A tender Tennessee touchdown, courtesy of Dont'a Hightower and the Patriots' new-look defense.
Week one and the winning is easy.
Or so it appears, at least, to the analysts writing about the fresh & spanking new 2012 Patriots. None of them get all breathless at Brady's bunch putting up the expected 30-plus points on the Titans this week, but there were still a couple of things that caught their attention. Enough to elevate this team into the top spot on more than a few Power Ranking lists.
So what is it that's piquing the interest of these ranking writers, beyond the Pats' consistently prolific offense?
First is the whiff of an effective run game, with Stevan Ridley adding one more dimension to the potent passing attack. Second, the young, dynamic playmakers on defense just might be the ones to erase the recent years' punching-bag mentality from this side of the ball. Vince Wilfork's confidence in 'his guys' has always been high, but now others can start to believe in them as well.
It certainly explains another new year with the Patriots starting at the top of the charts.
Pro Football Weekly ranks them 1st: Now defenses have to find a way to stop RB Ridley, too.
National Football Post ranks them 1st: Brady, Gronkowski and Hernandez can still produce points, but how about that Patriots' defense in the win over the Titans?
WEEI ranks them 1st: A young, rejuvenated defense makes Bill Belichick‘s squad the clear AFC favorite after Week 1. This D has much bigger tests ahead of it, but holding Chris Johnson to just four yards in 11 attempts is very impressive. The versatility the pass offense showed on Sunday was expected. If Stevan Ridley can balance the offense and become a threat on the ground, the Patriots will be as close to unstoppable as a team possibly can get.
Pro Football Talk ranks them 1st: With an improved defense and an improved running game, it will take much more than a busted nose for Tom Brady to keep the Pats from their first Super Bowl win since 2004.
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) ranks them 1st: If they get the running attack the rest of the way that they got against the Titans, they just might go 16-0.
Brian Billick (Fox Sports) ranks them 1st: Stevan Ridley rushed for 100+ yards, and only once did a single player do that for the Pats last season. They haven't had an impact in the running game like that since Corey Dillon. On defense, the two first-round picks of Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones made immediate impacts at positions of need for a team that was awful on D last year, but looked pretty darn good on Sunday.
ESPN ranks them 1st: If the resurgent defense can play like this all season, the Patriots will be nearly impossible to beat.
Elliot Harrison (NFL.com) ranks them 2nd: New England hit the road and very efficiently disposed of an overmatched Tennessee Titans team. Defensively, this looks like a new club. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Bill Belichick's club would look ho-hum in the preseason and then proceed to decimate its first real opponent. Tom Brady was his usual dynamic self, but his numbers would have been better if not for some bad drops. Yes, Wes Welker was a culprit.
Joel Thurman (SB Nation) ranks them 2nd: 34-13 victory in Week 1 and I barely blink, like wins like that are supposed to happen for New England. Stay healthy and 12-plus wins is attainable once again.
Peter King (SI) ranks them 2nd: The rookie cavalry for the D -- end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- came up big. They're players.
NFL.com experts rank them 2nd.
The Sporting News ranks them 3rd: Go-to guy: TE Rob Gronkowski. How do you know the rough-and-tumble Gronkowski remains Tom Brady's favorite end-zone option? His 60-yard, one-TD performance in the opener seemed routine.
Posted On Wednesday:
Don Banks (SI) ranks them 1st: The Patriots were their typical methodical selves in dismantling the Titans in Nashville, and they had to love what they got out of second-year running back Stevan Ridley, who cruised to a 125-yard, one-touchdown afternoon. Ridley, an LSU product, can only dream of hanging around in New England as long as the last ex-Tigers runner to make a name for himself in Foxboro. Kevin Faulk did all right, squeezing out 13 seasons of wearing the Flying Elvis on his helmet.
The AP Pro32 ranks them 1st.
Michael Silver (Yahoo! Sports) ranks them 4th: In the wake of the left-handed compliment threw at his buddy Tom Brady, can a One Tough Metrosexual clothing line be far behind?
Cold Hard Football Facts ranks them 8th: Determined by their Quality Stats Overall Score made up of 11 indicators. (Not included in the Average Rank.)
AVERAGE RANK: 1.6