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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

14. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1; No. 13)

15. Dallas Cowboys (1-1; No. 15)

16. New England Patriots (1-1; No. 18)

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1; No. 10)

18. Carolina Panthers (2-0; No. 21)

19. Washington Football Team (1-1; No. 19)

20. Tennessee Titans (1-1, No. 22)

21. Minnesota Vikings (0-2; No. 25)

22. Miami Dolphins (1-1; No. 16)

Justin Herbert looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in just his second year, and that automatically makes the Chargers a contender. What’s disappointing are the continued mistakes that seem to cost Los Angeles every season. On Sunday against Dallas, it was an end-zone interception by Herbert and 12 penalties, two of which cost the Chargers touchdowns and six that took away first downs. They have the talent to be a threat in the AFC if they can just find a way to not beat themselves.

That’s not to belittle what the Cowboys did Sunday. As long as quarterback Dak Prescott is healthy, the NFC East seems to be theirs for the taking. An encouraging performance from the defense, including a standout game from rookie Micah Parsons filling in at defensive end, should build confidence heading into a Monday night game against the Eagles.

Speaking of wild cards, what exactly do Washington and Carolina have in quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke and Sam Darnold, respectively? Heinicke, filling in for the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick, looked impressive in Washington’s come-from-behind win over the Giants on Thursday night, while Darnold has been more efficient in Carolina than he ever was with the Jets. These teams aren’t yet threatening the Bucs, Packers or Rams at the top of the NFC, but they’re worth monitoring if these young quarterbacks continue to improve.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, feels like a known quantity. As long as the offense continues to rely on quick throws from Ben Roethlisberger, it’s going to be tough to move the ball efficiently down the field. There’s only so much a talented defense can do to prop up a sputtering offense that’s clearly still finding its footing under new coordinator Matt Canada.

A glimmer of hope

23. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1; No. 20)

 

24. Indianapolis Colts (0-2; No. 23)

25. Chicago Bears (1-1; No. 26)

26. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1; No. 24)

27. New York Giants (0-2; No. 27)

Outside of Indianapolis, which lost Carson Wentz to a pair of sprained ankles, there’s at least some optimism at the quarterback position among this group. Jalen Hurts has flashed his potential as a dual-threat in Philadelphia, Joe Burrow has already developed chemistry with first-round pick and former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase in Cincinnati, first-round pick Justin Fields might be taking over for the injured Andy Dalton in Chicago and Daniel Jones is Pro Football Focus’ sixth-highest graded quarterback through two weeks for the Giants. So far, none of those developments have been enough to produce many wins, but it’s at least something to hang on to this year and beyond.

The basement

28. Houston Texans (1-1; No. 30)

29. Atlanta Falcons (0-2; No. 28)

30. Detroit Lions (0-2; No. 32)

31. New York Jets (0-2; No. 29)

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2; No. 31)

Jets rookie Zach Wilson’s four-interception day against the Patriots is cause for concern, but New England coach Bill Belichick has made it a habit of torturing rookie quarterbacks throughout his career. How Jets coach Robert Saleh handles his first-round pick’s struggles is going to determine how much progress he makes in Year 1 of this rebuild.

In Jacksonville, it can’t get much worse. In fact, the team tweeted a message to fans asking for patience after a rocky start under new coach Urban Meyer. That’s not going to make anyone feel better about rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s growing pains or the porous offensive line that’s contributed to the No. 1 overall pick’s struggles. It’s going to be a long season for a coach and quarterback tandem that isn’t used to this much losing.

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