It's Week 9, the day after Halloween, and you might be nursing a sugar hangover ... or something like that.
Halloween can be the most unique of the holidays, especially when it falls on Monday night. We got to watch the Bears, which is appropriately scary. Or go to parties where, uh, people are not merely dressed up as bumblebees or furniture, but rather as "dirty" bumblebees or "sexy" futons. (As in, they aren't really dressed at all.) Then there's all the Kit Kats you consume, enough to feed a family of five. Mixed in all of that: Your true midseason Power Rankings!
Before we get to those, though, here is my unofficial ranking of the top five scary movies:
1) "Halloween" (1978)
2) "The Thing" (1982)
3) "Alien" (1979)
4) "The Ring" (2002)
5) "The Blair Witch Project" (1999)
Underrated: "The Descent" (2005)
Now, on to your madness ...
Just as soon as Bill Belichick deals Brady for Dak.
@HarrisonNFL not expecting a huge shift in the power rankings but is this the start of a big run by the panthers?â Chris (@lilpipppppp) October 30, 2016
Sure did, on Halloween weekend no less.
No drama at the top. As you see below, the Patriots are No. 1 for the second consecutive week. As for the rest? A jumbled mess. So take a gander and let me know your visionary football thoughts ... @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Let the dissension commence!
NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Oct. 25 Power Rankings.
Thinking the Jamie Collins trade surprised everybody. We'll see how much he is missed in two weekends, as the Pats are off this week before a prime-time showdown with the Seahawks. In the meantime, Touchdown Tommy doesn't do curses. Our No. 1 stays put -- and if Sunday's showing in Buffalo was any indication, it looks like the Patriots will reside here awhile. The only thing higher than New England's level of play were the heights of immaturity reached on Twitter when Rob Gronkowski scored his 69th career touchdown. It's cool when Gronk goes Neanderthal. Not as funny when members of the media do. Just makes them look like guys who never got a date in high school. Gronk: 109 yards, TD.
In a game where Dak Prescott wasn't on point, Ezekiel Elliott did not dominate and the Cowboys' offensive line was beaten by the Eagles' pressure often, Dallas still managed to win a tough divisional matchup. And let's give credit to one of the better players in the NFL -- a guy who made the most important plays for Dallas on Sunday night, yet finds himself, as always, behind Prescott, Elliott, Romo, Witten and the O-line in the Cowboy pecking order. Sean Lee plays his tail off every week, leaving it all out on the field. If the Dallas defense is to help this team in the playoffs, you can bet No. 50 in white will be leading the way. Holy cow did he make some big stops on "Sunday Night Football."
What you just saw on Sunday, October 30th is precisely why the Broncos might still be playing come January 30th. It's remarkable how this defense steps up in the clutch. Denver scored 14 points off turnovers, while holding another opponent to 20 points or less. It was on one of those game-changing takeaways that the defense lost its leader, Wade Phillips, on a freak sideline accident. It reminded me of when Robert Brooks knocked Packers wide receivers coach Gil Haskell onto the concrete at Texas Stadium in the 1995 NFC Championship Game. Like the Chargers- Broncos contest, the crowd went silent as the game stopped for several minutes. That was more than two decades ago, when Phillips was the DC in Buffalo. Sunday, he was in the hospital, watching the end of Denver's win. And probably drawing up blitzes on a napkin next to some really lousy apple sauce and Ensure. (Great to hear everything checked out OK for @SonOfBum.)
Little scare followed by a bigger scare in Indy, with Alex Smith departing the game not once but twice. Umm, the play call on the second incident didn't exactly keep the Chiefs quarterback out of harm's way, did it? And Smith wasn't even the most contacted QB on the Lucas Oil Stadium field. By game's end, Andrew Luck's pocket was collapsing seemingly every play. Give a third quarterback, Nick Foles, a ton of credit: 16 of 22 for 223 yards and two touchdowns ain't bad for a guy a lot of people had written off. Or typed off.
Important win for the Falcons, who, at 5-3, have a relatively secure hold on the NFC South after knocking off the Pack in thrilling fashion. What a game. And what an end-game performance by Matt Ryan, who completed nine balls on the final drive to Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Devonta Freeman and Austin Hooper -- everyone but Julio Jones. But before we start talking Super Bowl, bear in mind that was a heckuva depleted Green Bay team that came thisclose to besting Atlanta in Atlanta. Put another way: That was Trevor Davis, Geronimo Allison and Jeff Janis beating the Falcons' defense for touchdowns. Hey, just keeping it real.
Are the Vikings worse than the Falcons -- and thus, deserving of a lower ranking here? Tough call. What is not debatable is that Minnesota is trending downward. Sam Bradford looked like a quarterback who still doesn't have a full grasp of the offense -- most notably, when the Vikings were still huddling in hurry-up mode -- but at least Minnesota made up for it with a garbage running game. Permission to be concerned, #SKOL fans.
For all of the Power Rankings haters who said their lovely writer had Green Bay too high, here's hoping they watched the game Sunday in Atlanta. The Packers lost by one point ... on the road ... to a division leader. Yep, a one-point loss whilst missing their top two running backs, a dynamic hybrid player who was filling in at RB, as well as one of their starting wide receivers. Oh yeah, almost forgot their top three corners and a premier pass rusher. So basically, the whole team. Get off the Packers, everybody.
Didn't it seem like the
Eagles were going to win
Sunday night? Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had
Dak Prescott more off-balance and out of sorts than he has been all season.
Carson Wentz was leading a conservative offense that was popping enough
Darren Sproles runs to maintain control of the game. My gosh, Sproles was brilliant. Philly receivers continued to fight the ball, failing to come up with a couple of tough catches to help their rookie quarterback. While there was nothing fluky about the loss, the
Eagles definitely showed they will be contending for the NFC East.
Power Rankings side note: Dallas plays at Philadelphia in Week 17. So you know.
Started to type this Raiders blurb, but got off to a false start. Only Oakland could outgain its opponent 626 to 270 -- SIX HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SIX to 270 -- and need 74 minutes to win the game. In case you were at Home Depot (holding some extension cables) or a bar (interfering with your buddy's pass at the cute server), your Oakland Raiders set an NFL record with 23 accepted penalties. Of course, Derek Carr mitigated all that with one of the all-time games by a Raider QB. Just win, baby.
Despite the loss to the Saints, Seattle retains first place in the NFC West -- by multiple games in the loss column, mind you -- in what is suddenly a subpar NFC West. Seahawks fans were ticked off about the officiating in New Orleans, and for valid reasons: 11 of them -- as in, the number of penalties on Seattle, as opposed to the two called on New Orleans. That said, minus a big defensive play and super-fun trick play ( Tanner McEvoy strikes again!), the Saints dominated this team in the first half. Yet, Pete Carroll underlined the positives in postgame -- including the final Seahawks salvo -- without dwelling on all of the downside. It's downright amazing how Carroll keeps this group upbeat, and should not be underrated in the organization's success. His energy is not limited to running around in khakis on the sideline. Seattle will make the playoffs, again. This was just a bump-in-the-road loss.
Bye this past weekend for a Steelers team that sorely needed it. Besides enduring significant injuries, this group has dropped two games in a row for the first time since last year at this time (Weeks 7 and 8). Landry Jones started one of those games before Ben Roethlisberger came back off injury the next game. Speaking of, Big Ben's definitely said all the right things to set up the storyline where he's the tough protagonist coming back earlier than people expect, i.e., against the Ravens on Sunday. Shocking.
Welp, so much for flipping a switch and making a run toward the NFC West. The Cardinals' offense struggled when it mattered -- again -- although this time the issue wasn't Carson Palmer ... OK, Palmer did his part in spotting Carolina seven ( if that was indeed a fumble). The lack of any semblance of a run game did Bruce Arians' attack in on Sunday.. Arizona ran all of 10 times in the loss. If you want to stop and smell the roses: J.J. Nelson made several big plays, catching eight balls and scoring two touchdowns. Or, you can smell the dog turds: The Cards are 3-4-1.
Ugly, ugly, ugly. Or Uggs. Tom Brady was so on point Sunday he could've borrowed Gisele's pair and still stepped up in the pocket to hit Rob Gronkowski (Buffalo-area native) or Chris Hogan (in a Pats uniform! Yuck!) or Danny Amendola (who seems to play like Randy Moss in Buffalo). Inexplicable that a top-flight defense, with a raucous home crowd behind it, could let Brady go 9 for 13 on third down. Or pile up four touchdown passes. Or move his career record to 26-3 against the Bills. At first blush, I'd qualify Monday's road game in Seattle a must-win, because going from 4-2 to 4-5 wouldn't bode well for a franchise with an endless playoff drought. Then again, the schedule does let up in the second half of the season. Still, you don't want to enter the Week 10 bye while falling into a tailspin.
Even without pro football's premier defensive player -- and with the most maligned quarterback in football (when Jay Cutler isn't playing) -- the Texans are inconveniencing the haters with a 5-3 record. With that, much love and respect to Andre Johnson -- to this point, the greatest Houston Texan of them all -- who was a force for a long time in the NFL. During the lockout in 2011, I wrote a series called "Player 2K" where I debated the top players at each position since Y2K with a guest analyst. Johnson was my wideout. Let me tell you: The man seriously deserves consideration for the Hall of Fame, WR logjam be damned.
Too few plays with no balance to get a win on the road. The Lions ran 56 plays from scrimmage Sunday, with only 14 of them being on the ground. That's the challenge for offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, whose best running back is Theo Riddick -- more of a third-down specialist than the next Billy Sims. With that kind of run-pass mix, it makes it tough to be successful against a viable defense on the road. Well, unless your quarterback plays out of his mind. Dude, Matt Stafford has been playing out of this world. He came back to Earth in Houston, appropriately.
Don't want to put my hands in your face with this thought, but there is something inherently wrong when your quarterback throws for 458 yards, and you still don't win. The secondary did its job for most of the day, although had Andy Dalton not been off on a pair of deep throws to A.J. Green, the game might have never come down to Dustin Hopkins' (errant) leg. Enter 15 penalties, which Jay Gruden will need to sort out in practice. Although, Josh Norman sure didn't mind throwing No. 88 on the officiating crew 15 yards under the bus.
It was an off week following the London trip. You know what's worse than being a tired football team returning all the way across the Atlantic? Being a tired football team returning all the way across the Atlantic after a loss. Fortunately for the Giants, that wasn't the case. With all the discussion about the bad offense early, the defense not living up to the collective salary-cap hit of all those offseason signings and Odell Beckham Jr.'s slow start ... does anyone realize New York is 4-3?
The Chargers should be on national television every week. They simply don't know how to lose 30-14. San Diego dropped another one-score game, though the Bolts refused to go down without a counterpunch. Speaking of punches, Philip Rivers took a few to the gut Sunday, as Broncos defenders Von Miller, Shane Ray and DeMarcus Ware were on him constantly. While the franchise quarterback was not at his best, the organization seems to have found a franchise running back. Melvin Gordon was fantastic (again), piling up 155 yards from scrimmage and running like a man who is 5-foot-10, 235 pounds, not 6-1 and 215.
At least the London game was exciting. Not as excited: the peanut gallery on Twitter, and, presumably, Bengals fans, after watching Andy Dalton misfire, take sacks and shake his head at his own performance for 75 minutes. Caught the end of this one at the studios with Akbar Gbajabiamila, Daniel Jeremiah and Steve Mariucci. Mooch noticed that Dalton missed an open receiver on an important sack he took in the fourth quarter. We all took notice of the third-down play call when, with the Bengals at the Redskins' 40 on the first drive of overtime, Dalton took another sack. Why not a safe throw to set up a field goal ... like a bubble screen? Oh, then there was the fumble. Alright, I am not going to tie up your time any further reliving this game.
The three-game losing streak has the all-too-predictable howling for Jared Goff at a fever pitch. Not in Los Angeles, mind you, but nationally speaking. Analysts for different networks, including my own, are wondering when the No. 1 overall pick will get his chance. I've heard all sorts of grumbling. Some question whether Goff was Jeff Fisher's pick; some question if Goff should've gone anywhere near this high in the first place; some question his work habits. Here's what I do know: Applying yourself and balling out, in any profession, will ultimately elevate over all this stuff. As my colleague Jamie Dukes often says, "Game recognizes game." Great players know when they see another one. So do coaches. If Goff is the real deal and performs like it in practice, he'll play soon enough. Hey, maybe he's just not as good as Case Keenum. There's a novel idea.
Unreal numbers to come out of the absolute buttkicking the Titans gave the Jaguars on Thursday night. Tennessee's first-half point total (27) outweighed Jacksonville's first-half play total (22). Dude. Dick LeBeau's defense held the Jags' rushing "attack" to 5 yards in the first half, while the Titans gained over 350 yards in the first half. In the second half, the good guys tapped the braaaaaaaaaaakes big time -- but not before racking up 494 total yards. Back to LeBeau: Although Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles was sacked only twice, he was under pressure when the outcome was still in doubt (if it ever was). Tennessee is on pace for 44 sacks.
Can Jay Ajayi keep this Larry Csonka, circa 1973 thing up? Shoot, Zonk never even put up one 200-yard outing, let alone two in back-to-back contests like Ajayi. In fact, the Hall of Famer's career high was 145, posted in Super Bowl VIII (an appropriate time to do that). For all those who were impatient with Ajayi, it might be helpful to know that Csonka didn't earn his first 100-yard performance until his 17th career regular-season game. This week will be Ajayi's 16th. Tough for the now-stud RB and crew to have the Week 8 bye come after the Dolphins had built up so much momentum.
That's two wins in three weeks, with a narrow loss at Arrowhead sandwiched in between. These Saints aren't going away quietly in the NFC South. The key? The defense, which continues to show signs of improvement week to week. Like, it's not the worst defense in the league anymore. In fact, can we even say the Falcons' unit is any better, given that Atlanta has allowed 91 points the last three weeks? These two squads meet in the Georgia Dome in Week 17. OK, that's far off. But New Orleans does have a very winnable date with the 49ers this Sunday.
Off week for the Ravens, and a time to regroup. The promise of a 3-0 start has given way to the reality that this is a mediocre football team. In the long view, Baltimore does have pieces to build on, but if the Ravens are going to make a run this year, they must capitalize on a Week 9 meeting against a Steelers team that won't be firing on all cylinders at the game's most important position. Pittsburgh will either roll out backup QB Landry Jones or a post-surgery Ben Roethlisberger, who will presumably be at less than 100 percent. When the latter returned early from an injury last season, the result was an interception hat trick in an ugly loss to the Bengals.
There was nothing crappier on Halloween than getting candy corn and an apple from the totally lame neighbors three houses down. The Bucs got freaking peanut butter cups, apple Jolly Ranchers and several boxes of Nerds from the
Raiders -- and proceeded to throw it all away. You kiddin' me?
You get 200
freeeeeeee yards and
you still lose. Tampa Bay's secondary was epically bad, allowing Oakland QB
Derek Carr to throw for 513 yards, not counting those called back by penalty or
Amari Cooper's drop on a deep ball.
Power Rankings side note: Say what you will about the up-and-down play of Jameis Winston, but that guy is country tough. The hit he absorbed near the goal line on the Bucs' last touchdown drive was something fierce.
Cam Newton's postgame wardrobe might've been ridiculously over-the-top, but his postgame commentary was not. Ever since the season-opener, the Panthers' franchise quarterback has absorbed blows that modern rules certainly don't allow (even if the game-day refs do). Newton's tone wasn't whiny, nor was it to be mixed in the same bowl as his post-Super Bowl attitude. Just because he's huge for a QB and occasionally runs doesn't make these hits OK. Oh, impressive job by the Panthers' defense on Sunday.
We're going to have to mummify Andrew Luck and roll him out there if this keeps up. Older readers might remember what Steve Grogan looked like in his final year in the league, padded up to the ears. Grogan was the Patriots' quarterback in the old AFC East, back when Indy was in that division. Thank goodness the Colts aren't in the East anymore. Could you imagine the Bills' or Jets' fronts hitting Luck, play after play after play? Luck was sacked six times Sunday -- that brings his total to 31, folks.
Fun couple of days in Chicago. The Cubs staved off elimination, and the Bears won at home for the second time this season (after taking only one game at home all last year). The offense did it with backup guards. And the defense? Beyond impressive, particularly the pass rush. But how about Jay Cutler? Jumping around like a kid, moving around the pocket like he was 22 and slapping five with this offensive linemen like he's not the sulking quarterback he's often painted to be. Frankly, it was awesome to see.
Watching Jets games, can't you just feel Todd Bowles' consternation through the TV (or tablet or smartphone) screen? He might be mild-mannered, but that doesn't mean Bowles is oblivious to when his team is stinking up the joint. He'll take the W, and that's it. As he said himself, "When you win, you win. When you lose, you lose. ... We ain't going to b---- about it when we win." The Jets shouldn't B.S. about using Matt Forte and Bilal Powell as much as possible. The fact that those two averaged 36 combined touches in the Jets' consecutive wins is more important than any cute fantasy stat. Wonder what Bowles thinks about fantasy? I don't.
Please insert your Jags thought here:
Here's mine: Garbage-time points are called garbage for a reason.
The Week 8 bye came at the right time. Chip Kelly and the front office received a two-week catalogue to see where Colin Kaepernick is at this stage of his career. Of course, Kelly had all offseason to evaluate Kap's 2015 and the back half of 2014 -- the arrow has been pointing downward for some time. The other issue for the off week was getting the other players on this roster back on track and healthy, which is true of any bye. But it's different in this case, because while the 49ers might be reeling (they haven't won since Week 1), they do have a winnable game this Sunday at home against the Saints. Grab a W, build a little old-fashioned momentum and turn this deal around.
#GPODAWUND, man. If the Browns had beaten the Jets on Sunday, I guarantee that would have been the rallying cry. Two fresh faces to discuss here ... Jamie Collins, who came over from New England in a shocking trade on Monday, should instantly make the defense better. And Josh McCown, back in the lineup after being out for over a month, gave the offense some aerial life. While McCown didn't exactly light the world on fire, you could probably tell why teams were so interested in him this summer. This dude easily gives the Browns their best chance to win. The deep-ball interception was forced, granted, but McCown was trying to give T.P.S. a chance to elevate and make a play. I was more disappointed in the late clock management. #LOCKCMANMENTAGA
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.