There is obviously a lot of parity in the NFL right now, but we’re starting to get a clearer idea of where each team stands this season. Still, an extremely deep league should lead to close playoff races all year.
1. Los Angeles Rams (3-0) | Last week: 1
The Battle for Los Angeles went in favor of the Rams, but it came at a cost, as top cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Tailb both suffered leg injuries. Based on immediate reaction from the players, it looked like Peters’ injury was a potential season-ender while Talib’s was milder; however, it was the opposite, as Peters is surprisingly day-to-day despite his reaction to the injury, and Talib is going to be out several weeks. This is obviously a big blow to the Rams, but the offense looks even better than last season when they were the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense, and the unit has the ability to carry the team. FOX’s first Thursday night game between the Rams and the Vikings should be a lot of fun.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) | Last week: 3 (+1)
Carson Wentz returned from his serious knee injury suffered in Week 14 last season and looked like his usual self, showing no limitations against the Colts. Wentz led an opening touchdown drive for the Eagles, connecting with rookie tight end Dallas Goedert; and despite getting sacked five times, Wentz made his amazing magician-like plays throughout the game. The defense made another red-zone stop late, and Philadelphia is incredibly tough to score on and beat at home.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) | Last week: 8 (+5)
Through three games, the Chiefs have a legit argument for the No. 1 spot in the power rankings. They have yet to fall behind in a game, as Patrick Mahomes—who has thrown for a record 13 touchdowns through the first three games of the season—and the red-hot offense puts up points in a hurry. And as great as Mahomes is playing, there were more throws he missed in Sunday’s win over the Niners—most notably, a deep ball to a wide-open Demarcus Robinson. If the Chiefs start hitting on those, they’ll really put up close to 40 points per game this season. The defense hasn’t been very good, but I want to see how they look when All-Pro safety Eric Berry gets on the field.
4. New Orleans Saints (2-1) | Last week: 10 (+6)
Because they lost in Week 1 to the Buccaneers in one of the most surprising results to open the season and then barely edged out the Browns in Week 2, it doesn’t feel like the Saints are 2-1. But Drew Brees and company won an overtime shootout in Atlanta against a depleted Falcons team, giving the Saints a huge NFC South road win early in the season. Brees broke Brett Favre’s record for career completions, and he looks as ever at 39 years old. Despite defensive struggles through three games, New Orleans always has a chance with Brees under-center.
5. New England Patriots (1-2) | Last week: 2 (-3)
Two consecutive double-digit losses is very surprising, and the Patriots obviously don’t look good right now. But, as we’ve seen so many times over the years, it would be unwise to count them out based on a couple of games early in the season. Both losses were on the road, though, so I expect the Patriots will get back on track—with a much sharper Tom Brady—this Sunday in Foxboro against the Dolphins. The Patriots will probably go on a great run and climb closer to the top of the power rankings soon.
6. Washington Redskins (2-1) | Last week: 13 (+7)
After a Week 2 loss at home to the Colts, facing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers was a big test for the Redskins, and they passed with flying colors. Adrian Peterson had another throwback performance against a familiar opponent, and the defense got pressure on Rodgers and limited Green Bay’s weapons throughout the game. The Alex Smith-Jay Gruden combination is one of the best in the league, so the Redskins are going to be in most games. In Washington’s Week 2 loss against Indy, they might have been surprised at how tough the Colts played defensively. The Redskins get a bye with plenty of time to prepare for a Week 5 Monday night matchup in New Orleans.
7. Atlanta Falcons (1-2) | Last week: 5 (-2)
The Falcons lost at home and are now the only team in the NFC South with a losing record through three games, but there’s reason for optimism. After the offense struggled in the opening game of the season, Matt Ryan has been lights out with nine total touchdowns while leading the team to 68 points in the last two games. First-round rookie receiver Calvin Ridley stepped up with 146 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints, and it’s a scary thought for teams trying to defend all those weapons. Safety Ricardo Allen (out for the season with a torn Achilles) is yet another big loss for Atlanta’s defense, but I think Dan Quinn can still get the unit to play well.
8. Green Bay Packers (1-1-1) | Last week: 6 (-2)
The Packers might have still been sour about the bad roughing-the-passer call taking away a win against the Vikings in Week 2, but playing in Washington against a strong Redskins team was a difficult task. Even with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers would probably prefer to give their talented running back trio more than 15 rushing attempts. Defensively, the group needs to get more consistent against both the run and the pass, and they have the talent to do so.
9. Carolina Panthers (2-1) | Last week: 9
Second-round rookie cornerback Donte Jackson has stepped in and made a big difference for Carolina’s defense, as he has three interceptions in the last two games and was responsible for two of the Panthers’ four interceptions of Andy Dalton on Sunday. On offense, the Panthers backed up their talk by handing stud second-year running back Christian McCaffrey the ball 28 times, and he turned it into 184 yards, again showing he has plenty of ability between the tackles. Cam Newton was efficient and put the ball into the end zone for all four of Carolina’s touchdowns (two passing, two rushing).
10. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) | Last week: 15 (+5)
Things didn’t start off great for the Ravens defensively against the Broncos, but they shut Denver out for the final three quarters after allowing 14 first-quarter points. Baltimore has the talent defensively, and they haven’t allowed a point in seven of the first 12 quarters of the season—which is tied for the best in the league—but they must start games quicker. Joe Flacco and the new receiving corps continue to play well, but the Ravens probably don’t want to get in a shootout with the Steelers on Sunday night.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1-1) | Last week: 14 (+3)
Last night’s win in Tampa Bay might have been a momentum-builder as the Steelers head into a huge primetime matchup with the Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball around again, helping the Steelers get a big halftime lead that they were able to hold. It was a great sign that despite some struggles running the ball throughout the game, James Conner and the offensive line was able to put the Bucs away late in the fourth quarter—especially with the team potentially parting ways with Le’Veon Bell soon. There are still major defensive concerns for Pittsburgh, as they give up way too many big plays and must get that fixed.
12. Minnesota Vikings (1-1-1) | Last week: 7 (-5)
The situation with star defensive end Everson Griffen is very concerning, and hopefully his apparent issues get sorted out. If he’s off the field for an extended stretch, it’s a big loss for the Vikings. For whatever reason, Minnesota’s defense always seems to have the type of performance they had against the Bills every once in a while; but the offense wasn’t much better with three turnovers and four sacks allowed. The Vikings have a ton of talent, but I am concerned that they didn’t dominate in a home matchup against a rookie quarterback making his second start. I am excited to see how the team responds against the Rams on Thursday night.
13. Miami Dolphins (3-0) | Last week: 16 (+3)
Ryan Tannehill has been great through three games, completing over 71% of his passes in each contest with a 7:2 TD/INT ratio on the season. The 3-0 Dolphins didn’t need many plays to put up 28 points against the Raiders, as Adam Gase’s attack is getting creative and making big chunk plays through the air. The running back duo of Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore hasn’t even gotten going yet, but this might be a game for them this week against the Patriots. Xavien Howard continues to emerge as a true lockdown corner, which makes things a lot easier for the entire Miami defense.
14. Tennessee Titans (2-1) | Last week: 17 (+3)
After two straight wins against the Texans and Jaguars, there’s a lot of energy surrounding the Titans. It hasn’t been flashy, but first-year head coach Mike Vrabel has his guys playing extremely hard, and they’ve been in three hard-fought games to start the season. Marcus Mariota came into a very tough situation in Jacksonville at less than 100%, but he made clutch plays and helped his team grind out a 9-6 win to improve to 2-0 in the division early in the season. If Mariota plays like that and continues to get healthier, the Titans might soon climb back toward the top five of the power rankings. It’s a really good sign that they might have the Jaguars’ number.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) | Last week: 4 (-11)
The Jaguars admittedly came into their Week 3 loss with last year’s Week 17 loss—in which the Titans beat them capped by a Marcus Mariota stiff-arm to make the postseason—on their minds, and they couldn’t defend homefield. Perhaps it was a letdown after a big win against the Patriots the week before, but the Titans (and Mariota) have won the last three games against the Jags and just seem to play well against them. I think the Titans are the favorites in the division, and the Patriots win doesn’t look quite as impressive after the Lions beat them convincingly on Sunday night, so the Jags drop 11 spots in this week’s rankings.
16. Los Angeles Chargers (1-2) | Last week: 11 (-5)
The Chargers certainly could have remained in the 10-15 range, as their two losses were to two of the best teams in the league, and Philip Rivers is playing as good as ever through three games. Also, they’ve played the last two games on the road and have a couple of home games coming up before facing Cleveland on the road. A healthy Mike Williams continues to be a major difference-maker at receiver for the Chargers, and he appears to have the full trust to make plays—which is what he’s done so far this season. This defense faced arguably the two top offenses in two of the first three games, but they’ll be a lot different on that side of the ball when Joey Bosa returns.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) | Last week: 12 (-5)
After scoring 34 points in consecutive games to open the season, Carolina’s defense forced four Andy Dalton interceptions. Also, A.J. Green left the game with a groin injury, so that’s something to keep an eye on, but he’s indicated it’s nothing serious. The defense is potent, but they’ve allowed nearly 26 points per game through three games. Giovani Bernard is very good, but Joe Mixon in the lineup maximizes Cincinnati’s offensive attack.
18. Chicago Bears (2-1) | Last week: 18
The Ravens are one team that’s allowed zero points in 7-of-12 quarters this season, and the Bears are the other. After allowing a quick 14 points to open the game against the Cardinals, the Bears stepped up and pitched a shoutout the rest of the way, forcing four turnovers in the process. But the offense isn’t clicking quite yet, and the Bears are averaging 4.4 yards per play, which is third-worst in the NFL. Mitchell Trubisky’s great deep ball hasn’t quite been unleashed yet this season, but that should be coming soon.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) | Last week: 20 (+1)
The Steelers took advantage of some of the question marks about the secondary last night, handing the Buccaneers their first loss of the young season. Ryan Fitzpatrick was a bit careless with the ball, but his three of his first-half interceptions came on a tipped pass, a miscommunication, and a throw from the end zone where it appeared his arm was hit. In comeback mode, Fitzpatrick lit up Pittsburgh’s secondary and nearly led the Bucs to a 17-point comeback, and his 400-yard effort made him the first player in league history to throw for 400 yards in three consecutive games. I think Tampa Bay should roll with Fitzpatrick even with Jameis Winston returning from his three-game suspension.
20. Cleveland Browns (1-1-1) | Last week: 32 (+12)
Baker Mayfield gave the Browns a huge jolt last Thursday night against the Jets, and it might be the type of performance that builds momentum throughout the rest of the year. The No. 1 pick in the draft showed great anticipation and accuracy when he stepped in for an indecisive Tyrod Taylor, and you could just tell Mayfield’s presence energized the entire team. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if and when things start to go south for the rookie quarterback, but there’s no question this team has a lot of talent and should be on the rise.
21. Seattle Seahawks (1-2) | Last week: 26 (+5)
The Seahawks had to play the first two games of the season on the road, but they looked like a totally different team in CenturyLink Field, forcing three turnovers against the Cowboys. Russell Wilson didn’t put up huge numbers in Seattle’s first win of the season, but he was making good decisions and dropping dimes throughout the afternoon. As for the Earl Thomas situation, I don’t see how that can last much longer. He’s apparently stopped practicing whenever he feels like it as part of a “hold in,” and one shot from the FOX broadcast team showed Pete Carroll attempting to talk to Thomas and linebacker Mychael Kendricks, and Thomas seemingly refused to look his head coach in the eye.
22. Denver Broncos (2-1) | Last week: 21 (-1)
Case Keenum has an interception in each of the first three games, and five total on the season. There’s simply no way the Broncos are going to compete for an AFC West title or a wild-card spot if the veteran quarterback doesn’t take better care of the ball. He has the weapons getting separation and one of the league’s best offensive coordinators in Bill Musgrave, so he just needs to relax and let his guys make plays like he did last season with Minnesota. This Monday night against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will be a huge test.
23. Detroit Lions (1-2) | Last week: 30 (+7)
With the Patriots coming to town over the weekend, the Lions responded to an 0-2 start by playing extremely well for their head coach Matt Patricia against his former organization. You don’t want to overreact to one game too much, but amid all the talk of the drastic culture change for the Lions, and the sloppy play in the first two games of the season, the performance should bode well for Patricia in his first year leading the franchise. The Lions have one of the league’s best quarterbacks in an offense he’s experienced in (with plenty of weapons), and the super-smooth Kerryon Johnson is showing why the team targeted him in the second round of the draft, as he became the franchise’s first 100-yard rusher since Thanksgiving 2013.
24. Oakland Raiders (0-3) | Last week: 22 (-2)
Derek Carr continues to operate Jon Gruden’s offense at a high level—aside from the turnovers. Carr is completing 76.6% of his passes with 936 yards this season, but he has just two touchdowns and five interceptions—including a costly one with a chance to go ahead in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins. At times, Carr might be trying too hard to make a play, but he’s playing exceptionally well when just taking what the defense gives him. I don’t think the Raiders should be counted out, but it’s going to be difficult to climb out of an 0-4 hole if they lose to the Browns this weekend.
25. New York Giants (1-2) | Last week: 28 (+3)
He probably zoned it out or didn’t care, but there was a lot of criticism of Eli Manning after the Giants struggled to get anything going against the Cowboys in Week 2. He responded by going 25/29 for 297 yards and two touchdowns—including what was basically a game-sealer to Sterling Shepard with just over two minutes remaining—in a win over the Texans. The offensive line remains a concern, but Pat Shurmur puts his players in a good position to get the ball and make plays. The Giants will look to keep it going in a potential shootout with the Saints in Week 4.
26. Buffalo Bills (1-2) | Last week: 31 (+4)
The biggest underdog of Week 3 silenced the critics with an absolute romping of the Vikings in Minnesota to pick up their first win of the season. Josh Allen (one passing touchdown, two rushing touchdowns) showed the elite arm talent and great athleticism that made the Bills target him early in the draft, and the young gunslinger looks like the type of player that is going to rally his guys around him. On defense, Tre’Davious White put on a clinic shutting down Stefon Diggs, and people might be finally starting to recognize that the second-year corner is as good as it gets at the position. Again, it might be an up-and-down season for Buffalo, but they have a couple of cornerstones in Allen and White.
27. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) | Last week: 25 (-2)
The Colts have opened the season with games against three teams that are currently 2-1—and two games on the road—and I really like the way they’ve played despite a 1-2 record. The defense in particular is playing tough and not making anything easy for opposing offenses, and rookie Darius Leonard continues to be a big part of that. The second-round rookie has a league-leading 41 tackles and three sacks this season, and the Colts might have a couple of future All-Pro defenders in him and safety Malik Hooker. If the first three weeks are any indication, the Colts are going to compete as hard as any team in the league, even if it doesn’t equate to a ton of wins in 2018.
28. Dallas Cowboys (1-2) | Last week: 24 (-4)
The offensive concerns of the Cowboys are very real, as they are second-to-last in scoring and third-to-last in yardage through three games. Dallas was able to establish the run game with Ezekiel Elliott against the Seahawks, but they couldn’t capitalize with big plays in the passing game. Now the defense is without Sean Lee because of another hamstring injury, so rookie Leighton Vander Esch, who played well this week, must step up.
29. San Francisco 49ers (1-2) | Last week: 19 (-10)
Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending knee injury is just a crushing loss for the Niners and the NFL, and I wish him luck on his recovery. We should see him back and better than ever in 2019. For this season, the Niners are fortunate to have one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league in C.J. Beathard, who showed great toughness and earned valuable experience as a rookie last season.
30. Houston Texans (0-3) | Last week: 23 (-7)
The Texans have some pieces, but they just don’t look a good football team right now. The offensive line is the biggest concern for Houston, but the defense has struggled to make stops. J.J. Watt turned it on with three sacks against the Giants, so maybe he’ll start carrying the unit to help the team pick up a victory. I like Deshaun Watson as much as anyone and obviously it takes more than one guy, but the team is 3-6 ins his nine career starts, which simply indicates the team hasn’t been very good the last two seasons. The Texans have lost an NFL-worst nine straight games dating back to last year.
31. New York Jets (1-2) | Last week: 27 (-4)
The Jets have had two of their first three games on the road, and they must go on the road against to face the Jaguars this Sunday. Also, they played their first three games in an 11-day span after playing Week 1 on Monday night and Week 3 on Thursday night. It’s a tough task for a team led by a rookie quarterback, and the franchise must have patience with Todd Bowles and his staff.
32. Arizona Cardinals (0-3) | Last week: 29 (-3)
Sam Bradford did not play well after two first-quarter touchdowns against the Bears, as he uncharacteristically didn’t take care of the football and was probably pressing a bit after reports emerged stating that the team was going to put in rookie Josh Rosen if the offense stalled again. It was just a matter of time until the team, which has many worse issues than at quarterback, made Bradford a scapegoat, and now Rosen is taking over as the team’s starter. Until the offense gets more creative and protects better, Rosen (or any quarterback they put back there) is going to struggle.