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NFL power rankings, Week 3: A new team on top

The second week of the NFL season was full of upsets and surprises. Needless to say, it changed the way our power rankings look this week.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation's Power Rankings are back after Week 2, and our analysis is augmented with much-needed context for some of the performances in Week 1. Maybe the Saints' defense really isn't as good as we thought it'd be and the Bengals' defense is better than we even knew. Perhaps reports of the Panthers', Cardinals' and Bears' demise were greatly exaggerated. It's now conceivable that the Texans are actually going to be pretty good again this year after their disastrous 2013, and the Bills could be the class of the AFC East.

All these things are possible, but let's all be honest ...

Our Power Rankings are an attempt to assign a numerical order for which teams are the "best" in the NFL (what could go wrong?), putting weight in both their current level of play and their legitimate outlook for the rest of the season. In other words, we're hoping to not just simply regurgitate the standings, though obviously each team's record comes into play since every win or loss is important in the NFL. With that in mind, let's look at some implications from Week 2.

The Seahawks drop from their top spot after losing a close game to the Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates-led Chargers. That duo connected for three touchdowns and San Diego dominated on third downs and time of possession (42 to 18 minutes!), wearing down Seattle's normally stingy defense and outlasting its offense in the stiflingly hot Southern California sun. Denver held off a furious comeback attempt by division rival Kansas City to stay perfect on the year, vaulting the Broncos into the top spot. The two Super Bowl XLVIII teams meet this week, conveniently enough.

The Bengals move up with another dominating defensive performance combined with efficiency on offense, though the potential loss of A.J. Green throws up a big red flag. Carolina also had another masterful performance on defense, and a hobbled Cam Newton provided a spark on O.

The Niners take a slight step back this week after surrendering a big lead at home to Jay Cutler and the Bears. The loss was an ugly one for Colin Kaepernick, as the signal caller turned the ball over four times.


The second-half performance by San Francisco's defense may also cause concern over its revamped secondary. Ultimately, the Niners have been through these types of trials over the past couple of seasons and always seem to emerge unscathed (or even better), so I'm not giving one loss too much weight just yet.

With Seattle's and San Francisco's defeats in Week 2 -- the first time both teams have lost in the same week since 2011 -- sole ownership of first place in the NFC West belongs to the Cardinals, who knocked off the Giants with their second straight fourth-quarter comeback. Arizona may be playing without Carson Palmer for an indeterminate amount of time and the Cardinals are without several of their defensive stars from last season, but they're showing they're not a third wheel in the division.

The Eagles moved to 2-0 with another second-half comeback victory, this time over the Colts, but it wasn't pretty, and the Packers and Aaron Rodgers launched a big second-half comeback of their own to get past the Jets. The Patriots easily handled the Vikings, and the Chargers' excellent performance against Seattle helps them round out the top 10.

If the Bears can consistently field a defense that looks anything like what they did in the second half on Sunday night against the Niners, they could end up surprising people this season. The combination of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett with a quarterback who shows no fear in throwing it up into traffic for them -- well, this is a dangerous thing.

Here are this week's rankings, with more analysis after the table.

Rank Team Last week
1 Denver Broncos 2
2 Seattle Seahawks 1
3 Cincinnati Bengals 7
4 Carolina Panthers 13
5 San Francisco 49ers 3
6 Philadelphia Eagles 4
7 Green Bay Packers 5
8 Arizona Cardinals 14
9 New England Patriots 10
10 San Diego Chargers 15
11 Chicago Bears 16
12 Baltimore Ravens 17
13 Buffalo Bills 24
14 Houston Texans 22
15 Atlanta Falcons 8
16 New Orleans Saints 6
17 Indianapolis Colts 11
18 Pittsburgh Steelers 9
19 Detroit Lions 12
20 Minnesota Vikings 19
21 New York Jets 20
22 Miami Dolphins 21
23 Cleveland Browns 28
24 Kansas City Chiefs 18
25 Dallas Cowboys 26
26 Tennessee Titans 23
27 Washington 29
28 St. Louis Rams 31
29 New York Giants 25
30 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27
31 Jacksonville Jaguars 30
32 Oakland Raiders 32

The Bills continue shooting up the rankings after knocking off the Dolphins at home. Both of their wins have come against worthy opponents (the Bears in Week 1), and a balanced attack on offense combined with good use of their weapons has helped EJ Manuel settle in as the starter. These Bills and their tough defense could be the real deal.

The Texans make a huge jump as well. Bill O'Brien's squad has run the ball 78 times over their first two games compared to just 43 called passes, leaning on J.J. Watt and their defense heavily while not asking too much of veteran signal caller Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitz just so happens to trail only Peyton Manning in passer rating thus far, though, so efficiency is the name of the game. Overall, the Texans seem to have their mojo back, and could continue to climb in the rankings, but may need to beat a higher-ranked team to really break away from their 2013 demons.

Atlanta's defense was the big question mark in Week 1 despite a big win over the Saints, but this week the offense couldn't get much done versus Cincinnati.

The Saints are strong on offense, obviously, but their defense has been surprisingly ineffective. After an 0-2 start, Rob Ryan has to start coming up with some answers.


The Browns just narrowly missed out on a comeback victory over the Steelers in Week 1 and pulled off the upset over the Saints in Week 2, showing what PFT Commenter might call a lot of "grit" and "moxie" in the process. Brian Hoyer might not be "elite," but he's getting the job done so far. The Browns' run game is looking very strong, averaging 150+ yards and 5.1 yards per carry after two games.

Indy squandered a big lead to the Eagles in the second half on Monday Night Football, and fell to 0-2 on the year. The offensive line has been decimated by injuries and the loss of Robert Mathis for the year hurts. Can the Colts bounce back?

Washington jumps a few spots with a dominating defensive performance and a quality relief effort by Kirk Cousins. Cousins' play over the next several weeks will be interesting to watch.

The Steelers' last three halves of offensive football haven't been pretty, as Big Ben's squad has only managed three field goals in 15 possessions -- their other drives ending with nine punts and three turnovers. It's still early, obviously, and their first half in Week 1 against the Browns offers hope, but they need to get things going.