NFL Week 10 Power Rankings

Five Quick Hits

* With the Packers leading 48-7, Jay Cutler completed a 3-yard pass on 1st-and-10. Mike McCarthy challenged the call.

* When Green Bay lost the challenge, Al Michaels deadpanned, "Boy, that might come back to bite him."

* Papa John's is selling products which no long qualify as "food". Their new commercials remind me of an old Onion satire on Domino's. A pizza covered in Fritos? Really? What happened to that "better ingredients" slogan?

* On this week's Thursday night game, Dre Kirkpatrick ran over his own head coach, Marvin Lewis, because Lewis was standing on the sideline during a return. The world didn't come to an end, and Lewis won't be fined. When Mike Tomlin did the same thing last year, only not as bad — there was no contact on that play — it was the worst event in human history, and he got fined $100,000. You could almost conclude that the NFL's discipline office is full of hypocrites and exists solely for cosmetic reasons.

* I thought the hat looked better on Trent Dilfer, actually.

Week 10 Rant: The Jay Cutler Trade

In the fourth quarter of the Sunday Night Massacre, Cris Collinsworth remarked, "This has not worked out with Jay Cutler. This has not worked out the way they thought it would." In April of 2009, the Chicago Bears traded Kyle Orton, two 1st-round draft picks, and a 3rd-round draft pick to the Denver Broncos, in exchange for Cutler and a 5th-round pick. It was a fortune to give up, for a player who was perceived to be immature, aloof, and sulky, and who had only played at a high level for half of one season.

The trade was a disaster, almost immediately. Orton outplayed Cutler in 2009 and '10 (see stats below), and Cutler (fairly or otherwise) developed a reputation as a bad teammate, someone who wasn't committed to the team. He's had trouble staying healthy, and last season he was outplayed by backup Josh McCown. In the offseason, the Bears let McCown leave and signed Cutler to a seven-year, $127 million extension.

Orton: 1,039 attempts; 7,455 yards; 41 TD; 21 INT; 87.2 passer rating
Cutler: 987 attempts; 6,940 yards; 50 TD; 42 INT; 80.9 passer rating

Cutler played well the first few weeks of the 2014 season. But he's also thrown too many interceptions, struggled to create first downs, and padded his stats in garbage time. As Collinsworth said, things have not worked out. Of course, the Bears' bad season is not exclusively because of Jay Cutler; Chicago's defense was horrendous on Sunday night. But here's something I was wondering about ... the Buffalo Bills are starting Kyle Orton right now. If the Bills could have their choice of Cutler or Orton, does anyone believe they would pick Cutler? Even apart from Cutler's ritzy contract, I think I'd rather have Orton.

Cutler is too inconsistent, makes too many mistakes. A good team, with offensive playmakers and a strong defense, can win with Kyle Orton. I don't think you can say that about Cutler. He has bad games too often.

2014 Week Ten NFL Power Rankings

Brackets show previous rank.

1. New England Patriots [1] — They're 2½-point underdogs at Indianapolis in Week 11. I don't expect the Colts to cover.

2. Denver Broncos [3] — Peyton Manning threw five touchdown passes in less than 17 minutes, the ninth regular-season 5-TD game of his career. Most 5-TD performances since 1960:

1. Peyton Manning, 9
2. Drew Brees, 8
3. Dan Marino, 6
t4. George Blanda, 5
t4. Tom Brady, 5

If you include postseason, Manning has 10 and Brady is tied with Marino. Active QBs of interest include Ben Roethlisberger (4), Aaron Rodgers (3), and Matthew Stafford (3).

3. Kansas City Chiefs [2] — If you study statistics, it is obvious that NFL teams should go for it on fourth down much more often than they do. This weekend, two teams scored touchdowns on 4th-and-1. The Ravens' Justin Forsett scored a game-tying nine-yard TD in the second quarter, and Jamaal Charles ran 39 yards to the end zone when Andy Reid pulled the trigger in the fourth quarter. If the Chiefs punt on that play, they probably lose the game.

4. Green Bay Packers [5] — Aaron Rodgers had 36.6 fantasy points at halftime. If Rodgers had continued that pace in the second half, he would have finished with 630 passing yards and 12 touchdowns.

5. Indianapolis Colts [4] — Lead the NFL in points per game (32.2) and yards per game (451.2). If it holds up all season, that would be the third-most yardage in history, behind the 2011 Saints and last year's Broncos. The Colts also lead the league in average time of possession, 34:39. They win this stat by an average of nine minutes per game.

6. Arizona Cardinals [6] — Carson Palmer tore his ACL, once again making Drew Stanton the quarterback. Stanton has been solid and limited his mistakes; that's a good fit for this team. The Cardinals have a great defense and can win with a game manager at QB. But that three-year contract extension Palmer signed last week looks pretty bad for Arizona at this point.

7. Philadelphia Eagles [9] — Dominant win against an overmatched opponent. Let's talk about the Darren Sproles punt return TD, with game announcers Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico.

GRUDEN: "Carolina has struggled covering kicks, and Sproles averaging over 15 yards a return, gotta be real careful with this ball."

TIRICO: "Brad Nortman gets it away. Good kick, 55 yards."

ME: "I don't think that is such a good kick."

SPROLES: "Later, suckas."

Football fans have known about "outkicking the coverage" for decades. Nortman bombed the ball to Sproles in the middle of the field, and the only Panther within 10 yards was double-teamed. Gruden freaked out and went overboard ("Should not kick him the football ever"), but he was absolutely right before the play — a high kick toward the sideline was called for. Instead, Nortman put one of the most dangerous open-field runners of the last decade in the middle of the field with blockers and room to run. It was a TD return waiting to happen, and it was the punter's fault.

8. Detroit Lions [11] — This rank seems too high to me. The top six are a level apart from 7th-17th, all of whom are nearly equal. The Lions have won three in a row, but none of them were top-10-quality victories. The three teams they beat have a combined record of 12-15, and all three wins were by less than a touchdown, actually by less than a touchdown combined (1, 1, 4). Two of the three were at home and the other was on a neutral field.

9. Dallas Cowboys [10] — Playing with two transverse process fractures in his back, Tony Romo recorded a season-high passer rating of 138.8. He also became the first quarterback this season to face the Jaguars and get sacked only once. The Cowboys scored three touchdowns of 35 yards or more this weekend.

10. Miami Dolphins [7] — Left tackle Brandon Albert and cornerback Cortland Finnegan both left this week's game with injuries. Albert tore up his right knee and is done for the season, a massive loss for the Dolphins. Finnegan has an ankle injury of unspecified severity. Injuries are starting to become a serious problem, and I've dropped their ranking a couple spots because I don't believe this is the same team with Albert out and a few other guys banged up. Healthy-ish, they'd rank eighth.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers [8] — I mentioned last week that in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era, the Ravens and Steelers are just 14-13 (.519) the week after they play each other, compared to 135-75 (.643) overall. A "letdown" hypothesis seems even more plausible following this week's upset loss to the Jets.

12. Baltimore Ravens [13] — They'll play the rest of the season without their best cornerback, Jimmy Smith, who had foot surgery last week. That's a huge blow for a team whose other DBs sort of suck.

13. Buffalo Bills [14] — Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus sacked Alex Smith three times, bringing his season total to 10. Since the 2002 realignment, Geno Atkins has the most single-season sacks by a DT, 12.5. Dareus has an outside shot at the record of 18, from the 1980s, when interior linemen had a different role than they do today and when sack rates were higher.

14. New Orleans Saints [12] — Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in history at avoiding sacks. Since joining the Saints in 2006, Brees has ranked among the top 10 QBs in (lowest) sack percentage every year. He's been top-four in seven of the last eight seasons, including two years leading the league (2007, 2011). The only QBs in history with a better sack rate are Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, and Joe Namath. This year, Brees gets sacked on just 3.3% of his attempts, compared to a league-wide average of 6.0%, and he went four quarters against the 49ers without getting sacked. But in overtime, Brees took sacks on back-to-back plays, the second of which led to a fumble recovered by the 49ers and set up the game-winning field goal.

15. Seattle Seahawks [15] — Following Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch's four-TD steamrolling of the Giants, Yahoo's Andy Behrens titled this week's Sunday Scene Marshawn Lynch unlocks new mode, beyond beast. During the broadcast of Seattle's win, Joe Buck wondered how long it's been since the NFL featured a running back as good at breaking tackles as Marshawn Lynch. It's an interesting question, and I believe you have to go back quite a while — more than 30 years — to the Houston Oilers' Earl Campbell. Maybe I'm remembering Jerome Bettis too dimly, and he should rank ahead of Lynch, or maybe I need to give more credit to shifty-and-strong guys like Emmitt Smith — but I don't think so. Lynch is phenomenal. DeMarco Murray, Arian Foster, Le'Veon Bell, and Matt Forte are all having great seasons, but no RB in the league right now is as much fun to watch as Lynch.

16. San Francisco 49ers [17] — The cavalry is coming. Over the next few weeks, the Niners expect Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman, and Patrick Willis to return to the lineup. If they do, and they're close to 100%, San Francisco suddenly becomes a Super Bowl contender in the wide-open NFC. The timetable for Bowman and Willis is not clear, but Smith is expected to play in Week 11.

UPDATE: Willis is out for the year.

17. Cleveland Browns [19] — Joe Haden. Buster Skrine. Donte Whitner. Tashaun Gipson. K'Waun Williams. Those are the players who won the game for them on Thursday night. Brian Hoyer managed the game (198 yds, no TD or INT), and they averaged 3.3 yards per rush. They didn't have a good night on special teams and they weren't anything special stopping the run or rushing the passer. But Cleveland's defensive backs shut down the Cincinnati receivers. It was a dominant performance.

18. St. Louis Rams [20] — Began the fourth quarter with a 14-10 lead over the 7-1 Cardinals. Then they gave up a 48-yard TD pass to a backup QB, and Austin Davis committed three turnovers, two of them returned for touchdowns. The game turned into a 31-14 blowout loss.

19. San Diego Chargers [16] — They're not being punished for having a bye, but the Niners and Browns got big wins and moved up — I don't imagine many people would argue with ranking those teams ahead of San Diego. What about the Rams, who lost this week? I rank teams based on current strength, not season-to-date. Over the last four weeks, the Rams have beaten the Seahawks and 49ers, with their losses on the road to good teams (Chiefs and Cardinals). The Chargers have lost three in a row, and their only win in the last month was by three points over the winless Raiders. I'm done rating the Chargers by what they did in September.

20. Houston Texans [21] — Changed quarterbacks during the bye week, benching Ryan Fitzpatrick and going to former New England backup Ryan Mallett. Head coach Bill O'Brien was offensive coordinator for the Patriots, so Mallett is familiar with his system. It's always interesting to see how good the backups to guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning really are — for all we know, they're the second-best QB on the team, and the second-best in the league.

21. Cincinnati Bengals [18] — They showed this stat on the TV broadcast ... in the first half, the Bengals had as many punts (5) as first downs, and as many penalties (5) as completed passes. The next three games are all on the road. Since the beginning of last season, Cincinnati is 4-7 in road games.

22. Washington [22] — Top-10 in yards gained (387/gm) and yards allowed (333/gm). They're 3-6 because of turnovers (-9), third downs (35%), and really atrocious special teams (especially early in the season).

23. New York Jets [27] — Jaiquawn Jarrett got his first start of the season this week. He took advantage of the opportunity, finishing with 7 solo tackles, a sack, 2 passes defensed, and three takeaways — 2 INTs and a fumble recovery. I think Jarrett has earned a regular spot in the starting lineup.

24. Minnesota Vikings [25] — Are there people who are on the edge of their seats about whether Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice get reinstated this season? Jay Glazer and Mike Florio and those guys report on it every week, and I just feel like I'd rather hear about the guys who are playing. Whatever appeal the tabloid stories had ran out at least a month ago.

25. Carolina Panthers [24] — Announcers struggle for interesting material in blowouts. Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden used the second half of Monday night's miserable game to denigrate running QBs — specifically Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Robert Griffin III. Their argument was that the players get hurt too often, that they need to quit running around and play like white guys stay in the pocket. Four things:

1. In the middle of a game when Newton is not using the read option, and is getting killed inside the pocket, you're arguing that running the ball is dangerous? Are you watching the game?! He's been sacked nine times!

2. Neither Wilson nor Kaepernick has suffered major injuries. Most read option plays end with a slide or a run out of bounds. These guys take much bigger hits on sacks and scrambles than they do on designed runs.

3. Wilson is the only one of those guys who is a great passer. Newton, Kaepernick, and Griffin aren't exceptional if you don't let them run. From a football standpoint, they're not worth keeping healthy if they're not running. Newton's performance the last few weeks, case in point.

4. ESPN showed a graphic of the teams with the best records in the NFL, most of whom use pocket passers. Which is weird, because I could have sworn that Wilson and Kaepernick met in the NFC Championship Game earlier this year, and that Newton's Panthers went 12-4 and won the NFC South, and that Wilson's Seahawks are the defending Super Bowl champions. I guess I must be wrong, because ESPN would never do anything misleading. Showing that graphic was worthy of the network that employs Skip Bayless.

26. Chicago Bears [26] — "It was easy from start to finish for the Green Bay Packers tonight," said Bob Costas at the end of the Sunday night game. That's the difference between a bad loss and humiliation: was it easy for the other team to beat you? The Packers had a 42-0 lead at halftime. On offense and defense, they did whatever they wanted and the Bears were powerless to prevent it.

You may have seen on NBC that the Bears are the first NFL team since the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons to allow 50+ points for two weeks in a row. The Jeffersons played in the league from 1920-25. Over their final four seasons, they went 0-21-2 and got outscored 484-52.

27. New York Giants [23] — Comparing them to the Bears ... both teams are 3-6. Both teams lost in embarrassing fashion this week, on games seen by most of the country. Both teams lost their previous game in embarrassing fashion as well. Both have high-profile quarterbacks who aren't playing well. The Giants' defense has allowed the most yards in the NFL. The Bears have allowed the most points. Both teams got their most recent win against the Atlanta Falcons.

28. Atlanta Falcons [28] — 3-0 against division opponents. 0-6 against everyone else.

29. Tennessee Titans [29] — Fourth game in a row scoring under 20 points. Tennessee ranks 31st in points per game, 16.0.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars [30] — Obviously, Gus Bradley and Bob Babich know much more about defensive strategy than I do. But I don't understand, not even a little bit, how you face Tony Romo and don't blitz him repeatedly. This is a quarterback who got destroyed by the blitz in his last game, and who was physically below 100%, combating a serious back injury. It seems like you'd want that player under pressure, getting hit, uncomfortable in the pocket. The Jaguars singled up Dez Bryant, but didn't take advantage by going after Romo. That seems like an obvious losing strategy, and I don't understand the defensive gameplan.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [31] — It doesn't matter who starts at quarterback. The defense is just as bad (29th in yards allowed, 31st in points allowed) as the offense. Which is weird, because Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are excellent, and Danny Lansanah has done some good things.

32. Oakland Raiders [32] — Of the four rookie QBs starting this season, Derek Carr has the best statistics. He's thrown 13 TDs and 9 INTs, while the other three have combined for 14 TDs and 22 INTs. But Carr also has the fewest net yards per attempt (5.35) and the lowest first down percentage (28.3%). This week, Carr threw 47 passes, for only 192 yards and 9 first downs. How do you complete 30 passes and only pick up 9 first downs?

Comments and Conversation

November 11, 2014

Trakar:

This power ranking looks like you tossed the team names into a hat an drew them blindly to decide on the ranking.

November 12, 2014

Brad Oremland:

It’s lucky New England and Denver were the first two names I drew!

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