Week 3 NFL Power Rankings - 1-32 poll, plus the most pleasant surprise for each team

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

As we embark on the latest NFL Power Rankings, the first two weeks of the season have seen their share of developments, some bad (see Dolphins, Miami) and many good. We're taking a sunny-side-up approach to the power rankings this week, asking our NFL Nation reporters to identify their team's most pleasant surprise through two games and forecast whether those good times will continue.

So whether you're feeling good about the early season, or you've lost your star quarterback for an extended period of time (sorry, Steelers and Saints fans), here are some positive developments for everyone.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.

Previous rankings: 2 | Preseason

1. New England Patriots (2-0)

Week 2 ranking: 1

Pleasant surprise: The defense. After an offseason of chatter about who would take over for defensive playcaller Brian Flores -- and if Bill Belichick might be stretched thin with more oversight over the defense -- the unit has been stingy through two games, allowing only three points. The points-against pace can't continue -- no defense has finished the season averaging 1.5 points allowed per game -- but there's no reason to think the unit can't continue its solid play as the competition level rises. It's a versatile, talented group. -- Mike Reiss

2. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)

Week 2 ranking: 2

Pleasant surprise: Multiple wide receivers had huge games in Tyreek Hill's absence in the Chiefs' two games:Sammy Watkins in Week 1 and Demarcus Robinson against the Raiders on Sunday. Even without Hill, the Chiefs have too much receiving talent and too creative an offensive playcaller in Andy Reid to think opponents will be successful in shutting down every receiver. Look for the Chiefs to continue to be a big-play offense without Hill. -- Adam Teicher

3. Los Angeles Rams (2-0)

Week 2 ranking: 3

Pleasant surprise: It has to be receiver Cooper Kupp. Ten months after Kupp underwent reconstructive knee surgery to repair a torn ACL, the third-year slot receiver has resumed his role as quarterback Jared Goff's go-to receiver. In two games, Kupp has caught 12 passes for 166 yards. In a Week 2 win over the Saints, he took a 7-yard pass and turned it into a 66-yard catch-and-run. -- Lindsey Thiry

4. Dallas Cowboys (2-0)

Week 2 ranking: 6

Pleasant surprise:Red zone offense. The Cowboys have scored touchdowns on five of their six opportunities inside the opponents' 20-yard line. While that might seem like a solid start and not a pleasant surprise, the Cowboys did not score their fifth red zone touchdown until the fifth game last season and finished the year converting 24 of 50 opportunities into touchdowns. With a number of options, the Cowboys are a difficult team to defend inside the 20. Running back Ezekiel Elliott is the key threat, but Jason Witten's return (two touchdowns) gives the Cowboys a big-body threat, and Amari Cooper can be elusive in tight spaces. Plus, Dak Prescott's accuracy is much improved, which will aid the red zone calls by coordinator Kellen Moore.-- Todd Archer

5. Baltimore Ravens (2-0)

Week 2 ranking: 8

Pleasant surprise:WR Marquise "Hollywood" Brown. No one could've predicted the first-round pick would make an impact early this season, much less become the NFL's top offensive rookie after two weeks. Brown missed all of the spring workouts because he was recovering from foot surgery and didn't make any explosive plays in training camp or preseason. But Brown has used his speed and reliable hands to become Lamar Jackson's top target on the outside. He has the most receiving yards (233) by a player in his first two NFL games since Anquan Boldin in 2003.-- Jamison Hensley

6. Green Bay Packers (2-0)

Week 2 ranking: 10

Pleasant surprise:P JK Scott. Yes, punters are people, too, and no punter has been busier than the Packers' second-year pro. He leads the NFL with 17 punts through two games and has booted what Aaron Rodgers has called "game-winning punts" in each game. It's the reason Packers GM Brian Gutekunst used a fifth-round pick in 2018 on him, and it's paying off. After an inconsistent rookie season, the strong-legged Scott appears to have found his groove and is a legitimate weapon when it comes to flipping field position. He booted a 63-yarder at the end of the Chicago game in Week 1 and had punts of 47, 59, 48 and 52 yards in the fourth quarter against the Vikings on Sunday.-- Rob Demovsky

7. Seattle Seahawks (2-0)

Week 2 ranking: 11

Pleasant surprise:DK Metcalf producing this much, this soon after surgery. It was clear in the offseason that Metcalf would factor heavily into the Seahawks' offense as a rookie. Less clear was when he would start to make an impact once he had minor knee surgery Aug. 20. He made it back by the opener and has seven catches for 150 yards thus far, plus a touchdown that came in a pivotal moment in Seattle's win over Pittsburgh on Sunday.-- Brady Henderson

8. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 5

Pleasant surprise:RB Darren Sproles. The 36-year-old Sproles, who was supposed to retire after the 2017 season, is averaging a team-high 5.2 yards per carry and was the leading rusher for Philly in a Week 1 win over Washington. He is also serving as the team's punt returner. The 15-year vet has made fools out of doubters his whole career, but it seems unlikely that his role in the offense will remain this pronounced over the course of 16 games.-- Tim McManus

9. New Orleans Saints (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 3

Pleasant surprise:Third-year DE Trey Hendrickson has carried his impressive summer performance into the regular season. He has three sacks and a forced fumble (which should have led to a touchdown return by teammate Cameron Jordan in Week 2 if the officials hadn't initially ruled it an incomplete pass). The Saints' defensive line depth was arguably the biggest question mark heading into this season, so Hendrickson's emergence is coming at a time when it is much needed.-- Mike Triplett

10. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 7

Pleasant surprise:Running back Austin Ekeler has done a nice job filling the void left by Melvin Gordon's absence due to his contract dispute. Ekeler leads the league in total touchdowns with four, and his 287 yards from scrimmage is second in the NFL. However, Ekeler did have a costly fumble at the goal line in the 13-10 road loss to the Detroit Lions this past Sunday. Although Ekeler has performed well, he has never had more than 106 carries during a full season. At 5-foot-8 and 200 pounds, durability is a concern for the cat-quick running back.-- Eric D. Williams

11. Minnesota Vikings (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 9

Pleasant surprise:Despite vastly different game situations, Dalvin Cook has consistently churned out high production on offense, averaging 5.2 yards per touch (23 touches on 36 snaps) vs. Atlanta and 8.3 yards per touch (23 touches on 47 snaps) vs. Green Bay. Cook has revitalized the Vikings' run game at a time when the offense needs it most. Maintaining that output throughout the season is possible and will carry this team if quarterback Kirk Cousins struggles like he did against the Packers. But doing so will require Cook to stay healthy and the Vikings to take the necessary precautions to not place too much stress on him.-- Courtney Cronin

12. Houston Texans (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 12

Pleasant surprise:OLB Whitney Mercilus. The Texans were hoping that Mercilus would look like the pass-rusher who had 12 sacks in 2015, but they couldn't have predicted this stat line through two games: three sacks, three quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, a tackle for a loss and an interception. Mercilus has three of the Texans' five sacks this season after defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel decided to use him to set the edge in the running game and rush the passer instead of having him drop back into coverage like last season. Mercilus is in a contract year, so it wouldn't be surprising to see this production continue.-- Sarah Barshop

13. San Francisco 49ers (2-0)

Week 2 ranking: 20

Pleasant surprise: Success on the road. Look, the 49ers haven't been very good the past few years, but they've been particularly bad away from Levi's Stadium. And yet, they've not only started this season with a pair of road wins for the first time since 1989 but did it in the Eastern time zone, where they'd previously lost 11 straight. The challenges will undoubtedly get tougher than Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, but getting the first two out of the way has inspired confidence. Don't expect the Niners to become road warriors, but it's not out of the question for them to get at least two more wins on the road, which would position them to contend if they can hold serve in Santa Clara. -- Nick Wagoner

14. Chicago Bears (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 13

Pleasant surprise:Are you kidding me? Kicker Eddy Pineiro by a landslide. The Bears spent the entire offseason searching for a kicker, and it turns out, after two games, they might have their guy. Pineiro is a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals on the season, including Sunday's dramatic 53-yard game winner over the Broncos. The Bears' biggest offseason question might be solved. Now if only Pineiro could play quarterback. ...-- Jeff Dickerson

15. Buffalo Bills (2-0)

Week 2 ranking: 22

Pleasant surprise:Shaq Lawson. Most of the hype on the Bills' defensive line surrounded Ed Oliver, Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy, but Lawson has turned in a strong start after the team declined to pick up his fifth-year option this offseason. Buffalo is relying on its rotation on the edge this season, so it's reasonable to think Lawson can build on the sack, two QB hits and deflected pass he has recorded through two games.-- Marcel Louis-Jacques

16. Atlanta Falcons (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 19

Pleasant surprise:DT Tyeler Davison has been a great addition for the Falcons up front, keeping running backs from exploding up the middle with his strength. With a playmaking difference-maker next to him like Grady Jarrett, Davison just has to do the dirty work. And Davison does that work rather well, helping shore up a big need coming into the season.-- Vaughn McClure

17. Indianapolis Colts (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 15

Pleasant surprise: The running game. Colts coach Frank Reich said during the spring that he felt like they could be a top-five rushing team this season. That seemed kind of far-fetched considering the Colts were supposed to have Andrew Luck as their starting quarterback. Luck is retired and the Colts -- for the first time since at least the pre-Peyton Manning days in 1997 -- are relying heavily on the run game. The Colts have rushed for more yards (370) than they've thrown for (336) through the first two games. The 370 yards rushing is tied for second in the NFL. -- Mike Wells

18. Tennessee Titans (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 14

Pleasant surprise:CB Logan Ryan. It's hard to call a veteran like Ryan a pleasant surprise, but he has taken his game to the next level this season. Ryan has two interceptions in two games this season after failing to pick off any passes in two seasons with the Titans. He missed the last two games in 2018 due to a broken fibula but worked hard to get back and be an impactful player. Ryan also has 1.5 sacks this season.-- Turron Davenport

19. Cleveland Browns (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 17

Pleasant surprise:Rookie place-kicker Austin Seibert, who struggled throughout training camp, has been rather solid through two games. Seibert missed his first extra point try in Week 1. But Monday, he nailed all three field goals, including a 48-yarder. The fifth-round pick clearly has the talent to solidify the Browns kicking game, along with punter Jamie Gillan, a fellow rookie.-- Jake Trotter

20. Detroit Lions (1-0-1)

Week 2 ranking: 21

Pleasant surprise:Cornerback Rashaan Melvin had a down 2018 and signed with the Lions in a bid to resurrect his career. Through two weeks, he has given Detroit a good option opposite star Darius Slay, making the Lions' secondary vastly more difficult to deal with. Melvin, who is seeing a lot more attention because of Slay's shutdown abilities, has 13 tackles and five pass breakups over the first two weeks and is on pace to obliterate his career-best pass breakups mark of 13, set in 2017. If he keeps playing like this, he might warrant a much larger contract after the season.-- Michael Rothstein

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2)

Week 2 ranking: 16

Pleasant surprise:Cornerback Steven Nelson. The defense has given up 61 points through the first two games, but that's not because of Nelson, who wasn't targeted in Week 1 and had two key pass breakups against Seattle. The team's big free-agent signing on offense, Donte Moncrief, has failed miserably, but Nelson, who came from Kansas City on a three-year deal, has proved a nice addition to the Steelers' secondary.-- Jeremy Fowler

22. Oakland Raiders (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 23

Pleasant surprise:Sure, as a first-round draft pick and the first running back selected, Josh Jacobs was supposed to be productive. But having never been a true feature back at Alabama (Jacobs ran the ball only 251 times total and never ran it more than 20 times in a game in three years), there were questions as to how he would handle the workload. Through two games, he has answered the questions ... with aplomb. Jacobs is averaging 5.3 yards per carry, rushing for 184 yards and two touchdowns, and has the backing of a Raiders Hall of Famer in Marcus Allen, who tweeted that Jacobs is "destined for greatness."-- Paul Gutierrez

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 30

Pleasant surprise: The Bucs' revamped defense under Todd Bowles. While Bowles' track record speaks for itself, I'm not sure anyone anticipated such a quick turnaround for a defense that has been one of the league's worst for much of the past decade, especially without Jason Pierre-Paul. Through two games, the Bucs have given up an average of 15 points on defense -- sixth fewest in the league -- after giving up an average of 34 points in Weeks 1-2 last year. They are also sitting atop the league in red zone efficiency and goal-to-go efficiency, and Shaquil Barrett is currently leading the NFL with 4.0 sacks. Bruce Arians said, "If you've ever had the privilege of being on the headset [with Bowles], he's calling out the plays before they're run and telling guys, 'They're coming.'" -- Jenna Laine

24. Carolina Panthers (0-2)

Week 2 ranking: 18

Pleasant surprise: As Cam Newton calls him, "Swole Tweeter." Joey Slye is built more like a linebacker, but he's proving to be a helluva kicker. He was signed in training camp to be a warm body to give Graham Gano's sore plant leg a rest. When the leg didn't respond, Slye found himself with the starting job. He has made 6 of 7 field goal attempts, including 3 of 4 from 50-plus yards. He's also 3-for-3 on extra points. -- David Newton

25. Denver Broncos (0-2)

Week 2 ranking: 25

Pleasant surprise: In an 0-2 start that has prompted plenty of questions around the offense, running back Royce Freeman has been productive with his opportunities. He leads the team in rushing after two games with 110 yards and leads the team at 5.1 yards per carry. He has shown some speed to the corner and has run with power in traffic. If he continues to be healthy he'll continue a 50/50 carries split with Phillip Lindsay. Right now Freeman has had 21 carries this season, Lindsay 24. -- Jeff Legwold

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)

Week 2 ranking: 24

Pleasant surprise:QB Gardner Minshew has played well enough to give the Jaguars hope that they can survive Nick Foles' absence. Minshew ranks third in the NFL in completion percentage (77.6 percent), seventh in passer rating (111.8) and has thrown three TDs and one interception (which bounced off Leonard Fournette's face mask). He drove the Jaguars to a late touchdown in a 13-12 loss to Houston, which capped off a nine-point fourth quarter. He has fumbled three times (losing one) on sacks, so that's an issue he must fix, but Minshew is playing better than anyone could have hoped.-- Mike DiRocco

27. New York Jets (0-2)

Week 2 ranking: 26

Pleasant surprise:WR Jamison Crowder. The Jets knew they were getting a proven slot receiver in Crowder, who signed for $19 million in guarantees, but he has exceeded expectations. His short-area quickness has provided a security blanket for the quarterbacks. He's a terrific possession receiver who should lead the team in receptions.-- Rich Cimini

28. Arizona Cardinals (0-1-1)

Week 2 ranking: 29

Pleasant surprise: Zane Gonzalez. The kicker has been perfect through two games this season, going 7-for-7, which leads the NFL for most field goals made. While the Cardinals' offense hasn't been able to score touchdowns in the red zone, Gonzalez has been steadily putting points on the board. He already has matched his season total of made field goals from last season, which he reached in five games, and is almost halfway to the 15 field goals he made his rookie season in 2017. Gonzalez has the pedigree and skills to keep up this type of efficiency throughout the season, saving the Cardinals whenever they need it. -- Josh Weinfuss

29. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2)

Week 2 ranking: 27

Pleasant surprise:Wide receiver John Ross has enjoyed the most productive stretch of his career. After a combined 210 receiving yards in his first two seasons, Ross is already up to 270 through the first two games of this season. With A.J. Green out, Ross has already gotten 20 targets, which accounts for a third of his career targets. With the strong start, Ross should have the confidence to produce solid numbers the rest of the season.-- Ben Baby

30. Washington Redskins (0-2)

Week 2 ranking: 28

Pleasant surprise:WR Terry McLaurin. When you're 0-2 with a defense getting picked apart, it's hard to find pleasant things. McLaurin is part of what could be a strong rookie class for the Redskins, but he's the one who has stood out most so far. In two games he has caught 10 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. He has been open deep on other plays that could have -- or should have -- resulted in touchdowns. His speed helps create opportunities in the passing game, but his improved route running from college gives him more chances, too. The Redskins do a good job of trying to get him the ball and taking shots downfield. Both he and the Redskins will have to adjust to various looks he'll face, but he will continue to get the ball.-- John Keim

31. New York Giants (0-2)

Week 2 ranking: 31

Pleasant surprise:The offensive line. This has been an Achilles' heel for years but is hardly the problem now. It's now among the strengths of this team. Saquon Barkley is averaging close to 8 yards per carry and quarterback Eli Manning has been sacked twice and absorbed just nine QB hits through two games. Manning also has a healthy 2.71-second time before passes despite his lack of extending plays with his feet. The offensive line's improvement should make the transition to Daniel Jones that much easier.-- Jordan Raanan

32. Miami Dolphins (0-2)

Week 2 ranking: 32

Pleasant surprise:Asking for something pleasant for a team outscored by 92 points in two games is a stretch, but rookie receiver Preston Williams has gone from undrafted training camp darling to challenging for Miami's top receiver spot already. Williams got his first career TD in Week 1, then followed up with a team-high 63 receiving yards on four catches vs. New England this week. I'm buying Williams stock long-term. There isn't much for this offense to hang its hat on, but Williams is showing consistent stretches of being a big, downfield target for whoever the quarterback is in Miami -- now and in the future.-- Cameron Wolfe

Related Video