If NFL power rankings were anything like Power Rangers, well, we'd need a lot more superheroes and skin-tight colored suits to sort through these weekly lists.
Fortunately, they’re not, and the ever-changing status of teams throughout the year creates an exciting buzz every week that fans love to see.
There were a few surprises in Week 10, some close contests and a couple of blowouts. Who rose in the rankings? Who dropped? And what did experts around the league have to say about it all?
Here are my NFL power rankings post Week 10 and heading into Week 11.
1. Houston Texans (8-1)
Fighting the weather at Soldier Field, the Texans went to Chi-Town and earned a tough victory on the road. A large reason for that was Arian Foster, whose performance didn’t go unnoticed by Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, as reported by CSN Chicago’s John “Moon” Mullin.
Foster has scored a touchdown in every single game this season, and it’s as clear as ever that he’s the key piece to the offense. Houston will certainly need him to keep performing down the stretch.
2. Atlanta Falcons (8-1)
The Falcons are no longer undefeated, but that’s not the only reason they drop to No. 2. Atlanta couldn't convert at the goal line in the game’s final minutes against the Saints, and they showed vulnerability against the run.
Every team has its hiccups, but these are the types of issues that can’t become patterns for a team that doesn't want to see another early playoff exit. NFL.com’s Jeff Darlington touches on this idea as he emphasizes how Atlanta’s response to its first loss will say a lot about where the team is and where it can go.
3. Baltimore Ravens (7-2)
While the Ravens were able to beat up the injury-riddled Raiders at home, they’ll have to maintain that type of swagger the rest of the way.
The Associated Press (via the Washington Post) touched on this Baltimore swagger from Week 10.
The Ravens have a lot of weapons on offense, but their defense has clearly fallen off from past years. Now a showdown with division rival Pittsburgh on the road looms in Week 11.
4. Denver Broncos (6-3)
In what is quickly becoming a broken record, Peyton Manning continues to impress in his first season with the Denver Broncos. Robert Klemko of USA Today confirms what practically everyone else is thinking:
Manning's play in a 36-14 victory vs. the Panthers (2-7) strengthened the case for him to be the first MVP and comeback player of the year winner in the same season since the latter award was introduced in 1998.
Denver’s schedule gets easier the rest of the way, so don’t sleep on this team to make a deep playoff run come January.
5. San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1)
Seriously, a tie with the St. Louis Rams?
The 49ers failed to separate themselves from the rest of the NFC when they ended their Week 10 matchup with the Rams in a tie. The bigger news, however, was the concussion that Alex Smith suffered.
Via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, head coach Jim Harbaugh said that Smith was “feeling much better Monday,” which is certainly good news for Smith and the entire team.
San Francisco needs a healthy Smith to make another run at the Super Bowl, but this defense also can’t let down its guard.
6. Green Bay Packers (6-3)
The Packers are preparing to make a late-season surge, but it won’t be easy with star pass-rusher Clay Matthews banged up. ESPN.com reports the tough road ahead for the Pack:
Five of Green Bay's last seven games will be against NFC North opponents, a stretch that could prove every bit as tough for the banged-up Packers as the challenges they faced in the first half.
With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, there’s always reason for optimism. But the Packers will have to be on their A-game to make a serious push against some stiff competition.
7. Chicago Bears (7-2)
Jay Cutler showed off his Movember mustache on Sunday Night Football. Unfortunately, he also took a vicious hit that ultimately gave him a concussion and knocked him out of the game against Houston.
Gene Chamberlain of CBS Sports reports that “Cutler can be categorized as a player who has a history of concussions” and that “the concussion Cutler suffered against Houston Sunday night is his third since coming into the NFL.”
Hopefully Cutler is okay and he can get back on the field. Chicago has had an impressive season so far, but any missed time for its starting quarterback would certainly hurt the team moving forward—especially with a difficult upcoming schedule.
8. New England Patriots (6-3)
Around the League writer Marc Sessler of NFL.com highlights how New England’s defense was “exposed” yet again in Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills. For as much dominance the Pats have had against Buffalo in recent seasons, they’re two performances in 2012 have been ugly.
And don't overlook the injury to Logan Mankins.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)
It took overtime and a gritty performance from backup quarterback Byron Leftwich, but the Steelers staved off the Chiefs on Monday Night Football.
Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com wonders “Whether they were looking ahead to Sunday's game against the Ravens or [were] simply unfocused.” Either way, Hensley calls this a “costly victory” for Pittsburgh, who could be without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for a period of time, pending his MRI results.
10. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
Russell Wilson continues to shine in his rookie season. Adam Caplan of PhiladelphiaEagles.com had this telling tidbit on the young starting signal-caller (via Twitter):
Russell Wilson is the first rookie QB since the 1970 merger to win his team’s first five home games of a season.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) November 12, 2012
Additionally, running back Marshawn Lynch is going Beast Mode more than ever this year. It’s been an exciting season for the Seahawks led by a quality defense, and they’ll continue to rise in the rankings with each quiet victory.
11. New York Giants (6-4)
It’s been a disappointing season for Eli Manning to say the least. He's thrown just one touchdown in his last four games, two touchdowns in his last five. What's the deal?
Ralph Vacchiano reported on Twitter that Manning plans to "rest his arm" during the team's Week 11 bye:
Eli Manning will rest his arm during the bye week, though. He says he won't throw or look at film until he returns on Monday. #NYG— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) November 12, 2012
Whatever the problem is with Manning and the offense, Giants fans are eager to see it fixed.
12. Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
Mike Chappel of the Indy Star writes that “the health of coach Chuck Pagano continues to be a rallying point.” No argument there, as this squad has embodied its coach's attitude and perseverance on its way to a 6-3 record.
The Colts are peaking faster than almost anyone expected. Led by the inspiration of Pagano and the brilliant play of Andrew Luck at quarterback, the Colts are legitimate playoff contenders in mid November.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4)
The Bucs notched a big win in Week 10 over the Chargers, making their chances at the postseason even better. While Matt Brooks of the Washington Post believes that quarterback Josh Freeman is “on the rise” in fantasy football, Bucs fans will be more than happy to tell you that Freeman’s recent success is far more satisfying in real life.
Even better, head coach Greg Schiano's defense is also playing well. Tampa Bay controls its own destiny at this point.
14. New Orleans Saints (4-5)
If you needed further confirmation that the New Orleans Saints are back and ready to rock and roll, look no further than the fact that they defeated the only remaining undefeated team in the league last week.
Led by star quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints are hitting their stride on offense. However, despite their successes against Atlanta, they still need to improve on defense. They should be able to do so and even their record at .500 when they take on the injury-plagued Raiders in Week 11 (h/t Associated Press via NFL.com).
15. Minnesota Vikings (6-4)
Is Adrian Peterson actually Superman?
A report from SI.com’s Peter King notes that AP is still recovering from knee surgery. Technically speaking, this may not be a total shocker. But considering just how good Peterson has been this season, his performance has been unreal.
If Christian Ponder can continue to progress and deliver the ball to his playmakers, the Vikings could be a surprise playoff team.
16. Dallas Cowboys (4-5)
Archer also points out that Romo is now 20-3 in November. That’s a good sign for Dallas, who finishes the month with home games against the Browns and Redskins. Dallas is still very much in the hunt for the NFC East crown, and its upcoming contests are two games it has to win.
17. Detroit Lions (4-5)
The Associated Press (via the Washington Post) discusses Detroit’s continuous struggles on defense, adding that “their playoff hopes are looking tenuous, especially with a tough schedule the rest of the way.”
In addition to the defense being inefficient, quarterback Matthew Stafford has also had an inconsistent season. The Lions are 0-3 in the division and take on the hungry Packers in Week 11.
18. Cincinnati Bengals (4-5)
The experts at Rotoworld.com succinctly describe Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis’s Week 10 performance:
BJGE's play has screamed for a reduced role, but Cedric Peerman's afternoon (six totes, 21 yards) won't put any pressure on the Bengals' "big" offseason signing.
Green-Ellis continues to look sluggish in the backfield, but Cincy will continue to pound him to keep defenses honest against Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. With three consecutive matchups with AFC West opponents, the Bengals could make a big jump in the standings.
19. Arizona Cardinals (4-5)
Arizona surely has some major issues along the offensive line. The Cards have given up 41 sacks this year, bad enough for worst in the league and 12 more than the three teams tied for second-most sacks allowed.
In addition, the instability at quarterback hasn’t helped matters. Kevin Kolb reportedly threw some balls and worked out lightly, but admitted “it just wasn’t great” when asked how he felt afterward (per Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona).
After jumping out to a surprising 4-0 start, things continue to unravel for Arizona. Fortunately, the defense is still holding up.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6)
All the talk surrounding Philadelphia might be on the quarterback situation right now, but forgotten—literally—in this mess has been star running back LeSean McCoy.
Reuben Rank of CSN Philly notes, “The Eagles are 3-0 when McCoy gets 20 or more carries, and 0-6 when he doesn’t,” adding that “the math is simple.”
There’s a chance the Eagles could rest Michael Vick for the remainder of the season (per Dan Hanzus of NFL.com). If that were the case, perhaps the Eagles will finally start leaning on McCoy like they should have been all along.
21. Miami Dolphins (4-5)
One of Miami’s biggest strengths this season was its run defense. Unfortunately, the team has struggled to plug up the holes the past few outings. Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel writes:
Miami hadn't allowed a tailback to account for 100 rushing yards in 22 straight games. But Johnson broke that streak Sunday, and he did it with only one run of more than 20 yards.
The Dolphins travel to Ralph Wilson stadium to take on the Buffalo Bills on Thursday Night Football. With Fred Jackson already ruled out, the Fins will see a healthy dose of C.J. Spiller, who leads the NFL in yards per carry (7.3).
22. San Diego Chargers (4-5)
Norv Turner’s animated postgame response to his team’s struggles made waves after San Diego’s Week 10 loss to Tampa Bay. Surely, things are coming to a head for this organization.
On the bright side, Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego calls attention to wideout Denario Alexander’s increasing role in the offense. Alexander has given the receiving corps a huge spark in light of Robert Meachem’s disappointing first season as a Charger.
23. Washington Redskins (3-6)
Don’t look now, but there’s great news for the Washington Redskins as they come out of their bye week. According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, the team happily welcomed back four key players to practice who had been injured. These include wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss, safety Brandon Meriweather and right tackle Jammal Brown.
Garcon clearly headlines this group, as this marks “the first time in six weeks” he has practiced (per Jones). Getting him back in the lineup will be a huge boost to RGIII, who already has to do enough on his own, considering the team’s struggling defense.
24. Tennessee Titans (4-6)
Heading into their Week 11 bye, the Titans took a hefty portion of momentum with them after dominating the Dolphins. Jake Locker’s return went well and he came out healthy, but the real news is just how productive Chris Johnson has been.
Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean describes the situation perfectly when he says that Johnson’s recent surge “erases [his] slow start.” The Titans refuse to back down and are still clawing for a playoff berth. Whether or not that happens will have a lot to do with how CJ2K performs the rest of the way.
25. Buffalo Bills (3-6)
The lone bright spot for the Bills this year has been C.J. Spiller. Bills beat writer Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 Buffalo believes Spiller the Thriller is on the verge of exploding against division rival Miami on Thursday night in light of Fred Jackson’s concussion.
The Bills have had a rough schedule the past several weeks, especially after facing four consecutive opponents coming off long weeks of preparation. Although their defense has been disappointing this year, the team still has a legitimate shot to win out the rest of the way with a manageable back end of the schedule. If so, there's still a slight chance they could compete for their first playoff berth since 1999.
26. St. Louis Rams (3-5-1)
Wide receiver Danny Amendola was spectacular in his return to the starting lineup, catching 11 balls for 102 yards in what should have been a Week 10 victory over San Francisco. At this point, there’s no question this undersized pass-catcher has some serious ability.
NFL Network’s Albert Breer believes in the wideout’s talents as well, based on his statement on Twitter:
Danny Amendola's a heck of a ballplayer. Rams need to do what it takes to hold on to him.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) November 12, 2012
The Rams hope Amendola can help add stability to a position that has lacked talent for quite some time.
27. Oakland Raiders (3-6)
A surprising report surfaced Monday via Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports that suggested star running back Darren McFadden could return in Week 11. On the other hand, Steve Corkran wrote via Twitter that Run DMC was still in his walking boot.
McFadden’s return would be a huge bonus for this Raiders squad, but regardless of whether he returns or not, Oakland needs to improve on defense.
28. Carolina Panthers (2-7)
The debate over whether or not Cam Newton would endure a sophomore slump in 2012 is quickly coming to a close. The enigmatic second-year quarterback has struggled this year, and Joe Person of the Sporting News has all the details, particularly Newton’s poor decision making.
Newton will have to be better and more consistent to help coach Ron Rivera save his job in Carolina. Sitting at just 2-7, the remaining schedule doesn’t have many gimmes, with matchups with Tampa Bay, Philly, Atlanta and New Orleans on the horizon.
29. Cleveland Browns (2-7)
Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com has a complete breakdown of what the Cleveland Browns need to do coming out of their bye week. He touches on figuring out if Brandon Weeden is a franchise quarterback, finishing games and finding ways to convert on 3rd-and-1.
Running back Trent Richardson has been the expected bright spot, but the emergence of wide receiver Josh Gordon also cannot be discounted. This season is a wash for the Browns, but head coach Pat Shurmur could have some pieces to work with in 2013—that is, if he has a chance to.
30. New York Jets (3-6)
Yes, once again, Jets head coach Rex Ryan proclaimed his loyalty to quarterback Mark Sanchez after an ugly loss, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). Meanwhile, Tim Tebow and his fans are eager to officially witness Tebow Time.
The Jets have had a variety of issues this year, from injuries to performance to an utter lack of chemistry. Their remaining seven games could be Rex Ryan’s last chance to convince the organization he’s the right man for this job moving forward.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)
According to Jacksonville’s official website, wideout Cecil Shorts “became first Jaguars receiver since Mike Sims-Walker in 2010 to have at least two 100-yard receiving games in a season.” Not first-rounder Justin Blackmon. Not free-agent acquisition Laurent Robinson.
Despite this heartwarming factoid (and, in a way, because of it), the Jags sit at 1-8 and continue to struggle.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-8)
Under the lights of Monday Night Football, the Chiefs nearly pulled the upset over the Steelers at Heinz Field. They finally led a game for once, but as the AP stated via Fox Sports, “like any brief flirtation with success for Kansas City, it didn't last.” They couldn’t pull out the victory, despite seeing their chances to do so.
There are a lot of talking points for Kansas City right now, particularly around GM Scott Pioli, head coach Romeo Crennel and quarterback Matt Cassel. At 1-8, many people within the organization will dedicate the rest of the season toward trying to keep their jobs.
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