... OK, that last one only looked like it would happen for a bit. Heck, Jacksonville getting up 17-0 on Philly counts as an upset, considering the way things have gone for that franchise recently. Yet, the real upsets -- like the Bills herding the Bears in Chicago, and the Falcons outlasting the Saints -- forced some serious rejiggering in the Power Rankings.
Yeah, there's that, too. The 49ers were ranked seventh in last week's pecking order, as low as we've had them in a long time, so they responded by walking into Dallas and walking all over the Cowboys. While we're in full mea culpa mode, here's a hearty congratulations to Frank Gore, who crossed the 10,000-yard mark in that game. Talk about a fantastic feat going underreported ...
One ranking that can't ruffle many feathers: the No. 1 team below. There should be little debate about which team is in Beast Mode at the outset of the 2014 season. But if you have issues with the rest of the board, @HarrisonNFL is the place for such banter.
So, without further ado, let the dissension commence ...
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from the most recent Power Rankings.)
PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Week 1 | Post-draft | Post-free agency
The Kickoff Game revealed two things:
1) The Seahawks have the best chance to repeat since the Patriots following the 2003 and '04 seasons.
2) The gulf between reality and fantasy -- where all those pre-draft rankers were worried about Christine Michael and Bob Turbin eating into Marshawn Lynch's production -- remains large.
It's almost shocking now when Peyton Manning misses open receivers -- like at the end of the Sunday nighter, when he had a chance to close the door on the Colts. On the other hand -- and the other side of the ball -- it had to be encouraging watching the Denver defense do some closing of its own when it had to. Bend don't break was the story of the night. Not Manning.
So maybe we all know now what to make of an NFL preseason. The final score on Sunday, 28-17, didn't do San Francisco's performance justice -- the 49ers laid a gold-laced whuppin' on the Cowboys. Sure, the defense took some licks, but when you force four turnovers, who cares? Colin Kaepernick's tripped-up-but- not-tripped-up touchdown throw to Vernon Davis was special.
Andy Dalton just gave a figurative Manziel salute to all those folks who questioned his new contract. Building off an effective preseason, Dalton completed 25 of his 38 passes for 301 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions in Baltimore. The only nitpicking here would be the offense's performance on third downs and at the end of drives (see: five field goals in first half). Mongo like touchdowns.
The Panthers playing a divisional opponent on the road with Derek Anderson ( not Cam Newton) as frontman was like Van Halen following up Roth and Hagar with Gary Cherone. Good luck with that one ... except, wait -- it worked out! Anderson made some plays. That aside, this defense can challenge Seattle's unit for the position as the best in football. And if Kelvin Benjamin can give the team more of Week 1 Kelvin Benjamin -- look out.
Boy, you hope Eddie Lacy is OK. This is not the man's first bout with a concussion. Ugh. In other news, Aaron Rodgers is a truly special player, no doubt. That said, I had to scoff at some folks calling him the best quarterback of all time leading up to the Kickoff Game. Come on. Joe Montana won four Super Bowls, destroying some fantastic defenses in the process -- like Buddy Ryan's Eagles in 1989 and the Bears in the 1988 NFC Championship Game. Rodgers has plenty of years left, but Thursday night was not his best showing against a premier defense. We're not overreacting, thus we sail the sea of cheese in the 7-hole.
Tremendous win for a team down a few key players. And an effective -- if not completely on point -- night for Carson Palmer, too. (He did get away with a couple of questionable throws.) Perhaps most invigorating for the Arizona faithful: The performances of Michael Floyd and John Brown, both of whom created some big plays. Don't want to be swayed too much by one game, but Floyd looks to be the Cardinals' WR1 as we sit here today.
Impressive, impressive, impressive -- on so many fronts Sunday. Like the defensive front, which got pressure on the Patriots without having to blitz in key situations. Or the offensive front, which protected Ryan Tannehill time and again. Oh, and then there was the fact that Knowshon Moreno rushed for 134 yards on just 24 carries, while Lamar Miller added 59 more on a mere 11 totes. Everything in football starts up front -- I know you've never heard that before.
So what is Julio Jones' season gonna look like? 110 catches, 1,635 yards and 10 touchdowns? Is that outside the realm of possibility? OK, maybe that's a tad high. Yet, if Matt Ryan has enough time in the pocket to check his LinkedIn notifications and bid on an eBay Gerald Riggs jersey, those projections might not be so far off.
My Super Bowl pick went down in a Cameron Wake heap Sunday in Miami. The Dolphins controlled the line of scrimmage all darn day. And while Tom Brady wasn't quite a model of efficiency, New England's run defense -- or lack thereof -- was the primary culprit in this defeat. Next up: another road contest, against the suddenly-scary Vikings. Maybe Cordarrelle Patterson will rack up 200 yards on reverses.
in Denver -- missed opportunities galore -- and then news breaks that the
Colts' best pass rusher (
only pass rusher?) is
done for the season. This is a really big hit.
Robert Mathis singlehandedly logged nearly half of Indy's sacks last year (19.5 of 42).
One very large bright spot for the Horseshoe on Sunday night: Dwayne Allen. The big tight end made an impact with a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The third-year pro should make waves in two-tight formations all season.
With the Bolts up 17-6 in the fourth quarter
in Arizona, 1-0 was there to be had. Then we experienced misplays by
Philip Rivers. ... And drops from the receivers, including
Keenan Allen at the end. ... And a backup center not snapping the football punctually, forcing San Diego to call a timeout.
So many little football things deep-sixed the Chargers, and now they are a game back of those mighty Broncos in the AFC West.
Instant reaction to the Monday Night triumph: Matthew Stafford has options in the passing game -- for real, this time. Golden Tate will top 800 receiving yards this season. Another observation: Joique Bell will be more important to closing games out than Reggie Bush. And one last notion: Penalties might still be the deciding factor in this team's pursuit of its second playoff berth since Y2K.
Fantastic win? No. Impactful win? Probably not. Necessary win? Absolutely. The Jets survived Geno being Geno early in the game -- and some nice Derek Carr throws -- to get off to the always-pleasant 1-0 start. Smith did make some good throws of his own, although the best play from scrimmage was Chris Ivory's 71-yard touchdown scamper. Ivory certainly wasn't modest, raising his hand in jubilation almost 40 yards away from the end zone, then coming thisclose to getting tackled shy of the goal line. #Jetsfootball
Obviously not a good week for the Ravens, who cut franchise stalwart Ray Rice after shocking video emerged of the running back punching his now-wife in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Football aside, this is just an ugly situation, for the team and the NFL. But I am paid to supply football analysis, so here's where I have to do my job. The Rice release further underscores the Ravens' question marks at running back. (Suddenly, Justin Forsett's name is popping up in fantasy circles and sports talk radio shows more than it has since ... well ... since he was a backup in Seattle. Or something like that, anyway.) Still, despite Baltimore's backfield concerns, the secondary might be a more pressing issue. That unit took some lumps against the Bengals.
The Steelers barely survived a Browns running attack that darn-near put up two bills on the ground -- and that was without any read-option business from Johnny Manziel. Nope, this was straight Terrance West and Ben Tate. Wait, Terrance West and Ben Tate? Yep, and Isaiah Crowell, too. Up next: a trip to Baltimore. Perhaps that backfield (see: blurb just above) can serve as Pittsburgh's panacea.
Kudos to the
Vikings' pass protection, which provided
Matt Cassel with a perfect pocket from which to deliver on-time throws. Of course, nobody is talking about that. All the buzz centers on receiver
Cordarrelle Patterson, who
rushed for over 100 yards on Sunday. He is exciting, no doubt, but let's tap the brakes -- he also caught just three passes for 26 yards. That's kind of an important part of a wideout's game.
But I don't want to belittle the understandable excitement in Minnesota. The Vikings went 4-0 in the preseason and simply hammered the Rams (at their place, to boot).
Called the victory over the Chiefs in last week's Game Picks, but I don't want to give myself too much credit. Also called effective play from Jake Locker, but what's the point of a man relentlessly patting himself on the back? Oh, and did I mention that I picked Tennessee to sneak into the playoffs? OK, if I get that one right, you must refer to me as NostraTitanus. What do Titans faithful think? Was this impressive road win a sign of a playoff run to come? Let me know: @HarrisonNFL.
First things first: It appears
this team is staying in Western New York! Congratulations,
Bills Mafia -- you were not shot down in a
blaze of glory.
OK, now let's get back to our regularly scheduled recap-last-week-and-look-forward-to-next-week programming ...
Nice win for a fan base that needed one. Of course, we've seen this before -- like in 2003, when the Drew Bledsoe-led Bills spanked the Patriots in Week 1 ... before stumbling to a 6-10 season. Next up for the 2014 Bills: an AFC East rival that just beat the division favorite in Week 1. What's the key against Miami? Well, it'd help if the pass rush could get more pressure on the QB than it did in Week 1. But even if Ryan Tannehill proves elusive, Kyle Williams and Co. must shut down Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller.
The Jay Cutler defenders might have found some solace in Josh McCown's clunker in Tampa. That is, after shaking their heads and tearing their sleeveless Ditka sweaters upon watching that brutal interception to Corey Graham ... or the atrocious follow-up pick to 300-pounder Kyle Williams. Maybe Cutler didn't see him?
Here's to wondering what
Jamaal Charles was thinking on Sunday afternoon ...
We're losing to the Titans, man. ... I know every Titans D-lineman's number. ... Don't they know Eric Fisher was the No. 1 pick in the draft? ... What's $68 million divided by three interceptions? ... We're losing to the Titans, man.
Will the real Josh McCown please stand up? (Well, maybe he did Sunday, if the first, oh, 10 years of his career are any indication.) The Buccaneers sure didn't get much from McCown, barely anything from Doug Martin and darn-near nothing from ballyhooed wideouts Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Thankfully, the woeful Rams will be charging -- scratch that: limping -- into Tampa next.
Sometimes, small-time players win big-time games. And when you were the worst team in football in 2013, the ensuing home opener -- no matter the opponent -- is a tremendously important affair for both an organization and a fan base. Enter Alfred Blue, a sixth-round pick who produced the old double-thud: his blocked punt, scoop and score was the pivotal moment. Watching it unfold live, I thought he would never cleanly pick that bouncing ball. He made it look like child's play -- like Blue's Clues. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Seventeen-zip, then wot happened? What a beginning chapter to the 2014 season Gus Bradley's Jags could have written, if only they could've closed the door in Philly. That starts with the run game. Toby Gerhart was ineffective, while Chad Henne could barely complete a pass for the majority of the second half (until garbage time). Meanwhile, the defense yielded a gift bag of big plays to Nick Foles after the intermission. (The Jacksonville secondary was the primary gift-giver, for those of you keeping score at home.)
Undoubtedly one of the worst Tony Romo games these eyes have seen. At least the Cowboys' defense made up for it by not covering Anquan Boldin -- like, ever. Romo appeared to be trying to turn the game into a track meet, forcing plays that weren't there in anticipation that his defense would give up three billion yards and 30 points. (Why would he ever think that?) Of course, the Niners didn't need such prolific offense, as they were far more concerned with burning clock and going home.
Somebody forgot to tell Brian Hoyer Sunday's game in Pittsburgh was over at halftime. Somebody forgot to tell Brian Hoyer he won the quarterback job by default in the preseason. And somebody forgot to tell the Browns they have no running game. Funny how the unit we worry about winds up being the more reliable side of the ball than the unit we hung our Brown hat on ...
On the surface, Robert Griffin III's high completion percentage (78.4) on Sunday makes the offense's play appear productive. But then you realize he averaged just 9 yards per completion. Sure, Pierre Garcon caught 10 balls -- for 77 yards. "Deep threat" DeSean Jackson parlayed his eight catches into a whopping 62 yards. It was reminiscent of the day Mark Brunell completed 22 throws in a row -- for the Redskins, and in Reliant Stadium no less. Problem was, hardly any of those passes traveled 10 yards in the air. Productive > efficient.
Austin Davis. That might be your guy, Rams fans. Can you imagine being the network voiceover person reading the promo for this week's game? "Davis ... McCown... it's the NFL on FOX!" St. Louis is, once again, in serious trouble. As the Seahawks and 49ers continue to rage in the NFC West, this club just can't solve its quarterback problem. At this point, it might behoove the Rams to just slam the ball into the bellies of Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham and see what they have in their young stable of running backs. Give that offensive line the opportunity to push around some people. In theory.
Not all bad from your Oakland Raiders on Sunday in New York. Saw plenty of potential in Derek Carr, whose ball placement was solid on some throws (... and a bit off on others). Putting the rookie aside for a moment, the opinion here is that this offense's best chance to be effective is if Darren McFadden resurrects his career. Saw some explosiveness from him Sunday -- at least more than I saw from the starter, Maurice Jones-Drew.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.