NFL Power Rankings: Who Is the NFL's Real Dream Team?
Take a moment fans, and catch your breath. Week 3 in the NFL was one of the most rip-roaring tumultuous days of football action in living memory. After three weeks of football, the landscape of the NFL has become so twisted and incoherent, it is difficult to take in.
The Philadelphia Eagles' "Dream Team" roster is looking more like a nightmare, the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions are 3-0 and the Indianapolis Colts are 0-3. Sound familiar? No, it doesn't.
Anyone in Buffalo or Detroit that didn't watch football before the year 2000 is probably hopelessly confused, even as they celebrate the recent victories. I know I would be.
Part of the old guard is crumbling as a new generation rises up to make their mark on the NFL. Let's have a look at how the power rankings are shaken up by the recent developments.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
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Talk about a first-to-worst story. The 10-6 2010 division champs of the AFC West have tumbled out of the gate to an 0-3 start.
Plenty of noise was made about how easy their 2010 schedule was, but now they're just proving everyone right. That, and Charlie Weis was clearly a big deal for their offense.
More importantly, this 0-3 team has lost their best offensive and defensive players, in Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry.
They gave a good showing of themselves against the Chargers, but this is still a team that has a -82 point differential.
Previous Ranking: 12
31. Miami Dolphins
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These poor guys can't catch a break. The Miami Dolphins only played well in one game this season; their opener against the New England Patriots, which they still lost.
Chad Henne is clearly not the long-term solution in Miami, and Tony Sparano isn't much of a head coach without his magic Wildcat offense. It might be time for him to get his resume ready for an offensive coordinator spot.
They need to learn to finish close games, because if they get any wins this year, it will be by a close margin every time.
The defense is talented, but it allowed Colt McCoy to play at a godlike level near the end of Sunday's game. That is no way to earn respect, or wins.
It IS a good way however, to get Andrew Luck.
Previous Ranking: 27
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
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The Jacksonville Jaguars have nothing to be excited about.
Due to the miserable failure of the Luke McCown experiment, they have been forced to throw raw rookie Blaine Gabbert into the fire behind a very underachieving offensive line. He is throwing to no-name receivers, and has very little defense to lean on.
We're talking about a team that has a grand total of two touchdowns so far this season, and ranks 28th in the NFL for total yardage. They are on pace for 16 whole sacks.
Blaine Gabbert's confidence can't be too high after getting demolished by fellow top rookie Cam Newton in Week 3 either.
Somewhere in Florida, David Garrard is rolling on the floor laughing at his former team, and rightfully so.
Previous Ranking: 30
29. Seattle Seahawks
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There is absolutely no way to explain how this team is 1-2. They won a game against the shoddy Arizona Cardinals, but the Seattle Seahawks should be counting their lucky stars for that W.
Tavaris Jackson easily runs away with the title of worst quarterback in the NFL right now. His pocket presence is non-existent, similarly to his offensive line. They rank at the bottom of the NFL in nearly all offensive categories.
The run defense has been decent thus far, but the pass defense has not. Though they earned a win against the Arizona Cardinals, the Seattle Seahawks remain firmly entrenched as the worst team in the NFL's worst division.
Previous Ranking: 25
28. Indianapolis Colts
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Well, finally everyone has confirmation of what we already knew: the Indianapolis Colts are nothing without Peyton Manning. Manning is one of the all-time greats, but it is still shocking to see just how bad they are without him.
They could very well be the worst team in the NFL, but given how feisty they were against a superior Pittsburgh Steelers team on Sunday night, they get a little mercy here.
With Manning likely out for the entire 2011 season, the Colts should just throw in the towel and take a nice draft pick.
Previous Ranking: 22
27. Minnesota Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings have so much talent on their roster, it seems impossible to keep them out of the Top 10. In Madden, their rating would be in the mid to high 80s.
However, you can't put all on raw talent. This team has held major halftime leads in all three of their games so far, and blown all of them. Ten points on the San Diego Chargers, 17 points on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 20 points on the Detroit Lions, all for nothing.
The Vikings need to learn to finish games. The fact that they can't even with Adrian Peterson running the ball speaks volumes about their defense, as well as their confidence in Donovan McNabb. At 0-3 with nothing getting better, this looks to be a long, cold season in Minnesota.
Previous Ranking: 18
26. Denver Broncos
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The Denver Broncos are having a forgettable 2011 season thus far. Von Miller has been very bright for them and fun to watch, but the rest of their team is lackluster in just about every conceivable way.
Kyle Orton does not seem to have the magic of 2010, and Knowshon Moreno is terrible as always. It is safe to expect that if things continue as they are now, Brady Quinn or Tim Tebow could be under center by the end of the 2011 season.
Previous Ranking: 24
25. St. Louis Rams
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Few teams in the NFL have experienced as much disappointment in the 2011 season as the St. Louis Rams. Pegged by many as the preseason favorite for the weak NFC West, the Rams have been slammed by rough injuries and Sam Bradford's sophomore slump.
It is not all their fault, as so far they have played the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens. That schedule is not to be coughed at, but it is safe to say they should have put up a better fight in these games.
It is certainly possible for them to turn things around, especially in the NFC West, but for now they are in deep trouble.
Previous Ranking: 18
24. Cincinnati Bengals
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The Cincinnati Bengals amazingly, have not totally and completely sucked in 2011. They are 1-2, but they made a good showing of themselves in both of the losses.
Andy Dalton and A.J Green have developed some amazing chemistry over the first few games of the year. The rest of the team hasn't looked great, but there is clearly potential for growth.
Since it was widely expected that the Bengals would be the NFL's worst team this season, what they have done so far should be considered an achievement.
The future is bright, but 2011 is still a washout.
Previous Ranking: 32
23. Tennessee Titans
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Why did we pay Chris Johnson?? That is the question everyone from Bud Adams to the stadium janitors is asking the Tennessee Titans.
Chris Johnson has the talent deserving of his $53 million, but not the character. Now that he has been paid, suddenly he seems to have aged from 24 to 30 overnight. He cares more about his gold teeth than football, and it has never been more obvious.
On top of Chris Johnson being done with football, now Kenny Britt has torn his MCL and ACL in the same knee. Ouch. Despite being 2-1, the outlook is not bright for the Titans, especially given that one of their wins was a total fluke against the Baltimore Ravens.
Things look grim this year in Tennessee. Jake Locker is the future, but not right now. Without Kenny Britt, they are the worst 2-1 team in the NFL.
Pay no attention to their league-best defense for yards per game...they played the Jaguars and Broncos.
Previous Ranking: 26
22. Carolina Panthers
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Cam Newton is mighty, and he has shown it so far. Well, in Weeks 1 and 2 anyway. He holds the record for yards in his first two NFL games, and has sparked that Carolina Panther offense in a way that nobody had expected.
Being led by Newton, these Panthers have the same record as the 2010 NFC South Champion Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers are not back yet, but riding on the Heisman winner, they'll be back a lot sooner than we thought.
They even took the Green Bay Packers to the final plays of the game in Week 2.
Previous Ranking: 29
21. Arizona Cardinals
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The Arizona Cardinals took a huge step forward by winning their season opener in spite of Cam Newton's record setting performance.
Then they took two even bigger steps backwards with consecutive losses to the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks. The Redskin loss is particularly rough, given that they lost by one point towards the end.
The Cardinals are a new-look team with Kevin Kolb, but they have some maturing to do, especially in their secondary, which sorely misses Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. So far, the trade looks to have only been slightly in their favor. They can stay in games now, but still can't win them.
If the defense cannot step up, it will only be a matter of time before defenses around the NFL can stop Larry Fitzgerald and Kevin Kolb.
It is worth mentioning that their loss to the Seattle is easily blamed on offensive coordinator Mike Miller for not taking a shot to Fitzgerald down the field during the final drive.
Previous Ranking: 19
20. Cleveland Browns
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The Cleveland Browns are a very surprising 2-1. If not for a last second game-winning pass in the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, this team could very well have been 3-0. What a world we live in.
These Browns are not the same 3-0 as the Buffalo Bills or Detroit Lions, but it is nice to see improvement from them. Colt McCoy is making plays late, and as a third-round pick is so far looking like a way better value than Tim Tebow, who was a first rounder.
The Miami Dolphins allowed young McCoy to look like Joe Montana marching 80 yards down field on the final drive of the Browns' Week 3 win.
This is all without mentioning that the Browns boast Peyton Hillis and one of the NFL's best offensive lines.
They will continue to improve, and should finish third in the AFC North this year.
Previous Ranking: 23
19. San Francisco 49ers
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The San Fransisco 49ers are finally looking like the team that everyone expected them to be in 2010. Even this low in the rankings, they are by far the best team in the NFC West.
They have been playing incredibly tough defense, which they have needed to offset their league-worst offense by yardage. Despite their weak yardage totals, they are actually 12th in the NFL with 70 points through three games.
Though this is largely thanks to Ted Ginn and his double return touchdowns in Week 1, this team still took the Dallas Cowboys to overtime in Week 2, and is looking like they're heading for a playoff berth.
Look for this team to stay dangerous.
Previous Ranking: 21
18. Chicago Bears
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Thirty two. That is the number of times Jay Cutler has been nailed by an opposing defense in three 2011 games. Fourteen of those 32 hits have been sacks. The loss of center Olin Kruetz, along with the Mike Martz offense and the Chicago Bears' weak offensive line seem like a recipe to end Cutler's career.
This is a team that dominated the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, though they have looked just as bad. They have proceeded to get smacked by the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers in Weeks 2 and 3.
The offensive line cannot protect Jay Cutler, and until they can the Bears offense will be stalled every game.
The Bears are 23rd in the NFL in yards per game. Expect that to continue without protection or competent receivers for Cutler.
Only their difficult schedule and defense keeps them this high in the rankings.
Previous Ranking: 15
17. Atlanta Falcons
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How the mighty have fallen. The Atlanta Falcons were the NFC's top seeded team in 2010. Now they are in last place in the NFC South, behind the Carolina Panthers.
After getting killed by the Chicago Bears, they eked out a win against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2 and lost again on Sunday to division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Matt Ryan has been sacked 13 times, just one less than Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears. The offense and defense both rank in the bottom half of the NFL, and the Julio Jones/Roddy White/Tony Gonzalez trio has not been nearly as fearsome as advertised.
This team will need to step up on all fronts to get back to the playoffs in 2011.
Previous Ranking: 8
16. Philadelphia Eagles
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The Dream Team isn't looking so dreamy after three games. After beating a hapless St. Louis Rams team in Week 1, they were defeated by the underperforming Atlanta Falcons and injury-devastated New York Giants in consecutive games.
Though the Philadelphia Eagles boast a star-studded secondary and a high powered offense, they have so many other holes that keep them from winning as they should.
The shoddy offensive line fails to keep Michael Vick on his feet for starters, handing him injuries in consecutive weeks. If he continues to take a beating, it won't be long before Mike Kafka or Vince Young takes over out of necessity.
Worse than that, is the Eagles' wide-9 defensive scheme. There is no question of the wide-9's effectiveness when used properly with the right personnel, but the Eagles do not have either of these things. With one of the NFL's worst linebacker groups, the wide-9 formation has allowed opposing running backs to obliterate their defense one play at a time.
The Eagles' run defense is currently ranked 30th in the NFL, allowing 4.9 yards per carry and 139 yards per game.
If they can't find a way to fix their defensive woes, even Vick won't be able scramble this team into the playoffs. Sunday's contest with the San Fransisco 49ers is all or nothing for them.
Previous Ranking: 5
15. San Diego Chargers
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The San Diego Chargers of 2011 are a far cry from the 2010 team that ranked Top Five in offense and defense, though they still remain dangerous by all counts.
Philip Rivers has played well through three games, but the defense was exposed by the New England Patriots in their Week 2 loss, a problem only made worse by the loss of safety Bob Sanders.
The other issue? The Chargers won a close game to the league's worst team, the Kansas City Chiefs, and had to orchestrate a comeback win against the winless Minnesota Vikings in Week 1.
Let's watch the Chargers win against a decent team before they move up in these rankings.
Previous Ranking: 11
14. New York Giants
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The New York Giants have been a tough team to evaluate so far.
Who are they really? The hapless, injury-riddled team that was dominated by the Washington Redskins and eked out a sloppy win over the St. Louis Rams?
Or are they the fiery team that dominated the Philadelphia Eagles with a ferocious pass rush and power running game?
This weekend's contest against the Arizona Cardinals will say a lot about this Giants team. If they can beat them handily, as they should do, they might be for real. If they lay another egg, we'll know that the injuries have truly hit hard and their season is in trouble.
Tom Coughlin has one of the hottest seats in the NFL right now. His team might be playing for his job, and theirs. So far, it seems to have worked out alright.
Previous Ranking: 13
13. Washington Redskins
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For a team I expected to be 0-3 by this point, I must say the Washington Redskins have been a big surprise. Their defense was to be expected, given the terrific pieces they have in position.
What is shocking has been the play of quarterback Rex Grossman. He is averaging a cool 258 yards per game, and has lived up to Mike Shanahan's expectations of him. At 2-1, this Redskins team is dangerous, and right in the hunt for the NFC East crown.
They are forcing the NFL to respect them.
Previous Ranking: 31
12. Dallas Cowboys
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The Dallas Cowboys have delivered two thrilling wins in two weeks. Tony Romo has delivered amazing gut-check performances, redeeming himself from the epic choke that lost Dallas the Week 1 game against the New York Jets.
With shoddy protection and a receiving corps that was having a terrible night, Tony Romo still managed to beat the Washington Redskins, broken ribs and all.
This team has a very talented roster, and given how close the race for the NFC East is, these guys have to be considered in the playoff picture.
Romo is out to prove all of his naysayers wrong.
Previous Ranking: 14
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have recovered nicely from their Week 1 beatdown by the Detroit Lions, who have turned out to be one of the league's better teams.
They came back from a 17-point halftime deficit to defeat the Minnesota Vikings, and then knocked off their NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons to end a losing streak against them.
Josh Freeman remains a god of the fourth quarter, while the young nucleus around him is hitting their stride. After a poor showing in Week 1, LeGarrette Blount has shown up for two straight weeks, a heartening development for this young team.
Look for the Buccaneers to stay firmly in the wild-card race, and maybe even the divisional race as the season progresses.
Previous Ranking: 10
10. New York Jets
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Should this New York Jets team be worried after a crushing loss to the Oakland Raiders on the road? No, but there is definitely room for improvement here.
There has been good news; Muhammad Wilkerson already has way more career sacks than Vernon Gholston.
As expected, the Jets' success this year is going to have to depend on the arm of Mark Sanchez, because LT's advanced age and Shonn Greene's gross underperformance do not make for a good running game.
The main reason for the Jets' drop in ranking is the fact that their run defense ranks 30th in the league. For a team that prides itself on hard-nosed defense, that stat is embarrassing.
The Jets will try to bounce back on the road against the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday, so expect an intense contest as the Jets try to restore their pride. This game could very well have major playoff implications.
Previous Ranking: 7
9. Oakland Raiders
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So, how about them Oakland Raiders? This team has stormed out of the gate in 2011, clearly heading in the right direction under head coach Hue Jackson.
They lead the league in rushing yards, thanks to the insane level of play by third-year man Darren McFadden. This team's power running destroyed the New York Jets' defense on Sunday, and is capable of doing so to just about any opponent in the league.
Jason Campbell has a passer rating of 93.8, but the defense is going to have to step up for them to continue this level of success.
If that happens, they will easily contend for the AFC West title with San Diego.
Previous Ranking: 20
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Steelers have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL...aside from their offensive line.
The offensive line is going to have to protect Ben Roethlisberger better if they want to contend with other first-tier NFL teams. So far, they have been smacked down by the Baltimore Ravens, crushed the Seattle Seahawks and barely squeaked by the Indianapolis Colts.
NOT a very impressive run so far.
Still, you can't ever count out Mike Tomlin's team, as we have learned very well over the last several years. They have a major contest coming up against the Houston Texans, which will tell us a lot about this team.
Previous Ranking: 6
7. New England Patriots
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Tom Brady is setting records, yes. The rest of this New England Patriots team is not. Whether or not you believe their game against the Buffalo Bills was a fluke, it has become clear that this team cannot defend the pass.
Soon, teams all over the NFL will figure them out and begin to exploit them. They have allowed well over 1,000 yards passing, and they do not have the running game to keep opposing offenses off the field. They also have a complete lack of a pass rush, compounding their secondary problems.
The Patriots have some changes to make, or they are looking at another one-and-done playoffs.
Previous Ranking: 2
6. Buffalo Bills
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The Buffalo Bills might just be the NFL's most surprising team of 2011. I have reluctantly picked against them all three games so far, and three times I have been proven wrong.
I won't be making the mistake of underestimating them again. These guys are for real. Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick seem determined to take this Buffalo Bills team from worst to first. At 3-0, they are solely on top of the AFC East.
After back to back comeback wins against solid teams, these feisty Bills have earned respect. Their offensive attack is fearsome, and more complete than the Patriots' thanks to Fred Jackson.
They will continue to surprise throughout 2011. I call these guys the true "dream team." Not because of a star-studded roster, but because this collection of undrafted free agents, backups, seventh-rounders and castoffs is daring to dream of the playoffs after a 4-12 campaign in 2010. They dare to dream of unseating the Jets and Patriots.
Previous Ranking: 28
5. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans have done exactly what was expected of them this season: play like a team that should make the playoffs. They put on an offensive clinic in New Orleans, keeping their game with the Saints going strong down to the final moments.
Their running game has not suffered without Arian Foster and Vonta Leach; clearly Gary Kubiak's offensive line is very strong.
Their defense was incredible against the Colts and Miami Dolphins, but was shredded by Drew Brees. Everyone gets shredded by Drew Brees though. The Texans still have seven sacks and six forced turnovers through three games.
This team has the tools and talent to dominate their weak division and still hang with the NFL's elite teams.
Previous Ranking: 9
4. New Orleans Saints
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The New Orleans Saints made a splash by knocking off my preseason darling Houston Texans in a thriller on Sunday. Their offense is firing on all cylinders, and when Sean Payton and Drew Brees bring the heat, they are almost impossible to stop.
Mark Ingram finally showed some promise on Sunday with a game-clinching touchdown, which is a good sign for this Saints team that has relied heavily on the pass, to the tune of 338 yards per game.
Their one loss was to the defending Super Bowl champs, while their wins have come against two widely respected teams in the Bears and Texans.
If they can improve the defense, this team could find themselves at the top of the rankings before long.
Previous Ranking: 4
3. Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens have looked completely elite, aside from a minor hiccup against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, which I'm calling a fluke.
In their two victories over the St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens put up 77 points while allowing only 14. Rookie Torrey Smith exploded in Week 3, catching three passing TDs from Joe Flacco.
Ray Rice is one of the NFL's most dangerous combo backs, and don't forget that he has Vonta Leach blocking for him.
They have a big proving game against the New York Jets this weekend, and it should be a fantastic battle.
Previous Ranking: 3
2. Detroit Lions
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The Detroit Lions are for real. They have won games of every type, in exactly the fashion they should. They won an aerial battle against another young and talented team which came down to the wire, they blew out the league's worst team 48-7 and they won a hard fought game in overtime against a division rival.
Why the sudden change from the last decade of mediocrity? As I have said before, Matthew Stafford is one of the best quarterbacks in the league when healthy, as evidenced by his passer rating of 110.7 exceeded only by Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Ndamukong Suh leads one of the NFL's premiere defensive units, which has stifled the opposition through all three games.
These Lions will continue to win games, and will likely compete with the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North right down to the end. They have gone from playoff sleeper to top playoff contender virtually overnight.
Watch out for this team.
Previous Ranking: 17
1. Green Bay Packers
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The Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers are enjoying their third straight week atop the rankings. They have won eight straight games dating back to Week 16 of last season, and show no signs of slowing down.
Until this beast of a team loses a game, there is no reason to take them off the top of these rankings.
Previous Ranking: 1