Does it feel like the Tennessee Titans' upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers was 10,000 years ago or what?
Tennessee's out-of-nowhere win last Thursday really set the tone for Week 6, when nothing made sense:
» The Buffalo Bills playing defense.
» The Houston Texans forgetting how to play defense.
What does all this constitute in the broad (football) scheme of things? That after six weeks, if you've got two wins, you still have hope.
@harrison_nfl So glad I don't have to do the power rankings this week.— Josh Hunt (@j_hunt91) October 14, 2012
Me too, Josh. Oh, wait.
Well, after a wild week in pro football, here is the power stack. Feel free to bring it to @Harrison_NFL.
Let the dissension commence ...
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)
The Atlanta Falcons barely have pulled out wins in three consecutive weeks against teams with a combined record of 5-11, but because they have indeed closed those games out, they deserve not only the sterling "6-0" in the standings column, but top billing in our Power Rankings. Despite not having his best day against the Oakland Raiders, Matt Ryan drove the club down the field when he needed to, connecting with Tony Gonzalez, who has been the most reliable tight end in football this season at the ripe age of 36. (Yes, more valuable than Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.)
When is the last time a really good football team shot itself in the foot as many times as the evidently hapless Houston Texans did Sunday night? Two huge penalties on special teams that led to touchdowns instead of field goals, a dumb personal foul call (although poor Danieal Manning's knee was trapped when he hit a Packer on the helmet), poor blocking in the run game, several slips by Arian Foster and Ben Tate ... and on and on. Haven't seen a few hours look that ugly since "Terminator Salvation" came out.
For a change, it wasn't Eli Manning delivering the clutch plays to guide his team to a win. How about the defense (which had been mostly disappointing since the Super Bowl run)? Perry Fewell's unit really came to life at The 'Stick on Sunday. Antrel Rolle picked off two Alex Smith passes, with the second leading to a commanding 23-3 lead. It was also a big-league read by Rolle, who didn't fall for Smith's look off, and stepped in front of the skinny post to put his team in instant Lawrence Tynes range. If the Big Blue defense steps up to the plate like it did out west, the Giants might be spending February down south.
The Baltimore Ravens survived a late Dallas Cowboys rally in one of Week 6's more entertaining affairs, but this team stays in the cleanup spot in the rankings because of injuries. Baltimore's biggest on-field issue remains: the leaky rush defense let Dallas run wild (227 yards) one week after the Kansas City Chiefs put up two bills on the ground. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has to turn it around or every opponent will pound the run over ... and over ... and over again. In an unrelated note, Anquan Boldin is having a clutch year for John Harbaugh's group. #impressed
You have to catch that interception, Carlos Rogers. It's alarming how often defensive backs drop easy interceptions in the league these days, but Rogers' miscue -- in a 17-3 game with the whole field in front of him -- was as egregious as it gets. That single play could've been a difference maker. It wasn't. Alex Smith failed to locate the Giants safety Antrel Rolle on Sunday. His passes didn't.
The Seattle Seahawks came into 2012 with an arduous home sked in the early weeks: Dallas, Green Bay and New England. Result: Three and oh. Pete Carroll's team is for real, especially with a formidable secondary that can go toe-to-toe with any team's receiving corps. Richard Sherman, take a cue from Earl and Kam, and just play ball. Act like you've been there before.
Remember in "Rocky III" when Mr. T "Hey Woman!"-bombed the press conference for the unveiling of Rocky's statue? That's what it felt like the Green Bay Packers did to Gary Kubiak's group at Reliant on Sunday Night. Aaron Rodgers disseminated, dissected and destroyed the Houston Texans' secondary, particularly Kareem Jackson and Glover Quin. And bear in mind that the 2012 MVP narrowly missed James Jones on a first-quarter deep ball. As it were, six touchdowns and a 40-burger in fantasy was enough. The Packers get another defensive test this week in the St. Louis Rams, who play well at home.
Like it or not, Pats fans, your team is 3-3, and rightfully so. Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner are rookies (and usually backups, for that reason), and it showed on the Seattle Seahawks' go-ahead touchdown from Sidney Rice. Rice was several yards behind the Patriots' secondary on the 46-yard score. This was a game you thought Tom Brady would pull out in the end, but playing Seattle's defense on the road is a tough assignment.
If you didn't think the second half of Monday's game was absolutely amaze-balls, you don't have a pulse. The Denver Broncos' comeback win was almost as impressive as Peyton Manning's 21-point comeback in the final five minutes against the Bucs in 2003 -- also on Monday Night Football. Denver's secondary was lights out in the second half. What a turnaround for the Johns.
Terrible outings for the Arizona Cardinals in back-to-back weeks. First the debacle in St. Louis, where the offensive line didn't allow quarterback Kevin Kolb to breathe. Then the awful ending to an eight-game home win streak, losing to a Buffalo Bills club that usually can't stop anybody. Quarterback is still a problem for this team.
So defensive coordinator Juan Castillo loses his job, which is essentially a "The defense is why we've been .500 for the better of two years" move. Or it's a knee-jerk, "Your defense blew back-to-back late-game leads and we're 3-3" move. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was clandestinely critical of a change in tactics late in the Detroit loss. And everyone knows that the Castillo hiring was never a popular move -- due to his former role on the other side of the ball as an offensive line coach. OK, that's all real cool stuff, but this just in: That defense ranks 13th in the NFL in points allowed, while the offense is 31st ( 31st!) in points scored. Not quite the discrepancy you were anticipating, huh? Does Michael Vick (13 turnovers) lose his job, too? Oh, and who hired Castillo in the first place?
No, it's not panic time in Pittsburgh, and this ranking is due to the organization hanging in there with all of the walking wounded on the Steelers roster. When healthy, this is a team in the range of 8-10 wins. A win in Paul Brown Stadium and the Steelers are right back in the thick of the playoff race. Remember, they have two games remaining with the Ravens, who despite the better record, just had their share of struggles vs. Kansas City and Dallas in back-to-back weeks.
Gut check for the Detroit Lions. And they passed. At 2-3, they might not be in great shape, but it beats the heck out of 1-4. With Dallas, Minnesota, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco and Arizona all losing, Detroit gained serious ground in the broader playoff picture. The offense got a quietly effective game from Mikel Leshoure, who had 94 yards from scrimmage, averaging over five yards per touch. Next up: the Bears at Soldier Field on Monday night.
Shonn Greene with some serious authority this past weekend. Many teams go running back-by-committee these days, but the Jets were more running back-by-hibernation. Greene changed all that with a hard-nosed, 32-carry, 161-yard performance. Three touchdowns, too -- the second of which featured a sick spin move. Next up: the rival Patriots.
This week's Brass Cajones Award has to go to Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, who called for a fake punt on fourth down ... from his own 40 ... with 4:05 left ... in a 17-14 game. The successful conversion extended the drive long enough to burn over two minutes of game clock, also forcing the Rams to burn a valuable timeout. By the way, what the heck happened to the top-ranked run defense, which entered the game allowing 67.3 yards per contest? The Rams eclipsed that mark by nearly 100 yards with 162 on the ground.
Andy Dalton (381 yards, three TD, three INT) continues to rack up fantasy points, but Air Dalton wasn't supposed to be the formula for success for these Cincinnati Bengals. Mike Zimmer's defense and a balanced offense featuring BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the ticket entering the season, and neither has performed consistently. BGE hasn't averaged four yards per carry since Week 1, while the defense has been depleted by injury. Next up: hosting the Steelers, who've lost their fair share of players to injury, as well. That matchup = big game in the AFC North.
Heckuva comeback win for the Washington Redskins after losing a tight one to the Falcons in Week 5. Robert Griffin III is so awesome to watch tee it up, but are any of you Redskin fans leery of him running so much? His 13 rushing attempts were only three short of Alfred Morris' total. Would love to hear what you guys think @Harrison_NFL. Simply put, Washington cannot afford to lose this guy for any extended amount of time.
Jason Garrett discovered a new facet of NFL football on Sunday. A very intricate, little-known thing called "the run." Not to mention -- but we're mentioning it -- terrible clock management at the end of the game in Baltimore. Dez Bryant was tackled with 11 seconds to go. The Dallas Cowboys wasted five seconds before calling a timeout to attempt a 51-yard field goal. The kick was very close -- but no good. Be decisive, and try to give your kicker a couple extra yards.
Consecutive losses to the lowly Saints and a Broncos team that overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit calls for a big drop. The best thing Norv Turner's players can do is put the Denver game behind them and move on. It is what is. At 3-3, the Chargers are more than in the hunt. San Diego has a bye this week, but then the schedule offers winnable games at Cleveland and home vs. Kansas City.
Does anyone know where that came from? "That" being a road win against a team that had won eight straight in its home stadium and boasts one of their better defenses in the league. Safety Jairus Byrd produced two big takeaways late in the game, the second coming in overtime and being the type of play that can change a culture of stagnant defensive play. Reading John Skelton's eyes, Byrd stole the pass and the game, getting the Buffalo Bills to 3-3. For this team to get a bigger boost, we need to see more -- and against the Titans, we just might.
The Carolina Panthers spent Week 6 on a bye, likely taking part in some serious soul-searching. The best solution for this 1-4 team is to play within itself; which is also great personal advice for Cam Newton. Everyone I've talked to in the biz about Newton believes the quarterback is pressing, trying to do too much. Cam, be a second-year guy, not a 10th-year guy. Play your game, and let the supporting cast contribute theirs. (Although Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams and the O-line haven't been carrying their weight, either.)
Huge win from Tennessee, with nothing fluky about it. That said, the win did come at home over an injury-riddled football team. The Titans' holes are still present, although some encouraging signs were on display last Thursday night, like CJ2K's 100 plus yards from scrimmage. Covering the game from the set of NFL.com Live, my sense was that was more the product of lanes provided by the offensive line than Chris Johnson running hard. In fact, the key to the win was the time afforded to Matt Hasselbeck to pick the secondary apart when it mattered most.
The New Orleans Saints were off last week. Hopefully, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. figured out a way to get Mark Ingram going during the bye. The quicker this team can get some production from the former first-round draft pick, the faster the Saints get back to respectability. The year New Orleans won the Super Bowl, one of the more underreported stories was the extra punch the ground attack gave Drew Brees all season. The entire operation cannot be on the Saints quarterback all the time.
If ever a head coach needed a win, it was Pat Shurmur last week. The Cleveland Browns got it done with some kids doing their part. Brandon Weeden didn't have huge numbers, but he was efficient in throwing two touchdown passes and averaging eight yards per attempt. Fellow rookie Josh Gordon scored a 71-yard touchdown with a brilliant, one-handed grab, and finished just three feet shy of a 100-yard game. And while the defense gave up a ton of yards, it prevailed in the all-important category of turnovers. Four takeaways will win almost 100 percent of the time in the NFL.
With the bye week in Jacksonville, head coach Mike Mularkey must have pored over 15 miles of game tape to figure out a way to get something from Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon outside. The latter has been targeted 33 times, and only caught 13 balls, for a paltry 119 yards. Of the wideouts who've been targeted that number of times, the closest guy to Blackmon has nearly twice as many yards ( Michael Jenkins, 202).
We're not dropping the Jaguars more than one spot, as they were on a bye. So despite the valiant effort by Carson Palmer and Co. on Sunday in Atlanta -- they almost did it -- we can't move up Oakland much. Exactly when the much-maligned secondary needed to compete at the end of the game, they predicable laid an egg, letting Matt Ryan complete two big passes to Tony Gonzalez with 18 ticks on the clock and setting up Matt Bryant for the game-winner. The Raiders have a winnable game on the sked next, with those struggling Jags coming to town. At 1-4, this team needs the Jags to come to town.
This is getting ugly very, very fast. Brady Quinn continued the underwhelming quarterback play, which isn't surprising. What is surprising is how the defense has been getting torched this season. Tampa Bay produced 463 yards of offense despite only having the ball for 26 minutes. That speaks to lots of big plays or "chunk" yardage, like Mike Williams' 62-yard touchdown catch. Or another 62-yard grab by Tiquan Underwood ( Tiquan Underwood?!). Or Doug Martin's 42-yard catch-and-run. Take your pick. Oh, and on the subject of picks, the Chiefs aren't getting enough of those, either -- at least not enough to make up for all the yards allowed.