NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 3?

Sean Tomlinson@@SeanGTomlinsonNFL AnalystSeptember 21, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 3?

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    James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

    The second Sunday of a still shiny and fresh NFL season was, in a word, strange.

    It was strange because Chip Kelly's offensive magician touch seems to have vanished. The Philadelphia Eagles head coach watched as scenes like the one above played out often, with his high-priced running back DeMarco Murray totaling only two yards on 13 carries. That seems impossible, but here we are with the Eagles among the NFL's winless teams.

    The Sunday of Week 2 was also strange because, according to ESPN Stats and Information, it marked the first time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders all won on the same day.

    Let's try to make sense of the confusion and madness with some ranked power. Remember, these power rankings aren't the standings. Instead, what follows is an analysis of how each team stacks up based on performance, regardless of what their record says. It's subjective, sure, but agreeing on everything (or anything) isn't fun. Right?

    Also, I probably hate your favorite team.

32. Houston Texans (0-2)

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    Ryan Mallett just might be the Houston Texans' best quarterback. Acknowledging that depressing fact is the first step, and then attempting to build a successful offense around him is the next—a far more daunting challenge.

    Accuracy has never really been Mallett's thing, as he's completed only 51.3 percent of his career pass attempts. A question then: If your quarterback sprays balls everywhere, why is he being asked to throw 58 times in a close game?

    That happened Sunday during a loss to the Carolina Panthers. It was a one-touchdown game until the nine-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Yet Mallett was still asked to litter the air with his wayward ducks, and only 27 of his throws found the desired destination (46.6 percent). An injury to running back Arian Foster can't mean abandoning the ground game entirely.

    Eventually the inevitable happened, and Mallett threw a fourth-quarter interception. It led to a touchdown which stood as the game-winner, reminding us yet again that the Texans will continue to be undone by their complete lack of remotely acceptable quarterback play.

31. Chicago Bears (0-2)

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    Last Week: 26

    This Week: 31

    Change: -5

    Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a hamstring injury during his team's latest thumping, this time with the Arizona Cardinals throwing the knockout punches.

    After the 48-23 loss, Cutler's teammates were talking as though Jimmy Clausen will start Week 3 against the Seattle Seahawks. Tight end Martellus Bennett told CSN Chicago's Scott Krinch he's looking forward to working with the backup quarterback throughout the week of practice.

    Cutler has been generally woeful, though he's shown flashes of hope in Adam Gase's offense. Clausen is worse, and was retained this offseason mostly because of his familiarity with head coach John Fox's approach.

    But truthfully and sadly, it won't matter who's under center in Week 3. A Bears defense that's already allowed 79 points through two weeks will keep making the offense irrelevant.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)

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    Last Week: 31

    This Week: 30

    Change: +1

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was given the gift of facing a mostly broken New Orleans Saints secondary that's missing two key pieces (safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Keenan Lewis).

    Still, Winston needed to take a massive stride forward after an implosion during his regular-season debut lowlighted by a pick-six on his first throw. And he did just that, with a completion percentage that jumped by 18.2 points compared to Week 1, from 48.5 to 66.7. His passer rating spiked too, rising from 64.0 to 114.6.

29. San Francisco 49ers (1-1)

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    Last Week: 27

    This Week: 29

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    Hey, remember a week ago when love ballads were being written about the San Francisco 49ers, and we were being told to just forget about all those really good players from 2014 who are long gone?

    The thing about early grand statements is they need to be reinforced the following week, often against much tougher competition. That was the task San Francisco faced while going from a slop-filled win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1 to repeating that performance on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers and one of the league's premier offenses.

    The 49ers were quickly exposed when the difficulty level increased. The comparison between Week 1 and a Week 2's face plant gets depressing fast:

    • The 49ers allowed three points in Week 1. They allowed 43 in Week 2.
    • They allowed 248 total yards in Week 1. They allowed 453 yards in Week 2.
    • They allowed 4.6 yards per offensive play in Week 1. They allowed an incredibly disgusting 8.7 yards per play in Week 2.
    • In Week 1, the Vikings' leading receiver was Mike Wallace with 63 yards on six catches. In Week 2, the Steelers' Antonio Brown roasted 49ers cornerbacks for 195 yards.

    The 49ers might be a respectable team in 2015. They also might be awful.

    So far, they've been both.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1)

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    Last Week: 30

    This Week: 28

    Change: +2

    Most of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' struggles have been rooted in his slow development as an NFL pocket passer. At times his field vision has lagged, and he's made poor reads. Other times his mechanics have been to blame as balls sail.

    But he also needs support. Like any young quarterback, he requires two core elements for success: blocking and playmaking receivers. Finally he had plenty of both during a win Sunday.

    Bortles wasn't sacked once throughout Jacksonville's win over the Miami Dolphins. That's an encouraging baby step after he crumpled 55 times in 2014 and was sacked five times in Week 1.

    He also found a new long-distance friend: Allen Robinson.

    The second-year receiver finished with a career single-game high 155 yards on six catches, and three of those receptions went for 30-plus yards. There's a whole lot of youthful potential spread around the Jaguars offense, starting with Bortles and Robinson.

27. Washington Redskins (1-1)

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    Last Week: 29

    This Week: 27

    Change: +2

    The Washington Redskins are moving forward with the right offensive focus. Mainly, they need one that hides Kirk Cousins, their mistake-prone quarterback who's thrown 21 career interceptions over only 11 starts.

    Which is why plowing ahead with a dual-threat rushing attack is wise, and rookie Matt Jones emerging Sunday is the next step in a logical evolution.

    When the Redskins invested a third-round pick in him it was expected Jones would eventually platoon with backfield running mate Alfred Morris. Maybe not quite by Week 2, however, but Jones already forced the issue with 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns during a win over the St. Louis Rams.

    His 19 carries were only one ahead of the 18 Morris received. Yet the veteran finished with just 59 yards while averaging 3.3 yards per attempt.

    Quickly, the Redskins seem to have a pleasant problem in their backfield. 

26. Oakland Raiders (1-1)

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 28

    This Week: 26

    Change: +2

    Something miraculous happened for the Oakland Raiders Sunday. No, not just winning a game, though I suppose to many in the vast Raider Nation that still meets their miracle standards. When they edged the Baltimore Ravens 37-33, the Raiders won only their eighth game since 2013.

    The way in which that win arrived was special, and could be looked back on as a turning point for the Raiders offensively.

    Wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree each finished with 100-plus receiving yards. Cooper was particularly explosive, and broke away for a 68-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

    Having two receivers eclipse the century mark in one game is always terrific, as it shows the depth of an offense. But the Raiders should be cracking several crates worth of champagne right about now. Why? Only two Raiders receivers topped the 100-yard mark in 2014, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Yes, that's all season. 

25. New Orleans Saints (0-2)

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    It feels like the New Orleans Saints should fall further than this particular power rankings perch. Maybe they should, but I still believe there's enough offensive talent in New Orleans to separate them from the basement darkness.

    Defense is primarily where the problem lies, and that won't change soon with the Saints' decimated secondary. Safety Jairus Byrd sat out another game due to continuing knee issues, and cornerback Keenan Lewis is out four to six weeks following hip surgery.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie quarterback Jameis Winston benefited from those absences Sunday. He went from averaging only 6.4 yards per pass attempt during his regular-season debut to 9.9 in a win over the Saints.

24. New York Giants (0-2)

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    The New York Giants' two losses have come by a combined five points, and in both games fourth-quarter leads evaporated in the final minutes.

    In Week 1, the disappointment came due to a lack of awareness from several guilty parties. It was a boneheaded loss to the division rival Dallas Cowboys, a team now ripped apart by injuries.

    This week, a loss to the Atlanta Falcons was your more garden variety late-game collapse. The Giants held a 10-point lead as the third quarter wound down, and they squandered a chance to add onto their cushion with a fumble on Atlanta's 8-yard line. Three more Giants drives ended without points, while the Falcons orchestrated a 70-yard drive that took just 1:58 for the game-winning touchdown.

    At first you call a start like this soul-crushing. Then it eventually becomes the sort of start that costs people their jobs. 

23. Tennessee Titans (1-1)

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    Last Week: 20

    This Week: 23

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    I know this is shocking information, so you should probably sit down: Being an NFL quarterback is among the hardest positions in any sport. So hiccups are expected from any rookie, even if they come directly on the heels of an impressive debut.

    Which brings us to Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who came crashing back down to the horrible place we know as reality during a loss to the Cleveland Browns.

    Mariota put expectations for his rookie season into another stratosphere when he averaged 13.1 yards per attempt in Week 1. That tumbled down to a much more normal 6.9 against the Browns, as Mariota had far too many moments of indecisiveness in the pocket. Most alarmingly, though, he was sacked seven times, and lost two fumbles.

    The pendulum will surely swing in the other direction again, and soon enough we'll look at Week 2 as an outlier dud for Mariota.

22. Baltimore Ravens (0-2)

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    Last Week: 19

    This Week: 22

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    A team that's missed the playoffs only once since 2008 is supposed to beat the Oakland Raiders while spinning and blindfolded. But we don't live in an NFL universe where the predictable happens.

    No, we live in a world where someone named Seth Roberts—a Raiders wide receiver who went undrafted in 2014 out of West Alabama—can catch a game-winning touchdown pass with 26 seconds left. But what's more concerning for the Ravens is the totality of their defeat, and an utterly helpless defense against Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

    Carr passed for a career single-game high 351 yards. A Ravens defense that ranked 23rd against the pass in 2014 is struggling again, and allowed two 100-plus yard Raiders receivers.

21. Cleveland Browns (1-1)

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    Sure, it came against the Tennessee Titans and their defense that added pieces throughout the offseason but still has much of the same 26th-ranked unit from 2014. And sure, in a win Sunday Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel completed only 53.8 percent of his passes.

    But for the first time in any NFL start, we saw something that's remained elusive for Manziel: Competence.

    He led two touchdown drives in the first quarter, completing his first five pass attempts. And it seemed that whenever the Browns needed a key drive-saving play, Manziel came through with either his legs, his arm or both.

    That was most evident late in the fourth quarter when the Titans had crawled back to within a touchdown. With just under three minutes left the Browns faced 3rd-and-6, needing a first down to force the Titans into using their two remaining timeouts.

    Manziel's response? He moved to his right, was confronted by pressure and then rolled back to the left. The second-year passer was nearly to the sideline when he had the agility to pivot his body before launching a 50-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Travis Benjamin. It was the third time Manziel and Benjamin have hooked up for a 50-plus yard play over just the first two weeks.

    Earlier Sunday, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported (via NFL.com's Kevin Patra) that even if Manziel played like some twisted blend of Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana, Josh McCown will still be Cleveland's starting quarterback when he's recovered from a concussion.

    Eventually, the Browns will come to realize that of their two mistake-prone and flawed quarterbacks, Manziel has the far higher ceiling and offers the better chance to win games.

20. Carolina Panthers (2-0)

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    The Carolina Panthers could be the most yawn-inducing 2-0 team in league history. They have victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and now the Houston Texans, and those two teams might win a combined 10 games, which is being generous.

    And because of a still mostly awful NFC South, the Panthers won't face a true challenge until Week 6 against the Seattle Seahawks. A thin wide receiver corps will eventually be exposed, just not quite yet.

19. Atlanta Falcons (2-0)

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    Julio Jones probably couldn't be stopped by a moving brick wall right now. He'd just go full Kool-Aid guy and keep on running toward the daylight he so easily creates.

    The 26-year-old, who might just be hitting his peak right now (terrifying, yes), has started his season with 276 receiving yards over two games. That includes 135 yards during a win Sunday over the New York Giants, and the last of his 13 receptions set up a game-winning touchdown plunge by Falcons running back Devonta Freeman.

    Since the beginning of 2014, Jones has now posted five games with 130-plus receiving yards. He's routinely making defensive backs look rather foolish.

18. St. Louis Rams (1-1)

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    Last Week: 16

    This Week: 18

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    The St. Louis Rams are already colliding with a problem from 2014 that hasn't gone away. They're getting gashed on the ground, and need to stop the bleeding fast.

    They did that in 2014, finishing the season with a respectable 14th-ranked run defense. But now two games into 2015, the Rams have allowed 306 rushing yards, with the latest pounding coming this week from a rookie running back.

    The Redskins' Matt Jones received only six carries during his NFL debut in Week 1. Then during a Week 2 win over the Rams he went off for 123 yards, an outburst that included two 25-plus yard carries.

    Turning quarterbacks into pancakes won't be a problem for the Rams, but doing the same with running backs is a familiar hurdle.

17. Miami Dolphins (1-1)

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars haven't had a winning season since 2007, so losing to them is often followed by a long shower cry. But the way in which the Miami Dolphins lost is especially unsettling.

    A team that reinforced its defensive front this offseason by dumping heaps of money onto defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh failed to record a single sack. Not even one against a Jaguars offensive line that usually resembles tissue paper, and allowed five sacks in Week 1.

    Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw for 273 yards, the third-highest single-game total of his young career. His per-game average as a rookie? Just 207.7 yards.

    The Dolphins were sliced and diced by an offense that had been dormant. It was the sort of result that could hint at more mediocrity.

16. San Diego Chargers (1-1)

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    Despite a loss there was still a shining beacon of hope for the San Diego Chargers in Week 2. It came from an expected source: rookie running back Melvin Gordon.

    The first-round pick is being leaned on to rejuvenate a 30th-ranked rushing offense in 2014. The Chargers were one-dimensional offensively prior to Gordon's arrival, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry.

    After a stumbling NFL debut, Gordon showed why he was worthy of a high first-round grade, even with the draft value of his position seemingly diminishing. He finished with 88 yards on 16 carries during a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and most of that yardage came in large chunks.

    His three 20-plus-yard carries were the most in one game by a Chargers running back since 2007, according to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

15. Detroit Lions (0-2)

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    A team that has Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate as its top two wideouts is still waiting for the first 100-plus-yard game of 2015 from any receiver. That same team is also waiting for its first win.

    The Detroit Lions' inability to move the ball consistently is rooted in pressure, and how much of it they're allowing on quarterback Matthew Stafford. He hasn't been sacked much yet (only twice over two games), but he's still been disrupted and whacked plenty in the pocket.

    Stafford was knocked around so much by the Minnesota Vikings during Sunday's loss that Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported he went in for X-rays on his ribs and chest after the game. Birkett noted he looked to be "in a lot of pain."

    Stafford averaged only 5.4 yards per attempt Sunday, and he didn't receive any support from a rushing offense that plodded along at 2.4 yards per carry.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (0-2)

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    This Week: 14

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    Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was an offseason MVP of sorts. Even during the dreary NFL dog days of summer you could always pull the "is Kelly crazy, or just crazy enough?" club out of the bag as a conversation fire starter.

    Two weeks into the season we're beginning to get our answer. It's come in many forms over two straight losses, but one number is yelling the loudest: 11.

    That's how many rushing yards running back DeMarco Murray has over two games. In a remarkable display of awfulness, he finished Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys with two yards, yet his longest run went for nine yards. After five carries when he was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage Murray struggled to finish in positive digits. Overall, the Eagles' 17 rushing yards was their fewest in a game since 1961, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

    Murray is a spiraling mess, just like the entire Eagles offense. Luckily they play in a division led by a team with pretty much its entire offense broken, so hope is far from lost.

13. New York Jets (2-0)

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    Last Week: 18

    This Week: 13

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    In 2014 the New York Jets generated 13 takeaways. Now in 2015 their defense has already taken the ball away 10 times. This is when you consult the schedule, the calendar and a few other time-telling devices to confirm that, yes, there are still 14 games remaining in the 2015 season.

    Offseason additions like cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie have certainly helped in the effort to become a swarming, ball-stealing unit. But the most significant addition might be new head coach Todd Bowles, who continually confused the Indianapolis Colts offensive line with his exotic blitz schemes during a win Monday night.

    Locating and properly accounting for the oncoming pressure was a game that ended in repeated failure for the Colts. Quarterback Andrew Luck was either forced into poor decisions, or whacked while releasing. The Jets then happily gobbled up three interceptions, along with two fumbles.

    They held an offense that averaged 28.6 points per game in 2014 to only a single touchdown. Even more impressively, over two games the Jets have allowed only 17 points.

12. Minnesota Vikings (1-1)

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Last Week: 17

    This Week: 12

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    Much like Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was widely shunned to an early retirement dungeon after Week 1. He landed with a thud during only his second game since 2013, finishing with 31 rushing yards in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

    But like the ghouls who will haunt friendly neighbors tossing out Mars bars in about six weeks, Peterson rose from the dead. He busted out with 195 yards from scrimmage as the Vikings cruised to their first win of the season, beating the Detroit Lions 26-16. Peterson averaged 6.2 yards per touch and recorded three gains for 25-plus yards.

    He looked like, well, Adrian Peterson. If the guy we saw Sunday can show up consistently, a great burden will be lifted off quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's shoulders.

11. Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)

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    This Week: 11

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    The on-field product offered by Thursday Night Football was once a burning dumpster inferno, with lopsided scores and an utter lack of entertainment the norm. Maybe that awfulness will return, but even as I write this Sunday evening the pumping adrenaline from an oddball Thursday night game still hasn't quite calmed down.

    Perhaps the strangest stat to emerge from an overall strange game is tied to Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, who lost two fumbles during his team's 31-24 loss to the division rival Denver Broncos. The game was bookended by Charles' fumbles, with one coming in the first quarter to erase a Chiefs scoring opportunity, while a second led directly to Denver's game-winning touchdown.

    What makes the loss an especially powerful haymaker to the gut for Kansas City is Charles' reputation as a sure-handed ball-carrier. He finished 2014 with only five fumbles on 246 touches. This season he's already almost halfway to that total after only two games and 46 touches. 

10. Buffalo Bills (1-1)

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    This Week: 10

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    I want to believe in the Buffalo Bills. I really, honestly do, which is why they didn't move this week despite a loss. But right now they're a little confusing.

    Are they the team that gave up a very reasonable 304 yards of offense to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1? Or more like the team that was steamrolled in Week 2 by the New England Patriots for 507 yards?

    Are they the team we saw over three quarters against the Patriots, the one that trailed 34-14? Or the team that nearly completed an improbable comeback, scoring 21 fourth-quarter points?

    And is quarterback Tyrod Taylor the passer who was almost mistake-free during an opening-week win? Or the guy who was sacked eight times Sunday?

    So many questions, and 14 more games to answer them.

9. Indianapolis Colts (0-2)

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    Last Week: 5

    This Week: 9

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    Among the collection of 0-2 teams after two weeks each year there's always a few that don't belong. Their record is lying, and they've perhaps been edged out twice, or ran into brutal luck.

    In 2014 the Indianapolis Colts emerged to be that team. They lost each of their first two games by a touchdown or less, while still scoring 51 total points. A talent-rich offense was beginning to click, but the eruption was still bubbling. Then the Colts lost only three more times, and played in the AFC Championship Game.

    In 2014 the 0-2 Colts weren't an underachieving, bumbling mess. Which aptly describes the 0-2 Colts in 2015.

    This season's winless team is overflowing with offensive talent after running back Frank Gore and wide receiver Andre Johnson were added during free agency, and a first-round pick was spent on wideout Phillip Dorsett. Yet that loaded offense led by quarterback Andrew Luck—who's still one of the NFL's best young pocket passers—didn't score until the 10:16 mark of the fourth quarter Monday night during a loss to the New York Jets. For the first time since 1997 the Colts were shutout during the first half in back-to-back games. 

    It was a game when the Colts seemed completely lost offensively. The result was chaos, a pocket that barely existed for Luck and forced throws. Luck showed carelessness with his bad decisions, but poor choices have a way of increasing when the quarterback is in a constant state of duress.

    Luck threw three interceptions, and in total the Colts committed five turnovers. Over two games they've given the ball away eight times while scoring just 21 points.

    This isn't the Colts team we expected. That team might not show up.

8. Seattle Seahawks (0-2)

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    Last Week: 6

    This Week: 8

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    Two weeks into the 2015 season and the Seattle Seahawks are already halfway to their loss total for all of 2014. They're 0-2 for first time since 2011.

    Although panic buttons are surely getting quite a workout in the Northwest, maybe some deep breathing is advised here. Winning at Lambeau Field—where the Green Bay Packers went undefeated in 2014—is always a mountainous task.

    But this is a Seahawks team that scaled those mountains with ease during back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. And a defense that's swatted down challenges from even the league's best passing offenses in the recent past.

    Now Seattle's early per-game average of 273 passing yards allowed (way up from a league-low 185.6 in 2014) fuels the urgency to satisfy a certain disgruntled safety.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)

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    Last Week: 13

    This Week: 7

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    Are you a person who really likes efficiency? Have you mastered ways to save time during your morning routine each day, like eating in the shower? (Don't do that.) Then you should become a Pittsburgh Steelers fan immediately.

    The Steelers rolled to 43 points and 453 total yards of offense during a thumping of the San Francisco 49ers, even though they had the ball for just over 23 minutes. The 49ers, meanwhile, mustered only 18 points with their 36:59 time of possession.

    To the surprise of absolutely no one, wide receiver Antonio Brown was the Steelers' offensive catalyst. His precise route running and after-the-catch speed has now translated to 328 receiving yards over two games, a whopping 195 of which came Sunday, establishing a new single-game career high.

    Brown exploding is swell, but scoring 43 points without wide receiver Martavis Bryant and running back Le'Veon Bell is even better. The Steelers offense improving is downright terrifying for opposing defenses.

6. Dallas Cowboys (2-0)

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    Last Week: 3

    This Week: 6

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    Before you hurl rotten vegetables at your computer screen and wonder how a team that's still undefeated can fall three spots, please realize this descent has little to do with what the Dallas Cowboys are right now. Rather, it's tied to what they could quickly become.

    Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo broke his collarbone during a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. It's the same injury he suffered in 2010, and that resulted in his season ending after only six games.

    This time the break has come early enough that Romo will return. But the Cowboys are still facing the depression of calling Brandon Weeden their quarterback for at least two months.

    That's Romo's estimated recovery time, as reported by CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora. But of course, it gets worse for the Cowboys, as normally we would be able to say something like, "Relax, because a receiver like Dez Bryant can put an offense on his back for a few months."

    Yeah, about that. Bryant is out too, and exactly how long he'll be sidelined is a matter of which report you'd like to believe. The latest came from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport Sunday morning when he reported Bryant's foot surgery will required a bone graft, which increases the likelihood he'll sit for 10 to 12 weeks.

    So after deciding not to retain running back DeMarco Murray this offseason, the Cowboys are likely facing a two-month stretch in which they'll also be without both Romo and Bryant. Oh, and that's not it, as tight end Jason Witten suffered two sprained ankles and a sprained knee in Sunday's win.

    Any absence for Witten would be crippling. In the latest reminder that football players aren't actually from this planet, Witten told Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post his injuries were "just some bumps and bruises."

    Injuries happen, sure, because football can sort of suck like that. But the Cowboys' injuries are the kind that can derail a season fast.

5. Denver Broncos (2-0)

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    Last Week: 8

    This Week: 5

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    I'm not sure if the NFL accepts retirement notices at halftime of a game. But if a large percentage of the football-viewing public had its way during  Thursday night's first half, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would be on a beach sipping drinks with tiny umbrellas. (Just keep your shirt on, Peyton.)

    Manning was sacked twice by the Kansas City Chiefs in that half and threw a pick-six to rookie cornerback Marcus Peters. He averaged only 6.2 yards per attempt over those two quarters.

    But later, when he was most needed, that Manning suddenly vanished, and the quarterback we've come to know so well reappeared. Manning led an 80-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarterback to tie the game. Of his 256 passing yards, 75 came on that drive alone, which included three critical deep connections with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for 22, 17 and 15 yards.

    Then a defense that's now created five turnovers over two games did the rest, with safety Darian Stewart stripping Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles and cornerback Bradley Roby taking the gift home for a game-winning touchdown.

    With the support of his defense Manning doesn't have to be consistently spectacular to win football games. But when needed, he still has that in him. Because he's still Peyton Manning, albeit an older version of himself.

4. Arizona Cardinals (2-0)

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    Last Week: 7

    This Week: 4

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    Some variation of this statement has been written repeatedly about the 2015 Arizona Cardinals, both here and elsewhere: If they keep quarterback Carson Palmer upright and healthy, smooth waters lie ahead.

    Through two weeks, Palmer still hasn't been sacked yet. The result? An average of 8.8 yards per attempt, seven touchdowns, only one interception and a passer rating of 124.4.

    Oh, and two wins.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0)

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4

    This Week: 3

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    The Cincinnati Bengals are looking very much like the regular-season team we've come to know in recent years, and later come to hate. Quarterback Andy Dalton finished with a ho-hum 8.2 yards per attempt during a win over the San Diego Chargers. More importantly, Dalton is 60 throws into his season and still hasn't chucked an interception yet.

    That's typical for Dalton and a talent-rich Bengals offense, one that can bench running back Jeremy Hill after two lost fumbles Sunday, then get 139 total yards from his backup/platoon mate Giovani Bernard.

    But maybe, just maybe, the difference with this Bengals team is the health of tight end Tyler Eifert, whose presence could prevent a playoff flameout. Dalton has thrown five touchdown passes over two games, and three have now gone to Eifert.

2. Green Bay Packers (2-0)

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    Just how unfairly deep is the Green Bay Packers offense? Sunday night they entered a rematch of the 2015 NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks with wide receiver Jordy Nelson gone for the season.

    Then on their opening drive running back Eddie Lacy went down with an ankle injury. Later, receiver Davante Adams was carted off with an ankle injury of his own. He returned but wasn't himself while hobbling around.

    Losing that amount of talent would make most teams crater, and the season would soon be lost. Or at the very least a game would certainly be lost. Not the Packers, who received quality depth contributions during a win Sunday from the likes of running back James Starks (95 rushing yards) and wide receiver Ty Montgomery (four receptions for 37 yards), along with the usual greatness from slot receiver Randall Cobb (eight receptions, 116 yards).

    Despite missing their top receiver and running back, the Packers still hung 27 points on a Seahawks defense that allowed only 15.9 per game in 2014.

1. New England Patriots (2-0)

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    The New England Patriots had a scare early against the Buffalo Bills, and another one late when they allowed 21 fourth-quarter points, which showed that flawlessness is elusive even for the NFL's very best.

    But what happened in the middle mattered most. That's when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 466 yards, and overall the Bills defense was pummeled while allowing 507 yards.

    Brady's yardage was his second-highest career single-game total, and he led an offense that's now scored 40-plus points in a game seven times since the beginning of 2014, including the playoffs.

    The message? Be careful what you wish for, Bills mafia.