Week 2 is now in the books and still no sign of two-time First Team All-Pro Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For the second consecutive week there was yet another tie, this time between Minnesota and Green Bay, which only screws up our weekly prognosticating abilities.
The Browns snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, yet again and Minnesota fired their kicker when he missed a key field goal in that tie with the Packers.
Jacksonville got revenge on New England in a AFC championship rematch and the Kansas City Chiefs stunned Pittsburgh on their home turf, leaving the Steelers winless — but not hopeless, yet.
There were some good games and some head-scratchers in Week 2, for sure.
We’ve spent some time this past summer telling anyone who will listen who the best freshmen might be, while making some gutsy prognostications about just who will be dominant this season. On the player side, we think some guys will break out, big time and filled in the football literati on the top aging stars still grinding it out.
With week 2 out of the way, we have had to shuffle the weekly power rankings quite a bit. Here is the new power rankings, as per results.
16. Atlanta Falcons – 2018 Record: 1-1
One season after going 11-5 and losing a heartbreaking Super Bowl to New England, the Falcons finished 10-6 and lost to eventual champion Philadelphia in the divisional playoffs. The team didn’t do a whole lot of off-season tweaking, choosing instead to stay the course. Star QB Matt Ryan is back for his 11th season and outside of rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley, there aren’t many new faces kicking around. WR Julio Jones is still the biggest deep threat and emerging RB Tevin Coleman gets a chance to run for glory in 2018. Sixth-year defensive back Desmond Truffant is a leader on a fairly young Atlanta D.
Week 2 Result: Atlanta shook off a lacklustre loss to Philadelphia in Week 1, building a 24-10 lead and holding off division rival Carolina for a big 31-24 victory. Ryan was surgeon-like, completing 23 of 28 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns, while running for two others. Rookie Ridley tied Jones for game honors in reception yards with 64, including his first ever NFL TD. The defence was a little leaky late, but did enough (two sacks, an interception and five pass deflections) to keep Cam Newton and the Panthers offence from coming back all the way.
Up next: We don’t like to say it this early in the season, but Sunday’s visit from 1-1 New Orleans could have playoff implications.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – 2018 Record: 0-1-1
It’s going to be a long year if Le’Veon Bell continues his hold out well into the regular season. He was responsible for 1,946 of Pittsburgh’s 6,047 yards and 11 of the squads touchdowns too. For the time being, it’s status quo on the Steelers offence, as Big Ben Roethlisberger calls the shots in his 15th season with Pittsburgh. He still has superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown to fling bombs to, ditto emerging talent JuJu Smith-Schuster. While Bell continues to hold the team hostage, second-year man James Conner will get the ball in the backfield. Pittsburgh’s stingy fifth ranked defence from 2017 added a couple of key pieces in S Morgan Burnett from Green Bay and LB Jon Bostic from Indianapolis. We have predicted big things for the Steelers, so both units need to play to their potential.
Week 2 Result: James Conner is no Le’Veon Bell and despite a rushing TD, had only 17 yards all day for a Pittsburgh offence in need of a running game as the Steelers lost a heart-breaker to a good Kansas City team, 42-37. The Steelers passing game was on point, with Big Ben tossing for 452 yards and three TDs, but the defensive secondary got burned for 326 yards passing and six TDs off the arm of Chiefs QB Pat Mahomes.
Up next: Another loss and not only will the Steelers be off this list, but they may miss the post-season all together. And they have a monumental task next Monday in trying to take down the 2-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their own backyard.
14. Washington Redskins – 2018 Record: 1-1
There is a new pigskin-throwing sheriff in town and his name is Alex Smith. Kirk Cousins explored his options in free agency — ultimately inking a deal with Minnesota — so Washington was pro-active, sending CB Kendall Fuller and a third round pick to Kansas City for the veteran Smith. He will hopefully help turn around a team that hasn’t been to the post-season since 2015 and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005. Other than Smith, there isn’t a whole lot of new in D.C. this year, with only veteran RB Adrian Peterson (signed in August) donning Washington crimson and gold for the first time. If Washington is to be successful, much will hinge on a relatively intact defence that was middle third in yards allowed in 2017 (5,556, 21st overall and last against the rush) and 27th in points allowed at 24.3.
Week 2 Result: The tables were turned on Alex Smith and the Redskins on Tuesday, as Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts were as good as they had to be to beat Washington 21-9. Smith threw for 292 yards but no touchdowns and was sacked three times. RB Adrian Peterson, really good in Week 1, had just 20 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Up next: From the frying pan to the fire for the Redskins as the 1-0-1 Green Bay Packers roll into D.C.
13. New Orleans Saints – 2018 Record: 1-1
It’s still Drew Brees’ show in the Big Easy. The 39-year-old superstar pivot signed a two-year contract extension worth $50 million going into his 19th season. The Super Bowl champ and two-time Offensive Player of the Year still has great weapons at his disposal in 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara, Pro Bowl wideout Michael Thomas, veteran WR Ted Ginn Jr. and long-time TE Benjamin Watson. Of course, should anything happen to Brees, Saints management traded for QB Teddy Bridgewater. New Orleans, which was middle of the pack on defence collectively in 2017, signed a couple of veterans in the off-season. LB Demario Davis, formerly of the Jets is a sturdy defender who hasn’t missed a game in six years in the NFL, while CB Patrick Robinson returns after a successful sojourn in Philadelphia.
Week 2 Result: A win is a win is a win. The Saints redeemed themselves after a shocking 48-40 loss to Tampa Bay by coming back to beat the hapless Cleveland Browns 21-18 Sunday. New Orleans was down 12-3 in the fourth when Drew Brees hit WR Michael Thomas for back-to-back TDs. Cleveland, undaunted, scored a TD to tie it up, but in a precursor of things to come K Zane Gonzalez missed the extra point. Saints K Will Lutz kicked the game-winning FG with 21 seconds left, while Gonzalez missed a tying boot.
Up next: It’s early, yes, but the Saints have a pivotal Sunday match when they go marching into Atlanta to do battle with the 1-1 Falcons.
12. Carolina Panthers – 2018 Record: 1-1
The Cats turned things around after stinking the joint out in 2016, going 11-5 last year before losing in the wild card game to New Orleans. The offence, headed by a healthy Cam Newton, remains relatively unchanged, with veteran WR Torrey Smith coming into the fold. Carolina also drafted WR D.J. Moore out of Maryland to spell Devin Funchess. On the defensive side of the ball, Carolina is very sound, especially against the run where they were third stingiest against the run in 2017. MLB Luke Kuechly again calls the shots in his seventh season and the squad got a boost on the defensive line with the acquisition of seventh-year pro Dontari Poe at tackle. The defensive backfield has a couple of newcomers in veteran S Da’Norris Searcy and rookie CB Donte Jackson (drafted second round out of LSU).
Week 2 Result: Not even a banged up Cam Newton could save the Panthers from a demoralizing 31-24 defeat to Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Newton survived a cheap shot to the head to fire three TD passes, but the Cats defence was porous, allowing 442 total yards and four TDs (two passing and two rushing by Ryan).
Up next: Not an easy home date Sunday, with the 2-0 Cincinnati Bengals coming to Bank of America Stadium.
11. Miami Dolphins – 2018 Record: 2-0
The Dolphins were an up-and-down team in 2017, ultimately squandering a 4-2 start by losing eight of 10 to miss the playoffs after going to the post-season in 2016. With Ryan Tannehill back after missing the entire 2017 campaign, Miami can put in the rearview mirror the three-pivot experiment that had dour QB Jay Cutler start 14 games last year. Brock Osweiler is the new back-up, while geezers WR Danny Amendola and RB Frank Gore were brought in to augment the likes of third-year RB Kenyan Drake and wide receivers Kenny Stills and Jakeem Grant. On the defensive side of the ball, Ndamukong Suh is gone, replaced by second-year DT Vincent Taylor. Other fresh faces in the 4-3 scheme are standout college safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and former Detroit Lions DT Akeem Spence. Veterans Kiko Alonso and Cameron Wake will still be counted on to solidify the D.
Week 2 Result: Miami scored early and often, with RB Kenyan Drake opening the scoring and Ryan Tannehill capping two drives with TD passes as the Fish jumped out to a 20-0 first half lead and hung on to beat the Jets 20-12. The Dolphins defence kept New York week 1 hero Sam Darnold in check for the most part, intercepting two of his 41 pass attempts and sacking him three times.
Up next: Miami can’t get complacent, with the 0-2 Oakland Raiders coming in to try and break their early season funk.
10. Cincinnati Bengals – 2018 Record: 2-0
Stalwart quarterback Andy Dalton is back for his eighth season and looking to extend another iron man streak after playing all 32 games the last two seasons. He began his career with 64 straight starts then missed his first three games ever in 2015. The Bengals, who missed the playoffs for the second straight year in 2017, therefore begin the 2018 campaign as one of our bubble squads. Dalton got some help in the off-season with the acquisitions of lineman Cordy Glenn (trade with Buffalo) and rookie center Billy Price (21st pick out of Ohio State). Running back Joe Mixon looks to improve on a decent rookie campaign, while WR A.J. Green anchors the receiving corps and a healthy TE Tyler Eifert possibly returning to 2015 Pro Bowl form after two lost seasons. Defensively, former Buffalo Bills linebacker Preston Brown joins a decent and homegrown defence led by the likes of FS George Iloka, LB Vontaze Burfict, DE Carlos Dunlap and DT Geno Atkins.
Week 2 Result: The Baltimore Ravens defence, which has too often in the past owned Bengals QB Andy Dalton, was no match for Dalton last Thursday as he threw for four first half TD passes, three to A.J. Green in Cincy’s 34-23 victory. Geno Atkins led a determined Cincinnati assault on Baltimore’s offence, particularly QB Joe Flacco. Atkins had two of four Bengals sacks and the Cincinnati D also picked off two of Flacco’s 55 attempts.
Up next: The Bengals take their act to Carolina (1-1) in a battle of feline teams on Sunday.
9. Denver Broncos – 2018 Record: 2-0
It was an off-season of significant change in the Mile High City. A lackluster 5-11 season will do that to a team. Brought in fresh from a Cinderella run with Minnesota was free agent QB Case Keenum, who got 36 million reasons (dollars) to prove that 2017 with the Vikes was no fluke. In the offensive backfield, rookie RB Royce Freeman gets the chance to start in place of Devontae Booker, who was ultimately quite disappointing in 2017. Big time collegiate receiver Courtland Sutton (2nd round pick out of SMU), joins veterans Demaryius Thomas and fellow former SMU alum Emmanuel Sanders on a pretty slick receiving corps. Denver’s defence also underwent a bit of a facelift, as veteran CB Aqib Talib was dealt to the L.A. Rams. Incoming to the linebacking corps is fifth overall selection Bradley Chubb from North Carolina State, while the D-line welcomes ninth-year pro Clinton McDonald from Tampa Bay. Von Miller leads this dynamic group, which was the third-rated defence in 2017.
Week 2 Result: Denver overcame two separate 12-point deficits, winning 20-19 late in the fourth quarter with 10 points as Case Keenum engineered two great scoring drives. Rookie RB Phillip Lindsay had his first 100-yard game to aid the cause. The Denver defence bent but didn’t break in limiting Oakland’s passing and running attack in the second half.
Up next: The Broncos offence will be tested in Baltimore when it takes on the 1-1 Ravens D on Sunday.
8. New England Patriots – 2018 Record: 1-1
Let’s face it, until otherwise proven, the Patriots are still the class of the NFL, albeit not no. 1 like they have been for much of the last decade and a bit. The off-season wasn’t too tumultuous, but it did see longtime WR Danny Amendola head to Miami and 1,000-yard receiver Brandin Cooks get traded to the L.A. Rams. Even still, ageless Tom Brady still has the Gronk, newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett to target. Over on the defensive side of things, DT Danny Shelton is the sole newcomer among nominal starters. This is an outstanding and comprehensive unit capably backed up by a backfield that includes Devin McCourty, Stephon Gilmore and Patrick Chung. All signs point to another AFC East title and a good playoff run.
Week 2 Result: The New England defence was victimized early and often by Jags QB Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offence, losing in the AFC championship rematch 31-20. Bortles threw for 377 yards and four touchdowns and the Jaguars piled up 481 yards to win fairly easily. Tom Brady threw for 234 yards and two TDs, but the run offence was stuffed and inconsequential.
Up next: The Patriots can redeem themselves by beating up the 0-2 Detroit Lions at Ford Field Sunday.
7. Philadelphia Eagles – 2018 Record: 1-1
It’s still Nick Foles job to toss passes for the defending champion Eagles, so fans ought to get used to it, at least until Week 3. That’s when Carson Wentz is due to return from a knee injury he suffered early last December. The Eagles, who surprised many by taking it all last year, kept the offence relatively intact, other than signing veteran wide receiver Mike Wallace to a one-year deal. Fletcher Cox heads one of the NFL’s most dynamic defences. It’s a veteran and largely homegrown unit that got a significant boost with the acquisition of DE Michael Bennett in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. He’s a veteran edge rusher who has 54 career sacks, including 8.5 with the Seattle Seahawks last year.
Week 2 Result: It was too little too late for the defending champion Eagles Sunday, as they allowed Tampa Bay to build a 27-7 lead en route to a 27-21 loss. Nick Foles did throw for 334 yards and a touchdown, but the defence allowed hot Buccaneers QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to operate at will as he threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns.
Up next: Not an easy task ahead as Andrew Luck and the 1-1 Indianapolis Colts come to town Sunday.
6. Green Bay Packers – 2018 Record: 1-0-1
Aaron Rodgers is back, and we’ve put our money where our mouth is and tabbed the Packers to make the playoffs this year and even do some damage. The normally very durable superstar play-caller missed nine games last season and with him went the Packers playoff hopes. Packers management took great pains to give Rodgers some options, too, signing five-time Pro Bowl TE Jimmy Graham. Pro Bowl wide receivers Davante Adams and Randall Cobb return to the fold and former Cleveland Browns QB DeShone Kizer gets to watch and learn in a back-up role. With S Morgan Burnett gone in free agency to Pittsburgh, Green Bay shored up a fairly green defensive backfield by bring back Tramon Williams for second go around. The rest of the 3-4 defence remained relatively unchanged, with DE Muhammad Wilkerson, formerly of the Jets, manning the right side of the line.
Week 2 Result: The tables were turned on the Packers in a monster battle with Minnesota Sunday, as the Vikes outscored Green Bay 22-9 in the fourth quarter to salvage a 29-29 tie. Even with QB Aaron Rodgers and the offence held to just one TD, the Packers managed to find a way not to get beat.
Next Up: Rodgers and the Packers head to Washington to tangle with Alex Smith and the 1-1 Redskins Sunday.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2018 Record: 2-0
Like the Denver Broncos, the 5-11 Buccaneers have to shake off the ill effects of a terrible campaign and focus on making the post-season for the first time since 2007. With Jameis Winston shelved for the first three games of the 2018 campaign due to violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the reins of the offence get handed to journeyman pivot Ryan “Amish Rifle” Fitzpatrick. He won’t be without help, though, as the Bucs still have two great receivers in the fold in DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans. Where the Buccaneers really need to shore up things in 2018 is on the other side of the ball, where they gave up a league high 6,049 yards in 2017, including a league worst 4,169 in the air. A major overhaul then included the dealt to get DE Jason Pierre-Paul from the Giants and drafting collegiate DT stud Vita Vea in the first round. They finished off the 75 percent d-line change by getting Vinny Curry from Philadelphia. Otherwise, the Bucs drafted a slew of rookie defensive backs to apprentice under veterans like Brent Grimes.
Week 2 Result: Can anyone stop Ryan Fitzpatrick? The Amish Rifle had a second consecutive 400-yard passing week, shredding the Philadelphia Eagles defence for 402 yards and four TD passes in a 27-21 Buccaneers triumph. He now has 819 yards passing and eight touchdowns, against just one interception. The Bucs defence did a solid job too, limiting the Eagles ground game to only 91 yards, while sacking Nick Foles three times and recording six pass deflections.
Up next: The Bucs should not take the 0-1-1 Pittsburgh Steelers lightly when they invade Tampa Bay Monday night.
4. Minnesota Vikings – 2018 Record: 1-0-1
Could one magical season be superseded by yet another? The Vikings shook the personnel tree in the off-season, despite going 13-3 in 2017 and going to the NFC championship game. The quarterback carousel saw the departures of Case Keenum (Denver), Sam Bradford (Arizona) and Teddy Bridgewater (New Orleans) and the arrival of superb thrower Kirk Cousins. Otherwise, the team brought in wide receiver insurance in veteran Kendall Wright, who augments a superb corps including Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. RB Dalvin Cook returns after missing 12 games of his rookie season. The Vikings defence, which gave up the fewest yards in 2017, is a tribute to the team’s development of talent, as only two of the unit’s 11 starters weren’t drafted by Minny. One is newcomer Sheldon Richardson, the starting tackle by way of Seattle.
Week 2 Result: A valiant effort by the Vikings to tie the formidable Green Bay Packers with a last second touchdown was marred by kicker Daniel Carlson’s inability to kick the winning field goal in what would be a 29-29 draw. The rookie kicker missed not just one, but two field goals in the extra frame, going 0-for-3 and finding himself without a job Monday. Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins was superb, completing 35 of 48 pass attempts for four touchdowns, including two to Stefon Diggs (who also caught the pivotal two-point conversion to knot the game up late).
Up next: The Vikings entertain the 0-2 Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Can anyone say “guaranteed win?”
3. Kansas City Chiefs – 2018 Record: 2-0
Alex Smith swapped one red jersey for another, leaving K.C. for D.C. and the Redskins. Which means second-year pivot Patrick Mahomes has the offence all to himself. And what an offence it is. The fifth ranked unit from 2017 added WR Sammy Watkins to a very talented group that includes superstar TE Travis Kelce, outstanding second-year running back Kareem Hunt and fleet receiver Tyreek Hill. Smith’s departure to Washington was a boon to the Chiefs defence, as CB Kendall Fuller came the the other way to be a starter. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens was lured away from Dallas to do good work in the backfield and underrated DT Xavier Williams, who the Arizona Cardinals let go because he was offered a restricted deal by Kansas City, joins a pretty good line.
Week 2 Result: Alex Smith who? Patrick Mahomes is the MVP right now, having absolutely picked apart the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backfield for 326 yards, six touchdowns (!) for an absurd passer rating of 154.8. The second-year pivot hit five different receivers for scores, including two to All-Pro TE Travis Kelce, who shook off a slow start to haul in a team high seven passes for 109 yards. The Chiefs defence did allow Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger to operate fairly freely, but it did limit the Steelers running game to only 33 yards in the 42-37 win.
Up next: The Chiefs will have to be on their game as the rejuvenated 1-1 San Francisco 49ers visit on Sunday.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – 2018 Record: 2-0
The Jaguars made it to within a touchdown of making the Super Bowl in 2017 and spent the off-season looking at ways of improving the second best defence and sixth best offence from a year ago. Unlike many other teams, they didn’t make a change under center, handing the reins back to sixth-year man Blake Bortles. They made a couple of low key moves to help out the likes of RB Leonard Fournette and Marqise Lee, bringing in veteran TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins from the Jets and WR Donte Moncrief from the Indianapolis Colts. The Jags didn’t make changes to the best defensive backfield in football, anchored by CB A.J. Bouye. Up front, sack-master Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus will make life heck on opposing quarterbacks and running backs.
Week 2 Result: It was sweet, sweet revenge for the Jaguars Sunday as they built a 21-3 half-time lead on the way to a huge 31-20 win over AFC Championship nemesis New England Sunday. Blake Bortles had one of his finest games as a pro, hitting four different receivers for TDs. Kudos go to the Jacksonville defence, too, as they kept the Pats offence to only 302 net yards.
Up next: Jacksonville entertains the 1-1 Tennessee Titans Sunday in a big early season AFC South match-up.
1. Los Angeles Rams – 2018 Record: 2-0
After 12 years of really bad football, the Rams were resurrected from the dead in 2017. They had a great season, going 11-5, but ultimately had a bad end, losing 26-13 to Atlanta in the wild card playoffs. But, they have much to build on, especially defence, where they were near bottom third in 2017. So they went big, signing oft-controversial DT Ndamukong Suh for a year and then trading for five-time Pro Bowl CB Aqib Talib. The Rams also hit won out of the park by swapping draft picks for two-time All-Pro corner Marcus Peters of the Kansas City Chiefs. These very complementary players join 2017 Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who is the undisputed leader. The offence also got an oil change. Three-time 1,000-yard receiver Brandin Cooks came in from New England to catch passes from Jared Goff and to marvel at the talents of 2017 Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley II.
Week 2 Result: The Rams completely dominated NFC West foe Arizona on Sunday, whipping the Cardinals 34-0. The L.A. defence played the biggest part, allowing just 137 net yards to Sam Bradford and company. Running back Todd Gurley had just 73 all-purpose yards, but scored on three short-yardage runs in the blowout. Jared Goff didn’t have to be perfect, either, throwing for 354 yards, a touchdown and an interception. An encouraging sign was the breakout day by WR Brandin Cooks, who caught seven passes for 159 yards.
Up next: In a battle of Los Angeles based teams, the Rams will host the 1-1 Chargers on Sunday.