Week 5 is in the books, and the best team is ... well, still the best team.
The Houston Texans (barely) disposed of the New York Jets on Monday night, despite not playing their most impressive game. While 5-0 Houston will cruise home to face the reeling Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, their Monday night opponents are 2-3 and searching for a passing game.
One of the lowlights of the 23-17 Jets loss was when Tim Tebow entered the fray to a roar around the stadium. The most famous backup quarterback since Steamin' Willie Beamen threw an almost-perfect deep ball that should've been caught by Jason Hill. It wasn't.
Best throw that side of the ball all night...RT @harrison_nfl: Hey, that was a heckuva throw by Tebow— M Titus (@Mtitus6) October 9, 2012
Too bad that would be the only throw for Tebow all night. And just one in a myriad of reasons why the Jets are stuck in reverse. Speaking of Twitter, if you have a complaint or thought about our Power Rankings, hit me up at @Harrison_NFL.
As for the other 30 teams in the league, let the dissension commence ...
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)
Our top-ranked team didn't look amazing Monday night, but the Texans still were in control throughout, as they've been all season (unlike the 49ers and Falcons). With the effectiveness of its ground attack, Houston makes it so tough on teams to climb back into games. Arian Foster put up a 152 spot in the rushing column against Rex Ryan's defense. Combine that with a relentless front seven on defense and the perfect Texans are still No. 1.
Atlanta eked out a win for the second time in as many weeks, with the Washington Redskins falling just short this time around. A win is a win, I suppose. Good to see Julio Jones haul in 10 passes after totaling 10 catches over the previous three weeks combined. Meanwhile, it appears Michael Turner has nine lives in the Atlanta offense. Every week, we hear about the 30-year-old running back being phased out, but he still carried the rock 18 times and scored the winning touchdown with less than three minutes remaining. The Falcons will need him to continue closing out games.
There aren't many 9-6 games in the NFL anymore -- the current rules just aren't conducive to defensive dogfights -- but they're pretty cool in my mind. The only downside for the Ravens is the gaping hole that is their run defense. Kansas City eclipsed 200 yards rushing, and Ray Lewis was overwhelmed on several occasions. Interesting factoid from Baltimore's win: This contest featured 45 passes total -- the lowest figure in any game all year.
Chicago looked downright dominant in a 41-3 road win. I said on "NFL Fantasy Live" last week that we needed to see more from Brandon Marshall after a couple of underwhelming games, and we got that Sunday in Jacksonville. Marshall destroyed the Jaguars secondary with 12 catches, 144 yards and a score. Oh, and the defense is still ridiculously good, as you can see here.
Bill Belichick made his intentions clear on Sunday: He will employ whichever running back feels right -- not just game-to-game, but play-to-play. Stevan Ridley gained more than 100 yards again, yet Brandon Bolden, Danny Woodhead and even Shane Vereen also got some run in a win over the Denver Broncos. It will be interesting to see how many carries Ridley gets this week in Seattle -- that's not a team you can afford to turn the ball over against.
Getting 200 yards from Ahmad Bradshaw was absolutely huge, from a big-picture standpoint. New York's two biggest issues early in the year have been an inconsistent running game and a mediocre secondary. If Big Blue can take some of the load off Eli Manning, get Hakeem Nicks healthy and force takeaways by way of interceptions -- New York picked off Brandon Weeden twice -- this team can win the Super Bowl -- again.
Like 'em or not, the Vikings have earned a spot in the top 10. If you want to see a premier pitch-and-catch play, look no further than Christian Ponder's perfect lob to a double-covered Kyle Rudolph in the back of the end zone last Sunday -- ri-DONK-ulous. Yes, the second week of October is crack-of-dawn-ish when it comes to talking about Coach of the Year candidates. No, an early endorsement of Leslie Frazier is not out of line.
A whole bunch of teams that were ranked ahead of the Steelers last week dropped games, thus the big jump here. Ben Roethlisberger showed why he is such a big-time quarterback on the definitive drive against the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite pedestrian numbers (21-for-37, 207 yards, no touchdowns), Pittsburgh's franchise quarterback converted a third-and-12 -- from his own 18 -- stepping into a laser to Antonio Brown for 20 yards. Roethlisberger would convert a third down later in the drive en route to the game-winning Shaun Suisham field goal.
Despite the loss, Arizona still has an opportunity to be very good this season, and could earn a wild-card berth. But this team isn't going anywhere until the leaky offensive line shores things up. Ken Whisenhunt's front five has been nothing short of abysmal in protecting (or failing to protect) Kevin Kolb. The really scary thing? This unit's even worse at run-blocking.
This football team might point back to the Week 5 loss in Pittsburgh as the downfall to its playoff positioning, or lack thereof. Thank goodness it wasn't a conference loss. But still, it was the kind of defeat Eagles brass built this team to not endure. With Philly's pass rush and cover corners, the Steelers should not have been able to convert on third-and-a-mile deep in their own territory -- before marching down the field for the winning field goal.
If you couldn't tell Thursday night, this St. Louis defense can play, and is an especially tough matchup at home. Coming into the Week 5 bout with Arizona, the Rams held opposing quarterbacks to a sorry 64.8 passer rating, the lowest figure in the NFL. Kevin Kolb did a little better with a 72.8, but he was sacked nine times in the process. This ball-hawking defense has allowed just two touchdowns over the air while picking off eight passes.
The formula Pete Carroll and Co. developed pulled out another win, and will pretty much keep this team in every game: play organized, aggressive defense, run the football, and don't put the offense on the quarterback's shoulders. Regardless of his two interceptions, Russell Wilson made some nice throws in Carolina, ultimately going 19-for-25 and gaining an average of 8.8 yards every time the ball left his hand. Put the Matt Flynn Watch on hold.
What a weird season for Green Bay. For now, they get a big drop, thanks in part to the injury bug hitting Cedric Benson and Greg Jennings, as well as atrocious O-line play. The two biggest issues that could prevent Green Bay from making the playoffs are poor pass protection and lackluster secondary play. Regarding the latter note, it appeared Dom Capers had shored up the back end after a big Thursday night win over the Bears. But Drew Brees (446 yards) and Andrew Luck (362) tore up the Pack, particularly when it counted.
Much talk about Willis McGahee's late fumble in the loss at New England -- maybe too much talk. Sure, in a 10-point game, with 3:42 on the clock, the Broncos might have scored a touchdown. Might. But the fumble in question wouldn't have made a difference if Patriots RB Stevan Ridley hadn't coughed up the football on the previous possession. Truthfully, New England was in control throughout. The bottom line is, Denver can't keep backing itself into a corner with mistakes. Peyton Manning shouldn't be dropping back nearly 50 times, either. Run the football and keep Manning fresh -- like in the Week 1 win over Pittsburgh. That's the key.
Excruciating loss in New Orleans on Sunday night, which, frankly, shouldn't have happened. If Melvin Ingram doesn't personally foul Drew Brees, the Chargers have a pick-six and an absolutely commanding 31-14 second-half lead. San Diego likely would be sitting atop the West at 4-1. OK, the penalty was a big deal, but Norval Turner's club is still in first, even at 3-2, and the defense has shown some serious signs of improvement. The Bolts finished 22nd in scoring defense last season, but they're 11th this year.
The Bengals couldn't afford to lose that home game. But they did. With the loss to the Dolphins -- certainly a winnable matchup -- Cincinnati essentially fell two games behind the Ravens in the AFC North, due to their blowout loss in Baltimore back in Week 1. Andy Dalton's next step in his progression as a franchise quarterback will be pulling out games like the one against the Dolphins.
picked the Packers to beat the Colts in my weekly predictions, I quickly found myself pulling for Indy, given
Chuck Pagano's situation and how much fight the
Colts showed in overcoming a 21-3 deficit. Put another way: It felt great
to be wrong. The most surprising aspect was the outstanding play of the
Colts' secondary despite the absence of
Vontae Davis and Justin King.
Aaron Rodgers looked mortal on more than one occasion, and much credit should be given to Indianapolis defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, whose pass rush got home five times.
Oh, and by the way, if Reggie Wayne's ridiculous performance (13 catches, 212 yards and one very clutch touchdown) didn't convince you he's a Hall of Famer -- with or without Peyton Manning -- we've got nothing for ya here ...
Detroit was off in Week 5. We try not to move teams much, if at all, after bye weeks. Much hand-wringing these days regarding the play of Matt Stafford. Bear in mind that he's faced some pretty decent secondaries/pass rushes in San Francisco and St. Louis. Perhaps more important to Detroit right now is how to fix the special teams play, which is killing the Lions.
The Jets put their fastest defensive back on the field to play receiver. Said player got one-on-on coverage and beat his man by three yards ... only to have Mark Sanchez not only underthrow him, but lead him out of bounds, to boot. Nothing encapsulates the 2012 New York Jets like this Antonio Cromartie play.
Miami is beginning to show the rest of the league that it's no joke, especially on the defensive side of the ball. If you play
fantasy football, which all of you do, the Miami front seven is almost becoming what you would call a "can't play" -- as in, you can't play your fantasy running backs against the 'Fins' defense. If you don't believe me, take a gander at what opposing starting tailbacks have done against them this season:
Week 1, Arian Foster: 26 carries, 79 yards.
Week 2, Darren McFadden: 11 carries, 22 yards.
Week 3, Shonn Greene: 19 carries, 40 yards.
Week 4, Ryan Williams: 13 carries, 26 yards.
Week 5, BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 9 carries, 14 yards.
Fantasy, reality, whatever -- makes no difference. Starting tailbacks have been MIA. (See what I did there? MIA ... Miami ... I know, awful.)
Washington gave Atlanta all it could handle Sunday afternoon, but came away on the losing end of a one-score game for the third time in four weeks. The issue here continues to be the secondary, which is on pace to give up 5,258 net yards passing. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's group simply cannot stop quarterbacks at the ends of games. Meanwhile, Robert Griffin III's mild concussion has filled up plenty of hours on D.C. radio. Yeah, that's a concern, but the Redskins still have to stop somebody.
Tampa Bay was on a bye last week, and it couldn't have come at a worse time. The Bucs have lost three in a row, most recently blowing a late lead to the Redskins in the waning moments at home. A huge problem has been the back seven's inability to get receivers' butts on the ground. The defense has allowed 625 yards after the catch, second only to the awful Saints defense.
Carolina is 1-4, and about 80 percent of the blame can be attributed to two things: Cam Newton's accuracy problems and some of the worst tackling in the NFL. Even Panthers head coach Ron Rivera acknowledges his team can't tackle. Case in point: Charles Johnson's woeful attempt to bring down Marshawn Lynch on the penultimate third down of the loss to the Seahawks.
Home fans cheering when their own player is seriously hurt is never cool. Lamar Hunt must be turning over in his grave.
This is a bye week in New Orleans, though the players would probably rather play, as they're finally coming off a W. Drew Brees was scary good for most of Sunday night, but we should mention that his 48-game streak with a touchdown pass is a bit different from Johnny U's. Unitas did it during an era when receivers could be chucked all the way down the field, and a good year for a quarterback meant 15-20 touchdown passes, not 30-40, like it does today. Still, the way Brees connected with Marques Colston time and again, even in tight coverage, gives the Saints some much-needed hope. Next up: at Tampa Bay in Week 7.
It must be so frustrating to be a Jaguars fan. The team's most glaring offensive hole has not been filled, as this space detailed last week. The quarterback position is giving the club nothing. Blaine Gabbert faced a tough assignment with the Bears coming to town -- no doubt -- but 17 of 33 for 142 yards, two picks and a lost fumble is particularly awful, considering he has zero track record to offset another miserable performance.
Chris Johnson: 15 carries, 24 yards. Just asking here, but -- for now -- does benching CJ2K give this team a better chance to win?
On another note that's also not positive, Tennessee is the first team in NFL history to allow 30 points or more in its first five games of the season.
At some point, Oakland must figure out what a first down is. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is in his first year back with Oakland since running into the JaMarcusberg a few years ago, and it isn't going well so far. The Raiders lead the NFL in three-and-outs, while rushing for a league-low 60.8 yards per game -- that's over 40 yards below the NFL average.
Ahh, the noise in the NFL.com/NFL Network offices when Josh Gordon caught a 62-yard touchdown pass to put Cleveland up 14-0 on the defending Super Bowl champions. Of course, it was only a matter of time before the shock and awe dissipated.