NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 2?

Sean Tomlinson@@SeanGTomlinsonNFL AnalystSeptember 14, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 2?

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    The first full Sunday of a new season came with plenty of the expected—and unexpected.

    It had New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin apologizing to us repeatedly for forgetting his clock-management fundamentals, the Dallas Cowboys gleefully celebrating his baffling decision and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce inventing the greatest touchdown celebration ever.

    It had Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor putting in his bid for city mayor, and Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch actually getting the ball with one yard to go, and failing.

    Sunday also came with some serious injuries, including Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs being out for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon.

    Basically, it was everything an NFL Sunday is each week. And it's so good to have you back, football.

    Let's dive into the madness with some ranked power. Remember, what follows isn't the standings, but rather an analysis of how each team stacks up based on performance, regardless of what their record says. It's subjective, sure, but it's never fun to agree on everything. Right? Also, I probably hate your favorite team.

32. Houston Texans (0-1)

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    Last Week: 28

    This Week: 32

    Change: -4

    The Houston Texans have a group of replacement-level quarterbacks, and that's being generous. Brian Hoyer received the first start by default. He played only three full quarters, which is a problem because a football game is four quarters long.

    Hoyer was horrendously ineffective before being yanked in favor of Ryan Mallett during the fourth quarter of a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. As if trying to get his awfulness out of the way immediately, Hoyer threw a pick-six on his first pass attempt. He turned the ball over twice inside of his own 15-yard line and completed only 52.9 percent of his passes.

    The Texans need either Hoyer or Mallett to emerge as an adequate game manager. Right now, that still seems like a pretty tough ask.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Last Week: 30

    This Week: 31

    Change: -1

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't fall further because, well, there's not much further to fall.

    Bucs rookie quarterback Jameis Winston imploded. His debut against the Tennessee Titans was one of the worst in recent memory from a top pick, and he battled with a problem that followed him throughout the preseason. He's not adjusting well to the speed of NFL pass-rushers and doesn't react quickly enough to pressure while going through his reads.

    As a result, Winston was sacked four times, threw two interceptions (one of which was a pick-six on his first NFL throw), fumbled twice and completed only 48.5 percent of his pass attempts during a blowout 42-14 loss. It's one game, sure, but it was a brutally awful game.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)

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    Last Week: 29

    This Week: 30

    Change: -1

    Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles already didn't stand much of a chance each week behind an offensive line that was only marginally upgraded this offseason after allowing 71 sacks in 2014. But a rickety unit became even worse when starting left tackle Luke Joeckel went down with an ankle injury in Week 1.

    Bortles was sacked five times during a 20-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers. If he's ever given time to breathe and blink (but not both, don't get crazy), we'll see if the 23-year-old can adapt to the next level of football.

29. Washington Redskins (0-1)

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    Last Week: 31

    This Week: 29

    Change: +2

    The Washington Redskins move up this week mostly because there's a far worse stench coming from other teams.

    But there's still some optimism around the NFL's most dysfunctional franchise. The Redskins flirted with victory during their game against the Miami Dolphins by pursuing the only game plan that can lead to wins: making quarterback Kirk Cousins matter as little as possible.

    Washington rode a bulldozing backfield led by running back Alfred Morris that accumulated 161 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, Cousins completed some key passes when needed, but his downfield looks were managed, which resulted in a per-attempt average of 6.3 yards.

    He also added his standard two interceptions, making Sunday the fifth time Cousins has chucked two-plus picks over his 10 career starts.

28. Oakland Raiders (0-1)

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    Last Week: 27

    This Week: 28

    Change: -1

    The Oakland Raiders faced a clear mismatch for their secondary, and they were clobbered 33-13 by the Cincinnati Bengals. That comes after a 2014 season when Oakland lost six games by at least two touchdowns.

    But hold on, there's more bitter depression.

    Any significant strides forward for the Raiders offense this season lie with quarterback Derek Carr and his continued development. Which means he needs to keep seeing regular snaps and keep learning on the job. And now a hand injury threatens to at least temporarily derail that effort.

    Carr injured his throwing hand during the second quarter against Cincinnati. There was some optimism following the game when head coach Jack Del Rio said X-rays came back negative, according to CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair. But Carr's status for Week 2 will likely be uncertain, which could leave a youthful Raiders offense in the completely incapable hands of Matt McGloin.

27. San Francisco 49ers (1-0)

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    Last Week: 32

    This Week: 27

    Change: +5

    The San Francisco 49ers are major movers in this week's power rankings, jumping up five spots.

    I still hesitated a little with that leap, because it was an absolute slopfest on both sides throughout much of their eventual win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.

    For the 49ers, kicker Phil Dawson had his first field-goal attempt blocked, even though it was just beyond chip-shot range at 28 yards. And later in the first quarter, returner Jarryd Hayne muffed a punt, gifting possession back to the Vikings. It was a first half that featured only seven points and the excitement of six punts.

    So it's difficult to draw grand, sweeping conclusions following a dumpster-fire game. But 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked more patient in the pocket while scanning the field, and the performance of Carlos Hyde alone is enough to begin believing an effective power-running offense could emerge again in San Francisco.

    The second-year running back scored twice and repeatedly showed incredible lateral agility to find cutback lanes. He finished with 168 rushing yards, averaging 6.5 per carry.

    Hyde could make everyone in San Francisco move past the Frank Gore era. Now Kaepernick's job is to make headway, too.

26. Chicago Bears (0-1)

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    Last Week: 24

    This Week: 26

    Change: -2

    It just doesn't feel like the NFL season until Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown a hope-erasing interception. Which is what made the Bears' loss to the division-rival Green Bay Packers so very typical.

    Cutler's complete lack of vision finally rose from its temporary slumber late in the fourth quarter. He had led his offense to just shy of the red zone, but then it seemed Packers linebacker Clay Matthews became a ghost.

    A poorly placed throw went right into Matthews' waiting mitts. And just as he has so often, Cutler flushed away a fine afternoon from running back Matt Forte, who finished with 166 yards from scrimmage. 

25. Cleveland Browns (0-1)

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    Last Week: 26

    This Week: 25

    Change: +1

    Johnny Manziel replaced an injured Josh McCown after he suffered a concussion attempting to Superman into the end zone during an eventual loss to the New York Jets. On just his second throw, Manziel connected with Travis Benjamin for a 54-yard touchdown, which came after he had a 22-yard run called back. This sounds crazy, I know, but Manziel might be much better than McCown.

    Or maybe it’s a little soon to say that? It’s easy to see why Manziel should be the superior option, as his talent ceiling is far higher than McCown’s ever hoped it could be, and at this point the veteran is only a journeyman placeholder.

    But for every dazzling scramble or pinpoint deep heave, Manziel still tosses in plenty of poor decisions and inaccurate throws when he fails to set his feet. He completed only 54.2 percent of his passes against the Jets and threw behind a receiver for an interception. Then later he fumbled while scrambling, showing that he still refuses to take the safe play too often.

24. New Orleans Saints (0-1)

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    Last Week: 23

    This Week: 24

    Change: -1

    What we saw from the New Orleans Saints Sunday during a loss to the Arizona Cardinals is what we'll likely keep seeing until they get some semblance of health in their defensive backfield.

    Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, who's a breathing yet mending statue, averaged 9.6 yards per attempt against a defense playing without cornerback Keenan Lewis and safety Jairus Byrd. Even worse, the Cardinals averaged 7.5 yards per play overall.

    The Saints no longer have the offensive firepower to consistently win shootouts. So get well soon, Keenan and Jairus.

23. New York Giants (0-1)

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Last Week: 21

    This Week: 23

    Change: -2

    You can blame New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin for his team punting what looked like a sure win over the Dallas Cowboys.

    He wants you to, and it seems fair after the Giants chose to pass on 3rd-and-1 from the Cowboys' 1-yard line instead of run to let precious seconds tick off with only 1:43 remaining and the scoreboard reading 23-20 in New York's favor. Dallas was out of timeouts and still needed a touchdown if the Giants settled for a field goal. Driving 89 yards in about one minute is quite the task.

    Or you can blame Giants quarterback Eli Manning for not taking a sack on his rollout when no safe end-zone target was available. Instead he threw the ball away, stopping the clock.

    Or you can blame the Giants defense that allowed what then became a 72-yard game-winning drive.

    There are so many options and only one conclusion: With less than two minutes left, the Giants had a team-wide meltdown to open their season.

22. Carolina Panthers (1-0)

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    Last Week: 18

    This Week: 22

    Change: -4

    The Carolina Panthers were given a gimme putt to begin their 2015 season, and they appropriately lit up Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles for five sacks.

    But even a mediocre opponent can't hide the ugliness of a passing game that will limp through 2015. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton averaged only 5.6 yards per attempt, which contributed to Carolina's overall putrid output of 3.9 yards per play.

21. Atlanta Falcons (1-0)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Last Week: 25

    This Week: 21

    Change: +4

    Dan Quinn's main selling feature as a head coach candidate was obvious: His two seasons coordinating a hammering, pummeling, swarming, take-your-lunch-money Seattle Seahawks defense.

    That is why his fit with the Atlanta Falcons was clear, too. Quinn has been assigned to turn around the league's worst defense in 2014 after the Falcons gave up an average of 389.2 total yards per game. The early product he's put on the field was eye-opening Monday night during a win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The Eagles went three-and-out on their first three drives and had only five first downs in the first half. After some adjustments, the Eagles found more of a rhythm in the second half, but the tone was still set. Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford was intercepted twice, and running back DeMarco Murray—who was the NFL's rushing leader in 2014—finished with only nine rushing yards on eight carries.

    An uptempo offense was stifled for much of the game, while the Falcons made a statement.

20. Tennessee Titans (1-0)

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    Last Week: 22

    This Week: 20

    Change: +2

    While his rookie counterpart Jameis Winston was trying to locate a hole to live in on the other sideline, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota calmly chucked darts.

    Mariota needed only 16 pass attempts to throw for 209 yards while connecting on four touchdowns. That's an absurd 13.1 yards per attempt.

    Here comes your standard caveat: It's early. But the date on your NFL calendar will have less meaning if Mariota continues to look as comfortable and confident as he did Sunday.

19. Baltimore Ravens (0-1)

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Last Week: 16

    This Week: 19

    Change: -3

    The tumble here isn't solely due to the Baltimore Ravens' gut punch 19-13 loss that was sealed by an end-zone interception in the final minute. That wasn't a pleasant way to end Week 1, but shrugging off a loss to a tough opponent is much, much easier with 15 games left.

    No, the Ravens fall here because they have to play those 15 games without outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. This is when you should pour something out for the most famous graduate of Ball So Hard University.

    Suggs' season is over shortly after it began, with the Ravens confirming the 32-year-old tore his Achilles. He went down in the fourth quarter Sunday and was carted to the locker room.

    The Ravens have pass-rushing power elsewhere between Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw, but losing Suggs is still a crushing blow. Even at his advancing age (he'll turn 33 in October), Suggs remains one of the NFL's most dominant players at his position.

    He finished with double-digit sacks in three of his last four seasons, with 2012 being the only exception because he was recovering from another Achilles tear. The six-time Pro Bowler ended 2014 fourth among all outside linebackers in sacks, per Pro Football Focus, and his injury stings even more now after the Ravens lost some of their OLB depth in the offseason when Pernell McPhee departed as a free agent.

    A team that will need to lean on its defense to win games just became much weaker in a critical area.

18. New York Jets (1-0)

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    Last Week: 17

    This Week: 18

    Change: -1

    The Jets beat up on the pretty much quarterback-less Browns, but they still fall slightly because of a possible short-term future that doesn't include cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

    Cromartie was reunited with Darrelle Revis this offseason, and together they were preparing to form one of the league's top shutdown corner tandems. Now, after Cromartie suffered the dreaded noncontact injury, there's fear that reunion will be short-lived.

    Cromartie crumpled during the second quarter against the Browns and was carted off. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported the team feared an ACL injury, though an MRI was conducted Monday and the Jets announced Cromartie has been diagnosed with a sprained knee.

    The Jets have depth beyond Cromartie after loading up at cornerback during free agency, as they also signed Buster Skrine. But losing a physical press corner like Cromartie is an early and difficult blow. He recorded 10 passes defensed in 2014 and has 31 career interceptions.

17. Minnesota Vikings (0-1)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Last Week: 14

    This Week: 17

    Change: -3

    Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looked lost and confused far too often Monday night as his offense cratered against the San Francisco 49ers, scoring only three points and converting just one third-down attempt.

    But after the initial shock wears off, it's easy to look past Bridgewater's worst game as an NFL quarterback. After all, it was the beginning of only his second season and just his 13th career start. The development road is lined with duds for even the most polished young passers.

    The real reason for worry lies with Bridgewater's backfield support, or rather his complete lack of backfield support. That wasn't actually Adrian Peterson out there Monday night, was it? Peterson averaged 4.5 yards per carry during his last full season in 2013, and he isn't far removed from 6.0 YPC in 2012 when he narrowly missed setting a new single-season rushing record.

    But during his first game in over a year, he averaged a mere 3.1 yards. So I'll ask again: That was an imposter out there, right?

16. St. Louis Rams (1-0)

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 20

    This Week: 16

    Change: +4

    St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook is suddenly looking like the 2011 Jared Cook, when he had a career-high 759 receiving yards while with the Tennessee Titans.

    He continually found open space up the middle during an overtime win against the Seattle Seahawks and had five receptions for 85 yards. His per-game average in 2014? Only 39.6 yards.

    Cook really took advantage of Kam Chancellor’s absence, with the Seahawks safety still holding steady in his contract dispute.

15. San Diego Chargers (1-0)

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    Last Week: 19

    This Week: 15

    Change: +4

    San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen began his career in 2013 as the ultimate draft bargain. The third-round pick posted five games with 100-plus receiving yards during his rookie season. Then he slumped as a sophomore, averaging only 55.9 yards per game.

    Now he has an opportunity early this season with tight end Antonio Gates suspended, and so far Allen is pouncing on it. He was on the other end for a whopping 15 of quarterback Philip Rivers' 35 completions Sunday, finishing with 166 yards.

    Allen has the hands and athletic ability to be a target magnet in traffic downfield. Rivers looked his way 17 times during a win over the Detroit Lions, and that connection will keep growing with Gates out.

14. Miami Dolphins (1-0)

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Last Week: 15

    This Week: 14

    Change: +1

    You'd rather have wide receiver/returner Jarvis Landry on your team than not have him. That much is certain, but you'd also prefer to avoid needing to be saved by Landry with a 69-yard punt return touchdown in the fourth quarter.

    That's how the Miami Dolphins held on to beat the Washington Redskins in a game where they managed only 256 total yards of offense and didn't get their second first down until the 1:49 mark of the second quarter.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Last Week: 11

    This Week: 13

    Change: -2

    It would be easier if we could point to the absence of running back Le'Veon Bell in our assessment of the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 1 drubbing. Yes, it would be convenient if the suspended 2014 rushing leader was the sole cause of what plagued his team during a 28-21 loss to the New England Patriots.

    But it was a game when Bell's backup, DeAngelo Williams, ran for 127 yards. Wide receiver Antonio Brown caught nine passes for 133 yards, and overall the Steelers posted 464 yards of total offense.

    Yet they still lost because of a defense that wasn't just in the process of rebuilding or maturing. It was malfunctioning.

    A rebuild inherently comes with growing pains. That's an accepted reality, but there were multiple times when the Steelers found themselves in a chaotic state of disarray Thursday night, which included leaving Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski uncovered twice.

    Mistakes are easier to tolerate when they're tied to techniques or skills still being mastered at the next level. But mental gaffes are always inexcusable.

12. Detroit Lions (0-1)

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    Last Week: 10

    This Week: 12

    Change: -2

    There was one bright spot for the Detroit Lions during their thunderous thud of a loss to the San Diego Chargers. It's pictured above: running back Ameer Abdullah.

    Abdullah used his vision to identify a cutback lane in the first quarter, and then his lateral agility to accelerate into the open field for a 24-yard touchdown. He needed only seven carries to finish with 50 yards, and the rookie deservedly outpaced Joique Bell in carries.

    But shortly after that the defensive crumbling began. The Lions held a 21-3 lead at one point, and then allowed 30 unanswered points. A secondary that will be picked apart regularly had no solution for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who ended his day with 404 passing yards.

11: Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Last Week: 12

    This Week: 11

    Change: +1

    The Kansas City Chiefs have... a passing offense? Whoa now, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

    But maybe?

    Even after a win over the Houston Texans in which Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw three touchdowns, we're still waiting on Kansas City's first passing touchdown to a wide receiver since 2013. That's both high comedy and a mind-numbing statistical quirk.

    Consider for a moment, though, the force that is tight end Travis Kelce. He led all tight ends during the 2014 season in yards after the catch (503 yards, per PFF), and he leaned on that breakaway speed while scoring his 42-yard touchdown in the first quarter Sunday. It was Kelce's second touchdown, and it came during his second career 100-plus-yard receiving game.

    Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will do his field stretching for this Chiefs offense, but Kelce's growth is what could truly lead to a more dynamic unit.

10. Buffalo Bills (1-0)

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    Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 13

    This Week: 10

    Change: +3

    So when is the Tyrod Taylor statue going up in Buffalo?

    Taylor threw for 147 yards in just the first half of a 27-14 win over the Indianapolis Colts, which included a sailing deep ball that landed perfectly in the hands of Percy Harvin for a 51-yard touchdown.

    But of course Taylor wasn’t done there, because he’s the Bills’ new Superman whoand you’ll have to sit down for thisis remarkably better than presumed offseason starter Matt Cassel. He also added 41 rushing yards on nine carries.

    The game seemed like it flowed fluidly for the 26-year-old getting his first starting opportunity. There were no cracks under pressure or moments of panic. Maybe they will come, but right now Taylor looks very much like the answer for what ailed the Bills at quarterback.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (0-1)

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    Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 7

    This Week: 9

    Change: -2

    We saw something strange for much of the Philadelphia Eagles' Monday night loss to the Atlanta Falcons. We saw an offense that looked disorganized and lacked any sense of cohesion. There were several plays when receivers had their backs turned while run blocking, when they should have been expecting a pass.

    I'll shrug that off as some early rust after quarterback Sam Bradford saw limited snaps during the preseason, as did running back DeMarco Murray. It was clear that as the game went on, Bradford found some comfort, especially during the second half when he passed for 214 yards.

    Give it time, and the new-look Eagles will soar again.

8. Denver Broncos (1-0)

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Last Week: 6

    This Week: 8

    Change: -2

    Sure, the Denver Broncos won, edging the Ravens when a final-minute heave from quarterback Joe Flacco was picked off. But although a tally in the win column is celebrated regardless, there are times early in the season when how a team wins is even more important.

    Or in this case, how a team won while looking nothing at all like the offensive juggernaut we've come to know.

    The Broncos won at home despite not scoring a single offensive touchdown. Repeated for emphasis: An offense that scored 58 times in 2014—tied for the league lead—didn't score even once.

    That means Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was held scoreless, too, which is the most frightening possible outcome for a team trying to nurse one more Canton-level season out of its 39-year-old quarterback.

    Manning completed only 24 of his 40 pass attempts for 175 yards, an average of 4.4 per attempt. His yearly per-attempt averages over three seasons in Denver have been 8.0, 8.3 and 7.9, respectively.

    After an offseason to recover from a severe quad injury, it was assumed and/or hoped that Manning would have more life in his arm. But it still seemed cooked, as he had little downfield push.

7. Arizona Cardinals (1-0)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Last Week: 9

    This Week: 7

    Change: +2

    The Arizona Cardinals offense will go as far as quarterback Carson Palmer's duct-taped knee will allow. So calling his 307-yard, three-touchdown outing in a win over the New Orleans Saints encouraging would be quite the understatement.

    It was a game that reinforced the backbone of head coach Bruce Arians' vertical playbook, one that features many long, zigzagging lines.

    But perhaps the most threatening development for opposing defenses going forward came from how the Cardinals sealed their win.

    Arizona faced a 2nd-and-8 just shy of midfield while up by five points with less than two minutes to play. So which sure-handed option did the Cardinals choose in that key situation to ice the game? It wasn't Velcro-handed possession receiver Larry Fitzgerald, or fellow wideout Michael Floyd.

    Nope, instead the play was drawn up for rookie running back David Johnson, a third-round pick who finished with 536 receiving yards during his final season at Northern Iowa. He zipped down the sideline for a 55-yard touchdown.

    Arians has a new toy—and a healthy quarterback.

6. Seattle Seahawks (0-1)

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Last Week: 3

    This Week: 6

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    The spotlight here is mostly shining on Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, and the universe is laughing at him. Lynch faced a 4th-and-1 situation to prolong overtime against the St. Louis Rams. It was in a different area of the field, of course, yet still eerily similar to the Super Bowl goal-line sequence that ended without Lynch getting the ball.

    He was stuffed, and the defending NFC champs were upset on the road by a division rival. Which is unfortunate, because Lynch getting stonewalled could overshadow a larger and more critical issue for the Seahawks.

    A weak offensive line continued to offer little resistance, leaving quarterback Russell Wilson to spin frantically in the pocket and often get planted. He was sacked six times, which comes after a preseason when he went down three times on only 40 dropbacks.

    If that protection doesn't improve, newly acquired tight end Jimmy Graham will be wasted, and the Seahawks will again be overly reliant on Wilson creating passing opportunities amid chaos.

5. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Last Week: 2

    This Week: 5

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    The Indianapolis Colts fall maybe not as far as they should because I'm trying really, really, painfully hard to tap the brakes on early panic. They still have a loaded offense led by a versatile quarterback in Andrew Luck, who's one of the league's best young pocket passers. And that offense alone has the potential to mask defensive deficiencies.

    But about the offense: It was beaten up by a bully.

    The Colts gained only 4.5 yards per play against a suffocating Buffalo Bills defense. That's from a unit that moved along merrily at an average of 5.9 yards per play in 2014. Luck was intercepted twice, and the Colts didn't score until there were 57 seconds left in the third quarter.

    The Colts defense getting exposed wasn't exactly shocking. But the offense was too, and it felt jarring.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Last Week: 8

    This Week: 4

    Change: +4

    The Cincinnati Bengals steamrolled the Oakland Raiders, which is a familiar outcome for the league's longstanding Bay Area laughingstock. But how the Bengals arrived at their lopsided 33-13 win is more important than how hard they stomped.

    Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert missed nearly the entire 2014 season with an elbow injury, playing all of eight snaps. With him out, quarterback Andy Dalton was missing a core weapon up the middle, as Eifert is among the league's most athletically gifted players at his position.

    So of course Eifert's first game in more than a year ended with nine receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns. He was targeted 12 times, which is the sort of high-volume work we should expect for the 6'6", 250-pound football vacuum who presents Dalton with another reliable red-zone wingspan.

3. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Last Week: 5

    This Week: 3

    Change: +2

    The Dallas Cowboys have left me conflicted, and mostly sad.

    They won in white-knuckle fashion over the New York Giants Sunday night, with quarterback Tony Romo leading a 72-yard touchdown drive that started with only 1:34 left in the fourth quarter and no timeouts available. It was a heroic moment from a quarterback who played the hero often in 2014.

    But now he'll have to wear that cape alone for at least the next month with his stud receiver sidelined.

    The win came at a cost, with Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant suffering a broken bone in his right foot. Team owner Jerry Jones confirmed that injury following the game, per Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. Then head coach Jason Garrett gave the estimated timetable of a four- to six-week absence.

    One game into their season and the Cowboys are now without two core 2014 producers: former running back DeMarco Murray, the 2014 rushing leader, and Bryant, who led all pass-catchers with 16 touchdowns.

2. Green Bay Packers (1-0)

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    Last Week: 4

    This Week: 2

    Change: +2

    The first meaningful Green Bay Packers football game without wide receiver Jordy Nelson in 2015 played out about how you expected.

    What quarterback Aaron Rodgers lacked in passing volume, he made up for with accuracy. Rodgers finished with only 189 passing yards, but he arrived there while averaging 8.2 yards per attempt. He compensated for Nelson's absence by distributing the ball evenly. Three Packers wide receivers (Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and James Jones) caught four-plus receptions.

    Losing a receiver of Nelson's caliber will still be painful, but Rodgers' precision passing and patience while scanning the field will lessen the blow.

1. New England Patriots (1-0)

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    If you can run, juke and force missed tackles, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will find you. He'll travel to the far reaches of this Earth and scale the largest mountains. He's probably scouted Antarctica for running back talent, no doubt finding only penguin thieves.

    His latest running back found gold is Dion Lewis.

    He had a mere 312 total regular-season yards from scrimmage to his name prior to the Patriots' Thursday night win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. So of course he finished with 120 yards on 19 touches in a dominant opening-night performance.

    Lewis will slide back into a passing-down role for Week 2 when fellow running back LeGarrette Blount returns from his suspension. Which means that, once again, Belichick has used his backfield magician tricks to assemble the ideal combination of speed and power.


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