Splash’s NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

Splash’s NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

by September 24, 2021 1 comment

Welcome back to the futile exercise of ranking the 32 NFL teams. There continued to be chaos last week, as several new teams in the top 10 lost over the weekend. Several teams are beginning to fly up the rankings in impressive fashion. As always, these will be updated weekly, so be sure to watch out as teams move up and down. If teams continue to win, they will rise. If teams continue to lose, they will fall. Similarly, a loss does not necessarily equate to a team being ranked lower than their opponent.

Numbers in parentheses refer to last week’s rankings.

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars (+0)

It was a rough week for Jacksonville. Trevor Lawrence continued to misfire on deep balls. Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater beat up on the team’s defense. Urban Meyer was caught on camera saying the NFL is like playing against Alabama every week. Laviska Shenault is one of the team’s only bright spots right now. Jacksonville maintains its spot as the worst team in the NFL.

No. 31: New York Jets (+0)

Like their cellar-dweller counterparts in Jacksonville, the Jets had an abysmal Week 2. However, there were some bright spots. C.J. Mosley played well. Outside of one Damien Harris run, the defense was sturdy. Zach Wilson undermined New York’s afternoon with a quartet of interceptions. But for now, at least the Jets are better than the Jaguars.

No. 30: Detroit Lions (-1)

After hanging with Green Bay for one half, the Lions folded in the second half. They were unfortunate on two turnovers, a muffed snap and a slippery football. But Detroit could not slow down the Aaron Jones and Aaron Rodgers show. Detroit has made some strides, and Dan Campbell looks to be a competent coach. This is a bad team, but this is not an egregiously bad team like the Jaguars and Jets.

No. 29: Atlanta Falcons (+1)

Atlanta competed with Tampa Bay for three quarters. They even opened the fourth quarter with possession of the ball down by only one score. After a punt, Tampa Bay extended the lead to 10, and Matt Ryan threw batted balls that were returned for touchdowns by Mike Edwards. It was a valiant effort, but it unraveled in the fourth quarter. Classic Falcons.

No. 28: Houston Texans (+0)

Had the Lions or Falcons been any team besides the Lions or Falcons, Houston would have certainly fallen with the injury to Tyrod Taylor. In Taylor’s place is Davis Mills, who made his first NFL start on Thursday night against the NFL’s No. 1 defense in Carolina. It is far from an ideal scenario, but at least Mills has a stable of running backs to work with as well as Brandin Cooks. It could be worse.

No. 27: Philadelphia Eagles (-2)

The Eagles had a close loss to the 49ers, and they would not have fallen had they not suffered bigger losses. Brandon Graham is done for the season, and Brandon Brooks was placed on short-term injured reserve. Sure, it is just two players, but the strength of the Eagles is in the trenches. With backups sliding in to the vacated spots, Philadelphia gets slightly worse. They have played better than the No. 27 team, but the erosion of talent might be hard to overcome.

No. 26: New York Giants (+0)

With Philadelphia’s injuries and the explosion of Daniel Jones, New York stays put at No. 26. New York should have beaten Washington, but a penalty from Dexter Lawrence negated a Washington missed field goal. Even with a win, New York likely stays in the same spot. Jones has made strides in Year No. 3, but his weapons have been inconsistent, and the team’s defense is not quite as good as it was in 2020.

No. 25: Cincinnati Bengals (-2)

If not for a trio of Joe Burrow interceptions on three straight pass attempts, Cincinnati likely beats Chicago and stays in the top 23. However, those interceptions occurred, and the Bears held serve at home. There were positive takeaways, including a strong performance from the defensive front. This team will go as far as Burrow takes them, and his Week 2 performance left much to be desired.

No. 24: Chicago Bears (+0)

Finally, the Bears are starting Justin Fields. It took an Andy Dalton injury, but Chicago is going to get an extended look at the future. Through two cameos, Fields has not looked great, but he might be better with a week to prepare a full gameplan. Fields likely raises the floor of the Bears offense with what he brings as a rusher, even if his passing is less consistent than Dalton.

No. 23: Indianapolis Colts (-6)

For as much of a train wreck as Carson Wentz can be, at least he is more talented than Jacob Eason. Wentz is likely out for a few weeks with sprained ankles. Eason is now in the starting role. Last week against the Rams, he threw away the game with an interception to Jalen Ramsey. It was far from an ideal start from the 2020 draft pick. At least Tennessee has a worse defense than the Rams.

No. 22: Miami Dolphins (-11)

Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Without Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins plummet by 11 slots. Jacoby Brissett is far from being a terrible option, but discontinuity at the quarterback position is hard to deal with. Miami welcomes Will Fuller back into the fold, but any quarterback to pass-catcher chemistry is thrown off with Brissett in. The defense played surprisingly well for a 35-0 smackdown, but it is not quite the same unit that was among the NFL’s elite last season.

No. 21: Washington Football Team (+1)

In most circumstances, Washington would be falling. They played below expectation against the Giants, but they gain a spot with the injury news out of Miami and Indianapolis. Taylor Heinicke is doing good things with the offense, such as getting the ball to Terry McLaurin. The defense is not the same as it was in 2020, but Jonathan Allen seemed to miss the memo as he made the Team of Week 2.

No. 20: Minnesota Vikings (-2)

The “(-2)” is misleading. Minnesota played well against Arizona, and they would have won with a Greg Joseph field goal. They fall by two because the teams ranked at No.19, 18, 15, and 13 made big strides in Week 2. Other than the 0-2 record, Minnesota has been solid. They are incredibly unlucky to be 0-2, and would likely be 1-0-1 or even 2-0 if their situations played out as expected. Instead, they are a Dalvin Cook fumble and a Joseph field goal away from 2-0.

No. 19: Carolina Panthers (+8)

Carolina has the NFL’s No.1 defense, by both scoring and total defense. This is partially due to playing the Jets and Jameis Winston, but Carolina’s defense has checked off every box. Offensively, Christian McCaffrey gives Carolina a solid floor. Sam Darnold is not totally absolved from his crimes against football from his Jets days, but he is trending in the right direction.

No. 18: Dallas Cowboys (+2)

Despite a lackluster performance from Dak Prescott, Dallas secured the victory and a bump up in the power rankings. Micah Parsons filled in seamlessly as an edge defender, and Dallas came up huge with an interception of Justin Herbert late in regulation. Tony Pollard flashed as Ezekiel Elliott had an average game. It was a good win by Dallas, even if it necessitated a last-second field goal.

No. 17: New Orleans Saints (-9)

For the time being, New Orleans will be artificially slightly lower than they would otherwise be. It seems that being away from the city itself is beginning to take a toll on the team. They showed up to Charlotte flat and lacked energy. They were missing several coaches due to COVID-19, so the nine-spot drop is less about the team’s performance and more about the extenuating circumstances that have caused it.

No. 16: Los Angeles Chargers (-3)

A three-point loss usually doesn’t result in a “(-3),” but that is in a vacuum. Other teams made nice strides, knocking Los Angeles down several pegs. Los Angeles is a strong team with an excellent quarterback, but other teams are playing ever-so-slightly better at the moment. Having a healthy Derwin James is doing wonders for the defense, and Joey Bosa is wreaking havoc as usual.

No. 15: Denver Broncos (+4)

Yes, Denver has played two of the bottom 10 teams, and they will play a third on Sunday. However, Denver has been in total control of both games. Could they fall back to mediocrity? Yes, but that is an issue for the future, not now. In the present, Teddy Bridgewater is slinging the pigskin, and the Broncos are playing excellent defense. There is plenty of time left in the season, but the Broncos are playing as if they belong in the playoff discussion.

No. 14: Pittsburgh Steelers (-5)

Pittsburgh appeared to avoid catastrophe with the Diontae Johnson and T.J. Watt news. Devin Bush is coming back soon as well. However, Ben Roethlisberger was also added to the injury report. Roethlisberger has not been his usual self since November of 2020, but going to Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins would be a sizable downgrade. With Johnson, Watt, and Bush unclear for Sunday’s game against the Bengals, some secondary stars will need to step up.

No. 13: Las Vegas Raiders (+8)

Tying two teams for the largest jump of the week, Las Vegas has been on fire for the last six quarters. They engineered a comeback win over the Ravens in Week 1, and they went to Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers. Derek Carr is having an excellent start to the season, and the defense has been surprisingly strong. Maxx Crosby leads the NFL in pressures with a mammoth tally of 19.

No.12: San Francisco 49ers (+3)

The 49ers may be 2-0, but they did not play particularly well against Philadelphia on Sunday. Without a timely blocked field goal and Greg Ward self-destructing, San Francisco could have found themselves in overtime or with a loss. The running back room continues to be massacred with injury, but at least the rest of the offense is healthy.

No. 11: Arizona Cardinals (+3)

Arizona moves up three with the likes of the Chargers, Saints, and Steelers falling. As mentioned in the Minnesota blurb, Arizona probably should have lost on Sunday. Kyler Murray and Rondale Moore were exceptional. Isaiah Simmons flashed. A.J. Green played like Cincinnati Green. However, all was almost for naught until Greg Joseph pushed his field goal wide right. Instead of a 36-34 loss, Arizona gets a 34-33 victory.

No. 10: New England Patriots (+2)

To the surprise of no one, Bill Belichick is coaching another strong defense. With steady play from Mac Jones, New England is a recipe for low-scoring, tight-knit affairs. Sometimes, they will lose to the Dolphins. Other times, they will control most of the game. This is not the Patriots of old, but it’s still a good Patriots team.

No. 9: Seattle Seahawks (-4)

Yes, Seattle lost. They blew a two-score lead in the fourth quarter, only to lose in overtime. However, note the team they lost to: Tennessee. The Titans are a difficult team to play against, even without Taylor Lewan. Tennessee outplayed Seattle for a solid chunk of the game, but a bad call on a Julio Jones touchdown kept a few points off the board. Seattle had a weird loss to a good team.

No. 8: Tennessee Titans (+8)

Tennessee is back in the top 10 after proving they can play football at a reasonable level. Yes, Week 1 was an ugly loss. But it’s only 50 percent of the sample size, and we are not at a point in the season that priors are meaningless. Tennessee brings a stellar run game to the table, and the passing offense is explosive with the aforementioned Jones and A.J. Brown. Even Ryan Tannehill has been trending up. The defense is bad, though.

No.7: Baltimore Ravens (+3)

Regardless of Odafe Oweh‘s forced fumble in the dying seconds, Baltimore would have moved up because several teams ahead of them lost on Sunday. Baltimore showed tremendous resolve, coming back from down 11 to open the fourth quarter. After a shaky first quarter, Lamar Jackson was nearly flawless for three quarters. Baltimore’s run game seemed to find its groove as well.

No. 6: Buffalo Bills (+1)

Buffalo had the least inspiring 35-point win in recent memory. Despite walloping the No. 11 team by 35, Buffalo somehow came out of the fray looking worse. They jump a spot because Seattle had a weird game, but this is a very different Bills team than the one that ranked highly last season. Josh Allen hasn’t found his same 2020 groove, but the defense appears to be serious.

No. 5: Cleveland Browns (-1)

Cleveland took some coaxing, but they eventually controlled much of the game against Houston. Nick Chubb had an excellent day, and Baker Mayfield misfired on just two of 21 passes. The secondary has not been as good as advertised, but there are some growing pains to be expected. As a whole, the Browns have one of the best rosters in the NFL, and they should begin to roll through their schedule.

No. 4: Los Angeles Rams (-1)

The Rams did beat the Colts. However, the performance was not inspiring, and Indianapolis could have won if their red zone play-calling was anything other than atrocious. Matthew Stafford looked like the Detroit version (for better or for worse), and Aaron Donald was Aaron Donald. It was a strange win, but the Rams were the better team.

No. 3: Green Bay Packers (+3)

Aaron Rodgers is back. After an uncharacteristically horrendous performance against the Saints in Week 1, Rodgers bounced back with a classic slicing and dicing of Detroit. Yes, it was only Detroit, but he just had to be competent to keep Green Bay in the upper echelon of teams. They still have one of the best rosters in the NFL, and they should be a strong offense matched with a good defense. When Eric Stokes replaces Kevin King, this team will be ready for yet another NFC Championship Game loss.

No. 2: Kansas City Chiefs (+0)

As mentioned with Baltimore, an Oweh forced fumble was the decisive moment on Sunday Night Football. There were some glaring flaws, but Patrick Mahomes had a subpar game for his standards. Still, threw for over 340 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Defensively, the Chiefs should be fine. Kansas City may have lost, but it was a coin-flip game on the road in primetime.

No. 1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+0)

Tampa Bay ended 2020 on a ridiculous eight-game winning streak. They were rolling on offense. They had spectacular performance after spectacular performance on defense. Somehow, they might be even better now. The Tampa Bay offense is bordering on unstoppable. The defense is a tick behind, but they have also played Dallas and Atlanta. This team is every bit the Super Bowl favorite that the bookies make them out to be.

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