This is turning out to be a very unselfish season in the NFL. Nobody wants to be No. 1. For the third consecutive week, our top-ranked team went down to defeat on Sunday, abdicating the throne that is the very apex of SI.com's NFL Power Rankings.
This time it was the Steelers who refused the spotlight, giving up the No. 1 slot for the second time in three weeks by virtue of that 39-26 meltdown at home against New England before NBC's Sunday-night cameras. The win was so convincing that I felt compelled to vault the Patriots back to the pole position, ahead of even the whatever-it-takes Jets (who beat them in Week 2 in New Jersey) and the NFC-pace-setting Falcons (7-2).
Will the Patriots make a home for themselves atop our rankings? We'll see. Because just like Bill Belichick's team owns the Steelers, the team that has dominated New England in recent years, the Colts, visit Foxboro on Sunday. A Patriots' loss and you can bet we'll have a new No. 1 for the fourth week in a row. But that's getting ahead of ourselves, and we always take it one game at a time with what amounts to our imaginary re-ordering of the NFL standings.
Now on to this week's rankings...
Last Week: 3
|Patriots have learned how to win on the road again. After going 2-6 away from home last season, New England is already 3-2 this year on the road, with impressive victories at Miami, San Diego and Pittsburgh. And with only trips left to Detroit, Chicago and Buffalo, a 6-2 road mark is not out of the question.|
Last Week: 6
|Jets are winning without dominating anyone, and that can either lull a team into a false sense of security or foster the belief and resourcefulness that allows the game to always go long enough for them to figure out a path to victory. My hunch is New York has developed the latter. I know this much: Santonio Holmes has become the guy Mark Sanchez looks for in those game-deciding moments.|
Last Week: 5
|Falcons appear bound for a third consecutive winning season under the regime of general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith, but also they've struck a blow this year for the strength of the NFC. They've gone 3-1 against AFC teams with only that opening-week overtime loss at Pittsburgh marring their record. Just something to think about should Atlanta find itself still alive and playing in a certain early February game in Dallas.|
Last Week: 1
|Steelers kicker, because Pittsburgh whacked the surly one after he shanked a 26-yarder against the Patriots, his seventh miss this season. It just goes to prove you can be a jerk as long as you make about 80-85 percent of your kicks. But being a jerk and converting in the 68 percent range is a very bad combination indeed.|
Last Week: 2
|Cowboys-Giants game on Sunday I would have avoided all those cheap and easy references to Dallas turning the lights out on New York, or the Giants offense suffering a power outage at the worst possible time. But alas, I think we now know better.|
Last Week: 4
|Roddy White got away with a push in the waning moments of the Ravens' loss at Atlanta? Of course. White even admitted he did. But that shouldn't completely overshadow how the Falcons drove 80 yards against Baltimore's defense with the game on the line. That should be the real front-burner issue in Ravens-land.|
Last Week: 11
|Eagles get that fast-break offense of theirs rolling like they did Monday night in rainy Maryland, it's a thing of beauty. So much speed everywhere you look. I think the only one on the Philadelphia sideline who doesn't run a sub 4.5 40 is Andy Reid.|
Last Week: 7
|Colts-Patriots rivalry unfold in Foxboro? I'll bet Peyton Manning hasn't missed ol' Gillette Stadium for a single second. It doesn't get any better in the NFL than this, Manning vs. Tom Brady, with two first-place teams behind them. Even if we don't recognize many of the names on either offense.|
Last Week: 9
|Saints really intend to make a serious defense of their Super Bowl title, the push for home field and an attractive playoff seed starts now. New Orleans had better make some hay against the Seahawks, Cowboys, Bengals and Rams in the coming four weeks, because a very challenging three-game stretch closes out the regular season (at Baltimore, at Atlanta, Tampa Bay).|
Last Week: 9
|Packers could deliver a final knockout punch of sorts to Brett Favre and his sinking Vikings this Sunday. What a long, strange trip it has been for Favre since his emotional "retirement" press conference in Green Bay in early 2008. That was a bunch of bottom-of-the-screen news scrawls ago.|