Power Rankings: After weeks near the top, Broncos finally claim No. 1 spot
The last time that the NFL failed to produce at least one 13-game winner was 2002. The Buccaneers, Eagles and Packers all finished at 12-4 that season, everyone else at 11-5 or worse.
Could we be bearing witness to another year where no team separates from the pack?
Possibly. Twenty-one teams already have three losses or more. Just four -- Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia and Arizona -- have made it through the first seven weeks with one loss. The Broncos and Cowboys (the latter already at 6-1) may be most likely to finish at 13-3 or better, but the probability of having a runaway best-record winner is dwindling.
With it, the odds of our most parity-filled finish since the '02 season continue to rise.
On to this week's Power Rankings:
With all eyes on Peyton Manning and the career touchdowns record, Ware dominated on the other side of the ball, sacking Colin Kaepernick three times. Time to pay attention to the Denver defense. If this team wins the Super Bowl, it will be because it is a well-rounded group ... not just because Manning is throwing the ball.
And now it's happening for Tony Romo. Each week brings a decrease in the number of people waiting for him to screw up. Even if he does at some point down the line, he might have done enough already to earn a collective slow clap from all of us.
Thanks to Aaron Rodgers' one interception in 211 pass attempts -- a downright silly ratio -- the Packers have taken great care of the football this season. As a result, they're leading the league in turnover differential with a plus-10, which is a great sign for the Green Bay defense. Pretty sure Rodgers is not out there picking off passes and forcing fumbles.
"They're all back." Nope, not a quote from the latest Poltergeist remake, but rather how Chip Kelly began his post-bye week press conference -- announcing the returns of Darren Sproles, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce and Mychal Kendricks from injury. The returns of Mathis and Kelce alone would be worth celebrating. With them, the Eagles might be able to bury their early-season O-line issues.
The Colts added to their NFL lead in yards gained this season by tacking on another 506 against Cincinnati. Their closest challenger, the Cowboys, sit more than 300 yards back. Just imagine where Indianapolis would be if someone would release Trent Richardson's parking brake.
Six games in and no opponent has managed to hit 100 yards rushing against the Cardinals yet. Of the four rushing touchdowns Arizona has allowed, just one has been longer than eight yards (Ryan Mathews, 20 yards, Week 1). This team is more than happy to play a grind-it-out game.
Torrey Smith's 18 catches for 308 yards make for disappointing totals, even with Steve Smith swiping some of his targets. Factor in the league-leading seven pass interference calls Torrey Smith has drawn, though, and he's handed the Ravens another 159 yards of offense.
After Golden Tate caught a 73-yard touchdown with 3:52 left on the clock, though, it was a twist. Maybe these aren't the same old Lions.
The Patriots now lead the AFC East by a game and close the season with three straight division games (including a Week 17 matchup vs. Buffalo). But what happens between now and then -- a six-game stretch against teams currently a combined 28-12 -- likely will determine how this Patriots season ends.
Philip Rivers is coming off his worst game of the season: 17-of-31 for just 205 yards in a 23-20 home loss to Kansas City. He'll have to rediscover his mojo in a hurry because San Diego takes its depleted secondary to Denver on Thursday before heading to Miami in Week 9. There is danger afoot.
Lucky for Pete Carroll, he drank that witch's potion about 15 years ago so he doesn't age anymore. Otherwise, this recent Seattle stretch might have put a few more wrinkles on his mug. The defending champs are far from finished at 3-3. They're also another bad outing or two from facing a near-insurmountable climb in the NFC West.
The .500 record doesn't exactly jump off the page. What does stand out, however: Kansas City's three wins have come at Miami, at San Diego and by 27 over New England, all in a four-game stretch.
With Daniel Kilgore exiting the game in Week 7 because of a broken leg, the 49ers' injury report now is officially longer than the list of teams rumored to be interested in Jim Harbaugh. This bye week could not have come at a better time for San Francisco.
The Bills have gutted out two wins over the past three weeks to stay in the division race. On the other hand, they also have scored more than 17 points just once since Week 2 ... and it was in a loss. Unless now-injured running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson were the problem (and they weren't), Buffalo has to come up with some other answers.
Ryan Tannehill says he's feeling more comfortable in the offensive scheme Bill Lazor brought over with him from Philadelphia, and it's showed the past three outings, counting Sunday's decisive victory over Chicago. Remember, it took the Eagles half the 2013 season (and one quarterback change) before they really started clicking last season, with Lazor as their quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly.
A.J. Green can't get healthy, Vontaze Burfict can't stay healthy and the Bengals couldn't do much of anything on Sunday. Was the 27-0 loss to Indianapolis a low point for a legit contender? Or are Cincinnati's problems, which include 107 points allowed over the past three weeks, merely beginning?
Heading into their run from Weeks 7-9 that included Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay, anything less than a 3-0 mark loomed as a disappointment. Letting the Raiders or Buccaneers match the Jaguars' upset might bury the Browns.
"We're 3-4. We need to play better. That's unacceptable. That's unacceptable. Unacceptable; shouldn't have lost today, shouldn't be 3-4."
Twenty-four points in 2:54. That's how the Steelers turned their Week 7 contest vs. Houston from a sleepy loss into a win -- a shocking swing unlike just about anything we've seen in NFL history. It was as if the Frank Reich comeback against the Oilers had been condensed down into a three minute-long clip.
When is a team that's 2-4 and a game-and-a-half back of first place still considered the division favorite? When that team has Drew Brees at quarterback and a bunch of flailing rivals. Per Bovada, New Orleans remains the NFC South's most likely Super Bowl team (33/1 odds to win it all; Carolina is at 66/1). Now is the time to move: New Orleans plays four of its next five at home, with Carolina being the lone road game.
The defensive woes plaguing this team have drifted from a pesky hiccup to an unstoppable nightmare. Carolina is coughing up 34.8 points over its past five games, and in four of those outings (three losses and a tie) the Panthers have allowed either 37 or 38 points.
Make it three straight close losses for the Texans, who may have sapped all they can from FitzMagic or Beard Power or whatever we're calling the Ryan Fitzpatrick Experience these days. Houston keeps doing just enough to remind everyone it's a mediocre team.
The fake punt St. Louis ran to ice away Seattle was the ultimate "Ahhh screw it" moment of the season so far. Either the Rams convert and Jeff Fisher scores a perception-altering win or they fail and land pretty much in the same spot they already occupied.
Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes Sunday, took zero sacks ... and the Giants still lost by 10. The window to get this thing turned around in 2014 might already be closed.
Even if Robert Griffin III is healthy enough to rejoin the lineup this week, I'm begging you, Redskins, let Colt McCoy make the start in Dallas. This franchise has not enjoyed many feel-good stories over the past few seasons. McCoy, a star at the University of Texas, taking his shot on Monday night would qualify as one.
Hey, acquiring Percy Harvin is probably not going to save the season. There are several teams out there, though, that would take a WR/RB setup of Eric Decker, Harvin and Chris Ivory. This is a nine-game tryout for Geno Smith.
By the time Minnesota's new stadium opens in 2016, the product should be far, far better than it is right now.
The ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in. Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin. A nuclear era, and Mike Smith should fear. Atlanta is drowning, and he might get thrown in the river.
It's easy to scoff at the Jaguars' first win as meaningless, but ... Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Cecil Shorts and Allen Hurns all contributed, and Denard Robinson ran for more than 100 yards as the starting back. There's some really intriguing offensive talent here alongside rookie QB Blake Bortles.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Titans had a 74 percent chance of winning Sunday after taking a 17-16 edge on Washington. Of course, that number pales in comparison to the 99 percent chance of victory the Titans held (along with a 28-3 lead) on Cleveland three weeks ago. They lost both games.
The Buccaneers' 0-1 mark over the past two weeks (they were on a Week 7 bye) matches the best record posted by any NFC South team in that span -- the Saints are 0-1, the Panthers 0-1-1 and the Falcons 0-2. So, at least the Bucs have that going for them.
Oakland fans might want to track Oregon QB Marcus Mariota as much as their own team over the next couple months. Should the Raiders wind up with the No. 1 overall pick, their quickest path to a rebuild might be finding a team that needs a franchise quarterback (Tennessee? St. Louis?) and trading back a few spots. Oakland definitely has its guy, at least for the next couple years, in Derek Carr.