NFL week three analysis: Five things we learnt as the Arizona Cardinals become Super Bowl contenders and Michael Vick steps in for the Pittsburgh Steelers

A look back at week three's action

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The Independent Online

Week Three of the 2015 NFL season has come and gone and there were some key talking points throughout the 16 games. Zander Swinburne discusses which team looks like a Super Bowl contender, who is the worst team in football as well as which London bound team is in need of a win.

Arizona Cardinals are playing like Super Bowl contenders

Whilst it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that the Arizona Cardinals are looking like one of the strongest teams in the NFC, it is the manner in which they are going securing their victories which will no doubt terrify the rest of the conference. 

On Sunday, the Cardinals laid waste to the San Francisco 49ers 47-7, winning the game before it had even started. With two Colin Kaepernick interceptions returned for touchdowns in the first six minutes, San Francisco quickly found themselves in a hole and unable to get out. Every phase of the game was executed perfectly, with all the players, from the quarterback to the long snapper, doing their part.

Most surprisingly, this team looks far more youthful than expected. It is as though a number of veterans seem to be five years younger and are in turn playing the better for it. Quarterback Carson Palmer is on track to statistically beat any of his eight years in Cincinnati, whilst receiver Larry Fitzgerald has nearly half his total receiving yards for the 2014 season already, and three more touchdowns.

This is a team hell bent on completely eradicating their opponents, made evident by the 126 points they has scored in the first three games. Whilst the NFL’s attention at this stage of the season tends to be focused on the usual suspects for Super Bowl contenders, look for the Cardinals to gradually turn heads.

Dallas are paying for their lack of a crunch time quarterback

Injuries are a part of football and they often severely affect at least one NFL team during the course of the season. This year, after only three weeks, that team is beginning to look like the Dallas Cowboys.

Sunday saw the result of Dallas’ quarterback problems as backup Brandon Weeden was forced to start for the injured Tony Romo. Despite a brace of touchdowns in the first two quarters, Dallas went on to lose against the Atlanta Falcons 39-28 and much of the blame for their defeat can be placed on the Weeden-led offence.

One can argue that Dallas’ inability to stop Atlanta’s offence was the true culprit for their loss, yet it is hard not to wonder whether a Romo offence would have produce something more than what Weeden was capable of doing in the second half. The box score appears complimentary to Weeden, completing 22 of 26 passes, with only one pick. Yet the most telling stat was the lack of Dallas touchdowns in the second half, with Weeden’s offence unable to score a single point.

Romo is renowned for his fourth quarter comebacks, garnering 25 over the course of his career. Dallas were at no stage out of this game, yet their offence couldn’t pull off the win. One can only wonder whether the result would have been different with an established fourth quarter QB under centre.

Despite the high hopes following the first two games, Dallas may be in for a rough few weeks whilst Romo recovers.

At the moment, Chicago are the worst team in football

Despite being a team renowned as a common post-season contender, it is becoming incredibly hard to see the Chicago Bears as anything other than the worst team in the NFL. In what was a horrific performance by the, the Illinois side lost 26-0 to the Seattle Seahawks, a team who were also searching for their first win of the campaign.

Sunday’s game proved that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side as backup Jimmy Clausen, standing in for the injured Jay Cutler, was completely inept with the ball. Clausen finished the game 9 for 17 and only 63 yards in what was one of the worst offensive performances of the season. 

The Bears  were forced to punt on all ten of their possessions, a stat completely unheard of, and the critics of injured Jay Cutler will no doubt be quietly wishing he returned in order to restore a bit of pride in the franchise. Cutler has often polarised the fanbase but it can’t get much worse for the Bears with Cutler back on the field. 

Often teams improve throughout the season, but at the moment, especially after a truly dreadful performance over the Seahawks, the Bears look the favourites to be picking No 1 in the 2016 NFL draft.

Miami and Suh in desperate need of a London victory

London once again becomes the centre of the NFL’s International Series this coming weekend and for the first time it will be between two divisional rivals.

It has become a common occurance for teams to enter the London game on the back of a loss, with 2013 famously seeing two teams walk into Wembley with not a win between them. Although this Sunday’s game doesn’t have the New York Jets or Miami Dolphins searching for their first victory, a win is still essential, and more so for the south Florida franchise.

Despite having a defence that was much-lauded coming into the season, Miami are struggling to assert any form of dominance over their opponents. The 41-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills further exemplified Miami’s struggles as their expensive defensive line was incapable of sacking inexperienced Tyrod Taylor.

Not enough players are doing what is required of them, none more so than Ndamukong Suh. The defensive tackle has yet to record a single sack this season, and the pressure of his monster $114 million signing with the Dolphins over the summer no doubt increases as his sack count fails to.

Miami will need Suh and the rest of the defence to recover quickly if they are to have any chance of making the play-offs. With Miami trying to get back to .500, a trip across the pond may be exactly what the team and their star DT need to get their season back on track.

Vick under pressure to minimise impact of Roethlisberger injury 

As the injury bug continued to spread across the NFL, its latest victim was the Pittsburgh Steelers and their star quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. During Pittsburgh’s 12-6 win over the St Louis Rams, Roethlisberger went down with a knee injury that will see him miss between four and six weeks. 

Pittsburgh will be forced to move on quickly without Big Ben as they host the winless Ravens on Thursday night. This quick turnaround, however, will no doubt ramp up the pressure on backup Michael Vick. Having not started a game since his infamous 2014 season with the New York Jets, Vick will be required to keep Pittsburgh afloat until Roethlisberger recovers. This is easier said than done, and judging by what Michael Vick produced as Roethlisberger’s replacement on Sunday, there are no doubt some worried Steeler fans.

In the limited time Vick spent on the field on Sunday, it was evident that Pittsburgh were trying to minimise his impact and simply come away from St Louis with a win. As Pittsburgh’s offence relies so heavily on the play of its quarterback, Vick will be forced to get involved.  All that can be asked of Vick is to help keep Pittsburgh afloat and minimise the damage Roethlisberger’s injury may cause the team as a whole.

Whether he can do this is another matter.