We got our first taste of NFL regular season football and it was everything we hoped for and more. Dak almost powered Dallas past Tampa. Kansas City and Cleveland played in an instant classic. New Orleans stunned the reigning MVP. Vegas capped the weekend with a wild overtime win over Baltimore. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Teams don’t win championships in September. These rankings will likely change a lot in the early weeks as teams find their identity and settle into a new season. Keep in mind that the Browns opened 2020 with a 38-6 loss only to reach the playoffs, the Jaguars stunned the Colts before losing 15 straight and the Buccaneers stumbled against the Saints before going on to win the Super Bowl.
After one week though, this is how I think the NFL stacks up.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: 1-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 33-29 vs. Cleveland
Seeing the Chiefs down 15-3 midway through the second quarter might have offered shades of their Super Bowl loss. Luckily for Kansas City, Baker Mayfield is not Tom Brady. Patrick Mahomes might just challenge the latter for being the greatest of all time when it is all said and done. It would be easy to say he engineered a fourth-quarter comeback, but he had plenty of help. Tyreek Hill adjusted to a classic Mahomes rocket and coasted to the end zone for a one-play scoring drive. Kansas City dragged down Cleveland’s punter after he dropped the snap to set up a short field for the go-ahead score. Then, the defense sealed it with an interception. Andy Reid will surely hope to avoid such a slow start next week, but this is a good reminder that a comeback is rarely out of the question when it comes to the Chiefs.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1-0 (Last Week: 2)
Won 31-29 vs. Dallas
Bucs fans almost had their Super Bowl celebrations spoiled by the Cowboys. Then again, was the game really ever in doubt when Tom Brady got the ball back with about 90 seconds on the clock? It was a lot less comfortable of a win than many expected, but a win nonetheless. The biggest concern for Tampa Bay has to be the defense, which struggled to slow down Dak Prescott all game long. There were a few moments of brilliance, but overall, it was a bit of a slow start. Definitely nothing to panic about, but there is clearly room for improvement.
3. Los Angeles Rams: 1-0 (Last Week: 7)
Won 34-14 vs. Chicago
Los Angeles passed its first test with flying colors and looks the part of a Super Bowl contender. Matt Stafford looked sharp in his new offense and his full complement of weapons showed up. He aired it out for 321 yards and three touchdowns while completing 20-of-26 passes. Defensively, the Rams didn’t generate as much pressure as you might have expected. The secondary more than made up for it though with some smothering coverage. This was a good start, but the pressure is still on. The entire NFC West won in Week 1, so the Rams still have plenty of work to do.
4. New Orleans Saints: 1-0 (Last Week: 14)
Won 38-3 vs. Green Bay
A lot will be made about Jameis Winston throwing five touchdowns on just 20 passes. I was more impressed by the Saints defense though. The Packers averaged a league-best 31.8 points per game in 2020 along with the fifth-most yards per contest. New Orleans held Green Bay out of the end zone and surrendered the fewest yards of any defense in Week 1. After losing Sheldon Rankins, Trey Hendrickson and Janoris Jenkins this was a much better showing than I would’ve expected. Newly-acquired Bradley Roby wasn’t even on the field yet. The Saints mean business and need to be taken seriously.
5. Seattle Seahawks: 1-0 (Last Week: 10)
Won 28-16 at Indianapolis
Russ is cooking once again and this time it seems like the defense decided to show up for the first half of the year, too. Seattle outplayed Indianapolis on both sides of the ball and picked up a solid road to win to open its season. Russell Wilson looked unstoppable, amassing 254 yards passing and four touchdowns on just 23 throws. The Seahawks controlled the line of scrimmage, running the ball effectively on offense and stymieing the Colts’ ground game on defense. Seattle gets another dose of the AFC South with a visit from Tennessee on the horizon.
6. Cleveland Browns 0-1 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 33-29 at Kansas City
It is hard to know which side of this loss to focus on. On one hand, the Browns led 22-10 at halftime and held a nine-point lead with 10:24 left in the fourth quarter. On the other, they collapsed in the final minutes and Baker Mayfield threw a bad interception to end Cleveland’s comeback bid. There is a lot to like about how they played, but the Browns are going to need to win these games in order to really earn contender status.
7. Arizona Cardinals: 1-0 (Last Week: 19)
Won 38-13 at Tennessee
Woah! If it weren’t for the Saints beating the brakes off the Packers, I think we would all be talking about how good the Cardinals looked in demolishing the Titans. Kyler Murray seems fully healthy and back to the MVP form he flashed before suffering an ankle injury in 2020. Chandler Jones seems back to his old self as well with a monster five-sack performance, tied for the most in a single game in franchise history. Keep in mind that he tallied 19 sacks and eight forced fumbles in 2019 before missing most of 2020 due to injury. This is a very impressive start for Arizona. Kliff Kingsbury needs to maintain that over a full season though. The Cards started 6-3 last year before limping to a 8-8 finish.
8. San Francisco 49ers: 1-0 (Last Week: 9)
Won 41-33 at Detroit
This went from a convincing blowout to a questionable victory very quickly. A costly fumble by Deebo Samuel nearly cost the 49ers the lead in the fourth quarter, but the defense did just enough to preserve the victory. After going up 38-10, Detroit outscored San Francisco 23-3 the rest of the way. That is a red flag for Kyle Shanahan. On the bright side, Elijah Mitchell looked great in his debut. Samuel dazzled on a 79-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Dre Greenlaw got the defense involved in the scoring as well with a pick six. There was a lot to like, but San Francisco can not afford to take its foot off the gas like that in the future.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-0 (Last Week: 16)
Won 23-16 at Buffalo
Maybe the Steelers aren’t as overmatched as we all thought. Actually, this looked exactly like what I think we all expected Pittsburgh to be. The defense played lights out while the offensive line looked abysmal. It proved to be the special teams, which blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown, that won the game. Ben Roethlisberger posted an ugly 28.5 QBR and Najee Harris averaged 2.8 yards per carry. That is not usually a winning formula. Mike Tomlin needs to find a way to take at least some pressure off his defense as the season rolls on.
10. Buffalo Bills: 0-1 (Last Week: 3)
Lost 23-16 vs. Pittsburgh
It might be time to cool the Super Bowl hype in Buffalo. After lighting up the NFL in 2020, Josh Allen seemed to show some regression in his 2021 season opener. Perhaps that was just a product of playing a talented Steelers defense. He struggled against Pittsburgh in 2020 as well, but not quite as badly as he did on Sunday. Devin Singletary looked effective running the ball, but lost the handle twice. He was lucky neither resulted in a turnover. Zack Moss was a healthy scratch. Defensively, Buffalo looked really good, but it was not enough to carry the offense and special teams to a win. Miami is up next.
11. Baltimore Ravens: 0-1 (Last Week: 5)
Lost 33-27 at Las Vegas
Blowing a 14-point lead is inexcusable, especially with an offense as capable of controlling the clock as the Ravens’ offense can. Lamar Jackson was phenomenal when he wasn’t fumbling the ball. Jackson coughed it up three times, with two of those times resulting in turnovers. The last one cost Baltimore the game in overtime. This also was not the greatest start for defensively as they allowed Las Vegas to climb back into the game. There are still some positives to take away from the performance, but Jim Harbaugh has to be disappointed in how his team closed the game.
12. Miami Dolphins: 1-0 (Last Week: 11)
Won 17-16 at New England
Miami picks up an all important road win in the division and leads the AFC East through one week. Tua Tagovailoa looked decent, showing some areas of growth, but was also clearly outplayed by Mac Jones. Brian Flores also made the curious decision to only give Myles Gaskin nine carries despite him averaging 5.4 yards per carry. The rest of the team averaged 1.8 yards per attempt on 14 rushes. Flores will also need to figure out what to do about his run defense. A pair of fumble recoveries shifted the focus away from the fact that Damien Harris ran the ball down the team’s throat. A win is great, but there are a few things the Dolphins need to work on heading into Week 2 against the Bills.
13. Green Bay Packers: 0-1 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 38-3 at New Orleans
What in the world just happened? The Packers entered Sunday with a 26-6 record in the regular season under Matt LaFleur and had the reigning MVP coming off back-to-back NFC Championship Games. The Saints cared about absolutely none of that. Aaron Rodgers played one of the worst games of his career and the defense got carved up by Jameis Winston, who threw five touchdowns on just 20 attempts. Worst still, the offensive line does not look great. The running game accounted for 2.9 yards per carry and gave up seven quarterback hits. LaFleur has a ton to figure out and it already seems like the tension between him and Rodgers is growing.
14. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-0 (Last Week: 15)
Won 20-16 at Washington
Brandon Staley got his head coaching career off to a winning start. This was not an easy opening matchup either, traveling across the country to play one of the best defenses in the league. It was far from perfect as L.A. managed just 3.1 yards per carry and committed a pair of turnovers. However, we finally got a glimpse of how good this defense could be with Derwin James and Kenneth Murray both healthy. This seems like an exciting team to watch this year. A big game versus Dallas awaits.
15. Las Vegas Raiders: 1-0 (Last Week: 21)
Won 33-27 vs. Baltimore
What a comeback and what a finish! It was a roller coaster, but the Raiders pulled off a seemingly improbable win in overtime. Derek Carr looked incredible down the stretch after a rocky start against a solid Ravens defense. It was far from perfect and I still have some questions about the defense. Give them credit for forcing a pair of crucial turnovers to turn the tide, but the Ravens had no problem moving the ball against them. This definitely takes some heat off both Carr and Jon Gruden, but the road only gets tougher with a trip to face a stifling Steelers defense next week.
16. Tennessee Titans: 0-1 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 38-13 vs. Arizona
Maybe the Titans will still rebound to win the AFC South, but this was a very inauspicious start. Tennessee got blown out in its own building and looked overmatched on both sides of the ball. The defense had no answer for Kyler Murray, who accounted for five total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill will be having nightmares about Chandler Jones for a while after the Cardinals edge rusher sacked him five times on Sunday. What might be the most concerning part of all is that the Titans could not run the ball. Derrick Henry finished with just 58 yards on just 3.4 yards per carry. Mike Vrabel has a lot to figure out before his side heads to Seattle this week.
17. Dallas Cowboys: 0-1 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 31-29 at Tampa Bay
It was a loss, and that won’t help them at the end of the season, but it was a strong start by the Cowboys. Dak Prescott looked great in his return from injury. The defense wasn’t amazing, but looked much better than a year ago. If Dallas can establish the run a bit more in Week 2, we could see this team start to look like a true playoff contender. That won’t be the easiest task with the Cowboys headed to L.A. to face the Chargers. It’s not a must-win by any means, but it feels like a big litmus test for Mike McCarthy’s group.
18. Indianapolis Colts: 0-1 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 28-16 vs. Seattle
Carson Wentz was set for a fresh start in Indianapolis, reunited with his former offensive coordinator behind one of the better offensive lines in the league with a reliable running game. Through one week, it looks like he might have left most of that behind in Philadelphia. Wentz was sacked three times and hit 10 times. The running game only managed 3.8 yards per carry. There is cause for concern on the defense as well. Russell Wilson usually comes out cooking, but to surrender four touchdowns through the air is not a good sign for the secondary. Things don’t get much easier with the Rams coming to visit in Week 2.
19. New England Patriots: 0-1 (Last Week: 13
Lost 17-16 vs. Miami
The Patriots were unlucky not to beat the Dolphins, but they have no one to blame but themselves. New England fumbled the ball four times, losing two of them. That proved to be the difference in a defensive slugfest. Mac Jones looked pretty sharp though and the running game showed promise. There are clearly going to be some growing pains for Bill Belichick, but I can promise you he will not let fumbles continue to happen. There is a good chance we see some reduced roles for Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris after coughing it up. Jones will face off with fellow rookie Zach Wilson in Week 2.
20. Washington: 0-1 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 20-16 vs. Los Angeles
Losing to the Chargers stings, but losing Ryan Fitzpatrick for six to eight weeks hurts much worse. Much of the offseason optimism that Washington could repeat in the NFC East centered on the improved quarterback play that Fitzmagic could bring. Taylor Heinickie looked fine in relief, but this is a bit of a change up for Washington. Also, let’s not lose focus on this defense. Thought of as one of the best in the league, Washington sacked Justin Herbert just twice for a loss of three yards. Not quite as impactful as you would’ve expected from that uber talented front seven. Washington has a short week before playing a divisional game against the Giants.
21. Denver Broncos: 1-0 (Last Week: 23)
Won 27-13 at New York
It was only one game, but the Broncos look very smart for trading for and subsequently starting Teddy Bridgewater. He looked sharp running the offense. Melvin Gordon flashed some big-play ability as well on a monster 75-yard touchdown run and Vic Fangio was aggressive in his decision making. Defensively, this was an awesome performance. Denver held New York to just seven points up until the final play of the game. The Broncos roll into Florida to face a hapless Jaguars team in Week 2. There is a very good chance they get off to a 2-0 start.
22. Carolina Panthers: 1-0 (Last Week: 25)
Won 19-14 vs. New York
The Sam Darnold era in Carolina got off to a positive start. The former Jets quarterback beat his former team to open the season, showcasing some of the talent that made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2018. He missed a few throws as well, but this is a good sign for the future. That defensive front looked legit as well, hounding Zach Wilson all game long. We will see if the Panthers are ready to make some noise in the division when they host the Saints in Week 2.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: 1-0 (Last Week: 27)
Won 32-6 at Atlanta
Perhaps one of the most surprising results of the entire week, Philadelphia smacked Atlanta to open the season. Jalen Hurts looked like a franchise quarterback. A healthy offensive line and a revamped secondary definitely made a huge difference. The Eagles kept Hurts pretty clean and the defense got after Matt Ryan, sacking him three times and holding him to 4.7 yards per attempt. Philly will get a chance to prove themselves in a home matchup against the 49ers in Week 2. I have a feeling we will learn a lot about both teams.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-0 (Last Week: 28)
Won 27-24 vs. Minnesota
The Bengals have a winning record! I am being somewhat sarcastic in my excitement, but it is the first time since November 2018 that the Bengals are above .500. It looked like Cincinnati was headed for a tie before Evan McPherson knocked through a game-winning field goal as time expired in overtime. Give Zac Taylor credit for riding Joe Mixon and the run game as a way to ease Joe Burrow back into action. However, the second-year quarterback was still sacked five times despite only attempting 27 passes in the game. That does not bode well, especially with the Bears and Steelers up in Week 2 and Week 3.
25. Minnesota Vikings: 0-1 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 27-24 at Cincinnati
Mike Zimmer’s seat somehow got warmer after an ugly season-opening loss to the Bengals. The offensive line was atrocious, evidenced by Dalvin Cook’s 3.1 yards per carry average and the three sacks and eight hits Kirk Cousins took. The defense that many expected to improve after a dismal 2020 season didn’t look much better either. Next up? Chandler Jones and Cardinals in Arizona fresh off a beatdown of the Titans. Good luck Vikings fans.
26. Chicago Bears: 0-1 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 34-14 at Los Angeles
The Andy Dalton experiment should probably come to an end, but Matt Nagy seems determined not to turn things over to Justin Fields. It remains to be seen if Chicago can actually win with Dalton under center. Facing the Rams in Los Angeles to open the season behind an incredibly banged up offensive line is not the easiest start. For Bears fans frustrated that Fields is not starting, go watch some highlights of Zach Wilson running for his life and getting sacked six times in his debut. That is exactly what Nagy is trying to avoid.
27. New York Giants: 0-1 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 27-13 vs. Denver
As has been the case for all of his career, Daniel Jones showed the athleticism and playmaking that made him the No. 6 pick back in 2019. Unfortunately, he also continued to be maddeningly unreliable in big moments. A costly fumble when the Giants were driving made a comeback all but impossible. Jones scored a meaningless touchdown as the clock hit zero to make the scoreline seem a bit more respectable, but this team is heading nowhere fast. Even with Saquon Barkley back, New York cannot run the ball. The defense that inspired confidence a year ago gave up big plays and could not get off the field on key downs. Start scouting 2022 quarterbacks Giants fans.
28. Houston Texans: 1-0 (Last Week: 32)
Won 37-21 vs. Jacksonville
Just as we all expected, the Texans are atop the AFC South through one weekend of play. Tyrod Taylor accounted for over 300 yards of offense and a pair of touchdown passes. Perhaps even more surprising than Houston’s offensive showcase was the defensive effort. The Texans had a horrendous defense in 2020. That was before they lost J.J. Watt in free agency. Somehow, the unit tallied three interceptions and held Jacksonville to just 76 yards on the ground. Things will get a lot tougher in Week 2 with a visit to Cleveland, but this was a great debut for new head coach David Culley.
29. Atlanta Falcons: 0-1 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 32-6 vs. Philadelphia
The Arthur Smith era opened with a resounding thud. Atlanta looked hopeless in its opener, getting shelled by a Philadelphia side that most people expected to be contending for the No. 1 overall pick. The Falcons managed two early field goals and then proceeded to be shut out for the remaining 45 minutes. Matt Ryan could not get the passing offense going. The defense did nothing to inspire confidence either, surrendering 32 points and 5.7 yards per carry while managing a single sack. It is looking like it might be a long season for the Falcons, who are likely wondering if they should have drafted a quarterback in May.
30. Detroit Lions: 0-1 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 41-33 vs. San Francisco
For two and a half quarters, this looked a lot like the hapless Lions team we all expected to see this year. They trailed 38-10 and looked lost in all three phases. Detroit outscored San Francisco 23-3 the rest of the way and nearly pulled off an epic comeback. While the Lions fell short, that late-game surge has to count for something. We will have to see if maybe the defense can find a way to avoid getting blown out early so Jared Goff doesn’t have to throw the ball 57 times. Dan Campbell will have his team in primetime against the Packers next Monday night.
31. New York Jets: 0-1 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 19-14 at Carolina
Maybe this is a bit harsh, but the team that played in the first half against the Panthers looked like the second-worst team in the league. However, if you are a Jets fan like me, you saw the flashes of potential that made you excited about Zach Wilson. The offensive line is unquestionably a problem, especially with Mekhi Becton likely to miss some time due to a MCL sprain. This is an incredibly young team with a rookie coaching staff and rookie quarterback. There are going to be a lot of growing pains, but there were definitely some positives, even in a loss.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 0-1 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 37-21 at Houston
It is important not to overreact after just one game. This was Urban Meyer’s and Trevor Lawrence’s first game in the NFL. That being said, my goodness the Jaguars look bad. We spent all offseason talking about how the Texans were going to be one of the worst teams in NFL history. I still don’t think Houston is very good, I now know that Jacksonville is just that bad. If this is how this team is going to compete every week, we might see Meyer coaching USC next year.
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