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NFL Power Rankings: Bills Lead the Pack in Week 1

AFC teams show strength in numbers among the best of the best to kick off the season.

Week 1 of the NFL season is over. As a great journalism professor and mentor once said, it’s yesterday’s news; people will use it to wrap fish now. The only problem for some NFL teams is that the fish don’t just disappear. They build up and start to stink. While for other teams, riding high off their Week 1 successes, the fish becomes a plate of red snapper Livornese, all fancy and prestigious.

That was more fish talk than you expected, I’ll bet. I hear you right now, saying, “Get to the rankings so I can tweet at you and call you a moron.”

As you wish! 

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1. Buffalo Bills (1–0)

Last week: Win at Los Angeles Rams, 31–10 (Thursday)
Next week: vs. Tennessee (Monday)

Dating back to the playoffs last year, the Bills have logged a majority percentage of the most phenomenal offensive performances we’ve seen by a football team over the last calendar year. Josh Allen is a missile headed for the MVP award. 

2. Kansas City Chiefs (1–0)

Last week: Win at Arizona, 44–21
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Chargers (Thursday)

While the Cardinals will struggle, Patrick Mahomes is developing new tools to diversify Kansas City’s offense. Of course you’ll miss Tyreek Hill, but having five valuable weapons on each snap and embracing multiple tight end formations mean a more efficient machine.

3. Los Angeles Chargers (1–0)

Last week: Win vs. Las Vegas, 24–19
Next week: at Kansas City (Thursday)

All hail the Chargers, our offseason kings. While it wasn’t always beautiful in a win over the Raiders, they finished with the eighth-best defense on Sunday in terms of opposing offensive EPA per dropback. While we’re more concerned about rushing EPA, any progress is progress. 

4. Baltimore Ravens (1–0)

Last week: Win at New York Jets, 24–9
Next week: vs. Miami

Lamar Jackson barely needed the ground game to edge past the Jets. Imagine what this looks like when the whole operation gets rolling. The Ravens’ defense already appears in midseason form.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1–0)

Last week: Win at Dallas, 19–3
Next week: at New Orleans 

The Cowboys’ defense allowed one of the worst rushing EPA performances of the weekend, which means we haven’t seen the Buccaneers need to do much problem solving. Still, it’s worth noting how good Julio Jones looked, and that Tampa Bay was regularly featuring him in the run game and pass game.

6. Green Bay Packers (0–1)

Last week: Loss at Minnesota, 23–7
Next week: vs. Chicago

Just like last year, the Packers got punched in the gut by a Week 1 opponent generating relentless QB pressure. In some places, this is an abject failure. With the Packers’ offense, it’s more like a machine learning experience. Two weeks from now, they’ll be fine. 

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws the ball in the first quarter of a game against the Bills.

7. Los Angeles Rams (0–1)

Last week: Loss at Buffalo, 31–10 (Thursday)

Next week: vs. Atlanta

A troubling outing for the Rams, who are looking vulnerable at the start of their title defense campaign. While a team this dotted with superstars is never going to be out of it, especially in the NFC, it will be worth watching to see how Sean McVay & Co. regroup.

8. San Francisco 49ers (0–1)

Last week: Loss at Chicago, 19–10
Next week: vs. Seattle

I’m not going to make any snap judgements on the Trey Lance era in a game at Soldier Field that heavily favored a coach like Matt Eberflus, who can manipulate defensive line play to his favor better than any coach in the league. Make no mistake, the Bears were brilliant. The 49ers are going to be O.K., though. 

9. Cincinnati Bengals (0–1)

Last week: Loss vs. Steelers, 23–20 (OT)

Next week: at Dallas

Why are we still putting Joe Burrow in five-man drops while facing seven-man pressure? The offensive line is going to take some time to evolve together, but the scheme can do more to protect him. 

10. Philadelphia Eagles (1–0)

Last week: Win at Detroit, 38–35
Next week: vs. Minnesota (Monday)

The Eagles integrated AJ Brown and schemed their ground game well. While the defense—middle of the road in down-by-down success rate—left a little to be desired, the Lions are tougher than we’re giving them credit for.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (1–0)

Last week: Win at Cincinnati, 23–20 (OT)
Next week: vs. New England

Mitch Trubisky had a Ben Roethlisberger-esque stat line, didn’t add much in the running game and the Steelers still toppled the defending conference champions. Losing T.J. Watt hurts, but at this point, I’ll hand Mike Tomlin my little league team from 1998 and he’ll win nine games.

Saints quarterback Jameis Winston celebrates their come-from-behind win over the Falcons.

12. New Orleans Saints (1–0)

Last week: Win at Atlanta, 27–26
Next week: vs. Tampa Bay

The first week of the season is weird. As it stands, Daniel Jones is a top-10 efficiency quarterback. That said, Jameis Winston could finish the season as the kind of player he is now: a little older, a little wiser, and still in possession of the raw tools to power this offense.

13. Minnesota Vikings (1–0)

Last week: Win vs. Green Bay, 23–7

Next week: at Philadelphia (Monday) 

This was the team I was afraid I was very wrong about this offseason. While it’s just one week, and the Packers have played some awful games early in the season during the Aaron Rodgers era, Kevin O’Connell’s ability to scheme Justin Jefferson to an average target separation (4 yards) almost double that of Ja’Marr Chase is stunning.

14. Indianapolis Colts (0-0-1)

Last week: Tie at Houston, 20–20
Next week: at Jacksonville

The Colts have a few weeks remaining to convince the lot of us that everything is going to be O.K. before we abandon ship. Ending the 2021 season and beginning the 2022 season underperforming against the lowest rungs of the AFC South is concerning. If you can’t outpoint Davis Mills after getting 160-plus yards from your feature back, averaging more than five yards per carry, what are you going to do when the schedule gets really difficult? 

Russell Wilson after loss to Seahawks

15. Denver Broncos (0–1)

Last week: Loss at Seattle, 17–16
Next week: vs. Houston

The Broncos’ offense had an outside zone flavor but also looked a whole lot like the offense he seemed not to like in Seattle for so long. When it’s optimized it will look good, but after a memorable late-game collapse, the Broncos have some ego repairing to do.

16. Miami Dolphins (1–0)

Last week: Win vs. New England, 20–7
Next week: at Baltimore

If you could run coaching game film through a plagiarism software at the end of the season, my bet this year is that Mike McDaniel will be the most copied coach in football. He is scheming up a bottom-third quarterback in spectacular ways. That win against the Patriots will not get the credit it deserves given how bad New England’s offense looked.

17. Tennessee Titans (0–1)

Last week: Loss vs. New York Giants, 21–20
Next week: at Buffalo (Monday)

The Titans, by rule, have to lose an unexpectedly close game to a previously woebegone New York–area team per year. Thankfully, they’ve gotten that out of the way. Ryan Tannehill played an efficient football game with a 56% pass success rate. They’ll be just fine.

18. New England Patriots (0–1)

Last week: Loss at Miami, 20–7

Next week: at Pittsburgh

We’re nowhere near the point where we can declare anything a success or a failure. For years, New England has used the beginning portions of the season to feel out the themes of the year before building a matchup nightmare for their opponents. Tom Brady is gone, but the strategy is still plausible in a pared-down way.

19. Las Vegas Raiders (0–1)

Last week: Loss at Los Angeles Chargers, 24–19

Next week: vs. Arizona

I think this team is a No. 3 seed in the NFC. Derek Carr hits a buzz saw, taking on the Brandon Staley defense at full force and the Raiders come out looking a little disjointed. It’s a tough year to be a moderately talented team in an All-Star conference.

20. Cleveland Browns (1–0)

Last week: Win at Carolina, 26–24
Next week: vs. New York Jets

With a quarterback of Deshaun Watson’s (on-field) caliber, a Browns team with this offensive line is going to be dominant. For now, they utilize a referee’s assistance to eek past the bottom-feeding Panthers.

21. Arizona Cardinals (0–1)

Last week: Loss vs. Kansas City, 44–21 

Next week: at Las Vegas

One of the NFL’s luckiest teams last year, the Cardinals are top-heavy and poorly suited defensively to handle elite quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes succeeded on more than 70% of his dropbacks against Arizona in the season opener, a simply stunning number.

Carson Wentz, Commanders beat Jaguars in Week 1 of 2022 NFL season.

22. Washington Commanders (1–0)

Last week: Win vs. Jacksonville, 28–22
Next week: at Detroit

Carson Wentz was contained, responsibly aggressive and the Commanders rolled out an offense full of shifty, backfield eye candy that can gain him a pre-snap advantage. Washington is officially better than we expected.

23. Detroit Lions (0–1)

Last week: Loss vs. Philadelphia, 38–35

Next week: vs. Washington

On The MMQB podcast, we labeled the Lions the NFC’s budget Titans. This will be a fun year in Detroit. If you were a Lions fan two years ago, how badly would you have wanted to be the budget Titans?! Dan Campbell’s team is going to hang with opponents and run the hell out of the ball. Jared Goff is better than we think.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, wearing a brace on his right hand, responds to questions during a post game news conference following the team’s 19-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

24. Dallas Cowboys (0–1)

Last week: Loss vs. Tampa Bay, 19–3
Next week: vs. Cincinnati

No Dak Prescott for roughly half the season on a team already primed for chaos? Good luck to everyone in Frisco right now.

25. New York Giants (1–0)

Last week: Win at Tennessee, 21–20

Next week: vs. Carolina

As we wondered throughout the offseason, what would happen if a couple of good offensive football coaches got Saquon Barkley the ball in space? This was never going to be beautiful, but the Giants have the kind of roster that can hang with most teams on their schedule to make games interesting. They now have the coaching staff to do so as well.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (0–1)

Last week: Loss at Washington, 28–22

Next week: vs. Indianapolis

A stunningly professional-looking football team that had a few bad breaks in their opener. Trevor Lawrence had some expertly dialed deep shots, Travon Walker slipped a right tackle with a scary Von Miller–ish ghost move and, all of a sudden, we have some ball players in Jacksonville again.

27. Houston Texans (0-0-1)

Last week: Tie vs. Indianapolis, 20–20

Next week: at Denver

This is the closest replica of a Bill Belichick team we’ve seen. It’s a completely churn-able, non-definable entity full of random talent that happens to be expertly deployed. The Texans aren’t going to make the playoffs, but they’re finally worth watching.

28. Chicago Bears (1–0)

Last week: Win vs. San Francisco, 19–10

Next week: at Green Bay

While I’m not sure Justin Fields escapes another free runner that has him pinned in the backfield on a naked bootleg and turns it into a first down, or that he gets another emergency near-sack underhand pass off that gets plus yardage, he left his mark on the NFL's Week 1. The Bears have a gamer who isn’t going to take this roster situation lying down

29. Atlanta Falcons (0–1)

Last week: Loss vs. New Orleans, 27–26

Next week: at Los Angeles Rams

As we talked about on The MMQB podcast this week, Arthur Smith is really tying together some of the coolest parts of two distinct offenses he coached under in Tennessee—Mike Mularkey and Matt LaFleur. Atlanta is now officially on our weekly rewatch list specifically because of all the ways they can utilize their star tight end. 

30. Seattle Seahawks (1–0)

Last week: Win vs. Denver, 17–16

Next week: at San Francisco

In the opener, Seattle logs one of the coolest wins in recent franchise history in a special kind of Pete Carroll fever dream way. We could write three Churchillian-sized volumes on that game and wouldn’t begin to understand what happened … which is exactly how Carroll seems to like it.

31. New York Jets (0–1)

Last week: Loss vs. Baltimore, 24–9

Next week: at Cleveland

The Jets played a superior Ravens team tough for as long as they could on Sunday. This roster is still asking a lot out of its rookies. Judge Robert Saleh and the rest of their staff by moments like these, not necessarily the scoreboard for now.

32. Carolina Panthers (0–1)

Last week: Loss vs. Browns, 26–24

Next week: at New York Giants

Christian McCaffrey needs to get more than four balls in the passing game, especially against a sound run defense that can neutralize him up the middle. Baker Mayfield obviously needs time to learn the nuances of this offense, but a checkdown is an easy way to negate the learning curve. 

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