Week 1 in the NFL is in the books, so it’s time to unveil my first power rankings piece for the 2012 NFL season. If you disagree, or just want to give your team a shout out, comment in the section below this article.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars – In a battle for the worst team in the NFL, the Jaguars blew a fourth quarter lead and lost to the Vikings in overtime. It was an unfortunate end for the Jags, who took the lead with 20 seconds to go, only to let Minnesota get in field goal range and send the game to the extra period. I thought the Jaguars were one of the worst teams going in this season, and nothing about Sunday changed my mind.
31. Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins got hammered by the Texans on the road, but that shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise. The Dolphins will be lucky to win four games this season. They are in a complete rebuilding mode and it will show in the standings. Joe Philbin may be the right guy for this job, but it is going to be a process with Ryan Tannehill.
30. Minnesota Vikings – So Adrian Peterson is back, but that doesn’t change all the other issues with the Vikings. The fact that they struggled so mightily to beat the Jaguars should tell you everything you need to know about them.
29. Cleveland Browns – I didn’t think it was possible to look so good defensively and so God-awful offensively in the same game. The Browns defense put a clinic on Michael Vick and the Eagles, forcing five turnovers. However, the Browns offense looked just as embarrassing as Brandon Weeden finished the game with a QB rating in the single digits. The Browns have a long way to go.
28. Indianapolis Colts – The Colts did not get the best debut from Andrew Luck, but he showed flashes of being ahead of the game as a rookie. He got reasonably rattled by the Chicago Bears’ home crowd and the stifling defense, but I truly believe Luck will be the next great Pro Bowl quarterback based on some of the things I saw. Coby Fleener also looked good at times.
Unfortunately, the defense was atrocious and got the ball ran down their throats. Add to that Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery dominating, and it was just not a great day from the defense, other than the pick-six early in the game. It will be a long year for the Colts again.
27. Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks lost a close game to the Cardinals on the road, but Russell Wilson looked solid in his rookie debut. He wasn’t as sharp as he was in the preseason, but the Seahawks have to feel comfortable about their future.
26. Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals may have lost their starting QB to an injury yesterday, but Kevin Kolb threw the go-ahead touchdown and may have confidence moving forward. He was able to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald on their scoring drive and Kolb could get the start in Week 2.
25. Buffalo Bills – The Bills got waxed by the Jets, allowing 48 points to a team whose first team offense didn’t score a touchdown in the preseason. After making improvements to the defense in the off-season, it was definitely not the type of effort they expected in the opener. The Patriots would score 60 if the Bills played like that every week.
24. St. Louis Rams – The Rams played a tough game against a very good Lions team on the road, losing a heartbreaker in the final seconds. Jeff Fisher will have this team competing, if not this year than very soon.
23. Tennessee Titans – I was much higher on the Titans than most were to start the season, but they got bounced by the Patriots pretty badly at home. They haven’t fixed their issues on defense and Chris Johnson is still struggling. I thought they were a wild card contender before the season, and they have to do some serious convincing to keep me thinking that way.
22. Carolina Panthers – I didn’t think there was any way the Panthers would lose to the Bucs, but such is life when making NFL predictions. It is Week 1 and you never know what can happen, but offensively the Panthers really struggled and it looked like Cam Newton took a step back. The good news is the defense played well, but they need to get both sides on the same page if they are going to challenge Atlanta for the division.
21. Oakland Raiders – The Raiders took pretty much the entire game to score a touchdown, so it’s not looking good for the supposedly improved offense. Carson Palmer struggled and the Chargers defense held Darren McFadden in check. The Raiders defense was not bad, as they forced five field goals, but the offense did not hold up their end of the bargain. I still believe this is a near .500 team.
20. Cincinnati Bengals – Despite getting dominated by the Ravens, I do not think it is all bad for the Bengals. I still like their defense, running game and one-two combination of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Bucs started the season off right in the Greg Schiano era by getting a win against a division rival. They slowed down the explosive Cam Newton and made him look every bit as human as he is. The defense allowed an astonishing 10 rushing yards to the Panthers, setting a franchise record, and picked off Newton twice. Things are looking up for the Bucs, but they have a big match-up with the Giants next week.
18. San Diego Chargers – The Chargers got the win against the Raiders, but it was not pretty. Still, winning in the division on the road is not an easy task, and the Chargers have to feel good about struggling in the red zone and still coming away victorious.
17. Kansas City Chiefs – I still believe in the Chiefs despite them giving up 40 points to the Falcons. They had a bunch of defensive players out with injury and could not keep up on offense. Jamaal Charles looked good in his first game back off ACL surgery, but Matt Cassell made a couple crucial mistakes and the offense sputtered in the second half.
16. New Orleans Saints – I’m down on the Saints this year because of all the issues they are dealing with, but they could recover from those if Jonathan Vilma is able to play this season. The suspensions handed down to Vilma and Will Smith have been reversed in an appeal, and while Smith played in the game against the Redskins, Vilma was not ready. He makes all the difference for that defense as he makes on-field adjustments and is a terrific leader.
15. Detroit Lions – The Lions shocked a lot of people with the way they struggled with the Rams at home. They were able to pull out the win, which all that should matter to them, but style points count in my Power Rankings. Matthew Stafford had a terrible game and should feel lucky they got the W.
14. Washington Redskins – I’m not sure things could have gone any better for the Redskins in their season opener. Robert Griffin III played lights out in his debut, becoming the first rookie QB to pass for over 300 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in his first ever start. He had a perfect quarterback rating for much of the game. Things are looking up in Washington, but that had a lot to do with the Saints being an average team this year. I’d reserve judgment until they pull off a couple more wins.
13. New York Jets – The Jets absolutely crushed the Bills in the opener, displaying offensive power most believed they didn’t have (including myself). Mark Sanchez erased any questions that he is the starter, for now, and hooked up with rookie Stephen Hill for a couple scores. Hill looks to be the real deal, and it was exactly the type of effort the Jets needed to silence their critics.
12. New York Giants – The Giants looked absolutely awful in all facets (besides special teams) against the Cowboys, but a lot of that had to do with the amount of injuries they sustained prior to the game. Losing three of your top four corners is not easily overcome. Still, the offensive line needs work and the defensive line struggled in the second half.
11. Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles did not look good against the Browns on Sunday. They turned the ball over five times and only won because the Browns were even worse offensively than the Eagles were. For some reason, Andy Reid still refuses to let LeSean McCoy carry them, and when he finally did, they were able to score a game-winning touchdown late to avoid the upset. This could have been an aberration, but Eagles fans should not feel confident moving forward.
10. Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys did not get much of a chance to beat the Giants on opening night from the national media, but they took advantage of a depleted Giants secondary and Tony Romo got a signature win the Cowboys can build off of.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers were beaten by the Broncos on the road on Sunday night, but played a pretty good game overall. One big mistake by Ben Roethlisberger at the end of the game made the difference, but with no Ryan Clark it was a different Steelers defense. They will still be a contender and probably win their division.
8. Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons looked dominant offensively against the Chiefs and got it together defensively in the second half, holding to Chiefs scoreless until five seconds left in the game and the contest was over. Julio Jones is making everyone forget how much the Falcons gave up to get him, and they look like the favorites to win the division, for now.
7. Baltimore Ravens – I actually picked the Ravens to finish 9-7 this year, but after they routed the Bengals I may be changing my tune. They looked every bit as dominant as they were a year ago and showed no signs that they would miss Terrell Suggs this year. Joe Flacco was masterful with the no huddle offense.
6. Denver Broncos – It was good to see Peyton Manning back, but more importantly he looked like his old self as he picked apart the Steelers defense in the second half. Peyton is still Peyton, which is good news for Broncos fans. The defense played well and Tracy Porter will probably get defensive player of the week for his performance. He ended the game when he picked off Roethlisberger and took it to the house.
5. Chicago Bears – The Bears came into this season making a ton of improvements on paper, and they showed against the Colts. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall picked up where they left off while together in Denver, and rookie Alshon Jeffery made an impact in his debut. The Bears should challenge the Packers for the division, and it should not shock anyone if they win the North.
4. Green Bay Packers – The Packers should not feel that bad about getting beat by the 49ers, but they were out of this for most of the contest. The defense has issues it needs to fix and the offense was not as dominant as a year ago. Much of that had to do with the 49ers being possibly the best defensive team in the league, but I expected a much better effort from the Packers offensively.
3. New England Patriots – The Patriots crushed the Titans on the road, proving to me that I should always trust them in the regular season. I did not pick them to lose, but I said all week it wouldn’t surprise me if the Titans kept it close or even won. Boy was I wrong. The offense is still dominant and the defense held Chris Johnson to four yards rushing.
2. Houston Texans – It took a while to get going, but the Texans routed the Dolphins and made rookie QB Ryan Tannehill look awful in the process. He threw three picks and the Texans scored three touchdowns off of them, all in an incredible 1:46 stretch at the end of the second quarter. The Texans are my pick to win the AFC this season.
1. San Francisco 49ers – Winning on the road is not easy. Winning at Lambeau Field is not easy. Making Aaron Rodgers look human is not easy. The 49ers did all three of these things on Sunday, making my Super Bowl prediction look pretty good in the process.