1. New England Patriots, Def. Arizona 23-21. Previously: 5
No Brady, no Gronk, no problem. All the Patriots did is walk into Arizona and walk out with a win. This was the first time the Patriots were underdogs in a season opener since Drew Bledsoe was the starting quarterback. It might be the last time they are underdogs this season, and it jumps them up to the top of our poll in Week 2.
2. Denver Broncos, Def. Carolina 21-20. Previously: 6
Credit the Broncos for adjusting at halftime to the adjustments the Panthers had made following their Super Bowl defeat. Credit Trevor Siemian for pulling out the victory in his first start, and showing he won’t shy away from the limelight. Just don’t credit the refs for their performance re: illegal hits on Cam Newton. More than one Bronco defender may be missing time in the upcoming weeks.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers, Def. Washington 38-16. Previously: 7
Washington dared Antonio Brown to beat them, and he did. Handily. 126 yards and two touchdowns for Brown were matched by 155 yards and two more scores on the ground from DeAngelo Williams. The Steelers showed they’re just fine without Le’Veon Bell on offense, and the defense bent without breaking, intercepting Kirk Cousins twice.
4. Carolina Panthers, Lost to Denver 21-20. Previously: 1
The Panthers may have fallen out of the top spot after Week 1, but their loss to the Broncos answered a lot of questions in a positive manner. Kelvin Benjamin returned to the field, got his catches, and survived a hard hit. The Panthers were ready to defend the Broncos’ edge rushers they couldn’t handle in the Super Bowl. But the treatment — or lack thereof — of Cam Newton at the end of the game will be a black eye for the league going forward.
5. Seattle Seahawks, Def. Miami 12-10. Previously: 2
That wasn’t the season opening performance you wanted to see from the Seahawks, injury to Russell Wilson or no. Going forward, that will be a big concern for Seattle, game-winning drive or no. The positives are the defense limiting QB guru Adam Gase’s new team to 214 net yards and Arian Foster to 38 yards rushing, and the running back competition between Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls shaping up to be the good kind of competition.
6. Arizona Cardinals, Lost to New England 23-21. Previously: 3
The Cardinals may struggle for a long time to figure out how they lost to New England. They outgained the Patriots. They won the turnover battle. They came up short. David Johnson’s first audition as a premiere back in the NFL included a 45-yard run. But the real star for Arizona was 33-year-old wonder Larry Fitzgerald who caught two touchdowns, the second of which was the 100th score of Fitz’s career.
7. Green Bay Packers, Def. Jacksonville 27-23. Previously: 4
While Jordy Nelson’s longest reception being eight yards is hopefully not the new normal, Packers fans could rejoice to see him in the endzone again. Aaron Rodgers did exactly what you expect and lifted Green Bay to this win, but the defense did a surprisingly good job against a Jaguars offense that has bite. They limited the team to 48 yards rushing and star receiver Allen Robinson to six catches out of 15 targets.
8. Cincinnati Bengals, Def. New York Jets 23-22. Previously: 10
Is the road win against a quality opponent more or less impressive when you remember the Bengals let Andy Dalton get sacked seven (seven!) times? While a major concern of this off-season was the departure of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, the Bengals sure didn’t seem to need receivers besides A.J. Green Sunday while he was hauling in 12 catches for 180 yards and a score.
9. Kansas City Chiefs, Def. San Diego 33-27 (OT.) Previously: 8
Most teams use a pump up video to review last season. Kansas City decided to turn it’s opening game of 2016 into a microcosm of 2015. The Chiefs fell behind by 21 points to the woeful Chargers before a 17 point fourth quarter rally dragged them into overtime. Once there, they didn’t let San Diego sniff the ball before Alex Smith plunged into the endzone. For the sake of Chiefs fans, hopefully they won’t all be like this one.
10. Houston Texans, Def. Chicago 23-14. Previously: 9
Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller took care of business in their Texan debuts. Miller ran for 106 yards and Osweiler threw two touchdown passes, but the surprise of the day was rookie Will Fuller, who caught one of those touchdowns and racked up 107 receiving yards, making DeAndre Hopkins a rare second fiddle in the Houston passing attack.
11. Oakland Raiders, Def. New Orleans 35-34. Previously: 11
They may have not faced the most impressive opponent in Week 1, but don’t doubt the statement a young team can make by walking into a trap game, falling behind big, and then scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter (including one of the gutsiest two-point conversion calls in recent memory) to walk away with the win. Now, about that pass defense.
12. New York Jets, Lost to Cincinnati 23-22. Previously: 12
Matt Forte looked like the old Matt Forte in his New York debut, with 96 rushing yards and five catches for good measure. This was a heartbreaker for the Jets, with missed opportunities and field goals. The good news is an opportunity to wash the bad taste out of their mouth is coming next week with former coach Rex Ryan and the struggling Bills. Don’t miss this one.
13. Minnesota Vikings, Def. Tennessee 25-16. Previously: 13
The Vikings shook off a miserable start and — spurred by two defensive touchdowns including a 77-yard interception return by Eric Kendricks — put up 25 straight points with zero offensive touchdowns to hold off an upset bid by the Titans. Shaun Hill started, but didn’t exactly create the impression it will be long before we see Sam Bradford in purple. Of more concern, Adrian Peterson was held to just 31 yards on 19 carries.
14. Detroit Lions, Def. Indianapolis 39-35. Previously: 19
This was a shootout you could see coming from a mile away, and the Lions came away on top. If a four-point victory seems an odd place to find a game winning field goal, chalk it up to a Colts safety on the final play of the game. Prior to that, Matt Prater smashed in a 43-yarder with eight seconds remaining that assured his earlier extra point miss wouldn’t cost Detroit. It’s hard to open a season much better on offense than with 448 yards and no turnovers.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars, Lost to Green Bay 27-23. Previously: 15
The Jaguars gave Green Bay all they could ask for, which is a line you could have written about several Jacksonville games a year ago as well. The difference this season will be if those good performances start showing up in the wins column, but this week was always going to be a tall task. Julius Thomas had a monstrous touchdown catch, and his Denver form would be a welcome addition. While the Chris Ivory situation remains unclear, a run game that managed just 49 yards could really use his help.
16. New York Giants, Def. Dallas 20-19. Previously: 16
Someone look up how often the past two seasons Eli Manning has tossed three touchdowns without any landing in Odell Beckham’s arms. It happened Sunday, and the game winner was reeled in by Victor Cruz, letting Cruz break into the salsa for the first time in two seasons. Spreading the ball around is good news for the Giants under Ben McAdoo, who look a lot like the Giants under Tom Coughlin.
17. Washington, Lost to Pittsburgh 38-16. Previously: 14
Washington’s defense was gashed by probably the NFL’s best offense, which you might expect. Their running game was impotent, which, if you watched last season, you definitely expect. But somehow, you just expect a defending division champion (even if it is of the NFC East) to show a little more fight than Washington did in the fourth quarter, when they let Pittsburgh turn a close game into a blowout. They won’t repeat this way.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Def. Atlanta 31-24. Previously: 18
Jameis Winston got off to a fine start in 2016. Well, a bumpy early start with an interception, but then it was smooth sailing for the second year quarterback on the way to four touchdown throws (his second career game with at least four) and his third straight win over the Atlanta Falcons. The ground game only managed 3.2 yards per carry Sunday, and bears watching.
19. Indianapolis Colts, Lost to Detroit 39-35. Previously: 21
After a season watching an injured Andrew Luck drift in and out of games, this was the reminder the nation needed of what they have in Indianapolis. Don’t get us wrong, the Colts lost because they don’t have much else. But Luck’s 385 yards and four touchdowns passing are reason for optimism, even on the losing end of a shootout.
20. Baltimore Ravens, Def. Buffalo 13-7. Previously: 22
Rex Ryan’s old defense showed him how it’s done — a little too up close for Bills fans Sunday. The Ravens defense limited the Bills to 160 total yards, only breaking when LeSean McCoy plunged into the endzone from a yard out. That nostalgic display, along with Mike Wallace’s 66-yard touchdown grab reminding fans of Torrey Smith’s deep plays, should have Ravens fans excited.
21. Atlanta Falcons, Lost to Tampa Bay 31-24. Previously: 20
While the passing struggles that had plagued Atlanta in the preseason didn’t surface Sunday, many of the issues that led to the demise of their 2015 season did. Devonta Freeman couldn’t produce, finishing with 11 carries for just 20 yards. The defense allowed four touchdown passes to Jameis Winston.
22. Philadelphia Eagles, Def. Cleveland 29-10. Previously: 27
If it seemed odd that excitement for the Eagles’ season ramped up once they pulled the trigger on a trade that made them objectively worse this season, it shouldn’t any longer. Even if their playoff chances in a weak division took a hit with the exodus of Sam Bradford. All anyone cares about in Philadelphia is seeing Carson Wentz, and after a 278 yard, two touchdown debut, now all they care about is seeing more of him.
23. New Orleans Saints, Lost to Oakland 35-34. Previously: 29
Lost in the weekly rush to sign any fantasy football players going up against the Saints defense is the fact that, yeah, the Saints offense has some pretty good players of its own. Drew Brees, Willie Snead, and Brandin Cooks made sure the Raiders knew the Saints aren’t about to become a pushover at home.
24. Dallas Cowboys, Lost to New York Giants 20-19. Previously: 23
Dak Prescott looked like he belonged in the NFL, which is step one after the displays the Cowboys had at quarterback in 2015. Beginning the season with a rookie qb and rookie rb can go a lot worse than it did for Dallas Sunday, but one thing that does raise a red flag: where was Dez Bryant? Prescott’s best weapon was silent, with one catch for eight yards.
25. Buffalo Bills, Lost to Baltimore 13-7. Previously: 17
I’d say it couldn’t get much worse than the Bills opening weekend, but we have yet to get to Cleveland and Los Angeles. If you’re looking for bright spots, Jerry Hughes had two sacks, Tyrod Taylor didn’t get injured, and the Bills scored points. That’s about all we’ve got.
26. Miami Dolphins, Lost to Seattle 12-10. Previously: 26
Adam Gase’s Miami debut was ruined in the final minutes, but it offers something to build off of. Going across the country to Seattle and almost ruining the most popular week one survivor league pick would have been quite the performance. It won’t get any easier for Gase’s Dolphins in week two unfortunately, when they had to Foxboro.
27. San Francisco 49ers, Def. Los Angeles 28-0. Previously: 31
The 49ers did what you can ask of a team, and that is take apart the team in front of them in Week 1’s only shutout. Commentary praising their rushing attack the morning after seems to be a bit prematurely laudatory though, especially for a unit that averaged 3.6 yards per pop and didn’t nail a run over 18 yards.
28. San Diego Chargers, Lost to Kansas City 33-27 (OT.) Previously: 30
Missing Joey Bosa, the Chargers go out and run up a big lead on a divisional opponent, and come out of the game with a loss in the record book and the receiving corps. Keenan Allen’s injury is a blow, but you have to believe Philip Rivers will find someone to get the ball to. He always has.
29. Chicago Bears, Lost to Houston 23-14. Previously: 24
Kevin White caught three passes in his long-awaited debut. Alshon Jeffery notched over 100-yards receiving. Jay Cutler threw a touchdown and a pick while being sacked five times. It was about what you expect from the Bears, who managed to look a step below their opponent but avoided the truly miserable offensive days a few of the teams below them experienced.
30. Tennessee Titans, Lost to Minnesota 25-14. Previously: 25
So was the Titans' preseason devotion to running the ball a ploy designed to surprise us with Marcus Mariota’s 41 pass attempts? It worked. Everyone was surprised as the Titan’s proceeded to throw away a 10-0 lead. DeMarco Murray found the endzone twice, so he’s now probably worth the few spots in the fourth round Tennessee dropped back for him.
31. Cleveland Browns, Lost to Philadelphia 29-10. Previously: 32
It is a testament to how bad the Rams looked that Cleveland somehow ascended on this list despite looking awful in Philadelphia (highlighted by snapping the ball out of the endzone for a safety) and losing their starting quarterback to a shoulder injury for the first half of the season. RGIII, we hardly knew ye.
32. Los Angeles Rams, Lost to San Francisco 28-0. Previously: 28
The Rams did their part to pour cold water over the beginning of football in 2016 and in Los Angeles. 185 yards of offense, 3/15 on third down conversions, and a 28-0 shutout against their division rival and a team that finished 2015 5-11. And the first overall pick watched from the bench! Get excited, LA