Hello and welcome to Week 2 of SI’s NFL power rankings. We’re coming to you from an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean, aboard which we just finished watching Panthers-Saints. Who said we were a dying civilization?
To me, we have one more week before we can start to pour cement into our hottest takes and firm them up. I think you can go through this list and see some very heady thoughts in the making. For example, what do we make of Justin Fields? The Bengals with Joe Burrow injured? This is also a week to hesitantly state that, once again, there are a very small handful of teams with the firepower to win a Super Bowl. Some of those teams, thanks to favorable weather and early scheduling, have already flexed that muscle.
You’ll notice some pretty significant shakeups, and you probably will each of the next few weeks as we try and get a grip on who these teams really are. Bear with us, it’s a turbulent flight.
1. Dallas Cowboys (2–0)
Last week: win vs. New York Jets, 30–10
Next week: at Arizona
Dallas, through two games, has been the most complete team in football and has not flashed any obvious vulnerabilities. While the Jets and Giants are not the truest tests for this defense—Dallas will need to get by many more talented offensive lines if they’d like to win the conference—they treated inferior competition the way one might expect. Just watch the speed at which Micah Parsons is coming into the backfield on a stunt. My goodness. Prescott, in his first game of this season not in a monsoon, completed 81% of his passes against one of the five best defenses in the NFL. There are lots of smart, quick options built in for his convenience. I thought Ceedee Lamb was very close to breaking a 90-some yard touchdown.
2. San Francisco 49ers (2–0)
Last week: win at Los Angeles Rams, 30–23
Next week: vs. New York Giants
What we saw on Sunday was not just a good schematic battle, but a display of how the 49ers can simply beat teams because they have better players. Christian McCaffrey’s first touchdown was emblematic of that. Not many teams have a player who can just float through human bodies. It’s a pretty neat trait that college scouting directors should start looking for. I would count the 49ers and the Cowboys as neck and neck in terms of depth. Brock Purdy continues to impress, and has such a pronounced feel for the pocket. Someone mentioned this about the Jimmy G 49ers of last year and I still think it rings true: even when he makes a bad throw or a bad read, the play is still gaining 15 yards per clip.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (1–1)
Last week: win at Jacksonville, 17–9
Next week: vs. Chicago
At this point we can attribute the Chiefs’ repeated early season offensive struggles to whatever nebulous September syndrome we labeled Tom Brady and the Patriots as having. Remember during the height of the Patriots’ dynasty how Brady and Bill Belichick would tool with their offense over the course of a few weeks, and emerge in November with the exact scheme that would razor opponents down the stretch? Let’s assume the Chiefs are in the same neighborhood. A 17-point performance in a win over the Jaguars is a win. Nothing more than that.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (2–0)
Last week: win vs. Minnesota, 34–28
Next week: at Tampa Bay
We’re starting to notice a trend that a lot of teams look good against the Minnesota Vikings. The Eagles were no different. We’re still looking to see what Brian Johnson’s unique imprint on this offense is going to be for Jalen Hurts. Hurts is a perfectionist, so sometimes his mistakes seem magnified over the course of a game because he is so hard on himself. Minnesota’s willingness to hand over the middle of the field to an incredible Eagles offensive line—enabling new running back D’Andre Swift to gain 175 yards—was a scary harbinger of how dominant this Eagles team could be on the ground, and how deep this backfield is.
5. Miami Dolphins (2–0)
Last week: win at New England, 24–17
Next week: vs. Denver
The Dolphins don’t lose to the Patriots, but they do look a little less good against the Patriots. Ultimately, who cares? Bill Belichick threw all kinds of delayed action at Tua Tagovailoa and it seemed to work for a time—like that Kyle Dugger fake blitz that resulted in a tipped pass, which was a similar but different tactic that Belichick used last year to deter Tagovailoa from throwing to the motion receivers—but the Dolphins are simply too powerful now. Mike McDaniel continues to hoard speed like a space-aged Al Davis, but he’s putting it to good use.
6. Buffalo Bills (1–1)
Last week: win vs. Las Vegas, 38–10
Next week: at Washington
A classic Josh Allen game laid to rest the idea that only Brian Daboll could oversee his development from here. While it’s true that Daboll did the hard work, Ken Dorsey and Josh Allen have had some good moments. Allen was taking what a hollowed-out Raiders defense was offering, though we did see his vintage swagger during a pre-halftime drive that ended with an absurd, submarine-style throw to Khalil Shakir. All is well in Buffalo, it seems.
7. Baltimore Ravens (2–0)
Last week: win at Cincinnati, 27–24
Next week: vs. Indianapolis
Some of the new accouterments in Baltimore’s offense are intriguing. Their misdirection run offense has been taken to another level, and doesn’t even require Jackson to dangle himself as bait. Jackson, too, seems like a more confident passer who is more alert and set in the pocket while he’s making aggressive throws downfield. There are many more layers to this offense. We should buckle up.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (0–2)
Last week: loss vs. Baltimore, 27–24
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Rams
Deeper thoughts on Joe Burrow and the Bengals here. The quick version: there aren’t a ton of respite games coming up before the bye week, so it’s up to Burrow’s lower body to heal itself before we see this offense moving the way it should. The Bengals won a lot of games by allowing Burrow to play in a defacto Peyton Manning offense, but without some of the same quick release options, and without Burrow’s pocket finesse, it’s going to be hard to look the same and succeed.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars (1–1)
Last week: loss vs. Kansas City, 17–9
Next week: vs. Houston
The Jaguars scored just nine points against the Chiefs, although I feel like that’s more of a reflection of a very good game plan from Steve Spagnuolo. The Chiefs were on almost any attempt by Trevor Lawrence to move the ball quickly out of the backfield and were equally effective in stifling their run game. The result against most other teams would be the Jaguars flexing their personnel advantage. Against the Chiefs, it was nine points and a humbling loss.
10. Detroit Lions (1–1)
Last week: loss vs. Seattle, 37–31
Next week: vs. Atlanta
This was something of a valuable experience for Dan Quinn’s Lions after scoring one of the most emotional victories in modern franchise history a week ago. Having Seattle come in and upset them in the home opener is a bit of a reminder that an arrival is not permanent in the NFL and is highly conditional. The team is now sustaining some attrition, with David Montgomery out for at least a few weeks. The offense now loses part of its appeal as a series of complementary backs. Rookie Jahmyr Gibbs has to take on a larger share of the workload, and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson may have to show his cards on that front sooner than he would have liked.
11. Atlanta Falcons (2–0)
Last week: win vs. Green Bay, 25–24
Next week: at Detroit
The Falcons have graduated from lovable to feared. On this week’s MMQB Podcast, I compared them a little bit to Arthur Smith’s former team, the Titans. They are well coached, and are a complete pain to prepare for. Obviously, whoever stops them from running the ball is going to dominate the Falcons, and perhaps they, like any other team, are one critical blocker or skill position injury away from being forced out of The Plan. However, the way that their backs have handled bodies in the backfield make it seem far less likely that they will be stymied anytime soon.
12. Los Angeles Chargers (0–2)
Last week: loss at Tennessee, 27–24
Next week: at Minnesota
While I am not going to get testy with a reporter about it, I do tend to agree with Brandon Staley that their team has exhibited enough to be considered a good football team despite some poor circumstances. The Titans’ comeback win this past week was a gut punch, and puts the third-year coach and his team on the ropes. However, the Chargers have been doing most of what they promised, save for their ability to avoid cosmically upsetting end-of-game losses. I would find it hard to unearth a good football mind who thinks this is a bad team, or even a particularly poorly coached team. Circumstantially, that sentiment is not reflected in the win column yet, but this is a group capable of going on a tear (which they will need to do).
13. New York Jets (1–1)
Last week: loss at Dallas, 30–10
Next week: vs. New England
Zach Wilson had a nice throw to Garrett Wilson, which was emblematic of his arm talent but ultimately more of a tease for Jets fans. Wilson needs work and, probably, space and time to allow the gears to click. I still think this Jets team will be OK and can likely compete for a playoff spot. Dallas, like San Francisco, is going to dress down a lot of talented football teams this year and it was simply New York’s turn on Sunday afternoon. But, what we don’t see exactly is how. We have professed our faith in the offensive coaching staff, but if Wilson is unable to, say, look off a safety or have the wherewithal to just shed the football against this pass rush, it’s hard to know what kind of system can be put in place to save him.
14. Seattle Seahawks (1–1)
Last week: win at Detroit, 37–31
Next week: vs. Carolina
The Seahawks remain in the thick of the NFL’s second-tier; a team we may not yet consider Super Bowl contenders, but a team we would heavily consider as a playoff disruptor. Against the Lions, they were able to stave off a Week 1 loss to the Rams that may have surprised them internally. Like Detroit, carryover confidence was checked, and prior success was tossed out the window.
15. New Orleans Saints (2–0)
Last week: win at Carolina, 20-17
Next week: at Green Bay
I made a 2010 Jets comparison last week, with deference to Derek Carr in that he is a higher-end version of Mark Sanchez. After watching the Saints again on Monday Night Football, it’s a comparison I feel okay about. New Orleans has undeniable playmaking talent on offense and, at least once a week, it seems, they will get just enough of that to supplement their defense, which Dennis Allen always has firing. I can see why there was such a chorus of folks who preferred Chris Olave as rookie of the year in 2022.
16. Green Bay Packers (1–1)
Last week: loss at Atlanta, 25–24
Next week: vs. New Orleans
Despite the loss to Atlanta, and despite the fact that Green Bay did not get any game-winning field goal drive magic from Jordan Love, this has to be a somewhat comfortable place to find themselves at this point in the season. Love has continued to display a veteran comfort, looking like a developing protege of the man he studied under for so long.
17. Washington Commanders (2–0)
Last week: win at Denver, 35–33
Next week: vs. Buffalo
This should be a victory lap week for the Commanders. Like the Buccaneers, we have no idea where this is going. Teams start 2-0 all the time. But this staff and roster deserve a little bit of time in the sun. Playing under a new ownership group can be a nightmare, even for the most tenured and secure of head coaches. For Eric Bieniemy, venturing out on his own and betting his career on Sam Howell was also an incredible risk. And yet, the Commanders are fifth in first downs picked up and fifth in rushing touchdowns. They’re also in the top 10 in passing touchdowns and fewest interceptions thrown. I would happily be wrong to see the rebooted Washington Football Team somehow scale the NFC East.
18. Los Angeles Rams (1–1)
Last week: loss vs. San Francisco, 30–23
Next week: at Cincinnati
A strong showing by the Rams, who were leading the 49ers going into halftime before a last-second Brock Purdy touchdown. This was a 6.5-point underdog giving the best team in football all it could handle. I think our projection that the Rams end the season with a winning record is looking like a safe one. Next week, they have a potential knockout matchup against the winless Bengals in primetime that the eyes of the NFL world will be locked on.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (1–1)
Last week: win vs. Cleveland, 26–22
Next week: at Las Vegas
This is, kind of, how a Steelers game is supposed to end, right? With a strip sack leading to a touchdown than a physical play by a cornerback that leaves everyone clamoring for a flag? Of course, Pittsburgh was massively aided by the game-altering injury to Nick Chubb, who had 64 yards at the time of his injury, but in the meantime, this is how they are going to have to win certain games. A four turnover affair for Cleveland is Pittsburgh’s best recipe to continue their domination of this rivalry no matter who is on the Browns’ roster.
20. Cleveland Browns (1–1)
Last week: loss at Pittsburgh, 26-22
Next week: vs. Tennessee
The dynamics of Cleveland’s roster change significantly without a dominant, hammering force at the running back position, which feels odd to say about a team that was supposed to be so analytically derived. There are plenty of options for the Browns to consider via trade (we’d discussed Saquon Barkley possibly being available on the MMQB podcast this week). Would they lean in that direction? Still, this was a tough night for a Browns team that had so dominantly stepped out into Week One. The AFC North is a slog once again. Surprise.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2–0)
Last week: win vs. Chicago, 27–17
Next week: vs. Philadelphia
More complete thoughts on Tampa here. Todd Bowles said that Baker Mayfield simply needs to drive the car, and through two games, have faith in new offensive coordinator Dave Canales, who had been a long-time Seahawks assistant. The Buccaneers’ OC job was not one that coaches were clamoring to take, and yet, there are only 32 of these spots and someone is going to make the best of it. Mayfield’s timing throws with his receivers are especially impressive given that he split reps during training camp. Perhaps the season eventually catches up with him, but at the moment the Buccaneers look dangerous. Outside of the scripted first drive, Justin Fields was punchless against this Tampa defense.
22. Tennessee Titans (1–1)
Last week: win vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 27–24
Next week: at Cleveland
This Titans team is incredible, and while they are clearly not packing the same punch they did two or three seasons ago, they are going to continue doing what they did last week and absolutely haymaking a team that gets caught sleeping late in games. Let’s check back on them in a few weeks, when I imagine we’ll be hurling Clint Eastwood type platitudes of grit and toughness at them in a confetti spray gun fashion.
23. New York Giants (1–1)
Last week: win at Arizona, 31–28
Next week: at San Francisco
Daniel Jones is strange in that he’s a quarterback I don’t mind starting the game against, but a quarterback I’m scared to face in the second half. Jones was cool and collected during a rabid comeback against the Cardinals. For someone who will likely amount to a very, very high end bridge quarterback, he was throwing open a middling receiver depth chart, supplanted by Saquon Barkley in the passing game. This is a coaching staff that expertly doesn’t panic. Imagine staring down a blowout loss to the Cardinals after a 40-0 loss to the Cowboys in the season opener. That was a massive team victory.
24. New England Patriots (0–2)
Last week: loss vs. Miami, 24–17
Next week: at New York Jets
Outside of one of the coolest plays we’ll see this year—New England’s running-head-start field goal block—there isn’t much to say about the Patriots. They are much improved, but they are facing off against a handful of teams to start the year with Super Bowl aspirations. Narrow losses to the Eagles and Dolphins look like an indictment on New England, though I’m not sure they would have been within 15 points of either team last year with a different offense. A game against the reeling Jets in New Jersey should clue us in on how their season will go once the schedule softens.
25. Indianapolis Colts (1–1)
Last week: win at Houston, 31–20
Next week: at Baltimore
Losing Anthony Richardson did not hamper the momentum of the Colts, who pulled Gardner Minshew out of a rabbit’s hat and held on for a victory. Of course, the compiling of hits sustained by Richardson was always going to be the closet fear of this team and how they could envision an entire healthy season for their mobile passer. Much like Cam Newton was battered throughout his career as a kind of hack-a-Shaq game plan, Richardson took serious shots in each of his first two games, the latter of which landed him in concussion protocol.
26. Las Vegas Raiders (1–1)
Last week: loss at Buffalo, 38–10
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh
As fun as it is to watch Jimmy Garoppolo and Davante Adams play catch, this was a team that had enough time to get to a point where they could be competitive against the Buffalo Bills. And after some early down successes, Las Vegas watched one of the better teams in the NFL separate from them methodically, like a seasoned distance runner. The Raiders’ season began with some real hope. Against Denver, we saw some innovative first-drive concepts. But their Week 2 loss was somewhat revelatory.
27. Houston Texans (0–2)
Last week: loss vs. Indianapolis, 31–20
Next week: at Jacksonville
If you’re a Texans fan taking a long-term view, you care far less about the fact that they dropped a random September game to the Colts and far more about the fact that CJ Stroud had his best performance as a professional (yes I’m tying in meaningless preseason games). He was throwing receivers open and was finally able to develop a rhythm in his drop backs. No longer was there an evident pause or panic. This happened sooner than I expected.
28. Carolina Panthers (0–2)
Last week: loss vs. New Orleans, 20–17
Next week: at Seattle
A dominant defense, no doubt, and an offense that is still finding its way. I think it always made sense for the Panthers to come along a little bit organically. As good of a head coach as Frank Reich is, he is purposefully breaking in a staff of relative newbies. From Bryce Young this week we saw what can best be categorized as the game after the first game, which can often be a more difficult task for a rookie who just had a week’s worth of film digested on him by professional coaches. This led to some long downs for Carolina, and with the Saints able to muddy the pocket with minimal defenders, it became a recipe for a rookie learning experience. Reich took the Mac Jones-Bill Belichick path on Monday and pulled the game from his young QB’s hands, opting not to try for a game-tying fourth-down conversion attempt with under seven minutes to play. Still, Young did a nice job under pressure, netting a two-point conversion on a somewhat busted concept to get Carolina within a field goal.
29. Minnesota Vikings (0–2)
Last week: loss at Philadelphia, 34–28
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Chargers
I suppose we could ask ourselves if Justin Jefferson fumbling the ball out of the back of the end zone changes the makeup of this game, giving Philly a four-point halftime deficit instead of a six-point halftime lead. But, without Jefferson, the Vikings may be the second or third-worst team in football. Kirk Cousins’s extremely misleading stat line covers up the chilling reality of this team: they cannot run or stop the run. They are last in the NFL in rushing yards, and third-to-last in preventing rushing yards from happening.
30. Chicago Bears (0–2)
Last week: loss at Tampa Bay, 27–17
Next week: at Kansas City
Fields looked solid on his first drive, which was hand-curated by his offensive coordinator. After that, the game plan seemed to fall apart. I noticed a lot of deep drops where Fields was simply scanning the field and waiting for something to happen, which is such a recipe for disaster against this Buccaneers defense with a handful of talented rushers and pocket pushers. Unless the Bears can try and survive by completely tying the run game and the pass together—think of what the Eagles did with Jalen Hurts under Shane Steichen—Fields is going to look like a sitting duck all season.
31. Denver Broncos (0–2)
Last week: loss vs. Washington, 35–33
Next week: at Miami
I’m unsure what the message was at halftime, but there was some serious carryover of Commanders momentum at the end of the half. Washington was simply out-gritting Denver despite trailing by multiple scores, and after the Kareem Jackson head shot, the entire game spun 180 degrees, with no way for Sean Payton to stop it. After the half, Russell Wilson got pummeled, he started throwing balls into the outstretched hands of defenders, and the Commanders easily got into their rhythm and comfort zone. There were some moments for the Broncos, like a familiar moon ball Wilson touchdown, which Payton may have dug up from the old Brian Schottenheimer/Darrell Bevell playbook. But there was a lot more of what the coach claims he exorcized from a season ago.
32. Arizona Cardinals (0–2)
Last week: loss vs. New York Giants, 31–28
Next week: vs. Dallas
I think the strength of a team is relative, and it’s hard not to be impressed with what Jonathan Gannon has done through two weeks. He nearly beat both the Commanders and the Giants, and while many bad seasons are filled with a few near-miss victories, you have to look at scheme and performance quality relative to how everything came together. Their staff just received their starting quarterback, essentially voiding the relationships built during training camp and yet…Josh Dobbs is kind of rolling. They remind me a bit of last year’s Falcons, where there is a lot of worthwhile scheme on tape, but just not enough of a roster to translate to wins yet.