Following a weekend full of high-calibre games, which included those that were closer than expect, and others which ended up a non-contest by half-time, these initial power rankings will be chopped and changed on a weekly basis as the season rumbles on. Looking at performance, momentum and potential success going forward, here are the Week One power rankings.
The 49ers managed to cement themselves as the best the league had to offer this weekend with a statement win over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. There were many questions surround the 49ers going into the 2013 season: Could Colin Kaepernick replicate his post-season form across a 16-game season? Could Vernon Davis finally emerge as a Top-3 tight end in the NFL? Will Anquan Boldin replace Michael Crabtree's production in the passing game? All three were answered with a definitive 'yes'. The 49ers look primed for another Super Bowl run this season, as Kaepernick begins to find his feet as a pocket passer.
Peyton Manning became the second quarterback in the history of the NFL, joining Brett Farve in throwing seven touchdowns in a single game, and oh by the way, without a single interception to his name as well, and he did it against the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Baltimore Ravens. With an abundance of offensive weapons at his disposal, Manning appears to be developing great chemistry with Wes Welker who made numerous catches in key situations on Thursday night. They appear to have found themselves a reliable tight end in Julius Thomas who is a perennial redzone threat, the Broncos are the team to beat in the AFC.
With a hard-fought win against the Carolina Panthers this past Sunday, Russell Wilson reminded us all once more what he is about, he can make plays from nothing, he can make all the throws, he can move up into the pocket and deliver a striker over the middle; Wilson is the real deal. Marshawn Lynch failed to get anything going against that underrated Panthers defensive front, which was able to penetrate that Seahawks offensive line on numerous occasions. The Seahawks face the 49ers in Week Two, their offensive line play will need to be much improved.
In a game which ended up closer than it should have been, the Patriots scrapped out a win against the Buffalo Bills, who surprised us all with their resilient offense. Tom Brady has a plethora of young receiving options who failed him, but found a reliable target in Julian Edleman, who could be set for an enhanced role going forward. Shane Vereen is a big loss for the next couple of weeks with a wrist injury, meaning Bill Belichick will have to put his faith in Stevan Ridley, who has a fumble returned for a touchdown. A flaccid run-game needs to improve going forward for New England if they want to make a deep play-off run.
5: Green Bay Packers
Although they lost in a shoot-out to San Francisco, there are a lot of positives to take from their performance. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are of a high-enough calibre to make up for the loss of Greg Jennings, both having impressive outings, and rookie running back Eddie Lacy was able to have a big enough effect to keep the offense as balanced as possible. Lacy showed his value on the goal-line pounding it in for a touchdown, Lacy will be a key factor in this offense, especially in the redzone.
Even though they suffered a surprise loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the Falcons are still the most explosive offensive unit in the NFL, however, the nagging ankle injury to Roddy White will be a problem in the short-term, and possible long-term if they mismanage the situation. Steven Jackson will prove his worth by the seasons end, and Tony Gonzalez can still produce at the highest level. This weekend was just a blip, expect the Falcons to win their division with relative ease.
The Bears are a very underrated team right now. An impressive win over the Cincinnati Bengals, who a lot of people think will win the AFC North this season, and were strong in all phases. The new Mark Trestman offense looks like it will be a success, Matt Forte looks like he will be more ivolved which can only be a good thing. The Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall combo looks as good as ever, and the Bears offensive line looks much, much stronger. Key Stat: Bears allowed zero sacks this weekend against a strong Bengals defensive front. That looks promising going forward. Their defense can still create turnovers with ease and make plays, the Bears will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
8: New Orleans Saints
With Sean Payton back in the mix in New Orleans, the Saints look primed for a bounce-back season following a disappointing 2012 campaign with a statement win against last seasons NFC runners up Atlanta Falcons. Drew Brees is as good as ever, and his receiving options all appear to be in good shape. Kenny Stills had an impressive debut in the Dome as the Saints managed to rack up 350+ yards in the air against the Falcons. Defensively, Rob Ryan has come in and shored up a suspect unit which held the explosive Falcons to only 17 points. If that trend continues, the Saints will win every game, they have the offensive firepower to put up 20+ points each week.
9: Cincinnati Bengals
It's easily noticeable that the Bengals are best team in the AFC North, and there is a case to be made for Andy Dalton and AJ Green being the best QB-WR tandem in the NFL, and speaking of Dalton, this is a make-or-break year for him. He has showed signs over the past two seasons of developing into a franchise quarterback, and now he finally has the weapons to put up big points. A hungry defense lead by Geno Atkins appears to be a force to be reckoned with league-wide, but need to be more disciplined. Rey Maualuga cost the Bengals an opening day win with a silly penalty late on, but the Bengals will be a play-off team this season.
The new-look Eagles offense blew everyone away last night against the Redskins, and Michael Vick looks set for a career year under Chip Kelly. The quarterback showed great accuracy, speed and decision making on Monday night leading his team to a maiden win. DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy couldn't have asked for a better fitting offense to their skill sets, with both having good performances. Their defense came on big especially in the opening stages of the game, forcing three turnovers. If they can continue to keep their offense on the field, tiring out opposing defenses, they could be a dark horse for a play-off run.
11: Baltimore Ravens
Their defense was torn apart by Peyton Manning in the season opening, allowing seven touchdowns to the future Hall of Famer. Their secondary missed too many tackles on receivers allowing for big plays, and they failed to apply enough pressure on Manning to put him off his game. That being said, they won't face Peyton Manning again, for now anyway, so I expect their defense to bounceback. Joe Flacco had an impressive game which was overshadowed by Manning's heroics, but they will need to rectify an inconsistent run game going forward.
A surprisingly tough outing which resulted in a winning start for Andrew Luck and the Colts, they proved that they still have the innate ability to grind out wins. Luck had another fourth quarter comeback victory and was phenomenal, fitting balls into tight windows, making smarter decisions when under pressure, Luck looked like the complete package on Sunday. Defensively however, there are a lot of question marks. The Colts were unable to stop an inexperienced Terrelle Pryor who ran all over them, and failed to create much pressure. This team will go as far as Andrew Luck can take them.
13: Dallas Cowboys
Looking like a balanced team against the Giants, able to run and pass the ball successfully, Tony Romo lead the team to a vital win against a division rival. I expect both Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray to have career years this season, along with Tony Romo who now has the confidence of the whole organization behind him. An underrated defensive unit managed to create several turnovers on Eli Manning and the Giants which ended up giving them the edge. Turnovers on defense will be key to their success.
14: Houston Texans
A slow start against the San Diego Chargers on Monday night raised questions about their play-off hopes this season, but they came on strong as the game went on. Running back Arian Foster remains the key to the offense, if he stays healthy, he will run for big yards in that zone system they run, as well as opening up the play-action game which Matt Shaub is very effective at. Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins will challenge defenses across the league, and Owen Daniels remains a reliable option at tight end. The return of Brian Cishing will have a massive effect on what was already a very strong defensive unit, as well as Ed Reed going forward. A lot of teams are sleeping on the Texans who are a genuine Super Bowl contender.
15: St. Louis Rams
An impressive come from behind win over the Arizona Cardinals with just seconds to spare was a sight to behold for the Rams. Since Sam Bradford became a Ram, he has had next to no weapons to work with on offense, and a questionable offensive line, but things have changed. Jared Cook is a legitimate tight end target, and Tavon ustin and Chris Givens are two talented young wide-outs who are big plays waiting to happen. A true sleeper in the NFC West.
The Redskins' defeat to the Eagles on Monday night was more to do with how good the Eagles were, than how bad the Redskins were. Caught out by the speed of both their offense and defense, by the time they had adjusted, the game was out of their control. They can only get better with time. RG3 needs to get back into the swing of regular football, both mentally and physically, and once he gets back into that groove the Redskins will again be the team to beat in the NFC East.
The Steelers have appeared to have fallen out of the play-off race at this early stage, mostly down to some unfortunate injuries, most importantly Pro Bowl centre Maurkice Pouncey out for the year with a torn ACL. The offensive line was bad with him, it will only get worse. Big Ben filed to get into any rhythm under centre, and the running game looks a total mess right now. Only when Le'Veon Bell returns to action will there be any sort of offensive production, but this is a team in transition, not a challenger.
18: New York Giants
Suffering a major loss to a division rival in Week One is never a good way to start an NFL season. Early turnovers proved costly for Eli Manning and the Giants who found no offensive rhythm, allowing the Cowboys to get off to a fast start, but there are some positives. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, both coming off nagging injuries, will only get better as they get healthier, and running back David Wilson will get another chance to prove he is not a fumbler. He is a big play waiting to happen, unfortunately for him, those plays are going to the opposition. Bad week last week, they cannot be that bad again.
A blow-out win against the Jacksonville Jaguars (you'll be hearing that a lot this season) was the perfect way for Andy Reid to kick-off his tenure as Head Coach of the Chiefs. Alex Smith appears to be a vital acquisition for the Chiefs for the next few seasons as he is more than capable of taking care of the football, something Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel cannot do. They need to get the ball to Dwayne Bowe more often. He is their best offensive weapon not named Jamaal Charles, he needs to be the focal point of the passing attack if they wish to make a play-off push.
20: Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill looks to have made that leap for the Dolphins with another impressive performance against a solid Browns secondary, the Dolphins are a stronger team. They need to get that run game going. Lamar Miller had a dreadful outing as the starter, which needs to change, fast. Cameron Wake and Danelle Ellerbe lead a talented defense who can make plays across the field, they will be a contender in the AFC.
21: Carolina Panthers
Only scoring seven points is not good, even if you were playing against the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers need to be able to get the ball moving on a regular basis if they have any aspirations of the play-offs. Cam Newton and Steve Smith looks good together, again. The statement was made on defense, holding the Seahawks to only 12 points total, and bottling up Marshawn Lynch, this front seven for the Pantehrs is an underrated bunch, they will be a tough task for any offense.
An opening day loss to the New York Jets was not on the cards for many peoples dark horse team. They would be 1-0 if not for a stupid Lavonte David penalty late on putting the Jets into field goal range, but it's that lack of discipline which will cost this team going forward. They have the offensive weapons to gain chunk yardage and get into the redzone on a regular basis, and defensively they'll be much improved. This team just screams .500 to me.
23: Arizona Cardinals
An outing which possibly makes the Cards look worse than they actually are. The Rams are a talented team, a strong team and tough opponent, but the game was the Cardinals' to lose. Giving up an 11-point lead is not good, but there are positives. Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald looked great again, and Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts made key plays regularly. Rashard Mendenhall and Alfonso Smith had enough of an effect running the ball to keeo the defense honest, and Tyrann Mathieu announced himself on the big stage with a wonderful strip-fumble on Jared Cook, this kid can play. If not for the NFC West, Arizona would be a play-off team.
24: Detroit Lions
Where was Calvin Johnson? Barely seen in their win against the Vikings, mainly due to the emergence of a Detroit running game. Yes you heard that right. Reggie Bush accounted for nearly 200 yards on his own, and Joique Bell proved to be a vital goal-line back for the Lions who looked potent on offense. Besides an opening 78-yard touchdown run for Adrian Peterson, the Lions successfully bottled up the Minnesota offense for the majority of the game, a defensive improvement this season will see them contend with Green Bay and Chicago, no doubt.
Adrian Peterson showed that last season was no fluke ripping off a 78-yard run on their opening play of the game, but this team were let down by Christian Ponder, shock, right? He was not impressive and this talented team cannot progress with him under centre. Their secondary is questionable. They can't cover reliably, they cannot tackle well, this team will continue to be torched by the rest of the NFC North this season.
26: Buffalo Bills
They put up a fight against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots this weekend, and rookie quarterback EJ Manuel was surprisingly good on the day. Robert Woods was equally impressive, but CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson were unable to establish the run game well enough to trouble the Patriots. Defensively they were solid, much better than we anticipated, but this is a team in transition, a work in progress, 2014 will be their competitive year.
27: Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns were not great against Miami this week, but they project to be a better team than those below them. Brandon Weeden really misses Josh Gordon in the passing game, he has no reliable receiver who can take the top off a defense, which bodes well for tight end Jordan Cameron who had an excellent day. Trent Richardson had a sub-par day, but the Browns are a better team that what was on show.
28: San Diego Chargers
A tale of two halves for San Diego on Monday night. A solid first half, coupled with a dire second results in a low ranking for them. I can't put this any other way: I don't like the Chargers. Phillip Rivers is over the hill for me, his play is deteriorating fast, and is not helped by a load of average receivers and a lousy offensive line. They need to learn how to finish a game, they will end up with a Top 5 pick otherwise.
29: Tennesse Titans
This is not a good team on any other week. They took advantage of a Steelers team which was already subject to several key injuries, who went on to lose a key offensive play in Maurkice Pouncey and couldn't run or pass the ball well. The Titans could become a good team with time, but it all hinges on the development of Jake Locker, who I just don't believe can take this team to the next level.
30: New York Jets
A win is a win for the Jets and rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who may have already won over every Jets fan in the world with a come from behind win over Tampa Bay. If not for a bone-headed play by Lavonte David, the Kets would've lost because they simply are not good. An offense which revolved around Kellen Winslow (yes, him, the man with no knees) because they have no credible wide receivers outside of Santonio Holmes who really, really didn't want to play this week. The Jets will not be winning many more games without help from their opposition.
31: Oakland Raiders
Terrelle Pryor came close to guiding the Raiders to a shock win over the Indianapolis Colts this weekend, but were beat late on. Pryor had a very good game, both as a passer and a runner, with over 300 total yards on the day, and Darren McFadden showed yet more flashes of his crazy potential. A team which is inexperienced in a winning position were unable to hold out for the win, the Raiders didn't look that bad, they look like a team playing for a job next year. Pryor could surprise many this year.
32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No Blaine Gabbert in Week Two for the Jaguars. It's up to you to decide whether that is a good or bad thing. He masterminded a 28-2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs this past week, and I cannot see this team ever winning a game with the personnel they have. Chad Henne, to me, is an upgrade on Blaine Gabbert. The offense looked revitalised last year when Henne came in, which looks to benefit Cecil Shorts, the only pass-catcher of any real talent on their roster with Justin Blackmon out for now. This is a very bad team.