NFL Week 1 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* Can we just go ahead and name Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb, and Tony Romo as the NFC's Pro Bowl quarterbacks? I don't think it's too soon.

* Is the NFC East the best division in football? Probably, but don't forget that Washington plays in this division, too. I think it's close between the NFC East and the AFC South.

* The concern with Aaron Rodgers is not whether he can play; he clearly can. The question is whether or not he can stay healthy.

* One reason the NFL is so hard to predict is the impact of injuries. Suddenly, the Patriots, Chargers, Colts, and Jaguars look kind of ordinary, and the healthy Steelers are the team to beat in the AFC.

* Mike, Mike, and Mike: best announcing team in Week 1. It's a shame we won't hear them all season.


Let's jump right into the first power rankings of the 2008 regular season. Rankings are for right now, Week 1 strength, and do not necessarily reflect the way I expect a team to perform over the entire season. The Colts, for instance, will probably get better later in the year, when they're healthy, but right now they're a borderline top-10 team.

1. Dallas Cowboys — They were my preseason Super Bowl pick in the NFC, and they absolutely dominated the Browns. Dallas had more than twice as many yards as Cleveland, and almost three times as many first downs. The Browns have a pretty good offense, and they only managed 11 first downs against Dallas. This team is a little scary.

2. Philadelphia Eagles — No one was more dominant in Week 1. Donovan McNabb was in MVP form, Brian Westbrook averaged 4.8 yards per carry, and the defense was great. Two things worry me here: one is McNabb's health, which is always a question. The other is the offensive play-calling. Andy Reid will always pass unless he has to run, and although it worked against the sorry Rams, that's no way to hold a lead in a close game. And playing in the NFC East, I think the Eagles are probably in for some close games. If you are any kind of football fan, do not miss Philadelphia at Dallas this Monday night.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers — I didn't think the Steelers were going to be very good this year; 9-7 and winning the AFC North, sure, but not a great team. Then they come out in Week 1 and destroy my AFC sleeper, Houston. Ben Roethlisberger completed 13-of-14 passes. Willie Parker had the game of his life. The defense was awesome: 5 sacks, three turnovers, 4.2 yards per pass allowed. I do wonder about their pass protection. Big Ben got sacked 47 times last year, second-most of any quarterback, and the Texans got to him twice this week on only 17 dropbacks. That could be a real problem when the Steelers face good teams.

4. Green Bay Packers — Everyone is talking about the terrific debut for Rodgers, and that makes sense, but Green Bay looked good in all phases of the game. The running game looked good with Ryan Grant (92 yards, 7.7 average), and the defense looked pretty strong, especially Aaron Kampman. The Packers had a field goal blocked, but they were awesome on kickoffs and Will Blackmon had a nice punt return TD.

5. New York Giants — Looked awesome in the first half on Thursday night — very serious contenders to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Then Washington started double-teaming Plaxico Burress, and the offense seemed to stop. Even without Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, the pass rush seemed strong, but run defense looks like a potential weakness.

6. Denver Broncos — Are they really the sixth-best team in the NFL? Probably not, but it's hard to rank them any lower after what they did to Oakland. The 6th-15th spots here are pretty tight, so there could be a lot of movement in this part of the Power Rankings. Jay Cutler in particular had a great game on Monday night, and Denver's passing game could be very hard to stop with Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal at wide receiver.

7. Tennessee Titans — This ranking comes with the same disclaimer as Denver's, and assumes that whatever is happening with Vince Young won't be a distraction. The dropoff from Young to Kerry Collins is probably non-existent, and the team is very excited about Chris Johnson at running back. The real story, though, is the defense, which absolutely dominated the Jaguars.

8. New England Patriots — Matt Cassel looked fine on Sunday, but is this still a top-10 team without Tom Brady? I think it probably is, for now. The offensive line is still there, and so are those great wide receivers. The defense is still pretty good, and the coaches still know what they're doing. The rest of the team needs to step up, but that can certainly happen.

9. San Diego Chargers — If you want to tie together the disappointing losses for three teams a lot of people thought might be Super Bowl contenders, look at injuries on the offensive line. The Colts and Jaguars had huge problems with their interior lines, and the Chargers were missing two Pro Bowl linemen on Sunday.

10. Indianapolis Colts — Everyone knows that all-pro center Jeff Saturday is injured. But so is their excellent left guard, Ryan Lilja, and their first pick in this year's draft, guard Mike Pollak. Trot out three backups in the middle of your offensive line, and you're going to have a long day trying to run the ball or protect your quarterback. Peyton Manning wasn't as efficient as usual on Sunday night, but the rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. I'm far more concerned about their run defense.

11. Buffalo Bills — Beat the Seahawks 34-10, mostly with great special teams and by making life very unpleasant for Matt Hasselbeck. If I'm playing Buffalo, I want to test that run defense.

12. Chicago Bears — Matt Forte looked great, but let's hold off on the Walter Payton comparisons for another couple of weeks. I remember we were all saying the same things a few years ago when Anthony Thomas was a rookie. The Bears' defense looked awesome, and that makes them a team to be reckoned with, but their pass blocking was awful on Sunday night. Kyle Orton did fine, but if his protection doesn't improve, he's going to struggle.

13. Jacksonville Jaguars — The whole middle of the offensive line is out, and it showed on Sunday, as their offense was totally ineffective. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combined for 31 yards and a 2.2 rushing average, while David Garrard suffered seven sacks, lost a fumble, and threw two interceptions. The Jags have a home game against Buffalo in Week 2, which could tell us a lot about both teams.

14. Minnesota Vikings — Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor looked great. Jared Allen was great in the first quarter, but disappeared after that. I don't know if he got tired, or Chad Clifton settled down, or what, but Allen had very little impact in the second half. Tarvaris Jackson looked great on his feet and not so great with his arm. I think this is a pretty good team, and it should contend for a playoff spot, but the problems are the same as last year: passing offense and passing defense.

15. Arizona Cardinals — There is a fine young defense here, and against San Francisco, it looked fine, but young. Four sacks, four fumble recoveries (one on special teams), and an interception? That's good. Frank Gore making you look like the JV? That's bad. And they need to start scoring TDs instead of field goals. How do you finish a game +5 in turnovers and only win by 10?

16. New Orleans Saints — Drew Brees and Reggie Bush were fantastic against a pass defense that ranked first in the NFL last season. But Brees committed two turnovers, and the offense seemed to rely on big plays, which aren't always there. The defense wasn't really tested against Tampa Bay, and I think there are still a lot of questions on that side of the ball.

17. Carolina Panthers — Should they be ranked higher than this after beating the Chargers in San Diego? Probably. If they beat Chicago in Week 2, I'll get them into the top 10. They need to pick up the pass defense, though, because Philip Rivers looked like Dan Fouts on Sunday.

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jeff Garcia was ineffective and his health is a question, but the real issue here is the defense. For the last decade, Tampa has won games with its defense, and on Sunday, the defense got burned, giving up six plays of more than 20 yards. There are some good young players on this defense, but I wonder if they're counting too much on older guys who are starting to slow down.

19. New York Jets — Brett Favre had a good game, but let's not get too excited about a six-point victory over a team that went 1-15 last season. The Jets had a very active offseason (and I'm not just talking Favre here), so they figure to be much better than the 4-12 we saw last year, and playoffs are a real possibility. But let's beat a real team — New England in Week 2, for example — before we start buying tickets for January.

20. Cleveland Browns — If this team is serious about contending for a playoff spot — which I don't think it will do — it needs to get a lot more production from Braylon Edwards. This may sound premature, but if the Browns don't beat Pittsburgh at home next week, I think they can forget about winning the AFC North.

21. Seattle Seahawks — All their wide receivers are out, and the offensive line, once the strength of the team, is — how should I put this? — not good. The defense can still play, but the offense is going to struggle. Look for them to bounce back at least a little against San Francisco in Week 2.

22. Houston Texans — The scoreboard says 38-17, and that's bad enough. But let's not kid ourselves here: it was 35-3 entering the fourth quarter. Houston got absolutely destroyed. Mario Williams picked up where he left off last year, with two sacks, but the offense was bad, and the run defense was terrible. I thought Houston might contend in the AFC South, but right now it looks like the Texans might not contend with anybody.

23. Kansas City Chiefs — Remember when they had the best offensive line in the NFL? Against New England, the Chiefs gave up four sacks and Larry Johnson averaged under 3.4 yards per carry. They're ranked here because the defense did okay.

24. Baltimore Ravens — I don't want to be negative after Joe Flacco's opening day win at quarterback, but this victory was all about the defense. They held Cincinnati to eight first downs (tied with St. Louis for worst in the league) and Carson Palmer had the worst passer rating of his NFL career. If this defense is in top form, the Ravens will be a test for everyone they play this season.

25. Washington Redskins — Jim Zorn is in way, way over his head. He is totally unqualified and unprepared to be a head coach at this level, and that showed on Thursday night. Jason Campbell looks the same as he always has (that's a bad thing). It appears that this team has all the same problems it did last year, plus a few new ones.

26. Atlanta Falcons — Rookie QB Matt Ryan had a good game, but the real star was Michael Turner, who ran for 220 yards against Detroit. Years from now, are we going to look back on the days when Turner was LaDainian Tomlinson's backup in San Diego, and compare it to the days of Steve Young backing up Joe Montana in San Francisco? Or are we going to look back on the 2008 Lions and say, "Man, they sucked?"

27. Miami Dolphins — Played with heart against the Jets, and that's something. Chad Pennington is a clear upgrade at quarterback, and they were only a couple of plays away from winning that game. But this team did not make any obvious improvements in the offseason, and I'm not confident that they can keep it up.

28. San Francisco 49ers — The defense did a nice job of keeping Arizona out of the end zone, but the offense is Frank Gore and a prayer. You cannot win without any wide receivers.

29. Cincinnati Bengals — Palmer was terrible (99 yards and an interception), and Chris Perry may have been even worse (37 yards, 2.1 average, lost fumble). When you have a terrible defense and rely on your offense, that offense needs to produce.

30. Detroit Lions — Look at it this way: Jon Kitna got sacked three times against Atlanta. But that means he's only on pace for 48 sacks this season, instead of the league-high 51 from last year.

31. St. Louis Rams — Steven Jackson is healthy, and they were supposed to be better this year. Well, on Sunday, Jackson averaged under three yards per carry, Torry Holt had 1 catch for 9 yards, and the defense might as well have been non-existent.

32. Oakland Raiders — They were never in it against the Broncos. It looked like a college team playing against a real NFL squad. The running backs, Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas, looked good, and Nnamdi Asomugha made some plays on defense, but that's about it. They got absolutely destroyed on the offensive and defensive lines.

Comments and Conversation

September 10, 2008


“Jim Zorn is in way, way over his head. He is totally unqualified and unprepared to be a head coach at this level,”
You know this from ONE game? Wow! Very impressive.

September 10, 2008

Andrew Jones:

I like how (for the most part) you weren’t over using week 1 results. This is particularly true with the Bears and Falcons. They looked great, but that won’t happen every game. However, there are a few teams that I feel were overrated. Philly at number 2 is just way beyond what I can agree with. The same is true of the Titans, I didn’t really think they looked all that great, not top of their division great. Also, the Broncos I think is a bit high. I know they looked good, but let us be serious…it was the Raiders.

September 10, 2008

Justin Shepherd:

Mike and Mike and Mike were atrocious…they broke every rule of broadcasting and there is a reason you wont hear them again this year…they were terrible.

September 11, 2008


The Dolphins “did not make any obvious improvements in the offseason,”??

Not saying they are play off ready but what about Long, Pennington, Ferguson, Starks, Langford and Merling (plus Ricky on the team and in shape)?

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