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Strong opening drives

Ravens, Rams impress while Broncos take hard fall

Posted: Wednesday September 13, 2006 11:50AM; Updated: Wednesday September 13, 2006 1:10PM
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The word has gone out. No complaining. No e-mails that begin with, "How could you?" will be forwarded to me this week. No pasaran, pas permite, no green cards issued, no work permits, got it? Beware the dog. I mean, the season's only a week old. Write me about something else, such as how swell Tom Cruise looked when the ESPN cameras caught him in Dan Snyder's box.

So on what do I base my first-week rankings? A whim, a brief impression, a fleeting smile, the look of surprise, a raised eyebrow, innuendo, a chance remark, a lowered gaze. Week 1 winners will almost unanimously be honored. Poor devils, some might never again enjoy a place in the sun. I say almost. I mean I don't really feel New Orleans is better than Denver, you know?

Fasten your seat belts, here they come:

NFL Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 -- I want to apologize to Charlie Batch for my remark in the magazine, how my pick automatically would go to Miami because he was starting. He has a long history in the league and he showed considerable courage Thursday night. Sometimes our tongue gets ahead of our brain. ("Why are you saying 'our' instead of 'my'?" asks my wife with the head of red flames. "Nobody was in it with you.") Yes, that's right, true, a good point. Can we move on, please?
2 -- Sleeper team for '06. Cinderella, and all that. Smartest thing I ever did was to place a late call to my editor at Sports Illustrated and substitute Baltimore for K.C. as a playoff team. Usually those calls have disastrous results.
3 -- Yes, they beat the Broncos with defense. It works this way. You replace one of the league's worst defensive coaches with one of the best, Jim Haslett, and this is what happens. No, I won't mention the name of the former. I was on his case too much already last year.
4 -- They beat the Giants, a nasty, rough, physical team, in the Meadows last weekend, and that was impressive. But this is a small defensive team, built to get after the passer after its offense has taken the lead. Teams that hang with them early will muscle them and give them trouble, I predict.
5 -- I was listening to Pam Oliver's sideline report during the Dallas game and I heard her say, "Mike Tyson was brought in to help establish the offensive philosophy." I thought, "Wow, what a good idea! That'll give 'em some punch." Then I heard the rest of it. Seems that she really had said Tice, not Tyson. A shame. I liked my way better.
6 -- Was their pass rush really that great against the Chiefs or were they torturing a wounded animal? Maybe I was a bit too high-handed in forecasting them out of the playoffs because of all that police stuff. See, that's the great thing about being one game into the season -- you second-guess yourself no matter what happens.
7 -- I hope you appreciate the fact that I'm giving the choice rankings to so many teams I've picked to have mediocre seasons. "That's because all the teams you like lost," says my wife, who's trying for some reason to get me really upset ... and succeeding. I just happen to like running teams (252 big ones against Carolina). I reward them perhaps a little more than I should. I know how hard it is to coach a great running game in the NFL these days. Just so much easier to set up a dink passing attack and run an occasional draw play.
8 -- A name to remember: Devin Hester, basically a return man who performs that function so well that he was drafted in round No. 2. Returned a punt 84 yards against Green Bay. Averaged 22.8 yards in six punt returns in the exhibition season. "Freakish ability," said one scout, which pretty well describes my first wife.
9 -- Why not higher after the methodical way they destroyed Oakland? Because when you run the ball 48 times and throw 11 passes, you're telling the world that your quarterback is not yet fully ready to challenge the world of the big arena.
10 -- And this rounds out my top 10. So the Texans take a 7-0 lead on a nice, long drive, and I'm screaming to anyone who will listen, which consisted of my wife and Little Jake, the tabby, "You see that? It's the classic case for my trap theory of handicapping. So why didn't I pick Houston? Damn stupid ass!" And then, of course, I got a W because the Eagles won, but my Trap Theory took a hit, almost, but not the knockout punch it absorbed with the Raiders on Monday night. Is that man sleeping over there? Wake him up. This is important.

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