2021 Week One NFL Power Rankings
Well, hello there friends. It’s been a while. We just capped off the first week of meaningful NFL games since we saw Tom Brady hoist yet another Lombardi trophy seven months ago. After a season in which most stadiums were full of empty seats, it was nice to have a sense of normalcy this weekend. Seeing those packed stadiums and watching some ridiculous comebacks (who stayed up to watch that game in Las Vegas last night?!?) gave me the itch. The itch to write again. It’s something that brings me, and hopefully you, a ton of joy. It’s cathartic. A release, if you will. So I’m pleased to say that I’m back baby! It’s time to scratch that itch! On to the NFL Power Rankings!
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) ~ Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Tom Brady threw for more than 350 yards and four touchdowns as his team puts another one in the win column. Sound familiar? Well, this is the first time he’s done it as a 44-year-old. Easy stat to point out? Maybe, but it’s been a while since I did one of these. Let’s ease in, shall we?
2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) ~ Like Tampa, the Chiefs were on the ropes in their opener. Like Tampa, their star quarterback rallied the team to a 4th quarter comeback. Like Tampa, they won their opener just like we all thought. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are now 11-0 in September games during his tenure. He’s also thrown 35 touchdowns to zero interceptions in that opening month. Can’t do much better than that.
3. Los Angeles Rams (1-0) ~ The Rams? At number three? OK, I’ll come right out and say it. L.A. is my preseason pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. They boast two of the best defenders in the game in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Their offense may not be the Greatest Show on Turf, but adding Matthew Stafford is a clear upgrade over Jared Goff. The toughest part will be navigating the NFC West which has started the year 4-0.
4. Seattle Seahawks (1-0) ~ Speaking of that NFC West, the Seahawks went on the road and had little trouble dispatching the Indianapolis Colts who were in the playoffs last year. Russell Wilson looked like the Russell Wilson of early 2020 by throwing for four touchdowns and putting his name on the early list of MVP favorites. They’ll play host to another AFC South team (Tennessee) this Sunday. Can you think of a team that has a bigger homefield advantage than Seattle with the 12th Man? I have a feeling Sunday’s game will register on the Richter scale.
5. San Francisco 49ers (1-0) ~ Three straight NFC West teams. Shouldn’t be a surprise, really. The scoreboard would have you think San Fran nearly blew a 24-point lead, however, the game was all but over when the Lions started putting up those points. The biggest news out of that game, however, is that Raheem Mostert was placed on injured reserve. Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell tallied 104 yards and a score in relief which was the best debut of any Niners running back as he eclipsed the 100-yard day Ricky Watters put up way back in 1992. Man, I wish I still had my Watters jersey from when I was a kid. It would, of course, be a Philadelphia Eagles jersey. You know, the team the Niners play next week. See how it all ties in?
6. Cleveland Browns (0-1) ~ That team that had the Chiefs on the ropes? It was the Browns. They led by a dozen at the half and even took the lead back in the 4th quarter after Kansas City had gone ahead. Yes, they lost. But this type of game is one that probably puts the league on notice that this Browns team is for real. Oh, and they should get Odell Beckham Jr back from injury in the next week or so.
7. Buffalo Bills (0-1) ~ Another team that didn’t win their opener? Ranked this high? Surely, I must be joking. Surely, I must be ready to make an Airplane! Joke. Surely, that would make sense, but, you’re already thinking about the movie so I’ve made my point. The Bills made a point in the first half holding Pittsburgh to just 53 yards. The wheels came off after that and the rest, as they say, is history. On to Miami for another crack at that first win.
8. New Orleans Saints (1-0) ~ In case you missed the NFL offseason, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that New Orleans got five touchdowns from their quarterback on Sunday. If you didn’t miss it, and knew that Drew Brees was no longer there, it might be a surprise to hear that the Saints new QB, Jameis Winston, tossed those five scores in an absolute beatdown of the Green Bay Packers. All while being displaced by yet another hurricane. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery to the city of New Orleans and those affected by Hurricane Ida.
9. Arizona Cardinals (1-0) ~ They may be the lowest ranked team out of the NFC West, but Arizona had the most impressive victory in Week One. The Cardinals picked apart the Titans in every facet of the game. Kyler Murray accounted for five touchdowns. Chandler Jones had five sacks. They held Derrick Henry, he of the 2,000 yard club just last year, to under 60 yards. One game does not a season make, but it’s hard to believe any Cardinals fan could have asked for anything more out of this one.
10. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0) ~ A team with a rookie head coach. An early game on the east coast against an NFC playoff team from a year ago. A team that turned the ball over not once, but twice in the red zone. Sounds like a typical Chargers loss, doesn’t it? Well, you might want to take a peek at the standings. Or even just the record I noted after the team name. You do know I do that, right? This had all the making of yet another close game loss for the Chargers. Except it wasn’t. If L.A. can start winning these games, they could be a threat to the Chiefs in the AFC West.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) ~ The last thing I remember about last year’s Steelers team was that they got pasted in the playoffs by the Browns. I looked up the score and it was closer than I remember with Pittsburgh falling short 48-37. That was their fifth loss in the final six games. After their first half in Buffalo, it looked like they would surely start the 2021 season with a loss. The team rallied, however, and it has to make you wonder if they can get back to the postseason in what could be Ben Roethlisberger’s final season.
12. Baltimore Ravens (0-1) ~ No J.K. Dobbins. No Gus Edwards. No Mark Ingram. The three lead backs from last year are either hurt, or in Houston. The joke is that the Ravens still have their best runner because Lamar Jackson is on the field. That may be true, but he can’t do it all. He needs to hand it off to someone. While the game itself, and especially the ending, were insane, what might be on par with that insanity is that Latavius Murray led the team in carries with 10 Monday night. The same Latavius Murray that signed with the Ravens just last week. I would not be surprised if he is the lead back once he is up to speed on the playbook.
13. Dallas Cowboys (0-1) ~ Dak is back. All it took was one game for Dak Prescott to put the league on notice that he is fully healed from the ankle/leg injury he sustained early last season. He threw for 403 yards and three scores in a game the Cowboys easily could have won against the defending Super Bowl champions. Is the Comeback Player of the Year award already locked up? As an Eagles fan, I hope that’s the only hardware Dallas wins this season.
14. Green Bay Packers (0-1) ~ I’m stealing this from Matthew Berry, but I don’t care. Aaron Rodgers finished Week 1 as QB35 in fantasy points. Only 32 teams played. Let's ask Jameis Winston what he thinks about that.
15. Indianapolis Colts (0-1) ~ I will fully admit that I was glad to see the Colts game was on the TV next to my Eagles game on Sunday. I will also fully admit I enjoyed seeing Carson Wentz get beat up just like he did when he was a member of the Eagles. I will thirdly admit that I picked the Colts to win the AFC South. A home loss to a really good Seattle team isn’t enough to make me panic on that just yet.
16. Miami Dolphins (1-0) ~ Jaylen Waddle, the number six overall pick in this year’s draft, had a solid NFL debut. He caught four of six targets for 61 yards and a score from his former college qb Tua Tagovailoa. Will Fuller is due back from a suspension next week, but I think that should only help Waddle as Fuller will command defensive attention. Waddle is gonna be a good one kids.
17. New England Patriots (0-1) ~ A one-point home loss to a division rival is not the end of the world. Especially when that happens with a rookie quarterback making his first start. We all collectively groaned when Mac Jones fell right into New England’s lap during this year’s draft. I have a feeling we have a few more collective groans in us regarding the Patriots before the season is done.
18. Tennessee Titans (0-1) ~ When your offense has stars like Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones you are expected to put up some big offensive numbers. Naturally, the team leader in offensive yards on Sunday was *checks box score* um, someone named Chester Rogers with 62 receiving yards. How you feelin’ Titans fans?
19. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) ~ Am I biased? Yes. But numbers aren’t. Jalen Hurts amassed more than 300 yards using his arm and legs. Miles Sanders had more than 100 all-purpose yards. Rookie DeVonta Smith had six catches for a team-high 71 yards and a score in his first NFL game. Last year’s first round pick Jalen Reagor added 49 yards and a score. The defense sacked Matt Ryan three times and had six other tackles for loss while keeping Atlanta out of the end zone. All in all it was a really good first game for new head coach Nick Sirianni.
20. Las Vegas Raiders (1-0) ~ Derek Carr through for over 400 yards while leading an impressive last-second drive to force overtime. Then it looked like the Raiders won on a long pass down the sideline. Players were out on the field, coaching staffs and the like. Turns out, that touchdown was ruled just short so they had to play it again. Then came an unlucky interception in the end zone. The crowd went silent. Baltimore had the ball back. Lamar Jackson turned it over giving the Raiders hope and Carr connected with Zay Jones on a long touchdown that did not need any type of replay for confirmation. The crowd got to lose their minds a second time. Remember kids, in Vegas, the house always wins.
21. Denver Broncos (1-0) ~ For the sixth time in six years, Denver had a new starting quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater, who is stunningly still just 28 years old, did not turn the ball over and threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns in a road victory. The Broncos have been quarterback starved ever since Peyton Manning retired, but I believe they may have found their quarterback for years to come.
22. Minnesota Vikings (0-1) ~ They had a dozen penalties for 116 yards. Dalvin Cook? He lost a fumble in overtime after the Vikes scored the last 10 to force the extra quarter. Cincy was able to boot a 33-yarder with no time remaining in overtime to come away with the win. The only solace for Minnesota is that 0-1 is good enough to be tied for first place atop the NFC North.
23. Washington Football Team (0-1) ~ Obviously the big news here is that new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was placed on injured reserve and will miss the next 6-8 weeks. Could there be a reunion with Ron Rivera and Cam Newton? The two did make a trip to the Super Bowl together back in Carolina. It seems to make sense for both sides. Maybe too much sense.
24. Carolina Panthers (1-0) ~ The Sam Darnold era in Carolina began the only way possible: with a victory over Darnold’s former team the New York Jets. Perhaps more important to Carolina’s hopes are that Christian McCaffrey was healthy and put up 187 all-purpose yards while leading the team in rushing and receiving. It’s all about Run CMC in Panther blue. Or is it panther black? I got it….it’s panther silver. Yep. Let’s go with that.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) ~ Against all odds, Joe Burrow was back and healthy for Week one. After a horrific knee injury cut his rookie season short, I thought there was no chance for him to be back to start the year. I guess the doctors know more than me. Go figure. Burrow found his old college buddy Ja’Marr Chase five times for 101 yards and a score. That is the most ever by a Bengals rookie in a season opener. I don’t think they’ll hook up for 20 touchdowns like they did at LSU, but I’ve been wrong before. See me thinking Burrow would not be ready for the season opener if you weren’t sure about me being wrong before.
26. Atlanta Falcons (0-1) ~ My big takeaway from this is that Cordarrelle Patterson led the team in rushing. Mike Davis had 15 carries to Patterson’s seven, but it makes me at least wonder if there is going to be more of a running back by committee here than a clear cut starter and backup. Why does this matter? Because I have Davis as my #3 running back on my fantasy team. That’s why.
27. Chicago Bears (0-1) ~ Andy Dalton is in, what the experts call, a lose-lose situation. The Bears have been desperate for a quarterback for the past, oh, 50 years or so. Chicago and their fans were elated when they were able to land Ohio State’s Justin Fields in this year’s draft. Fields isn’t the starter though. At least not yet. That is Dalton’s job and he didn’t exactly light it up as he completed 27 passes for just 206 yards and an interception in the end zone. Fields took five snaps and completed both passes for 10 yards while adding a three-yard touchdown run. There’s almost nothing Dalton can do here. It’s rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic at this point.
28. Houston Texans (1-0) ~ The Houston Texans, whom many believe will finish with the league’s worst record, are alone atop the AFC South. This after new quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for 296 yards and two scores in a victory over division rival Jacksonville. The Texans may not be good this year, but for one week at least, they are holding down a playoff spot.
29. New York Giants (0-1) ~ Saquon Barkley is yet another player coming back from a knee injury suffered last year. The star running back took ten carries for a mere 26 yards on Sunday. I’m hearing some in the media, and amongst other Giants fans, that they think Barkley is a bust. If that’s the case, let him go and bring him to Philly to reunite with Miles Sanders. Stranger things have happened, haven’t they?
30. Detroit Lions (0-1) ~ I’ll give a little credit where credit is due, and say the Lions at least made this look close on the scoreboard, but it was not a close game. Detroit was down by 24 before scoring twice, and adding two successful two-point conversions, with less than two minutes left. They showed some spunk, but it was way too little too late.
31. New York Jets (0-1) ~ Fair or not, Zach Wilson is going to be compared to Sam Darnold all year long. He was, after all, drafted to replace Darnold. Wilson did throw for over 250 yards and two scores in his debut. Maybe he will have better numbers than Darnold at the end of the season. I’m sure there’s a prop bet on that available somewhere.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) ~ Sixteen straight defeats for the Jags. This one marked the first ever loss in the regular season for rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. You might be thinking, well, no kidding, he’s a rookie and it’s his first game. Of course it’s his first loss! You’d be right, but then I’d let you know that I was also incorporating Lawrence’s games in high school and college. You see, he never lost a regular season game at either of those levels. As crazy as that is, I have a feeling there will be some more losses in Lawrence’s near future.
Well, that's it. That's all she wrote. Better yet, that's all I wrote. I plan on being back next week, but for now, let me know how you feel in the comments. Or find me on Twitter @therichwhiteguy. Until next time!
JOC from Syracuse, NY on September 14, 2021:
Patriots losing to a middle of the road Dolphins squad would have them ranked a bit too high in my book. They'd be middle of the twenties until they get anybody you could pick out of a lineup on offense.
Cleveland, Dallas, Baltimore, Tennessee, Buffalo and Green Bay you can understand being still ranked high because of the amount of talent on those teams.