Contrary to the first two weeks of the 2011 NFL regular season, Week 3 was chock-full of crowd-pleasing contests that went right down to the wire. Nine games to be exact were decided by three points or less—compared to seven games combined from Weeks 1 and 2.
Anyway, without further adieu, I present my Week 4 NFL Power Rankings—the first edition of my power rankings on the season.
Week 3 Predictions Results: 11-5 (35-13 Overall)
32. Kansas City Chiefs (0-3): After falling far worse than ever expected to the Lions and Bills by a combined 79 points, a healthier Matt Cassel led the Chiefs to a much more watchable and competitive hard-fought loss in San Diego, 20-17. Even without Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry, Kansas City might have a shot to win before its bye in mid-October. This Week: vs. MIN
31. Seattle Seahawks (1-2): Giving up back-to-back special teams touchdowns to Ted Ginn Jr., 24-0 shellacking in Pittsburgh and escaping an overrated Cardinals team at home in a game I expected the Seahawks to win is far from impressive. Tarvaris Jackson and the ‘Hawks have the opportunity to shock the world on Sunday, though. This Week: vs. ATL
30. Indianapolis Colts (0-3): The Colts have showed a ray of hope. But is it enough to muster up a few wins before November? The next five games are at the Bucs, home for Kansas City, at Cincinnati, at New Orleans and at Tennessee, so I guess we’ll see. This Week: at TB
29. St. Louis Rams (0-3): What in the world is going on in St. Louis? OK, I know there have been a few devastating injuries and no one really expected the Rams to beat the Eagles, Giants or Ravens before the season, myself included. Nevertheless, nobody expected them to get outscored by 60 points in the first three games, either. This Week: vs. WSH
28. Cincinnati (1-2): Andy Dalton shows promise in Cincy. He’s only faced the 49ers, Browns and Broncos, however. It won’t get much tougher before the bye, either. The next three tests are against Buffalo, Jacksonville and back at home with Indianapolis. This Week: vs. BUF
27. Denver Broncos (1-2): Kyle Orton makes the Broncos competitive. Nobody disputes that. But it’s about winning games. Denver knocked off Cincinnati late by two 24-22 in between two three-point losses to the Raiders and Titans. This Week: at GB
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2): Like the beleaguered Bengals, Blaine Gabbert has a plethora of potential and looks to endure some tough growing pains before becoming a franchise QB. Moreover, he’ll also have a new head coach in his second season. This Week: vs. NO
25. Miami Dolphins (0-3): After three tough losses to New England, Houston and Cleveland, the Dolphins will start to use up their frequent flyer miles before a Week 5 bye. This Week: at SD
24. Minnesota Vikings (0-3): When you look up the term choking in the dictionary, there’s a picture of the Vikings. Minnesota has outscored its opponents by a whopping 54-7 in the first half. If this game lasted just 30 minutes, the Vikings would be the top team in the league. But it’s not. In the second half, the Vikes have been dismantled, 64-6 (67-6 if you include overtime).
Here’s a little advice: Instead of getting away from the running game in the second half, which has been very successful for you in the first half, pound the ball on the ground with arguably the best running back in the league and kill the clock. It’s not rocket surgery. This Week: at KC
23 Carolina Panthers (1-2): Well it won’t get any easier on Cam Newton and the Panthers. The next three tests are at Chicago, home for New Orleans and back at Atlanta. This Week: at CHI
22. Cleveland Browns (2-1): Colt McCoy and the Browns have been below expectations this season, but they’re still tied for the division lead and have an easy schedule. This Week: vs. TEN
21. Arizona Cardinals (1-2): With Kevin Kolb under center, the Cardinals are now your average pretender. That might be enough to win the NFC West this year, however. This Week: vs. NYG
20. San Francisco 49ers (2-1): The Niners have looked fairly swell so far; far better than expected. The next three games could be back-breaking, however. This Week: at PHI
19. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2): If you ask me, I’d say the “dream team” has slept on the job. If you didn’t know Michael Vick was inconsistent and injury-prone, especially with a below-average offensive line, let me give you a tip—our country has a huge problem with entitlement and the economy. Oh, and social media is way more popular than ever. So if didn’t know that about Vick, entitlement, the economy and social media, now you do.
Disagree with my low ranking on the Eagles? JasonB of BleedingGreenNation.com (SB Nation) says, “It really can’t be understated how bad of a loss that was to the Giants and now the Eagles face a pretty tough schedule after this week.” He hit the nail on the head. At first glace, the upcoming games look rather easy, but looks can be deceiving. This Week: vs. SF
18. Tennessee Titans (2-1): Matt Hasselbeck and Chris Johnson are improving, but Kenny Britt is lost for the year. Somewhere in the Titans front office someone is pressing the panic button. A fluke with Baltimore, a loss against Jacksonville and narrow escape over Denver doesn’t prove much, but this team is certainly still a contender in the AFC Wildcard playoff realm. This Week: at CLE
17. Atlanta Falcons (1-2): Let’s put things into perspective for a moment. Chicago, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia are all playoff contenders in the NFC. Nevertheless, they could all also be pretenders, in addition to the Falcons. There’s still plenty of time. This Week: at SEA
16. N.Y. Giants (2-1): Speaking of potential pretenders, I had the Giants projected to be an 8-8-9-7 team even before all of the injuries. They’ve done okay all things considered thus far, but keep your eyes peeled for the bone-chilling schedule after October. This Week: at ARI
15. Washington Redskins (2-1): Are the Redskins seriously a legitimate playoff contender? With their schedule, they might be. We’ll find out a little more this Sunday about them and the Rams—among 30 other teams of course. This Week: at STL
14. Chicago Bears (1-2): Despite the fact I’ve had a strong feeling Chicago would be a pretender long before September, this team has potential. This Week: vs. CAR
13. Dallas Cowboys (2-1): Tony Romo is a leader. He’s also tough. But that doesn’t make him elite or on the verge of winning a Super Bowl. Still incredibly banged up, Dallas will get banged up against Detroit in the form of a loss. Nonetheless, the team should be healthy for New England after a week of rest. This Week: at DET
12. N.Y. Jets (2-1): Was beating an injury-plagued Dallas team on 9/11 on your home-field where the Cowboys threw the game away and a rout over a Luke McCown-led Jacksonville really all that impressive? Both results were inevitable, at least in my mind. Yet, the Jets follow it up with disappointment in Oakland. The next two are huge. This Week: at BAL
11. Oakland Raiders (2-1): One important component about Oakland—the team is winning close, hard-fought games. OK, the raiders lost in Buffalo, but two out of three ain’t bad. If the Raiders can win three of their next five (Pats, at Texans, Browns, Chiefs and Broncos), they’ll be sitting pretty, vying for the top spot in the AFC West with San Diego. This Week: vs. NE
10. Tampa bay Buccaneers (2-1): Two hard-fought wins over Minnesota and Atlanta…what exactly does that mean? And what about the strong effort against the Lions? We’ll find out soon enough. Right now they’re looking better than anticipated. This Week: vs. IND
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1): The Steelers’ offseason distractions are becoming more detrimental than the public perceptions, as I had anticipated. Nonetheless, the relentless woes on the offensive line have taken a far worse toll on the team. This Week: at HOU
8. San Diego Chargers (2-1): Just because the Bolts are 2-1, don’t believe that San Diego has overcome its sluggish starts impediment. A narrow escape over winless Minnesota, a two-touchdown loss at New England and a three-point victory over (arguably) the worst team in the league is far from anything to get thrilled about this early. Crank it up if the Chargers win their next two games and beat the Jets on October 23rd following a bye. This Week: vs. MIA
7. New England Patriots (2-1): ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, who’s classifies himself as a Patriots homer, said the Pats are “…slowly becoming the Houston Texans” on The Herd on Tuesday. I assume he was referring to Houston’s 2010 unit, not the new-look defense which ranks 11th in total defense and 14th against the pass and led the league in both last week. The Patriots are the worst in the league in both categories and are the best in both areas on offense. Things could come crashing down if they’re not able to turn it around on defense. This Week: OAK
6. Buffalo Bills (3-0): Albeit two of Buffalo’s wins have come at home, that can’t take anything away from what Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills have accomplished. If they can continue to just take it one game at a time and play the way they have so far, they just might make the playoffs. That could lead to even bigger things, too. They may not have many stars, but if your team can mesh better than the other teams and play together more as a team, look out for this sleeper. This Week: at CIN
5. Houston Texans (2-1): “As they say, the Texans didn’t lose, they just ran out of time,” says Brian Billick of FOXSports.com. “This is by far the best team in the AFC South.” Well-said, coach! This Week: vs. PIT
4. Detroit Lions (3-0): It’s time. The Lions are the real deal. Since the age of seven, I never gave up on them. I even rode up in a 12-hour drive with my dad to see them play when they were 6-2 facing the Giants a year before the infamous 0-16 campaign. Can they follow the Packers and make it to the big stage? Our Jonathan Mathis gives you his answer. This Week: at DAL
3. Baltimore Ravens (2-1): Any Joe Flacco doubters still out there? Cricket…cricket… Baltimore is the best in the AFC North without a doubt and probably the entire AFC. This Week: vs. NYJ
2. New Orleans Saints (2-1): If any team can challenge the Packers in the NFC outside of their own division, it’s New Orleans. If this is the second best team in the league, and they barely beat Houston, what does that say about the Texans? With the Saints’ six next games, look for them to go on a clinic. This Week: at JAC
1. Green Bay Packers (3-0): Who wants to see the Packers face off with the Lions? Well, you’ll have to wait to feast on the matchup in the classic Thanksgiving meeting. Rodgers and the Packers are the best in the biz right now, no questions asked. This Week: vs. DEN
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Verse Of This Piece: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”—1 Timothy 4:12