Knee-jerk mania. Ogletree mania.
Week 1 certainly lived up to its crazy reputation. But before you go and buy that Garcon "88" Washington Redskins jersey, remember that some guy out there has a Willie Parker Fathead on his wall.
With a bevy of predictably unpredictable moments, 2012's opening Sunday wreaked havoc on the Power Rankings. I had to implement further punishment on the franchise that endured an offseason from hell, while rubber stamping the Arizona Cardinals' rankings hike was like choosing your favorite Fiat. Someone had to move up.
Of course, feel free to state your case on these two teams, or any of the other 30. Defer your creative gripes to @Harrison_NFL.
And one last note on Week 1: Sometimes things happen that knock you on your rear and make you appreciate the little things in life. Watching your team's opener with family and friends is one of those enjoyable little things. Here's to the NFL's most underrated day of the season: opening Sunday.
As always, let the dissension commence.
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)
PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Week 1 | Preseason | Post-Draft
Impossible to not place the Niners in the top spot. They beat last week's second-ranked team at their place, while the former No. 1 (G-Men) went down with a whimper at home. Alex Smith has received much respect for his performance, but San Francisco's secondary put its stamp on this game, competing until the very end. What a start for Jim Harbaugh and company.
New England hit the road and very efficiently disposed of an overmatched Tennessee Titans team. Defensively, this looks like a new club. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Bill Belichick's club would look ho-hum in the preseason and then proceed to decimate its first real opponent. Tom Brady was his usual dynamic self, but his numbers would have been better if not for some bad drops. Yes, Wes Welker was a culprit.
Nothing about Sunday's 30-10 win over the Miami Dolphins at Reliant should surprise you. The best indicator of the quality of this team was Houston's inability to run the ball effectively, i.e., the Texans won despite poor production from one of their core strengths. Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Co. managed just 83 yards on 35 rushes, and still this team won handily. The Schaub-to-A.J. connection clicked eight times (for 119 yards and a touchdown), while Wade Phillips' defense put a spanking on Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill.
For all those people who scoffed at the talk of Jay Cutler as an MVP candidate, hope they enjoyed seeing the highlights of Sunday's game. Sure, it was the Colts. Then again, look what happened to the Saints against the Redskins, or what almost happened to the Eagles in Cleveland. Cam Newton had a rough day in Tampa Bay, too. Let's see what Cutler and this group do in Green Bay on NFL Network this Thursday night.
Green Bay falls a few spots by virtue of their defeat and impressive performances by the Texans, Ravens and Bears. Packer fans might disagree with falling below Chicago, but the fact is there was nothing remotely fluky about their home loss to the 49ers. Despite their high-flying nature, the Packers need to get more from the ground game. Granted, the Cedric Benson acquisition might be tough to gauge early, with San Francisco and Chicago leading off the schedule.
If anyone is going to throw for 5,000 yards this season, it just might be Matt Ryan. All signs in the preseason pointed to a throw-it-around-the-park offense, and while Ryan only attempted 31 passes, much of that was due to Atlanta holding a 40-17 lead late in the fourth quarter. Impressive win all around in Kansas City.
Lost in the shuffle of the Manning hysteria was the outstanding play of the Denver secondary. Where was that last January in New England? Well, Tracy Porter wasn't on the team then, and boy did he make his presence felt, with several nice plays not found on the stat sheet and a pick-six that was the biggest line item on that same stat sheet. If Denver can keep edge rushers Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller healthy, this team could go far.
Yes, the Giants lost. And yes, they still stack up evenly with most teams in the NFL. But the big drop is a byproduct of much stronger performances from other clubs in the top 10. Sorry, but Week 1 always induces the most movement in the Power Rankings. Meanwhile, Tom Coughlin's group has to focus on getting the ground game right, while cornerback play could be the downfall of yet another would-be repeater.
Matt Stafford showed why he is already a great player on Sunday. His miscues essentially handed the Rams a first-half lead, with three of the first four Detroit possessions culminating in a Stafford interception. But guess who won it at the end? The clock operator. Kidding. Yes, it was Stafford to the rescue.
Don't fall into the trap of penalizing Pittsburgh too much. This was a very tough road assignment for Mike Tomlin's bunch. Starting at Denver in Peyton Manning's official return to football was enough, but playing without David DeCastro, James Harrison, Ryan Clark and Rashard Mendenhall -- plus having players get hurt during the game -- made this a battle of attrition.
No one, and I mean no one in our business saw that coming. The Jets couldn't buy a touchdown in the preseason, and yet put up a 48-spot on the "retooled" Bills defense. Buffalo's secondary looked lost, allowing Mark Sanchez to gain 10-plus yards almost every time he tossed the football. Even more promising than Sanchez might be receiver Stephen Hill, who had quite an unexpected rookie debut with 89 yards and two touchdowns.
Washington takes a huge leap in rankings based off finally finding a playmaker at quarterback. Not to mention, beating a top-10 team on the road. For all the superlatives regarding Robert Griffin III's day in the Superdome, it sure is hard to ignore rookie Alfred Morris' effort. Are the running back-by-committee days over in Washington? Doubtful. Very doubtful.
The major takeaway from the Monday-night win has to be the improved play of the Chargers' defense. San Diego's D was physical, pressuring Carson Palmer enough to disrupt any rhythm. Is it just me and Antonio Gates' fantasy owners who cringe every time the guys gets hit and is slow to get up? The most injury-prone tight end in football has no hops either, but he sure gets open -- a lot.
This is where the Power Rankings truly reflect Week 1's craziness: The Arizona Cardinals make an enormous jump, mostly because so many teams looked terrible. We also can't put them below Seattle because they beat Pete Carroll's guys fair and square. Still, the Cardinals' defense looked like the same unit that underwrote the club's 7-2 finish last season, holding Seattle to just 139 net yards passing.
Despite the pedestrian numbers (18-for-34, 153 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), you have to love the way Russell Wilson competes. He wanted that final drive. Still, the precipitous drop comes from poor play by both the offensive line and receiving corps. Those guys left some plays on the University of Phoenix Stadium field.
Big win for Minnesota in Week 1. Hurrah. Unfortunately, the reality is that the Vikings were at home, playing against a mediocre (at best) Jags team with its best player shaking off holdout cobwebs. On a related note, Adrian Peterson had no such rust to shake off. That guy is ridiculously good at football. Next up: Indianapolis. 2-0?
Tennessee takes a drop after getting throttled at home. Jake Locker is busted up. He is supposed to play in Week 2, but is that such a good thing? The second-year signal-caller had a couple turnovers, including one that led to a touchdown. He also averaged less than 10 yards per completion. This offense has to challenge teams vertically, or else Chris Johnson might never get going.
Shane Lechler is still waiting for a good snap.
I've been saying all offseason and preseason that this is one tough team to figure out, and Carolina proved it Sunday. After absolutely destroying Tampa on the ground in two games last year (over 400 yards and seven touchdowns combined), the Panthers gained all of 10 yards rushing -- for the game. While the Panthers only lost by six points, they were pushed all over the field in Tampa.
Chan Gailey says
don't hit the panic button. OK. Hit the panic button.
Last week in this space, a colleague of mine in this business predicted an 11-5 mark for the 2012
Bills. This week, via random text, he waffled ...
"My prediction did not account for RB F. Jackson (knee), WR D. Nelson (ACL), or R. Fitzpatrick (sucks)."
Only Bills fans.
Lions Clock Operator 1, Rams 0. It's tough not to agree with Jeff Fisher on what happened at Ford Field on Sunday, as his end-of-game plans were foiled when the Lions were essentially given an extra timeout. Still, Rams fans should be encouraged by a defense capable of making some plays, as opposed to the unit that helplessly watched DeMarco Murray run for 253 yards last season.
The defense had its moments. The offense didn't have any. Brandon Weeden looked overmatched throughout the game, and his 12-for-35, four-interception performance virtually guaranteed Cleveland would not pull off the home upset no matter what opportunities the defense created.
So Andrew Luck isn't Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning and Jason Biggs all rolled into one. Now that that's established, it's time to temper expectations. That was a solid front seven the rookie faced on Sunday. He can't compensate for a shaky offensive line (and even shakier back four on the defensive side of the ball). The Colts' two leading tacklers were defensive backs. That should tell you a lot.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.