NFL power rankings, 2021 post-Week 3 edition (previous rank in parentheses):
2. Buccaneers (1): As if the football world obsessing over Brady’s return to New England on Sunday night isn’t enough, he also needs just 68 passing yards to break Drew Brees’ NFL career record (80,358) in front of the «road fans.»
3. Browns (4): Revamped defense arrived Sunday, posting nine sacks while limiting Chicago to 47 total yards and 1.1 per play. WR Odell Beckham Jr. (87 yards from scrimmage) also apparently arrived. The possibilities for Cleveland remain exciting.
4. Raiders (6): QB Derek Carr has been off the charts, averaging 401 passing yards per game – more than 150 better than his career average – which puts him on pace for 6,817 over 17 games.
5. Cardinals (5): Whatever suspicions their 3-0 start might have sown will be tested over the next three weeks as Arizona face the Rams and Browns on the road while hosting the 49ers in between those dates.
6. Ravens (7): They’re leading league in rushing despite being decimated at running back … and that passing attack is showing significant signs of life, too.
7. Bills (9): With 78 points scored the past two weeks, Buffalo is clearly heating up. A struggling offensive line passed Sunday’s test against Washington and may not face another stiff one until December.
8. Cowboys (10): CB Trevon Diggs is on pace to pick off 17 balls this year … which would be a new regular-season record. Dallas is also on pace to reclaim the NFC East crown coming off a dominant Monday night win.
9. Chargers (18): «We’re fortunate we have a gangster quarterback,» new Bolts coach Brandon Staley said of Justin Herbert after Sunday’s win at Kansas City. OK, sure, Coach. But for context, Herbert’s the same guy who founded a fishing club in high school.
10. Chiefs (3): They’re this close to being 3-0. They’re also this close to being 0-3. What Kansas City currently is is a last-place club for the first time in QB Patrick Mahomes’ career.
11. Panthers (14): Reminder that the wife of Panthers coach Matt Rhule urged him to draft RB Chuba Hubbard when he dropped to the fourth round of this year’s draft. (Julie Rhule was well aware of Hubbard’s ability after watching him play against her husband’s Baylor squad in 2019.) With Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey out for an indefinite period, Julie Rhule’s advice now seems especially sage.
12. Saints (15): How unfamiliar is New Orleans amid a 2-1 start? Not one player is averaging even four catches or 40 receiving yards per game.
13. Packers (16): Back alone atop the NFC North, their Week 1 loss is shaping up as the outlier QB Aaron Rodgers claimed it was – he and WR Davante Adams now performing like the singular free agent combo they could be in six months.
14. Titans (12): Six targets per game for WR Julio Jones doesn’t seem like nearly enough, while 31 touches per game for RB Derrick Henry seems like a bit too much? Even for him?
15. 49ers (11): If they’re going to remain average while running the ball and defensively, they’re not going to return to Super Bowl contention. Hosting the Seahawks and visiting the Cardinals over the next two weeks should be a good litmus test.
16. Broncos (17): It’s tempting to rate them higher – and they deserve credit for their 3-0 start – it’s just their three opponents so far are a collective 0-9.
17. Bengals (24): Remember waaay back in preseason, when we were counting the drops of rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase? How times change. Chase is the only player in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to haul in a scoring pass of at least 30 yards in his first three NFL games. The 21-year-old is also the youngest to have at least four TD grabs in his first three games.
18. Vikings (25): Beating Seattle for the first time since 2009 … without RB Dalvin Cook … while starting a key three-game homestand might just have put the Vikes’ teetering season back on track.
19. Seahawks (13): The LOB clocked out a minute ago, but there’s still too much invested in this defense for it to rank last overall in the entire league.
20. Steelers (8): After a Week 1 aberration, Pittsburgh has sunk to last place in the AFC North, thanks largely to an O-line that’s been as bad as forecast. Rookie RB Najee Harris is actually averaging more receiving yards (49.7) than rushing (41.0) per game.
21. Dolphins (19): They’ve generated a takeaway in a league-best 25 consecutive games but have won the turnover battle twice in their past four (three losses).
22. Patriots (20): They’re 0-2 at home for the first time since Bill Belichick took over in 2000 … and staring down the barrel of 0-3 with prodigal son TB12 on his way back to Foxborough.
23. Washington (21): A defense that was the league’s second best statistically in 2020 is currently its second worst and has only six sacks despite its vaunted front.
24. Eagles (22): Jalen Hurts jerseys have been flying off the shelves recently, but you still have to wonder if they’re good long-term investments – especially in Philadelphia.
25. Colts (26): Wasn’t this supposed to an elite offensive line? Thus far, it’s done an elite job getting QB Carson Wentz banged around and rendering RB Jonathan Taylor close to invisible.
26. Lions (29): It took an NFL-record 66-yard field goal from Baltimore’s Justin Tucker to beat them at the gun Sunday … eight years after Tucker beat them with a 61-yarder in a similar situation … and 51 years after New Orleans’ Tom Dempsey set a then-record with a game-winning 63-yarder as time expired.
Justin Tucker’s NFL record 66-yd FG in the Ravens’ win over Detroit Sunday marks the 2nd time in Lions history that they have lost a game on a record-setting field goal.
On Nov. 8, 1970, the Saints’ Tom Dempsey hit a then-record 63-yd FG to beat the Lions in New Orleans. pic.twitter.com/6U9eckuxly
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 26, 2021
27. Bears (23): Rookie QB Justin Fields had 68 yards passing and lost 67 yards on nine sacks in his first regular-season start. He’s good, but we’ve been trying to tell you he’s not good enough to overcome what’s NOT around him.
28. Falcons (31): Who would have guessed 33-year-old blocking TE Lee Smith would find the end zone before widely acclaimed rookie Kyle Pitts?
29. Texans (28): No matter the quarterback, you have to admire WR Brandin Cooks’ constant production — his numbers currently spiking to 107 receiving yards per game despite Houston’s offensive issues.
30. Giants (27): Don’t blame their 0-3 start on LB Azeez Ojulari, the first rookie to record a sack in his first three games since Terrell Suggs in 2003.
31. Jaguars (32): Welp, at least they’ve figured out the return game, former All-Pro Jamal Agnew providing 100+ runbacks each of the past two weeks.
32. Jets (30): Never good signs when you become incrementally less competitive at start of a season … or see your rookie QB picked off seven times and sacked 15 in his first three NFL starts.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL power rankings Week 3 2021: Rams take No. 1 spot by beating Bucs