The Arizona Cardinals went into Foxboro last week and shocked the New England Patriots. While the matchup proved the Patriots' potent offense isn't unstoppable, it was a statement game for the Cardinals.
There are teams that will be able to raise expectations in similar fashion this week. While we're unlikely to see that big of an upset in Week 3, there is certainly opportunity for a number of teams to send a message.
Here are this week's Power Rankings, with a more extensive look at underrated teams that will soar up rankings after Week 3.
1. San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
The 49ers have proven the success they saw in Jim Harbaugh's first season was no fluke. After shutting down Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers at Lambeau in Week 1, they kept Calvin Johnson out of the end zone and limited the Lions to just 19 points last week.
Though Minnesota is never an easy place to play, it would be downright shocking to see the 49ers fall to the Vikings. Their reign of terror on the NFC North will continue with an easy win.
Pick: San Francisco 49ers defeat Vikings in Minnesota
2. Atlanta Falcons (2-0)
It might seem odd to consider the Falcons underrated with them ranked at No. 2, but not many people are talking about Atlanta. Two outstanding wins weren't enough to convince the masses that the Falcons could make a case for being the best team in the NFL.
It's going to be hard to doubt them after this week.
Matt Ryan is on his way to taking the same jump Eli Manning did in 2011. With five touchdowns and no picks this season, he's making the most of having talented weapons like Julio Jones and Roddy White.
The defense forcing Peyton Manning to toss three interceptions should terrify the rest of the league. This is a team that can jump out to a huge lead in a hurry and you can expect the Chargers to be playing catchup all game long.
Pick: Atlanta Falcons go on the road to take down the San Diego Chargers
3. Green Bay Packers (1-1)
After being well-beaten on both sides of the ball against the 49ers in Week 1, the Packers humiliated Jay Cutler, who threw four picks, in Week 2. It was just the sort of performance they needed to get their swagger back and reassert themselves as the best team in the NFC North.
Clay Matthews has already matched his 2011-season sack total, posting six through two games. The Packers enter a trap game against the Seahawks on the road, but it's hard to imagine Russell Wilson torching the Packers with Matthews making his life a nightmare all game long.
Pick: Green Bay Packers silence the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football
4. Houston Texans (2-0)
The Texans have looked outstanding thus far, but they haven't played a team that will finish over .500 yet this season. Taking down both the Dolphins in Week 1 and Jaguars in Week 2 by 20 points doesn't prove anything.
It's impossible to fault them for their competition though. They'll face a huge test against the Broncos this week, but if Arian Foster and Ben Tate can keep averaging a combined 2.5 touchdowns per game, even a loss wouldn't derail the Texans.
Pick: Houston Texans prove their ranking by handing the Denver Broncos their second-straight loss
5. Baltimore Ravens (1-1)
Going 4-14 was a big reason Ravens suffered a narrow loss to the Eagles in Week 2 on the road. Their defense surrendered 486 yards, they left a lot of plays on the field and only lost by one. They aren't exactly in midseason form, but they are a team nobody should want to play at home.
The Ravens are protecting an 11-game home winning streak and the Patriots are coming in following an embarrassing loss. With two AFC contenders squaring off, the Ravens will take a huge step forward.
Pick: Baltimore Ravens win a tight home game against the New England Patriots
6. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)
The Eagles are for real. They've won both of their first two games by a single point and they could easily be 0-2, but finding a way to win close games late proves they aren't the same underachieving team they were in 2011.
The days of giving away games they had won (looking at you, Ronnie Brown) appear to be over. Mike Vick tossing six interceptions and just three touchdowns isn't a good sign, but he should get back on track this week against the Cardinals in what should be an easy win.
Pick: Philadelphia Eagles handle an overconfident Arizona Cardinals squad
7. New England Patriots (1-1)
It's hard to believe the Patriots have fallen so far so early. With Aaron Hernandez out for the time being, Wes Welker's contract situation seemingly impacting his role in the offense and Rob Gronkowski subject to a drop-off without his better half on the field, the Pats are in danger of falling to 1-2.
If New England thought the Cardinals were stout on defense, just wait until they encounter Ray Lewis and Co. in Baltimore. Tom Brady coming in angry makes the Patriots even more dangerous than usual, but this offense is nowhere near hitting its stride.
Pick: New England Patriots fall to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football
8. New York Giants (1-1)
With Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw amongst the Giants who will be out this week, New York has their work cut out for them this week. The Panthers undoubtedly saw how Eli Manning lit up the Bucs for over 500 yards through the air last week and will be looking to avoid a similar performance.
While the Giants may have a few injuries to deal with, they've got an elite quarterback, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, who lead the league with 237 yards apiece, and a defensive front that is loaded with talent as usual.
This week will test their depth. Andre Brown stepped up big when Bradshaw went down in Week 2, and the Giants will count on him to step up this week. The Panthers aren't going to go down without a fight and a Giants win at less than 100% will convince some skeptics that their repeat chances are legitimate.
Pick: New York Giants sneak out of Carolina with a win over the Panthers on a short week
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
After a brutal Monday night loss to the Broncos, the Steelers looked dominant against the Jets in Week 2. Even so, this isn't the same team it once was. The Steelers are on a sharp decline and will struggle if they can't figure out a way to be multi-dimensional on offense.
With just 70.5 rushing YPG, there is a ton of pressure on Ben Roethlisberger to deliver. The Steelers may have a defense that will finish in the top 10, but they don't have the elite defense they once did and can't afford to bail out a struggling offense should they get behind early.
An easy win against the Raiders this week will take the Steelers into an early bye week with a ton of momentum. An early bye week could be a huge factor in the play of their aging defense late in the season.
It's hard to see the Steelers missing the playoffs though, and coming away with a 2-1 start after the way they began the season will set them up for at least 10 wins in 2012.
Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers handle the Oakland Raiders
10. Detroit Lions (1-1)
Calvin Johnson is human. It's an alarming revelation the NFL world came to when Megatron was held out of the end zone and "only" had 94 yards receiving against the 49ers.
Don't expect Johnson to "struggle" this week though. He's the most dominant receiver in the game and a defense that is suspect against the pass and vulnerable against the run won't continue to cost the Lions.
Pick: Detroit Lions will have the Tennessee Titans singing the blues
11. Denver Broncos (1-1)
Peyton Manning's integration into the Broncos' offense isn't going to be perfect overnight. He's had a year off from football, has a completely different cast of characters to work with and no longer has one of the strongest arms in the NFL.
That doesn't mean the Broncos aren't a contender though. This is the best team Manning has been a part of since he took the Colts to the Super Bowl. A home game is exactly what the Broncos need to get on their feet. Unfortunately, they're taking on the Texans.
Pick: Denver Broncos suffer their second-straight loss of the season after falling to the Houston Texans
12. Chicago Bears (1-1)
The Bears are a flawed team, but they've got the talent to beat anyone in the NFL. With Jay Cutler tossing four interceptions, Brandon Marshall dropping an easy catch that should have been a touchdown, Matt Forte going down and the offensive line giving up seven sacks, the Bears need to view last week as an aberration and erase it from their memory.
Chicago has a chance to get back on its feet, taking on a rising, but beatable Rams squad at home. Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall need a big game to get rolling again and Cutler can't afford to be anything less than spectacular after such a miserable outing last week.
Julius Peppers anchors an aging, yet elite Bears defense. A long week to prepare for Sam Bradford and a young Rams team under new leadership will give the Bears a chance to get back on their feet.
Pick: Chicago Bears stifle an improving St. Louis Rams team
13. San Diego Chargers (2-0)
The Chargers are another team that has played a manageable schedule thus far. Beating the Raiders and Titans in the manner they did is impressive; however, beating the Falcons this week would be exponentially more significant.
Only giving up 12 PPG is a great start for the Bolts, but they'll be tested this week. Norv Turner's hot seat has cooled off temporarily, but it will be just as hot as ever if and when the Chargers have to stomach a loss at home this week.
Pick: San Diego Chargers lose at home to the red-hot Atlanta Falcons
14. Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
The Cowboys are the most up-and-down team in the NFL. Put them on the field against the defending Super Bowl champs in the season-opener with the whole world watching and they come away with a win. Put them up against a Seattle squad they should have mopped the floor with and they get run off the field in a 20-point loss.
It's typical Dallas. They can shake up the roster, change the coaching staff, increase the character in the locker room and get a new stadium, but the same problems remain. They'll recover from the loss Seattle served them last week, but they can't be taken seriously until they started winning games that should be slam dunks.
Pick: Dallas Cowboys beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their home-opener
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
While the Bucs lost a heart-breaker last week to the Giants, the fact that they were even involved in that game speaks volumes about how underrated they actually are.
These are not Raheem Morris' Buccaneers. Greg Schiano isn't making friends by going full-tilt when the opposition lines up in the victory formation, but his locker room is buying into his philosophy.
The Cowboys are reeling and vulnerable. With their run defense allowing 132 rushing YPG, rookie Doug Martin isn't going to meet much resistance this week.
The Bucs must figure out a solution to their porous pass defense. They have given up a league-worst 400.5 passing YPG and can't afford to let Tony Romo launch an aerial assault against their DBs.
When they hit the bye in Week 5, the Bucs will have faced Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Robert Griffin III. We'll find out exactly what their secondary is made of after the first four weeks.
Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose to the Dallas Cowboys on the road
16. Arizona Cardinals (1-1)
Don't get too excited about the Cardinals just yet. Their defense holding the Patriots to 18 at Foxboro showed just how talented Arizona can be on that side of the ball, but their offense is horrendous.
Larry Fitzgerald has just five catches for 67 yards on the season. It's like having a Ferrari and not having the keys to drive it. Arizona doesn't have a franchise quarterback on roster and with Beanie Wells rushing for a miserable 2.8 YPC, the Cardinals need to find a way to move the football.
Pick: Arizona Cardinals fail to follow up their Patriots upset and lose to the Philadelphia Eagles
17. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
Everything about the Bengals has looked average thus far. The huge step forward they took last season has regressed to a standstill, and beating the Browns by a touchdown didn't make anyone forget how horrible they looked against the Ravens in Week 1.
Their pass defense letting up 308.5 YPG is a cause for concern. Squaring off against Robert Griffin III this week will show whether or not their pass defense can hold its own and if their offense can keep pace in a shootout.
Pick: Cincinnati Bengals eek out a close victory against the staggered Washington Redskins
18. New Orleans Saints (0-2)
This notion that a team with Drew Brees at the helm can kick off the season 0-4 is absurd. Forgive the Saints if they seem distracted, but it seems as though they get a couple of games to regain their footing after the nightmarish offseason they just endured.
The Saints are going to put up video game numbers against a Chiefs squad that hasn't been able to stop anyone. CJ Spiller gaining 123 yards on the ground, scoring two touchdowns and looking like Barry Sanders last week against the Chiefs should tell you everything you need to know about their defense.
Expect Darren Sproles to light up Kansas City in an easy game the Saints can't afford to lose. The Saints have to take a trip to Green Bay in Week 4. As long as they don't get caught peaking ahead to next week, there is no way the Chiefs will remain competitive in this game.
Pick: New Orleans Saints march to victory past the Kansas City Chiefs
19. Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
Seattle's home-field advantage is the best in the NFL. An inconsistent Cowboys squad and a hostile crowd eager for a victory helped give the Seahawks a victory last week. Victory won't come so easily this week.
Russell Wilson faces an entirely different beast this weekend. He'll have to prove he can remain cool under pressure, with Clay Matthews coming off the edge. The "Claymaker" has six sacks already this season and it's going to be impossible for Wilson not to be rattled.
Pick: Seattle Seahawks fail to capitalize on their Cowboys upset and fall to the Packers in primetime
20. Washington Redskins (1-1)
Robert Griffin III is as advertised. The Redskins gave up a lot to get him and their sacrifice is already paying dividends. With 526 yards through the air and 124 rushing yards, he's the playmaker the Redskins' offense has so desperately needed.
The Redskins are going to be hit or miss this season and losing Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo will put even more pressure on RGIII's offense to deliver.
Pick: Washington Redskins lose to the confident Cincinnati Bengals
21. Miami Dolphins (1-1)
Don't look now, but Reggie Bush is averaging 120.5 rushing YPG. With the Jets giving up 130.5 rushing YPG, this could easily be another week where Bush goes berserk.
Ryan Tannehill and Brian Hartline are developing a solid connection, hooking up nine times for 111 yards last week. Hartline is becoming a guy the rookie QB can look to when he needs to move the chains.
The Dolphins got spanked in a 30-10 loss to the Texans in Week 1 and dominated the Raiders 35-13 the following week. Taking down the Jets would prove that the Dolphins aren't anywhere near the worst team in the league.
Bush will obviously fall off at some point and the Dolphins have question marks all over their defense, but Miami is a sleeper team that will turn a lot of heads this week with a win.
Pick: Dolphins win at a shocking upset in Miami vs. the New York Jets
22. New York Jets (1-1)
There are no circumstances in which Mark Sanchez should go 10-27 for 158 yards. He doesn't need to be Joe Montana to at least put the Jets in the playoff hunt, but his performance against the Steelers was pathetic.
While Sanchez's 19-27, three-touchdown performance against the Bills made it look like he was turning a corner, it's obvious he's nowhere near that point. Now they face the Dolphins on the road in a game they could easily lose.
Pick: New York Jets are stunned in Miami by the Dolphins
23. St. Louis Rams (1-1)
Sam Bradford is coming into his own. With no weapons around him, Steven Jackson's production and health declining, a new coaching staff and a suspect line, he's completed 71.7% of his passes and has thrown four touchdowns and just one interception.
The Rams only lost to the Lions by four and are already showing signs of improvement from last season. Even if they sustain a loss to the Bears this week, they have a chance to make up some ground with home games against the Cardinals and Seahawks.
Pick: Rams fail to capitalize on their Week 2 win and lose to the Bears in the Windy City
24. Buffalo Bills (1-1)
CJ Spiller rushing for over 10 YPC is absurd. The third-year back out of Clemson is having a breakout year and proving he's more than just a luxury item in the Bills' offense.
The Bills are likely peaking here, as they are surrendering 403 YPC. Buffalo got off to an even hotter start last year and imploded in a hurry, and you can expect them to do the same this season. They may be a team on the rise, but it's hard to see them being ranked any higher than this for the rest of the season.
Pick: Buffalo Bills stay afloat by defeating the Cleveland Browns on the road
25. Carolina Panthers (1-1)
The Panthers don't even get a chance to enjoy their big win over the Saints, as they have to take on the Giants on a shortened week. Thursday night will prove whether or not the Panthers will be a team fighting for a wild card spot or drafting in the top 5 next season.
Cam Newton leading the team in passing and rushing isn't ideal. Even so, when he's in the game the Panthers have a chance. He's a quarterback who does it all. As the team's best goal-line back, a quarterback who can compete against the best in the business and the face of the franchise, everything is riding on Newton. This team will go as far as he takes them.
Pick: Panthers fall to the defending Champion Giants at home in Carolina
26. Tennessee Titans (0-2)
Chris Johnson is completely stagnant. Last year, his shaky start was blamed on his messy holdout situation heading into the season. This year, his 1.1 YPC average is inexplicable.
While teams are going to keep loading up the box and forcing the Titans to beat them through the air, this is a team that can't function without a run game. A combination of gaining 29 rushing YPG and allowing 155 rushing YPG isn't a recipe for success.
Pick: Titans lose to the Detroit Lions in Tennessee
27. Indianapolis Colts (1-1)
Andrew Luck has a great chance to go into the Week 4 bye week with a winning record, with the 1-1 Jaguars taking on the Colts this week.
If the Colts are going to make a playoff push, as Sam Bradford's Rams did in his rookie season, Luck is going to have to get better every week. Reggie Wayne putting up over 200 yards already this season is a good sign that the Colts' offense has the potential to be explosive once it gets rolling.
Pick: Indianapolis Colts stay alive by defeating division rival Jacksonville Jaguars
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
The Jaguars' normally stout run defense is surrendering 169.5 rushing YPG. Granted they've faced Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson already this season, but their run defense has to be one of the strengths of their team for them to be successful.
Maurice Jones-Drew's nightmare contract situation has kept him fairly in check thus far, but expect him to get far more than the 12 carries he was fed last week as the season goes on. The Jags have a good shot at notching their first win of the season with the Colts lying ahead this week.
Pick: Jaguars lose a tight divisional road contest to the Indianapolis Colts
29. Cleveland Browns (0-2)
The Browns may be 0-2, but they have been competitive in both outings. Losing to the Eagles by one makes it clear that they aren't the worst team in the league. Unfortunately, Brandon Weeden has earned every bit of his 57.6 QB rating.
The Browns are building and adapting with new offensive weapons. Cleveland fans are all too familiar with the rebuilding process, but if Weeden doesn't start performing in a hurry, Colt McCoy's supporters are going to get even more noisy.
Pick: Cleveland Browns lose another close, hard-fought game to the Buffalo Bills
30. Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
It doesn't get much easier than playing at home against the Jaguars. Minnesota was taken into overtime in Week 1 and barely came away with a win. Don't let the 1-1 record fool you, this team is going to top out at a maximum five wins.
Adrian Peterson is coming along and the Vikings can build around Christian Ponder and Matt Kalil, but in no way is this rebuilding project near completion. Jared Allen hasn't registered a single sack this season and neither side of the ball is scaring anyone.
Pick: Minnesota Vikings fall to Super Bowl favorites San Francisco 49ers
31. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2)
When the Falcons hung 40 points on the Chiefs, the story was Atlanta's offense. After the Chiefs gave up 35 to the Bills, it was clear that Romeo Crennel's defense was the real catalyst behind the gaudy offensive showings its opponents were producing.
With over 150 rushing YPG, at least the Chiefs have that going for them. The unfortunate news is that they are going to have to throw to keep pace with the points their defense is allowing and Matt Cassel is still under center.
Pick: Kansas City Chiefs continue their opening-season skid by losing to the New Orleans Saints
32. Oakland Raiders (0-2)
It's hard to see the Raiders beating anyone at this point. A team with Darren McFadden in the backfield is rushing for 34 YPG. Their defense has allowed 28.5 YPG and taking on the Steelers this week will only further damage their confidence.
Carson Palmer has 670 yards and nobody cares. He'll keep putting up absurd numbers as the Raiders continue to embarrass themselves. Matt Barkley can't arrive in Oakland soon enough.
Pick: Oakland Raiders fall to the stout Pittsburgh Steelers
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