NFL Power Rankings: Soaring Squads That Will Capture Victories in Week 4

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer ISeptember 27, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 23:  Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with defensive end Calais Campbell #93 after a 37 yard touchdown reception against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter of the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Carindals defeated the Eagles 27-6.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "parity" as "the 2012 NFL season."

OK, I made that up, but it may as well because there have been several former bottom-feeders who have soared early on this season.

Of course, there is also one team that looks stronger than ever due to a vastly improved defense.

You know what they say, "Birds of a feather soar together."

Or something like that.

Here's a look at three rising teams that will emerge victorious in Week 4, complete with my current power rankings below.


Atlanta Falcons (vs. Carolina Panthers)

We always knew the Falcons had an explosive offense, but beyond averaging 31.3 points per game this season, the Falcons defense has also allowed only 16.0 points per game, fourth-best mark in the NFL. That includes holding the San Diego Chargers to three points in Week 3.

The Falcons have done this without cornerback Brent Grimes, who has been placed on injured reserve after an Achilles injury in Week 1.

Complete with cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel and safety Thomas DeCoud, it's been a team effort in the secondary. 

The Falcons have the advantage on defense and offense against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have uncharacteristically averaged just 17.3 points this season (29th in the NFL), while allowing 26.3 points per game (23rd).

The Panthers are coming off a 36-7 drubbing at the hands of the New York Giants. Quarterback Cam Newton threw three interceptions in that game.


Arizona Cardinals (vs. Miami Dolphins)

The Cardinals officially have a defense to be feared. They've allowed just 13.3 points per game so far (second in the NFL) and they held the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles to 18 points and six points, respectively.

Led by defensive end Calais Campbell, Arizona has posted 12 sacks already (tied with the Green Bay Packers for the second-most in the NFL) and is holding opposing quarterbacks to 5.9 yards per attempt (third-best).

The Cardinals are still shaky on offense, but the defense has been good enough to propel them to victories over the Patriots, Eagles and rising Seattle Seahawks. They should have no problem with Miami's offense in Week 4.


Seattle Seahawks (at St. Louis Rams)

The St. Louis Rams have simply faced better teams in their two losses this season against the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, but that doesn't mean they haven't improved.

The secondary is legit on this team, holding opposing quarterbacks to 6.9 yards per attempt and two passing touchdowns (five interceptions). 

The real improvement must come from quarterback Sam Bradford, who tossed two interceptions against the Bears after opening the season strong.

However, while the Rams have improved this season, the Seattle Seahawks have soared. 

The Seahawks are allowing a league-best 13.0 points per game while allowing 6.0 yards per pass attempt. That includes holding the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys to a combined 19 points.

OK, so the Seahawks should have lost that game against the Packers, but that doesn't change the fact that the defense has been solid, the pass rush is coming on (complete with rookie Bruce Irvin), they have a "beast" in running back Marshawn Lynch and they have a promising young quarterback in Russell Wilson.

Oh yeah, and the Rams have allowed 4.5 yards per carry and five rushing touchdowns this season, so expect Lynch to go off.

I expect the Seattle defense to make life miserable for the Rams in Week 4.


NFL Power Rankings

Team Record
1. Houston Texans  3-0
2. Atlanta Falcons 3-0
3. Baltimore Ravens 2-1
4. San Francisco 49ers 2-1
5. Arizona Cardinals 3-0
6. New York Giants 2-1
7. Green Bay Packers 1-2
8. New England Patriots 1-2
9. Philadelphia Eagles 2-1
10. Seattle Seahawks 2-1
11. Cincinnati Bengals 2-1
12. Chicago Bears 2-1
13. Dallas Cowboys 2-1
14. San Diego Chargers 2-1 
15. Denver Broncos 1-2
16. Pittsburgh Steelers 1-2
17. New York Jets  2-1 
18. Detroit Lions 1-2
19. Buffalo Bills 2-1 
20. Minnesota Vikings 2-1
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  1-2
22. Washington Redskins 1-2
23. Tennessee Titans 1-2 
24. Carolina Panthers 1-2
25. St. Louis Rams 1-2
26. Kansas City Chiefs 1-2
27. Oakland Raiders  1-2 
28. New Orleans Saints 0-3
29. Miami Dolphins 1-2 
30. Jacksonville Jaguars 1-2 
31. Indianapolis Colts 1-2
32. Cleveland Browns 0-3 


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