Senior NFL Columnist

NFL Power Rankings: Time to start paying attention to Cardinals, Bengals


Much of the early-season NFL talk has been about the Buffalo Bills (Week 1), the Philadelphia Eagles (not so good), the New England Patriots (the Tom Brady show), the Green Bay Packers (best team) and the Dallas Cowboys (injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant).

Two teams that deserve to get more of that spotlight: The Arizona Cardinals and the Cincinnati Bengals. Both teams are off to impressive 2-0 starts, but few are noticing.

The Bengals beat the San Diego Chargers on Sunday to get to 2-0, while the Cardinals went to Chicago and beat up the Bears to also remain undefeated.

Both teams are in the top 5 here in my Power Rankings, with the Cardinals at No. 4 and the Bengals right behind them in the fifth spot. Their quick starts won't mean a lot to the many who doubt whether these teams are capable of winning postseason games, their history fanning the pessimistic flames.

The Bengals have been to the playoffs four consecutive seasons but haven't won a single playoff game in that stretch. That has put a ton of heat on coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton. So far, Dalton has come up big.

In two games, he has five touchdown passes, no interceptions and a passer rating of 120.3. What's changed? He has weapons all over the place, unlike his playoff game loss to the Colts last January where he was throwing to Rex Burkhead and Cobi Hamilton.

The Bengals might be the best team in the league when it comes to the combination of both lines. They are deep and talented on both sides, which is a big plus in a league where offensive line play is an issue.

As for the Cardinals, Carson Palmer's health makes them a Super Bowl contender. If he didn't go down with a knee injury last season, the Cardinals would have won the NFC West -- not Seattle.

Arizona has two home division games against San Francisco and St. Louis in the next two weeks. They can take a real hold on the division if they can win both those games.

Pay attention to Arizona and Cincinnati. Not many people are right now, but they are two of the best teams in the league after two weeks. It's early, but they both have that potential to be Super Bowl teams. There, I said it.

The Cardinals, Panthers and Jets are all 2-0. ( Original)
The Cardinals, Panthers and Jets are all 2-0. ( Original)


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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