Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 4

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystSeptember 26, 2016

Chris Simms' NFL Power Rankings Ahead of Week 4

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    I've been on some of the best teams in football.

    I've been on some of the worst teams in football.

    The difference between the two? A handful of plays or decisions. There are no "favorites." There are no "upsets." Just two really prepared teams full of athletes who made it to the highest level in the game.

    Think about that before you look at my Week 3 power rankings. We have a good idea about who the top five to six teams are. Same goes for the bottom five to six. But the margin between those two groups and the rest of the league (a big blur) is growing thinner every season. These rankings reflect that reality.

    Some quick ground rules for any newcomers: I use two factors to rank these teams: (A) how they looked through three weeks of play and (B) how they're set up going forward.

    Disagree with where I slotted your team? I know you'll find me on Twitter (@CSimmsQB) to vent.

32. Chicago Bears

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Current record: 0-3

    Last week: 32 (same)

    It's tough enough to stay up for Sunday Night Football when you're an old man like me.

    I don't need the Bears offense to help put me to sleep. This group just has no explosive ability—with Jay Cutler or Brian Hoyer under center.

    Alshon Jeffery's injury turned this into a snoozefest. Kevin White is still raw and can't challenge a defensive coordinator. So, it was up to Hoyer and a below-average running game.

    Defensively, injuries are starting to take their toll. You saw what Ezekiel Elliott did without run-stuffers such as Eddie Goldman and Danny Trevathan in the middle. Expect that to continue for my bottom-of-the-barrel team.

    Looking ahead: Matthew Stafford and all those weapons are up next. Against this Bears secondary, that's almost unfair.

31. Cleveland Browns

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    Eric Espada/Getty Images

    Current record: 0-3

    Last week: 31 (same)

    Just have Terrelle Pryor suit up at every position next week. The guy did it all against Miami in this one.

    Cody Kessler struggling? Pryor can help; he went 3-of-5 for 35 yards. Duke Johnson Jr. needs a breather? Pryor ran for 21 yards and a touchdown. Need a big play on the outside? Pryor racked up 144 yards on eight catches.

    This Browns team isn't good. It was missing Joe Haden, first-round receiver Corey Coleman and the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart. But it is well-coached, and you can tell the Dolphins weren't ready for Hue Jackson's latest wrinkle.

    That keeps the Browns out of the basement again this week.

    Looking ahead: Kirk Cousins has the tools to dismantle a banged-up Browns secondary. Watch him do it all day in Week 4.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Current record: 0-3

    Last week: 28 (-2)

    Let me tell you how Week 4 will play out for the Jaguars.

    They'll start off slowly. They'll cut into the deficit. Their young defense will make some plays and...Blake Bortles won't capitalize.

    It's been the story since Gus Bradley took over, and it happened again Sunday. Jalen Ramsey's diving tip to teammate Tashaun Gipson was amazing...until Bortles squandered that chance. Baltimore gained 283 total yards and still outgained 'em. That should never happen.

    Looking ahead: Bradley was coaching for his career in Week 3. Could a loss to the Colts in Week 4 end his Jaguars tenure?

29. San Francisco 49ers

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 20 (-9)

    I know what the Legion of Boom is capable of.

    But even I didn't think—in this pass-happy era of quarterback stat-stuffing—we'd see a signal-caller put up a 119-yard performance through four quarters. Blaine Gabbert proved me wrong.

    Same goes for this defense. Marshawn Lynch is sitting on his couch at home, not running through arm tackles in Seattle. This defense makes Beast Modes out of any ball-carrier, though.

    San Francisco isn't that far behind Seattle. It just felt like it for three hours Sunday afternoon.

    Looking ahead: This defense was just manhandled. Now...Dallas' O-line comes to town. Not good news.

28. Miami Dolphins

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 27 (-1)

    For a few plays, Adam Gase's offense felt kind of like the 2013-era Broncos.

    It wasn't record-setting. Peyton Manning (without his noodle arm) wasn't in charge. But Ryan Tannehill got the ball out of his hands and made quick, decisive throws. He found a tall, Demaryius Thomas-lite (DeVante Parker) and a shifty, quick Wes Welker-lite (Jarvis Landry).

    The offense is there. The defense? Not so much. Neither Corey Coleman nor Josh Gordon suited up, but the Dolphins secondary was none the wiser. Terrelle Pryor torched the unit, and Miami needed a Browns special teams blunder to even force overtime.

    Looking ahead: Gase gets a short week to try to fix his defense before a bout with the Bengals. It'll take a little longer than that.

27. New Orleans Saints

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    Current record: 0-3

    Last week: 26 (-1)

    This was Week 1 all over again, wasn't it?

    Drew Brees and the offense lit up the scoreboard. They amassed 474 yards and 32 points. And, just like the season opener against Oakland, another team was better on its home turf.

    New Orleans was picked apart by everyone not named Julio Jones. The Saints allowed touchdowns on five straight possessions and probably have the worst defensive talent in football.

    Sean Payton can only do so much hole-covering. The rest is up to Brees, that defense and special teams to fumble away.

    Looking ahead: It's nice that Brees gets to go back to where it all began in San Diego. It's a bummer his defense has to come too.

26. Tennessee Titans

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 23 (-3)

    Mike Mularkey's ball-control offense has a big problem: It can't control the ball.

    Marcus Mariota fumbled and threw two more careless interceptions. This team isn't good enough to overcome a minus-two turnover differential. On top of that, it converted two third downs all day.

    It's even more the case when your franchise left tackle is committing dumb penalties. We get it, Taylor Lewan. You're a big, tough guy. There's still no excuse for launching yourself at an opponent after the whistle.

    Looking ahead: We'll see how tough Lewan is after the whistle when he has to line up against J.J. Watt or Jadeveon Clowney in Week 4.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 21 (-4)

    Will the real Jameis Winston please stand up?

    Related: Are you the heady, cerebral, talented prospect who throws a mean deep ball? Or are you the turnover factory of the last two weeks?

    I'm leaning toward the latter after watching a few more questionable decisions versus the Rams. Some of them weren't his fault. Others, such as the final "throw" of Tampa Bay's home loss, were not what you'd expect from a No. 1 pick.

    Tampa's defense was a letdown, too. You'd expect more against a passing offense that's pieced together with No. 3 receivers and Case Keenum. The unit got its turnovers and points but surrendered big yardage.

    Looking ahead: A date with Denver's defense? Just what Winston needs to solve his turnover problems! 

24. San Diego Chargers

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 24 (same)

    Breaking news: The Indianapolis Colts signed an in-his-prime Barry Sanders just minutes before kickoff.

    Oh, wait. That was Frank Gore. He just looked like Sanders after facing this run defense. Got it.

    Speaking of running backs—what happened to Melvin Gordon? The kid was rolling through two weeks of play. Then...nothing. That's not supposed to happen against a Colts team that hasn't impressed.

    Here's another example of a game where the Chargers could have used Joey Bosa. I count two of 'em so far. They're both losses.

    Looking forward: I want to see their top three corners (Jason Verrett, Brandon Flowers and Casey Hayward) make stops. I might have to wait until Drew Brees leaves town, though.

23. Los Angeles Rams

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    Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

    Current record: 2-1

    Last week: 29 (+6)

    Jeff Fisher's team might be the Week 3-iest team of Week 3.

    The Rams scored nine total points heading into their third game. So of course Case Keenum connects on deep throw after deep throw. Of course they put up 37 points.

    I like that they got Tavon Austin involved. I like that they picked on Chris Conte, who shouldn't be starting in the NFL. And that defense! It can score, too.

    The Rams deserve a higher spot in the rankings this week. But let me watch them on tape before we start thinking their most recent performance is any indicator of future Power Rankings advancement.

    Looking ahead: Let Aaron Donald pin his ears back and go this week. No Cardinals blocker can take him.

22. Buffalo Bills

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 30 (+8)

    Raise your hand if you saw this coming from Rex Ryan's defense. Keep it raised if you saw the Bills offense outscoring a Bruce Arians-coached team.

    No one? Good. This Buffalo team exceeded my wildest expectations on a long week of preparation. Credit Ryan and a new-look staff for showing some pride and not backing down from a superior opponent.

    This defense held Carson Palmer and Co. to 348 total yards. Five forced turnovers certainly helped.

    The Bills' ground game came alive behind—surprise, surprise—former running backs coach Anthony Lynn. Tyrod Taylor impressed me more with his legs than his arm. I question how sustainable that kind of offense is, but I can't question that the Bills deserve a higher rank than last week.

    Looking ahead: This is the game you wanted, Rex. Beat New England's backup quarterback or it's back on the hot seat for you.

21. Indianapolis Colts

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    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 25 (+4)

    I've called the Colts plenty of names over the past two weeks.

    Here's another one: resilient. They lost their starting right tackle Sunday and still stuck to a run-first game plan. Frank Gore actually made an impact!

    That freed Andrew Luck up in so many ways. He was able to find T.Y. Hilton over the top when defenders crept down—like he did on this game-winning touchdown toss. Keep in mind: Luck is one tough son of a gun who hurt his shoulder last week.

    The Colts played like 0-3 wasn't an option.

    Looking ahead: It'll be an awfully long flight home from London if Chuck Pagano can't beat a bad Jaguars team.

20. Detroit Lions

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    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 15 (-5)

    The Lions' defensive players got a heavy dose of Aaron Rodgers.

    They blew coverages. They missed tackles. But most of all, they got in a first-half hole to the greatest quarterback I've ever seen. No shame in that.

    I like what a saw for the final 30 minutes. Their defense, minus Ziggy Ansah and DeAndre Levy and three other starters, held the opposition to three second-half points. Marvin Jones and Eric Ebron played big roles. Matthew Stafford almost hit the 400-yard mark. They outgained and outpossessed Green Bay.

    All good signs. They're in a spot to climb this list again when they heal up.

    Looking ahead: This defense could use a break. It gets one in Brian Hoyer's Bears.

19. Washington Redskins

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    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 22 (+3)

    Jay Gruden mishandled a possession at the end of the first half. His Redskins came up with no points in field-goal range.

    So what does he do? He dials up a fake punt near midfield that no one saw coming. Go figure.

    That's what this game boiled down to. The defense and special teams made enough plays—like a fake punt or a Su'a Cravens game-ending interceptionto pull out a huge road win.

    So did Kirk Cousins. He ripped a few dimes to DeSean Jackson (some caught, others not). He also avoided the backbreaking mistake that usually comes with a Redskins loss.

    Looking ahead: Drama in D.C.? That's nothing new. But good vibes are back just in time for the Browns this week.

18. Oakland Raiders

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Current record: 2-1

    Last week: 19 (+1)

    The Raiders caught two huge breaks in this game that made the difference.

    First, they didn't have to cover an inactive Delanie Walker. And that's good because they probably couldn't cover him. Oakland has been weak against tight ends all season, and Walker is one of the best.

    Then, they got away with a monster pass interference call. T.J. Carrie was almost on top of Harry Douglas in the end zone on a late fourth-down play. No flags.

    Two positives: Derek Carr put on a show with Amari Cooper, and that defense did show a little something for the first time all season. Maybe this can be a building moment.

    Looking ahead: Joe Flacco's arm will find out if their defensive jump was a one-week deal.

17. Atlanta Falcons

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Current record: 2-1

    Last week: 17 (same)

    Come take a look at the best running back tandem in football.

    Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman can't be stopped. The Saints tried; they gave up 296 total yards to the two ball-carriers. Coleman doubled his career touchdown total and then added a third score for good measure.

    Expect a few dry spells when Matt Ryan is your quarterback. However, Deion Jones took hold of a Drew Brees pass and ran it back for six crucial points. Coleman and Freeman can handle the rest.

    Looking ahead: Scoring 45 points against New Orleans is easy. Scoring 25 against Carolina the following week is not.

16. Dallas Cowboys

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    Current record: 2-1

    Last week: 14 (-2)

    I no longer consider Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to be rookies.

    Sure, they'll commit their fair share of mistakes. Sunday Night Football proved they're good enough to overcome them, and that's praise usually reserved for veterans.

    You saw what the Cowboys offense could be as a result. Zeke ran wild to the tune of 140 rushing yards on 30 carries and avoided the big fumble. Dak was on point with almost every throw that came out of his hand.

    The defense did what it was supposed to do against a Brian Hoyer-quarterbacked team. Good job all around, but tough to elevate them after such a crazy weekend.

    Looking ahead: Maybe this is the week Prescott and Dez Bryant take a game over. The 49ers secondary isn't anything special.

15. Seattle Seahawks

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Current record: 2-1

    Last week: 16 (+1)

    Talk about a team bucking current trends.

    Seattle's passing game looked open and intricate—two words I'd never use to describe its output in Weeks 1 and 2. The Seahawks were excellent on third down. When Tyler Lockett gets going, good stuff generally happens. And was that Jimmy Graham we saw?

    When Russell Wilson is on (and he was before the injury), Seattle wins. Generally speaking, its defense is too damn talented to squander a lead.

    Looking ahead: All that offensive progress? Might not mean much on a cross-country trip to take on the Jets.

14. New York Giants

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Current record: 2-1

    Last week: 11 (-3)

    Experts out there will say the Giants reverted back to their old, late-game-crumbling form.

    I won't be one of them. Big Blue should've iced the game long before Eli Manning threw a late pick; the Giants dominated for long stretches and were the better team.

    That's what penalties (128 yards of them) will do. That's what drops will do, and Odell Beckham Jr. is good for one a game now. That's what slow running backs will do because the holes will certainly open over the right side.

    They missed Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie when a sloppy game got close. And they missed out on a chance at 3-0 with stupid mistakes.

    Looking ahead: Here's where the schedule gets brutal. Up first: A Monday night road game versus Minnesota.

13. Baltimore Ravens

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    Current record: 3-0

    Last week: 12 (-1)

    This is how the Ravens win football games. It's ugly. Get used to it.

    Joe Flacco? Up and down. He completed 21 straight passes but was picked off on back-to-back drives. The defense? It held Jacksonville in check, let Allen Robinson score, then forced a game-sealing turnover.

    Of course, special teams played a role. Devin Hester fumbled to set the Jags up for the lead...and then the Ravens blocked a field-goal attempt to keep their hopes alive.

    I won't understand until I review their film. Even then, no promises.

    Looking ahead: I wonder how this secondary holds up when Amari Cooper takes it on in Week 4.

12. Arizona Cardinals

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 5 (-7)

    Way too little, much too late.

    Bruce Arians' team needed about three quarters to wake up. By then, the Cardinals were facing a three-score deficit with a defense that couldn't stop the run and an offense that couldn't run it.

    Carson Palmer was no help at all. His four interceptions can't be tolerated. His all-over-the-place decision-making makes me question if he's lost a step or three.

    Playing from behind doesn't suit this team well. Don't blame the time-zone change.

    Looking ahead: Enough funny business. These Cardinals are supposed to smoke the Rams.

11. Houston Texans

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    Current record: 2-1

    Last week: 9 (-2)

    What's Bill O'Brien's excuse?

    His offense is basically New England-lite. He saw almost every defensive look as a former Bill Belichick disciple. And yet he made zero meaningful adjustments.

    When the Patriots took the long ball away, the Texans had no Plan B. They couldn't rely on Lamar Miller to pick apart a five-man defensive front. Pass protection didn't hold up. And they crumbled.

    Defensively, they were outwitted. New England ran enough misdirection and motion to get them going one way.

    Put simply: One Bill was always ahead of the other.

    Looking ahead: Expect a few more big plays against the other McCourty brother (Jason). This incoming Titans team isn't New England.

10. New York Jets

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    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 7 (-3)

    The Jets married themselves to a limited quarterback.

    They have to live with stinkers like this. Ryan Fitzpatrick committed turnover after terrible turnover and—surprise—the Jets lost.

    His quarterback rating was 18.2. His top receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, caught only four combined passes.

    But six interceptions is the only stat you need to know. It doesn't matter how valiant your defense plays when the offense forces the unit back on the field that much.

    Looking ahead: That Harvard degree won't help Fitz solve the problem of Seattle's strong secondary.

9. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Current record: 2-1

    Last week: 13 (+4)

    They seized an early lead. They ran the ball. And their defense forced all the turnovers you could ever imagine.

    The Chiefs played Andy Reid's perfect vision of football. They're the best at it.

    Alex Smith was content to be his normal, short-to-shorter passing self. Only one of their plays went over 20 yards. The rest of the offense involved Spencer Ware handoffs.

    They didn't need any more, though. New York's offense looked Gang Green when it coughed up three picks in the end zone. Another pick was returned for a touchdown. Sound familiar? It's the exact winning blueprint from last year's playoff run.

    Looking ahead: KC has to travel to face a pissed-off Steelers team on national television. So, not the best spot to be in.

8. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 10 (+2)

    Marvin Lewis put together the perfect game plan to beat the defending champs:

    Step 1: Stop C.J. Anderson.

    Step 2: Make Trevor Siemian beat coverage over the top.

    It's what I would've done. It's what you would've done. But in Week 3, it's what sunk the talented Bengals to a 1-2 record.

    Cincy's defense couldn't stick with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas (particularly Adam Jones). The Bengals struggled to pressure Siemian with any regularity. It's not what you would've expected from a Lewis-coached team.

    Also: What happened to Jeremy Hill? Cincinnati rode its bulldozing back to the end zone on an opening drive. Save for another short score, he was hardly heard from again.

    Looking ahead: The Dolphins gave Denver a run for its money. They can handle Miami.

7. Carolina Panthers

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-2

    Last week: 4 (-3)

    Note to Cam Newton: You're not Kurt Warner.

    Carolina's offense doesn't need to be "The Greatest Show on Turf." Every play doesn't need to be a scoring one. Every pass doesn't need to go 30-plus yards.

    He's playing a little too greedy at quarterback. The end result? An eight-sack afternoon that had me scratching my head. What the hell was he thinking on this safety? Stop patting the ball and just get rid of it.

    This was Super Bowl 50-like. Newton wasn't effective, the running game without Jonathan Stewart struggled and Kelvin Benjamin went target-less.

    Looking ahead: Newton will get all the big plays he wants against Atlanta's secondary. Will he settle for a few small ones too?

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Current record: 2-1

    Last week: 3 (-3)

    My scalp is a little tender from all the head scratching their Week 3 game made me do.

    Pittsburgh was supposed to impose its physical style, not Philadelphia. Ben Roethlisberger was supposed to pick the opposing secondary apart, not Carson Wentz. DeAngelo Williams was supposed to run wild, get the idea, right?

    I called the Steelers my preseason favorites for the AFC Championship Game. They looked the part for two weeks this season before this one. They can be that team still, but this week was a huge step back.

    Looking ahead: Trying to reach me Sunday night? Leave a message. I'll be glued to the TV watching Antonio Brown-Marcus Peters.

5. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Current record: 3-0

    Last week: 18 (+13)

    We all thought their momentum would slow down in Week 3.

    Wrong. Wrong. So wrong.

    The Eagles deserve to jump all those spots from last week. They kept rolling behind a rookie quarterback who outdueled Ben Roethlisberger and a Jim Schwartz-led defense that would have made Jim Johnson proud.

    What more can you say about Carson Wentz? I've highlighted his immediate-to-deep throwing prowess. He's not Andrew Luck/Cam Newton athletic, but he's closer than we thought. And he just handled the Steelers' defense with the same ease he handled the Browns' and Bears'. So, yeah. 

    I didn't think their offensive line would hold up. I didn't think their defensive line (hello, Fletcher Cox) would be this dominant. This Eagles team is making me rethink everything now.

    Looking ahead: When does their bubble burst? Not this week. They're on an early bye.

4. Green Bay Packers

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    Current record: 2-1

    Last week: 8 (+4)

    Don't even bother looking at the box score.

    It doesn't do Aaron Rodgers justice. He was his normal, impressive self in Week 3, despite only 15 completions and 205 passing yards.

    That was typical Rodgers ball. So, his team did its regular routine, too. The Lions nearly squandered No. 12's four first-half touchdowns and roared back to striking distance.

    I'm still not sold on this team besides Rodgers. But the Packers won a game they were supposed to—and that's impressive in a week like Week 3.

    Looking ahead: Rest that injured defense up. Green Bay is on a bye.

3. Minnesota Vikings

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    Current record: 3-0

    Last week: 6 (+3)

    Take a look at the most talented team in the NFC.

    Even without Adrian Peterson. Even without two starting offensive linemen. Sam Bradford threw a few perfect passes and—even against the defending conference champs—the Vikings pulled away.

    Why? Because Mike Zimmer's defense swarmed Cam Newton from the second quarter on. It picked him off three times, sacked him eight times and made his afternoon a living nightmare in the run game.

    That sounds an awful lot like the way last year's Super Bowl champions won games. I'm on board.

    Looking ahead: These Vikings might eat Eli Manning alive.

2. Denver Broncos

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    Current record: 3-0

    Last week: 2 (same)

    No one wanted to listen when I banged the drum for Trevor Siemian.

    Now, the Broncos are back in the AFC championship discussion. The quarterback you all dismissed for his inexperience just posted a passing day that topped anything Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler did in 2015.

    You won't find Emmanuel Sanders or Demaryius Thomas complaining. They both found the end zone on 40-plus-yard throws that felt like months in the making.

    Oh, and the Denver Broncos defense is still the Denver Broncos defense.

    Looking ahead: I'm interested to see how Siemian looks a week after his biggest start. On paper, Denver shouldn't struggle versus Tampa Bay.

1. New England Patriots

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    Current record: 3-0

    Last week: 1 (same)

    Keep it simple, stupid.

    That's Bill Belichick's approach during the four-game Tom Brady ban. And, like every other move the Hoodie has made, it's working to perfection.

    Rookie quarterback making his first start against J.J. Watt? Let's put him in easy, comfortable positions. Jacoby Brissett took what the defense gave him underneath, then took off when the Pats freed him up to run. LeGarrette Blount closed everything out.

    Brock Osweiler throwing deep? Let's use some zone—a look I haven't seen much out of in New England. Suddenly, those big deep throws to DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller disappeared.

    What a masterful game plan put together by the master himself.

    Looking ahead: Rex tries to confuse Garoppolo or Brissett. Bill is two steps ahead. Ho-hum, Patriots dominate.