September 16, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (11) calls a play in the huddle against the Detroit Lions in the second quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

NFL Power Rankings - Week Three

Welcome to the B&T Power Rankings.  The place where we rank the teams on their record, front office actions, and overall craziness.  Expect some arbitrary explanations, some in-depth analysis, and your fair share of surprises.

The second week brings some changes to the top two teams and who is rocketing up some divisions.  How much does Andrew Luck matter?  What about Cam Newton?  Check it all out below.

Hate ‘em?  Love ‘em? Agree? Disagree?  Leave it in the comments.

#1 [5]. San Francisco 49ers, 2-0: They beat the Packers, they beat the Lions, it’s really starting to look like the top competition from the NFC in 2011 can’t keep pace with the Niners.  Jim Harbaugh should be given huge credit for turning Alex Smith into a player representative of the top pick from so many years ago.

#2 [4].  Atlanta Falcons, 2-0: They held out for a win against the Broncos, and that shows that the team may finally have the grit to stick in the playoffs.  They’re looking hot and the defense came up big against Denver.  Expect more of the same as they make the NFC South their domain.

#3 [6] . Houston Texans, 2-0: J.J. Watt continues his dominance this season as the Texans trounced the Jaguars.  There is no competition for the top spot in the AFC South and the Texans aren’t going to play down to the level of any opponent.  They win on their terms.

#4. [1] Baltimore Ravens, 1-1:  They’ve looked vulnerable and lost to a messy, yet talented, Eagles squad.  The Ravens should be able to rebound, but it will be a tough test against an angry New England team.

#5 [8].  Green Bay Packers, 1-1: Stomping on the Bears was a statement win by the Packers.  They will continue to keep the division opponents at arms length whenever possible.  Beating Chicago goes a long way toward achieving that goal.  It was even sweeter since it was on national television.

#6 [2]. New England Patriots, 1-1:  The mark of great teams is beating the opponents you’re supposed to beat.  When looking at the schedule, who would have thought that the lowly Cardinals would off the Patriots in week two? Not me.  The Patriots will try to punish the Ravens in week three, but it will be more of a fight than the Cardinals game, they better show they can handle it.

#7 [9]. New York Giants, 1-1: It was messy, but it was a win.  Eli Manning needs to limit his mistakes if he wants to bring this team back to the Super Bowl.  They face a hot Carolina team next week and Cam Newton could cause fits for the Giants’ D.

#8 [11]. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1-1: Back on form and they’ll be on the rise with the momentum they have.  The Steelers are perennial power and they will continue to be until someone finds a way to take advantage of the mistakes and O-line play of the the team.  Nobody seems able to do it though.

#9 [7]. Denver Broncos, 1-1: Peyton couldn’t pull off a win after digging an impossible hole to climb out of.  The defense showed that it can be beat by high-powered offenses and that should cause some worry for Denver.  Manning will have to limit those mistakes if wants to be Comeback Player of the Year and to return to the Super Bowl.

#10 [3]. Chicago Bears, 1-1: With a major loss to the Packers, the Bears will really have to buckle down and become something great consistently.  Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall need some more connections to make this offense click, especially with the Matt Forte ankle injury.

#11 [15]. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1-1: The Bucs aren’t going to go quietly into the night this season.  Josh Freeman is playing well, the defense is doing work, and Greg Schiano is making teams play to the final whistle.  This is a different team and could make a push at the NFC South if they win the close ones.  New York escaped this week but Tampa Bay showed they could hang with the big boys.

#12 [18]. Philadelphia Eagles, 2-0:  Beating the Ravens is big.  This team needs more wins like that to show the talent they have and that it translates to on the field play.  A win’s a win and the Eagles may rack up even more of those as the season continues.

#13 [10]. Dallas Cowboys, 1-1: Getting beat by the Seahawks is saddening.  Maybe the Cardinals were just really good and we didn’t know it (See, New England), but I’m thinking that the Seahawks aren’t the high-caliber team that beat the Cowboys.  Either way, the ‘Boys were expected to come out hot after a long week and stomping the Giants the week before. 

#14 [12]. Washington Redskins, 1-1This is a young team playing out of its mind.  RGIII is for real, but sometimes you lose the close ones.  The Rams looked ahead in development as they beat Washington.

#15 [21]. Carolina Panthers, 1-1: Cam Newton is still the man.  The Panthers are hot and could come off very strong in the crowded NFC South.  As the Saints take a dive, the Panthers and Bucs could have a serious opportunity to unseat the Falcons at the top.

#16[22]. San Diego Chargers, 2-0: The Chargers are starting strong for the first time in ages.  It’s going to pay off big in the later part of the season.  Beating the Titans wasn’t a major challenge, but the way the Chargers won in all phases of the game was.

#17 [13]. Cincinnati Bengals, 1-1: The Bengals made Brandon Weeden look like the 1st round pick that he is, and that’s not a good thing.  While they beat their in-state rivals, the Bengals need to show better poise and prove they can get back to the playoffs.

#18 [14]. Detroit Lions, 1-1:  The Niners are easily in a class above the Lions.  Matt Stafford needs better play if this team hopes to compete later in the season.  This offense runs through the passing game and when it isn’t clicking there are some major problems.

#19 [20]. Seattle Seahawks, 1-1:  Last week’s loss to the Cardinals may have been because the Cardinals are actually getting good (surprise, surprise).  This team played much better in week two but need to prove that they can do it consistently.

#20 [17]. New York Jets, 1-1:  After humiliating the Bills, we all remembered that it was the Bills that the Jets beat down last week.  The Steelers showed the Jets who’s boss and the problems for Rex Ryan may continue to mount up, especially against a deceptively good Miami squad.

#21 [23]. St. Louis Rams, 1-1:  Coming out and beating Washington is big.  Sure the team is young and rebuilding, but the Rams are far more viable competitively than they have been in the last couple years.

#22 [16]. New Orleans Saints, 0-2:  I’m starting to get concerned for the Saints.  Sean Payton’s value obviously can’t be overstated.  Drew Brees could still right the ship, but only 12% of teams who start the season 0-2 make the playoffs.  Right now I think the Saints may sink even lower.  Fortunately they have Kansas City next week.

#23 [28]. Arizona Cardinals, 2-0: Could the Cardinals be good again?  I don’t want to get too far ahead of it all, but Kevin Kolb got another win for Arizona and it was against New England.  They’ll show if they’re for real against the talented Eagles this coming week.

#24 [27]. Indianapolis Colts, 1-1: Andrew Luck rebounded from a poor rookie debut to beat the Vikings.  The Colts looked good but I still have some concerns about that defense, especially letting the Vikes back in it late.  Fortunately for Indy, they shouldn’t have too much trouble against a struggling Jacksonville team next week.

#25 [19]. Tennessee Titans, 0-2:  Joining the Jaguars are the bottom of the division isn’t where the Titans wanted to be when they decided to put the offense in the hands of Jake Locker.  Of course they thought that Chris Johnson would be averaging at least two yards per carry…

#26 [30]. Buffalo Bills, 1-1: After being dismantled in week one by the Jets, the Bills showed that the defensive upgrades they made over the offseason are for real.  Granted it was against the Chiefs, so we’ll have to wait and see how it looks later on.

#27 [29]. Cleveland Browns, 0-2: That was the most competitive Browns/Bengals game seen in a while.  Cleveland has a superb running back in Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden has the arm to get things done when given time.  They need the O-line to step up even more if they hope to win games.

 #28 [24].  Kansas City Chiefs, 0-2:  So much for that anticipated domination against the Bills.  This team needs to find its identity before its too late.

#29 [25]. Minnesota Vikings, 1-1: Beating the Jaguars in week one wasn’t much of an accomplishment apparently.  Andrew Luck turned around and put the hurt on in week two.  The ability of the Vikings to make late surges is intriguing though, watch to see if this team makes a push in the middle of the season.

#30 [32]. Miami Dolphins, 1-1: The win was against the Raiders, so that should be taken with a grain of salt.  That said, this team was competitive in the first quarter and a half against the Texans and could be deceptively good.  If Ryan Tannehill isn’t having his passes batted down he could be a very good quarterback.

#31 [26]. Jacksonville Jaguars, 0-2: So much for the Blaine Gabbert making improvements.  He looked like his rookie self while the Jaguars were manhandled by the Texans.  The team desperately needs to get healthy, because right now they just look like a doormat.

#32 [31]. Oakland Raiders, 0-2: Ouch.  Darren McFadden is really the lone highlight of this team.  Now if Carson Palmer can live up to his billing after last year’s trade…

 

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