Note: This article was written prior to the Week 2 NFL games.
So much for an undefeated season. In the first game of the 2017 NFL season, the reigning Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, were shown up by the Kansas City Chiefs on the Patriots’ home turf, falling to KC by a score of 42-27. So one night into the NFL season, the Patriots were the worst team in the league.
Don’t expect New England to be out of the mix for long, because despite their Week 1 loss, I wouldn’t bet on any other team to win the AFC. This year, I’m returning my Road to the Super Bowl column, ranking the teams in best shape to win the Super Bowl in February. And for team number one…
- New England Patriots (0-1)- First, the bad. The Patriots’ secondary was carved up by Alex Smith in the season’s opener, and the team’s effort was lackluster. But New England should still be the favorite in any game they play and it will take some time to adjust to the new-look offense.
- Green Bay Packers (1-0)- The Packers beat down a perennial contender in Seattle, not with Aaron Rodgers and their prolific passing attack but with defensive lineman Mike Daniels and the thundering pass rush. If the defense plays like this in January, they’ll be nearly impossible to beat.
- Dallas Cowboys (1-0)– Dak Prescott is a legitimate franchise quarterback, and anyone who doubted that was proved wrong during the Cowboys’ 19-3 rout of division rival New York on SNF. In beating the Giants for the first time in his career, Prescott showed no drop off from last year’s stellar rookie campaign and proved that the Cowboys are the class of the NFC East.
- Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)- Beating the Patriots in Foxboro is pretty impressive. The offense looked dynamic with rookie running back Kareem Hunt (246 total yards, 2 TD) and speedy wideout and return man Tyreek Hill (133 rec yards, 1 TD). That’s enough to merit a top-four spot.
- Oakland Raiders (1-0)- Oakland picked up an impressive victory over a fellow AFC playoff contender, the Tennessee Titans, in Week 1. The best news was the debut of running back Marshawn Lynch (76 yards), who returned to his dynamic self after a year-long retirement.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)- The Steelers should be higher on this list, but their narrow victory over the Cleveland Browns was far from convincing. If Pittsburgh returns to form, they’ll be New England’s toughest opponent.
- Minnesota Vikings (1-0)- Minnesota’s defense is loaded, but it was an offensive outburst that made their opening week win over New Orleans so impressive. Yes, New Orleans is one of the worst defensive teams in the game, but quarterback Sam Bradford (346 yards, 3 TD) played the best game of his career and rookie rusher Dalvin Cook (127 yards) showed Rookie of the Year potential.
- Carolina Panthers (1-0)- My pick to win the NFC South, the Panthers took care of business with a 23-3 blowout win over the 49ers. A Week 4 bout against New England will be the best test of the Panthers’ prowess.
- Seattle Seahawks (0-1)- The offensive line is porous, but Seattle’s defense is still Super Bowl-caliber and Russell Wilson is a franchise quarterback.
- Atlanta Falcons (1-0)- Atlanta’s first win was maybe the least impressive of any Week 1 victory. The Super Bowl hangover is evident in Georgia, and when the opponents get tougher than Chicago, the Falcons could find themselves on the losing side of the outcome.
First Five Out: Ravens, Titans, Buccaneers, Broncos, Eagles