NFL Week 2 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* Good for Ed Hochuli for admitting that he blew a call. Bad for Hochuli for personally costing the Chargers a game.

* To the Dallas fans who booed the young woman who butchered the national anthem on Monday night, you have the thanks of a grateful nation.

* The Vikings need to be more careful with Adrian Peterson, or he's going to get hurt. They have a good backup in Chester Taylor, and those guys shouldn't be splitting carries 29-4.

* Props to the NFL for its new policy that a team can defer to the second half after winning the opening coin toss. Everyone is doing it.

* Mike Tirico said "the best QB in Philadelphia Eagles history" was at Dallas Stadium on Monday night, expressing uncertainty about whether that was Ron Jaworski or Donovan McNabb. I guess Tirico has never heard of Tommy Thompson, Norm Van Brocklin, or Randall Cunningham. All of those guys were better than Jaws, and they're pretty close to McNabb.

***

A round of virtual applause to CBS for showing the end of the Denver/San Diego game, after most of the country started out with Pats/Jets. There was plenty of action before that point, but we still got to see San Diego's game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion, Brandon Marshall's team-record catch, one of the most significant referee mistakes in league history, and Denver's two-point conversion to win. That's a lot of game to fit into about seven minutes.

I don't think there's a whole lot to say about the call that cost San Diego the game. It was wrong, and Hochuli admitted that. He made the right call on the replay review. It sucks, and it's not fair to the Chargers, but it's the way things are set up. Human error has always been part of the game, and replay reviews don't change that.

What's really interesting, I think, was Mike Shanahan's decision to go for two instead of kicking a game-tying extra point to go to overtime. It was the first time since 2005, when Jon Gruden did the same thing against Washington. There are any number of reasons a coach might decide to try for two instead of the kick. Maybe his defense is totally worn out, and he's convinced that there's no chance to stop the other team if he loses the coin toss for overtime. Maybe his offense doesn't deal well with pressure situations. Maybe he has a dynamite conversion play.

Or maybe he knows his team just lucked out with a bad call by the officials, and to even things out, he's putting the game in the hands of fate. If they make the conversion, it was meant to be; if they miss, justice is served.

I don't know why Shanahan made his decision the way he did. He says it was gut instinct, and maybe it's something as simple as that, but I like to think maybe it was that last one, giving the Chargers one more chance.

Anyway, on to the power rankings. The number in brackets shows last week's rank.

1. New York Giants [5] — Destroyed the Rams, which figures to be a popular way for NFL teams to spend their Sundays this year. New York's domination was total, but sacking Marc Bulger six times is especially noteworthy, because many fans expected the Giants' defensive line to struggle after Osi Umenyiora's season-ending injury in August. It is going to be very hard to keep Justin Tuck out of the Pro Bowl, but the whole line looks good.

2. Dallas Cowboys [1] — Please, please, someone get Tony Kornheiser off MNF broadcasts. It is not apparent that he has any interest in or understanding of the games he is in the booth for. He repeats the same things throughout the game regardless of what is happening. And what is up with his Cowboys cheerleading? "How 'bout dem Cowboys?" "How 'bout dat lack of professionalism?"

Anyway, a comment Tony made leads me to why I dropped the Cowboys and Eagles in my rankings: Kornheiser said that the game "had every conceivable thing you could want in a football game." I guess that's true, if it's inconceivable that you could want defense in a football game. You can't count on scoring 40 points every week, and it's not clear to me that either team has a particularly good defense.

3. Philadelphia Eagles [2] — DeSean Jackson's premature celebration may have been the single stupidest play I have ever seen in an NFL game. He literally threw away a touchdown! And, as I indicated above, I worry about their defense. Monday night was the first time I can remember seeing a team actually pick on Brian Dawkins.

4. Green Bay Packers [4] — I'm sure the Packers are a little resentful that the team is playing so well as a whole, and Aaron Rodgers is the only one getting any attention, but through two weeks, I'm not sure any NFL quarterback has been better.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers [3] — It's difficult to judge a team's performance in such unusual weather conditions, and it's also difficult to judge a team whose quarterback may or may not have serious shoulder problems. It's also tough to evaluate a team whose best defensive player has trouble staying healthy, but on Sunday night, we saw vintage Troy Polamalu. What other team can have its strong safety cover Kellen Winslow, Jr., man-for-man? For now, the Steelers seem awfully good, and I like their depth.

6. Tennessee Titans [7] — Kerry Collins managed the game; the defense controlled the game. I realize that Cincinnati's offense has mysteriously become terrible, but Tennessee may have the best defense in the league. I'm not sure I can wait until Week 8 to see Colts/Titans.

7. New England Patriots [8] — Clearly, Matt Cassel is not Tom Brady. The Patriots have enough good players and coaches that they should be competitive all season, no matter who plays quarterback, but I'm concerned about the offensive line. Last season, it was the best in the NFL, and against the Jets, it really struggled.

8. Denver Broncos [6] — The first thing that jumped out at me, from an extremely close game, was that Denver had 34 first downs to San Diego's 19, and an eight-minute edge in time of possession. What the Broncos did was finish drives, scoring five touchdowns while the Chargers kept settling for field goals, kicking three from inside 35 yards.

9. San Diego Chargers [9] — Caught two bad breaks from the officials, and probably should have won the game. At the same time, they could have done more, scoring only one TD on their four trips inside the red zone, and never forcing the Broncos to settle for field goals. I think this is a good team, but it will be tough to make the playoffs from 0-2. They're two games behind Denver in the AFC West, and it looks like the second-best teams from the East and South will be pretty tough competition for the wild cards. It would be a shame if San Diego misses the postseason because of this game.

10. Carolina Panthers [17] — They've beaten the Chargers and Bears without one of their best players. Now Steve Smith is coming back from his suspension, and the Panthers are in first place in the NFC South. John Fox is a very happy man today, because if Carolina had suffered two close losses with Smith out, people would be calling for the coach's head. Instead, they pulled out two tough victories, and he did the right thing.

11. Buffalo Bills [11] — Trent Edwards showed some promise last year, but he's been great the last two weeks. The Bills are getting good play from their defense and special teams, too, but very few people expected Edwards to be this good. If he can keep it up, and the defense stays relatively healthy, Buffalo will probably make the playoffs.

12. Indianapolis Colts [10] — Peyton Manning leads great comebacks. It just kind of seems to be his thing. But the Colts were not impressive on Sunday, and it looks like injuries will be a huge problem for at least the next few weeks. Indianapolis has major problems in its ground attack (last in NFL) and run defense (28th).

13. Arizona Cardinals [15] — The Cardinals are going to win the NFC West. They haven't won a division title since 1975, but this is their year. Part of that is because the rest of the division is pathetic, but it's also because the Cardinals are actually good. The defense is going to put a couple people in the Pro Bowl, the wide receivers are fantastic, and Kurt Warner is playing like it's 1999. If they win at Washington next week, I'm putting them in the top 10.

14. Chicago Bears [12] — The defense is back in top form. The offense is not. Kyle Orton, steady but unspectacular, does seem to be an upgrade over Rex Grossman, and he's a good fit for this team. Matt Forte is the team's best running back since ... uh, Thomas Jones, but that's great news after a year of Cedric Benson. The Bears should compete for a playoff spot this season, but it's going to be the same formula as always: great defense and an offense that is good enough.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars [13] — It's all about the offensive line. Last year, David Garrard played nearly mistake-free, but the offense was really predicated on a strong running game. This season, missing both starting guards and last year's center, nothing's there.

16. Minnesota Vikings [14] — Here's the problem: they can't throw the ball. It's not clear to me how much of the blame should go to Tarvaris Jackson. Undeniably, he needs to improve. But he doesn't have anyone to throw to, either.

17. Washington Redskins [25] — This defense might be really good. It was an especially nice debut for rookie DB Chris Horton, who wasn't even supposed to start, but finished with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Washington's offense also showed signs of life, but it's unclear whether that means anything against the Saints' defense.

18. New Orleans Saints [16] — With Marques Colston out, Reggie Bush is the only playmaker on the offense. Devery Henderson is a nice second option at receiver, but he can't lead a team. This offense needs to be explosive, and without Colston, it isn't. Bush demonstrated again on Sunday that he can be very effective in space, but right now the Saints have absolutely no running game.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [18] — I think the real Bucs are the ones that lost a tight game to New Orleans last week, not the team that coasted past Atlanta on Sunday. The defense played much better this week, and the offense did what it had to, but the Falcons gave them so many opportunities, it would have been pretty hard to lose. Get ready for a serious defensive battle against Chicago in Week 3.

20. Cleveland Browns [20] — Where is the offense? This is supposed to be a high-scoring team, and Winslow is the only one who looks half-aware of that. Also, I'm concerned about Romeo Crennel. He looks fatter than ever.

21. New York Jets [19] — I know everyone wants to talk about Brett Favre, but on Sunday, another new Jet had an absolutely monster game. DT Kris Jenkins looked better than I've seen him since 2003, when he was an all-pro. Jenkins was double-teamed on almost every play, and he still had a huge impact, tying for the team lead in tackles, sacking Cassel, and disrupting a ton of plays in ways that don't show up on the stat sheet.

22. Houston Texans [22] — The next home game is scheduled for Week 5, on October 5th. Will their stadium be ready by then? No one seems sure right now. If not, I'm guessing the team will play in the Astrodome, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility that the league moves their games to San Antonio, where the Saints played in 2005.

23. Baltimore Ravens [24] — They're going to miss that Week 10 bye. This is a team with a lot of older players, and a bye late in the season would have been really nice for those guys.

24. San Francisco 49ers [28] — J.T. O'Sullivan had a great game against Seattle (321 yards, 106.4 passer rating), but he has been sacked 12 times already. I don't know if it's bad pass protection, or O'Sullivan holding the ball too long, but something has to change.

25. Seattle Seahawks [21] — How on earth do you sack an opponent eight times, but still give up 33 points? How do you run for 169 yards with a 5.0 average but lose time of possession? For starters, you throw two interceptions, get a punt blocked, and commit 10 penalties. This team needs to trade for a wide receiver. Yesterday. Hell, get Jerry Rice out of retirement. Anything is an upgrade at this point.

26. Atlanta Falcons [26] — Everything that was good last week, was bad this week. Matt Ryan got sacked four times, threw two interceptions, and had a passer rating of 29.6. It was pretty much like that for the whole team, and they should probably be ranked lower than this. If you live in a television market that will show Atlanta vs. Kansas City in Week 3, instead of a real NFL game, you have my sympathy.

27. Oakland Raiders [32] — Rob Ryan's much-maligned defense rose to the occasion in Week 2, absolutely controlling the Chiefs. The Raiders tallied five sacks, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. When they weren't causing turnovers, they were limiting Larry Johnson to 1.8 yards per carry and embarrassing KC's quarterbacks. JaMarcus Russell had a remarkably poor game in the win.

28. Kansas City Chiefs [23] — Darren McFadden ran all over them, but the problem is not the defense. Or at least, the main problem is not defense. This team has no offensive line, no quarterback, and no running game. Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez can play a little, but I don't know how they're supposed to get anything done. The offense stinks.

29. Miami Dolphins [27] — Which was less impressive against Arizona? The offense that managed only three points in the first 57 minutes? Or the defense that let Warner record a perfect passer rating? There are some questions humans will never be able to answer.

30. Cincinnati Bengals [29] — I'm very interested to see this team, which has seemingly fallen apart in the last eight months. I wonder how healthy Carson Palmer is, but clearly there's no one factor that's to blame for their problems. A lot is wrong.

31. Detroit Lions [30] — Gave up five sacks against Green Bay. This team needs to improve in almost every area, but better pass protection seems like an obvious place to start.

32. St. Louis Rams [31] — In a really tight competition with Detroit for worst defense in the league, but I'll give an edge to the Rams for now. The offense is terrible, as well. Steven Jackson hasn't gotten going, and Marc Bulger has been sacked 10 times already, second-worst in the league. I hate to keep beating the same drum over and over, but the biggest problem is their awful offensive line.

Comments and Conversation

September 17, 2008

Anthony Brancato:

Hey, I doubt if even I would go so far as to give the NFC East the top three spots.

And as “stupid” as what DeSean Jackson did was, I’m sure it’s not making any Eagles fans yearn for the good old days of James Thrash and Todd Pinkston.

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