NFL Power Rankings: Chris Simms' Rankings Heading into Week 3

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystSeptember 19, 2016

NFL Power Rankings: Chris Simms' Rankings Heading into Week 3

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    Airplane Wi-Fi, you're the best.

    I put in a football-watching cram session on my flight back from Ravens-Browns. By the time I was wheels down, I was caught up on all the early Week 2 action I missed. 

    So I feel pretty damn confident power ranking these 32 teams. Two factors come into play here: A) How this team looked through two weeks of play and B) how this team is set up going forward.

    You'll notice a few sharp climbers and steep fallers from last week. That's because these rankings are a meritocracy—only the deserving crack my top 10. I know you'll find me on Twitter (@CSimmsQB) and vent when you find your team is ranked too low.

32. Chicago Bears

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Current record: 0-2

    Last week: 30 (-2)

    Someone should tell the Chicago Bears we're already two weeks into the season.

    They haven't shown up yet. Whatever on-field product is wearing orange, white and blue out there has been outcoached and outplayed through eight quarters.

    Offensively, they lack creativity. Jay Cutler seemed content to chuck jump ball after jump ball to Alshon Jeffery and hope for the best. Their O-line is playing like a unit that was just assembled...because it just was assembled.

    They're passable on defense. As in, teams can pass on them whenever they want to.

    Next opponent: Dallas Cowboys

    Looking ahead: Can Chicago stop this rookie quarterback? I'll have to see it first.

31. Cleveland Browns

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Current record: 0-2

    Last week: 32 (+1)

    The talent might not be there in Cleveland but the blueprint is.

    Don't judge the Browns on wins and losses alone. Judge them instead on how well their young first- and second-year players adapt to head coach Hue Jackson's teachings and, better yet, how they contribute.

    They'll blow their share of 20-point leads before things get better. When they do, they'll be able to lean on Isaiah Crowell, who bursts through the hole, or Corey Coleman, who takes the top off a defense.

    Right now, Baltimore is the better team. But I liked the way the Browns battled, and I really liked the way they reflected their head coach's character.

    Next opponent: Miami Dolphins

    Looking ahead: Joe Haden might jump a few routes in this one. He guessed right twice in Week 2.

30. Buffalo Bills

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    Current record: 0-2

    Last week: 22 (-8)

    Offensive coordinator Greg Roman is out. Anthony Lynn is in.

    But no play-caller can truly fix what ails the Bills offense: Tyrod Taylor's height. The Bills list him at 6'1", and I'm throwing the challenge flag on that. Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams swallowed him up and made any over-the-middle throw a blind one. He can't connect when big guys are stacked up in his face.'s just bad. Head coach Rex Ryan plays his two corners on separate islands, and you saw what Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall can do. It's not Stephon Gilmore or Ronald Darby's fault; it's the scheme they're in.

    Next opponent: Arizona Cardinals

    Looking ahead: The Cards reclaimed their old scoring form in Week 2. Just in time for Buffalo.

29. Los Angeles Rams

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 31 (+2)

    Play fast? Play physical? Keep points to a premium?

    That's the Seahawks' formula. And the Rams just outdid them.

    Case Keenum wasn't afraid to test a better Seahawks secondary. He strung together a few deep balls, including ones that traveled 44 and 36 yards. That ended up being enough to kick field goals and win.

    Hollywood's football team plays pretty ugly. Its run game is totally shot (Todd Gurley had 51 ground yards), but its pride isn't. Credit the Rams for opening up a new era with a win despite being a bad team.

    Next opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Looking ahead: Can Aaron Donald lay into Jameis Winston before Jameis Winston lays into his secondary?

28. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Current record: 0-2

    Last week: 21 (-7)

    For the fourth time in five seasons, your up-and-coming Jaguars are 0-2.

    It gets worse. In San Diego, against an evenly matched opponent, they crossed midfield six times and committed half as many turnovers. They committed 14 backbreaking penalties, and Philip Rivers' right arm chewed up that predictable Seahawks-lite defense I keep telling you about.

    Same old Jags? Sure seems that way.

    Next opponent: Baltimore Ravens

    Looking ahead: Jacksonville's season is on the line. A few jobs might be as well.

27. Miami Dolphins

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    Current record: 0-2

    Last week: 27 (same)

    You saw the Miami Dolphins of the present in the first half Sunday.

    They managed 12 offensive yards in the first quarter. They allowed easy throw after easy throw for Jimmy Garoppolo. LeGarrette Blount literally ran them over.

    Then, the Dolphins of the future appeared. Ryan Tannehill took three consecutive drives for touchdowns. The defense held steady when Garoppolo gave way to Jacoby Brissett. Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker both eclipsed 100 receiving yards.

    The present-day Dolphins can't compete with the Patriots. But when I watch film, I bet you I'll see some positives among what feels like just another divisional loss.

    Next opponent: Cleveland Browns

    Looking ahead: Tannehill needs to start this game the way he finished Week 2.

26. New Orleans Saints

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    Current record: 0-2

    Last week: 25 (-1)

    Go ahead and applaud the Saints' undermanned defense.

    It played without Delvin Breaux. Then, it lost P.J. Williams to a scary head injury. And down its two top corners, it kept a potential blowout competitive for most of the game. The unit even dialed up steady pressure on Eli Manning.

    It just wasn't enough. The Saints couldn't contain Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard; that's too much to ask of a normal defense, let alone what the Saints had. That, coupled with Drew Brees' inability to put up his usual number of points, spelled doom for this team in Week 2.

    Next opponent: Atlanta Falcons

    Looking ahead: Julio Jones will like what he sees when he looks across the line of scrimmage.

25. Indianapolis Colts

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    Current record: 0-2

    Last week: 23 (-2)

    Maybe I'm too rough on the Colts.

    Maybe they're a decent team that's simply too injured to stop anyone. Their current cornerback depth chart looks like a scene from The Walking Dead, for instance.

    On second thought, I'm not rough enough. I've called this team a flag football squad, but that's too kind. When Andrew Luck fails to make a play (see: pick-six and fumble-return touchdown versus Denver), his team is sunk.

    Next opponent: San Diego Chargers

    Looking ahead: Philip Rivers will know exactly what to do against this undermanned defense.

24. San Diego Chargers

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 29 (+5)

    Clearly, the Chargers learned from their big mistake in Week 1.

    They let up with a big lead against the Kansas City Chiefs and paid dearly for it. But they opened a 21-point lead, kept scoring and blitzing Sunday, and didn't stop until the fourth quarter of a 35-0 blowout.

    San Diego didn't need Keenan Allen to do it. Philip Rivers completed over 70 percent of his throws or handed off to Melvin Gordon on a 102-yard afternoon. It's like Gordon is a completely different back than he was as a rookie.

    Remember: They've looked pretty good for six of eight quarters this year. They can clearly keep it up.

    Next opponent: Indianapolis Colts

    Looking ahead: San Diego boasts Jason Verrett-Brandon Flowers-Casey Hayward, a cornerback trio that's as good as any in the NFL. It is about to be tested by a monster quarterback.

23. Tennessee Titans

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 28 (+5)

    We finally got a glimpse of what "Exotic Smashmouth" means.

    DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry still ran between the tackles against Detroit's mean-looking front. Marcus Mariota's pass attempts were kept at a minimum. Then, when his team needed a drive, he strung a physical, 13-play one together for the win.

    It wasn't pretty. It wasn't exactly memorable. But under running-game whisperer head coach Mike Mularkey, the Titans are supposed to win these kind of games. They did.

    Next opponent: Oakland Raiders

    Looking ahead: Amari Cooper is not going to be an easy cover for this defense.

22. Washington Redskins

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Current record: 0-2

    Last week: 17 (-5)

    Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback. He can play very well and sometimes great.

    But disregard the tag he's playing under because he'll never be a franchise guy.

    Those kind of passers would hit DeSean Jackson in stride, not overthrow him like I saw Sunday. They'd turn good field position into touchdowns, not squander game-winning drives inside the opponent's 40 by kicking field goals. And they don't throw picks in the end zone.

    Washington's defense actually held it together despite even more injuries up front. But I had a feeling this game was lost the minute Cousins threw right at Cowboys safety Barry Church. Ten plays later, it was.

    Next opponent: New York Giants

    Looking ahead: Don't worry about Josh Norman-Odell Beckham Jr. Worry about who's going to stop Rashad Jennings and this run game.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 16 (-5)

    Go back to the kid's table, Tampa Bay.

    The grown-up teams are talking. And after a horrible showing against one of them in Arizona, you can't join their ranks yet.

    Jameis Winston devolved into the kind of error-prone quarterback scouts worried about. Before the whistle, he committed five (count 'em) turnovers. After it, he swung at an opposing cornerback in a move that brought him back to his Florida State days.

    Patrick Peterson won the night against Mike Evans. Doug Martin left with an injury. That defense was torched. What a nightmare.

    Next opponent: Los Angeles Rams

    Looking ahead: Nothing like a showdown against a really bad offense to get you back on track.

20. San Francisco 49ers

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 24 (+4)

    A team nicknamed the 49ers should know all about fool's gold.

    That's exactly what their Week 2 was. They stuck with the NFC Champs as long as they could, but probably shouldn't have been close to start with. The only reason they rose four spots? So many other teams fared much, much worse.

    Blaine Gabbert capitalized on a 28-yard touchdown toss to Torrey Smith...and then folded like a lawn chair. In the five ensuing possessions, the Niners picked up only two first downs and 42 yards. That exciting, shiny run game from the previous week? Carlos Hyde has no idea where it went because he got stuffed.

    It was only a matter of time before the Panthers roared back. Their Week 2 opponent was just outplayed.

    Next opponent: Seattle Seahawks

    Looking ahead: These teams are almost identical in their inability to make plays. Flip a coin.

19. Oakland Raiders

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 15 (-4)

    What the hell is going on with the Raiders' revamped defense?

    Head coach Jack Del Rio is pulling starters again. He's calling defensive plays again. And, through two weeks, the Raiders are a laughingstock again. Over these past 14 days, they've surrendered more yards (1,035) than any team since 1940. 1940! Did they even play with helmets in 1940 or just those little caps?

    Derek Carr and his offense is averaging 31.5 points per game and can't keep up. That's worse than pathetic.

    Next opponent: Tennessee Titans

    Looking ahead: The Raiders want to be tougher? Here's their shot. The Titans won't throw the ball 40 times. Go stop them.

18. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Current record: 2-0

    Last week: 20 (+2)

    Carson Wentz's best throw Monday night might have been one that ended up incomplete.

    He dropped another dime right into Jordan Matthews' arms that fell to the ground. It would have been another touchdown on top of an impressive second act.

    Head coach Doug Pederson isn't reinventing the wheel. He's letting his rookie quarterback complete play-action throws and quick, easy screens. It's working.

    His defense isn't really complex, either. Fletcher Cox and Co. are just better than the five blockers in front of them. Put them in the top 10 if you're ranking D-lines.

    Next opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Looking ahead: Wentz's rookie colors should finally show against a team that's way better than any he's seen so far.

17. Atlanta Falcons

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 26 (+9)

    It's better to be lucky than good—but Matt Ryan was both Sunday. That helped them become this week's biggest rankings riser.

    He threw for nearly 400 yards against a much-improved secondary on the opposite coast. That takes skill; a tipped-ball touchdown to Justin Hardy took luck.

    I've been tough on Ryan through two weeks. It seems his team has figured what situations he thrives in (no-huddle, quick-to-the-ball) and where he likes to go when throwing over the middle (10 completions to three different tight ends).

    Next opponent: New Orleans Saints

    Looking ahead: Who doesn't love a good old-fashioned NFC South shootout?

16. Seattle Seahawks

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 11 (-5)

    Maybe someone out there will believe me about this Seahawks offense.

    It's boring. It's predictable. It's Russell Wilson, even on a bum ankle, pulling off the almost improbable. That's it.

    He might have led another comeback if Christine Michael doesn't fumble the football late in the game. Now, we have to reflect on why they stink so much. Is it the now-extinct run game? Is it Wilson's pass-catching talent? Is it really just a bad blocking group in front of him?

    They're searching for answers. At 1-1, these Seahawks possess mind-blowing defensive talent, but they can't piece 10 points together on any given week.

    Next opponent: San Francisco 49ers

    Looking ahead: Seattle can't move the ball. Neither can San Francisco. Ready to see a baseball score?

15. Detroit Lions

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 14 (-1)

    One Costco-sized container of detergent for the Lions, please.

    There's no other way to take care of all the laundry that flew onto Ford Field on Sunday. Detroit was docked 138 yards on 17 penalties and—go figure—the Lions dropped a game they controlled from the start.

    That's what happens when big gains are erased. That's what happens when, suddenly, you're helping the Titans offense into scoring position instead of letting them punt. And that's certainly what happens when not one, not two, but three touchdowns are wiped off the board.

    I'm still buying the Lions' talent. Head coach Jim Caldwell needs to clean up their act, though.

    Next opponent: Green Bay Packers

    Looking ahead: Aaron Rodgers has their number. But the Lions have a more complete team with a balanced offense.

14. Dallas Cowboys

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 19 (+5)

    Could the Cowboys have tried any harder to hand this game away?

    They absolutely botched a trick onside kick. Ezekiel Elliott lost one of his two fumbles just outside the end zone. Someone blew their cover, and Kirk Cousins connected on a 57-yard pass. And, oh yeah...Dallas is starting a rookie at quarterback.

    That rookie was impressive, though. Dak Prescott was the difference in his second career start, playing the brand of mistake-free football his team is built for. It's clear he can find a mismatch (like Dez Bryant on not Josh Norman) and exploit it.

    Next opponent: Chicago Bears

    Looking ahead: Dak to Dez is the difference. The Bears can’t stop it.

13. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 9 (-4)

    After last season, it's clear the Chiefs aren't exactly a first-half team.

    They're not a second-half one, either. Factor out a wild comeback last week, and you'll see an underachiever like the one that just took the field in Houston. They're not scaring anyone.

    Alex Smith had a very Alex Smith-y 186 passing yards. That works when the Chiefs play strong defense behind him and don't give the ball away. It doesn't when Justin Houston's absence kept Houston's pass offense going, especially when the Texans recovered three costly turnovers.

    The best remaining defender? That's Marcus Peters, who hauled in two interceptions but was targeted all afternoon. Just a sloppy outing by head coach Andy Reid's team.

    Next opponent: New York Jets

    Looking ahead: K.C.'s offensive line is a little banged up. And it'll only get worse after a showdown with the deepest group of pass-rushers in football.

12. Baltimore Ravens

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Current record: 2-0

    Last week: 18 (+6)

    A 20-point hole in the first quarter?

    Joe Flacco stayed calm. The guy engineered three scoring drives in between the second and third quarters, including a seven-yard strike to, you guessed it, Mike Wallace. These two can make up deficits in a flash.

    They shouldn't have to, though. Baltimore rolled out the only coverage that Cleveland's receivers could beat: press man. It backfired twice when Josh McCown found rookie Corey Coleman in the end zone, and coordinator Dean Pees might want to avoid it going forward.

    Next opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

    Looking ahead: The Jags are talented and desperate. The Ravens are just better.

11. New York Giants

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    Current record: 2-0

    Last week: 13 (+2)

    Can Giants fans rest easy?

    Yes and no. On one side, the Giants exorcised their late-game demons in Ghostbusters-like fashion. It's not easy to top a Drew Brees-led team anywhere; they just did it in Week 2.

    On the other hand...16 points? Really? New Orleans' defense was totally undermanned (and is pretty bad against the pass, anyway). You have weapons in Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz. Yet this game was actually decided by a blocked field goal returned the other way for six.

    I don't get it, and I'm looking forward to diving in and finding some stuff on film this week.

    Next opponent: Washington Redskins

    Looking ahead: New York is the better team. Can Odell Beckham Jr. act like it?

10. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 7 (-3)

    Cincinnati just went on the toughest two-game trip in football—and came out alive on the other end.

    That feat alone should earn  head coach Marvin Lewis and his staff some. Blood runs hot between the Steelers and Bengals, and Lewis made it a point to play nice. For the most part, his Bengals listened.

    They should also listen up when Lewis reviews their film this week, too. Their big problems from the Pittsburgh game—an imbalanced run-pass ratio and a 25 percent third-down conversion rate—can be fixed.

    Other issues, like Darqueze Dennard's coverage problem, might take time. The Steelers picked on him quite a bit with Sammie Coates. Imagine what Antonio Brown would've done.

    Next opponent: Denver Broncos

    Looking ahead: Back-to-back games against two AFC favorites? Absolutely brutal.

9. Houston Texans

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Current record: 2-0

    Last week: 12 (+3)

    J.J. Watt is back, you guys.

    The future Hall of Famer recaptured his usual, quarterback-wrecking form against playoff nemesis Kansas City. It just makes Houston's defense that much scarier.

    Remember: These guys can throw Whitney Mercilus (and wow, was he special Sunday) and Jadeveon Clowney at you. Now, they can deploy John Simon and Benardrick McKinney in passing situations, too. They keep coming and from every angle.

    Brock Osweiler can commit a few mistakes or throw a few bad balls. This defense always has his back.

    Next opponent: New England Patriots

    Looking ahead: Pupil Bill O'Brien gets to show what his offense can do with a semi-capable signal-caller running it.

8. Green Bay Packers

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 6 (-2)

    Aaron Rodgers' best play Sunday night? Throw it up and hope a Vikings defender does something illegal.

    Other than that, this Packers offense doesn't offer much when its back is pressed against the wall. Rodgers was under constant pressure, fumbled a few times and couldn't establish a rhythm with his wideouts.

    The defense got after Sam Bradford with 10 quarterback hits and four sacks. The unit held Adrian Peterson in check before his early exit, but it couldn't do the same with Stefon Diggs.

    Next opponent: Detroit Lions

    Looking ahead: As always, Aaron Rodgers will decide these games on a few throws.

7. New York Jets

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 8 (+1)

    No regular-season victory can ever fix the feeling of a blown playoff spot.

    But the Jets got the next-best thing to start Week 2. Their Thursday night ass-kicking established them as an AFC force and started the meltdown process for a division foe.

    I haven't seen a more impressive throwing performance from Ryan Fitzpatrick...ever. He was one question mark I had about this team; the other was its secondary. But despite two coverage mix-ups (one put Darrelle Revis on a world-class sprinter), this secondary allowed 142 passing yards. 

    This wasn't a revenge game, but it has to feel just as good against a hated rival.

    Next opponent: Kansas City Chiefs

    Looking ahead: Can Fitz keep this hot streak going? Gang Green has the offensive firepower to put their hosts in an awkward scoring spot.

6. Minnesota Vikings

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    Current record: 2-0

    Last week: 10 (+4)

    In a new stadium. With a new quarterback. Against an old division rival.

    Minnesota had plenty on the line Sunday night. The Vikings responded with a masterful defensive performance that places them in the NFC North driver's seat for now.

    Aaron Rodgers' deep passing created plenty of penalties, but not much else. Coach Mike Zimmer's defense swarmed No. 12 before he could pull off something spectacular. Then, it forced him into a few uncharacteristically bad throws.

    Sam Bradford looked up to the task of carrying this team. He might have to if Adrian Peterson's knee injury proves serious.

    Next opponent: Carolina Panthers

    Looking ahead: Bradford looked at home in this offense. He won't be nearly as comfortable versus Carolina's front.

5. Arizona Cardinals

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 5 (same)

    BruceBall is back in the desert.

    Head coach Bruce Arians put his foot on the gas pedal and didn't take it off until his team sealed its first win. Then, he kept scoring just to show the league he could.

    Tampa Bay couldn't stop it. Late in the second quarter, the Cards launched a four-play drive that essentially sealed their win. Time of possession on that scoring march? Forty-five seconds.

    Patrick Peterson looked like his dominant self. Marcus Cooper looked like the answer on the other side. David Johnson looked…uncatchable. Make no mistake about this win: It was a statement to tell the other NFC powers the Cardinals haven't gone anywhere.

    Next opponent: Buffalo Bills

    Looking ahead: If Buffalo leaves its corners on an island, they'll get stranded by this passing game.

4. Carolina Panthers

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    Current record: 1-1

    Last week: 3 (-1)

    The Panthers lit up the scoreboard in this home opener—for both teams.

    Yes, they nearly dropped 50 on the visiting 49ers. But they also gave four possessions away that set San Francisco up in point-blank range. Twenty of the 49ers' 27 points came via Panthers giveaways.

    It didn't take Cam Newton long to find the antidote for his team's own half-assed play. He looked for No. 13, reared back and threw; Kelvin Benjamin kept moving the chains in a second outstanding performance.

    The Panthers O-line did the rest. These 49ers aren't the Broncos; Newton wasn't touched until midway through the second quarter.

    Next opponent: Minnesota Vikings

    Looking ahead: Newton can't be careless against a defense like this.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Current record: 2-0

    Last week: 4 (+1)

    The Steelers and Bengals effectively erased each other's star wide receiver from play Sunday.

    The difference? Pittsburgh simply showed its corps is much more than No. 84. Cincinnati couldn't do the same without A.J. Green involved.

    So credit this young Steelers secondary I've pointed out so much. Head coach Mike Tomlin had the guts to put Ross Cockrell on Green wherever he lined up, with help over the top from rookie Sean Davis. It worked; Green only caught two balls for 38 yards.

    Next opponent: Philadelphia Eagles

    Looking ahead: Let's see how Carson Wentz fares against the quarterback so many scouts compared him to.

2. Denver Broncos

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    Current record: 2-0

    Last week: 2 (same)

    What makes this any different than Denver's last season?

    The quarterback plays a game-managing role. The running game and short passing game take center stage. And that defense? It provides the scoring power and harasses quarterbacks.

    Ask Andrew Luck. Aqib Talib took one of his throws to the house. Then Von Miller stripped him, and that ball went all the way back, too.

    This defense is legit, and the offense is honestly better. It's clear the title-winning recipe still works.

    Next opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

    Looking ahead: Cincy's offensive line hasn't looked great. Now it is facing a unit that can truly expose the Bengals in pass and run blocking.

1. New England Patriots

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    Current record: 2-0

    Last week: 1 (same)

    Everyone—and I mean everyone—knew what to expect when Jimmy Garoppolo left the game.

    The Patriots still executed their power-run game. LeGarrette Blount still steamrolled would-be tacklers and went over 120 rushing yards. This team is a force that not even a quarterback catastrophe can keep in check.

    The Patriots are the most physical offensive team without Rob Gronkowski. Imagine what they'll look like when he's back pancaking defenders at tight end.

    Next opponent: Houston Texans

    Looking ahead: Osweiler against…Brissett? We'll see if that Pats offense can leap over another hurdle.