This is my ninth season covering the NFL, and I have never seen anything like this.
The whole damn league is as unpredictable as ever. Forget parity. Call it parody.
Shall we keep going? The Ravens looked wonderful versus the Panthers in Week 4, dysfunctional in Indy the next week, then like the Pro Bowl team in Tecmo Super Bowl at Tampa on Sunday. Philadelphia has been playing cruddy on offense for weeks now, then simply dismantled the Giants this past weekend. None of it makes any sense.
I hear ya -- and I heard from a few Bengals fans on Twitter who aren't happy with the inconsistency of their team. As for the rest of the league, I am absolutely sure you will disagree (but you can always tell me I did a heckuva job) ... @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Now, let the dissension commence!
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from the most recent Power Rankings.)
Close call in Oakland. After comparing the Chargers' faltering defense to the Broncos' improved unit, the latter team moves into the top spot. This is not to disparage San Diego, as quality teams prevail in emotional games like the Bolts' win over the Raiders. The Chargers have survived more than a few injuries, but right now, Denver is a little bit healthier and stronger on the personnel front.
Due to an incredible defensive effort, I feel the Eagles have truly earned this spot. Shoot, things were going so well Sunday night that even LeSean McCoy averaged more than 2 yards per carry. Now we're cookin' with grease! Of course, the bye week is here, so the process of building momentum will be somewhat abated, unfortunately. The bye also gives us an additional week to ponder the quality of this 5-1 club -- and how good it could be if the quarterback were actually playing well.
If Philip Rivers weren't playing football this season, I would produce five MVP trophies and hand them to Nos. 77, 65, 72, 70 and 68. Yes, No. 29 has balled out, too. But, come on, which offensive line in the league is playing better than Dallas' unit? Unfortunately, it appears right tackle Doug Free will miss a few weeks with a foot injury, but still. Some of those holes Sunday against the big, bad Seahawks were ... well ... big and bad. #realfootball
Forget that Seattle's front seven got pushed around by that Cowboys offensive line this past Sunday. Think more about the three Percy Harvin touchdowns that were called back in D.C., or the fatigue that set in at San Diego. Essentially, when (or if) the Seahawks put it all together, they should ascend rapidly -- perhaps to the very top. But the point is, at this juncture, Pete Carroll's team is underachieving. If I am seeing this wrong, let me know (@HarrisonNFL). I think even the most ardent Seahawks fans recognize this group has not put its best foot forward.
Aaron Rodgers pulled a Dan Marino in Marino's pad. Unreal. The fake spike got the Pack inside Miami's 5-yard line, setting up Andrew Quarless' game-winning touchdown catch. You probably saw that. Yet, did you notice how cool Rodgers was throughout crunch time? Yes, he fumbled at one point on the game-winning drive, but he shook it off and took care of another foe on the road. Give a small game ball -- maybe a NERF -- to T.J. Lang for hopping on that fumble and hooking the ball into his body. #TJHooker
Indianapolis got it done down in Houston with plenty of offense, some laaaaate turnovers and, well, a little hanging on. The Colts got the key Andre Johnson fumble when they needed it, surviving multiple return volleys from the Texans. Hey, that's what good teams are supposed to do. If everything went as blueprinted in life, we'd all be pissing off Metallica's drummer by downloading music from Napster.
That Colin Kaepernick touchdown strike to Anquan Boldin was an absolute thing of beauty. Ditto seeing Brandon Lloyd pull his career back from ... gosh ... who knows. The only concern now is what to make of Patrick Willis' toe injury -- how many missing front-line starters on defense is too many?
Joe Flacco doesn't even throw for five touchdown passes in Madden! If ever a Baltimore quarterback looked like Johnny Unitas, it was Flacco on Sunday. Go figure. Geez Louise, what a showing from the Ravens' offense, including the unit's most unheralded guy. Justin Forsett carried the football 14 times for 111 yards, with his 52-yarder setting up Flacco's first scoring toss of the day. In fact, that rumble really set the tone for the game. Now I don't feel so bad for keeping Baltimore high in the rankings. Missed the game pick, though. Drat.
No movement for the Patriots, as every team ranked ahead of them -- save for Seattle -- took care of business, too. Add in Stevan Ridley and Jerod Mayo being out for the year, and you get the point. That aside, I think Tom Brady has answered a few questions ... 50 of 72 for 653 yards and six touchdowns with zero picks over the past two weeks.
If any team got the Power Rankings shaft, it's this one. Yet, consider:
A) This defense has allowed 73 points over the past two games, including 37 to an offense that hadn't scored that many points since Week 3 of 2013.
B) Every single top-12 team that was behind the Bengals in last week's rankings won, either handily or on the road.
C) Their best player has been in a walking boot.
Even before the tie, I had a few Bengals fans hit me up on Twitter to say the team is way worse than the top-five ranking it had received in recent weeks. (See: The intro above.) So where would #WhoDey nation put them? ( @HarrisonNFL) In other news, a tie is like having Corey Dillon rush for 1,400 yards and set a single-game rushing record ... for a 4-12 football team. Or a World Cup game.
Criticized the Lions' defense in the offseason plenty, mostly because the front line never seemed to impose its will in games despite getting so much credit for "potential." Mea culpa. Detroit completely dominated Minnesota's offense, as detailed here. It's one thing to beat a rookie quarterback; it's another thing entirely to beat him into the ground.
What is it, like 1972? Brian Hoyer attempted just 17 passes Sunday as the Browns got it done against their archrivals on the ground and on defense. What a key win for this organization. Come to think of it, in 1972, the Browns drafted another Brian at quarterback -- Anyone? Bueller? ( @HarrisonNFL) -- and threw the ball 24 times a game.
It was the bye week in Kansas City, which meant the fantasy owners of the world didn't have to stress out about whether to play Knile Davis. Interesting how fantasy sports has made small-time celebrities out of reserve running backs. As solid a performer as Davis is, 15 years ago, no one outside of Missouri would have known Jamaal Charles' backup.
Needless to say, Chicago fans have been waiting for that kind of performance from the defense since last September. The Bears held the Falcons to 287 yards of offense, allowed them to convert on third/fourth down just four times in 15 attempts, sacked Matt Ryan four times, picked him off another time and gave up a grand total of 13 points to a team averaging 46.5 per game at home. Need we say more?
Sometimes pro football makes no sense. The Giants came into Philly averaging 35 points and 395 yards per game over their previous three contests. Then they go zero and 253 against a defense that hadn't been able to stop anybody. Come on.
Brutal game for Ben Roethlisberger, who came into Cleveland with an 18-1 career record against the Browns -- and left with an 18-2 mark. Pittsburgh was out of sorts all day, with the defense completely on its heels. Cleveland ran ... and ran ... and ran the football some more. Oddly enough, while these two teams are in the thick of the AFC North race, they are done facing off this season -- unless they meet in January.
Not an easy Thursday night at NRG Stadium, obviously, yet Bill O'Brien's club showed impressive resilience in fighting back from a 24-0 deficit. The defense could certainly play better. (Sure would've been nice to snatch a few of Andrew Luck's errant heaves.) That said, this unit should improve significantly when Jadeveon Clowney gets back and starts figuring out what he's doing.
Fielded many complaints about Buffalo being too low in last week's Power Rankings, but the thought here was that the club reached (and knee-jerked) with Kyle Orton -- and, generally, was not playing all that well. Well, the offense does look better with Orton under center. But while I understand gripes about the Bills being lower than the Lions and Bears (both of whom Buffalo beat), both of those teams won in convincing fashion Sunday and are still better at pro football's most important position -- quarterback. What we need to see from Doug Marrone's team is consistency, even if it is just for two games in a row.
The Dolphins hung in there against Green Bay in the second half, with the offense getting it going by taking its first three drives to paydirt. What drives fans in Miami nuts is the inconsistency of this ballclub. Just when the 'Fins seem ready to turn the corner, they come out flat. Then, when the defense starts playing well, Ryan Tannehill does nada. Tannehill gets hot, then the Dolphins' secondary falls apart. Ugh.
Watched SoundFX on NFL Network the other night and really got a true appreciation of a) the communication between Sean Payton and Drew Brees and b) how quickly Brees runs that offense, with such a sense of urgency. Seeing it on film from a low angle showed just how rapidly things were evolving during New Orleans' overtime win against the Bucs in Week 5. Awesome stuff.
Put simply, it was another rough day for the Falcons -- and particularly the secondary, which was repeatedly roasted on deep balls from Jay Cutler (who averaged over 10 yards per throw). We've been hearing much about Atlanta's struggles on the road, especially when it comes to the offense, but that group did little on the fast track of the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
What an ugly, ugly home loss for the Vikings, who only move up because they've beaten St. Louis (and the Rams stunk on Monday night). Minnesota's offensive line was clearly overmatched against Detroit, and definitely misses Brandon Fusco. The unit misses a lot of blocks, too. Teddy Bridgewater was sacked eight times. He was knocked down another 485 times. Just ask Chip Scoggins of The Star Tribune. He surveyed the scene appropriately.
Hearing some criticism of Jeff Fisher. It's understandable, considering the undisciplined play, poor route-running and nonsensical penalties here or there. ( Alec Ogletree, anyone?) Look, we don't want to bounce the football on anyone's head here, so we'll simply say the whole team -- not just quarterback Austin Davis -- has to put together two halves of football, not one, like against Dallas, Philadelphia and now San Francisco.
On the surface, Kirk Cousins gives this team a chance to win. And yet, the Redskins don't have the horses to mitigate his turnovers or the stunning lack of a running game. Alfred Morris being such a non-factor has to be one of the more underreported problems in the NFL this year. (And yes, it is OK to put much of that on the offensive line.)
Somehow, despite getting flattened in every statistical category on Sunday, the Jets were involved in a one-score game against mighty Denver late in the fourth quarter. For a second, it might have seemed as though the football gods had smiled upon Rex. Then, just like the screaming asteroid that destroyed the original Rex 65 million years ago, Geno Smith delivered a tailor-made pick-six to bury Gang Green.
Nice to see Tony Sparano slapping some butts out there -- well, you know, getting the group fired up. This Oakland team looked like a new group, giving the visiting Chargers all they could handle. Then again, it was like when Van Halen became Van Hagar. New front man, some of the same old problems. Maybe not ego, like in VH's case, but all-you-can-eat defense and 11 penalties did the club in. That aside, Derek Carr showed us all his potential. What if he becomes THE QB from the Class of 2014?
It was a tough job, but somebody had to lose to the reeling Titans. Enter the Jaguars, who can't get out of their own way. Jacksonville outgained Tennessee by almost 100 yards, nearly doubled the Titans' first-down total and didn't start a career backup QB who dons a "More than Words"-style ponytail -- yet they still lost. What's worse than that? Maybe those "A Storm is coming!" quips by broadcasters. Presented without further comment ... Storm Johnson: 10 carries for 21 yards. Get excited.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.