Steelers and Saints are on the rise after Monday’s wins

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NFL power rankings entering Week 3 of the 2023 season (previous rankings in parentheses):

1. 49ers (1): There’s nothing better than winning your first two games, especially when those wins come on the road. San Francisco will be home the next three weekends and will very likely be 4-0 heading into Week 5 on Sunday night against Dallas.

2. Eagles (2): It couldn’t do better than winning their first two games, even if it was a bit of a struggle when they broke in with their new coordinators — though credit to OC Brian Johnson for keeping him grounded Thursday. But a club that started 8-0 en route to the NFC crown in 2022 could match that with the Bucs, Commanders (twice), Rams, Jets and Dolphins heading into a Week 9 visit from Dallas.

3. Cowboys (3): You can’t do better than winning your first two games, even if the wins come against New York, N.Y. — the Giants who outplayed the post-Rodgers Jets team. But the credit goes to America’s Team, only the fifth team in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to score at least 70 points while allowing no more than 10 points collectively in its first two games.

4. Presidents (4): The defending champions maintain the lead among AFC teams that have generally come out of the gate. But 1-1 looks pretty good with TE Travis Kelce and DT Chris Jones returning and performing well and MVP QB Patrick Mahomes financially secure (again). However, he continued to monitor the new tackle tandem after RT Jawaan Taylor was flagged five times on Sunday and briefly placed on the bench.

5. Invoices (8): A clean trade sheet for QB Josh Allen is great. But how encouraging is the offensive balance, as RB James Cook set career highs Sunday with 17 carries and 123 yards?

6. Dolphins (10): QB Tua Tagovailoa wouldn’t mind playing New England every week, as he improved to 5-0 against Bill Belichick. But think how much better Miami could be, with two road wins in the bank, when it gets players like LT Terron Armstead, OLB Jaelan Phillips and maybe even CB Jalen Ramsey back.

7. Crows (11): Maybe it was the return of TE Mark Andrews, and maybe it was a week of familiarity with new OC Todd Monken’s offense, but QB Lamar Jackson looked much better in Week 2. A team that is off to a hot start is benefiting from blistering defensive pace, Baltimore’s D has allowed 23 rushing yards in the first quarter this season.

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8. Saints (12): The defense appears to be in midseason form, holding 10 straight opponents to 20 or fewer points. No offense, but QB Derek Carr is still adjusting and waiting for Alvin Kamara to return — which could be key given New Orleans’ depleted backfield.

9. Black (5): Hopefully, Sunday’s loss to Seattle won’t be as punishing as the 2022 defeat that cost Detroit a playoff spot. It obviously didn’t hurt that the rest of the NFC North also lost in Week 2.

10. Jaguar (7): They’re going to face Houston in Week 3, right? Well, the “lowly” Texans have beaten Jacksonville five straight times and eight of the past nine on the road.

11. Falcons (17): Undefeated Atlanta is running more than 56% of the time… and why not with Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgaier, arguably the best duo in the league?

12. Packing companies (15): They were two points away from the franchise’s first 2-0 start on the road. And given the absences of WR Christian Watson, RB Aaron Jones, LT David Bakhtiari, and (mostly) G Elgton Jenkins on Sunday, there’s plenty of reason for optimism — especially if QB Jordan Love is able to properly execute the steal moving forward.

13. Steelers (14): You can’t count on two defensive touchdowns every week, but they appear to be back in a strong position as the rest of the AFC North deals with serious injury issues like Pittsburgh’s.

14. Rams (18): If you have RB Kyren Williams and WRs Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell forming one of the most productive offensive trios in the league after two games, you can buy me Powerball tickets.

15. Browns (6): They’ve already become a M*A*S*H unit — no loss more troubling than what is expected to be a season-ending knee injury suffered Monday by RB Nick Chubb, who has pretty much been Cleveland’s offensive identity throughout His time in Sterling is a six-year career.

16. Seahawks (21): Watch for an O-line that is missing its primary tackles. Seattle did a good job protecting QB Geno Smith in Sunday’s overtime win over Detroit but struggled running the ball (3.3 yards per carry).

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17. Bengals (9): Legitimate Reasons for Concern By Sunday night, Cincinnati’s offense ranked dead last in the league and QB Joe Burrow’s calf was barking again.

18. Giants (20): Have you noticed how much RB Derrick Henry has improved as a receiver? A third (71 yards) of his total production from scrimmage this season has come via receptions — and that’s after setting career highs with 33 catches for 398 yards in 2022.

19. Aircraft (16): Sunday’s loss to Dallas sidelined them in the second half. RB Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook probably couldn’t have had more than nine combined touches.

20. Patriots (19): They are 0-2 for the first time in 22 years, although the previous instance ended with New England winning its first Super Bowl. But this New England team will have to figure things out on the road, spending four of the next six weeks after losing the first two weeks in Foxboro.

21. Chargers (13): HC Brandon Staley claims “the guys in the locker room decided it,” yet the Bolts have lost four straight — dating back to 2022 — for a total of nine, including (yes, Coach Staley) last season’s implosion . They are the first team in the Super Bowl era to score at least 50 points while committing no turnovers but starting 0-2.

22. Pirates (22): Good luck finding something more poignant in the NFL space than OLB Shaq Barrett dedicating his season to his 2-year-old daughter who drowned in April. His emotions were evident Sunday when he scored his first professional goal on a pick-six, then looked skyward.

23. Leaders (26): Sam Howell is the first Washington quarterback to win his first three games in the Super Bowl era. That includes two fourth-quarter comebacks in their first 2-0 start of the season. However, there are still concerns about what happens before the fourth quarter and the level of opposition against which these conflicts occur.

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24. Vikings (23): QB Kirk Cousins’ prime-time record may now be 11-19, but don’t blame him for Thursday’s loss. The Vikes were 11-0 in one-score games during the regular season last year … but they’re already 0-2 in 2023. The Jets’ Cousins ​​— he’s a free agent in 2024 — really makes sense if Minnesota stays on this path, which already includes Turnover difference -6.

25. Giants (28): They are fortunate to draw 1-1 after salvaging a win in Arizona. They’re not very fortunate to head to San Francisco on a short week, which will likely be the first of several weeks without injured RB Saquon Barkley (ankle).

26. Colts (29): At 21 years and 118 days old, QB Anthony Richardson is the youngest quarterback in the Super Bowl era to score multiple rushing scores in a game. He also didn’t finish his first two drives, and a concussion could keep him from playing in Week 3.

27. Raiders (24): There is no more bizarre and disturbing ongoing story in the league than any that occurs between Las Vegas and the estranged DeChandler Jones.

28. Bronco (25): They opened 0-2 at home for the first time. Per ESPN, Sean Payton was 72-0 by 18 points…before Sunday. Another memorable campaign is already in preparation in the Rocky Mountains.

29. Panthers (30): For all the shade sent by the NFC South, Carolina is the only club living up to expectations — going winless in a division of undefeated tenants.

30. Cardinals (32): This club is loaded with 0-2 caliber talent but appears to have a 2-0 caliber heart and soul, best exemplified by QB Josh Dobbs trucking the Giants’ Xavier McKinney on their way to the end zone on Sunday.

31. Bears (27): A team that led the league in rushing in 2022 suddenly isn’t that good on the field anymore. Chicago’s defense (one sack, no takeaways)? Also corrupt. None of that would be as worrisome if QB Justin Fields didn’t look so lost.

32. Texas (31): What’s the best way to support a rookie quarterback? Play him behind an offensive line full of backups and give him a running game that averages 2.5 ypc…which correlates to this block.


Follow Nate Davis of USA TODAY Sports on X, formerly Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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