On New Year’s Day in 2017 the Kansas City Chiefs won their regular-season finale, with Charcandrick West’s two touchdown catches from Alex Smith leading the way over the San Diego Chargers.
The Chiefs won the AFC West title that day, taking a tiebreaker with the Oakland Raiders. From that day until Sunday night, the Chiefs held at least a share of first place in the AFC West every single day, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
When the Baltimore Ravens fell on Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s fumble Sunday night to seal a win over the Chiefs, Kansas City’s streak ended. Not only are the Chiefs not in first place, they’re looking up at two teams. The Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos are both 2-0. The Los Angeles Chargers are 1-1.
The Chiefs winning the AFC West has become one of the biggest locks in the NFL. Part of that has been the Chiefs’ dominance, but the other part is that the other three division teams have rarely been good enough to make things interesting. This season, they all are.
The Raiders have two quality wins over the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Broncos haven’t played a tough schedule, but we can see that Teddy Bridgewater is having a positive impact on the offense. The Chargers lost a last-second game to the Dallas Cowboys, but they’ll be a factor too. L.A. has a chance to make things very interesting when it travels to face the Chiefs this weekend.
Of course, whether the Chiefs win the division yet again depends mostly on the Chiefs. At Kansas City’s peak, it’s probably the best team in football. But it has been surprisingly rare to see that Chiefs team since the middle of last season.
Against-the-spread records don’t matter in NFL standings, but they can be telling. The Chiefs are just 1-11-1 against the spread since last Nov. 1. They’re mostly doing just enough to get by every week. That matters, but elite teams generally have a few blowouts over a 13-game stretch. The only game the Chiefs have won by more than six points since last Nov. 1 was the AFC championship game against the Buffalo Bills.
The Chiefs are still great, but it has been a long time since they were wrecking the rest of the NFL. In Week 1, they needed a furious comeback against the Cleveland Browns to win at home. In Week 2 they blew a double-digit lead and lost. If their inability to pull away from anyone lately is a sign, the AFC West race might actually be pretty good. The Chargers still have the highest ceiling, but we can’t rule out the Raiders or Broncos. Both have looked good.
The Chiefs still should win the division. They’re the best team. But it has been a long time since there was any real intrigue. We might get some this season.
Here are the power rankings following Week 2 of the NFL season:
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2, Last week: 32)
Trevor Lawrence’s line Sunday: 14-of-33 for 118 yards. He had a 37.2 passer rating. The Jaguars aren’t very good but Lawrence has been part of the reason so far. He has to play better.
31. Houston Texans (1-1, LW: 31)
Tyrod Taylor hasn’t been ruled out of Thursday’s game yet, but it would be a tough turnaround. The Texans have been very competitive this season, but that job gets tougher if Davis Mills is at quarterback.
30. New York Jets (0-2, LW: 28)
The Jets need something to help Zach Wilson, whether it’s an offensive line or a running game or some play-calling that’s not putting him in position to force downfield interceptions. He has taken a league-leading 10 sacks. He has five interceptions. The Jets have 20 points through two games. It’s not good.
29. Detroit Lions (0-2, LW: 30)
The Lions aren’t good, but they have shown some decent signs, whether a comeback to almost tie the 49ers in Week 1 or leading at the half at Lambeau Field on Monday night. Dan Campbell seems like the type of coach who can keep his team engaged, even when the record will look ugly.
28. Atlanta Falcons (0-2, LW: 29)
The Falcons’ point differential through two games is minus-49, easily the worst in the NFL. It’s not like you can blame the schedule; the Eagles lost right after blowing out the Falcons. It’s just a bad team that isn’t getting much out of the few blue-chip players it actually has.
27. New York Giants (0-2, LW: 27)
Daniel Jones played well, and if not for an offsides penalty on a missed field goal, the Giants would have gotten a nice win at Washington. Not all is lost, though 0-2 isn’t a great place to be.
26. Minnesota Vikings (0-2, LW: 25)
The NFL can be cruel. The Vikings gave up a fourth-and-inches completion to lose in overtime of Week 1. They had a 37-yard field goal to win in Week 2. If they’re 1-0-1, they probably are feeling pretty good. Now, they might be wondering if Mike Zimmer is on the hot seat.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1, LW: 24)
Joe Burrow had a rough day, but he doesn’t seem like the type who will let that bother him. There are better days ahead for the Bengals, even if they’re not there yet.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1, LW: 23)
The Eagles had three plays of more than 10 yards, not including Jalen Hurts runs: Quez Watkins’ 91-yard gain in which he didn’t score, a 14-yard catch by Dallas Goedert and an 11-yard catch by DeVonta Smith. The Eagles’ playmakers around Hurts are better than this, and they’ll need to be going forward (as will Hurts).
23. Chicago Bears (1-1, LW: 26)
Justin Fields looked a beat late on most of his throws. But, he was a rookie coming off the bench cold. He should be a lot better in Week 3 with a full week of practice, if he gets the start.
22. Indianapolis Colts (0-2, LW: 21)
When you get zero points on your first two trips inside the 5-yard line then lose by a field goal, there will be regrets. The Colts play at the Titans this weekend, and if they’re 0-3 coming out of that they’ll be in a hole they might not dig out of.
21. Washington Football Team (1-1, LW: 20)
It was a heck of a win against the Giants, but we need to start wondering when the defense will show up. Daniel Jones had way too much time in the pocket. We’ll see what it does Sunday at Buffalo. Washington isn’t competing for an NFC East title unless the defense is really good, and it hasn’t been yet.
20. Dallas Cowboys (1-1, LW: 19)
Tony Pollard had 109 yards on 13 carries while Ezekiel Elliott had 71 yards on 16 carries. This is why you don’t pay running backs top dollar. Regardless, it seems clear the Cowboys have two backs they can trust and use.
19. Tennessee Titans (1-1, LW: 18)
Derrick Henry is from another era, and it’s great. No other running back looks like him, plays like him or has anywhere near the workload he does. He had 41 touches and 237 total yards in a win the Titans needed. And if the Titans ask next week, he’ll probably do the same thing again.
18. New Orleans Saints (1-1, LW: 7)
Hard to remember the last team that had such a big drop from one week to another. It’s arguable the Saints were the NFL’s best team in Week 1 and its worst in Week 2. Six first downs, 128 yards? How can you reconcile that with what we saw in the opener against the Packers?
17. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1, LW: 10)
Justin Herbert is still a young quarterback, something that gets forgotten because he has been so good. His two interceptions came in Cowboys territory, including one into the end zone. You’re not going to make those mistakes and win in the NFL, and the picks cost the Chargers a shot at what would have been a nice win.
16. New England Patriots (1-1, LW: 15)
Josh Uche, a second-round draft pick last year, did little as a rookie. This season he’s off to a fast start with three sacks, including two Sunday. He could be a big piece for the Patriots this season, and maybe for a while.
15. Miami Dolphins (1-1, LW: 13)
It’s hard to know what to do with the Dolphins. Had they lost 35-0 with their starting quarterback that would have been a big blow, but Tua Tagovailoa exited with bruised ribs after four passes. We’ll check back with the Dolphins when they have Tua healthy again. A Week 3 game against the Raiders is very interesting.
14. Carolina Panthers (2-0, LW: 22)
Sam Darnold will get a lot of attention, but it’s the defense that needs more respect. This is a really exciting unit with what looks like a top-end pass rush. The Panthers made life miserable on the Saints’ offense. Keep an eye on Carolina as this could be a playoff team.
13. Green Bay Packers (1-1, LW: 14)
Through six quarters, when the 0-1 Packers trailed the Lions at halftime of Week 2, it looked scary for Green Bay. The Packers still need to get better on defense, but it was a step forward. And at least a win. It would not have been a fun week in Green Bay at 0-2.
12. Cleveland Browns (1-1, LW: 11)
Odell Beckham Jr. is still out, having not fully recovered from his torn ACL. Jarvis Landry has a sprained MCL, and that’s not an easy injury for a receiver. Until the Browns get their top two pass catchers back, the offense could be one dimensional.
11. Buffalo Bills (1-1, LW: 9)
Because the offense gets the attention, and the Bills have lost a game, their defense isn’t getting enough credit. It has played very well two straight weeks. A lot of Sunday’s shutout was the Dolphins losing starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to injury, but Miami still had an NFL offense. Once the Bills’ offense really takes off, Buffalo still could reach the heights expected of it before the season thanks to a stifling defense.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1, LW: 8)
The offense seems stuck. You can’t pin all of Sunday’s loss, with just 17 points, on Ben Roethlisberger, but the passing game wasn’t great. Pittsburgh, who drafted running back Najee Harris in the first round, never got a running game established. And when the defense gives up 382 yards passing, it’s not going to turn out well.
9. Denver Broncos (2-0, LW: 16)
Courtland Sutton’s huge day is a great sign for the Broncos. Eventually they’ll get Jerry Jeudy back from a high ankle sprain, and they have a fun group of skill-position talent. The defense is good too. This is an interesting team, and since they play the Jets on Sunday, they’re likely going to be 3-0.
8. Baltimore Ravens (1-1, LW: 12)
The Ravens were looking at starting 0-2 from a weird overtime game and a last-second loss to the Chiefs after a great comeback. A loss Sunday night would have been devastating but rookie Odafe Oweh knocked loose a fumble and recovered it. It’s way too early to say that saved the Ravens’ season, but it might turn out to be true.
7. Las Vegas Raiders (2-0, LW: 17)
When we hear so-and-so is the “most underrated player,” they’re usually not underrated at all, just under the radar for whatever reason. Derek Carr really is underrated. He keeps playing good, solid football, and he’s off to a fantastic start this season. He’s much lower on those quarterback ranking lists than deserved. It’s time to give Carr some long-overdue credit.
6. Seattle Seahawks (1-1, LW: 5)
The Seahawks lose in overtime to fall to 1-1, and they’re all alone in last place of the NFC West. They’re No. 6 in these power rankings (not going to penalize them too much for an overtime loss) and yet the fourth NFC West team on this list. This is going to be a tough division.
5. Arizona Cardinals (2-0, LW: 6)
The good news is that playoff teams need to win when they don’t play their best. This wasn’t the Cardinals’ best. Kyler Murray made some bad mistakes and the defense wasn’t close to as good as it was in the opener. The Cardinals needed a missed 37-yard field goal to win. But they won. That’ll matter in a few months when the playoff field is set.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (1-1, LW: 1)
It’s not like a loss at Baltimore is bad. It stinks for Clyde Edwards-Helaire that it’ll be on him for his late fumble, but he hasn’t built up enough goodwill for everyone to forgive and forget. He has been nowhere near the playmaker the Chiefs thought they were getting in Round 1 of the 2020 draft.
3. Los Angeles Rams (2-0, LW: 4)
Cooper Kupp had a magnificent day and posted a dominant 9-163-2 line in the win. There will be weeks it’s Robert Woods’ turn or Tyler Higbee turns in a big game, but Kupp is going to put up a monster season.
2. San Francisco 49ers (2-0, LW: 3)
The offense carried a Week 1 win. In Week 2, it was a defensive gem. At some point both sides will both dominate for a stretch. About the only issue for the 49ers now is finding a healthy running back to face Green Bay in Week 3.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0, LW: 2)
Is Tom Brady really going to set a single-season touchdown record at age 44? It sure seems like the Buccaneers are making that a goal because Brady is throwing it early and often. What he’s doing at this age is something we’ll be talking about decades from now.