Power rankings in the NFL are sometimes biased towards teams who have been successful in the past or who have a high profile despite their current situation.
Teams like the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and New York Giants sit, or sat, atop most of the popular rankings heading into the season.
Where are they now? Where will they be when all is said and done in 2012?
Let’s take a look at my power rankings heading into Week 4 action:
1. Houston Texans (3-0)
The Houston Texans have been firing on all cylinders throughout the first three weeks of the 2012 season. Arian Foster and Ben Tate make up the best one-two punch backfield combination in the NFL and Matt Schaub has been incredible and stayed healthy so far. He did lose a piece of his ear in Week 3, though.
2. Atlanta Falcons (3-0)
The Atlanta Falcons look like they have finally added the pieces they need on offense to make a real run at postseason success. They may have given up a lot of picks to get the rights to draft Julio Jones, but it looks like it’s paying off as Jones and Roddy White give the Falcons one of, if not the, best wide receiver tandem in the NFL.
3. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
The Baltimore Ravens’ defense isn’t what it once was but it hasn’t mattered much as the team’s new-look high tempo offense has provided a lot of excitement so far. Still, the team has been able to keep some pretty good offenses at bay in their three wins and their only loss came at the hands of some last minute Michael Vick heroics in Week 2.
4. San Francisco 49ers (2-1)
No one could have predicted the red hot 49ers would be upset by the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3. Up until that point San Francisco looked as good as it gets in the NFL. If they can get back to what made them successful in wins over the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions—stifling defense and pounding the running game—there’s no reason they won’t climb back up to their No. 1 spot before long.
5. New York Giants (2-1)
The defending Super Bowl champions have recovered nicely from a disappointing opening week home loss to the Dallas Cowboys by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a shootout and mopping the floor with the lowly Carolina Panthers.
That may not make Giants’ fans comfortable, and it shouldn’t. Injuries to playmakers and in the secondary will continue to raise question marks each week around the Giants’ ability to play competitive football. They also play in the NFC East and have tough games outside of their division against San Francisco, Baltimore, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and New Orleans.
Looking at their remaining schedule, its hard to say that there are a lot of winnable games there. Sure, the Giants are a good football team and can and will surprise you from week-to-week, but are they as good as everyone thought they would be following up their Super Bowl win a season ago?
6. Arizona Cardinals (3-0)
Kevin Kolb wasn’t supposed to be the starter and wasn’t supposed to be any good. But he hasn’t had to do it all himself as the surprise Cardinals have rode their incredibly tough defense to their first 3-0 start since 1974.
7. Seattle Seahawks (2-1)
Another surprise team from the NFC West, the Seahawks have employed rookie quarterback Russell Wilson sparingly but they haven’t needed to as their defense has kept team close in every game so far. Their only loss came in a close one to the red hot Cardinals.
8. Chicago Bears (2-1)
Offensive line issues have prevented the new-look Bears’ offense from taking flight. Jay Cutler will tell you that much. With Matt Forte returning and added depth of Michael Bush behind him, the Bears proved they don’t need Cutler and his weapons to win football games.
9. Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
The Cowboys’ defense has been a pleasant surprise and stifled opponents’ passing games to this point. However, the offensive line is concerning and has been unable to put up a great effort.
10. Green Bay Packers (1-2)
The Packers rush defense has been really bad and they fell victim to the “call heard ‘round the world” on Monday night football. There’s no doubt the team has talent and should be 2-1 at this point.
11. New England Patriots
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have not played poorly but have found themselves at 1-2 to begin the season. The AFC East may not be the toughest division in football but wins are not going to come easy, even for the Patriots this season.
The fact that they play against the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins two times a piece will keep them competitive but nowhere near the Top 5 ranking many people pegged them with prior to the season.
New England’s struggles have continued to come mostly in the secondary and pass rush and in their ability to protect Tom Brady. Teams aren’t getting to him per se but are laying the pressure on and making him get rid of the ball before he’d like to. If the injuries continue to mount on the offensive line, the challenge may be too much for even Brady to overcome.
Besides their divisional games, the Pats have tough games against Denver, Seattle, Houston and San Francisco remaining on the schedule. In addition to those, there’s bound to be a game or two in which they slip up along the way.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)
The Bengals were stomped in Week 1 against the Ravens and have built up their confidence by putting up big points in back-to-back games against the bad defenses of the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins.
13. San Diego Chargers (2-1)
The Chargers were embarrassed at home against the Falcons in Week 3 and must win in Week 4 to erase some doubts about their offense.
14. Denver Broncos (1-2)
Peyton Manning and the Broncos just can’t seem to get rolling until the fourth quarter. Despite some valiant efforts, Manning’s fourth-quarter heroics have been too little too late over the past two weeks as they have lost consecutive games.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)
Michael Vick and the Eagles were embarrassed by a very tough Arizona Cardinals defense in Week 3. Vick has been unable to stop the bleeding of his turnover issue and it could lead to continued struggles throughout 2012.
16. New York Jets (2-1)
With Darelle Revis out for the season the Jets defense may be in trouble. If their matchups come down to who can score the most points, the Jets’ Mark Sanchez led offense is at a big disadvantage.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)
Like the Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most successful AFC teams of the past decade. A fall from grace from that type of continued success was inevitable for both of these teams.
But what’s plaguing the Steelers this year?
The team has missed running back Rashard Mendenhall and failed to control the line-of-scrimmage to establish any type of rushing game in his absence. As a team, they are 30th in the NFL in rushing, averaging just 65 yards per game on the ground. Ben Roethlisburger has done his best to keep the team competitive, and they have been, but they will need to
On defense, the Steelers are no longer an impenetrable force upfront. Teams are averaging over 100 yards per game on the ground against them. That isn’t an incredulous notion but it is somewhat surprising considering their recent dominance in stuffing the run.
18. Buffalo Bills (2-1)
Buffalo is running the ball better than anyone in the NFL thanks to an imposing offensive line. Injuries may hamper them in the short-term but don’t expect it to last long as both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson should be healthy and suiting up together at an NFL stadium near you very shortly.
19. Detroit Lions (1-2)
Matthew Stafford can put up some passing yards and make some exciting plays. The Lions are throwing for the most yards per game of anyone in the NFL but they’ve had to in order to even be 1-2 right now. Penalties and a depleted secondary have crippled the Lions to this point.
20. Minnesota Vikings (2-1)
If the Minnesota Vikings can overcome the offensive prowess of the Lions and Christian Ponder can put together another impressive game, the Vikings may be taken more seriously. For now, they played out of their minds in upsetting the 49ers in Week 3.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)
It’s hard to tell what rookie head coach Greg Schiano is attempting to do. The team brought in Vincent Jackson to invigorate the passing game yet they choose to run the ball as much as any team in the NFL.
22. St. Louis Rams (1-2)
Despite another disappointing start to a season, the Rams have looked like a completely different team. If Sam Bradford had a cohesive offensive line they could be a Top 10 team with their much improved defense.
23. Washington Redskins (1-2)
Robert Griffin III has excited in his rookie season so far. He’s clearly worth the price of admission the Skins paid in order to draft him. The defense, though, suffered some critical injuries and has been torched all season long.
24. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2)
Jamaal Charles isn’t going to run for 233 yards every week and the defense is way too inconsistent to make me a believer yet.
25. Carolina Panthers (1-2)
Teams have adapted to the read-option of Cam Newton and have, for the most part, contained the electrifying quarterback in his sophomore season. Defense continues to be a problem and the offense just isn’t putting up the points to make up the difference.
26. Tennessee Titans (1-2)
The Titans got a big overtime win over the Lions to avoid starting 0-3 as they head into a very difficult Week 4 game against the Texans. They aren’t stopping the run, at all, and they’ll be tasked with stopping Arian Foster and Ben Tate two times this season.
27. Miami Dolphins (1-2)
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been great but the team has been competitive to this point. Reggie Bush is dinged up after having a respectable start to the season. If Bush can return quick, things may not get out of hand in Miami.
28. Oakland Raiders (1-2)
The Raiders squeaked away a win from the Steelers in Week 3 but I’ll need to see more to prove they’re not amongst the bottom of the barrel this year. A win over Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Week 4 would be a huge step forward after dropping their first two games of the season.
29. New Orleans Saints (0-3)
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. If you can’t play any defense you aren’t going to win any games.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)
Second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been pretty bad at times but Maurice Jones-Drew has kept his team from bottoming out.
31. Indianapolis Colts (1-2)
Andrew Luck looks like the real deal. The Colts defense, on the other hand, does not.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-4)
The young Cleveland Browns started four rookies on offense against the Ravens on Thursday night football. They lost 23-16. A young nucleus is growing in Cleveland but it’ll be some time before it returns any results.
Mike Hoag is a Breaking News Team writer with Bleacher Report and also covers the Cleveland Browns and the NFL for the site.