Tier 1: The Super Bowl Contenders
1: Kansas City Chiefs (Week 1: 1)
RIP to the Ultra Elite tier. While the Chiefs are still at the top, the way the defense is, it’s tough to argue that they’re in their own tier.
First, let’s be clear, the regular season games are meaningless to this team. When it’s Super Bowl or bust, we know we’ll make the playoffs, and if we somehow don’t, then we wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl anyway. So the loss itself isn’t that big of a deal.
The big issue is the defense. Not that it’s bad, but how disastrously bad it’s been. Outside the 4th quarter against the Browns, and a couple Honey Badger picks, the defense has been just about as bad as it’s possible to be. Mahomes is so good that the Chiefs will still win games regardless, but even he isn’t enough to be a contender if this becomes a weekly occurrence.
The good news is that I don’t think it will be. The Browns and Ravens are somewhat unique on offense in being so run-centric, with most of their pass plays either coming off play action. Against more tradition dropback passing teams, I expect the defense to be much better, as Chris Jones will be able to focus on rushing the passer.
But if this is a matchup flaw, it should worry fans. It’s very likely that either the Ravens or the Browns (or both) make the playoffs, and we’ll likely have to play them. Those sorts of matchup issues aren’t going to magically go away and could prove to be our kryptonite in the playoffs.
2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 1: 2)
Their game against Atlanta was closer than it looks, but with no teams looking truly dominant through 2 weeks, it’s hard to justify moving them down.
3: Buffalo Bills (Week 1: 3)
Remember last week when I said I wasn’t going to drop the Bills just because they lost, since it was a game where I felt they lost due to a bad matchup? Well, this was why. This week they had a favorable matchup and absolutely dominated.
4: San Francisco 49ers (Week 1: 4)
5: Los Angeles Rams (Week 1: 5)
6: Seattle Seahawks (Week 1: 6)
Should I drop the Seahawks for losing to the Titans? Or the 49ers for struggling against the Eagles? Maybe, but I’m not quite ready to do that yet. (Yes, the Rams also had a close game on paper, but the game wasn’t as close as it looked.)
Tier 2: The Playoff Contenders
7: Green Bay Packers (Week 1: 7)
I’m not quite ready to drop the Packers again, but they’re hanging by a thread. Their defense has looked almost as bad as ours (or arguably worse considering the teams they’ve faced).
8: Denver Broncos (Week 1: 8)
9: New England Patriots (Week 1: 9)
The Broncos have looked good, but their competition so far has been less than good. They have another easy game against the Jets this week, but their week 4 game against the Ravens will be very interesting. How will they look when they face an actually competent team?
10: Arizona Cardinals (Week 1: 11)
Last week I said the Cardinals would be an up-and-down team, and they showed the down this week as they struggled to put away Minnesota.
11: Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 1: 12)
12: Baltimore Ravens (Week 1: 14)
13: Cleveland Browns (Week 1: 13)
Despite the impressive win, I’m not moving the Ravens much since I believe it’s mostly matchup based. Don’t forget, they lost to the Raiders the week before. Similar story with the Browns, who also looked good against the Chiefs but struggled with the Texans until Tyrod Taylor got injured.
The Steelers have a dominant defense, but a terrible offense, so they’re like the Cardinals. They can beat anybody and lose to anybody.
14: Miami Dolphins (Week 1: 10)
15: Dallas Cowboys (Week 1: 17)
16: Los Angeles Chargers (Week 1: 15)
The Dolphins got blown out, and Tua is injured, but those really aren’t the reasons I’m dropping them. It’s more that they won a fluke game against the Patriots, who I now have a lower opinion of, and obviously showed nothing against Buffalo. Two bad games in a row makes me skeptical of them.
17: Chicago Bears (Week 1: 20)
18: Tennessee Titans (Week 1: 18)
19: Philadelphia Eagles (Week 1: 19)
The Bears look like they’re going to be forced to finally do the right thing and start Justin Fields, earning them a bit of a promotion. But Fields didn’t look great in his first game, so that promotion is muted for now. They’ll rise quickly if he has a strong game against the Browns.
Tier 3: The Less-Than-Good Teams
20: Las Vegas Raiders (Week 1: 28)
Ugh, I hate moving the Raiders up the rankings, but it’s hard to call them a terrible team when they’ve beaten two quality teams to start the season. I’m still not going to consider them a playoff contender, though!
21: Washington Football Team (Week 1: 16)
22: Atlanta Falcons (Week 1: 21)
23: Houston Texans (Week 1: 22)
24: Minnesota Vikings (Week 1: 23)
25: New Orleans Saints (Week 1: 24)
26: New York Jets (Week 1: 25)
Boy, my preseason favorites Washington and Jets have been disappointing. The Washington defense isn’t nearly as dominant as I hoped they’d be, while Zach Wilson (the entire reason I was optimistic about the Jets) has looked terrible. It goes to show that even the smartest and most handsome prognosticators can sometimes get it wrong.
27: Carolina Panthers (Week 1: 32)
Fine, I’ll admit the Panthers aren’t the worst team in the NFL. But in my defense I wasn’t that down on them as I didn’t give them their own category like I did the Jets last year and the Dolphins the year before that.
Tier 4: The Terrible Teams
28: Cincinnati Bengals (Week 1: 26)
29: Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 1: 27)
30: Detroit Lions (Week 1: 29)
31: Indianapolis Colts (Week 1: 30)
32: New York Giants (Week 1: 31)
Don’t really know what to do with this group. While the category says terrible, in reality none of them have looked truly terrible.