Oliver's NFL rankings: Week 2

SFI correspondent Oliver Kimokeo ranks the NFL from 1 to 32. This week: 49ers soar seven spots to No. 22.

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The Bengals had a solid divisional win over the Browns, giving Cincinnati a 2-0 start in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history. Now comes the real test to see if these Bengals are worthy of the top spot. They play at defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh this week in an early AFC North showdown, then host New England after that.

The Jags made a statement with their Monday night blanking of the Steelers, their first shutout since Week 14 of the 2003 season. The 9-0 final doesn't tell the story of how Jacksonville dominated on both sides of the ball, and it vaulted the Jags to No. 3 in the NFL's defensive rankings. Now comes an even bigger game for the Jags and their placement near top: Sunday's AFC South showdown at Indianapolis.

The Steelers lost for the first time since Week 13 last season, ending their nine-game winning streak that included their impressive run through last year's playoffs. There wasn't much impressive about them Monday night, but we've seen the Steelers bounce back before, and it's too early to slide them too far down the rankings.

4 | 4 | DALLAS COWBOYS (1-1)
After losing to Jacksonville in Week 1, the Cowboys bounced back at home with a divisional win against Washington. All divisional wins will be big in the rugged NFC East. Starting 1-1 for the fifth consecutive season, the Cowboys have a bye this week before the real action begins with games against Philadelphia, Carolina and the New York Giants in October.

5 | 6 | SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (2-0)
The defending NFC champions stretched their Qwest Field winning streak to 11 games - currently the longest in the NFL - by dumping the Cardinals for the fourth consecutive time. The defense continues to carry the team while the offense struggles to find its prodigious form of 2005.

The Patriots notched their seventh consecutive win against the Jets dating back to 2002. Next up: The Denver Broncos on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, an opportunity for revenge against the team that ended New England's reign as two-time defending Super Bowl champion in last year's playoffs.

Indianapolis is now 9-0 against the Texans in their franchise history, hitting the 40-point mark for the first time since last November. Since the beginning of the 2003 season, the Colts scored have scored 40 or more points 12 times. Points don't figure to as easy this week against Jacksonville.

8 | 9 | CHICAGO BEARS (2-0)
The Bears have allowed only seven points after two games and their defense looks as good as advertised. They've held opponents to single-digit scoring in 10 of their last 18 games. And how about that Rex Grossman? If he continues to play like he did during last week's trampling of Detroit, the Bears are going to be tough to beat. The Bears can show who's boss in the NFC North during Sunday's game at Minnesota. That is, if they haven‘t done that already.

9 | 11 | SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (2-0)
The Chargers have a 2-0 start for the first time since 2002, and they‘ve looked dominant doing it, albeit against two of the league's weaklings. That two-game start four seasons ago also is the last time that the San Diego defense held its opponent to a touchdown or less for two consecutive games. Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman and cornerback Quentin Jammer are the leaders of a San Diego defense that's emerging as one of the NFL's finest..

10 | 13 | BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-0)
The Ravens start the season 2-0 for the first time since their 2000 Super Bowl XXXV championship run. They've allowed only six points through two games, and their defense is bringing back visions of that championship season six years ago. It currently ranks No. 1 in the league in six defensive categories, including total defense.

11 | 16 | ATLANTA FALCONS (2-0)
The start of the season could have not gone any better for the Falcons, who have started 2-0 against the two 2005 playoff teams that finished ahead of them in the NFC South last year. Better yet, they held the Panthers and Bucs to a combined nine points. After concluding the 2005 season with a 2-6 plummet, the Falcons can take command of the NFC South with a win Monday night at New Orleans.

12 | 17 | MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-0)
The Vikings improved to 2-0 with a solid win over the Panthers, quite a contrast to the 38-13 pasting they received from Carolina last season. Since that game, which dropped Minnesota to 2-5, the Vikings have won 9 of their past 11. Vikings head coach Brad Childress is one of the only two rookie head coaches to start the season with two wins.

13 | 14 | DENVER BRONCOS (1-1)
After starting the season with an unexpected loss in St. Louis, the Broncos recovered by defeating Kansas City for the sixth consecutive time at INVESCO Field. It didn't come easy, however, and questions remain about the Denver offense after the 9-6 overtime victory.

14 | 10 | ARIZONA CARDINALS (1-1)
The Cardinals took a step back in their divisional road loss to the Seahawks. The last time the Cardinals won their first game on the road was in Week 3 of 2001. They either move up or fall back in the NFC West this week when they play their third consecutive divisional game to start the season against St. Louis.

15 | 19 | NEW YORK GIANTS (1-1)
With 4:40 to go in overtime last week, the Giants had the ball at Philadelphia's 21-yard line. Two penalties later and 10 yards back, Eli Manning unleashed a game-winning 31-yard touchdown to Plaxico Burress on third down, capping a dramatic comeback from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit. We're not sure what that means about the Giants, who were great in their comeback but not so good while falling behind 24-7.

The Eagles were on their way to an impressive 2-0 start with that 17-point lead entering the fourth quarter against the Giants before it all came tumbling down, stretching Philly's losing streak against the NFC East to four games. Now they must move forward without pass-rushing stud Jevon Kearse, out for the season after mangling his knee against the Giants. It won't be easy with 12 players on the injury report this week.

17 | 25 | NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (2-0)
The Saints won at Green Bay to set up a matchup of undefeated NFC South teams for the Monday night cameras. That game against the Falcons will mark the Saints' return to the Louisiana Superdome for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. The Saints, 2-0 for the first time since 2003, can match their 2005 victory total with a win over the Falcons.

18 | 24 | BUFFALO BILLS (1-1)
After losing their past four games against divisional opponents, the Bills won 16-6 at Miami. After a close near-miss at New England in their opener, the Bills will try to take early control of second place in the NFC East when they host the New York Jets in their home opener.

19 | 5 | MIAMI DOLPHINS (0-2)
The Dolphins have been one of the league's early disappointments after suffering double-digit losses in their first two games. After winning their final six games last season, the Dolphins are back where they spent a majority of their time the past two seasons: last place in the AFC East.

20 | 15 | TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (0-2)
With only three points in the first two weeks, the defending NFC South champions could be in trouble if they don't get it going this week at home against Carolina. This is the 14th time in their 31-year history the Bucs have started 0-2, but the first time since their inaugural 1976 season that they failed to score more than three points in their opening two contests.

After two weeks, the Redskins are all alone in the NFC East basement. A trip to Houston this week ought to help, but Washington needs to pick it up fast if it expects to be a playoff team like last year.

22 | 29 | SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (1-1)
This week's game against a banged-up Philadelphia team will tell if it's time to start taking the 49ers seriously, but they've given every indication in their first two games that's indeed the case. The offense looks pretty good with the emergence of QB Alex Smith, RB Frank Gore and WR Antonio Bryant, but the defense will get tested this week by QB Donovan McNabb and the NFL's top-ranked offense.

23 | 20 | ST. LOUIS RAMS (1-1)
The Rams followed up their excellent opening win over Denver with a letdown in San Francisco. After being the team to beat in the NFC West for a five-year stretch from 1999 to 2004, they've won only of their past seven games against divisional foes.

24 | 21 | CAROLINA PANTHERS (0-2)
Considered a Super Bowl contender entering the season, the Panthers have started 0-2 for the first time since 1999. It's almost do-or-die time for Carolina this week when it travels to Tampa Bay, because NFL teams rarely climb out of 0-3 holes.

25 | 22 | KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (0-2)
New coach Herman Edwards has his team playing defense - his specialty - but where's the offense? The Chiefs have a bye this week to figure it out and lick their wounds.

26 | 23 | NEW YORK JETS (1-1)
A nice near-miss by the Jets against New England, where they almost rallied all the way back from a 24-point deficit. New York might be better than some expect this year, and will get another chance to show it in a trip upstate to Buffalo this week.

27 | 26 | OAKLAND RAIDERS (0-2)
We're still expecting the Raiders to wake up after their bye this week, but they've shown nothing in their first two games. The Raiders haven't failed to score a touchdown this late in the season since 1961, when they began the year with two shutout losses.

28 | 27 | DETROIT LIONS (0-2)
After a promising defensive effort in their opener against Seattle, the Lions took a step back against the Bears. A big step back. They have Green Bay at home this week to try to straighten things out and get in the victory column..

29 | 28 | CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-2)
The Browns appeared to have some pieces in place to make a move upward this season, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Despite improved personnel and a solid structure under coach Romeo Crennel and GM Phil Savage, Cleveland simply doesn't look any better than it did last season.

30 | 30 | TENNESSEE TITANS (0-2)
Look out below! For only the second time since moving to the state of Tennessee in 1997, the Titans have started the season 0-2. And they're a bad 0-2. After trading Billy Volek, maybe it's just time to send out Vince Young at quarterback and let him learn while this rebuilding team takes its lumps.

31 | 31 | GREEN BAY PACKERS (0-2)
Losing two games at home to begin the season does not bode well for any team. Particularly the Packers, who usually are as good as they get at Lambeau Field. Even though Green Bay got back into a groove offensively after a Week 1 shutout, their defense couldn't prevent New Orleans from erasing an early 13-0 deficit and rolling to victory. The Green Bay defense is struggling mightily against the pass, and now the Packers must play five of their next seven games away from Wisconsin.

32 | 32 | HOUSTON TEXANS (0-2)
The Texans - after another blowout loss against the Colts, who they never have beaten - now have lost 17 of their last 19 with no relief in sight. At least they have two home games coming up the next two weeks before their bye. If the Texans don't collect a victory against Washington or Miami, it's going to be a long season in Houston. If it isn't already.

Oliver Kimokeo is a freelance writer based in Azusa, Calif.

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