NFL Power Rankings Week 6: Ravens Hold Steady, Texans Tumble, Raiders Rise
Yes, it's a long season. But one Sunday certainly can tell us a lot about any team in the NFL.
Most of this weekend's games were dogs: but the Vikings and Jets put on a far better show than most of their counterparts did yesterday.
Without an undefeated team left in the NFL, the talking heads are complaining about a lack of excellence on the field. A few years ago that "parity" was being praised. Snap judgments are what the media is best at.
So here are a few more.
No. 32: Buffalo Bills (0-5): Earning the number one overall draft pick is not going to make this team that much better.
No. 31: Carolina Panthers (0-5): There are so many holes on this team's roster that it would be injustice to fire John Fox.
No. 30: San Francisco 49ers (0-5): Give Mike Singletary and Alex Smith credit for fighting all the way to the end; they showed signs of a promising turnaround.
No. 29: Cleveland Browns (1-4): The Browns have led in the second half of every game they've played: without a quarterback, that streak end next week at Pittsburgh.
No. 28: Detroit Lions (1-4): This year's first rounder, Ndomekong Suh, looked great in the win over St. Louis; now they need to see more of last year's first round selection, quarterback Matthew Stafford.
No. 27: Cincinnati Bengals (2-3): Carson Palmer made some awful decisions and worse throws in the stunning home loss to Tampa Bay.
No. 26: Dallas Cowboys (1-3): The record is a nightmare for the ownership and Wade Phillips but they are still better than they've looked.
No. 25: San Diego Chargers (2-3): The special teams mistakes ruined another brilliant day by Philip Rivers.
No. 24: Seattle Seahawks (2-2): Hopefully, that offense will improve when Marshawn Lynch is ready to play.
No. 23: St. Louis Rams (2-3): Mark Clayton meant a lot to that team and it showed on Sunday.
No. 22: Oakland Raiders (2-3): Shaking off injuries to Darren McFadden and Bruce Gradkowski, the Raiders performed a small miracle, breaking their 13-game losing streak to San Diego.
No. 21: Minnesota Vikings (1-3): They'll deserve to be on the fringe of the playoff picture based solely on their great defense and the glimpse of excellence Brett Favre gave in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Jets.
No. 20: Denver Broncos (2-3)
They earned a tough break having to travel to Baltimore this week.
But they would have put up a better fight against the Ravens if they had some semblance of a ground game.
Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd may earn spots in the Pro Bowl, but at this pace, the Broncos are headed for a sub-.500 season.
Next Week: Home vs. New York Jets
No. 19: Miami Dolphins (2-2)
They needed a bye after the whopping they received courtesy of the Patriots.
But even without Miami's special teams mistakes, Chad Henne did not look very sharp. And the Wildcat has yet to produce the big plays it once did.
There is loads of talent in the passing game--Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano--so they can still score points. Henne's growth should be interesting to watch in the next few weeks.
Next Week: At Green Bay
No. 18: Tampa Bay Buccanneers (3-1)
The win at Cincinnati was a big deal but the Bengals gift-wrapped the game for them.
Raheem Morris has done a great job and Josh Freeman is a quick study but if they really want to convince people they need to beat a quality opponent. They'll get their chance this Sunday.
Next Week: Vs. New Orleans
No. 17: Kansas City Chiefs (3-1)
On the surface, the nine points scored against Indianapolis in Sunday's loss doesn't constitute a terrible showing.The Colts have been one of the league's premier teams for a decade, they're the defending conference champions, and the game was in Indianapolis.
But if you watched the game, you'd know that the Colts let the Chiefs back in the game several times.
Dwayne Bowe's dropped touchdown was bad. Only scoring 9 points when Peyton Manning has one of his worst days in recent memory, that's a real shame.
Next Week: At Houston
No. 16: Houston Texas (3-2)
How the mighty have fallen!
Technically, the Texans are in first place in the AFC South because of their win over Indianapolis and because they're conference record is better than Jacksonville's. But of all the teams in the division they are playing the worst football right now.
Forget the offensive woes against the Giants. The defense let them down this week. Eli Manning had all day to throw and wasn't sacked once. Maybe Brian Cushing's return caused a few growing pains.
Next Week: Vs. Kansas City
No. 15: New Orleans Saints (3-2)
Losers of two of their last three, the World Champions problems have finally caught up with them.
Drew Brees is a great passer with more receiving options than anyone else in the league. But you still have to run the ball some to win in the NFL. Their 75.6 yards per game is second worst in the NFL.
The defense has done a pretty good job in the last few weeks but they won't face rookie quarterbacks like Jimmy Clausen and Max Hall every week of the season.
Next Week: At Tampa Bay
No. 14: Indianapolis Colts (3-2)
Just like their Super Bowl XLIV opponents the Colts are taking on water. And just like the Saints, no running game is the main reason why, at least on offense.
Peyton Manning looked very frustrated on Sunday against Kansas City; playing without his two top running backs, Joseph Addai and Donald Brown will do that.
The Colts defense bailed them out in the second half, allowing field goal attempts instead of touchdowns, but the Chiefs routinely shot themselves in the foot. And their 29th ranked run defense will pose a major problem with Chris Johnson, Arian Foster and Maurice Jones-Drew still on the schedule.
Next Week: At Washington
No. 13: Green Bay Packers (3-2)
In terms of their performance thus far, the Packers deserve to be higher than 13.
But because of the major question marks surrounding Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finely, Donald Lee, Nick Barnett and Clay Matthews, the future is very dicey.
Matthews had been giving the Packers a pass-rushing threat unlike any they've had in years. If he were to miss games because of his hamstring injury, that would make it much harder for Charles Woodson to create turnovers and defensive touchdowns: Matthews pressure forces bad decisions.
As soon as their injured starters heel up, the Pack is once again a threat to win the NFC North. Until then, their is too much uncertainty to declare them the favorite.
Next Game: Vs. Miami
No. 12: Arizona Cardinals (3-2)
The Cardinals pulled off the biggest shocker of Week Five.
With a rookie quarterback who failed to produce a rushing or passing touchdown, the Cardinals defense would have to play exceptional to upset the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
And they did. Forget the fact that they allowed 358 yards: they produced four turnovers and limited the Saints great offense to just a single score in the second half.
Ken Wisenhunt has done a great job this season and that was proven on Sunday.
No 11: Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
Kevin Kolb played very well in his second go-round as the Eagles starter and the offense made plenty of plays, enough to win the game.
But the Eagles failed to shut the door on San Francisco last night. They completely outplayed them yet the game came down to the final seconds.
Against an embattled Head Coach and a quarterback who is being booed so loud he can barely hear the radio receiver in his helmet, the Eagles defense fell apart in the last few minutes. They didn't put any pressure on Alex Smith and they didn't protect the middle of the field.
Next Week: Vs. Atlanta
No. 10: Washington Redskins (3-2)
The scrappy Redskins surprising 3-2 start has to make Mike Shanahan the front runner for Coach of the Year honors.
He's found new players that fit in quickly (Ryan Torain and Anthony Armstrong) to go with old hats like Donovan McNabb and Santana Moss.
And although the defense has been fortunate to play teams that endured key injuries (the Eagles, the Packers) Washington has been clutch in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.
Next Week: Vs. Indianapolis
No. 9: Chicago Bears (4-1)
They got back on track by crushing the undermanned Carolina Panthers.
The offensive line and Matt Forte really stepped up huge while Jay Cutler was sidelined because of his concussion.
So pencil the Bears in as having the inside track on the NFC North race. But weren't we praising the Bears offense a month ago for their great play only to see them play horrendous against the Giants?
Next Week: Vs. Seattle
No. 8: Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2)
Only a slow start and a meaningless late touchdown prevented the Jaguars from posting a really impressive final score in their win over Buffalo.
The Jaguars defense was very pretty solid against the Bills, and David Garrard continues to amaze with his accuracy.
With Garrard's mobility, Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcades Lewis emerging as a good pass catcher, Jacksonville might have the best red-zone and goal line offense in the NFL. That is a powerful tool.
Next Week: Vs. Tennessee
No. 7: Tennessee Titans (3-2)
Despite allowing 27 points to the Cowboys and letting Tony Romo top the 400-yard mark, the Titans defense was excellent on Sunday.
When they needed to stop Dallas they did.
And if Vince Young can throw the ball with the accuracy he showed last week, than Chris Johnson will be even more effective and the Titans can contend for the AFC South.
Next Week: At Jacksonville
No. 6: New York Giants (3-2)
Don't sleep on the Giants.
After a woeful stretch early in the season, they have recovered.By traveling to Houston and dominating the supposedly potent Texan offense they atoned for poor efforts against Indianapolis and Tennessee.
And with Eli Manning building a great chemistry with Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, the Giants passing offense is becoming more and more reliable.
And since they still have all six of their games with the NFC East, they can still run away with this division.
Next Week: Vs. Detroit
No. 5: Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)
Getting Ben Roethlisberger back is obviously a game-changer for the Steelers.
But it's unlikely that he'll seamlessly move into Week Six and cure all of the passing game's woes. His timing--especially on the deep pass to Mike Wallace--might suffer early on. If that is the case, Rashard Mendenhall is going to have to continue to be a Pro Bowl-type back.
Apart from a few breakdowns in the secondary at the end of the loss to Baltimore, the defense has been near-flawless this season. If they stay healthy, they can expect a home playoff game.
Next Week: Vs. Cleveland
No. 4: New England Patriots (3-1)
Trading Randy Moss away would seem to be a significant loss for the Patriots. But Moss had not produced very much this season (he only had 9 catches).
Wes Welker will pick up the slack, and Brandon Tate is big enough to fill the spot vacated by Moss. And since Tom Brady won three Super Bowls without Moss--or any star receiver--the Pats offense shouldn't miss a beat.
The Patriots defense has shown a few weakness this season so that is the only thing that could keep them from winning the AFC East.....that and the Jets.
Next Week: Vs. Baltimore
No. 3: Atlanta Falcons (4-1)
The mark of a good team is being able to play poorly and still win.The Falcons did as much in their 20-10 victory over the Browns.
Cleveland is a much better team than their record indicates and playing in front of the Dawg Pound isn't easy.
The Browns took an early third quarter lead and looked to be in control of the game. When it came down to crunch time, however, the Falcons delivered.
Matt Ryan made a great throw to Roddy White for the go-ahead touchdown and Kroy Biermann's tremendously athletic interception/touchdown sealed it. That type of clutch play making is what earns teams division titles.
Next Week: At Philadelphia
No. 2: New York Jets (4-1)
Monday night's win against Minnesota was a great measuring stick for the Jets.
The offense played very well only to struggle in and around the red zone. They really mismanaged the clock at the end of the game. And they let Vikings receivers slip through coverage a few times in key moments.
But with their backs against the wall, they put mounds of pressure on Brett Favre at the end of the game and were able to force the critical turnover.
Next Week: At Denver
No. 1: Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
In the past two weeks Joe Flacco and Ray Rice have looked like All Pros.
With that defense the Ravens look unstoppable at this point.
But it's still early and their schedule is as difficult as any in the conference.
Don't punch their ticket to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV anytime soon.
Next Week: At New England