We finally had the opportunity to watch teams play games that count, which gave a better idea of where each team stands in 2017. However, it was just Week 1, so these rankings will fluctuate over the next couple weeks as teams put more on the field and establish themselves.
1. Atlanta Falcons (1-0) | Last week: #2 (+1)
Week 1 was too close for comfort for the defending NFC champions, as Mike Glennon and the Bears had four chances at the end of the game to take the lead. But Matt Ryan was true to MVP form, leading the team to ten fourth quarter points including a huge 88-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper, and the Falcons got a big stop on defense to close it out. They open their new and amazing Mercedes-Benz Stadium for their first regular season game there on Sunday night against the Packers.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) | Last week: #4 (+2)
Alex Smith silenced many of the haters last Thursday when sliced up the Patriots for 368 yards and four touchdowns while completing 80% of his passes. His passes were right on the money and he unleashed a couple of perfect deep balls in the game. It was also rookie Kareem Hunt’s coming out party, as he totaled nearly 250 yards and three touchdowns. The defense did an excellent job of limiting Tom Brady and the Patriots in the second half. I’ve believed since last season the Chiefs are the only team in the AFC that will be able to get past New England in January, and they showed that ability in Week 1. The very unfortunate loss of Eric Berry is something no one wants to see and is a huge blow to the Chiefs, but I look forward to him being back on the field in All-Pro form next season.
3. New England Patriots (0-1) | Last week: #1 (-2)
I didn’t expect New England to fall from the number one spot all season, but it already happened after the Chiefs went in to Foxoborough and won. People overreacting and promising the fall of Tom Brady and the empire is a bit much—New England is not the team to bet against. The Patriots are still my clear favorite to win the Super Bowl, but they’ll be the first to tell you they need to earn it every day and every week. They obviously haven’t done it yet after losing at home in Week 1, but they will. Expect them to be atop the rankings sometime soon.
4. Green Bay Packers (1-0) | Last week: #3 (+1)
The defense of the Packers continues to have Russell Wilson’s number, as they limited Seattle to nine points in Week 1. Anything can happen in any game—as Wilson showed in the NFC Championship in 2015—but having Seattle’s number could be huge with the two teams possibly squaring off in January.
5. Minnesota Vikings (1-0) | Last week: #7 (+2)
Like Alex Smith, Sam Bradford gets totally disrespected and is a lot better than the media and the average fan think. The issue is most people don’t even watch players play—they just like to criticize based off a false narrative. Just listen to guys like Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden, who knows a lot more about football than almost anyone, gush about Bradford instead of saying ignorant things. Anyway, as long as the offensive line plays like they did on Monday night, the Vikings are a scary team and overtake Atlanta as my favorite in the NFC. The defense is obviously legit, as is rookie running back Dalvin Cook.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) | Last week: #5 (-1)
Le’Veon Bell’s return didn’t go as planned, as he totaled 47 yards on only 13 touches. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown had the connection working as usual, though, with the two connecting on all 11 targets for 182 yards. On the other side of the ball, the run defense looks very good again, holding Isaiah Crowell to less than two yards per carry. The defense also had seven total sacks, including two from rookie T.J. Watt—who also had an interception in his first game. This Sunday’s matchup in Pittsburgh against the Vikings might be the game of the week.
7. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) | Last week: #10 (+3)
Well, the Ravens certainly made things easier for Joe Flacco in his return from a back injury that forced him to miss the entire preseason. The defense absolutely dominated against Cincinnati, forcing four Andy Dalton interceptions in the 20-0 shutout. The offense relied on the running game, rushing 42 times in the game. It was also good to see new receiver Jeremy Maclin play well, as the former Pro Bowler took a slant route 48 yards to the house. Danny Woodhead’s hamstring injury, which will keep him out several weeks, is the only bad news for the Ravens.
8. Oakland Raiders (1-0) | Last week: #9 (+1)
Sunday was a great opener for the Raiders, who went to Nashville to defeat the Titans. Derek Carr was lights out, Marshawn Lynch looked like Marshawn Lynch, and the defense surprisingly played very well. Oakland limited DeMarco Murray to 44 yards, while they didn’t allow many easy throws for Marcus Mariota and the passing attack of the Titans. The Raiders will look to keep it going this Sunday against the Jets.
9. Dallas Cowboys (1-0) | Last week: #13 (+4)
Dak Prescott quickly assuaged all thoughts of him having a sophomore slump in 2017. On Sunday night, Prescott and the Cowboys easily took care of the one team that beat them (twice) in games the starters played last regular season, defeating the Giants, 19-3. Prescott came right out and looked like a ten-year vet in total control of the offense. It’s difficult to know if the Cowboys defense is that much better this season or if the offensive line of the Giants is that bad, but things are looking good for Dallas after Week 1.
10. Tennessee Titans (0-1) | Last week: #6 (-4)
Although the Titans lost by ten at home to the Raiders, the game was closer than the score indicates. Athletic first-round rookie cornerback Adoree’ Jackson appeared to improve before our eyes as the game went on, and fellow first-rounder Corey Davis had a solid debut (six catches, 67 yards) that showed flashes of his talent. The Titans’ upside is high, and we’ll see what they can do in Week 2 against Jacksonville.
11. Seattle Seahawks (0-1) | Last week: #8 (-3)
Though they beat them in the NFC Championship a few years ago, the Seahawks might just want to hope they don’t run into the Packers in January. The offensive line did not play well against Green Bay, as they couldn’t protect Russell Wilson, who just couldn’t get away and make plays like he usually does. Seattle does have serious beef with the officiating, because Jeremy Lane certainly did not throw a punch and he probably should not have been ejected from the game. Still, they lost, and I have some concern there could be some major issues between the offense and the defense if the O doesn’t pick it up.
12. Carolina Panthers (1-0) | Last week: #17 (+5)
Luke Kuechly and the Panthers defense look like they’re back. It was against the 49ers, but the Niners did some damage to their defense last season with far less talent. Cam Newton didn’t look great, but head coach Ron Rivera admitted he was probably a little rusty after only playing one drive in the preseason because of his shoulder. The tandem of Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey in the backfield looks like it’ll be great. The rookie from Stanford can obviously do damage with the ball in his hands, but the Panthers used him as a decoy to misdirect the defense on a few plays too. Carolina’s offense has the potential to cause headaches for defensive coordinators.
13. Detroit Lions (1-0) | Last week: #23 (+10)
The Lions made the biggest jump in the power rankings. I wasn’t sure about them after they had so many comeback wins last season, but they did the same exact thing in Week 1 as Matthew Stafford torched the Cardinals for 20 fourth-quarter points in another comeback win. The defense also picked off Carson Palmer three times in the game while limiting Arizona’s passing attack and also limiting David Johnson on the ground before his injury. Rookie Kenny Golladay received a ton of deserved hype this preseason and he already looks like a beast, scoring twice in his first game, including a diving catch on a 45-yard bomb.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) | Last week: #20 (+6)
It’s not often you see a coach get a Gatorade bath in Week 1—maybe for their first game like Rams head coach Sean McVay did—but the Eagles gave Doug Pederson one after their 30-17 win over the Redskins. The game was closer than the score indicated, but the Eagles pulled away late thanks to the defense (and probably some help from the officials on a fumble that should’ve been overturned). Carson Wentz showed his athleticism and made some huge plays, including a scramble that led to a 58-yard touchdown for Nelson Agholor. Agholor, who had six receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown, truly has the ability to be an elite receiver and could be a major difference-maker this year.
15. Denver Broncos (1-0) | Last week: #24 (+9)
Denver made the second-biggest leap in the power rankings, as they pulled out a close one to cap Week 1. The defense looked really good in its first game without Wade Phillips as the coordinator, which is a positive sign. But the offense is what has me more optimistic about their chances this season. C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles combined for 30 carries and ran well. More important, Trevor Siemian looks to have the quarterback job on lock for the Broncos. He helped the team go 8/15 on third-down conversions, which is a great sign after they were 31st in third-down conversion percentage last season.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) | Last week: #16
There isn’t much to say about the Buccaneers, who will now have to play 16 straight weeks after their Week 1 game was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. They play the Bears in Week 2 in a game that will be more difficult than people might think. But the Bucs do have a long layoff that gave them time to prepare, and the Bears might have a bit of a letdown after their close loss to the defending NFC Champions in Week 1.
17. Miami Dolphins (0-0) | Last week: #18 (+1)
The Dolphins are the other team that has to deal with playing 16 straight weeks after the Week 1 postponement, but head coach Adam Gase won’t make any excuses. Miami plays Philip Rivers and the Chargers to open their season in what should be a good one.
18. Houston Texans (0-1) | Last week: #12 (-6)
Despite the blowout loss in Week 1, the Texans remain in the top 20 and above the Jaguars because of the switch to Deshaun Watson at quarterback. Nothing against Tom Savage, but Watson might be a special player that can take the Texans to another level. Bill O’Brien has made clear the rookie is impressive, and he wouldn’t be putting Watson out there if he didn’t believe he was ready. The Clemson great is someone with the potential to change a program, as his college head coach Dabo Swinney said. It might start this season.
19. Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) | Last week: #14 (-5)
If there is a team that would have a potential game-tying field goal blocked with seconds to go, it’s the Chargers. After a furious 14-point fourth-quarter flurry, they came up just short but will look to carry the momentum into Week 2. The defense was a bit of a surprise, as they allowed Denver to score a touchdown in each of the first three quarters before playing much better in the fourth. They have the potential to be a top-flight unit on that side of the ball, and they could climb the rankings after a few weeks.
20. Arizona Cardinals (0-1) | Last week: #11 (-9)
Carson Palmer’s three-interception performance was a big surprise, as he appeared primed to come out with a great performance in Week 1. Arizona’s defense was not put in a good position by the offense, and the team was outscored 35-13 after jumping ahead to a 10-0 lead. The worst news is the wrist injury to David Johnson that will keep him out for 2-3 months. He’s their best player and won’t be easy to replace, but we’ve see teams overcome big injuries like this on many occasions in the NFL—I’m just not sure this is one of those times.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) | Last week: #28 (+7)
The Jaguars took it to the Texans in Week 1, racking up ten sacks including a franchise-record four from free agent addition Calais Campbell. The team’s Twitter name was even changed to #Sacksonville after the game. Leonard Fournette became an immediate workhorse, carrying 29 times in his NFL debut, as the team is looking to ride a strong running game and defense to some wins. Jackonsville would be higher if not for the ACL tear to number one receiver Allen Robinson, but they might be able to overcome it with guys like Marqise Lee stepping up.
22. New York Giants (0-1) | Last week: #15 (-7)
Simply, the Giants looked terrible offensively on Sunday night. The running game managed only 2.9 yards per carry on 12 attempts, and the passing game was even worse. It’s still early, but the Cowboys aren’t even expected to have that great of a pass rush, yet the Giants didn’t give Eli Manning any time to throw. People are saying Odell Beckham Jr. would’ve made a huge difference in the game, but I don’t buy that. Beckham is obviously a great player, but he can’t play offensive tackle. It was only one week, but if the offensive line doesn’t improve the Giants probably won’t get to the playoffs, let alone win in the playoffs.
23. New Orleans Saints (0-1) | Last week: #19 (-4)
Adrian Peterson likely did not expect his first game with the Saints to go the way it did. After a nine-yard run on his first play, Peterson was shut down by his former team, but he wasn’t alone—New Orleans had only 60 yards on 21 carries against the Vikings. Not even including the sideline exchange between Peterson and Sean Payton, because stuff like that happens, but maybe this partnership won’t work out. On defense, they were torched by Sam Bradford and now must face Tom Brady coming off a loss and a mini bye. Even in the Superdome, it’s a tough task for New Orleans.
24. Los Angeles Rams (1-0) | Last week: #25 (+1)
The first game for Sean McVay as a head coach could’ve have gone much better. The Rams scored 10, 17, 10, and 9 in the four quarters of a dominant performance against Indianapolis. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff went 21/29 for 306 yards and a touchdown, as he looked comfortable and showed the ability that made him the first overall pick last year. Goff’s new targets, including Sammy Watkins and rookie Cooper Kupp looked like they’ll help him a lot, too. The revamped Wade Phillips-led defense had two pick-sixes and four sacks in the game.
25. Washington Redskins (0-1) | Last week: #22 (-3)
They lost by 13 to the Eagles, but the Week 1 game was a lot closer than the score indicated. Down six with a couple minutes to go, the Redskins had a chance to drive down the field for a go-ahead touchdown but a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Fletcher Cox ended those chances. The play was reviewed and I think pretty clearly should’ve been overturned, as Cousins obviously threw the ball and it was batted down but the play somehow stood. People talked about Seattle getting a bad hand dealt by the officials, but this was a lot worse. The Redskins still looked out of sync offensively, with their worst play coming on a Kirk Cousins overthrow that was intercepted deep in Eagles territory. The defense did look better than last year, so that’s a potential bright spot.
26. Chicago Bears (0-1) | Last week: #27 (+1)
The front seven of the Bears showed they’re one of the best in the NFL, as they limited Atlanta’s ground attack and sacked Matt Ryan a couple times in a close Week 1 loss. Chicago did suffer a huge blow, with linebacker Jerrell Freeman being placed on IR after suffering a pectoral injury. Third-year receiver Kevin White, who you have to feel terrible for, suffered another major injury, with a fractured scapula that forced him to be placed on IR. Two major positives are the team played very hard and rookie Tarik Cohen (“The Human Joystick”) had a superb rookie debut, carrying five times for 66 yards and catching eight passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
27. Buffalo Bills (1-0) | Last week: #30 (+3)
Sitting atop the AFC East after one week are the Buffalo Bills. The offense picked up 190 yards on 42 attempts on the ground while they played stellar defense in the win over the Jets, allowing only one touchdown and picking off Josh McCown twice. In a likely defensive battle against Carolina in Week 2, the Bills should be right in the game as head coach Sean McDermott faces the team he was the defensive coordinator for from 2011-2016.
28. Indianapolis Colts (0-1) | Last week: #21 (-7)
Until Andrew Luck gets back, the Colts are probably going to struggle winning games. Scott Tolzien struggled to get much going through the air, and he threw two pick-sixes against the Rams, but the offensive line didn’t do him any favors. Jacoby Brissett will likely give them a better chance to win this week against the Cardinals, but they need Andrew Luck back to compete in the AFC South. No one knows when that will be.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) | Last week: #26 (-3)
Week 1 could not have gone much worse for the Bengals. They averaged 3.5 yards per rush and 4.0 yards per pass as the Ravens completely shut them down on their home field. It’s bad enough to play that poorly, but the open the season like that against a division rival really has Cincinnati off on the wrong foot this season. The Bengals do have a quick turnaround this Thursday night against the Texans.
30. San Francisco 49ers (0-1) | Last week: #29 (-1)
For as good as the third preseason game went for the 49ers, the first regular season game was as bad. It almost looked like Kyle Shanahan and the offense had no idea how to get things going against a Panthers defense that was flying around the field. The team also lost talented rookie linebacker Reuben Foster for about a month with a high-ankle sprain, and now the Niners have to play Seattle coming off a loss. Look for them to give Carlos Hyde (nine carries for 45 yards) the ball more in Week 2.
31. Cleveland Browns (0-1) | Last week: #31
With the luxury of playing the Steelers in Cleveland to open the season, the Browns almost pulled out an upset win. The Browns actually had more first downs in the game than the Steelers, but Cleveland averaged only 3.8 yards per play. In Week 2, things are likely to get more difficult as they travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens and their stingy defense.
32. New York Jets (0-1) | Last week: #32
Give the Jets credit for being in it the entire game in Week 1 against the Bills. Todd Bowles’ defense had a couple sacks and an interception versus Tyrod Taylor, but the offense (214 total yards) couldn’t do much of anything. They’ll go across the country to play the Raiders in Oakland in Week 2.