nfl power rankings preseason week 3
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The three-game NFL preseason has concluded. How do our power rankings look with the regular season approaching?

Ryan Honey

The regular season is almost here!

This Thursday night, the Super Bowl-winning Buccaneers will host the Cowboys in Tampa for the annual kickoff game. It will commence the longest regular season ever — 17 games are scheduled for each team.

The preseason has thus concluded, and with that, injuries have occurred and a few quarterback competitions have come to a close.

How does everything affect ESNY’s weekly NFL power rankings?

32. Houston Texans ( ↓ 1 )

Okay, I’m back to having the Texans in the bottom spot.

They haven’t traded Deshaun Watson and plan to potentially have him be inactive every week amid his 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints for sexual misconduct.

There are also issues with the defense, the offensive line, and it’s unclear whether Tyrod Taylor is a legitimate starting quarterback in this league — most would say he’s not.

All in all, it’s a total mess in H-Town.

31. Philadelphia Eagles ( ↑ 1 )

The Eagles swap with the Texans, but No. 31 is as far as they’ll rise this week.

Is Jalen Hurts the real deal? Is Nick Sirianni the right head coach?

We don’t know, but we should begin finding out next weekend.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars ( → )

The No. 30 ranking for Jacksonville seems appropriate.

Yes, they have a generational young quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, but outside of that, the talent isn’t all that great.

James Robinson is a productive back, but my guess is the Jaguars will be trailing in a ton of games, which will render the running game obsolete.

29. Detroit Lions ( → )

Many aren’t confident in the Lions, and why would they be?

An awful defense and a downgrade at the quarterback position from Matthew Stafford to Jared Goff may lead to this team winning 4-5 games maximum.

28. Cincinnati Bengals ( → )

The Bengals have a lot to prove this season, and so does Joe Burrow coming off a major knee injury.

Will the second-year quarterback return to his old self right away? Will it take him some time?

27. Atlanta Falcons ( ↓ 1 )

Matt Ryan is still capable of producing at a high level and the organization made moves on the offensive end by drafting tight end Kyle Pitts and hiring the offensive-minded Arthur Smith as its head coach.

The Falcons haven’t been all that great for a few years though and will need to at least portray flashes of a playoff ballclub before I improve their ranking.

26. New York Jets ( ↓ 1 )

I like the direction the Jets are headed in.

But still, don’t expect everything to come to fruition in year one of the Robert Saleh-Zach Wilson era. This team still may only win around six games.

25. Denver Broncos ( ↑ 2 )

Now that the Broncos have confirmed Teddy Bridgewater will be the starting quarterback moving forward, they move up two spots in the rankings.

Bridgewater is a more established starting quarterback than third-year man Drew Lock and is definitely a superior option.

Not to mention, I like the Denver roster outside of the quarterback position.

24. Chicago Bears ( ↓ 1 )

There will be a few teams in this area of the power rankings moving down due to the ascension of the Colts (which we’ll get to soon).

The Bears look like they could be starting Andy Dalton at quarterback to begin the season, and to me, that won’t be a move that brings consistency to Chicago. This offense won’t look fantastic with the veteran under center and Matt Nagy may need to make the switch to rookie Justin Fields sooner than later.

23. Minnesota Vikings ( ↓ 2 )

While I’m higher on Kirk Cousins than others might be, I’m not all that high on the Vikings as a whole.

This defense notably struggled last year and it’s unclear if head coach Mike Zimmer will be around for much longer.

22. Carolina Panthers ( → )

The Panthers are far from awful but far from great.

No. 22 seems reasonable — Jaycee Horn (2021 No. 8 overall draft pick) is a cornerback upgrade but rookie defensive backs are prone to mistakes.

It’s also unknown whether quarterback Sam Darnold will finally take that leap we’ve all been waiting for.

21. New York Giants ( ↓ 1 )

I feel I’ve never gone into a Giants season with this many uncertainties.

Fans hope Daniel Jones will improve and they hope Jason Garrett will be creative and they hope the offensive line will impress and they hope the defense will be as good as it was in 2020.

It’s a ton of hoping and not a whole lot of knowing or confirming.

20. New England Patriots ( ↓ 1 )

Is Mac Jones going to be the real deal? Did the Patriots make the right decision naming him the starting quarterback and cutting veteran Cam Newton?

We’ll find out soon enough, but until we do, the Pats will remain in this area of the rankings.

19. Las Vegas Raiders ( ↓ 2 )

The Raiders just don’t seem to have much of an identity.

Derek Carr is a good quarterback, but is he one that could lead this team to become postseason contenders once again?

Is Jon Gruden the right head coach? Is this a make-or-break year for him?

There are various unanswered questions in Vegas.

18. New Orleans Saints ( → )

The Saints stay right where they are even after making the (right) decision to name Jameis Winston the starting quarterback over Taysom Hill.

I’m confident in Winston, but let’s see how he performs against talented defensive units in the regular season.

17. Dallas Cowboys ( ↓ 1 )

Will Dak Prescott be 100% at all this season?

That will obviously be crucial to the amount of success the Cowboys accumulate.

If Prescott is fully healthy and produces at the level he did prior to last year’s ankle injury, expect Dallas’ ranking to improve throughout the season.

16. Washington Football Team ( ↓ 1 )

Washington is still middle of the road when it comes to the power rankings due to the uncertainty at the quarterback position.

If the Football Team are going to make the postseason again, they will need to rely on their strong defensive unit.

15. Indianapolis Colts ( ↑ 9 )

The Colts move up nine whole spots due to the return of Carson Wentz to practice.

The veteran quarterback could suit up for Week 1, which would be huge for a talented offensive roster.

14. San Francisco 49ers ( ↓ 1 )

I’ve started to become a little skeptical over the 49ers’ quarterback situation, which is why they drop down one spot.

Can Jimmy Garoppolo portray on-field competence? Is this minor injury going to truly affect rookie Trey Lance, who didn’t look completely ready to take on a starting role when he played during the preseason?

13. Miami Dolphins ( ↑ 1 )

Miami moves up one spot thanks to San Fran’s aforementioned drop-off.

I’m still not an enormous fan of Tua Tagovailoa but he looked improved in the preseason; there’s still the chance he can take that significant leap.

Also, do you think the Dolphins would actually trade for Deshaun Watson? Time will tell if they do, but I don’t see why they (or anyone, for that matter) would.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers ( ↓ 1 )

I had to swap Arizona and Pittsburgh. To be honest, I don’t know why I originally put the Steelers over the Cardinals.

I don’t believe much in a 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger and while the addition of Najee Harris is beneficial for the offense, this unit cannot run through the ground game — it’s not that type of era anymore.

11. Arizona Cardinals ( ↑ 1 )

I love the Cardinals this year.

Kyler Murray is one of the top young quarterbacks in this league and I think Arizona employs a superb receiving corps that includes a top wideout in DeAndre Hopkins and a promising rookie in Rondale Moore.

Those who still need to go through fantasy drafts: keep your eye on Moore in the later rounds.

10. Los Angeles Chargers ( → )

The Chargers stay right where they are.

Justin Herbert is an up-and-coming star quarterback, his supporting cast is solid, and the defense was top 10 in yards allowed last season.

Brandon Staley is expected to be a head coaching upgrade from Anthony Lynn, who was fired following the 2020 regular season.

9. Baltimore Ravens ( ↓ 3 )

Injuries are why the Ravens move down three spots from our previous ranking.

Running back J.K. Dobbins is out for the year with a torn ACL, which is a huge blow to a team that could’ve employed a productive running back duo of him and Gus Edwards.

Receivers Rashod Bateman and Miles Boykin are also on injured reserve and will miss at least the first three games of the year — not ideal for a team that was already last in passing in 2020.

8. Cleveland Browns ( ↑ 1 )

The Browns may not start off the year with a win due to the fact they’ll be playing Kansas City on the road.

But this is definitely a top-10 team and top-10 roster.

Will Baker Mayfield take a massive leap in 2021?

7. Seattle Seahawks ( ↑ 1 )

The Seahawks can definitely be a Super Bowl contender this year, but the offense needs to run through Russell Wilson and the star quarterback cannot undergo another midseason decline.

We’ll see if it all works out starting Week 1 against Indianapolis.

6. Tennessee Titans ( ↑ 1 )

Like the Seahawks and Browns, the Titans move up one spot in order to make way for the Ravens’ fall to No. 9.

Expect the Titans to once again be a playoff team. This has to be the year they get over the hump though and become a legitimate Super Bowl contender in that conference.

5. Green Bay Packers ( ↓ 1 )

Green Bay is still a great team and Aaron Rodgers is still, well, Aaron Rodgers.

But I’m not all too confident in the offensive line given left tackle David Bakhtiari is on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to start the year.

That’s why Green Bay is down one spot.

4. Los Angeles Rams ( ↑ 1 )

The Rams’ ascension up the rankings makes way for the Packers’ drop-off.

Los Angeles is definitely a top-five team in the league and should impress many this coming season, especially given its upgrade at quarterback.

3. Buffalo Bills ( → )

Josh Allen took the field in his team’s final preseason game against the Packers last weekend, and boy did he look sharp.

The fourth-year quarterback (who just signed a lucrative six-year contract extension) completed 20 of 26 throws for 194 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

As long as Allen is on top of his game, the Bills will remain a Super Bowl contender and one of the top teams in the AFC.

2. Kansas City Chiefs ( → )

The Chiefs remain at No. 2. Maybe they’ll take the top spot a few weeks into the regular season, but they’ll need to prove they’re superior to this next squad…

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ( → )

No, I’m not changing this.

Regardless of whether you believe the preseason is a barometer for future regular-season success, the Buccaneers are still the top team in the league for me. I would’ve said that even if they didn’t gain a single yard in their trio of exhibition games.