NFL Week 5 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* Take a quick look at some statistics from the last few years, watch his game-winning catch this weekend, and tell me Reggie Wayne isn't one of the two or three best wide receivers in the NFL.

* The Colts rank 31st in time of possession and 32nd in rushing offense. That they have won two games is incredible.

* 1,000 boos to CBS for making Cowboys/Bengals its national game this week. I know it turned out to be close, but why did they choose a game that figured to be a blowout?

* The Vikings might want to work on their special teams coverage.

* Must-see for Week 6: Carolina at Tampa Bay. If the Buccaneers are going to be competitive in the NFC South, they probably need a win.

***

Is Peyton Manning is the best comeback QB in the history of professional football?

Of course not — it has to be Joe Montana, or John Elway. Or Captain Comeback himself, Roger Staubach. Maybe even the legendary Johnny Unitas.

But Manning is now the only quarterback ever to lead a 17-point comeback in the last five minutes of a game — and he's done it twice. I know Manning got plenty of help from his defense on Sunday — that's inevitable in such a dramatic comeback — but he also led a 15-point comeback against Minnesota in Week 2. In fact, I would venture that even before this season's heroics, Manning had led two of the ten greatest comebacks in league history.

The first came in 2003. On Monday Night Football, facing the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, with their great defense, the Colts trailed 35-14 with about four minutes left in the game. Manning went 8-of-11 for 133 yards and the Colts scored 3 TDs — in 3:05 — to send the game to overtime, where Manning led a 15-play, 76-yard game-winning drive.

In the 2006 AFC Championship Game, the Patriots got off to an early 21-3 lead, but Manning led the Colts to 32 second-half points and Indianapolis advanced to Super Bowl XLI. The 18-point comeback is the biggest in conference Championship Game history.

It's not just that Manning has led a lot of comebacks, though he certainly has. More impressive is that he has led amazing comebacks. No one thought a team could score three TDs in three minutes against one of the NFL's best defenses. No one thought the Colts would come back against New England in that AFC Championship Game. And this week, no one thought the Colts had a chance, down 27-10 with under five minutes left.

Is Peyton Manning is the best comeback QB in the history of professional football? I don't know. But he certainly deserves to be part of the conversation, right there with Elway and Staubach.

On to the power rankings, with brackets showing last week's rank.

1. New York Giants [3] — Statement game. This weekend, the Giants went out and proved they were just fine without Plaxico Burress. They didn't just beat the Seahawks, they humiliated them. The Giants had more than twice as many first downs, more than twice as many yards per play, and nearly three times as many yards on offense. Tom Coughlin looks very smart today.

2. Washington Redskins [4] — By the book, they're not a top-10 defense (13th in yards allowed, 11th in points). But look at who they've played: the Giants (first in total offense), Saints (4th), Cardinals (5th), Cowboys (3rd), and Eagles (9th). Every opponent a top-10 offense, but Washington has yet to allow more than 24 points this season. This is a very, very good unit.

3. Tennessee Titans [2] — I have a lot of respect for 5-0, but who's the best team they've beaten? Jacksonville? Minnesota? Baltimore? Those are all middle-of-the-pack teams. I do think the Titans are for real, but I'm not convinced that they can hang with the heavy hitters in the NFC East. Tennessee hasn't played anyone with a winning record.

4. Carolina Panthers [9] — Winning with defense: they're top-five in opponents' yards, points, first downs, and passer rating. The starting cornerbacks, Chris Gamble and Ken Lucas, both deserve Pro Bowl consideration.

5. Dallas Cowboys [1] — Looked awfully unfocused against Cincinnati. After they went up 17-0 on the Bengals, they seemed to sleepwalk through the next two quarters, finally showing some life again when they realized Cincinnati might actually beat them. I'm beginning to feel like Dallas is just living on Jason Witten and the offensive line. Tony Romo makes too many mistakes, and the defense is just average.

6. Chicago Bears [12] — Here's why they're ahead of Pittsburgh: strength of schedule. Look at who Chicago has played: Colts, Panthers, Bucs, Eagles. The one time they played a bad team, this weekend against the Lions, it was a rout. The Bears also beat the team Pittsburgh lost to (Philadelphia).

7. Pittsburgh Steelers [8] — Haven't played anyone with a winning record. Their opponents have a combined mark of 7-14. We'll find out how good the Steelers really are starting around Week 8, when they have consecutive games against the Giants, Washington, Indianapolis, and San Diego. The good news? Three of those four are in Pittsburgh.

8. Denver Broncos [13] — This seems a little too high after they managed to lose against Kansas City last week, but the Broncos beat my 9th-ranked team, so they get the benefit of the doubt for now. Denver suffered some injuries in Week 5 that could be problematic down the line, most notably WR Eddie Royal and TE Tony Scheffler.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [10] — Would you believe their offense (7th in yards per game) is ranked higher than their defense (16th)? Head coach Jon Gruden said after their loss to Denver that the Broncos used a lot of "Tampa 2" defense. Shouldn't his team know how to beat that?

10. Philadelphia Eagles [7] — One of the better 2-3 teams you're likely to see, but they need to start winning games, not just keeping it close against good opponents. There's no shame in losing to Dallas, Chicago, or Washington, and the Eagles are still the only team to beat Pittsburgh this year. But they need Brian Westbrook and Shawn Andrews to get healthy. Philadelphia is 28th in rushing offense.

11. San Diego Chargers [5] — I think they took the Dolphins for granted, looking ahead to their Week 6 matchup with New England. The Dolphins really dominated them in every phase of the game. Punter Mike Scifres was San Diego's MVP against Miami.

12. Minnesota Vikings [15] — I hate ESPN. On this week's MNF, the crew entirely missed a 15-yard penalty called on Antoine Winfield after his TD. Mike Tirico called the ensuing kickoff a short kick, but it was really an average kick from the 15-yard line. They never caught their mistake, so viewers had to go online to find the penalty call. Later, on Reggie Bush's second punt return TD, they used a camera angle at which you couldn't tell what was happening. Just show the damn game.

13. Buffalo Bills [6] — J.P. Losman looked pretty good throwing the ball after Trent Edwards went down with a concussion, but his fumbles were disastrous. The defense was actually okay against Arizona, except that they needed big plays — sacks, interceptions, fumbles — and never got them. Buffalo's defense had the best 3rd down percentage in the NFL before this week (19%), but the Cardinals converted 60% of their third downs on Sunday.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars [11] — Last week I criticized Andy Reid for trying a 50-yard field goal instead of going for it on 4th-and-1. But what was Jack Del Río thinking when he went for it on 4th-and-7 instead of trying a 52-yard kick? And why wouldn't Gregg Williams blitz in the first half? The 5-man rush he finally used in the second half was pretty effective. The Jaguars had no business beating Pittsburgh on Sunday night, but with some better coaching decisions, they probably could have.

15. New Orleans Saints [16] — Tony Kornheiser drooled all over Bush on Monday night. In the closing moments, he even asked, "What more could you have done to win this game than Reggie Bush did?" Hang on, I know this one.

[A] You could have not fumbled twice. [B] You could have not fallen down for no reason on a punt return. [C] You could have rushed for more than 29 yards and a 2.4 average. [D] All of the above.

The answer is D. Please, please get Kornheiser off Monday Night Football.

16. Baltimore Ravens [17] — There's a lot of talk about that questionable roughing call that may have cost them the game against Tennessee. It was clearly a bad call, but it was consistent. All game, Bill Carollo's officiating crew made ticky-tack calls. It started right away, with six penalties during Baltimore's first possession. Both teams finished with double-digit penalties, including a total of nine 15-yard infractions for personal fouls or unsportsmanlike conduct. Part of that was rough play, but a lot of it was bad officiating.

17. Arizona Cardinals [19] — I get that they have great receivers, but where is the balance on offense? Arizona is 3rd in passing yards, but 24th in rushing. They might be able to steal an NFC West title without a running game, but they won't win a playoff game.

18. New England Patriots [20] — Dominated time of possession 2:1 against San Francisco. New England controlled the clock with 43 running plays and terrific third-down defense. I'm not sure how much of it is Matt Cassel and how much is the offensive line, but Cassel has got to stop taking so many sacks.

19. Indianapolis Colts [18] — As much credit as Manning deserves for the big comeback, how about some serious love for Gary Brackett? With Texans chasing him, Brackett outran everyone 68 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. Manning threw 2 TD passes in those last five minutes, but without some help from the defense — and Brackett's hustle in particular — the Colts lose that game.

20. Green Bay Packers [14] — Aaron Rodgers played well, bad shoulder and all, but they still lost. Blame defensive injuries. Standouts Charles Woodson and A.J. Hawk played hurt, but the bigger losses were lineman Cullen Jenkins and DBs Al Harris and Atari Bigby, all of whom missed the game. Jenkins was playing at Pro Bowl level before tearing a pectoral muscle in Week 4, but he'll miss the rest of the season.

21. New York Jets [21] — Brett Favre turns 39 this week. The only quarterbacks who have made a Pro Bowl after turning 38 were Phil Simms (39) and Warren Moon (39, 41), who was named Pro Bowl MVP at age 41.

22. Miami Dolphins [27] — Everyone wants to talk about that "Wildcat" formation with Ronnie Brown getting the direct snap, but how about their defense against the Chargers? San Diego was averaging 34.5 ppg before Sunday, and Miami held them to 10.

23. Atlanta Falcons [26] — This offense needs to be taken seriously, but Roddy White accounts for more than 50% of the team's passing yardage, so if you can shut him down, Atlanta may be in trouble. Michael Turner leads the league in rushing yards.

24. Cleveland Browns [24] — Brutal schedule over the next six weeks: Giants, Washington, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Denver, and Buffalo. If they haven't shored up their passing attack, they'll go 1-5 or maybe even 0-6 over that stretch.

25. San Francisco 49ers [22] — On Sunday, J.T. O'Sullivan had season-worsts in passing yards, interceptions, and passer rating. Why didn't Frank Gore get more carries against New England? It's tempting to blame this on offensive coordinator Mike Martz. We all know Martz likes to throw, but if it's not working and you have a great running back, you should probably start handing off.

26. Seattle Seahawks [23] — There's been a lot of attention given to their miserable offense (28th in passing yardage), but the defense may be even worse. The Seahawks are 26th in yards allowed and are one of only four teams giving up more than 30 points per game.

27. Houston Texans [25] — Killer schedule. They've played the Steelers, Titans, Jaguars, and Colts, with only one home game so far. The good news is that the next three games are all at home, against beatable opponents: Miami, Detroit, and Cincinnati.

28. Oakland Raiders [28] — How long until Al Davis fires new head coach Tom Cable? This franchise has become a joke.

29. Cincinnati Bengals [30] — In Week 3, they took the Giants to overtime, the only close game New York has had this season. In Week 5, they put a scare into the Cowboys. In between, they lost at home to Cleveland. Does Carson Palmer make that much difference?

30. Kansas City Chiefs [29] — It's difficult to adequately describe their badness. That win over Denver last week looks awfully like a fluke.

31. St. Louis Rams [32] — Here is my leap of faith: the Rams out of 32nd during their bye week. Rams, say thank you to Detroit.

32. Detroit Lions [31] — Haven't had a lead all season and haven't scored in the first quarter all season. With the Lions, garbage time starts in the second or third quarter.

Comments and Conversation

October 7, 2008

AABB:

You justify ranking the Steelers as #7 by saying their opponents’ combined record is 7-14, but Tennessee’s opponents’ are 6-17, and the Giants’ are 5-13, including 2wins against 0-5 teams.

In fact, the only team with a winning record
either of them has beaten has been the Redskins, falling in week 1 to the Giants.

Dallas’s Opponents are 9-15, with 2 extra wins, but 3 extra games, and they have had two .terrible efforts in a row, barely pulling out a win against a putrid Cincinatti team.

Yeah, Carolina’s schedule is 11-14, a bit better, but still tilted toward the losers.

In fact of your top 7, only the Redskins and Bears have faced winning schedules (and oh yeah, the Bears have lost twice).

Hey, if you think the Steelers are the seventh best team, fine, but your logic is simply a joke.

You are trying to have it both ways. Either go with performance against Strength of schedule (in which case, the Redskins should probably be ranked number 1) or go by wins (in which case, the Skins should drop a couple of notches).

October 7, 2008

AABB:

woops - that last “Skins” should read “Bears.”

October 8, 2008

sam reger:

how can you have the buffalo bills falling to 13 from 6. The people who make these rankings are fickle. The bills did not have a good game against the cardinals (mainly because of poor defensive play) and even worse run blocking for marshawn, but to have teams like the chargers, vikings and the bucaneers above them is unreal. 4-1 is going into their bye week is fantastic.

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