As usual, week two of the NFL thought us a very valuable lesson: don’t overreact to the first week. Teams that played well in week one, such as the Titans and Vikings, fell flat this week, while teams that were awful in week two, such as the Falcons and Buccaneers, came away with big wins. In addition, we had two major veteran quarterback injuries; there is a lot of movement in this week’s power rankings. Without further adieu, let’s reveal these rankings, while also grading each team’s performance and highlighting their top player from their game.
All Stats and Grades Via Pro Football Focus
#32: Miami Dolphins (Previous Rank: 32)
Result: Lost 43-0 vs NE
Top Performer: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick
On the bright side, the Dolphins only lost by 43 this time around! In all seriousness, Miami did manage to stay competitive in the first half (13-0), and if not for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s horrendous interceptions, the score would’ve been a lot closer. The issue is, Fitzpatrick’s turnovers are a common trend, and with no supporting talent on offense, there’s no way imaginable that they’ll be able to move the ball at all., and putting in Josh Rosen would do nothing but completely ruin his development entirely. Meanwhile, the defense played better, but with Minkah Fitzpatrick being traded to Steelers, there’s still little hope for anything better than bottom-ten production from that unit. As far as their tank job/rebuild goes, however, they now have five first-round picks over the next two seasons, which could allow them to build quickly if those picks are executed. For now though, they’re rightfully 21-point underdogs on the road versus the 2-0 Cowboys.
#31: New York Giants (Previous Rank: 31)
Result: Lost 28-14 vs BUF
Top Performer: DT Dexter Lawrence
Though the Dolphins are clearly on a class of their own as the worst team in the NFL, the Giants are the clear second-worst team; the 30th ranked team is on a whole different level compared to them. As usual, New York relied on running back Saquon Barkley, who is pretty much their entire team at this point. There’s no receiving talent for the lackluster Eli Manning, and facing a very talented Bills defense, New York’s offense didn’t stand a chance, and will continue to struggle throughout the season, no matter who is under center. Meanwhile, defensively, the Giants are built to stop the run, which they have been able to do. However, in today’s NFL, pass defense easily trumps run defense, and New York’s secondary is by far the weakest in the league. First-round pick Deandre Baker posted his second consecutive game with a grade from Pro Football Focus below 30, while some of their recent investments, corner Janoris Jenkins and safety Jabrill Peppers, were also awful versus a below-average passing offense. There’s simply no hope of being competitive for the Giants this season, and their secondary will once again be exposed next week as they travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Bucs and their explosive passing offense.
#30: Oakland Raiders (Previous Rank: 29)
Result: Lost 28-10 vs KC
Top Performer: RB Josh Jacobs
The Raiders may have generated some optimism following their surprising 24-16 win against the Broncos on Monday Night Football, but as expected, that all crashed with a loss to the Chiefs that was more of a blowout than the score would indicate. Though they jumped off to a 10-0 start, Oakland was outscored 28-0 in the second quarter, which practically sealed their fate. They stood no chance defending Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ vertical passing game; their secondary remains very thin and will continue to struggle in the future. Meanwhile, despite playing what many consider a weak defense, Oakland only scored ten points, while Derek Carr threw two awful interceptions. Plus, with safety Jonathan Abram injured and edge rusher Clelin Ferrell once again playing really bad, only running back Josh Jacobs is making an impact from their huge first round haul, and it’s hard to get him involved when you’re down by three scores. Now, the schedule gets tough for the Raiders, who play four straight road games, including a tough road affair at Minnesota next season.
#29: Cincinnati Bengals (Previous Rank: 27)
Result: Lost 41-17 vs SF
Top Performer: G John Miller
Though they lost, the Bengals had a very encouraging performance in the first week; they remained competitive at Seattle. However, they showed their true colors on Sunday, losing by four scores in their home opener to the 49ers. The defense was completely outmatched by San Francisco’s running game, while also giving up several big plays through the air. Key players in the secondary such as Jessie Bates III and William Jackson III have now had two straight poor performances, and if this defense struggles, it won’t matter what head coach Zac Taylor can scheme on offense. Yes, receivers John Ross and Tyler Boyd are having excellent starts to the season, but quarterback Andy Dalton and a poor offensive line completely compromise its ceiling; this is going to be a long first season for Taylor, who now has to lead his team through a very difficult game in Buffalo this Sunday.
#28: New York Jets (Previous Rank: 24)
Result: Lost 23-3 vs CLE
Top Performer: CB Brian Poole
The Jets weren’t a very strong team heading into the season, but they’re certainly not catching any breaks whatsoever. They’re now down to their third quarterback with Sam Darnold dealing with mono and Trevor Siemian out for the season with an ankle injury; quarterback Luke Falk is now the starter. He did play well on Monday night, and with a week to prepare, there’s a chance this offense can open its playbook up. Still, running back Le’Veon Bell is the sole playmaker on this offense, which is an issue considering their poor run-blocking offensive line. The defense has surprised this season; they looked like a bottom-ten unit coming into the season, but have only allowed 40 points the past two seasons. Both nickel corner Brian Poole and rooke fifth-round linebacker Blake Chasman,
#27: Jacksonville Jaguars (Previous Rank: 28)
Result: Lost 13-12 at HOU
Top Performer: DL Calais Campbell
The Jaguars may have been without their starting quarterback (Nick Foles), their tope edge rusher (Yanikk Ngakoue), and their #2 corner (AJ Bouye), but they were able to fight hard in Houston. In fact, running back Leonard Fournette gained an extra inch on a two-point conversion, they would’ve pulled off the major upset. The game went as one would expect from the Jaguars; the offense, led by backup Gardner Minshew, struggled all game outside of the last drive, while the defense played well enough to keep them in the game. There’s not much else to write about Jacksonville’s typical pedestrian performance, though with star cornerback Jalen Ramsey requesting a trade, any hope of this team winning more than 2-3 games has been wiped away.
#26: Washington Redskins (Previous Rank: 26)
Result: Lost 31-21 vs DAL
Top Performer: LB Shaun Dion Hamilton
The Redskins had a 17-0 lead in Philadelphia in week one, and for the second straight week, they did well against a superior NFC East team in the first half, only trailing 14-7 at halftime. However, just like in week one, they collapsed in the second half, needing a garbage-time touchdown to prevent this from being a three-score game. As long as they continue to lack talent at receiver, offensive line, there’s no point in potentially hurting quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ development; Washington will continue to have a limited offense led by the mediocre Case Keenum. However, it’s their defense that continues to be concerning. Thought of as the identity of their team, they continue to struggle in coverage and pass rush, which were major red flags heading into the season anyway. When you can’t pass the ball or defend the pass, you’re going to lose a lot of games, and now, they’ll face another playoff-caliber team in week 3 when they host the Bears on Monday Night Football.
#25: Tampa Bay Buccanneers (Previous Rank: 30)
Result: Won 20-14 vs CAR
Top Performer: WR Chris Godwin
The Bucs continue to be one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL; a week after suffering a very disappointing loss to the 49ers, they bounced back with a huge upset win in Carolina on Thursday Night Football. Notably, quarterback Jameis Winston performed significantly better, and most importantly, was very smart with his decision made. That passing offense is extremely underrated, and they’ll continue to produce with an amazing receiver duo of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, which may be the best duo in the entire league, though the offensive line needs to improve in a hurry. However, the defense was able to survive, as they completely contained star running back Christian McCaffrey in what was a masterful job by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. This team may lack the talent to win on a consistent basis, but there’s enough in place for them to be competitive, and with recent developments in the NFC South, they definitely should still have some hope for this season.
#24: Pittsburgh Steelers (Previous Rank: 16)
Result: Lost 28-26 vs SEA
Top Performer: DL Stephon Tuitt
The Steelers suffered more than just a disappointing 28-26 loss to the Seahawks this Sunday; quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season with an elbow injury, and as a result, their season is likely over. Second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph may have fared well in his first action, but this offense already had issues regarding the explosiveness in the passing game, and although Rudolph could succeed behind a great offensive line and with a #1 receiver in Juju Smith Schuster, they’ll likely be a middle-of-the-pack unit at best. That’s a problem, because their defense has failed to get its act together. Rookie linebacker Devin Bush was a liability in coverage this week, as was their entire secondary while allowing quarterback Russell Wilson to throw for four touchdowns despite doing a solid job pressuring him. This all seemed like a blessing in disguise for Pittsburgh, who would theoretically be in a position to draft their next future quarterback in next year’s draft. Instead, however, they’ve traded that pick for former first-round defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick in what is likely desperate attempt to save this season, as well as the jobs of head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert. Fitzpatrick isn’t a game-changer though, and they’ll realize that in a hurry; they’ll continue to plummet in a very tough game in San Francisco this week.
#23: Indianapolis Colts (Previous Rank: 25)
Result: Won 19-17 at TEN
Top Performer: LT Anthony Castonzo
The Colts faced a tough task going on the road to Tennesee in their second straight road game, especially since their road affair in Los Angeles ended in a disappointing overtime loss. They still had kicker issues with future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri, but Indianapolis did what they’ll do all season long: survive. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett struggled, but behind their tremendous offensive line, they rushed for over 100 yards once again, and did just enough offensively to give their defense a chance. 19 points is all they needed; they did extremely well in coverage; their entire secondary earned tremendous grades. This is how the Colts will win games; they’re going to run the football behind that strong offensive line, put Brissett in a position to succeed, and attempt to be a top-15 defense. It’s not an extremely sustainable approach, but it’s one that’ll work for now, including their home opener versus the Falcons.
#22: Arizona Cardinals (Previous Rank: 23)
Result: Lost 23-17 at BAL
Top Performer: DB Budda Baker
The Cardinals may not have a win in 2019 (they do have a tie), but they’re playing a lot better than anticipated. In a very difficult environment versus a strong Ravens secondary, quarterback Kyler Murray played well despite his limited supporting cast, extending plays and doing everything possible to give his team a chance to win. Unfortunately, as mentioned, there’s not enough talent around him for this offense to be inconsistent, and they’re also failing to score touchdowns in the red zone. Meanwhile, their pass rush faltered, and multiple blown coverages really hampered Murray’s chances of leading a road upset. Still, this always going to be a season focused on player development, and with Murray improving, as well as defensive backs Budda Baker and Byron Murphy, there’s a lot of reason to be encouraged heading into an interesting week three home game against the Panthers.
#21: Baltimore Ravens (Previous Rank: 22)
Result: Won 23-17 vs ARI
Top Performer: TE Mark Andrews
After a very impressive week one demolishment of the Dolphins, the Ravens came back to earth this week, engaging in a minor struggle against a generally poor Cardinals team. Quarterback Lamar Jackson did impress again, as did rookie receiver Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, a trio that Baltimore is hoping will be the cornerstone of future success. Yet, their secondary wasn’t great against Arizona’s air-raid offense, as they continue to have their issues versus four-receiver sets. There’s a lot to like about the Ravens; there are a lot of playmakers on this offense, the offensive line is strong, Jackson is playing well, and the secondary is usually one of the league’s best. Still, they’ve played the Dolphins and the Cardinals; true judgment on this team will be reserved until they play a quality team, which will happen this week when they travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs.
#20: Houston Texans (Previous Rank: 20)
Result: Won 13-12 vs JAX
Top Performer: OLB Whitney Mercilus
It wasn’t pretty, but the Texans regained control of the AFC South with a 13-12 win versus the Jaguars. The defense, particularly the pass rush, which was led by JJ Watt, DJ Reader, and Whitney Mercilus, was bounced back with a fantastic performance, though they weren’t exactly facing a top-notch Jaguars offense. Meanwhile, quarterback Deshaun Watson was efficient, while receiver Kenny Stills has emerged as a key component of this offense, and the rushing attack was better than expected. Still, there’s a lot of concern regarding the Texans. Their offensive line was awful once again in pass protection, and left tackle Laremy Tunsil looks nothing like the player they gave up two first-round picks for. Like today, that’ll completely limit the ceiling of the offense, as well as head coach Bill O’Brien’s refusal to give dual-threat Duke Johnson a proper role. Although the defense was strong this week, this is still a below-average secondary with a good-not-great pass rush; there are too many holes on this roster for Houston to be a Super Bowl contender, and we’ll see what they’re all about in an intriguing matchup versus the Chargers in Los Angeles this weekend.
#19: Denver Broncos (Previous Rank: 21)
Result: Lost 16-14 vs CHI
Top Performer: WR Emmanuel Sanders
The Broncos had a chance to start the season 2-0 with two winnable games versus the Raiders and Bears, but instead, they’re 0-2. To be fair, they probably should have won their home opener versus Chicago. Despite being on a short week while Chicago had a ten days to prepare, Denver was up by one point following a clutch drive and two-point conversion, but a strange roughing the passer penalty and luck with the clock was enough to put the Bears in position to kick the game-winning field goal. If that doesn’t happen, it’s likely we’re looking at Denver differently, which is why they remain a top-20 team. After all, this is an outstanding defense that is being coached excellently by head coach Vic Fangio, and surprisingly, quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense has been decent so far. They simply play in too tough of a division and don’t stand a chance with their upcoming schedule, which is a shame since if they were in the AFC South, they would be a true playoff contender. Instead, they’ll likely be 0-3; they travel to Green Bay for a week three matchup against the 2-0 Packers.
#18: Detroit Lions (Previous Rank: 17)
Result: Won 13-10 vs LAC
Top Performer: WR Kenny Golladay
Technically, at 1-0-1, the Lions remain undefeated after a home upset versus the Chargers. With quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Kenny Golladay forming arguably a deadly connection and the interior offensive line playing well, there’s a lot to like with the offense, which hasn’t be as run-heavy as anticipated- a positive for the team. However, despite only allowing 10 points, the defense wasn’t great in this game. The secondary, particularly top corner Darius Slay, was poor in this game, while there continues to be little pass rush to speak of. The unit has its strengths, especially in run defense, but they’re outdated for today’s game in terms of speed and pass defense, and once they face a team that isn’t either starting a rookie quarterback (Cardinals) or missing multiple field goals (Chargers), they’ll be exposed as the mediocre-at-best team that they are. That’ll start this week, as they’ll face a difficult task when they travel to Philadelphia.
#17: Buffalo Bills (Previous Rank: 19)
Result: Won 28-14 at NYG
Top Performer: S Jordan Poyer
Are the Bills New York’s team? After all, they have two victories at MetLife Stadium, while the teams that actually play there, the Giants and the Jets, have zero. All jokes aside, the Bills may have not played a quality opponent this weekend, but their two-score win versus the Giants proved once again that they’re a serious wildcard contender. This is a totally different offense from last year; quarterback Josh Allen is playing better, and a large part of that falls on the new pieces. The investments in the offensive line and at receiver (John Brown, Cole Beasley) have completely transformed his play; this is suddenly a very competent unit. That’s extremely important, considering how dominant their defense has become. Head coach Sean McDermott is a defensive mastermind, and with an underrated secondary that is deep at corner and has an excellent safety duo Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, a strong pass rush, and solid linebackers, this defense is equipped to be a top-five unit. Remember, they have one of the top home-field advantages in football, and they’ve yet to play a home game. It’s time to start taking the Bills seriously; they’re not a threat to the Patriots or Chiefs to win the AFC, but they’re not that far behind other AFC contenders.
#16: Seattle Seahawks (Previous Rank: 18)
Result: Won 28-26 at PIT
Top Performer: TE Will Dissly
It’s hard to find a luckier team than the Seahawks right now. They started off the season with an easy home game versus the Bengals, got the opportunity to face a backup quarterback in Mason Rudolph in the second half a seemingly tough game in Pittsburgh, and now will likely be 3-0 since they get to play the Drew Brees-less Saints. This a very average football team, but there’s no doubting some of their bright spots. Quarterback Russell Wilson is an elite quarterback, and as long as he’s there, they’ll always be a playoff contender; he threw four touchdowns in this game. Furthermore, the receiver duo of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf is tremendous in the vertical passing game, and when they’re not busy trying to pointlessly establish the run, they’re a fun group to watch. Still, this defense is not what its reputation would suggest; they’re particularly bad in coverage and pass rush, and allowed Rudolph to play well. Once they start playing stronger teams, they’ll have to make quick improvements, but for now, they’re a serious contender for the NFC West just based off of their schedule.
#15: New Orleans Saints (Previous Rank: 5)
Result: Lost 27-9 at LAR
Top Performer: EDGE Cameron Jordan
A week ago, the Saints were coming off of a dramatic win and appeared to be ready to be a Super Bowl contender. Now? They’d be lucky to finish over .500. It’s a shocking turn of events for New Orleans, who’ll be without quarterback Drew Brees for the next 6-8 weeks due to a torn ligament in his thumb. That means quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be the team’s starter, and based off of his attempts to hold onto to the ball too long and consistently throw check-downs, it’s safe to say this team is in major trouble. Yes, they have playmakers in Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, as well as a strudy offensive line, but the drop-off from Brees to Bridgewater is too signficiant for this offense to overcome. That’s particularly troublesome; their defense has some major issues. Edge rusher Cameron Jordan continues to be dominant, and young players Marcus Davenport and Trey Hendrickson are making an impact, but the secondary is horrendous. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore is in the midst of an awful season, and they cannot stop the big plays. Add in the fact that linebackers Alex Anzalone and AJ Klein are currently injured, and it looks a lost season for the Saints, who have to travel to Seattle and then play the Cowboys in an awful set of circumstances.
#14: Atlanta Falcons (Previous Rank: 15)
Result: Won 24-20 vs PHI
Top Performer: WR Julio Jones
The Falcons desperately needed to win their home opener versus the talented Eagles on Sunday Night Football, and by doing so, they’re chances of winning the NFC South have improved greatly. Although Philadelphia was without their top two receivers, it’s hard to not be impressed by what Atlanta did defensively in this game. The secondary was much better in this game and they unexpectingly had a pass rush against a strong offensive line, and this is a sign of what’s to come, the Falcons will be a top-ten team in the NFL. However, it’s not as though their offense was productive in this game. Quarterback Matt Ryan played poorly, tossing three bad interceptions, and the offensive line couldn’t handle Philadelphia’s front four. Still, although the offensive line is a legitimate concern, Ryan will have better weeks, and when he does, this should be a team that wins 10+ games. For now, they’re going through immense growing pains, and that’ll continue in a road affair versus Indianapolis this Sunday that should go down to the wire.
#13: Tennesee Titans (Previous Rank: 12)
Result: Lost 19-17 vs IND
Top Performer: LB Jayon Brown
The Titans did what they always do, and that’s not a complement. After an encouraging 43-13 rout of the Browns in week one, Tennesee reverted back to normal in week two, losing 19-17 to the Colts and cementing themselves as the most incosistent team in football. This is simply a very plain and bland team, to be frank. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has run out of time to prove that he’s the answer at quarterback, and he’s wasting the potential of an offense that has several playmakers that aren’t being properly utilized. The defense will have to carry this team, but unfortunately, their secondary and pass rush tends to be very volatile, their linebacking core is a good-not great group, and no one stands out outside of safety Kevin Byard. Outside of Mariota, there aren’t many holes on this team, but there aren’t many strengths either, and as a result, they’ll almost certainly be an 8-8 team this year, which could ironically win them the AFC South. They have a chance to redeem themselves in a Thursday Night Football game in Jacksonville, which is almost a 100% must-win situation for them.
#12: Carolina Panthers (Previous Rank: 10)
Result: Lost 20-14 vs TB
Top Performer: LB Luke Kuechly
With two straight home games, the Panthers could’ve been 2–0, but now, they’re in a very rough position; they’re 0-2 and still haven’t played a road game yet. The story of Carolina’s disappointing loss to the Bucs is the same as week one: Cam Newton isn’t healthy. The quarterback had just a 44.7 overall grade, was clearly inaccurate, and has also lost some arm strength. Rather than be the main threat of the offense, he’s starting to limit them, and if that’s the case, the idea of moving on from him has to start to creep into front office’s minds. After all, there are a lot of playmakers on this offense with Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and Curtis Samuel, as well as a strong offensive line; it’s not as though Newton isn’t in a position to succeed. Plus, although the defense remains an above-average unit, it’s not a group that can carry the Panthers to the playoffs. Luke Kuechly has continued to be a top-two linebacker, but the secondary continues to be inconsistent, and there’s no pass rush present at the moment. There’s too much talent on this roster to give up just yet, but Carolina is running out of time, and they’re essentially playing for their season in a road affair versus the Cardinals.
#11: Cleveland Browns (Previous Rank: 14)
Result: Won 23-3 at NYJ’
Top Performer: WR Odell Beckham Jr.
After an embarrassing 30-point loss to the Titans in their home opener, the Browns needed to catch a break, and they did in being the lucky team to play the Jets, who had to turn to their third-string quarterback in this game. It wasn’t as smooth as expected, but technically, they took care of business with a three-score victory. For the most part, quarterback Baker Mayfield played well, but his play-style is way too risky at the moment, and that could be a problem against superior defenses; Cleveland needs to get back to the quick release passing game they utilized last season. Defensively, there were a lot of encouraging signs; rookie corner Greedy Williams was exceptional, the pass rush did well, and linebacker Joe Schobert was much better in coverage. The pieces are there on both sides of the ball for them to be a prolific team, and as they continue to mesh together, they’ll continue to improve throughout the season. They’ll go through a major test on Sunday; they host the defending NFC champion Rams on Sunday Night Football.
#10: Chicago Bears (Previous Rank: 13)
Result: Won 16-14 at DEN
Top Performer: EDGE Khalil Mack
The Bears are clearly a defensive-oriented team, and in their grueling 16-14 win at Denver, that was apparent. After all, their pass rush remained amazing, they shut down the Broncos’ rushing attack, and better days should be ahead for a secondary that had some surprising struggles against a rather weak Broncos offense. However, the main reason for this approach is the inability of their offense to score. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s putrid performances may jumpstart the quick end of his reign as the team’s starting quarterback, but he’s also not getting much help from his offensive line or his receivers, nor head coach Matt Nagy’s lackluster play-caller. With that elite defense, this team should still be a true playoff contender, but they’re nowhere near the 12-4 team they were last year; they’ve solidified themselves as the third-best team in the stacked NFC North, and they need to see progression from their offense when they travel to Washington to face the lowly Redskins on Monday Night Football
#9: Minnesota Vikings (Previous Rank: 8)
Result: Lost 21-16 at GB
Top Performer: RB Dalvin Cook
The Vikings may have not been able to pull off a major comeback, but there’s a chance they may be able to pull off the identity they’ve wanted to establish. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is a very talented, but incosistent quarterback, and that remained the case with his embarassing 25.8 grade in a tough environment in Green Bay. Luckily for them, they may have one of the few running backs who can truly impact a game in Dalvin Cook, who once again was dominant. It’s hard to not see him as one of the top-five running backs right now, and even with generally poor play from the offensive line (rookie center Garrett Bradbury has been awful), he’s carrying the offense currently. If this goes right, Cook’s presence will open up the play-action passing game, and with an amazing receiver duo of Adam Theilen and Stefon Digg, Cousins’ play should improve. The main takeaway with this game, however, has to be the defense, which hasn’t regressed at all. Versatile defensive back Jayron Kearse has found a role in this defense, and veterans Harrison Smith, Everson Griffen, and Erick Kendricks are all playing well. If this can be a top-five defense, they’ll be able to rely on Cook to the main source of their offense, and if that’s the case, I’ll take the Vikings over the Bears, Seahawks, and other NFC wildcard contenders, especially with an easy home game against the Raiders up next.
#8: San Francisco 49ers (Previous Rank: 11)
Result: Won 41-17 at CIN
Top Performer: LB Kwon Alexander
The 49ers entered the season as a post-hype sleeper team, and although they haven’t played quality opponents, the fact that they’re 2-0 after two East Coast road games is telling. An emphasis was placed on upgrading the defense, and even on a day when injured edge rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa weren’t very productive, the unit dominated with an amazing all-around performance from linebacker Kwon Alexander in coverage, as well as excellent play from their cornerbacks. Considering the secondary was the major red flags heading into the season, their performance so far cannot go unnoticed. Neither can the offense; head coach Kyle Shanahan finally has the pieces in place, and as a result, they’re clicking on all cylinders. Despite not having Tevin Coleman, San Francisco ran the ball with authority, which allowed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to dominated with play-action vertical passes. That’ll be the formula in San Francisco; a zone-running offense with a lot of play action with a strong enough defense to give this team a large upside. Losing left tackle Joe Staley for about eight weeks hurts, but the 49ers are on a roll this season, and with the Mason Rudolph-led Steelers coming to town, they’re on their way to being 3-0.
#7: Green Bay Packers (Previous Rank: 9)
Result: Won 21-16 vs MIN
Top Performer: DT Kenny Clark
With two straight division wins, it’s really hard to not see the Packers as the best team in the NFC North. What do they not have? The offense was much better as they continue to adjust to head coach Matt LeFleur’s scheme, including Aaron Rodgers, who was significantly more efficient this week. If he’s content to not be the savior of this franchise, and to play the role of a game manager whose talent will elevate the team on its self, similar to Russell Wilson, that will work; Green Bay’s offensive line is above-average, running back Aaron Jones is explosive, and receiver Davante Adams is proving to be a legitimate #1 receiver. Most of all, however, the defense is starting to emerge as a potentially elite unit. It’s impossible to not love the front-four, which consists of one of the best interior pass rushers in Kenny Clark, and two versatile edge rushers in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. Then there’s the secondary, which has young cornerbacks in Jaire Alexander (even though he struggled), Josh Jackson, and Kevin King, as well as a fabulous safety duo of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. Rodgers has never had the support of a defense, and now, it can be argued that the defense has overtaken him as the face of this team. With a home game against a monotonous Broncos offense awaiting them, they’re on their way to 3-0 as they establish themselves as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
#6: Dallas Cowboys (Previous Rank: 7)
Result: Won 31-21 at WSH
Top Performer: QB Dak Prescott
Yes, they’ve only played the Giants and the Redskins, but how can one not be excited about the outlook of the Cowboys? New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has overhauled the entire offense, focusing on play action, more read options, and a heavier emphasis on the pass. Now, all of a sudden, quarterback Dak Prescott looks like a top-ten quarterback, and as a result, this offense could seriously be one of the league’s best. Not only do they have Prescott, but they have one of the best offensive lines, two very useful receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, and even they’re rightfully not relying on him, they still have one of the league’s best running backs in Ezekiel Elliot. Yet, the offense isn’t even supposed to be the strength of this team. The defense has yet to be the incredible unit they have the potential to be, but the play of their young cornerbacks and safeties is encouraging, and eventually high-caliber players like Demarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander-Esch, and Byron Jones will play better. When they do, it could be game over; the Cowboys have a legitimate case to being the best team in the NFC, and with two easy games against the Dolphins and Saints up ahead, they’re just getting started.
#5: Los Angeles Rams (Previous Rank: 6)
Result: Won 27-9 vs NO
Top Performer: WR Cooper Kupp
The Rams may have caught a lucky break when Drew Brees went down with that thumb injury, but still, they played a very solid football game. Although quarterback Jared Goff has continued to have a mediocre start to the season, Los Angeles is getting excellent play from their receivers and running backs; there are still a lot of weapons on this offense. Still, this isn’t a flawless unit; the offensive line has been a major red flag, and now, guard Austin Blythe is injured. However, the defense’s improvement from last season is obvious. Aaron Donald has continued to be the most dominant interior defensive lineman, and perhaps the most dominant player in the NFL. Meanwhile, the secondary and edge rush is functioning well; it’s hard to find a clear weakness with this unit. They may not be the flashy team they’re used to being, but they’re still a very talented team, and a true threat to make it back to the Super Bowl; their week three primetime matchup in Cleveland will give us a better sense of their true identity.
#4: Philadelphia Eagles (Previous Rank: 3)
Result: Lost 24-20 at ATL
Top Performer: EDGE Brandon Graham
The Eagles will recover from their Sunday Night Football loss to the Falcons; it’s as close to a certainty as possible. After all, they were dealing with injuries to their top two receivers (Alshon Jeffrey and DeSean Jackson), which really hurt the offense’s ability to stretch the field. Still, there are some small concerns with this team, even if they’re still the best team in the NFC. Quarterback Carson Wentz continues to play a little recklessly, and was clearly banged up with small injuries in this game. Considering his health is the key to this team’s success, a change of play-style in needed; Wentz has all the weapons and the offensive line to not carry the entire load of the offense. However, slowly, the defense’s depth is thinning. The loss of defensive tackles Malik Jackson and Timmy Jernigan hurt the team’s dominance in the defensive trenches, and considering how much their secondary continues to be exposed in the vertical passing game, that’s a concern. Obviously, these are minor nitpicks, but when you’re considered a Super Bowl favorite, that’s what happens. I still believe in this roster though, and fully expect a bounceback in their upcoming home affair versus the Lions.
#3: Los Angeles Chargers (Previous Rank: 4)
Result: Lost 13-10 at DET
Top Performer: G Dan Feeney
With injuries to their star defender (Derwin James), their left tackle (Russell Okung), tight end (Hunter Henry), and now their replacement for James (Adrian Phillips), the Chargers are in survival mode. This past Sunday, they were clearly the better team, yet they ultimately failed. There’s a lot of positive takeaways from this game. Guard Dan Feeney was excellent, right tackle Sam Tevi was much better, and the receivers were solid; quarterback Phillip Rivers was able to play well. Meanwhile, defensively, the pass rush and secondary both played well, which is why they only allowed 13 points. However, two missed field goals by their punter Ty Long (Michael Badgley) cost them; if getting their kicker back healthy is what’s preventing them from consistently winning, they’ll definitely be fine.
#2: Kansas City Chiefs (Previous Rank: 2)
Result: Won 28-10 at OAK
Top Performer: DT Chris Jones
At this point, the Chiefs are just toying with teams. They may have started out slowly, falling into a 10-0 deficit at Oakland, but by scoring 28 points (!) in the second quarter, they were somehow able to put this game away. At this point, we all know how dominant of a quarterback Patrick Mahomes is, even though he’s not as mistake-avoidant as he was last season. However, the salient point from this game is that the offense has almost too many weapons. Tyreek Hill may be out with a shoulder injury, so naturally, second-round rookie Mecole Hardman caught a deep touchdown, while Demarcus Robinson had 172 yards and two touchdowns. The fact that they were able to dominate offensively with just 32 rushing yards is simply insulting to other offenses, and if their defense continues to impress, this team will be a serious threat for the #1 spot on this list and to win the Super Bowl. The edge rush and secondary are outperforming expectation, and even linebacker Anthony Hitchens is playing well. Additionally, Kansas City may have a defensive player of the year candidate in defensive tackle in Chris Jones, who had eight pressures alone in this game; once Frank Clark starts playing better, this pass rush can be arguably the league’s best. This team is so much fun to watch and is an embarrassment of riches offensively, and they should continue their quest to win every game by two scores in their home opener against the Ravens.
#1: New England Patriots (Previous Rank: 1)
Result: Won 43-0 at MIA
Top Performer: CB Stephon Gillmore
With all due respect to the Chiefs, at the moment, they’re not even close to the Patriots. In their first two games, New England is outscoring their opponents by an outrageous 76-3 score. An offense that was already dominant added Antonio Brown, and naturally, he caught a touchdown in his first game, while Tom Brady was once again efficient. There are some concerns with the offensive line, who didn’t play great and is now without left tackle Isaiah Wynn, but they always managed to overcome that adversity, and with that defense, they don’t even need a flawless offense. Said defense includes the best corner in football (Stephon Gillmore), an up-and-comer (Jonathan Jones), a revived Jamie Collins, and tremendous players all around. If an offense has any flaws whatsoever, this defense will take advantage; they have the best roster and obviously the best coaching staff, and as a result, how can they not be the overwhelming favorite to win the Super Bowl.