Week 3 hasn't started, and we're down to seven undefeated teams. Five of the eight NFL divisions don't have a single undefeated team remaining.
The NFL wants every team near the middle, never too high or low, and having 18 of 32 teams at 1-1 through two weeks fits that. There are still those seven teams without a blemish on their record, and that's a good place to be. Even better if they can make 3-0. Since 1980, 148 of 194 teams that have started 3-0 have made the playoffs (76.3 percent).
Which 2-0 teams do we trust? Let's run down the list:
Not all 2-0 starts are equal. The Broncos are 2-0 with wins over the Giants and Jaguars, who might be two of the NFL's worst teams. Still, two road wins is a good way to start and the Broncos pass the eye test. Teddy Bridgewater looks good. The defense is going to be one of the best in the NFL. And the Broncos get the Jets next, so 3-0 is a good bet. We'll need to see them against a quality opponent before we buy in.
Trust level: Low
Las Vegas Raiders
It's going to be hard to trust the Raiders. They have started well the past two seasons and then faded. They were 6-4 in 2019 and 6-3 in 2020 and didn't make the playoffs either time. In the past two seasons, they're 3-10 past mid-November. The thing that might separate the 2021 team is the quality of its first two wins. The Ravens and Steelers are 0-2 against the Raiders, and 2-0 against the Chiefs and Bills. The road win at Pittsburgh was great for Las Vegas. Derek Carr is playing at a very high level. Still, it'll be tough to trust the Raiders until we see what they do from Thanksgiving on. But if they beat the Miami Dolphins this week, it'll be another strong win to start the season. The Raiders are 3.5-point favorites at BetMGM.
Trust level: Still low
A dominant Week 1 win over the Titans was very good. Then in Week 2, they barely beat the Minnesota Vikings. Had the Vikings made a 37-yard field goal, this list of undefeated teams would be six names long. The problem for the Cardinals might be their fantastic division. If we had to pick someone to finish last place in the NFC West, it would still probably be the Cardinals. But Kyler Murray is playing at an MVP level and there's no reason to believe he can't maintain that if he stays healthy. That could take the Cardinals a long way.
Trust level: Moderate
This could be the most intriguing team on the list. The defense is playing very well and looks legit. It'll be fun to see if they've already made the jump to a top-10 unit. The offense has some stars, most notably Christian McCaffrey. Your analysis of the Panthers probably comes down to what you think about Sam Darnold. Darnold looks much better now that he has escaped the New York Jets. We'll need to see how he does over the long haul, but he has a very good infrastructure around him. If the Panthers blast the Houston Texans during a standalone game on Thursday night (they're 7.5-point favorites at BetMGM), then they'll start to get more buzz.
Trust level: Rising
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were bludgeoned by injuries in 2020. Their injury-related struggles last season could be thrown out for 2021. And so far in 2021, the 49ers look very good. They're going to be good on both sides of the ball. They're well coached and there's still the nagging idea that once Trey Lance gets the quarterback job, the offense could be even better. If the 49ers win as 3.5-point favorites this Sunday night over the Packers, you'll hear a lot about the 49ers as a Super Bowl contender.
Trust level: High
Los Angeles Rams
The transition to Matthew Stafford is going very well. The offense looks fantastic so far, and the defense still has Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. We know Sean McVay is a good coach. There's no reason to disbelieve what we're seeing from the Rams. We'll get a true test of how good they are this week, when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are 1-point underdogs, but that's mostly because the Buccaneers have been so impressive. A win over the defending champs would get everyone's attention.
Trust level: High
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you want to pick holes in the Bucs' start, they needed a last-second field goal in a mistake-filled game against the Dallas Cowboys, and they led the Falcons at home by just three points in the fourth quarter. But there's no real reason to believe there's any Super Bowl hangover. Tom Brady continues his Benjamin Button routine of aging in reverse and looks like a real threat to challenge Peyton Manning's single-season record for touchdown passes. When you have all 22 starters back from a Super Bowl champion, you're going to be a pretty good bet to keep it going. We'll find out a lot more about the Bucs and Rams when they square off in a great Week 3 battle.
Trust level: Rock solid