Senior NFL Columnist

NFL Power Rankings: Do-or-die time for slipping Falcons, 49ers


The New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers are a combined 0-9. The San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons, the two teams in the NFC Championship Game last season, are both 1-2.

The Kansas City Chiefs, who won two games last season, are 3-0, as are the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears -- all teams that missed the playoffs in 2012.

You have a grasp on this league yet? I sure don't. And I am not sure we will until Week 17.

It's been a crazy three weeks to open the season, but there are constants. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are both 3-0 and Seattle is as nasty as ever on defense and at home.

As we approach the quarter point of the season, the Broncos, Seahawks and Patriots remain 1-2-3 here in our Power Rankings. If you're looking for the 49ers and Falcons in the top 10, don't bother.

Both teams face huge early-season games this week, which could define the rest of their seasons. The 49ers play at the Rams on Thursday night, while the Falcons host the Patriots on Sunday night. If either drops to 1-3, they will face long odds to win their respective divisions.

The biggest surprise in the top 10 has to be the Dolphins, who beat the Falcons on Sunday. Next up for Miami: the Saints next Monday in New Orleans.

The Saints have won with an aggressive defense that has them once again thinking Super Bowl. Getting Sean Payton back has truly re-energized the Saints, and hiring Rob Ryan has helped the defense in a big way.

As for the 0-3 teams at the bottom, one more loss could be the death shot to their seasons. Only one team since the merger -- the 1992 San Diego Chargers -- made the playoffs after opening 0-4.

Looking at the 0-3 teams, it's hard to think one of them is ready to do the same.

Then again, who thought they'd be there in the first place? Three weeks in, and we have no idea what's going on each week in this NFL season.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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