Greetings, readers! Week 2 is over, so it's time for another edition of the Rankings. I know it's a little late compared to last week; I'll try my best to get them out earlier in the afternoon next time. Still, there's a lot to look at, so let's get to it.
Before I get to the Rankings themselves, there are a number of stories that I thought I would highlight. I'm sure lots of other outlets have covered them, because they were big, but I wanted to impart my own point-of-view on them.
I think the first story to look at has to be the end of the Redskins @ Rams game. I'm sure you saw the replays; Josh Morgan made one of the dumber mistakes I've ever seen. He threw the ball at Rams DB Cortland Finnegan after a contentious play. He was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, a penalty that essentially sealed the win for the Rams. One could also look at the defense the Redskins played for most of the game; they made Sam Bradford look like an elite QB for the first time...maybe ever. The Rams played well, but without Morgan's mistake they probably have another tough loss on the heels of the Week 1 loss at Detroit.
Secondly, the Saints are 0-2. They're also the only team in the NFC to not have a win. It's hard to say that this isn't a referendum on the importance of the head coach, but it's not like the Saints have played sterling defense either. Also, Drew Brees hasn't played at an elite level yet. He's thrown INT's at inopportune times that have turned the tide against his team. That said, while their playoff chances have diminished, they have an opportunity to get back on track this week against Kansas City.
The Patriots were driving late in the game against Arizona when they got cute with the clock and decided to kick a game-winning FG instead of taking an easy touchdown and letting Arizona have the ball back. Now, we know that New England's defense has not been among the best in the league in the last couple years. In fact, they've kinda stunk out the joint, to be kind about it. So far in 2012, though, they look to have improved. Also, despite a generally poor effort throughout, Brady and co. were driving late. They did have a questionable holding call on Gronkowski that took away a touchdown, but it seemed that momentum was on their side. It seemed inevitable that a touchdown would happen. Instead, they ran out the clock and tried a game-winning FG that Gostkowski missed so incredibly that people are creating new words to describe how much it stunk. That decision is literally the difference between the Patriots being 2-0 and 1-1.
Speaking of 2-0 teams, it should be noted that there are only 6 unbeaten teams after two weeks. That number has been steadily decreasing since 2009, as well. The league has embraced parity. That said, there'll always be a couple bad teams that start off in the dumpster and don't rise above it. At least, I think there will be...it's difficult for me to predict what will happen in the NFL successfully. I already feel a little lost thanks to some of the things that have happened already.
Here are the Rankings for Week 2:
1.) San Francisco (2-0) [+2]
Aside from a garbage time touchdown, the 49ers defense looked nearly unbeatable Sunday night. Alex Smith had a couple drives at the end of the game that not only killed the clock but put points on the board when they needed them. Included in that was a nice TD pass to Vernon Davis. So after two games they've taken out two playoff teams and looked good doing it. I know it's too early to come to definitive conclusions, but one has to wonder...how far does this go? The 49ers were in the NFC championship game back in January, so another run like that doesn't seem far-fetched. But again, it's early. All I know is that I'd rather start off like this than not.
2.) Atlanta (2-0) [+3]
Home teams did unusually well this week. Atlanta has played exceptionally well in the Georgia Dome since Matt Ryan and head coach Mike Smith came aboard. So I guess it's not a huge surprise that the Falcons played well last night in taking out Denver. Of course, it helps that Peyton Manning threw three picks in the first quarter...but yeah. Atlanta's offense ran smoothly for most of the night, and their defense came up huge on the second-to-last Denver drive when Manning got sacked on 3rd down. That play won the game, I think. Atlanta now has a slight edge in the division; what I would look at in the next couple weeks is how they build off of this win, especially if they go on the road.
3.) Houston (2-0) [+5]
It's hard to say that I'm surprised by the Texans feasting on what looks like weaker competition at this point. Usually, they would have thrown a monkey wrench into their own machine and screwed up one of those games. Let's be honest, though, that division is theirs for the taking, and I'd be surprised if they even needed 10 wins to get it done. They head up to Denver in Week 3 and that should be a better test of their defense's abilities. So far, they're aces.
4.) San Diego (2-0) [-]
I guess I should have had the Chargers in last week. But I didn't, and they gave me a pleasant surprise. That's always nice. They're 2-0 based off of beating weaker competition; Philip Rivers has played quite well, though. He has to continue like this, keeping the mistakes to a minimum and tossing TD's to whoever's healthy enough to catch 'em.
5.) Arizona (2-0) [-]
Apparently, that victory against Seattle last week was worth more than I figured. And despite the boneheaded fumble against the Pats, things worked out and now the Cardinals are 2-0. If it sounds like I'm doubtful of Arizona...well, I am. I don't think they're playoff-bound, whatever the odds might say about 2-0 teams. I know, they have a good shot, especially given how some of the supposed "power" teams in the conference have performed thus far. But they still have to contend with the 49ers. Let's see how those games turn out before we "crown" Arizona prematurely.
6.) Philadelphia (2-0) [-]
The Eagles are literally getting just enough defense so far. Their margin of victory? Two points. I don't think Michael Vick can continue playing as wildly as he has and keep winning. It also seems unlikely that he'll play all 16 games at this rate, either. In any case, Philly's the ugliest 2-0 team out there. That sentiment may annoy their fans, but an objective viewer can hardly conclude otherwise.
7.) Pittsburgh (1-1) [-]
A defensive unit minus Polamalu and Harrison held the Jets to 10 points. After that 48 point explosion in Week 1, the Jets looked downright ordinary, and I would say that most of that has to do with the Steelers. It's become popular to say that defense has been legislated out of the league (and I'm assuming that because Michael Wilbon thinks it that other people agree), but the Steelers are one of the few teams that came to play on that side of the field. Yes, they got burned in Denver, but then they rediscovered their motivation at home against what looked like a heavily overrated team.
8.) Baltimore (1-1) [-4]
Another year, another Week 2 hiccup for Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Much like last year, when they had an utterly disappointing loss to Tennessee, Baltimore went into Week 2 high off a complete decimation and basically stunk up the joint. Now, I'll be a bit more kind and say that this loss was nowhere near as bad as the one last year against Tennessee. But the result is the same, isn't it? Joe Flacco once again proved that he's neither an elite QB nor a reliable one; he couldn't make the plays when it mattered. But the more surprising thing is the final Eagles drive that sealed the game: Michael Vick ran a QB draw and the Ravens were powerless to stop him. Really? That seems unexpected.
9.) New England (1-1) [-8]
I already took a look at the play that decided their game against Arizona. So there's really not much else to say. I guess the couple roster moves they made in the last day or two could have an impact. Or it could just be window dressing. All I know is that Brandon Lloyd looked more like another guy who wore 85 than the guy he was while playing in Denver and St. Louis last season. Also, the Pats offensive line isn't protecting like it usually does.
10.) Denver (1-1) [-8]
Three INT's in the first quarter. Yeah, that pretty much sealed it, even with a savant like Peyton Manning playing QB. They had a chance late, but a crucial drive-ending sack on 3rd down killed it. The Broncos made it close, but they continue to be a frustrating bunch, winning when they have no business doing so and losing games they ought to win. Even with the change at QB from a guy who couldn't throw to a guy that throws it as well as anyone in the last 15 years, Denver continues to be inconsistent. So now they host the Texans at home in Week 3, and your guess is as good as mine as to what happens.
That's all for this week. See you next week.
Three Games to Watch (Week 3):
Atlanta @ San Diego (FOX)
Philadelphia @ Arizona (FOX)
New England @ Baltimore (NBC)