No surprises this week -- and, thankfully, no big injuries, either. The Top 5 remained intact, but Baltimore has moved into striking distance (for now).
RISING: Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, Seattle Seahawks, New York Football Giants...
FALLING: Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints...
1. San Diego Chargers (13-3). The Chargers didn't have a swift opener, but it's hard to get too worked up about that, particularly with LT on the bench.
2. New England Patriots (13-3). Here's another team that bobbled their preseason opener, but who cares, really? It's the &$#@*&! Patriots. Still no progress on the Asante Samuel front.
3. Chicago Bears (13-3). Chicago's offense played well at each level and the defense was OK. Problem? Special teams. Worries? None. This was a coverage team tryout, not a tune-up. BTW: The Bears might be the only team in history to try a 6-6, 275-pound hybrid DE/DT at the "gunner" position. Whether Israel Idonije will have that duty again next week remains to be seen.
4. Dallas Cowboys (12-4). They sure started out like they wanted to justify this ranking. Tony Romo hit 10 of 11 for 97 yards.
5. Carolina Panthers (11-5). The Panthers starters made it look easy in their limited playing time. This team has flaws, but they're going to be good in 2007. Call it a hunch.
6. (9) Baltimore Ravens (10-6). The surprise of Week 1 was the way the Ravens came out and just made the Eagles look pathetic. I'm not changing my initial assessment, though: They're going to be better early but fade later in the season.
7. (8) New York Jets (10-6). On the one hand, they kicked the shit out of the Falcons. On the other hand, Thomas Jones strained his calf in practice. On the grasping hand, nothing has really changed. They're a decent team that will show up in September.
8. (6) New Orleans Saints (10-6). They didn't shoot out the lights or win the game, but at least the Saints showed up this week, unlike their bewildered Hall of Fame Game performance..
9. (11) Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6). Leftwich had a good first outing, and they really don't suck. They just need a wide receiver.
10. (7) Indianapolis Colts (10-6). Ouch. Well, it's the preseason, and this is a veteran team, and... Oh, who am I kidding? My spidey sense tells me the Colts have regressed. What's worse is, what if they sense that, too?
11. (12) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7). Big Ben and crew came back to Earth after their red-hot opening at the Hall of Fame Game. Their game against Green Bay was just painful to watch.
12. (15) Seattle Seahawks (9-7). You gotta give these guys a little love for coming out sharp against San Diego. But just a little. Because it's August.
13. (10) Philadelphia Eagles (10-6). One nice thing about preseason is that you can look at a 29-3 loss and just throw it out. Let's hope for their sake that's what they do with the game tape from the Baltimore tiff.
14. (13) Denver Broncos (10-6). As noted in the first ranking, the offense is impressive and the defense is in trouble.
15. (14) Cincinnati Bengals (9-7). They just can't stop anybody, but Carson Palmer has great weapons and hasn't forgotten how to use them.
16. (17) San Francisco 49ers (8-8). So what if they "lost:" Take a look at what Alex Smith did. Two drives, 10 points. He's in command out there. Keep an eye on him.
17. (16) St. Louis Rams (8-8). The Rams were clearly better than the Vikings, but didn't do anything to cinch the deal. Brian Leonard is going to be a legitimate pro, and a valuable upgrade to this offense.
18. Buffalo Bills (6-10). They didn't show much either good or bad. How typical.
19. (20) Minnesota Vikings (7-9). I saw some things to like against the Rams, but nothing that made me want to change my basic impression of this team. You can see why they like Tavaris Jackson... at the same time that you're seeing why Jackson isn't going to take them to the playoffs.
20. (21) Detroit Lions (7-9). OK, so they can score points in the preseason against the Bengals. You know who else could do that? Your mama.
21. (19) Arizona Cardinals (7-9). In a word: Nothing. QB Matt Leinart and RB Edgerrin James played, but accomplished just about nothing, playing the Raiders to a tie in the early going.
22. Washington Redskins (6-10). Let's put this plain: The Redskins sucked donkeys against the Titans. They won it late, but don't walk away with the sense that this was in any way a positive experience for this team.
23. Tennessee Titans (6-10). Vince Young's one-game suspension could be a positive thing, and I suspect it will be. What a cheap way to teach a rising star what it means to be a team leader! As for the game: They were terrible.
24. Tampa Bay Bucs (6-10). They beat the Patriots -- or, rather, some guys wearing Patriots uniforms. Jeff Garcia looks like death warmed over. Wait, let me be more specific: He looks like a re-animated space alien baby after it's been burn up in crash. Warmed over.
25. Houston Texans (6-10). I always look at the offensive line when the Texans play, and at least it wasn't a turnstile against the Bears. I've got a better feeling about Matt Schaub now -- yes, the guy has a presence that looks an awful lot like a legitimate field general. And they rolled him around to keep him upright. But the starters couldn't move the ball very much against a Bears' defense that was missing its top two players.
26. (29) New York Giants (5-11). I rag on the Giants an awful lot, probably because I'm a Coughlin hater, but let me give credit where credit is due. They were actually mediocre in their loss to the Panthers. Except on defense. They were awful on defense. But hey -- 1.5 out of 3 ain't bad. It's just... not good.
27. (26) Green Bay Packers (5-11). This could get ugly. Brett Favre got like four or five series, and each one was a three-and-out. Buy a vowel, Brett.
28. Miami Dolphins (5-11). Trent Green was supposed to be the veteran leader who was going to provide a balanced offense to go with the Top 5 defense and suddenly the Dolphins were going to be Super Bowl contenders. Uh huh, and that guy you met at the club is really going to respect you in the morning. One aging quarterback with diminished skills isn't enough to save this team. He'll start the season, but Cleo Lemmon will finish it. Is that his name? Did I get that right? Does anybody know? No fair if you Googled it.
29. (30) Oakland Raiders (4-12). Art Shell is my homeboy, and I've got love for the big guy. But DAMN that was one messed up coaching staff he put together in 2006. It's kinda cute that Al Davis has hired Agent Cody Banks or Jimmy Olsen or whoever that kid is to be his new
puppet coach, but let's face it: The important thing is that they've got adult professionals at the assistant level this season. The Raiders should improve if only for that reason. Throw in quarterbacks who are capable of starting in the CFL and you're talking about a major step forward. OK, so maybe not a major step. But it's a step.
30. (27) Cleveland Browns (6-10). My Gawd, Make It Stop! At least Jamal Lewis had a good game.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (3-13). You know, maybe it's time to rethink that whole Brodie Croyle thing. He's just not... ah, screw it: Your season is already in the crapper, so you might as well go for broke.You'll still wind up broke, but what at least you'll have the whole "rebuilding around a young quarterback" excuse.
32. Atlanta Falcons (2-14). Is there a bright side to what's happening in Atlanta? I read how the team is rallying around Joey Harrington. He's never experienced THAT before (hell-hole stops in Detroit and Miami). So that's sweet. Oh, and the good news from federal court is that Vick's co-defendants are deserting him like rats on the Morro Castle. Which means Vick will have to cop a guilty plea and try to get a sentencing deal that will let him out of prison before the end of the next presidential administration. If the prosecutors take it, that will speed up the whole "moving past Vick" phase of the Falcons' misery. Which is at least something.