Essentials from Sunday: The separators

Six teams are now 3-0 and Green Bay has a chance to join them on Monday night. The undefeated teams won with some great individual performances.

The separation is getting real as a few teams took advantage of their opportunity to remain undefeated.

Nowhere was that more impactful than in the AFC North, where the Cincinnati Bengals moved to 3-0 and put the Baltimore Ravens in a deep, deep hole at 0-3. All three of the Bengals’ wins are in the AFC and two of them are divisional wins.

Sure, the Bengals still have the Pittsburgh Steelers only one game behind them, but the Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger for four to six weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament.

In the Bengals’ win, A.J. Green had 10 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns, the second-most receiving yards in Bengals history (Chad Johnson had 260 vs. San Diego in 2006).

The New England Patriots coast in bye week at 3-0 after drubbing the Jacksonville Jaguars 51-17, keeping the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets trailing by a game in the AFC East.

Tom Brady passed for 358 yards and two touchdowns, and his total of 1,112 passing yards this season is the second-highest after his team’s first three games among players who did not throw an interception during that time. Only Peyton Manning had a higher total (1,143 yards with no interceptions in 2013). Brady also moved to 401 touchdown passes on his career, joining Dan Marino (420), Brett Favre (508) and Manning (533) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with at least 400 touchdown tosses. Brady also became the only quarterback in NFL history to have 31 starts in which his team scored 40 or more points.

The Denver Broncos pulled out a win at Detroit to remain undefeated at 3-0 with the Oakland Raiders one game back and the Kansas City Chiefs having the opportunity to stay one game back if they beat the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field Monday night.

The Packers have the opportunity to join three other teams in the NFC with 3-0 records if they beat the Chiefs, and Green Bay needs the win to stay ahead of the Minnesota Vikings (2-1).

The recently dreadful NFC South now has two teams at 3-0, the only division that can say that. The Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons are both undefeated. While the Panthers did it by beating two AFC teams, they also have one divisional win. The Falcons haven’t played a NFC South team yet, but all three of their wins have come in conference play and they have trailed in the fourth quarter of all three games.

For the Falcons, Julio Jones remains spectacular. Through three games, he has 34 catches for 440 yards. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other player caught more than 31 passes in his team’s first three games of a season, and only three gained more receiving yards through three games than Jones – Jerry Rice in 1989 (449), Chad Johnson in 2007 (442), and Wes Welker in 2011 (458).

And in the NFC West, after a 47-7 drubbing of the San Francisco 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals are putting some distance between themselves at 3-0 with their other divisional foes all 1-2. Larry Fitzgerald has five touchdown catches and 246 yards receiving over the last two weeks. But don’t discount the Cardinals defense, either. Justin Bethel and Tyrann Mathieu each returned interceptions for touchdowns in the game.

There is still a long way to go in 2015 season, but six teams have started it out right.

Other essentials from Separation Sunday:

  • Raiders safety Charles Woodson had a game-saving interception with 38 seconds left against the Cleveland Browns, making it the 18th consecutive season Woodson has an interception. Only Darrell Green (19 seasons) has a longer streak.
  • Raiders rookie Amari Cooper had eight catches for 134 yards against the Browns, and he joins DeSean Jackson as the only rookies in the past 30 years with two 100-yard receiving performances in their first three games.
  • Adrian Peterson scored two touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings, including a 43-yard run. It was Peterson’s 16th touchdown run of 40 yards or more. Only Barry Sanders has more touchdowns runs of 40 yards or more yards (he has 20), according to Elias.
  • Seattle Seahawks rookie Tyler Lockett had a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Seattle’s 26-0 win over the Chicago Bears. Lockett is only the second rookie in NFL history (Tony Green, 1978) to have both a punt-return touchdown and a kickoff-return touchdown in his team’s first three games to start a season.

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