2015 NFL Week 2 Power Rankings

Week 2 Game Balls

Offense — Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots. Facing one of the league's best defenses, he accounted for 90% of New England's 507 yards (451), with 3 touchdowns and no turnovers.

Defense — Ryan Shazier, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers. League-leading 11 solo tackles, including 3 tackles for loss. Shazier also had a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.

Special Teams — Denzel Perryman, ST, San Diego Chargers. The University of Miami rookie made five tackles in kick coverage. Cincinnati's all-pro returner Adam Jones had kickoff returns to the 24- and 16-yard lines, and his only punt return produced no yardage.

Rookie — Marcus Peters, DB, Kansas City Chiefs. Four passes defensed, plus an interception returned 55 yards for a touchdown. I didn't do a rookie game ball last week, but let's assume it would have gone to Marcus Mariota.

Honorable Mentions: WR Antonio Brown, LB Sean Lee, K Stephen Gostkowski

Six Quick Hits

* Too many penalties in Week 2. Four games had double-digit penalties by both teams. Bills/Patriots produced 25 penalties for 259 yards. Buccaneers/Saints combined for 21 penalties and 205 yards. Raiders/Ravens, 26 penalties, 215 yards. Panthers/Texans, 20 for 162. That doesn't even include Chicago (14 penalties for 170 yards), Dallas (18 penalties for 142 yards), or Minnesota (see summary below). This sport is more fun when there's less involvement from the referees.

* Like most fans, I like the new extra point rules. Teams have already missed more PATs (9) this season than all of last year (8), restoring some drama to a play that had become automatic. It's a small change that makes the game more interesting.

* If everyone coached the way Phil Simms wants them to, every game would end in a 0-0 tie. Simms has such a defeatist attitude, and never assumes a team can pick up the yardage it needs. He's conservative to the point of being ridiculous.

* Preach, Jon Gruden: I hate bubble screens, too.

* Since Peyton Manning joined the Broncos, Denver is 7-0 against the Chiefs. The Broncos have won 13 straight road games against division opponents, an NFL record.

* Fantasy owners, it is time to stop thinking of Washington's defense as a good matchup. That unit is 2-for-2, and leads the NFL in fewest yards allowed.

Pro Football Hall of Fame

The NFL has announced this year's nominees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They'll join two Senior candidates, Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel, whose selections were driven by sentiment more than merit, and a disappointing Contributor nominee, Edward DeBartolo Jr., who was excellent at signing checks and whose impact on the game was otherwise negligible. I was afraid of this when the "contributor" category was announced: it will just be an excuse to induct all the team owners.

Anyway, there are 108 "modern" nominees this year, and I've broken them into four groups. The first are players and coaches whom I fully support and would vote for enthusiastically. The second are individuals I wouldn't select in the early rounds of balloting, but would probably go thumbs-up as Finalists, and I wouldn't have a problem with them getting in. The third group is comprised of those for whom I probably wouldn't vote, but I see the appeal of their candidacy. The fourth are people who have no business in the Hall of Fame without buying a ticket.

These are opinions, not predictions.

Group 1: Strong Candidates

Brett Favre, Tiki Barber, Terrell Davis, Daryl Johnston, Herschel Walker, Ricky Watters, Isaac Bruce, Henry Ellard, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Alan Faneca, Joe Jacoby, Kevin Mawae, Kevin Greene, Sam Mills, Zach Thomas, Steve Atwater, LeRoy Butler, Rodney Harrison, Albert Lewis, Darren Sharper, Morten Andersen, Don Coryell, Tony Dungy, Clark Shaughnessy

Darren Sharper is a terrible person, but he was a great football player. I deliberately made this a group of 25, the number of candidates who will advance to the semi-finalist stage.

Group 2: Borderline Candidates

Kurt Warner, Roger Craig, Priest Holmes, Edgerrin James, Terrell Owens, Jimmy Smith, Mark Bavaro, Mike Kenn, Orlando Pace, Bryant Young, Cornelius Bennett, Clay Matthews, Karl Mecklenburg, John Lynch, Darren Woodson, Brian Mitchell, Steve Tasker, Mike Holmgren, Richie Petitbon, Marty Schottenheimer

Terrell Owens was a great receiver, but he was such a disruptive presence, I'm not convinced he made his teams better. A more detailed explanation of my feelings about Owens can be found here. I listed 25 strong candidates and 20 borderline: 45 of the 108 nominees. That includes 2 QB, 7 RB, 1 FB, 6 WR, 1 TE, 5 OL, 1 DL, 6 LB, 7 DB, 3 special teamers, and 6 coaches — though really Petitbon should be viewed as a combined player (4-time Pro Bowl DB) and coach (3 Super Bowls as defensive coordinator).

Group 3: Weak Candidates

Steve McNair, Shaun Alexander, Ottis Anderson, Clinton Portis, Gary Clark, Sterling Sharpe, Rod Smith, Tony Boselli, Jim Covert, Jay Hilgenberg, Chris Hinton, Kent Hull, Jim Lachey, Tom Nalen, Nate Newton, Steve Wisniewski, Dexter Manley, Charles Mann, Leslie O'Neal, Simeon Rice, Fred Smerlas, Keith Bulluck, Eric Allen, Joey Browner, Ty Law, Everson Walls, Gary Anderson, Nick Lowery, Bill Cowher, Tom Flores, Chuck Knox, Dan Reeves

Thirty-two people in this group. I don't think any of them should get in, but it's possible my mind could change in the future.

Group 4: It's An Honor Just to Be Nominated

Drew Bledsoe, Phil Simms, Vinny Testaverde, Stephen Davis, Eddie George, Jamal Lewis, Brian Westbrook, Jay Novacek, Jeff Bostic, Jon Jansen, Mark May, Chris Samuels, Mark Schlereth, Tedy Bruschi, Ken Harvey, Levon Kirkland, Willie McGinest, Matt Millen, Mike Vrabel, Lawyer Milloy, Shawn Springs, Troy Vincent, John Carney, Jason Elam, Sean Landeta, Ethan Albright, Jimmy Johnson, Buddy Parker, Pete Rodriguez, Lou Saban, Dick Vermeil

Everyone in this group was a good player, or a good coach. Most of them were very good. But none approach a Hall of Fame standard, and in each case, there are eligible candidates at the position who are more deserving.

On to the Week 2 NFL Power Rankings. Brackets show last week's rank.

1. Green Bay Packers [2] — They won a big game, but they also kicked 18-yard and 21-yard field goals. There's enough talent here to keep them in the Super Bowl hunt all season, but I don't know if they can win three big games in a row in the postseason without more aggressive coaching. Remember a decade ago when Peyton Manning angrily waved the punt team back to the sideline on fourth down? I want Aaron Rodgers to do that, and I want Mike McCarthy to let him. McCarthy coaches not to lose.

2. New England Patriots [1] — Their offense is amazing. Tom Brady is amazing. Rob Gronkowski is amazing. Their inexperienced offensive line has held up well. Julian Edelman had 19 targets this week, but any time you catch 11 passes for 97 yards and 2 TDs, that's a pretty good game. I worry about their defense, which didn't look great against Pittsburgh, and allowed 32 points to the Bills, including 4 Tyrod Taylor TDs.

3. Cincinnati Bengals [3] — There are so many weapons on this offense, and all-pro DT Geno Atkins, who clearly wasn't himself last year, looks to be back in form. The Bengals have a tough stretch of games coming up, but they could be a really dangerous team this year.

4. Denver Broncos [4] — The final score, after that wild finish, was 31-24. Pre-game, the CBS and NFL Network analysts predicted that the Broncos would score: 21, 17, 24, 17, 10, and 17. Man, the Houston Texans — with Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett at quarterback — scored 20 against Kansas City in Week 1. Tony Gonzalez thinks the Broncos with Peyton Manning are only good for half of that?

Manning looked shaky, and at times downright bad, for large portions of the game. Three points:

1] The Broncos' offensive line is terrible. I pointed this out as an area of concern in May, after the NFL Draft. There are no holes for the running backs, and Manning has already taken seven sacks. Last year, he took 17 sacks in 16 games, and it was Week 7 before his seventh sack.

2] Manning is much more comfortable in the no-huddle, two-minute offense. He looked great on the last drive, looked like a different player, really. I don't know if it's a problem adjusting to Gary Kubiak's system, but Manning looked about 10 times better when he was personally in charge of the offense.

3] Manning's problems earlier in the game looked physical, not mental. I have no idea why the arm strength we saw in the fourth quarter was absent for most of the first half.

5. Arizona Cardinals [7] — They've played two teams that seem pretty bad, but they've won both games easily and they lead the NFL in point differential (+37). The next two games are at home, and they don't play a team that's 2-0 until after the Week 9 bye.

6. Seattle Seahawks [6] — Way too early to panic. The Rams always play them tough — the Seahawks have lost in St. Louis three of the last four seasons — and the Packers are a great team, especially in Green Bay. Seattle hasn't played a home game yet, and there are two in a row coming up, against the 0-2 Bears and the 0-2 Lions. If the Seahawks go 4-2 in their remaining road games, and 8-0 at home, they would finish 12-4, same as last year.

7. Buffalo Bills [5] — Their mighty defense forced two turnovers and made two fourth-down stops, but the Bills sacked Tom Brady just twice in 61 dropbacks (3.3%), and allowed 40 points. Tyrod Taylor was up-and-down. He passed for 3 TDs and ran for a fourth, finishing with a 93.3 passer rating. But he also ended the game with 8 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 2 fumbles (both recovered by Buffalo). The Bills had 14 penalties for 140 yards, and trailed 37-13 before a fourth-quarter rally. Buffalo "leads" the NFL in penalties and penalty yardage.

8. New York Jets [11] — Lead the NFL in turnover differential, +8. Next best are the Broncos, +5. The Jets brought in a lot of talented players this offseason. Brandon Marshall. Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine, Leonard Williams, Ryan Fitzpatrick. In a single offseason, their greatest weaknesses have turned into potential strengths. The Jets already have 10 defensive takeaways after just two games, compared to 13 all of last season.

9. Kansas City Chiefs [9] — You can't commit five turnovers, including two in the red zone and another returned for a touchdown, and expect to win. The Chiefs also went 0/7 on third downs. Denver has a good defense, but I don't think the KC offense has come as far as some people expected.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers [19] — Big-play offense. Pittsburgh leads the NFL in 20+ yard pass plays (10), and laps the field in 40+ yard pass plays (5); that's more than any other two teams combined. Le'Veon Bell returns from suspension for Week 3.

11. San Diego Chargers [12] — I think the Bengals are pretty good, and they're 13-2-1 in Cincinnati the last two years, so I'm not concerned about this loss. The Charger defense has only one sack, though, and the pass rush needs to improve if they're going to be a playoff team.

12. St. Louis Rams [10] — Punted on their first six possessions, and ran exactly zero plays in the red zone. The defense didn't play well in Washington (it allowed a 110.3 passer rating and 4.9 yds/rush), but you're not going to beat anyone without better offensive production. Maybe Todd Gurley will help.

13. Carolina Panthers [22] — Another good week from the defense, which held Houston to 2.7 yards per rush, and a 57.0 passer rating. A.J. Klein, playing for the injured Luke Kuechly, intercepted a pass that set up the game-clinching touchdown. It remains unclear whether Kuechly will play in Week 3.

14. Atlanta Falcons [20] — Matt Ryan completed 30 passes on Sunday, and none of them were to Roddy White. Atlanta came up with big plays in key situations, but didn't notably outplay a mediocre Giants team and trailed for most of the second half, finally taking a lead with 1:14 to go.

15. Houston Texans [15] — Ryan Mallett has the lowest passer rating (66.8) in the NFL. Maybe they'll switch back to Brian Hoyer now! Musical quarterbacks is always a formula for success.

16. Baltimore Ravens [14] — Uninspired defensive performance, allowing 448 yards, 27 first downs, and 9/14 third-down conversions to the Raiders. Derek Carr, who was limited by injury, passed for a career-high 351 yards, with a 100.9 passer rating and no sack yardage lost. Maybe it was the absence of Terrell Suggs, but these guys are professionals, and they should be able to get up for a game even when they're bummed out.

17. Dallas Cowboys [18] — Their fourth straight year winning in Philadelphia. Dallas is 2-0, but their two biggest stars are both likely to miss the next two months or so, and this was not a great game. The Cowboys committed 18 penalties for 142 yards, went 0/2 in the red zone, and didn't score an offensive touchdown until late in the fourth quarter.

18. Indianapolis Colts [8] — Last in the NFL in turnover differential, -7. No one else is below -2. To some extent that's a fluke problem, but this simply does not look like an above-average team right now. The Colts are -26 in point differential, 31st in the league (Bears, -33). Injuries are already a major issue, especially on defense. ESPN missed the Colts' first offensive play, because they were showing Jeff Saturday in the audience. Hey, Jeff was a great player. Maybe you could show him while no plays are being run.

19. Miami Dolphins [13] — Greg Jennings, Devante Parker, and Kenny Stills: 3 receptions, 11 yards. Rishard Matthews: 6 receptions, 115 yards. The Dolphins gave up so much to get these guys in the offseason, and it's two players who were already on the roster in 2014 making catches (Jarvis Landry and Matthews). But I'm not here to complain about Miami's pass attack. I'm here to complain about the ground game, which produced 42 yards — only 19 from running backs — and zero first downs. You can't blame that on Ndamukong Suh.

20. Philadelphia Eagles [17] — In 2011, the Eagles overhauled a division-winning team, but the resulting "Dream Team" faltered to an 8-8 finish and missed the playoffs. This year, Chip Kelly waved goodbye to his starting quarterback, lead running back, top receiver, and both starting guards. The new offense looks putrid. Sam Bradford has never been a good pro QB, but it is shocking how awful he's been. Maybe they should have kept Tim Tebow instead. DeMarco Murray has 21 carries for 11 yards. Jordan Matthews got all his catches in garbage time, and Nelson Agholor has been a non-factor. The offense is totally out of sync. Injuries are becoming a problem, as well: linebackers Kiko Alonso and Mychael Kendricks both left Sunday's game with injuries, and all-pro left tackle Jason Peters clearly isn't 100%.

I have nothing positive to say about Bradford's performance, but everyone seems to blame him for the lost fumble in the fourth quarter: "he wasn't ready for the snap." Watch the play; no one was ready for the snap. That one is on center Jason Kelce, not on Bradford.

21. Washington [29] — The NFC East is suddenly wide open. I think the Cowboys are still the favorites, but they're missing their two biggest stars — probably for a couple of months — and they have the hardest schedule in the division. The Eagles and Giants are both 0-2, and suddenly it looks like Washington could have a real shot at winning the division. Washington leads the NFL in rushing offense and total defense, and Kirk Cousins is a good QB if he limits his turnovers. Cousins had the highest net yards per attempt in the NFL last year (min. 100 att.), even higher than Aaron Rodgers.

22. Cleveland Browns [25] — Let's chill the Johnny Manziel hype a little. He completed only 8 passes, got sacked on 12% of his attempts, fumbled twice, and rushed for 1 yard. Now, if you want to get excited about Travis Benjamin (50-yd TD rec, 60-yd TD rec, 78-yd PR TD), go right ahead.

23. San Francisco 49ers [23] — Flipped the script from Week 1. Their defense played as badly against Pittsburgh as it did well against Minnesota, giving up six offensive touchdowns. Colin Kaepernick looked good (106.7 passer rating, no turnovers, 51 rushing yards), but Carlos Hyde was blah (43 yds, 3.1 avg) before exiting the game with an injury. Indications are that the injury was not serious, and Hyde should be fine for Week 3. Down 29-3 at halftime, there was no reason to risk Hyde in the second half.

24. Minnesota Vikings [28] — Ten penalties for 97 yards ... and 5 Detroit first downs. Let's count these up:

1] Offside on 3rd-and-5
2] Defensive holding on 2nd-and-10
3] Defensive pass interference, nullified an interception
4] Illegal use of hands, turned 4th-and-8 into a first down
5] Defensive holding on 3rd-and-10

That doesn't include Detroit's longest gain of the day, a 9-yard scramble by Matthew Stafford, plus a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Anthony Barr.

25. Detroit Lions [16] — Matthew Stafford got banged up, and although it doesn't appear that he's likely to miss any games, it sounds like he's going to miss some practice time. Last week's hero, rookie RB Ameer Abdullah, carried six times for 9 yards. Stafford was the Lions' leading rusher (20 yds) in Week 2.

26. New Orleans Saints [21] — I think the Jimmy Graham trade made both teams worse.

27. New York Giants [27] — Led by double-digits in the fourth quarter of both games. The Giants obviously aren't good, but they've lost two winnable games. With small adjustments and better decision-making, they could be respectable. New special teams maven Dwayne Harris had a really nice game against Atlanta.

28. Tennessee Titans [26] — Marcus Mariota leads the NFL in passer rating (129.9) and sacks (9). Mariota got sacked seven times for 38 yards and 3 fumbles, two of them recovered by the Browns. He's shown some really good things already, but Mariota needs to get rid of the ball sooner. It's better for the quarterback and the team if a few of those sacks become incomplete passes instead.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars [32] — First September win since 2012. Their schedule is unfair. The Jags have three straight road games, then a Wembley-curse game, then a "home" game on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Teams tend to struggle the week before leaving for England, a phenomenon I call the Wembley curse. I think the NFL should give teams a bye the week before they play overseas, not the week after (if they really have to play regular-season games overseas at all).

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [30] — So, it turns out that one game was not enough to prove that Jameis Winston was a terrible draft pick and can't play in the NFL. This was their first win over the Saints in four years, ending a seven-game losing streak. They could have broken the streak in Week 17 last year, but they tanked and lost on purpose so they could draft Winston.

31. Oakland Raiders [31] — Over three-quarters of all survivor pool entries lost on Sunday, as the Buccaneers, Raiders, Jaguars, and Washington all won upsets at home. I thought I would include some cute device about how long it had been since Oakland and Jacksonville won in the same week (1959!), but it turns out it was Week 16 of last season. If you add the Bucs, though, it's Week 8 of 2010, almost five years ago.

The 2014 quarterback draft class went 4-0 on Sunday. Teddy Bridgewater's Vikings, Blake Bortles' Jaguars, Johnny Manziel's Browns, and Derek Carr's Raiders all notched their first victories of 2015. I'd say it's only about 50-50 whether there will ever be another weekend on which all four of those players win as starting QBs.

32. Chicago Bears [24] — Alshon Jeffery didn't play, and Jay Cutler left the game with a hamstring injury. Cutler was 8/9, with no sacks and a 116.2 passer rating, when the injury occurred. Expect a couple starts from Jimmy Clausen while Cutler gets well. The Chicago defense has no sacks and a league-worst 128.0 passer rating allowed.

Comments and Conversation

September 23, 2015

Debbie Brinkoetter:

How can you call Morten Andersen a strong candidate and put Nick Lowery on the “weak” list? That’s absurd! Particularly after the article just ran that clearly substantiates Lowery as the “Greatest Field Goal Kicker of All Time” http://www.footballperspective.com/the-greatest-field-goal-kickers-of-all-time-ii-part-iii-career-rankings/#comments
I enjoyed the banter between you and Chase Stuart in the Comments following, but as Chase pointed out, just because Morten had the opportunity to make 200 more kicks in his career doesn’t give him the edge. Lowery broke all of Jan Stenerud’s records when he played for the Chiefs and the stats clearly say it all. You also fail to mention the years Andersen kicked indoors on artificial turf for the Saints as compared to Lowery playing outdoors on grass…. Even Tony Kahn, Sr. VP (Football Technology & Analytics) for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and creator/manager of the statistical research department at the Fulham Football Club, supports Chase Stuart’s findings.

How ‘bout a correction? Nick Lowery clearly (statistically overwhelmingly) deserves to be the next/second kicker inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame — Andersen is an obvious third.

September 24, 2015


Brad, is there an archive of your work here at Sports Central? The WR series looks really interesting, it makes me wonder what else I have missed.

September 24, 2015

Brad Oremland:

Thanks for your comment, Debbie. Since you read my conversation with Chase, you know where he and I differ and why I wasn’t convinced by his argument. Morten Andersen did more to help his teams win than Nick Lowery, and I believe that if Lowery had played another seven seasons (to catch up to Andersen), their efficiency stats would look about the same.

WR, there’s no official column archive at this point in time, but if you enjoy the WR series, you might also want to check out The NFL’s Best Receiving Duos Ever and The Greatest NFL Triplets Ever. You’ve probably seen my lists of the best coaches and best LBs, but if not, I suspect that’s also the kind of thing you’re looking for.

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