NFL Power Rankings Week 3: Whose Stock Is Plummeting?
Through two weeks of play, which teams stand out in the NFL? Our weekly Power Rankings have been updated to give you a look at the pulse of the NFL.
Remember, these aren't predictions for the playoffs or based on standings. This is one man's take on the NFL this morning. Teams with two losses might rank higher than a team with one win, and vice versa.
Who is the best of the best and the most disgustingly bad today? There's only one way to find out.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
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Last Week: 30
What We Learned: The Kansas City Chiefs' search for a new head coach should start right about now.
The Chiefs won 10 games last year and took the AFC West crown. We knew the schedule was tougher this season, but the Chiefs dominated the 2011 draft class and picked up key free agents. There's no way Kansas City would regress, right?
Kansas City has been outscored 89-10 through two games. Wait, that deserves more emphasis. 89-10!
Directional schools play better against SEC opponents. The Chiefs have been flat-out horrible this year, and it's not because they lack talent. They lack heart.
You can blame the Chiefs' woes on the loss of Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles, but those two players alone aren't worth a 79-point difference. No, the problems in Kansas City start at the top.
31. Seattle Seahawks
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Last Week: 32
What We Learned: If any team were seriously considering a "Suck for Luck" campaign to "earn" the rights to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, it would have to be the Seattle Seahawks.
Of course I'm kidding; no NFL team would sign a career backup at quarterback while making moves to improve the rest of the team with the hopes of playing bad enough so they could draft the best quarterback prospect ever. Right?
The sad truth is that at least a plan to lose for Andrew Luck would be better and more respectable than what Seattle is doing this season. Two losses, outscored by 50 points and woeful in every aspect of the game.
Seattle has a tough road ahead of it. Maybe fans can take solace in the fact that they just might land Mr. Luck in April.
30. Indianapolis Colts
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Last Week: 26
What We Learned: The Indianapolis Colts were blown out by a very good Houston Texans team last week. If they were going to win a game, this would be the week to do it against a decent Cleveland Browns team.
The Colts looked even worse this week in a close-ish loss to the Browns. The defense was again exposed as the major weakness on the roster.
In an analysis sure to upset Colt fans, think on this for a moment:
The blame falls completely at the feet of owner Jim Irsay, president Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian not only for failing to find a capable backup behind Manning, but also for failing to use the draft and free agency to build a talented team around Manning.
If anything, this whole clusterfudge has given me more respect for Manning. Few quarterbacks in NFL history could win for nine straight years like Manning did with the lack of talent around him.
29. Cincinnati Bengals
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Last Week: 28
What We Learned: There is plenty of potential in the Cincinnati Bengals' locker room. The Bengals won't be down for long with Andy Dalton throwing to Jerome Simpson and A.J. Green.
Cincinnati may have lost a close game to the Denver Broncos (24-22), but it showed the potential on offense that fans were waiting to see this summer.
Dalton completed 27 of 41 passes for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He hit Simpson and Green often, with each piling up over 100 yards receiving. Green especially shone with 10 catches and a touchdown in Week 2.
The Bengals can expect a tough early season, but I do think this team gets better as the season progresses and the young talent gets comfortable with each other.
Hang in there, fans.
28. Minnesota Vikings
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Last Week: 27
What We Learned: A football game lasts four quarters, not three.
The Minnesota Vikings had the win when the third period expired, leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17-10 after allowing Josh Freeman's team to score 10 unanswered points in the third period.
Then the fourth quarter started, and all hell broke loose.
The Minnesota secondary fell apart, and the Tampa Bay offense rolled to 14 points in the final period to squeeze out a win.
Good teams win close games. The Minnesota Vikings have been in two close games this season, losing both in the fourth quarter.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
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Last Week: 25
What We Learned: Not much, really.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were surprising in their Week 1 win over the Tennessee Titans, but no one expected Jacksonville to compete this week against the New York Jets.
One thing we can take away from this game is that the quarterback job in Jacksonville should belong to Blaine Gabbert for the remainder of the season. Luke McCown did his best, but that's simply not good enough. That's why McCown has been a career backup before now.
Somewhere, David Garrard laughed a deep, hearty laugh on Sunday.
So the Gabbert era will begin most likely this week in J-Town. With that, the wins will most likely be few and far between for a Jacksonville team that is more talented than it is showing.
26. Miami Dolphins
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Last Week: 24
What We Learned: Perhaps the real Miami Dolphins showed up Sunday against the Houston Texans.
It's hard to tell if the Dolphins team that kept up with the New England Patriots through the first half last Monday night is the real deal or if this Miami team that looked soft and uninterested is the "real deal."
Miami is a team of two faces. There's the Chad Henne who was on his best against New England and then the Chad Henne who was back to making bad decisions and looking to check down too often against Houston.
Miami is more talented than this, and it's up to the coach to get the most out of his team. That's not something Tony Sparano is doing right now.
His job is most definitely on the line.
25. St. Louis Rams
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Last Week: 19
The St. Louis Rams found a way to give away the game on Monday night to the New York Giants. The Rams look like a defeated team, and it's only Week 2.
Sam Bradford has taken a huge step back this season, which you have to blame on the wide receivers and the system change with Josh McDaniels coming in to replace Pat Shurmur. Shurmur ran a West Coast Offense that fit Bradford's skill set to a "T". McDaniels' offense will work too, but after a lockout shortened training camp, Bradford is struggling to pick up the offense.
The Rams need to spend quality time trying to fix their issues on defense, and finding a way to cover up very bad cornerback play.
The forecast is bad in St. Louis.
24. Denver Broncos
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Last Week: 22
What We Learned: Tim Tebow is a winner!
Hey, Tebow played at wide receiver and the team won. His streak of winning continues, does it not?
Seriously though, Denver's injuries are killing the team. The Broncos almost lost to a lackluster Cincinnati Bengals team and were exposed again as a team lacking defense. What Denver did find is that quarterback Kyle Orton is much better when not throwing the football in the rain, like he did in Week 1 against Oakland.
Orton was good enough Sunday, but the team needs to find a spark on offense. Eric Decker might be that player.
23. Oakland Raiders
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Last Week: 23
What We Learned: The Oakland Raiders have holes on defense. Big ones.
The Raiders had a 21-3 lead at halftime after dominating the Buffalo Bills for 30 minutes. The Raider team that went into the locker room at halftime and the team that came out for the second half were not the same.
The Raiders rolled over in the second half, showing huge areas of concern at safety and cornerback. The team lacked the aggression it played with early that allowed it to jump out to an 18-point lead.
Oakland has the players to get back on track, but it needs to fix its secondary issues if it hopes to win eight games again this year. This is two weeks in a row that the Raider secondary has been a problem.
22. Cleveland Browns
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Last Week: 29
What We Learned: The Cleveland Browns can win a close game.
I tweeted at halftime that this was a "must win" early game for the Browns, as they had to establish they could win the close game. A win today, even against a Manning-less Colts team, would build confidence in the Cleveland locker room.
The Browns pulled out the win, pulling away from Indianapolis in the second half and proving that quarterback Colt McCoy has arrived as the leader of this team.
McCoy was on his game Sunday, doing his best Case McCoy impression with a 22-of-32 day for 211 yards and a touchdown. McCoy looked sharp and played the kind of football this team needs from him to win.
Cleveland still has a tough road ahead, but the signs from Week 2 were encouraging.
21. Arizona Cardinals
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Last Week: 16
What We Learned: The Arizona Cardinals were painfully close to being 2-0 with a lead in the NFC West. Instead they find themselves 1-1 and tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the division after two weeks.
Arizona's close loss to the Washington Redskins showed both good and bad points to consider.
The offense was again efficient, scoring 21 points and building a fourth-quarter lead. The flip side to this, and the bad point of the game, was that the defense allowed Rex Grossman to rally the Redskins to 12 fourth-quarter points and a win.
Arizona fans should be excited about Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald, and even running back Chris Wells, but the problems in the secondary continue to kill the Cardinals.
20. Tennessee Titans
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Last Week: 31
What We Learned: Early season reactions can be very wrong.
Last week I ranked the Tennessee Titans No. 31 after they were beaten by a Jacksonville team that had just cut its starting quarterback. Tennessee looked pathetic against a weaker opponent.
On to Week 2—the Titans beat a team many were calling the best in football.
Tennessee moved the football through the air with ease in beating the Baltimore Ravens and won the game by playing tough defense and limiting mistakes. There was nothing glamorous to take away from this game; just know that the Titans aren't taking this season lightly.
Blame this loss on a hangover by the Ravens, but a win is still a win for the Titans.
19. Carolina Panthers
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Last Week: 21
What We Learned: The Carolina Panthers are very close to winning consistently.
The Panthers had the defending champion Green Bay Packers scared on Sunday, which marks two weeks in a row that Carolina was in the game late.
What separates Carolina from the Packers is the level of talent at every position. The talent in Carolina, whether due to injury (Jon Beason, Jeff Otah) or young players not ready for the NFL (Sione Fua, Terrell McClain), is not up to par with many NFL teams.
The difference between winning and losing in close games is that talent at every position that Green Bay has and Carolina doesn't.
I'd be remiss to not mention rookie quarterback Cam Newton. Newton was electric in the first half and enjoyed a 400-yard passing game for the second straight week. Two things to point out: Newton threw three interceptions and was lost at times in the second half, and this team is still 0-2 regardless of how many yards Newton passed for.
18. New York Giants
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Last Week: 20
The New York Giants were impressive in a win over the St. Louis Rams, but isn't this a game they were supposed to win?
I did like what I saw from Eli Manning and Ahmad Bradshaw. The issues for me were on both the offensive and defensive lines.
The Giants miss Justin Tuck at defensive end, and they really miss having a veteran left tackle in the mix. As William Beatty matures the pass blocking will get better, and a healthy Justin Tuck will make the defense even better.
New York isn't a playoff contender in my eyes right now, but they have the tools to get on a hot streak.
17. San Francisco 49ers
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Last Week: 18
What We Learned: The San Francisco 49ers were close to running away to a 2-0 record. Then Tony Romo showed up.
The 49ers lost a heartbreaker to their longtime rival the Dallas Cowboys in overtime on Sunday, pushing their record to a division-leading 1-1 tie with the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers can take away many good things from Sunday's game, even if the loss will sting all week.
San Francisco proved it could hang with an elite team in the NFL. Whether you believe in Dallas or not, it's one of the more talented teams in the NFL. The 49ers were one quarter away from beating it.
The running game in San Francisco betrayed them today. With a lead in the fourth quarter the 49ers should have turned to Frank Gore and bled the clock, but Gore was ineffective Sunday and couldn't keep the lead for Jim Harbaugh's team.
The 49ers will get better going forward as they get healthy on offense. Once that happens, I could see the 49ers winning the NFC West.
16. San Diego Chargers
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Last Week: 13
What We Learned: The San Diego defense is pretty bad.
I don't think anyone was more critical of the San Diego Charger defense this preseason than myself. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots provided welcome justification to the tune of 504 yards and 35 points on Sunday.
The Chargers may have ranked No. 1 defensively last year, but this is a new season, and these Chargers look weak against the pass and susceptible to a strong off-tackle running game. New England laid down a blueprint for every team that sees the Chargers over the next 15 weeks.
You have to feel good about Philip Rivers and Vincent Jackson. Both had huge games on Sunday, but it wasn't enough for San Diego to keep up with the high-powered Patriots.
Last note: The Charger running game is a mess. Ryan Mathews has yet to emerge as a No. 1 back, and Mike Tolbert's fumbling problems are a real issue.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Last Week: 14
What We Learned: I told you not to worry about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. This week they made me look halfway smart.
Tampa came back from a 17-0 halftime deficit to beat the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter. They did it with tough running by LeGarrette Blount and sharp passing from Josh Freeman late. That was the recipe for success in 2010, and it's still working this season.
Tampa has to get better early in the game. Its ability to come from behind will fail it ultimately, much like it did last week, when it couldn't come back against the Detroit Lions. Maybe the answer is a no-huddle offense in the first half, as Tampa plays better in a hurry-up offense.
Whatever the right answer is, Tampa is too talented to lose close games. Look for this comeback win against Minnesota to be the confidence booster it needs.
14. Dallas Cowboys
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Last Week: 12
What We Learned: The Dallas Cowboys sure do love playing in close games.
The Cowboys lost a Week 1 thriller against the New York Jets when they gave up a fourth-quarter lead. They did the opposite today in coming from behind to beat the San Francisco 49ers in overtime.
Why does Dallas move down after winning this week?
The fact that Dallas has been in two close games worries me. The fact that it was losing to the 49ers worries me more.
Dallas is talented enough to make the playoffs and then make a run, but it has to come together as a team and get healthy before it is a serious contender.
13. Washington Redskins
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Last Week: 15
What We Learned: Mike Shanahan isn't completely insane.
Read any website or newspaper this summer, and all anyone talked about in Washington was how stupid Mike Shanahan was for trusting John Beck and Rex Grossman at quarterback. Hell, I was probably leading the charge.
Shanahan proved once again he's smarter than us all, as his Redskins are 2-0, led by the strong play of quarterback Rex Grossman. The good news is that I've picked them to win each week. For that I thank you, Mr. Shanahan.
(That was hard to type.)
Grossman has been the difference-maker, as Washington won a Week 1 blowout and then a Week 2 nail-biter. No matter how they are winning, the Redskins are 2-0 and look fantastic.
12. Buffalo Bills
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Last Week: 17
What We Learned: Every week I pick against the Buffalo Bills. Every week they bite me in the ass.
Bills fans deserve to feel pretty good about the team this morning. Chan Gailey's boys have blown out the Kansas City Chiefs and come from behind to beat the Oakland Raiders. What's next?
Buffalo has a leader at quarterback in the smart Ryan Fitzpatrick. It also has a powerful runner in Fred Jackson that can take the ball late in a game and protect a lead.
Buffalo was underrated going into the season. No one will take it lightly again. Myself included.
11. Chicago Bears
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Last Week: 8
What We Learned: It would seem these are the real Chicago Bears.
The Jay Cutler-led Bears dominated the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 but suffered a dominating loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 2. The Bears were expected to be a very good team, but not great. That's what they are right now.
Cutler was again very good, but the defense let the Bears down this week. A serious injury to Major Wright at safety won't help their cause next week, or in the future.
Chicago is by far good enough to secure a wild-card berth, but it'll need to find a way to win close games over the next 15 weeks.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
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Last Week: 7
What We Learned: The Pittsburgh Steelers are as schizophrenic as any team in the NFL right now.
Pittsburgh suffered a Week 1 ass-kicking courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens but rebounded with a shutout win over one of the NFL's worst teams in Week 2.
Beating the Seattle Seahawks shouldn't count for much, as this is a game the Steelers should win without question. And they did. However, Pittsburgh won a predictable game while other teams this week were more impressive. That's why we're moving it down and other teams up this week.
I have serious concerns, again, about the offensive line and the secondary.
9. New Orleans Saints
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Last Week: 6
What We Learned: The New Orleans Saints can win a tough game at home, but what can we expect on the road?
This is a team that has struggled away from New Orleans over the last two seasons, and that's been proven well this year. The Saints lost in Week 1 at Green Bay but beat a very good Chicago team at home this weekend.
Drew Brees and co. are good enough to beat any team in the NFL when they are on target, but when Brees is off and the offense struggles, this team will suffer.
Sean Payton needs to get his defense ready to go each week, something that should be a given with Gregg Williams running things in the box. New Orleans could be a great team or a mediocre one depending on how well it plays on the road.
8. Baltimore Ravens
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Last Week: 3
What We Learned: Well, so much for the Baltimore Ravens emerging as the dominant team in the AFC.
Baltimore lost an embarrassing game to the Tennessee Titans this week, proving that hangovers do exist in the NFL. The Ravens need to get back on track after dominating their division rival the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 and losing a trap game to the Titans in Week 2.
The talent is there for Baltimore to make a run in the AFC, but the Ravens must prove they are good enough to contend each week, no matter the opponent.
Anything less than a Super Bowl will be a disappointment in Baltimore this year.
7. Atlanta Falcons
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Last Week: 11
What We Learned: Can anyone get a read on the Atlanta Falcons?
Even with Matt Ryan playing an average game, the Falcons were able to beat one of the NFL's best teams in the Philadelphia Eagles. So what gives?
Atlanta is very good at home, something it proved tonight in a comeback win versus the Eagles, but can it win consistently on the road?
That's the big question in Atlanta and throughout the NFL right now. Atlanta has the talent so sweep the division and make a Super Bowl run, but the inconsistency that has plagued this team must be corrected soon.
6. New York Jets
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Last Week: 9
What We Learned: Don't sleep on the New York Jets.
This team may have gained an easy win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, but it avoided the letdown that so many teams faced this week. Unlike the Baltimore Ravens, the Jets followed up a big win with a win over a lesser opponent. Those little things add up quickly in the NFL.
The Jets are firing on all cylinders this season and have to be considered a threat in the AFC. You'll see teams ranked ahead of the Jets, but the truth is that no one wants to play them in the playoffs.
We'll keep an eye on the Jets, anxiously awaiting their matchup with the New England Patriots.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
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Last Week: 4
What We Learned: Would you want to play the Philadelphia Eagles right now?
Philly may have lost Sunday night to the Atlanta Falcons, but this team proved to me once again that it is able to contend with anyone in the NFL.
There are issues on the offensive line that have to be addressed, but pound-for-pound few teams can line up against the Eagles and win on a consistent basis. That's what we are banking on for the course of the season.
The health of Michael Vick is a huge factor here. Should Vick miss even one game, the season comes into question. Right now, that's a real possibility.
Philadelphia gets ranked here on talent and potential, not so much Week 2 performance.
4. Detroit Lions
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Last Week: 10
What We Learned: I have a few bullet points for you to take away from the Detroit Lions' beatdown of the Kansas City Chiefs.
1) Matthew Stafford is worth every dollar the Lions paid him over the last two years, even though he was injured. Stafford looks like the best young quarterback in the NFL. Hands down.
2) This defense is good enough to stop even the best offenses—even the beleaguered secondary. Detroit's defense is for real.
You can't question the 2-0 Lions this morning. They've beaten two teams who won more than 10 games last year and look unstoppable.
I'm buying stock in Matthew Stafford.
3. Houston Texans
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Last Week: 5
What We Learned: The Houston Texans are immune to a letdown.
Matt Schaub and co. avoided the hangover that plagued other top teams this week by winning, again, when it mattered most.
Houston showed another impressive performance on both sides of the ball in its defeat of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. One could argue that Houston looked even better than the New England Patriots did in their takedown of the Dolphins Monday night.
Houston is the real deal, and it should walk away with the AFC South championship very early this season.
2. New England Patriots
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Last Week: 2
What We Learned: The New England Patriots are good. Really good.
Bill Belichick's Patriots are again one of the best teams in the NFL. No surprise, right? Tom Brady has thrown for 945 yards through two games and torn apart every defense they've faced through two weeks.
Sure, it's early, but the Patriots have a history of tearing apart the regular season. So far, so good, as Brady and co. are dominating the NFL thus far.
Brady and co. just might be better than they've been, showing a diversity and flexibility unseen in their run of dominance over the last decade.
If anyone can be favored in the AFC right now, it has to be the Patriots.
1. Green Bay Packers
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Last Week: 1
What We Learned: The Green Bay Packers are still elite.
Green Bay won another tough game this week, as it turned on the jets in the second half to beat the Carolina Panthers. Great teams find a way to motivate themselves and win the games that others overlook. That's what Green Bay did Sunday in shutting down Cam Newton in the second half.
There are concerns in Green Bay, sure, but no team is capable of playing better football for four quarters than this Packer team.
Until someone beats it, Green Bay will stay No. 1.