Continuity is the theme of the Week 8 Power Rankings.
This week's hierarchy features a familiar ruling class. Considering three of the top five teams were off last week, though, that was to be expected. Still, the campaigning has already begun ...
The Jayhawks are 0-7, dude. The Steelers should've dominated them.
But yes, BezThinks, you bring up a valid point. Remember, these are the Power Rankings, not the Power Standings, so you won't see a freefall from the Steelers this week. Not when they're about to get back their most important player. Another team only dropped a smidge after a gut-wrenching loss because it, too, is on the verge of welcoming back a top-flight player. I won't give away the franchise, but it might rhyme with Halas wow toys.
For full analysis of all 32 NFL teams, take a gander below. Send me your take on the Twitter: @HarrisonNFL is the place. Will be responding Tuesday afternoon. And it's fun to interact on Twitter ...
Why do others even try? Everyone knows @HarrisonNFL power rankings are the only real onesâ SPOOKEE (@SalteeMusic) October 26, 2015
(Don't put it past me to create a fake Twitter profile.)
OK ... Let the dissension commence!
NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Oct. 20 Power Rankings.
New England holds on to the top spot in the rankings, surviving a typical Jets-Patriots battle that was as hard-fought as any Foxborough entry in this series has been in recent history. Coming in, the last three Jets- Patriots games in New England were settled by three points or less. Of all the points of fact about this AFC East battle, including Rob Gronkowski's career-high 11 catches, my favorite nugget came after Tom Brady's lunging quarterback sneak ...
Tom Brady 91-for-100 on third- and fourth-and-1 as a runner during his career.â Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) October 25, 2015
Much speculation about Eddie Lacy and his lack of production thus far this season, with some people wondering if he has a gut. Whether the guy has cookie belly right now or not, methinks Lacy will be a big part of the Packers' success late in the year. Meanwhile, Randall Cobb is the player whose output has really slowed down. Cobb -- whose yards-per-catch mark is down to 11.7 from 14.1 last season -- has been dealing with a shoulder problem that might be impacting him more than has been let on. Bye week equals rest week.
It was also a bye week for the Bengals, who, like the Packers above them here, are rolling. In fact, in the last couple of weeks, Cincy has been more impressive than the Cheeseheads, who barely dodged overtime in beating the Chargers in Week 6. Remember, though, that San Diego played the Bengals every bit as tough at Paul Brown Stadium in Week 2. So we're not ready to swap our Nos. 2 and 3 teams just yet.
Carolina cruises on, playing a stifling brand of defense that doesn't allow for opponents to get away with the tiny mistakes that can often be masked by big plays. Sure, Ryan Mathews broke a big gainer Sunday night, but there wasn't enough of that from Philly to compensate for drops, penalties and Sam Bradford misfires. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis roamed sideline to sideline, making tackles and, in Davis' case, ensuring ball carriers remembered his jarring hits. The pass rush was almost as striking, especially the push Kawann Short was delivering in the middle. #undefeated #RiverboatRon #'96 Panthers #Ginnhashands #football
Restful times for the Broncos, or at least a break from the persistent (and annoying) questions about Peyton Manning. There is so much more to a football team than the quarterback, like a defense constantly being asked to bail out its offense, a much-hyped back doing nothing this year, a WR1 dropping passes ... You know, hypothetical stuff.
The Falcons survived a scare in Nashville despite Matt Ryan being off for the better part of the day. The franchise quarterback missed Julio Jones twice in the end zone, ultimately finishing 22 of 38 for 251 yards with a touchdown to Jones and two picks. The defense did its job, however, repeatedly halting Titans progress on drives, forcing the Mettenbergers to go 1 for 9 on third down and picking off the young passer late to seal the deal.
No drop for the Jets, based on their valiant effort on the road (kinda like last season's blocked-kick debacle). Yet, the loss in Foxborough still represents a key L in the division standings. Some might feel the Jets are playing for the wild card, but don't tell Todd Bowles' guys that. Unfortunately, covering Gronk is a necessary part of the equation when it comes to unseating the Pats in the AFC East these days.
No dip for Pittsburgh after
a double-digit loss to the Chiefs? Not when
Ben Roethlisberger's likely to return to the huddle.
On Sunday, the Steelers truly looked like a team with a backup QB under center (finally) in Arrowhead against a desperate Chiefs team. That's a tough assignment for a veteran quarterback, much less a guy making his first NFL start. Landry Jones' day: 16 of 29 with a TD and two picks. More important: Pittsburgh's ineptitude on third down (2 for 10). Most important: The Steelers stayed afloat sans Big Ben by going 2-2, giving them a 4-3 mark overall. What if they beat the Bengals at Heinz this week?
What appeared to be a game in control evolved -- or devolved -- into a furious ending in the desert. Furious pass rush from Dwight Freeney, too -- the 35-year-old was bringing the heat on that final drive. Freeney, Chris Johnson (who stunningly ranks second in the NFL in rushing) and Larry Fitzgerald: Three veterans written off by many who are now key pieces of a 5-2 first-place puzzle. Quietly efficient game from Carson Palmer on Monday night, as well. In other MNF news, Jon Gruden has a large man crush on Tyrann Mathieu.
Vikings are 4-2. How many football fans outside of Minnesota even realize that? If the season ended today, take a wild guess as to who would hold
the second wild-card slot in the NFC ...
If Teddy Bridgewater can continue to play like he did at Ford Field, and Adrian Peterson gets some of that top-end speed back (like on this second-half run on Sunday), this Vikes club will be no joke come January, especially with a defense that is allowing the second-fewest points per game in the NFL. While you're here, though, watch a catch that is, oh, about a 10 out of 10 on the difficulty scale. Geez Louise, Stefon Diggs looks super.
Leaving the Eagles alone, at least for now, even though they're above some teams with slightly better records. Of the 3-3 clubs below them -- the Rams, Raiders and Dolphins -- there isn't one that would have won in Carolina on Sunday night against that stingy Panther defense. The Monday night blowout of the Giants was far too recent to ignore, so Philly stays ahead of Big Blue, as well. Eagles receivers sure would help matters if they, you know, received the ball.
What a significant win for the Giants on Sunday -- at least in the long view, as it evened their division record at 2-2. Splitting with Dallas was of prime importance, especially if the Cowboys go on a run when Tony Romo returns. Big Blue now has two winnable games on the road -- at New Orleans and Tampa Bay -- before hosting the Patriots in Week 10. I'm not suggesting those are easy contests for a team that is struggling on offense, but you have to surmise that the Giants can at least split those two roadies, if not take both. No other NFC East team will be better than 5-4 heading into Week 10.
Painfully obvious statement of this week's Rankings: This Todd Gurley kid is exciting. Watching him motor through the Browns' second level on his second career touchdown, I was not only struck by his immense talent, but also the possibility that he is already the second-best running back in the league (behind only Le'Veon Bell). In this era, RBs are at their best in their first five or six years, a career signpost Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch have already run past. Next up: the 49ers team that Beast Mode just chewed up.
Dominant performance authored by the defense last Thursday night. Richard Sherman looked like he just left the reggae club with his one-foot-tall Seahawks beanie in postgame. And that's OK when you play like he -- and the rest of that secondary -- did versus Colin Kaepernick. Of course, the job was made easier by a pass rush that came alive with six sacks. That front four's dominance in spots early this season had been overlooked. The unit sure showed up in Santa Clara.
Positive vibes all around for the
Raiders. In fact, on
"NFL Now Gameday Blitz" this past Sunday, I felt compelled to remind all of our analysts that they had better include Oakland in the AFC wild-card discussion. We went around the set, with guys naming numerous teams -- and nary a mention of the Silver and Black. I'm here for you, Raider Nation.
The key for this group now will be to not let up like we saw in Chicago a few weeks back. That's your gig, Jack Del Rio.
In other news, only Todd Gurley is attempting to take a little bottle of whiteout to Amari Cooper's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Horrible loss for the Bills on multiple levels. One thing that wasn't their fault: That PI call late on the Jaguars' go-ahead touchdown drive. Disgusting. That said, EJ Manuel put the team behind the eight ball early and often -- and didn't make up for it late, either. Of course, better play calling could have helped out the young QB. That fourth-and-2 play -- going empty backfield with no threat of a run, and asking Manuel to throw across his body to his left -- defied explanation. Still, Manuel absolutely could have put more mustard on that ball. As one of my Twitter peeps mentioned, it looks like Manuel doesn't trust what he sees out there, which makes his balls come out late. That sounded bad. You know what I meant.
Holy Dan Campbell, the Dolphins look fantastic. Savvy move, Miami management, to make the coaching change with a bye and two dumpster-fire teams on the horizon. Good stuff. After Sunday's shellacking of the Texans, Ryan Tannehill looked happier than a $100 millionaire who just bought an "Eight Is Enough" button-down and wore it to the postgame. And why shouldn't he? Twenty-five completions in a row, a running game and a pass rush. Christmas comes early for RT. The Jarvis Landry touchdown was equal parts brilliant running after the catch and poor tackling. Can we get some Next Gen stats on that play? Landry ran, like, 203 yards on a 50-yard catch-and-run. Even some D-lineman named Ndamukong had two sacks. Great day for that developmental prospect.
Hey, Kirk: I like that. And I can love you like that. Hardly anyone believed in the Washington quarterback. By the second quarter on Sunday, Robert Griffin III suddenly became a hot topic yet again. And professionally, I was starting to wonder if my endorsement of Mr. Cousins as a fantasy spot start on "NFL HQ" was going to earn me something pink -- and no, I'm not referring to the Breast Cancer Awareness gear we're all wearing. Then Cousins started lighting it up. And Washington's defense tightened, even with its best player hurt. What a comeback for the still-relevant-in-the-shoddy-NFC East Redskins.
Can somebody wake up the Saints and let them know it's not 2009? Talk about eerie ... The manner in which New Orleans bested the Colts on Sunday is precisely how Sean Payton's club rolled in '09 -- when, by the way, it won the Super Bowl. Forcing timely turnovers (the Saints forced 39 that year) on defense and unleashing a potent, balanced attack on offense. On the ground, Mark Ingram plowed for 143 yards and a touchdown (on just 14 carries), while Khiry Robinson added two rushing touchdowns. Then, fittingly, the game-sealer came courtesy of a Drew Brees-to-Marques Colston third-down completion. Party like it's 2009!
The early returns are quickly becoming midseason returns -- even Colts fans are acknowledging that this just isn't a very good football team. Are the Colts horrible? No. But Indianapolis simply doesn't have the defense, depth or special teams to overcome multiple Andrew Luck turnovers. Luck now has 10 giveaways in five games this season, and 20 in his last 12 games (going back to the beginning of last December). Moreover, Luck's passer rating during that latter span is a not-sterling 73.6. #justthefacts
If you turned on
Raiders-Chargers late, you might have thought this game was competitive. It wasn't. Oakland largely dominated coordinator John Pagano's defense, with a little let-up in the second half. Giving up 7.1 yards per play isn't going to accomplish much, other than chalking up a big, fat loss.
Bolts back Danny Woodhead caught 11 passes, including his first two touchdown receptions since 2013. The reason I bring that up? To applaud Woodhead for knowing the score and refraining from acting like an idiot. After scoring both touchdowns, Woodhead simply tossed the ball to the ref -- instead of dunking the football like so many other dudes do, even when their team is getting pummeled. Well, not that Woodhead could dunk, but he could finger-roll or jump-hook or ... Whatever, you get the point.
Glad Matt Cassel did Steve Pelluer's legendary No. 16 justice out there in the New Meadowlands. The new man under center made a few plays -- including tossing a perfect ball on the run for a touchdown to Devin Street -- but the Cowboys could not overcome three interceptions, or a couple of major special-teams miscues by the kick-coverage units and Blonde Rambo. Tell you what: That Dallas defense allowed just 13 points. Looks different.
After down-to-the-wire contests against the Raiders, Chargers, Ravens and Broncos, Cleveland laid a brown ... egg? ... on the turf in St. Louis. Penalties, stalled drives and Todd Gurley destroyed the Browns in the 24-6 loss. The four fumbles weren't too helpful, either. This game pretty much sucked for the Brownies.
Gnarly, man. That's what Thursday night's game was for San Francisco. Not that people use that kind of language anymore in the Bay Area, which has been overrun by techies and $5 million condos. Complain about Colin Kaepernick all you want, but the entire offense stunk it up, with only 142 total yards. At least the Niners made up for it by going 1 for 11 on third-down conversions. Back to Kaepernick for a second: Is he required to wear those Beats headphones in the postgame? I'd like to think he had them plugged into a MacBook, watching game film in solitude after that showing. Maybe?
Bears were off last week ... and the Cubbies are off this week. Too soon? I am old enough to remember
Leon Durham and his sweet glasses. And I think I had the hologram baseball card that showed Will Clark going yard on Greg Maddux in the 1989 NLCS. I'm saying it right now: Cubs vs. Rangers in the 2016 World Series.
Oh, yeah: the Bears! Well, with no game last week ... Glad Matt Forte didn't get traded. #Week8
You know the Bucs are kicking themselves for blowing that 24-nothing lead at FedExField. It's bad enough if you blow that kind of lead to Johnny Unitas or Kenny Stabler. But Kirk Cousins? Oh man, what a missed opportunity for the Bucs, who had a chance to even their record at 3-3 (and eclipse last season's win total in Week 7). In case you missed it, though, another huge day of production from Doug Martin, who accounted for 171 yards from scrimmage.
Congrats to the Chiefs on earning a much-needed W in front of the home folk. Big plays all around, from Eric Berry's interception to Charcandrick West's first career touchdown to Tamba Hali's strip-sack. Everyone has been rooting for Berry since he returned from beating cancer. The fantasy football masses were all over West on the waiver wire as soon as the grim news poured in on Jamaal Charles. Hali, however, had only one sack to his name coming into the matchup with the Steelers. Five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble that ended scant Pittsburgh hopes made for a delightful day for No. 91 in red.
What a win for the entire Jaguars organization. I'm talking players, coaches and front-office folks. Sure, the offense got bailed out by that terrible PI call on Nickell Robey late in the fourth quarter. Yet, give the Jags -- especially Allen Hurns -- credit for making plays in the waning moments. Hurns' lunging, twisting, shoulder-slamming grab was outstanding. Want to see it again? Enjoy.
Another close loss for the Ravens, who continue to look for guys like Crockett Gillmore to make plays in the most critical of moments. The player who set up Baltimore in Cardinals territory late was none other than the very recently acquired Chris Givens. Despite the makeshift offensive line and secondary, Baltimore hangs in every game. One dude doing more than merely staying viable is Elvis Dumervil, who continues to beat single blocking at the point of attack. More Dumervil, less rookies -- that's the ticket, John Harbaugh.
Been a while since the Titans blew away the Bucs -- and football fans everywhere -- with that drubbing in Week 1. Five losses later, Ken Whisenhunt doesn't seem to have any answers, much like in 2014. The sad thing on Sunday -- or, at least, the thing that was obscured by another loss -- was the brilliant play of Tennessee's defense for the majority of the afternoon. The Falcons came in averaging a healthy 30.5 points per game -- and left Nashville with 10. Can't do much better than that. Unfortunately, Zach Mettenberger -- who was filling in for the injured Marcus Mariota -- couldn't get the ball downfield and tossed a pair of interceptions.
Fast start ... then
wot happened? The doldrums didn't begin with third down, but drives sure ended there. Detroit couldn't
buy a conversion. In fact, after converting their first attempt -- on
a 46-yard completion to Calvin Johnson -- the
Lions failed to have a successful third down the
rest of the game. Surprising end-zone drop by
Theo Riddick, who leads all NFC running backs in catches and has been one of the
Lions' only reliable offensive players this season.
On Monday, the Lions canned three offensive coaches, including coordinator Joe Lombardi. The new offensive boss? Jim Bob Cooter. Yes, that's a real name.
You know it's bad when a team's fans are actually lobbying you to make them No. 32. So, you're welcome, Texans fans. While they probably are aware of this stat by now, the following is a tasty treat for the other readers who made it all the way to the bottom of the Power Rankings: At one point in the second quarter Sunday, Miami had 35 points while Houston had zero yards of offense. Read that line again. That might be the most amazing stat I've ever seen. No, that is the most amazing stat I've ever seen.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.