NFL Power Rankings: Analyzing League Landscape Entering Week 2

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NFL Power Rankings: Analyzing League Landscape Entering Week 2
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Power ranking all 32 teams entering Week 2 of the 2013 NFL season is even more subjective than usual. The kickoff to any year is always full of surprises, and stocks for each team will inevitably be exaggerated at this early juncture.

Having said that, it's hard to quarrel about who the best team is—at least in the AFC.

The Denver Broncos, spurred by Peyton Manning's magnificent seven touchdown passes, blew out the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens 49-27 to start the year this past Thursday.

Was the San Francisco 49ers' impressive opening victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday enough to get ahead of the Broncos for the No. 1 spot, though?

Read on to find out what the league landscape looks like as the current pro football campaign progresses through its infantry stages.

Note: Teams analyzed in more depth are italicized, with the emphasis on the surprise factor in their rising stock.

 

1. Denver Broncos (1-0)

Video Credit: NFL Network

The offense looks absolutely unstoppable, and after avenging last year's AFC divisional playoff loss to the Ravens, next up for Denver is the New York Giants. It's a sibling quarterback battle for the ages between Peyton and Eli Manning, and should lend to a thrilling shootout.

That game will tell us a lot more about both teams, but Denver should be able to stay very much afloat until superstar pass-rusher Von Miller returns from a six-game suspension.

 

2. San Francisco 49ers (1-0)

Video Credit: NFL Network

The home win over Green Bay proved that Colin Kaepernick can indeed devastate an opponent strictly from the pocket (412 yards passing, three TDs), and that Anquan Boldin was indeed worth acquiring for a sixth-round pick.

Boldin caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown, proving he still has plenty left in the tank. His one-on-one matchup with Seahawks corner Richard Sherman will be extremely entertaining to watch in Sunday night's prime-time clash.

 

3. Seattle Seahawks (1-0)

Even without a running game to complement him, it seemed QB Russell Wilson put to rest any concerns of a sophomore slump. Wilson completed 25-of-33 passes after hitting on one of his first five throws, accumulating 323 yards through the air and a touchdown.

The defense is elite, especially against the pass and even without Pro Bowl corner Brandon Browner. It all comes down to Sunday's home statement game against San Francisco to determine if Seattle can get an early edge in the race for NFC West supremacy.

 

4. New England Patriots (1-0)

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Tom Brady struggled to get on the same page with his new-look receiving corps until later in the game. That was when prized free agent Danny Amendola emerged as the dynamic slot threat the Patriots hoped they had acquired to replace Wes Welker.

A short week may cause Amendola to miss Week 2, though, along with all-purpose running back Shane Vereen and possibly promising rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld, too, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:

New England will hope to move to 2-0 in the AFC East on Thursday facing the New York Jets and rookie QB Geno Smith in Foxboro.

 

5. Green Bay Packers (0-1)

It's hard to knock the Packers too much for a loss on the road to the Niners, especially since they were blown off the field in the teams' previous encounter in the playoffs.

As long as rookie Eddie Lacy continues to flash in the backfield, the Packers' passing attack triggered by Aaron Rodgers should remain potent. A 0-1 grudge match with Washington awaits at Lambeau Field, though.

 

6. New Orleans Saints (1-0)

Video Credit: NFL Network

The prowess of Drew Brees at quarterback is always expected, but the most welcome development to New Orleans was multifaceted with regard to the coaching staff.

Head coach Sean Payton returned after a year-long suspension, which had to have lifted the morale of the locker room. Then, newly hired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan helped hold the Atlanta Falcons to seven points in the second half of a 23-17 win.

Al Bello/Getty Images

Ryan hasn't had a ton of success calling the defensive shots in his previous stops, but he's gotten off to a sweet start in New Orleans.

This year's No. 15 overall pick Kenny Vaccaro made a key, immediate contribution to the Saints' cause, deflecting a Matt Ryan pass intended for Tony Gonzalez on Atlanta's final drive. Roman Harper came down with the interception to ice the game.

As long as the Saints can generate takeaways occasionally and improve even slightly from 2012's horrendous effort, Brees and Co. have the looks of a playoff team.

 

7. Chicago Bears (1-0)

New head coach Marc Trestman got his tenure off on the right foot, beating the Cincinnati Bengals 24-21 at home and proving the Bears are still worthy of playoff contention despite a staff.

It's yet another new offense for QB Jay Cutler, but he still found Brandon Marshall for eight completions, 105 yards and the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Running back Matt Forte is also an ideal fit for the West Coast offense, and as long as the defense keeps forcing turnovers, this Chicago team will be a force to be reckoned with.

 

8. Houston Texans (1-0)

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

A rousing comeback on the road—highlighted by a magnificent pick-six by recently extended linebacker Brian Cushing—showed the Texans might have some of the necessary elements to take that "next step."

Houston has had disappointing exits in the divisional round of the postseason the past two years after winning the AFC South crown each time. The defense is stout, and DeAndre Hopkins looks to be the long-awaited No. 2 wide receiver opposite Andre Johnson.

 

9. Indianapolis Colts (1-0)

The close call at home against the perceptibly putrid Raiders was a bit of a surprise, but Andrew Luck looks right at home in an offense similar to the one he ran in college.

New offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton called plays for Luck at Stanford, and Luck completed 78 percent of his passes and two touchdowns in Sunday's win.

The new-look defense also looked reasonably good, given that there isn't a lot of tape on supremely athletic Oakland signal-caller Terrelle Pryor. Colts CB Greg Toler nabbed the team's first of two interceptions, and fellow free agent newcomer LaRon Landry was all over the field with 15 total tackles.

 

10. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)

Video Credit: NFL Network

The Chip Kelly era started off with a bang. A backwards pass put Washington on the board first on Monday night, but the Eagles rallied back with 33 unanswered points.

QB Michael Vick proved to be the ideal catalyst for the lightning-fast tempo Kelly demands, and took care of the football very well in throwing for 203 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

LeSean McCoy, though, stole the show, running for a career-high 184 yards on 31 carries and a 34-yard touchdown in the third quarter that was truly marvelous to behold:

h/t Bleacher Report

It seems the system Kelly brings from the University of Oregon is going to translate just fine to the pros. Rich Eisen of NFL Network pointed out how the Eagles ran as many plays in the first half as the Pittsburgh Steelers ran in their entire 16-9 loss to Tennessee:

Week 2 has the San Diego Chargers coming to Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field after being devastated 31-28 on Monday Night Football. Thus, the Eagles' odds to go 2-0 look pretty promising.

 

11. Atlanta Falcons (0-1)

The past two games for the Falcons—dating back to last year's NFC Championship game—have ended coming up just short in their opponent's end of the field.

Wide receiver Roddy White has a banged up ankle, and the physicality of the St. Louis Rams' secondary threatens to drop Atlanta to 0-2 in Week 2, even in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome.

 

12. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)

The fact that the Bengals were able to shut down Forte in Chicago is a great sign, but they had their own issues running the football.

A.J. Green is the only truly dependable receiver in the passing game, although rookie tight end Tyler Eiffert had a respectable debut with five catches on five targets for 47 yards. A home game against Pittsburgh will hopefully get the Bengals off to a good start in the AFC North.

 

13. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It's always difficult to tell how good the Giants are, but it is a bit discouraging that the Cowboys only won by six points despite benefiting from six turnovers on Sunday night.

Dallas did run the ball more effectively, but the team's resolve will be tested by a trip to Arrowhead Stadium in Week 2 to take on the revamped Kansas City Chiefs. Winning in that hostile environment would fortify this rather generous ranking.

 

14. Baltimore Ravens (0-1)

The absence of Boldin in the Ravens' offense seemed to hurt reigning Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco significantly. Tight end Dennis Pitta is also out, and No. 2 receiver Jacoby Jones sprained his knee in the opener.

All that keeps Baltimore this high in the rankings is the fact that the Broncos are No. 1. If the defense can't tackle better, the Ravens could be in for an unexpectedly difficult test at home against Cleveland.

 

15. Washington Redskins (0-1)

Quarterback Robert Griffin III got off to a slow start on Monday night, which was compounded by the Eagles' lightning-fast tempo. By the time Griffin found his groove in the second half, the deficit was insurmountable.

But it is important that Griffin showed signs of progress. The defense also slowed Philadelphia down and made the game respectable. An impending road contest against the Packers is never easy, yet there are signs of hope in the nation's capital after a furious rally fell short in Week 1.

 

16. Detroit Lions (1-0)

Leon Halip/Getty Images

Even though Calvin Johnson registered just four catches for 37 yards on nine targets, the Lions managed to beat the NFC North rival Vikings handily at home.

Starting running back Reggie Bush had a magnificent 77-yard touchdown reception and added 90 yards on the ground, giving QB Matthew Stafford an unprecedented safety valve to check the ball down to.

The defensive line is straight-up scary, too, with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah all wreaking havoc up front. Discipline is still an issue, though, as the Lions racked up 11 penalties against Minnesota. Let's see how Detroit responds in traveling to take on the Cardinals.

 

17. St. Louis Rams (1-0)

The franchise's all-time leading rusher, Steven Jackson, will take on his former team as a member of the Falcons on Sunday for the first time.

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford hooked up often with TE Jared Cook for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the 27-24 win over Arizona. Although the Cardinals' Carson Palmer carved up the Rams for 327 yards through the air, that team has a ton of weapons—arguably with more explosiveness than Atlanta will have.

 

18. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

So far, so good for Andy Reid in Kansas City. Granted, the Chiefs' 28-2 win came against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are an inept offensive mess.

QB Alex Smith didn't have to do much, taking what the defense gave him while limiting mistakes in an easy road victory. With the Cowboys coming to town, it is a crossroads game for both teams, because there's a big difference between 2-0 and 1-1.

 

19. Miami Dolphins (1-0)

The new pieces on defense seem to be meshing nicely, even with a limited contribution from recent No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan.

Speedy receiver Mike Wallace, though, was a major disappointment, catching just one pass for 15 yards, while being shadowed by Browns corner Joe Haden for the majority of snaps. Wallace must bounce back on the road in Indianapolis.

It remains to be seen how good Cleveland's defense is, but the fact that Miami only had 20 rushing yards on Sunday is also a huge red flag.

 

20. Tennessee Titans (1-0)

Video Credit: NFL Network

In the surprise upset of Week 1, the Titans strolled into Heinz Field and knocked off the typically mighty Pittsburgh Steelers.

The defensive slugfest saw Tennessee out-gain Pittsburgh 229 to 195 in total yards. It's hard to figure out what to make of this game, but with head coach Mike Munchak on the hot seat, he'll undoubtedly take the result in the win column.

Titans quarterback Jake Locker continues to be a mystery. He now has extra protection up front with new guards Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack, but threw only 20 passes against the Steelers.

There are plenty of ways to win in this league, as NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah alluded to:

A trip to Reliant Stadium to face the Texans is on tap in the AFC South opener, and the Titans must find a way to get stud running back Chris Johnson going after just 25 carries for 70 yards to start 2013.

What is encouraging is that the Tennessee defense played at a high enough level to capitalize on the situation in the Steel City.

 

21. New York Giants (0-1)

Six turnovers is a nightmarish scenario for any team, but the Giants still hung tough in a road opener against a divisional arch-nemesis in Dallas.

Eli Manning must cut down on the mistakes, though the last interception that glanced off running back Da'Rel Scott's hands wasn't necessarily his fault. The Giants have time to turn things around, but a showdown with Denver even at home will make that difficult to do in the near future.

The last time this team started 0-2 was 2007, when New York pulled an historic upset over the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl.

 

22. Carolina Panthers (0-1)

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

DeAngelo Williams' critical fumble in the fourth quarter denied the Panthers a chance to knock off one of the NFL's consensus elite teams in the Seahawks.

Quarterback Cam Newton played it safe for much of the afternoon and threw for only 130 yards. However, that Seattle secondary is incredibly tough, and his weapons outside of Steve Smith and Greg Olsen are limited.

The defense yielded a lot of yards to Wilson in the passing game, but did stifle the Seahawks' ground attack, holding the opposition to 2.7 yards per carry. Carolina must replicate that type of effort in Buffalo in facing the Bills' tandem of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.

 

23. Arizona Cardinals (0-1)

Bruce Arians' vertical-based passing scheme paid immediate dividends for new quarterback Carson Palmer and superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who had eight catches for 80 yards and two scores.

Fitzgerald's fellow wideouts Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts also enjoyed productive games in St. Louis, but the Cardinals need to shore up their pass defense. The Rams' Jared Cook devastated the unit, and another high-octane passing attack from Detroit pays a visit to the desert this weekend.

 

24. San Diego Chargers (0-1)

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

At halftime, and really until the fourth quarter, it looked as though Mike McCoy had been the breath of fresh air the Chargers needed to recharge. A blown three-touchdown lead later, and it seemed like the San Diego team of old.

There is talent here, and the only critical blunder by QB Philip Rivers was more of a phenomenal play by Cushing than anything else. Ryan Mathews continues to disappoint as the featured back and former first-round draft choice, though. He racked up just 33 yards on 13 carries in Week 1.

The Chargers now have to travel to Philadelphia on a short week to prepare for Chip Kelly's innovative offense.

 

25. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)

Apparently it's worse in Pittsburgh than previously imagined. Losing at home to the Titans in the opener wasn't something many saw coming.

The final score of 16-9 added insult to injury, as star center Maurkice Pouncey, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling and linebacker Larry Foote all went on injured reserve:

Unless Ben Roethlisberger can conjure some of his trademark playmaking magic without a running game to support him, the Steelers are in danger of falling to 0-2 in Cincinnati.

 

26. New York Jets (1-0)

Video Credit: NFL Network

If not for Lavonte David's late hit on Jets QB Geno Smith out of bounds near the end of the game, Rex Ryan's bunch probably isn't 1-0.

Nevertheless, the defense remains stout, as it shut down Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin and caused Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman problems.

Smith was largely impressive in his first NFL start, and there's at least a chance for the Jets to go 2-0 against a short-handed Patriots team on Thursday.

 

27. Minnesota Vikings (0-1)

Although the defense is reasonably good, it's pretty much Adrian Peterson or bust for the Vikings. Christian Ponder continues to be inept as the quarterback, and Minnesota couldn't establish the run after Peterson's electric 78-yard TD run on his first touch of 2013.

If Ponder continues to be turnover-prone and susceptible to bad decisions, it might be time to call backup Matt Cassel's number. However, he may not be much better.

 

28. Buffalo Bills (0-1)

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Let's cut EJ Manuel a break for getting his first competitive reps since Week 2 of the preseason and against the New England Patriots at that.

Manuel didn't make critical mistakes and threw for two touchdowns, and only a drive by the great Tom Brady for the winning field goal prevented the Bills from getting the "W." Mike Pettine's defense is solid even without Jairus Byrd at safety, and Manuel should only get better.

The Panthers come to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week 2, where a battle between Manuel and fellow athletic QB Cam Newton is sure to raise the game's profile.

 

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)

The fact that Josh Freeman wasn't named as a team captain may not be too much to read into, but it's hard to have a lot of faith in him as the Bucs' leader moving forward. He completed 15-of-31 passes for 210 yards, a touchdown and an interception against the Jets.

Freeman did enough to win for the most part, but his QBR was only 22.5. Even with Darrelle Revis in the secondary, the Bucs still yielded 256 passing yards to a rookie signal-caller, too.

 

30. Oakland Raiders (0-1)

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Terrelle Pryor gives the Raiders hope at the quarterback position, and before LeSean McCoy ran wild on Monday night, Pryor was leading the NFL in rushing yards with 112.

Two critical interceptions marred an otherwise impressive second pro start for the young QB, but his athleticism alongside Darren McFadden in the backfield could give opponents problems.

If the Raiders take care of business in dominant fashion against the Jaguars in Week 2, their ranking could rise significantly ahead of the subsequent showdown at Denver on Monday night.

 

31. Cleveland Browns (0-1)

Don't blame Brandon Weeden too much for his three first-half interceptions—two of them weren't really his fault, but the third definitely was. A bullet pass to Jordan Cameron underneath was poorly thrown, and cost the Browns an opportunity for points.

Cleveland's offensive line was largely terrible against the Dolphins. Oniel Cousins and Mitchell Schwartz got smoked on the right side, Weeden was hit constantly and Trent Richardson couldn't get anything going on the ground.

The defense played great against the run and got solid QB pressure, but it still looks like another ominous season for the Browns if they can't block better in the offensive trenches.

 

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

A trip to the Black Hole and a time zone switch isn't exactly what the doctor ordered for the Jags to get back on track.

Starting QB Blaine Gabbert suffered a lacerated hand in the opener and will miss Week 2 in Oakland, putting Chad Henne in under center. No matter who's throwing passes for Jacksonville, it seems the team is destined for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft at the moment.

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