2021 NFL Divisional Power Rankings: Ravens showcase power of AFC North; Packers, Bears don’t help NFC North


Through two weeks of the NFL season, the league still doesn’t have a grasp on all the contenders and pretenders in the league. Are the Carolina Panthers going to challenge the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South? Can the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos give the Kansas City Chiefs a run in the AFC West? 

Regardless of these storylines, the teams mentioned above are helping the prestige of their divisions going forward. Just ask the Baltimore Ravens how good the AFC North looks after a come from behind victory over the Kansas City Chiefs — the team that’s favored to represent the conference in the Super Bowl for the third consecutive year. 

Baltimore’s victory did cause a bit of a shift in our weekly edition of the divisional power rankings, but was the win enough to break up the western powers? 

8. AFC South

Last week’s ranking: 7

Not even the Tennessee Titans comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks could save this division from the basement. Week 2 was another rough performance for the division, with the Jacksonville Jaguars putting up less than 200 yards against the Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts struggling to score touchdowns in the end zone against the Los Angeles Rams

Indianapolis, preseason contenders for the division, fell to 0-2 on the year and lost Carson Wentz for an unknown amount of time with two ankle sprains. Jacksonville ended its NFL record streak of allowing 24-plus points in a game, but Trevor Lawrence is struggling and Urban Meyer just doesn’t give James Robinson the ball enough. Jacksonville is competing for the worst team in the NFL moniker, which was expected to be the Houston Texans

Houston played well against the Cleveland Browns before Tyrod Taylor left with a hamstring injury. The Texans will ride Davis Mills this week, while sitting atop the division — something no one expected after two weeks. 

The AFC South just isn’t good right now, which is great for Titans fans. Tennessee may run away with this ting if the Titans just continue to feed Derrick Henry

7. NFC North

Last week’s ranking: 8

A Packers intra-divisional win over the Detroit Lions isn’t going to help the North, even if Aaron Rodgers got back on track with four touchdown passes — three of which were to Aaron Jones. Detroit played Green Bay tough in the first half and even had a 17-14 lead in the second half, but the Lions faded down the stretch and had a crucial fumble in the fourth quarter that allowed Green Bay to put the game away. 

Green Bay is clearly the best team in this bad division. The Lions are playing hard in their rebuild, but appear to be an easy out for most of the league (playing top teams in Green Bay and San Francisco doesn’t help). 

The Chicago Bears won a tough game against the Cincinnati Bengals, aided by three consecutive Joe Burrow interceptions — one of which Roquan Smith returned for a touchdown. Chicago’s defense had four sacks, nine quarterback hits, and four takeaways — yet didn’t put away Cincinnati at home. This is a remainder the Bengals are projected to finish last in the AFC North.

The Vikings lost in overtime on a field goal with no time left in Week 1. In Week 2, Greg Joseph missed a 37-yard field goal with no time left in regulation to beat the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings offense is good, but the defense has given up the sixth-most points and fifth-most yards in the NFL. Perhaps coming back and playing a home game will help, but the Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns are their next two opponents. 

There’s no good teams in the North outside for Green Bay after two weeks. Chicago can certainly change this statement if Justin Fields plays well right out of the gate (assuming he has to start for Andy Dalton for the next several weeks). 

6. NFC East

Last week’s ranking: 6

Give Dallas credit for a big win in Los Angeles against a very good Chargers team. Dallas ran the ball very well against an improving Chargers defense, finishing with 198 yards and averaging 6.4 yards per carry. The Cowboys went back to a formula that worked in Ezekiel Elliott’s early years, using Tony Pollard’s change of pace ability to keep the Chargers’ defense honest. Through two weeks, Dallas is the favorite to win this division — even if Mike McCarthy’s gaffe almost cost them the game. 

The NFC East is showing it’s not going to be as bad as it was last year. Philadelphia’s defense played well in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, despite San Francisco scoring touchdowns on two drives over 80 yards. The Eagles offense wasn’t great against a NFC West power, but holding the 49ers to 17 points is nothing to be ashamed about.

Washington needed a win against the New York Giants — and got it thanks to all the mistakes made by New York. The Giants are the worst team in this division after two weeks, being the only team without a win. All the other teams are 1-1 in this division, a much better outlook than through two weeks last year, when the only out of division win was a miracle Dallas comeback against Atlanta. 

This division definitely isn’t the worst in football. 

5. NFC South

Last week’s ranking: 4

This division was a surprise in Week 1, but tapered off this week thanks to intra-divisional matchups. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued to showcase why they are the NFC favorites, starting with Tom Brady leading the league in touchdown passes (nine) in leading a unit that has averaged 39.5 points through two weeks. Tampa Bay did allow 25 points to the Atlanta Falcons, but Atlanta has also allowed 30-plus points in consecutive weeks. Atlanta has allowed the most points in the league thus far and are in contention for the worst team in the league. 

That doesn’t bring down the rest of the division. The New Orleans Saints still deserve some respect for their Week 1 win over the Green Bay Packers, even though they had a brutal loss to the Carolina Panthers Sunday. Is Carolina for real? Sam Darnold threw for 200 yards in the first half in consecutive games, but the strength of this team is on defense — ranked first in the NFL in points and yards allowed. Carolina’s win over New Orleans is impressive, yet it’s hard to figure out if the Saints are the team that played against Green Bay in Week 1 or put up a massive dud in Week 2. 

This division can really make a statement this week, with Tampa Bay traveling to Los Angeles to face the Rams and the Saints having a tough road test against the New England Patriots

4. AFC East

Last week’s ranking: 5

Through two weeks, it’s hard to get a grasp on who will actually compete with the Buffalo Bills for the division. The Bills still are the favorite after blowing out the Miami Dolphins in Week 2, the largest victory over the Dolphins in franchise history. What’s even more impressive for Buffalo is the defense — second in points allowed and yards allowed per game. 

Miami and New England are still playoff contenders, despite the Dolphins getting embarrassed by the Bills in Week 2 and the Patriots taking care of the lowly Jets. The Patriots have a top-5 defense and Mac Jones has been impressive through his first two starts, emerging as a contender for a playoff spot. Miami will have to figure out the quarterback situation if Tua Tagovailoa misses Week 3, needing a much better performance from Jacoby Brissett going forward. 

The Jets are the Jets, as 2021 just looks to be another rebuilding year. 

3. AFC North

Last week’s ranking: 3

The gap from No. 2 to No. 3 significantly closed in these rankings thanks to the Ravens’ impressive victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, the first time Lamar Jackson has defeated Kansas City. Baltimore has averaged 220 rushing yards per game through two weeks, this without their top two rushers — who are out for the entire season. We still are unsure who will be the favorite in this division after two weeks. 

This division would have been ranked second if the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to beat the Las Vegas Raiders at home, instead of another game where they failed to put up 20 points. Even will all the pass catchers and Najee Harris at running back, Pittsburgh’s offense has shown no signs of improvement through two games. Cleveland got back on track with a victory over Houston, even though the Texans gave the Browns trouble much of the first half. The Bengals had opportunities to beat the Bears as well. 

All four teams in this division are 1-1 through two weeks, a strong sign this division will be tough to predict all year. 

2. AFC West

Last week’s ranking: 2

How about those Las Vegas Raiders? An impressive victory on the road against the Steelers — the second AFC North team Vegas beat in six days — has the Raiders emerging as contenders for the division title. Derek Carr is making an early MVP case, while the defense (10th in the league in points allowed) is significantly better than last year. 

The Denver Broncos are tied with the Raiders atop the division after a win in Jacksonville, taking advantage of an easy schedule to start the year. Denver gets the Jets next before the Broncos face the Ravens and Steelers, a test to see if they are contenders or pretenders. 

Kansas City is still the favorite in the AFC, but the gap shrunk with a loss to Baltimore. The Chiefs defense is a concern, giving up the most yards and fifth-most points through two games. The Los Angeles Chargers had a tough loss to Dallas at home, but they are going to be a factor in the AFC playoff race thanks to their improved defense. 

Through two weeks, there isn’t a bad team in this division. 

1. NFC West 

Last week’s ranking: 1

The NFC West still remains the best division in football — a division that would have four 2-0 teams if the Seattle Seahawks didn’t have a fourth quarter collapse against Tennessee. Seattle is still a very good team and Russell Wilson is off to another hot start, but one has to wonder if the Tennessee loss will cost the Seahawks in this impressive division.

The Arizona Cardinals survived a scare against the Minnesota Vikings, but are going to be tough to game plan for each week with Kyler Murray playing at a MVP level. Arizona gets Jacksonville this week as the West gets to feast on the AFC South all year. 

This division will be tested in Week 3, as the Los Angeles Rams have a showdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers square off against the Green Bay Packers. More than fair to stake the claim Tampa Bay and Green Bay are the two favorites in the conference, so the NFC West can really flex its muscle this week. 

All for teams in this division are playoff contenders — and have demonstrated as such after two weeks. If any division can move the NFC West down a peg, Week 3 is the opportunity. 





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