NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank After Week 3?

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterSeptember 24, 2012

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank After Week 3?

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    A new week, a new top team. Welcome to the NFL.

    Just when the hype surrounding the San Francisco 49ers as the top team in the NFL started to become accepted, the Minnesota Vikings change everything. For the first time in the regular season, the San Francisco 49ers are not the top team. So, who is?

    The Houston Texans made their case. The Atlanta Falcons are an impressive 3-0. What about those red-hot Arizona Cardinals?

    Our Week 4 edition of the power rankings are here. Where does your team come out?

32. Cleveland Browns

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    At 0-3, the Cleveland Browns are essentially who we thought they were. This isn't a team who was expected to make a playoff run, instead the Browns are in a position to evaluate the young talent on their team in hopes of building toward the future.

    Week 3 was the least encouraging game for the Browns as a unit, but they did get nice flashes from running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden. The two rookies are proving to be worthwhile pieces to the Cleveland foundation.

    The season won't bring many wins, but the Browns are set up with young talent for the future.

31. Miami Dolphins

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    The Dolphins were close to securing a second-straight win, but poor coaching decisions and lackluster play resulted in a loss to the New York Jets. The Dolphins are now 1-2 with many issues to address.

    The good news is that rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill is playing better than expected. For a player with less than 20 career starts at quarterback in college, Tannehill has quickly adjusted to the NFL—thanks in part to the hiring of his former head coach Mike Sherman to run the Miami offense. Tannehill has been sharp, and even in defeat played well versus New York.

    Miami won't be an easy out for anyone this year, but they're far from being a playoff contender. Expect the front office to look heavily at the available wide receivers in the 2013 NFL draft.

30. Oakland Raiders

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    No one outside of Oakland picked the Raiders to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially in an offensive shootout, but Dennis Allen's team rose to the occasion. The Raiders are now 1-2.

    What the Raiders can take away from Week 3 is that their offense finally got going. Sure they beat up on a banged up Steelers defense, but Carson Palmer played perhaps his best game as a Raider on Sunday, and that's worth building on.

    If Palmer can get going, and if the offensive line can gel to a point where they can successfully run the ball, the Raiders are good enough on defense to win some games if the offense can keep up.

29. New York Jets

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    The New York Jets may have won, but don't let that fool you. This is not a good football team.

    The Jets have problems on offense, and it all starts at quarterback. Mark Sanchez may be a "winner," but he is also a liability. Sanchez was inept in Week 3, highlighting a lingering problem—the Jets cannot move the ball against solid defenses (and calling the Miami Dolphins a solid defense might be a stretch).

    Defensively, the Jets are capable, but that won't be the case with Darrelle Revis' knee injury being serious enough to keep him out for the year. Without Revis, the Jets will be exploited early and often.

28. Indianapolis Colts

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    There will be plenty of good, and plenty of bad, in a season that is dedicated to the Indianapolis Colts developing their young offense. 

    Andrew Luck hasn't been otherwordly, but he's been very good. Luck continues to do the little things well, but he's prone to a few bad throws and a turnover per game. As Luck learns and grows, there will be more good than bad, but that's going to take some patience.

    Defensively, the Colts look tough. Chuck Pagano's unit is playing hard-hitting football, but they lack the playmakers to close games. That could change once Dwight Freeney is back in the lineup.

27. New Orleans Saints

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    Can we go ahead and give Sean Payton the MVP award?

    That may be tongue-in-cheek, but Payton is sorely missed. It was easy to point to the presence of Drew Brees at quarterback and assume that everything would run as usual for the offense this season, but that hasn't been the case thus far.

    Whether it's Payton's suspension, the fact that Brees missed much of the offseason in a contract dispute, or the loss of key free agents Carl Nicks and Robert Meachem, something is missing for this Saints offense.

    Until the Saints can get this figured out, the losses will keep piling up.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    There will be good days and bad days for the Jacksonville Jaguars. This was a good day.

    Blaine Gabbert wasn't great, but he showed up when it mattered most. His game-winning touchdown throw to Cecil Shorts was a flash of brilliance that should give fans in Jacksonville hope for the future.

    It definitely helps that Maurice Jones-Drew went off, gouging the Colts defense for 177 yards. If the Jaguars offense can keep up a similar pace, their defense will keep them in games.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    There is no doubting that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be tough to beat all year—you can thank Greg Schiano for that—but there are major question marks on this roster.

    Josh Freeman was 10 of 28 for 110 yards against the Dallas Cowboys defense. Those aren't NFL-caliber numbers, folks. The good news is that Doug Martin continues to impress at running back, and the defense is able to keep games close.

    Until Freeman shows he can be a consistent and efficient quarterback, trusting the Buccaneers is a risky proposition.

24. Carolina Panthers

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    For the Carolina Panthers to compete in the NFC South, Cam Newton has to be better than he was against the New York Giants Thursday night. End of story.

    The Panthers defense was able to do some good things, and they'll get better as their young starters gel, but on offense more is needed and expected. Newton looked lost at times trying to discern the Giants' pass coverage, and he never was able to get comfortable with what Perry Fewell's defense was showing him.

    Newton is talented enough to turn it around, and he'll have to if the Panthers hope to make a push for the playoffs.

23. San Diego Chargers

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    Has anyone been impressed with Philip Rivers this year? 

    Rivers is supposed to be an elite quarterback, but so far this season (and even most of last year), he hasn't looked like the player we saw previously. Rivers' poor play can be blamed on his offensive line or a change in his wide receiver corps, but something is definitely off.

    Rivers' issues were on fully display against the Atlanta Falcons. With only three points coming from the offense, San Diego couldn't keep up with what may now be considered a truly elite team. Our bet is that the rest of the season follows suit in similar fashion.

22. Seattle Seahawks

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    The replacement refs won one for the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night. Point blank.

    There were good signs from the Seattle play, notably their eight sack performance in the second quarter. Russell Wilson played great football down the stretch. Brandon Browner and the secondary were as good as anyone has ever been against the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay offense. But that won't be the story this week. The refs will be.

    It's too bad that Seattle's solid play, and 2-1 record, will be overshadowed by the worst officiating the NFL has ever seen.

21. Minnesota Vikings

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    The Minnesota Vikings did the unthinkable on Sunday—they beat the San Francisco 49ers. Now they have to build on that momentum.

    The Vikings were able to win by beating the 49ers at their own game. They played physical on both sides of the ball, hitting hard and running the ball between the tackles. Christian Ponder was both efficient and creative at quarterback, giving the Vikings the spark they needed to shock the 49ers and the rest of the NFL.

    Can they keep it up? It's doubtful Minnesota will parlay this win into a playoff run, but there are very promising signs here. Ponder, Matt Kalil and the Minnesota offense will surprise people this season. Bet on it.

20. Kansas City Chiefs

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    The key to the Kansas City Chiefs turning an 0-2 start into a playoff run? Jamaal Charles.

    The Chiefs were able to get their first win on Sunday in a shootout with the New Orleans Saints, and they did that largely due to Charles' big plays on the ground. It started with a 91-yard sprint to the end zone that changed the tide of the game. Charles finished with 233 yards on the day and the Chiefs moved to 1-2.

    Kansas CIty obviously isn't out of it in the AFC West after just three contests, but to fulfill their preseason expectations the defense has to improve in a hurry. Allowing more than 24 points in each of their three games, the Chiefs defense is an obvious weak link right now.

19. Washington Redskins

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    The Washington Redskins aren't likely to see the playoffs this year, but there are few teams more exciting to watch each Sunday.

    Robert Griffin III has been electric from the start of the season, and that's carrying over to the entire roster. Griffin has been the spark the Redskins franchise needed, and he's opening things up for guys like Alfred Morris to have big impacts on offense. The Redskins can score, but keeping the opposition from scoring has been an issue.

    Losing Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker hurts this team more than most would acknowledge. Ryan Kerrigan will have to step up and become a leader and a playmaker for the Redskins defense going forward.

18. St. Louis Rams

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    The St. Louis Rams are 1-2. A hard fought 1-2. Jeff Fisher's team may not always show up in the win column, but they are one of the hardest teams to beat each week. 

    The development of Sam Bradford should be the story of the Rams' season. Bradford has been rejuvenated under Brian Schottenheimer's tutelage, showing off the accuracy and vision that made him the top overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Bradford will be in the running for Comeback Player of the Year.

    On defense you can see the pieces coming together, but the Rams are still unable to do enough to close out games. As the defense grows more confident, St. Louis will become an even tougher team to beat.

17. Tennessee Titans

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    You don't usually think of the Tennessee Titans as an offensive juggernaut, but they played like one in their latest outing.

    Jake Locker led the Titans to a 44-point output, enough to beat the Detroit Lions in a thrilling overtime win. Locker's 378 yards passing were a career high, but they also showed that, when needed, he can be a big-play quarterback who attacks the secondary with downfield throws.

    You can't say much good about a defense that allows 41 points, but a win is a win for the Titans at this point. 

16. Buffalo Bills

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    Breath is being held in Buffalo tonight, as the team waits to find out the status of running back C.J. Spiller.

    Spiller was playing at an All-Pro level at running back, averaging over nine yards per carry through three games.

    Spiller's shoulder injury is concerning, especially since he didn't return after going down versus the Browns. Without Spiller and with Fred Jackson still on the shelf, the Bills would be relying on Tashard Choice to carry the load.

    On any given week, this team can win. The defense is definitely good enough, and with Jackson and/or Spiller, the offense is too.

15. Philadelphia Eagles

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    We knew the 2-0 Philadelphia Eagles were winning by playing ugly football. That came back to bite them in Week 3, as their now-2-1 record clearly indicates.

    What's also clear is that the Eagles don't know what they have on offense. With one of the NFL's best running backs in LeSean McCoy, Andy Reid dialed up 37 Michael Vick passes and just 13 McCoy runs. That's skewed due to the team falling behind on the scoreboard early, but still highlights the issue with the Eagles' game plan eack week—McCoy isn't being used enough.

    Reid is better than he's shown this season, and there will come a time where the lightbulb flashes and he realizes that McCoy, not Vick, is the key to his offense.

14. Dallas Cowboys

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    It wasn't pretty, but the Dallas Cowboys moved to 2-1 with a 16-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In a tight NFC East race, every win counts for Big D.

    What can Dallas take away from this game? First they have to realize that Dez Bryant is their best offensive weapon. Not Tony Romo, not Jason Witten and not DeMarco Murray—Bryant is the electric player they must find ways to get the ball to. Expect Jerry Jones to be on this ASAP.

    The defense is tough, especially when they are playing with a lead. DeMarcus Ware is a one-man wrecking crew in front of a secondary that is dramatically improved this year. 

    We say this every year it seems, but Dallas is for real. 

13. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Before the season my prediction for the Pittsburgh Steelers was 8-8 and missing the playoffs. Their 1-2 start is reinforcing that belief.

    The Steelers had every chance to win in Week 3, but they let the Oakland Raiders get back in the game. The problems are two-fold for Pittsburgh: The offense is too conservative and the defense has too many holes (the same issues we pointed out in the preseason).

    Injuries are an issue right now, but there's no guarantee that James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and Rashard Mendenhall will be the difference-makers the team hopes they can be upon their returnr. If and when remains to be seen.

12. Chicago Bears

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    The Chicago Bears' season is proving to be a roller-coaster ride. And it's just three games in.

    The Bears were able to win in Week 3, pushing their record to 2-1 with an impressive all-around win over the St. Louis Rams. These are the Bears we thought would take an NFC wild-card spot, unlike the Week 2 Bears who fell apart versus the Green Bay Packers.

    If the Bears can play consistently, they'll win 10 games (or more) and take home a wild-card berth. The offense is that good, the defense that dominant. The challenge is getting that consistency, especially on offense.

11. Denver Broncos

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    The Denver Broncos have lost two games. Both games were against two of the better defenses in the NFL—Houston and Atlanta. 

    For all the good in Denver, can we officially question Peyton Manning's arm strength now? Manning is still very good, maybe even elite, but he's clearly lacking compared to the player we saw last in 2010. Manning's velocity is off. His ball placement is affected by passes that lack a tight spiral. Too often balls are going high and wide, all a result of poor velocity. 

    Manning is smart enough to win games without having a top-10 arm, but betting on Denver to make a playoff run with a less-than-elite Manning isn't something to do lightly. Manning may improve over the course of the season, but there's also a chance that his arm wears down. What happens over the next 14 weeks will be very interesting.

10. Detroit Lions

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    It may not seem like it, but the Detroit Lions are 1-2. Their only win came over the St. Louis Rams in Week 1, and it was a four-point win at that.

    The Lions were expected to be great, but after three games that's not what the product on the field says. There are questions on defense, especially in the secondary. A struggling run game will be helped by Mikel Leshoure, but the passing game hasn't been as effective this season. 

    The Lions aren't in panic mode yet, but if you had to pick a 2011 playoff team who wouldn't return in 2012, betting on Detroit at this point would make a lot of sense.

9. Arizona Cardinals

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    Are the Arizona Cardinals for real? 

    With a 3-0 record and wins over the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks, it's time to consider that the Cardinals just might be pretty damn good. 

    Winners of 10 of their last 11, the Cardinals' momentum started last year. Now they are one of two undefeated teams in the NFC (along with the Falcons) and first in the NFC West. And no, this isn't an article from Twilight Zone.

    The Cardinals are winning despite having an offensive line that struggles in pass protection, and without an elite (or even solid) quarterback. They're winning with strong defense, game-manager worthy play from Kevin Kolb, and big plays in big moments. 

    The Cardinals are 3-0, and we can't ignore them any longer.

8. Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Cincinnati Bengals are well on their way to a second-straight playoff appearance. This year they may show up as division champions instead of a wild-card team.

    Fans will want to claim the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) or Baltimore Ravens (2-1) will take the AFC North, but this isn't your dad's NFL—this is the league of parity and an ever-changing environment. This is a league where the Arizona Cardinals can be 3-0 and the New Orleans Saints can be 0-3.

    Those sleeping on the Bengals will wake up soon enough. And when they do there will be a realization that this young offense is loaded with playmakers, and that Mike Zimmer's defense is good enough to hang with anyone on a weekly basis.

7. New York Giants

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    Same ol' New York Giants. And that's a good thing.

    The Giants were picked by every suit at the desk to lose to the Carolina Panthers on the NFL Network's Thursday night game, and yet they were able to completely dismantle the Panthers. And they did it on the road, coming off a short week.

    The Giants are the definition of team football. The defense is powered each week by a different playmaker, usually someone on the defensive line. The offense revolves around Eli Manning, but there is room for unknowns like Victor Cruz circa 2011 and Andre Brown circa 2012 to make plays. 

    The Giants aren't sexy, they're just dangerous.

6. New England Patriots

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    The loss to the Arizona Cardinals will hang over their heads for weeks, but the New England Patriots' loss to the Baltimore Ravens could mess up their season.

    It's rare that a Bill Belichick-coached team would lose two straight games, but that's reality today. The Patriots are 1-2 after two close losses, both decided in the closing seconds. The AFC East is wide open, but it's also only Week 4.

    To think that the Patriots won't be ready to roll by the time the playoffs get here is hard to fathom. This is a team with major strengths on offense and in the defensive front seven. The problem (still) is the play of the secondary. Until the New England cornerbacks can lock down a passing game, the Patriots will be vulnerable on defense.

5. Green Bay Packers

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    You know why the Green Bay Packers don't see a dramatic move down this week? Because they didn't lose.

    Sure, the standings will show they are 1-2, but we all know they aren't really 1-2. 

    In what was the worst officiating call ever made, the Packers were handed a loss by the referees. This was after coming back from an eight-sack second quarter. The Packers rallied, and their halftime adjustments were spot-on. 

    Coming back from this loss will be tough, but the Packers have to. And chances are they'll be pissed off and ready to go.

4. Baltimore Ravens

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    At this point in the year, records mean little. It's a long season, and where teams rank in the standings after three weeks can be misleading. That said, the Baltimore Ravens must feel good about their win over the Patriots and their 2-1 record.

    By the time Week 17 ends, the Ravens will be a 10-win team (at worst) and looking at a playoff berth.

    The Ravens are poised for a run to a Super Bowl. Once Terrell Suggs is healthy the defense will be even better. Once Kelechi Osemele and Ramon Harewood gel and mature on the offensive line, the run game will take off. 

    When it all comes together, the Ravens will be making a run deep into the postseason.

3. Atlanta Falcons

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    The Atlanta Falcons are 3-0, tops in the NFC South and tied for first in the NFC. It's been a good year.

    The smart money was on the Falcons to win the South this year, but they're doing it in impressive fashion. Going on the road to keep the San Diego Chargers offense to three points? No problem. The Falcons are winning, and building a ton of momentum in the meantime.

    Atlanta features an electric offense loaded with playmakers and a solid defense that's bolstered by lunch-pail-type players at linebacker and defensive tackle. Perhaps most impressive is the play of the secondary, even with Brent Grimes missing due to injury.

    The Falcons are quietly building a resume that would make them the favorite in the NFC.

2. San Francisco 49ers

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    It will be an interesting week for the San Francisco 49ers, but don't let a 2-1 record fool you—this is still an elite team.

    The 49ers may not have the best record in the league, or their division, but no one with a pulse and a bit of football knowledge should be jumping ship on the season. The 49ers lost, and it will most likely happen again. It's a long season, and dropping a tough game in Week 3 shouldn't be cause for panic.

    The key is fixing what's broken. Alex Smith has to be more efficient, and the way to do that may be going back to a two-read offense like they rolled out against the Green Bay Packers. Perhaps that means running the ball earlier to establish a tone and tempo for the game. Whatever Jim Harbaugh decides was wrong, you can expect a quick fix.

    Panic shouldn't set in—the 49ers weren't the league's best team in Week 3, but it's a long season.

1. Houston Texans

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    There's a new No. 1 team in the NFL. The Houston Texans, for the first time in the history of this series, are ranked as the best team in the game.

    It's well deserved. 

    The Texans are playing the type of all-around football that will allow them to win games over the course of a long season—strong defense, led by a fierce pass rush, and an offense that's predicated on running the ball with Arian Foster and working play-action to exploit aggressive safety play. It's a recipe that's tough to beat.

    Mention must be made to the play of J.J. Watt, who is making a strong argument for MVP through three weeks. Watt has been unstoppable from his defensive end position, providing a spark that's caught fire on both sides of the ball in Houston.