Last week, the Bills felt like a juggernaut that had transcended the accepted bounds of the NFL Power Rankings. Seven days later, they can’t even call the No. 1 spot their own.
Such is life in the NFL, where everything is temporary and nothing is what it seems. Yesterday’s Bills are today’s Eagles, who are tomorrow’s … well, maybe it will be your squad.
Adversity comes for every organization in time. Some teams are consumed by it. The best teams weather the bad times, stay in the picture, then make one final run to glory (SEE: the 2021 Los Angeles Rams).
The NFL Power Rankings exist to track the journey of each team in the league of 32. Let’s get back to work.
Previous rank: No. 3
Philadelphia’s a big green wrecking machine right now. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ offense have been showing out since the season opener in Detroit, but now Nick Sirianni’s defense has announced its arrival with a dominant nine-sack performance against the Commanders and old friend Carson Wentz. What’s the most pressing “problem” for the undefeated Iggles? DeVonta Smith was so dominant on Sunday (156 yards in the first half alone), it calls into question whether A.J. Brown is the team’s true No. 1 receiver. “By the eyes, he might be a little slight, but he plays like a big boy,” Hurts said of Smith. “He’s a guy, when his number’s called, I know he’ll answer the phone.”
Previous rank: No. 1
The Bills ran 51 more plays than the Dolphins and still got beat — if you were offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, you’d probably lose your religion, too. Frustrations from an unusual game aside, the biggest concern in Buffalo is an injury-ravaged defense that was without five starters in Miami. The secondary has been particularly besieged: Star safety Micah Hyde is out for the year with a neck injury, while safety Jordan Poyer (foot) and cornerbacks Dane Jackson (neck) and Christian Benford (who suffered a fractured hand against Miami) have all been sidelined. On Sunday, the Dolphins were able to exploit the Bills’ untested backups with some big downfield strikes; it’s a trend that will continue as long as Buffalo is undermanned.
Previous rank: No. 8
The Dolphins enter Week 4 alone atop the AFC East after a stranger-than-fiction 21-19 win over the powerhouse Bills. Miami’s offense possessed the ball for just under 20 minutes against Buffalo, but the quick-strike attack made the most of its limited opportunities. The biggest play of the game came on a third-and-22 in the fourth quarter, as Jaylen Waddle split the Bills’ secondary for a 45-yard gain that set up the go-ahead score. Throw in a survived Butt Punt and some clock-management and special teams failures by a previously impervious opponent, and you can say the Dolphins are living a charmed life right now.
Previous rank: No. 5
Gossip item: Aaron Rodgers might be finding new love in his wideout room. Rookie fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs hauled in all eight of his targets for 73 yards and a score in a narrow win over the Bucs. If Doubs gains Rodgers’ trust, he can become a breakout star overnight. Meanwhile, is Rodgers finally getting his blind-side protector back? David Bakhtiari made another attempt at a return to the Packers lineup, playing 35 offensive snaps in a rotation with Yosh Nijman on Sunday. Bakhtiari was one of the best left tackles in football before suffering a knee injury in practice on Dec. 31, 2020. A return to form would be a massive lift for the entire offense.
Previous rank: No. 6
While the Rams’ offense continues to work out the kinks, Sean McVay’s defense has been tasked with keeping the team on a winning track. They did their job on Sunday in Arizona, holding Kyler Murray and the Cardinals without a touchdown in a 20-12 win. The Cardinals punted on their first four possessions and settled for four field goals as the Rams took control behind touchdowns from Cooper Kupp and Cam Akers. “There are no style points in this game,” McVay said. “But there are ways to play more complete games. That’s what we’re hunting.”
Previous rank: No. 4
Tom Brady needs his friends back on the playground. On Sunday, the G.O.A.T. once again played without wide receivers Mike Evans (suspension), Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee), as well as left tackle Donovan Smith (elbow), in a 14-12 loss to the Packers. Chalk it up to bad timing for a key conference showdown that could have significant ramifications come playoff-seeding time. With the Chiefs on deck, the challenges keep coming in different forms: The Bucs moved operations to Miami this week in order to practice out of the path of Hurricane Ian. The storm is projected to make landfall along the Gulf Coast of Florida in the coming days.
Previous rank: No. 11
Kirk Cousins and the Vikings looked outclassed against the Eagles in the second game of Week 2’s Monday doubleheader. Early on against the Lions on Sunday, it looked like more of the same. But Minnesota and its QB showed resolve, digging out of 14-0 and 24-14 holes to beat an NFC North rival and get things back on track after that humbling prime-time loss. The hero was K.J. Osborn, who zipped through the Detroit defense almost unnoticed for the go-ahead 28-yard touchdown with 45 seconds to play. Osborn has found his niche in this offense — since the start of last season, no Vikings receiver has more catches in two-minute situations than the 2020 fifth-round pick.
Previous rank: No. 12
Cincinnati finally looked the part of a defending conference champion on Sunday, setting the tone with two first-quarter touchdown drives en route to a 27-12 win over the Jets at the Meadowlands. Joe Burrow threw three touchdown passes and was the beneficiary of quality pass protection from an offensive line that struggled mightily in the first two weeks. The Bengals still need to figure out what is wrong with their running game after logging 69 rushing yards, but Sunday was a positive first step after an early stumble. “We just needed to get the first win,” coach Zac Taylor said. “I didn’t really care what it looked like. I didn’t care if it was 3-0 or 49-3. We just needed to rip that Band-Aid off, get that first win. We’ve been a confident team all along.”
Previous rank: No. 9
The 49ers are very fortunate to have Jimmy Garoppolo on the team after quarterback Trey Lance’s season-ending injury … it just didn’t feel that way following Sunday night’s 11-10 loss to the Broncos. Garoppolo struggled to move the offense throughout the evening, reminding the football world why Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the Niners braintrust pivoted to Lance in the first place. Garoppolo followed Denver’s lone touchdown drive in the fourth quarter with an ugly interception, and he even went Full Orlovsky for a safety in a game decided by one point. San Francisco’s defense will keep the team in most contests, but the 49ers will need more from the other side of the ball.
Previous rank: No. 20
It’s amazing how different the Titans look when Derrick Henry is seeming like himself. Tennessee’s star running back was bottled up in the first two weeks but broke out in a much-needed 24-22 win over the Raiders in Nashville. Henry finished with 143 total yards and a score, running through would-be tacklers like peak King Henry. According to ESPN, Henry gained 65 yards after contact — the Titans are 19-3 when Henry crosses the 60 threshold in that category. Henry’s success makes other aspects of the Titans’ offense go.
Previous rank: No. 21
The Cowboys are winning games, and Cooper Rush has been a major reason why. The backup quarterback, inserted into the starting lineup after Dak Prescott’s Week 1 thumb injury, has done excellent work in back-to-back wins over the Bengals and Giants. Rush was at his best down the stretch on Monday night, completing 12 of 13 passes on consecutive drives in the second half. The go-ahead touchdown, a perfect dart of a corner end-zone strike to CeeDee Lamb, couldn’t have been thrown better by Dak himself. Not bad for a guy who was cut at the end of training camp and left unclaimed by 31 other teams.
Previous rank: No. 17
If the Broncos find their groove and end up making noise in the AFC this year, they’ll look back and marvel at how fortunate they were to escape the season’s first three weeks with a winning record. With the Denver offense again unimpressive on Sunday night against the 49ers, the defense continued to carry the team — forcing two turnovers in the final 2:06 to clinch a bizarre-as-its-score 11-10 win. Expect to hear plenty of talk out of Denver this week about the go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown drive piloted by Russell Wilson and the potentially galvanizing effect it can have on the attack going forward. We’ll see about that.
Previous rank: No. 16
Dan Campbell owned it. Facing a fourth-and-4 in Vikings territory with a chance to ice a huge road win by securing one more first down, the Lions coach shifted away from his aggressive strategy and sent out the kicker. One miss and a busted coverage later, and Minnesota had stolen a 28-24 win from Detroit. “I regret that decision 100 percent,” Campbell said. “I really do. I hate it. I feel like I cost our team. I really do, man.” The strange thing? Campbell repeatedly left his offense on the field in similar situations earlier on Sunday, converting first downs on four of six fourth-down tries. The coach got cold feet at the wrong time.
Previous rank: No. 22
Three weeks in, and Nick Chubb has a damn good case for the title of Best Running Back On The Planet. The Browns star was again a dominant force on Thursday Night Football against the Steelers, rolling to 113 yards and a touchdown in a 29-17 win. It was Chubb’s third straight game over 100 yards from scrimmage to begin the year. The victory represented a huge lift for Cleveland after the team’s baffling Week 2 collapse against the Jets. Chubb’s ability to run through tackles and keep defenses off balance has been a prime factor in Jacoby Brissett’s surprisingly strong start behind center. The Browns’ offense has been balanced and efficient.
Previous rank: No. 13
The Saints are headed to London for a matchup against the Vikings that could have playoff implications down the line. Should Jameis Winston be the quarterback for that game? Winston has not looked like the same player since Week 1, after which he began showing up on the injury report with a back injury. The veteran threw two more interceptions in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, and he made other throws into traffic that had favorable (read: lucky) outcomes. Andy Dalton remains one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league — it’s fair to wonder if we could see him relieve Winston on Sunday if the offense remains rudderless.
Previous rank: No. 14
As the weeks go by, it’s becoming increasingly apparent the Cardinals’ offense is exclusively reliant on Kyler Murray going off script to create magic. When that doesn’t happen — and we haven’t seen it, aside from the second-half explosion against the Raiders in Week 2 — Arizona is stuck in mud. Sunday was an odd one: The Cardinals ran 35 more plays than the Rams but had just 26 more total yards of offense in a 20-12 loss. Arizona badly misses suspended receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but Nuk alone won’t be able to fix this attack. Kliff Kingsbury has his work cut out for him.
Previous rank: No. 15
This is not the start Josh McDaniels was looking for in his second chance as a head coach. The Raiders dropped to 0-3 after another narrow loss, this time to the Titans, and McDaniels’ postgame media availability was reportedly preceded by a closed-door meeting with Raiders owner Mark Davis. The history here is not good. Since 2000, only one team that started 0-3 rebounded to make the playoffs (the 2018 Texans). Still, these Raiders have a chance: They play in an AFC West that is far softer than we anticipated, and they’ve had the chance to win or tie on the final possession of each loss so far. The Raiders might be winless, but they aren’t hopeless.
Previous rank: No. 19
Daniel Jones is a tough dude at quarterback, but the punishment the fourth-year starter absorbs on a routine basis is unsustainable. The Cowboys were all over Jones on Monday night, piling up five sacks and 23 pressures in a 23-16 loss at the Meadowlands. The 23 pressures were the most Jones has faced in 40 career starts and the most faced by any quarterback in a game this season, according to ESPN. “Boy, short week for him,” remarked ESPN’s Troy Aikman after another Jones takedown in the fourth quarter. “He’s going to be in an ice bath all week.”
Previous rank: No. 26
There are still multiple areas in which the Colts must improve, but the big picture coming out of Week 3 was very pleasant: Indy knocked off Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in a win that Frank Reich’s team desperately needed following a wretched start to the season. The defense deserves major credit for keeping Mahomes in check, culminating in Rodney McLeod’s game-sealing interception in the final seconds. Matt Ryan’s stat line tells the story of progress, but the veteran was sacked five more times, fumbling twice behind a surprisingly leaky offensive line. The 37-year-old Ryan is a statue at this stage — this entire experiment always hinged on a major protection upgrade for the former MVP, who was sacked 40-plus times in each of his final four seasons in Atlanta. He’s received the opposite of that.
Previous rank: No. 18
The offense showed legitimate signs of life on Sunday against the Ravens, but the Patriots won’t survive if they can’t protect the football. Bill Belichick’s team turned the ball over four times, with three of those coming on Mac Jones interceptions, in a 37-26 loss to Baltimore. A frustrating afternoon came to an ugly conclusion: Jones had to be helped to the locker room after being injured on his final play of the game. On Monday, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported that Jones suffered a “pretty severe” high ankle sprain that leaves his availability unclear moving forward. Swapping out Jones for Brian Hoyer for any length of time is just about the last thing this team needs.
Previous rank: No. 29
The Falcons have weapons. Legitimate weapons. Drake London has hit the ground running as an impact No. 1 wide receiver in his rookie season, and second-year tight end Kyle Pitts continues to display elite playmaker traits when given the chance. But the glue of the Atlanta operation remains Cordarrelle Patterson. The veteran ran over a bad Seahawks defense on Sunday, piling up 141 yards and a touchdown on the ground in a 27-23 win. It’s Patterson’s second 100-yard effort in three weeks and more proof that Arthur Smith is the guy who finally found a way to make Patterson a true star beyond special teams. Quite a feather in the hat for the coach.
Previous rank: No. 23
It’s not that Mitch Trubisky was bad on Thursday Night Football against the Browns. He really wasn’t. It’s just that the veteran’s ceiling is so low that it turns the Steelers’ offense into a sports car trying to win a race with a restrictor plate affixed to the engine. That’s a problem, because the Pittsburgh defense isn’t a difference-maker without T.J. Watt’s enormous presence. Trubisky’s ceiling and the torn pectoral that will keep Watt out for several more weeks is a bad combo that leaves a razor-thin margin for error every week for Mike Tomlin’s team.
Previous rank: No. 30
Eyebrows raised when Justin Fields came out of Chicago’s first two games with just 28 total pass attempts. You have a better idea of any trepidation Matt Eberflus may have after watching the second-year passer stumble through Sunday’s win over the Texans. Fields threw two interceptions, fumbled twice and generally looked uncomfortable piloting the Chicago attack. We knew this was going to be a season of growing pains for Fields and the Bears — but the early signs suggest those pains might be more severe than expected.
Previous rank: No. 24
Geno Smith evacuated the pocket, scrambled to his right, kept his eyes upfield and unfurled a tight spiral. It looked like the setup for a special moment for the Seahawks, but there would be no fairytale ending. Smith’s pass was intercepted by Falcons safety Richie Grant, who slid to the turf to clinch a win for the Falcons. Smith has been about average in his three games as starter this season, but it’s the defense that presents the biggest issue for Pete Carroll. Seattle gave up scores on five of Atlanta’s first seven possessions, a worrying sign for a team that talked a lot about a new-and-improved scheme entering the year. Instead, it’s been more of the same.
Previous rank: No. 31
The Panthers continue to get little from Baker Mayfield and the offense. Luckily, the defense was ready to step up against the Saints. Marquis Haynes set the tone with a scoop-and-score fumble recovery TD in the first quarter, and two second-half interceptions of Jameis Winston helped to seal a much-needed 22-14 win that snapped a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season. Afterward, Panthers players presented coach Matt Rhule with the game ball. “I want the game to always be about the players,” Rhule said. “With that being said, it was a tremendous honor. But at the end of the day, it’s not about me. I want them to make me right.”
Previous rank: No. 27
Sunday was a measuring-stick game for the Commanders, who came up short in pretty much every way possible. The Eagles got an eye-opening breakout performance by DeVonta Smith to build a 24-0 lead over Washington, then unleashed their pass rush on poor Carson Wentz, who was sacked nine times in a 24-8 loss. Wentz is the type of quarterback who can act spooked when his protection isn’t right, and the Commanders’ offensive line is not nearly good enough right now to get this attack to a consistent, proficient level.
Previous rank: No. 32
The Texans desperately need to find a way to improve their run defense. The Bears rushed for 281 yards on Sunday, averaging 7.0 yards per carry in a game despite their standout running back, David Montgomery, missing the bulk of the afternoon with a knee/ankle injury. Houston’s continued issues on the ground stood in stark contrast to the team’s success in the passing game. Chicago QB Justin Fields was harassed into two picks and two fumbles and generally did nothing. Still, it wasn’t enough. “We’ve lost three winnable games,” coach Lovie Smith said. “Glass half-full, that’s saying that we’re close.”