Is the league really balanced with over half (18) of the teams starting 1-1, or is it a result of the early schedule? So far, over half the teams I have rated in the top two tiers have a loss. However, only one of those is the result of what we might consider an upset (Tennessee over Baltimore), and all the other losses among the top tiers are to each other. Baltimore was playing without 2 of their top 3 corners Sunday, and veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck took advantage at home. I’m not lowering Baltimore, yet, based on that loss because of the quality of their week 1 win.
I didn’t have much movement in my rankings this week, with only 5 teams changing tiers. I did decide not to restrict the tiers to specific numbers of teams in each tier, so that also accounts for some of that adjustment. This week, on the other hand, will confirm whether the teams we think for good will hold true. Seven of the road teams could be favored (Ravens/Rams is off the board but I anticipate they will be slightly favored at St. Louis) and there are several games between top tier teams and perceived bottom feeders.
TIER ONE (Super Bowl Favorites)
New England Patriots (2-0): Vince Wilfork jumped that route better than most corners. We’ll see if the loss of Aaron Hernandez for a few games affects the Patriots offense.
Green Bay Packers (2-0): The defense is a concern, but Tramon Williams and Nick Collins missed that game. Collins is done for the year, but Williams should return soon. The offense continues to make plays and they overcame an early 13-0 deficit on the road.
TIER TWO (Super Bowl Contenders)
New Orleans Saints (1-1): The Saints got back in the win column as expected by battering Jay Cutler and making enough big plays on offense.
New York Jets (2-0): Jason Hill has to go down as one of the weakest trash talkers in history. Handled Jacksonville in convincing fashion despite offensive turnovers.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-1): They dominated a large portion of the game against Atlanta, but key turnovers and the loss of Michael Vick sunk them late. This ranking pends hearing news of Vick’s return.
San Diego Chargers (1-1): The Chargers played a Chargers-like game against the Patriots, actually containing the offense after a hot start by Tom Brady, but squandering numerous opportunities.
Baltimore Ravens (1-1): The loss of two corners made Nate Washington a one week star, and the team suffered a letdown after the big win over the Steelers.
TIER THREE (Playoff Contenders)
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1): We won’t get a good barometer on the Steelers for a few weeks, as the Seahawks are horrible and they now get the Colts.
Detroit Lions (2-0): They did what good teams do to really bad ones–put them away. Stafford won’t have it as easily this week against Minnesota’s front.
Houston Texans (2-0): They won a game on the road in which they didn’t necessarily play well all the way through, which is a good sign that this team is a contender.
Dallas Cowboys (1-1): Without Dez Bryant and with Romo playing with a cracked rib and punctured lung, this team still managed to come back after a horrible start.
Chicago Bears (1-1): The third tough game in a row awaits Chicago, and the offensive line will now be without Gabe Carimi.
Atlanta Falcons (1-1): They were in danger of getting ran out of the building against the Eagles, but came back and put together some nice drives with Michael Turner runs.
TIER FOUR (Average Teams)
Buffalo Bills (2-0): The Bills won the most entertaining game on Sunday in an old AFL shootout with the Raiders.
Oakland Raiders (1-1): Denarius Moore = stud.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1): Through six quarters in 2011, this team looked like it was in trouble, but a second half comeback and another late Josh Freeman touchdown drive saved them.
Washington Redskins (2-0): Rex Grossman reverted to some bad play, but they were able to survive a close game against Arizona.
Miami Dolphins (0-2): The Dolphins have lost two competitive games at home against playoff teams. Dan Carpenter missed 2 very makeable field goals that were crucial against Houston.
New York Giants (1-1): Hardly a great performance against St. Louis, but they got the result.
TIER FIVE (Below Average But Competitive, Playoff Contender in NFC West)
Tennessee Titans (1-1): Was week 2 a sign of things to come or the result of Baltimore injuries in the secondary and a letdown? I’ll bump them a tier and see if they handle business at home against Denver.
Minnesota Vikings (0-2): If games were 30 minutes, the Vikings would be awesome.
Arizona Cardinals (1-1): If the Cardinals are going to contend for the NFC West spot, they have to go win against a team like Seattle on the road.
Carolina Panthers (0-2): Two games, two closes losses where Cam Newton threw for a lot of yards. I’ll have more on Carolina and other 0-2 teams later, but I’m bumping them up a tier based on how teams that throw the ball well but lose twice do the rest of the year. Newton was limping yesterday and we’ll see if he is on the injury report, but could be Newton vs. Gabbert this week.
Denver Broncos (1-1): They had a lot of injuries and were able to survive against Cincinnati, so that’s an improvement over last year.
Cincinnati Bengals (1-1): Andy Dalton has played well, but throwing to receivers other than A.J. Green was not as productive.
St. Louis Rams (0-2): Has Greg Salas had a play this year that he either didn’t fumble or drop the ball?
Cleveland Browns (1-1): They proved they were better than the Colts.
TIER SIX (Bad Teams)
San Francisco 49ers (1-1): The positives: they jumped to a lead against Dallas. The negatives: despite the lead, and Cowboys’ injury issues, they couldn’t hold it. I also hate the phrase, “don’t take points off the board.” That decision shows how little Harbaugh trusts his offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1): Well, that didn’t take long. Luke McCown was who we thought he was, and now it appears it is Blaine Gabbert time.
Indianapolis Colts (0-2): Jim Caldwell is now 0-2 after being promoted to head coach of the Colts.
TIER SEVEN (Really Bad Teams)
Kansas City Chiefs (0-2): I’m sitting on the couch all week because I am really scared I will tear my ACL next. Who am I kidding? I was going to do that anyway.
Seattle Seahawks (0-2): Sidney Rice is going to be out longer, and new signing Robert Gallery is out. This offense might score negative points in a few games somehow.
[photo via Getty]