Winning ugly. Is there such a thing? If you saw any portion of the Ravens vs. Chiefs game, you're probably shaking your head yes, but a lot of teams this week would've sold their soul for a win uglier than a Tony Siragusa pit stain.
This week's biggest risers are the Vikings (top 10, baby!), followed by the Patriots and Steelers. The biggest tumble was a massive one; an 11-spot plunge taken by the Cardinals. You knew it was coming sooner or later.
1. Atlanta Falcons (5-0)
Last week: 1
When you can go on the road and not play your best in the wind and rain, and you still come away with a win, you're probably pretty good. Also, it seems like Tony Gonzalez could average 70 catches a year for 950 yards and eight touchdowns until he's about 65 years old.
2. Houston Texans (5-0)
Last week: 2
It really felt like the Jets were going to empty their bag of tricks on Monday night to get a win, but the Texans withstood it, mostly by feeding the ball to Arian Foster and then just waiting for the Jets to bury themselves. They eventually obliged. A handful of good teams won in a somewhat unattractive fashion this week. It's not a bad list to be on.
3. San Francisco 49ers (4-1)
Last week: 4
Sure, anyone can look good against the Jets and Bills, the homely stepsisters of the AFC East, but I'm not sure many teams would win a combined 79-3 against them, either. This is an evolving offense and a monster defense. I get all tingly thinking about next week's Giants vs. 49ers game.
4. New York Giants (3-2)
Last week: 6
I wonder about the defense, which has not played up to their usual high standards so far this season, when they play a San Francisco offense arguably playing well above theirs. With Victor Cruz and a seemingly endless receiver depth chart, though, I don't think the Giants fear a shootout, either.
5. New England Patriots (3-2)
Last week: 9
The Patriots are thinned out at receiver and tight end because of injuries, but the offense seems as beastly as it's ever been. Steven Ridley is on pace for 1,568 yards, which would pretty much make him the Patriots' best running back since Curtis Martin. And the guy behind him on the depth chart, Brandon Bolden, actually has a better yards-per-carry average. Tom Brady with quality young running backs almost seems unfair.
Last week: 5
I think it's about time I stopped talking about some theoretical version of the Eagles that doesn't turn the ball over habitually. Those Eagles don't exist. When they do, I'll acknowledge them. For now, though, they're a team that endured a couple of crucial fumbles from their quarterback, and still held a late lead on the road against a Steelers team that might be pretty good. It's not the worst position to be in, but they don't deserve anything better than the 3-2 record they have.
7. Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
Last week: 7
Ever notice how when Joe Flacco has a good game in prime time, people start asking if he's an elite quarterback, but when he goes 13 of 27 for 187 yards and an interception against the Chiefs, no one asks that question? Weird. Anyway, winning ugly against a desperate team on the road doesn't have me all that concerned, especially after they righted the ship and held Jamaal Charles to 15 yards on 10 carries after halftime.
8. Minnesota Vikings (4-1)
Last week: 15
Not only did they prove this week that they can win even when Christian Ponder throws interceptions (his first two of the year), they can blow people out, too. I'd credit them for their continued excellent run defense as they held Chris Johnson to 24 carries on 15 yards, but I'm not sure Chris Johnson wouldn't do that on an empty field right now.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
Last week: 14
Steelers fans may wish to argue that they should be ahead of the Eagles, who they just beat. I get it, but calm yourselves ‒ you're just one game removed from losing to the Oakland Raiders, so have a little patience. It takes time to earn back trust after something like that. The good news is that it looks like having Rashard Mendenhall back will make a difference, and a Thursday-nighter against the Titans is the next best thing to an extra bye week.
10. Chicago Bears (4-1)
Last week: 12
You might not know this, because there's no earthly reason for you to voluntarily watch a Jaguars vs. Bears game, but the Bears were tied with the Jags at halftime. In fact, after three quarters, they only led 13-3. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Bears started getting the super-hospitable Jaguars treatment, and even then, it was the defense that spurred the blowout. What I'm saying is that I still don't believe that the Bears offense is good enough to lead them to a division title.
11. Denver Broncos (2-3)
Last week: 8
It didn't feel much like a Brady/Manning matchup to the rest of us, but I couldn't help but wonder if it felt like old times for Peyton Manning as he played lights out, but lapses in concentration by teammates Demaryius Thomas and Willis McGahee submarined him. I'm not saying the Broncos would've won without those mistakes, but it would've been a much more interesting game.
12. San Diego Chargers (3-2)
Last week: 11
Sean Payton's in the building, Drew Brees is breaking a record, it's a Sunday night game, and the Saints and their fans are absolutely desperate … it's an excusable loss, especially since Denver lost, too. I've maintained through five weeks that Denver's better than San Diego, but they get a chance to prove otherwise on Monday night. At home. That one would not be an excusable loss. Side note: When Ryan Mathews is healthy and not fumbling, he is really, really good.
Last week: 10
Strip away all the emotions and storylines from Sunday's Colts vs. Packers game, and the Packers are staring at a blown 21-3 lead and a pretty shaky performance from their pass defense. They can't let this hole get much bigger, because I don't think Minnesota's going anywhere, and Chicago's defense is going to win them games on their own. I don't know if it's a must-win, but their Sunday night game in Houston is way more important than the Packers would like it to be.
14. Arizona Cardinals (4-1)
Last week: 3
Dropping them 11 spots may be harsh, but if I'm being honest, I was being pretty generous by having them ranked that high to begin with. Injuries, especially the latest one to Ryan Williams, make me feel like the rest of their season will resemble the 17-3 loss to the Rams more than it will the four wins that preceded it.
15. Miami Dolphins (2-3)
Last week: 18
After back-to-back overtime losses, the Dolphins finally finish one off and can justifiably claim to be the second-best team in the AFC East (the Jets may argue, but it doesn't seem to be in the Bills' nature to dissuade anyone from doing anything they want). Another good game for Ryan Tannehill, too. In three of his last four outings, his QB rating has been better than 85.
16. Seattle Seahawks (3-2)
Last week: 16
You wouldn't think of Pete Carroll as the kind of guy to coach a team with a sledgehammer defense and a limp noodle offense, but that's what the Seahawks were against the Panthers. People didn't really think of Bruce Irvin as someone worthy of a first-round draft pick, either. I guess the lesson here is that people are wrong a lot.
17. St. Louis Rams (3-2)
Last week: 21
The last time the Rams had a winning record was in 2006, when NBC first started airing football games on Sunday nights, so congrats to them. But if they're without Danny Amendola for an extended period of time, I don't believe they can sustain it. Every other offensive player benefited from Amendola's presence, and even then, the Rams weren't reminding anyone of Bill Walsh's 49ers. They can't afford to be without him.
18. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)
Last week: 13
With the exception of A.J. Green, the Bengals offense just shriveled up and died on Sunday. Andy Dalton was only good for 5.4 yards per attempt, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis might as well have been running blindfolded. A three-game win streak comes to an end, at home, in a game in which they were favored. On a weekend where the Steelers and Ravens both won, too. The Bengals picked a bad time for a subpar game.
19. Washington Redskins (2-3)
Last week: 22
You can't kill Kirk Cousins, a seventh-round rookie quarterback, for throwing a couple of interceptions with under two minutes to play when the 'Skins were down a touchdown. I do wonder how things might've been different, though, had RGIII not been concussed by Sean Witherspoon. Let's all hope that mild concussion is the mildest of the mild.
20. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)
Last week: 27
No doubt that Andrew Luck was great down the stretch against the Packers, but if ever I've seen a team on a receiver's back, the Colts were on Reggie Wayne's on Sunday. The key here is how the Colts respond ‒ next week could be emotional letdown time, or the win over Green Bay could bolster their confidence. If it's the latter, tell me which of the next five Colts games are not winnable: Jets, Browns, Titans, Dolphins, Jaguars.
21. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Last week: 19
Off last week.
Last week: 15
Pop quiz: Who has given up more yards over the last two weeks: the Buffalo Bills, or the West Virginia Mountaineers and their 117th-ranked FBS pass defense? A: The Bills. They've given up 1,201 total yards, and West Virginia has given up 1,108. Maybe even worse, everyone in the Bills locker room had to be asked after the game if they had quit.
23. Detroit Lions (1-3)
Last week: 24
Off last week.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
Last week: 23
Off last week.
25. Carolina Panthers (1-4)
Last week: 20
I know he was facing a very strong defense, but Cam Newton was downright bad against the Seahawks. It's the kind of thing I'll think about the next time he pulls open his imaginary shirt to reveal his imaginary Superman logo. But, you know, there was that time in "Superman II" where Superman was without his powers, and General Zod was running amok. I guess the Seahawks are General Zod.
26. New Orleans Saints (1-4)
Last week: 31
Nice win, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Saints are not back, nor are they serious contenders for a playoff spot. I'm not saying that it's impossible to come back from a 1-4 record to finish 10-6, but I am saying it's impossible when you have the 29th-ranked passing defense and the dead last-ranked rushing defense. The goose egg is gone. The problems are not.
27. New York Jets (2-3)
Last week: 26
Having tried every trick imaginable against the Texans, it seemed they really viewed that as a crucial game. Having lost it, I wonder what kind of emotional toll that takes on a team. They played tough, but were unable to stop being the Jets for a full three hours. Still, for all the doom and gloom surrounding this team, they're just one game back of the Patriots.
Last week: 25
If they're going to be bad, they might as well be interesting, and Brady Quinn getting another chance to start in the NFL interests me, at least a little bit. Before relieving an injured Cassel and going 3 for 3 on Sunday, Quinn hadn't played an NFL down since 2009. Is there much hope? Well, Quinn does have more career TDs than interceptions, which is good, but when he had a chance in the 2012 preseason, things weren't pretty.
29. Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Last week: 29
Off last week.
30. Cleveland Browns (0-5)
Come on. It's the Cleveland Browns. If they want to pass the ball twice on the same play, let them pass the ball twice on the same play. Until they get a win, in fact, the opposing defense should have to count five-Mississippi before pursuing Brandon Weeden. Their electric first quarter against the Giants keeps them out of the bottom two spots.
31. Tennessee Titans (1-4)
Last week: 28
It wasn't that long ago that the Titans and Vikings seemed to be in nearly identical positions ‒ young and rebuilding, with their hopes pinned to athletic rookie quarterbacks. It was plain to see in Sunday's game, though, that those two teams are now miles apart from one another, and the Titans are not on the good end of the comparison.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
The Titans very nearly snatched this spot away from the Jags, but they were blown out on the road, while the Jags were mauled at home, so congratulations, Jags. You remain in the Kotite Hole. Maybe they'll be able to fix all of their problems during the bye week. If the bye week is extended to last six or seven years.
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