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NFC Power Rankings prior to week 3

  1. Dallas Cowboys +1

Maybe it’s the lack of competition from their opponents in the first few weeks of the season, but Dallas has seemed nearly flawless through eight quarters thus far. One of the driving successes of the offense is their ability to capitalize in the red zone, having scored five touchdowns in six red-zone trips this year. The young linebacker duo of Leighton Vander-Esch and Jaylon Smith have teamed up beautifully with seasoned veteran linebacker Sean Lee to complete arguably one of the best triplets at the position in the history of the league. Come December when everyone starts to pound the ball between the tackles, look for these guys to help keep Dallas in the top five in run defense, so long as Lee can stay healthy.

  1. Los Angeles Rams +1

The Rams were on the right side of yet another questionable call against the New Orleans Saints. Whether or not the refs thought the ball was in a throwing motion or being fumbled, they should have blown their whistles once more and had the play reviewed upstairs. Nonetheless, after All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald injured Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees’ throwing hand, the Rams’ defense clamped down on the Saints’ offense and ran away with the game. For a team looking to repeat as NFC West division champions for a third straight year, it was important for them to pick up the win against the Saints and improve to 2-0 and get a leg up on Seattle and San Francisco come week 17.

  1. Green Bay Packers +4

The Packers starting off the season 2-0 despite Aaron Rodgers not playing to his full self is terrifying for the NFC North. The Packers’ defense has only allowed 19 points combined against the two divisional opponents they’ve faced. The offense has only mustered 31 points, which has some critics concerned about Rodgers’ health, but if memory serves the Packers’ signal-caller typically heats up as the year progresses, especially following an injury ended season. Look for the incorporation of the younger members of the wide receiving core as the season progresses, especially Geronimo Allison.

  1. Seattle Seahawks +4

Quarterback Russell Wilson’s 300 passing yards and three touchdowns were good enough for him to win NFC offensive player of the week as well as pulling out a win over Pittsburgh. Seattle improves to 2-0 which puts them in a three-way tie for their division, alongside Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Seahawks have a good shot at starting 3-0 as they take on a Saints team without Brees that could not seem to get anything going on offense with backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

  1. Chicago Bears –

The Bears’ offense continues to struggle through week two, despite their defense looking excellent, picking up where they left off last year. The Bears were on the right side of a questionable roughing the passer call and were able to find themselves in field goal range with only a second remaining. Rookie kicker Eddy Pineiro was able to deliver the game-winner that reminded Bears’ fans of last year’s kicker, Cody Parkey, and his several choking moments, as Chicago escaped Denver with the win.

  1. Atlanta Falcons +4

This was a big “prove it” game for the Atlanta Falcons, who came out flat in week one against the Vikings. With the Saints losing Brees for multiple weeks, the division becomes Atlanta’s to lose and they knew they could not risk falling to 0-2. Quarterback Matt Ryan was far from perfect, throwing three interceptions in the game, but it was the play of the former Alabama stud receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley that took over the game. The duo combined to shred an injured Eagles’ defense for 211 yards and 3 touchdowns. The play of the game was a fourth-and-three screen pass to Jones, who slipped past multiple Eagles defenders and sprinted to the end zone for the 54-yard go-ahead touchdown. Atlanta’s next challenge is a choppy Indianapolis Colts squad, who are looking to find a rhythm on offense with quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles -3

Philadelphia’s quarterback Carson Wentz was not much of a step up from the Falcons’ Ryan in Sunday night’s game, but losing your top three receivers and dealing with concussion symptoms would throw off any quarterback in the NFL. Wentz rallied his Eagles to come back in the second half, fighting down to the wire. Wentz completed a pass to Zach Ertz who just barely missed converting to a first down at the end of the game, turning the ball back over to Ryan, who drained the clock to zero. It was not the prettiest game for a now banged-up Eagles squad, but it did show that Wentz still has the magic to get his team back into the game no matter how he performs in the first half.

  1. New Orleans Saints -7

Sunday’s game against the Rams was absolutely crushing for Saints fans who just wanted to stick it to the Rams after last year’s controversial NFC Championship. They did not get the win, and to make matters much worse, they lost Brees for multiple weeks. The offense could not get anything going with Bridgewater under center, with the Rams shutting down stud wide receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara. The Saints will have to battle without Brees for at least six weeks, with their next two contests against the Seahawks and the Cowboys.

  1. San Francisco 49ers –

Starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finally found the spark he had prior to tearing his ACL in 2018. Garoppolo dissected a weak Bengals’ defense for 296 yards and three touchdowns while improving the 49ers to 2-0. The 49ers rushing attack paced the offense, with San Francisco’s running backs combining for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, the front seven continued to smother the opposition, pressuring Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton throughout the game. The Bengals ran the ball 19 times and only picking up 25 yards, with often energetic lead back Joe Mixon struggling to gain 17 yards on 11 carries against the 49ers stout run defense. San Francisco will look to improve to 3-0 in their fight for the NFC West when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers with rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph under center.

  1. Minnesota Vikings -4

Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ ongoing struggle to beat a team with a positive record continued Sunday against the Packers and quarterback Rodgers. Cousins completed only 14 of 32 passes. Dalvin Cook continues to be a monster, picking up 154 yards and a touchdown on only 20 carries. Cook leads the NFL in rushing yards after 2 weeks. Maybe it would be better to give him the ball more and depend less on Cousins.

  1. Detroit Lions +2

The Lions remain undefeated after two weeks, with a rather uneventful win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Both teams struggled to get much going on offense but the Lions were able to come out on the right side of this one. Though it is still unclear as to what the identity of this team is, with quarterback Matt Stafford and the offense putting forth pedestrian efforts, the average defense pulls off good plays at crucial moments. Everyone inside the Lions’ locker room is certainly aware of the fact that the league consensus points to them finishing last in the NFC North. Perhaps that disrespect is motivating Matt Praticia’s squad forward, as they face their toughest stretch of the season by hosting Kansas City, taking their bye week, then traveling to Green Bay and followed up by hosting Minnesota. Without some serious improvement, this team will go from undefeated to 2-4 quickly.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3

The Buccaneers’ defense got the best of Panthers’ quarterback, Cam Newton, pressuring him consistently throughout the game, forcing him to complete less than 50% of his passes. Even more impressive, head coach Bruce Arians’ defense limited the Panthers versatile running back Christian McCaffrey, leaving little room between the tackles, holding him to 2.3 yards per carrying and only allowing him to catch two passes for 16 yards. The Buccaneers have a chance to pick up another win this weekend against the Giants before their schedule gets harder, with a road trip to Los Angeles to take on the Rams on the horizon.

  1. Arizona Cardinals +1

Another solid performance for Cardinals’ rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, as he joined Cam Newton as the only two quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for at least 300 yards in their first two career games. Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury elected to not keep his offense on the field three separate times on fourth and goal, including inside the five-yard line. Instead of trusting Murray and his offense to punch the ball in, Kingsbury sent his field goal unit onto the field multiple times which ultimately cost them the victory. However, they were able to hang in there with one of the better teams in the league, the Baltimore Ravens, and that is worth noting.

  1. Carolina Panthers -5

It is comical to see quarterback Cam Newton saying he has to look at himself in the mirror and evaluate when he’s wearing his choice of outfits during post-game press conferences. Newton has missed multiple practices this week which lead to him not playing in week three against Arizona. It is unclear what issue Newton is facing or why he is missing these practices, but it is clear that the 0-2 Panthers are in desperate need of a win to not fall out of the playoff race before October rolls around.

  1. Washington Redskins -3

The Redskins were outplayed by the Cowboys from the kickoff to the end of the game. It was not in blowout fashion, the Redskins played a decent game losing only 31-21 but they just flat out could not compete with a Cowboys team that seems to have everything going for them throughout the two weeks. The question at this point is, how much longer will it be before we see rookie signal-caller Dwayne Haskins under center?

  1. New York Giants –

Is this the end of the road for Eli Manning? After another tough loss, this one coming against the Buffalo Bills, Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur elected to bench Manning in favor of his rookie quarterback, sixth overall pick Daniel Jones. Manning has been very supportive and understanding of the situation, mentoring Jones as much as he can before eventually passing off the torch and riding off into the sunset. Though New Yorks’ playoff hopes look bleak, hopefully, Manning can end his career helping Jones adjust to the professional game. Look forward to next year’s New York fans, and study college footballs’ top prospects. You’ll likely see your team pick between them in the 2020 draft.

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