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NFL Power Rankings, Week 3: NFC West no longer league joke

Two weeks down, 15 to go, and as much movement as ever in the league ...

That's the five-second logline for Week 2 of the 2012 season. Or, in non-Hollywood speak, that sums it up. All of us in the NFL Network/ studios are actually located in Culver City, Calif., which is about as sexy as Seattle or St. Louis might be in some fans' hearts. But how about those wins Sunday? Not to mention, Arizona with the road upset of the week? And of course, San Francisco closing off every Matt Stafford throwing lane? Every NFC West opponent on Sunday was handed its first loss of the season.

Greg Schiano's Tampa Bay Buccaneers also suffered their first defeat, blowing it late in New York before getting a little chippy with the Giants in victory formation. For his part, Schiano appeared, well, not contrite afterward, or as our tweep Mathew Aiken points out:

If you have a thought, gripe or musing like Mathew, bring it to @HarrisonNFL.

Circling back to the Bucs, despite the loss, Tampa didn't take a welt in this space. Tough to say that about some other teams below.

Thus, let all dissension come forth.

(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)

PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Week 2 | Week 1 | Preseason

The 49ers' two goals on Sunday night:

  1. Handle Megatron: Check.
  1. Don't make Alex Smith do it himself: Check. (Running game: 148 yards.)

Houston won big again, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are a team the Texans should sweep. Wade Phillips' defense manhandled Blaine Gabbert and company, limiting Jacksonville to a paltry 117 total yards. This after forcing four turnovers in Week 1. After facing Ryan Tannehill and Gabbert in successive games, let's see what this group does against Peyton Manning next Sunday.

Chicago's awful pass protection aside, Green Bay's defense looked a lot closer to the 2010 installment on Thursday night. It appears Charles Woodson's move to safety is paying off. How about Clay Matthews having six sacks through two games? He had six all of last season.

Atlanta looks formidable, and certainly not like a team that went down 24-2 with barely a cross word delivered to the Giants in the last January's wild-card round. On a franchise history note, the fact that Atlanta has never blown a game where they were up by 20 points in the fourth quarter is remarkable. Eighty and Oh.

Baltimore only falls one spot due to several teams in the top 10 struggling in Week 2. The Ravens narrowly lost to the Eagles on the road, and had plenty to gripe about after the loss. (That offensive pass interference call on Jacoby Jones sure did loom large ...) Of bigger concern was Joe Flacco's inability to handle pressure, as well as his propensity to just throw the ball up for grabs. A 22-for-42 performance with statuesque mobility? Feels very Bledsoe-esque.

Dropping four ticks is enough for one of the best teams in the league, even if it did really just lose to Kevin Kolb at home. Consider: A) The Patriots made a myriad of mistakes yet were still able to be in position to win the game at the end; B) the Aaron Hernandez injury means Tom Brady only has three great targets to target instead of four; and C) street cred. Oh, let's not fail to recognize that New England outgained Arizona 387-245. Who really thinks this club won't win at least 10-11 games? The defense is still better than in 2011, and the Patriots will still win the AFC East (even if they lose in Baltimore on Sunday night).

Pittsburgh was effective if not spectacular at home Sunday. The defense severely limited the New York Jets' passing game, while Ben Roethlisberger (24-for-31 for 275 yards and two TD) was exactly what this team needs him to be. One wonders how much more effective the offense would be with a healthy David DeCastro and Rashard Mendenhall.

Big Blue still didn't play its best game, but Eli Manning overcame himself to deliver in the clutch for the umpteenth time. The touch on late deep balls to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks delivered the win, and the G-Men avoided the death knell of an 0-2 post- Super Bowl hangover. By the way, if you're wondering how close Eli's 510 spot was to being an NFL record ... Hall of Fame quarterback -- in both skill and curmudgeonry -- Norm Van Brocklin still holds the record with 554 yards passing yards in a game, set way back in 1951.

While Philadelphia is 2-0, we can't in good conscience put a team with nine turnovers and two one-point wins any higher than ninth. Still, that was a resilient performance from Michael Vick with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter. Let's not forget how well the secondary is playing, too; kudos to Juan Castillo for putting those parts ( Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and mediocre safeties) in better positions to succeed.

What an ugly loss. Lance Briggs, you gotta catch that ball in the first half. Brandon Marshall, you gotta catch that ball in the second half. Bears running backs, you gotta learn how to pick up a blitzer. Chicago gets the vote for most disappointing Week 2 performance.

A gut feeling here is that 11th feels high for this ball club. And yet, San Diego has won two games quite handily. The surprise is how effective the defense has been, allowing just 24 total points and only six first downs on 26 third- and fourth-down conversion attempts. On another note, about 155,000 people just tried to pick up Dante Rosario off the waiver wire as you were reading this.

Monday night's game was underwritten on the first three drives, when Peyton Manning tossed three picks. While brother Eli pulled off a comeback after three first-half picks of his own, he wasn't on the road against one of the NFC's best teams.

Detroit got trapped, whammed, off-tackled and completely out-muscled Sunday night. So much for the dominant defensive line.

Mark Sanchez came down to Earth against Dick LeBeau's defense, going 10-for-27 for a measly 138 yards (5.1 yards per attempt). The Sanchize-led offense couldn't get inside the Pittsburgh 30 on their last eight possessions.

Another nice win for the pesky Cardinals, thanks in large part to Ray Horton's defense, which consistently pressured Tom Brady. Despite the 2-0 start, the offensive production (or lack thereof) is still a HUGE concern. Through two games, Arizona is averaging 249 yards of offense per game and over 70 yards of penalties. Let's see if that will work against the Eagles next week. (Remember, though, Arizona did beat 'em last year.)

Dominant performances delivered by the special teams and defense on Sunday, but particular mention must be made of the Seahawks' secondary, which balled out against the Cowboys. When Dallas receivers weren't dropping easy catches or being completely unreliable (ahem, No. 88), Seattle's back four played brilliantly. That Kam Chancellor will hit you, man.

Dez Bryant might not be a bust, but he hurts his own guys as much as the other team's guys. Speaking of giving Tony Romo no help, the Cowboys' offensive line gives Tony Romo no help. Dallas simply isn't good enough to fumble kick returns, have punts blocked, have starting receivers drop multiple passes and still expect to win on the road -- much less a tough place to play like Seattle.

Despite the loss, you have to like the way Tampa is competing these days. This is a different team than the one that dropped 10 in a row to close out 2011. Then again, the Bucs blew coverages all around the park on Sunday. Everyone in Tampa's secondary got toasted, and the club paid for it with a loss.

Everyone panicking about Cam Newton's performance in Week 1 probably needed to chillax. There were times the guy tried to do too much in Tampa Bay, but in the home opener, he looked poised and executed a savvy game plan by offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. The double-fake, throwback screen to Jonathan Stewart for 17 yards and a touch was just sweet play design.

Despite a win, Cincy remains at 20 -- for now. Here's why, Bengals fans: The defense is reeling, and it's nature's fault. Jamaal Anderson is gone for the season with a torn quadriceps ... and that blow came after Marvin Lewis's defense lost linebacker Thomas Howard last week. Cincy has allowed 400-plus yards in successive weeks for the first time in Lewis' tenure with the Bengals.

Before we forget: Nice game, Andy Dalton.

Football Gods are like those found in "Clash of the Titans" (the original, not the awful re-CGI-make). They whimsically toy with teams -- or Harry Hamlin -- almost indiscriminately. Take the Ford Field clock operator doing in Jeff Fisher's Rams on the season's opening Sunday ... only to karmically spin their Week 2 fate by influencing Josh Morgan to throw Sunday's game away. St. Louis deserves this hike in rankings, too, as we thought the narrow loss to the Lions might've been a fluke. Evidently, it was not.

The Redskins are a shade behind the team they lost to, and a shade ahead of the team they beat -- and better than people might think. Unfortunately, Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker are out for the season. If you're a Washington fan and are ticked off, try throwing a football at someone.

It's tough not to feel for Drew Brees right now. There's no getting around it: The defense appeared outschemed and confused on some snaps in the loss to Carolina.

Buffalo jumps four spots on the strength of a team victory at home. "Team," as in all three phases of Chan Gailey's ballclub. So where was this in Week 1? Either way, Fred Jackson is watching his status as the Bills' lead back go the way of Brendan Fraser's career. It's not Jackson's fault, as he's on the shelf, but C.J. Spiller has played like a Hall of Famer in the season's first two weeks. The key with Buffalo is consistency. The secondary is still giving up a lot of big plays, although Dwayne Bowe's two touchdowns were, in a word, garbage time. That's two words.

Call the win and subsequent jump in rankings a little ROI -- return on investment -- on the Andrew Luck pick. While Robert Griffin III garnered all the headlines back in Week 1, Jim Irsay's favorite subject of tweets engineered a game-winning drive with just seconds to go. Luck completed two 20-yard balls on the possession to set up Adam Vinatieri for the game-winning field goal. On the first, Luck rolled out of the pocket, showcasing his mobility and poise to throw the ball on the run. Then the kid calmly beat the blitz by putting the ball 20 yards downfield right on Reggie Wayne. Great stuff, and a big reason why the Colts move up. Thank you much, Game Rewind.

Minnesota ran out of luck in Indy on Sunday. Bad pun. But not as bad as all of us league analysts completely overlooking Christian Ponder's fine play through two games. His decision making has been mostly solid, and he's completing over 75 percent of his passes at eight-plus yards per throw. Those numbers are good enough for the Vikes to be 2-0. But they're not.

Give the Chiefs credit: If they're gonna lose, they won't shortchange you -- the 2012 Chiefs make sure to look like absolute crap in the process. A team many thought could compete in the AFC West is getting killed on the defensive side of the ball. Ironic, considering it was a monster defensive performance against the 13-0 Packers last season that cemented Romeo Crennel's promotion to permanent head coach.

Put Reggie Bush's ridiculous game on the backburner for a sec. Much of this win was about Miami's defensive front seven, as well as the D-line rotation employed by coordinator Kevin Coyle. While the pass rush got nary a sack, the Dolphins hurried Carson Palmer repeatedly. Palmer put up gobs of yards, but it was one of the emptiest 373-yard performances ever. Bush's 197 total yards and two scores were not.

You want the biggest indication of why Tennessee is getting hammered? How about an offense that's generated 58 yards rushing in two games with a tailback who eclipsed 2,000 in 2009. Jake Locker's accuracy = problematic.

This show is never going to get on the road unless Jacksonville's outside playmakers actually start making plays and the defense generates a pass rush. Both issues have been the hallmark of the Gene Smith era as general manager. In Sunday's loss to Houston, the Jags defense went sack-less and the offense produced just over 50 net yards passing. *Fifty* yards.

Yes, Brandon Weeden looked better, passing for over 300 yards and no picks (after logging four last week). Unfortunately, Andy Dalton carved up Dick Jauron's secondary, which was one of the better back fours in football last year. For now, Cleveland is what it is: 0-2.

Despite missing a ton of picks (like Cardinals-Patriots), this hack actually called Miami beating this lackluster Oakland team. The Raiders had the ball for just 25:19, as the Dolphins ran inside, outside and every which way on a defense that Dennis Allen was supposed to fix. Darren McFadden couldn't find a seam (22 yards on 11 carries). In two games Run DMC is more like Keith Sweat ... slow and not overly good.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter _@HarrisonNFL_.

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