NFL Power Rankings: New England Patriots on top, but AFC looks really competitive

The first week is gone and it’s time to pretend like one game is all the indication we need to determine the form of all 32 teams.
New England Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan scores a first-quarter touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today; The National illustration
New England Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan scores a first-quarter touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today; The National illustration

The first week is gone and it’s time to pretend like one game is all the evidence we need to determine the form of all 32 teams. The Eagles and Niners are Super Bowl contenders while the Panthers and Cardinals are battling for the top pick of the Draft.

Here are the Power Rankings going into Week 2. Check the preseason rankings here.

1 New England Patriots (1-0, Last week No 4)

2 Green Bay Packers (1-0, LW 3)

3 Arizona Cardinals (0-1, LW 1)

4 Seattle Seahawks (1-0, LW 2)

• When reshuffling the top four, it might look ridiculous to put the 0-1 Cardinals over the 1-0 Seahawks. But if you watched both teams on Sunday, it’s not hard to argue that the Cards are the better side.

They had New England – our new No 1 – beaten if not for a missed game-winning field goal. Meanwhile, Seattle struggled to beat a Miami team that would have had to fly to London to play a farther-away road game.

Seattle’s defence looked fierce as ever and deserves credit for the win over the Dolphins, but on offence they looked sloppy and very un-Seahawks-like. Arizona held their own with probably the best team in the league. We’ll see who the better NFC West team is at some point, as these two heavyweights will play each other twice. While we have to wait until October 24 for the first of those, right now it’s not unfair to say Arizona is slightly better.

5 Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0, LW 6)

6 Cincinnati Bengals (1-0, LW 7)

7 Kansas City Chiefs (1-0, LW 8)

8 Houston Texans (1-0), LW 10)

9 Denver Broncos (1-0, LW 11)

• That’s a meaty AFC second-tier behind the Patriots, and it leaves out the Raiders, who have to show a little more on defence than they did beating the Saints to prove they belong with these teams.

The Steelers, Bengals, Chiefs, Texans or Broncos can all make very genuine cases for being Super Bowl contenders. Pittsburgh’s offence looks elite even missing two of their best weapons. Andy Dalton has been absolutely stellar for over a season now for Cincy. Kansas City has as much experience as anyone and their comeback win over San Diego is the type of character-building win every team hopes for. Houston finally has a quarterback, which has really been the only thing holding them back from elite status. And the defending champ Broncos’ defence is so good it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is.

New England are on top for now, but any one of these teams are capable of overtaking them.

10 Carolina Panthers (0-1, LW 5)

11 Oakland Raiders (1-0, LW 9)

12 New York Giants (1-0, LW 15)

• More: Victor Cruz comes back and the Giants offence looks loaded

13 Detroit Lions (1-0, LW 14)

14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0, LW 21)

• While the Lions will have to fight with the Packers and Vikings in the NFC North, the Buccaneers might very well be the team to beat in the weaker NFC South. The division has been won by the Panthers the past three seasons, but as Jameis Winston showed at division rival Atlanta on Sunday, he and the Bucs can put up points in bunches.

The league needs a replacement for Tom Brady v Peyton Manning as the best quarterback rivalry. How about Winston v Cam Newton?

15 Minnesota Vikings (1-0, LW 17)

16 Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1, LW 20)

17 Indianapolis Colts (0-1, LW 12)

18 New York Jets (0-1, 24)

• Both the Jags and Jets were fairly impressive in close losses to much better teams, so they both move up despite losing. Jacksonville has a legitimate star at receiver in Allen Robinson, and rookie Jalen Ramsey might be the truth at cornerback. There are a lot of good, young players there, and for the first time in a while, the future in Jacksonville looks promising.

The Jets defence is incredible, as shown by their 7-sack performance against Dalton and the Bengals. They probably feel they should have won that game, and maybe they should have. But they at least handled themselves better than many thought they would, and won’t be an easy win for anyone.

19 Washington (0-1, LW 13)

20 Dallas Cowboys (0-1, LW 28)

• Dallas gets its second straight division rival to open the season when they travel to play Washington this week. If the close loss to the Giants is any indication, we might have been way too down on their prospects. This might be the most pivotal Week 2 matchup.

21 Baltimore Ravens (1-0, LW 27)

22 New Orleans Saints (0-1, LW 16)

23 Atlanta Falcons (0-1, LW 19)

• The days when the Saints and Falcons were battling every year for the NFC South are long gone. They might have the two worst defences in the league, so bad that it doesn’t matter that Drew Brees and Matt Ryan – neither of whom deserved to lose on Sunday – are at their helm. Both quarterbacks deserve better, but this is the Panthers’ and Bucs’ division now.

24 San Diego Chargers (0-1, LW 25)

25 Miami Dolphins (0-1, LW 23)

26 Philadelphia Eagles (1-0, LW 31)

27 San Francisco 49ers (1-0, LW 30)

• The Eagles and Niners have to do more than beat the Browns and Rams to prove prognosticators wrong, but both teams can take a lot of solace in their big Week 1 wins.

That’s especially true for Philly. Carson Wentz, the No 2 pick who was supposed to spend a year on the bench behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, but was instead thrown immediately into starting duty, looked like an absolutely keeper with 278 yards and 2 TD.

San Francisco’s defence looked all-world while shutting down Todd Gurley to a paltry 47 yards on 17 carries. There might be more talent there than anyone realized.

Both these teams have a long way to go, but showed signs of progress in Week 1.

28 Chicago Bears (0-1, LW 22)

29 Los Angeles Rams (0-1, LW 26)

30 Buffalo Bills (0-1, LW 18)

31 Cleveland Browns (0-1, LW 29)

• Further proof that you should never read too much into preseason performance: Robert Griffin III looked like his Rookie of the Year self in the exhibition games, but that now seems like a mirage. Late in the Browns’ blowout loss in Philadelphia on Sunday, he took a vicious – and unnecessary on his part – hit near the sideline and injured his left shoulder. He’s out for at least half the season but might never play for Cleveland again if they decide to play rookie Cody Kessler at some point.

With a top-form Griffin, there was faint hope in Cleveland. Now ... well, they’ll be down this far for a while.

32 Tennessee Titans (0-1, LW 32)

kjeffers@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE

Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport

Published: September 13, 2016 04:00 AM

SHARE

Editor's Picks
NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one