Week 3 of the NFL season served as a wakeup call for several teams who entered the weekend unbeaten, and offered legitimacy to some contenders still trying to find their footing.
Only three teams across the league emerged unscathed and undefeated, and a legitimate case can be argued for each emerging as Super Bowl contenders, while several prior unbeaten teams had major flaws exposed. The Dolphins, 49ers, Eagles, Chiefs, and Bills seem to clearly be the class of this league. Behind those behemoths is where the debates really heat up.
Judging by what we've seen through the season's first three weeks, here are our latest NFL power rankings:
1. Miami Dolphins (3-0)
Previous: No. 1
The Dolphins have the look of an offensive juggernaut, that might border on being unstoppable. Both Raheem Mostert and De'Von Achane scored four total touchdowns against the Broncos, as Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins' offense stampeded to 726 total yards and a 70 point outburst in a 50-point victory. Miami has held down the top spot in these ranks through each of the season's first three weeks, and Sunday's clash against the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills feels more like another chance for the Dolphins to strengthen their legitimacy than any real threat to their current dominance.
2. San Francisco 49ers (3-0)
Previous: No. 2
Thursday night, even with a worn down Christian McCaffrey — from a significant workload the prior Sunday, and without star wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, the 49ers were methodical in their destruction of the New York Giants. Steve Wilks' defense strangled out Daniel Jones and the Giants' offense, sacking the quarterback twice, hitting him five times, and holding New York to just 10 first downs and 150 yards of total offense. It wasn't a pretty performance from quarterback Brock Purdy, but he still passed for 310 yards with two touchdowns. After three weeks, the 49ers look like the class of the NFC, and maybe the NFL's most balanced roster.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0)
Previous: No. 5
Each week the Eagles seem to take another step towards returning to their Super Bowl form of a year ago, and Monday night's blowout win over the Buccaneers was further validation that this remains one of the NFL's best. Not only did A.J. Brown re-emerge as one of Philadelphia's most dangerous weapons, catching 9 of 14 targets for a season-high 131 yards, but D'Andre Swift once again proved capable of being an explosive game-changer, rushing for 130 yards. One of the Eagles' few remaining hiccups was converting just one-of-five red-zone trips into touchdowns. Philadelphia wasn't flawless, but they're now 3-0, including two conference wins, which could prove critical later on in terms of tiebreakers.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (2-1)
Previous: No. 4
If you've ever watched an early-season Big Ten game (or November in the SEC) and seen the powerhouse pay millions of dollars to the state's top FCS program to swing by the stadium to secure an easy win, you pretty much saw Chiefs vs. Bears. Sunday saw Kansas City look the part of a legitimate Super Bowl favorite, by thrashing the Bears, 41-10 and out-gaining Chicago 456 yards to 203. Sunday's game was complete with Patrick Mahomes ensuring Travis Kelce catch a touchdown pass with his guest of honor, Taylor Swift, looking on from the Arrowhead suites. Just imagine the Firework Show the Chiefs have in store for the Jets next Sunday night ...
5. Buffalo Bills (2-1)
Previous: No. 7
After stumbling opening night against the Jets, the Bills look like the Bills, again. Over the past two weeks, including Sunday's 37-3 demolition of the Commanders, Buffalo has outscored opponents 75-13, as Josh Allen has tossed four touchdowns to just one interception over that span. Meanwhile, the Bills sacked Sam Howell nine times, administering the kind of drubbing that raises question marks about whether Washington has found its quarterback, after all. Week 4 against Miami will be a litmus test for just how seriously to take the Bills and their quest for a Super Bowl, this season.
6. Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
Previous: No. 2
What, exactly, was that? Yes, the Cowboys entered Sunday banged up along the offensive line, but boasted more talent at every position on both sides of the ball, and still got bullied around the field by the hapless Cardinals, 28-16. Call it a lapse in focus, or atrocious playcalling from head coach Mike McCarthy, but that was an out of character loss for the Cowboys, who looked like a historically dominant defense through the season's first two weeks ... Until allowing 400 yards of total offense against the Cardinals.
7. Seattle Seahawks (2-1)
Previous: No. 8
The Seahawks seem to have found some offensive balance. All it took was a visit from the woebegone Carolina Panthers. Geno Smith passed for nearly 300 yards, Kenneth Walker logged a punishing 97-yard and two touchdown performance, as the Seahawks' offense browbeat the Panthers. Jamal Adams' impending return should assuage some of the concerns about a secondary that got torched for 361 yards and two touchdowns. But, a team with a pair of punishing backs and physical receivers on the perimeter should see its share of success.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
Previous: No. 13
Sunday night's bruising 23-18 win over the Las Vegas Raiders saw Teryl Austin's defense sack Jimmy Garoppolo four times, hit him eight times, and pull down three interceptions. Maybe more importantly for Pittsburgh's prospects of competing in the AFC North this season, quarterback Kenny Pickett showed marked signs of improvement, passing for 235 yards with two touchdowns and sans turnovers, hours after it was reported that offensive coordinator Matt Canada would be working closer with the second-year signal caller. Pittsburgh's ground game is still a liability, but playing stifling defense buttressed by a passing game with big play ability could prove to be a winning formula.
9. Detroit Lions (2-1)
Previous: No. 12
Aidan Hutchinson and the Lions' defense made Desmond Ridder and the Falcons' passing game completely irrelevant, holding Atlanta to just 139 yards through the air. Meanwhile, Dan Campbell loaded up the box to render upstart running back Bijan Robinson ineffective, surrendering just 33 yards to the first-round rookie. Offensively, Jared Goff had an easy afternoon, passing for 243 yards with one touchdown, one interception, and one rushing score. Sunday was the type of methodical win the Lions expect to be the norm, and exactly what Detroit needed to get back on track after falling in overtime, at home, the prior week.
10. Cleveland Browns (2-1)
Previous: No. 16
Sunday was exactly the type of bounce back performance the Browns needed, and it featured quarterback DeShaun Watson and wide receiver Amari Cooper offering a glimpse of how dynamic their connection has the potential to be. Meanwhile, Cleveland's stalwart defense completely dominated the Titans, sacking Ryan Tannehill five times, hitting him eight times while holding Tennessee to just six first downs and under 94 yards was a shot across the bow to the rest of the league for just how good this team has the potential to be. There might not be a more complete team in the AFC North, even without Nick Chubb at running back.
11. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Previous: No. 6
Odell Beckham Jr. continues to be sidelined by an injured ankle, and so too do most of the Ravens' best-laid plans for this receiving corps being the most dynamic of Lamar Jackson's career. Baltimore was even more one-dimensional than usual in Sunday's sloppy loss to the Colts, finishing without any offensive player surpassing 50 receiving yards and Jackson remaining the Ravens' biggest threat on the ground, rushing for 101 yards. Baltimore will need to find some sort of balance, because as Sunday's game showed, it's nearly impossible to ask Jackson to act as the entirety of the offensive attack.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)
Cincinnati's defense, led by Trey Hendrickson, D.J. Reader, and B.J. Hill relentlessly swarmed quarterback Matthew Stafford all night, completely neutralizing the Rams' offense. Joe Burrow didn't look fully healthy, but made enough plays to serve as a worthy complement to the Bengals' dominant defense. As Burrow gets healthy, if the defense continues to play at this high a level, Cincinnati's going to be tough to beat.
13. Green Bay Packers (2-1)
Previous: No. 22
The Green Bay Packers are now Jordan Love's team. Love's fourth quarter, 104 passing yards with one touchdown and 39 rushing yards with another score , solidified his status as the franchise quarterback, and more importantly seemed to inspire all kinds of buy in from his teammates. As the Bears descend into dysfunction and the Minnesota Vikings struggle to find any semblance of an identity, Love's Packers seem really well positioned to battle it out with the Lions for NFC North supremacy.
14. Los Angeles Rams (1-2)
Previous: No. 9
Yes, the Rams ran into a buzzsaw in a desperate Cincinnati Bengals team looking for its first win, but some major flaws were exposed Monday night. Los Angeles was 0-for-10 on third downs, could muster only 69 rushing yards, and failed miserably trying to protect Matthew Stafford. The Rams' offensive line was so overmatched that Los Angeles wasn't one-dimensional on offense, they were no-dimensional. It'll be pretty difficult to beat the Seahawks again or keep pace with the 49ers playing the way this team did on Monday ...
15. Los Angeles Chargers (1-2)
Previous: No. 26
True to longstanding form, the Chargers did nearly everything to Charger away Sunday's game, only to have the Minnesota Vikings' offense run into an avalanche of sound from the home fans deep in the red-zone and ultimately run out of time to complete the comeback. Justin Herbert silenced some critics by passing for 405 yards with three touchdowns to zero interceptions. However, some of the optimism surrounding Los Angeles' prospects from here must be tempered after losing wide receiver Mike Williams to a torn ACL.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)
Previous: No. 14
Baker Mayfield's Cinderella turnover-free start to the season came to an end in Week 3 against the Eagles' defense. Philadelphia completely ambushed the Buccaneers' offensive line, holding Tampa to 41 rushing yards, scoring a safety, and sacking Mayfield once while providing relentless pressure all night long. Despite Monday's struggles, this might easily be the best team in the NFC South. How Mayfield and Co. bounce back will be key.
17. New England Patriots (1-2)
Previous: No. 21
On a miserable afternoon in the Meadowlands, the Patriots were on the receiving end of a dreadful performance from Jets' quarterback Zach Wilson. New England also loaded the box and held the Jets to just 38 rushing yards while sacking Wilson three times and throwing a barrage of pressure his way. The Patriots had to hold on, 15-10, but finally picked up their first win of the season.
18. Atlanta Falcons (2-1)
Previous: No. 15
For as well coached as the Falcons are, and as talented as the offense is overall, Atlanta found out the hard way in Detroit the pitfalls of relying on mediocre quarterback play. If this season is an audition for Desmond Ridder to nail down the Falcons' starting quarterback job long-term, managing only 201 passing yards and six points when your supporting cast includes dynamic playmakers like Drake London and Kyle Pitts simply isn't going to cut it.
19. Washington Commanders (2-1)
Previous: No. 17
If the Commanders felt like they were building some momentum and Sam Howell was finding his footing, Sunday served as a harsh reality check, courtesy of the Buffalo Bills. It didn't help matters that one week after logging 1.5 sacks in his return that Chase Young was held off the stat sheet, and the Commanders' defense only managed one quarterback hit on Josh Allen all afternoon. Washington faces a colossal test Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia.
20. Indianapolis Colts (2-1)
Previous: No. 27
No Anthony Richardson (concussion), no problem. The Colts went into Baltimore, into the eye of a tropical storm, and hopped the flight back to Indianapolis with a statement victory. Indianapolis' ceiling is significantly higher with Richardson in the lineup, albeit as he goes through growing pains, but Steichen proved he's capable of guiding his team through the storm. That counts for something. The Colts are playing the best football in the AFC South, and it isn't particularly close.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)
Previous: No. 10
Something just doesn't seem right about this Jaguars team. Maybe it was the emotional let down of a one-score home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs bleeding into Sunday's game against the Texans. Perhaps it's a defense that gave up 68 and 29-yard completions to the Texans. Or that Trevor Lawrence has yet to take another step in his third NFL season. It's still early, but the expectation was the Jaguars were much closer to a finished product than they've looked through the season's first month.
22. Houston Texans (1-2)
Previous: No. 30
C.J. Stroud was brilliant, and a model of efficiency, while carving up the Jaguars for 280 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Fellow rookie receiver Tank Dell was a matchup nightmare for the Jaguars' secondary all afternoon, while catching five of seven targets for 145 yards with a touchdown, while looking every bit the part of a game-altering deep-threat. DeMeco Ryans has his young team playing hard, and that's a start towards building the kind of culture he's set out to.
23. New Orleans Saints (2-1)
Previous: No. 11
The Saints' fourth quarter collapse is exacerbated by the fact that Derek Carr went down with a shoulder injury. The foundation of belief that this was the team to beat in the NFC South was that they had the best quarterback in the division, that might no longer be the case. Besides, that Green Bay managed to post 340 yards of total offense without Aaron Jones or Christian Watson is an indictment of the Saints' defense, and major cause for concern.
24. Minnesota Vikings (0-3)
Previous: No. 24
Sunday should be it. Tear it all down. Squeeze as much trade value as possible out of Kirk Cousins — who likely won't be back in Minnesota in 2024, anyway. The first three games of this season have proved that all of those one-score victories in 2023 were more of a fluke than any sort of identity of some sort of championship pedigree. Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison are nice pieces on offense, but the defense has taken a step back and there just isn't enough talent on this roster to compete.
25. New York Giants (1-2)
Previous: No. 20
Take away the Giants' 31-point outburst in the second half of Week 2 in Arizona, and New York has been outscored 98-12. Sure, New York was without Andrew Thomas and Saquon Barkley against one of the NFL's most dominant defenses in San Francisco. But, this has been an inept offense for much of the first three weeks, in stark contrast to the way this group dictated to opponents last season. Until the Giants substantially upgrade the offensive line, it won't matter who's surrounding Jones at the skill positions.
26. Arizona Cardinals (1-2)
Hey, maybe the Cardinals aren't tanking, after all. Jonathan Gannon's gang of former Eagles defenders were instrumental in Arizona slamming the door on the Cowboys, including a key fourth quarter interception off Dak Prescott to put the game on ice. Offensively, Joshua Dobbs has been exactly the game-manager Arizona's needed, and he was better than that on Sunday with 189 passing yards, one touchdown pass and 55 more rushing yards. Maybe Gannon's Cardinals can play spoiler throughout the season.
27. Las Vegas Raiders (1-2)
Previous: No. 28
Davante Adams and Maxx Crosby deserve better than this. Sunday night was a nightmare in Vegas, that even included Jimmy Garoppolo suffering a concussion ... that the league missed. Kenny Pickett carved up the Raiders' secondary, and Vegas' offense had no answers. Josh McDaniels' suspect late-game decision making once again reared its ugly head, to boot.
28. Tennessee Titans (1-2)
Previous: No. 19
Was that the low-water mark of the Mike Vrabel era in Tennessee? Could the Titans turn the page to either Will Levis or Malik Willis, after the Browns lambasted the Titans 27-3. Tennessee was anything but competitive, finishing with just 94 yards of total offense, mustering just six first downs, while allowing Deshaun Watson to carve up the defense.
29. New York Jets (1-2)
Previous: No. 23
Robert Saleh simply cannot continue forward with Zach Wilson, right? There's already signs of friction on the Jets' sideline, with several altercations during Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots. At one point late in the second quarter Sunday, the Jets were out-gained 163 yards to negative-1. The rest of the Jets' roster is too talented, with too much upside, to be saddled with Wilson's ineptitude at quarterback.
30. Carolina Panthers (0-3)
Previous: No. 29
With Bryce Young sidelined due to injury, the offense showed meaningful signs of life behind veteran backup Andy Dalton. While the Panthers' defense couldn't get off the field, and allowed 425 yards of total offense to the Seahawks, Dalton connected with nine different receivers. Perhaps that's the formula for Carolina's offense moving forward? Sunday's clash against the Minnesota Vikings could determine whether the Panthers have any chance of making any headway in 2023.
31. Denver Broncos (0-3)
Previous: No. 25
Given the talent at wide receiver, it's almost unfathomable that the Broncos are this awful. Tensions could be about to build to a crescendo between head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Russell Wilson, a match that appears to have been made in hell, especially after the Dolphins hung 70 on the Broncos. Call Sunday's Broncos-Bears clash the Caleb Williams Bowl ...
32. Chicago Bears (0-3)
Previous: No. 31
This has become arguably the most dysfunctional organization in all of professional sports. Justin Fields looks like a shell of himself. Not only does the clock seem to be ticking on Matt Eberflus' tenuous tenure as head coach, but the Bears might now be the runaway favorite in the Caleb Williams sweepstakes ... That is, if Williams doesn't return to USC in 2024 rather than become the next failed Bears quarterback.
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