NFL Power Rankings Heading Into Week Three

Torey ZiskaCorrespondent IISeptember 22, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 29:  Hakeen Nicks #18 of the New York Giants runs a reception against the New York Jets for a fourth quarter touchdown on August 29, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Week Two was quite an encore from Week One. A shootout in Tennessee, a nail-biting shocker in Green Bay, the defending champs get beat, and the Saints put even more points on the board than they did against the Lions! Not to mention my top five teams from last week ALL suffered losses, resulting in three new faces in the top five.

Team's ranking from previous week in ( ).

1.      New York Giants (7): Plaxico who? Steve Smith—no, not THAT Steve Smith—and Mario Manningham both reeled in 10 catches, and combined for 284 receiving yards and one touchdown apiece.

RB Brandon Jacobs was a non-factor, but there is no doubt the Giants are still for real. I believe they are the early favorite to win the NFC East, the toughest and most competitive division in football.

2.      New Orleans Saints (11): The Saints are for real. Forty-five points against the Lions was not a surprise. Forty-eight points against the Eagles, that’s just downright impressive. It was just another day at the office for QB Drew Brees, throwing for 311 yards and three touchdowns, giving him nine already on the season.

The Saints defense still needs to improve, but if they put up 40-plus points per week, they will cruise to a division title and most likely into the Super Bowl.

3.       Pittsburgh Steelers (1): The Steelers found themselves facing a hungry Bears team, and they played well, but came up short thanks to K Jeff Reed missing two field goals. The Steelers are still one of the best teams in all of football, but they are going to have to have a more consistent ground game if they want to repeat as champions.

4.       Atlanta Falcons (6): The Falcons just continue to win. QB Matt Ryan completed 21 of 27 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns. RB Michael Turner ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown and, despite giving up about 450 yards of offense, the Falcon defense didn’t play particularly poor.

TE Tony Gonzalez scored his second touchdown in as many games and the Falcons look poised to battle out the NFC South with the Saints.

5.       New England Patriots (2): WR Wes Welker was inactive, but that is hardly an excuse for the Patriots not scoring a touchdown. QB Tom Brady completed under 50 percent of his passes and as a team, the Pats ran for under 90 yards. The defense was solid, but it’s clear the Patriots are not going to run away with the division this year.

6.       Baltimore Ravens (8): The Ravens may be the biggest surprise of the season so far. Always known for their incredible defense, they have put up over 30 points per game so far and are 2-0. The defense has lost a step, but the offense has done more than its fair share to account for it.

QB Joe Flacco looks like a 10-year veteran and the Ravens have a nice combination of running backs. I’m not sure they can win the division, but it’s a distinct possibility now that they are in first place, and the Steelers will still be without S Troy Polamalu for a few more weeks.

7.       Minnesota Vikings (9): The Vikings started off extremely slowly again, trailing the Lions 10-7 at halftime. But as they did in Week One, they made adjustments at the half and won the game with ease.

RB Adrian Peterson ran 15 times for 92 yards and a score, and QB Brett Favre completed 23 of 27 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. The defense was great again and the Vikings showed why they believe they are the best team in the NFC.

8.       Philadelphia Eagles (4): The Eagles were without QB Donovan McNabb, and thanks to the high-powered offense of the Saints, backup QB Kevin Kolb was forced to throw 51 times. He did throw three interceptions, but aside from that, he lit up the Saints D for 391 yards and two touchdowns.

RB Brian Westbrook was mostly ineffective, but was only given 13 carries. The poor effort by the Eagles defense is a concern, but once McNabb is back, this is still a top team in the NFC.

9.       New York Jets (14): The Jets started off slow, scoring only three points in the first half. However, the defense played excellent and QB Mark Sanchez was effective enough for the Jets to move to 2-0 on the season.

Two games hardly make a season, but after shutting down the Texans in Week One (who went on to score 34 points this week against the Titans) and taking down one of the best teams in the league in Week Two, it appears that the Jets are a legitimate contender in the AFC.

10.   San Diego Chargers (3): QB Philip Rivers put up 436 passing yards, but was unable to lead a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. WR Vincent Jackson and RB Darren Sproles both had 100-plus receiving yards, but not having RB LaDainian Tomlinson may have hurt, as the Chargers ran for a total of 53 yards as a team.

The Chargers are notorious for starting seasons slow, and luckily for them, their division is extremely weak. I still see no reason that this team won’t win the AFC West.

11.   Indianapolis Colts (12): The Colts did something no other team has ever done since the statistic of time-of-possession was introduced; they won a game in which they had the ball on offense for less than 15 minutes.

Peyton Manning showed why he is still arguably the best quarterback in the league. TE Dallas Clark had an extremely good game and rookie RB Donald Brown had an impressive TD run late in the third quarter.

12.   Dallas Cowboys (10): The Cowboys passing game went from dynamic in Week One, to downright lousy in Week Two. QB Tony Romo completed just 13 out of 29 passes for 127 yards and threw three picks to just one touchdown.

The ground game was excellent, but it wasn’t quite enough to hold off the Giants. The Cowboys are still a legitimate contender, but may have to sneak into the postseason as a wild card instead of a division winner.

13.   Green Bay Packers (5):  The Packers must feel as if they have flashed back to the 2008 season, in which they lost seven games by four points or less. They lost in Week Two by seven points, but nonetheless it was a game they will look back upon all season.

The Packers are one of the most talented teams in football, but their offensive line has got to improve and they need to stay healthy; they sustained injuries to S Nick Collins, OL Chad Clifton and TE Donald Lee during the game. S Atari Bigby is already out for up to a month with an injury of his own.

14.   Chicago Bears (19): What an impressive bounce back by the Bears after a tough Week One loss. Even without LB Brian Urlacher, the Bears defense held their own against the Steelers. Jay Cutler looked like an entirely different person, throwing for 236 yards, two touchdowns, and most importantly, no interceptions.

The Bears had absolutely no running game, but not many do against the Steelers. This was a huge win for the Bears, as they avoided an 0-2 start, and took down the defending Super Bowl champs.

15.   Houston Texans (16): The Texans are back! Okay, so one win means nothing, but after last week I was afraid my picking them to win their division was a huge mistake. They have yet to get RB Steve Slaton and the ground game going, but boy did QB Matt Schaub look good, throwing for 357 yards and four scores.

If they can get Slaton going, they can still be very good.

16.   San Francisco 49ers (20): This just in, Frank Gore is a stud. The 49ers offense as a whole, though, is not very good. Sooner or later teams are going to realize if they stack the box against Gore, the 49ers will struggle mightily.

Nonetheless, the 49ers are 2-0 and leading the NFC West. I’m not sure they have enough to hold onto that for the next 14 weeks, but they have really impressed me thus far and they do play in a weak division.

17.   Arizona Cardinals (17): The Cardinals rebounded from a poor effort in Week One to put up 31 points against the Jags in Week Two. QB Kurt Warner played flawless, going 24-for-26 for 243 yards and two touchdowns.

The backfield of Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells ran for 116 combined yards on 22 carries. The Jags are not a good team, but nonetheless, it was vital for the Cardinals to play well. I still think the Cardinals will succumb to the curse of the Super Bowl loser and finish at 8-8.

18.   Buffalo Bills (18): The Bills showed why I felt they had a chance to win the division this year. They put up 33 points against an okay Buccaneers defense.

Perhaps the best news for Buffalo is that they may have the best running back combination in the league once Marshawn Lynch returns from his three game suspension. This team should put up points on a weekly basis.

19.   Tennessee Titans (13): Statistics tell us that teams that start 0-2 don’t typically make the playoffs, and that’s what the Titans are staring at. Their offense, or perhaps just RB Chris Johnson, came alive. Johnson ran for just under 200 yards on only 16 carries and had two rushing touchdowns.

Did I mention he also had nine receptions for 87 yards and another TD? The defense got torched by Schaub for four touchdowns, which is a slight concern. If the Titans want to recover from their 0-2 start, they are going to have to play more consistently on both sides of the ball.

20.   Seattle Seahawks (15): QB Matt Hasselbeck left the game with a rib injury, which forced backup Seneca Wallace to takeover. Wallace wasn’t anything spectacular, and the Seahawks offense was off all game. If Hasselbeck can get healthy, I still think Seattle can contend in the weak NFC west, but they are going to have to improve the running game.

21.   Washington Redskins (24): The Redskins offense is fairly decent, but not scoring a single touchdown on the Rams poor defense is a concern. They did put up over 350 yards of offense and reached the red zone three times, but if they want any hope of competing for the division, they need to score TDs and not FGs.

22.   Denver Broncos (29): Well I predicted four or five wins all season for Denver, and after two weeks, they are 2-0. I am far from sold on them, though. I am not convinced that their running back-by-committee is going to work as the season progresses and I still don’t think their defense is very good.

They were blessed to play the Bengals and Browns in their first two games, so let’s see how they do as the schedule gets a little tougher. Nonetheless, if the Chargers struggle, the AFC West is up for grabs.

23.   Oakland Raiders (26): It’s beyond me how a team can run for under 70 yards and have a quarterback complete just 29 percent of his passes for just over 100 yards and still win a football game, especially without any defensive/special teams touchdowns.

However, that is exactly what the Oakland Raiders accomplished against the Chiefs. The Raiders defense is very solid, but the offense is just plain bad.

Sure, there’s a ton of potential with QB JaMarcus Russell, TE Zach Miller, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, and two solid running backs, but at some point that potential has got to be reached. The division is weak, but the Raiders will still likely be battling for second place.

24.   Cincinnati Bengals (20): The Bengals were one of the more impressive teams in Week Two. They went into Lambeau Field and took down the Packers. The Bengals converted nine out of 14 third downs, including four straight on one drive.

DL Antwan Odom manhandled the Packers' offensive line, and sacked QB Aaron Rodgers five times. This was the complete opposite of the Bengals we saw in Week One. I don’t think they will compete for the playoffs, but if they can perform like this on a week-to-week basis, they could potentially look at an 8-8 season.

25.   Miami Dolphins (25): The Dolphins came up just short of an impressive upset. The offense ran over 80 plays, and had the ball for over 45 minutes of game time, but it just wasn’t quite enough.

The Dolphins are now 0-2, and most likely won’t make the playoffs, but don’t underestimate them—they have the potential to beat almost any team in the league.

26.   Carolina Panthers (22): QB Jake Delhomme and the Panthers rebounded from a pitiful performance in Week One, but it wasn’t quite enough to get the W. They showed they can still be a good offense, but it just doesn’t seem like this is the year for the Panthers.

Perhaps if they played in a weaker division they could make the playoffs, but unfortunately for them, they play with two of the best teams in the NFC.

27.   Jacksonville Jaguars (21): The Jaguars are in for a rough season. They just don’t have any firepower on offense aside from RB Maurice Jones-Drew and their defense is slightly above average at best. They are going to have to average more than 13.5 points per week if they want to win any games.

28.   Tampa Bay Buccaneers (23): The Bucs looked impressive against the Bills, at least on the offensive side of the football. The ground game was actually quite weak, but QB Byron Leftwich had a solid game throwing for 296 yards and three scores.

Overall they are an average team, but playing in the division they do, average is nowhere near good enough.

29.   Kansas City Chiefs (27): QB Matt Cassel made his Chiefs debut and threw for 241 yards and a score, but it wasn’t enough to beat the division rival Raiders. RB Larry Johnson ran 24 times for 78 yards and newly-signed WR Bobby Wade had 72 receiving yards.

The Chiefs will turn it around and score some points, but even so, they will most likely be battling the Broncos and Raiders for second place in the AFC West.

30.   Cleveland Browns (30): The Browns are awful. There is no nice way to put it, this team stinks.

QB Brady Quinn is not developing like many thought he would, and Braylon Edwards has not been nearly the same player he was when he had a breakout season in 2007. RB Jamal Lewis is old and the defense is bad. I won’t make any guarantees, but I could see the Browns winning fewer games than the Lions this year.

31.   St. Louis Rams (31): RB Steven Jackson continues to be about the only bright spot for the Rams. Overall, their offense is just not very good and their defense is bad. The Rams are looking at another high draft pick in April.

32.   Detroit Lions (32): Until they can win, they will remain the worst team in the league. However, despite the final score, they have been competitive in both games this season. They have a nice, young core on offense, but the defense still needs work.

They won’t go winless again this year, but they will most likely end up with yet another top five pick in the draft.


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