By David Helman
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer
Does anyone do parity better than the NFL?
If you’re ever confused as to why this league gets more absurdly popular with each passing year, look no further than the standings. If you squint, you can see the outliers. There are two or three teams that look definitively better than everyone else, and there’s a small handful of teams we can already tell are going to have a rough year.
Everyone else? About even. Case in point: 19 of the 32 teams in the league sit at 1-1 after a wild couple of weeks. Only six teams have made it through to 2-0 unscathed. And perhaps more impressively? Thanks to the Week 1 tie between Indianapolis and Houston, even fewer teams sit at 0-2 — a mere five.
That’s a lot of fun for fans and media alike, although it makes for quite a headache to put together the Power Rankings for Week 2.
Here’s how things stands through two games. See if you can tell where all hell starts to break loose.
The Bills look like they’re playing Madden, and they honestly need to crank the difficulty up. Everyone expected them to beat Tennessee, but running the Titans off the field is a different kind of statement. Buffalo is the Super Bowl favorite until otherwise notified.
Once again, the Chiefs turned in one of the best wins of the weekend, bouncing back from a 17-7 deficit to grab a division win over the Chargers. Kansas City got 13 second-half points from its defense and special teams, proving the burden doesn’t always have to fall on Patrick Mahomes.
Tampa Bay’s offensive struggles are undoubtedly tied to the injuries all over its offensive line, which has been decimated to start the year. Figuring that out against Green Bay isn’t going to be fun. Fortunately for the Bucs, they have a defense that has allowed only 13 points through two games, which is a nice thing to have if you’re going to win ugly.
Bucs finally beat the Saints
Mike Evans and Marcus Lattimore were ejected from the Buccaneers-Saints game Sunday after initiating a team-wide brawl. From that point on, the Bucs would go on to outscore New Orleans 17-7 to win 20-10.
If the Eagles can get their offense running three-dimensionally like they did against Minnesota, they’re a tough group to stop. Everything builds off the ability to run the ball well, and if that gets going there are too many weapons in the passing game to contain. And as impressive as that was, Darius Slay shutting down Justin Jefferson and making Kirk Cousins look foolish at the same time might have been even better. Few teams had a more impressive Week 2 showing than the Birds.
What a ride. It’s crazy enough that the Dolphins overcame a 35-14 fourth-quarter deficit in Baltimore on Sunday, but they also learned a lot about their young quarterback. It’s no secret Tua Tagovailoa hasn’t stacked up well against Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert to this point in their careers, but his 469 yards and six touchdown passes offered a glimpse that maybe that’s about to change. With Tagovailoa throwing to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, things look awfully fun in Miami right now.
Does Dolphins’ comeback win make them AFC contenders?
The Dolphins came back from 21 points down to defeat Lamar Jackson and the Ravens 42-38 in Week 2. Joy Taylor celebrates her Dolphins’ big win, then breaks down how they impressed her.
There’s no shame in losing to one of the NFL’s powerhouses, but Justin Herbert’s pick-six was a brutal 14-point swing in the fourth quarter. Hopefully his fractured rib cartilage won’t be a long-term issue, as this certainly looks like a team with the talent to make some noise this season.
Credit to the Dolphins for an incredible finish, but the bottom line is the Ravens had a 35-14 lead at the start of the fourth quarter and blew it. They even got a vintage game from Lamar Jackson and it wasn’t good enough. Injuries were part of it, but their defense completely collapsed down the stretch, and their offense could have played more efficiently with a lead. In a crowded AFC playoff picture, this is a loss that’s likely to haunt Baltimore.
What looked like a get-right game almost turned into a total disaster, as the Falcons’ special teams helped them rally in the fourth quarter. It was nice to see the Rams’ offense look more like we expected it to, but ball security still looks like an issue.
Perhaps we got a tad too excited about an impressive Vikings opener. This just didn’t look like the same team from Week 1 — which is something that’s become all too familiar with Minnesota in prime time. The defense did not have an answer for Jalen Hurts, and Kirk Cousins played arguably the worst half of the season so far. Back to the obscurity of daytime football you go, Vikings.
Let’s not overreact to a dominant win against the Bears. But it is worth noting that there’s a definite blueprint to success in the way this team is built. If the Packers can run the ball down their opponent’s throat, play good defense and get a handful of Aaron Rodgers Things in the passing game, they can win a lot of games.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers bounce back vs. Bears
Aaron Rodgers showed why he owns the Bears, finishing 19-for-25 for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers’ 27-10 win. Is the Pack officially back?
This is where things start going off the rails. Yes, San Francisco lost an ugly game to Chicago last week, but those were the Trey Lance 49ers. Of course, it’s a massive bummer that Lance’s season is over before it really got started, but we have a much better idea of who this team is with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm. When he entered for Lance, things looked awfully familiar, with the ground game rumbling and Jimmy G making the obvious plays in an easy win over Seattle.
12. New York Giants
Do I really think the Giants are a playoff team? Not really — or not yet, anyway. But you tell me how to properly sort out the 19 different 1-1 teams in this league. I don’t have a clue, so it makes sense to reward the Giants for their 2-0 start. Sunday’s win wasn’t exactly pretty, but style points are for nerds. Just win, baby.
13. Dallas Cowboys
That’s what we get for trying to bury anyone after one game. The Cowboys had as bad a Week 1 as you could imagine, lost their starting quarterback — and managed to put together a complete team win a week later. Credit to Cooper Rush and the Dallas offensive line for rising to the occasion, but the real star of the show was Micah Parsons. If the Dallas pass rush can hit every quarterback the way it hit Joe Burrow on Sunday, the Cowboys might just be able to hang around until Dak Prescott returns from injury.
It would be disingenuous to say the Cardinals played a great game, but it’s all about how you finish. Kyler Murray showed exactly why he’s so valuable, as the Raiders simply could not get him on the ground. The Cardinals are going to need to learn how to start better, but there’s no apology needed for finding a way to win that game.
Kyler Murray leads Cardinals to wild OT win in Las Vegas
Kyler Murray and the Cardinals were down 20-0 at halftime to Las Vegas before storming back to force overtime and win the game. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe react to Arizona’s comeback win.
It’s nice to see all these big-time defensive draft picks balling out. Devin Lloyd had six tackles and an interception, while Josh Allen had two sacks and Travon Walker forced another interception with a quarterback hit. Trevor Lawrence also led the offense on three long, sustained scoring drives. Nice day all around.
Minkah Fitzpatrick doesn’t get enough love for how special he is, and this Pittsburgh defense is going to be a key part of how far this team goes. That said, the Steelers’ offensive limitations were on full display against New England. Maybe it’s too early to call for Kenny Pickett, but Mitchell Trubisky didn’t offer a hint of a vertical threat in the passing game.
The Bucs’ defense looks legit, so it makes sense that the Saints had to fight for points. But this offense has now struggled with consistency for two straight weeks. The Saints have been abysmal on third down in both games, and it doesn’t help that Jameis Winston (albeit hurt) turned into the 2019 version of himself on Sunday, throwing three picks in one quarter of play.
Bucs-Saints brawl gave Sean Payton a case of FOMO
Former Saints coach Sean Payton joins Colin Cowherd to share his thoughts on the Saints-Bucs fight and also explain why he truly missed being on the sidelines for the first time.
18. Detroit Lions
It’s not a guarantee of long-term success, but what a feel-good day for the Lions. The score says they beat the Commanders by only nine points, but Detroit was in control for the vast majority of that game. The Lions ran the rock for 191 yards, and Amon-Ra St. Brown had 184 all-purpose yards as he continues to prove he’s one of the sneaky stars of this league. It’s unclear just how many games the Lions are going to win, but they’re not going to be any easy out for many teams.
Related: Is it time to believe in the Lions?
Sorry to hate on a win, but, man, it’s just tough to figure out where the Pats’ points are going to come from this year. Their first touchdown of the day came on a superhuman effort from Nelson Agholor, and their second came after a muffed Pittsburgh punt set them up on the Steelers’ 10-yard line. Credit the Patriots for getting the job done, but it’s hard to imagine them coming up with the necessary offense to beat the upper echelon of the league.
Well, that was a disaster. After racing out to a 20-0 lead in the first half, the Raiders’ offense put together only one drive that covered more than 23 yards the rest of the way. The offensive no-show put even more strain on their defense, which just could not get off the field on Arizona scoring drives of 11 plays, nine plays and 18 plays. Everyone has to chip in when you blow a 20-point lead, and this one is going to be hard to shake.
Maybe it’s too early to panic, but it’s hard not to be nervous. We knew the offensive line wasn’t going to be the best in the league, but it was supposed to be improved enough to prevent Joe Burrow from getting sacked 13 times in two games. And while the defense hasn’t been bad, opposing quarterbacks are going to get way tougher than Mitchell Trubisky and Cooper Rush. All is not lost, but the Super Bowl hangover feels very real.
It’s always shocking to see an NFL team get run over — literally. In a league where four yards per carry is the benchmark for success, the Lions doubled that number while rushing for 191 yards on the day. Add in the Commanders’ inability to protect Carson Wentz, surrendering five sacks on the day, and it was a woeful day in the trenches for Washington.
23. Cleveland Browns
It’s definitely not Nick Chubb‘s fault that the Browns lost this game. But it’s incredibly cruel to think that, had he gone down after picking up the first down at the Jets’ goal line, Cleveland could have kneeled out the clock on a 24-17 victory. Instead, the Browns’ secondary experienced a total collapse. If the goal is to stay relevant until Deshaun Watson returns from suspension, this was the type of win Cleveland needed to have.
Jets capitalize on Browns’ meltdown
Craig Carton celebrates after his Jets come out of Week 2 with an improbable win. They benefited from a Browns collapse in the second half.
24. Denver Broncos
It’s hard to tell what’s more troubling between Russell Wilson‘s anemic play and head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s decision-making. Through two weeks, Hackett looks totally overmatched by the stress of in-game strategy. Denver did manage to get a win, but it’s just hard to feel good about much of what the Broncos have put on tape.
Is Nathaniel Hackett overmatched?
Fans booed new coach Nathaniel Hackett in the Broncos’ home win over the Texans. Colin Cowherd explains why he believes Hackett is in over his head.
25. Chicago Bears
There are the makings of some decent football here. The Bears ran the ball well against a solid defense, and they held Green Bay to a decent 3-for-5 in the red zone. My thing is this: If the organizational goal is to evaluate Justin Fields, how is he attempting only 11 passes in a game? Obviously, the offensive line is a weak spot, but you’ve got to find a way. Being that one-dimensional isn’t getting Chicago anywhere.
26. New York Jets
Is this win going to lift the Jets to an amazing final record? Maybe not. But it’s important for a young team to learn how to overcome adversity. Rallying from a 30-17 deficit might not have been a big deal to Joe Flacco, who has played in plenty of big football games, but the rest of this roster is full of young guys who need to learn what success feels like. Given what this franchise has been through these past few years, any positive is a big deal. Not to mention, Garrett Wilson looks like a dude.
There can’t be a team in the league out to a more disappointing start than these guys. What else can be said for a group that is not only winless on the season — but also just got shut out? Between Matt Ryan‘s three picks, the offensive line’s rough day at the office and the lack of weapons outside, it’s hard to identify many things to feel good about with this Indianapolis offense.
28. Seattle Seahawks
That looked more like the Seahawks team people expected. The 49ers’ defense stonewalled the Seattle run game, and the Seahawks threw two interceptions — one of those coming in the red zone. Granted, we all think very highly of San Francisco’s defense, but it’s not exactly great that Seattle’s only score of the day came on special teams.
In a game the Panthers eventually lost by three points, they opened the day by turning the ball over inside their own 40-yard line — twice in a row. The frustrating thing is that Carolina has played both of its first two games close, but the Panthers haven’t been clean enough to get the desired result. It might not be the main culprit for why they lost, but a passing offense that averaged only five yards per attempt didn’t help.
Panthers fall short in loss vs. Giants
Baker Mayfield will have to wait another week to get his first win as a Panther. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe grade Mayfield’s Week 2 performance in a 19-16 loss to the Giants.
30. Atlanta Falcons
How fun would it have been if the Falcons rebounded from a 28-3 deficit of their own? For the briefest of moments, it looked like it was about to happen. It doesn’t change the ugly first half, but credit to Atlanta for scrapping back against the Rams.
31. Tennessee Titans
A lot of teams are going to lose to the Bills, but it’d be a step in the right direction to at least look like you belong on the field. The Titans were outclassed every way imaginable Monday night, and 0-2 isn’t a fun place to be for a team that was the No. 1 seed in the AFC last season. Every facet of this squad had a rough Week 2.
32. Houston Texans
It says a lot about how little we thought of the Texans that they’re 0-1-1, and we’re all impressed with how well they’ve played. Credit to them for scrapping, but they still managed just 254 yards of offense and failed to score a touchdown in Denver.
David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter @davidhelman_.
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