Power Rankings: Cowboys rise from worst to first in five short weeks
This isn't like the now-defunct BCS. There is not some computer compiling all the Power Rankings out there and spitting out a list of teams for the playoffs.
Having said that, we're nearing the point of the regular season when teams with true postseason hopes had best get to work. To wit: Ten of the top 12 teams in last year's Week 7 Power Rankings eventually clinched playoff berths. So the league's pecking order -- at least in terms of which teams can make a run and which teams are glancing ahead to next season -- usually begins to sort itself out by Halloween, and it likely will be no different in 2014.
With six weeks in the books, here's where everything stands:
Please accept the No. 1 spot this week as a gesture of respect. No matter what anyone thought before the season began, your team has proven that it is legit.
The NFL isn't like a test where you get the answer right but get half-credit for failing to show your work. An ugly win counts just as much as any other win. So the Chargers can pocket their 31-28 victory over Oakland without fear of repercussion.
Hey, Chip, no one's forcing you to read Power Rankings.
It's a long way to go, but the Colts might be on the verge of running away with the AFC South, mainly because they're the only team in the NFL that is 3-0 in its own division. Assuming they maintain that edge and finish 6-0 by sweeping rematches with Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee, the math doesn't really add up for anyone else to steal that division.
Not only did Rodgers target Adams on his critical fake spike play late Sunday (one of six catches for Adams), but the rookie receiver also showed enough presence of mind to get out of bounds -- the Packers were out of timeouts at the time and the clock would have expired had Adams been taken down in the field of play.
Colin Kaepernick is hot. The defense, even with a flurry of injuries hitting, has steadied itself the past three weeks. One of the lingering questions left is: What's up with Frank Gore? He was a crucial component in wins over Philadelphia and Kansas City, yet all but forgotten in a loss to Arizona and in Monday's win at St. Louis.
If you are an optimist, feel free to focus on the six turnovers Arizona has forced in its past two games, the Cardinals' 4-1 record or Carson Palmer's return from injury. If you are a pessimist, take notice of the 975 combined yards coughed up by this defense in Weeks 5 and 6 or a rushing attack that ranks 30th in the league. And if you're a mixologist, I'll take an old fashioned.
Seattle's defense has allowed 97 points in its past four games and Dallas shattered the 12th Man aura on Sunday. The defending champs are drifting a bit right now.
While the outcome was not the one the Bengals wanted, there is something to be said for their offense hanging 37 points on what was (perhaps still is, deep down) a strong Carolina defense ... and doing so without A.J. Green. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is on a roll.
That D ranks No. 1 in points and yards allowed. Detroit's opponents have scored 34 points total over the past four weeks; two seasons ago, the Lions allowed more than 34 points in five separate games.
Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West have rushed for 243, 237 and 235 yards, respectively, this season. That's incredible consistency across the running back depth chart, which speaks to the all-for-one mentality the Browns seem to have right now. Outside of possibly Jordan Cameron (and in a much different way, Johnny Manziel), there is not a superstar on this roster. Nor does Cleveland seem to need one.
Last season, teams converted third downs at a 35.8 percent clip against Carolina's defense (76-for-212). At the moment, the success rate versus the 2014 Panthers sits at an even 50 percent (40-for-80), worse than every team outside of Oakland.
Trying to figure out the Bears is a task on par with determining what is and is not a catch in the NFL these days. They're a total coin-flip team right now -- maybe they show up and roll, as they did Sunday in Atlanta; maybe they go through the motions behind Jay Cutler. It is anyone's guess from week to week.
No game last week for the Chiefs, so they're still stuck at 2-3 heading into San Diego this Sunday. Will Andy Reid find a way to get Jamaal Charles more involved there or will we experience deja vu when he again laments Charles' lack of touches following another loss?
The Saints return from their week off to find the NFC South a smoldering mess. At this point, it might not take a whole lot to win this division in 2014. Of course, New Orleans has been a noticeable part of the problem with its 2-3 start.
... except the Dolphins then ran on 3rd-and-9 and punted the ball back to Green Bay with 2:04 still left. Miami needed to commit to either grinding down the clock or gunning for a first down there. Toeing the line set it up for the disastrous finish that followed.
The Giants' write-up has been sacked.
Pittsburgh next plays three straight games at home (Houston, Indianapolis, Baltimore) before visiting the Jets and Titans. If there are any plans here to snap out of what has been two-plus years of perfect mediocrity -- 8-8 in 2012, 8-8 in '13, 3-3 so far in '14 -- it has to begin when this upcoming home stretch concludes.
That actually might be an improvement on the Vikings' current approach.
Beating the Jaguars by two points on a blocked field goal attempt is about as exciting as taking down your grandma in a game of Madden. Let's revisit the state of the Titans after their Week 7 road trip to Washington. Win there and it might not be too late to steer this thing in the right direction.
The Falcons lost by two touchdowns Sunday, but it felt a lot worse. Their 12 first downs matched their lowest total since putting up five in a 2007 loss, with Chris Redman at quarterback and Emmitt Thomas in for Bobby Petrino as the interim coach.
Rex Ryan's press conferences have become borderline must-see events, mainly because Ryan is slowly morphing into a Saturday Night Live-esque caricature of himself. This week alone, he reassured Jets fans that "we're not dead," said he was sick to his stomach that Darrelle Revis played for the Patriots and -- the most outlandish statement of them all -- declared that John Idzik's 2012 draft was "about as good as it gets."
We're officially down the rabbit hole now. Oh, look, there's Gus Frerotte!
Against the 49ers on Monday, he just kept firing blitzes in hopes of getting to QB Colin Kaepernick. That plan backfired, as they all have thus far for a St. Louis defense still stuck on one sack for the season.
The Buccaneers have a Week 7 bye, so they'll be just as mentally prepared to play this Sunday as they were last Sunday -- a 48-17 loss to Baltimore.
Playing Pittsburgh and Tennessee close with improved defensive performances counts as a moral victory, I guess. Like in the way that movie characters celebrate finding a box of candy bars during a zombie apocalypse.