NFL Power Rankings: A Fresh Look Post Week 1
After being treated to nothing but conjecture and hollow analysis all in the name of predicting the results of the NFL season, we finally have something solid to work with as Week 1 is officially in the books.
And per usual, the NFL had its fair share of surprises.
Some played better than expected, others fell flat on their collective face and others, to quote Dennis Green, are who we thought they were.
From the bottom on up, here's how the 32 NFL teams stack up after Week 1.
32. Cleveland Browns
Everyone will fall into the trap of giving the Browns a lot more credit than they deserve after Week 1. In reality, the only guy who truly played well on his own was D'Qwell Jackson, who seemed to wind up around the ball on every play.
Other than Jackson, the Browns defense was the beneficiary of some rust on Michael Vick, horrid offensive line play and terrible play-calling from the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cleveland offense, including rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, looked like one of the most inept groups I've seen in a long time. This unit could set records they don't want to brag about.
31. Miami Dolphins
I don't think it's a stretch to say everyone understood the thinking in releasing Chad Johnson after the fiasco with his wife and the infamous head-butt. However, I think everyone also understood the move would leave the Dolphins with next to nothing on offense.
Ryan Tannehill might have talent. Really, who knows? It's impossible to tell when he has no one around him to help him showcase it.
The sole reason the Dolphins are not dead last is because I believe head-to-head they could beat the Cleveland Browns.
And that's it.
30. Arizona Cardinals
Yes, I know, they won.
Yes, I know, the team they beat will be ranked higher than them.
Yes, I'm aware you have no idea how in the world that makes sense and are currently questioning my sanity, but stick with me.
For starters, it's a divisional game. As we've seen repeatedly, anything can happen between division rivals and the outcome does not necessarily determine which team is superior.
Secondly, the Cardinals are still devoid of talent and will now move forward without John Skelton for up to a month, according to reports.
Kevin Kolb stepped in and led them on the game-winning drive in Skelton's absence, but head coach Ken Whisenhunt picked Skelton over Kolb for a reason. Give Kolb an entire game—or just enough time to get hit and a little rattled—and see how he performs.
My guess? Well enough (or poorly enough, as it were) to consider starting the third guy in line.
29. Buffalo Bills
Granted, the Buffalo Bills were not hyped like other teams, but there was a buzz surrounding this unit that had some believing they could push for a wild-card spot behind the New England Patriots.
I think that chatter will die down quickly.
The Bills did not just get stomped by the New York Jets, they were embarrassed. Or, that's how they should be feeling, at least.
And that embarrassment should go all the way to the top—starting with the guy who decided overpaying Ryan Fitzpatrick was a good idea.
Divisional game or not, this was just sad from start to finish in every way imaginable. At this point, the Bills and their fans can forget about the playoffs and should start worrying about picking first overall next April.
28. Indianapolis Colts
If I hear one more Andrew Luck-Peyton Manning comparison, I think I'm going to go completely bonkers.
It means absolutely nothing that their stats from their first games played are nearly identical. Just because they both were drafted No. 1 overall by the Colts does not mean they will be the same player. It just means the Colts were really, really bad in 1997 and 2011.
With that said, there were a lot of bright spots for Luck. Just because he turned the ball over four times does not mean he won't turn into something great—it just means he's a rookie.
His biggest problem is that there's very little around him to work with, as evidenced by the 18 times he threw the ball to Reggie Wayne.
The same talent void exists on defense, and switching to the 3-4 isn't helping matters. That type of change always takes a couple years to nail down, so it's good the Colts are doing it now while they're already in a rebuilding process, but it doesn't give a lot of hope for many wins in 2012.
27. Seattle Seahawks
If Pete Carroll wants this year's group to be successful, he will have to open up the offense for rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and let him put his talents on display.
During the preseason, it was Wilson's ability to make the big play that earned him the starting job, but as soon as the games start to count, the Seahawks decided to reel him in and force him to play a West Coast style offense that in no way plays to his strengths.
If that's the type of offense the Seahawks were going to run, they should have stuck with Matt Flynn.
Wilson making plays will open up the box for Marshawn Lynch and keep the offense moving. Seattle has played well on defense since the day Carroll arrived, but that's not going to matter if the offense can't score more than 16 points.
The Seahawks could be a decent squad this year, but they will need the trust of the coaches first.
26. St. Louis Rams
There are no moral victories in the NFL, so the fact that the Rams lost by only four points to the Detroit Lions isn't relevant.
What's relevant is they're 0-1 and collapsed in the second half.
After seeing the second half, I'm not sure if St. Louis had as much to do with Matthew Stafford's three interceptions as he did. In hindsight it seems more like him forcing balls as a result of some Week 1 rust rather than a defense that will rack up takeaways throughout the year.
The offensive line is a mess and doesn't appear to have a bright immediate future. When even Steven Jackson is struggling to produce, that should tell you just how bad the front five is.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars
Blaine Gabbert played better than he did at any point last season, but that's not saying much.
Frankly, I just do not see anything from Gabbert that says he can be a good quarterback in this league. As far as that goes, I don't see anything to give me much faith he's even starting-caliber.
If I had to compare him to a quarterback in the league right now, it would be Kevin Kolb. Both are slow to read the defense, get shaky in the pocket, like to throw off-balance and are easily duped into throwing interceptions.
Gabbert's only real hope of success is a strong running game, but history says Maurice Jones-Drew is going to have a down year after his lengthy holdout.
The Jaguars would be better off with Chad Henne at the helm.
Yeah, take that all in for a second.
24. Minnesota Vikings
There is definitely a foundation here for the Vikings to be a good football team, but it's going to take some time.
Christian Ponder mostly played game manager in Week 1, but with Adrian Peterson behind him, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Winning a couple games on Peterson's legs could give the coaching staff enough confidence to open up the passing game and really see what the kid has.
The defense has the potential to be great, but it will take time for them to develop. The Vikings came into the year once again without addressing the cornerback position the way they should have, and my feeling is they will regret that decision all year long.
The Vikings will probably be competitive, but are unlikely to win more than a handful of games.
23. Oakland Raiders
Bonehead penalties and injuries at wide receiver and to the team's only long snapper spelled disaster for the Raiders as they dropped their first game of the season to the San Diego Chargers.
However, if those issues are fixed, then this team could still be very good.
The defense, all things considered, played extremely well. Penalties were their bugaboo and wiped away their good work as twice on one drive the Raiders gave the Chargers a first down because the refs were forced to throw the laundry.
Short fields for the Chargers also put the Raiders defense at a disadvantage—short fields that came as a result of disastrous attempts to punt the ball. Two bad snaps from the back-up long-snapper and a blocked punt gave the Chargers incredible field position that they used to put points on the board.
For that, it's hard to blame the Oakland defense.
On offense, Darren McFadden is just fun to watch. It looks like he has a chance to go the distance every time he touches the ball, and he had 28 touches on Monday night.
McFadden was constantly the guy Carson Palmer went to as he clearly has lost any trust in his receivers. Darrius Heyward-Bey continues to be a train wreck, Jacoby Ford is having foot surgery and will miss time, and Denarius Moore was scratched from Monday's game.
The Raiders could turn this around, but it's going to take a little bit of luck and some good coaching.
22. Carolina Panthers
What in the world happened to the running game? DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were nowhere to be found, and the Panthers offensive line got absolutely abused by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' front four.
On the bright side, Cam Newton looks like he could avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, but that will only happen if the Panthers can get their running game on track.
Head coach Ron Rivera clearly has decided he wants to be a physical run-first offense, but that's extremely difficult to do when your highly-paid running backs could barely muster first-down yardage between the two of them.
The other side of the ball looked solid for Carolina, but they can only do so much. The offense will have to chip in if the Panthers want to avoid the NFC South basement.
21. Tennessee Titans
Put a fork in Chris Johnson. He is absolutely done. His career is cooked. CJ2K came and went faster than, well, Chris Johnson back when he was CJ2K.
Four yards on 11 carries is so putrid that even "putrid" can't adequately describe it. Then consider that it was against a subpar New England Patriots defense and it's enough to make your head explode just trying to fathom how such a performance is possible.
Then it hits you and you feel like a fool for not realizing it sooner.
Johnson simply isn't trying anymore.
He ran like a mad man up until the point he got paid, and then he completely shut it down. We saw his lack of effort start last season, and he's taken it to a new low to begin 2012.
No, the offensive line wasn't very good, but that's no excuse for a guy with Johnson's abilities. Unfortunately, talent means nothing when possessed by someone who is no longer interested in using it, and Johnson seems like he couldn't possibly care any less at this point.
Jake Locker looks like he could have a very bright future with the Titans, but he'll need a running game and Johnson is unlikely to be the guy to provide it.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh Freeman appears to be regressing right before our very eyes.
His breakout 2010 season seems to be a lifetime ago after throwing only 16 touchdowns to 22 interceptions in 2011 and looking lost against the Panthers in Week 1. Freeman has gone from a guy with limitless potential to someone with several mechanical and mental deficiencies.
The rookie Doug Martin was the bright spot on offense. I'm still not sold he deserves to be the workhorse over LaGarrette Blount, but his debut went well.
The defense is what won the game for the Bucs. The defensive line was sensational and Gerald McCoy might be ready to really break out.
The Bucs' odds of competing in the NFC South certainly go way up if McCoy plays the way everyone believes he can, but if the 2011 version of Freeman sticks around for 2012, Greg Schiano could be the next coach prematurely booted out of Tampa.
19. San Diego Chargers
If the Oakland Raiders hadn't lost their long snapper, the Chargers just might have lost that game.
The Chargers played fairly well in all three phases of the game, but a lot of their success also came as a result of mistakes from Oakland. Good teams will take advantage of the situation, however, so it's difficult to say they should be penalized for that.
As has been the case for years, I'd like to see some more consistency from the Chargers. Philip Rivers does not seem in sync with his receivers just yet, and the offensive line is a work in progress. They will have to give Rivers more time in the pocket and Ryan Matthews more running lanes if the Chargers are going to compete in the AFC.
The talent is there, but whether or not it can all come together has yet to be seen.
18. Washington Redskins
I'm not here to take anything away from RG III's debut, but perhaps it's a bit early to anoint him the next great thing. After all, while starting the game out with seven straight completions is impressive, it's important to note every single one of those passes was at, or behind, the line of scrimmage.
It's not a bad strategy to get a rookie some confidence, and clearly it worked based on what Griffin would do for the rest of the game, I'm just saying he wasn't slinging the ball downfield all game long like some seem to think.
As far as the team in general, I think they caught the New Orleans Saints at the perfect time. They've been dealing with the bounty allegations (I refuse to call it "BountyGate") and are currently on their third head coach of the offseason.
The Redskins are in an incredibly difficult division and could run into a lot of roadblocks down the road, but they're definitely one of those surprise teams at this point.
17. Kansas City Chiefs
Talk about a tale of two halves. Ouch.
The Chiefs stuck with the Atlanta Falcons throughout the entire first half, matching every blow the Falcons could throw at them and keeping the Atlanta defense on the ropes as they passed and ran very effectively.
Then halftime came and the third quarter began.
And the game effectively ended.
The Falcons absolutely rolled over the Chiefs in the second half, and it's hard to tell why. The entire team just sort of stopped. The Falcons had been playing well all day and didn't necessarily play better as much as the Chiefs just stopped playing altogether.
Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers missed the game, but they missed the first half as well, so being without those guys would not seem to be the issue.
Whatever the problem is, the Chiefs need to figure it out quickly. You're not going to win a lot of games playing only one half.
16. New Orleans Saints
This isn't to stir the pot or anything—I just don't foresee the Saints being competitive this season with everything surrounding them.
They will have a new head coach after the first six weeks of the year, and even that won't be their original head coach. Aaron Kromer and Joe Vitt aren't exactly impressive head-coaching names to begin with, but being forced to split duty will make them even less effective.
The Saints kept five running backs on the roster, but still decided the best plan of attack would be to put the entire game on Drew Brees' back and hope for the best.
Unfortunately, if Brees can't carry the offense, the defense is not talented enough to bail them out.
Between the ongoing bounty allegations hovering over them and an always-competitive division to contend with, a .500 season should be considered a success in the bayou.
15. New York Jets
I believe the Jets can be a very good team, but they're missing a few pieces to make any real noise in 2012.
The defense, while solid, is getting older and slower with each passing week. They're going to have real trouble keeping up with the faster spread offenses.
The offensive line is questionable and a bit unsettled, and Shonn Greene would be a backup for most teams around the league. All in all, there just doesn't seem to be enough speed or talent in general on this roster for them to truly compete.
They'll stay in the playoff race, but will ultimately fall short.
14. Cincinnati Bengals
Like the Chiefs against the Falcons, the Bengals were in the game with the Baltimore Ravens until right around halftime. Then, from there, the wheels completely came off and they skidded into oncoming traffic.
As much as the Baltimore Ravens beat them, the Bengals beat themselves. Because of their success last season, we tend to forget what a young team the Bengals are, but everyone should be well aware now.
Andy Dalton and A.J. Green both have some growing to do yet as players, and facing that Baltimore defense to kick off the season was not a good way to build confidence. The Ravens got in Dalton's face and frustrated Green to the point that they both broke down.
On defense, the Bengals simply could not keep up with the Ravens' new no-huddle attack and were welcome guests at Joe Flacco's coming-out party.
There's still a bright future for the Bengals, but this game looked like big brother reminding little brother of his place.
13. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles' season will hinge on three things.
For starters, the play-calling absolutely must improve. Michael Vick threw the ball an astonishing 56 times, which would be an unacceptable number even without an All-Pro running back behind him. Vick did himself no favors, but the play-calling also did nothing to help him out.
Secondly, the offensive line must improve—quickly. The front five were manhandled all game long by a Cleveland front that really is not overly impressive. There are a lot of high-paid or highly-drafted guys on that line and therefore no excuse for the type of pressure Vick was feeling.
Lastly, the defense must play every week the way they played against the Browns. It would take too long to list all the defensive guys who stood out, but they played incredibly well as a group and that's what's important. With that kind of effort every week, they will at least give the offense a chance to win it at the end.
If any of those three factors fails or reverts to how it was in Week 1, it could be another disappointing season in Philly.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 1 can always be difficult to decipher because we have yet to know which teams just need to come together, how much injuries affected the outcome, what role general rust played, etc.
That's the dilemma in figuring out the Steelers.
Pittsburgh played without running back Rashard Mendenhall and safety Ryan Clark, so immediately both the offense and defense take a hit. Then figure in Mike Wallace's holdout, which likely prevented him from being in football shape, and Todd Haley's new offensive scheme, and the Steelers remain a mystery.
They're a talented team on both sides of the ball, but I question the offensive line and whether they'll be able to open running lanes and keep Ben Roethlisberger upright.
Getting healthy and learning Haley's system will be the biggest obstacles to a successful season in Pittsburgh.
11. New York Giants
After their opening-night loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants are a team with plenty of questions.
The offensive line really let them down. The Cowboys were able to plug any running lanes as well as get pressure on Eli Manning. And once Manning gets hit a few times, he starts slinging the ball in any direction he sees blue.
He didn't throw any picks this time, but if those hits keep coming Eli has shown in the past he'll start throwing it to the other team.
On the other side, the defense simply could not stop Tony Romo. That vaunted Giants defensive line got in his face a few times, but all Romo had to do was slide out of the pocket and he could usually find someone open.
The secondary, it seemed, was totally unaware of when they could break away from the receiver and when they should stick with their man.
The Giants are one of those teams I'm picking to really disappoint this season, and I only have them this high because they have a way of turning things around.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Tony Romo looked about as good as he could have. He did a great job of avoiding the rush and keeping his eyes down the field. After all that, he was often able to stick it in his receiver's chest, even on the move.
DeMarco Murray is an absolute horse. I love what this guy brings to the table. He's a hard-nosed guy that reminds me a lot of Frank Gore.
To keep the praise on offense going, Dez Bryant really responded from a tough offseason. With the way he was getting open, it looked as if his security team was out on the field with him, preventing the Giants defenders from getting anywhere near him.
If the Cowboys can continue playing mistake-free football from here on out, they could be extremely dangerous. The only problem is we've seen this before from them, and it usually doesn't last.
9. Detroit Lions
Take away those three Matthew Stafford interceptions and this is a completely different game. Those turnovers are what allowed the St. Louis Rams to get into scoring position as often as they did—not a defensive breakdown from the Lions.
I do not believe those interceptions will be a trend for Stafford as the season progresses. It was the first week of the season and he was clearly forcing the ball a bit, but I expect that to be corrected.
Without those turnovers, I think this game turns into the laugher we all expected. Calvin Johnson will continue to earn his Megatron nickname, Kevin Smith is always productive as long as he's healthy and the defense looked solid.
With a little polish, these Lions can be scary.
8. Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning is back and it's a beautiful thing for not only Denver and the Broncos, but for any NFL fan.
Watching this guy on the field is pure art. No one has the control of the offense, ability to read the defense and pinpoint accuracy Manning has. He's truly the best to ever play the game.
The guys around him played as well as they had to. This is a team that clearly has to come together and work on its chemistry, but once they get it right and are clicking on all cylinders, they will be hard to stop.
The AFC West is going to be competitive, but I think the Broncos will pull away early.
7. Green Bay Packers
No running game and no defense does not make a championship team.
The Packers were exposed against the San Francisco 49ers. As is almost always the case, when a spread offense like the Packers meets a tough defense like the 49ers, the offense hits a wall that ultimately leads to its downfall.
Don't believe me? Think it was just because it's Week 1?
See: Super Bowl 42.
Even when the Packers won the Super Bowl, they did it by finally finding a running game in the playoffs and getting some key takeaways in the Super Bowl.
They got bounced from the playoffs and lost their bid to repeat as champions because the problems that plagued them Sunday were present back in January and there do not appear to be any signs of those problems going away.
Aaron Rodgers or not, I think the Packers are in for a rude awakening. They're still a playoff team, but could be one-and-done.
6. Chicago Bears
The Bears defense did a good job taking advantage of rookie Andrew Luck. He got baited into some bad throws a few times and the Bears made him pay.
They had the look of a unit that could be very good moving forward.
The offense is absolutely stacked and just needs some time together. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall picked up right where they left off and Matt Forte can be counted on to do some great things in both the run and passing game.
Sprinkle in a little Michael Bush and these guys could be tough to stop.
5. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons looked very good against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, but I'd really like to see more from Michael Turner in order to keep them this high.
I have a feeling he'll turn it on, as will the offensive line, so I'm going out on a limb just a bit.
Matt Ryan, on the other hand, looks like he's a guy hellbent on getting a ring. He played like a man possessed against the Chiefs and is obviously sick of hearing about how much he's regressed since his rookie year.
Run defense is an issue, but getting gashed by Jamaal Charles isn't necessarily something a defense can always control. The guy is just unreal when healthy.
Again, the Falcons could plummet if they don't fix the little things, but I expect them to stay on top and run away with the NFC South.
4. New England Patriots
Like the Packers, the Patriots' run game and defense are cause for concern. Unlike the Packers, I have faith Bill Belichick can figure something out and get both of those areas up to snuff sooner rather than later.
Stevan Ridley likely just needs some time to figure things out, and the offensive line has gone through a bit of an overhaul, so they'll need some time to come together. As far as the defense is concerned, Belichick is a master at turning role players into stars, so there's little worry there.
Also, Tom Brady is still playing like Tom Brady and has more weapons at his disposal than at any point in his career.
That does not spell good things for the rest of the league.
3. Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco has officially put the NFL on notice. He must be tired of the talk that the Ravens are always going to be carried by their defense, because he lit up the field Monday night.
This is the guy the Ravens hoped they were getting when they drafted Flacco, and he's finally arrived.
The new-look no-huddle offense is something Flacco has really taken to and is proving he can run when given the opportunity. That has to really please the entire organization and give his teammates an immense amount of confidence heading into any game.
The Ravens' defense is getting older, but if they're constantly playing with a lead, they're going to continue to be a nightmare for the rest of the league.
2. Houston Texans
It's impossible not to love the trio of Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson.
If those three can all stay healthy, they're the best trio in the league and will put up some monster numbers. If the guys around them play their roles, the Texans offense will be nearly unstoppable.
But we know what those guys can do. My attention is on the defense and, more specifically, J.J. Watt.
It's been a long time since I saw a guy dominate the way he is at such an early point in his career. From what I'm seeing, he's the most dominant young defensive player since DeMarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman.
Don't let recent history fool you and allow yourself to forget what an absolute monster a young Merriman was.
Watt is easily on that level. As long as Wade Phillips sticks around, Watt could very quickly have people talking Hall of Fame, and that means nothing but good things for the Texans in 2012 and beyond.
1. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers get me excited every time I see them play. They're an old-school, throwback team that prides itself on running the football, playing strong defense and limiting mistakes.
In a new age where everyone is positive throwing the football around is what wins championships, it's refreshing to see Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers buck that notion and stick with what has always worked in the NFL.
It's not a mistake that a team like the 49ers is on top of almost every Power Rankings list and is a Super Bowl favorite of many. It's because a team like the 49ers will always beat a team that relies on finesse and fluff rather than football fundamentals.
As long as Alex Smith does just enough with the passing game, the 49ers are the clear favorites to take home the Lombardi Trophy this season.
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