NFL Power Rankings Week 3

I usually wait until midseason to compile any sort of power rankings for the NFL, but readers eat up power rankings like kids mowing down candy on Halloween so I figured I’d indulge.

Here’s how I see things 1-32 in the NFL for the first two weeks:

1. New York Giants (2-0)
For all the criticism it received in the offseason, the Giants’ passing game looks fine to me. Mario Manningham and Steve Smith have embraced their new starting roles and thanks to NY’s outstanding pass protection, Eli is finding them with the greatest of ease.

2. New Orleans Saints (2-0)
Pundits chalked up the Saints’ 45-point effort in Week 1 as a result of the Lions’ brutal defense…until the Saints hung 48 on the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 2. Nobody should overlook this juggernaut, led by their MVP-caliber quarterback Drew Brees.

3. Baltimore Ravens (2-0)
The Ravens still have some issues to iron out in their secondary, but Ray Lewis is playing like he’s 24 (not 34) and the offense is averaging 34.5 points a game. With the lowly Browns coming to town this week, Baltimore is headed for a 3-0 start.

4. Indianapolis Colts (2-0)
How do the Colts win a game by only running 35 offensive plays? Peyton Manning – that’s how. Indy will have concerns all year about its defense wearing down late in games but as long as the score is close, Peyton is going to give them a chance to win.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
The defending champs are battling injuries (Troy Polamalu) and still don’t pose a threat running the ball, but Ben Roethlisberger and a great defense will keep this team afloat all season.

6. Atlanta Falcons (2-0)
Matt Ryan is playing with all the poise and awareness of a 10-year veteran and Tony Gonzalez has been one of the best offseason additions of the year. The defense is still a big question mark (especially the secondary), but a win this week in New England would go a long way in proving that this team is for real.

7. New York Jets (2-0)
Mark Sanchez is going to suffer some bumps in the road at some point, but it’s hard not to love how poised he looks in the pocket for being a first year starter. The Jets players believe in Rex Ryan and so far, he’s showing them that his system wins.

8. Minnesota Vikings (2-0)
With wins over the Browns and Lions over their first two weeks, pundits and fans alike are still waiting for this team to be challenged. While the 49ers don’t pose much of an offensive threat outside of Frank Gore, their defense is playing great right now and the Vikings’ offense will get its first real test of the year.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
Sure, Donovan McNabb didn’t play. But McNabb’s injury had nothing to do with Philadelphia’s defense giving up 48 points to the Saints. What an embarrassment. It looks like Kevin Kolb is good enough to keep the offense afloat while McNabb is out, but the Eagles’ defense needs to bounce back in a major way this weekend against the Chiefs.

10. New England Patriots (1-1)
The Patriots have issues – plain and simple. Tom Brady doesn’t look comfortable, the defense has holes and even Bill Belichick admitted that first-year head coach Rex Ryan outcoached him last week. A loss to the Falcons this Sunday at home would raise even more red flags for a New England team that was supposed to roll this season with Brady back under center.

11. San Diego Chargers (1-1)
Maybe Norv Turner is right when he said that the Chargers aren’t as good as everyone made them out to be this offseason. The offense is more than capable of putting up points, but the defense is having issues stopping the run and can’t come up with the big stop when they need to.

12. San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
The passing game is still a major concern, but if Frank Gore runs like he did against the Seahawks last Sunday, Shaun Hill won’t have to worry about making many plays through the air. And actually, it’s been the defense that has allowed the Niners to start 2-0. All the youngsters on that side of the ball are gelling under Mike Singletary’s guidance and it’ll be interesting to see how they do against Adrian Peterson and Minnesota this weekend.

13. Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
The Cowboys’ defensive issues are as perplexing as some of the throws Tony Romo made last Sunday night against the Giants. Dallas can’t tackle, can’t get enough pressure on the quarterback and even though Roy Williams is in Cincinnati now, can’t stop the opposing team from coming up with a big play through the air. The ‘Boys will rack up the points this year, but Wade Phillips has to do something about his defense.

14. Green Bay Packers (1-1)
My 2009 sleeper team has decided to take a dump in my lawn and trample all of my flowers. (Okay, so I live in an apartment with no lawn and no flowers, but play along.) The Packers’ offensive line looked abysmal against the Bengals last week and despite a great performance in Week 1, Dom Capers’ defense was brutal too. The Packers will probably get back on track against the Rams this weekend, but the real challenge will come next Sunday against the Vikings.

15. Chicago Bears (1-1)
Now that’s the Jay Cutler that Bear fans have been waiting to see! While Chicago deserved to lose on Sunday (nice kicking, Jeff Reed…you have one freaking job), Cutler played great and might have found a new weapon in rookie receiver Johnny Knox. Give credit to Hunter Hillenmeyer too – he played will subbing for the injured Brian Urlacher.

16. Tennessee Titans (0-2)
I refuse to believe that the Titans are this bad, but it’s shocking that Matt Schaub threw for four touchdowns on them last Sunday. A loss this week to the Jets and it might be time to stick a fork in Tennessee.

17. Arizona Cardinals (1-1)
While it was nice to see the Cards bounce back last week, keep in mind that their win came against a Jaguars team with major issues. We’ll get a real sense of where ‘Zona is at this weekend when they host the Colts on Sunday night.

18. Buffalo Bills (1-1)
The Bills were thisclose from being 2-0 and they certainly look like a team that will cause opponents trouble on Sundays. Their young offensive line needs to continue to gel and the defense has to avoid injuries, but I think Buffalo is going to make things interesting in the AFC East this season.

19. Houston Texans (1-1)
The Texans looked like hell in Week 1 and the team that everyone believes is a playoff contender in Week 2. The real Houston team probably lies somewhere in between the two games, although it was nice to see Matt Schaub put it all together against Tennessee and pull out a win.

20. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
You know what? I like this Bengals team. Their defense is a little underrated, Chad Ochocinco actually looks like he’s interested in playing again, Cedric Benson has figured out that tip-toeing through holes doesn’t work and Carson Palmer gives Cincy a chance to win as long as he stays healthy. While I don’t think that the Bengals will shock the world and go to the playoffs, I don’t think that their win in Green Bay last Sunday was a fluke either.

21. Denver Broncos (2-0)
I know they’re 2-0, but the Broncos are a fluke 2-0 and everyone knows it. Had Leon Hall battled that ball down in Week 1, Denver would be 1-1 with their only win coming against the offensively challenged Browns. While it’s a nice start for first year head coach Josh McDaniels, let’s keep the expectations tempered.

22. Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
The Seahawks will contend for the NFC West crown if Matt Hasselbeck is healthy but if he isn’t, we’re going to see a repeat of last year. Seneca Wallace just can’t make enough plays in the passing game to keep this team in contention.

23. Miami Dolphins (0-2)
I don’t think the Dolphins are a bad team by any means, but so far Tony Sparano’s squad is proving that last year was a fluke. Yeah, Miami can run the ball and the defense isn’t as bad as it showed on Monday night against the Colts. But the Dolphins are going to have a tough time winning ball games if they have to throw the ball deep in the fourth quarter. Chad Pennington is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the league, but he just doesn’t have the arm strength or weapons around him to lead a two from behind with under two minutes to go.

24. Washington Redskins (1-1)
Had the Redskins not been playing the Rams last Sunday, they’d be 0-2. Jim Zorn’s playcalling is uncreative, lacks a personality and is absolutely boring to watch. Washington has enough talent to be rated higher, but under Zorn they won’t be anything more than a 7-9 or 8-8 team.

25. Carolina Panthers (0-2)
The Panthers can’t blame Jake Delhomme for their loss last Sunday in Atlanta – Carolina was just beaten by a better opponent. It looks like the Panthers are going to continue their tradition of following a good year with a bad one.

26. Oakland Raiders (1-1)
The Raiders are intriguing and infuriating to watch all at the same time. They show you flashes of being good, only to do something to stupid to muck it all up. But one thing is for sure: They’re going to be more competitive this year than they have in years past. Tom Cable is actually doing a good job making this team respectable again.

27. Tampa Bay Bucs (0-2)
The Bucs’ offense isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but the defense has certainly looked bad without Monte Kiffin calling the shots. It’s going to be a long year for Tampa fans.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
The Jaguars are perplexing. They have a good quarterback, a great running back and an improving offensive line. Yet they’re 0-2 and were absolutely handled by the Cardinals at home last week. The defense just isn’t what it used to be and the secondary could be the worst in the AFC. Jack Del Rio might not be long for the head-coaching job in Jacksonville.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2)
It’s kind of amazing that the Chiefs scored 24 points with Brodie Croyle under center on the road against the Ravens in Week 1 and only 10 points with Matt Cassel starting at home against the Raiders in Week 2. I have no idea what it means, but I just find it interesting.

30. Cleveland Browns (0-2)
It should be noted that the Browns’ defense isn’t that bad. Eric Mangini has finally instilled a front seven that can generate a pass rush and cause issues for the opposing quarterback, but Cleveland’s defense has been on the field way too long because the ineffectiveness of Brady Quinn and the offense. Quinn deserves a shot to develop, but if he continues to miss receivers in stride and look uncomfortable making decisions, then Mangini has to make a change to Derek Anderson.

31. Detroit Lions (0-2)
The Lions are everything that we thought they would be in preseason. Their offense has improved, but their defense is severely lacking talent and just can’t make up for when Matthew Stafford turns the ball over. I don’t think the Lions are going to go winless again this year, but it still won’t be pretty for Detroit fans.

32. St. Louis Rams (0-2)
This has to be the worst offensive team in football, although the Rams do have an emerging young star in Laurent Robinson. The defense played better in Washington than it did in Seattle, but that’s not saying much because the Redskins’ offense won’t be confused for the Saints’ offensive attack any time soon.

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