NFL Week 3 Power Rankings: Raiders move into top 10, Panthers, Broncos on the rise after perfect starts

Two games does not make a season, but the 2-0 starts by the Las Vegas Raiders, Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos sure has them thinking potential playoffs in mid-September.

How could they not be? 

History says the 2-0 starts translated to making the postseason about 60% of the time when the schedule was 16 games and there were 12 playoff teams. That has to be amended some this season with the first 17-game schedule and 14 playoff teams, but the fast starts by those three teams has them off to a real shot to get there, which has to come as a bit of surprise to many, including myself.

In 2020, eight of the 11 teams that started 2-0 made the postseason. Let’s just say 2-0 is a good thing for postseason aspirations. 

The Broncos have defeated two 0-2 teams, doing so with the exact formula coach Vic Fangio loves, which is to play defense, try and control the ball with the run, and have Teddy Bridgewater get the ball to the right people without making mistakes. It’s worked so far. 

The Raiders might have the early leader in the MVP race in quarterback Derek Carr, while the defense is getting after the quarterback in a big way. In a passers and pass rushers league, that’s a great combination to get to the postseason.

Carolina might be the biggest surprise of all. The Panthers beat the Jets in Week 1, which was to be expected, but they dominated a Saints team this week that was coming off a blowout victory of the Packers.

The Panthers defense, which is full of young, rising players, has been fantastic in two games. The pass rush is good, the linebackers can run and the secondary has young talent who can cover. The Panthers play on Thursday night this week against the Houston Texans, which will be without quarterback Tyrod Taylor. That should give them a chance to show off their defense to the league and to get to 3-0.

Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold has also played well in two games, but this will be his first road start for Carolina. Let’s see how he does on the road before anointing the move to acquire him a true success. So far, he’s off to a good start.

The Raiders are the highest-ranked of the three teams here in my Power Rankings, jumping up to the eighth spot, with Carolina at 11 and Denver at 12. It’s still early, and there are 15 games to go, but those three teams have to be excited about what they’ve seen so far.

Biggest Movers








Tom Brady is on pace for 76 touchdown passes, an outrageous number that he won’t sniff. The Tampa Bay offense is special right now. 2-0-0



It wasn’t pretty against the Eagles, but they got to 2-0. The defense did some good things, but it will be really challenged this week against the Packers. 1 2-0-0



They are 2-0 after beating the Colts on the road, but now face a huge home game with the Bucs. This will be the first major test for Matt Stafford as quarterback of the Rams. 1 2-0-0



They are 2-0, but they looked bad on defense in beating Minnesota. The offense bailed them out in a big way. 1 2-0-0



The defense has to be better than what it showed against the Ravens in the second half. Even Patrick Mahomes can’t rescue them from that all the time. Now they get Justin Herbert this week. 3 1-1-0



They looked like the Bills we expected to see this season in beating up Miami. The passing game still looked a little disjointed at times. That has to be better. 3 1-1-0



Now that’s the Packers offense we expected to see in their blowout victory over Lions. When Aaron Jones is running like he did Monday night, they will be tough to stop. Now see if they can do it against the 49ers. 3 1-1-0



At 2-0, they are one of the surprise teams of the NFL. Derek Carr for MVP? He’s off to a fast start. 8 2-0-0



That was an impressive victory over the Chiefs, a team that had their number in recent years. The offense looked great, but the defense needs to be better. 2 1-1-0



They found a way against the Texans, but it was clunky at times. They were in a close game until Tyrod Taylor went out. Losing Jarvis Landry for a bit will hurt the offense. 2 1-1-0



Matt Rhule has this young team playing good football. The defense has a chance to be special and can really impact a game. 12 2-0-0



They are 2-0 and Teddy Bridgewater has played well in winning two on the road. They now get the Jets at home in a game they should win to get to 3-0. 1 2-0-0



That was a pathetic performance at Carolina. The offense looked lifeless. Maybe the travel and being displaced caught up to them, but now they have a tough trip to New England. 7 1-1-0



The offense is so limited right now in terms of what it can do throwing the football. That has to be fixed, but the defense didn’t play well against Las Vegas either. The coverage was bad. 7 1-1-0



That was a brutal home loss to the Titans as they blew a fourth-quarter lead. The defense just fell apart in the second half. 7 1-1-0



That was a big-time victory on the road against the Chargers. The defense really came up big. They play their first home game this week against the Eagles. 2 1-1-0



That could have been a season-saving victory against the Seahawks. They showed a ton of fight in finding a way to rally on the road. 2 1-1-0



They just didn’t do enough on offense against a depleted Cowboys defense last week. The penalties also killed them. 3 1-1-0



The defense toyed with Jets rookie quarterback Zack Wilson, which isn’t a surprise. The offense was just OK, but it was good enough with the defense so dominant. 1 1-1-0



The health of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa bears watching after he hurt his rib against the Bills. If he can’t go against the Raiders, it will be Jacoby Brissett, who struggled in relief against Buffalo. 6 1-1-0


Football Team

The surprise so far to their season has been the so-so play of the defense. They should be better than they’ve showed, something that has to change this week against the Bills. 4 1-1-0



At 0-2, with Carson Wentz banged up, they face a huge division game this week against the Titans on the road. They have to be better on defense as well. 1 0-2-0



They did some good things against the 49ers, but blew early chances to take a grasp of the game. You can’t do that against good teams, and they paid for it. 1 1-1-0



With Andy Dalton hurting, it’s time for Justin Fields to start. He didn’t look good coming in for Dalton against Cincinnati, which has to be a concern. 1-1-0



They made it interesting late against the Bears, but it took too long for the offense to get going. Joe Burrow made some bad throws and decisions. 1-1-0



That was a tough way to lose a game against Arizona, losing on a missed field goal on the final play. At 0-2, they have a big hole to dig out of going forward. 0-2-0



Daniel Jones played well in the loss to Washington, but they have to start winning games. Despite opening 0-2, they are still just a game back in the division. 0-2-0



With Tyrod Taylor out, rookie Davis Mills gets the start against Carolina. After his first series against the Browns, he did some good things. 1-1-0



The way their offensive line is playing, you have to wonder if Matt Ryan will make it through the season. They competed against Tampa Bay, but the offensive line is bad. 0-2-0



They hung around early against the Packers, but that defense is too undermanned to win consistently this year. They will play a lot of high-scoring games. 0-2-0



Zack Wilson looked awful in losing to the Patriots, but Bill Belichick has done that to a lot of quarterbacks. They have to measure his season by growth, not victories. 0-2-0



Trevor Lawrence had a rookie game against the Broncos, showing he has a long way to go. This is going to be a struggle to win games for Urban Meyer. 0-2-0

Christin Hakim

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