2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 2?

NFL StaffContributor ISeptember 14, 2021

2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 2?

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    Bleacher Report

    Well, that was something.

    The first week of an NFL season often brings surprises—a collision between what we think we know and how things actually play out.

    Sure, some things went according to plan. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened the defense of their Super Bowl title with a win over the Dallas Cowboys, but it was a hard-fought one. The San Francisco 49ers took care of the hapless Detroit Lions. Ditto for the Los Angeles Rams over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.

    But for every result that was expected, another wasn't. The Houston Texans punched a massive hole in the perception that they are the league's worst team in 2021. The Arizona Cardinals flattened the Titans in Tennessee. And the New Orleans Saints pulled off the shocker of the week with a blowout win over the Green Bay Packers in Jacksonville.

    A wild week of NFL action shook the league's pecking order to its foundation, sending one team into free fall while shooting others up the ranks.

    Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brad Gagnon, Brent Sobleski and Gary Davenport have gathered to once again sift through the mayhem and rank all 32 NFL teams from worst to first,

    The top two teams remained the same for Week 2. But precious little else did.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)

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    Sam Craft/Associated Press

    Last Week: 30

    Week 1 Result: Lost at Houston 37-21

    If this is what the Urban Meyer era is going to look like in Jacksonville, it's going to be short-lived.

    It's not that the Jaguars lost in Houston on Sunday; we are talking about a team that has now lost 16 regular-season games in a row and was starting a rookie quarterback. But Jacksonville didn't just lose. They got waxed by a Texans team considered by most to reside somewhere between laughable and dismal.

    The Jaguars were outclassed in every way a team can be. Trevor Lawrence was shaky in his pro debut, tossing three interceptions. Jacksonville's defense allowed a Texans offense that isn't scaring anyone to convert 12 of 21 third downs and rack up 449 yards of total offense.

    This was supposed to be a winnable game for the Jaguars. A chance for Lawrence and Meyer to start things off on the right foot.

    Now comes a seven-week stretch of games against teams who either won in Week 1, made the playoffs last season or both.

    And it's hard to find a game over that span where the Jags will be favored.

31. Atlanta Falcons (0-1)

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Last Week: 28

    Week 1 Result: Lost vs. Philadelphia 32-6

    There may not have been a more dispiriting loss in Week 1 than the drubbing the Atlanta Falcons received at Mercedes Benz Stadium at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles.

    No one expected the Falcons to be a playoff team in 2021. Or even a good team. But getting blasted in your own building is another story altogether.

    However, per Jeff Schultz of the Athletic, head coach Arthur Smith insisted that his players won't hang their heads for long ahead of next week's matchup with the Buccaneers.

    "Whether you win or lose, you always worry about guys not believing because it's such a hard journey," Smith said. "If we don't come in tomorrow and correct what needs to be corrected and we don't get ready for Tampa, then we've got issues."

    The attitude is admirable. But given Atlanta's state of "readiness" to face the Eagles, next week's matchup with the Super Bowl champions could get ugly quick.

30. Detroit Lions (0-1)

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    Lon Horwedel/Associated Press

    Last Week: 31

    Week 1 Result: Lost vs. San Francisco 41-33

    That the Detroit Lions are a bad football team is not exactly a surprise. And for much of Sunday's loss to the 49ers, the Lions looked like maybe the worst team in the NFL. When Jimmy Garoppolo hit Deebo Samuel with a 79-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter, it was 38-10 San Francisco.

    However, the Lions were able to claw back into the game (albeit against more than a few backups for the Niners), and in doing so, there were signs for at least some optimism moving forward.

    Quarterback Jared Goff actually played pretty well in his Lions debut, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Lions running backs Jamaal Williams and D'Andre Swift each posted 100-plus total yards with a touchdown. Third-year tight end T.J. Hockenson hauled in eight passes for 97 yards and a score.

    The Lions are going to need those weapons; Detroit's defense gave up 442 yards and 41 points to the 49ers.

    "You have to admire their spirit," Gagnon wrote. "It seems like head coach Dan Campbell will fire these guys up all year. But unfortunately, the talent just isn't there. They'll be a lot of fun this season, but they'll lose a lot of games."

29. New York Jets (0-1)

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Last Week: 29

    Week 1 Result: Lost at Carolina 19-14

    Sunday's season opener against the Carolina Panthers was a very Jets game.

    This is not a good thing.

    To be fair, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson made a few nice throws in his pro debut. But the second overall pick in the 2021 draft also completed just 20 of 37 passes and threw a pick.

    He didn't exactly have a lot of help. The three-headed rushing "attack" of Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson and rookie Michael Carter carried the ball 17 times for just 45 yards. Defensively, the Jets managed just one sack and gave up a big game to Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.

    As if that wasn't all bad enough, per Peter Botte of the New York Post, starting left tackle Mekhi Becton was carted off the field at Bank of America Stadium with a potentially serious knee injury.

    He'll be sidelined at least a month after dislocating his kneecap, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN, which isn't going to make Wilson's adjustment to the pros any easier.

28. New York Giants (0-1)

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Last Week: 24

    Week 1 Result: Lost vs. Denver 27-13

    The New York Giants are a bad football team.

    Optimism regarding the new-look Giants lasted about three whole hours. Playing at home against a Denver team no one is penciling in for a Super Bowl trip, the Giants were a mess on both sides of the ball.

    Offensively, Daniel Jones was the same inaccurate, turnover-prone young quarterback we saw a year ago. Under regular duress behind an offensive line that continues to struggle, Jones hit on just 22 of 37 passes and committed a back-breaking fumble in the second half. The Giants managed just 60 rushing yards and three yards per carry.

    Defensively, the Giants gave up 420 yards of total offense and 165 yards on the ground and let the Broncos convert seven of 15 third downs and all three fourth-down tries.

    "It's becoming time to face facts in New York," Davenport said. "Jones isn't the answer under center. Joe Judge isn't the answer at head coach. New York's O-line is atrocious. Sunday wasn't a bump in the road for Big Blue. It was a harbinger of all the losses that are coming."

27. Houston Texans (1-0)

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    Sam Craft/Associated Press

    Last Week: 32

    Week 1 Result: Won vs. Jacksonville 37-21

    For most of the offseason, the Houston Texans have been regarded by many (including the analysts here at B/R) as the worst team in the league.

    For one week at least, that was not the case.

    The Texans didn't just open the season with a win over their AFC South rivals from Jacksonville. They blasted the Jags in a game that wasn't as close as the final score. Tyrod Taylor was efficient in his first start for the team, throwing for 291 yards and two scores. Houston piled up 160 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. And the defense forced three interceptions and held the Jags to just three of 11 third down conversions.

    "This game probably says more about how bad the Jaguars are than how good Houston is," Davenport said. "And an argument can be made that all wins accomplish for the Texans is costing the team draft position. But due credit to Taylor and the Texans players for going out in Week 1 and playing like professionals."

    "Houston deserves a little credit after being shredded by every pundit all offseason," Sobleski added. "New head coach David Culley had his team ready to play, albeit against the toothless Jacksonville Jaguars. Still, the Texans were the odds-on favorite to be the league's worst team this fall. They still could be. But for one week, Houston stepped onto the field and proved itself as clearly the better squad. Also, kudos to Taylor for finally getting an opportunity and playing well after being a consummate pro as a bridge quarterback/backup at his previous two stops."

26. Carolina Panthers (1-0)

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Last Week: 26

    Week 1 Result: Won vs. New York Jets 19-14

    They say that revenge is a dish best served cold. If that's the case, then Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold must have been feeling pretty frosty Sunday.

    Granted, it was a hardly a blowout. But Darnold got a measure of payback against the team that he spent his first three seasons with, throwing for 279 yards and a long score to another ex-Jet, Robby Anderson.

    Darnold and Anderson weren't the only players on Carolina's offense that showed up. Tailback Christian McCaffrey turned 30 touches into 187 total yards. Wide receiver D.J. Moore caught six of eight targets for 80 yards. Carolina's defense notched six sacks and allowed just 252 total yards.

    It was a good performance on both sides of the ball, but it also came against one of the league's worst teams.

    A much stiffer test awaits in Week 2 against a New Orleans Saints team that just smoked the Green Bay Packers.

25. Minnesota Vikings (0-1)

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Last Week: 22

    Week 1 Result: Lost at Cincinnati 27-24 (OT)

    As Mike Florio reported for Pro Football Talk, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer isn't worried about talk that his job could be in jeopardy if the Vikings have another disappointing season.

    "I feel pressure every year, so I don't look at it like I'm coaching for my job," Zimmer said. "I'm going to put my resume out there on the field just like the players. And if people don't think I'm good enough to do it, so be it. Somebody else does."

    Maybe he should start worrying.

    It's not just that the Vikings fell in Week 1. It's that they were beaten by a Cincinnati Bengals team that hasn't had a winning season since 2015. Minnesota's defense allowed 366 yards of offense and 149 yards on the ground to an offense that ranked 29th in the league last year.

    It's a bad sign for a Vikings team heading into a brutal three-game gauntlet: at Arizona, vs. Seattle and vs. Cleveland.

    Given how they looked in Cincinnati, a 0-4 start is a real possibility.

    And at that point, Zimmer's job security could be quite a bit shakier.

24. Chicago Bears (0-1)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Last Week: 20

    Week 1 Result: Lost at Los Angeles Rams 34-14

    If you're the optimistic sort, there were bright spots in Chicago's Sunday night opener against the Rams.

    Running back David Montgomery did something that no runner in the NFL did against the Rams last season, gaining 108 yards and scoring a touchdown on just 16 carries. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields completed both of his pass attempts and ran for one of Chicago's scores.

    It's the latter performance that will be the talk of the town in Chicago this week. Andy Dalton wasn't terrible against the Rams, but he wasn't great either. But per Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports, Bears head coach Matt Nagy didn't sound like a man preparing to make a switch at quarterback.

    "[Fields] did a great job," Nagy said. "He's a weapon for us. He obviously made a helluva run ... The times that he got in there, he did well ... [and] we'll continue to keep growing with that stuff."

    We'll see how much longer Nagy sings that tune if the Bears can't get past the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2.

23. Las Vegas Raiders (1-0)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Last Week: 23 

    Week 1 Result: Won vs. Baltimore 33-27 (OT)

    One game does not a season make. There's a long way to go for the Las Vegas Raiders to challenge the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. Or make a run at a wild-card spot.

    But if the Raiders do make some noise in 2021, they will look back on Monday's thrilling comeback win over the Baltimore Ravens as what started it all.

    Quarterback Derek Carr was phenomenal, throwing for 435 yards and leading a game-tying drive at the end of regulation to tie the score, the Las Vegas defense made a number of big plays, sacking Lamar Jackson three times and forcing a pair of fumbles—including one that set up the game-winning touchdown.

    "There's no denying that was the kind of victory that can set the tone for a season," Davenport said. "But the celebration could also be short-lived. Week 2 brings a trip to Pittsburgh. Then a visit from a Dolphins team that went 10-6 last year. Then a division game against an improved Chargers team. Then another 2020 playoff team in the Bears. The Raiders may just be for real. But they're going to have to show it over the next several weeks. More than once."

22. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Last Week: 27

    Week 1 Result: Won at Atlanta 32-6

    There were quite a few questions facing the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021. The biggest wasn't hard to pinpoint: Could Jalen Hurts improve as a passer in his second season and take full control of the offense?

    It's just one game against a bad team, but early returns are encouraging. Hurts chewed up the Falcons both on the ground and through the air to the tune of 326 total yards and three touchdowns. After completing just 52.0 percent of his throws as a rookie, Hurts was good on 77.1 percent of his throws against the Falcons.

    Philly's defense stepped up big as well. The Falcons managed just 260 yards of offense, converted just three of 14 third downs and were held out of the end zone.

    "The Eagles appear to have something going with Hurts behind center," Sobleski said. "Philadelphia throttled Atlanta on Sunday. In addition to throwing for 264 yards, the quarterback added 62 yards on the ground. In fact, the 2020 second-round pick is one of only nine players in NFL history with three or more games of 250 passing yards and 60 rushing yards, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Reuben Frank."

21. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)

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    Emilee Chinn/Associated Press

    Last Week: 25

    Week 1 Result: Won vs. Minnesota 27-24 (OT)

    If the Cincinnati Bengals entered the 2021 season with optimism, it was of the guarded variety. How would quarterback Joe Burrow look in his return from an ACL tear? Could the revamped offensive line give Burrow more protection? Could Cincy's defense get stops when it needed to?

    So far, so good.

    Burrow was sharp in his first game action of 2021, completing 20 of 27 passes for 261 yards and two scores. Running back Joe Mixon had a day, putting up 127 yards and a score on the ground. Rookie Ja'Marr Chase caught five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in his professional debut.

    However, it wasn't all sunshine and puppies. Burrow was sacked five times and hit seven times. The Bengals allowed over 400 yards of offense and blew a double-digit lead in the second half.

    In other words, there is plenty to tighten up ahead of a two-game road trip to Chicago and Pittsburgh. But Gagnon feels the team is headed in the right direction.

    "The Bengals are going to do some damage and at least play spoiler on a few occasions this season," he said. "That offense really is loaded, and the defense has more talent than it is given credit for. They've now won, tied or been within a single score in eight of the 10 games Joe Burrow has started and finished."

20. Washington Football Team (0-1)

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    Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

    Last Week: 12

    Week 1 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Chargers 20-16

    The Washington Football Team may have lost a lot more than just the season opener Sunday.

    Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick left the game with a hip injury, and per NFL.com, he is expected to miss multiple weeks. The injury thrust Taylor Heinicke into the starting lineup, and tight end Logan Thomas indicated the team is confident the young signal-caller can lead the team when called upon.

    "It sucks, man," Thomas said, via ESPN's John Keim. "Leader of our team and obviously he's going to be missed. Business as usual. We've been in this situation before. Taylor's a baller. Last year Taylor showed what he can do. We just have to move forward with whatever happens."

    Heinicke has flashed at times. He started the Wild Card Round loss to Tampa in the 2020 playoffs. He also adds a dimension of mobility that Fitzpatrick doesn't have.

    But there's a reason Fitzpatrick won the starting job over Heinicke, and a prolonged absence from the bearded veteran would be a blow to Washington's chances of repeating in the NFC East.

19. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Last Week: 19

    Week 1 Result: Lost vs. Seattle 28-16

    Week 1 was a big-time test for Carson Wentz and the new-look Colts. Beat Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in Indianapolis, and it would go a long way toward validating Indy as a legitimate contender in the AFC.

    Lose, and the doubters would continue to question whether these Colts are an actual threat to the Bills and Chiefs.

    The latter happened. Seattle controlled the game throughout, Wentz was OK but not great, and the Colts fell by 12.

    Per the Seahawks website, Colts head coach Frank Reich didn't mince words when summing up the loss.

    "We knew coming in," Reich said, "what kind of team this was and here's what we said in the locker room was, 'When you play a good football team, the margin of error is thin.' The margin of error is thin. We just made a few too many mistakes to beat a good football team."

    Unfortunately for Reich and his team, things don't get any easier next week. Indy's schedule to open the season is an absolute meat grinder—the next four games are home against the Rams, at Tennessee, at Miami and at Baltimore.

    The Colts' playoff dreams could be toast before Halloween.

18. Denver Broncos (1-0)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Last Week: 21

    Week 1 Result: Won at New York Giants 27-13

    On some level, it's difficult to read too much into Denver's Week 1 win over the New York Giants. The Giants appear to be every bit as bad as last year—maybe worse.

    Still, the Broncos have plenty to be pleased about after Sunday.

    Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sharp in his Denver debut, completing 28 of 36 passes for 264 yards and two scores with a passer rating of 115.7. The Broncos piled up 165 yards on the ground, including a 101-yard game from veteran Melvin Gordon III.

    Defensively, the return of edge-rusher Von Miller was a smash; he notched three tackles for loss and sacked Daniel Jones twice.

    Unfortunately though, it wasn't all good news. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who paced Denver in catches and receiving yards Sunday, is looking at an extended absence after being carted from the field with a high-ankle sprain in the third quarter.

    If there's a bright side, the Broncos might not need Jeudy for a bit. The team's next two games are against two of the league's worst teams in the Jaguars and Jets.

17. Tennessee Titans (0-1)

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Last Week: 9

    Week 1 Result: Lost vs. Arizona 38-13

    It's important for NFL teams not to overreact to one bad game, especially early in the season.

    Still, you can't fault the Tennessee Titans if they are just a little freaked out after getting their heads handed to them by the Arizona Cardinals.

    There wasn't much of anything that went well for the Titans in this game. Offensively, running back Derrick Henry failed to amass even 60 yards on the ground after topping 2,000 a year ago. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a pedestrian game, passing for just 212 yards and a touchdown.

    Defensively, the Titans were absolutely shredded by Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. Murray threw for 289 yards and four scores and ran for another. The Cardinals piled up 416 yards of total offense and converted over half of their third-down attempts.

    It was a miserable performance, but one the Titans need to forget in a hurry. The team's next two games are against teams that made the postseason last year, the Seahawks and the division rival Colts.

16. Dallas Cowboys (0-1)

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Last Week: 17

    Week 1 Result: Lost at Tampa Bay 31-29

    There are no moral victories in sports. But after giving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all they could handle in the Thursday night opener, Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have to feel at least some optimism about the season to come.

    After the game, Prescott told reporters that he had a message for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

    "I told everybody we will see them again," Prescott said. "That is the confidence I have in this group. This is a playoff team that is going to make a big push this year. We need to get better and make a step from tonight. We have a good team. I am excited about this season."

    "Prescott's excitement is understandable," Davenport said. "That offense looks to be loaded, even with Michael Gallup out for a few weeks. But if the Cowboys are going to be a real challenger in the NFC, the defense has to do better than the 431 yards and 31 points it surrendered in Week 1."

15. New England Patriots (0-1)

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Last Week: 11

    Week 1 Result: Lost vs. Miami 17-16

    No NFL head coach is more open and honest than Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. After his team lost at home by a point to the rival Dolphins on Sunday, he detailed exactly what went wrong:

    "Obviously I've got to do a better job coaching the team so we can play better than we played yesterday. We just have to do a better job at everything. Too many penalties, too many balls out, not good enough on some of the little things, little fundamentals. They're not little, they're big ... fundamentals on overall execution. We just have to be better against a good, sound team like Miami."

    Well that clears that up.

    While the Patriots got off to a choppy start this season, Gagnon advises patience.

    "That was a weird, disappointing home loss, but weird, disappointing things often happen when the Patriots meet the division-rival Dolphins," he said. "It was rookie quarterback Mac Jones' career debut, and this team went through a lot of changes this offseason. Give it some time. The Pats will be a contender in 2021."

14. San Francisco 49ers (1-0)

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Last Week: 10

    Week 1 Result: Won at Detroit 41-33

    For most of Sunday's win, the San Francisco 49ers outclassed the Detroit Lions in every way imaginable.

    Jimmy Garoppolo was sharp throwing the ball, topping 300 passing yards. Rookie tailback Elijah Mitchell went for 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in his first NFL game. The defense also made a number of big plays, including a pick-six from linebacker Dre Greenlaw.

    However, Greenlaw injured his groin on that interception return. Mitchell was out there because veteran tailback Raheen Mostert injured his knee after two carries. And top cornerback Jason Verrett suffered a season-ending ACL-tear as well.

    Those holes on the roster didn't matter in Week 1. They may not against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, either. But beginning in Week 3, the Niners play four games in five weeks against teams that made the playoffs in 2020. The lone one that didn't (Arizona) demolished the Titans on Sunday.

    It's a daunting enough stretch at full strength. Short-handed, the Niners' season could go sideways quickly.

13. Green Bay Packers (0-1)

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Last Week: 3

    Week 1 Result: Lost at New Orleans 38-3

    What the holy hell happened to the Green Bay Packers in Week 1?

    Sure, the Packers endured a tumultuous offseason with Aaron Rodgers' reported unhappiness. But that was all supposed to be in the past. A Packers team that was 26-6 over the past two seasons was going to shake that off and get back down to business.

    Instead, they got flattened by the Saints.

    New Orleans dominated in every facet of the game. The Packers failed to gain even 230 total yards, and they turned the ball over three times. They also had no answer for Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (five touchdown passes) or running back Alvin Kamara (91 total yards and a touchdown).

    "It's only one game, but what a disheartening performance by the Packers," Sobleski said. "After months of drama between and the team's front office, all of the animus manifested on the field with one stinker of a performance. Rodgers threw a pair of interceptions, didn't look in rhythm and posted the league's worst competition percentage (53.6). Green Bay still may have Super Bowl potential, but the team needs to turn it around sooner rather than later."

12. Miami Dolphins (1-0)

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Last Week: 14

    Week 1 Result: Won at New England 17-16

    After barely missing the postseason in 2020, the Miami Dolphins needed to get off to a fast start. Especially since their Week 1 matchup was on the road against their most hated rival.

    The Dolphins didn't pile up the style points doing it, but they gutted out a one-point win over the New England Patriots that put them in the driver's seat in the AFC East.

    Second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa finished with a respectable 202 passing yards and a touchdown with another score on the ground. Miami's defense allowed almost 400 yards of offense, but it made plays when it needed to, forcing a pair of timely turnovers.

    "After the Dolphins gutted out a one-point win over a Pats team led by a rookie making his first career start, I'm not ready to elevate them into the upper echelon of the AFC," Davenport said. "But a win is a win, and the Dolphins appear to have discovered an identity under head coach Brian Flores. The days of opponents being happy to see the Dolphins on their schedule are over."

11. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0)

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    Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

    Last Week: 15

    Week 1 Result: Won at Washington 20-16

    The Los Angeles Chargers are looking build on Justin Herbert's Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign and turn stats into wins. To do so, they needed to start notching wins on the road over quality opponents.

    They did just that Sunday, coming back to down the reigning NFC East champions in Washington.

    With the Chargers' ground game struggling (and lead back Austin Ekeler nursing a hamstring injury), it fell to Herbert to carry the offense. He wound up finishing 31-of-47 for 331 yards and a touchdown.

    The Chargers defense played its part as well, holding a short-handed Washington team to 259 total yards and a single touchdown. But at least one of B/R's analysts remains skeptical of the Bolts as a legitimate playoff contender.

    "The Chargers could be good this season, but we'll know for sure soon enough," Davenport said. "Next week, the Bolts face Dak Prescott and the buzzsaw that is the Dallas offense. Over the next month, they host the Browns and travel to Kansas City. Show me a 3-2 team after five games, and I'm on board with the Chargers as a wild-card contender."

10. New Orleans Saints (1-0)

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Last Week: 18

    Week 1 Result: Won vs. Green Bay 38-3

    No playoff team from last year was facing more questions entering 2021 than the New Orleans Saints.

    The Saints are breaking in a new quarterback in Jameis Winston. Their top wide receiver (Michael Thomas) is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. Things didn't look good for a Week 1 showdown with a Green Bay Packers team that went 13-3 in each of the past two seasons.

    So of course, the Saints pounded the snot out of Green Bay.

    Winston completed 70 percent of his passes and threw for five touchdowns. Defensively, the Saints held the Packers to only 229 total yards and forced three turnovers.

    It was the most surprising outcome of Week 1, without question.

    "With all due respect to Drew Brees, he wasn't the same player at the end of his career, and it helped that he was surrounded by so much talent," Gagnon said. "We're realizing now that this team is talented enough to compete with or without Brees. Then again, we should have realized that when they went 8-1 without Brees in 2019 and 2020."

9. Baltimore Ravens (0-1)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Last Week: 7

    Week 1 Result: Lost 33-27 at Las Vegas (OT)

    It was a horrific offseason for the Baltimore Ravens. The team was ravaged by injuries, especially at the running back position and in the secondary.

    Those injuries appear to be taking a toll.

    Granted, the lack of players like running back J.K. Dobbins and cornerback Marcus Peters aren't solely the reason the Ravens were stunned 33-27 by the Ravens in overtime. For all the things he did right in the game, Lamar Jackson committed a pair of costly fumbles—including the one that set up the winning score.

    But the Ravens were eviscerated through the air by Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr to the tune of 435 yards. It's a stat that would appear to indicate that Peters was sorely missed.

    The Ravens ran for 189 yards, but 86 of those were from Jackson. Newcomer Latavius Murray plodded his way to a meager 2.8 yards per carry, and about half of Ty'Son Williams' 65 rushing yards came on one play.

    This did not look like the Ravens team we are accustomed to seeing.

    And now they have to get ready for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)

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    Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

    Last Week: 16

    Week 1 Result: Won at Buffalo 23-16

    There was plenty of doubt surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into this season, particularly regarding the health of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the offensive line. They quieted that with a road win over a Buffalo Bills team that won 13 games and made it to the AFC Championship Game last season. 

    Pittsburgh's offense had all kinds of trouble early, amassing fewer than 60 yards and zero points in the first half. The run game remains suspect, with only 75 yards on 21 carries. But the Steelers stayed the course.

    Their defense was as stout as always, giving up only 16 points to the AFC's highest-scoring offense in 2020. And Roethlisberger and the Steelers made plays when they had to in all three phases of the game.

    It wasn't a pretty win, but it gives the Steelers momentum heading into next week's home date with the Raiders.

    "A little respect needs to be put back on the Steelers' name," Sobleski said. "Questions about their offensive line and Roethlisberger are legit. But the defense is so good that they just need their offense not to make any major mistakes. On Sunday, the Bills' explosive offense struggled to find the end zone and move the ball with any consistency. It's an impressive feat considering how well Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs played last season."

7. Arizona Cardinals (1-0)

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Last Week: 13

    Week 1 Result: Won at Tennessee 38-13

    "I think a lot of us are sleeping on the Cardinals," Gagnon said in our final preseason power rankings. "They have the talent on both sides of the ball and I'm fired up about Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury coming off what is really their first full and proper offseason together. Watch for a big third-year jump for the 2019 No. 1 overall pick."

    Maybe he was right.

    Arizona didn't just beat the Tennessee Titans in Nashville on Sunday. They throttled a Titans team that made the playoffs each of the past two years.

    Murray was absolutely electrifying, throwing for four scores and running for another. Chandler Jones was a walking nightmare, racking up five sacks. And the Arizona defense held Titans running back Derrick Henry to only 58 yards on 17 carries.

    "One game does not a season make," Davenport said. "And the Cardinals still have the misfortune of playing in the NFL's toughest division. But there wasn't a more impressive win in Week 1 than their beatdown of the Titans.

    "Brad was right. We underestimated the Redbirds."

6. Los Angeles Rams (1-0)

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Last Week: 6

    Week 1 Result: Won vs. Chicago 34-14

    Matthew Stafford made his Los Angeles Rams debut on Sunday night, and to say it went well is an understatement. He threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns and posted a gaudy passer rating of 156.1.

    Stafford made quite an impression on his new teammates.

    "He did amazing," cornerback Jalen Ramsey told reporters after the game. "His command, his swag, like everything was great. That's like a debut that probably should go down in history just the way he played."

    Stafford's big game wasn't the only thing that impressed one of our analysts.

    "I was already the highest of our group on the Rams entering the season, slotting them inside the top five," Davenport said. "But even that may have been a little low. Stafford was lethally efficient throwing the ball, running back Darrell Henderson Jr. got going in the second half, and Aaron Donald and the defense played a solid game. After watching Green Bay implode in Jacksonville, the Rams are the new No. 2 team in the NFC on my board."

5. Buffalo Bills (0-1)

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    Last Week: 5

    Week 1 Result: Lost vs. Pittsburgh 23-16

    The Buffalo Bills surprisingly made running back Zack Moss a healthy scratch ahead of their Week 1 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    It wouldn't be their last surprise of the day.

    After controlling the first half of their season opener against the Steelers, the Bills fell asleep after halftime, managing only six points over the final 30 minutes. They were penalized eight times and converted only eight of their 18 third-down attempts.

    As Davenport pointed out, things aren't going to get any easier for the Bills.

    "One game is hardly cause for panic," Davenport said. "But the coma that the Bills offense slipped into in the second half is concerning, especially given their upcoming schedule. The Bills play at Miami in Week 2 and home against Washington in Week 3. Neither of those teams are exactly defensive pushovers, either. Miami was sixth in scoring defense in 2020, while Washington was fourth.

4. Cleveland Browns (0-1)

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Last Week: 4

    Week 1 Result: Lost at Kansas City 33-29

    For most of Sunday's matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, it appeared as though the Cleveland Browns might finally shake off their miserable fortunes in season openers. They've mustered only one win in Week 1 since they re-joined the league in 1999.

    The Browns led 22-10 at halftime and by nine in the fourth quarter, despite the absence of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. But then came the final quarter.

    A miscue on a punt handed the Chiefs the ball inside the red zone. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense got rolling. And Baker Mayfield threw a game-sealing interception.

    The game showed both what the 2021 Browns could be capable of and how much work remains to be done.

    Fortunately, Cleveland's schedule softens up quite a bit from here. Only one of the Browns' next six opponents made the postseason last year, and the one that did is a Chicago Bears team that went 8-8 during the regular season.

3. Seattle Seahawks (1-0)

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Last Week: 8

    Week 1 Result: Won at Indianapolis 28-16

    The Seattle Seahawks have long had a formula for victory, which they rolled out with relative ease in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts.

    Big game from quarterback Russell Wilson? Check. He threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.

    Gaudy stat lines from wideouts Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf? Check. The pair combined for eight receptions, 160 yards and three scores.

    Offensive balance from running back Chris Carson? Check. He carried the ball 16 times for 91 yards and added three catches for 26 yards.

    The Seattle defense did its part, too. Linebackers Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks combined for 24 total tackles, and the Seahawks held the Colts to 3.8 yards per carry and five third-down conversions on 13 attempts.

    The Seahawks got off to a rock-solid start, which they needed given their early schedule. Their next six opponents all made the postseason either last year or the year before.

    There are no easy outs upcoming.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Last Week: 2

    Week 1 Result: Won vs. Cleveland 33-29

    Chiefs gotta Chief.

    For most of Sunday's showdown with the Browns in Kansas City, the Chiefs found themselves playing catch-up. They had their hands full with Cleveland's offense and trailed by nine early in the fourth quarter.

    But Kansas City isn't big on losing. So quarterback Patrick Mahomes found Tyreek Hill on a 75-yard touchdown bomb, the Chiefs notched a pair of fourth-quarter turnovers, and they ultimately escaped with a four-point win.

    "The Chiefs continue to show why they're the AFC's best team," Sobleski said. "The Browns are good. Really good. Yet their margin of error was so small that a few mistakes cost them the game even though they played near-flawless football through the first half. As soon as a mistake is made, Mahomes and Co. are ready to strike, and they usually do. The Chiefs are only going to get better as their new offensive line continues to jell and Tyrann Mathieu returns to the lineup."

    Things don't get any easier for the AFC champs, however. On Sunday night, Mahomes and Co. travel east to face the Ravens in Baltimore.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Last Week: 1

    Week 1 Result: Won vs. Dallas 31-29

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is a vampire. That's the only logical explanation for how a 44-year-old quarterback can step onto an NFL field and play like he's 24.

    That's exactly what Brady did Thursday against the Cowboys, throwing for 379 yards and four scores. He spread the fun around, as wide receivers Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown and tight end Rob Gronkowski all had big days.

    It wasn't a perfect showing for the reigning Super Bowl champions. They turned the ball over four times and committed far too many penalties. If not for a few missed Cowboys kicks, the game could have turned out very differently.

    But the Buccaneers did what winners do and figured out a way to steal a victory. Now they get a tune-up of sorts against the Falcons before a big showdown in Los Angeles against the Rams.

    "The Buccaneers have offensive weapons galore," Davenport said. "One of the league's best defenses. And a quarterback who has won more Super Bowls than any other team has ever played in. Other than that, though, they are just OK."


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