Week 10 was just plain odd.
Two of the top three teams went down. The hapless Tennessee Titans not only won, they beat the tar out of the Miami Dolphins on the Dolphins' field. After looking inept for weeks, the Minnesota Vikings handled the Detroit Lions and then some. We had a tie. Four starting quarterbacks went down. Players still don't know what a tie is. The St. Louis Rams converted two fake punts, the first from their own end zone. Ties suck.
So what does all that add up to? Fluid Power Rankings. The shake-up includes a couple of anomalies, like the Green Bay Packers moving up two spots despite not playing and the Buffalo Bills ascending three steps following a loss. That's what happens when all the clubs all around those teams in last week's rankings get hammered. The benefits of being surrounded by ineptitude.
Speaking of ineptitude, some passion erupted on the old Twitter handle regarding who should reside at the 32-hole ...
Beyond that, here's the best we could do. Let the dissension come forth ...
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)
Statement win by the Houston Texans in Chicago. There is no way this football team
cannot top the board. Outside of one mulligan -- when
the best quarterback in football went John Rambo on Houston
-- the Texans have been mostly stellar. Eight and one is 8-1, dogg.
Nice weekend for a bye, considering all the injuries on this club. Jordy Nelson's status definitely merits attention, but perhaps the most interesting case is that of Cedric Benson, who went down in early October at Indianapolis. How will the offense change when he comes back? Just when it appeared Green Bay would really start using him, Benson suffered a Lisfranc injury. He had nine touches in just over a quarter in that game against the Colts -- then he pulled up lame. Week 14 might be the earliest we see the veteran running back.
David Akers is probably sick to his stomach after missing a potential game-winning kick in overtime from 41 yards out. That's makeable for most kickers, of course, but the miss was especially striking for Akers. He's now missed six field goals on the season, hitting just 70 percent of his kicks. We're talking about a first-team All-Pro kicker here. In fact, fellow 2011 All-Pro Andy Lee isn't having as strong a campaign as the San Francisco 49ers' punter, either.
Bill Belichick has to shore up the New England Patriots' defense. The unit produced three takeaways on Sunday -- huge turnovers -- but this defense still gets destroyed, particularly the back four. New England will win the AFC East, but as we look ahead toward the playoffs, big plays allowed in the passing game might be this team's undoing. Sound familiar?
Did you see Peyton Manning in Carolina? It's 29-7, with a hair over 10 minutes to play, and the future Hall of Famer is telling guys where to line up with such intensity that you'd think it was the 2006 AFC Championship Game. Unreal. Nice performance by coordinator Jack Del Rio's defense, by the way -- seven sacks for that group.
Much hand-wringing going on in the Pittsburgh Steelers' offices right now. Or maybe not. Ben Roethlisberger's injury is detrimental to the immediate future, but this franchise is as stable as it gets. Panic mode is not part of this club's M.O. Through 10 weeks of action, a case can certainly be made for Roethlisberger as the 2012 NFL MVP. On the flip side, give credit to an extremely underappreciated Steeler: Lawrence Timmons, who saved the day Monday night and is a heckuva football player.
The Seattle Seahawks continue to win, taking a healthy 6-4 record into the bye week. This is clearly the best team Pete Carroll has had in his three-year tenure in the Great Northwest, with a wild-card berth being a very real possibility. The key for a team that has so many youngsters playing significant roles is to not let the bye week affect momentum. In case you're wondering, here is Seattle's remaining sked: at Dolphins, at Bears, vs. Cardinals, at Bills, vs. 49ers, vs. Rams. 10-6, Seahawks fans?
Eli Manning will not get any free passes in this space. While he has two rings, he also has a penchant for having days like last Sunday in Cincy, when he was careless with the football. People forget that he turned the ball over 30 times in 2010. The New York Giants need him to play better football to do anything come playoff time. Luckily for the G-Men, both Philadelphia and Dallas have struggled. Still, Eli has gone three straight games without a touchdown pass.
Resilient performance from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Philip Rivers did whatever he wanted to do on their field in the first half, but whatever second-half adjustments Greg Schiano's staff made, they worked. Tampa picked Rivers twice in the fourth quarter and outscored San Diego, 17-3, over the final 30 minutes. Don't look now, but this club is 5-4 and in the thick of the NFC wild-card race.
If you're seeking a big reason for the Indianapolis Colts' success this season, look no further than third down. The Colts are seventh in the NFL, having converted at a rate of 43.6 percent -- truly shocking for a club with so many kids on offense. They're also tied for seventh in drives of 10-plus plays. Andrew Luck often extends drives with his legs; that's a key facet of his game, but one he's just now getting credit for.
Impressive win for the Minnesota Vikings, who desperately needed one after dropping two straight and three of the previous four. While I still feel Peyton Manning deserves the award for Comeback Player of the Year, holy cow, Adrian Peterson looks good! At 6-4, this team should pound the rock and play defense down the stretch. Weeks 12-14 loom large, as the Vikes play at Chicago and at Green Bay before hosting the Bears. That three-game stretch will determine any postseason possibilities.
Right when you write off the New Orleans Saints, they smack you upside the head. Beating the 8-0 Falcons on the strength of their defense was shocking. Did some folks predict a Saints upset in the Superdome? Sure. But most thought Drew Brees would have to bludgeon the Falcons' secondary for that to happen. That didn't really happen, although Brees had a good game. The two big sequences were a goal-line stand by Steve Spagnuolo's defense and a scintillating 56-yard touchdown run by Chris Ivory. New Orleans won three weeks ago with a big goal-line stop in Tampa Bay. A timely defense is often as effective as a dominant defense.
Cincinnati Bengals fans have been waiting for a performance like Sunday's win over the Giants for a loooooong time -- particularly from the defense. Mike Zimmer is one of the most widely respected coordinators in the league, but a mixture of injuries and poor play had this unit mired in mediocrity. Not on Sunday. A swarming pass rush overwhelmed Eli Manning most of the day and potentially saved the season for the Bengals.
While we shouldn't characterize Minnesota's home win over the Lions as an upset, it was surprising how easily the Vikings handled Detroit's offense, particularly Matt Stafford. Why so shocking? Because much of the Lions' offensive struggles have been rubber-stamped with the " Calvin Johnson is struggling" theorem. Well, Megatron put up a 200-spot in the stat column and the club still lost by 10. Unlike in the previous four weeks, the running game gave Detroit very little, putting up 60 yards on 17 carries.
The Diamondbacks have won more recently than the Cardinals. That aside, the great thing about the bye was that the losing streak was delayed for a week.
The only thing worse than a tie would have been if the St. Louis Rams had blown a chance to win the game with a knucklehead illegal-formation penalty. Thank God that didn't happen.
Philip Rivers' San Diego Chargers offense was rollin' early on Sunday. Even Antonio Gates looked like Antonio Gates, catching balls downfield, scoring a touchdown ... then wot happened? Two fourth-quarter interceptions killed San Diego, with a pick-six on the first possession of the final period being the most important play of the game. Down 24-21, Rivers inexplicably threw the ball to Leonard Johnson. What an awful decision. THROW IT AWAY!!
The Tennessee Titans made a statement that speaks volumes about head coach Mike Munchak. These dudes don't quit. A week after getting their butts handed to them by the Bears (by a tally of 51-20), the Titans forced turnovers and imposed their will on the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. The other storyline emanating from Miami on Sunday was the return of Jake Locker. To be accurate, the second-year quarterback's return wasn't as fantastic as many made it out to be. Locker tossed two touchdown passes, but went just 9-for-21 for 122 yards.
If this truly is the end of the Andy Reid era in Philly, or close to it, then we should note what a successful era it's been. The Philadelphia Eagles have gone to the playoffs nine times, making five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl under Reid. That's not too shabby. Dick Vermeil took the club to the playoffs three times in seven years, making one NFC title game and one Super Bowl. That Super Bowl wasn't competitive, either. From a non-Pennsylvania native's perspective, Vermeil seems to be more beloved. Hit me up at @Harrison_NFL if I'm seeing this wrong.
Here's hoping the bye week gave the Shanahans an opportunity to incorporate more run/pass rollouts in the game plan, unlike the fourth-and-goal play that figured so prominently in the loss to the Carolina Panthers. Providing Washington Redskins receivers with more time to use the JUGS machine is never a bad thing, either.
Fitting that the 37-31 loss in New England essentially ended on a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception. The Amish Rifle's first giveaway -- a first-quarter fumble -- forced the Buffalo Bills' subpar defense to try to stop New England from the 13-yard line. That didn't happen. Fitzpatrick now has 15 turnovers in nine games, and it's killing his football team. This is not to say that he didn't play well in New England. But 337 yards and two touchdowns aren't enough to compensate for his giveaways and a defense that can't stop anybody.
We got the Cam look on the sideline in Charlotte on Sunday. It's hard to blame the guy. His outside receivers couldn't get open, while his offensive line failed to hold the fort. Newton's wicked athleticism could only go so far in quelling the pressure from Denver's front seven (which got to Camchise seven times). All the good vibes from the clutch road win in Washington went the way of the dodo bird.
Sure am glad the Tim Tebow critics out there still think the New York Jets don't need to press the panic button by going to the game's most famous backup. "He's not a real quarterback, he's a fullback," you can hear them say. A fullback, huh? Mark Sanchez has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in five different starts this season (a league high). So, what's he?
The Oakland Raiders tied a franchise record by giving up 55 points in Baltimore, and that's saying something. For all of its success as a franchise over the decades, this organization had some poor teams in the 1960s, the late 1990s and over the past decade. Dennis Allen's defense is getting clobbered repeatedly. Baltimore gained 419 yards a week after Tampa Bay rolled up 515 on the Silver and Black. The Raiders have now allowed 400-plus yards in five games. They've played nine.
My Cleveland Browns source tells me Greg Little has gotten better of late, even when it comes to catching the football. The numbers bear it out. In the first five games, Little was targeted 27 times, catching just 11 passes. But over the last four, he's hauled in 16 of the 24 passes thrown in his direction. If he and rookie Josh Gordon continue to evolve on the outside, Cleveland really could have some dangerous toys for Brandon Weeden. (No Dangerous Toys reference implied here.)
The Kansas City Chiefs get a bump for a) not folding their tents (cognizant of the lousy pun, but not changing it, because we're 2,000-words deep), b) almost stealing a game against a superior team on the road, c) being more talented than the Jags, d) getting Jamaal Charles more involved, e) rediscovering a tight end once referred to as " Tony Moeaki," and f) having a quarterback who can win games. ... Well, for the other team. Still, nice to see you compete, K.C.
While Blaine Gabbert has shown some toughness, the offense looks flat-out dysfunctional. Whether it's Gabbert's growing pains, the Jaguars' play-calling or Rashad Jennings' ineffectiveness, Jacksonville Jaguars fans are being untreated to lousy football, and it's a shame. Thursday night's game never seemed much like a game at all.