1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 1
The 44-year-old version of QB Tom Brady could be even better than the 43-year-old version that won yet another Super Bowl title last season. The knee injury on which he played last season has been repaired, and he’s in Year 2 in Coach Bruce Arians’s offense. There were turnovers and penalties in Thursday’s season-opening triumph over the Cowboys. But none of that mattered, thanks to Brady’s superb play.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 2
The Chiefs sent a Week 1 message that they remain the team to beat in the AFC. It wasn’t easy. They faced deficits of 15-3, 22-10 and 29-20 against the Browns. But QB Patrick Mahomes, WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce made the plays that needed to be made, just as they almost always seem to do.
3. Los Angeles Rams (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 5
The debut of QB Matthew Stafford was everything that the team envisioned when it traded for him in the offseason, and the Rams rolled Sunday night against the Bears. The only ominous development was that Week 1 underscored just how difficult it will be in the NFC West, with every team off to a 1-0 start.
4. New Orleans Saints (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 11
Jameis Winston was terrific and the Saints overwhelmed the Packers in their home-away-from-home opener in Jacksonville, Fla. Winston’s fantastic performance reinforces the notion that Coach Sean Payton is a QB whisperer. If Winston plays well all season, the Saints will be a force in the NFC.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 14
The Steelers might not be done after all, following their late unraveling last season. That was a big victory at Buffalo, especially after facing a 10-point halftime deficit. The Steelers signaled that they intend to remain a factor in the maneuvering for AFC supremacy.
6. Cleveland Browns (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 7
The Browns stayed with the Chiefs step for step in Kansas City and had a chance to win at the end until QB Baker Mayfield threw a late interception. There’s no such thing as a good loss in the NFL. But the Browns demonstrated they’re capable of playing with anyone, even on the road.
7. Buffalo Bills (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 3
So much, for now, for the Bills resembling a Super Bowl team. That was a dud of an opener against the Steelers. This still should be an excellent team. But the Bills had better not assume they will take the next step this season. They need to realize that they have to earn it.
8. Miami Dolphins (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 10
The Dolphins got it done at New England and, for a week at least, they’re alone in first place in the AFC East. It wasn’t a great day for QB Tua Tagovailoa. But it was enough for the Dolphins to win, and a smooth start in the season’s early weeks might help him settle in.
9. San Francisco 49ers (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 12
Think what you want about Jimmy Garoppolo as a QB, but the 49ers win regularly with him in the lineup. Rookie Trey Lance had his moment, too. The 49ers were dominant for most of the game in Detroit but seemed to lose interest and their edge to give the Lions an opportunity at the end.
10. Seattle Seahawks (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 16
The offseason issues between QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were pushed to the side with his four-TD passing performance in the opening triumph at Indy. Maybe it will turn out this season that things have gotten stale for Wilson and this team, and the Seahawks won’t be able to maintain their accustomed level of excellence. But there was no hint of that Sunday.
11. Green Bay Packers (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 4
R-E-L-A-X? Maybe. But QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers looked shockingly bad in their lopsided opening loss to the Saints. Perhaps there was a residual effect from all that offseason drama. Certainly no one expected to see Jordan Love on the field in Week 1 because the Packers were in surrender mode.
12. Arizona Cardinals (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 22
Was that big victory at Tennessee just another tease by the Cardinals that won’t be sustained? Or was that what this team really is? At the least, that performance showed the Cardinals — at their best — are quite good.
13. New England Patriots (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 8
The late fumble by RB Damien Harris cost the Patriots a potential go-ahead score, and they lost at home to the Dolphins. Early losses aren’t always strong indicators that the Patriots won’t end a season with postseason glory. But after the way last season went, a more uplifting start would have been welcome.
14. Dallas Cowboys (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 15
QB Dak Prescott was brilliant Thursday night in Tampa in his return from last season’s ankle injury. His receivers made plays and the offensive line, even without standout guard Zack Martin, held up. The defense didn’t get enough stops but at least had takeaways. Even with the loss, things do look more promising for the Cowboys. But they need more from the running game.
15. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 17
Second-year QB Justin Herbert is the real deal. That was evident throughout his record-setting rookie season, and it was on display again Sunday at FedEx Field. The Chargers aren’t about to break into the AFC’s upper tier, but they could be a factor in the playoff race.
16. Tennessee Titans (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 6
Keep reminding yourself: Don’t read too much into Week 1. But the Titans were dreadful Sunday.
17. Carolina Panthers (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 23
QB Sam Darnold beat his former team, and the Panthers looked competent against the Jets. But as Darnold knows as well as anyone, beating the Jets doesn’t prove all that much.
18. Las Vegas Raiders (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 24
Not much went right for this franchise in the first three seasons of Jon Gruden’s return to coaching, including a combined 19-29 record. But Year 4 is off to a rousing start after the overtime victory Monday night over the Ravens.
19. Baltimore Ravens (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 9
The injuries piled up before the season, and the Ravens couldn’t hold a series of leads Monday night at the Raiders. Now they must prepare to face the Chiefs — with a short week of preparation — on Sunday night in Baltimore.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 25
The rebuilding project looked to be ahead of schedule in the convincing victory in Atlanta. Second-year QB Jalen Hurts was excellent. It was only the Falcons, of course. But if the modest goal for this season is for the Eagles to demonstrate that they’re on the right path, that was a positive first step.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 27
The Bengals can be something close to a respectable team with Joe Burrow healthy at QB. That was the case last season before he got hurt. It was true again Sunday in the OT triumph over the Vikings.
22. Denver Broncos (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 29
Who knew that getting Teddy Bridgewater because Aaron Rodgers was unavailable was a better QB upgrade for the Broncos? That was the case in Week 1, at least.
23. Washington Football Team (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 13
The loss of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to a hip injury, coupled with the defeat at home to the Chargers, was a rough way to start the season. But don’t get carried away with the importance of Fitzpatrick’s presence in the lineup to the team’s chances of success. He has never been the long-term answer for any team. Taylor Heinicke could keep Washington competitive in the still-not-imposing NFC East.
24. Indianapolis Colts (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 20
QB Carson Wentz and perennial Pro Bowl guard Quenton Nelson made it back into the Week 1 lineup after their training-camp foot surgeries. It didn’t matter. The Colts were no match for the Seahawks.
25. Chicago Bears (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 19
The offense sputtered Sunday night in Los Angeles with the mistake-prone Andy Dalton at QB, and it had some of its few bright moments when rookie Justin Fields rotated into the lineup. It’s only a matter of time, it seems, until Coach Matt Nagy will have no choice but to go with Fields as the starter. The only issue: Will Fields have much of a chance to succeed playing behind that offensive line?
26. Minnesota Vikings (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 21
There’s no reason to be excited about this team’s prospects, is there? The fact that everyone else in the division also lost isn’t that much consolation.
27. Houston Texans (1-0) | Last week’s rank: 32
Tyrod Taylor was more than competent at QB and Coach David Culley turned the seemingly untenable situation handed to him with Deshaun Watson into a season-opening victory. If nothing else, the Texans aren’t going 0-17.
28. New York Giants (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 18
RB Saquon Barkley failed to jump-start the offense in his return. QB Daniel Jones committed his customary turnover. It was more of the same, discouragingly, for the Giants. It also wasn’t a good look for Coach Joe Judge to lose a timeout by forgetting — or overlooking or whatever exactly happened there — that issuing a replay challenge on a scoring play is not allowed.
29. Atlanta Falcons (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 26
So much for a fresh start. That loss to the Eagles was ugly.
30. Detroit Lions (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 31
The Lions managed to make it interesting at the end against the 49ers. But for most of the day, they were awful.
31. New York Jets (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 28
New coach, new QB. Same old Jets? Perhaps. Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson deserve a lot more time before any lasting evaluations are made, obviously. But the loss to the Panthers and the knee injury suffered by left tackle Mekhi Becton reinforce the idea that the Jets simply aren’t allowed to have nice things.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) | Last week’s rank: 30
That could not have gone much worse for Coach Urban Meyer and QB Trevor Lawrence in their NFL debuts. Being noncompetitive with the Texans is not a promising way to open the season.