Today's Pigskin

25 September 2016: Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton (1) [14697] is sacked by Minnesota Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr (55) [15135] in game action between the Minnesota Vikings and the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)
From the Sidelines

Today’s Pigskin post-Week 3 NFL Power Rankings

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

It was another strange, beautiful week around the NFL.

The New England Patriots, with their third quarterback under center, blanked a defending division winner in the Houston Texans. Two 10-6 teams from a year ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets, got absolutely throttled by their respective opponents, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs. Not to mention that last year’s NFC Championship participants, the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals, each fell to 1-2.

There’s a high rate of turnover in the NFL seemingly every year and this year’s already proven to be no different. As such, it should come as no surprise that there was also a high rate of turnover in this week’s power rankings. Two top-five teams from a year ago fell out of that elite tier while another squad jumped all the way from 14th to fourth. Read on to find out who those teams are and where your own favorite team ranks.

And, remember, these rankings are intended to inspire discussion, so, whether you agree or disagree, let us hear it in the comments below.

32. Chicago Bears (0-3) Last Week: 31

Just looking at his stat line, it doesn’t seem as though Brian Hoyer embarrassed himself in relief of Jay Cutler. The journeyman completed over 60-percent of his passes for 317 yards and two passing scores. It was evident in watching the game, though, that Hoyer won’t be able to keep this talent-deprived roster competitive. It’s a shame, as one can’t help but to wonder how Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White might fare on a more competent squad.

31. Cleveland Browns (0-3) Last Week: 32

The Browns enjoy the slightest of jumps this week for taking the Dolphins to overtime, but it can be safely assumed now that they’ll be left to rot in this bottom-tier all year-long. On the bright side, Terrelle Pryor looks like he’ll make this team a more fun watch than they have any right to be on a week-to-week basis. The do-it-all player completed three of his five pass attempts, ran for 21 yards and a score and, oh yeah, hauled in eight balls for 144 yards.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) Last Week: 27

The Jaguars are a truly fascinating exercise in futility, each week creating new ways to lose. This week, Baltimore did its best to gift wrap Jacksonville a win. Joe Flacco threw interceptions on two back-to-back fourth quarter possessions, each one setting the Jaguars up in Baltimore territory. How did they respond? A Blake Bortles interception and a blocked field goal attempt. Baltimore eventually eked out the win on a Justin Tucker game-winner, leaving all of Jacksonville’s talented young players to wonder just how the heck they might finally put one in the win column.

29. San Francisco 49ers (1-2) Last Week: 28

The 49ers’ shutout victory in Week 1 is starting to look more and more like a distant memory. Over its past two, San Francisco’s been outscored 83-45. It’s worth noting that 32 of those 45 came in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. Much like in high school football, the superior squads have simply let up on the ‘Niners late and let them put a few consolation points on the board.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) Last Week: 20

Getting creamed by the Arizona Cardinals was one thing, that’s a feat several teams figure to repeat this year. But getting beat in a shootout by the Los Angeles Rams? That’s simply inexcusable. The Rams went into Sunday’s game having scored nine points in their past two, so of course they more than tripled that total with the 37 they hung on the Buccaneers. Many will harp on Jameis Winston (405 yards, three touchdowns) for tossing a pick and losing a fumble, but he can only do so much for a defense that’s allowed 101 points after just three games.

27. Tennessee Titans (1-2) Last Week: 21

The good news for Tennessee is that DeMarco Murray looks rejuvenated and the the defense held up well against a high-powered Oakland Raiders offense. The bad news is that its own offense still couldn’t do anything (just 10 points) against a much-maligned Oakland defense. Marcus Mariota appears to be making an effort to preserve his health and become a better pocket passer, as evidenced by the fact that he’s run the ball just nine times for 52 yards this year. Given that Tennessee’s yet to top 16 points in a game this year, maybe it’s time Mariota uses his legs a bit more.

26. New Orleans Saints (0-3) Last Week: 24

For two years now it’s been hard to accept a non-competitive Saints team. But, seeing as New Orleans is on a 14-21 streak in its last 35, it’s time to accept it. Drew Brees remains as gifted as ever, but he’s unfortunately forced to languish on a team that makes every quarterback look like him. Jon Gruden suggested on Monday night that, in order to win, the Saints need to score a touchdown on every drive and that’s simply not feasible.

25. Miami Dolphins (1-2) Last Week: 23

Miami finally got one in the win column, but it wasn’t exactly an inspiring effort. The Dolphins needed a missed field goal to take the Browns and their third-string quarterback, Cody Kessler, to overtime. Miami’s offense looked good, but the defense didn’t exactly star in giving up 430 total yards to an offense without its top two quarterbacks, Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon.

24. Los Angeles Rams (2-1) Last Week: 30

The Rams are perhaps the most unlikely of squads to come out of Week 3 with a winning record. The way in which the team did so, by hanging 37 on the Buccaneers, was even more surprising. Case Keenum, not exactly known for being a gunslinger, hit each of Brian Quick and Tavon Austin for 40+ yard touchdown receptions. Stretching the field proved beneficial to more than just the touchdown recipients, as Todd Gurley (85 yards, two touchdowns) had his best game of the year. Perhaps a sign that the Rams should try to go vertical a bit more often.

23. San Diego Chargers (1-2) Last Week: 19

In a trend dating back to last season, the Chargers seem to only lose games in the most gut-wrenching ways imaginable. This time, it was Indianapolis’ T.Y. Hilton bobbing and weaving his way through traffic for a game-clinching, 63-yard score. Credit to San Diego for once again hanging in there, but with stalwarts like Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead and Manti Te’o already being shelved for the season, it’s hard to envision this team doing much more than keeping its games close.

22. Detroit Lions (1-2) Last Week: 22

The Packers continue to be a thorn in the Lions’ paw. That said, the Lions deserve some praise for rallying back from a 31-3 deficit. The star of the day was, of course, Marvin Jones. The former Bengals standout is doing his damnedest to replace Calvin Johnson, this time around having a career-best day with over 200 yards and two scores. Unfortunately for him, Detroit’s defense, as will likely be the case all year, wasn’t up to snuff.

21. Buffalo Bills (1-2) Last Week: 29

Whether or not firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman was the right move will likely continue to be debated, but, for a week at least, it certainly seemed to reinvigorate a struggling Bills squad. The Bills ran for over 200 yards in a surprisingly dominant effort against an NFC powerhouse in the Arizona Cardinals. Now that it’s proven it can compete with the best, though, the Bills have to prove that they can sustain that level of play. Otherwise they’ll plummet back down these rankings in short order.

20. Washington Redskins (1-2) Last Week: 26

The Redskins have had a tumultuous few weeks. A blowout loss to the Steelers gave way to a painfully close one against the Cowboys before what was shaping up to be another painfully close one to the Giants. Granted, Washington benefited some from a putrid, game-ending interception thrown by Eli Manning, but it still deserves credit for hanging in there long enough to pick up the victory. As we saw with this team a year ago, this win may just be what provides the momentum that sparks a win streak.

September 11, 2016: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) during the week 1 NFL game between the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

19. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) Last Week: 25

It’s been three weeks and it’s become apparent that this won’t be an easy season for Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Luck and his offense will need to be firing on all cylinders virtually all game, every game. Indy’s defense is simply too suspect to think it’ll be able to protect any lead. We’ve seen in the past that Luck and co. can score at will, and we saw him snatch victory from the jaws of defeat this weekend. It’s just a matter of whether or not they have resolve to do so on a week-to-week basis.

18. Oakland Raiders (2-1) Last Week: 17

After two miserable weeks, Oakland’s revamped defense finally looked like a formidable group. It wasn’t perfect — Oakland still got beat up in the ground game, but strides were made nonetheless. The Raiders may not have racked up a ton of sacks, but they did pester Marcus Mariota all day long — forcing him into two interceptions and a lost fumble. Oakland won’t be able to play the Titans every week, but any growth from this defense will play a big part in how far the Raiders can go.

17. Atlanta Falcons (2-1) Last Week: 16

It’s not anything the Falcons did that drop them a spot. It’s the simple fact that the team in front of them looks better set to contend all year-long. That said, the Falcons looked pretty impressive in their Monday night romp of the Saints. Matt Ryan continues to roll (even without a big night from Julio Jones) and Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman continue to look like the deadliest one-two punch in the league. The Falcons next three are against Carolina, Denver and Seattle, though, so they could fall down these rankings in a hurry.

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) Last Week: 18

Is it premature to think that Dallas’ changing of the guard is near complete after a convincing win over one of the NFL’s also-rans? Maybe so, small sample size and all. Still, it’s hard to be unimpressed with the Cowboys’ offensive rookies after three weeks. Ezekiel Elliott ascended to true, workhorse running back with a 140-yard performance against the Chicago Bears. Dak Prescott, meanwhile, continues to play mistake free ball and leaves one to wonder how safe Tony Romo’s starting job really is.

15. New York Jets (1-2) Last Week: 13

The Jets have played three games thus far and this is essentially the second that ended on a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception. Of course, it’s hard to pinpoint which of Fitzpatrick’s picks cost New York this time around given that he threw six of them. Of course, every signal-caller has bad games, but this marks three of the last four that Fitzpatrick cost the Jets. On the bright side, New York didn’t give up to his lofty contract demands and isn’t indebted to him for too much longer.

14. New York Giants (2-1) Last Week: 10

It was a tale of two halves for the G-Men on Sunday. In the first, the Giants were an explosive offense, one that had an intimidating host of pass-catchers and one that repeatedly finished long drives in the end zone. In the second half, though, the Giants were repeatedly bogged down in the red zone before a few catastrophic Eli Manning turnovers would prove to be their undoing. This is an offense with boatloads of potential, but it’s yet to live up to it through a full game.

13. Baltimore Ravens (3-0) Last Week: 15

The Ravens remain the lowest-ranked among the NFL’s undefeated squads and behind even several 1-2 teams. Why? Not the opponents they’ve beaten as much as margin of victory. Baltimore’s beaten the Bills, Browns and Jaguars by six, five and two points respectively. You won’t find any of those teams in even the top 20 on these rankings. Good on Baltimore for beating the teams they should, but we’ll need to see a bigger margin of victory before bumping it too much higher.

12. Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) Last Week: 11

The Chiefs aren’t necessarily docked a spot for anything they did wrong, but a closer look at their win over the Jets shows it might not be as impressive as the 24-3 margin indicates. The Chiefs forced an astounding eight New York turnovers and returned two for touchdowns. Pretty good, right? Well, sure, but aside from that Kansas City managed all of 10 offensive points. Any time you force an opposing offense into eight turnovers that’s probably a non-issue, but the Chiefs won’t be the benefactors of a Ryan Fitzpatrick meltdown every week.

11. Houston Texans (2-1) Last Week: 6

There’s no shame in losing to the Patriots. But to get blanked by a Patriots team on its third quarterback and down several key offensive players? Houston’s stout defense didn’t let up a ton, but turnovers and an otherwise listless offense made last Thursday a walk in the park for the Patriots. With just 42 points scored after three games, it’s fair to wonder if Brock Osweiler might not be just a more expensive continuation of Houston’s quarterback troubles.

10. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) Last Week: 12

The Seahawks got a dominant day from an offense that sorely needed it. Jimmy Graham announced his return to form in emphatic fashion with 100 yards and a score. But Seattle’s dominating victory over San Francisco didn’t go off without a hitch. Russell Wilson left the game in the second half with what was later determined to be a sprained MCL. Add that to a still-recovering ankle injury and the quarterback might be unlikely to play next week. The durable quarterback seems to think he’ll be fine, however.

September 25, 2016: Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson (3) [17722] before an NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA. (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

9. Arizona Cardinals (1-2) Last Week: 5

As Hannah Montana once said, “Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has those days.” Sunday proved to be one of those days for the Cardinals as they squared off with a Bills team that had its back pressed firmly against the wall. After falling behind early, the Cardinals had their chances to get back in this game, but a horrid, four-interception fourth quarter from Carson Palmer doomed Arizona. We know how good this team can be, but it’ll need to have a short memory as it gears up for a Rams team that always seems to play division foes closely.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) Last Week: 8

For the third week in a row, the Bengals took on a team that made or was on the cusp of the playoffs a season ago. For the third week in a row, the Bengals hung in there with another top-notch team ’till the end. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, this loss to Denver marked the second time in as many weeks that the Bengals came up short. There is good news, however. The run game looked improved, the schedule now softens considerably and both Vontaze Burfict and Tyler Eifert should return soon.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) Last Week: 2

Losing to the Eagles would be one thing, but the Steelers were flat-out embarrassed by a team many expected them to roll over. Ben Roethlisberger struggled, the offensive line was manhandled, the defensive front got no pressure and the secondary repeatedly missed tackles. Pittsburgh still boasts a talented group, but a malady of bumps and bruises from the loss could leave it shorthanded in the immediate future. The Steelers will need to show some resolve with Kansas City coming to town as even the return of Le’Veon Bell isn’t a cure-all.

6. Carolina Panthers (1-2) Last Week: 4

A troubling trend has arisen as it pertains to the Panthers — their inability to conquer elite defenses. Carolina’s offense looked plenty strong in rolling up 46 points on San Francisco in Week 2, but, dating back to the Super Bowl, the Panthers have totaled a combined 40 points against Denver (twice) and Minnesota. Carolina will probably still roll to an 11- or 12-win year, but until it can overpower a dominating defensive group it’s a suspect pick to repeat as NFC Champion.

5. Green Bay Packers (2-1) Last Week: 9

The Packers got back on the winning track with a dominating offensive performance against the Detroit Lions. Aaron Rodgers responded to his critics with four first half passing touchdowns. Of course, many will rightly question Green Bay’s defense after it let Detroit charge back late in the game, but Green Bay putting this one on ice with an efficient four-minute drill should quell those concerns for the time being. With Jordy Nelson looking to be in tip-top shape after last year’s ACL tear, the Packers look formidable as ever.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) Last Week: 14

A bit of a knee-jerk reaction? Perhaps. But so thoroughly dismantling a Pittsburgh Steelers team that was highly regarded across the league deserves it. Philly’s trio of explosive running backs made plays both on the ground and through the air and Carson Wentz looked every bit like the upcoming star he’s touted as. Perhaps most impressively, the Eagles’ defensive group absolutely baffled Pittsburgh’s ballyhooed offense and had it looking ready to quit midway through the third quarter.

3. Minnesota Vikings (3-0) Last Week: 7

What Minnesota’s defense has accomplished through three games is nothing short of remarkable. The Vikings have registered 15 sacks, forced 10 turnovers and have scored two defensive touchdowns. The number they did on reigning MVP, Cam Newton, alone (eight sacks, three interceptions) is eye-popping. It’s easy to discount a team that’s offense isn’t overflowing with stars, but, as we saw last season, a spectacular defense can go a long way.

2. Denver Broncos (3-0) Last Week: 3

Denver’s dominating defense typically draws all the press clippings, but this week it faltered a little bit - allowing Cincinnati to hang around for three quarters. The Broncos, meanwhile, couldn’t get anything going on the ground and turned to Trevor Siemian to lead them to victory. Siemian was outstanding against a very good Cincinnati defense, eclipsing 300 yards and throwing for four touchdowns. After this breakout performance, it’s time to consider the possibility that Siemian is more than just a space-filler.

1. New England Patriots (3-0) Last Week: 1

At this point, what New England is doing would almost be comical if it weren’t so darn impressive. The Patriots have beaten a top NFC team and dominated two other AFC foes, one being a very good Houston squad, with its second and third quarterbacks. Now, the possibility that Julian Edelman, a former college QB, will have to step in due to injury has arisen. No matter, the Patriots will probably still win.

Today’s Pigskin post-Week 3 NFL Power Rankings

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