“If you did the job right the first time, you wouldn’t have to do it again.”
The voice of my mother, scolding me for my terrible bed-making skills, rings through my head. She was right. Taking time to the job correctly at the outset means fewer (if any) corrections will need to be made down the line. I however, failed to do a stellar job ranking NFL teams after Week 1, and now my jerk editor says I have to do it again. I feel shame.
Thankfully, no. 1 and 32 don’t have to move, so that makes life a little easier. Some other moves are so slight that I feel I don’t have to justify why they were made. In fact, maybe I’ll just address the biggest movers on this week’s list? Ya, that sounds like the kind of shortcut I can get behind! And as I learned in my bed-making days, if you’re not going to do something right, you may as well do it fast.
Here are the NFL Power Rankings after Week 3.
Definitive 2016 NFL Power Rankings
1. New England Patriots (no move)
2. Denver Broncos (previously no. 4)
3. Minnesota Vikings (previously no. 13)
Every week I think “this Vikings defense can’t top last game’s effort.” And every week they keep raising the bar. This week, in between sacking Eli Manning a dozen times, they’ll probably knit sweaters for the less fortunate on the sidelines.
Coupled with a great return game and Stefon Diggs’ emergence as a top-tier receiver, there are almost no cracks in this Minnesota roster (except for the one that will inevitably develop in Sam Bradford’s shin and cause him to miss the rest of the season).
4. Philadelphia Eagles (previously no. 19)
How does a team with a rookie quarterback and a hodgepodge of players at running back not have a single turnover through three games? Either stickum has made a subtle comeback or, more likely, Carson Wentz was more prepared for this NFL thing than I gave him credit for. The Eagles offense has controlled the clock, leading the NFL in time of possession and keeping their resurgent D in favorable situations.
It’s been a full team effort by the year’s biggest surprise, and that brand of “everybody chips in” football means that Philly may just be around the top of this list for the long haul.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (previously no. 2)
With Le’Veon Bell on his way back, I’m not going to punish the Steelers too much for their pants-pooping in Philly. Pittsburgh always has one or two stinkers on the road, but they always find their form in December. Although their lack of a pass rush is quickly shifting from area of concern to full-blown panic room.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (no move)
7. Green Bay Packers (previously no. 5)
8. Seattle Seahawks (previously no. 9)
9. New York Giants (previously no. 10)
10. Carolina Panthers (previously no. 7)
Losing to a pair of (now) top-five teams isn’t as bad as the Panthers’ inability to protect Cam to start the year. Thankfully, there are zero pass rushers to be found in the NFC South.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (previously no. 3)
Again, two top-five losses aren’t bad. Still, Tyler Eifert can’t get back fast enough to help this red zone offense.
12. Houston Texans (previously no. 14)
13. Dallas Cowboys (previously no. 20)
So rookies can just immediately come in and own the NFL now, is that it? Dak Prescott’s 99 pass attempts without an interception to start his career is second all-time, surpassed only by fellow rookie Carson Wentz. Prescott has had the aid of a ground game that averages 134 yards an outing and has found the end zone seven times. That kind of ball control has helped hide the fact that the Cowboys’ defense is still pretty terrible (but may get slightly better when Demarcus Lawrence comes back in Week 5).
14. Atlanta Falcons (previously no. 27)
“Offense wins championships.” It’s not a cliche now, but Atlanta’s hoping to make it one. Although if it didn’t catch on after the 1999 Rams, it probably never will. And really, both sayings are stupid; good teams win championships, which sadly, the Falcons are not; their defense sucks out loud.
Either Matt Ryan continues to keep up this “I’m the best quarterback in the NFL” facade all season or the Falcons will be headed for a regression.
15. Oakland Raiders (previously no. 11)
16. Baltimore Ravens (previously no. 18)
A 3-0 team this far down the list? Blasphemy! That is, until you remember the Ravens haven’t played anything resembling competent football teams to start the year, and still they haven’t been able to protect the football. The Ravens are last year’s Falcons; despite starting hot, they’ll end up with an 8-8 record at the end of the year and no one will bat an eye.
17. Arizona Cardinals (previously no. 8)
What happened, Arizona? You were the chosen one! As much as I want to blame all of it on Carson Palmer, the Cardinals’ run defense got exploited against a Buffalo team breaking in a new coordinator. Throw in the trouble they’ve been having with corners not named Patrick Peterson, and this defense isn’t looking like the top-five unit we’ve come to expect under Bruce Arians.
Of course, Palmer is still the biggest worry at this moment. He’s completing just 41-percent of passes thrown 11-plus yards downfield, well off last season’s pace. If Palmer isn’t maximizing on all of Arizona’s downfield threats, this offense will only go as far as Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson can carry them.
18. Los Angeles Rams (previously no. 31)
Following a head-scratching shutout in Week 1, the Rams have now won a defensive slugfest and an offensive shootout. I have no idea what to make of this team. Los Angeles isn’t swarming opposing quarterbacks (just four sacks and one pick) or running the ball down people’s throats (averaging 3.3 yards per carry). Is this just how the Rams are? They beat Seattle with defense, showed brief flashes of offensive competence against Tampa, and yet at the end of the day, they’ll still end up 7-9. Unless I have grossly underestimated Case Keenum.
Ya, they’re definitely going 7-9.
19. New York Jets (previously no. 15)
20. Detroit Lions (previously no. 17)
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (previously no. 12)
A team I thought was ready to make the leap, the Buccaneers are indeed jumping … right off the side of the boat. More frustrating than the Arizona butt-kicking, or getting torched by Case Keenum, was Jameis Winston’s complete nonchalance on the final play of Sunday’s game. You had two hours to prep for that drive and you seemingly forgot what the line of scrimmage is. For all the nice throws he makes, Winston’s mistakes will keep the Bucs a middling squad for now.
22. Washington (previously no. 21)
23. Indianapolis Colts (no move)
24. San Diego Chargers (previously no. 30)
Seriously guys, can we give Philip Rivers the MVP, regardless of how the Chargers finish? He continues to give his team a chance regardless of whom he’s throwing to.
25. Buffalo Bills (previously no. 29)
26. Tennessee Titans (no move)
27. Miami Dolphins (previously no. 24)
28. San Francisco 49ers (no move)
29. New Orleans Saints (previously no. 22)
Funny how Atlanta suffers from the same defensive deficiency as the Saints, and they’re a whole 15 spots higher. It goes to show the merits of having a productive rushing attack, and more importantly, sticking to that rushing attack throughout the game.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (previously no. 16)
All the talent in the world doesn’t mean much when a career 12-39 coach is in charge. Jacksonville has a ton of upside, but it’s going to go unrealized unless something changes.
31. Chicago Bears (previously no. 25)
I expected so much more from my Bears, but as much as I’d like to blame injuries, the problems go well beyond that.
John Fox, if you’re forced to start a ton of inexperienced corners, put them in a position to succeed. Don’t stick them in single man coverage with little help over top and expect them to hang tight while your bad pass rush never gets to the QB. Also run the ball more. And stop lying about how severe player injuries are. And, above all else, please keep losing. This team needs to draft a quarterback.