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NFL power rankings, Week 3: Rams and Bills enter top tier, Ravens hold steady and AFC West continues to impress

Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL teams. The rankings will take into account not just weekly performance, but how well each team measures up as Super Bowl contenders, regardless of win-loss record.

Here are the rankings after Week 3:

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Super Bowl favorites

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1; No. 1 last week)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2; No. 2)

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3. Los Angeles Rams (3-0; No. 3)

4. Buffalo Bills (2-1; No. 4)

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Washington Football Team Sunday in Orchard Park, New York.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Washington Football Team Sunday in Orchard Park, New York. (Brett Carlsen/AP)

Despite losing this weekend, the Bucs and Chiefs remain the teams to beat. Why? Quarterbacks Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are still great. Sunday’s games didn’t reveal any fatal flaws for Tampa Bay or Kansas City, but rather showed the strength of two budding Super Bowl contenders in the Rams and Chargers.

The Bucs were playing on the road without wide receiver Antonio Brown and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting and lost corner Jamel Dean for most of the game, which allowed Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (343 yards, four touchdowns) to take advantage of a banged-up defense. Kansas City had another sloppy performance on offense, with Mahomes throwing two interceptions and Clyde Edwards-Helaire losing another fumble. That was all Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (281 yards, four touchdowns) needed to deliver the knock-out blow.

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After a head-scratching Week 1 loss to the Steelers, the Bills are starting to flex their muscles. Josh Allen finished 32-for-43 for 358 yards and five total touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) to power a 43-21 win over Washington. After that season-opening loss, Buffalo outscored Miami and Washington by a combined 57 points.

When healthy, the Bucs and Chiefs still have more talent than the rest of the league. But a Super Bowl rematch no longer feels like a formality. The door has been cracked open.

The contenders

5. Cleveland Browns (2-1; No. 5)

6. Baltimore Ravens (2-1; No. 6)

7. Green Bay Packers (2-1; No. 7)

8. Las Vegas Raiders (3-0; No. 9)

9. Los Angeles Chargers (2-1; No. 14)

10. New Orleans Saints (2-1; No. 13)

The Browns terrorized rookie quarterback Justin Fields on Sunday, sacking him nine times and limiting him to just 1 net passing yard. Myles Garrett set the franchise record with 4 ½ sacks in one game, and Baker Mayfield (246 yards, one touchdown) delivered a solid game, even getting wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (five catches for 77 yards) involved. With Pittsburgh cratering and Baltimore looking shaky — needing an NFL-record 66-yard field goal from Justin Tucker and a little help from the officials to escape Detroit with a win — Cleveland looks like not only the team to beat in the AFC North, but a possible conference champion.

Of course, the Ravens are going to be in the way. Baltimore might be banged up and dealing with problems on defense and the offensive line, but quarterback Lamar Jackson delivered some beautiful throws in Sunday’s 19-17 nail-biter over the Lions. Had wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown not dropped three passes, including two possible touchdowns, Jackson might have thrown for 400 yards in a rout. If a healthy Rashod Bateman can add a new dimension to the passing game, this team should be among the best in the AFC.

Not to be overlooked are the Raiders and Chargers, two AFC West teams that were expected to fight for a wild-card berth behind the juggernaut Chiefs this season. With Kansas City suddenly in last place in the division, there’s hope. Las Vegas had to sweat out a 31-28 overtime win over Jacoby Brissett and the Dolphins, but Derek Carr (386 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) is on pace for the most single-season passing yards in NFL history and the defense is continuing to come through in big moments. For Los Angeles, a road win over Kansas City is proof that Herbert and new coach Brandon Staley are capable of big things, especially if superstar safety Derwin James stays healthy as the anchor of the defense.

After getting blown out by the Saints in Week 1, Green Bay has righted the ship. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers delivered a signature performance Sunday night, marching the Packers down the field with 37 seconds left to set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal. New Orleans recovered from its own letdown against the Panthers by intercepting Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones three times in a 28-13 win. If coach Sean Payton can reel in some of quarterback Jameis Winston’s chaotic tendencies, the Saints have a strong enough defense to be a factor in the NFC.

Still have something to prove

11. Denver Broncos (3-0; No. 11)

12. Arizona Cardinals (3-0; No. 12)

13. San Francisco 49ers (2-1; No. 10)

14. Carolina Panthers (3-0; No. 18)

Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater celebrates after a win against the New York Jets Sunday in Denver.
Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater celebrates after a win against the New York Jets Sunday in Denver. (Jack Dempsey/AP)

The three teams the Broncos have beaten — the Giants, Jaguars and Jets — have yet to win a game. Veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has provided stability and Vic Fangio’s defense is feasting on inexperienced passers, but Denver hasn’t been tested. That will change this Sunday with a visit from the Ravens.

Kyler Murray continues to put the Cardinals on his shoulders, pushing Arizona over 30 points for the third straight week. We’ll see just how good the Cardinals can be over the next three weeks against the Rams, 49ers and Browns, but the early returns are promising for a team that needs to pile up wins in what’s sure to be a heated NFC West race.

One of those NFC West contenders, the 49ers, is at an interesting crossroads. Jimmy Garoppolo has been good enough to keep San Francisco competitive, but the Niners might not reach their ceiling until rookie quarterback Trey Lance takes the field. Coach Kyle Shanahan might not be ready to make such a big move, but if the Rams and Cardinals continue to extend their lead in the division, he might not have a choice.

The Panthers are perhaps the most surprising team in the league. Nobody expected Carolina to start 3-0 behind quarterback Sam Darnold, but a dominant defense and an abundance of playmakers have lifted the Panthers to the top of the NFC South. The hamstring injury to running back Christian McCaffrey hurts, but a soft schedule should keep Carolina the mix for quite some time.

Relevant to the end

15. Dallas Cowboys (2-1; No. 15)

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16. Seattle Seahawks (1-2; No. 8)

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17. Tennessee Titans (2-1, No. 20)

18. Minnesota Vikings (1-2; No. 21)

19. New England Patriots (1-2; No. 16)

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) walks off the field past head coach Bill Belichick late in the second half against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) walks off the field past head coach Bill Belichick late in the second half against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Mary Schwalm/AP)

Since taking a 24-9 halftime lead against the Titans in Week 2, the Seahawks have been outscored 54-23. Coach Pete Carroll is facing renewed scrutiny after two straight disappointing losses, with the offense struggling behind quarterback Russell Wilson and the defense blaming the coaching staff for the 30-17 loss to Minnesota. A two-week stretch against the 49ers and Rams will be crucial toward determining the trajectory of Seattle’s season.

Meanwhile, the Vikings showed their 0-2 start wasn’t indicative of their overall talent, with quarterback Kirk Cousins and an improved defense generating some hope for a midseason turnaround.

And just like the Bills and Packers, the Titans are showing why you can’t take Week 1 results too seriously. After a 25-point loss to the Cardinals, Tennessee has rebounded with wins over the Seahawks and Colts, the latter pushing its division rival into an 0-3 hole. If quarterback Ryan Tannehill can find some of his recent magic and running back Derrick Henry stays healthy, the Titans should win a weak AFC South rather easily.

All eyes will be on the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick this weekend when Brady makes his triumphant return to New England as the defending Super Bowl champion. New England made too many upgrades this offseason to let a disappointing start derail its season, but they’ll need better play from Jones and the offensive line to stay in the playoff race.

Clock is ticking

20. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1; No. 26)

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2; No. 17)

22. Washington Football Team (1-2; No. 19)

23. Miami Dolphins (1-2; No. 22)

24. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2; No. 23)

25. Indianapolis Colts (0-3; No. 24)

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is sacked by Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard (94) during the second half Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is sacked by Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard (94) during the second half Sunday in Pittsburgh. (Don Wright/AP)

Maybe the Bengals made the right pick after all? Ja’Marr Chase’s preseason drops and the offensive line’s continued struggles to protect quarterback Joe Burrow renewed discussions about Cincinnati passing on a highly rated offensive lineman in the draft, but all Chase has done through three weeks is catch four touchdown passes. There’s clearly some chemistry between the No. 5 overall pick and his former college quarterback, who led LSU to the 2019 national title. That should give Bengals fans hope for the future.

They clearly have more hope than Pittsburgh, which is being sunk by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The 39-year-old is clearly past his prime, and the Steelers offense is suffering because of it. Roethlisberger’s swing pass to running back Najee Harris behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-10, down 14 points, says everything about the state of this offense right now.

Thankfully for the Dolphins and Colts, one team is guaranteed a win this week. They’ll face each other in Miami, with the Dolphins relying on Brissett to pilot the offense in quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s absence. Indianapolis might take the former Colt Brissett over their current starter, Carson Wentz, who has struggled to find any rhythm while dealing with a pair of sprained ankles.

Washington and Philadelphia have hope simply because of the mediocrity of the NFC East, but Dallas looks to be well on its way to the division title. Taylor Heinicke has been up-and-down at quarterback, but it’s Washington’s defense — and its inability to get off the field on third down — that has been the most disappointing development thus far.

Still some fight left

26. Atlanta Falcons (1-2; No. 29)

27. Detroit Lions (0-3; No. 30)

28. Chicago Bears (1-2; No. 25)

29. New York Giants (0-3; No. 27)

Lions running back D'Andre Swift (32) tries to jump over the tackle of Ravens cornerback Brandon Stephens (21) in the second half Sunday in Detroit.
Lions running back D'Andre Swift (32) tries to jump over the tackle of Ravens cornerback Brandon Stephens (21) in the second half Sunday in Detroit. (Tony Ding/AP)

Coach Dan Campbell and Lions fans aren’t interested in moral victories, but they were oh-so-close to beating an AFC contender in the Ravens after trailing 10-0 at halftime. Jared Goff might not be the long-term answer at quarterback, but Campbell is clearly building a tough team.

That’s more than can be said for Bears coach Matt Nagy, who didn’t seem to adapt his offensive scheme to his rookie quarterback strengths in Sunday’s brutal loss to the Browns. The clock is ticking for Nagy to decide if Fields should be the full-time starter over veteran Andy Dalton. His reluctance to play the No. 11 overall pick and build an offense around him might be his undoing.

The basement

30. Houston Texans (1-2; No. 28)

31. New York Jets (0-3; No. 31)

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3; No. 32)

Jets coach Robert Saleh clearly has his hands full. The franchise can ill-afford another swing-and-miss at quarterback, and Zach Wilson is trending in the wrong direction. It’s too soon to write off the No. 2 overall pick, but his league-high seven interceptions are worrisome, to say the least.

The quarterback taken one spot ahead of Wilson has endured his own struggles, with Trevor Lawrence also throwing seven picks in his first three games as the Jaguars starter. For a team that had hopes of being a fringe playoff contender in coach Urban Meyer’s first season thanks to its spot in a bad division, being ranked at the bottom of the league is a major disappointment.

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