The 2021 NFL season is entering is officially underway with the first 17-game season in league history. While there are still plenty of games ahead that will really determine how we remember this season, let’s dive into how a wild Week 2 impacted our latest NFL power rankings.
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1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the best team in the NFL until we see evidence to prove otherwise. Tom Brady and Co. didn’t need to put in a ton of effort to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2, securing a 2-0 start. Looking ahead to the Bucs schedule, things get a lot more challenging with the Los Angeles Rams on deck.
2. Los Angeles Rams (3)
The Los Angeles Rams almost gave the win away on a baffling gaffe. Fortunately, Matthew Stafford made enough plays and the Indianapolis Colts never had an answer for Cooper Kupp. We’ll get a matchup of the top two teams in our NFL power rankings in Week 3. The Rams will provide some legitimate competition, but the Bucs are the superior team.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (2)
The “What if” game can be played with Sunday Night Football, visualizing an alternate universe where Andy Reid puts the football in the hands of his MVP quarterback instead of Clyde Edwards-Helaire to close out the game. But Kansas City’s defense allowed 251 rushing yards in Week 2, lost time of possession and couldn’t get stops in crunch time. Mahomes can cover up a lot of holes and he almost did it again, but the Chiefs’ defense is standing in the way of a Super Bowl.
4. Arizona Cardinals (6)
Kyler Murray is the NFL MVP through the first two weeks of the season, After showing flashes of becoming an elite quarterback in 2020, the leap is being made in front of our eyes. The throws Murray makes on the move and off-platform get more absurd by the week. As long as he stays healthy, the Cardinals can compete with anyone.
5. Cleveland Browns (5)
It didn’t start pretty for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Late in the second quarter, the Houston Texans led 14-7 and Baker Mayfield hurt himself making a tackle on an interception. But the Browns recovered from that and came away with a win. Beating the Texans isn’t enough to move up in our NFL power rankings, especially after a crazy Week 2, but it doesn’t hurt.
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6. Seattle Seahawks (4)
At one point in Week 2, the Seattle Seahawks had a 94.7% win probability in the fourth quarter. Leading 30-16, Seattle was in the driver’s seat for an impressive 2-0 start. Then, Derrick Henry happened. Russell Wilson is playing at an All-Pro level and this offense looks even better than it did during its peak in 2020. But in a division with the Cards, Rams and San Francisco 49ers, Seattle’s defense is a problem.
7. Buffalo Bills (8)
After what happened against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Josh Allen and Co. needed to do whatever it took to win in Week 2. It wasn’t pretty for Buffalo’s offense, with Stefon Diggs bottled up and Josh Allen missing some throws. But Buffalo’s defense, aided by the Tua Tagovailoa injury, carried the Bills to a decisive victory.
8. San Francisco 49ers (10)
The San Francisco 49ers couldn’t move the football for nearly two quarters, quickly learning the Philadelphia Eagles defense is legitimate. But Kyle Shanahan is fantastic at making adjustments and Jimmy Garoppolo made the throws he needed to sustain 90-yard drives. You’ll find the 49ers much higher in plenty of NFL power rankings, but their inconsistency and injuries haven’t earned that yet.
9. Las Vegas Raiders (22)
The Las Vegas Raiders have earned this massive climb in the Week 3 NFL power rankings. Facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have one of the best defenses in the NFL, Derek Carr and Co. did a masterful job finding their spots. The big thing, with Darren Waller contained, Henry Ruggs showed his big-play ability. The Miami Dolphins are on deck in Week 3 and the Raiders should be the favorites.
10. Green Bay Packers (12)
The Green Bay Packers were able to get it right against a talent-stricken Detroit Lions team in Week 2. After trailing 17-14 at the half, Green Bay rode Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones to 21 unanswered second half points in winning going away. This doesn’t change the fact that Green Bay lost by 35 in its season opener, has issues on both sides of the ball and faces a stout San Francisco 49ers team in Week 3.
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11. Los Angeles Chargers (9)
The Los Angeles Chargers shot themselves in the foot too many times to win on Sunday. It’s clear the talent is there and this coaching staff is seemingly putting players in a better position to produce than the previous regime. But it was the personal fouls, not the egregious called sack late in the game, and a bad run defense that cost Los Angeles.
12. New England Patriots (17)
The New England Patriots are a fumble away from a 2-0 record. As expected, this defense looked utterly phenomenal against the New York Jets and the game wasn’t even as close as the final score. A great test comes in Week 3, an exciting matchup against the New Orleans Saints.
13. Carolina Panthers (21)
Thursday night’s victory over the Houston Texans came at a significant cost. Christian McCaffrey is out for several weeks and promising rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn is out through December. Those are both significant blows for a 3-0 team that showed some holes against the Houston Texans. With the Dallas Cowboys ahead in Week 4, this might be Carolina’s peak in our NFL power rankings.
14. Baltimore Ravens (15)
Lamar Jackson added several million to his next contract with that sensational performance against Kansas City. Playing without his star left tackle, top receiver and teaming up with backup running backs, Jackson ran all over the Chiefs. It’s the kind of win that can change an entire season and Baltimore can build on this in Week 3 against the Lions.
15. Dallas Cowboys (18)
On a Sunday when Dak Prescott wasn’t at his best, Tony Pollard became the present and future at running back for the Dallas Cowboys. He is the most explosive player on the depth chart, bringing more to the table than Ezekiel Elliott. If the Cowboys keep him involved and Prescott bounces back, the NFC East belongs to Dallas.
16. Tennessee Titans (14)
The Tennessee Titans made a compelling case to climb up the latest NFL power rankings. Derrick Henry put this team on his back and led them to an improbable win. But on a Sunday that saw even bigger statement victories from the Cowboys, Ravens, Panthers and Raiders, there’s no room for Tennessee to climb. Plus, this defense is awful.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (7)
The Pittsburgh Steelers felt their offensive line was being underrated coming into the season. Through two games, Najee Harris is averaging 3.19 ypc on 26 attempts and Ben Roethlisberger has taken 16 quarterback hits. Pittsburgh needs its defense to carry it for a 17-game season, after shouldering the load last season. We’ll look back on this team as an organization’s failure to recognize its weaknesses.
18. New Orleans Saints (11)
The New Orleans Saints overcame adversity for a stunning upset in Week 1, but that adrenaline and attitude only lasts for so long. Injuries and COVID-19 can be blamed, but the reality is simpler. Carolina looks like the better football team right now. Moving forward, the Saints need to find better ways to get Alvin Kamara involved and to limit Jameis Winston.
19. Denver Broncos (20)
The Denver Broncos aren’t always winning in beautiful fashion, but that 2-0 record is all that matters. Teddy Bridgewater (594 passing yards four touchdowns) is proving he is the Broncos’ best quarterback. The New York Jets await in Week 3 and it’s safe to say Denver’s defense will feast on Zach Wilson.
20. Washington Football Team (16)
A last-second win against a division rival is nice, but this was ugly for the Washington Football Team. A vaunted defense was picked apart by Daniel Jones and the coaching staff almost gave the game away. Taylor Heinicke, Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson can still win this division, but Washington didn’t earn a higher spot in our Week 3 NFL power rankings.
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21. Indianapolis Colts (19)
The Carson Wentz injury raises new concerns about the Indianapolis Colts. Once a strength of this team, the offensive line has taken a significant step back. We’re also not seeing the upper-echelon defense that carried this roster at times in 2020. Given Wentz is trending towards missing Week 3 and how the Titans performed against Seattle, things might get a lot worse before they get better in Indy.
22. Miami Dolphins (13)
Maybe the Tua Tagovailoa injury shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Miami Dolphins utterly failed to build a dependable offensive line and it put their franchise quarterback in a dangerous situation. With no running game to speak and a lethargic passing attack, Miami has no shot at making the playoffs and the steep descent down the NFL power rankings is earned.
23. Minnesota Vikings (23)
Just a devastating loss for the Minnesota Vikings. Mike Zimmer was inches away from one of the biggest upsets in the NFL this season, but his kicker hurt him once more. The missed field goal is going to eat at him for days, but Minnesota’s woeful defense will bother him even longer.
24. Chicago Bears (28)
The Andy Dalton injury might launch the Justin Fields era. It wasn’t entirely pretty for the rookie quarterback, posting a 27.7 passer rating with one interception, a 4.6 ypa and a fumble. But the physical talent is undeniable and in a season where Matt Nagy’s fate is already sealed, Chicago might as well give the fans what they want.
25. Philadelphia Eagles (26)
The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t come out of Week 2 with a win, but they showed plenty of fight against one of the best teams in the NFC. Philadelphia’s defense held the San Francisco 49ers to one touchdown in three quarters, but Kyle Shanahan figured things out. There are more tough losses ahead, but the Eagles are going to be a lot more fun to watch than we saw in 2020.
26. Atlanta Falcons (27)
All that matters for the Atlanta Falcons is how their young core performs. Kyle Pitts showed the ability that is going to make him the next All-Pro tight end and Calvin Ridley found the end zone. Atlanta’s defense is miserable and its running game barely exists in reality, but at least there are two exciting players.
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27. Cincinnati Bengals (22)
Joe Burrow deserves so much better than this. Chicago’s defense recorded nine quarterback hits, deflected eight passes and snagged four sacks. Everything considered, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Burrow threw a trio of interceptions. The Pittsburgh Steelers are next on the schedule and even if T.J. Watt doesn’t play, Burrow is going to get crushed.
28. New York Giants (25)
The New York Giants are 0-2 for the fifth consecutive season. On the plus side, Daniel Jones looked good and Saquon Barkley ripped off his first big run since tearing his ACL a year ago. But this team is still winless, marquee players are unhappy and the Giants schedule is brutal after Week 3.
29. Houston Texans (29)
It wasn’t all bad for the Houston Texans in Week 3. Davis Mills, when he wasn’t under siege, showed signs of NFL talent and Brandin Cooks keeps proving he’s underrated. But this team is rebuilding and it’s a matter of time until Cooks and other veteran contributors on this team are gone.
30. Detroit Lions (31)
Competitive football. To an extent, that’s been the name of the game for Dan Campbell’s squad through two weeks. Detroit just lacks the talent to put together four consecutive quarters of great football. After coming back to pull within one score Week 1 against the 49ers, Detroit held a 17-14 halftime lead against Green Bay in Week 2. Unfortunately, it was outscored 21-0 in the second half. Expect this to be a continuing theme for one of the least-talented teams in the NFL moving forward.
31. Jacksonville Jagurs (32)
We’ll start with the good news. The Jacksonville Jaguars moved up in our NFL power rankings and they reduced their margin of defeat after last Sunday’s humiliation. But Urban Meyer is still in over his head, Trevor Lawrence is at the start of a steep learning curve and this offense isn’t improving anytime soon. Maybe, just maybe, Jacksonville should have hired someone like Brian Daboll or Eric Bieniemy.
32. New York Jets (31)
Zach Wilson never stood a chance in Week 2. With a backup left tackle making a bad offensive line even worse, life would already be miserable. Throw in a matchup against Bill Belichick, who threw blitzes and defensive looks that Wilson has never seen, unfair. We’re not concerned about Wilson, but we can’t help but think about how Darnold is looking away from New York.