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Sam Bradford, Alex Smith, and Jared Goff are the NFL’s best QBs. How long will that last?

These aren’t the names you expected to be leading the way through one week. So are any of these three QBs for real this year?

New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The best quarterbacks in the NFL, after one week, are exactly who you thought they would be ... if you got your football takes from an underground ‘zine dedicated to lanky, statuesque former No. 1 picks (maybe the publication was called Pocket Patrol or Dink ‘n Dunkers or something, I don’t know).

Take a look at this list of elite-looking quarterbacks who currently lead the league in several important categories.

Alex Smith, 148.6 rating (1st)
Sam Bradford, 143.4 rating (2nd)
Jared Goff, 117.9 rating (3rd)

If you want your reality really warped, mull on this: All three are currently averaging more than 10 yards per attempt. WHO ARE THESE MEN?

What’s happening here?

Better protection

The benefits of a new-look o-line were especially notable for Bradford and Goff. This year, the Rams signed veteran LT Andrew Whitworth from the Bengals, and the difference is already striking. Minnesota’s rebuilt offensive line was especially impressive on Monday night. New left tackle Riley Reiff didn’t allow a single pressure on the QB.

Better systems

The Rams brought in a coach who actually understands offense and, as far as we can tell, enjoys doing something besides kicking field goals to score points. The addition of Cooper Kupp gave Goff a receiver who didn’t drop as many balls as he catches.

Bradford certainly benefits some from continuity. Norv Turner resigned as offensive coordinator after the team’s 5-2 start because of a disagreement about how to run the offense. He wanted a more dynamic offense, but the team’s obvious weaknesses on the line necessitated the closed up dink-and-dunk system.

In Kansas City, the change hasn’t been as obvious. What we saw last Thursday night was the perfect offense for Smith: a spread offense with options and end arounds and shovel passes and all the other stuff that the league’s old fuddy duds say you aren’t supposed to run.

And about those opponents

OK, that doesn’t hold true for Smith and the Chiefs, who knocked off the Patriots in New England. But the Vikings and Rams both got a gift from the schedule-making gods with the Colts and Saints in town.

And that’s not meant to take away from what Bradford and Goff did this week. They could just have easily played the way we expected them to play, i.e. blandly, and probably still won those games.

Both quarterbacks get a level up in opponents for Week 2. Washington visits Los Angeles, and the Vikings travel to Pittsburgh. The Chiefs get to hose the Eagles, so that’s actually a little easier than what they had to do last week.

Can they keep this up?

That’s the toughest question here. Of the three quarterbacks, Goff is probably the one most susceptible to ups and downs in his play, merely because he’s only in his second season and has a whole new coaching staff around him.

Bradford and Smith are both veterans who have played a little better over the years than we’ve probably given them credit for ... they just haven’t really managed to do so for an entire season. But this year could be different.

I’d probably bet the more familiar names — Rodgers, Brady, etc. — will be back on top of the quarterback world when the season does finally wrap up in December. But there’s a chance for these three to be up there with them.