Week 2 has come and gone and outside of one big blowout, it was business as usual, football fans.
In a Sunday stunner, the Denver Broncos laid a beating on the Dallas Cowboys, 42-17. Broncos’ QB Trevor Siemian had a field day, throwing for 231 yards and four touchdowns, while RB C.J. Anderson rolled up 118 yards and scored another TD.
The Broncos defence also stymied Dallas pivot Dak Prescott, picking him off twice and sending him to the carpet twice, courtesy of Von Miller. All in all, a poor effort by the ‘Boys, especially Ezekiel Elliott (eight yards rushing), who was chastised for indifferent play.
The rest of the weekend’s scores went pretty much as expected.
We’ve spent some time this summer telling everyone who we thought got better, while making some gutsy prognostications about just what might unfold when things really get going. On the player side, we think some guys will break out, big time and we let the world know which home-growns will be fun to watch.
With week 2 out of the way, it’s time to tweak our inaugural weekly power rankings, rated from no. 1 to no. 16 (based on 12 prospective playoff teams and four on the bubble, every seven days or so). Week to week results are in italics at end of each team’s preamble.
16. Denver Broncos – 2017 Record: 2-0; Last Week’s Rank: N/A
All the talk in the off-season centered on just who was going to quarterback the defensively stout Broncos into the 2017 season. With Paxton Lynch not quite ready for prime time (and now on PUP list), Trevor Siemian was pretty much anointed by default. Things got interesting last week when former QB Brock Osweiler was re-signed, but Siemian still got the call Sunday and ran with it. The third year man out of Northwestern followed up a week 1 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers by shredding the Dallas Cowboys for four touchdown passes, against just one interception. The defence, as per usual, came alive in Week 2, especially veterans Von Miller (first two sacks of the season) and Aqib Talib (interception and 103-yard scamper for TD, three pass defences).
Week 2 Result: Big, big win over Dallas gets them into the rankings for the first time.
Up next: In Buffalo to take on the Bills (1-1) on Sunday.
15. Carolina Panthers – 2017 Record: 2-0; Last Week’s Rank: 16
For a team that went to the Super Bowl after the 2015 season, the Cats sure stunk the joint out in 2016. They were brutal in the NFC South, going 1-5 against Atlanta, Tampa Bay and New Orleans, with only a mild streak of three wins in four games (week 8-11) to give anyone hope. The offence, headed by a healthy Cam Newton, remains relatively unchanged (not a bad thing) and on the defensive side of the ball, these Cats have claws, with MLB Luke Kuechly again calling the shots and the squad getting a boost with the additions of veterans like SS Mike Adams (Indianapolis), DE Julius Peppers (Green Bay) and CB Captain Munnerlyn (Minnesota).
Week 2 Result: The Panthers did just enough to beat Buffalo 9-3 and Cam Newton was sacked six times. They only move up because of Denver’s inclusion in the rankings at no. 16.
Up next: At home to New Orleans (0-2) on Sunday.
14. Philadelphia Eagles – 2017 Record: 1-1; Last Week’s Rank: 15
Not to put too much stock in the pre-season, but the Eagles lost 16-10 in their final tune-up to the New York Jets, who are just about everyone’s pick to finish dead last. But, QB Carson Wentz didn’t throw a pass and Eagles QBs Dane Evans and Matt McGloin were sacked a total of four times. As well, newly acquired RB LeGarrette Blount took no hand-offs and veteran receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith sat that exhibition out too. If the Eagles hope to improve on their 7-9 finish in 2016, they have to play better in the NFC East, where they were 2-4. The ray of hope came in weeks 16 and 17, when they beat the Giants and Cowboys back-to-back after a dismal five game losing streak. On defence, the Eagles added good depth in veteran CBs Corey Graham (Buffalo) and Patrick Robinson (Indianapolis).
Week 2 Result: The Eagles allowed the Kansas City Chiefs to break open a tie game (13-13) in the fourth quarter, eventually losing 27-20. Carson Wentz was sacked six times, but passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns (one interception). They move up because of Denver’s inclusion.
Up next: At home Sunday to the New York Giants (0-2).
13. Minnesota Vikings – 2017 Record: 1-1; Last Week’s Rank: 14
The Vikings didn’t make a whole lot of off-season moves other than bringing in high-profile running back Latavius Murray and who have a lot of homegrown talent, then sailed past the Saints 29-19 in Week 1 and bumped them out. QB Sam Bradford, who had a reasonably good season in 2016, picked up where he left off, surgically taking down New Orleans. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook also lived up to his billing at Florida State, having a great debut. Minnesota was a so-so 8-8 in 2016 after being 11-5 in 2015 and making the playoffs. The Vikes were 2-4 against division opponents, which is mark they should hope to turn around if they want a return to the post-season.
Week 2 Result: Sam Bradford’s previously injured knee had a flare up, causing him to miss Sunday’s 26-9 loss to Pittsburgh. The offence, under back-up Case Keenum, was ineffectual.
Up next: At home to Tampa Bay (1-0) Sunday.
12. Arizona Cardinals – 2017 Record: 1-1; Last Week’s Rank: 13
Outside of the NFC West last year, it was a deplorable season for the Cards. They were 4-1-1 against Seattle, San Francisco and the Rams, and 3-7 against the rest, including losses to Buffalo and the New York Jets. QB Carson Palmer was OK, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 26 TDs, but was sacked 40 times, third worst in the NFL. For the offence to chug along nicely, veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald needs to be Larry Fitzgerald again, and RB David Johnson will have to push for another 2,000 + yards combined. The Cardinals defence wasn’t too shabby in 2016 and in the off-season they added a key piece to the backfield in the form of veteran SS Antoine Bethea (110 tackles for San Fran in 2016). He and CB Patrick Peterson form a solid one-two punch back there. Arizona’s first test this season is a stern one as they head to Ford Field on Sunday to tackle the Detroit Lions.
Week 2 Result: The Cards barely beat the awful Colts 16-13 Sunday, but a win is a win, getting them off the schneid. Carson Palmer, who was lousy Week 1, was marginally better, while the defence, led by Chandler Jones seven tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble was the difference.
Up next: The Monday Nighter, against visiting Dallas (1-1).
11. Tennessee Titans – 2017 Record: 1-1; Last Week’s Rank: 12
The AFC South was a bit of dog’s breakfast in 2016, with no one team really running away with things. Of the four teams, we picked the Titans to make the playoffs this year, based on what we think will be a breakout year for QB Marcus Mariota. He will have all kinds of athletic targets to throw too, including leading receiver Rishard Matthews, as well as rookie Corey Davis (1,500 yards, 19 TD at Western Michigan in 2016), TE Delanie Walker and even RB DeMarco Murray (53 catches, 377 yards, 3 TD). The Titans should also be tighter defensively this season, what with the addition of tackle-master SS Johnathan Cyprien from division foe Jacksonville. He was 12th in the league last year in tackles with 128 combined (97 solo), along with four passes defended and a sack. Tennessee also added veteran CB Logan Ryan from New England to make life miserable for opposition receivers. He had 92 tackles last year, as well as 11 pass defences and two interceptions.
Week 2 Result: The Titans defence tightened up after getting schooled by Oakland in Week 1, making life hell for Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles (sacked and intercepted twice each) in a convincing 37-16 road win. Offensively, RB Derrick Henry shone, running for 92 yards and a score.
Up next: At home to Seattle (1-1) on Sunday.
10. Dallas Cowboys – 2017 Record: 1-1; Last Week’s Rank: 6
This ranking will have a lot to do with how the Cowboys fare with or without Ezekiel Elliott, whose six-game suspension had an injunction put on it so he could play week 1 and week 2. If he ever becomes a no-go, though, one of either Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris will have to fill a big hole, as Elliott piled up just shy of 2,000 all-purpose yards and scored 16 TDs. Elliott is preparing to play, but no one should hold their breath in anticipation of the ruling on Tuesday. Of course, this will put more pressure on sophomore QB Dak Prescott to air out the ball more to Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten. The Cowboys defence was pretty good in 2016 and they added veteran CB Nolan Carroll II from Philadelphia. He had 41 tackles, 10 pass defences and an interception with the Eagles last year. Of all newcomers, rookie DE Taco Charlton (Michigan) could push incumbent starter Tyrone Crawford.
Week 2 Result: Ezekiel Elliott was awful Sunday in a blowout loss to Denver. He had 22 combined yards (eight rushing yards on nine carries) and was criticized for not hustling after a Broncos defender who had intercepted a pass. The Cowboys get the biggest slip this week due to a shoddy overall effort.
Up next: In Arizona for a Monday night clash with the 1-1 Cardinals.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2017 Record: 1-0; Last Week’s Rank: 10
Irma came and went, which meant an intriguing all-Florida match-up in Miami between the Buccaneers and Dolphins was postponed until Nov. 19. No matter where they play, this is the season that the Bucs and QB Jameis Winston need to prove they are for real. They certainly did well against the NFC South, going 4-2 and recording some impressive victories over playoff bound teams Kansas City and Seattle along the way. Winston, in his second season, was very consistent, throwing for over 4,000 yards again and very nearly leading the Bucs into the playoffs. In order for Winston to continue his ascent up the QB rankings, the team brought in star wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who had his fifth career 1,000-yard plus season in 2016 with Washington. Wideout Mike Evans is still the main pass-catching stud and rookie TE O.J. Howard (Alabama) could be a force. The Tampa defence was all right in 2016 and marginally better this year with the addition of Denver cast-off T.J. Ward, who brings plenty of tenacity and experience from seven seasons in the NFL.
Week 2 Result: The Bucs, in their first game of the season (week 1 was washed out by Hurricane Irma), jumped out to a 26-0 lead and never looked back in 29-7 romp over hapless Chicago (0-2). Jameis Winston shared the ball around well (204 yards and one passing TD), including seven strikes to Mike Evans (93 yards, TD).
Up next: At Minnesota (1-1) on Sunday.
8. Seattle Seahawks – 2017 Record: 1-1; Last Week’s Rank: 9
The Seahawks defence hardly needed the addition of DT Sheldon Richardson, but we’re quite sure the big man will fit right in. Seattle’s D will be the difference between just making the playoffs and doing considerable damage when the team gets there. The beefy Richardson had 18 sacks, 241 tackles and five forced fumbles in four seasons with the New York Jets and is raring to go. Offensively, there are a couple of question marks in starting WR Paul Richardson, who’ll have to replace the decent hands of departed veteran Jermaine Kearse. The running back position is even a bit more sketchy, with Thomas Rawls (349 yards, 3 TD in 2016) and Eddie Lacy (360 yards, 0 TD) sharing the load. The wild card is Pete Carroll, who has a knack for taking all the pieces and making them championship caliber.
Week 2 Result: The Seattle offence, which was invisible week 1, finally got a touchdown, albeit the first of the new season in a too-close-for comfort 12-9 triumph over San Francisco (0-2). The defence was stellar, again, harassing 49ers QB Brian Hoyer all day and limiting San Fran to 258 total yards.
Up next: In Tennessee Sunday to spar with the Titans (1-1).
7. Kansas City Chiefs – 2017 Record: 2-0; Last Week’s Rank: 11
We would have ranked the Chiefs higher prior to a week 1 visit to New England but they move up courtesy of a shocking road win over the Patriots. They were a 12-4 team in 2016, so there are things to like. But, after a 2-2 pre-season, there are still a few lingering doubts about this year’s edition. Alex Smith is still a good, but not great, quarterback (3,502 yards passing, 15 TD, 8 INT in 2016) who does the little things well but won’t set the world on fire. The Chiefs starting receivers, Tyreek Hill and Chris Conley, have three years experience between them and need to break out. Running back Kareem Hunt is a rookie, leaving TE Travis Kelce as the only big threat on offence, right now. No questions abound, though, concerning Kansas City’s defence, which is led very capably by SS Eric Berry and OLB Justin Houston.
Week 2 Result: Rookie Kareem Hunt, who was the difference against New England in Week 1, racked up another 109 combined yards, including two touchdowns as the Chiefs nipped Philadelphia 27-20 at home Sunday. TE Travis Kelce also had a day, hauling in eight passes for 103 yards and a score. DE Chris Jones was a one-man wrecking crew, registering three sacks, an interception and forcing two fumbles.
Up next: In Los Angeles to face the 0-2 Chargers Sunday.
6. Green Bay Packers – 2017 Record: 1-1; Last Week’s Rank: 5
The enigmatic Packers successfully tested a slightly revamped offence against one of the NFL’s premier defences in week 1, that of the Seattle Seahawks. That particular win showed just what kind of season that Aaron Rodgers and the gang could have in 2017. The Pack added premier tight end Martellus Bennett from New England in the off-season. He caught 55 passes for 701 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016 and should get near those stats with Rodgers tossing the ball his way. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are way better than average receivers but only Ty Montgomery in the backfield is any kind of threat. The defence, headed by Clay Matthews, remains relatively unchanged, with notable addition Davon House at corner. The former Jacksonville Jaguar didn’t do much last season, but in 2015 he recorded 60 tackles, 23 pass defences and four interceptions.
Week 2 Result: The score (34-23) flattered Green Bay on Sunday, as the host Falcons were ahead 34-10 going into the fourth quarter. Aaron Rodgers threw for 343 yards and two touchdowns, but otherwise the Falcons D kept he and the offence in check.
Up next: At home to Cincinnati (0-2) Sunday.
5. Detroit Lions – 2017 Record: 2-0; Last Week’s Rank: 7
God forbid that the highest paid player in the NFL, never mind best remunerated QB Matt Stafford should go down to injury this season. The Lions, who made the playoffs in 2016, have put all their eggs in Stafford’s considerable basket, but don’t have a reliable back-up to speak of (rookie Jake Rudock has yet to throw a regular season pass). Otherwise, this is an uber-talented offence that features WRs Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. (over 2,000 yards between them and eight total TDs) and TE Eric Ebron (711 yards, eighth among tight ends). The Lions looked to solidify their investment in Stafford by acquiring OT Rick Wagner and OG T.J. Lang, who should help ease the sack rate (Stafford was knocked down 37 times in 2016). The Lions defence underwent some change, as rookie DT A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama) and LB Jarrad Davis cracked the defensive first team.
Week 2 Result: The Lions sent the New York Giants out of the weekly rankings (they are 0-2 and looking pedestrian), beating them soundly, 24-10. Ziggy Ansah registered three of the Lions five sacks on Giants QB Eli Manning, while also recording six tackles and forcing a fumble.
Up next: A big contest at home with Atlanta (2-0) on Sunday.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers – 2017 Record: 2-0; Last Week’s Rank: 4
The Steelers sure did benefit from playing in the AFC’s worst division in 2016. And it looks more and more like Pittsburgh will run the table again this year, as none of Baltimore, Cincinnati or deplorable Cleveland improved enough to take a run at them. The Steelers went 5-1 against their foes last year, and a so-so 6-4 against everyone else before making it all the way to the AFC championship. Not content to sit on their laurels, the Steelers announced that rookie OLB T.J. Watt (brother of J.J.) will start ahead of veteran James Harrison. The team also welcome veteran DB Joe Haden to the fold after he was cut by Cleveland. He was pretty good for a crummy Browns team in 2016, registering 48 tackles, three interceptions and 11 pass defences. On offence, RB Le’Veon Bell finally reported and stalwarts Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will again provide passing fireworks.
Week 2 Result: The Steelers had the luxury of facing Minnesota back-up QB Case Keenum Sunday and don’t move up even with a 26-9 win. But, Ben Roethlisberger was his efficient self (243 passing yards, two TD) and Le’Veon Bell opened up the field for the receivers with 87 yards rushing.
Up next: In Chicago to play the 0-2 Bears Sunday.
3. Oakland Raiders – 2017 Record: 2-0; Last Week’s Rank: 3
Yes, we picked them to come out of the AFC this year, but until they face — and beat — the New England Patriots in Week 11 (after a bye week) they will remain second banana in the power rankings. That aside, we think the Raiders will top the AFC West, at minimum. The offence, capably handled by QB Derek Carr, has a couple of new wrinkles this season. Un-retired RB Marshawn Lynch takes over for the departed Latavius Murray and veteran TE Jared Cook gives them pass-catching ability at that position they haven’t had in some time. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are dynamic threats downfield and former Viking Cordarrelle Patterson is a great no. 3 man at wideout. Defensively, unheralded LB Marquel Lee of Wake Forest draws in, as does UCLA rookie Eddie Vanderdoes at defensive tackle. It’s going to be interesting in Oakland this year.
Week 2 Result: The Raiders stomped all over the visiting New York Jets Sunday, getting three rushing touchdowns from three different sources (including Marshawn Lynch) and three receiving TDs by Michael Crabtree. They rolled up 410 yards total offence, while the defence had four sacks and limited the Jets to 271 net yards in a 45-20 thrashing.
Up next: In D.C. Sunday night to play the 1-1 Redskins.
2. New England Patriots – 2017 Record: 1-1; Last Week’s Rank: 2
Let’s face it, until otherwise proven, the Patriots are still the class of the NFL — and actually got better in the off-season — even after getting hosed by Kansas City in Week 1. Starring alongside QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski will be former Saints’ standout receiver Brandin Cooks. He and WR Chris Hogan will get the most targets, followed by Danny Amendola. The Gronk, should he stay healthy, will no doubt reach 1,000 yards again for the fourth time in his career. The only gaping hole is at running back, where a platoon of backs will have to make up for LeGarrette Blount’s punishing running (1,161 yards, 18 TDs). Newcomers on the Patriots already great defence include Stephon Gilmore at corner (48 tackles, five interceptions with Buffalo in 2016), LB Kyle Van Noy (23 tackles in seven games with Detroit), DL Lawrence Guy (28 tackles, one sack with Baltimore) and LB David Harris (95 tackles, 0.5 sacks for the Jets).
Week 1 Result: The Pats bounced back from an ugly week 1 loss to Kansas City, scoring early and often to beat New Orleans 36-20. It was 20-3 at the end of the first quarter in a game the Saints were never really in. Tom Brady was spot on, completing 30 of 39 passes fro 447 yards and three TDs, including a 53-yarder to Rob Gronkowski.
Up next: At home Sunday to entertain the 1-1 Houston Texans.
1. Atlanta Falcons – 2017 Record: 2-0; Last Week’s Rank: 1
The early part of their 2017 schedule favors the Falcons and everyone also needs to forget their 0-4 pre-season, and quick. The defending NFC champs beat a Chicago Bears team in flux in week 1, and also play Buffalo, Miami and the New York Jets (none of who will be a threat) in their first seven games. The biggest test will be a re-match in New England against the Patriots in Week 7. They don’t play a divisional foe until they visit an improved Carolina team in Week 9 and finish the season with five of their last six against the NFC South. QB Matt Ryan retains all his premier weapons from 2016, including Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Devonta Freeman. Sack leader Vic Beasley heads up a defence that didn’t need to be great in 2016 (what with Ryan’s passing exploits) and features no rookies or off-season acquisitions.
Week 1 Result: The Falcons retained their hold on no.1 with a huge victory over visiting Green Bay Sunday. The defence made life miserable for Aaron Rodgers, sacking him three times and intercepting him once, while also forcing a fumble. Matt Ryan was 19-of-28 for 252 yards and a TD, while RB Devonta Freeman scampered for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
Up next: A big test in Detroit to face the 2-0 Lions.