Every year, people wonder if this will be the season that a team goes undefeated to join the 1972 Dolphins.
At this rate, those Dolphins might be popping their bottles early this year because there are only four teams left with spotless records after three weeks.
This year’s Dolphins might flirt with perfection after scoring an absurd 70 points against the Broncos, but they will be tested next week against the Bills.
So, it might be more fiction than fact that a team will finish the regular season undefeated. But what about 15 wins for Miami?
Here are five NFL narratives that we deemed to be either fact or fiction after Week 3 of the NFL regular season.
Dolphins will win 15 games or more this regular season
Manzano’s view: Fiction
Looking at the Dolphins’ upcoming schedule, they have a handful of tough games that will probably prevent them from joining the rare club of 15 wins or more (Panthers, Packers, Patriots, Steelers, Vikings, Bears, 49ers) in a regular season (the 2015 Cam Newton-led Panthers were the last to do it).
Miami (3–0) still has to play the Bills twice, including next week in Buffalo. They have road games at Philadelphia (Week 7), Kansas City (Week 9) and Baltimore (Week 17). The Dolphins also have a Week 16 home game against the Cowboys, who just lost to the Cardinals, proving, once again, that any team can beat any team on any given Sunday.
But here’s the truth: Teams that play the Dolphins have slim odds of winning without either a top-10 offense or a top-10 defense. The Bills have both, which is why the Dolphins aren’t a lock to win the AFC East.
The Broncos had neither and were blown out by 50 points in Miami. The Dolphins went blow-for-blow against Justin Herbert and the Chargers in Week 1, and had to sweat out a win against the Patriots in Week 2.
Packers are the best team in the NFC North
Manzano’s view: Fiction
I really wanted to say fact, but the Packers’ lengthy list of injuries to many key players is concerning. And it’s not a guarantee most will be ready for the short turnaround against the Lions for Thursday Night Football.
Also, it didn’t seem right to label the Packers (2–1) as the best in the division after they blew a double-digit lead to the Falcons, who just lost to the Lions (2–1) by 14 points. We’ll know more about Green Bay after Thursday night, but it was impressive to see Jordan Love overcome a 17–0 deficit against the Saints without running back Aaron Jones, wide receiver Christian Watson, left tackle David Bakhtiari and left guard Elgton Jenkins. Also, the Green Bay defense didn’t have cornerback Jaire Alexander.
Love hasn’t had Watson all season and he’s been without Jones the past two games. Love might turn the Packers into a top offense once his key teammates return to health.
Commanders’ 2–0 start was a fluke after blowout loss
Manzano’s view: Fact
Many hesitated to take the Commanders seriously after they needed comeback wins against the Cardinals and Broncos to start the season with a 2–0 record.
The Commanders had an opportunity to show in Week 3 that their winning streak was no fluke by putting up a fight against the Bills at home. Instead, Ron Rivera’s team lost by 34 points, and now it’s fair to question whether Rivera was right to make Sam Howell the starting quarterback this season.
Howell threw four interceptions and the offense was held to 230 total yards against the Bills’ defense. What’s more concerning: The Washington defense didn’t register a sack and only hit Josh Allen once after producing 10 sacks in the first two games.
Washington’s talented defense is what makes this squad a wild-card hopeful in the NFC, but now they might be below that after an embarrassing loss.
Benching J.C. Jackson fixed the Chargers’ defense
Manzano’s view: Fiction
The Chargers’ defense played better in the win against the Vikings because they created pressure (four sacks) and takeaways (one fumble, one interception). But Jackson being a healthy scratch wasn’t an addition-by-subtraction situation.
Los Angeles allowed 475 total yards—oddly, the same total the Chargers had offensively—including 98 rushing yards to Alexander Mattison, who struggled in his first two games of the season. Also, the Chargers’ defense struggled to limit downfield plays, with Kirk Cousins spreading the ball to Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson and Jordan Addison.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley sent a message to his defense that production matters more than how much money a player makes (Jackson signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract last year), but now they’re down a player in the secondary and the defense didn’t show much improvement in Minnesota. But pressure and takeaways tend to lead to winning results more often than not.
Panthers are better with backup Andy Dalton
Manzano's view: Fact
Before this gets taken out of context, Andy Dalton gives the Panthers a better chance to compete in the short term over No. 1 pick Bryce Young.
The 0–3 Panthers appeared slightly better offensively against the Seahawks because the coaching staff opened up the playbook for the veteran backup filling in for Young, who was ruled out with an ankle injury. As Sports Illustrated’s Matt Verderame pointed out last week, the Panthers aren’t allowing Young to make mistakes, coddling him behind an offensive line that’s struggling to start the season.
Once Young returns, the Panthers should prioritize the rest of the season to allow the former Alabama product to play freely and learn from his mistakes.