By Don Banks
September 12, 2012

I kind of enjoy over-reaction week in the NFL, meaning the days following Week 1's results. Because it reminds us how much the league recreates itself each and every seven days. Just check out the NFC, where Washington, Dallas and Chicago are riding sky right now, while Green Bay, New Orleans and the Giants (three-fourths of last year's final four in the conference) are all feeling worthless and weak on the heels of upset losses at home.

But give it a week and the picture will change. It always does. Just like the top of our NFL power rankings heading into the second weekend. The Patriots, 49ers and Ravens have moved up into the top three slots, and the Texans hold steady at No. 4. After that, it's picking and choosing between Week 1 winners and losers, and trying to discern who has staying power and who was an opening-week mirage. Sixteen games down, 240 more to go.

Now on to this week's rankings...

NFL Power Rankings
1 New England Patriots
Last Week: 2
The Patriots were their typical methodical selves in dismantling the Titans in Nashville, and they had to love what they got out of second-year running back Stevan Ridley, who cruised to a 125-yard, one-touchdown afternoon. Ridley, an LSU product, can only dream of hanging around in New England as long as the last ex-Tigers runner to make a name for himself in Foxboro. Kevin Faulk did all right, squeezing out 13 seasons of wearing the Flying Elvis on his helmet.
2 San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 6
Huge opening statement by the 49ers, who went into Lambeau Field and became the first road team to win there in the regular season since Miami accomplished it in overtime in Week 6 of 2010, snapping a 13-game home winning streak for Green Bay. Road teams overall did pretty well for themselves in Week 1, going 7-9, with the 49ers and Redskins beating the Packers and Saints, respectively, teams that went a combined 17-1 (including the playoffs) at home in 2011.
3 Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 5
If Joe Flacco is a "game manager" quarterback, as he often has been described, then give me a game manager quarterback any time. The guy is 45-20 in the regular season since the Ravens selected him in 2008's first round, and has helped Baltimore win at least one playoff game the past four seasons. Like Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said late Monday night: Time to pay the man, Ravens. Huddle up and get it done. Or no huddle. It apparently makes no difference to Flacco.
4 Houston Texans
Last Week: 4
Score yet another one for the importance of the preseason. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt sat out Houston's entire four-game exhibition game schedule with a dislocated left elbow, but still dominated on opening day against Miami, with 1.5 sacks and three tipped passes, two of which turned into interceptions. But it's not like Watt wasted his entire August. He said he learned Miami's snap count cadence by watching the Dolphins on "Hard Knocks," giving NFL coaches everywhere another reason to avoid that show like the plague.
5 Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 1
It's not yet time to panic in Titletown, but it will be if the Packers fall to the visiting Bears in the opener of the league's Thursday night showcase. Green Bay would be 0-2 at home, two games behind Chicago, with four of its next five on the road. After starting last season 13-0, the Packers have dropped three of their past five games, including playoffs. But they haven't lost consecutive regular season games started by Aaron Rodgers since Weeks 5-6 of 2010, the franchise's most recent Super Bowl season.
6 Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 10
No one's trying to rain on the Falcons' impressive passing parade, but the season-ending injury to cornerback Brent Grimes might be a loss that's felt all year. The Asante Samuel acquisition looks even better now, but having two quality cornerbacks isn't enough any more. With Drew Brees and Cam Newton in the NFC South, and teams like Green Bay, San Francisco, Detroit, Dallas and the Giants to be chased in the conference, having enough dependable cover men is essential.
7 Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 19
The Cowboys should make the long trek to Seattle this week still being on an emotional high from their massive one-week jump in our power rankings. Not to mention that big win at the Giants last Wednesday night. But you hope Dallas doesn't feel too good about itself, because the Cowboys haven't always been so good at dealing with success. This is a game Dallas could bobble away if it doesn't bring the same intensity level it did in Week 1, and yes, that was a backhanded reference to Tony Romo's most recent (and memorable) appearance in Seattle. Bill Parcells remembers.
8 Denver Broncos
Last Week: 11
I'm feeling quite a bit better about picking John Fox's team to win the AFC West again after Week 1. The Denver Peytons looked like a pretty solid team top to bottom, while the Chiefs and Raiders have obvious weaknesses and the Chargers won largely due to Oakland's long-snapping woes. I wonder if Tim Tebow wakes up some days and wonders if the whole 2011 late-season magic carpet ride was just a dream? The city of Denver clearly has a new crush.
9 New York Giants
Last Week: 3
Like the Packers, the Giants already face a must-win of sorts in Week 2, because you can't afford to start a season with consecutive home losses. It's a mojo killer. With the Bucs visiting the Meadowlands this week, it certainly looks like a winnable game for the Men of Coughlin, but it could get tricky. New Bucs head coach Greg Schiano is making his homecoming to New Jersey, where he spent 11 years leading the Rutgers program, and Tampa Bay is coming off an impressive defensive showing that is sowing the seeds of belief in Schiano's system. That makes the Bucs a bit more dangerous looking than when they originally appeared in the rear-view mirror.
10 Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 8
Bet the Steelers have seen enough of the Mile High City for a while. Pittsburgh endures the misfortune of running into Tebow-mania and Peyton Manning's debut in consecutive games, and there's only so much of that sort of thing you can stomach. What's that you say? The Jets are the opponent this week for Pittsburgh's home opener? You mean that Tebow guy again? Oh, for the love of personal punt protectors. Whatever you do, Mike Tomlin, don't let your Steelers kick it to No. 15 on the onside attempt.
11 Washington Redskins
Last Week: 23
I think I saw where, until Robert Griffin III's boffo debut, no rookie quarterback had led his team to a 40-point showing in a season opener since 1950. Now that's a statistic with a little heft to it. None of the other four rookie quarterbacks who started last week led offenses that topped 21 points, let alone won their openers in a hostile setting like the Superdome. And Griffin did it while somehow managing to never once look like a rookie quarterback.
12 New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 7
So much for the revenge factor. The Saints' reservoir of built-up emotion seemed to burn off pretty quickly against the Redskins. Roughly right around the time RGIII hit Pierre Garcon on that 88-yard touchdown pass to retake the lead for good. This week's trip to Carolina might be when we find out the true indication of how much Sean Payton's game-day influence is missed. New Orleans has been known to struggle on the road in the division at times, but Payton had a knack for mid-game adjustments and being able to rouse his underachieving team after a sluggish start.
13 Chicago Bears
Last Week: 16
Promise, Bears fans, I'll buy in and bump your heroes up into the top eight or so if Chicago's Week 2 showing at Green Bay is anything like its Week 1 showing at home against the Andrew Luck-led Colts. The Brandon Marshall addition paid immediate dividends for Jay Cutler and the Bears, and the porous Packers secondary must look ripe for the picking as well. Chicago would love to land an early uppercut to Green Bay's NFC North hopes, but I don't expect a desperate Packers team to go quietly into the good (Thursday) night.
14 Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 9
Having squeaked past Pat Shurmur's Browns in the opener, Andy Reid gets to match wits with another branch of his coaching tree this week in drawing a visit from John Harbaugh's Ravens. As rough as things went for Michael Vick in Cleveland, the Eagles defense came to play, holding the Browns offense to just 12 first downs, 210 yards and three Phil Dawson field goals. That's something to build on for the Juan Castillo-coached unit that drew plenty of fire in the first half of last season.
15 New York Jets
Last Week: 22
After a preseason of taking all the punches, the Jets deserved the last laugh they got after their Week 1 blowout of Buffalo. Even if Bart Scott seemed to take it a bit far. Mark Sanchez played like a true franchise quarterback, right tackle wasn't a problem, and rookie receiver Stephen Hill was everything New York said he was. But you can't draw the bumbling Bills every week, so the upcoming trip to Pittsburgh poses a much stiffer challenge for Rex Ryan's guys.
16 Detroit Lions
Last Week: 13
I get why Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh want no part of pumping up Sunday night's "Handshake Bowl" any more than it already has been. But to me, that's part of the price both head coaches should pay for having lost a bit of perspective last season in the heated moments after the 49ers' win at Detroit. They should have fun with it. Deal with it head on. And not try to act like it didn't happen or didn't matter. I suggest sending them out for the coin toss, complete with boxing gloves and eye black.
17 San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 20
What a week it was for kickers in the NFL. The Chargers' Nate Kaeding went 5 of 5 in field goals in returning from last year's knee injury, and that's just part of the story. Overall, NFL kickers converted 67 of 72 field goal attempts in Week 1, a ridiculous 93.1 percent success ratio. David Akers boots a record-tying 63-yarder off the cross bar in Green Bay in San Francisco's win, Minnesota rookie Blair Walsh nails a 55-yarder on the final play of regulation to force overtime against Jacksonville, and fellow rookies Justin Tucker of Baltimore and Greg Zuerlein of St. Louis were superb in their debuts.
18 Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 12
Alas, my early faith in the Seahawks did not go rewarded last week. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson wasn't Brandon Weeden-Ryan Tannehill bad by any stretch of the imagination, but he didn't spark the offense like he did in the preseason either. This week's home opener against Dallas offers a vital do-over opportunity for Seattle. A win and Pete Carroll's team will be right back in the discussion in the NFC West. An ugly loss and get ready for the Matt Flynn-to-the-rescue chatter.
19 Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 15
There was nothing about the Bengals' showing in Baltimore Monday night that made you think they're a bad team headed for a losing season. But there also was nothing about the Bengals' showing to make you think they've closed the gap on the defending division champion Ravens. If anything, it looks to be a bit wider this year. The most positive note was that Cincy has found itself another receiving weapon in the speedy Andrew Hawkins.
20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 24
Ronde Barber is one of those players we won't fully appreciate until he's gone. The 16th-year Bucs cornerback just keeps rolling along, winning another NFC Defensive Player of the Week award for his five-tackle, one-sack, one-interception, two-tackles-for-loss performance in Tampa Bay's conquest of Carolina. Barber also logged his 200th consecutive start in that game, the league's longest streak ever for a cornerback. When Barber was drafted in 1997, Tony Dungy hadn't even coached in a playoff game and Monica Lewinsky was still an unknown White House intern.
21 Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 17
I'm guessing the Panthers might try to rediscover their running game in this week's home opener against New Orleans, after rushing for a mind-boggling 10 yards on 13 carries in the loss at Tampa Bay. Otherwise, before you know it, Panthers center Ryan Kalil is going to have to take out a newspaper ad apologizing for the first newspaper ad. And he told me in training camp those things are expensive.
22 Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 18
Missing the suspended Tamba Hali and the injured Brandon Flowers last week against the Falcons really hurt Kansas City. But it shouldn't have hurt the Chiefs to the tune of a 16-point blowout loss at home. They've got an embarrassed Bills team to contend with this week in Buffalo, and it probably doesn't help matters that K.C. canned current Bills head coach Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator late in the preseason of 2009. Not that Gailey lacks for motivational material this week after his team's putrid opener against the Jets.
23 St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 27
Ready or not, Jeff Fisher's Rams get a first-hand look at the quarterback they passed on in April, with Washington's Robert Griffin III bringing his traveling show of miracle cures to a new dome this week. As I wrote last Sunday after the Redskins' upset of the Saints, what would St. Louis ask for in trade today if it could revisit the terms of the deal in which it sent the No. 2 pick to Washington? And what price hope and glory in D.C.? Knowing the Redskins, any price would be my hunch.
24 Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 28
After a shaky start last week at home against Jacksonville, Christian Ponder did indeed look like a quarterback who has taken a significant year-two jump, just like the Vikings have been saying all preseason. Not that an overtime win over the Jaguars is a great measuring stick, but with a trip to Indy looming this week, Minnesota has a chance to be among the league's 2-0 crowd. After last year's 3-13 debacle, that'll do for now.
25 Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 14
Speaking of debacles, the Bills got piled on by the media this week (Rodney Harrison and others), but they have only themselves to blame. What a buzz kill by Buffalo. I don't think anyone thought the Bills would go in and have their way with the Jets, but 48 points allowed? And no production whatsoever from the new-look and highly compensated defensive line? And then there's Ryan Fitzpatrick's egg-laying and the key injuries Buffalo absorbed on offense. Did I miss anything? Oh, yeah, rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore looked outclassed, too.
26 Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 30
Maybe this time Kevin Kolb will seize the starting job in Arizona and not let go. Maybe he's through worrying about the expectations and the size of his contract and he'll just cut it loose and play like the guy who prompted the Cardinals into trading for him and paying him big money in the first place. Maybe the Tommy Kelly crap he had to put up with in the preseason pushed him past a point of caring what the critics think. We shall see. But I'd feel better about his chances if he weren't drawing the short straw of playing in Foxboro this week.
27 Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 21
I've probably dropped the Titans a bit too low, but they showed me very little in losing to the Patriots at home. Jake Locker was accurate enough, but he didn't exactly threaten New England's defense very often. And what's up with the complete failure to show of Chris Johnson again? The Titans have to run the ball some to have a chance this season with Locker at quarterback.
28 Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 29
Blaine Gabbert was almost one of the bigger success stories of Week 1, but the Jaguars couldn't quite hold the lead he gave them with that clutch touchdown he threw in the final half-minute of regulation in Minnesota. Even with the bitter loss, it was a step in the right direction for Gabbert's game and his confidence level.
29 Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 25
Andrew Luck got upstaged again in Week 1 by Robert Griffin III, but he should be fairly used to it after last year's Heisman race. It wasn't the best of debuts for Luck against the Bears, but he'll have his big days this season, too. If that Colts offensive line can keep him in one piece, that is.
30 Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 26
Penalties and key mistakes. Where have I seen this movie before? The Raiders are one of the NFL's few constants. And that's not a compliment.
31 Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 31
Another game like the deer-in-the-headlights showing Brandon Weeden just turned in against Philadelphia and the Browns are going to really start feeling pressure to re-insert Colt McCoy at quarterback. And where does that get you in the long run? Nowhere the Browns haven't already been. Time and time again.
32 Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 32
As it turns out, Brandon Marshall, Chad Johnson and Vontae Davis might have been the lucky ones. They're not going to have to endure the misery to come in Miami this season.

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