It seems to happen every year. Injury Week. It’s always terrible, and it’s only fitting that the 2020 edition seemed especially cruel.
As a bushel of superstars exit the picture — either temporarily or until next season — we’re bound to see big changes: In the NFL, in your fantasy league — and yes — here at the Power Rankings.
Previous rank: No. 2
The Ravens are unfair right now. The running game returned to its dominant ways against the Texans, piling up 230 yards, including the game-icing 30-yard direct-snap Mark Ingram touchdown on fourth-and-1. The design and execution — in that spot of the game — tells you everything you need to know about this team and the confidence it’s playing with. The passing game was deadly, as well, as Lamar Jackson connected on 75 percent of his passes to nine different targets. Did I mention the defense smothered Deshaun Watson and had a score of its own? That January playoff loss to the Titans is ancient history. This is the best, most complete team in the NFL right now.
Previous rank: No. 1
Sunday’s win over the Chargers was a reminder this is a complete team, not just a bunch of satellites in the orbit of the great and powerful Patrick Mahomes. It was the defense and special teams that closed out L.A. Steve Spagnuolo’s unit forced a three-and-out to start overtime, setting up Harrison Butker’s 58-yard field goal to win it. Ravens All-Pro Justin Tucker still has my vote for best kicker in the universe, but that final sequence of Butker drilling 50-plus-yard field goal after field goal officially puts Tucker on notice (even if the last kick was the only one that actually counted).
Previous rank: No. 3
In Week 1, we were reminded of the greatness that still exists within Aaron Rodgers. On Sunday, we were reminded that AARON JONES SCORED 19 TOUCHDOWNS LAST YEAR. Weird how that didn’t get much pub during the ramp-up to 2020. Jones tore up the Lions, becoming the second Packers player since at least 1950 with 200-plus scrimmage yards and three touchdowns in a game. He powered a Packer team that has now scored more than 40 points in back-to-back games to open the season. One situation to monitor: Davante Adams exited the win with a hamstring issue. If he were forced to miss time or play at a compromised level, Green Bay’s attack will suffer. We’re still seeing too many plays left on the field by the other Packers pass-catchers.
Previous rank: No. 7
The Steelers represent a pick-your-poison situation for opposing defenses right now. Second-round pick Chase Claypool had an 84-yard touchdown against the Broncos and has been an instant difference-maker through two weeks. Diontae Johnson is on his way to a big season, and JuJu Smith-Schuster has his mojo back after a 2019 that fizzled behind injuries and poor QB play. Which takes us to Ben Roethlisberger, who missed most of last season but somehow managed to return as exactly the same player he was before his right elbow imploded. No acclimation period necessary for Large Benjamin. The Steelers are scary.
Previous rank: No. 8
We should just let the Patriots and Seahawks play every week. That’s it. That’s the whole league. Seattle finished on the winning end of an SNF insta-classic, and it was a huge goal-line stop of Cam Newton in the final seconds that salvaged an otherwise difficult day for the defense. Luckily, the Seahawks have their own superstar quarterback in Russell Wilson, and it’s clear to us that the 31-year-old is playing at the highest level of his career right now. Wilson threw five touchdown passes, using impeccable touch and his patented rainbow arc to pick on everyone in the New England secondary — Stephon Gilmore included. Speaking of Gilmore, DK Metcalf’s performance against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year puts the rest of the league on notice. A star is born.
Previous rank: No. 6
The Bills are 2-0 after wins over the Jets and Dolphins, and Josh Allen — so far, at least — is making all his believers look smart. Here’s a fun stat from our NFL Research team: Allen is the second quarterback since 1948 to throw for 700 yards and complete 70 percent of passes with zero interceptions in the first two weeks of a season. The other guy? Patrick Mahomes. Allen’s game has been undoubtedly lifted by the arrival of Stefon Diggs. The wideout has been worth his weight in gold, delivering a 16/239/1 line through two games. A Week 3 showdown with the 2-0 Rams will serve as a great litmus test.
Previous rank: No. 5
The Titans continue to be the best red-zone offense in football with Ryan Tannehill at the controls. The quarterback has started the season 8-for-10 with six touchdowns and a 130.4 passer rating inside the enemy 20-yard line. Tannehill was stellar pretty much everywhere on the field against the Jaguars, averaging a whopping 10.0 yards per attempt (up from 5.8 in Week 1 in Denver) and matching a career high with four touchdown passes. His most impressive throw came late in the third quarter, when he absorbed a big shot from Jaguars pass rusher Josh Allen and dropped a perfectly placed 18-yard touchdown pass into the hands of Adam Humphries. Tannehill is a tougher dude than he gets credit for being.
Previous rank: No. 10
The Rams are now 27-0 in games they’ve led at halftime under Sean McVay. Contrast that with a team like the Lions, who are 2-7-1 in games they’ve led by at least 10 points since 2019. A lot of that goes back to coaching, and L.A. has one of the very best in the big chair. Misdirection, tempo, play-action — McVay and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell are throwing everything at the opposition in an impressive 2-0 start. How varied has the attack been? In Sunday’s win over the Eagles, seven Rams had rushing attempts. Six players had two receptions or more. The best of them was tight end Tyler Higbee, who finished with three touchdown grabs delivered by a locked-in Jared Goff. Who wants to play this team right now?
Previous rank: No. 4
“The last two weeks have been average at best.” That’s how Sean Payton summed up an inauspicious start to a Saints season high on expectations and — thus far — so-so on results. On Monday night, Payton’s defense was torn up by Raiders tight end Darren Waller, and his team piled up 100-plus penalty yards for the second straight week in a 34-24 loss. Playing without Michael Thomas (ankle), the offense didn’t have the firepower to keep up with the Raiders. That is not a sentence we expected to type two weeks ago. Expect most of the focus this week to remain on Drew Brees, who uncharacteristically struggled with accuracy and has now delivered two pedestrian performances to begin his 20th season.
Shaking off a last-second loss on Sunday Night Football is easier when the bigger picture is so easy to see. The version of Cam Newton that the Patriots grabbed off the scrap heap in July is stunningly close to the Cam Newton who won MVP with the Panthers in 2015. At least that was the level Newton played at in Week 2, throwing for nearly 400 yards and accounting for three touchdowns in a narrow 35-30 defeat. He’s formed an instantaneous connection with Julian Edelman and even had N’Keal Harry making plays. The defense certainly has work to do — Russell Wilson did pretty much whatever he wanted for four quarters — but the pairing of Bill Belichick and Cam Newton (both men in hyper prove-’em-wrong mode) is very bad news for Patriot Haters the world over.
Previous rank: No. 11
Down 39-30 with 2: 57 to play and no timeouts, the Cowboys pulled off the unthinkable on Sunday, going TD-onside recovery-FG to obliterate the souls of the Falcons. It’s the type of game you win one out of 1,000 times — Dallas’ probability of victory was as low as 2 percent in the fourth quarter, per Next Gen Stats, and a finish like that has a way of covering up all the blemishes that led up to those final two minutes. To put it another way: The Cowboys should be proud of their accomplishment against the Falcons, but they’ll need to be a much better, much cleaner team if we’re to take them seriously as contenders in the NFC.
Previous rank: No. 13
The Bucs’ offense is not executing at a high level two weeks into the Tom Brady era, but it did enough on Sunday to secure a 31-17 win over the Panthers. On Monday, Bruce Arians said his veteran QB could have had a 400-yard passing day if not for the shortcomings of his receivers, who, by the coach’s count, had seven drops costing 125 yards. “Don’t drop the damn ball or you won’t get another one. It’s easy. He ain’t gonna throw it to you.” Arians is right: Brady made several throws that should have been layups, including a perfectly placed fourth-quarter dart to LeSean McCoy that was dropped in the end zone. Gotta clean that up.
Previous rank: No. 14
Kyler Murray is running the ball in a way he never did during his rookie season, and it has made him one of the most dangerous players in football. A week after befuddling the Niners with his legs, he did the same to the Washington Football Team in an easy 30-15 win. Murray scored on two impressive scrambles on Sunday and is currently averaging 45 more rushing yards per game this season than he did during his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2019. Meanwhile, the QB’s connection with his new No. 1 receiver remains strong: DeAndre Hopkins led Arizona in targets (nine), receptions (eight) and receiving yards (68) for the second straight game.
Previous rank: No. 9
An all-time Pyrrhic victory for the 49ers. Nick Bosa. Solomon Thomas. Jimmy Garoppolo. Raheem Mostert. Key players essential to the team’s chances of a Super Bowl return, all knocked out of Sunday’s victory over the Jets before halftime. Crushingly, Bosa and Thomas were both diagnosed with torn ACLs. Garoppolo (high ankle sprain) and Mostert (sprained MCL) have unclear timetables. This on a team already without George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and others. Playing in a loaded NFC West, it’s hard to see how the 49ers can stay afloat with this level of attrition. If they do, Kyle Shanahan can start clearing room for his Coach of the Year award right now.
Previous rank: No. 19
What a night for the Raiders, who opened their new stadium in Vegas with an all-around effort against the Saints to move to 2-0 on the season. Derek Carr threw three touchdown passes and found a warm security blanket in tight end Darren Waller, who hauled in 12 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders’ offense scored on six of their final seven possessions, and the defense settled down after a bumpy start to limit a Saints attack missing star wideout Michael Thomas. Finally, let’s give some love to Daniel Carlson, who capped a great bounce-back week for kickers across the league with a 54-yard field goal to ice the game. The Death Star is open for business.
Previous rank: No. 18
How good was the Colts’ defense on Sunday? Late in the third quarter, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was sitting on a passer rating of 0.0. Seriously. By the end of the game, Minnesota had managed just 175 yards of offense in an easy home win for Indy. Quite a difference from last week, when the Colts couldn’t even get Gardner Minshew to throw a damn incomplete pass. Jonathan Taylor and Mo Alie-Cox had breakout games for the offense, and Philip Rivers led with a steady hand. The biggest negative? Parris Campbell was carted off the field with a knee injury, the latest setback in a star-crossed career.
Previous rank: No. 25
The Browns have a formula. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were dominant against the Bengals on Thursday Night Football, combining for 210 yards on the ground in a 35-30 win that breathes life back into the team after Week 1’s grim result against the Ravens. The berserker act on the ground put Baker Mayfield in a much more comfortable position, and he responded with a strong performance that evoked memories of his standout rookie season. The question is this: Can this ground-and-pound act be replicated against a stronger team than the rebuilding Bengals? Washington’s fearsome front presents a greater test in Week 3.
Previous rank: No. 20
That’s why you always stay ready, kids. Justin Herbert didn’t know he was making his NFL debut until right before kickoff on Sunday, which made the resulting performance against the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs all the more impressive. Herbert kept his poise and made a number of quality throws, giving the offense a spark it didn’t have under Tyrod Taylor in Week 1. Taylor spent part of his Sunday in a hospital dealing with chest pains, but head coach Anthony Lynn said the veteran will remain the starter if healthy. To which we ask … why? Herbert is the future of the franchise, and he’s now proved he can learn on the job while keeping the Chargers competitive. Tyrod Taylor is a good man, but he’s not the right man for these Chargers at QB1.
Previous rank: No. 22
The Bears are never going to be world-beaters with Mitchell Trubisky under center, but so far, it’s been good enough for 2-0. Trubisky threw two quick touchdown passes against the Giants, and when the offense stalled out in the second half, the defense took it home with a game-saving red-zone stand to secure the win. Chicago needs Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn to lead the way on defense, and they did that on Sunday: Mack had a sack and fumble recovery, and Quinn added a sack and forced fumble in his Bears debut. Chicago needs to force turnovers and shorten fields for the offense to win games.
Previous rank: No. 16
Everything is going wrong for the Vikings to start the season. A week ago, Aaron Rodgers embarrassed the defense. On Sunday, it was the offense’s turn to wear the dunce cap. Kirk Cousins appears to have no connection with pass-catchers not named Adam, and Dalvin Cook is getting buried by early deficits and blown-up game scripts. Cousins threw three interceptions (a first during his time in purple), and the offense finished with a measly 175 total yards. Minnesota’s offense is clearly trying to find itself at the same time a defense loaded with new faces is attempting to get off the ground. It’s a wicked combination that equals 0-2.
Previous rank: No. 15
Lopsided losses to the Chiefs and Ravens tell us the Texans are not even in the conversation of AFC contenders right now. Houston was barely competitive against Baltimore, pounded in every aspect of the game in a 33-16 defeat. Here’s one problem of many: Deshaun Watson looks like a star QB adrift without DeAndre Hopkins. Will Fuller, the fifth-year wide receiver expected to step into the No. 1 role vacated by Hopkins, finished without a catch (or a target!) against the Ravens. Is that on Fuller? Bill O’Brien? In reality, it’s probably a combination of both. Up next for Houston is a trip to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers, the third of the unholy terrors in the AFC. The schedule-makers owe the Texans a huge solid in 2021.
Previous rank: No. 17
This team needs Carson Wentz to be at his best right now — and that has not been the case so far. You understood Wentz’s struggles more in Week 1, when a fierce Washington pass rush racked up eight sacks. But on Sunday against the Rams? Wentz wasn’t sacked once, yet he still threw two picks and failed to put together enough positive drives to dig Philly out of an early hole. In the third quarter, with the Eagles in position to take the lead, Wentz fired an end-zone pass to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, an ill-advised throw that led to a game-swinging interception by Darious Williams. Wentz needs to make better decisions than what we’ve seen during an 0-2 start.
Previous rank: No. 21
Sunday’s game against the Steelers began with Drew Lock connecting with Courtland Sutton on a pretty back-shoulder throw for a toe-tapping reception along the sideline. It ended with Lock in a sling and Sutton limping to an MRI exam to confirm a season-ending ACL tear. Football can be cruel. Given the calamitous injury luck, Vic Fangio’s team deserves credit for hanging tough on the road against an excellent Steelers team. Still, 0-2 is 0-2, and now backup QB Jeff Driskel will be called upon to keep the season afloat against Tom Brady and the Bucs in Week 3. Something tells us John Elway is not a fun person to be around right now.
Previous rank: No. 24
That was the worst Falcons loss since … well, you know. Up 20-0 at the end of the first quarter and 39-24 with just over five minutes to play in the fourth quarter at Jerrah World, Atlanta managed to kick away a game that could end up defining its season. Julio Jones’ end zone drop, a defense that couldn’t stop the bleeding, a hands team that refused to use them on the crucial onside kick — the goat horns were plentiful. They have to be when there’s a stat like this: Since 1933, teams are now 440-1 when scoring 39-plus points without a turnover. Some history you want absolutely no part of.
Previous rank: No. 29
Gardner Minshew’s game-deciding interception on a tipped pass in the final minute of the Jaguars’ loss to the Titans was an unsightly blemish in an otherwise strong performance for the second-year quarterback. Minshew is showing that last season’s theatrics were no fluke: He plays the game with poise and gets the ball into the hands of an underrated cast of playmakers in Jacksonville. Speaking of emerging playmakers, how about undrafted rookie running back James Robinson? He scored his first career touchdown and went over 100 yards rushing in his second game. The Jags should continue to score points and stay competitive in the wide-open AFC South.
Washington Football Team
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Previous rank: No. 23
The ferocious Washington pass rush was one of the biggest stories to come out of Week 1. But getting after Carson Wentz (to the tune of eight sacks) proved to be a far easier task than containing Kyler Murray, who ran for two scores and threw for another in a 30-15 Cardinals victory. The bigger concern for Washington in this game came on offense, however. The Dwayne Haskins attack was stuck in neutral as Arizona built a 20-0 lead by halftime. (Arizona hadn’t shut out a team in the first half since 2017.) The lone bright spot was second-year wideout Terry McLaurin, who finished with 125 receiving yards at a gaudy 17.9 yards per catch. Get that man some help.
Previous rank: No. 26
The good on Thursday night was Joe Burrow, who didn’t blink in his prime-time debut and kept the Bengals in the game by continuing to march the offense for four quarters. Burrow didn’t throw an interception across an astounding 61 attempts — that’s unheard of for a rookie making his second career start. Things are less promising on the other side of the ball, where an offseason of investment has not panned out to this point. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt devoured a Cincinnati run defense playing without Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels. The pass rush wasn’t much better: Baker Mayfield was pressured on just three attempts, per Next Gen Stats.
Previous rank: No. 27
The Panthers are 0-2 and Christian McCaffrey is expected to miss four to six weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s loss to the Bucs. The All-Pro back told reporters on Monday that he hopes he can accelerate that timetable, but in the here and now, Teddy Bridgewater will be asked to carry Carolina in Week 3 against the Chargers. Bridgewater has never been that kind of quarterback, and it’s fair to wonder if a Panthers team without McCaffrey is one that will sink quickly into irrelevance.
Previous rank: No. 28
The Lions have no idea how to close out games and it’s going to get people fired. Detroit, which held a 14-3 advantage early in the second quarter against the Packers on Sunday, dropped its fourth straight game where it had a double-digit lead, a first in NFL history, according to Elias. The Lions now have blown seven double-digit leads in losses since the start of last season. Obviously, this is a poor reflection on head coach Matt Patricia, and the talk around his job security will continue to amplify with the Lions now riding an 11-game losing streak dating back to 2019. In fairness to Patricia, he continues to deal with injuries that are keeping some of his best players off the field on both sides of the ball. Still, the lack of urgency and discipline is hard not to trace back to the man in charge.
Previous rank: No. 31
The Dolphins poured a lot of resources into their defense to make it better in 2020, but we’re not seeing a difference to this point. The remade defensive line was unable to put consistent pressure on Bills QB Josh Allen (417 passing yards, four TDs) and the secondary had no answers once top cornerback Byron Jones exited with a hamstring injury on Sunday. First-round pick Noah Igbinoghene struggled to keep up with Stefon Diggs, and Miami was unable to pick off Allen even though he threw multiple passes that could have been intercepted. This team fights every week under Brian Flores, but it’s got work to do to be seen as a credible playoff contender.
Previous rank: No. 30
Losing Saquon Barkley to a season-ending ACL tear is nothing short of an organizational disaster. The former Penn State star might be the most talented running back to come into the league since Adrian Peterson; losing him in Week 2 is a season-crusher. Playing with a talent-deficient defense, the Giants already had an uphill fight ahead of them this season. The idea was that a promising Barkley-led offense could act as a concealer for some of the team’s warts. But without Barkley? The losses are likely to keep coming.
Previous rank: No. 32
Another embarrassing effort by the Jets, this time failing to be competitive at home against a 49ers team ravaged by injuries. Raheem Mostert went 80 yards untouched on the first play from scrimmage. Later — after both Mostert and Jimmy Garoppolo exited with injuries — the 49ers picked up 55 yards on a halfback toss on third-and-31. You get the picture. Sam Darnold is helpless playing with a ragtag collection of receivers who would struggle for playing time in the XFL. Adam Gase is lucky no fans are allowed in the Meadowlands this season.