It's midseason. Quite an appropriate time to peruse the general ledger of the NFL and attempt to sort out where the teams stand in our Week 9 Power Rankings.
This week on NFL.com, you'll find our analysts' predictions on the major awards, playoff participants and Super Bowl 50 -- basically, a multi-input semester report card. Wish we could tell you the top 12 clubs found here represent the playoff field in January, but with crummy divisions like the NFC East and AFC South, that's not happening. On the flip side, stout defense has given the AFC West quality representation at the midway point ...
On third thought, you're a little pushy, Yunus. Midseason Report Card: A.
Warring factions, huh? It's like "Game of Thrones" up in here.
The entire league hierarchy, with half the regular season in the books, can be found below. We had serious movement everywhere: the top 10, middle 10 and bottom grouping. Send me your take and I will listen to the logic: @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Let the dissension commence!
**1)** There's been continuity at the top, from ownership to Bill Belichick to the staff down to the quarterback. Too often, organizations move on from head coaches too soon, which means successful coordinators don't stay in place, either.
Rob Gronkowski's unique career. For all the talk of the 2007
Patriots having Randy Moss while
*this* team's best wideout is
Julian Edelman, bear in mind that Gronk is more unique than Moss was. Gronk doesn't take plays off, he can block, and he plays outside or inside. He's the big, goofy, focused queen on the chessboard.
The D came up big in the extra period, with Luke Kuechly catching Roman Harper's rebound and essentially sending us all to bed peacefully.
Everyone in America watching a short Jets-Raiders highlight package probably said "Uh huh" when learning Smith was the quarterback for this defeat. The inconvenient truth is that No. 7 didn't fare too poorly. His lone turnover did not result in any Raiders points, and while he didn't set the football world on fire, he did make plays to keep the offense viable. Especially when you consider that Chris Ivory and Zac Stacy rushed 18 times for 28 yards.
Here's my question, though: Is Lovie Smith really ballsy or really stupid? Allow me to explain ...
With two minutes remaining and the Bucs leading by a touchdown, Smith elected to go for it on fourth down from his own 40. Did I mention the Falcons had no timeouts? So instead of punting the ball away and forcing Matt Ryan to drive his team the majority of the field with zero clock stoppages at his disposal, Smith gambled on fourth-and-1 with a rookie quarterback. Tampa didn't convert, and Ryan drove the Falcons to paydirt, sending the game into overtime. Fortunately, the Bucs' defense -- which had itself a day, forcing four turnovers -- came up with a huge fourth-down stop in OT.
Still, the question remains, Bucs fans: You got love for Lovie's aggressiveness? (@HarrisonNFL)
While the Dallas defense continues to perform, the Tony Romo-deficient offense painfully slogs its way through games. The Cowboys have gone 0-5 since their franchise QB went down, averaging just 17.2 points per game in that span. Romo is set to return from IR boomerang in Week 11, but will Dallas already be buried by then?
Well, here's the good news: The NFC East is wholly underwhelming. If you think 8-8 could be enough to take the division, then all is not lost quite yet. It'd sure be nice, though, if the Cowboys could at least win one of the next two games, handing the reins back to Romo with a 3-6 mark. Then it'd take five wins in Dallas' final seven games to reach .500. With Romo and the best defense in the division, that's not impossible.
**The case for responsible restraint:** Well, these
Lions, featuring the Jim Bob Cooter offense. Apparently, the new coordinator couldn't fix everything with a hammer
like this Cooter.
Side note: Glad to see Alex Smith start running (78 yards).
In a 20-20 ballgame, with 1:17 to play, the Bears had a wonderful opportunity to extend a drive and get Robbie Gould into field-goal position. On third-and-5, Jay Cutler, rolling to his right, hit Langford in the hands for what should've been an easy first down. Drop. Minnesota, appreciative of the gift -- and the clock preservation that comes from an incomplete pass -- took possession and ultimately the game. Another missed opportunity, another loss for the Bears.
Of course, the all-important sequence from the loss in Baltimore will be that final drive, with the Steve Williams PI being the crucial play. It was a tough call at a time when San Diego certainly could've used a break.
I'll tell you one thing: Fans around the country -- particularly fantasy owners -- are starting to notice the Allen boys. The production from the Jags' two second-year wideouts has been top-notch. Robinson and Hurns have combined for 65 receptions, but the most relevant statistic is that both are in the top 10 in yards per catch (Robinson at 17.2, Hurns at 16.5). It's not all dinks and dunks in Jacksonville.
More importantly, the Texans' defense played ball, a week after getting pummeled in Miami. Coordinator Romeo Crennel has taken heat for the lack of fire in his unit. Well, Houston went nuts on Sunday, sacking Zach Mettenberger seven times, allowing one third-down conversion (in 12 tries) and holding the Titans to six points.