By Don Banks
September 14, 2011

The top-ranked Packers and Patriots certainly justified my faith in them in Week 1, putting on eye-popping displays of offense that made Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady appear in midseason form. Green Bay scored a league-high 42 points in outlasting the Saints, and New England executed a passing clinic in carving up Miami to the tune of a team-record 517 yards through the air.

But we've at least seen those movies before. Less familiar was the rest of Week 1, with Baltimore knocking the vaunted Steelers back on their heels, the still-stout Bears embarrassing the Falcons, and the Texans finally looking like they intend to stop teasing and start winning big. We'll see how much first impressions matter come Sunday. Week 2 is often when a truer picture of the season ahead starts to come into view.

Now onto this week's rankings ...

Week 1 NFL Power Rankings
1 Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 1
With their 42-point explosion against the Saints, the Packers not only scored more than any of the previous seven defending Super Bowl champions who have hosted the Thursday night kickoff opener -- besting Indy's 41-point effort four years ago -- but also scored more first-game points than any defending Super Bowl champ ever. That's 45 years of history we're talking about, so I suppose Green Bay deserved a 10-day break before its next game.
2 New England Patriots
Last Week: 2
The Patriots' ridiculously effective no-huddle offense is going to be one of the biggest early-season stories of the year in the NFL. New England used it to flummox Tampa Bay's defense in the preseason (remember Gerald McCoy's "Mr. Brady" line?), then exhaust Miami's defense on Monday night. Chargers at Patriots could feature a little offense this week, eh? What's the over-under, 101 points?
3 New York Jets
Last Week: 5
Look for the Jets to get back to their ground-and-pound running game against the visiting Jaguars this week. New York threw the ball an astounding 44 times against the Cowboys, with their injury-depleted secondary, and it resulted in Mark Sanchez getting sacked four times, knocked down at least three other times, and tested for a concussion on Monday. Suffice to say that's not the game plan Gang Green is going to want to follow all season.
4 Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 6
The best piece of underrated news to come out of the Ravens' rout of Pittsburgh? They hung up 35 points and deep-threat receiver Lee Evans didn't even catch a pass in his Baltimore debut. But Evans still had an impact, because the Steelers defense had to respect his speed, and that opened up some room underneath for the likes of Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson and Anquan Boldin, who combined for 11 catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns.
5 New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 4
I'm thinking the Saints have had just about enough of being the visitor in the NFL's Thursday-night kickoff opener. Four years ago they got drummed 41-10 by Peyton Manning's Colts in Indianapolis on Super Bowl banner-hanging night, and last Thursday they gave up 42 to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. But New Orleans did fight back this time, scoring 34 points, so they're not dropping out of my top five based on the shootout at Lambeau.
6 Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 8
Andy Reid's Eagles get another dome game on a fast track this week in Atlanta, and this time Michael Vick isn't coming back to town as Donovan McNabb's backup. It'll be interesting to see the reception Vick gets from the Falcons fans he once flipped off, and to see if he keeps his emotions in check throughout the game. If Vick were ever to be guilty of pressing and trying to do too much this season, this week figures to be the time.
7 Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 3
As if that 28-point beatdown by Baltimore didn't speak loudly enough in terms of the state of the Steelers in 2011, here's a statistic that should sober any Pittsburgh fan: The most recent time a Super Bowl loser made its way back to the game and won it the following season was 39 years ago, when Miami beat Washington after losing to Dallas the year before. In fact, a Super Bowl loser hasn't even appeared in the game since Buffalo lost the last of its four consecutive Super Bowls after the 1993 season.
8 Chicago Bears
Last Week: 11
The Bears' 30-point showing on offense served to overshadow a spectacular day by the Chicago defensive line against Atlanta. Julius Peppers' impact wasn't limited to his two sacks and that forced fumble that was recovered and returned for a touchdown by middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. He also commanded enough attention from the Falcons that emerging defensive tackle Henry Melton picked up a pair of sacks of his own, with seven quarterback hits on Matt Ryan.
9 San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 9
Just like last year, special teams breakdowns immediately surfaced in San Diego, with the Chargers allowing Minnesota receiver-return man Percy Harvin to take the opening kickoff 103 yards last Sunday, losing kicker Nate Kaeding to a season-ending knee injury in the process. But unlike last year, San Diego didn't let the special teams blunder ruin the entire day, and that perseverance was the best indication that 2011 will be a different story for the Chargers.
10 Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 7
There's some real concern this week in Atlanta, because the Falcons have now lost their two most recent meaningful games by a combined score of 78-33 to those powers from the NFC North, Green Bay and Chicago. The 18-point loss to the Bears was the largest regular-season defeat Matt Ryan has experienced in his four years as the Falcons' starting quarterback, and now he has to go head-to-head with the Eagles' Michael Vick, the guy he replaced as the franchise quarterback in Atlanta.
11 Detroit Lions
Last Week: 16
It's been a while since the Lions had to guard against overconfidence, but that's the situation with the reeling Kansas City Chiefs headed to Ford Field this week for Detroit's home opener. I really don't see Jim Schwartz struggling to push the right motivational buttons, though, because he knows his team made the win at Tampa Bay a lot closer than it should have been. On the upside, that Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson connection is starting to look like something special.
12 Houston Texans
Last Week: 17
It doesn't look like there's much need to rush Arian Foster back from his hamstring injury in Houston. Against the Colts, the Texans got 116 yards on 24 carries from their No. 3 back, second-year man Ben Tate, and that was after veteran Derrick Ward left the game with a sprained ankle after picking up 39 yards on 11 runs. The Texans had 100 yards rushing at halftime against Indy, and Houston suddenly has more backfield depth than anyone in the AFC South.
13 Washington Redskins
Last Week: 22
Tight end Fred Davis looks like he's going to be a beast in the Redskins' offense this season. Davis said he lost about 12 pounds this offseason because he wants "to run all day" and be able to make the plays down the seam that the game's best tight ends make. He did that against the Giants, coming up huge several times during the course of his career-best five-catch, 105-yard day.
14 New York Giants
Last Week: 12
Not much good news coming out of Giants camp these days, but you have to like what you see from second-year defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who had a monster day at Washington: two sacks, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and six total tackles. Pierre-Paul is still learning his craft, but he has a burst off the edge, and the G-Men do know how to find themselves pass rushers, do they not?
15 Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 14
I really don't understand the organization's rush to support Tony Romo after his fourth-quarter meltdown cost the Cowboys what would have -- and should have -- been a significant upset road win against the Jets. Romo has lost seven of his past eight starts for Dallas, dating from the Cowboys' blowout loss at Minnesota in the 2009 NFC divisional playoffs, and he is almost solely responsible for the first loss in franchise history in a game which Dallas led by 14 points in the fourth quarter. Somebody needs to tell Jerry Jones that maybe Romo could use tough love more than unconditional love.
16 St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 13
The Rams didn't look ready for their close-up against the Eagles, and that makes next Monday night's game at the Giants all the more important. After losing to one of the head coaches he used to work for in Philly's Andy Reid, the Rams' Steve Spagnuolo can't afford to drop to 0-2 at the hands of another, New York's Tom Coughlin.
17 Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 19
The Raiders are 1-0 for the first time since their Super Bowl season of 2002, and their "Just win, Baby" mantra was in full effect Monday night at Denver. It wasn't pretty (15 penalties for 131 yards, Jason Campbell had just 105 yards passing), but you can afford to worry about style points later after securing victory in a road opener. And now comes a short-week trip to Buffalo, which looms as another early season challenge for an Oakland team that's learning how to win.
18 Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 24
With four more touchdown passes and a nearly mistake-free game by Buffalo in the eye-opening 41-7 rout of Kansas City, it's high time we stop overlooking the job Ryan Fitzpatrick is doing at quarterback for the Bills. You wouldn't recognize him on the street if he walked past you, but Fitzpatrick can play. Buffalo passed on taking a first- or second-round quarterback in the draft, and I think we're all starting to understand why.
19 Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 25
The ground-loving Jaguars only let Luke McCown throw 24 passes against Tennessee, but he completed 17 for 175 yards, without throwing an interception. It's not the most crowd-pleasing approach to offense, but the Jaguars are 1-0, while Cam Newton and his 422 yards passing remain winless. So there are different ways to skin the cat in the NFL.
20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 15
The Bucs got nothing in the opener from their bevy of first-round defensive linemen, as Detroit rolled up 431 yards and 25 first downs on offense and Matthew Stafford was never sacked. If Tampa Bay's defensive front can't make life a little more miserable for Donovan McNabb Sunday in Minnesota, I fully expect Raheem Morris to crank up the volume and light a fire under somebody's butt next week.
21 Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 26
The Cardinals got the job done when it mattered against Carolina, but if their secondary is capable of giving up 422 passing yards to Panthers rookie Cam Newton, who entered the league with a reputation as a runner more than a passer, what might Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Michael Vick do to Arizona later this season?
22 Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 10
No matter what folks in Indy might claim, it seems the entire Colts organization is still in shock and going through the early stages of severe Manning withdrawal. As bleak as things look on offense, the first order of business in this week's home opener against Cleveland should be to get more aggressive on defense and try to create some momentum on that side of the ball. But that's where the Cover-2 scheme, which is designed more to play with the lead, works against Indy as well.
23 Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 18
Now talented second-year safety Eric Berry is gone for the season, too, and you start to wonder where the bottom is for this Chiefs team that a minute ago seemed on the ascent. Since the calendar turned to 2011, Kansas City has lost 31-10 to Oakland, 30-7 to Baltimore, and 41-7 to Buffalo -- all at Arrowhead Stadium.
24 Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 23
The good news is that Chad Henne looked like a legit NFL starting quarterback against New England. He just picked the wrong night to throw for a career-best 416 yards, more than 100 fewer than New England's Tom Brady. But that Dolphins defense was almost nonexistent at times, and that doesn't bode well for Sunday's home date against the multi-faceted attack the Houston Texans present.
25 San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 30
I saw where rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh wasn't happy that he couldn't find many clips of the 49ers' season-opening win over Seattle on the Sunday night highlight shows. I think that might have something to do with a San Francisco offense that cranked out just 12 first downs and 209 total yards, with 124 of those coming via the pass. But I'll give Harbaugh this: Ted Ginn Jr. did deserve a highlight or two with his two return touchdowns.
26 Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 31
Don't look now, but with banged-up Denver coming off a short week of work, the Bengals might be able to keep it rolling and author the league's most surprising 2-0 start. If it happens, we'll probably bump up Cincinnati even more than the five spots it jumped this week.
27 Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 28
Oh, the indignities that Donovan McNabb has suffered in the past 10-11 months. In a week in which the NFL set a new record for the most combined passing yardage with 7,482, McNabb could only manage to contribute 39 of those. And his team still only lost by seven points on the road. Imagine if No. 5 had showed up at all?
28 Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 21
Speaking of disappearing acts, Chris Johnson's holdout probably cost him any legitimate chance of contributing to the Titans offense last week at Jacksonville, and that really hurts when you lose by only two points without your best player being heavily involved. Somehow I don't think C.J. will be offering Bud Adams a partial refund this week.
29 Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 20
Look for things to get real ugly real quickly in Cleveland if the Browns can't handle the Kerry Collins-led Colts in Indy this week. No one wants to be the first team to lose to the Manning-less Colts, and that means the Browns have more pressure on them than any other team in the league this week.
30 Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 32
The Panthers actually had the "best" loss of the four 0-1 teams in the NFC South in Week 1, earning a moral victory just by taking Arizona down to the wire on the road. Plus, Cam Newton's spectacular debut was more hope-inspiring than even an ugly win would have been. But reality might be about to set in with a visit from Green Bay on Sunday.
31 Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 27
The Seahawks likely know this already, but it's not the optimum time to be making a trip to Pittsburgh, after the Steelers were humbled at Baltimore last week. Seattle's offensive line remains a work in progress, so I would suggest that Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson be ready to take off and run at the slightest impetus.
32 Denver Broncos
Last Week: 29
The final score of Denver's loss to Oakland was close (23-20), but the most ominous indication of trouble ahead for the Broncos was their inability to either run the ball (38 yards) or stop the run (the Raiders rushed for 190). Those are staples of a John Fox-coached team, and it didn't help in the least that quarterback Kyle Orton turned back into a pumpkin in that orange Broncos jersey.

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