Even the best of us can be fooled. That’s the theme of this week’s NFL Power Rankings, as we go over the things we expected to be truth in the preseason that have turned out to be anything but during the first three weeks.
Each NFL Nation reporter, who is dialed into their team about as closely as they can be, identifies the one thing on their team that has been completely unexpected. From surprisingly sputtering offenses (sorry, Browns) to unexpectedly opportunistic defenses (San Francisco), we have it all. Of course, many of these things could change in the coming weeks, just like these rankings. It’s a long season. How we rank: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.
Week 3 ranking: 1
What we got wrong: That Jamie Collins Sr. would have to fight for a roster spot.
It sounded good in theory, considering the Patriots had traded Collins in 2016 for the low price of a late third-round draft choice, but it didn’t factor in that Collins was returning to the team with a completely different mindset/approach than he had in his first stint. Collins has arguably been the Patriots’ best defender through three games (18 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions). — Mike Reiss
Chris Berman and Tom Jackson give their takeaways from the Chiefs’ win over the Ravens. To watch NFL Primetime, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/.
Week 3 ranking: 2
The Chiefs traded for Clark and signed Mathieu for that purpose, but it hasn’t happened yet. Clark has one sack — and it was a big one on third down in the fourth quarter on Sunday against the Ravens — but otherwise hasn’t generated much of a pass rush. Mathieu also had his most productive game of the year against Baltimore by breaking up three passes. Otherwise, his presence has been minimal through three games. — Adam Teicher
Week 3 ranking: 3
What we got wrong: That the offense would seamlessly pick up where it left off last season (Before it came to a halt in Super Bowl LIII, of course.)
The offense sputtered in the first half of wins over the Panthers, Saints and Browns and twice this season has failed to score a first-half touchdown. That happened only once in the regular season in 2018. The Rams have not consistently established the run behind an offensive line with two first-year starters, and quarterback Jared Goff has been unable to establish consistent connections with receivers early in games. The Rams rank eighth in the league in scoring, averaging 25.7 points per game, but nevertheless are 3-0. — Lindsey Thiry
Week 3 ranking: 4
What we got wrong: That Dak Prescott would have a contract extension.
I made this prediction back in the winter, when I thought the Cowboys would sign him to a megadeal, and I thought they would get a deal done while they were in Oxnard, California, for training camp. After three games, there’s still no deal, and the likelihood of one coming together goes down each week. While the Cowboys are dangling a contract with at least $100 million guaranteed in front of Prescott, the quarterback is willing to gamble that the price will go up as he plays better and the team wins. The Cowboys are already willing to make him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks right now. You have to wonder if at some point the Cowboys will use the franchise tag on him next season if they don’t get a contract worked out before next March. — Todd Archer
Week 3 ranking: 6
What we got wrong: That Aaron Rodgers would throw more interceptions while adjusting to a new offense.
He hasn’t thrown a single one in 93 pass attempts. While he has only four touchdown passes, he has not made the kind of mistakes that some quarterbacks with a first-year head coach who employs a significantly different offensive system might. Fourteen of the 18 quarterbacks with at least as many passing attempts as Rodgers through Sunday already have at least one pick, and 13 of them have two or more. — Rob Demovsky
Week 3 ranking: 5
What we got wrong: That the Ravens’ secondary would be the best in the NFL.
Baltimore ranks 27th in pass defense, and the Ravens have given up 300 yards passing in back-to-back games. Sure, injuries at cornerback have hurt the defense. Jimmy Smith is sidelined multiple weeks with a knee injury, and Tavon Young is out for the season with a neck injury. But the lack of communication and forced turnovers in the defensive backfield has been jarring. — Jamison Hensley
Week 3 ranking: 9
What we got wrong: That Jared Cook would boost the Saints’ passing attack as a much-needed No. 3 option.
To be fair, Cook is third on the Saints with 12 targets. But he has only five catches for 69 yards with zero TDs and three drops. Perhaps there will be better days to come for the athletic veteran, but it’s going to be hard to expect consistent production — especially since fill-in QB Teddy Bridgewater seems more inclined to home in on Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara than Drew Brees was. — Mike Triplett
Week 3 ranking: 11
What we got wrong: That Stefon Diggs would be the catalyst for an explosive passing attack.
We knew the Vikings would emphasize running the ball this season, but who would’ve thought Diggs would have only six catches for 101 yards and a touchdown through three games? The star wideout has been virtually a nonfactor, which isn’t a knock on him but rather a byproduct of the way things have played out in an offense where receiver usage is down and running back production is way, way up. — Courtney Cronin
Week 3 ranking: 7
What we got wrong: So much for Jaron Brown having an increased role in the Seahawks’ passing game.
That was the impression coaches gave while talking about how he was underutilized last season, as Brown finished fourth among Seattle receivers in catches and offensive snaps. Brown has three catches for 30 yards this season, all coming Sunday after he went without a target in the first two games despite David Moore being sidelined. It was probably telling when the Seahawks released Brown on cut-down day, then brought him back a couple of days later on a new contract that reduced his base salary from $2.75 million to $1 million. — Brady Henderson
Week 3 ranking: 12
What we got wrong: That the Texans didn’t have a player who could replace Jadeveon Clowney‘s production.
I thought Whitney Mercilus would have a better season than he did last year, but did not predict that he would have four sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles through three games. Mercilus is in a contract year, and he’s playing like someone in search of a big deal. — Sarah Barshop
Chris Berman likes the 49ers, and TJ credits the defense for overcoming five turnovers. To watch NFL Primetime, sign up for ESPN+: http://plus.espn.com/.
Week 3 ranking: 13
What we got wrong: That bolstering the outside pass rush wouldn’t be enough to create improvement in the secondary.
The Niners made just one notable addition to the defensive backfield in the offseason — Jason Verrett — and contended that they’d get enough internal improvement from their defensive backs, combined with a ramped-up pass rush, to make a big difference for the defense. Well, the pass rush has mostly been as advertised and has created plenty of chances for the secondary to make big plays, but there also have been significant steps forward by players like cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. Through three weeks, the Niners have five interceptions, more than double the two they had all of last season. They look the part of an emerging, top-10 defense. — Nick Wagoner
Week 3 ranking: 15
What we got wrong: That Tommy Sweeney was the Bills’ best option at tight end.
Not a knock against Sweeney, who was still a steal in the seventh round, but Dawson Knox has flashed Travis Kelce-like ability — and the Bills are using him that way. After missing most of training camp and the preseason with a hamstring injury, Knox has emerged as arguably Josh Allen‘s favorite scramble-drill target. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Week 3 ranking: 20
What we got wrong: That the Lions would run the ball well.
Detroit’s rushing totals have decreased each week, including 86 yards last week against Philadelphia. The 3.1 yards-per-carry average isn’t great, either. The Lions should improve here, but thus far they have surprised me in how ineffective they’ve been on the ground. — Michael Rothstein
Week 3 ranking: 14
What we got wrong: That the Bears would struggle at kicker.
Chicago’s search for a new kicker dominated the offseason headlines. Thus far, Eddy Pineiro has done the job. Pineiro is perfect on field goal attempts through two games, and hit the game winner against Denver in Week 2. Pineiro even won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his heroics versus the Broncos. — Jeff Dickerson
Week 3 ranking: 9
What we got wrong: That the offense would carry the defense early.
With so many key players such as Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett, Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod and Nigel Bradham coming off injuries, I expected the defense to be shaky to start. Good thing Philadelphia has that high-powered offense, right? So much for that. Once DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery went down, the fireworks quickly stopped popping, with the Eagles averaging a pedestrian 22 points per game in their past two outings. — Tim McManus
Week 3 ranking: 10
What we got wrong: That the Chargers would be careful with the football.
Under head coach Anthony Lynn, the Chargers emphasize ball security. However, they have not done a good job of that through three games, coughing up the ball five times — all in the second half. Those miscues have been a primary reason for the Chargers’ second-half struggles. The Bolts have been outscored 47-16 in the second half, leading to a 1-2 start. — Eric D. Williams
Week 3 ranking: 17
What we got wrong: That quarterback Andrew Luck would be the Week 1 starter for the Colts.
So much for that. Luck went from dealing with a calf strain in the spring to a high-ankle injury in training camp to working out in front of everybody before the second preseason game on Aug. 17 to retiring from the NFL at the age of 29 a week later on Aug. 24 after it appeared he was working his way back to be ready for Week 1. Luck cited four years of “pain, rehab cycle” that started with a right shoulder injury in Week 3 of the 2015 season as the reason for his retirement. — Mike Wells
Week 3 ranking: 16
It has been more of a struggle than imagined as Ryan leads the NFL with six interceptions, one fewer than he threw in 16 games last season. And most of the picks have just been bad decisions on his part and have come in scoring situations. Ryan has blamed no one but himself. — Vaughn McClure
Week 3 ranking: 18
What we got wrong: That the Titans would be in good shape on the offensive line.
Through three weeks, Tennessee has allowed 17 sacks. Not all of them are because of the offensive line, but the Titans have had issues, specifically along the interior. Rodger Saffold was signed to bring stability but he and Ben Jones have struggled with stunts and twists, leading to sacks. Not having left tackle Taylor Lewan has also taken a toll on the protection. — Turron Davenport
Week 3 ranking: 19
What we got wrong: That the offense would be a juggernaut.
Despite the star power, the Browns have sputtered through three games. There have been flashes. But the inability to consistently sustain drives is a big reason why Cleveland is 1-2. — Jake Trotter
Rex Ryan admits he bought into the Baker Mayfield hype, but now questions what Mayfield is doing right to help the Browns win football games.
Week 3 ranking: 24
What we got wrong: That the offensive line would be a strength, particularly left tackle.
Daryl Williams gave up three sacks in a Thursday night loss to Tampa Bay and was pulled for a few series on Sunday in favor of rookie Greg Little after giving up pressure on what turned into a Kyle Allen touchdown pass. Little played well, so it will be interesting to see whether Williams will be the starter moving forward after rotating in the second half against Arizona. — David Newton
Week 3 ranking: 26
What we got wrong: That the Jaguars needed to add a veteran backup QB behind Nick Foles as insurance in case Foles got hurt.
Gardner Minshew didn’t exactly tear it up in the preseason and it seemed irresponsible for the Jaguars not to have experience behind Foles because he has never started a full season. Since coming in late in the first quarter of the opener, Minshew has been pretty good (5 TD passes, one INT) even though he has lost two fumbles. He nearly led the Jaguars to a come-from-behind victory over Houston, as the go-ahead two-point conversion was inches short. — Mike DiRocco
Week 3 ranking: 23
What we got wrong: That the Bucs would have the NFL’s leading pass-rusher.
When Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a fractured neck in a car accident this spring, it looked like Todd Bowles’ defense was in major trouble. But Shaquil Barrett, who signed a one-year deal worth $4 million in free agency, has managed to notch 8.0 sacks in three games — tied for the most in NFL history for the first three games of the season. Keep in mind, the Bucs had gone 13 seasons without a player with double-digit sacks prior to Pierre-Paul in 2018. — Jenna Laine
Week 3 ranking: 22
What we got wrong: That Antonio Brown would be the spark to light the Raiders’ offense on fire.
I kid, kinda. The Raiders actually avoided a massive headache by dumping him (at the cost of a third- and a fifth-round draft pick), and yet after an emotional season-opening win on Monday Night Football against the rival Broncos in which the offense was clicking and a quick first quarter against the Chiefs in Week 2, the offense has been flat. Or did you miss that 13-play, 42-yard, 6-minute and 20-second drive in the fourth quarter that, with the Raiders trailing 31-7, ended with Derek Carr losing 15 yards on a sack before Daniel Carlson boinked a 51-yard field goal attempt off the right post? — Paul Gutierrez
Week 3 ranking: 21
What we got wrong: That the Steelers could run the ball effectively.
James Conner behind a seasoned offensive line seemed like a layup for big yardage entering the year, but Pittsburgh is among the league’s worst on the ground with 192 yards on 51 carries (3.76 yards per attempt). Sure, the absence of Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger limits the vertical threats and clogs rushing lanes, but the Steelers can’t seem to figure out what’s happening. Center Maurkice Pouncey simply said, “I don’t know” to that question, and assured he would fix things if he did. The only Steeler with a rush longer than 14 yards is rookie Benny Snell Jr. — Brooke Pryor
Max Kellerman admits he owes an apology to Giants GM Dave Gettleman for criticizing his choice to draft Daniel Jones, saying “this guy is the truth.”
Week 3 ranking: 31
Instead, they pulled the trigger early after two weeks. It was a bold move that didn’t seem likely after they brought Manning back at a $23.2 million cap charge this season. Now the Giants have more than $60M either in dead cap space or on the bench, but they have a rookie quarterback who looks to be the real deal based off the spring, summer and one start. — Jordan Raanan
Week 3 ranking: 25
Fangio is one of the most respected defensive minds in the league and his history with pass-rushers — Rickey Jackson, Kevin Greene and Khalil Mack, just to name three — over the past three decades is well-documented. Yet, here are the Broncos in an 0-3 start with no sacks and no forced turnovers by their defense — believed to be the first team since team sacks started to be kept by the league in 1969 to not have a sack or turnover in the first three games. And as if the football world hasn’t been cruel enough to the Broncos, the linebacker they let depart in free agency with only tepid interest to re-sign — Shaquil Barrett — leads the league with eight sacks in three games. — Jeff Legwold
Week 3 ranking: 28
What we got wrong: That the Cardinals’ defense would be much better than it’s been.
The secondary took a massive blow when cornerback Robert Alford was lost for six to eight weeks with a fractured tibia during training camp, but the run defense has been bad week after week and the pass rush isn’t getting to quarterbacks as often as it needs to. On paper, the defense is star-studded with the likes of Chandler Jones, Budda Baker, Haason Reddick, D.J. Swearinger, Corey Peters and Terrell Suggs. But as a unit, it’s not playing well enough to win games. — Josh Weinfuss
Week 3 ranking: 30
What we got wrong: That their defense was going to be strong.
They entered the Monday night game 30th in yards per game allowed and tied for 30th in points allowed. They were supposed to be the strength, but they’ve put together a nasty combo: no pressure, a lack of creativity with the front seven plus coverage breakdowns. The line was supposed to be a strength, but losing Jonathan Allen for a game and a half hurt those plans. For the Redskins to have any chance this season, the defense needs to at least flirt with the top 10. It’s a couple of counties away from that neighborhood right now. — John Keim
Week 3 ranking: 29
What we got wrong: Given how Joe Mixon ended 2018 as the AFC’s leading rusher, many speculated he would flourish in new coach Zac Taylor’s offensive system.
That hasn’t happened through three games. Mixon didn’t have a carry of 10 or more yards until Week 3. Granted, some of that had to do with Mixon’s ankle injury in Week 1 and a blowout loss in Week 2. But Mixon hasn’t been as productive as people expected. — Ben Baby
Week 3 ranking: 27
What we got wrong: That cornerback Trumaine Johnson would revitalize his career after being reunited with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Actually, it has gone in the other direction. Johnson lost his starting job to Nate Hairston and played only 10 defensive snaps in the past two games, making him the most expensive dime back in the league ($14.5 million per year). Johnson was a productive player under Williams with the Rams, but he appears to be in cruise control after scoring a big contract with the Jets. If Williams can’t turn him around, who can? — Rich Cimini
Week 3 ranking: 32
What we got wrong: That the Dolphins wouldn’t be the worst team in the league.
I thought Miami would manage three or four wins on the season due to some of its young talent making big plays at timely moments. I couldn’t predict Miami would trade key cogs in Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and Minkah Fitzpatrick over the past few weeks along with dumping former starters T.J. McDonald, Kiko Alonso and Akeem Spence. That talent purge took the extreme rebuild to the next level, and with a minus-117 point differential (the worst in the Super Bowl era after three games) it’s clear Miami is the NFL’s worst team. — Cameron Wolfe