The Shield: Surprises by the Bay

After largely neglecting the NFL last season until the playoffs, this year 4 Down is committed to not doing that.  At the very least, we wanted to bring you a power ranking each week.  However, here’s a little more than just a power ranking, I hope.  As Bill Barnwell from Grantland pointed out on Tuesday, we learn something new every week.  That’s why each week I’ll try to point out something we learned about four teams (one from each quadrant) from the previous week.  A common theme will also be applied to these lessons when possible.  This week’s theme: surprises (pleasant and otherwise).

Bottom eight: 32-25

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)

31. Cleveland Browns (0-1)

30. Minnesota Vikings (0-1)

29. Oakland Raiders (0-1)

28. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)

26. New Orleans Saints (0-1)

25. Washington Redskins (0-1)

Colts QB Andrew Luck (Photo Courtesy of Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Colts QB Andrew Luck (Photo Courtesy of Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The bottom eight shook out pretty much like most would have expected after one week with one major exception, and one minor one.  Having New Orleans end up here after one week is mildly surprising, but Andrew Luck and co.?  I don’t think anyone would have pegged that, even if they thought Buffalo would win they probably still expected Indy to put up a stronger fight.  Ryan Grigson built this team to be an offensive juggernaut centered around “The Neckbearded One” Andrew Luck at quarterback.  There’s a big debate in the NFL media about whether or not Luck deserves to be considered “elite” yet.  I tend to side with the people who consider him elite, but I admit that it is a reasonable debate.  Luck has all of the tools to be the best quarterback in the NFL, but his turnover rate is still higher than it needs to be for him to usurp Aaron Rodgers for the title of league’s best quarterback.  Expect the Colts to get this turned around.  Their quarterback and the weapons around him are just to good not to, and it is worth noting that the defense they played on Sunday might end up being the best defense in the league.

The Next Eight: 16-24

24. Houston Texans (0-1)

23. Baltimore Ravens (0-1)

22. Detroit Lions (0-1)

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)

20. Chicago Bears (0-1)

19. Seattle Seahawks (0-1)

18. Philadelphia Eagles (0-1)

17. New York Giants (0-1)

Beast Mode and the boys also suffered a tough loss on Saturday at the hands of the St. Louis Rams, which has led so many people to worry about Seattle (and prompted an epic rant from Marshawn Lynch’s mom).  Hold on…I wanna get this right.  Nevermind, I can’t do it, I’ll let Aaron Rodgers take it…

ARodg Relax

Seattle is going to be just fine.  They lost a tough road game to a solid defense, and Kam Chancellor’s holdout will eventually end and Seattle will continue playing at a high level and winning games.  If you are a worry wart and have to find something, then the offensive line is your source of concern.  The line looked worse than last season, but much like the Colts, that could also be a byproduct of their week one competition.

The Next-to-Last Eight: 16-9

16. Atlanta Falcons (1-0)

15. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)

14. St. Louis Rams (1-0)

13. San Diego Chargers (1-0)

12. Green Bay Packers (1-0)

11. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)

10. New England Patriots (1-0)

9. Miami Dolphins (1-0)

Falcons DE VIc Beasley hits Eagles QB Sam Bradford (Photo Courtesy of Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports)
Falcons DE VIc Beasley hits Eagles QB Sam Bradford (Photo Courtesy of Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s no surprise to find Atlanta in the top half of the rankings, but toppling Philadelphia was less expected.  The Falcons defense also looked significantly improved, particularly in the first half.  Vic Beasley looked phenomenal in his NFL debut.  Tevin Coleman also looked like the most explosive back Atlanta has had in at least half a decade or so.  Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are one of the top quarterback-receiver connections in the league and barring injury will be a force for any secondary they play.  Atlanta looks strong, and in the relatively weak NFC South they might just be the safest bet to win the division, even over defending champion Carolina.

The Top Eight: 8-1

8. Denver Broncos (1-0)

7. Carolina Panthers (1-0)

6. Arizona Cardinals (1-0)

5. Tennessee Titans (1-0)

4. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)

3. Buffalo Bills (1-0)

2. New York Jets (1-0)

1. San Francisco 49ers (1-0)

So many surprises here, but let’s start at the top with the 49ers.  After the offseason from hell, most people are predicting San Fran to fall off of a cliff this season, and they still might.  However, they showed no signs of doing that on Monday night.  Carlos Hyde looked the best he’s looked in his short NFL career stepping out from Frank Gore’s shadow this season, unfortunately San Francisco’s uniforms did not.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed week one of “The Shield”, and hope you’ll keep coming back.

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