There’s some big movement in the power rankings after two weeks of the 2018 NFL season. Major offensive explosions have headlined the early part of the year (174 touchdowns are the most through two weeks in NFL history), and it’ll be interesting to watch these final two weeks of the month.
1. Los Angeles Rams (2-0) | Last week: 3 (+2)
The Rams have outscored opponents 67-13 to start the season, and they haven’t allowed a point in the last six quarters—and they haven’t allowed a touchdown since the opening drive of the year by the Raiders. Offensively, the balance between the run with Todd Gurley and the pass with Jared Goff and his great weapons makes them really tough to stop. The talent is just crazy on both sides of the ball. As long as things are going well and the team is frontrunning like this, there shouldn’t be any concerns with personalities clashing.
2. New England Patriots (1-1) | Last week: 1 (-1)
Despite a loss against Jacksonville, the Patriots only drop one spot in the power rankings and remain above the Jags. There’s a chance it doesn’t work out, but the acquisition of former All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon has enormous potential for New England. I think Phillip Dorsett has done a really nice job stepping up on the outside, so the Patriots are going to have one of the best and deepest receiving groups in the league when Julian Edelman returns from his four-game suspension. Hopefully Gordon takes advantage of this amazing opportunity, as it’s likely his last chance in the NFL.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) | Last week: 2 (-1)
From the start of Sunday’s game versus the Buccaneers, it looked like the Eagles were going to be on the ropes. DeSean Jackson beat Jalen Mills for a 75-yard touchdown on a deep ball to open the game; and if you go back and watch the play, safety Malcolm Jenkins didn’t appear to be giving much effort trying to track Jackson down once he got behind the defense. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles played well the first two games, but maybe Carson Wentz’s highly-anticipated return will give everyone a jolt starting this week against the Colts.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0) | Last week: 10 (+6)
Blake Bortles was great in the Jaguars’ convincing win against the Patriots, but the fact that people are claiming it was far-and-away his best game as a pro shows that many people don’t really watch games. It might have been Bortles’ best game, but he’s certainly played this well in the past. Anyway, it’s a long season, but the Jaguars now own an important tie-breaker over the Patriots for potential homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs.
5. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) | Last week: 6 (+1)
That was more like it for the Falcons. The offense was able to punch in their red-zone opportunities for scores, including Matt Ryan doing it himself with a couple of rushing touchdowns in the win against Carolina. Despite no Devonta Freeman, the Falcons ran the ball extremely well against a stingy Panthers defense, with Tevin Coleman (16 carries, 107 yards) and rookie Ito Smith (nine carries, 46 yards) both averaging over 5.0 yards per carry behind and offensive line that had their way with a division rival. A matchup with the Saints is on deck.
6. Green Bay Packers (1-0-1) | Last week: 4 (-2)
Sporting a brace on his left knee, Aaron Rodgers wasn’t at full strength against the Vikings, but he looked pretty good and moved around when necessary. The defense played really solid for three quarters, but 22 fourth-quarter points by Minnesota led to a tie. However, while nothing can be done about it now, the Packers have serious beef after the roughing-the-passer call on Clay Matthews kept the Vikings alive to force overtime. Matthews didn’t come close to putting his full pressure on Cousins, but Green Bay now has to forget about it and move on to Washington.
7. Minnesota Vikings (1-0-1) | Last week: 5 (-2)
Where the Packers caught a tough break, the Vikings lucked out. Kirk Cousins deserves credit for taking advantage of his extra opportunity, and he came up big in the fourth quarter with three touchdowns and a two-point conversion. The receivers—particularly Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen—were huge too, and they make a ton of plays for Cousins. Minnesota is a heavy favorite this week at home versus Buffalo, but they better not look ahead to their Thursday night matchup against the Rams in Week 4.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) | Last week: 9 (+1)
Two games on the road have been no problem for the offense of the Chiefs, as they’ve dropped 38 and 42 points on the Chargers and Steelers to open the year. Patrick Mahomes tossed six touchdowns in Sunday’s win, and he now has an NFL-record ten touchdown passes through two games. I thought there might be some slight growing pains (which could still come) for a young quarterback with a gunslinger mentality, but it certainly helps having basically a track team with great football skills around him. As expected, Kansas City’s offense has been a blast to watch.
9. Carolina Panthers (1-1) | Last week: 7 (-2)
Luke Kuechly was flying around and seemingly making every play early in the Week 2 game against the Falcons, but Atlanta eventually began pushing Carolina around up front to open big gaps for the running backs. The Panthers must stop the run like they did in Week 1 against the Cowboys, and getting that sorted out will be a focus as they go back home for a matchup with the 2-0 Bengals. Christian McCaffrey has been plenty involved as a receiver, but I’d like to see him get the ball on the ground more.
10. New Orleans Saints (1-1) | Last week: 11 (+1)
For three quarters, the Saints were unable to get the ball into the end zone in the Superdome. But they exploded in the fourth quarter, putting up 18 points on Cleveland to avoid falling to 0-2 to start the season. Now the Saints will travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons in what was one of the tightest divisional matchups in their two games last year. There’s shootout potential against a banged-up defense, and Alvin Kamara should have more room to navigate with Deion Jones out of the lineup.
11. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) | Last week: 14 (+3)
They probably took their foot off the gas a bit offensively, but the Chargers’ 31-20 win against the Bills probably wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Melvin Gordon scored three times in the first half (twice through the air), again showing that he’s one of the best running backs in the league. Elite pass rusher Joey Bosa remains out of the lineup, but this matchup against the Rams in the battle for Los Angeles will give an idea of where the Chargers stand early in the year.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) | Last week: 16 (+4)
Andy Dalton has carried his steady preseason over into the regular season, as his passes have been on-point after an offseason of getting fully acclimated to Bill Lazor’s offense. The loss of Joe Mixon for at least a game or two because of arthroscopic knee surgery hurts, but Giovani Bernard should be able to shoulder most of the load during Mixon’s absence. Defensive end Michael Johnson’s knee injury is arguably just as big of a loss on defense, but the Bengals are deep up front—look for Carl Lawson to step up.
13. Washington Redskins (1-1) | Last week: 8 (-5)
After dominating against Arizona by holding the ball for most of the game in Week 1, Washington’s performance was one of the most surprising results in Week 2. The Redskins were unable to get the ball in the end zone against the Colts, while Indy was able to finish drives with touchdowns, which was the difference in a 21-9 game. Perhaps the Cardinals are that bad that they helped make the Redskins look better than they are to open the year, but I think Jay Gruden’s squad is for real. They have a very difficult slate coming up, though, with games against Green Bay, New Orleans, and Carolina.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1) | Last week: 12 (-2)
There’s reason to be concerned with the Steelers through two games. The Chiefs look like they’re going to put up a lot of points against nearly everyone, but there were too many easy throws for Patrick Mahomes throughout the afternoon. Offensively, Antonio Brown’s behavior is troubling, as he seemed to be unhappy with something on offense despite the unit putting up 37 points; he was even reportedly unhappy when Ben Roethlisberger scored a big touchdown on the ground, and he even responded to someone one Twitter by indicating he wouldn’t mind being traded. Also, he didn’t show up to the facility yesterday, and there are clearly some type of issues despite any denials coming out from Brown’s camp.
15. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) | Last week: 13 (-2)
Maybe the Ravens became too confident after their 47-3 Week 1 victory over the Bills, as Cincinnati put up 14 points in each of the first two quarters on Thursday night. Granted, Thursday night games tend to be weird, and I do like how Baltimore responded by allowing just six second-half points in a comeback effort. Look for the Ravens to attempt to establish the run game when they return home to face the Broncos this Sunday.
16. Miami Dolphins (2-0) | Last week: 25 (+9)
The clear shift in culture for the Dolphins has worked well through two games, as the players have responded with two wins. It’s a great sign for Miami’s outlook for this season and beyond, as Adam Gase should be given time to build the franchise back into a winner. The offense has had plenty of weapons even with DeVante Parker out the first two games of the season with a finger injury. And the defense led by Kiko Alonso has been a lot strong than they looked during the regular season. This week will be a test against Jon Gruden’s offense.
17. Tennessee Titans (1-1) | Last week: 18 (+1)
It was cool to see the happiness from the players and staff for Mike Vrabel’s first win as a head coach, and it was certainly a big early-season win for a team that didn’t have their franchise quarterback or either of their star offensive tackles against a division rival. Again, I’ve been very high on the Titans; however, I am concerned about Marcus Mariota’s elbow injury, as it’s apparently a nerve issue that’s causing problems throwing the football. The team needs Mariota to reach its potential as a Super Bowl contender.
18. Chicago Bears (1-1) | Last week: 21 (+3)
Chicago’s defense has two defensive touchdowns through two weeks, along with ten sacks and five forced fumbles—all three categories lead the NFL. There’s arguably as much talent on their defense as bonafide top units Minnesota and Jacksonville, and it helps give second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky something to lean on if the offense isn’t clicking. Trubisky continues to show flashes as a high-upside athletic passer.
19. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) | Last week: 20 (+1)
With star linebacker Reuben Foster returning from his two-game suspension, the Niners are a team to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. They’ll have a huge test at Arrowhead against the Chiefs in Week 3, and I’ll be watching how Richard Sherman holds up against the fastest receiving corps in the NFL including Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. Matt Breida leads the league in rushing through two weeks with 184 yards, and he’s done it on just 22 attempts (8.4 yards per carry).
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) | Last week: 29 (+9)
I thought the Buccaneers might be the worst team in the NFL entering the season, so they’ve probably been my biggest surprise through two weeks. That said, I don’t want to overreact and vault Tampa Bay into the top five after two games. Ryan Fitzpatrick lit up the defending champs for 402 yards and four touchdowns while completing 81.8% of his passes to help get the Bucs to 2-0, and he became the first player in NFL history with over 400 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games of the season. But Fitzpatrick’s post-game attire might have been the highlight of the day. A home test against the 0-1-1 Steelers on Monday night is huge for the Bucs.
21. Denver Broncos (2-0) | Last week: 26 (+5)
It hasn’t been pretty or flashy, but Case Keenum and the Broncos have found a way to win each of the first two games at home against Seattle and Oakland. The Broncos brought Keenum in to deliver stability at quarterback after he went 9-3 for the Vikings last season, and guys have stepped up around him. Rookie running back Phillip Lindsay has over 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first two games, becoming the first undrafted rookie to accomplish the feat. Denver will make a big climb up the power rankings if they can beat a Ravens team coming off a mini bye.
22. Oakland Raiders (0-2) | Last week: 15 (-7)
People piled on Derek Carr after his poor performance in the Raiders’ Week 1 loss against the Rams, but he certainly bounced back by completing 29/32 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown in Denver against the Broncos. Unfortunately for the Raiders, it was a heartbreaking one-point loss to drop the team to 0-2, but there are encouraging signs for the team. Carr has full command of Jon Gruden’s offense, and the major positive sign is that the players have the head coach’s back despite the media talking about the Khalil Mack trade non-stop weeks later.
23. Houston Texans (0-2) | Last week: 19 (-4)
The Texans have yet to play a home game this season after back-to-back losses in New England and Tennessee to open the year, but there’s still some concern after an 0-2 start. They weren’t able to get a win against a Titans team that was without its quarterback and starting tackles, and the pass rush simply isn’t getting there right now. Hopefully Jadeveon Clowney can get back on the field soon to help give the unit a boost after missing Sunday’s game. Remember, despite Deshaun Watons lighting it up as a rookie in 2017, the Texans were still only 3-3 in those starts.
24. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) | Last week: 28 (+4)
Dak Prescott and the Cowboys bounced back after an eight-point outing in Week 1, as they put ten first-quarter points on the board in a win versus the Giants. Prescott didn’t have a huge game, but he was sharp and made smart decisions both as a passer and as a runner. The defense got to Eli Manning six times, and they are second in the NFL with nine sacks through two games. A strong defense and running game that takes pressure off Prescott and a less-than-stellar supporting cast is ideal.
25. Indianapolis Colts (1-1) | Last week: 27 (+2)
After a crushing home loss in Week 1, the Colts bounced back with an excellent performance against the Redskins, limiting Washington to just three field goals. Andrew Luck is completing 71.4% of his passes through two games, and the team just needs to cut down on the turnovers with the defense playing well. Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard recorded 18 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble in the Week 2 win.
26. Seattle Seahawks (0-2) | Last week: 23 (-3)
Russell Wilson can cover up a lot of issues for a team, but even he’s having trouble making plays behind Seattle’s struggling offensive line. Wilson himself has been a traditionally slow starter, so he could get in more of a groove moving forward. Admittedly, I am a bit confused about the usage of running backs, as Chris Carson had an outstanding summer that drew praise from teammates, but the Seahawks aren’t using him for whatever reason. It might be tough sledding on the ground against Dallas this weekend.
27. New York Jets (1-1) | Last week: 24 (-3)
Sam Darnold tossed a couple of interceptions in his first career loss, but these mistakes are going to come for a young quarterback that also had turnover issues in college. But Darnold spread the ball to eight different receivers and should get more comfortable as he gets more experience. He’ll get a crack at the team that passed on him with the top pick in the draft when the Jets face the Browns this Thursday night. The defense needs to step up in what could be a sloppy game.
28. New York Giants (0-2) | Last week: 22 (-6)
The offensive line isn’t giving Eli Manning much time to set his feet and make accurate throws to his great weapons, and it’s hard to like the Giants until they protect better than they did on Sunday night. A positive is that Odell Beckham Jr. stayed under-control despite the team not winning and him not having a good individual night, but he looked a little disinterested; hopefully he can keep his edge while keeping his head in big games moving forward.
29. Arizona Cardinals (0-2) | Last week: 17 (-12)
For three of the last four teams in the power rankings, they’re so low mainly because of the major issues at offensive line. There’s no question the Cardinals have some top-notch talent on their roster, particularly on defense, but they haven’t been able to get anything going this season. The offense seems predictable with receivers that aren’t gaining much separation aside from Larry Fitzgerald, but the issues up front makes it difficult. David Johnson needs to be used more creatively moving forward, as what they’re doing clearly hasn’t work to this point. Something needs to change, and it’s not the quarterback. Those blaming Sam Bradford probably don’t actually watch what’s going on and can be ignored.
30. Detroit Lions (0-2) | Last week: 30
This looks like it’s to be more of a process than most people thought entering the year. Matt Patricia has looked puzzled at times to start his head coaching career, as he seemingly isn’t getting his players to play the way he and his staff want them to play. Obviously, this Sunday night against the New England, where he spent the last 14 years of his career, is a big test for Patricia’s squad.
31. Buffalo Bills (0-2) | Last week: 31
Josh Allen had his ups and down in his first NFL start, but that’s to be expected from a young signal-caller that has arguably the worst supporting cast around him in the entire league. I like the fight Sean McDermott’s team showed in the second half, especially after the first half started out like the week before against Baltimore did. This might be a long season, but the players just need to hang in there and take it week-by-week.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-1-1) | Last week: 32
The Browns are simply having trouble winning football games, which isn’t surprising from a team that went 1-31 in the last two seasons. After losing so much, Cleveland needs to learn how to win games and get rid of the losing culture. The talent is there to get this turned around, but I think it’s going to take some time.