NFL Power Rankings: Sizing Up League Heading into Week 10
Attempting to make sense of the NFL is an insanity-inducing exercise.
Nothing can be viewed as a sure thing during this wild and crazy NFL season. Just when you think something is a stone-cold lock, Greg Schiano's winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers nearly pull off the upset of the year at Seattle.
Chip Kelly's renegade offense has revolutionized and embarrassed the league all in two months, so naturally Nick Foles threw seven touchdowns after two futile offensive efforts from the Philadelphia Eagles.
The New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals continue to leave forecasters as helpless as Abed Nadir watching the clocks turn for Daylight Saving Time. But at least Tom Brady helped arrange some normalcy with a revitalized afternoon.
Because it's hard to calibrate a confused shrug into verbiage, here's a look at how the NFL shakes up leading into Week 10.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-0)
The Chiefs has notched three straight wins against third-string quarterbacks, and none of them came with ease. Upon returning from their Week 10 bye, the Chiefs will finally receive a true litmus test in the Denver Broncos.
2. Denver Broncos (7-1)
One loss isn't enough to eliminate Denver's league-leading plus-125 point differential and 42.9 points per game. Its 299.1 passing yards allowed per game, on the other hand, still sparks major concern.
3. Seattle Seahawks (8-1)
We can't punish the Seahawks too much for a win, but they nearly lost to the hapless Buccaneers on their impenetrable home field. They also haven't defeated a team with a record above .500 since thrashing the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2, but they can continue that trend and still finish at 13-3.
4. New England Patriots (7-2)
Oh yeah, that's what Brady's offense can do when fully healthy and firing on all cylinders. In a truly dominating 55-31 performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brady threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns, with Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson each amassing more than 100 receiving yards. Despite all their offensive struggles, the Patriots are 7-2 heading into their bye week.
5. Indianapolis Colts (6-2)
Sunday night's comeback win taught a valuable lesson to us all. Don't switch away from a game when Andrew Luck is trailing, even if they're down 18 points late in the third quarter and your Netflix queue is calling your name with episodes of Orange is the New Black waiting to be watched. Luck engineered another late rally with three touchdowns to T.Y. Hilton, showing that his heroics are more than just luck. (Sorry.)
6. San Francisco 49ers (6-2)
San Francisco's tumultuous 1-2 start with two squashing losses feels like ages ago. Led by the league's top rushing attack, the 49ers returned to their roots to assemble five victories by an average margin of 22.6 points.
7. New Orleans Saints (6-2)
How much of New Orleans' vast defensive improvement can be credited to a favorable schedule? Former Saint Chris Ivory shredded his old squad on the ground in a shocking win for the New York Jets. With a bleak running game to complement the aerial assault, Drew Brees succumbed to substantial pressure during a six-point second half.
8. Green Bay Packers (5-2)
The Packers are yet again overcoming the injury bug to survive in a crowded NFC North. Their enhanced ability to run the ball (141.4 yards per game) and stop the run (83.6 yards per game) makes them a legitimate Super Bowl contender behind the always-precise Aaron Rodgers.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)
They stifle Rodgers but can't contain Brian Hoyer. They trounce the Jets by 40 and then lose to the Miami Dolphins on a walk-off safety. Don't even pretend to understand the Bengals, who look like world-beaters one week but a fringe playoff team the next. Losing Geno Atkins for the season certainly won't help their cause.
10. Carolina Panthers (5-3)
Yes, the Panthers have capitalized on a fortuitous schedule, obtaining their five wins against teams with eight combined victories. But they have also gleaned those triumphs by a plus-120 margin of victory. We'll shortly find out if they're for real when they face the 49ers and Patriots in the ensuing weeks.
11. Detroit Lions (5-3)
The Chicago Bears (likely without Jay Cutler in Week 10) and Packers are the only above-.500 clubs waiting after Detroit's bye. Its 25th-ranked passing defense represents Detroit's biggest roadblock to snatching a postseason bid, but Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have showed little difficulty winning shootouts.
12. Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
Storming past the Minnesota Vikings on a last-minute touchdown should feel much more monumental for Tony Romo and the Cowboys. Then again, they needed a last-second touchdown to fend off the 1-7 Vikings, and no team in the putrid NFC East lost this week.
13. New York Jets (5-4)
Yet another team firmly entrenched in the "Beats me" department, the Jets keep trading incredulous victories with debilitating defeats. Don't go expecting a title push, but they're slowly transitioning back to the ferocious, ground-and-pound squad that reached two AFC Championship Games in spite of Mark Sanchez.
14. Chicago Bears (4-3)
The rejuvenated offense now becomes a question mark without Cutler, but the crumbling defense is Chicago's bigger concern, especially without Lance Briggs. Who thought we'd ever be fretting the Bears' defensive woes?
15. Tennessee Titans (4-4)
Three of their losses have come at the hands of Super Bowl contenders (49ers, Seahawks, Chiefs), while they have bested two AFC Wild Card foes in New York and San Diego. If Chris Johnson surges to the finish line like he did last season, the Titans can sneak into the postseason.
16. Miami Dolphins (4-4)
The Dolphins do not rank among the NFL's top 20 in passing offense, rushing offense, rushing defense or passing defense. Ryan Tannehill is also taking a beating with a league-worst 35 sacks and eight fumbles.
17. San Diego Chargers (4-4)
Another one of the league's several Jekyll-and-Hyde teams, the Chargers mixed rousing displays of the dynamic offense of old with a defense that can't keep anyone off the scoreboard. Does Philip Rivers have enough left in the tank to carry the Chargers to five or six more wins?
18. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5)
Defenses quickly learned how to demolish Kelly's gimmicky offense that has no business tarnishing this fine institution in the first place. The former college coach now must admit he's in way over his head after...Wait, how many touchdowns did Foles throw on Sunday?
19. Cleveland Browns (4-5)
Joe Haden and T.J. Ward lead an imposing Cleveland defense that could propel a title contender with better players operating on the other side of the ball. Throw in two tremendous offensive playmakers in Josh Gordon and Josh Cameron, and the Browns are next year's candidate to make a Chiefs-like jump if they can land a competent quarterback.
20. Baltimore Ravens (3-5)
Let's stop running from the truth—the Ravens are not that good. The defense has done its best to keep games close, but perennial workhorse Ray Rice is averaging a horrid 2.7 yards per carry in a fluttering Baltimore offense.
21. Arizona Cardinals (4-4)
Just promise you guys will start giving Andre Ellington the ball more. After amassing 154 yards before Arizona's bye, the young running back is averaging 7.7 yards per carry to cardboard cutout Rashard Mendenhall's 3.1. The Cardinals will cost themselves a shot at making noise in the NFC by not fully transitioning to their clearly superior rusher.
22. Washington Redskins (3-5)
Fullback Darrel Young scored three rushing touchdowns (each of no more than four yards) in Washington's win over the Chargers, giving Washington its second three-touchdown back of the year. Neither hat trick resulted from Alfred Morris, so Mike Shanahan has returned to his old ways of crushing fantasy owners' dreams.
23. Buffalo Bills (3-6)
If their schedule wasn't so brutal and E.J. Manuel stayed healthy, the Bills would probably be gunning for a wild-card spot alongside AFC East cohorts Miami and New York. In a league of diminishing 1,000-yard rushers, Buffalo could have two in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
24. St. Louis Rams (3-6)
In Sam Bradford's absence, Zac Stacy has emerged as a stud with 261 rushing yards and two touchdowns through the past two games. If only the Rams could have figured that out with a healthy Bradford.
25. Houston Texans (2-6)
Despite outgaining the Colts by 169 yards, the Texans suffered yet another excruciating loss to all but eliminate any pipe dreams of rallying for a playoff spot. Still, Case Keenum lit a fire under Andre Johnson and the passing offense while they still boast the NFL's best defense in terms of yards allowed. Upcoming opponents should not take the Texans lightly as they look to play spoiler.
26. Oakland Raiders (3-5)
Just when the Raiders are on the cusp of breaking even at 4-4, they make Foles and Riley Cooper look like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. To their credit, they found a way to get demolished despite registering 560 offensive yards, so that's something.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6)
For glass-half-full guys and gals, Ben Roethlisberger compiled 400 passing yards and four scores for a listless Pittsburgh offense. The Steelers also gave up 55 points to Brady while the Steel Curtain rushing defense has acted more like cheap fabric from Walmart's clearance rack, so you can't win them all this low in the rankings.
28. Atlanta Falcons (2-6)
Matt Ryan has thrown seven interceptions in Atlanta's last two games, but come on, did you really expect him to lose Julio Jones and Roddy White and still be totally fine? Oh yeah, the defense also hasn't allowed fewer than 23 points once this season.
29. New York Giants (2-6)
Watching every other NFC East squad win sunk the sails of many delusional fans still expecting a playoff run. Getting Andre Brown back, however, would greatly boost an offense which has averaged 69.9 rushing yards per game.
30. Minnesota Vikings (1-7)
Christian Ponder was hardly incredible with 236 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception against an atrocious Dallas secondary, but he's Minnesota's best option at the moment. The beleaguered third-year signal-caller has completed 62.0 percent of his passes, nearly identical to last year's mark. It just doesn't look as good this time around with a deflated defense and Adrian Peterson unable to play Superman.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8)
They almost won at Seattle. That's something, right? With four losses coming by three points or fewer, the Buccaneers could easily sport a few victories on their ledger.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8)
The Jaguars, on the other hand, have not come close to notching a victory. They have lost every game by double digits and have not once held a lead during the second half.
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