NFL Power Rankings: Stacking Up Squads Before Week 4
The NFL power structure continues to shift.
Holding its own game of thrones, squads are out to prove their legitimacy early in the season. While the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos are off to a good start, the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers are in more danger than the Stark household.
Where does your favorite team stand heading into the final week of September? Are Super Bowl aspirations in the air, or do you now hate the month as much as Green Day?
With Week 4 set to kick off Thursday night, let's see how all 32 teams compare.
1. Seattle Seahawks (3-0)
The Seahawks are transcendent at home, having won their last 10 bouts at Seattle. Now let's see if the league's apex defense can get the job done on the road in Houston this Sunday.
2. Denver Broncos (3-0)
Think Peyton Manning's 73 percent completion rating is crazy good? It is, but remove Denver's 10 dropped passes and Peyton Manning would sport an 81.1 completion percentage. The toughest battle in its game against the Philadelphia Eagles will be the rock, paper, scissors duel to determine who gets the next goal-line carry.
3. New Orleans Saints (3-0)
Showing that they're back from league-enforced sanctions for attempting to purposefully harm players is not quite the same as rallying a city behind your team after a natural disaster, but the Saints are still hungry to put Bountygate behind them and improve to 4-0 on Monday Night Football.
4. Chicago Bears (3-0)
The Bears defense could feasibly finish with more points scored than the Jacksonville Jaguars offense. They added two more defensive scores to their tally against the Steelers and now have a head coach that actually acknowledges the offense as an existing entity.
5. New England Patriots (3-0)
According to the NFL Network's Albert Breer, both Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola could return this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons. Breer even said Gronkowski has a "good chance" at taking the field, which will inject a needle into New England's feeble offense.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)
Nobody will mistake Andy Dalton for Dan Marino, but he's making strides during his third year with a 67 completion percentage and 7.52 yards per attempt. With a top defense, a towering target in A.J. Green and an emerging back in Giovani Bernard, Dalton just needs to play well enough.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)
Justin Houston and his league-high 7.5 sacks are leading the brigade for a ferocious pass rush that is terrorizing opposing signal-callers. That's the exact opposite of what the Giants want to see this weekend after allowing six sacks in Week 3.
8. Miami Dolphins (3-0)
They're 3-0 after beating two playoff squads from last season. A regression is worrisome since their offense and defense respectively rank 26th and 22nd in total yards, but they deserve some credit for their fiery start.
9. Indianapolis Colts (2-1)
Trent Richardson's touchdown was one highlight of the Colts' 20-point victory over the 49ers during his team debut, but Ahmad Bradshaw carried the heavier burden with 95 yards. Which begs the question, do the Colts really need Richardson?
10. Green Bay Packers (1-2)
There are several 2-1 teams ranked lower, and the likewise 1-2 49ers won their head-to-head bout, so why keep the Packers so high? They lost close games to two tough teams and still have Aaron Rodgers under center.
11. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
The defense would not rank in the middle of the pack if Peyton Manning wasn't on the schedule to start the season. The Ravens still rank fourth against a run after derailing Arian Foster and the Houston Texans last Sunday.
12. San Francisco 49ers (1-2)
The panic button is right here. Just waiting for the signal to launch it. Let's give them one more chance on Thursday night against the St. Louis Rams, who played their division foes to a win and tie last season.
13. Houston Texans (2-1)
Only the Seahawks have surrendered less yards on defense, while the offense rates seventh in yards accumulated. Yet neither rate has been represented on the scoreboard. A win against Seattle would blast them back up the top 10, while dropping a second game after barely winning the first two would raise some major questions.
14. Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
A healthy DeMarco Murray is the missing link that could transform Dallas into a major player. His 175-yard effort fueled a 31-7 victory over the Rams that should have the Cowboys feeling good about their chances to at least secure the division crown.
15. Atlanta Falcons (1-2)
Panic button? No, not quite, not after a goal-line stand and last-minute touchdown are the only things blocking them from a 3-0 start. But with Steven Jackson and Sean Weatherspoon out for weeks while Roddy White and Sam Baker remain hobbled, there's reason for concern. Facing the Patriots this weekend as they get healthier sure doesn't help.
16. Detroit Lions (2-1)
Second behind Peyton Manning with 1,020 passing yards, Matthew Stafford is on pace to exceed 5,000 yards through the air, again. He's doing it this season with a career-best 8.43 yards per attempt that is trumping his previous high of 7.60.
17. Tennessee Titans (2-1)
Anyone who knew Chris Johnson would average 3.7 yards per carry through the first three games probably would have predicted one win, at the most, for Tennessee. Good thing the Titans hold the AFC's second-best turnover margin (plus-five) while Jake Locker had a strong showing against the Chargers following two lackluster games against top-notch defenses (Houston and Pittsburgh).
18. Carolina Panthers (2-1)
Steve Smith suffered a hip injury that limited him to a 40-yard day, yet Cam Newton still had no trouble finding his other receivers deep to decimate the Giants. Who knew the Panthers even rostered another wideout?
19. New York Jets (2-1)
Not only is Geno Smith a surprisingly competent quarterback with playmaking ability, but the defense is looking more like the prolific groups that orchestrated their deep playoff runs. Don't expect another AFC Championship Game appearance, but the Jets won't be cheap monologue fodder for late-night hosts this year.
20. St. Louis Rams (1-2)
The Rams appeared to be a passing offense away from wreaking havoc in the NFC. Sam Bradford has already tossed 891 yards through the air, but the defense has failed to keep its opponents at bay. After getting torn to pieces by Murray, can the Rams stop a San Francisco running game that should anxiously attempt to revisit its roots?
21. San Diego Chargers (1-2)
ESPN's QBR loves Philip Rivers, placing him at second. It took him five games to reach eight passing touchdowns last season, but he has already hit that mark through three.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)
That Chip Kelly buzz sure died down fast. The passing defense ranks 29th with 323 yards allowed per game, and they have to travel to Denver on Sunday. So yeah, 1-3, but at least they get the Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the next two weeks as a peace offering.
23. Buffalo Bills (1-2)
The Bills run a fast-paced offense, but they were simply rushing to get off the field early last Sunday against the Jets. A depleted secondary that surrendered two touchdown passes spanning more than 50 yards against the Jets desperately needs safety Jairus Byrd back in the fold.
24. Arizona Cardinals (1-2)
Are the Saints that good, or are the Cardinals still the Cardinals? Facing Tampa Bay actually represents a good test for Arizona, who can prove it's not bottom-of-the-pack bad by beating Mike Glennon in his first NFL start.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3)
The Bears and Bengals both look like perennial Super Bowl contenders, while the Titans came oh so close to starting at 3-0. Maybe we're berating the Steelers too harshly for their poor start. Four of their next six games come against the Minnesota Vikings, Jets, Oakland Raiders and Bills, so they can still salvage a seemingly lost season.
26. Cleveland Browns (1-2)
The more time passes, the more the Richardson trade begins to make sense for Cleveland. While the Browns made a mistake drafting a running back so high, they retrieved some value by receiving an albeit lower first-round selection for a running back averaging 3.5 yards per carry to start his young career. As long as they don't trade Jordan Cameron next.
27. Washington Redskins (0-3)
Fun fact: Robert Griffin III has compiled three-straight 300-yard games while everyone continues to call for his job. Maybe the problem is the defense allowing the most yards and second-most points, bounding them against utilizing Alfred Morris more on the ground.
28. Tampa Buccaneers (0-3)
If we learned anything from the Browns finding success with Brian Hoyer in Brandon Weeden's place, it can't get any worse for Tampa Bay after benching Josh Freeman. How much poorer can Glennon play compared to Freeman, whose 45.7 completion percentage rated 33rd among NFL quarterbacks? (No, no new teams have been introduced this year.)
29. Oakland Raiders (1-2)
After beating the NFL's worst (Jacksonville) and losing to the AFC's best (Denver), Oakland faces a Washington squad whose offense at least stacks up near the middle despite an atrocious defense. And if Terrelle Pryor can't play, Matt Flynn did throw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in his last start. Just saying.
30. Minnesota Vikings (0-3)
They gave up 323 passing yards and three touchdowns to Brian Hoyer. The Vikings better hope Hoyer strikes again against the Bengals so he's not revealed as a one-hit wonder that exposed a leaky secondary.
31. New York Giants (0-3)
The rushing attack is the worst in football. The offensive line has already allowed 11 sacks while the defense has mustered only three. The minus-nine turnover differential is tied with Pittsburgh for worst in the league. The Giants are just bad.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3)
Picking on the Jaguars just feels mean at this point. Everyone by now knows that the offense is the league's worst by a substantial margin, and Maurice Jones-Drew's fantasy owners know he has not rebounded from his foot injury. The once-forceful back has averaged a dismal 2.6 yards per carry.
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