Week 1 NFL Power Rankings

Established Contenders

1. San Francisco (1-0)

The 49ers picked up where they left off. After losing receivers Randy Moss, Ted Ginn Jr. in the offseason, and Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree to injury there were certainly questions. The answer: Anquan Boldin. With Boldin and Vernon Davis as the main receiving threats, a strong offensive line, a top defense, and the continued emergence of Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers look like Super Bowl contenders once again.

2. New Orleans (1-0)

So that’s what it’s like to have an NFL head coach patrolling the sidelines. The defense was hit with injuries, lacked top end talent, adjusted to an entirely new defensive scheme, yet still kept last season’s top seed to 17 points. Bravo. The offense should be a top 3 unit in the NFL, and the Superdome is as tough a place to play as any. Expect them to be in the Super Bowl conversation all season.

3. Green Bay (0-1)

Yes, they lost their first game. But it was on the road, and look where that team ranks in these standings. A one score loss to the presumptive best team in the league? Yeah I’m okay ranking them third this week. The defense looks like an improved unit, and my god is Jordy Nelson good. He has gotten a lot of attention recently, but he might need more. Oh and Eddie Lacy looked solid in his first NFL game, and Jermichael Finley finally looks to be an emerging talent.

4. Denver (1-0)

This certainly is a low ranking for a team that completely throttled the defending champs this week. But the Ravens aren’t the team they were last year. They lost Boldin, Dennis Pitta before the season started, and Jacoby Jones to friendly fire in the first half of the game. Not to mention the Broncos had next to no pass rush before Jones went out. Oh, and the game was in the friendly confines of Mile High Stadium. That isn’t to say their win wasn’t impressive…just not enough for me to put them ahead of the three teams in front of them. Especially when the AFC looks as weak as it does.

5. Seattle (1-0)

It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. As good as the Panthers front seven looks, they’re defensive backfield leaves a lot to be desired. Russell Wilson was able to pass for over 300 yards, and they were only able to walk away with 12 points. Still their defense kept the Panthers to a lone touchdown, and they were on the road. Something tells me this team is going to go 8-0 at home, so any road win is good news. And it’s not like the Panthers are expected to be a bad team this year. The Seahawks had Super Bowl aspirations before the season, and there is no reason to have them any lower than here. In fact, I might be regretting putting them this low in a week.

6. Atlanta (0-1)

Last year’s NFC runner-up didn’t start the season out the way they would’ve liked. But they went into one of the hardest places to play, against a top team who certainly seem like they’re on a mission this season. Steven Jackson looked good in his first game in red. This team is clearly still very talented. But with the added expectations, and the expected reemergence of New Orleans, I don’t see a second season as the top seed very likely.

7. New England (1-0)

That was closer than any Patriot fan would’ve hoped. But there are a lot of new receivers, Rob Gronkowski missed the game with an injury, and they went up against a Bills team with a new quarterback, and head coach. Not like they had a lot of game tape on them. At the end of the day they won an away game against a division opponent. They were expected to be a top team in the AFC and there isn’t much reason to second guess that just yet.

Wait and See

8. Houston (1-0)

They started off really slow, but were dominant in that comeback. They stifled the Chargers running game, and Phillip Rivers couldn’t get anything done in the fourth quarter. Rivers didn’t even throw for 200 yards. This team is just outside being a Super Bowl contender. They have talent, and they’ll probably win the AFC South again, but they haven’t won many big games in this stretch. Maybe a healthy Ed Reed can change that for them this season. But we’ll have to see it first.

9. Kansas City (1-0)

Their performance is probably the least surprising of the week. Granted a shutout by the defense is still pretty impressive (I find it hard to pin a safety on the defense), even if it is against the hapless Jags. This team should be much better than they were last season, a wild card is certainly in reach, and they may even be able to sneak their way to a division title. They’re like the Bengals with better coaching, and a stronger running game. But they get to beat up on the Chargers and Raiders twice a season, a luxury Cincinnati doesn’t have in the AFC North.

10. Carolina (0-1)

A five point loss to a team many are expecting to win the Super Bowl? Not bad, even if it was at home. At the end of the day my biggest problem with this team is they have Ron Rivera at head coach and Cam Newton at quarterback. Two men that don’t inspire the most confidence come crunch time. That front seven is flat out awesome, and there is enough talent on the offensive side of the ball that 6-8 wins is highly likely. If enough things fall their way they may actually turn into contenders. With a better coach I might’ve even expected it.

11.  Baltimore (0-1)

That loss was ugly, I’ll give you that. But I don’t think that means the Ravens are done for. They have plenty of talent on defense, and now it is getting the pieces to mesh together. Oh and having an offense that can actually get those guys a rest. I see this team getting stronger as the season goes on, and with the lack of talent in the AFC, I still see a winning record as a possibility. And did I mention the other three teams in their division lost too? They need to get Michael Oher and Jacoby Jones back on offense. In the meantime Torrey Smith needs to beat man coverage, and they need to get Ray Rice more involved on offense.

12. Detroit (1-0)

Good win, but the same flaws keep rearing their head with this team. They play dumb. Jim Schwartz is another guy who deserves the boot. He just hasn’t proven to be a good leader. The Reggie Bush signing was a great one. I don’t think it was hard to predict. With all the attention Calvin Johnson gets, a guy who can make plays in space from the flat is a perfect compliment. Checking down will be far from the worst thing for Matthew Stafford. And that front seven did a great job containing Adrain Peterson. But the secondary remains my concern with the defense, and Christian Ponder certainly isn’t a guy who is going to test that. Too close a game at home against a team like the Vikings. But there is clearly talent on this team.

13. Chicago (1-0)

They fall behind the Lions more because of my rankings before the season started, and because I’m oddly not overly impressed with the Bengals. Still they got a win at home that a playoff team is supposed to get. Who knows where they end up when the season ends, but they certainly have a chance. They improved the offensive line, and have a coach who should get more out of Jay Cutler. The defense looked solid as well. Playoffs are a real possibility for this team.

Need to Prove Themselves

14. Miami (1-0)

They went on the road and got the win against a Cleveland team that shouldn’t be as futile as they’ve been in the past. It was a close game for most of the day, and with the combined pedigree of the Browns and Dolphins, it’s hard to get too excited about the win. But they looked stout against the run, were able to bring plenty of pressure, and they forced turnovers. They really need to improve that running game if they want to be real contenders, though. 1-0 is a good start, but let’s see a little more from these guys before we bump them up this list.

15. St. Louis (1-0)

The offense certainly looks better, and Sam Bradford looked great in the fourth quarter. Jared Cook looks every bit as explosive as advertised, and the running game was better than I expected. Defensively they have talent, but that was a pretty close game at home against the Cardinals. The Cards should be better than they were last season, but they have to be one of the worst offensive lines the Rams are going to see all season. And while Carson Palmer is certainly a competent quarterback, he’s probably the worst one in the division. Like the Dolphins, we are going to have to see more from this team before we expect them to be real contenders.

16. Philadelphia (1-0)

This game, maybe more than any this weekend, is a hard one to draw any concrete conclusions. But at the end of the day the Eagles looked like the best team in the NFC East…not that that’s a huge accomplishment. But how much was it the unveiling of a new system? Was the performance at the end of the game the Redskins adjusting, or the Eagles taking their foot off the peddle? How good are the Redskins expected to be this season? Was RG3 just rusty? Lots of unknowns with this team, and based on their performance last year, it’s hard to put them much higher than this. And it’s fitting that the next three teams are all part of the NFC East.

17. NY Giants (0-1)

The Giants are a hard team to place. They dismantled the Cowboys defense all game. Eli threw for four touchdowns and over four hundred yards. The game was close enough that “garbage time” should not be a word thrown out (except maybe for touchdown number 4). If they had five turnovers they would’ve won the game. That’s crazy. But the offensive line looks worse than expected. That has caused big problems near the goal line, and has hurt Eli’s chances of getting comfortable in the pocket. And the defensive line has to do a MUCH better job. Thankfully the secondary was better than expected. The big hope is Prince Amukamara isn’t out too long. This team has a lot of talent. They played a similarly sloppy game week 1 of the 2010 season against a Panthers team that finished 2-14, and they ended up with a 10-6 record (they missed the playoffs, but 10 wins will generally get you in). They have enough talent at key spots that they can realistically make the playoffs. But they have enough flaws to miss it.

18. Dallas (1-0)

Probably not fair to rank them behind the Giants right after they beat them, but 1) it was at home 2) they realistically could’ve lost to the Giants if they only (ha) turned it over five times 3) The defense looked dreadful 4) Where was Dez Bryant? Plainly speaking, they did not look like a good team. I walked away from that game less impressed with the Cowboys than the Giants. The Giants looked stupid, the Cowboys looked bad. If the Giants settled down after their first three turnovers, I think the Giants could’ve realistically blown them out. That should not be comforting to the Cowboys. There was really no part of the team that seemed impressive, and they got incredibly lucky. They recovered every loose ball. That won’t happen every week.

19. Washington (0-1)

What a terrible start for RG3 and the Redskins to the season. The defense played way better than the sum of its parts last season. Can they do it again. Did the Eagle expose the flawed defense, or did the lack of tape on Chip Kelly have to do with it? RG3 looked human, and so did Alfred Morris. The Redskins offensive line isn’t a top unit, and with Griffin not really looking like a threat to run, that was exposed. So was Alfred Morris. But if that was just RG3 knocking off the rust, and he comes back strong next week, who will remember this game? Oh, and they were able to making it interesting in the second half. Like with the Eagles, it’s hard to know if that was the Redskins adjusting, or the Eagles letting them back in. Still hard to lose a division home game, especially when they have to travel to Green Bay next week. But a win there and they will skyrocket up these rankings.

20. Cincinnati (0-1)

Like the Bears, this ranking might have more to do with my preseason bias. But if they were supposed to take the next step this year, that game certainly would’ve been the time to do it. The Bengals esteemed defense should’ve been able to hold the lead, and with the monster day AJ green had, you’d hope for more than 21 points. And no points in the fourth quarter? Really? What about 63 yards rushing, should that make me question their run game any less? They went 7-1 down the stretch, but against bad opponents, and ones teams that were hitting their valleys. This team certainly isn’t hopeless, and one 3-point loss on the road doesn’t write them off, but it is once again an example of this team failing to take that next step. 19 might be a bit low, but I’m waiting for them to prove me wrong.

21. Indianapolis (1-0)

That win was U-G-L-Y. Where is the alibi? (I apologize…profusely). But seriously… I’m not too surprised with Oakland putting 17 points, when they were starting a running quarterback who there is basically no tape on. Especially when I wasn’t expecting much of the defense anyway. But Andrew Luck failing to throw for 200 yards, only scoring 21 points, giving the Raiders plenty of chances to come back and win this game? That worries me a lot. Especially when last season’s offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, left to Arizona where the offense looks significantly better than a year ago. And it’s not like Oakland was expected to have a good defense. Bad games happen. It was week one. Luck didn’t have a great game week one last year either. But now they’ve got to prove it was a bad game, and not the start of a letdown season.

22. Buffalo (0-1)

EJ Manuel looked good. The only way the game could’ve gone better is if they won :-P. But to keep it close against the Patriots is a good start. A lot of people seem to like Doug Marrone, and the Bills actually looked solid. They have talent on both sides of the ball. The Colts didn’t win their first game of the season last year and still finished with 11 wins. Basically the season isn’t over yet. The Bills could realistically make a push. But a point more grounded and plenty promising: the Bills look to be moving in the right direction. Obviously it is very early to tell, and they’ve fooled us before, but they might be real playoff contenders as soon as next season.

23. NY Jets (1-0)

Fire Rex? Seriously? Let’s axe Schwartz and Rivera first please. This team always plays hard, loves Rex, and my god is he good at coaching defense. New parts this year and the unit still dominates. Yes, they went up against the Bucs, but it’s not like the Bucs are completely hopeless offensively. If I recall, Doug Martin had a pretty good year last year. Geno didn’t look great, and the running game still hasn’t gotten going, but there were enough signs. Geno kept his poise, and at least put them in a position to win at the end of the game (even if the Bucs did help him out). A one-point home win doesn’t instantly make them playoff contenders, but it just puts them in the bubble. They won 6 games last season, and had a chance to get as much as 8. In a weak AFC, why can’t they get there again? Still, really early, but there is some hope.

It’s Not Over Just Yet

24. Cleveland (0-1)

They need Josh Gordon back. It’s clear they’re in need of a playmaker on offense. But Davone Bess looked solid, as did Richardson, and if Weeden could stop turning the ball over (easier said than done?) they would’ve had a real good chance of winning this one. More importantly the defense looked great for much of the day. That unit should keep them in games all season. Plus like we mentioned with the Ravens, it’s not like anyone else in the division won. The AFC North reminds me of the NFC East of the last couple years. No juggernaut, but probably no bottom feeder either. 9-7 might win it this year. The offense should get better as the season progresses, and that might be enough for the Browns to sneak in. Then again they only put up 10 points against a Dolphins team that’s still a question mark, so 24 is definitely fitting for right now.

25. Arizona (0-1)

The offense looks much improved. But the defense isn’t going to be the same dominant unit they’ve been in the past. It also doesn’t help that they play in a very competitive NFC West. If they were in the AFC a wildcard might be a possibility. I guess it’s still a chance, but it is certainly an uphill battle. They clearly have talent on both sides of the ball, and Bruce Arians continues to prove himself as a good offensive mind. They’re ranked this low for a reason, but crazier things have happened.

26. San Diego (0-1)

They do not look any better than last season. They still can’t run the ball, and once again they fell apart in the second half. They don’t have a good enough offensive line or receivers to be a truly dangerous offense. And their defense isn’t going to scare a lot of people either. You have to admire the way this team came out this season, and switching from Norv Tuner to Mike McCoy at head coach could get this team moving in the right direction. But right now it’s hard to imagine this team making the playoffs.

27. Tennessee (1-0)

Well that was the surprise of the weekend. Never in a million years did I expect the Titans D to keep the Steelers out of the end zone till garbage time in the fourth quarter. But we still don’t know how good the Steelers are going to be. And Jake Locker is still their quarterback. They got 6 wins last season, and if the defense actually has improved they could be a wild card team…or at least better than number 27. But we’re going to need more than one game to move them up higher than this.

28. Pittsburgh (0-1)

If the Colts win was ugly, I don’t know how to classify the Steelers loss. I had them missing the playoffs, but that performance made them look more like a team that was going to pick in the top ten. Granted this may be an overreaction to one game. We have no idea how good the Titans are going to wind up being. But no offensive points till garbage time? ZERO?!? It’s got to make you even a little worried. Especially because “the genius” Todd Haley is still their offensive coordinator. Getting Le’Veon Bell back at some point will help. But Mike Wallace isn’t coming back, and they’re always a Big Ben injury away from completely leaving playoff contention. But it’s never smart to completely write off the Steelers. Who knows, maybe in a week they make me regret this ranking.

Pack it in Boys

29. Tampa Bay (0-1)

I didn’t like them before the season started. Nothing that happened this week changed my mind. I am not a fan of Greg Schiano, and their defensive coordinator, Bill Sheridan, doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside either. They don’t have the talent to make up for the coaching deficiency. Josh Freeman still hasn’t established himself as a good quarterback in this league. On Sunday they looked sloppy and were clearly out-coached. I feel pretty confident saying they are going to miss the playoffs this season.

30. Minnesota (0-1)

This team was primed for regression. I don’t need any fancy analytics to tell me that. Christian Ponder is still their quarterback. That’s all I need to know. He has had flashes, but overall has looked overmatched in the NFL. Sure his receivers aren’t the greatest, but he has a top offensive line, and a running back that demands a 9 man box. Not to mention a Pro Bowl tight end in Kyle Rudolph. The defense played above their talent level last season too. They have some true stars. Namely Jared Allen, Chad Greenway, and Harrison Smith. Those three, along with Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield helped spur the defense along. That isn’t going to happen this season. The best thing for this team is to completely bottom out, so they have a pick high enough to finally answer the constant question at quarterback. They just better hope they don’t whiff. It was one game on the road, against a team they don’t match up particularly well with. So it’s not fair to completely write them off, but man are there a lot of reasons not to like this team.

31. Oakland (0-1)

They showed more this week than expected. But how much of that was their opponent. It’ll be a few weeks before we find out. In the end there just aren’t enough reasons to like this team. They might be a tougher game than they were given credit for, but it’s very unlikely they can get more than four wins over the course of the season. Their best case is Terrelle Pryor turns into an answer at quarterback. As of now, four wins seems like their ceiling.

32. Jacksonville (0-1)

This team was as pathetic as you’d expect. They’re lucky they got the safety. With Justin Blackmon serving a suspension, and Blaine Gabbert at quarterback there really isn’t much hope this season. It’s not like there is a ton of talent on the defense. They might have the worst defensive line in the entire NFL. Remember the days of John Henderson and Marcus Stroud? Neither do I.

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