Solidification draws nearer as the moving and shaking ramps down.
That's the story after Week 5, as it always seems to be. Now is the time of the season when we get a lucid read on where teams stack up, where they deserve to be and where they might finish. We see some teams putting together a couple of sterling performances or poor showings in a row. We see the suspected good teams handling the weaker clubs. And we see your friendly writer doing some legit prognosticating after a futile effort the previous week.
The Seattle Seahawks hit the road and handled a lesser group on Monday night, thus proving their worth at the top end of these rankings. That said, feeling a team is one of the strongest in the league is not the same as witnessing said team's might ...
Well, Jessie, Jay Gruden didn't get that miracle, unless it came in the form of his No. 11 getting a huge touchdown while the opposite No. 11 had a bagful of scores called back. But aren't you forgetting about a little lightning bolt?
Yeah, he is. As you can see below, there's a new numero uno. As for the rest of the NFL totem pole, have a gander. Your Power Rankings take is always appreciated: @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Now, let the dissension commence!
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from the most recent Power Rankings.)
A collective holding of the breath after Philip Rivers banged his finger on his own lineman's helmet on a simple follow-through. Luckily, he's fine -- as is his game. Some of the plays Rivers made Sunday were just ridiculous, whether it was shaking off a sack and converting a third-and-17 or delivering an absolute dime of a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates. #stillMVP
Percy Harvin had the most spectacular night in NFL history among players who scored three non-touchdowns. That last sucker was a thing of beauty -- a 41-yard rainbow that fluttered down like a Seattle rain drop right into the mitts of a sprinting Harvin. Those wondering why the Seahawks aren't No. 1 -- like colleague @ChrisWesseling -- should remember the head-to-head loss to San Diego in Week 2. That doesn't mean everything, but considering the Chargers have outscored their opponents 133 to 63 this season, we have to keep Seattle parked here ... for now.
Jack Del Rio defense
turned it up a notch Sunday. The
Cardinals gained a grand total of 215 yards and couldn't convert a third down most of the day (3-for-16). Does anyone remember when John 3:16 used to be held up at seemingly every football game?
In related news, Peyton Manning just threw his five zillionth touchdown pass.
You think Eddie Lacy is done with his slow start? The second-year pro flat-out punished Viking defenders on a number of runs Thursday night. Said it before and I'll say it again: When that man is right, he is the lovechild of Marshawn Lynch and John Riggins.
Is it fair to suggest that, just maybe, some of the oomph behind the genius of Chip Kelly's offensive revolution stemmed from a healthy offensive line? LeSean McCoy, who picked up 5.1 yards per carry last season, is sitting on a Trent Richardson-esque average of 2.9 in 2014. All-Pro guard Evan Mathis is currently on IR-recall while he recovers from a sprained MCL. Center Jason Kelce, who suffered an abdomen injury in Week 3, is trying to get back by Week 10. And sixth-man Allen Barbre is done for the season. Brent Celek has been spotted essentially playing the role of right tackle on run plays. Not even Steve Van Buren could run behind this line.
Another big week for Andrew Luck, and yet another win for the Horseshoe. With the Texans' loss in Dallas, the Colts are now tied atop the AFC South -- and the first head-to-head matchup this season between the leaders comes at Houston on Thursday night. Last time these clubs played there, the Texans' secondary let T.Y. Hilton run around like a kid at a public swimming pool.
Twenty-one point loss in Denver, accompanied by a moderate drop in the Power Rankings.
Drew Stanton was mostly ineffective before getting hurt (and he could be out this weekend). Enter
Logan Thomas, who made all of the highlight shows with
his long touchdown pass to Andre Ellington. Uh, that's great, save for the fact that it was the only pass he completed all day.
So what about Carson Palmer? Tell you what: Nerve damage is a tricky deal. He could be gone another week; he could be gone another month. It will be tough to keep this team in the top 10 if Thomas has to start.
Win, lose or draw, that Brandon Lloyd catch along the left sideline to set up a field goal was freaking unreal. The acrobatic wideout must have cleared 40 inches with that leap. It's hard to remember this guy as a mercurial young talent with the Dennis Erickson 49ers. Yes, Lloyd's 33, but he sure didn't look that old Sunday, playa.
Not a wonderful showing for the Ravens in Indy, with the most glaring issue being the abysmal performance on third down. Baltimore went 1-for-11 on football's money down, virtually handing the game to the Colts. Just over 21 minutes of possession isn't gonna get it done, either -- unless you rack up a number of big plays. Unfortunately, for the Ravens, they didn't really get any of those.
If one more announcer says,
"So the sky isn't falling after all" ... First off, the sky was
never falling. And theoretically, the sky can't fall. If it could, we would demand that New England go back to
the Pat Patriot uniforms and the Red Sox retire Marty Barrett's No. 17.
People hissed at the No. 18 ranking last week. We gave the Pats a solid surge here for wasting last week's top team, but No. 11 is as far as we go. New England had failed to impress in any game this season before Sunday night, and was finding the going rough when there was no Matt Cassel around to gift-wrap four interceptions. All that said, what an impressive win. The Pats shut out Cincinnati on third down (0-for-7) and put up over two bills on the ground. Next up: at Buffalo, with first place in the AFC East on the line.
Somebody drive down to Greenville or go to the snobby Uptown area (which was Nowheresville in 1997) and hand out Cowboys tickets. Seriously, can some Dallas-based celebrity do this? Maybe somebody like, oh, Jerry Jones? As mesmerizing as the house that Jones built might be, the 'Boys have absolutely no home-field advantage. #discouraging
losing Rashad Jennings. How about that
Eli Manning, though? Dude's been on fire during the three-game win streak. Here are some numbers to ponder:
Manning last season + first two games of this season: 57.9 percent completion rate, 21 TD, 31 INT, 69.4 passer rating.
Manning's last three games: 70.1 percent completion rate, 8 TD, 1 INT, 115.2 passer rating.
We will stay away from the
Kyle Orton subject here. Here's a better one: If you fancy yourself a playoff team -- a club whose Week 17 will matter, for a change -- then wouldn't it behoove you to
play your best player when he's not healthy, and instead sit him, so that a part of the body that has been known to respond to rest can heal?
I will never understand playing injured stars. It's medieval. And in more cases than not, it doesn't work. Moreover, resting them gives other players an opportunity to do something besides catch footballs from the JUGS machine. Just a thought.
Nice win for the Steelers, who took care of business in an economical -- if not stylish -- way down in Jacksonville. Quietly, Ben Roethlisberger is having himself a doggone good campaign: 68.9 percent completion rate, seven touchdowns (against just two interceptions) and a healthy 100.1 passer rating. All this despite being sacked a sky-high 15 times already.
Heard that Andy Reid acknowledged Jamaal Charles didn't get the ball enough in San Francisco. Simple question: Why does this keeping happening to one of the game's most explosive weapons? Remember when Romeo Crennel essentially forgot Charles was on the team in a loss to the Raiders? Clearly, both coaches dropped the ball. Speaking of drops, there were some ugly ones Sunday.
Nice to see 2013's surprise team get back on track in front of the home folk, particularly with regard to the defense, which forced multiple Bears turnovers in Sunday's clutch win. Trying to find someone other than Cam Newton to run the ball effectively is still an issue. It's gotten so bad that fantasy owners are picking up Stephen Davis on the waiver wire ...
This might seem like a harsh drop for the Bears, but four more turnovers and 10 penalties equal a team not playing well. Yes, Chicago overcame a large deficit to beat the 49ers and survived the Jets, but following up those close contests with a blowout loss and an uninspiring performance in a game that could've been won ... No bueno.
Of all the guys who made clutch plays on Sunday or led their team on a winning drive -- be it Drew Brees, Tony Romo or even Kyle Orton -- the man who impressed me the most was Brian Hoyer. Answer this question honestly, Browns fans: How many of you thought Johnny Football would be starting by now? (Hit me up @HarrisonNFL.) Hoyer's game-winner to Travis Benjamin was a real beaut.
When Arian Foster is right, this team is right. Sure, the Texans lost in front of their home folks, er, on the road Sunday. But don't let that distract from what Bill O'Brien is accomplishing in Year 1. Also, don't let all the deserved hype surrounding J.J. Watt cloud the fact that Foster is as good as any running back in the league when he's healthy.
Sometimes we all complain about penalties. Not Saints fans on Sunday. Nope, Tampa's 15 penalties were a clear gift from football's Mt. Olympus, especially the illegal-hands-to-the-face flag that erased a third-down incompletion in overtime. While the Saints' defense appreciated the help, the recently maligned unit did a decent job against Tampa, particularly on third down.
If only every game could be played in the Georgia Dome ... The Falcons have now lost 10 of their last 11 away from home. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan is on his way to a 630-attempt season, one year after he led the NFC with 651. So the team has trouble on the road and the defense has trouble getting off the field. Just a thought, but what would kill those two bird-bugaboos with one stone? How about running the football?
OK, we realize the Rams are up three spots despite losing. But look at the teams around them, starting with the Vikings. How could we put St. Louis any lower? Everyone thought the Eagles would steamroll this team in Philly, and yet, the Rams fell by just six points. Plus, they're getting better play from the quarterback position than any team below them. Speaking of, is it just me, or does Austin Davis seem to be much more of a playmaker than Sam Bradford?
Worked with a pretty well-known NFL Insider on SiriusXM Radio last Thursday night, and after watching a few hours of Christian Ponder football, all he could muster by way of a reaction was, "He just needs to move on." Not sure if he was suggesting moving on from the Vikings for a fresh start, or just moving on from football altogether. There is no getting around how off some of those throws were. Good news for Vikes fans, though: Teddy Bridgewater returned to practice on Tuesday.
What to make of these Redskins? And what to make of this quarterback situation brewing in D.C.? Kirk Cousins responded nicely Monday night. Even in a losing effort, Cousins performed well against what is widely considered to be the best secondary in football. But a new week brings a new test for Cousins, as the Redskins must travel to Arizona, which boasts a pretty good secondary of its own. With solid quarterback play, though, Washington can win this game.
Close doesn't get the cigar, but it should give Mike Glennon the stating gig over Josh McCown, regardless of the latter's status. Just think: McCown's injury has afforded the organization a rare opportunity to evaluate its backup. That's something that typically only comes between February and August, when teams are handing starting jobs to the Josh McCowns of the world.
All those who've been clamoring for Michael Vick -- and all the players who consider him a living legend -- should consider this: Besides being cruddy on Sunday, Vick has never logged 25 TD passes in a season, has completed less than 60 percent of his throws in 11 of 12 years in the league and only once has posted a passer rating higher than 90 in a season that saw him start multiple games.
What you saw Sunday was, in theory, a young quarterback who was considered not quite NFL ready and, hypothetically, would benefit from being redshirted his rookie season. Philosophically speaking, of course.
Not sure what interim coach Tony Sparano is going to give this football team in the wake of Dennis Allen's dismissal, but I guess we'll find out when the red-hot Chargers visit Oakland on Sunday. Forgive Raider fans if they are not all kittens and rainbows about the new sheriff in town. Retread? Maybe. Improvement? Without a doubt.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.