The wannabe fiction writer in me would have loved to see Jeff Tuel come out on Sunday and throw for 450 yards and four touchdowns against New England. It would be funny, it would be awesome, it would be the lead story on Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn until Tim Tebow has to sneeze.
It won't happen.
As much fun as it would be, Jeff Tuel, an undrafted rookie who went 4-22 in college, coming out and lighting up a decent Patriots defense, that's an Air Bud story, not an NFL one. As such, the Patriots are easily the No. 1 defense going into week one, and would be pretty high up there even if Matt Leinart, E.J. Manuel, or Kevin Kolb were the Bills starter.
(Update: Drat my lede, the Bills have decided to use Manuel as the starter Sunday instead of Tuel, it was announced Wednesday. I still rank New England No. 1, but there's now more of a conversation to be had between them and my No. 2 defense.)
A quick look at some other defenses that merit mention:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 2) - The Bucs travel to New Jersey to face the Jets Sunday. While there's every chance that Jets quarterbacks Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez (not to mention Brady Quinn) are better at least than Tuel, there's not much to like with Rex Ryan's club, and that's before even considering the possibility of Darrelle Revis returning thirsty for Jet blood, or the fact that the Jets' best offensive weapon, newcomer Chris Ivory, couldn't crack the top 8 or 9 on the Saints, and has a 1.6% career fumble rate. It's hard to find much of a bright side for the Jersey boys.
San Francisco 49ers (No. 5) - A top defense facing a ridiculously good offense is always a difficult rank. Will Aaron Rodgers and his strong Packers receiving corps overtake the ridiculous group of defensive players in San Francisco, or will those 49ers linebackers key on what might be a poor Green Bay offensive line? I rank the SF D second for the season overall, and I slot them at fifth this week.
Indianapolis Colts (No. 14) - This is the exact opposite conundrum of the 49ers talk. The Colts aren't a good defense, but even a poor defense ought to be able to shut down the awful Raiders offense, right? I say yes, and bump the Colts way up from their overall season rank. There is always the possibility that Terrelle Pryor emulates Broncos-era Tebow, and tallies a fair number of rushing yards while limiting the turnovers, but it seems like even in the worst-case scenario for the Colts, the Raiders won't be able to score many points. This week is probably Indy's high-water mark as a defense.
Philadelphia Eagles (No. 28), Washington Redskins (No. 29), Atlanta Falcons (No. 31), New Orleans Saints (No. 32) - These four teams all face each other this week (Philly vs. Washington, Atlanta vs. New Orleans), and it's hard to imagine much defensive effort in either game. In the NFC East showdown, it's two middling defenses vs. two likely above-average offenses, and, while the Falcons probably have the best unit out of these four, the Saints might have the best offense of the group too. If you're using any of this group this week, my best wishes to you, my friend.
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Here are the overall rankings for Week 1:
|1||New England Patriots||Buffalo|
|2||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||NY Jets|
|4||Houston Texans||San Diego|
|5||San Francisco 49ers||Green Bay|
|7||Arizona Cardinals||St. Louis|
|10||St. Louis Rams||Arizona|
|15||Kansas City Chiefs||Jacksonville|
|17||Green Bay Packers||San Francisco|
|18||New York Jets||Tampa Bay|
|19||Dallas Cowboys||NY Giants|
|20||New York Giants||Dallas|
|22||Jacksonville Jaguars||Kansas City|
|24||San Diego Chargers||Houston|
|30||Buffalo Bills||New England|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||New Orleans|
|32||New Orleans Saints||Atlanta|
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