Draft Season Never Ends: NFL Quarterback Carousel

There are at least a dozen NFL teams who have questions to answer about the future of the quarterback position this offseason. With so many teams needing new QBs, who might get left out and how will it impact this year’s NFL draft?

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How the Raiders can replace Derek Carr and where Carr could land in 2023

Carr’s completion percentage dipped to 60.8 percent this year, down from 68.4 percent a year ago. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Raiders are not officially eliminated from playoff contention, but they are already preparing for 2023. To be fair, their playoff odds are long, needing wins over the 49ers and Chiefs to close the season along with a litany of other results to go their way. However, Las Vegas essentially waved the white flag on Wednesday, announcing that Jarrett Stidham will start the final two regular season games with Chase Garbers set to be his backup. This means Derek Carr’s season is done and along with it, potentially his career with the Raiders.

How did we get to this point? Well, it started with the contract extension Carr signed last offseason. It looked as though the Raiders had locked up their franchise quarterback for years to come. Instead, it was actually a one-year pact with the framework to keep him in house if the team desired. Carr can be released or traded this offseason for a dead cap hit of just $5.625 million while saving Las Vegas $29.25 million in cap space.

The door was cracked open to Carr’s exit this offseason at that point. It was blown wide open as the year rolled on and the Raiders continued to struggle. The team that thrived in close games a year ago suddenly could not close out contests. A pair of losses would send the Raiders to 6-11 on the season, nowhere near the lofty expectations that were set after acquiring Devante Adams this offseason.

So what’s next for Carr? It seems like he will be searching for a new team this offseason. He won’t be shopping long. There are so many QB needy teams in the league right now, he will have his fair share of suitors. Before we get to where he might land, we need to figure out what the Raiders’ plan might be.

There certainly seems to be a shortage of quality NFL quarterbacks at the moment. There are something like a dozen teams who could be in the market for a new signal caller this offseason. It is a bit surprising to see the Raiders opt to get into the mix despite having at least an average starting option. It begs the question: how can they upgrade at the position? Is it even possible to upgrade this offseason?

Brady reportedly nearly joined the Raiders in 2020 before signing with the Buccaneers. (Wikimedia Commons)

Well, let’s look at some veteran options first. The first name that comes to mind is Tom Brady. Yes, the GOAT could very well leave Tampa Bay this offseason and head for a new team with a familiar face. He and Raiders coach Josh McDaniels worked together for a long time in New England, so this seems like a logical reunion. Las Vegas would unquestionably need to upgrade his protection either through the draft or in free agency. However, I imagine the prospect of throwing to Adams, Hunter Renfroe and Darren Waller would be an appealing one.

Otherwise, Jimmy Garoppolo feels like the only other seasoned signal caller that would be a viable option. He, like Brady, has history with McDaniels and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Outside of Garoppolo, there aren’t too many realistic targets. I don’t expect Lamar Jackson to leave the Ravens. Baker Mayfield, Jameis Winston, Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater don’t feel like upgrades. Perhaps the Raiders would hope to ride the Geno Smith wave, but that also feels unlikely.

If not a veteran, the draft is always an option. The Raiders are on track to land a top-10 pick in the draft. However, they find themselves behind as many as six different teams that could draft a quarterback this year. The Texans, Seahawks, Colts, Falcons, Lions and Panthers will all at least consider selecting a rookie QB. Some of that could be impacted by the offseason carousel, but I doubt that all six of those clubs will pass on a quarterback. At best, the Raiders would likely be taking the third or fourth choice passer from this class. Sometimes, that works out really well. Just ask the Bills. However, taking that would be a bold risk to take.

While the Raiders work on finding his replacement, Carr will be looking to refresh his career. Let’s take a look at where he might land.

Indianapolis Colts
Indy has been searching for a long-term solution at quarterback since Andrew Luck retired. After one-year rentals of Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan, Carr could end the search, at least for a few years. Calling Carr a bridge quarterback feels disrespectful given his success in the league and the fact he is only 31 years old. He would likely offer a lot more stability at the position than the Colts have had in years. If Indianapolis is able to land one of its top targets on the draft board, it currently holds the 5th overall pick, this likely won’t make sense, but if they want a veteran option to compete a bit faster and use that premium pick to bolster the roster elsewhere, Carr would be a logical choice.

New York Jets
Zach Wilson does not feel long for New York and Mike White has yet to really earn enough trust to be considered a long-term solution. Jimmy Garoppolo has been heavily linked to Gang Green given his connection to Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur, but Carr could be another viable option for a team that feels like it is a quarterback away from at least being in the Super Bowl conversation. Joe Douglas will need to revamp the offensive line in order for Carr to succeed, but that is likely true of any quarterback New York brings in.

New Orleans Saints
This probably would not be a huge upgrade over the contingent of Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston, but progress is progress. New Orleans’ cap situation seems horrible, but they find ways to get around that pretty much annually. With a number of talented players already on the roster (think Alvin Kamara, Chris Olave, Tyrann Mathieu, Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, etc.), finding some stability at quarterback could go a long way to getting the Saints back on track in a weak division. New Orleans is technically still in the playoff hunt right now despite a 6-9 record. Without a first-round pick, there aren’t a ton of other options, so Carr could be a target.

Washington Commanders
This feels like a sneaky good option for Carr. Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson would give him a solid supporting cast. This team has a good defense and could use a boost at quarterback. Carson Wentz is very expendable and would actually save the Commanders roughly $26.2 million in cap space with zero dead cap. I don’t know if this move would make Washington a real contender, but if this team can compete for a playoff spot with below average quarterback play, even getting average quarterback play could go a long way.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I did say that Brady’s exit from Tampa Bay felt likely, didn’t I? Maybe, he and Carr could just trade places. The Buccaneers do not have a true succession plan on the roster right now and with them in line to win the NFC South, it is unlikely they will be in position to draft a quarterback in the first round. Carr could help this team stay in contention in the division. A healthy offensive line plus receivers like Chris Godwin and Mike Evans could lead to a very successful offense. Carr is still young enough to be considered the present and the short-term future at the position.

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Where will Baker Mayfield land?

It is hard to believe that one year after Baker Mayfield led the Browns to their first playoff win since 1994 he will now be searching for a new home. Tom Pelissero reported Thursday that Mayfield has requested a trade following Cleveland’s pursuit of Deshaun Watson.

An injury-riddled, disappointing 2021 season soured the relationship between the team and the former No. 1 pick. Cleveland had already opted against offering Mayfield an extension, instead allowing him to play out the final year of his rookie contract.

Mayfield threw for 92 touchdowns and 56 interceptions in four seasons with Cleveland. (Wikimedia Commons)

Mayfield posted a goodbye to Browns fans on social media earlier this week following the team’s interest in Texans quarterback Watson. The writing was on the wall then, but it is still a shocking development considering the Browns entered the season with legitimate title aspirations.

So what happens now for Mayfield? There is no shortage of suitors for the 26-year-old quarterback this offseason. Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans are all in on landing Watson, but two of those teams will still need a long-term answer at quarterback after a deal goes down. Beyond those three, the Colts, Giants and Seahawks are all kicking the tires on prospective quarterbacks. New York did just sign Tyrod Taylor to backup Daniel Jones, but if there is interest in Mayfield, I don’t think that will stop them from making a move. What makes this complicated is that the Browns do not seem inclined to trade Mayfield. Jake Trotter tweeted shortly after the news broke that Cleveland denied his request.

The teams that stand out to me are Indianapolis, Carolina and Seattle. The latter two allow the Browns to move Mayfield out of the conference and both teams have major question marks at quarterback with hopes of being much more competitive in 2022. However, Cleveland might receive the best offer from Indy. After trading away Carson Wentz and without a first-round pick in 2022, it is hard to figure out who the Colts will start at quarterback this season. Let’s go team by team.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have several starting quarterback options, which is to say they have no idea who will start for them this season. Sam Darnold, who was selected two picks after Mayfield in 2018, is still under contract for 2022. He had an up-and-down year that ended prematurely due to an injury. Then there is Cam Newton. Super Cam arrived halfway through the 2021 season and immediately breathed some new life into the Panthers offense. The spark was short-lived though as Carolina went 0-5 in games Newton started. The former MVP also threw just four touchdowns and five interceptions in eight appearances. There is no question the Panthers need a long-term solution at quarterback.

Should they make the call?: Absolutely not. What is the point in adding a second quarterback from the 2018 draft coming off an injury. Mayfield would be an upgrade over both Darnold and Newton, but this does not provide the stability the Panthers need.

Seattle Seahawks

Now that Russell Wilson is donning Broncos orange, Seattle desperately needs to find its next quarterback. The combination of Drew Lock and Geno Smith does not inspire much confidence for long-term success. Lock is heading into his fourth season, but has struggled with consistency and health. Smith is a career backup who can step in for an injured starter. Neither is going to be the starting quarterback by the time 2023 rolls around. In fact, both could not be on the roster by that point. The question is not if Seattle needs help, it is if this is the right move.

Should they make the call?: I personally would love to see Colin Kaepernick get a second chance by landing with the Seahawks. Pete Carroll revealed this week that he has been in touch with the former 49ers quarterback. Kap is also working out with Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett after he posted a video lamenting his lack of throwing partners. That being said, Mayfield is a much safer bet than Kaepernick, who has not taken a snap in the NFL since 2016. If Cleveland is willing to move Mayfield for a Day 2 and a Day 3 pick, I would strongly consider it.

Indianapolis Colts

Once again, the Colts find themselves in desperate need of a quarterback. Last year, that led Indianapolis acquiring Carson Wentz from the Eagles. Colts general manager Chris Ballard already flipped Wentz to Washington for pennies on the dollar, so this team is short on draft capital and high on needing a solution. With the right quarterback, this team has the talent to make a real run at winning the AFC South and maybe winning a playoff game or two. Sam Ehlinger and James Morgan are the only quarterbacks on the Colts roster at the moment. Maybe Indy will give Ehlinger a chance to compete for the job, but it also needs to find a veteran to be in the mix.

Should they make the call?: I don’t think so. To be honest, I think the Colts have missed their Super Bowl window. They have holes at wide receiver, left tackle, left guard, cornerback and safety. They have big contracts on board already for players like DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard, Braden Smith and now Yannick Ngakoue. They still need to pay Quenton Nelson as well. I just think Indianapolis has too many holes and not enough resources to fill them all and become a true contender with this current roster. This core could still win a title, but it looks like it will be a year or two before they are ready to compete. If I’m Ballard, I pass on Mayfield and go sign Jameis Winston while I retool the rest of my roster.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints are clearly banking on landing Watson. After rolling with the combination of Winston, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian and Ian Book in 2022, the Texans quarterback could offer some much needed stability. You know, as soon as he is done serving the suspension that is likely coming for his off-the-field behavior. Still, if Watson winds up in Carolina or Atlanta, New Orleans will still need a quarterback. Winston and Siemian are free agents, Hill is a gadget player and Book looks like an overmatched backup quarterback. With Michael Thomas hopefully coming back from injury and Alvin Kamara facing legal trouble himself, there are still a lot of question marks surrounding this Saints offense.

Should they make the call?: Assuming they don’t land Watson, I say yes. Contingent on the asking price of course. If the Saints can land Mayfield for a mid-round selection and a future Day 3 pick, I think that is worth doing in this case. Mayfield is still 26 and has shown the potential to be a solid starter in the NFL. He won’t be a superstar, but the Saints can work to build more around him. They already have some great playmakers and a solid offensive line in place. That sounds like a recipe for success for Mayfield.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

How about a wild card to throw into the mix? Tom Brady is returning for another season, but his contract is up following 2022. Not to mention that he could always retire again. Rumors put Brady in San Francisco for 2023 with a chance to finish his career in his hometown. Speculation about Brady aside, it feels like Tampa has one more year with the seven-time Super Bowl champion. What remains behind Brady is far from reassuring as Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask will compete to be his backup.

Should they make the call?: I say yes. I just don’t think Cleveland would do the deal. Tampa could probably offer some more draft capital if the Browns would be willing to eat at least part of Mayfield’s cap hit for 2022. It would give Bruce Arians a year to evaluate Mayfield and let him learn from the greatest to ever play the position. Mayfield will certainly have opportunities to start elsewhere, but that does not mean he should take them right away. If he has another tumultuous year, it is hard to envision him landing a starting job anywhere beyond 2022. He has to pick his next destination carefully.

2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 15

Three more teams joined the ranks of the eliminated this week as the Jets, Lions and Jaguars all saw their playoff chances officially reach zero. In truth, their hopes of reaching the playoff disappeared months ago, but now those teams can officially begin to look ahead to 2022.

Meanwhile, playoff races across the league are even more murky after the Cardinals lost to the shorthanded Rams on Monday night and a host of wildcard hopefuls swapped places. There are 14 teams in the NFL with six or seven wins so far this season. All of them will believe they can emerge from the pack to reach the postseason.

As we head into the home stretch of the regular season, here is how all 32 teams stack up.

Buccaneers logo

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 10-3 (Last Week: 2)
Won 33-27 vs. Buffalo
Tampa Bay seemed to be strolling to a comfortable win against Buffalo, holding a 21-point lead at halftime. Then everything went sideways. The Bills outscored the Bucs 17-3 in the fourth quarter to force overtime. It seemed like Josh Allen was going to earn the walk-off win after Buffalo received to start the extra period, but Tampa’s defense found its footing and finally got a crucial stop. Tom Brady hit Breshad Perriman for the 58-yard game winner and the Bucs reached double digit wins on the season.

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2. Green Bay Packers: 10-3 (Last Week: 3)
Won 45-30 vs. Chicago
Talk about wild momentum swings: This is not how I expected this game to go. Jakeem Grant scored on a 97-yard punt return to put the Bears up 10-0. The Packers then scored twice in just over a minute to take the lead. Chicago struck back quickly to go back on top. Green Bay finally took control in the third quarter, outscoring Chicago 21-0. This game really had everything though from recovered onside kicks to defensive and special teams touchdowns. In the end, Aaron Rodgers maintains his ownership stake in the Bears and the Packers stay comfortably atop the NFC North.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

3. Arizona Cardinals: 10-3 (Last Week: 1)
Lost 30-23 vs. Los Angeles
Divisional games are always weird, but that does not excuse the Cardinals missing a huge opportunity. The Rams were dealing with a COVID outbreak, missing Jalen Ramsey, Tyler Higbee and others, but you would never have known it on Monday. Kyler Murray forced the issue too often, tossing a pair of interceptions and Kliff Kingsbury might have gotten a bit too aggressive with his play calling at times. Now, Arizona’s lead in the NFC West is down to one game as it loses the top spot in the NFC. This one stings a lot.

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4. New England Patriots: 9-4 (Last Week: 4)
Bye Week
The Patriots should probably send Tom Brady a polite thank you note after he beat the Bills this week to stretch their division lead to two games. New England got the week off in the midst of a seven-game win streak, one that shows no signs of stopping either. Its final four games feature all AFC opponents, including a trio of playoff hopefuls. The Colts are up next before a rematch with the Bills. New England will finish out the season against Jacksonville and Miami, the latter of which will be a chance to avenge a Week 1 loss.

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5. Kansas City Chiefs: 9-4 (Last Week: 5)
Won 48-9 vs. Raiders
Kansas City is currently petitioning the league to play the Raiders every week. At least, that’s what I assume is happening. In two meetings this season, the Chiefs have outscored their AFC West rival 89-23. Las Vegas has not belonged on the same field on both occasions. Patrick Mahomes was uber efficient, completing 20-of-24 passes. The run game produced some big plays with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrell Williams and Derrick Gore all finding the end zone. Meanwhile, Kansas City’s defense forced five turnovers in a dominant performance. Derek Carr spent much of the game running for his life and the Chiefs run defense held strong. Another crucial divisional game awaits. This time it is the Chargers on Thursday night.

6. Los Angeles Rams: 9-4 (Last Week: 7)
Won 30-23 at Arizona
I cannot overstate how monumental a win this was for the Rams. Missing a few key contributors due to COVID-19 protocols, Los Angeles did not miss a beat. It frustrated Kyler Murray and came up with some vital stops when it mattered most. Murray threw for 383 yards, but finished without a touchdown and two interceptions. On the other side, Matt Stafford looked dialed in. He tossed three touchdowns and took care of the football. This opens the door for the Rams to win the division and compete for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

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7. Dallas Cowboys: 9-4 (Last Week: 6)
Won 27-20 at Washington
Early on, it seemed like the Cowboys were going to run away with this one. Washington could not get anything going offensively and Dallas led 24-0 at halftime. However, the Cowboys managed just three points in the second half while Washington stormed back and nearly forced overtime. The defense did its job, forcing four turnovers, including a scoop-and-score. Despite all the talent, questions about Dallas’ offense persist following performances like this one. Dak Prescott and company have a lot of room for improvement.

Colts logo

8. Indianapolis Colts: 7-6 (Last Week: )
Bye Week
Indianapolis finds itself right in the thick of the AFC wildcard race. Following an 0-3 start, the Colts have gone 7-3 since then, largely on the back of Jonathan Taylor. The second-year running back leads the league in rushing by more than 300 yards and has scored 18 touchdowns so far this season. He will obviously be the catalyst for everything this offense does going forward. A showdown with the Patriots awaits with major playoff implications on the line.

9. Los Angeles Chargers: 8-5 (Last Week: 10)
Won 37-21 vs. New York
Sure, it helped to face Mike Glennon instead of Daniel Jones, but this was still a complete performance from the Chargers. Justin Herbert aired it out for three touchdowns while the ground game picked up 152 yards. Meanwhile, the defense got after Glennon, forcing a pair of turnovers. The run defense continues to be a problem, the Chargers surrendered 135 yards on 5.2 yards per carry, but if the offense can build an early lead, this defense is capable of protecting it.

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10. Buffalo Bills: 7-6 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 33-27 at Tampa Bay
I know that the analytics community hates running backs and the value of a top back is inconsequential compared to other positions. However, the Bills could really use a top-end running back right now. Buffalo did not attempt a traditional running play in the first half, instead calling designed runs for Josh Allen. He was wildly successful, going over the century mark, but so was Devin Singletary in limited opportunities. The Bills need to find balance on offense. It will take some pressure off Allen and could be the difference in close games like this. Buffalo did well to rally, but it should never have been behind by so much in the first place.

Titans logo

11. Tennessee Titans: 9-4 (Last Week: 13)
Won 20-0 vs. Jacksonville
Tennessee has struggled to find an offensive identity since Derrick Henry suffered a broken foot. Turns out, that really didn’t matter on Sunday. The Titans defense intercepted Trevor Lawrence four times and held the Jaguars to eight, yes you read that right, eight yards of rushing. Mike Vrabel will be thrilled his team pitched a shutout, but questions about his offense still remain. It was good to see Julio Jones back on the field, but the former Falcons star has yet to establish himself in this offense. Hopefully A.J. Brown is not far behind Jones for a return to the field.

49ers Logo

12. San Francisco 49ers: 7-6 (Last Week: 15)
Won 26-23 at Cincinnati
San Francisco was definitely a bit fortunate to win this one. Having missed a potential game-winning field goal in regulation, Cincinnati winning the coin toss seemed like the final blow. Instead, Nick Bosa came up with a critical sack to force a field goal and Brandon Aiyuk ultimately tight-roped the sideline for the game winner. While this was an impressive win, it is hard to feel like the 49ers are ready to get on a roll. The offense has plenty of hiccups while the defense is still a bit inconsistent. A very winnable game against the Falcons is up next.

Bengals Logo

13. Cincinnati Bengals: 7-6 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 26-23 vs. 49ers
It would be easy to say these are just the same old Bengals, but the old Bengals would not have even been in this game. Joe Burrow played well, with a pair of scoring strikes. Unfortunately, the offensive line was an issue yet again, surrendering five sacks. Joe Mixon could not get anything going either, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. Cincinnati’s defense pressured Jimmy Garoppolo all day, recording five sacks of their own. Down the stretch though, they had no answer for the passing attack, which ultimately cost them the game. This is the type of loss that could come back to haunt them come playoff time.

Ravens logo

14. Baltimore Ravens: 8-5 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 24-22 at Cleveland
The Ravens showed a ton of heart to battle back from down 24-3 without Lamar Jackson to nearly win this ball game. Tyler Hundley gave the team a fighting chance, leading a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Baltimore even recovered an onside kick. Unfortunately, the Browns defense came to play. Jadeveon Clowney sacked Hundley on second down for a huge loss and then Denzel Ward finished things off with a great open-field tackle to secure the win. Injuries are catching up with the Ravens right now and we see this team head into a free fall if they are not careful.

Browns logo

15. Cleveland Browns 7-6 (Last Week: 16)
Won 24-22 vs. Baltimore
I can only imagine the headlines in Cleveland if the Browns had managed to blow this game with Tyler Hundley outdueling Baker Mayfield in the process. Kevin Stefanski is very lucky to avoid that media firestorm. Still, there are some concerns for the Browns following this win. Most notably, the offense ground to a halt after halftime as the Ravens pitched a shutout in the second half. That is not a winning formula in the NFL. Cleveland still has so many issues to iron out.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

16. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-6-1 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 36-28 at Minnesota
Give Pittsburgh credit for making this score line look respectable and for nearly pulling off the largest regular season comeback in NFL history, but this was an ugly performance. The Steelers did not score until the two-minute mark in the third quarter. That almost makes their improbable fourth-quarter surge even more impressive, but there is no reason Pittsburgh should ever have been trailing 29-0 in the first place. Lucky for the Steelers, the Ravens and Bengals also lost this week, so they did not lose ground in the division.

Dolphins logo

17. Miami Dolphins: 6-7 (Last Week: 17)
Bye Week
Miami will be disappointed to see Cleveland win as it gives the Browns a leg up in the wild card race. However, losses by the Bills and Bengals means that hope is far from lost. Tua Tagovailoa is finally hitting his stride with a string of solid performances. He is far from lighting the world on fire, but it is major progress for the young quarterback. Now, the Dolphins face a banged up Jets team they beat a month ago.

Eagles Logo

18. Philadelphia Eagles: 6-7 (Last Week: 18)
Bye Week
Eagles fans will be watching the injury report closely this week as they await the status of Jalen Hurts for Sunday’s game against Washington. The team will obviously want to get him back in the fold, but fans might be hoping for another week of Gardner Minshew II, who led Philly to a victory over the Jets in Week 13. It is going to be a long week of speculation either way.

Vikings logo

19. Minnesota Vikings: 6-7 (Last Week: 22)
Won 36-28 vs. Pittsburgh
We have not praised Dalvin Cook enough yet. He miraculously came back from a shoulder injury to start against the Steelers on a short week and took over the game. He finished with 205 yards on the ground along with two scores. It was arguably the best performance we’ve seen by a running back all season. Minnesota’s defense did just, and I mean just, enough to hang on for a much-needed victory.

Denver_Broncos

20. Denver Broncos: 7-6 (Last Week: 21)
Won 38-10 vs. Detroit
Nothing like a visit from the Lions to help wash away the bad memories of losing to the Chiefs. Denver’s running back tandem of Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams both dominated the contest, combining to score four touchdowns on the afternoon. It was an emotional day at Mile High, but the Broncos did Demarius Thomas’ memory proud with a lopsided victory. This sets up a showdown between 7-6 teams on Sunday.

Washington made up logo

21. Washington: 6-7 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 27-20 vs. Dallas
Washington’s winning streak has finally come to an end. Winners of four straight entering Sunday’s game, Washington was on the cusp of being a real problem in the NFC wildcard picture, perhaps the NFC East division race. Instead, Taylor Heinicke and the offense fell flat and it was too much to overcome in the closing stages. He exited with a knee injury and carries a questionable injury tag into the beginning of this week. Unfortunately, four turnovers and five sacks made Washington’s comeback bid ultimately obsolete.

Saints logo

22. New Orleans Saints: 6-7 (Last Week: 22)
Won 30-9 at New York
They might not have faced much resistance, but it is always impressive to drop 30 points on a team while keeping them out of the end zone. New Orleans outclassed New York on both sides of the football. Suddenly, the Saints find themselves back in the playoff fun.

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23. Atlanta Falcons: 6-7 (Last Week: 25)
Won 29-21 at Carolina
Somehow, some way, Atlanta has put itself back in the playoff conversation following an important win over Carolina. Matt Ryan didn’t do much, but he valued the football and that was the difference in the game. The Falcons defense forced three turnovers, including a pick-six by Mykal Walker. A fumble by Quadree Ollison in the final minutes made things a bit more interesting as Carolina pulled within eight, but Atlanta was able to run out the clock. The Falcons are still outsiders in the playoff conversation, but get a chance to make up ground against San Francisco this week.

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24. Las Vegas Raiders: 6-7 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 48-9 at Kansas City
Once again, the Raiders are imploding in the second half of the season. They also looked like a JV team stomping on the Chiefs logo before getting rolled by 39 points. Derek Carr was far from perfect, but got very little help from his offensive skill players and offensive line. There is not much to learn from this game other than the Raiders are capable of being inordinately bad.

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25. Seattle Seahawks: 5-8 (Last Week: 27)
Won 33-13 at Houston
Given how the NFC wildcard race is going, maybe the Seahawks are not out of this just yet. Beating the lowly Texans does not make you a playoff team, but this was a well-rounded performance highlighted by Rashaad Penny’s breakout game. It has been a long time in the making, but the fourth-year back ripped off two 30-plus yard touchdown runs en route to a 137-yard day. Seattle needs to maintain this success in the ground game if it has any hope of making a run.

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26. Carolina Panthers: 5-8 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 29-21 vs. Atlanta
Firing Joe Brady appears to have done nothing in the short term. Carolina continues to struggle with turnovers and inefficiency. It is hard to see things getting much better this season with Christian McCaffrey on the shelf and an offensive line that desperately needs reinforcements. The Panthers defense has not been as dominant as it looked the first half of the year either, but there are only so many change of possession situations that a defense can weather. Matt Rhule’s seat seems to be getting hotter, but I think it just adds pressure to get things corrected for 2022.

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27. New York Giants: 4-9 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 37-21 at Los Angeles
Another week, another disappointing offensive performance for the Giants. Firing Jason Garrett has not done a ton to change the results for one of the most anemic units in the league. Mike Glennon started in place of the injured Daniel Jones this week and it did not go well. He committed two turnovers and failed to crack 200 yards passing in this game.

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28. Chicago Bears: 4-9 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 45-30 at Green Bay
This did not feel like a two-score loss for the Bears. In fact, this was some of the best football Chicago played all year. There were wild swings in momentum. Jakeem Grant’s 97-yard punt return put them up by 10 only for Justin Fields to throw a pick-six a short while later to go down 14-10. Fields flashed all of the potential Bears fans hoped to see from him. He had some costly errors, but that’s to be expected from a rookie quarterback. At this point, questions have to be asked of a supposedly great defense that just gave up 45 points.

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29. New York Jets: 3-10 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 30-9 vs. New Orleans
One of the tough things about turning over a roster is that when you rip it down to the studs, there is very little depth available for when players suffer injuries. With Elijah Moore and Michael Carter now on injured reserve, New York’s offense is relying on Braxton Berrios and La’Mical Perine. Some of that is on Joe Douglas for not drafting better. Denzel Mims still can’t stay healthy and this defense looks wildly overmatched. Point is, it is really hard to evaluate Zach Wilson when he is throwing to guys who wouldn’t make a lot of rosters around the league.

Lions Logo

30. Detroit Lions: 1-11-1 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 38-10 at Denver
Welcome back down to Earth, Lions fans. Detroit stood absolutely no chance in Denver, as the offense never got going and the defense had no answer for the run game. Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams combined for 194 yards of offense and four touchdowns in the blowout. On the bright side, you can stop worrying about being winless and just enjoy the hype around Michigan being in the College Football Playoff.

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31. Houston Texans: 2-11 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 33-13 vs. Seattle
Well at least they scored this week. That’s more than the Jaguars can say. It was a tough situation for Davis Mills to return to as he had to throw the ball 49 times while the run game managed just 2.5 yards per carry. The one thing to take away from this all: Mills means the Texans do not have to reach for a quarterback in April.

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32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-11 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 20-0 vs. Tennessee
Trevor Lawrence threw four interceptions as the Jaguars were shutout at home. That barely even made headlines because Urban Meyer is once again in the news for his treatment of players and coaches. It seems like Meyer’s grating personality is taking a toll in Jacksonville and the results on the field don’t exactly give him carte blanche here. Lawrence, the top quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, has thrown one touchdown pass since the start of November. Getting him trending in the right direction is a must for the Jags over the final four games of the season.

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2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 3

Shock waves continued to roll over the NFL after the Chiefs came up short, the Raiders pulled off another stunner and the Seahawks collapsed. Week 2 delivered on all the hype and then some with a stellar slate of games. 7 of the 16 games played this weekend were decided by three points or less.

Unfortunately, much like 2020, injuries popped up across the league to key players. Tua Tagovailoa exited on a cart and did not return. Andy Dalton and Carson Wentz joined him among signal callers to exit their starts. Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey were in and out of the lineup. T.J. Watt left early with a groin injury, while the 49ers lost more running backs.

Predictably, the rankings see some massive changes again following another weekend of surprising results. Through two weeks, this is how I think the NFL stacks up.

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1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-0 (Last Week: 2)
Won 48-25 vs. Atlanta
At the end of the day, the Falcons could not keep pace with the Buccaneers. Tom Brady was humming with five touchdown passes and the defense came up with a pair of pick-sixes. In fact, Mike Edwards actually returned back-to-back throws by Matt Ryan for touchdowns to really blow the game open. The defense still has not totally regained its 2020 form and Brady believes the offense can be even better. Tampa is far and away the best team in the league right now, but they face a tough test in Los Angeles against the Rams in Week 3.

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2. Kansas City Chiefs: 1-1 (Last Week: 1)
Lost 36-35 at Baltimore
Losing is never easy, but a fumble by Clyde Edwards-Helaire to take the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands, costing him a chance to lead a potential game-winning drive really stings. Kansas City’s defense was really the issue though. After a great start, the Chiefs had no answer for Lamar Jackson. They could not get off the field when it mattered most. Andy Reid will need to figure out how to protect his defense, especially heading into a matchup with the Chargers, who nearly knocked off the Chiefs early in 2020. Let’s remember this was a one-point road loss to a good team. Don’t overreact.

3. Los Angeles Rams: 2-0 (Last Week: 3)
Won 27-24 at Indianapolis
This was much tighter than it should have been. Los Angeles needed a late field goal to beat the Colts. It helped quite a bit to face Jacob Eason in the closing minutes of the game. The second-year quarterback tossed an interception to end what could have been a game-winning drive Indianapolis. Matt Stafford continues to play well though as the offense scored points when it needed to in the second half. Credit to the Rams for completing the comeback, but they will need to be sharper, especially on defense heading into a showdown with the Buccaneers.

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4. Cleveland Browns 1-1 (Last Week: 6)
Won 31-21 vs. Houston
Cleveland bounced back with a solid win over Houston to earn its first win of the season. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt lead the way, combining for 146 yards as the Browns punched in three touchdowns on the ground. It certainly wasn’t perfect, with a couple turnovers and a tight game prior to Tyrod Taylor’s hamstring injury. However, it feels like just about every team in the league has some question marks around them right now. Except maybe the Buccaneers.

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5. Arizona Cardinals: 2-0 (Last Week: 7)
Won 34-33 vs. Minnesota
This one got a bit dicey. Minnesota should have probably beaten Arizona, but a win is a win, I guess. Still, the Cardinals showed some room for improvement defensively. Offensively, Kyler Murray showed out once again with 400 yards passing and four total touchdowns. This team has enough offensive talent to hang with anyone, but they need the defense to play a bit more like they did in Week 1. Luckily for them, that shouldn’t be a problem for them in Week 3 against the Jaguars.

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6. San Francisco 49ers: 2-0 (Last Week: 8)
Won 17-11 at Philadelphia
Defense won the day for San Francisco, which was a nice change of pace following a near collapse in Week 1. The special teams got involved as well with a blocked field goal. Jimmy Garoppolo is doing just enough to hang on to his starting job right now, but the offense struggled out of the gate. Heading into a big matchup with the Packers in Week 3, the 49ers are going to need to put together a much more complete game to hold out for a win.

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7. Las Vegas Raiders: 2-0 (Last Week: 15)
Won 26-17 at Pittsburgh
The Las Vegas Raiders request your attention and demand your respect. Knocking off a pair of playoff teams from the division most assumed would be the best in the AFC certainly turns some heads. Derek Carr is playing some of the best football of his career and the Raiders defense is good enough for the team to win games. Jon Gruden has this team beating some of the best teams in the league. Now, they get to face a Dolphins team facing uncertainty at quarterback and fresh off a 35-point shutout. Vegas should be positioned well to stay unbeaten.

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8. Baltimore Ravens: 1-1 (Last Week: 11)
Won 36-35 vs. Kansas City
Baltimore overcame a horrendous start to notch a massive win in primetime. Lamar Jackson threw a pick-six on his first possession of the game and threw another interception before the end of the first quarter. The 2019 MVP was resilient though, throwing for 239 yards and adding 107 on the ground. He made the big plays in the crucial moments of the game offensively. He got a bit of help from Odafe Oweh. The rookie from Penn State punched the ball out of Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s arms and recovered the fumble to set up the Ravens’ game-clinching drive. This was a big response from Baltimore following a disappointing Week 1 loss.

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9. Buffalo Bills: 1-1 (Last Week: 10)
Won 35-0 at Miami
That is the way you bounce back from a disappointing season opener. Buffalo bullied Miami all afternoon and knocked Tua Tagovailoa out of the game with a relentless pass rush. That was the biggest concern for the Bills heading into the season, so it is definitely a positive sign to see them rack up six sacks of Tagovailoa and his replacement Jacoby Brissett. Offensively, Buffalo ran the ball well! Brian Daboll spread the touches around, but the team finished with an average of 4.8 yards per carry. If the Bills can consistently run the ball effectively and pressure opposing quarterbacks, this team has Super Bowl potential.

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10. Seattle Seahawks: 1-1 (Last Week: 5)
Lost 33-30 vs. Tennessee
Tennessee came back but Seattle also collapsed. Missed tackles and a stalled out offense cost the Seahawks dearly down the stretch in regulation and in overtime. Fans can point to a missed extra point as the reason for the loss, but in truth, the kicker cannot be blamed for blowing a 15-point halftime lead. There were some bright spots early, but much like they did last season, the Seahawks faded. It is important not to overreact to just one loss. However, Seattle is the only team in the NFC West with a loss so far, so the margin for error seems to be slim.

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11. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-1 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 26-17 vs. Las Vegas
Unlike Week 1, the Steelers defense and special teams could not bail out their inept offensive line. Derek Carr lit up the secondary for 382 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Conversely, Pittsburgh just could not get into gear. The coaching staff abandoned the run with just 14 carries in this game. A lack of balance and efficiency is going to be an issue for the Steelers, especially heading into a divisional game with the Bengals.

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12. Carolina Panthers: 2-0 (Last Week: 22)
Won 26-7 vs. Carolina
Talk about a statement. New Orleans was riding high after their blowout victory in Week 1. Carolina brought the Saints back down to Earth and put them in the ground. The Panthers defense was nothing short of stifling. They only allowed 128 yards of offense, forced two turnovers and shut out the Saints through three quarters. Once again, Christian McCaffrey was great and seems to have escaped any major injury. Sam Darnold continues to look solid as well. The Panthers draw a Texans team breaking in a rookie quarterback on a short week. There is a good chance Carolina starts 3-0.

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13. Tennessee Titans: 1-1 (Last Week: 16)
Won 33-30 at Seattle
Through the first six quarters of the season, Tennessee was outscored 52-22. It looked like the wheels were falling off for Mike Vrabel and company with Arthur Smith now calling plays in Atlanta. Then, King Henry reminded everyone why he is the most physically imposing running back in the league. He sliced up the Seahawks defense to the tune of 237 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. While the comeback win is great, it does not mask some major defensive concerns for the Titans. Russell Wilson torched their secondary on the deep ball time and time again. If this team wants to make a serious postseason run, Vrabel will need to get more from his defense.

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14. New Orleans Saints: 1-1 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 26-7 at Carolina
If you are looking for a synopsis of Jameis Winston’s career up to this point, you can simply watch the past two Saints games. After tossing five touchdowns in Week 1, Winston threw a pair of interceptions, bad ones at that, and had an overall dismal afternoon. That is not totally unexpected given Winston’s inconsistent history. Alvin Kamara finishing with five yards on eight carries is much more alarming. New Orleans’ true form likely falls somewhere between these two performances. Getting a few injured players back should help right the ship a bit, but consistency might be hard to come by in the Bayou.

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15. Green Bay Packers: 0-1 (Last Week: 13)
Won 35-17 vs. Detroit
If you went to bed early on Monday, you might think the Packers still have a lot of issues to iron out. And you would be right. After trailing 17-14 at halftime, Green Bay finally showed signs of the team that has reached back-to-back NFC Championship games. Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones went off. Rodgers tossed four touchdowns, including three to Jones, who added another one on the ground. It was a great finish after a lackluster start. It is hard to tell what we really know about this team through two weeks.

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16. Dallas Cowboys: 1-1 (Last Week: 17)
Won 20-17 at Los Angeles
Dallas was a bit fortunate that Los Angeles could not get out of its own way. However, the Cowboys managed to avoid mistakes and picked up a crucial victory to avoid an 0-2 start. Mike McCarthy established the run and then didn’t stop running it. Dallas had 31 rushes for 198 yards and two scores to take the pressure off Dak Prescott and the defense. Not that Prescott or the defense needed much help. Dak finished 23-of-27 throwing for 237 yards and an interception. Defensively, the Cowboys came up with critical turnovers that helped force overtime, where Greg Zuerlein erased many of the bad memories from Week 1 with a 56-yard game-winner.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-1 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 20-17 vs. Dallas
There is no doubt that the Chargers beat themselves. Penalties, turnovers and an inability to stop the run made it impossible for Los Angeles to take control of this game. The front seven also struggled to generate much pressure on Dak Prescott. It serves as a good reminder that winning in the NFL is hard and this is a young team with a first-time head coach. On the bright side, Austin Ekeler was much more involved in the offense and Mike Williams showed up with a big statline. Those self-inflicted wounds won’t fly in Week 3 against the Chiefs.

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18. Indianapolis Colts: 0-2 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 27-24 vs. Los Angeles
Considering the opponent and the circumstances, a three-point loss is a pretty respectable result. Carson Wentz looked solid and the special teams came up with a huge play off a Rams miscue to take a fourth-quarter lead. Unfortunately for the Colts, Wentz exited with an injury and Jacob Eason could not engineer a drive to win or tie the game. He threw an interception on his first attempt and then ran out of time after the defense forced a three-and-out. If Wentz misses time, Indianapolis might need to explore the veteran QB market.

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19. New England Patriots: 1-1 (Last Week: 19)
Won 25-6 at New York
Mac Jones was introduced to the annual New England ritual of embarrassing the Jets. The Patriots rookie didn’t really do much, but he did take care of the football. The same cannot be said for his fellow 2021 draft mate Zach Wilson. Bill Belichick clearly confused the former BYU star as New England picked him off four times on Sunday. The one concern was that the Pats didn’t do much offensively except off turnovers. Just two other Patriots’ drives ended in points, and they were both field goals. The Saints come to town in Week 3.

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20. Denver Broncos: 2-0 (Last Week: 21)
Won 23-13 at Jacksonville
Denver is 2-0. However, the Broncos have not played anyone of note. With wins over the Giants and Jaguars, this team has not really been tested yet. However, Teddy Bridgewater seems to be settling in well to his new surroundings, with Courtland Sutton being the main beneficiary on Sunday. Defensively, Denver looked strong once again. You can only play the teams on your schedule. The schedule continues to be kind as well with the Jets up next.

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21. Miami Dolphins: 1-1 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 35-0 vs. Buffalo
R-E-L … P-A-N-I-C? The Aaron Rodgers treatment likely won’t work here. A Bills team that could barely run the ball in Week 1 ripped off 146 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. That’s not why Miami should be panicking though. If Tua Tagovailoa is going to miss time after being carted off the field due to a rib injury, this Dolphins’ offense is in trouble. Jacoby Brissett struggled and the Fins were shutout for the second time in three years. The red-hot Raiders are next on the docket. Could this be a good fit for Cam Newton?

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22. Washington: 1-1 (Last Week: 20)
Won 30-29 vs. New York
What happened to Washington’s defense? The front seven sacked Daniel Jones four times, but the unit gave up 29 points and it honestly should have been more. If not for a boneheaded mistake by the Giants, Washington would be 0-2 having surrendered 24.5 points per game and over 400 yards per game. With Taylor Heinicke at the helm, the defense is going to need to step up going forward, especially with the Bills on the horizon fresh off a shutout.

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23. Chicago Bears: 1-1 (Last Week: 26)
Won 20-17 vs. Cincinnati
Bears fans got their first true glimpse of Justin Fields at quarterback. It was … underwhelming. He went 6-of-13 for 60 yards through the air, including a costly interception. He was also sacked twice and averaged just 3.1 yards per rush. He was thrown into the action, so maybe we should cut the kid some slack. However, this was a mediocre Bengals defense and this should not inspire a ton of confidence for Chicago’s playoff chances for this season. This shouldn’t impact the long-term outlook on Fields, it might just mean we should temper expectations for his rookie season.

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24. Philadelphia Eagles: 1-1 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 17-11 vs. San Francisco
Jalen Hurts believers got a reality check against San Francisco. Hurts was not really the issue, but finishing 12-of-23 through the air is concerning. He made a bunch of plays with his legs, but this was definitely a disappointing showing from Philadelphia’s offense. On the flip side, the Eagles’ defense looks much improved from a year ago. Holding a Kyle Shanahan offense to just 3.1 yards per carry is impressive. Philly is putting some of the building blocks in place for future success. There might just be a few bumps on the road to getting there.

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25. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-1 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 20-17 at Chicago
How to lose a football game in three plays, by Joe Burrow. Inspired by the true story of Matt Schaub. Burrow did his best impression of the former Texans and Falcons quarterback with three straight interceptions, including a pick-six. That was the difference in the game as the Bengals’ furious comeback came up short. The defense turned over Justin Fields, but could not get the ball back as Chicago ran out the clock. There are a few positives to take away from this, but overall this is a disappointing loss. Cincinnati’s offensive line issues have not gone away. Only Zach Wilson has been sacked more than Burrow so far this season. On top of that, Joe Mixon only managed 3.5 yards per carry. Penei Sewell is crushing it in Detroit. Just saying.

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26. Minnesota Vikings: 0-2 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 34-33 at Arizona
This one stings. Minnesota’s defense had no answer for Kyler Murray, but the Vikings should have won this game. Greg Joseph missed a game-winning field goal attempt in the closing second. He also missed an extra point earlier in the contest, which was ultimately the difference in the scoreline. Kirk Cousins was sharp with three touchdown throws. Danielle Hunter finally got back to his pre-injury form with three sacks in the game as well. Minnesota also picked off Murray twice. There is a lot to like about how the Vikings have played, but they are still 0-2 with the Seahawks set to visit in Week 3.

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27. Houston Texans: 1-1 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 31-21 at Cleveland
How about those Texans? It was a loss, but Houston played Cleveland much tighter than I think anyone would’ve expected, especially after losing Tyrod Taylor midway through the game. Davis Mills was not great in relief. Heading into a short week, there is a chance Mills could be the team’s Week 3 starter on Thursday against Carolina. There is no question the Texans have a talent deficit against just about every team they will face this season, but David Culley and his coaching staff seems to be getting the most out of the players he has available to him.

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28. New York Giants: 0-2 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 30-29 at Washington
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory seems to be the Giants’ thing these days. Penalties doomed Big Blue, taking points off the board for them and putting points on the board for Washington. A Daniel Jones touchdown run came back after a hold downfield, while Dexter Lawrence jumped offsides on a missed field goal to set up Dustin Hopkins with a mulligan to win the game. These are issues that Joe Judge needs to iron out as quickly as possible in order to save the season.

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29. Atlanta Falcons: 0-2 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 48-25 at Tampa Bay
This just in: Atlanta’s defense is still trash. Tom Brady may be the GOAT, but the Falcons have surrendered 80 points across their first two games. Actually, the defense was only responsible for allowing 34 points against Tampa Bay. Matt Ryan threw a pair of pick-sixes that marred an otherwise decent performance. Perhaps the most troubling thing of all is that the Falcons cannot run the ball. Establishing the run was Arthur Smith’s calling card in Tennessee. 2.8 yards per carry is not going to get the job done. On the bright side, the hapless Giants are next.

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30. Detroit Lions: 0-2 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 35-17 at Green Bay
Detroit seemed to carry over all the momentum it built in the second half against San Francisco to open this game. Unfortunately, the Lions were blanked in the second half and the team’s lack of talent started to show. Jared Goff played well, but had two costly turnovers that really put the game to bed. Once again though, Dan Campbell’s squad played with heart. There is no question the Lions are going to struggle this season, but it already feels like the team has made some progress in its rebuild.

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31. New York Jets: 0-2 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 25-6 vs. New England
Jets fans are all too familiar with the script that played out on Sunday. Their young quarterback that was supposed to inspire hope and optimism went up against Bill Belichick and imploded. Zach Wilson threw four interceptions on his first 10 passes and New York struggled to accomplish much in their home opener. The defense actually fared decently well all things considered. While they didn’t force any turnovers, surrendering just two touchdowns when the offense is anemic is solid. Tough defensive matchups continue with a trip to Denver up next.

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32. Jacksonville Jaguars: 0-2 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 23-13 vs. Denver
Another ugly day on both sides of the ball has many wondering if Urban Meyer is out of his depth. Trevor Lawrence finished 14-of-33 throwing with a touchdown and two interceptions. Lawrence didn’t get much help from his defense or special teams either. Teddy Bridgewater finished with 328 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. Meanwhile, Josh Lambo missed two field goals. Jacksonville somehow feels even more directionless than it did a year ago and that was after winning the Lawrence Lottery.

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