Tuesday, September 19, 2017
2017 NFL Week 2 Power Rankings
Dear readers: I'm technically on vacation this week, so there's an unusual format to this column. We'll begin, as always, with Game Balls and Five Quick Hits. Then you'll get my takes on the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame nominees, followed by a list form of my usual power ratings. The usual column format will return for Week 3; I hope you enjoy this week's edition in the meantime.
Week 2 Game Balls
Offense — C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos. Tom Brady played great in Week 2, but per longstanding column policy, performances against the Saints' defense are ineligible for game balls. Anderson had 154 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns against a Dallas defense that only allowed three points last week.
Defense — Chris Jones, DL, Kansas City Chiefs. Three sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception.
Special Teams — Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons. Went 4/4 on extra points and 2/2 on field goals, both from beyond 50 yards.
Rookie — Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs. Hunt didn't match his otherworldly debut in Week 1, but still gained 109 yards and 2 TDs against a tough Eagles defense.
Honorable Mentions — QB Tom Brady, ER Von Miller, PR Jamal Agnew
Five Quick Hits
* The crew at FOX, especially Kevin Burkhardt, seemed unaware on Sunday that the Chiefs and Eagles existed prior to Week 1. They were stunned, or at least pretending to be, that last year's 20th- and 22nd-ranked offenses, facing pretty good defenses, didn't produce a shootout.
* DeShone Kizer's migraine was the Browns' only chance to win on Sunday. He's borderline unplayable right now, and I suspect his career would benefit from getting benched, then re-entering the starting lineup later in the season or some time next year.
* Jemele Hill was right.
* Chargers kicker Younghoe Koo missed two of his three field goal attempts from inside 45 yards, one of them a sure game-winner, and the Chargers lost by 2.
* Survivor pool pick for Week 3: the New England Patriots, at home against Houston.
Pro Football Hall of Fame
This week, the NFL announced this year's nominees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They'll join two strong Senior candidates, Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer, plus a worthy Contributor nominee, Bobby Beathard.
There are 108 "modern" nominees this year, and it's an unusually strong class of first-year nominees. I've divided the nominees 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
Donovan McNabb, Tiki Barber, Herschel Walker, Ricky Watters, Isaac Bruce, Henry Ellard, Torry Holt, Randy Moss, Alan Faneca, Steve Hutchinson, Joe Jacoby, Kevin Mawae, Jeff Saturday, Richard Seymour, Ray Lewis, Sam Mills, Zach Thomas, Brian Urlacher, Ronde Barber, LeRoy Butler, Brian Dawkins, Rodney Harrison, Albert Lewis, Don Coryell, Clark Shaughnessy
I deliberately made this a group of 25, the number of candidates who will advance to the semi-finalist stage. This group includes an incredible seven first-year nominees (Moss, Hutchinson, Saturday, Seymour, Lewis, Urlacher, and Ronde Barber). Only four "modern" nominees can get in per year. The strength of this class creates a weird dynamic, so even though they're all strong candidates and I believe they'll all get in eventually, I think Lewis is the only lock this year.
Group 2: Borderline Candidates
Randall Cunningham, Roger Craig, Edgerrin James, Fred Taylor, Terrell Owens, Jimmy Smith, Hines Ward, Mark Bavaro, Mike Kenn, Tom Nalen, La'Roi Glover, Bryant Young, Cornelius Bennett, Clay Matthews, Karl Mecklenburg, Steve Atwater, Ty Law, John Lynch, Everson Walls, Darren Woodson, Brian Mitchell, Steve Tasker, Mike Holmgren, Richie Petitbon, Marty Schottenheimer
Terrell Owens was an extremely productive 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 25 borderline: almost half of the 108 nominees. That includes 2 QB, 6 RB, 7 WR, 1 TE, 7 OL, 3 DL, 7 LB, 10 DB, 2 special teamers, and 5 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, Corey Dillon, Sterling Sharpe, Rod Smith, Willie Anderson, Tony Boselli, Lomas Brown, Ray Donaldson, Bill Fralic, Jay Hilgenberg, Chris Hinton, Kent Hull, Nate Newton, Bart Oates, Steve Wisniewski, Leslie O'Neal, Michael Dean Perry, Simeon Rice, Neil Smith, Seth Joyner, Wilber Marshall, Eric Allen, Dennis Smith, Gary Anderson, Nick Lowery, Bill Cowher, Tom Flores, Chuck Knox, Dan Reeves
Twenty-nine 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. These are the very good players and coaches who, to me, fall just outside the PFHOF.
Group 4: It's An Honor Just to Be Nominated
Rich Gannon, Phil Simms, Earnest Byner, Eddie George, Lorenzo Neal, Donald Driver, Chad Johnson, the other Steve Smith, John Taylor, Ben Coates, Ferrell Edmunds, Jay Novacek, Matt Birk, Ruben Brown, Richmond Webb, Leonard Marshall, Keith Millard, Greg Townsend, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Carl Banks, Tedy Bruschi, Greg Lloyd, Willie McGinest, Joey Porter, Darryl Talley, Sean Landeta, Jimmy Johnson, Buddy Parker, Dick Vermeil
Almost 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.
The one exception, the guy who has no business even being nominated, is the Giants' Steve Smith. I guess someone confused him with the Steve Smith who played for the Panthers and Ravens, and who will be a legitimate HOF candidate when he becomes eligible. The other Steve Smith, the one on the ballot, had fewer receptions (245), yards (2,641), and TDs (12) than Peter Warrick, or James Thrash, or Patrick Crayton, or a hundred other guys you would never consider for the Hall of Fame. His success in the fan voting — about the same as Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt — probably indicates that most of the voters aren't paying real close attention.
Here are this week's abbreviated Week 2 NFL Power Rankings. Brackets indicate last week's rank.
1. Kansas City Chiefs 
2. New England Patriots 
3. Oakland Raiders 
4. Atlanta Falcons 
5. Green Bay Packers 
6. Denver Broncos 
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
8. Pittsburgh Steelers 
9. Seattle Seahawks 
10. Miami Dolphins 
11. Dallas Cowboys 
12. Tennessee Titans 
13. Detroit Lions 
14. Philadelphia Eagles 
15. Minnesota Vikings 
16. Baltimore Ravens 
17. Carolina Panthers 
18. New York Giants 
19. New Orleans Saints 
20. Jacksonville Jaguars 
21. Washington 
22. Houston Texans 
23. Los Angeles Chargers 
24. Buffalo Bills 
25. Cincinnati Bengals 
26. Arizona Cardinals 
27. Los Angeles Rams 
28. Chicago Bears 
29. Indianapolis Colts 
30. Cleveland Browns 
31. San Francisco 49ers 
32. New York Jets 
I have injury-related misgivings about five of the top six teams, and the sixth, Oakland, is a weirdly small favorite at Washington in Week 3 (-3).