NFL Power Rankings: Where Each Team Ranks After Opening Week
It's power rankings time here on Bleacher Report. Of course tonight's games have yet to be played, but that isn't going to stop us.
28 NFL teams have played their season opener. We saw some tremendous late-game magic, unconventional play and surprising upsets.
The San Francisco 49ers defeated a Green Bay Packers team that rarely loses at home. Robert Grifffin III led the Washington Redskins to an amazing victory in New Orleans against the Saints.
Meanwhile, the New York Jets defied all skeptics by hanging 48 points on what was supposed to be an improved Buffalo Bills defense.
These are the movers and shakers of my initial power rankings of the 2012 NFL season.
32. Cleveland Browns
Lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 17-16.
While the Cleveland Browns did give it a go against a still underperforming Philadelphia team, they are nowhere near the level of becoming competitive on a consistent basis.
You simply cannot have your quarterback complete just over 33 percent of his passes and put up a 5.1 quarterback rating if you want to be viable in the National Football League.
This is what Brandon Weeden did in his first NFL start yesterday afternoon.
Cleveland lost yesterday despite the fact that Philadelphia committed 12 penalties and turned the ball over five times. Losing an ugly game at home against a struggling opponent will get you ranked here.
It really is that simple.
31. Miami Dolphins
Lost to the Houston Texans 30-10.
Boy, that was ugly. Anyone who had an inclination that Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins would surprise in 2012 was quickly plummeted back to reality on Sunday.
Miami had a 3-0 lead after the first quarter only to give up 24 unanswered points to close out the half. The rookie quarterback threw three interceptions as his receivers didn't do him any favors. Overall, Tannehill completed less than half his passes to wide receivers. They committed turnovers on four consecutive possessions, including on three straight plays at one point.
Defensively, Miami was eaten alive by the Texans' passing game, led by Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson.
Overall, it was a disastrous performance.
30. Indianapolis Colts
Lost to the Chicago Bears 41-21
You have to expect a rookie quarterback to struggle in his initial NFL game. Well, unless you predicted the Indianapolis Colts to go into Soldier Field and beat Chicago. This is exactly what yours truly did last week.
It didn't happen.
Indianapolis failed to protect Luck, who was sacked three times and hit another five times. In order for a young quarterback to succeed you need to be able to protect him. The Colts failed to do that on Sunday.
Jay Cutler started out the game missing 11 of his 12 passes before dominating a lackluster Colts' secondary throughout the final three quarters of the game.
Luck might help Colts' fans see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it won't be in 2012. They still have a whole lot of work to do.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Lost to the Minnesota Vikings 26-23 in overtime.
You have to give credit to Blaine Gabbert and the Jacksonville Jaguars. They are a much improved team from last season.
As little of this game that I was able to watch, it was apparent that the former first-round pick has picked his game up a great deal.
They still lost to an equally marginal Minnesota team at home. The National Football League is about winning games, not moral victories, and Jacksonville lost.
Their defense allowed Christian Ponder to complete 20-of-27 passes for 270 yards and a quarterback rating of 105.5. That simply won't get it done.
Jacksonville might be improved from last year. In fact, it is hard to argue that they aren't. That being said, they are still one of the weakest overall teams in the National Football League.
28. Oakland Raiders
Lost to the San Diego Chargers 22-14.
That was a damn ugly game for the Oakland Raiders in their season opener. As good as Darren McFadden might be, there is no reason why he should be targeted 18 times during an NFL game. That makes absolutely no sense.
It shows they don't seem to have confidence in the game plan or the receivers on the outside. You are not going to win many games shortening the field like that.
Carson Palmer played pretty well and recorded nearly 300 passing yards without throwing a single interception. Their defense might have surprised a great deal heading into Monday. I wasn't expecting something, but saw some pretty solid play.
Overall, Oakland will have to see their offense improve a great deal if they expect to contend in the AFC East. This is simply due to the fact that their defense cannot be counted on to perform consistently good throughout the season.
27. St. Louis Rams
Lost to the Detroit Lions 27-23.
Yet another team that might take a moral victory out of their performance, the St. Louis Rams gave Detroit a tremendous fight on the road Sunday.
Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, both new additions to the Rams' secondary, intercepted passes and helped keep St. Louis afloat.
Meanwhile, St. Louis struggled on the offensive side of the ball once again. Sam Bradford just couldn't get protection and was hit a total of seven times, including three sacks. While the Rams veterans did a decent job on the outside, both their rookie receivers were nowhere to be found. Chris Givens and Brian Quick compiled a total of one target and didn't catch a single pass, with the latter not playing a single snap on offense.
Adding insult to injury was a scary situation related to LT Rodger Saffold, who suffered an apparent neck injury. Reports indicate it is a sprain and he was held in the hospital overnight.
St. Louis will need to get him back on the field if Bradford is going to have any chance of remaining upright and making it through the season without an injury himself.
Good trend forward, but still a lot of work to do here.
26. Minnesota Vikings
Defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 26-23 in overtime.
Let's be realistic. Holding court at home against a lackluster Jacksonville team isn't going to jump the Minnesota Vikings up too much, especially considering it took a 55 yard last-second field goal by Blair Walsh to send the game into overtime.
With that in mind, it is important to note just how much this team has improved. Christian Ponder had the best game of his young career, putting up a triple digit quarterback rating while playing mistake-free football.
Adrian Peterson scored two touchdowns in his return to action after a serious injury to his knee last season.
What impressed me the most about Minnesota was their ability to shutdown Justin Blackmon, who caught just three passes for 24 yards. That's good stuff right there.
It's all about baby steps, but Minnesota is headed in the right direction.
25. Carolina Panthers
Lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-10
Well that was a dud if I have ever seen one. The Carolina Panthers, fresh off a surprising 2011 season, fell flat on their face against Tampa Bay on Sunday. This just goes to show you how far Cam Newton and Co. have to go before being considered legit contenders.
They ran the ball 16 times for a total of 10 yards. In the process, Carolina failed to open up any running lanes on the ground.
Considering that Tampa Bay ranked dead last against the run last season, this is an alarming figure.
This was a disastrous loss against an opponent many pegged to finish in the cellar of the division. Carolina needs to progress quickly if they are going to have any shot at contention in 2012.
I just don't see it after this performance. However, you have to remember we are talking about just ONE game.
24. Seattle Seahawks
Lost to the Arizona Cardinals 20-16.
Once again proving that preseason is nothing more than meaningless football, the Seattle Seahawks just couldn't get out of their own way in what was a disastrous season opening loss to Arizona.
They committed 13 penalties, turned the ball over two times, and scored just one touchdown on four red zone possessions.
It is pretty obvious that young quarterback Russell Wilson has a lot to learn before he can be considered an above-average starter in the NFL. Relying on check downs and conservative play-calling, Wilson averaged just 4.5 yards per attempt.
Seattle's defense was fine for the most part. They held Larry Fitzgerald to just four receptions on 13 targets and stifled a pedestrian Cardinals' running game. One huge issue here is that they recorded just one sack against one of the weakest offensive lines in the National Football League.
Seattle could still be in contention for a postseason spot, but they are nowhere near as good as some people (myself included) believed they would be at this early point in the season.
23. Buffalo Bills
Lost to the New York Jets 48-28.
What an absolute disaster this was for a Buffalo Bills team that came into opening weekend with high expectations. Realistically, Buffalo struggled in every aspect of the game outside of running the ball.
Any time you give up a 123.4 quarterback rating to Mark Sanchez it isn't a good sign. Couple that with the fact that they allowed rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill to catch two touchdown passes and you have the makings of a mutiny.
Moreover, Ryan Fitzpatrick was beyond horrible. He threw three interceptions including a pick-six to Antonio Cromartie. The struggling quarterback just couldn't make the right decision at the right time and continually threw the ball into narrow windows.
In the end, it was a 20-point loss to a Jets team that came in with relatively low expectations. My preseason prediction of Buffalo making the playoffs might not look too good at this point.
Once again, it is important to Buffalo has played just one regular season football game in 2012. Let's not jump off the bandwagon just quite yet.
22. Arizona Cardinals
Defeated the Seattle Seahawks 20-16.
It is always good to come away with a win in your season opener. The Arizona Cardinals did just enough to defeat a Seahawks team that struggled a great deal throughout the entire game.
Arizona's defense gave Russell Wilson the intermediate routes, but took away everything deep. They did a solid job against the run and forced a couple turnovers.
However, it is foolish to expect this team to continue winning on a consistent basis with a lackluster offensive line and pedestrian play at quarterback.
On that note, John Skelton was injured and will miss a few weeks. This leaves the ever-changing quarterback spot on the shoulders of Kevin Kolb.
21. Kansas City Chiefs
Lost to the Atlanta Falcons 40-24.
After an even first half performance, the Kansas City Chiefs were humiliated at home against Atlanta in the final half.
Matt Cassel made a few ill-advised throws as Kansas City struggled getting much going on a consistent basis.
In short, it just wasn't a good way to start the 2012 season after coming in with high expectations.
It is also important to take into account that Brandon Flowers and Tamba Hali sat this game out due to injury. That could have had something to do with their atrocious performance on the defensive side of the ball.
That being said, you simply cannot afford to give up 40 points at home and expect to win on a consistent basis in the National Football League.
20. Tennessee Titans
Lost to the New England Patriots 34-13
Let's hope the shoulder injury to Jake Locker isn't as bad as it looked. Early reports indicate that the young quarterback suffered a mild separation of his non-throwing shoulder and should be ready to go next week.
With that out of the way, Tennessee really didn't do a whole bunch right against New England.
They struggled gaining anything on the ground, which isn't a good sign moving forward. Chris Johnson gained a total of just four yards on 11 rushes as the Patriots dominated the trenches.
Tom Brady was able to pick apart what looks to be a suspect Titans' secondary. More alarming is the fact that Tennessee yielded 162 yards on the ground against what has been a weak Patriots' rush offense.
Overall, there is a lot of work to do here.
19. Philadelphia Eagles
Defeated the Cleveland Browns 17-16.
That was probably the least impressive way a football team could actually start the season with a win. Philadelphia continued its undisciplined play committing 12 penalties and turning the ball over four times.
Michael Vick is quickly becoming an enigmatic figure on the offensive side of the ball as well. He continually struggled with accuracy and decision making against Cleveland on Sunday.
The simple fact that Brandon Weeden compiled a 5.1 quarterback rating and it took a last minute score for Philadelphia to win speaks volumes about the Eagles struggles yesterday.
Andy Reid might also want to consider feeding the ball to LeSean McCoy more than 20 times instead of putting the ball up in the air a total of 56 times.
Just a thought.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Defeated the Carolina Panthers 16-10.
You have to be impressed with the way that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense played on Sunday. A unit that struggled so much last season held Cam Newton and Carolina in check, which is no small feat by itself.
In total, Carolina gained a total of 10 yards on the ground as they were forced to go to the air more than they would have liked. In the process, Tampa Bay forced two ill-advised Newton interceptions.
While Josh Freeman and Co. didn't set the world on fire offensively, they did just enough to win. Doug Martin gained nearly 120 total yards in his first NFL game. And Tampa Bay didn't turn the ball over a single time.
This was one heck of a debut for new head coach Greg Schiano. The Buccaneers now need to build on this and progress in certain areas that they did struggle with on Sunday.
17. Cincinnati Bengals
Lost to the Baltimore Ravens 44-13.
That was a pathetic performance there by the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. How do you go from being a playoff team to losing by 31 points against a division rival in your season opener.
Nothing went right for this team.
Their defense was victimized by what appears to be an elite offense in Baltimore. Moreover, it appears that Cincinnati's offense took a major step back.
Overall, the Bengals might not be as good as they were last year, but they're most definitely not as bad as 2010. Of course, we are just talking about one week here.
16. New Orleans Saints
Lost to the Washington Redskins 40-32.
Coaching does indeed matter in the National Football League. Without going off the deep end after one game, the New Orleans Saints struggled through a disastrous opening game against Washington.
When was the last time Drew Brees completed less than 50 percent of his passes? What about the negative three turnover margin?
Robert Griffin III had way too much time to pass the ball and was literally able to eat apart a lackluster secondary. He stood strong in the pocket against a relatively weak pass rush.
Passing is fine and dandy but New Orleans has to start winning games in the trenches. They were dominating along both sides of the line and couldn't stick with Washington wide receivers.
This doesn't promise to get any better.
Could be a down season in the Bayou.
15. San Diego Chargers
Defeated the Oakland Raiders 22-14.
Not the prettiest of wins, but the San Diego Chargers will definitely take it. Philip Rivers played good, mistake free football as they won a season opener without much of an issue.
Any time you can go on the road against a division opponent and win it is a good story.
Still, they have some major issues.
San Diego was without Ryan Mathews and weren't able to get the ground game going. They played relatively sloppy football on both sides of the ball. The good thing is that they were going up against a lackluster opponent. Can't expect this type of success against better teams.
Time will tell, but my confidence level still remains relatively low for San Diego.
14. New York Jets
Defeated the Buffalo Bills 48-28.
Consider me shocked and in utter disbelief. No one, and I mean no one, could have seen this coming. Mark Sanchez played one hell of a football game against what was supposed to be an improved Bills' defense.
He spread the ball out to Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes, among others. Sanchez looked comfortable back in the pocket, something I haven't seen since his USC days.
Outside of a monster game by C.J. Spiller, the Jets defense played equally as good as their offense. They forced three Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions and built a whopping 41-14 lead after the end of the third quarter.
If New York continues to play like this, many so-called experts will be eating their words come January. Now it is up to them to sustain this success moving forward.
13. Washington Redskins
Defeated the New Orleans Saints 40-32.
I might be overrating the Washington Redskins after just one regular season game, but what they did against New Orleans yesterday was nothing short of amazing.
Their defense held its own against an elite Saint's passing game as Robert Griffin III literally stole the show from future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.
Simply put, this might be a sign of things to come in D.C.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers
Lost to the Denver Broncos 31-19.
In what will be a continuing theme for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times and under a tremendous amount of pressure all game long. In the end, it was an interception by the veteran quarterback that sealed their fate last night.
I really do believe that this lack of pass protection will be the downfall of this club in 2012.
It is all about giving Roethlisberger the time to pass the ball and hit his weapons on the outside. If this doesn't happen in short order, Pittsburgh could be in for a world of trouble as the season progresses.
11. Detroit Lions
Defeated the St. Louis Rams 27-23.
Let's be clear about one thing. Matthew Stafford's three interceptions were pretty fluky if you ask me. He was anticipating the receiver to be in the area on two of the interceptions and made a horrible throw on the other.
These are mistakes that can be corrected.
The larger issue here is needing a last second touchdown against a St. Louis Rams team that won just two games last season, at home nonetheless.
Detroit did a great job on the defensive side of the ball. They held St. Louis to under 80 yards on the ground and a total of just 14 first downs.
You can definitely expect Detroit to get their offense sorted out. If their defense performs up to this level against better opponents we could be looking at an extremely interesting race in the NFC North.
10. New York Giants
Lost to the Dallas Cowboys 24-17.
The New York Giants might have had an amazing playoff run last season, but are clearly not the class of the NFL. In fact, some could make the case that New York is no longer the best team in their division.
Tony Romo and Co. found consistent seams in a secondary that is as ravished by injury as it is lacking necessary talent to be an average unit.
They are going to have to get a more consistent running game going in order to succeed on offense as well. Victor Cruz dropped multiple passes and Eli Manning was sacked three times behind a suspect offensive line.
I have a hard time envisioning the defending Super Bowl Champions making the playoffs this season.
9. Denver Broncos
Defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19
Peyton Manning was up to his old tricks after a year hiatus. The future Hall of Fame quarterback is that missing ingredient for a Denver Broncos team that won the AFC West last season. He simply makes everyone around him better.
But, the NFL isn't about just one person.
Denver's offensive line held up in front of Manning, allowing just two sacks as he was given ample time to find open receivers all over the field.
Their defense also played some amazing football against a talented Steelers' offense. They recorded five sacks and created a timely fourth quarter turnover that cemented the win.
One issue for Denver is getting off the field on third down. Pittsburgh converted 11-of-19 third downs, which enabled them to control the clock and keep Manning off the field.
8. Dallas Cowboys
Defeated the New York Giants 24-17 on Wednesday night.
Making the biggest jump up my rankings are the Dallas Cowboys, who looked like they were the defending Super Bowl Champions on Wednesday night.
Tony Romo picked up where he left off after a career-best 2011 season. The Pro Bowler spread the ball around a great deal and showed us all why Dallas is going to be a team to reckon with this season. He is simply playing in a zone right now, even after just one week.
More impressive, Dallas was stout on the defensive side of the ball. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne held their own against two elite Giants' receivers in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. The front seven flustered Eli Manning a great deal and forced him to be erratic with the football through the air.
While Dallas still has shortcomings in terms of their offensive line, this is a talented football team that could be considered favorites to capture the NFC East.
You don't defeat a defending Super Bowl Champion' on the road in the season opener if you are not a good football team.
Take that to the bank.
7. Chicago Bears
Defeated the Indianapolis Colts 34-14
When I made the prediction that the Chicago Bears would lose to Indianapolis, it wasn't an indication that they were going to struggle through the 2012 season. Instead, this prediction had more to do with my confidence level in Andrew Luck.
Well, I couldn't have been more wrong.
Chicago absolutely laid the wood against Luck and the Colts. They forced five turnovers, including three interceptions by the rookie quarterback. Less noteworthy is the fact that Chicago put consistent pressure on Luck from the interior of their defensive line. If that type of push continues opposing teams are going to find it slim pickings against this defense.
Jay Cutler started out incredibly slow, but ended up finding his groove with both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the outside. Those two new Bears' receivers combined for 199 yards and two touchdowns on a whopping 20 targets.
Needless to say, Cutler has a good thing going with them.
Matt Forte and Michael Bush also acted as the solid 1-2 punch that many indicated they would be. They combined for 162 total yards and three touchdowns. That is some scary stuff right there.
Don't look now, but Chicago is a viable contender in the NFC after a one-year playoff hiatus.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 40-24.
That was one impressive victory for the Atlanta Falcons. Going into Arrowhead and soundly defeating a Kansas City team that had tremendously high expectations coming in.
Atlanta broke open a close game by scoring 23 consecutive points before a meaningless Kansas City touchdown in the final seconds.
Their offense was as advertised. Matt Ryan put up some tremendous numbers and is clearly on the path towards becoming an elite NFL quarterback. The combination of Julio Jones and Roddy White had nearly 200 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
This is a team that should take the NFC South and make a deep run into the postseason. They have the quarterback, the skill position players, and an alarmingly improved defense.
5. Green Bay Packers
Lost to the San Francisco 49ers 30-22.
No shame in losing a game against San Francisco, especially when they played a tremendous game. The issue many will have is that the Green Bay Packers were obviously outclassed against the 49ers.
It was obvious from the onset that San Francisco was the better team on the football field. Green Bay mustered a total of two scoring drives as Aaron Rodgers was consistently thrown off his rhythm. The former Super Bowl-winning quarterback also found himself eating grass throughout the game.
One major concern as it relates to Green Bay is their inability to run the ball. Rodgers led all players in rushing yards with just 27. Meanwhile, the Packers were eaten apart on defense by an improved Alex Smith.
Listen. Green Bay is still a title contender and a loss at home against a good team in September will not change that.
Rodgers and Co. will be fine.
4. Houston Texans
Defeated the Miami Dolphins 30-10.
The Houston Texans got it going in a big way after a slow start against Miami on Sunday. They were down by three points after the end of the first before putting up 30 of the final 37 points in a game that ended up becoming a route.
While Houston didn't do a whole lot on the ground, they were as explosive as ever through the air. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson rekindled a spark that saw them become quite the dynamic duo prior to injury-riddled 2011 seasons.
Overall, Houston dominated in every possible way.
They made Ryan Tannehill look like the raw rookie that many expected he would be, forcing four Dolphins' turnovers. In fact, Miami turned the ball over three on three consecutive plays at one point.
No matter how bad Miami might have been, Houston was obviously in a class of its own in this game.
However, it is important to note who they were playing. Things will not be this easy in the future and Houston needs to get the running game on track to be considered a truly elite team.
3. Baltimore Ravens
Defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 44-13 on Monday Night.
Okay, that was an absolutely dominating victory by the Baltimore Ravens over the Bengals Monday evening. Joe Flacco continued on what was an impressive preseason by throwing for nearly 300 yards and accumulating a quarterback rating over 125.
Though Ray Rice wasn't asked to do much, Baltimore's offense clicked in every possible way.
This is a team that will contend for the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots. They have the passing game, the running game and the defense to be a title contender.
Monday's performance prove that to a T.
2. New England Patriots
Defeated the Tennessee Titans 34-13.
Tom Brady was his normal self as the New England Patriots offense were as good as advertised. It was their defensive performance that was most impressive.
Tennessee accumulated a whopping 20 yards on 16 rushes and were completely dominated between the trenches against what suddenly appears to be a stout front seven in New England.
Heck, Chris Johnson averaged less than a half of yard per carry on 11 rushes. That is simply amazing.
New England also did a bang up job in the secondary. Surprise second-round pick Tavon Wilson recorded two passes defended and intercepted a pass in the end zone.
Offensively, it was much of the same with a little new wrinkle. New England gained 162 yards on the ground, led by Stevan Ridley, who put up 125 by himself.
If New England continues to get this type of play from both sides of the ball they are going to repeat as AFC Champions. At the very least, they have to be considered early season favorites.
1. San Francisco 49ers
Defeated the Green Bay Packers 30-22.
Now that was an entertaining football game. It seemed that both the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers were playing a January game in September. Tensions were high, the atmosphere was electric, and the drama was mind-bending.
Thanks in no large part to horrendous officiating against both teams, San Francisco came away with their biggest regular season victory in over a decade.
Alex Smith clearly outplayed his counterpart and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. The embattled quarterback missed on just six passes while throwing two touchdowns and compiling a 125.6 quarterback rating.
Meanwhile, Rodgers was under pressure all game from an attack-minded 49ers' defense. He was clearly uncomfortable in the pocket and threw an untimely fourth quarter interception.
In total, San Francisco looked like the better team against an opponent that won 15 games and were playing at a venue that they rarely lose in.
There is no doubt that San Francisco has to be considered the No. 1 overall team in the NFL right now. They proved that without a doubt on Sunday.
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