NFL Power Rankings - Week 1
When I began composing the inaugural power rankings of the NFL season, my first thought was: Did anybody even look that good? Was there any team that played a complete game with both offense and defense clicking? This year the desire to write off nearly half the league as fatally flawed feels stronger than ever.
It will take a few weeks to figure out which teams are really good, but we can figure out which teams are really bad rather quickly. With that in mind, here are the 100 percent scientific NFL Power Rankings after Week 1.
1. Dallas Cowboys
With Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension on hold due to a judge’s preliminary injunction the Cowboys are back to being the class of the NFC. Their star running back went for 140 yards from scrimmage on 29 touches. Quarterback Dak Prescott was solid and the ageless Jason Witten hauled in yet another touchdown. Plus, the Dallas defense manhandled a Giants offense, though one that was sans Odell Beckham.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
In order to be the best, you have to beat the best? Well, the Chiefs went to Foxboro and beat the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots in front of the entire NFL universe on opening night. And, yes, I know it took Alex Smith to play the best game of his career (28/35 for 368 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions) and they lost safety Eric Berry for the season. But after one week, Kansas City deserves to be this high.
3. Green Bay Packers
The Packers didn’t score a point until the second half of opening day, got lucky when a Seattle defensive touchdown was wiped away due to a penalty call, and yet all I can hear is Aaron Rodgers saying, “Relax.” So what if the offense struggled and the defense isn’t exactly proven? Relax. Rodgers was solid (28/42 for 311 yards with one TD and one INT), but he remains the best quarterback in the league. The next big test for Green Bay? Next week in Atlanta.
4. Oakland Raiders
One of the biggest questions entering the season was how much Marshawn Lynch has left in the tank after a one-year sabbatical away from the NFL? Well, how about 76 yards on 18 carries, one catch for 16 yards, and one trucking of 6-1, 305 pound Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey. Add 262 yards passing from the now healthy Derek Carr and four field goals from Italian-born kicker Giorgio Tavecchio and Oakland looks dangerous again.
5. Atlanta Falcons
The biggest issue last year for the Falcons was the defense and that problem looks likely to carry over for this year as Bears running backs went for 125 yards on 19 carries and Mike Glennon got Chicago within five yards of winning the game late. But, the Falcons defense got their fourth sack of the game on 4th down to avoid an embarrassing Week 1 defeat. They’ll open up the new stadium next week with a chance at a statement win over Green Bay. And of course, Matt Ryan threw for 321 yards including an 88-yard TD to Austin Hooper.
6. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks defense is as good as advertised. For the first half, they shut down the best quarterback in the game and held the Packers to just 17 points on the day. Unfortunately, they were struck by terribly bad luck when the referees wrongfully took a touchdown off the board and ejected starting corner Jeremy Lane. The biggest worry for Seattle is still their Swiss cheese offensive line. Russell Wilson may not last long unless the blocking improves.
7. New England Patriots
Despite losing and looking poor on offense for stretches last Thursday night, the Patriots’ ability to make adjustments and improve as the season goes along is still unmatched in the NFL. Rob Gronkowski getting just two catches, the explosive Brandin Cooks getting just three, and Tom Brady’s struggles with his accuracy will all be cleaned up.
8. Carolina Panthers
After offseason shoulder surgery, Cam Newton was just so-so in his debut, completing just 14 passes for 171 yards, but he didn’t have to do too much to beat a poor San Francisco team. The Carolina defense was solid, but it is tough to judge them as they weren’t really tested by the 49ers and won’t be until Week 3 vs. New Orleans.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
A worry for Steelers fans would be that they only beat the lowly Cleveland Browns by three points. What should ease those worries is the knowledge that, the best wide receiver in the NFL, Antonio Brown, is still ridiculous, pulling down all 11 passes thrown in his direction for 182 yards. And the defense added seven sacks, including two from rookie T.J. Watt (who added an interception).
10. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings started last season 5-0 and then their offensive line completely disintegrated. Well, the offensive line stood tall in Week 1 and provided a clean pocket to Sam Bradford, who picked apart the Saints secondary to the tune of 346 yards passing on 27/32 and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns went to Stefon Diggs, and what a talent he looks to be.
11. Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz threw for 307 yards (7.87 yards per attempt) and added two touchdowns, including an incredible escape and heave to Nelson Agholor for the game’s opening score. Can the Eagles translate a good start this year into plenty of wins? Last season they saw a 3-0 start followed by a 2-9 stretch.
12. Baltimore Ravens
At one point in the second half, the Ravens ran 12 straight run plays. Part of this was due to preseason-sidelined Joe Flacco’s lack of rhythm (just 9/17 for 121 yards with one TD and one INT) and the desire to burn clock in a three-score game. The Ravens defense is good enough to merit the offseason praise, with five sacks, four interceptions, and a fumble recovery.
13. Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford’s first pass after signing a five-year, $135 million deal? An 82-yard pick-six by Arizona. After that he settled down and threw for 292 yards and four touchdowns. The Lions will go as far as the arm of Stafford can take them.
14. Tennessee Titans
Mike Mularkey opted to go with an onside kick to start the season. That’s insane. Mularkey could be the biggest stumbling block that could impeding the development of Marcus Mariota (25/41 for 256 yards on Sunday) to superstardom.
15. Denver Broncos
Relying on former seventh-round draft pick Trevor Siemian at quarterback doesn’t seem like a winning strategy in 2017, and it really isn’t. In a tough division the Broncos won’t likely make the playoffs on Siemian’s back, but on the back of the defense and running game? It is possible. Monday night the defense played well and the running game did enough to keep the Broncos out of many third-and-long situations.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs lost their first game to Hurricane Irma, so it makes it very tough to rank them.
17. Miami Dolphins
Like the Bucs, the Dolphins will face the challenge of playing for 16 straight weeks, but they have the added challenge of a Week 4 trip to London.
18. New Orleans Saints
Watching the Saints on defense: I don’t think this team will win a game. Watching the Saints on offense: Well, they won’t lose every game. They look like the spitting image of a 7-9 team, a feat they have achieved in each of the last three seasons.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars
If the Jaguars didn’t have to play offense they would be higher on this list. Of course, this is being harsh to rookie running back Leonard Fournette, who went for 100 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown. Really the issue is QB Blake Bortles, who completed just 11 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. (The Jags also lost explosive WR Allen Robinson to a torn ACL.) But on defense, Jacksonville was frightening: 10 sacks, four turnovers, and a touchdown.
20. Los Angeles Rams
In Sean McVay’s head coaching debut the Rams benefited from playing a terrible Colts team and grabbed a 46-9 win. The defense recorded a pair of pick-sixes and a safety. On offense, the No. 1 overall pick from a year ago Jared Goff threw for 306 yards and one score. A promising start in front of a stadium that was just 2/3 full.
21. Buffalo Bills
The Bills won, but like the Steelers, are penalized here because at home against one of the worst teams in the history of the NFL they didn’t win impressively. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was so-so in the air and on the ground, LeSean McCoy, Mike Tolbert, and Taylor combined for 190 yards on 42 carries.
22. Los Angeles Chargers
In their debut as the Los Angeles Chargers, this team looked exceptionally familiar. The offensive line was unable to give quarterback Philip Rivers time to throw and the defense, though at times scary with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa lining up next to each other, was unable to keep the Broncos out of the end zone. Plus, they again failed to win a game in the final minutes. It could be a long year for the Chargers in a tough AFC West.
23. New York Giants
The Giants were without superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and laid a gigantic egg. Eli Manning averaged just 5.79 yards per attempt and they generated just 35 rushing yards on 12 carries. This was not pretty at all. They need Beckham back right now.
24. Washington Redskins
Jay Gruden is now 0-4 in season openers as a head coach, which is something I wish I knew before I picked them to win in RealClearWinners. Kirk Cousins, despite being paid like a franchise quarterback, didn’t play like one (23/40 for 240 yards with one touchdown, one interception, and one fumble). Washington has a lot to clean up if they want to compete.
25. Arizona Cardinals
Thirty-seven-year-old Carson Palmer looked his age on Sunday, throwing for three interceptions and just 5.60 yards per attempt on 48 attempts. And to add injury to ineffectiveness, stud running back David Johnson suffered a wrist injury that will keep him out for over half the season. Things have gone sour on the Cardinals fast.
26. Cleveland Browns
Despite having their first possession end with a blocked punt for a Pittsburgh touchdown, Cleveland put together a surprisingly competent first game. Rookie QB DeShone Kizer went 20/30 for 222 yards with one touchdown and one interception and he added another TD on the ground.
27. Chicago Bears
Bears fans should feel pleasantly surprised by the team’s performance. Diminutive running back Tarik Cohen went for 113 all-purpose yards and a touchdown and the Bears came within five yards of a game-winning score.
28. Houston Texans
After the month the city of Houston had, it is understandable that the Texans played poorly in their first game. It is not understandable why head coach Bill O’Brien keeps monkeying around and switching his quarterbacks. Why did he start Tom Savage only to pull him after one ineffective half for rookie Deshaun Watson? Many of his decisions simply do not make sense.
29. Cincinnati Bengals
Marvin Lewis is the second-longest tenured head coach in the NFL, behind only Bill Belichick. So, we ask this question again: Will this be his final year in Cincinnati? If Andy Dalton continues to play like he did against Baltimore (four interceptions and a fumble) the answer will be yes.
30. San Francisco 49ers
The challenge facing first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan is tremendous. Unfortunately for Niners fans, there’s virtually no chance that a Brian Hoyer-led offense achieves any amount of success this year.
31. New York Jets
The Jets were awful in Buffalo, but we expected this. They’re not good, and yet, somehow managed to score 12 points. So kudos to them?
32. Indianapolis Colts
What the Colts did to the game of football on Sunday was downright offensive. The players, coaches -- heck even the waterboys -- should be forced to write a letter of apology. I would say that the Colts ownership and organization should be ashamed of themselves if I thought Jim Irsay was capable of feeling shame. They started Scott Tolzien at quarterback with a straight face. That wasn’t pro football. That was utter dreck.