nfl power rankings week 3 panthers
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

We are two weeks into the 2021 NFL regular season, and at this moment, Carolina could absolutely become a playoff ballclub.

Ryan Honey

A number of surprises occurred during Week 2 of the NFL regular season.

The Titans bounced back after a rough Week 1 performance and defeated the Seahawks in overtime while teams like the Panthers improved to 2-0.

Carolina beat the division-rival Saints by 19 just one week after New Orleans crushed Aaron Rodgers and the Packers by 35.

The Sam Darnold-led squad thus ascends in this week’s power rankings. Are the Panthers potentially a team to beat in the NFC?

32. Jacksonville Jaguars ( → )

The Jaguars remain in the bottom spot of our power rankings. Jacksonville came up short against Denver on Sunday by a score of 23-13 and gained just 189 total yards of offense.

31. Atlanta Falcons ( → )

For the second consecutive week, the Falcons suffered a defeat by over 20 points. After Atlanta lost by 26 to the Eagles in Week 1, the Bucs defeated the Falcons 28-25 in Tampa Bay Sunday afternoon.

This may be a lost cause of a season for the Falcons; the team will need to bounce back against the Giants this weekend.

30. New York Jets ( ↓ 3 )

The Jets fall further down the rankings due to a brutal loss to the Patriots on Sunday. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson threw four picks in what was a 25-6 defeat.

Will the No. 2 overall draft pick redeem himself against the Broncos in Week 3?

29. Detroit Lions ( → )

The Lions were what we thought they would be in a Monday night loss to Green Bay.

Jared Goff was inconsistent and the Detroit defense couldn’t contain Packers running back Aaron Jones, who totaled four touchdowns on the night (three receiving, one rushing).

28. New York Giants ( → )

The Giants remain at No. 28 after a crushing defeat against Washington.

Big Blue’s defense was atrocious for much of the game and allowed 407 total yards in what was a 30-29 loss.

27. Houston Texans ( ↑ 3 )

The Texans move up three spots, because despite the fact they lost quarterback Tyrod Taylor during their Week 2 matchup with the Browns, they still only lost by 10 points.

Given the situation and how good Cleveland is, only losing by that amount is impressive — this Texans team might be a lot better than some previously thought.

26. Cincinnati Bengals ( ↓ 3 )

The Bengals drop three spots following a forgettable performance against Chicago, a team they could’ve defeated.

Second-year quarterback Joe Burrow threw three picks in the loss.

25. Chicago Bears ( → )

The Bears remain at No. 25 after defeating the Bengals. In spite of the win, Chicago’s offense still isn’t impressive (it only gained 206 total yards Sunday) and really didn’t find a spark until it notched 13 points in the fourth quarter.

24. Indianapolis Colts ( ↓ 5 )

The Colts, who some believe could make the postseason this year, are now 0-2 to commence the season. Not to mention, Carson Wentz may not be able to partake in the Week 3 matchup with the Titans due to his pair of ankle sprains.

It’s not looking good in Indy.

23. Philadelphia Eagles ( ↑ 3 )

The Eagles continue to play better than some originally thought they would.

After blowing out Atlanta in Week 1, the Eagles lost by just six to a 49ers team that’s certainly more talented.

Jalen Hurts didn’t put together a productive game against San Fran though, only throwing for 190 yards and no touchdowns.

22. Minnesota Vikings ( ↑ 2 )

The Vikings impressed against the Cardinals (a much more talented ballclub) in Week 2 and only lost 34-33.

Although the Minnesota defense still isn’t strong, this could’ve been a much easier win for Arizona.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns in the defeat.

21. Miami Dolphins ( ↓ 5 )

The Dolphins drop five spots following their 35-0 loss to Buffalo.

The Bills knocked Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa out of the game early, and after that, it wasn’t pretty.

It’s clear the type of team the Dolphins could be without Tua, who’s still a developing signal-caller.

20. New England Patriots ( → )

The Patriots on Sunday basically did what fans expected them to do, and that was make Zach Wilson’s life miserable. The rookie Jets quarterback threw four picks in what was a 25-6 win for New England.

I’m not a fan of the Patriots offense though, which is why they remain at No. 20. New England only gained 260 total yards (for comparison, the Jets gained 336 total yards).

19. Washington Football Team ( ↓ 1 )

Washington’s defense is supposed to be a strong unit but somehow allowed the Giants to score 29 points and gain 391 total yards. Both marks are the highest for New York’s offense since Jason Garrett assumed the coordinating duties back in 2020.

That’s why, despite the 30-29 victory, the Football Team move back just one spot. You could also argue they didn’t deserve the victory due to the questionable offsides call on Dexter Lawrence that negated a missed game-winning field-goal attempt from Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins.

18. San Francisco 49ers ( ↓ 1 )

While the 49ers defense came to play in a 17-11 win over Philly, the offense certainly didn’t.

A unit led by Kyle Shanahan should be putting more points up on the board, simple as that.

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t entirely special either, only throwing for 189 yards.

17. Denver Broncos ( ↑ 5 )

Denver is 2-0 and starting to impress me just a little, but the reason I keep the Broncos in the bottom half of the league is because of their easy schedule to begin the year.

The Broncos faced the Giants and Jaguars in the first two weeks of the season and should be able to beat the Jets in Week 3. We should truly start finding out the type of team they are following this upcoming matchup. After the Jets game, Denver plays Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Washington, and then Dallas.

16. Carolina Panthers ( ↑ 5 )

The Panthers move up five spots and, in my mind, are an absolute darkhorse playoff team in the NFC.

Sam Darnold impressed through the first two weeks, completing 68.5% of his throws for 584 yards, three touchdowns, and one pick. This team sports a good offensive roster and solid defense that’s allowed just 21 combined points in two games.

Expect the Panthers to be a lot better this season than most originally expected.

15. New Orleans Saints ( ↓ 6 )

The Saints drop six spots following a rough 26-7 loss to the division-rival Panthers on Sunday.

New Orleans isn’t a bad team by any measure but must step up in these divisional games.

Jameis Winston threw for just 111 yards and two interceptions in the loss.

14. Los Angeles Chargers ( ↓ 4 )

The Chargers suffered their first defeat of the year on Sunday, losing to the Cowboys 20-17.

Justin Herbert definitely should’ve strung together a better performance against a Dallas defense that’s not supposed to be strong — the second-year quarterback threw two interceptions while tossing just one touchdown.

13. Tennessee Titans ( ↑ 1 )

The Titans, on Sunday, bounced back after a rough Week 1 performance, defeating a talented Seahawks team in overtime by a score of 33-30.

This defense needs to improve though before I can rank Tennessee much higher — the 34.0 points allowed per game is tied for 29th in the NFL while the 406.5 average yards allowed is 24th.

12. Las Vegas Raiders ( ↑ 3 )

The Raiders are really impressing me and I’m sure a lot of other people as well.

Through two weeks, this offense is averaging 458.0 yards per game (first in the NFL) and 29.5 points per game (seventh).

Vegas is 2-0, having defeated the Ravens and Steelers (two playoff teams from a year ago). Quarterback Derek Carr also leads the league with 817 passing yards.

11. Dallas Cowboys ( ↑ 2 )

Dallas continues to impress, having defeated a talented Chargers team that sports a good defense and an up-and-coming star quarterback in Justin Herbert in Week 2.

The Cowboys won 20-17 thanks to a game-winning 56-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein as time expired.

This came after Dallas lost to Tampa Bay on a game-winning kick in Week 1.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers ( ↓ 2 )

While the Steelers remain in the top 10, I have to lower their ranking by two spots following a loss to Vegas. The offense didn’t construct a good enough performance and only scored 17 points against a team that allowed 27 in Week 1.

Pittsburgh also only rushed for 39 yards during the matchup — a putrid amount when you consider it used its first-round draft pick on running back Najee Harris.

9. Green Bay Packers ( ↑ 2 )

In a get-back game, the Packers heavily redeemed themselves by defeating the Lions on Monday Night Football. The 35-17 victory came after the team’s dreadful 38-3 loss to New Orleans in Week 1.

Aaron Jones crossed the plane four times (three receiving scores, one rushing score) while Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdowns.

8. Cleveland Browns ( ↓ 1 )

The Texans may be better than we think, but the Browns should’ve absolutely defeated them by more than 10, especially considering Tyrod Taylor exited the game with a hamstring injury in the second quarter.

This is still a talented team though, so I’ll only drop Cleveland’s ranking by one spot.

7. Seattle Seahawks ( ↓ 3 )

The Seahawks should’ve definitely closed their Week 2 game against the Titans out with an easy victory, given the fact Seattle was up by 14 in the fourth quarter.

Nonetheless, late-game issues led to the Seahawks allowing a pair of touchdowns and the subsequent game-winning field goal in overtime.

The Seahawks are now 1-1 heading into Week 3.

6. Arizona Cardinals ( ↓ 1 )

I lower the Cardinals’ ranking by one spot after they only defeated the Vikings by a single point.

Arizona shouldn’t be relying on a late-game field goal to defeat a team like Minnesota.

Regardless, this Cardinals squad is still undefeated through two weeks and employs a potential MVP candidate in quarterback Kyler Murray.

5. Baltimore Ravens ( ↑ 7 )

The Ravens skyrocket into the top five after defeating the Chiefs 36-35 on Sunday Night Football.

I understand this is a huge jump, but that’s how crucial this win was for Baltimore.

Lamar Jackson stepped up in a big way, combining for three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) with 107 rushing yards and a clutch fourth-down conversion on the final drive to seal the deal.

This Baltimore offense should be tough to stop the rest of the way.

4. Buffalo Bills ( ↑ 2 )

The Bills bounced back against the Dolphins this past Sunday after suffering a Week 1 loss to the Steelers.

Buffalo proved it could win big even when Josh Allen doesn’t construct the most effective of performances. The fourth-year quarterback threw for just 179 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in a 35-0 victory.

3. Kansas City Chiefs ( ↓ 1 )

I drop the Chiefs down one spot following their one-point loss to the Ravens.

This defeat came in spite of the fact Kansas City was up 35-24 heading into the fourth quarter — the Chiefs allowed 12 points in the final quarter and a late-game fumble by running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a crucial moment in the loss.

2. Los Angeles Rams ( ↑ 1 )

The Rams move up one spot to make room for the Chiefs’ aforementioned drop-off.

Los Angeles ousted the Colts 27-24 to move to 2-0; quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 278 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in the victory.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ( → )

Yes, they’re still the top team in the league and Tom Brady is still doing his thing.

The legendary quarterback threw for five touchdowns as the Buccaneers defeated the division-rival Falcons 48-25 Sunday afternoon.

Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY

Listen to ESNY’s Wide Right Podcast by clicking here.