With Jimmy Garoppolo ailing, the Patriots are unable to climb into the top spot this week. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)
The biggest surprise this year has to be the ineptitude of the Seahawks offense. The trade for Jimmy Graham before last season was supposed to create mismatches for opposing defenses, but losing center Max Unger in the deal has been the downfall of the offense. Granted, Seattle started slow last year and turned it on as the season progressed, but it never looked this bad. In New England, Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury is forcing the Patriots to go into a Thursday night game with 1 1/2 quarterbacks on the roster. If Brissett goes down early, we’ll see the wishbone offense as Julian Edelman hands the ball off to LeGarrette Blount for 50 carries.
Another great development is the rise of a new crop of young quarterbacks. While the No. 1 overall pick, Jared Goff, hasn’t even taken a snap yet, teams like the Eagles, Cowboys, Broncos, Patriots and Texans are seeing success with a first-year starter under center. The Browns are really kicking themselves for the trade that essentially sent Carson Wentz to the Eagles. Wentz looks like a pro, and the Browns chose to hitch their wagon to RGIII, who might already be out for the season.
Rex Ryan is on the hot seat after only 18 games in Buffalo. The Pegulas will have to decide if they want a guy who is a media darling or someone who can take a run at the Pats in the AFC East. Chuck Pagano has the Colts off to an 0-2 start, and Andrew Luck was supposed to be dominating the league at this point in his career. Holding up the rear are the Bears. John Fox is a good coach, but until Chicago finally decides to part ways with Jay Cutler, it will never sniff the playoffs.
1. (4 last week) Broncos (2-0) — Denver has the best defense in the league again. Losing a few players to free agency hasn’t slowed this team a bit. Von Miller is still stripping QBs, Aqib Talib is still returning picks for six, and T.J. Ward is still delivering bone-jarring hits across the middle. Trevor Siemian probably can play as well as Peyton Manning did last year.
2. (2) Patriots (2-0) — The Pats were poised to run away with the top spot until Jimmy Garoppolo was slammed on this throwing shoulder. Now the team is one play from putting WR Julian Edelman under center in an emergency capacity. The defense went into the season with high expectations and will need to steal a game from Houston on Thursday night to get to 3-0.
3. (1) Steelers (2-0) — Ben Roethlisberger is the best QB in the league. He can throw it from anywhere on the field and doesn’t need to set his feet to throw strikes. It helps having the best receiver in the game in Antonio Brown. When Le’Veon Bell returns from suspension, the Steelers will be scoring at will.
4. (6) Giants (2-0) — Victor Cruz is back and the Giants should coast to an NFC East title. The money spent on the defense is paying early dividends, as New York held Drew Brees to only one TD pass Sunday. In 2015, Brees torched the Giants for 511 yards and seven TDs.
5. (7) Panthers (1-1) — Cam Newton apparently is feeling better after getting lit up in Week 1. Newton made it rain all over the 49ers to the tune of 353 yards and four TDs. Kelvin Benjamin is a big target who finds the end zone, and his return from injury means the Panthers will win the NFC South easily.
6. (12) Cardinals (1-1) — After a loss to the Patriots on opening night, the Cardinals got revenge on the Buccaneers. Jaron Brown gives Carson Palmer yet another weapon, while David Johnson is playing like one of the best backs in the league.
7. (3) Bengals (1-1) — A.J. Green and Jeremy Hill were shut down by the Steelers in Week 2. Replacing Mohamed Sanu with Brandon LaFell is a clear downgrade at the WR position, and if teams continue to double Green, it could be a down year the Bengals.
8. (8) Ravens (2-0) — Even though it was against the Browns, the Ravens should be lauded for scoring 25 unanswered points on the road. The AFC North is crowded, but the Ravens should be in the mix for a wild card spot.
9. (10) Texans (2-0) — Similar to his situation in Denver, Brock Osweiler won’t have to be perfect for get wins in Houston. Rookie WR Will Fuller gives Osweiler another option opposite DeAndre Hopkins. The defense is allowing only 13 ppg and will have the task of stopping Patriots rookie third-stringer Jacoby Brissett in Week 3.
10. (5) Packers (1-1) — Aaron Rodgers heard footsteps all Sunday night in Minnesota. Rodgers has long been viewed as the best QB in the league, but his superiority is over. He’s still top five, but he can be shut down by a good defense, as evidenced on Sunday night.
11. (15) Vikings (2-0) — Sam Bradford showed a little toughness in his first start as a Viking. NBC cameras picked up a mangled left hand in the second quarter. Then, after two consecutive false starts, Bradford settled down, drove his team and tied the game. His favorite target, Stefon Diggs, helped fans forget that Adrian Peterson went down with another knee injury. Diggs finished with 182 yards on nine catches.
12. (24) Eagles (2-0) — Carson Wentz’s success is creating some optimism in Philly. The Browns and Rams are kicking themselves for passing on him. Doug Pederson and the front office knew what they had in Wentz and made a brilliant move trading Sam Bradford for a future first-round pick.
13. (9) Chiefs (1-1) — Ugly turnovers were the difference in a loss to Houston. Andy Reid needs to spend the week focusing on ball security, as all three fumbles were recovered by the opposition. A 3-for-14 mark on third down doesn’t help, either.
14. (18) Jets (1-1) — The Jets had almost 500 yards of total offense. Matt Forte rushed for three TDs and a hundred yards, while QB Ryan Fitzpatrick nearly threw for 400. The team also had TWO receivers amass over 100 yards. On the flip side, it looks like Darrelle Revis aged five years overnight.
15. (21) Falcons (1-1) — It’s better to be lucky than good. A tipped pass bounced into the hands of Justin Hardy for an 8-yard TD that helped the Falcons get the win over the Raiders. Atlanta also benefited from a close call when Oakland’s Amari Cooper reeled in a 51-yard catch but officials negated it, ruling he voluntarily ran out of bounds first. Two lucky breaks keep the Falcons from being 0-2 to start the year.
16. (29) Cowboys (1-1) — Dak Prescott has thrown 75 passes through two games and has yet to throw a pick. He’s been the biggest surprise of 2016, and if he continues on this pace the team should consider cutting ties with Tony Romo and turning the team over to the gifted young passer.
17. (28) Chargers (1-1) — Melvin Gordon is off to a fast start with three TDs in his first two games. Gordon might finally play up to expectations after being drafted 15th overall in 2015. Philip Rivers lost his No. 1 target in Keenan Allen but found Travis Benjamin for two scores and 164 yards receiving.
18. (13) Raiders (1-1) — While Jack Del Rio was praised for his ballsy decision to go for the deciding two-point conversion in Week 1, his fortitude backfired against Atlanta. Del Rio gambled on fourth down and Jalen Richard was stuffed. The offense looks good, Derek Carr is putting up points, but the defense now has surrendered 69 points over the first two weeks.
19. (11) Seahawks (1-1) — Back-to-back putrid offensive performances for Seattle. Russell Wilson isn’t playing all that poorly, but his offensive line is forcing him to scramble more than he’d like. The defense is still good enough to keep the Seahawks in games, but losing the turnover battle was the difference in this one.
20. (14) Buccaneers (1-1) — The highs of a Week 1 win over Atlanta came crashing down after a 40-7 thumping at the hands of Arizona. Jameis Winston struggled mightily, throwing four picks and registering a 39.2 passer rating.
21. (16) Lions (1-1) — As mediocre as Matthew Stafford was on Sunday, he still had the chance to save the game in the closing moments. He needed about 20 more yards to set up Matt Prater for a game-winning FG, but instead he threw an ugly pick right into the hands of Tennessee’s Perrish Cox.
22. (32) Rams (1-1) — The magic of the LA Coliseum helped the Rams rebound from a humiliating Week 1 loss to the 49ers. Aaron Donald and the LA defense held Seattle to just three points. The team is expected to announce an extension for coach Jeff Fisher, who hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2008.
23. (24) 49ers (1-1) — After an impressive win over LA, the 49ers were walloped by the Panthers in Week 2. Blaine Gabbert will get one more chance to keep the job, but Colin Kaepernick is lurking in the shadows, ready to take his job back.
24. (19) Colts (0-2) — I’m not ready to say Andrew Luck is a bust, but his route to Canton isn’t as clear as everyone thought it was a few years ago. With the Colts 0-2, owner Jim Irsay might be thinking it’s time to part ways with coach Chuck Pagano.
25. (22) Bills (0-2) — Rex and Rob Ryan are showing why you shouldn’t mix family with business. Rob left the Saints defense in shambles last year and is about to do the same in Buffalo. Instead of looking stupid and firing his brother, Rex chose to act stupid and fire offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
26. (31) Titans (1-1) — Marcus Mariota bounced back after a horrible showing in Week 1. Mariota led a 13-play drive and found Andre Johnson in the middle of the end zone with just over a minute left to take the lead in a 16-15 win over the Lions.
27. (25) Jaguars (0-2) — After a close loss to the Packers, the Jaguars were throttled by the Chargers. For the fourth time in five years, they start the season 0-2. Jacksonville seems to always be “two years away from being two years away.” Blake Bortles needs to turn the corner eventually and stop throwing picks if he ever wants to lead this team out of the AFC South basement.
28. (20) Dolphins (0-2) — Once a year Ryan Tannehill comes to Foxboro and lets a shotgun snap fly over his shoulder. Miami didn’t even show up until the second half, when the game was well out of reach and New England was in the prevent.
29. (26) Saints (0-2) — The Saints have lost two games by a combined four points, and at 0-2 now face an 82 percent chance of missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. New Orleans extended Sean Payton to 2020 in the offseason and likely expected a lot more as the Drew Brees window closes.
30. (30) Browns (0-2) — Josh McCown played well in the first half, but an injury to his left shoulder slowed the momentum of the entire team. Allowing 25 unanswered points at home to a division rival is bad, even for the Browns.
31. (27) Redskins (0-2) — A year ago Kirk Cousins was making the city of Washington forget about RGIII. After two games, the rumors are that he’s lost the locker room already. It won’t help that coach Jay Gruden publicly called out his QB for his poor in-game decisions during the postgame presser.
32. (23) Bears (0-2) — Unfortunately for Bears fans, the teams goes as Jay Cutler does.