Week 3 is in the books, and the only thing for certain in the NFL is that parity reigns.
"Any given Sunday" is a common phrase in league circles, but this year it seems more prevalent as the amount of close games has kept fans glued to the edge of their seats. Even in Week 3 where we saw some blowouts, plenty of games came down to the wire.
For a bunch of NFL addicts like you and me, this season has been fantastic!
Some of you may be wondering where Matt Miller is, as he usually handles the power rankings while I take the picks each week. Have no fear, Matt is just getting some much-needed time off for the birth of his child. He'll be back at it next week.
So as not to mess things up too much, I used his last week's rankings as a baseline. So, some of the teams might be a tad higher or lower than if I'd used my own rankings as a starting point, but I didn't want to have Matt reinvent the wheel when he came back. Still, there were plenty of wild swings as some of the teams that we questioned after two games showed their true colors after three.
Last Week's Ranking: 32
Week 3 Result: Lost to Seahawks 45-17
Oh, the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
Whenever the Jaguars get brought up, the same phrase comes to mind: like where they're going, just not where they're at.
Imagine you're about to start the most stellar road trip in the world toward an awesome destination, but you have to start at a gas station where you get stabbed. That's what the Jaguars are going through right now. They have a clear vision and a great general manager-head coach tandem; they just don't have the players yet.
Losing so soundly to the Seahawks was to be expected. More losses are on the way. Patience is needed, Jaguars fans. Just be patient.
Last Week's Ranking: 30
Week 3 Result: Lost to Broncos 37-21
Right now, quarterback Terrelle Pryor is the lone bright spot for a Raiders team that is clearly still trying to find "Year 1" of their rebuilding plan. Personally, I don't blame head coach Dennis Allen or general manager Reggie McKenzie, as the team they inherited needed to be uprooted and is still dealing with tons of dead cap space and the ramifications of traded-away draft picks.
Pryor, then, becomes also the biggest decision the Raiders will need to make. Is he the quarterback of the future? He's clearly improved since his time at Ohio State, but if the Raiders have a shot at a top quarterback in April, they may be forced to pull the plug on the Pryor experiment.
Until that time comes, Pryor makes the Raiders worth watching, and that's an improvement over recent years.
Last Week's Ranking: 28
Week 3 Result: Lost to Browns 31-27
Tough late-game loss for the Minnesota Vikings, who gave up a game-winning drive to Cleveland Browns backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.
It's always terrible to be 0-3, but the Vikings have two losses against two bottom-half-of-the-league teams in Cleveland and the Detroit Lions. Remember how this was a playoff team? They should easily be 2-1 right now. Alas...
Outside of quarterback Christian Ponder's always-disappointing passing, the biggest problems right now for the Vikings are things that should be strengths: offensive line play and defense. Those were the building blocks for this team! When a team is consistently losing battles at the line of scrimmage and makes a quarterback like Hoyer look like an All-Pro, things are definitely not going well.
Last Week's Ranking: 21
Week 3 Result: Lost to Patriots 23-3
The Buccaneers are 0-3, with losses to the New York Jets' stifling defense and two top teams in the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots. So, while things look terrible, it's easy to see that it's been a rough early-season schedule. With games against Arizona and Philadelphia coming up, there's still a chance to turn this pirate ship around.
The biggest concern here isn't quarterback play or even the retooled defense failing to come together. Things could unravel quickly in Tampa if the wins don't come soon. There's already dissension bubbling under the surface against head coach Greg Schiano, and this whole locker room could end up even more toxic than it was during the MRSA outbreak.
Last Week's Ranking: 29
Week 3 Result: Defeated Vikings 31-27
Cleveland Browns fans might want to be a little higher on this list after their exciting win, but beating a winless team isn't exactly cause for knee-jerk reactions. That said, big props to a Browns team for a late win after just about everyone said they were tanking.
Note: They still might be tanking, and the Vikings could be just that bad.
No Trent Richardson? No problem, as quarterback Brian Hoyer put up big yardage and got wide receiver Josh Gordon (back from suspension) going in a big way. The defense didn't stifle Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder quite as much as it could have, but running back Adrian Peterson didn't get rolling, and that secured the Browns' first win on the season.
Last Week's Ranking: 19
Week 3 Result: Lost to Lions 27-20
Too many want to hem and haw about the Redskins defense. While, admittedly, the defense may be atrocious, that's the bed the Redskins made. Now, they have to lie in it. Trading away picks for Robert Griffin III and surrounding him with playmakers was what they tried to accomplish. That meant less cap room, fewer draft picks and/or limited focus on the defense.
That means the offense needs to do most of the stepping up in the nation's capital. RGIII is clearly still rusty, both physically and mentally. The silver lining for Redskins fans is the slow start Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson went through last season.
This is still a good football team, but it's not playing well right now. As long as RGIII is slumping and waiting to get his stats in garbage time, the Redskins aren't going to win many (if any) football games.
Last Week's Ranking: 20
Week 3 Result: Lost to Panthers 38-0
Quarterback Eli Manning is playing some of the worst football of his entire career, and there's simply no real excuse for it.
Could the offensive line be better? Sure. Could the running game step up a little more? Absolutely. Now, look over to Eli's brother Peyton in Denver and realize that those excuses make little to no sense in a league where quarterbacks are king, and a QB with that many weapons should be able to deal even without great protection.
The Giants defense is also disappointing in 2013, and that much ineptitude on both sides of the ball puts head coach Tom Coughlin's job (and career) in the crosshairs.
Last Week's Ranking: 24
Week 3 Result: Lost to Titans 20-17
The Chargers are 1-2, but their schedule hasn't done them any favors. Their losses—to the Houston Texans and the surprising Tennessee Titans—are by a grand total of six points, and new head coach Mike McCoy has this offense looking more efficient than Norv Turner had in a while.
Make no mistake about it, the Chargers are a rebuilding team, and a lot more losses are likely on the way in 2013. This team, however, is a much tougher out than it has been for years. In the AFC, the Chargers still have an outside shot at the playoffs as long as they can hang around .500.
Last Week's Ranking: 22
Week 3 Result: Lost to Saints 31-7
Head coach Bruce Arians probably got a little too much credit for his job with a talented Indianapolis Colts team last season. His Arizona offense is clearly having trouble getting rolling without a competent offensive line and with a mistake-prone quarterback.
Carson Palmer might be head and shoulders above just about every quarterback in Cardinals history not named Kurt Warner, but he's still a disappointing triggerman for a vertical offense because his arm is wilting and his decision making is below average at best.
If the Cardinals want some light at the end of the tunnel, linebacker Daryl Washington comes back after next week and can further improve their talented front seven. Cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu have the athletic ability to turn any game on its head, and running back Rashard Mendenhall looks like a solid short-term answer at running back.
Last Week's Ranking: 16
Week 3 Result: Lost to Bears 40-23
Big Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers may have thought 2012 was disappointing, but that was nothing compared to this season, where the team has dropped to 0-3 with two home losses. The only hope, however, is that all three teams—Tennessee, Cincinnati and Chicago—are among some of the best teams in the league so far this year.
The problem with the Steelers isn't new. Their one-time superstars are either long gone or getting older fast. They've brought in plenty of young talent, but much of it hasn't performed up to expectations—especially on the offensive and defensive lines.
Long story short, the Steelers don't give up 40 points at home. I'm not sure who or what is wearing black and gold and playing at Heinz Field, but those aren't the Steelers I grew up with.
Last Week's Ranking: 23
Week 3 Result: Lost to Jets 27-20
The Bills may be only 1-2, but they remain one of the surprising and exciting stories of the 2013 season. Quarterback EJ Manuel fought the "overdrafted" talk all offseason and is going a long way toward proving everyone wrong about him.
In addition to Manuel, the run game has been effective with both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson chipping in. The defense, too, has been solid—especially against tough quarterback matchups like the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton and the New England Patriots' Tom Brady.
The toughest part of the schedule is just around the corner, so the Bills faithful shouldn't hope for a lot of short-term success, but we'll learn a whole lot about this team and its character in the coming weeks.
Last Week's Ranking: 31
Week 3 Result: Defeated Giants 38-0
Avoiding the dreaded 0-3 was a big boost for quarterback Cam Newton and company. Doing so against a recent Super Bowl champion and in such definitive fashion is even more so. Frankly, a couple of weeks ago, one would've had to be either crazy or a tremendous Panthers homer to expect Newton to outduel Eli Manning so soundly.
Although the statistical rankings don't quite say so, the defense has been improved this season, as the defensive line has been winning more and more individual matchups. If the defensive backfield gives this team anything whatsoever, it can stop a lot of offenses.
Last Week's Ranking: 11
Week 3 Result: Lost to Chiefs 26-16
In theory, this is what the NFL is waiting for. The pace at which head coach Chip Kelly wants to push this team is reminiscent of the old Buffalo Bills "K-gun" or Boomer Esiason's time as a Cincinnati Bengal. The problem is, when one pushes the pedal to the metal, the car and the driver better be able to maintain control. As of yet, the Eagles can't do that with consistency.
The no-huddle is going to keep the Eagles in a lot of games, but any mistakes quarterback Mike Vick makes are going to be amplified at high speeds, and that defense hasn't shown it can keep pace.
Don't pull the proverbial ripcord quite yet, however. This is a team in progress, and it can't be judged until Kelly has a chance to bring in more of his guys—especially at the quarterback position, where Vick looks to be dynamic but still unreliable.
Last Week's Ranking: 27
Week 3 Result: Defeated Bills 27-20
The media is often too hard on the Jets.
It's easy to point out that the Jets are probably not as good as other 2-1 (or many 1-2) teams. But the defense that head coach Rex Ryan is fielding in 2013 is going to keep them competitive week in and week out. The Jets still don't have a group of great edge rushers, but that defensive line might be the best among 3-4 teams in the entire NFL.
On offense, quarterback Geno Smith is clearly the future of this team, and he has been able to make plays of which Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow or anyone else couldn't have dreamed—both with his arms and his legs.
If Smith and the defense continue to play this well, this Jets team could easily finish at or above .500 and save a lot of jobs for next season.
Last Week's Ranking: 15
Week 3 Result: Lost to Cowboys 31-7
After an almost globally lauded offseason, the St. Louis Rams' disappointing 1-2 start could inspire all sorts of knee-jerk overreactions. However, the two losses—at Atlanta and at Dallas—are easily forgivable, and it's hard not to maintain some semblance of excitement for the improved passing attack.
The biggest question mark, however, is the Rams' running game. Quarterback Sam Bradford may have more weapons, but he needs a solid rushing attack to keep defenses honest. So far, he hasn't had that, as running backs Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead have both underwhelmed.
The defense, too, is much less stout than advertised. A Jeff Fisher-coached defense should be tougher than this and should be collecting a lot more turnovers.
Last Week's Ranking: 25
Week 3 Result: Defeated Redskins 27-20
The Detroit Lions are a frenetic football team, and they get that nature from Matthew Stafford, who swings wildly from great plays to missing easy targets. He's on pace for over 5,000 yards again in 2013, and wide receiver Calvin Johnson is a huge part of that.
The big surprises in Detroit are the offensive line and defense—both huge areas of concern this offseason. The line has protected Stafford admirably, considering how many times the Lions drop back to pass. The defensive backfield, as well, has outperformed expectations and has benefited from the fantastic play of the defensive line in front of it.
Last Week's Ranking: 26
Week 3 Result: Defeated San Diego Chargers 20-17
In the preseason, it was tempting to pick the Titans as a surprise team because of their investments in the interior offensive line (to help running back Chris Johnson) as well as on the defensive side of the ball. The biggest obstacle, it appeared, was quarterback Jake Locker and a bunch of unproven assets in the passing game.
Locker has been able to pass the ball when he needs to, and the receivers came up with some huge plays in Week 3. At 2-1, the Titans are impressive, with wins against Pittsburgh and San Diego. It was taking Houston to overtime, though, that really proved no one should be taking this Titans team lightly.
Last Week's Ranking: 17
Week 3 Result: Defeated Texans 30-9
The Ravens aren't as good as they looked taking the Houston Texans behind the woodshed in Week 3, but they're definitely not as bad as their putrid Week 1 performance vs. the Broncos either. Somewhere in between is a talented defense with just enough offensive talent to make a few plays here and there.
Quarterback Joe Flacco needs more help than he's getting if he wants to make good on his massive payday, but that kind of money means the buck needs to ultimately stop with him as well. Getting running back Ray Rice back sooner rather than later is a must.
Last Week's Ranking: 18
Week 3 Result: Defeated Rams 31-7
The Cowboys aren't making it any easier to evaluate the NFL this season. They're 2-0 at home, yes, but their turnover-laden performance against the New York Giants (and inability to stop the Giants offense when they weren't getting unforced turnovers) looks awfully weird compared to the Carolina Panthers' shutout of the same team.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys lost a close game to the Kansas City Chiefs on the road and didn't showcase any of the offensive explosiveness they've shown at home.
So far, it's hard to really trust either quarterback Tony Romo or the defense, but at 2-1, the Cowboys don't look like they're going anywhere as long as wide receiver Dez Bryant and defensive end DeMarcus Ware continue to do what they do best.
Last Week's Ranking: 10
Week 3 Result: Lost to Ravens 30-9
On paper, the Houston Texans should be one of the best teams in football. Yet, even at 2-1, it's difficult to get excited about a team that has been within one score of both the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans in its victories and just got hoisted by its petards in Baltimore.
There's zero killer instinct on this team. Rather than playing like the wildly talented team that they are, head coach Gary Kubiak has this squad snatching victory from the jaws of defeat weekly against teams it should be beating by double digits. Then, when it goes up against actual mentally tough teams like the Ravens, Houston's true colors show.
With this much talent, the Texans are going to win a bunch of games, but back-to-back games against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers could showcase their true colors.
Last Week's Ranking: 14
Week 3 Result: Defeated the 49ers 27-7
The Indianapolis Colts didn't just beat the San Francisco 49ers; they ground them into a pulp. The defense made Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick look like a rookie, and the Colts' running game looked like trading for running back Trent Richardson was the biggest luxury move ever.
The fact that the Colts were able to move the ball, at all, against the 49ers is a credit to offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and his charges. Moreover, the Colts' lone loss was to the Miami Dolphins—a distinction that is looking better and better after the Dolphins' victory over the Falcons.
Last Week's Ranking: 13
Week 3 Result: Defeated Falcons 27-23
The Miami Dolphins might be one of the most unlikely 3-0 teams in NFL history, as no one (not even many Dolphins fans) gave this team a chance to beat teams like the Indianapolis Colts or Atlanta Falcons in 2013. Indeed, general manager Jeff Ireland is looking more and more like a genius after an offseason spent bringing in lots of talent.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is proving to be the real deal now that he's surrounded by NFL-caliber talent at receiver. In reality, though, Tannehill doesn't need to be great when the Dolphins defense has been so good. So, anything the Dolphins offense is able to contribute is gravy, and Tannehill's success is that much more exciting for Dolphins fans who have been longing for a quarterback for some time.
Last Week's Ranking: 12
Week 3 Result: Defeated Eagles 26-16
The Kansas City Chiefs may be 3-0, but there's still plenty left to question considering two of those wins were against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles. But for a team that's coming off of having the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, 3-0 has to feel pretty darn good.
It's true that quarterback Alex Smith has had trouble pushing the ball up the field. He's a game manager, yes, but he also has given the Chiefs a running element to their offense, which is far more than Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn were able to do. Moreover, he doesn't make mistakes, which sets things up well for that Chiefs defense.
Last Week's Ranking: 5
Week 3 Result: Lost to Bengals 34-30
The next three teams are perfect examples of not overreacting to early-season stumbles.
The Packers are 1-2, but their losses are to two talented teams in San Francisco and Cincinnati. No, they don't get a "pass" for losing, but it's hardly time to panic, either. Remember that Aaron Rodgers guy, the best quarterback in the NFL? Yeah, he's still there. As long as he's under center, this team has a chance.
The biggest issue for the Packers right now is the running game, which has looked more like a M*A*S*H unit through three weeks. This was supposed to be the new facet to their game, remember? Instead, DuJuan Harris, James Starks, Eddie Lacy and John Kuhn have all gone down and left only rookie Johnathan Franklin able to cough up the Week 3 victory.
Don't count the Packers out yet, though; don't even think about it.
Last Week's Ranking: 8
Week 3 Result: Lost to Dolphins 27-23
The Falcons have losses to the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. Had that sentence been spoken a few months ago, it would've seemed so much more egregious than right now. Instead, the Falcons need to work on the exact same things they needed to last season: closing out games on offense and getting much-needed stops on defense.
Those are mental things more than physical. This Falcons team, on paper, is still one of the best in football and is still a near-playoff lock.
The biggest help to this team would be the continued improvement of wide receiver Roddy White's health. The offensive line isn't doing quarterback Matt Ryan any favors, so having White—a first-down safety valve—at full strength is a must.
Last Week's Ranking: 3
Week 3 Result: Lost to Colts 27-7
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is struggling.
That's a pretty big understatement.
Without last year's favorite target, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, Kaepernick has looked uncomfortable two weeks in a row following his Week 1 explosion with receiver Anquan Boldin. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Niners should be able to rely more heavily on the run game, but defensive coordinators are clearly preparing for that and daring Kaepernick to beat them through the air.
The 49ers aren't going to win without Kaepernick improving his play, period. Still, some easier matchups in upcoming weeks should help the young quarterback's confidence. This team is just too talented to stay down for long.
Last Week's Ranking: 9
Week 3 Result: Defeated Packers 34-30
The Bengals officially get a Week 1 pass for their loss to the Chicago Bears, who are quickly making their case for the best team in football. After that, back-to-back wins against Pittsburgh and Green Bay look awfully impressive—no matter how terrible the Steelers may be this season.
The Bengals defense is carrying the load for sure, but the offense is starting to come into its own. Frankly, the pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton is being understated this season as the team has given him literally any weapon he might need. He's performed well, however, though it would be nice to see continual improvement.
The defense, running game, lines and coaching can all be top-notch, but this team won't find real success unless Dalton can step up and maximize the talent around him. He's close, but the difference between the Bengals and the teams above them on this list is proven quarterback talent.
Last Week's Ranking: 7
Week 3 Result: Defeated Buccaneers 23-3
As happy as Patriots fans have to be that their team is 3-0, there's still a concern bubbling under the surface that the Patriots offense just isn't right. Yes, quarterback Tom Brady is an all-time great, but even he is struggling with a group of untested targets with which he lacks chemistry.
The good news, of course, is that tight end Rob Gronkowski should be returning soon, and wide receiver Danny Amendola might not be too far behind. With those two back in the fold, Brady's numbers should start to tick up and the reliance on the running game and defense won't be so glaring.
Teams that deal with adversity become better for it. Getting through this stretch of the season at 3-0 is a credit to the Patriots, not the big problem everyone is making it out to be.
Last Week's Ranking: 6
Week 3 Result: Defeated Cardinals 31-7
Let's not be overly quick to anoint the revamped New Orleans Saints. Yes, the Week 1 victory over the Atlanta Falcons was impressive, but it was at home—doesn't discredit the win, just something to remember. Wins over the Buccaneers and the Cardinals aren't much to write home about, either.
So, while it's great to celebrate the 3-0 Saints as better than last year, there's still a ways to go. Upcoming games against Miami, Chicago and New England (the last two on the road) are going to show us exactly who the Saints are. If they come out of that gauntlet any better than 3-3, it will prove they're making huge strides forward from 2012.
Last Week's Ranking: 4
Week 3 Result: Defeated Steelers 40-23
The Week 1 home victory against the Cincinnati Bengals surprised a lot of people. The following two wins—against the Minnesota Vikings and the Pittsburgh Steelers—are the kinds of games the Bears should be winning. The beatdown in Pittsburgh, though, was especially important for a team of which many have questioned the toughness.
The Bears aren't a finished product. Like the Saints, the Bears need to be tested against tougher competition. Next week's trip to Detroit will help, but we could easily see this Bears team not get really tested until Week 9 (Green Bay) or Week 11 (Baltimore).
That's probably overly negative about the Bears, though, as they've clearly taken to head coach Marc Trestman's coaching on offense and haven't missed a beat under new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. Before the season, I thought there'd be more speed bumps than this, and the Bears have proved me wrong.
Last Week's Ranking: 2
Week 3 Result: Defeated Raiders 37-21
Peyton F'ing Manning...
He's sick. The man is just straight-up dirty. How old is he now, 50? He seems like he's been in the NFL since the days of leather helmets, but here he is: kicking tail, taking names and embarrassing defenders and their coordinators on a weekly basis.
The most surprising (and most impressive) thing about the Broncos isn't even Manning, though. We know about him. It's the rest of the team—from the offensive line to the defense and everywhere else—that seems to be rising to the occasion as well.
Manning can take the team to the playoffs by himself, but if the rest of the team keeps playing like this, they could make history.
Last Week's Ranking: 1
Week 3 Result: Defeated Jaguars 45-17
Nothing changes at the top of the power rankings, as the Seattle Seahawks shellacked the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. Beating the worst team in the league at home isn't exactly cause for celebration, but kudos to the Seahawks for taking care of business and looking dominant in the process.
The most exciting part of this team is how it continues to improve as some of its best players are on the bench or in the training room. Cornerback Brandon Browner and defensive end Chris Clemons both saw their first action Sunday, while others like wide receiver Percy Harvin are still waiting in the wings.
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.