1. Cardinals - With last year’s marque Superbowl matchup of Seattle v.s. New England, it’s easy to forget that Arizona had the best record in the league for most of the season. And now with Carson Palmer back behind center, they look like the best team in the league. Arizona ran away from the Bears fairly easily, starting with the opening kickoff run back for a touchdown and never really looked back. Don’t sleep on this team expecting the sorry squad outed by the Panthers last post-season, Arizona is healthy this year and poised to make a much deeper run in the playoffs this season without having to rely on Ryan Lindley.
2. Patriots - Tom Brady spread the ball over the place for 466 yards and 3 touchdowns against one of the best defenses in the league, hanging on to beat Rex Ryan’s new NFC East rival in Buffalo. But New England is still far from perfect, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But until someone can stop that polar bear of a tight end, I think they’ll have no problem competing for yet another AFC title.
3. Packers - Aaron Rogers is the best quarterback I’ve ever seen. So as long as the defense and running game aren’t dreadfully bad, this team is poised to be amongst the NFC’s best regardless of what happens. But with BJ Raji seeming to return to his former state and Eddie Lacy giving the running game legitimate threat, the team may be it’s most well rounded since their Superbowl run.
4. Steelers - Pittsburgh’s offense has to be amongst the best in the league and they’re still without their star running back and second best wideout. But given the circumstances, DeAngello Williams and Darius Heyward Bey have done a phenomenal job filling in. But at some point, this defense has to start playing better. Even though the 9ers had hard time scoring on Pitt, they still racked up over 300 yards through the air. The Steelers’ defense of old is long gone and will continue to put all of the pressure on the offense’s scoring in order to win games. But if they play like they did Sunday, that shouldn’t be a problem.
5. Broncos - Peyton looked better in his second week of play but it doesn’t really matter how he looks if the Denver defense is going to continue to manhandle their opposition like this. An unbelievable 2nd fumble from Jamal Charles ended the game and gave the Broncos their 13th straight road win, tying the most in NFL history. The Broncos are technically sitting undefeated but I can’t imagine relying this heavily on their defense will be sustainable through a whole season.
6. Falcons - With another huge performance from Julio Jones and a surprisingly stingy defensive outing in the second half, the Falcons look much more dangerous this season behind Dan Quinn. This team looks as dangerous as they have in Matty-Ice’s reign in Atlanta and given the soft competition in the NFC South this season, the Falcons may find themselves on an easy path back to playing some postseason football in Atlanta.
7. Cowboys - It’s a good thing Dallas has a 2-0 head start on the rest of the NFC East because they’re in for an uphill battle the next 6 weeks or so without Tony Romo or Dez Bryant. And while DeMarco Murray’s performance against his former team showed that the Cowboys lost more than the Eagles gained, it would be nice to have the former work horse in the Dallas backfield to rely on for this next couple of months. It’d be a hell of a lot more comforting that going forward with Brandon Wheedon, Joseph Randle, and Darren McFadden as your offense. While the Cowboys definitely have the best roster in the East, surviving without Romo is going to be a challenge.
8. Chiefs - I don’t think there was a single person in Arrowhead stadium that didn’t think Thursday’s game wasn’t headed for overtime, including the Denver Broncos. I mean who could predict Charles coughing up the ball with just 27 seconds left in a tie game with their divisional nemesis? But thankfully we have week 1 to call back to for proof that the KC offense isn’t as inept as the Broncos made them look.
9. Bills - Despite 3 interceptions from Tyrod Taylor and allowing 500 yards of offense, the Bills were still incredibly competitive with their divisional bullies but ultimately, New England was just too much for the Bills to handle. At least for now. I still think Buffalo’s defense is good enough to carry them and if Taylor continues to mature and grow as a starting quarterback, he’ll be able to limit the mistakes he made in Sunday’s loss.
10. Rams - As good as St.Louis looked last week against the Seahawks, they were absolutely humiliated this week in Washington. The Redskins ran all over one of the best defensive lines in football and Kirk Cousins outplayed their new found franchise QB in Nick Foles. While the Rams may be playing better football than their division rival Seahawks, they’ve still got a ways to go in competing with the rest of the NFC but I still believe this team will prove to be much better than they looked this week against Washington.
11. Bengals - I think it goes without saying at this point that Andy Dalton looks a hell of a lot better when A.J. Green is on the field. The offense has looked much better with a healthy receiving corps and with Bernard stepping in for the struggling Jeremy Hill, the Bengals have an incredibly deep offense that should be hard for any team to keep up with. Now all we need is for Dalton to start adding some postseason wins to his resume.
12. Chargers - The 1-2 punch of Rivers and Gordon is going to be a staple in San Diego for quite some time but San Diego still needs to solidify it’s run defense if its going to elevate past the Broncos and Chiefs. The AFC West is stacked and while the Chargers are probably good for at least a wildcard in almost any other division, they’re going to have a tough time keeping up with their peers unless the defense improves.
13. Seahawks - Russell Wilson’s mobility and Marshawn Lynch’s tenacity have done a fantastic job of covering up Seattle’s inefficiencies on the offensive line. But trading away their starting center for Jimmy Graham may finally be too much for the offense to overcome. Especially when Graham has been a no show thanks to the line allowing non-stop pressure in the Seattle backfield. Add that to the vulnerability from Kam Chancellor’s absence and the Seahawks are in for a hell of a tough season trying to even keep pace with their divisional opponents, let alone return to the Superbowl.
14. Jets - Forcing 5 turnovers against the Browns is no big deal but doing it to the Colts on Monday Night Football the following week? Now you have my attention New York. And if you thought Revis was ready to sit back and enter pay check cashing mode for his return to New York, think again. He absolutely owned Luck as the Jets are off to their first 2-0 start since 2011. Now let’s just hope they can hold Tom Brady to under 450 yards unlike the Bills.
15. Panthers - Carolina is off to a 2-0 start to their season, largely in part to their superhuman quarterback Cam Newton, moving the ball any way he can. With the loss of yet another receiving target this week, you have think the Panthers will sign SOMEONE for him to throw the ball to, right? Or are you just going to count on him carrying the ball and doing front flips into the end zone all year?
16. Ravens - Baltimore may be 0-2 for the first time in John Harbaugh’s time as head coach but really, a few bounces the other way and they’d be sitting at 2-0. So don’t go into panic mode just yet. However, the defense seems lost out there without Terrell Suggs. In fact, Sunday’s game was the first in nearly 17 years the Ravens played without Ray Lewis, Ed Reed or Terrell Suggs on the field. They need to find a new identity and quick, because the rest of the AFC North looks to have outgrown Baltimore’s stranglehold on the division.
17. Giants - Blowing another late lead and losing their second straight game that they statistically dominated, New York has to take a good long look at itself in the mirror. With his new favorite target in Odelle Beckham, Eli Manning is playing some great football. That is if you don’t count the last drive of either of the Giants’ first two games. They’ve got to close out games better and it looks like the absence of a reliable running back will yet again keep them from doing so this season.
18. Eagles - Philly looked absolutely dreadful in their loss to Dallas Sunday afternoon. Bradford was inaccurate and inconsistent, the entirety of Sproles, Matthews, and Murray accounted for -2 rushing yards COMBINED, and the receiving corps continues to do their new quarterback no favors with their absurd amount of drops. This team has a lot of potential but right now, they’re a train wreck.
19. Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill had a much better game in week 2 but it didn’t matter thanks to his reckless defense. Philbin’s chair hasn’t even cooled from the way last season ended so I have to imagine he’s still coaching for his job after the surprisingly slow start for a defense that supposedly just signed the best player in the league.
20. Colts - Technically this is the same way the AFC Finalists started out last season, but it doesn’t feel the same whatsoever. Somehow the offense looked even more helpless against the Jets as Andrew Luck threw half as many touchdowns as Ryan Fitzpatrick and 3 times as many interceptions. It’s safe to go into panic mode Indy, this atrocious offensive line is about to drown any SuperBowl hopes you might have had going into the season. Poor Andre Johnson and Frank Gore…
21. Raiders - This is the Raiders team I expected to see on opening week. The team looked entirely different with Derek Carr behind center and with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree in his receiving corps, this team isn’t your typical Oakland dumpster fire. And while they certainly got lucky on some terrible penalties from the Ravens, Oakland is a team on the rise. Sadly they just happen to play in one of the deepest divisions in football.
22. Redskins - After their new franchise quarterback RG3 carried this franchise to a playoff berth in his rookie year, it looks like the only position Washington doesn’t have figured out is quarterback. The improved defense held St.Louis in check while the ground game did whatever they wanted against the stingy Rams defense. The running back tandem of Jones and Morris may be amongst the best in the league and as long as Cousins continues to be careful with the ball, this team may actually be in better shape than I thought.
23. 49ers - San Fran’s offense struggled to get in the end zone this week without Carlos Hyde. Even putting up huge numbers on the Steelers’ inexperienced defense, the 9ers redzone offense continues to be an area of concern for the decimated group. And while the defense made easy work of Teddy Bridgewater last week, they looked in way over their heads trying to keep up with Big Ben and Antonio Brown.
24. Vikings - This was the Adrian Peterson we’d been missing all last year. After a dreadful opener in San Fran last Monday night, the Vikings manhandled Detroit in Peterson’s first game in Minneapolis since week 13 of 2013. Bridgewater also looked much better, shouldering a much lighter load for the offense this week. And if Kyle Rudolph can stay healthy, he’s going to be a huge asset for this Vikings passing game moving forward.
25. Lions - I can’t believe how quickly the Lions’ offensive potency has eroded from under them. Stafford was under duress all game long against the Vikings and outside of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, the entire offense never got going. They looked handcuffed and without a Suh anchoring the defense, they can’t really crutch on that side of the ball like they did last year. Detroit’s in a bad place and I can’t imagine the team will continue under the Caldwell regime much longer if Megatron’s prime continues to go to waste (if it hasn’t already passed).
26. Browns - Manziel finally got his first win as a starting quarterback, handing Mariotta his first loss as a starter. And while the 60 yard game winner is nothing to shrug off, it was 1 of only 8 completions for Johnny Football. So don’t go crazy just yet Cleveland. The fact is Cleveland has a much better all around team than the Titans do. Just ask Mariota, who found himself sacked 7 times at the hands of the Browns defense. Cleveland’s offensive and defensive lines are phenomenal, it’s just the skill positions they’ve been lacking in. And against defenses as inept as the Titans’, the Browns offense should be just fine at managing a lead their own defense should provide them.
27. Titans - Mariota had another great game this week, but the rest of the Titans finally exposed their true colors. Sankey slumped back to mediocrity, the atrocious o-line let Mariota take on 7 sacks and the defense that made Jameis Winston look like a bust made Johnny Manziel look like a saviour. The rebuilding process in Tennessee is just getting started, so regardless of how well Mariota plays, this team still has a while before they’re legitimate contenders again.
28. Buccaneers - I think we all expected more from the Buccs than what we got in week 1 but a win over Drew Brees and the Saints? I’m not sure even the infinitely confident Jameis Winston expected that. Tampa has more than enough weapons for Winston to succeed in his rookie year but it’s the defensive unit that needs to improve for this team to take a step forward and playing against lackluster squads like New Orleans, the defense seems to be finding its footing.
29. Saints - I think we all expected the Saints defense to be bad. Since, you know, it’s been one of the worst in the league since the bounty gate scandal. But the offense? Drew Brees? Taking away Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham shouldn’t make this big a difference, should it? Is he playing through an injury? Or is Brees at a stage where he can’t shoulder the entire weight of his team anymore?
30. Jaguars - When’s the last time you saw the Jaguars, Browns, and Raiders all win on the same Sunday? And in September? Jacksonville looked like a completely different team this week taking full advantage of some inexcusable Dolphins penalties and a disappearing act from Miami’s defense in the second half. Jacksonville has some pieces in place, they just need a better offensive line to protect them.
31. Bears - Just when it looked like the Bears’ quarterback was finding his rhythm against one of the best defenses in the league, he’s knocked out of the game on a pick six. That’s so Jay Cutler. The Bears defense is just as bad as it was last year and even with Forte playing a much more pivotal role in the offense, they can’t expect to go anywhere with Jimmy Clausen behind center.
32. Texans - Houston continues to flounder without their offensive powerhouse Arian Foster. Mallet looked just as inept as Hoyer did last week, so I can’t imagine things getting any better for the Texans until Foster returns. Mallet was remarkable bad, throwing for 244 yards on nearly 60 attempts. The only thing more inefficient for Houston was the running game. No matter how many names you have on a defensive line, you can’t expect that to carry you through a season, even if you do play in the AFC South.