NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 4?

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterSeptember 22, 2014

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 4?

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    We entered Week 3 with seven undefeated teams in the NFL; we leave with three.

    Many teams were put on notice in Week 3, while others were exposed a bit. Most people knew the Houston Texans weren't a true contender, despite their 2-0 record, and we saw that Sunday with their struggles against the previously winless New York Giants.

    The stories of the week, though, may be the embarrassing defeats suffered by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (56-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (44-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts). Much was learned in Week 3, and the writing on the wall says these two teams are at the bottom of the league right now.

    Which team does come in ranked last? How about first? Find out inside.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3)

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were absolutely embarrassed Thursday night at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. The 56-14 score doesn't even begin to highlight how ugly this game was for Tampa, and that's why the Bucs see a move down one spot to the bottom of the rankings.

    Lovie Smith's team is winless through three games after spending big money in free agency to correct issues left over from Greg Schiano's reign as head coach. But to date, the team looks just as bad—with perhaps less talent, but not as many undisciplined mistakes. 

    Smith needs to right this ship fast, and his first move in that direction should be keeping Mike Glennon in at quarterback.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3)

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    Week 3 served as a reminder that the Jacksonville Jaguars are not ready to compete in the AFC South. The Indianapolis Colts dominated the game in every aspect and cruised to a 44-17 win. The silver lining of this loss is that No. 3 overall pick Blake Bortles came in at quarterback and got valuable experience.

    The future is now for the Jaguars, though, with head coach Gus Bradley already announcing that Bortles will start for the team next week, with Chad Henne benched. The Jaguars are very young on offense with Bortles and three rookie receivers (Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns) on the field, but this is the future of the franchise.

    The standings may not be kind to Jacksonville this week, but the coaches are making the right call to get Bortles and Co. experience now.

30. Tennessee Titans (1-2)

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    The Tennessee Titans and new head coach Ken Whisenhunt are struggling, and it all starts at quarterback. Jake Locker has not been consistently good enough to keep this offense afloat, and even when he is good, the line play has been an issue. The future is first-rounder Taylor Lewan, and we saw him in garbage time during Week 3.

    Locker may not be the answer in Tennessee, but Whisenhunt and his staff must figure that out over the next 14 weeks. Expectations were not high for the Titans entering year one of the Whisenhunt era, so he can be patient and make sure the evaluation of his roster is complete.

    For now, the Titans move down after a thorough beating by the Cincinnati Bengals.

29. Oakland Raiders (0-3)

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    The Oakland Raiders lost in Week 3, but they still move up the rankings. How does that work?

    When you travel to New England and play the Patriots close for four quarters, you're going to move up from No. 32 overall. It also helps that the Jaguars and Buccaneers were completely torn down this week. By virtue of these criteria, the Raiders move up.

    Rookies Derek Carr and Khalil Mack both played impressive football against the Patriots, and it's easy to see the talent on this roster starting to come together. The Raiders are getting better every week, and while they may not be competitors in the AFC West, they're going to be a tough out this season. 

28. St. Louis Rams (1-2)

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    Jeff Fisher's St. Louis Rams are on their third starting quarterback this season, and still yet they put up a fight against the Dallas Cowboys in a game that called for the offense to produce big in a shootout. 

    Austin Davis, the pride of Southern Miss, has held his own at quarterback with Sam Bradford and Shaun Hill injured, and the Rams are getting production from Brian Quick—a 2012 second-round pick who looked like a bust before this year. 

    The Rams are still looking for their rhythm on offense and their pass rush on defense, but the way they played Dallas and the improvement Davis is showing at quarterback warrants a move up.

27. Houston Texans (2-1)

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    When the Houston Texans hopped out to a 2-0 start, no one expected that run to continue much longer. That said, a matchup against the New York Giants was thought to be more even than the 30-17 final score showed. The Texans' loss means they move down this week.

    With Ryan Fitzpatrick struggling again, the Ryan Mallett era may be coming soon. Mallett knows Bill O'Brien's offense from New England and is an upgrade in terms of pure throwing talent. Fitzpatrick may be more conservative and efficient, but the Texans need a shot in the arm right now. And honestly, it won't hurt to try at this point.

26. New York Giants (1-2)

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    The New York Giants get a much-needed win in Week 3, but let's remember that it did come against the Houston Texans. The win means a move up, but the opponent keeps the Giants from making too much of a jump up the board.

    Ell Manning and the offense showed what they can do against a secondary that lacks the talent to match up with the likes of Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz, but the real hero of the day was an efficient, smart Manning. If he can keep that level of play up, there is enough talent around him to make things work. The Giants will need the offensive line to play like it did in Week 3 for that to happen consistently, though.

25. Minnesota Vikings (1-2)

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    The Teddy Bridgewater era is here.

    Matt Cassel left the game, and it was later announced by head coach Mike Zimmer that the veteran quarterback has multiple broken bones in his foot. That opens the door for the first-round pick to come in at quarterback and start the future a few weeks early.

    Bridgewater played well with few reps throughout the week and with the game plan not designed for him. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner did a smart thing by giving him screen passes and a designed run early to ease him into the game, and Bridgewater responded with poised play against an attacking New Orleans defense.

    The Vikings' loss, though, showed continued issues along the offensive line. Until the front five can protect Bridgewater, he'll be running for his life on an offense that doesn't feature a legitimate run threat without Adrian Peterson.

24. Miami Dolphins (1-2)

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    A loss to the Kansas City Chiefs moves the Miami Dolphins down this week. If you're wondering what happened to the team that beat the New England Patriots in Week 1, so is everyone else.

    The Dolphins looked lost Sunday, allowing a Kansas City team with a depleted offensive line and no Jamaal Charles to run all over them. Backup runner Knile Davis went off for 132 yards, and Alex Smith threw three touchdowns as the Dolphins looked completely overmatched.

    This is a team with talent, but it's clearly on notice after a second straight disappointing loss.

23. Washington (1-2)

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    Getting close may only count in horseshoes and hand grenades, but Jay Gruden's team was so close to a win in Week 3. Playing the Philadelphia Eagles so closely—with a backup quarterback in—is reason for a nice move up in the rankings.

    It's easy to see that Washington is a better team with Kirk Cousins running the offense right now, and as he gets more comfortable in the lineup, we can expect this team to get better each week. As long as Alfred Morris can keep producing the way he has this year, Washington is going to be competitive each week.

    The Eagles were the better team Sunday, but the fight in this team is noticeable. 

22. Cleveland Browns (1-2)

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    The heartbreak in Cleveland continues. For a third straight week, the game came down to a field goal. And for a third straight week, Brian Hoyer was efficient on offense, but the secondary let the team down. In Week 1 it was Justin Gilbert hurting the team at cornerback, and in Week 3 it was Joe Haden getting torched by Steve Smith that cost the Browns the game.

    If three weeks can teach us anything, it's that the Browns are close but not quite ready to compete in the AFC North. Hoyer's play has to be encouraging, and there are bright flashes from Isaiah Crowell or Andrew Hawkins every week, but right now, Cleveland is not a complete enough team to consistently win close games.

21. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2)

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    The Kansas City Chiefs went to Miami without Jamaal Charles, with a beat-up offensive line and with the defense yet to play up to its potential. And then Andy Reid and Co. put it all together for a definitive win over the Dolphins.

    The Chiefs got a huge game from running back Knile Davis, and the defense clamped down in a 34-15 win. That's the type of complete-game performance the Chiefs are capable of but haven't had a chance to show due to injuries and suspensions.

    With Donald Stephenson coming back from suspension after Week 4, the offense should be better—especially with No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher showing improvement at left tackle. The Chiefs had a slow start, but they're good enough to win ballgames.

20. Buffalo Bills (2-1)

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    The Buffalo Bills came back to reality in Week 3 at the hands of the San Diego Chargers. When facing a defense with talent in the secondary and a good pass rush, the EJ Manuel-led offense struggled as expected.

    The Bills are a talented team, but they will only go as far as their quarterback can take them. The defense and run game make you think they could win with efficient play from Manuel, and they did in the first two games. What they can't afford to do is play from behind, though, as Manuel's game fell apart once the Bills were forced into passing situations.

    The talent here is promising—especially along the line, at receiver and in the defensive front seven—but the Bills look destined to beat up bad defenses while struggling to win tougher games.

19. San Francisco 49ers (1-2)

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    Something is not right with the San Francisco 49ers, and it may start at the top.

    Jim Harbaugh's team has jumped out to early leads in three straight games, but so far this year, it has scored just three points in the second half. A team once known for dominant defense and hard running is going away from the run once it gets a lead and too often letting the opposition get back into the game with three-and-out play-calling on offense. Penalties are another major problem, and that's coming on both sides of the ball.

    The undisciplined play is shocking, and a comeback loss for the second straight week should open many eyes as to who this team really is. The 49ers were Super Bowl contenders before the season began, but right now, they look like a talented team with no direction. A playoff berth may be asking too much.

    It's a big move down in Week 3, but the 49ers' play warrants it. 

18. Dallas Cowboys (2-1)

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    In the NFL, a win is a win. But barely beating the Austin Davis-led St. Louis Rams after starting the game down 21-0 is scary for the Dallas Cowboys.

    The 34-31 victory proved that Dallas can score points, but the defense regressed from the play shown in the first two weeks. With little pass rush, Davis was able to carve up the Dallas secondary and make Morris Claiborne look like one of the NFL's worst starting cornerbacks.

    The lack of defense will be a year-long issue in Dallas, but if the offense can play like it did this week, Jason Garrett's ballclub may survive on a weekly basis. To impress enough to move up in these rankings, the Cowboys need to show up against lesser-talented teams like St. Louis.

17. New York Jets (1-2)

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    The New York Jets continue to play tough football despite injuries that have decimated the secondary and offensive play calling that's flat-out offensive. Rex Ryan's team is always a tough matchup, but the 2014 edition seems to be hurting themselves as much as losing to good opponents.

    The stat line will show Geno Smith throwing two interceptions, and his fourth quarter pass that was picked off by Kyle Fuller in the endzone was a terrible throw and a game changer, but the young quarterback showed promise. With fewer drops and a little better rhythm to the play calls, the Jets could have relied on more than field goals.

    The Jets are fighting an uphill battle right now, and the team looks like an 8-8 group again this year. 

16. Detroit Lions (2-1)

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    The Detroit Lions are a tough team to figure out. After beating the New York Giants handily in the season opener, they were shut down by the Carolina Panthers in Week 2. The Week 3 matchup against Green Bay was supposed to prove whether or not they're for real—and on both sides of the ball, Jim Caldwell's team showed up big.

    The defense should take home game balls for its ability to hold Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense to just seven points. The Lions offense wasn't great, but it did enough to win the game. It was a day in which the overall team speed—from guys like Reggie Bush and DeAndre Levy—made all the difference.

    Beat a top-10 team and you're bound to move up, and the Lions do. They're poised to make a bigger jump after Monday Night Football. 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)

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    Which version of the Pittsburgh Steelers is for real?

    The team that beat the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte with a dominant pass rush and run game, or the team that barely beat the Cleveland Browns and lost to the Baltimore Ravens by 20 points? It's tough to say, but the Steelers do move up in the rankings this week.

    If the defense has made adjustments to attack the backfield, this could be a team to watch. However, it's also very likely that this defense simply beat up on a bad Carolina offensive line. That is a group with many new faces, and most of them are not high-level NFL starters.

    If the Steelers can keep this up, they'll continue to move up the board. For at least one week, they're one of the league's biggest movers.

14. Green Bay Packers (1-2)

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    When the schedules came out, everyone knew the Green Bay Packers would have a tough test to start the season. But a 1-2 record was not expected—nor was this high-powered offense only scoring seven points in a loss to the Detroit Lions.

    The Packers were shut down in Week 3, and the Lions' 19-7 win showed that they were taken off their game. This was the worst offensive performance I've seen from the Packers offense with Aaron Rodgers not injured, and it cost them a winnable game in the division.

    The Packers, like the 49ers, have the talent to climb out of this hole, but the division is tough and the schedule won't do them too many favors. 

13. Chicago Bears (2-1)

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    The Chicago Bears are a banged up team right now, but they're found ways to beat the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 and then played to the wire in a physical dog fight win against the New York Jets. No one will question this team's toughness heading into Week 4.

    The Bears were not perfect on Monday night, but Jay Cutler's offense did enough and the defense capitalized on mistakes that led to the win. Kyle Fuller was fantastic again too, quickly making his mark felt with two forced fumbles and a redzone interception.

    The Bears move up this week, and are quickly looking like the best team in the NFC North.

12. New Orleans Saints (1-2)

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    The New Orleans Saints finally got the win everyone was waiting for. Sure, it took meeting the Minnesota Vikings without Adrian Peterson and with Matt Cassel getting hurt to get the first "W," but it still counts in the record books.

    The Saints did look better all-around on Sunday, and they showed more fight than we'd previously seen from them. Rob Ryan's defense dialed up big pressure on the Minnesota quarterbacks, and the talent at safety and outside linebacker was able to shine.

    The Saints have to play consistently, though, and that's been an issue thus far. Betting on them as a true contender right now is tough after the evidence shown through three weeks.

11. Indianapolis Colts (1-2)

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    It took a run-in with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Indianapolis Colts to get their first win of the season. Now the question remains—was the opening schedule just that tough, or are the Colts a subpar team?

    The AFC South competition won't be great for the Colts; they're just better than their counterparts there. But can they go farther than the division? If Sunday is an indication, yes, but the competition also was not great. It's a good warm-up game and a confidence booster after seeing the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles in the first two weeks.

    The Colts are still a smart pick to win the South, but this isn't a top-tier team yet.

10. Carolina Panthers (2-1)

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    Before the season, the big concerns surrounding the Carolina Panthers were the revamped offensive line and the inexperience at wide receiver. In the first two weeks of the season, neither unit looked to be an issue, but against the Pittsburgh Steelers, both positions cost the team the game.

    The offensive line was routinely dominated by the Steelers' three-man-rush, to a point where Cam Newton was nursing an injured ankle and ribs. He eventually left the game late after the Steelers put the game out of reach. The young wide receivers made some great plays, but rookie Philly Brown also twice fumbled a punt that led to a Pittsburgh touchdown.

    Are the Panthers a real contender? They looked like it through two games, but there's doubt about that now. Week 4 against the Baltimore Ravens will be a proving ground for both teams.

9. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

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    A last-second win over the Cleveland Browns is not what the Baltimore Ravens envisioned in Week 3, but a win against a division rival is always a good thing, no matter how it happens. The Ravens move to 2-1 with a big game against the Carolina Panthers looming. 

    The Baltimore defense was tested by Brian Hoyer and the speed of Andrew Hawkins, but it clamped down when needed. The real bright spot was Steve Smith having a monster game—and catching what set up the game-winning field goal—against a talented Cleveland secondary.

    The Ravens have a chance to make a statement in Week 4. We'll all be watching.

8. Atlanta Falcons (2-1)

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    The Atlanta Falcons moved down last week after dropping a game to the Cincinnati Bengals, but a week later, it looks like both Atlanta and Cincinnati are better than expected. The Falcons' 56-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—without Roddy White on the field—is a big reason to move up this week.

    The Falcons were low on the rankings to begin the season based on low expectations following a down year in 2013, injuries along the offensive line and a bad pass rush on paper. There are still questions along the line and on defense, but Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are nearly impossible to stop at this point.

    With the Falcons offense looking red-hot, the team is moving way up after Week 3.

7. Arizona Cardinals (3-0)

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    The Arizona Cardinals are for real, folks.

    With Carson Palmer out, the Cardinals hosted the San Francisco 49ers and played the type of game we've come to expect from Jim Harbaugh's team. Arizona won the game with hard-hitting defense, big plays from various offensive players and smart, no-nonsense efficiency. The 3-0 record is no fluke—Bruce Arians' team is good.

    A road trip to Denver is next on the schedule after a bye in Week 4, and we'll get a good look at just how talented this team is. The Cardinals were helped in Week 3 by the 49ers' meltdown in the second half, but they also got big plays from backup quarterback Drew Stanton under fire and from unsuspecting stars like rookie John Brown. 

    If the Cardinals can beat the Broncos, they'll have everyone's attention. But for now, they earn another move up the board.

6. New England Patriots (2-1)

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    The New England Patriots move down this week in spite of a win. How does that happen? 

    Narrowly beating the Oakland Raiders at home will cause you to move down in the rankings. The Patriots got the win, but they don't look like a top-five team right now. Not with the offensive line struggling—especially at guard—and Tom Brady afraid to throw the ball down the field. Yes, Brady managed this game very well, but the lack of offensive momentum is concerning.

    The defense carried New England on Sunday, and that's a group that will only get better when Brandon Browner is back from suspension after Week 4. But for now, the Patriots' win total goes up, while their overall ranking goes down.

5. San Diego Chargers (2-1)

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    Throughout the week, many fans suggested to me that traveling across the country to play a 10 a.m. PT start time would kill the San Diego Chargers. What they forgot to account for was how well-coached and prepared this team is under Mike McCoy. These are not Norv Turner's Chargers.

    San Diego has shown it can play physical and that it has the depth to withstand injury. With Ryan Mathews already out and Danny Woodhead going down with injury, the Chargers found success on the ground with Donald Brown and Branden Oliver against a good Buffalo front seven. And then there's Philip Rivers, who is playing as well as any quarterback in the league right now.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0)

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    Every young quarterback needs to learn how to win close games—and how he handles that experience is key to his long-term success. Nick Foles has been tested early and often in his second season as a starter, and Sunday, he showed his toughness in playing through brutal hits (legal and illegal) from the Washington defense.

    With so many weapons on offense, the Eagles are able to overcome defensive limitations. Against Washington—a team with a ton of speed on offense—the Eagles were stretched thin, and their lack of pass rush and top-tier cover men was on display. That's why they allowed 34 points. But the key is that they won against a fast-improving team with red-hot quarterback play.

    A 3-0 start for the Eagles keeps them high in the rankings, but the close nature of the game, the massive injuries along the offensive line and the impressive play from Cincinnati moves them down one spot.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0)

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    It's time to have a talk about the Cincinnati Bengals.

    In a conference dominated by the elite quarterback teams (Denver, New England, San Diego), the Bengals are playing as well as anyone. And they've been tested too. Winning against Baltimore and Atlanta to start the season looks better every week, and their Week 3 throttling of the Tennessee Titans showed the firepower and creativity of a great team.

    The Bengals have the pieces on both sides of the ball to do serious damage this year. The biggest test will be in keeping their foot on the gas with a 3-0 start to the season. As of today, though, they are clearly one of the league's best teams.

2. Denver Broncos (2-1)

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    The Denver Broncos lost their perfect record in Week 3, but along the way, they proved they can play with the best of the best by taking the Seattle Seahawks to overtime on their home turf. That alone is a strong case for the Broncos as the AFC's top team, as very few teams have been able to crack the Seahawks' armor at home.

    The brilliance of Peyton Manning and the toughness of Emmanuel Sanders were huge for Denver in the fourth quarter, but the surprise of the game was the undisciplined pass rush in overtime. Against a mobile quarterback, the Broncos defensive ends opted to pin their ears back and go for the sack instead of trying to contain the 5'10 1/2" Russell Wilson and make him play inside the pocket. It was a decision that cost the team the game.

    The Broncos are still favorites to win the AFC, but little mistakes will add up with teams like Cincinnati and San Diego looming close behind them.

1. Seattle Seahawks (2-1)

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    One week after losing on the road to the San Diego Chargers, the Seattle Seahawks reclaimed their spot atop the rankings with an overtime win over the Denver Broncos.

    It was a tale of two games, as the Seahawks routed the Broncos early before fighting off a Peyton Manning comeback. With the first possession in overtime, Russell Wilson simply outplayed the Denver defensive line and nearly took the ball down the field by himself to seal the win.

    As Wilson moves into that top quarterback group—and he's there, don't let anyone tell you differently—the Seahawks become a team that can beat you several ways. The run game, the crushing defense and now the play of Wilson make this the NFL's best team.

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