Same goes for the Cowboys. There weren't a lot of people who thought Tony Romo & Co. would march into the Meadowlands on Wednesday night and escape with a win over the reigning Super Bowl champions.
There will be plenty of teams that have similarly traumatic experiences in the opening week, and others, like the Cowboys, who will surprise us. Here are a few of those that will flop.
San Francisco 49ers
Week 1 Opponent: Green Bay
This matchup is kind of the equivalent of Alabama having to take on Michigan in the opening weekend of the college football season. These two teams figure to be two of the strongest in the NFC in 2012, and one of them is going to open with a loss, which will be a blow to either of their standings in the power rankings.
And despite all of their offseason upgrades, particularly on an offense that was somewhat woeful last season, the 49ers are going to come up on the short end of this one. It's not only because they're on the road at Lambeau, or because the Packers' offense is terrifying on paper. It's mostly because Alex Smith is far from a proven star, and it's going to take him some time to establish a rapport with his new wide receivers.
Alternately, Rodgers has firmly established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and playing in front of the home crowd against a tough opponent in Week 1, he is going to thrive.
Which team will drop the farthest in power rankings after Week 1?
The preseason is rarely an accurate indicator of regular-season success. Just look at the Giants' preseason record in 2011: They traded wins and losses and could barely score in a couple of their games. Obviously, it didn't hurt them when the games started counting.
So we look at the Steelers' preseason performance, and we wonder why their defense was so bad. Only once did it allow fewer than 16 points, and twice it allowed 24 or more. That's not to say that this unit is going to fall apart in 2012—but it is to say that opening the season against one of the most prolific passing quarterbacks in recent history is going to be a challenge.
There is arguably nobody more amped up for the start of the 2012 season than Peyton Manning. He has more to prove than nearly any other player in the league, and can be expected to take out his aggression on the Steelers.
New Orleans Saints
Week 1 Opponent: Washington
Heading into 2012, the Redskins are very much on the upswing while the Saints are on the exact opposite trajectory. There couldn't be two teams at such different stages.
New Orleans is gearing up for a season without its head coach (and even without its interim coach, for the first six games) as it attempts to pick up the pieces from the infamous bounty scandal. The Redskins, meanwhile, are hopeful that finally—under Robert Griffin III—this team will be able to return to form, and return to the playoffs, for the first time since 2007.
RG3 has been great in the preseason, and his teammates have raved about his potential to be a star. The Saints have been run down by distractions and infamy. Washington's path to redemption begins this Sunday, whereas New Orleans will begin what bodes to be a long, long season.
Power Rankings 2012
|2. Baltimore Ravens||12-4|
|3. San Francisco 49ers||13-3|
|5. New England Patriots||13-3|
|6. Houston Texans||10-6
|8. Atlanta Falcons||10-6|
|9. Detroit Lions||10-6
|10. San Diego Chargers||8-8|
|11. Philadelphia Eagles||8-8|
|12. Dallas Cowboys||8-8|
13. Denver Broncos
|15. New York Jets||8-8|
|16. Chicago Bears||8-8|
|17. Kansas City Chiefs||7-9|
|18. Tennessee Titans||9-7
|19. Cincinnati Bengals||9-7|
|20. Seattle Seahawks||7-9|
|22. Arizona Cardinals||8-8|
|23. Buffalo Bills||6-10|
|25. Oakland Raiders||8-8|
|26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4-12|
|27. Carolina Panthers||6-10|
|28. Jacksonville Jaguars||5-11|
|29. Cleveland Browns||4-12|
|30. Miami Dolphins||6-10|
|31. St. Louis Rams||2-14|
|32. Minnesota Vikings|| 3-13