Before we get on to the list, a quick word about my 'metrics'. That term is used loosely, as there is no real scientific process to my list whatsoever. But, it should be noted that when I saw 'Power Rankings', I am referring to 'what have you done for me lately'. In other words, Indy and San Diego may be better teams than Buffalo in the long run, but after Week 1, they've certainly shown less than have the Bills. So, the list isn't intended to relate who I think will be left standing at the end of the Playoffs, but rather who I think has the best resume each week, starting with Week 1. Of course, however, some subjective assesment of the teams' long-term capabilities snuck into my analysis, as you'll see. Anyway, to the list. As always, feedback and input is wholeheartedly welcome.
1) Buffalo - Upon further thought, I think the Bills deserve the nod as the most impressive team after Opening Week in the AFC. They absolutely thrashed Seattle on Sunday, manhandling them physically and outfoxing them. Special teams, offense, and defense. The Bills had it all going on. For at least one week. Problem is, Buffalo has looked really good for prolonged stretches before. Except prolonged for them means three weeks, not 6. Consistency is the next major hurdle for Jauron's crew.
2) Pittsburgh - Had the Steelers not taken their foot off the gas, I might have been more inclined to put them in the top slot. Regardless, their performance through three quarters was a thing of beauty. Road woes got to Pittsburgh last year. Their opportunity at redemption begins this week in Cleveland.
3) Tennessee - I don't see any way that the Titans can consistently win all the close tough games they're bound to be in this year. They just don't have the offensive firepower to blow anybody out. Anytime you can beat a divisional rival, and likely wildcard competitor though, you have to feel good about your team. The Titans just match up well with the Jags, and it was imperative they get this early home win. With all the drama surrounding Vince Young, the Titans must move forward with Kerry Collins, while figuring out the best way to get Young's head straight before and after he returns from an MCL tear.
4) New England - We've all heard the news about Brady by now. Matt Cassel wasn't terrible in his absence, that's for sure. But not even the greatest of cheaters can likely find a way to replace all that Brady brings to an offense.
5) Denver - I'm not going to get overly excited about a blowout win over the hapless Raiders, even if it was on the road. But still, it's hard to ever totally count out Mike Shannahan coached football teams. Jay Cutler's looking allright too. If the defense can help him out, the Broncos could be in the hunt for 9 or 10 wins in that soft division.
6) San Diego - There are reasons to be concerned, but for whatever reason, the Chargers seem to get out of the gate slowly, before finding their stride in October and Novermber. But each year is new, and there's no saying that things will break the same way for them again in 2008. But it likely will given all that talent on the roster. A somewhat miraculous last second win for Carolina stings, but it isn't time to sound the alarm in San Diego just yet.
7) Indianapolis - The good news for Colts fans is Peyton Manning was fairly sharp considering he didn't participate in a single down this preseason. He'll be great, as usual, over the long haul, and that should translate into plenty of wins for Indy. The defense should be better too. A tough road game at Minnesota should give us a better idea if the Colts are going to be anything more than just a good to very good team.
8) Jacksonville Jaguars - As I said, the Titans are just one of the few teams that can negate many of Jacksonville's primary strengths. This team will still be competitive, but the loss of multiple offensive lineman suddenly makes their ascendency to the upper part of the pack in the AFC not as certain. David Garrad is going to have to play like a franchise QB - which he's paid to be - if Jacksonville's going to hang with Indy and Tennessee. Bills coach Dick Jauron has already proven he can get his team ready to play. Jack Del Rio better do the same this coming Sunday when Buffalo comes to town.
9) New York Jets - The national media would like you to believe that Brett Favre has the Jets knocking on the door of dynastic greatness. But the reality is they barely eeked out a win against the 1-15 from a year ago Miami Dolphins. Wins are wins though, and depending how Matt Cassel responds in New England, the AFC East might suddenly be wide open.
10) Baltimore Ravens - This is not a very good football team. They could shock us and finish at or near .500, which would be quite impressive considering their record last year, not to mention the fact they're starting a rookie QB. They absolutely shut down the Bengals offense this past Sunday, holding Carson Palmer under 100 yards passing. Mind-boggling, really. Congrats to Coach Harbaugh on his first win as a professional coach. A road win at Houston would go a long way towards proving that Baltimore may really be in the thick of things for the long run in the suddenly logjammed AFC.
11) Cleveland Browns - A tough start to the season against a Dallas team that came to play. We've talked about them plenty. A win this week against Pittsburgh puts them back in the top 6 or so, and right back in the discussion as a team to be reckoned with. More importantly, a win would get Cleveland's head straight, and hopefully, if you're a Browns fan, would allow the talented roster to just go out and play loosely and confidently.
12) Houston Texans - The Texans are better than they showed on Sunday. But, unless they can find some sort of consistent option at running back, I'm not sure they can win more than 7 or 8 games, at best, in that division. Huge game this week against Baltimore, a team they'll again likely struggle to run successfully against. Can Matt Schaub deliver before the 4th quarter and the game's out of reach?
13) Kansas City Chiefs - Typical Herm Edwards football game on Sunday. Hang in there with defense, special teams and field position. Then fall short because the offense can't get it done when all the marbles are at stake. Still, Kansas City should be in plenty of close games if Damon Huard's playing. Edwards' defenses are usually competitive.
14) Miami Dolphins - You can see the progress taking place in South Florida. Give Parcells two more years and that team will be in the hunt. I wonder when Chad Henne will get the nod. Chad Pennington, bless his heart, really does an incredible job keeping his teams in games, depsite all the physical limitations. He's so cagey. But, the prevent defense actually works against Pennington due to his inability to laser the ball in there underneath the safetys. Bottom line though is the Dolphins' rushing attack has to take much more pressure off him to deliver. It's going to be a long season, but I think Fins fans will ultimately feel good about the progress made this year compared to last.
15) Cincinnati Bengals - So much for the Bengals bouncing back this year. Hard to write their offense off as a total bust all year just yet, but man, was that pathetic football against Baltimore. Carson Palmer looks totally disillusioned with everything related to his career in Cincy. That's not a good thing. The sledding doesn't get any easier this week. Even though it's a home game, Palmer and the Bengals must take on the physical Titans defense. Huge game for them if there's any hope of things not totally imploding and likely ending the Marvin Lewis era.
16) Oakland Raiders - Uh, not sure what to say here. Loser of Oak-KC game this weekend gets dubious distinction of worst team in AFC through two weeks. What drama!