NFL Nation: 2013 NFL Week 3 Power Rankings

Power Rankings: No. 1 Seattle Seahawks

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
2:00
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A weekly examination of the Seahawks’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 1 | Last Week: 2 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

Not much doubt the Seattle Seahawks would return to the top spot in the Power Rankings since they soundly defeated the only team ranked ahead of them. The Seahawks earned a convincing 29-3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night in front a record crowd, size wise and noise wise, at CenturyLink Field.

The sellout crowd of 68,338 spectators set a Guinness Book of World Records mark for noise in an outdoor stadium at 136.6 decibels. That didn’t include the lightning strikes that delayed the game for an hour late in the first quarter.

The frenzied 12th-man fans are a huge home-field advantage for the Seahawks, but so is the best defense in the NFL. The Seahawks shut down one of the league's best offenses, keeping the 49ers out of the end zone and holding San Francisco to only 207 yards. After a career-best 412-yard effort one week earlier against Green Bay, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick was held to 127 yards passing and threw three interceptions. The Seattle defense has allowed only 10 points combined in the first two games.

The top ranking shouldn’t be in jeopardy this weekend with the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars coming to the Clink, unless the Seahawks suffer a huge letdown coming off an emotional victory and start looking ahead to the Houston Texans on the road in two weeks.
A weekly examination of the Eagles’ ESPN Power Rankings:

Preseason: 25 | Last Week: 14 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

There’s naturally a lot of movement in the early part of the season, as preseason expectations crash headlong into reality.

So it wasn’t a surprise when the Eagles made the biggest jump in ESPN’s Power Rankings last week, from No. 25 to No. 14. And it’s not a surprise that they slid back to No. 19 after Chip Kelly’s first NFL loss Sunday, a 33-30 decision to the San Diego Chargers.

The Eagles have yo-yo’d more than most because the preseason expectations were so difficult to pin down. They were a 4-12 team last year with an enigmatic new coach with no NFL experience. When they made that dazzling “Monday Night Football” debut, the Eagles gave ESPN’s experts good reason to place them in the middle of the NFL pack.

Now that we’ve seen the cracks in the Eagles’ foundation -- namely, the second-worst pass defense in the NFL -- it seems fair to place them behind NFC East rival Dallas (15) and ahead of winless Washington (24) and New York (20). With a game against Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night, the yo-yo is likely to change positions again next Tuesday.

Power Rankings: No. 26 Buffalo Bills

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
2:00
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A weekly examination of the Bills' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 30 | Last Week: 29 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

Buffalo rising?

The Bills jumped up three spots in our weekly ESPN.com Power Rankings, two spots ahead of their Sunday opponent, the New York Jets. I've said the last two weeks the Bills were slightly underrated. Now I think they've hit it.

At 1-1, the Bills are no longer in the basement with the NFL's worst (Jacksonville, Oakland, Cleveland). But they still have a lot to prove.

None of our six voters placed the Bills any lower than No. 26, and ESPN NFL Nation reporter Kevin Seifert put them highest at No. 22.

Now the question is, where does Buffalo go from here? They'll travel to face the Jets this weekend. Lose that game, and I think you're back into the No. 27-29 range, where the Jets are now.

Win that game, and you're moving up. But how far? The three teams that stand ahead of Buffalo -- Washington, Pittsburgh, and Minnesota -- are all 0-2. Even if any of them win, a 2-1 Bills team should be put ahead of any 1-2 team.
A weekly examination of the Saints’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 14 | Last Week: 8 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The New Orleans Saints held steady at No. 8, which is fitting after they squeaked out a 16-14 victory at Tampa Bay. It was a good win -- but not exactly a pretty one. And for the second week in a row, the No. 8 ranking seems just about right for a 2-0 Saints team that is still trying to prove it is back among the upper echelon of NFL contenders.

A strong case could be made that the Saints should be ranked ahead of the No. 6 Atlanta Falcons, since they beat them head-to-head in New Orleans in Week 1. But I don’t have a problem with the Saints being ranked behind three 1-1 teams (No. 3 San Francisco, No. 5 Green Bay and No. 6 Atlanta). The Saints haven’t been overwhelmingly good enough to move ahead of those proven contenders just yet.

It’s a scary thought for the rest of the NFC, though, that the Saints are already playing with a lead (including a 2-0 record in the division) while their high-powered offense hasn’t even found its rhythm yet. If what we’ve seen so far from the Saints’ defense is legitimate, they’ll only continue to move up this list.

If the Saints take care of business over the next two weeks in back-to-back home games against the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins, they could easily be a top-five team by the end of the month.
A weekly examination of the Browns’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 28 | Last Week: 30 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Browns fell to 0-2 for the fifth time in six seasons and have scored one touchdown this season. And by the way, they may not have starting quarterback Brandon Weeden available because of a thumb injury. So dropping the Browns one spot to No. 31 shouldn't come as a surprise. The only team below the Browns is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have been outscored 47-11.

This is the 14th time Cleveland is ranked 30th or lower in the past 23 Power Rankings. In terms of regular-season rankings, this is the lowest for the Browns since Week 6 of last season, when they were No. 32 after going winless in their first five games.

The Browns' schedule doesn't get any easier. Cleveland plays at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday and returns home to face the Cincinnati Bengals the following week.

As far as the rest of the AFC North goes, the Bengals (No. 10) and the Baltimore Ravens (No. 11) remain in the top half of the league, while the Pittsburgh Steelers slipped to No. 25.

Power Rankings: No. 4 Houston Texans

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
2:00
PM ET
A weekly examination of the Texans' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 7 | Last week: 6 | ESPN.com Power Rankings since 2002

The Texans continue their climb up ESPN.com's Power Rankings after a 30-24 overtime win against the Tennessee Titans. Their rise speaks to the Titans' improvement, too. Beating a good team in overtime earns respect. Per ESPN Stats & Info, the Titans have the second-best turnover margin in the league.

Now the Texans trail only Seattle (No. 1), Denver (No. 2) and San Francisco (No. 3). Two of those teams will face the Texans in the next three weeks, giving Houston an opportunity to prove it belongs among the best teams in the NFL. If the Texans can come out of their next three games undefeated, I think it'd be hard for our pollsters to keep them out of the top spot. That will be a tough challenge, though, as the Texans will face Baltimore on the road before Seattle at home and San Francisco on the road. It could be a defining stretch of games.
A weekly examination of the Lions’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 24 | Last Week: 18 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Lions stayed exactly the same from the second to third week of the season, and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Detroit played like a middle-of-the-pack team last week -- and really, the past two weeks, considering the Lions have enjoyed one really strong half of the four they’ve played this season -- and that's why they're at No. 18 right now.

As with many teams residing in the middle of the pack, it is tough to get a gauge for exactly what type of team Detroit is at the moment. Detroit has a chance to make a move up the rankings next week as it heads to No. 24 Washington, a team that has been struggling both offensively and defensively. This is actually a pretty big week for the Lions if they want to make an early-season push up the rankings.

The next two weeks, Detroit faces division rivals Chicago and Green Bay, so beating the struggling Redskins becomes a big deal. Reggie Bush's health will matter here, too.
A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 9 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

No change for the Chicago Bears in this week’s edition of ESPN.com’s Power Rankings, despite the club putting together its second consecutive come-from-behind victory, this time over the 23rd-ranked Minnesota Vikings.

The Bears rank No. 9, three spots behind the No. 6 Green Bay Packers, which defeated the No. 24 Washington Redskins 38-20. It’s interesting how Green Bay's win over a struggling Redskins team moved them up a spot, while the Bears stood pat after a victory over a higher-ranked Vikings team.

But four of ESPN.com’s panelists voted for the Bears to move up, while two actually wanted to move the Bears back a slot or two. The Bears received one sixth-place vote, one seventh, and two No. 8s, but remained at No. 9 because of one 10th-place vote and one 11th.

It’s too early to say whether the Bears should be ranked higher than No. 9. From my vantage point, this spot seems about fair (although they should be higher).

Chicago owns sole possession of first place in the NFC North, yet ranks below the Packers in the Power Rankings. But it’s important to consider Green Bay dropped its Week 1 matchup to the No. 3 San Francisco 49ers.
A weekly examination of the Chiefs’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 22 | Last Week: 20 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

Unlike last week, the Kansas City Chiefs are right about where they should be in this week’s ESPN.com Power Rankings. They’re 13th, so they jumped seven spots from last week.

Not sure I understand the logic of dropping the Chiefs a spot from 19 to 20 after they routed the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road and then bumping them up seven spots after they won a coin-toss game at home against the Dallas Cowboys. But that’s another debate for another time.

For now, 13 is about where the Chiefs belong. The Chiefs are immediately behind No. 12 Miami. No argument there. The Dolphins already have two wins on the road, though one of those happened against the anemic Cleveland Browns, who may be no better than the Jaguars.

The Chiefs are immediately ahead of the Colts, who lost a home game to the Dolphins on Sunday, and the Cowboys. No arguments there, either.

The Chiefs are in Philadelphia on Thursday night to take on the No. 19 Eagles.

Power Rankings: No. 2 Denver Broncos

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
2:00
PM ET
A weekly examination of the Broncos’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 3 | Last week: 3 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

They didn’t have a 100-yard rusher a receiver in this past weekend’s 41-23 victory over the Giants, and they ran exactly one offensive play that covered more than 25 yards in the game. Yet the Broncos still flexed more than enough of their all-around muscle to win by 18 points and move up a spot in the ESPN.com Power Rankings this week.

On the heels of becoming just the seventh team in the Super Bowl era to have scored at least 40 points in each of the first two games of the season, the Broncos moved from No. 3 to No. 2 this week, with only the Seattle Seahawks above them. The offense gets the kudos, but the Broncos also got a special-teams touchdown from Trindon Holliday against the Giants, and they intercepted Eli Manning four times without Champ Bailey or Von Miller anywhere in the defensive formation.

That's why when coach John Fox was asked about his level of happiness about the team’s start, he listed several things he wanted to improve (pass protection, run game, limiting penalties, etc.) before adding, “I’m not sure you can be better than 2-0 right now."

Power Rankings: No. 24 Washington

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
2:00
PM ET
A weekly examination of the Redskins’ ESPN.com Power Ranking.

Preseason: 10 | Last Week: 19 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

When the season started, the Washington Redskins were considered a top-10 team by the ESPN.com voters. Now they’re in the bottom 10. And deservedly so.

The Redskins, who opened up at No. 10 before the season, have tumbled all the way to No. 24 after a second consecutive loss, this time by 18 points to the Green Bay Packers. Perennial contender Pittsburgh, also 0-2, is one spot behind the Redskins. Sunday's opponent, Detroit, is 18th.

But that’s little solace for a team that clearly expected more than what they’ve done thus far. The Redskins have been outscored 50-7 in the first half of the first two games combined. The defense misses too many tackles; the offense can’t convert third downs and the special teams hasn’t helped at all. Defenses are preventing Robert Griffin III from getting outside the pocket -- last year teams were afraid to blitz and play man against them, fearing what he’d do if he broke through. That hasn’t been the case in 2013.

The Redskins need Griffin to make big plays and throws early in the game, giving them a chance in the second half. But he at least can improve coming off his knee surgery. The defense will be harder to fix.

Power Rankings: No. 14 Indianapolis Colts

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
2:00
PM ET
A weekly examination of the Colts’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 10 | Last Week: 12 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The voters did the Indianapolis Colts a favor dropping them only two spots because I would have dropped them further. Kevin Seifert and Dan Graziano, two of the six voters, both had the Colts at 15 in this week’s rankings. I agree with them. There was no excuse for Indianapolis to lose to the Miami Dolphins last weekend. The Colts outgained the Dolphins and were better on third down, but they hurt themselves too many times. Missing a field goal after not being able to gain a yard to keep the drive going on second and third down. Tight end Coby Fleener's touchdown being negated because of Reggie Wayne being called for an illegal shift. Andrew Luck's interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

The Colts will be ranked even lower next week when the rankings come out. They’re on the road playing against a San Francisco 49ers team that got worked over by Seattle last weekend. Expect to see a lot of read-option with quarterback Colin Kaepernick. And you’ll see vintage 49ers defense, not the unit that faced Green Bay and Seattle in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively.

Power Rankings: No. 12 Miami Dolphins

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
2:00
PM ET
A weekly examination of the Dolphins’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 20 | Last Week: 17 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Miami Dolphins are the only NFL team to win two road games to start the 2013 season. That alone has garnered some respect from ESPN.com's panel.

Miami made its biggest jump so far by moving up five spots to No. 12. The Dolphins leapfrogged other teams like the St. Louis Rams, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts, which is the team Miami beat this past week, 24-20.

The Dolphins are winning games by playing efficiently on both sides of the football. They are also winning the second-half battle, outscoring opponents 24-6 in the third and fourth quarters.

Miami has another marquee matchup at home on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons (1-1). Atlanta is a team that some believe is a Super Bowl contender. If Miami can improve to 3-0 by beating the Falcons, a lot of people around the NFL would certainly take notice.

Power Rankings: No. 6 Atlanta Falcons

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
2:00
PM ET
A weekly examination of the Falcons’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 4 | Last Week: 4 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Atlanta Falcons somehow managed to win a game, but dropped two spots in the rankings. I guess the voters weren’t all that impressed with the victory over the St. Louis Rams.

But a win is a win, and the Falcons got the job done on a day when a bunch of guys were banged up. That’s a sign of a team that belongs in the top 10.

But there may be trouble on the horizon after season-ending injuries to defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann and fullback Bradie Ewing. Those guys aren’t superstars, but they’re important role players, and the Falcons could have problems replacing them.

Power Rankings: No. 7 New England

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
2:00
PM ET
A weekly examination of the Patriots’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 6 | Last Week: 5 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Patriots drop two spots, from No. 5 to No. 7, after a less-than-convincing 13-10 win over the Jets.

It's always interesting how the rankings fluctuate weekly, as the Patriots' too-close-for-comfort 23-21 season-opening win over the Bills had actually earned them a one-spot bump last week (from No. 6 to No. 5).

Of course, the biggest takeaway this week is that Sunday's opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, check in at No. 30.

So this should be another victory for the Patriots, but as we know, that's not always the way it unfolds. A good reminder is how close the first two games of the season were against Buffalo (now No. 26) and the Jets (now No. 28).

One other thought: While players take a one-game-at-a-time approach, we have the luxury of looking at the big picture at times, and the schedule will get quite a bit tougher after Sunday if we view it through the lens of Power Rankings:

Sept. 29 -- at Falcons (No. 5)
Oct. 6 -- at Bengals (No. 10)
Oct. 13 -- vs. Saints (No. 8)

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