Week 3 NFL Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (09/19/17)
The AFC West is loaded with three teams ranked inside our Top 10 and the Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos ranked 1-2-3 in scoring offense. In case you missed it, our NFL simulation engine projected the division's strength earlier this month. The Oakland Raiders are 2-0, average 35.5 points per game and are fourth in total offense (384.5 YPG). Denver's Trevor Siemian (6 TD's) and C.J. Anderson (4.9 yards per touch), have performed better than anticipated through the first two weeks and when combined with arguably the top defense in the league – which just held Ezekiel Elliott to eight yards on nine carries – possess a high ceiling. A week after throttling New England on the road, the Chiefs forced two more turnovers – without Eric Berry – and watched Kareem Hunt average 6.2 yards per rush with two touchdowns as Kansas City beat the Eagles 27-20. Meanwhile, the Chargers continue to invent new ways to lose, falling to the Dolphins 19-17 to dip to 0-2.
Now that we've waxed poetic about the AFC West, our Week 3 NFL Power Rankings Risers and Fallers are a mixed bag of NFL progression and regression. Our Power Rankings are developed using players on the active depth chart, which causes fluctuation week-to-week based on injuries and who is in and out of the lineup. To see a full description of how our Power Rankings are created, as well as this week's full list of rankings, please check out our updated Week 3 Power Rankings.
Granted their two wins came against the Bengals and Browns, but Baltimore's defense remains legit. Through the first two weeks, the Ravens lead the NFL in takeaways with 10, opposing quarterback rating (35.0), are third in scoring defense (5.0 PPG) and fourth in sacks (8). Ahead of a tougher stretch which features games against the Steelers and AT the Raiders and AT the Vikings, the Ravens will need more production out of their offense. Veteran tight end Ben Watson caught eight passes for 91 yards against the Browns, which might be *shrieks* Joe Flacco's most consistent option in the passing game. After losing Danny Woodhead for the season (hamstring), Buck Allen sparked the offense in Week 2 and is averaging 4.3 yards per touch. With offensive lineman Marshal Yanda out for the season with a broken ankle, the in-between the tackles rushing game could make way for Allen's skill set. Terrance West is dealing with a soft tissue injury that could mean more reps for Alex Collins and possibly former Bears running back Jeremy Langford should he be activated on Sundays.
Now we know for certain there is a correlation between an effective Lions rushing game, the defense/special teams making plays and Matthew Stafford avoiding the need to throw 50 times for 300 yards to rally to win a game late in the fourth quarter. Stafford's 122 passing yards (15-21) against the Giants on Monday night were a career-low in a game which he played all 60 minutes. Running back Ameer Abdullah rushed for a career-high 86 yards (5.1 YPR).
On defense, the Lions have forced five turnovers with six sacks and have allowed less than 17 points per game to the Cardinals and Giants. That's the good news. The bad news is their upcoming schedule. Detroit's next six opponents are the Falcons, AT Vikings, Panthers, AT Saints, Steelers, and AT Packers. We'll check back in on the Lions after they finish that gauntlet.
The only two times Jay Cutler (24-33, 230 yards) got hit on Sunday came on sacks. That's a nice change of pace from the quality of life he endured behind his offensive line in Chicago all those years. Plus, crazy as it sounds, Cutler appeared to be a suitable replacement when compared to Ryan Tannehill's accomplishments with this offense over the past few seasons. Cutler connected with Jarvis Landry 13 times on 15 targets, found Kenny Stills in the end zone, DeVante Parker made a few nice plays, and Jay Ajayi carried the ball 28 times for 122 yards. The offensive optics didn't really change aside from the guy taking the snaps. The Jets, Saints and Titans are up next – all winnable games for Miami.
After the New York Giants' second embarrassing loss of the season, nobody should harken back to the Cowboys Week 1 win as a barometer of the current or future state of the franchise. The same should also be said of Dallas' loss to the Broncos. Denver's defense is elite and without Orlando Scandrick, the Cowboys secondary is mediocre at best. We knew this heading into the season. That's how Trevor Siemian – who won the starting quarterback gig in training camp – was able to throw for 231 yards and four touchdowns against Dallas in Week 2.
The Cowboys should also be concerned about its passing game as Dez Bryant is a shell of his former self leading Dak Prescott to rely on Jason Witten to move the chains. The 35-year-old tight end has caught 17-of-22 targets for 156 yards and two touchdowns, while Bryant has only nine catches despite 25 targets. Dez hasn't posted a 100-yard receiving game since early-November of last season. He's averaged 62.5 receiving yards per game since that contest.
Where to begin?
The offensive line is atrocious. Eli has little time in the pocket. There is no viable rushing threat. Brandon Marshall is dropping balls he would have caught in his sleep a few years ago. Their best receiver is their third-down running back. They are 8-24 (33%) on third downs. They've scored 13 points in two games. Coach Ben McAdoo is throwing his quarterback under the bus in postgame press conferences. Oh, and their league-worst rush offense (48.5 YPG) is running the ball down 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Glass half full? The defense has yet to allow a rushing touchdown despite allowing 133.5 yards per game to opposing running backs.
Back-to-back road games at Philadelphia and Tampa Bay the next two weeks may expose more as this playoff team from a year ago has no smoke nor mirrors to mask its flaws.
Adrian Peterson isn't the problem. Drew Brees isn't the problem. Sean Payton may be the problem when he calls timeouts thinking his league-worst defense can get a third-down stop before halftime against Tom Brady's loaded offense.
A week after they allowed Sam Bradford (27-32, 346 yards & 3 TD's) to produce like a guy who deserved 50-million guaranteed dollars, 40-year-old Brady completed 30-39 passes for 447 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Saints defense has allowed 512 yards per game through the first two weeks and 33.6 points per game over their past five dating back to last year. Brees could have Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham in their prime and it would be challenging to bail out this defense.