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NFL Power Rankings 2019: Examining Pecking Order After Week 3 of Preseason

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2019

FILE - In this Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019 file photo, New England Patriots' Tom Brady passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game in Atlanta. Mention the NFL draft, and the debate begins immediately. Who’s the best player ever taken at No. 1 overall or the top player ever taken in a late round? (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Three weeks of the 2019 NFL preseason have passed. The "dress rehearsal" games are over, and all that remains is the final slate of games, which will largely serve to sort out the bottom end of depth charts around the league.

We've learned a lot about the NFL landscape over the past three weeks. The Arizona Cardinals offense is still a work in progress. The Cleveland Browns defense may be ready to explode before the much-heralded offense does. Oh yeah, and the Indianapolis Colts aren't going to have quarterback Andrew Luck, who retired on Saturday.

So how does the league stack up with just one obligatory round of exhibition games remaining? Let's take a look.

        

2019 NFL Power Rankings, Preseason Week 3

1. New England Patriots

2. Kansas City Chiefs

3. Los Angeles Rams

4. New Orleans Saints

5. Philadelphia Eagles

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

7. Los Angeles Chargers

8. Chicago Bears

9. Dallas Cowboys

10. Baltimore Ravens

11. Seattle Seahawks

12. Houston Texans

13. Atlanta Falcons

14. Cleveland Browns

15. Green Bay Packers

16. Minnesota Vikings

17. Carolina Panthers

18. Jacksonville Jaguars

19. Detroit Lions

20. Tennessee Titans

21. Buffalo Bills

22. San Francisco 49erw

23. Indianapolis Colts

24. New York Jets

25. Cincinnati Bengals

26. Oakland Raiders

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

28. Denver Broncos

29. Washington Redskins

30. New York Giants

31. Arizona Cardinals

32. Miami Dolphins

        

1. New England Patriots

As defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots remain kings of the NFL mountain until someone forces them off the top. This could prove difficult, though, as the team is set to evolve once again.

No team changes its identity more from year to year than the Patriots. Last season, they were largely a run-first team that looked to create mismatches in the passing game with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon (before his latest suspension).

The Patriots could be back to being a wide-open passing team in 2019, though, and Gordon is likely to be a big part of that. He has been conditionally reinstated by the NFL and is back practicing with the team.

With Gordon, Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and rookie first-round pick N'Keal Harry, New England has a formidable receiving corps that will challenge opposing defenses weekly.

Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady is at the helm of the passing attack yet again, and while we haven't seen much of him in the preseason, the 42-year-old has looked sharp and completed eight of 12 attempts for 75 yards.

A bigger takeaway from the preseason is that undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers has legitimate star potential. The 6'2" pass-catcher has been difficult to stop in the preseason, amassing 225 yards and two touchdowns on 19 receptions.

If the 22-year-old represents the back end of New England's receiving corps, opposing secondaries are likely to have nightmares in 2019.

    

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

Perhaps the biggest riser during the preseason has been the Pittsburgh Steelers. They were largely overlooked during the offseason—both because of Browns hype and the lack of a playoff berth in 2018. However, anyone overlooking them now could be in trouble.

So the Steelers lost Antonio Brown in the offseason. That's not likely to be an issue. JuJu Smith-Schuster is primed to step into his No. 1 role, while second-year man James Washington appears poised to take over as the No. 2.

Through three preseason games, Washington has caught nine passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He's averaged 22.6 yards per reception. As long as Smith-Schuster thrives as a No. 1 target, Washington is likely to thrive alongside him.

Then there's the Pittsburgh defense. This is a smothering unit that managed to rack up 52 sacks in 2018. If its dress rehearsal against the Tennessee Titans was an accurate indication, the Steelers defense will pick up where it left off.

Tennessee produced just 223 yards and six points against the Steelers. Its quarterbacks were sacked a combined seven times.

"I don't like to put too much stock in it, but if this is any indication of how we are going to play, it's a good sign," defensive end Cameron Heyward said, per The Athletic's Mark Kaboly.

Don't be shocked if the Steelers once again claim the AFC North in 2019.

     

23. Indianapolis Colts

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The biggest fallers of the preseason are the Colts—and it's not even close. Luck's retirement is the biggest reason by far, even if not everyone was aware of it.

"I didn't see that, but I haven't really—I don't really follow them," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said, per Doug Kyed of NESN.com.

The 29-year-old's retirement is going to reverberate through the entire AFC this season. He was always an elite signal-caller when healthy, and the Indianapolis offense is not the same unit without him.

This isn't to say Jacoby Brissett cannot lead the Colts to some level of success—perhaps even to the postseason. However, the last time he was the starter, Indianapolis went just 4-12.

That was in 2017, and this Colts team is far and away an improved unit. Indianapolis probably isn't headed toward a four-win season. They have too much overall talent for that. They're probably not headed toward a Super Bowl either, though, and the results will likely fall somewhere in the middle.

Indianapolis is still a good football team, but with Luck, it had the potential to be truly special.