Smile Politely

The Polite Power Rankings: Week 2

All those NFL fans in the Smile Politely ranks were left with one collective question when the first week of the season came to an end: Really? All sorts of guys were knocked out for the season, some expected (Shawne Merriman) and some not so expected (Nate Burleson), but none as significant as Tom Brady. Love him or hate him, you have to give him credit for possessing that magical little blend of talent and leadership, that sense of purpose and capability and destiny that he instills in the guys around him.

Well, Brady’s out and the football picture suddenly looks much different, especially in the AFC, where Brady’s Pats have been perennial favorites. This inaugural edition of the Smile Politely Power Rankings sees where the cards have fallen, post-Brady.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

Three teams looked dominant this weekend, and they were the Steelers, Cowboys, and Eagles. So, I flipped a three-sided coin. And as a native of Western Pennsylvania, I made sure that coin told me that the Steelers deserved to be at number one. Also, I should point to Big Ben, Fast Willie, Smiley Hines, and a brutal defense that left Houston stunned.

2. Dallas Cowboys

Ok, he threw a pick. But Tony Romo also tossed a TD, tallied 320 yards in the air, and finished the day 24/32. In other words, he once again made clear — in case we were still naysaying — that he’s the real deal. Romo and the Cowboys made a highly touted Browns team look, well, kind of silly.

3. Philadelphia Eagles

Welcome to the party, Mr. McNabb. After a few years of injury and setbacks, Donovan McNabb seems like the confident guy who led his team to the Super Bowl in 2004. This weekend against Dallas could prove to be an early battle for NFC East dominance.

4. New York Giants

I’m one of those who’s always ripped on Eli Manning because from day one the guy seemed like a whiner — and aside from whining he seemed incapable of expressing emotion. Well, I’m pretty sure I saw him smile this weekend, and he actually looked a decent QB. And yeah, he led his team to a Super Bowl victory last year too.

5. New Orleans Saints

When you’re good in all phases of the game, you’re bound to be a force to be reckoned with. I know that sounds like a gem straight off John Madden’s tongue, but it’s a difference maker for the Saints, who have spent a few years full of potential but either injured or just limp in certain parts of their game. In a tough win over the Bucs, they seemed to say that a new — and improved — day is here.

6. Chicago Bears

An unrelenting defense. A well-managed offense. Teams will have to play at Soldier Field in the freezing cold of winter. This could be a very good year for Bears fans.

7. Green Bay Packers

What are the chances that I’m the first one to call northeastern Wisconsin “Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood”? Pretty slim, I bet. But mark my words: This young quarterback is the real deal.

8. Denver Broncos

9. Indianapolis Colts

10. San Diego Chargers

Once again, L.T. had to spend an early-season post-game press conference explaining why talent just isn’t enough to elevate a team in the NFL. It’s put-up time for this San Diego squad.

11. New England Patriots

12. Denver Broncos

13. Buffalo Bills

14. New York Jets

It isn’t just Brett Favre’s theatrical displays that bring a sense of confidence to the Meadowlands. It’s also that (as the Buffalo Bills know, too) the AFC North is like a whole new planet with Tom Brady on the sidelines.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

16. Minnesota Vikings

17. Carolina Panthers

18. Arizona Cardinals

19. Atlanta Falcons

It’s hard not to give these recent bottom dwellers some major credit. Sure, rookie QB Matt Ryan only passed 13 times. But between Michael Turner’s 220-yard, two-TD performance and John Abraham’s three sacks, this team look like it could, maybe, surge upward quicker than most of us expected.

20. Cleveland Browns

21. Jacksonville Jaguars

22. Seattle Seahawks

23. Miami Dolphins

24. Detroit Lions

25. Houston Texans

26. Kansas City Chiefs

27. Baltimore Ravens

28. Washington Redskins

29. San Francisco 49ers

30. Cincinnati Bengals

31. Oakland Raiders

32. St. Louis Rams

Related Articles