Week 3 was one of the NFL's most exciting weekends in quite awhile. Twelve of the week's 16 games were decided by a touchdown or less. Every single 1 p.m. game saw the winning team trail in their games at least once.
Craziness prevailed in many games continuing a theme that is becoming common in 2011. The train of thought coming into the season was that the lockout would make this year more predictable. The good teams from last year were supposed to have an advantage while the bad teams were supposed to fall further in disarray.
Some of 2010's good teams haven't missed a step such as the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers who have surprised literally no one by starting their season 3-0. The same cannot be said for the Buffalo Bills or the Detroit Lions who are seriously the only other undefeated teams.
Yes, two of the NFL's most tortured franchises ever both with no playoff appearances since 1999 are undefeated.
The drama of seeing how long these teams go undefeated shall go on for at least another week. Drama also continues on the other side of the spectrum where we see how long five NFL teams can stay winless. The Chiefs, Colts, Dolphins, Rams and Vikings have all played terribly this year and desperately need wins to get their seasons back on track.
Week 4 is the final week before the NFL begins bye weeks. Some of the highlighted games this week include the favored Patriots taking on the upstart Raiders in Oakland and the Ravens facing former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's team, the Jets on Sunday Night Football. We'll also see the close-call Cowboys try to hand the Lions their first defeat and the Steelers defense try to shut down the high-powered Texans offense.
Week 4 Power Rankings
1. Green Bay Packers (3-0)
Last Week: 1
I know it seems like the safe pick to go with the Packers as the number one team for a third straight week, but based on the past can anyone trust the Bills or Lions enough to put them ahead? Anyway it's not like the Packers have slowed down at all during what is now a nine game winning streak (counting the playoffs.) They easily defeated a Bears team that has traditionally been their NFC North nemesis and continue to show off the many dazzling weapons they have on offense like tight end Jermichael Finley who scored three times on Sunday.
2. Buffalo Bills (3-0)
Last week: 13
Last week people were impressed with the Bills 2-0 start but were realistically doubtful that they were good enough to beat the Patriots, who had beaten them 15 times straight. Well now the Bills have done just that coming from down 21 points to score a 34-31 victory over a team that through two weeks had looked like the AFC's best. Although it's early in the season, this victory for solidifies the Bills as the AFC's best team for now; their win over a legit Super Bowl contender indicates that they are for real.
3. Detroit Lions (3-0)
Last week: 11
The Lions have now won seven games dating back to last year. What's impressive about this streak is they have won four games on the road which is a place they struggled mightily over the past couple years, even setting a record by losing 26 straight from 2007-2010. This week's win against the Vikings showed a lot of heart as the Lions stormed back from down 20 points to get a 26-23 victory in overtime.
4. New Orleans Saints (2-1)
Last week: 4
A wild comeback against the Texans shows that the Saints offense is as explosive as ever. Everyone is getting involved in the passing game and their running game is even doing well after being terrible last year. It is going to be very hard for the Jaguars to keep up with the Saints this week in Jacksonville.
5. Oakland Raiders (2-1)
Last week: 18
Surprised to see them this high? Get used to it; their win over the Jets showed that the Raiders are far better than anyone outside of Raider Nation could have thought. Darren McFadden is playing like the best running back in the league and Jason Campbell has been surprisingly efficient these first three weeks.
6. New England Patriots (2-1)
Last week: 3
Everything seemed to fall apart for the Patriots in their shocking loss to the Bills. After building a 21 point lead, their suspect defense allowed 27 points and even the scorching hot Tom Brady became quite cool with his four interceptions. Still considering Brady had four interceptions during the entirety of last year, he should return to his superstar form going against an unimpressive Raiders defense
7. New York Jets (2-1)
Last week: 2
What was most surprising about the Jet's loss to the Raiders was the 234 rushing yards they allowed to Darren McFadden and company. Rex Ryan prides himself on defense so this loss has got to hurt more than usual. This week Ryan gets his first return to Baltimore against his former team so he will absolutely stress better defensive play for this personal game.
8. Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
Last week: 19
Although they didn't look impressive beating the Redskins, the important thing is the Cowboys got the win. Even with the multiple missed snaps, settling for field goals, and the all-around sloppy play, the Cowboys have been in every game this year. For all the criticism Tony Romo has taken, he has led his team to two straight victories, even more impressive considering he is getting very little help from his receivers.
9. Washington Redskins (2-1)
Last week: 8
Their first loss was a particularly painful one, especially given that it was against the hated Cowboys. Still the Redskins are tied for first in the NFC East and they have looked considerably better than expected so far. This week's game against the Rams could be an easy win but the Redskins have to be a little worried considering some of their recent losses to the Rams.
10. Tennessee Titans (2-1)
Last week: 14
Losing Kenny Britt for the season is a devastating blow considering he by far their best receiver. It also doesn't help things that Chris Johnson has been doing his best disappearing act so far. Still, players have stepped up across the board for them and it wouldn't be too surprising if they continue that trend this week against the Browns.
11. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Last week: 7
This may seem like a low spot for a team that enjoyed a blowout victory last week. My explanation is that the Rams have proven to be horrible this year so a win over them can't prove too much. The Ravens schedule is also getting considerably harder with the Jets this week and the Texans next week; two teams with receivers that could test their secondary.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)
Last week: 20
Beating the Falcons 16-13 snapped a five game losing streak the Buccaneers had against them. It also keeps this team in the NFC South's lead despite the fact their stats are very average across the board. Keeping the Colts winless this week will likely be necessary for the Buccaneers playoff hopes as their schedule gets very difficult later in the year.
13. San Francisco 49ers (2-1)
Last week: 21
It looks like simply by playing safe and mistake-free football, the 49ers are positioned to win the NFC West title. So expect lots of low-scoring games with results similar to last weeks 13-8 win over the Bengals. Still for a team with this kind of approach a good running game would really help; if Frank Gore doesn't start playing better perhaps they should turn to Kendall Hunter or Anthony Dixon.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
Last week: 12
Steelers fans have got to be worried if not scared after seeing them barely get past the Colts last Sunday night. They let the Colts stay in the game way too long and Ben Roethlisberger had two critical fumbles that the Colts capitalized off of. This week at Houston could be telling as the Steelers look to get their first win against one of the NFL's better teams.
15. New York Giants (2-1)
Last week: 15
The Giants 29-16 win over the Eagles was their first since 2008, ending a six game losing streak to their hated rivals. Wide Receiver Victor Cruz caught three touchdowns in a preseason game a year ago, now he might be a legitimate receiving threat for the injury-plagued Giants after scoring twice against the Eagles. As they take on the Cardinals in Arizona this week, the Giants look to avoid a letdown against a team that usually plays better at their home stadium.
16. Houston Texans (2-1)
Last week: 5
Last week's loss to the Saints was very much reminiscent of the past Texans teams. They got an early lead, their defense gave up lots of points and then their offense didn't finish. Now the Saints are one of the NFL's best teams but any time the Texans lose games in this fashion it causes me to doubt them and drop them on the rankings.
17. San Diego Chargers (2-1)
Last week: 9
Dropping a team eight spots after a win may seem like an exaggeration but I feel like it's warranted with a team like the Chargers that has a reputation for September swoons. They beat the winless Vikings by a touchdown and then beat the winless Chiefs by a field goal. If they can barely beat the NFL's worst teams, imagine what happens they play better teams.
18. Cleveland Browns (2-1)
Last week: 23
Both of their wins were close ones over winless teams but the Browns still can't be too disappointed with a 2-1 start. Colt McCoy had one of his finest moments in his young career against the Dolphins, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 43 seconds left. As I said before the season, their easy opening schedule makes it possible this team could start out with a very good record.
19. Chicago Bears (1-2)
Last week: 16
The Bears have got one of the most flawed offensive plans in all of football. Despite the insane amount of hits Jay Cutler is taking, they still pass on 80 percent of their plays and had an embarrassing 13 total rushing yards last week against the Packers. No one can win with an run-pass ratio like that and the Bears are especially crazy to try it when arguably their most talented offensive player is running back Matt Forte.
20. Denver Broncos (1-2)
Last week: 26
Their six spot increase this week is due to improvements made in both the running game and on defense. Unfortunately for them the narrow loss to the Titans shows that they still have a lot of work to do before becoming a good team. Hopefully Elvis Dumervil will play this week against the Packers cause the Broncos are going to need all the help they can get for this game.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)
Last week: 24
The Bengals actually have had very good defensive play through the first three weeks of the season. Their fifth-ranked pass defense and their seventh-ranked rush defense may have benefitted slightly from playing weak offenses so it should be interesting to see how they do against the high-powered Bills offense. It's a shame Carson Palmer is sitting out this year because weaknesses at offense, particularly quarterback, are preventing the Bengals from taking advantage of their easy schedule.
22. Seattle Seahawks (1-2)
Last week: 32
Now that they've managed to win a game, the Seahawks are obviously not the worst team in the NFL. Sidney Rice provided a much needed spark to the offense with his eight catches for 107 yards. With the way their offense has performed without him, it looks like he is vital for Seattle to have success this year.
23. Atlanta Falcons (1-2)
Last week: 10
Part of the reason behind the Falcons slow start is the amount of hits Matt Ryan is taking. The 13 sacks he had suffered so far put him on pace for far more sacks than he had the last three seasons. Their offensive performance as a whole has underwhelmed as they currently sit at 18th in pass offense and 19th in rush offense.
24. Arizona Cardinals (1-2)
Last week: 22
Every game this year has been close for the Cardinals but the last two weeks they have not finished well at all. Kevin Kolb's numbers have been getting progressively worse the last two weeks and it's very concerning that they were unable to score the entire second half against the Seahawks. Since they tend to play better at home, they've got to be happy that they play there this week even if it's against the impressive Giants.
25. Carolina Panthers (1-2)
Last week: 25
Even though Cam Newton had worse numbers in Week 3, the Panthers still got their first win. For them to contend in the NFC South, their going to need more production from their running backs who have disappointed so far this year. You know the running game's bad when the quarterback leads the team in rushing with only 98 yards.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)
Last week: 30
Now had to be the right time to replace Luke McCown with Blaine Gabbert. The Jaguars have nothing to lose with a lackluster passing game that's last in the league. Gabbert will likely need to throw even more this week for the Jags to keep up with the high-scoring Saints.
27. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)
Last week: 6
This may seem like an overreaction but I get the feeling that there are some serious problems with the Eagles. Their defense even that supposedly All-Pro secondary has underachieved so far. Vick's rant about the referees shows that stress is building up and if the Eagles don't start winning soon, things could get very ugly for a team that expected a lot this year.
28. Kansas City Chiefs (0-3)
Last week: 31
As bad as the Chiefs have been this year, there is some hope on the horizon. Their next two games are against the winless Vikings and the winless Colts. If they can't get a win during this stretch, their first win could come late in the season or even not at all.
29. Minnesota Vikings (0-3)
Last week: 28
Giving three consecutive games away after winning at halftime is so bad, it almost requires a special lack of talent to do so. The Vikings have become so accustomed to choking that it doesn't seem any first-half lead is safe for them. Maybe against an offense as bad as the Chiefs they'll be able to hold a lead and finally get a win.
30. Miami Dolphins (0-3)
Last week: 27
The main question surrounding the Dolphins 2011 season is will Tony Sparano be fired before the season ends. Every sign indicates that the Dolphins are expecting a terrible year that will result in a lot of changes over the offseason. At this point and with a division as difficult as the AFC East, they may be the current favorite for drafting Andrew Luck next season.
31. Indianapolis Colts (0-3)
Last week: 30
It's encouraging to see the Colts gave so much effort even if it did end in a loss. Last Sunday's game also showed that veterans like Dwight Freeney and Joseph Addai have enough pride to play hard for a team short on hope. At this point it looks like Curtis Painter gives them a far better chance to win than the aged Kerry Collins so hopefully they will give him a chance.
32. St. Louis Rams (0-3)
Last week: 17
This has got to be the worst case scenario for the beginning of the Rams season. They are the only team this season to lose every game by 12 or more points. While it's true that their schedule is brutally hard, the crazy amount of injuries and their inability to even come close to beating quality teams suggests that they won't even be able to contend in a weak NFC West.