NFL Power Rankings Week 10: Grades for All 32 Teams
It's time to look around the NFL and measure each team's success with their preseason expectations—and that's what I'll be doing this week in the Power Rankings.
Does an 8-0 start guarantee an A+ for the Green Bay Packers? How about the San Francisco 49ers 7-1 record? The Indianapolis Colts deserve an F, but will they be alone?
Let's breakdown every team and hand out report cards for all 32 NFL teams.
32. Indianapolis Colts
I'm not sure if an F-minus really exists, but if it does, the Indianapolis Colts deserve one.
As the NFL's only winless team, the Colts have proved as embarrassing on the field as their front office is inept, failing to build a team that could compete without Peyton Manning.
No one expected much from the Colts without Manning, but this is beyond embarrassing. The Colts other 21 starting players are playing without passion, without fire and are a reflection of their head coach and general manager—both of which should be fired.
The plan in Indianapolis should be to blow it all up and start over. And by start over I mean drafting Andrew Luck.
31. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins can feel good about themselves for earning their first win of the season—but the reality is the team is still 1-7.
Miami didn't have realistic playoff expectations before the season, but no one expected a roster this talented to play so bad. When you look at the talent on both sides of the football, the only explanation for how poorly the team is playing is the head coach.
Tony Sparano may have earned himself one more week in South Beach, but his job security is about as steady as a Kardashian marriage.
30. St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams had real hopes of making the playoffs in 2011 after a strong 7-9 record in 2010. The Rams had a franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford, a Pro Bowl running back in Steve Jackson, two very good offensive tackles and an improving defense.
What went wrong?
Injuries have hurt the Rams, that's without question, but the team also believed the system on offense would be good enough without an elite wide receiver. The team made no effort to improve the talent around Bradford at wide receiver, and because of it he's suffered.
The Rams look like a lock to pick in the Top 5 selections of the 2012 NFL draft, where they have to target a wide receiver.
29. Seattle Seahawks
One year after a playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, the Seattle Seahawks are a bottom-feeder in the NFL's worst division.
Not quite what Pete Carroll had in mind.
Carroll's draft picks have been questionable, the team failed to upgrade at quarterback when they let Matt Hasselbeck leave town—Hasselbeck's Titans are 4-4 so far—and his game-day management is still among the worst in the game.
Carroll's honeymoon in Seattle is coming to an end. He'll have a chance to pick his quarterback this year and prove the team can develop, or he'll be headed back to the college game.
28. Arizona Cardinals
Many people around the NFL saw a playoff team in the making when the Arizona Cardinals traded for Kevin Kolb, signed free agent Daryn Colledge and drafted Patrick Peterson. Those expectations have been proven to be way off.
Instead of making the move toward a playoff season, the Cardinals are regressing quickly. Kolb has not proven to be the quarterback that everyone thought he could be, at least not yet, and around him the team is struggling. While youngsters like Beanie Wells are showing improvement, the offensive line is terrible and the defense can't stop anyone.
The Cardinals have something with Peterson, but they need to make moves this offseason to support he and Kolb for the future.
27. Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings may not have wanted to acknowledge that this was a rebuilding year, but before the season began we all knew it was. The team is playing rookie quarterback Christian Ponder after benching Donovan McNabb, which is the most important thing for the Vikings future.
There are bright spots on the team even if the wins aren't piling up. Both Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen are having career years and should be locks for All-Pro selections. If the Vikings can get consistency on the offensive line and a healthy defense in 2012, they could be a surprise team.
26. Washington Redskins
Mike Shanahan probably deserves an "F" for failing to sign a quarterback to compete with John Beck and Rex Grossman. The Washington Redskins jumped out to a hot start before opposing teams were able to shutdown the two journeymen quarterbacks and bottle up the run game. Now Washington is reeling.
The Redskins deserve credit for drafting Ryan Kerrigan in the first round of the 2011 draft, but none of their other moves have paid off. Shanahan will get a pass because he has two Super Bowl rings, but until he finds a real quarterback here, Washington will not win.
25. Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos have mismanaged this season from the get-go. The team almost traded Kyle Orton to Miami, and then they didn't and let him start the season. Now he's riding the bench while Tim Tebow runs the show.
The Orton-Tebow situation is bad enough, but this is a team with little vision for the future. Tim Tebow may be 2-1 at quarterback, but his completion percentage is still worst in the NFL and his effectiveness as a passer is still very questionable.
I do love the ability of Von Miller, the team's first-round pick, but he's the lone bright spot on defense. John Fox needs to make splashes in the 2012 draft if Denver is to have a playoff shot next season.
24. Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns grade largely depends on what your expectations were for them before the season. I saw a 7-9 or 8-8 season, but in a much different way than they have played so far this season.
The Browns have failed to build around Colt McCoy, causing the entire offense to take huge steps back this season. Peyton Hillis has been a non-factor all season, due either to the Madden curse or his desire for a new contract. There are no receivers or tight ends for McCoy to grow with, and it shows every time he takes the field.
I do like what Cleveland is building on defense. They have to find a way to re-sign D'Qwell Jackson this summer.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars
When the Jacksonville Jaguars picked up Paul Posluszny and Clint Sessions in free agency, it looked like they were stocking up for a playoff run behind the veteran offense led by David Garrard.
And then they cut Garrard. And then they started losing.
The Jaguars' season has been a disappointment for all involved. Even rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert has regressed as he sees more playing time.
The team is talented, but their inconsistency is costing them wins and perhaps will cost their head coach his job.
22. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers may have only won two games—but you won't find many fanbases more excited than this one.
The reason for the buzz in Carolina is due to the play of 2011's first overall pick Cam Newton at quarterback. Newton has been among the league's most exciting players since his first snap in Week 1. The Panthers know they have something great to build around for the future.
The wins will come as the Panthers build up a better defense and find a second wide receiver for Newton. That should be their goal in the 2012 offseason.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won 10 games in 2010 and barely missed out on the playoffs. Everyone with a pulse expected them to take the next step in 2011 and at least secure a wildcard berth.
Chances are, that won't be happening.
Josh Freeman has taken a step back at quarterback as the team around him falls apart. Key playmakers in 2010, LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams have been ineffective this season and the team has failed to establish the run game that made them dominant last season.
With four high draft picks on the defensive line, the Buccaneer defense was expected to be able to support the offense this season. Instead the team ranks No. 29 overall in yards allowed per game.
The expectations were high in Tampa, and the 4-4 record isn't good enough.
20. Oakland Raiders
While it may look dreary in Oakland right now, it's worth noting that the Raiders are still very much in the mix for a playoff spot in the AFC West—all four teams are, actually.
Oakland was rolling early, but a season-ending injury for Jason Campbell had the team desperate for a quarterback. They traded for Carson Palmer, who had been holding out in Cincinnati, and have since lost two straight.
Palmer's still shaking off the rust, and he did look better this week, but the biggest issue in Oakland isn't Palmer, it's the defense. Oakland is letting teams run the ball at will. If the Raiders miss the playoffs it won't be Palmer's fault entirely, it will be on the backs of a defense that was supposed to be elite.
19. Kansas City Chiefs
When the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West last season they guaranteed themselves a tough schedule in 2011. That tough schedule is handing the Chiefs a stretch of games that will make or break their season.
The 4-4 record doesn't accurate tell the story of the Chiefs' season. After losing their first three games, Kansas City won four straight games before dropping a game at home to the winless Miami Dolphins. With eight games to go, the Chiefs are still alive in the West, but they have to come out of their next eight games with a winning record. That's not going to be easy.
Kansas City faces Denver, New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York Jets and Green Bay before closing the season out in the division against the Raiders and Broncos. That's a murderer's row of games.
18. Tennessee Titans
If I had told you nine weeks ago that the Tennessee Titans would be 4-4, you would have thought it was because of Chris Johnson or Kenny Britt. Neither player has been a factor as the Titans got off to a solid start this season.
Matt Hasselbeck has done a wonderful job distributing the football to role players who have stepped up in the loss of Britt and disappearance of Johnson. Guys like Craig Stevens and Lavelle Hawkins are making plays on offense while a no-name defense plays well enough to win games.
The Titans may not make the playoffs, but they are improved from their 2010 campaign, and that's something few expected.
17. San Diego Chargers
I was always told a D is good enough to pass, and a D+ is something to be proud of. The San Diego Chargers should not be proud.
Here is a roster with enough talent across the board to easily win the division. Hell, some were even picking San Diego to win a Super Bowl. Those people must have forgotten that Norv Turner is still coaching in San Diego.
The Chargers problems are multiple. The decision to let Darren Sproles leave in free agency looks hideous in hindsight and most of their recent draft picks have all failed to contribute up to expectations—even if Ryan Mathews is having a solid second-season.
For San Diego to win they need a new coach. I'm starting a "Hire Steve Mariucci" campaign.
16. Philadelphia Eagles
There is no other way to describe the Eagles 2011 season than "disappointing", unless you want to add a four-letter word in front of it.
The Eagles, despite the hyperbole filled nickname, were viewed as an elite contender before the season began. What we're finding out once again is that all-star building doesn't equal team building. The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots have won Super Bowls with limited stars on the roster, choosing instead to draft smart and take the right fliers on free agents. Philly tried to take a shortcut.
Someone has to be held responsible in Philadelphia for this mess—but it probably won't be the man who deserves it most. Andy Reid is untouchable, but all of his assistants should start looking for new jobs now.
15. Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys' 2011 season has been a confusing one. Some weeks they are great and look like playoff contenders, other weeks they look ready to fall apart. That's why a "C" is a fitting grade for the NFL's most maddening team.
Dallas has been just good enough to get four wins, but in the same note they're bad enough to have four losses. The playoffs are still a reality if Dallas can get hot (and healthy) down the stretch.
The team may have found a star in rookie running back DeMarco Murray. If they could reel in Dez Bryant's giant ego and get Miles Austin healthy, this offense could take off.
14. Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills may have dropped two straight games to New York teams, but they are still 5-3. And they're still right in the running for the AFC East crown after eight games.
The Bills have to be considered one of the best stories of the 2011 season. A team that picked No. 3 overall in the 2011 draft is now one of the toughest to beat each week. Credit Chan Gailey for turning the tide in Buffalo on the backs of underrated players named Fitzpatrick, Jackson and Wilson.
Even if the Bills fail to make the playoffs, this season has to be considered a huge success.
13. New York Jets
The New York Jets have Super Bowl expectations. If you grade their 2011 season thus far on those goals, they may fall short of the "B" I have given them. However, I didn't expect the Jets to make the playoffs this year, so I have to give them credit for playing above what I expected.
I'm still not sold on the legitimacy of the Jets over the long-haul. To win consistently over the next eight weeks will take better play than they had shown this season—and more like what they displayed this week against the Buffalo Bills.
The Jets have a great shot at the playoffs in the AFC East—currently ranked No. 2—but they have to find a pass rush if they want to beat the New England Patriots.
12. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are getting hot at the right time.
Jay Cutler looks to have a new best friend in Earl Bennett, a player with tons of potential who has struggled with injuries throughout his career. If the Bears can keep Bennett healthy and get a little more from Devin Hester and Johnny Knox, the offense could go places.
The Bears schedule doesn't help them. Games against Detroit and Green Bay will dictate whether or not this is another NFC Championship season or a let down—because anything less than another championship game appearance would be disappointing.
11. Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals are 6-2. Wait, that's not right.
THE CINCINNATI BENGALS ARE 6-2!!!
Really, let that sink in. This is a team that finished with the NFL's fourth worst record last year. Their head coach was potentially on his way out after another losing season, their Pro Bowl quarterback was sitting out at the threat of retiring and their best defensive player left for Houston in free agency.
How the hell are the Bengals winning? It's something new each week. The schedule hasn't been incredibly difficult, but Cincinnati is winning when it matters, and that's all you can ask. Rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have been exceptional and underrated offensive and defensive lines are proving to be the difference in close games.
A second half slow down could be expected once Cincinnati gets into their division schedule, but the fast start should be acknowledged and rewarded.
10. New England Patriots
I wanted to give the New England Patriots an "F" for their play over the last two weeks, but that wouldn't be fair to the other six weeks of play.
The Patriots are among the handful of teams we all expect to contend each year for a Super Bowl, but are these Patriots really that talented? I'm leaning toward saying "no".
Look at how New England has played against the three best teams they've faced (Buffalo, Pittsburgh, New York Giants) and you'll see a roster that has been exploited. In those three games Tom Brady has thrown six interceptions to eight touchdowns. That's not classic Tom Brady.
I'm not ready to say Brady is regressing, but the talent around him has. The team misses Dan Koppen at center and without a wide receiver other than Wes Welker the passing game is being controlled.
The Patriots can still win enough games to be a Super Bowl favorite, but I'm cooling on them quite a bit.
9. Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions were the popular choice as a playoff team before the season began. They've done nothing to lower those expectations.
With just two losses this season—both to Top 10 teams—the Lions are one of the NFL's elite teams. Credit quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is playing great football now that he's healthy, and the play of the entire defense. Ndamukong Suh will get his share of hype, but the other 10 players around him are playing out of their heads.
The Lions are talented enough to make a run in the playoffs, but they will have to do it as a wild-card team, and that means playing well on the road.
8. Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons Week 4 grade would have been an "F", but since limping to a 2-2 record, Atlanta has been on a hot streak. The team is 3-1 since then and has beat an elite team in the Detroit Lions. Surviving their schedule the rest of the way will be tough for this talented squad.
I had picked Atlanta as an NFC Championship game team before the season began—and I do think that's still possible—as the schedule is favorable for the Falcons down the stretch. If they can beat the New Orleans Saints in Weeks 10 and 16, the path to the NFC Championship game will stay in Atlanta.
The Falcons are playing good enough right now to make it happen, but they need bigger games from Matt Ryan if their playoff dreams are to come true.
7. New Orleans Saints
I toyed with adding a "+" or "-" to the New Orleans Saints' grade. The team has been brilliant at times this season, looking like an elite contender, but they've also dropped head-scratching (or head-bashing) games to the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
New Orleans may be a trendy pick as one of the few teams who could keep up with the Green Bay Packers in a shootout, but to get to the place for a second chance at the Packers they need better play from week-to-week from Drew Brees.
The Saints have all the talent to make a run—but they did last year too. As was the story in 2010, Brees has to be on his game and the defensive line has to get pressure. If they don't, this season will be a disappointment too.
6. Houston Texans
Before the 2011 season began—even before we knew that Peyton Manning would miss even one game—I picked the Houston Texans to win the AFC South. I'm happy to report they are living up to expectations.
Few teams could survive losing their best offensive and defensive player like the Texans have when Andre Johnson and Mario Williams went down, but a funny thing happened. Other players stepped up. Johnathan Joseph and Brian Cushing started carrying the defense. Ben Tate stepped up. Arian Foster became a receiving threat. The Texans became a team.
Momentum is a funny thing in the NFL. Gain it at the right time and you can go on a winning streak that defies odds. That's what we're seeing in Houston right now.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers could finish the season 13-3, but all that will matter is that two of those losses came against the Baltimore Ravens.
Pittsburgh lost a Week 1 blowout and a Week 9 fist-fight to their hated rivals, giving Baltimore a huge upper-hand in the AFC North race.
The season has been a success so far in Pittsburgh, but you can bet the sting of these two losses will be felt over the next eight weeks.
4. New York Giants
Wins over the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills have kept the New York Giants status up all season long. Overlooked in the preseason, these Giants are for real.
Early season losses to the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks are now distant memories as the Giants prepare to take the top spot in the NFC East. Strong play by Eli Manning, in spite of a bad offensive line and injured stars on offense, has New York looking like a contender in the NFC.
3. Baltimore Ravens
Look around the AFC today—who is the best team?
I'll take the Baltimore Ravens. Playing on the road against their hated rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore put together a 92-yard drive to win the game, solidifying their status as the best of the AFC.
Baltimore has a defense good enough to play with any offense in the league. A potential meeting between the Ravens defense and Green Bay Packer offense is almost too good to be true—but it's looking more and more possible as Baltimore and Green Bay continue to win.
2. San Francisco 49ers
When the San Francisco 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh, the fanbase rejoiced. As happy as they were when Harbaugh was introduced, no one expected a 7-1 start.
Harbaugh is winning by trusting Alex Smith, and getting the production out of him that several offensive coordinators over the last seven years couldn't. Smith has been reborn under Harbaugh and the record shows that.
Smith has been good, but the real spotlight should shine on Frank Gore and the defense. Gore has ripped off five straight 100 yard games, which allows the NFL's best defense a nice cushion to work with.
The 49ers seem like a favorite for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. That means playoff football in Candlestick for the first time since 2002.
1. Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers were expected to be good—but maybe not this good.
The NFL's only undefeated team, the Packers are winning each week in impressive fashion with an offense that has been unstoppable all season long.
If there is a weakness here, it's the Packer defense. While playing with leads in every game, Green Bay has allowed too many yards and too many points, but they are still winning. The team may not have great defensive stats, but when it matters most they find a way to come up with a big turnover.
Green Bay is my pick to win the Super Bowl, which should be no surprise.