Denver and Seattle took care of business against the opposite end of the list to maintain position, but a major shake-up right behind them sees three teams tumble from the Top 10.
Three games in, we’re seeing what teams are really made of as they settle into their proper spots and the cream rises, the wheat is separated from the chaff, men from boys, the best of the best from the rest…
Here’s how our analysts see the league after three weeks and the cumulative rank (below) that comes of their ballots.
Tallied and put together, this is how they sift out: (last week’s rank and change in rank in parentheses)
1. Denver Broncos (1, 0)
Another dominant display in front of a primetime audience and the Broncos keep their place at the front of the line. A consensus selection for the second consecutive week, something less than a stomping of Oakland may have shaken the confidence of our voters, but Manning & Co. delivered.
2. Seattle Seahawks (2, 0)
Making a home in the No. 2 spot, Seattle also took out one of the league’s least powerful in the convincing manner expected of them. They won’t play the Broncos along the way, so Seattle will hope to hold serve with fingers crossed for a Denver stumble.
3. New Orleans Saints (8, +5)
A big jump into the Top 3 — thanks to a show of faith by our voters — the Saints handled Arizona as Brees continued to push limits and the improved defense stayed on track. A tough stretch coming up will show if they’re here just for a visit.
4. New England Patriots (6, +2)
Back in the Top 5 to help fill vacancies, the pieces seem to be coming together for New England — at least everything outside of the passing game… and you can’t help but feel they’ll figure that out at some point. If that settles soon, the Patriots could find themselves up here for the duration.
5. Green Bay Packers (4, -1)
Losing the shootout in Cincinnati cost Green Bay a place in the rankings, but due to larger slips around them they head into their bye week staying among the first five. With a group of hungry teams on their tail, the Packers will need to return with some fire in Week 5.
6. Chicago Bears (9, +3)
No last-minute win this week, but a win nonetheless… and 40 points on the scoreboard. After a week of holding flat in the rankings, Chicago leaps up another three and rests on the verge of grabbing a seat at the Top-5 table.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (10, +3)
Hitting their high-water mark at No. 7, the Bengals seem to have shook loose some of the questions that brought doubt as to their place as the season began. A win over Green Bay without a major impact from Geno Atkins suggests they belong.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (10, +2)
A steady climb that has seen them move up the rankings multiple spots each week has the Chiefs being counted among the league’s Top 10 with increasing confidence. Their recipe of conservative offense and attacking defense has worked so far, and they’ll show it at home in four of their next five contests.
9. Baltimore Ravens (12, +3)
The Ravens’ second win on the year has them looking back up toward their season-opening ranking, but not quite there yet. Taking down the Texans on the back of a strong defensive showing is a plus, but the offense has been less than inspiring with the O-line a root of their troubles.
10. Miami Dolphins (14, +4)
A third straight move up, each being bigger than the last, Miami sneaks into the Top 10’s bubble position and is poised for another bump if they can take out the Saints next week. Offseason additions are paying off and Tannehill is changing opinions of the 2012 QB class.
11. Dallas Cowboys (13, +2)
Hovering in this neighborhood for each week of the power rankings to date, Dallas has seen teams rise past and fall below, but they’ve made no ground of their own despite a convincing Week 3 victory and firm grasp of the NFC East lead. Stringing together consecutive wins may help.
12. San Francisco 49ers (3, -9)
From a consecutive-week hold on No. 1 to here in just two games, there’s been quite an unraveling. A pair of clear defeats, faltering QB play, off-field issues and key injuries have taken the air out of this preseason Super Bowl contender.
13. Atlanta Falcons (7, -6)
Manning the middle spot in this three-team free fall, Atlanta finds themselves in need of a ship-righting win at home against New England next week. The left tackle spot remains atop their list of projects – with Baker and Holmes contributing, it has leaked 23 pressures in three games.
14. Houston Texans (5, -9)
Finishing this run of Top 10 tumbles, the Texans fall all the way to 14 as questions were reinforced, and they found the game they couldn’t escape from. A capable group that can’t seem to breach the plateau, it feels as if a result like this against the Ravens was on the way.
15. Indianapolis Colts (17, +2)
In a rebound game, the Colts found form for the first time this season as Andrew Luck returned to his college stomping grounds and salted the recent wounds of his former coach. A determined ground game factored in and Indy rises back to their season-opening position.
16t. Detroit Lions (21, +5)
Their second five-spot rise in three weeks (sandwiched around a drop of three) has Detroit set squarely in the middle and looking up. They’ll have a chance to show their stripes (or their roar, whatever) against the Bears in Week 4.
16t. Tennessee Titans (23, +7)
Fitting that two teams locked in such an even battle on Sunday wind up so near each other on this list. The Titans made the bigger climb to get to the center this week, but they and San Diego both look the part of defining the middle.
18. San Diego Chargers (19, +1)
Like the Titans above them, the Chargers appear to represent the truth of middling teams. Talent to flash, but not enough put together to get hold of significant strides. Each has climbed every week, but perhaps that speaks more to their starting spots.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (15, -4)
Nearly returned now to where they began, the Eagles have followed their exciting opener with a pair of down efforts against the AFC West, and they’ll see Denver next. Offensive pace-watchers be sure to tune in.
20. Carolina Panthers (27, +7)
On the strength of a devastating pass rush and a churning ground game, the Panthers set the Giants down with ease and stepped aside to watch a handful of teams – New York included – slide down past. Carolina hops up out of the Bottom 10.
21. St. Louis Rams (18, -3)
Dismantled by Dallas, the Rams roll downward three spots ahead of their Thursday Night matchup with San Francisco. Will they catch the flailing 49ers as they did twice in 2012? Or will their own inadequacies send them further toward the Bottom 10?
22. Buffalo Bills (21, -1)
Passed by teams determined to fall faster, the Bills post another tough loss and settle in at No. 22. Playing close appears to be their theme for the year, but with five of their next six games against teams in the Top 10 here, that trend will be tested.
23t. Cleveland Browns (28, +5)
A step in the right direction, the Browns secure a win days after recouping a first-round pick for a player clearly not in their plans. Next question is at QB, and what happens after Hoyer helped them to the ‘W’.
23t. New York Jets (29, +6)
One of this week’s big jumps shows just how volatile life can be in and around the Bottom 10. The Jets tried time and again to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties but managed to get away with the win over Buffalo, and they climb over five teams.
25. New York Giants (16, -9)
Chasing Washington down this list, the Giants have lost steps each week, though they’ve avoided a major fall until now. Damage was done by the thorough thrashing that sent them reeling nine spots.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers (25, -1)
Losing nine spots in the two weeks previous, their fall is slowing. Despite Antonio Brown’s best efforts, the Steelers are finding a home in the low 20’s and are coming to grips with their current state.
27. Arizona Cardinals (26, -1)
Their first slide in the rankings takes the Cardinals back just one spot as they couldn’t keep up with New Orleans in Week 3. Inconsistent play from Palmer will not help their chances of climbing.
28. Minnesota Vikings (24, -4)
Again unable to finish, the Vikings fall to 0-3 and give four spots in the rankings to land at the top of the Bottom 5. After last season’s magic, this start is far from expectations in Minnesota.
29. Washington Redskins (20, -9)
The defense showed signs of life but larger issues prevailed – QB play was still not up to speed – and the Redskins drop their third in three tries. They’ve now fallen 16 spots from their rank before the opener.
30. Oakland Raiders (31, +1)
Gaining a spot thanks to Tampa’s fall, Oakland was simply overmatched on Monday Night in Denver. A glimmer of hope here and there isn’t enough to pull them up out of the Bottom 3.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (30, -1)
Falling each week we’ve posted these rankings, the Bucs and their anemic offense have just one step keeping them from the floor. If looking for a bright spot, check the play of offensive tackles Penn and Dotson.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (32, 0)
In another matchup of teams from opposite ends, Jacksonville was set down softly by Seattle. The team turns back to Blaine Gabbert next week, but eyes are shifting toward the 2014 draft.