NFL Power Rankings: Breaking Down All 32 Teams
Nearly two weeks have passed in the 2012 National Football League season, and we aren't any closer to deciphering which teams are true contenders and which ones are pretenders.
We do, however, have an inkling of what teams will be in contention and what teams are going to be cellar dwelling come January.
There were a ton of competitive games between good teams. There was also a handful of blowouts between mismatched teams.
Let's take a look at my power rankings for the second week of the season.
32. Oakland Raiders
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I have reversed course on the Oakland Raiders in just the matter of one calendar week. This is the worst team in the National Football League, and I really don't even think it is close.
How else can you explain them going into Miami and losing 35-13 to a Dolphins' team that is equally as bad?
Carson Palmer continues to fling the ball around for a ton of yards as the Raiders offense has been unable to get anything of substance out of it.
Defensively, it hasn't been much better, either. Miami gained a whopping 262 yards on the ground against Oakland, as Reggie Bush put up nearly 200 total yards by himself.
If you cannot remain competitive against a team like Miami, you definitely deserve to be here.
31. Cleveland Browns
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I will say this. The Cleveland Browns have been extremely competitive through two games. Their youngsters on offense seem to be progressing extremely well, too.
Brandon Weeden followed up a disastrous NFL debut by throwing for 322 yards and two touchdowns. The big thing here is that the young quarterback avoided mistakes and controlled the game extremely well.
Meanwhile, Trent Richardson proved exactly why he was the first running back off the board in April's draft. The Alabama product accumulated 145 total yards and two scores against a relatively weak Cincinnati Bengals rush defense.
Still, Cleveland came up on the short end.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
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The Jacksonville Jaguars were able to remain competitive last week against the Minnesota Vikings on the road. The same really cannot be said about Sunday's performance against the Houston Texans.
It starts and ends on offense here.
Jacksonville put up a total of nine first downs and 117 yards against a stout Houston defense. Adding insult to injury, quite literally, is the fact that second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert injured both his hamstring as well as a toe and wasn't able to finish the game. He is set for a MRI tomorrow.
Before Gabbert exited, he had 53 passing yards on 19 attempts. You don't have to be a mathematician to understand that isn't good.
29. Kansas City Chiefs
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The Kansas City Chiefs have started the 2012 season much like they did last year, by getting blown out in their initial two games. This time the organization doesn't have Todd Haley to kick around as a scapegoat.
For a team with this much talent, it is disturbing that they cannot compete against some mediocre NFL teams. A perfect case-study would be their 35-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Maybe it is Matt Cassel, but I see more as it relates to Kansas City. They are unable to sustain drives on the offensive side of the ball and continually get blown up between the trenches on defense. Two indicators of a team that will continue to struggle as the season progresses.
28. Miami Dolphins
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Mighty impressive win for the Miami Dolphins. They absolutely dominated a weak Oakland Raiders team at home on Sunday.
Reggie Bush went for 172 yards on the ground as Miami racked up a total of 452 yards of offense and 24 first downs. Seriously, that happened. Who would have thought?
Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill managed the game perfectly and failed to make the mistakes that seemed to plague the young quarterback last week.
While Miami will probably be cellar-dwelling when all is said and done in December, it is great to see this young team progress.
A resounding 35-13 win over Oakland is definitely a representation of progress.
27. Tennessee Titans
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These Tennessee Titans didn't even compete on Sunday. In short, they were blown away in every possible way by the San Diego Chargers.
They compiled a total of nine first downs as Chris Johnson had his second consecutive horrible performance. The former NFL rushing leader gained just 17 yards on eight attempts and is averaging less than two yards per rush this season.
Defensively, it wasn't much better. Philip Rivers literally did whatever he wanted against a secondary that seems to be missing Cortland Finnegan a great deal. The talented quarterback completed 75 percent of his passes and threw three touchdowns.
Even more disturbing is the fact that San Diego was able to accumulate nearly 150 rushing yards with Ryan Mathews sitting out another game.
It doesn't matter who is at quarterback for Tennessee. If they cannot get some balance on offense, this team is going to struggle moving forward. Additionally, their defense looks quite putrid at this point in the season.
Not much to take out of their initial two games.
26. Minnesota Vikings
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I am not too sure what to make of the Minnesota Vikings right now. They could have started the season 2-0 sans a late-game defensive meltdown against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
Christian Ponder has been more than impressive through two games. He has completed over 75 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and zero interceptions. That is pretty solid right there.
You still have to question this defense a great deal. They made both Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck look like Pro Bowl quarterbacks in the first two weeks of the season. Jared Allen has failed to record a sack in two games and the secondary has struggled.
It will definitely get more difficult in the coming weeks with Minnesota going up against both the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions.
25. Indianapolis Colts
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The Indianapolis Colts might have defeated the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, but they still have a whole lot of holes on this team. I guess that is an understatement considering that Indianapolis is in the beginning of a rebuilding process.
They have a nice start with Andrew Luck at quarterback and a few solid, young players at the skill positions. It is their offensive line and secondary that worry me right now.
In reality, Indianapolis will be much more competitive this season, but probably cannot count on more than a handful of victories.
24. New Orleans Saints
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Do I have the New Orleans Saints too low? The logical conclusion would be yes. However, that is just on the surface because they are playing some lackluster football right now.
Untimely penalties, stupid mistakes and a horrible defense have all helped New Orleans start the season 0-2.
Their defense has yielded over 900 total yards and 45 first downs through two games. You cannot have sustained success in the National Football League with performances like that.
Bleacher Report colleague Matt Miller also pointed out that teams that start the season 0-2 only make the postseason 12 percent of the time. It could start to be panic-button time in the Bayou. An 0-3 start would almost certainly doom the Saints' 2012 season.
23. St. Louis Rams
To say the St. Louis Rams are a completely different team from last season would be a major understatement. Their defense picked it up a great deal in the season opener before Sam Bradford and company got it going against the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
Bradford, who had his best game since a stellar rookie season in 2010, completed 26-of-35 passes for over 300 yards and three touchdowns against Washington. His favorite target, Danny Amendola, made up for an opening-drive fumble by recording a whopping 15 receptions on 16 targets.
This is a pretty damn good football team as of right now. Their major downfall could be playing in a vastly improved NFC West with a relatively weak offensive line.
Time will tell!
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense allowed a whopping 25 points and 240 yards in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants on Sunday, they looked primed for a 2-0 start.
It wan't to be as the Buccaneers' defense was exploited to the tune of 601 total yards and 31 first downs. Seriously, that isn't going to win you many football games.
Considering that the NFC South has some of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL, I don't see Tampa being able to hang in and win a great amount of games on a consistent basis.
You are looking at another cellar-dwelling season for this franchise.
21. New York Jets
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Mark Sanchez followed up a great season-opening performance against the Buffalo Bills by absolutely stinking it up this weekend. The embattled New York Jets quarterback completed just 10-of-27 passes for barely over five yards an attempt against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
More importantly, New York let Ben Roethlisberger pick apart a secondary that was missing Darrelle Revis. Picking on both Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie, Pittsburgh had a tremendous amount of success through the air.
These two aspects of the game need to change in short order for the Jets to be considered a serious playoff contender. The bad news here is that they have the San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans and New England Patriots in a span of the next four games.
20. Buffalo Bills
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The Buffalo Bills couldn't have asked for a better performance on Sunday after getting humiliated against the New York Jets in the season opener.
C.J. Spiller continued his stellar early-season play by going for 170 total yards and two touchdowns in a dominating 35-17 victory over the reeling Kansas City Chiefs.
Ryan Fitzpatrick avoided his patented mistakes, managing the game extremely well throughout.
More importantly, Buffalo was stout on the defensive side of the ball. Prior to allowing two garbage-time touchdowns in the fourth quarter, they gave up just three points and controlled the trenches.
It is all about gaining more consistency moving forward.
19. Washington Redskins
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Despite a heart-wrenching loss to the St. Louis Rams yesterday, the Washington Redskins have to be excited about their start to the 2012 season.
In reality, the excitement starts and ends with Robert Griffin III. He put up another three touchdowns (two on the ground) and nearly accumulated 300 yards again. RGIII remained extremely accurate and looks nothing like a rookie quarterback in the pocket.
It is about time Washington has this type of excitement on the offensive side of the ball.
The Redskins now need to take that next step and progress as a young football team. While moral victories are fine and dandy, they must turn early-season success into consistency.
18. Dallas Cowboys
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The Dallas Cowboys are a football team that just doesn't seem built to handle success. After a resounding victory over the New York Giants in the season opener, Dallas laid a complete egg on Sunday.
Three early turnovers resulted in 13 Seattle Seahawks points and doomed Dallas for the remainder of the game. Their passing game never got going as Tony Romo and Co. looked out of sorts throughout the game.
It also didn't help that Jason Witten chose Sunday to have what could be considered his worst game as a professional football player.
Dallas needs to dust themselves off and forget about this week. Any lingering thoughts about this disastrous performance needs to be left in the Pacific Northwest. If not, the hangover could last deep into the season.
17. Seattle Seahawks
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It goes without saying that the Seattle Seahawks are a completely different football team at home. The "12th Man" really did show its face against the Dallas Cowboys yesterday. More importantly, Seattle played off that electricity by taking it to Dallas in every possible way.
Pete Carroll decided to open it up a little more for Russell Wilson, who responded with a stellar performance in the home opener. The rookie third-round pick might have thrown for just 151 yards, but he managed the game extremely well.
Meanwhile, it appears that Marshawn Lynch is back at full health after compiling 122 yards on the ground.
Seattle's defense has been spot-on through the first two games. They rarely miss tackles and have the best secondary in the National Football League.
That being said, Seattle must show they can win on the road in order to be considered legitimate playoff contenders.
16. Carolina Panthers
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I expected Cam Newton and Co. to respond after a disastrous season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. Boy did they.
Carolina put up 219 yards on the ground as Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart all accumulated more than 50 yards.
Their defense forced a couple timely Drew Brees interceptions as they played more of a bend, but do not break type of game.
Carolina might be a year or two away from contention, but progress is evident.
15. Arizona Cardinals
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How the Arizona Cardinals are 2-0 is absolutely lost on me. They have nothing more than a marginal starting quarterback and extremely weak offensive line.
Still, Arizona has not lost a game through two weeks. Not many NFL teams can say that.
It all starts with defense here. Arizona smacked the New England Patriots in the face over and over against on Sunday in Foxboro. In short, they showed the league that a dominating defense will take the cake a vast majority of the time.
Next week's game against the Philadelphia Eagles is going to be absolutely huge. With a win against that talented team Arizona, will prove to the football world that their amazing victory over New England wasn't a fluke.
14. Chicago Bears
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One of the biggest drops in my power rankings this week is the Chicago Bears. They simply won't win a ton of football games with Jay Cutler consistently on his back like we saw Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers.
We all knew that pass protection was going to be an issue for Chicago this season. That is why I was so puzzled that they didn't attempt to upgrade this unit.
I don't care how good the receivers are, Cutler still needs to have time to get the ball to them on the outside. That didn't happen against Green Bay.
Defensively, Chicago is strong as ever. If they are able to give Cutler more time, this team will be a thorn in the side of opposing NFC teams for the remainder of the season.
13. Philadelphia Eagles
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Could a football team possibly have a less impressive 2-0 start to the season? The Philadelphia Eagles have won both of their first two games by a single point, playing pretty bad football in the process.
Turning the ball over nine times and committing a whopping 19 penalties in two games isn't indicative of consistent success throughout the season.
A more positive take could be that Philadelphia was able to come away with two victories in games that they obviously didn't play their best football.
With that in mind, it is important to note that Philadelphia boasts one of the most talented rosters in the league. If they are able to right the ship and get these issues under control, Philadelphia could be damn dangerous as the season progresses.
12. Detroit Lions
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The Detroit Lions don't drop too much after they were soundly defeated by the San Francisco 49ers last night. A major reason for this is the fact they were going up against the best team in the NFL in a home opener.
Not many people expected Detroit to win.
Matthew Stafford is clearly off his game right now. He was beyond inaccurate against San Francisco, and continued to struggle getting the ball to anyone outside of Calvin Johnson.
Detroit's defense is nothing more than marginal right now. This leads me to believe, like last season, that their success will depend on production from the passing game.
11. Cincinnati Bengals
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Let's get one thing straight. The Cincinnati Bengals are going to be in deep trouble if their secondary continues to perform like this.
How the heck do you allow Brandon Weeden to throw for over 300 yards and accumulate a 114.9 quarterback rating? That is some horrible stuff right there.
Cincinnati is still a playoff team because their offense continues to progress a great deal. Andy Dalton was on target the entire game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. More importantly, he didn't have to rely on A. J. Green too much as other Bengals' receivers stepped up.
The Bengals might win 10 games this season, but they are going nowhere quick with that pass defense. Surely, they recognize this and must attempt to fix it.
10. San Diego Chargers
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No, the San Diego Chargers haven't been overly impressive in two games, but they are still undefeated going into the third week of the season.
After a somewhat questionable performance against the Oakland Raiders in the season opener, San Diego came to play in their home opener against Jake Locker and the Tennessee Titans.
They controlled the game from the outset.
Now envision Ryan Mathews returning after two weeks and a possible return of Vincent Brown in the second half of the season. San Diego isn't only a legit playoff contender, they might be the best team in the AFC West.
Of course, the Denver Broncos might have something to say about that tonight.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
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Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets were exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers needed on Sunday. They absolutely destroyed a team that was riding high coming in.
Defensively, Pittsburgh was up to their old tricks. The pressured Sanchez a great deal, played solid football in the secondary and just dominated in every possible way.
Despite being sacked three times, Ben Roethlisberger stood strong in the pocket and ate up a Jets' secondary that was without the services of Darrelle Revis.
This is far from the most complete Steelers' team we have seen over the course of the last decade, but they are still playoff material.
8. Denver Broncos
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Not many teams can turn the ball over four times on the road against a good team and still lose by less than a touchdown. Peyton Manning will be fine moving forward, it was just one of those games for the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
I do like what Denver has built on the ground with Willis McGahee, who racked up 113 yards against the Atlanta Falcons. Having balance on offense will help Manning ease into his new surroundings.
You also have to be impressed by the way Denver's defense has played through two games. Despite facing short fields against Atlanta, they gave up less than 300 yards and 27 points. That is a testament to where this unit stands after a couple weeks.
7. New York Giants
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The defending Super Bowl Champions were one quarter away from starting 0-2. Then Eli Manning does what he does best: pull a victory out of what was a certain defeat.
Manning led the New York Giants to 25 fourth-quarter points while throwing for nearly 200 yards in the final stanza. It is simply foolhardy to ever question Manning again. He proved this over and over again during the Giants' Super Bowl run last season.
While New York has issues running the ball and are less than stellar along the offensive line, they have Manning and two playmakers in Victor Cruz as well as Hakeem Nicks. They don't need much more than that.
However, New York does need to get healthy and become more consistent in the back seven of their defense. They are going to be going up against some potent offenses in the next few weeks and need to be playing their A game. If not, this team could be in for a rude awakening.
6. Baltimore Ravens
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What is Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron thinking when he calls 16 run plays for Ray Rice in a close game? That is simply mind-numbing if you ask me.
This is also one of the primary reasons that Baltimore lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in a game that was marked by 13 total penalties and six turnovers.
In short, it was a disastrous performance for the Ravens following their impressive season-opening win against the Cincinnati Bengals last Monday.
They are still one of the best teams in the National Football League and will be around when it counts in January.
5. New England Patriots
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Yeah, we all saw that coming. The New England Patriots, a heavy home favorite against the Arizona Cardinals, were flat-out manhandled against a lesser opponent in the home opener.
When Kevin Kolb outplays Tom Brady, you know there is something going on. This is the situation that New England found itself in on Sunday.
A last-second missed field goal sealed New England's fate as they were upset by Arizona.
Not much more to say here. I guess every NFL team is entitled to a down week.
4. Green Bay Packers
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The Green Bay Packers still haven't gotten it going on the offensive side of the ball. Surprisingly, it was their defense that won the game against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night. They pressured Jay Cutler on a consistent basis as Clay Matthews absolutely dominated.
You can expect Aaron Rodgers and Co. to get it going in the passing game. Once that happens, Green Bay will be in a good spot.
Despite being soundly defeated by the San Francisco 49ers in the season opener, it looks like Green Bay has righted the ship. They are still one of the top three or four teams in the National Football League. No one can seriously question that.
3. Atlanta Falcons
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Three first quarter interceptions of Peyton Manning aided the Atlanta Falcons in their home opening win against the Denver Broncos last night.
Much like against the Kansas City Chiefs the week before, Atlanta controlled the trenches and speed of the game. Matt Ryan continues continues his upward trajectory and will soon be mentioned among the most elite quarterbacks in the NFC.
More importantly, Atlanta's defense seems like a whole different unit under Mike Nolan this season. They seem to be flying to the ball a great deal and the secondary is vastly improved.
2. Houston Texans
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Another week, another dominating victory by a team that is quickly becoming the class of the AFC. The Houston Texans dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars in every possible way on Sunday.
Arian Foster and Ben Tate were up to their old tricks, nearly compiling a total of 250 yards combined. While Matt Schaub threw for fewer than 200 yards on 35 attempts, he managed the game extremely well.
Houston was and has been dominant on the defensive side of the ball. They are one of the two best tackling teams in the entire National Football League and this was evident on Sunday.
Jacksonville failed to convert a third down, accumulated single-digit first downs and recorded a total of 52 passing yards.
1. San Francisco 49ers
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The San Francisco 49ers continue to roll. Their home-opening win against the Detroit Lions wasn't nearly as close as the final score would indicate. San Francisco dominated in nearly every aspect of the game.
Alex Smith once again outplayed a Pro Bowl quarterback by leading the 49ers on a few long scoring drives.
Through two games, Smith has thrown five legitimate incomplete passes, attempts that were not dropped by receivers. Smith has now completed 70 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and a 115.9 quarterback rating thus far this season.
That is absolutely stunning.
More importantly, San Francisco's defense continues to dominate. They have now given up a total of three touchdown-scoring drives in eight quarters against two of the best offenses in the National Football League.
In short, the 49ers are the best team in the NFL through two weeks. Hard to argue against that.