NFL Power Rankings: Highlighting Teams on the Rise After Week 2

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst ISeptember 17, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 16:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers drops back to pass against the New Orleans Saints during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 16, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If Week 2 of the NFL season proved anything, it's that there is very little set in stone about the structure of the league's teams.

The New England Patriots lost a home game to the Arizona Cardinals. The Dallas Cowboys came back to Earth after an impressive opening night win. The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins rose from the dead. The Green Bay Packers and New York Giants rebounded after humbling Week 1 defeats.

Most of what we thought we knew after Week 1 was essentially tossed out the window. 

That reality is why power rankings are mostly useless at this point in the season. Change is inevitable on a week-to-week basis, especially early. We won't have a clear picture about who the "best" teams really are until the fourth or fifth week, and maybe even later. 

In fact, by the end of Monday night, a whopping 20 NFL teams will sit at 1-1 after two weeks. Record-wise, there is little to gain. 

That said, power rankings are still an attractive way to stack up teams and analyze risers and fallers during a given week. 

In this power rankings, we highlight the teams that "appear" on the rise after Week 2. 


1. San Francisco 49ers (2-0)

Is there a more respected unit in the NFL—offense, defense or special teams—than the 49ers' defense? Amazing how well they play the run with just six defenders in the box.


2. Houston Texans (2-0) 

The competition level hasn't been high in the Texans' first two wins, but beating the scrap-heap of the league isn't an easy task in 2012. Defensive end J.J. Watt is an early defensive player of the year candidate. 


3. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)

Talking heads will focus on the nine turnovers in two games, while completely overlooking that this team is 2-0 with one of the better wins of the 2012 season already on its resume. 


4. Baltimore Ravens (1-1)

Joe Flacco's critics won't buzz off until he's able to put a string of Week 1 performances together. He was suspect in the second half Sunday, when the Ravens scored just six points.


5. Green Bay Packers (1-1)

Amazing what a little pass-rush can do for a defense. Clay Matthews has been the best defensive player in football through two weeks. 


6. New England Patriots (1-1)

Every NFL has at least one clunker during a season, but did anyone really see it coming during a home against the Arizona Cardinals? 


7. New York Giants (1-1)

The world champions were flat for the better part of the first seven quarters in 2012, but they exploded late to starve off the dreaded 0-2 start. 


8. San Diego Chargers (2-0)

Norv Turner is 2-0 for the first team in his NFL coaching career. Maybe this Chargers team is ready to turn a corner with a coach many wrote off.


9. Denver Broncos (1-0)*

The Broncos take on the Falcons on Monday night in Atlanta.


10. Atlanta Falcons (1-0)*

The Falcons welcome the Broncos to Atlanta Monday night.


RISER: 11. Arizona Cardinals (2-0)

Time to give credit where credit is due. The Cardinals have now beat two teams that many predicted to make the postseason, including a Super Bowl favorite on their home turf. It hasn't always been pretty, but the results are hard to argue with. If the Cardinals continue to get the kind of play from their defense they have through two weeks, this team can compete for a wild-card spot in the NFC. 


12. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)

Despite not having James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh dominated an offense that scored 48 points in Week 1. That defense will keep the Steelers in contention.


13. Dallas Cowboys (1-1)

How very Cowboys-like it was to win a huge game one week and fall on their faces the next. Who knows where this team is headed in 2012. 


RISER: 14. Seattle Seahawks (1-1)

Maybe the loss on the road to Arizona wasn't the kind of stinker we once thought it was. If anything, the Seahawks proved Sunday they can play with anyone in the NFC. The Cowboys were physically out-matched and mentally out-executed. The Seahawks can make a huge statement next Monday night when the Green Bay Packers visit the Pacific Northwest.


15. Detroit Lions (1-1)

The Lions' offense wasn't the first offense to be man-handled by the 49ers, and it won't be the last. Matthew Stafford's accuracy is a definite issue, however.


RISER: 16. Carolina Panthers (1-1)

The Panthers took one big step towards the top of the NFC South when they held off the sinking Saints at home. Beating New Orleans was one of the monkeys they needed removed from their backs. The most encouraging part of the win was the play of Cam Newton, who avoided turnovers and made big plays with his arm and legs. The Panthers are undefeated since 2011 (7-0) when Newton doesn't throw an interception. 


17. Chicago Bears (1-1)

The Bears looked primed to take down their long-time NFC North rival in prime time Thursday night. Instead, Jay Cutler and offensive line laid a huge egg. These kind of losses can have season-altering effects.


18. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)

For the second week in a row, the Bengals defense was shredded. But this time, it came at the hands of one of the NFL's worst offenses. A win is a win, but the Bengals need to be better defensively.


19. New York Jets (1-1)

The optimism of Week 1's 48 points faded after the Jets' opening drive. There was little on the offensive side after Mark Sanchez's touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes.


20. Washington Redskins (1-1)

A couple of bone-headed plays from the Redskins offense was the difference between an inspiring 2-0 start and a deflating Week 2 loss. Robert Griffin III might run away with rookie of the year honors. 


21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)

Had Sunday's game ended after three quarters, the Buccaneers would have been a big-time riser at 2-0. But that defense choked away what could have been Tampa Bay's biggest win in some time. 


RISER: 22. St. Louis Rams (1-1)

Head coach Jeff Fisher deserves a ton of credit through two games. The Rams may not be 2-0, but this is a completely different football team in 2012 than it has been the last five years. Fisher has given St. Louis a new identity, one with a no-quit attitude. It certainly helps how well Sam Bradford has played in two games, too. The Rams will surprise people over the next 14 games—book it. 


23. Buffalo Bills (1-1)

The Bills feasted on a bad Chiefs team, but they needed a bounce-back performance at home after the Jets took them to the woodshed in Week 1. C.J. Spiller is the real deal, averaging over 10 yards a carry.


24. New Orleans Saints (0-2)

Time to hit the panic button? Maybe, but this team still has the personnel to get things turned around. It has to happen starting this week, however.


25. Indianapolis Colts (1-1)

Andrew Luck is everything he was billed to be and more. Not only do rookies rarely put their team into field goal position in just 31 seconds, but rookies rarely are given that chance.


26. Miami Dolphins (1-1) 

Love the way Ryan Tannehill bounced back in Week 2. If he doesn't turn the ball over, Miami will be in most games.


27. Minnesota Vikings (1-1)

The Vikings have given themselves a real shot at being 2-0, which is a big step forward at this point in the rebuilding project.


28. Cleveland Browns (0-2)

Baby steps for both Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson. 27 points against a division rival is a good start.


29. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)

After an encouraging start in Week 1, Blaine Gabbert came crashing back to earth with another dreadful showing against the Houston Texans. 


30. Tennessee Titans (0-2)

Chris Johnson has 21 rushing yards on 19 carries. That's the only stat you really need to know about the start of the Titans' 2012 season.


31. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2)

The talent on the roster isn't close to the bottom-five of the NFL. But the product Kansas City has put on the field certainly has been through two weeks.


32. Oakland Raiders (0-2)

Making the trip from Oakland to Miami for an early afternoon game isn't easy, but the Raiders have destructive issues on both sides of the football. 

*Plays Monday Night


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