As the NFL season progresses, we continue to see which surprises from the start of the year were flukes and which are for real. Records aren't everything at this point, but the squads that keep losing are running out of time to turn things around.
For every disappointing showing, however—such as the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints—there are a bunch of squads that have exceeded expectations and look like the real deal. Over the past week, a few teams have especially changed their outlook with strong performances.
Here is a look at power rankings for the league through three weeks along with a breakdown of the top risers since last week.
|2015 NFL Power Rankings - Week 4|
|1||New England Patriots||3-0|
|2||Green Bay Packers||3-0|
|13||Kansas City Chiefs||1-2|
|15||New York Jets||2-1|
|17||San Diego Chargers||1-2|
|20||St. Louis Rams||1-2|
|22||New York Giants||1-2|
|25||San Francisco 49ers||1-2|
|30||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1-2|
|31||New Orleans Saints||0-3|
|via Rob Goldberg|
Although the latest win came against backup quarterback Brandon Weeden, the Atlanta Falcons once again looked impressive offensively.
After the Falcons went down 14 points three different times against the Dallas Cowboys, Devonta Freeman (193 total yards and three touchdowns) and Julio Jones (164 receiving yards and two touchdowns) stepped up to earn a 39-28 win. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle discussed Jones' ability:
He has helped lead an offense that is top five in the NFL in both points and yards and should continue at this pace for the majority of the season.
Meanwhile, the defense has its flaws, but a few individual performers have helped carry the load on that side of the ball. Vic Beasley has created a much-needed pass rush, while Desmond Trufant is quickly becoming one of the top cornerbacks in the league.
New head coach Dan Quinn has brought everyone together to get the most out of the roster, earning high praise from people like ESPN's Mike Greenberg:
With the schedule staying relatively easy over the next couple of months, the Falcons have what it takes to run away with the NFC South.
It's fun to mock the Oakland Raiders, but this team has looked good over the past two weeks. Now that he is healthy, Derek Carr has taken over with 665 passing yards, five touchdowns and one interception in the past two games.
The Raiders have loaded the offense with weapons such as Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree at receiver and Latavius Murray at running back, and all of these players have come through with big performances already this season.
Still, the real surprise has been the play of the offensive line. Josh Dubow of the Associated Press noted how well the unit has performed:
With young stars all over the field who are only getting better, this offense has a chance to be one of the top-scoring teams in the NFL.
At this point, the biggest weakness by far is in the defensive secondary. The front seven has done its job against the run, but after allowing the third-most passing yards in the league, there is a bit of a concern there. That said, Oakland is miles ahead of where it was last year at this time and is a legitimate threat to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
After a dreadful Week 1 performance against the San Francisco 49ers, it seemed like the Minnesota Vikings were among the worst teams in the league. That mindset has changed with two solid wins over the Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers.
The defense has been impressive, ranking fifth in the league in points allowed. According to Pro Football Focus, the unit has been even better than this as the No. 4-ranked defense in the NFL.
Pairing this defense with an efficient, run-based offense has been a good recipe for success.
Adrian Peterson is back to being a dominant running back with 260 rushing yards over the past two games. He also explained his thoughts on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and his mindset, per ESPN's Ben Goessling:
While this might be insulting to Christian Ponder, there is a lot of faith in Bridgewater despite his slow start. He just needs to keep up his high completion percentage (67.6 percent) and avoid turnovers while handing the ball off to Peterson for the rest of the year.
A tough road game against the Denver Broncos could set this team back in Week 4, but the squad should be able to continue its strong play throughout the season.
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