Well OK. Now that the inevitable overreaction to season openers has course-corrected to a degree, there's predictably lots of movement this week for these NFL power rankings. I know the last part of the headline will bring to mind the crown/throne/regal title Mintzy and Brandon Walker are in heated competition for, but I'm of course referring to the Jacksonville Jaguars as the leaders of the AFC South.
Unfortunately, the Jags may not stay there for long. And I say unfortunately because — I'll speak for anyone and everyone with a passing interest in quality football — we all want to see Trevor Lawrence as the playoff quarterback out of that shitty division over the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Davis Mills and Matt Ryan.
More on Jacksonville later. On to the rest…
32. Carolina Panthers (Last Week: 21)
My support for the Panthers as a playoff contender is paper-thin now. I hyped up Carolina before the season. In retrospect, I shouldn't be surprised that Ben McAdoo's scheme is predictable and lacks innovation. I genuinely bought into what Baker Mayfield and Christian McCaffrey were selling about the system. Believed McAdoo's time away from play-calling would bring with it fresh ideas that could keep opponents off-balance. Nope. Carolina blew two winnable games. Matt Rhule getting fired seems more inevitable by the day.
31. Chicago Bears (Last Week: 22)
I can't dismiss the rainy triumph over the 49ers entirely, nor can I say all the obvious concerns heading into 2022 weren't exposed when the Bears lost to the Packers. Their receiving corps is bad. Defense is solid, not spectacular enough to consistently overcome an anemic offense. Help is on the way in 2023. Another hard season in the Windy City looms till then.
30. Houston Texans (Last Week: 25)
Davis Mills has been a much better quarterback at home in his young NFL career. Another ugly outing in Sunday's 16-9 loss at Denver, combined with Derek Stingley Jr.'s steep learning curve and still knocking off some rust from not playing much the past two years, has me selling any buy-low Texans stock I had to begin with.
29. Atlanta Falcons (Last Week: 23)
Don't know what to make of them. What I do know is they can't get the ball to Kyle Pitts, have Marcus Mariota at QB, and have a coach I've never liked personality-wise in Arthur Smith. Man is a chilly-ass, testy customer with the media. The Anti-Mike McDaniel. The Falcons have blown a 16-point lead and dug themselves a (GULP) 28-3 hole that they almost-but-couldn't climb out of. More baffled than impressed about all that.
28. Cleveland Browns (Last Week: 24)
What. A. Choke job. Browns gonna Brown. Letting up a 13-point lead with less than two minutes left to the Jets? Ooft. Bad look. I used to think it was poor form by many in the NFL community to kick the Browns when they were always down. Now it's poor form not to do so.
27. Indianapolis Colts (Last Week: 16)
Matt Ryan is an OLD 37. I went to a Twitter space before Week 1 and said something like, "Every year, people crown Chris Ballard as Executive of the Year and the Colts as a playoff team, and then they do absolutely nothing." I'm beyond sick of hearing about how great of a GM Ballard is. What the fuck is this receiving corps outside of Michael Pittman Jr? And Matty Ice was the best you could do for yet another stopgap QB option? That's how you get shut out 24-0 by Jacksonville and TUMBLE in the league-wide hierarchy.
26. Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: 27)
I had the Seahawks several spots lower until I realized that Geno Smith is completing 81% of his passes. You read that correctly. I don't know what it means. Is the simulation collapsing? Feels like there's a decent chance Seattle is 2-1 this time next week as they gear up to host the Falcons.
25. New York Jets (Last Week: 28)
The Jets' Joe Flacco-led offense looked better than I expected it to, especially amid their rally to stun the Browns. That New York's defense struggled so mightily to contain Jacoby Brissett is what gives me real pause. I think Jets fans will be painfully reminded in short order that this team is still at least a year away from really challenging for a playoff spot, unless Zach Wilson returns from injury in October and plays lights-out. I'm not here to rain on a fan's parade. I'm simply not bullish on this group.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: 29)
No way you hand the keys to Kenny Pickett just yet on a short week. If the Steelers lose to the Browns Thursday evening, I'd be stunned if Pittsburgh keeps Pickett on the pine in favor of Mitch Trubisky. Still sucks that T.J. Watt got hurt. His absence may be what decides the upcoming divisional duel in Cleveland.
23. Denver Broncos (Last Week: 12)
Russell Wilson is not the same guy when he can't run around. Nathaniel Hackett is two games in and may have already clinched his status as the worst new coaching hire. Playing the AFC West doesn't help Denver's cause. The 49ers come to the Mile High City on Sunday night. Could be the start of a Broncos nosedive over the next month.
22. New England Patriots (Last Week: 20)
Such bad pass-catching talent. What's there to get excited about in New England? How solid Cole Strange looks at left guard? Um, cool man. The Pats better figure out some solutions to generate more explosive plays on offense soon, because the back half of their schedule is BRUTAL.
21. Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: 30)
Cooper Rush tried to throw the ball to the Bengals about four times on Sunday. Still, give him credit for orchestrating the winning field goal drive and holding his own as a starter for the injured Dak Prescott. If Rush keeps being an effective game manager and Micah Parsons keeps up his terrorizing form to lead the defense, the 'Boys may not be completely bereft of hope yet.
20. New Orleans Saints (Last Week: 18)
Jameis Winston playing through four back fractures tells you all you need to know about what New Orleans' staff thinks about anyone behind the error-prone former No. 1 overall pick at the most important position in sports. The Saints should be 0-2, even with their solid group of three receivers and strong collection of defensive talent. They may be firmly in the Jimmy G market next offseason.
19. Tennessee Titans (Last Week: 15)
They basically beat the Giants if not for a gutsy two-point conversion and a stupid missed kick. Getting blown out 41-7 by Buffalo is one of those where you bury the tape and move forward, because the Bills are just that good. Even if Tennessee falls to 0-3 against the Raiders, I believe in the coaching staff enough to say the Titans could still scrounge out a 9-8 record. That is, if Ryan Tannehill doesn't keep imploding to the point where Malik Willis is thrown into the fire.
18. Washington Commanders (Last Week: 17)
I love the Commanders' weapons. Don't love Carson Wentz as the triggerman to distribute the ball to said weapons. Nor do I buy Washington's defense sans Chase Young. I imagine this Commanders season being a direct reflection of their field general. They'll rise and fall by Wentz's explosive plays and boneheaded decisions.
17. Arizona Cardinals (Last Week: 19)
The comeback Kyler Murray orchestrated felt even more improbable than the one the Dolphins pulled off at Baltimore. Murray plays backyard football and is still one of the worst post-snap QBs in the NFL from a processing standpoint. His knack for extending the play and making pure throws from any platform helps to mask the glaring flaws and nuances that will continue to be missing from his arsenal until he takes shit more seriously. Hey Kyler!! Maybe stop brashly proclaiming how "EASY" everything is before you've won anything of consequence. You have a franchise counting on you. Put down the sticks, and get your ass in the film room.
16. New York Giants (Last Week: 26)
They're 2-0 so they're here. Saquon Barkley, as yours truly predicted, is tearing it up. Let's be honest, however: A missed kick in Tennessee is why the G-Men won their opener, and Carolina's general ineptitude/Daniel Jones putting the ball in harm's way shouldn't have Giants fans ecstatic about Week 2, either. I get it. Bask in any victory you can get. Some really hard years have happened. Doesn't detract from the fact that I think the Giants' 2-0 start is a mirage. I see them beating Dallas at home this Monday, followed by a steep drop-off.
15. Detroit Lions (Last Week: 32)
I'M SO HAPPY to have been wrong in wildly overreacting about Detroit. When Jared Goff sucked in Week 1 it had a real "He is who we thought he was!" vibe to it, to paraphrase the late, great Dennis Green. Then Goff goes out and drops four TD passes on the Commanders — albeit with a 58.8% completion rate. Rookies Aidan Hutchinson (three sacks) and Malcolm Rodriguez (tied for a team-high eight tackles) put on a show versus Washington. There's a world in which the Lions contend for a playoff spot in the wide-ass-open NFC. Although I'm not jazzed about Goff, Dan Campbell is building a physical, gritty identity that's helping Detroit play football. My Hard Knocks Goggles are still in full effect.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week: 31)
The new AFC South kings!! For now. The 24-0 shutout of the forever-overrated Colts was glorious. We'll find out a lot more about the Jags in the next two weeks when they hit the road to face the Chargers and Eagles respectively. Also, remember the outrage over Christian Kirk's free-agent contract? Through two games, he's Trevor Lawrence's go-to guy, racking up 12 catches, 195 yards and two scores. Shout out to Jacksonville for helping me cash on the alt spread, too.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (Last Week: 6)
I fully believe the Bengals will avenge their 2021 loss to the Jets in Week 3. The defending AFC champs got a great break when the rest of their division lost this past Sunday. Cincinnati's two defeats were on a field goal. Joe Burrow is too smart and too good at playing quarterback not to make the proper adjustments. I expect Cincy to reach its Week 10 bye above .500. If not, it's panic time.
12. Minnesota Vikings (Last Week: 4)
Kirk Cousins in prime time is always a dubious proposition. We saw that Monday against the Eagles. Captain Kirk was a statue under siege with no answers. Minnesota's D looked more like I expected it to in Philly coming into the year. That said, tons of emotion went into that Week 1 romp over the Packers. Definite letdown to a quality adversary in a big spot. Won't be surprised if the Vikes best the ascending Lions in their next outing.
11. Las Vegas Raiders (Last Week: 10)
Kyler Murray just kinda ran around and the Raiders basically went to sleep in squandering a 20-0 halftime advantage. They're more dynamic on defense than a year ago. I think it's only a matter of time before this passing attack really comes together. You can't go too wrong with Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. Other than Cincinnati, Las Vegas is the 0-2 team I like most to bounce back.
10. Los Angeles Rams (Last Week: 7)
Not quite as down on the Rams as much for collectively faceplanting to kick off the season versus Buffalo. Letting the Falcons almost beat them was another red flag worthy of knocking LA down a few rungs. Still a playoff team in the NFC. As things stand, the Rams' ceiling looks to be one playoff win. Sean McVay falls asleep at the wheel when it comes to game management more often than a coach of his reputation should.
9. Baltimore Ravens (Last Week: 13)
Major concerns carry over from 2021 about this Ravens defensive backfield. They infused the unit with talent in the offseason and got Marcus Peters back. Hasn't really mattered so far, as they had two rookies playing significant snaps at corner and blew multiple coverages for big TDs against Miami. Positives: Lamar Jackson is playing like a man possessed, and Rashod Bateman looks like the legit GUY WR1 I expected him to be coming out of college. Bateman's rise in particular should have Ravens fans optimistic about how their offense may evolve in 2022.
8. San Francisco 49ers (Last Week: 14)
Trey Lance was such a wild card and it sucks that he's out for the season. We know the 49ers can win plenty of games with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. So many people want to cap his ceiling. Let's not forget he needed surgery on his throwing shoulder after leading the Niners to the NFC title game. Now, he's playing for his career as an NFL starter and for a new contract. If Jimmy G stays healthy, he may be on course to play the best football of his life with such a loaded team around him.
7. Green Bay Packers (Last Week: 11)
No one expected anything other than the Pack to cover a double-digit spread in that Bears "rivalry" clash. Aaron Rodgers has two excellent backs to lean on in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. I'm a little concerned about Green Bay's run defense but it's still early enough to remedy that situation. If it hadn't been an issue in years past, probably wouldn't be on my radar. I still wonder if Rodgers has enough receiving talent around him to carry this team to a Super Bowl.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (Last Week: 5)
The rib cartilage injury to Justin Herbert is a tricky one to gauge. Looked painful. Sounds painful. Herbert is tough as nails and a freaky athlete, and as a football purist, I hope it's not a nagging issue. The schedule is pretty soft until the Bolts' Week 8 bye, so if there was a time to be conservative with Herbert, it'd be now. Until we know more about the injury or until he's ruled out, I can't rank the Chargers much lower than this.
5. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: 8)
I'm very much liking my call of Mike McDaniel as Coach of the Year through two weeks. LOTTA GAME LEFT as they say. The thrilling upset of the Ravens, what else is there to say, except that it might not actually be an upset?
McDaniel is a badass, and when Tua Tagovailoa is given weapons and a genius coach, looks like good things happen. Miami is still figuring everything out in this new offense and that's a scary thought for anyone preparing to face the Fins — including Buffalo in Week 3.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Week: 2)
I'm stunned by the lack of respect the Bucs are getting. Tom Brady is clearly going through some shit. Their receiving corps is as banged up as any team in the league. They're still 2-0. Brady is still Brady. The defense has played outstanding to pick up the slack. Hasn't been pretty, but all Tampa Bay needs to do is win the awful NFC South and get healthy down the stretch. Once they're in the playoffs with at least one home game, anything can happen with TB12 under center.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: 9)
Minnesota is a better team than they showed on Monday. I was blown away by how good Eagles corner Darius Slay was against Justin Jefferson. I know Slay is among the best at his position. One of the better individual performances I can recall from a DB. Jalen Hurts completed 26 of 31 passes. It's the first time since high school (I would assume) that he's been in the same offense for more than a year at a time. Looks like that fact, along with the addition of A.J. Brown, are already paying huge dividends for Philly.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 3)
No Tyreek Hill, apparently no problem for Kansas City. Patrick Mahomes could've been intercepted like four times last Thursday but oh well, still got a huge win over the Chargers in the AFC West. Based on precedent and the Chiefs playing in the last four AFC title tilts, they're here almost by default.
1. Buffalo Bills (Last Week: 1)
I cannot wait to see what the Bills look like against the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday. Hey NFL, any chance you could flex that to prime time instead of San Fran at Denver? Woof. Anyway, Josh Allen is barely human, Buffalo's d-line is the deepest I'm aware of, and the main pre-Week 1 concerns I had — new OC, suspect corners — have been zero issue thus far. Can't remember a team who's looked as good as the Bills through two weeks in quite a while.