NFL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands Entering Monday Night Football

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NFL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands Entering Monday Night Football
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Week 2 of the 2013 NFL regular season is nearing its end, as all but Monday Night Football has been completed. Only a select few have remained undefeated, with multiple teams left searching for answers.

The question is, where does every team stand entering Monday Night Football?

On Monday, the Cincinnati Bengals will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a meeting between two AFC North favorites. Not only will this game end Week 2, but it's a continuation of what has been a week of high-stakes football.

Here's how every franchise looks heading into this clash.

 

32. Jacksonville Jaguars

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Last Week: No. 32

Record: 0-2

Week 2: 9-19 loss at Oakland Raiders

Week 3: at Seattle Seahawks

For the second consecutive week, the Jacksonville Jaguars have posted an absolute dud. After losing 28-2 to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1, Jacksonville fell 19-9 to an Oakland Raiders team that received 12 points from kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

To make matters worse, the Jaguars' first touchdown of the year came with 2:53 remaining in the fourth quarter while facing a 19-3 deficit. It's ugly in Jacksonville.

Chad Henne offered an improvement at quarterback, going 25-of-38 for 241 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Unfortunately, the Jaguars ran for just 34 yards on 19 attempts to help him, and the team committed 10 penalties for 70 yards.

The defense managed to show up and registered three sacks, also holding Oakland to 4-of-14 on third down and 1-of-5 in the red zone. In that same breath, Jacksonville allowed 226 yards on the ground.

It was better than last week, but Jacksonville is still the worst team in the NFL.

 

31. Cleveland Browns

Last Week: No. 31

Record: 0-2

Week 2: 6-14 loss at Baltimore Ravens

Week 3: at Minnesota Vikings

The Cleveland Browns may not have won, but they displayed just how far they've come in a short period of time. Cleveland's inability to score points is concerning, but Brandon Weeden has made strides, and Trent Richardson being the biggest question mark through two weeks is more promising than anything else.

Still, a 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens is disappointing after the Browns had so many chances to put the game away.

Weeden was 21-of-33 for 227 yards, with tight end Jordan Cameron catching five passes for 95 yards in a follow-up of his magnificent Week 1 outing. Richardson only picked up 58 yards on 18 carries but also managed five receptions for 21 yards.

Until the Browns manage to consistently punch it in for six points, however, they will continue to struggle to win games.

Defensively, it was an impressive performance, as rookie Barkevious Mingo came up with his first career sack. The Browns also held the Ravens to 2.8 yards per carry, all but silencing the explosive Ray Rice.

For a young team like Cleveland, it's all about progress, and this was a very strong defensive performance.

 

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Last Week: No. 26

Record: 0-2

Week 2: 14-16 loss at New Orleans Saints

Week 3: at New England Patriots

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have almost every tool necessary to be a consistent postseason contender. The Bucs defense has the potential to be extraordinary, running back Doug Martin is a dominant force, and the tandem of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams is as close to elite as it comes.

Unfortunately there's one tool that Tampa Bay seems to lack: discipline.

For the second consecutive week, the Bucs played well enough to win but ended up losing a close, low-scoring game due to double-digit penalties. This time around, it was a 16-14 home loss against the New Orleans Saints.

When your defense holds the Saints to 16 points and you still can't win, there are some issues that need to be addressed.

Josh Freeman was just 9-of-22, offsetting a 144-yard performance by Martin on the ground. Paired with 10 penalties for 118 yards and two turnovers from Freeman, the Bucs' lack of discipline was evident and debilitating.

Until that changes, Tampa Bay will continue to waste talent.

 

29. Carolina Panthers

Last Week: No. 25

Record: 0-2

Week 2: 23-24 loss at Buffalo Bills

Week 3: vs. New York Giants

The Carolina Panthers just can't catch a break. Despite leading 23-17 with as little as three seconds remaining, the Panthers still lost to the Buffalo Bills and continue to struggle during the first half of regular seasons.

Worst of all, a Luke Kuechly penalty neutralized an interception that would've ended the game.

Cam Newton was 21-of-38 for 229 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while DeAngelo Williams ran for 85 yards on 22 carries. Greg Olsen caught seven passes for 84 yards and a score, Steve Smith hauled in five for 52 yards, and Ted Ginn caught his first touchdown as a Panther.

In the end, however, it wasn't about what Carolina did—it was about missed opportunities.

Kuechly had an otherwise productive game, but his late-game penalty sealed the deal. It was yet another example of Carolina displaying the ability to contend but the maturity to disrupt any momentum.

The same old story for a team that sees its promise outweigh its production.

 

28. Oakland Raiders

Last Week: No. 29

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 19-9 win vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 3: at Denver Broncos

The Oakland Raiders lost a close game at the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, falling 21-17. During the course of that game, quarterback Terrelle Pryor emerged as the potential franchise player, and Darren McFadden became more comfortable with Oakland's backfield situation.

In Week 2, the Raiders rebounded with a 19-9 win.

Pryor was 15-of-24 for 126 yards, also carrying the ball nine times for 50 yards. McFadden led the charge, picking up 129 yards on 19 carries and catching four passes for 28.

Fumbles were an issue, but for a young team with a promising quarterback, the Raiders looked very strong.

Defensively, the Raiders managed to hold Jacksonville to 34 yards rushing on 19 carries. Chad Henne had a high-quality game, but Oakland ended up with five sacks and limited Jacksonville to just two red-zone appearances.

It wasn't a marquee win, but every victory counts for a team with a young quarterback.

 

27. Buffalo Bills

Last Week: No. 27

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 24-23 win vs. Carolina Panthers

Week 3: at New York Jets

Ice. Cold. Veins.

Matched up against one of the best defenses in the NFC, the Buffalo Bills used a touchdown pass from E.J. Manuel to Stevie Johnson to win 24-23. Not only was the pass clutch, but it came with two seconds remaining on the clock.

It may be time to start believing in Buffalo—at least in its future.

Buffalo lost its season opener 23-21 to the New England Patriots, leaving some to target the youth and inexperience on Buffalo's roster. One week later, Manuel led a fourth-quarter drive and capitalized on a costly penalty to pull off the miracle win.

With a road game against the New York Jets on the horizon, there's a legitimate possibility that Buffalo gets to 2-1.

C.J. Spiller ran for 103 yards, Johnson caught eight passes for 111 yards and a touchdown, and Manuel threw for 296 yards on 27-of-39 passing. Defensively, Mario Williams reminded us why he's a superstar, picking up 4.5 sacks.

Buffalo has built up quite a large amount of confidence. The question is, could Manuel be this year's rookie sensation?

 

26. New York Jets

Last Week: No. 22

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 10-13 loss at New England Patriots

Week 3: vs. Buffalo Bills

For the second consecutive week, the New York Jets defense has stepped up to create a low-scoring game. Unfortunately, the Jets offense wasn't able to support that effort, managing just 10 points to four turnovers against the New England Patriots.

In the end, a 13-10 loss sums up the season New York is about to endure.

The Jets managed to get the run game going, picking up 129 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. Stephen Hill stepped up with four catches for 86 yards, as well, giving the second-year wideout 10 receptions through two games.

Unfortunately, quarterback Geno Smith was just 15-of-35 for 214 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions—what did you expect from a rookie quarterback playing in New England for the first time?

That's the issue for New York as Smith is worth the first-year headache due to his upside at the position but isn't a postseason quarterback right now. We may have high expectations after 2012, but that draft class was unlike anything we'd seen in recent memory—or perhaps ever.

A Week 3 home game against the Buffalo Bills will measure whether Smith is more NFL-ready than fellow rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel, but that's about all it'll do. New York's defense is in for a long year.

 

25. Arizona Cardinals

Last Week: No. 28

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 25-21 win vs. Detroit Lions 

Week 3: at New Orleans Saints

Last week, I marked the Arizona Cardinals as a team that could potentially sneak up and contend for the NFL playoffs. Bruce Arians is a magnificent football mind at head coach, and Carson Palmer's presence is infinitely greater than that of Kevin Kolb or John Skelton.

In Week 2, the Cardinals bounced back from a 27-24 loss to the St. Louis Rams to defeat the Detroit Lions 25-21 and set out on that path to the postseason.

Palmer was 22-of-39 for 248 yards, one touchdown and an interception, linking up with rookie Andre Ellington twice for 42 yards and a score. Even as the wide receiver corps lacked, Arizona managed to contain an elite offense and emerge victorious.

Unfortunately, it was a costly win.

Without Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals' postseason dreams would be severely damaged.

The defense appears to be up to the task, holding the Lions to 49 yards on 20 carries. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson were great, but Arizona limited the Lions to 3-of-11 on third down conversions and just one red-zone appearance.

If Fitzgerald can remain healthy and Rashard Mendenhall can continue to be an effective short-yardage running back, Arizona will make noise.

 

24. San Diego Chargers

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Last Week: No. 30

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 33-30 win at Philadelphia Eagles

Week 3: at Tennessee Titans

After losing a heartbreaker to the Houston Texans in Week 1, the San Diego Chargers went on the road to prove they're legitimate. Although unable to shut down the Philadelphia Eagles' high-octane offense, Philip Rivers and Eddie Royal led the Chargers to a 33-30 away win.

That's how you rebound from a devastating loss.

This marks the second consecutive week that the Chargers offense has been nothing short of impressive. Rivers was 36-of-47 for 419 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, with Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd each topping 100 yards receiving.

Royal caught seven passes for 90 yards and three touchdowns, bringing his total to five receiving scores through two games.

The defense is concerning, but the fact that Gates was able to get going after a slow Week 1 performance is promising. Rivers is still a very good quarterback and, with the proper supporting cast, can return to being a perennial postseason performer.

The first two games certainly suggest San Diego is headed in the right direction.

 

23. Pittsburgh Steelers

Last Week: No. 24

Record: 0-1

Week 1: 9-16 loss vs. Tennessee Titans

Week 2: at Cincinnati Bengals

The Pittsburgh Steelers were embarrassing during the opening week of the season, losing 16-9 at home against the Tennessee Titans. Pittsburgh failed to score a touchdown until the final 1:23 of the game and ran the ball for 31 yards on 15 carries.

Don't expect it to get any easier at the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals have one of the NFL's top 10 defenses, thriving both against the run and the pass. With Pittsburgh lacking any form of encouragement at running back, the pressure will be on Ben Roethlisberger to lead the charge on the road.

We all know he can do it, but will Roethlisberger's production be enough? If it isn't, the Steelers will fall into a dangerous 0-2 hole.

 

22. New York Giants

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Last Week: No. 19

Record: 0-2

Week 2: 23-41 vs. Denver Broncos

Week 3: at Carolina Panthers

The New York Giants are one of the most decorated franchises in the NFL, but right now, they're playing like one of the worst. Eli Manning can't stop throwing interceptions, New York's run game is depleted by injuries, and its defense is bordering on horrific.

Worst of all, there have been no signs of improvement.

Manning was 28-of-49 for 362 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions against brother Peyton and the Denver Broncos. Needless to say, the Giants lost, falling 41-23 and further establishing the inconsistency that this offense possesses.

Through two games, Eli Manning has seven interceptions, and the offense has 10 total turnovers.

The running backs didn't fumble the ball against the Broncos, but they carried it 19 times for 23 yards. Brandon Jacobs ran for a touchdown in his return to New York, but he also picked up four yards on seven total carries.

The name value may suggest otherwise, but Eli and the Giants are far from elite in 2013.

 

21. Washington Redskins

Last Week: 20

Record: 0-2

Week 2: 20-38 loss at Green Bay Packers

Week 3: vs. Detroit Lions

Fans can harp on Robert Griffin III's recovery from a knee injury, but that only begins to scratch the surface here. The Redskins thoroughly overachieved in 2012, and when it comes down to it, there isn't much of a personnel difference between 2013 and a 5-11 2011 season.

The likelihood that the Redskins go 5-11 in 2013 is slim-to-none, but the Redskins certainly aren't playing like they'll be any better.

For the second straight week, they were dominated during the first half, falling behind 24-0 and losing 38-20. Even with Eddie Lacy leaving after one carry due to a concussion, per Tyler Dunne of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Packers managed to decimate Washington's defense.

It's looking like Washington has issues that a healthy RG3 can't solve.

Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are a dominant pass-rushing duo, but Washington's defense is otherwise thin. The unit struggles to defend the pass and has been dreadful against the run through two games.

It won't get any easier in Week 3 as Washington's defense must face the high-octane attack of the Detroit Lions.

 

20Minnesota Vikings

Last Week: No. 21

Record: 0-2

Week 2: 30-31 loss at Chicago Bears

Week 3: vs. Cleveland Browns

For the second consecutive week, the Minnesota Vikings played against an NFC North divisional foe. This time around, it was a punch-to-the-gut type of loss, dropping a 31-30 thriller against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

It was yet another example of Minnesota being strong but not strong enough.

Adrian Peterson ran the ball 26 times for 100 yards, Kyle Rudolph caught a touchdown, and Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff for a 105-yard score. Brian Robinson added a 61-yard fumble return for a touchdown, but in the end, it came down to quarterback play.

Christian Ponder continues to make strides, but his star potential is wearing thin.

Ponder was 16-of-30 for 227 yards, one touchdown and an interception but did display improved prowess in looking downfield. Once he's able to become more consistent, Minnesota will be a postseason contender, but the time is running out for him to break through in 2013.

Minnesota has been strong through two weeks, but a loss to reach 0-2 is still 0-2.

 

19. Tennessee Titans

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Last Week: No. 23

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 24-30 loss at Houston Texans

Week 3: vs. San Diego Chargers

The Tennessee Titans won their season opener 16-9 over the Steelers and looked to move to 2-0 with a win against the Houston Texans. If not for multiple blown coverages during the final minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime, that would've happened.

Should've, would've, could've, and Tennessee is 1-1.

Chris Johnson ran for 96 yards against one of the NFL's best defenses, with Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker both catching touchdowns. Unfortunately, it was another less-than-elite performance by Jake Locker, who was 17-of-30 for 148 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Locker did an excellent job of managing the game, but this was a day that Tennessee needed him to star.

Tennessee managed two sacks and forced two turnovers, including a pick-six, but nine penalties showed how far this team has to go. The Titans were 4-of-16 on third downs, struggled to play with discipline, and in the end, they simply didn't have enough to step up when it mattered most.

Tennessee has potential and could be a postseason dark horse, but it's on Locker and the young players to elevate their levels of production and discipline.

 

18. St. Louis Rams

Last Week: No. 18

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 24-31 loss at Atlanta Falcons

Week 3: at Dallas Cowboys

Last week, I was told that I was undervaluing the St. Louis Rams as postseason contenders when I ranked them at No. 18. In Week 2, the Rams proved that they're indeed a borderline postseason team, mounting a strong comeback effort that came up short against the Atlanta Falcons

Unfortunately, the Rams did lose 31-24 and were a victim of "too little, too late."

St. Louis fell behind 24-3, and the Rams defense held the Falcons to just seven points the rest of the way. Unfortunately, the Rams trailed from start to finish and proved to be a step below the NFC's elite teams.

Just don't think there isn't a positive takeaway.

Tavon Austin caught two scores, Chris Givens topped 100 yards receiving and Sam Bradford threw for 352 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Robert Quinn added another sack, and St. Louis' defense did respond, albeit after digging an insurmountable hole.

St. Louis has potential, but this game was a wake-up call for all getting too high on them. "Almost" is an applicable word.

 

17. Philadelphia Eagles

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Last Week: No. 15

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 30-33 vs. San Diego Chargers

Week 3: vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The Philadelphia Eagles were the story of Week 1, torching the Washington Redskins for 33 points in Chip Kelly's debut as head coach. During Week 2, the Eagles were outgunned by the Chargers, losing 33-30 at home.

That's what you call an unforeseen turn of events.

Philly ran 21 less plays than San Diego but still managed to pick up 511 yards of total offense. LeSean McCoy had 167 yards from scrimmage, but the positive story of the day was the quarterback play by Michael Vick.

Known for his legs, Vick went off for 428 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on 23-of-36 passing.

The defense must answer questions, as the Eagles fell apart in the second half of Week 1 and never seemed to wake up against San Diego. Once a perennial MVP candidate, it's now on Vick to make the most of his surroundings and lead.

Until then, a loss is a loss, and a defeat at home hurts even more. Up next is the return of Andy Reid.

 

16. Detroit Lions

Last Week: No. 13

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 21-25 loss at Arizona Cardinals

Week 3: at Washington Redskins

The Detroit Lions managed to pick up a 34-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings during Week 1 as Reggie Bush masked a lackluster performance by Calvin Johnson. During Week 2, the Lions lost 25-21 to the Arizona Cardinals after Bush went down and Megatron stepped up.

One thing is clear: Detroit needs balance, and losing Bush would be a critical blow.

In that case, neither am I.

Matthew Stafford was 24-of-36 for 278 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Johnson added six catches for 116 yards and two scores, helping to reunite one of the NFL's most feared passing combinations.

Defensively, DeAndre Levy had an interception return for a touchdown, and Willie Young managed to pick up a sack. Ndamukong Suh was better, but he still wasn't the disruptive force that he's expected to be on a week-by-week basis.

There are questions to answer in Detroit, but this was still a quality road loss, so the time to panic isn't upon us. Not yet.

 

15. Cincinnati Bengals

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Last Week: No. 14

Record: 0-1

Week 1: 21-24 loss at Chicago Bears

Week 2: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Cincinnati Bengals are preparing for Monday Night Football, where they'll play the Pittsburgh Steelers. With a win, the Bengals will move into a tie for first place in the AFC North with the Ravens.

After losing 24-21 to the Chicago Bears due to late-game penalties, it's time Cincy turns it all around with a rebound performance.

Andy Dalton and A.J. Green were excellent during Week 1, but Geno Atkins went without a tackle, and the run game was all but nonexistent. In order for Cincinnati to turn things around, it's imperative that the Bengals get the run game going and see Atkins enter the backfield more often.

Against a Steelers team that struggles to run the football, Cincinnati is primed and ready for success.

 

14. Dallas Cowboys

Last Week: No. 10

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 16-17 loss at Kansas City Chiefs

Week 3: vs. St. Louis Rams

The Dallas Cowboys didn't quiet many critics after winning 36-31 during Week 1 as they turned six forced turnovers into a narrow win. Week 2 wasn't very kind to Dallas, either, as the defense played well and the Cowboys simply didn't have an answer for Alex Smith.

In turn, Dallas fell 17-16 and dropped to 1-1 on the season.

I've gone on record to say that I'm high on the Chiefs, and losing to them is hardly a defeat to mourn. With that being said, the Cowboys were leading with 18 minutes remaining and had a true opportunity to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter.

In the end, it just wasn't to be.

Tony Romo was magnificent, going 30-of-42 for 298 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, with Dez Bryant coming to life with nine receptions for 141 yards and a score. Defensively, DeMarcus Ware had two sacks and led a four-sack day for Dallas.

It wasn't a win, but Dallas is proving to be a very good football team.

 

13. Indianapolis Colts

Last Week: No. 9

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 20-24 loss vs. Miami Dolphins

Week 3: at San Francisco 49ers

The Indianapolis Colts couldn't channel a fourth-quarter miracle in Week 2, falling to 1-1 with a 24-20 home loss to the Miami Dolphins. This was a clear example of Indianapolis' growing pains, as it failed to capitalize on 448 yards of total offense.

A Week 3 road game against the San Francisco 49ers doesn't provide any reason for encouragement.

Indianapolis' defense allowed nearly 400 total yards, as the secondary failed to capitalize on the Colts' four sacks. Robert Mathis and Jerrell Freeman each had two, while Pat Angerer and rookie Bjoern Werner split one, but Ryan Tannehill still managed to throw for 319 yards.

Until the defense improves, the offense won't be able to change much.

Fortunately, the Colts do have something to be excited about, as Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 65 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Previously nursing an injury, Bradshaw should help open up the Colts' offense and take the pressure off of Luck.

Until then, Indianapolis will fail to live up to its full potential.

 

12. Miami Dolphins

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Last Week: No. 17

Record: 2-0

Week 2: 24-20 win at Indianapolis Colts

Week 3: vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Miami Dolphins picked up a 23-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns during the opening week of the season. After defeating the Browns, however, it was unclear whether or not the Dolphins were legitimate postseason contenders.

After defeating the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, Miami has proven to be a team to watch in the AFC East.

Ryan Tannehill was 23-of-34 for 319 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, with Lamar Miller running for 69 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries. Mike Wallace responded to a one-catch performance in Week 1, hauling in nine passes for 115 yards and a score.

Tannehill did commit three fumbles, but a road win is a road win.

Defensively, the Dolphins continued to get after the quarterback, picking up three sacks on a day in which Dion Jordan and Cameron Wake were shut out. Brent Grimes managed to pick up an interception, which proved to be a turning point.

Miami has some work to do, but the postseason upside is evident.

 

11. Baltimore Ravens

Last Week: No. 12

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 14-6 win vs. Cleveland Browns

Week 3: vs. Houston Texans

After losing by 22 points against the Denver Broncos in Week 1, the Baltimore Ravens needed to bounce back. This wasn't exactly what the world had in mind, but it was still a victory, and in the end, that's all the standings will display.

With some help from some unlikely heroes, Baltimore defeated the Cleveland Browns 14-6 and moved into first place in the AFC North.

Joe Flacco was efficient, going 22-of-33 for 211 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions against Joe Haden and Co. He found Torrey Smith seven times for 85 yards, establishing that the young gun is Baltimore's No. 1 receiver.

When it was all said and done, however, it was Marlon Brown who caught a five-yard touchdown pass and Bernard Pierce who scored on a five-yard run to complete Baltimore's second-half comeback.

There wasn't much to complain about defensively, as the Ravens registered five sacks, with both Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs breaking through. Daryl Smith had game highs of 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks, with Baltimore holding Cleveland to 4-of-15 on third downs and 65 yards rushing.

A Week 3 home game against the Houston Texans will gauge just how legitimate this Ravens team is.

 

10. Kansas City Chiefs

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Last Week: No. 16

Record: 2-0

Week 2: 17-16 win vs. Dallas Cowboys

Week 3: at Philadelphia Eagles

The Kansas City Chiefs defense rose to the occasion for the second consecutive week. With Alex Smith proving that he can use his arm and legs to attack, the Chiefs have effectively built a balanced team.

The Dallas Cowboys learned that the hard way.

Matched up against a fellow contender, the Chiefs used 223 yards passing and two touchdowns by Smith to edge out the Cowboys 17-16. Smith also ran the ball for 57 yards on eight carries, which enabled his receiving corps to find openings.

Most encouraging of all, both Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe scored touchdowns.

Defensively, it was more of the same from the rising AFC contender, as the Chiefs picked up three sacks and forced two key turnovers. Dontari Poe was the star, picking up two sacks, giving him 3.5 through two games after failing to register a single one as a rookie.

Andy Reid has transformed this culture, and Kansas City is officially back in the postseason hunt.

 

9. Chicago Bears

Last Week: No. 11

Record: 2-0

Week 2: 31-30 win vs. Minnesota Vikings

Week 3: at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Chicago Bears have survived two consecutive scares, winning 24-21 against the Cincinnati Bengals during Week 1 and taking down the Minnesota Vikings 31-30 during Week 2. This time around, it was a gutsy performance by the offense that required a last-minute touchdown pass for Chicago to win.

Jay Cutler and the Bears now own first place in the NFC North.

Cutler was 28-of-39 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, hitting Martellus Bennett for two scores and Brandon Marshall for one. Matt Forte added 161 yards of total offense, catching 11 passes in the process.

In the end, it was Cutler to Bennett with 10 seconds remaining that secured a 31-30 win.

Defensively, Tim Jennings returned an interception for a 44-yard touchdown. Chicago forced three turnovers and proved, once again, that its defense is one of the NFL's truly elite.

The Bears are known for second-half-of-the-season collapses, but right now, Marc Trestman's group is showing the intestinal fortitude that we hadn't seen in recent years.

 

8. Atlanta Falcons

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Last Week: No. 8

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 31-24 win vs. St. Louis Rams

Week 3: at Miami Dolphins

The Atlanta Falcons responded to a heartbreaking Week 1 loss in New Orleans by leading from start to finish against the St. Louis Rams. The passing game was explosive, the defense scored a touchdown, and Atlanta moved to 1-1 with great balance.

Unfortunately, it came at a cost.

The hope is that Steven Jackson returns in Week 3, especially after Atlanta dominated to the point that it didn't need him in Week 2. If the injury develops into something more serious, however, Atlanta could be in trouble.

Until then, we'll give the benefit of the doubt to a work-horse running back who has a thigh bruise.

Matt Ryan was brilliant, going 33-of-43 for 374 yards, two scores and no interceptions, and Julio Jones caught 11 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. Osi Umenyiora returned an interception for 68 yards and a score, with Jason Snelling running one in offensively.

Most impressively, the Falcons won this game with injuries to Jackson, Roddy White and Asante Samuel, per RotoWorld. Atlanta will be scary once its healthy.

 

7. Green Bay Packers

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Last Week: No. 6

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 38-20 win vs. Washington Redskins

Week 3: at Cincinnati Bengals

The Green Bay Packers needed a victory over the reigning NFC East champion Washington Redskins. Not only were the Packers able to get that win, but they made a statement to the rest of the NFL by absolutely dominating one of the conference's perceived elites.

All is well again in Wisconsin.

Aaron Rodgers was methodical, going 34-of-42 for 480 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. This was especially impressive considering Green Bay's offensive line was as atrocious as we'd ever seen it, overcoming four sacks to absolutely dismantle Washington's defense.

His receivers certainly helped.

James Jones caught 11 passes for 178 yards after going without a single reception in Week 1. Randall Cobb picked up nine catches for 128 yards and a score, while Jordy Nelson hauled in two touchdown receptions.

Losing Lacy hurts, but James Starks filled in nicely for 132 yards on 20 carries. Green Bay is still elite and, should the run game get going, will be a tough out come the postseason.

 

6. San Francisco 49ers

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Last Week: No. 2

Record: 1-1

Week 2: 3-29 at Seattle Seahawks

Week 3: vs. Indianapolis Colts

The San Francisco 49ers picked up an impressive victory during Week 1, earning a 34-28 win against the Green Bay Packers. One week later, the 49ers were absolutely decimated by a rival that beat them convincingly just one year prior.

A 29-3 loss to the Seahawks is a great way to end all momentum.

Colin Kaepernick was 13-of-28 for 127 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions after topping 400 yards passing against the Packers. He did run for 87 yards on nine carries, but the rest of the team carried it 11 times for 13 yards.

Kaepernick also fumbled the ball and lost it, displaying just how rattled Seattle's 12th Man had San Francisco.

San Francisco did manage four sacks and held Russell Wilson to 8-of-19 passing for 142 yards. Unfortunately, the Seahawks stampeded the 49ers for 172 yards on the ground, and San Francisco didn't improve as the game went on.

A disappointing result to say the least.

 

5. New England Patriots

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Last Week: No. 3

Record: 2-0

Week 2: 13-10 win vs. New York Jets

Week 3: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After escaping the Buffalo Bills 23-21 during Week 1, I had the New England Patriots ranked No. 3. They'd historically struggled against the Bills in season openers but still remained an elite team in the NFL.

Then, Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen suffered severe injuries, and the Patriots posted an absolute dud against the New York Jets. I'm sold on there being significant issues in New England.

Just don't color me as one of the people who believes they'll lose the division.

Tom Brady was visibly furious with the fact that no wide receiver other than Julian Edelman—13 catches with a long of 10 yards—could hold onto a pass. Aaron Dobson had three receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown but was targeted 10 times, while Kenbrell Thompkins caught two passes for 47 yards on seven targets.

Until Brady is given a crop of receivers who he can trust, the Patriots will continue to struggle. With Darrelle Revis set to defend Edelman during Week 3, the time could be now for an upset.

In the end, however, the facts are the facts: New England may be in trouble, but it's a 2-0 team searching for answers. That's an unfavorable position in which any coach in the NFL would love to be.

 

4. New Orleans Saints

Last Week: No. 7

Record: 2-0

Week 2: 16-14 win at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 3: vs. Arizona Cardinals

The New Orleans Saints have won two consecutive games by using their defense to shut opponents down. I'll let you take a second to read that over and check for typos because that's something we haven't been able to say since—well, it's been a while.

After winning 23-17 against the Atlanta Falcons during Week 1, the Saints used a last-second field goal to win 16-14 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Drew Brees was 26-of-46 for 322 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, with Jimmy Graham catching 10 passes for 179 yards and a score. Marques Colston had four catches for 63 yards with none bigger than the extraordinary last-minute catch that set up the game-winning field goal.

It was stunning and a testament to what Sean Payton and Rob Ryan bring to this football team.

It was yet another performance in which the Saints forced two turnovers and held an opponent to less than 20 points. In turn, New Orleans has established itself as a balanced contender.

Just think about it like this—the offense still hasn't gotten going yet, and the Saints are already 2-0.

 

3. Houston Texans

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week: No. 4

Record: 2-0

Week 2: 30-24 win vs. Tennessee Titans

Week 3: at Baltimore Ravens

It wasn't pretty, and it won't prevent anyone from questioning the Houston Texans' readiness for a pursuit of the Super Bowl, but the reigning AFC South champions survived 30-24 against the Tennessee Titans. In turn, Houston moves to 2-0 on the season.

In the end, the only numbers that matter are the ones in the standings.

Matt Schaub threw for 298 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, while Arian Foster and Ben Tate combined for 172 yards rushing. Andre Johnson caught eight passes for 76 yards, and tight ends Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham each picked up receiving touchdowns.

The most encouraging sign of all, however, was the development of rookie DeAndre Hopkins.

Hopkins caught seven passes for 117 yards, bringing in the game-winning overtime touchdown catch. This proved that, for the first time in Johnson's tenure with the Texans, Houston has a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver.

It may be taking some time for Houston to find its footing, but this team is legitimate.

 

2. Seattle Seahawks

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Last Week: No. 5

Record: 2-0

Week 2: 29-3 vs. San Francisco 49ers

Week 3: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Seattle Seahawks made the most powerful statement of the entire 2013 NFL regular season. For the second consecutive time, the Seahawks absolutely demolished the San Francisco 49ers, winning 29-3 after taking a 42-13 victory during the two sides' last meeting in Seattle.

For those who don't want to do the math, Seattle has outscored the reigning NFC champion 49ers 71-16 in their past two clashes.

This marks the second consecutive week that Seattle has shut down an explosive quarterback, holding Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton to a combined 252 passing yards. The Seahawks came up with three sacks, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and held San Fran to 3-of-12 on third down conversions.

The bar has been set in the NFC.

Best of all, the Seahawks did it all with Russell Wilson struggling to throw the football.

Marshawn Lynch picked up 135 yards and three touchdowns from scrimmage, breaking a one-week dry spell. Three separate players came up with interceptions, and two others grabbed fumbles, displaying just how balanced this team is.

Up next is a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 3-0 is certainly attainable.

 

1. Denver Broncos

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week: No. 1

Record: 2-0

Week 2: 41-23 win at New York Giants

Week 3: vs. Oakland Raiders

After the Denver Broncos destroyed the Baltimore Ravens 49-27, it was going to be difficult for Peyton Manning and Co. to top that performance. A case can be made that Denver wasn't quite as impressive offensively, but on defense, the Broncos were stellar in a 41-23 win at the Giants.

In turn, we're left asking one question:

That's right, the Broncos held the Giants to 23 points in New York, forcing four turnovers and doing it all without Champ Bailey or Von Miller.

As strong as the defense was, the player who you need to be focused on is running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno picked up where he left off during the final weeks of 2012, running for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.

If he can keep this up, Denver will be tough to beat.

Manning, not to be outdone by anyone, was 30-of-43 for 307 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in his first game since he posted a legendary seven touchdowns. Eric Decker bounced back from an underwhelming Week 1 performance with nine receptions for 87 yards, while Julius Thomas and Wes Welker had touchdowns.

The Broncos have outscored the past two Super Bowl champions, the Giants and Ravens, 90-50 over the last two games. Seattle was another option, but Denver simply didn't do anything to lose this spot.

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