Two teams leap into the top ten of the first in-season NFL power rankings for the 2020 season.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) | Last: 1
The big takeaway from the opening game last Thursday night was the strength of the Kansas City defense. If the Chiefs can keep up the solid play defensively from late last season, they’ll be difficult to beat. Also, it looks like Sammy Watkins (seven receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown) might keep up his excellent play from last postseason, which makes the defending Super Bowl champions nearly impossible to contain on offense. First-round rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire surprisingly received 25 carries, and he looks like a potential workhorse with the obvious upside to contribute more in the passing game.
2. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) | Last: 2
Reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson looked very sharp through the air in the Ravens’ blowout win over the Browns, and the defense is squarely among the NFL’s best. I don’t typically write about the national anthem protests, but I have to say, the Ravens organization’s actions during the national anthem have been disappointing to watch—they’ve gone past kneeling, with some players simply sitting on the bench during the national anthem. This is the same franchise that had players stand for England’s “God Save the Queen” yet kneel for the United States anthem across the pond a couple of years ago. Now, aside from a couple of players, you have people standing for the black national anthem and kneeling/sitting for the country’s national anthem. Wherever you stand on the protests, that is not a good look and is unquestionably divisive, especially with so many teams showing there are more creative and unifying ways to raise awareness for social justice.
3. Seattle Seahawks (1-0) | Last: 6 (+3)
Jamal Adams quickly made an impact in his first game with the Seahawks, but the offense was the headliner from their 1-0 start in Atlanta. Russell Wilson had as many touchdowns as incompletions in Week 1, going 31/35 for 322 yards and four touchdowns, including a perfect deep ball to emerging star receiver D.K. Metcalf in the end zone. Seattle maintains that they want to run the ball more, but it’s probably safe to say they might want Wilson to air it out more than ever with perhaps the best supporting cast he’s had around him in his career to this point.
4. Buffalo Bills (1-0) | Last: 5 (+1)
If Week 1 is any indication, it appears the Bills have handed the keys to the offense completely to Josh Allen, who threw the ball 46 times (completing 33 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns) and ran it 14 times (for 57 yards and a touchdown) in Buffalo’s convincing victory against the Jets. Allen did lose a couple of fumbles, but it should be a learning experience for him just like he learned from last season’s early interception mistakes. The Bills have a potential MVP-level superstar quarterback, continuity on the offensive line, and one of the league’s best defenses. They should be legit Super Bowl contenders.
5. New Orleans Saints (1-0) | Last: 7 (+2)
The Buccaneers-Saints game in the late-afternoon window on Sunday was a weird one, but the New Orleans defense ultimately made key plays to power the early-season NFC South win. Drew Brees had a rare stretch where he couldn’t get much going through the air—but remember, as is the case for all teams, offseason work was limited and there’s been no preseason. It’s likely going to take time for offenses to get clicking, and the Saints will have to do it without top receiver Michael Thomas, who is set to miss multiple weeks with an ankle injury.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) | Last: 13 (+7)
You don’t want to overreact too much to one week, especially this year, but the Steelers are the one team that probably almost everyone was too low on entering the season. The defense is elite, and they might be the unit best equipped to limit Lamar Jackson in the AFC. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger looks 100% at quarterback, and he has an excellent and very deep supporting cast, including JuJu Smith-Schuster off to a nice early start as he looks to prove that he can be a true No. 1 receiver.
7. Green Bay Packers (1-0) | Last: 16 (+9)
In the Packers’ Week 1 rout of the Vikings, Aaron Rodgers looked as good as he’s looked in years throwing the ball in my opinion, and it matches up with what he’s said about how good his arm feels this year. Keep in mind there were games like this last season (the game against the Raiders stands out), so we’ll see if the passing attack can put it together consistently in 2020. Stud cornerback Jaire Alexander had a sack, a safety, and an interception in Green Bay’s victory.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) | Last: 3 (-5)
Many people that you’ll hear talk about the NFL don’t actually watch more than the highlights they’ll see on social media, but those that did tune into Week 1 know that the Buccaneers defense looks like a potential top-five unit despite the game’s final score. The young secondary impressed against the Saints, and the front seven is clearly one of the best in football—defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is doing an outstanding job on that side of the ball. And that wasn’t the team debut Tom Brady was hoping for, but I’m not concerned about Brady and a stacked offense turning things around as long as the offensive line can keep him upright for the most part.
9. San Francisco 49ers (1-0) | Last: 4 (-5)
As stated, you don’t want to overreact to one week. However, the defending NFC champions are likely to have a major battle to win the division and/or get back to the postseason in 2020. Look for Kyle Shanahan to attempt to get his rushing attack going—but it won’t be easy with upcoming matchups against stout fronts of the Jets, Giants, and Eagles. Offensively, the Niners should get first-round rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) in the lineup, and veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu is now also in the mix; hopefully All-Pro tight end George Kittle is OK after he hyperextended and sprained his knee in Week 1.
10. Tennessee Titans (1-0) | Last: 8 (-2)
The Titans only drop in the power rankings because a couple of teams ranked outside of the top ten in the preseason made the leap up several spots after Week 1, but it was big for Tennessee to get a hard-fought win at Denver to open their season. The formula for the Titans is clear, and it’s good to see it starting early when it took some time in previous years: Derrick Henry must be fed the football. Look for the Titans to get the ball to superstar-in-the-making A.J. Brown more often moving forward after Ryan Tannehill missed him a couple of times in the opener.
11. New England Patriots (1-0) | Last: 9 (-2)
The partnership between Cam Newton and the Patriots continues to look very promising, and both sides seem to understand that the rushing element can be a real weapon on offense despite the increased risk of injury to the quarterback carrying the ball as a runner. That said, I’d like to see how it goes when things aren’t going well—and this Sunday night in Seattle will be a good test. New England had multiple key opt-outs, but Bill Belichick is going to keep this defense playing at a very high level this year.
12. Los Angeles Rams (1-0) | Last: 12
The slightly revamped Rams squad looked good in the Sunday nightcap in Week 1, limiting a potent Cowboys offense to 17 points while running an efficient offense focused on a powerful running game and quick passes to keep the defense off balanced while taking pressure off of the offensive line. Sean McVay and Jared Goff will eventually set up defenses and let more deep passes rip if they can get protection. The early returns are promising on the Rams, a team that was just in the Super Bowl a couple of seasons ago and barely missed the playoffs in 2019.
13. Las Vegas Raiders (1-0) | Last: 14 (+1)
On paper, the Panthers weren’t an extreme challenge for the Raiders to open the season, but Las Vegas responded to a team that can ready to play by pulling out a victory late in the fourth quarter. The offense of the Raiders looks completely different after adding Henry Ruggs III, Nelson Agholor, Bryan Edwards, and Devontae Booker—among others—this offseason, and Josh Jacobs also looks like a slightly different and improved player with more speed and quickness. Unfortunately, it’ll come without fans, but the Raiders will open their awesome new Allegiant Stadium against the Saints on Monday night.
14. Atlanta Falcons (0-1) | Last: 10 (-4)
The Seahawks are one of the best teams in the league, but that was not an ideal start for the Falcons defense looking to keep up the progress showed in the second half of last season. This Sunday versus the Cowboys will be a good test to see where they are at after struggling in Week 1. On offense, Todd Gurley looked dynamic early, and he played better than the numbers (14 carries, 56 yards, one touchdown) indicate. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are going to cause headaches for opposing defenses, and Atlanta’s success this season might come down to the play of their defense.
15. Dallas Cowboys (0-1) | Last: 15
The Cowboys played fine on Sunday night, but they simply were unable to pick up a road victory to begin their year. Sporting a shocking new stomach tattoo that reads “Feed Me”, Ezekiel Elliott looked very good in his 2020 debut, and it looks like he’s in midseason form already, which might not have been the case early in some previous seasons. Leighton Vander Esch (broken collarbone) is a big loss for Dallas, and this week against the Falcons is pretty critical for an early-season matchup considering a date in Seattle is on deck.
16. Chicago Bears (1-0) | Last: 20 (+4)
I thought Nick Foles would be the starter for the Bears, and then I thought we might see him late in Week 1 against the Lions; but Matt Nagy stuck with Mitchell Trubisky, and the former No. 2 overall pick led Chicago to a great fourth-quarter comeback. Trubisky and the Bears will look to carry that momentum into Week 2 and beyond, but it’ll help to keep receiver Allen Robinson in the mix. A-Rob is clearly unhappy about his contract, and trade rumors are swirling—though it’s hard to see him being traded. Whatever happens with Robinson, Anthony Miller could be ready to emerge in 2020 after catching the game-winning touchdown in Week 1.
17. Arizona Cardinals (1-0) | Last: 22 (+5)
The Cardinals were seen by many as a darkhorse Super Bowl contender this season, so naturally a win over the Niners to open the season has many giddy. Kyler Murray ran the ball a career-high 13 times (for 91 yards and a touchdown) versus San Francisco, and Arizona is very dangerous on offense if the former Heisman Trophy winner is running around and making plays while protecting himself from hits like he did last week. The defense of the Cardinals should probably be getting more recognition, as they have a bunch of exceptional players on that side of the ball.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (0-1) | Last: 11 (-7)
The obvious concern for Philadelphia entering Week 1 was the state of the offensive line, especially after Lane Johnson was ruled out. However, Carson Wentz had a poor outing. Wentz showed flashes of brilliance early, but he then appeared to try to do too much—at this point, he’s shown that he’s a very streaky quarterback that struggles with accuracy from the pocket. You don’t want to overreact to one game, but I’m not sure what the Eagles’ identity is anymore.
19. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0) | Last: 23 (+4)
The identity for the Chargers is clear. They want to run the ball and avoid mistakes on offense with an underrated playmaking quarterback in Tyrod Taylor while leaning on their defense to keep every game close. We had Joshua Kelley as a top-50 prospect in this year’s draft, and the Chargers may have gotten a steal in the fourth round; Kelley ran 12 times for 60 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut, and head coach Anthony Lynn said he doesn’t think LA would be 1-0 if it wasn’t for Kelley.
20. Indianapolis Colts (0-1) | Last: 17 (-3)
The lock of the week for many in Week 1, the Colts fell to the Jaguars as their Week 1 losing streak continues (no opening game win since 2013). In Philip Rivers’ first game with his new team, unfortunately it felt like a Chargers game in the end, where it’s extremely close but his team comes up just short—hopefully it’s not something that gets in Rivers’ head late in games. You have to feel for Marlon Mack after he tore his Achilles in a contract year, but the Colts are fortunate to be extremely deep at running back with Jonathan Taylor set to have a big rookie season and Nyheim Hines (two touchdowns in Week 1) also in the backfield.
21. Houston Texans (0-1) | Last: 21
I don’t understand why Cris Collinsworth was so shocked about the new offensive strategy for the Texans to get rid of the ball quickly. After Houston traded DeAndre Hopkins, it was clear that the approach would be a spread-it-out attack where Deshaun Watson can play more like a Tom Brady type and move the ball methodically—it’s going to take time for the offense to click. It helps that David Johnson looks healthy and more like his superstar 2016 self as a potential offensive centerpiece in the backfield.
22. Minnesota Vikings (0-1) | Last: 18 (-4)
The retooled secondary of the Vikings had trouble against the Packers in Week 1, and the group might have been hurt more than any other unit in the league by the lack of preseason reps. However, Mike Zimmer rhetorically asked earlier this offseason when he has ever had a bad defense, so the veteran coach is obviously confident that he’ll get his guys playing well. Minnesota has one of the most difficult early-season schedules on paper, though, so they need to get going quickly.
23. Denver Broncos (0-1) | Last: 19 (-4)
We didn’t see the full Broncos offense on display to open the season, as Courtland Sutton (shoulder) and K.J. Hamler (hamstring) were out while Phillip Lindsay missed the second half with a toe injury; so it’s a good sign that they played one of the final four teams from last season down to the wire. Drew Lock again looks really comfortable navigating inside and outside of the pocket, and he arguably should be getting more hype in his second NFL season.
24. New York Giants (0-1) | Last: 25 (+1)
Because the Giants were built to be a team that can bully people, it was disappointing that the offensive line could not open any lanes for Saquon Barkley against the stingy Steelers. But, while the numbers were not overly impressive, Daniel Jones looked very promising in a tough Week 1 matchup. You could tell how impressed Kirk Herbstreit was with Jones while calling his first NFL game, and I think most people that watch closely feel the same way about the second-year signal caller from Duke. The Giants might quickly have the best quarterback in the NFC East (if that isn’t already the case).
25. Washington Football Team (1-0) | Last: 31 (+6)
Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio deserve a lot of credit for making some adjustments after early struggles on defense, shutting down the Eagles in the second half of their Week 1 victory. The front seven, led by the monstrous rookie Chase Young, is showing the upside they have to wreck opposing offensive lines. The Washington offense took advantage of the play of their defense, avoiding mistakes and finishing a few drives with six points instead of three.
26. Detroit Lions (0-1) | Last: 26
A late interception thrown by Matthew Stafford and a drop on a game-winning touchdown by D’Andre Swift were both costly against the Bears, and perhaps the Lions would be up closer to the first half of the power rankings if they finished off Week 1 with a win—but the defense allowing the comeback by Chicago was not ideal after a strong start. Remember, the Lions were without No. 1 receiver Kenny Golladay and No. 3 overall pick cornerback Jeff Okudah, both inactive because of hamstring injuries.
27. Carolina Panthers (0-1) | Last: 28 (+1)
One of the most predictable things every week this year will probably be that the Panthers will play hard and not make anything easy for their opponents. Matt Rhule’s team gave the Raiders everything they could handle in his first game as an NFL head coach, and Carolina fans should feel optimistic about the direction the franchise is heading. This week against an angry Bucs team will be a major challenge, though.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) | Last: 32 (+4)
You could make the case for the Jaguars being much higher than this in the power rankings (and over the Colts after beating them), but the consensus preseason No. 32 makes a modest jump of four spots. Gardner Minshew was ultra-efficient in his first start of the season following a semi-full offseason as the starter, and he’s going to try to make things difficult for a team thought to be in the quarterback mix ahead of the 2021 draft.
29. Miami Dolphins (0-1) | Last: 24 (-5)
The Dolphins aren’t quite ready to compete with the Patriots yet, but it’s only Week 1, and Brian Flores showed he can get his team to respond and progress throughout a season. Jordan Howard was out briefly because of a hamstring issue, but the backfield split was one of the biggest surprises of the opening week, with Myles Gaskin leading the way in touches over Howard and Matt Breida. Miami is looking to avoid falling two games back in the division early when they host Buffalo this Sunday.
30. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) | Last: 30
The passing numbers for Joe Burrow were subpar, but the No. 1 overall pick played better than the numbers indicate against the Chargers defense—most would agree he did better than the “D” grade he gave himself after the performance. If not for a couple of just-misses by Burrow and the offense, and a rare fumble by Joe Mixon, they might be 1-0 heading into Thursday Night Football at Cleveland.
31. New York Jets (0-1) | Last: 29 (-2)
The Jets and Sam Darnold were no match for the Bills in Week 1, and now starting running back Le’Veon Bell will miss at least three weeks with a hamstring injury. The recipe for the Jets will likely be a consistent dose of Frank Gore to keep the offense in favorable third-down situations. Defensively, safety Marcus Maye played like a star, with seven tackles and two sacks for the Jets in a Week 1 comeback attempt.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-1) | Last: 27 (-5)
I really don’t like statements like “Team X is still Team X”, but it truly looks like the Browns are still the Browns after Week 1. Again, only one week, so we’ll see what happens. Baker Mayfield and Cleveland have performed well on Thursday Night Football over the past two years, and they get a divisional game against the Bengals.