Football is finally back and what a weekend it was. We saw the Chiefs not only upset the Patriots in New England but completely demoralize them. The Jacksonville Jaguars looked like a team that belonged in the NFL again, and some divisional matchups came down to the very last play.
Doing power rankings after the first week of play is pretty much pointless, hell, they are pretty much always pointless, but it’s still fun to see where others have your team ranked.
I tried to keep the knee-jerk reactions to a minimum and hold my overreactions in check, but I saw some good, and some bad things around the NFL in week 1. So without further ado, here are my 12 best in the NFL after the first week of play, The Al Dente Dozen.
1. Oakland Raiders (1-0)
We knew the Raiders were going to be good this season, but I was not going to be surprised in the slightest if they left Nashville with a loss. Tennessee is a young budding team that had the home-field advantage and features one of the best rushing attacks in the game. One of my colleagues has been chirping in my ear about the Raiders front 7. Well, he looked like a profit as they only allowed 95 net rushing yards (DeMarco Murray finished with 12 carries for 44 yards) to an elite rushing team. Derek Carr looked healthy and worth every penny that he signed for in the offseason, and their new kicker, Giorgio Tavecchio, was perfect. If the secondary can be any better than it was last season, 2017 should be Super Bowl or bust for the Raiders.
2. Green Bay Packers (1-0)
Week 1 may not have been the prettiest victory for Aaron Rodgers and Co., but they got the job done against a stingy Seattle team. Rodgers was great, per usual, throwing for 311 yards and one touchdown, but the impressive unit was the defense. They held the Seattle offense to a poultry 225 total yards, keeping Russell Wilson in check with 158 yards through the air (135 net). Not to mention, they kept the ‘Hawks out of the end zone. Eddie “Cheeseburger” Lacy saw his return to Lambeau finish with 5 carries for 3 yards. If the Packers defense can stay healthy and dominant all year, Green Bay will be the team to beat in the NFC.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
Le’Veon Bell is the bum of the week for his performance against the Cleveland Browns. Bell turned down a contract that would have paid him $18 million this season and then decided to sit out of training camp and the preseason. Essentially playing the role of the spoiled kid at the toy store stomping his feet and throwing a temper tantrum. That “tantrum” would have been forgiven and forgotten had Bell came out of the gates looking like the star that he is. The only problem is that he didn’t. He looked extremely rusty and finished the game with 32 yards rushing, good enough for a 3.2-yard average. Rant over.
Pittsburgh barely escaped Cleveland with a victory, but they should build upon it and the potent offense can only go up from here. Side note: T.J. Watt looked tremendous in his NFL debut.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
I have been a little critical on the defending AFC West division champs this offseason. They did very little in free agency and used their first round pick on a player that most likely won’t see the field this season. They didn’t lose much talent, but they didn’t gain much either. That doesn’t, however, mean that they are not a very good team. The Chiefs went into Foxborough and completely embarrassed the defending Super Bowl champs. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt looked like the steal of the draft, and Alex Smith looked like an elite QB. I would have ranked them higher minus the fact that it is a one game sample size, Alex Smith has played long enough that we know week one was an outlier, not the norm, and Eric Berry was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Don’t want to take anything away from a great victory over New England, but I still have some questions.
5. New England Patriots
All around terrible performance in week one, at home, after raising the Super Bowl banner. Tom Brady showed a little bit of his age (if you didn’t know his age before the game, you were fortunate enough that the announcers informed us roughly 40 times) and was very inaccurate with a lot of throws. Part of this attributes to timing, which is integral to the success of the Patriots offense. This game may have shown just how important Julian Edelman is in New England.
The defense displayed one of the worst performances that I have seen in a long time. Not to take anything away from the Chiefs, but a few college programs may have been able to score on that defense. I wanted to put New England lower on the list but that would have been a huge overreaction after one bad game. That defense needs to get its act together as they head to the Big Easy to face Drew Brees and the high flying Saints next weekend.
6. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)
Methodical. Mistake free. Poised. No negative plays. These are all words and phrases that come to mind when I watched the Cowboys play on Sunday night. The offense did not have its most dynamic game, but against a very good Giants defense, they were able to move the ball and play smart smash mouth football.
What was most impressive was how the defense performed. They held the Giants to a pitiful 35 net rushing yards. No OBJ for the Giants, but they still have numerous weapons, and yet the Cowboys held them out of the end zone for the entire game.
Week 2 features Dallas in the Mile High City to face off against the Broncos and the “No-Fly Zone.”
7. Atlanta Falcons (1-0)
I have the Falcons ranked at seven simply for the way they played against a supposedly much weaker opponent. If not for a last second goal line stand, the Falcons would have lost to a team that literally does not have a starting caliber receiver, as was evident in the last four plays of the game. But they held on and have some positive things to build on.
Austin Hooper shined, in what may have been his best game since becoming a Falcon. Two receptions don’t sound like much, but when you turn those receptions into 128 yards and a touchdown, it’s ok to take notice.
8. Denver Broncos (1-0)
The Denver Broncos looked like a top tier team in the first three-quarters on Monday night. And then the fourth quarter happened and fans of the Orange and Blue began swallowing handfuls of anxiety pills. I guess that’s why you play a full 60 minutes right?
The positives and the reason I have them ranked 8th in the NFL is primarily due to the fact that the defense is still elite, arguably the best in the league. Even after the fourth quarter flurry, Los Angeles was held to 249 net yards, with Philip Rivers gaining 192 yards through the air. The Broncos rushing attack looked much improved from last year gaining 140 net rushing yards, and rookie Garett Bolles had a very solid game at the left tackle position.
The biggest question mark surrounding the squad in Denver centers around the quarterback play. Trevor Siemian looked extremely confident and in complete command of the offense. If he can improve his ability to get rid of the football and not take critical third down sacks, the offense has the ability to be the surprise story of 2017.
The positives and the reason I have them ranked 8th in the NFL is primarily due to the fact that the defense is still elite, arguably the best in the league.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
The Eagles played a division opponent on the road in week one and came away with a victory. That deserves merit in its own right. Quarterback Carson Wentz had another stellar performance in the season opener finishing with 307 yards and two touchdowns. The running game did look inept at times and will have to be addressed if the Eagles truly want to contend for an NFC East division title.
Most impressive was Jim Schwartz’s defense as they gave up only three points in the second half and came up with some big takeaways, one of which sealed the victory with a sack-6. I love me some Carson Wentz, and with the strong defensive play, the Eagles have a very high ceiling.
10. Detroit Lions (1-0)
The City of Detroit may have declared bankruptcy but the Ford family bailed out the franchise by making Matthew Stafford the highest paid player in NFL history, excuse the terrible pun. Well, he demonstrated his worth on Sunday. With the rushing game lacking, what’s new, Stafford put the team on his back and threw for 292 yards and four touchdowns.
The defense may have given up 23 points but they did force four turnovers, which sparked the offense in coming from behind yet again. I don’t know if the Detroit Lions are a true threat, but they sure are fun to watch!
11. Seattle Seahawks (0-1)
The Seattle Seahawks offensive line looked atrocious. This led to the offense looking completely inept. Russell Wilson finished with just 14 completions on 27 attempts and 158 yards. He also led the team in rushing with 40 yards on two attempts. Seattle seems to do this to us every year. They come out of the gates slow and then turn it on later in the season and win the NFC West in a landslide. The defense is still one of the best in the business, and as long as they can stay healthy, the Seahawks will be a playoff team come January.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ( – )
I had the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pre-ranked in the 12th position so due to Hurricane Irma, and their game being postponed, I cannot move them up or down. I can’t wait to see Jameis Winston play, as he might be one of the best leaders in the game today.