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2016 NFL power rankings, Week 2: Patriots back on top

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There’s no case to be made for putting New England anywhere but on top of the power rankings this week.

New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Patriots went to Arizona without Tom Brady, Gronk, their starting offensive tackles, and Rob Ninkovich. They turned the ball over twice, and still beat one of the final four teams from last year and a presumptive Super Bowl favorite this year. If that doesn’t qualify you for No. 1 in this week’s power rankings, I don’t know what does.

The Cardinals took a big fall this week because the Patriots exposed some major issues. Is Tyrann Mathieu back to full tilt yet? Rookie corner Brandon Williams was a major liability. Even Carson Palmer got off to a slow start. I expect the Cardinals to rebound quickly enough, but what if they don’t?

I underestimated the Broncos. No, I underestimated Trevor Siemian. He wasn’t exactly an All-Pro, but he was good enough and had a great team around him. The Panthers played a much better game than they did the last time they met the Broncos. I still dropped them three spots because they still somehow failed to put a second blocker on Von Miller, as if they hadn’t learned their lesson.

The Seahawks always win ugly games like that, and they always start the season shaky. Russell Wilson does amazing things with a garbage offensive line. It’s not easy to go into Seattle and come within two points of the Seahawks. Miami’s defense looked good.

The Packers won. Aaron Rodgers played like a MVP, but they still only beat the Jaguars by four points. This team’s Achilles’ heel is Mike McCarthy.

It’s going to be fun to watch the horse race between the Steelers and the Bengals to win the AFC North. Not as fun as it will be watching them face off in the playoffs again, though.

I struggled with the decision to leave the Vikings and the Raiders where they are or drop them a notch or two, albeit for different reasons. The Vikings were very good, especially the secondary — everywhere but on offense, failing to score an offensive touchdown against the Titans. Sam Bradford should be a little better than Shaun Hill at least.

We spent a lot of time talking about Jack Del Rio’s balls thanks to the Raiders’ game-winning two-point conversion. Heroic? No, but it was the right decision. I didn’t think the Raiders should’ve been in that position in the first place. New Orleans kept Khalil Mack out of the backfield, neutralizing Oakland’s pass rush and letting Drew Brees make splash play after splash play.

Middle of the pack

This section of the power rankings has a lot of teams that won, but did so in a very so-so way. That includes the Chiefs, who pulled off an impressive comeback, digging their way out of a 21-point hole.

I’m not sure it would’ve happened had Keenan Allen not torn his ACL near the end of the first half. The Chargers fell apart after that, like they did last season when they lost Allen (which is why they went from 21 to 28 this week). Kansas City’s defense played a terrible first half, bad enough to leave you wondering how the Chiefs will fare in road games against the Texans and Steelers over the next four months.

There was nothing elite about Baltimore’s win over the Bills, but sometimes a win is a win. More importantly, the Ravens started healthy and stayed healthy. That will serve them well this season.

Houston still looks like the team to beat in the AFC South. I still get the feeling that Jacksonville will ultimately come out on top there. The Jaguars lost to the Packers, but it was a much closer game than even the sportsbooks predicted.

Big jumps, deep falls

I was not giving the Giants enough credit, specifically their defense. Dallas probably should’ve opened up the playbook a little more and not been so conservative with Dak Prescott. Big Blue kept Ezekiel Elliott bottled up and put safety help on Dez Bryant for much of the day. The Cowboys didn’t know how to respond.

I don’t want to give the Eagles too much credit because their 29-10 win came against the Browns, who look poised to break the record for the worst defense ever. However, that was a solid debut for Carson Wentz.

You could say the same thing for the Lions. Sure, they got a win, but it came against the Colts, whose defense could rival the Browns in shittiness this season. Ditto the Buccaneers. Buccaneer bonus: Robert Aguayo seems to be over the yips.

The bottom of the trash heap

I’m just not sure there’s a worse team in the NFL now than the Browns. RG3 at least gave them some hope for making their offense exciting. Too bad Griffin didn’t break his old habits after all. Cleveland is McCown Town again.

Mike Mularkey’s "exotic smashmouth" is exactly what we thought it would be: an ineffective running game sprinkled together with dink and dunk passes. Marcus Mariota deserves better than this.

I still don’t know what Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano have done during their tenure as GM and head coach in Indianapolis to merit the contract extensions they got in January. But at least we can’t say we’re surprised to see the Colts losing like this. This team has Andrew Luck and they’re stuck in rebuilding mode.

My inbox is filled with unread messages from Bears fans upset over me sticking their team at the bottom of the list last week. Congrats, your team is officially better than the Browns now. There’s not much hope here except maybe that the Browns will grade Deshaun Watson the same way they graded Wentz, leaving him for the Bears to pick at No. 2 in the draft next year.

Nobody has as much reason to be embarrassed as Rams fans though. They traded a boatload of draft picks to move up to No. 1 this year and get Jared Goff, then they couldn’t even get him ready to be the backup in time for Week 1. Jeff Fisher said after Monday’s shutout loss to the 49ers that he still had no plans to make changes at QB. Goff must be really bad. Have fun with that, Los Angeles.

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Jack Del Rio, Raiders go for 2 points and the win