NFL Week 2 Tier List

With only two games in the books for the 2021 NFL season, instead of doing power rankings, I’ll do tiers and then kind of try to rank the teams within the tiers. Given that teams can only either be 2-0, 1-1, or 0-2 right now, it’s nice and neat for us to be able to divide the league up into three separate tiers. I don’t necessarily believe all the teams in the 2-0 tier are better than all the teams in the 1-1 tier (for instance, I don’t think the Broncos are better than the Chiefs), these tiers are purely based on record alone. The rankings within the tiers, however, are subjective.

Statistical team rankings will come in a few weeks, when there is more solidified data to go off of. Right now, with only two games played, there’s still a lot of randomness in the numbers.

Tier 1: 2-0 Teams
  1. Rams: Yep, I have the Rams ahead of the Bucs. I just think the Rams have looked more dominant this season, particularly on defense. They made the Bears look awful in week 1 winning 34-14, and then they traveled cross-country to Indy and got a big road win against yet another team that made the playoffs last year, playing in the early time slot, which is really tough for West Coast teams to do. Indy is not an easy place to play. The addition of Matthew Stafford has given their offense a vertical element and great explosive, big-play potential. They look like the most complete team.
  2. Bucs: Their offense looks unstoppable, but their defense hasn’t been great, allowing 29 points to Dallas and 25 to the Falcons. Even though they ended up beating the Falcons 48-25, at one point that game was 28-25 in the second half. If not for somehow getting back-to-back pick-sixes (by the same guy!) late in that game, it would’ve been a lot closer. Still, my concern level is low for the Bucs. They just have an embarrassment of riches on offense. Brady has an absolutely stupid amount of weapons. You can’t possibly cover all of them.
  3. Raiders: The Raiders got a tough draw in their non-divisional schedule, having to face the AFC North, which is among the toughest divisions in football. Didn’t matter: the Raiders have now opened the season with wins over the Ravens and Steelers. The Ravens win from week 1 looks more impressive now that the Ravens just beat the Chiefs. I know Gruden’s Raiders teams have had a tendency to fall off as the season goes along, but as things look now, the Raiders have been pretty impressive. Winning on the road in Pittsburgh without Josh Jacobs buys you a lot of credibility in my book. Maybe this is the year Derek Carr finally gets the respect he deserves.
  4. Cardinals: Kyler Murray looks like an MVP front-runner. The dude is absolutely incredible. They added JJ Watt on defense, and AJ Green is showing he can still make some plays on offense. Rondale Moore, the rookie wideout from Purdue, looks explosive already. Arizona thrashed the Titans and held on for an admittedly lucky win against the Vikings, who missed a potential game-winning field goal. I still need to see Arizona against their division rivals, because they play in the toughest division in the league, but they look good so far. I have them ahead of San Fran solely because of Kyler Murray. He’s the game-changer.
  5. 49ers: At this rate, they’re going to have to bring back Frank Gore with all these running back injuries they’ve had. Apparently, according to Schefter, they just brought in Duke Johnson, Lamar Miller and TJ Yeldon for tryouts, because the Ravens had already signed all the free agent running backs like Latavius Murray, DeVonta Freeman and Lev Bell. Maybe an Adrian Peterson signing in the works as well? But as long as the 49er defense stays healthy, they should be in good shape. Basically anyone can run for 1,000 yards in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme.
  6. Broncos: Look, it’s a playoff-caliber roster, and it has been for a while now, but the problem is they haven’t been able to get the QB position right since Peyton Manning retired. Though they’ve played some pretty bad teams thus far, the Broncos have taken care of business handily. Teddy Bridgewater takes care of the ball well and is very accurate. The Broncos are going to be a tough team to beat.
  7. Panthers: Maybe I should have them higher than the Broncos, but I just think Denver has more talent on the roster. Still, though, the Panthers have looked vastly improved this season. Sam Darnold looks pretty good, and they have tons of weapons on that offense. You’re also starting to see the payoff on Carolina going all-defense in the 2020 draft, plus using their #8 pick this year on Jaycee Horn. They made a point to improve the defense, and it looks much better now.
Tier 2: 1-1 Teams
  1. Ravens: They had every opportunity to beat the Raiders in week 1, and then stormed back from an 11-point deficit to beat the Chiefs last night. Was it a bit lucky? Sure, because if CEH doesn’t fumble that ball at the end, the Chiefs probably drive down the field and win that game. But the Ravens were also unlucky in week 1.
  2. Chiefs: It was kind of a fluky loss to the Ravens, and I wouldn’t be worried about it if I’m a Chiefs fan. We know who they are. I’m a bit worried about their defense, though: the Browns pushed them around for most of the game in week 1, and the Ravens ran wild on them.
  3. Browns: They probably feel like they should’ve beaten the Chiefs in week 1, but I think that’s good motivation for them come playoff time. They’ll have the revenge factor if/when they meet up with KC again. The Browns just lost Jarvis Landry for some time, so they need Odell back ASAP because that wide receiver corps is pretty thin right now. Still, they have the most dangerous running game in the league. Defense is still figuring it out with all the new additions. As rough as their defense has been (and if Tyrod Taylor hadn’t gotten hurt, that game probably becomes a shootout to the very end given the way he was slicing and dicing), there’s just too much talent for them to be this lackluster.
  4. Packers: So they get slaughtered by the Saints, then take care of business against Detroit and suddenly they just get to cut in line and jump over all the other 1-1 teams? Yep. That’s what happens when you have Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have been great for a really long time, so when they lose–even as badly as they did in week 1–they get the benefit of the doubt. If they follow that loss up with a win–which they did–we chalk the loss up as a fluke. Especially with the Saints looking as bad as they did this week.
  5. Seahawks: Should’ve closed out the Titans when they had the chance, but we’ve seen it time and time again: Derrick Henry just wears you down. He starts slow, but by the second half, he is impossible to tackle and just absolutely takes over games. After week 1 I was ready to applaud the Seahawks’ improved defense, but now that they just played a real offense, I’m not so sure. Gonna give them the benefit of the doubt because they have Russ.
  6. Cowboys: They hung tight with the Champs, and got a great road win against a much-improved Chargers team. I probably have them ranked too high, but I like what I’ve seen from Dallas so far this season. I was surprised by how well their defense held up against Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense, which is loaded with weapons.
  7. Steelers: The main concern is that their offensive line is just awful. They can’t block for Najee, and they can’t protect Big Ben. At this stage in his career, Big Ben needs good protection because he’s not shedding tackles and bulldozing defenders before launching it 60 yards down field anymore. Losing TJ Watt was huge for them, but when he comes back they’re a top-5 defense in the league. The real concern is their offense, though. I have a lot of doubts about their ability to score points when it matters.
  8. Bills: Is the Bills’ defense good again? Maybe. They certainly looked good against Miami in allowing zero points. But the Dolphins also lost Tua early, and their offense wasn’t that great to begin with. Still, though, impressive win to get back on track by Buffalo. They had every chance to win that game last week against Pittsburgh but made some costly mistakes. I have them ranked kind of low here because I just personally have never believed in them to begin with dating back to last season, but they look to be back on the right track. I want to give props to second-year defensive end AJ Epenesa, though. He was absolutely dominant against Miami and looks like he’s made a massive leap this year. He’s a big part of the reason the Bills’ defense looks so improved.
  9. Titans: After week 1, the Titans looked kind of cooked. People were ready to jump on them and call them washed up because they no longer have Arthur Smith calling plays. And halfway through the game in Seattle, that looked to be true. But then they woke up and took over the game, going on a 24-6 run led by Derrick Henry and Julio Jones that culminated in an OT win. I don’t want to say Tennessee save their season with that win, but it kinda felt like it. They have one of the most lethal offenses in the league with all those weapons, and Julio Jones already looks like his normal dominant self. Defense buckled down when it had to. Great win.
  10. Chargers: Look, you can’t have 12 penalties for 99 yards and expect to win. They kept it close because Dallas had 8 penalties for 76 yards (what a difficult game that was to watch), but not close enough. The Chargers have a great offense, never punting at al in the game, but somehow they only managed 17 points. That’s because they only had 7 offensive possessions in the game. At that point you have no margin for error, and the Chargers made more than a few errors: all the penalties, plus Herbert threw two picks.
  11. Patriots: If not for a late Damien Harris fumble, the Patriots would be 2-0 right now. They’re still putting it all together on offense with Mac Jones and all the new additions. Their defense looks great, picking off Zach Wilson 4 times on Sunday. The Patriots should be a playoff team this year. Why do I have them ranked so low? Well because their win was against the Jets and they lost to the Dolphins, who just got blanked 35-0 by the Bills. But I give New England the benefit of the doubt because they have the greatest coach ever.
  12. Saints: What to make of this team? In week 1, they blasted the Packers 38-3, the worst loss of Aaron Rodgers’ career. And yet in week 2, they got soundly beaten 26-7 by the Panthers. Now, it’s true the Saints were missing a lot of key defensive starters in this game, plus EIGHT coaches, but their offense looked pretty bad, managing just 128 yards of total offense. They couldn’t do a thing on the ground; Alvin Kamara had 8 carries for 5 yards. Sheesh. Jameis cannot revert back to his INT throwing ways.
  13. Dolphins: For all the doubts about Tua, that Dolphins offense was completely dysfunctional without him. He went down early in that game against Buffalo and the Miami offense ground to a halt. I have to ding them for losing 35-0, but I’m not ready to give up on them just yet.
  14. Bears: After getting throttled by the Rams in week 1, the Bears bounced back with a nice home win over an up-and-coming Bengals squad. It was mostly defensively-driven for the Bears, and their offense sputtered no matter who was playing QB for them. Jaylon Johnson looks like an emerging star at cornerback.
  15. Bengals: Going into Chicago as a young team is not an easy task, but despite Joe Burrow’s uncharacteristic turnovers (three straight interceptions on three straight passes (!) but followed up by two straight touchdowns on two straight passes), the Bengals still fought til the very end of the game, bringing the score to within a field goal. This is still a young team with a lot to learn.
  16. Eagles: Was their week 1 win a product of them being good, or the Falcons just being really bad? I don’t know. But the 49ers went into Philly and suffocated the Eagles. I don’t think Philly is ready for prime time, although they did manage to make that game pretty close at the end.
  17. Washington: The defense hasn’t looked quite as lights-out as it did last year, and they were an offsides penalty from being 0-2.
  18. Texans: For a minute there I thought they actually had a shot against the Browns, but then Tyrod Taylor went down with a leg injury of some sort. Poor guy. With Davis Mills as their QB, the Texans don’t have a prayer. But they’re a lot better than I expected them to be this year, I’ll give them that. They are not an awful team. They gave Cleveland all they could handle when T-Mobile was in the game. So kudos to David Culley for exceeding expectations in what is probably the biggest dumpster fire organization in the league.
Tier 3: 0-2 Teams
  1. Colts: I said last week that the Colts’ offense looked bland and unspectacular, but they looked a bit better this week against the vaunted Rams defense. If Carson Wentz doesn’t hurt his ankles (yes, plural: he sprained both his ankles) late in that game, maybe the Colts tie it up or even win it. They played the Rams tough after a slow start. But here’s the thing: Carson Wentz is an injury magnet. He has now been sacked at least 3 times in his last 12 straight games. Think about that for a second. The Eagles may have had a lot of injuries on their line last season, but the Colts have a very good offensive line. Everybody knows that. And still Carson Wentz is getting sacked left and right. That’s on him. He does not know when to just give up on a play. He’s always trying to make something miraculous happen. I think he thinks he’s Patrick Mahomes out there. He always thinks he’s going to somehow make a play. Big Cat on Pardon My Take put it this way, “You’d think a guy who’s been sacked as many times as he has would know how to get sacked. Instead, he’s never seen a sack, a lineman coming down on top of him, that he didn’t think ‘I can get out of this.’ He is always, in his head, ‘I am one spin away, one errant toss, I can just do a quick spin, I can throw it…'” It’s so true. In theory it’s an admirable quality, to never ever ever give up on a play and always be trying to make something happen even when it seems like all hope is lost. But so many times it doesn’t work out because the play is just so busted and the chances of success are so low. And, the kicker, it’s probably the reason Carson Wentz gets hurt so much. He’s gotta learn to pick and choose his moments better, or else he’s going to be out of the league soon due to excessive injuries. I don’t know if he can be changed at this point; it’s who he is. It’s his personality. But he’s going to have to try to get better at avoiding harm, or this Colts team isn’t going very far. He has to know that he’s only valuable to his team when he’s healthy and on the field. Getting injured hurts your team.
  2. Vikings: They should probably be 2-0 right now. Dalvin Cook fumbled in OT against Cincy while Minnesota had the ball on the Cincy 38. Then they missed a potential game-winning field goal in Arizona. But still, this is the NFL: you don’t have a long season with tons of games. Losses are hard to overcome. Being 0-2 means you’re behind the 8-ball significantly. You just can’t give games away like that.
  3. Lions: They hung tight with the Packers in the first half, but fell apart in the second half. That’s to be expected. This is the youngest team in the NFL. They don’t know how to win. But they fight hard, and honestly, I’ve never been a fan of Jared Goff, he actually looks pretty damn good out there. This Lions offense is competent; they can move the ball up and down the field.
  4. Giants: Even though people were talking about how it was Daniel Jones’ best game in a long time, and he didn’t have any turnovers, the Giants still lost due to a special teams blunder (which actually may have been an officiating blunder depending on what angle of the replay you watch). The whole time I was watching that game, I couldn’t help but think that despite the fact that the Giants’ offense looked like it worked, the whole thing just felt very unsustainable. I mean, are you really going to win games consistently with your QB running the ball that much? Daniel Jones isn’t Lamar Jackson. It all felt very seat-of-the-pants and wonky. New addition WR Kenny Golladay was yelling at Daniel Jones on the bench just two games into the season, that can’t be a good sign.
  5. Jets: They look like the same exact team they were last year. I don’t know what else to say. Obviously Belichick punishes rookie QBs, and on top of having a rookie QB, the Jets also have a rookie head coach. So they were walking into a bloodbath no matter what this weekend. I just don’t see a ton of talent on this offense, though.
  6. Jaguars: This is a young team and it shows. Trevor Lawrence is still getting used to the NFL, as is Urban Meyer. Still, though, while they lost again, they didn’t look nearly as bad as they did against the Texans last week. Baby steps. They have to put a stop to this 17-game losing streak they’re currently on, though. That’s the first step.
  7. Falcons: They already have the worst point differential in the league at -49. At least they were able to score some points against the Bucs, unlike their 32-6 loss to Philly in week 1. Still, though, the Falcons look like the worst team in the league right now. They have a lot more offensive talent than the Jaguars, but for some reason I feel like the Jags have more room for improvement this year than the Falcons do.

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