NFL Power Rankings Week 12 have the Eagles soaring. But are they the NFL's best team right now?
You'll have to keep reading to find out. But one thing is starting to become clear: The AFC might be the superior conference in terms of depth, but with the way the Eagles looked last night, it's hard to think they cannot defeat any AFC team.
Especially considering that the AFC favorites (New England, the Jets, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Baltimore) have all lost or looked bad in wins the past two weeks.
(Because I didn't do power rankings last week, I used Bailey Brautigan's power rankings for the "Last Week" entry...so there's bound to be sharp falls and steep rises regarding a few teams.)
No. 32: Carolina Panthers (1-8)
Last Week's Rank: 30
Someone has to be the worst team around, and it can't be Buffalo any longer.
No. 31: Detroit Lions (2-7)
Last Week's Rank: 27
The Lions are probably better than the Bills, but since they just lost to them, they have to be a notch lower.
No. 30: Buffalo Bills (1-8)
Last Week's Rank: 32
They successfully avoided a winless season; now can they make it two in a row against the lowly Bengals?
No. 29: Cincinnati Bengals (2-7)
Last Week's Rank: 29
Marvin Lewis' team deserves some praise for not laying down and dying last week, but they still lost their sixth in a row.
No. 28: Arizona Cardinals (3-6)
Last Week's Rank: 25
Derek Anderson posted pretty solid yet deceiving yardage numbers (322): The Cardinals were passing practically every play in the second half.
No. 27: Denver Broncos (3-6)
Last Week's Rank: 28
By blowing the doors off of division-leading Kansas City, they showed that (maybe) this team will bounce back with a solid second half.
No. 26th: San Francisco (3-6)
Last Week's Rank: 27
Player revolt notwithstanding, the 49ers may have righted their ship and, as winners of three of their last four, are not out of the NFC West race.
No. 25: Dallas Cowboys (2-7)
Last Week's Rank: 31
Although it was just one game, going to East Rutherford and defeating the division-leading Giants pretty handily is a very impressive one game.
No. 24: Minnesota Vikings (3-6)
Last Week's Rank: 24
If you take away the final 10 minutes of their overtime win against Arizona, this team has been pretty awful the last two games.
No. 23: Washington Redskins (4-5)
Last Week's Rank: 19
Did you see last night's game?
No. 22: St. Louis Rams (4-5)
Last Week's Rank: 21
They really needed that divisional win to keep pace with Seattle—must be the mark of a young team.
No. 21: Houston Texans (4-5)
Last Week's Rank: 17
Regardless of who they played, fact is that the Texans haven't won a game in a month.
Last Week's Rank: 20t
Sunday: 26-20 loss vs. New York Jets
They lost to arguably the best team in the conference. That alone lets them keep their spot on the power rankings.
And with Colt McCoy really looking sharp, the Browns can make plenty of noise in the second half. His numbers aren't outstanding, but he continues to make clutch passes and protect the football. For a rookie who was not supposed to take a snap this season, that's pretty good.
Last Week's Rank: 22
Sunday: 36-18 win at Arizona
Well, for now, we have to forget about the atrocious performances from the Seahawks the previous two weeks: They went on the road and clobbered a division opponent to reclaim sole possession of the NFC West. That has to be worth something.
Seattle is still loaded with problems. Their defense seems to be getting worse, not better. And their running game is still one of the worst in the NFL, definitely the worst of any division leader.
But Matt Hasselbeck did look very sharp against the Cardinals: 22-for-34, 333 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions. That has to be a good sign.
Last Week's Rank: 19
The Chiefs' loss on Sunday sets up a pretty big logjam at the top of the AFC West: Three teams can win the division now.
But in terms of experience and versatility, the Chargers have to be considered the favorite right now. They'll certainly have a chance to prove that: three divisional games, along with a trip to Indianapolis.
The Chargers don't boast the type of running game of Oakland or Kansas City, but they do have Phillip Rivers. That might be a wash.
Last Week's Rank: 13
Sunday: 49-29 loss at Denver
The pounding they took at Invesco Field on Sunday (and it was a pounding, 35-0 at one point) isn't the only reason the Chiefs have fallen four spots.
In the last six weeks, they have one impressive win: their 42-20 defeat of Jacksonville (which came against a team without their starting quarterback).
Because they still have an outstanding defense and a terrific backfield, Kansas City is definitely not "in trouble" at this point in the season.
But Matt Cassel's ridiculous passing numbers (33-for-53, 469 yards, four touchdowns) are hardly an indication that KC has a balanced attack. Let's see him put up those type of numbers in a close game against a defense that doesn't rank 26th in the NFL in sacks.
Last Week's Rank: 12
Sunday: 29-17 loss at Miami
On the surface, a 12-point loss on the road to a playoff contender doesn't signal the end of the world for Tennessee. But they earned a few other strikes against them this week.
Randy Moss did not exactly set the field on fire last week, and he didn't seem to have much enthusiasm for Sunday's game.
Secondly, the instability/injuries at quarterback are a major question mark for the remainder of the season.
And letting a third string quarterback, who probably got zero snaps in practice last week, come in and seal the game with a nine-play, 85-yard touchdown drive? Terrible.
But with five AFC South games remaining this year, they still control their own destiny.
Last Week's Rank: 15
Sunday: 29-17 win vs. Tennesseee
Sure they won. But at what cost?
Chad Pennington's return to the starter's role was pretty short-lived: He's done for the year. And Chad Henne (who cannot be too happy about having lost his job in the first place) is pretty banged up and a question mark for Sunday.
Tyler Thigpen seemed able to hold down the fort at the end of the game against Tennessee, so that's promising. And the offensive line did a great job against the Titans front seven.
But the question mark at quarterback (turning back to the guy benched a week ago who is now also injured) is worrisome. So is the remainder of the schedule, which includes road games against division leaders New England and the New York Jets.
Last Week's Rank: 23
Sunday: 31-24 win vs. Houston
David Garrard continued his outstanding MVP-like season last week. (He probably doesn't deserve the actual Most Valuable Player trophy, but he is certainly the most important player on the Jags squad).
They held Arian Foster in check, but they did not get any pressure on Matt Schaub and that is why the game was close. That is not a good sign considering another matchup with the Colts is on the schedule, as well as a trip to visit the other Manning brother in East Rutherford.
Nevertheless, who expected Jacksonville to be 5-4 and just a game out of the division lead? Not many.
Last Week's Rank: 16
Sunday: 27-13 win vs. Minnesota
Yes, it's hard to have a 6-3 team this far down on the list. But defeating the Vikings at home is not exactly a season-defining win. Aside from their poor play, the Vikings are a mess: Brett Favre is still hurt and apparently, a good percentage of the team wants the head coach canned.
There were still a few promising notes about Sunday's win, however. Jay Cutler looked sharp (at least one of his interceptions was not his fault), Mike Martz seemed to show a commitment to the running game, and the defense made big plays without having to blitz a lot.
They still have a huge mountain to climb to win the NFC North (Green Bay). But they remain a viable playoff team.
Last Week's Rank: 14
Sunday: 31-16 win vs. Carolina
A home win over the Panthers (the worst team in football, according to this "expert") doesn't mean the Bucs should be packing for a playoff trip this January.
Still, Tampa is playing some of the most balanced football in the NFC. Josh Freeman is as good as anyone (sans Michael Vick, perhaps) at protecting the football. And they have found their running back in LeGarrette Blount.
They also have something that is extremely important in the NFC: a pair of excellent corners.
Last Week's Rank: 11
Considering how badly the Chiefs were beaten last week, and the fact that San Diego remains under .500 at the midway point of November, the Raiders have to be considered the best team in the AFC West. Right now, that is.
They have their hands full in the upcoming weeks: a trip to Pittsburgh, visits from Indy, Miami, and three divisional games. But their running game has been so solid, and their quarterback play so surprisingly steady, the last month, that they are no doubt contenders.
And they'll be even better off if they can shore up their front seven's run-stopping ability. Especially with Pittsburgh up next week.
Last Week's Rank: 12
The Saints really needed last week off. Reggie Bush could be back this Sunday, which would be a huge boost. He might not run for 100 yards or score a load of touchdowns, but he adds another dimension to that offense, both with his moves and his ability to catch passes out of the backfield.
A visit from the NFC West-leading Seahawks next week should be a good test for the world champions. Seattle's run defense has really been abused lately, but they get a lot of pressure on the quarterback.
Victory at the Superdome should signal the Saints are a worthy contender to the Atlanta Falcons.
Last Week's Rank: 3
Sunday: 33-20 loss vs. Dallas
Three division-leading, 6-3 teams lost in Week 10: Pittsburgh, Baltimore and the Giants. Of those three, New York had the worst defeat: at home, in the division, against a team who had just fired their head coach following a 1-7 start.
The sky isn't falling for the Giants. They are allowed to be beaten, even at home, and even by a "bad team." Furthermore, the loss snapped a league-best five-game winning streak.
What is concerning, however, is the way they lost. Not only did the defense give up several huge plays to Dallas, but Eli Manning's interception woes returned. And this week it cost them instantaneous points.
With two games remaining against the Eagles, both of those factors could destroy their season.
Last Week's Rank: 1
Sunday: 39-26 loss vs. New England
Several factors are at play here.
For one, they were embarrassed at home by the Patriots: Forget the score, it wasn't any where near a close game.
Secondly, they have not really played very well in the past month: They sneaked by in a controversial win at Miami, were beaten pretty good by New Orleans, then squandered a huge lead at Cincinnati.
And finally, their offensive line is so banged up and so filled with obvious backups, that they are in major trouble heading forward.
Oh, and their inability to get stops in the second half against the Patriots did not make Dick LeBeau's unit look like one of the best defenses in football. Tom Brady was untouched all night long.
Last Week's Rank: 2
Sunday: 26-21 loss at Atlanta
Of those three 6-3 division leader that lost this week, Baltimore's defeat was the least offensive.
They were on the road, against arguably the best team in the NFC, and they nearly pulled off a stunning comeback in the final minutes. Baltimore's defense couldn't silence the powerful Matt Ryan-to-Roddy White duo, but they did contain Michael Turner. Considering who remains on their schedule, that's a big deal.
There might be some slight concern over their own running game, however: In the past month, Ray Rice has not been as dominant as he can be. He has zero touchdowns and hasn't topped 100 yards despite just about 20 carries per game.
Last Week's Rank: 9
Sunday: 23-17 vs. Cincinnati
The Bengals defense has hardly been stellar in 2010. Yet the Colts and Peyton Manning could only muster two field goals in (just about) the final three quarters of Sunday's game. That has to raise an eyebrow.
A pleasant surprise was the play of Indy's defense: Terrell Owens was not able to run wild like he had the last five games, they forced three interceptions, and the Cincinnati running game was pretty toothless.
Peyton Manning probably won't go without a touchdown and be kept under 200 yards passing again this season. So for them to win a game like that, it's a feather in the cap of the rest of the team.
Last Week's Rank: 6
Sunday: 26-20 (OT) win at Cleveland
As we've learned the past month, the Browns are a better team than there record indicates. So the Jets shouldn't have expected to blow out their former coach's team. They get a pass for nearly losing that one...a week earlier at Detroit, that's a different story.
So the Jets have been either average, bad, or awful the past three weeks (remember they were shut out at home by Green Bay three weeks ago), depending on who you ask. Still, they have only lost one game since Week 1. That cannot be overlooked.
Playing "bad" and still winning is the sign of a great team. The Jets may not be the best in the AFC—they may not even be the best team in the AFC East—but they are a threat to win (ugly or otherwise) every time they step on the field.
Last Week's Rank: 8
It's tough to gauge how impressive the Packers' win two weeks ago against Dallas was. Dallas looked lifeless, and Wade Phillips was promptly fired. But that was the exact same roster of players that just went to the Meadowlands and walloped the Giants.
Playing the transitive property of equality with NFL teams is a big mistake. But you have to consider the Packers one of the top teams in the NFC. They've won three in a row and allowed just seven points in their last two games.
With Aaron Rodgers and some of the injured pieces slowly returning, Green Bay should be able to take the division over Chicago.
Last Week's Rank: 4
Sunday: 26-21 win vs. Baltimore
On a short week, they beat a very good Ravens team and they did so without their outstanding running back making big plays.
Matt Ryan has started to make a pretty good case for MVP, but the Falcons defense is how the they will win the NFC South. They've started to get more and more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and have been outstanding against the run lately.
Had they only put up a better fight against the Eagles, they would be the top choice in the conference.
Last Week's Rank: 7
Sunday: 59-28 win at Washington
It's easy to say the Eagles are the best team in the world, based on what they did last night and how incredible Michael Vick looked. So let's just say they are one of the best team's in the world.
Since the bye week, they defeated the Colts and clobbered the Redskins in consecutive weeks. So in the past two games their resume is as impressive as anyone's. That alone might not make them the class of the NFC.
But the ease with which the Eagles can score points makes them the most dangerous team in football. No matter how many points they fall behind by, or how poor their offense looks through three quarters, with Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and LeSean McCoy, they can go the length of the field in two or three plays.
Last Week's Rank: 5
Sunday: 39-26 win at Pittsburgh
Everyone was quick to beat down the Patriots last week for laying an egg against the Browns. And rightfully so: They weren't just beaten by a sub .500 team, they were crushed.
But one loss cannot undo an entire season. Especially if that loss comes against a team that has defeated the world champs and pushed the 6-2 defending AFC runner-up to overtime.
Even if you forget everything that happened prior to Sunday night's game against Pittsburgh, however, the Patriots are as impressive as any team in football. They absolutely carved up the Steelers defense, didn't allow Tom Brady to be touched, and did a great job on the Steelers offense through most of the game. (Granted, the Steelers offense was playing with one hand tied behind their back).
Considering it was a road game against a top-notch team, New England had the biggest win in Week 10. And given their overall resume, that earns them the top spot...until next week.