L.G. Patterson/Associated Press
Football is back—and these games actually count.
After one week of play, which teams were underrated or overrated? That’s what the first few weeks of power rankings are all about—making corrections from preseason expectations to regular-season realities.
Injuries were the major storyline of the week as key players exited in nearly every game. Cam Newton was out, Derrick Johnson and Evan Mathis were taken off the field, Jake Matthews and Jadeveon Clowney each left their first pro game with injury and in Cincinnati and Jacksonville, Vontaze Burfict and John Cyprien got banged up.
There were also big comebacks from Miami, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. In short, Week 1 did not disappoint.
Ready to find out which teams are moving up and which teams earned a move down this week?
This Week: 32
Last Week: 29
Jay Gruden’s team looked awful in the season opener, handing the Houston Texans their first win in 15 games. The offense, Gruden’s specialty, was ineffective as the offensive line was routinely beaten by J.J. Watt. But that will happen when your play calls for a tight end to block the game’s best defensive lineman one-on-one.
Turnovers and missed opportunities in the red zone killed the team’s chances on Sunday, and moving forward against a tough Jacksonville Jaguars team, it has to be better.
Washington moves down three spots this week thanks to its six points scored and the fact that it dropped the opener to the team with the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft. The Texans have a good defense, but their offense is very beatable, and Washington couldn’t get anything going on either side of the ball.
This Week: 31
Last Week: 25
The St. Louis Rams’ loss to the Minnesota Vikings was about as ugly as it can get. The team lost its starting quarterback, Shaun Hill—who is the backup quarterback—and couldn’t find any rhythm on offense. Even the Rams’ vaunted defensive front four struggled to do enough to slow down Matt Cassel and the Minnesota offense.
Jeff Fisher’s seat is getting hotter, and an embarrassing Week 1 loss like this won’t help. With or without Sam Bradford and Hill, the Rams were just off on Sunday. The run game couldn’t get started because of the scoring deficit, and the defense couldn’t keep up with Cordarrelle Patterson or Kyle Rudolph.
The 2014 season could be a rough one in St. Louis, and Fisher may not be around to use (or trade) another high draft pick.
30. Oakland Raiders (0-1)
This Week: 30
Last Week: 32
The Oakland Raiders played well enough to earn a move up in the rankings this week, even in defeat.
Rookie quarterback Derek Carr did some nice things in his first start, but Rex Ryan‘s defense chipped away at him in the second half and got the pressure up front to turn the tide on this game. Still yet, the Raiders can walk away from this contest with positives on offense.
The defense was not great but did get big plays from Charles Woodson and Sio Moore. With expectations low in Oakland, even a close loss is something this team can build on. That’s why the Raiders are moving up this week.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)
This Week: 29
Last Week: 24
What the heck happened to the Kansas City Chiefs?
One season after a stunning playoff run, the Chiefs lost at home to the Tennessee Titans in their opener. The Chiefs could do nothing up front, as they have three starters gone on the offensive line to free agency and another (Donald Stephenson) out due to a suspension.
And after a quick scoring deficit, their best offensive playmaker, Jamaal Charles, was held to just seven carries for 19 yards.
Alex Smith will be criticized, but there are colleges with more talent in their wide receiver corps right now. With Dwayne Bowe coming back in Week 2, the Chiefs offense should be better. But losing Mike DeVito and Derrick Johnson to Achilles injuries will be devastating for a defense that’s already weak in the secondary.
The loss to Tennessee and the losses of Johnson and DeVito mean a big move down this week.
This Week: 28
Last Week: 31
Bill O’Brien’s first NFL game as a head coach resulted in a big 17-6 win over Washington and its new head coach, Jay Gruden. In their first victory of the year, the Houston Texans played the type of football O’Brien hoped to bring to the franchise.
J.J. Watt was unstoppable for the Texans, as was linebacker Brooks Reed in attacking quarterback Robert Griffin III, who was behind a bad offensive line. The show was Watt’s and Reed’s to steal, with the rookie Jadeveon Clowney held to little impact before he left with injury, and they did just that.
The Texans offense wasn’t asked to do much in this one, but the team will gladly take a victory and some positive momentum.
27. Cleveland Browns (0-1)
This Week: 27
Last Week: 28
The Cleveland Browns did not win Mike Pettine’s first game as head coach, but they played damn good football after falling behind to the Pittsburgh Steelers early. It would take a last-second field goal from Pittsburgh to secure the 30-27 win after the Browns clawed back in the second half.
The Browns can take away many positives from this game—rookie running backs Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West looked very good, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz played very well now that he’s healthy and Brian Hoyer shook off early struggles to lead what was almost a comeback win.
The secondary struggled against a good Pittsburgh passing game, but the fight of this team was impressive after early struggles on both sides of the ball.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)
This Week: 26
Last Week: 26
If you believe in moral victories, or first-half victories, the Jacksonville Jaguars should move way up in the rankings this week.
Beating the Philadelphia Eagles for three quarters wasn’t enough to move the Jags up, though, and the team’s red-hot start in Week 1 faded as the Eagles’ tempo and coaching caught up with it. Once the Jaguars’ pass rush stopped getting to Nick Foles, the quarterback was able to make plays against a secondary missing John Cyprien after injury (concussion).
The Jaguars can be very optimistic after this loss, as the team showed bright spots on both sides of the ball. Now it has to mature into a team able to close the gap and finish ballgames.
25. Tennessee Titans (1-0)
This Week: 25
Last Week: 30
The Tennessee Titans went on the road to Kansas City and dominated the Chiefs, 26-10, in one of Week 1’s most lopsided wins. The offense, defense and special teams were all impressive in head coach Ken Whisenhunt’s Titans debut.
Quarterback Jake Locker was an impressive 22-of-33 with two touchdowns in facing a secondary that will scare few teams. But the most impressive aspect of this game was the Titans’ ability to bottle up Jamaal Charles (seven carries, 19 yards) and consistently penetrate the Chiefs offensive line.
The Titans will have a tough time this season if they can’t generate more rushing yards, but the Week 1 win over a 2013 playoff team is a great start.
This Week: 24
Last Week: 27
The Buffalo Bills didn’t get a perfect day from quarterback EJ Manuel, but the second-year signal caller was more impressive against the Chicago Bears than at any point in the preseason. Manuel did enough to get points on the board—with his arm and legs—in a game no one expected the Bills to win.
Much of the credit can go to the Buffalo defense for its ability to pressure Jay Cutler into mistakes, especially in the second half. The Bills trailed early but rallied on defense and slowed down the Chicago offense once receivers Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and Brandon Marshall (ankle) were out of the game. That was the difference they needed to pick up the 23-20 overtime win.
The Bills move up three spots with the victory and have room to make another big jump if they can get past the Miami Dolphins in Week 2.
23. New York Giants (0-1)
This Week: 23
Last Week: 20
The New York Giants could not have expected their season opener to go like this. The Detroit Lions systematically took them apart on offense, on defense and in special teams play. The Giants will limp back to New York and attempt to prepare for an Arizona Cardinals’ pass rush that dominated in Week 1.
Eli Manning’s two interceptions, the absence of a pass rush and the huge plays from Calvin Johnson were too much for the Giants to overcome. And really, nothing went right in this game for Tom Coughlin’s team. The only good news is that they escaped with few injuries (Jason Pierre-Paul left the game with a stinger, but later returned).
This Week: 22
Last Week: 22
The Dallas Cowboys managed to shoot themselves directly in the foot in their home opener against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. Turnovers on offense and lapses in the secondary allowed the 49ers to jump out to a big lead early and coast to a 28-17 win.
Tony Romo’s three early interceptions cost the team the game, without question. Romo honed in on Dez Bryant far too often and was caught throwing into double and triple coverage by an opportunistic 49ers defense. A DeMarco Murray fumble that led to seven points didn’t help matters, either.
The Cowboys were never able to get going on Sunday, but the offensive talent on this team is still good enough to produce wins. For that to happen, though, Romo must be better.
The Cowboys do not move this week after watching the New York Giants struggle on Monday night.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
This Week: 21
Last Week: 14
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a trendy pick to make the playoffs this season, but they’re off to a bad start after dropping the opener, 20-14, to Carolina.
Losing to the Panthers, who were without Cam Newton, is not a good look for Lovie Smith’s squad in his debut as the team’s head coach. Quarterback Josh McCown struggled in his new home, and running back Doug Martin left with a lower-leg injury.
Nothing went right for Tampa in the opener.
This team looked disjointed on both sides of the ball. Chemistry is a big thing in the NFL, and without it even talented teams can struggle. The Buccaneers definitely did in Week 1, and they see a big move down the rankings after their loss and several wins from lower-ranked teams.
This Week: 20
Last Week: 9
The Chicago Bears entered Week 1 as a top-10 team, but a 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills causes a move down in the rankings.
The Bears’ drop isn’t as big as some might expect, but only because the loss was injury-fueled. The Chicago offense fell apart once Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall went down. The team couldn’t compensate for the offensive struggles with an already questionable defense and eventually fell in overtime.
As long as Jeffery and Marshall are back for Week 2, the Bears could once again play like a top team, but the Week 1 defeat has to result in a move down the board.
19. Minnesota Vikings (1-0)
This Week: 19
Last Week: 19
The Mike Zimmer era started off with a resounding 34-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams—and in typical Zimmer fashion, it was a straight punch to the opponent’s face.
Zimmer’s defense held the Rams down as St. Louis was forced to switch quarterbacks due to injury. His own offense was exciting and creative, getting wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson over 100 yards rushing and seeing tight end Kyle Rudolph become a terror in the red zone. All in all, you couldn’t ask for a better first game from Zimmer’s team.
The Vikings would normally move up thanks to the win, but clubs lower than them forced a neutral spot this week.
This Week: 18
Last Week: 23
The Miami Dolphins were one of the biggest surprises of Week 1 thanks to their 33-20 comeback win over the New England Patriots.
The Dolphins beat the Patriots by 13 points, but they completely frustrated Tom Brady in the second half and worked their will against the New England defense on the ground and through the air. Lamar Miller, Knowshon Moreno and Mike Wallace all had big games in the second half as the Dolphins rolled to a win over a team that’s supposed to be in the elite class of the NFL.
This is a big victory for Joe Philbin’s squad, especially after fans on Twitter were very critical of the team’s play in the first half. The Dolphins move up, and a Week 2 game against Buffalo leaves them with room to get to 2-0 in the AFC East.
This Week: 17
Last Week: 17
The Detroit Lions looked very good on Monday Night Football, but they were also facing a New York Giants team with huge holes on the offensive line and Eli Manning struggling to adapt to a West Coast offense. Are the Lions for real? We’ll know soon enough.
The good from this team was inspiring, as new coordinators Joe Lombardi (offense) and Teryl Austin (defense) dialed up the right play calls and schemes for their star players. We saw Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford working down the field plenty, and on defense Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and DeAndre Levy all had big nights.
To prove they’re for real, the Lions need to beat up a more talented team, but the Week 1 win is a good start.
This Week: 16
Last Week: 18
The New York Jets got a win in Week 1, and that’s always a beautiful thing. So why aren’t they moving farther up the rankings? A win over a team ranked No. 32 last week (the Raiders) isn’t really a big confidence builder.
The Jets did look good, and everyone should be happy with the way quarterback Geno Smith worked and directed this offense. The Jets were attacking and aggressive on defense, especially in the second half. The downside to that is they were facing a rookie quarterback in his first start (Derek Carr) and playing at home. Will this secondary be able to hold up against a more accomplished offense?
A win is a win, but the Jets’ victory comes with some criticisms and question marks.
15. San Diego Chargers (0-1)
This Week: 15
Last Week: 11
The San Diego Chargers lost an 11-point lead on Monday night and start the year 0-1. The offensive line was consistently frustrated, the defense was good in spots but leaky when it mattered, and Philip Rivers was pressured into mistakes as the game was on the line.
The talent in San Diego is good, but the team needs to shore up issues along the offensive line and figure out a way to get Ladarius Green more involved in the game plan while relying less on Eddie Royal in big spots. The hot start in Week 1 is encouraging, but the comeback from the Arizona Cardinals shows that the Chargers have plenty of work to do.
14. Baltimore Ravens (0-1)
This Week: 14
Last Week: 10
The Baltimore Ravens opened the season with a chance to avenge their 2013 season and smack the Cincinnati Bengals in the mouth. There were positive moments, but an opening-week loss to a division rival knocks the Ravens back both in these rankings and in the division.
Quarterback Joe Flacco was not impressive in the season opener and struggled with accuracy and ball placement throughout the game. He did seem to warm up and find targets better as the game wore on—and Steve Smith had a great ball thrown to him deep—but Flacco couldn’t execute against a Cincinnati defense that was missing its leader.
The Ravens fall not only due to the loss but also because of wins by lower-ranked teams (Atlanta, Carolina, Miami) and few losses from teams ranked around them. A bounce-back win next week is very possible.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
This Week: 13
Last Week: 13
The Pittsburgh Steelers opened the season with an impressive, dominant first half and looked to cruise to a win in the division…and then the Cleveland Browns came out from halftime ready for a fist fight.
The Steelers escaped the game with a 30-27 victory, but not before a serious challenge from a team few expected to keep pace with Mike Tomlin‘s ballclub. If you’re looking for positives, there were some, but the Steelers have question marks they must answer on defense after letting Brian Hoyer, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West do serious work against them.
Pittsburgh’s offense looks terrific, and the Steelers will have to rely on it heavily if the defense is not improved in Week 2.
12. Carolina Panthers (1-0)
This Week: 12
Last Week: 16
With Cam Newton standing on the sidelines nursing an injured rib, the Carolina Panthers beat a team many (myself included) predicted would have a big season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn’t keep pace, though, and Carolina won 20-14.
The Panthers looked good, but the game ball goes to rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The dropped passes at Florida State that caused Benjamin to fall in my rankings (No. 74 overall predraft) have been fixed thanks to Ricky Proehl’s coaching and the receiver’s hard work. Benjamin looks like a star in the making.
The Panthers defense remains impressive up front, and it was reigning Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly securing the win with a forced fumble with a minute and change remaining in the game to protect a three-point lead.
The Panthers move up this week, and with a healthy Newton returning soon they could be a fixture in the top 10 again this year.
11. Arizona Cardinals (1-0)
This Week: 11
Last Week: 15
The Arizona Cardinals trailed the San Diego Chargers by 11 points at one time on Monday night, but they clawed back on the strength of tons of pressure from the defense and the legs…yes, the legs…of Carson Palmer.
The game plan in Arizona was smart—even if it limited Larry Fitzgerald to just one catch—but it called for Palmer to find 11 different targets in the passing game. With the pass protection spotty, Palmer picked his spots and added 29 yards on the ground (the most in a game in his career).
Few expected the Cardinals defense to look so stout without Daryl Washington and Tyrann Mathieu, but it was excellent in the opener. And for that, the Cardinals are moving way up this week.
10. Atlanta Falcons (1-0)
This Week: 10
Last Week: 21
No team will see a bigger rise this week than the Atlanta Falcons. A win over the previously No. 4 ranked New Orleans Saints will do that for you.
It remains to be seen if the Falcons are truly back to their days of competing in the NFC, but they looked the part on Sunday. The Falcons offense rolled, with Matt Ryan carving up the Saints secondary—even with left tackle Jake Matthews going down to injury and Gabe Carimi pass protecting in his place.
The Atlanta offense was red hot on the ground and through the air, and nothing Rob Ryan dialed up on defense could slow it down. While the Falcons defense did struggle to stop Drew Brees, it held when it mattered and secured an 37-34 overtime win that few expected.
The Falcons are on the rise, but they must keep winning to stay near the top of the rankings.
9. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
This Week: 9
Last Week: 8
The Indianapolis Colts did not look good early on Sunday night, but the defense improved as the game wore on. They also have Andrew Luck and an explosive depth chart at wide receiver and tight end. That alone is good enough to make them a top-10 team, especially in the weak AFC.
The interior offensive line was terrible from the first snap and must be addressed moving forward. With newly signed A.Q. Shipley at center, the pass protection and run blocking were subpar throughout the night. Luck is a great athlete, but even he can’t succeed with so much interior pressure from defenses.
The Colts still look like a playoff contender, but to make serious noise there, the offensive line play has to improve. And still, the Colts were alive until the final two minutes in this game thanks to Luck and some surprising players on defense.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)
This Week: 8
Last Week: 12
The Cincinnati Bengals opened against the Baltimore Ravens with a chance to make a statement in the AFC North, and they did that with a 23-16 win over their rivals. The game was close all the way to the final minutes, but the Bengals secured a win over a threat to their division crown.
Andy Dalton and the offense looked sharp in the opener, but on defense they must find a better, more consistent pass rush. Losing linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a concussion hurt the team’s momentum on defense, but they need Geno Atkins and Co. to make noise on the defensive line moving forward.
The Bengals are 1-0 and clearly the class of the division right now, and for that they move up. But the schedule is rough for this team early. Cincinnati needs to keep winning to stay up high on this list.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
This Week: 7
Last Week: 7
The Philadelphia Eagles gave everyone the scare of the week when they fell behind the Jacksonville Jaguars 17-0 at halftime. Chip Kelly and Co. adjusted, though, and the Eagles shut out the Jaguars in the second half while scoring 34 points of their own.
There will be concerns in Philadelphia after watching Nick Foles struggle in the first half, but he redeemed himself in the second half. The bigger area of worry should be the secondary after fans watched Chad Henne and undrafted free-agent wide receiver Allen Hurns tear them apart in the first two quarters.
A win in Week 2 will quickly erase any doubts about this team, but the Eagles can’t move up after a scary first half against Jacksonville.
6. Green Bay Packers (0-1)
This Week: 6
Last Week: 5
The Green Bay Packers were embarrassed 36-16 in Week 1 as they traveled to Seattle to face the defending Super Bowl champs. It’s a good bet that they will not be the last team embarrassed on that field this season.
The Packers showed some positive signs, but the offensive line and defense were both concerning. Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews both played excellent football, but as has been the case too often, the defense struggled to adapt. Also, the decision to use Jarrett Boykin as a decoy against Richard Sherman didn’t pay off as the team was forced to play just one side of the field on offense.
The Packers are still one of the NFL’s most talented teams, and losing to the defending Super Bowl champs doesn’t equate to a massive drop in the rankings. That said, it’s clear there is a gap between a healthy Seattle team and a healthy Green Bay team right now.
5. New Orleans Saints (0-1)
This Week: 5
Last Week: 4
Week 1 was interesting for the New Orleans Saints, as they dropped a close loss to their division rivals from Atlanta. The offense was productive but struggled when the game was on the line. And Rob Ryan’s famed defense? It struggled throughout.
The Saints have the offensive firepower and the defensive playmakers to compete in every game they play this year, but the offense cannot struggle to close out drives, and the defense can’t let players like Levine Toilolo and Antone Smith beat them. Facing a team with a depleted offensive line, the Saints couldn’t stop Ryan’s offense.
Are the Saints still a top-tier team? Yes. Are they a serious threat to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC? Not right now, they’re not.
4. New England Patriots (0-1)
This Week: 4
Last Week: 2
There will be many people telling you that the New England Patriots are in sole possession of last place in the AFC East today—and they are. But that can all change next week. It’s a fun stat, but a meaningless one if the Patriots can get back on track next week.
What went wrong in Week 1?
The Patriots could not stop the Miami Dolphins’ pass rush, nor could they stop their run game in the second half. An early Patriots lead was slowly bled away by that run game and by the Miami defense. The Dolphins frustrated Brady continually throughout the game, even without key starters at linebacker and safety.
The Patriots must be better up front in Week 2, and their own defense must be better at pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run. It’s rare to see this team lose two in a row, though, so expectations remain high this week.
3. San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
This Week: 3
Last Week: 6
No one knew what to expect from the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 after watching them struggle throughout the preseason. What fans got was an impressive, decisive 28-17 win over the Cowboys.
On offense, the 49ers were breaking in a new center and playing backups at right guard and right tackle, but they were able to control the game on the ground and pick up big plays through the air. They were helped by a quick 7-0 lead off a Dallas turnover, but the performance by the offense is encouraging to those who were critical of the team’s exhibition performance.
The 49ers have holes, but they shut down a high-octane offense in Dallas without Aldon Smith or NaVorro Bowman and with Chris Culliver leaving the game early due to a concussion. The schedule is not friendly, but they looked like a top-tier team on Sunday.
With other top squads losing, the 49ers make a move back into the top three this week.
This Week: 2
Last Week: 3
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Denver Broncos were the AFC’s best team last season, and through one week they definitely look that way again.
The Broncos quickly came out and punched the Indianapolis Colts in the mouth on both sides of the ball. Nothing the Colts tried to do worked—at least in the first half. The second half was more balanced, with the Colts defense clamping down some. A win is a win, though, and this was on a night when Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware were both fairly quiet on the field. As the defense jells more, the Broncos’ front seven could be deadly.
It’s tough to imagine anyone topping the Broncos in the AFC in 2014, with Peyton Manning throwing the ball with even more velocity this year and still carving up defenses with his accuracy and decision-making.
1. Seattle Seahawks (1-0)
This Week: 1
Last Week: 1
The Seattle Seahawks were dominant in their Week 1 whipping of the Green Bay Packers at home. You couldn’t have asked for a better start for the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Seahawks stay firmly at No. 1 overall this week thanks to that defining victory, and because this is a team with so few holes. The offensive line depth is questionable, but that unit held up very well against the Green Bay defense. And with Percy Harvin and Marshawn Lynch making life miserable for defenses, the offensive line doesn’t have to be great for a long time in protection.
On defense, Richard Sherman was targeted zero times by Aaron Rodgers, setting the tone for what could be a boring year for the NFL’s best cornerback.