NFL Power Rankings: Defending Champs Keep on Rolling

Torey ZiskaCorrespondent IISeptember 13, 2011

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 08: Greg Jennings #85 of the Green Bay Packers is mobbed by fans after leaping into the stands following a touchdown catch against the New Orleans Saints during the NFL opening season game at Lambeau Field on September 8, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Saints 42-34. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The NFL has returned and what a week it was. Perhaps the best game of the week was the opening night game between the last two Super Bowl Champions. Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers both put on a show and the defending champs came out with an eight-point victory. In other games, the Manning-less Colts got drilled by Houston, the Jets stole one from the Cowboys and Cam Newton did something no quarterback has ever done in their debut.

After Week 1, here are my NFL Power Rankings.


*Teams previous ranking in ( ).


1. Green Bay Packers (1):  Super Bowl hangover? None. Rust due to lack of offseason workouts? None. The Packers came out blazing on Thursday night. Can they run the table? They have some tough games remaining, but on paper they’ve already won their toughest game.


2. New England Patriots (3): Ho-hum. Just another day at the office for Tom Brady and Co. Brady threw for over 500 yards and that was without Chad Ochocinco contributing much at all.


3. Philadelphia Eagles (2): The Eagles appeared as good as advertised against the Rams. If they avoid major injuries, they will be a force in 2011.


4. Baltimore Ravens (7): Who says Joe Flacco and the Ravens can’t beat the Steelers? The Ravens sent a strong message in Week 1 with a 35-7 win, forcing seven turnovers. There could be a changing of the guard at the top of the AFC North this season.


5. New Orleans Saints (5): Questionable play calling on the game’s final play by Sean Payton. Nonetheless the Saints offense is as potent as ever (though WR Marques Colston will miss a month with a broken collarbone) and they seem primed to make a deep playoff run.


6. New York Jets (10): The Jets got off to a good start to the 2011 season by overcoming a 14-point, fourth quarter deficit against the Dallas Cowboys. The victory was a great way for New York to conclude an emotional day, remembering 9/11.


7. Pittsburgh Steelers (4): After such an embarrassing loss, it was hard to drop Pittsburgh only three slots. However they should bounce back and still be a dominant force with a chance to return to the Super Bowl.


8. San Diego Chargers (11): After all of last year’s special teams disasters, Charger fans have to be a little concerned after giving up a touchdown on the opening kick. Nonetheless, San Diego, a notoriously slow starting team, bounced back to get the win and get their season started off on the right foot.


9. Chicago Bears (12): Chicago handled a good Falcon team with relative ease. They look like a team that has forgotten their awful playoff loss to Green Bay and ready to seek revenge.


10. Atlanta Falcons (8): Disappointing start for Atlanta. Another tough test next week with the emotional return of Michael Vick as the Falcons face the Eagles.


11. Houston Texans (15): As usual, many believe this is the year for the Texans. After their Week 1 performance, it’s safe to say if they don’t do it this year, they never will.


12. Detroit Lions (16): The Lions are most people’s pick to be the surprise team of 2011. They have a good defense and many weapons on offense. They could fight for a wild-card spot if Matthew Stafford remains healthy.


13. Kansas City Chiefs (9): Last year’s surprise team got a surprise of their own to start this season—a 41-7 home loss to the lowly Bills. A concerning start to the season, to say the least.


14. New York Giants (13): Not the start to the season the Giants were looking for. However, losing to the eventual 2011 division champs is nothing to be ashamed of. Well, except in this case it was the Redskins, so there is cause for concern for Eli Manning and Co.


15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14): The Bucs won 10 games last year, but nine of those came against teams with losing records. The Bucs are still one of the youngest teams in the league but may still be a couple of years away as they play in a very tough division.


16. Indianapolis Colts (10): Is it possible we have underrated Peyton Manning and what he means to the Colts? Maybe not, but without him, it appears the Colts could be a lottery team.


17. Dallas Cowboys (17): Some say Dallas’ season was riding on their Week 1 performance against the Jets. I won’t go that far, but blowing another 14-point lead could be too much to overcome.


18. San Francisco 49ers (23): I rode the 49ers hard last year and they were a huge disappointment. I’m back on the bandwagon again. They have the most talent in the division. If Alex Smith can simply play average, they should win the division with no problem.


19. Arizona Cardinals (20): The defense allowed over 400 yards to Cam Newton in his first ever NFL start. Major questions on defense must be answered if Arizona is going to contend for the division.


20. Jacksonville Jaguars (22): With no Peyton Manning, the Jags must feel like a whole new team in the AFC South. With that said, they just don’t have enough talent surrounding Maurice Jones-Drew to make a run at the division.


21. St. Louis Rams (18): Injuries to Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson could spell doom for this team. Those two must remain healthy if the Rams have any hopes of winning the division.


22. Oakland Raiders (25): Can a kicker win MVP? The Raiders looked good despite losing Nnamdi Asomugha and Zach Miller. Even if the Raiders don’t go far this year, it will be fun to see if Sebastian Janikowski might break the record for longest field goal made.


23. Minnesota Vikings (19): Donovan McNabb’s Viking debut resulted in less then 40 yards passing. Needless to say, they will be going nowhere if that doesn’t improve. Even if it does, I still think they finish dead last in the NFC North.


24. Washington Redskins (28): Does Rex Grossman know something nobody else does? Nice start to the season for Rex and the ‘Skins, but can they really compete in the NFC East?


25. Seattle Seahawks (21): Tarvaris Jackson simply is not the answer. Three fumbles, losing two of them, and throwing an interception in Week 1 should have proven that he is simply no better then a backup QB in this league. Seattle will go nowhere with him at the helm.


26. Buffalo Bills (31): The Bills were thought to be possibly the worst team in the NFL but after dropping 41 points in their Week 1 game, perhaps the Bills are relevant again. OK, let’s be honest. The Bills truly aren’t going anywhere this year, but they gave their fans some hope for the future.


27. Tennessee Titans (24): The good news: Chris Johnson didn’t suffer an injury in Week 1. The bad news: The Titans just aren’t that good. However, Kenny Britt made many fantasy owners happy with his two-touchdown performance.


28. Miami Dolphins (27): The Dolphins defense was embarrassed on Monday night, but overall I don’t think it was a terrible game. The Patriots are one of the best teams in football and the Dolphins put up some major yards and points against them.


29. Cincinnati Bengals (29): I thought the Bengals had a shot to go winless, and that quickly ended in Week 1. The Bengals are no doubt in for a rough year, but it was nice for Cincy fans to get off to a good start.


30. Cleveland Browns (26): Even though the Browns had a poor record last year, they showed signs of improvement. Unfortunately they regressed in Week 1 with a loss to the Bengals.


31. Carolina Panthers (32): Even though they lost, the Panthers move up one slot. Cam Newton impressed everyone and gave Panther fans a reason to believe for the future.


32. Denver Broncos (30): Tough loss for Denver in Week 1 but not a lot of reason to think things will get much better. The fans are already calling for Tim Tebow.