What a Week 5. Talk about making the Power Rankings a bit difficult to put together.
You're right, Josh. Ranking the teams this week felt like pouring out a bucket of Halloween treats and getting 80 percent candy corn and Tootsie rolls. We're also at that point in the season when we have to sometimes ignore head-to-head records. Yes, the Bills beat the Ravens, but Buffalo sits underneath Baltimore, thanks to EJ Manuel's LCL sprain. The Chargers took down Dallas, yet they just played poorly in Oakland and have a far worse point differential than the Cowboys. And the Cardinals bested the Lions, but given how important the quarterback position is in today's NFL, Carson Palmer's subpar play this season can't be ignored.
So with that, we present this week's Power Rankings. Per the usual, feel free to share your thoughts ... @Harrison_NFL is the place.
Let the dissension commence.
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)
On Sunday, America got to see a heckuva display from
Peyton Manning and
Tony Romo, both of whom played
nearly perfect football. Each did throw a pick -- though, of course, Romo's ended up being the costlier of the two.
The under-tweeted part of the story was the tremendous effort made to intercept that ball by Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan, who read Romo's eyes and made an incredibly athletic play to get in front of the tight end -- and catch the football. How often do we see defenders get position, only to drop the ball? Not this time; Trevathan secured another win for the best team in the world.
OK, this is no longer a fluke. This blurb isn't about Sean Payton and Drew Brees. The Saints' defense continues to step up, holding the Bears to 18 points (on the road) a week after holding the Dolphins to 17, two weeks after holding the Cardinals to seven, three weeks after holding the Buccaneers to 14 and four weeks after holding the Falcons to 17. That's consistency -- and frankly, it's enough to threaten any team in the NFL, including those guys in orange up in Colorado.
Kansas City is 5-0 for the first time since 2003. That year, the
Chiefs went 13-3 and landed a home game in the playoffs, ultimately locking up with a quarterback who could potentially stand in the way once again 10 years later:
The divisional-round match with Indianapolis -- which the
Colts took by the score of 38-31 -- featured no punts. Zero. Neither defense could get a stop.
These Chiefs, however, have been playing solid defense in this young season, and -- unlike the team from 2003, which leaned on the always-underrated Trent Green -- don't rely on their quarterback to put up 30 points. It's a good thing, too, as Alex Smith didn't look so hot in Tennessee. Call Sunday's victory over the Titans a team win that further solidified the reality that Kansas City can go from 2-14 in 2012 to the postseason in 2013.
Well, it's hard to anoint a guy as a top-five quarterback after just 21 career starts. And yet, if you watched
Andrew Luck beat the Seahawks on Sunday at Lucas Oil, it's hard not to start tossing that idea around. Right now, I've got it like this: 1)
Peyton Manning, 2)
Tom Brady, 3t)
Drew Brees, 3t)
Aaron Rodgers, 5)
Ben Roethlisberger, 6) Luck.
Am I crazy? I'll take your thoughts @Harrison_NFL. It's becoming tough to say Luck doesn't have a big enough body of work yet.
The Seattle fan base blows up the Twitter like none other. In fact, we took some serious grief for picking
the Colts over the Seahawks in our
Week 5 Game Picks column.
While the Seahawks clearly are fallible, the thinking here is that they'll still go 13-3 or 12-4. It will be tough for any team to overtake Seattle in the race for home-field advantage in the NFC, especially if the 12th Man makes life miserable for the Saints in what's looking like the best game on the 2013 schedule: Dec. 2, New Orleans at Seattle on "Monday Night Football." #awesome
Wet ball or not, that certainly was not Tom Brady's best effort Sunday in Cincinnati (18-for-38 for 197 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception). Still, his receivers aren't always making the right sight adjustments, nor were they able to hold on to complete catches against the Bengals. Their performance in the loss certainly resembled their effort in the ugly Week 2 win over the Jets.
Do you realize the 49ers had 45 yards passing in the first half against the Texans on Sunday and were up 21-zip? Colin Kaepernick finished with 113 yards through the air, and yet, San Francisco won going away. Pretty incredible job without Patrick Willis or Aldon Smith available. But it also speaks to a healthy commitment to the running game; the Niners' power attack racked up 177 yards on 36 carries.
Huge performance by the Bengals' defense on Sunday, with a wee bit of assistance from the kind of downpour not seen since Roy Hobbs knocked the cover off a ball. Terence Newman was particularly clutch, batting down a Tom Brady bomb that would have tied the score at 13 apiece with 3:26 to play. Quarterbacks have thrown 25 times this season on the 11th-year vet, completing just 14 passes with no touchdowns. Newman Island? Uh, call it Newman Timeshare.
It's starting to feel like 2010 again. That year, most of the attention went to the 14-2 New England Patriots -- as with the Broncos this season -- but the Pats fell in the divisional round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the injury-ravaged Packers (sound familiar?) made a winning Super Bowl run. This season, Green Bay's linebacker crew has really taken its lumps. Clay Matthews has suffered multiple injuries, including a broken thumb that is expected to keep him out for one month. Brad Jones' hamstring is no bueno and Robert Francois is out for the season. Where are Fred Strickland and Na'il Diggs when you need them?
If you want a glimpse of where Detroit would be without the greatest wide receiver since Jerry Rice, sign up for "Game Rewind" and rewatch Lions at Packers. The Detroit receiver with the most yards on Sunday? Kris Durham, with 30. Last year's second-round draft pick, Ryan Broyles, still has yet to break 100 yards -- as in, for the year.
Yes, we realize the
beaten the Bengals, who are ranked higher, but
the Packers destroyed the Lions, who
destroyed the Bears, and
Cincinnati bested Green Bay. Not to mention, this team has dropped two straight. And now defensive tackle
Nate Collins -- who had been playing in place of Henry Melton, who is on injured reserve -- is
out for the year.
A bright spot from Sunday's loss to the Saints has to be Alshon Jeffery, who posted what amounts to easily the best performance of his career with 218 yards receiving and a touchdown (of course, I chose to drop him from my fantasy team last week).
Gritty road win for the Ravens, who are hot one week, cold the next. Joe Flacco certainly played better this time around than he did during his five-interception afternoon in Buffalo, although he did give up a costly pick-six against the Dolphins. The real story of this game was the Ravens' renewed interest in their best player. Ray Rice ran the ball 27 times, which is analogous to the Vikings giving Adrian Peterson 84 carries. You have to multiply carries given to Baltimore running backs like you would dog years ...
From 3-0 and flying high to 3-2 and wondering why ... Miami lost a game it should've lost
on Sunday. The
Dolphins didn't play well against the
Ravens, particularly on offense: the running game couldn't get going (22 yards), the receivers dropped passes and the line gave up six more sacks.
While the offensive line has been a point of contention -- and for good reason -- Ryan Tannehill certainly could help the cause by showing more pocket awareness. Sometimes merely shuffling forward or backward, or sidestepping, makes all the difference in the world. For an example of this, look no further than Dolphins legend Dan Marino, who was the best at it, even with his surgically repaired Achilles/knees ... not to mention all those times he was weighed down by a pair of Isotoner gloves.
Ryan Fitzpatrick showed some shocking mobility on Sunday; the Titans got 50 yards rushing from Fitzmagic. Yet, at the end of the day, he faced too much pressure from the Chiefs' defense and didn't get enough help from his running game or receivers. At least Kenny Britt made up for it with three dropped passes.
You've probably heard about
Matt Schaub setting an NFL record by tossing a pick-six for a fourth consecutive week. It's an incredible run. You realize there have been plenty of weeks in NFL history in which there's been no pick-sixes thrown by ANY quarterback in the league, right?
Maybe it's not time for the Texans to go with T.J. Yates yet. But I'll tell you what: Schaub doesn't look the least bit confident out there.
Browns fans, be honest: Tell me you weren't in full-on panic mode after the first two series with Brandon Weeden last Thursday night. That's OK; Weeden recovered well enough to make some plays downfield while getting a huge lift from Travis Benjamin. That second long punt return by Benjamin was amazing to watch. It made me think of the time Eric Metcalf beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cleveland with two touchdown returns on punts.
Charles Woodson might have been on to something when he chose to sign with general manager Reggie McKenzie in Oakland. The likely Hall of Famer scored his 13th defensive touchdown in the Raiders' late-night victory. Then, around the time most people on the East Coast are usually watching a middle-of-the-night showing of "Antiques Roadshow" or something, he snared his 56th career pick.
the Chargers beat Dallas in Week 4, but Week 5's
somewhat-embarrassing loss in Oakland merits a drop of some proportion -- plus, the playoffs could be slipping out of reach. At 2-3, San Diego must rally now to have a shot at a wild-card berth. Perhaps the biggest game of San Diego's season lies directly ahead, as
the Bolts host the Colts on Monday night. Another loss will drop the
Chargers to 2-4, with all of the L's coming from within the AFC, which would be huge in a tiebreaker scenario.
The biggest surprise in the defeat to the Raiders was how poorly the defense performed in the first half -- San Diego can't do that against Andrew Luck.
Said a colleague of mine yesterday: "It's a testament to their players that the Cardinals can switch defensive coordinators and still play this well." Nice observation. Coordinator Todd Bowles' unit continues to make a statement every Sunday. Against the Panthers, that statement came in the form of seven sacks -- including a safety -- and three interceptions. Arizona has allowed 16 points total over the past two weeks. Still, we can't move this squad up much until Carson Palmer starts playing better than Terrelle Pryor and Nick Foles.
Would you believe we're five weeks deep and Atlanta is already 4.5 games back in the NFC South? Wide receiver injuries can't be blamed for everything; the Falcons' defense has several problems (tackling, applying pressure). At 1-4, this is getting real. And it could get worse, if initial fears about losing Julio Jones for the season are confirmed.
If you're an Eagles fan -- or just think the NFC East stinks -- you have to be encouraged by the way Nick Foles stepped in and played against the Giants on Sunday. Completing 16 of 25 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns -- in a divisional game on the road, no less -- is clutch. That's especially true when one considers that Michael Vick had been getting the majority of the reps in practice. We'll see if Foles can keep things going; he's likely to get the start with Vick's hamstring acting up. Philadelphia showed some resilience not seen in successive losses to the Chiefs and Broncos.
St. Louis got back into the win column with a home victory over the woeful Jags. Vandy product Zac Stacy averaged 5.6 yards on 14 rushing attempts to give Sam Bradford and the offense a little punch. Considering how the Rams' passing "attack" has fared when asked to win games this season, Jeff Fisher should perhaps mull the idea of sticking the ball in the rookie's stomach more often.
EJ Manuel's knee sprain -- which was exceptionally rough, as the rookie had reinvigorated the franchise -- leads to a big drop in the Power Rankings for now. So it's
Tuel time. I pity the Tuel. Even the best craftsman can't do good work if his Tuel isn't right. And on and on we go. ... If opponents play eight in the box, is it a "Tuel box?"
Actually, we'll have to put our puns back in the shed -- the Tuel shed? -- for now, as Thad Lewis, who had been on the Bills' practice squad, will start in Week 6. Look out, NFL; you're officially on notice.
A penny -- or a few hundred million -- for owner Jerry Richardson's real thoughts ...
An unscientific poll of
Panthers fans taken by the Charlotte Observer three weeks ago had 83 percent of respondents thinking
Ron Rivera should be ousted.
We certainly don't root for coaches to be dismissed. Yet, the club's maddening inconsistency -- like being completely thwarted by the Cardinals' defense Sunday -- has to be tough for the head of the organization to stomach. We opined that last week was a terrible time for the Panthers to go on a bye. Uh, looks like it pretty much was.
The bye gave Washington an extra week to prepare for Sunday's matchup with the Cowboys. Also, the most famous knee in pro football got a weekend off. Can Robert Griffin III replicate the legendary performance he put on at Cowboys Stadium last season? The way that Redskins secondary has been playing, he had better -- or it's 1-4 time.
Got a few raised eyebrows in the NFL Media newsroom two weeks ago when I suggested that the
Vikings might be a landing spot for
Josh Freeman -- and then, as it turned out, that was precisely the team
with which he landed.
Many believe Freeman is more talented than Christian Ponder. Moreover, while backup quarterback Matt Cassel led Minnesota to its only win of the season thus far, he is what he is at this point -- which basically is why he was available for the Vikings to sign this spring. So why not take a flier on Freeman?
Evaluation week for Mike Glennon comes after the Josh Freeman saga reached its nadir. Freeman's reputation took a beating -- kind of like the product put out by the 0-4 Bucs. Would you believe Tampa Bay has scored 44 points all season? The Broncos and Cowboys each eclipsed that figure in the same game.
Bye week in Pittsburgh means coordinator
Dick LeBeau was given 13 days to figure out how to finally get a takeaway out of his defense. There are a multitude of reasons why this club is winless, but failing to force even one turnover this deep into the schedule?
No matter what, it just doesn't feel like an NFL season when the Steelers suck this bad.
The New York Football
Giants are dealing with many ills -- like the "football" part.
Their biggest issues are clear. The secondary is blowing coverages. Overall, the defense has given up the most points (182) through five games since the 1961 Raiders (who were terrible). Meanwhile, Eli Manning is on pace to throw 38 interceptions. The Giants definitely aren't this bad; still, swagger is at an all-time low at MetLife.
Saw this comment from a Jaguars fan posted by The Florida Times-Union following
Sunday's loss in St. Louis:
"As a season ticket holder the Jags are doing great. I give my tickets to my customers which are fans of the opposing team and usually I have happy customers." -- George, Jacksonville
You have to hand it to that guy, who has found a way to deal with Gabbertmania in a positive way. My colleague, Marc Sessler, isn't quite as positive.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.