1. Los Angeles Rams (3-0) | Last week’s rank: 2
The Rams staked their claim to NFL supremacy with a convincing victory Sunday over the Buccaneers at SoFi Stadium. The Matthew Stafford-led offense now can do its part to help the star-laden defense. But there’s little time to savor the accomplishment, with the first of many tough NFC West matchups arriving this weekend as the Cardinals come to Los Angeles.
2. Buffalo Bills (2-1) | Last week’s rank: 3
It took an extra week for the Bills to get going. But once they did, they have been the powerful team that they were expected to be all along. They have outscored the Dolphins and the Washington Football Team 78-21 while winning their past two games since an opening loss at home to the Steelers. That Week 1 performance now looks like an aberration.
3. Green Bay Packers (2-1) | Last week’s rank: 7
The offseason drama? The dreadful season-opening outing against the Saints? It’s all beginning to feel like ancient history now. If the Packers silenced the “trolls,” as Aaron Rodgers put it, with their Monday night win over the Lions in Week 2, they showed with Sunday night’s dramatic victory over the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium that they remain in the upper tier of NFC contenders.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) | Last week’s rank: 1
The Buccaneers couldn’t beat the Rams on Sunday even with quarterback Tom Brady amassing 432 passing yards and not throwing any interceptions. But how the Bucs stack up against the Rams — that’s a potential issue for down the road in the postseason. For now, it’s all about Brady’s return to New England this weekend, one of the most anticipated regular season games in NFL history. With both teams coming off losses, Brady and Bill Belichick might be in cranky moods. Even better.
5. Cleveland Browns (2-1) | Last week’s rank: 6
Myles Garrett led the pass rush Sunday with a team-record 4.5 sacks as the Cleveland defense made Justin Fields’s first NFL start a forgettable experience for the Bears’ prized rookie quarterback. The Browns have won back-to-back games since their narrow opening loss to the Chiefs. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. returned to the lineup and was productive in his season debut.
6. Arizona Cardinals (3-0) | Last week’s rank: 8
Okay, it wasn’t the best decision by Coach Kliff Kingsbury to have kicker Matt Prater attempt a 68-yard field goal at the end of the first half Sunday at Jacksonville. It resulted in a touchdown for the Jaguars on a 109-yard return. But the Cardinals pulled things together in the second half and kept pace with the Rams atop the NFC West ahead of their showdown this weekend.
7. Las Vegas Raiders (3-0) | Last week’s rank: 9
Playing a 17-game regular season isn’t enough for the Raiders. They already have gone to overtime twice. But they won both times, so no one is complaining. There finally is reason for optimism in Year 4 of Jon Gruden’s return to coaching.
8. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) | Last week’s rank: 10
The record-setting 66-yard field goal by Justin Tucker to beat the Lions was just ridiculous. It might not be a great sign that it took such an extraordinary feat to outlast the hapless Lions. But let’s not nitpick.
9. San Francisco 49ers (2-1) | Last week’s rank: 4
It could have been a big moment for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, taking the 49ers down the field for that go-ahead touchdown in the final minute Sunday night. But then Aaron Rodgers happened after Garoppolo made the mistake of leaving 37 seconds for the Packers’ maestro to respond. As it is, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that the 49ers’ offense is more dangerous whenever rookie quarterback Trey Lance takes the field.
10. Dallas Cowboys (2-1) | Last week’s rank: 12
The Cowboys certainly look like the class of the NFC East. Quarterback Dak Prescott is off to a great start. He has playmakers around him on offense. The running game has been better the past two games. The defense is greatly improved under coordinator Dan Quinn and is generating turnovers.
11. Tennessee Titans (2-1) | Last week’s rank: 13
The Titans are 2-1, and it doesn’t even feel as if they have played anywhere close to their best yet. Watch out if this team really puts it together.
12. New Orleans Saints (2-1) | Last week’s rank: 15
The Saints are back in New Orleans and have received the necessary final approvals from the city and state to play Sunday in the Superdome. The 2-1 record amid the nomadic existence, the coronavirus issues on the coaching staff and the injuries to key players on defense is a testament to the excellence of Coach Sean Payton.
13. Los Angeles Chargers (2-1) | Last week’s rank: 17
That was some odd clock management by Coach Brandon Staley and the Chargers, for sure. But it all worked out just fine for a major road victory over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Maybe the Chargers are ready to be a legitimate playoff contender in quarterback Justin Herbert’s second NFL season. Maybe they’re not quite there yet. But it will be interesting to watch either way.
14. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) | Last week’s rank: 5
The last-place Kansas City Chiefs? Who knew it was even possible? They let a winnable game slip away Sunday at home against the Chargers, just as they let a winnable game slip away the previous Sunday night in Baltimore. There’s plenty of time for quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to regroup. Maybe they had become a bit too confident and too comfortable that they would do just enough, week after week, to find a way to win.
15. Carolina Panthers (3-0) | Last week’s rank: 14
The Panthers are 3-0 for the first time since their Super Bowl season in 2015. But Thursday night’s triumph at Houston was costly, with the hamstring injury suffered by running back Christian McCaffrey and the broken foot that will sideline rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn. McCaffrey’s absence will put a greater burden on quarterback Sam Darnold. The defense is legitimately good.
16. Denver Broncos (3-0) | Last week’s rank: 19
It’s difficult to know exactly what to think about the Broncos after wins over the Giants, Jaguars and Jets. If they beat the Ravens this weekend, it will be time to take notice.
17. New England Patriots (1-2) | Last week’s rank: 11
This is not exactly the start to the season that the Patriots had in mind when they went on that free agent spending spree in the offseason. And now a certain old friend is coming to town this weekend. Coach Bill Belichick has managed to turn 1-2 starts into Super Bowl-winning seasons before. But that was with Tom Brady on the same side of the field, not across it.
18. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) | Last week’s rank: 24
Remember those dropped-pass issues for rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase during the preseason? No one else does, either. Chase has four touchdown catches in three games, and he and second-year quarterback Joe Burrow have the Bengals resembling a competent team.
19. Minnesota Vikings (1-2) | Last week’s rank: 26
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was very good, and the Vikings scored the final 23 points to beat the Seahawks in Minneapolis, even with running back Dalvin Cook on the inactive list. It was a solid performance that came pretty much out of nowhere.
20. Seattle Seahawks (1-2) | Last week’s rank: 18
The loss at Minnesota was disquieting. The Seahawks managed to patch things up with quarterback Russell Wilson in the offseason. But if this season unravels, will the strength of that relationship fall under further scrutiny?
21. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) | Last week’s rank: 16
How in the world did the Steelers beat the Bills in Week 1? All the positive feelings from that victory have dissipated after losses to the Raiders and Bengals. It’s unclear whether quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has anything left. And a trip to Lambeau Field to face the Packers is up next.
22. Atlanta Falcons (1-2) | Last week’s rank: 29
The Falcons aren’t good. But at least they’re not as bad as the Giants, it appears. The schedule continues to provide opportunities, with Washington and then the Jets up next.
23. Washington Football Team (1-2) | Last week’s rank: 20
The defense is not playing up to expectations, and Taylor Heinicke, while intriguing as a stopgap measure, is not the sort of quarterback who can hide a team’s deficiencies in other areas. This was a mediocre team last season that won its division because the division was terrible. The idea that it would take a step forward this season without meaningfully addressing its quarterback situation was overly optimistic.
24. Chicago Bears (1-2) | Last week’s rank: 21
That was a rough day indeed for Justin Fields in Cleveland in his first NFL start, with 68 passing yards on 6-for-20 accuracy. Perhaps Coach Matt Nagy was right all along to have gone with Andy Dalton as the temporary starter at quarterback while biding his time with Fields. Nagy has said Dalton remains the starter, for now, when healthy. But with Dalton’s knee injury and Fields’s hand injury, even Nick Foles is in the starting-quarterback mix this week.
25. Miami Dolphins (1-2) | Last week’s rank: 22
The Dolphins forced overtime Sunday in Las Vegas with a touchdown and two-point conversion at the end of regulation. But that didn’t prevent a loss to the Raiders. It certainly appears the Dolphins can remain competitive with Jacoby Brissett as their fill-in starter at quarterback. Unfortunately for them, it’s not at all clear that they can win with him.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) | Last week’s rank: 23
The Eagles weren’t particularly competitive during Monday night’s loss to the Cowboys. Quarterback Jalen Hurts threw two interceptions, and the defense got pushed around at times. But that’s what happens in retooling seasons. Andy Reid comes back to Philadelphia this weekend as the Eagles host the Chiefs. Isn’t there some other homecoming game on the Week 4 schedule?
27. Houston Texans (1-2) | Last week’s rank: 27
Rookie quarterback Davis Mills was decent but not great while filling in for injured starter Tyrod Taylor in Thursday’s loss to the Panthers. Mills’s audition continues with Taylor on injured reserve. The question will be: If the season is irretrievably lost by the time Taylor is ready to play again, does it make any sense to switch back?
28. Indianapolis Colts (0-3) | Last week’s rank: 25
Remember when the Colts trading for Carson Wentz was going to fix Wentz and fill the void at quarterback in Indianapolis? Not so much on either front so far.
29. Detroit Lions (0-3) | Last week’s rank: 30
After being on the wrong side of the delay-of-game penalty that wasn’t and then the 66-yard field goal by the Ravens’ Justin Tucker, the Lions are making their bid to replace the Chargers as the team that reliably finds confusing ways to lose.
30. New York Giants (0-3) | Last week’s rank: 28
The fan base is restless. The frustration is mounting. The losses continue to pile up. It has reached the point at which the Giants can’t even beat a winless opponent such as the Falcons at home on the day they honored Eli Manning. New York is just not good at all, and is there any reason to trust that General Manager Dave Gettleman and Coach Joe Judge can turn things around?
31. New York Jets (0-3) | Last week’s rank: 31
New quarterback, new coach, same franchise. Don’t give up on Zach Wilson and Robert Saleh. But keep in mind that there’s plenty for them to overcome.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) | Last week’s rank: 32
Even the record-tying 109-yard touchdown by Jamal Agnew on the return of a missed field goal could not keep the Jaguars from losing again and adding to Coach Urban Meyer’s misery. Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence had his third straight game with at least two interceptions. This has gotten very bleak very fast.