In the Week 9 NFL Power Rankings, the Denver Broncos hold onto the top spot after beating the San Diego Chargers Thursday night, while the Chicago Bears climb into the top five after narrowly defeating the Atlanta Falcons.
It might be time to hit the reset button on the Power Rankings. Tracking which teams moved up or down from week to week is part of the whole procedure, but trying to find any pattern this year has been darn near pointless.
Through eight weeks of the regular season, the Broncos have emerged as the clear No. 1 team, New England and Arizona are both rising toward the top, and then there's about a 15-spot jumble of teams who could emerge -- or implode -- over the season's second half.
Realistically, what is the gap between, say, Philadelphia and New Orleans? They're 14 spots apart in this week's rankings but a matchup between the two might be a toss-up. You could say the same for most head-to-head comparisons this season.
But the show must go on.
New England's won four straight and has a chance to make a real statement against Denver this Sunday.
Like the Giants and Royals in the World Series, Arizona could go all the way this season and still have a few bemused critics tossing out the "But they're not even that good" line. Two things: 1. That's not true -- this team is more talented than it might appear on paper; and 2. The Cardinals' success goes to show what great coaching can do given a decent roster.
Can't punish the Eagles too much for a late loss at Arizona. (Also, can't reward any other teams that heavily, so Philadelphia sticks at No. 4.) However, they won't stay this high for much longer if Chip Kelly's team cannot solve its turnover issues. With three more miscues Sunday, the Eagles now have committed 17 turnovers this season, worse than everyone but Jacksonville.
The Lions are in the top five now because they're 6-2 overall and 3-0 without Calvin Johnson. But to get their latest victory, they needed two timely holding calls on Atlanta (one on the Falcons defense, one on their offense), a head-scratching Matt Ryan incompletion and a borderline delay-of-game call that granted Matt Prater a reprieve on his game-winning field goal try. It was like watching someone let it ride at a casino.
It will be a long two-week wait between games, but after their bye, the Packers play just three of their final eight away from home: at Minnesota, Buffalo and Tampa Bay. They might be favored in every remaining game.
This ranking is still based more on what we all know the Seahawks are capable of than what they've shown in recent weeks. And yet, the rest of the league could not have been thrilled that Carolina let the defending champs off the hook Sunday. With upcoming home games versus Oakland and the Giants, Seattle should be at 6-3 before its tricky stretch run begins.
"Didn't matter what we did," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "We tried everything. Threw everything that we had at [Roethlisberger]. They picked it all up."
San Diego allowed 24 points total during Weeks 3 through 5 of the season. The Broncos put up 28 points over the span of about 21 minutes Thursday night, the third straight subpar outing from the Chargers defense.
It's been a roller-coaster seven games for the Bengals, but had you asked the players before the season if they would take a 4-2-1 start with a season sweep of Baltimore, they'd have signed on the dotted line. (OK, half probably would have asked, "You can tie in the NFL?" but that's beside the point.)
Following their bye week last season, the 49ers immediately lost two straight before running off a 6-0 finish. They might need a similar closing stretch to reach the playoffs this year, especially if the plan is to leapfrog Arizona and Seattle in the division.
The Ravens permitted 100-plus yards rushing in a whopping 10 games last season. They've allowed it just twice so far in 2014, against Indianapolis and Cincinnati, but both games have resulted in losses.
Don't read too much into Buffalo dipping a spot after a 20-point road win. This is a legitimate wild-card contender at this point, thanks in large part to the move from EJ Manuel to Kyle Orton at quarterback. Orton is completing more than 67 percent of his passes and has helped Sammy Watkins make the quick jump to stardom.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley unleashing his passing attack Sunday was right on par with Tom Hanks discovering fire in Castaway or the apes learning to use tools in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Since taking down New England in Week 1, the Dolphins have lost to three teams ahead of them in our Power Rankings (Buffalo, Kansas City and Green Bay) and beaten three teams below (Oakland, Chicago, Jacksonville). Next up on their schedule: four straight games against teams in the top 15.
With a 44-23 win over Green Bay last weekend, Drew Brees is now something like infinity-and-0 in night games at home during his career. The Saints keep on holding serve -- they're 3-0 on their own turf and 0-4 away. Maintaining that trend to finish 8-8 might be enough to win the NFC South.
In losing to Jacksonville and stumbling past Oakland, did the Browns just complete a two-week hiccup? Or are they regressing back toward mediocrity with the second half of the season looming?
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick needs two more wins to match his career-high as a starter -- he finished 6-10 for the Bills in both 2011 and '12. Of course, with five home games plus a trip to Indianapolis left, the Texans are aiming much higher than a six-win season.
That 2-0 start was great and all, but Week 3 of the season might have been a tad bit early to start trying to back into the playoffs, eh? Carolina's just 1-4-1 since then (but still in first place!), with Cam Newton completing about 55 percent of his passes in the losses.
The Vikings are starting a rookie quarterback, rookie running back and won Sunday's game when their rookie linebacker scored a touchdown. Things are about as promising as they can be for a 3-5 team still dealing with an off-field nightmare surrounding their one-time franchise star.
Does that mean a more aggressive look from Eli Manning? His 10.8 yards-per-completion mark matches the lowest of his career.
(Cards on the table, I almost compared the Bears' current situation to when the Muppets all go their separate ways in The Muppets Take Manhattan, but I'm aware that I am probably more tapped into that reference than about 99 percent of the population.)
Johnny Appleseed. Davy Crockett. Colt McCoy. OK, OK, so maybe Washington's new-found folk hero has not reached that level of legend just yet, but he took the first step Monday night. Too bad he's going to head back to the bench as soon as Robert Griffin III's ready. Appleseed didn't have to put up with that crap.
Ever been to a restaurant like Mongolian Grill, where they cook the food for you but you have to pick all your ingredients, so you just toss a bunch of random crap in a bowl and hope it tastes OK? The Rams are essentially taking the same approach to their RB situation. A little Tre Mason here, some Zac Stacy there, top it with a couple Tavon Austin carries ...
The NFC South is there for the taking. The Falcons are not capable of taking advantage.
The Buccaneers traded away Mark Barron and Jonathan Casillas at Tuesday's deadline, and they reportedly tried to move Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin. All that's left now is to perform the final exorcism in an attempt to remove Greg Schiano's spirit from the locker room.
This might get worse before it gets a lot better. The Titans simply do not have a lot to hang their hats on right now, even in a scuffling AFC South. The move to Zach Mettenberger at quarterback indicates that, wisely, this franchise has begun preparations for 2015.
Blake Bortles has been intercepted on 5.8 percent of his pass attempts this season, by far the worst rate of any quarterback in the league. Kirk Cousins (4.4), Geno Smith (4.3) and Jake Locker (3.6) are the closest contenders, and all of those guys have been benched.
As if it wasn't bad enough for the Jets to faceplant at home versus the Bills, forcing Rex Ryan to make a switch away from Geno Smith at quarterback, GM John Idzik had to follow the weekend up with a bizarre, stilted press conference. Someone should have put a mirror in front of him, because it was as much a forced self-affirmation as anything that provided useful info for how Idzik plans to fix this team.
At Seattle, Denver, at San Diego. That is what lies ahead for the Raiders, who now are staring an 0-10 start in the face. It still feels like they're going to squeak out a win or two, but figuring out exactly where is increasingly difficult.