NFL power rankings, 2021 post-Week 1 edition (previous rank in parentheses):
1. Buccaneers (1): Poor start by a defense that was the true Super Bowl 55 MVP. But when you’ve got QB Tom Brady and a cast of offensive skill players that could have served as the starting lineup in the 2017 Pro Bowl, OK for the D to take an early mulligan.
2. Chiefs (2): The re-engineered offensive line generally held up well – particularly given three players with zero NFL experience were debuting – as did Kansas City’s proclivity to fall into double-digit holes before dramatically climbing out of them.
3. Rams (6): The Matthew Stafford-Sean McVay marriage appeared all it was cracked up to be – through one game anyway. Stafford’s Week 1-best 156.1 QB rating is the highest in league history for a player debuting with a new team.
4. Browns (3): Their past two games have been at Arrowhead Stadium, where they’ve given Chiefs all they can handle. Now imagine if Cleveland had WR Odell Beckham Jr. in the lineup … or merely a punter who could field a snap.
5. Saints (16): New NBC football analyst Drew Brees kidded (right?) Sunday that “I guess apparently this is what the Saints have been missing.” He was referring to QB successor Jameis Winston, who struck downfield – a capability that should open up the entire attack and especially help RB Alvin Kamara. Is this offense actually better? So far, so good given what New Orleans just did to the Packers … and under suboptimal circumstances.
32 THINGS WE LEARNED:From Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season
NFL WEEK 1 WINNERS, LOSERS:Steelers strut their stuff in win over Bills
6. Seahawks (10): Glass half empty – QB Russell Wilson was sacked three more times (for shame, O-line). Glass half full – the defense shone in Indianapolis and notched three sacks of its own. Given what just happened to their next opponent, Tennessee, expect D to take sack lead after Week 2.
7. Cardinals (21): If we’re crowning offensive and defensive players of the year after Week 1, good chance Arizona would have both given the opening day performances of QB Kyler Murray (5 TDs) and OLB Chandler Jones (5 sacks).
8. Steelers (17): They were hardly dominant in upset of Buffalo. But tough defense, a re-commitment to the run and opportunistic special teams could carry Pittsburgh a long way once again.
9. Cowboys (14): Encouraging start for QB Dak Prescott after shining in his first game in 11 months … though far less encouraging start for a rebooted defense that merely needs to be average but didn’t reach that bar in Tampa despite generating four turnovers.
10. Bills (5): The offensive line allowed QB Josh Allen to get hit eight times, sacked three and was flagged for six holding penalties against Pittsburgh. Otherwise, it was stellar.
11. 49ers (9): Are they the team that led Detroit 38-10 through 2½ quarters, or the one that held on for a 41-33 win … and is already dealing with another rash of injuries after losing CB Jason Verrett to a torn ACL while hoping RB Raheem Mostert (knee) can return by midseason?
12. Dolphins (11): Where was fourth-year TE Mike Gesicki? Two targets, no catches, while batting a ball into the air that cost QB Tua Tagovailoa a pick. Ge-sickly.
13. Chargers (12): Pretty impressive 16-game start (4,673 passing yards and 32 TDs) for QB Justin Herbert … and he’s even winning close games now!
14. Packers (4): “It’s just one game,” said QB Aaron Rodgers following Green Bay’s embarrassing loss to New Orleans. “We played bad. I played bad. … One game. We’ve got 16 to go.” If Rodgers is lucky, All-Pro LT David Bakhtiari (ACL) will be back for 11 of those games.
15. Broncos (18): Their .683 winning percentage in Week 1 is the NFL’s best since the 1970 merger, but it hasn’t helped them finish a season above .500 since 2016. But this team looks dangerous (and classy, coach Vic Fangio wearing an FDNY hat on the sideline Sunday).
16. Raiders (24): They did their best to come up snake eyes in debut in front of Las Vegas fans but ultimately hit blackjack.
VEGAS, BABY:It was a long-shot victory for the Raiders
17. Patriots (13): RB Damien Harris squandered a 100-yard day with a fourth-quarter fumble New England couldn’t recover from. Good luck getting out of Belichick’s doghouse, Damien …
18. Ravens (8): Their apparent defensive decay could be far more problematic than their depleted running back room after coughing up what should have been a Week 1 W.
19. Titans (7): LT Taylor Lewan took the blame for the offensive struggles, but that doesn’t explain why the Tennessee defense is still getting beaten like a drum.
20. Bengals (28): And now we know why rookie Evan McPherson was the only kicker drafted in 2021, his game-winning FG in overtime following a 53-yarder in the fourth quarter. Icy.
21. Washington (19): QB Ryan Fitzpatrick set a record by making a Week 1 start for his sixth different club before sustaining a hip injury likely to cost him at least half the season. But it could be a silver lining for the WFT as it takes an extended look at Taylor Heinicke, who could have a long-term future here.
22. Eagles (30): No team rushed for more yards in Week 1 than Philadelphia’s 173, a good indication the offensive line is back and might fuel a better-than-expected season.
23. Panthers (23): QB Sam Darnold’s relaunch and RB Christian McCaffrey’s return understandably commanded a lot of attention, but Carolina’s defense opened season with a stifling performance (6 sacks, 252 yards allowed).
24. Vikings (15): When you commit a dozen penalties for 116 yards, and your best player (RB Dalvin Cook) fumbles in overtime? Welp. Not harbingers for the campaign you want.
25. Colts (20): Carson Wentz became Indianapolis’ fifth different Week 1 starter in the past five seasons. The Colts lost all five openers.
26. Bears (25): While the world obsesses with making rookie QB Justin Fields the starter, not enough people are talking about how bad Chicago’s offensive line and defense are.
27. Texans (32): Nice to see rookie coach David Culley and QB Tyrod Taylor, neither exactly flush with good NFL luck, break from the gate with such a decisive victory in their Houston debuts.
28. Jets (27): Darnold’s NFL debut (Sept. 10, 2018) marked the NYJ’s last win in September. His Panthers debut marked the Jets’ 10th consecutive defeat in the month.
29. Lions (31): Dan Campbell’s charges showed there’d be no quit in them … hard as it must be to stay engaged when you’ve surrendered at least 30 points in seven consecutive games.
30. Giants (22): QB Daniel Jones coughed up the ball for the 40th time. Joe Judge tossed away timeouts. RB Saquon Barkley isn’t himself (yet). Even the defense stinks. Otherwise, everything is fine for a team that hasn’t crept above .500 since 2016.
31. Falcons (26): They looked like a team that should have drafted Fields fourth overall and started completely over, no?
32. Jaguars (29): [Air horn sounds.] Better hydrate, Coach Meyer, looks like it’s going to be a long – very long – season up here in the big leagues.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.