Trying to sort it all out ...
What do you make of Week 2? The Bucs' Ryan Fitzpatrick is making out like a bandit, the Chiefs are proving that defense matters little one week at a time, and we all received an early Christmas present: another tie. The Browns seem like a completely different team with the exact same results, while the Dolphins have very quietly started 2-0.
Still, I gotta get back to Tampa and the biggest story in the league: the Amish Disco Rifle.
Nice work, Greg. Ditto Tampa, which is 2-0.
Quite a few teams are 0-2, or winless. The data on the 0-2 outfits is not promising. Since 2002, when the league realigned, only 12.1 percent of teams with that paltry record went on to make the postseason. Which means playoff hopefuls like the Giants and Texans -- who face off this Sunday -- must win now.
While that game carries weight, perhaps the premier matchup of Week 3 features the two L.A. teams. The Rams look incredible on both sides of the ball. Head coach Sean McVay is receiving plenty of notice, too, including his unmatchable "Rain Man" routine:
Uhh, I ain't that good, Fabs. Holy cow. Speaking of good ...
Patrick MahomesPatrick MahomesPatrick MahomesPatrick MahomesPatrick MahomesPatrick Mahomes. There -- one for every touchdown pass.
Kansas City rocketed up the ranks this week after putting 42 points on the Steelers at their place. Their move skyward in this pecking order wasn't the most mammoth jump, though ... Check out the full rundown below. And then tell me what I got wrong: @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Let the dissension commence!
PROGRAMMING NOTE: For more in-depth analysis on the updated league pecking order, tune in to NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET for the "NFL Power Rankings" show. Want to add YOUR voice? Provide your thoughts in a tweet to @HarrisonNFL, and your comments could be featured on air.
Boy oh boy, did the Rams look like a Super Bowl team on Sunday. Up 19-0 against the Cardinals early in the third quarter, Los Angeles came out aggressively. Jared Goff -- someone many readers still seem to feel is overrated -- threw two strikes into small windows on consecutive throws to move into Arizona territory, setting up a Rams touchdown by Todd Gurley. In other words, Sean McVay doesn't ease up on the gas pedal, and he trusts his quarterback, even after the previous possession had ended on a Patrick Peterson pick. With defenses so focused on No. 30 in the backfield, Goff takes advantage of 1-on-1 matchups wherever he sees them. And by takes advantage, we mean delivers accurate, on-time throws. Oh, yeah, and the defense pitched a shutout.
The Jags authored a freaking statement in Florida on Sunday. Jacksonville dominated the first half against the Patriots, then suffocated Tom Brady and the offense when it had to, i.e., when Blake Bortles -- who was otherwise quite effective -- pulled a Bortles with an ill-timed turnover. Following Bortles' interception early in the fourth quarter, New England was threatening to claw within one score -- but then the AFC's deepest defensive group showed up. Dante Fowler Jr., who missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury and who is often viewed as an afterthought among his uber-talented teammates, tore around the edge, pulling off the pass rusher's hat trick: the sack, the strip and the recovery. People had better start giving Doug Marrone the same kinds of props the Sean McVays of the world get.
Incredible game at Lambeau on Sunday, win, lose or (ahem) tie. All those folks who doubted the wisdom of acquiring Kirk Cousins (or said the guy is supremely overrated) should do themselves a favor: Log onto nfl.com/gamepass, throw down some cold, hard plastic and re-watch Vikings- Packers. Pay special attention to the touchdown throw to Adam Thielen that brought the Vikings to within two, and then the perfect drop to Stefon Diggs for the two-point conversion. Daniel Carlson? Oy. Dan Bailey? Hi.
**Power Rankings side note:** Why, oh, why was Xavier Rhodes playing 7 yards off Davante Adams with seven seconds left in regulation ... *knowing* Aaron Rodgers was going to try a 4-yard pass to get Mason Crosby in closer for a game-winning field-goal attempt? Asking for a friend. </content:power-ranking>
Guess nobody's questioning Andy Reid's thinking anymore. Patrick Mahomes is the NFL's newest bona fide star, through two weeks anyway. In a league brimming with overreaction, people are already talking up the Chiefs as Super Bowl participants (please disregard, for a moment, the fact that the defense gave up 37 points on Sunday). Mahomes threw six touchdowns in Pittsburgh ... OK, so perhaps some things are worth overreacting to, like a sophomore quarterback who has a stat line that looks like a line item from Tecmo Super Bowl. Seven Chiefs players have already scored receiving touchdowns this year, the same number as all of last year.
Another classic at Lambeau (even if it was a tie), which makes two in as many weeks. All the talk afterward centered around the misses by Vikings (now former) kicker Daniel Carlson, as well as the call on Clay Matthews, whose penalty in Week 1 nearly cost the Packers against the Bears. For what it's worth, I thought the penalty was a little ticky-tack. Yet, the key to Green Bay this season -- other than Aaron Rodgers staying healthy -- is the progression of a young, talented secondary. Coordinator Mike Pettine has work to do, because that wasn't a lively effort from that group Sunday. Those DBs got kissed by Cousins, time and again. </content:power-ranking>
Maybe there is something about the Patriots playing in Florida. Even in the Belichick-Brady era, New England has fallen to the Dolphins plenty in Miami. And the Pats were no match for the Jags in Jacksonville this past weekend. In fact, they were outmatched, particularly when it came to the receiving corps vs. that Jags secondary. While this was certainly not a devastating loss, there was no doubt about which squad was the better one out on that field. Considering Jacksonville was playing without its top offensive player (Leonard Fournette), that speaks loudly. The Patriots will get their own special player back soon when Julian Edelman returns from suspension, but I'm not sure that will be the difference if these two meet in the AFC Championship Game again ... in Duval County. Although I did hear some guy who's mildly athletic might be joining the fellas soon.
You might think this ranking is too high for the pesky Bucs, but don't fall prisoner to old thoughts. Tampa was down far in the rankings coming into the season ( No. 28 prior to Week 1) due to the uncertainty surrounding journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick (who hadn't, at that point, enjoyed a big season in three years), injuries at running back and a remade defensive front. Yet, everything is coming up roses for this group, mostly due to Fitzpatrick. The big plays (and leads) he's authored via the passing game put pressure not only on opposing defenses, but on those teams' offenses, as well -- you know, to keep pace. Nick Foles -- who was missing almost all of his regular wide receivers Sunday, and with RB Jay Ajayi not at 100 percent -- couldn't keep up. Got interesting late, though.
**Stat of the Day:** Fitzpatrick has thrown for 819 yards and eight touchdowns in two games. </content:power-ranking>
Held fast with the Eagles at No. 1 until they lost, but now, they drop. This is not an overreaction to the defeat in Tampa, either. Most of us thought Carson Wentz would already have game action by now. (He'll finally get the nod in Week 3.) No one foresaw the spate of injuries at wide receiver and running back. With Nelson Agholor bumped up to No. 1 WR and the offense going to its new TE2 (Joshua Perkins) more than expected -- thanks to the blanketing of Zach Ertz -- the air game is not anywhere close to championship level. Prior to Week 2, I would have said the Colts' defense, which is coming up on Sunday, would be the perfect antidote for what's ailing Philly, but then Indy went and did a number on the Redskins.
The slight move down is due to leaps forward made by the Bucs and Chiefs, and all the injuries in Atlanta ( add Andy Levitre to that mix). Still, the Falcons got themselves a gut-check win Sunday. With no Keanu Neal, no Deion Jones and no Devonta Freeman, there is no question this group is not as strong as it could be. But give Dan Quinn major props for leading his team to victory over a quality divisional opponent. Quinn has more than proved his mettle in this area. Look no further than Atlanta's return to the postseason last year after a devastating loss in Super Bowl LI. This past January, the Falcons throttled the Rams and nearly knocked off the eventual Super Bowl champs. They had another fine chance to do the latter in Week 1. Oh, well -- 1-1 is good for second place in the NFC South. (To the Bucs!)
The Panthers' defense simply couldn't repeat its stellar performance from Week 1, giving up 442 yards and 31 points to a Falcons offense missing one of its key parts. Cam Newton and the Carolina offense made it interesting on the game's final drive, moving into Atlanta territory (special mention to Devin Funchess, who made a beautiful toe-touch grab along the sideline). The Cam haters out there should know that all the guy did was throw for 335 yards and three touchdowns (against one pick) while rushing for 42 yards on only five carries. We cool?
In what might've been the least sexy game on the Week 2 slate, the Chargers took care of bidness in Buffalo. They blasted the Bills in the first half, then rode to a time-consuming second-half romp. Philip Rivers was an extremely efficient version of himself, completing 23 of 27 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. And, as I keep telling folks, Austin Ekeler can play. That's quite an RB2 (if he's indeed still just an RB2 at this point).
Welp, Dennis Allen's defense came up big when it had to ... Cam Jordan said his crew was going to play a heckuva lot better in Week 2 than in Week 1, when Ryan Fitzpatrick zapped them into submission. The big play came on a Marcus Williams pick late in the fourth quarter, which went down as the Saints' first takeaway of the season. On the ensuing drive, after failing to convert on second-and-short, Alvin Kamara got it done on third-and-short following a Browns timeout. Before the Kamara conversion, Sean Payton wanted to run a read option with Taysom Hill, but Cleveland DC Gregg Williams called timeout to adjust his forces. So what's the point of this mid-Power Rankings diatribe? If suspended RB Mark Ingram had been available, the entire offense would have looked, felt and called plays differently, especially in these situations. But who cares when you have Michael Thomas, right?
This move upward might not be as high as Bengals fans were anticipating. Unfortunately, the Joe Mixon injury looms large, especially at this juncture, when Cincy has the opportunity to take command of the AFC North. He is supposed to be out two-to-four weeks, but the Bengals should be conservative regarding that timetable. Meanwhile, the defense has not been as strong as the WhoDey peeps said it would be, but it definitely has been clutch. Nice win.
There's no other way to put this: The Bears need progression from their young quarterback if they are to seriously contend. While Mitch Trubisky delivered a few nice plays in the 24-17 win over Seattle, including a pretty touchdown pass on the move, he takes unnecessary risks (like the throw into double coverage on Chicago's last possession of the first half), then tightens up late ( at Packers, and somewhat on Monday night). He was majorly off on the first-down throw that immediately followed Russell Wilson's scoring toss to Tyler Lockett. A false start later, and Chicago was looking at a second-and-15. This Trubisky-filtered offense isn't built for second- or third-and-longs. The Bears' defense sure is built to cause them, though. #MonstersoftheMidwayagain
Somewhat steep move down for the Ravens, despite the fact they fought back at Cincinnati and had a chance to tie before the Shawn Williams bazooka shot on Joe Flacco. Call it an unsuspecting Joe Flacco, who must not have known it was a safety coming after him. How Flacco felt he had that much time to load up on the game's deciding play is beyond me. This drop in the pecking order for Baltimore is also reflective of the potential loss of C.J. Mosley for a spell, especially when the back seven is already hurting sans suspended corner Jimmy Smith.
Well, we know this: The defense stinks to high hell. Sure, the Chiefs' attack is potent, but Pittsburgh certainly carries a few problems on D. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger and the offense ran about 1,000 plays Sunday and tallied up gobs of yards and points -- 37 points, to be precise. At home. And it still wasn't sufficient. Patrick Mahomes riddled the secondary. And in case that weren't enough, Kansas City rushed for 127 yards, at a clip of 5 yards per tote. Won't be fun to be defensive coordinator Keith Butler this week. Especially with Ryan Fitz-Marino coming to town.
The Dolphins have gotten off to the most optimal start fans could envision: 1-0 in the AFC East, 2-0 in the conference and relatively healthy (though the Josh Sitton injury does hurt). Miami's defense put it on tape, so to speak, in Sunday's first half, shutting down the Jets at every turn. When Sam Darnold and Co. turned it on after the break, the Dolphins' offense made the plays it had to make. Look no further than Frank Gore's (shoestring-)catch-and-run to convert third-and-forever, essentially putting the game away in the fourth quarter. Only 25 yards rushing for him Sunday, but that was still enough to move Gore into fourth place when it comes to career rushing yards. With 14,112 ground yards to his name, Gore only trails Barry Sanders (15,269), Walter Payton (16,726) and Emmitt Smith (18,355). What a career.
Think Broncos fans had zero confidence their team would win until Brandon McManus' kick hit the back net with six ticks to go. The defense, which bailed out an erratic Case Keenum in the season opener, was put in a similar position in Week 2, thanks to a total offensive failure in the first half that led to a 12-0 Raiders lead. Keenum and Co. came to play in the final 30 game minutes, though, grinding out points on all four second-half drives: touchdown (11 plays, 75 yards), field goal (10 plays, 54 yards), touchdown (14 plays, 67 yards), field goal (10 plays, 62 yards). That penultimate scoring drive closed with Keenum executing a Cam Newton special: a designed QB draw from shotgun on *fourth-and-goal*. Gutsy play call, Bill Musgrave. Yes, that's the same Bill Musgrave the Raiders didn't bring back after they enjoyed that fertile offensive campaign in 2016.
The Cowboys ascend on the strength of a standout defensive showing. That side of the ball wasn't the issue in Week 1. It was the answer in Week 2. The Dallas coaching staff feels the young secondary is more than competent. Yet, where this outfit can get scary is in the pass rush: Get David Irving and Randy Gregory back in the mix and watch out! The linebacker group also boasts tremendous upside if Jaylon Smith continues to improve his reaction time and Leighton Vander Esch turns into a real player. Nice work by Dak Prescott and the offense on that 14-play, 84-yard touchdown drive to seal the win.
The 49ers (barely) held off a torrid comeback attempt by the Lions to log a W at the Big Blue Jean, evening their record whilst leavening concern about their readiness for contention. Everything was going well until the Niner secondary started coming apart at the seams -- and down the seam. Jimmy Garoppolo caught a major break when a potential game-changing pick late in the fourth quarter was nullified by a defensive holding call on the other side of the field. Horrible decision by Jimmy G, but better to be lucky than good! One offensive player who deserves major love: Matt Breida, who ran wild most of the day. This guy was undrafted last year. And coming into this year, he was supposed to be third in the pecking order behind Jerick McKinnon and Alfred Morris. All he did on Sunday: pile up 159 total yards on 14 touches. Next up: at Kansas City. Oh, boy.
Nice recovery from a weird Week 1 full of weather delays and injuries. The Titans engineered the smoothest fake punt you'll ever see, and they got timely play from fill-in QB Blaine Gabbert. While the performance was far from dominant, Tennessee beat a division opponent when most experts thought they'd lose. Oh, and more rain, too. The Titans' defense bent plenty, but it held the fort when it absolutely had to. Four sacks and an interception were helpful. Back to the punt play: Who thought Kevin Byard would make like Steve Young with that beautiful lefty heave? Watch it again. NOW.
Huge win for the Colts, who showed they can win a game without the entirety of the affair being on Andrew Luck's shoulders. The winning formula at Washington: an established ground game, short Luck passes and the best defensive football we've seen from Indianapolis in a looooooong time. Indy stonewalled "All Day" all day. Adrian Peterson averaged fewer than 2 yards per carry. Washington's running backs, as a unit, gained 22 yards on 16 carries. When was the last time a Colts defense pulled off something like that? Like 1958? </content:power-ranking>
Deshaun Watson said that he was "terrible" against the Patriots in Week 1. Not the case Sunday, but consistent Titans pressure, a Watson pick and the Texans' inability to pay off drives resulted in another loss for Houston. While 0-2 is clearly not where Bill O'Brien's football team wants to be, there were positive signs to be gleaned from the 20-17 defeat. Will Fuller enjoyed a prolific day (eight catches for 113 yards and a touchdown), providing a real complement to DeAndre Hopkins (six catches for 110 yards and a score). J.J. Watt was in on multiple tackles and forced a fumble. And then there's Watson, who racked up 310 yards passing and 44 rushing against what is thought to be a solid defense. </content:power-ranking>
One week after slamming the door on the Cardinals, the Redskins got short-tossed to death at home. The same aggressive defense that wouldn't let the Arizona offense breathe watched Andrew Luck meticulously touch-pass his way to converting third downs (when he wasn't throwing his two interceptions). The 21-9 drubbing by the Colts was easily the most surprising outcome of Week 2, at least after what we saw on opening weekend. Even more shocking: The movement Indy's offensive line got on Washington's front.
On the surface, the Sam Darnold Experience hiccupped in Sunday's home opener vs. Miami. Yet, if you watched the whole game -- as opposed to just catching the early highlights -- you know Darnold showed as much promise as he did in Week 1. He endured his turnovers, but he also helped his team get back in the game, throwing for 334 yards and averaging a robust 8.2 yards per attempt. New York's complete lack of a run game was key in this AFC East tilt. The Jets must provide their 21-year-old quarterback with more than 42 yards (at 2.2 yards per carry).
**Power Rankings side note:** Jamal Adams misplayed that back-breaking Frank Gore catch-and-run on third-and-19 that allowed Miami to salt away the clock. He broke off his coverage responsibility, leaving a (probably surprised) Gore with nothing but green to gain on Gang Green. </content:power-ranking>
Giant move down for Big Blue, which looked absolutely awful in Big D. The retooled offensive line was fooled (and re-fooled) over and over by a stunting, blitzing, attacking Cowboys defense. The line played poorly even before losing its starting center. With Jon Halapio now out for the season and the right side getting overmatched, it's going to be difficult for Eli Manning to accomplish much of anything this season, irrespective of all the toys he has on offense. Pat Shurmur must establish the run early in Week 3 and allow his front five to hit people instead of getting overrun. This ranking might be low, but this team is 0-2 and on the road this week.
Oh, Browns. The mini-bump in these rankings is deserved, but I know it won't do anything to salve the pain of the league's most wounded fan base. By now, everyone knows Zane Gonzalez missed four kicks: two field goals and two extra points. (Related news: Gonzalez is now looking for work.) But I want to concentrate on the most Browns miss of them all. With just over a minute remaining and the Saints holding an 18-12 lead, Tyrod Taylor delivered an absolute dime to Antonio Callaway for a 47-yard touchdown that took the Superdome crowd's breath away. But before Browns fans were even done pumping their fists, Gonzalez pulled the extra point wide left. And the game remained tied. Now, maybe Drew Brees would've marched the Saints down the field for a game-winning field goal anyway, but momentum is a strange deal -- the Browns commanded all of it after Callaway's stunning score. Missed XP, pressure off New Orleans and the rest is more winless history.
The Raiders did almost everything right in Denver for four quarters -- except win the game. They fell apart. Gruden's grinders were up 19-17 late in the fourth quarter against an offense that was parked in neutral all day. The defense had tired out, clearly. However, Oakland owned a perfect opportunity to run out the clock after Marshawn Lynch bull-rushed his way to a violent yard (and a first down) at the Raiders' 46. Then he issued his patented Beast Mode jump cut, gaining another 6 quality yards and forcing the Broncos to start burning timeouts. Facing a second-and-4, the Raiders could have run two more times to get another all-important first down, but Jared Cook wasn't set for Derek Carr's quick count (Bruce Arians said Cook "was lazy getting [set]" on the CBS broadcast), leading to a false-start penalty on Cook. A massive gaffe, given the circumstances, as second-and-9 is a whole different world for an offense trying to play clock ball. Three plays later, Oakland punted and Denver embarked on its game-winning drive. Ugh.
A contrast in quarterbacks Monday night: The Bears have built a squad surrounding their shaky QB, while the Seahawks are a shell of a team around their top-five signal-caller (at least when you consider all of the injuries and offseason departures for Pete Carroll's group). The defense did its darndest without its heart and soul, Bobby Wagner, and two other starters missing on defense. That unit played well. Meanwhile, Wilson threw the key pick-six, and didn't exactly enjoy a fantastic night. Also keep in mind how much of the Seahawks' outcome is contingent on his play, and what his options are offensively. Turnovers often come when a quarterback presses. Yes, even the best quarterbacks can fall victim to that.
Give the Lions credit: They fought until the bitter end. Midway through the fourth quarter against the Niners, it seemed as though San Francisco would win handily. The 49ers' offense was humming, Matt Breida was running all over the field and Matthew Stafford was throwing Charlie Hough knuckleballs, not Justin Verlander fastballs. After being off early and feeling plenty of pressure from the opposing front, Stafford started dealing, with some of the relevant plays being a 67-yard catch-and-zig-zag from Golden Tate and a smooth highball to tight end Michael Roberts. Then, with San Francisco clinging to a 30-27 lead and facing third down, the defense picked Jimmy Garoppolo! Excccccccept, Quandre Diggs held tight end George Kittle away from the throw. The flag flew, a first down was awarded to the Niners, and the Lions were left with much less time for a last-gasp foray. Game over. What a Lions-y (Browns-y) way to fall.
If I could find any excuse -- any excuse -- to move the Bills up, the Cardinals would be the caboose on this list. Call them 32B. Sunday's debacle in Los Angeles was a symphony of bad offensive football, recalling the halcyon days of the Max Hall/Beanie Wells-led offense. Sam Bradford attempted 27 passes for 90 yards. Think about that. Do you realize how hard that is to do, statistically? Neil Lomax could do better right now, and he turns 60 in February.
Another week, another shellacking for the Bills, although the score was closer than that Week 1 disaster. Make no mistake, the Bolts tapped the brakes. Buffalo's offense couldn't generate any, well, offense. Buffalo did mount a garbage drive late, long after the day had been decided, which works for Josh Allen's confidence. As any Bills Mafia member will tell you, protecting the rookie QB is paramount. Allen went down five times Sunday despite facing a defense that was missing its premier pass rusher. This is a bona fide rebuild.