1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) | Last week’s rank: 1
The Chiefs certainly weren’t at their best in Los Angeles, but they persevered for a gritty overtime win over the Chargers. Now comes a glamorous matchup with the Ravens on Monday night in Baltimore.
2. Baltimore Ravens (2-0) | Last week’s rank: 2
Lamar Jackson is playing even better this season than he did in last year’s MVP campaign. The Ravens probably have outplayed the Chiefs thus far. But the question of which team is the AFC’s — and the league’s — best at this point will be settled on the field Monday.
3. Seattle Seahawks (2-0) | Last week’s rank: 3
This time, it was the Seahawks stopping the Patriots at the 1-yard line to preserve a win. It wasn’t the Super Bowl, but it solidified Seattle’s early-season status as a contender. Russell Wilson’s fast start puts him in the thick of the MVP conversation. This could be the season when he finally secures some MVP votes.
4. Tennessee Titans (2-0) | Last week’s rank: 5
The Titans are off to a 2-0 start, but it’s a bit troubling that they struggled to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars at home Sunday even with a terrific outing by QB Ryan Tannehill. RB Derrick Henry is getting his yards but requiring many carries to do so.
5. Green Bay Packers (2-0) | Last week’s rank: 6
Aaron Rodgers looks fantastic, and the Packers have 85 points in two games. Things get more interesting with Sunday night’s game at New Orleans.
6. Buffalo Bills (2-0) | Last week’s rank: 8
Josh Allen’s improvement as a passer is striking. If he continues to play at this level, the Bills will make it tough for the New England Patriots to win another AFC East title.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) | Last week’s rank: 9
Ben Roethlisberger looks good in his return, and it’s not difficult to envision the Steelers eventually becoming the primary challenger to the Chiefs and Ravens in the AFC.
8. Los Angeles Rams (2-0) | Last week’s rank: 10
The Rams are not back to their Super Bowl level from two years ago. But they do seem to have cleaned up some of the issues from last season. Facing NFC East teams doesn’t hurt, either.
9. New England Patriots (1-1) | Last week’s rank: 7
The Patriots came up a yard (or two, by the end of the play) shy of getting a satisfying win in Seattle, but they were more than competitive with a top team. The signing of Cam Newton to take over for Tom Brady is looking more brilliant all the time. The Patriots are using his dual-threat skills perfectly, even with the failed run from the 1-yard line on the final play against the Seahawks, and he’s throwing the ball very well.
10. New Orleans Saints (1-1) | Last week’s rank: 4
They didn’t get it done Monday night in Las Vegas. Some observers said QB Drew Brees appeared old and unable to throw the ball down the field. But Brees was playing without standout WR Michael Thomas, and he has rebounded before.
11. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) | Last week’s rank: 11
Yes, it’s possible the Cardinals are a legitimate playoff contender. But playing all those division games in the rugged NFC West will make it tough.
12. Las Vegas Raiders (2-0) | Last week’s rank: 19
It’s Year 3 of Jon Gruden’s return to coaching, and he has the Raiders off to a 2-0 start in their first season in Las Vegas. The win Monday night over the Saints was impressive, but New Orleans was without WR Michael Thomas.
13. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) | Last week’s rank: 12
The injuries piled up Sunday at MetLife Stadium, but the 49ers at least emerged with a lopsided triumph over the New York Jets. Nick Bosa’s knee injury removes a tremendous player from the defense. But there’s enough talent and depth there that the 49ers still should be able to keep themselves near the top of the NFC.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) | Last week’s rank: 15
Tom Brady played better, and the Buccaneers got into the win column with a victory at home over the Carolina Panthers. But patience will be required. The Bucs certainly have not resembled a Super Bowl contender in the season’s early stages.
15. Chicago Bears (2-0) | Last week’s rank: 16
The Bears are 2-0, but it’s difficult to put too much trust in them yet. It still feels like a quarterback switch from Mitchell Trubisky to Nick Foles will be necessary at some point.
16. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) | Last week’s rank: 17
Their comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons was remarkable. But will it be a springboard to better and more consistent play? Or did the late-game turnaround merely mask bigger problems for the Cowboys?
17. Indianapolis Colts (1-1) | Last week’s rank: 25
Philip Rivers limited the mistakes, and the Colts rebounded from their opening loss to the Jaguars with Sunday’s win at home over the Minnesota Vikings. That’s far closer to what was expected from the Colts with Rivers taking over at quarterback. For now, the Week 1 performance at Jacksonville can be dismissed as an aberration.
18. Cleveland Browns (1-1) | Last week’s rank: 27
The running game was strong Thursday night. Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. had their moments. It was only the Cincinnati Bengals, but beating bad teams is part of being good in this league, and the Browns took a positive step after a lopsided opening loss in Baltimore.
19. Houston Texans (0-2) | Last week’s rank: 14
The Texans have lost to the Chiefs and Ravens. That’s a difficult two-game stretch to open the season, to say the least. But it’s time to get moving, and things don’t get all that much easier with Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh.
20. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) | Last week’s rank: 18
Coach Anthony Lynn already is talking about going back to Tyrod Taylor as the starter at quarterback if he is healthy. That feels like a mistake. Prized rookie Justin Herbert got his chance Sunday and played very well while nearly pulling off an upset of the Chiefs.
21. Minnesota Vikings (0-2) | Last week’s rank: 13
Kirk Cousins threw three interceptions and had a passer rating of 15.9 in an 11-for-26, 113-yard passing performance in Sunday’s defeat at Indianapolis. It’s going to start feeling late in the season awfully soon if Cousins and the Vikings don’t get it together.
22. Denver Broncos (0-2) | Last week’s rank: 20
There’s nothing good going on here, with the 0-2 start and major injuries to QB Drew Lock and WR Courtland Sutton. Lock will be sidelined for three to five weeks with his shoulder injury, leaving Jeff Driskel to take over.
23. Washington Football Team (1-1) | Last week’s rank: 21
The loss in Arizona should put expectations back more in line with where this team really is. It will play hard and be more competitive with Coach Ron Rivera in charge. But this team is limited offensively, and even approaching a .500 season would be a major accomplishment.
24. Atlanta Falcons (0-2) | Last week’s rank: 22
The late collapse and the loss at Dallas were stunning. How does a team lose a game with 39 points and no turnovers? What were the Falcons’ special teamers doing when they stared at the spinning football on that onside kick without moving aggressively to fall on the ball? The Falcons didn’t have to wait for the ball to travel 10 yards, as the Cowboys did.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) | Last week’s rank: 23
The Jaguars were competitive in Sunday’s loss at Tennessee. They’re not absolutely dreadful. That’s a pleasant surprise, given the low expectations for them entering the season.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) | Last week’s rank: 24
This is a troubling start: The Eagles followed the opening loss at Washington with another wobbly performance in Sunday’s defeat at home to the Rams. The only consolation for them is that the NFC East again appears to be less than fearsome.
27. Miami Dolphins (0-2) | Last week’s rank: 26
There actually were some expectations for the Dolphins this season, and they’re not meeting them. At some point it will make no sense to continue losing with Ryan Fitzpatrick on the field and Tua Tagovailoa on the bench.
28. Carolina Panthers (0-2) | Last week’s rank: 28
The Panthers are 0-2, and now they’ll have to play without RB Christian McCaffrey for four to six weeks because of a high ankle sprain. This is not looking promising.
29. New York Jets (0-2) | Last week’s rank: 29
The season can’t end soon enough.
30. Detroit Lions (0-2) | Last week’s rank: 30
Maybe Matt Patricia just isn’t a very good NFL head coach and won’t get it done in Detroit. The Lions have to begin facing that possibility.
31. New York Giants (0-2) | Last week’s rank: 31
The loss of RB Saquon Barkley to a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee is a nightmare scenario for a team that has missed the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons. Would GM Dave Gettleman continue to get the benefit of the doubt if the Giants suffer through another miserable season?
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) | Last week’s rank: 32
QB Joe Burrow did all he could Thursday night in Cleveland, but the Bengals remain winless. Burrow voiced his frustration with the losses. But this season is about Burrow’s progress, not the team’s record. He can’t keep taking so many hits.