Before you sharpen your pitchforks, a short note on how we’ve come to rank the teams as we have: all NFLTR writers have compiled their own NFL power rankings, which we’ve compiled and averaged in the list below. We hope you enjoy the fruits of our labor, and feel free to agree, disagree, or roast us in the comments below.
#1) Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning’s torrid start to the 2013 season has the Broncos off to a 3-0 start, but what’s most impressive is the efficient play Manning has displayed. On the season, he’s thrown for 1,143 yards, 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. Granted, two of those wins come against the 0-3 Giants and the Raiders. Denver’s schedule is as easy as they come this season, so I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish the year with at least 13 wins. They get PHI, DAL and JAX in the next three weeks.
#2) Seattle Seahawks
Speaking off great teams playing less than stellar competition, the Seahawks coasted to a handed victory over, arguably, the worst team in the league. Russell Wilson causally threw for four touchdowns, two of which were hauled in by Sidney Rice. As good as Seattle has been, their passing statistics haven’t been all that impressive, but that’s probably missing the point with this team. They run the ball as good as anyone and limit turnovers. Factor in their superb defense, and they’re clearly one of the top contenders at this point in the year. They travel to HOU in Week 4.
#3) New England Patriots ( 1)
Another week, another ugly win for the Pats. Granted, they did win the game 23-3, but the this Patriots team just isn’t on the same level as in years past. LeGarrette Blount was their leading rusher with 65 yards on Sunday. Tom Brady’s quarterback rating on the season is only 79.4 and he has yet to eclipse 300 yards passing. Still, 3-0 is as good of start as you could expect. Their schedule gets harder in the coming week as they travel to Atlanta and Cincinnati and return home to play New Orleans in Week 6.
#4) New Orleans Saints ( 2)
For as bad as the 2012 season was for the Saints, this year has been just the opposite. Sean Payton’s return and the decision to bring in DC Rob Ryan has had an immediate impact on this football team. Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham are clearly one of the most unstoppable combinations in NFL. Graham is going to get a ridiculous contract next offseason. A report from Monday suggested that the Saints have already made him an offer, but they’ve yet to hear to hear back from his reps. Despite starting the season 3-0, things get much harder in the coming weeks when they take on the undefeated Dolphins and then travel to Chicago and New England in back-to-back weeks.
#5) Chicago Bears ( 3)
Marc Trestman has this Bears team looking like a real contender and although we’ve said this before, I think their overall execution is much better than any Chicago team I’ve seen in the past. It’s worth noting that their last two wins have come against win-less teams. What’s probably the most impressive aspect of their solid start to the season is the fact that their defense has been able to pick up where they’ve left off in the past. The Bears will be up against the Lions and Saints in the next two weeks.
#6) Cincinnati Bengals ( 4)
I was skeptical about Gio Bernard having an impact in the NFL and wondered whether or not he can be featured back for the Bengals. Clearly, I was way off. He looks incredible and it’s honestly to the point where you have to wonder why they’re not using him more. I understand that Green-Ellis offers a different skill set and you can pound away at opposing defenses, but Bernard is a game-changer. The Bengals defensive line, and Michael Johnson in particular, came up huge for CIN against Aaron Rodgers. They were physical with their WRs and consistently produced a solid push upfront with four guys, which is what it takes to beat the Packers. There were some crazy plays and maybe they didn’t play that great, but that was the kind of game you feel good about winning despite a number of big mistakes. Good win for the Bengals.
#7) San Francisco 49ers (4)
Here’s an interesting stat I came across. Dating back to last December, the 49ers have allowed 34, 42, 13, 31, 24, 34, 28, 29 and 27 in their last nine games, which is honestly stunning for what many consider to be one of the best defenses in the league. Sunday’s loss to the Colts was as bad as I can remember this team playing since Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach. Reports from Monday indicated that they could be without OLB Aldon Smith for a month. On top of that, they’ve had issues establishing the run, which has applied additional pressure Colin Kaepernick. I still believe in this team, so I’m not getting to worked up about a tough start to the season. They get STL, HOU and ARI in the next three weeks.
#8) Green Bay Packers (4)
The Packers are team that enters every game with high expectations, so when a team led by Andy Dalton is able to walk away with a win, it just seems like a big letdown. Their offensive line continues to get beat by quality defensive lines and it’s clear that you need to be physical with their receivers to disrupt the passing game. Jonathan Franklin was a bright spot in a tough game, but they need to figure out how to stay healthy and add more wrinkles to their offensive attack. Personally, I think Mike McCarthy needs to call a better game, especially in the red zone. The bye should help, as they’ll Lions and Ravens in back-to-back weeks starting in Week 5.
#9) Kansas City Chiefs ( 2)
The Chiefs have gotten out to a 3-0 start, which already includes two road wins and they’ve managed to get their Thursday night game over with. On top of that, this Kansas City team has yet to commit a single turnover this year. They rank No. 27 in passing yards, but their ability to run the ball, prevent turnovers and play great defense has been enough of a winning combination to get them out a great start. Justin Houston has been absolutely incredible this season and there are others on the defensive side of the ball who deserve some national attention as well — Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry and Dontari Poe just to name a few. The Chiefs get the 0-3 Giants at home this weekend, the Titans on the road and the Raiders at home in the next three weeks. There’s a good chance they could be 6-0 to start the season.
#10) Miami Dolphins ( 5)
The general expectations for this team were pretty low heading into the season, but Ryan Tannehill has really shown that he’s capable of being a difference-maker, which is more than you can say for most of the 2011 quarterback class. Miami got some good news regarding Pro Bowl DE Cameron Wake, who should be back in a few weeks. The Dolphins get another tough test on Monday night when they take on the New Orleans Saints. If they can walk out of that game with a win, we could be looking at a team who could actually give the Patriots a run for their money in the AFC East.
#11) Indianapolis Colts ( 7)
Indianapolis put together a hell of performance on the road against the 49ers. There’s really no other way to put it. It was just shocking to see their physicality on both sides of the ball. San Francisco is known for being a very tough team, so it’s just surprising to see them get pushed around. Andrew Luck and Ahmad Bradshaw were just awesome throughout the game and you can only wonder what they’ll look like once Trent Richardson is up to speed. It looks like they’ll move forward with a time-share between Bradshaw and Richardson, much to the chagrin of fantasy owners. Indy gets as easy match up in Week 4 when they take on the Jaguars, but they’ll have a real test the following week when they travel to Seattle.
#12) Baltimore Ravens ( 5)
The Ravens really needed a win like that and the Texans have been notorious for allowing good teams to get back on track. It happened with Green Bay last season and this could very well be exactly what Baltimore needed after getting embarrassed to start the season. Bernard Pierce was able to handle the ground game while Ray Rice rested his injured hip. It’s still concerning that Joe Flacco has yet to have a quality outing, especially when you factor in the contract he received during the offseason. Thankfully for Baltimore, they got two touchdowns for their defense and special team’s units. They have back-to-back road games ahead of them against the Bills and Dolphins.
#13) Dallas Cowboys (1)
The Cowboys absolutely manhandled the Rams on Sunday. Tony Romo was very efficient against St Louis, but DeMarco Murray was clearly the reason that the Cowboys were able to keep the Rams off balance all day. Murray finished with 26 carries for 175 yards rushing and a touchdown, but a staggering 149 yards of that total came before contact. That’s 5.7 yards before contact per rush! With the NFC East clearly the worst division in football to start the season, it appears as though the Cowboys are the clear favorites to win the division. Dallas travels to San Diego, which could prove to be a tough test for them and then return home to take on the Broncos in Week 5.
#14) Atlanta Falcons (7)
The Falcons are trending in the wrong direction. Granted, they lost to a quality opponent on Sunday and have been hit hard with injuries, but a few of them are done for the season. Steven Jackson figures to be out until Week 7 and Tony Gonzalez hasn’t had an impact yet. Their defense is getting lit up by opposing quarterbacks and things only get harder next week when they take on the Patriots. Another loss and they’re 1-3 to start the season. It’s probably too early to say this is a must win game, but they could really use this game to get what has been a very good team back on track.
#15) Detroit Lions (1)
The Lions appear to be a good enough to team to hang around in games and pull out wins, but it’s just hard to look at them as a real contender. The good news is that their passing offense remains very productive and RB Reggie Bush is expected to be back this weekend. If there’s an area where they’re struggling, it’s in run-blocking. Still, they’re good enough to get by and keep opposing defenses honest. We’ll obviously know more about them after they take on the Bears and Packers in back-to-back weeks.
#16) Houston Texans (7)
They’re 2-1, but a really ugly 2-1 at that. If you were to look at their statistical ranking in terms of offensive and defense you get the impression that this is a very well balanced team and probably a contender. But watching their games would leave you with the exact opposite feeling. They really should have lost to SD to take the season and an overtime win at home against TEN isn’t all that inspiring. Add in a blowout loss on the road to the Ravens and this team looks like an overrated team who could be in for a real fight with the Colts for the division title.
#17) Tennessee Titans ( 8)
The Titans have to be the most surprising team after the first three weeks of the season. They nearly beat the Texans on the road, which would have left them undefeated on the season. Tennessee’s major weak spot has been the fact that they struggle to move the ball through the air. They currently rank 30th in the league in pass yards, but are above average in rushing, pass defense and run defense. The Titans will be up against solid defenses in each of the next three weeks when they take on the Jets, Chiefs and Seahawks.
#18) San Diego Chargers ( 2)
The Chargers look like the best worst team in the league. They’re good enough to hold leads in games they should lose by 10 points and they’re capable of losing games that you’re expecting them win against below average teams. Clearly, their defense is in bad shape. They’re currently the worst passing defense in the league and rank 28th in stopping the run. Phillip Rivers and the Chargers offense has been better than I expected, but the horrible loses are due to their inability to play defense. They get the Cowboys this weekend and the Raiders in Week 5.
#19) Arizona Cardinals (1)
Injuries are starting to hit the Cardinals. They were forced to place two linebackers on season-ending injured reserve and S Rashad Johnson lost part of his finger against the Saints. Arizona’s offensive production has been below average through three games and Carson Palmer’s six turnovers aren’t helping. The Cardinals do have a couple winnable games ahead of them as they’ll be up against the Buccaneers and Panthers.
#20) New York Jets ( 8)
This Jets team has some moxy. They’re 4 points away from being 3-0 to start the season. They managed to win a hard fought game on the road against a decent Bills team and more important than that, rookie QB Geno Smith has been a big part of their success. He threw for 331 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Clearly, there are plenty of things he can clean up, but it’s at least encouraging for him moving forward. The Jets get the Titans in Week 4 and a hurting Falcons team in Week 5.
#21) Philadelphia Eagles (8)
Here’s a quick note regarding the Eagles home record: Philadelphia has lost eight straight home games dating back to last season. It’s hard to compare a team led by Andy Reid to what Chip Kelly is currently doing, but it’s enough to leave the Eagles fanbase pretty frustrated. The good news is that they’re the No. 1 team in rushing, but their defense has been absolutely horrible to start the season. It’s hard to image things getting any easier as they travel to Denver next Sunday and have two more roads games against the Giants and Buccaneers following that.
#22) Carolina Panthers ( 4)
The Panthers absolutely dominated the Giants in Week 3. They won every major statistical battle in that game, which resulted in a blowout 38-0 win over the G-Men. Carolina forced three turnovers, sacked Eli Manning seven times and only allowed 18 first half yards. That’s just an incredible performance by the Carolina defense. They have a decent upcoming schedule that could allow them get back in the playoff picture by the halfway point.
#23) Buffalo Bills
Sunday’s loss to the Jets was really a game they could have walked away with, but the Jets were able to make more big plays, and ultimately came out with the win. Buffalo is dealing with a number of injuries on the defensive side of the ball and it doesn’t help to lose C.J. Spiller in the middle of the game. By the way, their game plan for Spiller needs to get better. What happened to the talk of him getting the ball until he throws up? Fred Jackson continues to see an ample amount of carries. Buffalo will be up against 3/4 of the AFC North in the next three weeks including the Ravens, Browns and Bengals.
#24) St. Louis Rams (5)
So much for the Rams being in contention for a wildcard spot this season. Losing a game by that much hardly warrants the kind of buzz they were generating during the offseason as a breakout team to watch in 2013. The good news, however, is that they own the Redskins 2014 first-round pick. Moving forward, the Rams need to find a running game offset their passing attack. They currently rank 29th in total rushing yards. St Louis needs to play better in pass defense as well. The Rams will be up against the 49ers this Thursday, which is a team that they’ve actually played well against in recent years.
#25) New York Giants (4)
What was that? I mean, that was the worst performance from the Giants I think I’ve ever witnessed. If there is ever a game to burn the tape, it has to be their blowout loss to the Panthers. It’s already been countless times, but the Giants have to figure out their running game. Maybe it’s time for Tom Coughlin to give the ball to David Wilson on a consistent basis. Signing Brandon Jacobs clearly wasn’t the answer. They travel to Kansas City to take on the undefeated Chiefs, so they’ll need some much better play out of their offensive line to prevent another blowout loss.
#26) Cleveland Browns ( 5)
Brian Hoyer’s played like he had nothing to lose and the Browns walked out of Minnesota with a win, despite trading their best offensive player away earlier in the week. That’s just shocking to me. Jordan Cameron has quickly become one of more interesting tight ends in the NFL. On Sunday, he caught three touchdown passes, one of which was an incredible over-the-shoulder catch in the corner of the end zone. Still, I think it’s hard to expect them to win many games this season, but Hoyer at least gives them a chance to hang around in games. They get the Bengals, Bills and Lions in the next three weeks.
#27) Minnesota Vikings (3)
Losing to the Browns and Brian Hoyer has to be the low point for the Vikings season right? I mean, it can’t get anything worse than that. Adrian Peterson hasn’t been able to offset the wildly ineffective play of Christian Ponder and they’re currently 0-3 on the season. The good news is that they play a reeling Steelers team in Week 4, but it wouldn’t shock anyone to see them lose this game too.
#28) Pittsburgh Steelers (1)
The Steelers 0-3 start is extremely disappointing for a franchise who has gotten use to being perennial contenders. They at least showed some signs of life against a good Bears team Sunday night. The return of Heath Miller will only them moving forward and reports from Monday indicated that rookie Le’Veon Bell is expected to play in Week 4. As bad as things have been, there’s still time their season around. Pittsburgh gets the Vikings and Jets in the next three weeks.
#29) Washington Redskins (7)
The good news is that RGIII is on pace to throw for over 5,000 yards this season. Plus, they get to play the Raiders in Week 4, which is also positive. The bad news, on the other hand, is that this team 0-3 to start the season, their franchise quarterback looks like a fraction of who he was last season and the Rams own their 2014 first-round pick. Thankfully, the NFC East is the worst division in football, so there’s still a chance they can get this turned around. It won’t be easy, but wins over Oakland and the Cowboys in the next two weeks could put them right back in the hunt for the division title, but they really need to figure something’s out on defense to pull this off.
#30) Oakland Raiders
This Raiders team was supposed to be as bad as they come, but Terrelle Pryor has actually given them a chance to compete, as surprising as that is. Despite giving up 37 points Monday to the Broncos, I would still say that it was a positive showing for the team. Unlike the Jaguars, they can actually do a few things decent. They currently rank 3rd in rushing yards and Pryor has been able to keep opposing defenses off balance to some degree with his ability to take off and run. Oakland gets a struggling Redskins team in Week 4.
#31) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2)
The Buccaneers had their chances on Sunday, but there’s just something about this team that makes you feel like they’re incapable of winning a big game. Josh Freeman continues to regress and there’s growing tension between the Bucs players and HC Greg Schiano. Their schedule gets easier in the next few weeks when they take on the Cardinals and Eagles, so we’ll have to see if they’re capable of pulling a couple of much needed wins.
#32) Jacksonville Jaguars
And this brings us to the worst team in the NFL. The Jacksonville Jaguars had no chance to beat the Seahawks in Seattle, but they looked to be over matched by Seattle’s backup units. HC Gus Bradley announced that Blaine Gabbert will be their starting quarterback in Week 4, which probably won’t amount to much more than another horrible offensive performance against a good Colts defense. Looking at their schedule, the Jaguars best chance at winning a game may not come until Week 13 when they take on the Browns.