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

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystSeptember 25, 2017

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

0 of 32

    Elsa/Getty Images

    Everyone is good in the NFL. That's one of the first lessons I learned when I came into the league as a rookie quarterback. I thought I played with and against some quality guys during my time at Texas, but I quickly learned that even a backup defensive end on a "bad" team is better than most of the players I saw.

    The same is true about teams, and a lot of people might not realize that. I was drafted by a Tampa Bay Buccaneers club that had just won the Super Bowl and was discussed as one of the best defensive teams of all time. I believed I was going to ride shotgun as the backup quarterback to a Super Bowl victory as a rookie.

    We went 7-9 that season.

    The difference between the fifth-best team in the NFL and the 25th-best team isn't all that great. One or two mistakes or distractions can mean the difference between victory and defeat for almost any group. We saw mistakes and possibly distractions—and I don't know if the anthem demonstrations had anything to do with that—cost some solid teams in Week 3.

    This is why power rankings can be fun and why they have to be fluid. We thought we knew who the elite teams were heading into Week 3, but the weekend's games were a stark reminder that the talent level between the haves and the have-nots is still so close.

    Here's how I view the NFL's 32 teams with Week 3 completed. You can see last week's edition here.

32. Cleveland Browns

1 of 32

    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 30

    The Browns are young. That's the first thing that jumps out about this team. There isn't any elite talent in the secondary, either, which causes the defense to give up some long plays, like it did against the Colts.

    The front seven is solid, but the Browns are missing their biggest defensive player: Myles Garrett. There isn't anyone up front who can take over a game. There isn't anyone who is going to make an opposing offense change its game plan.

    It's a similar situation on the other side of the ball. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer can make some impressive throws, but he's also going to make rookie mistakes, like his three interceptions Sunday. As is the case in the secondary, the Browns don't have any elite talent around Kizer on offense.

    In fact, Browns receivers have actively been hurting Kizer with drops. Cleveland isn't a talented enough team to overcome multiple mistakes.

31. San Francisco 49ers

2 of 32

    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 29

    There are things to be excited about with the 49ers. Kyle Shanahan's offense is going to be fun to watch, especially if the team can find a legitimate offensive line and some more playmakers.

    We're seeing that this is an offense capable of breaking big runs and making long pass plays.

    It was surprising to see the defense struggle the way it did against the Rams. There were too many big plays surrendered in the pass game and in the running game. After a solid first couple of weeks, the defense took a step back. San Francisco has a lot of talent on its defensive line, but it was pushed around and failed to get pressure on quarterback Jared Goff.

    San Francisco put itself into a hole early but battled back. The problem is there aren't those two or three game-changers who can help overcome such early holes. Quarterback Brian Hoyer has thrown an interception that has put the team in a tough spot in each of its three games. If he can cut that out, the 49ers can steal some wins.

30. Cincinnati Bengals

3 of 32

    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 28

    There are some positives for the Bengals. There's enough talent to play teams close, like Cincinnati did versus Green Bay. Young guys such as Carl Lawson, William Jackson III and Joe Mixon stood out in the loss, proving there is a core to build around.

    We saw some improvement in offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's debut. He at least made A.J. Green a focal point.

    Ultimately, things may have run their course in Cincinnati with the current group. This is a team that is going to play tough on both sides of the ball. However, I'm not convinced there's enough grit, leadership and quality coaching to consistently win hard-fought games.

    The Bengals were up 21-7 against the Packers and blew it. That shouldn't happen with this much talent.

29. Indianapolis Colts

4 of 32

    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 31

    The Colts can be competitive with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. The offense is so much more dynamic with him under center than it was with Scott Tolzien. Brissett can make plays with his legs, and he has the arm talent to push the ball down the field—like he did on the long touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton.

    Unlike Tolzien, Brissett looks like an NFL starting quarterback, and he's playing like one. That's encouraging for Colts fans who are still awaiting Andrew Luck's return.

    While the defense isn't great, it was opportunistic against the Browns. With the Colts up 28-14, the defense picked off DeShone Kizer in the red zone. Later, with the same lead, the defense picked off another pass.

    This is a team that, with Brissett at the helm, cannot be viewed as an automatic win for opponents. It isn't one of the better groups in football, but there is some young talent on defense and some explosive weapons on the other side of the ball. That's enough to at least let Indianapolis compete.

28. Los Angeles Chargers

5 of 32

    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 22

    Philip Rivers can be amazing. However, the last couple of years have been marred by his mistakes. He deserves a lot of the blame for L.A.'s early hole Sunday against the Chiefs.

    His second and third interceptions were rough, and Rivers shouldn't be making those types of mistakes at this point in his career.

    It's going to be difficult for the Chargers to survive when Rivers does make costly errors because there's a lack of elite talent on defense. The defense hung in there against Kansas City, but aside from Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, there isn't anyone who can make game-changing plays. Losing Jason Verrett was a huge blow, and it limits what the Chargers can do on the back end.

    I still question L.A.'s run defense too, and how can you not when Kareem Hunt goes off for 172 yards on 17 carries?

27. New York Jets

6 of 32

    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 32

    I picked the Jets to win against the Dolphins, but I didn't think they'd dominate the way they did. However, this Jets defense is strong at all three levels, and we saw that the offense can do some things as well.

    Coordinator John Morton comes from the Sean Payton coaching tree, and you can see the influence in his passing schemes. The Jets don't have immense talent on offense, but they do enough to win games when the defense is playing well.

    If there's a guy open downfield, Josh McCown can hit him. We saw that on the 69-yard touchdown he threw to Robby Anderson.

    The Jets aren't the disaster a lot of people seem to believe they are. New York might not be a playoff contender, but the Jets aren't going to be pushovers on a weekly basis, either.

26. New Orleans Saints

7 of 32

    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 27

    The big concern for the Saints through two weeks has been the secondary. All of a sudden, the secondary played well and we saw just how good New Orleans can be. It helped the Saints that the Panthers were without Greg Olsen and lost Kelvin Benjamin, but the improvement in the secondary was still impressive.

    The other big factor was that Drew Brees took care of the football. He didn't give the Panthers easy opportunities from turnovers, and he made some great throws down the field when needed. The Saints also helped themselves by keeping their rushing attempts up.

    The Saints don't necessarily need to dominate on the ground. When they keep the number of rushing attempts up, it makes the offense better. It forces defenses to stay honest and opens up the play-action pass.

    If New Orleans' young secondary continues to improve, the Saints are going to be a tough opponent for anyone. We already know that Brees and Co. have what it takes to battle top defenses.

25. Arizona Cardinals

8 of 32

    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 23

    The Arizona Cardinals had the Dallas Cowboys on the ropes early on Monday night. Here's a shocker: They found a way to screw it up. This has become an alarming trend for Arizona over the past two years. The Cardinals were up 7-0 and then had a touchdown called back. Then, Phil Dawson missed a field goal. Arizona lost control of the game from there.

    The Cardinals allowed Ezekiel Elliott to get some momentum. It also let Dak Prescott get out of the pocket, where he made some big plays and beat Justin Bethel and Tyrann Mathieu on 50-50 balls. Still, the defense overall is a good unit.

    The concern for Arizona is the offense. With no David Johnson, there's little punch in the run game. That's a problem for Carson Palmer. It makes the offense one-dimensional, and the offensive line is horrible in pass protection. That line should be embarrassed with how many times five guys were beaten by the three-man rush.

    This is an issue that isn't going to go away for the Cardinals. The defense is good, but the offense is inconsistent and is going to cost the team games.

24. Houston Texans

9 of 32

    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 25

    Wow. Deshaun Watson was amazing. That's the first thing we have to talk about. He was so much better in the pocket than he was in his first start against Cincinnati.

    He also made plays outside the pocket. I didn't think there was any way the Patriots would let him outside of it. When you're that type of athlete, you can make your own way out of the pocket whether the greatest coach in the history of football wants you to or not.

    Watson's ability to run, break tackles and still deliver the ball on the run is top-notch. That's why he was one of the top players drafted, and it's why the Texans made the right call going with him as the starter.

    Defensively, the Texans harassed Tom Brady all day. Jadeveon Clowney was everywhere. Whitney Mercilus was everywhere. The problem is that Houston couldn't come up with the one big play needed to close out the game.

    One thing the Texans need to work on moving forward is discipline in the secondary. There were too many times Patriots receivers were running wide-open down the field. This defense is too talented to have plays where the receiver is the only guy on the TV screen.

23. Chicago Bears

10 of 32

    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 24

    This defensive front seven for the Bears is talented. It did a nice job of not letting the Steelers' run game get going, and it put a lot of pressure on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Because that front seven is so effective, it allows the Bears to stay in safe coverages that don't allow big pass plays.

    Antonio Brown, for example, had 10 catches for 110 yards and a score, but he didn't break Chicago's back the way he has to other teams.

    Offensively, the Bears can build on their ground game. With Kyle Long back, Chicago has one of the better run-blocking lines in the league. That run game makes things a lot easier on quarterback Mike Glennon. When Chicago gets Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen going on the ground, it can demoralize a defense.

    The Bears can lean on their backs, especially Cohen, who is Mr. Versatility. When Glennon manages the game and avoids repeated mistakes, the Bears can be dangerous. They should've handled the Steelers with more ease—and would have if not for Marcus Cooper's bonehead play before halftime.

22. New York Giants

11 of 32

    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 15

    Let's get one thing out of the way: The Giants' offensive line wasn't the reason the team lost. Could it have been better? Certainly. However, I'll stick by my belief that the Giants have one of the least creative offenses in the NFL.

    That's why the Giants lost.

    There's too much pressure on the Giants defense. It's still a special unit, but there are times where the New York offense is incapable of doing anything. The Giants don't do themselves any favors by not running the ball. They had just 49 yards on the ground against Philadelphia.

    On the bright side, it was great to see Odell Beckham Jr. looking like himself. His second touchdown was jaw-dropping. Sterling Shepard is getting involved more, and the passing offense looked better than it did over the first two weeks.

    However, the team still asks too much of its defense. We saw that defense wear down and give up some big runs, which was surprising.

    The Giants have a lot of talent, but they're struggling to put everything together. This isn't a team that can win when Eli Manning commits multiple turnovers.

21. Miami Dolphins

12 of 32

    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 13

    The Dolphins laid an egg against the Jets; there's no way around it. However, it does make me wonder if the drama of Hurricane Irene and the trip out west in Week 2 took a toll on the team. Regardless, the Dolphins' performance wasn't encouraging.

    Miami's defense belongs in the conversation for the worst back seven in football. It stood out during some of the long pass plays by the Jets, who don't have one of the league's most explosive offenses.

    Dolphins fans have to wonder how an offense with so much talent produced just six points against the Jets. That New York defense is good, but Miami has a strong line, solid running backs and an above-average collection of pass-catchers.

    Bringing in Jay Cutler was the right move for Adam Gase and his offense, but perhaps the pairing is still a work in progress.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars

13 of 32

    Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 26

    In the two wins we've seen from the Jaguars, things have gone exactly how the team has wanted them to. The defense has been awesome in those games, and Jacksonville hasn't had to rely too much on Blake Bortles and the passing game to carry the load.

    Keeping the run game relevant has also been huge because it keeps the play-action pass and the bootleg as options. Some of Bortles' best plays have come in those situations. The defense has been the story so far, though. It whooped the Ravens in every capacity, and it might have produced the best defensive showing of the year so far.

    The Jaguars have shown they're accustomed to these London trips. Baltimore found that out the hard way.

    When Jacksonville's defense plays like it did Sunday, the run game can keep opponents honest and Bortles avoids turnovers, Jacksonville is going to be tough to beat.

19. Los Angeles Rams

14 of 32

    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 20

    You can understand why the Rams hired Sean McVay as head coach. This is an entirely different offense that is already building confidence for Jared Goff. He was a little shaky in Week 1, and he was off the mark in Week 2. Then, he came out and had the best game of his career Thursday night.

    McVay has implemented a system that allows Goff to find mismatches down the field. It's dangerous and capable of producing huge plays. Defensively, the Rams are kind of the same way. While the Rams did allow the 49ers to move the ball on them, they also found ways to make some big plays.

    The Los Angeles defense is opportunistic, and Wade Phillips has it playing an aggressive brand of football. It's a unit that is trying to make game-changing plays early and throughout the game.

    The Rams should have been able to put the 49ers away earlier than they did. However, the special teams unit let L.A. down by turning the ball over and allowed the 49ers to crawl back into the game. The Rams have to tighten things up moving forward, but this is a team that's going to be a pain in the butt for a lot of opponents.

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

15 of 32

    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 14

    There are still serious questions about this Buccaneers defense. It made some plays against the Bears in Week 2. As a whole, though, it doesn't appear to be good enough or creative enough to win when the offense struggles.

    The Buccaneers offense isn't playing great ball, either. Tampa has weapons, of course, but it also has a below-average offensive line and no running game. This puts a lot of pressure on Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.

    This is a problem because when there's too much pressure on Winston, he gets careless with the football. That's what happened against the Vikings. The defense did nothing to slow down Case Keenum, Dalvin Cook and Co., and the Buccaneers offense was never able to keep up.

17. Seattle Seahawks

16 of 32

    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 11

    Of course, we have to be concerned with how the Seattle offense has played through three weeks. What's really concerning, though, is how the defense has been run on the last two weeks. This team is built to win with strong defense, a solid running game and some opportunistic plays from Russell Wilson.

    Now, the Seattle defense is still effective, but this doesn't look like the same dominant group we've grown accustomed to.

    The offense is still the downfall of the football team, however. I don't care what the final numbers from Sunday say, most of the production came late in the game with Tennessee playing conservatively. Seattle doesn't make enough plays offensively when games are competitive.

    The Seahawks have to figure out a way to open up the offense more. It might not be the best group in the world, but it still has pieces like Wilson, Doug Baldwin, C.J. Prosise and Jimmy Graham. If the defense isn't going to completely take over, the offense needs to be doing more to win.

16. Carolina Panthers

17 of 32

    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 17

    It was great to see Christian McCaffrey as a significant part of the Panthers offense. We should expect to see more of that going forward. However, losing Greg Olsen hampers the offense, and losing made things even tougher Sunday.

    Cam Newton needs to realize what kind of team he has. The Panthers aren't built to win shootouts, and Newton cannot be such a gambler. He needs to understand that his defense is going to keep Carolina in games, and he cannot risk giving the other team momentum with turnovers.

    Defensively, the concern is still Carolina's secondary. When the front four isn't able to get pressure, the back end can become a liability. We saw that against the Saints with Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. going off a bit. That's going to be an issue moving forward.

15. Buffalo Bills

18 of 32

    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 21

    Tyrod Taylor was fantastic against the Broncos. He made some wonderful throws, and he helped the Bills offense go. He made plays both inside and outside the pocket.

    It was smart that the Bills stuck with the running game even though it wasn't accomplishing much against the Denver defensive front. Sticking with the run is important for this team because it allows Taylor to thrive off play-action. It was important against Denver to not allow the game to devolve into a pass-fest.

    The biggest thing for Buffalo, though, is the defense. It was strong in the first two weeks, and it was the difference-maker against Denver. The Bills forced two big interceptions, one that prevented a Denver score.

    This is a team that is disciplined on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Bills are going to look for high-percentage plays. Defensively, they're not going to take many chances, but they're going to make opponents work for every yard.

14. Baltimore Ravens

19 of 32

    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 7

    I have viewed Baltimore highly since the preseason. However, the one thing we haven't seen is the offense have to keep the team in games. The defense was so dominant in the first two weeks that the offense was able to get away with playing at an average level. That's honestly how I expected things to play out in London, and I was right—at least regarding the offense.

    Not having the two starting guards—particularly Marshal Yanda, who's one of the best in the game—hurt the team and will be an issue going forward. The Ravens couldn't run the ball when the game was still competitive, and they failed to make life easy on Joe Flacco.

    The offense left the defense on the field too long. This is still a special defense, but even the best defenses are going to wear down over time. It didn't help that Brandon Williams wasn't out there and that Brent Urban got hurt.

    Baltimore's defense was asked to do too much. It eventually got exhausted and began surrendering big plays. This cannot be the formula for Baltimore if it hopes to be a contender this year. The offense has to figure out a way to carry its weight.

13. Philadelphia Eagles

20 of 32

    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 18

    The Eagles outplayed the Giants all day long. Other than a brief window where the Giants scored two touchdowns in short order, the game was mostly Philly.

    The Eagles' defensive line didn't get a chance to disrupt the game because the Giants relied on the short-passing attack. However, the Giants' running game didn't get going, either.

    Now, there are still major concerns with the Philadelphia secondary. Seeing Sterling Shepard running loose for a long touchdown is a worrisome sight. With Ronald Darby out, there are going to be some struggles going forward.

    What's encouraging is this was the first game of the year where there wasn't too much pressure on Carson Wentz. The Eagles' running game was effective, which I didn't think it would be against the Giants' defensive line.

    Wentz was efficient and avoided questionable decisions. This game was close on the scoreboard, but the better team won. Philadelphia is a legit factor in the NFC East this season.

12. Green Bay Packers

21 of 32

    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 10

    This wasn't a pretty win for the Packers. The team was banged up, and that has to be taken into account, but this is a club that could easily be 0-3. In fact, I'd be willing to bet the Packers would be 0-3 with any quarterback other than Aaron Rodgers under center.

    Still, this is a battle-tested group with a lot of fight. It got down early against the Bengals and managed to fight back. Green Bay didn't panic, the defense made a few stops, and Rodgers made magic as usual.

    Dom Capers does do some creative things to confuse opposing quarterbacks, and he deserves credit for that. However, Green Bay needs to get more out of its defense and running game to take some of the pressure off Rodgers.

    It cannot be just him every week.

11. Washington Redskins

22 of 32

    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 19

    What Greg Manusky has done with the Redskins defense has been outstanding. The unit plays with more toughness, it's more sound and it's putting some exciting film together. Sunday's film will be interesting to dig through, because the Raiders typically move the ball with much more ease.

    Washington stopped the Oakland offense in a way we haven't seen during the Derek Carr era. Carr struggled to find open receivers, and he had two interceptions.

    The Redskins won the physical battle up front on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Washington put on a show. Kirk Cousins had plenty of time, and he didn't make a bad throw all night. The running game found room when it needed to as well.

    Washington is a team to watch. As Jay Gruden and the offense progress with him as the play-caller, this is a team that should be able to score points on anyone. With an improved defense, it's downright dangerous.

10. Tennessee Titans

23 of 32

    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 16

    The Titans just pulled off the most impressive win of the Mike Mularkey era. By stomping the Seahawks, the Titans have officially announced to the world they are a legit playoff contender.

    We haven't seen many teams run the ball on this Seahawks defense the way the Titans did. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry combined for nearly 170 yards, while the offensive line dominated up front. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was also impressive with some sound passing and designed runs.

    The Titans gave up some big-yardage plays late that let Seattle back in the game, but it was playing a prevent style most of the day. For what the Tennessee defense was trying to accomplish, it was phenomenal most of the day.

    It's time the AFC starts taking the Titans seriously.

9. Dallas Cowboys

24 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 9

    The Cowboys got off to a shaky start on Monday night, but when the Cardinals missed a field goal and failed to go up 10-0, the momentum shifted. Dallas deserves credit for taking that shift and riding it to a victory.

    When Dak Prescott makes a few plays like he did Monday, the Cowboys are tough to beat. When he and the pass game get going, it takes a lot of pressure off Elliott and the running game. That's big because Elliott and the offensive line haven't hit on all cylinders the way they did last year. It did look better against Arizona.

    Brice Butler came up huge for Prescott with a pair of big-time catches on 50-50 balls.

    The Dallas defense is still a concern and was a problem early against Arizona. However, the Cowboys were able to eventually wear down the Cardinals offensive line. Demarcus Lawrence was absolutely dominant, and Maliek Collins and Tyrone Crawford were also disruptive. The biggest thing for Dallas is that the defense was able to consistently whip the Cardinals offensive line with a three-man rush. That allowed the team to play more conservatively in the secondary.

    Dallas needs to keep the momentum on offense and along the D-line going, because the secondary is still young and unproven.

8. Oakland Raiders

25 of 32

    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 3

    I would never have thought the Raiders would go into Washington and lay an egg the way they did. I didn't think the offensive line would be physically pushed around. However, Carr had little time, and he rarely had open receivers when he did have a clean pocket. Running the ball was never easy, either.

    Carr's two interceptions put the Raiders in a hole.

    At the same time, some of the worst fears regarding the Raiders defense came true. Coming into the season, the thought was the defense would give up too many big plays and easy yards. After a couple of solid games, those concerns resurfaced.

    This was an all-around bad game for the Raiders, and it goes to show one thing: While Oakland isn't likely to be intimidated by anyone anymore, learning to be a winner is still a process.

7. Minnesota Vikings

26 of 32

    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 12

    Case Keenum deserves a lot of credit. He played well for the Vikings in Week 2 but struggled to find the end zone. In Week 3 against the Buccaneers, though, he was on point.

    The Vikings don't have superstar receivers, but they have a group of really good ones. Keenum was able to take advantage of guys like Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, making great throws all over the field.

    The offensive line is much better than it was last year, and we saw that in the passing game Sunday. We also saw it in the run game, as the line consistently opened holes for Dalvin Cook.

    The Minnesota defense continues to show that it's special. When clicking, this defense can match up with any offense in the league. It boasts a great secondary, a solid front four and perhaps the most athletic linebacker duo in the NFL in Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks.

6. Detroit Lions

27 of 32

    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 8

    The Lions faced a tough matchup. They were in a dome against the Falcons—who are the best team in the NFC and perhaps the fastest team in the NFL indoors and on turf. If a couple of plays had bounced the other way, Detroit would have won.

    The Detroit run defense was a little disappointing, as the Falcons were able to establish the run. Still, the defense made some big plays overall. The defense picked off Matt Ryan three times, including once for a pick-six. Realistically, the defense kept the Lions in the game.

    Matthew Stafford and the offense made some plays and nearly put the team in position to win at the end of the game. However, the run game still needs to get better. If Detroit had confidence it could run one in from the 1-yard line—or at least if the Falcons had feared it—this one might have ended differently.

    The Lions could also use another playmaker in the passing game.

5. Denver Broncos

28 of 32

    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 6

    You could put a lot of this Denver loss on Trevor Siemian. I have a lot of confidence in him and believe he is a solid player, but he made too many mistakes against the Bills. He directly cost the team points when he tried to force a ball with pressure in his face within field-goal range. That was one of his two interceptions.

    Siemian needs to realize he has a running game to lean on this year—we should mention that Jamaal Charles is starting to look like a big part of it—and that he still has a top-notch defense. Forcing passes shouldn't even be on his mind.

    Denver was close to getting this game where it wanted it to be. What the Broncos wanted was to get ahead early and make things one-dimensional for the Buffalo offense. This would have forced Buffalo to consistently pass-block against the Broncos' stellar pass rush. However, Denver never quite got the Bills into that game.

    Mistakes allowed this one to slip away. Some came from Siemian. Emmanuel Sanders had a big drop when the Broncos were rolling too. Denver is still a contender, but as I said in the opening, even the best teams can be undone by mistakes.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

29 of 32

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 4

    The biggest thing that stands out with the Steelers right now is the fact Le'Veon Bell does not look like the Le'Veon Bell of last year. He's probably still not back into the shape he needs to be into, but it's worrisome. The Steelers offense isn't the same when he isn't at full speed.

    With Bell struggling, the Steelers have been throwing too much and have spent too much time in the shotgun offense. That puts a lot of pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, who was the victim of a sack-fumble in Chicago.

    That's the kind of mistake that happens when your offense is one-dimensional.

    The Pittsburgh defense is strong, but it does too much on the front sometimes. There's too much slanting and stunting. When an offensive coordinator calls the right run play against that, there's often no one there to stop the back once he gets through the line. We saw that in Chicago too.

3. Atlanta Falcons

30 of 32

    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 5

    The Falcons are the clear-cut best team in the NFC. They controlled the game against Detroit for the most part. Matt Ryan just made a few uncharacteristic mistakes that allowed the Lions to hang around.

    Still, it's hard not to be impressed with how the offense has progressed under new coordinator Steve Sarkisian. The running game has gotten going over the past two weeks, and Devonta Freeman is looking as effective as ever. Ryan has been able to spread the ball around to his different pass-catchers.

    Defensively, the Falcons fly around the field. It cannot be comfortable playing against them because of the speed of the front seven and the secondary. Atlanta pressured Matthew Stafford all game long, and the Lions receivers rarely had an easy time finding space.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

31 of 32

    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 2

    The Chiefs got an ugly win against the Chargers, but they got it because they have playmakers. When games are in doubt, it's usually up to game-changers to pull something out of it. The Chiefs have guys who can do that in Kareem Hunt, Justin Houston, Marcus Peters and Tyreek Hill.

    Peters and the secondary forced turnovers. Hill and Hunt took over the game offensively. This isn't anything new for Kansas City.

    The Chiefs defense is built to stop the run and force mistakes in the passing game. From there, it's only a matter of time before one of those unbelievable talents on offense manages to break a big play. Kansas City is 3-0 because of it and is looking like one of the best teams in football.

1. New England Patriots

32 of 32

    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 1

    How incredible is Tom Brady? If you're a Patriots fan, you have to be pumped about how he played Sunday. You also have to be pumped with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. There were several times when Brady looked up and found his first read with no defender within 10 yards of him.

    It was great to see Brandin Cooks, Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan get going against the Texans. It gave us a glimpse of what this offense can be as it continues to evolve. New England just needs to get something going in the run game to balance things out.

    There are still concerns with this defense, however. The secondary is fine, and there are some talented big men up front, but New England lacks athleticism in the front seven. The defense has struggled against the run all season and had issues containing an athletic quarterback when he went off script in Week 3. The inability to contain up front is going to be a concern for the defense moving forward.

    Still, this team is good enough that if things are close in the fourth quarter, No. 12 is always going to give it a chance to win.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.