We’re two weeks in, so there are a couple of big changes to the power rankings heading into Week 3. Nine undefeated teams remain, and three of them come from the AFC South—with one being the Broncos, who have been one of the most impressive teams so far this year. I anticipate the top three staying up there all season—with the order re-arranging at times—but things can change as the season moves along.
1. Atlanta Falcons (2-0) | Last week: #1
Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened up with a dominant win by the Falcons, as they defeated the Packers for the third straight game (all in Atlanta). It’s still early, but wins like that could really help in January if it means the Falcons get home field and get to play in their new state-of-the-art stadium in front of the home crowd. The loss of Vic Beasley, who is somehow underrated after leading the league in sacks last season, is obviously big—but the Falcons have overcome losses on defense over the last couple of years.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) | Last week: #2
Rookie Kareem Hunt is putting up college numbers, as he followed up his insane first NFL game in Week 1 with another great performance in Week 2. He’s averaging 7.6 yards per carry against two defenses that are expected to be pretty good this season, and it’s obvious the rookie is for real. The tandem of Hunt to go along with Alex Smith, Travis Kelce, and the passing game makes the Chiefs offense scary. The front seven of Kansas City helped make up for the loss of Eric Berry in Sunday’s win over the Eagles.
3. New England Patriots (2-0) | Last week: #3
With just three receivers active for the game (Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett), Tom Brady still lit up the Saints for three first-quarter touchdowns and 300 yards in the first half. After a surprisingly poor performance in Week 1, the defense played very well considering they were up against Drew Brees in the Superdome. Now the Pats go back up to Foxborough to host the Texans and rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) | Last week: #6 (+2)
The Steelers caught a bit of a break against Minnesota, as Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (knee) couldn’t go. Still, the defense did a good job of limiting rookie running back Dalvin Cook while shutting down the Vikings passing game and giving up only nine points. Pittsburgh’s offense has a ton of weapons, as neither Le’Veon Bell nor Antonio Brown has found the end zone yet, but the offense is still scoring points.
5. Baltimore Ravens (2-0) | Last week: #7 (+2)
Through two games against two divisional foes, the Ravens look like they easily have the best defense in the AFC. With multiple running backs playing well in a revamped running game, Baltimore a formula to compete with anyone in the league. This is basically like the preseason for Joe Flacco after he missed a month with a back injury, so look for the former Super Bowl MVP to start picking it up as he gets more playing time. Losing All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda is obviously a huge blow, as he’s their best offensive lineman and is done for the season with a fractured ankle.
6. Green Bay Packers (1-1) | Last week: #4 (-2)
An offensive pass interference that probably should not have been called stopped some possible momentum for the Packers at the end of the first half, but it probably would not have made a huge difference against the Falcons. Jordy Nelson (quad) going down early in the first quarter might’ve hurt more, so hopefully he’s OK heading into Week 3 against a desperate 0-2 Bengals team.
7. Denver Broncos (2-0) | Last week: #15 (+8)
Trevor Siemian and the Broncos have been mighty impressive through two games, and they make the biggest jump in this week’s rankings after they made a huge jump in the rankings last week as well. I picked Denver to finish last in a difficult AFC West division, but the team undeniably looks excellent so far. The defense has remained shut down without Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator, and Siemian is playing at a near-elite level right now.
8. Oakland Raiders (2-0) | Last week: #8
The Raiders beat up on the Jets as Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree connected for three touchdowns and Marshawn Lynch had his own dance party on the sidelines, and it put Oakland to 2-0 with the most points (71) in the league through two weeks. There’s a difficult schedule coming up for the Raiders, starting with a game across the country against the Redskins, but they will climb in the rankings if they keep it up.
9. Minnesota Vikings (1-1) | Last week: #5 (-4)
Because of the uncertainty surrounding Sam Bradford’s knee, the Vikings slip from the top five to near the bottom half of the top ten after their loss to the Steelers. Minnesota needs two things to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders: 1) Sam Bradford to be healthy, and 2) the offensive line to play like they did in Week 1 against the Saints. The Vikings get to return home to play the Bucs, but they might need those two things to happen to win. Though the defense should do a good job limiting Tampa Bay’s offense.
10. Tennessee Titans (1-1) | Last week: #10
They couldn’t quite get things going in Week 1 against the Raiders, but the Titans looked more like the potential breakout team when they dominated against the Jaguars. Tennessee is in a good position in the AFC South as they clearly have the best offense, which includes monster second-year back Derrick Henry to pick up the slack when DeMarco Murray is ineffective or banged up. The athletic defense of the Titans will look to continue to limit Russell Wilson and make the Seahawks struggle on offense in Week 3.
11. Carolina Panthers (2-0) | Last week: #12 (+1)
The offense has yet to get going, but the Panthers defense is playing shut-down defense so far—Luke Kuechly and his unit have allowed only a pair of field goals to the 49ers and Bills. They’ll face tougher tests coming up, like this week against Drew Brees and the Saints, but it’s a promising start. The offense needs Cam Newton to get his accuracy in check, but keep in mind he sat out much of the preseason because of his shoulder.
12. Detroit Lions (2-0) | Last week: #13 (+1)
Admittedly, this might be too low for the Lions, but they could shoot up the power rankings with a good game against the Falcons this week. Matthew Stafford is playing great, as he’s thrown six touchdowns and just one interception while completing 71% of his passes versus two of the best pass defenses in the NFL. As noted by Jon Gruden on the Monday Night Football broadcast, GM Bob Quinn has done an excellent job with the players he’s brought in and the players he’s kept around.
13. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) | Last week: #9 (-4)
Denver is one of the most difficult places to win in the NFL, but the Cowboys didn’t look good at all in their blowout loss to the Broncos at Mile High. The defense was lit up by Trevor Siemian through the air while also getting bullied on the ground by C.J. Anderson, and the offense was completely shut down by the Broncos. Ezekiel Elliott had less yards (eight) than carries (nine), and it led to obvious frustration for the second-year back. Not many other teams have the secondary to do what Denver did and stop the run while remaining strong in pass defense, but it’s still a strategy to keep in mind.
14. Seattle Seahawks (1-1) | Last week: #11 (-3)
Seattle is this low in the rankings because they haven’t shown much at all offensively yet, but it is not time to panic yet if you’re a Seahawks fan—not even close. The Seahawks have had slow offensive starts like this over the last two seasons, but Russell Wilson and company always find a way to pick it up. My biggest concern is if it keeps up and the defense starts to bicker and cause a rift with the offensive side of the ball.
15. Miami Dolphins (1-0) | Last week: #17 (+2)
Jay Cutler’s first game as a Dolphins went about as well as they could ask, as he completed 72.7% of his passes with a touchdown and looked comfortable in Adam Gase’s offense. The 350-carry talk for Jay Ajayi is looking like a real possibility after one game, as he picked up 122 yards on 28 attempts while showing his big-time ability as a runner. The defense did a solid job of limiting Chargers running back Melvin Gordon on the ground, and the team should keep it going this week against the Jets.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) | Last week: #16
Third-year quarterback Jameis Winston didn’t need to have a huge game in Tampa Bay’s season opener, as the defense locked down Chicago’s offense. The team showed the talent and upside that was displayed during HBO’s Hard Knocks, and they’ll face another talented team that’s similar to them when they face the Vikings in Minnesota this week.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) | Last week: #14 (-3)
Despite being down a couple scores with a few minutes to go, the Eagles were in it the entire game against the Chiefs in Arrowhead and had a chance to tie it up at the end with a Hail Mary attempt. The lack of a commitment to the run game is a bit of a head scratcher (just look at what the Lions are doing by sticking with the running game), and LeGarrette Blount had zero carries against the Chiefs. Philadelphia needs to take advantage against a struggling Giants offensive line this Sunday and pick up a win in their home opener.
18. Houston Texans (1-1) | Last week: #18
Though the offense didn’t have a huge breakthrough and still has obvious issues, Deshaun Watson showed his great playmaking ability when he broke a 49-yard touchdown to give the Texans a jolt against the Bengals. Watson appeared to get more comfortable as the game went on, and Houston could be a scary team if he keeps improving throughout the course of the season. They have a tough task going to New England to face the Patriots this week, though.
19. Washington Redskins (1-1) | Last week: #25 (+6)
After dropping one at home to the Eagles to open the season, the Redskins got a big win in LA over former offensive coordinator Sean McVay and the Rams. The offense looked much better than in Week 1, thanks in large part to a running game that was basically non-existent to open the year. Running back Rob Kelley (ribs) is day-to-day, but rookie Samaje Perine would be able to help carry the load if Kelley were to miss time.
20. Los Angeles Chargers (0-2) | Last week: #19 (-1)
Two close losses to open the season have but the Chargers in a big hole in the AFC West, with the Broncos, Raiders, and Chiefs all at 2-0. Close, heartbreaking losses have unfortunately become a common occurrence for the Chargers, who have a chance this week to put a stop to their winless start to the season as they face the Chiefs.
21. Arizona Cardinals (1-1) | Last week: #20 (-1)
As Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said, a win is a win and they’ll take it. It wasn’t pretty against the Colts, but 1-1 looks a lot better than 0-2, and they’re tied atop the NFC West despite the ugly start to the season. After seeing what the Broncos did to the Cowboys on Sunday, the Cardinals might be able to employ a similar gameplan defensively by putting Patrick Peterson on Dez Bryant while attempting to shut down Ezekiel Elliott and the run game of Dallas.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) | Last week: #21 (-1)
The Jaguars took it to the Texans in Week 1, but the Titans took it to them in Week 2 and prevented Jacksonville from jumping out to a 2-0 start to the season. Blake Bortles threw a couple of interceptions in the loss to the Titans, and it looks like Jacksonville will struggle to win games if they fall behind or if the run game can’t get going. Things won’t get easier this week against the Ravens for the first London game of the year.
23. New Orleans Saints (0-2) | Last week: #23
The opening schedule for the Saints is brutal, as they had to face the Vikings in Minnesota then the Patriots after a loss, leading to another slow start to the season. Their next opponent, the Panthers, have allowed only a couple of field goals to start the year, but Drew Brees will look to put some numbers on the board and pick up the first win of the year to avoid falling three games behind in the division this early. New Orleans also traded 2015 first-round pick—linebacker Stephone Anthony—to the Dolphins for a fifth-rounder, which was a bit of a surprise with the team struggling on defense.
24. Los Angeles Rams (1-1) | Last week: #24
The Rams fell to the Redskins as Jared Goff opened a potential game-tying drive with an interception, but there are still a lot of positives to take from the game. Goff’s ball placement and accuracy looks very good, just as he flashed last season—he’ll only get better with more playing time. And running back Todd Gurley is staying really involved in offense, particularly in the passing game, which is a great sign. Sammy Watkins (two targets last week) needs to get the ball more, though, and I think the Rams know that and will get it to him on Thursday against the Niners.
25. New York Giants (0-2) | Last week: #22 (-3)
Coming into the season, the Giants had Super Bowl aspirations, but they’ve looked far from even NFC East contenders to this point. Still, it’s been just two games and the Giants might be able to turn things around. With the offensive line playing so poorly and the head coach throwing his two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback under the bus, things could get ugly quick in New York. There obviously are no must-win games this early in the season, but an explosion could be brewing if the team doesn’t get it together against the Eagles this Sunday.
26. Buffalo Bills (1-1) | Last week: #27 (+1)
The Bills were just inches away from a potential win over the Panthers and a 2-0 start to the season, as quarterback Tyrod Taylor and rookie receiver Zay Jones couldn’t quite connect on a potential go-ahead touchdown late in the game. They could be in another defensive battle this weekend against the Broncos, as they’ll try to end Denver’s hot start on offense.
27. Chicago Bears (0-2) | Last week: #26 (-1)
After a promising Week 1, the Bears were hit with a flurry of scoring and tough defense by the Bucs and fell to a 26-0 halftime deficit. Mike Glennon had a couple of interceptions and a fumble, but Chicago isn’t giving up on him after one subpar outing. The bigger concern might be Jordan Howard, who only had nine carries while battling a shoulder injury coming into the game. Hopefully the league’s second-leading rusher from last season is OK heading into Week 3 against the Steelers.
28. Indianapolis Colts (0-2) | Last week: #28
With the recent report from FOX’s Jay Glazer that quarterback Andrew Luck is behind schedule in his recovery from shoulder surgery is a definite concern, and it looks like Luck won’t be back until at least Week 5. The Colts did play hard and made it tough on the Cardinals in Week 2, which reflects well on Chuck Pagano, who is in a difficult position with his franchise quarterback. We’ll see if Indy can get their first win at home against the Browns this Sunday.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) | Last week: #29
Obviously, something had to change with the Bengals offense, and they opted to let go of offensive coordinator Ken Zampese while promoting quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor. Lazor was Chip Kelly’s first quarterbacks coach with the Eagles in 2013 and went on to be the offensive coordinator for the Dolphins in 2014 and into 2015, so he has experience. Expect to see more of an up-tempo offense that’ll likely rely upon rookie running back Joe Mixon to get more of the workload in the backfield.
30. San Francisco 49ers (0-2) | Last week: #30
Like the Bengals, the 49ers are looking for their first touchdown of the season. The bright spot for the 49ers offense is running back Carlos Hyde, who gashed Seattle on the ground for seven yards per carry and looks like he should be among the NFL leaders in rushing this year. San Francisco has a chance to get in the win column this Thursday night against the Rams.
31. New York Jets (0-2) | Last week: #32 (+1)
While they lost by 25 to the Raiders on Sunday, the Jets move out of the bottom spot in the power rankings because of their quarterback play. Josh McCown played fine against the Raiders, completing 68% of his passes while throwing a couple of touchdowns to Jermaine Kearse. They also scored more than the Panthers did against the Bills in Week 1.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-2) | Last week: #31 (-1)
It’s clear the DeShone Kizer is going through major growing pains with the Browns, as he’s really struggled against the Steelers and Ravens in his first two games. Again, Hue Jackson is taking a big risk starting Kizer, as there’s been talk of the Browns going for wins this season after adding more talent to the roster.