NFL Power Rankings: Midseason Edition

Photo Credit: Andrew Nelles/USA TODAY Sports

With nearly half of the teams having or at their bye week and the NFL hierarchy starting to cement itself, we are close to saying that we are officially at the midway point of the NFL season.

At this point, one conference has been dominant, illustrated by the fact that the top five spots in these rankings belong to teams from said conference. The NFC has shown its teeth throughout the season, with each of their divisions being represented at the top by teams that could be legitimate powerhouses come January. Unlike the AFC, which is shaping up to be a surprising playoff picture, the NFC is loaded with elite talent, making the postseason a potentially explosive affair.

Speaking of the AFC, there’s a quick question I want to ask. Did any of you have the Cincinnati Bengals not just in first place of the loaded AFC North at this point, but ahead of the likes of the Chiefs in any capacity? If you answered yes, you are either a terrible liar, a legitimate psychic, or someone who could have a lot of money waiting for them at the betting counter in the new year. It’s good to see surprise teams at this point of the season prove their legitimacy (hello, Arizona and Los Angeles Chargers), but it’s more surprising when the Bengals overcame serious scrutiny over their offseason decisions and organizational malaise over the last few years to become one of the surprise contenders this season. The glory of sports, man.

So how does the NFL stack up this time?

1. Arizona Cardinals (3): After two straight weeks of clicking on both sides of the ball and keeping their undefeated record intact, I’ll finally give the Cardinals their due and place them at the top of the rankings. After JJ Watt’s season-ending injury, however, Arizona could now be in play to bolster their pass rush at the trade deadline (November 2, for the curious).

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2): The only worrisome thing from Tampa Bay’s clash with Chicago was having to negotiate with a fan for Tom Brady’s 600th regular-season touchdown ball (thank you, Mike Evans). If the Bucs can put together a similar effort against the only legitimate competition in their division in the Saints, you can basically lock the Buccaneers for at least one home playoff game.

3. Los Angeles Rams (6): The Rams have unsurprisingly gone through the weak stretch of their schedule, but the Lions were able to keep the game a lot closer than fans would have hoped for. The cupcake matches end after Houston, so any issues the Rams still have need to be solved soon for them to be able to catch Arizona for the NFC West crown.

4. Dallas Cowboys (8): The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cowboys, with Dak Prescott coming out of their last game injured and his Week 8 status still up in the air. They should still be fine with the amount of talent they have on the roster, but being without Dak for a game or two could knock them down a peg.

5. Green Bay Packers (7): Aaron Rodgers is still putting up big numbers to keep the Packers in the mix, but a few struggles against Washington still has me thinking this team is below the four above them in terms of sheer firepower. A game against Arizona where the Packers will be without their top three receivers and defensive coordinator might be a little unfair to judge them for, however.

6. Buffalo Bills (1): After being on cruise control for most of the season, Buffalo’s ambitions hit a snag against Tennessee last week. Hopefully, they come out of the bye week motivated to get the stench off of them, and it helps that the rest of their division doesn’t appear to have interest in chasing after them too hard.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (13): After soundly dominating their main AFC North competition in Baltimore, it’s time to finally admit that the Bengals have all the makings of a good team. Joe Burrow has completely changed the complexion of this franchise, and the decision to draft Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell has paid off in a big way.

8. Los Angeles Chargers (4): The blowout loss to the Ravens was probably necessary for the Chargers to see the flaws on their roster, which they can use the deadline and an easier stretch of their schedule to work out. They used the past week to try and solve their special teams issues, but their big task is going to be how to fix a league-worst run defense that has been exposed the last couple of games?

9. Tennessee Titans (15): Even in a game where Derrick Henry wasn’t dominating defenses as per usual, Ryan Tannehill and the defense were able to pick up the slack and then some. They could virtually lock up the AFC South with a victory over Indianapolis this week, giving them the season to play with more consistency.

10. Baltimore Ravens (5): A week after crushing the Chargers, the Ravens were on the other side of a blowout against Cincinnati in what felt like a “changing of the guard” game. The depth issues that Baltimore’s suffered since the beginning of the season may be coming back to haunt them, which could necessitate coming away from the trade deadline with a couple new pieces in tow.

11. Cleveland Browns (9): Give credit to the Browns for coming away with a victory over Denver on the back of a third-string running back that was suiting up in the AAF just a few years ago (if you had to Google that, you’re proving how impressive this effort was). The field hospital’s worth of injuries isn’t going to make Cleveland’s run any easier, but this level of adversity would have tanked any of last decade’s Browns squads.

12. Las Vegas Raiders (14): Did the Raiders somehow get better with Jon Gruden out of the picture? Derek Carr didn’t need Darren Waller to put together a dominant performance against the Eagles, and they’ve managed to remain in great position to be the Chargers’ biggest competition in the AFC West, assuming it’s not the other way around…

13. New Orleans Saints (11): The defense showed that the Saints are a likely playoff team against Seattle, but the offense has the potential to cut any plans short. Alvin Kamara has been great but, if the rushing game isn’t going, Jameis Winston and the passing game might not be good enough to move the ball without help. How they counter that when Michael Thomas finally returns will be pivotal.

14. Kansas City Chiefs (10): The blowout loss to Buffalo was bad enough, but failing to score a single touchdown against the Titans as the defense continues to fall apart and NFL defensive coordinators appear to be figuring out Patrick Mahomes? It’s time to slam the panic button as Kansas City runs the risk of not only missing the Super Bowl, but missing the playoffs entirely.

15. San Francisco 49ers (12): The bomb cyclone that hit Santa Clara and forced San Francisco’s primetime game against the Colts to be played in heavy rainfall did no favors, but the 49ers are falling fast in the NFC West where the top two teams don’t appear to be slowing down. Kyle Shanahan’s job security can’t be particularly high at this point in time, and Trey Lance’s health is the only thing that should keep him out of the starting lineup at this point.

16. Minnesota Vikings (19): The Vikings came off their bye week with two straight wins, but a primetime matchup against the Cowboys, followed by games against the Ravens, Chargers, and Packers, will decide their fate come January. Kirk Cousins has never had any problems putting up numbers, but even a .500 record at this stretch could add a bit of significance behind the stats.

17. New England Patriots (22): After taking the Cowboys to the limit, the Patriots embraced one of their favorite pastimes and beat up the New York Jets. Dropping fifty-plus points was impressive, but they need a statement win to convince me or anybody else that they’re a serious playoff threat.

18. Indianapolis Colts (25): After starting the season 0-3, the Colts have fired off three victories in the last four games to put them back in the AFC playoff hunt. While Tennessee will look to put the division in their pocket, an Indianapolis victory this week suddenly keeps their AFC South hopes alive.

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (21): Najee Harris and the defense have been at least alright, but the offensive line and an aging Ben Roethlisberger means to keep expectations low on this team. Injury-riddled Cleveland could give the Steelers some momentum, but their next five games (Chargers, Bengals, Ravens, Vikings, Titans) could doom them to their first losing season in the Mike Tomlin era.

20. Carolina Panthers (16): An embarrassing loss to the Giants all but ends the Panthers’ optimism for this season, as they’ve only shown how important Christian McCaffrey is to the overall team. If Sam Darnold getting benched for PJ Walker doesn’t tell you that they’re willing to pull the plug on the former number 3 overall pick, being in on the Deshaun Watson trade rumors certainly will.

21. Denver Broncos (17): Losing to the Browns wouldn’t typically be a bad thing, but losing to a Browns team that was torn apart by injuries definitely is. The only way for the Broncos to move forward is to fire Vic Fangio and Pat Shurmur, while looking at which quarterback in the 2022 draft would fit their new offense’s designs.

22. Atlanta Falcons (26): I’m not overly convinced the Falcons are all that good, but finally establishing a connection to Kyle Pitts is paying dividends for the offense. A reeling Panthers team gives Atlanta a chance to not only be over .500 for the first time in the Arthur Smith era, but the first time since 2017.

23. Seattle Seahawks (18): A Monday night dud against New Orleans has Seattle 0-3 at home since 1992, and I’m not convinced that Geno Smith or this team is good enough to beat the Jaguars in Seattle either (I can’t believe I’m saying that unironically). Russell Wilson was covering up a lot of flaws with the Seahawks, and that alone could inspire sweeping organizational change to keep their superstar QB happy.

24. Chicago Bears (20): Justin Fields is slowly suffering the same fate as Mitch Trubisky did in Chicago, and games like the one against Tampa Bay aren’t helping build confidence. It’s clear that Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace need to go in favor of a regime that’s willing to build around their quarterback before his confidence is shattered.

25. New York Giants (28): Give credit to the Giants for soundly defeating the Panthers, topped off by Daniel Jones imitating Odell Beckham Jr. on a trick play. I’m not going to say this team is good, but they can definitely play the role of spoiler for some teams as they look for pieces to center their rebuild around (is Jones emerging as one of them?)

26. Philadelphia Eagles (23): After showing so much promise against Atlanta in Week 1, the Eagles are on the verge of a deadline fire sale by losing five of their last six. Even more alarming is that pundits are already trying to figure out who’s going to drop out from the Jalen Hurts-Nick Sirianni connection, assuming either one of them stays in Philadelphia at all.

27. Washington Football Team (24): Washington had all the makings of a huge upset over Green Bay to turn their season around, but a failure to finish on offense still led to a double-digit loss. The Taylor Heinicke story is a nice one, but it feels like a matter of time until it reaches its conclusion.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (32): The losing streak is finally out of sight and out of mind, with Trevor Lawrence looking more like an NFL quarterback with each passing game. Catching Seattle without Russell Wilson might be a cause for momentum, but the stretch beyond that might dictate whether Urban Meyer’s first year in professional football is also his last.

29. New York Jets (29): Getting blown out by the Patriots was bad enough, but the offensive line finally letting Zach Wilson get injured puts an end to any reason to care about the Jets. If you seriously think Joe Flacco can be an answer, you’d be alone.

30. Miami Dolphins (27): Want to know how your season is over?; try breaking a 20-game losing streak and choking to the league’s most notorious choker in back-to-back weeks. The Deshaun Watson rumors are only getting louder but, with all of the problems that this team has, is it really any different or better than the one he’d be leaving?

31. Houston Texans (30): Losing to the Cardinals was expected, and the story now shifts to what Deshaun Watson might get for the Texans in the end. It seems like a saga that has ominously hovered over Houston since the offseason may finally be taken off their hands.

32. Detroit Lions (32): I really don’t want to bury this team, but is 0-17 watch officially a thing now? The only real winnable matchups I see are this week against the Eagles and Thanksgiving against the Bears; it’ll be gravely concerning if December comes and the Lions are still winless.


NFL Power Rankings: Week 5 Edition

Photo Credit: Fox News

The chaos of the NFL continues for another week.

Kickers were nowhere to be found this week. The Browns and Chargers put on an early contender for Game of the Year. A scandal involving racism, misogyny, and homophobia shook an organization to its very core, with the potential of another being the root cause. These are the types of weeks that have ramifications for months to come.

Meanwhile, we can start discussing who’s going to be in play for the season awards. The MVP race is looking tight between two hotshot young quarterbacks and one widely regarded as the greatest of all time. Both Rookie of the Year awards are looking like close calls. One coach completely shifting the culture of his team is the front-runner for Coach of the Year. A lot can change in the next few months, but let’s not discount how this early success can catapult teams moving forward.

So how does the NFL stack up?

1. Buffalo Bills (2): After weeks of stacking up against mediocre-to-poor offenses, the Bills defense went into Arrowhead and flat-out dominated Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense. It’s uncertain if they can put together a repeat performance in January, but it’s feeling like the AFC is going to run through Bills Mafia.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1): The only reason the Buccaneers lose the top spot in a victory is due to competition: the Dolphins are nowhere close to the level of the Chiefs. The strangest stat of the day: this game marked the first time Tom Brady threw for 400+ yards and five touchdowns. Just another milestone for the GOAT.

3. Arizona Cardinals (3): After a month of dominant offensive play from the Cardinals, it was their defense that came through in a big divisional victory over the 49ers. We’ve now seen that both sides can take over games; now it’s just a matter of both clicking at the same time.

4. Los Angeles Chargers (6): Justin Herbert firmly entrenched his name into the MVP conversation, and Coach of the Year contender Brandon Staley has turned this into an exciting team to watch. The Browns exposed a couple of issues, but they pale in comparison to the rest of their AFC West counterparts.

5. Baltimore Ravens (4): After Monday night’s comeback against the Colts, it’s hard to deny Lamar Jackson is a legitimate quarterback at this level. After his performance, his combined 1,850 offensive yards would put him in the top half of all NFL teams.

6. Los Angeles Rams (7): The victory over Seattle on Thursday wasn’t necessarily a shining effort, and it’s become clear that the Rams are not as good as their Week 3 blowout of the Buccaneers made them look. Still, with their next three opponents having two wins between them, this will be a great chance for the Rams to gain momentum and keep pace with the Cardinals.

7. Green Bay Packers (8): No kicker redeemed themselves more than Mason Crosby, who went from goat to hero in a shouldn’t-have-been overtime thriller. They won’t skate by like that in their next stretch, which includes games against four playoff teams from last season and the Cardinals. Buckle up.

8. Dallas Cowboys (10): What can you say about the Cowboys other than how dominant they’ve looked after an up-and-down first two weeks? With a healthy Dak Prescott leading the offense and the defense generating takeaways at an insane rate, it seems safe to pencil in the Cowboys as the winner of one of football’s least intimidating divisions.

9. Cleveland Browns (5): After a strange performance against the Vikings where the defense had to carry a struggling offense, the inverse happened against the Chargers this week. Games like this show what the Browns are at this stage: a flawed contender.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (9): Patrick Mahomes’s six interceptions in the first five games have matched his total from last season already, and the Chiefs are tied with Jacksonville at a league-leading 11 turnovers. Unless the offense wakes up and carries a defense that has been completely overmatched, the Chiefs are looking at a first-round exit…at best.

11. New Orleans Saints (17): Combined with a punting performance from Blake Gillikin that would make Pat McAfee proud, Alvin Kamara and a strong defense put the mercurial Saints on top. With plenty of key players coming back after New Orleans’s bye, will their returns do anything to shed the inconsistent label this team has earned in the first month?

12. San Francisco 49ers (13): Despite the loss, the 49ers move up a spot due to the team that was in front of them and their…issues. It’s unclear who’s going to be starting at quarterback when the team returns from their bye, but George Kittle landing on IR will not help matters.

13. Cincinnati Bengals (14): Ja’Marr Chase is slowly building a case for himself as Offensive Rookie of the Year, but Evan McPherson’s imitating Nick Young on a missed field goal will be hard to forget. Zac Taylor going to his kicker in a game where field goals were nowhere to be found is an inexplicable decision that will be remembered if the Bengals go on a sudden drop.

14. Las Vegas Raiders (12): Losing to the Bears at home was bad enough, but the sudden Jon Gruden bombshell has completely scattered this team. It’ll undoubtedly be a black cloud that hangs over the Raiders for this season and potentially beyond, which isn’t a good thing when your quarterback’s already tabled talks of a contract extension…

15. Tennessee Titans (21): Derrick Henry is a god amongst men right now on the football field, as his 128 rushing yards per game currently have him on pace for the single-season rushing record. He’s already put himself on the map in another category: his 4,792 rushing yards are the most in a 40-game stretch in league history, eclipsing Jim Brown and his 4,759. Hail to the King.

16. Carolina Panthers (15): It’s clear that the Panthers need Christian McCaffrey, as Sam Darnold has thrown for five interceptions in the two games without his star running back and safety valve. Thankfully, Run CMC is expected to return this week, which hopefully means the wins can as well.

17. Denver Broncos (16): The Broncos have played poorly on third down and in the red zone this season, and those issues are finally being taken advantage of by legitimate competition. That 3-0 start was definitely too good to be true.

18. Seattle Seahawks (11): After ten seasons of surviving behind poor offensive lines, Russell Wilson will miss several games with a finger injury. Geno Smith did well in relief against the Rams, but I don’t think he’s capable of guiding a middling rushing attack and poor defense like Russ can.

19. Minnesota Vikings (22): The Vikings managed to keep Detroit winless, but is a last-second long-range field goal in your own building against a winless team really something to celebrate? Similar to Matt Nagy after Chicago’s victory over the Lions, I’m not sure if this victory does anything to cool Mike Zimmer’s hot seat.

20. Chicago Bears (23): It seems the Bears of this season are starting to take shape, with Justin Fields being allowed to learn an NFL offense while relying on decent rushing and a surprisingly-stout defense. Just don’t make the same mistake if you land another shock playoff berth, Bears: you’re winning in spite of Matt Nagy, not because of him.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (25): Losing JuJu Smith-Schuster for the year hurts, but it was refreshing for Steelers fans to see Big Ben put on a strong performance and Najee Harris live up to his first-round billing. A primetime matchup against a suddenly-wounded Seahawks team gives the Steelers a chance to reach .500 before their bye, which would be huge for them.

22. New England Patriots (20): While the Patriots did win against the Texans, they drop for making Davis Mills look like a superstar one week after he posted a Nathan Peterman-esque stat line. Did anyone else have “Mac Jones is missing four starting offensive linemen and still looks like the best rookie QB” on their 2021 season bingo card?

23. Philadelphia Eagles (24): The Eagles got three big plays on all facets to go from a nine-point deficit to a three-point victory. That’s great and all, but performances like that won’t fly against the Buccaneers tomorrow.

24. Washington Football Team (19): A disappointing defense that was absolutely embarrassed by the Saints in just the first half, and a potential continuation of the NFL’s investigation that has the NFLPA smelling blood. By the end of the season, the list of firings could have this organization resembling The Squid Game (Think the Red Light, Green Light episode, except a lot less NSFW.)

25. Indianapolis Colts (18): Trotting out a clearly-injured Rodrigo Blankenship one too many times had something to do with it, but I don’t think any team’s stolen defeat from the jaws of victory quite like the Colts did on Monday. After blowing a sixteen-point lead in the fourth quarter alone, I just don’t see how Indianapolis comes back.

26. Atlanta Falcons (29): It turns out utilizing Kyle Pitts’s unicorn-like size/speed combination against a defense ill-equipped to handle it works out pretty well most of the time. Hopefully, the bye gives Arthur Smith time to adjust his offense for more plays from the number four overall pick.

27. Miami Dolphins (26): Welcome back, Tua Tagovailoa; you come back to find your team in absolute crisis mode. If the Dolphins end up breaking the Jaguars’ run of futility in London, their offensive coordinators might be out of work before the team plane leaves Heathrow Airport’s tarmac.

28. New York Giants (27): The injury bug continued to bite the Giants hard, and they need to hope that neither Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, or Kenny Golladay are out long-term if they want to survive this part of their schedule. At least there’s a chance Kadarius Toney can build off a performance that was great…until he got ejected for throwing a punch.

29. New York Jets (28): It seemed that while the Jets played in London, their luck went over the Bermuda Triangle. Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur need to get Zach Wilson some luck, and using young promising playmakers like Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims would be a good start.

30. Houston Texans (31): Davis Mills had a surprisingly good day against a coach that typically dominates rookie quarterbacks, only to be let down by terrible special teams efforts. With the quarterback draft class looking murkier by the week, getting signs of life from Mills has to be relieving.

31. Detroit Lions (30): First Justin Tucker’s record-breaking field goal, then losing on another long-range field goal from a team notorious for missing those in key situations? I feel legitimately bad for Dan Campbell.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (32): Urban Meyer is now having issues with Trevor Lawrence, and the Jaguars have become the first team to lose 20 straight games since the EXPANSION Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1977. I’d normally advocate against firing a coach this early but, if the Jaguars push the streak to 21 in London, would sending Meyer out really be the worst thing to happen?

NFL Power Rankings: Week 4 Edition

Credit: Steven Senne/AP

The only difference between this set of power rankings and the most previous one? I’m actually on time with this one.

Other than that, the chaos of the NFL season has continued in full force. A week after the top dog was dethroned by their main challenger, this week saw the latter drop to an unexpected opponent. New teams are starting to see their potential being realized, while others are witnessing the end of their current relevance. A couple of teams can be penciled in to playoff spots already, while others would do wisely to check out the highlights of next year’s draft class.

It’s the duality of football in a sense; endless euphoria one week giving way to crushing agony the next. It shows the importance of each and every game, even in the early stages of the season. The narratives will always shift from week to week, as will these rankings.

So how do the teams stack up this time?

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2): The weather turned Tom Brady’s return to Foxborough into an unexpected slogfest, but the Bucs did just enough to eke out a win. Unfortunately, they lost yet another defensive back in Carlton Davis to injury, which might mean recently signed Richard Sherman becomes the number one corner within a week of signing. Yikes.

2. Buffalo Bills (4): While Buffalo’s 118-21 combined score and two shutouts in the last three games is a great sign of momentum, they came against three mediocre-at-best offenses. If they can manage the same success against the Chiefs, however, the Bills suddenly have a legitimate case of being the best team in the AFC.

3. Arizona Cardinals (7): Maybe I’m being too harsh on Arizona, who became the last undefeated team in the league with a shocking road victory against the Rams. I’ll buy into the Kyler Murray MVP hype, but the next month will decide if the Cardinals truly stack up with the league’s elite.

4. Baltimore Ravens (5): Lamar Jackson had one of his best passing games, Marqise Brown made up for a tough game against Detroit, and the defense had their way with the Broncos all game long. That final last-second run by Jackson to give Baltimore a new NFL record for most consecutive 100-yard rushing games was just the proverbial middle finger to an opponent they exposed.

5. Cleveland Browns (3): The defense feels much more legitimate after dominating for the second straight game, and the Nick Chubb-Kareem Hunt duo is the most elite two-headed backfield monster in the league. All this needs is Baker Mayfield to be more consistent than he was against Minnesota, and the Browns could easily push for a deep playoff run.

6. Los Angeles Chargers (6): After an up-and-down beginning of the year, Justin Herbert has come alive with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games. Even more impressive, however, has been the defense, which has held all four of its opponents to their lowest offensive outputs of the season. Looks like Brandon Staley was the right man for the job.

7. Los Angeles Rams (1): The king of the hill was dethroned rather quickly this time around. After silencing the Buccaneers, the Rams struggled on both sides of the ball against the hotshot Cardinals. Once again, the NFC West is proving to be an absolute bloodbath.

8. Green Bay Packers (8): It wasn’t always pretty against Pittsburgh, but an offense that’s starting to find balance and an easy schedule could put the Packers in good position to have the NFC North at their mercy. They might have to do it without Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback Jaire Alexander, which pushes Green Bay whipping boy Kevin King and first-round pick Eric Stokes firmly under the microscope.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (9): The victory against Philadelphia last week was indicative of the Chiefs: a team that needs it’s high-end offensive talent to bail out what appears to be a truly horrendous defense. A primetime matchup against a surging Buffalo squad in Arrowhead suddenly has massive implications on where the Chiefs stand in the AFC.

10. Dallas Cowboys (12): As much as everyone outside of Dallas hates to admit it, the Cowboys are firmly in the driver’s seat of the NFC East. A balanced offense, combined with a defense that has enjoyed an impressive turnaround under Dan Quinn, has the denizens of Jerry World wondering what this team’s ceiling is.

11. Seattle Seahawks (17): Russell Wilson has never had a three-game losing streak since he entered the league ten years ago, and he was the sole reason it stayed that way against San Francisco. I’m still not convinced they’re better than the Rams and Cardinals, however, so Thursday’s game against the former will be crucial.

12. Las Vegas Raiders (10): The Raiders had been living life on the edge by coming back from 14-0 in two straight games, and it cost them when they pressed their luck against the Chargers with a 21-0 deficit after the first half. Derek Carr almost pulled it off with a strong second half, but a missed field goal and the defense buckling one final time put an end to those ambitions.

13. San Francisco 49ers (11): Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury started the Trey Lance era in unexpected fashion, and the talent he flashed against Seattle will come up big for San Francisco in situations this season. Unfortunately, Lance’s first start comes in a must-win game against the undefeated Cardinals. No one said being QB1 was sunshine and roses.

14. Cincinnati Bengals (18): The Bengals nearly regressed to old habits against Jacksonville on Thursday, but they woke up just in time to mount an impressive second-half comeback. Joe Burrow and company are certainly trending in the right direction, but the Packers pose a stern test.

15. Carolina Panthers (13): The Panthers received a reality check from the Cowboys last week, but a stretch of five games against one-win teams gives them a chance to regain momentum until they get Christian McCaffrey back. Sam Darnold does need to be much more consistent; his two interceptions allowed the Cowboys to tack on 10 points that turned the tide against his team.

16. Denver Broncos (14): The pundits who claimed the Broncos were only undefeated due to their schedule were proven correct against Baltimore, and Teddy Bridgewater entering concussion protocol forces Denver to commit to Drew Lock’s last stand. Given he put up zero points against Baltimore, however, color me skeptical that this will go any better.

17. New Orleans Saints (17): The fourth-quarter meltdown against the Giants was a result of Sean Payton trusting Taysom Hill over Alvin Kamara on a crucial third-down call, a decision that saw New York put up seventeen unanswered points. The Saints appear to be the most volatile team in the NFL by a comfortable margin.

18. Indianapolis Colts (25): Despite Quenton Nelson going on the shelf, the Colts managed to take advantage of a Dolphins team that has fallen apart at the seams. Despite starting out 0-3, the Colts are one win back from the lead of the NFL’s weakest division.

19. Washington Football Team (24): Chase Young and the Washington defense are still performing well below expectations, which could prove trouble in their next three games against New Orleans, Kansas City, and Green Bay. That said, Taylor Heinicke was instrumental in Washington’s comeback victory, as he continues to cement himself as a potential QB1.

20. New England Patriots (19): I don’t question Bill Belichick all that often, but opting for a 56-yard field goal from Nick Folk in inclement weather over allowing Mac Jones to continue his efficient performance certainly qualifies. At least it appears they made the right decision riding the rookie instead of Cam Newton, even if the Patriots seem set for uncharacteristic mediocrity.

21. Tennessee Titans (15): Being without A.J. Brown and Julio Jones doesn’t excuse what an embarrassing loss last week was for the Titans. Between an offensive line that allowed Ryan Tannehill to be sacked seven times and a defense that allowed the Jets to score more points than their last three games combined, there’s no other way to describe this than absolute failure.

22. Minnesota Vikings (19): Just when we thought the Vikings might have figured it out, Kirk Cousins ends up disappearing to waste Minnesota’s first quality defensive effort of the season. A 1-3 start puts the Vikings at risk, and risking missing the postseason could put Mike Zimmer’s job in jeopardy.

23. Chicago Bears (26): Justin Fields showed signs of life in his second professional start, which might have something to do with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor taking control of the offense. Still, the Lions aren’t an overly impressive opponent, and losing David Montgomery for an extended period of time will hurt. Matt Nagy’s job is still very much at risk.

24. Philadelphia Eagles (23): Jalen Hurts seems to be the answer at quarterback for the Eagles, which is good news. Unfortunately, three touchdowns called back by penalties are the self-inflicted wounds you can’t have if you want to beat the Chiefs.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers (20): If Ben Roethlisberger isn’t suffering from poor offensive line play, he’s making poor decisions with the football that cost his team games. It sounds like sacrilege, but the Steelers might be better off testing the waters with either Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins to see if they need to draft a quarterback in April.

26. Miami Dolphins (22): With a poor offensive line and a failing co-offensive coordinator system, Tua Tagovailoa might come back in a salvage situation. Brian Flores doesn’t deserve blame for this season, but the offense might require an overhaul in the spring.

27. New York Giants (30): The Giants place lower after a victory due to me staying realistic about their rough schedule and my distrust of Joe Judge not going away anytime soon. Still, Saquon Barkley had his best game since returning from his torn ACL, and Daniel Jones is finally starting to scratch the surface of his potential.

28. New York Jets (31): The Titans may be undermanned, but Zach Wilson and the defense did enough to pull out a shock victory. A trip to jolly old England against a reeling Falcons squad is suddenly a chance to build some much-needed momentum.

29. Atlanta Falcons (27): A kick-return touchdown followed up by two touchdown drives to lose a game would be a heartbreaker for most teams. For the Falcons, it’s yet another chapter of pain for one of sports’ longest-suffering franchises and teams.

30. Detroit Lions (29): More pain for the Lions, as they lost another strong defender to an Achilles tear and virtually saved Matt Nagy’s skin in Chicago. The only thing they’re hoping for is a legit QB1 to emerge in next year’s draft class.

31. Houston Texans (28): Davis Mills had his Nathan Peterman game with a four-interception performance against Buffalo (ironically). To be fair, though, this team could have Deshaun Watson still playing and they would be struggling.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (32): The Jaguars took their nineteenth consecutive loss against Cincinnati last Thursday, and Urban Meyer took another loss over the weekend with his…antics. Think Duval would be too upset if Meyer took the USC job?

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.