2015 AFC East Betting Preview: Miami takes Crown from Patriots

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo BillsThe New England Patriots have won the AFC East in 11 out of the last 12 seasons. So based purely on history, it would seem that they again have the inside track on the division. However, the Miami Dolphins have arisen to offer serious competition, while the Buffalo Bills will also be formidable foes. The New York Jets, on the other hand, appear locked in as the AFC East doormat. Below you can see what to expect from each of these four teams in 2015.

4th in Division: New York Jets; 4-12 W/L Projection

darrelle-revis-jetsStrengths: New York’s defensive line appears destined to crush opposing signal callers, with D-ends Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson combining with top-10 pick Leonard Williams and the underrated Damon Harrison. It’s not exactly like opposing QBs will pick apart the secondary either, thanks to new additions Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. This defense is certainly good enough to keep plenty of games close for the Jets.

Weaknesses: The main problem for New York will be moving the ball since they don’t have an elite-level quarterback on the roster. Geno Smith, who’s just 11-18 as a starter, is out 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw. Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick is probably better than Smith, but he’s never been to a postseason game. The running back corp is strengthened with the additions of Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley, who join Chris Ivory. But teams will likely just stack the box until New York can generate any sort of passing offense.

3rd in Division: Buffalo Bills; 9-7 W/L Projection

mario-williams-billsStrengths: As good as the Jets D-line is, Buffalo has an even better one with Pro Bowlers Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus all teeing off on QBs. Defensive end Jerry Hughes is also quite good, meaning this unit should again approach their league-leading sack total of 54. These guys aren’t just pass rushers, though, because they also held opposing teams to 106.4 rushing YPG, ranking them just outside the top 10.

Weaknesses: The Bills offense seems set to explode, with the additions of RB LeSean McCoy, TE Charles Clay and utility man Percy Harvin. There’s just one problem: who’s going to lead them? Buffalo still has an open competition going at quarterback, with neither Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel or Tyrod Taylor looking like an impressive option.

2nd in Division: New England Patriots; 10-6 W/L Projection

tom-brady-patriotsStrengths: It’s always tough betting against the Patriots, namely because Tom Brady is so good. The jury is still out on whether courts will uphold the 4-game suspension for Deflate-gate. But whenever Brady does take the field, he’s a guaranteed winner, no matter whom he’s throwing the ball to. The 37-year-old threw for 4,109 yards, 33 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions in his 15th season. Oh yeah, and he also has four Super Bowl rings, including the one last year. The same winner billing can be attached to head coach Bill Belichick, who has led the Patriots to 14-straight winning seasons

Weaknesses: New England has plenty of offseason losses to cover up, but the worst are at corner, where Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner have departed. Bradley Fletcher and Tarell Brown were (cheaply) signed to take their places, but they figure to be stop gaps at best.

1st in Division: Miami Dolphins; 12-4 W/L Projection

ryan-tannehillStrengths: Yet another AFC East team with a great D-line, Miami’s only got better when they signed Ndamukong Suh to a massive 6-year, $114 million deal. Suh should help the Dolphins boost their sack total of 39, but where he’ll really help is in shoring up the run defense, which ranked 23rd in the league. Add in 4-time Pro Bowler Cameron Wake and the possibilities are endless for this unit. And let’s not forget the offense, which, led by QB Ryan Tannehill, added wideouts Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker along with TE Jordan Cameron.

Weaknesses: Middle linebacker Koa Misi is one of the league’s best at his position. Unfortunately, Miami needs too many other linebackers to fill the losses of Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. What’s left will be especially bad in coverage situations, meaning the defensive line and young corners must step up to mask the linebacking problems.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 14 (Dec. 5th, 2013)

peyton-manning-chiefsLast week was characterized by a couple of very high-profile matchups between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, as well as the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. The Broncos proved their dominance of the AFC West by beating their division rivals on the road by a score of 35-28. Kansas City is still a lock for the playoffs, but the illusion of their defensive dominance is now gone.

As for the Saints and Seahawks, this one wasn’t even close as Seattle throttled the visiting team. Most believe that the Saints are nearly invincible inside of the Superdome. But they appeared very mortal while playing at CenturyLink Field. Here’s a look at how last week’s featured games will shake up the Week 14 NFL power rankings.

1. Denver Broncos (10-2); beat Kansas City 35-28, retains same ranking – The margin between Seattle and Denver is slim. But it’s hard to bump Peyton and company out of the top spot when they just beat a playoff-bound Chiefs for the second time this season. Eric Decker had the game of his life after reeling in four of Manning’s five touchdown passes.

2. Seattle Seahawks (11-1); beat New Orleans 34-7, retains same ranking – So much for that bolstered New Orleans defense… Russell Wilson looked like a 10-year veteran the way he picked apart the Saints defense to the tune of 310 passing yards and three touchdowns. Oh yea, and Seattle’s defense was pretty good too as they shut down one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

3. New England Patriots (9-3); beat Houston 34-31, moves up two spots – The Pats got off to a slow start against Houston. But they once again staged a big comeback on the strength of Tom Brady’s 371 yards and two touchdowns. On a side note, Stevan Ridley’s days as New England’s starting running back appear over.

colin-kaepernick4. San Francisco 49ers (8-4); beat St. Louis 23-13, moves up two spots – San Francisco ended St. Louis’ hot streak and took a big step forward in the race for NFC playoff positioning. The Niners, who began the year trying to feature Colin Kaepernick’s talents more, seem to be getting back to this approach now that they’ve got some wins under their belt.

5. New Orleans Saints (9-3); lost to Seattle 34-7, drops two spots – The Saints didn’t suddenly become a bad team just because they got blown out by a fellow NFC powerhouse. However, this loss does raise some questions about New Orleans’ ability to win big games away from home.

6. Carolina Panthers (9-3); beat Tampa Bay 27-6, moves up one spot – Nobody predicted this week’s game against New Orleans to be a battle for first place in the NFC South. But that’s exactly where we’re at after Carolina won a franchise-record eighth straight game. Cam Newton is playing the best football of his three-year career, and just threw for 263 yards, ran for 68 yards, and accounted for three TD’s against the Buccaneers.

7. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3); lost to Denver 35-28, drops three spots – Alex Smith is really looking solid at QB after piling up 293 passing yards, 46 rushing yards, and three total TD’s. But what happened to that vaunted KC pass rush from earlier this year? Manning went virtually untouched for the second time these two teams faced.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4); beat San Diego 17-10, moves up one spot – Holding the Chargers to 10 points at home is no small feat. The Bengals supplemented their great defensive effort with a strong running game (164 yards on 38 carries).

9. Indianapolis Colts (8-4); beat Tennessee Titans 22-14, moves up one spot – The Colts put a halt to their massive struggles with a hard-fought victory over Tennessee. Their lack of a running game is disturbing and the Trent Richardson deal is officially a dud. But they still have a little bit of time to fix these issues before the postseason.

demarco-murray10. Dallas Cowboys (7-5); beat Oakland 31-24, moves up one spot – Dallas used a surprisingly effective two-back approach, with Lance Dunbar rushing for 82 yards on 12 carries and DeMarco Murray gaining 63 yards on 19 carries. Murray also got into the end zone three times against the soft Oakland D.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (7-5); beat Arizona 24-21, moves up one spot – Philadelphia keeps pace with Dallas in the NFC West with a huge victory over Arizona. Is it time to anoint Nick Foles (237PYDS, 3TD) as one of the league’s top QB’s?

12. Detroit Lions (7-5); beat Green Bay 40-10, moves up one spot – The Lions absolutely terrorized Matt Flynn in the pocket and racked up seven sacks and a safety. Now, the challenge will be repeating this dominant performance against teams without Flynn under center.

13. Arizona Cardinals (7-5); lost to Philadelphia 24-21, drops five spots – The Cardinals don’t really deserve this free-fall after losing by three points on the road. But with everybody behind them winning and boasting a similar record, the margin for error is slim in this range.

14. Baltimore Ravens (6-6); beat Pittsburgh 22-20, moves up three spots – Like any true champion, the Ravens aren’t going down without a fight. They scraped by with five field goals, and dug in to stop a two-point conversion with 1:03 left.

15. Miami Dolphins (6-6); beat New York Jets 23-3, moves up three spots – You have to give Miami some credit for battling back to .500 with all of the controversy surrounding them. It now appears that they’re in a two-team race with Baltimore for the last AFC Wild Card spot.

adrian-peterson-rushing-record16. Chicago Bears (6-6); lost to Minnesota 23-20 (OT), drops two spots – Chicago blew a golden opportunity to keep pace with the Lions in the NFC North. Their defense once again got gashed by a running back, with Adrian Peterson rushing for 211 yards on 35 carries.

17. San Diego Chargers (5-7); lost to Cincinnati 17-10, drops two spots – After a dramatic 3-point victory at Kansas City last week, San Diego couldn’t keep the magic going at home against the Bengals. The offense was surprisingly ineffective, especially when they crossed the 50-yard-line, and failed to complete drive after drive.

18. Green Bay Packers (5-6-1); lost to Detroit 40-10, drops two spots – Aaron Rodgers may be back this week. But the Pack is also down one and a half games in the NFC North, which is probably too wide of a margin to make up.

19. New York Giants (5-7); beat Washington 24-17, moves up four spots – New York kept their slim postseason hopes alive thanks to four sacks from Justin Tucker. Andre Brown also added two touchdown runs, though he only gained 35 yards on 14 carries.

20. Tennessee Titans (5-7); lost to Indianapolis 22-14, retains same ranking – Although they lost, Tennessee is still just a game out of the AFC Wild Card race, and they hold all of the tiebreakers.

21. New York Jets (5-7); lost to Miami 23-3, drops two spots – New York is just playing terribly on offense right now. At least Rex Ryan finally had the nerve to bench Geno Smith after another awful outing (29PYDS, 1INT). Unfortunately, Matt Simms isn’t much better…

22. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7); lost to Baltimore 22-20, drops one spot – Not only did Mike Tomlin earn himself a big fine for stepping in the way of a Jacoby Jones’ 73-yard kickoff return, but he also may have costed Pittsburgh a draft pick. Not exactly the best way to build for the future.

zac-stacy23. St. Louis Rams (5-7); lost to San Francisco 23-13, drops one spot – St. Louis fought hard on the road against a superior team. Zac Stacy turned in a tough game against this loaded defense as he rushed for 78 yards on 19 carries. He’s definitely a good building block for the future.

24. Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1); beat Chicago 23-20 (OT), moves up five spots – The teams from here on out are so bad that Minnesota leaps up five spots for grabbing a win against the Bears. Adrian Peterson finally looked like he did in the second half of last season, showing he has more than enough left in the tank.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9); beat Cleveland 32-28, moves up five spots – It’s finally time to consider the Jaguars a legitimate NFL team again. Chad Henne led a late comeback after finding Cecil Shorts in the end zone with 40 seconds remaining.

26. Cleveland Browns (4-8); lost to Jacksonville 32-28, drops two spots – As if it were possible, Cleveland is about to get a lot worse! Now both Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden are hurt, leaving the Browns picking at the bottom of the barrel for a healthy QB.

27. Oakland Raiders (4-8); lost to Dallas 31-24, drops two spots – After some ups and downs this season, Oakland is having yet another bad season. Perhaps they’ve found a quarterback for next year in Matt McGloin, though.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9); lost to Carolina 27-6, drops two spots – At this point, it’s very difficult to see Greg Schaino keeping his job. So Tampa Bay will essentially go back to the drawing board this offseason.

29. Atlanta Falcons (3-9); beat Buffalo 34-31 (OT), moves up two spots – Atlanta finally got the type of all-around offensive production they’ve been looking for, with Matt Ryan throwing for 311 yards and 1 TD, and Steven Jackson rushing for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

30. Buffalo Bills (4-8); lost to Atlanta 34-31 (OT), drops three spots – The good news is that CJ Spiller (149RYDS, 1TD) finally looked like the back that Buffalo was expecting this year. The bad news is that it comes when this team’s season has already gone down the drain.

31. Washington Redskins (3-9); lost to New York Giants 24-17, drops three spots – Washington has now been eliminated from the postseason in 17 of the last 21 years. After this season’s disappointment, some wonder if Mike Shanahan will be around in 2014.

32. Houston Texans (2-10); lost to New England 34-31, retains same ranking – Another close call for Houston, another loss. The Texans haven’t won since September 15th and it’s questionable if that will change before 2013 ends.

 

New England Patriots Running Back Situation Murky at Best

stevan-ridley-fumbleThe New England Patriots are arguably coming off their biggest win of the season – a 34-31 overtime thriller over the Denver Broncos. Based on the rest of the division, they’re all but guaranteed to win the AFC East at this point and have a pretty soft remaining schedule. But despite all of the positive signs, there’s definitely trouble brewing in Foxborough. For whatever reason, the Patriots just can’t seem to find a running back who’s capable of carrying the load.

Now, based on talent alone, Stevan RIdley appeared to be that guy when the season opened. After all, the third-year back out of LSU was coming off a year where he rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. But he started 2013 off on a sour note after fumbling twice in the first game – one of which was narrowly ruled to have hit the ground first. The fumble that did count was enough to convince Bill Belichick to bench his star running back while Shane Vereen took over.

Vereen got hurt, though, which left Ridley in a committee with Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount. Things would remain this way until a few more weeks into the regularshane-vereen season, when Ridley took over as the lead back again. Unfortunately, he’s now lost a fumble in three straight games for the Pats. His latest one was returned by the Broncos for a touchdown, thus relegating Ridley to the bench for the rest of the game.

So where does this leave the Patriots’ running back situation right now? It’s really anybody’s guess because all four RB’s should get playing time moving forward. Vereen is considered the lead passing back, while Bolden backs him up and sometimes carries the ball. Blount is the other early-down back besides Ridley, and he’s put up 374 yards on just 82 carries. So this power back is likely to remain heavily involved moving forward too.

Of course, the Pats will remain a pass-first offense, using the run to balance things out. But you still have to wonder about New England when you’re considering them for regular or live wagering opportunities. They’re a very good football team with plenty of weapons and Tom Brady under center. However, they are also a team that’s failed to establish a reliable running back who’s guaranteed to gut tough yards out – without fumbling in the process.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 7 (Oct. 15th, 2013)

justin-houston-chiefsAnother week of NFL action, another unbeaten falls. The New Orleans Saints saw their unblemished record take a hit when they fell to the New England Patriots by a score of 30-27. Now only the Broncos and Chiefs remain undefeated as we enter Week 7. Taking this into account, their November 17th showdown will be quite entertaining and offer plenty of regular and live wagering opportunities. Now let’s take a look at where all of the teams sit as we move closer to the midway point of the season.

1. Denver Broncos (6-0); beat Jacksonville 35-19, retains same ranking – The Broncos made sports betting history by being a four-touchdown favorite against Jacksonville. However, this gaudy line didn’t materialize as the Jags were actually able to move the ball against this mediocre Denver defense. However, we’ve yet to see a team that can stop the Broncos offense, even when they’re not playing perfect.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-0); beat Oakland 24-7, moves up 2 spots – Questions about Alex Smith’s arm strength aside, Kansas City has been as dominant a team as any. They’re beating opponents by an average of 14.5 points and might boast the league’s best defense.

3. New Orleans Saints (5-1); lost to New England 30-27, drops one spot – A 3-point loss on the road to the Patriots isn’t anything to be overly concerned about. This is still a great, well-rounded team that’s tabbed by many to make it to the NFC Championship.

4. Seattle Seahawks (5-1); beat Tennessee Titans, retains same ranking – With Percy Harvin’s return approaching, Seattle’s offense is definitely due for a boost. But they’ve still been doing well regardless, with Marshawn Lynch gaining 155 all-purpose yards and Russell Wilson adding 318 total yards last game.

5. New England Patriots (5-1); beat New Orleans 30-27, moves up one spot – For the stevan-ridley-patriotsfirst time since Shane Vereen got injured in Week 1, the Patriots showed a consistent ground game. Is Stevan Ridley finally back in Bill Belichik’s good graces?

6. San Francisco 49ers (4-2); beat Arizona 32-20, drops one spot – The 49ers grabbed a nice home win over an improving Cardinals team. With the focus shifting towards Frank Gore and the ground game, San Francisco looks like a different and better squad.

7. Green Bay Packers (3-2); beat Baltimore 19-17, moves up one spot – Green Bay got bad news about Randall Cobb since he’ll be out for several weeks. With their top receiver injured, expect Eddie Lacy to get a few more carries heading forward.

8. Chicago Bears (4-2); beat New York Giants 27-21, moves up one spot – This isn’t the Bears’ most impressive victory – especially when they got gashed by ancient running back Brandon Jacobs. But Jay Cutler and the offense continue to rack up points while the defense forces turnovers.

9. Indianapolis Colts (4-2); lost to San Diego 19-9, drops two spots – After an incredible stretch that saw the Colts win road games in both Seattle and San Francisco, they drop a tough road contest to the Chargers. Concerns about Trent Richardson are growing because his stats are subpar (191YDS, 3.1YPC in four games) since coming over from the Browns.

10. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2); beat Buffalo 27-24, retains same ranking – Despite playing against a practice squad quarterback in Thaddeus Lewis, Cincinnati let Buffalo back in this game. Still, they escape with a win and remain on top of the AFC North.

11. Detroit Lions (4-2); beat Cleveland 31-17, retains same ranking – An ill-advised Brandon Weeden flip pass sealed the victory for Detroit. Matthew Stafford threw three second-half touchdowns to spark a turnaround.

12. Dallas Cowboys (3-3); beat Washington 31-16, moves up two spots – Dallas moves back into the upper echelon after making it look easy against their division foe. It wasn’t an entirely good day, though, since both DeMarcus Ware and DeMarco Murry were lost in this game. Both are expected to miss multiple weeks for the Cowboys.

13. Miami Dolphins (3-2); bye week, drops one spot – Miami will look to stop a two-lamar-miller-dolphinsgame skid as they host Buffalo. The Dolphins have to make more of a commitment to Lamar Miller and the running game to remain a multi-dimensional offense.

14. Baltimore Ravens (3-3); lost to Green Bay 19-17, drops two spots – Baltimore staged a nice late-game rally, but couldn’t do enough to pull ahead. The running attack is in disarray, with Ray Rice averaging less than 3 yards per carry.

15. San Diego Chargers (3-3); beat Indianapolis 19-9, moves up five spots – Credit the Chargers defense with slowing down Andrew Luck (202YDS, 0TD). Philip Rivers also did a good job of managing the game and leading the Chargers on some time-consuming scoring drives.

16. Arizona Cardinals (3-3); lost to San Francisco, moves up one spot – At this point of the rankings, it’s all about who lost to better teams. Arizona hung tough with the Niners for three quarters, but ran out of gas as they were outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter.

17. Tennessee Titans (3-3); lost to Seattle 20-13, moves up one spot – The Titans have proven to be a very competitive team, even without Jake Locker. Despite the loss, they’re only one game behind Indianapolis in the AFC South.

18. Cleveland Browns (3-3); lost to Detroit 31-17, drops two spots – Browns fans have to be disappointed after their team was outscored 24-0 in the second half. Brandon Weeden played fairly well (292YDS, 2TD, 2INT) – save for throwing one of the worst interceptions ever. Somebody needs to tell him that shovel passes aren’t meant to be thrown over to the sideline.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3); beat Tampa Bay 31-20, moves up three spots – Welcome back to relevancy Philadelphia! The Eagles kept pace with Dallas in the NFC East with a road victory against winless Tampa. Nick Foles might lock down the starting role for good if he keeps playing like this (296YDS, 3TD).

20. Houston Texans (2-4); lost to St. Louis 38-13, drops five spots – Fans have been calling for Matt Schaub to be benched, and now they get their wish after his right ankle injury. But it only gets uglier from here with T.J. Yates now starting under center.

21. New York Jets (3-3); lost to Pittsburgh 19-6, drops two spots – This was supposed to be an easy victory for the surprising Jets. However, rookie QB Geno Smith (201YDS, 2INT)  looked lost against a Pittsburgh defense that’s been in shambles all season.

22. Carolina Panthers (2-3); beat Minnesota 35-10, moves up three spots – Carolina cam-newtonis a tough team to figure out. Two weeks ago, they score just 6 points against Arizona; last game, they put up 35 on the Vikings and stifle them. Of course, it seems that Cam Newton’s swingy play decides the fate of the Panthers.

23. Atlanta Falcons (1-4); bye week, drops three spots – The Falcons were already struggling in the win-loss category. Then they found out that Julio Jones is done for the season and Roddy White might be out for 1-2 games. Harry Douglas is now their go-to receiver.

24. St. Louis Rams (3-3); beat Houston 38-13, moves up four spots – After suffering through a miserable three-game losing streak, the Rams are back to .500 with wins over Jacksonville and Houston. Nobody’s expecting St. Louis to make the playoffs in a division with Seattle and San Francisco, but they’re at least showing some heart.

25. Washington Redskins (1-4); lost to Dallas 31-16, drops two spots – The good news is that Washington didn’t get torched by Tony Romo, as many people expected. The bad news is that they got beat in just about every facet of the game.

26. Oakland Raiders (2-4); lost to Kansas City 24-7, retains same ranking – A very rough game for Terrelle Pryor, but they won’t all be as tough as playing in Arrowhead. Denarius Moore really seems to be developing as a nice target for Pryor.

27. Minnesota Vikings (1-4); lost to Carolina 35-10, drops three spots – This was a tough game to play for Minnesota following the death of Adrian Peterson’s son. When Josh Freeman learns the Vikings playbook, this team might bounce back with some victories.

28. Buffalo Bills (2-4); lost to Cincinnati Bengals 27-24, drops one spot – Thaddeus Lewis is a definite upgrade over undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel. If Lewis can continue playing like he did on the road against Cincinnati, he’ll produce some wins against weaker opponents.

29. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4); beat New York Jets 19-6, retains same ranking – Holding Geno Smith and the Jets to 6 points won’t bring back Steel Curtain comparisons. But this is still a nice performance by Pittsburgh’s defense.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-5); lost to Philadelphia 31-20, retains same ranking – Ownership spent too much money in the offseason for a winless start. It’s looking less and less like Greg Schiano will make it through the season.

31. New York Giants (0-6); lost to Chicago 27-21, retains same ranking – With David Wilson knocked out of the game with an injury, Brandon Jacobs rumbled for 106 yards and two touchdowns. It’s too bad that Eli Manning threw another three interceptions.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6); lost to Denver 34-20, retains same ranking – The way they stayed with Denver through three quarters, this team could actually win a game with Chad Henne at QB.

NFL Power Rankings for September 11th, 2013

peyton-manning-broncosThe 2013 NFL season is officially underway after a largely unsurprisingly weekend. Most of the top teams secured victories as expected, with no major upsets happening. Of course, as with every NFL season, we can expect the power rankings to get shaken up throughout the year. But for now, you won’t see a lot of shockers in our Week 2 NFL power rankings.

1. Denver Broncos (1-0); beat Baltimore 49-27 – The offseason loss of DE Elvis Dumervil and the six-game suspension of LB Von Miller figured to impact this team in a terrible way. But the defense did well enough against Baltimore to inspire hope. More importantly, Peyton Manning crushed the Ravens with 462 passing yards, 7 touchdowns and zero interceptions. The addition of Wes Welker only makes this offense more dangerous than last year’s version.

2. San Francisco (1-0); beat Green Bay 34-28 – Colin Kaepernick has an obvious connection with Anquan Boldin already. Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and 3 TD’s, while Boldin showed he still has plenty of juice left with 13 catches, 208 yards and a TD. A tough road game against Seattle this week could vault the Niners to the top.

3. New Orleans Saints (1-0); beat Atlanta 23-17 – Following a one-year suspension, head coach Sean Payton is back and you can definitely tell. The Saints won a high-profile matchup on the strength of Drew Brees’ arm (357PYDS, 2TD, 1INT). The defense was surprisingly effective at keeping Atlanta off the board.

russell-wilson4. Seattle Seahawks (1-0); beat Carolina 12-7 – A win is a win, especially on the road. But you’d like to see Seattle beat the Panthers a little more handily. Russell Wilson picked up where he left off from last season with 320 passing yards and one TD. This team has a serious chance to move up with a victory over San Francisco.

5. New England Patriots (1-0); beat Buffalo 23-21 – New England continued their domination of the Bills with a come-from-behind win. Stevan Ridley’s fumble turned into a 74-yard defensive TD for Buffalo. But Tom Brady was still able to lead this team back with 288 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

6. Houston Texans (1-0); beat San Diego 31-28 – Falling behind 28-7 to the Chargers is a terrible way to start the year. But give Houston credit for battling back on the road and taking this game. LB Brian Cushing’s late 18-yard interception return proved to be the difference maker.

7. Green Bay Packers (0-1); lost to San Francisco 34-28 – You can’t fault the Pack for losing a close one on the road to the Niners. The secondary is cause for concern though after giving up monster games to Kaepernick, Boldin and Vernon Davis. At least Aaron Rodgers and the passing game is as rock solid as ever.

NFL: AUG 16 Pre-Season Colts v Falcons8. Atlanta Falcons (0-1); lost to New Orleans 23-17 – Toss up between Atlanta and Green Bay for the seventh spot; but the Falcons struggled to put points on the board. Still, their offense moved the ball well with Matt Ryan throwing for 304 yards and Steven Jackson adding 122 total yards.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1); lost to Chicago 24-21 – The Bengals suffered a loss at Soldier Field, but hung tough despite three turnovers. A.J. Green looks virtually uncoverable after racking up 162 yards, 2 TD’s and drawing some crucial pass interference penalties. Now if only the running game could catch up (63 yards).

10. Chicago Bears (1-0); beat Cincinnati 24-21 – Wait, didn’t Chicago beat the Bengals? Yea, but Cincinnati actually looked more impressive in this game. If not for some late game heroics by Jay Cutler (242PYDS, 2TD, 1INT) and home field advantage, Chicago wouldn’t even be in the top 10.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0); beat Washington 33-27 – This game was much more of a blowout than it appears since Washington added some garbage-time touchdowns. The offense features a lot of dimensions, with LeSean McCoy racking up 181 yards on the ground and DeSean Jackson adding 104 receiving yards and a TD.

reggie-bush12. Detroit Lions (1-0); beat Minnesota 34-28 – Detroit looks to be back this year after a strong game against the Vikings. Following a 78-yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson, the Lions D-line did a good job of bottling him up. Reggie Bush seems to be the extra weapon that this offense needed after compiling 191 total yards.

13. Dallas Cowboys (1-0); beat NY Giants 36-31 – Here’s the good news: Dallas beat their NFC rivals, and Tony Romo looked good with 263 passing yards and 2 TD’s. The bad news? They needed six turnovers from their opponent to pull off this home game victory.

14. Indianapolis Colts (1-0); beat Oakland 21-17 – Is the Raiders line really this good, or does Indianapolis have pass protection concerns? Despite getting knocked around, Andrew Luck threw a pair of touchdowns and rushed for the game-winning, 19-yard TD to earn this comeback victory.

15. Baltimore Ravens (0-1); lost to Denver 49-27 – We had doubts that the defending champs would be as good as last year. And their secondary looked pretty bad against a stellar Broncos team. But let’s see how this club performs against the non-elite before passing judgement.

16. Miami Dolphins (1-0); beat Cleveland 23-10 – Nice road win for a young team. The defense is among the league’s best after sacking Brandon Weeden six times and intercepting him three. QB Ryan Tannehill looked good in posting 272 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. But the running game is somewhat of a mess at this point.

eli-manning17. New York Giants (0-1); lost to Dallas 36-31 – New York doesn’t deserve an honor badge for committing six turnovers. But if they don’t cough the ball up this much, we might’ve been discussing a very good road win.

18. St. Louis Rams (1-0); beat Arizona 27-24 – In a battle between two much-improved teams, St. Louis emerged victorious. After a couple of down seasons, Sam Bradford (299PYDS, 2TD, 1INT) and the passing game look to be back. TE Jared Cook is quite a weapon after collecting 141 receiving yards and 2 TD’s in his Rams debut.

19. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0); beat Jacksonville 28-2 – We can’t truly tell how good Kansas City is because they beat the worst team in the league. But then again, it was a dominating road-game performance that saw the Chiefs dismantle Jacksonville. Stayed tuned for more on this team after they play the Cowboys at home.

20. Tennessee Titans (1-0); beat Pittsburgh 16-9 – Tennessee opens the year with an impressive road win in Pittsburgh. But almost all of the impressive stuff happened on the defensive end, with the Titans holding Pittsburgh to just 195 yards. Now it’s up to QB Jake Locker to actually show he can lead a successful team.

21. Carolina Panthers (0-1); lost to Seattle 12-7 – This wasn’t a great day for Carolina as QB Cam Newton struggled mightily with just 163 total yards. But they nearly pulled out the victory, until a late DeAngelo Williams fumble inside of the 10.

robert-griffith-thanksgiving22. Washington Redskins (0-1); lost to Philadelphia 33-27 – After playing terribly for most of the game, Robert Griffin III came alive, ending the contest with 329 passing yards and 2 TD’s But his earlier pair of interceptions put this one out of reach.

23. Minnesota Vikings (0-1); lost to Detroit 34-28 – Adrian Peterson can’t carry this offense alone. Especially with quarterback Christian Ponder tossing three picks and fumbling once.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1); lost to Tennessee 16-9 – If this weren’t Pittsburgh, we’d probably be ranking them lower. Mustering 195 yards of offense at home is pathetic. But this team has the tools to win – especially on defense – so we’ll wait and see what happens.

25. Buffalo Bills (0-1); lost to New England 23-21 – Part of why Tom Brady and company didn’t look so hot is because of the Bills defense. The Buffalo running game will be much better in future games (specifically CJ Spiller), while EJ Manuel showed good poise for a rookie QB.

26. Arizona Cardinals (0-1); lost to St. Louis 27-24 – After opening up a 14-point lead, the Cardinals couldn’t hang on in this road contest. Still, there is hope with Carson Palmer (327PYDS, 2TD, 1INT) directing the offense.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1); lost to NY Jets 18-17 – The Bucs were a late-game Lavonte David penalty from winning their first game. But the fact that they let the Jets beat them in any way is bad.

28. San Diego Chargers (0-1); lost to Houston 31-28 – San Diego started with a bang as Philip Rivers came out firing four TD passes. However, things began spiraling downward late in the third as they blew a 28-7 lead.

29. New York Jets (1-0); beat Tampa Bay 18-17 – The Jets will take wins any way they can get them. Geno Smith was better than expected with 256 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Unfortunately, Smith appears to be the team’s only legitimate running threat after gaining 47 yards on six carries.

30. Cleveland Browns (0-1); lost to Miami Dolphins 23-10 – After an uninspiring home loss, Cleveland has deflated all of the hype they gained in the preseason. This team’s hopes rest on the arm of Weeden, which isn’t exactly a thrilling prospect.

31. Oakland Raiders (0-1); lost 23-17 to Indianapolis – The D-line looked good against the Colts, and Terrelle Pryor gives this team life after throwing for 217 yards and running for another 112. As a whole, the Raiders will look bad at times, but not nearly as bad as people expected.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1); lost to Kansas City Chiefs 28-2 – After making the Chiefs look like a Super Bowl contender, it’s clear that Jacksonville is in for a very long year. They only moved past their own 36-yard line once in the entire game!