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1- Patriots: New England’s three top draft picks all made big plays, combining for a forced fumble, recovering a fumble, a sack and a touchdown. Tom Brady his regular brilliant self and Stevan Ridley might give this team a legit rushing attack. This could be the best Patriots team since 2007.
2- 49ers: It’s tough not having the 49ers number one after they beat Green Bay in Green Bay in a game that wasn’t all that close, but I was that impressed with New England. The 49ers, however, are right there and look to somehow be an even more physically imposing team than last year. Frank Gore looks healthy and Randy Moss is a threat and San Francisco doesn’t appear to be going anywhere but back to the NFC title game.
3- Ravens: Baltimore looked nearly flawless on Monday night, dismantling the supposedly good Bengals defense behind one of the stronger games Joe Flacco has ever played. The defense isn’t quite the same without Terrell Suggs and that showed, but if Flacco can play anywhere close to as well as he did Monday night throughout the season, the Ravens will be one of the top two or three teams all year.
4- Texans: It’s tough to learn too much when you’re playing the worst team in the NFL, but Houston played what I thought was a C level game, and they won by 20 points and it wasn’t closer than 14 at any point in the 2nd half. Arian Foster will run better and the offensive line will block better and the Texans will look better. But when you can play a mediocre game and still win by 20, well, you’re pretty darn good.
5- Broncos: Von Miller is healthy. Champ Bailey is ageless. And Peyton Manning sure as heck looks like Peyton Manning again. The Broncos have a very tough opening stretch (PIT, @ATL, HOU, OAK, @NE, @SD, NO) but beating Pittsburgh was key, and with Willis McGahee running the ball well, they have one of the top offenses in the AFC to go along with that stalwart defense.
6- Cowboys: This is where some people freak out, but please don’t. These are power rankings based on what we’ve seen, and what we’ve seen says the Cowboys are quite good. Romo played, well, like Tony Romo has played the last few years and the additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Clairborne might have turned what was a liability into a possible strength. With a healthy Demarco Murray, right now this looks like the best team in the NFC East.
7- Bears: People forget the Bears were 8-3 before Caleb Hanie came into our lives and their season disintegrated. Matt Forte’s knee looks fully healthy and while Urlacher isn’t, the defense didn’t have any trouble getting after Andrew Luck. We’ll see how they do against stronger offensive lines, but right now, the Bears look good enough that seven might be a little low for them.
8- Packers: The Packers were 15-1 last year, and now all of a sudden they’ve lost 2 in a row dating back to the postseason and haven’t looked particularly sharp in either game. The reality for the Packers is that they may be the most one dimensional team in the NFL. While that’s usually not a good thing, their one dimension (Aaron Rogers passing) is so good, it’s usually enough. But if Rogers is anything other than super-elite, this team struggles.
9- Falcons: Don’t buy into the Falcons just yet. The Chiefs were without their only pass rusher (Tamba Hali), their only cover corner since the departure of Brandon Carr (Brandon Flowers) and without their free safety (Kendrick Lewis), and Matt Ryan tore them up. Let’s see how they do against a legit pass rush before we decide Matt Ryan has evolved as a QB. But, right now, the Falcons do look very good.
10- Jets: Here’s a stat, the New York Jets had won 25 of their previous 40 games including the playoffs before Sunday’s demolition of the Bills. That’s a .625 winning percentage over the equivalent of two and a half seasons. Yes, the Jets melted down at the end of last season and yes they looked like a mess in the preseason, but bad teams don’t win 25 of 40 games and the Jets have mostly the same personnel as when they won those 25 games.
11- Giants: The Giants looked mediocre with a weak secondary and a lack of a running game in week one. In other words, they looked just like they looked at the beginning of 2011, a season that obviously ended with them winning the Super Bowl. The most concerning point for me with the Giants is that their vaunted pass rush was mostly silenced against the Cowboys, but I don’t Jason Pierre-Paul and Co. will stay silent for too much longer.
12- Redskins: Can RGIII keep it up? I highly doubt it, but we didn’t think Cam Newton could keep it up last year either, and he just submitted the best rookie season in the history of the position. The Redskins helped Newton by only calling about 30 pass plays, but all in all, the kid just looked outstanding. Add to that a nice pass rush from Washington and a better running game than expected, and you’ve got the biggest upset of the weekend.
13- Steelers: Pittsburgh clearly missed James Harrison and Ryan Clark, but I don’t know that those two would’ve made the difference against Denver. Todd Haley and Ben Roethlesberger don’t yet appear to be on the same page, and you wonder if and when they will get there. The bright spot for Pittsburgh was RB Jonathan Dwyer who looked like he could play on this level.
14- Lions: Stafford threw three first half interceptions and yet the Lions still found a way to win. The Lions didn’t play well in week one, but they played well enough to win, which was critical because the NFC has about 9 or 10 playoff caliber teams, and giving a game away to the Rams in week one could’ve haunted them all year.
15- Saints: How much does coaching matter? I don’t know, but we will find out this year. I thought New Orleans would be on fire week one, instead they were mostly listless and never really in the game with the Redskins and let RGIII play maybe the best game a rookie QB has ever played.
16- Chargers: Color me unimpressed with San Diego. Oakland made more special teams errors than any team has made since the 2010 Chargers and San Diego still let them hang around. There is some talent on this team—as there always is—and Antonio Gates seems healthier than he has in years, but this team still has the feel of an underachiever.
17- Eagles: Much like the Lions, the Eagles just have to be happy they didn’t give away a game that they most certainly had penciled in as a win. But, aside from that, there’s not much to be happy about. This team will live or die with Mike Vick, and if he plays anything like he did on Sunday throughout the rest of the season, the Eagles will be at home for the playoffs once again.
18- Buccaneers: In one of the most impressive but least talked about games of the weekend, TampaBay stifled Cam Newton from the opening kick and played a tremendous defensive game. If Josh Freeman can return to being the QB he looked like he was early in his career, the Bucs could be a tough out all year.
19- Vikings: While I think it is incredibly stupid that they are playing Adrian Peterson this year, AD lead them to their overtime win against the Jaguars. Also, Ponder was impressive in his decision on the Vikings :20 drive to tie the game at the end of the 4th.
20- Panthers: Nothing went right for Carolina in week one, but much of the blame needs to go on the coaches. Nobody likes Cam Newton more than me, but the Panthers ran 49 offensive plays, and a total of 6 were handoffs to running backs. A balanced approach—especially when you have about $80 million tied up in your running backs—is going to be the best one for Carolina.
21- Bengals: The biggest myth in the league last year was Andy Dalton. He likely is exposed this year. Also, the defense looked dreadful, and this is a defensive team. One more Bengals note, AJ Green is already a top five WR in football, in my opinion.
22- Chiefs: While KC won’t be as bad as it was Sunday once Tamba Hali gets back (this week) and Brandon Flowers and Kendrick Lewis get back (unknown), but ultimately this is a team that for the second straight year has no quality depth and still has Matt Cassel as it’s quarterback. In other words 8-8 at best.
23- Jaguars: Surprised I have the Jags this high? Me too! But Blaine Gabbert looked competent and MJD looks like he didn’t need camp and if not for an idiotic gameplan on the final drive by the Jaguars defensive coordinator, we’d be talking about a 1-0 Jacksonville team.
24- Cardinals: John Skelton goes down and Kevin Kolb leads the Cardinals to the win?!? Yeah, I’m surprised too.
25- Seahawks: The legend of Russell Wilson would be in full force this week if Doug Baldwin or Braylon Edwards could’ve held on to would-be game-winning touchdown passes. Alas, they did not, and the Seahawks let a winnable game against an inferior opponent slip away.
26- Titans: This might be too low for the Titans, as they might’ve just run into the buzzsaw that is the Patriots. However, 11 carries for 4 yards for Chris Johnson when the Titans are going to have to be very solid on the ground concerns me quite a bit.
27- Rams: Jeff Fisher has a rebuilding effort to deal with, and Steven Jackson might be done. But Janoris Jenkins looks like a nice player and their front seven defensively is not bad.
28- Bills: You heard that sound? It was everyone jumping off the “Bills to the playoffs” bandwagon simultaneously. Kevin Kolb thinks Ryan Fitzpatrick is overpaid and they got nothing from their 100 million dollar man, Mario Williams.
29- Raiders: They’ve got Darren McFadden, but that’s about it. Carson Palmer is terrible.
30- Colts: At this point, I will be surprised if Andrew Luck makes it through the season. No rushing attack and no offensive line means teams will be teeing off on him all year.
31- Browns: Brandon Weeden might’ve played the worst game a rookie QB has ever played on the same day Robert Griffin played the best.
32- Dolphins: Well, at least they had Hard Knocks.