Like the AFC, there was a lot of changes in the rankings after week three, including a new number one.  Dallas and Chicago moved up the most, each climbing four places, and the Saints, Redskins and 49ers all fell the farthest, three spots each.  Here are the complete NFC rankings for this week.

16.  Carolina Panthers (last week: 15, down one spot, season high 13, season low 16)-  This could be the worst team in the league.  The quarterbacks are a train wreck, the defense is average at best, and the offensive line is so bad that even their typically strong running game can’t get going.  It’s going to be a long, long season in Carolina.

15.  Detroit Lions (last week: 13, down two spots, season high 13, season low 15)-  If and until Matthew Stafford comes back healthy, the Lions are going nowhere.  They have potential, but things just look pretty shaky in Detroit right now.  Rookie phenom Jahvid Best got banged up a bit in Minnesota last week, and that just makes things worse.

14.  San Francisco 49ers (last week: 11, down three spots, season high 11, season low 14)-  I guess all that preseason hype shows what its worth, huh?  After giving away a game to New Orleans, they came out flat and were stomped in Kansas City.  Then they fired their offensive coordinator.  Too bad they couldn’t fire the QB, too.  And the defense.  This team looks poised to completely come apart.

13.  St. Louis Rams (last week: 16, up three spots, season high 13, season low 16)-  Can the Rams actually win the NFC West?  Seattle can’t keep winning games on kick returns, Arizona can’t keep winning on others’ botched field goals, San Francisco simply can’t win against anybody right now.  If Sam Bradford keeps playing like he has, St. Louis has as good a shot as anybody.  And that’s really sad.

12.  Arizona Cardinals (last week: 14, up two spots, season high 11, season low 14)- A big thank you from Ken Wisenhunt and the Cardinals goes out to Oakland for that gift of a win last week.  Now, if only they can get teams to give them six more wins, and they can take the division.  They still move up two places in the putrid lower NFC.

11.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (last week: 9, down two spots, season high 9, season low 14)- Welcome back to reality.  Flying high after the 2-0 start, the Steelers came to town to remind the Bucs who they really are, not ready for prime time.  It will be interesting to see how they respond.  Will Tampa fight back and compete or will the wheels fall off?  It could go either way.

10.  Seattle Seahawks (last week: 10, even, season high 7, season low 10)- Let’s see, Seattle has beaten San Francisco, who now looks like a total fraud, and San Diego, who’s lone win was over Jacksonville.  Plus, they were beaten by Denver, who somehow managed to actually lose to Jacksonville.  Still, they’re likely the favorites in the division at this point.  What are the odds on a 6-10 playoff team?

9.  New York Giants (last week: 8, down one spot, season high 3, season low 9)- So, are these guys any good, either?  Their lone win was an ugly one at home against Carolina.  Since then, they’ve lost to two AFC South teams by a combined score of 67-24.  Eli Manning looks awful, they’re not running the ball, and their defense is getting thrashed.  All that, and they still only dropped one spot.  I’m getting the feeling the NFC is going to be pretty weak this year.

8.  Dallas Cowboys (last week: 12, up four spots, season high 8, season low 12)- The Cowboys got it together in Houston just in time to save their season.  They played fairly mistake free for a change, but will that hold up?  They still got gashed on the run, but Tony Romo played well, and they beat up Matt Schaub.

7.  Washington Redskins (last week: 4, down three places, season high 4, season low 7)- Which Redskins team is for real?  The one who beat Dallas and jumped on Houston in the first half, or the one that blew the lead in the second half and got whipped by the Rams of all teams?  They play Philadelphia this week in an early game for control of the division.  Think there’s any pressure on Donovan McNabb this week?

6.  Minnesota Vikings (last week: 6, even, season high 4, season low 6)- Brett Favre still looks awful, but Adrian Peterson and the defense were enough to run past Detroit.  Fortunately for the Vikings, it doesn’t look like anyone’s capable of running away and hiding in the NFC, so they still have time to figure it out.

5.  Philadelphia Eagles (last week: 7, up two spots, season high 5, season low 9)- What more can be said about Michael Vick?  He’s redemption personified these days.  At least until he does something stupid again.  Even so, he’s playing out of his mind, and this week, he gets a chance to outshine Donovan and make the job well and truly his.  Still, racking up points against Jacksonville, Detroit and even Washington, who has the 32nd ranked defense in the league, is one thing.  I want to see him do it against an elite defense before I’m convinced.

4.  New Orleans Saints (last week: 1, down three spots, season high 1, seasoning low 4)- Sure, the Saints should have won that game against Atlanta last week, but they didn’t, and they have only their own mistakes to blame.  That, along with the fact that the 49ers outplayed them the week before, and you get a three position drop for the champs.  Now there’s the possibility that Drew Brees may be banged up.  They’d better hope it’s not serious or their title defense will be over by mid-season.

3.  Green Bay Packers (last week: 2, down one spot, season high two, season low 3)- Not to belabor a point but the Packers need a running game.  Aaron Rodgers is great and all, but without some balance, they won’t beat the better teams in the league.  And what’s with all the penalties?  Green Bay looked a little slow on Monday night against the Bears.

2.  Atlanta Falcons (last week: 3, up one spot, season high 2, season low 6)- Since losing in overtime to Pittsburgh, all Atlanta’s done is blow out Arizona like they should have and go into New Orleans and gut out a big divisional road win.  With the Saints, along with just about everyone else in the conference, looking vulnerable, Atlanta can stay near the top spot all season as possibly a (very) early favorite for a playoff bye.

1.  Chicago Bears (last week: 5, up four places, season high 1, season low 10)- The last undefeated team in the conference takes over as number one.  But their record isn’t the only reason.  They’re here because the win in Dallas looks much more impressive after the Cowboys pounded Houston.  And they stood toe to toe with Green Bay and looked every bit as good of a team.  Julius Peppers was dominant, and the Bears D came up big every time it was needed.  Of course, Jay Cutler could always turn back into an interception machine at any time, and that would wreck everything.  But for now, Chicago deserves the top spot.

AFC Rankings

Five Players to Watch

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