Let’s assume the Los Angeles Rams needed a little bit of time in the regular-season opener to settle in. Most of their starters didn’t play in the preseason. Let’s say it took a half of action to get into the flow.
Well, since halftime of Week 1, the Rams have outscored their opponents 57-0.
The Rams’ opposition hasn’t been great, but on both sides of the ball they look like the best team in football. And they take the No. 1 spot in the Power Rankings this week.
Maybe we can finally put away the nonsense that adding a lot of good players in the offseason is a negative. As I said in the Rams’ preview this summer, just because Vince Young said “dream team” a few years ago and that Eagles team wasn’t good doesn’t mean every team that “wins the offseason” is doomed. The 1994 San Francisco 49ers crushed the offseason, and they won a Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos built the core of a Super Bowl 50 champion through free agency. Every championship team since the start of free agency had at least one significant player who was acquired via free agency. And so forth.
The Rams attacked the offseason like a team that had a one-year window to win a championship. That’s not the worst approach in the temporary world of the NFL. Remember, two years ago it looked like the Oakland Raiders were building a long-term contender. You can’t wait for the slow boil, because the NFL changes so fast. The Rams’ plan was just fine, and it seems to be working.
The Rams’ defense, which added cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and also tackle Ndamukong Suh, hasn’t given up a touchdown in seven quarters and no points at all in six quarters. The offense, with new playmaker Brandin Cooks, is tied for fourth in the NFL at 6.3 yards per play, and it still doesn’t seem like we’ve seen their best. The Raiders and Cardinals, the Rams’ first two opponents, are bad. But it’s tough to dominate any team in the NFL. Aside from the first half at Oakland, the Rams have dominated in every way possible this season.
We’ll see in upcoming weeks if the Rams really are the best team in football. They have back-to-back games against the Chargers and Vikings, then set off on a three-game trip. The competition will get a lot tougher. But at this point, there’s no reason to believe the Rams can’t handle it. They look like a powerhouse. Maybe all teams should sit their starters through the preseason.
Here are the power rankings after Week 2 of the NFL season:
32. Buffalo Bills (0-2, Last week: 32)
If we’re being positive about the Bills, and not talking about Vontae Davis retiring at halftime, they outscored the Chargers 14-3 in the second half and made it a respectable game for a while. That doesn’t mean the Bills are marching into Minnesota this weekend and pulling off an upset, but it was nice to see some signs of life after being outscored 75-6 to start this season.
31. Arizona Cardinals (0-2, LW: 30)
It’s early — really, really early — but I’m starting to wonder about Steve Wilks. The Cardinals weren’t close to this bad last season, and that was without David Johnson. They were 3-4 in Carson Palmer’s starts, so you can’t blame his retirement. This team is entirely lost, and Wilks said he never considered benching Sam Bradford for rookie Josh Rosen in a 34-0 loss on Sunday. Wow. Let’s say it’s way too soon to judge Wilks, but there are already warning signs.
30. Cleveland Browns (0-1-1, LW: 31)
I’ll give Tyrod Taylor credit for driving his team downfield, twice, late in Sunday’s game. But where was that for the first 55 or so minutes? Everything Taylor threw Sunday was short, until he had to air it out. If the Browns are going to play an extremely conservative dink-and-dunk offense, just start rookie Baker Mayfield (which they should be doing anyway).
29. Detroit Lions (0-2, LW: 28)
The Lions fell behind 30-13, but rallied to cut that deficit to three points and had the ball late in the game with a chance to at least tie. If you want a sign the players aren’t tuning out head coach Matt Patricia, maybe that’s it. It would be nice, however, if they didn’t start games in these huge holes.
28. New York Giants (0-2, LW: 24)
The Dallas defense is good, but not that good. The Giants looked like a wreck. The offensive line is bad again, and Eli Manning seems to be constantly concerned about the rush. When he does throw, he still looks like a quarterback in decline, which he was for the two seasons before this one. A lot of work has to be done before the Giants offense is respectable.
27. Oakland Raiders (0-2, LW: 27)
Derek Carr completed 29 of 32 passes, and not all of it came on dump-offs. Carr wasn’t great last season and didn’t look good in the opener, but he can be at least a serviceable quarterback. He’s not the Raiders’ biggest problem.
26. Seattle Seahawks (0-2, LW: 21)
Maybe the Seahawks will look better once they get home and start to get guys healthy. But what we saw on Monday night was ugly.
25. New York Jets (1-1, LW: 23)
Sam Darnold’s two interceptions against the Dolphins didn’t help, but that will happen with a rookie quarterback. Overall, he wasn’t that bad. But the run game can’t disappear when you have a rookie QB. The Jets averaged 2.2 yards per carry in what shouldn’t have been too bad of a matchup. That’s a recipe for a loss.
24. Washington Redskins (1-1, LW: 20)
The Redskins signed Michael Floyd and Breshad Perriman, which leads me to believe they need to update their scouting reports. Maybe they haven’t seen either receiver since college. It’s understandable why the Redskins would shake things up after Week 2 because their offensive performance against the Colts was truly bad.
23. Houston Texans (0-2, LW: 15)
The Texans outgained the Titans 437-283. They didn’t play that bad. But 0-2 is all that really matters. The Texans better beat the Giants in Week 3, or there are going to be a lot of questions about head coach Bill O’Brien.
22. Tennessee Titans (1-1, LW: 26)
Give the Titans credit. They were playing a tough division rival without their starting quarterback, or either starting offensive tackle. They got creative, particularly on a great fake punt that went for a 66-yard touchdown, and then grounded out a much-needed win. Tennessee needs to get healthy and play better, but it avoided digging out of an 0-2 hole.
21. Indianapolis Colts (1-1, LW: 29)
Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard had 15 solo tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a pass defensed on Sunday. The preseason provides a lot of misleading information, but anyone who saw Leonard play in August could tell the second-round pick was a steal.
20. San Francisco 49ers (1-1, LW: 17)
Hello, Matt Breida breakout. The Shanahan family has always produced good running games, and Breida might take advantage of his shot. His 138-yard rushing day was bolstered by a 66-yard touchdown run, but he still had 72 yards on his other 10 carries. Breida is a better all-around player than Alfred Morris, and he’s about to dominate the snaps in the 49ers’ offense.
19. Dallas Cowboys (1-1, LW: 16)
Dak Prescott threw for 96 yards against the Giants, outside of his long touchdown to Tavon Austin. Austin also had a 15-yard catch, and no other pass play went for longer than 12 yards. I get why any team would have trepidation about Josh Gordon, but I can’t figure out why the Cowboys wouldn’t have paid the same price as the Patriots did to find out if Gordon can upgrade that spot.
18. Chicago Bears (1-1, LW: 18)
We have to remember that Mitchell Trubisky is still incredibly early in his development. Last season, with a terrible coaching staff, almost shouldn’t count. That said, Trubisky’s lack of accuracy on some open throws is troubling. That usually doesn’t get significantly better in the NFL. But again, he’s a very young quarterback. Not every throw he makes is a statement on what he’ll be over his career.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1, LW: 8)
Monday night’s game against the Buccaneers is suddenly quite interesting, isn’t it?
16. New Orleans Saints (1-1, LW: 13)
I actually think less of the Saints than I did before they won in Week 2. That was an awful performance, and everyone in New Orleans should send a thank-you note to former Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez. The Saints have looked terrible twice this season, first on defense and then on offense. There’s enough talent for a major improvement, and Sean Payton is a good coach, but this start to the season has been bad. They’re lucky to be 1-1 after the easiest two-game stretch of their schedule.
15. Miami Dolphins (2-0, LW: 25)
Do you believe? The Titans and Jets, the teams the Dolphins beat, are 2-0 in their other games. So it’s not a glaring example of the Dolphins going 2-0 against terrible teams. Ryan Tannehill looks at least decent. Our preconceived notions of the Dolphins gives them a higher bar to cross before we buy into this 2-0 start. If they can beat the Raiders at home Sunday, a Week 4 game at New England becomes very interesting.
14. Baltimore Ravens (1-1, LW: 12)
13. Carolina Panthers (1-1, LW: 9)
D.J. Moore, Carolina’s first-round pick who was buried on the depth chart after preseason, had a 51-yard catch for a touchdown. Head coach Ron Rivera said the team needs to get Moore involved more. With Greg Olsen out and the Panthers thin in the passing game, Moore’s ability to contribute is a big factor the rest of this season.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0, LW: 19)
Are the Bengals the favorite in the AFC North now? They looked much better than the Ravens on Thursday night, the Steelers are in a really bad place, and then there are the Browns. I can’t entirely count out the Steelers or the Ravens, but the Bengals look like they’re pretty good.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0, LW: 22)
Even if you don’t believe that Ryan Fitzpatrick can keep up near this pace (nobody should believe he’ll keep up this pace; it would be the greatest season in NFL history if he did), he could still have a good year because of all the talent around him. It’s reasonable to believe that Jameis Winston could have done something similar to what Fitzpatrick is doing now, thanks to the offensive talent, had he not gotten suspended. Which means it could end up being one costly suspension for Winston.
10. Atlanta Falcons (1-1, LW: 11)
The Falcons needed that win over the Panthers, but at some point they’re going to feel the losses of safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones. Not to mention running back Devonta Freeman, who seems to be breaking down a bit going back to last year. Jones in particular might be a really big loss.
9. Denver Broncos (2-0, LW: 14)
The Broncos thought they would be getting a jolt in the running game from a rookie, but it hasn’t been third-round pick Royce Freeman. Freeman has been solid, but undrafted Phillip Lindsay has been better. Lindsay is the first undrafted player in NFL history with more than 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first two games. I’m not sure if Lindsay, generously listed at 190 pounds, can hold up all season. But he’s really good.
8. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1, LW: 10)
Rams vs. Chargers on Sunday is an A-plus matchup. Nobody in Los Angeles will care, but it’s a great game that’ll tell us a lot about both teams.
7. Green Bay Packers (1-0-1, LW: 6)
The Packers needed to win that game. Sure, the Clay Matthews penalty was controversial, but there were other opportunities to make a play that would have finished the victory. Giving away a half of a win to the Vikings, in what might be the tightest division race in football, might be enormous down the road.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1, LW: 4)
In these rankings I often give teams a pass for playing with their backup quarterback. Just because Nick Foles got hot last postseason for a couple games doesn’t mean the Eagles don’t deserve the same benefit of the doubt. Now that Carson Wentz is back, we can start to see what the 2018 Eagles really are.
5. New England Patriots (1-1, LW: 3)
Will the Josh Gordon trade work out? Probably not. Gordon is unreliable, and he faces a steep challenge mastering a Patriots offense that has chewed up other receivers. But the Patriots gave up practically nothing to find out. I mentioned Dallas before, but there are a bunch of teams that should have taken that low-cost gamble.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0, LW: 7)
Everything that has been said about Patrick Mahomes is well deserved, but let’s also give some credit to Andy Reid. The offensive coordinators change in Kansas City but the offense always looks fantastic. Mahomes is the first quarterback in NFL history with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in his first two games. Credit Mahomes, who looks like a sure-fire superstar. But don’t forget Reid either.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0, LW: 5)
The thing about a streaky quarterback is you’ll get some good games out of him. Blake Bortles is streaky. He’s not bad week in and week out. He just has bad games. He was very good on Sunday against the Patriots. It might have been the best game of his career. If the Jaguars can get that Bortles in January, I’m not sure anyone in the AFC can beat them.
2. Minnesota Vikings (1-0-1, LW: 1)
The Rams taking their No. 1 spot is more a reflection of L.A.’s dominance. There’s no shame in getting a tie at Lambeau Field, and the way Kirk Cousins played on Sunday should make the Vikings feel very good going forward.
1. Los Angeles Rams (2-0, LW: 2)
That Rams defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown in seven quarters? All-world Aaron Donald has two solo tackles and no sacks already. Let’s go out on a limb and say that won’t continue. So yes, the Rams’ defense should get even better.
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