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The Polite Power Rankings: Week 3

This past week I had the chance to take a nostalgic stroll through last year’s Polite Power Rankings. One of my most intriguing discoveries came in my end-of-the-regular-season rankings, where I slotted the New York Giants at 14. Middle-of-the-packers. Yep, the team that went on to win the Super Bowl a few weeks later.

What does this prove? It proves that great soothsaying minds like Nostradamus and Weather Channel meteorologists and even NFL power rankers sometimes fall prey to the fact that the world is a complex place full of evolutions and uncertainties. Fortunately, we’re only entering week 3 of the NFL season, so we can set our sights on the here and now. But I will make one season-long predication: While some of the perennial heavyweights (see: New England; see: Indianapolis) are struggling to stay afloat, we’re going to see franchises that have been hobbling of late (see: Philadelphia; see: Denver) find fresh legs that’ll carry them far into the playoffs.

1. Dallas Cowboys (2)

Now that was a football game. And a few things about that game bode very well for Dallas. First: At the end of game, when Dallas needed its defense to secure the victory, the D came through in a big way. Second: After the game, when a reporter asked Tony Romo what went through his head when he fumbled the ball in his own sense, Romo simply smiled and said that he thought, “Darn it!” This guy is unflappable. And finally, the biggest thing the Cowboys have going for them right now is that Desean Jackson is not on their team.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (1)

The Steelers now sit atop the AFC North. But it’s hard to say that Sunday night’s victory was a dominant performance. And QB Ben Roethlisberger’s separated shoulder concerns could come back to haunt the team in the weeks to come. But if everyone stays healthy, the old-school Steelers ways (hard-hitting, hard-running football) are sure to keep this team near the front of the pack.

3. New York Giants (4)

It’s not till week 10 that the Giants and the Eagles meet up to arm wrestle for placement in the talent-packed NFC East — and they’ll see Dallas for the first time the week before that. In the meantime, the Giants can continue to sharpen their weapons by beating up on sad mid-market teams like St. Louis.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (3)

Now that was a football game. Did I already say that? Well, it deserves to be said again. Even with his first and second receivers out of the game, quarterback Donovan McNabb made the Eagles’ passing game look like a perfected science. And Brian Westbrook is always running that rock downhill. The defense did give up a heck of a lot of points, and didn’t record any sacks — so there is room for improvement. But the guys from Philly are in the hunt.

5. Green Bay Packers (7)

No, there never was an actual memo, but if there had been one, it would have went something like this: “Dear Aaron Rodgers, You are about to replace a living legend who was basically forced out of the organization. Your career is doomed.” Well, real or not, Rodgers never got the memo, and he’s got a team full of guys that believe he’s the second coming of, you know, that other guy.

6. Denver Broncos (8)

7. New England Patriots (11)

8. Buffalo Bills (13)

9. Indianapolis Colts (9)

10. Chicago Bears (6)

A game lost, with the lead relinquished with less than four minutes left in the game. What’s the positive side? For starters, Kyle Orton didn’t turn over the rock; true, he didn’t squeeze it into the end zone, either, but he’s showing signs that the “more mature” Kyle Orton understands what it means to manage a game. And the Matt Forte-led rushing game is looking strong. And best of all (for Chicago fans, that is) the rough and burly Bears D knows how to put a hurtin’ on the guys on the other side of the ball.

11. New Orleans Saints (5)

12. Tennessee Titans (12)

Vince Young has taken a semi-permanent seat on the sidelines after a few rough games and the circulation of stories about suicidal behavior. And his teammates say, in essence, he’s a nice guy but not the kind of guy they want to baby sit. So now the veteran Kerry Collins is at the helm, and though he’s not the world’s greatest talent, his big arm and deep experience just might allow the Titans to claw their way to (or near) the top of the AFC South.

13. Carolina Panthers (17)

14. Arizona Cardinals (18)

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (15)

16. San Diego Chargers (10)

17. Washington Redskins (28)

The Redskins have earned the biggest leap forward in this week’s rankings. This is in part due to Jason Campbell, who seemed to break out of his shell by completing two-thirds of his passes and tossing for 321 yards. But Clinton Portis was money in the running game, and Santana Moss, Chris Cooley and Antwan Randel El combined for almost 300 receiving yards. And the defense: a pair of sack and a pair of interceptions — and for the weakest team in the NFC North, the Skins have plenty of potential weapons.

18. Minnesota Vikings (16)

19. New York Jets (14)

20. San Francisco 49ers (29)

21. Seattle Seahawks (22)

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (22)

If ever there was a year to dethrone the Colts in the AFC South, this is the year. And many of us would’ve put money on the Jags to be the team to do it. But a quarterback that Sunday put up one interception and no TDs? And a running game that only found 27 yards on the ground? Tennessee: We look to you.

23. Oakland Raiders (31)

24. Cleveland Browns (20)

25. Houston Texans (25)

26. Detroit Lions (24)

27. Baltimore Ravens (27)

28. Atlanta Falcons (19)

29. Miami Dolphins (23)

30. Cincinnati Bengals (30)

31. Kansas City Chiefs (26)

Not quite in the cellar, but oh so close. And how does a team plummet several seats and find itself in such a position? By failing to show signs of life in any phase of the game. I have to admit that I sometimes wonder if head coach Herm Edwards engages in rituals of violent self-flagellation at night as he thinks about the day he decided to skip out on the Jets and take his hopes from New York City to Kansas City.

32. St. Louis Rams (32)

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