NFL Power Rankings Week 9: Which Teams Are Better Than Their Current Spot?
NFL Power Rankings Week 9 were contentious to say the least.
Power rankings are a lot like the Heisman Trophy or MVP award: the actual definition of the term is open to interpretation. Is the MVP the most VALUABLE player to his team, or the BEST player in the league? Same goes for the Heisman.
Similarly, should power rankings reflect how well a team is currently player or how good the team is despite a recent loss or less-than stellar play? Or should they reflect the team's Super Bowl potential?
Inside are ten teams that deserve to be ranked higher....depending of course on how your definition of the ambiguous term "power rankings."
No. 10: Buffalo Bills
Current Rank: 32nd
Current Record: 0-7
Why They're Better Than The Rank: Buffalo might be winless, but, aside from a trip to Lambeau Field and a home game against the Jets, they've been in just about every game they've played. And they have pushed three current division leaders (Kansas City, New England, and Baltimore) to the brink in the past month and a half.
Why They Can Jump This Week: Well, there's no where to go but up. But they also host a pretty mediocre Chicago team. The Bears defense is still very solid, which means Ryan Fitzpatrick might remain under wraps for a second consecutive week.
But the Bills defense is sixth in the NFL in passing. The rush defense is worst in the league, but because Mike Martz hasn't used Matt Forte very much this year (just 12.8 carries per game) the Bills might catch a break there.
Predicted Rank: The Bills are not the worst team in football. 28th.
No. 9: Detroit Lions
Current Rank: 23rd
Current Record: 2-5
Why They're Better Than The Rank: In the past month, the Lions have outscored their opponents 126-87. Yes, they're just 2-2 during that stretch, but it's still a pretty great accomplishment for a team that is very young and has been very bad for an entire decade. And now that they have Matthew Stafford back, they are at full strength and will be a major spoiler in the second half.
Why They Can Jump This Week: The Jets looked pretty vulnerable last week at home against the Packers. On Sunday the Lions host New York and even if they don't come away with a win, they can continue to impress the rest of the league if they put up a good fight. And if they do manage to win--which isn't completely as ridiculous as it was a month ago--the Lions would leap at least a half-dozen spots in the rankings.
Predicted Rank: They'll push the Jets, but come up short; still they should climb a few spots. 21st.
No. 8: San Diego Chargers
Current Rank: 22nd
Current Record: 3-5
Why They're Better Than The Rank: When a team has a pass catching combination as awesome as Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, they really are never out of a ball game.
Gates and Rivers have been the only consistent elements of the Chargers all season, but now it seems the rest of the team might be catching up.
They played the Patriots very tough two weeks ago and were extremely impressive in their win over the previously red-hot Tennessee Titans. They know that the AFC West race is far from over and will continue to play tough.
Why They Can Jump This Week: San Diego travels to Houston on Sunday. That's a tall task since the Texans are still a playoff contender. But defeating them would definitely push them into the Top 20.
The Texans have not played well at home since Week One, being handled by the Giants and Cowboys, and surrendering 31 points to a struggling Chiefs offense. And with a defense ranked first and second, against the pass and run, respectively, the Chargers should do fairly well against Andre Johnson and Arian Foster.
Predicted Rank: The Chargers will pull out a late win against Houston to climb back into the West race and on the power rankings. 18th.
No. 7: Jacksonville Jaguars
Current Rank: 19th
Current Record: 4-4
Why They're Better Than The Rank: Just three weeks ago, the Jags were riding high at 3-2, tied for the AFC South lead. And it's no coincidence that they lost the next two games while David Garrard was on the sidelines. (They may have been behind 14-0 when he left the game, but with an entire half left to play, at home, they were far from buried against the Titans).
And it's also no coincidence that when Garrard returned against Dallas, they smoked the Cowboys: he accounted for all five of their touchdowns. In short, when Garrard is in the lineup, Jacksonville is a threat to at least claim a wild card.
Why They Can Jump This Week: The Jags have a bye, but that doesn't mean jumping up is out of the question. Several teams (Tampa, Houston, Seattle, Oakland) ahead of them in the power rankings have tough games this week, that could cause a significant shakeup.
Predicted Rank: They'll move up when a few (not all) of the teams immediately ahead of them lose. 16th.
No. 6: Oakland Raiders
Current Rank: 16th
Current Record: 4-4
Why They're Better Than The Rank: The numbers are slightly skewed because the Denver game got out of control fast, but the Raiders have been incredible the past two weeks, outscoring their opponents 92-17.
Even if you look past that ridiculous stat, the Raiders might be a major contender. Consider this: they have the fourth ranked pass defense in the entire NFL. That comes after they've already played games against San Diego and Denver, who were (until a week ago) the two top passing units in the AFC.
Why They Can Jump This Week: It's almost incomprehensible, but a win next week practically gives them a share of the AFC West lead: they'd be a half-game behind the Chiefs but would own the tiebreaker. Given that, and what would be their fourth win in five games, they would qualify as one of the Top 12.
Predicted Rank: The Raiders and Chiefs should need all 60 minutes, but Oakland now believes they can win. And will. 12th.
No. 5: New Orleans Saints
Current Rank: 13th
Current Record: 5-3
Why They're Better Than The Rank: No matter who the opponent, a home loss for the Super Bowl champs is going to get attention, and likely cost major positioning in the rankings. And on the surface, a loss to the Browns makes it that much worse. But Cleveland has been a very tough opponent all season, so the loss two weeks ago wasn't quite as horrible as the experts made it out to be.
The Saints regained some of that ground by defeating the Steelers on Sunday night, but because the Bucs have pushed them back to third place in the NFC South, they fall outside the Top 12.
It's hard to deny Tampa a higher ranking, because they've been so impressive recently and enjoyed such a great turnaround. But top to bottom, the Saints are vastly superior to the Tampa, and that was proven two weeks ago.
Why They Can Jump This Week: The Saints can really gain ground on Sunday. They should trample the Panthers, who will not be able to keep pace when the Saints post 30+ points. And because the Bucs have a tough game on the road against division leading Atlanta, they are ripe for a fall in the rankings.
Predicted Rank: The Saints should leap frog Tampa, but a victory over the lowly Panthers doesn't move them up much. 12th.
No. 4: Miami Dolphins
Current Rank: 11th
Current Record: 4-3
Why They're Better Than The Rank: Losing to the Steelers cost the Dolphins two weeks ago, and a narrow victory over the Bengals (in which they didn't manage a touchdown until the fourth quarter against a team that allowed 39 points a week earlier) didn't help them climb any.
Neither has their inability to win at home: they're 0-3. Of course the flip side to that fact is that they are tremendously efficient (4-0) on the road. They're the only team that boasts four road wins. That alone means they are one of the better teams in the conference: having the Pats and Jets in your division just naturally makes you slip in the rankings.
Why They Can Jump This Week: Well, moving to 5-0 on the road would be an amazing feat. Doing so by defeating the Ravens would be even more so. Victory would move them easily inside the Top 10, but even a close loss might put them there, depending on the rest of the week's schedule.
Predicted Rank: The Dolphins are 4-3 without much production from their two-headed backfield and only one touchdown from Brandon Marshall. If that changes, they'll leap frog a few teams. 9th.
No. 3: Indianapolis Colts
Current Rank: 8th
Current Record: 5-2
Why They're Better Than The Rank: The Colts have their share of problems, mainly replacing Dallas Clark, a mediocre-to-poor running game, and a 28th ranked run defense. But they still have Peyton Manning. And they can still score points. And they are still extremely difficult to beat at home.
So four road games in the season's first six weeks somewhat hurt the perception of this team. And by completely silencing the Texans offense through the first two-and-a-half quarters, the Colts proved they don't have to score loads of points to take control of a game.
Why They Can Jump This Week: The notion that the Colts are "a different team away from Lucas Oil Stadium" have been fairly well documented. But if they can travel and defeat a very good Eagles team, then that claim is pretty much invalidated.
Furthermore, pushing their winning streak to four games means that the Colts have to be considered as good (if not better) than the Steelers, Ravens, and Jets (who have each lost games in the past two weeks.)
Predicted Rank: The Colts aren't going to be able to entirely hem-in Michael Vick in his return and a great shootout appears to be on the horizon Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Still, they should win and gain a top five spot. 5th.
No. 2: New York Jets
Current Rank: 7th
Current Record: 5-2
Why They're Better Than The Rank: Losing at home is bad enough. Being shut out is far worse. So it's a major knee-jerk reaction to have them slip five or sick spots in the power rankings. Nevertheless, they were horrific on Sunday at the Meadowlands, and deserved to fall behind several teams who did win on Sunday.
But in terms of talent--and how they've used that talent this season--they might be the best team in the NFL.
Why They Can Jump This Week: The Lions are starting to prove they are a very capable team. Maybe not a playoff contender, but a quality opponent with excellent players on both sides of the ball. For the Jets to go to Ford Field and really pound them, should make the loss to Green Bay look like a total anomaly.
Predicted Rank: A 20-point win over Detroit is not going to be easy, but if it happens, the Jets should slowly climb back to the top, especially since the leading NFC team--their cross-Stadium rivals, the Giants--have an extremely difficult challenge this week, at Seattle. 4th.
No. 1: Pittsburgh Steelers
Current Rank: 6th
Current Record: 5-2
Why They're Better Than The Rank: Like the Jets, the Steelers have to fall from the very top of the rankings with a loss. But, also like the Jets, it's probably a knee-jerk reaction to have them fall more than a spot or two. Especially since the loss came on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions.
And although he's been back for three weeks, Ben Roethlisberger is still not 100% intune with the offense. He's looked a bit out of sync here and there. Once he is completely settled in (which should happen by his fourth game back) the Steelers are probably the most complete team in the NFL.
Why They Can Jump This Week: Three straight road games is an extremely difficult challenge, but if the Steelers can come away from their month away from Heinz Field with a 2-1 record, they deserve to climb a few spots, no matter what the margin on Monday night against Cincinnati. And since the Bengals are reeling right now (having lost four in a row) Pittsburgh should be able to dominate the game.
Predicted Rank: Tough tests for Baltimore, the Giants, and Falcons, coupled with a decisive Steeler win, puts the Steelers back inside the upper echelon. 4th.