One game can change so much.
The San Francisco 49ers, who were considered Super Bowl contenders as of less than two weeks ago, fell down in the dumps after two colossal losses. After crowning Colin Kaepernick an elite quarterback, he hardly looked like an NFL starter. The usually dominant hardly looked the part either.
Another loss would have really sent everyone into a frenzy, but the 49ers defeated the St. Louis Rams, 35-11. Worry filled the air on Thursday morning, but all the San Francisco smog will not prevent the local fans from now breathing a sigh of relief.
The 49ers looked impressive in a 24-point victory, but where does that leave the 2-2 squad now? Are they title contenders again, or did they just beat up on a stuttering team that can't run the ball or stop the run?
Here's an updated set of rankings after Thursday night's contest.
1. Seattle Seahawks (3-0)
If the Seahawks can leave Houston and Indianapolis with victories, they stand a great chance at entering their Week 12 bye with 10 wins. They could even be 11-0 two weeks before their grudge match against the 49ers.
2. Denver Broncos (3-0)
Its passing defense has been the only thing preventing Denver from looking immortal. What can possibly stop this team once Champ Bailey and Von Miller return?
3. New Orleans Saints (3-0)
Since the Miami Dolphins decided to forego Drew Brees and sign Daunte Culpepper instead, Brees has racked up 30,434 passing yards and 250 passing touchdowns for New Orleans. He gets to make Miami feel force about that decision on Monday night.
4. Chicago Bears (3-0)
The Bears wouldn't be undefeated if the defense didn't orchestrate so many scores of their own. The defense has allowed 294.3 passing yards per game and helped dig Ben Roethlisberger out of his grave last Sunday night. But turning takeaways into scores is what the Bears do, and they're 3-0 because of it.
5. New England Patriots (3-0)
New England has won three games by playing tight defense and running the ball. Expect the Patriots to rediscover their identity as passing masterminds once Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola come back to play.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)
Giovani Bernard's yards per carry: 5.0. BenJarvus Green-Ellis' yards per carry: 2.8. But no, keep giving Green-Ellis more than double the touches. That totally makes complete sense.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)
Completing 61 percent of his passes and avoiding any turnovers, Alex Smith has been as perfectly adequate as advertised. He also has registered 114 rushing yards, which places him 66 yards away from setting a new career high.
8. Miami Dolphins (3-0)
The tandem of Brian Hartline and Charles Clay has combined for 32 catches and 441 receiving yards while Mike Wallace has 12 catches for 152 yards. Hey, they're 3-0, so keep doing whatever works.
9. Indianapolis Colts (2-1)
Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 95 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers, so why do the Colts even need Trent Richardson? Wait, Bradshaw's hurt again (according to ESPN.com's Mike Wells) and won't play this Sunday? Oh, that's why.
10. San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
Frank Gore finally broke out with 153 rushing yards and a touchdown while the defense notched five sacks without Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith. Last year's 49ers returned, so put that panic button in the drawer until next Sunday night.
11. Green Bay Packers (1-2)
Not only do the Packers lose a spot in the top 10 to the 49ers, but they can't do anything about it during their bye week. Despite their starting running backs going down in each of the past two weeks, those games saw their first 100-yard rushers since 2010.
12. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Ray Rice is fighting to return this Sunday, but is a healthy rice even Baltimore's best option at running back? He has averaged 2.9 yards per carry this season after a tumultuous postseason. Bernard Pierce should continue receiving a larger bulk of touches.
13. Houston Texans (2-1)
Now the Texans must rest directly below the team that squashed them by 21 points last Sunday. The Ravens only scored one of their three touchdowns on offense, so don't mistakenly think that Houston's defense is slipping after seeing the 30-9 final score.
14. Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
The Cowboys have surrendered the second-least rushing yards this season. Two of their games came against horrid running attacks (Rams and New York Giants), but they limited Jamaal Charles to 55 yards on 16 carries during their only loss of the season.
15. Atlanta Falcons (1-2)
The Falcons are in grave danger of matching their 2012 loss total this Sunday night against the Patriots. After obtaining six of those 13 wins by six points or less, a letdown was inevitable this season.
16. Detroit Lions (2-1)
Two consecutive bouts against Chicago and Green Bay will show where Detroit stands in a difficult NFC North. If the Lions drop both of those division showdowns, their two victories against the 0-3 Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings will start feeling less impressive.
17. Tennessee Titans (2-1)
After facing the New York Jets this week, Tennessee gets the Chiefs, Seahawks and 49ers in three consecutive weeks. That means Jake Locker will have faced six of the current top-eight passing defenses before getting Week 8 off.
18. Carolina Panthers (1-2)
A 38-0 shutout over the Giants is one way to erase sour memories of a 0-2 start. Ron Rivera couldn't have blown that game during the fourth quarter if he tried.
19. New York Jets (2-1)
The Jets have amassed the 10th-most offensive yards per game this season. Not everyone thought Rex Ryan's crew, which looked bad during the preseason that he wasn't even watching, could assemble 10 yards through three games.
20. San Diego Chargers (1-2)
Ditching Norv Turner has not alleviated San Diego's fourth-quarter swoons this season. The Chargers have played all three of their games to three-point margins, but they have only ended one on the right side.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)
Chip Kelly has certainly succeeded in bolstering Philadelphia's rushing offense. The Eagles have compiled 209 rushing yards per game, and the Panthers rank second with 151. Too bad they still have to stop the other team from scoring.
22. Buffalo Bills (1-2)
Buffalo's front seven is getting shredded, allowing 155 rushing yards per contest. That deficiency prevented the squad from capitalizing on New England and Carolina passing attacks that limped out of the starting gate.
23. St. Louis Rams (1-3)
Weren't the Rams supposed to be building toward something good? After starting with a victory over the Arizona Cardinals, they have dropped their last three bouts by a combined 55 points. Daryl Richardson took one step closer to the bench in a losing effort against the 49ers, gaining 16 yards on 12 carries.
24. Arizona Cardinals (1-2)
What horrible timing for Larry Fitzgerald to deal with a nagging hamstring injury. Here's to him returning to full form and finally putting up some numbers alongside a not-terrible Carson Palmer.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3)
Anybody with a strong knowledge of the Steelers knows they hate running the ball and don't care about preventing other teams from establishing a ground game. Wait, that doesn't sound right, but they're currently the 30th-ranked rushing offense and 22nd against the run.
26. Cleveland Browns (1-2)
In his first game back from a two-game suspension, Josh Gordon caught 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Brian Hoyer targeted him on 19 of his 54 attempts. Maybe Cleveland actually has a couple of receiving weapons at its disposal.
27. Washington Redskins (0-3)
The Redskins can show that their tough schedule has played a big role in their league-worst defense by shutting down the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.If they don't, at least headline writers can't use RG 0-4 as a pun.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3)
If Lavonte David doesn't push Geno Smith out of bounds and Ryan Lindell converts a 47-yard field goal in the fourth quarter against the Saints, does Josh Freeman still have his starting quarterback job? Football truly is an unforgiving game of inches that has Tampa Bay in disarray.
29. Oakland Raiders (1-2)
September is almost over, and Darren McFadden is still healthy for the Raiders. He only ran for nine yards on Monday night, but you can't win them all.
30. Minnesota Vikings (0-3)
Matt Cassel will start for Minnesota this Sunday in place of an injured Christian Ponder, according to USA Today's Tom Pelissero. He can't fare much worse than Ponder, but remember that Cassel threw six touchdowns and 12 interceptions before getting run out of Kansas City last season.
31. New York Giants (0-3)
The Giants have had a habit of waiting until everyone writes their eulogy before opening their eyes again, but this team is different, mainly because of their crumbling offensive line. Dating back to last season, they have lost four of their last six matches by double digits.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3)
Cecil Shorts has caught eight passes in each of the Jaguars' last two games. That's something sort of positive, even though they were outscored by 38 points.
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