Week 10 of the NFL season did not disappoint. Unless you are a fan of one of the four teams ranked in last week's top 10 that lost this week—then it probably did disappoint. Big changes are coming for those four teams and the clubs that beat them in this week's rankings.
The Carolina Panthers emerge as an elite team. The San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts lose at home. The Cincinnati Bengals are longing for October Andy Dalton, and the Detroit Lions look unstoppable.
Week 10 was weird, but it also helps in defining which teams are legit and which are merely pretenders. And perhaps the biggest question of all: Are the Kansas City Chiefs for real? We'll find out soon enough.
This Week's Rank: 32
Last Week's Rank: 32
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers get their first win and ensure that the 2013 NFL season will not have a winless team. Unfortunately, they get their first win the same week the Jacksonville Jaguars get their lone victory of the season. Tampa wins, but there's no movement up the rankings this week.
The Week 10 game against Miami showed what I've mentioned all season. The Buccaneers have talent, but there were too many inconsistencies and too many bad decisions made by the quarterbacks and the coaches in close games. When facing the Dolphins, those issues were still present, but the team was able to overcome them.
Losing eight straight games to start the year may still result in Greg Schiano losing his job, but for at least one week he can feel good about his team's performance.
This Week's Rank: 31
Last Week's Rank: 31
The Jacksonville Jaguars shocked the NFL by beating the Tennessee Titans in Week 10. Not only did they get their first win, but they more than likely ended a ton of people's survivor pools.
The Jaguars don't move up in the rankings just yet—as much due to the Minnesota Vikings winning on Thursday night as anything—but you have to be happy for this ballclub.
Facing a ton of adversity on and off the field, head coach Gus Bradley has continually fielded a team that doesn't give up. Even when the national (and some local) media wrote them off. Sure, one win doesn't make the season, but it assures the team won't join the 2008 Detroit Lions at 0-16.
I've said it all season, but it's worth repeating: The Jaguars have the right men in place to turn this franchise around. Week 10 was a preview of that.
This Week's Rank: 30
Last Week's Rank: 30
The Minnesota Vikings pulled off a win on Thursday night—and it was in large part due to the solid play of quarterback Christian Ponder before leaving with injury. Ponder was on fire early, going 17-of-21 for 174 yards before he left the game in the third quarter.
Ponder did enough to keep the team alive, and the defense played just well enough to keep Washington out of the end zone late. The Week 10 victory was a total team win, and that's something we've not seen enough of this season.
The schedule is not kind for this team, though, and to pull themselves out of the basement in the NFC North they'll have to play out of their minds.
This Week's Rank: 29
Last Week's Rank: 29
The Atlanta Falcons are bad, but let's hold off on calling for head coach Mike Smith's job. That's what most of my Twitter mentions were looking for after the Falcons fell to 2-7 on the season, but let's look at what Smith has had to work with.
The team lost wide receiver Julio Jones for the season after losing Roddy White for the beginning of the year. Add to that the loss of their best defensive player—Sean Weatherspoon—coinciding with improvement from the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints in the division. Injuries and better competition hurt, and while the Falcons aren't playing well, fans need to be patient.
Mike Smith has the best winning percentage of all active coaches right now, and his success with the Falcons came at a time when their future was bleak. We need to remember what the future looked like while Michael Vick awaited sentencing and there was no quarterback before asking for a head coach to be fired.
This Week's Rank: 28
Last Week's Rank: 23
Losing to the Minnesota Vikings will do this to your ranking. At 3-6, Washington is in trouble.
Last season the team was able to take a 3-5 start and turn it into a playoff berth thanks to a weak NFC East and a hot streak to end the season. But now, with six losses, the team would have to win six of seven games to finish with a winning season and theoretically win the division.
This doesn't look like a team capable of that type of winning streak. The offense caught fire in Week 10, but the defense continues to struggle. And the big difference this season is that Robert Griffin III isn't making crazy plays with his legs. That changes the entire dynamic of the offense and the energy of the team.
It was easy to look at this team and see a playoff contender last season. That's not the case after Week 10.
This Week's Rank: 27
Last Week's Rank: 26
Case Keenum's magic ran out in Week 10, but he continues to provide a spark to the Houston Texans offense that previously didn't exist. As the passing game gets back on track, it's the rest of the team that can't produce.
Losing Arian Foster for the season is going to hurt, though Ben Tate is a starting-caliber back. While he's not on Foster's level, Tate is talented enough to carry the load and not hurt the team. But when the offense gets going—as it did in Week 10—the defense struggles. And this defense was supposed to be a strength of the team.
J.J. Watt notwithstanding, the Texans defense has been a major disappointment. The outside pass rush from Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed has been subpar. Pass coverage seems like more of a theory than an executable game plan. There's talent here, but the overall follow-through is bad.
This Week's Rank: 26
Last Week's Rank: 25
The return of quarterback EJ Manuel didn't produce immediate positives, but the results will be coming. Getting Manuel back to end the season allows him to develop more, gives the rest of the offense time to adjust to his play and lets the coaching staff see what they have in the first-round pick.
Week 10 wasn't great for the Bills. Their 23-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers showed that the young roster has a ways to go, but everyone associated with this team should recognize their growth. Getting Manuel, Robert Woods, Stevie Johnson, Marquise Goodwin and the offense on the same page heading into 2014 is the biggest goal for the rest of the season.
The first year of Doug Whaley and Doug Marrone together in Buffalo has been a positive—no matter the win/loss record. Their work in adding talent to this roster has been a win no matter how many games they lose this year.
This Week's Rank: 25
Last Week's Rank: 26
The Oakland Raiders have hit the tough part of their schedule. And at the same time, quarterback Terrelle Pryor is having some struggles of his own. The wins may come hard—and be fewer than fans want to see—but each week it's important to note the growth and development of this team. Because that's what the 2013 season is about.
Playing a team like the New York Giants close is a moral victory. Even with the Giants going through a tough season, being able to go toe-to-toe with a Tom Coughlin-coached team shows toughness. Keeping pace with Eli Manning and the Giants' passing game shows promise for the Raiders offense. Even in defeat, there are positive takeaways from this game that the Raiders can build on.
Pryor is the future of this team, and learning how to overcome bad games and adversity will be key to his maturation at the position. And remember, he's only started 10 games in his young career. There will be bumps and bruises, but the upside is huge.
This Week's Rank: 24
Last Week's Rank: 28
Too little, too late for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Or a team getting hot at the right time?
At 3-6, it would seem like the former, but anything is possible right now in a crazy AFC North. While a seven-game winning streak seems improbable from this team, this season has taught us to rule out nothing.
The Steelers were able to get their third win in Week 10 thanks to old-fashioned Pittsburgh football making its return to the field. The defense did its job, holding the Buffalo Bills to 10 points, and the offense was conservatively productive. That's good enough for a win most weeks.
The key to saving the season is continuity and consistency. Those two things have been missing from the Steelers' play, play calls and play-callers this season.
This Week's Rank: 23
Last Week's Rank: 16
The biggest drop in the rankings this week comes for the Tennessee Titans. That should be expected after they lost to the winless Jacksonville Jaguars and likely lost quarterback Jake Locker for the season. It wasn't a good day in Nashville.
Losing Locker at quarterback is huge, not only because Ryan Fitzpatrick and Rusty Smith are now the quarterbacks, but also because the former Washington quarterback was really starting to get it this season.
Locker's accuracy and timing were at a career high, and before suffering his first injury of the season in Week 4, he looked like a franchise quarterback. Now Locker's suffered two injuries and had his development cut short. That's not good news for him or the team.
The Titans have talent. Alterraun Verner is among the best cornerbacks in the league this season, and the rest of the defense is littered with athletes, like Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown. But they haven't put it all together yet. If they do, a few more wins aren't out of the question, no matter who is at quarterback.
This Week's Rank: 22
Last Week's Rank: 22
The bye week in Cleveland means the Browns don't move up or down this week. Next week, though, will be telling as the Browns travel down to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. With the AFC North much closer than many realize, this game has major implications. At 6-4, the Bengals can be overtaken atop the division.
The four wins for the Browns have come in games that Brandon Weeden doesn't start, and Week 11 will be that way with Jason Campbell under center. If Campbell can take advantage of a Cincinnati defense that's banged up without Geno Atkins and Leon Hall, the team has a fighting chance.
The Browns aren't the most talented team in the league, but head coach Rob Chudzinski has this team playing like they believe they can win each week. And actually, they can.
This Week's Rank: 21
Last Week's Rank: 17
It will be talked about ad nauseam this week, but how much did the off-field issues surrounding the team in the wake of Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito's problems affect this team?
The loss of two starting offensive linemen definitely affected the team's play on the field. Notably late in the fourth quarter when the Dolphins were trying to drive for a game-winning score, quarterback Ryan Tannehill couldn't even get a pass off because of the Tampa Bay pass rush. The on- and off-field aspects of this mess are being felt.
What happens from here is anyone's guess. The Dolphins have talent—their four wins prove that—but a fractured locker room and a head coach and general manager on the hot seat could doom the team's season.
This Week's Rank: 20
Last Week's Rank: 27
Three straight wins for the New York Giants have the team headed up in the power rankings and in the NFC East standings. With seven games to go, they're not out of the running for the division, either.
The last three games have shown considerable changes on offense. Eli Manning has thrown just one interception in the three wins after throwing 15 in the team's first six games. Manning has been a better game manager while the defense has also stepped up.
Beating the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and Oakland Raiders won't inspire a ton of respect around the league, but the Giants are building confidence down the stretch. If they can stay healthy, a late-season surge would surprise no one.
This Week's Rank: 19
Last Week's Rank: 21
The St. Louis Rams found an offensive explosion in Week 10, putting up 38 points on the Indianapolis Colts. The same Colts who were ranked No. 2 overall in our rankings last week. We'll call that a good day for Kellen Clemens.
The offensive MVP trophy would go to Tavon Austin on this day. The rookie wide receiver made plays as a return man and lined up at wide receiver. His 138 receiving yards on just two catches, plus a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown, gave the Rams a spark that the Colts couldn't keep up with.
The Rams aren't supposed to be winning like this. Not without Sam Bradford. But as has become the norm, Jeff Fisher's team plays hard even when they're supposed to lose.
This Week's Rank: 18
Last Week's Rank: 20
Don't look now, but the Arizona Cardinals are very much alive in the NFC wild-card race.
First-year head coach Bruce Arians has done a great job molding this team down the stretch. He hasn't been afraid to make changes in the lineup—like trading Levi Brown and giving rookie Andre Ellington touches at running back—and those changes have worked.
The Cardinals have won two straight and four of the last six games they've played. Those last two wins came against playoff teams from last season—Houston and Atlanta—while their previous win was over the red-hot Panthers. Quietly, the Cardinals are getting hot, and the NFC had better take notice.
This Week's Rank: 17
Last Week's Rank: 15
Losing to the Denver Broncos isn't enough to move the San Diego Chargers down three spots, but that loss came while teams below them last week won. The Eagles and Ravens moving up, plus the Jets on a bye week, means the Chargers fall more than they might normally.
That's OK, though, because redemption can come in Week 11. The Chargers have a chance to get back on track when they travel to Miami to face the embattled Dolphins. A win there gets them back to even with a 5-5 record and a clear path to a wild-card spot if they can win four of the last six games.
That won't be easy with Denver and Kansas City (twice) coming up on the docket in the next seven weeks. If the Chargers can pull off a wild-card berth, they'll be battle-tested.
This Week's Rank: 16
Last Week's Rank: 18
The Baltimore Ravens refuse to stay in one spot. It seems like every week they're losing a game and moving down three spots, or surprising us all with a big win and another move up the board.
That's the case again this week after dropping three spots following their loss to the Cleveland Browns. But now a win over the Cincinnati Bengals has them regaining some ground.
The Ravens really survived this week, and just barely after a Hail Mary from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green sent the game into overtime. But a win is a win, even if it's ugly. The Ravens needed the victory to stay alive in the crowded AFC North, and they're still kicking at 4-5.
This Week's Rank: 15
Last Week's Rank: 14
Losing on national television to the New Orleans Saints might be embarrassing, but it happens. To a lot of teams. With that in mind, the Dallas Cowboys don't see a big fall this week after dropping a game to a higher-ranked team.
Most concerning for Dallas moving forward is how easily the Saints moved the ball offensively. That might seem commonplace with Drew Brees at quarterback, but from an athletic standpoint, the Cowboys actually matched up well in this game. On both sides of the ball, the Cowboys struggled to win matchups, though, and ultimately that will cost you every time.
A 5-5 record is good for a tie with the Philadelphia Eagles atop the NFC East, but the Cowboys need to find another gear if they hope to make a playoff run.
This Week's Rank: 14
Last Week's Rank: 19
You might think that beating the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers isn't reason to move the Philadelphia Eagles up five spots. That's fine. In your power rankings article, you should rank them lower. But here, the Eagles' dominant play over Green Bay—the whole team, not just the quarterback—proved that they belong this high.
The play of Philadelphia these last two weeks, both Nick Foles starts, has been inspiring. Foles has tossed 16 touchdowns and no interceptions on the year, including 10 scores in his last two starts alone. To say the second-year quarterback is heating up in Chip Kelly's offense would be an understatement.
Foles and the offense are rolling, and the defense has done enough these last two weeks to restore my faith in their abilities. With DeMeco Ryans stopping the run and the cornerbacks getting comfortable, the team looks like it is rising at the right time.
This Week's Rank: 13
Last Week's Rank: 13
The bye week comes at a good time for the New York Jets. While the team was resting, AFC wild-card challengers in Cincinnati and San Diego both lost. With seven weeks to go, the team is in good positioning for the playoffs.
The turnaround has been impressive, and as I've mentioned several times, you have to consider Rex Ryan as a serious Coach of the Year candidate. He would come in at No. 2 to Andy Reid on my ballot after 10 weeks. Speaking of ballots, quarterback Geno Smith is playing himself into the Offensive Rookie of the Year race, and defensive end Sheldon Richardson has a solid argument for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Getting such solid play from first-year players is exactly why Ryan must be kept on with the Jets. If not, he'll be somewhere like Tampa next year pulling off an Andy Reid-like turnaround on that team. Keep him, New York.
This Week's Rank: 12
Last Week's Rank: 9
Losing Aaron Rodgers would be reason enough to move down the rankings. Losing to the Philadelphia Eagles pushes the Green Bay Packers down even further.
I've said all season that this looked like a 10-win Packers team, and while they're still on track for a winning season, the results from Week 10 are not promising. Without Rodgers, the offense can't score the 20 or 30 points needed to cover for the defense. That was the case when the Eagles put 27 on the board and the offense could get just 13.
With Rodgers, the Packers are a playoff team. Without him, they'll struggle to keep pace with the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. This is shaping up to be a postseason without Green Bay in it.
This Week's Rank: 11
Last Week's Rank: 11
The NFC North race keeps getting more interesting by the week. With seven weeks to play, the Chicago Bears are alive both for the division title and a wild-card berth, but they may be going without a healthy Jay Cutler the rest of the way.
Cutler should be praised for his bravery in playing just two weeks after suffering a torn groin, but instead too many Bears fans took to Twitter to criticize their injured quarterback.
Cutler wasn't the reason the Bears lost to the Detroit Lions, though. That blame falls to the defense, or more specifically, the safeties and their inability to make plays on the ball.
Injuries have been a big issue for the Bears this season, but they're just one game back in the North. That's a credit to Cutler, the wide receivers and head coach Marc Trestman.
This Week's Rank: 10
Last Week's Rank: 8
Two straight losses by the Cincinnati Bengals can be summed up as such: two games without Geno Atkins and two games in which Andy Dalton played terribly. Despite the exceptional talent at many positions, the Bengals can't win ballgames with Dalton playing the way he did in Week 10.
That's not to say Dalton can't be the guy. He did win the October AFC Offensive Player of the Month award, after all, but since the calendar changed to November, he's been a different player.
Dalton has reverted back to his skittish, timid, one-read quarterback play. If he can get back into a rhythm, the offense is good enough to win some shootouts while the defense adjusts to life without Atkins and Leon Hall.
The AFC North is still the Bengals' to win, and they control their own playoff destiny at 6-4.
This Week's Rank: 9
Last Week's Rank: 5
The San Francisco 49ers need to prove themselves before they move back into the top tier of teams in this league. Week 10 put the team, and the offense especially, on notice.
This team is supposed to be good on offense—that's what we thought after five straight wins with over 30 points scored. That was not the case at home against the Carolina Panthers as the 49ers managed just 45 yards in the second half. The Panthers defense is talented, and they deserve credit, but this is more of the same for the 49ers' passing game.
Colin Kaepernick should be entering his peak as an NFL passer right now. With 22 starts under his belt, the NFL is no longer a mystery for him. But on the flip side, Kaepernick is no longer a mystery for NFL defenses. That's shown this year as the dual-threat quarterback has been limited to nine touchdowns and six interceptions.
This Week's Rank: 8
Last Week's Rank: 12
The Carolina Panthers have won five straight games. In those wins they've taken down the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings. Before their Week 10 victory over the 49ers, it would have been easy to say the Panthers were beating up on bad teams. And then they took down the Niners in San Francisco.
No, the Panthers aren't preying on bad teams; they're just a good team. A very good team, it turns out. They're able to win big, as they had scored over 30 points in each of their last four games before meeting the 49ers. But they can win close, too, and that was evident in their 10-9 win over the 49ers. On a day when Cam Newton was human, the defense stepped up and took down a top NFL team.
The schedule doesn't get easier as the Panthers prepare to face the New England Patriots (Week 11), New Orleans Saints (Week 14), New York Jets (Week 15) and then the Saints again (Week 16). But if the Panthers can remain consistent, they can make a push for the NFC South or a wild-card spot.
This Week's Rank: 7
Last Week's Rank: 10
In a year in which the NFC North is wide open, it's the Detroit Lions who have emerged as the top team in the division after 10 weeks. Can they keep it up?
Expectations in Detroit should be high over the next seven weeks. Not only do the Lions lead the division currently, but they are the healthiest team there too. While the Packers and Bears struggle with injuries to Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Henry Melton and others, the Lions have managed to keep their stars on the field. And those stars are producing.
Matthew Stafford has emerged in his role as the team's franchise quarterback, and with that has come more production from Calvin Johnson, but also from Kris Durham and Joseph Fauria. Stafford is no longer "only" as good as Johnson allows him to be. Now he's the leader and catalyst of this offense.
This Week's Rank: 6
Last Week's Rank: 6
The New England Patriots spent Week 10 off, but they return in Week 11 with a marquee matchup against the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football. That's a long time for Bill Belichick to spend game-planning on how to stop Cam Newton.
While Newton will be the focus of the Patriots defense, it will be stopping the Panthers' pass rush that is most concerning for Belichick and the Patriots. Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short make up one of the best four-man defensive lines in the game right now. They can come at you with speed, with power or with a combination of both that confuses the best offensive lines. With Sebastian Vollmer out, Tom Brady's line has to be at their best.
It almost seems like the Patriots have been down this year, but then you see they sit at 7-2 and have a comfortable lead in the AFC East. And that's the brilliance of this team—even when it seems like they're having an off year, they're still one of the best in the league.
This Week's Rank: 5
Last Week's Rank: 2
You normally don't want to read too much into one game. Every player, every coach and every team will go through at least one bad game a year. For the Indianapolis Colts, they have to hope that was what happened in Week 10.
Losing 38-8 at home to the St. Louis Rams is unacceptable, especially when you consider the Rams were quarterbacked by Kellen Clemens. But credit Jeff Fisher's team. In every phase of the game—running, passing, blocking, tackling, coverage and returns—the Rams dominated.
The Colts are a better team than this, and they'll bounce back from what will likely go down as Andrew Luck's worst game of his first two seasons. They're still comfortably ahead in the AFC South and can use this as motivation for the stretch run.
This Week's Rank: 4
Last Week's Rank: 3
The Denver Broncos do not move down one spot this week because of their game against the San Diego Chargers. They move down because the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints are the better teams.
The Broncos will win a ton of games this season—maybe even 15 of them—but those who truly watch the team cannot be confident of their ability to play a great team and win. The San Diego Chargers are not a great team, and they nearly came back to beat the Broncos. If facing a team like Seattle or New Orleans—or even Kansas City—the Broncos would not be my pick to win.
Peyton Manning is brilliant, great and all the words you can think of to describe excellence, but in a one-game setting, I'm taking the three teams ranked ahead of the Broncos.
This Week's Rank: 3
Last Week's Rank: 7
Why did I underrate the New Orleans Saints before this week? My apologies, fans, it won't happen again.
The Saints are clearly an elite team, and one capable of putting up the points on offense and creating the turnovers needed on defense to win a Super Bowl. Not just a division title, not just home-field advantage. A Super Bowl.
With Drew Brees playing the best football of his career and the defense rejuvenated under Rob Ryan, these Saints are a better version of the 2009 team that won a Lombardi Trophy. Now that Brees has more weapons, a solid run game and a defense that can back him up, the rest of the NFL should be terrified.
This Week's Rank: 2
Last Week's Rank: 4
Another week, another win by the Seattle Seahawks. And this one came on the road, in Atlanta, where the Falcons are always tough to beat, no matter the health of their roster. That win, plus the San Francisco 49ers' loss, puts the Seahawks in the driver's seat for the NFC West title and likely home-field advantage. And that's something no one in the NFC wants to see.
The Seahawks are playing balanced football, and that's the kind that is hard to beat in the playoffs. They can run the ball to win, or beat you up inside the trenches before letting Russell Wilson air it out to their many targets.
Even without Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, the passing attack hasn't lost a step. An offense like this can do damage in the postseason because few teams can truly take away the run and pass equally. Pete Carroll has a great team on his hands, and if the Seahawks can keep doing what they've done for 10 weeks, they'll be hosting the NFC Championship Game.
This Week's Rank: 1
Last Week's Rank: 1
The Kansas City Chiefs stay in the No. 1 spot thanks to the bye week, but in Week 11 they'll have to earn it if they hope to stay here and stay undefeated.
The Chiefs go to Denver for a cold-weather, outdoor game, but they will be bringing their ferocious pass rush with them. That's not what Peyton Manning wants to see—especially after the San Diego Chargers beat him up in Week 10.
The Chiefs have the edge when it comes to attacking the quarterback and running the football, but will that be enough? We'll find out in a week, but for now the Chiefs are still the NFL's best team.