The 2013 NFL regular season is officially underway, as Week 1 has been completed. Thirty-two teams are each headed in different directions, with overachievers being established early, underwhelming teams fielding questions and Super Bowl contenders remaining true to form.
There is only one question remaining: How does every team look after the season opener?
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 1: 2-28 loss vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 2: at Oakland Raiders
The Jacksonville Jaguars were absolutely horrendous during Week 1, losing 28-2 to the Kansas City Chiefs at home. The only points Jacksonville managed to score came on a safety, and the era of Blaine Gabbert continued to go without any signs of life.
If there's a "lose-to-bruise" campaign for drafting Jadeveon Clowney or a "suffer to find a bridge over troubled water" for Teddy Bridgewater at No. 1 overall, the Jaguars are at the front of the pack.
Despite running seven more plays than the Chiefs, the Jaguars managed to pick up 113 total yards fewer than Kansas City. If that's not a telling enough statistic, they ran 70 plays for 178 total yards, equating to 2.5 yards per play.
If that's not bad enough, Gabbert has gone from unproductive to injured.
Well, they can only go up from here.
The Jaguars are under their fourth head coach since 2011, but it's time the organization admits that the problem lies with the players. The Jaguars have owned a Top 10 pick in every NFL draft since 2008, but they still can't build a contender.
Something's wrong in Jacksonville. Until the personnel is improved on the field, management shouldn't blame the head coaches who inherit nothing to work with.
31. Cleveland Browns
Week 1: 10-23 loss vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 2: at Baltimore Ravens
The Cleveland Browns didn't look terrible against the Miami Dolphins, but a 23-10 loss certainly takes the air out of the tires. Despite entering the season with reasonable hype, the Browns put up a dud and reminded us why it's never safe to bet on their success.
A Week 2 road game against the Baltimore Ravens won't make things any easier for them.
Cleveland's defense was strong, holding the Dolphins to 20 total rushing yards and picking up an interception and four sacks. Tight end Jordan Cameron also impressed with nine receptions for 108 yards and a score.
That's where it ends.
Brandon Weeden was 26-of-53 for 289 yards, throwing one touchdown to three interceptions. Trent Richardson picked up 77 yards total on offense, but ran for just 47 on 13 carries.
Optimism is pleasant, but the Browns are the same team in 2013 as they were last year—one searching for answers.
30. San Diego Chargers
Week 1: 28-31 vs. Houston Texans
Week 2: at Philadelphia Eagles
When a team loses 31-28 to a squad as respected as the Houston Texans, it's fair to assume they should be higher on these rankings. Unfortunately, the San Diego Chargers didn't lose your average three-point game.
During the final 19:57, the Chargers were outscored 24-0, blew a 21 point lead and reminded the world why we don't trust the team from San Diego.
Philip Rivers threw four touchdowns and his interception was a result of a spectacular fingertip grab by Brian Cushing, so the blame does not lie with the quarterback. That burden rests on the defense, as the Chargers allowed Matt Schaub to throw for 346 yards and let up 120 additional yards on the ground.
With a game against the high-octane Philadelphia Eagles, don't expect San Diego's defense to rest any time soon.
If Rivers can continue playing this well and Ryan Mathews can remain healthy, the Chargers may overcome the absence of a go-to receiver and win a fair share of games. Until the defense can avoid a collapse, however, San Diego is still the team we've grown weary of.
A disappointing debut, to say the least.
29. Oakland Raiders
Week 1: 17-21 loss at Indianapolis Colts
Week 2: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Oakland Raiders surprised many prior to Week 1, trusting Terrelle Pryor to be their quarterback against the Indianapolis Colts. Those criticisms quickly turned into praise, as Pryor was 19-of-29 for 217 yards with one score and two interceptions, also rushing for 112 yards in his season debut.
Now, the Raiders can confidently name Pryor as their quarterback of the future.
Oakland just needs to learn how to close games out.
Pryor and Darren McFadden make for one of the better running attacks in the AFC, but the latter needs to remain healthy. If he can, the Raiders will be a fun team to watch in 2013, as Pryor makes his transition to the NFL and looks to carry Oakland to surprising success.
It certainly started well.
The Raiders were ahead until the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and Pryor led a near-scoring drive during the final minute. An interception ultimately sealed the win for Indianapolis, but Pryor was impressive.
For once, we can actually say that the future is bright in Oakland.
28. Arizona Cardinals
Week 1: 24-27 loss at St. Louis Rams
Week 2: vs. Detroit Lions
The Arizona Cardinals are a team with a significantly high ceiling. With that being said, a 27-24 loss to the St. Louis Rams leaves them at the bottom of the NFL's deepest division: the NFC West.
Even as they impressed on both sides of the ball, the Cardinals still have question marks that hold them back.
Rashard Mendenhall and Alfonso Smith combined for 86 yards, but neither managed to run for better than 3.8 per carry. If that's not enough to concern you, the Cardinals failed to register a single sack.
The Cardinals defense is strong against the pass, but if they're unable to put pressure on the quarterback as the season goes on, the quality of their defensive backfield will be void.
With all of this being established, Carson Palmer threw for 327 yards and Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd all accumulated at least 80 yards receiving. Furthermore, Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson displayed phenomenal chemistry defensively.
Until Arizona begins winning in such a deep division, however, it's difficult to move them any higher.
27. Buffalo Bills
Week 1: 21-23 loss vs. New England Patriots
Week 2: vs. Carolina Panthers
The Buffalo Bills were one of the most heavily-criticized teams at the 2013 NFL draft after making a first-round reach for quarterback EJ Manuel. Less than five months later, Manuel is looking like an early front-runner for Rookie of the Year.
Manuel nearly led an upset of the New England Patriots during Week 1.
The former Florida State Seminole was 18-of-27 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Patriots. He also ran the ball three times for 23 yards, avoiding the Patriots pass rush and failing to take a single sack during the course of the game.
If that's not enough, Fred Jackson is officially back after accounting for 108 yards of total offense on 17 touches and rookie receiver Robert Woods caught an 18-yard touchdown.
Steve Johnson pulled in an 18-yard score of his own, and the Bills managed to rush for 136 yards as a team. Defensively, third-year safety Da'Norris Searcy was a revelation with nine tackles, a sack and a fumble returned for a touchdown.
Kiko Alonso and Aaron Williams each had nine tackles, while Marcell Dareus tallied six. When it was all said and done, Buffalo's youth showed just how bright of a future the Bills possess.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 1: 17-18 loss at New York Jets
Week 2: vs. New Orleans Saints
When it comes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 2012 NFL regular season summed up the way this team works. They start out hot, cool down towards the middle and then absolutely collapse during the closing stages.
This time around, that led to an 18-17 loss to the New York Jets.
The Bucs were seconds away from defeating the Jets, but a senseless, late hit on Geno Smith put New York in field goal position. Nick Folk converted with two seconds remaining and the Bucs went from confident to stunned in a matter of moments.
For those who want to place the blame on that one play, note that Tampa committed 13 penalties as a team. It's a squad-wide issue of discipline.
The most concerning aspects of this loss comes on offense, where Josh Freeman threw an interception and fumbled out of the end zone for a safety. To make matters worse, Doug Martin managed just 65 yards on 24 carries.
If you were skeptical before, you're sold on Tampa being a risky bet in 2013 after this one.
25. Carolina Panthers
Week 1: 7-12 loss vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 2: at Buffalo Bills
The Carolina Panthers were beyond impressive against the Seattle Seahawks, despite losing 12-7. They were sensational defensively, holding the Seahawks to 70 yards rushing and limiting them to two field goals until the fourth quarter rolled around.
Seattle's defense was the deciding factor, but if Carolina's offense is what failed them, we're encouraged.
The Panthers have an elite linebacker corps with Jon Beason, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. With star pass-rushers Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson, the Panthers have the potential to be a dominant defensive force—especially if Star Lotulelei pans out.
Don't think for a second that Cam Newton and company will be unable to offer support.
Even as they struggled to produce, there were significant reasons for encouragement offensively. Newton was 16-of-23 with a touchdown and no interceptions. DeAngelo Williams woke up from a multi-year slumber with 86 yards on 17 carries.
Carolina needs a No. 2 receiver to emerge. How hasn't this organization addressed this after the NFL community has uttered that same statement for a half-decade?
But, they are a legitimate postseason dark horse.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 1: 9-16 loss vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 2: at Cincinnati Bengals
Mike Tomlin is still head coach and Ben Roethlisberger remains the quarterback, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are in trouble. They managed just nine points against the Tennessee Titans, scoring their lone touchdown with 1:23 remaining in the fourth quarter of an already-decided loss.
For the first time in a long time, there may be reason to write the Steelers off.
Pittsburgh ran the ball for 32 yards on 15 carries, with starter Isaac Redman running it eight times for nine yards and two fumbles, including one lost. The defense was very strong, but the recurring theme in Pittsburgh is that the Steelers can't force turnovers.
Until that changes, they'll be on the losing end of quite a few ugly games.
Age has clearly struck the Steelers on defense and, despite their high level of play, they struggle to make the big plays we're used to seeing. Without any form of a reliable running game, that leaves Pittsburgh in position to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Keep in mind, the Steelers' best hope at running back is the return of a second-round draft pick, Le'Veon Bell, who has never played a snap of regular-season ball.
23. Tennessee Titans
Week 1: 16-9 win vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 2: at Houston Texans
The Tennessee Titans defense has made visible improvements against both the run and pass. Tennessee held Pittsburgh to 32 yards rushing and 191 yards through the air, picking up five sacks in the process.
Until the Titans receive consistent play at quarterback, however, their ranking won't rise any higher than this.
Jake Locker was 11-of-20 for 125 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions during the Titans' 16-9 win over Pittsburgh. Despite receiving a balanced attack on the ground, Locker struggled to get anything going through the air.
As long as that remains true, don't expect Tennessee to win many games.
Chris Johnson started off with a solid 70-yard performance on 25 carries, and should benefit from a drastically improved offensive line. With players such as Delanie Walker and a healthy Kenny Britt helping the passing game, there is the potential for Locker to turn things around and help this offense erupt.
Just don't get too excited, as potential is a dangerous thing to deal with.
22. New York Jets
Week 1: 18-17 win vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 2: at New England Patriots
The Geno Smith era has begun against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the New York Jets emerged with an 18-17 win. They received solid play at quarterback, overcame a dismal performance by their running backs and capitalized on opportunities en route to a win.
Ugly or not, the win counts all the same.
Smith was 24-of-38 for 256 yards, a touchdown and an interception, also running for 47 yards on six carries. He displayed poise in the pocket that we hadn't seen from a Jets quarterback in quite some time and connected with tight end Kellen Winslow seven times for 79 yards.
It wasn't perfect, but it worked.
The Jets defense was surprisingly strong, picking up three sacks and holding Doug Martin to 65 yards on 24 carries. Dawan Landry picked up an interception and Ricky Sapp recovered a fumble, and in its first game without Darrelle Revis, the Jets went back to the basics.
It's about time.
21. Minnesota Vikings
Week 1: 24-34 loss at Detroit Lions
Week 2: at Chicago Bears
If there's one thing we know about the Minnesota Vikings, it's that running back Adrian Peterson can keep them in any game. He's run for at least 10 touchdowns in each of his first six seasons, tallied at least 12 in four consecutive campaigns and ran for 2,097 yards in 2012.
Just because Peterson keeps the Vikings in games doesn't mean they're going to win them, though.
That was evident against the Detroit Lions during Week 1, when the Vikings lost 34-24. Peterson did all he could, running the ball 18 times for 93 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Even still, the Vikings lost.
A healthy Kevin Williams will help Minnesota's run defense, but the Vikings are depending upon a relatively unproven defensive backfield and Christian Ponder at quarterback. Ponder did display progress by going 18-of-28 for 236 yards and one touchdown, but he also threw three interceptions.
Unless Ponder can be a productive enough player to alleviate the pressure from Peterson, the Vikings will have a hard time getting back to the playoffs.
20. Washington Redskins
Week 1: 27-33 loss vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 2: at Green Bay Packers
The Washington Redskins started slow, displaying the signs of rust that come when your starting quarterback hasn't played professional-grade football all summer. During the second half, Robert Griffin III led a comeback attempt, bringing Washington within six points.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and the Philadelphia Eagles ended up pulling out a 33-27 upset win.
The final 15:06 was encouraging enough to wipe away my concerns, as Griffin III and Alfred Morris righted first-half-wrongs to find their star form. After allowing 33 points during the opening 31:34, the Redskins defense shut Philadelphia out for 28:26.
Unfortunately, a loss is a loss and Washington's happened to come against a division foe.
It won't get any easier for Washington, as they travel to play the Green Bay Packers during Week 2. It'll be critical for Washington's defensive backfield to step up when that happens, helping to complement the Redskins' monster pass rush led by Brian Orakpo.
Regardless of what happens during Week 2, Washington seems to be just fine after coming back in the second half.
19. New York Giants
Week 1: 31-35 loss at Dallas Cowboys
Week 2: vs. Denver Broncos
There's something to say about the fact that the New York Giants committed three first quarter turnovers and still trailed by just three points. There's just as much to say about the fact that, with that blessing, the Giants still lost.
This isn't shaping up to be a year fans want to remember in the New York and New Jersey area.
New York's defense was better than expected against the Cowboys, but its defensive backfield is a concern. Miles Austin and Jason Witten combined for 18 catches, working into open spaces at virtual will as Stevie Brown's absence was felt.
The only way New York is going to survive this season is if Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck put a dismal 2012 campaign behind them.
Pierre-Paul started off strong, picking up a sack, and Tuck split a sack with Linval Joseph later in the game. That type of pressure is what the Giants will need to put on consistently, as their cornerback play is too weak to give opposing quarterbacks time.
Even if they do, there's no telling which Eli will show up on a week-by-week basis.
18. St. Louis Rams
Week 1: 27-24 win vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 2: at Atlanta Falcons
The St. Louis Rams picked up a gutsy 27-24 victory over the Arizona Cardinals during a physical Week 1 battle. The Rams threw the ball well, rushed the quarterback with no remorse and saw two go-to receivers emerge.
In the end, it wasn't a sexy win, but it moved St. Louis to 1-0.
Sam Bradford was 27-of-38 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Tight end Jared Cook emerged as his primary option, catching seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns, while rookie Tavon Austin hauled in six for 41 yards.
Daryl Richardson didn't run the ball well, but he did finish with 96 total yards from scrimmage.
The concerning signs for the Rams are rather obvious. They were just 2-of-4 in the red zone and 4-of-11 on third downs. They also picked up just 67 yards on 24 carries, but that's to be expected against the Cardinals' rugged front seven.
There's room for improvement, but by starting that process with a win, St. Louis has reason to be pleased.
17. Miami Dolphins
Week 1: 23-10 win at Cleveland Browns
Week 2: at Indianapolis Colts
The Miami Dolphins have been slightly over-hyped since defeating the Cleveland Browns 23-10 during Week 1. Many are overstating the validity of the New England Patriots' demise due to a difficult victory over a rival who has historically played them well during season openers.
Just don't think that makes Miami any less of a notable force.
Miami is led by its defense, possessing a powerful pass-rushing force with Dion Jordan, Randy Starks and Cameron Wake. Wake picked up 2.5 sacks during the win, Starks finished with 1.5 and Jordan earned 1.0 in his season debut.
Throw in Derrick Shelby's sack and you have six sacks and three interceptions by a young and athletic defense.
Offensively, Ryan Tannehill was 24-of-38 for 272 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Brian Hartline stepped up with nine receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown, and Brandon Gibson caught seven passes for 77 yards to develop what could be Miami's top receiving punch.
You know, until Mike Wallace gets into a rhythm.
16. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 1: 28-2 win at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 2: vs. Dallas Cowboys
The Kansas City Chiefs put on the most impressive defensive performance of the year so far, winning 28-2 at the Jacksonville Jaguars. The only points Jacksonville scored came off of a safety, which by technical measures, means the defense pitched a shutout on the road.
No matter who you're playing, that's a significant feat.
Kansas City's defense finished the day with six sacks, 10 quarterback hits, two interceptions and a defensive touchdown. Justin Houston registered 3.0 sacks on his own, while Dontari Poe earned 1.5, Tyson Jackson got one and star safety Eric Berry earned .5 with seven tackles.
Throw in Tamba Hali's pick-six, Brandon Flowers' interception and the 71 total rushing yards that Jacksonville was held to, and it's clear that Kansas City is defensively the real deal. They just so happen have the personnel to continue that success.
Offensively, Alex Smith was 21-of-34 for 173 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, also running it four times for 25 yards. Jamaal Charles added 16 carries for 77 yards and a score, and nine separate receivers had at least one catch.
Smith is sharing the wealth, Charles is still a superstar and the Chiefs defense has high-quality pieces—this is a team to watch, folks.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 1: 33-27 win at Washington Redskins
Week 2: vs. San Diego Chargers
The Philadelphia Eagles were, arguably, the most surprising team of all during Week 1. Head coach Chip Kelly made a seamless debut in the NFL, running his offense to perfection against the Eagles and picking up chunks of yards at every turn.
When the first half was done, the Eagles had already run more plays than the Panthers did in their entire season opener.
That's how you break a defense down.
Michael Vick finished 15-of-25 for 203 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in his first full game under Kelly. He also ran the ball nine times for 54 yards, scoring on a three-yard scamper during the final minute of the second quarter.
With LeSean McCoy carrying the ball 31 times for 184 yards and a touchdown, and DeSean Jackson going off for seven receptions, 104 yards and a score, the Eagles offense looks elite.
The way it closed out was disappointing, but the Eagles defense was sensational for virtually three full quarters. Philly came up with three sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery, holding Washington to just 74 yards on the ground.
The world wants to see a repeat performance, but after one week, the Eagles are looking pretty darn impressive.
14. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 1: 21-24 loss at Chicago Bears
Week 2: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Cincinnati Bengals were tremendously disappointing during the closing minutes of their 24-21 loss at the Chicago Bears. This is a phrase that has been used all too often during the Marvin Lewis era. He knows how to coach, but he's never been one to master game management.
A three-point loss isn't season-ending, but it is still a loss.
Andy Dalton actually had one of the best games of his young career, going 26-of-33 for 282 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The picks are concerning, but he overcame dreadful run support to pace Cincinnati through this battle.
A.J. Green was his usual self, catching nine passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns to provide the supporting fire.
Defensively, the Bengals were surprisingly poor. Defense is what makes this team so good—even as analysts seem to think the offense is without actually watching Cincinnati play—but they managed just three tackles for loss and zero sacks.
Vontaze Burfict continues to progress, but a non-existent pass rush and eight destructive penalties played a major role in Cincinnati's mind-boggling loss.
13. Detroit Lions
Week 1: 34-24 win vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 2: at Arizona Cardinals
The Detroit Lions have needed a reliable running back since Barry Sanders decided to shockingly retire in 1998. Some quality players have come-and-gone, but there hasn't been a consistent source of offense at the position in more than a decade.
Reggie Bush just showed you what the Lions are capable of with that type of player.
The Lions defeated the Vikings 34-24, despite receiving just four receptions for 37 yards from Calvin Johnson. It was Bush who led the way, running for 90 yards and catching four passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Matthew Stafford finished with 357 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. Joique Bell picked up 92 yards of total offense and two rushing touchdowns, and the Lions moved to 1-0.
Defensively, the Lions managed to come up with three sacks, three interceptions and a fumble recovery. Nick Fairley starred with 1.5 sacks and the fumble grab, helping to overcome a poor effort by Ndamukong Suh.
I know better than to go all-in on the Lions, but this team has the look of a true postseason contender after Week 1.
12. Baltimore Ravens
Weel 1: 27-49 loss at Denver Broncos
Week 2: vs. Cleveland Browns
In terms of their quality of play, the Baltimore Ravens don't deserve to be anywhere near the Top 10. They were out-classed on both sides of the football and ended up with a 49-27 loss in one of the most highly-anticipated games of the season.
It just wouldn't be right to push the defending Super Bowl champions down any further than this.
It's not often that your opponent is going to throw seven touchdown passes, and it's almost as rare that 362 yards and two touchdowns from Joe Flacco isn't going to be enough. Fortunately, Baltimore displayed promise, as Ray Rice got 20 touches, Dallas Clark caught seven balls for 87 yards and rookie Marlon Brown was a revelation at receiver.
Just don't think teams are ignorant to the fact that Baltimore's pass defense isn't what it used to be without Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Cary Williams.
The Ravens picked up three sacks, and with Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs coming off of the edge, that number is maintainable. With that being said, the defense forced just one turnover and allowed three receivers to tear it apart.
The Super Bowl keeps them ranked high, but Baltimore needs a convincing win over Cleveland in Week 2.
11. Chicago Bears
Week 1: 24-21 win vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 2: vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Chicago Bears opened up the 2013 NFL regular season with a very tough home game against the Cincinnati Bengals. After 60 grueling minutes, this defensive war in the trenches was over and Chicago walked away with the win.
That's how you start a season right.
Jay Cutler was 21-of-33 for 242 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Most encouraging of all, he received quality pass protection for what may have been the first time in his Chicago tenure—going a full game without a single sack.
Defensively, it was the world-class tandem of cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman that led the charge. Tillman had two interceptions, while Jennings had a fumble recovery. The two ultimately combined for 15 tackles.
Shea McClellin, Chicago's 2012 first-round draft pick, earned a sack and the Bears picked up a hard-fought victory to start the season 1-0. The question is, can they actually win during the second half of the season?
10. Dallas Cowboys
Week 1: 36-31 win vs. New York Giants
Week 2: at Kansas City Chiefs
The Dallas Cowboys knew exactly what was on the line when they played the Giants on Sunday Night Football. Not only would the winner earn an edge in the division standings, but the Cowboys would earn a head-to-head win that could play a major role come the postseason push.
You can put your irresponsible hate on pause and thank a battered Tony Romo for that.
Romo was clobbered all night, taking two sacks and six quarterback hits—including one that led to an apparent rib injury. Even still, Romo stood tall in the pocket and finished 36-of-49 for 263 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Defensively, the Cowboys were the best they've looked in years, forcing six turnovers. Even when the offense failed to turn that into points, Dallas was relentless and absolutely dominated the Giants offense until it was too late.
These aren't the Cowboys we're used to seeing, and if Week 1 was any sign of the future, they could be a very good football team.
9. Indianapolis Colts
Week 1: 21-17 win vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 2: vs. Miami Dolphins
The 2013 Indianapolis Colts are all but identical to the 2012 version. By that, of course, I mean to say that they're an emotionally-driven squad that doesn't know how to say die and never seems to flinch under pressure.
Andrew Luck, you've done it again.
Sometimes it's good to have a little Luck.
The former Stanford star finished 18-of-23 for 178 yards and two touchdowns, running the ball six times for 38 yards and the game-winning score. He hit Reggie Wayne eight times for 96 yards and a touchdown, and found seven different receivers on his 18 completions.
Defensively, it was all about working hard until the final whistle.
Robert Mathis had a sack and three separate Colts had at least 10 tackles, including LaRon Landry, who tallied a game-high 15 in his team debut. Antoine Bethea, who caught the game-sealing interception, finished with 11 of his own.
Indianapolis' Super Bowl dreams may be distant at this point, but they're a true postseason force with a shot at the AFC North division crown.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Week 1: 17-23 loss at New Orleans Saints
Week 2: vs. St. Louis Rams
The Atlanta Falcons looked about as good as any team possibly could while taking a loss. Playing on the road against their rival New Orleans Saints, the Falcons held the NFL's most revered offense to just 23 points on its home turf.
In the end, Atlanta just didn't have enough to knock off a team that waited a full year for the day it could play under its own head coach.
Matt Ryan was 25-of-38 for 304 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while Steven Jackson picked up 122 total yards on 16 touches in his Falcons debut. With a hobbled Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones stepped up, and Harry Douglas caught four passes for 93 yards.
It wasn't perfect by any means, but for an offense that just added a Hall of Fame running back still in his prime, it was a step in the right direction.
The most encouraging signs came on defense, where rookie defensive backs Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant held their own against Drew Brees. Alford had an interception, the Falcons picked up two sacks and the fact that New Orleans only scored 23 points speaks volumes for the rest.
Atlanta is still a Super Bowl contender, and a home game against the Rams should provide the platform to prove it in Week 2.
7. New Orleans Saints
Week 1: 23-17 win vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 2: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The New Orleans Saints went 7-9 without their head coach in 2012, but were 13-3 in 2011 with virtually the same core. They reminded the world of that truth, winning a defensive battle by forcing two key turnovers and making a handful of big stops on third down and red zone plays.
All is well again in New Orleans.
Brees finished at 26-of-35 for 357 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Darren Sproles added 110 total yards on 15 touches, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham both caught touchdown passes, and rookie Kenny Stills went Devery Henderson with two receptions for 86 yards.
In Sean Payton's first game back on the sidelines, it truly was vintage Saints.
Roman Harper was the defensive MVP of the game, recovering a fumble and picking up the game-sealing interception. The Saints also managed three sacks and Rob Ryan's new defensive schematics appear to be working wonders.
No one will call this defense elite, but the Saints are a significantly more balanced football team in 2013 than they were a year ago. That's bad news for the NFC.
6. Green Bay Packers
Week 1: 24-28 loss at San Francisco 49ers
Week 2: vs. Washington Redskins
If the Falcons looked good in defeat, the Green Bay Packers looked absolutely spectacular while losing 28-24 to the San Francisco 49ers. Playing at Candlestick Park, the Packers achieved nearly 400 yards of total offense and were a few minor mistakes away from winning.
That's an encouraging enough sign to keep Green Bay on the border of the Top 5.
Aaron Rodgers was 21-of-37 for 333 yards for three touchdowns and an interception, which equates to about 500 yards and five touchdowns against the average NFL defense—give or take a few yards. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy found the end zone, and Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley were all spectacular.
To put it simply, an offense isn't supposed to run that well against the 49ers.
The defense let up roughly 500 yards of total offense, but the truth isn't in the numbers. The Packers dismantled the read-option, making it clear that the quarterback serving as an eligible runner makes him prone to big hits.
If it takes a 400-yard passing performance to beat this team, I'm encouraged by what the Packers bring to the table.
5. Seattle Seahawks
Week 1: 12-7 win at Carolina Panthers
Week 2: vs. San Francisco 49ers
It wasn't pretty, it wasn't reassuring and it surely wasn't the most impressive performance of the week. With that being said, the Seahawks' 12-7 win over the Carolina Panthers was exactly what the doctor ordered for this football team.
The talks of an elite offense were temporarily put to rest and Seattle got back to what makes them great: defense.
Cam Newton played a very efficient game and DeAngelo Williams ran the ball well, but the Seahawks kept Carolina out of the end zone. The explosive Panthers managed just 50 plays of offense, which displays how quickly Seattle got them off of the field.
Not bad for a team that's waiting on star pass-rusher Chris Clemons to return from injury.
Offensively, Russell Wilson was 25-of-33 for 320 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Even with Seattle's running game being shut down by Carolina's dominant front seven, Wilson found the open man and continued to impress without a conventional No. 1 receiver.
Seattle didn't ooh-and-awe, but they got the job done.
4. Houston Texans
Week 1: 31-28 at San Diego Chargers
Week 2: vs. Tennessee Titans
The Houston Texans looked like they were going to start the season with one of the most stunning upset losses imaginable. They trailed the San Diego Chargers 28-7 with 20 minutes remaining, and on the road, looked like a fish out of water.
Just like that, Matt Schaub quieted his critics and the Texans stormed back with a 24-0 run to win 31-28.
Schaub was masterful offensively, going 34-of-45 for 346 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Two of those touchdowns came during the final 20 minutes, and he paced the Texans up the field for Randy Bullock's game-winning field goal as the clock expired.
Receiving 120 yards of run support doesn't hurt, either.
Defensively, the Texans were opportunistic, as Brian Cushing returned an interception to the house to tie things up at 28-28. Outside of that play, there was undeniable cause for concern, but during the second half, Houston clamped down and reminded us of why they're the favorite in the AFC South.
It wasn't their best performance, but Houston showed the heart of a champion during Week 1.
3. New England Patriots
Week 1: 23-21 win at Buffalo Bills
Week 2: vs. New York Jets
The New England Patriots have received quite a bit of flack for the way they performed against the Buffalo Bills, escaping 23-21 on a last-second field goal. What those detractors seem to be ignoring is that this isn't too shocking, nor is it very important.
Prior to this game, the Brady-led Patriots had been outscored 71-44 during season-openers by the Bills, but still owned a 2-1 edge. During that time, they've remained elite with Brady under center, haven't they?
Let's move on and put an end to that nonsensical talk.
Without an established star and dozens of analysts doing their best to make Danny Amendola career-to-date anything close to star-caliber, Tom Brady was huge. He threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Patriots down the field on the final, game-winning scoring drive.
Amendola came up with 10 receptions for 104 yards and Julian Edelman had seven receptions for 79 yards and two scores. Even with two careless fumbles, the Patriots managed to defeat a team that has long given them trouble in season openers.
Last time I checked, those results haven't done much to stop the Patriots from contending for the Super Bowl.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Week 1: 34-28 win vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 2: at Seattle Seahawks
The San Francisco 49ers needed to open up the season with an impact victory after falling one play short of winning the Super Bowl. They'd been atrocious during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens, had a too-little-too-late second half rally and fielded questions about their quarterback.
Oh, did they respond.
Aaron Rodgers picked apart the league's premier defense, but Colin Kaepernick matched him at every turn. He finished at 27-of-39 for 412 yards and three touchdowns, running the ball seven times for 22 yards.
When it was all said and done, Kaepernick proved that he can, indeed, rise to the occasion.
Anquan Boldin caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown, and Vernon Davis managed six receptions for 98 yards and two scores. In turn, the 49ers got over a major hurdle during their time without the injured Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree.
Throw in Aldon Smith's 1.5 sacks and rookie Eric Reid's very impressive rookie debut, and the Niners are looking like the class of the NFC—again.
1. Denver Broncos
Week 1: 49-27 win vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 2: at New York Giants
The Denver Broncos had something to prove entering their game against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. They blew a golden opportunity to make a Super Bowl run of their own late in the fourth quarter of the AFC Divisional round.
A 49-27 win is a fair measure of revenge.
In case you haven't heard, potential first ballot Hall of Fame inductee Peyton Manning threw for NFL-bests of 462 yards and seven touchdowns. He did so while completing 64.3 percent of his passes, averaging 11.0 yards per pass attempt and failing to commit a single turnover.
Did we expect anything less from the man who makes NFL history every time he rolls out of bed?
Don't expect Manning to slow down any time soon.
Manning has a stellar cast of wide receivers to throw to with Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker. Decker dropped passes during Week 1, but even with his struggles, Thomas and Welker managed to take over.
The development of tight end Julius Thomas only adds further reason for intrigue.
Defensively, the Broncos played the first game of the season without two superstars in Champ Bailey and Von Miller. Bailey was injured, while Miller is facing suspension. Yet the Broncos managed to contain the Ravens.
It may have been the first game of the season, but after the 15 others, the Broncos still looked like the best team in the NFL.
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