Another week, another set of NFL Power Rankings.
This time around, tiebreakers will be based on another subjective metric: Quality of the team’s fans. How is “quality” defined? Well, I’ll be giving the edge to teams whose fans are more measured than reactionary, fans who are more willing to be positive about their team than negative.
We all know a true fan can be honest about the team regardless of whether they played perfectly or poorly. It will translate into a higher ranking here.
Of course, the primary placement indicator will be past performance. Let’s get to it, starting with everyone’s favorite doormats…
With Miami getting their first win at the expense of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Indianapolis Colts are the last winless team in the NFL.
Peyton Manning could only watch as the Colts yet again wound up in the loss column, this week getting pasted 31-7 by the Atlanta Falcons. The Colts only managed 186 yards offensively, with their only touchdown resulting from a pick six. Curtis Painter only threw for 98 yards on 13-of-27 passing and was replaced by Dan Orlovsky late in the fourth quarter.
Jim Caldwell can do little to stop this train wreck of a team. Colts fans have already taken to wearing Andrew Luck jerseys at home games, with next season all they have to hope for.
It has been coming for weeks, but finally, the Miami Dolphins managed to get a win. They did so against a Kansas City Chief side fresh of an emotional 23-20 overtime win over San Diego.
Matt Moore led the Fins to a 31-3 win with an outstanding 244 yards and three touchdowns on 17-of-23 passing. Reggie Bush had a respectable day on the ground, rushing for 92 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Despite allowing 343 total yards, the Dolphins defense stopped the Chiefs when it counted, holding the home team without a touchdown.
Once neck and neck with the Indianapolis Colts for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, Miami took a huge step back with their first win. Fans can only hope they get back to their losing ways soon, or Indy will become uncatchable.
The St. Louis Rams did little to distinguish themselves Sunday, losing 19-13 to the Arizona Cardinals in overtime in a game decided by Patrick Peterson’s 99-yard punt return for a touchdown.
It was an odd game scoring-wise for the Rams, with the offense failing to record a touchdown as the defense posted a pair of safeties. Sam Bradford had a mediocre day at QB, going 23-of-36 for 255 yards and an interception. Steven Jackson had another 100-yard rushing game, leading all players with 130 yards on the ground.
For most of the game, St. Louis outplayed the homesteading Cardinals, but Arizona came up big in the clutch to seal the win. Rams fans have a beatable Cleveland team to look forward to next week.
It took a 13-yard TD pass from back-up John Skelton to Larry Fitzgerald with just under five minutes left in regulation to force overtime against the St. Louis Rams, setting the table for a 19-13 Arizona Cardinal win.
In for the banged up Kevin Kolb, Skelton did little of note before completing the game’s first touchdown late in the fourth. The two-year man out of Fordham finished with 222 yards through the air, and surprisingly led his team in rushing with 38 yards on four carries. Unfortunately, that speaks more to the Cardinals’ inability to run the ball more than it compliments Skelton.
Arizona looked off for most of the game, but finally pulled it together when they needed to. Patrick Peterson’s game-winning 99-yard punt return effectively bailed out a Cardinal squad that could have easily handed St. Louis its second win of the season. With Philadelphia on the docket, things won’t get any easier for fans hoping for a better second half.
It was a game of two halves for Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday. The Seahawks went into halftime deadlocked with the Boys 6-6 before Dallas outscored them 17-7 in the second half.
QB Tavaris Jackson threw three interceptions on three second-half drives, two of which came as the Seahawks were trying to fight their way back. Apart from his three picks, Jackson finished with 221 yards and no touchdowns on 17-of-30 passing.
As we’ve come to expect, Marshawn Lynch carried the offense with 135 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, averaging about six yards per touch. Although his TD came when the game was out of reach, Lynch was the lone bright spot in an offense lacking an edge.
Seattle will host Baltimore next week, which should bring the fans out in hopes of an upset. With the Ravens coming off a huge win over a much tougher Steelers squad, I wouldn’t bet on it.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were idle in Week 9, having lost 24-14 to the Houston Texans in Week 8.
With rookie Blaine Gabbert still under center, don’t look for the Jags poor offense to improve anytime soon. RB Maurice Jones-Drew cannot do it all himself, and Gabbert is still learning how to play at this level. While he’s shown flashes of stellar play, ultimately, fans will continue to scratch their heads over the late release of David Garrard shortly before the season began.
Jacksonville gets the Indianapolis Colts off their bye, which can cure many of their ills. Look for an impassioned Colts team to bring everything they have for one of their few winnable games of the season.
The Jags get a narrow nod over the Seahawks due to their fair fan support in one of the nation’s smallest markets.
After taking the week off to stew over their heartbreaking 24-21 loss against Minnesota, the Carolina Panthers have division rival Tennessee next week to vent their frustration upon.
Cam Newton has continued to build in his Rookie of the Year campaign with almost 2,400 yards passing through eight games. Newton threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns against a poor Viking pass defense, but was deprived of a chance to win it in overtime by an Olindo Mare missed field goal.
Steve Smith has put in solid performances week after week, recently catching seven passes for 100 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings.
If Carolina can continue to improve around their star rookie quarterback, they’ll be a team no contender wants to play by season’s end.
24-21 winners over the Panthers at Carolina, the Minnesota Vikings were also on a bye this week as they gear up for a rematch against the Green Bay Packers next Monday night.
Last time the two sides met, rookie QB Christian Ponder kept the Vikings in the game, throwing for 219 yards and two touchdowns. The young man did have two picks, but for the most part, proved to be a dramatic upgrade over Donovan McNabb.
Still, the offense begins and ends with the success of Adrian Peterson. If Peterson cannot run the football well against teams, Minnesota doesn’t have enough experience to compensate through the air. Currently, the former Sooner averages 99.8 yards per game, third best in the league.
While Green Bay is notorious for giving up yards through the air (299.6 yards per game), the Vikings rank just in front of them with 273.6. It was an aerial assault for four quarters the last time these two teams met, but look for cold Lambeau conditions to hamper the Vikings slightly.
For a team that has such high hopes at the start of the season, the Washington Redskins have yet to live up to their boasts.
The Redskins have lost four in a row, with the switch at QB from Rex Grossman to John Back having had little noticeable effect on Washington’s fortunes. Beck went 30-of-47 for 254 yards, one touchdown and one interception during the Skins’ 19-11 loss to San Francisco.
The running game has been next to non-existent for the Redskins since Tim Hightower went down. Roy Helu seems unequal to the task, gaining on 41 yards on 10 carries against the 49ers.
Washington is stuck in a tough position offensively with no way to pass or run the ball effectively. Their defense has been opportunistic, but in a division as close as the NFC East, that simply won’t cut it.
Luckily, Washington heads to Miami next week in a game that could snap their losing streak. However, Matt Moore and the Dolphins are unlikely to roll over at home after tasting victory for the first time this season.
The Denver Broncos won convincingly over the Oakland Raiders 38-24 in Oakland, but more importantly, Tim Tebow mania lives on.
After a disastrous performance against Detroit in Week 8, Tebow was likely one bad loss from getting pulled, but a win over a division rival affords him another start. Tebow played much like he did in college, relying on zone reads and his feet to carry the Broncos rather than his arm.
Tebow threw for 124 yards and two touchdowns, but kept the defense guessing with 118 yards on the ground. Looking far more comfortable in an offense similar to the one he ran at Florida, Tebow managed the game effectively and didn’t make too many mistakes.
While Tebow grabbed the headlines, it was the work of Willis McGahee that was most responsible for the Broncos’ upset win. McGahee ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, scoring on long runs of 60 and 24 yards.
Perhaps Denver has found a potent duo in Tebow and McGahee in the backfield. Fans who have been screaming all year for Tebow to start now have serious argumentative ammunition. A proven winner in college, Tebow’s next challenge will be Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Cleveland Browns went down early to the red-hot Houston Texans this week and never could get back up. The Texans buried Cleveland 30-12 after taking a 24-3 halftime lead.
Houston’s running game proved to be the Browns’ downfall. Cleveland allowed 261 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, failing to hold either Arian Foster or Ben Tate under 100 yards.
It was an offensive struggle all day for the visitors, as Cleveland only mustered 172 yards of total offense. QB Colt McCoy was lackluster, completing 14 passes for 146 yards with a touchdown and interception. The running game was even worse, gaining only 44 yards on 21 carries as a unit.
Fortunately, the Rams await next week, which should put the Browns back in the win column, satisfying (at least temporarily) rabid Cleveland supporters. Dawg Pound denizens can’t wait.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were another team that fell behind early in Week 9, but in contrast to the Browns, they actually fought back. While the Bucs eventually lost to the New Orleans Saints, 27-16, they at least made a game of it after going being down 17-3 at halftime.
The Bucs failed to stop a Saints side still recovering from a humiliating 31-21 loss to the then-winless St. Louis Rams. In ceding 453 total yards to the offense, the Tampa Bay defense gave away any chance for their offense the stay in the game.
TB QB Josh Freeman threw for 281 yards and a touchdown, but his score came late in the fourth. LeGarrette Blount managed 72 yards on the ground, but was held scoreless.
Coming up, the Houston Texans look to punish the Bucs even more next week. The defense will need to improve if they intend to get a win in front of the home crowd at Raymond James Stadium.
Usually a solid home team, there can be no denying that the Kansas City Chiefs laid an egg at Arrowhead in Week 9. Their 31-3 humbling by the winless Miami Dolphins drops them a few spots after an inspired Monday night win over the San Diego Chargers.
Despite gaining a respectable 343 yards of total offense, the Chiefs were stunningly ineffective on third down, going 8-of-20 in those situations. Matt Cassel didn’t have a banner day, throwing for 253 yards and no touchdowns, but he’s had worse outings. He got no help from his defense, which saw Miami’s offense finally start clicking, putting up 31 points on the stunned Chiefs secondary.
Though both San Diego and Oakland lost to make this week a wash atop the AFC West, Kansas City will need to find their defensive toughness quickly. Denver is coming to town next week, and if they’re not careful, Tim Tebow and Co. will run all over them like they did Oakland.
After a much needed bye week, it’s safe to say QB Carson Palmer knew more than 15 plays entering what looked like an easy win over the Denver Broncos. While he had two touchdown passes early to put the Oakland Raiders up 17-7 at halftime, Denver outscored them 31-7 in the second half en route to a 38-24 win.
Suddenly, the Raider defense couldn’t figure out Tim Tebow and his zone reads, faking a-la the pistol offense for huge gains on the ground. Willis McGahee closed the third quarter with a beautiful 60-yard TD scamper, and did so again from 24 yards out to seal the win in the fourth. Oakland’s special teams also broke down in the second half, allowing an 85-yard punt return touchdown by Eddie Royal, who also caught a Tebow TD.
It was a lousy second half of football by all those wearing black, and Raiders fans expect more. Oakland has an incredibly short week, playing the Chargers Thursday for poll position in the AFC West. With three teams at 4-4, a win at Qualcomm could prove very valuable.
The Tennessee Titans were 24-17 losers at home to the Cincinnati Bengals after being held scoreless in the second half.
The Titans took a 17-7 lead into intermission, but could muster nothing against a Bengals defense that finally refocused during the break. Matt Hasselbeck tossed two TD passes late in the second quarter, but was out-dueled in the second half by rookie Andy Dalton.
Chris Johnson had another mediocre day, rushing for 64 yards on 14 carries, which isn’t that bad considering he’s done worse against worse run defenses. Remember his 34 yards against the Colts last week?
Overall, the Titans didn’t play all that poorly; they just needed to complete the game. The Carolina Panthers should prove to be another offensive test next week as Tennessee hits the road.
DeMarco Murray rebounded from a mortal game against Philadelphia in Week 8 to help balance the Dallas Cowboys offense in Week 9 against the Seattle Seahawks. Murray gained 139 yards on 22 carries to pace Dallas to 23-13 win.
While the running game was excellent, the Cowboys did most of their scoring damage through the air. Tony Romo tossed two TDs on 19-of-31 passing, finishing with 279 yards through the air. Jason Whitten and Dez Bryant both went over 70 yards receiving, with Whitten scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.
Dallas responded as a team after being stomped 34-7 by the Eagles, and host Buffalo next week. They’ll need to keep their defensive intensity if Fred Jackson is to be stopped.
Dueling the champs has proven difficult for any team this year, and for San Diego, it was no different. The Chargers gave Green Bay all it could handle late, but Philip Rivers threw a pick late on what would have been the tying drive, ultimately losing 45-38 at home.
Give San Diego credit for not folding after Aaron Rodgers threw his fourth touchdown pass to put the Pack up 45-24 with just over 10 minutes to play. Rivers led his Chargers back with a pair of TD tosses, but it was his turnover again in crunch time fans will remember. The San Diego star man finished with 385 yards and four touchdowns, but tempered that success with a trio of costly picks.
The Chargers outgained Green Bay by almost 100 yards offensively, yet were saddled with the loss. Now tied atop the AFC West with Kansas City and Oakland at 4-4, their game against the Raiders next week looms large.
Philadelphia lost a hotly contested Monday night match to Chicago, 30-24, after being up 24-17 late in the third quarter. While the offense echoed their Week 8 form at times, the Eagles were held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
While his stats don’t really reflect it, LeSean McCoy had another outstanding game on the ground, showcasing quick cuts and bursts of speed that fooled even veteran Brian Urlacher. McCoy scored Philly’s last touchdown, a speedy 33-yard run that left the Bears in the dust. He finished with 71 yards and that touchdown on 16 carries.
Michael Vick was under pressure all night and never found his rhythm, throwing for 213 yards and no touchdowns. After beating the Cowboys so soundly, the Eagles fall a game behind them in NFC East, with Arizona to come next week. They get my nod at 15 due to their record not reflecting the good form they have been in lately.
The Buffalo Bills feel-good story took a darker turn against the New York Jets in Week 9, losing 27-11 in a game they were never really in.
Famous for their manic comebacks, the Bills stayed down after falling behind 20-3 by the end of the third. Both Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick were useless against a Jets defense that re-discovered their swagger. Jackson, who came in averaging over 100 yards per game on the ground, finished with 82 yards on 18 carries and no touchdowns.
Fitzpatrick’s late TD throw and two-point conversion late in the fourth only served to narrow the margin of defeat. The Harvard man’s 191 passing yards and two interceptions were a fairer reflection of his day.
The Bills are still in contention in the AFC East with the Jets and Patriots also at 5-3, but they’ll be tested by Dallas on the road in Week 10. The lovable, honest Bills fans push Buffalo up a few spots here.
A slow start and two Matt Forte fumbles seemed to spell doom for the Chicago Bears on Monday night, but luckily, the defense turned up the pressure in the final quarter, allowing the visitors to handle Philadelphia, 30-24, on the road.
Despite facing frequent pressure, Jay Cutler finished with 208 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-32 passing. His offensive line is not the one that committed false start after false start against Detroit, but neither are they great yet. Despite his two fumbles, Forte did all he could against a steely Eagles front seven, rushing for 133 yards on 24 carries and no touchdowns.
Once left for dead, the Bears are slowly creeping up on Detroit for second place in the NFC North. Their battle with the Lions for a possible Wild Card will be one of the more intriguing playoff races as the season progresses.
Like all teams facing the shambolic Indianapolis Colts, the Atlanta Falcons doled out their 31-7 beating with a sheepish look on their faces. It was almost as if they couldn't help but win, handing the Colts their ninth consecutive loss.
The game was well in hand after Matt Ryan completed an 80-yard bomb to the now healthy Julio Jones to put Atlanta up 21-0 with 11:55 to go in the first half. While Ryan did throw a pick six, he had an otherwise respectable outing, finishing with 275 yards and three touchdowns. Jones looked fully recovered from his injury, posting 131 yards receiving on just three catches.
The Falcons will face decidedly more difficult opposition when they head home to host the New Orleans Saints next week. Atlanta could take the NFC South lead with a win, but expect the Saints to put up a fight.
Who would have predicted that the Cincinnati Bengals, with an untested rookie under center, would be tied for the AFC North lead after eight games? Anyone?
The Bengals defense locked down the Tennessee Titans offense in the final quarter to earn their fifth straight win 24-17. Andy Dalton capped a 13 play, 78-yard drive with a 5-yard pass to Andre Caldwell for the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter, giving the Bengals a lead they never surrendered. Dalton finished with 217 yards and three touchdown passes on 22-of-39 passing.
Beating a decent Titan side gives Cincy momentum going into a huge game against Pittsburgh in Week 10. The Steelers, fresh off a heartbreaking loss to the rival Ravens, will be looking to get back into the division race with a win.
The New York Jets pummeled the Buffalo Bills for their latest win, earning a 27-11 win after shutting down most of Buffalo’s offensive weapons.
The Jets were ferocious against the run, holding Fred Jackson to under his accustomed 100 yards and picking off Ryan Fitzpatrick twice. They held Buffalo to just 287 total yards offensively, and only allowed a touchdown when the result was no longer in doubt.
Offensively, New York rediscovered what they’re best at: running the football. Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight combined for 103 yards on the ground, keeping the pressure off Mark Sanchez to make plays. Sanchez took a back seat to the run, managing the game with 230 yards and a touchdown despite getting picked off once.
Up next, the Jets host the hated New England Patriots in a game that could give them the division lead. After losing a hotly contested match against the Pats in Week 5, don’t expect New York to cede the season series easily.
Just edging the New York Jets by the fan quality metric are the New England Patriots, 24-20 losers in to the New York Giants in a rematch of the 2007 Super Bowl. It was the first time the two teams had met for a meaningful game, and it ended just about the same.
After a scoreless first half, the two teams entered the fourth tied at 10. Tom Brady capped one of his trademark late scoring drives with a 14-yard strike to Rob Gronkowski to put New England up 20-17 with 1:36 remaining. Unfortunately for Pats fans, Brady could only watch as history repeated itself, with Eli Manning marching the Giants down the field for the go-ahead score.
While not as better as the Super Bowl loss that spoiled their perfect 19-0 season, New England finds itself in a three-way tie for first in the AFC East. With a tough road game against the rival New York Jets to come, it remains to be seen if Brady and Co. can hold their lead atop the division.
Idle in Week 9, the Detroit Lions will now have to watch their back.
Now seen universally as the league’s bad boys after mocking the Denver Broncos at every chance during their 45-10 romp, the Lions now have a surging Bears team challenging their second-place spot in the NFC North.
Much will be settled after Detroit takes Solider Field in Week 10 in an effort to take the season series against Chicago. The Bears (and the elements) will be waiting to redeem themselves after a shameful Monday night performance against the Lions.
If the Lions cannot run the ball successfully, look for the homesteading Bears to edge the Lions in a close, physical game.
Favorites to win the AFC South for the first time in their history, the Houston Texans moved a step closer to that goal with a 30-12 dismissal of the Cleveland Browns in Week 9.
QB Matt Schaub had an off day, but was picked up and then some by Houston’s dynamic running back duo. Arian Foster and Ben Tate both broke the 100-yard mark, with each man rushing for a touchdown. Schaub even got in on the ground action, scoring his only TD with his feet.
Houston is in sole possession of first place in a weak division, making their chances of making the playoffs for the first time ever more and more likely. They should have little problem with Tampa Bay next week.
27-16 winners over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints remain the class of the NFC South.
Drew Brees did most of his damage in the first half, tossing his two touchdown passes before being held in check the rest of the game. Despite his struggles late, the Saints talisman finished with a mortal 258 yards on 27-36 completions. Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles ran by committee against the Bucs, combining for 175 yards and a touchdown.
The Saints march on to the Georgia Dome in Week 10, where the Atlanta Falcons hope to gain some ground in the division. While they will meet again in Week 16, this match will set the tone for the NFC South crown.
It was a man’s game in Pittsburgh Sunday, with the NFL’s best rivalry resuming for its second act. While it wasn’t the 35-7 beatdown they suffered in Week 1, the Pittsburgh Steelers came out losers to the Baltimore Ravens yet again, 23-20.
It looked as if Big Ben Roethlisberger had won it for the home team after he found Mike Wallace in the end-zone from 25 yards out. At that point, the Steelers were up 20-16, but the Ravens would not be denied. Joe Flacco drove Baltimore 92 yards for the game-winning score with eight second left to play, breaking Steeler Nation’s heart all over again.
Still, it’s easy to say that Pittsburgh is in a much better place than the last time these two teams met. They will put that new-found optimism to the test when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10.
Finally, the Baltimore Ravens have taken the regular season series against Pittsburgh, sweeping away the Steelers, 23-20, in an electric game Sunday Night.
Joe Flacco had perhaps the drive of his career in the game’s dying embers, leading his offense 92 yards down the field to set up a stunning 26-yard dime to Torrey Smith in for the winning score. Flacco had been let down by his receivers (including Smith) multiple times during the drive, but finally succeeded as the clock ran down.
It seems the Ravens Hall-of-Fame filled defense finally has a quarterback they can rely on to win close games.
With the Steelers dealt with, Baltimore heads to an almost certain win against the Seattle Seahawks. They had best keep their focus if they want to avoid the kind of letdown they suffered against Jacksonville.
In a fantastic reprise of their 2007 Super Bowl win, Eli Manning and the New York Giants bested the New England Patriots yet again, 24-20.
Manning was brilliant late the second half, completing his only two TD passes when his team needed him the most. His one-yard touchdown toss to Jake Ballard could not have been placed any better. The younger Manning finished with 250 yards on 20-of-39 passing, but threw an interception.
It seems Tom Brady will never be rid of the Manning brothers, with Eli continuing to torment him in the absence of Peyton. As for the Giants, they continue their brutal schedule with a trip to…
The San Francisco 49ers let their defense rule the day with a scrappy 19-11 win over the Washington Redskins in Landover.
Once again, Alex Smith managed the game well enough for a win, completing 17 of his 24 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. Frank Gore did not disappoint on the ground, racking up 107 yards on 19 carries, but was kept out of the end-zone.
Credit should go to the 49er defense, which kept the Skins from developing much offensively. Patrick Willis alone forced a pair of fumbles and finished with 13 tackles, while the defense collectively caused three turnovers.
They’ll be put to the test in Week 10 when the New York Giants come to town. The G-Men are fresh off their win over New England and are in their best form of the season.
Once again, it’s the defending, undefeated champs that occupy the ranking’s top spot.
The Green Bay Packers were tested against a decent San Diego Charger team, but Aaron Rodgers made enough touchdown throws, and the passing defense made just enough interceptions to hold off San Diego, 45-38.
Rodgers turned in another stellar performance, netting 247 yards and four touchdowns on a hyper-efficient 21-of-26 passing. He remains the front runner for MVP.
With their dedicated legion of fans and the fact that they are still the only major publicly owned sports franchise in America, Green Bay easily makes the top of this list. The Pack hosts Minnesota next week.