In a world where mediocre Texas Rangers shortstops from the late 1990s are now doing national car commercials, we bring you the NFL Power Rankings for Week 3.
Yes, we saw Royce Clayton and his family extolling the virtues of their Ford Flex on Monday night. Clayton hung around baseball for 17 seasons with 11 different teams. While Felix Jones and Jerricho Cotchery -- the weapons Ben Roethlisberger is playing with -- aren't quite as well-traveled yet, it feels like they are. Le'Veon Bell and Heath Miller can't make it back fast enough for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who clearly need more punch offensively. Otherwise, Mike Tomlin might have to do his best coaching job just to reach .500.
Meanwhile, our new No. 1 this week doesn't seem to need an offense, not with the way its defense is playing. And our No. 2 doesn't seem to need a defense, not with the way its offense is playing.
@Harrison_NFL Seattle and Denver are the clear top 2 teams in the NFL, #3-32 is up of grabsâ Neal Gulati (@theraiderfan16) September 16, 2013
Funny, that's exactly how I felt when staring at No. 1, No. 2 ... and a big, blank Word document. That's OK, though, Neal; Seattle and Denver have earned it. As for the rest? Take a look below. All of you are welcome to bring it with your opinions ... @Harrison_NFL is the place. I read 'em all.
Now, let the dissension commence!
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)
The Seattle Seahawks finally proved it Sunday night. Seahawks fans have lambasted the Power Rankings for failing to put their team on top. But the Seahawks have not gotten out of the divisional round in the Pete Carroll era, and they were missing two of their best pass rushers in Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin. So this "Power Ranker" had been patiently keeping them at third. That said, they have now dominated the San Francisco 49ers in back-to-back games -- and, had their receivers caught anything the last time the team traveled to San Francisco, Sunday's victory might have been their third in a row over their Bay Area rivals. While it's scary to think that this defense will still be adding Clemons and Irvin, the Richard Sherman-led secondary is so doggone good, I'm not sure their absence even matters.
Say what you want about the guy, but Knowshon Moreno has given this football team a lift since getting involved in the offense late last November, having rushed for 631 yards over his past eight regular-season games. The 93 yards he gained against the New York Giants provided an already formidable attack with that prehistoric rarity in pro football: balance. Oh, by the way, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning are brothers.
Colin Kaepernick can't be the entire offense. That the San Francisco 49ers flat-out could not run the football versus Seattle is disconcerting, to say the least. The offense is best when Frank Gore is productive on the early downs, but on Sunday night, the interior of the line repeatedly was stifled at the point of the attack, ultimately turning a competitive game into a laugher. Some of you left in the third quarter to watch "The Golden Girls." Wise.
OK, so this blurb isn't really intended for those Green Bay Packers fans who had their noses to the blowout in Lambeau, whether they were at the stadium, at Mom's Bar in Santa Monica, Calif., at Vernon's Grille in Addison, Texas, or at one of the seemingly seven billion Packers bars spread throughout the 50 states. If you missed Aaron Rodgers' performance, here's a quick recap: unstoppable. How does 34-of-42 passing for 480 yards and four touchdowns sound? And that's with Green Bay taking its foot off the gas pedal late. Good grief. How 'bout them Washington Redskins defensive backs?
DeAndre Hopkins played some ball on Sunday. Though he's just a babe, Hopkins showed up like a veteran after Andre Johnson left the matchup with the Tennessee Titans. Hopkins fought for the ball along the right sideline on the first drive of overtime to give Houston an opportunity to win it right away. Three plays later, he made a beautiful catch on a back-shoulder fade to seal the deal. This isn't a "run the football and play dominating defense" kind of team anymore. Both sides of the ball are more opportunistic, with Hopkins serving as an additional athletic asset for Matt Schaub opposite AJ.
What an ugly showing at home. Everyone has been talking about Tom Brady's body language on the sideline, how perhaps he was being too hard on Aaron Dobson. Uh ... why? Dobson might be in his first year, but he had the duration of organized team activities, minicamps, training camp, preseason and one regular-season game to figure out what he was doing out there. Dropping a bomb that was thrown right into his hands does not count as a "rookie mistake." It's a drop.
a great escape. The
have to play better, but at the end of the day,
Jay Cutler made things happen when necessary, like
tossing the game winner to Martellus Bennett. What's most encouraging is the way Chicago used
Matt Forte, who caught 11 balls and had 30 touches overall for 161 yards on Sunday. Through two weeks, Forte has 53 touches; if he can hold up, he'll eclipse 2,000 yards from scrimmage.
On the subject of running backs, I saw that former Bears great Rick Casares passed away. A big, Eddie George-like back at 6-foot-2, Casares led the NFL with 1,126 yards rushing in 1956 -- when the season was just 12 games long.
New Orleans Saints were
bailed out in every way possible in Tampa. Have to say, though: New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan deserves a ton of credit. Sure, New Orleans let
Vincent Jackson run wild, and the
Saints had some trouble stopping
Doug Martin late. But here's something we all must get used to in the 2013 version of the NFL: Situational defense is where it's at. Get the stop when your team
Achieving critical stops in outcome-determinant situations is more feasible and apropos than playing suffocating defense, à la the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. After all, few teams have the personnel to do much more than that. (The Saints are no exception, having lost many players to injury.) Given the current state of the rules, defensive backs can't get too down after giving up big plays; they just have to focus on stopping the next one. On Sunday, that's what New Orleans did when it had to, and -- with a little help from a Rian Lindell hook shot -- won the game.
There's some hand-wringing going on over Steven Jackson's health right now; the Atlanta Falcons will roll with Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers in the interim. The real issue for this team will be keeping Matt Ryan -- who took just two sacks on Sunday, but was hit numerous times -- upright. Mike Smith's club did a nice job regaining control after letting the St. Louis Rams climb back into it. Still, you can't yet win much in the NFL running 16 times for just 36 yards.
Nice road win in Indianapolis. More importantly, the
Miami Dolphins are 2-0 with 25 percent of their road schedule in the bag. That's big.
Next up: a home date with the Falcons, who just had some trouble protecting their quarterback against the Rams. This is the type of contest in which the Dolphins can a) showcase the pass rush led by new toy Dion Jordan and old reliable Cameron Wake, and b) show they're for real by beating one of the better teams in the league.
Baltimore recovers, albeit in a tough, defensive AFC North battle . There was just one turnover and eight total penalties committed by the Browns and the Ravens in Baltimore's 14-6 win -- and that might be the best way for John Harbaugh's group to compete. Ray Rice is hurting, and the Ravens lack a big-time threat at wide receiver/tight end. They couldn't keep up during the season-opening track meet in Denver. The veterans on defense need to stay healthy, while the younger guys, like Matt Elam and Josh Bynes, have to be play smart. Meanwhile, if backup running back Bernard Pierce can provide the kind of pop he did late in 2012, Baltimore should be OK.
the monochrome look go out with
Sunday's win over the Dallas Cowboys was ugly, but it was still a win. And hey, big kudos go to cornerback Brandon Flowers, who was beaten early and often by Dez Bryant, but proved that the best corners in this business are those who let the bad plays drift into oblivion (along with all of the cruddy dates and hooptie rides they've had). The Cowboys' passing game couldn't rekindle its first-half fire, and with Dontari Poe and Derrick Johnson clogging running lanes, the Kansas City Chiefs were in business. Hate to say it, but Andy Reid won his home opener playing some "Martyball."
Dallas Cowboys are going to avoid a third straight 8-8 season,
Tony Romo and
Bill Callahan will have to call something besides none-yard outs and 2-yard ins. Too many times
at Arrowhead on Sunday, Romo responded to second/third-and-long situations by dinking his way to a long field-goal attempt or punt.
Of course, the Cowboys were in those long-yardage situations in the first place because they completely lacked a running game; DeMarco Murray carried the rock 12 times for 25 yards. Cowboys fans are getting accustomed to Dallas backs averaging 2 and 3 yards per carry.
Andrew Luck's protection broke down late Sunday, a fact that doesn't exactly shock Colts fans, who saw that happen plenty of times last season. The good news was the small lift the club got from a running game -- with help from Luck himself -- that racked up 133 yards versus the Miami Dolphins. Don't misread this situation; Ahmad Bradshaw is not "the new Edge." But another Edgerrin James isn't what the Colts need; rather, Indy can do with someone who provides enough of a threat to keep the entire deal from falling on the second-year quarterback's shoulders.
Philip Rivers has delivered a big "FU" -- as in,
five touchdown passes to
Eddie Royal -- to his detractors. All those who said Rivers' game was in decline and that the
Chargers wideout stunk had to eat it
How's this for a stat line? Rivers was 36-of-47 passing for 419 yards and three scores. He even had a 12-yard run, which, for him, is like Tony Dorsett going for 99.
Chip Kelly revolutionizing the NFL in its 94th season lasted one week. At least now that the
Eagles are 1-1, people will tap the brakes when it comes to anointing them the second coming of "The Greatest Show on Turf (Er, Grass)."
Of course, the offense still put up a 30-spot in Sunday's loss. Philly's weak spot -- as we suspected would be the case two weeks ago -- proved to be the defense. Still, win or lose, this is an exciting team to watch.
The first 18-plus minutes of
Rams-Falcons went horribly wrong for
Jeff Fisher's crew. First, there was the opening scoring march by
Matt Ryan and Co., then the bomb tossed by Ryan to
Julio Jones, then
Osi Umenyiora -- how old is he, 60? -- taking a pick to the house.
So what changed as the game went on? The strength of this St. Louis Rams team -- the pass rush -- got going. Meanwhile, quarterback Sam Bradford spread it around, hitting four different receivers on the Rams' first touchdown drive and three receivers on the second -- he even called his own number on scrambles. If Bradford can lift his play without the urgency imposed by a 24-3 deficit, working in tandem with a defense that promises to punish the other guys' quarterbacks, we won't be typing such long blurbs after losses ...
While they might have barely escaped with their first win of the season, Bruce Arians' fellas showed a lot of heart versus the Detroit Lions. Megatron went off early, but then the secondary really tightened its belt. Throw in the outstanding play of some of the ancillary parts with Larry Fitzgerald on the sideline, add a huge blocked field goal attempt, and the Cardinals are 1-1, tied for second place in the NFC West, with a real quarterback. #justsayin'
Ugh. My heart goes out to
Lions fans, who must be so sick of stupid penalties,
Brandon Pettigrew dropping the ball in traffic, special teams miscues, handing the ball to opponents on the wrong side of the field and
Brandon Pettigrew dropping the ball on third down.
Detroit had no business losing in Arizona to a team whose best player was out of the mix in the second half. Golden opportunity missed.
Buddy Nix must be cackling at a Cracker Barrel somewhere down South. Is it fair to say the
Buffalo Bills have a quarterback in
There was a lot to be impressed with in the kid's second career start. Ditto the passion with which Mario Williams was playing out there (notching 4.5 sacks). Fred Jackson contributed. Stevie Johnson made big plays (like getting the Carolina Panthers to commit a key pass-interference penalty late). The secondary barely gave Cam Newton any plays downfield. C.J. Spiller broke off a long gain. This was a team win. Frankly, it's nice to see organizational hope in Bills town.
Mike Munchak came
thisclose to starting 2-0 on the road this season. Most NFL observers consider the
Indianapolis Colts to be the
Houston Texans' primary threat in the AFC South, but Tennessee had
something to say about that down in Houston. Let's see what happens when
the Texans travel to Nashville on Dec. 29.
In the intervening weeks, the challenge for Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is to find a passing game that threatens ... well ... anybody. Jake Locker couldn't even make it to 150 yards on 30 pass attempts. That won't cut it in the NFL. It's up to Loggains to give Locker protection while creating more downfield opportunities.
Wow, what a
painful 0-2. The last sequence of plays in
the loss in Buffalo particularly hurt. First, the best player on the team -- linebacker
Luke Kuechly -- was beaten badly by
Bills receiver Stevie Johnson, forcing Kuechly to commit pass interference, which set up Buffalo in the red zone. Then came a mix-up in coverage, as
D.J. Moore failed to take the inside receiver to the corner on a pick play at the end.
The bright spots for Panthers fans continue to be a pretty solid defense overall and -- at least this week -- a commitment to running the football ... or running plays period. Carolina had over 70 offensive snaps after posting a league-low 50 in Week 1.
Another whuppin' handed to the Washington defense. To be clear, defensive coordinator
Jim Haslett knows what he's doing. It's just that
in Week 1, Haslett's unit was the unfortunate guinea pig for the run-it-suck-wind-and-run-it-again offense of
Chip Kelly. Then, in Week 2, the best quarterback in pro football decided to play like the best quarterback in pro football.
The Redskins couldn't stop Aaron Rodgers. They couldn't stop Jordy Nelson. They couldn't stop Randall Cobb. We mentioned in our Week 2 predictions column that this defense might have trouble recovering on a short week to stop the Packers ... and that's about what happened.
This is easily the lowest we've ever had the
New York Giants, but given the fact that they've coughed up 10 turnovers in two weeks, we had no alternative. Glad people were so fired up for the return of
Brandon Jacobs, who averaged less than 1 yard per carry.
Eli Manning and the passing game, meanwhile, kept
handing Denver the football on Sunday.
Aside from the giveaways, New York has stayed with its opponents. So thank goodness Jacobs didn't fumble in his first game back. By the way, can he play safety?
Tough to stomach an 0-2 start after a 10-win campaign.
Christian Ponder takes center stage again; after
a terrible season-opener versus the
Detroit Lions, Ponder got the wrong team on the board by
giving up a pick-six against
the Bears on Sunday. If not for their defense and special teams, the
Vikings wouldn't have even been
in the game.
Speaking of special teams, in case you missed it, first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson took one to the house. And Vikings safety Harrison Smith picked Jay Cutler on a sweet read. Let's not forget how much young talent is on this football team.
Clyde Gates owes any
Jets fans who made the trek to Foxborough for
last Thursday's game a refund, or an autographed
Lance Alworth jersey. Why Alworth? Because if, like Gates, you're going to wear the same number (19) as
one of the greatest wide receivers to ever step into an NFL (or AFL) stadium, you had
better hold on to the football once ... or maybe three times.
Gates dropped a sure touchdown pass (among others) Thursday night; he also did nothing to break up a Geno Smith interception. The third-year receiver will improve, no doubt. Yet, his game highlights a painful problem for the Jets: How can Smith take any steps forward if his receivers consistently hold him back?
We had just written an awesome blurb about the improving Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but we forgot to put a period close enough to the end of the sentence, so it was called back.
Can't believe the
Pittsburgh Steelers are at No. 29. Un-
REAL. But given their 0-2 record, their 75 combined rushing yards through two contests and their continued trouble protecting the pocket, I have no choice but to slide them into this space. At this point, a 6-10 finish is very possible.
Now, there are a lot of prideful players on this squad -- Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark, Ben Roethlisberger -- so a turnaround is possible. Still, right now, the Steelers are playing poorly, and that can't be ignored.
If there is a guy who is fun to watch when healthy, it's No. 20 in Oakland.
Darren McFadden reminds me of an Eric Dickerson/Marshall Faulk hybrid: a home-run hitter who moves like Dickerson with a one-cut-and-tear-ass mentality, but who also possesses a gait somewhat like Faulk's. Run-DMC can catch the ball like Faulk, as well.
Against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, McFadden got some blocking, rushing for 129 yards while adding another 28 through the air. The Raiders' defense? Held the Jaguars to 248 yards while adding five sacks.
All of the hope that
Rob Chudzinski and
Norv Turner would develop the
Cleveland Browns' offense has dissipated fast. Eight points per game isn't going to win much in the NFL. Thankfully, the club will get receiver Josh Gordon back from suspension for Week 3's
matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. Of course, that won't cure the 11 sacks given up through two games.
Chudzinski says he's keeping his options open at quarterback, with starter Brandon Weeden banged up. Seems unfair to a defense that is holding up its end of the bargain.
It's getting more difficult to pen something positive about the
Jacksonville Jaguars, who have lost 14 of their last 15 games. Perhaps most disheartening is the fact that even
Maurice Jones-Drew couldn't get going (10 rushing attempts for 27 yards) against the
Raiders on Sunday. Receiver
Cecil Shorts (eight catches for 93 yards) continues to be a bright spot.
Coach Gus Bradley has to find more players who are willing to work as hard as Shorts and lay it on the line like MJD has so many times, because right now, no one can say this isn't the worst football team in the NFL. Some of us would like to see the Jags be competitive.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.