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WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 3

09.20.11 at 10:25 am ET
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A thrilling Week 2 provided much insight on which teams will be pretenders and which will be contenders. The week also left us scratching our heads in some cases. The Bills and Redskins are both 2-0 while the Ravens were upset by the Titans.

The Packers and Patriots retain their spots as the top two teams in the NFL. Entering the top five for the first time this season are Rex Ryan‘s Jets (4).  In a rapid decline are three playoff teams from 2010. The Chiefs (30), Colts (31) and Seahawks (32) have dropped to the bottom of the league.

Looking ahead, there are a few key games in Week 3 that could have a great impact on the rankings: Packers at Bears, Giants at Eagles, Texans at Saints, and Redskins at Cowboys. We should be in for another exciting week in the NFL.

1. (1) Packers (2-0) ‘€” Aaron Rodgers and the Packers maintained their composure after falling behind to an inferior Panthers team and came back with a win. Rodgers has to love the production he got from James Starks. Starks averaged over nine yards per carry. Add a strong run game to an explosive pass game and the Packers will have their way with opposing defenses all season. On a down note, Packers Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins is out for the year. This is a team certainly capable of overcoming injuries but definitely a cause for concern as the pass defense has allowed back to back 400-plus-yard games.

2. (2) Patriots (2-0) ‘€” Tony Dungy said Sunday night that Tom Brady and the Patriots look like the 2007 team that went 18-1. It’s tough to disagree. The Patriots offense has been unstoppable over the first two games while the “bend but don’t break defense” has forced key turnovers.

3. (5) Saints (1-1) ‘€” The Saints defense responded well in Week 2 after getting torched by the Packers on opening night. It’s important to note that they were facing the Bears offensive line, but the Saints attacked the quarterback and sacked Jay Cutler six times while also forcing a fumble. In just two weeks, Darren Sproles has made Saints fans ask, “Reggie who?” Sproles has quickly become one of Drew Brees‘ favorite weapons. He was targeted 10 times in Sunday’s win.

4. (6) Jets (2-0) ‘€” The Jets came out ready to play on Sunday after a shaky Week 1 performance. Luke McCown and the Jaguars offense proved to be no match for the Jets dominant D. Rex Ryan‘s defensive unit had four interceptions and held the Jaguars to under 100 yards passing. Mark Sanchez, on the other hand, was inconsistent once again. He threw two interceptions, upping his turnover total to four this season. Furthermore, Nick Mangold will miss some time and that could also hinder Sanchez’ play. Mangold has started in every game since entering the league in 2006.

5. (4) Ravens (1-1) ‘€” If the Ravens want to reach the Super Bowl, they can’t afford to have many more games like they did last Sunday. The defense was totally unprepared for the Titans passing game as they looked helpless against Matt Hasselbeck. The pass rush was nonexistent and the thin secondary had no answer for Kenny Britt. With all that being said, I’d be shocked if we saw a similar type of performance from the Ravens in Week 3.

6. (7) Steelers (1-1) ‘€” The Steelers did exactly what many expected after suffering an embarrassing Week 1 loss. They routed an awful Seahawks team. Looking ahead, they’ll face another second-rate team next week when they travel to Indy.

7. (10) Falcons (1-1) ‘€” The Falcons played to their strengths Sunday night and they came away with a huge win. This team is at its best when it has a strong balance in the run and pass game. Matt Ryan performed great in the no-huddle offense while Michael Turner and the Falcons running game also excelled.

8. (3) Eagles (1-1) ‘€” The so-called “Dream Team” of the NFL has a lot of challenges ahead. It took just seven quarters of football for Michael Vick to suffer a serious enough injury that he had to leave the game. The Eagles have some major problems. Vick continues to be on the ugly side of some vicious hits, he’s been careless with the football, and the defense has struggled mightily, especially against the run.

9. (12) Lions (2-0) ‘€” The success the Lions have had so far is no fluke. Defensively, this team is one of the best. The Lions have caused eight turnovers and Matthew Stafford has been sharp. Now, the Vikings stand in the way of the upstart Lions as Detroit tries to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 1980.

10. (11) Texans (2-0) ‘€” The Texans vowed to improve their pass defense this past offseason, and so far they’ve accomplished their goal. The current No. 1 defense against the pass in the NFL belongs to the Texans. Now this enhanced defense will undergo its first real test of the season when it takes on Drew Brees and the high-octane Saints offense.

11. (9) Bears (1-1) ‘€” All the hope the Bears put in the minds of their fans after their big Week 1 win has now gone straight out the window. Jay Cutler was sacked six times and hit 10 times in Sunday’s loss to the Saints. Once again, the offensive line issues surfaced. This is a major problem that will hold back this team once again until it can find a solution.

12. (8) Chargers (1-1) ‘€” Four turnovers against the Patriots is a recipe for disaster. The Chargers made too many mistakes and it cost them. There’s been much discussion about the Norv Turner‘s team starting the season slow. The next three games on the schedule are all against inferior opponents (Chiefs, Dolphins, at Broncos). Philip Rivers and the Chargers should roll through the next few weeks.

13. (15) Buccaneers (1-1) ‘€” The resilient Bucs managed to pull off a huge comeback win on Sunday. The young Josh Freeman has shown great poise in pressure situations since entering the league three seasons ago. Unlike last week, LaGarrette Blount had an opportunity to get the run game going. Blount averaged over five yards a carry and scored twice.

14. (24) Giants (1-1) ‘€” The G-Men got a much-needed win but also must deal with some new injuries in result. Receivers Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon both left the game with injuries, leaving Eli Manning with even less targets to throw to. Manning can’t afford to lose any more weapons on offense. The departure of both Steve Smith and Kevin Boss could be a reason why Eli has been shaky to start the season.

15. (13) Cowboys (1-1) ‘€” Just two games into the season and the Cowboys are already beaten up. Tony Romo fractured his rib and has a pierced lung, Felix Jones separated his shoulder, Miles Austin is going to miss time with a hamstring injury, Dez Bryant is nursing a thigh injury, and starting center Phil Costa has a knee injury. It’s safe to say the Cowboys aren’t in an ideal situation as they get ready to play a divisional opponent Monday night.

16. (19) Bills (2-0) ‘€” The Bills have been one of the fun stories of the NFL this season. Over the past two weeks, Buffalo has scored 79 points. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been outstanding, but a lot of credit also has to go to the Bills offensive line and run game. This offensive line has dominated at the line of scrimmage and has helped the Bills rush for 380 yards in just two games. They’ll need the same type of production if they want a chance to beat the Patriots in Week 3.

17. (18) Titans (1-1) ‘€” Matt Hasselbeck proved he still has something left in the tank. The soon-to-be 36-year-old QB shredded the Ravens defense in an upset victory. For the past year the Titans have desperately been trying to improve their pass game and not be so one-dimensional on offense. Randy Moss wasn’t the solution in 2010. Hasselbeck could be the answer in 2011.

18. (23) Redskins (2-0) ‘€” The season has just begun, but the first-place Redskins are in a great position to build a lead in the NFC East. The Eagles, Cowboys and Giants have all been decimated with injuries. Mike Shanahan‘s team has a tremendous opportunity Monday night against the ailing Cowboys.

19. (16) Rams (0-2) ‘€” Steve Spagnuolo‘s young, work-in-progress team played sloppy Monday night against the Giants. Turnovers, penalties and squandered opportunities in the red zone really hurt the Rams against the Giants. Still, the Rams are the best team in the NFC West.

20. (14) Raiders (1-1) ‘€” Can’t help but notice the Raiders’ ongoing problem with committing penalties. Hue Jackson‘s team has already been flagged 23 times this year. This was a major issue last year and it has spilled over into 2011.

21. (17) Jaguars (1-1) ‘€” Somewhere, David Garrard is smiling. Jack Del Rio had to expect that starting Luke McCown would blow up in his face eventually. Blaine Gabbert should take over as starter. Let the rookie gain some playing experience and hopefully it will help fast-forward his progression.

22. (22) Dolphins (0-2) ‘€” The Dolphins’ amazing losing track record at home continued Sunday. Miami fans have watched the Dolphins lose 11 of their last 12 games at home. The good news for the Fins is that they won’t play in front of their home crowd again until Oct. 23.

23. (26) 49ers (1-1) ‘€” Frank Gore was ineffective for the second straight week. In two games, Gore is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry. Alex Smith needs Gore to help the offense sustain drives and put games away in the fourth quarter. The 49ers struggled on defense as well. They were torched for over 400 passing yards against the Cowboys.

24. (21) Vikings (0-2) ‘€” Leslie Frazier‘s Vikings were outscored 24-3 in the second half after jumping out to a 17-0 halftime lead. There is plenty to worry about if you’re a Vikings fan. The offense is dreadfully one-dimensional. Donovan McNabb has been unable to pass the ball down the field, relying simply on short completions.

25. (28) Broncos (1-1) ‘€” The Broncos are another team that has been dealing with key injuries. Without defensive starters Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil, Andy Dalton picked apart the Broncos D. Denver can be encouraged by the play of Willis McGahee. He rushed for over 100 yards.

26. (27) Cardinals (1-1) ‘€” The Cardinals have allowed 932 total yards in two games. It’s even more alarming that the quarterbacks they have faced in those games have been a rookie (Cam Newton) and Rex Grossman, who started just three games last year.

27. (29) Bengals (1-1) ‘€” The Bengals have competed in their first two games. That’s all you can really ask for from this team. Rookie Andy Dalton has shown some promise in his young career. He’s protected the football and threw for over 300 yards on Sunday.

28. (30) Panthers (0-2) ‘€” Yes, the Panthers are 0-2, but there’s a sense of optimism in Carolina for the first time in a long time. First overall draft pick Cam Newton has already impressed many throughout the league. The Panthers will struggle to win games this season, but the continued improvement of Newton is what they should worry about.

29. (32) Browns (1-1) ‘€” Colt McCoy and the Browns turned in a solid performance for their first win of the season. Although they were playing a Peyton Manning-less Colts team, this was a solid win for a young, mediocre team. Peyton Hillis had a huge workload and took advantage. Cleveland finally has a few reasons to be positive about its football team.

30. (20) Chiefs (0-2) ‘€” There’s just two games in the books, but its painfully obvious the Chiefs won’t be back in the playoffs. In their first two games, the Chiefs lost their best defensive player (Eric Berry) and their best offensive player (Jamaal Charles). The most telling statistic is the fact the Chiefs have been outscored by a whopping 78 points.

31. (25) Colts (0-2) ‘€” Now that Peyton Manning is out, the Colts’ lackluster defense is spending more time on the field. Manning was able to build leads for his defense and keep it rested on the sidelines. Now, all of the weaknesses of this team are being exposed and the Colts will continue to lose games until their starting QB returns.

32. (31) Seahawks (0-2) ‘€” The Seahawks offense will most likely be outmatched every week. Tavaris Jackson is in the discussion for worst starting QB in the league, and the fact that Sidney Rice will be battling a labrum injury all season hurts the Seahawks even more.

Leave your opinions or comments below. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.

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