The Athletic

NFL Power Rankings: Bills, Chiefs still at top; Dolphins, Eagles rise

Welcome back to another week of power rankings. This is the only week all year in which we have exactly twice as much information as we did a week ago!

It was a weekend that will be remembered for its crazy comebacks and a potentially franchise-changing injury. Without further McAdoo, let’s get to what you came here for.

When one team leads the NFL with a point differential of 55 through two games and the second-place teams (Kansas City and Tampa Bay) have less than half that (26), there’s not much argument about who is the best team in the league. Through two weeks, the Bills have the best defense in the league by EPA per drive and are tied for fifth in EPA per drive on offense, according to TruMedia, which probably undersells how good the offense has been.

Forward-thinking hardware store managers in Glendale, Ariz., should begin marking up the price of folding tables.

Up next: at Miami, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

Two weeks in, the Chiefs lead the NFL in EPA per drive. Ho-hum. It really is that simple when the league’s best quarterback has one of the league’s best offensive lines. The defense, meanwhile, ranks 20th in EPA per drive, which is perfectly fine, especially if it’s going to take advantage of opportunities to force turnovers.

As a courtesy to the editor charged with fact-checking these power rankings, let’s not declaratively say that the Chiefs’ Thursday night win was the first game in NFL history in which two separate J. Watsons scored touchdowns, but it definitely felt like that.

Up next: at Indianapolis, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

Let’s overreact. Jalen Hurts played what might have been the best game of his young career in prime time. One week after carving up the Lions with his legs against a blitz- and man-heavy game plan, he did the same to the Vikings thanks to precision passing and the well-timed designed run. A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert form one of the league’s best trio of offensive weapons, and the offensive line is arguably the best in football. And all of a sudden, the defense is part of the party, too. By EPA per drive, the Eagles’ defense had the fifth-best performance of the young season and the third-best of Jonathan Gannon’s young career as a defensive coordinator.

With the second-easiest schedule in the league, according to preseason projected win totals, the Eagles have what looks like a realistic path to a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the NFC.

Up next: at Washington, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

Marc Sessler is right. Every NFL team should be forced to deal with their most recently deposed head coach roaming the sideline. Imagine Matt Nagy loudly booing every Bears incompletion, Sean Payton sneaking sips of his Hurricane to Jameis Winston and Jaguars specialists “accidentally” kicking Urban Meyer all afternoon. Lean into this one, Roger. 

Despite Tom Brady losing weapons like cheek fat, the Bucs finally beat the Saints thanks in large part to a defense that has been second-best in the NFL through two weeks by EPA per drive. After the Saints drove 63 yards for a field goal on their opening possession, here’s the hellacious streak produced by the Bucs’ defense: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, fumble, interception, interception, interception, interception, touchdown, fumble, turnover on downs. Bruce Arians can do whatever he wants on the sideline if the defense keeps playing like that.

Up next: vs. Green Bay, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET

Jourdan Rodrigue has the details on a new wrinkle to the Rams offense that featured wide receiver Ben Skowronek as a fullback.

“The Falcons still had to account for 11 personnel looks even with the Rams showing 21 personnel pre-snap, because he’s a receiver and could release into various routes,” wrote Rodrigue. “It was completely different than anything the team had done previously under (Sean) McVay, especially in such volume, and it was so totally 1980s-hair-metal neck-rollgnarly.”

The Rams nearly gacked away a 28-3 lead, though, thanks to three turnovers in a four-possession span in the second half before a Jalen Ramsey interception all but sealed the deal. Brandon Powell was given the honors of running into the end zone for a safety, leaving him with one carry for -26 yards. The worst one-carry game in NFL history belongs to Andre Johnson, who took a 34-yard safety on the final play of regulation in a 2003 game. 

Up next: at Arizona, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET

Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle had an 11-reception, 171-yard, two-touchdown performance in a comeback win over the Ravens in Week 2. (Randy Litzinger / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Trailing 35-14, the Dolphins scored touchdowns on all four of their fourth-quarter drives in securing the most explosive of the three crazy, improbable comebacks in Week 2. In the fourth quarter alone, Tua Tagovailoa completed 13 of 17 passes for 199 yards and four touchdowns. Just for fun, let’s extrapolate that one-quarter performance over a 17-game season. That’d be 13,532 passing yards and 272 touchdown passes. Tough news for Peyton Manning, whose 2013 season gave us the current records of 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns. Oh, and Tyreek Hill’s 149 fourth-quarter receiving yards would be good for 10,132 yards over the course of a season. Eat it, Calvin Johnson (1,964 receiving yards in 2012).

Up next: vs. Buffalo, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

Win-loss record aside, there may not be a team in the league that has disappointed more than the Chargers in terms of showing us what we thought we were going to see. In his first year as head coach, Brandon Staley was the most aggressive coach in the league on fourth down. In the Thursday night loss to the Chiefs, Staley opted not to go for it on fourth down five separate times recommended by Ben Baldwin’s fourth-down bot. Not all of those were obvious decisions, but it was curious to see Staley, who has been so thoughtful about the process behind that decision-making, become demure all of a sudden.

As the great Princeton wide receivers coach Brian Flinn says, you can’t date the analytics, you have to marry them. Taking advantage of those small edges on the margins only plays out in your favor if you do it over the long run. Now, it’s possible the Chargers’ model has changed to some degree, but they were playing a high-powered Chiefs offense. If anything, you would think that would incentivize Staley to be even more aggressive, no matter how much better his defense is.

“They have a different team on offense. We have a different defense. We have a different kicking game,” Staley told Daniel Popper after the game. “And I felt like early in the game what you want to do is be able to take the crowd out of the football game, and I think early on that was the thought process.”

We have come a long way in a short time from Staley being the league’s analytics darling to him all of a sudden spouting things like “take the crowd out of the football game” and “flip the field.” That’s also not the only cause for concern from a coaching staff that was considered a value add two weeks ago. There was the sideline missing Gerald Everett trying to tap out on the game-deciding pick-six, and what looked like borderline medical malpractice in keeping the person who holds the franchise on his shoulders in the game despite his heroic effort to play through pain. Maybe worse is how stale the offense looks, as if it’s uninterested in taking advantage of Justin Herbert’s unhuman tools.

There’s still a long season to go, and if Asante Samuel Jr. catches the possible pick-six that went through his hands, we might not be having this discussion. But the Chargers no longer deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Up next: vs. Jacksonville, Sunday 4:05 p.m. ET

If you’re looking for context on how the Ravens’ defense allowed the Dolphins’ high-powered fourth-quarter comeback, this background from Jeff Zrebiec is helpful

“Baltimore’s top cornerback, Marlon Humphrey, tried to play through a sore groin, but he was on the sideline at key moments, including Miami’s game-winning drive. Cornerback Marcus Peters was playing in his first game in 20 months after tearing his ACL and was on a pitch count. He didn’t look close to pre-injury form. Veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller tore his ACL in last Sunday’s season-opening win over the New York Jets. And the team’s No. 3 corner, Brandon Stephens, was inactive Sunday because of a quad injury.

“When the Ravens needed a late-game defensive stand, the corners on the field included Peters, fourth-round rookies Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams, and veteran Daryl Worley, who was added from the practice squad 24 hours earlier. Still, that doesn’t excuse the mishaps that repeatedly happened in the fourth quarter.”

Though the Ravens’ collapse was the biggest blown lead of the day, it’s probably the least concerning of the three in the long run. Lamar Jackson played like an MVP contender with 318 passing yards and 119 rushing yards. Only Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes have a higher EPA per dropback so far this season. Meanwhile, Rashod Bateman looked springy on his 75-yard touchdown reception. The defense can only get better. Or healthier, in theory. 

Up next: at New England, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

There’s no joke you can make about Kirk Cousins’ “Monday Night Football” record that wouldn’t be semi-believable. Other than just statistical noise, the most realistic reason is probably just that he’s a huge “Garfield” fan. Imagine him throwing one of those big ol’ tire steaks in the middle of some pasta in an effort to make lasagna. Cracking himself up in the huddle by making a joke about just wanting to be “Nermal.”


Up next: vs. Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

In terms of offensive improvement, only the Rams, 49ers and Jets made a bigger jump in EPA per drive rank from Week 1 to Week 2. That’s what getting Aaron Jones more involved and playing a worse defense will do for you. This week will figure to be a much tougher test.

Up next: at Tampa Bay, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET

Jimmy Garoppolo entered the game for an injured Trey Lance on Sunday and led the 49ers to a 27-7 win over the Seahawks. (Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)

What a sad turn of events for Trey Lance, whose tenure as the 49ers’ starting quarterback might be over before it really got started. Who knows what will happen with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm now, but it’s hard to envision another clean handoff to Lance next offseason unless things go wildly awry. It’s especially cruel for Lance, who so desperately needed to bank live reps after entering the league with just one full season of starting experience at North Dakota State.

If you’re the Niners, it’s probably reasonable to think this might end up with a better 2022 record but a worse long-term outlook. As Matt Barrows writes, “That means that from the end of North Dakota State’s 2019 season to the start of the 2023 season he’ll have started five games total.”

One box score oddity. In his first action of the season, rookie running back Tyrion Davis-Price ran for 33 yards on 14 carries with a long of 20. That means he ran for 13 yards on his 13 other carries. The modern NFL record for most carries in a game with an exact 1.0 yards per carry is shared by Preston Pearson and Full-Sentence All-Star Marion Butts, both of whom had 16 carries for 16 yards in 1970 and 1989, respectively.

Up next: at Denver, Sunday 8:20 p.m. ET

Shoutout to the Broncos fans who openly mocked their first-time head coach in his home opener, loudly counting down the play clock to help a Denver team that has an astounding 25 penalties in two games. The kinks in the game day operation for the Broncos thus far make it seem like a “Nathaniel For You” experiment. 

“The miscues included a bizarre sequence in the third quarter when the Broncos ran a tight end run-option play with tight end Andrew Beck on a third-and-1 at the Houston 35-yard line, lost a yard, sent out Brandon McManus for a 54-yard field goal and then picked up a delay of game penalty that led to a punt,” writes Nick Kosmider. “The Broncos burned one timeout because they didn’t have a punt returner on the field on a fourth-and-14 play. They burned another when they couldn’t get the play in quick enough after a fourth-quarter sack of Wilson.”

Russell Wilson, meanwhile, completed less than half his passes for the first time since 2019, though there were a handful of drops. Things are not going very well for the Broncos, but it’s better to be an ugly 1-1 than a handsome 0-2. They’re also the only team other than the Bills to rank in the top 10 of EPA per drive on offense and defense. 

Up next: vs. San Francisco, Sunday 8:20 p.m. ET

Considering the circumstances, that had to have been the worst 0-4 week any division has ever had. The Ravens blew a 21-point fourth-quarter lead. The Browns lost to the lowly Jets despite a 13-point lead with under two minutes remaining. And somehow the Bengals’ loss might have been the most embarrassing? At least the Steelers had the temerity to be slight underdogs in their loss to Mac Jones and the visiting Patriots. But going 0-2 in a get-right game against Cooper Rush? For shame.

The Bengals’ offense ranks 29th in the league in EPA per drive through two weeks ahead of only the Colts, Cowboys and Titans. That’s not how things are supposed to go for Joe Burrow and one of the league’s best trios of wide receivers. Here’s how bad the Bengals’ pass protection has been. Burrow has been sacked at the second-highest rate in the league (12.7 percent, ahead of only Justin Fields) while being blitzed at the fifth-lowest rate in the league (14.5 percent). Not every defense will have pass rushers as good as the Steelers and Cowboys, but if the Bengals’ offensive line doesn’t patch things up quickly, things could get very ugly. 

Up next: at New York Jets, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

This D’Andre Swift touchdown was incredibly rude. 

In trying to separate what matters and doesn’t through two weeks, it does seem like we can definitively say that the Lions are fun. On offense, they’re averaging a league-best 7.2 yards per rush (thanks in part to Swift’s back-to-back weeks with a 50-yard run) while Amon-Ra St. Brown has been electric. On defense, No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson broke out with three sacks once he was able to line up across from someone other than Lane Johnson. Good vibes in Detroit. 

Up next: at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

Here’s the exhaustive list of current NFL quarterbacks with more interceptions than games started (minimum 10 starts): 

Jameis Winston — 94 interceptions in 79 starts 

Chad Henne — 63 interceptions in 54 starts 

Sam Darnold — 52 interceptions in 49 starts 

Geno Smith — 38 interceptions in 36 starts 

Nick Mullens — 22 interceptions in 17 starts 

Josh Rosen — 21 interceptions in 16 starts 

Taylor Heinicke — 18 interceptions in 16 starts 

C.J. Beathard — 13 interceptions in 12 starts 

Mason Rudolph — 11 interceptions in 10 starts 

Up next: at Carolina, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

It really is fitting that Kyler Murray is the most video game player in the league. Even down to, like, purposely taking a delay of game on the potential game-tying two-point conversion just to set up a play you like more. I mean, look at this.

The Cardinals looked like one of the worst teams in the league (and still might be) until Murray got weird in the second half against the Raiders. Credit also to the Cardinals’ defense, which allowed only three points and five first downs to the Raiders on five possessions in the second half and overtime.

Up next: vs. Los Angeles Rams, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET

No coordinator has done more with less through two weeks than Wink Martindale with his hodgepodge gang of Giants defenders. The temptation is to say Martindale’s blitz-heavy tendencies will come back to bite the Giants when they play a good quarterback, but the Giants’ schedule is so easy that might not end up being so much of a problem. Per TruMedia, only five of their remaining 15 games are against quarterbacks in the top 15 of EPA per dropback against the blitz since last season, and only two of those (Aaron Rodgers in Week 5 and Lamar Jackson in Week 6) are before Thanksgiving. The offense, which ranks 24th in EPA per drive, is probably not for real. 

Up next: vs. Dallas, Monday 8:15 p.m. ET

The Patriots’ win was a testament to the impact of a singular play — in this case, Nelson Agholor’s mossing of Ahkello Witherspoon. That 44-yard touchdown gave the Patriots a 10-3 lead with less than a minute remaining in the first half and allowed New England to play the brand of football it’s forced to play with its current personnel, which held up against a plodding Steelers offense. The Patriots will need more explosiveness on offense when the opponents get better. Credit, though, to the offensive line and running game for salting things away when it mattered

Up next: vs. Baltimore, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

Does this look like a man who’s ever going to take a separate flight home from his team? 

Trevor Lawrence completed 25 of 30 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns in what was the best game of his young career by EPA per dropback (0.54, more than twice as good as his second-best game, the 2021 regular-season finale, also against the Colts). Developing Lawrence is Doug Pederson’s No. 1 job, so that’s a very positive early step. Less important but perhaps more sustainable is the work Mike Caldwell has done so far with a Jaguars defense that ranks fifth in the league in EPA per drive. That group is loaded with early-round draft picks, and with the division seemingly there for the taking, it could be good enough to make the Jaguars surprise AFC South favorites. 

Up next: at Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday 4:05  p.m. ET

“The coaches change, the players change, heck the home stadium even changes, but the Raiders’ knack for losing dramatic games in gut-punching, inexplicable fashion continues on,” writes Vic Tafur

Of the three heartbreaking losses in Week 2, the Raiders’ might be the toughest one to get over because they had so many chances to just make one play to stop it from happening. As with any game, there was symbiosis in the failure. Yes, the defense had plenty of chances to make a game-saving play, but the offense only mustered three points and five total first downs in five possessions in the second half and overtime. No wonder the defense was exhausted. 

If they can get over that emotional hurdle, though, there are some signs of positivity. Like, Davante Adams can’t only have 12 receiving yards in a game again, right? 

Up next: at Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

There was chatter in the aftermath of the Browns’ unlikely collapse that Nick Chubb could have ended the game had he slid instead of scoring the 12-yard touchdown that gave the Browns a 30-17 lead with 1:55 remaining. That’s not really true. Yes, the Jets were out of timeouts, but that play was the final one before the two-minute warning, so the clock was guaranteed to stop at least one more time. If Chubb had been able to go down inbounds after securing the first down at the 2-yard line, then yes, they would have been able to run out the clock. But that wasn’t really practical.

Does this pedantry distract from the pain of that collapse in any way? No? Just don’t blame Chubb, blame whatever happened when Corey Davis was left all alone for a 66-yard touchdown two plays after the Chubb score. Or blame Kareem Hunt for running out of bounds on the play before Chubb’s touchdown. Or focus on the failed onside kick recovery and the prevent defense that allowed Joe Flacco to go 53 yards for the winning touchdown in the game’s final minute.

If you are looking for good news, the Browns’ offense put up 1.98 EPA per drive, per TruMedia, the second-best performance of the entire week. 

Up next: vs. Pittsburgh, Thursday 8:15 p.m. ET

On one hand, the Steelers should not give the starting quarterback job to Kenny Pickett if they don’t think he’s ready. The ability of a mediocre offensive line to protect Pickett complicates that decision. But in terms of 2022 upside, who are we kidding with the Mitch Trubisky timeline? Trubisky has been about as good as he can be through two games (28th in EPA per dropback) and is at least getting rid of the ball quickly. But with a trio of wide receivers like Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and George Pickens, it’s hard to watch an offense have such a low ceiling. The Steelers mustered just one play of more than 20 yards against the Patriots (a 23-yard completion to Pickens).

There was a key play in the third quarter Sunday when Cameron Sutton dropped what should have been an easy interception of Jones on third down. On the next play, Gunner Olszewski muffed a punt to his former team, which the Patriots turned into a touchdown three plays later to take a 17-6 lead. When the offense is as rough as the Steelers’, the margin for error on defense and special teams is so small. Maybe this is too instant gratification, but let the kid play.

Up next: at Cleveland, Thursday 8:15 p.m. ET

As the loathsome Jack Parkman once said, “Don’t stand on the tracks when the train’s coming through.”

Tough draw for the Titans to play the league’s best team in their frothing-at-the-mouth home opener. Sunday’s matchup with the Raiders shapes up as something of an elimination game.

Up next: vs. Las Vegas, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

Week 2 was another reminder that every football Sunday is guaranteed to deliver something you’ve never seen before. The Dolphins, Browns and Cardinals delivered the most memorable moments. Washington gave us the funniest.

In trying to claw back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Ron Rivera opted for the analytically supported move to go for the two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown. The thinking goes, if converting a two-point conversion is about a 50-50 proposition, converting the two-pointer initially gives you a chance to win the game if you score again. If not, you can still go for two to tie the score later. Alas, not only did the Commanders fail to convert, but they also surrendered a quick Lions touchdown and then hilariously missed the extra point on their final touchdown of the game.

Credit to Carson Wentz for spreading the wealth on offense through two games. Six different Commanders have at least 70 yards receiving through two weeks, the most in the league.

Up next: vs. Philadelphia, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

This is a Micah Parsons appreciation capsule.

Parsons having the most sacks of any player through his first 18 games is insane when you remember pass rushing is not his only job. Since entering the league, Parsons has sacked or hit the quarterback on 10.1 percent of his 345 pass-rush snaps, per TruMedia. The rest of the top five since last season among players with at least 300 pass-rush snaps include T.J. Watt (8.9 percent), Nick Bosa (7.4 percent), Randy Gregory (6.8 percent) and Matt Judon (6.5 percent).

Big picture, getting even one win with Rush at the helm is probably enough to keep the Cowboys in the NFC East mix until Dak Prescott returns — whenever that is.

Up next: at New York Giants, Monday 8:15 p.m. ET

It’s best to understand Geno Smith as a lab-designed teaching example for the limitations of completion percentage. Through two games, he leads the NFL in completion percentage but has led only three scoring drives for a Seahawks offense that ranks 29th in EPA per drive. His league-low 5.3 air yards per attempt, per TruMedia, go a long way in explaining that gap. But even if that’s a reflection of Pete Carroll’s ideal offense, it seems a waste of DK Metcalf, in particular.

Up next: vs. Atlanta, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET

Colts quarterback Matt Ryan struggled mightily in a shutout loss to the Jaguars, completing just 53.3 percent of his passes for 195 yards and three interceptions. (David Rosenblum / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Woof. Matt Ryan completed only 16 of 30 passes for 195 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions for the third-worst quarterback rating of his career (34.0) and only the second time in which he’s thrown at least three interceptions and no touchdowns. Meanwhile, the flow of the game only allowed for nine Jonathan Taylor carries. The Colts were without Michael Pittman Jr., but suffice to say, that’s not the way the Colts want to play.

From a team-building perspective, there’s a conversation to be had about the upside of what Chris Ballard has built. The three best homegrown players are Quenton Nelson, Shaquille Leonard and Taylor. All three have exceeded realistic expectations relative to their draft slot, while Nelson and Leonard have earned big second contracts. But building your team around a guard, an off-ball linebacker and a running back is probably an antiquated plan of attack. Three relative home run picks in the first two rounds have netted the Colts … not that much.

Up next: vs. Kansas City, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

Some advanced Cole Kmetrics on the 23-year-old 2020 second-round pick:

Zero catches for zero yards and zero touchdowns with 0.0 yards per route run. 

But you take that as a Bears offense as long as Darnell Mooney is getting his (two catches for four yards on the season). 

The Bears rank 32nd in the league in EPA per pass play, which is disappointing in part because it was sort of the expectation heading into the season. 

Up next: vs. Houston, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

The Jets’ season was saved, for all intents and purposes, thanks to three bounces of an oblong ball. Braden Mann’s well-executed onside kick is the only one of six in the NFL this season to be recovered by the kicking team. What might have helped, to some small degree, is that Mann also attempted an onside kick in the season-opening loss to the Ravens. On that one, he lined up telegraphing a squib to his right and did so in what turned into an easy Ravens recovery. This time around, he showed the same look but then swiveled his hips and kicked the ball to his left, where Will Parks got the first touch on it before Justin Hardee’s recovery. 

“It was kind of a wild play,” Mann told Zack Rosenblatt. “That comes straight from (special teams coordinator Brant) Boyer. I think it was a great call.”

Up next: vs. Cincinnati, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

After what everyone agreed was too much Rex Burkhead in Week 1, the Texans handed the keys of the running game to Dameon Pierce in Week 2 to the tune of 15 carries for 69 yards. Nice, you’re thinking. Matt Forte has the most games in NFL history with exactly 69 rushing yards (five) while Amani Toomer, Tim Brown and Bob Tucker all have five games with 69 yards receiving. 

Sunday’s game in Chicago will have massive implications for the bottom of next week’s power rankings. 

Up next: at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

Another week, another pissy postgame news conference from Arthur Smith. The subject this time? Kyle Pitts, the 2021 first-round pick who has a whopping four catches for 38 yards through two games.

“Kyle is a huge part of our offense,” Smith said. “You just have to take it with context. Other guys made plays. It’s not fantasy football. We’re just trying to win. We will continue to look at everything and try to get better.”

Pitts doesn’t exactly seem to be enjoying his absence from the game plan, according to Josh Kendall. After becoming just the second rookie tight end in NFL history to have more than 1,000 receiving yards last season, Pitts is off to a quiet start with Marcus Mariota as his quarterback.

“I’m not going to the coaches and yelling,” Pitts said. “I’m not going to Marcus and yelling. It is what it is. It’s a long season. Definitely, I am frustrated with myself because I am a hard critic on myself. That’s just a me thing. I just want to perform at my highest ability.”

Smith overcorrected this week after not going for a winning fourth-down conversion by (unsuccessfully) going for it on fourth-and-2 from midfield in the second quarter. Maybe he’ll do the same this week and tell Mariota to throw to no one but Pitts.

Up next: at Seattle, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET

“As the losses continue to stack up for the third year in a row,” writes Joe Person, “(Matt) Rhule looks to be closer to losing his job than he does to succeeding as an NFL head coach.”

Harsh but fair. The Panthers opened their trip to New Jersey with a lost fumble on the opening kickoff and a lost fumble on their first offensive possession. They closed the game with four punts on their final five offensive drives. And it really wasn’t all that much better in between.

The only four teams with fewer wins than the Panthers since Rhule took over in 2020 (Jaguars, Jets, Texans and Lions) have all already changed coaches during that span. The Panthers have a three-week stretch of home games starting this week (Saints, Cardinals, 49ers). If they can’t turn things around quickly, it’s possible Rhule won’t be around by the time they head to Los Angeles in Week 6.

Up next: vs. New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m. ET

(Top illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; photo: Harry How / Getty Images)

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