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The CHARGED Elite: Week Two

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

The rankings aren’t easier to make after two weeks, but the 49ers and Texans have separated themselves early.

The CHARGED Elite: Week Two

The dust still hasn't settled on the NFL landscape after two weeks, nor should it.  It will still take a good three or four weeks to start truly getting a feel of where all the teams stand.  When you have 20 teams with 1-1 records, you have a feeling where they should rank, but it isn't certain.  

As a result, you are going to see a lot of drastic rises and falls over the next couple of weeks.  I will never reveal my secret algorithms and formulas used to determine these rankings, but just know things should  be pretty consistent by week six.  If not, I have to go capture and then train some more manatees.  Disregard that last sentence.  Shall we rank the teams?*

*NOTE: These rankings do not take Thursday night's Giants/Panthers game into effect.  That result will factor into next week's rankings.

1. San Francisco 49ers (2-0, Last Week: 1) - The 49ers have beaten two playoff teams from the year before in back-to-back weeks.  The defense looks just as stingy as it did last year.  Alex Smith and Vernon Davis are on the same page.  Frank Gore's wheels haven't fallen off yet. Things are looking good in San Fran.  

2. Houston Texans (2-0, Last Week: 5) - Arian Foster and Ben Tate are a pretty incredible combo.  Foster is averaging 3.5 yards a carry while Tate is gaining 4.8 yards a rush.  Defenses can't catch a break either way, and that's what make's Houston's running attack so potent.  And if that isn't working, there is always Schaub to Johnson. 

3. Atlanta Falcons (2-0, Last Week: 4) - It worries me that the Falcons couldn't just put Denver away after going up 20-0 early in their Monday night game.  The Broncos have a great defense and all, but Atlanta was able to move the ball fairly well in the first half.  I'm still not overly concerned, but what should have been an easy win was made way closer than it needed to be. 

4. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0, Last Week: 18) - This is the kind of start Philadelphia was looking for last year.  They avoided a bad loss in week one, and in week two they beat a Baltimore team that looked like world beaters after their first game.  These were tough wins, too, and playing in these tough games is only going to help this club down the road.  This team is showing far more heart than last year's group.

5. Green Bay Packers (1-1, Last Week: 7) - Green Bay's win over Chicago wasn't a blowout, but it was impressive nonetheless.  Without Greg Jennings, Aaron Rodgers still looked sharp, and Cedric Benson got more involved in the running game.  Clay Matthews and the defense sacked Jay Cutler seven times. It was back to normal last week for the Packers.     

6. Baltimore Ravens (1-1, Last Week: 3) - I didn't expect Baltimore to come out on the losing end after their dominating win over Cincinnati, but that's why they play the games.  Flacco was inaccurate, going 22-42, and the offense sputtered late.  I'm not worried about Baltimore, but I am slightly worried about Flacco's progression.  Though it could have just been a bad game.

7. New England Patriots (1-1, Last Week: 2) - Losing Aaron Hernandez for any extent of time is a blow to New England's offense.  Kellen Winslow is a nice replacement, but he's no Hernandez.  With a tough matchup against Baltimore this week, they don't have that much time to recuperate either.  Wes Welker needs to become more involved now.

8. Denver Broncos (1-1, Last Week: 6) - Peyton' Manning's comeback was never going to be all rainbows and butterflies.  He faced an aggressive Falcons defense and they made him pay on his weaker throws.  Denver's defense was put in some pretty tough decisions, but they really stepped things up in the second half and kept the Broncos alive.  As Peyton's arm strength improves, so will he.  But expect some more like this early on against tougher opponents.

9. San Diego Chargers (2-0, Last Week: 15) - Hello, Dante Rosario.  Who needs Antonio Gates when any tight end playing with Philip Rivers will just grab three touchdown passes?  Of course Gates is better than Rosario, but that's a testament to Rivers' ability.  Throw in a healthy Ryan Mathews and this might be a suitable competitor for the Broncos.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1, Last Week: 14) - The Steelers laid it on Mark Sanchez and the Jets last Sunday.  It helps when Darrelle Revis isn't lurking in the secondary, but this is the Pittsburgh team we come to expect every season.  They haven't even gotten their run game going and are still without Troy Polamalu, and they still looked elite on Sunday against the Jets.       

11. Arizona Cardinals (2-0, Last Week: 22) - I'm wary of putting Arizona this high in the rankings, but you can't argue with back-to-back wins against quality teams, especially a road win against New England.  The front seven really applied a lot of pressure on Tom Brady, and if they can continue to create that kind of pass rush, Arizona could be in business.

12. Dallas Cowboys (1-1, Last Week: 9) - The Cowboys followed up their win over the Giants with a real stinker up in Seattle.  Their turnovers didn't help, but neither did their inability to stop Marshawn Lynch.  Unlike others, I don't think this is an apocalyptic result for the Cowboys, who should be just fine.

13. New York Giants (1-1, Last Week: 19) - Eli Manning had himself another Eli Manning game.  Poor play in the first half that was saved by an incredible fourth quarter performance.  Manning's 243 fourth quarter yards equaled Josh Freeman's total from the entire game, and he overcame the three first half interceptions to lead the Giants to a comeback win.  With Hakeem Nicks unavailable for tonight's game, Manning's performance is even more vital to New York's success.

14. New York Jets (1-1, Last Week: 8) - New York couldn't get anything going against Pittsburgh's defense.  Mark Sanchez completed just 37 percent of his passes, Shonn Greene couldn't run the ball effectively, and the defense couldn't stop Pittsburgh late or force any turnovers.  Again, it's early, but the offense is a definite question mark for this team (opening week aside).

15. Chicago Bears (1-1, Last Week: 10) - Jay Cutler got a bit snappy after last week's game against the Packers, calling out his offensive linemen for not protecting him.  Cutler was sacked seven times and the constant pressure was a factor leading to his four interceptions.  Matt Forte's tweaked ankle added insult to injury.  While it's reasonable to be upset, it's still only week two.  Cutler can't risk alienating his teammates, no matter how passionate he is.

16. Seattle Seahawks (1-1, Last Week: 21) - Russell Wilson looked much more composed against Dallas, and it helped that Marshawn Lynch went into Beast Mode against the Cowboys.  Lynch averaged 4.7 yards on his 26 carries, absolutely shredding the Dallas line.  The offense has to bring this kind of performance consistently now to match the strong defense.

17. Washington Redskins (1-1, Last Week: 11) - The other shoe didn't necessarily drop for Washington since they only lost by three points.  But the defense gave up 31 to the Rams and squandered a 21-6 lead.  The bright side is that Robert Griffin III looks great two games into his career.  The dark side is star defenders Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan were lost for the season, delivering a serious blow to the defense.

18. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1, Last Week: 20) - I'm not sure if Cleveland is feistier than I expected, but Cincinnati should not have had to sweat out that game against the Browns.  The defense again made plays, but they got torched by rookie Trent Richardson.  Things will likely click with the Bengals, and they should be fine moving forward. 

19. Detroit Lions (1-1, Last Week: 12) - Something is up with Matthew Stafford early.  Yes, facing the 49ers and their tough defense will make a lot of teams look normal, but Stafford also looked pretty normal against the Rams in week one.  Maybe the return of Mikel LeShoure will help take some of the burden off Stafford, but he needs to get things going in order for their offense to move.  

20. Carolina Panthers (1-1, Last Week: 27) - After a disappointing loss to Tampa when the defense couldn't get Cam Newton the ball back, they sure gave him ample opportunities against New Orleans.  The defense did just enough and let the offense put up 35 in their win on the road.

21. Tampa Bay Bucs (1-1, Last Week: 16) - It seems harsh to drop the Bucs this many spots for losing to the Giants and to then rank them behind the Panthers, who they defeated in week one, but they had no business losing that game to New York.  Yes, Eli Manning put up gaudy numbers, but that's on Tampa for not closing it out.      

22. Buffalo Bills (1-1, Last Week: 24) - In C.J. Spiller we trust.  The man just won't quit.  Combine his second straight amazing performance with a strong defensive showing, and you restore some hope in the city of Buffalo.  The trick now is for Buffalo to sustain this and not have a let-down performance against the Browns.

23. St. Louis Rams (1-1, Last Week: 23) - Maybe St. Louis is that much better under new coach Jeff Fischer, but he has this team playing hard early on.  Sam Bradford is also healthy and playing at a high level, which never hurts, and Danny Amendola emerged as a big time player last week.

24. New Orleans Saints (0-2, Last Week: 13) - It's not time to panic in New Orleans yet, but something is clearly wrong with this team.  The defense can't seem to stop anyone yet, and they haven't gotten into the difficult part of the schedule yet.  Either coordinator Steve Spagnuolo needs to change something, or Drew Brees needs to get more points on the board.

25. Indianapolis Colts (1-1, Last week: 29) - Taylor Armosino broke down two nice Andrew Luck throws from last Sunday's game, and those are the kind of throws Colts fans want to see more of the rest of the season.  Luck has tons of poise, and he will be able to keep Indy in some games with that arm of his.  And how rock solid is Adam Vinatieri?

26. Minnesota Vikings (1-1, Last Week: 21) - Vikings fans have to like what they saw out of Christian Ponder as he led Minnesota back in last Sunday's game.  Two late touchdown drives tied the game before Vinatieri's 53-yarder to win it at the end, but he was accurate and targeting their biggest receiving threat in Percy Harvin. 

27. Miami Dolphins (1-1, Last Week: 31) - Reggie Bush is really having himself a fine start to the season, and they beat up on the hapless Raiders to get their first win of the season.  Bush rushed for 172 yards (6.6 average) and scored two touchdowns.  He has to be the man for the Dolphins this year while rookie QB Ryan Tannehill acclimates to the NFL.    

28. Cleveland Browns (0-2, Last Week: 32) - The Browns put up a strong effort against the Bengals, and Trent Richardson had himself a coming out party with his big performance.  Two touchdowns (the first of which he hot dogged a little bit) should be the first of many for this talented back, and Cleveland will need every one of them this year.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2, Last Week: 17) - Things don't look too great for the Chiefs early on.  The defense has been nonexistent these first two games and they haven't been able to get things going on offense.  At this stage, they don't look ready to compete with the Broncos and Chargers in the AFC West, but there is still time to turn it around.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2, Last Week: 25) - Jacksonville didn't stand much of a chance against Houston, and Maurice Jones-Drew showed some signs of shaking off the rust.  But this is the second straight week where Blaine Gabbert has looked overmatched.  

31. Tennessee Titans (0-2, Last Week: 28) - Chris Johnson's rushing output is almost getting sad.  This is the last man to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season.  After two games, he has 21 yards on 19 carries.  While Johnson certainly isn't the only one to blame, he used to possess that ability to create something out of nothing.  Now his rushes seem just disinterested.  

32. Oakland Raiders (0-2, Last Week: 30) - As Taylor Armosino pointed out earlier today, Oakland hasn't gotten their running game going yet.  I think with a new blocking scheme like that, it will take time for the line and running backs to gel.  Unfortunately in the NFL and over a 16-game schedule, time is not a luxury most teams have.  They need to figure something out and do it soon.

Do you agree with the rankings?  Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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