It’s been a fun season so far in the NFL, and we’re already seeing a good bit of movement in my NFL Top 20 series entering week two. All of the top teams have shown signs of weakness, which means this season will be riveting. All of the Super Bowl bets that you made this year hold some merit. You can check out last weeks top 20 at the link below:
Injuries were commonplace this week, as the mentions will are littered throughout this entire week wrap-up. This week, several starting quarterbacks left games, including Andy Dalton, Tua Tagovailoa, Carson Wentz, and Tyrod Taylor. Stars across the board left games, too, such as TJ Watt, Jarvis Landry, Brandon Graham, Bradley Chubb, and Dalvin Cook. Even Taylor Lewan fell victim to an injury, only in pre-game warmups, and was left inactive.
Overall, we have a lot to unpack and watch in the upcoming weeks. Let’s start with an in-depth look at week two:
4 teams who didn’t make the cut to watch next week
- Indianapolis Colts (0-2; L 2. LA Rams 27-24)
- Cincinnati Bengals (1-1; L @ 19. Chicago 20-17)
- Miami Dolphins (1-1; L 9. Buffalo 35-0)
- Minnesota Vikings (0-2; L 7. @ Arizona 34-33)
The Indianapolis Colts have shown the ability to be competitive and have played a tough opening two weeks between the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams. Now, starting quarterback Carson Wentz is hurt. If the Colts have to go with backup Jacob Eason long-term, it’s not promising. Eason threw an interception in his first NFL passing attempt to Jalen Ramsey this week while starting a two-minute drill.
This week, the typically efficient Joe Burrow surrendered three interceptions, including a pick-six, to the Chicago Bears in the Cincinnati Bengals 20-17 loss. Although they mounted a comeback, it took too long for the offense to start moving, and they were ultimately too late. Burrow played arguably his worst game as a professional. The positive, however, is that the defense played another solid game.
The Minnesota Vikings have some concerns but overall have played two solid games. The problem at this point is finishing. Both games have come down to the wire, an overtime match with the Cincinnati Bengals and now a missed game-winning field goal against the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings look to change things this week, opening their home schedule with a match against the Seattle Seahawks.
Vogel’s NFL Top 20: 20-16
20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1; L 11. San Francisco 17-11) +1
19. Chicago Bears (1-1; W Cincinnati 20-17)
18. Tennessee Titans (1-1; W @ Seattle 33-30 OT) +3
17. New England Patriots (1-1; W @ NY Jets 22-6) +1
16. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1; L Dallas 20-17)
The Philadelphia Eagles slide into the top 20 following an impressive defensive outing against the San Francisco 49ers. While they are young and rebuilding, I think optimism is unquestionable at this point. Wide receiver Quez Watkins was the fastest ball carrier in week two, per Next Gen Stats, hitting 21.62 MPH on a 91 yard go down the sideline. Jalen Hurts is the future in Philadelphia, and the defense (11.5 PPG) is allowing them to play competitively this year while the offense grows.
Derrick Henry finally got it going this season with a massive second-half performance to lift the Tennessee Titans over the Seattle Seahawks this week. Henry ended up with 237 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns to help the Titans overcome a 14-point deficit and win over time. The Titans also overcame some horrendous officiating calls that erased a Julio Jones touchdown off the board.
The Los Angeles Chargers stand pat in the rankings after a solid showing in their home opener against the Dallas Cowboys. Quarterback Justin Herbert has serious weapons across his Chargers offense, between Keenan Allen and Mike Williams on the perimeters. The defense stepped up big too and held the Cowboys to just 20 points, both outings limiting their opponents to four scoring drives. I like the youth, and I would expect them to grow tremendously this season.
Vogel’s NFL Top 20: 15-11
15. Green Bay Packers (1-1; W Detroit 35-17) -1
14. Seattle Seahawks (1-1; L Tennessee 33-30 OT) -3
13. New Orleans Saints (1-1; L @ 10. Carolina 26-7) -7
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1; L 8. Las Vegas 26-17) -4
11. San Francisco 49ers (2-0; W @ 20. Philadelphia 17-11) +2
It was an excellent bounce-back week for the Green Bay Packers, who took care of business in their home opener against the Detroit Lions. Aaron Rodgers improved this week by throwing for 255 yards and four touchdowns in the 18-point victory. He completed the third-longest pass in the league so far, connecting with Davante Adams from 58.9 air yards away. Aaron Jones was the recipient of three touchdown catches, adding 115 yards from scrimmage on 23 touches and a fourth touchdown on the ground.
The Seattle Seahawks took a brutal loss in a game where they held a 14-point advantage and surrendered the game to Derrick “King” Henry in the second half. The concern is now on their run defense and ability to close out games. Russell Wilson is still throwing exceptionally well, starting the season with 597 passing yards and six touchdowns.
The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback concerns have heightened as they fell to the Las Vegas Raiders in their home opener last week, 26-17. Most importantly, two key defensive linemen (TJ Watt and Tyson Alualu) left the game with injuries leaving a lot unknown. The pressure weakened, and the Steelers’ offense couldn’t keep pace with the Raiders’ downfield threats.
Vogel’s NFL Top 20: 10. Carolina Panthers (2-0) +5
Last week: W (13) New Orleans (26-7)
Making their debut to the top ten, the Carolina Panthers are a fun watch this season and should be very competitive behind the minds of head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Quarterback Sam Darnold has been a sensation so far, using the weapons that have been amassed for him well so far through the season.
The attention has been on running back Christian McCaffrey since he entered the league in 2016. His dual run and receiving threat has been one of the most challenging pieces for a defense to manage. Frequently, he’s been the workhorse carrying the Panthers’ offense. He has Darnold at the quarterback, throwing to a great group of receivers, between DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and rookie Terrace Marshall.
The defense is stellar. The secondary, already exciting, has only become stronger with first-round pick Jaycee Horn playing in the back end. They have a formidable front seven, led by Brian Burns, and the Panthers defense has now held opponents to just 21 points through the first two games. They are solid and formidable. The Panthers will be an issue in the NFC South this season.
9. Buffalo Bills (1-1)
Last week: W @ Miami (35-0)
The Buffalo Bills got back on track this week with a blank-out win over the Miami Dolphins that could have (and probably should have) been worse than it was. The Bills offense, after jumping out quickly 14-0, almost shut down and would fail to score again until the third quarter. Granted, the Dolphins defense is formidable, but offensive execution appears to be more of an issue with Buffalo this year, who saw prolific numbers last season during an AFC Championship run.
The primary source of frustration on offense is now on the franchise quarterback, Josh Allen. He’s completing just 56% of his passes through the first two games and is 6.1% below his expected percentage, per Next Gen Stats. He’s struggled while under pressure this year, and his passer rating stands at a measly 77.9 score.
The defense is playing very well. Thank goodness for Allen and the offense. They have eight sacks, 17 quarterback hits to go along with an interception, two fumble recoveries, and 14 passes defended. They are a disruptive unit this season, both upfront and on the back end.
8. Las Vegas Raiders (2-0) +2
Last week: W @ (12) Pittsburgh (26-17)
One of the biggest surprises early this season has been the phenomenal performance of the Las Vegas Raiders. Over the last few years, they have been heavily criticized under head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock. The Raiders have beat two AFC North heavyweights now, taking the Baltimore Ravens to overtime last week and dismantling the Pittsburgh Steelers this week.
Despite his lack of vision at times, Derek Carr has been effective enough to keep his offense humming. They have weapons all across the field that puts tremendous stress on opposing defenses to keep track of. Between the severe threat of Henry Ruggs, the receiving dangers of Zay Jones and Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow underneath, this offense is dangerous. Carr leads the league through week two with 817 passing yards. All that being said, they need to get their run game moving, or they could be in some danger.
The defense has its stars emerging. The addition of Yannick Ngakowe has been stellar, and it’s helped Maxx Crosby come alive on the other side. Crosby already has ten quarterback hits this season, an absurd number through two games. As long as the back end can continue to hold, the Raiders are a tough match this season.
7. Arizona Cardinals (2-0)
Last week: W Minnesota (34-33)
The Arizona Cardinals will stand pat in my NFL Top 20 this week after a close shave with the Minnesota Vikings. This year, let’s make one thing very clear: this Cardinals team is not the Cardinals team we’ve seen over the past few years. They are loaded with explosive playmakers across the board, and Kyler Murray is still growing into a tremendous NFL quarterback.
Speed has become the best friend of the Arizona Cardinals this season. Rookie receiver Rondale Moore is a massive part of this transition, taking the spot formerly held by Larry Fitzgerald in this offense as the slot/possession type receiver. Moore, however, is ridiculously explosive after the catch. He reportedly ran a 4.29 forty-yard dash and leaped 42.5 inches at his Purdue pro day.
The Cardinals pass rush is one of the top units in the league. So far, they have collected seven sacks, and 13 quarterback hits through the first two games. JJ Watt, Chandler Jones, and Zach Allen finished the game against Minnesota below the league average in pass-rushing distance.
Vogel’s NFL Top 20: 6. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) -1
Last week: W @ (16) LA Chargers (20-17)
The Dallas Cowboys played a challenging game to the Los Angeles Chargers, probably the most promising young team in the AFC. On the road, in the Chargers’ home opener in the new SoFi Stadium, the Cowboys battled down to the end, securing the victory off of kicker Greg Zuerline’s leg on a 56-yard field goal.
Dak Prescott is back. There is no doubt about that. He’s recovered from his injuries and is already in midseason form. He completed 23 of 27 attempts for 237 yards in the win, efficiently managing the game from the pocket despite the brutal Chargers pass rush. The Cowboys’ run game received a breath of fresh air from Tony Pollard, who torched the Chargers for 140 yards on 16 touches.
The defense looks better, too. They held the explosive Buccaneers to 30 points last week and came out with an oppressive approach against the Chargers. Rookie linebacker Micah Parsons ended up playing the majority of the game as a defensive end and flashed tremendous ability, averaging a distance of 4.1 yards from the quarterback per snap and collecting his first NFL career sack.
5. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) +7
Last week: W (3) Kansas City (36-35)
The Baltimore Ravens jumped seven spots from last week following their victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, one where Lamar Jackson was finally able to get the “monkey off of his back.” The Ravens fought through two first-half interceptions from Jackson and battled to get the win, converting a 4th and 1 in their territory with a minute left on the clock to secure the victory.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Ravens’ performance was the coverage of star wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who the Ravens limited to four touches for 29 yards. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey had him shut down all night, his longest gain coming on a 15-yard rush.
Last week, I voiced concerns about the Ravens abandoning their run scheme to put Lamar Jackson into a spread drop-back pass system. I thought it was one of the biggest reasons they lost to the Las Vegas Raiders in week one. This week, the Ravens stuck with the run and limited Jackson as a passer, and it worked. Jackson went off, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 200 yards, run for 100 yards, and run two touchdowns in a single game.
4. Cleveland Browns (1-1)
Last week: W Houston (31-21)
The Cleveland Browns took care of business in their home opener, handing the Houston Texans their first season loss. Overall, despite a few mistakes across the board, the Browns played a solid game on both sides of the ball. Despite losing wide receiver Jarvis Landry to a knee injury and still not having Odell Beckham Jr on the field, quarterback Baker Mayfield was very efficient. He completed 19 of 21 pass attempts, limited by an injured shoulder, with a touchdown and an interception.
The Browns running game is their key to success. Between Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, this team can rotate their backs and open the play-action better than anyone in the league. That opens opportunities across the field for everyone, as the Browns had five receivers finish well above the league average in separation distance.
The defense is much improved from last year, too. They’re playing tougher and faster with the additions of Troy Hill, John Johnson, and Jadevion Clowney. Between Clowney and star pass rusher Miles Garrett, the pass rush is showing tremendous signs of life. Through two games, the Browns have three sacks and ten hits on the quarterback.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) -2
Last week: L @ (5) Baltimore (36-35)
The Kansas City Chiefs fall from last week’s top spot after a close loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. It appears that the Chiefs’ gameplan is centered around Patrick Mahomes and his ability to carry the team to victory week in and week out. It’s lazy game-planning, to be completely honest. They expect their superstar quarterback to make up for any mistakes that might be made throughout the game.
The defense, though loaded with star talent, has its apparent issues. We saw this a week ago against the Cleveland Browns when Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were able to pound their way through the defense in long possession-style drives. The Ravens, however, took this to another level. They ran 27 times to the right side for 199 yards and three touchdowns. Until Kansas City finds a way to address this, I’d expect their upcoming opponents to try and use that to their advantage.
The offense will continue to lean on Mahomes until they can address their run game. Right now, the Chiefs are averaging just 67.5 yards per game on the ground. If you remove Mahomes from that picture, who doesn’t run designed quarterback runs, that number dwindles to just 57. There is no balance behind the Chiefs offense, and teams will commit to limiting the profound ball effectiveness of Tyreek Hill to beat them.
2. Los Angeles Rams (2-0)
Last week: W @ Indianapolis (27-24)
This week, the Los Angeles Rams survived a close game over the Indianapolis Colts, on the road and in the early time zone, which are challenges for a west coast team. Ultimately, it feels as though the Rams were bailed out by the fourth-quarter injury of Carson Wentz, who injured both of his ankles while taking a ferocious sack from Aaron Donald.
Matthew Stafford is the X-factor so far on this Rams offense. His ability to run the offense in and out of structure has not gone unnoticed. However, the threat of Stafford hitting anywhere on the field has re-opened the zone run for Los Angeles. They used it almost exclusively on their time-consuming scoring drives between Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel. Henderson and Michel combined for 61 yards on 12 carries while running outside zone left.
This season’s defensive scheme is different following the loss of defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to the Los Angeles Chargers. The secondary also lost safety John Johnson and cornerback Troy Hill, both to the Cleveland Browns in free agency. They’re playing softer and with less aggressiveness. They’ve overall played well, but let’s see them go up against a prolific offense.
Vogel’s NFL Top 20: 1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) +2
Last week: W Atlanta (48-25)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers claim the top spot this week, following their dominant performance over the Atlanta Falcons. While it’s not entirely impressive that Tom Brady and company dismantled the Falcons, arguably the worst team so far this season in the NFL, what is remarkable is the offense humming the way that it is. The defense came up big in the fourth quarter, too, with Mike Edwards returning two interceptions for touchdowns.
Brady still hasn’t seemed to have found Father Time, as he has opened the season with nine passing touchdowns. He’s diming well into the intermediate levels of the field as well.
The biggest question about this team right now is the defense. How good are they? They surrendered a lot of ground to the Dallas Cowboys offense and were saved by a poor special teams performance. The Falcons, who scored 6 points at home in the season opener, showed the same movement up and down the field. Without those couple of pick-six plays, this game probably comes down to the wire as well.
- Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Brandon Graham will miss the rest of the season with a left achilles tendon injury, as he announced on social media. “He’s really the heartbeat of this team,” offensive tackle Lane Johnson told the media after the game. Graham, recently mentioned in Scouting 2 for his versatility, will be a serious hit to the Eagles defense. Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Tarron Jackson should split snaps in reserve.
- Denver Broncos starting inside linebacker Josey Jewell is out for the season with a torn pec, per NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport. Justin Strnad and rookie Baron Browing will be expected to step up to fill the role the remainder of the season.
Matchups to watch next week
- (1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ (2) Los Angeles Rams (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET FOX) – Potentially a game of the year and an early look at the NFC Championship game. The two best teams in the league (so far) match-up for a blockbuster game on FOX, ruined by the broadcast of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. It will answer questions about both defenses, but expect a shootout to the end.
- (16) Los Angeles Chargers @ (3) Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 1 PM ET CBS) – The Los Angeles Chargers schedule continues down it’s daunting road, this time taking on their first divisional opponent. This game will show us a lot about the ability of the Chargers to stay in games. The biggest question to me is how will the Chiefs look to help their offense and take some stress off of Patrick Mahomes?
- (15) Green Bay Packers @ (11) San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, 8:20 PM ET NBC) – Both the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers have been underwhelming this year compared to pre-season expectations. In this game, both teams have an opportunity to make a statement and show what their teams are made of.
- (20) Philadelphia Eagles @ (6) Dallas Cowboys (Monday, 8:15 PM ET ESPN) – The Philadelphia Eagles face their biggest test of the season against a potentially prolific Dallas Cowboys offense, averaging 24.5 PPG. The biggest question for the Eagles will be Jalen Hurts and his ability to step up in big divisional games. Here’s his opportunity to show out.
- (13) New Orleans Saints @ (17) New England Patriots (Sunday, 1 PM FOX) – The New Orleans Saints look to rebound from a game where eight assistant coaches missed time due to a covid-19 outbreak in the Saints locker room. As for the Patriots, this is the first major test for the rookie Mac Jones who has a very strong defense to go against. He’s been impressive so far, but let’s see him continue here.
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[…] has been why they have seen the early-season success they have. This week, they moved up to the number eight spot on my NFL Top 20 and are currently looking for a Wild Card spot behind the Kansas City Chiefs, who are still […]