NFL Power Rankings Week 2: Packers move into top spot
|09.13.11 at 8:25 am ET|
An exciting Week 1 is in the books.
We saw offensive juggernauts all over the NFL. The Packers, Saints, Patriots, Ravens, Texans and Bills (yes, Bills) all had outstanding performances from their offenses. We also saw a lot of upsets across the league. Many division winners in 2010 suffered opening week losses. The 20th-ranked Chiefs were crushed by the Bills (19), the Steelers (6) were thrashed by the Ravens (3), and the Manning-less Colts (24) were pounded by the Texans (11). It was a tough start for the NFC South particularly, as the Saints (5), Falcons (10), Bucs (15) and Panthers (30) all fell short.
There was some dramatic movement in this week’s edition of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Most notably, the Colts fell all the way down to No. 24. The Bills (19) made a giant leap and find themselves in the top 20. Finally, the city of Cleveland continues to suffer as the Browns are the newest occupants of the much dreaded No. 32 slot.
1. (1) Packers (1-0) — Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense will roll through defenses all year. It’s scary how much talent Rodgers has around him. That was an impressive opening performance from the defending champs and we’ll be seeing numbers like that from this team all year.
2. (3) Patriots (1-0) — I feel sorry for defensive coordinators and coaches who have to game-plan against Tom Brady and the Pats offense. How do you stop all the weapons in Brady’s arsenal? Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are matchup nightmares. The Dolphins were a solid defense against the pass last year. They ranked eighth in the NFL. The Patriots made them look ridiculous. One obvious area of concern has to be the loss of Dan Koppen and the lack of depth on the offensive line. Koppen has played in 120 games since 2003 and hasn’t missed one since 2007.
3. (5) Eagles (1-0) — The Eagles showed off their impressive offense in the win against the Rams. LeSean McCoy averaged eight yards per carry while Michael Vick made big plays through the air and on the ground. The troubling part of the loss was Vick took some major hits from the Rams defense.
4. (8) Ravens (12-4) — It’s only Week 1, but the Ravens’ victory over Steelers is the biggest win for this franchise in a long time. Not only did they beat their division rival, they embarrassed them. Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata led the way contributing to seven forced turnovers. This wasn’t just a win, it was a moral-boosting victory that will give the Ravens plenty of confidence going forward.
5. (4) Saints (0-1) — The voluntary offseason workouts seemed to help Drew Brees and the Saints offense, as they looked to be in midseason form on Thursday night. The defense was a totally different story. The Saints had no answer for the Packers’ high-powered offense. It was an all-around poor effort as the defensive line struggled to pressure Rodgers and the secondary often appeared lost.
6. (7) Jets (1-0) — Not sure if we should call the Jets resilient for coming back, or lucky that Tony Romo pulled a Tony Romo. It’s probably a little bit of both. Great teams make big plays in key moments and the Jets got just that. Joe McKnight and the special teams unit came up huge with a punt block and touchdown late in the fourth quarter. On the other hand, Mark Sanchez was careless with the ball. Rex Ryan‘s squad will never win a Super Bowl until Sanchez can consistently protect the football.
7. (2) Steelers (0-1) — Everything we thought we knew about the Steelers is now in doubt after getting dominated in every aspect of the game against the Ravens. The Steelers D was by far the league’s best against the run in 2010. On Sunday, Pittsburgh gave up 170 yards. To put that in perspective, last year it took three games until the Steelers gave up that many rushing yards, and they faced Chris Johnson and Michael Turner in Weeks 1 and 2.
8. (9) Chargers (1-0) — At first glance, it looked like we were watching the 2010 Chargers in 2011. The special teams allowed Percy Harvin to return the opening kickoff 103 yards and the Chargers found themselves down 10 points going into halftime. However, Philip Rivers led a rare early season comeback and the Chargers opened the season with a win. Starting 1-0 came at a price; defensive end Luis Castillo was carted off the field and expected to miss a significant amount of time.
9. (11) Bears (1-0) — In my opinion, the Bears’ dominating win over the Falcons was the most surprising occurrence of Week 1. Jay Cutler was sharp and the Bears defense made big plays and caused turnovers. It was a great start to the season, but the Bears offensive line needs to get better if this team is going to be successful. The spotlight was on the O-line, and it struggled. Cutler was sacked three times in the first half and knocked down throughout the game.
10. (6) Falcons (0-1) — This was a disturbing loss for the Falcons. For a team that takes pride in playing with discipline and protecting the football, the nine penalties and three turnovers on Sunday would make one think otherwise. My bet is that the Falcons figure out their problems, but it won’t get any easier. Michael Vick and the Eagles come to town on Sunday night.
11. (15) Texans (1-0) — Losing the league’s top rusher was never so unproblematic. Ben Tate filled in for Arian Foster nicely and had a monstrous game. The Texans have plenty of reasons to roll into Week 2 confident. The offense produced in the air and on the ground. Wade Phillips’ new-look defense was able to pressure the quarterback and keep the passing yards down. Last year, even Tavaris Jackson would of been able to put up 300 yards passing against the Texans. With Peyton Manning out indefinitely, 2011 could be the year the Texans find themselves atop the AFC South.
12. (16) Lions (1-0) — The days are over when teams can play their third-stringers against the Lions and get a victory. This team is for real. A healthy Matthew Stafford made it through Week 1 unscathed. The defensive front seven is unrelenting and aggressive. The Bucs had one of the best rushing attacks in the league in 2010. On Sunday, they were unable to get anything going in the run game.
13. (13) Cowboys (0-1) — How many times is Tony Romo going to find a way to choke away the game in the final moments? The Cowboys offense was pathetic Sunday night in the fourth quarter. An array of turnovers, lack of communication and penalties when it mattered most proved the Cowboys have a long way to go.
14. (21) Raiders (1-0) — In order to become a serious playoff contender, the Raiders must play more disciplined football. Fifteen penalties in one game is inexcusable and one of the reasons they didn’t reach the postseason last year. This team has the talent but must play smart football.
15. (18) Buccaneers (0-1) — If the Bucs had any production from the run game, they may have been able to pull off a win against the Lions. The young Josh Freeman dropped back to pass 43 times while the run game managed just 56 yards. Starter LaGarrette Blount had just five carries. The team showed some glaring weaknesses defensively as well. The Lions offense moved the ball at will on Sunday.
16. (17) Rams (0-1) — Definitely not the way the Rams wanted to open up what looked to be a promising season. Sam Bradford injured his finger, Steven Jackson strained his quad, and Danny Amendola dislocated his elbow. The early word out of St. Louis is that Bradford will play in Week 2, but you have to wonder how his hurt finger will influence his accuracy going forward.
17 (24) Jaguars (1-0) — No surprise, Maurice Jones-Drew was at the top of his game. The Jags rushing attack compiled 163 yards and led the team to its first victory of the season. Jacksonville has to be satisfied with the way Luke McCown performed. He didn’t throw any interceptions and put his team in a position to win the game.
18. (19) Titans (0-1) — The Titans need Chris Johnson to touch the ball and make plays if they want a chance to win. In Sunday’s opener, the $53 million running back had just nine carries for a measly 24 yards. That has to change in Week 2 against the Ravens.
19. (30) Bills (1-0) — The Bills demonstratively told the league on Sunday that their defense is much improved. After giving up almost 30 points per game and the most rushing yards in the league in 2010, the Bills were able to stifle the Chiefs offense and rushing attack. Hopefully for Bills fans, they can build off this win. This is just the second time in six years the Bills have opened the season with a W.
20. (14) Chiefs (0-1) — Pro-bowler Eric Berry is out for the year with a torn ACL, and to add insult to injury, the Chiefs took a 34-point beating from the lowly Bills. The Berry season-ending injury gets tacked on to a list that includes Tony Moeaki and Brandon Siler. I don’t think it’s too early to say it might be time to push the panic button in Kansas City.
21. (20) Vikings (0-1) — Leslie Frazier has to find the right balance between calling pass and run plays on offense. Donovan McNabb was 7-for-13 with just 39 yards passing. Even with the best running back in the game, no team can win when its quarterback throws for under 40 yards.
22. (22) Dolphins (0-1) — One of the most glaring factors of Monday night’s game was the constant fatigue the Dolphins were showing on defense while the Patriots were running the no-huddle. In a copy-cat league, the Texans certainly have the offensive personnel to run a similar game plan against the Dolphins in Week 2.
23. (28) Redskins (1-0) — The mistake-free Rex Grossman was very impressive in Week 1. The Redskins starter threw for over 300 yards and had one of the prettiest touchdown passes of the week. Much credit has to go to the defense as well. The Redskins stopped the Giants nine out of 10 times on third down.
24. (12) Giants (0-1) — The Giants’ season is hanging in the balance. Injuries have piled up in a rapid fashion. The team’s poor preseason spilled over into the regular season. Eli Manning threw a pick-six, the defense couldn’t stop Rex Grossman, and New York was flagged for eight penalties. Tom Coughlin has to find a way to reel in his team fast before it slips away.
25. (10) Colts (0-1) — Without Peyton Manning, the Colts’ weaknesses were exposed. One example is Indy’s run game. It has been awful over the past few seasons, but the four-time NFL MVP found ways to win anyway. The Colts are a four-win team with Peyton out of the lineup.
26. (27) 49ers (1-0) — The pressure is on Alex Smith, and he’ll be closely examined week to week by many in San Francisco. Under Jim Harbaugh, Smith was average in the season-opener but gave his team a chance to win. He protected the football and completed short passes. At this point, that’s all you can really ask from the former No. 1 overall draft pick.
27. (23) Cardinals (1-0) — Arizona barely prevailed in what should have been a fairly easy win. The Cards are 1-0 but have plenty of areas in which to improve. They allowed a rookie quarterback to throw for over 400 yards in his first game in the NFL, and Kevin Kolb struggled to get Larry Fitzgerald the ball. Fitzgerald was targeted seven times but made just three receptions, disappointing fantasy owners nationwide.
28. (26) Broncos (0-1) — Too many mental mistakes puts the Broncos in the bottom half of the NFL. Kyle Orton was mediocre but still is the best option John Fox has at quarterback.
29. (32) Bengals (1-0) — Give credit to the Bengals for ignoring all the negative publicity and starting the season strong on the road. Cedric Benson‘s 100-yard performance is something the Bengals will need each week to have a chance to win.
30. (31) Panthers (0-1) — Cam Newton‘s Week 1 performance is very encouraging for Panthers fans, but don’t count on similar numbers in Week 2 against the Packers. Some of the excitement over Newton’s play will be curtailed due to the loss of three-time pro bowler Jon Beason to a torn Achilles tendon.
31. (25) Seahawks (0-1) — It looked like typical Seahawks football on Sunday with a slightly worse quarterback. The team committed double-digit penalties and the run game was a non-factor. On special teams, the Seahawks allowed two touchdowns, which was the difference against the 49ers. It’s going to be a long year for Tavaris Jackson if the run game is unproductive.
32. (29) Browns (0-1) — The Browns solidified their dead-last ranking with a loss to the dreadful Bengals. The Browns were flagged for 11 penalties and clearly weren’t prepared to start the season.
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