Wednesday September 17th, 2014

The king is ... well, not dead. For now, let's say taking a leave of absence.

Are Saints' title hopes already gone? | Best and worst of Week 2

Seattle's first loss since Dec. 22 (Week 16) of last year means that a newcomer has taken the Power Rankings throne -- at least temporarily. That's a fitting conclusion to an unpredictable two weeks of action in the NFL.

Challenge your friends and win big in our weekly fantasy football game

Who is in with the Seahawks out? The answer and more below:

  • 1
    1Cincinnati Bengals
    last week: 5
    record: 2-0 refuses to provide me with my own personal intern to check on such things, but I believe this is the first time -- ever -- that the Bengals have landed atop our NFL Power Rankings. They weren't there when they reached 6-2 last season; Don Banks did not have them No. 1 at any point en route to a division title in 2009; and the legendary Dr. Z tempered Cincinnati's hype amid a 7-2 start back in '05. Before that '05 breakthrough, the Bengals experienced a 14-season playoff drought.
    The Power Rankings streak breaks here, after Cincinnati manhandled Atlanta with a suffocating defensive effort and an impressive ground attack. Doubt Andy Dalton if you must (and he does deserve some skepticism until he wins a playoff game). This team is for real.

  • 2
    2Denver Broncos
    last week: 2
    record: 2-0
    Sure, this week's trip to Seattle provides Denver a shot at redemption. It also might leave Broncos fans praying with all their might that the Seahawks get bounced before the Super Bowl in order to avoid another rematch. Denver has been good, but not great, in getting to 2-0 at home. It'll need more Sunday.

  • 3
    3Carolina Panthers
    last week: 6
    record: 2-0
    Leading candidate for the "Who?" award of the week is Mario Addison. An undrafted free agent in 2011 now on his fourth team, Addison started Sunday after the Panthers deactivated Greg Hardy. And he proceeded to match his '13 sack total in one afternoon, dropping Matthew Stafford 2.5 times.

  • 4
    4Seattle Seahawks
    last week: 1
    record: 1-1
    Here's the thing about teams throwing at Richard Sherman: Richard Sherman wants quarterbacks to throw at Richard Sherman, and the Seahawks should, too. Last season, Sherman picked off eight of the 57 passes fired in his direction. He'll allow some catches, but the Seahawks can bank on him delivering more than a few game-changing plays.

  • 5
    5Philadelphia Eagles
    last week: 4
    record: 2-0
    In the Pre-Halftime Power Rankings, the Eagles would come in around the No. 31 or 32 spot. Fortunately for them (and their record), football games span four quarters. Also working in Philadelphia's favor? The arrival of Darren Sproles, who remains an incredible weapon even if his running style can be described as similar to "a kid trying to get away after dropping a flaming bag of dog crap on the neighbor's porch."

  • 6
    6Arizona Cardinals
    last week: 8
    record: 2-0
    "Hopefully any minute it starts working" is a fine statement to make if, say, you've just hit the reset button on your modem or have taken Advil for a headache. It is not great when your starting quarterback says it about his injured shoulder, as Carson Palmer did to the team website this week.
    Arizona's up here anyway because that defense is, as Larry David would put it, pretty good. Prettaaayyy, prettaaayyy good.

  • 7
    7San Diego Chargers
    last week: 18
    record: 1-1
    Between now and the start of December, the Chargers play just two 2013 playoff teams -- division rivals Kansas City and Denver, back to back in Weeks 7 and 8. Consider that San Diego closes with a New England-Denver-San Francisco-Kansas City stretch, now would be the time to get hot.

  • 8
    8New England Patriots
    last week: 10
    record: 1-1
    Admit it, Patriots fans: You felt a little nauseous when Matt Cassel marched Minnesota down the field for an opening-drive touchdown Sunday, right? New England scored 30 unanswered after that, so all is well again. By the way, the Vikings' eventual meltdown wasn't all Cassel's fault. New England's defense was all over the place, from Chandler Jones up front to Darrelle Revis and Logan Ryan in the secondary.

  • 9
    9Green Bay Packers
    last week: 12
    record: 1-1
    There are a few times a year when Aaron Rodgers shifts into "Screw this, I'll do it myself" mode. Sunday, it happened right around the time Chris Ivory scored to give the Jets a 21-3 lead. Rodgers had 70 yards passing and zero touchdowns (obviously) before Ivory's score; he had 276 yards and three touchdowns afterward.

  • 10
    10Chicago Bears
    last week: 22
    record: 1-1
    For most of the first half Sunday, the Bears looked like an overmatched boxer pinned into the corner -- shot after shot landing, while the crowd screams, "DO SOMETHING!"
    And then Brandon Marshall made a twisting, one-handed touchdown grab just before the break and the fight was on. It was only Week 2, but the comeback win that followed might go down as a season-changing moment for Chicago.

  • 11
    11San Francisco 49ers
    last week: 3
    record: 1-1
    Meanwhile, letting the Bears off the ropes ...
    "I think we're all going to look at this one and feel like we have fingerprints on it," head coach Jim Harbaugh lamented after his team's sudden collapse. Between four turnovers and 16 penalties, there definitely was enough blame to go around.

  • 12
    12Buffalo Bills
    last week: 21
    record: 2-0
    If you claim you marked down the Sept. 28 Buffalo at Houston game as one of the most important early-season matchups when the schedule came out, you're a liar. But we now are just one Buffalo win over San Diego and one Houston win over the Giants away from that being an improbable clash of unbeatens.

  • 13
    13Baltimore Ravens
    last week: 20
    record: 1-1
    Of the 99 games in which Owen Daniels has now made a reception, only four times did he average fewer yards-per-catch than he did last Thursday (5.6). And only four other times did Daniels find the end zone twice, as he did in the Ravens' much-needed 26-6 win over Pittsburgh.

  • 14
    14Miami Dolphins
    last week: 7
    record: 1-1
    Down 9-0 with the ball on his own 12, three timeouts and 2:21 left in the first half, Miami head coach Joe Philbin ordered his offense to run out the clock.
    "I believe at that point in time, we had 45 yards of offense and three sacks in the first half," Philbin said Monday. "The last thing I wanted to do is go into halftime down 16-0. So I told Bill [Lazor], I want to ... get to the locker room and make some adjustments."
    Sorry, coach, can't buy it here. If you trust your quarterback and want to swipe a road game within the division, playing it ultra-conservatively is the wrong move.

  • 15
    15Detroit Lions
    last week: 11
    record: 1-1
    The Lions' head coaching job is like the casting for James Bond or Doctor Who. Change the person playing the part all you want, the main storyline essentially remains the same. Of course, Bond and the Doctor tend to succeed in their missions ...

  • 16
    16Indianapolis Colts
    last week: 15
    record: 0-2
    Pep Hamilton is the "no running by the pool" of offensive coordinators. Let the kids have some fun, Pep!
    Instead of taking full advantage of Andrew Luck and an offense that operates far more effectively when it's at high speed, Hamilton remains committed to Trent Richardson in the run game. It blew up in his face Monday night.

  • 17
    17Atlanta Falcons
    last week: 13
    record: 1-1
    'Tis not easy to win on the road in the NFL and Matt Ryan's career numbers serve as proof positive of that fact. The Falcons' Week 2 drubbing in Cincinnati dropped Ryan to 24-25 all-time away from home, with 51 interceptions and a 84.7 QB rating; in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome, Ryan boasts a 37-10, 97.7 QB rating and has thrown just 29 interceptions.

  • 18
    18Houston Texans
    last week: 24
    record: 2-0
    The 2013 Texans, who lost 14 straight games, ranked dead last in the league with a minus-20 turnover differential. Through two games of this season, they've orchestrated a 30-spot jump -- only the Panthers (plus-six) have a better mark in the turnover area than Houston's plus-five.

  • 19
    19New York Jets
    last week: 19
    record: 1-1
    There are cheery, upbeat "only" hypotheticals like "Only Peyton Manning could throw that many touchdown passes" or "Only my grandmother could make soup taste that delicious." And then there is the other side of the spectrum, which now includes such gems as "Only the Jets could lose a game-tying touchdown because the offensive coordinator told a defensive lineman to call timeout."

  • 20
    20Cleveland Browns
    last week: 28
    record: 1-1
    The offseason decision to snag LB Karlos Dansby from Arizona has paid off handsomely thus far -- he has been one of the Browns' most active defenders through two weeks. Right up there with him: Paul Kruger, a 2013 free-agent pickup who was better than his final stats indicated last season and could be in line for a career year under Mike Pettine.

  • 21
    21New Orleans Saints
    last week: 9
    record: 0-2
    I suppose this is where it must be mentioned that prior to his magic act with New Orleans in 2013, Rob Ryan had not had a defense finish better than 13th in points allowed and his units finished 22nd or lower in yardage six times. This Saints team has far more talent than what Ryan directed in places like Oakland and Cleveland. A few more performances like what we've seen so far, however, might drop the F-word -- fluke -- on Ryan's 2013 craftsmanship.

  • 22
    22Pittsburgh Steelers
    last week: 16
    record: 1-1
    It's a little difficult to see what the Steelers are supposed to be at the moment. The defense certainly isn't good enough to carry them the way it did in past glory days; and aside from Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, there are not any fear-inducing guys on offense.

  • 23
    23Minnesota Vikings
    last week: 17
    record: 1-1
    All those feel-good vibes from Week 1 vanished in a heartbeat, mainly because of the off-field situation involving Adrian Peterson. Talking about the impact his absence had on the field feels like trivializing a very serious topic, but there's no getting around how mediocre the Vikings are without Peterson. Matt Cassel certainly is not capable of carrying a team.

  • 24
    24Dallas Cowboys
    last week: 32
    record: 1-1
    Does it make Dallas fans any less annoyed about their team's No. 32 ranking here last week if we pretend the Cowboys used it as motivation? No? Oh well.
    DeMarco Murray is the guy who can keep pushing this team up the board. He has been the best running back in football through two weeks, and a dominant ground game can mask a lot of other issues.

  • 25
    25Tennessee Titans
    last week: 14
    record: 1-1
    The Titans took off like a rocket in Week 1. But, apparently, it's like one of those rockets you make in high school science class that explodes off the ground, gets 20 feet in the air, then spirals back to earth and hits your friend in the foot.
    With trips to Cincinnati and Indianapolis on the docket in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively, the Titans are going to quickly find out whether they are legit or not.

  • 26
    26Washington Redskins
    last week: 31
    record: 1-1
    Not going to go the whole "RGIII's injury is good for the Redskins" route because, I mean, the dude's ankle tried to escape his body. Still, not having Griffin available pushes Washington to a necessary quarterback crossroads. Is Kirk Cousins a real option as the full-time starter? Does Griffin have a future as the franchise's leader? The timeline to answer those questions just accelerated.

  • 27
    27Kansas City Chiefs
    last week: 23
    record: 0-2
    Give some credit to the Chiefs for hanging around in Denver despite an injury-plagued roster. Not that the ol' good job, good effort is going to make Kansas City feel any better about a season that already is on the brink of spiraling beyond repair.

  • 28
    28St. Louis Rams
    last week: 26
    record: 1-1
    Over the entirety of NFL history, a mere 21 quarterbacks have finished a season with more than 400 yards passing and zero touchdowns. Austin Davis currently sits as No. 22 -- he has 427 yards without a touchdown toss. Still 534 yards stand between Davis and Philadelphia's Bobby Hoying, the no-touchdown high bar at 961 yards passing in 1998.

  • 29
    29New York Giants
    last week: 29
    record: 0-2
    I talked about the Texans' improvements in turnover differential earlier. Well, New York is sitting on a minus-six there after losses to Detroit and Arizona. If you're a big fan of Eli Manning or Tom Coughlin, might want to block out some time to watch the Giants in the next few weeks. This is starting to look like the end of the line for both.

  • 30
    30Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    last week: 25
    record: 0-2
    Lovie Smith's first three seasons with the Bears: 5-11, 11-5 with an NFC North title, 13-3 with a trip to the Super Bowl. So, this start has been bad -- shockingly awful, really -- but it probably will get better. Just perhaps not until 2015.

  • 31
    31Jacksonville Jaguars
    last week: 27
    record: 0-2
    If the now 0-2 Jaguars are ready to start playing for the future, then Blake Bortles should be starting at quarterback. And if they still think they can turn things around and find a way to contend this season, then Blake Bortles should be the starting quarterback.

  • 32
    32Oakland Raiders
    last week: 30
    record: 0-2
    Take it away, Charles Woodson (with a hat tip to CSN Bay Area for the quotes):
    "We suck. That's as blunt as I can put it. For whatever reason, defensively we just won't stop people, especially early in games. Every drive, every first drive, teams are able to go and get points. Today, it happened all day. Offensively, we put the ball on the ground. We had opportunities and didn't capitalize on it. Collectively, we look bad."

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