You don’t want to overreact to one game, but it was nice to actually see all 32 teams on the field to give a better idea of where things stand in 2019. There will likely be a lot of changes in the power rankings during the first month of the season, but this is where I see each team after Week 1.
1. New England Patriots (1-0) | Last week: 1
The Patriots didn’t need more help to be the Super Bowl favorites, but there’s no question they’re leading the pack after the addition of All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown. The offense already looked excellent in a Sunday night rout of the Steelers, and Tom Brady commanding that offense with all those weapons is scary. Also, the defense has the look of an elite group. Those that have followed either along here or along with the Patriots on the field know that Phillip Dorsett makes plays whenever he’s called upon and is one of the most undervalued guys in the league. While he’ll now step back into more of a secondary role again, which has happened a number of times to him in New England, he’s the ideal team player and will be ready when he gets opportunities mixing in—it was great to see him have a two-touchdown performance in the opener.
2. Los Angeles Rams (1-0) | Last week: 2
We received our first look at how Todd Gurley would really be used this season (and beyond), and—based on Week 1—it looks like there will be relatively long stretches where the former Offensive Player of the Year doesn’t see the field much. However, it worked out well in LA’s 30-27 win at Carolina, as Gurley still racked up 97 yards on 14 carries, with 64 of those yards coming in the fourth quarter while the Rams looked to ice the game—and Gurley looks like his usual self running the ball, which Sean McVay and company will hope is the case into January and February. The run defense of the Rams needs to tighten up, but the pass defense led by cornerback Aqib Talib had a strong outing to open the year.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) | Last week: 3
I was tempted to place the Chiefs in the No. 2 spot in this week’s power rankings. Patrick Mahomes threw three touchdowns—all to Sammy Watkins, who looks like the superb gamebreaking talent that made him the No. 4 pick coming out of Clemson in 2014—after being held to zero versus Jacksonville last season, and he might be even better (including better numbers) than his MVP campaign from a season ago. Even without Tyreek Hill, the track-team-like skill position players will be too much for most defenses. But the Kansas City defense giving up big plays through to air to Nick Foles and then rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew is an obvious concern, so they stay at No. 3 for now.
4. New Orleans Saints (1-0) | Last week: 5 (+1)
Whether it was a hangover dating all the way back to the way last season ended or just an off start, the Saints were outplayed for much of the Monday night game against the Texans; but Drew Brees and company put up 27 second-half points including a last-second game-winning field goal by Will Lutz. With Brees leading the team, New Orleans should simply never be counted out in the Superdome. The defense gave up too many big plays and could not have done a worse job on the go-ahead drive by the Texans late in the game, but they’ll look to get that sorted out quickly as they face the Rams in what will be billed as a redemption game.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) | Last week: 6 (+1)
The Eagles were lit up by Case Keenum and gave up ten points in each of the first two quarters to open the season home at Lincoln Financial Field, but it was a good sign that they were able to flip the switch and dominate with a 25-7 second half. It was a bit surprising Jordan Howard (six carries for 44 yards) didn’t get more work, but Philadelphia went with a pass-heavy approach. The defense lost defensive lineman Malik Jackson to the year with a Lisfranc injury, and the pass rush was already pretty quiet in the first game. This Sunday night at Atlanta will be a bigger test for the Eagles.
6. Dallas Cowboys (1-0) | Last week: 10 (+4)
The Giants blew a bunch of coverages throughout the afternoon, but Dak Prescott was at the top of his game to start the season, throwing for 405 yards and four touchdowns while spreading the ball to seven different receivers and hitting four different players for touchdowns. Prescott had more than enough time to throw all afternoon, and Dallas is going to be tough to beat if their quarterback is able to stand back in the pocket and comfortably get the ball out accurately and on time to his underrated weapons. It’s early against a team that played poorly, but the revamped offense under new coordinator Kellen Moore gets an A+ after one game—while the Cowboys paid Ezekiel Elliott, I think they’re becoming a group that’s going to run through the passing game more moving forward.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0) | Last week: 9 (+2)
Austin Ekeler was one of the stars of Week 1 while helping carry the load at running back during Melvin Gordon’s holdout, as he took advantage of some poor Colts tackling on his way to three total touchdowns. I’m as big of a fan of Gordon’s game as anyone, but I think he’s getting terrible advice by holding out into the season while Ekeler and Justin Jackson shine in one of the league’s better offenses. Defensively, the run defense of the Chargers is a concern after Marlon Mack gashed them for 174 yards; but overall, this remains a talented all-around team even without Gordon, left tackle Russell Okung, and All-Pro safety Derwin James.
8. Tennessee Titans (1-0) | Last week: 13 (+5)
I thought the Titans were going to beat the Browns to open the season, but I don’t think anyone predicted they’d blow them out by 30 points and intercept Baker Mayfield three times. Marcus Mariota (three touchdowns) threw the ball well and played efficiently, and it was awesome to see Tennessee treat Derrick Henry as a workhorse and engine for their offense—that shouldn’t change this season. The Titans might be as tough as it gets in the AFC this season, so the team should have an identity if they keep running the ball with Henry.
9. Seattle Seahawks (1-0) | Last week: 11 (+2)
The Bengals vs. Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field felt like one of the weirdest games of the week, but Seattle was able to emerge with a 1-0 record after a one-point victory. However, the defense was lit up by Andy Dalton (418 yards, two touchdowns) and blazing receiver John Ross (158 yards, two touchdowns), so the concern about the secondary looks to be legitimate. Also, the Seahawks were outgained 429-233, so they were fortunate to win the turnover battle and get a Week 1 victory. They’ll now head to Heinz Field as they look to get two up in the win column as traditionally slow starters.
10. Atlanta Falcons (0-1) | Last week: 4 (-6)
Matt Ryan made some poor decisions, but the offensive line of the Falcons did not play well and made things nearly impossible on their quarterback in a difficult matchup at Minnesota. Now, first-round rookie offensive guard Chris Lindstrom is on injured reserve with a foot injury, which is a massive blow for a team that targeted the offensive line with two first-round picks this year. The run defense might be just as concerning, as the Vikings had little trouble pounding the rock and controlling the game. Atlanta was my Super Bowl pick, but—while it’s foolish to overreact after one game—the team already dealing with a key injury up front is an obvious concern.
11. Chicago Bears (0-1) | Last week: 8 (-3)
Mitchell Trubisky gets way too much flak from the ultra-negative Twitter mob, but he certainly must play better for the Bears to reach their potential this season. Chicago’s offense overall needs to get simpler and get the ball out to its many playmakers both through the air and on the ground. The good news is the defense looked as strong as it did last season, and that side of the ball can straight up wreck games for the opposition. Fourth-year outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is one of the most underrated players in football and set the tone with 2.0 sacks in what could be a breakout season statistically opposite Khalil Mack.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) | Last week: 7 (-5)
With all the outside talk about the Steelers missing Antonio Brown, that was about the worst start possible for Pittsburgh. But there’s no reason to panic after just one game in Foxboro after the defending champions raised a sixth Super Bowl banner, and guys just need to step up and make contested plays. I don’t understand the Steelers not treating second-year receiver James Washington as a clear No. 2 option opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster, but perhaps that’ll change to give the offense some more juice. While they were lit up through the air by Tom Brady, Pittsburgh looks like they should have a stout defense that’ll have more advantageous matchups almost every week from here on out.
13. Oakland Raiders (1-0) | Last week: 14 (+1)
I think most average sports fans (aside from Broncos supporters or those that don’t like the Raiders for whatever reason) were happy to see Oakland play extremely well a few days after finally ending the Antonio Brown saga and moving forward with the squad they have. Compared to last season, the Raiders look way bigger, faster, and stronger on both sides of the ball, which was the hope entering 2019 after the additions they made in the offseason. Derek Carr was zipping the ball all over the field and looked to be in full command of Jon Gruden’s offense in his second season leading it—he probably won’t admit it, but it’s safe to say he might have some extra motivation after AB basically rejected him and the team to get over to New England. And credit to general manager Mike Mayock for handling an impossible situation as well as he could.
14. Minnesota Vikings (1-0) | Last week: 21 (+7)
Kirk Cousins threw just ten passes in Minnesota’s 28-12 win over Atlanta, and I really believe head coach Mike Zimmer hopes things go that way every week. From the first snap against the Falcons, Zimmer’s defense was flying around and put Matt Ryan under constant pressure while also shutting down the run game, and Dalvin Cook led the offense with 23 touches for 120 total yards and two rushing touchdowns. The Vikings have an awesome homefield advantage, so it’ll be interesting to see them head on the road to face the Packers for an early battle for first place in the NFC North.
15. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) | Last week: 16 (+1)
Again, we don’t want to jump to conclusions in Week 1, and that’s especially the case for the Ravens against a Dolphins team that looks like it’s not even going to make games close in 2019 (Miami won’t always play that bad, but it doesn’t get much worse than the way they played). Still, Lamar Jackson (five passing touchdowns) threw the ball accurately to the short, intermediate, and deep areas of the field while carrying just three times, making good on his promise that he’d be doing less running and more throwing this season. Baltimore’s defense, which must deal with the loss of cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee sprain), will get a better measuring stick this Sunday versus the Cardinals.
16. Indianapolis Colts (0-1) | Last week: 12 (-4)
They ultimately fell in overtime, but you have to appreciate the fight the Colts showed in their Week 1 loss to the Chargers. Indianapolis didn’t tackle well at times and are probably disappointed with a few plays on defense, but they’re going to be a team that hangs around and battles every week. The aforementioned Marlon Mack will be the foundation of the offense behind a powerful offensive line, and he’ll help keep Indy in most games along with an energetic defense.
17. Buffalo Bills (1-0) | Last week: 17
It wasn’t pretty, but the Bills found a way to get a comeback win at the Jets, as Josh Allen turned it on in the fourth quarter with a rushing score and a passing score (a 38-yarder to John Brown to put Buffalo up 17-16 with three minutes remaining) while the defense made key stops to keep them in the game while the offense struggled. With the way the Bills are building the team and establishing the culture, they might thrive on the grind-it-out wins like that. However, they’ll look to make it a cleaner game on offense as they stay in the same stadium to face the Giants this week.
18. Green Bay Packers (1-0) | Last week: 22 (+4)
Chicago did not play well on offense, but it’s not like Green Bay’s defense didn’t have a lot to do with that. With a revamped cast of young-but-experienced talent and a foundation built by key players such as cornerback Jaire Alexander in the second year of Mike Pettine’s defense, the Packers are a promising group on that side of the ball. Even with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, this new offense might be a bigger concern, as things looked uncomfortable all night—we’ll see if it was a product of facing a great defense or if there are still major kinks to be worked out with new head coach Matt LaFleur.
19. Houston Texans (0-1) | Last week: 19
This range in the power rankings is where things are tough, which was the case in the preseason power rankings last week. Led by the sensational Deshaun Watson at quarterback, the Texans can beat just about any team in a shootout—if not for the future Hall of Famer Drew Brees on the other side, we’d be talking about the Texans being 1-0 with perhaps the best win of the week at New Orleans. I like the way Carlos Hyde ran the ball for Houston, and he’ll help create balance in the offense along with Duke Johnson. If guys don’t step up around him, J.J. Watt needs to make a bigger impact for the Texans to have a top-five defense.
20. San Francisco 49ers (1-0) | Last week: 18 (-2)
San Francisco’s offense was interesting in Week 1, as it was powered by the running game while the passing attack was basically All-Pro tight end George Kittle and friends. 2018 second-round receiver Dante Pettis appears to be almost entirely out of the gameplan to open the year, but 2019 second-round pick Deebo Samuel looks like he’s bringing the toughness Kyle Shanahan is looking to utilize in the middle of the field. On defense, the Niners looked very good and had two pick-sixes to key their victory, but we’ll have to see how they fare against more challenging opponents.
21. Carolina Panthers (0-1) | Last week: 20 (-1)
Cornerback James Bradbury had a nice interception in a strong performance for Carolina’s pass defense versus the Rams’ dynamic passing offense, but the run defense of the Panthers couldn’t stop the duo of Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown to open their season. They’ll look to put it all together defensively on a short week in an easier matchup against a Bucs team that is expected to have one of the league’s worst rushing offenses this year. As he’s basically been doing dating back to his rookie season, versatile running back Christian McCaffrey (29 touches, 209 yards, two touchdowns) showed that he’s one of the best players in the league at any position.
22. Denver Broncos (0-1) | Last week: 24 (+2)
The Raiders came out with a ton of energy in the final game of Week 1, and the Broncos fell in a 14-0 hole. But Denver was able to outscore Oakland 16-10 in the second half, and Joe Flacco looked to get more comfortable in an offense that suits him—remember, Flacco didn’t play in the second half of last season, so he might have been relatively rusty. It’s concerning that the Broncos weren’t able to get any pressure on the Raiders, but they are far too talented to not get the pass rush rolling soon. Overall, I think the Broncos are going to play well and won’t beat themselves; they move up a couple of spots despite the 0-1 start.
23. Cleveland Browns (0-1) | Last week: 23
Part of the reason the Broncos moved up in the power rankings is that there’s no way the Browns could move up from No. 23 after getting embarrassed at home by the Titans. With all the talent on the roster, Cleveland can make a legit playoff push in 2019; but, as stated all offseason, a lot of this talent is from emotional players—when things go bad, they can go really bad like we saw on Sunday. Monday night versus the Jets (in the Meadowlands, where Odell Beckham Jr. returns) could set the tone for the rest of the early part of the season ahead of a brutal schedule. Personally, I think new head coach Freddie Kitchens needs to set the tone himself and tell Beckham to cut it out and lose the watch during games, but I see the issue might be that OBJ starts causing bigger issues if he gets upset about that.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) | Last week: 15 (-9)
The Jaguars have the biggest drop in this week’s power rankings, as the defense did not look good, and the team lost quarterback Nick Foles until at least Week 11 with a broken clavicle. The Chiefs are going to make a bunch of defenses look bad this season, but defense is supposed to be the calling card for Jacksonville—they almost seemed more upset that Sammy Watkins roasted them than they wanted to work out and correct things, and they did not tackle well throughout the game. Sixth-round rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew looked comfortable replacing Foles, and he set the NFL record for completion percentage in a debut (88%), but it’ll likely be a tougher matchup facing the Texans this Sunday.
25. Detroit Lions (0-0-1) | Last week: 25
The Lions were in a good position to start the season 1-0, but a fourth-quarter comeback by the Cardinals sent the game to overtime in an eventual tie. The defense played pretty well throughout the game and put pressure on Kyler Murray, but they might have gotten tired chasing around the speedy quarterback all day in the first game of the season. And offensively, the unit had the balance they’re looking for in the pass game, including with rookie first-round pick T.J. Hockenson recording the most yards (131) in an NFL debut for a tight end; but they’ll want to get the run game going with Kerryon Johnson and C.J. Anderson.
26. New York Giants (0-1) | Last week: 26
The defensive outlook for the Giants should be promising with a group of young players, but that side of the ball struggled mightily versus the Cowboys in Week 1—and it started with the lack of a pass rush. First-round rookie cornerback Deandre Baker gave up a touchdown to Amari Cooper, but hopefully he can keep a high confidence level after not allowing a touchdown in his final two seasons at Georgia. If the Giants are able to get a win over the Bills this Sunday at home, they can still get off to a nice start to the season with matchups with the Bucs and Redskins in Weeks 3 and 4.
27. New York Jets (0-1) | Last week: 27
New Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams appeared to get his defense to come out fired up against the Bills, and it led to a first-half shutout and just three points allowed through three quarters. But the Jets gave up 14 fourth-quarter points while their own offense stalled in a tough 17-16 loss. Second-year quarterback Sam Darnold got the ball out of his hands and avoided mistakes, but New York couldn’t get much going down the field, and Jamison Crowder became the first player in league history with 14 receptions and under 100 receiving yards in a game.
28. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) | Last week: 30 (+2)
The offensive line remains a concern, but the Bengals were still able to take advantage of Seattle’s secondary, as Andy Dalton threw for 418 yards and a couple of touchdowns to John Ross, who showed the ability that made him a top-ten pick a couple of years ago. A healthy and confident Ross can be a difference-maker for the Bengals. Overall, the team played hard in Zac Taylor’s first game as the head coach, which is a good sign moving forward—they just need to get the turnovers sorted out.
29. Arizona Cardinals (0-0-1) | Last week: 31 (+2)
After a losing record in college, Kliff Kingsbury’s NFL coaching career is off to a better start after a tie—but seriously, there were promising signs for the Cardinals to begin their season. David Johnson was given 24 touches, including six receptions to get him out in space; and Larry Fitzgerald remains one of the clutchest players in history. Early in the game it looked like it was going to be ugly, but I was surprised by the solid run defense Arizona had, which helped them get back into the game—the pass defense obviously needs work after giving up 385 yards to Matthew Stafford, though.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) | Last week: 28 (-2)
Dropping the Buccaneers to No. 30 and believing they are going to be one of the worst teams in the league is not an overreaction to one game. Jameis Winston has shown through four seasons that he does not take good care of the football, and it doesn’t look like Bruce Arians is going to be able to get that out of him after three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) against the Niners. Tampa Bay’s defense played well, but this team will likely be limited with Winston turning the ball over at quarterback.
31. Washington Redskins (0-1) | Last week: 29 (-2)
After jumping to an early lead at Philadelphia, it looked like Washington might be a team that surprises this season—they have talent on defense, and Case Keenum has led a team to the playoffs before. But things fell apart on defense in the second half, and the Redskins lost defensive lineman Jonathan Allen for some time to a knee injury in the process. Also, running back Derrius Guice is unfortunately dealing with another knee injury and will also miss time, which gets the great Adrian Peterson (a 1,000-yard rusher last season) back in the lineup. The reported locker room unhappiness (even with Peterson now back in the lineup) could be an issue for a team that might be near the bottom of the standings this season.
32. Miami Dolphins (0-1) | Last week: 32
While it doesn’t look like Miami will be very competitive in games this season, they have to be a lot better than they were on Sunday. Multiple reports say that Dolphins players are requesting trades, and it just doesn’t appear to be a good situation concerning the team’s ability to win games in 2019. This Sunday hosting the Patriots could get ugly again.