By Don Banks
September 16, 2009

It's a razor's edge league, this NFL. In Week 1, our top three rated teams all won the same way: At home, in narrow fashion, in games that went down to the wire. No. 1 New England beat Buffalo by one in the final minute, on that miraculous, Tom Brady-led comeback. No. 2 Pittsburgh needed overtime to finally dispatch tenacious Tennessee by three points. And No. 3 Green Bay had to rally late to knock off the Bears by six, getting that 50-yard scoring bomb from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings with 1:11 remaining.

Exciting games, but those outcomes kept things rather status quo at the top of's NFL Power Rankings. For now, however, it's a tenuous grasp, because true dominance was in short supply in Week 1. We did have one newcomer to the top five, and that would be Sean Payton's high-flying Saints, whose demolition of Detroit swayed us to move them from No. 7 to No. 5, with the Giants falling from No. 5 to No. 6 despite a solid win at home against Washington.

Other climbers of significance include the No. 13 Jets, No. 16 49ers and No. 18 Broncos, all of them surprise winners on the road. But Week 2 promises even more potential movement, with Patriots-Jets, Saints-Eagles, Steelers-Bears, Ravens-Chargers, and Giants-Cowboys sure to reshuffle the league's landscape. (Send comments to

NFL Power Rankings
1 New England Patriots
Last Week: 1
How come the Patriots always play with urgency and know what the situation calls for, and the other team seems to have some bonehead like Leodis McKelvin singing "I Gotta Be Me'' at the absolute pivotal moment of a game? Watching New England beat Buffalo in the final five minutes Monday night, doing everything right when it had to, was like a flashback of that AFC Divisional playoff heist the Pats pulled at San Diego in 2006. I don't know if the better team won Monday night, but I know the smarter team did.
2 Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 2
I'm with Jerome Bettis on this one, the Steelers better get their protection problems figured out or we're going to see Charlie Batch under center for Ben Roethlisberger before the leaves are done falling in Pittsburgh. And no Troy Polamalu for a while means the defense just lost its X factor player who seems to be involved in everything but the halftime pep talk. And I'm just guessing about the pep talk, given Polamalu's quiet nature.
3 Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 3
For a unit that somehow gave up 352 yards and lived to tell against the Bears, I loved a lot of what I saw from the Packers' new 3-4 defense. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins was a beast against Chicago, and fellow end Johnny Jolly and linebacker Brandon Chillar both seemed to know the Bears play calls. And if there's a secondary in the NFL that gets its hands on more passes, I don't know which it would be, Tennessee included. Better be careful with the football this week, Carson Palmer.
4 Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 4
This is going to take some getting used to, the notion of the Ravens being an offensive juggernaut that can roll up 500 yards of offense and win in a shootout. Five hundred yards of offense used to be a pretty good month in Baltimore. The Ravens held the ball for 39:49 against the Chiefs, and you wonder what their defense is going to do with all that rest? Ray Lewis and Co. have never had that kind of luxury and it must seem like getting a raise and your hours cut in half at work all at the same time.
5 New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 7
In the early '90s, I spent one summer covering the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League, and every Saturday night I seemed to be trying to write a deadline story about a game that someone wound up winning by a score of 65-57. It was more like pinball than football, and I hated it. But these Saints are going to be fun to watch this season, because I don't think there's a defense out there that can truly shut them down for more than a quarter or two. Drew Brees and that offense are scary good.
6 New York Giants
Last Week: 5
The Giants sometimes seem like they get bored mid-game and start to coast, but we saw anew against the Redskins how their defensive front can just shut down an opponent and dominate a game when it needs to. A bigger test awaits this Sunday night at Jerry Jones' new football theme park, but I'm confident the G-Men won't get awed by making their big-screen debuts in Dallas. Just watch those punts, Jeff Feagles.
7 Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 8
Can it get much more cozy in the Eagles quarterbacks meeting? There was the injured Donovan McNabb this week, welcoming Jeff Garcia back to town to join him Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb. At one point or another in the past or present, all three of those quarterbacks have been seen as a threat of sorts to McNabb's hold on the starter's job in Philly, and now they're all in the same room. Where presumably he can keep an eye on them.
8 Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 6
The Titans did everything but score enough against the Steelers last Thursday night, and if kicker Rob Bironas and the Tennessee special teams were more on their game in the opener, they'd be 1-0 heading into this week's visit from the Texans. No real worries, though, and this week Tennessee will show its true colors in the Bud Adams Bowl, a game that's always very important in both the Titans' old city (Houston) and their new one (Nashville).
9 San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 9
The Chargers offensive line was running low on bodies in that ferocious fourth quarter in Oakland on Monday night, and now Baltimore, with its aggressive defensive front seven, is coming to town in one of the glamour matchups of Week 2. San Diego finished strong with that 14-point fourth quarter against the Raiders, but mounting a comeback against the Ravens will be considerably more difficult. Better open up the passing game good and early, Norv, and let 'er rip.
10 Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 11
I just get the feeling that this is the year, Falcons fans. This is when your decades-long quest finally ends. No, not a Super Bowl win. I'm not quite that high on Atlanta. But I do foresee the Falcons ending one of the more amazing streaks in NFL history, that being Atlanta's mind-boggling feat of never posting consecutive winning seasons in the first 43 years of the franchise's existence. Eight more wins and it's all over.
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