A month into the 2011 season, the 3-1 Ravens have established themselves as one of the early favorites to play in the Super Bowl in February. They manhandled the two teams that played in last season’s AFC championship -- the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets -- and lead the NFL with an impressive plus-62 point differential.
The first-place Ravens are one of six AFC teams with a 3-1 record as they enter their bye week, and their active roster will be deeper if Ben Grubbs, Lee Evans and Jimmy Smith are ready to return after it.
So where do the Ravens rank in the NFL’s balance of power? Only one team tops them in my monthly power rankings (which come with the usual disclaimer that they shouldn’t be taken too seriously). So who's better?
1. Packers (previous rank -- 1): I’m sure there won’t be too much argument with me putting the defending champs ahead of the Ravens, especially with the way that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have scored at will so far.
2. Ravens (6): Though the Ravens should have won in Week 2, the loss doesn’t look as bad with the Titans sitting at 3-1. Baltimore dominated in its other three games, which were all over at halftime.
3. Patriots (2): The Ravens may have to go through the Patriots to get to the Super Bowl, but if they played in Week 5, I'd bet on the Ravens (and I’d pray to God that Cam Cameron would run the ball).
4. Lions (9): The roar has been restored in Detroit thanks to strong drafts and a healthy Matthew Stafford.
5. Saints (5): After losing to the Packers in Week 1, the Saints have reeled off three straight victories, including wins over the Bears and Texans. I think this team is only going to get better.
6. Texans (10): It took a season-threatening injury to Colts QB Peyton Manning for the Texans to become the frontrunners in the AFC South. They will still have to hold off the surprising Titans to win the division.
7. Buccaneers (15): Like the Lions, the Buccaneers have looked smart after recent drafts. I like Josh Freeman a lot. He’s got some Ben Roethlisberger in him, but without the neck beard and a busted-up schnoz.
8. Chargers (11): Typically slow starters, the Chargers will probably run away with the AFC West (their only semi-serious challengers are the Raiders). They will be a tough out in the playoffs.
9. Bills (29): I wouldn’t mind if Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills kept their glass slippers, but I’m not 100 percent sold.
10. Giants (17): Shredded secondary be damned, the Giants are tied with the Redskins atop the NFC East.
11. Titans (20): A lot of talk has rightfully centered on Matt Hasselbeck, but their defense has been pretty good.
12. Redskins (28): Only the Ravens and Titans have allowed fewer points than the Haynesworth-less Redskins.
13. Falcons (7): The Falcons have a bunch of weapons on offense, but Michael Turner should be the primary one.
14. Steelers (3): They might survive without James Harrison, but they can’t if they lose Roethlisberger.
15. Cowboys (12): If not for some poor decisions by Tony Romo, this team could be undefeated right now.
16. 49ers (26): Those Harbaugh brothers know a thing or two about quickly turning around football teams.
NFL power rankings: Who is ahead of the Ravens?
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