NFL Power Rankings Week 3: Elite Teams Beginning To Emerge

Justin SparksCorrespondent IIISeptember 20, 2011

NFL Power Rankings Week 3: Elite Teams Beginning To Emerge

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    Week 2 of the NFL regular season is officially in the books after another roller coaster weekend full of games. Teams that expected to be playoff contenders have quickly proven otherwise, while other teams not expected to have a huge impact on the season are showing the league they mean business.

    Week 3 has officially begun for all 32 teams league-wide, which only means one thing: time for Week 3 power rankings. Elite teams have started to put their first foot forward.

    Who will top the list?

32. Kansas City Chiefs

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    The Kansas City Chiefs have suffered the worst start to their season they could ever imagine. Arguably their two most talented players, Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles, both got knocked out for the season in successive weeks.

31. Indianapolis Colts

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    Peyton Manning has been the centerpiece of not only the offense for the Indianapolis Colts, but apparently, the defense has been affected by his absence as well. Kerry Collins will continue to struggle early on in what is now a wide-open division.

30. Seattle Seahawks

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    Tarvaris Jackson did not work out for the Minnesota Vikings, and it's hard to foresee that changing during his first season with the Seattle Seahawks. They may play in the worst division in the NFL, but they could quite possibly end up being the worst team in the NFC West.

    Andrew Luck, anyone?

29. Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Cincinnati Bengals are trying to revamp their offense on the fly during 2011. They beat their cross-state rivals, the Cleveland Browns, in Week 1, but lost to the dysfunctional Denver Broncos.

    Cincinnati has shown they are capable of putting points on the board. If Andy Dalton and A.J. Green can get acclimated quickly, the Bengals could climb the power rankings by the middle of the season.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Luke McCown impressed the Jacksonville Jaguars enough in training camp to convince them to release David Gerrard and name him starter for the season. After Sunday's woeful performance, the Jaguars might be begging Garrard to return.

    McCown has yet to throw a touchdown and threw four interceptions on Sunday. Blaine Gabbert could be starting sooner than he anticipated if McCown keeps putting up dreadful numbers.

27. Denver Broncos

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    Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee could prove to be a nice one-two punch for the Denver Broncos this season. Then again, they did play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and barely squeaked by to gain their first victory of the season.

    Denver travels to Nashville to face the Tennessee Titans, who come off an impressive win over the weekend. It's only a matter of time before the Denver faithful stage a protest to the lack of Tim Tebow appearances.

26. San Francisco 49ers

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    Believe it or not, Alex Smith almost hit the 100 point mark in the passer rating department versus the Dallas Cowboys. He recorded a 99.1 quarterback passer rating, to be exact.

    Despite Alex Smith's performance Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers still have a big reason to why they're so low in this week's power rankings. That reason is Alex Smith.

    The 49ers contain plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, but Smith has played too many seasons too long. Of course, playing the Cincinnati Bengals could help fix the crushing defeat to Tony Romo and the Cowboys.

25. Carolina Panthers

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    Cam Newton has put aside any doubts that he could be an impact player in the NFL. Two straight 400-yard passing games in his first two games of the season should have the Carolina Panthers fanbase buzzing.

    However, if it were not for the fantastic performances by Newton in both games, the Panthers would not have lost two games by a touchdown each. Newton will not be able to keep up the 400-yard passing every week, and when his streak stops, their flaws will reveal themselves.

24. Minnesota Vikings

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    For the first half on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings looked like a team that could be a competitive contender and a tough team to defeat, especially in the Metrodome. Then they kicked off for the second half and squandered a 17-0 halftime lead.

    Minnesota provides a fair fight for the best 0-2 team in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. However, the Vikings host the undefeated Detroit Lions in Week 3 for a crucial divisional showdown. Donovan McNabb looked better this past Sunday, but this team has a ways to go after their collapse.

    The NFC North cellar is a cold, cold place come December. Although, they still have a guy named Adrian Peterson on their team who could win a game single-handedly.

23. Cleveland Browns

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    Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns beat a downtrodden team in Week 2 in the Indianapolis Colts for their first win of the season. They come in to Week 3 after a solid performance by their second-year quarterback.

    Peyton Hillis looks strong early in the 2011 season, and the Browns host a winless Miami Dolphins team for their Week 3 matchup. McCoy and Co. will be looking to take full advantage of the Dolphins defense.

22. Miami Dolphins

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    The Miami Dolphins could very easily be the best 0-2 team in the NFL. They showed signs of life on offense versus the New England Patriots in Week 1 despite their horrific defending.

    Chad Henne followed up his Week 1 400-yard passing outing with a pedestrian game behind center in Week 2 versus the Houston Texans. Henne might actually fulfill his role adequately as the Dolphins starting quarterback, but his defense must help him out.

    Miami faces a less daunting offense in Cleveland next week compared to the Patriots and Texans. Look for the Dolphins to try and record their first "W" of the season.

21. St. Louis Rams

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    So much for the St. Louis Rams being a team that makes an early season leap in progression from a year ago. Sam Bradford and the Rams have dropped their first two games of the season versus two NFC East opponents.

    It doesn't get much better for Bradford and the upstart Rams when they host the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3, who are coming off a loss. Steven Jackson's uncertainty going into the game with the Ravens should also be a concern for Steve Spagnuola.

    Luckily for the Rams, they play in the worst division in football and will have plenty of time to fix their 0-2 start to the season.

20. New York Giants

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    Eli Manning and the New York Giants have not looked convincing at all this season. The distraction of the departure of former wide out Steve Smith still seems to have this team in a choke hold.

    Manning got off to a sluggish start on Monday night and looked awful versus the Washington Redskins in Week 1. The Giants must travel into Philadelphia to play the Philadelphia Eagles in a nationally televised contest in Week 3.

    That game will provide a better barometer for exactly where the Giants are headed in 2011. Hakeem Nicks will need to have a big game versus the Eagles' new-look secondary to get Eli back on track.

19. Tennessee Titans

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    After losing the season opener to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tennessee Titans bounced back in their home opener to beat the Baltimore Ravens, who were coming off a dominant Week 1 win. Kenny Britt and Chris Johnson provide Matt Hasselback with two explosive weapons on offense to work with.

    Tennessee hosts the Denver Broncos in Week 3 as they try to keep pace with the undefeated Houston Texans. The Titans are a team that brings plenty of talent on both sides of the ball to win their division. Once Chris Johnson gets back into midseason form, the Titans will be a tough team for anyone to face.

18. Arizona Cardinals

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    The Arizona Cardinals head into Week 3 coming off a tough loss to the Washington Redskins in a fourth quarter decision. Kevin Kolb looks like he is becoming acclimated with the offense and his different playmakers, including Larry Fitzgerald.

    Kolb has thrown for 560 yards and four touchdowns in his two starts thus far this season. The Cardinals look like the clear front-runners for the NFC West as they head into Week 3.

    They travel to Seattle to open their division schedule in Week 3. If the Cards can put together a few wins in succession, they could easily move within the top 10 range in future power rankings a little later in the season.

17. Oakland Raiders

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    The Oakland Raiders are a tough team to read. One week, they squeak by their hated division rivals, the Denver Broncos in Denver, and the next week, they lose a shootout against the Buffalo Bills.

    This Raiders team is definitely talented, and their new head coach, Hue Jackson, has this team playing well. Oakland in their first two weeks are averaging just over 160 yards rushing and 29 points per game. Given that's off of two games, but 160-yard average is nothing to balk about.

    The New York Jets travel to "the Black Hole" to face the Raiders in Week 3. We'll have a better feel for the silver and black after they face the AFC runners-up from last season.

16. Dallas Cowboys

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    If it weren't for the heroic comeback orchestrated by Tony Romo with his cracked rib, we would be talking about the Dallas Cowboys being winless going into Week 3. That certainly would have placed the Cowboys into the mid-20s on this list.

    However, the Cowboys and their quarterback showed a lot of gall and guts coming back on the road from an early deficit. After two weeks of play, Dallas has the third best passing yards average but 31st rushing average in the league.

    Dallas hosts the NFC East division-leading Washington Redskins in Week 3 on 'Monday Night Football." We'll see how Romo performs a week later with his injury.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers started off the season with a sluggish start after being bullied by the Baltimore Ravens. Week 2 provided a great matchup against the Seattle Seahawks for a bounce-back performance.

    Big Ben and Co. travel to Indy to face the Manning-less Indianapolis Colts in Week 3 for what should be an easy "W." What would have been a preseason matchup of Super Bowl favorites will be a watered down conrest in Week 3.

    The Steelers will be looking to climb the power rankings back into the top 10 after Week 3.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came alive in the second half for an impressive comeback from being down 17-0. After scoring on a touchdown, Tampa Bay made the gutsy move to kick a surprise onside kick, which paid off big time. LeGarrette Blount helped the Bucs surge into the lead versus Minnesota in Sunday's second half with two touchdowns.

    Josh Freeman led the Bucs back to gain their first victory of the year after a tough defeat in Week 1 to the Detroit Lions. Tampa Bay could easily be higher on the list after Week 3 if they come out and take care of business versus the Atlanta Falcons at home on Sunday.

13. San Diego Chargers

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    Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers looked to get off to a quick start this season by traveling to Foxboro and coming away with a win. They came up short but proved they have a pretty good team in a fairly weak division. A Mike Tolbert 4th-and-goal conversion could have seen the Chargers travel back with a victory.

    The Chargers get a chance to beat up on the ailing Kansas City Chiefs at home on Sunday. Their Week 3 matchup should only help their standing in the power rankings heading into Week 4.

12. Atlanta Falcons

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    The Atlanta Falcons opened the season with a dismal display of football on both sides of the ball versus the Chicago Bears in Week 1. Sunday night's game turned out to be their first win of the year, but the Falcons were thoroughly outplayed by the Philadelphia Eagles for most of the game.

    They earn a higher ranking based upon preseason standing and the few flashes of life shown by the Falcons in the first two weeks. Atlanta could be in the top 10 heading into Week 4 if they show their true colors against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

11. Chicago Bears

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    The Chicago Bears began their journey back to the NFC Championship with an opening-game handling of the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field. They followed up their Week 1 performance with a trip to the Superdome to face the New Orleans Saints this past Sunday. Matt Forte, however, has had two stellar weeks to begin the season.

    After getting out to an early lead, the Bears could not handle Drew Brees and the Saints offense in their home environment. New Orleans is a tough place to win for any team, but the Bears have shown they are capable of competing with Green Bay and Detroit for the Norris division. 

10. Baltimore Ravens

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    Week 1 saw the Baltimore Ravens manhandle a Pittsburgh Steelers team and Ben Roethlisberger at home. Then came Sunday's game versus the Tennessee Titans, and the same team that shot out of the gates came out as flat as can be.

    Their top 10 standing is based upon the talent and Week 1 performance after a narrow defeat to Tennessee in Week 2. Joe Flacco and Co. travel to St. Louis to face a young and struggling St. Louis Rams teams. A perfect Week 3 opponent to get the Ravens defense back on track.

9. Houston Texans

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    The Houston Texans have started off the season 2-0. After their Week 1 annihilation of the Indianapolis Colts, the Texans traveled to Miami to face the Miami Dolphins and came away with their second victory of the year.

    The Texans would be higher on the list, but the uncertainty of Arian Foster has them being held back until he gets completely cleared and is back to normal. The Texans are a different team without Arian Foster carrying the rock week in and week out.

8. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Pending on whether Michael Vick plays in Week 3 or not, the Philadelphia Eagles could either move up or down in the power rankings. The Philadelphia Eagles are your prototypical slow starters to the season, having only started the season 2-0 once in the last five years.

    Their pass defense has proven nearly impossible to throw against in long yardage situations, and their offense is explosive as ever. The Eagles dominated the stat sheet versus the Atlanta Falcons, but that also included dominating the turnovers given away. If Philadelphia cleans it up, they're a top five team.

7. Washington Redskins

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    Whoever predicted that the Washington Redskins would be 2-0 and on top of the NFC East by themselves should be given a handsome raise or a beer at the very least. Oh wait, that would be Rex Grossman who predicted the Redskins would win the division.

    Mike Shanahan has cut out all the unnecessary fat on the Redskins, keeping only players who are willing to buy into his system and philosophy. The Redskins have looked impressive through two weeks of football and will be looking to further their standing in the top 10 after a win against Dallas on Monday night in Week 3.

6. New Orleans Saints

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    The New Orleans Saints almost completed a miraculous comeback versus the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in Week 1, only to fall short on the last play of the game. Drew Brees and the Saints have shown they are a force to be reckoned with in the NFC.

    Their Week 2 victory over the Chicago Bears provided a sample for what is to come from the NFC South favorites. Week 3 shall see the Saints try to move into the top five of the NFL power rankings.

5. Buffalo Bills

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    Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills. Who would have seen this coming? The Buffalo Bills open the season with a blowout victory in Week 1 and an impressive comeback victory at home in Week 2.

    The Bills look to challenge their division rivals for the top spot, and Week 3 provides their first chance to show just how good they really are when they face the New England Patriots. Ryan Fitzpatrick's Ivy League education has helped the Bills start off 2-0, and they hope to maintain their top five status with a big win on Sunday.

4. Detroit Lions

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    Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions came into the season with a lot of buzz surrounding their team, and they have proven they were worthy of the hype. Detroit begins the season 2-0 with two impressive victories to start the season. Calvin Johnson is making an early case for why he should be considered the best wide out in the league.

    The Lions are trying to make up for a decade's worth of disappointments this year, and they seem to be right on track. They will give the Green Bay Packers quite the test this season, it looks like, for the NFC North crown.

3. New York Jets

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    Rex Ryan and his New York Jets escaped Week 1 versus the Dallas Cowboys on an emotional Sept. 11 matchup thanks to Tony Romo's bonehead interception toss. They followed up their Week 1 victory with a spanking given to Jacksonville at the Meadowlands.

    Mark Sanchez and the Jets look to improve upon their 2-0 record as the travel across the country for a game against Oakland. Week 3 will provide the Jets with a stern test when they play in the black hole.

2. Green Bay Packers

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    The Green Bay Packers defense gave up 400 yards through the air to Cam Newton on Sunday, but they also recorded three interceptions. Week 1 saw the Packers win a thrilling opener versus the New Orleans Saints, and Week 2 saw the Pack hold off a young Carolina team.

    Green Bay still have all the intangibles to be a top five team in this league and escape the first two weeks undefeated. As the Super Bowl champions, they receive a little benefit of the doubt for their performances, and you can almost guarantee they won't give up 400 yards passing in Week 3. Aaron Rodgers will have his guys ready to roll come Sunday.

1. New England Patriots

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    Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have started off the season 2-0 and in impressive fashion. After Week 1's performance by Tom Brady, who threw for over 500 yards, the Patriots beat San Diego by 14. Even Chad Ochocinco got in on the action after his unadvised tweet following Week 1.

    Tom Brady and Co. look to improve upon their 14-2 record from a year ago and are off to the right start. They certainly contain flaws, particularly along the defensive side of the ball, but their nearly unstoppable offense led by last season's unanimous MVP has them taking the top spot in this week's power rankings.