2016 NFL Week 2 Power Rankings

1. Pittsburgh Steelers [1] — Won a defensive battle in which they combined with Cincinnati for 17 punts. The difference was red zone play, where the Steelers scored touchdowns (2/2) and the Bengals settled for field goals (0/3).

2. Houston Texans [2] — In preseason, I wrote, “DeAndre Hopkins and Watt are enough for the Texans to be competitive. If Will Fuller can provide a legitimate threat across from Hopkins, and Clowney or Whitney Mercilus across from Watt, Houston could be one of the best teams in the AFC.”

Two weeks into the season, Fuller has two 100-yard receiving games, Clowney has five hits on opposing QBs, LB John Simon is emerging as a potential star, and the Texans have out-sacked their opponents 9-4. This is a dangerous team, on offense and defense.

3. Denver Broncos [3] — Aqib Talib scored his ninth career interception return touchdown, tying Hall of Famers Ken Houston, Deion Sanders, and Aeneas Williams for fourth all-time. I’ve never thought of Talib as a potential Hall of Famer, but he’s entering that conversation.

4. Carolina Panthers [6] — 529 yards and 46 points later, it’s clear that their offensive struggles in Week 1 were indicative of Denver’s defensive excellence, not anything wrong with Carolina’s offense.

5. New England Patriots [5] — Jimmy Garoppolo’s sprained shoulder means third-string rookie QB Jacoby Brissett has a short week to prepare for a Week 3 start against a Texans defense with at least four sacks in each of the first two games.

6. Arizona Cardinals [9] — Lost in last year’s NFC Championship Game because they were -6 in turnovers. On Sunday, they were +5.

7. Cincinnati Bengals [7] — They miss Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Their running game is ineffective, and if you take A.J. Green away, it’s not obvious that they can move the ball. Tyler Eifert isn’t expected back for at least two more weeks.

8. Minnesota Vikings [15] — I explained above why I don’t believe in Sam Bradford, but the Viking defense is so good, they don’t need him to do anything special. If he can stay healthy and manage the game, I think they’ll win the NFC North. If he’s really turned a corner and suddenly become a good quarterback, Minnesota could be a serious Super Bowl contender, even without Adrian Peterson (torn meniscus).

9. Green Bay Packers [4] — Jordy Nelson is back, but the offense we saw in 2014 is not. Their run plays take too long to develop, but what’s really missing is the deep pass. Offensive line play is an issue.

10. New York Jets [17] — With 4:02 remaining, they scored a touchdown that made the score 36-24. Inexplicably, Todd Bowles chose a one-point PAT kick. The Jets took a 13-point lead, but if the Bills had scored two touchdowns, New York likely would have lost by a point. Even Jim Nantz, who tends toward excessively conservative, pointed out Bowles’ mistake, and brought it up again on Sunday when the Broncos did go for two.

11. Kansas City Chiefs [10] — Houston and Kansas City combined to go 0-for-6 in the red zone. Field goals accounted for 8 of the 9 scores.

12. Seattle Seahawks [8] — Fifteen points in two games. The Seahawks got off to a slow start last year, but that was against a really tough schedule. They have yet to force a turnover this season.

13. Miami Dolphins [12] — Went three-and-out on their first three possessions, and fell behind 31-3. They mounted a plausible comeback following Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury, but it wasn’t enough. With losses at Seattle and New England, this is probably the best 0-2 team in the NFL. Five of their next six games are at home, including the Browns in Week 3.

14. Oakland Raiders [13] — Allowed over 500 yards in both of the first two games. In fact, they lead the NFL in yards gained (940) and yards allowed (1,035).

15. Indianapolis Colts [16] — This was the team’s first meeting against Denver in 23 years that didn’t involve Peyton Manning. There are millions of adult football fans who until Sunday had never seen a Colts-Broncos game without #18 under center for one of them.

16. San Diego Chargers [24] — One week after Keenan Allen tore his ACL, Danny Woodhead did the same. Like Allen, he’s out for the season. This is San Diego’s third year in a row dealing with significant injury problems. There’s some luck in how these things go, but at this point I believe there’s an organizational issue that puts the Chargers at higher risk for injury.

17. Detroit Lions [11] — I apologize for picking Detroit in Week 2 survivor pools, and thereby jinxing them. The Lions were charged with 17 penalties for 138 yards. That’s nuts. The Titans added 12 penalties for 83 yards. I didn’t see the game, but either it was dirty as hell, or Brad Allen’s officiating crew needs to calm down and let the game unfold a little more organically. We all want a fair game, but football is supposed to be first and foremost about the players, not the refs.

18. Baltimore Ravens [18] — Last week, Mike Wallace had 102 yards and a touchdown. This week, fewer yards but two more TDs. Good start for a player on his fourth team in the last five seasons.

19. Buffalo Bills [20] — Lost on the last play, one of those with the crazy laterals. But it might not have been necessary with better decision-making. Halfway through the fourth quarter, Buffalo sent E.J. Manuel to the line in an attempt to draw the Jets offside. It didn’t work, and the Bills wasted a timeout. They went for it on the next play and turned the ball over on downs. Never send in a no-call, no-play unless you’re willing to take the delay of game penalty when it doesn’t work. Timeouts are too valuable, especially in the second half.

20. Philadelphia Eagles [23] — Carson Wentz is remarkably poised, but he passed for under 200 yards, he averaged 5.0 net yards per attempt, and the Eagles went 3/15 on third downs. Rookie quarterbacks drafted in the first round always get too much hype (unless they’re not white).

21. New York Giants [21] — Uneven offensive performance against a terrible defense (see Saints summary below), with way too many mistakes and missed opportunities. It didn’t cost them the win, but they’ve got to clean things up.

22. Dallas Cowboys [30] — Road win over their biggest rival and the defending division champs, but rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott needs to hold onto the ball. He fumbled twice on Sunday, losing one.

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [19] — Who are the real Bucs, the ones who scored 31 points last week, or the ones who committed five turnovers this week? It’s probably in between, but for now, I’ll say it’s closer to last week. A five-turnover performance is pretty flukey.

24. Atlanta Falcons [26] — When Dan Quinn plays blackjack, he stops hitting at 12.

25. Washington [14] — Went 2/6 in the red zone on Sunday. In the third quarter, they had two drives start in field goal range (because of an onside kick and a fumble recovery) and settled for 3 both times. You can’t win in this league without a more aggressive mentality. That’s partly on quarterback Kirk Cousins, but also on the coaching staff.

26. San Francisco 49ers [25] — As dominant as the defense was against Los Angeles, it was equally ineffective against Carolina. The Panthers committed four turnovers and still scored 46 points.

27. Los Angeles Rams [28] — Beat a Seahawks team that I still think is probably pretty good, but there’s no such thing as a good team without an offense. You can’t count on holding your opponent to 3 points every week.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars [22] — In the first half, they called 5 runs and 19 passes. That’s seldom a good strategy, and they fell behind 21-0. The deficit further affected their play-calling, and they ended the game with 55 pass plays (including three Blake Bortles scrambles) and 8 handoffs. They lost 38-14, with all their points coming in garbage time.

29. New Orleans Saints [27] — The Giants lost three fumbles, turned the ball over on downs, and went 0/3 in the red zone. It wasn’t enough for the Saints. They’re 0-2, and it’s a bad 0-2.

30. Tennessee Titans [32] — DeMarco Murray got tackled for a safety, but he also gained 89 rushing yards and caught 7 passes for 56 yards. In Week 1, Murray caught 5 balls for 35 yards and 2 TDs. He looks like a serious player in PPR fantasy systems.

31. Chicago Bears [29] — I don’t intend this to be mean, but I don’t think losing Jay Cutler is an especially big deal at this point. The team has bigger problems.

32. Cleveland Browns [31] — Scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, then forgot to play the last three quarters. They’re already down to their third QB.

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