With the 2013 NFL regular season in full swing and a week of action already in the books, it’s time to take a look at the five best teams after opening weekend, along with a few of the specifics that contributed to their victories.
It’s important to remember that we’ve all seen very little regular season football so far, and many of the most impressive Week 1 performances will more than likely be forgotten within the next few games.
For now, beyond the everyday breakdown and analysis of the seasons first 16 games, all that remains to be done involves ranking the league’s top teams. That being said, welcome to the first edition of the NFL “Fab 5”.
1. Denver Broncos (1-0)
In the opening contest of the 2013 regular-season, the Broncos welcomed the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens into town, wasting no time in exacting their revenge with a convincing 49-27 thrashing.
Behind Peyton Manning’s 462 yards and seven touchdowns, the heavily-armed Broncos showcased an unparalleled passing attack that included wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, both ending their night with two touchdowns and over 100 yards receiving.
Not to be outdone, Denver’s most notable offseason acquisition, WR Wes Welker, also hauled in a pair of touchdown receptions during his debut in the Mile High City, leaving many to wonder how anyone will be able to stop this offense going forward.
Despite the offseason loss of LB Elvis Dumervil, as well as the situation surrounding the currently suspended LB Von Miller, Denver may actually be better than they were in 2012 and seem to realize that now is the time for them to succeed.
Unfortunately, the Broncos can’t rely upon Manning being able to throw seven touchdowns every game, and will need to tighten up their defense in order to avoid becoming a one-sided football team, something that this defense is far too talented to accept.
Denver will look to add to their win total in Week 2 when they head on the road to face the New York Giants in one of this Sunday’s late-afternoon kickoffs.
2. San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
Facing a tough opponent to start the season, San Francisco played like a true NFC contender in their 34-28 defeat of the Packers, adding further fuel to the fire that has become one of the NFL’s most evenly-matched rivalries.
After a breakout season in 2012, 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for a career-high 412 yards with three touchdowns, getting off to a solid start in what will be his first full year as San Francisco’s starting pivot.
Employing a somewhat unexpected game plan, Kaepernick and company defeated Green Bay with a pass-heavy offensive attack, a surprise considering their identity as a dangerous running team.
Finishing the day as the NFL’s leader in receptions, former Baltimore Raven Anquan Boldin made an impression in his return to the NFC West, ending the day with 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Joining Boldin in the end zone, veteran tight end Vernon Davis provided the other half of the Niners’ offensive output with two scores of his own, sending the crowd at Candlestick Park home feeling a little less concerned about the absence of WR Michael Crabtree this season.
The 49ers are scheduled to face off against Seattle this weekend, when they travel to the Pacific Northwest for an early season divisional showdown with the highly-touted Seahawks on Sunday..
3. New Orleans Saints (1-0)
For some reason, the Saints’ 23-17 win over the visiting Atlanta Falcons hasn’t seemed to carry much weight in the minds of the experts, leading some to list this team below the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans in various “power rankings” throughout the sports media.
True, the Saints defense allowed a record-setting 7,042 yards in 2012 and for the most part, every success in recent memory can be directly attributed to the Saints’ high-scoring offense. With starting QB Drew Brees under center, it’s been hard to argue with the shootout philosophy that has recently dominated New Orleans football.
While Brees showed absolutely no signs of decline in Week 1, racking up 357 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, the New Orleans football faithful were seemingly overjoyed with the return of their beloved head coach Sean Payton, who was forced to miss last season due to his alleged involvement in “Bountygate”.
More importantly, the New Orleans defense was able to consistently pressure Falcons QB Matt Ryan, leading to three sacks while forcing Ryan to second guess himself all day. According to several reports, upon his return to the team, Payton’s first priority was to acquire the services of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, an acquisition that seems to be paying early dividends.
Currently the only team with a win in the NFC South, New Orleans will travel to Tampa Bay for a Week 2 meeting with the Buccaneers this Sunday.
4. Houston Texans (1-0)
In each of the past few seasons, the Houston Texans have been projected to be on the verge of a Super Bowl title, but after failing to fulfill their lofty expectations again in 2012, many are wondering just how long this team has before their window of opportunity slams shut on their fingers.
Favored to make quick work of the Chargers last week, Houston had to fight back from a 21-point deficit and received a little “help” from the zebras along the way, before winning a game that was supposed to be little more than a tune-up on Monday night.
In a division with a very talented and hungry Indianapolis Colts team, it’s no longer assumed that the Texans will be the last team standing in the AFC South.
With one of the NFL’s more talented defensive units, a versatile offense that includes one of the game’s top running backs in Arian Foster, as well as a wide receiver that any team would love to have in Andre Johnson, Houston has the personnel to at least make another run at turning their Super Bowl winning dreams into a reality.
But is starting quarterback Matt Schaub really the best option to lead this team in the future? Only time will tell.
5. Chicago Bears (1-0)
Despite their 24-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Soldier Field on Sunday, the Bears are another team that is being widely overlooked as a significant player within the NFC . After all, Cincinnati finished 2012 with a 10-6 record that resulted in a playoff berth, and are arguably a better team this season.
Is it due to the Bears’ two-man passing game between WR Brandon Marshall and QB Jay Cutler that has dominated the offense in recent years? Is Chicago being questioned as a quality football team because of first-year head coach Marc Trestman, a CFL-import who remains widely unknown outside of the fact that he is an obvious change of pace from former head coach Lovie Smith?
It may not have been one of the most efficiently run offenses of the week, but nevertheless, Chicago got the job done and joined the Detroit Lions at the top of the NFC North, a position that they will attempt to hold onto during their Week 2 meeting with another divisional foe in the Minnesota Vikings.
Regardless of opinion, expect the Chicago Bears to compete for a trip to the playoffs, even if it is only a wild-card berth.