NFL Power Rankings Week 3: Bengals on top for first time ... ever
The king is ... well, not dead. For now, let's say taking a leave of absence.
Seattle's first loss since Dec. 22 (Week 16) of last year means that a newcomer has taken the Power Rankings throne -- at least temporarily. That's a fitting conclusion to an unpredictable two weeks of action in the NFL.
Who is in with the Seahawks out? The answer and more below:
The Power Rankings streak breaks here, after Cincinnati manhandled Atlanta with a suffocating defensive effort and an impressive ground attack. Doubt Andy Dalton if you must (and he does deserve some skepticism until he wins a playoff game). This team is for real.
Sure, this week's trip to Seattle provides Denver a shot at redemption. It also might leave Broncos fans praying with all their might that the Seahawks get bounced before the Super Bowl in order to avoid another rematch. Denver has been good, but not great, in getting to 2-0 at home. It'll need more Sunday.
Here's the thing about teams throwing at Richard Sherman: Richard Sherman wants quarterbacks to throw at Richard Sherman, and the Seahawks should, too. Last season, Sherman picked off eight of the 57 passes fired in his direction. He'll allow some catches, but the Seahawks can bank on him delivering more than a few game-changing plays.
In the Pre-Halftime Power Rankings, the Eagles would come in around the No. 31 or 32 spot. Fortunately for them (and their record), football games span four quarters. Also working in Philadelphia's favor? The arrival of Darren Sproles, who remains an incredible weapon even if his running style can be described as similar to "a kid trying to get away after dropping a flaming bag of dog crap on the neighbor's porch."
Arizona's up here anyway because that defense is, as Larry David would put it, pretty good. Prettaaayyy, prettaaayyy good.
Between now and the start of December, the Chargers play just two 2013 playoff teams -- division rivals Kansas City and Denver, back to back in Weeks 7 and 8. Consider that San Diego closes with a New England-Denver-San Francisco-Kansas City stretch, now would be the time to get hot.
Admit it, Patriots fans: You felt a little nauseous when Matt Cassel marched Minnesota down the field for an opening-drive touchdown Sunday, right? New England scored 30 unanswered after that, so all is well again. By the way, the Vikings' eventual meltdown wasn't all Cassel's fault. New England's defense was all over the place, from Chandler Jones up front to Darrelle Revis and Logan Ryan in the secondary.
There are a few times a year when Aaron Rodgers shifts into "Screw this, I'll do it myself" mode. Sunday, it happened right around the time Chris Ivory scored to give the Jets a 21-3 lead. Rodgers had 70 yards passing and zero touchdowns (obviously) before Ivory's score; he had 276 yards and three touchdowns afterward.
"I think we're all going to look at this one and feel like we have fingerprints on it," head coach Jim Harbaugh lamented after his team's sudden collapse. Between four turnovers and 16 penalties, there definitely was enough blame to go around.
If you claim you marked down the Sept. 28 Buffalo at Houston game as one of the most important early-season matchups when the schedule came out, you're a liar. But we now are just one Buffalo win over San Diego and one Houston win over the Giants away from that being an improbable clash of unbeatens.
Of the 99 games in which Owen Daniels has now made a reception, only four times did he average fewer yards-per-catch than he did last Thursday (5.6). And only four other times did Daniels find the end zone twice, as he did in the Ravens' much-needed 26-6 win over Pittsburgh.
Sorry, coach, can't buy it here. If you trust your quarterback and want to swipe a road game within the division, playing it ultra-conservatively is the wrong move.
The Lions' head coaching job is like the casting for James Bond or Doctor Who. Change the person playing the part all you want, the main storyline essentially remains the same. Of course, Bond and the Doctor tend to succeed in their missions ...
'Tis not easy to win on the road in the NFL and Matt Ryan's career numbers serve as proof positive of that fact. The Falcons' Week 2 drubbing in Cincinnati dropped Ryan to 24-25 all-time away from home, with 51 interceptions and a 84.7 QB rating; in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome, Ryan boasts a 37-10, 97.7 QB rating and has thrown just 29 interceptions.
The 2013 Texans, who lost 14 straight games, ranked dead last in the league with a minus-20 turnover differential. Through two games of this season, they've orchestrated a 30-spot jump -- only the Panthers (plus-six) have a better mark in the turnover area than Houston's plus-five.
There are cheery, upbeat "only" hypotheticals like "Only Peyton Manning could throw that many touchdown passes" or "Only my grandmother could make soup taste that delicious." And then there is the other side of the spectrum, which now includes such gems as "Only the Jets could lose a game-tying touchdown because the offensive coordinator told a defensive lineman to call timeout."
The offseason decision to snag LB Karlos Dansby from Arizona has paid off handsomely thus far -- he has been one of the Browns' most active defenders through two weeks. Right up there with him: Paul Kruger, a 2013 free-agent pickup who was better than his final stats indicated last season and could be in line for a career year under Mike Pettine.
I suppose this is where it must be mentioned that prior to his magic act with New Orleans in 2013, Rob Ryan had not had a defense finish better than 13th in points allowed and his units finished 22nd or lower in yardage six times. This Saints team has far more talent than what Ryan directed in places like Oakland and Cleveland. A few more performances like what we've seen so far, however, might drop the F-word -- fluke -- on Ryan's 2013 craftsmanship.
All those feel-good vibes from Week 1 vanished in a heartbeat, mainly because of the off-field situation involving Adrian Peterson. Talking about the impact his absence had on the field feels like trivializing a very serious topic, but there's no getting around how mediocre the Vikings are without Peterson. Matt Cassel certainly is not capable of carrying a team.
DeMarco Murray is the guy who can keep pushing this team up the board. He has been the best running back in football through two weeks, and a dominant ground game can mask a lot of other issues.
With trips to Cincinnati and Indianapolis on the docket in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively, the Titans are going to quickly find out whether they are legit or not.
Not going to go the whole "RGIII's injury is good for the Redskins" route because, I mean, the dude's ankle tried to escape his body. Still, not having Griffin available pushes Washington to a necessary quarterback crossroads. Is Kirk Cousins a real option as the full-time starter? Does Griffin have a future as the franchise's leader? The timeline to answer those questions just accelerated.
Give some credit to the Chiefs for hanging around in Denver despite an injury-plagued roster. Not that the ol' good job, good effort is going to make Kansas City feel any better about a season that already is on the brink of spiraling beyond repair.
Over the entirety of NFL history, a mere 21 quarterbacks have finished a season with more than 400 yards passing and zero touchdowns. Austin Davis currently sits as No. 22 -- he has 427 yards without a touchdown toss. Still 534 yards stand between Davis and Philadelphia's Bobby Hoying, the no-touchdown high bar at 961 yards passing in 1998.
I talked about the Texans' improvements in turnover differential earlier. Well, New York is sitting on a minus-six there after losses to Detroit and Arizona. If you're a big fan of Eli Manning or Tom Coughlin, might want to block out some time to watch the Giants in the next few weeks. This is starting to look like the end of the line for both.
Lovie Smith's first three seasons with the Bears: 5-11, 11-5 with an NFC North title, 13-3 with a trip to the Super Bowl. So, this start has been bad -- shockingly awful, really -- but it probably will get better. Just perhaps not until 2015.
If the now 0-2 Jaguars are ready to start playing for the future, then Blake Bortles should be starting at quarterback. And if they still think they can turn things around and find a way to contend this season, then Blake Bortles should be the starting quarterback.
"We suck. That's as blunt as I can put it. For whatever reason, defensively we just won't stop people, especially early in games. Every drive, every first drive, teams are able to go and get points. Today, it happened all day. Offensively, we put the ball on the ground. We had opportunities and didn't capitalize on it. Collectively, we look bad."