Before the season began, it looked like the NFC was the stronger conference. Thanks to losses by the Packers, Seahawks, Cardinals and Panthers, the AFC has skyrocketed up the rankings on the backs of the undefeated Patriots, Steelers and Broncos. Week 2 gave us a bit more clarity on those teams that are contenders and pretenders, as well as on those that are just a complete disaster. Here are your Week 3 power rankings after a wild weekend of football.
Cleveland Browns: (last week: 31)
The Browns will start their third quarterback in as many games Sunday, when Cody Kessler takes over for the injured Josh McCown. Kessler was a dink-and-dunk quarterback at USC and wasn’t viewed as a very promising prospect, but the Browns don’t have a choice. They’re the worst team in the league.
Getty ImagesDylan Buell
Chicago Bears (last week: 29)
The Bears have plenty of holes to fill on both sides of the ball: cornerback, offensive tackle, quarterback (seriously). Jay Cutler was the turnover-prone player he’s always been against the Eagles in Monday night’s loss, and to make matters worse, he injured thumb. Linebacker Lamarr Houston may have torn his ACL, too. Chicago is going from bad to worse.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
Buffalo Bills (last week: 26)
The Bills are a mess. Rex Ryan already fired his offensive coordinator despite leading the league in rushing last season, and the head coach might be the next to go. Sammy Watkins is injured, the defense is thin on talent, and the Bills play the Cardinals and Patriots the next two games. An 0-4 start is highly likely.
Washington Redskins: (last week: 20)
Kirk Cousins has regressed since last season, particularly in the red zone. He’s already thrown two interceptions from inside the 20 after not throwing a single one in 2015. The running game is essentially non-existent, and the coaching staff realizes that, too. This is a pass-happy team with an inaccurate quarterback, which isn’t a good combo.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
New Orleans Saints (last week: 25)
So long as the Saints have Drew Brees, they’ll be in most games. Unfortunately, the defense hasn’t played well enough to win, though it did keep the Giants offense out of the end zone on Sunday (Eli Manning had 368 passing yards).
Getty ImagesMichael Reaves
Jacksonville Jaguars: (last week: 18)
The Jaguars are one of the toughest teams to gauge right now. They looked great against the Packers but were completely dominated by the Keenan Allen-less Chargers one week later. Quarterback Blake Bortles still has plenty of room to grow and has to be more consistent with his accuracy, otherwise the Jags won’t win.
San Francisco 49ers: (last week: 28)
From playing one of the worst teams in the NFC to one of the best, the 49ers have had a roller-coaster of a start. They’re 1-1, but the team we saw Sunday against the Panthers is what we’ll get for the rest of the season – decent, but not good enough to win more than five games.
Miami Dolphins (last week: 24)
The Dolphins sit at 0-2 after opening the season with the toughest schedule in football – at Seattle and at New England. They’ll catch a bit of a break with the Browns coming to town this week, but there’s no guarantee they’ll beat the Cody Kessler-led Cleveland team. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill simply has to play better, and not just when the game is out of reach.
Detroit Lions: (last week: 21)
Matthew Stafford has done about all he can to carry this offense, but without a consistent running game, the Lions won’t give anyone much to talk about. They need better balance to complement Stafford, especially considering the defense could fall apart any given week.
Tennessee Titans: (last week: 30)
Through three quarters Sunday, the Titans had scored just three points. They hung 13 on the Lions in the fourth as the offense suddenly came to life. Tight end Delanie Walker got involved, which is key, but there’s still a serious lack of talent. The Titans are not much of a threat to any team on their schedule.
Los Angeles Rams: (last week: 32)
The Rams have scored nine points this season. NINE! Yet, they own the same record as the Cardinals and are tied for first in the NFC West. How? Because the Seahawks can’t score touchdowns, either. Los Angeles is still not very good despite the win over Seattle, but the victory pulled them out of the NFL basement.
Indianapolis Colts: (last week: 16)
Protect Andrew Luck? Nah. Luck was sacked five times against the Broncos, which played a role in his completing just 21 of 40 passes in the 34-20 loss. The Colts are still the most talented 0-2 team given that Luck is their quarterback, but the offense needs a spark – or five better linemen.
Getty ImagesJustin Edmonds
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (last week: 14)
Perhaps the Buccaneers aren’t legit, and Jameis Winston isn’t an MVP candidate. Following their Week 1 win, it looked like those two things might be true, but not anymore. The Bucs were trounced by the Cardinals thanks to Winston’s four interceptions. They still have a lot of growing up to do.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsJoe Camporeale
Atlanta Falcons: (last week: 23)
The NFL is strange, and the Falcons are evidence of that. After losing to the Buccaneers at home – who then got blown out by the Cardinals – the Falcons topped the Raiders one week later. Atlanta, particularly quarterback Matt Ryan, looked much better in Week 2, and that game could be a better indication of the Falcons' capabilities this season.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY SportsCary Edmondson
San Diego Chargers: (last week: 27)
The Chargers came out strong against the Chiefs in Week 1 but were unable to hold the lead. On Sunday, San Diego took the lead over Jacksonville and never looked back, cruising to a 38-14 win without Keenan Allen and even Danny Woodhead for most of the game. Overcoming those key injuries will be tough, but running back Melvin Gordon is much improved and quarterback Philip Rivers is playing solid football.
The Bills look like one of the worst teams in football, which makes the Jets’ close win look a little less impressive. However, it’s now clear the offense will carry this team until Darrelle Revis turns his game around and starts playing like a shutdown corner. New York won’t give the Patriots any trouble in the AFC East.
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY SportsKevin Hoffman
Oakland Raiders: (last week: 9)
After shocking the Saints in Week 1, the Raiders came back to earth in their 35-28 loss to the Falcons. Still, quarterback Derek Carr looked great yet again, and the Raiders rushed for 155 yards on just 25 attempts. If this kind of balance continues going forward, Oakland could challenge the Broncos out west.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY SportsCary Edmondson
Kansas City Chiefs: (last week: 11)
Alex Smith averaged 5.0 yards per attempt against the Texans, which isn’t good. The offense can obviously move the ball on the ground, but Smith has to be better than that, and the passing game is a huge reason the Chiefs lost 19-12. Running back Jamaal Charles’ return should elevate the offense as a whole.
APDavid J. Phillip
Baltimore Ravens: (last week: 17)
For most of Week 2, it looked like the Ravens were going to lose to the Browns. That would have dropped them to 32nd in these rankings (kidding). In all seriousness, it would have been a complete disaster, but Joe Flacco was able to lead them to a 25-20 victory late. They get the Jaguars next, which could mean a 3-0 record for Baltimore.
Dallas Cowboys: (last week: 15)
Dak Prescott has done an exceptional job protecting the football, but the offense is nowhere near as explosive as it should be – or as it will be with Tony Romo. The defense has been formidable by making key stops when needed most, which has kept Dallas in the first two games. The offense will need to score more than 23 points per game to win double-digit games, though.
Philadelphia Eagles: (last week: 19)
The Eagles looked impressive, both defensively and offensively, against the Bears on Monday night. Carson Wentz continued to look like the impressive rookie that he is, while the defense forced Jay Cutler into multiple turnovers. The Eagles look to be contenders in the NFC East, but they’ll need to come away with a win next week against the Steelers to be dubbed serious threats in their conference.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY SportsDennis Wierzbicki
New York Giants: (last week: 13)
The Giants have been a pleasant surprise through two weeks, remaining undefeated after wins over the Cowboys and Saints. The defense was upgraded in the offseason and it has showed thus far, allowing just 32 points in two games. If this kind of play continues, the Giants will finish on top in the NFC East.
Seattle Seahawks (last week: 2)
The Seahawks have scored a grand total of 15 points this season against the Dolphins and Rams. Only once have they found the end zone, and while both defenses they’ve faced are strong, Seattle’s offense should be much better. It’s time to hold the coaching staff and front office accountable for failing to upgrade the offensive line and protect Russell Wilson. They could easily be 0-2 and sitting in last place in the NFC West.
Cincinnati Bengals (last week: 5)
The Bengals drew the short stick to start the season by playing the Jets and Steelers in Weeks 1 and 2. They came out of it 1-1, but they had a real shot at beating Pittsburgh had Tyler Boyd’s fumble been ruled down by contact. It will be a season-long battle between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh for the AFC North crown.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner
Houston Texans: (last week: 12)
The Texans remained undefeated on Sunday by beating the inept offense of the Chiefs, and they did so with yet another balanced attack. It’s clear they’ve committed to involving running back Lamar Miller – something the Dolphins inexplicably never did – which will only help Brock Osweiler and the passing game. In the weak AFC South, the Texans are clear favorites.
Erik Williams-USA TODAY SportsErik Williams
Green Bay Packers (last week: 3)
Aaron Rodgers was outplayed by Sam Bradford, which tells you most of what you need to know about Sunday’s loss to the Vikings. The defense is elite, but the offense needs some serious work, and it begins with Rodgers’ inconsistency.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Panthers (last week: 7)
The Panthers beat the 49ers this weekend, but the game was much closer than the 46-27 score indicated. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Panthers led by just seven before scoring 12 unanswered points. Still, a win is a win, and the Panthers rebounded from a tough loss to the Broncos. They’ll be just fine going forward, so long as they endure Jonathan Stewart’s injury.
Arizona Cardinals (last week: 8)
After a disappointing loss to the Patriots in Week 1, the Cardinals blew the Buccaneers out of the water. The offense was firing on all cylinders, while the defense forced five turnovers in the 40-7 win. It’s not as if the Bucs are a terrible team, either. The Cardinals are just that good.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Minnesota Vikings: (last week: 10)
No Teddy Bridgewater? No Adrian Peterson for part of Week 2? No problem. The Vikings have shown exceptional resilience in the wake of two crushing injuries, and they have new quarterback Sam Bradford (and their defense) to thank. Minnesota’s victory over the Packers was a statement win and one that has moved them up as the top team in the NFC. Hopefully Peterson can return from his torn meniscus quickly.
Getty ImagesHannah Foslien
Denver Broncos: (last week: 6)
It’s probably safe to say I was wrong about the Broncos by ranking them eighth in Week 1. Trevor Siemian still doesn’t look great (one touchdown, three interceptions), but the defense is outstanding and has now limited two elite quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Cam Newton. The season is still young, but this looks eerily similar to 2015.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Pittsburgh Steelers (last week: 4)
The Steelers look like one of the best teams in the AFC after topping their division rival Bengals, 24-16. They’re now 2-0 and own the second-best point differential (plus-30) in the NFL, yet they’re doing this without running back Le’Veon Bell.
Getty ImagesMaddie Meyer
New England Patriots (last week: 1)
Prior to his crushing shoulder injury, Jimmy Garoppolo was playing like an All-Pro. He completed his first eight passes and finished the game with three touchdown passes in the Patriots’ 31-24 win over the Dolphins. New England’s ranking hinges on his health the next two weeks.