We have entered the point of the season where it is getting easy to identify the teams who overachieved with a hot start.
Those are teams that will continue to slip down power rankings, and will be highlighted in my Week 9 power rankings below.
Langford's Week 9 NFL Power Rankings
1. Atlanta Falcons
Expectations for the Falcons are growing. Now they must figure out how to manage those expectations, stay on top of their game and peak at the right time.
2. Houston Texans
The Texans are balanced and dangerous. As long as this team can avoid too many more injuries, they will be serious factors in the race to the Super Bowl.
3. New York Giants
The Giants just continue to play sound football while finding ways to win. It would be acceptable to say that this team couldn't sustain this style of play, except they just rode that style to a Super Bowl last year.
4. San Francisco 49ers
I'm tired of people debating if Alex Smith is good enough to take a team to the Super Bowl. He would have last year had the 49ers not fumbled away their chance on special teams.
5. Chicago Bears
I don't see the Bears sustaining their current level of play. The defense can't keep scoring at this rate. This is still a good team, but just not quite as good as their record suggests.
Also, their schedule is about to get a lot more difficult.
6. Baltimore Ravens
Why the Ravens Will Continue to Slide
The Ravens are coming off a bye, and they needed it.
This team was insanely exposed in their blowout loss to the Texans the week before. They allowed 41 points, and that wasn't just a one-week outlier either.
This aging defense is picking up concerning injuries and they are weakening by the week. The week before the debacle against the Texans, Baltimore allowed 29 to the Cowboys. The Ravens are not going to win many games with their defense this season.
That puts the onus on the offense, and while the Ravens' offense has shown they can put up points in a hurry, they can also struggle. In two of their last three, the Ravens have scored 13 or fewer.
The Ravens continue to be a pass-heavy offense, and one has to wonder if they wouldn't be better served by working harder to establish the run, and then letting Joe Flacco try and hit for deep passes off of play action.
7. Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning is playing as good as ever and this offense is getting more comfortable with him at the helm. Also, Denver's schedule is finally easing up on them.
8. Green Bay Packers
The Packers have not been nearly as impressive as they were a season ago, but they are rolling along. I get the feeling this is a team that is focused on peaking for the playoffs.
9. New England Patriots
The Patriots continue to win while also improving. The defense has been solid in the run game and the pass defense is starting to make strides. The offense is as dangerous as any in football.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger is playing the best football of his career, despite having terrible pass protection, and this defense is improving with each week.
11. Minnesota Vikings
Why the Vikings Will Continue to Slide
The Vikings were one of the season's true surprises with a 4-1 start. Now they have lost two of three and they scarcely resemble the team that started the season.
The Vikings allowed 13 or fewer points in three of their first five. In their last three, they have allowed an average of 31.7 points per game.
The defense is slipping against the run and the pass, and they are showing no signs of reverting to the solid unit they were at the start of the season.
Offensively, Christian Ponder is regressing.
After an insanely efficient start to the year, Ponder's completion percentage is slipping, and after not giving up an interception in his first four games of the year, he has thrown seven in his last four.
12. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks continue to look like an elite team when playing at home and a vulnerable one on the road.
There is no reason to think that trend won't continue.
13. Miami Dolphins
Don't look now, but the Dolphins have won three straight and are right in the thick of the AFC-playoff race.
This is a sound, if not spectacular, team, and with their play in the rush game on offense and defense, they will be in a lot of games.
14. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts' offense is receiving a big boost from its run game. The increasing balance makes them dangerous, and they will continue to be a factor in the AFC-playoff race.
15. Dallas Cowboys
If the Cowboys could stop beating themselves, they could make some noise this season. Unfortunately for them, they appear to be incapable of this.
16. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles remain on the verge of anarchy and disarray, yet they are still close being a very good team.
However, they must find a way to snap their three-game losing streak against the Saints this week.
17. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have to figure out a way to keep their quarterback upright, or their current four-game losing streak will continue.
18. Detroit Lions
The Lions are starting to figure out how not to beat themselves, and they have won two of three as a result.
However, their schedule is about to get a lot tougher.
19. Washington Redskins
The Redskins' defense has been, and is, terrible. They have made up for that with the dynamic offense led by Robert Griffin III, but teams are starting to figure out how to slow that offense down.
20. New York Jets
Everyone wants to talk about the quarterback situation, but the reality is that this is just not a very talented team. Switching the quarterback is not going to change that.
21. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders are making nice strides. The run defense has been fairly solid all year and the pass defense has made huge strides. Meanwhile, Carson Palmer continues his resurgence despite terrible offensive-line play.
22. Cincinnati Bengals
Why the Bengals Will Continue to Slide
Andy Dalton has thrown at least one interception in every game this season, and he is showing no signs of improving in this regard. In fact, he is getting worse.
Dalton has thrown 10 picks on the year and six of them have come in the last three games, which, by no coincidence, the Bengals have all lost.
With next to no running game and a sinking defense, Dalton is simply being asked to do too much.
The Bengals have a solid pass rush, but they do little else well on defense, and they are in the bottom half of both pass and rush defense.
23. San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers has very few weapons to work with in the passing game, and his play is getting worse as a result of the frustration.
This offense scored just six points in a loss to the Browns last week. This is not a good sign.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are making some nice strides. Receivers Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson are making some serious plays on the outside, and Josh Freeman is flourishing as a result.
25. Tennessee Titans
The Titans continue to hover near the bottom in both pass and rush defense, and they do not have an offense that can overcome that.
26. Buffalo Bills
With the Bills' defense continuing to allow teams to run all over them, there is little reason to think this team will be able to climb over .500.
27. St. Louis Rams
The Rams have allowed 75 combined points in the last two games. This team is doomed if the defense is not elite.
28. New Orleans Saints
The Saints' defense continues to be an opposing quarterback's dream. They are allowing over nine yards per pass attempt. This is going to doom them all year.
29. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are lost at sea right now. They are simply playing out the string until they can hire a new coach at the end of the season and start over.
30. Cleveland Browns
The Browns' defense is coming around, and they have won two of three as a result. Still, this continues to be a severely limited team.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars offense is stunningly anemic, and it's only going to get worse. This is a franchise in need of a new direction.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
Speaking of franchises in need of a new direction! The Chiefs have a solid ground game, but what good is that for a team that has not held a lead in regulation yet this season?