Usually after the second week of the season, I find myself cringing at all the people over-reacting to the surprise 2-0 teams and proclaiming doom for the contenders who slipped up early. This year, I find myself in a completely different situation, with the field neutralized by a plethora of 1-1 teams. 62.5% of the league is sitting at .500 now, including the entirety of the AFC East and NFC North divisions. How are you supposed to rank something like that? What do I do with teams like the Eagles, Cowboys, Jets, Steelers, and Bears who pulled compelte Jekyl and Hyde performances in back-to-back games?
In the words of Coldplay, nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be so hard...
#1 - San Francisco 49ers
Ok, so this one is easy. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't have the Niners sitting atop the NFL universe. They trounced the Packers and then followed that up with a convincing win over Detroit. Even if the rest of the league wasn't looking so mediocre, San Fran would still likley be holding this spot with how good they've looked coming out of the gate.
Last Week: 2 Change: +1 Record: 2-0 Next Game: @ Vikings
#2 - Green Bay Packers
The Packers were probably thankful that they had a short week heading into their game against Chicago, as I'm sure the constant droning from the media about their "regression" had to be wearing them thin. Well, the Packers regressed their way to the tune of a 23-10 victory over the Bears, leaving little doubt who the top team in the NFC North is.
Last Week: 4 Change: +2 Record: 1-1 Next Game: @ Seahawks
#3 - Houston Texans
Houston is the defacto #1 team in the AFC currently, thanks to the mishaps that claimed New England and Baltimore this past week. While their current resume of two wins against teams from Florida isn't overly convincing, you can only play who's on your schedule. The Texans took care of business in both games, which is exactly what a Super Bowl contender should do.
Last Week: 5 Change: +2 Record: 2-0 Next Game: @ Broncos
#4 - Atlanta Falcons
Looks like 2012 is going to be an "up" year for Atlanta, who seems to see-saw season to season. The Falcons defense shut down Peyton Manning on a Monday Night, which, neck injury aside, is not an historically easy task. Combine that with a high-powered offense and the Dirty Birds just may have "sleeper pick" written all over them.
Last Week: 7 Change: +3 Record: 2-0 Next Game: @ Chargers
#5 - Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens lost a nail-biter on the road to a potential contender in the Eagles. Was it a game they should have won? Probably, but I'm not going to murder them for it. The Packers, Texans, and Falcons all deserved to rise after their performances last week. Thus Baltimore falls two spots. Still, when a team hands you four turnovers, you need to win that game.
Last Week: 3 Change: -2 Record: 1-1 Next Game: vs. Patriots
#6 - New England Patriots
Oh, how the mighty have fallen...
I thought long and hard about this ranking before knocking the Patriots down five spots and one below their upcoming opponent. After all, if Gostkowski had made that field goal, if the replacement ref didn't overcall Gronk's hold, if Zoltan's punt didn't get blocked, if Aaron Hernandez didn't get injured...
Yup, if "if's and but's" were candy and nuts, then the Patriots would be 2-0 right now. But this is a Bill Belichick team and the word "if" completely meaningless. The facts are that the Patriots came up flat at home against an inferior opponent, their O-line is in need of some serious improvement, and they're missing their most versatile offensive player for several weeks. And that, my friends, is how you stumble your way to a #6 ranking.
Last Week: 1 Change: -5 Record: 1-1 Next Game: @ Ravens
#7 - Philadelphia Eagles
And here is where it all begins to completely fall apart for me. I feel like my Top 6 are solid, and you can't make much of an argument other than a spot or two for each team. The bottom half of the Top 12, however, is in complete shambles. First the Eagles were on the rankings at #8, then they were completely off, and now they're back at #7. I am flipping and flopping like a mad man on them and I have no defense other than the complete insanity of this team. The wreek against the Browns, they beat the Ravens, and they turn the ball over eight times in the process. Seriously, what am I supposed to do with that?
Last Week: N/A Change: N/A Record: 1-1 Next Game: @ Cardinals
#8 - San Diego Chargers
The Chargers looked solid these first two weeks, which means we are in for a horrible December collapse. This is opposed to their other modus opperandi, where they stink up the joint early and then have a meteoric rise come Christmas time. It's always either one or the other with this team, but one thing is certain: Norv Turner will manage to make the fanbase completely insane when everything is said and done.
Last Week: N/A Change: N/A Record: 2-0 Next Game: vs. Falcons
#9 - Chicago Bears
I'm probably being a bit harsh on Chicago for getting bruised up by the #2 team on the board, but considering that I had them ranked #10 heading into the year, I think this is pretty consistent. Unlike Jay Cutler, which is exactly why a team with the potential to be Top 5, is sitting here at #9 .
Last Week: 6 Change: -3 Record: 1-1 Next Game: vs. Rams
#10 - Pittsburgh Steelers
This is another team that fell off the board last week, only to find themselves back on. Yup, Mark Sanchez in an unfriendly road environment will do that to ya. The Steelers will be hanging around all season, but I've yet to see anything from them to get really excited about.
Last Week: N/A Change: N/A Record: 1-1 Next Game: @ Raiders
#11 - New York Giants
The G-Men won against Tampa, but in a fashion that was far from convincing. Maybe the 4th quarter heroics was what Eli Manning needed to wake up this season, but the overall performance left me asking more questions about the Giants than it gave me answers.
Last Week: 9 Change: -2 Record: 1-1 Next Game: @ Panthers
#12 - Arizona Cardinals
The 12th spot is always tricky. This could have gone to any number of teams, but this week, the honor of being just good enough goes to Arizona. The QB situation is going to be a nagging issue for this team going forward, but as they proved on Sunday, the Cards can play some solid pass defense and wreak havoc on special teams. Those two skills will serve them well going forward.
Last Week: N/A Change: N/A Record: 2-0 Next Game: vs. Eagles