15.New York Giants (Previously Dallas Cowboys)
Where’d that team come from? The team I watched in weeks 1 and 2 would not have beaten the Eagles. Are they the team that showed up today in Philadelphia, or where they very, very motivated to best the Eagles and try to get the DeSean Jackson replay off the screen every time Eagles and Giants are mentioned.
If Victor Cruz can play like this every week the offense won’t miss Steve Smith by season’s end. Cruz has great ball skills and he looks much, much more comfortable on the outside. They still need an inside WR, unless brandon Stokley will be that guy as the season moves forward. Stokley’s impact has been in his veteran savvy. He has drawn a couple of dubious pass interference calls this season. Hakeem Nicks has now had two quiet games back to back. He could use some pressure taken off of him.
14. Oakland Raiders (previously Atlanta Falcons)
Since the preseason I’ve been saying that the Raiders are a talented team and I continue to stand by that, but they must continue to show some consistency. They have played well three games in a row now, which is a huge improvement from last year when they blew up the A.F.C. West and then lost bad game after bad game.
They have the most physical team in all of football right now. They’ll punch you in the mouth. The “just win baby” mentality is coming back to the Oakland Raiders. Darren McFadden is excellent. No more bust talk for him (he started getting rid of that last year, but now is just burying that talk).
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (previously Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Big win for the Buccaneers in a game I fully expected them to lose. I think Josh Freeman has looked off all year though. The defensive line is starting to show how talented it is. The defensive line is young. The Buccaneers and Lions are probably the two best young teams in the league. Both young and very talented, but still both a year or two away from being serious contenders. The Buccaneers really need more weapons on offense.
12. Buffalo Bills (Previously Washington Redskins)
All right, all right. I get it I’m a prisoner of the moment. But I owe them. I promised them last week. “Show me something vs the Patriots and I’ll jump you way up” after I had them ranked in the bottom 1/3 of the league still. The Bills offense looks awesome. Fred Jackson is the early season M.V.P. in my mind. Every year the Bills try to give away his starting job and every year he is their best player. I think they have finally realized he’s one of the top 5 all around running backs in the league. He’s not the best runner, or the best pass catcher, but he’s one of the best all around. He runs well with a good combination of speed and agility. He is excellent in the screen game. And he is a terrific pass blocker. He doesn’t need to come off the field. Short yardage is also a place where he usually gets the job done.
Fred Jackson for M.V.P…well the 3 game M.V.P.
11. New York Jets (Previously Bears)
Big game for the Jets next week. They got punched right in the mouth by the Raiders. The Jets haven’t really looked good all year. Shonne Green was supposed to be ground and pound, but he’s just been “suck”. Plaxico Burres caught his first touchdown pass of the season today, but the Jets can’t run the football anymore. They also haven’t been able to show that they are a dominating defense. They still lack a pass rush and their special teams play is worse than last year.
10. Houston Texans (Previously Baltimore Ravens)
You are so frustrating Houston. This was your chance to really break out and then you fizzled in the second half. Schuab had a big fantasy day, but couldn’t come away with the victory. In their first real test on defense the Texans failed miserably. They are still the best team in their division but the gap is closing. The Colts looked like a real football team on Sunday and the Titans are 2-1 and Matt Hasselbeck looks rejuvenated.
9. San Fran 49ers (previously Detroit Lions)
You know what? The 49ers defense is actually good. They have gone 25 straight games without gving a 100 yards rushing to one player, the longest streak in the N.F.L. The 49ers also have the best offensive weapons in the division with Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards. The 49ers still need more pass rushers and their defense would look even better if they had a lock-down corner back, but early on in the season I think the 49ers might have the inside track on the N.F.C. West obligatory playoff spot. They are not the 8th best team in the league, but they are the team in the best power position to make the playoffs at this time, though they would be the worst division winner (usually that would make them 8th in my power rankings, but I’m just excited about the Lions play so I’ll throw them a bone this week).
8. Dallas Cowboys (Previously New York Jets)
The Cowboys are beat up, but they have play better than that. The Redskins actually look better, but that’s your rival and it was a pretty poor game over all. The secondary is still pretty bad and Doug Free is struggling this year. Romo had a very rough first quarter, but made some really nice plays the rest of the game, especially a few plays at the end of the game. The best players on the Cowboys not named Romo right now are Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, and Sean Lee who is emerging and had another big day. He had an INT, I believe he recovered the fumble that sealed the victory and had another 8 tackles. That was the worst performance from the center-QB exchange I’ve ever seen. How many botched snaps were there? 5? 6? Ridiculous.
I think the N.F.C. East as a whole has looked down this year.
7. New Orleans Saints (Previously New Orleans Saints)
Through three weeks we have learned nothing we didn’t know already about the Saints. They are awesome on offense. They have lit up two top defenses from last year: the Packers and the Bears. And the number one ranked defense (statistically) heading into week three the Houston Texans. The Saints are vying with the Falcons and Buccaneers for the top spot in their division, but right now are the better team.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (Previously Pittsburgh Steelers)
Bad game plan by the Steelers. They should have been able to run all over the Colts. It’s almost embarrassing that they didn’t. Why did they pass the ball so much? The Colts can’t stop the run, the Steelers have a very quality running back. Instead they made Big Ben play right into the hands of the Colts.
5. Detroit Lions (Previously Texans)
Rough start to a game that was a “show me” game. The Lions have trouble in Minnesota. Minnesota is pretty talented, the Lions needs to show this was not the same Old Lions and come out and beat the Vikings. I thought they would look much better doing so, but they got the win. The Lions biggest problem is going to be that they are playing in the same division as the Green Bay Packers. Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson might be the most dangerous QB to WR combo in the league right now though. The Lions offensive line needs more talent to really truly compete deep into the playoffs.
4. Baltimore Ravens (Previously San Diego Chargers)
I haven’t written it yet. But it would be entirely unfair of me to not put Torrey Smith into the Rookie Hot list I do each week. What a terrific game by Smith and all in the first quarter. Whooo doggie. The Ravens beat up the Steelers, the Ravens then lost to the Titans, then the beat up on the Rams. Which team are they? Ray Rice is a stud either way, that’s for sure.
3. San Diego Chargers (Previously Philadelphia Eagles)
They move up a spot by default. Who else is going to go here? Maybe the Ravens. Maybe. The Eagles have lost two in a row and are getting Vick killed. The Steelers looked pretty bad vs the Colts after looking bad vs the Ravens in week 1. What is their deal? The Chargers have to only battle the Raiders for the A.F.C. West, but that relies entirely on the Raiders being consistent for a whole 16 games. I don’t buy that they will be, yet.
2. Previously New England Patriots
The Patriots are remarkable and Brady is a genius. It doesn’t matter who he’s throwing the ball to, they will make plays and the Patriots keep chugging along. Their young defense is really struggling. They need more work on defense, especially their pass defense. The Patriots will be fine though, and are still the favorite to represent the A.F.C. in the Superbowl at this time.
1. Green Bay Packers (previously Packers)
Until they are unseated they remain King. Their pass defense has looked poor though early in the season and that bears watching as the season progresses. But when you have Aaron Rodgers, their offensive weapons, and a bright offensive minded coach you can win a lot of games by out scoring people.
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