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NFL Power Rankings, Week 2: Patriots claw to top

09.11.12 at 9:26 am ET
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A wild and exciting Week 1 is officially in the books and already we have a new No. 1 team that reigns over the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Bolstered by a new and improved defense, the Patriots climb to the top spot. Meanwhile, in the NFC, the 49ers “Lambeau leaped” the Packers after beating them in a statement game in Green Bay.

Aaron Rodgers and Co. drop down to No. 5 after their loss. The Texans clawed their way into the top five and sit at No. 4. Peyton Manning and the new-look Broncos are the fourth-ranked team in the AFC and stand at No. 7 overall.

Looking ahead to Week 2, there are a few matchups to watch that could impact the rankings. The Bears and Packers will battle in an NFC North showdown, and the Jets and Steelers will face off in a battle could move the winner into the top 10 of next week’s rankings.

Listen to Mut, Merloni, and Zarbano discuss the NFL Power Rankings on WEEI.

New England Patriots 1. (2 last week) Patriots (1-0) — A young, rejuvenated defense makes Bill Belichick‘s squad the clear AFC favorite after Week 1. This D has much bigger tests ahead of it, but holding Chris Johnson to just four yards in 11 attempts is very impressive. The versatility the pass offense showed on Sunday was expected. If Stevan Ridley can balance the offense and become a threat on the ground, the Patriots will be as close to unstoppable as a team possibly can get.

San Francisco 49ers 2. (4) 49ers (1-0) — The defense picked up exactly where it left off. The 49ers made Aaron Rodgers and the Packers look confused and out of rhythm. I don’t think there’s another defense in the league that is capable of that. The Niners are a well-rounded, well-coached team that made a statement to the entire NFL in Week 1: Last year was no fluke.

3. (5) Ravens (1-0) — It wasn’t the defense, it was Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense that was most impressive in the team’s win over the Bengals. With Ray Rice in the backfield, opposing defenses always have to respect the run. On Monday night, the Ravens’ play action was in full effect.

Houston Texans4. (6) Texans (1-0) — After the Texans’ 30-10 victory over the Dolphins, Andre Johnson said to reporters, “Man, we didn’t even play that well and won by 20 points. It’s crazy.” That quote says a lot about how good Houston really is. The Texans have playmakers on both sides of the ball and will go deep into the playoffs if they can stay healthy.

Green Bay Packers5. (1) Packers (0-1) — Just one week into the season and the Packers already have matched last year’s loss total. Still, why panic? When Aaron Rodgers is behind center, Green Bay has a shot to win every Sunday. A Week 1 loss to a well-balanced 49ers team doesn’t mean the Packers won’t contend for  a Super Bowl.

6. (8) Falcons (1-0) — The Falcons’ prolific offense showed how dangerous it can be. Matt Ryan played just the way he needs to play all season if Atlanta wants to win the NFC South.

Denver Broncos 7. (11) Broncos (1-0) — It’s tough to believe Peyton Manning hadn’t played a game since the 2010 season after watching the 36-year-old QB on Sunday night. Manning and the offense were in rhythm and operating like a well-oiled machine. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil made sure to remind everyone that the Broncos D is just as dominant.

Dallas Cowboys8. (14) Cowboys (1-0) — Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne did a great job at shutting down the Giants’ dynamic receivers. The Cowboys could turn into the favorite in the NFC East if their defense can consistently perform like it did on opening night.

Chicago Bears9. (12) Bears (1-0) — The Bears scored 41 points in Week 1. In 16 games last year, they never got over 40. The addition of Brandon Marshall and the subtraction of Mike Martz will continue to do wonders for this Bears offense all season long.

10. (3) Giants (0-1) — The Giants have proved in the past that there is no need to overreact to a Week 1 loss. The defending Super Bowl champs love starting slow and ending with a bang. As long as they stay in the playoff hunt, the G-Men are talented enough to be a Super Bowl contender.

Detroit Lions11. (13) Lions (1-0) — Matt Stafford‘s ability to bounce back after a lousy first half and lead his team on a game-winning touchdown drive proves that he is a top-five quarterback in the NFL. In Week 2, the Lions can’t afford to get off to a slow start against a great 49ers team.

New York Jets12. (18) Jets (1-0) — Who would have thought the Jets offense was capable of erupting for 34 points? The way Mark Sanchez was able to lead his team to touchdowns is a great sign for Rex Ryan and friends.

Pittsburgh Steelers 13. (7) Steelers (0-1) — The offensive line is a major concern. The lack of depth and experience could put Pittsburgh’s season in jeopardy. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times and hit nine times.

New Orleans Saints14. (9) Saints (0-1) — Turnovers and penalties are a sign of a poorly coached team. The absence of Sean Payton could play a huge role. After the Saints’ tumultuous offseason, one would think they would come out firing, motivated and looking for something to prove. They did just the opposite.

15. (10) Eagles (1-0) — It’s tough to criticize Andy Reid, but what is it going to take for him to realize that he has to lessen Michael Vick‘s workload if he wants to have a healthy quarterback all season. Vick had 56 pass attempts in the Eagles’ one-point victory over the Browns. He also was hit 11 times and sacked twice. Less Vick and more LeSean McCoy is key to Philly’s long-term success.

16. (15) Chargers (1-0) — Monday night was as close to a must-win game for Norv Turner and the Chargers as a team can get. They need to be better in the red zone.

Washington Redskins17. (22) Redskins (1-0) — Five rookie quarterbacks started in Week 1, and only one got a win. Robert Griffin III not only lived up to all the hype, he surpassed it. Griffin finally has the Redskins relevant again.

Cincinnati Bengals18. (16) Bengals (0-1) — After watching the Bengals on Monday night, it’s tough to believe they concentrated on improving their secondary in the offseason. The return of Leon Hall and the addition of Terrence Newman, Jason Allen and Chris Crocker didn’t matter much to Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense.

Buffalo Bills19. (17) Bills (0-1) — It doesn’t matter how many big-name defensive players the Bills sign, if Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to turn the ball over, Buffalo will have no shot.

Kansas City Chiefs20. (19) Chiefs (0-1) — The loss of Brandon Carr in free agency certainly was felt in the Chiefs secondary. The pass defense had no answer for Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ aerial attack.

21. (21) Titans (0-1) — The preseason was filled with news that Chris Johnson looked like the Chris Johnson of old. After signing a mega-deal and turning in a disappointing season a year ago, the star running back is being relied on to step up his game this year. In his first opportunity, he turned in his worst career performance

Seattle Seahawks22. (23) Seahawks (0-1) — Russell Wilson will have a tough time in the NFL if his pass protection remains as bad as it was on Sunday. The good news for Seattle is that Russell Okung‘s injury seems minor. The Seahawks were penalized 13 times, limiting their chances of winning.

Carolina Panthers23. (20) Panthers (0-1) — “Disappointing” is an understatement when talking about the Panthers’ Week 1 performance. The run game is a quarterback’s best friend, and Cam Newton simply did not have one. Starting running back DeAngelo Williams rushed six times for minus-1 yard.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers24. (25) Buccaneers (1-0) — The Bucs couldn’t ask for a better way to snap a losing streak. Tampa started its season beating a divisional opponent and getting in the win column for the first time since Oct. 16. New coach Greg Schiano has to be impressed with the way his defense played, shutting down Cam Newton and forcing two interceptions.

Oakland Raiders 25. (24) Raiders (0-1) — In a passing league, Oakland’s passing game is mediocre. Carson Palmer has to find a way to get his receivers involved in the game more. Running back Darren McFadden led the team in receptions.

Arizona Cardinals26. (27) Cardinals (1-0) — The Kardashian-Humphries marriage lasted longer than John Skelton‘s tenure as starting quarterback. After Skelton left with an injury, Kevin Kolb impressed Ken Whisenhunt. Now, the Cardinals coach is unwilling to commit to either quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Patriots, even though the Skelton’s ankle injury is believed to be minor.

Minnesota Vikings27. (32) Vikings (1-0) — It’s all about Christian Ponder in Minnesota. The young QB played solid in the opener. He showed great poise as he led his team to a game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter. The contribution from Adrian Peterson also is encouraging for Vikings fans.

St. Louis Rams28. (29) Rams (0-1) — The Rams took a playoff team down to the wire in their opener. Jeff Fisher had his team playing much better than anticipated. This young team should be encouraged by the way it performed Sunday.

Jacksonville Jaguars29. (28) Jaguars (0-1) — Although the Jags suffered a heartbreaking loss, Blaine Gabbert‘s fourth-quarter go-ahead touchdown drive was a positive sign. Since the playoffs are a longshot, the young QB’s development this season should be just as important as winning games in Jacksonville.

Miami Dolphins30. (26) Dolphins (0-1) — Some rookie quarterbacks had a tougher time than others in their debut. Ryan Tannehill looked lost. The rookie made poor decisions with the ball and had trouble adjusting to the speed of the game. You have to cut him a little slack, though, he doesn’t have a lot of weapons around him.

Cleveland Browns31. (30) Browns (0-1) — Brandon Weeden‘s dreadful debut was highlighted by four interceptions and a 5.1 passer rating. The 28-year-old quarterback needs to shake off this embarrassing start and find a way to get the ball in his receivers’ hands and not the opposing defense’s.

32. (31) Colts (0-1) — Five turnovers puts the Colts back in a familiar spot — the cellar.

Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to powerrankings@weei.com. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.

Read More: aaron rodgers, Bill Belichick, NFL Power Rankings, Tom Brady
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