Week 1 of the NFL season was a wild one filled with close contests and the most one-point games in 34 years. There were also a handful of upsets and a big change at the top of the rankings. Are the Patriots now the team to beat after shocking the Cardinals in Arizona? How far will the Broncos rise after defending their title against the Panthers? It was a fantastic week of football, and the second slate of games starting Thursday should be exciting as well. In the NFL, anything can happen – even Blaine Gabbert can lead a team to a 28-0 win.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Los Angeles Rams (last week: 30)
Jeff Fisher gets a lot of flak for being a perennial 7-9 coach, but are we sure the Rams will even reach seven wins this season? It doesn’t look promising. It’s hard to imagine Jared Goff is worse than Case Keenum and Sean Mannion, but that’s a testament to how big of an issue the Rams have at quarterback. Los Angeles had a putrid 185 yards of total offense and gave up 320 yards to the Niners.
John Hefti-USA TODAY SportsJohn Hefti
Cleveland Browns (last week: 31)
Robert Griffin III is going to be out for at least eight games, giving way to Josh McCown. RG3 didn’t play particularly well in Week 1, so it’s not a crushing blow, but the Browns will struggle to win more than four games this season. They looked horrendous against the Eagles and made rookie Carson Wentz look like a five-year veteran. It’s going to be a long season in Cleveland.
Tennessee Titans (last week: 28)
Mike Mularkey’s “Exotic Smashmouth” offense didn’t look so exotic or smashmouth against the Vikings, nor did Marcus Mariota. The Titans averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and turned it over twice, leading to defensive scores for the Vikings. The run game should improve as time goes on, but Tennessee’s defense and offensive line need work.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY SportsJim Brown
Chicago Bears (last week: 27)
Although he had a full group of receivers at his disposal, Jay Cutler failed to impress against the Texans. He threw an interception and fumbled it twice, and he completed just 16 of 29 passes. The Bears struggled defensively as well.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
San Francisco 49ers (last week: 32)
There’s no way around it: The 49ers looked impressive on Monday night. Sure, it was against the Rams, who are now the worst team in football, but Blaine Gabbert played better than expected and Carlos Hyde was explosive. The 49ers also frustrated the Rams’ two best players in Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley, which is telling of how commanding the win was.
San Diego Chargers (last week: 29)
The Chargers aren’t expected to make much noise in the AFC, and Sunday showed why. They can’t make stands defensively, which is the team’s biggest issue. The offense looked strong, but that’s about as good as it’ll get with Keenan Allen now out for the year. It was obviously a loss they would have preferred to avoid given that they led the Chiefs 24-3, but it warranted a bump in their ranking.
Buffalo Bills (last week: 22)
Simply put, the Bills are not very good. The passing game looks dysfunctional, and the ground game lacks a physical presence without Karlos Williams. The defense showed up against the Ravens, but the offense is concerning, as is Sammy Watkins’ lingering foot issue. It’s only one game, but it was not promising in the least.
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY SportsTimothy T. Ludwig
New Orleans Saints (last week: 23)
The Saints were a few feet from an improbable comeback victory over the Raiders, but Will Lutz’s kick missed just left. New Orleans looked solid throughout the game aside from a few big plays allowed, and Drew Brees showed no signs of aging. Don’t expect New Orleans to win more than seven games, but it could play spoiler against a handful of contenders.
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Miami Dolphins (last week: 25)
The Dolphins actually move up one spot here after nearly pulling off the biggest upset of the week. Miami’s defense looked substantially better than expected despite fielding a secondary filled with unproven players. If moral victories are actually a thing, the Dolphins got one Sunday against Seattle. However, dropped passes and red zone gaffes prevented the Dolphins from taking advantage of losses by the Bills and Jets.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY SportsTroy Wayrynen
Atlanta Falcons (last week: 21)
One could make the case that the Falcons now have the worst starting quarterback in the NFC South. Cam Newton and Drew Brees continue to put up big numbers, while Jameis Winston is great in his own right. Beating the Bucs would have been a statement win, but Matt Ryan and the Falcons proved they’re not going to be a threat to the Panthers.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDale Zanine
New York Jets (last week: 20)
It wouldn’t be totally unfair to pin the Jets’ Week 1 loss on kicker Nick Folk. He had a chip-shot 22-yard field goal attempt blocked and missed an extra point attempt, both of which impacted the one-point loss greatly. However, the Jets have plenty of issues outside of Folk. Fitzpatrick made several mistakes – namely on the final drive – and Darrelle Revis isn’t the player he once was. Not to mention, four of their next five opponents were playoff teams a year ago.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Detroit Lions (last week: 26)
The Lions pulled out a surprising victory over the Colts thanks to a last-second field goal, which may or may not be a sign of things to come. On one hand, Detroit almost blew the game thanks to poor defensive play, but on the other, Matthew Stafford looked fine without Megatron. However, the Lions aren’t going to make much noise in the North.
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Washington Redskins (last week: 16)
The Redskins looked bad on offense and even worse on defense. Josh Norman is one of the best corners in the league yet he was hardly ever matched up with Antonio Brown. Why was he not shadowing Pittsburgh's star receiver? Who knows. The Redskins need to use him more properly going forward and find some form of a run game if they’re to go anywhere.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
Philadelphia Eagles (last week: 24)
Carson Wentz put on a clinic in his NFL debut and showed why the Eagles drafted him second overall. To tap the brakes on the hype train a little, it was against the Browns (sorry, Cleveland), who aren’t good. Philadelphia still has plenty to prove before it's considered a contender, but Sunday was a good start.
James Lang-USA TODAY SportsJames Lang
Jacksonville Jaguars (last week: 18)
There was plenty of talk about the Jaguars being legitimate contenders in the AFC, and they showed on Sunday that they’re fairly close to being just that. Jacksonville was a fourth-down conversion from potentially beating the second-best team in the NFC (Packers) and held its own on defense throughout the game. The Jaguars remain in the bottom-half of the league, but they’re going to improve.
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY SportsLogan Bowles
Baltimore Ravens (last week: 19)
The Ravens dominated the Bills in just about every facet but only came away with a 13-7 win. Why? Poor red zone and third-down efficiency. The Ravens still don’t have a strong identity, but at least Joe Flacco seems comfortable with his bevy of receivers. Still, they need to stop relying on big plays, which they had plenty of.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
Indianapolis Colts (last week: 14)
Could this be another letdown season for the Colts? Sunday’s terrible performance would suggest so. The defense couldn’t make a stop when the Colts needed one most, and Andrew Luck’s cast doesn’t look to be substantially better than it was in 2015. They’ll have an easy schedule in the AFC South, but a loss to the Lions isn’t the start they wanted.
Dallas Cowboys (last week: 12)
This Dak Prescott-led Cowboys team is nothing like the one that was headed by Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden last season. Dallas can still move the ball on offense, and the defense might just be good enough to keep the team in games. Still, a handful of mistakes cost the Cowboys a win and ultimately a head start in the NFC East over the Giants.
Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY SportsErich Schlegel
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (last week: 17)
Jameis Winston, welcome to stardom. Winston was already a fairly well-known player prior to Sunday’s game, but he elevated his game to a new level with pinpoint throws and game-changing plays. So long as he continues to cut down on mistakes and give his towering receivers chances to make plays on the ball, the Buccaneers could be a pleasant surprise.
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New York Giants (last week: 15)
It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t exactly pretty, but the Giants topped the Cowboys with a defensive stand on the final drive. New York still doesn’t have the greatest rushing attack, but the wide receivers are among the best units in football. A healthy Victor Cruz certainly helps, and if he remains on the field, the Giants could surpass nine wins.
Houston Texans (last week: 13)
The Texans finally have an offense to go along with their stout defense. Brock Osweiler made a few errors, but he appears to have solidified the quarterback position in Houston. And with the defense playing as well as it did on Sunday, the Texans are favorites in the AFC South.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
Kansas City Chiefs (last week: 10)
The Chiefs should have beaten the Chargers by at least 10 points on paper, but that’s why they play the game. Alex Smith led Kansas City to an overtime victory, which is the same as a win in regulation. However, the Chiefs have issues to fix, particularly with their Justin Houston-less defense.
Minnesota Vikings (last week: 9)
The Vikings put up 25 points against the Titans, but neither of their two touchdowns came from the offense. Minnesota did next to nothing offensively as Adrian Peterson had just 31 yards on 19 carries. They hardly look threatening without Teddy Bridgewater, which will be a serious issue going forward. They have to hope Sam Bradford can provide a spark.
Oakland Raiders (last week: 11)
Credit this win to Jack Del Rio for having the guts to attempt a two-point conversion in the final minute against the Saints. It essentially earned the Raiders the victory and turned out to be a smart move in hindsight. The Saints are no longer the powerhouse they once were, but going down to New Orleans and winning in their place is telling of Oakland’s prospects this season. The Raiders are the real deal.
Arizona Cardinals (last week: 5)
The loss to the Patriots was a terrible one for Arizona. The Cardinals were fortunate to draw New England without Tom Brady, but they were extremely lucky to face them sans Gronk. This is a game the Cardinals should have won and one that could cost them down the stretch as they battle the Seahawks out West.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Carolina Panthers (last week: 4)
The Panthers got a bad draw in Week 1, having to face the defending champion Broncos on a Thursday night opener. It was a game they could have won, but the offensive line fell apart in the end and gave way to Denver’s relentless pass rush. The Panthers will still finish the year as one of the NFC’s best teams, and this was a minor bump in the road.
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Denver Broncos (last week: 8)
The Broncos retained their “title” against the Panthers in the season opener, beating Carolina in a Thursday night thriller. Quarterback Trevor Siemian played OK, but the defense was spectacular once again. There is still a significant lack of explosiveness on offense, and Siemian needs to improve, but he got the job done down the stretch. They move up a few spots, but the offense still has a lot to prove.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Cincinnati Bengals (last week: 7)
The Bengals and Andy Dalton showed their resilience against the Jets on Sunday, squeaking out a win on the road. Dalton was sacked a career-high seven times but was still able to find A.J. Green regularly. As long as these two continue to connect the way they did against Darrelle Revis, the Bengals are going to be tough to beat.
Pittsburgh Steelers (last week: 6)
The Steelers absolutely dominated the Redskins in every facet of the game on Monday night, and it was impressive to watch. With the win, Pittsburgh showed it has the best backfield in football with DeAngelo Williams rushing for 143 yards and two touchdowns and Le’Veon Bell two weeks from returning from his suspension. The Steelers are the second-best team in the AFC.
Green Bay Packers (last week: 3)
Like the Seahawks, the Packers had themselves a close call against an inferior AFC opponent. The Jaguars were a fourth-down conversion from possibly upsetting the Green Bay, which would have been a huge shock. The Packers still boast a great secondary and plenty of firepower on offense, and they remain a favorite in the NFC. They’ll only get better.
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY SportsLogan Bowles
Seattle Seahawks (last week: 1)
Yes, the Seahawks won. But no, it wasn’t the slightest bit impressive. If not for missed field goals and poor decisions by the Dolphins, the Seahawks would be 0-1. The win was especially lackluster because Seattle was at home, while Miami had to make the longest trip in the NFL to kick off its season. The Seahawks remain in the top two based on their overall talent, though.
New England Patriots (last week: 2)
A road win over a Super Bowl contender without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski? You bet the Patriots are going to leapfrog the Seahawks to No. 1. In one game, Jimmy Garoppolo has proved he can help New England overcome Brady’s four-game suspension, and with three substantially easier games coming up, the Patriots have a shot at going 3-1 or 4-0 without Brady. They’re not at full strength, but the Pats are the team to beat right now.