Week 2 is just barely in the books, and we're already talking about all the hurt players, from Jamaal Charles to Knowshon Moreno to A.J. Green to DeSean Jackson to Vernon Davis ... we could literally go on and on. And thus, ranking teams today means considering who is out tomorrow.
Making the process even more difficult: There were upsets and close contests galore, one of which included a third-string quarterback starting for the first time -- on the road, no less -- and delivering a big W for a Rams team that so desperately needed it. While Austin Davis' adventure in Tampa flew somewhat under the radar, the weather there sure as heck didn't; that story is below. And we have a new No. 1. So take a long look -- and share your take (@HarrisonNFL is the place, peeps).
Let the dissension commence ...
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from the most recent Power Rankings.)
PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Week 2 | Week 1 | Post-draft | Post-free agency
Raise your hand if you live in Denver and expected
Sunday's matchup to become a one-score game in its final moments, with the ailing
Chiefs threatening. Anyone? No?
Nice pass deflection by Broncos defender Terrance Knighton on that fourth-down stop at the end; it must have felt good, if for no other reason than because the play stood. Hey, some wins ain't pretty, but they'll all count when this club is 13-3.
Message delivered. I thought I might have had the
Bengals a bit high last week, placing them within the top five -- and then they went out
and destroyed the Falcons. Impressive win, to say the least.
Consider this just a whisper, but after watching his performance in the preseason and in Week 2, is it possible that Cincinnati rookie Jeremy Hill is more effective running the football than second-year pro Giovani Bernard? (Let me know what you think @HarrisonNFL.)
Monday night's performance shows what a threat Philly can be, considering Nick Foles missed some wide-open receivers, the club fared quite poorly in the first half -- and the Eagles still won. I honestly thought the game was over when Philadelphia cornerback Bradley Fletcher let a would-be interception slip right through his hands in the end zone, giving Indy a chance to go up 20-6 in the third quarter.
Well. Those who think Carolina doesn't have what it takes to compete for a Super Bowl should consider that the Panthers' defense has forced six turnovers, given up 21 points and allowed opposing quarterbacks to gain a little more than 5 yards per attempt through two games. That is a certifiable championship-caliber unit, folks.
Maybe Drew Stanton didn't light it up -- OK, he really didn't light it up at all -- but that was a nice win for a veteran backup quarterback placed in a tough spot. He got a lift from the Cardinals' run game, which posted 124 yards against the Giants, and from the fact that Andre Ellington didn't put the ball on the turf. Oh, and after Arizona's Ted Ginn fair-caught several punts despite having about 20 yards of open space around him in Week 1, he actually fielded one against the Giants, and went on to reward himself -- and his team -- for it. Good return.
Big-league win over the
Seahawks. How the 34-year-old
still gets open is absolutely, utterly amazing. Can you imagine what his combine numbers would be
now? It doesn't matter; he's still good and shifty in a way that only the 55-year-old who embarrasses you at the rec center can be.
I got this dude wearing the sports goggles from 1985 and the tube socks and the Waylon Jennings concert tee, you think, before he pulls a jump hook with a hairy arm all up in your grill.
Yeah, so that's what the Seahawks' linebackers felt like on Sunday ... probably.
Guessing the "perfect season" stuff can come to a merciful end. Seattle looked fatigued in the San Diego heat and in those dark blues. Give the Chargers credit for a) making the Seahawks wear those insulated heat packs and b) outplaying them in all three phases of the game. Percy Harvin's fumble on a second-quarter kick return was a huge play in a quality early-season matchup.
Aaron Rodgers, it's
another feather in the cheesehead, which had been looking a bit moldy following
a poor kickoff-night performance. Lost in all the highlights against the
Randall Cobb's two scores were the two bills
Jordy Nelson put up for Green Bay. How about this stat line: Nine catches for 209 yards and a big touchdown?
Would you believe that in the 94-year history of the Packers -- which includes the great years of Don Hutson, Carroll Dale, James Lofton, Sterling Sharpe and Donald Driver -- Don Beebe has the third-most receiving yards in a game? Don freaking Beebe?! He put up 220 yards against the 49ers in a fantastic Monday night thriller in 1996, a 23-20 overtime win in Week 7 -- and went on to finish the season with 699 yards. I must find this contest on VHS for my collection. Any of you fans have it? Hit me up @HarrisonNFL.
Say what you want about
C.J. Spiller and how the
Bills tend to use him; the man can flat-out fly.
His kickoff return was more than highlight stuff -- it answered a
Dolphins field goal, returning control of
a key AFC East matchup to Buffalo's hands.
Love that this team is 2-0. Love even more that the Bills are staying in Buffalo. Love less that I missed this game pick, but, well, I don't really care. The Bills are not leaving the city in which they were based when they won the 1964 and '65 AFL championships, as well as four straight AFC crowns under Marv Levy. And don't sleep on the Ground Chuck years, either.
I guess that answers
that question. Gloom and doom averted, New England starts even again with
the Raiders coming to town Sunday. Thankfully for the
Patriots, the defense fared a little better
in Minnesota than it did in
the Week 1 loss in Miami,
routinely pressuring Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel, who was sacked six times and forced into making some off-the-mark throws.
Stevan Ridley, meanwhile, ran for New England with the determination of a man who once lost his job for fumbling. Weird.
How about that Kyle Fuller? The rookie had two interceptions, two passes defensed and six tackles in San Francisco. What a gutsy win for the Bears, who have quickly put that bad home loss to the Bills behind them. Next up: at the Jets. I'll be picking this game Thursday, and it looks even-steven right now.
Much to dislike from
the Dolphins' trip to Buffalo, starting with a lopsided loss and continuing with injury concerns, specifically
regarding Knowshon Moreno's elbow -- which is why they're below the
Patriots, even after beating them. The real Debbie Downer was the kick coverage, which took some bad angles
on that 102-yard return by C.J. Spiller -- a play that negated some Miami momentum while allowing Buffalo to go up 16-3 in front of a frenzied home crowd.
Somebody tell Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins' passing game that repeatedly rebounding from mediocre performances does not a comeback story make.
Got much grief for keeping Baltimore one spot above Pittsburgh in
the Power Rankings last week, despite the fact that
the Ravens lost to the Bengals and
the Steelers won their game. Then, of course,
Baltimore topped Pittsburgh.
Didn't love the penalties by the Ravens. Did love the use of the two-tight end sets. Did anyone start Owen Daniels (two touchdowns for Baltimore) in fantasy besides his Cousin Eddie and people in nine-tight end leagues?
There was much banter about who would be running the football for the Falcons -- Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Devonta Freeman or even Week 1 hero Antone Smith -- and it didn't matter. Not with Matt Ryan throwing three picks while averaging just 5 yards per attempt against the Bengals. Meanwhile, Andy Dalton made mincemeat of the Atlanta defense, even while he was overthrowing some wide-open receivers.
At some point, the
Saints' defense is going to have to make plays when it matters, or this team will have little chance to compete for another
Super Bowl. Was the unit terrible
in Cleveland on Sunday? No. But could
Andrew Hawkins have gotten any
more open on
the crucial last-minute reception that set up the clinching field goal?
It's not panic time yet, but the red button is blinking and ready to be pushed.
Somehow you just
knew that when
Eric Decker was jumping up and down on your TV and the
Jets were going up 21-3
in Green Bay, things were going to go south.
Geno Smith had some moments for Gang Green, but the production (176 yards and a passer rating of 64.1) wasn't enough to offset
his second-quarter interception deep in
Packers territory. That hurt, as it ultimately caused New York to miss out on what would have likely been a makeable
Nick Folk field-goal attempt.
By the way, how about that for a fun timeout? It's worth noting that back in 2007, when he was defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, Rex Ryan lost a game in the same way -- except that time, he was the assistant whose sideline call wiped away a momentous play, in that case a fourth-and-1 stop that could have interrupted the Patriots' undefeated regular season.
This ranking might seem harsh, given the fact that Indy has fallen to two top teams
in the Broncos and
Eagles. Yet, unlike the similarly 0-2
Saints -- whose two losses came on the road --
the Colts were defeated Monday night at home. Also, their best defensive player --
Robert Mathis --
is out for the year. And as long as
Trent Richardson, who gave up a crucial third-quarter fumble that set up the
Eagles for a game-tying touchdown, continues to get carries ...
On that note, we realize that Indy made a huge investment in Richardson, giving up a first-round pick in the trade to acquire him, but enough already.
Looks like we're dealing with the same old Detroit Lions ... well, at least after two weeks. Jim Caldwell's club purred in the second half of Sunday's loss to the Panthers, ultimately posting a turnover differential of minus-three. Whether you're the Lions of 2014 or 1935 -- the championship-winning group that allowed a scant nine points per game -- you can't win that way. Matthew Stafford dropped back 52 times and failed to reach 300 passing yards. No bueno.
So much for the
cursed road blues theory. Maybe that was something reserved for the years of Don Meredith, Craig Morton, Roger Staubach, Danny White, Steve Pelluer, Troy Aikman ... actually, that pretty much covers it.
Nice win in Nashville for the Cowboys. Dez Bryant needs to sport more gold under that jersey, though.
Beautiful comeback for the Brownies. This team, which needed a win oh so badly, did not let up for a second straight week. Unlike in the narrow Week 1 loss to the Steelers, though, Cleveland was not forced to mount a huge rally against the Saints, partially due to a defensive effort that did not simply hand Drew Brees opportunities. Also worth mentioning: the Browns' commitment to the run, which showed through in the form of 30 carries from Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell.
Bill O'Brien realizes the best way to win is to get
Arian Foster going. Foster had yet another solid outing
against the Raiders, toting the rock 28 times for 138 yards and a touchdown, and adding two catches. So much for the bad back. What a damn good player he is when his body is right.
And major props to the Houston Texans, who have already matched last year's win total. Of course, all of their losses in 2013 came after Week 2. We need to see a victory against someone other than the Redskins and Raiders before we get all kittens and rainbows with this club.
So where was that Titans run defense we saw in Week 1? DeMarco Murray (167 yards, one touchdown) gashed the Tennessee front Sunday, then gashed it again. The Cowboys rushed for more than 200 yards while averaging more than 5 yards per carry. The Titans' offense could get no such traction, as play calling and game situations reduced them to a measly 13 rushing attempts. On a brighter note, Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker scored a dynamic touchdown for a second consecutive week.
I'll tell you what, that Alex Smith has some serious athletic pride. The final aerial numbers might not have been phenomenal (26-of-42 passing for 255 yards), but the 42 yards he provided on the ground -- along with some big throws -- kept the Chiefs in the game against the Broncos. No. 11 isn't perfect, but when you look at what he's playing with (especially now that he'll be without Jamaal Charles for a while), you realize the quality of his work.
It's rare that a team has a better shot of winning when the backup quarterback comes in. We haven't seen that since Doug Flutie was the understudy for Rob Johnson (who, by the way, is one of the many who have played quarterback for Washington since Y2K). So I guess you know where I'm headed with this. Can you blame me? Kirk Cousins' day against the Jaguars, with Robert Griffin III out: 22-of-33 passing for 250 yards and two touchdowns. That said, now Washington has little depth at QB if Cousins falters. Tough to put this team higher for now.
What a terrible ending to an un-entertaining game. Do those two negatives make Sunday's loss to the Rams a positive for Lovie Smith's Bucs? No. Like, not at all. No team in pro football had a setup like Tampa Bay, which should have had an easy go of it, starting the season with two home games against backup quarterbacks -- and yet the Bucs are 0-2, having fallen prey to the likes of Derek Anderson and Austin Davis. And while we understand the spirit of the 10-second runoff rule, it sure seemed like the Bucs were punished for Mike Evans getting hurt. #sucks
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.