NFL Power Rankings, Week 3: Cardinals climb; Eagles plummet

And just like that, the NFC East has been made whole again ...

There was a time, long before the Week 3 Power Rankings, that the East was the division in pro football. You had Bill Parcells' Giants, Joe Gibbs' Redskins, Tom Landry's Cowboys and Buddy Ryan's Eagles. (Oh, and the Cardinals. But we won't go there.) From 1984 until 1989, the division featured a different winner every year.

Who knows who will win it now, with No. 9 in Dallas out for eight, the Eagles averaging a foot per carry, and the Giants unable to stop the Atlanta Hawks, much less the Falcons. Don't forget about those pesky Redskins moving up in our rankings. And then there is this poor NFC East fan ...

Imagine being Seth. Thatpile of crap was the first Eagles game you ever got to see live? I'd rather have seen Bobby Hoying throw for 105 yards for the three-win '98 Eagles.

As for the rest of the teams, not all are descending at a rapid pace. Just ask the Browns, Raiders and Jaguars -- perennial bottom feeders run amok, I tell ya! So take a gander below, and see how all 32 stack up after Week 2. As always, feel free to share your take: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Sept. 15 Power Rankings.

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

Only Aaron Rodgers could turn a fella who was released by not one but two teams this offseason into James Lofton through Week 2. And if you count how many other organizations sat idle while James Jones sat idle? Good grief. Really enjoyed watching James Starks run Sunday night. He's one of those players you don't fully appreciate until he's no longer around -- and he is so important to Mike McCarthy's offense right now.

Tom Brady answered the bell again, this time like the future Hall of Famer he is, hitting three touchdown passes while narrowly missing on a few potential additional scores. What an unbelievable catch by Danny Amendola down the seam to seal the day. All that said, the Steelers -- sans Le'Veon Bell -- were able to move the ball downfield handily against the Patriots' defense on opening night, and then on Sunday, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor made more than a few New Englanders nervous late. The unit is still suspect: 813 yards allowed in two games.

David Johnson -- all he does is score touchdowns. Boy, all those people who thought the Rams would overtake the Cards in the NFC West had better pump the brakes, or else this will happen. Carson Palmer looks outstanding through two games: He's completed 36 of 56 passes, picking up 8.79 yards per throw with seven touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating for the season? 124.4.

Say what you want about Andy Dalton, but he sure looked mighty fine Sunday in front of the home folk in Cincinnati. Perhaps the most underrated offseason development this year was the return to health of receiver Marvin Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert. Each have contributed heavily thus far, with Jones' reception of an on-target bomb from the Red Rifle being the highlight of the win over San Diego. #2-0

Peyton Manning answered a few questions Thursday night -- or did he? While that 10-play drive in the fourth quarter was an absolute gem, so many Manning ducks could have gone the other way. We'll wait before we make further judgments on the veteran QB. Regardless, it sure would be nice if C.J. Anderson averaged more than none yards per carry.

Guessing the secondary's pregame ritual is to ferociously rub their hands with baby oil. How many would-be interceptions did the Chiefs drop Thursday night, anyway? Four? Five? More? Alex Smith and the passing game seriously regressed following Kansas City's impressive Week 1 performance in Houston. Kind of like Hootie & the Blowfish's second album. That happens when you can't pass block. Not Hootie -- Jah Reid and company, I mean.

That Bills defense didn't look so Buffalo-esque versus Tom Brady and company Sunday. You've probably already seen that Brady threw for 466 yards. Before we rub it in about the loss, major props to Tyrod Taylor, who kept fighting out there. Sure, he threw the pick at the end, but at that point in the contest, Taylor was simply trying to make something happen. Check out this dime to Sammy Watkins in the fourth quarter. Here's to the # BillsMafia finding a quarterback, finally.

Whoa ... gooooooooodnight. The Steelers put on a show versus the 49ers on Sunday. If Antonio Brown hasn't convinced you he's the best wideout in the game yet, he never will. Longtime Steelers fans will tell you this matchup was what the Super Bowl should've been in '94. Too bad you couldn't pair that Greg Lloyd-Carnell Lake defense with this year's Pittsburgh offense.

Nerdy football note: The Jets' offensive strategy was on point Monday night. Stick with the run game on early downs -- draining clock, limiting Andrew Luck's possessions -- then exploit matchups in the secondary after the Colts' D starts leaning run. The Jets eventually threw more than they pounded the rock, yet several times Ryan Fitzpatrick saw something outside (like Brandon Marshall, on anybody) and simply went for it. Interesting that Marshall said of the offense after the game: "To be honest, I think we stunk it up." Looked alright to me.

The catch of the day goes to Julio Jones, on this beauty. The underrated road win of the day goes to the Falcons, who joined the Cowboys, Cardinals, Bucs and Patriots as the NFL's road warriors Sunday. Maybe fans and analysts weren't overly impressed with Atlanta's "W," viewing these Giants as a mess. Yet, on a day when members of Big Blue's Super Bowl XXV team were present, and the modern-day Giants were eager to put the Dallas debacle deep in the rearview, Atlanta outscored the home team 14-0 in the fourth quarter. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones just enforced their will on a flat Giants defense.

Guessing one catch for 11 yards is not what Pete Carroll had in mind when general manager John Schneider acquired Jimmy Graham in the offseason. If it makes anyone feel better, Max Unger -- the center Seattle sent to the Saints in the deal -- is lining up for an 0-2 team, as well. Perhaps most perplexing to Seahawks fans is that Graham was only targeted twice in Sunday night's loss to the Packers. Seahawks tight end Luke Willson making the catch of the night (watch it again right here) only seemed to highlight Graham's absence from the offense. All that said, road losses in St. Louis and Green Bay -- tests as tough as any the 'Hawks will face all year -- do not equal the end of the world. But they are worth noticing.

San Diego hung around long enough to make a drive to try to win it on Sunday. Tough to tell whether Philip Rivers saw Vincent Rey dropping into the zone on that fateful interception toward the end. The key sequence in the game had to be the Andy Dalton fumble that was called an incomplete pass -- hello, Tuck Rule -- which preceded Mike McCoy deciding to let the final 50 seconds of the first half run without calling a defensive timeout to get Rivers the ball back. Give your Hall of Fame quarterback (there, I said it) a shot there, Mike.

It's 2010 all over again, except for the fact that Jon Kitna's not around this time. (Jon Kitna > Brandon Weeden.) What kind of Bizarro World are we in where Sean Lee is healthy and Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are hurt? Obviously, Romo's fractured clavicle is devastating to the Dallas organization. From a larger standpoint, Romo's window of opportunity is closing rapidly. He's 35 and lacks some of the pocket quickness he displayed five years ago. Romo was never fast, but he was quick in a phone booth. And here I am talking about him like he's dead. Cowboys fans must be in mourning about their season right now. But they won't have to worry as much if the defense plays the brand of ball it played in Philly.

A wee bit too close for comfort at the end for Panthers fans. And how about Ryan Mallett impersonating Cam Newton's Superman touchdown celebration? That was lame. Could you imagine if Cam impersonated Aaron Rodgers' Discount Double Check? People would be all over him for it. I mean, if the towel draped over the head got people fired up about Newton not caring, what would happen if he pulled what Mallett did? #randomfootballthoughts

Your friendly writer was destroyed for not overreacting to the Rams' overtime win versus the Seahawks in St. Louis. The team's subsequent performance at Washington shows you why I held back. Every season, we hear something like this: "The team you've got to watch out for is the Rams, I'm telling ya." And every year, they falter. Is St. Louis different with Nick Foles under center? Maybe. But wasn't Sunday's contest the exact type of game the Rams need to win to fulfill even wild-card promise? Let's see how they respond against that red-hot Steelers offense, which features Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell, not Kirk Cousins and Matt Jones.

In Week 1, Vikings fans had to absorb three hours of nothingness in San Francisco. (Seriously, watching any of the Vikes' Super Bowl losses -- twice -- would have been more palatable.) But alas, the Week 2 home opener provided these same fans with great joy! Credit must go to Mike Zimmer's defense, which only allowed 10 points while the contest was still in doubt. Though the box score will tell you Calvin Johnson caught 10 balls, they only went for 83 yards. That's about as much gas mileage as a Honolulu blue '69 GTO.

The Colts looked terrible Monday night. Will they turn it around if/when their corners get healthy? They should. Is Andrew Luck still miles ahead of fellow youngsters Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr? Sure. That said, analysts have to quit forgiving his turnovers. There is no question that so much of the game is on his shoulders. At the same time, he has to know when to eat the football. Down one score, he was forcing throws Monday night.

Speaking of turnovers: Oh, brother -- that Frank Gore fumble ...

That a way, Dan Skuta! OK, seriously -- gimme a cooler football name in today's game than Dan Skuta. Just wanna yell it to the mountaintops! The 49ers castoff -- Don't you think they would like to have him back? Maybe they would've only lost by three scores, not four, in Pittsburgh -- came up with a huge pass deflection on the Dolphins' last drive. OK, maybe the Jags were going to win anyway, but through two games, the unheralded Skuta has nine tackles, including two for loss, with a sack, quarterback hit and the aforementioned pass deflection. Dan Skuta: You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him. #Skutagear

This Dolphins squad is no different from the other Joe Philbin-era clubs in Miami. They escaped a reeling Redskins team with a clutch punt-return touchdown in Week 1, then faltered miserably down the stretch versus the Jaguars in Week 2. Olivier Vernon's dumb penalty was shown 500 times on the broadcast and sports shows, but one penalty doesn't cost a team a game (... although, in this case, it was pretty bad). Ndamukong Suh is getting paid approximately $1.18 million per game over the next six years. So that one tackle he was involved in Sunday must have really been something.

The Washington Redskins ... Current favorites to win the NFC East! Don't laugh. (Well, chances are more than 50 percent of you reading this blurb are 'Skins fans, so you aren't even so much as giggling.) The front seven looks very much improved, as we heard it would be in the offseason. On the other side of the ball, Jay Gruden is deploying a wicked one-two punch at running back -- Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, who combined for 182 yards on 37 carries (a healthy 4.9 yards a pop) -- that might grind out nine wins and an NFC East title.

Maybe all those peeps who assume Teddy Bridgewater > Derek Carr should take a step back ... or better yet, get on NFL Now and watch some Game Pass of Ravens v. Raiders from Sunday afternoon. Carr was mostly brilliant, throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns with only one toss he'd like to take back. Bridgewater hasn't put a team on his back like that in his brief NFL career.

Hey, maybe these aren't the same old Raiders.

Through two weeks, we've learned this about the Baltimore Ravens ...

 **a)** Losing 
 Terrell Suggs really hurts. 
 Crockett Gillmore is the best weapon on offense. 
 Sunday's home opener versus the 2-0 
 Bengals is an absolute must-win. 

Someone tell the 49ers' defense that the game in Pittsburgh kicked off 40-something hours ago. (Maybe the guys are still in the locker room, spinning yarn about how they once stopped Adrian Peterson.) That was ugly out there at the Ketchup Bottle on Sunday, so much so that Jim Tomsula gets our first just burn it mention of the season. Pull a quasi-Sparano and bury the game film. You both have great mustaches, and that was one of Tony Sparano's brighter ideas. By the way, heard some banter that Colin Kaepernick looked swell. Sure, a 106.7 passer rating is super, and we are rooting for him here in the Power Rankings ... But Kap's team was down 29-3 through the first three quarters. Then he posted a 148.3 passer rating with a pair of TD strikes in the final stanza, precisely when it didn't matter.

If Ameer Abdullah and Calvin Johnson are your two biggest playmakers, then giving them eight combined touches in the first half simply isn't going to cut it. That eighth touch was Johnson's touchdown reception from 11 yards out at the close of the first half. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has to figure this out. The Lions didn't fare much better after halftime, going fumble, punt, fumble, punt, interception before getting a touchdown in Dwayne Bowe Fantasy Memorial Time, i.e., garbage time.

Can you really give the keys back to Josh McCown at this point? Answer: Yes, you could. John Football did indeed have two very nice throws that got plenty of burn on all the highlight shows. What said shows didn't show: The fact that he completed just six other passes (for 62 yards) the rest of the game. Still, the upside is with No. 2 out there, so I think you stick with him. Mike Pettine and I aren't friends on LinkedIn, so he's probably not going to consult me.

Helluva game, Travis Benjamin.

OK, so the Titans *didn't* light it up in Cleveland and give all of Tennessee something to rave about (a 2-0 record). Still, I couldn't help but notice the fight in this club, especially at the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota found the going much tougher in Week 2, but once again, the stage didn't look too big for him. Two touchdown passes, a 96.3 passer rating and two impressive third-down scrambles to move the chains. Another thing to note: Tennessee's next four games will take place in Nashville, with a bye for extra rest/game-planning in Week 4.

Lots of questions and criticism swirling around the New Meadowlands on Sunday, following yet another blown opportunity for the Giants. Seems like nothing is going right for Tom Coughlin's group, with opponents leaping over perfect coverage to make plays. Julio Jones struck again by *not* being awarded a touchdown on that final drive, allowing Atlanta to burn more time off the clock. Nothing is going to get better for the Giants until the defense comes to play. Otherwise, it's all on Eli Manning. This just in: Manning has never won big when it is all on him. With this NFC East, though, don't rule the G-Men out quite yet. Especially with Philly losing again.

After letting Cowboys at Eagles digest for 20 hours, I'm comfortable saying that the performance we all saw at the Linc on Sunday might be worse than anything from Andy Reid's ill-fated swan-song season of 2012. In fact, those looked like the 1999 Eagles out there Sunday, playing like the squad that stumbled all over the field in Reid's first year as a head coach. It appeared as though nothing was working. And even though Dallas was up just 13-3, sans its two best players, with 14 minutes and change (an eternity in the NFL) remaining ... did even the most ardent Eagles fans think their team had a chance? To make matters worse, the Cowboys were without the services of Orlando Scandrick and Randy Gregory on defense -- yet still, Philly couldn't even mount a challenge. The Eagles gained a grand total of seven yards rushing on Sunday. (Well, at least they ran it 17 times!) Get the ground game going, Chip, and things will get better.

Pulling the plug on Brian Hoyer after one week allowed the Texans to score three fewer points and compile 96 fewer yards of offense. Oh, and Bill O'Brien's squad also committed 10 penalties while converting a paltry five of their 19 third-down attempts. ( ***Paltry:** adj.; ridiculously or insultingly small* -- just in case you are as far removed from your SAT as me.) Ryan Mallett was OK -- at best -- but he kept winging it until the end and darn-near tied it up with an across-body throw to DeAndre Hopkins in the waning moments. Still, Houston must get more from its running game -- 23 carries for 61 yards ain't gonna cut it. Hurry back, Arian.

How Tampa Bay's defense came out and played that well through the first three quarters is anybody's guess. Lovie Smith and staff were celebrating like Rex Grossman had just taken them to Super Bowl XLI out there. Play of the day: Henry Melton's hustle -- and ability to stay in bounds -- while recovering Mark Ingram's crucial, fourth-quarter fumble. Call it, well, beautifully clutch. As was Vincent Jackson's toe-tappin' touchdown grab in the second quarter.

So, who started Kyle Brindza in fantasy?

After pushing the Cardinals at their place in Week 1, the Saints inexplicably flopped in front of the home folks in New Orleans. It would not be a stretch, Saints fans, for you to complain that your team was the biggest dud of Week 2. I am not ready to write off Drew Brees and Sean Payton, but 6-10 looks very realistic at the moment. Some might say a bit worse. And speaking of Brees, the news on his shoulder doesn't help, that's for sure. A Saints turnaround must begin with the occasional upending of an opposing quarterback.

Well, through two games, we know the defense is not up to par. The Bears have allowed 79 points -- 13 more than the next closest team. And now Jay Cutler is hurt, too. So let's throw some positive energy out there. The famous 1985 Chicago outfit gave up 28 in Week 1 and 24 in Week 3, and that squad turned it around. Just saying. Of course, that linebacking corps was much better than this one (as was the rest of the defense). Power Rankings trivia: Wilber Marshall and Mike Singletary are the two most famous LBs on that team. Who was the other guy? (@HarrisonNFL) #55

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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