This week’s AFC power rankings tell the same story as last week’s did. No one is better than the Kansas City Chiefs. Not even Alabama.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
It’s amazing how well Patrick Mahomes has played. He has 13 touchdown passes in three weeks, an NFL record for that time span. Statistically, he is on pace to break more records set by Peyton Manning and Dan Marino. And Mahomes hasn’t discriminated, throwing TD passes to nine different receivers. The Chiefs are exciting to watch and if their defense plays just a little bit better, they may also be impossible to beat.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
They certainly looked inept in their 9-6 loss to the Tennessee Titans last week. And now there may be questions about QB Blake Bortles, which has become a hobby in Jacksonville even though the Jags gave him a three-year extension after making last season’s AFC championship game. But as long as the defense continues to be stellar (it allowed the Titans only 233 yards), the Jags are going to remain in the top echelon of the conference.
3. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill does not get a lot of love around the NFL. You would think he was Trent Dilfer, someone more capable of managing an offense than leading it. But Tannehill has won 10 of his last 11 starts and the time we checked wins are pretty important. He did throw for 289 yards and three TDs against the Oakland Raiders. And the Dolphins have some exciting weapons, such as Albert Wilson. We will know more after they play the New England Patriots. But so far, so good.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Much like the Jags, defense is what makes the Ravens a tough opponent. And that’s a lot to say considering they have Joe Flacco at QB and guys like Willie Snead and Michael Crabtree at receiver. But Flacco just doesn’t like the same player he once was and if the defense fails you will see the Ravens sink fast on this list unless kicker Justin Tucker keeps pounding those 50-plus field goals. He had three last week.
5. New England Patriots
This is based on reputation alone. It’s hard to dismiss the fact they were 2-2 last year before advancing to the Super Bowl. There is theory that Bill Belichick uses the first four weeks to experiment, knowing there is plenty of time to accelerate, especially in the AFC East. But their perch is shaky. The defense made Matthew Stafford looked good. And Tom Brady doesn’t have a lot to throw to, at least until Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman are ready to play.
6. Cincinnati Bengals
Despite its loss to the Carolina Panthers, we remain fully behind Marvin Lewis because someone needs to have his back at this point. But without Joe Mixon, maybe without A.J. Green (groin) and with Andy Dalton still as inconsistent as ever, they soon could be passed by the Pittsburgh Steelers and maybe even the Cleveland Browns in the standings.
7. Tennessee Titans
If we were absolutely sure that Marcus Mariota was fully functional, we might consider moving them up the list. But he wasn’t supposed to play last week because of a nerve injury to his elbow until a concussion to Blaine Gabbert forced him into the game. And beating the Jaguars, even the way they did without any offense, merits respect.
8. Denver Broncos
We really are not big Case Keenum fans and were among those who shook our heads when John Elway, of all people, put his trust, faith and cash behind him. And we saw what could happen last week when the offense does not play well. Then again, the defense had an off week, too
9. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers looked super until they were head-butted by the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. They also have lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. And as great as he is, something always seems to happen to Philip Rivers and his offense at key moments of games. We still think the Chargers could be a playoff team. But right now, we see a middle-of-the pack team.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
Sorry, beating Tampa Bay on the road on Monday Night is still not enough to convince us that the Steelers have moved beyond their problems. Not even Big Ben’s big day (353 yards, three TDs) can sway us right now. Until Le’Veon Bell is traded and their secondary starts stopping people this team will be one step away from deep-diving, And really, does it even matter? They still won’t beat the Patriots.
11. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck does not look the same. And if you needed any evidence about how the Colts feel about the strength of his throwing shoulder, you got in on the last play in Philadelphia when Frank Reich put Jacoby Brissett in to throw the last-gasp Hail Mary. The offense (209 yards) failed to score a TD or any points on three red zone possessions.
12. Cleveland Browns
We love the gutty, gritty Browns. And we love them even more now that Baker Mayfield is their starting quarterback. But it’s just not Mayfield. The Browns look invested and have been in the middle of things in their first three games. We are a little worried they might have looked better than they are because the New York Jets stink. But we believe Mayfield will make the Browns better.
13. Buffalo Bills
Congratulations to the Bills for pulling off one of the biggest upsets in NFL history last week against the Minnesota Vikings. A 17-point underdog, the Bills won by double-digits. Linebacker Matt Milano was in beast mode – one sack, one interception, one recovered fumble and eight tackles. Better yet, they did it with rookie Josh Allen at QB, which means they are fully committed to their future,
14. New York Jets
So they beat the Detroit Lions. Big deal,. The real Jets didn’t show up in subsequent losses to the Dolphins and Browns. They had six drives in the second half in Cleveland and three resulted in turnovers. We believe in Sam Darnold. It’s his teammates that are the problem. Jets safety Jamal Adams told WFAN radio in New York this week they were not prepared for Mayfield when he replaced the injured Tyrod Taylor.
15. Houston Texas
Coach Bill O’Brien is in major trouble because the team is 0-3 and neither Deshaun Watson or J.J. Watt is hurt. In fact, Watt did all he could against the New York Giants last week by sacking Eli Manning three times. The offense is terrible. They are 1-15 when trailing after three quarters since 2016. They are the NFL’s only team without an offense snap when leading. Check their oil.
16. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders can’t stay out of their own way. They are an undisciplined team and that cost them last week against the Dolphins. And until that changes there is only so much Derek Carr and Jordy Nelson can do.