Evaluating NFL teams off one game is both impossible and unfair. Still, we have to make it work. Common logic says it’s wise to stay away from knee-jerk reactions based on a single week, but there has to be something gleaned from Week 1. Thus, with some teams, we’re approaching their place in the NFL hierarchy with a good deal of caution. Others, we may be guilty of drawing faulty conclusions off of a very small sample size. These NFL Power Rankings feel like a good comprimise between the two, but expect a lot of changes to come.
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 1: We know they’re really good
1. New England Patriots (1-0)
Even considering our collective expectation of New England is sky-high, the blowout win over Pittsburgh was as impressive a Week 1 win as there was in the league. We won’t touch on the newest Antonio Brown allegations, but even without him, this might be one of the more talented skill position groups around Tom Brady in quite some time. And their defense looks slightly improved. It’s not too often a Super Bowl champion comes back the next season better on both sides of the ball.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
Kansas City put on an offensive show in Week 1, as they did for much of last season. But the Tyreek Hill injury is concerning. And we’ve seen performances out of Sammy Watkins reminiscent of Week 1’s nine-catch, 198 yards, and three-score highlight reel. But, in the past, those are usually followed up with some stinkers. Kansas City needs Watkins to keep it up, although expecting that every week would be unfair to anybody. We had the Chiefs in the top spot in the first NFL Power Rankings of the season but after seeing the on-field product of all teams, K.C. can’t be placed higher than the Patriots. Not yet, anyway.
3. Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
The Rams taking on the Saints in Week 2 provides as interesting a matchup in the early goings as the NFL can have. It’s early, and a loss by either side is by no means debilitating in regards to any sort of playoff berth. But, hypothetically, this game could have some ramifications down the line concerning home-field advantage in the playoffs if both teams live up to expectations. It’s way too early to call any game a “must-win” for anybody, but this is a huge game.
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 2: We think they’re really good
4. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
This may be giving the Eagles a bigger benefit of the doubt than they deserve. I mean, they only beat the lowly Redskins by five. But Philadelphia seems to have an ability to get wins by the skin of their teeth. They have to prove they really have the depth this year that’s been their calling card in recently. And a keeping Carson Wentz healthy will be huge as well. Until proven otherwise, Philadelphia is a title contender.
5. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)
Getting the Ezekiel Elliott situation sorted out was huge for Dallas. Running away from the in-division Giants in the first game was icing on the early-season cake. Dak Prescott may not be the game-changer the way a younger Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers was in the past, but the Cowboys have some firepower around him and their defense is really good. Just being efficient and avoiding turnovers is enough to make Dallas a Super Bowl contender.
6. Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
Are the Ravens win-by-49 good, or are the Dolphins lose-by-49 bad? We thought Miami was one of the two worst teams going into Week 1 but now it looks like they’re by far the worst. However, that doesn’t mean it takes much of anything away from Baltimore’s win. If Lamar Jackson has improved as a passer by anywhere close to what he showed in Week 1, the AFC North is there for the taking. Judging only one game’s worth of performances – which is a poor standard, but the only one we have – few teams look as primed to win a division as Baltimore does.
7. New Orleans Saints (1-0)
New Orleans was the only NFC South team that won their first game, which is a bit of a surprise. The Saints beat the Texans but – especially with New Orleans and Houston – more context is needed to determine where each side’s floor and ceiling is this season. It wouldn’t be surprising if New Orleans represented the NFC in the Super Bowl; it wouldn’t be shocking if they went 7-9, either.
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 3: Are they good?
8. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0)
The Chargers caught the Colts at exactly the right time. Sure, they got the win – and to a certain extent, that’s all that matters – but they didn’t look especially good in the victory. They can manage the loss of holdout Melvin Gordon just fine and still be really good offensively. But they have some injuries besides that that are a bit concerning and there are questions surrounding the defense. L.A.’s season still looks like it could be a toss-up.
9. Green Bay Packers (1-0)
Except for one drive (you could really even say except for two plays), the Packers’ offense looked downright bad. The downside of not playing your starters very much – or at all – during the preseason is that it takes an extra game or two to get up to speed during the regular season. The defense was playing at another speed than in the recent past but at this stage, most defenses are ahead of offenses because the defense is less timing-orientated. There’s still a lot evaluate here, but getting an early leg-up on the NFC North doesn’t hurt. Plus, they can take another step in that direction with a game against the Vikings this week.
10. Buffalo Bills (1-0)
Is this too high a ranking for the Bills? Probably. We’re very much aware of that. But with the way the AFC projects at this stage, it looks like there could be at least one wild-card spot that’s up for grabs. Stacking early-season victories could be the answer to winning one of those spots in the postseason. Though the Bills’ roster doesn’t jump off the page, they do offer some unique matchup problems for a lot of the league because they play so differently than most. And that all starts with the athleticism at quarterback with Josh Allen and a solid defense.
11. Minnesota Vikings (1-0)
It wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise that Minnesota beat Atlanta to open the season. The manner in which they did was though. We’re not sure what to make of that game. The Falcons could be a lot worse than anticipated, the Vikings could be markedly better, or the game could have been an early-season fluke. For now, we’ll place Minnesota just outside the top-ten and eagerly see what Week 2 brings for this squad when they play division rival Green Bay on the road.
12. Houston Texans (0-1)
This team wins the distinction of being the highest-ranked 0-1 team. Against the Saints, Houston both had chances to win and deserved to lose, though both sides did plenty to give the game away. Nonetheless, playing what projects to be a really good Saints team that closely is a good sign for the Texans. But they still need to do a much better job protecting Deshaun Watson.
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 4: A lot to prove
13. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
It’s understandable if the Colts were still in a bit of shock in Week 1 after Andrew Luck retired unexpectedly. Indianapolis is going to have to figure a lot out offensively on the fly. But Jacoby Brissett does have a good amount of experience there. And the team appears to have a lot of confidence in their fourth-year signal-caller. A lot remains to be seen with this team. It would be faulty to judge Week 1 as anything other than something of an incomplete for this team, despite the loss.
14. Tennessee Titans (1-0)
Tennessee’s victory over Cleveland was the surprise of the opening week. But based solely off of that performance, the Titans might be a bit of fool’s gold. If they keep winning this season, they’ll have to win ugly.
15. Seattle Seahawks (1-0)
The Seahawks won in Week 1. But they did so against the Bengals … a really weak opponent. And Seattle only won by a single point. They’ll need to play quite a bit better to stay in the NFC playoff hunt. We still tend to think the Seahawks deserve to be considered a favorite to win one of the wild-card spots, but the first performance of 2019 is a bit concerning, even though they won.
16. San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
Week 2 brings San Francisco a golden opportunity to start 2-0, with a game against the Bengals on tap. Then things get tough with contests against the Steelers, Browns, and Rams (or at least it seems like things should get tougher). We’re still kind of skeptical of the 49ers, but they stand to benefit from a generally weak schedule.
17. Carolina Panthers (0-1)
Carolina played the Rams tough in Week 1, losing by three. That’s encouraging for the Panthers. But the fact that they’re relying on Cam Newton to play his way back into health – especially this early in the season – is simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. With a home game against Tampa Bay this week and a road game against Arizona after, it’s of paramount importance that Carolina wins the next two, at or least splits against fairly weak opponents.
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 5: There are bigger things at play beyond this season
18. Arizona Cardinals (0-0-1)
It took three quarters for Kyler Murray to get up to speed, but once he did, Arizona looked about as good as they have since they made their Super Bowl appearance in 2009. However, with games at Baltimore followed by home tilts against Carolina and Seattle over the next three weeks, the Cardinals will not only have to play better, but they will have to do so for all four quarters if they want to maintain any level of success this season. This might be as high as Arizona will be in this season’s NFL Power Rankings, but still, the future looks fairly bright for the Cardinals.
19. Chicago Bears (0-1)
It looks like Chicago has assumed Jacksonville’s role as the NFL team that would be a Super Bowl contender if just had better quarterback play. Still, it’s fair to question the Bears’ play-calling in Week 1. Having Mitchell Trubisky drop back to throw anywhere in the neighborhood of 50 times is not a recipe for success for this club.
20. Oakland Raiders (1-0)
A win is nice, but it came against what looks like a bad Broncos team. It’s nearly impossible to envision a scenario in which the Raiders stay in the thick of the playoff hunt, given the competition within the AFC West, much less the whole AFC. Don’t expect Oakland to keep up with their recent winning ways.
21. Detroit Lions (0-0-1)
It’s never really a good sign when a team holds a 24-6 lead in the fourth quarter in Week 1 over the team that most recently had the number-one pick in the draft and ends up in a tie. This is looking like (another) long season for Lions fans.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
Jameis Winston now exists in a zone where his numbers can be spun in a way to backup whatever you’re prior convictions were or are. Compared to historical numbers, he still can be projected as a start-to-be. Compared to other starting quarterbacks of today, not so much.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 30, 2019
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 6: Already losing hope
23. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)
Granted, the Steelers were playing against the Patriots. Still, that’s as bad as a Pittsburgh squad has looked in quite some time (and this is a team with a history of coming up with some stinkers once in a while despite being a very successful organization).
24. Cleveland Browns (0-1)
Cleveland gets slotted behind AFC North foe Pittsburgh – even though they both lost by 30 in Week 1 – because losing to the Titans is a lot more indefensible than getting beat by the Patriots. There were very high expectations for Cleveland heading into Week 1. But in the end, the new Browns were the same as the old Browns, at least against Tennessee. That’s why Cleveland takes a tumble down the NFL Power Rankings this week. Though we won’t rule out a rise in the next few weeks.
25. Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
The only points the Falcons scored in Week 1 were in garbage time … not a good look for a squad that’s so dependent on having a high-powered offense.
26. Denver Broncos (0-1)
Joe Flacco was once a very capable quarterback. I mean, the guy won a Super Bowl. However, he is no longer the answer to anybody’s quarterback issues. Plus, Denver is already a game behind every other team in the AFC West. Picturing a Broncos path to the playoffs gets harder by the day.
27. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)
The Bengals played their hearts out against the Seahawks in Week 1 but still came up short. Expect that to become a theme this season. Cincinnati doesn’t look like a team that can neither get out to a big lead easily nor maintain a lead of any kind. They’re not especially well-equipped to make up deficits, either. Not great signs when trying to build a winning football franchise. Expect this to be about as high as the Bengals get in the NFL Power Rankings. Even though their spot here is bolstered by how bad a significant number of teams looked the first week of the season.
28. New York Jets (0-1)
Things don’t look to be getting any better for the Jets in the near future now the Sam Darnold is expected to be out multiple weeks with mono. Get ready for all the Le’Veon Bell you can handle … except he’s dealing with injuries himself. This team gave up a 16-point lead at relatively full health. They will be a ton worse in Week 2 without Darnold. And even worse is Bell is limited or can’t go.
NFL Power Rankings, Tier 7: Just awful
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)
The Chiefs are capable of making any team look bad, as they did to the Jags. It’s crazy to think about where Jacksonville is now when so recently they were seen as a quarterback away from being a legit Super Bowl contender. Heck, they almost made it with Blake Bortles. Now the Jaguars have something called a “Gardner Minshew” under center.
Time for Gardner Minshew pic.twitter.com/GWWjpuQOdJ
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) September 8, 2019
30. New York Giants (0-1)
New York looked pretty good in Week 1 … for about five minutes. Then Dallas finished them like they were playing Mortal Kombat. Saquon Barkley could be the best running back in the NFL right now. But if the Giants can’t stop anybody than Barkley’s value will decrease as the game wears on and Big Blue falls further behind. Sure, Barkley has really good hands for a running back, but that’s not the best use of his abilities.
31. Washington Redskins (0-1)
We knew the ‘Skins offense wasn’t going to be very good. But it might be even worse than that. We thought the defense might actually be pretty good. But it might be worse than that.
32. Miami Dolphins (0-1)