When the season began, there were many who thought the Los Angeles Rams, thanks to the trade to get quarterback Matt Stafford, had a real chance to get to the Super Bowl. But there was almost none of that sentiment coming for the Arizona Cardinals.
Yet here we are with three weeks finished in the season and the Rams and Cardinals are the two top teams in my Power Rankings, with the Rams first and the Cardinals second. What's even better is they play each other this week in Los Angeles.
If the San Francisco 49ers didn't botch the clock management at the end of the game Sunday night, and didn't allow Aaron Rodgers to get his team into position for a game-winning field goal, it would be a 1-2-3 top for the NFC West in these rankings. As it is, the 49ers remain in the top 10 with a 2-1 record looking up at their two division foes.
The Rams impressed in a big way in beating up on the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. It's games like that that illustrate why they traded to land Stafford, who shook off a slow start to outplay Tom Brady. The Rams defense also did a nice job against Brady on the other side of the ball.
As for Arizona, it didn't look great in beating Jacksonville, but those are the types of games that the Cardinals would lose in the past. Now comes the real challenge of playing the Rams in a second straight road game. The Arizona defense hasn't been as good the past two weeks as it was in Week 1 against Tennessee, so it needs to pick it up against Stafford.
The Rams, right now, are the more balanced team, although Arizona is capable of getting loose on offense with Kyler Murray.
This week's game will have it all. It has Murray against the Rams' front. It has Jalen Ramsey in his battle with longtime foe DeAndre Hopkins. It has Chandler Jones, the NFL sack leader, trying to knock down Stafford after his line did a great job against Tampa Bay.
This game will have the feel of an early-season matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in college football, only the stakes won't be as high. Loser isn't done.
Brady returning to New England is a nice story and all this week, but the best game will be in Los Angeles with the Rams playing host to the Cardinals.
Winner gets the top spot in the Power Rankings after the first month, which is nice, but then they have the realization they have five more games left with teams from the NFC's top division.
|Sean McVay has the offense clicking, but Raheem Morris is really doing a nice job with the defense. The preseason hype about them seems valid now.||2||5-1-0|
|It hasn't always been pretty for this team, but they are 3-0. They are making a lot of big plays on both sides of the ball.||2||6-0-0|
|Winning on the road at San Francisco the way they did was impressive. They dominated for much of that game, lost the lead, and still found a way to win it. Aaron Rodgers has been great the past two weeks.||4||5-1-0|
|They've had injuries on defense that are showing up each week. This is the return of Tom Brady to New England this week, so that's the story. Bet he can't wait.||3||5-1-0|
|That Week 1 oss to the Steelers will look strange at the end of this season. The defense isn't getting enough credit for how well it is playing, which bodes well for the long term.||1||4-1-0|
|At 3-0, they are one of the early-season surprises. They showed some fight rallying from down 14 early to beat Miami. Now comes a tough one with the Chargers on the road.||2||4-2-0|
|That was a tough loss to the Packers, but they showed a lot in rallying back to take a late lead. They lost because they messed up the end of the game in terms of clock management.||5||2-3-0|
|The defense came alive against the Bears, with Myles Garrett playing a huge role with 4.5 sacks. At 2-1, they face a tough road trip to Minnesota this week.||2||3-3-0|
|They haven't exactly lit up a murderous schedule, but 3-0 is 3-0. The injuries have to be a concern, especially with Christian McCaffrey down for a bit and Jaycee Horn down for longer - maybe the season.||2||3-3-0|
|At 3-0, they've beaten three teams without a win, which makes it hard to evaluate how good they are. We know how good the defense is, that's for sure.||2||3-3-0|
|That's a big-time win on the road against the Chiefs. Justin Herbert bounced out of his slow start with an impressive four-touchdown pass game.||7||4-2-0|
|They have to stop turning the ball over like they did against the Chargers. It's hard to believe they are 1-2 after three weeks, but it's the first time with Patrick Mahomes they are under .500. Amazing.||7||3-3-0|
|They are 2-1, but when you have to beat the Lions on a 66-yard field goal at the buzzer, it's telling. They haven't played a full game yet on both sides of the ball.||4||5-1-0|
|Winning at New England is a testament to Sean Payton as a coach. They had a lot to deal with to open this season, yet they are still 2-1. Impressive.||1||3-2-0|
|After the opening-day loss, they've regrouped to take over first place in the division. They do need to get better on defense, but they will score a lot of points.||2||3-2-0|
|They looked like the best team in the NFC East in their rout of the Eagles. They just might run away with the division.||--||5-1-0|
|At 2-1, they have to be one off the biggest surprises so far after dominating the Steelers on Sunday. Now they have another winnable game at home against Jacksonville on Thursday.||8||4-2-0|
|They saved their season with an impressive home victory over the Seahawks. The offense is really clicking the past two weeks, but it was the improvement by the defense that will be key going forward.||8||3-3-0|
|The defense is a disaster right now, which is shocking for this team. They can't stop anybody with a brutal road test against division-rival San Francisco this week.||4||2-3-0|
|What the heck was that against the Saints? They looked flat as can be. Mac Jones still has a long ways to go. Here comes Tom Brady.||1||2-4-0|
|They are 1-2 and playing for a stretch without their starting quarterback. This is a must-win this week against the Colts at home.||1||1-5-0|
|This is a bad team right now. The offense doesn't scare anybody. In fact, it's a downright mess. How did they beat the Bills?||8||2-3-0|
|The defense, which looked like it would be dominant before the season, has been a disaster. It can't stop anybody. That's hard to believe with the talent of the front seven.||2||2-4-0|
|With two straight losses, they are reeling now. The showing against the Cowboys was awful. They couldn't stop Dallas and they couldn't move the ball. They got abused.||1||2-4-0|
|Andy Dalton or Justin Fields? It doesn't matter playing behind that line. The Browns maimed Fields last week, and now he's banged up.||1||3-3-0|
|They have hardly looked like a team some thought would win the AFC South. They've had a lot of injuries impact their roster early this season, but the 0-3 start is bad and the schedule coming up is a challenge.||4||2-4-0|
|They showed some life in coming back against the Giants. Will that jump-start their season? Maybe, but they have to be better up front, especially this week against a Washington defense that has talent on the line.||2||2-3-0|
|At 0-3, the heat is on this group. Daniel Jones has to start winning games - or there will be changes coming.||1||1-5-0|
|Davis Mills did some good things against the Panthers, but they were too restrictive in their play calling. It's time to let him play a little looser going forward.||1||1-5-0|
|Losing the way they did to the Ravens on a 66-yard field goal has to sting. But they play hard, which is a good sign for coach Dan Campbell as he builds to something.||--||0-6-0|
|They made some progress against the Cardinals, but they just aren't good enough. Urban Meyer has three losses, which is something he isn't used to having in any season.||1||1-5-0|
|The offense is so bad right now. Zach Wilson isn't good, but he doesn't really have a chance. It's going to be a long season.||1||1-4-0|