In the season’s second edition of the Power Rankings, the top doesn’t seem different: New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers as the likely Super Bowl teams, with the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals posing the biggest threats, although if the Dallas Cowboys survive their injury scare, they should be counted in too. The bottom is filled with new names, with the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears making it difficult to choose who is worse.
1. New England Patriots (2-0): Number one in the rulebook about playing the Patriots – don’t piss them off before the game.
2. Green Bay Packers (2-0): If now fourth quarter comebacks aren’t a problem, the Packers really are the cream of the crop in the NFC.
3. Arizona Cardinals (2-0): The Cardinals finally have more than one playmaker on offense, and that has cut off the turnover issue for Carson Palmer, making the Cardinals one of the best teams in the league right now.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0): Who knew that the emergence of Tyler Eifert will make Andy Dalton look this good?!
5. Denver Broncos (2-0): Peyton Manning is no longer special, but his defense is, and his connection with Emmanuel Sanders is the best thing their offense has. It’s enough to keep them on top of the AFC West.
6. Dallas Cowboys (2-0): What can you say about the Cowboys? They looked like the best team in the NFC until Tony Romo got injured. Now? Brandon Weeden has the odds stacked against him, but maybe that’s what he needs.
7. Atlanta Falcons (2-0): Matt Ryan to Julio Jones is a thing of beauty, but what will happen when that connection is disrupted? Can Tevin Coleman do the job?
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1): It felt as if the Steelers will score on every drive through the Roethlisberger-Brown connection. Ben Roethlisberger was 9-of-11 targeting Brown, including 3-of-4 for 143 yards on throws at least 15 yards downfield.
9. Carolina Panthers (2-0): Cam Newton and defense. That’s it. Newton has 25 career games with at least 1 pass TD and 1 rush TD, only six behind Steve Young, who holds the record.
10. San Diego Chargers (1-1): Chargers have to do a better job of protecting Philip Rivers (4 sacks). Melvin Gordon is a great addition to a varied running game.
11. New York Jets (2-0): Forcing five turnovers will always get you good results. Even with Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions.
12. Kansas City Chiefs (1-1): The problem for the Chiefs is when they stop keeping it short and simple. They might be good, but can’t get beyond that level right now, with no deep threats or a quarterback that can overcome that.
13. Seattle Seahawks (0-2): Maybe the problem isn’t Kam Chancellor, but teams figuring out the Legion of Boom, minus a very good player, is no longer something to be afraid of.
14. Buffalo Bills (1-1): Tyrod Taylor is fun to watch, but he’s going to make a lot of mistakes when he has to air it out. Rex Ryan has to be smarter and not get drawn into overconfidence.
15. Miami Dolphins (1-1): Ryan Tannehill won’t be doing a lot of good when pass rushers get to him on almost 40% of his dropbacks.
16. Minnesota Vikings (1-1): If Adrian Peterson is consistent, Teddy Bridgewater is going to have a much easier time to show how good of a quarterback he actually is.
17. San Francisco 49ers (1-1): The Niners can’t protect Colin Kaepernick (sacked 5 times) and pressured on 44% of his dropbacks, the 4th-highest pressure percentage of his career.
18. Cleveland Browns (1-1): This is a pretty good defense. Now the question if Johnny Manziel lighting it up with Travis Benjamin was a fluke, or something we should expect to happen more often.
19. Detroit Lions (0-2): The defense can’t rush the passer as well as it did in the past, while sticking to the same schtick on offense can’t get them very far.
20. Indianapolis Colts (0-2): Started poorly last season too, but this year there’s more to worry about.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (0-2): Two things – running game and Byron Maxwell. DeMarco Murray has 11 yards on 21 carries, and he’s getting hit very soon, 0.7 yards after taking the ball in the backfield. And Maxwell? He’s allowed quarterbacks a perfect passer rating against him, completing 15-of-19 passes for two touchdowns.
22. Tennessee Titans (1-1): Marcus Mariota got sacked 7 times, and running the same formation all the time didn’t really help the struggling offensive line.
23. Washington Redskins (1-1): Is the defense good all of a sudden? Is Kirk Cousins the answer? One game against an inconsistent team like the Rams won’t give us answers.
24. St. Louis Rams (1-1): The Virginia Tech of the NFL can’t win games without some special teams or special plays shocking everyone.
25. Baltimore Ravens (0-2): Something is amiss in the Harbaugh-Flacco kingdom, and not knowing exactly what it is makes it harder to be optimistic.
26. New York Giants (0-2): Even in a game that Eli Manning played well in, having a great time with Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants lost. Their defense is awful, the running game unreliable, and the season’s prospects looking bleak.
27. Oakland Raiders (1-1): The reason they’ve above the Jags-Bucs awfulness with a surprising 1-1 is that I like their offensive talent. Derek Carr has some very good receivers to work with.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1): Turns out a standard pass rush against Jameis Winston doesn’t work. He was 10-of-14 for 143 yards and a touchdown against 4 or fewer pass rushers
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1): Allen Robinson might make Blake Bortles competent when throwing deep, but the defense getting to the quarterback consistently might be the most promising sign for the Jags.
30. New Orleans Saints (0-2): With Drew Brees unable to connect deep, the Saints are going nowhere this season, even in the NFC South.
31. Chicago Bears (0-2): With Jay Cutler or Jimmy Clausen, the Bears look like a sad team with a long rebuild ahead of them.
32. Houston Texans (0-2): Without a running game or a competent quarterback, be it Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer, this fun to watch defense is going to eat up a lot of losses.