By Don Banks
September 22, 2010

It has already been a long season in places like Dallas, Minnesota and San Francisco, where the winless reside, their big expectations placed on hold. Meanwhile, game days can't come quickly enough for the giddy and surprising 2-0's in Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Miami, Chicago and Houston. Their fans are already quietly crunching playoffs scenarios in their heads.

But September does not a season make. Or break. And the road back to respectability, or to ruin, is still there for the taking in Week 3.

While the eight teams still searching for their first win will tell you it's getting later all the time, the eight teams that remain undefeated will try to convince you that it's impossibly early and nothing has been accomplished. They're both right, of course. As for the 16 teams sitting at 1-1, they're just riding the rollercoaster that is the NFL's regular season. And this week will bring another dip, climb, twist or turn.

The fun part, of course, is not knowing much of what's about to unfold during an NFL weekend. But as things stand at the moment, here's how we rank them, from No. 1-32.

(As always, send comments to

NFL Power Rankings: Week 3
1 New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 1
The Saints have displayed that resilient, whatever-it-takes-to-win mentality in narrow wins over the Vikings and 49ers, and that's a necessity when defending a Super Bowl title. Losing Reggie Bush with a fractured fibula is a blow to the versatility of the offense, but there are weapons in reserve and I expect Sean Payton and Drew Brees will creatively adapt. We're about to find out how the NFC South stacks up against New Orleans, because the Saints get the Falcons, Panthers and Bucs over the next four games.
2 Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 3
The Packers lead the NFC through two weeks with 61 points, but that's not their most impressive statistical feat so far. Green Bay outside linebacker Clay Matthews has six sacks, which is more than 25 of the league's 32 teams have amassed. Given the Bears' early pass protection problems, Chicago might want to pay a little extra attention to No. 52 on Monday night.
3 Houston Texans
Last Week: 7
The Texans got the job done at Washington and continue to climb to unaccustomed heights in our power rankings, but there is an ominous development if you're looking for potential pitfalls: Houston is the first team to surrender at least 400 yards passing in its opening two games of the season, and the Texans rank last in the NFL with 411 average passing yards allowed, a 113.4 opposing passer rating, and a 71.6 completion percentage on defense. That should make Tony Romo and the Cowboys -- Houston's opponent this week -- feel a little bit better.
4 Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 12
In my Sunday evening Snap Judgments, I wrote that thanks to the Steelers' shutdown defense, Pittsburgh could win right now with Mark Malone at quarterback. On Sunday night, I heard Dan Patrick on NBC say the Steelers could win with Bubby Brister at quarterback. On Monday morning, Peter King wrote that Pittsburgh could play Cliff Stoudt and still triumph. Two questions: Where will this all end, and who are we leaving out when it comes to forgettable Steelers quarterbacks? Terry Hanratty?
5 Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 5
The Colts were once again the Colts Sunday night against the Giants, and their two-headed backfield of Joseph Addai and Donald Brown galloped for 161 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries, giving Peyton Manning reason to throw only 26 passes. This could turn out to be a very handy approach to victory three or four times this season in Indianapolis when defenses load up to stop the Colts' multifaceted passing game.
6 Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 18
We're moving the Dolphins way, way up this week, and why not? They're the only 2-0 road team in the league, and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has his guys playing some hellacious ball. Seems to me we were hailing Nolan's work early last season in Denver, too, and I suppose that's both a feather in his cap and a bit of a cautionary note, given how the Broncos' season ended.
7 New York Jets
Last Week: 8
It was New York's inability to beat the Dolphins last season -- four- and five-point losses in a three-week span -- that really wrecked the Jets' chances to win the AFC East. Let's see how Team Drama fares this week in South Florida. I hope the Jets don't decide to stay on South Beach this weekend, because clearly Braylon Edwards can't be trusted with any free time on his hands.
8 New England Patriots
Last Week: 4
It's a tricky little knot we're trying to untangle at the bottom of our Week 3 top 10. The Jets just beat the Patriots, and they're both 1-1, so New York has to be ranked at least one notch higher than New England. But the Patriots beat the Bengals soundly in Week 1, so they get the nod over Cincy. The Bengals just beat Baltimore, so you want them at least one slot better than the Ravens. But the whole thing gets complicated because Baltimore beat the Jets in Week 1, and I happen to think the Ravens are going to the Super Bowl. See what I'm dealing with here?
9 Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 20
Nice, defensive-led win by the Bengals against Baltimore, but where's that impact passing game that was the story of the offseason in Cincinnati? Marvin Lewis' club still looks like it was designed to prosper within the tough AFC North, where low-scoring slugfests are the norm, but I'm not sure that gets the Bengals where they want to go in the broader AFC picture.
10 Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 2
Secondary issues or not, the defense is doing its job, allowing just eight field goals and nary a touchdown so far in 2010. Now it's time for Joe Flacco to step it up at home against Cleveland this week and prove that last week's four-pick debacle at Cincinnati was a blip rather than a sign of regression in Year 3. The Ravens are simply too good to be in this particular neighborhood of our rankings. Anything less than the top five represents underachievement in Baltimore this year.
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