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NFL power rankings: Steelers, Saints rise; Packers, Bills fall; 49ers lead NFC West takeover for Week 2


NFL Week 1 has gone down for the 2021 season and there’s already a big shakeup near the top of Sporting News’ weekly power rankings from where they stood in the preseason. While the Buccaneers and Chiefs came through as expected in opening close games, much didn’t play out as expected for the top contenders behind them.

The 49ers, Steelers and Seahawks had some of the most impressive victories of the week and they were all on the road. The Bills and Packers got upset with their big-time offenses being shut down, raising new questions.

From Los Angeles to Miami, there also were some pleasant surprises from coast to coast in the muddled middle. Not to forget the bottom, there’s a new group of worst teams, too. Here’s a look at where all the teams stand 1-32 going into Week 2, according to SN:

MORE: Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen and the worst Week 1 overreactions

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NFL power rankings

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-0 (previous rank: 1)

The Buccaneers were tested by the Cowboys but Tom Brady made sure to turn them away in his typical passing fashion. Many of their Super Bowl strengths are intact offensively and defensively but the secondary depth is developing into their concerning weakness.

2. Kansas City Chiefs 1-0 (2)

They have Patrick Mahomes and sometimes that’s more than enough to overcome questionable performances by the defense and running game, as was the case against the Browns. Mahomes to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce can save any day in a spectacular way. The defense continues to show its knack for timely big plays, too.

3. San Francisco 49ers 1-0 (6)

The 49ers don’t get style points for how they let the Lions back into a blowout, but they were still impressive passsing and running for big plays and cleaning up again with everyone healthy on defense. There are some personnel usage things that need to be ironed out, starting at quarterback, but Kyle Shanahan has them back in 2019 form early.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers 1-0 (12)

The Steelers’ stamped out a much-needed opening gritty road win against a top AFC contender in Buffalo. With more questions raised about Ben Roethlsiberger, Najee Harris and the entire offense, the defense proved it can be downright dominant at times against the most daunting competition with T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick putting the unit on their backs.

MORE: Grading the NFL’s rookie QBs in Week 1 

5. Cleveland Browns 0-1 (4)

The Browns don’t slide too much for their strong losing effort at Kansas City, given they were eliminating a couple mistakes away from winning the game and ruling the early roost in the AFC. Cleveland is still learning to win as a young playoff team under Kevin Stefanski. The journey started with an expected result but it hinted the Browns’ lofty destination is much in their control.

6. Baltimore Ravens 0-0 (7)

The Ravens saw everyone except the Browns win from the AFC North on Sunday, so Lamar Jackson must deliver a hot start for them in the Las Vegas opener for the Raiders. They can shake off their backfield and wide receiver injuries with different skill players stepping up, but another key is the defense being a stronger backbone.

7. Los Angeles Rams 1-0 (8)

The Rams’ offense got going as expected with a more dangerous downfield passing game with Matthew Stafford, but the running game and run defense struggles will be concerns against better teams. Sean McVay gives them a high floor but getting toward the ceiling will require ,ore work.

MORE: Kyler Murray had the Cardinals’ offense looking like a video game

8. Seattle Seahawks 1-0 (10)

Russell Wilson’s team will have a hard time repeating as NFC West champions with the 49ers being healthy and the Rams having more explosive offense, too. But he’s doing his part early with stellar QB play in a new offense, which also inspired the often overwhelmed defense to make complementary big plays in Indianapolis.

9. Buffalo Bills 0-1 (3)

Perhaps Josh Allen put too much pressure on himself right away after the big contract. Or there were nerves playing in front of a packed house with such high expectations. Chalk it up most to facing that nasty Steelers’ passing defense. The Bills must make some adjustments to get Allen back on his elite track, but at the same time, their defense looks improved and more complete.

10. Arizona Cardinals 1-0 (11)

Kyler Murray has been a wild ride, but he has needed to iron out some passing bumps for the Cardinals to turn the corner and make the playoffs with their promising offense that can do a little bit of everything. But how about a healthy Chandler Jones and a savvy J.J. Watt flipping the defense into an explosive impact unit, too?

NFL power rankings: Steelers, Saints rise; Packers, Bills fall; 49ers lead NFC West takeover for Week 2
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11. New Orleans Saints 1-0 (19)

The Saints march up several spots after finding a new winning formula without Drew Brees. They can always lean on a mighty offensive line and strong running game to make things a lot easier for Jameis Winston and the passing game with a limited group of weapons. The defense finding new pieces to keep up its beat and beat down the Packers was even more impressive.

12. Green Bay Packers 0-1 (5)

The Packers have a lot of questions to answer after that debacle against the Saints in Jacksonville. It’s not just Aaron Rodgers turning in a rare messy peformance. Neither the Aaron Jones-led running game nor the run defense offered any support, either. Matt LaFleur has much to clean up fast like he has twice in the past.

MORE: Just about everything went wrong for Packers, Aaron Rodgers in Week 1

13. Los Angeles Chargers 1-0 (9)

It was a grind for Justin Herbert and the entire offense as expected facing Washington’s solid all-around defense. But the Chargers got the job done in clutch moments with Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen and others. Brandon Staley proved he was the real deal early as their head coach with the great immediate influence on the other L.A. D.

14. Miami Dolphins 1-0 (20)

The Dolphins out-grinded the Patriots in a defensive-minded battle of attrition, which many teams are not capable of doing, except ones modeled after Bill Belichick’s structure. Tua Tagovailoa had more positives than negatives and the team is well coached to overachieve again.

15. Dallas Cowboys 0-1 (14)

Dak Prescott is back and the offense looks like it can hang with anyone, and that’s before getting the ground attack up and running at normal levels with Ezekiel Elliott. The defense also seems to be playing more inspired with youth serving for Dan Quinn.

MORE: Dak Prescott’s stellar return from injury confirms Cowboys as contenders again

16. Cincinnati Bengals 1-0 (16)

The Bengals unleashed their true exciting offense around Joe Burrow, which got Zac Taylor on the board with a key opening win over the Vikings. The defense will be a roller coaster but it has enough playmakers for timely support. Don’t be surprised if the AFC North joins the NFC West with four winning teams for the season.

17. Tennessee Titans 0-1 (13)

The Titans’ new-look defense for Mike Vrabel was a huge disappointment. That’s a big concern, because the run-heavy offense with Derrick Henry isn’t meant to play from behind in predictable passing situations. That added up to ultimate ugliness against the Cardinals.

18. Philadelphia Eagles 1-0 (24)

How about Jalen Hurts? The Eagles looked organized and methodical in Atlanta with new offensive-minded coach Nick Sirianni. How about the defense? The pass rush revved up again and the much maligned back seven held its own in coverage. Don’t sleep on them pushing the Cowboys in the NFC East.

19. New England Patriots 0-1 (18)

Are the Patriots trying to win with smoke and mirrors? Nope. Just the running game, conservative passing game with rookie Mac Jones, defense and special teams. But that also gives them a hard ceiling in trying to compete with the AFC heavyweights and little margin for error, which played out against the Dolphins.

20. Washington Football Team 0-1 (15)

WFT’s defense delivered as expected to contain the Chargers, but Ryan Fizpatrick’s ineffectiveness and then hip injury are concerning to get the best ouf of the fine young skill players in Scott Turner’s offense.

NFL power rankings: Steelers, Saints rise; Packers, Bills fall; 49ers lead NFC West takeover for Week 2
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21. Indianapolis Colts 0-1 (17)

The Colts’ defense didn’t look good against Wilson and the offense is trying to get beyond being run-dependent to be effective with Carson Wentz. Frank Reich’s team is fortunate it plays in the weak AFC South, because winning the division looks like the only available playoff ticket.

22. Minnesota Vikings (21)

The Vikings’ defense got shredded in what was supposed to be a big rebound unit for Mike Zimmer. The offense looked lost and predictable at times with too many critical mistakes outweighing the big-play potential. Minnesota should be teetering around .500 all season.

23. Chicago Bears (22)

The Bears ran into a difficult situation on Sunday night, on the road against the Rams with many offensive limitations in relation to their opponent. Their defense isn’t the daunting force it was a couple seasons ago so they will need a lot more out of the offense, whether it’s more of Andy Dalton now or a lot of Justin Fields sooner rather than later. David Montgomery’s running as the centerpiece won’t do it.

MORE: Bears’ Matt Nagy explains Week 1 usage of Justin Fields

24. Carolina Panthers (25)

The Panthers didn’t look like a well-oiled offensive machine with Sam Darnold against his former team, but luckily Christian McCaffrey turned on the jets to beat the Jets. The young defense still is a work in progress trending in the right direction. 

25. Denver Broncos (28)

The Broncos kept it simple with veterans to take down the Giants, with Teddy Bridgewater’s short-to-intermediate passing and Melvin Gordon’s reliable running. Also, just how much did they miss Von Miller and his pass rush?

26. Las Vegas Raiders (29)

The Raiders saw the rest of the AFC West win on Sunday so they will be in firm last place should they lose on Monday. The offense needs to figure out something in terms of personnel and identity and the defense may not stop much of anything.

MORE: ‘Unhinged’ Urban Meyer causing trouble for Jaguars

27. Houston Texans (32)

David Culley proved he learned a few good things from John Harbaugh. The shorthanded Texans came out inspired and showed off their offensive chops with Tyrod Taylor doing his best Deshaun Watson impression. Unfortunately, they won’t get to play the Jaguars every week.

28. Detroit Lions (31)

Hokey nature aside, Dan Campbell was pretty good coaching in his first game for the Lions, too. The constant offensive and defensive mistakes are residue of having a rather bare cupboard of reliable talent. but at least Campbell’s team didn’t quite when down big and almost caught up to the 49ers. The effort and talent was maximized.

29. New York Jets (26)

Zach Wilson had a typical rookie debut, committing a shaky giveaway and taking bad sacks. But with zero help from the running game he showed a lot of positives with his command of the offense, overall confidence and aggressiveness. The kid’s got goods and Robert Saleh had to like the fact his new’s team defense played over its head right away.

NFL power rankings: Steelers, Saints rise; Packers, Bills fall; 49ers lead NFC West takeover for Week 2
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30. New York Giants (23)

What was that? The Giants have felt like a shaky offense throughout the preseason and despite some flashes in the passing game with Daniel Jones, they didn’t get anything out of a recovering Saquon Barkley and the running game. 

31. Atlanta Falcons (27)

What was that? Matt Ryan seemed to be on an island as Arthur Smith’s first day of offense with his new team wasn’t inspiring. While Sirianni had one of the most impressive coaching debuts, Smith was right down there near the worst.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (30)

That worst first coaching job belonged to Urban Meyer. His team had a shocking slow start and didn’t have time to recover against the talent-poor Texans. Trevor Lawrence had an OK debut depsite being put in an uncomfortable situation early. The Jags have to dig deep to not be dragged to the bottom again.





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