Thursday, September 24, 2015

2015-16 NFL Power Rankings (Week Two)


When the last becomes first, and the first becomes last...

By: Jimbo X
@Jimbo__X

THE ELITES

#01
Arizona Cardinals 
(Season Point Differential: +37)

For half a decade, Matt Stafford and Megatron have been the NFL's most explosive QB-WR tandem. Two games into the season,  however, it looks like the hottest power couple of 2015 is actually Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald, who combined for 112 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's 48-23 rout of the Bears. Much like last year's squad, the Cards are off to a hot start; the question now is, can Palmer and company stay healthy long enough to actually do something in the playoffs?

#02
New York Jets 
(Season Point Differential: +34)

The real surprise with the Jets isn't how good Ryan Fitzpatrick has looked under center (although he has indeed look quite stellar.) Instead, it's just how dominant the defense -- led by Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie -- has been, allowing just 17 points so far in the season. The secondary, in particular, has been outstanding: in Monday night's 20-7 thrashing of Andrew Luck in the Colts, the Jets had no less than three INTs, with two additional defensive turnovers to boot. 

#03
Cincinnati Bengals
(Season Point Differential: +25)

Andy Dalton looked terrific in the Bengals 24-19 win over the Chargers, tossing three touchdowns and racking up 215 yards by air. With the double wideout threat of A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones -- not to a mention a pretty damn solid run game, led by Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard -- this is a team that's certainly going to make life miserable for defensive units inside the AFC Central and out. 

#04
Green Bay Packers
(Season Point Differential: +18)

Aaron Rodgers got sweet revenge against Russell Wilson on Sunday night, as the Pack hammered the defending NFC Champs by a 10-point-margin-of victory at Lambeau. Even with their best receiver out for the season, Green Bay has nonetheless been able to move the chains, thanks in no small part to a tremendous run game anchored by Eddie Lacy and James Starks. And with Randall Cobb and Davante Adams putting up such big numbers, Jordy Nelson hardly feels like that big of a loss all of a sudden. 

#05
Carolina Panthers
(Season Point Differential: +18)

Cam Newton had three touchdowns in Sunday's 24-17 win over the Texans, including a rushing TD that also doubles as a pro wrestling finishing move. While a receiving corps that consists of virtual no-names like Ted Ginn, Jr. and Corey Brown hardly sounds sexy, there's no denying the consistency of the Panthers' aerial attack. Coupled with a solid run game and one of the league's best defenses, Carolina is easily one of the most well-rounded teams in the entire league. 

#06
Pittsburgh Steelers
(Season Point Differential: +18)

With 720 yards in two games, Big Ben is second only to Tom Brady in passing. Having arguably the best wideout in the game in Antonio Brown, the Steelers are no doubt going to be one of the most dangerous offenses in the League. That said, I wouldn't sleep on their run game, either, as indicative of Sunday's 48-14 stompin' of the Niners when halfback DeAngelo Williams chewed up the field for three touchdowns. 

#07
New England Patriots
(Season Point Differential: +15)

Well, what's left to be said about the Pats? They have the current league leader in passing yards (who amassed a spectacular 466 yards and three TDs in Sunday's 40-32 win over the Bills) and a tight end that's probably going to have more touchdown receptions at the end of the season than any actual wide receiver in the NFL. And just when you think this team can't get any better? It looks like the Patriots have found their star halfback in Dion Lewis, who now has 109 yards (plus a touchdown) on 22 carries for the season.

#08
Tennessee Titans
(Season Point Differential: +14)

Marcus Mariota played like a future Hall of Famer in Tennessee's week one mauling of Tampa Bay. Alas, in week two, the Oregon standout looked less than Canton-worthy, as the Titans got drubbed 28-14 by Johnny Football's Browns. Still, this is a young team with a lot of upswing; keep an eye on WR Anthony Fasano, who had 84 yards and a touchdown on just five receptions, as well as halfback Dexter McCluster, who averaged nearly ten yards a carry in Sunday's loss.


THE PLAYOFF HOPEFULS

#09
Denver Broncos
(Season Point Differential: +13)


Peyton Manning looked way better in the Broncos get-the-hell-out-of-here comeback win over the Chiefs last Thursday night. He racked up 256 yards and dialed in three touchdowns, with standout receiver Emmanuel Sanders hauling in two of them. Questions still linger regarding the defense, but with a still-solid passing game (anchored by surefire Pro Bowler Demaryius Thomas), this is a team that remains an offensive threat, through and through.

#010
Dallas Cowboys
(Season Point Differential: +11)


As stated by virtually every sports media on the planet, the Cowboys have to be the saddest 2-0 football team in NFL history. In a Pyrrhic 20-10 victory over divisional foes Philadelphia, Dallas QB Tony Romo went down with a sternum injury. Expected to miss as many as eight weeks, the Cowboys (already snake bit from losing Dez Bryant earlier in the season) will now rest their future firmly on the shoulders of journeyman Matt Cassell.  

#011
Washington Redskins
(Season Point Differential: +7)


Washington and St. Louis flip-flopped roles for week two; after the Redskins got drubbed on opening weekend, the poured the points on the Rams, who looked pretty crappy after upsetting the Seahawks a week earlier. Give most of the credit not to Kirk Cousins, but halfback Matt Jones; the up-and-comer had two touchdowns on 19 carries, racking up an impressive 123 yards on the day. 

#012
Atlanta Falcons
(Season Point Differential: +6)


The Falcons aren't winning by a whole lot, but they're still finding ways to win games. Following a nail-biter victory over Philadelphia in week one, Matt Ryan (a touchdown and 363 passing yards) and the boys had an impressive come-from-behind win over Eli Manning and the Giants at the Meadowlands on Sunday. While standout wideout Julio Jones deserves a ton of credit, it was really Atlanta's run game that won it for them; Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman may not have had a lot of yards, but they managed to punch it into the endzone when it counted, regardless. 

#013
Buffalo Bills
(Season Point Differential: +5)

Regardless of the 40-32 final score, the Bills' loss against the Pats on Sunday was never really that close of a game. Turnovers absolutely killed Buffalo, as Tyrod Taylor chucked three INTs and bobbled two snaps. That, and the secondary -- which was supposed to be vastly improved under profanity master and suspected foot fetishist Rex Ryan -- completely fell asleep on the job, allowing New England to rack up more than 500 yards of offense on the day. 

#014
Miami Dolphins
(Season Point Differential: +4)


Despite chucking the ball for two touchdowns and 359 yards, Ryan Tannehill was still the losing QB in Sunday's showdown with in-state rivals Jacksonville. While it's tempting to blame the uspet loss on a disappointing defense (super-expensive free agent Donkey Kong Suh had just a tackle on the day), the real culprit was the Fins' pathetic run game; against one of the weakest front sevens in the entire League, Miami could muster no better than a pathetic 42 yards. 

#015
Kansas City Chiefs
(Season Point Differential: 0)


The Chiefs pretty much handed the Broncos a W last week, with a costly fumble in the dying moments of the fourth allowing their much hated divisional rivals a chance to steal victory from the jaws of defeat. While Jamal Charles looked solid (125 yards and a TD), Alex Smith played very poorly, tossing two INTs, no touchdowns and getting sacked five times throughout the course of the evening. 

#016
San Diego Chargers
(Season Point Differential: 0)

San Diego followed up week one's impressive come-from-behind victory over Detroit with a fairly lackluster showing against Cincy this past weekend.While Philip Rivers had decent numbers (241 yards with two TDs), he also chucked an interception and bobbled two snaps, one of which resulted in a turnover. Needless to say, San Diego is going to have to work on its miscues, especially in an AFC West that looks like it's going to be far more competitive than initially assumed. 

THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK

#017
New York Giants 
(Season Point Differential: -5)


Two weeks in a row, the Giants have given up big leads and lost games late in the fourth. Statistically, the offense -- capped by Eli Manning's two TDs and 292 yards and Odell Beckham, Jr.'s 146 yards-and-a-TD on just seven receptions -- looked solid, but the defense needs a lot of retooling. With a sagging Eagles, a no-Romo Dallas and a Washington squad that's still a mess at quarterback, the Giants still have ample opportunities to claim the division. Time will tell, however, if they're actually able to right the ship before January rolls around.

#018
Minnesota Vikings
(Season Point Differential: -7)


After getting clobbered by the Niners in week one, the Vikes looked greatly improved against the Lions, besting their divisional foes 26-16. Going 14-18 and tossing a TD, Terry Bridgewater looked OK, but the real offensive MVP had to have been A.P., who -- despite never hitting the endzone -- still managed to rack up 134 yards on the day. 

#019
Cleveland Browns
(Season Point Differential: -7)

Johnny Manziel had the best professional performance of his life this weekend, as he tossed two touchdowns and finished Sunday's 28-14 win over the Titans with a stellar 75.5 QB rating. His favorite target Travis Benjamin is pretty much a lock for the Pro Bowl already; over the weekend, he had two touchdowns and 115 yards on just three receptions

#020
San Francisco 49ers
(Season Point Differential: -8)

Even in a 43-18 loss to the Steelers, SF QB Colin Kaepernick didn't look that bad. America's favorite Miami Dolphins-loving turtle enthusiast threw for 335 yards and racked up two touchdowns, in addition to sprinting for another 51 on nine scrambles. Of course, that's not to exclude the 49ers' actual running back Carlos Hyde, who currently leads the entire NFL with 211 rushing yards.

#021
Jacksonville Jaguars
(Season Point Differential: -8)


The Jaguars faithful don't get to celebrate victories that much anymore, and this Sunday's rare win -- over downstate rivals Miami -- had to have been especially satisfying. Powered by Blake Bortles two touchdowns, the Jags accumulated about 400 yards against the Dolphins, while their defense was able to hold the Fins to less than 50 yards rushing. They're still getting torched on the passing game, but if you're a Jacksonville fan, you really can't help but feel just wee bit excited about the team's ever so teensy improvement on both sides of the ball. 

#022
Baltimore Ravens
(Season Point Differential: -10)


With Joe Flacco tossing the rock for 384 yards and two touchdowns, the Ravens really don't have a logical excuse for losing Sunday's game to the Raiders. As strange as it may sound to say it, the Ravens' key weakness appears to be its defense, especially in the backfield: having let the Raiders accumulate 350 yards by air, its crystal clear the secondary needs a stern talking to before week three's kickoff. 

#023
St. Louis Rams
(Season Point Differential: -11)


After upsetting Seattle in overtime in week one, Nick Foles and the new-look Rams turned in a lackluster performance against the Washington Redskins in week two. The offense barely posted 200 yards, while letting the firepower-less Skins run all over them for nearly 400. While Tavon Austin had a few good touches, the rest of the offense looked pretty anemic; Foles' 150 yards passing on the day was one of the lowest sums for any QB over the weekend. 

#024
Philadelphia Eagles
(Season Point Differential: -12)


Where to begin on this one? Despite posting winning seasons since arriving in Philly, Chip Kelly's new-look Eagles are winless and playing poorly offensively and defensively. In Sunday's 20-10 loss to the Cowboys, Sam Bradford threw two interceptions and finished the game with a terrible 5.3 quarterback rating. Compared to highly-touted acquisition DeMarco Murray, however, Bradford looks like a world class pick-up; the former Cowboys standout had just two yards on 13 carries. 

ANXIOUSLY AWAITING THE DRAFT

#025
Seattle Seahawks
(Season Point Differential: -13)

While the week one loss to the Rams could be written off as a fluke, Seattle just played poorly on Sunday night's marquee match-up against Green Bay. Marshawn Lynch hardly resembled the Beast Mode we all know, putting up a paltry 41 yards on the ground, while just about every receiver not named Doug Baldwin turned in very disappointing performances. Needless to say, this is most certainly not the outcome of Russell Wilson's huge new contract the Seahawks desired. 

#026
Houston Texans
(Season Point Differential: -14)

Despite having two touchdowns (including a rushing TD) in Sunday's loss to the Panthers, it's clear that Ryan Mallett isn't going to take Houston to the playoffs, or even a .500 record. While J.J. Watt is unquestionably the best defensive player in the AFC (and maybe even the entire NFL), the rest of the squad just isn't rising to the occasion ... and the less said about the disastrous run game, which only mustered 61 yards over the weekend, the better

#027
Detroit Lions
(Season Point Differential: -15)


The Lions had an epic meltdown in week one against the Chargers, and in week two they just flat out looked effortless against the Vikings. Sure, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate combined for about 160 yards on the day, but the run game was appalling: in the 26-16 loss, Detroit posted a stunningly terrible 38 yards on 16 touches. 

#028
Oakland Raiders
(Season Point Differential: -16)


Derek Carr had the best game of his professional career on Sunday, leading the Raiders to a come-from-behind victory at home against Baltimore. Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper both had 100 plus yards a piece, as Carr chucked the ball for three touchdowns and 351 yards. There's no denying the offense, especially the passing game, is looking worlds better. The problem is, the defense -- which gave up 33 points and nearly 500 total yards -- isn't

#029
New Orleans Saints
(Season Point Differential: -19)


With Drew Brees going down with an injury, the already crappy-looking Saints are looking even more like the Aints of yesteryear. The team produced no less than five fumbles in a demoralizing 26-19 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday; with talent like C.J. Spiller, Mark Ingram and Marques Colston on the team, New Orleans really has no excuse for playing as poorly has they have been as of late. 

#030
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(Season Point Differential: -21)

What a difference a week makes, huh? Just seven days after looking like the second coming of JaMarcus Russell in a humiliating loss to Tennessee, QB Jameis Winston actually played pretty well in the Bucs win over New Orleans. Of course, one has to wonder how the still impotent offense and virtually non-existent defense will fare against stiffer competition in the NFC South -- sorry, Tampa Bay fans, but I wouldn't get too optimistic about the remainder of the season. 

#031
Indianapolis Colts
(Season Point Differential: -26)

Earlier this year, I had the Colts pegged as my presumptive AFC Champions. Two games into the season, however, the highly touted team is winless, having been mercilessly pummeled in back-to-back losses to the Bills and Jets. Andrew Luck, in particular, has looked astonishingly bad: in Monday night's loss, his INT to TD ration was 3-to-1, while he finished the game with an almost unfathomably abysmal quarterback rating of 20.0.

#032
Chicago Bears
(Season Point Differential: -33)

Despite having one of the best backs in the League, the team struggled to convert Matt Forte's yardage into touchdowns in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals (this, after he was one of the top rushers in week one.) With Jay Cutler out for at least two weeks, the Bears absolutely HAVE to get their run game in order, or else we're looking at a team that's easily on pace for an 0-4 start ... and perhaps an even longer winless streak even after "Smokin' Jay" makes his return. 

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