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NFL Power Rankings Week 3: Saints Still at the Top

Elliott PohnlFeatured Columnist IOctober 19, 2016

NFL Power Rankings Week 3: Saints Still at the Top

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    The NFL Power Rankings feature plenty of traditional powerhouses near the top, but also include a handful of surprising teams eager to show they belong.

    The Vikings and the Cowboys suddenly find themselves in danger of falling out of the top 20 after difficult losses Sunday, while the Chiefs and Bears vaulted into the rankings with impressive road wins.

    Here's a look at the NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 3.

No. 32: Buffalo Bills (0-2)

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    The Bills are playing like the worst team in football.  In losses to Miami and Green Bay, Buffalo failed to get anything going on offense.  Rookie C.J. Spiller hasn't gotten involved, and Trent Edwards has found himself benched after just two games.

    Chan Gailey is in for a rough return to coaching.

No. 31: St. Louis Rams (0-2)

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    The Rams haven't gotten Sam Bradford decapitated just yet, which is about the only good news early in the season.

    Two or three wins appears likely for Saint Louis in Bradford's rookie campaign.

No. 30: Cleveland Browns (0-2)

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    The Browns have been competitive in two losses.  The only problem is that those two losses have come to mediocre opponents.

    Cleveland still needs to add playmakers on offense before it will show drastic improvement.

No. 29: Carolina Panthers (0-2)

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    The Panthers are excited about Jimmy Clausen being moved into the starting lineup, but his ascension is mainly due to Matt Moore's struggles.

    The move appears to be desperate act by John Fox, who is looking to jump-start an offense that has been very underwhelming this season.

No. 28: Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1)

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    The Jaguars put up little resistance to the Chargers Sunday, and David Garrard was bench after throwing four interceptions.

    Returning home to lonely Jacksonville Municipal Stadium won't offer much comfort with the Eagles coming to town.

No. 27: Arizona Cardinals (1-1)

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    The Cardinals committed seven turnovers in the loss to the Falcons and made Jason Snelling look like Walter Payton.

    It's going to be a long year for Derek Anderson and the Cards.

No. 26: Detroit Lions (0-2)

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    The Lions might not have a win yet, but Jahvid Best has provided plenty of reason for optimism.

    Detroit will likely continue to be competitive all season long, even if wins are few and far between.

No. 25: Seattle Seahawks (1-1)

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    The shiny luster of Seattle's demolition of San Francisco in Week 1 gave way to a harsh reality in Sunday's loss to the Denver: the Seahawks just don't have that much talent.

No. 24: Oakland Raiders (1-1)

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    At least the Raiders have a strong defense.  Jason Campbell appears to be close to being benched in what is starting to look like a power-struggle between head coach Tom Cable and owner Al Davis.

    The Raiders dysfunctional after just two weeks?  Who would have ever thought?

No. 23: Denver Broncos (1-1)

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    Kyle Orton has played very well in the first two games of the season, ending the talk of Tim Tebow takeover, for the moment at least.

    The Broncos find themselves dealing with the Kenny McKinley situation and a host of injuries on defense.

No. 22: San Francisco 49ers (0-2)

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    Until the 49ers manage to win a game, they don't belong inside the top 20.

    Alex Smith and the 49ers offense finally woke up against the Saints, but too many mistakes suggest Mike Singletary's team won't be able to handle the pressure of being contenders this season.

No. 21: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)

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    The Bucs have played well on defense in the first two games of the season, but Josh Freeman and rookie receiver Mike Williams have been the most impressive aspects of the unlikely 2-0 start.

No. 20: Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)

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    Result Last Week: Defeated the Browns 16-14 at Cleveland despite another poor performance from Matt Cassel.

    This Week: Host 49ers (0-2) in a game featuring two teams going in opposite directions.

    Why They Are No. 20: Kansas City still has plenty of questions, mainly at quarterback, but two wins to start the season is certainly worth paying attention to.  By virtue of the win over the Chargers to start the season, the Chiefs edge another unlikely 2-0 team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Why They Are Rising: The Chiefs still need to find a passing game, but the running game and the play of the young defense has gotten the job done early in the season.

    Prediction for Week 3: The 49ers need a win in the worst way, but they won't get it in Kansas City as the Chiefs pull off another close victory.

No. 19: Minnesota Vikings (0-2)

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    Result Last Week: Lost to the Dolphins in Minneapolis thanks to untimely turnovers and a struggling passing game.

    This Week: Host the Lions (0-2) in a virtual must-win game.

    Why Are They No. 19: Despite the poor play of both Brett Favre and the offensive line, the Vikings defense remains strong and Adrian Peterson has avoided fumbles while running to daylight.

    Why They Are Falling: Time is running out for the Vikings to make a move for Vincent Jackson in hopes of getting him incorporated in the offense before it's too late.  With Sidney Rice not expected back for at least four more weeks and Percy Harvin banged up yet again, the Vikings need to get Favre some weapons.

    Prediction For Week 3: The Lions got a historic performance from rookie Jahvid Best in last week's loss to Philadelphia and will need another gem to avoid an 0-3 start this week.  Minnesota shuts down the Lions and wins in a low-scoring game to stay out of the basement in the NFC North.

No. 18: Dallas Cowboys (0-2)

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    Result Last Week: Lost to the Bears in Dallas as the offense struggled to find continuity yet again.

    This Week: Visit the Texans (2-0) in Houston and will be lucky to avoid an 0-3 start.

    Why They Are No. 18: The Cowboys have more weapons on offense than the Vikings, including a dynamic receiving corps.  The defense can still play, although Sunday's attempts at putting constant pressure on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler backfired occasionally.

    Why They Are Falling: What will it take for Jason Garrett to call a running play?  The Cowboys have gone away from the thunder and lightning combination of Marion Barber and Felix Jones by relying solely on the exploits of Tony Romo in the passing game.  It isn't working.

    Prediction for Week 3: The Texans simply have too many weapons for the Cowboys to shut down.  Dallas takes an early lead before falling to upstart Houston.

No. 17: Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)

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    Result Last Week: Defeated the Lions in Detroit behind a strong performance from Michael Vick.

    This Week: Visit the Jaguars (1-1) in Jacksonville with Kevin Kolb expected to start at quarterback.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 17: Since struggling in the first half against the Packers in Week 1, the Eagles have been tremendous on offense.  The team still has plenty of questions, including who will play quarterback for the remainder of the season.

    Why They Are Rising: Michael Vick looked very comfortable in his first NFL start since 2006, helping the Eagles pile up the points in a thrilling road win over Detroit.  Philadelphia could have one of the better offenses in the league going forward, regardless of who is playing quarterback.

    Prediction For Week 3: The Eagles shouldn't have a problem scoring against the Jaguars defense and win easily.

No. 16: Tennessee Titans (1-1)

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    Result Last Week: Lost to the Steelers at home as they committed seven turnovers.

    This Week: Visit the Giants (1-1) in New York in a game featuring two teams coming off big losses.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 16: Vince Young's poor performance last week led to his removal, prompting questions about his future to begin swirling once again.  A team with Chris Johnson and a strong defense warrants a spot in the top 20, regardless of how bad the quarterback play is.

    Why They Are Falling: Young was simply awful last week, but Jeff Fisher says he will remain the starter.  If the Titans can't throw the ball effectively and at least get Young to be a competent game-manager, it could be time to reinsert Kerry Collins.

    Prediction For Week 3: The Titans won't find the going easy against the Giants and will leave the game with more questions than answers.

No. 15: New York Giants (1-1)

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    Result Last Week: The Giants suffered a loss to the Colts in Indianapolis as both the offense and defense struggled.

    This Week: Host the Titans (1-1) at the Meadowlands in what should be an interesting game.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 15: The Giants had a game to forget against the Colts, but still have enough talent on both sides of the ball to contend in the NFC East.

    Why They Are Falling: What New York would do to acquire Chris Johnson.  The Giants have gotten almost nothing out of the running game so far this season, and need Ahmad Bradshaw to start producing in the backfield.

    Prediction For Week 3: The Giants have a quarterback who should be able to produce, giving them the edge over the struggling Vince Young and the Titans Sunday afternoon.

No. 14: Chicago Bears (2-0)

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    Result Last Week: The Bears shocked the Cowboys in Dallas behind a sensational effort from Jay Cutler

    This Week: They host the Packers (2-0) in Chicago on Monday with a first-place spot in the NFC North on the line.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 14: Maybe Jay Cutler wasn't kidding when he said the Bears were holding back in the preseason.  Despite taking a beating from opposing defenses, Cutler has played at a very high level and gotten help from Matt Forte and Johnny Knox along the way.

    Why They Are Rising: Brian Urlacher has looked great in his return from a wrist injury, and the Bears' secondary has been a surprise.  The early returns on Julius Peppers have been nothing but positive.

    Prediction For Week 3: The Packers have a talented, blitzing defense, which will spell trouble for Cutler as Chicago suffers its first loss of 2010.

No. 13: Atlanta Falcons (1-1)

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    Result Last Week: Routed the Cardinals in Atlanta behind Jason Snelling's coming out party.

    This Week: Visit the Saints (2-0) in New Orleans in what could be a shootout.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 13: It's starting to look like the Falcons' Week 1 overtime loss against Pittsburgh wasn't actually that bad.  Atlanta should be able to move the ball against most opposing defenses this season.

    Why They Are Rising: Jason Snelling probably can't be counted on to rack up nearly 200 yards of total offense every week, but his performance against the Cardinals has to be encouraging for the Falcons, who could use another playmaker or two for Matt Ryan.

    Prediction For Week 3: The Falcons could catch the Saints napping Sunday.  Don't be surprised if they pull of the upset over the Super Bowl champs.

No. 12: Washington Redskins (1-1)

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    Result Last Week: Suffered a overtime loss to the Texans at FedEx Field as Matt Schaub threw for nearly 500 yards against the defense.

    This Week: Visit the Rams (0-2) in St. Louis in what should be an easy win.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 12: Donovan McNabb played well against the Texans, and Washington managed to hang with the powerful Texans.  Despite getting gauged Sunday, the Redskins defense remains one of the better units in the NFC.

    Why They Are Falling: The Redskins might be falling a bit right now, but things should be looking up after Sunday's game against the Rams.

    Prediction For Week 3: Washington finds a running game against the Rams and cruises to an easy win.

No. 11: San Diego Chargers (1-1)

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    Result Last Week: Took out frustration in the win over the Jaguars in San Diego, but lost rookie Ryan Mathews to an ankle injury.

    This Week: Travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks (1-1) in hopes of avoiding another devastating road loss early in the season.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 11: Philip Rivers struggled in the season opener against the Chiefs, but seemed to find his way against the Jaguars defense in Sunday's win by throwing for 334 yards.  San Diego's defense won't be great this season, but should be good enough to get the job done if the offense can produce.

    Why They Are Rising: The Chargers have the most talented team in the AFC West, even without Marcus McNeill, Vincent Jackson, and possibly Mathews.

    Prediction For Week 3: San Diego takes a lesson from the 49ers and comes ready to play Sunday in Seattle.  The Chargers win in a close game.

No. 10: Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)

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    Result Last Week: Edged the Ravens in Cincinnati in one of the ugliest NFL games in recent memory.

    This Week: Travel to Carolina to face the Panthers (0-2) in what could provide a chance for the offense to wake up.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 10: It wasn't pretty, but the Bengals managed to outlast the Ravens Sunday.  The chemistry isn't there quite yet and Cedric Benson has struggled, but the talent is certainly there on both sides of the ball.

    Why They Are Rising: The Bengals still haven't played a good game, but that could be coming on Sunday against the depleted Panthers.

    Prediction For Week 3: Cincinnati's defense should feast on rookie Jimmy Clausen, who will make his first career start Sunday.  The Bengals shut down the Panthers running game and win easily.

No. 9: New England Patriots (1-1)

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    Result Last Week: Suffered a loss to the Jets at the Meadowlands after being completely shut down in the second half.

    This Week: Host the Bills (0-2) at home in what appears to be a good game for the young defense to show improvement.

    Why They Are No. 9: The Patriots always seem to have questions early in the season, but no matter how bad things get they still have Tom Brady and enough options in the passing game to be effective.

    Why They Are Falling: The Pats secondary made Mark Sanchez look like Tom Brady Sunday afternoon, struggling with penalties and looking somewhat over-matched against the Jets' receivers.

    Prediction For Week 3: The Patriots win easily against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offensively-challenged Bills.

No. 8: Baltimore Ravens (1-1)

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    Result Last Week: Lost to the Bengals in Cincinnati and looked horrible on offense.

    This Week: Host the Browns (0-2) in Baltimore as Joe Flacco looks to get back on track.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 8: Despite playing without Ed Reed, the Ravens secondary has held up in the first two games.  Not surprisingly, the front seven has performed very well and created havoc.  Now it's time for the offense to start pulling its weight.

    Why They Are Falling: After the Week 1 win against the Jets, things were looking good in Baltimore.  But Joe Flacco hasn't found chemistry with the receivers yet, and Ray Rice hasn't found traction in the running game.

    Prediction For Week 3: Flacco gets things figured out as Baltimore explodes for an easy win against Cleveland.

No. 7: New York Jets (1-1)

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    Result Last Week: Defeated the hated Patriots and the Meadowlands in Mark Sanchez's best game as a pro.

    This Week: Meet the Dolphins (2-0) in Miami

    Why They Are Ranked No. 7: The Jets always seem to have questions, including most recently the legal troubles of Braylon Edwards and the hamstring issues of Darrelle Revis, but Sanchez's performance against the Pats on Sunday is plenty of reason to be encouraged.

    Why They Are Rising: All the Jets need is a reliable effort from Mark Sanchez and they will be able to compete with any team in the NFL.

    Prediction For Week 3: The Dolphins are flying under the radar and match-up well with the Jets.  Rex Ryan's team will find itself at 1-2 after a loss Sunday night.

No. 6: Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)

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    Result Last Week: Took advantage of seven turnovers to beat the Titans in Nashville.

    This Week: Head to Florida to face the Buccaneers (2-0) in a game featuring two unlikely unbeatens.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 6: The defense has been nothing short of spectacular, bailing out the offense and making plays all over the field.

    Why They Are Rising: Big Ben can't get back soon enough.  In the meantime, the defense will need to keep carrying the load.  There's no reason to believe the Steel Curtain will give way anytime soon.

    Week 3 Prediction: The Steelers strangle Josh Freeman and the Bucs' offense and improve to 3-0 on the young season.

No. 5: Miami Dolphins (2-0)

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    Result Last Week: Defeated Brett Favre and the Vikings in Minnesota behind a fantastic performance from the defense.

    This Week: Host the Jets (1-1) in a Sunday night showdown in Miami.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 5: Chad Henne has only one real weapon in the passing game, but that might be all he needs given the strength of the defense and solid running game.

    Why They Are Rising: Winning at Buffalo isn't impressive, but winning at Minnesota is.  The Dolphins harassed Favre and did just enough on offense with Henne managing the game effectively.

    Prediction For Week 3: The Dolphins and Jets are very similar teams, but Henne and Brandon Marshall give Miami the edge.  At 3-0, the Dolphins will no longer be flying under the radar.

No. 4: Green Bay Packers (2-0)

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    Result Last Week: Started slow but finished fast and dusted the Bills in Green Bay.

    This Week: Travel to Chicago to face the Bears (2-0) in a big game early in the NFC North race.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 4: The Packers have looked great on defense and Aaron Rodgers has been solid in the passing game, but the absence of Ryan Grant is certain to hurt the offense.

    Why They Are Rising: Despite playing without Al Harris and Atari Bigby, the Packers defense has been one of the best in the NFL.  It starts with Clay Matthews, who already has recorded six sacks in the first two games this season.

    Prediction For Week 3: Matthews and the Packers overwhelm the Bears offensive line to record a big road win.

No. 3: Indianapolis Colts (1-1)

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    Results Last Week: Peyton Manning and the Colts offense turned the "Manning Bowl" into a laugher by trouncing the Giants in Indy.

    This Week: Travel to Denver to face the Broncos (1-1) in what seems like a winnable game.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 3: The defense stopped the run against the Giants, and Manning and the offense kept right on producing.

    Why They Are Rising: The Colts won't be a perfect defensive team this season, but the offense should be good enough to carry the load.

    Prediction For Week 3: Indianapolis should be able to contain Denver's mediocre attack and put up plenty of points.  Easy win for the Colts.

No. 2: Houston Texans (2-0)

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    Result Last Week: Edged Washington in overtime on a Neil Rackers field goal.

    This Week: Host the Cowboys (0-2) in Houston.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 2: The Texans are closing in on the Colts as having the most prolific offense in the NFL, with Andre Johnson and two more talented receivers, a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end, and promising runner Arian Foster.

    Why They Are Rising: The defense has given up a ton of yards, but it hasn't mattered to this point and might not be a big problem all season long, providing Schaub stays healthy.

    Prediction For Week 3: The Texans have what it takes to send the Cowboys to an 0-3 start.

No. 1: New Orleans Saints (2-0)

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    Result Last Week: A last-second field goal lifted the Saints to a thrilling road win over the 49ers on Monday night.

    This Week: Host the Falcons (1-1) in New Orleans in a possible trap game.

    Why They Are Ranked No. 1: The offense has looked good, but the defense has looked great in the first two games of the season with Jonathan Vilma leading the way.

    Why They Are Still Rising: Drew Brees hasn't been perfect in the first two games.  He has missed some throws and now will be without Reggie Bush for at least six weeks, but he should return to his MVP form.  The Saints once again look like the team to beat.

    Prediction For Week 3: The Saints might let one get away at home Sunday against the Falcons, but don't expect many losses in the weeks ahead.

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