It's certainly early, but Week 2 of the NFL season offered a first glimpse at some separation, as several teams that look elite passed some meaningful tests, and others who entered the season with aspirations of competing are left looking for answers.
With the season's first two weeks officially in the rearview mirror, here's a look at how things currently stand:
1. Miami Dolphins (2-0)
Previous: No. 1
The Dolphins proved that their explosive brand of football built upon speed on both sides of the ball travels, even against a division opponent and one of the sport's great defensive masterminds of all time, Bill Belichick.
Mike McDaniel called a masterful game, particularly on the Dolphins' final possession of the first half that saw Tua Tagovailoa complete all seven of his passing attempts for 49 yards as the Dolphins drove 75 yards in eight plays to cap the first half with a touchdown. That kind of precision and an ability to dictate to a defense is going to make the Dolphins one of the toughest teams to beat in the entire NFL.
2. Dallas Cowboys (2-0)
Previous: No. 2
Micah Parsons is playing like he belongs in the MVP conversation, and the Cowboys' swarming defense looks like the most stifling in the NFL, at all three levels. Sunday,
Dallas held Zach Wilson to 170 passing yards, with 68 of them coming on a touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson, as the young quarterback posted a 38.1 passer rating.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys' offense looked balanced and workmanlike while producing 382 yards of total offense and scoring 30 points. The past two weeks have shown just how difficult it is to move the football on Dallas' defense, particularly with Parsons acting as a heat-seeking missile, but against the Jets, the offense more than pulled its weight, as well.
3. San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
Previous No. 3
Brock Purdy is making a strong case with each passing week that his 2022 performance was no fluke, and he has the exact temperament to thrive in Kyle Shannahan's offense.
Purdy played the role of point guard Sunday against the Rams, distributing to the Niners' litany of playmakers as Christian McCaffrey rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown, Deebo Samuel produced 63 receiving yards while adding a rushing score of his own, as San Francisco held on to topple the division rival Los Angeles Rams, 30-23.
Meanwhile, the 49ers' always aggressive and opportunistic defense intercepted Matthew Stafford twice, sacked him once, and held the Rams to just 89 rushing yards. Another week, another balanced win for the 49ers ...
4. Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)
Previous: No. 5
That's more like it. The defending Super Bowl champions went on the road, into sweltering Jacksonville, and completely neutralized a dynamic offense.
Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars could barely shift out of neutral as Chris Jones morphed into a one-man wrecking ball in the Jacksonville backfield in his 2023 debut. Likewise, Travis Kelce made his way into the end zone as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense sputtered early but shifted into hyperdrive by game's end.
Kansas City still needs to find some semblance of consistency at both tackle spots, but handling business against a 2022 playoff team that figures to be among the Chiefs' main threats in the conference was a statement that this is still a team to be taken very seriously.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)
Previous: No. 4
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni struck all the right chords against the Minnesota Vikings. It has become evident that Jalen Hurts and the passing game are working through some growing pains under new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, and last Thursday night the Eagles doubled down on the running game which paved the way for the offense.
D'Andre Swift averaged 7.2 yards per carry while rushing for a career-high 175 yards, and Hurts still hit some big strikes through the air, connecting on a 63-yard bomb to DeVonta Smith while finishing with one passing and two rushing touchdowns.
Philadelphia's offense has been a series of fits and starts through two weeks, but the running game and a defense that's forced six turnovers has steadied the ship. Most importantly for the reigning NFC champions, the Eagles keep stacking wins while still searching for this team's identity.
6. Baltimore Ravens (2-0)
Previous: No. 9
Lamar Jackson and Zay Flowers are building the kind of connection that could keep Jackson in the MVP race, Flowers as an Offensive Rookie of The Year frontrunner, and the Ravens very much in the conversation to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season.
Jackson led the Ravens into a hostile environment against Joe Burrow and a Bengals team desperately trying to avoid starting 0-2, and walked out of Cincinnati with a three-point victory after passing for 237 yards with two touchdowns and rushing for 54 more yards.
Defensively, Baltimore flew to the football all afternoon, picked Burrow off once, and kept the Bengals to a meager 66 rushing yards. The Bengals' offense still has plenty of firepower, plenty of stars, but the fact that the Ravens made them look so ordinary is a testament to how hard this Baltimore team is going to be to knock off.
7. Buffalo Bills (1-1)
Previously: No. 15
The Bills authored the working definition of a "get-right" performance, dominating the Las Vegas Raiders in all phases, returning to their Super Bowl caliber form, in Week 2.
Buffalo has to be encouraged that Josh Allen returned to form, bouncing back from a four turnover performance against the Jets in the opener to keeping the ball out of harm's way against the Raiders while connecting with nine different Bills receivers, tossing three touchdowns, and finishing sans giveaway.
Further driving home the point that the Bills aren't dead yet, after a lackluster showing in the opener, the Bills defense intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo twice and held an offense led by the defending rushing champion to just 55 yards on the ground.
8. Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
Previously: No. 20
Geno Smith and the Seaahawks went into a hostile environment, against a team with Super Bowl aspirations along with added rest, and emerged both with an overtime victory and bragging rights over the Detroit Lions.
Smith was nearly flawless, passing for 328 yards with a pair of touchdowns, and leading a precision game-winning drive in overtime to silence Ford Field. This was more like it for Seattle, and the brand of football that can keep the Seahawks in the NFC West mix.
9. Los Angeles Rams (1-1)
Previously: No. 17
Rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua has been a revelation for the Rams' offense, and Los Angeles' fountain of youth on offense, thanks to the emergence of Nakua and running back Kyren Williams has seemingly rejuvenated veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.
If the Rams entered this season looking to try to retool on the fly, the organization has to be thrilled about splitting the first two games against division foes, especially with how the young pieces on offense have emerged. Sunday, Los Angeles has the opportunity to drive an early nail in the Bengals' coffin, which would certainly provide some legitimacy to this young core.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1)
Previously No. 7
One loss, by eight points, to the reigning MVP and Super Bowl champions doesn't change the overwhelmingly positive outlook for quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars this season.
Jacksonville has to be encouraged by the fact that the defense forced three turnovers against an offense with the Chiefs' firepower, and frustrated by only converting those turnovers into three points. Not many of the Jaguars' opponents will boast a quarterback as dynamic as Mahomes or a pass-rusher as disruptive as Chris Jones, so there's plenty to build on here for head coach Doug Pederson's team.
11. New Orleans Saints (2-0)
Previously No. 14
As Michael Thomas gets up to speed, Chris Olave continues to be the focal point of the Saints' vertical passing game, and is becoming a favorite target of quarterback Derek Carr. Monday night in Charlotte, Olave caught six passes for 86 yards. Carr continues to acclimate himself in New Orleans' offense, but there was more good than bad in this Week 2 division showdown.
After the Saints, Buccaneers, and Falcons all won in Week 2, suddenly the NFC South is setting the stage to be one of the more competitive divisions in football. Carr is the best and most accomplished quarterback, which makes all the difference.
12. Detroit Lions (1-1)
Previously: No. 6
The biggest takeaway from the Lions' loss to the Seahawks is that Dan Campbell's team still needs to learn how to close. Opening the season 2-0 would have been a big step towards cementing the Lions' status as the team to beat in the NFC North, and among the conference's power brokers. But, falling in overtime was a bit of a wakeup call.
Detroit losing running back David Montgomery could spark concern for an offense that wants to play smash mouth. The Lions' next six opponents boast a 7-5 record, and include a first showdown with the division rival Packers. We should learn plenty about how seriously to take the Lions over this upcoming stretch.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
Previously: No. 30
In front of a raucous Monday night crowd, the Steelers authored a classic Pittsburgh Steelers AFC North performance, bullying DeShaun Watson and the Cleveland Browns all night long.
Alex Highsmith set the tone with a interception off Watson that he returned for a touchdown on the game's first snap, and strip-sacked Watson, forcing a fumble that T.J. Watt returned for the game-winning touchdown in a 26-22 victory.While Steelers wide receiver George Pickens pulled down a 71-yard catch and run for a touchdown, the offense was wildly inconsistent as the defense paved the way. If this is the Steelers' defense, that logged 6.0 sacks and 11 quarterback hits, that shows up the rest of the way, Pittsburgh is going to be able to punch above its weight.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)
Previously: No. 10
Baker Mayfield has defied the reasonable expectations through the first two weeks, as the Buccaneers have handled their business in a pair of victories to open the season.
Mayfield has managed to turn Mike Evans and Chris Godwin into legitimate weapons again, and the defense is playing an opportunistic brand of football. Sunday, Todd Bowles' unit completely stymied Justin Fields all afternoon. As Week 2's results reiterated, the NFC South remains among the most wide open in the NFL, and the Buccaneers seem balanced enough to remain in the mix.
15. Atlanta Falcons (2-0)
Previously: No. 16
Arthur Smith's young guns showed plenty of maturity, weathering a storm against the Green Bay Packers to score the final 13 points of Sunday's game to emerge with a comeback victory.
More encouraging, Bijan Robinson proved capable of not just shouldering an expanded workload but making the most of meaningful touches late in the game, while rushing for 124 yards and averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Desmond Ridder did just enough to out-duel Jordan Love, and the Packers seem to have found a winning offensive formula.
16. Cleveland Browns
Previously: No. 8
Nothing comes close to mattering as much for the Cleveland Browns as much as running back Nick Chubb going down with a devastating knee injury in the first half against the Steelers. Losing Chubb dramatically alters the identity of the Browns' offense.
Likewise, Deshaun Watson looked like a shell of himself, against a relentless onslaught of pressure from the Steelers' front seven. Cleveland's defense completely neutralized the Steelers' ground game, holding Pittsburgh to 55 rushing yards and just 2.6 yards per attempt. However, with Chubb sidelined, time will tell if Jerome Ford or a veteran addition will be enough to carry this team.
17. Washington Commanders (2-0)
Previously: No. 22
Ron Rivera's 100th win came in comeback fashion as the Commanders outlasted the Denver Broncos 35-33, improving to 2-0 while keeping pace in the hyper-competitive NFC East.
Washington withstood an offensive onslaught from Russell Wilson and the Broncos' offense, walking away with a win despite allowing 33 points and 399 total yards of offense. Is it sustainable? Who knows. But, Sam Howell is building confidence and building a strong chemistry with the likes of Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, which could make the Commanders dangerous.
18. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2)
Previously: No. 13
It might not be panic time for Burrow and the Bengals, but it's certainly getting pretty worrisome in Cincinnati.
Lamar Jackson outplayed Burrow. The Bengals' defense allowed 415 yards of total offense. Cincinnati has overcome 0-2 starts before, including just last season, but there have been few signs of life through the first two weeks of this season. Don't count Burrow and his weapons out, but, it's approaching now-or-never territory on the banks of the Ohio River.
19. Tennessee Titans (1-1)
Previously: No. 26
The Titans' defense slammed the door on Justin Herbert and the Chargers late, as Tennessee seemed to return to its bread and butter brand of offense via a punishing ground attack.
Derrick Henry and Tyjae Spears combined for 129 yards with a touchdown against Los Angles, while the defense kept Herbert and the Chargers' offense to field goals on three of five trips into the red-zone. The AFC South is beginning to look like a two horse race to the finish between the Titans and Jaguars.
20. New York Giants (1-1)
Previously: No. 31
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in the Giants' locker room on Sunday afternoon.
The Giants fell behind the hapless Arizona Cardinals 20-0 in the first half, outscored through their first six quarters of the season by a 60-0 margin, before unleashing a torrid offensive attack in the second half. Daniel Jones' 259 passing yards with two touchdowns and a deep strike to rookie Jalin Hyatt are encouraging about what this offense might look like moving forward following a disastrous start. However, Saquon Barkley's injured ankle and the uncertainty surrounding it loom large.
21. New England Patriots (0-2)
Previously: No. 25
Yes, the New England Patriots are 0-2, but both losses came to legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and Bill Belichick's team took both the Eagles and Dolphins to the brink in consecutive games.
Bill O'Brien's influence is already being seen on Mac Jones, who led a pair of fourth quarter touchdown drives on Sunday night against the Dolphins, while passing for 231 yards with one touchdown to one interception. The top of the AFC East may have passed the Patriots by, but if the defense can tighten up, the offense seems just punchy enough to ruin some days throughout the season.
22. Green Bay Packers (1-1)
Previously: No. 12
Second-round rookie receiver Jayden Reed emerged as a legitimate weapon for the Packers, but Jordan Love and the offense turtled up in the second half against the Falcons.
Meanwhile, the Packers' defense couldn't get off the field late in the contest as the Falcons scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to notch a comeback win. Love looks the part of a franchise quarterback, but the Packers need to find a way to consistently play complementary football.
23. New York Jets (1-1)
Previously: No. 11
Aaron Rodgers' injury casts a dark cloud over the Jets' season, and seems to cap this team's potential, even if quarterback Zach Wilson and wide receiver Garrett Wilson flash momentary explosiveness as they did with a big connection in Sunday's loss to the Cowboys.
There are plenty of young pieces on the Jets' roster that the organization should rightfully be excited about, but they don't belong on the same field as some of the NFL's top contenders right now.
24. Minnesota Vikings (0-2)
Previously: No. 21
Suddenly, after getting thumped by the Buccaneers and Eagles in consecutive weeks to start the season, those 11 one-score wins during the 2022 campaign seem to indicate the Vikings were and are pretenders, rather than contenders.
The Vikings have attempted to rebuild while trying to compete. But, Minnesota would be rather foolish if they don't field calls on the likes of quarterback Kirk Cousins, with the veteran in the final year of his contract and plenty of needs on the roster that could benefit from having added draft capital to fill them next spring.
25. Denver Broncos (0-2)
Previously: No. 25
Russell Wilson and the Broncos' offense showed signs of serious life against the Commanders, with the veteran quarterback hitting eight different receivers, including connecting with rookie receiver Marvin Mims Jr. on two completions for 113 yards and a score.
However, even a Hail Mary that got tipped around four times near the end zone and caught for a touchdown wasn't enough to lead the Broncs to victory. Progress is nice, but Sean Payton needs to start delivering wins, especially if the AFC West continues to struggle overall.
26. Los Angeles Chargers (0-2)
Previously: No. 19
The Chargers are now winless in their last three games, and Justin Herbert failed to capitalize on late possessions to give Los Angeles a chance to pull off a road victory in Week 2, with questions suddenly swirling about his ability to deliver in clutch moments.
Compounding concerns is the fact that Ryan Tannehill was able to effortlessly march the Titans up and down the field in the second half. If things don't turn around quickly, expect the hot seat to heat up exponentially under head coach Brandon Staley.
27. Indianapolis Colts (1-1)
Previously: No. 27
Anthony Richardson looked fully capable of putting the Colts' offense on his back, rushing for two touchdowns. But, Richardson was knocked from the game with a concussion on his second score of the game, which casts some doubt over the rookie quarterback and the Colts' immediate future.
28. Las Vegas Raiders (1-1)
Previously: No. 18
The Raiders got boat-raced out of Orchard Park, outclassed in all facets over the final three quarters against the Bills.
Las Vegas only made two trips into the red zone, only managed 55 rushing yards, and could barely breathe on Josh Allen in the pocket. The Raiders' clash with the Steelers should be a barometer for expectations the rest of the way.
29. Carolina Panthers (0-2)
Previously: No. 28
It was obvious throughout Monday night's game against the New Orleans Saints that the game needs to significantly slow down for Bryce Young. Still, as Young goes threw rookie growing pains, the Panthers' swarming defense is good enough to make enough plays to keep Carolina in games.
30. Houston Texans (0-2)
Previously: No. 29
Houston's offensive line was banged up, and the Texans are never going to be the most talented team on the field this season, but you can already see the roots of DeMeco Ryans' culture taking root. The fact that the Texans fell behind early and then surged back to make the game close with a pair of scoring drives to end the game offer some optimism to build on.
31. Chicago Bears (0-2)
Previously: No. 24
Justin Fields struggled mightily over and over even seeing open receivers, let alone reading defenses, on Sunday afternoon against the Buccaneers. Chicago's offense is woefully broken, and while offensive coordinator Luke Getsy deserves some blame, if things don't turn around quickly it might be time for Ryan Poles to start accumulating frequent flier miles scouting Drake Maye, Caleb Williams, and Shedeur Sanders.
32. Arizona Cardinals (0-2)
Previously: No. 32
The Giants were outscored by the Cowboys 40-0, and the Cardinals jumped out to a 20-0 lead at halftime Sunday against New York ... and lost. Arizona's status in this spot cemented, as is their front-runner status in the Caleb Williams sweepstakes.
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