NFL Power Rankings, Week 8

Wednesday October 27th, 2010

Approaching midseason, disappointment seems to dot the NFL landscape. Maybe it's always that way, but it does feel more so this year. Dallas, Minnesota, San Diego and San Francisco were all popular picks to win their divisions, but they own a grand total of six wins through the first seven weeks of the season.

New Orleans and Green Bay, another pair of Super Bowl contenders, are scuffling along at 4-3, far from taking control of their playoff races. In Cincinnati (2-4), Miami (3-3) and Arizona (3-3), no one knows quite what to make of 2010 so far.

Nice surprises like Kansas City, Seattle and Tampa Bay (all 4-2) have emerged, but with 10 teams owning two or fewer wins, the season already feels over for about a third of the league. With no unbeatens left, and only three teams with one loss (the Jets, Patriots and Steelers), true excellence is in short supply this year.

Maybe the best is still to come, and we'll wind up with a great final two-plus months and plenty of close division races. But so far, 2010 has been a bit of a muddle, with more teams struggling than thriving. Who knew the uncapped year would be so uninspiring?

And now on to this week's rankings...

NFL Power Rankings
1 Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 1
We're about to get very familiar with these front-running Steelers. After six consecutive early Sunday afternoon games to open the season, Pittsburgh has two Sunday night games (at New Orleans, home against New England) and a Monday nighter (at Cincinnati) in the next three weeks. In fact, half of the Steelers' 10 remaining games will be prime-time affairs, and that doesn't even take into account the potential flex-scheduling angle (Jets at Steelers, Week 15, perhaps?)
2 New York Jets
Last Week: 2
Judging from history, one more win from the Jets (Green Bay visits this week) and we're going to start hearing that a New York-New York Super Bowl pairing is a distinct possibility. Or did I just jump the gun and go there even before November has arrived? It's understandable, given that the Jets' Rex Ryan and the Giants' Antrel Rolle have declared their teams to be the best the NFL has to offer in the past two weeks.
3 New York Giants
Last Week: 7
We've all been searching for an NFC team to anoint as the conference's pacesetter, and with four consecutive wins, the Giants are the obvious choice. New York has settled on a very innovative formula for victory. The Giants don't just beat you, they knock out your quarterback, thereby rendering you as less of a threat even after the loss. Tony Romo joins the likes of Carolina's Matt Moore, Detroit's Shaun Hill, and Chicago's Jay Cutler and Todd Collins as NFC quarterbacks who have not gone the distance against New York and its multifaceted pass rush.
4 New England Patriots
Last Week: 3
At 2-1 on the road, the Patriots have already matched their 2009 win total away from Foxboro. At home in the regular season, New England hasn't lost in nearly two years (12 wins in a row), since a Week 13 meltdown against the eventual Super Bowl champion Steelers in 2008. And by all appearances, the Pats are catching the Vikings at a very vulnerable time. Either they're going to get a banged up and turnover-plagued Brett Favre, or a very rusty Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.
5 Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 6
The last time we all fretted about the Colts losing a major cog in their passing game, Indy trotted out Austin Collie and survived quite nicely without Marvin Harrison. But there's considerably more slack to pick up this time with tight end Dallas Clark being lost for the season with a wrist injury, and Collie just having undergone surgery on his right thumb. Everyone has moved the ball against the Texans' pass defense this season, but the Colts and Peyton Manning might have to take a piecemeal approach on offense Monday night at home against Houston.
6 Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 10
More remarkable than Kenny Britt catching 10 passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns against the Eagles in just three quarters of playing time on Sunday was this: In the fourth quarter alone, the second-year Titans receiver had four catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
7 Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 6
I know Miami fans won't agree with me, but there wasn't a worse call last Sunday than Baltimore being awarded the ball in overtime on that Ray Lewis strip of Bills tight end Shawn Nelson. How do you make the case that Nelson's forward progress wasn't halted when he had been lifted completely off the ground by a Ravens defender? (Watch video here.) Nelson was no longer under his own power, and he wasn't even struggling to fall forward when Lewis went to work on wresting the ball from him. A bogus call if I've ever seen one.
8 Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 9
Mike Smith's defense has its bye week to figure out how it gave up 29 second-half points to the Bengals, blowing a 24-3 halftime lead in the process. Atlanta found a way to win and remains in solid position in the NFC South, but just ahead is a potential first-place showdown with surprising Tampa Bay at the Georgia Dome in Week 9.
9 Houston Texans
Last Week: 11
If this really is the best Texans club in the nine-year history of the franchise, it'll find a way to beat the wounded Colts in Indy on Monday night and take a huge step toward that first-ever playoff berth. This is one of those measuring stick games for Houston, and Gary Kubiak's team must show some killer instinct.
10 Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 8
With a win at Tennessee, the Eagles could have joined the Giants as the emerging elite class in the NFC. But Philly faded in the fourth quarter and now comes its bye week before a Nov. 7 home game against the Colts. For what it's worth, I think Andy Reid's shift back to a healthy Michael Vick at quarterback is once again the right move.
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