In the Winner's Circle: Ranking the NFL's Sixteen 1-0 Teams

Paul CarreauAnalyst ISeptember 15, 2010

In the Winner's Circle: Ranking the NFL's Sixteen 1-0 Teams

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    In today's sports world, there is only one thing that matters. Winning. If you don't win, you won't be remembered, and no one really cares about you.

    With one week of the NFL season in the books, it's a good time to evaluate the winning teams from the opening weekend. I am going to rank each of the 1-0 teams based solely on this past weekend.

    It is important to note that these rankings will only reflect one game. Each team will be judged on the quality of the opponent they beat, and how much they beat them by. These rankings in no way represent my feelings on which team will remain unbeaten the longest, they are just my feelings as to had the best start to the season.

    So without any further ado, I present the sixteen team vying for an unbeaten 2010 season.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Almost by default, the winner of the Cleveland/Tampa Bay game had to be No. 16 on this list didn't they?

    No matter which team won this game, you had to figure it wasn't going to be pretty. And winning a nailbiter against one of the NFL's worst teams isn't exactly a huge cause for celebration.

    But regardless of how it happened, Tampa Bay is 1-0 to start the season.

    Josh Freeman, in his first season as Tampa's full-time starter, was not terrible. He only turned the ball over one time, and lead the team to a come from behind win in the fourth quarter.

    The expectations probably don't change very much in Tampa, just because of this one win. It is going to be another year of rebuilding, and the key for the Bucs is just getting Freeman comfortable running this team.

15. Chicago Bears

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    The biggest controversy of the weekend came in Chicago. The Bears, up by five, appeared to have just given up the lead, and quite possibly the game, when Shaun Hill connected with Calvin Johnson for what appeared to be a touchdown with less than a minute in the game.

    After the officials discussed the play it was ruled an incomplete pass, as Johnson had not maintained possession of the ball throughout the entire act of the reception. The replay review confirmed the call.

    Whether you like the rule or not, the officials got the call right as the rule reads. After two more unsuccessful attempts at winning the game, the Lions turned the ball and the game over to Chicago.

    Unfortunately for Detroit, their road losing woes continue, as they have now lost 20 straight games away from Ford Field.

    And for Chicago, it's a win that was a must. A home loss to Detroit on opening day could have derailed the season before it even really got started.

    Jay Cutler was effective through the air, throwing for 372 yards, but he did turn the ball over twice. Matt Forte was prolific as a receiver, but the ground game as a whole was lacking for the Bears.

    The revamped defense for Chicago showed that it has the potential to be one of the league's best. They limited Detroit to only 13 first downs and 168 yards of offense.

    So, while all wins look the same in the win column, a five-point victory over the hapless Detroit Lions earns the Chicago Bears a ranking towards the bottom in the power 16.

14. Arizona Cardinals

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    The only thing that really separates the Cardinals from the Bears is that at least the Cardinals had to win on the road.

    The Derek Anderson-led offense for Arizona actually showed me encouraging signs.

    While it is apparent that the timing with standout wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald still needs to be developed, the same can't be said for the timing with No. 2 wideout Steve Breaston.

    Anderson and Breaston connected seven times for 132 yards, and the Cardinals ground game, which has been almost non-existent in recent years, showed some flashes even without projected starter Beanie Wells.

    The defense played very well for Arizona. They were able to intercept rookie Sam Bradford on three occasions, and for the most part were able to hold standout running back Steven Jackson to only 81 yards rushing.

    The near downfall, and the reason for such a low ranking, for Arizona was their own mistakes. The Cardinals committed 10 penalties and fumbled the ball an astounding seven times, losing four of them.

    They also lose merit for only being able to put up 17 points against a Ram defense that ranked second to last in points allowed a season ago.

    It was apparent on Sunday that while the Cardinals still have potential to be a somewhat competitive team due in large part to the weakness of their division, this is definitely not the same Cardinals team as when Kurt Warner was at the helm.

13. Miami Dolphins

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    The Miami Dolphins typically struggle in cold weather games on the road. So, when the schedule came out and it saw the Dolphins traveling to Buffalo on opening weekend, that had to get the fans from South Beach a little excited.

    This was a divisional road game that would be played in mild to warm conditions, meaning an easy win for the Fish.

    The bad news for Miami was that it wasn't an easy win. It took all 60 minutes to close out a Buffalo team that some experts project as the team likely to end up with the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft.

    The only reason I would rate Miami ahead of both Arizona and Chicago is because I am not one of those people.

    I think Buffalo will be a hair better than both Detroit and St. Louis, thus giving Miami a Week 1 strength of schedule advantage. Let that debate begin, I guess.

    As for the game itself, the Miami offense struggled to find much consistency. Chad Henne was mediocre at best, but his saving grace is that this team is not built to be a run and gun team like it was when Dan Marino was around.

    Today's version of the Dolphins is built around a bulldozing offensive line and the two-headed rushing monster of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

    No doubt about it, the defense won the game for Miami. Playing against an less than intimidating Buffalo offense will make most defenses look good this season, but Miami's defense came out of the gates strong.

    They held the Bills to only 166 yards of total offense, and were so dominant and able to get off the field so quickly that the Dolphins managed to hold the ball at a clip of almost 2:1.

    While it does go down as a win for Miami, the offense needs to be much sharper for the Dolphins to compete with some of the more elite teams in the league.

12. Washington Redskins

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    The Donovan McNabb era in Washington got off to surprising 1-0 start, as the Redskins were able to defeat the Super Bowl-minded Dallas Cowboys. This was a game that might be remembered more as one that Dallas lost as opposed to one that Washington won.

    The Cowboys shot themselves in the foot twice on Sunday night. The first was on the last play of the first half, when inexplicably Tony Romo threw a short flare to Tashard Choice from their own 36-yard line.

    He lost the football, which was picked up by DeAngelo Hall and returned for a touchdown, resulting in Washington's only trip into the end zone.

    The second mental mistake occurred on the final play of the game, when an apparent game-winning touchdown pass to Roy Williams was called back because of a holding penalty on reserve offensive tackle Alex Barron.

    For the most part, the Redskin offense was lifeless, even when starting drives deep inside Cowboy territory.

    They were only able to settle for field goals, and in one case, an attempted field goal, as punter Josh Bidwell was unable to handle the snap, resulting in a turnover on downs.

    The defense, however, was very solid, as they were content to give Romo all the short passes he wanted as long as they didn't allow themselves to get beaten by a long play.

    So, in a game that many would argue the Cowboys lost, it doesn't really matter how you look at it.

    This is a big win that could go a long way for the Redskins, a team who was projected to finish last in the NFC East.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    In another low scoring affair, the Pittsburgh Steelers knocked off the Atlanta Falcons 15-9 in overtime.

    The lone touchdown of the game came in overtime, as Rashard Mendenhall sprinted 50 yards for the game-winning score.

    The Steelers offense struggled at times without Ben Roethlisberger behind center, but the defense, as it has done seemingly thousands of times, was enough to negate his absence.

    Pittsburgh completely held the Falcons ground game in check, forcing Matt Ryan to make the plays through the air.

    Unfortunately for Ryan and the Falcons, the Steelers defense also did a great job of defending the passing game.

    Ryan threw for 252 yards and one very costly interception. The pick occurred inside the last two minutes of regulation, giving the Steelers the ball inside Atlanta territory.

    The Steelers kicker, Jeff Reed, in turn missed what would have been a game-winning 40-yard field goal, thus sending the game into overtime.

    In overtime, after forcing a Falcon punt, the Steelers only needed one play to score the game's only touchdown.

    Dennis Dixon was efficient in subbing for Roethlisberger and the injured Byron Leftwich, connecting on nearly 70 percent of his throws for 236 yards.

    Mendenhall was also very serviceable, gaining 120 yards on the ground, but the offense was expectedly a little less explosive than when Roethlisberger is in the game.

    In something that doesn't happen very often, the Steelers actually came into this home game as underdogs.

    And with all the questions surrounding their quarterback, and his ability to win a big game, the Steelers got a win, albeit an ugly win, over a very good Atlanta Falcons team.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    One of the more entertaining games of the weekend saw the Jacksonville Jaguars knock off the Denver Broncos 24-17.

    In a game that featured a severe weather delay, Jacksonville was able to alternate between efficient passing and a solid ground game.

    This game also features one of the more intriguing box scores, in that every time Jacksonville scored, Denver was able to march down the field and answer with the same score, except, obviously, the Jaguars' final touchdown.

    David Garrard was yet again the model of efficiency, as he completed 76 percent of his passes for 170 yards and all three of Jacksonville's scores. His efficiency was matched by Maurice Jones-Drew and his hard-earned 98 yards on the ground.

    The Broncos were led by Kyle Orton and his 295 yards through the air, and Knowshon Moreno had 60 yards on the ground as well as a score.

    This was a very evenly matched game, as each team held the ball for nearly identical amounts of time, resulting in very similar yardage totals, first downs, and punts.

    So, unfortunately for Jacksonville, to make it higher on this list, it was important to win a game against an evenly matched opponent in a more convincing fashion.

    But either way, this was still a nice win for a Jaguar franchise that was picked to finish at the bottom of the AFC South, and if the wins are going to continue for this team, it is vital that both Garrard and Jones-Drew maintain the efficiency that they showed in this win.

9. New York Giants

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    The New York Giants were able to both successfully open their new stadium and avenge last year's drubbing by the Carolina Panthers all in one swoop.

    After getting rocked by the Panthers in last year's regular season finale, and final home game in the old Giants Stadium, the Giants bounced back with an impressive 31-18 victory.

    Eli Manning looked very sharp on opening day. He completed 20 of 30 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns, all to Hakeem Nicks.

    He did, however, also throw three interceptions, but none of them were his fault, as they were catchable balls that his receivers deflected into the waiting arms of Panthers defenders.

    The defense, maybe more than anything, was the catalyst to the Giants' win. They were able to completely shut down the best tandem of running backs in the league in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Combined, who had 21 carries for only 74 yards.

    More impressively, when Carolina was forced to pass, something that this team is currently not built for, the Giants absolutely harassed Matt Moore.

    He was only able to complete 42 percent of his passes while getting sacked four times and throwing three interceptions of his own. Throw in a lost fumble, and that is four turnovers that the Giants defense was able to force from the opposing quarterback.

    With all the back and forth turnovers, the Panthers led at halftime 16-14, but the Giants dominated the third quarter and were able to regain the lead and never look back en route to their 1-0 start.

    So why the low ranking for New York? The same reason as Jacksonville. It was a nice win, but it was against far lesser competition than some of the weekend's other winners.

8. Seattle Seahawks

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    In a game that statistically was relatively close, the Seattle Seahawks ripped the San Francisco 49ers, 31-6.

    And while Seattle was tied for the biggest margin of victory, it is hard to rate them any higher for this win, because no one really knows what to make of either of these two teams yet.

    While San Francisco has been the popular pick to win the NFC West, their is nothing over the last few years to prove that they are worthy of all that high praise.

    Matt Hasselbeck was his efficient old self. He connected on 78 percent of his passes. And while the yardage numbers won't blow anyone away, he was able to throw for two scores as well as running one in.

    The Seahawks running game could be an area of concern again this year.

    Justin Forsett, Julius Jones, and Leon Washington all saw nearly the same amount of carries, and aside from one big run out of Forsett, there was nothing to say that any of these three are worth more carries than the others.

    Among quarterbacks coming into the season surrounded with question marks is Alex Smith. Unfortunately for Smith, his Week 1 performance did little to answer those questions.

    He finished the game at 26-45 for only 225 yards, with zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

    The defense for Seattle, which was ranked near the bottom in yards and points allowed last season, came up with a big performance. 

    The Lofa Tatupu-led bunch managed to keep San Francisco out of the end zone, holding them to two early field goals, and pitching a second-half shutout.

    The group also held the 49ers to just a single third down conversion in 15 tries. Marcus Trufant also contributed with an interception that he returned for a touchdown.

    So, the biggest question surrounding both of these teams, as well as the other two in the division is, "who wants it the most"?

    The NFC West, seems to be the most wide-open division in the league with no clear-cut favorite, especially now that the presumed heirs to the throne, the San Francisco 49ers, got trounced in Week 1 by the Seattle Seahawks. 

7. Green Bay Packers

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    Another trendy pick to make a deep playoff run this year is the Green Bay Packers. They took step No. 1 in that direction with a 27-20 win, on the road, over the Philadelphia Eagles.

    While the Packers got the win, it wasn't with the high-octane offensive display that everyone is expecting from this team.

    Aaron Rodgers only threw for 188 yards, and as a team, the Packers had more rushing attempts than passing attempts, by a count of 33-31.

    The Packers defense shut down Kevin Kolb and even knocked him out of the game with a concussion. Then when Michael Vick entered, it was a different Philadelphia offense.

    It went from a quarterback who is going to stand in the pocket and make the throws, to one who is going to move around a lot and use his feet to gain yards when needed.

    For the game, the Eagles actually out-gained the Packers in total offense, although it wasn't by much. It was still a surprise considering how high-powered the Green Bay offense is supposed to be.

    I like that Green Bay showed a commitment to the ground game.

    Although the loss of Ryan Grant hurts the offense, continuing to run the ball will take a lot of pressure off Rodgers and minimize the amount of hits that he has to sustain.

    I was also encouraged by the lack of mental mistakes made by the Packers. Although Rodgers threw two interceptions, the team never put the ball on the ground, and they only committed two penalties.

    That is a very impressive number, considering Green Bay was the most penalized team in the league last season.

    So, while it wasn't a completely dominant victory, the Packers were able to go into Philadelphia, which is a very tough place to play, and come out with a win over a good Eagles team.

6. New Orleans Saints

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    The New Orleans Saints opened their Super Bowl defense with a nice 14-9 victory over the team that they beat to get to the Super Bowl a season ago, the Minnesota Vikings.

    Much like the Packers, the Saints didn't put up the prolific offensive numbers that a lot of people were expecting, but the offense played well enough, and the defense held another great offense in check.

    Drew Brees, as normal, was at the top of his game. He completed 75 percent of his passes for 237 yards and a score, but more importantly didn't turn the ball over.

    While the stats are not as gaudy as we may be accustomed to seeing with Brees, it was a very solid performance in which he made no mistakes.

    The ground game was anchored by Pierre Thomas, who against last season's sixth-ranked defense was able to get a very respectable and hard earned 71 yards on 19 carries, as well as one touchdown.

    Reggie Bush, as is becoming the norm with him, saw more touches through the air than on the ground.

    The Vikings offense, which is without leading receiver Sidney Rice, was far inferior to what was expected.

    Brett Favre was only 15-27 for 171 yards, and other than the one touchdown drive he engineered late in the first half, looked very much like just a run of the mill quarterback, and not the Hall of Famer that we have come to expect.

    Against such a talented offense, the Saints defense more than held their own. And while they didn't get to Favre nearly as much as they did in the NFC Championship game in January, they were still able to shut down the Vikings attack.

    They held Minnesota to only 253 yards of total offense, which is 125 yards less than what the Vikings averaged a year ago.

    So, with no disrespect meant to the defending champs, the Saints only manage a ranking of No. 6, due in large part to lack of explosiveness out of the offense. I have no doubt that it will come very soon, because after all this is only the first week.

5. Tennessee Titans

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    I have a feeling that this pick (along with the upcoming No. 2) will draw the most criticism. I can hear the complaint already: "How can you put a mediocre Tennessee team at No. 5 when they only beat a bad Oakland Raiders team?"

    So, I need to remind everyone that this isn't a power rankings of how good I think these teams are, it's a ranking of how impressive their week one win was based on the following criteria: The quality of opponent the team beat, how convincingly did you beat that opponent, and how well the offense and defense played.

    And while the Titans win did come against a bad Raiders team, they won very impressively. Chris Johnson's first game since his 2,000-yard campaign saw him pick up right where he left off. Johnson gained 142 yards and hit pay dirt twice, including a 76-yarder.

    While Vince Young has never been praised as the game's greatest passer, he was more than sufficient on Sunday.

    Young tallied 154 yards through the air while going 13 for 17 and throwing two touchdowns. He threw zero interceptions and added 30 yards of his own on the ground.

    The defense also gave new Raider quarterback Jason Campbell fits. Campbell turned the ball over twice via a pick and a fumble, and he was also sacked four times.

    The lone weak point for Tennessee may have been their run defense. Even with starter Michael Bush sidelined for the opener, the Raiders ground attack, led by Darren McFadden, managed a total of 135 yards on 25 carries.

    But other than that, this game was never close. The Raiders had an early 3-0 lead, but after that it was all Tennessee.

4. New England Patriots

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    The New England Patriots had no trouble disposing of the Cincinnati Bengals, 38-24. The game was not actually as close as the score indicates.

    The Patriots completely dominated this game, at one point leading 31-3 after Brandon Tate returned the second half's opening kickoff for a touchdown.

    From an offensive standpoint, the Patriots played about as perfect of a game as you can. Tom Brady went 25 for 35 for 258 yards and three touchdowns and zero turnovers, just days after re-signing with the club. 

    Two of Brady's touchdown tosses went to last season's receptions leader, Wes Welker.

    Welker, who is unbelievably playing just eight months after major reconstructive surgery on his knee, ended the game with eight grabs for 64 and those two scores.

    More importantly for Welker and the Patriots, he showed no signs of rust from his injury.

    The ground game was lead by veteran running back Fred Taylor, who carried the ball 14 times for 71 yards and proved to be a nice change of pace to Brady's aerial attack.

    Another cause for celebration amongst Patriot loyalists was the solid job of the offensive line.

    Even without Pro Bowl guard, Logan Mankins, who is holding out for a new contract, the Patriots line managed to keep Brady upright the entire game, not allowing a single sack.

    The run defense was very stout, allowing just over three yards per carry to Bengal ball carriers. As a team, Cincinnati only managed 87 yards on 25 carries.

    The pass defense allowed Bengal quarterback, Carson Palmer, to throw for 345 yards and two touchdowns, but in all fairness to the defense, many of those numbers were inflated by the lopsided score and a much less aggressive defense.

    The Patriots appeared to be playing as a team with a major chip on their shoulders, as seemingly all of the media attention this offseason has been focused on the New York Jets.

    The Patriots proved on Sunday that the road to the AFC East championship still does in fact go through New England.

3. Baltimore Ravens

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    Although the offense had it struggles against the Jets' No.1 defense, the Ravens get a high ranking for the domination shown by their own defense. It was reminiscent of their Super Bowl-winning defense some 10 years ago.

    The Ray Lewis-led defense absolutely shut down a Jet team that a lot of people expect to make a Super Bowl run. (I, however, am not in that group, and personally feel that the Jets will be a big letdown this year.)

    Mark Sanchez completed only 10 of 21 pass attempts for a paltry 74 yards, and not a single receiver for the Jets had over 20 yards receiving.

    The Jets did find a little offensive success on the ground. Though it translated to zero trips into the end zone, they were able to rush for 116 yards on just 21 team rushes.

    But it was the grit and determination of not allowing New York into the end zone, even when they were pushed back on their heels, that made this such a special night for the Baltimore defense.

    Four times, the Jets had possessions start inside the Baltimore 40-yard line. One of those drives ended in a lost fumble, while on the other three, including one that started at the Baltimore 11, the Ravens defense managed to hold the Jets to only field goals.

    Anquan Boldin proved to be a valuable offseason acquisition as he grabbed seven passes for 110 yards, including two receptions of over 25 yards on the drive that ended with the winning field goal.

    Joe Flacco was by no means great, but was able to hold his own against the tough Jets defense. He completed 20 of 38 attempts for 248 yards but zero touchdowns.

    And the Ravens run game was non-existent. As a team, Baltimore had 35 carries for a measly 49 yards.

    But let's be honest. When anyone thinks about the Baltimore Ravens, it's the defense that makes the headlines, and Monday night was no exception.

    So, while the offense certainly did have its struggles, the defense more than carried its weight, and for all the pregame talking, it was Baltimore that was able to come away with the last laugh.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Maybe this is a sympathy pick. But when you pull off maybe the biggest upset of the weekend, that instantly jumps your ranking in my eyes.

    The Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a shocker when they beat the San Diego Chargers 21-14 on the biggest stage of them all, Monday Night Football.

    A quick look at the stats, and it looks like a clear cut San Diego Chargers victory. San Diego held the ball for 37 minutes to Kansas City's 23. The Chargers outgained the Chiefs by a tally of 389 yards to 197.

    And the Chargers converted four out of 15 third downs, while Kansas City only managed a single conversion in 11 attempts.

    The key stat of this game was big plays. For the Chiefs that tally was two to one in their favor.

    Just over a minute after the Chargers took an expected lead, Jamaal Charles answered with an untouched 56-yard touchdown burst to tie the game at the end of the first quarter.

    Then moments before halftime, already up by a score, the Chiefs rookie return man Dexter McCluster returned a Mike Scifres punt 94 yards for a touchdown that send Arrowhead Stadium into a frenzy.

    Matt Cassel ended the game throwing for just 68 yards completing on ten of his 22 pass attempts, but it didn't matter.

    And to his credit, while his numbers were way down, Cassel ran the offense effectively enough to get the job done, and he didn't turn the ball over.

    The defense did its job too. They had one blown play where Philip Rivers connected with Legedu Naanee for a 59-yard touchdown score, but other than that they were able to make Rivers uncomfortable enough to where he was missing on some throws that he would normally make.

    While Rivers' final numbers weren't terrible, and rookie Ryan Mathews replaced the now departed LaDainian Tomlinson admirably, it wasn't enough. Not on this night.

    So while the game was statistically dominated by San Diego, it was two big plays that propelled the Chiefs to their biggest win in many years.

    And while it's only the first week, the Kansas City Chiefs sit in sole possession of first place in the AFC West.

1. Houston Texans

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    How could No. 1 go to any team other than the Houston Texans? After going 1-15 in eight seasons against the Indianapolis Colts, the Houston Texans scored what is possibly the franchise's biggest victory with its 34-24 win over Indianapolis.

    The most surprising thing about this game was not necessarily that Houston won, because they are a team that has been on the rise and they have always played the Colts tough in recent seasons. Rather, it's because Houston won by running the ball.

    Many people agreed that for the Texans to pull of the upset, Matt Schaub would need to have a big day through the air. That didn't happen.

    Schaub only completed nine passes, and more astonishing was that he only attempted 17.

    Arian Foster and the Houston ground game was the reason for victory. Foster had career highs with 33 carries and an amazing 231 yards on the ground, as well as three scores.

    For a running back getting his first opportunity to be the team's feature back for an entire season, Foster more than made a good first impression.

    The Texans defense shut down the running game, giving up only 44 yards on just 10 Colt carries, all by Joseph Addai. Peyton Manning had a huge statistical game, throwing 433 yards on 40 of 57 passing with zero interceptions.

    But as was the case in the Cincinnati/New England game, and Carson Palmer, Manning's numbers were inflated as the Colts were forced to throw the ball in an attempt to get back in the game. The Colts never held the lead.

    So while the Colts offensive numbers became inflated by the big deficit, the defense in effect did its job.

    But this day belonged Arian Foster, as he put the Houston Texans franchise on his shoulders and carried them not only to the biggest win in team history, but also the most impressive win of opening week.