Embrace the Monday Night doubleheader! (Argh, how it wreaks havoc on having the Week 2 Power Rankings done in time ...)
There are those who would take a weekly MNF double-dip over TNF, but I don't see that happening. Thursday Night Football has become an institution. That said, the Week 1 setup's always fun -- that last double feature makes the start of the season extra enjoyable (especially if you were up at 1 a.m. on the East Coast still watching football).
Easy: 37.5602679 https://t.co/2Prk36itXBâ Heath Evans (@HeathEvans44) September 14, 2015
Speaking of TD, his Broncos won -- but did they surge in the rankings? No. In fact, the Chargers are nipping at their heels. Before we spoil the rest, take a gander below at how the teams stack up heading into Week 2. Feel free to share your take: @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Let the dissension commence!
NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Sept. 8 Power Rankings.
PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Week 1 | Preseason | Post-draft | Post-free agency
I think Tom Brady was kind of pissed off the last few weeks, don't you? Goodness gracious, the Pats' opponents have to try to gameplan to stop Brady and a healthy Rob Gronkowski. Those seam routes in particular, right up the hash, are so difficult to defend. Oh, and way to go, Dion Lewis. I like Dion. He didn't wander ... The back settled down in zones enough to catch four balls last Thursday.
Marshawn Lynch got the ball with the game on the line this time. Seattle could have used Kam Chancellor on a few of those plays out there in Sunday's overtime loss (see: Lance Kendricks' game-tying touchdown for the Rams). Playing opponents close is nothing new to the best team of the last few years. That said, when you consistently play them that close, 10-6 isn't that far removed from 13-3. Heckuva clutch play in the fourth, Earl Thomas. Not so much, Seahawks offensive line. #0-1, Russ
Alex Smith looked awfully good in that first half on Sunday. The three touchdown passes held up. Maybe my offseason ranking of Smith as the 10th-best quarterback for 2015 -- for which your friendly Power Rankings writer took some serious Twitter fire -- wasn't so far off. Oh, by the way, Kansas City's defense looked solid, minus the garbage-time touchdowns.
Andre Ellington's knee injury hurts. The guy was banged up all last year. Sure, David Johnson scored the clinching touchdown in Sunday's win, but that came late, with the Saints trying to keep Arizona from getting a first down. The Chris Johnson signing now looms large, as the artist formerly known as CJ2K will have to pick up serious slack for however long Ellington is out. Carson Palmer performed well running that offense; he looked pretty mobile on that rollout touchdown pass. #encouraging
Little to not like about the Bengals' blowout win in Oakland. The offense averaged 6.1 yards per play while the defense held the Raiders to a mere 4.0 yards per play. That's a sizeable differential when averaged over 126 plays in an NFL game. That said, no one gets excited over Cincinnati winning in the regular season anymore, and that's just the way it is. Not unless Andy Dalton plays lights out.
The Cowboys drop in spite of the win, due to the loss of receiver Dez Bryant (broken bone in foot) and pass rusher Randy Gregory (high ankle sprain) for four to six weeks. Gregory's absence will be palpable for that defense, as the rookie collapsed the pocket several times Sunday night before exiting. In other news ... Somebody wake up the Cowboys' other wide receivers and let them know the game started.
While watching portions of Ravens-Broncos with colleagues Dave Dameshek, Bucky Brooks, Ike Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, the topic of whether Denver backup Brock Osweiler should enter the lineup this season came up. "Too soon" was the consensus, but the Broncos must be able to push the ball downfield. Taylor pointed out that Peyton Manning "overthrew Emmanuel Sanders on a vertical (route) and that is not easy to do." Manning certainly struggled in front of the home folks Sunday, although we should point out that the Ravens' defense is no pushover. Still, if there was any question before, it's clear now that the strength of this Broncos team absolutely resides on the defensive side of the ball.
Looks like the Horseshoe dodged a tack with T.Y. Hilton's knee injury, which should only keep the receiver out for one or two games. Good news. Maybe everyone should pump the brakes on fitting Andrew Luck for that Hall of Fame jacket just yet. I have no doubt Luck will rebound, but the Colts were flat outplayed in Buffalo. Moreover, Luck was outplayed by Tyrod Taylor. Having new parts on offense is fantastic, but the benefits of continuity often trump the benefits of adding new parts. Let's see how Indy handles this.
Jeff Fisher is a long way from the 34-6 drubbing his Rams suffered in last year's home opener. While it remains to be seen how much longer fans in St. Louis will be able to watch NFL football in person, the local crowd was treated to a fun one for five quarters Sunday: two punt-return touchdowns, a huge fourth-down stop and, of course, a home W. This just in: Aaron Donald is a beast. And no, we aren't putting the Rams over the Seahawks. Too many six- and seven-win campaigns in the Rams' recent past for that.
So Rob Gronkowski toyed with Steelers defensive backs like Clark Griswold toyed with Rusty in that footrace in the Walley World parking lot ... Chevy Chase even had a giant Gronkesque grin in that scene. The most disappointing aspect of Thursday night's loss to the Patriots was the amount of missed opportunities. DHB's feet notwithstanding, Ben Roethlisberger just missed Markus Wheaton on what could've been a touchdown -- or at least a long catch-an-run to set up a score -- in the first half. Still think Wheaton is going to have himself a campaign.
Jarvis Landry might not have put up huge receiving numbers, but man oh man was that a clutch punt return in the fourth quarter Sunday. Speaking of Miami pass catchers who dazzled in Week 1 matchups with Washington, anybody remember which Dolphins wideout lit up the Redskins for 178 yards and two scores on opening day in 1984? (I'm talking to you, old-school Fin fans. Hit me up @HarrisonNFL.) Oh, and this Dolphins defense could rank in the top five before 2015 is over.
All eyes are on Luke Kuechly and his health, with Ron Rivera saying that the linebacker, in the concussion protocol after leaving Sunday's game with a concussion, is "OK." The Panthers already lost key personnel on offense, and this team absolutely cannot afford to be without its defensive leader. Speaking of defense, Carolina imposed its will down in Jacksonville, allowing only 265 yards of offense, three third-down conversions and all of nine points. #1-0
Narrow loss in Denver + season-ending injury for Terrell Suggs = terrible Week 1 for Ravens fans. To make matters even more irritating: Without that Joe Flacco pass right into Aqib Talib's gut, Baltimore definitely could've stolen a quality road W. If I know John Harbaugh, though, this team will bounce right back.
Nice home win, Dan Quinn. And kudos to the defense, which got the stops when it had to (... even if Philadelphia moved the ball at will in the second half). The biggest props must go to clutch LB Paul Worrilow, whose third-down stop of Ryan Mathews forced that Cody Parkey duck late. Wonderful play by a guy who chipped in 12 more tackles on the night.
You know Chip Kelly did not want to send Cody Parkey out there for that field-goal attempt. That might have been the first time we've seen Kelly succumb to the what-every-other-coach-would-do mentality. Given Parkey's preseason, Kelly probably should have gone for it. But of course, hindsight's 20/20. Regardless, until the Eagles' defense proves it can play defense, middle of the pack (11-20) is where this team will be.
Heckuva job all the way around by the Jets. OK, it was the Browns. But come on. Ryan Fitzpatrick made some nice throws, particularly the lob to Brandon Marshall to stake New York to a double-digit lead. The defense will take care of itself. And that unit dodged a major bullet with Antonio Cromartie's MRI coming back clean. Cro's listed as week-to-week, but it definitely looked like it could have been much worse when he was carted off the field on Sunday with a towel draped over his head.
After an offseason of tumult, departures and doom-and-gloom prognostications, what a way to open the season! In case you missed it, Carlos Hyde ran 20 times for 365 yards and eight touchdowns. And that front seven everyone felt sorry for all offseason put its stamp on the game, racking up five sacks and making third down a living hell for the Vikings. (Oh, and here are Hyde's real numbers.)
PI on DRC. OK, so that call was the definition of ticky-tack. Unfortunately, given the arm around the waist, it was highly difficult for the ref to tell if
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was pulling on
Terrance Williams at full game speed.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, allow me to explain why the Giants stay at No. 22 after a loss. This team might not be strong enough to compete for the NFC East crown, but Sunday night in Dallas, Tom Coughlin's group did more than enough to win. The key to this team actually making a playoff run: Rashad Jennings staying healthy all season.
A loss in Arizona does not spell doom for this football team. While the
acquitted themselves well in the opener, the rest of the South failed to amaze.
The Panthers won, but couldn't generate much offense in Jacksonville. Tampa Bay looked like
the '76 Bucs.
Sunday's outcome might have been different had that third-quarter pass not squirted off Marques Colston's hands ... and right into the waiting arms of Rashad Johnson. So much for New Orleans running the football more: Drew Brees threw 48 times and got sacked twice, while the Saints only compiled 20 rushing attempts (for a measly 54 yards). Ugh.
Unimpressive loss to the 49ers all the way around. Adrian Peterson got about as involved as the long snapper. On that note, we discussed the merits of Peterson getting handoffs out of the shotgun on "NFL HQ" -- that's different than getting the rock out of the I-formation or a healthy distance behind the line of scrimmage. In those latter situations, the running back gets more momentum and can see the whole defense. Back to the drawing board.
Sorry you had to sit through those first three quarters, Texans fans. Despite all the talk about the quarterback position in Houston, Kansas City's offense did what it wanted to do against the vaunted Texans defense. One play that particularly stood out was Travis Kelce's second touchdown, a long catch-and-run with the closest Houston defender having a beer at Gilley's. (Sadly, yet, it's still closed.) Back to QB spot for a second: The new equation seems to be BH + W1 = RM. (At least that's my feeling.)
Marcus Mariota, superstar. All those draftniks who didn't think he was the answer for Tennessee -- those folks who cried bust -- got two really dirty Titans socks in the mouth. Four touchdown strikes, a perfect passer rating and a comfy seat on the bench for the fourth quarter of a blowout win? Not a bad debut. But if you think Tennessee's 42-14 win in Tampa was only about Mariota, think again. The Titans were flat out ballin' in every phase of the game. Yes, those Titans.
It was a close contest at Soldier Field on Sunday. You have to love the Bears rolling out the 1940s-era throwbacks. Ultimately, the new-look defense in Chicago faltered in the second half, allowing Green Bay to score touchdowns on three of their four full possessions: Aaron Rodgers marched the Packers on TD drives of 59, 78 and 48 yards -- with the last one coming off a crushing Jay Cutler pick. Another middling performance from the Chicago QB, in case you only watched eight minutes.
It looked promising there for a while against Miami. Then the quarterback position happened. Make no mistake: The Redskins' defense did its job (and then some) versus an allegedly up-and-coming Dolphins attack. Yet, in 17 second-half attempts, Kirk Cousins could only manage 96 yards passing with a crippling fourth-quarter interception. OK, not horrible, but not enough to support a defense that answered the bell.
Shoddy start to a season that appeared to carry some promise in Oakland. Not only did the Raiders suffer an embarrassing, lopsided loss in front of the Black Hole -- Oakland was down 33-0 in the third quarter -- but Derek Carr managed just a dozen passes before getting knocked out of the game with a bruised throwing thumb. Oh, and team leader Charles Woodson suffered a shoulder injury in garbage time. Maybe the Raiders weren't supposed to take down Cincy in the season opener, but a lot of people were excited about Oakland entering this season. That was just ugly on Sunday.
Positive vibes weren't exactly flowing from this team in Sunday's three-touchdown loss to the Jets, but Brownie fans did get to catch a glimpse of what Johnny Manziel is (or is not) capable of. After a disastrous rookie year and an offseason of life changes, John Football was forced into action earlier than anticipated following Josh McCown's helicopter crash. Manziel's day: 13 for 24, 182 yards, one touchdown, one pick. Of course, 54 of those yards came on his second pass of the game. Still, there is no replacement for regular-season action.
So, Jameis' rookie campaign didn't quite kick off as planned. Starting off his NFL career with a pick-six on his very first pass attempt was one thing; lining up for a third-and-42 later on was another. Yeah, and the fumbled exchange with Doug Martin was no bueno, as well. But the real concern is a defense that would not have stopped the University of North Texas on Sunday. At least defense isn't Lovie Smith's side of the ball. Well, wait ...
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.