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The CHARGED Elite: Week Three

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

There’s a new number one for the third straight week as the Packers take the top spot.

The CHARGED Elite: Week Three

I am beginning to think that the number one ranking in the CHARGED Elite is becoming sort of a jinx along the lines of the Madden Curse.  After week one, the Ravens graced the top spot.  They lost the next week to the Tennessee Titans.  The New England Patriots took their place the following week, and they lost to the Buffalo Bills.  Is it coincidence?  Right now there is too small a sample size to confirm whether or not this ChARGED Elite jinx actually exists, but there is a new test subject this week: the Green Bay Packers.

1. Green Bay Packers (3-0, Last Week 2) - Aside from the obvious (Aaron Rodgers hooking up with Jermichael Finley for three touchdowns) I thought the key performance of the game was Ryan Grant breaking out for 92 yards on 17 carries.  He had received less than 10 carries in each of the first two games and had only accumulated 65 yards.  Against a normally stingy Bears defense, Grant looked like his old self.  Even though he didn't score, Green Bay's offense is so much more potent when they can run the ball effectively.

2. Detroit Lions (3-0, Last Week 5) - This was a very telling game for the Lions.  They fell behind 20-0 at the half and could have easily folded.  But Matt Stafford calmly led the offense in the second half and the defense stopped Minnesota from adding to their lead.  Overcoming a 20-point deficit in just 30 minutes is incredibly impressive.  The Detroit Lions are for real people.  And no big deal, but Calvin Johnson is on pace for 32 TD catches this season.

3. New Orleans Saints (2-1, Last Week 6) - Drew Brees didn't start off the game well (he threw his first two picks of the season), but boy did he finish it.  He threw all three of his touchdown passes in the second half and helped the Saints erase an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter.  A lot of credit goes to the Saints red zone defense.  They forced Houston to settle for four field goals inside the 20-yard line.  They may have some deficiencies on the defensive side, but Brees can put points on the board basically at will.

4. Buffalo Bills (3-0, Last Week 8) - Again, the Bills might not end up this high on the list at season's end.  But right now they are playing with some unbelievable confidence and resiliency.  They became the first team in NFL history to come back from deficits of 18 points or more in consecutive games.  The defense forced four Tom Brady interceptions and Ryan Fitzpatrick again led a huge second-half charge.  With a trip to Cincinnati next week, the Bills could be riding high at 4-0 and remain all alone in first place for another week.

5. New England Patriots (2-1, Last Week 1) - The New England secondary has to be a concern for Bill Belichick.  Certainly not having safety Patrick Chung, who did a masterful job on Antonio Gates in week two, hurt the unit, but they have been shredded through the air for three straight weeks.  Tom Brady's brilliance can mask a lot of flaws, but they have to figure out how to shut down some of these passing attacks. 

6. Houston Texans (2-1, Last Week 4) - The Texans couldn't seal the deal against a talented New Orleans team.  Matt Schaub played a heck of a game, but he became less accurate in the second half and couldn't out-duel Drew Brees.  Also, it seems like the Texans just find playmakers out of nowhere.  First it was Ben Tate, and now this week it's TE James Casey.  He broke out for five catches, 126 yards and a score.

7. Baltimore Ravens (2-1, Last Week 8) - The Ravens are very perplexing.  They dominate the Steelers in week one.  Then they get dominated by the Tennessee Titans (who might be better than we think) in week two.  Then they absolutely destroy the hapless St. Louis Rams in week three.  This team can be one of the best in the league on both sides of the ball when it's right.  What exactly gets this team up for games then?  

8. New York Jets (2-1, Last Week 3) - Losing Nick Mangold was a serious blow to the Jets offense.  The running game isn't likely to improve until he gets back, and the Jets really need their running backs to produce more.  Shonn Greene averaged under 4 YPC for the third straight game.  Mark Sanchez has already had two games where he has more than 40 pass attempts.  He completed 59 percent of his passes in one of those games and 62.5 in the other.  Sanchez the gunslinger isn't the answer for the Jets.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1, Last Week 10) - The Steelers were lucky to escape with a win last week.  Ben Roethlisberger turned the ball over three times and didn't look great.  Rashard Mendenhall had another subpar game.  The offensive line is banged up.  But the one constant for the Steelers throughout this young season has been receiver Mike Wallace.  He had his third straight 100-yard receiving game, tallying five catches for 144 yards and a score. 

10. New York Giants (2-1, Last Week 17) - The Giants' defense might not be quite there, but they have excelled on the goal line the last two weeks.  Against the Rams in week two, the Giants forced St. Louis to kick a field goal on their first possession after standing them up on the one-yard line.  The Eagles, down 14-13 in the second half and with all the momentum, had a first and goal on the two-yard line and also had to settle for a field goal.  Those plays changed the course of both games in favor of the Giants.

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1, Last Week 14) - In an NFL that wants nothing to do with Tiki Barber, his twin brother Ronde is still kicking with the Bucs.  Barber intercepted his first pass of the season against the Atlanta Falcons, the 41st INT of his career.  At 36-years-old, Barber is the oldest player on the Tampa Bay defense by a whopping seven years (only three Bucs players in total are older than 30) but he is still capable of having an impact on games. 

12. Oakland Raiders (2-1, Last Week 18) - The Jets had given up 176 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown combined in their first two games.  Darren McFadden rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns by himself against New York.  In total, the Jets were carved up for 234 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.  The Raiders can really run the ball, and with a ground game that potent, QB Jason Campbell just has to manage the game.  He did exactly that on Sunday against New York.

13. Dallas Cowboys (2-1, Last Week 13) - Felix Jones finally broke out, rushing for 110 yards against the Washington Redskins, but Dallas just couldn't punch it in for anything other than a field goal.  Rookie kicker Dan Bailey's six field goals were the difference in the 18-16 win over the Redskins.  The Cowboys would love to see Jones become more effective so that Tony Romo doesn't have to drop back and pass so often.  

14. San Diego Chargers (2-1, Last Week 15) - It certainly wasn't pretty, but Ryan Mathews powered the way with two rushing touchdowns.  He is starting to establish himself now as the guy in their running game.  Mathews got 21 carries to teammate Mike Tolbert's four.  And with Antonio Gates out for the foreseeable future, Mathews ability to run the ball becomes very important.  Randy McMichael can fill Gates' spot, but he can't fill the huge production that Gates put up.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1, Last Week 7) - The Eagles have bigger issues than Michael Vick getting banged up.  They can't stop the run.  Philly ranks 30th in the league in rushing defense, allowing 131.3 yards on average.  They have gotten to the quarterback more effectively (12 sacks through three games, second in the league) thanks to their defensive ends going to the wide nine stance and focusing on pass rushing, but they are doing so at the expense of the run defense.

16. Tennessee Titans (2-1, Last Week 19) - Chris Johnson continues to sputter after his holdout, but Matt Hasselbeck is making up for it.  The veteran quarterback's play has been spectacular the last two weeks.  It will be interesting to see how the offense adapts after the loss of star wideout Kenny Britt.  Nate Washington will play a bigger role, but obviously more is going to have to come from Johnson.  His team (and his fantasy owners) could really use his production.

17. Washington Redskins (2-1, Last Week 12) - Cornerback DeAngelo Hall wasn't pleased with the loss to Dallas on Monday night, and he wasn't pleased with the blitz call on a key third-and-long on Dallas' winning drive.  Romo evaded the rush and found an open Dez Bryant, Hall's man, and got the first down.  Hall also grabbed Bryant's facemask and an additional 15 yards was tacked on.  Hall isn't totally to blame, but he threw some people under the bus.  

18. Atlanta Falcons (1-2, Last Week 11) - Michael Turner rushed for 100 yards on 10 carries in week one.  He rushed for 114 yards on 21 carries in week two.  Turner only received 11 carries against the Buccaneers on Sunday and rushed for 20 yards.  Matt Ryan moved the ball well, but he had his own struggles (two fumbles lost, one interception).  Perhaps more carries for Turner against a Tampa Bay defense that gives up 113 yards a game on the ground could have helped.  But the Falcons lost a tight one and now find themselves in last place.

19. San Francisco 49ers (2-1, Last week 21) - The 49ers defense finally made Andy Dalton look like a rookie.  They picked Dalton off twice and held him to a 40.8 QB rating.  They kept the sputtering offense in the game long enough for their game-sealing drive late.  Second-string running back Kendall Hunter scored the touchdown that put the Bengals away.  It looks like it will be another messy year in the NFC West.

20. Chicago Bears (1-2, Last Week 16) - It certainly wasn't an awful showing by Chicago, and who knows if the outcome of the game would have changed if that crazy punt return by Johnny Knox hadn't been called back.  But the Bears find themselves a full two games back of both the Packers and Lions after just three weeks.  Next week's game against the Carolina Panthers is almost a must-win with a week five matchup against the Lions looming.

21. Cleveland Browns (2-1, Last Week 28) - Colt McCoy completed less than 50 percent of his passes, but he led the game-winning drive and hit Mohamed Massaquoi for the winning 14-yard touchdown pass.  The Browns have beaten two 0-3 teams (and lost their only game to the Bengals, so they realistically could be 3-0), but they still find themselves tied for first in the division with the Steelers and Ravens.  Things aren't terrible if you're a Browns fan right now.

22. Carolina Panthers (1-2, Last Week 23) - It took a monsoon to stop Cam Newton from passing for over 400 yards, but the rookie quarterback did win his first NFL start against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Newton is using his two tight ends, Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey, quite often.  The two former Miami Hurricanes have 21 catches for 306 yards and a score so far this season.  They caught 10 of Newton's 18 completions against the Jaguars, Olsen caught the only touchdown, and Olsen also caught the ensuing two-point conversion.

23. Minnesota Vikings (0-3, Last Week 25) - Sooner or later, the Vikings are going to hold on to a second-half lead.  They just might need a lead bigger than 20 points to do so.  It's puzzling that Adrian Peterson received only six carries in the second half with the Vikings holding a lead.  Wouldn't the strategy be to control the possession with arguably the best running back in the game?  For Peterson to only carry the ball 17 times while Donovan McNabb makes 36 pass attempts is simply mind-boggling.  But, the Vikings did have the Lions on the ropes.  For that they receive a slight bump. 

24. Seattle Seahawks (1-2, Last Week 30) - I don't think the Seahawks necessarily deserve this big a leap in the rankings, but the pickings are slim down here.  Marshawn Lynch finally appeared, rushing for 73 yards.  Sidney Rice also came out and caught eight balls for 109 yards in his first game as a Seahawk.  If Rice can provide QB Tarvaris Jackson with that deep threat and Lynch can run the ball fairly well, the Seahawks could compete in the NFC West for sure.

25. Arizona Cardinals (1-2, Last Week 20) - Beanie Wells played in every game as a rookie.  Last year he missed three games.  He had to sit out Sunday's loss to the Seahawks with a hamstring injury.  Wells is becoming a liability because of his injuries.  When he's on the field, he is a dynamic player.  It appears that he is becoming fragile though, and without a reliable second option (no more Tim Hightower) the Cardinals aren't in good shape on offense without him.

26. St. Louis Rams (0-3, Last Week 22) - The Rams had a "Murderer's Row" of opponents for their first three games.  The Eagles, Giants and Ravens all won more than 10 games last year.  St. Louis would have loved to win at least one, and their best shot was against the Giants.  It's certainly not the way any team wants to start a season, but the Rams aren't dead in the water yet.  They do reside in the NFC West, after all.  And they have to love what they've been getting from Carnell Williams so far.

27. Denver Broncos (1-2, Last Week 26) - The Broncos have lost their two games by a combined six points, and Kyle Orton's play late in games has been costly.  He had another two interceptions against Tennessee, the second one coming on Denver's final drive and with the Broncos almost in field goal range.  You have to feel for Orton, who isn't in a great situation.

28. Cincinnati Bengals (1-2, Last Week 27) - Cincinnati was very close to winning that game against the 49ers, but they have to be pleased with the defensive effort.  The Bengals sacked Alex Smith five times, forced three fumbles (recovering one) and holding Frank Gore to just 2.5 yards a carry.  If the defense can stay that active and aggressive, Andy Dalton will be able to gain valuable experience in close games.

29. Miami Dolphins (0-3, Last Week 24) - Things have gone from bad to worse in Miami.  They are in last place, three games back of the Bills.  They have to play an angry Jets team next week.  Their big offseason acquisition has rushed for just 69 yards and has fumbled the ball away twice.  At least rookie Daniel Thomas is starting to emerge as the go-to option.  He had 122 all-purpose yards and a score for the Dolphins.

30. Indianapolis Colts (0-3, Last Week 31) - The Colts nearly pulled off the upset.  Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were all over Ben Roethlisberger, combining for three sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.  Freeney's forced fumble was recovered and returned for a touchdown, and their defensive energy almost led the Colts to victory.  But it just wasn't enough.  Now Indy has another quarterback that's roughed up in Kerry Collins.  They re-signed Dan Orlovsky just in case, but we remember what Dan Orlovsky is capable of

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2, Last Week 29) - The Blaine Gabbert era began and started off with a loss.  Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 122 yards, and Gabbert actually outperformed fellow rookie Cam Newton.  The Jaguars have a very tough slate of games ahead of them, though.  They have to face New Orleans next week, Pittsburgh week six, Baltimore week seven, and Houston week eight.  The only winnable game is against the Bengals week five.  

32. Kansas City Chiefs (0-3, Last Week 32) - The Chiefs actually played a solid game against the Chargers, but it's going to take a win to get them out of the cellar.  Matt Cassel played better, but his late pick cost the Chiefs a chance to potentially tie or win the game.  Dexter McCLuster filled in admirable for Jamaal Charles, averaging five yards a carry.  More McCLuster is a good thing for the Chiefs.  He is electric.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know what you think in the comment section, and make sure you check out next week's updated rankings of the CHARGED Elite.        

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