Tier 1: The Ultra-Elite
1: Kansas City Chiefs (Week 1: 1)
The Chiefs had a bit of a scare against Cleveland, but it’s not enough to drop them from this tier. Mahomes is just that good.
Tier 2: The Super Bowl Contenders
2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 1: 3)
Like the Chiefs, the Bucs had a scare against the Cowboys but managed to hang on to win. They’re 2 for now, but even if they continue playing well I don’t know if they’re so good that they can’t be passed if another team proves themselves.
3: Buffalo Bills (Week 1: 4)
This may be a bit shocking for those who aren’t familiar with the way I do power rankings. Most people do them the way college does, where your place in the rankings is earned by winning games, and losing automatically drops you down.
But that’s not how I do it. Mine are meant to be predictive, so I don’t drop a team just because they lost. In this case the Bills were going against a team that has their number, as they also struggled against the Steelers last year. Given that I’m not ready to drop them quite yet. But this week they’re playing the Dolphins, who Allen dominated last year. If he struggles again it’ll be time for the Bills to panic.
4: San Francisco 49ers (Week 1: 7)
5: Los Angeles Rams (Week 1: 8)
6: Seattle Seahawks (Week 1: 9)
I was hoping the NFC West teams would start to separate themselves, but they all (including the Cardinals) came out and met whatever expectations you could have for them.
Tier 3: The Playoff Contenders
7: Green Bay Packers (Week 1: 2)
This is a dramatic drop for the Packers after just one game, but my one area of concern for them was whether Aaron Rodgers would go back to his mediocre ways. It’s too early to come to any firm conclusions, but this game was terrible for their offense. They desperately need to turn it around if they even want to make the playoffs.
8: Denver Broncos (Week 1: 10)
9: New England Patriots (Week 1: 5)
10: Miami Dolphins (Week 1: 12)
Yes the Dolphins won, but they shouldn’t have. The Patriots had the ball in the red zone late in the game down 1 and fumbled it, giving Miami the victory. But I’m still dropping New England a bit since their defense wasn’t quite as good as I was expecting.
11: Arizona Cardinals (Week 1: 13)
Watching their game against Tennessee, I was struck by how much the Cardinals depended on big plays. Murray would often just throw it up and hope his guy would get it (an admittedly solid strategy when DeAndre Hopkins is the person on the other end). But this applies to the defense as well, who made tons of big plays.
I point this out because, despite winning 38-17, one advanced stat said the Titans actually performed a bit better. And this stat has been shown to be one of the best at predicting future results.
It’s called success rate.
Unlike most other stats that can be more or less good on any given play, success rate says every play is either successful or not. A 75 yard touchdown? A success. A 7 yard run on 1st and 10? Also a success.
What this does is take away some of the luck involved in plays. A lot of times a huge play has a far bigger impact on the game and on stats than dozens of smaller plays, so by measuring by yards it can really skew things. Success rate makes all plays equal and measures how often you’re putting yourself in a better position than you were before the play.
It’s why I’m not moving the Cardinals or Titans much. The Cardinals are going to be a very up-and-down team if this continues. They’ll occasionally beat top teams, but they’ll also occasionally lose to bottom feeders.
12: Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 1: 14)
13: Cleveland Browns (Week 1: 16)
14: Baltimore Ravens (Week 1: 15)
Like the NFC West, the AFC North didn’t do much to differentiate themselves. Yes the Ravens struggled against the Raiders, but I think that was more of a bad matchup. It did highlight the problems I pointed out about them though. Without a strong pass rush even the Raiders, who are down 4 offensive linemen from last year and have Carr who was throwing ducks all night, were able to put up 27 points in regulation. And without the ability to generate turnovers, the Ravens could only manage 27 points themselves against a defense that averaged 30 points allowed last year.
Everybody wants to pretend the Ravens are a contender, but they’re not going to contend if they can’t even beat a team like the Raiders.
15: Los Angeles Chargers (Week 1: 20)
16: Washington Football Team (Week 1: 6)
Washington’s defense wasn’t quite as dominant as I expected, but they’ll still be an interesting team with Heinicke starting going forward. He’s shown flashes of being really good, so if he can be consistent Washington might actually have something there.
17: Dallas Cowboys (Week 1: 18)
18: Tennessee Titans (Week 1: 21)
19: Philadelphia Eagles (Week 1: 27)
20: Chicago Bears (Week 1: 17)
The Eagles defense dominated Atlanta, and the offense at least looked competent. Trading away Wentz was a great decision.
Tier 4: The Less-Than-Good Teams
21: Atlanta Falcons (Week 1: 19)
22: Houston Texans (Week 1: 26)
23: Minnesota Vikings (Week 1: 22)
24: New Orleans Saints (Week 1: 23)
25: New York Jets (Week 1: 11)
The Jets fall quite a bit after their poor showing against Carolina. My hopes in them were mainly based on believing in Zach Wilson, but he really struggled. He did show some flashes though, so I’m open to moving them up quickly if he starts playing consistently well.
Tier 5: The Terrible Teams
26: Cincinnati Bengals (Week 1: 30)
27: Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 1: 24)
28: Las Vegas Raiders (Week 1: 25)
So much for the Trevor Lawrence hype. Sure it’s just one game, and sure his receivers dropped a lot of passes. But Lawrence had multiple bad interceptions and struggled with accuracy. He’s learning that football is a lot harder when the guys around you aren’t vastly superior to the guys on the other team.
29: Detroit Lions (Week 1: 28)
30: Indianapolis Colts (Week 1: 29)
31: New York Giants (Week 1: 31)
Wentz looks improved over last year, but that’s not saying much considering he was the worst quarterback in the NFL last year. He still looked like a guy who’s maybe a backup level guy in the league.
32: Carolina Panthers (Week 1: 32)
Yes the Panthers won, but it was just barely despite Zach Wilson struggling and Darnold having a decent day (but even then it wasn’t great). I fully expect Darnold to play below that level for most of his games this year and for the Panthers to have a top 5 pick.