The NFL is back in action after a furious start to the 2013 season, and more than a few teams went astray from their early-season projections in Week 1.
On one end of the spectrum, several disappointing 2012 teams got their seasons off on the right note with impressive victories. Miami, Philadelphia and Detroit all fall under that category.
Elsewhere, New England, Atlanta and Super Bowl defending champion Baltimore all struggled. The Patriots came away with a win, but it was hardly the formula we're used to seeing from a contender.
Like a corn dog with mustard at the Texas State Fair, we've got some succulent NFL Week 2 power rankings for your enjoyment below. This week, we'll take a closer look at three teams that surprised.
*For full Week 2 schedule, visit NFL.com.
NFL Power Rankings/Where Surprising Performers Stand
No. 13: Dallas Cowboys
Dallas generated six turnovers as Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 defense debuted at AT&T Stadium, and the Cowboys managed to hold off a late Eli Manning charge to down the New York Giants on Sunday night.
Heading into their first road game of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Cowboys have to be happy about how both units played in the season opener.
But I'm not sure many expected Manning and the Giants to cough the ball up six times.
The defense was active and alert from the kickoff until the 36-31 victory was secure. DeMarcus Ware had an interception on New York's first play of the game, Dallas stripped David Wilson shortly after and Will Allen secured another Manning INT.
All three of those turnovers were recorded in the first quarter, to boot.
Dallas has a long way to go before being considered a contender. Take a peek up at the power rankings—all four NFC East teams are within striking distance of each other. The Cowboys have a history of starting fast before losing to teams they should beat.
We'll monitor their progress over the next few weeks, but for now, Dallas should still be considered an NFC East and playoff contender.
No. 18: Philadelphia Eagles
Welcome to the NFL, Chip Kelly.
The Washington Redskins felt the full brunt of Philadelphia's new offense on Monday night, but I'm not sure even Eagles fans expected the team to look as sharp and downright imposing during Week 1 of the 2013 season.
If you were amazed by the tempo and the pace of the Kelly offense, buckle your seatbelt before checking out this tweet from the NFL: AroundTheLeague account:
That's not a typo. Kelly thinks the Eagles—who ran 77 plays and accounted for 443 yards of total offense—need to pick up the pace next week against the San Diego Chargers.
Easily the biggest movers up the power rankings scale, Philadelphia made a statement on Monday. Even if the Eagles have their struggles moving the ball this year, Week 1 proved that an uptempo offense can indeed succeed in the NFL.
Philly's newfound glory has some—like NFL Network's Jeff Darlington—pondering the long-term effects of Kelly's philosophy:
If nothing else, the Eagles are going to be fun to watch this year. Expect a continual rise toward a top-10 spot if they're winning games, too.
No. 29: Oakland Raiders
Oakland didn't start its year 1-0 like the two NFC East teams above, but showed progress on both sides of the ball in Week 1 during a 21-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
In fact, the Raiders had the lead in the fourth quarter.
A decidedly young football team in key places, the Raiders are going to take their lumps this year. A top-five pick in the upcoming draft isn't out of the realm of predictions right now.
But under Terrelle Pryor's leadership, this team stood out on Sunday.
Pryor, who stole a starting QB job away from Matt Flynn, was dynamic at times against the Colts. He accounted for over 300 yards of total offense and was actually the league's No. 2 rusher with 112 yards on 13 carries. Only LeSean McCoy (184 yards) finished with better stats on the ground.
It was penalties, turnovers and late-game execution that cost the Raiders a 1-0 start. A late Pryor interception sealed the game for Indianapolis.
Luckily, those are coachable mistakes. The good things (Pryor, the defense, having a chance to win in the fourth quarter) far outweigh the bad.
It's probably going to be a long season for Raiders fans. But if Pryor sticks at QB, the defense plays like it did in Indy and a winning mentality comes forth, Oakland could surprise more than a few folks all season.
They certainly surprised in Week 1.
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