Tom Uddo, Contributor
Following up from last year, every week we will be posting our NFC Power Rankings, a list that encourages debate and discussion. Even though each team has just one game under their belt, we have a pretty good indication of how the teams in the NFC stack up. But remember, it is just ONE game and everything can change as teams progress through the season. Here are your Week 1 NFC Power Rankings.
1. San Francisco 49ers (1-0): Coming into the season, the Niners were projected to be the favorites in the NFC and many picked them to win it all. They lived up to every expectation against Green Bay this past week. Colin Kaepernick showed that Anquan Boldin was worth WAY more than a sixth-round draft pick (13 receptions, 208 yards, 1 touchdown) and looked extremely comfortable in the pocket. Somehow, the Niners look better than last year, even with Michael Crabtree on the field.
2. Seattle Seahawks (1-0): Russell Wilson was the talk of the town after his stellar performance as a rookie QB last season. But it was the Seattle defense that was able to shut down Cam Newton and the Carolina Panther’s offense in Week 1. Even though it was only a 12-7 victory, the Seahawks gave up a mere 163 yards to an offense that looks deadly with Newton taking the snaps.
3. New Orleans Saints (1-0): There is no question that the Saints are going to put points on the board this year and a win against the Falcons, a divisional opponent, is a statement. With the reunion of head coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees, the Saints look like they will strongly contend for the NFC South.
4. Green Bay Packers (0-1): A tough loss to the Niners that can’t be looked at like a bad loss. Aaron Rodgers is still a top QB in the league, but struggled against the fierce San Fran defense when they put pressure on him. The Packers need to be able to find their running game to give Rodgers some time on play action passes and may rely heavily on rookie RB Eddie Lacy. More questions arise on defense, as the team allowed 34 points and nearly 500 yards of total offense; showcasing their inability to stop Kaepernick & Co.
5. Atlanta Falcons (0-1): Giving the ball to Matt Ryan with two minutes left and the game on the line usually signals a victory for the Falcons, but they were unable to pull it off in “The Big Easy”. A late interception in the end zone is something that we are not accustomed to seeing with Ryan, so it should be noted. But with Roddy White nursing a sore ankle and not at 100%, it is really tough to judge the Falcons loss to the Saints, especially under the circumstances.
6. Chicago Bears (1-0): Bears QB Jay Cutler looked extremely good under pressure from the Cincinnati Bengals defense, while most of the credit should be placed on the offensive line of Chicago. Cutler is known for taking some serious hits in the pocket, and has been the most sacked QB in the league over the past four season. The fact that he was able to walk off the field Sunday without being sacked and celebrated a victory against a tough Bengals team, is certainly a positive. The Bears erased an 11-point deficit in the third quarter without star RB Matt Forte putting up anywhere close to big numbers (19 carries, 50 yards, 1 touchdown).
7. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0): Chip Kelly’s offense, a quick paced, no-huddle attack that relies on a fast weapons, has officially arrived in Philadelphia. Eagles QB Michael Vick looked comfortable running the read-option and utilized the entire field, from RB LeSean McCoy (31 carries, 184 yards, 1 touchdown) to receiver DeSean Jackson (7 receptions, 104 yards, 1 touchdown). Philadelphia controlled the first three quarters, but let the Washington Redskins back into the game, a testament that their may be issues on defense. It might take teams a couple of weeks to figure out Kelly’s Oregon offense that worked so effectively in college.
8. Detroit Lions (1-0): The Lions offense was solid against the Vikings and QB Matthew Stafford showed that RB Reggie Bush (21 carries, 90 yards, 4 receptions, 101 yards, 1 touchdown) is going to be a huge part of their offense. Even with Calvin Johnson limited, the Lions still managed to score 34 points. Just three more wins until they equal their total wins for all of last season, a number they should be sure to pass when it’s all said and done this year.
9. St. Louis Rams (1-0): It may be too early to judge, but the Rams offense led by QB Sam Bradford was quite effective. Bradford was able to connect with TE Jared Cook multiple times throughout the game (7 receptions, 142 yards, 2 touchdowns) and completed over 70 percent of his passes. It probably won’t be like that every week with Bradford’s inconsistencies, but the Rams are off to a good start.
10. Dallas Cowboys (1-0): Forcing six turnovers against the New York Giants and still only managed a five point victory? There is more to be concerned about in “Big D” than just the health of superstar receiver Dez Bryant.
11. Washington Redskins (0-1): There may be a lot of concern building around Washington and the play of the Redskins. RGIII was not perfect (329 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions), but more of the worry is on RB Alfred Morris, who couldn’t seem to get out of his own way (12 carries, 45 yards, 1 touchdown). You can’t really frown upon the defense, since nobody knew what to really expect from the Eagles and Kelly’s read-option attack, but the team did make a strong effort at a comeback that just fell short.
12. Carolina Panthers (0-1): QB Cam Newton couldn’t gather any momentum on offense as his team was held to just one touchdown against a tough Seattle defense. On the bright side, they were able to hold the electric offense of Russell Wilson and the Seahawks to just 12 points and only 70 rushing yards.
New York Giants (0-1): The good news? It seems as if Giants’ QB Eli Manning (450 yards, 4 touchdowns, 3 interceptions) hasn’t lost his touch with his receivers, as three of them caught over 100 yards. The bad news? The Giants could not hold onto the ball, giving up the pigskin six times. Running Back David Wilson is back in the doghouse as he lost the ball on his first carry of the game and once more later on, while backup RB Da’Rel Scott apparently doesn’t know the playbook. The signing of veteran RB Brandon Jacobs only signals that Big Blue needs help when it comes to the ground game. Their matchup this week against the Denver Broncos is going to be a serious gut check for the G-Men.13.
14. Arizona Cardinals (0-1): Carson Palmer looked good as the new starting QB for the Cardinals (327 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception), and was able to find superstar WR Larry Fitzgerald twice in the end zone. However, Arizona did blow an 11-point lead to the Rams and will have a tough time competing in the NFC West.
15. Minnesota Vikings (0-1): If only the Vikings could just hand the ball off to RB Adrian Peterson (18 carries, 93 yards, 2 touchdowns) every down, it would make life so much easier. With Christian Ponder airing the ball out for almost anyone on the field, no matter their jersey, it will be tough for Minnesota to compete each game. Opponents are going to stack eight men in the box to try and contain AP, and if they can, Ponder will most likely give the game away.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1): The Bucs’ fell flat in everyway possible on Sunday against the New York Jets. With a BRUTAL last-second flag that allowed the Jets to move into field-goal range for the game-winning points, along with a poor performances from RB Doug Martin (24 carries, 65 yards, 1 touchdown) and QB Josh Freeman (210 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception), the Buccaneers might be in a “free fall”, for the entire season.