Week 1 a year ago, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers, and, belying the eight-point final difference, beat them pretty handily. In the days after, the following two narratives existed fairly simultaneously:
- The 49ers' defense is just as good as it was in 2011, and will clearly dominate.
- Oh wow, the Packers' offense is way worse than we thought; everyone jump ship.
Now, it is always possible two things can exist simultaneously. But if you're going to decide something as big as "this great offense isn't so great" after just one week, maybe consider that the opposing defense played a role in that, yeah?
(Apropos of nothing, but how many times do two non-division rivals play each other in Week 1 in consecutive seasons? I feel like that's fairly rare.)
In the aftermath of Thursday's ridiculousness between the Broncos and Ravens, we heard about how great, how historic Denver's offense would be in 2013. And it might be, who knows? It was pretty impressive. But we also heard about how the Baltimore defense was in shambles, how all the offseason departures had left the Ravens helpless.
Maybe Denver's offense is just crazy good against anyone, yeah?
That was my thought process in ranking Baltimore's defense this week. I had it at No. 7 for the season, No. 12 last week (because yeah, Denver's good). This week, facing a Cleveland team that allowed three interceptions and six sacks to Miami last week, Baltimore comes in fifth, and that might undersell its defense.
That out of the way, let's discuss some other defenses of note for Week 2:
Chicago Bears (No. 1) - Along with the Cowboys, the Bears were one of only two teams last week that forced multiple fumbles and brought in multiple interceptions. They host Christian Ponder and the Vikings Sunday, and, while Minnesota managed 24 points last week, Ponder threw three interceptions against a Detroit defense that isn't as good as Chicago's unit. I don't expect Adrian Peterson to break off a huge touchdown run every week; the Bears should be a very solid play.
Cincinnati Bengals (No. 7) - The Steelers have zero running game. Their best lineman, three-time Pro-Bowler Maurkice Pouncey, is out for the year. And the Bengals come in with a highly regarded defense. What's my point? Duck, Ben Roethlisberger. It's all coming at you.
Cleveland Browns (No. 9) - I still have faith in the Baltimore defense; that faith is significantly tempered, however, for the team's offense. Cleveland will (I assume) keep Joe Haden all over Torrey Smith, and, with Jacoby Jones out, Marlon Brown just isn't enough of a receiving weapon to do much. If Ray Rice stays as bottled up as he did Sunday, it's hard to see Baltimore scoring too many points.
New York Jets (No. 14) - I never look at others' rankings when I do mine, because I don't want someone else's opinion to influence mine any more than I can help it. I do, however, look at others' rankings for this section, because I want to be able to explain huge discrepancies where they arise. ESPN's consensus defense rankings have the Jets at No. 25, with no individual ranker slotting them above 18th. I don't understand that. Yeah, they're playing the Patriots, and Tom Brady is always Tom Brady. But there is every chance the Patriots will play this game without (or with hobbled versions of) Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Zach Sudfeld and Aaron Dobson. Stevan Ridley nearly got benched. Yeah, Julian Edelman had a good game, and sure, Kenbrell Thompkins has a lot of hype. But this Jets defense -- led by Rex Ryan, who, for all his faults, is a ridiculously good defensive coach -- essentially shut down Doug Martin a week ago. I don't think there's any chance in the world the Jets win this game, but a low-scoring affair wouldn't remotely surprise me.
Tennessee Titans (No. 30) - They shut down the Steelers a week ago. This means that some combination of things is true; either the Titans are better than we thought, the Steelers are worse than we thought, or a mix of the two. For now, I'm running mostly under the assumption that Pittsburgh is who we were wrong about. But my mind is open; with a strong showing at the Texans this week, I could easily bump the Titans up a handful of slots going forward. I'm not there yet, though.
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Here are the overall rankings for Week 2:
|3||New England Patriots||NY Jets|
|6||San Francisco 49ers||at Seattle|
|7||Seattle Seahawks||San Francisco|
|8||Green Bay Packers||Washington|
|9||Cleveland Browns||at Baltimore|
|10||Carolina Panthers||at Buffalo|
|11||Pittsburgh Steelers||at Cincinnati|
|12||Denver Broncos||at NY Giants|
|13||St. Louis Rams||at Atlanta|
|14||New York Jets||at New England|
|16||Miami Dolphins||at Indianapolis|
|17||Dallas Cowboys||at Kansas City|
|18||Detroit Lions||at Arizona|
|19||Kansas City Chiefs||Dallas|
|20||Philadelphia Eagles||San Diego|
|21||New Orleans Saints||at Tampa Bay|
|22||Atlanta Falcons||St. Louis|
|23||San Diego Chargers||at Philadelphia|
|24||Minnesota Vikings||at Chicago|
|25||New York Giants||Denver|
|29||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||New Orleans|
|30||Tennessee Titans||at Houston|
|31||Jacksonville Jaguars||at Oakland|
|32||Washington Redskins||at Green Bay|
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