We are back with The Ringer’s NFL Power Rankings as we close the books on Week 2 of the 2022 season. The Cincinnati Bengals are in a surprising free fall after losing outright as favorites in back-to-back weeks. Maybe their Week 1 loss to Pittsburgh was a special-teams-induced fluke, but in Week 2 they suffered a complete offensive and defensive meltdown against the Dallas Cowboys and backup quarterback Cooper Rush. Then there’s Miami and Philadelphia, a pair of surprising 2-0 teams who won big in Week 2 and are among the biggest risers. Check out the rest of my updated power rankings below as I try to sift through all of the chaos that is THIS LEAGUE.
The Best of the Best
1. Buffalo Bills (2-0, last week’s ranking: 1)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0, last week: 2)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0, last week: 3)
4. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1, last week: 4)
Spotlight: Chiefs Are Both Lucky and Good
Patrick Mahomes has been pretty spectacular this season: He’s leading the league in passer rating (127.9, well above his career rating of 106.5), is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes (seven) and he’s second in the league behind Josh Allen in EPA per dropback, according to TruMedia. But he’s also been quite lucky. On Thursday, Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. dropped two interceptions (one of which was initially ruled a pick but controversially overturned upon review) and two other potential Mahomes interceptions were negated by defensive penalties.
According to Pro Football Focus’s charting, 24 different quarterbacks through Sunday’s games have logged at least two turnover-worthy plays. Mahomes, who has recorded four through two games, is the only QB other than Dallas’s Cooper Rush (who made his first start of the season on Sunday) without an actual turnover.
Mahomes’s turnover luck will likely regress to the mean, but the Chiefs’ 2-0 start, including the Week 2 win over a division rival, gives Kansas City an early advantage in a loaded AFC West. The Chiefs lead the entire league in offensive EPA per play and tout a defense currently ranked 10th in yards per play allowed (4.99). Veteran DL Chris Jones and rookie first-round edge rusher George Karlaftis lead the team with 12 and nine QB pressures, respectively, and have anchored a pass rush that currently ranks fifth in pressure rate (40.4 percent). Kansas City’s front seven made its presence felt against the Chargers, pressuring Justin Herbert 11 times and hitting him five times (with one sack) in the second half as the Chiefs mounted their comeback. If the Chiefs can maintain this sort of consistent pressure, they’ll be one of the most complete teams in the NFL. As it stands now, the Chiefs remain one of the two powerhouses in the AFC.
Flawed Postseason Contenders
5. Green Bay Packers (1-1, last week: 5)
6. Baltimore Ravens (1-1, last week: 7)
7. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0, last week: 12)
8. Miami Dolphins (2-0, last week: 13)
Spotlight: Miami’s Speed Unlocked a New Tua
The gaudy box score statistics (469 passing yards, six touchdowns) for Tua Tagovailoa in the Dolphins’ 21-point comeback win over Baltimore heavily inflate perception of his performance. Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald struggled to dial up pressure consistently, and the Ravens’ young, injury-ridden secondary allowed big plays on multiple blown coverages, including two fourth-quarter touchdowns to Tyreek Hill that Tagovailoa underthrew. And Miami head coach Mike McDaniel, along with perhaps the NFL’s most electric receiving duo in Hill and second-year standout Jaylen Waddle, just created so much easy offense for Tagovailoa—Hill and Waddle each averaged more than 3 yards of separation on 22 combined targets en route to 361 receiving yards and four scores, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
But that doesn’t mean Tagovailoa didn’t still put together the best performance of his young career. He threw two ugly interceptions and led another drive that netted just 2 yards in the first half, but he—surprisingly—didn’t collapse as a result.
McDaniel told the media after the game that, “The absolutely worst thing could have happened” when Tagovailoa threw the first interception and started pressing on his way to the second interception. But then he finally responded.
“It’s awesome to be critical of yourself,” McDaniel said. “It is good. He has a high standard for himself. But after the first game, I just wanted to see the guy enjoy playing football. … This is huge because he stopped worrying about the last play and he went and played and took his responsibility serious[ly] to his teammates about ‘Hey, I’m going to lead this team confidently.’
“I think it was a moment that he’ll never forget, that hopefully he can use moving forward.”
Better than either of the deep Hill touchdowns and any sexy McDaniel RPO or pass at the line of scrimmage, Tagovailoa threw with extreme accuracy into tight windows and a lot of that confidence McDaniel was speaking about on third down. Against Baltimore he completed seven passes on throws beyond the sticks on third down, two more than any other single game in his career, according to TruMedia. The game looked fun for Tagovailoa for the first time in a long time, and that’s a massive win for the Dolphins’ postseason aspirations.
9. Los Angeles Rams (1-1, last week: 6)
10. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2, last week: 8)
11. Minnesota Vikings (1-1, last week: 9)
12. Denver Broncos (1-1, last week: 10)
13. San Francisco 49ers (1-1, last week: 11)
14. Arizona Cardinals (1-1, last week: 14)
Spotlight: Cardinals Counting on Kyler to Save the Day
Kyler Murray is going to have to be a real-life superhero every week for Arizona to make the playoffs, let alone make an actual run in the postseason. In back-to-back games to start the 2022 season, the Cardinals have come out flat. The team’s minus-46 scoring differential in the first three quarters of games through two weeks is the league’s lowest, per TruMedia. The receiving corps is struggling without DeAndre Hopkins (still suspended for four more games), head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s opening scripts for Murray and the offense have been stale and conservative, and they’ve fallen into deep holes in each of their first two games.
The difference in Week 2 compared to the opener against Kansas City is that Murray was able to pull his team out. Trailing the Raiders 23-7 in the fourth quarter, Murray orchestrated back-to-back eight-point possessions to force overtime, and did so with multiple absurd plays out of structure on critical downs. On the first fourth-quarter touchdown drive, Murray dropped a dime to Marquise Brown on fourth-and-4 as the receiver fought through defensive pass interference. And on the drive to force overtime, Murray scrambled for two fourth-down conversions, including a touchdown run, then completed a two-point conversion from 7 yards out with one of the best passes of the NFL season thus far.
As entertaining as it was to watch, such heroics aren’t sustainable. Even without top offensive line or receiving units right now, Kingsbury needs to be more aggressive with Murray—specifically early in games and on first and second downs—to avoid having to pray for Murray to go Super Saiyan in the fourth quarter every week.
On the Bubble
15. New Orleans Saints (1-1, last week: 17)
16. Tennessee Titans (0-2, last week: 15)
17. Indianapolis Colts (0-1-1, last week: 16)
18. Dallas Cowboys (1-1, last week: 18)
19. Cleveland Browns (1-1, last week: 19)
20. New England Patriots (1-1, last week: 21)
Spotlight: Patriots Offense Lacks Weapons and Creativity
The Pats offense is in such an unfortunate place. Second-year quarterback Mac Jones looked a lot more comfortable running a higher percentage of 11 personnel against Pittsburgh in Week 2 than he did against Miami in the opener, but no personnel grouping can mask a gross lack of playmaking talent and overall creativity. Patriots play caller Matt Patricia and Jones simply can’t get anything going on first and second reads right now. The skill-position players lack dynamism or the ability to create yards after the catch and fight through contact, and the vanilla play-calling—especially on early downs—isn’t creating any easy offense for Jones.
New England ranks dead last in EPA per play (-0.25) on early downs, and the team’s average distance to first down on subsequent third downs is 7.5 yards, which is the eighth-highest average in the NFL. After finishing tied for fifth in yards per attempt (7.0) on throws made within 2.5 seconds of the snap in 2021, Jones ranked 31st in the same category (3.5) through Sunday’s Week 2 games. Patriots pass catchers rank 28th in yards after the catch per reception (4.1). And Patricia has called play-action a league-low seven times (two in Week 1 and five in Week 2).
All of the numbers just illustrate how unsettled and unproductive this offense is right now. Jones’s dropback pressure rate is the fourth-lowest in the NFL through Week 2 at 24 percent, but he isn’t able to maximize a clean pocket. He ranks just 18th in EPA per clean dropback through two games, according to TruMedia. The Patricia-Jones pairing needs to figure things out in a hurry if the Patriots are going to win games against better teams than the Steelers.
Long-Shot Playoff Hopefuls
21. Las Vegas Raiders (0-2, last week: 20)
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1, last week: 27)
23. Washington Commanders (1-1, last week: 23)
24. New York Giants (2-0, last week: 25)
25. Detroit Lions (1-1, last week: 29)
26. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1, last week: 22)
27. Seattle Seahawks (1-1, last week: 24)
Spotlight: Brian Daboll Is Actually Rebuilding the Giants
No one had high expectations for the Giants going into 2022 (that includes me; I had them no. 27 in The Ringer’s preseason rankings). They had the worst odds of any NFC East team to win the division (+700), and only the Seahawks and Falcons had worse odds to win the conference. The hard pivot from the Dave Gettleman–Joe Judge era to first-year head coach Brian Daboll and first-year general manager Joe Schoen was an intentionally fresh start to a long-term rebuild for a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2011. Fast-forward to Week 3, and Daboll’s Giants are one of six 2-0 teams in the league. They’re finding ways to win games they shouldn’t, and their new head coach is dancing at the center of it all.
Daboll is leading by example. He’s holding players accountable and appears to be creating a confident, inspired culture his players are gravitating toward. Underdogs in Tennessee in Week 1, Daboll helped the Giants survive a boneheaded Daniel Jones interception in the red zone and unearthed a version of Saquon Barkley that New York has been desperate to see. Barkley led all running backs on the week with 194 total scrimmage yards and took a shovel pass from Jones into the end zone for the lead on a gutsy two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a man of his word,” Barkley told the media of Daboll’s decision to go for two. “He told us he was going to be aggressive, and he told us he was going to lean on the players to make plays. In that situation, he did exactly that. When you have a coach like that, it definitely will make you go out there and fight for him and execute in that situation.”
The players gave Daboll and Schoen the game ball after that win and continued to show grit in a 19-16 triumph over the Panthers in Week 2. Daboll made another bold decision in effectively benching veteran wideout Kenny Golladay, who has the highest cap hit of any receiver in the NFL this year, in favor of David Sills, who spent the past three seasons on and off the Giants’ practice squad and entered Sunday’s game with just two catches in his career. Golladay played just two offensive snaps against Carolina after playing 46 in Week 1, while Sills caught three passes for 37 yards, running 40 routes. It’s that level of accountability and confidence (and fearlessness) that’s going to right the ship in East Rutherford long term.
“We don’t waver,” Daboll told his players on Sunday. “This is going to be a long, hard journey. It is, for all of us. And the result is great, I love it. But remember, if we would’ve lost this game, it’s still about the preparation and our process.”
Process over results is everything this rebuilding Giants team needs right now. Titans kicker Randy Bullock could have made the 47-yard field goal in Week 1 and the Giants wouldn’t be sitting here tied for the early lead in the NFC East. The ball can always bounce the other way in hard-fought games. But the Giants’ collective buy-in to Daboll and his coaching philosophies is an obvious positive, regardless of the results.
Eyeing the No. 1 Pick
28. Atlanta Falcons (0-2, last week: 30)
29. Carolina Panthers (0-2, last week: 26)
30. Houston Texans (0-1-1, last week: 31)
31. New York Jets (1-1, last week: 32)
32. Chicago Bears (1-1, last week: 28)
Spotlight: Bad News Bears
The Bears’ offensive problems are many: Justin Fields is holding the ball too long, his receivers aren’t getting open, and the offensive line is bad. This isn’t a “chicken or egg” situation; it’s a “the entire coop is up in flames, please make it stop” situation.
Against a Packers defense that gave up 184 receiving yards to Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson alone the week prior, Fields on Sunday averaged 4.36 net yards per attempt across 17 dropbacks, the lowest of any quarterback not named Davis Mills in Week 2. Including his Week 1 game in torrential rain with San Francisco’s defense beating down on him, Fields is Pro Football Focus’s lowest-graded signal-caller (39.0) through two weeks.
Darnell Mooney is clearly the team’s most talented wideout and leader in routes run with 38 through Week 2, but he has just two receptions for 4 yards this season. And the slew of misfits behind Mooney in the wide receiver room—Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, and Byron Pringle—have combined for just five total receptions. That’s SEVEN total completed passes to wide receivers in two games. No one is creating consistent separation, and the offensive line isn’t helping anything develop downfield.
Fields has faced pressure on 48 percent of his dropbacks through two weeks, the second-highest average of any quarterback this season, according to TruMedia. He’s completed just four passes and thrown two picks on those 19 dropbacks. But even on the 21 dropbacks he hasn’t been pressured, Fields has completed just 11 passes for 76 yards and a score while averaging 2.60 seconds to throw, which is tied for the third-slowest average time to throw on non-pressured dropbacks of any quarterback this season.
Chicago can’t bank on the weather to help it out or rely on volatile late-game heroics to consistently win this season, but the bigger concern is just how badly Fields’s development will be stunted while playing in a situation cultivating bad habits (like taking unnecessary sacks) over worthwhile experience. According to PFF, Fields converted pressure into sacks at the sixth-highest rate (24 percent) in the NFL last season, and that same stat is now 26.3 percent through Week 2.
Stats current through Sunday’s games.