NFL Power Rankings: Week 1 Grades and Analysis

Jon Dove@!/Jon_Dove42Contributor ISeptember 11, 2012

NFL Power Rankings: Week 1 Grades and Analysis

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    The first week of the NFL season provided us with a ton of interesting storylines. We're able to get an early look at each team and see where everyone stacks up.

    The most impressive teams from the weekend were the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons. These teams are among the top 10 in my power rankings.

    Other teams didn't have the type of opening weekend they expected. It was particularly tough for four of the five rookie quarterbacks. However, next week is a new week, and it will provide another look at each team. Power rankings early in the season are a victim of the moment. 

No. 32: Miami Dolphins

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    Offensive Grade: D+

    Ryan Tannehill had a rocky debut for the Miami Dolphins. His three interceptions were the main reason the Dolphins weren't able to pull off the upset. The Houston Texans scored 17 of their 30 points directly after interceptions.

    A lot of Tannehill's struggles came because of the lack of talent at the wide receiver position. He didn't have a lot of open targets, which resulted in Tannehill forcing balls into coverage. This was a tough team for Tannehill to face in his first game. The Texans have arguably the top defense in the entire NFL.

    Reggie Bush was the lone bright spot for the Dolphins offense. He averaged nearly five yards per carry and had several big gainers.


    Defensive Grade: B

    The Miami Dolphins defense played very well on Sunday. They held Arian Foster under 100 rushing yards despite being on the field for 66 plays. Miami's turnovers really hurt the defense's ability to keep the Dolphins in the game. The Texans were able to turn those four turnovers into 24 points.

No. 31: Cleveland Browns

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    Offensive Grade: D-

    The Cleveland Browns offense was a complete mess against the Philadelphia Eagles. They managed to produce only 210 yards of offense, averaging a pitiful 3.5 yards per play. Brandon Weeden looked like a rookie quarterback and made a ton of poor decisions.

    One bright spot was the health of Trent Richardson. He was able to carry the ball 19 times but didn't have much running room. Defenses won't respect the Browns' passing game, so Richardson can expect to consistently see eight men in the box.


    Defensive Grade: A

    This is a Browns defense that has a ton of talent, with elite players like Joe Haden and D'Qwell Jackson. They held an explosive Philadelphia Eagles offense to 17 points despite being on the field for 88 snaps. It was obvious that fatigue was starting to set in at the end of the game.

    I was really impressed with Haden. He held DeSean Jackson in check, had an excellent interception and did a good job supporting the run. Don't be surprised if Haden establishes himself as a top-five cornerback by the end of the season.

No. 30: Indianapolis Colts

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    Offensive Grade: C

    Andrew Luck was injury prone in his NFL debut but definitely flashed a ton of talent. A lot of Luck's struggles came because of the pressure he faced from the Chicago Bears defense. Players like Julius Peppers and Henry Melton forced Luck to hurry some passes, which led to interceptions.

    Reggie Wayne is still an elite wide receiver. He made several one-handed catches and was by far the Indianapolis Colts' best offensive player. The running game was a bit of a disappointment, but that's mainly because the Colts were playing from behind. Donald Brown averaged over five yards per carry, but he only had nine carries.


    Defensive Grade: D-

    The Colts defense allowed 420 offensive yards and several explosive plays. They struggled to stop both the run and pass. Jay Cutler was able to pick apart the secondary, while Brandon Marshall was a nightmare to cover.

    This team has to be disappointed with the injury to Dwight Freeney. He left the game after just one play and never returned. Freeney is an excellent pass-rusher, but he's been injury-prone over the past several seasons. It might be time they starting thinking about moving on.

    The one bright spot was the play of Robert Mathis. He showed that he's more than capable of handling the switch to outside linebacker. Mathis recorded two sacks and had several more pressures.

No. 29: Seattle Seahawks

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    Offensive Grade: C

    Russell Wilson had a very solid NFL debut. His numbers should look a lot better, but he had to deal with several drops by his wide receivers. The biggest drop came at the end of the game when Braylon Edwards let the game-winning touchdown slip through his fingers. However, Wilson's play was very encouraging.

    The Seattle Seahawks did a good job running the football against a tough Arizona Cardinals defense. Marshawn Lynch ran with a lot of authority, picking up several yards after contact. Lynch's play is something that will help Wilson's development.

    It was nice to see Sidney Rice back on the field making plays. He looks like one of the only real pass-catching threats on this offense.


    Defensive Grade: C+

    The defense played a decent game, but they weren't able to stop the Cardinals when it mattered most. It was very disappointing that they only managed one sack, as Arizona is known to have a terrible offensive line.

    However, Seattle's ability to shut down Arizona's running game was very impressive. Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells combined to tally only 23 total rushing yards. Players like Brandon Mebane and K.J. Wright were all over the field.

    This was a winnable game, and the Seahawks were counting on the defense to handle a poor Cardinals offense. Allowing Kevin Kolb to come in and drive down the field was a real disappointment.

No. 28: Arizona Cardinals

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    Offensive Grade: C+

    It was nice to see the Arizona Cardinals give their quarterbacks time to find open targets. The offensive line only allowed one sack, which played a major role in the outcome of this game.

    Before his injury, John Skelton was doing a great job moving the football. He did this without any semblance of a running game, as Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams were a major disappointment. This is a Cardinals team that needs a strong running game if they want to have a solid season.

    It was nice to see Kevin Kolb come in and lead his team on a game-winning drive. The confidence he obtained from this could really impact how he plays in the future.


    Defensive Grade: C+

    Arizona's defense held the Seattle Seahawks to 254 total offensive yards. Their ability to get off the field on third down was a key to the game. Daryl Washington is a stud and a very underrated linebacker. He's a difference-maker who made plays from sideline to sideline.

    A concern has to be the up-and-down performance by Patrick Peterson. He had a hard time dealing with the physical play of Sidney Rice and Braylon Edwards.

    This was a solid performance, but keep in mind that it came against a Seahawks offense that isn't really explosive.

No. 27: Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Offensive Grade: B-

    The Jacksonville Jaguars offense was efficient and productive. Blaine Gabbert did a good job making sound decisions and hitting open targets. The fact that he was able to extend drives by converting on 50 percent of third-down plays is important.

    Maurice Jones-Drew showed some rust, but it's obvious that it won't take him long to get up to full speed. Once Jones-Drew is ready to go, this offense has a chance to be a highly productive unit.

    I was disappointed that Justin Blackmon only had six targets. He's the team's top threat at the wide receiver position and needs to be worked into the game plan. However, it was nice to see the highly-paid Laurent Robinson make some nice plays.


    Defensive Grade: C+

    It was disappointing to see the Jaguars defense allow the Minnesota Vikings get into field-goal position with only 20 seconds left on the clock. They followed that up by allowing the Vikings to move right down the field in overtime.

    Other than that, they played a bend-don't-break style of football.

No. 26: Buffalo Bills

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    Offensive Grade: C

    Other than the struggles of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Buffalo Bills offense played well. C.J. Spiller showed a ton of promise and proved why the Bills selected him so early in the draft. With the injury to Fred Jackson, Spiller needs to continue to perform if the Bills hope to turn it around.

    However, Fitzpatrick's play is a real cause for concern. Some of the throws he made were just terrible, with the interception he threw to Antonio Cromartie being the worst.

    The Bills need to start worrying about Fitzpatrick's long-term future. At this point, he appears to be more like the quarterback that struggled at the end of last season rather than the one who looked good early in the year.


    Defensive Grade: C-

    The four turnovers by the Bills offense didn't help, but the defense allowed the New York Jets to move the football up and down the field. This was a first-string Jets offense that failed to record a single touchdown throughout the preseason.

    Allowing Mark Sanchez to throw for more than 250 yards and three touchdowns looks bad for this secondary. It's even more disappointing that an inexperienced wide receiver like Stephen Hill was able to haul in two touchdown passes.

    It was also a major shock that this team wasn't able to record a single sack. A defensive line featuring Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Mark Anderson should've generated more pressure.

No. 25: Minnesota Vikings

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    Offensive Grade: B-

    The Minnesota Vikings offense was a pleasant surprise this past Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They amassed 389 yards of total offense against a Jaguars defense that features a ton of talent. Christian Ponder's efficiency was the most promising sign of the afternoon.

    Ponder completed 70 percent of his throws and topped the 250-yard mark. He did a good job spreading the ball around, hitting a total of seven different receivers. His ability to get the Vikings into field-goal position with only 20 seconds left is what led to the win.

    The fact that Adrian Peterson actually played this weekend is a shock. Despite only being eight months removed from a major knee injury, he was able to run for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He showed little rust and appears ready to have another highly productive season.

    An area of concern was their struggles converting on third down. They were able to convert on two of their seven third-down situations.


    Defensive Grade: C+

    Minnesota's defense didn't really have that great of a game. They allowed Blaine Gabbert to throw for over 250 yards and two touchdowns. Maurice Jones-Drew was able to average 4.1 yards per carry despite missing all of the preseason.

    The long strike to Cecil Shorts shows what type of issues this team will have in the secondary.

No. 24: Carolina Panthers

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    Offensive Grade: D+

    The Carolina Panthers offense looked sloppy and out of sync. Because of the struggles of the running game, they had to rely on Cam Newton a lot, and he made some mistakes. Newton's two interceptions kept the Panthers from making a comeback.

    This is a football team with some good players along the offensive line and DeAngelo Williams in the backfield. However, they were unable to establish any type of a rushing attack. As a team, they only produced 10 total rushing yards. This is a complete disappointment and unacceptable for a team with that type of talent.

    It's more troubling when you factor in that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot of younger players on their defense, especially in the linebacker corps. Carolina should've been able to take advantage of their over-aggressiveness.


    Defensive Grade: B-

    For the most part, the Panthers defense held the Buccaneers in check. They did a great job against the pass, limiting Josh Freeman to only 138 passing yards. However, rookie running back Doug Martin was able to move the ball on the ground.

    Carolina's run defense is the biggest concern on that side of the ball. This is something they'll struggle with the entire season.

No. 23: Kansas City Chiefs

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    Offensive Grade: C-

    Turnovers are the reason the Kansas City Chiefs lost their game against the Atlanta Falcons. Quarterback Matt Cassel accounted for all three, as he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. The way the Falcons offense was playing, the Chiefs couldn't afford to give them more possessions.

    Jamaal Charles looks completely healthy and is the same explosive player we saw before the injury. His 46-yard run gives the Chiefs some hope for future success. The disappointing play of Peyton Hillis could mean Charles is in for a heavy workload this season.

    Another nice sign was the production of Dexter McCluster. It appears that someone has finally found a way to utilize his explosiveness.


    Defensive Grade: C-

    Matt Ryan and the Falcons passing attack was on fire this past Sunday. The Chiefs had a tough time containing the combination of Julio Jones and Roddy White. It also didn't help that the Falcons got three extra possessions due to Chiefs turnovers.

    Those turnovers came at a time in the game when Ryan was playing his best. Basically, the Chiefs gave a hot shooter wide-open looks.

    The front seven of the Chiefs defense did a good job against the run. They held Michael Turner to 32 rushing yards and 2.9 yards per carry.

No. 22: Oakland Raiders

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    Offensive Grade: B-

    The Oakland Raiders really miss both Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford. Both players have the explosiveness that forces defenses to respect the deep ball. With them in the lineup, Darren McFadden will have more running room, and there will be less coverage rolled towards Darrius Heyward-Bey.

    Oakland needs needs to develop better protection schemes. The San Diego Chargers were able to generate a ton of pressure on Carson Palmer.


    Defensive Grade: B+

    If it wasn't for the Raiders defense, their Week 1 game would have gotten out of hand. They were constantly put in terrible situations and still found a way to produce stops. Their ability to generate a strong pass rush really kept Philip Rivers out of rhythm.

    I was really impressed with the play of Rolando McClain. He was all over the field and made several stops behind the line of scrimmage. There was never any doubting his talent, but he has yet to live up to his potential. It appears that Dennis Allen and company have him focused.

    It would be an oversight not to mention the special teams issues that cost the Raiders the game. Losing your long snapper is a tough thing to deal with, but that was just an embarrassing performance.

No. 21: Philadelphia Eagles

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    Offensive Grade: C-

    The story of the Philadelphia Eagles' game against the Cleveland Browns was the struggles of Michael Vick. His four interceptions put the game in jeopardy, to the point where the Eagles needed a late-minute drive to pull off the win.

    He made some really poor decisions by forcing the ball into coverage. However, I noticed that he had a hard time seeing over the line. The Browns got a good push up the middle, which limited his vision of the field. That was the reason for the interception he threw to L.J. Fort.

    LeSean McCoy continues to stake his claim as the top running back in the NFL. He really does everything. McCoy gained 110 rushing yards, made several key catches and did a good job in pass protection. Without McCoy, the Eagles would've lost this game.


    Defensive Grade: A

    The Eagles defense played well in all aspects of the game. They stuffed the run, limited the Browns passing attack and created turnovers. The Browns barely topped 200 yards of total offense, as the Eagles limited their ability to move the ball.

    A lot of this had to do with the fact they were facing a rookie quarterback.

No. 20: Tennessee Titans

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    Offensive Grade: C-

    The Tennessee Titans offense was inconsistent, and it prevented them from keeping pace with the New England Patriots. Jake Locker wasn't great, but he really didn't get much help from his surrounding cast. There were several drops by receivers and a horrible performance by Chris Johnson.

    Johnson's inability to establish a running game really put a ton of pressure on Locker. It's tough to keep pace with the New England offense, especially for a young quarterback still developing.

    It was a tough day for the Titans offense, but there were things that should foster optimism.


    Defensive Grade: C-

    Everyone expects Tom Brady to get his yardage and move the football. However, Stevan Ridley rushing for 125 yards is a tough pill to swallow for this defense. New England's success on the ground made it tough for the Titans defense to get off the field.

    One positive was the play of Derrick Morgan. The fact that he was able to register six tackles and remain healthy is a step in the right direction.

No. 19: St. Louis Rams

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    Offensive Grade: C-

    The St. Louis Rams didn't have a lot of offensive production against the Detroit Lions. They relied on their defense and avoided turnovers to keep the game close. Sam Bradford did a good job spreading the ball around, but he doesn't have the playmakers needed to produce explosive plays.

    Detroit has a strong defensive line and linebacker corps, which contributed to the Rams' struggles running the football. However, it's a very rare occasion for Steven Jackson to only average 2.5 yards per carry.

    Really, the true positive to take from this game for the Rams offense is that they avoided turnovers.


    Defensive Grade: C+

    Despite allowing Matthew Stafford to throw for more than 350 yards, the St. Louis Rams secondary did a good job. They were able to force three turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown. The cornerback combination of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins has the potential to grow into a strong duo.

    There's a lot of pressure on Robert Quinn to cash in on his talent. The fact that he was able to record a sack in the first game of the season is a promising sign.

No. 18: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Offensive Grade: B-

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense didn't produce a lot of explosive plays, but they were consistent and moved the chains. This is exactly the type of offensive attack Greg Schiano wants to implement. He fed the ball to Doug Martin and controlled the clock.

    Tampa Bay's offense held the football for over 37 minutes, while the Carolina Panthers only had the ball for 22 minutes.

    A key to the success of this game plan is Josh Freeman working to avoid mistakes. He was able to convert five of their 14 third-down situations and keep the chains moving. This Buccaneers offense isn't going to be very exciting, but it might be enough to get the job done.


    Defensive Grade: A-

    Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers really struggled to move the ball against this defense. They completely shut down the running game. The defensive linemen were holding at the point, and the linebackers were flying all over the field. Rookie Lavonte David looked really explosive and covered a ton of ground.

    It was nice to see Gerald McCoy penetrating the pocket and making plays behind the line of scrimmage. He could be the one player that benefits the most from the coaching change in Tampa Bay.

No. 17: San Diego Chargers

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    Offensive Grade: C+

    The San Diego Chargers need their offense to be more efficient in the red zone. They failed to capitalize on several mistakes made by the Oakland Raiders. It's obvious that Philip Rivers is still developing a relationship with his receivers. The timing is going to be a little off until they have more time together.

    San Diego needs to be concerned about the offensive line. The Raiders generated a ton of pressure on Rivers. Because of Rivers' lack of mobility, it's important for the Chargers to maintain a clean pocket.

    The running game was able to find some production with the likes of Ronnie Brown and Curtis Brinkley. This part of the Chargers' offensive attack will look a lot better when Ryan Mathews returns from injury.


    Defensive Grade: A

    This Chargers defense has a ton of talent. They have top-notch pass-rushers like Melvin Ingram and Shaun Phillips, tough defensive linemen like Kendall Reyes and ball-hawking defensive backs like Eric Weddle.

    However, the biggest the most important thing is they have a ton of depth. They are two-deep at just about every position on the defense. As the Chargers know as well as anyone, injuries occur in the NFL, and depth is needed.

No. 16: Detroit Lions

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    Offensive Grade: C+

    The Detroit Lions are going to live and die by the arm of Matthew Stafford. Early in the game against the St. Louis Rams, he threw several interceptions. This required the Lions to make a late push to pull off the victory. However, that late-game push was possible because of Stafford and his powerful arm.

    Of course, Stafford greatly benefits from the presence of Calvin Johnson.

    The running game really wasn't able to get much going, as Kevin Smith only ran for 62 yards. If the Lions can get more production from the rushing game, it would take some pressure off of Stafford. It's also likely help him cut down on the interceptions.


    Defensive Grade: A

    Detroit's defense held the Rams to 250 total offensive yards and one offensive touchdown. They did a great job keeping Steven Jackson in check. He wasn't able to get anything going, as he only averaged 2.5 yards per carry.

    Despite being considered a weakness, the secondary was able to limit Sam Bradford's production. As a team, they registered a total of three sacks. Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Corey Williams did an excellent job getting in Bradford's face. It's really tough for a quarterback to operate with pressure coming from the middle of the line.

No. 15: Cincinnati Bengals

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    Offensive Grade: C+

    The Cincinnati Bengals battled through a rough start and a fired up Baltimore Ravens team to keep the game close early. Andy Dalton was making sound decisions and getting the ball to his favorite target, A.J. Green. Cincinnati's offensive staff did a great job moving Green around the formation in order to create favorable matchups.

    BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran hard and was able to average more than five yards per carry. For the entire first half, the Bengals offensive line was able to generate a good push off the line. There was a point in this game where they were the more physically dominant unit.

    However, things got out of hand when the Bengals were forced to play from behind. This allowed the Ravens defense to pin their ears back and generate a ton of pressure. Cincinnati struggled to give Dalton a clean pocket, and that resulted in poor production.

    As bad as the score looks, there were still a few positives to take away from this game.


    Defensive Grade: C-

    I doubt the Bengals expected the Ravens to come out and run such an aggressive attack. Joe Flacco and company threw the ball early and often. In fact, one offensive play was a 52-yard pass to Torrey Smith. Despite not expecting this type of attack, the Bengals should've played much better.

    Their veteran defensive backs were exposed and made mistakes in coverage. Taylor Mays looked particularly bad in deep coverage.

    This is a very talented defense that I'm sure will rebound next week.

No. 14: New Orleans Saints

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    Offensive Grade: C+

    The New Orleans Saints offense made some early mistakes that allowed the Washington Redskins to get the early lead. Starting in a hole really put the Saints offense in a tough spot. They had to all but abandon the running game and put the ball in Drew Brees' hands.

    I fully expect this offense to quickly return to form. Look for them to feature the running game more in the coming weeks. They didn't move up in the draft to select Mark Ingram just to have him carry the ball 10 times a game.


    Defensive Grade: D-

    I don't care how talented Robert Griffin III is; it's just embarrassing to allow a rookie quarterback to have such success. The Redskins were able to work the short passing game, attack the deep part of the field and run the football.

    Steve Spagnuolo had to be disappointed that his team's only sack came off a corner blitz. Someone on the defensive line needs to find a way to generate pressure.

No. 13: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Offensive Grade: B-

    Ben Roethlisberger is truly a wizard in the pocket. He does such a good job avoiding the rush and extending the play that defenses have a hard time keeping him in check. The secondary just can't cover people for such a long time.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers need the offensive line to get healthy and perform better. Roethlisberger continues to take big hits because of breakdowns in the protection. Despite his thick build, Roethlisberger is just as vulnerable to injuries as any player in the league.

    I don't remember Jonathan Dwyer looking so heavy when he played at Georgia Tech. However, he was able to use that extra weight to pick up yards after contact. His tough running style is something that the Steelers have been missing for a few seasons. Rashard Mendenhall is still the top back, but Dwyer can emerge as a solid No. 2.


    Defensive Grade: C

    The Pittsburgh Steelers defense had a very uncharacteristic performance. They had several mental miscues and missed tackles. Peyton Manning really controlled the pace of the game, which is something typically dictated by the Pittsburgh defense.

No. 12: New York Giants

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    Offensive Grade: B

    The fumble by rookie David Wilson and drops by Victor Cruz really hurt the New York Giants ability to sustain drives. Other than that, Eli Manning and the offense moved the ball well versus a very talented Dallas Cowboys defense.

    It was nice to see Ahmad Bradshaw remain healthy and take advantage of the opportunity created by the Wilson fumble. Heading into the season, Bradshaw was facing a possibility that Wilson would take a ton of carries away.

    The Giants could be in real trouble if Cruz continues to drop the football. They need him not only to make big plays down the field, but also provide Manning with a consistent target.


    Defensive Grade: B-

    I have a hard time killing the Giants defense when they were working with their No. 5 cornerback. Tony Romo is too smart and talented to not take advantage of a weakness like that in the secondary. The big question is how the Giants are going to remedy the situation. They have to hope that Prince Amukamara or Michael Coe can get back on the field.

    New York has to feel great about the continued development of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. He really made a talented tackle in Tyron Smith look foolish. The issue is that blockers need to worry about Pierre-Paul's speed, but he also has a good power move that knocks linemen off balance.

No. 11: Washington Redskins

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    Offensive Grade: A

    Mike and Kyle Shanahan developed the perfect game plan to help Robert Griffin III succeed in his NFL debut. They allowed him to start off with a few completions and then attack the deep part of the field. Griffin III thrived after getting that early momentum.

    Another rookie, Alfred Morris, also had an excellent first game. He ran the ball hard and helped the Redskins run the clock out when the New Orleans Saints were making a comeback. He carried the ball 28 times and established himself as the lead back in Washington.

    Shanahan's offensive scheme is very favorable to running backs. If Morris keeps a hold of the starting job, he could have a highly productive season.


    Defensive Grade: B-

    Containing the high-powered New Orleans Saints offense is a very difficult task. Often times, the key is to create turnovers and try to keep Drew Brees in check. This is exactly what the Redskins defense was able to accomplish.

    The interceptions they were able to snatch helped them get an early lead. Enough can't be said about the importance giving a young quarterback extra snaps early in the game.

No. 10: New York Jets

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    Offensive Grade: B+

    For a first unit that didn't score a touchdown the entire preseason, the New York Jets offense really came out and played with confidence. Mark Sanchez was able to put all the criticism behind him and execute the offensive game plan.

    Equally impressive was the fact New York didn't have to rely on Tim Tebow to run the ball. It was nice to see Shonn Greene run with authority and move the chains. The Jets need Greene to have a good season if they hope to produce a high win total.

    New York needed another one of their wide receivers to step up and take some pressure off of Santonio Holmes. The fact that it was talented rookie Stephen Hill is only a bonus.

    It's only the first week, so we shouldn't crown the Jets as an offensive juggernaut just yet.


    Defensive Grade: A-

    The Buffalo Bills have a good collection of talent on offense. However, the Jets defense did a great job neutralizing everyone but C.J. Spiller. Their biggest achievement was getting in the head of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    New York ran an aggressive attack and was able to pick Fitzgerald off three times. We know this defense would play well, but it's obvious they fed off the success on offense.

No. 9: Green Bay Packers

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    Offensive Grade: B-

    The Green Packers had plenty of explosive plays, but they just weren't able to make enough plays against a tough San Francisco 49ers defense. Green Bay must find some sort of running game in order to establish some balance. The San Francisco defensive line was able to pin their ears back and attack Aaron Rodgers.

    Green Bay's offensive line isn't good enough to handle rushers coming from all angles. As talented as Rodgers is, he does have a tendency to get a little inaccurate when faced with consistent pressure.

    However, it's obvious that this Packers offense will put up a ton of points each week. They just have too many explosive players at the wide receiver position for a defense to cover.


    Defensive Grade: F

    The Packers weren't able to find a way to stop the 49ers from moving the ball up and down the field. They were getting dominated up front and couldn't keep Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree in check. Not many people felt the Packers would be outgained by a less explosive 49ers offense.

    Most will point to the secondary as the main concern, but the middle linebackers really struggled. A.J. Hawk and company didn't do a good job getting off blocks and pursuing the football.

No. 8: Houston Texans

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    Offensive Grade: B

    The Houston Texans got a good performance from their three offensive stars: Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. Houston needs these three players to produce and remain healthy if they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl.

    While the offense was solid, they really benefited from the turnovers created by the defense. The Miami Dolphins defense actually did a good job limiting the damage. Overall, this was a solid performance by the Texans, but it was anything but spectacular.


    Defensive Grade: A+

    The Houston offense didn't need to be explosive because the defense played at such a high level. They created turnovers, pressured the quarterback and contained the running game. This unit has a ton of talent at all levels of the defense.

    The Texans defense is absolutely talented enough to lead this team to the Super Bowl.

No. 7: Dallas Cowboys

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    Offensive Grade: A

    Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys took advantage of an injury-plagued New York Giants secondary. That unit just wasn't able to handle all the Cowboys' weapons, including the surprising emergence of Kevin Ogletree as the No. 3 wideout.

    Another positive sign was the production of DeMarco Murray. He showed good explosiveness and the ability to break tackles. Dallas' offense is far more dangerous with a powerful running game in place.

    Despite all the positives, there's still some concern surrounding the offensive line. Nobody on the line looked particularly good. Tyron Smith had a tough time keeping Jason Pierre-Paul in check. This group also had a few mental miscues and penalties.


    Defensive Grade: B+

    For the most part, the Cowboys were able to keep the high-powered Giants offense in check. DeMarcus Ware and company generated a lot of pressure on Eli Manning. This pressure forced a handful of Manning's throws to arrive off-target and late. 

    Against the run, the defensive line did an excellent job holding at the point of attack. I was very impressed with the play of both middle linebackers. Bruce Carter and Sean Lee were all over the field and made several plays behind the line of scrimmage.

    However, the real story was the play of the secondary. Both Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne showed how well this defense can perform with solid coverage.

No. 6: Denver Broncos

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    Offensive Grade: A

    Peyton Manning is back, and he looked extremely impressive after missing all of last season. His ball didn't appear to have a lot of zip early in the game, but Manning got stronger as the game progressed due to his high football IQ.

    Willis McGahee did exactly what the Denver Broncos asked of him. He ran the ball hard between the tackles and picked up yards after contact. His running style is something the Broncos could use to complement Manning. They can let Manning build a lead and run the clock out with McGahee.


    Defensive Grade: B+

    In only his second season, Von Miller is already one of the most dominant defenders in the league. Not only did he register two sacks, but he also played strong against the run. He's absolutely a strong candidate to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.

    The rest of the Broncos defense also did a good job containing Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers offense. Denver's offseason addition of Tracy Porter might be one of the more underrated free-agency moves. He really helps solidify the secondary in Denver.

No. 5: Chicago Bears

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    Offensive Grade: A

    Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall were able to quickly show how explosive they can be together. The passing game wasn't the only impressive part of the Chicago Bears offense. Both Matt Forte and Michael Bush were able to gain big chunks of yardage on the ground.

    Forte has to be one of the more explosive players in the league. Because of his quick-twitch ability, he's able to provide the Bears with a legitimate home-run threat.

    However, all everyone will be talking about is the play of Cutler. He connected with Marshall for nine catches, 119 yards and a touchdown. Marshall wasn't the only receiver making big plays, as Alshon Jeffery also contributed a 42-yard touchdown.


    Defensive Grade: A-

    For years, the Chicago Bears defense was the heart and soul of the team. They know that it's time to take a back seat to the offense, but that doesn't mean they won't be successful. On Sunday, the defense did what they do best—create turnovers.

    Julius Peppers, Henry Melton and Shea McClellin did a great job creating pressure and forcing Andrew Luck to make poor decisions. That pressure allowed defensive backs like Tim Jennings to capitalize and pull down interceptions.

    It's also important to note that Chicago was able to get Brian Urlacher off the field early in the third quarter. Urlacher is dealing with knee injury, and the more rest he gets now the better he'll be at the end of the season.

No. 4: Atlanta Falcons

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    Offensive Grade: A

    I'll admit I was one of those predicting a down year for the Atlanta Falcons. It was clear that the passing game had the potential to be really productive. However, I didn't expect Mike Smith to allow them to air it out as much as they did.

    The fact that he did means the Falcons are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Matt Ryan is still developing but looks to be ready to make a major step forward. It's not hard for a quarterback to find success when he has two receivers like Roddy White and Julio Jones. Every defense in the league will have a hard time containing these two.


    Defensive Grade: B

    The Kansas City Chiefs were able to move the ball against this Falcons defense. However, Atlanta responded by creating three turnovers. Those turnovers came at a great time in the game, as it happened exactly when Matt Ryan was heating up.

    Atlanta got terrible news when they found out Brent Grimes will miss the remainder of the season. He's a very underrated cornerback, and his loss hurts the talent level and depth. Going forward, Atlanta needs both Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel to step up.

No. 3: New England Patriots

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    Offensive Grade: A

    Tom Brady was his normal self, and he made a ton of excellent throws. He pushed the ball down the field, worked the underneath routes and found his tight ends early and often. Nobody questions Brady's ability to move the football and score a ton of points.

    The thing that was the biggest surprise was the strong play of running back Stevan Ridley. He ran for 125 yards, averaging six yards per carry and one touchdown. If the New England Patriots can continue to get this type of production from the running game, this offense will be unstoppable.


    Defensive Grade: B+

    Everyone expected the Patriots defense to really struggle again this season. However, they did a great job containing the explosive weapons on the Tennessee Titans roster. The biggest surprise was their ability to limit Chris Johnson to four total rushing yards.

    Another great sign was the sack recorded by rookie Chandler Jones. New England is counting on him heavily to be their main pass-rushing threat. It's a good sign that he was able to start the season off on a good note. 

No. 2: Baltimore Ravens

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    Offensive Grade: A+

    The Baltimore Ravens dominated both sides of the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Flacco and company displayed a very effective uptempo attack. His ability to stretch the field with his arm only makes Ray Rice and the running game more effective.

    It appears that Flacco's strong performance last season in the AFC Championship Game has given him a ton of confidence. This offense might be unstoppable if the passing game can consistently perform at a high level.

    The wide receivers also deserve a lot of credit. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are a great one-two punch. The two tight ends also did a great job stretching the field and finding openings in the defense.


    Defensive Grade: A

    It was a typical Baltimore Ravens performance on the defensive side of the ball. They generated a ton of pressure on the quarterback and delivered big hits, while Ed Reed scored a defensive touchdown. Despite some aging stars, this is still an elite unit.

No. 1: San Francisco 49ers

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    Offensive Grade: A

    The San Francisco 49ers set the tone early with their physical play in the trenches. This included the offense getting a consistent push off the line. Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter had a lot of running room and took advantage.

    After establishing the running game, Jim Harbaugh decided to get his wide receivers and tight ends involved. Michael Crabtree played well, looked focused and caught everything thrown his way. Teams are going to have a hard time shutting down this offensive attack.

    The 49ers are such a strong Super Bowl candidate because of the balance on both sides of the ball.


    Defensive Grade: A+

    It's nearly impossible to completely shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense. However, the 49ers were able to do enough to pull off the victory at Lambeau Field. This is a defense that has a ton of talent at all levels of the defense.

    They did a good job stuffing the run, getting pressure on Rodgers and containing the Packers' explosive wide receivers. Once they started to put hits on Rodgers, it was obvious he was a little rattled. His throws weren't as accurate with pressure.

    I have to say, NaVorro Bowman is one of the best-kept secrets in the NFL. He's a physical football player that stuffs the run and can drop back in coverage. Don't be surprised if you hear his name in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year.