2. New England Patriots (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 2
Step right up. Start at QB for the Patriots. Anyone? Don’t worry. Bill Belichick will find a way to make it work.
3. Minnesota Vikings (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 5
No Teddy Bridgewater, no Adrian Peterson, no Matt Kalil — no matter. Coach Mike Zimmer has managed to make his players believe that they still can manage to win games even without the players they’ve lost. It’s working so far. New QB Sam Bradford and the defense are leading the way, and going to Carolina and beating the defending NFC champs was extremely impressive under the circumstances.
4. Baltimore Ravens (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 7
The Ravens have beaten the Bills, Browns and Jaguars by a total of 13 points. Fortunately for them, the quality-of-victory measure is not used to determine which team leads a division.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0)| Last Week’s Rank: 13
Rookie QB Carson Wentz definitely is for real. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some bad days to come. There undoubtedly will be. But Wentz has demonstrated that he is ready to be a winning QB as a rookie. Is the team around him good enough for the Eagles to contend? Maybe. The offensive line is playing well and the defense certainly looks to be sound.
6. Green Bay Packers (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 11
Aaron Rodgers’s four first-half TD throws against the Lions quieted the criticism about how he and the Green Bay offense have played in the early stages of this season. But the Packers still found a way to make things more interesting than needed in the game’s final minutes.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 12
The Chiefs are awfully tough to beat whenever the opposing QB throws them the ball six times.
8. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 15
The whispers are getting louder that Tony Romo might have a difficult time getting the QB job back from rookie Dak Prescott when he’s healthy, no matter what the Cowboys have said about it. The intrigue certainly is building. But there’s a while to go yet. The situation must play out. The league will adjust to Prescott. Opponents will find new ways to test him, and he must demonstrate that he can continue to succeed. He clearly is the Cowboys’ QB of the future, no matter what happens in the second half of this season when Romo becomes available.
9. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 16
Wouldn’t it make sense for the Seahawks to sit QB Russell Wilson this weekend, especially with a bye week to follow, to provide some time for his knee and ankle to heal? It’s difficult to envision him making it through a long season if he keeps trying to play through these injuries.
10. Carolina Panthers (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 4
There’s something missing with this team, and not related only to the absence of CB Josh Norman due to the still-mystifying offseason decision to lift his franchise player tag. It’s simply difficult to rebound from a Super Bowl defeat, and the Panthers clearly are having their issues doing so.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 3
The Steelers more than did their part to add to the growing legend of Carson Wentz’s rookie season in Philadelphia.
12. Arizona Cardinals (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 6
Okay, losing to the Patriots, even the Tom Brady-less Patriots, is one thing. That happens. But losing to the Bills? Seriously?
13. Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 10
Don’t give up on the Bengals just yet. Maybe this will be the season when they actually play their best at the proper time. That means not now.
14. Atlanta Falcons (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 17
The offense looked unstoppable Monday night in New Orleans. But that might say more about the Saints’ defense than it does about QB Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense.
15. Los Angeles Rams (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 18
Don’t look now but the Rams are tied for first place in the NFC West after three games. Shouldn’t that get Coach Jeff Fisher about a 20-year contract extension?
16. Oakland Raiders (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 21
The Raiders come to Baltimore this weekend for an interesting matchup between two teams with intriguing possibilities but still much left to prove.
17. Houston Texans (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 8
The most alarming thing Thursday wasn’t that the Texans found a way to lose to the Patriots with Jacoby Brissett starting for New England at QB. It was that Brissett, in his first NFL start, was the best QB on the field and Houston’s $72 million man, Brock Osweiler, wasn’t.
18. New York Giants (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 9
When the Giants found ways last season to lose games they should have won, the culprit generally was their defense. And while the defense wasn’t blameless in Sunday’s defeat to the Redskins, it mostly was QB Eli Manning who failed to deliver in crunch time.
19. Washington Redskins (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 25
They managed to escape with the win against the Giants and now they get to come home to face the woeful Browns. With Robert Griffin III not playing for Cleveland, this game clearly falls into the nothing-to-see-here category.
20. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 28
Andrew Luck kept the Colts’ season from coming completely unraveled by orchestrating Sunday’s late comeback to beat the Chargers. Whether or not an actual turnaround is in store remains to be seen.
21. New York Jets (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 14
What does Ryan Fitzpatrick now believe he deserves to be paid for this season?
22. Buffalo Bills (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 31
Maybe it was all Greg Roman’s fault after all.
23. Miami Dolphins (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 30
Needing to go to OT to beat the Browns should require an asterisk in the win column.
24. Tennessee Titans (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 19
Second-year QB Marcus Mariota struggled mightily against the Raiders. He has committed seven turnovers in three games this season. The Titans made well-reasoned moves in the offseason to attempt to put a better team around Mariota, but he needs to get back to playing like a young franchise QB.
25. San Diego Chargers (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 20
If only the Chargers had a game-changing pass rusher, maybe he could have helped them hold on to the late lead they squandered Sunday against the Colts. Oh yeah, they do have such a pass rusher, having used the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft on Joey Bosa. He just hasn’t played because the Chargers decided their contract-negotiating principles were more important to them than the possibility of ruining at least a portion of Bosa’s rookie season.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 22
The late-game clock mismanagement against the Rams was almost comically bad. That falls directly on Dirk Koetter, the team’s first-year coach. The Buccaneers were so eager last offseason to get rid of Lovie Smith and promote Koetter. Maybe they didn’t take enough time to make certain he was ready for the job.
27. Detroit Lions (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 23
The Detroit defense had no first-half answers for Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, and that season-opening victory over the Colts suddenly seems like a long time ago. But the Lions at least get a chance to go to Chicago this weekend and get back to .500.
28. San Francisco 49ers (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 24
The 49ers are right back to being the team they were expected to be.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 27
Things have gone so wrong, so quickly when there were seemingly legitimate reasons for optimism heading into the season.
30. Chicago Bears (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 26
Brian Hoyer was able to make his numbers appear respectable after things were already out of hand in the loss to the Cowboys. But for much of the night, the fill-in QB managed to actually make Bears fans eager to see Jay Cutler back in the lineup.
31. New Orleans Saints (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 29
Good thing that Saints defense is so improved. Otherwise the Falcons would have scored about 80 points Monday night.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 32
Coach Hue Jackson says the Browns are not “tanking” the season. How could anyone tell if they were? Would it look any different?