2014 NFL Week 1 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* Props to FOX for showing overtime finishes without cutting to a commercial first. It's rare to see fan-first TV in the NFL game, and FOX deserves recognition for it.

* By the same token, shame on ESPN. Showing ads during :30 timeouts on Monday night was chintzy and rude. It dissipates drama and breaks up the game. NBC did the same thing in the Thursday night opener. Both networks should follow FOX's example.

* Some time in the very near future, defenses must figure out how to defend Percy Harvin.

* Special teams game ball of the week: Falcons kicker Matt Bryant, who hit a last-second 51-yarder to send the game into overtime, then a 52-yard field goal to win.

* The Browns just lost their 10th straight season opener, an NFL record.

* * *

You know about survivor pools, right? They're also referred to as elimination pools or, somewhat less tastefully, suicide pools. You pick one team every week that you believe will win. Straight up, not against the betting line. If your team wins, you survive to continue the game next week. But you can't pick the same team twice. Once you've chosen, say, the Seahawks, you can't use them again.

Last week, I advised readers to select the Eagles. They won; we're still going strong. In Week 2, I believe you have to use one of your powerhouses. A lot of people will choose Washington, at home against the lowly Jaguars, but I don't trust Washington and I'm not sure Jacksonville is as bad as most of us think. Right now you need a sure winner.

And the bad news is, there isn't one. I mean, any given Sunday and all that, but every game on the schedule in Week 2 presents real cause for concern. My three favorites are, in order, the 49ers, Packers, and Saints. Those are all good teams; I know you wanted to save them for later. Spend one of them now. Look, I'm letting you keep the Broncos and Seahawks. Don't sacrifice Week 2, planning for Week 15. We'll have more information later in the season, a better idea about which teams are for real. Don't get clever in Week 2, just make sure you survive.

The Niners open their new stadium against Chicago. The Bears underperformed in Week 1, and you worry they'll be hyped up to prove they're for real, plus it's always possible that Jay Cutler will play a whole game without doing anything stupid. The other worry would be rush defense; DeMarco Murray ran great against San Francisco, and Matt Forte is no slouch. But the 49ers looked great against Dallas, the Bears have a long trip for a night game, and I don't know how Chicago's defense is going to stop the Niner offense. Turnovers seem like their only real shot, and you can't bet on those.

The Packers are 8-point favorites at home against the Jets. Green Bay is a lot tougher than Oakland, and the Jets aren't the Seahawks, plus this game is at Lambeau Field rather than in Seattle or New Jersey. But do you really feel comfortable picking an 0-1 team, that didn't look particularly good in its first game, as a mortal lock to beat a 1-0 team?

The Saints are also pretty big favorites, about a touchdown. But New Orleans is not a real good road team, and the Browns showed guts on Sunday. I actually think the Saints are a better choice than the Packers, but I also would want to keep my Saints selection for a game in New Orleans. If you really insist on saving your big guns, consider the Ravens, at home on Thursday night against Pittsburgh. Since NFL Network began airing Thursday games, the home team is 39-24 on Thursday nights (.619). Baltimore, in the John Harbaugh era, is 39-10 at home (.796).

My official survivor pick for Week 2 is the San Francisco 49ers. Let's move on with power ratings. Brackets show preseason ranking.

1. Seattle Seahawks [1] — Russell Wilson appeared to lose some focus in the second half, and made a couple of bad decisions that could have backfired (but didn't). When the game was close, though, Wilson was extremely sharp. He's a top-five QB, and barring a career-altering injury, he's going to be a Hall of Famer.

2. Denver Broncos [2] — Like the Seahawks, they appeared to lose focus after building a 24-0 lead. Everyone's talking about Peyton Manning and Julius Thomas, and rightly so, but I'll point out that the Broncos defensed 13 passes on Sunday night, about 25% of Andrew Luck's attempts. When you tip that many passes, there's nothing "lucky" about two interceptions. The Bronco defensive backs also tackled like bosses this weekend. If the Colts game was any indication, this is one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

3. San Francisco 49ers [7] — The Cowboys committed four first-half turnovers, and San Francisco scored 21 points after only four offensive plays. The Niners overcame multiple ticky-tack penalties for an easy win. We all worried about how the defense would perform without NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, and the answer so far is: very well. I've mentioned before that I believe Justin Smith is the critical player on that defense, and on Sunday, Smith had two sacks, bringing his career total to 84, a phenomenal number for a player who often lines up inside the tackle.

4. Cincinnati Bengals [6] — Broke a streak of four straight losses in Baltimore, and they don't go on the road again until October. They have two home games, then a bye, before their Week 5 matchup in New England. The Bengals need to play better in the red zone. They attempted six field goals in Week 1, and their only touchdown came on a 77-yard pass to A.J. Green.

5. Atlanta Falcons [11] — If I could choose any quarterback to run my two-minute drill, I'd pick Peyton Manning. If he was taken, I'd go with Matt Ryan. Since his first day in the NFL, Ryan's been remarkable in last-minute comebacks. Atlanta's matchup in Cincinnati is the gem of Week 2. I'm taking the Bengals, who went 8-1 at home last season, over the Falcons, who haven't been a great road team in the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan Era.

6. New Orleans Saints [3] — Combined with the Falcons for 1,040 yards, 58 first downs, and 71 points. Obviously the offense is in form, and rookie receiver Brandin Cooks made a great debut (7 rec, 77 yds, TD). But the defense allowed Ryan a record day and couldn't hold the lead with 1:30 to play. That's not good enough for a team that fancies itself a Super Bowl contender.

7. Green Bay Packers [5] — The right side of their offensive line got torched on Thursday night, and it wasn't just backup tackle Derek Sherrod. Starter Bryan Bulaga sprained his MCL, but that's not a major injury. It's hard to evaluate the Packers based on a game at Seattle — that's the league's best defense and toughest road environment. For now, I still believe they're a top-10 team.

8. Detroit Lions [16] — Got their first win over a Manning since 1984, breaking an 0-6 winless streak against Peyton and Eli. Detroit doubled the Giants' yardage (417-197) and posted the best third down percentage of any team (10/15, 67%). Calvin Johnson is visibly the best receiver in football. He is literally amazing.

9. Miami Dolphins [14] — One of several games this weekend with wildly different first and second halves. The Dolphins went into the locker room down 20-10, then outscored the Patriots 23-0 in the second half. Game balls go to Knowshon Moreno and Cameron Wake. Moreno, dismissed as a product of the system in Denver, carried 24 times for 134 yards and a touchdown. Wake sacked Tom Brady twice, both leading to fumbles recovered by Miami.

10. New England Patriots [4] — I'm going to put it out there: this team never recovered from the loss of Aaron Hernandez. His salary is still on the books, plus his loss removed a weapon for Brady, and short-circuited New England's brilliant two-TE run game. Wes Welker was a great receiver in New England, but losing Hernandez hurt the pass game, the run game, and the salary cap. Welker only affected the pass.

11. Philadelphia Eagles [9] — Didn't panic when they fell behind 17-0; head coach Chip Kelly said after the game, "We weren't throwing chairs or anything during halftime." The Eagles knew they were the better team, and they showed it with a 34-0 second half. Darren Sproles began the comeback with a career-long 49-yard TD run in the third quarter. Yes, it really is his career-long. I checked. Sproles' career-long reception was 81 yards, his best punt return was 77, and he had a 103-yard kickoff return in 2008. This was also his most rush attempts in a game (11) since 2011.

12. San Diego Chargers [8] — Offense was too horizontal on Monday night. They didn't run well and didn't throw downfield. San Diego mostly played well on defense, though, and despite a couple personnel issues, they were pretty sharp on special teams. Darrell Stuckey and Seyi Ajirotutu are the best pair of gunners in the NFL. Rookie Jeremiah Attaochu played a sensational second half, both on defense and special teams.

13. Indianapolis Colts [10] — They missed Robert Mathis (suspended) a lot, and now he's out for the season with a torn Achilles. How about some credit to NBC announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth for their in-game predictions? CC predicted a Julius Thomas TD seconds before it happened, and when Michaels mentioned T.Y. Hilton, he made a catch on the next play.

14. Houston Texans [18] — The good news is that Arian Foster looked great and J.J. Watt played like a hundred million bucks. The bad news is that number one overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney tore his meniscus and he'll miss at least a month. If I'm a Texans fan, I'm suddenly worried about Clowney being able to stay healthy.

15. New York Jets [21] — Out-gained the Raiders 402-158, and 20 first downs to 11, but won by a narrow 19-14 margin. Part of that was due to a pair of turnovers by Geno Smith, and Rex Ryan blamed penalties (11 for 105 yards), but red zone play (1/4) was an issue as well. Actually, on half their trips inside the 20, the Jets fell back out of the red zone, once on a penalty and once on a sack. Nick Folk kicked successful field goals on both drives.

16. Carolina Panthers [23] — Derek Anderson filled in ably for Cam Newton, with 231 net yards, 2 TDs, no turnovers, and a 108.7 passer rating. His favorite targets were rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin (92 yds, TD) and veteran tight end Greg Olsen (83 yds, TD). The defense played brilliantly for three quarters before allowing a pair of TDs in the fourth. Newton is expected to start in Week 2.

17. Baltimore Ravens [13] — Joe Flacco tied a career-high with 62 pass attempts. He completed 35 of them, with 1 TD and 1 INT. Subtract a late 80-yard bomb to Steve Smith, and it's a really unimpressive day. The other game when Flacco passed 62 times? Last year's season opener against the Broncos. This should not become a Week 1 trend.

I don't want to wade too deeply into this Ray Rice thing. I already wrote about it last month, and the whole thing is a little too tabloid for me. But I'll admit to some confusion. I don't understand the gulf between knowing that Rice beat up a woman, and seeing him punch her in the face. Did people not believe it happened? Is domestic violence bothersome only if we see it? How do you go from a two-game slap on the wrist to a firing, an indefinite suspension, and the probable end of a career?

Chris Berman opined, "He probably won't play football again, for good reason." But how was Rice's violence related to football? It's not. Washington safety Brandon Meriweather is suspended for the first two games of this season. Meriweather has knocked out at least a dozen players in his NFL career. Meriweather can repeatedly assault football players during the game, and he gets to keep playing football. Rice commits a horrible but comparable crime in a context completely unrelated to the game, and we say he's the one who can't be allowed to play? I'm just not sure the punishment fits the crime.

It seems like maybe the parties involved are compensating for their initial underreaction with an overreaction now. And I'm strongly of the belief that if you really care about issues like domestic violence, you don't need to show off how much you care about those issues. Adam Schefter's holier-than-thou routine on Monday night was sickening. When someone tries so hard to prove they "get" it, you can safely assume they don't get it. ESPN presented Schefter's scolding as "insider analysis," which shows pretty clearly why Jay Glazer is the only worthwhile NFL insider.

18. Arizona Cardinals [26] — Did it seem to anyone else like announcer Chris Berman was rooting for the Cardinals? He went gaga over Larry Foote, died a little with every pass that was not caught by Larry Fitzgerald, and openly cheered when Arizona scored the go-ahead TD. It was also annoying that Berman spent the whole first half telling viewers how exciting the game was. I liked Trent Dilfer, who brought unique analysis into the booth, what everyone wants from former QBs and what we never get from Phil Simms and Troy Aikman.

Foote really did play well, and Patrick Peterson largely shut down Keenan Allen. Carson Palmer played a very sharp game. If he continues at that level and Michael Floyd is for real, Arizona is going to be a lot better than I expected.

19. St. Louis Rams [12] — Led the NFL in penalties this week, 13 for 121 yards. But what's really depressing is Brian Schottenheimer's offense. He is a proven failure, and his offensive philosophy frankly makes no sense. Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson were both 2013 first-round draft picks, and they faced each other from opposite sidelines on Sunday. Patterson gained 127 yards and scored an electrifying TD. Austin had 39 yards and muffed two punts. The Rams are getting nothing out of their offensive talent.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers [24] — Almost blew a 27-3 halftime lead, but the offense looked great, especially Leveon Bell. Can we talk about the CBS pregame show? Former Steeler coach Bill Cowher conducted an interview with Ben Roethlisberger and asked if he felt underrated. After the segment, James Brown stated decisively, "He is underrated," and they showed a graphic of Ben with QBs like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to prove it, noting how many Super Bowls each player's team had won. Cowher added, "This guy is no doubt a top-five quarterback in the National Football League." Bullshit.

Last year, Big Ben ranked 9th in passing yards, 7th in TDs, tied for 8th in TD/INT differential, and 9th in passer rating. The year before, 21st in yards, t-9th in TDs, 9th in rating. Actually, Roethlisberger has never ranked among the NFL's top five in passing yards, and he has ranked among the top five in TDs only once, in 2007. He's been among the top five in passer rating several times, most recently in 2010. More to the point, has anyone ever suggested that Ben is as good a passer as guys like Brady and Manning? No, because we all know he isn't.

Look, evaluating individual players by team accomplishments is idiotic. But even if you want to, Roethlisberger did not play well in the Steelers' Super Bowl wins. Those teams had the best defense in the NFL, and Ben only made two tackles in those seasons (though one of them, against Nick Harper in the playoffs, saved Pittsburgh's season). He played well, but he wasn't the reason they won. No one really believes Ben Roethlisberger is one of the five best QBs in the NFL, or anyway no one who knows football does. He's good, not great. Lying to viewers like that is just unforgivable, I think. It's not just incorrect, it's unethical. It's propaganda. The people at CBS should be ashamed of themselves.

21. Chicago Bears [15] — Alshon Jeffery's hamstring injury does not sound serious, but the Bears have plenty of other problems to worry about. There are offensive line injuries that might be more significant, and Jay Cutler played unevenly. Most notably, the defense played badly. Buffalo rushed for 193 yards, and E.J. Manuel recorded a 91.7 passer rating. Jared Allen had one tackle and no sacks. Lance Briggs had two tackles and an assist. Chris Conte got stiff-armed into a living death. Maybe the Bears underestimated the Bills, and they'll bounce back in Week 2, but this was a poor start to the season.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [17] — Another team with a weird first/second half divide. In the first half, the Bucs got shut out, 10-0, but it was even more lop-sided than the score. They were out-gained 205-84 and 13 first downs to 2. The Panthers had possession for 22:45 of the 30-minute half, more than a 3-to-1 advantage. Josh McCown's passer rating (12.5) was 100 points below Derek Anderson's (111.7). Logan Mankins left the game early and Doug Martin was in and out.

They rebounded in the second half, overcoming a pair of turnovers for a 14-10 advantage that still fell six points short. They host another disappointing team, the St. Louis Rams, in Week 2, followed by three straight road games.

23. Buffalo Bills [29] — The Bills faced the Bears in Chicago five times between 1970 and 2013, and lost all five, by a combined score of 135-26. Sunday marked the team's first-ever triumph in the Windy City. Fred Jackson, who set up the winning field goal, is the oldest running back in the NFL. I understand he went to a D-III school, but how did this guy not get an opportunity earlier in his career? If he'd gotten to play right away, or ever been a full-time starter, Jackson would probably rank as one of the top 100 RBs in history. He still might. Purely on stats, I have him in the top 150, and the stats don't do him justice.

24. Minnesota Vikings [30] — Dominant in a 34-6 win, but safety Harrison Smith had an especially big Week 1, including a sack for 9 yards and an 81-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Vikings play a nasty schedule that over the next four weeks pits them against the Patriots, Saints, Falcons, and Packers.

25. Tennessee Titans [27] — Highest time of possession in Week 1, 37:44. That includes a 21:55 - 8:05 edge in the second half, about 2½ times as much as the Chiefs. The Titans committed 12 penalties for 110 yards. That's something to clean up.

26. Washington [19] — "It's sort of hard to understand what's going on with this Washington offense." I seldom agree with Thom Brennaman, but how can you argue on this one? It's difficult to conceive of a coaching strategy more misguided than turning Robert Griffin III into a conventional pocket passer. As a rookie, he was compared to Barry Sanders. Griffin's running is what makes him special. In the first half against Houston, RG3 went 15-of-17 for 74 yards and 4 first downs, with two sacks for 20 yards and a scramble for 1. That's 20 plays, 55 yards — under 3 yards per play. And how do you complete 15 passes for only 4 first downs? Alfred Morris had a better average on rushes than Griffin did on completions.

The whole idea of this offense is wrong. I didn't like the hire of Jay Gruden as the new head coach, but I wanted to give him a chance. He's off to a very bad start. This offense is loaded with weapons, it should tear the league apart. Washington scored 6 points in Week 1, tied for the fewest of any team. I always advocate patience with new coaches, and I am emphatically not calling for Gruden to be fired, but if management doesn't already regret their choice of a new HC, there's something wrong with them.

27. Dallas Cowboys [20] — The defense was every bit as bad as we expected, and Tony Romo played one of the worst games of his career. But perhaps the most shocking sight was the stadium full of red jerseys. Yahoo's Dan Wetzel wrote a biting column about it, focused on owner Jerry Jones, but most of us saw the game anyway. From the opening kickoff, you could hear the 49er fans — they were loud. It didn't sound like a home game for the Cowboys.

28. Kansas City Chiefs [22] — Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson ruptured his Achilles and is out for the season. Quarterback Alex Smith had twice as many rushing yards (36), in their loss to Tennessee, as all-pro running back Jamaal Charles (19), who took only seven handoffs all game. Smith has already thrown more interceptions (3) than he did in the first month of last season. He also took four sacks, for 24 yards. The Chiefs went 1/12 on third downs. Run the ball, Andy Reid.

29. Oakland Raiders [25] — Worst offense performance of Week 1. Oakland is last in the NFL in yardage by almost 100. Twenty-four teams gained twice as many yards this week. The Raiders ran the fewest plays (49) for the fewest yards (158) and the fewest first downs (11). Oakland punted nine times on Sunday, including six three-and-outs. The worst culprit was a run game that produced 24 yards on 14 carries. I hope you didn't draft Maurice Jones-Drew in fantasy.

30. Cleveland Browns [31] — Okay, let's tally up these weird first halves. The Eagles fell behind 17-0 and won 34-17. The Dolphins trailed 20-10 and won 33-20. The Buccaneers were down 10-0 and closed it to 20-14. The Browns went into the locker room behind 27-3 and nearly won, with a 30-27 final. In the first half, those teams were outscored by a combined 74-13. In the second half, the same teams outscored their opponents 105-13. Tight end Jordan Cameron aggravated his shoulder injury and missed most of that glorious second half. His status going forward is unclear.

31. New York Giants [28] — The offense obviously was not in sync on Monday night. I'll be curious to see if things look better the next two weeks, both at home. We heard repeatedly about Eli Manning's difficulty with the team's new hand signals, so perhaps he'll play better in an environment with easier communication.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars [32] — Both of their touchdowns were set up by turnovers. The offense was ineffective, going 2/14 on third downs. Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson, and Jordan Todman combined for 24 rush attempts and 56 yards, a 2.3 average.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site