Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NFL Power Poll Rankings of the 32 Best NFL Teams In The Land: Week One

It's Power Poll Rankings time, son!  Get your Jager and meet me under the bridge!

32. Kansas City Chiefs 0-1 (21): Lost 41-7 vs. Buffalo
The last time the Bills beat a team by 34, they won at San Francisco on December 26, 2004.  The 49ers team they beat finished the year 2-14 and got the first overall pick, which unfortunately they used to select Alex Smith.  If the Chiefs meet a similar fate, Andrew Luck will be a much better prize than Smith has proven to be for San Francisco.

31. Cleveland Browns 0-1 (23): Lost 27-17 vs. Cincinnati
A few quick thoughts from the Browns opening-day loss:

  • Why did they pass so much?  Colt McCoy attempted 40 passes, while Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty combined for only 22 carries.  Hillis only averaged 3.35 yards per carry, but his pounding style needs to be given a chance to wear a defense down, and 17 carries isn't enough to make that happen.  Hardesty, meanwhile, had a few nice carries, but the bigger positive was that he survived his first NFL game without injury.
  • McCoy showed both why he fell to the third round of the 2010 draft, and why some loons see him as a future franchise quarterback.  His short stature was a problem, as several of his throws were batted down or tipped at the line (defensive end Michael Johnson had 3 passes defensed), and I still don't think he has an NFL arm.  McCoy did escape trouble a few times with his feet, and his two best throws--a 56-yard bomb to Mohammed Massaquoi and a 34-yard TD strike to Ben Watson--came while he was scrambling around.  Unfortunately, the guts and moxie that so many (including myself) admire in Colt were absent in the final minutes of the game, when the Browns were trailing by only three yet could barely muster a first down.  The offense looked disorganized and scattershot, especially during a supposed draw on 3rd-and-long during which Hillis was pass-blocking and did not look at all ready to tote the ball.  This is probably due more to Pat Shurmur's newly-installed offense coupled with a truncated training camp than anything about McCoy personally, but it was still disappointing.
  • The success of the offense seemed to be 100% determined by how successful the run was on first down.  If the Browns found themselves in a 2nd-and-10 (or longer, given all of the penalties) situation, they might as well have just punted then.  As Football Outsiders notes, McCoy was awful on second down, going 3-14 for 24 yards and a sack.  
  • Evan Moore had a nice game, with 3 catches for 35 yards and a touchdown, but there were several balls that we have become accustomed to Moore coming down with that he for whatever reason didn't, and I can't help but wonder if missing the first one (I believe it was a fade that was slightly overthrown) got into his head.  Hopefully he can develop some better mental toughness and not let early mistakes affect him throughout a game. 
  • The penalties were atrocious, and brought back dark memories of the Romeo Crennel days.  Say what you will about Eric Mangini, but at least the Browns rarely ever shot themselves in the foot with flags on Mangenius's watch.
  • Punter Richmond McGee was replaced by former Chicago Bear Brad Maynard, and after McGee's horrific performance Sunday, it is well-deserved.
  • Greg Little is a special teams dynamo!
  • Obviously, I'm joking about Little, but if he doesn't unload the Madden Hit Stick on Josh Cribbs late in the fourth quarter, Cribbs probably takes that return to the house and wins the game for the Browns.  I mentioned this when I was watching the game, but if Cribbs is the Browns' best player (as it appears he may be again), it is going to be a very long year.
  • It's great to have D'Qwell Jackson back.  After a monster game (11 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble), I can see why the Browns stuck with him through his back-to-back season-ending pectoral muscle tears.
  • Joe Haden looked like the shutdown corner we all thought he would become, and then he forgot to lineup for a play (along with the rest of the defense) and got burnt for a TD by A.J. Green.  Other than the fact that this brainfart cost the Browns the game, it also tainted what looked like a coming-out party for Haden.  Let's just hope this doesn't shatter his confidence and turn him into Eric Wright from last year, as Haden looked like he was about to cry after the play.
  • The offensive line looks like it may be a problem.  Even Joe Thomas jumped offsides.  
  • I think every Cleveland fan would be best-served to just erase this game from their minds and countdown the days until the Browns get their first win in Indianapolis in forever (hopefully).

30. Denver Broncos 0-1 (18): Lost 23-20 vs. Oakland
For all the trade interest in Kyle Orton this past off-season, he sure was horrible.  Yes, he did surpass the 300-yard mark, but who didn't in week one (13 different quarterbacks passed for at least 300 yards, which sort of made this week feel like Opening Day in baseball during the Steroid Era)?  I watched Colt McCoy, Andy Dalton, Bruce Gradkowski, Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne, Orton, and Jason Campbell extensively, and Orton seemed to make more bad throws than the rest of the bunch combined.  Coupled with Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee combining for 25 yards rushing, Orton's struggles have me wondering how the Broncos are going to score enough to keep up with teams that don't start Campbell at quarterback.

29. Carolina Panthers 0-1 (31): Lost 28-21 at Arizona
Wow, I did not see that coming.  Cam Newton exploded against the Cardinals for an NFL-rookie-record 422 yards, although I feel like that is more of an indictment of the Cards pass defense than a harbinger that Newton is ready to be league MVP today.  The elation surrounding the emergence of Newton has been tampered down somewhat by the news that MLB John Beason, the cornerstone of the defense and one of the more underrated players in the league, is out for the season.  Just when things appear to be looking up for the Panthers, fate drags them back down.

28. Seattle Seahawks 0-1 (19): Lost 33-17 at San Francisco
The Seahawks stole games last year due to the outstanding play of their special teams, but after giving up a kickoff return touchdown and a punt return touchdown to Ted Ginn, Jr. in less than a minute, it appears that the only true advantage the 'Hawks possessed over opposing teams is gone.  I instantly regret picking them to win the NFC West.

27. Tennessee Titans 0-1 (16): Lost 16-14 at Jacksonville
Chris Johnson was held to only 24 yards rushing against the Jags, which may have been due to his disappointment that Adrian Peterson got almost as much money guaranteed as Johnson's entire new deal is worth.  It just goes to show you that hold outs almost never work out.

26. Indianapolis Colts 0-1 (13): Lost 34-7 at Houston
When I said the Colts had prideful veterans in my picks post, I was just wrong.  Nothing clever, and no excuses, I was just dead wrong.  I forgot that the Colts are not only losing an All-Pro quarterback without Peyton Manning, but also their offensive coordinator.  Even if Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne are as good without Manning as they are with him, they aren't going to be put in the best positions to succeed without Manning gesticulating and whooping it up at the line of scrimmage before every play.  The defense is also affected, as it is built to play from ahead, excelling in rushing the passer and sitting back in a zone.  Without the presence of Manning putting pressure on opposing offenses to have to score on every possession, the defense is over-worked, over-extended, and out-manned.  Teams have always been able to run on the Colts, but Manning always scored enough points to keep teams from relying on the run and forcing them to pass to keep up.  This could be a historically awful year in Indianapolis.

25. Miami Dolphins 0-1 (29): Lost 38-24 vs. New England
The good news: Chad Henne threw for 416 yards and 2 touchdowns, while adding 59 yards rushing and a TD on the ground.  The bad news: Tom Brady threw for ALL the yards, and ALL the touchdowns.  Despite the big numbers, Henne made several throws that just won't do for a winning NFL quarterback.  Reggie Bush ran like he had something to prove (especially after the man that replaced him in New Orleans--Darren Sproles--did everything Bush does better Thursday night), but finished with only 38 yards on 11 carries for his efforts.  I continue to believe the Dolphins just aren't very good.

24. St. Louis Rams 0-1 (24): Lost 31-13 vs. Philadelphia
There must be something in the Stickum in St. Louis, as Danny Amendola continued the disturbing trend of Sam Bradford's favorite receivers getting knocked out with bad injuries when he dislocated his elbow.  My biggest concern about Bradford's chances of success this season--his lack of quality receivers--is now exacerbated, and Bradford's own injured finger and Stephen Jackson's tweaked quad aren't helping matters.

23. Minnesota Vikings 0-1 (15): Lost 24-17 at San Diego
It looks like the Christian Ponder era will be starting sooner than expected, as Donovan McNabb looked Donesville against the Chargers (7-15, 39 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT).  Jared Allen did have an awesome interception in coverage, and Brett Favre and Brad Childress were nowhere to be seen, which was nice.

22. New York Giants 0-1 (10): Lost 28-14 at Washington
Jason Pierre-Paul looked like an absolute beast in place of Justin Tuck (6 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit), but the rest of the defense struggled against Rex Grossman and the vaunted Redskins attack.    The offensive line was a disaster, as Eli Manning was sacked 4 times and hit 7 more, and Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs were held to 73 yards rushing combined.  If performances like this keep up, Eli may soon be joining his brother on the sidelines.

21. Arizona Cardinals 1-0 (28): Won 28-21 vs. Carolina
While we all know the Cards secondary was gashed by Cam Newton, somewhat overlooked is how DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were held in check (56 combined yards, although I don't know how committed the Panthers were to the run considering Newton had more carries than Stewart).  Kevin Kolb had his fourth career 300-yard game in only his 8th career start, which is pretty amazing considering how much he checks down.  I guess it helps when you have guys like Early Doucet around to take those short passes 70 yards to the house.

20. Cincinnati Bengals 1-0 (32): Won 27-17 at Cleveland
Cincinnati had no business winning in Cleveland despite the 10-point deficit (Cedric Benson scored in the waning moments when the Bengals had already clinched the win), as their winning-score came on a play in which the Browns thought the Bengals had made a substitution and thus had time to reset their defense.  Other than the touchdown pass to A.J. Green that resulted from the Browns' goof and a Brian Leonard screen pass that preceded that play, Bruce Gradkowski looked awful in relief of an injured Andy Dalton.  Dalton will be back this week, which should be a huge relief for Bengals fans, which is not something I thought I'd be typing before kickoff on Sunday.

19. San Francisco 49ers 1-0 (26): Won 33-17 vs. Seattle
Alex Smith still sucks (15-20, 124 yards, with 53 of those paltry 124 yards coming on 2 plays), but so does Frank Gore (22 carries, 59 yards)?  Lucky for those two, Ted Ginn came to the rescue, first returning a kickoff for a TD, then forgoing any dangerous touchdown celebrations so that he could come back out one minute later and take a punt to the house.  The 49ers are still bad, but the Seahawks are apparently much worse.

18. Jacksonville Jaguars 1-0 (25): Won 16-14 vs. Tennessee
The Jags won as they often have under Jack Del Rio, ugly, running the ball 47 times for 163 yards and hoping that Kenny Britt didn't single-handedly beat them on broken plays.  Luke McCown didn't lose the game, but he also wouldn't have won the game if he had needed to.  Taking out Britt's fluky 80-yard touchdown, the Jags only gave up 212 yards to the Titans, which will win some games no matter how mediocre McCown is.

17. Oakland Raiders 1-0 (30): Won 23-20 at Denver
I forgot how fast Darren McFadden is.  Wow, did he look good Monday night.  Another supposedly-fast Raider--Darius Heyward-Bay--did not look so good, messing up his footwork on the sideline and landed out-of-bounds to cost himself a big gain, and then being easily caught in space on an attempted screen.  He may be fast as a minute in the 40, but he did not look explosive or particularly quick against the Broncos, which are probably more useful attributes on a football field than straight-line speed.  Matt Shaughnessey continued his quest toward becoming the next great obscure Raiders defender, recording a vicious sack of Kyle Orton and adding in 2 tackles for loss and a QB hit.

16. Buffalo Bills 1-0 (27): Won 41-7 at Kansas City
As mentioned in the Kansas City entry, it has been a little while since the Bills beat a team by 34 points.  The last time a Bills quarterback threw for 4 touchdowns, though, as Ryan Fitzpatrick did Sunday, was all the way back in...2010, when Fitzpatrick had 4 touchdowns in a 49-31 win over the Bengals.  That was actually Fitzpatrick's second four-touchdown game last season, as he threw four in a 37-34 overtime loss to the Ravens less than a month prior to the Bengals game.  Perhaps Ryan Fitzpatrick should have gotten more respect in my fantasy draft.

15. Washington Redskins 1-0 (22): Won 28-14 vs. NY Giants
SEXY REXY!  Grossman now has four career 300-yard games, and following the first two his average QB rating in the next game was 70.2.  This most recent one is actually his second consecutive, as he gashed the Giants for 336 yards in a 17-14 loss in last year's season finale.  Could this be the beginning of a new consecutive 300-yard passing game record?  Probably not.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-1 (14): Lost 27-20 vs. Detroit
Either Tampa is really bad, or the Lions are very good, because this game wasn't as close as the score indicates.  Mike Williams caught a garbage time TD with 1:35 left to bring the final margin to 7, and the Lions out-gained the Bucs by 116 yards and out-first-downed them by 8.  Without Aqib Talib's pick six in the first quarter, this may have been even uglier.  Still, I'm betting the Lions are just that good, and that Tampa Bay is still a solid team.

13. Chicago Bears 1-0 (20): Won 30-12 vs. Atlanta
Matt Forte loves to catch passes on opening day.  Last year, he snagged 7 balls for a staggering 157 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Lions, while this year the Falcons held him to only 5 catches for 90 yards and 1 touchdown.  I don't know how much this win means for the Bears, other than it will seemingly always be possible to be caught in their defense's buzzsaw in Soldier Field as long as Brian Urlacher is healthy.

12. Dallas Cowboys 1-0 (12): Lost 27-24 at NY Jets
Tony Romo is the perfect fantasy quarterback, since he always puts up big numbers, and then will every so often choke a game away like he did Sunday night, causing a team a large portion of America never minds seeing lose to do just that.  Why Dez Bryant was on the field when he was shuffling around with cramps or whatever he had is a question Jason Garrett needs to answer, but why Romo decided to try to force it to Byrant time-and-again anyway in the fourth quarter is a question not even God can answer.  The Cowboys still almost won when Mark Sanchez tried to out-Romo Romo, but the Cowboys defender Sanchez threw the ball right to following Darrelle Revis's interception dropped it.  Hopefully, the Cowboys can continue to put up silly fantasy numbers while simultaneously self-combusting all season.  (Also, there are a lot of former Browns on the Cowboys defense, which speaks well to the loyalty players feel toward Rob Ryan and should help when Ryan is being considered for head coaching jobs after the season.)

11. Detroit Lions 1-0 (17): won 27-20 at Tampa Bay
Yeah, so I guess Matthew Stafford is pretty good after all.  The bigger story than the Lions' offensive explosiveness may be their defense, which held the Bucs to 56 yards rushing and made Josh Freeman look very average.  I was skeptical of the Lions' playoff prospects, but following this week I think I'm a believer.

10. Atlanta Falcons 0-1 (6): Lost 30-12 at Chicago
The only good thing to come out of this game for Atlanta was Michael Turner's gaudy 10 yards per carry average (100 yards on 10 attempts) and his emergence in the passing game (3 catches, 40 yards, shattering his previous career-high of 30 yards receiving).  I guess those Greatest Show On Turf comparisons were a little premature, to which I say Lose, Baby, Lose!  Can you imagine how great it will be when the Browns have the first and second overall picks next April?

9. Pittsburgh Steelers 0-1 (3): Lost 35-7 at Baltimore
The Steelers haven't lost by as much as 28 points since they were shellacked 37-7 by the Cowboys on Opening Day in 1997, so this is definitely uncharted territory for Mike Tomlin and this current crop of Steelers.  I would say it would be interesting to see how they respond, but Seattle is coming to town this Sunday, so Pittsburgh should be able to wash the taste of this past Sunday's beatdown rather easily.

8. San Diego Chargers 1-0 (8): Won 24-17 vs. Minnesota
Considering Donovan McNabb threw for 39 yards, it's kind of amazing the Vikings only lost by seven.  How could this be?  Well, the Chargers spent no time letting everyone know they will still suck on special teams, allowing Percy Harvin to return the opening kickoff and losing their kicker to a ruptured Achilles's tendon on the play.  Two Phillip Rivers interceptions didn't help, but this game was never really in doubt despite the final margin.  The Chargers showed why they're the favorites to easily win their division, while also showing why they aren't considered serious Super Bowl contenders despite their oodles of talent.

7. New York Jets 1-0 (7): Won 27-24 vs. Dallas
The Jets deserved to lose Sunday night, but they usually deserve to lose most of the games they win.  It's gotten to the point where Jets' wins are beyond lucky, as they seem to have found the formula to consistently win close games.  I know this probably means they'll lose by 3 this Sunday despite out-gaining Jacksonville by 400 yards, just to put me in my place for thinking winning close games is a skill.

6. Philadelphia Eagles 1-0 (5): Won 31-13 at St. Louis
Mike Vick was pretty average as a passer in St. Louis (14-32, 187 yards, 2 TD), but because he's Michael Vick, he ended up having a pretty good game (10 carries, 98 yards).  The real star was LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 122 yards and one touchdown on only 15 carries while also catching a touchdown pass.  It will be interesting to see if Andy Reid remembers how potent McCoy is in a closer game, or if he falls in love with the pass and forsakes the running game as he has every season since FOREVER.  The new look secondary wasn't tested much due to injuries to Sam Bradford and Danny Amendola, but the rushing defense was somewhat gashed, first by Stephen Jackson, and then by Cadillac Williams, which has to be a little concerning.

5. Houston Texans 1-0 (11): Won 34-7 vs. Indianapolis
Sunday was one of those games where it's hard to tell how good the Texans actually are and how much the Colts just really, really suck.  The pass defense will be tested a bit more this Sunday in Miami, where Chad Henne is enjoying the benefits of the prolific Brian Daboll offense.  One frightening thing is how well Ben Tate runs, which means the Texans could conceivably run the ball 70 times between Tate, Arian Foster, and Derrick Ward and probably be just fine.

4. New Orleans Saints 0-1 (2): Lost 42-34 at Green Bay
If Thursday really is a preview of the NFC Championship as I predict it will be, January can't get here soon enough.  Similar to how the Colts' shittiness makes it hard to tell how good the Texans are, the Packers offense makes it difficult to tell how bad the Saints' defense is (and vice versa, too).  Week one of Mark Ingram: Touchdown Machine was a profound disappointment.  Bring back the Deuce!

3. Baltimore Ravens 1-0 (9): Won 35-7 vs. Pittsburgh
Similar to the previous two teams, it is difficult to tell if the Baltimore pass rush is back (4 sacks, 5 QB hits, 2 QB fumbles), or if those gaudy numbers are due to Pittsburgh's horrible offensive line and Ben Roethlisberger's penchant for holding onto the ball too long (or not long enough, in the case of the fumbles).  Ray Rice looks like he's ready to take the league by storm, and Joe Flacco didn't seem to miss Derrick Mason or Todd Heap much.

2. New England Patriots 1-0 (4): Won 38-24 at Miami
The Pats' defense was pretty terrible in Miami (488 yards allowed), but when Tom Brady is playing at the level he was at Monday night, it doesn't really matter.  It does have to be a concern that the Dolphins moved the ball so well, but offensive coordinator Brian Daboll may just have Bill Belichick's number (Daboll was the offensive coordinator in Cleveland during last year's 34-14 drubbing of the Pats by the Browns).  New England fans better hope so, because it might get scary what Philip Rivers does to that defense this weekend.

1. Green Bay Packers 1-0 (1): Won 42-34 vs. New Orleans
The Packers would have probably beaten the Saints by 20 if Drew Brees wasn't so brilliant.  Aaron Rodgers could do pretty much anything he wanted to for most of last Thursday night's game, and James Starks seems to be on the precipice of taking over for Ryan Grant full-time (which is a good thing).  Add in Randall Cobb and the return game, and a defense that will shutdown 28 quarterbacks not named Brady, Brees, or Rivers, and you still have the favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

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