It’s impossible to truly understand the merits of an NFL team until about midway through the season. And while it’s important not to grossly overreact to what we’ve witnessed in the first two weeks of the season, the NFL power rankings must be consistent with what we’ve seen thus far.
Last week, we split the rankings into 1-0 teams and 0-1 teams — that changes this week. We’ll be ranking teams normally and comparing those rankings to where each team ranked before the season’s commencement.
Rams and Cowboys Soar in Week 3 Power Rankings
32) Arizona Cardinals (32)
The Cardinals are who we thought they were! But we did not let them off the hook. Even while dominating the New York Giants, the thought of a comeback was always on the back of the mind.
In the end, they simply did not have the defensive firepower on the roster to get stops in the second half. Daniel Jones and the Giants scored a touchdown on four straight drives before kicking a field goal with 19 seconds remaining.
31) Chicago Bears (21)
There are probably more undermanned rosters in the NFL. But no organization is more disappointing through two weeks of the NFL season than the Chicago Bears. What, exactly, did they do to improve offensively in the offseason? From schematic and play-calling perspectives, it remains a disaster.
And their defense is practically lifeless. Now, it might be the worst defensive line in the NFL, and it is likely one of the worst secondaries. But the entire roster seems disinterested in the product.
The worst part of all this is it doesn’t appear that Justin Fields has taken the necessary steps to improve in the most critical weak points of his game as a passer.
30) Las Vegas Raiders (30)
The Raiders snuck out of Week 1 with a win against the Denver Broncos. However, the win felt like a battle between fighters in the ring before the undercard started.
Their second game against the Buffalo Bills looked competitive for a time, but the better team eventually presented itself, and the game subsequently became a rout.
Their Week 3 matchup could tell us a lot about the potential of this football team. The Broncos are seen as one of the more underwhelming teams in the league, while the Bills are one of the best. Pittsburgh falls closer to the middle and could provide a nice barometer for who Las Vegas might be in 2023.
29) Houston Texans (28)
The Houston Texans were overmatched in each of their first two contests. However, the fight they displayed against the Colts in Week 2 was a nice turn. They were down 31-10 at one point in the game and ended up closing the gap in the fourth quarter.
Nico Collins, Robert Woods, and Tank Dell aren’t the most appetizing trio of WRs, but they’ve been competing well for their rookie QB, who has played better than the situation around him would suggest he should.
What should have been a good offensive line has missed their starting left guard since the start and were without Laremy Tunsil in Week 2.
28) Denver Broncos (22)
Russell Wilson is what he is at this point. He still throws one of the prettiest deep balls in the NFL, and he’s athletic enough to get outside of the pocket and make a few plays. But he can no longer create like he used to, and he never learned to play from within the pocket.
Sean Payton couldn’t just snap his fingers and change that. But it’s the defensive side of the ball that’s more worrisome. This unit was outstanding a season ago but has been thrashed so far in 2023.
27) Carolina Panthers (25)
Bryce Young showed flashes of why the Panthers felt he was worthy of trading massive draft capital for in Week 1, but he also made some incredibly boneheaded decisions over the middle of the field.
That will be something to watch for as time passes. No matter how much we want to ignore his height, that lack of verticality could make things difficult for him when trying to see over his blockers in the intermediate middle of the field.
The flashes continued in Week 2, but Young has struggled the most of the rookie quarterbacks. His weapons are underwhelming, and he might need to be more willing to tote the rock as a runner early on to ease some of the pressure on him in the pocket.
26) Minnesota Vikings (20)
The Minnesota Vikings were always going to regress this season. But the regression bug hit them like a prime Mike Tyson overhand right. They’ve given the ball away like they were Oprah’s set.
One glance would tell you that Kirk Cousins is doing his best to help Minnesota win games. However, a deeper dig would show that he’s fumbled three times and thrown a critical red-zone interception so far this season.
The Vikings’ turnover problems won’t persist all season. And they have the juice offensively with Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and Jordan Addison to put up points in bunches. But they must start playing some clean football.
25) New York Jets (7)
The New York Jets looked like MiG-21s against an F-15 Eagle. They simply didn’t have the firepower necessary to slow down the Cowboys’ offense or move the ball consistently against their defense.
Zach Wilson mostly played well, which is a good sign for the Jets moving forward because the Cowboys’ defensive front is dominant, and the secondary is relentless.
24) Indianapolis Colts (26)
The Indianapolis Colts may go as far as their freakishly athletic quarterback can take them. He’s played more under control and consistently than even his greatest supporters could have dreamed. However, a concussion on a touchdown run in the first quarter kept us from seeing what he might accomplish with a full 60 minutes against the Texans.
The rub is and will be his ability to remain healthy with such a heavy dose of the rushing attack falling on his shoulders. No matter how big and athletic a man is, hits accumulate.
But Shane Steichen and Gardner Minshew are familiar, and Minshew stepped in cleanly in Richardson’s absence, completing over 80% of his attempts while taking care of the football.
23) Green Bay Packers (23)
Jordan Love certainly looks better than many expected coming into the NFL season, but the Packers defense still has a potentially fatal flaw. They can’t seem to get right with Joe Barry calling the shots.
The Bears and Falcons aren’t being mistaken for the 2022 Chiefs or the 2007 Patriots any time soon. But the Packers defense may not have to be Godzilla to win the NFC North. They don’t play a particularly grueling schedule of opposing QBs.
Matthew Stafford looks like he’s back in the top-10 QB range again. But the Packers don’t face him until Week 9. After that, the next legitimately dangerous QBs they’ll face come in Weeks 11 and 13. There aren’t any other top-10 talents on the schedule.
22) Los Angeles Chargers (16)
What a disastrous football team the Los Angeles Chargers have been through two weeks of the NFL calendar. Their defense was outmatched against the Dolphin, yes, but their lack of cohesiveness and assignment responsibility was tragic. Even on plays that Miami moved the ball on, two or three other receivers were running free.
Mike McDaniel and the Dolphins are good, but not that good. Then, the Chargers had every opportunity to beat the Titans on Sunday. They were up and able to pin their ears back against a horrific offensive line. And while they got home often, they again allowed a QB to dice them in the play-action passing game.
21) Tennessee Titans (27)
The Tennessee Titans’ offensive line is an abomination, and their Week 1 game plan was even worse than that. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly mistook Ryan Tannehill for Tom Brady and asked him to become the dropback passer he hasn’t been throughout the entirety of his 11-year career.
In Week 2 against the Chargers, they leaned more heavily on the run game, which now features a two-headed monster of explosiveness and punishment with the addition of Tyjae Spears.
And with a defensive line boasting a slew of multifaceted defenders and a safety tandem that makes a case for being the most talented in the NFL, that side of the ball could very well keep them in more games than their roster may suggest they should.
20) New York Giants (15)
The Giants looked like they were about to be 0-2. At one point, they were down 20-0, and it was 28-7 late in the third quarter. But the stumbling Giants kept their heads down and made sure that the Cardinals were not their David after being stomped by their own Goliath against Dallas in Week 1.
But the win comes at a cost. It appears that Saquon Barkley may have a serious leg injury. That loss will put a ton of pressure on $40 million QB Daniel Jones, both through the air and in the run game, because he must use his legs if that offense wants to move the ball on the ground without Barkley.
19) New England Patriots (18)
The New England Patriots did about everything but win against the Philadelphia Eagles. After dropping 16 points early in the game, New England could have folded and begun preparations for their Sunday Night Football game against the Miami Dolphins at halftime. But they didn’t, and they were only a few plays away from beating the league’s reigning runner-ups.
But the offense looks legitimately different from a season ago, something that we all could have seen coming from a mile away. After all, they hired a real offensive coordinator this time around.
Mac Jones made a ton of plays outside of the pocket against the Dolphins on Sunday night, but they ended up coming about a foot short on a lateral play late in the fourth quarter of their comeback attempt. But close losses against the Eagles and Dolphins are nothing to tank their ranking on. This might be a decent football team that’s run into two buzzsaws.
18) Cleveland Browns (17)
Losing Nick Chubb for a significant period of time is not the end of the world for Cleveland, but success without Chubb means they’ll need to get a lot more from their $230 million QB, who looked bad once again in Week 2.
The passing attack is underwhelming, particularly when the ball is not going to Amari Cooper. The receivers and Deshaun Watson seem to be on different pages constantly, and Watson’s precision as a passer has not been where it needs to be yet.
But this Cleveland Browns defense is different than a season ago. Jim Schwartz has injected life into a talented but underperforming secondary, and the run defense has looked like an improved product.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers (12)
The Pittsburgh Steelers are still going through the paperwork process required to file assault charges against the San Francisco 49ers. Their Week 1 showing was the antithesis of the preseason performance that got local Pittsburgh media so hot and bothered.
Now, Kenny Pickett, Matt Canada, and the offense try to right the ship while the defense looks to puddy the holes in their hull. Doing so without Cameron Heyward could prove difficult, considering how much of a stalwart the wily vet is on their defensive interior.
The Steelers offense needs to figure out something, because it was anemic against Cleveland. A 70-yard slant to George Pickens and a pick-six to start the game was about the only offense they could muster. The right side of the offensive line struggled for four quarters.
16) Cincinnati Bengals (3)
We saw this story play out a year ago. The Bengals lost to an underwhelming Steelers roster in Week 1 of 2022 and a Dak Prescott-less Cowboys roster in Week 2. That team ended up finishing 12-4 as the AFC North winners.
This team will almost certainly turn things around, although the Los Angeles Rams next week may not be the “easy” win we thought it might be at the beginning of the season.
15) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (29)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0 and have played a clean brand of football. We must be cognizant of who Tampa Bay has faced thus far, though.
The Vikings have had ball security issues so far in 2023 and were primed for a regression after winning 13 games with a negative scoring differential last year. They also purged many of their veterans during the offseason. The Chicago Bears are lifeless on defense, and their offense remains an abomination to the eyes.
While Baker Mayfield has faced two underwhelming defensive backfields, he has played well independent of the environment he’s operating in. He’s making the throws he needs to make and even creating a bit. If he and the offensive line can remain at this level, they could surprise the NFC South.
14) Washington Commanders (19)
Who had the Commanders’ matchup against the Broncos being a shootout? Who thought that the Commanders were capable of scoring 35 points?
The Commanders’ defense leaked in the first half and allowed some massive completions downfield, but the unit settled in in the second half.
Meanwhile, Sam Howell worked around his underwhelming offensive line. He did a nice job creating when the pocket broke down, although the young passer also must learn when to create and when to live to fight another day and avoid unnecessary sacks.
13) Atlanta Falcons (24)
Arthur Smith is the best troll in the NFL. From the Farva-inspired mustache and short-sleeve windbreaker to drafting multiple pass catchers inside the top five not to throw them the ball, Smith’s got jokes. But the Falcons team isn’t one of them.
They had an awful roster a season ago but still won seven games. They added veteran talent to the defense and another explosive piece on the offensive side of the ball in Bijan Robinson.
In the end, this team goes as far as Desmond Ridder can take them. That’s a somewhat terrifying proposition, considering how he’s looked over his first two starts this season. But if he can round into Smith’s Tannehill, the Falcons could win the NFC South.
12) New Orleans Saints (13)
In Week 1, the Saints’ offense moved the ball decently against the Tennessee Titans’ defense. They averaged 5.5 yards per play, with Derek Carr and the passing attack flourishing despite facing a solid pass defense. But they could only manage a 1 of 4 mark in the red zone, which must change moving forward.
They received a few gifts from Ryan Tannehill in Week 1, and they took advantage of it. But this isn’t necessarily a team that relies on turnovers to be successful defensively. They have a veteran unit that has talent at all three levels.
The Saints played a similar movie in Week 2. The defense is still solid at all three levels, and the offense didn’t struggle too much moving the football. But that pesky red zone comes before they’re able to score points, and this Saints offense has been anemic in that area of the field.
But they may have found a recipe in the third quarter. When they got into the red area, they leaned on their rushing attack, and they scored on two of their final three possessions.
11) Detroit Lions (14)
The Lions had a prime opportunity to start the season 2-0 and prove to us all that they have legitimately taken the next step in their franchise evolution … but they failed.
Against a Seattle team that completely imploded a week ago in the second half, the Lions’ defense was unable to get their FlexTape delivered in time to fix their leaks.
With BOTH of their starting offensive tackles out, the Seattle Seahawks offense averaged almost six yards per play, and the Lions only managed to sack Geno Smith once.
Yet, maybe this game didn’t prove that Detroit is ready but that the product we saw from Seattle a week ago was a fluke.
10) Seattle Seahawks (11)
The Seahawks’ Week 2 performance against Detroit was a better representation of what many probably expected from this team. But it actually was more impressive than that, considering they were without Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas.
Geno Smith and the passing attack were decisive, and Smith did a fine job navigating the pressure he received to create throwing hallways. But OC Shane Waldron deserves a lot of credit for calling concepts that get the ball out of Smith’s hand quickly.
We’ll need to monitor this defense. They’ve been diced up through the air two weeks in a row. And once again, it was the middle of the Seahawks’ coverage that struggled.
9) Los Angeles Rams (31)
The Rams are so much better than anybody outside of the organization could have ever imagined. They’re easily the youngest roster in the league, and they’ve now beaten the Seattle Seahawks and played the San Francisco 49ers practically to the wire.
Puka Nacua might lead the league in targets if Cooper Kupp doesn’t return from his hamstring injury soon. He earned 20 of those bad boys in Week 2 after 15 the week prior. Nacua is not a fluke, and this team will play fast and throw a lot because Matthew Stafford is playing well.
While his numbers from the game don’t look outstanding, one of the interceptions was not his fault, and the plays he made kept Los Angeles in the game.
Can they drop the Bengals to 0-3, or will they share a 1-2 record after Week 3?
8) Jacksonville Jaguars (10)
The Jaguars and Chiefs played sloppy football in the 1 p.m. ET slate. Each gave the other opportunities to drop the guillotine on the other, and both teams failed to ever truly take control of the game or the opportunities the other presented them.
Steve Spagnuolo’s defense kept everything in front of them, allowing just two completions over 10 air yards. A big part of that was Chris Jones’ arrival. He lined up against a rookie right tackle and a bunch of underwhelming interior pieces. But it was the rookie he was aligned against on passing downs most often, and he baptized him.
7) Baltimore Ravens (9)
When Lamar Jackson has been kept clean in the pocket so far in 2023, he has been outrageously effective. Zay Flowers looks like a legitimate No. 1 so far through two weeks of play, and getting Mark Andrews back against the Bengals was a welcome sight.
The game itself remained relatively close throughout. But it was clear who the better team was on the field in Week 2. Cincinnati might be the better team by the time their Week 11 rematch comes up on the calendar, but like last year, the team must improve before then.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore defense is fast. Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith are flying to the football at the second level, and the speed Baltimore possesses on the edge causes problems.
6) Miami Dolphins (8)
The Miami Dolphins offense was ridiculously explosive against the Chargers, but their Sunday Night Football test against the New England Patriots was a better barometer for just how high their ceiling could be.
We know what this offense can be. We saw it a season ago when Tua Tagovailoa was healthy. Now, what can this defense accomplish under Vic Fangio? They kept everything in front of them against New England, and they looked much better against the run as well. But New England doesn’t necessarily boast elite weaponry.
The Miami offense is so much to handle. They felt like they were dominating the Patriots but could barely manage leaving Foxborough with the win. Sometimes, football is weird like that.
5) Buffalo Bills (4)
The Buffalo Bills got back to their dominant selves in Week 2 after laying an absolute egg in Week 1 against the Aaron Rodgers-less New York Jets. All Josh Allen needed to do was keep the car on the right side of the road. Instead, he played like Uncle Rico trying to relive his glory days.
But Buffalo’s defense is not infallible. They allowed over six yards per play against Las Vegas, but Vegas only controlled the ball for 20 minutes and 39 offensive plays.
4) Kansas City Chiefs (1)
Like the Eagles, the Chiefs don’t quite look right so far in 2023. Although the Kansas City defense had a good day against what is a talented Jacksonville unit, they haven’t been as sharp offensively as they should be.
The offensive line, particularly on the edges – where Brett Veach has consistently tinkered and replaced over the years – has struggled through two weeks. The receiving corps is even more underwhelming than the unit looked like it might be on paper, and Travis Kelce is not yet 100%.
But Chris Jones is, and Jones toyed with the Jacksonville offensive line in his first game back.
3) Philadelphia Eagles (2)
The Philadelphia Eagles are a talented team again in 2023, but they’re far more flawed on the defensive side of the ball than they were a season ago, and it has everything to do with the spine of that unit. Injuries have worsened the unit, but even a fully healthy defensive depth chart isn’t as talented as a season ago.
The offense is less concerning, but the passing attack has also gotten off to a slow start. It’s seemingly devolved back into the touchdown-or-checkdown attack we saw early in Jalen Hurts’ career instead of the more diverse attack from a season ago.
2) Dallas Cowboys (6)
The Dallas Cowboys have looked absolutely dominant through two games so far. They embarrassed the Giants and then played a clean, dominant game against the Jets.
The defense has been suffocating. They play aggressively in the secondary, running a high dose of man with arguably the most terrifying pass rush in the league in front of them.
The offense has finally found some speed in 2023. Brandin Cooks wasn’t on the field against the Jets, but the tempo is faster, and the backs out of the backfield are all incredibly explosive through the hole, with Tony Pollard and Deuce Vaughn also being elusive at the second level.
1) San Francisco 49ers (5)
Things looked a bit dicey for a while in Los Angeles against the Rams, but San Francisco got off the field a few times by way of Matthew Stafford interceptions, whether his fault (the second one) or not (the first one).
Brock Purdy continues to look solid in the 49ers offense. His ability to hit doubles and triples gives them more explosive potential than it had under Jimmy Garoppolo, and he’s done a good job taking care of the football so far this season.