2014 NFL Week 2 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* A jarring new report estimates that nearly 30% of former NFL players will experience cognitive problems like Alzheimer's disease and dementia. That is a staggering statistic. If there's not some solution in the near future to improve players' outlook, we all need to rethink whether this is a sport we can support.

* Sorry if I ruined your survivor pool. I'm out, but next week I like the Falcons and Texans. There are several chalk picks (Bengals, Patriots, Saints), but you might want to save those teams for later in the season.

* Bill Belichick hates your fantasy team.

* This was Belichick's 200th regular-season win. His 200-106 record ranks fourth (.654) among 200-game winners, behind Don Shula, George Halas, and Paul Brown, but ahead of Curly Lambeau, Tom Landry, and Marty Schottenheimer.

* At this point, I would regard Belichick as the third-best head coach in the history of professional football. That's up a little from my 2012 ranking of the best coaches in history, but he just keeps winning division titles, often with teams not obviously stacked with talent.

* * *

I don't want the power rankings to just be about injuries, so let's use this space to address this week's rash of star player misfortunes, then move on with a clean slate.

* Robert Griffin III looked great at the beginning of Sunday's game, but exited early with a dislocated ankle. Monday's MRI showed no fracture, but he's expected to miss 1-2 months, probably closer to two. The team has confidence in backup Kirk Cousins, and he's an appropriate add as a backup QB in fantasy leagues. If you drafted RG3 without selecting a quality backup, I have no sympathy for you.

* DeSean Jackson sprained his shoulder, but it's not a long-term injury. He'll probably play in Week 3.

* The Chiefs are reporting Jamaal Charles' injury as a high-ankle sprain. Expect him to miss several weeks. Fantasy owners who lost Charles, you need to acquire Knile Davis. In FAAB leagues, it's appropriate to spend half your budget on him.

* Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry also has a sprained ankle, but apparently not of the high-ankle variety. Good news for Kansas City.

* A.J. Green has a ligament strain, effectively a toe injury. He's expected to miss Week 3, but the Bengals have a Week 4 bye and he should be back after that.

* Ryan Mathews sprained his MCL and is expected to miss 4-5 weeks. Donald Brown will take most of his snaps in the meantime, but he's probably not a priority add in fantasy.

* Mark Ingram has a broken hand and will miss at least a month. Knowshon Moreno dislocated his elbow and is going to miss a lot of time. Lamar Miller could be a quality add in fantasy.

* Gerald McCoy, of whom head coach Lovie Smith said, "He's the best at his position in the league," left Sunday's game with a broken hand. The timetable for McCoy's return is uncertain, but expect him to miss some time.

* Seattle safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor left Sunday's game with cramps. Nothing to worry about here.

* Vontaze Burfict left the season opener with a concussion, and this week's game with a stinger. As of this writing, his status going forward is not clear.

* Bears CB Charles Tillman re-injured the triceps he tore last year. The team will place him on injured reserve, ending his season and maybe his career.

It was sort of a depressing week. Let's move on with power rankings. Brackets show last week's rank.

1. Denver Broncos [2] — The Chiefs nearly doubled their third-down percentage, and won time of possession by 12:28 — actually, Kansas City won every major stat but scoring. The Broncos built a 21-10 halftime lead and nearly gave the game away in the second half. So far this season, Denver has outscored opponents 45-17 in the first half, but been outscored 24-10 in the second. Sixty minutes, Broncos.

2. Seattle Seahawks [1] — Replay officials admit they blew the call on Percy Harvin's TD run, but it was still a great play. Harvin and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell are a match made in heaven for Seahawk fans, made somewhere else if you root for their opponents. The Seahawks ran only 40 offensive plays on Sunday, and San Diego ran 75. Seattle lost time of possession by 24:30.

3. Cincinnati Bengals [4] — My rule is that rankings are for right now, and they probably shouldn't be so high without A.J. Green, but I don't want to drop them after a big win, then move them up five spots during the bye week. Through two games, the Cincinnati offense has no turnovers and no sacks allowed. They missed three field goals against Atlanta and should have won by at least 20.

4. San Francisco 49ers [3] — Sixteen penalties for 118 yards and 6 Chicago first downs. That doesn't include two declined penalties. San Francisco and Chicago ultimately combined for 26 accepted penalties and 7 declined, much to Al Michaels' consternation. Most of the calls were correct, but Michaels was basically right. The first 7:00 of the game took 40 minutes of real time — it's usually about half of that.

You can't lose the turnover battle by four and expect to win, but they won't lose the turnover battle by four again all season. Colin Kaepernick is terrible at clock management, though, and he needs to improve. He wasted a critical timeout late in the fourth quarter that assured a one-possession game, and got called for delay of game four plays later.

5. New England Patriots [10] — In addition to his field goal block, which he returned for a touchdown, Chandler Jones made six solo tackles and two sacks against the Vikings. Tom Brady is not off to a sensational start. He's 27th in passing yards per game (199), right between Derek Carr and Geno Smith. He's tied for 18th in TD passes, and his 78.9 passer rating ranks 28th among qualified passers, again behind Carr. The Patriots haven't had a home game yet.

6. San Diego Chargers [12] — Overcame a four-day rest deficit and a bizarre replay failure to defeat the defending champs. The Chargers who played on Monday night in Week 1, held up better in the extreme heat (94° and humid) than Seattle, who played the previous Thursday. Antonio Gates scored three TDs for the first time since 2005.

7. Green Bay Packers [7] — Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson played great and they got their first win of the season. But I want to go back to last week, the loss at Seattle. During the game, announcers pointed out that Richard Sherman always covers the same side of the field, and Green Bay was keeping Nelson away from him. Losing Jarrett Boykin for a week isn't that big a deal if it gets Nelson a favorable matchup. It seemed smart.

A week later, it's apparent that the Packers messed up. Johnny Unitas told of the great respect coach Weeb Ewbank had for cornerback Night Train Lane. "He'd tell me, 'Don't throw the ball in his area.' Well, hell, I wasn't going to give him the day off. So I'd throw at him, and maybe he'd pick one off, but we could do things against him, too." The Chargers showed that this weekend, but their strategy was effective less because they hit plays against Sherman than because it opened up the field. In the opener, Seattle could slide its safeties toward Rodgers' left, because they knew he wasn't throwing to the right. Philip Rivers had the whole field to work with. Putting Boykin on the right and taking Sherman out of the game seemed like a good idea, but it didn't play out that way. Rodgers may not be Unitas, but he's quite a player, and he shouldn't give anyone the day off.

8. Philadelphia Eagles [11] — Ran 12 drives on Monday night. Eight of them lasted under 2:00, and all of them were under 4:00. Philadelphia started two backup offensive linemen, and it showed. There were few running lanes for LeSean McCoy, and Andrew Gardner really struggled in pass protection. The Eagles have been outscored 34-6 in the first half and have outscored their opponents 58-10 in the second half. I don't know if it's the fast-paced offense wearing people down, or just a coincidence, but that's a +76 point flip.

9. Houston Texans [14] — The Texans look like a good team. They've won both their games by double digits and they lead the NFL in scoring defense. I believe J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the league, but in all the fuss over his 1-yard touchdown catch, no one's mentioning that he had a statistical zero on defense: no tackles, no assists, no pass deflections. I wish we would stop going gaga over players doing things outside their normal duties. This was not a good game for Watt.

10. Atlanta Falcons [5] — Roddy White sat out of practice on Monday with a hamstring issue. White was gimpy for most of 2013 and it really weighed down the offense. Matt Ryan thrived throwing to Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and White, but now Gonzalez is retired, White can't stay healthy, and Jones is a constant injury risk.

11. New Orleans Saints [6] — Certainly the best 0-2 team in the league. They have two last-second losses, both on the road, and they're a great home team. Drew Brees this week passed John Elway for fourth place on the all-time passing yardage list. Brees' career is statistically comparable to Tom Brady's, and he's never had the kind of teammates Brady did in the Super Bowl years. Brees might be among the 10 best QBs of all time, and I don't think his career gets the recognition it deserves.

12. Carolina Panthers [16] — Lead the NFL in turnover differential, +6. Cam Newton looked great in his return from a rib injury, and the numbers would have been even better if Kelvin Benjamin could catch. The defense did great without Greg Hardy. Mario Addison had 2.5 sacks, Antoine Cason forced two fumbles and recovered one, and Melvin White defensed three passes, including a pick.

13. Arizona Cardinals [18] — Carson Palmer missed Sunday's game with a nerve injury in his throwing shoulder. Backup Drew Stanton got Larry Fitzgerald involved but didn't play particularly well (167 yds, 66.3 rating, 4 sacks). The Cardinals won with four takeaways. Calais Campbell led the defense with 10 solo tackles, three of them behind the line of scrimmage and one of them a sack.

14. Detroit Lions [8] — Absolutely dominated the Giants, then scored 7 against Carolina. The Giants may be one of those teams so bad that nothing you can do to them is really impressive.

15. Indianapolis Colts [13] — Trent Richardson did okay on Monday night, but it was funny to hear Jon Gruden making excuses for him. "Remember, Marshall Faulk didn't run the ball very well here either in Indianapolis, and he did okay." Marshall Faulk? That was 20 years ago. Faulk played for the Colts from 1994-98. He had four 1,000-yard seasons, averaged 3.83 yards per rush, caught 60 passes a year, and scored 51 TDs. Richardson, so far, is nowhere near that level. And what about Edgerrin James? For that matter, the Indy offense made Joseph Addai look pretty good for a couple of years. Just as Gruden finished speaking, Ahmad Bradshaw broke a 29-yard run.

16. Miami Dolphins [9] — Keep an eye on the Wembley curse. The Dolphins play in London in Week 4, and teams often seem to struggle the week before the trip. A home game against the injury-riddled Chiefs should probably be a win, and I wouldn't stress a game with the Raiders if it were being played on the moon, but you never know.

17. Baltimore Ravens [17] — Since NFL Network began airing Thursday games, the home team is 40-24 on Thursday nights (.625). Baltimore, in the John Harbaugh era, is 40-10 at home (.800). The Ravens could have and probably should have won by more this week. They went 2/6 in the red zone, kicking four field goals of 30 yards or less. It wasn't a big deal in their 20-point victory over the Steelers, but in close games, you can't turn four trips inside the 10-yard line into only 12 points.

18. New York Jets [15] — The story has become their lost TD. With about 5:00 left, Geno Smith threw a game-tying touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley, but the play didn't count because New York had been granted a timeout right before the snap. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, last season's Defensive Rookie of the Year, got the official's attention and accepted the blame, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was the one who originally wanted a timeout. That's a bummer, but it shouldn't really be the story. The bigger issue is, How do you blow an 18-point lead? In Week 1, the Jets overcame mistakes to win, because they were playing a bad team. You can't do that most weeks.

19. Buffalo Bills [23] — C.J. Spiller is the first player since 1973 (Houston Oilers RB Bob Gresham) with a 100+ yard kickoff return and a run longer than 45 yards in the same game (h/t PFHOF). The Bills are one of seven 2-0 teams, and they're the lowest-ranked here. If they beat the Chargers in Week 3, they'll get a big jump.

20. Chicago Bears [21] — All the defensive injuries have to worry you, but that was a sensational comeback. Jay Cutler's second half: 13-of-14, 122 yds, 3 TD, no sacks, no turnovers. Brandon Marshall played through injury and came up huge. He's a special talent.

21. St. Louis Rams [19] — Overcame an hour-long weather delay, a third-string quarterback, and their own inability to stop Bobby Rainey. Two blocked kicks, by E.J. Gaines and T.J. McDonald, were probably a 9-point swing, in a 19-17 game.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers [20] — CBS showed a graphic with the horrifying number of sacks Ben Roethlisberger has taken since 2004, about 50% more than second-place Eli Manning. Phil Simms made the sorriest excuse for Big Ben, explaining to viewers that Roethlisberger takes sacks because he's a mobile QB and he extends plays. Broadly speaking, it is true that scramblers take more sacks than pocket passers. But Ben Roethlisberger isn't exactly Cam Newton. Simms actually compared him to Randall Cunningham, which is absurd.

Roethlisberger's career high in rushing is 204 yards. Cunningham doubled that six times. Thirteen active QBs have multiple seasons with 200+ rush yards. As a scrambler, Roethlisberger isn't Michael Vick (209 sacks since '04) or Randall Cunningham; he's not even Jay Cutler or Ryan Fitzpatrick. And his sack total isn't a little higher than other QBs, it's worlds more, light years more, it's another universe of sacks. Simms' explanation doesn't actually explain anything. But there's a reason Simms wanted to make excuses for a QB who took too many sacks. Phil's own career sack percentage, 9.3%, was even worse than Ben's.

23. Washington [26] — Injury news at the top. Let's talk defense. It was the team's biggest win since 2008 (34-3 over Detroit), and their most sacks in a game since 1977, when the stat was unofficial. Ryan Kerrigan had 4, and certainly Kerrigan is a player. He dominated Cameron Bradfield in the second half. But the real difference-maker is Jason Hatcher, a free agent from Dallas. Hatcher was credited with 1.5 sacks, plus he commands the double-teams that create opportunities for Brian Orakpo and Kerrigan.

24. Cleveland Browns [30] — Brian Hoyer holds off Johnny Manziel for another week, but they won first and foremost with defense. The Saints punted on each of their first four drives, and Tashaun Gipson's interception return for a touchdown was the critical play of the game.

25. Dallas Cowboys [27] — For years, fans have implored Jason Garrett to run the ball more often. Through two games, he's finally listening. DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing, and the Cowboys dominated on the ground in Week 2. They gained twice as many first downs as the Titans, 26-13, and controlled time of possession for 41:11.

26. Minnesota Vikings [24] — Adrian Peterson and Carolina's Greg Hardy have gotten caught up in the mishandling of the Ray Rice case. But in all the outrage over Rice, there's something we've missed. It's very, very chic right now to bash the league, and Commissioner Roger Goodell specifically. You aren't cool unless you're appalled by the league. But this is actually a new problem.

Not that players haven't committed domestic abuse before — I'm sure that's been happening since the league was founded almost 100 years ago — but no one's ever gotten in trouble for it before this. Ever. The league is being held to a standard that didn't exist a year ago. I'm not saying we shouldn't hold the league to a high standard, but I find it hard to blame Goodell and his colleagues for not acting in a way that no one ever has.

The Atlantic City incident only became a big deal because everyone saw it. It's disturbing that no one cared about domestic violence until we saw it, and it's hypocritical to get self-righteous about it now. I applaud a higher standard on this issue, but let's put in context the actions of the league officials. The idea that athletes should be punished by the league (as opposed to the criminal justice system) for off-field transgressions is relatively new. It used to be as long as you didn't beat up an opposing player or bet on a game, you were fine. Then we added performance-enhancing drugs. That's still about protecting the game itself. All the major leagues now have drug-testing policies that include recreational drugs, but those policies are collectively bargained with the unions. Everyone understands that they exist and what punishments are in place.

I would love to see every league create an official domestic violence policy, but such a thing has never existed before, in any of the major North American sports leagues. The initial two-game suspension given to Rice was clumsy and inadequate, but this whole affair has turned into a witch hunt. I don't care whether Goodell saw the elevator video or not. This isn't Watergate. The outrage isn't even directed at the abusers any more, it's at the league officials who are perceived to have mishandled an incident unlike any they've handled before. Let's give those guys a break. The biggest story in the NFL is an exciting new football season, not whether or not the Commissioner lied to reporters.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [22] — Man, am I glad I didn't get Doug Martin in fantasy.

28. Tennessee Titans [25] — Highest time of possession in Week 1, 37:44. Second-worst time of possession in Week 1, 18:49. The Titans went 2/10 on third downs and Jake Locker threw two interceptions. Tennessee has a roller-coaster schedule coming up: two tough road games (Bengals, Colts) followed by two winnable home games (Browns, Jaguars).

29. Kansas City Chiefs [28] — Began the third quarter with a 19-play, 10-minute, 62-yard drive ... ending in a missed field goal. CBS announced that it was KC's longest drive in 16 years. Altogether the Chiefs had five drives of at least nine plays and 50 yards, and those five great drives led to just 14 points.

30. Oakland Raiders [29] — Fell behind 27-0 before a couple late TDs made it look respectable. Safety Charles Woodson said after the game, "I'm embarrassed for this team and for the fans." The Raiders are last in the NFL in time of possession, averaging 23:17. They're 15-point underdogs at New England in Week 3.

31. New York Giants [31] — Great exchange about Eli Manning on NFL Gameday Final...

Deion Sanders: "I still believe in Eli."

Michael Irvin: "Deion, Eli's mom and dad is the only ones believing in Eli right now."

Later, Deion admitted, "The Giants might get the first pick [in next year's draft], the way it looks right now." Obviously Sanders didn't see the Jaguars game.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars [32] — Embarrassing performance. They lost 41-10. They gave up 32 first downs and gained 8. They were out-gained 449-148. The Jaguars had 6 three-and-outs, including their first four drives, for a total of -14 yards. They didn't run a play across midfield until the fourth quarter. A professional team should never play so badly.

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