1. New England Patriots (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 1
No Antonio Brown in the lineup? No problem, at least not Sunday. But the WR depth becomes an issue again, particularly in the short term with Julian Edelman’s injury. What the defense is doing is amazing. It has not allowed a touchdown by an opposing offense this season, and it limited the Jets to 105 yards of total offense.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 2
Patrick Mahomes is so good that a 27-for-37, 374-yard, three-TD, no-interception passing day seems, ho hum, rather routine for him by now. Mahomes and the Kansas City offense roll on even with Tyreek Hill out of the lineup.
3. Los Angeles Rams (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 3
The offense wasn’t all that crisp Sunday night in Cleveland, and QB Jared Goff had three turnovers. But Coach Sean McVay made the proper halftime adjustments and the Rams showed they’re a well-established contender that simply knows how to win.
4. Dallas Cowboys (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 4
The Cowboys played down to the Dolphins’ level for a while but woke up in plenty of time to post an appropriately lopsided triumph.
5. Green Bay Packers (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 6
It’s time to include the Packers in the conversation, with the Rams and Cowboys, about which team is the NFC’s best. This is a sound and balanced Green Bay team, and QB Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have to do it all.
6. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 5
Put aside the talk about Coach John Harbaugh’s two-point conversions based on his version of analytics. The real bottom line of Sunday’s loss at Kansas City was that the Ravens went on the road and played on relatively even terms with an AFC heavyweight.
7. Chicago Bears (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 8
Khalil Mack was virtually unblockable and the defense was dominant Monday night at FedEx Field, at least until seeming to lose its edge temporarily while the Redskins made things mildly interesting. But such defensive prowess is to be expected. The pleasant surprise was the progress made by QB Mitchell Trubisky, notwithstanding his one very bad interception, and the offense.
8. Houston Texans (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 9
The narrow triumph over the Chargers has the Texans back in good early-season shape, with consecutive victories and home games against the Panthers and Falcons coming up.
9. Buffalo Bills (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 10
The Patriots come to town this weekend. That will either provide a sobering reality check for the Bills and their fans or the ultimate boost to their confidence in a rebuilding program that is on fast-forward.
10. San Francisco 49ers (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 11
The Niners overcame their five turnovers to beat the Steelers. That’s not easy to do. It’s not quite time to declare this team a legitimate contender, but things are beginning to get interesting.
11. Indianapolis Colts (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 14
Jacoby Brissett was terrific against the Falcons. No one is exactly forgetting Andrew Luck at this point. But if Brissett can continue to play like this, the sting of Luck’s abrupt retirement at least will begin to fade a bit for the Colts.
12. Detroit Lions (2-0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 16
The victory in Philadelphia, even with the Eagles in their depleted state, suggests that the Lions’ improved early-season play perhaps is to be taken seriously. They really should be 3-0, given the squandered lead during the season-opening tie with the Cardinals.
13. New Orleans Saints (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 18
Teddy Bridgewater’s performance and the victory over the Seahawks reinforce the notion that the Saints just might be able to hold things together until Drew Brees returns from thumb surgery. If that happens, the time off actually might benefit Brees and the Saints by season’s end.
14. Minnesota Vikings (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 19
Again, less was more from Kirk Cousins. He had a modest 21 passing attempts and didn’t even throw for 200 yards. But he avoided the major mistakes and the Vikings rode the running of Dalvin Cook to the win over the Raiders.
15. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 7
The Seahawks’ big fourth quarter against the Saints couldn’t quite make up for their sluggishness over the first three quarters. No one should overreact to one loss. But losing at home could be costly to the Seahawks as they try to keep pace with the Rams and Niners in the NFC West.
16. Atlanta Falcons (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 12
The Falcons just can’t seem to sustain any positive momentum. They’re 0-2 on the road and, with the loss in Indianapolis, failed to build on a good win over the Eagles the previous week.
17. Cleveland Browns (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 13
It simply isn’t working for Coach Freddie Kitchens and the Browns. That fourth-and-nine draw play during Sunday night’s defeat to the Rams was about as ill-conceived as it gets. The failure to challenge a pass interference non-call that probably would have gone in the Browns’ favor wasn’t good either. They’re in the middle of a rugged stretch of their schedule and face a tough task Sunday in Baltimore to keep their season from unraveling further.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 15
The injuries have handcuffed the offense but no one particularly wants to hear about it. That’s just part of the deal in the NFL. The Eagles must regroup quickly, with a Thursday night meeting with the Packers looming and the Cowboys threatening to run away with the NFC East race.
19. Los Angeles Chargers (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 17
It might be time for the Chargers to do something about getting holdout RB Melvin Gordon back into the fold.
20. Carolina Panthers (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 24
Is there a QB issue brewing here? It’s too soon for any of that. But Kyle Allen played well in the win over the Cardinals and the Panthers were quick to say Monday that Cam Newton won’t be ready to come back this week from his foot injury.
21. New York Giants (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 26
The euphoria over Daniel Jones’s performance in his first NFL start after last week’s QB switch was tempered by the high ankle sprain that could keep RB Saquon Barkley sidelined for as long as eight weeks, according to estimates. But take the big-picture view here: The Giants appear to have a new franchise QB in place to go with their dynamic runner, whenever he returns.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 29
If Tom Brady really turned off the Jaguars-Titans game Thursday night, he missed the return of the “Sacksonville” defense. The nine sacks of Marcus Mariota were impressive. And, suddenly, the Jaguars don’t seem to be in such a rush to honor CB Jalen Ramsey’s trade request. If the defense can maintain anything close to Thursday’s level and rookie QB Gardner Minshew II can continue to do his part, the Jaguars could be an interesting team again.
23. Tennessee Titans (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 20
No, it’s not time for Marcus Mariota to be benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill. But it at least becomes a consideration relatively soon, if things continue like this.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 21
Coach Bruce Arians and rookie kicker Matt Gay were kind enough not to trample all over the story line of the legend of Daniel Jones being born Sunday in Tampa. But, seriously, Arians thought that a kicker who had missed two extra points would benefit from an intentional delay-of-game penalty and a kick basically the same length as an extra point?
25. Oakland Raiders (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 22
The good feelings from the opening victory over the Broncos have faded with the losses to the Chiefs and Vikings. It doesn’t get easier with a road game Sunday at Indianapolis.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 23
Mason Rudolph was decent against the 49ers. But the Steelers are probably going to have to trust him to be more aggressive in the passing game if they’re going to have any chance to turn this thing around.
27. Denver Broncos (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 27
How can a team with Vic Fangio as its coach and Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in its lineup have zero sacks and zero takeaways through three games? It’s inconceivable. This has gone really wrong, really fast.
28. Arizona Cardinals (0-2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 28
Kyler Murray endured rookie growing pains with his two-interception, eight-sack outing against the Panthers. No one said it was going to be easy.
29. Washington Redskins (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 25
The Redskins are 0-3 while former assistants Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur and Kyle Shanahan are a combined 9-0 as head coaches elsewhere. This has gotten ugly, and Coach Jay Gruden and QB Case Keenum will be under the greatest scrutiny. A move to rookie QB Dwayne Haskins must be considered. If it’s made, it would be Haskins vs. Daniel Jones this weekend in the Meadowlands.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 30
Zac Taylor’s 0-3 start doesn’t mean he can’t coach. But it does reinforce that everyone should have appreciated what Marvin Lewis accomplished in Cincinnati for all of those years that he got the Bengals into the playoffs, even if he couldn’t manage a postseason victory.
31. New York Jets (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 31
Luke Falk wasn’t the answer Sunday, not even close, just as Trevor Siemian hadn’t been the answer during his abbreviated turn as the fill-in starting QB. Sam Darnold can’t come back soon enough. By the time he does, it might be too late to salvage anything from an already lost season.
32. Miami Dolphins (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 32
The Dolphins might have to begin tanking for the 2021 NFL draft as well. One draft class is not going to fix this.
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