The Week 8 Power Rankings are in ... but not without a hot sports opinion fresh out of the oven.
How people could consider Sunday night's game between the Seahawks and Cardinals bad football vexes me. I get it: Your fantasy running back didn't score. What we saw was a clash between two inspired defenses hell-bent on not letting the other win the game, a contest played with unwavering intensity. It was emblematic of the very fabric the sport was built on. Many of the penalties were personal fouls, pulling guys off the pile ... or holding because the pass rushers were playing out of their minds. NOT SLOPPY FOOTBALL. Guess how many turnovers there were? None. Now, tell me that's sloppy football.
Now, on to some of your hot takes ...
It's not my fault! Or Han Solo's.
Now that Vin is no longer calling games for the Dodgers, evidently he's replaced Dodger blue for the Honolulu blue.
Won the bye week, huh? That's a new one, man. But I like it. Don't you worry, though: The Panthers didn't climb up there, either.
Let the dissension commence!
NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Oct. 18 Power Rankings.
It wasn't the cakewalk the pundits (though not this pundit) predicted, but it was a road win for the Patriots, who are 3-0 since Tom Brady returned from suspension. That's why they are ahead of the Vikings and Cowboys. New England continues to impress on offense, even if all the numbers didn't jump off the page Sunday. The key figure: 7 of 12 on third-down conversions (58 percent). Also worth mentioning are the second-half adjustments from Bill Belichick and staff. The vaunted tight ends were barely involved in the first half at Heinz. Gronk rocked the place in the second half, cruising down the seam for a 36-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and a 37-yard catch-and-run in the fourth. Gronk like candy.
The curse of the top spot continues. For the fourth time in the last five weeks, our No. 1 team fell. (Yes, Patriots fans, it happened to your team, too.) This Maddenesque phenomenon might've occurred last week had the Vikings not been on a bye. The bottom line in Philadelphia comes down to age-old football logic: turn the football over four times, and it doesn't matter how good your team is. Sam Bradford gave his former squad the last laugh ... in the form of three giveaways. Next up: at Chicago.
It was an off week for Dallas, a time when Dak Prescott decided to go home and fish rather than get into what a suddenly famous Cowboys quarterback could get into. One not-so-well-known factoid to come out of the bye week: Dallas entered Week 7 leading the NFL with 17 drives of 10 plays or more while only allowing nine, a figure that is in the bottom half of the league. That speaks to a rested, effective defense, don't you think?
All those people on Twitter who complained that Seahawks-Cardinals was an awful football game need to reassess what the sport is all about. What I saw was a Seahawks defense that wanted that game badly. On a night the offense couldn't move the football, Pete Carroll's defense and special teams did everything in their power to produce a scoring opportunity. Now if the general fantasy fan wants to hate on something, how about hating on coaches always playing for the field goal? Thought Seattle should've kept moving for a touchdown. The offense hadn't turned over the football all night. Carroll shouldn't have worried they were about to start almost 75 minutes in.
Statement win for the Broncos on Monday night, with a blueprint I'm sure Gary Kubiak would love to replicate going forward: The defense held the Texans to nine points, C.J. Anderson eclipsed 100 yards rushing and Trevor Siemian only was asked to make plays in spots. That said, it's just not fair for broadcasters to keep comparing the contracts of Siemian and Brock Osweiler. Not fair because Siemian makes so much less money. And he's better.
The questions regarding Aaron Rodgers' play should slow down for a week. Well, until he fails to throw for 300 yards and post a 100-somethin' passer rating again. Has any player established a higher bar for himself to hit? (Did it look like he and all his teammates were going to go do Bar Method in those color-rush white tights? I digress.) Ty Montgomery was dynamic out there replacing Eddie Lacy, but based on the number of times he tapped his helmet to come out, I don't think he's quite ready for the Eddie Lacy workload. Maybe he should do Bar Method.
When you win, you can pull off a blazer like this with a Hanes three-for-five-bucks V-neck T-shirt. While Carson Wentz will continue to have praise heaped on him in scoops, it was the Eagles' defense that reasserted its will on Sunday. After a subpar outing in Washington, Philly's defense forced four turnovers while holding the Vikings to 282 yards. Through six games, Jim Schwartz's defense has allowed 81 offensive points. That's 13.5 per game, folks.
A crazy Sunday night in Arizona halted the Cardinals' winning streak, and frankly, the tie makes the NFC West standings a jumbled mess. It also means the Christmas Eve meeting in Seattle will be a must-win if this group is to earn a home playoff game. Loved the slugfest and how hard both defenses fought on an evening that points were hard to come by. That said, I am genuinely worried David Johnson's legs are going to fall off around Week 14.
Consider the win Sunday much more in line with what we expect from the Chiefs this season. Well, all except for all the quarterbacks who have torched the secondary late in games ( Roethlisberger in Week 4, Brees in Week 7), a trend that, thankfully, was put on hiatus in Week 6 versus the Raiders. Alex Smith, who had been averaging more than 40 pass attempts per game, was closer to his more familiar totals Sunday, throwing 24 high-percentage passes against the Saints. Spencer Ware once again assumed much of Jamaal Charles' workload with 131 scrimmage yards and a tug. Can't wait until Justin Houston comes back.
Drop for the
fell in a tight affair against the suddenly resurgent
Chargers. This was a game of little things:
A) Matt Ryan, with a late lead, staring down his receiver and throwing it right to Denzel Perryman.
B) De'Vondre Campbell overrunning Antonio Gates, allowing the veteran tight end to pick up a huge 11 yards to get Josh Lambo in makeable-field-goal range in overtime.
C) The big mistake: Dan Quinn going for it on fourth down on his side of the 50. He might have confidence in his offense to pick up those yards, but it sure revealed a lack of confidence in his defense to stop another San Diego drive. Punt it.
The Raiders are 4-0 on the road this season; they've only reached that mark twice in their illustrious history. Even more noteworthy: The two years Oakland pulled off being the Mad Max of the NFL, they made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game -- in 1977 and 2000. Kenny Stabler was the QB for the Silver and Black in '77, and although he doesn't look anything like Stabler, Derek Carr's free-wheeling style of play resembles Snake's. One other note: Michael Crabtree is having himself a year. While A.J. Green's Hail Mary catch in Cincy was fortunate, this over-the-helmet sucker by Crabtree was skill.
So Landry Jones didn't hold the Steelers back as much as was prognosticated coming into Week 7. If Ben Roethlisberger is the muscle car behind this Pittsburgh offense, consider Jones the '83 Pulsar with an aftermarket moonroof. Roethlisberger's fill-in threw for 281 yards with one touchdown and one pick, but he ultimately couldn't move the chains often enough (6 of 18 on third and fourth downs) to keep pace with the Patriots' offense. Much-needed bye on deck for Steelers, who will come out of their weekend off with a date in Baltimore. That's one important game in the AFC North.
Why the significant drop following a close road loss? One reason: With all the missing personnel this team has endured, the single player it can't afford to be without is LeSean McCoy. This is a run-first team that's already down its top two wideouts. So it will be difficult for Tyrod Taylor to pick up the slack through the air if Shady is out for any extended period of time. Shocking that this front seven -- or any front seven -- let Jay Ajayi rack up two bills (his second straight week hitting that mark). Yikes.
Three in a row for the upstart Lions, who are staying afloat in the NFC North at 4-3. What makes this Detroit run more sustainable (remember, the Lions finished 2015 winning six of eight) is the improved play of Matthew Stafford since Jim Bob Cooter became offensive coordinator. Stafford has tossed 35 touchdowns to a scant eight interceptions in 16 games with Cooter as his OC. The game-winner to Anquan Boldin on Sunday was a beaut, laid in between two levels of coverage. For his part, Boldin engineered an opening for his quarterback with a swim move past the corner. Crafty would be the appropriate word. You know, it's free-agent signings like Boldin that fly under the radar in the spring and win games in the fall -- think DeAngelo Williams signing with the Steelers last year. Next up: at Houston.
Washington couldn't make it five in a row in the Motor City. It didn't help that the guy the team expects to motor in the run game couldn't stop putting the ball on the carpet. Matt Jones revived an age-old problem, and his Achilles' heel, Sunday in Detroit, fumbling into the end zone. The mistake cost the Redskins a potential touchdown in a game they ultimately would lose by three points. With six lost fumbles since 2015, Jones is tied with Melvin Gordon for the most among non-quarterbacks. On the bright side, while the #HTTR crowd waits on Josh Doctson, it looks like the club has developed a player in Jamison Crowder.
Much-needed win for an organization that took heavy criticism last week. On the field, the Giants' offense still feels out of sync. That said, we saw glimpses of what this defense can be. Granted, Case Keenum makes fans of the other team want to pull out a case of beers and laugh it up. Keenum gave Big Blue four balls, with Landon Collins taking one of them to the house in what was the pick-six of the year. Re: Keenum -- Eli Manning didn't play much better.
If only the Chargers owned a cool theme song that we could sing here. You know, something vintage to blast since they beat a Falcons team that was donning throwback unis. Maybe a song with a disco beat to it. Too bad San Diego doesn't have something like that. Oh well. Thought the Chargers won this deal when Philip Rivers delivered a perfect ball to Antonio Gates at the goal line. Not so. That's OK ... when the defense steps up the way it has the last two weeks. Holy cow, Joey Bosa has gone all J.J. Watt on the NFL.
If you like 5-yard ins and none-yard outs, this Texans offense is for you! Much hand-wringing going on in Houston regarding a certain quarterback's contract. Remember, the Texans are not on the hook for the entire $72 million that keeps getting tossed around. Also, it's only Week 8. The offensive line didn't fare well, lost a starter, and Lamar Miller was playing hurt. There's more going on with this team than just bad quarterback play.
Mini move upward for the Bengals, whose three wins have come against the Jets, Dolphins and Browns. Those teams have celebrated five wins combined this season. The encouraging sign from Cincy on Sunday was the ground attack, which churned out 271 yards. The oft-maligned Jeremy Hill accounted for much of that total, posting 168 yards on his stat line. Efficient game from Andy Dalton, though his stats were padded by the most ridiculous completion of the weekend. Must Watch: If you didn't see A.J. Green's catch to close out the first half ... you're welcome.
"I'm staying with Case." That was the word from Jeff Fisher coming off a shaky performance from his quarterback, who tossed four interceptions (though, not all were his fault). That included two in the Giants' end zone. On the final pick, Keenum appeared to be throwing a 50-50 ball for Brian Quick, but the Rams wideout stopped as if he was running a hitch. No bueno. Oh, wait. This happened in England. (Not sure what the Brits say in that situation. Drat?) The calls for Jared Goff have already started. Maybe fellow rookie Carson Wentz's mediocre showing Sunday will help keep those calls muted. Doubt it, though.
My colleague @Michael Fabiano suggested that Warrick Dunn, Mike Alstott, Errict Rhett, James Wilder, Earnest Graham, Charlie Garner and Bobby Rainey could've run for 100 yards on the 49ers on Sunday. The great Ricky Bell was added. I threw in Gary Anderson and Lars Tate for good measure. Care to add any? (@HarrisonNFL) Tampa Bay racked up almost 250 yards rushing, which means Mike Evans didn't see his usual 250 targets. Only 13 this week. He's on pace for 200. I'm not joking.
Not sure what to make of
Jay Ajayi, who seemed to disappoint everyone -- Miami, the fans, fantasy owners -- this preseason and in the early goings of the regular season. Ajayi rushed for more than 200 yards
again, making it two straight games he's pulled off that feat. It also marks the fifth time in NFL history a player has cruised past the 200-yard barrier in consecutive games. The last guy to do it? Ricky Williams, in a
Dolphins uni. Wonder if Ajayi can handle the Ricky Williams workload better than Ricky Williams did.
Power Rankings side note: Those throwbacks were sweeeeet on Sunday.
After closing the deal on three close contests to start the season, the suddenly 3-4 Ravens can't buy a clutch win. The good news: No one is running away with the AFC North right now. The Bengals are also 3-4 and haven't looked any sexier than Baltimore (the team, not the town). The Steelers are in first, but they've lost two in a row and are starting Landry Jones at quarterback. Both they and the Ravens are on a bye, before locking up in Baltimore in Week 9.
Might've been a save-the-season-style win on Sunday for the Colts, who were coming off their most devastating loss of the season in a campaign chock full of them. Central to the win in Nashville was Andrew Luck putting the team on his back -- seemingly the central theme for this group every week. On "NFL Fantasy Live" on Sunday morning, I felt real smart spinning a yarn about how T.Y. Hilton had never scored a touchdown in eight career meetings with the Titans. I don't feel so cool anymore. Nice work, T.Y.
On paper, the matchup versus the Colts was a game the Titans should have won. Check that: had to win. Tennessee hasn't bested Indy in Nashville since 2011. Heck, the Titans haven't beaten the Colts since 2011, period -- and it took Curtis Painter starting for Indy for that comet to fly by. Marcus Mariota didn't play poorly, but -- like in the opener against the Vikings -- his run-based unit can't be spotting the defense six points on giveaways. Next up: the Jaguars, at home.
Much like the Colts, the Saints' fortunes come down to whether or not their quarterback can keep them ahead in the weekly track meet. Coordinator Dennis Allen's defense has shown signs of improvement, even if the unit is far from playoff-viable. New Orleans allowed 326 yards in Kansas City -- OK-ish, and certainly not a bad number. The Saints also limited the Chiefs to three of nine on third-down conversions. But in the early portions of the contest, when Drew Brees was so-so, the rest of the roster couldn't pick up the game for the quarterback like the Saints were able to do in San Diego in Week 4. And that's been the case all too often over the last several seasons.
Been hollering, screaming, whining and everything in between for the Jets to start using Matt Forte more effectively, like they managed to do the first couple of weeks of the season. Finally, the dude received a heavy workload, even in a tough matchup against the Ravens, and rewarded his coaching staff for its commitment. Forte piled up 154 yards from scrimmage after posting 125 in the previous three games combined. Is it fun or weird that Ryan Fitzpatrick, the guy many point to as having ruined the season, might've saved it Sunday? Neither. Fitzmagic got the Jets to 2-5, though. #getexcited
At 1-5, Ron Rivera told his players to go home and get their minds off football over the Week 7 bye. Maybe that was Riverboat Ron's best risk to take, flirting with the danger of encouraging players to get away from the game when the season's results thus far scream that more preparation, film watching and hard work are needed. The reality is, the defense has been terrible of late, having allowed 35.3 points and 469.7 yards per game over the three games heading into the break, and one way to snap the chain of bad performances is to remind the guys what and who they're playing for: family, love of the game, whatever. You get perspective in any career by taking time away from the job.
Not sure where to go here. Jaguars fans -- please send along your take. I'm serious. What the hell is going on out there?! (@HarrisonNFL) It's easy to point the finger at Blake Bortles, who hasn't, for the most part, played well this season. Bortles' turnovers often come at the worst times -- he simply cannot throw that interception in the red zone. That said, where was the pass rush on Raiders QB Derek Carr? And once again, no takeaways from the defense. Even the punter can run on these guys.
Ever since NaVorro Bowman went down in Week 4, the 49ers literally can't stop anyone on the ground. You saw it happen as soon as he left the field against the Cowboys, when the Dallas offensive line took over late. San Francisco gave up 249 rushing yards to the Bucs on Sunday. The week before, the Niners allowed 313 to the Bills. And then there were the 172 rushing yards the Cardinals put on the Niners in Week 5. Talk about Colin Kaepernick all you want. It doesn't matter.
Matt Barkley ... starting versus the Vikings defense ... in Week 8. If reading that felt as awful as it did to type, be thankful Jay Cutler was cleared to play as of Monday -- although that sentence has its own distasteful qualities. Brian Hoyer's broken left arm means he departs the season without having struggled. Why is that relevant? Because if the Bears brass is impressed with what it saw in Hoyer, Chicago could draft a quarterback and retain Hoyer over Cutler. The organization has already paid out most of Cutler's guaranteed money, which means the guaranteed money is no longer an impediment to moving on. Question is, what's the plan?
When is the last time a quarterback ran for over 100 yards in a game while throwing for 100 yards or less? Browns QB Kevin Hogan's 104-yard rushing outburst Sunday (he threw for exactly 100 yards) was the first such game of the NFL season. In fact, it marked only the eighth time since 1960 that a quarterback pulled off that feat. It's also the only time since 1960 that a quarterback rushed for over 100 yards in his first career action. Wow. Oh, the Browns are 0-7.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.