The Steelers have again risen to the top, but this time without Big Ben
The top-three teams from last-week’s rankings all went down, causing a major shake-up this week. Three new teams enter the top five for the first time this season and some minor changes at the bottom as well. Dallas and Minnesota both avoided that dreaded 0-3 start, while the Bears and Chiefs continue their hot starts at 3-0.
Team's previous ranking in ( ).
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (7): I would argue that Troy Polamalu is the single most important defensive player in the NFL. Nobody is more valuable to their own team then Polamalu is to Pittsburgh.
2. Indianapolis Colts (4): We know they can put up points, especially against bad teams, but they must get consistent production out of the running game.
3. Atlanta Falcons (12): Took advantage of a second chance in overtime. A road win against the defending champions is a big statement.
4. Chicago Bears (15): Back-to-back wins (though an ugly win against Green Bay) against playoff contenders and the last remaining undefeated team in the NFC has people believing in this team.
5. Baltimore Ravens (5): Not exactly a dominating win against Cleveland, but new addition Anquan Boldin is finally on track.
6. New York Jets (6): Even without Darrelle Revis, this team shows it can win against good teams.
7. New Orleans Saints (1): Need to be very careful with Drew Brees and his strained MCL or they will quickly fall out of contention.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (8): Two very-winnable games coming up before the bye. Must win both because after the bye, they play seven out of eight games against playoff contenders.
9. Green Bay Packers (2): Eighteen penalties (three which nullified interceptions and one which nullified a touchdown). A Blocked field goal. A Dropped interception. Poor special teams play. A Lost fumble with less than three minutes to play. Yet somehow they only lost by three on the road. Clean up the penalties and find a running game and this team is still a favorite in the NFC.
10. New England Patriots (10): Giving up 30 points to the Bills is inexcusable; the defense has got to tighten up.
11. Houston Texans (3): Folded at the opportunity of becoming an elite team. They will bounce back against the Raiders.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (17): Donovan who? Michael Vick has made Philly fans forget about the greatest quarterback in franchise history. For the moment anyway. Donovan McNabb returns this week as a member of the Redskins.
13. Tennessee Titans (19): They dismantled the Giants this week and improve to 10-3 since Vince Young took over last season.
14. Miami Dolphins (9): Let a big opportunity to take the division lead slip away against the Jets. They face a big test this week against the Patriots.
15. Minnesota Vikings (14): A win is a win, but the Vikes still fall a slot in the rankings. Brett Favre has not played a great game yet, but has two weeks to rest up. Expect the Vikings to start playing better football following the bye.
16. Dallas Cowboys (18): Impressive road win against the Texans, by far their best game of the season. They’d probably prefer not to have a bye this week after having success on both sides of the ball against Houston.
17. Kansas City Chiefs (21): Though they haven’t beaten any dominant teams, 3-0 is nothing to shake a stick at. We’ll get a true measure of this team following their bye in week four as they face the Colts and Texans, both on the road.
18. San Diego Chargers (11): Twenty points in the second half is very good. Being shutout in the first half is not. They are always a slow starting team, but with the Chiefs off to a 3-0 start, San Diego might need to get their act together quicker than usual.
19. New York Giants (13): After an impressive week one, the Giants have fallen flat on their face the past two weeks. They need to get on track this week against the Bears if they have hopes of competing for the NFC East.
20. Seattle Seahawks (24): Pete Carroll has to be pleased with his team's 2-1 start. Call me crazy, but with their relatively soft schedule, they have a legitimate chance to not only make the playoffs, but could possibly even host a first round playoff game.
21. Arizona Cardinals (25): The entire Cardinals team owes Sebastian Janikowski a steak dinner. Or perhaps three steak dinners; one for each field goal he missed that could have helped his team win the game.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (22): Nobody expected them to beat the Steelers, but they were able to put up more points against that defense than the Falcons or Titans were.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (20): The next time Jacksonville sees Vick will be too soon in the mind of Jags fans.
24. Denver Broncos (23): Who needs Brandon Marshall when you have Brandon Lloyd? Lloyd blew up for 169 yards and a touchdown as the Broncos fell to the Colts. The change of scenery for Laurence Maroney hasn’t helped his yard per carry average, which remains at about two-per-carry.
25. San Francisco 49ers (16): It’s hard to defend this team anymore. I saw 11 wins and maybe even a playoff win for this team. Now they are facing 0-4 right in the face as they face the Falcons this week.
26. Washington Redskins (26): How does a team give up seven points to the Cowboys, but then allow 30 to Rams, a team that hadn’t scored that many points in a game since October 19, 2008?
27. Oakland Raiders (27): Nine consecutive plays from inside the Cardinals’ 10 yard line, and failed to score a touchdown. Not to mention three missed field goals and plenty of stupid penalties. Is there a more inept team then Oakland?
28. St. Louis Rams (32): For the first time in quite some time, the Rams are not last. Despite not many weapons on offense, Sam Bradford has this team playing competitive football.
29. Carolina Panthers (28): Jimmy Clausen struggled mightily in his first ever start, but appears to have earned his second start this week. Don’t expect him to be much better in the next two weeks as the winless Panthers face the Saints and Bears.
30. Detroit Lions (29): Having to face an angry Packers’ team in week four is a recipe for disaster, even if Matthew Stafford is able to play.
31. Buffalo Bills (30): They put up 30 points against the Patriots, but even that wasn’t enough to get their first win. Wins will be hard to come by, as they play one of the toughest schedules of any team this year.
32. Cleveland Browns (31): They hung tough with a superior team on the road but came up a little short. Things don’t get any easier as they face the Bengals, Falcons, Steelers, Saints, Patriots and Jets in their next six games.