NFL Power Rankings for Week 3 (Sept. 18, 2014)

Denver Broncos v Buffalo BillsAre the Buffalo Bills the NFL’s surprise team this year? Few would have guessed this coming into the season since the Bills haven’t made the playoffs in 14 seasons, and haven’t had a winning record in 9 years. But they are certainly looking the part of a changed team after beating Chicago on the road, and walloping Miami 29-10 last week.

Buffalo faces yet another good opponent in San Diego, and this matchup will reveal more about just how much they’ve improved. The Bills have already improved quite a bit in our power rankings as they represent the biggest jump.

1. Denver Broncos (2-0); beat Kansas City 24-17, moves up one spot – Few expected the Broncos to be challenged at home after the way that Kansas City played in Week 1. This was especially the case since the team was missing Jamaal Charles. Nevertheless, give Denver credit for beating a division rival and maintaining their unblemished mark.

2. Seattle Seahawks (1-1); lost to San Diego 30-21, drops one spot – A bit of a disappointment here as Seattle couldn’t seem to cover Antonio Gates as he caught three touchdown passes. Of course, Percy Harvin’s second-quarter fumble didn’t help matters – this was a huge momentum-shifter. But while the defending Super Bowl champs’ bid for perfection may have ended early, a road loss to San Diego is no reason to get alarmed.

3. New England Patriots (1-1); beat Minnesota 30-7, moves up two spots – With the NFC’s elites looking rather mediocre last weekend, we see another AFC team near the top. New England was great on both sides of the ball – intercepting Matt Cassel four times – en route to a blowout. Stevan Ridley showed that he’s not in Bill Belichick’s doghouse by rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown.

darren-sproles-eagles4. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0); beat Indianapolis 30-27, moves up two spots – Nick Foles had yet another poor first-half performance, only to help the team come roaring back in the second half. The Eagles deserve praise for fighting back in what looked like a Colts victory. Darren Sproles was more than impressive out of the backfield, racking up 152 receiving yards on just seven catches.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0); beat Atlanta Falcons 24-10, moves up two spots – The Falcons are a much-improved team, which is why this is a very good victory for Cincinnati – especially without A.J. Green on the field. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard have quickly made their case for being the league’s top young backfield. And let us not forget how dominant the defense was against Atlanta.

6. San Francisco 49ers (1-1); lost to Chicago Bears 28-20, drops three spots – How San Francisco lost this one is beyond us. They jumped out to a 17-0 lead and were ahead 20-7 going into the fourth quarter. However, five turnovers, 16 penalties and a big drop near the end doomed San Francisco. Oh yeah…and they also let Jay Cutler throw three touchdowns in the last quarter. We pity the Niners at practice this week with Jim Harbaugh.

7. Green Bay Packers (1-1); beat New York Jets 31-24, moves up one spot – The Packers offense couldn’t have started off any slower, and the defense couldn’t have started any worse. Green Bay finally put two and a half quarters of good football together, capped off by Jordy Nelson’s 80-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. His 209 receiving yards were the third most in a game in Packers’ history.

8. Carolina Panthers (2-0); beat Detroit 24-7, moves up two spots – Against the Giants in Week 1, Detroit’s offense looked unstoppable. Against the Panthers, they looked lost, which is only a testament to how dominant Carolina’s front seven is. Greg Hardy going on the exempt list until at least mid-November really hurts. However, this defense isn’t all about Hardy, as just 21 points allowed and 6 forced turnovers through two games indicate.

9. New Orleans Saints (0-2); lost to Cleveland Browns 26-24, drops five spots – The Saints, who as always came into this season with Super Bowl aspirations, couldn’t have envisioned a worse start to the season. The offense was sluggish in the beginning, and the defense failed to make plays when it mattered. Case in point: the Saints’ pass defense on Andrew Hawkins’ big reception at the end that set up a game-winning field goal.

jay-cutler-bears10. Chicago Bears (1-1); beat San Francisco 28-20, moves up two spots – The Bears played one great quarter of football and took advantage of a San Francisco team that was hellbent on beating itself. So we’re not ready to predict a Super Bowl parade in Chicago just yet. Nevertheless, this was a very good victory for this team, especially stepping up when so many of their defenders went down with injuries.

11. Arizona Cardinals (2-0); beat New York Giants 25-14, moves up two spots – Playing a terrible Giants team allowed Arizona to survive both their first game without Carson Palmer and a road contest. This team will be relying much more on Andre Ellington now that Jonathan Dwyer has become the latest NFL player embroiled in a domestic abuse case.

12. Indianapolis Colts (0-2); lost to Philadelphia Eagles 30-27, drops three spots – Bad officiating and poor play-calling cost the Colts what should have been a victory. The decision to run the first two downs on Indianapolis’ last drive was baffling. They should get a victory this week in Jacksonville, however, the Colts are still starting off in an 0-2 hole.

13. San Diego Chargers (1-1); beat Seattle Seahawks, moves up two spots – There weren’t may people who called the win over Seattle. As mentioned in the introduction, Gates had an amazing day, helping Philip Rivers to also finish well with 287 yards and three touchdowns. They’ll now head out to Buffalo with plenty of confidence after beating the defending champs.

14. Buffalo Bills (2-0); beat Miami Dolphins 29-10, moves up 12 spots – Like everybody else, we underrated Buffalo coming into the season and thought that their win in Chicago was a fluke. But then they came out and dismantled our darkhorse favorite for the AFC East crown. C.J. Spiller showed just why he’s so dangerous on a 102-yard kickoff return while Sammy Watkins caught 8 passes for 117 yards and a TD.

bernard-pierce-ravens-201415. Baltimore Ravens (1-1); beat Pittsburgh Steelers 26-16, moves up two spots – So much for Bernard Pierce being benched for ineffectiveness as he rushed 22 times for 96 yards. Justin Forsett added eight carries for 56 yards, completing a backfield that could make fans forget Ray Rice.

16. Miami Dolphins (1-1); lost to Buffalo Bills 29-10, drops two spots – After a huge win over New England, Miami followed this up with a dud against the Bills. Their coverage on Spiller’s kickoff return was poor at best. And now they have to contend with Knowshon Moreno’s elbow injury. Hopefully this doesn’t turn into last year’s situation, where the team can’t string together consistent performances.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1); lost to Baltimore Ravens 26-6, drops six spots – A highly disappointing performance on both sides of the ball for Pittsburgh – especially from their lineman. The three turnovers added to the dismal offensive output while the linebackers and safeties got burned several times in coverage. Is this just another 8-8 Steelers team?

18. Atlanta Falcons (1-1); lost to Cincinnati Bengals 24-10, drops two spots – We expect the Falcons to be a player in the NFC South race. But after putting up little fight against Cincinnati, they haven’t shown too much so far. Matt Ryan was under pressure from a strong Bengals front seven all game, leading to 24-for-44 passing, three interceptions and being sacked three times. With no real running threat, Atlanta is a team that will live and die by the pass.

19. Detroit Lions (1-1); lost to Carolina Panthers 24-7, drops one spot – It seemed that nothing was really working for Detroit last Sunday. Their run game was stuffed and Matt Stafford didn’t get many good looks downfield. Give the nasty Carolina defense some credit here, but also consider the Lions’ three turnovers.

alex-smith-kansas-city20. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2); lost to Denver 24-17, drops two spots – We weren’t expecting big things from the Chiefs this season. But their performance against Denver without Jamaal Charles was commendable. After a disastrous three-interception outing in Week 1, Alex Smith turned in a strong, scrappy effort with 255 passing yards and 42 rushing yards. He’ll have to do far more of this with Charles out.

21. New York Jets (1-1); lost to Green Bay 31-24, drops one spot – Even when Geno Smith led the Jets to an early 21-3 lead over Green Bay, many fans probably had a feeling that the Packers would have the last laugh. And that’s exactly what happened as the Packers stormed back from an 18-point deficit to beat the hapless Jets. To add insult to injury, Jeremy Kerley’s game-tying, 37-yard touchdown catch was wiped out because New York called a timeout from the sidelines.

22. Dallas Cowboys (0-1); beat Tennessee 26-10, moves up six spots – Maybe Dallas isn’t going to be so bad this year. DeMarco Murray powered his way to 167 yards and a TD on just 29 carries. With such a balanced offense, Tony Romo was better able to manage the game and, most importantly, avoid throwing any interceptions.

23. St. Louis (1-1); beat Tampa Bay 19-17, moves up one spot – All bets were off on Austin Davis leading the Rams to a victory on the road. However, in his first-ever start, Davis turned in a decent game by completing 22-of-29 passes for 235 yards. Most importantly, he didn’t throw any interceptions and got the team in position for a TD and four field goals.

24. Houston Texans (2-0); beat Oakland 30-14, moves up one spot – If you’ll remember, the Texas started 2-0 last year, only to lose the next 14 games. Somehow, though, we feel that this year is different. This is especially the case if Arian Foster stays healthy, as he rushed for 138 yards and a score on 28 carries. But there needs to be some victories over teams besides the Skins and Raiders before they move up.

25. Tennessee Titans (1-1); lost to Dallas Cowboys 26-10, drops four spots – Tennessee’s run defense, which held up so well against the Chiefs, was absolutely obliterated by Dallas. The Boys rushed for over 200 yards, with Murray leading the way during his 167-yard effort. Meanwhile, the Titans rushed just 13 times total, which pretty much tells you everything about why Tennessee was dominated at home.

26. Minnesota Vikings (1-1); lost to New England 30-7, drops three spots – Losing Adrian Peterson to a child abuse case comes at a very bad time for the Vikings. Now opposing defenses can virtually ignore the run game, or force Matt Cassel to beat them…it doesn’t really matter.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2); lost to St. Louis 19-17, drops five spots – In most cases, having a rusher like Bobby Rainey go for 144 yards on just 22 carries is a recipe for victory. But that wasn’t the case for Tampa Bay as they found a way to lose this one. It seems like they’re going to find a lot of ways to lose in 2014.

28. Cleveland Browns (1-1); beat New Orleans 26-24, moves up one spot – The defense played very well against the Saints’ dynamic offense, not allowing Drew Brees many opportunities. Plus the rookie backfield of Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell continues to carry the load, as evidenced by their combined 30 carries and 122 yards. We don’t foresee the playoffs this year, however, Cleveland has refused to roll over for superior opponents.

29. Washington Redskins (1-1); beat Jacksonville Jaguars 41-10, moves up two spots – Maybe it’s that they played the Jacksonville Jaguars, maybe it’s Kirk Cousins finally taking over the quarterback reigns (or a lot of both), but Washington looked pretty good in this blowout. Cousins threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns while Alfred Morris rushed for 85 yards and another pair of scores.

30. New York Giants (0-2); lost to Arizona 25-14, drops three spots – It seems like a really long time ago when Eli Manning won those two Super Bowls. The Giants blew a golden opportunity to get their first win at home against Drew Stanton and the Cardinals. Is a Tom Coughlin-led revival in the cards this season, or just another non-playoff year?

31. Oakland Raiders (0-2); lost to Houston Texans 30-14, moves up one spot – More than anything, this year just seems like an opportunity to season Derek Carr, who passed for 263 yards and a TD, and rushed for another 58 yards. Of course, as his two interceptions indicate, the rookie will make plenty of mistakes.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2); lost to Washington Redskins 41-10, drops one spot – This isn’t all Chad Henne’s fault because the O-line is playing terribly (also see Toby Gerhart’s 2.0 YPC). But Jacksonville might as well give the superior Blake Bortles an opportunity soon because this season is already getting out of hand.

NFL Power Rankings for September 17th, 2013 (Week 3)

russell-wilsonIt’s always hard gauging how good certain teams are following the first week of the NFL regular season. And while two games aren’t a perfect barometer either, this at least provides a little more information on who some potential playoff teams are. This being said, you can expect to see two woeful teams from last year, in the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs, make big jumps in our Week 3 NFL power rankings.

1. Denver Broncos (2-0); beat New York Giants 41-23, retains same ranking – It’s much harder picking a number one this week than last, due to Seattle’s stellar play. But for our money, Denver is still top dog after another dominating victory. And what’s amazing is that this defense doesn’t even have Champ Bailey or Von Miller yet.

2. Seattle Seahawks (2-0); beat San Francisco 29-3, moves up 2 spots – After a narrow win over Carolina, Seattle came out and destroyed their NFC rivals. Marshawn Lynch powered the offense with 98 rushing yards, 37 receiving yards and three total touchdowns. And the defense stifled Colin Kaepernick despite not having CB Brandon Browner, DE Bruce Irvin or SS Chris Clemons.

3. New Orleans Saints (2-0); beat Tampa Bay 16-14, retains same ranking – It took a late Garrett Hartley field goal, but the Saints were able to pull off this tough road win. Jimmy Graham continues to impress after piling up 179 yards on 10 catches. The defense is also playing well after allowing just 31 points in the first two weeks.

4. Houston Texans (2-0); beat Tennessee 30-24 (OT), moves up 3 spots – Houston finally seems to have found a solid receiver to play deandre-hopkins-texansopposite Andre Johnson. DeAndre Hopkins grabbed eight balls for 117 yards and a touchdown in just his second career game. As usual, the run game was strong with Ben Tate and Arian Foster combining for 182 yards on just 28 carries.

5. San Francisco 49ers (1-1); lost to Seattle 29-3, drops 3 spots – You could make a case for San Francisco falling even further. However, Seattle is a tough place to play, and the Niners did just beat Green Bay last week. You can bet that this early season blowout loss will fire them up over the next few games.

6. New England Patriots (2-0); beat New York Jets 13-10, drops 1 spot – It’s hard to move this team down because A) they’re the Patriots, and B) they’re undefeated. However, the offense is going through some obvious growing pains with a completely new lineup of receivers.

7. Green Bay Packers (1-1); beat Washington 38-20, retains same ranking – This was even more of a blowout than it looked on paper thanks to Aaron Rodgers’ 480 passing yards and 4 TD tosses. But the pass protection wasn’t ideal as Rodgers was sacked four times. We’re still waiting to see what Eddie Lacy can do too since he had a subpar first game and was knocked out on his first carry against the Skins.

8. Atlanta Falcons (1-1); beat St. Louis 31-24, retains same ranking – Atlanta got pretty banged up in this one after seeing several players, including Stephen Jackson, head for the locker room early. But Matt Ryan (374YDS, 2TD) and Julio Jones (182RYDS, 1TD) were able to do enough to hold off a scrappy Rams team.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1); beat Pittsburgh 20-10, retains same ranking – The Cincinnati defense is as good as it was advertised this past aj-green-footballoffseason. And the Bengals offense is filled with weapons, including AJ Green, Tyler Eifert and Giovanni Bernard.

10. Chicago Bears (2-0); beat Minnesota 31-30, retains same ranking – The Vikings kept it close with a kickoff return score and a returned-fumble TD. But once again, Chicago got some late-game heroics from Jay Cutler after he found Martellus Bennett for a TD with 10 seconds left. We still need a few weeks though to see if the Bears pass protection keeps holding up like this (just 1 sack allowed).

11. Miami Dolphins (2-0); beat Indianapolis 24-20, moves up 5 spots – The Dolphins leap up our rankings thanks to a win over a playoff team. Ryan Tannehill is definitely showing why the Dolphins drafted him in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft while WR Mike Wallace and TE Charles Clay look like potent receiving threats.

12. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0); beat Dallas 17-16, moves up 7 spots – It’s still early to tell, but Kansas City looks like a team capable of grabbing a Wild Card spot in the AFC. Alex Smith has provided steady quarterback play while Jamal Charles and Dwayne Bowe are explosive weapons who could turn any play into a touchdown.

13. Baltimore Ravens (1-1); beat Cleveland 14-6, moves up 2 spots – In a week where a lot of mid-range teams lost, Baltimore won and moves up…simple as that. The offense wasn’t anything to brag about, but the defense did sack Brandon Weeden five times, eventually sending him to the locker room in the fourth quarter.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1); lost to San Diego 33-30, drops 3 spotsmichael-vick-1There’s no denying that Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense is putting points on the board. And it seems to have rejuvenated the careers of Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson. Vick threw for a career-high 428 yards, while Jackson hauled in 10 catches for 193 yards last game. But the question is, what’s this fast-paced offense doing to the defense?

15. Detroit Lions (1-1); lost to Arizona 25-21, drops 4 spots – After a ton of hype surrounding Reggie Bush and the Lions, the buzz was deflated as they lost to Arizona. When Bush went down with a left knee injury, this turned into the same Detroit team from last year. The Lions’ fortunes may totally hinge on how healthy their star running back can stay.

16. Dallas Cowboys (1-1); lost to Kansas City 17-16, drops 3 spots – Dallas really failed to take control of the NFC East after losing this close one. When looking at the passing stats, it’s almost hard to figure out how the Cowboys scored just 16 points. Tony Romo threw for 298 yards, 1 TD and no interceptions while Dez Bryant burned KC for 141 receiving yards and a TD.

17. Indianapolis Colts (1-1); lost to Miami 24-20, drops 3 spots – With everybody losing around them, Indianapolis avoids a freefall. The Colts did sack Tannehill five times, which is a definite positive. Also, Andrew Luck piled up 321 yards and a TD through the air. But it’s tough to see this team making the playoffs again with the improvements made by Wild Card candidates like Miami and Kansas City.

18. St. Louis (1-1); lost to Atlanta 31-24, retains same ranking – Last week’s game looked like it was going to get out of hand when Atlanta went up 24-3 early. But St. Louis stormed back thanks to Sam Bradford finding some of his young receivers for scores. Tavon Austin, Chris Givens and Austin Pettis are going to be one formidable receiving trio to deal with.

19. Arizona Cardinals (1-1); beat Detroit 25-21, moves up 6 spotscarson-palmer-arizonaCarson Palmer is the QB solution that Arizona was searching for all of last season, while Rashard Mendenhall is providing something of a running game. If this team stays healthy, it could finish over .500 for the first time in years.

20. San Diego Chargers (1-1); beat Philadelphia 33-30, moves up 8 spots – Did Phillip Rivers just decide to take a couple years off, then come back strong in ’13? He’s thrown for 714 yards, 7 TD’s and just 1 INT through two games. The latter stat is a huge turnaround from last year.

21. Tennessee Titans (1-1); lost to Houston 30-24 (OT), drops 3 spots – There’s no shame in losing to the Texans in overtime. But it’s still a loss nonetheless and so the Titans drop in our rankings. There’s reason for optimism since Jake Locker showed some surprisingly good accuracy late in the game as he threw for a pair of touchdowns.

22. New York Giants (0-2); lost to Denver 41-23, drops 5 spots – As a team that usually comes in with Super Bowl aspirations, this is a tough position to be in. Eli Manning has thrown an alarming seven interceptions already. David Wilson has failed to solve the running game, while veteran Brandon Jacobs doesn’t appear to be anything more than TD vulture.

23. Buffalo Bills (1-1); beat Carolina 24-23, moves up 2 spots – Rookie ej-manuelQB EJ Manuel played like a 10-year veteran as he engineered a game-winning drive – capped off by a 2-yard TD throw to Stevie Johnson. If he keeps playing like this, Buffalo will have a complete offense.

24. Washington Redskins (0-2); lost to Green Bay 38-20, drop 2 spots – The Skins have been largely non-competitive in their first two games. Robert Griffin III has only managed to play well when the dogs have already been called off.

25. Minnesota Vikings (0-2); lost to Chicago 31-30, drops 2 spots – Had the defense held Chicago on the game-winning drive, we might be talking about Minnesota being a team in the 14-18 range. But as it is, they’re 0-2 with a below-average quarterback.

26. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2); lost to Cincinnati 20-10, drops 2 spots – This is a shame since the defense is so good. Pittsburgh might want to abandon the running game altogether.

27. New York Jets (1-1); lost to New England 13-10, moves up 2 spots – The Jets have been very competitive on the road, with both games being decided by a combined 4 points. When New York returns home, they could be somewhat surprising.

28. Oakland Raiders (1-1); beat Jacksonville 19-9, moves up 3 spots – Oakland’s 6-point loss on the road to Indy last week says more than their win over the Jaguars. Still, head coach Dennis Allen has brought some respect to this organization.

29. Carolina Panthers (0-2); lost to Buffalo 24-23, drops 8 spots – The pass protection has looked pretty bad for Cam, and he’s been sacked seven times already. If it wasn’t for his elusiveness, this figure would be in the double digits.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2); lost to New Orleans 16-14, drop 3 spots – The Bucs have their running back of the future in Doug Martin. If things keep up like this, they could turn to their quarterback of the future, Mike Glennon, earlier than expected.

31. Cleveland Browns (0-2); lost to Baltimore 14-6, drops 1 spot – Time to start worrying about Brandon Weeden at quarterback? Trent Richardson has really been bottled up (31CAR, 105YDS) due to a serious threat from the passing ame.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2); lost to Oakland 19-9, retains same ranking – This is shaping up to be one of the worst offensive teams in NFL history. At least backup QB Chad Henne can advance the ball past the 50-yard line though.