NFL Power Rankings: 3 Underdogs Who Will Ascend After Week 1 Upsets
One game down, one upset in the books.
Entropy is alive and well in the NFL power rankings, and no week is more susceptible to fluctuations than the first one. I've written at length about how futile preseason power rankings are, and, like clockwork, every year in Week 1 we see a number of things that they don't reflect.
Already, the Cowboys have upended the Giants, and that could just be the tip of the iceberg.
Here are three other underdogs who will make a statement in Week 1, and find themselves more properly rated in the next iteration of rankings:
Kansas City Chiefs:
Week 1 Opponent: Atlanta Falcons
The jury is still out on Kansas City. Some, myself included, have them touted as the biggest sleeper in the NFL. Others, meanwhile, denounce them for their lack of a big-name quarterback (more on that in a second), reliance on recently injured players, and employment of Romeo Crennel.
Here's a fun stat: Since 2008, only nine QBs have won 10-plus games multiple times. Their names? Manning, Manning, Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Flacco, Ryan and....Cassel?
Cassel is a proven game-manager, and he's got oodles of talent around him on both sides of the ball. Defensively, in particular, people don't realize how good this team can be. With a stout 3-4 run-stuffing scheme, to go along with Eric Berry and Brandon Flowers in the backfield, there's no reason they can't be this year's San Francisco. In fact, it'd actually be less surprising than the Niners' ascent in 2011.
Atlanta, on the other hand, has been lauded all offseason for their transition to a more opened-up offense. They'll be plenty exciting to watch, but I'm not sure that necessarily makes them better.
They've also historically struggled outdoors and Arrowhead should be rockin' for Week 1. Chiefs win in an upset and catapult up the rankings.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Week 1 Opponent: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers, on the strength of their infallible quarterback, have been a trendy sleeper pick all offseason. So underrated they've been, in fact, that they've actually become overrated.
The Bucs, on the other hand, are sleeping giants. In the what have you done for me lately world of NFL football, it's easy to forget that Tampa Bay was 10-6 two years ago. And from that 10-6 team, they subtracted an incompetent coach and added Vincent Jackson, Mark Barron and Carl Nicks.
How, exactly, are they not going to be good, again?
Josh Freeman outplays Cam Newton in a close, high-scoring game, but the Bucs eek it out in the end (don't forget––Freeman's calling card was clutch finishes). They'll be five or six spots higher in the next power ranking.
Week 1 Opponent: New York Jets
Is this even an upset at this point?
Technically....well, yes. The Jets are still favored in Vegas, in large part because there's so much uncertainty surrounding the Bills.
First there's the cryptic (and convenient) rumor that Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing hurt last year. True or not, it lends itself to speculation about how he'll fare in 2012: Either he was hurt, and we need to see if he's healed, or he wasn't and he needs to see how he combats his regression.
The defense is rebuilt but unproven. If they play up to their potential, however, it's hard to see how the Jets' inert, drama-filled offense will be able to move the chains on them.
Typical low-scoring AFC East game (yawn), but the Bills will pull it out by 7-10 in New York. The Bills will move up the rankings, and the Jets will move up into the A block of Sportscenter.
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