Week 7 is in the books, and so too are our power rankings. I promise no mention of the quarterback who-shall-not-be-named and his fourth-quarter heroics in Florida. I do promise a mention of the biggest arguments concerning last week's rankings.
The biggest complaint: How the No. 4 Saints could be above the No. 5 Niners and No. 12 Bucs, when Tampa Bay had just beat New Orleans, only one week after a resounding loss in San Francisco.
Not to get to mathematical on ya, but this essentially was our commenters' theorem:
SF > TB and TB > NO, therefore SF > TB > NO. Problem is, however, it's not that cut and dried -- and I failed pre-calculus at Jesuit.
The Saints are still the best of the three, which should've been revealed in Sunday's 55-point shellacking of the Colts. Curtis Painter or no Curtis Painter, 62-7 is 62-7. All of those pining for the Bucs to be ranked higher had to be disappointed with their outing in London. Earnest Graham's injury only makes the situation worse.
Meanwhile, we saw a running back beat a team by himself, one of the weirder stat lines in recent memory, and fans in Arizona wondering if the Kurt Warner era had been just a dream. As always, bring it with the dissension ...
The Packers train keeps rolling. While the win in Minnesota got off to an inauspicious start, no one -- including the Vikings -- has an answer for their explosive offense. For all the production from Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and the boys, give some credit to Mike McCarthy, whose play-calling has been outstanding this season. Anytime people mention that a team has "only" scored 57 points the past two weeks -- 28.5 per game, mind you -- then that's saying something.
No changes here after a bye week in New England. What are the chances Bob Kraft spent the off week contemplating moving back to the Pat Patriot jersey for the rest of the season? Just wondering.
Another bye week. While the time off gives players a chance to rest up, particularly Frank Gore, you have to wonder if Jim Harbaugh wishes it could have come at another point in the season. His team is that hot. But back to Gore for a moment. Take a look at his production after fantasy owners considered benching -- or outright dropping -- him after Week 3: 50 carries, 393 yards, three touchdowns. That's nearly 8 yards per run.
Welcome to parody -- er, parity -- football. This was former commissioner Paul Tagliabue's vision. Any team can beat any team on any week. That's great and all, but it sure would be nice if we could hang our hat on any dominant team in the AFC. The Ravens could've pulled it out in Jacksonville, but quarterback Joe Flacco continues to underwhelm.
The Steelers continue to hang in there. Tough to write that about a 5-2 team, but so many things have gone wrong for Pittsburgh already. Rashard Mendenhall, who was expected to put up big numbers, has been up and down (mostly down). The offensive line has dealt with injuries, the defensive line is without Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith (now out for the year), and the linebacking corps is without its best player in James Harrison. And yet, here Pittsburgh sits. What a consistent organization.
Bye week in Buffalo. So did the Bills go to Applebee's on their time off? Did Ryan Fitzpatrick and Scott Chandler go to Cabo together? No, that only happens before a team has a big playoff game. Either way, the 4-2 Bills host the Redskins this week -- a game they have to win. After feasting on John Beck and Mike Shanahan's running back du jour, they have tough games against the Jets and Cowboys the next two weeks. I'm sure Bills fans remember 2008, when Buffalo started 5-1 and failed to make the playoffs.
The lack of a ground attack could scuttle the Lions. Something I've been harping on all season, and probably won't stop any time soon, is the game of Russian roulette the Lions are playing with their franchise quarterback's health. The less Detroit runs the ball, the more the game is on Matthew Stafford's shoulders. The more opposing pass rushers refuse to honor the run, the greater the chance Stafford will go down to injury.
The Bolts spent the first half Sunday taking it to the Jets and the second half getting the crap beat out of them. When Plaxico Burress gets three touchdowns on you, it's time to rethink things. Philip Rivers' second half (8 of 20, two picks) was dreadful. Chargers fans were quite upset with my prognostication that their team would be 9-6 going into Week 17. Cool. After one week, I'm 1-0. (Until we get to the Raiders section, at least.)
Going against the ol' gut feeling, weâre sticking with Oakland, and there's little wiggle room: 11 through 18 in the rankings are as close as theyâve ever been. Oakland handled the Jets and beat the Texans in Houston. Thus, theyâre 11th almost by default. In other news, my prediction of the Raiders going on a roll got Bollerâd on Sunday. At one point, the backup was 5 of 10, with three picks. Thatâs OK, Carson Palmer made up for it by also throwing three balls to the other guys. Right now, Darren McFaddenâs foot sprain is of primary concern with Hue Jacksonâs offense getting little production from its quarterback. The bye week is perfect to get No. 20 healthy and Palmer reacquainted with football.
Arian Foster was ridiculous Sunday. If you follow the Texans, though, you had to be excited about that stout defensive performance in Tennessee. One week after getting deep-balled by Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith, and Anquan Boldin, the pass defense shut down the Titans, picking off two Matt Hasselbeck passes and limiting Tennessee to just two third-down conversions. Hey, and what about my main man Joel Dreessen catching a key touchdown pass? He was a week late unfortunately, but I won't tell him so.
Plaxico Burress caught four passes for 25 yards and three touchdowns. That might have been the weirdest, high output stat line since Jerome Bettis had five carries for one yard and three touchdowns in the 2004 opener. Rex Ryan's defense did it again, too, holding the Chargers to 268 yards and picking off Philip Rivers twice. Gang Green makes the short trip to Buffalo in two weeks in a game that will have major playoff implications.
NFL Network insider Jason LaCanfora mentioned on "NFL Fantasy Live" on Sunday that some unrest exists in the locker room, with the major point of contention residing in Jerry Angelo's financial decisions. Some league observers, like several players, can't wrap their heads around not paying Matt Forte, who is pretty much the offense right now. Forte is on pace for, oh, about 3,000 yards from scrimmage this year.
When a guy goes over 250 in his first extended action, just tip your cap. DeMarco Murray showed a couple things that Felix Jones hasn't: Decisiveness, finishing runs, and not getting hurt. Jones has all the talent in the world, but has been death by a thousand paper cuts for Cowboys fans, who've seen him miss so much time to injury. On another note, that was one awkward high five between Nolan Ryan and George Bush after Mike Napoli's home run a couple hours after the Cowboys game. Odd that the St. Louis Rams were in town to play Dallas while the St. Louis Cardinals are facing the Rangers in the World Series.
Inspired by Cincy's 4-2 start, I popped in a DVD of the 1982 Monday night classic between the Bengals and Chargers. Ken Anderson to Cris Collinsworth was literally unstoppable. Cincy was so good in those days, going 12-4 in '81 and 7-2 in '82. My mom wouldn't let me stay up to watch the second half of that Anderson-Dan Fouts duel, but I'm young enough to still be enthusiastic about a pretty cool new connection, Red Dalton to A.J. Green, who will break all of Collinsworth's rookie records.
Tampa Bay made the London Bowl a game in the second half, after suffering several self-inflicted wounds in the first. Unfortunately, the biggest issue emanating from the Bucs is the health of Earnest Graham, who was lost for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon. With LeGarrette Blount's iffy health, this is a serious loss for Raheem Morris. Tampa has a bye to get Blount, Gerald McCoy, and the rest of the guys healthy, but the trip to the Superdome in two weeks looms very large.
Some 4-3 club has to be last among the winning teams. For right now, itâs Atlanta. Iâd love to place them higher, but canât. Hereâs why: The defense is 20th, the offense is 18th, and the Falcons lost head-to-head to both the Bears and Bucs, who sit above them in the rankings. Still, this Week 7 victory looms large because of the wild-card tiebreakers. Letâs face it, Detroit isnât going to win the NFC North, and will probably be duking it out with the Falcons, Cowboys, or a couple of other teams for one of those final playoff spots. Advantage: Atlanta. For the second week in a row, Michael Turner carried the ball 27 times. The Falcons are 20-3 when he goes over 100 yards. Keep it up Mike Smith. Give Burner the rock.
Arian Foster had an Aaron Rodgers kind of day in Nashville. Matt Hasselbeck had a Mitch Williams World Series kind of day ... wild, couldn't finish plays, and suffering from general suckiness. This was a huge game for both clubs, who will face off in Week 17, with the division likely on the line. That is, if Chris Johnson ever gets going. Ten carries for 18 yards: doesn't sound like a CJ day, does it? Unfortunately, it's not too far from the norm for him this year.
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo wasn't criticized this week by the national media. That would be big news if the Eagles weren't on a bye. For all the hysteria about Philly's 2-4 start, they are only two games back of the Giants. However, New York plays a struggling Dolphins team that just got Tebow'd, while the Eagles have a much tougher challenge facing the Cowboys. If the Eagles choose to play eight in the box to stop the Dallas ground attack (which almost had 300 yards vs. the Rams), that might leave them exposed against a healthy Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten. This is precisely why Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha were signed a couple of months back.
Nothing like football from 1939 to get you fired up for the Browns. You don't see many 6-3 games anymore without Mark Sanchez's name attached to it somewhere. Don't look now, but the Browns are 3-3. Dick Jauron's defense came into the game ranked seventh in the NFL, and limited the 'Hawks to just 137 yards. Next up: San Francisco.
Cam Newton is for real. Forget the first couple of weeks. His ability to bounce back from a tough outing in Atlanta to play effectively in Washington is a reflection of both his talent and resilience. It's not too dissimilar from a ballplayer who hits .300 his first two months in the Bigs, struggles when pitchers adjust to him, then tweaks his approach to handle those adjustments. And how about old man Steve Smith, who had seven big catches for 143 yards.
That was one stellar performance by the secondary, even if it came against an underwhelming Kyle Boller and overwhelmed Carson Palmer. Six interceptions. Wow. It was the first time the Kansas City secondary tallied that many picks since it had six vs. Seattle in 1984. Deron Cherry, Lloyd Burruss, Albert Lewis, and Kevin Ross, the starters back then, could stop any quarterback in 2011, much less '84.
Tim Hightower is hurt. Ditto Santana Moss. Coupled with the loss, it all translates to another sizeable drop in the rankings. Defensively, Washington produced four sacks Sunday, but allowed Cam Newton to go 18 of 23 for 256 yards, averaging an incredible 11-plus yards per attempt. Not per completion. Per attempt. John Beck actually wasn't bad, and the running game was present. Still, the two lost fumbles hurt. The first was a drive-killer, the second led to points for the Panthers.
Tebow, Tebow, Tebow, Tebow, Tebow, Tebow, Tebow, then Tebow. But, if Tebow, Tebow, Tebow, Tebow, Tebow, Tebow, of course, Tebow, Tebow.
Can all "the kickers aren't real football players" garbage stop, along with other gems like, "you know, Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft pick," and "the NFL is such a passing league now," or "he's just having fun out there!" Kickers play, and impact the game greatly. Josh Scobee, along with a stout performance by the Jaguars' defense, beat the Ravens. Just like he did vs. the non-imposter Colts last season. Clutch guy.
Those Seattle fans who were calling for Passion of the 'Hurst received an offensive performance for the ages in Cleveland. Really, it was offensive. Come on ... 12 of 30 for 97 stinking yards? That's okay, at least it wasn't a Todd Collins-esque. Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradleys' unit forced Cleveland into third downs a whopping 24 times. That's good defense. Spoiled by an offense with no playmakers and a lead back who hurts himself in warmups.
Christian Ponder might have gone 13 of 32 for only 219 yards, but sometimes stats are bunk. There were rays of light in the rookie's performance, starting with his willingness to take some shots, as well as his ability to use his feet to buy time or yards. The game didn't look too big for him, and there's a lot to be said for that. By the way, those Vikings throwbacks are so money you don't even know they're money.
The hole is getting deeper. A club that should be competing for the NFC West is now 1-5, and has virtually no shot now. Next up, a tough road matchup in Baltimore. Let's go ahead and call it 1-6. Only one team has ever started 1-6 and made the playoffs, that being the 1970 Bengals.
NFL Fantasy Live's British correspondent, Henry Hodgson, is noticeably despondent over the state of his beloved Dolphins, and the awful collapse vs. the Broncos. Henry, like the rest of Dolphins fandom, must also be wondering what happened to the promise of the Reggie Bush acquisition. Meanwhile, Darren Sproles has been almost as effective in New Orleans as Bush has been disappointing in Miami. The offense needs an identity just as much as it needs a quarterback to run it.
Anything written in this blurb should be given the same treatment Raheem Morris gave the game film of the Bucs' 48-3 loss to the 49ers. Speaking of, Jim Caldwell should burn the tape from Sunday night. It's one thing to play without a franchise player, and quite another to play without pride. Let's hope the latter wasn't too prevalent in the 62-7 debacle in New Orleans.
I spoke with Brandon Lloyd over the summer, and he seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the prospects of this season as well as his career revival. Now with the Rams, he looked genuinely frustrated Sunday as he and reserve quarterback A.J. Feeley were consistently not on the same page. Here's the amazing part: Feeley looked to Lloyd 12 times, twice as much as any other wideout, despite the fact that Lloyd had been with the team all of five days. I still like the acquisition for the Rams.