Three weeks deep we are.
Forgive the Yoda phraseology, but not even the little green guy with the Force and a Hefner robe possibly could have foreseen the San Francisco 49ers getting hammered (again), or which teams would occupy Nos. 10 through 15 in these rankings, or Andy Reid deciding that running the ball is a fun way to coach football. Yep, the NFL season isn't even 20 percent in the books, and it's already getting weird.
Ah, Jeff. Love the tactic. Threaten with what you want, then soften the blow with a compliment. That's like saying to your girlfriend, "I'm going out with my friends tonight. Oh, and you look amazing in that sundress." Smart. As for your Chicago Bears, you were right on the money there, too. They've earned their ranking below with a 3-0 start, improved play up front and Matt Forte looking smooth in white cleats.
Meanwhile, some other NFC teams that had winning records last year continue to plummet in our Power Rankings, as you'll see. Were we too hard on them? As always, your take is welcome ... @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Let the dissension commence ...
**Power Rankings sidenote:** Getting a lot of feedback on New England being so high. While the
Patriots don't feel like a No. 3 team, they're tied for the second-fewest points allowed in the NFL. Meanwhile,
Tom Brady is still the quarterback, and there's
a solid chance that the team's second-best player --
Rob Gronkowski -- comes back this week. And which team in the NFL has allowed fewer points than New England? That would be Seattle.
Payton doesn't coach the defense, but that unit sure is interested in playing for him and coordinator Rob Ryan. Next up: Hosting the 3-0 Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
a) The Bears' offensive line, despite giving up a couple of sacks, really is playing better. I originally thought all the glowing reports about the improved play of the front five were a bit overblown, but then, holy cow, Matt Forte had a huge hole on his first-quarter touchdown run.
b) The defense truly is scoring at a historic pace.
Since 2011, the Bears have scored 23 miscellaneous touchdowns, a category that includes all return and defensive scores; the next closest team has 14. That nine-touchdown difference is more than the total number of miscellaneous touchdowns scored by 15 different franchises over the same time period. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, have scored just three miscellaneous touchdowns since 2011.
Oh, and before we go, all those USC fans who derided Dallas' decision to hire Monte Kiffin might want to rethink their stance. The Cowboys' defense has been a huge bright spot, ranking second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (66.3), sacks (13) and opponent time of possession (25:52). The unit is allowing opponents to convert on third down just 29.7 percent of the time (fifth best in the league).
The little-known Bell had drifted behind the likes of Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure and Reggie Bush in the minds of fans (that is, those who even knew who Bell was) over the past couple of years, but there he was, putting up 132 yards from scrimmage and scoring a touchdown in Washington. Nice way for Detroit to rebound from a gross second half against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2. Tough blow to lose Nate Burleson, who chipped in (heavily) with six catches for 116 yards Sunday.
We mentioned in the picks column last week that Jake Locker needed to start running more. He must have read it on Sunday morning, because after gaining just 13 yards on seven attempts through the first two games of the season, Locker took off. There's no diminishing the impact of the five runs for 68 yards that Locker recorded against the San Diego Chargers; that added a big-play dimension that had been missing from the Tennessee offense.
This San Diego defense can play with the Kansas City Chiefs, and Philip Rivers can keep up with Alex Smith. What might push Kansas City to a wild-card slot over the Bolts is the fact that the Chiefs have a big-time playmaker on both defense ( Justin Houston) and offense ( Jamaal Charles). San Diego certainly is a viable postseason threat, but the team lacks that one guy who can take over.
Want more? Eli Manning completed 12 passes all game, despite being down by multiple scores early. Oh, and Carolina ran for 194 yards.
OK, you get the picture. Actually ... did you know that Cam Newton had an in-game passer rating of 104.4? All right, we'll stop now.
If you watched Rams-Cowboys on Sunday, you saw a quarterback get no help. Sam Bradford was hit nearly 20 times by Dallas' pass rushers. Not to worry -- his receivers made up for the poor offensive-line play by dropping several easy catches (and by "easy," we mean "right in the hands, in stride").
As far as the Trent Richardson trade goes, the organization clearly was making a play for the future. Of course, Browns brass wouldn't tell the fan base that, especially after Richardson and the Indianapolis Colts demolished the 49ers. Still, I don't think it was a bad move. Many organizations don't believe in spending a first-round draft pick -- especially one in the top five overall -- on a running back. Browns general manager Mike Lombardi was able to get a future first-round selection for a guy who didn't have first-round value in the organization's eyes. Had Richardson rushed for 905 yards, averaging 3.5 per carry, and scored seven touchdowns in a Browns uniform this season, how much would Lombardi have been able to get for him in March? Not a first-round choice, I can tell you that.
Ponder's struggles also mean the team must rely on the defense to make plays -- which it has not been able to do effectively. With home games versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers coming up, there is the potential for the Vikings to recover from their 0-3 start. Still, this squad certainly missed an opportunity against the Brian Hoyer-led Browns.