After week 3, you get an excellent sense of what’s going on in the league, and realize who is going places and who isn’t at all. The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, for example, look like Super Bowl bound teams at this point, as the power rankings suggest that the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicgao Bears and the Indianapolis Colts made the most impression in their wins this weekend.
On the bottom part of the rankings, standings and everything else, are the names no one expected to find there this season – the Giants, Redskins and Steelers, but when you ignore the name and look at the rosters, it might not be that surprising.
1. Denver Broncos (3-0): No one really expected the Broncos to run into trouble against the Raiders, but the way this offense is clicking, with Peyton Manning barely making a mistake, sends out a crystal clear message about Denver not settling for just a good regular season this time.
2. Seattle Seahawks (3-0): A game against the Jags means pretty much nothing, but we’ve seen enough from the Seahawks so far this season to know they’ve got the defense and running game to keep them hopeful for a Super Bowl finish to the season, with Russell Wilson continuing to look as one of the more efficient quarterbacks in the NFL.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1): Give it up for Giovani Bernard, who continues to look like one of the most impressive dual-threat running backs in the NFL despite coming out of North Carolina only a few months ago. Andy Dalton isn’t good enough to win a Super Bowl with this team, but they have the defense and the tools around their quarterback to win the AFC North and keep prevailing in games they should lose.
4. Chicago Bears (3-0): The thing about the Bears is that a turnover-based defense means that they’re slightly basing their success on random happenings, which means that Jay Cutler will have to keep the turnovers on the down-low. For the first time this season, he’s managed to do it.
5. Indianapolis Colts (2-1): The coming out game for the Colts under Andrew Luck happened in San Francisco. The power running game is becoming more and more established, with Luck being a big part of it. The defense being able to make Colin Kaepernick look less than average is surprising as well.
6. New Orleans Saints (3-0): Everything changed for the better when Sean Payton returned, and Rob Ryan took over the defense. Not that the Cardinals offer the strongest of challenges, but Drew Brees continues to play at an extremely high level, while the defense’s main succes is not giving up the kind of yards they did last season.
7. New England Patriots (3-0): The Tampa Bay Bucs are a team in shambles, but Tom Brady is finally finding some common ground with receivers not named Julian Edelman, and the secondary suddenly looks like something that might not be the team’s Achilles heel this season.
8. Miami Dolphins (3-0): The Dolphins continue to make good offensive teams look bad, this time forcing two turnovers and bringing the pain to Matt Ryan, even if they didn’t sack him. Ryan Tannehill needs better protection, but as long as he keeps playing within the limits of his talents, the Dolphins might finally smile at the end of the season.
9. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0): It’s impossible to ignore the Chiefs, even if there’s nothing impressive about their offense. Alex Smith continues to work well in the mold created for him by Andy Reid, and the defense is playing according to the talent on it.
10. Baltimore Ravens (2-1): Finally, a win to be proud of. Joe Flacco and his running crew still aren’t looking very sharp, but the Ravens have an excellent defense and special teams to pull them through.
11. Houston Texans (2-1): A worrying performance in Baltimore, showing just how much Schaub needs a healthy Andre Johnson, and how problematic the Houston Texans’ secondary still is.
12. Dallas Cowboys (2-1): The offense looks good when DeMarco Murray gets the touches he deserves, making Tony Romo no longer look like a quarterback who tries very hard to make a mistake. If the defense is for real against more than the Rams, the Cowboys are going to win the weak NFC East.
13. San Francisco 49ers (2-1): Not giving up on the Niners just yet. Not sticking to the running game and Frank Gore was a huge mistake from Jim Harbaugh, who simply can’t trust Kaepernick to find open receivers of create something out of nothing with all those injuries to the guys he’s throwing to.
14. Green Bay Packers (1-2): Sometimes it’s impossible to understand how games get lost. Aaron Rodgers, in a rarity, has to take huge blame for his two interceptions, on a game Green Bay finally realize they can have a running game.
15. Tennessee Titans (2-1): Jake Locker isn’t a very good quarterback just yet, but the Titans have enough on defense and in the running game to help him hide behind them.
16. Detroit Lions (2-1): Matthew Stafford has Calvin Johnson, and that’s that. Even without Reggie Bush, that tandem is enough to win against bad defenses in the NFL, and there are plenty of them, luckily for Detroit.
17. Carolina Panthers (1-2): The defense has been there all along this season, but the passing game is something new, and if Cam Newton can continue to find balance, the Panthers haven’t said their last work in the NFC South.
18. Atlanta Falcons (1-2): Something isn’t working for the Falcons, who are struggling to bring their new additions on defense up to speed, putting too much pressure on Matt Ryan to deliver.
19. San Diego Chargers (1-2): One fumble is all that really separated the Chargers and the Titans, and if Philip Rivers continues playing this way, the Chargers should be able to keep up, from a distance, with the Chiefs and Broncos.
20. New York Jets (2-1): Somehow, they’re 2-1, but Geno Smith isn’t exactly playing well at the moment (intercepted twice). They were simply lucky the Bills can’t stop the run and have quarterback issues of their own.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2): Michael Vick can’t look any worse than he did in the loss to the Chiefs, and Philadelphia sticking to the running game instead of their unstable quarterback should only benefit them in the long run.
22. St. Louis Rams (1-2): Without a running game, all the defensive talent in the world isn’t going to help the Rams build on the relative success of last season.
23. Arizona Cardinals (1-2): Same as the Rams, only with a weaker defense.
24. Oakland Raiders (1-2): Terrelle Pryor is for real, more or less. But his chances to shine aren’t in games against the Denver Broncos, yet.
25. Buffalo Bills (1-2): If the Bills aren’t able to stop the run (giving up 182 yards on the ground), than it won’t matter that EJ Manuel is so far putting on some solid numbers in his rookie season.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3): It’s hard to choose from such a large pool of bad teams, but it seems to me the Bucs have the most talent on their team to somehow, slightly turn this thing around.
27. Minnesota Vikings (0-3): At some point, head coaches are going to learn that when you have the lead, you give the ball to the best running back in the nation, instead of having Christian Ponder throw 42 passes.
28. Cleveland Browns (1-2): A win is a win, even if it doesn’t mean the Browns have a shot at doing anything this season. At least they’re not last in the AFC North for a change.
29. Washington Redskins (0-3): The difference between the Redskins and the three teams below them? They can actually score points to somehow make up for their nonexistent defense.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3): Unlike the Giants, they had a positive finish to their third loss of the season, and a defense that can somehow carry them to a certain extent.
31. New York Giants (0-3): Awful from every possible angle, and there doesn’t seem to be anything that will make them better.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3): Only lost by 28 in Seattle, and somehow scored 17 points.