NFL Power Rankings: Predicting Post-Week 2 Standings
The Denver Broncos were very impressive in blowing out the Baltimore Ravens 49-27 in the NFL opener, but the San Francisco 49ers still deserve to be considered the top team after Week 1. Quite simply, the Niners beat a better team in the Green Bay Packers than the Broncos did in hammering the Ravens.
In accordance with that theme, the Niners will remain at the top of the food chain after Week 2. Though I believe both the Broncos and Niners will be 2-0 after their Week 2 tests on the road, a Niners' win in Seattle is a bigger statement than a Broncos' win at MetLife Stadium over the N.Y. Giants.
The Niners' opening schedule is as tough as it comes. They don't have an "easy" game until Week 6 when they host the Arizona Cardinals. If this team has a sparkling record through the first five games, it'll prove they are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the NFL.
With my predictions established for the top spots in the post Week 2 power rankings, here is a look at the complete list. The predicted record for each team is in parentheses. Teams that will bounce back from losses in their season-opener are spotlighted in the rankings list with the team name appearing in italics. Their sections also feature an image.
1. San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
Wins over the Packers and Seahawks will be impressive enough to make them the undisputed No. 1 team in the NFL. Colin Kaepernick has turned the corner as an NFL quarterback. His game has too many facets for opponents to contain, and Anquan Boldin gives the team a presence at receiver that complements everything they do offensively.
2. Denver Broncos (2-0)
The Giants had a hard time getting Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys off the field. Dallas held the ball for nearly 40 minutes on Sunday night against the G-Men. Imagine what it'll be like facing Peyton Manning. The Broncos will win the Manning Bowl, but they still aren't on par with the Niners.
3. New Orleans Saints (2-0)
After defeating a very good Atlanta Falcons team in Week 1, the Saints will take care of another division foe in Week 2. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new-look secondary will get a major test from Drew Brees and Co.
I'm betting they fail and the Saints remain undefeated.
4. Atlanta Falcons (1-1)
Don't get too down on the Falcons after their Week 1 loss to the Saints. New Orleans is a great team. The Falcons will correct their pass-protection problems for their matchup with the St. Louis Rams.
In Week 1, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked three times. Look for Ryan to stay clean against the Rams and the Falcons to get back to their high-scoring ways. If the Cardinals put up 24 points against the Rams, I'd like to think the Falcons can generate at least that.
5. Chicago Bears (2-0)
The Bears will earn believers on a weekly basis. The team needs to generate a more consistent pass rush (it had only one sack against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1) but the offense is only going to get better, and that defense is still forcing turnovers.
The Bears will remain undefeated with a win over mistake-prone Christian Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings.
6. Dallas Cowboys (2-0)
The 4-3 defense looked pretty good for the Cowboys. Despite the fact that they gave up 450 passing yards, the 'Boys held the Giants to just 50 rushing yards and forced a whopping six turnovers.
Tony Romo will take aim at the improved Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 and remain undefeated in what could be one of the best games of the week. In Week 1, Romo completed passes to eight different receivers. Balance on offense and big plays on defense will be the key to a Dallas win.
7. New England Patriots (2-0)
The Pats' season-opening win over the Buffalo Bills wasn't all that impressive, but a win is a win. This week they will likely be without wide receiver Danny Amendola, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
Amendola battled through a groin injury, leaving and returning. He's almost certain to miss Thursday. Hurts with Vereen out, Sudfeld ailing— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 10, 2013
Running back Shane Vereen is also out with a broken bone in his wrist, per Fox Sports' Jay Glazer.
Big hit for patriots, RB Shane Vereen broke a small bone in his wrist on 1st play yesterday, scheduled for surgery today. Out few weeks— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) September 9, 2013
Even with those injuries, the Pats should have enough offensive firepower to beat the N.Y. Jets at home.
8. Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
Seattle escaped an upset bid by the Carolina Panthers in Week 1. The 12-7 win wasn't the most impressive of victories, but it will save them from falling to 0-2. The Niners are going to come into the toughest stadium in the NFL and beat the Seahawks.
The Seahawks defense won't be able to contain the Niners' efficient offense. San Francisco's defense figures to offer an even stiffer test than Carolina's did, and the Panthers held Seattle to just 12 points.
9. Green Bay Packers (1-1)
There is no shame in losing to the Niners. The Packers made a solid account of themselves on the road in Week 1. Playing at home against a Washington Redskins team whose head is still spinning from the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive pace, the Packers will rebound with a win.
Green Bay doesn't play as fast as the Eagles did in Week 1, but they have the best player in the NFL under center in Aaron Rodgers. We all know how tough the Pack are at home (15-1 over the last two seasons).
10. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)
After an impressive performance against the Skins on Monday night, the Eagles will follow it up with a home win against the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers don't have the athletes in the front seven to contain LeSean McCoy and the Eagles defense played well in the first half against the Redskins.
In what will be one of the early surprises in the NFL, the Eagles will be 2-0.
11. Houston Texans (2-0)
After barely squeaking by the Chargers in Week 1, the Texans are in for another tough game against the rugged Tennessee Titans.
The Titans simply don't have the passing game to knock off the Texans. Jake Locker completed just 11 of 20 passes for 125 yards in Week 1. Houston showed great heart and resolve in coming from behind to beat the Bolts. Matt Schaub was big when he had to be, and his performance should give his team a confidence boost heading into their Week 2 matchup.
12. Indianapolis Colts (2-0)
Although the Colts were nearly upset by the Oakland Raiders in Week 1, it is hard not to take them at home against the Miami Dolphins. Andrew Luck continues to prove himself in close games, as he did in Week 1 against the Raiders.
With the Dolphins' solid defense coming in, this one figures to be tight. I'll take Luck to execute better than Ryan Tannehill in this type of game 10 times out of 10.
13. St. Louis Rams (1-1)
Giving up 24 points to the Arizona Cardinals is a bit peculiar, but I still like the direction the Rams are headed. Sam Bradford was sharp in the opener, completing 27 of 38 passes, and Jared Cook shone with seven catches for 141 yards and two scores.
They won't beat the high-powered Falcons in the Georgia Dome, but this is still a team that could be dangerous later in the season.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
Pittsburgh hit a speed bump en route to their season of redemption. Winning in Week 2 won't be easy, but on the strength of their defense, I'll give the Steelers the edge over the Bengals on the road. Though they didn't amount an insane pass rush (one sack and three QB hits, per ESPN) the team allowed only 3.6 yards per play, per ESPN.
Pittsburgh has to get a running game established if it is going to win this week and through the season. Against the Titans, the Steelers amassed just 32 rushing yards on just 15 attempts. This was a function of play-calling as much as it was the stoutness of the Titans defense.
15. Carolina Panthers (1-1)
Carolina was like the old fisherman in the State Farm commercial. They "almost had it, gotta be quicker than that." A few poor instances of execution cost the Panthers an upset win over the Seahawks. The Buffalo Bills have a great defensive line, but man-for-man, this defense isn't on par with Seattle's.
The Patriots ran for 158 yards against the Bills in Week 1. Cam Newton and the Panthers should have success in that area and control the clock. The Panthers will rebound and avoid an 0-2 start.
16. Baltimore Ravens (1-1)
The defending champions looked bad in Week 1. The tight ends dropped passes, and the defense allowed Manning to throw seven touchdown passes. Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland Browns offense is a far cry from Manning and the Broncos. With No. 1 receiver Josh Gordon still serving a two-game suspension, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Browns' attack is even less formidable.
Expect the Ravens to force turnovers in this game and for Ray Rice to establish the run game early. Baltimore is likely to look like defending champions this week against a Browns team that figures to struggle to score all year.
17. Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)
The Chiefs will come down to Earth a bit after dominating the Jags 28-2, but this team isn't going to be a doormat this season. Alex Smith was solid (21-of-34 for 173 yards and two touchdowns), and the defense played with renewed enthusiasm under Andy Reid.
Still, the Cowboys offense will be too much for the Chiefs to contain.
18. Miami Dolphins (1-1)
I love the Dolphins defense, but I am not sold on Tannehill under center. In Week 1, his running game didn't do him any favors. The Fins' backs only had 20 yards rushing on 20 attempts. On the road in Indianapolis, the Dolphins won't make the plays down the stretch to win against Luck and Co. After defeating the Browns in Week 1, the Dolphins will fall to 1-1.
19. Tennessee Titans (1-1)
Tennessee's performance in Week 1 against the Steelers was a major surprise. The play of their defense —especially against the run—was excellent. In Week 2, the Titans face a Texans team that simply has too many weapons. From Arian Foster to Andre Johnson, this offense will score points. Tennessee doesn't have the offense to keep pace.
20. Arizona Cardinals (1-1)
Carson Palmer did a better job of getting Larry Fitzgerald the ball than all of Arizona's quarterbacks in 2012. Palmer threw for 327 yards and two scores, both to Fitzgerald. The offense seems to be vastly improved from what we saw last season.
Against the Lions in Week 2, that passing game will be the deciding factor. The area of the Lions defense to attack is the secondary. With an elite receiver like Fitzgerald on the field, it will open up opportunities for other receivers and the Cardinals' running game.
Arizona will move their record to even with a win over the Lions.
21. Detroit Lions (1-1)
Had the Minnesota Vikings had a decent passing game, they would have beaten the Detroit Lions in Week 1. Christian Ponder's three interceptions derailed what could have been a mild upset win for the Vikings on the road in the opener.
The Cards will expose flaws in the Lions secondary and send Detroit to 1-1.
22. Washington Redskins (0-2)
It is tough to have to go to Lambeau Field and win to avoid an 0-2 start to the season, but that's just what the Redskins have to do. As good as Robert Griffin III was in the second half against the Eagles, the Skins' biggest issue is in their secondary.
The team that allowed the third-most passing yards in 2012 gave up two passing touchdowns to Michael Vick and the Eagles. Some would say the run defense was a bigger issue, giving up 184 yards to McCoy, but that's until we see what Rodgers is going to do to that secondary on Sunday. The Skins are still a good team, but they will be 0-2.
23. New York Jets (1-1)
The Jets can't be too excited about their season-opening win. Yes, they all count, but were it not for an unfortunate penalty against the Bucs' Lavonte David, the Jets would have lost in Week 1.
Going into Foxboro to take on the Patriots is always an event. Expect the combination of the crowd noise and Bill Belichick's defensive game plan to slow Geno Smith and force turnovers. This is going to be a rough year for Jets fans, and the bad times will begin on Thursday.
24. Oakland Raiders (1-1)
The best medicine for any team in the NFL is a date with the Jags. Jacksonville definitely looks to have the inside track in the Jadeveon Clowney/Teddy Bridgewater sweepstakes. Mustering only two points against the Chiefs in Week 1 was laughable.
Terrelle Pryor was pretty good in Week 1 against a decent Colts defense. He did throw two picks, but he he also threw for a score and ran for another. He will be able to use the game against the Jags as a major confidence builder going forward. He and the Raiders should prove they are markedly better than the Jags.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2)
Cincinnati is still a very talented team, but turnovers cost them big in Week 1. Playing at home against the Steelers should produce a win if the team hopes to be a serious threat in the AFC North, but I'm expecting a strong performance from the Steelers' run game in Week 2.
Only running the ball 15 times in a game that was close throughout just isn't the Steelers' way.
In addition to a better performance on the ground from the Steelers, the Bengals' inability to take care of the ball will be key. Cincinnati's turnover issues aren't exactly new. Dating back to last season, the Bengals have turned the ball over nine times in their last five games. Though this game seems destined to remain close, the Bengals will drop another tough one.
26. N.Y. Giants (0-2)
Defensively, the Giants looked pretty bad against the Cowboys. They allowed 331 yards of total offense, which isn't an insurmountable total, but the defense didn't make big plays. Dallas dominated time of possession by controlling the ball for 37:10, per ESPN. That is bad news heading into a game against Peyton Manning.
Eli Manning isn't likely to see the field as much as his big brother in this one. The result will be an 0-2 start for the Giants.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2)
The Week 1 loss was demoralizing because it was a game the Bucs could have won. What is even worse is that it comes before a very tough matchup with one of the NFL's best teams in the Saints.
Tampa Bay's secondary is the biggest question mark on the team. Even with the additions of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, the team still allowed a rookie QB without stellar weapons to throw for 256 yards and lead a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
Against Brees and the Saints, the Bucs defense will be victimized. This one might get ugly.
28. Minnesota Vikings (0-2)
You can ready the bench Ponder chants. After the Vikings lose to the Bears in Week 2 and Ponder's ineffectiveness plays a major role in the failure, fans will be chanting for Matt Cassel.
Ponder turned the ball over four times in Week 1. Against the Bears—the team that led the NFL in takeaways in 2012 and produced three in their opener—he can't do that. Despite Adrian Peterson's greatness, the Vikings offense isn't complete enough to beat the Bears on the road.
Which potentially 0-2 team is most likely to still make the playoffs?
29. Buffalo Bills (0-2)
E.J. Manuel showed some positive signs in his NFL debut, but the Bills ultimately couldn't knock off the Patriots in Week 1. Week 2 offers what some might see as a better chance at a win, but I beg to differ.
The Panthers' running game is potentially more devastating than the Pats because of Newton's dual-threat capabilities. Newton, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams combined for 134 yards on 26 attempts in Week 1.
Carolina will run the Bills into the ground and send them to 0-2.
30. Cleveland Browns (0-2)
Without Josh Gordon, the Browns offense doesn't have a real vertical threat. No Browns receiver had a reception over 22 yards in Week 1.
Despite the fact that the Ravens defense gave up seven passing touchdowns, Joe Flacco and the offense did mount 393 yards and scored 27 points on the road against a good Broncos defense. There is no way the Browns offense can score enough points to beat the Ravens.
31. San Diego Chargers (0-2)
The Chargers had a chance to pick up a huge Week 1 win, but they let the opportunity slip from their fingers against the Texans. The Eagles' fast-paced offense will be an even tougher cover for a moderately athletic Chargers front seven playing on the road. San Diego will be the latest victim of Chip Kelly's spread offense.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
The Jags just aren't a good team. The 28-2 loss to the Chiefs was embarrassing, but falling to 0-2 after facing two teams that had a combined record of 6-26 in 2012 will really show just how bad this team is.
Their offense is nearly nonexistent. Jacksonville had just 178 yards of total offense against the Chiefs in Week 1. Oakland isn't stacked with talent, but Pryor's abilities and Darren McFadden's impact as a rusher should be enough to put up two touchdowns. At this point, that would likely be enough to put the game out of reach against the Jags.
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