Surprise party Rankings kick off with Dolphins, 49ers in top half Posted: Wednesday September 14, 2005 11:57AM; Updated: Wednesday September 14, 2005 11:57AM NFL Power Rankings Rank LW Team 1 -- New England Patriots New England Patriots (1-0) Defending Super Bowl champs automatically go to the top of the class. This is etched in stone and I've been told not to mess with this directive if I value my job. If I don't work, the Flaming Redhead doesn't eat, which usually makes her cranky. 2 -- Indianapolis Colts Indianapolis Colts (1-0) Deefense! Deefense! My player of the Ravens game (well, one of them) ... Cato June, No. 59, weakside linebacker. More about this and other intriguing topics in tomorrow's column. 3 -- Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) Here's the deal on Fast Willie Parker, the third stringer who ran for 161 yards against Tennessee. In his senior year at North Carolina, he rode the bench. "I really didn't take any hits in college, so my career's just beginning" he said. Which reminds me of something Tom Keating once told me when he was playing for the Steelers and Tony Dorsett was a rookie, I mean a freshman, at Pitt. "They've got a kid here who's a freshman who could play in the NFL right now. If I were him, I'd go hide in a cave for three years and save my legs." 4 -- Atlanta Falcons Atlanta Falcons (1-0) I liked the defense on Monday night. I mean how could you help but like it, the way DeAngelo Hall took it upon himself to go mango a mango with T.O., etc. What I didn't like, though, was what T.J. Duckett has turned into. At one time I thought this guy could bring it. Monday night he looked like a reincarnation of Jackie Gleason. What's the deal? Too many cream pies or what? 5 -- Kansas City Chiefs Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) Here's the book on KC's two new outside linebackers. Kendrell Bell: Explosive and dynamic with the Steelers. Then he got hurt. And got hurt some more. Pretty soon people got tired of hearing that he might play, or maybe he might not. A gamble. Derrick Johnson: Fastest rookie linebacker of the current class. Only criticism was not too sturdy at the point. On Sunday against the Jets these two guys were flying all over the field. I mean really serious speed that juiced up the whole defense. A work in progress. 6 -- New Orleans Saints New Orleans Saints (1-0) Courageous team, huh? Here's what I like about them. Paul Tagliabue wanted to address them Saturday night. They said no thanks and chose, instead, C. Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, who spoke so powerfully about his city and the failure of the administration and the relief efforts and FEMA ... straight from the shoulder, pow! 7 -- Philadelphia Eagles Philadelphia Eagles (0-1) So Jeremiah Trotter gets tossed pregame, and Atlanta loses a nickelback. That gave the Falcons a lead even before the kickoff. Here's the way we used to play it. Arm your reserve kicker with all sorts of filthy and vicious insults for the enemy quarterback, and then have him unleash this load of degradation during the warm-ups. A fight ensues and both players are dejected ... I mean ejected. Brilliant, huh? "Don't tell me this actually worked?" the Redhead asks. Well, no, but it's brilliant in its conception, is it not? 8 -- Carolina Panthers Carolina Panthers (0-1) Faces have been appearing at my window all day. Boobs. Loonies. Townies, sticking their tongues out. "Hey, what happened to your Super Bowl champ, ha ha ha?" I quote the immortal words of Panthers center Jeff Mitchell -- "It's not college. We didn't lose the national championship today." 9 -- Dallas Cowboys Dallas Cowboys (1-0) Drew Bledsoe, 143.4 QB rating after one game. Three TD passes, no picks. Sure I like it. He's a good guy. 10 -- Jacksonville Jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) The Matt Jones file says the following: What the hell ... ? He's 6-6, 240, runs a 4.37, lines up at his normal wideout position, or he might show up as an option quarterback, or a second tight end. Carried the ball twice for 28 yards, completed a pass, caught a pair. Nickname is Big Slash. I've got this game on the tape. Can't wait to watch it. 11 -- Miami Dolphins Miami Dolphins (1-0) This is what the new era means. The Fish are sitting on a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter. In the old days they'd run twice, throw a safe pass that falls short of the first down, punt and buckle up to play defense and make a game of it. Nick Saban's new era Dolphins instruct Gus Frerotte to go deep on the first snap, which he does, hitting Marty Booker for a 60-yard TD. Game over. Drive safely on your way home. I mean do I ever love this kind of football. 12 -- New York Giants New York Giants (1-0) Unsung hero of the Cardinals game -- DT William Joseph. First round draft two years ago. At one time regarded by some as a bust. I keep telling people, with these big guys, sometimes it takes a year or two before they get their sea legs. Right now he's hell on wheels. 13 -- Buffalo Bills Buffalo Bills (1-0) I was guilty of a flippancy and I wish to apologize. I wrote that J.P. Losman's job is just not to screw it up for the defense. This is not true. Against the Texans, they emptied the backfield on the first play of the game, spread the field with five receivers, and he completed a pass. He hit his first five tosses on the drive, which set up a field goal. Next possession he accounted for all the yards, 47 passing, eight running, to set up another fielder. Sam Wyche, the 60-year old QB coach, says he worked harder with Losman than he had with any other guy under his command, and it sure showed, no matter what some wiseguy journalist might write. "Fielder," incidentally, was a term I read in a Walter Camp book at the turn of the century. I kinda like it. 14 -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) Last week Jon Gruden showed Cadillac Williams a tape of Warrick Dunn as a rookie in 1997, breaking a 52-yard TD run to clinch the Minnesota game. The message was: that's how we expect rookies to run. So on Sunday Cadillac clinched the game against -- right, the Vikings again -- with a 71-yard TD scamper. "How was that?" he asked the coach. "Not bad, you're getting the hang of it, " replied Gruden. (OK, I cannot tell a lie. The last two quotes were piped. But they might have said it, right?) 15 -- San Francisco 49ers San Francisco 49ers (1-0) Outside linebacker Julian Peterson isn't all the way back from his torn Achilles, so they told him to just line up as an end and do a little pass rushing. The result was 2 1/2 sacks, a career high. What happens if next week they tell him, "Drop back and see how many balls you can intercept, just for fun?" 16 -- Detroit Lions Detroit Lions (1-0) Three No. 1 draft choices, two Williamses and a Rogers, representing almost a billion dollars worth of coin of the realm, lined up at wide receiver against the Packers last Sunday. When the day was done they had registered, amongst them, five catches for 54 yards. OK, so it's not a billion. But at least I got the other numbers right. 17 -- Cincinnati Bengals Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) The last two seasons began at 1-4 and ended at 8-8. But the schedules were not as soft as this year's. The first six games offer teams with a combined 38-58 mark from last season. Which means that ... which means ... . "that even if those teams were easy last year, it doesn't mean they're gonna be just as easy this year," interrupts my wife avec les cheveaux rouge. How'd you learn so much football, Linda? My God, I've created a Finkelstein Monster. 18 -- San Diego Chargers San Diego Chargers (0-1) Game plan magic. LaDainian Tomlinson, one of pro football's great weapons, was written out of the attack during crunch time Sunday. He ended the day with not one catch. And this is a guy who had 100 two years ago. 19 -- Baltimore Ravens Baltimore Ravens (0-1) You know what I'm sick of? The artificial tackles and assists numbers the stat crew, which is composed of employees of the home team, in this case the Ravens, awards to Ray Lewis. They appeared in the Indy game stat sheet as 8-2 T&A. I watched this oh so carefully. Not only was Ray hardly a factor against the Colts, but there's no way he could have made 10 tackles, even if they would have awarded some for merely yelling at the ball cariers. It's shameful, but every home team boosts its superstars this way. I command you, my readers, not to pay attention to these statistics. 20 -- Seattle Seahawks Seattle Seahawks (0-1) If I weren't so tired Sunday night, when I did my handicapping column, I would have made Atlanta my upset special No. 5 against the 'Hawks, playing in Seattle. I have a feeling a lot of honest investors will be cursing this Hawkeye bunch by season's end. 21 -- Minnesota Vikings Minnesota Vikings (0-1) Never judge anything by what happens in the exhibition season. Minny was 3-1. Then they stunk it up against the Bucs. It means nothing, less than nothing, minus nothing, actually, because many times coaches desperate to hang onto their jobs attempt to fool their owners by going for victories in the preseason. 22 -- Arizona Cardinals Arizona Cardinals (0-1) If I live to be 100, and right now I'm close, I will never understand why coaches do this: With the score, 42-19, Giants, and about a minute to play, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, who has worn himself out catching 12 passes, catches No. 13 down the sideline and takes a kill shot from the cornerback. His helmet flies off and everyone goes oooooh! Why? Tell me why he's still in there, running on tired legs, risking serious disablement? Is it some sort of macho esprit de corps thing that began with King Leonidas at Thermopylae? I'm waiting to find out. 23 -- Washington Redskins Washington Redskins (1-0) Wow, Joe Gibbs' quarterback carnival begins early this year. Half a game was all it took. And that was after Patrick Ramsey had been groomed for the job all preseason. As they say in the western films, the argument is just starting, podnah. 24 -- Oakland Raiders Oakland Raiders (0-1) Patriots front four destroyed massive, sluggish Raiders forward wall. Somehow I had neglected this team when I drew up my list of 10 worst O-lines in the NFL. Sorry for the omission. It will be corrected immediately. 25 -- St. Louis Rams St. Louis Rams (0-1) Special teams were miserable last year. Glad to see the matter was properly addressed. The tally against SF: St.Looie, two punt returns for a 7.0 average. Niners, one for 75 and a TD. St.Looie, four kickoff returns for a 13.8 average. Niners, five for 24.6. Don't forget this was the team that fired Bobby April two years ago ... one of the best special teams coaches in the business. 26 -- Green Bay Packers Green Bay Packers (0-1) Wideout Javon Walker was the best young player on the Packers roster. This summer he threatened to hold out because he felt his base salaries for '05 and '06, the last two years of his contract, were too low. Then he gave in and reported on time anyway. His agent argued that a major injury could end his future chances to land a really good deal. On Sunday that's exactly what happened. Torn ACL. Out for the season. So waddya say, folks. Let's not be too hard on every holdout from now on, OK? 27 -- Cleveland Browns Cleveland Browns (0-1) New running back Reuben Droughns averaged 6.5 yards on 12 carries against the Bengals. But of their nine third or fourth down short yardage plays (one or two yards to go), the Browns threw the ball eight times. Six of the passes failed to get the first down. 28 -- Chicago Bears Chicago Bears (0-1) I know, they shouldn't be this low after they played the Redskins tough, but they were my Upset Special, and I'm bitter, see. At the end, they had the ball in Skins' territory, and I'd already kicked the field goal for them and written down a W on my sheet. So what happens? Three false start penalties and a sack, and they're out in the parking lot, looking at third and 38. I think I'm gonna move 'em down to 32nd. 29 -- Denver Broncos Denver Broncos (0-1) Ron Dayne, after establishing himself as one of the most prolific preseason backs, surprise, with 35 carries for 187 yards, a 5.3 average, was inactive Sunday. (If injury was the reason, then I apologize). I'll say this again. More mysterious things happen with this team than in the Denville, NJ, Key Foods parking lot at 4 a.m. Saturday. 30 -- New York Jets New York Jets (0-1) Nose tackle James Reed punched MLB Jonathan Vilma on the sidelines during the Chiefs game. Nobody said why, but I can close my eyes and hear the dialogue. Reed, you see, is one of the committee members chosen to replace Jason Ferguson, who did such a good job last year of keeping the blockers off Vilma, who's undersized for a middle man. On Sunday the Jets got overrun by Chief ball carriers. Vilma: "Gotta keep 'em off me, man." Reed: "You do your job, I'll do mine." Vilma: "Well, how about if you start doing it?" Wham! 31 -- Tennessee Titans Tennessee Titans (0-1) I really don't want to say much here because this is too depressing. It's a lesson in what happens when the salary cap has been screwed on too tight. 32 -- Houston Texans Houston Texans (0-1) Five turnovers, five sacks, 120 yards of offense, the low number in the NFL on Sunday. Waddya think, does that swing it for the cellar spot?