Power Rankings  

 

NFL Power Rankings, Week 4: Bengals at No. 1; Packers slide

Week 3 of the 2014 season is in the books, and half the NFL is in the trainer's room. ...

We talk about injuries every year, but this year, it seems like the missing in action are becoming as much of a story as those in action. Dennis Pitta, Kyle Rudolph and Jonathan Stewart are merely the latest who are down for the count -- or, at least, for a substantial period of time. We could go on and on listing those who are out for the year, out for several weeks or just plain playing hurt.

Of course, this is when roster depth -- an underrated aspect of the pro game that's been highlighted in the salary-cap era, which, by the way, started 20 years ago -- comes into play. That said, the byes begin this weekend. One week off might not be enough time to get fully healthy, but it will allow some teams to get healthy enough.

Speaking of depth, the new No. 1 in our rankings is a team that has shown it has more than enough, accounting for losses in free agency (Michael Johnson, among others), as well as early injury woes (to solid contributors like Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert). If, in fact, you take issue with the Stripes batting leadoff, hit us with your gripes: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let the dissension commence!

(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from the most recent Power Rankings.)

PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Post-draft

RANK

1

3-0 BENGALS

1

Titans corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson should not feel bad about that Andy Dalton receiving touchdown from Sunday's Bengals win; it's widely known in NFL circles that Dalton always meets the ball at its highest point.

Cincinnati earned the top spot by virtue of having a defense that allows just 11 points per game, a quarterback who has made few mistakes and isn't asked to put everything on his shoulders and a running attack that is grinding out 121.7 yards per contest. Survey says ... #2013Seahawks2.0

RANK

2

3-0 EAGLES

1

Do you realize the Eagles are averaging 24.7 points per game this season -- in the second half alone? Here's an even more remarkable stat: Philadelphia is the first team in NFL history to start a season 3-0 after being down 10-plus points in all three games. Impressive that this team also seems to win when Nick Foles doesn't play at his best, the secondary falters (which happens often) or the run game fails (which almost never happens, but did Sunday, when Philly averaged 2.2 yards per carry against the Redskins).

RANK

3

3-0 CARDINALS

2

What a victory. What a victory. Let me say it again: What a non-loss! I mean, you'd think Arizona would have dropped at least one of the games Drew Stanton has started at quarterback, considering he was thrown into the role in New York in Week 2, then faced a tough NFC West opponent in the Niners, who, entering Sunday's contest in Glendale, had lost just once to the Cardinals since 2008. The Cards went 9-for-14 on third and fourth downs against San Francisco. That wins games.

RANK

4

2-1 CHARGERS

2

Absolutely agonized over my (ultimately incorrect) decision to pick the Bills over the Chargers on Sunday. Thought the hostile crowd and Buffalo's defense would give Philip Rivers the willies, but they didn't. Didn't give him the Phil-lies, either. Oh, that was not enjoyable to type.

What was enjoyable: Watching the Bolts go vertical. Makes the game fun and forces the defense to play the entire field. #Rivers4MVP?

RANK

5

2-1 SEAHAWKS

2

Nice, resilient showing for the Seahawks, who found a way to prevail after their own sloppy play and the refs' failure to call offensive pass interference allowed the Broncos to even things up in Seattle on Sunday. (Personally, I think Julius Thomas should've been allowed to put a Seahawks corner in a sleeper hold so that Wes Welker could run unabated and uncovered, but I digress ...)

The five-spot might seem too low for this team, but considering San Diego soundly defeated Seattle and Arizona took care of San Diego, the Seahawks deserve to be behind both. And I'm not ready to vault those Cards over Philadelphia or Cincinnati.

RANK

6

2-1 BRONCOS

5

Give credit where credit is due: The Broncos refused to fold in the toughest house in football. Peyton Manning made the throws he had to in the late going, particularly on that soft, pinpoint toss to Demaryius Thomas to get the two-point conversion that sent the game to overtime. That said, the Broncos' improved defense couldn't do enough at the end to clinch a contest in which it had performed well enough to win.

RANK

7

2-1 PATRIOTS

3

Ugly victory. Of course, those still count. It's OK for people to call Sunday's win over the Raiders an escape. It's also safe to question the Patriots' offense, specifically Tom Brady's play. New England is getting nada downfield; the Pats' "long" play of the day went for all of 22 yards. We did have a Danny Amendola sighting, though! (It was a drop in the end zone.)

RANK

8

2-1 BEARS

3

Nice road win, even if it looked like neither team wanted it there for a while. Not sure how many of you are on LinkedIn ... but if you know any defensive backs looking for work, pass their profiles along to the Bears' coaching staff, because they are seriously hurtin' for some healthy bodies. My intuition tells me Marc Trestman is more of a Myspace guy.

RANK

9

2-1 RAVENS

5

Baltimore gets out of Cleveland with the close win and will keep plodding along, despite the lack of a dominant defender or someone who is clearly the man in the running game.

This week, the role of Justin Forsett and Bernard Pierce was filled by rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro. Who hasn't heard of him? In case you were wondering, Taliaferro was a feared Chanticleer in college; he's also a Capricorn and loves kittens. OK, I made that last part up ... but he did gain 5.1 yards per carry on 18 totes Sunday.

RANK

10

2-1 FALCONS

5

The Falcons' complete domination of the Buccaneers on Thursday night merits a solid jump in the rankings, even if Tampa Bay's offense serves as its opponents' defense ... which is to say, Atlanta didn't have to do much in this game. The Falcons' attack is going to be a tough out for anyone visiting the Georgia Dome; still, I don't believe they'll win more than nine games this year.

On another note, I did wonder if the NFL record for points scored by a single team in a game -- held by the Bears for their 73-0 shellacking of the Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship -- was in danger. Holy cow. Did anyone else at least think about it? (@HarrisonNFL)

RANK

11

2-1 BILLS

2

Yep, the Bills topped the Bears in Week 1 and now rank below them. But the simple fact of the matter is, Buffalo was soundly defeated at home on Sunday, while Chicago's only loss so far is that overtime squeaker to start the season. Also, the Bears' weakness -- their defense -- seems to have at least been partially fixed, whereas the Bills are still having trouble getting the ball vertical. Frankly, EJ Manuel just isn't an accurate passer at this point in his career, at least not consistently.

RANK

12

2-1 STEELERS

8

Wow. The Steelers put up 264 yards rushing in Sunday night's win over the Panthers.

Read that stat again. It took Pittsburgh just 34 carries to get there, too, meaning the squad did what it will need to do to stay in the AFC North race, i.e., it didn't put everything on the quarterback. Speaking of, what a clutch throw by Ben Roethlisberger on his first touchdown pass of the evening to Antonio Brown. #droppindimes

RANK

13

2-1 PANTHERS

9

What's next for this team after Sunday's defeat? Other than facing a 2-1 Ravens club in Baltimore, that is. There's only one thing Panthers fans will hear more about this Sunday than former Carolina receiver Steve Smith Sr. squaring off against his old team: the fact that Matthew McConaughey doesn't drive Lincolns to make a statement.

RANK

14

1-2 SAINTS

2

Ah, ain't it good to have a nice, warm bowl of gumbo after a win? There's a Cajun place in Hermosa Beach that serves up New Orleans food, and I thought about the transplanted Saints fans who might've sauntered in for some shrimp creole to celebrate the team's return to relevance Sunday.

Tough to figure out how this club couldn't put up more than 20 on the Vikings, or how New Orleans has started 1-2. Drew Brees is completing 70 percent of his passes and has thrown just two picks. The ground attack is averaging 140.3 yards per game and nearly 5 yards per carry. And the offense as a whole has converted 24 of 39 third downs. Is it all on the defense, Saints fans? (@HarrisonNFL)

RANK

15

2-1 LIONS

4

Now that's the effort we've been wanting to see from the Lions' defense, especially considering the fact that the Packers attack they defeated represented a far more formidable challenge than the offenses they faced in Week 1 ( Giants) or Week 2 ( Panthers). As for Detroit's offense, well, we even had a Reggie Bush breakaway.

That said, as with Buffalo above, Detroit's passing attack has been less than effective. Matthew Stafford would be the first to tell you he and his cohorts must improve.

RANK

16

1-2 PACKERS

8

I'm just as shocked as you seeing the Packers this low. But after they were vanquished in Detroit, where everyone's "greatest quarterback of all time" failed to put many points on the board for the second time this season, it's hard to know what to do with this team. Aaron Rodgers is indeed a fantastic player, but he produced little on Sunday; ditto for running back Eddie Lacy, who doesn't look like himself. Of course, it all starts up front, and therein lies the problem for Green Bay.

RANK

17

1-2 COLTS

1

Anyone wondering if the Colts would respond angrily after blowing a home game last Monday night and faltering in key situations in Denver in Week 1 received their answer. Indianapolis put up more than 500 yards of offense against the Jacksonville Jaguars, despite the fact the Colts were more than tapping the brakes in the fourth quarter of their Week 3 rout.

RANK

18

1-2 49ERS

6

Sure looked like the 49ers' offense was in control in the first half of Sunday's collapse against the Cardinals -- much like San Francisco seemed to be in control of Week 2's collapse against the Bears. The Niners have now been outpaced in the second half of games this year by the score of 52-3.

RANK

19

1-2 JETS

2

Unlike the next few teams on our rankings, New York has yet to be blown out. Trying to pick between the Jets, Cowboys, Giants, Chiefs, Browns and Dolphins (Nos. 19-24) is darn near impossible. The upside? NYJ has hung with potential playoff teams two weeks in a row, plus this group can run the football -- and stop the run, too.

RANK

20

2-1 COWBOYS

1

Down 21-0 against the Rams, this club just wouldn't pack it in. Tony Romo was so pleased afterward, he apparently decided to wear Larry Allen's suit jacket for the postgame news conference.

It's ironic that back when the Cowboys were considered one of the most talented teams in the NFL -- from 2007 to 2009 or so -- no one thought they had the character to overcome adversity. Today, no one thinks Dallas has a Pomeranian's chance of doing anything -- and yet, there the Cowboys were, pulling a victory out of their pink-bowed fur Sunday. If only they could've come back from that same deficit in a certain playoff game 20 years ago.

RANK

21

1-2 GIANTS

9

Nice win, and all smiles afterward. Interesting to hear, in the postgame news conference, Eli Manning reference the "early '90s rap" on Tom Coughlin's iPad. I always thought Coughlin was a Rage guy.

RANK

22

1-2 CHIEFS

4

That's two solid efforts in a row from these sky-is-falling Chiefs. Simply an outstanding afternoon for the defense, which gave Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill no room for error in Sunday's win. Kansas City also stopped Miami on 13 of 17 third/fourth downs.

RANK

23

1-2 BROWNS

1

Wretched loss for Cleveland. Where do we begin? Missed field goals sure do hurt. How about racking up 12 penalties? Or that completion to Steve Smith Sr. that set up Baltimore's winning field goal? Here's hoping no one puts the Browns' 1-2 record on the fact that Brian Hoyer is starting. Johnny Manziel ain't out there kicking and he ain't out there playing corner.

RANK

24

1-2 DOLPHINS

11

Huge drop for the Dolphins because: A) They've been outplayed two weeks in a row; and, B) the appearance of internal combustion, starting with criticism of defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. Miami continued to get some pop from its rushing attack, much like it has throughout the season (especially in Week 1). Once again, though, the passing game failed to connect in Sunday's loss. Through three games, Ryan Tannehill has precisely zero completions of more than 30 yards.

RANK

25

2-1 TEXANS

1

Yep, the Giants ran the ball all over the Texans at MetLife. Speaking of MetLife, it's a surprise Snoopy wasn't out there playing tight end for Houston. This is a team that's trying to stay viable with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback and Alfred Blue -- a sixth-round pick filling in for the injured Arian Foster -- at tailback. And, of course, the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Jadeveon Clowney, is still out. If Kevin Bass has to play wideout against the Bills on Sunday ...

RANK

26

1-2 REDSKINS

1

If only we could move the Redskins up further, because they probably deserve it. Then again, the club did fall in Philly, and its only win so far did come against the worst team in the NFL.

Kirk Cousins confirmed every Redskins fan's fears Sunday: He is better than Robert Griffin III.

RANK

27

1-2 TITANS

2

After a promising offseason and Week 1 win in Kansas City, Tennessee has certainly taken a step (or two) back. Over the past two weeks, the Titans fell to the Cowboys and Bengals by the combined score of 59-17. I wouldn't go so far as to say coach Ken Whisenhunt looked defeated in his postgame presser, but it wasn't hard to see a guy who was pretty frustrated with his team.

RANK

28

1-2 VIKINGS

5

So Teddy Bridgewater -- like the Raiders' Derek Carr before him and the Jags' Blake Bortles this week -- will be making the first NFL start of his career. The youngster didn't fare too badly in his first official regular-season action (12 of 20 for 150 yards) while filling in for injured Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel on Sunday, and he certainly looked like a kid in a candy store fraternizing with Drew Brees after the loss to the Saints. Bridgewater was 8 years old when Brees made his NFL debut.

RANK

29

1-2 RAMS

1

Whether it stemmed from frustration or not, that was some B.S. on the Rams' sideline Sunday. Make the play or don't -- and if you don't, Jared Cook, then go back out there and work your tail off. Thank goodness Cook didn't hurt Austin Davis with that shove; otherwise, we might have seen Tony Banks get signed this week.

RANK

30

0-3 RAIDERS

2

It might have been a takedown, but it was clear Raiders guard Gabe Jackson beat his man at the point of attack on the run by Darren McFadden that appeared to tie the Raiders' matchup with the Patriots late in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Curious what the unbiased fan would say about that play, in which a touchdown was wiped out by a penalty called on Jackson. Either way, we saw a heckuva lot more fight out of this group in the loss to New England than we did the previous week. Now we just need to see some wins.

RANK

31

0-3 BUCCANEERS

2

Well, Tampa Bay did win the fourth quarter on Thursday night, 14-0. #buildingblocks

RANK

32

0-3 JAGUARS

1

If only we could get our Apple computer to drop the dreaded "spinning wheel" here. ...

It's your deal now, Blake Bortles. Here's a wild stretch of deductive reasoning: This is precisely the type of quagmire Gus Bradley wanted to avoid regarding his rookie quarterback.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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