But could 2010 be the year of the defense?
In 2009, the Jets led the NFL with a stingy 14.9 PPG allowed, and were rightly lauded for their excellence. But through two games in 2010, nine teams allow 14.0 PPG or less, including the Jets themselves. It's early. And conventional wisdom tells us that defenses have the early advantage as offenses work out the kinks. But it's a still remarkably large number of strong defenses over any two-week period.
The top of our rankings reflect this defensive surge, with nine of our top 12 teams from that 14-and-under club.
1. NEW ORLEANS (2-0)
Last week: 25-22 win at San Francisco
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Drew Brees set an NFL record last year (as you know) completing 70.62 percent of his passes. So far in 2010? He's completed 74.32 percent of his passes (55 of 74) against two teams that were fairly good defensively last year (Minnesota, San Francisco).
2. GREEN BAY (2-0)
Last week: 34-7 win vs. Buffalo
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Three sacks in Week 1 for Clay Matthews III, now three more sacks in Week 2. How rare are three-sack games? There were only 14 in all of 2009 and 13 in 2008. Oh, and he's now got 12 in his last seven regular-season games. Oh, and the offense is good too.
3. PITTSBURGH (2-0)
Last week: 19-11 win at Tennessee
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: They've got two very nice wins over tough opponents (Atlanta and Tennessee) despite being dead last in the NFL with 21 total first downs on offense. Helps when you allow 2.2 YPA on defense.
4. HOUSTON (2-0)
Last week: 30-27 win at Washington (OT)
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Hmm. In Week 1, Arian Foster had the No. 10 rushing performance in NFL since 1960 (courtesy pro-football-reference.com) with 231 yards. In Week 2, Matt Schaub had the No. 11 passing yard performance of all time (497 yards). That's just plain incredible, folks. Now if they can only shore up that gaping whole on defense.
5. INDIANAPOLIS (1-1)
Last week: 38-14 win vs. N.Y. Giants
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 MVP, for the 5th time, Peyton Manning. He's hit 72.3 percent of his passes and has no picks in 83 attempts.
6. CHICAGO (2-0)
Last week: 27-20 win at Dallas
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bears allowed a very mediocre 4.3 yards a carry last year in going 7-9. There seems to have been some improvement – how about 41 carries for 56 yards (1.4 YPC) sound?
7. N.Y. JETS (1-1)
Last week: 28-14 win vs. New England
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Jets have allowed 15 points or fewer in 10 of their last 11 games (including playoffs).
8. MIAMI (2-0)
Last week: 14-10 win at Minnesota
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Not sure why Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are still getting a 50-50 split of the carries in Miami. Brown averages 4.2 YPA with six TDs over his last seven games, Williams 3.66 YPA with two TDs over his last seven.
9. SAN DIEGO (1-1)
Last week: 38-13 win vs. Jacksonville
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Are the Chargers collectively sleeping with Roger Goodell? Their next four are against Seattle, Arizona, Oakland and St. Louis. No wonder they're not sweating the absences of Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill.
10. TENNESSEE (1-1)
Last week: 19-11 loss vs. Pittsburgh
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Titans have apparently woken their 2008 pass defense after a year in deep freeze. The Titans finished 25th in Defensive Passer rating last year after riding their No. 3 ranked pass stoppers to a 13-3 record in 08. They're back up to No. 7 in DPR (66.02) and have allowed a net of just 171 passing yards in two games.
11. NEW ENGLAND (1-1)
: 28-14 loss at N.Y. Jets
The Cold, Hard Football Facts:
The Patriots have been outgained in their last four games, including playoffs; they'd outgained their opponent in 42 times in 53 games before this latest run.
12. WASHINGTON (1-1)
30-27 loss vs. Houston (OT)
The Cold, Hard Football Facts:
Note to the Redskins – maybe it's time to invest in a kicker. Washington hasn't had a Pro Bowl kicker since 1991, and untested Graham Gano's two misses (one blocked) cost them the game Sunday. What's Mark Moseley doing these days?
13. BALTIMORE (1-1)
15-10 loss at Cincinnati
The Cold, Hard Football Facts:
The turnover battle is a feast-or-famine deal in Baltimore. They finished top 5 in takeaways in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009, bottom five in 2005, 2007. This year? Minus-6, dead last.
14. PHILADELPHIA (1-1)
35-32 win at Detroit
The Cold, Hard Football Facts
: Remember the fierce Eagles defense? They were 19th in scoring D last year (21.1 PPG) and they're dead last this year (29.5 PPG). But by all means go back to Kevin Kolb.
15. ATLANTA (1-1)
Last week: 41-7 win vs. Arizona
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Falcons have only allowed two touchdowns this year – both on runs of 50+ yards (Rashard Mendenhall Week 1, Tim Hightower Week 2).
16. CINCINNATI (1-1)
Last week: 15-10 win vs. Baltimore
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: What a Jekyll and Hyde outing for Cincy's secondary. Going up against two good QBs, Tom Brady had his third-best game since the start of 2009 (120.9 rating) and Joe Flacco had his second worst game ever (23.8 rating).
17. TAMPA BAY (2-0)
Last week: 20-7 win at Carolina
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bucs are a nice story. They've won three straight on the road, a rarity even for good teams. Still, when they start playing legitimate NFL teams and not the likes of Carolina and Cleveland, we'll talk. Oh, looks like we'll talk soon! Tampa hosts 2-0 perennial power Pittsburgh Sunday, and then the defending champ Saints in Week 6.
18. KANSAS CITY (2-0)
Last week: 16-14 win at Cleveland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Matt Cassel has four touchdowns and 12 interceptions over his last eight games. And somehow, three wins.
19. SEATTLE (1-1)
Last week: 31-14 loss at Denver
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Since the beginning of 2008, Matt Hasselbeck has had back-to-back good games (90+ passer rating) only once. That's not going to get it done.
20. MINNESOTA (0-2)
Last week: 14-10 loss vs. Miami
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The defense is doing its job – 4.9 yards per play and 14 PPG allowed, down from 5.2 and 19.5 a year ago. Adrian Peterson is doing his, too – 4.9 YPA and no fumbles after 4.4 and butterfingers a year ago. Hmm. So what's changed? Oh, yeah, Brett Favre forgot to bring his talent with him from Mississippi. As a result, the Vikes are dead last right now in Scoreability (32.47 Yards Per Point Scored).
21. N.Y. GIANTS (1-1)
Last week: 38-14 loss at Indianapolis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Giants have allowed 38+ points in four of their last six road games. They're the best guest this side of Angelina Jolie showing up at your house with a platter of scallops wrapped in bacon.
22. DENVER (1-1)
Last week: 31-14 win vs. Seattle
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: QB Kyle Orton's passer rating has improved every season as a pro, from 59.7 as a rookie in 2005, to 86.8 last year in Denver, to 103.9 so far this year. He's only 27, and he's 30-20 as a starter. In other words, you could do a lot worse.
23. DALLAS (0-2)
Last week: 27-20 loss vs. Chicago
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Cowboys' lack of Scoreability continues to haunt them. Dallas was the only good team in the bottom 10 of the stat last year. They've rolled up 790 yards with just 27 points this year, a preposterous 29.3 Yards Per Point Scored. Last year's No. 32 team, St. Louis, needed only 25.54 yards a point, and they were easily the most inefficient squad in the NFL.
24. JACKSONVILLE (1-1)
Last week: 38-13 loss at San Diego
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Jaguars have been blown out (14+ points) six times in the 18 games since the start of 2009; they only have one such win over the same period (37-17 win vs. Tennessee in Week 4 of 2009). Now wonder Jack Del Rio is on the proverbial death watch.
25. ARIZONA (1-1)
Last week: 41-7 loss at Atlanta
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Kurt Warner retired and Larry Fitzgerald is banged up. So the Cardinals are going to get back to basics a bit, right? Wrong. 78 passes, 34 runs through two games, a 69.6 pass percentage that's even worse than their 62.9 percent rate a year ago.
26. OAKLAND (1-1)
Last week: 16-14 win vs. St. Louis
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Why generic NFL statistics are crap, Vol. 424. The Raiders are "third in pass defense this year" according by the general measure, yards allowed. Problem is, they've been passed on only 42 times, for four TDs, an average of 7.6 yards per attempt and a 109.3 Defensive Passer Rating. So the third-ranked pass defense according to the "pundits" is actually the 31st-ranked scoring defense according to people who aren't stupid.
27. CLEVELAND (0-2)
Last week: 16-14 loss vs. Kansas City
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: We don't want to rub it in after two close losses, but the Browns could be touchdown-plus underdogs in their next seven games: at Baltimore, vs. Cincinnati, vs. Atlanta, at Pittsburgh, at New Orleans, vs. New England and vs. N.Y. Jets.
28. DETROIT (0-2)
Last week: 35-32 loss vs. Philadelphia
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Lions D has registered 10 sacks already in two games; in 2009 they had 26 all season long. Also, Jahvid Best's five touchdowns are only two fewer than Lion RBs managed in all of 2009. The net result? 0-2. Must be the Lions.
29. SAN FRANCISCO (0-2)
Last week: 25-22 loss vs. New Orleans
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: With the retirement of Jerry Rice's No. 80 Monday night, it's probably worth noting that the 49ers haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since T.O. in 2003 or a 3,000-yard passer since Jeff Garcia in 2002.
30. CAROLINA (0-2)
Last week: 20-7 loss vs. Tampa Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: If the Panthers could figure out how to play in September, they might just go somewhere. They're now 6-10 in their last 16 September games (since the start of 2006), 31-19 from October on.
31. ST. LOUIS (0-2)
Last week: 16-14 loss at Oakland
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: We know, they look better, right? But losses to Arizona and Oakland don't lie.
32. BUFFALO (0-2)
Last week: 34-7 loss at Green Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: If you count interceptions as -40 yards (an approximate value in stat geek land) and subtract sack yardage, the Bills average 1.6 yards per dropback. Glad they decided they couldn't use Michael Vick.