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2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 2: 49ers, Bengals, Dolphins among early risers

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and the Bengals moved into the top-five after an impressive, intra-division win. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)
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Each week, national NFL writer Mark Maske will provide his ranking of the league’s 32 teams based on his observations, while Fancy Stats blogger Neil Greenberg mines the numbers to generate a stats-centric power ranking of his own. Compare, contrast and sound off in the comments.

1. Seattle Seahawks (2014 record: 1-0) | Previous rank: 1

They picked up right where they’d left off in the Super Bowl and dominated a very good team, Green Bay, in Thursday night’s NFL season opener.

2. Denver Broncos (1-0) | Previous rank: 2

They permitted the Colts to make things interesting late in the game Sunday night. But they held on, and Peyton Manning’s crisp passing early in the game was a positive sign that another big season probably is in store.

3. San Francisco 49ers (1-0) | Previous rank: 4

Just when there was speculation that Coach Jim Harbaugh already had begun to lose the confidence and trust of his players, the Niners reminded everyone just how good they’ve been since Harbaugh has been their coach. They are holding it together, at least for now. Playing the Cowboys certainly helped, though.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) | Previous rank: 7

A.J. Green said after the win in Baltimore that they’re not the same, old Bengals. He also called Andy Dalton a top-five quarterback in the NFL. That might be overdoing it a bit. But the Bengals do have the early advantage in the AFC North with the road victory.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) | Previous rank: 9

Nick Foles got off to a dreadful start against the Jaguars but he and the Eagles righted themselves in time and won going away. The best news for Philadelphia is that the rest of the NFC East looked far from threatening in Week 1.

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6. Detroit Lions (1-0) | Previous rank: 11

Did Calvin Johnson just catch another TD pass from Matthew Stafford? The Giants offered little resistance Monday night but it’s still a promising beginning for Detroit.

7. Miami Dolphins (1-0) | Previous rank: 15

The key now for Miami is to make certain that the highlight of the season didn’t come in the opener. It was a highly impressive triumph over the Patriots. Knowshon Moreno and the offensive line did plenty to help Ryan Tannehill. But where the Dolphins go from here is what matters.

8. New England Patriots (0-1) | Previous rank: 3

It’s unfamiliar territory for the Patriots, not being in first place in the AFC East. It’s doubtful any assistance was required for Bill Belichick to convince his players they’re probably not as good as their preseason buildup indicated, but if he did, he got it quickly.

9. Indianapolis Colts (0-1) | Previous rank: 6

Andrew Luck nearly brought them back against the Broncos but couldn’t quite pull it off. The early schedule doesn’t get much easier with a Monday night matchup against the Eagles on tap.

10. Green Bay Packers (0-1) | Previous rank: 8

It’s not that the Packers should have won in Seattle. That’s a tall order. But they’re supposed to be an elite team this season and if that’s the case, they perhaps should have been at least a bit more competitive against the Seahawks. One big question is whether the pass-protection issues will be as pronounced against other opponents.

11. Arizona Cardinals (1-0) | Previous rank: 13

Carson Palmer, meet Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals all but ignored their top receiver Monday night against the Chargers and trailed by 11 points late. But Bruce Arians’s magic from last season continued as Arizona pulled out the win and now tries to keep pace with Seattle and San Francisco in the powerful NFC West.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) | Previous rank: 17

Letting the Browns back into the game was an unnecessary lapse that almost cost them a vicory. But few complain about wins in the NFL, and now the Steelers have a chance Thursday night in Baltimore to put the Ravens at an extreme early-season disadvantage in the division race.

13. Minnesota Vikings (1-0) | Previous rank: 21

It was a terrific head coaching debut for Mike Zimmer. Matt Cassel did what was asked of him at QB. But things get tougher from here, beginning Sunday when the Vikings host the Patriots.

14. Baltimore Ravens (0-1) | Previous rank: 12

The Ravens have a short work week, are coming off a deflating loss at home to the Bengals and spent Monday dealing with the Ray Rice controversy. Coach John Harbaugh vowed his team will be ready to play Thursday night against the Steelers, but there’s room to wonder if that will be true.

15. Atlanta Falcons (1-0) | Previous rank: 23

Few saw that game coming Sunday. The Saints were supposed to be the class of the division and an NFC heavyweight, and the Falcons were thought to be in the beginning stages of a slow climb back toward respectability. But Atlanta prevailed in the season-opening matchup. Now comes a visit to Cincinnati, where the Bengals were unbeaten during the 2013 regular season.

16. Carolina Panthers (1-0) | Previous rank: 24

No Cam Newton? A revamped offensive line and receiver corps? So what. The Panthers shoved all of that aside and won the opener. For one week, at least, there’s room to wonder if the predictions of their demise this season might have been greatly exaggerated.

17. New Orleans Saints (0-1) | Previous rank: 5

The defense couldn’t stop Matt Ryan in the opener. The Saints at least get a Week 2 trip to Cleveland to try to get things straightened out.

18. Tennessee Titans (1-0) | Previous rank: 27

Is Ken Whisenhunt going to work wonders with Jake Locker? That remains to be seen. But the young QB played well against the Chiefs and the defense generated four sacks and three interceptions against K.C. QB Alex Smith.

19. San Diego Chargers (0-1) | Previous rank: 18

They couldn’t apply the finishing touches to what easily could have been a nice win in Arizona, squandering a fourth-quarter lead. Philip Rivers didn’t have his best game and his receivers could have done more to help him out.

20. New York Jets (1-0) | Previous rank: 22

Rex Ryan wasn’t happy with the Jets’ performance in their opening triumph over the Raiders. The Jets aren’t in position to be so choosy. They should be encouraged that Geno Smith overcame some early turnovers to give a decent performance and the defense and running game did their part.

21. Houston Texans (1-0) | Previous rank: 26

The win was nice but losing Jadeveon Clowney for 4-6 weeks undoubtedly took some of the pleasure out of it. Plus, the Redskins aren’t on the schedule every week.

22. Buffalo Bills (1-0) | Previous rank: 31

Times are good, with the opening victory and the franchise reportedly on the verge of being sold to Terry Pegula, who would keep the team in Buffalo. The Dolphins come to town this weekend for a game that suddenly has some intrigue to it.

23. Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) | Previous rank: 10

The season-ending Achilles’ injuries suffered by Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito increased the misery factor associated with the opening loss to the Titans. If that’s how the Chiefs played at home, what’s going to happen this weekend when they have to go on the road to Denver?

24. Chicago Bears (0-1) | Previous rank: 14

Losing at home to the Bills wasn’t exactly the start to the season that the Bears envisioned. Jay Cutler amassed 349 passing yards but threw two interceptions. The key for his — and the Bears’ — season remains his ability to make smart decisions in terms of where he throws the ball.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) | Previous rank: 16

Few opening-weekend performances were as disappointing as Tampa’s. The Buccaneers were supposed to have surpassed the Panthers even with Cam Newton in Carolina’s lineup. Instead, the Buccaneers lost to Derek Anderson.

26. New York Giants (0-1) | Previous rank: 19

A lively debate can be had about who looked the worst among the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys. The consolation for all of those teams is that they get to play each other.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) | Previous rank: 20

Chad Henne played fine but no matter how he does, if the Jaguars don’t get a few early wins there’s no reason not to put Blake Bortles in the lineup. The improved pass rush was an encouraging development, however, and the Jaguars have to feel they’re capable of getting a victory this weekend at FedEx Field after watching how the Redskins performed in Houston.

28. Washington Redskins (0-1) | Previous rank: 25

The offense went nowhere in the opener and Robert Griffin III continued to resemble the 2013 version rather than the 2012 star-in-the-making. The misadventures on special teams continued even with Keith Burns gone. Jordan Reed and Barry Cofield were injured. Other than that, things went really well.

29. St. Louis Rams (0-1) | Previous rank: 28

Shaun Hill didn’t make it through the opening game as the fill-in starter for Sam Bradford. Ryan Mallett already has been traded elsewhere, and Kirk Cousins and Mark Sanchez probably are staying put. There isn’t much reason for optimism at the moment.

30. Dallas Cowboys (0-1) | Previous rank: 29

It was an ugly performance against the 49ers. The Cowboys need Tony Romo to be superb if they’re going to have any chance of overcoming their defensive shortcomings and being competitive. And he was far from that in the opener.

31. Oakland Raiders (0-1) | Previous rank: 30

Derek Carr looked reasonably good in his first NFL start. But there will be growing pains, and they probably will be accompanied by more losses.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-1) | Previous rank: 32

Brian Hoyer fared better than his preseason play indicated he might, and the Browns nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback against the Steelers. But a loss is a loss. The most encouraging news for the Browns is the possibility of Josh Gordon’s suspension being reduced as part of a potential deal between the league and players’ union on the sport’s drug policies.