With two full weeks of NFL action in the books, deciphering the league’s best can be a bit tricky. If there’s one thing that can be expected, it’s that this top 10 will endure its share of changes as the season progresses.
But without further adieu, let’s take a first look at the teams that rank as the cream of the crop early in the new campaign:
10. San Diego Chargers
In their opening game, the Chargers got flat out shocked by the Kansas City Chiefs – and quite frankly, so did the rest of the world. But looking in detail, the outing wasn’t as bad as it seemed. San Diego nearly put up 400 yards of offense (double that of K.C.), and Rivers threw for 298 yards. Three turnovers thwarted their ability to put points on the board. So, when the Bolts put 38 on the board this week, it was business as usual for one of the league’s high powered offenses.
9. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore was the trendy pick for a Super Bowl appearance prior to the start of the season. On the defensive side of the ball, there’s no question that this team has what it takes to get there. Offensively, there’s still too much inconsistency. Or to be honest, their offensive inconsistency is something that has been consistent about them for the past decade. It comes down to QB Joe Flacco. If he limits his mistakes (as he did in Week 1 against the Jets), the Ravens win. If he tries to do too much (4 interceptions against the Bengals), things will remain tough for them.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Yes, their air attack has the ability to be quite explosive. Ochocinco, Owens and rookies Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham provide Carson Palmer with a set of talented options. But their defense – which seemed to be in disarray versus the Patriots – stepped up and resembled the successful unit from last year. The Bengals defense should gain even more confidence given their next couple of opponents are the Carolina Panthers and the Cleveland Browns.
7. New York Jets
Did they burn the playbook from their Week 1 Monday night debacle against the Ravens? It sure looked like it as Mark Sanchez looked like someone worthy of a high draft pick. L.T. is doing his thing, averaging 6.3 yards per carry through two games. The defense has struggled in certain matchups, but has not totally broken – they are only allowing 12 points per game. A physical Sunday night matchup against the Dolphins awaits.
6. Miami Dolphins
Miami has started the season off with road wins (Vikings – very impressive, Bills – not so much). Their defense was shredded by the most complete running back in the game, Adrian Peterson, but were ultimately the beneficiaries of some poor decision-making by Brett Favre. And give Miami credit for stuffing A.P. when it counted – fourth and goal from the 1-yard line leading 14-10. In their upcoming contest versus New York – with Darrelle Revis out of action – the Dolphins should be looking forward to having Brandon Marshall working one-on-one against Antonio Cromartie. If Marshall saw any footage of the Ravens-Jets showdown, he should be licking his chops.
5. Indianapolis Colts
Sitting at 1-1, the Colts have the look and feel of a team that is unfazed by their loss to the Texans. Indy has averaged 31 points per game, and the offense is still in stellar shape. Peyton Manning is in full control of his unit, and put on a clinic against his brother and the Giants. Defense is always the big question mark with this squad. The defensive ends will bring the heat – Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis – but the secondary is very weak at this point.
4. Houston Texans
The Texans came through with two signature wins to start this season. The win over Indianapolis allowed the Texans to overcome an obstacle that they have seemingly always stumbled upon. Couple that with an improbable come-from-behind victory at Fedex Field and you have the makings of a team that has good things in store for the future. Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster are all playing like Pro-Bowlers. They’ll have extreme confidence in their next game versus the Dallas Cowboys.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Defense has been the name of their game. The Steelers have held Michael Turner (Falcons) to 42 yards rushing on 19 carries. They’ve held last year’s Offensive Player of the Year Chris Johnson to 34 yards on 16 carries. Their quarterback situation is one that will be fixed in a couple of weeks, but they are maintaining in a better than expected fashion without a discernible leader for their offense.
2. New Orleans Saints
The Super Bowl champs? At number two? Yes, because they have not looked like last year’s Super Bowl champs on the offensive end of the ball. Brees and company have only put up 39 points in two games – - a stark contrast to their beginning of 2009 – which saw the Saints run up 93 points in their first couple of games. But New Orleans got it done against the Vikings and Niners, teams with tough defenses. With their mix of talent and experience, it’s safe to anticipate that the Saints will be near the top once again when all is said and done.
1. Green Bay Packers
If the Packers and Saints squared off today, it would be an extremely tight game. But one thing’s for certain: Green Bay has looked sharper than New Orleans thus far. The Pack has the best point differential in the league, which means that they have been playing offense and defense. They have the appearance of a group that believe in themselves, and they have effective leaders on both sides of the ball in Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews. Things are looking up in Green Bay, and the best part about it is that Brett Favre is nowhere to be found.