NFL Power Rankings, Week 9: Cardinals head midseason risers

Here we are at the midpoint of the season, and the NFL Power Rankings are hot off the iPad. This is what I was honestly thinking, right in the wake of Week 8's action:

Schein: The team to beat in 2014


Adam Schein explains why the Broncos are clearly the cream of the NFL crop -- and will deliver on the game's biggest stage. **READ**

1) Broncos
2) __ 3)_
4) _ 5)_
6) _ 7)_
8) _ 9)__

Oh, and ...

10) _
11) _
12) _
13) _
14) _
15) _

Looking for your input here, folks. Because everybody has beaten everybody. The Lions beat the Packers, but lost to the Bills. The Chargers beat the Seahawks, but lost to the Broncos (who lost to Seattle) and had to fight to survive the Raiders (a winless club most handle easily). Pittsburgh blasted the Colts -- who took down the Ravens -- but the Steelers lost by 20 in Baltimore.

What the ... ?

Let's just say the Power Rankings didn't write themselves this week.

Until you get killed on social media.

Word to your backup Cleveland quarterback. The updated Power Rankings are below for your perusal, and, of course, positive judgment. Feel free to send along thoughts, or your rankings: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let the dissension commence!

(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from the most recent Power Rankings.)

PREVIOUS RANKINGS: Week 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

Judging by last Thursday night's effort, that run defense sure looks like it's playoff-ready.

Side note: Watched "Sound FX" footage of Peyton Manning breaking Brett Favre's touchdown record. Good stuff. What stuck with me the most, though, was seeing Manning take the time to sit with and calm down right tackle Paul Cornick, who was making his first career start. That sort of thing is a big reason this team's playing so well.

Doing the Midseason Awards for, and I'll tell you -- spoiler alert -- that Bruce Arians is my Coach of the Year. It wasn't too long ago that Arians was an oft-criticized offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. Now he's leading the best team in the NFL's best division, devoid of several key players and still sitting pretty at 6-1.


Every single one of Rob Gronkowski's football cards next year will feature some Bears defensive back or linebacker hanging off of him -- or maybe just trailing 5 yards behind. Meanwhile, Tom Brady was 30-for-35, with nearly every incompletion being a drop. Solid ascent for New England.

Close deal there with Jordan Matthews at the end, but I don't think he would have been able to drag that other foot inside the white line, even if he hadn't been pushed. Penalties and turnovers ruined the day for the Eagles, ultimately undermining a suddenly-one-dimensional offense that featured 411 yards from Nick Foles.

The Cowboys were straight-up beat by the Redskins on Monday, and with Tony Romo's back barking, a drop is in order. Still shocked Scott Linehan did not call for a stretch play, draw, screen or anything to DeMarco Murray at the end when the team needed 3 yards. #mindboggling

Whoever said, or thinks, Russell Wilson isn't "black enough" needs to decide what the heck that means. And then, when they figure it out, ask themselves if judging people that way does their own life and circumstance any good. Put another way, if the guys who allegedly spent time circulating such absurd thoughts instead spent time becoming better players, perhaps the Seahawks wouldn't have needed a sweet comeback from their undeniably clutch human being to win.

Not the best Thursday Night Football showing for the Chargers, who fall somewhat back to the pack with a 5-3 record, though losing to the best team in the league on its home field isn't the worst thing ever. At the same time, this marks three unimpressive performances in a row for coordinator John Pagano's defense: Derek Carr tossing four touchdown passes, the Chiefs holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes, and then Peyton Manning just carving up the secondary.

I could go on and on about the importance of depth. ... Pardon the pun, but the Colts simply didn't have the horses to stop Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday. It's bad enough Indy was down a few folks, but with Big Ben playing that streetball style, running around like that chicken in "Rocky II," those linemen got gassed quick.

Give the defense much credit for getting it together in the second half. And thank you, Julio Jones, for not catching that bubble screen on third down. Detroit needed that extra time on the clock to move into field-goal range. Big ups for resiliency. That said, even those Lions fans who have been wasting me on Twitter for not having their team higher have to admit that this -- like the win versus the Saints in Week 7 -- was not Detroit's best 60 minutes of football. The important thing is that Matthew Stafford made the plays at the end without his WR1, RB1, TE1, TE2 and TE3. Encouraging stuff.

Let's just say Aaron Rodgers wasn't mouthing "firetruck" when he felt a tweak in his hamstring. His throws lacked juice the rest of the night. Of course, the way Green Bay's secondary was playing, no amount of Bikram yoga on Rodgers' hammy would have produced a Packers win.

It was a bye week in San Francisco, an opportunity for the secondary to regroup after a Week 7 shredding courtesy of Peyton Manning. Coordinator Vic Fangio's corners were a big question mark coming into the season, yet overall, the defensive backfield has performed remarkably well. Before Manning lit them up, the Niners were allowing just 5.9 yards per throw -- a miniscule figure. They'll bounce back.

Hard not to be impressed with the Chiefs' performance on Sunday. Forget the opponent. Kansas City did what it was supposed to do against a lesser team, taking care of business at home with a vicious pass rush and outstanding use of its best offensive skill players (running backs Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis). Alex Smith is having himself a season.

Ben Roethlisberger's day was the best I've seen since Kurt Warner in the 2009 wild-card game versus the Packers, or perhaps Warren Moon toasting an outstanding Chiefs secondary for 500-plus yards in 1990. Roethlisberger had the best shot in years to break one of the oldest records in the books: Norm Van Brocklin's 554 yards passing in a 1951 game. Big Ben fell 33 yards short, but what an afternoon.

Nice divisional win for the Bengals, who are keeping pace in the AFC North. The defense showed up. The running game? Still sluggish. Though it's supposed to be a strength, Cincinnati's ground attack is middling. Leaning on my Cincy faithful here: Is it Giovani Bernard trying to bounce outside too much? Rookie-ness from Jeremy Hill? The offensive line? (@HarrisonNFL)

Big drop for the Ravens, thanks to every single team behind them winning (or so it seems), as well as the fact that Baltimore has beaten up on mostly weak teams while losing to the better clubs. That now includes the Bengals (twice) and the Colts, whom Pittsburgh just pounded. Rough outing from Joe Flacco, who has been prone to the occasional clunker. That said, Baltimore's linebackers darn near pulled this sucker out on a couple of hot potato-style who-wants-the-football plays. First, Daryl Smith set up a touchdown with a fumble return on an attempted Andy Dalton shot put. On the next Bengals drive, rookie standout C.J. Mosley -- who also appears on my midseason awards for -- plucked a tipped ball out of the air to set up a field goal. It simply wasn't enough on a day when the Ravens' passing game couldn't get going and the club generally didn't play all that well.

Buffalo fans tweeted me last week to say they didn't know which Kyle Orton they would get drive to drive, much less week to week. I think the Bills Mafia will take four touchdowns and no picks. In other news, Sammy Watkins pulled a Leon Lett, and appropriately got Beebe'd. #footballgods

Two pick-sixes keyed the Dolphins' win -- a little redemption for Louis Delmas and that secondary, which broke down super late against the Packers a couple weeks back. Has anyone noticed that Lamar Miller has over 600 scrimmage yards (with five touchdowns)? He produced 99 against the Jags on Sunday.

A win is a win is a win, right? Kudos to the Browns' defense, which was nowhere to be found early in the year. Cleveland scored two touchdowns off Raider turnovers. So, basically, we're saying the legendary Hoyer-Hawkins connection is not at the Graham-Lavelli, Ryan-Collins, Sipe-Newsome or Kosar-Slaughter level quite yet.

This story went a little under the radar, but J.J. Watt's selfie was intended for LinkedIn. So congratulate him on his position when you get a chance. Is it fair to say that, while Watt might be Defensive Player of the Year, Arian Foster is team MVP?

Big-time rebound in the Big Easy. Drew Brees looked like the Hall of Famer he is. Brandin Cooks played like the Offensive Rookie of the Year many thought he'd be. And was that Rob Ryan's defense we saw making some plays out there? Yes, the Saints are 3-4, but frankly, the NFC South is theirs for the taking. Next up: the 3-4-1 Panthers, at Carolina. These two played a whale of a ballgame in Charlotte last December. (It was wet enough for a whale, too.)

Big Blue, which was off in Week 8, is 3-4, having lost its last two, but all is not lost. Certainly not with the level that Eli Manning has played at for most of the season. The concern is that, with the Lions winning, it might be tough to catch Detroit, Green Bay, Dallas or Philadelphia for one of the wild-card spots -- especially considering the Giants have lost to all those teams but the Packers.

So happy for Colt McCoy, who I saw at an airport this past offseason when he was still looking for a team and probably wondering what his future in pro football would entail. He hadn't started a game since 2011. Yet there he was Monday night, leading the Redskins to a road win versus one of the NFC's best teams. Big props to Jim Haslett, too -- that was legit defensive play calling, to say the least.

Carolina got itself a heckuva effort from the defense most of the afternoon. Yet, for all the gloating early, Cam Newton couldn't get anything going offensively. At this point, Newton must make more precise throws from the pocket, then make teams pay when it breaks down. And if he is going to show the other team up, he needs to consistency back it up. Fair or not, Panthers fans? (@HarrisonNFL)

For all the jokes going around at Lamarr Houston's expense -- you know, for suffering a season-ending injury while celebrating a sack of a backup quarterback in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss -- you simply must give him credit for trying to play off the embarrassment by acting like he was straight chillin' on the turf afterward, as though he was merely savoring his not-clutch sack. I thought it was smooth. Unfortunately, to fully play something off, you have to be able to actually walk away at some point. Hey, at least Matt Forte piled up 168 yards of offense.

Teddy Bridgewater didn't win that ballgame Sunday. Then again, the rookie out of Louisville didn't make the plays to lose the game, either. Bridgewater's still quite off on some of his intermediate throws. And he isn't seeing the field or reading coverages at a veteran level. But he has moxie and doesn't get skittish, which is impressive, considering how much he's been pummeled over the past few weeks. Looks like the Vikings have another talented newbie in tailback Jerick McKinnon, as well. Would like to see him get the football more.

Rough outing for Austin Davis, who was sacked seven times in the blowout loss to the Chiefs. Ditto the entire offense, which really couldn't manage much on a day Chiefs running backs dominated. Brian Quick getting shut down only makes it that much more challenging for St. Louis to get points going forward. Here's some hard-hitting analysis: points win games.

Watching the final moments of the loss at Wembley, I felt for Mike Smith. There are fans out there who want him fired, but let's remember that, a) Smith led this team to five straight winning seasons and b) he's a human being. He didn't drop that third-down bubble screen late; Julio Jones did. Just saying.

The Zach Mettenberger era has begun, and it appears that Jake Locker has possibly played his last football in Tennessee. The Met wasn't bad against Houston, but his shaggy selfie elicited more conversation in the NFL Network newsroom than his play. Yes, he does resemble Matthew McConaughey in "Dazed and Confused." So if he continues to play well, he'll get older ... and his receivers will stay the same age.

We shouldn't be surprised that Rex Ryan, with his respected and developed defensive mind, and his staff have mastered the latest innovation in pro football ... the prevent offense. Of course, it's not Ryan's fault that Geno Smith looks like he is simply winging the ball around without a care in the world. Michael Vick had some giveaways, too, but at least the offense looked somewhat functional with him under center.

Just when we all thought this team possibly had some life to it, overtime happened. Maybe it was merely the view showed by Fox cameras, but there didn't seem to be a lot of ticked-off faces on the home team immediately following Anthony Barr's game-winning fumble return. Don't want to go all scientific, but to turn fortunes around, you gotta have players who hate losing.

Maybe Gus Bradley was on to something when he dictated this would be a redshirt year for Blake Bortles. All those who clamored for Chad Henne to sit sure have enjoyed Bortles' six touchdowns and 12 interceptions, including two incredibly costly pick-sixes Sunday.

Like that college roommate who borrowed your tight sweater and Drakkar to hit the we-barely-ID bars, that Raider offense simply couldn't close the deal in Browns territory. Oakland's trips to Cleveland's side of the field went like this: interception, field goal, field goal, fumble ... and touchdown. Problem is, the TD came in garbage time. Paying off those possessions -- even with all field goals -- would have completely changed the complexion of the game. Then again, having a ground attack would completely change the complexion of the season.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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