Week 4 NFL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, plus incorrect (to date) preseason predictions

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The NFL Power Rankings are about identifying where each team is at on a week-to-week basis. But in doing that, there is often a collison between where an NFL team is now and preconceived notions we had about them in the past. That's what we're exploring this week, as each NFL Nation writer will identify a preseason prediction they had about a team they cover which has not played out yet. From underachieving and overachieving players to stats that don't quite line up, we're our own worst critics.

How we rank in our Power Rankings: Our power panel -- a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities -- evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings:3 | 2 |Preseason

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NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF


1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)

Week 3 ranking: 1

What we got wrong: The defense would pick up where it left off last season

The Chiefs entered Monday night's game 28th in yards allowed but sixth in scoring defense, so the results have been mixed. But through two games, the Chiefs haven't been as solid defensively as they were down the stretch last season. They could still get there but if that happens, it will have taken more time than initially thought. -- Adam Teicher

2. Baltimore Ravens (2-0)

Week 3 ranking: 2

What we got wrong: Marquise Brown would have a breakout season

"Hollywood" hasn't exactly struggled, leading the Ravens with 143 yards receiving through two games. But he hasn't exploded like expected after fully recovering from foot sugery. Take away a 47-yard grab and Brown is averaging a pedestrian 10.6 yards per reception. He has to make more strides before establishing himself as a viable No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. -- Jamison Hensley

3. Seattle Seahawks (3-0)

Week 3 ranking: 3

What we got wrong: That the secondary would return to elite status after acquiring Jamal Adams and Quinton Dunbar

The Seahawks are 3-0 despite allowing 434 passing yards to Atlanta, 397 to New England and 461 to Dallas on Sunday. There have been some mitigating factors. They've faced a lot of passes with opponents trying to come back from large deficits, they haven't gotten enough help from the pass rush and they've been hit with injuries, including one that ended safety Marquise Blair's season and another that kept Dunbar out of the Cowboys game. But there's still too much talent to be getting gashed through the air the way they have been. -- Brady Henderson

4. Green Bay Packers (3-0)

Week 3 ranking: 4

What we got wrong: The Packers made a mistake by not drafting a receiver

Allen Lazard isn't Jarrett Boykin. Remember Boykin? He was the receiver who in 2013 came out of nowhere midseason and was their third-leading receiver. The Packers brought him back hoping for a repeat in 2014 but he flamed out. Lazard didn't even make the initial 53-man roster in 2019 but was their No. 2 receiver by season's end. He has backed that up with his start to this season, highlighted by Sunday night's six-catch, 149-yard performance against the Saints -- a game that No. 1 recevier Davante Adams missed because of a hamstring injury. -- Rob Demovsky

5. Buffalo Bills (3-0)

Week 3 ranking: 6

What we got wrong: Buffalo's defense would lead the way again while its offense would be somewhere between good and competent

Sound the buzzer, this take is dead wrong. Through three weeks, the Bills sport the fourth-best offense in the NFL and the second-best passing attack. Josh Allen has looked like an MVP candidate in his first three games, willing the Bills to victory with fourth-quarter comebacks in each of his past two. Conversely, Buffalo's defense currently ranks 20th in yards allowed per game and 16th in points per game. It's been a weird year in Orchard Park. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

6. Tennessee Titans (3-0)

Week 3 ranking: 8

What we got wrong: The Titans would have a top-tier defense

The Titans gave up 480 yards of offense to the Jaguars in Week 2. A struggling Vikings offense dropped 464 yards on them this past Sunday. Opponents have scored 30 points on Tennessee in each of the last two games. There's plenty to correct, starting with a run defense that has been steamrolled the last two weeks. Jacksonville gained 165 yards on the ground, while Minnesota ran for 226. The Titans are fortunate to have a 3-0 record given their defensive shortcomings. -- Turron Davenport

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0)

Week 3 ranking: 11

What we got wrong: The Steelers receivers would flourish with Ben Roethlisberger back at quarterback

So, they're not quite flourishing, but they're not playing horribly, either. Through three games, JuJu Smith-Schuster has already matched his 2019 touchdown production with three scores but is averaging 9.4 yards per catch -- down from 13.1 a year ago. And even though Roethlisberger has made establishing a connection with Diontae Johnson a priority, he is underperforming despite a huge number of targets. The slower start is not enitrely unexpected, though. Roethlisberger is still working on his own rhythm. A week ago, he praised his receivers for being in the right places and running the right routes, blaming himself for not getting the ball to them. -- Brooke Pryor

8. Los Angeles Rams (2-1)

Week 3 ranking: 7

What we got wrong: The run game would suffer without Todd Gurley II

There was plenty of uncertainty how the Rams offense, more specifically the backfield, would perform without Gurley, who was the focal point of the unit over the previous five seasons. The Rams turned to a committee approach with running backs Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson Jr. and Malcolm Brown and through three weeks, it should be considered a resounding success. In three games, the Rams rank second with 511 total rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. -- Lindsey Thiry

9. New England Patriots (2-1)

Week 3 ranking: 10

What we got wrong: Rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene would boost the team's sagging production at tight end

After ranking last in TE pass-catching production in 2019, the Patriots traded up in the third round to select both Asiasi and Keene. But Asiasi has been used sparingly behind third-year pro Ryan Izzo, while Keene has been a game-day inactive each week. -- Mike Reiss

10. New Orleans Saints (1-2)

Week 3 ranking: 5

What we got wrong: Emmanuel Sanders would be an instant success in the Saints' offense

Honestly, I could have picked about 15 different statements here after a disappointing 1-2 start -- including one that focused on Drew Brees' lack of downfield throws. But Sanders stands out because I was so convinced that he would be a perfect go-to guy for Brees on short and intermediate routes -- especially after Michael Thomas was sidelined by an ankle injury in Week 1. Instead, Sanders had just four catches for 33 yards and a TD over the first two-plus games before he and Brees finally started to develop a rhythm Sunday night with a 10-yard TD catch just before halftime and three catches for 46 yards in the second half. -- Mike Triplett

11. San Francisco 49ers (2-1)

Week 3 ranking: 9

What we got wrong: Nick Bosa would make the leap to 16 sacks and finish in the top five of Defensive Player of the Year voting

Unfortunately for Bosa and the Niners, his breakthrough season never had the chance to take off, as he suffered a torn left ACL early in the second game of the season. Bosa was very good in the first week, and there's no reason to think he wasn't going to have a huge year before his injury. Alas, Bosa's injury means his season is over and his first double-digit sack season will have to wait at least another year as the Niners look for new ways to generate pressure on the quarterback. -- Nick Wagoner

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)

Week 3 ranking: 15

What we got wrong: Tom Brady couldn't run Bruce Arians' offense and was too rigid to make adjustments

Both couldn't be farther from the truth. The Bucs' offense already has 10 touchdowns through three games -- tied for sixth-most in the league and four more than they had at this point last year. Brady's yards per attempt aren't substantially lower (he's averaging 6.91 yards per attempt versusJameis Winston's 7.98 yards last year), their completion percentage has gone up from 60.2% to 65.1% and their red zone touchdown percentage has gone from 27.3% in the first three games of 2019 to 80% in 2020. Brady's also completing 50% of his passes of 20-plus air yards versus Winston's 45%. -- Jenna Laine

13. Arizona Cardinals (2-1)

Week 3 ranking: 12

What we got wrong: Kyler Murray will win the MVP

Sure, it can still happen, but it's unlikely at this point, especially after Sunday's three interception-performance -- which contributed to a loss -- and Murray's 4-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. But a main reason why Murray is unlikely to win MVP, unless the Cardinals go on an absolute tear spearheaded by him, is because the likes of Seattle's Russell Wilson and Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes are having better seasons. -- Josh Weinfuss

14. Chicago Bears (3-0)

Week 3 ranking: 17

What we got wrong: The Bears would be somewhat patient with Mitchell Trubisky

Many assumed -- incorrectly -- that Bears coach Matt Nagy would provide Trubisky with a longer than expected leash after Trubisky outplayed veteran Nick Foles in training camp. Nope. Nagy benched Trubisky after just 10-plus inconsistent quarters. The job now belongs to Foles, who tossed three touchdown passes and led Chicago to a comeback victory over Atlanta in relief of Trubisky last Sunday. Trubisky might play again this season if Foles is injured or struggles, but the 26-year old quarterback's future in Chicago beyond 2020 is incredibly bleak. -- Jeff Dickerson

15. Las Vegas Raiders (2-1)

Week 3 ranking: 13

What we got wrong: That Lynn Bowden Jr. would be a do-everything Swiss Army Knife for the Raiders on offense

Not only were we wrong in that prediction for college's most versatile player last year, the third-round draft pick is not even on the Raiders' roster. Rather, the Raiders surprisingly traded Bowden to the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 5, with general manager Mike Mayock saying it was a "football decision only." The Raiders tried to convert him into a running back but he is a receiver with the Dolphins, having caught one pass for a 1-yard loss. -- Paul Gutierrez

16. Indianapolis Colts (2-1)

Week 3 ranking: 16

What we got wrong: Philip Rivers would take the lead role in the Colts' offense

Rivers has shown an ability to be effective without having to fling the ball 40-plus times a game. Rivers might have set off some warning signs about his ability at age 38 when he attempted 46 passes and threw two interceptions in the Colts' Week 1 loss at Jacksonville. Rivers has averaged only 23 attempts a game over the past two games. Instead, the Colts have leaned on their running game and defense to carry things to lighten Rivers' workload and help cut down his mistakes. That's an approach the Colts will likely continue going forward. -- Mike Wells

17. Dallas Cowboys (1-2)

Week 3 ranking: 14

What we got wrong: The defense would be better

The defense is a mess. The Cowboys aren't the only team that has a new defense without the benefit of an offseason program, full training camp and preseason. That said, the Cowboys have allowed 97 points in three games, the most to open a season in franchise history. They have allowed 77 points the last two games. There have been injuries (Gerald McCoy, Leighton Vander Esch, Chidobe Awuzie, Sean Lee, Anthony Brown) but they are allowing far too many big plays. They have faced good (Jared Goff) to very good (Matt Ryan) to excellent (Russell Wilson) quarterbacks in the first three weeks. But it just can't be this bad. -- Todd Archer

18. Cleveland Browns (2-1)

Week 3 ranking: 23

What we got wrong: The offense would struggle out of the gate

To be sure, the Browns struggled in a 32-point loss at Baltimore in the opener. But despite having to overcome a virtual offseason, shortened training camp and a new offensive scheme, the Browns bounced back to score 30 or more points in consecutive games for the first time since 2010. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that drought without consecutive 30-point games was the longest active one in the NFL. Powered by its running game, Cleveland surprisingly has already uncovered a clear offensive identity. And as the players continue to settle into coach Kevin Stefanski's offensive system, the Browns figure only to improve from here. -- Jake Trotter

19. Los Angeles Chargers (1-2)

Week 3 ranking: 18

What we got wrong: That the Chargers would cause more turnovers this season

The Chargers are struggling with turnovers -- both in causing and not committing them -- again. Last year, they had 14 takeaways (worst in the league) and 31 giveaways (fourth worst in the league) to result in an NFL-worst minus-17 turnover differential. After forcing two turnovers in a season-opening victory, the Chargers haven't had a takeaway in the last two games. They've committed five turnovers, including four to Carolina this past Sunday. -- Shelley Smith

20. Houston Texans (0-3)

Week 3 ranking: 20

What we got wrong: Deshaun Watson would be sacked the fewest amount of times of his career

For the first time under head coach Bill O'Brien, the Texans brought all five starting offensive linemen back. Between that consistency and left tackle Laremy Tunsil having a full season in Houston under his belt, the Texans anticipated they would finally be able to protect their franchise quarterback. That has not been the case through three games. Watson has been sacked 13 times, the second-most in the NFL. -- Sarah Barshop

21. Minnesota Vikings (0-3)

Week 3 ranking: 19

What we got wrong: The interior of Minnesota's OL would improve in 2020

While the Vikings did move Pat Elflein to right guard and had a competition between two former backups for the starting job at left guard, many anticipated the continuity of this group (i.e. settling on a starting five early in camp) would yield a better result than we've seen so far. Kirk Cousins experienced the third-highest pressure rate of his career (47%) against Tennessee while Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia are among the worst ranked guards (per PFF) in the NFL. This unit hasn't gotten better because its personnel has not gotten better. -- Courtney Cronin

22. Philadelphia Eagles (0-2-1)

Week 3 ranking: 21

What we got wrong: That Carson Wentz's success down the stretch last season would be a launching point in his career

We're still awaiting liftoff. Wentz has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL statistically through three games. He is tied for the most interceptions (6), is dead last in QB rating (63.9) and is 29th in completion percentage (59.8) for the 0-2-1 Eagles. Experts see issues in his mechanics and there's plenty of evidence that Wentz is pressing, leading to some bad decision-making. Coach Doug Pederson intends to simplify the game plan in order to "unclutter" Wentz's mind moving forward. Perhaps that helps, but so far it's been ugly. -- Tim McManus

23. Detroit Lions (1-2)

Week 3 ranking: 27

What we got wrong: That the Lions would be a breakout team

Yes, there's still time for this to happen and for the first time in 11 months, Detroit is coming off a win instead of a loss. But the Lions' defense is still largely inconsistent and the offense, loaded with potential, too often settles for field goals and has drives stalled with poorly-timed penalties. The Lions have something to build on after a come-from-behind win against Arizona -- only the second in Matt Patricia's tenure -- but this team is still making too many mistakes at this point to be a true playoff contender. -- Michael Rothstein

24. Miami Dolphins (1-2)

Week 3 ranking: 28

What we got wrong: The Dolphins' offense would be more balanced

Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said in mid-August that he wants the Dolphins to "be able to run the football and throw the football effectively. That's really big in the way I see offensive football." But the Dolphins (1-2) have thrown the ball for roughly twice as many yards as they have run it (649 to 324). Miami, which faces an unbeaten Seahawks team in Week 4, is still in search of the right mix as it tries to get more production out of running back Myles Gaskin and improved play from tight end Mike Gesicki and receiver Preston Williams. -- ESPN Staff

25. Washington Football Team (1-2)

Week 3 ranking: 25

What we got wrong: The running backs would play a big role in the pass game

Through three games, running backs Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic have combined for 10 catches for 54 yards; the catch total is OK but the damage done hasn't been as expected, especially with their background as receivers. Some of that lack of production is circumstantial -- against Arizona, they needed to help more in protection. Other times they haven't taken advantage of matchups vs. linebackers, or quarterback Dwayne Haskins hasn't looked their way enough. Or they're asked to run a lot of swing passes that haven't resulted in much. They do have 17 combined targets, which is good, but the effectiveness needs to improve. -- John Keim

26. Atlanta Falcons (0-3)

Week 3 ranking: 22

What we got wrong: That the Falcons would be a playoff contender

Well, the Falcons are 0-3, have blown 15-plus-point leads in consecutive losses to the Cowboys and Bears, have to face Aaron Rodgers next in Green Bay, and still have to see Tom Brady and Drew Brees twice. Enough said. -- Vaughn McClure

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)

Week 3 ranking: 26

What we got wrong: The Jaguars would struggle to stop the run

After losing NT Al Woods (opt out) and DE/DT Rodney Gunter (heart condition) it looked like the Jaguars were going to be worse than they were last season, when they gave up 139 yards per game. Through three weeks, however, there has been marked improvement. They're allowing 116 yards per game (15th in the NFL) and opponents are averaging 3.8 yards per carry (eighth-best). Part of that might be due to opponents' success through the air (opposing QBs are completing a league-high 80% of their passes) but NT Abry Jones and LB Myles Jack have raised their level of play against the run. -- Mike DiRocco

28. Denver Broncos (0-3)

Week 3 ranking: 24

What we got wrong: After churning through one battered quarterback after another over the last three seasons, the Broncos had finally learned their lesson about protecting their quarterbacks

Three games does not a season make, but the Broncos are tied for second in the league in sacks allowed -- with 13 -- and have used three quarterbacks already (Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien), which could easily go to four if Blake Bortles plays. The Broncos invested a $44 million contract in guard Graham Glasgow and selected center Lloyd Cushenberry III in the draft. Left tackle Garett Bolles seemed ready to leave his growing list of penalties behind and second-year guard Dalton Risner was becoming the alpha in the line. Then right tackle Ja'Wuan James opted out with COVID-19 concerns and not much has gone as planned since. -- Jeff Legwold

29. Carolina Panthers (1-2)

Week 3 ranking: 30

What we got wrong: The defense wouldn't be good enough to win early

Don't get me wrong. The defense still has issues, none more than missed tackles and yards allowed after initial contact. But the Panthers are 1-2 after Sunday's 21-16 victory over the Chargers despite not having Pro Bowl DT Kawann Short in the middle for two games due to a foot injury and starting three to four rookies on defense at times. Still, they have been in position to win all three games, which is an accomplishment. As this group grows with experience alongside an offense that's capable in putting points on the board, the Panthers won't be an easy win moving forward. -- David Newton

30. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2-1)

Week 3 ranking: 31

What we got wrong: Joe Mixon was going to pick up where he left off in 2019

At the end of 2019, it seemed as if the Bengals found the best way to use the running back. However, that hasn't been the case through three games this season. Cincinnati has struggled to unleash Mixon, which was the same problem that happened at the beginning of 2019. Mixon is averaging 54.7 rushing yards per game. -- Ben Baby

31. New York Giants (0-3)

Week 3 ranking: 29

What we got wrong: Saquon Barkley would approach 2,500 yards from scrimmage

Give me a little break? Barkley's knee gave out while he was being tackled in Week 2. Instead of getting the ball a ton and playing in an offense that was built around him, he's now out for the season. The Giants are without their best player and their offense is a mess, which makes my prediction that this would finally be tight end Evan Engram's big year another bad miss. -- Jordan Raanan

32. New York Jets (0-3)

Week 3 ranking: 32

What we got wrong: The defense would overachieve

Even without All-Pro safety Jamal Adams, traded before training camp, the expectation was that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams still would be able to scheme up ways to overcome a talent deficiency. It hasn't happened, as the Jets rank 32nd in pass defense. Even good coaches need good players, and the lack of pass rush, coupled with coverage problems, has been too much to overcome. -- Rich Cimini

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