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Mason's Power Rankings: Champs still on top

The power rankings return, Casey Kasem-countdown style:


  1. CLEVELAND (0-1)**

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 30 - Defense: 14

Robert Griffin III is injured, they lost to a team led by the quarterback they opted not to draft, and their Color Rush uniform, featuring brown from shoulders to toes, is an unfortunate choice, to say the least. On the positive side, there is a color-blindness issue between brown and purple, so they will play in white-on-white in their Thursday night appearance at Baltimore on Nov. 10.

31. LOS ANGELES (0-1)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 32 - Defense: 13

Tinseltown's return to the NFL's big screen is the clubhouse leader to win the 2016 Worst Picture award at the Razzies. Forget about 7-9; that looked like 3-13.

30. ATLANTA (0-1)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 22 - Defense: 18

With a 2-8 record since Nov. 1 of last year and a 2-6 record in games decided by seven points or fewer in that span, the Falcons continue to fly in the wrong direction. With the Raiders, Panthers, Broncos and Seahawks among their next five opponents, this trend seems likely to get worse before it gets better.

29. CHICAGO (0-1)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 28 - Defense: 8

Halftime adjustments -- or a lack thereof -- doomed John Fox's Bears in Houston. Chicago averaged 7.8 yards per play and picked up a first down once every 2.8 plays in a 14-point first half. In a scoreless second half, they averaged just 2.4 yards per play and moved the sticks once every 7.3 snaps. Investments in their inside linebacker corps paid off; Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan should be one of the league's best 3-4 ILB tandems.


  1. SAN DIEGO (0-1)**

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 6 - Defense: 23

In a rugged AFC West, the Chargers had little room for error. Then they lost Keenan Allen to the season because of a torn ACL. On three drives with Allen at Kansas City, the Chargers scored touchdowns each time, and averaged 64.3 yards and 4.7 first downs per series. After that, they mustered just two field goals and averaged 25.9 yards and 1.4 first downs per possession.

The impact on Philip Rivers is profound, too. Since the start of the 2015 season, he's averaged 7.8 yards per pass play with Allen in the lineup, and 6.6 yards when he's been injured. And instead of moving the sticks once every 2.7 pass plays, that pace drops by 33 percent, to one every 3.6 pass plays. Everything about the Chargers' pass offense is less efficient without Allen, and his injury might have been the most significant of Week 1.

27. TENNESSEE (0-1)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 26 - Defense: 10

There's a bit of randomness involved when you allow two defensive touchdowns in a game, but the Titans were in the league's bottom tier in net yardage per series (29.1 yards) and first downs per series (1.73), so their struggles were not a fluke.

26. WASHINGTON (0-1)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 21 - Defense: 32

Josh Norman is getting paid too much money to not line up across from Antonio Brown on every down.

25. BUFFALO (0-1)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 29 - Defense: 9

When you muster just 16.1 net yards per possession -- the second-worst figure in the league in Week 1 -- you're going to lose far more often than not.


Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 20 - Defense: 1

Blaine Gabbert wasn't especially efficient, and the defense capitalized off a milquetoast Los Angeles offensive game plan that made vanilla look exotic. But as we saw when the 49ers practiced and played against the Broncos last month, there is a feistiness and energy that last year's team lacked and will allow them to steal some wins that seem unlikely on paper.


  1. MIAMI (0-1)**

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 31 - Defense: 6

CenturyLink Field was a daunting environment, as usual, but the inability to capitalize on defensive lapses and contain a hobbling Russell Wilson created a collection of missed opportunities that ensured a long flight home.

22. NEW ORLEANS (0-1)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 3 - Defense: 28

New year, same sieve-like defense. If nothing else, the Saints will be wildly entertaining -- but also terrifically frustrating unless they can get their defensive house in order by midseason.

21. DALLAS (0-1)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 8 - Defense: 15

Only the Lions averaged more first downs per possession than the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys (2.67 first downs per series). Prescott did well playing within the scheme, and he gave his team a chance to win that Terrance Williams frittered away with an inexcusable decision to not get to the sideline to set up a potential game-winning field-goal attempt.


Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 7 - Defense: 24

The Jaguars showed ample improvement on both sides of the ball; the offense displayed a consistency it lacked last year, and the defense improved in the second half with stands that kept Jacksonville in the game. But a bubble screen on fourth down of a potential game-winning drive was the wrong call at the wrong time.


  1. INDIANAPOLIS (0-1)**

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 4 - Defense: 31

Gashed time and again by the Lions, the Colts allowed a league-worst 2.8 first downs per possession (the average is 1.9), leading LB D'Qwell Jackson to say the defense "played like s---" in the defeat. Indianapolis' defense is a wounded animal, and as the cliche' goes, that is the most dangerous kind -- especially when you pair it with Andrew Luck coming off one of the best games of his career. And given the Colts' recent success against the Broncos, next Sunday's game is dangerous for Denver.

18. N.Y. GIANTS (1-0)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 18 - Defense: 25

The differences between teams in the middle after Week 1 are minuscule -- as tiny as a wide receiver not going out of bounds in the final seconds.


Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 19 - Defense: 3

The Eagles did what you're supposed to do to an inferior opponent, but their hopes this year will depend on how well Carson Wentz adapts as teams collect more film on him and he -- and the Eagles offense -- figures out how to adjust.

16. BALTIMORE (1-0)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 24 - Defense: 4

The offense can't rely on the deep strike to Mike Wallace every week, but Baltimore's defense showed signs of being back to its accustomed altitude after a step back last year.

15. OAKLAND (1-0)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 5 - Defense: 30

Since extra points were moved back to create 33-yard kicks in 2015 they have been converted 94.3 percent of the time. In that same span, teams have converted 49.0 percent of their two-point conversions. If overtime is a 50-50 shot, then the percentages favored the Raiders in going for two in the final minute rather than going for one and taking their chances in overtime. The question isn't, "Why did Jack Del Rio go for two?" It is actually, "Why don't more teams go for two in that situation?"


  1. DETROIT (1-0)**

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 2 - Defense: 29

The Lions are 7-2 in their last nine games, and have a net point differential of plus-58 in that span. Five of those nine games have been on the road; the Lions are 4-1 in those games. Their division competition is daunting, but the abject team of September and October of last year appears long gone.

13. NEW YORK JETS (0-1)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 12 - Defense: 19

Better fortune in the kicking game would have made a difference against the Bengals; having Ryan Fitzpatrick around for the entire offseason probably wouldn't have.

12. TAMPA BAY (1-0)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 15 - Defense: 11

Arizona on Sunday represents a litmus test for the Bucs' revival. But Dirk Koetter looked like the right man for the head coaching job in his debut. His cool leadership helped steady a listing ship, ensuring that the Bucs, once prone to blowing leads, wouldn't capsize. Five three-and-outs for the offense show the need for greater consistency.

11. MINNESOTA (1-0)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 23 - Defense: 7

Credit goes to an opportunistic defense that scored twice, but the Vikings won't be a playoff team without better play at the quarterback position; the offense ranked 23rd in net yards per possession and 26th in first downs per possession. That is not sustainable with a defense that is good, but not yet great.

10. HOUSTON (1-0)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 25 - Defense: 5

A dominant second-half performance on defense and just enough offense got the Texans home victorious in Week 1. Brock Osweiler was steady -- 22-of-35 for 231 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and an 89.1 rating -- but the Texans strung together multiple first downs on just four of 11 possessions.


  1. GREEN BAY (1-0)**

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 9 - Defense: 26

The Packers were in survival mode in Jacksonville, kind of like they were down the stretch last season. Green Bay is now 6-7 since its 6-0 start last year, and that inconsistency was on display in Week 1: dominant at times, desultory at others.

8. ARIZONA (0-1)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 16 - Defense: 20

The Cardinals are still clearly contenders, but a slow start against a short-handed Patriots team offers cause for worry that they may still have a hangover from last year's NFC Championship Game thumping in Charlotte.

7. KANSAS CITY (1-0)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 10 - Defense: 27

The afore-mentioned injury to Allen changed the game, but give the Chiefs credit for capitalizing off the Chargers' slow leak and eventually grinding them down in overtime. Kansas City has now won 12 of its last 13 games and has a six-game winning streak at Arrowhead Stadium.


Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 14 - Defense: 21

It wasn't about consistency, but big plays for the Bengals; they were sixth in the NFL in net yardage per possession last week (41.1 yards), but their average of 1.8 first downs per series was tied for 20th.

5. SEATTLE (1-0)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 27 - Defense: 2

If Russell Wilson's ankle injury causes him to miss time, the Seahawks may be trying to win as the Broncos have -- with an overpowering defense that overcomes giveaways. Few defenses are dominant enough to pull this off; in fact, the list may include only the Broncos and Seahawks. A tepid schedule is helpful; the Seahawks don't face a team that was in last year's postseason until Oct. 23.


  1. PITTSBURGH (1-0)**

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 1 - Defense: 12

Injuries to Markus Wheaton, Cody Wallace and Roosevelt Nix and the suspension of Le'Veon Bell registered little impact on the soaring Steelers. If Ryan Shazier's knee injury is serious, however, the defense could buckle.

3. CAROLINA (0-1)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 17 - Defense: 22

Look for more teams to try to mimic the Broncos by cranking up the edge rush, thus taking their chances with man-to-man coverage against the Panthers' receivers. Then look for Carolina to capitalize on this, because no team has a cornerback trio as good as Harris, Talib and Roby. Carolina's season will rest on keeping Cam Newton upright, but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this team, and I expect it to rip off some wins posthaste.

2. NEW ENGLAND (1-0)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 13 - Defense: 17

Julian Edelman remains the hidden key to the Patriots' offense. Heading into last year's AFC Championship Game, the Patriots averaged 1.5 more points per possession with Edelman than without him. His underneath threat changes the way teams must defend the Patriots.

1. DENVER (1-0)

Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 11 - Defense: 16

Until vanquished, the champions stay on top. There are areas that need refinement. But consider that the Broncos:

a) Defeated a team with 19 wins in its previous 20 regular-season games.

b) Vanquished a foe with a dominant front seven, doing so with a first-time starter at quarterback and an offensive line with just one returning starter at his position.

c) Shouldn't have needed a last-gasp missed field goal to win, because the drive was extended via a questionable penalty call against Chris Harris, Jr.

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