NFL Week 8 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* R.I.P. Oscar Taveras and Edilia Arvelo.

* Week 8 was awesome — six games decided on lead changes in the final two minutes or overtime, and maybe the two best games of the year so far, in Arizona/Philadelphia and Dallas/Washington.

* I don't think ESPN or the NFL anticipated this week's MNF matchup showcasing Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden, but it sure worked out.

* The University of Virginia is a good school. You would expect its graduates to know that invalid points are moot, not mute. Come on Ronde, you're smarter than Joey from Friends.

* Everyone in the AFC North has a winning record. Everyone in the NFC South has a losing record.

Week 8: An Offensive Explosion

There's a very real chance that this week you got your highest fantasy score of the season, and still lost. A sampling of the craziness:

* Two teams (the Patriots and Steelers) scored over 50 points.

* There were no punts in the Sunday night game. In the first 94 years of NFL history, there was only one game without any punts. There have been two this season.

* Three games produced over 900 yards of offense, including 1,087 in Pittsburgh.

* Four players passed for at least 400 yards.

* Five receivers had at least 150 yards, and a sixth had 149.

* Nick Foles and Carson Palmer combined for 104 pass attempts and zero sacks. It's the first time in history that teams threw 100 passes without either getting sacked. The old record was 97, by the Dolphins and Jets in 1988 (that's not the famous Dan Marino/Ken O'Brien shootout) and by the Oilers and Broncos in 1962.

* Ben Roethlisberger passed for 522 yards, the fourth-highest in NFL history, and six touchdowns. Roethlisberger became the first player in history with two 500-yard passing games. He threw his fourth TD pass before his fourth incompletion, and finished the game 40-of-49. Other active QBs with 40 completions in a game include Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, and Colt McCoy.

I would really like to see the league take steps to reduce the dominance of passing offense. Six simple tweaks would make the game flow more smoothly and would help keep passing stats a little more down-to-earth:

1. Cap defensive pass interference at 15 yards. Every week, we see a questionable call create a 45-yard swing in field position. That's a game-changing play, and a back judge shouldn't have so much impact.

2. Make offensive pass interference a renewed point of emphasis. According to the rule book, blocking downfield while the ball is in the air constitutes offensive pass interference. Calling this consistently will rejuvenate the importance of running backs and encourage exciting downfield passes rather than frustrating horizontal passes.

3. Make unnecessary roughness penalties reviewable. I get that the league doesn't want referees using video to second-guess judgment calls, but whether a player was hit in the head or grabbed by the face-mask is not a judgment call, it's something that can be confirmed with a replay.

4. Eliminate the penalty for contact to the quarterback's helmet. I've seen this penalty called dozens of times, and I can't recall the quarterback actually being injured on any of them. There are other roughness penalties in place that sufficiently protect the QB, and this harsh 15-yarder makes things really tough on pass rushers.

5. Do more to protect defensive linemen, especially by limiting what blockers can do to their knees when they aren't looking.

6. Re-instate major and minor penalties. For years, there was a 5-yard "incidental" facemask penalty. The league eliminated it to prevent officials making judgment calls, but it was a good rule. They do the same thing for roughing/running into the kicker, and they should do it for all 15-yard roughness penalties: have a 5-yard version for minor offenses.

None of these is a major rule change; none would disrupt or radically alter the game. But they would reduce the impact of officiating errors, promote rushing offense, and encourage defensive players to make aggressive plays, knowing they won't incur major penalties unless they do something genuinely dangerous.

2014 Week Eight NFL Power Rankings

Brackets indicate previous rank.

1. Denver Broncos [1] — Can you read lips? On the first play back from the two-minute warning, the crowd in Denver was too loud for Peyton Manning's taste. Following a false start and a timeout, Peyton went to the sideline and visibly screamed, "STFU," except that he did the words, not the letters. He explained after the game, "I have no problem with our fans. Our fans are great. I've got a problem with our scoreboard operator ... He was playing music, showing people — showing players dancing, getting the crowd fired up while we had the ball. I don't think we should be doing that."

2. Kansas City Chiefs [5] — Held the Rams to 7 points, 13 first downs, and 200 yards of offense. The defense was led by Justin Houston (3 sacks) and Ron Parker (sack, interception). No opponent has scored more than 26 points against the Chiefs this season, including powerhouse offenses like the Broncos (24), Patriots (14), and Chargers (20).

3. New England Patriots [11] — After they lost to the Chiefs in Week 4, I wrote of Tom Brady that he "is probably still a good quarterback, but he's not great any more." Since then, Brady has thrown 14 touchdown passes and no interceptions, with a 129.1 passer rating. Over the same span, Rob Gronkowski has 27 receptions for 411 yards and 4 TDs. Gronk has more catches and more yards in each of the last four games than in any of the first four.

4. Indianapolis Colts [2] — Shut out the Bengals in Week 7, gave up 51 points in Week 8. The last team to follow a shutout by allowing 50+ was the 1991 Chicago Bears. The 2012 Saints did the opposite: allowed 52 points in Week 14 and got a shutout in Week 15.

5. Green Bay Packers [4] — "I don't think I can remember a game turning so quickly after an injury that no one had to leave the field for." - Cris Collinsworth on Aaron Rodgers' hamstring tweak at the end of the first half.

Sunday night was a showcase for two of the league's best QBs, but also for Crimson Tide running backs. Eddie Lacy was brilliant (182 yards from scrimmage), as was New Orleans' Mark Ingram (175, 7.5 rush avg).

6. Dallas Cowboys [3] — "You look at how they reacted to this blitzing, casino look all night long, and to not come up with a plan, not react to it, is not just Tony." That's Steve Young, after the game. The Cowboys scored only 17 points, tying the season-low from their hopeless opening-week loss to San Francisco. The Cowboys still lead the NFL in third down percentage (56%), but they were just 5/12 against Washington, and Tony Romo took 5 sacks for 54 yards, four of them on third down. Washington blitzed on almost every play — they brought eight on the play when Romo injured his back — and Dallas just never adapted. The Cowboys have three offensive coaches with head coaching experience — Jason Garrett, Bill Callahan, and Scott Linehan — and none of these guys can figure out how to handle an all-out blitz?

7. Arizona Cardinals [8] — Larry Fitzgerald had 7 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown, his best game since at least 2011: 7 receptions for 146 yards and 2 TDs ... against the Eagles. It was his most receiving yards in a game since the 2008-09 playoffs, 166 against Carolina. Fitzgerald now leads the Cardinals in both receptions (30) and receiving yards (443). John Brown leads in touchdowns (4).

8. San Diego Chargers [7] — The holding penalty that negated Eric Weddle's interception in the end zone looked pretty bogus. The replay review of Andre Caldwell's fumble on a kickoff return could have gone either way, but the call on both turnovers broke against San Diego. The Chargers were unlucky with the officials, and played this game missing three defensive starters, including two CBs. Consider too that they were on the road with a short week, and a 35-21 loss to the NFL's best team makes me think the Chargers are pretty good.

9. Philadelphia Eagles [9] — A matchup of 5-1 teams that lived up to the hype. With due respect to the many comebacks this season, it was probably the most exciting second half of the year. No one ever second-guesses coaches for being too conservative, but Chip Kelly made the wrong call at the end of the game. With 2:00 left, the game was tied at 17, and the Eagles had 4th-and-1 at about the 2-yard line. Play-by-play announcer Chris Myers was sure that an aggressive coach like Kelly would go for the touchdown, while Ronde Barber was certain he'd kick the go-ahead field goal.

Barber was right, and the Eagles went up 20-17, but the Cardinals got the ball back with 1:56 and three timeouts, and on their third play, Carson Palmer threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to John Brown: 24-20 Arizona. There was still enough time left that Philadelphia drove back down the field and nearly got its own game-winning touchdown.

Field goal leads aren't safe, two minutes is a lot of time (especially with all those timeouts), and it's much harder to drive 98 or 99 yards (taking over from a failed goal-line attempt) than it is to drive 80. The value of pinning opponents where they risk a safety is consistently underestimated.

10. San Francisco 49ers [10] — For their bye week, here's a quiz that will be challenging if you haven't been following their season pretty closely: match the Niners' top five receivers to their reception, yardage, and touchdown totals. Choices are in alphabetical order.

1. Anquan Boldin
2. Michael Crabtree
3. Vernon Davis
4. Stevie Johnson
5. Brandon Lloyd

A. 39 rec, 447 yds, 1 TD
B. 32 rec, 322 yds, 3 TD
C. 25 rec, 315 yds, 3 TD
D. 10 rec, 252 yds, 1 TD
E. 14 rec, 142 yds, 2 TD

Answers at the bottom.

11. Baltimore Ravens [6] — Last week I wrote about the fine play of cornerback Jimmy Smith. This week he sprained his left foot and was carted off the field in the first quarter. Chris Mortensen reported that Smith will miss 2-4 weeks.

12. Miami Dolphins [14] — Three-and-out on their first three drives, and they went into halftime with just 56 yards and 3 first downs. They eventually had four 50-yard drives, and they won the game easily. The Dolphins have won three of their last four, all the wins by double-digits. The loss was a three-point, last-minute comeback by the Packers.

13. Seattle Seahawks [12] — Third season in a row that the Seahawks have played in Carolina. In all three games:

* Neither team scored 20 points.
* The Seahawks won.
* The victory required a second-half comeback.
* Russell Wilson threw a game-winning touchdown pass.

Jay Glazer reported on the FOX pregame show that "Marshawn Lynch will not be a Seattle Seahawk next year."

14. Detroit Lions [13] — Back-to-back one-point victories. I know the delay penalty resulted in a successful kick, but how do you draw a delay of game after a timeout and as you're about to attempt a game-deciding field goal?

The Lions played this game without their top three tight ends and two of their most explosive playmakers (Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush). They also lost DT Nick Fairley to a knee injury that will sideline him for about a month.

15. Cincinnati Bengals [15] — Giovani Bernard missed most of the fourth quarter with a hip injury, but it sounds like he's okay and will play in Week 9. Greg Gumbel has been announcing NFL games for decades, and Clete Blakeman has been reffing since 2008, but on Sunday, Gumbel repeatedly had trouble with Blakeman's name, calling him "Clate Bleakman" and "Blake Cleatman". Dr. Spooner would be proud.

16. Buffalo Bills [16] — Without running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown combined for 29 carries for 59 yards, 2 per attempt. But the defense forced four sacks and six takeaways, and Kyle Orton threw 4 touchdown passes. Buffalo leads the NFL in sacks, with three players over five: Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, and Jerry Hughes.

17. New Orleans Saints [23] — Missed opportunity by Dan Patrick and NBC ... on the pre-game show, Rodney Harrison said, "It's hard for me to bet against Aaron Rodgers, so therefore I won't." It was a clever line, delivered with good timing; it was funny. But I would have loved to hear Patrick follow up by asking why Harrison felt more comfortable betting against Drew Brees. That could have been a really interesting answer.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers [24] — The good stuff is at the top, in the "Offensive Explosion" section. Here, we're focusing on something offensive in a different way. "The Steelers insisted yet again on wearing sports' most appalling throwback uniforms," lamented Bob Costas on Sunday night. Throwback uniforms should be worn only when they meet all three of the following conditions:

1. Same fundamental color scheme as the team's current uniforms. (Culprits: Packers, Jets)

2. Don't create an urge to gouge out one's own eyes (Culprits: Steelers, Packers, Jets)

3. Celebrate a proud tradition of success, not failure (Culprits: Steelers, Jets)

From 1933-71, the Steelers were a disaster. This team should pretend that nothing ever happened before they drafted Franco Harris, and Franco never wore the bumblebee jersey. The throwback jerseys recall a time when Pittsburgh had the worst team in the NFL.

19. Houston Texans [18] — Jadeveon Clowney, the top pick in May's draft, played for the first time since injuring his knee in Week 1. He didn't start and was used situationally, finishing with one solo tackle. J.J. Watt, however, had two sacks, a forced fumble (recovered by Houston), and a pass deflection. I can't think of another year when it's been so obvious, only halfway through the season, who the Defensive Player of the Year is ... except that it was also pretty obvious in 2012, when Watt won his first DPOY.

20. Cleveland Browns [19] — Tight end Jordan Cameron left the game with a concussion. Cameron has had concussions before, so this has to worry him and his family, and probably a lot of Browns fans and fantasy owners, as well. Paul Kruger had three sacks this weekend, and Tashaun Gipson intercepted his league-leading fifth pass. Gipson also leads the NFL with 146 INT return yards.

21. New York Giants [21] — Tough schedule coming out of the bye. Three of the next four are at home, but against the Colts, 49ers, and Cowboys. The one road game, in Week 10, is at Seattle.

22. Washington [26] — Classic Monday night game in one of the league's truly classic rivalries. Colt McCoy made some mistakes but generally ran an efficient offense, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett controlled the game with a casino look and constant blitzing. I can't remember the last time I saw a Washington team blitz so much — five, six, seven, eight men coming after the quarterback. Massive credit to Haslett for his aggressive play-calling, and to cornerbacks David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland for surviving on an island against the Cowboys' dangerous receivers. Safeties Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark did a nice job getting pressure on Tony Romo.

23. Carolina Panthers [22] — Reached the red zone on each of their first three drives and came away with 6 points. I don't blame the coaches for choosing easy field goals rather than going for it on 4th-and-8, and you can't blame a fumble on conservative coaching. But a team with red zone weapons like Cam Newton (29 career rushing TDs) and Kelvin Benjamin (6' 5", 240 lbs) should be able to find the end zone more often.

24. St. Louis Rams [17] — Left tackle Jake Long (torn ACL) and leading receiver Brian Quick (shoulder) are both out for the season. Here's something weird: in four of their five losses, the Rams have allowed exactly 34 points. There have been nine games this season in which a team scored 34; four of the nine came against St. Louis, and no one else has more than one. The Rams have lost 34-6, 34-31, 34-28, 31-17, and 34-7.

25. Chicago Bears [20] — How do you have such a great game from Matt Forte, and lose by four touchdowns? The Chicago defense had no sacks in the first 55 minutes, though they did give up 350 pass yards and 5 touchdowns. Trailing 48-23, Lamarr Houston sacked backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo and then did an elaborate celebration, during which he tore his ACL. Dude was so excited about a meaningless, garbage-time sack of a rookie backup that he gave himself a season-ending knee injury. Houston is the second player this season to tear his ACL celebrating a sack; Detroit's Stephen Tulloch did the same thing in Week 3.

26. Minnesota Vikings [27] — Anthony Barr won the game in overtime, with a forced fumble which he recovered and ran in for a touchdown. Barr, the team's first draft pick this year, leads the Vikings in tackles, plus he has 3 sacks, 3 pass deflections, and 3 fumble recoveries. Barr looks like the kind of player Minnesota can rebuild around.

27. New York Jets [25] — Seventh consecutive loss. Geno Smith threw 3 interceptions in the first quarter and got benched for Michael Vick, who also had three turnovers (1 INT, 2 lost fumbles). Speaking about his quarterback situation, Rex Ryan said, "One thing we know, it can't get a whole hell of a lot worse." Vick will start in Week 9.

28. Atlanta Falcons [28] — Sloppy second half. They got outscored by 22 points after beginning 21-0, but they just didn't seem focused or motivated: poor effort, bad tackling. Mike Florio reported that head coach Mike Smith's job is in serious jeopardy. In 2008, Smith took over a bad team and turned it into a perennial contender. He's made the playoffs four times in six seasons and is the winningest coach in franchise history. Smith has earned more than a bad season and a half to turn it around.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [29] — Eight possessions in the first three quarters produced an interception and seven punts, including five consecutive three-and-outs. The Bucs are last in the NFL in yards per game (295.1) and yards allowed per game (409.9).

30. Tennessee Titans [30] — Facing a good defense led by J.J. Watt, how do you ask Zach Mettenberger — a rookie quarterback making his first start — to run 43 pass plays and only 12 handoffs? In the second half, Tennessee had 3 runs and 30 passes. I know they fell behind, but that's unfair to your young QB. Mettenberger finished the game with decent stats, but the Titans went 2-of-12 on third down conversions and lost by double-digits, at home against a division rival who came in with a losing record.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars [31] — The Dolphins returned two Blake Bortles interceptions for TDs this week. In his young career, Bortles has already thrown four pick-sixes, most of any QB this season. The worst pick-six percentage of any active player with at least 500 attempts is a former Jaguar, Helpless Blaine Gabbert (6 INT-TD in 784 attempts, .77%). Bortles right now is at 1.92%. As a point of interest, David Garrard in his career (2,281 attempts) had three interceptions returned for touchdowns (.13%). Bortles already has more pick-sixes than Garrard.

32. Oakland Raiders [32] — Season-high 34:52 time of possession. That brought their season average up to 26:25, which is still last in the league.

* * *

49ers quiz answers: 1. A, 2. B, 3. E, 4. C, 5. D

Anquan Boldin, who is 138 years old, leads the team in receptions and receiving yards, both by a significant margin.

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