I began this season with a simple rule I planned to carry over from 2019: I would never take the defending Super Bowl champions out of the No. 1 spot in the Power Rankings until they lost their first game.
Then came last week, when I examined the Ravens' dominant start coupled with a ho-hum Chiefs performance against the Chargers in Week 2 and opted to reverse course. Kansas City and Baltimore would switch places, with the Ravens claiming the top spot. What a gutsy move by yours truly!
Well ... yeah. I'm an idiot.
Nice one, Chiefs. On to the rankings:
Previous rank: No. 2
Statement Game? Statement Game. The Chiefs went to Baltimore on Monday night and punched the Ravens in the mouth. The man landing the majority of those uppercuts and overhand rights was -- of course -- the great Patrick Mahomes, who accounted for five touchdowns in another dominant performance. Kansas City's underrated defense deserves praise, as well, holding Lamar Jackson under 100 yards passing in a deeply frustrating evening for the reigning MVP. Baltimore's leading receiver was running back J.K. Dobbins, who had 38 yards in a safety-valve role. The Chiefs haven't lost since last November ... and they don't look ready to end that streak any time soon.
Previous rank: No. 3
Aaron Rodgers' easy-flick deep ball might be my favorite pass in NFL history. It's completely unique to the Packers' star and we're seeing it with regularity in what's been a dream start to his 16th season. Rodgers was again at his best on Sunday night, throwing for 283 yards and three scores in a 37-30 win over the Saints at the Superdome. The Packers moved to 3-0 and have scored a team-record 122 points through three weeks. Allen Lazard stepped up with Davante Adams (hamstring) sidelined, finishing with six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. The Packers have been waiting for years to see a legit Adams complement emerge on the outside -- imagine if that guy turns out to be a player who began his career as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa State.
Previous rank: No. 1
A humbling loss for the Ravens, who were ambushed by Patrick Mahomes and saw their own MVP, Lamar Jackson, struggle on a huge prime-time stage in a 34-20 loss to the defending champion Chiefs. It's a huge missed opportunity for the Ravens, who kicked away a chance to put themselves on the inside track for a first-round bye and the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win in their own building. It will be an uphill climb to achieve that goal now, and you wonder what kind of scars a one-sided rout like this might leave behind. Said John Harbaugh after the game: "We got beat just about every way you could get beat."
Previous rank: No. 4
The Steelers closed the Texans out like Mariano Rivera on Sunday. Mike Hilton's interception early in the fourth quarter set up a long Pittsburgh touchdown drive, which was followed by a three-and-out by the Houston offense, which was followed by another grinding Steelers drive that ran out the clock. Pittsburgh was outplayed in the first half by a desperate Houston team, but the defense shut out Deshaun Watson and Co. in the second half, finishing with five sacks overall. The running game shined, too, as James Conner and Anthony McFarland Jr. went over 150 yards combined on just 24 carries. The Steelers can beat you in so many ways.
Previous rank: No. 5
What does it say about Russell Wilson that we had no doubt he would put the Seahawks back in the lead after they fell behind late in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys? He's reached that special place as a quarterback -- where success isn't just likely, it's basically a given. Wilson took Seattle 75 yards on eight plays, capped by a 29-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf, Wilson's fifth of the game. That's 14 in three weeks for Wilson, who's on pace for 75 passing scores this season. Seattle's defense remains a major area of concern, one that received a setback on Sunday when Jamal Adams exited with a groin strain, but Wilson is Pete Carroll's ace in the hole.
Previous rank: No. 6
It's not often that a team gives up 29 unanswered points in a game and still wins, but this is 2020 and the Bills have a little bit of magic to them right now. Josh Allen played hero once again, accounting for five total TDs against the Rams, including the game-winner to Tyler Kroft with 15 seconds remaining on the clock. The Bills had watched a 28-3 lead turn into a 32-28 deficit by that point, but Buffalo avoided catastrophe with its 11-play, 75-yard drive aided by a bacon-saving fourth-down pass-interference call that directly preceded the Kroft score. The Bills are 3-0 and Allen has 12 total touchdowns (10 passing, two rushing) through three weeks, a team record.
Previous rank: No. 7
Stephen Gostkowski is one of the best stories of the young season. He suffered a nightmare Week 1 on Monday Night Football, missing a career-high four kicks and becoming the butt of Twitter jokes for three hours. But Mike Vrabel stuck with the 15th-year veteran, who rewarded the faith of his coach with a monster performance against the Vikings on Sunday: 6 for 6 on field goals, including the go-ahead 55-yard boot in the final two minutes of a 31-30 win. Gostkowski's personal comeback shows resilience and mental toughness, traits that are just as important as a powerful leg in his world. The Titans, who have won their first three games by a combined six points, get the undefeated Steelers in Week 4 and 3-0 Bills in Week 5.
Previous rank: No. 10
Some things never change for the Patriots. They'll still draw you offside on fourth-and-short (got ya, Maxx Crosby), they'll still cook up a game plan to negate your best player (sorry, Darren Waller), they'll still bludgeon you with the running back you least suspect (hi, Rex Burkhead), and they'll still benefit from a controversial fumble call when the Raiders come to town (that's life, Jon Gruden). It all added up to a 36-20 win over the Raiders, and it showed how this new Pats offense can still roll up yardage and score points even when Cam Newton has a C game (his grade, not ours). New England remains a major player in the AFC.
Previous rank: No. 8
Stomach-punch loss. The Rams trailed the Bills 28-3 in the third quarter, pulled ahead 32-28 with less than five minutes to play, only to allow a game-winning touchdown pass by Josh Allen with 15 seconds remaining. They went from nearly pulling off the greatest comeback in franchise history to heartbreak, with the added frustration of a questionable PI call on Darious Williams that wiped out a fourth-down stop on the play prior to Allen's game-winning toss. Frustrating, for sure, but let's not lose sight of what L.A. could control on that fateful drive. The Rams had the Bills facing a third-and-22 from their own 31 (22-yard gain to Cole Beasley on the ensuing play) and third-and-25 from the Rams' 30 (17-yard gain to Stefon Diggs) that preceded the pass interference call on fourth-and-8. Allowing those two big gains put Los Angeles in position to get burned -- and that's exactly what happened.
Previous rank: No. 12
Things are coming together nicely in Tampa. The Tom Brady-led offense has made incremental gains each week while the defense -- an underrated unit loaded with talent in the front seven -- is showcasing itself as the team's greatest strength through three weeks. Shaq Barrett was the star in his Denver homecoming (the edge rusher won Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos), finishing with a pair of sacks, the second of which resulted in a safety to produce two points. Brady and the Tampa attack managed just three second-half points, but the Bucs don't need to be the 2007 Patriots on offense to stack wins. Let the defense do its thing.
You get the feeling teams have a little pep in their step in the week leading up to a meeting with the Jets. The Colts looked like a squad having fun on Sunday, as Philip Rivers reached a pair of personal milestones (400 TDs, 60,000 yards) and the defense filled up the box score with two pick-sixes and a safety in a 36-7 win. Rivers didn't need to do much against New York's overmatched defense, finishing without a turnover for the first time this season. At 2-1, the Colts are off to a solid start, but they're a tough team to gauge thanks to a soft schedule to start the year. They travel to Chicago this week for a date with the undefeated Bears.
No one's experienced worse injury luck than the 49ers this season. Luckily, they've had the schedule gods on their side. Kyle Shanahan's merry band of backups was more than good enough to take out the wretched Jets and Giants in consecutive weeks, and the Niners are 2-1 despite suffering a season's worth of setbacks in one month. Nick Mullens thrived in his first start in 21 months, throwing for 343 yards and a touchdown without the help tight end George Kittle, receiver Deebo Samuel or running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman. How dominant was the Mullens-led offense vs. the G-Men? It ran 73 plays, held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and never punted ... the first time San Francisco managed that feat in nearly 27 years. That sound you hear is Jimmy Garoppolo furiously taping up his injured ankle.
Previous rank: No. 9
While much of the critical attention on the Saints has been focused on the possible decline of Drew Brees, not enough notice has been paid to a defense that continues to underwhelm. Aaron Rodgers attacked New Orleans at every level on Sunday night in a 37-30 Saints loss. Penalties continue to be an issue, as well. New Orleans had eight for 83 yards against the Packers, including a killer double infraction with less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter: An offside penalty (which gave Rodgers a free play) followed seconds later by an end-zone pass interference on Janoris Jenkins that set up Green Bay's clinching score. Finally, not all home-field advantages are created equal -- the Saints missed their screaming home fans on Sunday night. Not much they can do about that.
Previous rank: No. 13
Welcome back to Earth, Kyler Murray. The Cardinals QB threw three interceptions (and nearly a fourth) on Sunday, and was held to just 29 rushing yards in a 26-23 loss to the Lions. It wasn't all bad for Murray: His first-quarter touchdown run featured a deke of cornerback Jeff Okudah that nearly stole the rookie's soul, but on balance, it was a down day for the Cardinals and their dynamic young star. Arizona received a welcome lift from wideout Andy Isabella, who stepped into a bigger role with Christian Kirk sidelined and finished with two touchdown catches. With Larry Fitzgerald firmly in the twilight of his career, Isabella's growth in Year 2 will be important for Kliff Kingsbury's offense.
Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. get the headlines, but Nick Chubb is easily the best player the Browns have on offense. This from NFL Research: Chubb is the third player in team history with consecutive games of 100-plus rushing yards and at least two rushing scores, joining Hall of Famers Leroy Kelly and Jim Brown (Brown did it four times, naturally). Chubb's greatness -- coupled with Dwayne Haskins' carelessness -- allowed the Browns to secure the win on a day in which the Washington pass rush kept Cleveland's air game in check. Chubb and Kareem Hunt are both on pace to rush for more than 1,000 yards this season -- the pair could be the franchise's ticket back to playoff football for the first time since 2002.
You do this job long enough, you eventually see it all. On Monday, Matt Nagy announced that Nick Foles had overtaken Mitchell Trubisky as the starting quarterback of the Bears. These types of things happen all the time in the NFL ... but usually it's not a 3-0 team making the QB change. Foles made the decision a no-brainer by leading Chicago to a spirited comeback win over the tragic Falcons on Sunday. I know we've grown accustomed to this routine, but Foles' ability to jump into any game or season scenario and light it up makes him the greatest backup quarterback in NFL history. Foles as a week-to-week starting quarterback is more of a hit-or-miss proposition, but Trubisky's limitations make it a gamble worth taking for Chicago.
Previous rank: No. 11
Give them credit for the fight. The Cowboys could have packed it in when they went down two scores in the second half to the Seahawks, but Dak Prescott and Cedrick Wilson -- yes, really -- kept Dallas in the game and even put them ahead ... before Russell Wilson went and ruined it all with his unimpeachable 2020 greatness. Prescott's final throw (a forced pass into coverage for a game-deciding interception) was regrettable, but he was otherwise stellar again in another 400-yard passing day. The defense continues to be a major concern, however. Wilson lit up the secondary for five TDs, and it would have been six if not for a boneheaded play for the ages by DK Metcalf. Mike McCarthy's defense just needs to be respectable for Dallas to be successful. It hasn't been so far.
Previous rank: No. 15
Darren Waller received the Belichick Kiss Of Death last week, when the Patriots head coach volunteered to the media that the tight end was a "big challenge" for the Pats in Week 3. What came next was a given: Waller, who powered the Raiders offense with 12 catches against the Saints six days earlier, was bracketed in coverage and held to two catches for 9 yards on four targets in Sunday's loss. A frustrating day for Waller and a frustrating day as a whole for a banged-up Raiders team, which moved the ball well early but made too many mistakes to win on the road in Foxborough. Another big challenge lies ahead in Week 4 with a matchup against the undefeated Bills at the Death Star.
Previous rank: No. 18
If Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler connect on an uncontested lateral toss, Ekeler sprints into the end zone for a miracle walk-off touchdown, and the Chargers are the talk of the league. But, in true Chargers fashion, the ball instead hit the carpet, and the Bolts were saddled with a 21-16 loss to the previously winless Panthers. The game featured growing pains for rookie QB Justin Herbert, who threw a touchdown pass in another 300-yard performance but also had an interception and lost fumble. With Tyrod Taylor reportedly expected to remain sidelined, it will be Herbert playing opposite a man literally twice his age in Tom Brady. A formidable Bucs defense will pose a serious challenge for the rookie.
Previous rank: No. 20
A crushing loss for the Vikings, who wasted a double-digit second-half lead at home to fall to 0-3. You can hang this latest setback on the defense, which allowed 444 yards, including 119 yards rushing to Derrick Henry and multiple deep-strike completions by Ryan Tannehill. Consider what the Vikings wasted: Dalvin Cook set a career high with 181 rushing yards and a score, while rookie first-round pick Justin Jefferson broke out with a monster 7/175/1 performance. To get those games and still find yourself winless entering Week 4 ... that's a tough pill to swallow. The loss sets up a "Loser Goes Home" match against the 0-3 Texans on Sunday in Houston.
Previous rank: No. 21
Another dispiriting setback for Houston, which sits at 0-3 after a 28-21 loss to the Steelers. The same issues continue to haunt Bill O'Brien's Texans: They can't protect the quarterback, they struggle to run the football, they can't stop the run and they don't force turnovers (zero through three games). Yes, their losses have come to the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers (Nos. 1, 3 and 4 in these rankings), but this early litmus test tells us how far Houston is from legitimate contender status. Deshaun Watson finished the first half 14 of 18 for 202 yards and two TDs, but the offense was held to just 51 yards and two first downs over in the final two quarters.
Hoo boy, did Matt Patricia need that. The Lions and their head coach won for the first time in nearly a year on Sunday, a performance that should lower the heat under Patricia's seat, if only temporarily. Matthew Stafford and Matt Prater deserve credit for closing out the Cardinals on the game's final drive, but let's give some love to Detroit's oft-maligned defense, which intercepted three Kyler Murray passes and kept the dynamic QB from running wild. Rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah did get posterized by Murray on a TD scamper, but the No. 3 overall pick exacted revenge with an interception and runback to set up a field goal. Resilience is an important character trait in this sport.
Previous rank: No. 22
Sunday was supposed to be a get-right game for the Eagles. Instead, it ended with Doug Pederson waving a white flag, punting to ensure a tie in overtime against the Bengals. It's not fair to put all of Philly's problems on the quarterback, but Carson Wentz has been a major issue. He deserves credit for engineering a touchdown drive at the end of regulation to force OT, but Wentz delivered another sloppy performance that left big plays and points on the field. He's up to six interceptions in three games -- just one less than he had in 16 starts in 2019. On Monday, Pederson wisely dismissed any talk of rookie Jalen Hurts threatening Wentz's job, but it's a minor disaster that the coach is even getting that question after Week 3.
Previous rank: No. 28
A nice win for the Panthers, who snapped a 10-game losing streak dating back to last season with a 21-16 victory over the Chargers at Hollywood Park. Matt Rhule probably took a little more satisfaction getting his first NFL win while team MVP Christian McCaffrey recuperates with an ankle injury. Mike Davis managed 91 yards from scrimmage and a score in CMC's place, and the Carolina defense made its overdue arrival with eight QB hits, two sacks and four turnovers. On offense, the Panthers have a legit 1-2 punch at wide receiver in D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. They are the second receiver duo in team history to each have more than 200 receiving yards through three weeks.
Previous rank: No. 30
The Dolphins were unstoppable on offense out of the gate against the Jaguars, piling up 12 first downs in the first quarter -- the most for Miami in an opening quarter in 20 years. The Fins didn't let up much after that, cruising to a 31-13 win in Jacksonville. Ryan Fitzpatrick -- in addition to being a gift to football fans the world over -- remains a pretty damn good quarterback. He completed 12 consecutive passes at one point and easily outplayed Gardner Minshew, the mustachioed QB who most assumed would be getting the Thursday Night Football postgame interview treatment. Instead, it was Fitzmagic: paisley shirt, gnarly beard, chest cabbage everywhere. The Dolphins are lucky to have him ... and so are we.
I guess we now know just how important D.J. Chark is to the offense. Playing without their top deep threat, the Jaguars and quarterback Gardner Minshew looked punchless in a 31-13 loss to the Dolphins. The Miami defense dared Minshew to beat them with downfield throws, but the Jags QB was either unwilling or unable to stand up to the challenge. According to ESPN, Minshew was 0 for 5 on throws of more than 10 air yards before the Dolphins went into prevent defense with the game all but decided. Speaking of defense, the Jaguars were exposed by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who did pretty much whatever he wanted in front of a prime-time audience. This was a "bury the ball" game for Doug Marrone.
Previous rank: No. 24
Let's put some focus on Matt Ryan after the Falcons' latest unthinkable collapse. The veteran quarterback typically avoids criticism when Atlanta self-immolates, but on Sunday -- while Nick Foles was taking the Bears up and down the field in the fourth quarter -- Ryan threw eight consecutive incompletions, including a bad overthrow on what should have been a game-clinching touchdown strike to Olamide Zaccheaus. The Falcons were forced to punt, then quickly lost the lead on another Foles TD. Atlanta still had a chance -- but Ryan threw an interception on the ensuing drive. Game over. Maybe Dan Quinn's not the right coach; maybe the defense doesn't have what it takes. But Ryan is a former MVP and franchise leader who's supposed to be the safety net. He hasn't done his job.
Previous rank: No. 27
"We didn't win," Joe Burrow said after Sunday's 23-23 tie with the Eagles. "That's all it is to me. (If) you don't win, you lose. That's my mindset right now." Burrow is a competitor, so you understand his sentiment, but Bengals progress in 2020 won't be measured by wins or losses (or ties). It's about finding out whether they have a true franchise cornerstone in their rookie quarterback, and that feels apparent after three weeks. Burrow continues to deliver wow moments for Cincy, and he easily outplayed Carson Wentz in Week 3. It will be on the Bengals to do right by Burrow and build up the roster around him, but the most important piece is in place.
Despite a host of upgrade options, John Elway made the decision to roll with Jeff Driskel as his backup quarterback entering 2020. That choice will likely continue to cost him. The Broncos -- with Driskel starting in place of an injured Drew Lock -- weren't competitive on offense against the Buccaneers, finishing with season lows in points (10), total yards (226), passing yards (184) and rushing yards (42) in a 28-10 loss. Driskel is now 1-8 in his career as a starter, and the Broncos continue to struggle out of the gate in the Vic Fangio era, falling to 0-7 in September over the past two seasons. The loss of Jurrell Casey to a season-ending biceps tear dims Denver's prospects that much more.
Previous rank: No. 26
The clock is officially ticking on Dwayne Haskins. A day after the second-year quarterback had four turnovers (including three ugly interceptions) in a loss to the Browns, coach Ron Rivera told reporters there will be "a cut-off point" for Haskins as the team's starter. You can understand the coach's frustration. Washington battled hard in Cleveland and took a lead into the fourth quarter, but Haskins' mistakes doomed the team. The background here is key: Rivera was not responsible for Haskins' arrival in Washington as a first-round pick last year, and Rivera is front and center in what will be a complete overhaul of the operation, from roster to team name. Kyle Allen could be playing as soon as next Sunday, while a return to game action for Alex Smith is not out of the question.
Previous rank: No. 31
The Giants are the best team in New York ... unfortunately, they're worse than everyone else. Big Blue was dreadful at home on Sunday, bullied up and down the field by a 49ers team missing several key players on both sides of the ball in a 36-9 loss. Daniel Jones threw an interception and was charged with another lost fumble; his turnover issues cannot be ignored and will make him a figure of increasing scrutiny with the Giants steaming toward a high pick in the first round next spring. That said, this is not all on the second-year quarterback. The Giants lack difference-makers on defense, and the loss of Saquon Barkley has robbed the offense of the only thing that made it special. Dark days in the Meadowlands.
Previous rank: No. 32
Three weeks, three blowout losses. Sunday was another grim slog, as Sam Darnold threw three interceptions -- including two returned for scores -- in a 36-7 loss to the Colts. Darnold finds himself in an impossible situation, marooned on an injury-riddled and talent-poor roster with an unimaginative offensive scheme cooked up by an uninspiring head coach -- but he may force Joe Douglas' hand come next spring if the Jets land at or near the top of the draft and Darnold is coming off an ugly statistical season. This wasn't supposed to be the conversation around Darnold in Year 3, but these are the consequences for a Jets team that has done virtually everything wrong since his arrival.
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.