The Times’ NFL rankings
by Lance Pugmire
Up: 49ers + 1 | Down: Jaguars - 1
QB Alex Smith’s efficiency (no INTS in 216 passes), defense-led victories over Packers, Lions make them early favorite for Super Bowl.
Takeaway skills set up big first half against Denver. Now they have challenge of getting up for nonconference road game in San Diego.
Two blowouts (albeit over Miami and Jacksonville) reveal all elements of a winner: defense, strong running game, sound coaching.
Hard-to-please fans might not like nine-turnover route to the wins, yet beating Ravens and QB Mike Vick’s pressure play deserve credit.
Field goal away from losing to Patriots, but it missed and four sacks of Brady worth noting since defense rarely slumps. Eagles next.
QB Peyton Manning rallied self from three INTs and new team on road after big early deficit. Home showdown awaits against Houston.
Shutting down Bears’ Cutler a needed boost for Rodgers and Co., and now they get a long rest before venturing to Seattle Monday.
Two wins without RB Ryan Mathews because of swarming defense that has given up TDs only with victory at hand. Test vs. Atlanta next.
One-point defeat at Eagles soured by poor officiating. Doses of defense and RB Ray Rice moving forward make them a tough out.
Struggle to score TDs, stunning home-opener loss to Arizona has bitter chaser of facing Sunday night at Baltimore.
Clamping down Jets in second half marks annual resurrection of “Steel Curtain” reputation. Roethlisberger a precise 24-of-31.
Secondary absences hurt cause at tough 49ers, but QB Matthew Stafford-WR Calvin Johnson duo should start big run at Tennessee.
Another testament to why QB Eli Manning has done what he’s done, rallying through two picks and two-touchdown second-half deficit.
Now they know: don’t lose your temper in final minutes. Rookie star QB Robert Griffin III 20-of-29, rushed for 82 yards in close loss.
RB Marshawn Lynch running with authority, QB Russell Wilson not playing like a kid and special teams capable of stoking home-field fire.
Jerry Jones probably wanted someone to black out his glasses in 20-point loss at Seattle. Inconsistency remains the reputation.
QB Mark Sanchez throws chum in water to New York media along with incompletions, finishing 10-of-27, 138 yards as “Tebow Watch” warms.
Grumpy QB Jay Cutler answers toughness questions in Packers’ attack, but leadership remains enigmatic. Hobbled RB Forte doesn’t help.
Blown lead at Giants, failed “Miracle at Meadowlands” attempt defuses new Coach Greg Schiano’s work, yet they’re clearly much better.
Piled up rushing yards with QB Cam Newton directing option attack, a true threat moving forward. Newton also passed for 253 yards.
Bullied Browns again, with QB Andy Dalton throwing three TDs. Red flag is allowing 27 points to Cleveland after opening spanking.
Either them or Kansas City will be 0-3 next week. Clearly cutting the head off leader has changed them and Brees left to throw too much.
Coach Jeff Fisher’s toughness being felt, and QB Sam Bradford has found definite comfort receiver in Danny Amendola (15 receptions).
C.J. Spiller rushed for 123 yards and two TDS in win, and defensive investment finding chemistry as five sacks, three turnovers attest.
RB Reggie Bush reverted to USC days with 172 yards vs. Raiders, lifting pressure from rookie QB Ryan Tannehill. Still work in progress.
Looking bad, very bad. Where was RB Jamaal Charles in blowout loss? Where was protection? Now they walk into New Orleans’ desperate den.
Andrew Luck gets first win thanks to Adam Vinatieri’s 53-yard kick near buzzer. What qualifies season as a success? I’ll say six wins.
Can’t be happy with loss to Colts. Grind of season something to watch on RB Adrian Peterson, whom they need big games from for victory.
RB Trent Richardson broke 100 yards, fellow rookie QB Brandon Weeden surpassed 300 and still wasn’t enough. Dog pound, indeed.
Wow, they look rough. Trailing 17-0, they were pinned near own 5 and never really worried Chargers. RB Chris Johnson calling out line.
Flat trip follows sloppy opener. Run defense fails this time. Tell me where to find excitement? Now they look up and see Steelers coming.
As if things weren’t bad enough, QB Blaine Gabbert hurt. Send the worst replacement refs to their next game, they need a break. Or 10.