Each week during the season, Washington Post NFL writer Mark Maske ranks the 32 teams. This week, the Patriots remain the no-doubt-about-it No. 1. The top of the rankings remains mostly unchanged after the opening weekend brought few significant upsets. The Bears and Browns fall out of the top 10 with losses. The Ravens and Packers crack the top 10. The Jaguars plummet after Nick Foles’s injury. The Dolphins look like they might keep the No. 32 spot the rest of the way.
1. New England Patriots (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 1
The defending champs dismantled the Steelers, and now here comes Antonio Brown. His arrival, depending on whether he accepts the ways of Coach Bill Belichick and fits in with quarterback Tom Brady, could make the Patriots practically unbeatable and prompt flashbacks to 2007. Or it could unravel the season and threaten to end the dynasty for good, assuming that time eventually catches up to Brady. Brown is that talented, and he is that disruptive.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 2
The loss of wide receiver Tyreek Hill hurts, but he should be back in a few weeks. Patrick Mahomes’s 313-yard first half against the Jaguars showed he and the Chiefs are ready to pick up right where they left off in his MVP season.
3. New Orleans Saints (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 3
They managed only three first-half points against the Texans and had another officiating mistake go against them. They nearly handed away the game with a roughing-the-kicker penalty on a missed extra point. But the Saints hung in there, and the clutch greatness of Drew Brees, not to mention the long-range kicking of Wil Lutz, gave them a pulsating victory Monday night.
4. Los Angeles Rams (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 4
Running back Todd Gurley II probably put to rest some of the talk about his knee issues with his big fourth quarter at Carolina. Still, he had done little for three quarters as the Rams gave most of the early carries to Malcolm Brown. The defending NFC champs nearly let a second-half lead slip away but managed to hold on late and get their season off to a winning start.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 5
The early struggles against the Redskins were a bit baffling, but the Eagles turned things around. The big plays to wide receiver DeSean Jackson were exactly what was envisioned when the Eagles brought him back.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 6
Melvin who? Holdout running back Melvin Gordon wasn’t missed in the win over the Colts, given the performances of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson.
7. Dallas Cowboys (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 8
The big contract owner Jerry Jones handed last week to running back Ezekiel Elliott will be followed, he vows, by a big deal for quarterback Dak Prescott. For Jones, it will be money well spent if the Cowboys get back to the Super Bowl to end their long drought. They looked capable of that based on their performance, led by Prescott, in the opening win over the Giants.
8. Minnesota Vikings (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 10
Less Kirk Cousins was more for the Vikings. Cousins threw only 10 passes in the win over the Falcons, while the Minnesota offense leaned on running back Dalvin Cook.
9. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 12
The question was whether second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson had improved as a passer, and he was superb against the Dolphins. Now he has to demonstrate that he can play anything like that against an actual NFL-caliber team.
10. Green Bay Packers (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 16
The debut of quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Coach Matt LaFleur’s offense wasn’t exactly dazzling. But the defense was outstanding in the victory Thursday night at Chicago. Maybe Rodgers will have enough help that he won’t have to do it all.
11. Seattle Seahawks (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 11
It was tougher than expected at home against the Bengals. About the best thing that can be said is that it is better to be 1-0 than 0-1.
12. Chicago Bears (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 7
QB Mitchell Trubisky needs to be better, obviously, than he was in Thursday’s loss to the Packers. But the play-calling needs to be better, too. Trubisky threw 45 passes and the Bears had 15 rushing attempts (three by Trubisky) in a close game. That’s asking too much of Trubisky.
13. Tennessee Titans (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 21
The Titans’ performance at Cleveland might lead to a quick rethinking about which team is the favorite in the AFC South, especially with Andrew Luck’s retirement from the Colts and Nick Foles’s injury in Jacksonville.
14. Cleveland Browns (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 9
Same old Browns? Really? After all that? It’s far too soon to abandon the notion that the Browns, the darlings of the offseason, actually will be good. But the sloppy, penalty-filled performance in the lopsided defeat to the Titans was troubling and forces everyone to keep in mind that the team took a significant risk in promoting Freddie Kitchens to head coach.
15. Houston Texans (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 15
The Texans played well Monday night in New Orleans and really should have won. But QB Deshaun Watson made multiple trips to the sideline medical tent after his first-half touchdown run. He was sacked six times by the Saints. And that’s after the Texans “fixed” their offensive line.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 14
That was a terrible performance Sunday night at New England, but don’t jump to conclusions just yet. This isn’t about whether JuJu Smith-Schuster can be a No. 1 wide receiver or if James Conner can be a centerpiece runner. It’s about whether the supporting cast on offense around QB Ben Roethlisberger, Conner and Smith-Schuster can do its part.
17. Indianapolis Colts (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 22
The QB play wasn’t the issue in the loss to the Chargers. Jacoby Brissett played well, and the running game was highly productive. Perhaps it was just a case of facing a tough opening opponent on the road. The Colts showed last year that they know how to avoid panicking amid early-season struggles.
18. Carolina Panthers (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 23
QB Cam Newton’s performance against the Rams did not make a convincing case that his shoulder and ankle injuries are things of the past. The Panthers need Newton to be better if they’re going to get back to their winning ways of the first half of last season.
19. Buffalo Bills (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 26
The Bills are tied with the Patriots for first in the AFC East. They should keep a copy of this week’s standings, because that isn’t likely to last long.
20. San Francisco 49ers (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 27
Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t great, but the Niners managed to win in Tampa. They’re not in position to be picky about the aesthetic value of their victories. The defense took full advantage of Jameis Winston’s turnover generosity.
21. Atlanta Falcons (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 18
That was a shaky performance at Minnesota. The Falcons expect far more of themselves this season. Julio Jones had only six catches for 31 yards a day after becoming the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver.
22. Oakland Raiders (1-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 31
Maybe it’s the Raiders, not the Steelers, who will make this addition-by-subtraction thing work by getting rid of Antonio Brown. Derek Carr was really sharp, and the Raiders emerged from all the Brown drama to beat the Broncos in Monday night’s second game.
23. Washington Redskins (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 25
The NFC East could be shaping up to be the haves (Eagles, Cowboys) and the have-nots (Redskins, Giants). If the Redskins want to disrupt that, they’d better beat the Cowboys at FedEx Field on Sunday.
24. New York Giants (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 17
It’s only a matter of time before rookie Daniel Jones gets the nod at QB. Eli Manning’s numbers were fine against the Cowboys, but the Giants weren’t particularly competitive.
25. Denver Broncos (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 19
What a disappointing season-opening performance late Monday night at Oakland. Joe Flacco’s Broncos debut was a dud in the loss to the Raiders. The dropped pass in the end zone by DaeSean Hamilton didn’t help much, either. The defense and special teams weren’t blameless. It was a total team effort.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 13
The broken clavicle suffered by QB Nick Foles is devastating. Yes, Gardner Minshew played well in relief. But he’s still a rookie who was drafted in the sixth round. He has plenty to prove, and he’s not a former Super Bowl MVP. The Jaguars’ hopes for a return to contender status had been tied to Foles’s arrival.
27. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 28
The Bengals were unexpectedly competitive in Seattle in Zac Taylor’s first game as an NFL head coach. Andy Dalton threw for 418 yards and two TDs and looked like a revitalized QB. Still, throwing 51 passes and having only 14 rushing attempts will not be the way to go every week.
28. Arizona Cardinals (0-0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 32
The tie against the Lions felt like a win. The comeback sparks hope that rookie QB Kyler Murray indeed can thrive in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.
29. Detroit Lions (0-0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 29
The tie against the Cardinals felt like a loss. There remains room to wonder whether Matt Patricia is up to the task of being an NFL head coach.
30. New York Jets (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 20
Squandering a 16-0 lead at home to lose to the Bills is not exactly how this new era under Coach Adam Gase was supposed to begin. The kicking misadventures didn’t help, of course. But it wasn’t all about the kicking. There was blame to go around.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 24
Jameis Winston’s three-interception showing in the loss to the Niners did not bolster the contention that he’ll be a far different and far better QB with Bruce Arians as his coach.
32. Miami Dolphins (0-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 30
It’s going to be a long season for the Dolphins and their fans. They looked like a team already on the clock for the top pick in the 2020 draft with that dreadful performance against the Ravens. Next up is the Patriots, who have generally struggled in South Florida. It would be shocking if that trend continues Sunday.
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