NFL Power Rankings, Week 2: Aaron Rodgers restores PackersSeptember 11, 2018
Tie a bow on Week 1. A green-and-gold one, that is.
After an opening week that featured the defending champs holding on late against a certifiable challenger, an upset worth a million Bucs and a Monday night double-header, the main takeaway was the ridiculousness of Aaron Rodgers and the comeback that was. We’ve seen him play on one leg before — in the playoffs, no less. And we’ve seen some delightful throws, like the laser to Greg Jennings in Super Bowl XLV. Yet, Sunday night’s heave to Geronimo Allison was one of the best long balls I’ve ever seen, right up there with Manning-to-Manningham in Super Bowl XLVI, the year after Rodgers’ Super Bowl MVP showing.
â€” Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler)
September 10, 2018
Right on, Aaron. Perfect pic.
Now, as far as the game itself, it definitely makes my top five greatest games at Lambeau. Here’s the unofficial list, off the top of my head:
1) The Ice Bowl.
2) The Packers‘ 48-47 win over the Redskins in a 1983 Monday night thriller.
3) Green Bay’s 26-20 win over the Vikings in 2000, punctuated by the Favre-to-Freeman “He did WHAT!?” moment in 2000.
4) 2003 wild-card game: Matt Hasselbeck’s (faulty) proclamation and Al Harris’ pick-six.
5) This Sunday night: Rodgers’ one-legged comeback.
Elsewhere in the NFC …
Look at how Carolina is playing Dallas on 2nd and 17!!!!!!!
Dallas runs the ball here…….. pic.twitter.com/zLLcYIBdQ6
â€” Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher)
September 10, 2018
For the full NFL rundown, take a peek below. The Browns moved up (gulp). We have a new No. 32. If you watched Sunday’s games, you saw that coming. Would like to see your take. Send along … @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Let the dissension commence!
PROGRAMMING NOTE: For more in-depth analysis on the updated league pecking order, tune in to NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET for the “NFL Power Rankings” show. Want to add YOUR voice? Provide your thoughts in a tweet to @HarrisonNFL, and your comments could be featured on air.
Ugly, ugly, ugly
a win. That’s all that matters, right? If you’re scoring at home, Philadelphia hasn’t lost a game that counts since early last December. (No, we’re
not counting that Week 17 snooze-fest against the
Cowboys that mattered nada.) Thought the
Eagles secured last Thursday’s win multiple times, only to suffer through them playing footsie on a punt, logging a few tight end drops and committing the most airheaded neutral-zone penalty of all time. All of which darn-near derailed the defending champs. But … they … just … keep … winning.
Rams stay parked in the 2 spot, as their second-half effort in Oakland revealed how tough an out this group will be all season long. Loved all the play-action Sean McVay was calling with a fourth-quarter lead and the
Raiders anticipating a steady diet of
Todd Gurley runs. Maybe, as Booger McFarland pointed out on the ESPN broadcast, it might seem McVay got a little cute with all the throws late, but that was keeping Paul Guenther’s D guessing. Just wait until L.A.’s defense gets accustomed to playing with one another.
Close call. Yet,
unlike last year, the
Patriots start 1-0. So much to cull from their opening-day win over the
Texans, though the end of the first half was fascinating. Up 14-6, New England got a tipped punt from
Jeremy Hill. Hill ran the next two plays, out of I-formation (a classic running set), in the
two-minute offense. What? Next,
Rex Burkhead got blown up on a running play and fumbled, with the ball bouncing right into
Chris Hogan‘s hands. Then
Tom Brady launched a seam throw into double coverage that Gronk caught (sorta),
only to juggle it as he hit the ground. With the replay booth asleep at the wheel, Brady got the next play going before the previous one could be reviewed.
Phillip Dorsett morphed into Stanley Morgan the rest of the drive, scoring a touchdown just before halftime to put the Pats up 21-6.
Side note: Sad to hear about Hill’s
season-ending ACL tear on Monday. There’s something especially excruciating about Week 1 injuries.
Aaron Rodgers’ performance will be remembered just like
the Emmitt Smith shoulder game and the
Michael Jordan flu game, both of which have resonated with fans for over two decades. A showing like that sticks to your ribs.
The Packers’ win was also one of the top games I’ve ever seen that was played at Lambeau Field (see intro). Outside of recognizing Rodgers’ gem, I would concur with game analyst Cris Collinsworth regarding the Green Bay secondary. DC Mike Pettine has enough formidable players back there now to tinker and experiment — he can utilize six defensive backs whenever he wishes. Should make a huge difference this year.
Falcons move up despite
the season-opening loss due to ugly performances from the
Steelers. Not to mention, these guys had a real challenge Thursday night.
You try going into the home of the world champs, having your best running back
limping on the sideline, losing your defensive enforcer
for the season
and going against a crowd ready to douse its Pabst Blue Ribbon on your head. (Side note: Does anyone say “world” champs anymore? My pro football preview magazine from 1958 does.) Safety
Keanu Neal‘s torn ACL is huge, but I don’t think any of the below teams are better than Atlanta. And
Falcons fans can no longer say I hate their team.
Tried to catch as much of
Cowboys-Panthers as I could Sunday. Every time I looked up, Carolina was out-hustling, out-hitting and out-working the famed visiting team. Despite a score that was seemingly competitive for most of the contest, Dallas, frankly, never looked to be in the game. The
Panthers‘ defense doesn’t get as much respect as it used to, but Carolina put the kibosh on the
Cowboys‘ “attack” all afternoon, save for a fourth-quarter drive to pull the game to within one score. Downside on Sunday:
Daryl Williams going down and
Greg Olsen re-fracturing his foot, two big setbacks which account for Ron Rivera’s squad not being higher up on this pecking order.
It’s your time to shine,
That was a shellacking Baltimore put on Buffalo on Sunday. We don’t see a team get its butt kicked like that in the big leagues too often. Poor
Nathan Peterman had no answers. Didn’t really have any questions to ask, either. It was all elements, purple and — ultimately — pine in his face, as the
Ravens defense didn’t let the
Bills breathe. Buffalo posted all of 153 yards of offense. All day. That’s not the stat of the week, though. This is: All three of Baltimore’s free-agent WR acquisitions —
John Brown and
Michael Crabtree — scored touchdowns. That’s what we call a
free-agent haul in these here parts.
Large drop for the
Saints, who entered the season as bona fide
Super Bowl contenders, according to many folks. The plummet has much to do with the defense, which found itself in the deep abyss of
Ryan Fitzpatrick-is-white-hot-and-torching-my-team territory
against the Bucs on Sunday. When the ball wasn’t going to
DeSean Jackson was the man. When it wasn’t DJax,
O.J. Howard was making plays, including a 35-yarder. Evans and Jackson
balls. New Orleans might have to catch a few breaks during the rest of
Mark Ingram‘s four-game suspension. Otherwise, coordinator Dennis Allen’s defensive unit will get gassed.
No run game + track-meet-style football = exhausted defensive players.
Just when it seemed the
Texans could be on the verge of getting blown out, they climbed back into
the game against the Patriots with timely defense and special teams play. The explosive brand of offense we saw from
Deshaun Watson last year? Nowheresville on Sunday. The sophomore phenom looked anything but phenomenal, going 17 of 34 for 176 yards, with a touchdown and a pick. Most alarming was the figure of 5.2 yards per attempt. Last year, Watson owned one of the highest figures in the league in that category, with 8.3 per throw, albeit in just seven games. Key sequence: the
Patriots‘ touchdown drive right before halftime, when the replay booth did not review Gronk’s
“catch.” Inside of two minutes, the replay official should have been Johnny on the spot. Instead, New England received a gratuitous spot of the football.
Saddest part of
the Chargers’ loss to the Chiefs was not
Joey Bosa’s absence (or the absence of the defense as a whole), and it was not starting a big, fat 0-1 in the AFC West. Nope, it was all the red jerseys in the Bolts’ “home” crowd. I noticed the dispiriting sea of cherry while watching the replay of
fourth-quarter touchdown grab. The defense was awful, but at least the kicking game made up for it by
botching a kick late in the fourth quarter.
Throwback Tuesday: The Bolts shank early season field goals.
Shocking. Well, it’s clear Bosa will be missed as long as that foot injury lingers. Meanwhile, the offense put up gobs of yards and points, so that won’t be the problem this year. Still, starting the season with a divisional home loss is hardly the ideal way to embark on the road to
Super Bowl LIII.
Slight drop for the
Giants, mostly for
failing to seize the game when the visiting Jags were playing with one arm … er, one hamstring … behind their back.
Once Leonard Fournette went out in the second quarter, Jacksonville stalled. The game was there for the taking. After
Saquon Barkley got stopped on fourth down midway through the third quarter, Big Blue went punt, punt,
pick-six, touchdown, punt, turnover on downs. This against a tired Jags defense that barely got any rest while
Blake Bortles and the offense faltered.
Bears fans are feeling the hangover of too many first-half Jagerbombs and/or
one of the worst collapses in recent memory, let’s try to look at the big picture. Chicago has a good enough team to win 10 games for the first time since the Brian Urlacher/Lovie Smith era. Moreover, it took an otherworldly game from
Aaron Rodgers for the
Bears to be brought down
in Lambeau. The running back, wide receivers, offensive line, pass rush and linebackers on this team are stout. It’s up to Mitch Trubisky to take the next step, and it’s up to the corners to play better. (
Catch the ball!) I think both will happen.
So … of all the rankings handed out
in last week’s file, I felt I was hardest on the
Redskins. And obviously now, with hindsight, I regret that. It happens. There is only one No. 20 slot. So, even if you believe that a team like Washington belongs there, chances are that five other squads feel right at that spot, as well. Thus, the
Redskins just fell victim to a numbers game. On Sunday, though, the ‘Skins turned all of the numbers in their favor, cruising past the
24-6, in Glendale.
Alex Smith was efficient and effective.
Adrian Peterson racked up 166 yards of offense despite reportedly being 50 years old.
Chris Thompson played like, well,
Chris Thompson. Then there was
who scored a touchdown — and who remains in the prayers of
fantasy football owners across the country. (Please stay healthy. PLEASE.)
Small move for the
Broncos, who secured
the home win Sunday … but didn’t look all that impressive in doing so. Well, with
Von Miller being an obvious exception. Denver’s dynamic edge rusher went on a
KhalilMackgotwhat? rampage, sacking the ever-elusive
Russell Wilson three times. The concern — and this is coming from someone who watched much of the game with a
Broncos fan — was the erratic play of
Case Keenum. The 30-year-old quarterback is supposed to be
THE difference with this team in 2018. That same Denver fan swears that undrafted rookie
Phillip Lindsay is special — as in, more special than third-round pick (and preseason darling)
Bucs fans would probably like to see Tampa even higher than No. 18, but we need to see more than one stirring week from Dirk Koetter’s outfit. That said, a nine-spot jump is significant in these here rankings. Storming the Superdome and
beating the hyped Saints is no small feat. And it was no fluke, either: The
Buccaneers controlled the game throughout. Two concerns, though. To start, the reconstructed defense gave up 40 points and 475 yards of offense. That first point bleeds into the second, which is that
Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t be expected to play like Dan Fouts — with that Dan Fouts beard of his — every week. The D must get some stops. And actually, upon further thought, Fitzpatrick’s beard more resembles
those dudes in the Sam Adams commercials, but whatever. That beard
got the game ball on Sunday.
Cincy stuck it out Sunday in Indy. Was
the road win indicative of a playoff run? Maybe not, but give the
Bengals some credit for fighting their way back into a contest in which they were down 13-3 and 23-10. The offense moved in a David Klingler-ly way much of the first half — before
Andy Dalton got the passing game going. While far from an air raid, a few dump-offs to
Joe Mixon garnered valuable yardage, and eight
Bengals caught passes from their redheaded leader. Don’t forget about the bend-but-clutch defense in the second half, either.
Even the most ardent
49ers fan knew that Sunday in Minnesota was going to be one helluva challenge. Safe to say that was the best defense
Jimmy Garoppolo has faced in his young career — even better than the Jags unit
he toppled last December. And when a defensive master like Mike Zimmer has an entire offseason to prepare for Garoppolo’s strengths and otherwise … well, that’s when you get three picks (with
one being sixed). Regrettably, and ironically, what stuck out the most Sunday was how much this offense could’ve used former Viking
Jerick McKinnon, particularly in the passing game. Next up:
the home opener vs. Detroit.
‘Tis the season for unpretty wins. Between four-plus hours of weather delays, multiple turnovers and a so-so showing from
Ryan Tannehill, the
Titans to kick off the season at 1-0. This was the longest same-day delay I can remember. (In fact, at seven hours and eight minutes, it was
the longest game since the 1970 merger, according to the Elias Sports.) Makes you wonder if the
Dolphins played UNO in the clubhouse to pass the time as lightning shut down Hard Rock Stadium. The cruddiest part for an athlete during a delay like that: the body cools off, which is not a great thing for the body to do smack dab in the middle of a football game. Trying to stay loose and warm for a few minutes on an exercise bike is one thing. These guys could’ve binge-watched “Cobra Kai” and had time left over to sit on their hands. Gritty win.
Before you freak out over the free-fall and slander my good name,
Titans fans, consider the situation.
Marcus Mariota is banged up. As are BOTH of his tackles. Then you have the best player on the entire offense
out for the season.
Delanie Walker is one of those All-Pro-caliber players who never gets the accolades but balls out each and every week. Still believe in this Tennessee defense, which was fantastic on third down and forced turnovers. Other than one big run by
Dion Lewis and a 31-yard reception from
Luke Stocker, this unit wasn’t bad on Sunday. Just couldn’t get much help from the
The debacle in Carolina was hardly Scott Linehan’s masterpiece — or, as
Cowboys fans will tell you, hardly far from the norm. Linehan exited stage left after the pitiful offensive display with nary a word. Of course, it’s difficult to blame the OC when the quarterback can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Watch some of the throws
Aaron Rodgers made Sunday night, then watch
Dak Prescott‘s display Sunday. His miss of an open
Deonte Thompson on fourth-and-10 late pretty much sealed the deal. It wasn’t a horrible throw, and a few Twitter followers contended Thompson could’ve caught the ball. In reality, Prescott waited a split-second too long for Thompson to fully come out of his break, didn’t move at all in the pocket, then released right when
Julius Peppers was on him. With no weapons on the outside, no tight ends and an offensive line missing its rudder, Jason Garrett’s group is going nowhere.
That was horrible. That was horrible. That was horrible. That was horrible. That was horrible. (One for every
Lions pass that was intercepted.) At least when
the Bills got blown out,
Nathan Peterman was making his third career start against a standout defense, on the road, in the elements. Detroit got whupped, at home, by a team whose quarterback was making his
first career start. The
could legitimately be 0-5 going into the bye.
Of course. The game
had to end in a tie Sunday. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been the latest error-fest in a long line of Steelers-
Browns error-fests. Cleveland’s new-look defense revealed itself early and often in this contest, producing six takeaways in this AFC North slugfest. Unfortunately, while
Tyrod Taylor didn’t give away the ball nearly as much as his counterpart, he underthrew open receivers too often, especially in the fourth quarter. In fact, his lone interception came on an underthrow to
Josh Gordon. The
Browns are not yet viable enough to win when their quarterback misses those opportunities. But they are good enough to tie.
For someone who has not played meaningful football in 20 months,
Andrew Luck fared pretty well on Sunday.
Tough loss in front of the home crowd, no doubt. However, seeing Luck play (and throw 53 passes without any kind of setback) was encouraging. He’s still not pushing the ball vertically much, outside of
a nice 26-yard scoring toss to Eric Ebron. The old Luck-to-
T.Y. Hilton exchange was evident, as well, bringing back shades of 2016 with
a short touchdown strike in the third quarter.
Oof. If not for the drubbing of the
Bills, more people would’ve noticed how the
Cardinals flew into a windshield Sunday afternoon. Arizona generated all of 213 yards of offense, with one third-down conversion and one (late) touchdown. New head coach Steve Wilks comes from a defensive background, most recently in Carolina. Super. His defense got throttled through the air and sea, until the
Redskins called off the dogs in the fourth quarter. The Cards were so bad, I can’t even get the phrase right. Air and land.
It could’ve been worse.
EJ Manuel could have backed up Nate Peterman on Sunday. Took some grief from
Bills fans for
placing them 31st last week. Turns out I
did rank them wrong. Now what? Does Sean McDermott go to
Josh Allen? Is that even fair to the rookie first-round pick, given the state of the offensive line? By the way, Buffalo’s scrimmage-yards leader was
Marcus Murphy. It’s OK if you’ve never heard of him. Oy vey.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.