the Jets' 27-20 win over the Bills on Sunday.

Santonio Holmes had 154 yards and a touchdown. Stephen Hill had 108 yards and a touchdown. The Jets hadn't had a receiver go over 100 yards in 12 games, or have a wide receiver catch a touchdown in 270 passing attempts before Sunday, so this was a whole new world for that offense. The Jets really haven't beaten anyone (Tampa Bay at home, and that was rather lucky, then Buffalo at home), but the 2-1 start is nice. Even better, Smith has played pretty well so far as a rookie, which should give the franchise a lot of optimism.

LOSERS

The 1-2 Green Bay Packers: The last time the Packers lost a game despite forcing six turnovers was 1955, according to ESPN's Trey Wingo. That's four years before Vince Lombardi became Green Bay's coach. On Sunday, the Packers matched that crazy feat in a loss to Cincinnati.

The Packers aren't finished obviously, but it's not good to be 1-2 after three weeks in a very tough NFC. Aaron Rodgers took the blame, saying he didn't play very well. And he was a little off, throwing multiple interceptions in a game for the first time since Oct. 24, 2010, breaking an NFL record streak of 41 games without throwing two or more interceptions in a game. Credit to the Bengals defense, which people still don't realize is one of the NFL's best. But now the Packers are 1-2 and have some work to do to keep from digging too big of a hole in the NFC playoff race.

Houston Texans: The Texans haven't played a complete game yet. They had a great second half to come back against the Chargers in Week 1, but played a horrible first half in that game. The Texans weren't good for most of their game against the Titans last week, but came back to pull off an overtime win. Given how the Texans have looked, it's not that big of a surprise that Baltimore beat Houston on Sunday. The Texans have been living on the edge so far this season, and couldn't come back this time.

The offense was very poor, mustering just nine points and 260 yards in a 30-9 loss. Houston could very easily be 0-3. The Texans are in fine shape because they pulled off wins in two of those games, but they need to play much better to get to where they want to go this season.

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Chargers fans: How many gut-punch losses can one fan base endure? Whatever the record is, the Chargers are trying to break it.

San Diego had to feel it was over all the last-minute lead-blowing defeats after Norv Turner was fired. But here we are, three weeks into the Mike McCoy era, and San Diego has two heartbreaking losses.

The first was in the season opener, when the Chargers blew a 21-point lead to Houston. Last week's late win against Philadelphia offered a bright spot. But then in Week 3 San Diego caused every one of its fans to think about taking up another hobby for the rest of time. The Titans were 94 yards away and needed a touchdown, with just 2:05 left and no timeouts. And somehow the Chargers let Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker drive all the way downfield and throw the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds left. Chargers fans might feel better hanging out on the beach on Sundays, far away from any game updates.

The 0-3 Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings were at home against a team that was starting Brian Hoyer at quarterback and had just traded its best running back in a controversial deal. And still Minnesota, a team that made the playoffs last season (but surely won't repeat that feat), couldn't beat the Browns.

Cleveland rallied for a 31-27 win on a winning touchdown from Hoyer to Jordan Cameron in the final minute. It was a lackluster effort all around by the 0-3 Vikings.

Many fans emailed us to complain about the Vikings' place in our power rankings before the preseason. We had the Vikings No. 20. Those fans were right, our Vikings ranking was not correct. We had them way, way too high.

The Jacksonville Jaguars: After seeing Alabama play a couple times this season, Jacksonville might be ranked No. 33 in the power rankings this week behind the Crimson Tide. Jacksonville should feel ashamed of how awful it is this season. A 45-17 loss to Seattle that wasn't really that close is a low point.

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