Well. That opening weekend was quite something, wasn’t it? We’ve seen nine underdogs win outright in one of the most upset-filled slates of games we’ve seen in a very long time, and it’s only been one week. What more could this season have in store for us? It seems that the landscape of the league is once again collapsing and crumbling around us, and we do our best to keep track of it all in this week’s TSW NFL Power Rankings. As promised last week, we’re going to touch on a rookie to watch for every team this season.
(1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay may not have blown out the formerly tame Dallas Cowboys in the Thursday Night Football season opener, but they looked every bit the part of the reigning Super Bowl champions, doing damage in all phases of the game despite the best efforts of Dak Prescott. Returning all of their starters across the roster, they drafted for depth, but DE Joe Tryon is carving himself a role in a deadly pass-rush.
(2) Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City took some time against the Browns to figure it out, but they’re notorious for their slow starts. A late surge to win it let KC fans breathe a little easier and, though there’s room for concern, they remain one of the premier threats in this league. Having rebuilt their entire offensive line this offseason, the Chiefs had no first-round picks due to their trade for Ravens OT Orlando Brown. Still, they doubled down on this area of need with another OL in Creed Humphrey, who looks to play an important role in protecting Mahomes for years to come.
(3) Los Angeles Rams 2
Well, there it is, folks. The Rams are looking like Super Bowl contenders once again, and that’s no overreaction. One hell of an offseason leads to one hell of a team, and they dominated the Bears in all phases of the game. If this is what Matthew Stafford can do regularly with this kind of talent around him, the rest of the NFC should be scared. This team’s rookie to watch has to be WR Tutu Atwell, who’s one extra target in a potentially unstoppable offense.
4 Buffalo Bills 1
A far from ideal start to the season for Buffalo, as their team flailed in all sorts of ways. The offensive line, where they spent big money over the last year, was ineffective and it cost the offense as a whole big time. A few plays left on the field, a few turnovers that were dropped, and a whole host of flags accompanied a blocked punt TD by the Steelers, and the Bills look to remedy things against Miami in week two. At the time of the draft, many thought that DE Carlos ‘Boogie’ Basham was going to make an impact, as first-round DE Gregory Rousseau redshirted in order to step up next season. Fans got that backwards, as Basham was a healthy scratch and Rousseau made some plays in the DL rotation. Keep your eyes on him.
5 Cleveland Browns 1
What a start for the Browns, and what a finish for Kansas City. Cleveland looked like the bvetter team to open it, going up big early, but things fell apart for them before their eyes as they let their lead slip before Baker Mayfield’s fateful game-losing interception. JOK, needs time but could help anchor the middle)
(6) Green Bay Packers 2
I won’t lie, it was tempting to drop the Packers further down this list being arguably the worst team in the NFL last week, but it’s week one, and I’m not particularly prone to overreactions. Bad games happen (they happened a lot this week), and this one was awful, but we’re still looking at an NFC title contender with Super Bowl aspirations, even if Packers fans are having a meltdown. Perhaps the answer lies off the field, in rookie CB Eric Stokes who, despite being a non-factor this week, has all the traits necessary to develop into a top-tier zone corner.
(7) San Francisco 49ers 1
Well, that was quite the game, as the 49ers and Lions combined for a whopping 74 points through four quarters. Jimmy G was a bad man as San Francisco stepped the passing game up after losing RB Raheem Mostert early, with a little Lance sprinkled in along the way. The defense wasn’t perfect, but they’re handling the loss of former DC Robert Salah well. Eventually, Trey Lance may take over but, until then, RB Trey Sermon will likely have the biggest impact, stepping into the role of Mostert, who announced that he will be out for the season on Tuesday.
(8) Los Angeles Chargers 1
In one of the hardest to pick games of the opening weekend, Los Angeles eventually came through. They might have failed if not for the injury sustained by WFT QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, but LA still won against a tough opponent. Rookie CB Asante Samuel Jr. plays above his limited size, and could be a tough matchup for most WRs for the foreseeable future.
(9) Dallas Cowboys 1
If you don’t think that Thursday’s loss in Tampa Bay was a good game for Dallas, you clearly didn’t watch it. Dak’s recovery went well, and though they didn’t get anything out of their $90M running back, you have to feel confident in their success within the division this season. All game long, rookie LB Micah Parsons impressed us.
(10) Arizona Cardinals 1
You can’t really find flaws in the game Arizona just played. The re-tooled defensive line was indomitable, and they suffocated a Titans team that many experts thought were true contenders after the addition of Julio Jones. Among solid play from their host of veteran additions, Chandler Jones put up a career-high five sacks. Kyler Murray looked like a #1 overall pick and they look to punch their playoff ballot after a rough end to the season made them lose out in 2020. Eyes on Zaven Collins at LB, who was an excellent addition to a heavy position of need this offseason.
(11) Baltimore Ravens 4
Baltimore was far from perfect this offseason, allowing talent to flee in droves, trading away important pieces, and showing remarkable willingness to get worse despite the prevailing belief that they were real contenders. They marginally improved their WR room, which showed on Monday Night Football against Las Vegas, but regularly fell shy of the mark in a lot of areas. They’re clearly feeling the loss of CB Marcus Peters, even if they made their RB woes look like they weren’t a problem at all. Rookie to watch? WR Rashod Bateman when he comes off injured reserve. This offense needs some more talented youth injected into the WR room.
(12) Pittsburgh Steelers 1
In one of the better upsets of the week, Pittsburgh showed poise and resilience in their narrow victory over the Bills, with a great deal of help from one of the best defensive line performances of the day; Maybe even of the year. Neither team was spectacular, and both defenses were good on the day, but Pittsburgh played with a chip on their shoulder and deserved it. RB Najee Harris played every single snap on offense for the Steelers on Sunday in Buffalo, but didn’t do much to impress. With plenty of touches coming his way, he needs a few weeks to settle into his workload.
(13) Seattle Seahawks 1
Russell Wilson is once again a week one MVP candidate. He made plays happen all over the field against a stingy Colts defense. Seattle’s own defensive line made the most of a battered Indianapolis offense, doing more than their share to win the day. Keep your eyes peeled for CB Tre Brown when he comes off IR, but WR D’Wayne Eskridge may impress right now.
(14) New Orleans Saints 2
In perhaps the biggest upset of the season, famous Jameis Winston looked like Aaron Rodgers, cooking up 5 TDs against a great Packers defense, whilst the Saint’s defense made the reigning MVP look like Jameis Winston (you all remember, it wasn’t that long ago). There’s nothing more to be said. On the day of his massive extension, locking up the most guaranteed money for a DB ever, CB Marshon Lattimore required surgery on his hand after suffering an in-game injury. Until his return, rookie CB Paulson Adebo could see an increased workload.
(15) Indianapolis Colts
Great news, everyone! Carson Wentz looked pretty good, slapping a tidy 251 yards and two TDs at a 65.8% completion percentage. They ultimately lost, but the Colts have a lot to be thankful for, now that they know they need to keep Wentz upright. I guess that’s a lesson they still had to learn. DE Kwity Paye needs to work on his consistency, but gives this D-line a little sting.
(16) Miami Dolphins 1
Well, the AFC East isn’t a top division just yet, but the young QBs are showing some poise and promise. Tua Tagovailoa had a solid start to the season and connected extremely well with rookie and former Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle. They’re not ready just yet, but if they can play like this all season they could be a problem very soon.
(17) Tennessee Titans 3
Eek. If there’s a right way to start the season, Tennessee forgot how to do it, getting absolutely man-handled by the Arizona Cardinals. Taylor Lewan was dominated all day, and it all went south much too fast. Tennessee proved that they still can’t come from behind, and have a lot of soul-searching to do if they plan to actually compete this season. Hidden amongst their revamped secondary is CB Caleb Farley, trying to get snaps where he can as he develops into a solid corner with special teams contributions.
(18) New England Patriots 1
Those who thought that the Patriots were going to make a heroic return and run the division once again were sorely mistaken, as many of their new pickups failed to impress. Good news is on the horizon though, as QB Mac Jones looked above average in the loss to Miami. It’s too early to tell, but there’s potential that the Pats can avoid the 20-year struggle of riding the QB carousel until the wheels fall off, going straight from one franchise QB to another.
(19) Washington Football Team 1
Last season, Washington was one semi-capable QB away from being a legitimate playoff threat. This season, they’re still exactly that, losing Ryan Fitzpatrick to the injured reserve after less than a single game. Without him, things are going to be tougher, but still not impossible. There’s too much talent sprinkled throughout this roster to count them out too soon. Look out for Jamin Davis, an absolute steal in the draft and who could be an anchor on D for a long time.
(20) Carolina Panthers 1
Sam Darnold is only one game removed from being the butt of the joke in New
Jersey York, and he’s already winning games. Carolina has everything they need to win with the return of CMC, but they still need to prove they can put the pieces together. There are holes in this roster, but with rookie CB Jaycee Horn in the secondary, they could be making short work of this rebuild. Keep your eye on WR Terrace Marshall Jr. too, as the Panthers do something the Jets wouldn’t: Surround Darnold with talent.
(21) Cincinnati Bengals 1
In one of the best games of the weekend, the Bengals took Minnesota to overtime before putting the final nail in the coffin. Burrow looked confident in his leg, just under one year removed from his horrific injury. He worked his magic with his former college teammate, Ja’Marr Chase, for 101 yards on 5 receptions for a TD. Expect these two to continue to do damage as Burrow tries to live up to the hype of bing a former 1st-overall pick.
(22) Minnesota Vikings 2
It may have been controversial, but you can’t deny it was entertaining. Falling short against a much weaker team made Minnesota look bad, but Kirk Cousins made them look worse. ‘Captain Checkdown’ did just that, and no more in the defeat. OT Christian Darrisaw needs to lock down blind side, but when he does he could be revolutionary for this team in both run blocking and pass protection.
(23) Las Vegas Raiders 2
Wow. What more needs to be said? This game was so good that Vegas had to win it twice, but they did eventually win it. The defense played as well as one could against Lamar and company, and the offense came in clutch after trailing all game. If Carr could stop force-feeding Waller, they might even be deadly with the full-time return of a healthy Josh Jacobs. Rookie S Trevon Moehrig looks to add to a position of need and help counterbalance this solid Raiders offense.
(24) Philadelphia Eagles 2
Wentzylvania who? Hurts put the first four letters of his name down on the Atlanta Falcons, and was effecient and consistent inside of an offense that seems to fit hit like a glove. It’s far too early to be making wild statements, so here’s a more measured approach; DeVonta Smith’s six receptions for 71 yards and a TD were an electric start to his career, and Philly might be able to put the remnants of their former Super Bowl roster together to compete for a playoff spot.
(25) Denver Broncos 1
The Broncos won, sure, but they weren’t particularly impressive in doing so. The main thing that they should be happy about is the return of Von Miller, who put up two sacks in his return to NFL action, looking great in his first snaps since his season-ending injury last year. It’s going to be exciting to watch Javonte Williams, one of the top RBs outside of the first round this year, make a big impact behind Melvin Gordon.
(26) Chicago Bears 3
Let’s not kid ourselves here, those of us who knew that the Rams were about to blow up saw this blowout coming, but was there really anyone who was surprised by the result? It was interesting to see Andy Dalton and Justin Fields used in tandem, similarly to (but not the same as) Drew Brees and Taysom Hill in recent years. The biggest shock of the day was probably the fact that, by the end of it, Dalton was still throwing passes. The league waits with bated breath for Fields to start, obviously, but when?
(27) New York Jets 2
Zach Wilson was just fine in his regular-season debut for New York, but there’s not really much to talk about here. The Jets aren’t ready to try and topple any of the rest of the teams in this division, but there’s a lot of promise and room to grow into a competitor next year. We’ll see how they mesh with the rest of the new guys, like Alijah Vera-Tucker, who could provide real support for Wilson as he gets into the groove after his pectoral injury during camp.
(28) Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta weren’t expected to be good, but they weren’t expected to lose 32-6 to the Eagles. We expected Matt Ryan to take advantage of a weak Philly secondary but instead the whole team fell flat. Let’s just move on. TE Kyle Pitts is off to a slow start, but he’s still an incredible athlete set up to succeed, he just needs to block and disengage more effectively.
(29-32) Houston Texans 3
Let’s not get it twisted, the Texans played a good game but that doesn’t make them a good team, as much as we like seeing Tyrod Taylor succeed. With no depth, no strengths, and no hope, this team is still contending for the top pick in 2022. There are no starting rookies on this porous roster, and they’ve had very few early draft picks recently, which doesn’t bode well for the durability or success of this franchise, but WR Nico Collins has potential, so keep him on your radar as he catches passes from Tyrod Taylor.
(30) New York Giants 3
The defense is ineffective, the O-line are blocking each other, and Saquon Barkley doesn’t look like his old self yet. Even our rookie to watch isn’t great, as WR Kadarius Toney has had the most interesting start to a career we’ve seen in a long time. That’s not really a good thing.
(31) Detroit Lions
I’m not going to lie to you guys, the Lions kept it somewhat close with the 49ers, but that was more due to the step back taken by the Niners’ defense than any true success from Detroit. There is good news though, as rookie OT Penei Sewell stepped up against Nick Bosa after coming off a rough preseason. Not only that, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown can shine amongst arguably the worst receiving core in the NFL.
(32) Jacksonville Jaguars 2
As they often do, these things come in threes. In his first pro start, Trevor Lawrence was a mixed bag, throwing three TDs, three interceptions, and racking up 332 yards passing. This team may have a bright future but, until the roster around a hot young QB improves, they’ll continue to be an underwhelming presence that shoots itself in the foot as much as it shoots for the moon.
Join us next week for more of the same as we highlight one issue to tackle for each team!