The NFL landscape is completely upside down after a crazy week of action. How do the power rankings look after Week 2's shakeups?
The New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, previously top teams, both lost. The New York Giants' fourth-quarter heroics brought them a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The New Orleans Saints fell to 0-2. As you can see, the top 10 will look completely different this week.
It's too early to write anyone off after one bad week, but there's no doubting that perceptions are changing after a strange week of NFL action.
The Oakland Raiders are an abysmal 0-2, and there aren't encouraging signs of them turning things around.
After losing to the Miami Dolphins, and in embarrassing fashion, the Raiders are left trying to put the pieces of their season back together. The offense has shown sparks, but the protection Carson Palmer is seeing is keeping the Raiders from realizing their potential.
On defense there is a lot of talent in the Oakland front seven, but their cornerbacks leave them exploited to the passing game. That was on display this week, and will be going forward.
When you watch the Cleveland Browns' first two games, it is easy to see talent. The Browns hung in with two teams ranked much higher, and they did so on the strength of solid defensive play in Week 1 and a stout running game in Week 2.
The Browns are a very young team, and their reliance on rookies and second-year players was bound to lead to a rough 2012 campaign. The fact that the Browns are 0-2 shouldn't surprise anyone, but it has to be encouraging to see them hang in with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals.
The key for the Browns' season will be the development of their young players. They're getting that so far, as both Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden showed improvement this week.
After their Week 1 performance led to a dead-last ranking in our first power rankings, the Miami Dolphins rebounded with a statement victory in Week 2.
Beating the Oakland Raiders isn't a season-changing event, but it showed that the Dolphins will be competitive this season. Thanks to a strong running game from Reggie Bush, the offense was able to generate yards with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill under center.
And the defense will get better as they become more comfortable in the new 4-3 scheme. This is still a young team and a very green coaching staff. Over the course of the year, the Dolphins have a chance to remain competitive if they can keep running the ball like they did against the Raiders.
Expectations for the Jacksonville Jaguars varied depending on your source. To be 0-2 at this point isn't surprising to some, but the way they've lost is.
Blaine Gabbert was exceptional in Week 1, but his performance against the Houston Texans left much to be desired. In all fairness, the Texans defense is one of the best in the league and will surely embarrass many quarterbacks this year, but Gabbert was Captain Checkdown before being pulled in the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand.
The Jaguars defense was supposed to be much better than they've shown thus far, and that's perhaps the biggest surprise. The fact that the Jaguars rank No. 30 against the run after two weeks is one of the bigger surprises of the year.
If you're the Minnesota Vikings, you feel pretty good about a 1-1 record that was almost 2-0. Who the Vikings have played thus far isn't noted in the win-loss column.
What's most shocking after two games isn't the Vikings' record, it's that stud defensive end Jason Allen doesn't have one sack. After recording 22 last season, Allen has been shut out by Anthony Castonzo and Eugene Monroe in the first two games.
The Vikings look like an improved team from what we can see in 120 minutes. Christian Ponder is improving, the young secondary is ahead of where they were last year, and the run game is strong as ever with Adrian Peterson healthy. Consistency will be the key now.
The wheels have completely fallen off in Kansas City. For a team projected by some to win the AFC West, two straight blowout losses has everyone associated with the Chiefs questioning themselves right now. You can't blame the two losses on Matt Cassel—although many will try.
The simple fact is that the Chiefs have lost because they have allowed 75 points through two games. That's tied for worst in the league with another 0-2 team, the New Orleans Saints.The Chiefs did this last year too, but at least then they could blame it on injuries.
Now is the time for the team to rally and fix the schematic issues that are plaguing the on-field product.
Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano pick up their first win, and the Indianapolis Colts prove they can play tough football.
The Colts' win was a product of an efficient offense and a tough-nosed defense. Luck and the offense did nothing spectacular on Sunday, they just played solid football from beginning to end. The run game did enough to keep the Minnesota Vikings defense honest, and the offensive line protected Luck very well.
Against Dallas, the Seattle offense got going by feeding Marshawn Lynch the ball. He answered with big plays and tough running that allowed rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to get comfortable in the pocket. It also helped that Dallas fumbled the opening kickoff and had their first punt blocked and returned for a touchdown.
The Seahawks are 1-1, but they have to find consistency if they hope to become a playoff contender.
Our own Josh Zerkle picked the Tennessee Titans to win the AFC South. With an 0-2 start, that's looking like a tough possibility.
The trouble in Tennessee stems from the offense. Jake Locker is playing beat-up, and Chris Johnson can't get going in the run game. The Titans are ranked No. 25 in total offense.
Mark Sanchez looked like a god in the team's Week 1 win, but against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was back down to earth as the subpar quarterback we saw in 2011. For the Jets to be a contender—at 1-1 they're tied for first in the AFC East—Sanchez has to be consistent.
Robert Griffin III was widely praised following his NFL debut, and rightfully so. Following his first NFL loss, RG3 should still be happy with his own play.
The Washington Redskins were in a position to win, but the St. Louis Rams made one more play and were able to pull off a win in the final minutes. The Redskins are playing good football, and it’s quickly becoming evident that with Griffin in the game, Washington is always a threat to win.
How well the Redskins develop together remains to be seen. If not for a mindless Josh Morgan penalty in the fourth quarter, we may be talking about a 2-0 Redskins team.
If ever an NFL team could be schizophrenic, the Buffalo Bills would need to seek professional help.
The issues that plagued the Bills in Week 1 against the New York Jets were all fixed by the time the Kansas City Chiefs came to town. The run game, featuring C.J. Spiller, was dominant. The offensive line protected. The famed pass rush delivered.
The Bills have the on-paper talent to be a wild-card contender, but to get there they have to play like this team and not the imposters who showed up in Week 1.
If someone told you two weeks ago that the Arizona Cardinals would be 2-0, you may have believed them if you weren’t aware of their schedule. If someone told you the Cardinals would be 2-0 and that they beat the New England Patriots, you wouldn’t have believed them.
The Cardinals did the unthinkable in Week 2 by beating the Patriots—and doing it without a quarterback or offensive line. It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win—especially when you beat the team many consider to be the best in the AFC.
The Cardinals are off to a hot start, thanks largely in part to their defense. If they can keep that up, they’ll do another unthinkable by challenging the San Francisco 49ers in the West.
It’s tough to get a read on a team after two weeks—any team, for that matter. The San Diego Chargers’ ranking is partially due to preseason expectations and partially due to their play thus far. That play hasn’t been great, but good enough that you have to consider them a middle-tier team.
The Chargers dismantled the Tennessee Titans after their Week 1 win over the Raiders. San Diego wasn’t impressive in beating Oakland, which is why, even at 2-0, they are ranked below teams with a worse record.
This early in the year records mean little, but the San Diego Chargers are off to a strong start.
Robert Griffin III is still electric, and he’s an absolute force to be dealt with; but the St. Louis Rams proved that Griffin is beatable. And they reminded folks that their own franchise quarterback is pretty good too.
Sam Bradford isn’t thought of by most as an elite NFL quarterback, but he has had to battle coaching changes and injuries in his short career. Finally healthy, Bradford is showing flashes of his brilliance. For the Rams to build on a 1-1 start, they need much more from Bradford.
Jeff Fisher has done a great job with this crew. No one will sleep on the Rams this season.
Cam Newton is good.
That statement may be overly simple, but it’s incredibly true. Newton’s presence on the Carolina Panthers roster puts them in a position to challenge and compete week in and week out. Newton is the catalyst for the Panthers offense—and that was on display in Week 2.
The New Orleans Saints may be a mess, but beating them is still an accomplishment—especially when the Saints can score 27 points. Newton led the offense to a shootout win that puts the team at 1-1.
Even after a loss, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played well enough to warrant a move up this week.
The Buccaneers were a quarter away from beating the New York Giants, and in impressive fashion. Beating the Giants would have been a major upset, so a close loss still registers as an improvement from where most expected Tampa to be before the season began.
Josh Freeman is back to playing close to his 2010 form. Doug Martin has emerged as a true feature back. The defense is anchored by tough young players like Adrian Clayborn, Lavonte David, Mason Foster and Mark Barron.
Tampa may not be a playoff team this year, but they're on the right track.
The New Orleans Saints are officially in trouble.
An 0-2 start was unthinkable for the Saints, but here it is. The team that wasn't supposed to miss Sean Payton, thanks to Drew Brees, is definitely missing Sean Payton right now.
The Saints can still score in bunches, but they're not playing smart football. It's little things like clock management and silly penalties that are hurting the team. In both games this season they've been in position to win, but each week they let the win fall through their hands.
The Saints need a gut-check moment, and quickly. Teams who start 0-2 make the playoffs just 12 percent of the time.
The Dallas Cowboys started the year so well, but a long road trip to Seattle proved too much for the team.
Even on a long week following a Wednesday night game, the Cowboys looked unprepared for the team. Seattle quickly jumped out to a 10-point lead thanks to poor special-teams play by Dallas, and the Cowboys could never catch back up.
What we've seen from the Cowboys is enough talent to win the NFC East, but they remain a team that cannot consistently win the "trap" game.
A 1-1 team has never looked so bad.
The Chicago Bears weren't just beat by the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night, they were abused. This won't be a fun film session for Jay Cutler or anyone else on the Bears roster.
Cutler, in particular, played a terrible game. Be it interceptions, bad throws or the fact that he followed left tackle J'Marcus Webb along the sideline yelling at him, Cutler was just all-around bad. His demeanor—on and off the field—has led to many questioning the quarterback's ability to be a winner.
The talent is there for Chicago, and this is still a team many predicted to win a wild-card berth. If that's going to happen, Cutler has to mature as a passer and a leader.
Three uncharacteristic Peyton Manning turnovers doomed the Denver Broncos from the get-go, and a tentative move up to No. 8 in our Sunday night rankings was a bit too soon. The Broncos come back down to Earth, but they're still the best team in the AFC West.
The Broncos are able to win consistently, and that will be proven as the season plays out. Power rankings aren't a weekly gauge of hot and cold, but a look at the best teams in the NFL as the season plays out. If we had to bet right now on someone to win the West, Denver would get the nod.
The Pittsburgh Steelers dropped a tough loss on the road in Week 1, but they rebounded with a punch to the face of the New York Jets. Now the team sits at 1-1, tied for first in the AFC North and in good position to establish themselves as the team to beat in the division.
The key for Pittsburgh is finding a starting five along the offensive line that can protect Ben Roethlisberger while also paving the way for the run game. Be it Isaac Redman or Jonathan Dwyer, the offensive line has to open some holes.
Roethlisberger has been good this year, and we know the defense will be tough (even with James Harrison out). It's all a matter of winning in spite of adversity. That didn't happen in Week 1.
If you picked the Cincinnati Bengals to make the playoffs (like I did), then you use their Week 2 win over the Cleveland Browns as proof that the team quickly fixed their errors from an opening-week loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
If you're one of those people who isn't quite sold yet, it was the Browns they beat.
Pushing their record to 1-1 keeps the Bengals tied atop the division, and that's where they need to be right now. The Browns may be winless, but they are still a tough opponent. Against the team that held the Philadelphia Eagles to 10 points in Week 1, Cincinnati was able to move the ball and rack up points.
If Andy Dalton can continue to play like he did in their win, the Bengals will be in good shape. However, it's not every week that they'll face the Browns minus Joe Haden.
Are the New York Giants back?
After a Week 1 loss at home to the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants fell behind to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before charging back to take the lead and win the game in the fourth quarter. This is the type of momentum-building win the Giants are so good at turning into a season-changing game.
Eli Manning has to clean up his mistakes if that's to be the case. Manning was dreadful in the first half, and surprisingly that was with good protection from a banged-up offensive line.
The Giants escaped this one with a defining win, even with major injuries crippling the offense. Don't be surprised if this propels the Giants into a big winning streak.
The Detroit Lions fall to .500 after a tough-fought loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The season is far from over.
The Lions offense was shut down on Sunday night because of their inability to run the ball. The 49ers could sit with two deep safeties, daring Matthew Stafford to throw over the top to Calvin Johnson. If Detroit had been able to run the ball, those safeties would have had to creep up, and the deep ball would be a better possibility to Johnson.
The Lions are still a team that can win 10 or 11 games, but for a playoff win against a marquee team, they have to become more balanced on offense.
The Atlanta Falcons beat the Denver Broncos, but they were supposed to. That's why there is no big change this week.
The Falcons looked sharp, picking off Manning three times in the first quarter and forcing another fumble in those same 15 minutes. Can they keep that up, though? The NFC South looks wide open for Atlanta to steal the crown, thanks to the New Orleans Saints' problems without Sean Payton. This is a team talented enough to win the division--and more.
You won't find anyone faulting the Baltimore Ravens after an incredibly tough loss to the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles. The Ravens escape the week with no change in our rankings.
Baltimore's offense got off to a great start, and you could see Joe Flacco becoming the quarterback he's supposed to be. Then halftime came, and the Ravens offense fell asleep. The quarterback we saw in the second half in no way resembled the guy who was tearing apart the Eagles in the first two quarters.
The Ravens can and should win the AFC North, but it will be on the back of Ray Rice and a great defense if Flacco can't put together a full game.
It hasn't been pretty, but the Philadelphia Eagles are 2-0 and out in front of the NFC East crowd.
This is where the Eagles were supposed to be last year, when they seemed allergic to winning tight games. This year's team is winning even when they shouldn't—and to be fair, the Eagles had no business winning this week or last.
Michael Vick hasn't been great, but LeSean McCoy has been. Good teams win even when they're not at their best, and the Eagles we saw in the first half of Week 2 were far from their best. Andy Reid's squad came out ready to roll in the second half and showed what type of team this can be.
Losing to the Arizona Cardinals wasn't supposed to happen—but it did, and the New England Patriots must move on...and quickly, as they have the Baltimore Ravens up next on the schedule.
Few teams are better than New England has been in moving past a tough loss. Bill Belichick will have his team focused on the next opponent, and Tom Brady rarely plays two bad games back-to-back. What's most concerning about this year's version of the Patriots is the offensive line play.
The Patriots' loss to the Cardinals can be credited to the offensive line's inability to keep Brady protected. Against the Baltimore Ravens' pass rush, the O-line will be under constant pressure from All-Pro talent. For New England to move to 2-1, the offensive line has to get their act together.
The best team in the AFC isn't the New England Patriots. It's the Houston Texans.
The Texans aren't just the best team because of their record, they're the best team because of their play to date and the knowledge of what they can do. The Texans are talented, but they're a complete team with the balance to win on the ground, in the air or when the offense can't generate big points.
Barring injury, there is no reason the Texans can't be playing in the Super Bowl. The combination of a potent, balanced offense and a defense that's tough and disciplined will make Houston damn-near impossible to beat this season.
Redemption feels good, and that's what the Green Bay Packers were able to do in their win over the Chicago Bears.
Aaron Rodgers' offense remedied the issues that held them back in Week 1 against a tough Chicago Bears defense. The protection up front was much improved, and even the run game was able to generate an impact.
When the offense is firing, no one can stop Green Bay. And when Clay Matthews is getting to the quarterback and forcing bad throws, the secondary is good enough to create turnovers.
The Packers can't be overlooked as a Super Bowl contender. Even if many fans wanted to overreact and freak out after a Week 1 loss, the Packers showed this week why they're a top team in the NFL right now.
The San Francisco 49ers stay atop the power rankings after a second straight win against a 2011 playoff team.
The Green Bay Packers couldn't move the ball against the 49ers defense, and neither could the Detroit Lions. Holding the powerful Lions offense to field goals just goes to show the sheer might of the San Francisco defense.
If Green Bay and Detroit can't score on the 49ers, who can?
What's more terrifying for opponents is that the San Francisco offense is much better this year. Michael Crabtree is playing like the Top 10 draft pick that he was, Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter are a dynamic duo at running back, and Vernon Davis provides the spark as a game-changing tight end.
The 49ers might not go undefeated, but they are undoubtedly the team to beat right now.