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NFL power rankings Week 3: Cowboys, Ravens move up as others suffer QB unrest

It has been a great start to the season for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Each week, Post NFL writer Mark Maske ranks the 32 teams. This week, it’s all about the quarterbacks. The Cowboys, with Dak Prescott, and the Ravens, with Lamar Jackson, move into the top five just behind the Patriots, Chiefs and Rams. The Drew Brees-less Saints and the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers suffer big drops. Are the Bills and 49ers for real? For now, they’re hanging around the cutoff line for the top 10.

1. New England Patriots (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 1

The Patriots made WR Antonio Brown a big part of their offense from the outset of the lopsided win in Miami. They must decide how much to allow themselves to depend on Brown while the league’s decision about his playing status remains pending.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 2

No Tyreek Hill in the lineup? No problem for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, at least not against the Raiders.

3. Los Angeles Rams (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 4

The Rams wonder: NFL officiating problems? What NFL officiating problems? Everything seems just fine to the Rams, especially when they play the Saints.

4. Dallas Cowboys (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 7

Dak Prescott is playing remarkably well under center, and the Cowboys have been able to ease RB Ezekiel Elliott back into the mix after his holdout. It’s a two-team race in the NFC East, and now the Cowboys hold the upper hand over the Eagles.

Two games in, the Cowboys look every bit like a top NFC contender

5. Baltimore Ravens (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 9

Lamar Jackson, MVP candidate. Get used to those words going together. It certainly appears that will be the case in Jackson’s second NFL season. He has become an accurate passer and he has elevated the Ravens to being in the conversation about which team will be the AFC’s best by season’s end.

6. Green Bay Packers (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 10

This Green Bay defense appears to be legitimately good, and the Packers could have a balanced team that will keep QB Aaron Rodgers from having to do it all.

7. Seattle Seahawks (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 11

The Seahawks are capable of challenging the Rams for NFC West supremacy. This division is loaded.

8. Chicago Bears (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 12

The Bears winning a game with a clutch kick? Who would have thought it was possible?

9. Houston Texans (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 15

The Texans didn’t win convincingly at home against the Jaguars in the first NFL start for Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew II. But at least they won.

10. Buffalo Bills (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 19

The wins over the Jets and Giants have been encouraging. But it’s still only the Jets and Giants. No one should get carried away just yet.

11. San Francisco 49ers (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 20

It’s too early to know if the Niners are for real in terms of being a playoff contender. But at least their rebuilding program under Coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch seems to be moving in the right direction.

12. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 21

Julio Jones earned his money Sunday night with the game-winning TD dash against the Eagles that showed, again, that the Falcons were justified in making him the league’s highest-paid wide receiver. The Falcons overcame a three-interception performance by QB Matt Ryan. The NFC South is there for the taking, given Drew Brees’s reported absence from the Saints’ lineup for an estimated six weeks.

13. Cleveland Browns (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 14

The Browns still weren’t great Monday night. But they won and their star power was on vivid display with Odell Beckham Jr., Baker Mayfield and Myles Garrett. They’re now in a two-team race with the Ravens in the AFC North and the schedule toughens considerably from here.

With a brilliant night from Odell Beckham Jr., Browns roll to a win over undermanned Jets

14. Indianapolis Colts (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 17

The kicking struggles that led Adam Vinatieri to hint that he was contemplating retirement overshadowed a very good road win at Tennessee.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 5

The injuries piled up Sunday night in Atlanta, and QB Carson Wentz mostly struggled with WRs DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery on the sideline. The Eagles, for whatever reason, have yet to look like a Super Bowl-worthy team this season. They need a better performance this Sunday at home against the Lions.

Beaten-up Eagles fall behind Cowboys in NFC East when their comeback bid fails in Atlanta

16. Detroit Lions (1-0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 29

The Lions really should be 2-0, given the nature of their Week 1 tie with the Cardinals. Beating the Chargers was a good win Sunday. This weekend’s trip to Philadelphia will provide a bit more evidence as to whether the Lions are for real.

17. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 6

Losing in Detroit is not something that you do if you want to be regarded as one of the NFL’s upper-tier teams.

18. New Orleans Saints (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 3

The Saints must patch things together at quarterback with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill until Drew Brees returns from his reported thumb injury. It could be doable, given Sean Payton’s skill as an offensive coach. No team looks capable of running away with the NFC South and the time off actually could leave Brees fresher for the biggest games at season’s end, if the Saints can remain in contention.

19. Minnesota Vikings (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 8

The Vikings won in Week 1 by de-emphasizing QB Kirk Cousins. They had to turn to Cousins when they fell behind early Sunday against the Packers, and Cousins responded with his typical mistakes. That hefty contract given to Cousins before last season is looking, at this point, like a major mistake by the Vikings. Things were supposed to be better in Year 2. So far, they aren’t.

20. Tennessee Titans (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 13

The very good win over the Browns to open the season was offset when the Titans couldn’t take care of business at home against the Colts on Sunday.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 31

QB Jameis Winston eliminated the mistakes, and the Bucs were able to win Thursday night at Carolina. But that game probably said more about the state of the Panthers than it did about any prospect that the Buccaneers are about to prosper.

22. Oakland Raiders (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 22

Yes, the Raiders are far more competent than they were last season and better than anyone expected them to be in the aftermath of the Antonio Brown chaos. But they’re not good enough to stay with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 16

Addition by subtraction? It’s not exactly working, is it? The Steelers didn’t know that their subtractions would include losing Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending elbow injury. Mason Rudolph takes over at QB, and the Steelers must try to keep their season from unraveling completely.

24. Carolina Panthers (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 18

Cam Newton showed Thursday night that he could throw the ball down the field. But accuracy was an issue, and he didn’t show that his foot injury from the preseason has healed sufficiently for the Panthers to trust him to carry the ball with the game on the line. If Newton can’t get back to something resembling his old dual-threat self, the Panthers won’t turn things around from their 1-9 spiral since midway through last season.

Cam Newton doesn’t look right and the Panthers are in trouble after losing at home to the Bucs

25. Washington Redskins (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 23

Dallas looked like a legitimate NFC heavyweight Sunday at FedEx Field while the Redskins looked like, well, the Redskins. It appears to be a lost season and now the only relevant question becomes: When will Coach Jay Gruden switch to rookie Dwayne Haskins at QB?

26. New York Giants (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 24

It’s not all Eli Manning’s fault. And he deserves a dignified ending to his Giants career. But the switch must be made to rookie Daniel Jones at QB at some point, probably sooner rather than later. That seems more certain than ever, and Coach Pat Shurmur’s public acknowledgment that it’s under consideration only moves up the timetable.

27. Denver Broncos (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 25

The roughing-the-passer call that cost the Broncos against the Bears was highly questionable, at best. But in today’s NFL, you’d better find a way to overcome a shaky call or two if you’re going to win.

28. Arizona Cardinals (0-1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 28

Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray are making the Cardinals competitive. But they’re not making the Cardinals winners. And with the rest of the NFC West looking so imposing, the victories could be difficult to come by.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 26

Gardner Minshew II played fine in Houston in his first NFL start, taking over for the injured Nick Foles. But this just won’t be a very good team without Foles in the lineup. CB Jalen Ramsey’s reported trade request after his sideline disagreement with Coach Doug Marrone further hastens the unraveling of a team that was in the AFC championship game at the end of the 2017 season.

30. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 27

So much for the encouraging performance in the opening loss in Seattle. That was a noncompetitive performance at home Sunday against the 49ers. This could be an ugly season.

31. New York Jets (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 30

It has gone from Sam Darnold to Trevor Siemian to Luke Falk, in rapid succession, at QB. The season could be lost by the time Darnold returns to the lineup.

32. Miami Dolphins (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 32

The fire sale continued with the trade of Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers. The lofty draft choices are being piled higher. Meanwhile, they’ve been outscored, 92-10, in their two games and an 0-16 season seems possible. Someone perhaps should have told the Dolphins’ front office that the team doesn’t need to be this bad to get the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.

Read more on the NFL:

Ben Roethlisberger out for the season, will have elbow surgery

Eli Manning’s time as Giants starter might be over

John Clayton: Can any of the NFL’s 0-2 teams make a playoff run?

The NFL’s pass interference replay rule has brought more confusion than clarity

Lamar Jackson will let you choose how he beats you