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Power Rankings, Week 9: Broncos No. 1 again; Bengals stay put

Week 9 Power Rankings are at your door like a demanding 10-year-old trick-or-treater who's too snobby for candy corn and too sophisticated for Nerds) (which might be the greatest candy ever).

Nope, you can't please everyone. Kellen Clemens darn near made me reorder all the teams with an upset Monday night. Thank goodness the Rams' receivers continued to prove Bernie Kosar right. Speaking of Ohio ...

Ah, Nickolas. Nice psychological trick: Act like it's already happened, and we'll put Cincinnati at No. 5 without even realizing we've been influenced, like some sort of Tom Cruise-Scientology "girlfriend audition" vortex. No dice; the Bengals are still seventh.

Nice to see former Cowboys linebacker Bradie James checking in. Yep, if Romo would just play the ball and not watch Megatron, the Cowboys would not be ranked 13th. By the way, that was another heroic effort by the Dallas defense, almost as good as its performance against the Broncos three weeks ago.

Denver reclaims the top spot after Kansas City danced a bit too much with the Browns at Arrowhead on Sunday. The Chiefs are first in the AFC West but not in our hearts. As my editor always says, "On a neutral field, who would you take if you had to pick one team?"

Broncos > Chiefs. As for the rest, take a gander. By all means, feel free to share your thoughts ... @Harrison_NFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence ...

(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)

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

Favorite quote on Sunday came from Peyton Manning: "I could probably be on the injury report every week, under 'body.' " Hey, it made Pam Oliver chuckle. Like I always say, if you can make Pam Oliver laugh, you can do three sets at the Laugh Factory on Sunset. As for the rankings, see: Chiefs, No. 2.

Can't leave the Chiefs at No. 1 after they struggled all afternoon -- at home, mind you -- to beat a Cleveland team starting Jason Campbell at quarterback and Willis McGahee at tailback. Yes, Kansas City is ahead of Denver in the AFC West standings. But when the Broncos "struggle" at home, they win by three touchdowns.

Much like the Broncos on Sunday, the Saints found themselves in a second-quarter dogfight ... then, their offense happened. Of particular note is the development of Kenny Stills, who caught three passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns against the Bills. New Orleans took a fifth-round flier on the somewhat eccentric kid out of Oklahoma in April's draft, and -- even with Lance Moore back -- it has paid off greatly.

Clutch defense won the evening in St. Louis. But the only reason the 7-1 Seahawks keep their ranking is the injury to Reggie Wayne. Until we see how the Colts fare without their best receiver, the 'Hawks will remain ahead of the only team that's beaten them this season.

Still shaking my head over the little use of Beast Mode on Monday night. Surprising.

Seriously, how many *millions * of people groaned about the Colts' bye week?

 Andrew Luck is tough to replace as a fantasy quarterback. This is what we've come to as a society, and we're never going back. 

Hope everyone who was worried about Colin Kaepernick enjoyed the two rushing touchdowns he put up in London. Kaepernick ran a total of seven times for 54 yards one week after running 11 times for 68; the return of that element should make this offense a viable threat come January. By the way, have you noticed that the Niners have outscored their opponents 174-61 since taking a beating at the hands of the Colts in Week 3? #174-61

Bengals fans want their team in the top five after the big win over the Jets, but how can we leapfrog Cincinnati over the 49ers, whose losses were at the hands of the Seahawks (7-1) and Colts (5-2)? Indy, meanwhile has beaten both Seattle and San Francisco. Thus, Cincinnati is parked at seventh.

On another note, Andy Dalton is more popular in Cincinnati right now than Ken Anderson's early '80s mustache was in the early '80s. Marvin Jones, meanwhile, hasn't scored four touchdowns since playing himself in "Madden NFL 25" on the "rookie" difficulty level.

While it wasn't the prettiest of victories, the Patriots toughed it out against the Dolphins on Sunday. We couldn't help but notice this statistical oddity: Tom Brady had 22 pass attempts while New England rushed 37 times as a team. Given the injuries on the defense, Brady's "non-injured" injured hand and the youthful, fragile nature of the receiving corps, we might see more games like that from the Pats.

It might not have been flashy, but Eddie Lacy was still running hard even as Packers-Vikings wound down Sunday night. The rookie got 29 carries -- a rarity in today's NFL -- and fell just short of 100 yards. The point is, anything that helps the Packers take some of the focus off Aaron Rodgers -- and anything that helps them give the injury-depleted defense a blow -- is nothing short of crucial, especially with the Lions hanging on in the NFC North race.

Matthew Stafford overcame his own mistakes en route to a 488-yards-and-some-of-the-sweetest-throws-you'll-ever-see performance against Dallas. His play on the final possession was phenomenal.

Still, it would be nice to see Joique Bell get the football more, as he's more reliable than the oft-spectacular Reggie Bush, who had a big fumble against the Cowboys. When the Lions get Nate Burleson back, they'll be more dangerous; right now, the offense is still running through Megatron, and, well, you can't expect a guy to get 329 yards every week. Burleson's return and the development of a 1-2 punch in the backfield would help Detroit keep pace with the Packers.

Bye week in San Diego. We literally can't wait until this team gets Denver (on Nov. 10) and Kansas City (on Dec. 29) at home. Been saying all year that the Chargers wouldn't be pushovers, and if you've watched them this season, you know that assertion certainly has held true.

Mentioned last week that Philip Rivers is my Comeback Player of the Year, hands down, but Antonio Gates might be second. He's just seven catches and 41 yards behind his totals for all of 2012. Wow.

Carolina's defense sure looks the part. Through seven games, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott's group has balled out, allowing 13.7 points per contest. While Cam Newton is receiving much pub for the Panthers' recent mini-run -- they've won four of their last five -- the defense is what could push this team past the Lions or Packers for the NFC's sixth seed. Thinking Ron Rivera's seat might now be air-conditioned.

Just so everyone feels better about Sunday's collapse in Detroit, know that defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was planning on making an adjustment once Calvin Johnson surpassed 700 receiving yards.

Bye week in Chicago. If there is a team that needs to get some players healthy, it's the Bears. Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs are out, while the defensive tackle position has been a wreck.

With the off week, Cutler's fill-in, backup Josh McCown, will have gotten a chance to take almost all of the reps in practice. If he can approach the level of play he brought in Week 7, the Bears should be OK.

You could say the 3-4 Ravens' season is slipping away, but remember this group's ability to rally -- and remember that Baltimore has not yet met division-leading Cincinnati. The only question is, can the Ravens do it without the longtime veterans who led the locker room in 2012?

Give the Cardinals credit: They're 4-4 and in the heart of the NFC wild-card race. That's right, the wild-card race; they're one game behind the Lions for the sixth spot and just a half-game behind both the Bears and Panthers. Remember that Arizona has beaten both Detroit and Carolina this season.

The Cardinals' defense continues to buy the groceries and do the cooking, with a dash of Andre Ellington.

The week off in Nashville gave Jake Locker a chance to get fully healthy. We'd like to see him run more, as that's when this Titans offense is at its best. Speaking of the offense, the unit as a whole -- coaching staff included -- must figure out a way to score touchdowns in the red zone. In 20 trips inside their opponents' 20, the Titans have six passing touchdowns -- and not one on the ground.

Chuck it, Rex Ryan. Just chuck the game film, or your defensive backs might never have confidence again.

I wrote that line before seeing that Ryan decided to basically do just that. The fact that the Jets lost in Cincinnati was not shocking, but the manner in which they faltered was. Sure, Geno Smith made some of his usual mistakes, but the sloppy play and the complete breakdowns in coverage made for a gross combination. We'll find out whether this Jets defense is viable if it can prop up the offense when the Saints come to town next week.

How do you figure out the Miami Dolphins? They were up 17-3 at halftime against New England -- they were in control -- and then wot happened? Well, in order: there was the Caleb Sturgis missed field-goal attempt; the Ryan Tannehill fumble at the 13 (which led to Patriots points); the Tannehill interception, which killed what was shaping up to be a decent drive (and led to more Patriots points); Tom Brady picking up a first down with his legs on another Patriots scoring drive; and, finally, Sturgis getting a kick blocked.

What an ugly half of football -- and Miami has today's 3-4 record to show for it.

Wait! Did we have a Run DMC sighting this weekend? Against the Steelers, Darren McFadden topped 70 rushing yards for the first time since Week 2 (and that 129-yard effort came against the Jacksonville Jaguars, so it might not count). McFadden also scored two rushing touchdowns in a game for the first time since Week 3 of the 2011 season.

The problem is, McFadden averaged just 3 yards per pop, which has become the norm, unfortunately. The good news? The Raiders are 3-4 when a lot of folks expected them to be 1-6.

Give Jason Campbell credit, man. The guy stepped into a difficult situation and performed admirably. Think about it: He was the backup all summer, only to be passed over for Brian Hoyer when Brandon Weeden went down. Then, when Hoyer was lost for the year, the Browns went back to Weeden, whose ineptitude finally led Cleveland to give Campbell a shot. So which assignment does Campbell draw? Going on the road against a top-ranked defense that had collected 35 sacks in seven games. And what did Campbell do? Complete 22 of 36 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns -- and no picks. Yes, the Browns lost. But they also found their second smart-playing non-Weeden quarterback of the season.

The Bills weren't awful in New Orleans; they simply couldn't go toe-to-toe with the Saints' offense.

Looking ahead, the 3-5 Bills still can make something of this season. Yes, the 8-0 Chiefs visit Buffalo next, but they hardly resembled an unblemished team Sunday. After that, the Bills' slate plays out like this: at Steelers, vs. Jets, vs. Falcons, at Bucs and at Jags. That, folks, is an easy schedule.

Win, lose or draw, the Rams have found themselves a football player in Zac Stacy. Though he didn't play much until starting in Week 5, the rookie still could end up with 1,000 yards on the season; he'd need just 652 in the second half. Considering how much Stacy was used Monday night (26 carries for 134 yards), he has a great shot to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

If Chip Kelly still is going to revolutionize NFL offenses, it's going to have to happen with Matt Barkley at quarterback. And if Barkley is going to play anything like he did against the Cowboys in Week 7, there's going to be a revolution in Philadelphia. Sunday's defeat to the Giants was a bad home loss to a sub-mediocre opponent. And now Michael Vick is out for who knows how long with a hamstring that "popped." Ugh.

Hoping Case Keenum got a chance over the bye week to figure out what the heck he'll be working with when he starts against the Colts next Sunday night. On the positive side: In his first start this season, Keenum cut his teeth against the best defense in the league. The negative side? Will he have a healthy running back to hand off to? Arian Foster (hamstring) is ailing, and Ben Tate is going to try to play with multiple broken ribs.

What could be more fun than getting hit at full speed by 290-pound dudes when you have cracked ribs? Being an NFL player is so neato.

What is it about the Cardinals? Matt Ryan now has been picked nine times his last two games versus the Arizona defense. Last year, the Falcons survived his five turnovers to beat the Cards in the Georgia Dome, but it was not to be this year at University of Phoenix Stadium, where Atlanta fell to 2-5.

Ryan played poorly, yes, but he needs some kick from the ground game; the quarterback was the Falcons' leading rusher with 13 yards, while his "running" backs averaged 1.1 yards per carry. Yes, you read that last stat correctly.

Kept hearing over and over on Sunday that the 2-6 Giants are just two games out of the lead in the NFC East. OK ...

So, did you know the 2-6 Giants still are within two games of the NFC East lead?

Washington was looking good there in the first half against Denver on Sunday, and then everything fell apart. The defense couldn't get a stop as the Broncos went on a 38-0 run from the middle of the third quarter on. Of course, it doesn't help when Robert Griffin III is throwing the ball carelessly and Pierre Garcon is slipping as he comes out of his route. Griffin looked subpar all day, ultimately going 15 of 30 for 132 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions.

The Redskins' best chance to win still comes by running the ball and taking what the defense gives them. Alfred Morris averaged more than 5 yards per carry for a third consecutive game; with Roy Helu waiting in the wings, there's no reason Washington shouldn't run the ball 35 to 40 times per contest.

The Steelers made dumb mistakes in Oakland, starting with the misused timeouts. They brought absolutely no contain on Terrelle Pryor's 93-yard touchdown run. And most of all, they had horrible special-teams play. Shaun Suisham missed two short field-goal attempts (of 34 and 32 yards) and didn't give Pittsburgh any kind of a chance on an onside kick at the game's end.

What with all the talk about quarterbacks in Minnesota, it's hard to believe the team put up 31 points against the Packers on Sunday. Christian Ponder fared OK; he even scored a touchdown in garbage time with his legs. When you think about it, it's not Ponder's fault the defense got its butt kicked. Cordarrelle Patterson, meanwhile, is an offense by himself. Dude, returning five kicks for 228 yards is impressive.

But back to the defense. On third and fourth downs, Minnesota allowed Green Bay to convert 15 of 20 times. That's one of the worst statistical lines we've ever seen.

The Bucs have lost 12 of their last 13 games.

 ***Power Rankings side note:*** 
 Greg Schiano is the 347,645th most popular person in Tampa, Fla. 
 ***Power Rankings Positive side note:*** We relived the 1999 NFC Championship Game, and that gold-star Bucs defense, 

Jags fans, we'll take your comments. Please, provide a silver lining. We'll start: Chad Henne didn't throw an interception against the Niners on Sunday. The Jaguars went 3 of 5 on fourth downs. Cecil Shorts caught seven balls.

OK, that's enough. Jacksonville has been outscored 264-86 this season. The Jags are averaging the lowest points per game (10.75) since the 2006 Raiders -- and those guys weren't any good, either.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.

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