Halloween is a week away, and the NFL’s elite is starting to look scary good, while the NFL’s worst is just looking scary. After another week of games that affect the standings by the play, let’s take a look at this week’s MSR NFL Power Rankings:
1. Atlanta Falcons (6-0) – Last Week: 1
As far as I’m concerned, as long as the Falcons remain undefeated, they will hold the top spot until further notice. At this point, Atlanta has been using their bye week to prepare for an anticipated matchup against their old QB, Michael Vick, and the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8. With Vick struggling and current QB Matt Ryan on a statistical tear so far this season, it will be an interesting game, indeed.
2. Houston Texans (6-1) – Last Week: 5
What a way to bounce back from their first loss of the season – with a statement win over a fellow 5-1 team, in the Ravens. Then again, Baltimore is understandably hurting on defense, and the 43-13 blowout win may be indicative of that. In any case, the Texans seem to be back on track – most importantly, RB Arian Foster has got his mojo working, with 5 TDs in his last three games. With their bye coming up, their prospects at a postseason run are looking good.
3. New York Giants (5-2) – Last Week: 2
It never seems to be easy against an NFC East opponent for Eli Manning and Co, having gone 0-2 before their game against the Redskins. However, they pulled a late fourth-quarter deficit out of the fire, with a last-minute 77-yard TD strike to WR Victor Cruz. They now face their third division opponent in a calendar month, as they visit JerryWorld in Dallas. It will be a matchup of New York’s third-ranked passing offense (295.3 yds/gm) and Dallas’ third-ranked pass D (183.7 yds/gm).
4. Chicago Bears (5-1) – Last Week: 3
It wasn’t necessarily an easy victory on Monday night against the Lions – especially after QB Jay Cutler went down with apparent bruised ribs. However, they held the Lions scoreless on offense until the 60th minute, to hold on for the victory. WR Brandon Marshall continues to produce, with his third TD catch in three games. Now they get to face off against a Carolina team reeling from four straight losses, and currently giving up 245 yds/gm through the air.
5. San Francisco 49ers (5-2) – Last Week: 7
On a short turnaround, and following a demoralizing loss at home, the 49ers needed to make a statement against a top division foe. They did that by going back to what they did best – using RB Frank Gore (16 carries, 131 yds) to control the clock and get the much-needed victory on Thursday against a Seahawks team breathing down their necks for the NFC West lead. Another division game looms next Monday, as they head to Arizona.
6. Minnesota Vikings (5-2) – Last Week: 10
RB Adrian Peterson got his game going for the first time in three weeks, as his 153 yards and TD on the ground helped the Vikings recover from their Week 6 loss against the Redskins, and an anemic performance from QB Christian Ponder. In a low-scoring contest, the Vikings’ defensive backfield stepped up big with an interception return for a TD by rookie S Harrison Smith. Unfortunately, they have a short turnaround to a Thursday night matchup against the Buccaneers.
7. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) – Last Week: 4
It seems that the losses of CB Lardarius Webb and LB Ray Lewis last week were immediately felt in their recent matchup against the Texans – despite getting back LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles), the defense gave up 43 points – a figure they have not given up in five seasons. Coupled with QB Joe Flacco’s subpar performance (147 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs), the game got by mid-second quarter. Given a bye week, the Ravens need to go back to the drawing board for a Week 9 matchup with the Browns.
8. Green Bay Packers (4-3) – Last Week: 9
Looks like QB Aaron Rodgers is continuing the roll he started in Houston – his 342 passing yards and 3 TDs were enough to take down the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. Apparently, so did WR Jordy Nelson: after 121 receiving yards and 3 TDs in Houston, Nelson caught 8 more balls for 122 yards and another TD, as their offense looks to be running on all cylinders. Their explosive offense should undoubtedly continue at home against the Jaguars next week.
9. Seattle Seahawks (4-3) – Last Week: 6
With the NFC West lead on the line, the Seahawks couldn’t stop RB Frank Gore when they needed to, and the offense could not score a TD on Thursday night’s game against the 49ers in San Francisco. While RB Marshawn Lynch ran for over 100 yards for the second time in two games vs. SF, QB Russell Wilson was effectively shut down for 122 yards passing and an INT. The tough treading may continue when they head to Ford Field next Sunday.
10. Denver Broncos (3-3) – Last Week: 11
The big story of the Broncos’ bye week may be the possibility of getting back CB Tracy Porter – after the defensive backfield’s performance against the Chargers last week, it may not be completely vital to rush him back from illness. But that all depends on how much they fear Drew Brees and the Saints offense on Sunday Night Football in Week 8. In any case, QB Peyton Manning will be ready for a revenge match for his Super Bowl XLIV loss at the hands of New Orleans.
11. New England Patriots (4-3) – Last Week: 13
In a back-and-forth game between two bitter division rivals, the Patriots had to pull out a game-tying FG by Stephen Gostkowski in the final seconds of regulation to send it to overtime, and win it on another FG in OT. Despite QB Tom Brady getting outdueled, by all intents and purposes, by Mark Sanchez, Devin McCourty (104-yd kickoff return TD) and TE Rob Gronkowski (2 receiving TDs) made huge contributions to the win. Now they have the privilege of going to London, to face the Rams, with the division lead.
12. Arizona Cardinals (4-3) – Last Week: 8
The losing streak is now at three games, with their latest loss at the hands of the Vikings. Despite QB John Skelton’s game-high 262 yards passing, and dominating most of the game’s major statistical categories, they simply could not score when it counted – and they could not stop Vikings RB Adrian Peterson when it counted. Now they face off against the 49ers to avoid a .500 record, and get a much needed division win.
13. Dallas Cowboys (3-3) – Last Week: 14
It wasn’t the most impressive of wins – they needed four Dan Bailey FGs to take, and keep, the lead late against the Panthers on Sunday – it is important to note that QB Tony Romo registered his highest QBR (85.1) since Week 1, and WR Miles Austin (5 receptions, 97 yds, 1 TD) stepped up for the offense’s only touchdown. Now, with RBs DeMarco Murray (out) and Felix Jones (questionable) banged up, they will most likely need their pass offense to step up again against the defending champion New York Giants.
14. Miami Dolphins (3-3) – Last Week: 12
While the Dolphins enjoy their bye week, rumors of Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe wanting out of Kansas City apparently couldn’t come at a better time for a pass offense that is ranked 21st overall (224.2 yds/gm). Meanwhile, there are indications that Miami could tweak their ground game, with RB Reggie Bush regressing since his breakout game in Week 2. Whatever they change, they will need to be ready for the Jets in Week 8.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) – Last Week: 15
With a bevy of things to fix – not the least of which is QB Michael Vick’s turnover problems – the Eagles are currently under maintenance on defense, as new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, replacing fired Juan Castillo, says he is only “making tweaks” to the league’s 12th-ranked D. While they are squaring off with Vick’s old team, the undefeated Falcons, one stat works in Philly’s favor: they are 14-0 under Andy Reid coming off the bye week.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) – Last Week: 22
Despite not having their top two RBs (Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman), and being depleted on the offensive line, QB Ben Roethlisberger (278 yards, 1 TD) made due with what he had, as he threw a TD pass to TE Heath Miller en route to the victory over division rival Cincinnati. It was certainly an impressive victory to get back to .500, and stay within striking distance in the AFC North. They welcome RGIII and the Redskins next week with their second-ranked defense.
17. New York Jets (3-4) – Last Week: 19
It was an impressive feat for the Jets to hang with the Patriots for as long as they did – especially to have them within seconds, and a missed FG by New England, of a vital division win. Now they find themselves in third place in the division, with another AFC East opponent on deck in the Dolphins. They would be wise to shore up their 30th-ranked run defense as soon as possible, so as not to spark RBs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas.
18. Washington Redskins (3-4) – Last Week: 16
The good news for the Redskins? They played the Giants well in the Meadowlands, as they took the lead on a Robert Griffin III TD pass to Santana Moss with 92 seconds left in the game. Unfortunately, they let Victor Cruz go for the game-winning TD 19 seconds later. Their last-place pass defense probably didn’t help things for them, and will have to play better against a Steelers offense that will probably rely on the passing game.
19. St. Louis Rams (3-4) – Last Week: 17
It wasn’t as if the Rams played horribly in their first home loss of the season – though it is difficult to win when you allow the opposing QB to throw for over 300 yards and 3 TDs. Harder, still, when the offense is playing catch-up all day. For Sam Bradford to throw his first TD of the day with 15 seconds left in the game also can’t be a good sign. Now under .500, they will travel to London and try to be the third NFC West team to beat the Patriots.
20. Detroit Lions (2-4) – Last Week: 18
Despite the fact that they held the Bears’ offense to 13 points on Monday night, they could not muster any points of their own until a meaningless TD from QB Matthew Stafford to WR Ryan Broyles with 30 seconds left in the game. What’s worse, they could be without WR Calvin Johnson, among other starters, as a date with the Seahawks awaits them on Sunday. Not good for a team that, despite their impressive passing stats (2nd in offense; 6th in defense), is two games under .500 for the season.
21. Buffalo Bills (3-4) – Last Week: 20
It had to have been a tough loss for the Bills, having the lead at the end of the third quarter, only to lose it with a minute left in the fourth. They did, however, score over 30 points for the first time since a Week 2 win vs. Kansas City – incuding an 89-yard return TD by Brad Smith – and head into the bye week to figure out more ways to incorporate the kind of offense they generated against Tennessee (382 total yards).
22. Tennessee Titans (3-4) – Last Week: 26
RB Chris Johnson finally gave the Titans and their fans the kind of performance they are accustomed t0, with two TD runs – one for 83 yards – in a 193-yard performance that helped Tennessee pull out a 35-34 victory over the Bills. QB Matt Hasselbeck’s last-minute TD pass to WR Nate Washington clinched it in the back-and-forth scoring fest, and will need to take the offensive momentum back to Nashville in a divisional game against the Colts.
23. Indianapolis Colts (3-3) – Last Week: 25
A date with the Browns was just what the doctor ordered for the Colts, who needed to bounce back from their blowout loss to the Jets – despite the fact that they couldn’t get much going in the passing offense. But it was RB Vick Ballard (84 rushing yards) and QB Andrew Luck (2 rushing TDs) on the ground that gave them the edge they needed to claim the victory. Now they must contend with a rusher in RB Chris Johnson, with a division matchup vs. Tennessee looming next week.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) – Last Week: 21
It seems that QB Josh Freeman has found his footing, with his second game in a row with 3 passing TDs, to go along with a career-high 420 pass yards. Unfortunately, he was going up against Drew Brees in a shootout, which are difficult to win. Allowing 21 straight points (and 3 straight pass TDs) on D in the 2nd quarter is indicative of their 31st-ranked pass defense. Can Freeman keep them in the game against a hot Vikings team on Thursday night?
25. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) – Last Week: 23
After starting the season 3-1, the Bengals have now lost three straight, all to sub-.500 teams (Dolphins, Browns, Steelers). They could not produce much offense this time around (185 total yards to Pittsburgh’s 431), and allowed RB Jonathan Dwyer, making his first career start, to run for 122 yards. They will be scratching their heads and no doubt scrambling to fix their deficiencies during their bye week.
26. San Diego Chargers (3-3) – Last Week: 24
As if things couldn’t get any worse than their 2nd-half collapse against the Broncos last weeks, the Chargers are dealing with allegations of using the illegal substance stick’em, and the inevitable release of long-time K Nate Kaeding. And, despite the fact that they are still at .500 and tied for first place in the AFC West, all things on the San Diegan front look bleak. Perhaps a trip to Cleveland to face the Browns could brighten their spirits – or break them, if they lose.
27. New Orleans Saints (2-4) – Last Week: 27
The Saints got back to their winning ways against a division rival in the Bucs, winning in an unlikely shootout. QB Drew Brees came off the Saints’ bye week, picking up where he left off (377 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT) in the victory – their second straight after an 0-4 start. LB Jonathan Vilma was also a welcome sight for the defense, who stopped the Tampa Bay offense in the final minutes to preserve the victory. A rematch with former Colts QB Peyton Manning await on Sunday.
28. Oakland Raiders (2-4) – Last Week: 29
The Raiders had trailed for most of the day against the last-place Jaguars, but used QB Carson Palmer’s 298-yard performance through the air – and game-tying rush TD – to send the game to OT, as they won on a Sebastian Janikowski FG. Unfortunately, their 31st-ranked running game (76.8 yds/gm) struggled again. Maybe RB Darren McFadden will work better against Kansas City’s 22nd-ranked run defense (125.0 yds allowed/gm).
29. Carolina Panthers (1-5) – Last Week: 28
While they kept it close against the Cowboys on Sunday, the Panthers are still only a one-win team. The criticisms upon second-year QB Cam Newton continue about his poor demeanor on the field and on the sideline – this time from figures like Warren Moon. Now, with head coach Ron Rivera reportedly on the hot seat, the team will have to defy the odds to perform well against a Chicago team who have lost only once this season.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) – Last Week: 30
With all of the rumors going around that, at a paltry 1-win record, they may be willing to part ways with franchise WR Dwayne Bowe in a trade, it may just be a welcome distraction for a Chiefs team currently trying to figure out which QB – Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn – will be the starter moving forward (neither of which is all that attractive). In that case, they may just have to rely on RB Jamaal Charles against the Raiders in Week 8.
31. Cleveland Browns (1-6) – Last Week: 31
A week after their first victory against the Bengals, Cleveland trailed the entire game against a Colts team that had, themselves, been struggling on offense. Their lone bright spot, QB Brandon Weeden, threw for 264 yards and 2 TDs. Though, without RB Trent Richardson, their ground game was completely ineffective (55 total rush yds). With Richardson reportedly back for this week, can they put up a fight against a much better offensive team in the Chargers?
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) – Last Week: 32
The Jags can’t seem to catch a break – they led by as many as 14 points for most of the game, only to lose the lead with 3:34 to go in the fourth, and lose the game in overtime. What was worse, they did not have QB Blaine Gabbert (shoulder) for the second half, and backup Chad Henne didn’t fare much better in his stead (9-for-20, 71 yds). Ranking in the bottom 8 in every major statistical team category, they take their game to Lambeau Field, against the red-hot Packers. Oh, boy.