The No. 3 and No. 6 teams in our previous Power Rankings (Pittsburgh and Houston, respectively) were absolutely throttled in Week 3. Teams Nos. 4 (Carolina), 5 (Arizona) and 7 (Cincinnati) were pushed around in losses. Some of you would be quick to point out that shows a flaw in our Power Rankings, and to those of you I say, “Thank you for your tweets.”
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What it also shows is that there is a very thin line between being great and just average in this league, with not many teams clearing that height.
How will this week’s Power Rankings hold up?
1New England Patriots
last week: 1
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” That’s inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, of course, but it’s also how Bill Belichick answers the question, “Whom could you win a game with as your quarterback?”
last week: 2
Trevor Siemian’s four-touchdown performance in Cincinnati drew him a QB rating of 132.1 for the game, a mark hit only once the past two seasons by either Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler (Manning, 135.4 in Week 11 of 2014). If the Broncos turn dangerous through the air, go ahead and pencil them in for another AFC title game appearance.
The only team with fewer yards of offense than the Vikings’ 796 is Los Angeles, which in a roundabout way tells you all you need to know about Minnesota’s defense. The Vikings not only generated eight sacks and three turnovers but also forced Carolina into four holding calls (one declined). Mike Zimmer’s defense is sensational.
last week: 14
On the Jim Schwartz fist pump rating scale, the three-pump flurry he unleashed following Philadelphia’s final defensive stand Sunday ranks right up there with that time he tried to punch himself into another dimension after an OT win with Detroit. Schwartz’s defense is as much of a factor in the Eagles’ 3–0 start as Carson Wentz.
That strange apparition you saw during the Chiefs-Jets game was Ryan Fitzpatrick’s soul leaving his body. The Chiefs intercepted six Fitzpatrick passes Sunday—four times during a surreal seven-minute stretch in the fourth quarter.
last week: 3
Given the Steelers’ awful history in Philadelphia—they have lost nine straight games there, including Sunday’s 34–3 abomination—we probably can assume their 2017 draft in the City of Brotherly Love will be a disaster, too. The good news? Le’Veon Bell is back this week, just in time for a key matchup with Kansas City.
7Green Bay Packers
last week: 2–1
Can we talk for a second about how ludicrous it is to have a Week 4 bye, like the Packers and Eagles do? You don’t stop 30 minutes into a six-hour car ride to go to the bathroom. Green Bay is banged up on defense so maybe the break helps, but it would have been nice to capitalize on Aaron Rodgers’s Week 3 momentum.
last week: 16
The Ravens’ wins have come by an average of 4.3 points against three teams sporting a combined 1–8 record, so your skepticism is understandable. That said, the Ravens haven’t been 3–0 since 2009, and they already have two road wins banked. There won’t be any complaints from them.
last week: 12
A healthy Jimmy Graham (six catches, 100 yards and a TD last Sunday) may be just what the sluggish Seattle offense needs to find its stride. Limiting the hits that Walking Recovery Water Commercial/QB Russell Wilson takes on a weekly basis wouldn’t be a bad thing, either.
last week: 4
Carolina’s pass blocking comes with the same odds of success as Señor Chang’s fire-safety plan in Community: “Fire can’t go through doors, stupid. It’s not a ghost!” Denver (twice) and now Minnesota have lived in the Panthers’ backfield, so this has become an unwelcome recurring theme for Cam Newton.
The Browns moving the football with Cody Kessler and Terrelle Pryor provided an answer to anyone wondering why Cincinnati would miss Hue Jackson. Tyler Eifert’s impending return will be a great help, but the Bengals’ offense has been out of sync through three weeks.
last week: 17
The injury bug won’t go away—guard La’el Collins (foot) just landed on IR and Dez Bryant (knee) may need an MRI. Still, the Cowboys now look less like a team weathering the storm until Tony Romo comes back and more like one confident it can roll without him.
last week: 15
Say hello to the league’s lone team with three separate players (Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington) who have over 100 yards rushing this season. Is it just a coincidence that Oakland’s run game is enjoying a resurgence the same year those Bo Jackson Tecmo Super Bowl commercials start airing? Yes. It is a coincidence, yes.
last week: 6
Imagine that instead of upsetting the Soviet Union, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team lost that medal-round game, like, 11–0. That’s how the Texans’ attempt to ascend the AFC ranks has gone whenever they see New England. Houston scraps its way into the conference mix, only to get obliterated by its big, bad rival.
last week: 5
The Cardinals are one or two more no-shows away from testing Bruce Arians’s likeability quotient—coaches with engaging personalities tend to receive more benefit of the doubt from the public and the media. Complete duds like Sunday’s loss in Buffalo should not happen for a team with Arizona’s talent level.
New York missed a golden opportunity to take control of the NFC East and now faces back-to-back trips to Minnesota and Green Bay. Oh yeah, and scoring just nine points on offense against the Saints, which the Giants did in Week 2, looks more and more mind-boggling by the week.
last week: 20
The jury’s still out on how good the Falcons are—they started last season 6–1, after all—but the passing attack is on to something. Matt Ryan’s yards per attempt (9.4) and yards per completion (13.3) lead the league through three weeks of the regular season.
18New York Jets
last week: 11
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s meltdown in Kansas City was like watching those videos where NBA players block little kids’ shots. It had been nine years since a quarterback (Peyton Manning, of all people, against San Diego) threw six interceptions in a game before Fitzpatrick pulled it off Sunday.
19St. Louis Rams
last week: 22
Behind one door is a land of chocolate mountains and bourbon streams where the Rams beat Seattle and hang 37 points on Tampa Bay. Behind the other door is a bear that definitely will maul you and there’s only Pepsi products but never Coke and the Rams lose by 28 to San Francisco. Choose wisely.
last week: 28
Shy of pitching a shutout, Sunday’s win over Arizona was a peak Rex Ryan experience: an aggressive, turnover-forcing defense; an explosive run game; and a postgame press conference that included Ryan promising to bring the pain against the Patriots. If Ryan manages to deliver in Foxborough on Sunday, the entire complexion of Buffalo’s season changes.
last week: 27
Washington had to have its Week 3 game in New York and now gets a bye … oops, sorry, the schedule actually says Browns. Basically the same thing. With DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon and an emerging Jamison Crowder, Washington’s passing game should look like it did last Sunday on a more consistent basis.
last week: 25
The NFL could save itself a lot of trouble simply by starting Colts games late in the fourth quarter, with Indianapolis in possession of the ball and down a few points. Feels like every single matchup winds up there one way or another, at least when Andrew Luck’s in the lineup.
23San Diego Chargers
last week: 19
The Chargers are well on their way to being the league’s best 5–11 team, which comes with the likely prize package of a top-10 pick and a new coach. And if the Chargers’ bid on their own showcase comes within $100 of being correct, they also win the other showcase: a new stadium, a jet ski and a DVD collection of Alec Baldwin movies.
24Tampa Bay Buccaneers
last week: 18
If the Buccaneers cannot summon enough mojo to win a home game delayed by literal Tampa Bay lightning, it’s going to be tough to fill up the bandwagon. Someone let Dirk Koetter know that unused timeouts are not redeemable for cash.
Be it Lamar Miller or now an Arian Foster/Kenyan Drake/Jay Ajayi combo, the Dolphins might be doomed to have a mediocre run game. On the bright side, when he’s healthy, DeVante Parker looks like he could develop into one of the better receivers in football.
last week: 23
Marcus Mariota now has made 15 career starts; Tennessee has scored 20 or more points in just five of those games. The process of developing a young QB on a rebuilding team can take tons of time, but the output thus far does not exactly qualify as encouraging.
last week: 24
The Lions’ Week 2 loss to the Titans, sealed by a late interception, has overshadowed how well Matthew Stafford is slinging it early on. Long way to go, but he’s on pace for nearly 5,300 yards passing, which would set a new career high for him and land about 400 yards above last season’s league leader (Drew Brees, with 4,870).
The Saints’ defense was less of a presence on Monday night than Lester Holt. While Sean Payton recently received a five-year contract extension and Drew Brees should be around through at least 2017, there does not appear to be a fairy-tale New Orleans ending waiting for that duo.
last week: 32
Up four spots after another loss because a) The teams below the Browns are in shambles, and b) What Hue Jackson accomplished with his misfit offense in Sunday’s 30–24 loss to the Dolphins was brilliant. If nothing else, at least Jackson’s presence gives the Browns purpose as they tinker with their roster.
30San Francisco 49ers
last week: 30
Seattle’s Michael Bennett pointed out the primary problem for Chip Kelly on Sunday: Blaine Gabbert does not worry the opposition, at all. Winning in this league without a standout quarterback typically only works if you happen to have an outstanding defense.
The Dolphins fired Joe Philbin after losing in London. Ditto for the Raiders with Dennis Allen. Last year, Detroit canned its offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, just before leaving for the overseas trip. Gus Bradley may not suffer the same fate, regardless of what happens against Indianapolis, but he might want to fill an extra suitcase just in case he has time to add on to his Europe trip.
last week: 29
The last time the Cubs won a playoff game before the Bears managed a regular-season win was 1945—the Cubs took Game 1 of the World Series against Detroit on Oct. 3; the Bears needed until Nov. 4 before beating the Packers. History likely will be repeated if the Bears can’t knock off the Lions this Sunday.