NFL power rankings: Where I refuse to let officiating nonsense ruin my enjoyment
Of course, if you're a Green Bay Packers fan, that might be a little more difficult for you.
It's my pledge to you that in this week's power rankings, I am not going to talk much about the NFL's officiating situation. It can't be ignored completely, of course, now that it's directly affecting the standings, but I'll try to minimize it. I think you're going to get enough of that at, oh, just about anywhere else you look for football news or information.
The best coping strategy is to focus on what matters: the football. There are still football plays being made, by football players, on football fields, and with the right amount of focus, they can still be enjoyed and over-analyzed in the way to which we've become accustomed. Now let's focus on the business of a fairly arbitrary ranking of all 32 NFL teams.
1. Arizona Cardinals (3-0)
They beat a quality Seahawks team, won in New England, and throttled the previously unbeaten Eagles. No one else has that resume, so I ask you: Why not the Cardinals? Also, I may never get another chance to put the Cardinals at the No. 1 spot in the power rankings, so I'm seizing the moment.
2. Atlanta Falcons (3-0)
Atlanta vs. Houston is pretty much a coin flip, and when in doubt, I'll take the better quarterback. Through three weeks, Matt Ryan is wearing that crown. A 72 percent completion rate and eight touchdowns against just one pick? My goodness, that's filthy.
3. Houston Texans (3-0)
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips got a lot of love last year, but what he's doing this year might be more impressive. They subtract Mario Williams from the lineup, and the Texans are still in the top five in the league against the run and the pass. It helps that they're in a division with three below-average NAIA teams, but still, it's impressive.
4. New York Giants (2-1)
That was a pretty thorough stomping that the Giants put on Carolina Thursday night. They were injured and on the road in a short week, and still, their domination was total. They usually wait until about Week 16 to look that good.
5. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Defensively, they seem more vulnerable than they have at any point in recent history, but offensively, they look better than they ever have. Torrey Smith, emotional storylines aside, has become one of the most exciting players in the game.
6. San Francisco 49ers (2-1)
My best guess at explaining that loss is that the 49ers got overconfident and overlooked a Vikings team that's better than it's perceived to be.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)
In three games, the Eagles have turned the ball over 12 times. No one else has more than nine giveaways.
8. Denver Broncos (1-2)
The Broncos earn the distinction of being the highest-ranked sub-.500 team. To borrow a term from college basketball, they've got quality losses -- by less than a touchdown to both the Falcons and Texans, arguably the two best teams in the league right now.
9. New England Patriots (1-2)
A one-game suspension of Bill Belichick would not be unwarranted. You can't put your hands on an official like that, I don't care how frustrated you are. If Mike McCarthy didn't choke the life out of an official with his bare hands, no one else has an excuse to lay a hand on one.
[Dan Wetzel: Belichick facing problem much bigger than fallout of grabbing ref's arm]
10. Green Bay Packers (1-2)
Tomorrow, I'm going to walk up to M.D. Jennings' car, put my hand on the hood of it, and then see if I can get a court of law to rule that it's legally mine.
11. Seattle Seahawks (2-1)
If you're a Seahawks fan, you've probably noticed the team that's ranked directly ahead of your team here. It's not an accident. You know what happened. Don't argue. Just take your gift and be on your merry way.
12. Chicago Bears (2-1)
It's hard to complain after a 17-point win, but the offense in Chicago still looks a little bit too … Bears-like. They left a lot of points out there and are still very much a defense-first team.
13. San Diego Chargers (2-1)
After beating up on the Raiders and Titans, is this what happens when the Chargers play a good team? They get blown out in a game they were never really in? The game this week in Kansas City will be telling.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)
In a division shared with the Ravens and Bengals, both of whom figure to be involved in the playoff race, a September loss to an inferior Oakland team is the kind of thing a team might really regret later in the season.
15. Buffalo Bills (2-1)
It's difficult to figure out the Bills right now, but each week makes me more confident that they can contend in the AFC East. I wouldn't guess that the Bills feel too afraid of New England coming to town this week.
16. Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
It seems like a lot of people regard the win over Tampa Bay as something the Cowboys should be ashamed of. And no, it wasn't the prettiest thing in the world, but that's not a bad Tampa team, and wins are wins. I don't believe the Cowboys are in a position to be choosy.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)
That's two consecutive 30+ point outings for the Cincy offense, and the upcoming schedule isn't what you'd call brutal: at Jacksonville, home against Miami, then at Cleveland. The Bengals need to make some hay.
18. Minnesota Vikings (2-1)
How good has Christian Ponder been? He's completing 70 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception. Some of the plays he made against the 49ers looked like little miracles. This win against the 49ers, I did not see coming. I'm very curious to see how the Vikings follow it up.
19. New York Jets (2-1)
I think the Jets are going to be fine without defensive linchpin Darrelle Revis, as long as they can continue to rely on their explosive running back, superb quarterback tandem and all-around explosive offense.
20. Miami Dolphins (1-2)
That's a tough one to swallow. Dan Carpenter missed two makeable kicks that would've given the Dolphins a win over the Jets. They could've been 2-1 and riding the momentum of a blowout of Oakland and a win over a hated division rival. Now they're under .500 and feeling like Snowflake was just kidnapped. One wonders how they'll bounce back.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)
Tampa's late-game play-calling and time management were a concern. It's like Greg Schiano was thinking, "Let's just make sure we don't lose this game by more than six." The bigger concern, though, is that Josh Freeman completed just 10 of his 28 passes, and I'm not sure his performance was as good as the statistics indicate.
22. Detroit Lions (1-2)
The Lions are too talented to be 22nd in the rankings, but you get what you earn. Next week, maybe only give up four touchdowns of 60 or more yards.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2)
Winning in the Superdome is an awesome feat, no matter what the Saints record. It was nice to see the defense stabilize a bit in the second half, too.
24. Tennessee Titans (1-2)
The overtime win against Detroit was thrilling, and as football fans, we all owe the Titans a thank you for it. It felt like a fairytale, in that it was heartwarming, entertaining and completely not real. Their defense is still a wreck and they still can't run the ball. Enjoy Houston.
25. Oakland Raiders (1-2)
So what if they needed a few gifts from the Steelers? They've still got to go out there and score, and they proved they could. Now Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden just need to prove they can do it for more than a quarter at a time.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)
Backhanded compliment of the day: Blaine Gabbert is playing about as well as a quarterback just barely completing 50 percent of his passes can play. By some sort of voodoo magic, he is one of just three starting quarterbacks in the NFL yet to throw an interception.
27. Carolina Panthers (1-2)
The Panthers were so thoroughly outclassed by the Giants that this feels like a dangerous time for the whole franchise. They've got to find a way to take advantage of the long week and go into Atlanta and turn in a quality performance, or they're in real trouble of a repeat of last year.
28. St. Louis Rams (1-2)
The Rams have been game so far, which is admirable, but it's difficult to see them accomplishing anything significant with their current offensive personnel. They're fighting, but they're fighting uphill.
29. Washington Redskins (1-2)
The two straight losses are disappointing, and the injuries put them behind the eight ball. But RGIII is still playing well, and really, isn't that what this Redskins season is all about? Let's just protect him a little better from here on out, OK?
30. Indianapolis Colts (1-2)
The Colts are in a similar boat to that of the Redskins. It's not about this year. At least, I hope it isn't, because this year, they lost to the Jaguars, and that's probably a pretty strong indication that they aren't very good.
31. Cleveland Browns (0-3)
Things looked so promising (at least by Cleveland standards) after the Browns opened the season by playing the Eagles tough in Week 1. Two losses later, it feels like just more of the same for the Browns.
32. New Orleans Saints (0-3)
Aside from reputation, why wouldn't the Saints be last here? Their defense has been the league's worst, and their opponents -- the Redskins, Panthers and Chiefs -- are not a group of offensive juggernauts. Five of their next six games are against the Packers, Chargers, Broncos, Eagles and Falcons. Things might not get better as fast as Saints fans would like.
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