NFL Power Rankings Week 2: Patriots stay on top; Colts, Ravens tumble
In Week 1 last season, the Titans crushed the Chiefs in Kansas City and the Dolphins manhandled New England. Those results should serve as reminder enough that there's no reason to overreact to what goes down on opening weekend.
On the other hand, last Thursday through Monday gave us our first full glimpse at the 2015 teams—the preseason hardly counts.
There was some substantial movement in this week's Power Rankings, just as there figures to be again next week, especially with another stockpiled set of games.
Here's how things stand after Week 1:
Mark McGwire once showed up on an episode of "The Simpsons," right after Bart discovered that Major League Baseball was spying on everyone. Bart asked him why MLB would do this and McGwire responded, "Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?" The gathered crowd of Springfielders answers in unison, "Dingers! Dingers!" Similar choice for Patriots fans here: Shall we talk about how the Vince Wilfork-less defensive line looked quite leaky against the run, or would you rather watch highlights of Tom Brady lighting up Pittsburgh's defense? ("Brady! "Brady!")
"Like many other guys that have gone elsewhere and come back," Aaron Rodgers said of James Jones' two-TD return, "there is a comfort in this offense for guys who have flourished in it at times." Many of Rodgers' big gains come from throwing the football into a tight spot and trusting his receiver to make a play, making good chemistry essential. So I'm not saying the Packers should go ahead and bring back Donald Driver, too, but I'm not not saying that.
There were a couple of variables working against Peyton Manning in Week 1—a young O-line matched up with Baltimore's fierce pass rush and a little rust on Emmanuel Sanders caused by his preseason injury. But, yes, Manning's passing prowess remains a concern. Denver is up here mainly because its defense could be a top-five unit this season.
QB wins is a highly flawed stat (to wit: Matt Cassel actually gets credit for Buffalo's Week 1 victory because he took the first snap, with Tyrod Taylor lined up in the slot). There is still no denying what Carson Palmer means to the Cardinals. They now have won seven straight with him under center, dating back to last season.
They won in dramatic fashion, sure, but it required the Giants apparently forgetting how many points touchdowns are worth. Dallas also lost Dez Bryant and Randy Gregory along the way, which will make the upcoming schedule tough to navigate. At least we finally can stop talking about how Tony Romo is not a clutch QB. ....... Oh, we can't? Why not?
The Comeback Player of the Year race could have a bunch of legitimate contenders—Kiko Alonso, Carson Palmer, NaVorro Bowman. None outplayed the Chiefs' Derrick Johnson in Week 1. In his first game back from an Achilles tear, Johnson, remarkably, played every single snap of a win over Houston, notching eight tackles and a sack.
Talk about a dream beginning. Tyrod Taylor dropping dimes; Percy Harvin catching a touchdown pass; the defense absolutely clamping down Andrew Luck's high-powered Colts offense. Should Buffalo maintain its momentum through a Week 2 showdown vs. New England, the Rex Ryan honeymoon period will be extended indefinitely.
An eight-spot fall goes against the "Don't overreact" mantra, especially since the Colts remain the obvious AFC South favorites (despite what the standings say for the moment). However, counterpoint: Yiiiiiiiiiiikes. All of the Colts' potential flaws, starting with their lack of punch in the trenches, were on display in Sunday's loss.
Good luck finding any team with a cushier start to its schedule. Over the first seven weeks, Miami plays three road games vs. teams with a combined nine wins last season (Washington, Jacksonville, Tennessee), three home games against non-playoff teams from 2014 (Buffalo, the Jets, Houston) and has a bye. Nevertheless, efforts like Sunday's in a 17-10 come-from-behind win over Washington probably won't cut it very often.
Defensive-minded head coach Dan Quinn and his offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, are going to give the Falcons a chance each week, at least schematically. Whether that's enough to cover over the roster's holes all season long remains to be seen, but Monday marked an encouraging first step.
Congrats to sports-talk radio hosts in Philly, who were gifted with a week's worth of fodder when Ryan Mathews was stuffed on a key 3rd-and-1 and Cody Parkey missed the subsequent field goal. Why did the Eagles run when they had struggled between the tackles all game? Where was DeMarco Murray? What's the deal with kickers, man? Losses have a way of making every iota of a game much easier to nitpick.
Sort of feels like we collectively have started to take Carolina for granted. Aside from Luke Kuechly's contract, the only real Panthers-centric talking point to emerge this off-season was doom and gloom over the WR spot after Kelvin Benjamin's injury. Their Week 1 win was true to form: workmanlike ... and overlooked.
The Lions wilted in the blistering California sun and, for whatever reason, decided to defend Keenan Allen by not covering him. Their biggest mistake, though, was in accidentally leaving Calvin Johnson at the unclaimed luggage area of the San Diego Airport. OK, Megatron was at the game, but Detroit let him go to waste.
After one week of play, San Francisco boasts the league's top scoring defense and its leading rusher (Carlos Hyde, 168 yards). Even though situations could—and probably will—change in the near future, predictions proclaiming San Francisco as among the NFL's worst teams may have been off-base.
DeAngelo Williams was far more effective with the ball in his hands than anyone anticipated. Brandon Boykin was a ghost when Pittsburgh's defense was on the field, despite the Steelers' issues covering the slot. Other than those two developments, did we really learn anything about this team in Week 1?
Fireman Ed showed up again Sunday after a long boycott, so there must be some optimism in the Meadowlands. And why not? The Jets forced five turnovers, recorded three sacks and rushed for 154 yards in Week 1. They could give the Colts trouble next Monday.
"Maybe we're just not ready for prime time yet," Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer lamented after his team's dreadful 20-3 Monday night loss in San Francisco. He will not have to worry about the spotlight if his team can't regroup quickly. The Vikings' next five: Detroit, San Diego, at Denver, Kansas City and at Detroit.
Sean Payton's decision to punt from his own 7 with two minutes left, down by five, might be indicative of a larger issue: The Saints don't really have a go-to option on offense right now. Mark Ingram led the run game with a mere 24 yards, while no receiver caught more than four passes.
This week's Frank Semyon "That Doesn't Make Sense" Award, presented in honor of the Vince Vaughn "True Detective" character who spent an entire season spouting nonsensical gibberish, is Eli Manning. The Giants' QB not only told RB Rashad Jennings to fall down shy of the end zone—a TD would have put New York up two scores on Dallas—but also disregarded his own, out-of-nowhere strategy by throwing the ball away on third down.
According to Pro Football Reference's win probability chart, the Texans headed into halftime Sunday, down 27-9, with a 3.5% chance to beat the Chiefs. Quite frankly, even that is a little optimistic considering how the first half went. An 0-1 record and a QB controversy to boot. Not great.
If only for Matt Forte's sake, it would be nice for the Bears to become a playoff threat again. Forte hits that running back's dreaded 30-year-old RB cutline in December. History tells us he will not be able to maintain his current level of play once there—a shame, because Sunday's 141-yard rushing day reminded everyone what a talent he is. Chicago is wasting his prime seasons.
Marcus Mariota currently has more touchdown passes (four) than incompletions (three) as an NFL quarterback and ... that probably won't last. If it does, we'll look back on Week 1 of the 2015 season as when the greatest player in football history debuted. For now, temper the expectations. Not every game will be that easy, not every opponent will be that bad.
Johnny Johnny Johnny. We get it. We'll see. Elsewhere, for a smart defensive mind, Mike Pettine sure has had a nightmarish time getting his Browns teams to bow up against the run. They finished dead last in that area last season and allowed 4.3 yards per attempt Sunday.
The 49ers quieted several months' worth of noise, at least in the short-term, by scoring a Week 1 win. Washington missed its opportunity to do the same. Speaking purely from a job-security angle, Jay Gruden cannot afford too many more possible victories to slip away.
This all felt very familiar. The Jaguars again cultivated some positive vibes with their off-season work—their coaches earning praise at the Senior Bowl, a solid draft, apparent development from key young players. And nothing to show for it all once they had to play a game.
Taking two steps forward every so often doesn't mean much if you are standing on a treadmill going 10 miles per hour the opposite direction. Oakland is not going to fool anyone into thinking it's a playoff contender, but it should be more competitive than it was in Week 1. A complete disappointment.
Speaking of complete disappointments ... 'sup, Lovie Smith? The Buccaneers could have rolled a team of fantasy campers out onto the field Sunday and put up as much of a fight. Wait, did they do that? Is that what happened?