NFL Power Rankings: Week 2/3 Edition

Credit: Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Really, NFL? I leave you alone for a week, and you decide to completely shift on me? Guess it’s my form of karma coming after me.

All kidding aside, these first three games have presented a much clearer picture of the NFL hierarchy. Some contenders are performing as expected, with plenty of matchups looking primed to be repeated in the postseason (looking at you, Rams and Buccaneers). Meanwhile, other contenders have shown serious flaws in their rosters that have been exploited, leading to a few slow starts.

The surprises haven’t been all bad, though. A few surprising teams are still undefeated, and a few names have popped up as being in the hunt for awards. While there’s bound to be a team that breaks out of their slump at the expense of a team falling back to previous expectations, we can at least enjoy the ride of an exciting season.

So where have the teams landed since last time? Let’s find out.

1. Los Angeles Rams (3): The Rams’ all-in approach to a Super Bowl this season has gained positive results in the early going, headlined by Sunday’s dominant effort against the defending champs. Matthew Stafford looks like he has completely revitalized the offense, and the defense seems to be doing just fine with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey leading the charge.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1): The flaws of the Buccaneers’ current roster such as an inconsistent running game, surprisingly ineffective pass rush, and thin secondary were exposed against what appears to be their top competition for a Super Bowl return. Richard Sherman might help a bit, but next week will be all about Tom Brady’s return to Foxboro to take on (and likely break the all-time passing record against) the Patriots.

3. Cleveland Browns (5): If Myles Garrett and the defense can stifle opposing teams with more consistency like they did with the Bears, there’s no reason to believe they can’t fulfill their potential as a Super Bowl contender. Baker Mayfield’s efficient passing and elite running back duo should ensure the offense is in a good place most games.

4. Buffalo Bills (6): All of Bills Mafia breathed a sigh of relief from Josh Allen shaking off an inconsistent beginning with a strong performance, but the defense is taking some strides in the right direction. A.J. Epenesa and Gregory Rousseau have started to emerge as the pass-rushing duo that last season’s Bills could have definitely used.

5. Baltimore Ravens (13): Marquise Brown owes Justin Tucker a few steak dinners. Dropping two touchdown passes that could have iced the Lions early forced the latter to make NFL history in order to save the Ravens from a shocking upset. Does Hollywood need a change of scenery to live up to his nickname?

6. Los Angeles Chargers (10): In a parallel universe, the Chargers hired another Anthony Lynn and are sitting at 0-3; instead, they’re a few questionable calls away from 3-0. A couple problems still exist, but the aggressive playcalling from Brandon Staley, improved offensive line play, and a defense that’s making big plays when needed have been key to the Chargers finally starting to play to their potential.

7. Arizona Cardinals (7): A comeback win against hapless Jacksonville isn’t exactly something to write home about, but a hallmark of good teams is finding a way to win the games you should be winning. Kyler Murray and the defense led the second-half charge, but it might not have been the desired outcome given their next three games (Rams, 49ers, Browns).

8. Green Bay Packers (14): Aaron Rodgers is a literal time wizard, silencing the San Francisco crowd with a comeback drive to set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal. It’s debatable whether they can stand up to the likes of Los Angeles and Tampa Bay but, as long as Rodgers is relaxed, anything is possible.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (2): A leaky defense plus an uncharacteristically careless offense equals Kansas City’s first stint in the AFC West basement since 2015. Any team with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid still has a chance of success, but the strong starts of their divisional rivals means they have to pick things up quickly (P.S. Josh Gordon’s not going to solve any of the concerns I have. Just saying.)

10. Las Vegas Raiders (25): The Raiders’ first 3-0 start since 2002 has come with a few bumps in the road, but they’ve certainly lived up to their home city’s “Entertainment Capital of the World” persona. Derek Carr emerging as a legitimate clutch quarterback, an array of receiving weapons, and a defense that’s starting to have a couple key pieces emerge have the Raiders thinking more than just being competitive.

11. San Francisco 49ers (9): How long can Kyle Shanahan reasonably keep Trey Lance on the bench? Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t bad, but if he continues putting up overall mediocre performances against quality competition, the cries in the Bay Area to start the number 3 overall pick will only grow louder.

12. Dallas Cowboys (12): Dak Prescott and the offense have done their part to put Dallas as the alpha dog of the NFC East, but the real reason for the Cowboys’ sudden turn have been the playmakers on defense. Micah Parsons has emerged as an early favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year, while Trevon Diggs’s six interceptions in his last eight games is seeing him emerge as a legitimate playmaking cornerback.

13. Carolina Panthers (22): Carolina pulled out a strong performance on Thursday against Houston, but lost Christian McCaffrey and Jaycee Horn to long-term injuries. The Panthers replaced the latter by landing C.J. Henderson from Jacksonville without giving up too much, but not having McCaffrey for a few weeks will be a true test for Sam Darnold, Joe Brady, and the Carolina offense.

14. Denver Broncos (18): Going 3-0 against the bottom three teams on this list (spoilers) isn’t overly impressive, but there’s something to be said about winning the games you’re supposed to be winning. Should they beat Baltimore this week, however, a spot in the top ten could be waiting for them.

15. Tennessee Titans (15): Maybe the “pay Derrick Henry over Ryan Tannehill” crowd was onto something. In Tennessee’s Week 1 loss to the Cardinals, Henry put up 58 rushing yards on 17 carries (3.4 YPC); in Tennessee’s two recent victories, he’s amassed 293 rushing yards on 56 carries (4.7 YPC).

16. New Orleans Saints (8): So they aren’t as good as their Week 1 pasting of the Packers implied, but the Saints still have a quality team. Jameis Winston’s gunslinging ways make the team incredibly volatile to predict, but Alvin Kamara and the defense are good enough to take advantage of their quarterback’s good days.

17. Seattle Seahawks (4): This might not even be a Seahawks squad Russell Wilson can save. He and the offense can do their part, but this defense looks terrible, especially when it comes to the run defense which made Alexander Mattison look like Dalvin Cook stole his understudy’s jersey and played in his stead. Divisional matchups against San Francisco and Los Angeles suddenly have serious implications for Seattle’s season.

18. Cincinnati Bengals (23): If you had guessed Cincinnati’s still-terrible offensive line to break the Steelers’ 75-game sack streak, you may be a literal psychic. They’ll be hard-pressed to make the playoffs, but keep an eye on them to play spoiler for a team or two as the season progresses.

19. Minnesota Vikings (26): The offense had their way against Seattle’s defense, giving the Vikings and Mike Zimmer the statement win they desperately needed. With games against Cleveland and Carolina up next, however, those two close losses still loom large.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers (11): T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith’s absences left Pittsburgh without their typical punch on defense, but the offense is what’s going to give Mike Tomlin his first sub-.500 season as Steelers coach. The offensive line looks as terrible as predicted, Najee Harris will be taking his lumps in his rookie year, and Ben Roethlisberger looks like he hung around a year too long.

21. New England Patriots (17): It’s weird to say that Mac Jones is still the best-looking rookie quarterback in the league after…whatever the New Orleans game was. With three interceptions, Jones showed that he’s a quarterback who needs his team to elevate him at this stage of his career, unlike a certain prodigal son making his return…

22. Miami Dolphins (16): A spirited “hard loss” effort to Las Vegas under Jacoby Brissett doesn’t appear bad at first blush, but the schedule sees Tampa Bay and Buffalo as opponents in the next month. I’d safely consider Brissett’s “revenge game” against Indianapolis as a must-win if Miami wants to do anything worthwhile this season.

23. Philadelphia Eagles (21): If Weeks 1 and 2 showed the potential that Jalen Hurts, Nick Sirianni, and the Eagles have, Week 3’s dud against Dallas showed that there’s still a lot of building to do. With the next month featuring Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Las Vegas on the schedule, the Eagles could be eyeing a lost season by the time Halloween rolls around.

24. Washington Football Team (20): The supposedly-formidable defense has been shredded repeatedly, the offense under Taylor Heinicke can’t do anything notable, and the team is a lucky penalty away from 0-3. The Cam Newton talk after Ryan Fitzpatrick’s injury was in jest to start; it may start looking like an understandable desperation heave to salvage a season on the brink.

25. Indianapolis Colts (19): Carson Wentz’s second tour of duty under Frank Reich hasn’t gone according to plan for the Colts, who may need a Week 4 win against Miami to reasonably stay in the playoff hunt. Reich led the 2018 Colts to the playoffs after a 1-5 start; he may need to conjure up similar magic for the sake of job security.

26. Chicago Bears (24): It’s hard to tell what was worse about Justin Fields’s NFL debut: the offensive line that featured Myles Garrett stealing Jason Peters’s soul, or an easily-predictable offensive scheme from Matt Nagy that saw the Bears offense have 47 yards…total. If Nagy makes the wrong quarterback decision and loses to Detroit this week, he and Ryan Pace may need security escorts out of Chicago.

27. Atlanta Falcons (30): It didn’t matter which way the Falcons got a win over the Giants; it was necessary to save this season. A nice schedule with Washington and the Jets coming up puts Arthur Smith in great position to gain some momentum and possibly make something out of his first season as head coach (having something worthwhile in Cordarrelle Patterson certainly helps).

28. Houston Texans (28): The Texans are a talent-deficient team as expected, but they aren’t as terrible as many thought they’d be to start the season. Davis Mills showed flashes of ability in his first career start, and the roster performing well without the weight of expectation is a victory in and of itself. Props to you, David Culley.

29. Detroit Lions (31): If the football gods truly exist, they hate the Lions with a burning passion. Here’s how the final moments of the Baltimore game went: conversion on fourth-and-19, a botched no-call on an obvious delay of game penalty, and a historic field goal from Justin Tucker. Somewhere, Calvin Johnson cackles maniacally…

30. New York Giants (27): Hamstring injuries to New York’s top two receivers and a torn ACL to a defensive leader later, and the Giants have now lost two winnable games on last-second field goals. Their reward is as follows: their next six games against New Orleans, Dallas, the Rams, Carolina, Kansas City, and Las Vegas before the bye. Joe Judge getting fired before the bye could come off as an act of mercy if this goes as horribly as expected.

31. New York Jets (29): Just like Zach Wilson’s rookie season, I think we can safely call this another lost season for the Jets. With 20 points over three games and being held out of the end zone since Week 1, any optimism with Gang Green is long gone.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (32): The Iron Bowl-esque kick-six has been the only highlight for the Jaguars so far as Trevor Lawrence commits to the Peyton Manning route of a terrible rookie season leading to a promising career. That said, any person willing to jump off the Jumbotron to Rise Against in a mascot costume is worth a salute.


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