Each week, national NFL writer Mark Maske ranks the league’s 32 teams. This week, the Rams jump two spots to lead the pack, the Jaguars leap three and the Chiefs move up six. It wasn’t so pretty for the Redskins or Ravens, whose emergence as possible playoff contenders was followed by dud performances in Week 2.
1. Los Angeles Rams (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 3
The Rams overwhelmed the Cardinals and take over the No. 1 spot. It would have been understandable if the Rams had started somewhat sluggishly while Coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips worked to blend all the newcomers with the holdovers from the team that reached last season’s NFC playoffs. Instead, the Rams look very good right away, although the competition thus far has been lacking.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 5
The Jaguars clearly were the better team Sunday against the Patriots, signaling that they are here to stay as a top AFC contender following last season’s playoff run. When QB Blake Bortles plays like he did Sunday, the Jaguars are next to impossible to beat. But can he play consistently well?
3. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 9
It was reasonable to assume that second-year QB Patrick Mahomes, with Coach Andy Reid’s guidance, would develop into a reliable NFL starter and justify the decision to part with Alex Smith. But 10 TD passes and no interceptions in two games? That’s an all-time-great beginning, and now Mahomes must deal with expectations that are surpassing realistic levels.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 8
The Bengals’ start is oh-so-promising, and they’ve made an early-season case that they’re the team to beat in the AFC North. But now they must get by without RB Joe Mixon, who’s sidelined for an estimated two weeks after knee surgery.
5. Minnesota Vikings (1-0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 4
Shouldn’t the Vikings, as the division’s would-be top team, have been able to go to Green Bay and win in relatively decisive fashion with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hampered by his knee injury? It didn’t happen, even with QB Kirk Cousins putting up big numbers. That shouldn’t be completely dismissed, although the kicking woes that contributed to the tie could be solved by the addition of Dan Bailey.
6. Green Bay Packers (1-0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 6
Aaron Rodgers wasn’t himself against the Vikings, thanks to the knee injury. But he still was quite good. The controversial roughing-the-passer call against LB Clay Matthews might have cost the Packers the win. But they still had their chances, including the field goal that Mason Crosby missed at the end of regulation.
7. New England Patriots (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 2
The trade for Josh Gordon continues the Patriots’ desperate search for help at WR. The loss in Jacksonville was fairly predictable. Get ready for the end-is-near talk about the New England dynasty. Meanwhile, just know the likelihood remains that Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady will have the Patriots right back among the league’s final teams left standing at season’s end, no matter how things look in September.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 1
Carson Wentz returns to reclaim his starting job at QB with the defending champs coming off a perplexing loss in Tampa. The Eagles look to rebound with a home game Sunday against a Colts team that probably is not as good as it looked this past weekend at FedEx Field.
9. Denver Broncos (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 17
Case Keenum isn’t playing particularly well yet but the Broncos are 2-0. That’s fine for now. But eventually, they’ll need better play and fewer mistakes by their new QB.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 15
Of course Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for 819 yards and eight TDs in two games, has the Bucs off to a 2-0 start, could be turning Jameis Winston into a backup QB and is a star of the NFL fashion world. Did anyone expect anything different?
11. Miami Dolphins (2-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 16
Miami Dolphins, AFC East leaders. It’s an odd phrase, isn’t it?
12. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 12
Beating the Bills barely counts at this point. But the Chargers aren’t apologizing, as they ensure that there won’t be a repeat of last season’s 0-4 start.
13. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 13
Matt Ryan, running QB? Who knew? Ryan’s two rushing TDs, along with his two TD passes, spelled the difference against the Panthers, and the Falcons avoided a significant early deficit in the NFC South race.
14. New Orleans Saints (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 18
The victory over the Browns was positive in the sense that it got the Saints back into the win column. But they still did not resemble a team ready to build on last season’s success and go even further in the playoffs.
15. Chicago Bears (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 21
Khalil Mack was superb again Monday night as the Chicago defense sacked Russell Wilson six times and returned an interception for a touchdown. This is a team with possibilities, even with the second-half issues in the opener at Green Bay.
16. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 22
QB Dak Prescott gave an efficient performance Sunday night after his verbal back-and-forth during the week with Giants safety Landon Collins. It wasn’t a huge night for the offense. But it did enough to win, and the defense was very good.
17. Carolina Panthers (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 7
The refrain is all too familiar: Do the Panthers have enough on offense around QB Cam Newton that he doesn’t have to try to do it all, running with the football as well as throwing it? Especially without injured-again TE Greg Olsen, it’s a valid concern.
18. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 10
The performance Thursday night in Cincinnati was poor. Nothing is really lost yet for the Ravens. But they missed a chance to give an early-season signal that they’re capable of getting back to the playoffs.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 11
QB Ben Roethlisberger threw 60 passes in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. Maybe RB Le’Veon Bell shouldn’t be so worried about being overworked if he ends his contract stare-down with the Steelers.
20. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 24
The win over the Lions evened the Niners’ record and makes them 6-1 in QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s starts going back to last season.
21. Tennessee Titans (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 25
The Titans beat the Texans with Blaine Gabbert filling in for Marcus Mariota at QB and the offensive line in disarray. That’s commendable, though not a formula for sustainable success.
22. Indianapolis Colts (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 31
Andrew Luck didn’t play all that well against the Redskins but won for the first time as the Colts’ QB since the final game of the 2016 season. The patchwork offensive line held up. The running game was efficient. And the defense was superb. Aberration? Probably. But Luck and the Colts need to enjoy it while it lasts.
23. New York Jets (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 19
It won’t be great every time out for QB Sam Darnold in his rookie year. Everyone needs to understand that, and the two-interception performance in the loss to the Dolphins qualifies as part of the learning process. Now it’s a quick turnaround for Thursday night’s game in Cleveland.
24. Washington Redskins (1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 14
The Redskins did nothing against the Colts and squandered a great chance for a 2-0 start. The schedule toughens from here. The issue for RB Adrian Peterson at this stage of his career isn’t whether he can have a productive game here and there running the ball. It’s whether he can follow one big game with another and still be a consistent centerpiece runner.
25. Cleveland Browns (0-1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 23
The kicking misadventures and the near miss in New Orleans make you wonder: Just what will it take for the Browns to actually win a game?
26. New York Giants (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 20
The offense isn’t getting it done. The offensive line isn’t giving QB Eli Manning much of a chance, and he doesn’t appear capable at this point of justifying the confidence that the Giants showed in him by not using the No. 2 overall selection in the NFL draft on his eventual replacement.
27. Houston Texans (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 26
Deshaun Watson played better but the Texans still couldn’t win. It’s a discouraging start but they have legitimate chances in their next two games, against the Giants and Colts.
28. Seattle Seahawks (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 27
It was striking Monday night: These Seahawks bear almost no resemblance to the team that for so long was an annual contender.
29. Oakland Raiders (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 28
Sure, the money is great for Jon Gruden in his return to coaching, and he’s back doing what he loves. But life must have been so much easier in the broadcast booth, with no one-point losses and no constant second-guessing of a trade that seems so misguided.
30. Detroit Lions (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 29
The Lions weren’t as terrible in Matt Patricia’s second game as their coach as they were in his debut. But they still couldn’t win. And they’re 0-2 after going 9-7 last season for Patricia’s fired predecessor, Jim Caldwell.
31. Arizona Cardinals (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 30
When does Josh Rosen time arrive? The countdown is on.
32. Buffalo Bills (0-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 32
The halftime retirement Sunday by CB Vontae Davis was criticized by teammates and others who called Davis’s conduct unprofessional. They’re probably right. But it’s also a sign of just how rapidly things have deteriorated in what’s shaping up as an ugly season for the Bills.