Replacement refs have stolen the headlines once again following two controversial games on Sunday and Monday night. There still appears to no end in sight.
There are three unbeaten team left in the NFL, and the Arizona Cardinals are one of them. The Cardinals are 3-0 for the first time since 1974 and have sole possession of first place in the NFC West for the first time since Week 5 of the 2010 season.
Meanwhile the New Orleans Saints are one of two (Cleveland Browns) teams still winless. Even worse, all three opponents, Washington, Carolina and Kansas City, are all 1-2 with the lone win coming at the Saints expense.
Here are the updated The Fan AM 1060 NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted every single Tuesday on thefan1060.com. Bob Kemp will react to these ranking on Wednesday in the SportsZone.
1) Atlanta Falcons (3-0) LW: 2
It took only two weeks for a change at the time of my rankings. Matt Ryan remains lights out, leading the NFL with a ridiculous 72.0 pass completion percentage. But the biggest key to the Falcons hot start has been the defense. Mike Nolan’s unit as given up an average of 16 points per game and lead the league in takeaways with 11.
2) Houston Texans (3-0) LW: 3
You can easily make a case for the Texans to hold top spot in these rankings. In fact, Bob Kemp does every week. Houston’s offense has been sharp, averaging 29.3 points per game. The defense did a fantastic job shutting down Peyton Manning. For three quarters. The Texans were dangerously close to letting a win slip away against Denver.
3) Arizona Cardinals (3-0) LW: 13
I debated whether or not to put the Cardinals ahead of the 49ers, but after Monday night, the win over Seattle looks more impressive while San Francisco beating Green Bay looks less impassive. And that has nothing to do with the replacements. Combined that with Arizona’s emphatic beat down of the Eagles on Sunday, and the Cardinals have to No. 3.
4) San Francisco 49ers (2-1) LW: 1
San Francisco was out Ninered by the Vikings. Minnesota essentially took the 49ers own game plan and used it against them perfectly. San Francisco struggled offensively, turning the ball over three times, while the defense seemed to have no answer for the Christian Ponder-Kyle Rudolph connection. However, this loss will likely be just a blip on the radar for the Niners.
5) Baltimore Ravens (2-1) LW: 4
Joe Flacco and the Ravens got their revenge, albeit with some controversy. Flacco outgunned Tom Brady (again), leading Baltimore to a 31-30 win. The loss of Terrell Suggs was first felt against New England, which is a concern down the road. However, the best part of the night belonged to Torrey Smith, who caught two touchdowns just hours after his brother’s death.
6) New York Giants (2-1) LW: 9
The Giants have bounced back nicely after their season-opening loss to the Cowboys, as to be expected. Andre Brown had a breakout game, rushing for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns. New York got some good news this week too. Ahmad Bradshaw has been cleared to return, giving the G-Men a dual-threat running attack once again.
7) Chicago Bears (2-1) LW: 11
It wasn’t pretty, but the Bears will take it. Chicago’s defense held the Rams to 160 total yards of offense and made life rough on Sam Bradford all afternoon. The Bears will have a great chance to improve to 3-1 next Monday in Dallas.
8) Green Bay Packers (1-2) LW: 5
Sure the Packers are 1-2, but Green Bay stays in my top 10 because of Monday night’s fiasco. There are major concerns about the Packers though. The offensive line is not protecting Aaron Rodgers like in years past, which is throwing off the offense. Still, it’s not the end of the world in Green Bay, yet.
9) Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) LW: 17
Cinny is starting to look like the team that many predicted it would be. The offense score more than 30 points in consecutive wins for the first time in seven years. All that “Andy Dalton has regressed” talk after the Ravens loss looks even more foolish. Looking ahead, the Bengals have a great chance to be 6-1 heading into a big Sunday night matchup against the Steelers on October 21st.
10) Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) LW: 6
Philadelphia was handed a big dose of reality by the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Turnovers continue the plague the offense, the defense cannot slow anybody down and Michael Vick continues to get beaten like a piñata. Not the kind of problems you want to have when the defending Super Bowl champs are rolling into town.
11) New England Patriots (1-2) LW: 7
New England lost consecutive games for the first time since 2003. Stop and think about that for a second. Now, much has been made on the last-second field goal, but the Patriots defense got torched all night. But the Pats should bounce back this week against Buffalo. Tom Brady is 15-1 in his career against the Bills.
12) San Diego Chargers (2-1) LW: 12
San Diego faced a decent defense for the first time and was exposed, badly. Atlanta held the Charges to just three points. The last time that happened to San Diego was against the Dolphins in 2002. Ryan Matthews return, but was mostly ineffective. Its games like this that make you wonder how Norv Turner was able to keep his job.
13) Seattle Seahawks (2-1) LW: 15
Sure, Seattle should have lost on Monday night, no one doubts that. But what got lost in the chaos of the replacement refs was how the Seahawks shutdown Aaron Rodgers and the Packers for most of the night. The offense needs to improve though. Seattle cannot continue to put its defense in bad positions. Green Bay used three drives and 17:31 of the clock to take the lead in the second half. By comparison, the Seahawks ran just six plays in 3:45.
14) Denver Broncos (1-2) LW: 10
The Peyton Manning Era in Denver is off to a shaky start. Last week turnovers doomed the Broncos in Atlanta. On Sunday, the defense spotted Houston a 20-point lead before Manning made things close in the fourth. Denver needs to get the run game going to relieve some pressure off number 18.
15) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) LW: 8
Pittsburgh had it all under control, up 10 points in the fourth quarter. But poor clock management kept the Raiders alive and ultimately cost the Steelers in the end. Ben Roethlisberger pretty much had to do everything for Pittsburgh on Sunday, completing 36 passes for 396 yards, while the vaunted Steeler defense continues to give up points. Pittsburgh must use the bye to correct that.
16) Dallas Cowboys (2-1) LW: 18
The Cowboys are 2-1 despite playing poorly for the second straight week. Tony Romo was awful and DeMarco Murray was rendered useless by Tampa’s defense. The same defense that Eli Manning the Giants lit up the week before. If Dallas struggles this much against the Bucs, imagine what will happen on Monday against the Bears.
17) Minnesota Vikings (2-1) LW: 24
Minnesota shoots up the rankings following an impressive, hard-fought win over the 49ers. Christian Ponder is starting to grow on his own while Adrian Peterson did just enough against San Francisco’s fearsome front seven. The Vikings can prove they are major players in the NFC North with a win over the Lions this weekend.
18) New York Jets (2-1) LW: 20
The Jets avoided disaster in overtime against Miami, but did not leave the game unscathed. Revis Island will be closed for the rest of the year after Darrelle Revis tore his ACL. That’s a major blow for a defense that has underperformed so far this season. That just puts more pressure on the Jets mediocre defense.
19) Buffalo Bills (2-1) LW: 22
Well the wave of momentum from CJ Spiller’s breakout game lasted all but one game. Spiller injured himself in the Bills win over the lowly Browns and the offense looked out of sorts without him on the field. Good news is Fred Jackson should make his return. The bad news? Buffalo has only beaten Tom Brady once in his career.
20) Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) LW: 28
Kansas City finally showed some resolve, rallying to beat the Saints in New Orleans. Jamaal Charles made a statement with his 233 rushing yards and the Chiefs displayed some heart to erase and 18-point deficit on the road. KC has a good chance to reach .500 by beating the Chargers this weekend.
21) Oakland Raiders (1-2) LW: 30
The Raiders seemed destined to an 0-3 start, but Pittsburgh spit away a 10-point lead as Sebastian Jankowski hit a game-winner as time expired. Carson Palmer resembled his old self at times and Darren McFadden, shocking, ran the ball effectively when Oakland got him more involved in the offense. Still, the defense give up too many yards, which will be a probably against Peyton Manning this week.
22) Carolina Panthers (1-2) LW: 14
Just when it looked like the Panthers might a have turned things around, they go and lay an egg against the Giants. Carolina is averaging almost eight fewer points per game this season. That falls squarely on Cam Newton, who looked bad for the second time in three weeks.
23) Washington Redskins (1-2) LW: 16
It’s getting to the point where Robert Griffin III is going to have to do everything for the Redskins. The losses of Brain Orakpo and Adam Carriker were very noticeable on Sunday. Washington will have a tough time slowing teams down for the foreseeable future.
24) Tennessee Titans (1-2) LW: 29
The Titans won a wacky game over the Lions on Sunday, benefiting from some poor calls by the officials and by Detroit’s coaching staff. Tennessee blew two large leads, but did get a decent game from Jake Locker.
25) Detroit Lions (1-2) LW: 19
Is it too early to say the Lions are overrated? Oh, wait. I’ve been saying that all year. Detroit was able to come back and force overtime. But a costly miscue trying to draw the Titans offsides ended the game. The Lions will have to find answer quickly with NFC North rival Minnesota heading to the Motor City.
26) St. Louis Rams (1-2) LW: 23
St. Louis was awful against the Bears on the Sunday. The offensive line couldn’t protect Sam Bradford or establish any sort of running blocking against Chicago’s front seven. The Rams defense kept the score close than it really should have been.
27) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) LW: 31
Jacksonville won their third straight game over the Colts for the first time and franchise history. Maurice Jones-Drew was a big reason why, rushing for 177 yards in the win. Blane Gabbert show tremendous posse, leading the Jags to victory in the closing seconds.
28) Indianapolis Colts (1-2) LW: 25
It appeared Andrew Luck had led the Colts to another game-winning drive. However, Indy’s beleaguered defense gave up an 80-yard touchdown in the final minute to lose the game. You have to wonder when the Colts will open up the playbook for Luck so the defense stops letting him down.
29) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) LW: 26
Greg Schiano is becoming bane in every coach’s side. For the second week, the Bucs tried to break-up a kneel down in the closing seconds. Offensively, Tampa could not take advantage of a few miscues by the Cowboys. Josh Freeman missed several wide open receivers throughout the game and never really gave his team a chance to win.
30) Miami Dolphins (1-2) LW: 27
I thought about leaving the Dolphins at 27, but they had to fall to near the bottom of negating a blocked field goal with a timeout. Ryan Tannehill continues to go through growing pains. He’s in for a long afternoon when the Dolphins travel to Arizona this weekend.
31) New Orleans Saints (0-3) LW: 21
The Saints are 0-3 for the first time since 2007 and all three losses have come against teams who’s only win is against New Orleans. Yikes. The Saints defense is giving up a league-worst 477.3 yard per game and a staggering average of 34 points. Clearly Sean Payton is missed.
32) Cleveland Browns (0-3) LW: 32
What can be said about the Cleveland Browns? The franchise has started 0-3 in four of the past five seasons dating back to 2008. A win does not seemly likely until the Browns face Andrew Luck and the Colts in three weeks.