NFL energy rankings, Week 3: Dolphins stake their declare as true AFC contenders after rallying previous Ravens

Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL groups. The rankings will have in mind not simply weekly efficiency, accidents and roster depth, however how nicely every group measures up as Super Bowl contenders.

Here are the rankings heading into Week 3:

Super Bowl favorites

1. Buffalo Bills (2-0, No. 1 final week)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0, No. 2)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0, No. 3)

The Bills aren’t shedding their prime spot this week. Buffalo throttled the Titans, 41-7, on Monday evening behind 4 landing passes from Josh Allen — together with three to Stefon Diggs — and one other dominant efficiency from the protection. The 2019 Ravens completed with the best level differential in NFL historical past (+249), however Buffalo is on tempo to interrupt that report.

For all of the discuss how a lot the AFC West improved this offseason, it’s nonetheless the Chiefs’ division to lose. Kansas City made an early assertion with a 27-24 win over the Chargers on Thursday evening by getting manufacturing from an unheralded group of gamers. Rookie seventh-round draft decide Jaylen Watson returned an interception 99 yards for a landing, whereas veteran operating again Jerick McKinnon and fourth-round huge receiver Justin Watson caught landing passes from Patrick Mahomes. This Chiefs group appears to be like deep and able to compete for the highest seed within the AFC.

In the NFC, the Bucs nonetheless appear like the category of the convention regardless of lacking some key gamers. Even with receivers Chris Godwin and Julio Jones and prime left tackles Donovan Smith and Josh Wells sidelined by accidents, Tampa Bay made sufficient performs down the stretch to safe a 20-10 win over the Saints. While quarterback Tom Brady struggled for a lot of the recreation till hitting former Ravens first-round decide Breshad Perriman for a go-ahead 28-yard landing within the fourth quarter, the Bucs pressured 5 turnovers, together with a 68-yard pick-six by Mike Edwards to ice the sport. Brady doesn’t must be excellent to maintain profitable behind this dominant protection.

The prime contenders

4. Miami Dolphins (2-0, No. 8)

5. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0, No. 7)

6. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1, No. 4)

7. Green Bay Packers (1-1, No. 10)

8. Los Angeles Rams (1-1, No. 9)

9. Baltimore Ravens (1-1, No. 5)

It’s time to think about the Dolphins a real AFC contender. In an improbable 42-38 comeback win against the Ravens, Tua Tagovailoa threw for 469 yards and a franchise-record tying six touchdowns, utterly altering the notion of what’s potential for the third-year quarterback below new coach Mike McDaniel. Miami may need the league’s greatest receiving duo in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, who turned the primary pair of teammates in NFL historical past to report at the very least 10 receptions, 150 receiving yards and two landing catches in the identical recreation. It stays to be seen whether or not Tagovailoa and his receivers can sustain this stage of manufacturing, however there’s little question the Dolphins are a drive to be reckoned with.

While Miami has a transparent blueprint for fulfillment, the group it erased a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat has loads of inquiries to reply about its personal identification. Through three quarters, the Ravens appeared unstoppable as Lamar Jackson tore via a Dolphins protection that gave him suits with its Cover 0 blitzes final season. Jackson turned the primary participant in NFL historical past to report a landing go and run of at the very least 75 yards in the identical recreation and almost completed with an ideal passer score, however even that MVP-level performance wasn’t enough to bail out the Ravens’ atrocious protection. The blown coverages within the secondary increase uncomfortable questions for brand new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who might want to shore up his gamers’ communication earlier than Baltimore may even take into consideration competing with the Chiefs and Bills for the AFC title.

The wild playing cards

10. San Francisco 49ers (1-1, No. 18)

11. Minnesota Vikings (1-1, No. 6)

12. New Orleans Saints (1-1, No. 12)

13. Denver Broncos (1-1, No. 13)

14. Arizona Cardinals (1-1, No. 19)

The 49ers’ determination to maintain Jimmy Garoppolo appears to be like fairly good now, doesn’t it? After second-year quarterback Trey Lance suffered a season-ending ankle damage, the veteran stepped in to guide San Francisco to a 27-7 win over the Seahawks, finishing 13 of 21 passes for 154 yards and a landing and sneaking in for a rating. In six seasons below coach Kyle Shanahan, Garoppolo is 31-14 because the starter, whereas all different 49ers quarterbacks are 9-29 in that span. This group is constructed to win now, and whereas Garoppolo was benched in favor of the 2021 No. 3 total decide to begin the season, he’s confirmed he’s ok to guide San Francisco to the Super Bowl. Losing a participant with Lance’s potential is hard to swallow, but it surely would possibly find yourself serving to the 49ers within the quick time period.

Things haven’t gone as deliberate for the group Garoppolo and the 49ers face on Sunday evening, both. Russell Wilson misplaced his return to Seattle partially due to new coach Nathaniel Hackett’s head-scratching determination to aim a 64-yard area purpose as a substitute of letting Wilson — the person Denver traded three gamers and 5 draft picks for and gave $165 million assured — try to convert a fourth-and-5 with 20 seconds left. In Sunday’s sloppy 16-9 win over the Texans, the Broncos struggled a lot getting the snap off in time that the Denver crowd began counting down the play clock. It’s solely been two video games, however Hackett already appears to be like overwhelmed, and his offense isn’t delivering on its promise. To make issues worse, cornerback Patrick Surtain and receiver Jerry Jeudy are coping with accidents. Denver must get its act collectively, and rapidly.

The Cardinals lastly appear to have their act collectively, but it surely took seven quarters to get there. Trailing 23-7 getting into the fourth quarter Sunday, Arizona scored 16 straight factors — together with two wild 2-point conversions by quarterback Kyler Murray — to drive time beyond regulation, the place cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. returned a fumble by Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow 59 yards for the game-winning landing. The win doesn’t let coach Kliff Kingsbury and a disappointing protection off the hook, but it surely at the very least supplies some hope that Murray can put the group on his again. We received’t get a good evaluation of the Cardinals till receiver DeAndre Hopkins returns from his six-game suspension, but it surely’s clear Murray wants extra assist.

Talented sufficient to compete

15. Detroit Lions (1-1, No. 25)

16. Cleveland Browns (1-1, No. 17)

17. Dallas Cowboys (1-1, No. 28)

18. New England Patriots (1-1, No. 27)

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1, No. 16)

20. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2, No. 11)

21. Las Vegas Raiders (0-2, No. 15)

A 36-27 victory over the Commanders is proof of idea for Lions coach Dan Campbell that his group is able to take the subsequent step. Amon-Ra St. Brown has established himself as one of many league’s greatest receivers, recording 9 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns Sunday to turn into simply the eighth participant in league historical past with at the very least eight receptions in eight consecutive video games. No. 2 total decide Aidan Hutchinson had three sacks, all within the first half, and Jared Goff threw 4 landing passes. This could possibly be the beginning of a particular season for Detroit.

Two groups that appeared hopeless in Week 1 proved that season openers can typically be deceptive. After shedding quarterback Dak Prescott to a thumb damage, the Cowboys circled and beat the defending AFC champion Bengals, 20-17, on a last-second 50-yard area purpose. Cooper Rush led a game-winning drive within the second begin of his profession and linebacker Micah Parsons continued to construct his case as one of the best defensive participant within the league, giving Dallas hope that it may survive Prescott’s absence and nonetheless compete for a playoff spot.

The Patriots’ 17-14 win over the Steelers received’t strike worry in the remainder of the AFC, but it surely does present that New England is sturdy sufficient to stay within the thick of the playoff race. Quarterback Mac Jones nonetheless appears to be like shaky, throwing an interception into double protection within the first quarter and almost tossing one other within the third, however the protection restricted Pittsburgh to 4.2 yards per play and the offense ran the ball nicely on a 13-play drive to shut the sport. It’s removed from coach Bill Belichick’s greatest group, but it surely has the potential to get again to the postseason.

Showing indicators of life

22. New York Giants (2-0, No. 24)

23. Washington Commanders (1-1, No. 22)

24. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1, No. 31)

25. New York Jets (1-1, No. 32)

The Giants’ greatest begin since 2016 is definitely thrilling, however this group goes to wish to vastly outperform its potential to make the playoffs. (Remember, the Panthers began 3-0 final season earlier than ending 5-12.) What’s encouraging is the play of the protection led by former Ravens coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. Even with out prime edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari, Martindale has generated sufficient stress to rattle opposing quarterbacks, with Baker Mayfield the most recent sufferer in Sunday’s 19-16 victory. Quarterback Daniel Jones isn’t exhibiting any indicators of a Josh Allen-type leap, however he’s prevented making massive errors. The Giants are going to wish extra from their receivers to have any hope of maintaining this profitable streak going.

The post-Urban Meyer bump is actual for the Jaguars, who beat the Colts at dwelling for the eighth straight time, 24-0. The addition of receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones has clearly helped second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who appears to be like way more comfy below the route of coach Doug Pederson. A younger protection additionally appears to be like a lot improved, recording 5 sacks and three interceptions Sunday. The Jags have pressured six turnovers via two video games after creating 9 all of final season.

We’d be remiss to not speak concerning the Jets’ beautiful 31-30 win over the Browns, which ended up being solely the third-most spectacular comeback of the weekend. Former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw two landing passes within the ultimate two minutes, giving the Jets a much-needed shot within the arm after a dreary home-opening loss in opposition to Baltimore. It’s not honest to evaluate second-year coach Robert Saleh till quarterback Zach Wilson returns, however at the very least his group isn’t giving up.

Searching for a spark

26. Seattle Seahawks (1-1, No. 21)

27. Tennessee Titans (0-2, No. 20)

28. Chicago Bears (1-1, No. 23)

29. Atlanta Falcons (0-2, No. 29)

30. Indianapolis Colts (0-1-1, No. 14)

31. Carolina Panthers (0-2, No. 30)

32. Houston Texans (0-1-1, No. 26)

The Falcons’ 0-2 begin isn’t stunning, however their play on the sphere is. After blowing a 16-point fourth-quarter lead in opposition to the Saints in Week 1, Atlanta almost pulled off an inconceivable comeback of its personal in opposition to the Rams. Trailing 28-3 within the third quarter, the Falcons bought two landing passes from Marcus Mariota and a 26-yard landing return on a blocked punt to chop the deficit to 31-25 with lower than 5 minutes left. They couldn’t make sufficient performs down the stretch to knock off the defending Super Bowl champs, however the battle alone is encouraging for a group that has some promising younger gamers. They’re removed from the worst group within the league.


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