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Around The NFL's Week 3 winners and losers

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The NFC West might no longer hold the claim of the league's best division. The AFC North lacks surefire title contenders, but it has come out of the gates looking like the deepest division in football through three weeks.

The Bengals, Steelers, Browns and Ravens have played only four games out of the division -- but they've won all of them. Pittsburgh stomped Carolina on the road, while Cincinnati has easily dispatched their two non-division foes. The division's theoretical worst team, Cleveland, took out New Orleans. It's wildly early, but the AFC North has won their non-division games by an average of 15 points.

It will be difficult for the division to sneak in three playoff teams with San Diego and Denver out west, but the AFC North has one big advantage. They match up with the AFC South in conference games and could roll up wins against a soft division.

Here are more winners and losers from Week 3:

Going up


DeMarco Murray's chances of winning a rushing title: Murray is the fifth running back ever to start the season with three straight games over 100 rushing yards with a touchdown. The other four: Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, Emmitt Smith and Curtis Martin. It's safe to say Murray is the first one to fumble in all three games as well, but he is running extremely well. This is the offense that Jason Garrett has always wanted; now Tony Romo just needs to cooperate.

Bruce Arians' magic touch: Arians does all the things that you yell at your coach to do. He tries to score points at the end of the half even when he's backed up in his own end and has Drew Stanton at quarterback. He goes for fourth-and-1 before midfield ... even when he has Drew Stanton at quarterback. Arians makes Stanton and John Brown look like Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton. No coach has done a better job since the start of 2012.

Arizona's offensive line: Speaking of which: Remember when the Cardinals' offensive line was an annual embarrasment? The signing of Jared Veldheer and Arians' system have turned that around.

Teryl Austin: He's passed Tavon in the NFL's Austin rankings. (Davis is also making strides.) The first-time Detroit Lions defensive coordinator has done a great job early this season despite injuries and a weak secondary.

San Diego's reliability: The Chargers' steady 22-10 win in Buffalo was somehow more impressive than besting the defending champions. This was exactly the type of game the Chargers would lose in the past. They are developing into a legitimate AFC contender.

Andy Reid dancing: My favorite highlight of the week. (Oh, and the Chiefs have put together two straight solid outings after their ugly Week 1 loss.)

Giants' offensive cohesion: Sunday's convincing win over Houston was the stuff of Tom Coughlin's dreams. The offensive line pushed the Texans around. Rashad Jennings went full workhorse. Eli Manning was barely touched and made smart decisions. Thursday's matchup in Washington is a surprisingly interesting battle of which NFC East team could be friskier than expected this season.

Preseason AFC South narratives: The division might wind up looking exactly as you expected. Speaking of which ...

Moving down


Gus Bradley's progress: It's a rebuilding project in Jacksonville, but this was a competitive team down the stretch last year. They've lost three games by a total of 75 points this season. The defense is especially worrisome -- it's as ugly as any time during the brief Mike Mularkey era.

The sanctity of preseason depth charts: Everything looks great in July when we put together season previews. Then reality hits before October. Carolina and San Diego are running out of running backs; Philadelphia's offensive line is almost all gone; Chicago's thin defense already looks thinner; Lovie Smith's promising Tampa defense has lost half its starters; and Oakland needs healthy linebackers. The list could go on and on.

It doesn't take long each season before remembering that offseason depth charts are an ideal that rarely get realized.

Bridge quarterbacks: Chad Henne lasted slightly longer in front of Blake Bortles than Luke McCown once did in front of Blaine Gabbert. (This transition should go better.) Matt Cassel's foot injury allows Teddy Bridgewater time to start in Minnesota, while Josh McCown's thumb problem will give Mike Glennon a shot in Tampa. Sometimes we debate about the "right" time to make a chance, and then the decision is made for coaches naturally.

Dolphins dysfunction: Defensive players are complaining about the game plan. The team looks nearly ready to give up on Ryan Tannehill. Team advisor Dan Marino is reportedly not pleased. The general managers, coaches and quarterbacks keep changing in Miami under owner Stephen Ross, but drama always seems right around the corner.

Convenient storylines from Super Bowl rematch: The Denver defense looked far better for 60 minutes, but it was run over in overtime. Peyton Manning threw a backbreaking interception, but also put together an amazing last-second touchdown drive. The Seahawks' defense was mostly dominant, but it allowed Denver back in the game. The Broncos were mentally tough but still lost. This is when you know you've watched a terrific game: It can't be boiled down to one simple hot take.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps all of the Week 3 action and picks the top team in the AFC.

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