Power Rankings

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Lions keep climbing after impressive start to season

Week 2 gave us more surprises and, once again, made the burden of producing NFL.com's Power Rankings almost too much to bear. What to do with the upstart Bills? Or the new "Silver Rush?" How about the Cowboys, who won despite having injuries to their starting quarterback, two wide receivers, tight end and tailback?

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Disagree with Elliot Harrison's power rankings? Head to NFL.com/fanrankings to make your own, Nos. 1-32, in whatever order you choose.

Spoiler Alert: One team that didn't move was Atlanta. A team that ekes out a home win over a third-string quarterback and has given up the most points in its conference doesn't deserve a top 10 ranking.

To be sure, there are some surprises. That doesn't include the Big Two -- the Pack and Pats -- who remain perched where they've been since preseason. But considering the suddenly suspect Green Bay defense, the arguments can start right at the top.

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 That Panthers game was a much closer shave than anyone expected. How in the world did Dom Capers' defense give up four bills to a rookie quarterback, especially considering that coming into the game rookie passers didn't even average a 50 passer rating against Capers' defenses over his career? The Packers keep their spot -- for the time being -- but the pass defense has now surrendered 419 yards to Drew Brees and 432 to Cam Newton.

 Speaking of Tecmo Bowl numbers, Tom Brady has thrown for 940 yards in two games. His team just keeps rolling, taking the Chargers' best punches and still coming out with a W. One could make a case for the Pats being the best team in the NFL. Just think, if the Pack and Pats meet on Super Sunday, it will be a Super Bowl XXXI rematch, only one of the most boring big games ever.

 Way to bounce back, Sean Payton & Co. No Marques Colston, no problem. Brees was simply fantastic, going 26 of 37 for 270 yards and three touchdowns. Even more impressive was the New Orleans pass rush, which got to Jay Cutler six times. If only they could've done that a couple of Thursdays ago.

Rex Ryan had to pull out his TI-81 graphing calculator to figure out how low the Jags passer rating was Sunday. Gang Green, which was some hack's preseason Super Bowl favorite (mine), actually looked the part Sunday. By the way, what do we think of the New York Titans throwbacks? For you older commenters out there, you can't tell me they don't almost look like the USFL's Pittsburgh Maulers. Just saying.

Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson deep-sixed the Dolphins pass defense, which is quality-free. Houston is fifth on the rankings for five reasons: 1) 13 points allowed in two games; 2) improved secondary play; 3) Johnson; 4) the quarterback isn't David Garrard; 5) depth at the running back position.

Good effort Sunday night on the road, considering Michael Vick was lost in the third quarter and the Eagles' third-stringer almost pulled it out. The offense is strong enough to overcome defensive errors like Jarrod Page declaring himself geometrically challenged with some serious bad angles, particularly on Michael "Burner" Turner in the fourth quarter Sunday. LeSean McCoy can beat any team in the ground game or the passing game. The strength of the roster keeps this club above Detroit, Baltimore, San Diego and the rest.

How did this happen? The new "Planet of the Apes" movie didn't stink ... Sarah Palin hooked up with Glen Rice ... and Detroit is 2-0 and looks awesome. Matt Stafford, please don't get hurt. Please don't get hurt. Please don't get hurt ... please.

 That was brutal. To go from trouncing Pittsburgh to losing 26-13 in Tennessee is a precipitous drop. Was everyone wrong about the Titans, or did the Ravens just leave a turd on Elvis' doorstep? Don't blame me for that last line: Dtoll2002 commented on NFL.com Sunday, saying "This is typical of the Ravens. Play great one week, then next week play like complete and total crap." Agreed. Joe Flacco went 15 of 32 for 197 yards, while the defense allowed Matt Hasselbeck to go 30 of 42 for 358 yards. Not to mention the Titans held the ball for over 35 minutes. Baltimore plays the beat-up Rams in Week 3, so all is not doom and gloom in Owings Mills.

Chargers fans must be pulling their hair out over the loss at New England. Call it a dry shave, man. Philip Rivers threw a key pick to the Patriots' best defensive back, Vince Wilfork, which changed the complexion of the game. Especially when the Chargers allowed Brady two cheap and easy completions on the sideline that burned no time and gave the Pats a 20-7 lead at halftime. The goal-line stand also was a killer. Still, San Diego is a top 10 team in my book.

Chicago destroyed a good team, and lost handily to a very good team. So while the 30-13 drubbing in New Orleans merits a drop in the rankings, it was arguably the hardest road assignment in Week 2. Of more concern than the loss may be Gabe Carimi's health. The right tackle, out approximately four weeks with a knee injury, is integral to the Bears' success. It flat-out sucks to see so many good, young players going down to injury already.

Staying healthy was Pittsburgh's biggest concern coming into the season, considering nine regulars on defense are age 30 or over. Then the focus switched to, "Can these guys still play?" Well, that question was answered -- in theory -- Sunday versus Seattle. I say in theory because Dave Krieg would be an upgrade at QB for the Seahawks. He's 52.

It's hard to read this team. The Cowboys looked far more impressive in three quarters in the loss to the Jets than they did in the win over the Niners at the 'Stick. Yet, the club showed a lot of character, particularly the much-maligned Tony Romo, who brought Dallas back from a 10-point deficit. Issue numero uno for this club is getting healthy. Terence Newman's absence has been a major problem in a secondary that struggles with consistency.

The Falcons weren't impressive for much of Sunday night, and escaped a home loss despite facing the Eagles' third-string quarterback in the fourth quarter. Jeremy Maclin catches that ball on 4th down, and the Falcons likely lose. Yet, a win is a win, so these birds stay perched at the 13-hole. One huge bright spot amidst all of the Matt Ryan fanfare -- who, by the way, threw two picks -- was the great play of Michael Turner, who had 146 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.

The 2-0 record looks good. Ryan Fitzpatrick looks damn good. The uni's look great. The defense? Not so much. Oakland racked up 454 yards of offense on Buffalo. Speaking of, the town will be hosting the 2011 version of Air Coryell and the Greatest Show on Turf next week (that would be Tom Brady and the Patriots). Hope Fitzpatrick keeps that arm loose.

Nice win for Raheem Morris and the beleaguered Bucs, who've had to convince everyone that the lockout and a young core of players wouldn't be the perfect recipe for a fall back to the 6-10 pack. Tampa's biggest issue is the young defense, which needs to incrementally improve week to week. Morris' defense was destroyed in the preseason by the Pats and didn't look particularly impressive against the Lions in Week 1. Getting outgained 284-62 in the first half against Minnesota further highlighted the problem. For now, Tampa stays put in the rankings.

Like Buffalo, another 2-0 start that no one expected -- except colleague Michael Lombardi. If you picked up Rex Grossman on the fantasy waiver wire -- like I told you to on Fantasy Live -- then you are one smart dude or dudette (then again, I recommended benching Ray Rice in Week 1). On another note, how about going for the touchdown on fourth-and-three from the 18 late in the fourth quarter, when nearly every other team in the league would have just tried to get the first down? Just when you thought everything was a pleasant anomaly in Redskins-land, DeAngelo Hall got burned by 20 yards for a touchdown. So don't fret, things are still as they should be.

Tough loss for the Silver and Black. After I bragged about them this week, the Raiders blew one in Buffalo. What a game though, with great plays by both teams. Oakland HAS to solve the penalty problem -- eight more penalties after the self-mutilation of 15 infractions in Week 1. Again, this franchise's biggest issue is curable.

Matt Hasselbeck, we all apologize. Good night, you're playing well: 67.1 completion percentage, 621 yards, and a 94.2 rating. With Luke McCown and Kerry Collins starting at quarterback in the division, the supposedly-in-transition Titans could finish second in the AFC South, and maybe even make a wild-card run. At some point Chris Johnson is going to explode, it's just a matter of when.

 The G-Men got a win, but stay put in the rankings. We need to see how the injury situation plays out, as well as the suspect pass defense. This is one club that could power up the ladder quickly, especially if Hakeem Nicks can stay healthy.

The Kevin Kolb project seems to be working, but that was one tough pill to swallow Sunday at FedEx Field. It was nice to see Larry Fitzgerald put on the jets on a 73-yard touchdown catch-and-run. The secondary has to play better, but only one sack of Sexy Rexy sure didn't help matters. In fact, that one sack came courtesy of all-world pass rusher Kerry Rhodes. He's a safety. Somebody in Arizona has to get to the passer.

 Niners fans from Carmel to San Jose were throwing their Merlot at the mounted HD flatscreen over their Victorian fireplaces after their team blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to a Dallas group whose: 1) quarterback had a punctured lung, 2) running back had a separated shoulder, 3) two starting wideouts were out, and 4) best corner was out. The Niners defense has been relatively solid, but close your eyes when Alex Smith loads up. He makes two nice plays, then a bad one. You know a guy is inconsistent when Alan Ball intercepts him. Sure would help if Smith could get better protection.

Another close call, another tough loss. Everyone in that locker room is frustrated. Said Adrian Peterson, "We are pretty stunned ... second week in a row we let one get away." Minnesota moves up in the rankings (slightly) by default, only because I feel they're a small tick better than the Broncos, Bengals and Browns. They've lost to two pretty decent clubs in the Chargers and Buccaneers. The defense is going to have to close teams out to win more than six games this year.

  John Fox says "my philosophy is do whatever it takes." How much that includes Tim Tebow is anyone's guess, but he saw action as a slot receiver this past weekend. Why? Injuries galore. In fact, defensive backups played a key role, as did starter Robert Ayers who blew up a key fourth-down play late in the game. All of the clutch play moves Fox's boys up several spots in the rankings this week.

  Marvin Lewis isn't leading a bunch of hooligans, malcontents, or space cadets any more. His roster fought hard in Denver but just came up a little short. The defense is much better than anyone is giving them credit for, and rookie Andy Dalton made great strides. It still figures to be a five-win season in Cincy.

Cleveland probably deserves to be a shade higher, but they lost to Cincinnati, who, in turn, lost to Denver. Thus you have the exact science behind Denver at 23, Cincinnati at 24, and Cleveland at 25. The Browns face the Dolphins at home next week, a rematch of a close contest from last season. Will Colt McCoy be able to take advantage of the Dolphins' secondary, which has struggled mightily?

  Cam Newton is only the sixth quarterback to throw for over 400 yards in back-to-back games. Don't get too excited, as one of those guys was Billy Volek. What is worth getting excited about is that Newton is ready for the big boys. The dude just doesn't seem impressed by the NFL. While that's a big plus for Panthers fans, the defense could really use Jon Beason. Give Carolina credit -- it hung in with the Super Bowl champs, but Ron Rivera's guys have to be able to stop somebody. They allowed the Pack a staggering 8.1 yards per play after allowing 7.3 to the Cardinals.

 St. Louis must get out of its own way. The Rams outplayed the Giants for most of the first half and then proceeded to beat themselves. Being without Steven Jackson hurts. This team is only ahead of Miami because I'd take Sam Bradford over Chad Henne.

 Another season in South Florida could be slipping away. Henne didn't follow up his promising play from the season's opening week with more good football deeds vs. the Texans. Of greater concern is the awful pass defense, and the 0-2 record. Keep in mind, both of those losses were at home. Jeff Ireland, Tony Sparano, and the rest of the staff have their work cut out for them.

  Blaine Gabbert got on the field and acquitted himself OK, going 5 of 6, albeit in garbage time of a 29-point loss. Hey, look at the bright side. It was an improvement over starter Luke McCown, who posted a 108 passer rating ... divided by about 100.

 Indy is tough to watch. Even though Kerry Collins is approximately 59 years old, the past two weeks have been like watching the Colts of the future. The Peyton Manning-less franchise doesn't look too good, but they aren't the worst team in the league. Collins started hot against the Browns, but regressed as the game went along. The defense is being leaned on like never before, and in order to avoid a four-win season, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are going to have to wreak havoc on teams like never before.

 Just so you Chiefs fans know, I don't dislike your team, as some have said I do on this very site. My dad was a huge fan of the Dallas Texans, who became the Super Bowl IV-winning Chiefs. Even that club could not have withstood season-ending injuries to its best offensive player ( Jamaal Charles) and arguably its best defensive player ( Eric Berry). Kansas City has been outscored 89-10, and last year's wild-card berth feels like it was 40 years ago. What a turn of events.

 Seattle is terrible. The offense is going to have to take some shots down the field, if for no other reason than to open up some running lanes. In two games, Seattle's ground game has run 35 times for 95 yards. Not good. The 'Hawks didn't take a snap on the Steelers' side of the field until midway through the fourth quarter Sunday.

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