Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Power Rankings: Champs take a tumble
By Dan Graziano
There are few greater challenges, in covering, observing and discussing the NFL than to resist overreacting to one game. There are few greater obstacles to that effort than the ESPN.com weekly Power Rankings. Never more volatile than in Week 2 of the regular season, they have nonetheless arrived, and this is how our division's teams rank this week:
7. New York Giants (Last week: 3). Just one loss, yes, but this is a Super Bowl champion that obviously came in with more questions about it than most. With many still wondering whether to believe last year's 9-7 regular season or the 4-0 postseason record, an ugly home loss to a division rival in the middle of the rankings was enough to make the champs this week's biggest fallers. Mike Sando and John Clayton moved them all the way down to No. 12. Ashley Fox and I rank them the highest, at No. 5. I had them at No. 2 last week, and I believed I had good reasons for that, so I wasn't going to let one game throw all of those good reasons out the window. The teams that passed them in my rankings -- San Francisco, New England and Houston -- all played very well both last year and in Week 1. I thought about putting Baltimore ahead of them, too, but held off. Maybe I'm being too careful, but if last year didn't teach us all -- and me in particular -- that the Giants deserved some benefit of the doubt, then we'll never learn anything.
10. Dallas Cowboys (14). A move into the top 10 for the team that knocked off the Giants, and 10th is exactly where I personally had the Cowboys this week after ranking them 15th to start the season. My own rankings still have them ahead of the Broncos, who outrank them in the overall poll, and one spot behind the Eagles, who do not. I don't deny that they looked better than the Eagles (and, of course, the Giants) in Week 1, but again, I really believe it's important not to overreact to a Week 1 performance but rather to incorporate it into the body of evidence with which we were already working. A four-spot jump seems very fair for Dallas off of its excellent opener. Should the Cowboys continue to look that good, I have little doubt that they will continue to move up.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (7). I'm looking up and down this list trying to find a team that fell five spots after actually winning its opening game. Can't find one. That tells you a lot about the way the Eagles looked in their ugly squeaker of a comeback victory in Cleveland on Sunday. The worst part about that game for Michael Vick and the Eagles was that it puffed on the glowing embers of many of the same old 2011 doubts, so that if you were hesitant about ranking the Eagles high because they disappointed you last year, it was easy to knock them down a few pegs. I dropped them from No. 3 to No. 9, so a six-spot drop for me in spite of their victory, but I think it's justified since the initial ranking was based on a belief that those 2011 Eagles would get better. Evidence that they might not, even one game's worth, was in this case cause for a correction. Sando has the Eagles 13th and Ashley has them 14th while Clayton put them No. 8. Wide variety of opinion on the Eagles, who have a chance to earn some faith back if they can look good against Baltimore on Sunday at home.
15. Washington Redskins (24). Congratulations to Robert Griffin III and the Redskins, who made the biggest jump of any team in this week's rankings. If you go down to the Superdome and win that impressively -- especially behind a rookie quarterback -- you deserve a big bump. I moved them from 19th to 13th in my own rankings, and as you can see I was highest on them among our voters even before the season started. Other than Griffin, a few things looked better about the Redskins than many had the right to expect -- most notably the play of the secondary against the Saints' passing offense. Looking at the teams right behind them on the list, it's hard to make the case that they don't belong right where they are this week.