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NFL power rankings: Ravens prove they're still a contender, while Saints and Steelers take a tumble

C.J. Doon, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Football

5. Cleveland Browns (1-1; No. 8)

6. Baltimore Ravens (1-1; No. 9)

7. Green Bay Packers (1-1; No. 7)

8. Seattle Seahawks (1-1; No. 4)

It’s not hyperbole to say that the Ravens’ win over the Chiefs on Sunday night might have saved their season. Only 8% of NFL teams since 1990 have made the playoffs after starting 0-2, and the Ravens are dealing with a league-high 15 players on injured reserve. But behind a dominant rushing attack and an opportunistic defense, Baltimore showed it can still reach the heights of its 14-2 season in 2019 behind Jackson and coach John Harbaugh. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the AFC, especially as the Ravens get healthier.

The other two AFC teams that pose the biggest threat to the Chiefs, the Bills and Browns, both had nice bounce-back wins after disappointing openers. Josh Allen might not be the MVP-level quarterback he was in 2020, but playmakers on both sides of the ball should keep Buffalo in the mix as the clear favorite in the AFC East. Cleveland let Houston hang around Sunday, but the running game remains a weapon and quarterback Baker Mayfield is showing signs of improvement.

 

Meanwhile, the NFC West remains tough to predict. The Rams offense is much more potent with quarterback Matthew Stafford leading the way, but the defense might have taken a big step backwards with the loss of coordinator Brandon Staley and a few key pieces in the secondary. A matchup with the Bucs this weekend is an important measuring stick.

For Seattle, a blown 14-point lead in an overtime loss to the Titans raises more questions about the team’s ability to finish games, with the rushing attack limited to 3.0 yards per carry when you take out Alex Collins’ 25-yard run. Quarterback Russell Wilson is good enough to lead the Seahawks back to the playoffs, but they could be staring at another early exit if the defense doesn’t tighten up.

On Monday night, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers put a messy season opener behind him, throwing for 255 yards and four touchdowns in an easy win over the Lions. The Green Bay defense forced two turnovers but struggled to put any pressure on quarterback Jared Goff, raising concerns about how that unit measures up with the NFC’s top contenders.

Flawed contenders

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