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AFC power rankings: Defense never rests in New England

New England Patriots

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Every week during the NFL season, will present our conference power rankings. The AFC will be on Tuesday, the NFC on Wednesday.

We begin in the AFC by asking how anyone can beat the New England Patriots if their defense refuses to allow any touchdowns.

1). New England Patriots

There is no reason to believe the Patriots won’t continue to roll to the AFC Championship Game. They are that good. They would have shut out the Jets if not for some second-half laziness. What stands out is a defense that still has not allowed a touchdown. Amazing.

2). Kansas City Chiefs

Pat Mahomes is not only on his way to an MVP, but he’s also on pace to be the most prolific passer in league history. He already has 60 TD passes in just 20 career games with a QB rating of 115.3. His talent and Andy Reid’s instinct for offense will keep them at juggernaut speed for a long time.

3). Baltimore Ravens

Let’s face it, the Ravens were outclassed against the Chiefs, but they are still the class of the AFC North and will be a tough out in the postseason as long as Lamar Jackson stays healthy. If there is a problem, it’s with their pass defense which is ranked 27th in the league.

4). Houston Texans

J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus have the Texans defense playing up to its old standards. They both played big roles in the win over the Chargers last weekend. However, we remain concerned about the number of sacks Deshaun Watson is taking. The Texans need to protect him.

5). Indianapolis Colts

Credit coach Frank Reich for his ability to keep the Colts on the rails after the retirement of Andrew Luck. Jacoby Brissett has looked more than capable of running the offense, especially now that Marlon Mack is carrying his weight in the backfield. They beat the Falcons without linebacker Darius Leonard, but with the help of rejuvenated kicker Adam Vinatieri.

6). Buffalo Bills

The Bills are 3-0 for the first time since 2011 and they get the Patriots at home this weekend in perhaps their biggest regular-season game in many years. No undefeated Bills team has faced an opponent that’s 3-0 or better since 1992. They have a defense that can at least give Tom Brady pause, which is more than you can say about many of their other opponents.

7). Los Angeles Chargers

If there weren’t so many winless teams in the AFC, we’d drop the Chargers a few more slots. There’s something just not right about this team. It’s made mistakes and failed to convert in many important situations this season. And they’ve been miserable in the second half (outscored 47-16). Philip Rivers is lucky he doesn’t play in New York.

Gardner MInshew

(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

8). Jacksonville Jaguars

If the Jaguars are to survive for the remainder of the season, two things need to happen. First, they need to trade Jalen Ramsey. You don’t call in sick in the NFL, especially after demanding a trade. Second, they need to borrow some energy from QB Gardner Minshew, the guy with the great 1970’s porn mustache. He’s been fun to watch.

9). Tennessee Titans

Somebody needs to say it: The Titans are not going to win with Marcus Mariota at QB. And they especially aren’t going to win if their offensive line continues to get the guy killed. He’s been sacked 17 times already. If we have to guess, we’d say we’re really close to seeing Ryan Tannehill.

10). Cleveland Browns

We’re beginning to believe the Browns are going to fall far short of everyone’s expectations. Their offensive line stinks and Baker Mayfield does not look particularly in control scrambling around. They stayed close to the Los Angeles Rams despite the loss of their entire secondary, but their offense needs to start clicking. And we mean right now.

11). Pittsburgh Steelers

Well, 0-3 is not a good look for this perennially proud franchise. They’ve improved since being battered in New England, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for growth with Mason Rudolph at QB. Not only that, but James Conner is averaging only 2.9 yards a carry. Their best player on Sunday was their newest, cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick.

12). Cincinnati Bengals

Let’s give the Bengals the benefit of the doubt: They’ve lost to three teams with a combined record of 8-1. They gave the Bills a second-half scare in Buffalo before letting Frank Gore score the winning TD with 1:50 to play. Andy Dalton looks more comfortable this season, but their defense remains a major problem.

13). Oakland Raiders

Of all the personalities introduced to us on “Hard Knocks” this summer, the only one who has made a big impact on this team is tight end Darren Waller, who has 26 catches. There really isn’t much else left to say. Oakland’s run defense is shabby and things only get worse with Indianapolis, Chicago, Green Bay, Houston, Detroit and the Chargers next in line.

Emmanuel Sanders

(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

14). Denver Broncos

It’s going to be hard for any NFL player to surpass the off-the-cuff comment of Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who said after last week’s loss to the Packers that the Broncos were in “a world of suck.” So true. Can someone explain to us what made Joe Flacco look so appealing? And what about a defense with no sacks in the first three games. That’s a first in the league since 1969.

15). New York Jets

Coach Adam Gase basically admitted his offense was inept after Sunday’s loss in New England. But what does he expect from a third-string QB? Can you imagine what the Jets would look like without Le’Veon Bell? He was responsible for 65 of New York’s 105 yards against the Patriots.

16). Miami Dolphins

In 25 years, the Dolphins will be able to tell their grandchildren how well they played the Dallas Cowboys in the first half on Sunday. The Fish actually looked like a team, as opposed to a collection of random parts. They are playing to a minus-117 point differential, which is the worst in league history after three games during the Super Bowl era.