Week 10 of the NFL season went from boring to nail-biting excitement over the course of the afternoon. With so much going on, our weekly power rankings were due for a major shakeup.
What happened this week? Let's see...
The NFL's lone undefeated team, the Atlanta Falcons, lost to the New Orleans Saints. That alone guarantees a new No. 1 in this week's power rankings.
The San Francisco 49ers managed to tie the St. Louis Rams, stirring up a debate on if a tie should warrant a move down the rankings for the No. 3-ranked 49ers.
Also, the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears faced off in a game that would determine the top of the power rankings.
A crazy week, indeed. Let's get to it.
The Kansas City Chiefs were so close to getting their second win of the season. Close doesn't count.
One thing that Week 10 proved in Kansas City is that Matt Cassel has to go. More than any other player on the roster, Cassel is holding back the franchise with his inability to deliver. Never have I seen a quarterback regress as fast as Cassel has since his New England days, but this is the reality of who he is now. Time for a change, Kansas City.
The next seven weeks won't be kind, but the Chiefs are at least a competitive team here and there. But how much longer will Scott Pioli put up with the losing ways of Romeo Crennel?
There is no shame in losing to the Indianapolis Colts—not with the way Andrew Luck is playing—but the Jacksonville Jaguars were served a cold reminder of how far they have to go as a franchise.
As if the loss wasn't bad enough, it has to be frustrating for Jacksonville's faithful to see a rookie quarterback doing as well as Luck is so soon. And not just Luck, but every rookie starter at quarterback this year is outplaying the Jaguars' second-year signal-caller Blaine Gabbert.
That's a harsh reality that the front office must face this coming offseason.
The Denver Broncos were like Ivan Drago to the Carolina Panthers' Apollo Creed. It was a fierce, violent and ugly Sunday afternoon.
The Panthers had no answer for Peyton Manning, but then again, not many teams have lately. Manning was on his mark again, showing the arm and mentality that made him a terrifying opponent for so many years.
On the other side of the ball, Carolina wouldn't stop Von Miller. The outside linebacker/defensive end was constantly in Cam Newton's face, no matter what the Panthers did to try and stop him.
The Panthers coaches are unlikely to keep their jobs after the disappointment of this season. The general manager will have decisions to make regarding the coaching staff and what to do with overpaid veterans DeAngelo Williams and Jon Beason.
It should be an exciting spring in the Carolinas.
The New York Jets have become a caricature of what they used to be. Rex Ryan's once-dominant defense has been grounded by the loss of Darrelle Revis and a reliance on role players cast in starring roles.
Oh, and this Mark Sanchez experiment needs to come to an end. Soon.
Fixing the Jets' troubles won't be easy, and it's not as simple as gutting the coaches and kicking Sanchez out of town. The team has major issues at every position other than center. Where this team goes in the future will rest on the shoulders of the general manager—whether that's Mike Tannenbaum or not.
The good news is that the Jets will have an early pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. And boy, do they need it.
The Oakland Raiders will face an offseason where many changes are needed—and yes, they should be looking ahead to 2013 by now. At 3-6, they would need to win out, and that's not happening.
Carson Palmer will take a lot of the blame for the team's troubles, but folks in Oakland (and those watching closely) can see that the offensive line is much more to blame for the team's offensive struggles. While Jared Veldheer has been great at left tackle, the rest of the line has been spotty at best and downright terrible at worst.
The defense needs more talent, especially in the secondary, and will need to rely on the offseason to get better on this side of the ball. The right man is in place to turn this roster around, but it's going to take time.
The best two-win team in the NFL.
OK, sure, there are only two teams with just two wins this season, but the Browns are seriously better than their record. Especially on defense and in the talent department. With a young roster full of studs, it won't be long before this team is competing...if they get the right man in place as head coach.
Pat Shurmur seems like a nice guy, but let's be honest with ourselves: His coaching ability has to be questioned right now. And not just coaching, but overall development of players.
The Browns have been blessed with two very solid draft classes in a row, but Shumur doesn't have the confidence of the front office that he can develop those picks into stars.
Jimmy Haslam will get to handpick his general manager and head coach after this season. I'm willing to bet it's not Shurmur.
Every week it seems like an error to type that the Arizona Cardinals have won four games, but I keep double-checking, and it's definitely right. In a long season, it's tough to remember that this team started 4-0.
Oh, how things change.
It's tough to pick a game on the schedule moving forward in which Arizona will be favored. In fact, it wouldn't be a surprise if it finishes 4-12. The offensive line is a mess. The defense has too many holes in spite of talented, young players at key positions. And the quarterback position...holy smokes, is it bad.
Sorry, Cardinals. The next seven weeks won't be any easier than the last six were.
The Buffalo Bills were so close to beating the New England Patriots in Week 10, but close doesn't count in the wins column.
The Bills showed fight against their division rivals, which is more than we could say about their last outing against New England. The season isn't over yet, and if they can muster more of the play we saw Sunday, the Bills will find themselves winning over the next seven weeks.
There's good talent here, especially at running back. Don't sleep on the Bills down the stretch.
How to best sum up the Philadelphia Eagles in one cliche?
A) Stick a fork in them.
B) The fat lady has sung.
C) They're back on their heels.
D) They're on the ropes.
E) They can still try the "Hail Mary."
No matter how you want to put it, the Eagles are done. Andy Reid is done. Michael Vick is done. It would take seven straight wins to likely win the division, and if you've been watching the team's last five games—all losses—you'd see that's not happening.
So, pick your cliche above and apply it to the Eagles. They're done.
It's actually become tiring to type that the San Diego Chargers "have too much talent to be this bad." Guess what? They're just bad. Talent or no talent.
How A.J. Smith and Norv Turner could manage to survive this season is beyond me.
The regression of Philip Rivers over the last two seasons is directly tied to the lack of talent around him—chiefly the talent of the offensive line. With no run game, no offensive line and too many changes at wide receiver, Rivers looks shocked every time he drops back to pass.
It's sad, and Chargers fans deserve better. But hey, at least they have amazing weather. That's more than the Jets can say.
The Miami Dolphins have a way of making teams look pretty damn good. Kidding, kind of. But really, the Titans looked like a different ballclub in Week 10. Maybe it was Miami, maybe it was Jake Locker. Maybe it was all of the above.
The Titans are still very much in the playoff mix, but they need to find a way to win at least five of their next seven games. That's not impossible, but it will take more of the Chris Johnson the Titans rolled out against Miami. Johnson has to be consistently impactful if the Titans are to have any chance of seeing the postseason.
With a young, energetic defense and Locker sparking the offense, it's too early to rule out a late-season push by the Titans. Watch out for this team.
A Week 10 win keeps the Dallas Cowboys very much alive in the NFC East. It also keeps Jerry Jones from firing everyone associated with the football operations staff and starting over from scratch.
We all know Jones is thinking about firing Jason Garrett. Whether he does or not depends on the next seven weeks. Garrett needs to deliver nothing less than a wild-card berth, which could take another five to six wins against a pretty tough schedule. Impossible? Nope. Probable? Nope.
The expectations and pressure are always high in Dallas, but the team is on a weekly hot seat. Lose, and all hell breaks loose.
The Miami Dolphins reminded the world that their rookie quarterback isn't perfect and that anything can happen in the NFL.
Their loss to the Tennessee Titans wasn't expected, but then again, neither was their hot start to the season with a rookie quarterback under center. We've seen this happen before: Rookie quarterback shocks the world but hits a wall late in the season.
The challenge is overcoming and coaching through bad weeks. Ryan Tannehill has the talent, but the Dolphins as a team need to support their quarterback.
The schedule won't be kind to Miami over the next several weeks, and it needs to start winning now if it hopes to see the postseason. At 4-5, it's still alive, but not for long if it can't snap its losing streak.
There are few teams more fun to watch right now than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Funny to say that after watching the team lose 10 straight games in 2011, but it's true.
Greg Schiano has his team playing with fire, and it's showing in all three phases of the game.
Doug "Muscle Hamster" Martin is proving to be one of the steals of the draft, while Josh Freeman is riding a five-game streak of excellent play that's really sparked the entire team. Even in a tough division, Tampa looks tough to beat right now.
The playoffs may be a year away, but with so much young talent on the roster, it looks like Schiano and Co. will be a tough opponent for a long, long time.
Watching Calvin Johnson give his all only to see the team lose has reminded me of watching Barry Sanders for the Lions as a kid. To see a player who is so clearly dominant—one of the most gifted at his position—fight and claw for yards and then the team around him fail...it's all too familiar.
The 2012 edition of the Detroit Lions is a forgettable one. A team that was expected to make a playoff run after a strong 2011 has sorely disappointed. And Calvin Johnson is not to blame. Not with the way he's played and the fact that he's playing injured.
No, the blame rests on the coaches. Jim Schwartz's overall game plan and game management this year has been bad from the start. The front office also ignorantly gambled on the cornerback position, leaving the team with no established players in a division loaded with wide receivers and quarterbacks.
There's talent here, but each week, it becomes more of a question if Schwartz is the man to get the most out of the players here.
It may seem odd to have a three-win team ranked so high, but would you want to try and stop Robert Griffin III?
The Redskins aren't a great team, but they are a very dangerous team. With Griffin and Alfred Morris on offense, they have a nice mix of ground and pound and the dynamic ability of RG3 to make things happen either with his arm or legs. That's not easy to game-plan for.
Defensively, this is a team of opportunity. Jim Haslett has done an admirable job considering the talent on the roster, and Ryan Kerrigan is excelling in a pass-rushing role. They may not stop you every time, but they will create turnovers and generate quarterback sacks.
Is No. 17 too high for a three-win team? Maybe if the rankings were done according to record, but since they are more about who the best team is, the Redskins are a good fit here.
The Cincinnati Bengals we saw in Week 10 are the Bengals I was waiting all season to see. Where have these guys been?
The Bengals were very impressive in their convincing win over the New York Giants. The question is: Can these Bengals show up for the next seven weeks?
Andy Dalton was on fire in Week 10, but he was also getting protection from his offensive linemen, and the Giants secondary wasn't able to keep up with the speed and size of the wide receivers. That's not a matchup they'll find every week, unfortunately.
Any time A.J. Green and Dalton are connecting, this team has a chance to win. That's the key to their season ending on a high note.
How do you adjust a team's ranking after a tie? For starters, the fact that two NFL teams can tie is absolutely mindless, but that's an article for another time. To their credit, the Rams did tie the San Francisco 49ers, a team few expected them to beat.
It will be interesting to see how St. Louis rebounds from this game. Do the Rams have momentum, or will the players be worn out and exhausted in the media aftermath that is sure to follow?
One thing is certain: In spite of some bad officiating and equally bad coaching decisions at times, the Rams were able to keep the pace with one of the NFL's best teams. And that has to count for something.
Since starting the season 0-4, the New Orleans Saints have managed to fight their way to 4-5. That includes a win over the previously undefeated Atlanta Falcons.
If the Saints' confidence was in question, it shouldn't be after their win at home over the Falcons. Beating an undefeated team has a way of motivating a team, and it's that motivation that could carry this team to an improbable comeback.
Starting 0-4 put the Saints in an unbearable hole, but with the way the entire team is playing, the playoffs are not out of the question. Few teams are playing as well as the Saints right now.
In the minutes before kickoff to Week 10, I tweeted that the Percy Harvin-less Minnesota Vikings would lose to the Detroit Lions. Love it when I'm right.
OK, so the Lions didn't beat the Vikings, and I learned a painful lesson in how valuable Adrian Peterson is—not to mention how bad the Lions defense is. Point being, the Vikings proved me wrong Sunday, and in the meantime, they snapped a two-game losing streak that had their playoff hopes in jeopardy.
With just six games left, the Vikings are positioning themselves in the playoff mix as a wild-card team out of the NFC North. All they have to do is keep proving me wrong.
Hopefully, no one is sleeping on the Indianapolis Colts entering Week 11. With a 6-3 record, the Colts would be a playoff team if the season ended today. Hell, they look like a playoff team no matter when the season ends.
There are a few teams I'd hate to play against right now, and the Colts are up there with them all. The way Andrew Luck and Co. are delivering is something amazing, and against every preseason prediction too.
Whether it is due to the team rallying behind coach Chuck Pagano or just simple chemistry as the season progresses, the Colts are for real.
Week 11 brings a unique challenge for the team as it takes on its former rivals, the New England Patriots. If Luck can deliver a win against Tom Brady, the state of Indiana won't be able to contain the excitement.
The New York Giants still sit in first place in the NFC East, but their "no-win November" motto isn't helping matters at all.
After dropping losses to the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers to kick off the month, the Giants will close things out against the Green Bay Packers after a bye in Week 11. It's very possible that they won't win a single game in the month of November, and yet they could still be in first place once December rolls around.
The Giants have taken an almost NBA-level approach to the regular season. They just need to do enough to make the playoffs, and then they'll turn on the electricity and really play up to their potential. That worked last year, but it's a scary way to play.
In the NFL's "any given Sunday" world, waiting until January to give your all seems like a terrible idea.
Is anyone surprised that the Seattle Seahawks won again at home? They've managed five wins in five attempts at home this season. If you don't believe in home-field advantage, book a flight to Seattle.
The Seahawks are a tough team to rank because at home, they're probably closer to the top five, but on the road, they're 1-4 this year. Not good.
Unless they can upset the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West, any playoff game would come on the road. Even if they can make the playoffs as a wild-card team, their chances of winning away from Seattle are pretty poor.
A great defense and a tough run game will carry a team far, though, and the Seahawks have both.
It may not be fair to move the New England Patriots down four spots after a win against the Buffalo Bills, but which of the teams ranked ahead of them would they be favored against on a neutral field?
Few people have raved more about the Patriots' chances of success this year than me, so don't play the biased card; they're just a scary team right now. Both good and bad.
You never know week to week if the defense will show up when it matters most, and for that reason alone, I can't justify ranking them any higher than this.
As the unofficial president of the Tom Brady Fan Club, this isn't fun to do, but I'm less confident in the Patriots' chances now than I've been at any other point in the season.
It was easy to write the Baltimore Ravens off after they lost Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb to injury, but the team on the field in Week 10 looked just fine to me.
Sure, the Oakland Raiders have a way of making teams look better than they are, but a 55-20 punch in the teeth was enough to justify moving the Ravens up this week. The Ravens didn't just win, they dominated the Raiders from the opening kickoff.
In all three phases of the game, Baltimore played a perfect game. That's the kind of momentum this team needs heading into a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11.
The division is up for grabs next week.
The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime. Even without Ben Roethlisberger, that doesn't warrant a move up the rankings.
The rest of the season will be interesting. The Steelers could be without Roethlisberger for some time due to a shoulder injury suffered Monday night. They're also without Troy Polamalu due to a calf injury. With the Baltimore Ravens up next on the schedule, the Steelers could be in trouble.
You can blame the rain. Or the wind. Or Jay Cutler's concussion. The fact is, the Chicago Bears lost, even if there were some tough obstacles standing in the way. Those obstacles are the reason Chicago stays at No. 6 this week instead of moving down.
The injury to Cutler did hurt, but you could also say the Texans would be undefeated if they hadn't lost Brian Cushing before the Green Bay game. Those scenarios make people feel better, but in reality, they're impossible to prove. Losing Cutler hurt, but he was also playing terribly before leaving the game.
The Bears won't have much time to lick their wounds after this one, not with the San Francisco 49ers next on the schedule. The same 49ers who haven't lost back-to-back games since Dec. 16-26, 2010.
Cutler and Co. should be ready for a fight.
The Denver Broncos are special. Good special. Scary special.
As Peyton Manning gets stronger and more comfortable, the Broncos become more and more complete. Add in the pass rush of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, and you have a team that can force you into passing situations by building a lead and attacking you when you drop back to throw. It's matchup hell.
I wasn't one of those people who thought Manning could do this again—or that the Broncos' talent was good enough to allow him to play this well—but he's proving me wrong on a weekly basis. And it's good to see.
A bye week gives the Green Bay Packers much-needed time to get healthy before they head out to finish the seven games left on the schedule. They'll need every healthy body available to get through what's in front of them.
With a heavy dose of divisional play ahead, the Packers have a chance to make up ground not only in the NFC North, but in the overall NFL standings. They need all hands on deck to do that. Unfortunately, that doesn't look likely for Week 11.
Aaron Rodgers and a quick-strike offense can take the Packers far to close out the regular season, but for the team to entertain a Super Bowl possibility, it needs the offensive line, wide receivers and defense healthy.
Winning four to five games over the next seven won't be hard if they can maintain their current level of play, but anything beyond that may be a stretch.
I can't imagine the level of pissed off that Jim Harbaugh must have been after the team's Week 10 game against the St. Louis Rams resulted in a tie, but I picture it looking a lot like a Guns N' Roses dressing room circa 1990.
A tie in professional football is among the most idiotic rules in a rulebook full of idiocy, but that's beyond the point. The 49ers managed to not lose in spite of losing their starting quarterback to a concussion.
In the process, they showed that their backup, Colin Kaepernick, is capable of taking over and making things happen.
Kaepernick was hot and cold, as to be expected when thrust into the game without expecting it, but he did well in moving the ball in key moments. Perhaps most alarming was the play of the defense, which allowed 458 yards of total offense.
For San Francisco to get back on track in Week 11 against Chicago, the defense has to be better.
I was ready to move the Atlanta Falcons down considerably on Sunday night, and then the 49ers managed a tie and the Patriots nearly lost to the Bills. Thanks to the poor play of other top teams, Atlanta moves down just one spot.
Now that they've played a "real team" and lost, critics will be quick to pounce on the Falcons as posers, but this is still an 8-1 team. And they fought and clawed until the end against a very good New Orleans Saints team.
Had Julio Jones been healthy or had any number of plays gone a little differently, this game could have been a ninth win for Atlanta instead of a first loss.
Fickle fans and writers will snub Atlanta this week, but when I look at the Falcons, I still see a team with the talent and coaching to win a Super Bowl.
Critics will argue that the Houston Texans beat a team without their starting quarterback, but the Week 10 takedown of the Chicago Bears is impressive no matter who was at quarterback.
In spite of horrible weather conditions—and without their own captain on defense (Brian Cushing)—the Texans were able to maintain a tough rushing attack and win, moving to 8-1 and tied for the NFL's best record. With just seven games left to play, the Texans look very much in control of the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Is this the best team in football right now? Yes. The Houston Texans are the most complete team in the NFL—able to beat you by running the ball, by shutting down your offense or even in a high-scoring affair if needed.
That's not to say they aren't without flaws, but in a season where there is no one elite team standing above the competition, the Texans look like the NFL's best heading into Week 11.