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NFL Power Rankings — Week 1: Don’t look now, but the Browns aren’t last on the list

September 11, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Things are looking up for Tyrod Taylor, Carlos Hyde and the Browns. (Ron Schwane/Associated Press/)

Each week, national NFL writer Mark Maske ranks the league’s 32 teams. This week, the defending champion Eagles remain the top dogs from the preseason rankings thanks to a dramatic opening night win over the Falcons, the Patriots stay hot on their heels on the strength of Sunday’s victory over the Texans in Foxborough, Mass, and the Cleveland Browns celebrate their first non-loss since 2016 by climbing the power rankings ladder all the way into the 20s.

1. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 1

From “Philly Special” in the Super Bowl to “Philly Philly” in Thursday’s season opener, Coach Doug Pederson continues to push the right buttons. The defending champs did what it took to beat the Falcons, and the Eagles could have QB Carson Wentz back in the lineup in a few weeks.

Related: [‘Philly Philly’ play shows the Eagles are up to their old tricks]

2. New England Patriots (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 2

So far, the 41-year-old version of Tom Brady looks a lot like the 40-year-old version, which means he remains an MVP-caliber QB. He did throw an interception in the 27-20 victory over the Texans, if you want to nitpick. But for the most part, it was a solid opening performance for Brady and the Patriots.

3. Los Angeles Rams (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 3

It took the Rams a while to get moving on offense Monday night in Oakland. That’s understandable, given the lack of preseason preparation that came with Coach Sean McVay’s injury-avoidance approach. They still managed to get into the win column, and their offense figures to get better now that the rust is being knocked off.

4. Minnesota Vikings (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 4

It’s so far, so good for QB Kirk Cousins with his new team. Cousins was sharp and efficient in his Vikings debut, a 24-16 win over the 49ers. Things get much more serious with this coming weekend’s early divisional showdown with the Packers at Lambeau Field.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 5

QB Blake Bortles wasn’t great against the Giants, but he did a few things here and there. The defense, as usual, did the heavy lifting. The hamstring injury to RB Leonard Fournette is a concern because the Jaguars need him to be effective to play the way they play.

6. Green Bay Packers (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 8

How great was QB Aaron Rodgers? Absurdly great. His second-half return and the fourth-quarter comeback he led to beat the Bears made for the opening weekend’s best drama. But his knee injury is a concern. He vowed Sunday night to play this weekend against the Vikings. Coach Mike McCarthy must decide whether that’s wise, with almost an entire season still to play and Rodgers as indispensable as any player in the league.

Related: [Aaron Rodgers showed again Sunday night just how ridiculously good he is]

7. Carolina Panthers (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 11

The Panthers beat the Cowboys with a strong defensive performance while doing just enough on offense to win. They ran the ball reasonably well. But it’s debatable whether progress was evident in the passing game, as was expected with the arrival of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. The foot injury suffered by TE Greg Olsen doesn’t bode well.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 13

The opening win in Indianapolis amounted to taking care of business properly against a bad opponent. Now comes a quick turnaround for a Thursday night meeting with the Ravens that could be quite a bit more telling about how good the Bengals will be.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 14

Patrick Mahomes was terrific taking over for the departed Alex Smith at QB. Tyreek Hill was at his dynamic best as a receiver and a returner. And the Chiefs sent a message to the Chargers and everyone else that they remain the team to beat in the AFC West.

10. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 15

Are the Ravens that good or are the Bills that bad? It’s probably a little bit of each. But that was a promising start to a season in which Coach John Harbaugh and QB Joe Flacco are under greater scrutiny than ever before.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 7

The absence of RB Le’Veon Bell became even more intriguing with the tie in Cleveland and the strong performance by James Conner running in place of Bell. The Steelers can say, with some justification, that the presence of Conner means they’re not desperate for Bell to end his contract stare-down. But the bottom-line result against the Browns also underscores the fact that the Steelers do need Bell, in part to keep QB Ben Roethlisberger from feeling the need to force passes down the field.

Related: [These aren’t the same old Browns. And the Steelers need Le’Veon Bell back on the field.]

12. Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 9

The loss at home to the Chiefs was a disappointing beginning for a team picked by many to win the AFC West. The Chargers must regroup quickly and make sure they don’t repeat last season’s 0-4 start.

13. Atlanta Falcons (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 12

These near miss losses in Philadelphia must be getting irksome, with one to end last season and another to begin this season. This defeat won’t make or break the Falcons’ season. But they must show they can win such tight games against good teams.

14. Washington Redskins (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 21

The Redskins debuts of QB Alex Smith and RB Adrian Peterson went well in the triumph at Arizona. The issue with Peterson won’t be whether he can have a big game here and there. The issue will be whether he can remain consistently productive. Next up for the Redskins are home games against the Colts and Packers before an early bye week.

Related: [The Redskins just proved they can play a tough, physical game. Now the key is repetition.]

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 25

Is Jameis Winston going to be Fitzpatrick-ed? Ryan Fitzpatrick was terrific in the surprising 48-40 victory over the Saints, and it looks uncertain at this point that Winston will regain his starting job at QB when he returns from his three-game suspension.

16. Miami Dolphins (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 26

Perhaps the Dolphins should play more seven-hour games. They thrive in them, apparently.

17. Denver Broncos (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 28

The defense was good against the Seahawks, sacking Russell Wilson six times and intercepting him twice. New Broncos QB Case Keenum was good enough, throwing three interceptions but contributing three TD passes. He must cut down on the mistakes but he’s capable of doing his part.

18. New Orleans Saints (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 6

The Saints began 0-2 last season before regrouping to be one of the NFC’s best teams. They’re fully capable of pulling things together quickly again this season. But they need to recapture last season’s balanced approach by using the running game on offense and tightening up on defense, after reverting to their pass-happy days and relying so heavily on QB Drew Brees in the loss Sunday to the Buccaneers.

19. New York Jets (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 29

Rookie QB Sam Darnold rebounded from throwing an interception for a TD on his first NFL snap to play very well Monday night in Detroit. The Jets used a 31-point third quarter to embarrass the Lions. No one should get carried away after one game. But Darnold’s debut could not have gone much better.

Related: [Sam Darnold’s first NFL play was terrible. Then he turned on the Jets.]

20. New York Giants (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 16

Rookie RB Saquon Barkley and WR Odell Beckham Jr. were productive against the Jaguars. The defense was pretty good. The offensive line and QB Eli Manning must be better. The Giants need to pull things together quickly. A bad start, following a 3-13 season, would have the feel of a significant crisis.

21. Chicago Bears (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 17

Khalil Mack was as dominant as a defender can be, at least for a half, in his Bears debut. And the Bears certainly resembled a team with possibilities for most of the night Sunday at Lambeau Field. But the mistakes made down the stretch, including the dropped interception by CB Kyle Fuller that could have sealed the outcome, were glaring. Those things can’t happen if Chicago is going to take a big step forward and become a contender.

22. Dallas Cowboys (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 19

The offense simply wasn’t good enough in the defeat at Carolina. The Cowboys didn’t get the running game going with Ezekiel Elliott and much was left to QB Dak Prescott, who wasn’t protected well and suffered from a lack of playmakers among his receivers. There’s no time to sulk. The Cowboys must figure something out before hosting the Giants this Sunday night. The loser of that NFC East matchup will be 0-2 and facing big early-season questions.

Related: [The NFL teams that have serious reasons to worry, versus the ones that don’t]

23. Cleveland Browns (0-0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 32

Not the same, old Browns? Not quite, at least. They didn’t win. But they didn’t lose, either, and that’s saying something on the heels of an 0-16 season. The tie against the Steelers showed that the Browns indeed will be far more competitive this season. They need to take the next step and actually get a victory or two.

24. San Francisco 49ers (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 20

Last season’s late magic didn’t carry over for QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners. Garoppolo threw three interceptions Sunday at Minnesota and lost for the first time as San Francisco’s starter after going 5-0 down the stretch last season. The expectations have gone up and the Niners didn’t deliver.

25. Tennessee Titans (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 10

Losing to the Dolphins was bad enough. The injuries to QB Marcus Mariota, left tackle Taylor Lewan and TE Delanie Walker made it far worse. It appears that Mariota’s elbow injury isn’t serious. Lewan is in the concussion protocol and Walker is done for the season after suffering a broken ankle and ligament damage.

Related: [From Brady and Rodgers to Watson and Mahomes, NFL is entering a golden age of QB play]

26. Houston Texans (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 22

Second-year QB Deshaun Watson did not quite pick up right where he left off as a rookie, struggling in the opener. But he and the Texans stayed in the game. There was no reason to believe they’d be able to win at New England anyway, so there was nothing alarming about it.

27. Seattle Seahawks (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 27

The Seahawks must find a way to protect QB Russell Wilson better. He was sacked six times in the loss to the Broncos. The overhauled defense no longer has the star power to lead the way.

28. Oakland Raiders (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 30

The Raiders, in Jon Gruden’s highly anticipated return to the sideline, were competitive in the first half against the Rams in the second game of Monday night’s doubleheader. They simply were facing a better team, and the Rams did what was necessary to win. The Raiders didn’t have much of a pass rush. What in the world could they have done about that?

Related: [The Raiders lost Jon Gruden’s first game back. And man, could they have used Khalil Mack.]

29. Detroit Lions (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 18

Remember, the Lions fired Jim Caldwell following a 9-7 season before bringing in Matt Patricia to be their coach. Things could not have gone much worse in Patricia’s head coaching debut Monday night, with the Lions getting overwhelmed by the Jets.

30. Arizona Cardinals (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 24

The performance against the Redskins was bad all around. There already is room to wonder how long the Cardinals should stick with Sam Bradford before a youth movement with Josh Rosen taking over at QB will be in order.

31. Indianapolis Colts (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 31

QB Andrew Luck played well in his return. The problem is that the team around him simply is not very good.

32. Buffalo Bills (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 23

If not throwing five interceptions in the first half constitutes improvement, well, then QB Nathan Peterman is improving. This season already is looking like a lost cause, and the franchise’s handling of its QB situation remains baffling. It will be time to turn to rookie Josh Allen at some point. But there’s no guarantee that he’s ready to be the answer.

Read more on the NFL:

Bills QB Nathan Peterman has put himself in some truly terrible historical territory

Michael Strahan says he likely would kneel during anthem if he were still playing

Six big takeaways from a thrilling opening Sunday in the NFL


Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post. He has covered the NFL and the Washington Redskins since 1998. He previously covered baseball, the Baltimore Orioles, the effort to bring a major league team to Washington, and colleges.

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