NFL Power Rankings Week 3: The Most Exciting Thing About the Cowboys (So Far)
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images. Pictured: Micah Parsons of the Cowboys celebrates as we break down the NFL Power Rankings for Week 3.
Week 2 of the NFL season is in the books, and it already looks like a topsy-turvy season.
Remember how the AFC was so much better than the NFC? The AFC is already down to two unbeaten teams while the NFC still has seven at 2-0, including the Saints, Falcons, Buccaneers and Commanders. Meanwhile, presumed contenders the Bengals and Chargers are 0-2, already fighting for their lives.
Just about nothing makes sense except for the one consensus team at the top of the league: the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys dismantled the Jets, 30-10, a week after shutting out the Giants, 40-0, and they remain at the top of the Week 3 Power Rankings for a third straight week. That +60 scoring differential is the second-best in Cowboys franchise history – not bad for a team that's played in eight Super Bowls!
Dallas sucked the life out of the Jets, running 83 plays and staying on the field for more than 42 minutes of offense, with another suffocating defensive performance that makes them the front-runners through two weeks. But how much have we really learned in two New York blowouts? Sunday's game could've been much closer if not for a dropped Sauce Gardner pick-6, some fumble luck, and a couple of crushing Jets penalties.
Still, as great as the Cowboys defense has looked, the early signs on Mike McCarthy's offense are what have me most excited. Let's dig into the Dallas offense and then get to teams 2 through 32 in this week's Power Rankings.
We won't always go in-depth on every team, but let's drop some analysis for all 32 again this week since we're still learning so much after just two games. Let's dig in.
(To skip directly to a specific team, click on the team's name in the table below!)
NFL Power Rankings for Week 3
TIER I – A NEW CONTENDER EMERGES
1. Dallas Cowboys (Last week ranking: 1)
Dak Prescott is getting the ball out in 2.5 seconds, down from 2.8 and among the fastest in the league. He's also averaging just 3.7 Completed Air Yards, way down from 6.2, per Next Gen Stats. Translation: Prescott is getting the ball out quickly to talented weapons such as CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard and letting them do the rest, before the Jets' talented pass rush and corners could even get there. Think Dolphins Lite.
Before the season, I wondered if new OC Brian Schottenheimer's scheme could get the ball to these weapons on the move and increase YAC. The early returns look great, and there might still be some value on Dak Prescott to win MVP at +1600.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (2)
There's some buzz about Chiefs worries early, but I'm not having it. We already knew Kansas City's offense would take some time to adjust with two new tackles and a new crew of receiving options.
I'm actually upgrading the Chiefs based on this defense that held a good Jacksonville offense to 271 yards and three field goals, sacking Trevor Lawrence four times. DC Steve Spagnuolo's defense typically comes together late in the season and has never ranked better than 16th in EPA through two weeks in the Mahomes era – until now.
Kansas City's defense ranks second in EPA per play! Mahomes and the offense will find themselves soon enough. If this is actually a top-10 defense, too, watch out.
3. Miami Dolphins (4)
Miami's 24-17 victory over the Patriots wasn't as exciting as Week 1, but it was more impressive.
New England took away the explosive Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle plays, but the Dolphins won relatively comfortably anyway – with defense and by running the football. Raheem Mostert ran 18 times for 121 yards and two scores, and the defense forced two key turnovers with the Pats driving. This is the exact sort of win we needed this team to prove that it could get.
Remember that Dak Prescott time to throw? Tua Tagovailoa has the NFL's fastest release at just 2.35 seconds, an absurdly low number, but he also somehow leads the league at 8.5 completed air yards per attempt. Do you have any idea how impossible it is to get the ball out that fast and simultaneously get it that far downfield?
Mike McDaniel might be an actual wizard. These Dolphins look like the real deal.
TIER II – COMING FOR THE THRONE
4. San Francisco 49ers (5)
The 49ers just keep on winning. San Francisco has won 12 consecutive regular season games, with eight of the 12 wins by 13-plus points. A short week home game against a depleted Giants team on Thursday night looks like a great opportunity to keep things rolling.
5. Baltimore Ravens (9)
So much for Todd Monken's offense struggling to come together early. An offense missing its best two linemen, its starting RB and Odell Beckham Jr. didn't miss a beat on the road against a presumed Super Bowl contender.
Baltimore had an 84% Success Rate on its series, and Monken's helped Lamar Jackson get the ball out quickly and win in a variety of ways. Rookie Zay Flowers is a featured weapon, and this attack is spreading it around and keeping the defense guessing. The Ravens outgained the Bengals by 133 yards despite a secondary missing multiple top names against all those Cincinnati receivers.
The early returns are starting to look very, very promising in Baltimore.
6. Buffalo Bills (6)
Well, that was certainly more like it.
Lost in all the Monday night Josh Allen disappointment, Buffalo's defense has been outstanding early. The Bills held Josh Jacobs to nine rushes for -2 yards, the least by a reigning rushing champion since 1950.
TIER III – WHO'S ON THIRD… IN THE NFC?
7. Philadelphia Eagles (3)
I'm starting to get a bit worried about the Eagles.
The defense has been a bit underwhelming, relying on heavy turnover luck that could have easily left this team 0-2 instead of 2-0 had things swung the other direction. But the real concern lies in an offense and franchise QB that look like they really miss departed OC Shane Steichen.
Something feels off with Jalen Hurts. He finished the win over the Vikings with just 120 passing yards outside of one bomb to DeVonta Smith, and he was sacked four times and intercepted once. Hurts just doesn't look comfortable, and it doesn't feel like he and new OC Brian Johnson are on the same page yet. The Eagles could've run the ball all night, and they did mostly, but the passing game was at -0.17 EPA per play on early downs against a bad secondary.
The Eagles look more good than great so far, but they're still third-best in the NFC – for now.
8. Atlanta Falcons (12)
The 2-0 Falcons have a stew cooking.
Bijan Robinson is absolutely electric as both a runner and pass catcher, Drake London got going in Week 2, and the defense continues to look improved. The Falcons ran 31 more plays than the Packers and nearly doubled them up in yardage, and they probably win comfortably if not for faltering in the red zone at 2-of-5. Arthur Smith has been appropriately aggressive, showing his belief – in all but one guy.
Can Desmond Ridder do this?
Ridder looked really rough early. He leads the league in Turnover-Worthy Plays per PFF with five, and his process looks shaky and uncertain. Ridder had some really bad throws and decisions early. He settled in late, and I think the Falcons found something in the way they used Ridder as a run threat a la Daniel Jones, but he could be the fly in Atlanta's ointment.
9. Green Bay Packers (13)
I honestly came away from Packers-Falcons feeling legitimately better about both teams. That felt like a playoff matchup between two teams I expect to see in the postseason.
Jordan Love threw three TDs for a second straight week, but the gaudy touchdown numbers hide some underlying issues with inaccuracy and over-aggression. Love should've thrown a pick-6, and his -10.8 Completion Percentage Over Expectation is ugly. The Packers didn't pick up a single first down on three fourth-quarter drives with the chance to put away a great road win.
That'll happen with such a young offense, especially one missing its two best weapons in Aaron Jones and Christian Watson, but it's encouraging the Packers were in great position to win anyway.
I'm still buying Green Bay futures. The Packers are badly underpriced at +250 to win the NFC North (bet365), and I could even be talked into nibbling on Love to win MVP at +6600 in case the outlier TD rate keeps up.
TIER IV – THE WEEKLY MYSTERY FUN BOXES
10. Cleveland Browns (7)
Well, the Browns will always have that win over the Bengals.
Monday was a night to forget for Cleveland with a double loss in the end. The Browns thoroughly outplayed the division-rival Steelers but lost anyway, and they also lost stud RB Nick Chubb for the season.
It was a disaster from the opening snap, when Deshaun Watson's first pass was tipped and then intercepted and returned for a score, and Watson later had a strip-6 too. He added six sacks and another lost fumble and continues to look mostly lost. Jim Schwartz's defense was nasty and dominant again, but the Browns season is now on Watson's shoulders with Chubb out. Gulp.
11. Los Angeles Chargers (8)
Through two games, the Chargers have 58 points, no turnovers – and zero wins. The Chargers Chargers'd away another one Sunday, allowing a go-ahead TD late only to drive for a tying field goal, only to go three-and-out and lose anyway in overtime.
As always with the Chargers, it's not as bad on paper as it looks. Justin Herbert was pretty good with 305 yards and two scores, and his 10.6 ADOT was his highest since his rookie season. Unfortunately, LA's pass defense got gashed a second straight week while Kellen Moore's offense went far too run-heavy early without finding success this week, leaving Herbert and the offense back in the same usual hole on late downs.
The Chargers went 2-of-14 on third downs. They also went 2-of-5 in the red zone, settling for field goals from the nine, 12 and 15. LA had a first down on the 13 with 51 seconds left and three timeouts down three. From that point forward for the rest of the game, the offense lost one yard on six plays. Herbert moves to 15-31-5 ATS in the second half, his 10 losses with a fourth-quarter lead most of any QB since 2020, including 2-5 in overtime.
At some point, you're just gonna have to create your own luck and stop Chargersing, or Brandon Staley will Chargers himself right out of a job.
12. Detroit Lions (10)
We've reached the tier where I want to move every one of these teams down every time I re-rank them.
The Lions were better than the Seahawks but worse than the Chiefs, got the opposite result each time, and probably deserve to be 1-1. I remain underwhelmed, and the offense is losing names left and right with half the line and just about every position player on the injury report after Sunday.
Detroit seems fine. I'm not convinced they're much more than that.
13. Los Angeles Rams (16)
I think I'm kind of into the Rams?
Los Angeles hung with San Francisco most of the way, no small feat the way Kyle Shanahan dominates Sean McVay over the years – now 10-4 ATS thanks to a hilarious backdoor-cover field goal down 10 with 0:00 on the clock.
And how about Puka Nacua! Fifteen more catches for 147 yards for the rookie, plus 7/77 for Tutu Atwell, and Matt Stafford continues to throw it all over the field. He had 55 attempts Sunday for 307 yards, and McVay seems to have found an identity with this offense. Stafford ranks third in passing yards and second in attempts. I'm buying a +2200 ticket (DraftKings) on Stafford to lead the league in passing yards for the first time in his career, and I might be buying in on the Rams too.
14. Cincinnati Bengals (11)
Suddenly, that Rams-Bengals Super Bowl rematch on Sunday night is one of the more interesting games on the Week 3 slate – but it remains to be seen whether Joe Burrow will be part of the action. The Monday odds drop from Bengals -6.5 to -2 suggests otherwise.
Burrow does not look right. His -0.27 EPA per play on early pass downs Sunday was terrible, and his 5.4 ADOT was troubling. Burrow ranks dead last in the NFL in EPA + CPOE with an abysmal 2.8 Completed Air Yards per attempt, per Next Gen Stats, and Ja'Marr Chase is under 40 yards receiving in both games.
Burrow and the offense did seem to get going on late downs in the second half, but that was before he appeared to tweak the calf injury on his final throw. The 2022 Bengals are the only team in the last three years to start 0-2 and still make the playoffs. They'll need a healthy Burrow to have a shot.
15. Seattle Seahawks (23)
Seattle's Week 1 loss to the Rams isn't looking quite as bad as it seemed coming into the season, and the Seahawks bounced back and played through all the key injuries to nab a huge overtime win in Detroit.
The defense still can't tackle to save its lives, but it's encouraging to see Geno Smith hold his own behind a makeshift line and dial up 328 yards and two scores, most of it outside the numbers, including the winning walk-off throw.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (14)
The Jaguars offense has been one of the most shocking units so far this season, and obviously not in a good way.
Trevor Lawrence had a chance to vault himself into that next tier of MVP quarterbacks on Sunday. Instead, he went 22-of-41 for 216 yards, eating four sacks with an ugly 5.3 YPA and -0.28 EPA per play. The Jaguars offense ranks 31st in EPA per play, ahead of only this week's opponent: the Texans. It's early, but so far it sure doesn't seem like Press Taylor will continue calling plays for long.
TIER V – THE DEFENSE IS THE FLOOR
17. New Orleans Saints (18)
Derek Carr finished with exactly 0 EPA Monday night, which somehow feels exactly right for a team that seems perfectly average and utterly forgettable. Maybe that's not fair to a defense that continues to play well year after year. I'd say let's see it against someone not named Ryan Tannehill or Bryce Young, but check the Saints' schedule, and you see a lot more of that.
I genuinely can't believe we're still doing the Taysom Hill thing in 2023; I also can't believe he was the team's best player and really the only thing that actually worked offensively Monday night.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (19)
Pittsburgh avoided the dreaded 0-2 hole, but it sure wasn't pretty. The Steelers had a 71-yard strike to George Pickens, two defensive scores and an offensive mess otherwise.
Outside of that Pickens score, Pittsburgh averaged 3.5 yards per play in Matt Canada's decrepit offense. The Steelers managed only nine first downs all game, and Kenny Pickett was somehow almost as ineffective as Deshaun Watson. The Steel Curtain defense saved the day and maybe the season, but Pittsburgh's offense better hope it looks this bad because the 49ers and Browns defenses are that good.
19. New England Patriots (17)
The Patriots are the opposite of the Saints; I honestly like a lot of what I see, but New England has the league's toughest schedule instead of New Orleans' easiest. Pardon me if I don't exactly feel bad for Pats fans after the last two decades.
It's New England's first 0-2 start since 2001, but the good news is the Patriots won the Super Bowl that year. That won't be the case this season. Bill Belichick's defense continues to hang with elite offenses, but this attack just has no juice offensively, even with Mac Jones playing significantly better under Bill O'Brien.
20. New York Jets (20)
The Jets weren't as far back as the final margin looked against the Cowboys, but it's already clear Zach Wilson is not going to be the answer.
New York's offense was a horrendous -0.52 EPA per play on early downs, and Wilson was 11-for-26 for 102 yards, three interceptions and three sacks – outside of one pass that caught Garrett Wilson in stride for a 68-yard TD.
I wrote this week about the trickle-down impact of the Rodgers injury, and we're already seeing it. The offensive line was a disaster without Aaron Rodgers with Micah Parsons recording nine pressures, three tackles for a loss, and two sacks. And the defense wore down as the game went on, and it was continually put in bad positions. The Jets know now what we knew Monday night: It ain't Zach.
TIER VI – FRISKY ON THE FRINGES
21. Washington Commanders (30)
OK, fine. I was probably harsh dropping the Commanders to No. 30 after a win, and equally so for tweet-wondering if the 'Manders are the worst 2-0 team of all time. Turns out I don't even think they're the worst 2-0 team this year.
Sam Howell is 3-0 lifetime as a starter, and he and Brian Robinson had some real moments, buoyed by this outstanding defensive line in a game Washington really should've probably won comfortably. Still, it's telling that this team trailed both the 0-2 Cardinals and Broncos by double digits, and that part counts too, so let's pump the brakes just a little.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (22)
Congrats to Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans on lighting up bad Vikings and Bears secondaries, but the Bucs are not a thing.
Tampa Bay is about to play the Eagles, Saints, Lions, Falcons and Bills over the next five weeks, with the 49ers, Falcons, Packers and Jaguars still waiting later in the season too. This roster remains paper thin. Tampa Bay's win total has risen to 8.5. This looks like the exact right spot to grab an under.
23. Minnesota Vikings (24)
The Vikings went from the worst 13-4 team of all-time to one of the better 0-2 ones. After a dream season in which Minnesota seemed to catch every break, just about everything is going against the Vikings now.
Minnesota has lost three consecutive one-score games after going 11-0 in them last regular season, and the Vikings have managed to lose all six fumbles through two games – one through the back of the endzone on what ended up being a 10-point swing in a six-point loss.
Kirk Cousins was actually great against the Eagles with 364 yards and four scores, and the Vikings could easily be 2-0. They're not, though, and Vikings fans know as well as anyone that only the win-loss column matters in the end.
24. Indianapolis Colts (28)
I'm still looking for an AFC South sleeper, and the Colts have my attention. Shane Steichen is checking all the boxes as a rookie head coach, and Anthony Richardson looks the part too, though this is the second week he's left early injured.
Steichen's offense just makes sense, and it could be all the better once Jonathan Taylor (and Richardson) returns. The secondary looks as disastrous as expected, but Steichen has raised this team's floor enough to make them an intriguing division long shot. They're +700 at DraftKings, though playing the week before a trip to Baltimore with Richardson potentially out may not be the buy point.
25. Tennessee Titans (25)
Hey, look: The Titans are 25th a third straight week!
Twice, the Titans have looked badly outmatched for much of the game but managed to pull things close by the end, and this time they finished the job in overtime. Mike Vrabel's guys continue to show up as underdogs.
Ryan Tannehill finished with 10.3 yards per attempt on 20-of-24 passing but looks washed on film. Almost half of that yardage came on two beautiful deep balls, so he was at 5.8 YPA otherwise and had five more sacks. Unless Vrabel can keep pulling rabbits out of his hat, it's starting to look like this era of Titans football is ready for an epitaph.
TIER VII – WAKE ME UP WHEN I NEED TO CARE AGAIN
26. Las Vegas Raiders (21)
Jimmy Garoppolo continues to play pretty well, but this defense is hopeless, and I can't get too excited about a coin-flip win over a Broncos team that embarrassed itself against Washington this week.
The Raiders remain irrelevant until proven otherwise.
27. Denver Broncos (26)
Just classic Broncos to go up 21-3, give up a huge letdown comeback to a blah opponent, and then complete a tipped Hail Mary with 0:00 on the clock only to miss the tying two-point conversion anyway.
It's like Nathaniel Hackett never even left. 10 out of 10. Just perfect execution, no notes.
28. Houston Texans (15)
Fine, let's have the Texans conversation. This has been ugly – but it's not all my fault, nor Houston's.
I liked the Texans going into the season because the division was soft and because I like the offensive line and the spine of the defense. Well, the offensive line has been decimated, missing four starters including the team's best player, LT Laremy Tunsil, on Sunday, and the spine was short both starting safeties.
Cluster injuries can doom any team, and they bite hardest in the secondary and the line. It is what it is.
Houston's actually shown some promising signs. C.J. Stroud threw for 384 yards and two scores Sunday, and WR Nico Collins has popped, but the Texans defense couldn't get off the field, and the offense stalled at 1-for-4 in the red zone. I swear there's still something here, but we can't play any more futures until the team gets healthy again.
29. Carolina Panthers (29)
Turns out the preseason actually was predictive in Carolina's case. This offense remains lost with just 19 points on 22 drives until a final TD drive Monday night against a prevent defense. Bryce Young had just 92 yards passing before that drive and hasn't been good, and Frank Reich and the coaches have disappointed so far too.
Carolina's defense is competitive enough to give them a chance, but at 0-2 in a division with three 2-0 teams, Carolina's season is probably already over.
30. New York Giants (27)
No one begrudged the Giants getting blown out by the Cowboys, but isn't it a bit of a problem that New York didn't have any discernible talent advantage over a barren Cardinals roster?
The Giants defense is a disaster, allowing points on five of Arizona's – Arizona's!! – first six drives and 6.3 yards per play for the game. Add in the Saquan Barkley injury and the mess of an offensive line, and then peep the upcoming schedule: 49ers on Thursday night, then Seattle, Miami, Buffalo.
New York didn't save its season on Sunday. The Giants just delayed the funeral.
31. Arizona Cardinals (32)
On the one hand, the Cards have led in the second half in both games and are actually legitimately trying.
On the other hand, Arizona allowed 31 second-half points to a Giants team that had scored a whopping seven points in its previous 10 quarters of actual football, and that part counts too.
TIER VIII — YOU SIT THERE AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE DONE
32. Chicago Bears (31)
I'm done. I'm done with the Bears. I'm done with Justin Fields. Done with the Fields hype and the endless list of excuses.
Chicago is not only below the Cardinals; the Bears are all alone at the bottom.
We really opened the Bears as back-to-back favorites to start the new season, only to see Fields rip off six more sacks and two interceptions, one a predictably stupid dump-off pick-6 from his own endzone trailing by a field goal with two minutes left.
Just fast forward to the Bears passing on drafting an actual QB again next year. I can't do this anymore.
NFL Week 3 Power Rankings
- Dallas Cowboys (Last week ranking: 1)
- Kansas City Chiefs (2)
- Miami Dolphins (4)
- San Francisco 49ers (5)
- Baltimore Ravens (9)
- Buffalo Bills (6)
- Philadelphia Eagles (3)
- Atlanta Falcons (12)
- Green Bay Packers (13)
- Cleveland Browns (7)
- Los Angeles Chargers (8)
- Detroit Lions (10)
- Los Angeles Rams (16)
- Cincinnati Bengals (11)
- Seattle Seahawks (23)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (14)
- New Orleans Saints (18)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (19)
- New England Patriots (17)
- New York Jets (20)
- Washington Commanders (30)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (22)
- Minnesota Vikings (24)
- Indianapolis Colts (28)
- Tennessee Titans (25)
- Las Vegas Raiders (21)
- Denver Broncos (26)
- Houston Texans (15)
- Carolina Panthers (29)
- New York Giants (27)
- Arizona Cardinals (32)
- Chicago Bears (31)