Heading into this season, many likely would have assumed an NFC North team would be in the top four of our Power Rankings. But not many would have thought that it wouldn't be the Packers.
The Broncos took their first loss of the year with a lethargic outing in Indianapolis, and Green Bay has been underwhelming during back-to-back losses. Does one of those two teams still belong at No. 4? Not according to our latest set of Power Rankings, which drops both the Broncos and the Packers, moving them closer to the jumbled pack below.
Here’s how they all stand after Week 9, with a different NFC North team cracking the top five.
Almost all the praise for Carolina’s offense lands on Cam Newton, and for the defense, it’s with Luke Kuechly, Josh Norman and now Kawann Short. But this team wouldn’t be where it is without its gaggle of 30-and-up players, like Greg Olsen (30 years old), Ted Ginn (30), Thomas Davis (32) and Roman Harper (33, with the hair of a 45-year old).
Aqib Talib’s eye poke on Dwayne Allen was about the tightest coverage Denver played Sunday, on an oddly invisible day for what has been a dominant defense. Oh, and bring the Ronnie Hillman train back to the station. After rushing for 111 yards at Cleveland and scoring twice against Green Bay, Hillman gained one yard in Indianapolis. One.
Is it fair to say that the Cardinals need to win one of their next two games, either at Seattle or home against Cincinnati? They’d prefer to get that W this week, obviously, as it would stretch their NFC West lead to three games. Lose both those games, though, and suddenly Arizona’s at 6–4, likely tied for first with Seattle and teetering on a second-half tumble again.
If we think of the Seahawks as a horror villain, we’re at the part of the script where the music fades and the lights go out and you know something is about to jump out of the shadows. This is a flawed team, but as we saw last season, it is also one capable of a second-half surge. A win over Arizona could be the catalyst.
Making the playoffs is a real difficult proposition without an extended win streak, and Sunday’s loss to Minnesota means that St. Louis still has not ripped off three straight victories since Weeks 12–14 of 2012. The Rams also haven’t passed for 200 yards in their last seven games—that’s an even bigger problem.
The Jets rank third in turnovers forced this season with 19. Eighteen of those have come in their five wins, including four more against Jacksonville on Sunday. Waiting on those momentum-shifting plays can be a difficult way to make a living, but it sure beats last season, when the Jets forced a total of 13 turnovers, the fewest in the league.
One can’t help but be entertained by this Raiders team. And not in a “Will Al Davis draft a cheetah and try to teach it to play football?” sort of way. The offense is legitimately high-powered right now, while the defense has enough holes that it will cough up 500-yard days like it did Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Being unable to shut down Matt Cassel and Cole Beasley doesn’t bode all that well for the defense. Nevertheless, the Eagles have won three of four, and their run game is starting to click. Now, if they can just do something about their inconsistent passing attack and/or Sam Bradford’s baggy jersey sleeves.
The Chiefs are 5–9 in their last 14 games dating back to the 2014 season, so there’s little evidence a sudden playoff push is coming. That’s subject to change should Kansas City make it three straight victories by swiping a win in Denver.
No quarterback in the NFC North has played better football this past month than Jay Cutler. Unfortunately, his play leaves the Bears with a bit of a conundrum. They’d love to have this version of Cutler back in 2016, but his success is making it more and more likely that talented offensive coordinator Adam Gase gets a head coaching shot next season.
“Let's make some history,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said this week, per USA Today, of the Ravens’ attempt to become the first team to make the playoffs after starting 1–6. A predictable and admirable rallying cry, but let’s see if this team can win back-to-back games first before anyone starts dreaming big.
Might be time for Miami to try its ol’ fire-the-head-coach strategy again, because the Dan Campbell magic wore off in a hurry. After two spirited showings (against two crummy teams), the Dolphins have reverted back to underachieving the past two weeks. Worse yet, these last two losses came within the division.
Most of us were stunned to see Indianapolis push around Denver the way it did on Sunday. Houston had to be rather disappointed. Instead of coming out of their bye as the AFC South leaders, the Texans are back in second place and must deal with a trip to Cincinnati on Monday night.
[Sung to the tune of “Davy Crockett” ...] Born on the plains of Ballwin, Missouri. Show-Me State in the Land of the Free. Raised to play football, as anyone could see. Better than Kaepernick as the Niners’ QB. Blainey, Blainey Gabbert, he’s had a crazy career.
Mike Evans caught eight passes for 152 yards in Sunday’s loss, impressive numbers until we consider that he also dropped six balls—the most by any player in 10 years, per ESPN Stats and Info. Chalk it up as the latest example of growing pains for the Buccaneers.
Granted, the Saints’ defense is one step shy of using “Hey, what's that on your shirt? Boop! Made you look!” as a coverage strategy. Don’t let that take anything away from what Marcus Mariota did Sunday, rallying his team back from a pair of 11-point deficits and standing toe to toe with Drew Brees in an OT win.
Mike McCoy faces a real challenge following a Week 10 bye in keeping his team motivated each week. Now 2–7, the Chargers are out of the playoff race, and injuries keep clobbering them. Having Philip Rivers around will help, but a fiery QB only gets a team so far.
Joe Lombardi and a couple of other offensive assistants are gone. Team president Tom Lewand: gone. GM Martin Mayhew: gone. Every time Jim Caldwell shows up at the Lions’ facility now, it’s like a reenactment of when Rick Grimes wakes up from his coma on The Walking Dead.