Madden Ratings: Week 3 analysis, Week 4 predictions

The big news last week was that rapper Ja Rule was getting his own reality show on MTV called "Follow the Rules." Personally, I would've gone with "Ja Rules of Engagement" or "8 Simple (Ja) Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter."

For those of you too young to remember what his music sounds like, just watch the movie "The Grudge" and crank up the volume every time that creepy kid screeches like a cat. Here, let me help you out. That, in a nutshell, was Ja Rule in his prime.

Why am I referencing a rapper who hasn't been relevant since the early 2000s? Well, after three weeks of play the NFL is conjuring up memories from the early part of this century.

The Oakland Raiders are 2-1 and have a chance to go above .500 after four games for the first time since 2002 when they went to the Super Bowl (also the last time they made the playoffs). The Chicago Bears are 0-3 for the first time since 2003 while the Carolina Panthers are 3-0 for the first time since 2003 when they went to the Super Bowl. And, as usual, the New England Patriots are dominating the rest of the league. (I guess some things never change.)

So, is Ja Rule's new reality show a catalyst for an NFL throwback-type season? (It's not, like, at all. Seriously, don't even spend more than a microsecond pondering this. We just discovered water on Mars. Think about that for a moment... or pancakes. Just not Ja Rule's reality show.) Regardless, it's clear some teams may be finally clawing their way out of the NFL doldrums while others are sinking deeper and deeper. It may only be Week 4, but it's been an exciting season thus far.

Now, on to the ratings!

Moving On Up

Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu is up three points to 87 OVR thanks to two interceptions, including a pick six. It's nice to see that nobody is questioning whether the Cardinals are legitimate contenders anymore. They are one of the top teams in the league and have been the past few years thanks to Bruce Arians. Expect Mathieu to surpass the 90-mark before the season is over.

Let's give some love to Thomas Rawls, the Seattle Seahawks running back who filled in admirably for Marshawn Lynch in last Sunday's shutout win over the Chicago Bears. The undrafted rookie from Central Michigan ran for 104 yards on 16 attempts. He's up two points to 68 OVR. If Lynch can't go Monday night against the Detroit Lions, expect Rawls to get another bump next week in the ratings.

It's good to be a Raiders fan right now. Yes, you read that correctly. The team is young and talented and they are finally a fun watch. Running back Latavius Murray had a huge game against the Cleveland Browns last week, rushing for 139 yards and a score. He's up two points to 82 OVR.

Moving On Down

Colin Kaepernick is down two points to 80 OVR after throwing four interceptions and two pick-sixes. In the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is down a point to 90 OVR. His completion percentage has dropped every week since Week 1. Maybe when Antonio Gates comes back from his suspension (how are we not calling this "Gates Gate"?) his numbers will pick back up. For now, though, he's on the decline in the ratings.

Bears running back Matt Forte dropped a point to land at 89 OVR. It's kind of surprising considering he was the lone bright spot in an offense that featured Jimmy Clausen and a still-absent Alshon Jeffery last week. I guess that's what happens when your team gets shutout.

Great Caesar's Ghost

Seriously, how does Ja Rule have a reality show?! It's almost as crazy as Darren Sproles only getting a one-point bump up to 84 OVR. The guy basically saved the Philadelphia Eagles' season with his 89-yard punt return. That alone warrants at least two points. Okay, maybe 1.5 points.

Six bold predictions for Sunday


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6.Julio Jones has been on a tear lately. He's posted 130-plus receiving yards in each game this season and has gone 27-straight games with at least 50 yards receiving. He seems virtually unstoppable in this offense. I expect his hot start to continue Sunday and for him to get at least 200 yards against the Houston Texans. On a side note, I'm also predicting Jadeveon Clowney gets his first career sack. I know how eager you've been to see it. No? Well, all right then.

5.Melvin Gordon is finally going to surpass 100 yards rushing. Every time he gets the ball you are just waiting for him to take over. I think the Chargers finally get him at least 20 touches and let him do his thing against the Cleveland Browns.

4. Joe Philbin and the Miami Dolphins will continue to be more of an enigma than former Dolphins kicker Ray Finkle. One week they look like a legitimate playoff contender, and the next, they look like a team headed for a top pick in the draft. But that's the thing about the Philbin Dolphins: they are the ying and yang of the NFL. They've gone 8-8 the past two seasons (a perfect balance). The team has looked awful the past two weeks, but I expect them to go off on Sunday in London because that would be the most Dolphins thing to do. While I don't think they'll make the playoffs, I expect them to put up big numbers against the Jets and get the victory across the pond.

3. Something is not right with the Detroit Lions... said every Lions fan ever. But seriously, the Lions look awful, and if Golden Tate is to be believed, it's because opposing players know what plays the Lions are calling. Let's be thankful the Lions haven't faced the Patriots because then this would be an issue. Although, it would be nice to call this controversy "Golden Gate" (I'll see myself out). Detroit's offense ranks near the bottom of the league and things aren't going to get any easier with a trip to Seattle on Monday night. I expect the Seahawks to shutout the Lions. Matthew Stafford will throw at least three interceptions and Pete Carroll will aggressively chew gum. The Lions are lost, and I don't expect their problems to be solved in one week. This could be ugly.

2. The Carolina Panthers are 3-0, but looks can be deceiving. The combined record of their opponents this season is just 2-7. They've beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints. Not exactly your Justice League of America lineup of NFL powerhouses, but hey, at least they're winning games they should be winning. I see that changing Sunday, though, when they travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers. Nothing in the stats suggests the Bucs should be the favorites to win, especially since they've lost 19 of their last 22 games. There is a slight chance of rain, so maybe that'll even the playing field a bit? I'm going to just move on before I talk myself out of this prediction.

1. The New Orleans Saints are 0-3 for the first time since 2012 when Aaron Kromer coached them while Sean Payton was suspended for Bountygate for not following the (Ja) rules (Editor's Note: STOP.) of the NFL. Tight end and human security blanket Jimmy Graham is no longer available to Drew Brees. The Saints had the number one offense in the league last year in terms of yards per game, but this year they've dropped out of the top 10. The writing is on the wall for Payton. The good news for the Saints is that they are 7-3 in their last 10 prime time games. So, as Carl Spackler from "Caddyshack" would say, "I've got that goin' for me, which is nice." The Saints are a bad team, but they aren't going to go winless. I expect a prime time game and a home crowd to be the perfect recipe for win number one, regardless of whether or not Drew Brees plays.

Colin J. Liotta is a Digital Features Editor and Writer for His favorite superhero is Green Lantern because I'm sure you've been wondering that. You can follow him on Twitter @TheSportsHero.

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