The NFL is back and did not disappoint in Week 1, as we saw some crazy endings (Brandon Stokley thanks the lovely people of Cincinnati) and some impressive performances (Drew Brees apologizes to the lovely people of Detroit).
Since this is our first legitimate look at the 2009 version of every team in the league, we won’t consider any of them to be on the rise or fall just yet. We start with the champs and make our way all the way down the ladder to a team that will surprise no one, even if you are starting to develop a soft spot for them (I know I am).
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) When a team wins the Super Bowl and follows it up by beating the team with the best record last season in Week 1, they deserve to stay on top. Regardless of what you think of the long-term prospects for the 'Burgh this season, they have earned the top spot until they show real signs of weakness.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) The Eagles went down to Carolina and beat up on a team that was 12-4 last season. The loss of McNabb could have a huge impact in the weeks to come, but as a whole they looked great on Sunday in a dominating 38-10 victory.
3. New York Giants (1-0) Playing a divisional opponent to open up the season, the Giants defense proved to be back to their old tricks by terrorizing quarterback Jason Campbell on Sunday. They have to work out a few kinks in the passing game, but a good performance overall as they start a season-long battle with the Eagles atop the NFC East.
4. New England Patriots (1-0) The Pats definitely got off to a bumpy start, but Brady managed to pull off the comeback thanks to a gift from the Bills with two minutes to go. There are some issues on defense and Brady will be pressured all season long, but the offense is a juggernaut that will take them very far in 2009.
5. New Orleans Saints (1-0) Frankly, they could be higher based on that explosive 45-point performance, but it was against the Lions, and they did surrender 27 points on defense. The Saints are my pick to win the NFC South, so they are up here until someone stops that offense.
6. Tennessee Titans (0-1) The smash-mouth Titans got the toughest assignment of any team in the league, kicking it off on the road against the defending champion Steelers. They pushed it to overtime and, if not for a couple of botched field goals, they probably find themselves at the top of this list.
7. Minnesota Vikings (1-0) Brett Favre on his new favorite running back: "I haven't played with a running back like that. The guy is pretty awesome. Everyone in the stadium knows Adrian Peterson is going to get it and he still gets 180 yards. That is remarkable." Well said, Brett.
8. San Diego Chargers (1-0) I think there may be a level of disappointment with the Chargers performance last night since they were not as dominant as some might have hoped. But, going on the road and beating one of your biggest rivals for the twelfth time in a row is a solid manner in which to open the season.
9. Green Bay Packers (1-0) Almost all of Green Bay’s issues in their 10-loss 2008 campaign were on the defensive side of the ball—they opened this season by picking off Jay Cutler four times. Aaron Rodgers & Co. will have easier, more fruitful days on offense, but it was enough to get the win in Lambeau.
10. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) The Ravens will be a serious contender again in 2009 and if Flacco continues to play like he did on Sunday, consider the rest of the league to be on notice. Unfortunately, I doubt the Chiefs are a good team against which to measure your performance. We’ll see in New England in two weeks...
11. Indianapolis Colts (1-0) After a very lackluster performance against the Jags at home and the loss of Anthony Gonzalez for possibly six weeks, the Colts still end up in playoff range. I expect them to play better, but in the weeks to come, the schedule looks tough: at Arizona, Seattle, at Tennessee.
12. Atlanta Falcons (1-0) Matt Ryan picked up where he left off and threw for 229 yards and two TDs. If their defense continues to stifle opponents like they did Miami this past Sunday, they will be quick-risers in the near future and on their way to another playoff berth.
13. Seattle Seahawks (1-0) In my estimation, this is the team that will have the biggest bounce-back year, thanks to the return of former Pro Bowl QB Matt Hasselbeck. Along with the powerful running of Julius Jones and some young defensive talent, they are my favorite to win the NFC West.
14. San Francisco 49ers (1-0) As my dark horse pick in the NFC, the Niners got off to a great start, pulling off the upset in Arizona against the defending conference champs. Shaun Hill is the sleeper quarterback that may pull his team to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
15. New York Jets (1-0) I can actually feel the booing at my laptop as I write this. Great way for the Jets to start the season but, then again, this writer didn’t drink one ounce of the Texans’ Kool-Aid.
16. Dallas Cowboys (1-0) Tony Romo is trying to prove all of his detractors wrong and built a solid foundation with a 353-yard outing. Let’s see them do it against an opponent that is not near the basement before we celebrate anything just yet. (And Tony, you don’t mind if I give Jessica a call, do you?)
17. Arizona Cardinals (0-1) The Cardinals are certainly not off to a great defense of their NFC crown, showing no ability to run the ball yet again (17 carries, 40 yards). With Indy coming up next week, they need to right the ship quickly or they will find themselves in a 0-2 hole.
18. Miami Dolphins (0-1) The Dolphins had a tough assignment in Atlanta, but one garbage time touchdown is an essential no-show on offense. This team is well-coached, but expecting them to duplicate the 11-5 record from 2008 will be a stretch.
19. Oakland Raiders (0-1) The Raiders actually impressed last night. No one is putting them into the playoffs based on the close loss to the Chargers, but they looked far sounder than they did throughout much of last season. Good start, but they need to take care of the rock to win more games.
20. Washington Redskins (0-1) The ‘Skins also were dealt a tough game in New York, but this ranking is more a function of them being headed for last place in a very tough division. We’ll see how they fare outside of the division, but this looks like another uphill battle in Washington.
21. Chicago Bears (0-1) Four interceptions by the new QB and their defensive leader out for the year. Bad times. Everyone will be on the hot seat in Chicago if things go south.
22. Buffalo Bills (0-1) There are no moral victories in the NFL. They played well enough to win in New England for about 57 minutes, which is far from good enough. I think T.O. is already angry.
23. Denver Broncos (1-0) As the old adage goes, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Terrible game, unbelievably fortuitous bounce, and one win for the Broncos. Don’t expect many more.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) On the upside, Maurice Jones-Drew may break a record for number of touches in a season. On the downside, I have a bad feeling about this team getting it done in 2009.
25. Carolina Panthers (0-1) Raise your hand if you thought Jake Delhomme needed a contract extension with $25.5 million guaranteed. Just you, Panthers’ front office? Nice call...
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) The days of the stout Bucs’ defense are long gone and this season may feel quite a bit longer. At least they can bounce back against the Giants...or not.
27. Houston Texans (0-1) It feels like I was being sold the Schaub-Kubiak package as Brady-Belichick. Good thing I didn’t buy. Truly awful against the Jets.
28. Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) They were without their starting QB (Matt Cassel) and hung in there against the Ravens, but there are still plenty of holes on this roster. This will be a work in progress and we could see some significant strides, but not until the back half of the season.
29. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) Well, the Broncos aren’t very good and it took the Bengals 59 minutes to score. Then less than a minute to blow the lead and lose the game. Bungles 2009!
30. Cleveland Browns (0-1) Going into this season, I thought they would end up as the worst team and headed for the No. 1 overall pick. So, this is an upgrade. Yikes.
31. St. Louis Rams (0-1) Zero points against a fired-up Seahawks team. Barely out of the cellar.
32. Detroit Lions (0-1) There are 33 players on the Lions’ 2009 roster that were not on the 2008 team. So, there’s that. Unfortunately, they can probably get comfortable in the cellar for a while—they play the Rams November 1st.
This article was originally published on FantasyPros911.