A lot of moving and shaking in the rankings this week, with a lot of big wins by rising teams. Here’s how they look going into a great slate of games in Week 10:
1. Green Bay Packers (8-0) – Last Week: 1
Rodgers and Company continue to showcase their high-powered, 2007 Patriots-like offense. Their only problem? Their 30th-ranked defense in yards allowed, which gave up 38 points to San Diego.
2. San Francisco 49ers (7-1) – Last Week: 3
Jim Harbaugh’s boys just keep winning – on the road, in the East coast no less – with an offense that isn’t eye-popping by any stretch. Perhaps their No. 1-ranked defensive team against the run and Frank Gore’s fifth-straight 100-yard game are key.
3. Baltimore Ravens (6-2) – Last Week: 9
QB Joe Flacco showed flashes of a “clutch gene” with his last-second TD to beat Pittsburgh in a crucial divisional matchup. Already control their division title destiny, with “The Harbaugh Bowl” weeks away.
4. New York Giants (6-2) – Last Week: 8
QB Eli Manning reenacted his Super Bowl XLII performance with clutch last-minute game-winning drive vs. New England. Clicking on all cylinders, propelled by a crucial win, as they travel to San Francisco next week.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) – Last Week: 7
Seem to be in the same boat as the 49ers – Cincy inexplicably keeps winning, without explosive offensive attack to speak of. 2nd-ranked rush defense is probably good reason. Will be tested next week vs. angry Steelers team looking to bounce back.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) – Last Week: 2
Lost in the waning seconds to division rival, getting swept in season series vs. Baltimore. Their next five games will show their mettle, with two meetings vs. the Bengals, and an epic defensive battle vs. SF. If they aren’t careful, could be 8-6 by crunch time.
7. Detroit Lions (6-2) – Last Week: 4
Even after a week to recover, Detroit’s schedule, unfortunately, doesn’t get any easier, especially with looming matchups against Chicago (Week 10) and Green Bay (Thanksgiving). It’s actually that much more difficult without Jahvid Best going forward.
8. New Orleans Saints (6-3) – Last Week: 11
QB Drew Brees tied Brett Favre, throwing a touchdown pass in his 36th straight game, on Sunday vs. Tampa Bay. Can take full control of NFC South with second straight division win next week vs. Atlanta. It will help that NO has the second-ranked pass offense to work with.
9. Buffalo Bills (5-3) – Last Week: 5
Scored season-low 11 vs. Jets on Sunday. Will need QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to step up vs. Rob Ryan’s 7th-ranked passing defense in history-filled matchup with the Cowboys next week.
10. New England Patriots (5-3) – Last Week: 6
Brady and Co. have lost two in a row for first time since ’09, with last-second defeat to NYG. With division grudge match against Rex Ryan’s Jets, they will need top-ranked pass offense more than ever.
11. Atlanta Falcons (5-3) – Last Week: 10
Rookie WR Julio Jones practically took care of the hapless Colts, in Indianapolis, single-handedly (131 yards, 2 TDs), in blowout win. Don’t look now, but ATL has won three straight, with division grudge match coming up vs. Drew Brees and Saints passing attack (Falcons: 19th in pass yds allowed).
12. Houston Texans (6-3) – Last Week: 12
Another week, another 100-yard performance by Arian Foster (124 yds). Ben Tate also ran for over 100 yards (115 yds), establishing second-ranked rushing attack. As AFC South frontrunner, next month will show whether they stay that way.
13. Chicago Bears (5-3) – Last week: 13
QB Jay Cutler showed signs of playoff-caliber mettle in tough NFC battle against Philadlephia (208 yds, 2 TDs). Despite contract issues, Chi-town’s offensive attack goes as RB Matt Forte goes, who is currently on pace for 1,610 rushing yards this season.
14. New York Jets (5-3) – Last week: 15
The J-E-T-S dominated in almost every facet in division matchup vs. Buffalo, and looks like they have things figured out. Not a moment too soon – they face off against the hated Patriots in Week 10. Can’t wait.
15. Dallas Cowboys (4-4) – Last Week: 21
The ‘Boys continue to dominate the NFC West with win against Seahawks, keeping pace in the NFC East. The big question is, without WR Miles Austin for at least the next two weeks, can Dallas catch division-leading New York with an offense already 18th overall in points per game?
16. San Diego Chargers (4-4) – Last Week: 17
Scored a season-high 38 points in a loss to defending champion Green Bay. When you look at their defensive stats (4th overall in pass yards allowed), hard to believe SD is hovering at .500 – until you see they give up 25.5 pts/gm (27th overall). That, and the sporadic play of QB Philip Rivers.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) – Last Week: 18
They needed a strong statement coming off their bye week vs. the Saints. Now they face the prospect of a 4-6 record with games against Houston (1st in total defense) and Green Bay in the next two weeks. Not to mention they lost top draft pick Gerald McCoy for the season (torn biceps).
18. Oakland Raiders (4-4) – Last Week: 16
Holding a co-lead with San Diego on October 16, the Raiders have now lost two straight to division opponents, for a three-way tie in the AFC West. Without Darren McFadden nor a QB to lead them, it may turn into a long season for Oakland. Again.
19. Kansas City Chiefs (4-4) – Last Week: 14
The AFC West lately seems to be in a state of one-upping each other in terms of mediocrity. Oakland loses to Denver? Kansas City gets blown out by a winless Miami team. On the heels of a four-game win streak. At least the Raiders have QB problems – what’s KC’s excuse?
20. Tennessee Titans (4-4) – Last Week: 19
There is no shame losing to a Cincinnati team currently on a five-game win streak. There is, however, shame in having a run game, with Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer, that is still ranked dead-last this season. There’s always a chance Carolina’s run D (27th in the league) will help them next week.
21. Denver Broncos (3-5) – Last Week: 25
Focusing on run game for both RB Willis McGahee (163 yds, 2 TDs) and QB Tim Tebow (118 yds) may be winning formula for team now only one game back for division lead. And with their next three opponents in the bottom third of the league in rush defense (KC, NYJ, SD), they now have legitimate shot at AFC West title.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) – Last Week: 20
With momentum on their side, Eagles needed win at home vs. Chicago to stay in the NFC East race. Late gaffes by their special teams, secondary squandered Philly’s third fourth-quarter lead this season, and are in danger of trumping their baseball counterparts as the most disappointing franchise in the City of Brotherly Love.
23. Cleveland Browns (3-5) – Last Week: 22
I said last week that it wouldn’t get easier in Houston, and it didn’t: Allowing 261 yards on the ground, got blown out against run-happy Texans. Things may get easier for Cleveland with games against St. Louis (1-7) and Jacksonville (2-6) in the next two weeks. Then again, they both have run-heavy offensive games.
24. Washington Redskins (3-5) – Last Week: 23
Sunday’s loss to the 49ers sealed head coach Mike Shanahan’s second four-game losing steak with the Redskins – as many as he has had in his entire 244-game coaching tenure with the Broncos and Raiders. Maybe a trip to South Beach to play the Dolphins will get them back on track.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) – Last Week: 24
What exactly are the Jags going to do about a passing offense that is ranked dead-last in the NFL? Gear up for an Indianapolis team ranked 24th against the pass. Though, they could also ram RB Maurice Jones-Drew against their 31st-ranked run defense.
26. Arizona Cardinals (2-6) – Last Week: 30
CB Patrick Peterson is a beast, running back an overtime, game-winning punt return TD for the Cards’ second win. Unfortunately for them, there isn’t much else – not even Larry Fitzgerald (averaging under 81 yards receiving) has been a factor. Unless Peterson can be that big against the 49ers in two upcoming division games, expect them to be in the thick of the Andrew Luck race.
27. Minnesota Vikings (2-6) – Last Week: 27
RB Adrian Peterson and Packers DT B.J. Raji are working together as spokesmen for the new game “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations“, for the PS3. It would serve him best not to show him the same latitude when the Vikes face off against undefeated GB next Monday night.
28. Carolina Panthers (2-6) – Last Week: 28
While Cam Newton’s offense has a good chance to post great numbers three out of the next four weeks, their defense has to shore up their swiss-cheese numbers (28th in points allowed) to give the team a good chance to win.
29. Seattle Seahawks (2-6) – Last Week: 29
The Seahawks actually looked good in Week 9, holding their own against the Cowboys – for a little while, at least. Now, they drag their 29th-ranked offense (in yards per game) against a Baltimore defense ranked second in yards allowed.
30. Miami Dolphins (1-7) – Last Week: 31
Miami finally got on the board with a shocking blowout win against a Kansas City team fighting for the AFC West title. Can QB Matt Moore, TE Anthony Fasano and RB Reggie Bush keep the offense going in the coming weeks? Eh – probably not.
31. St. Louis Rams (1-7) – Last Week: 26
With QB Sam Bradford back from injury, and the STL coming off a surprising victory vs. the Saints in Week 8, the hope was that they could carry that into a two-gm win streak. Arizona made sure that didn’t happen, and now they’re back at square one.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-9) – Last Week: 32
The offense is 30th in points per game (14.9), and dead-last in points allowed per game (31.4). All but two of their losses have been by at least seven points. They are the final winless squad in the league, and they’re so bad, they just lost their primetime slot vs. the Patriots in Week 13. Did Peyton Manning really cover up this many team deficiencies?!