There is a lot of conflict at the top of the NFL power rankings. Which team is truly the best in the league and which ones are climbing and falling?
#1 – Denver Broncos – 7-1
It may seem like a surprise but in terms of beating high quality competition and overall play, the Denver Broncos are looking like the best team in the league. Peyton Manning makes the difference in most matchups and Von Miller’s return has been enormous.
#2 – Kansas City Chiefs – 9-0
They are undefeated. That in itself should be enough but the fact is the Kansas City Chiefs have beaten one team with a winning record in 2013. Their defense is outstanding, and Alex Smith has done very well managing the offense.
#3 – Seattle Seahawks – 8-1
They are perhaps the most resilient team in the NFL, but it’s becoming clear the Seattle Seahawks are not the best. Great defense and power running have covered up how poor their pass protection is. That has to change.
#4 – New England Patriots – 6-2
Like a well-oiled machine the New England Patriots continue to go about their business stockpiling wins. A beneficial schedule has certainly helped but thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick this team somehow keeps looking like a Super Bowl favorite.
#5 – Indianapolis Colts – 6-2
In terms of beating top notch opponents, the Indianapolis Colts deserve to go higher, but losing Reggie Wayne has hurt them, as did the first half defensive collapse against the Texans. Andrew Luck’s rally saved the day, but they also got help from Gary Kubiak.
#6 – San Francisco 49ers – 6-2
This team is just fine with Seattle grabbing all the attention. Jim Harbaugh has the San Francisco 49ers looking like their old selves, riding a big winning streak keyed by the defense and the legs of Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick.
#7 – New Orleans Saints – 6-2
It didn’t kill their season but the loss to the New York Jets certainly opened some eyes about how much hope the New Orleans Saints have against teams with strong defenses. Drew Brees is still dangerous though.
#8 – Cincinnati Bengals – 6-3
Leon Hall and now Geno Atkins are down for the Cincinnati Bengals defense. Almost by fate the responsibility for carrying the load has fallen on the shoulders of Andy Dalton. His team is still good enough to make a run, but the question lingers, is he?
#9 – Detroit Lions – 5-3
Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are the reason the Detroit Lions are even relevant at this point of the season. Reggie Bush is a nice sideshow but otherwise their playoff aspirations have nothing to do with a defense ranked 26th against the pass.
#10 – Chicago Bears – 5-3
Their improbable but well-earned victory over the Packers has allowed the Chicago Bears to weather the first part of a bad injury storm. Soon Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs will return to give them a boost. A big story to watch is the eventual activation of Jay Ratliff.
#11 – Carolina Panthers – 5-3
Cam Newton deserves props for getting the Carolina Panthers turned around, though his defense is primarily responsible. That being said, are they for real. After all, this rally has come at the expense of four teams that won’t make the playoffs by far. Their looming match with San Francisco will be telling.
#12 – Green Bay Packers – 5-3
Losing Aaron Rodgers not only lost the Green Bay Packers a game and plummeted them down the NFL power rankings, it may have endangered their playoff streak which dates back to 2009. They could very well be 5-6 by the time Rodgers returns.
#13 – New York Jets – 5-4
The ultimate bi-polar team. Lose one week, win the next. Rex Ryan has nothing if not an interesting team in the New York Jets. Despite their flaws, victories over New England and New Orleans give them a big boost in the rankings.
#14 – Dallas Cowboys – 5-4
Collapsing against Detroit and then barely escaping Minnesota further proves the Dallas Cowboys may lead the NFC East but they are not a proven contender. Something more needs to be seen from them before that happens.
#15 – Tennessee Titans – 4-4
This team is simply different when Jake Locker is under center. They play much more effectively and stick to their identity by pounding the ball on the ground and fielding a very good defense.
#16 – Arizona Cardinals – 4-4
Bruce Arians has inherited a flawed team, but not necessarily a bad one. The Arizona Cardinals don’t do everything well, but they have improved in certain areas. If they can get a handle on their passing game they might surprise in the second half.
#17 – San Diego Chargers – 4-4
Philip Rivers continues his impressive season but the San Diego Chargers still aren’t getting enough out of their defense. Until that changes this team will likely hover around .500 until the season ends.
#18 – Miami Dolphins – 4-4
If the offensive line problems were bad before, they are becoming a fatal flaw for the Miami Dolphins now. Jonathan Martin left the team and Richie Incognito put himself out of a job for making that happen. Ryan Tannehill is in trouble.
#19 – Cleveland Browns – 4-5
Could this team make a late run? Try telling the Cleveland Browns they can’t With a strong defense and reliable veteran quarterback in Jason Campbell, they exorcised some demons by topping Baltimore. Cincinnati is next, and they are vulnerable.
#20 – Philadelphia Eagles – 4-5
Nick Foles won the starting job after bombarding Oakland for seven touchdowns. now the Philadelphia Eagles can focus on catching Dallas. Foles must stay healthy for that to happen, but his improvement under Chip Kelly offers a chance.
#21 – Washington Redskins – 3-5
Two overtime victories have given the Washington Redskins some momentum. Robert Griffin III has his offense finally playing in high gear. Whether they can keep going to overcome a bad defense is the big question for the second half.
#22 – Baltimore Ravens – 3-5
Joe Flacco is not having a good year. It was the worry every Baltimore Ravens fan had. Could he carry the team without Ray Lewis? In fairness, he’s lost a lot of weapons but it’s becoming clear 2013 is not his season.
#23 – Buffalo Bills – 3-6
They gave Kansas City a game despite playing with their third string quarterback in Jeff Tuel. Now the Buffalo Bills get back E.J. Manuel from his knee injury. Making the playoffs is a long shot, but this team should start playing better.
#24 – Oakland Raiders – 3-5
Terrelle Pryor is hurt and what was once considered an underrated Oakland Raiders defense was shredded by a quarterback who was a backup at the start of the season. That is the epitome of humiliation.
#25 – St. Louis Rams – 3-6
Somebody better teams this St. Louis Rams defense how to tackle. Once again they proved unable to stop the run when it mattered, and this time it came against Chris Johnson (150 yards, 2 TDs) who was averaging 3.2 yards per carry for the season.
#26 – New York Giants – 2-6
It may be too little, too late for the New York Giants but they do have a winning streak going and are coming off a much needed bye week. If they can somehow manufacture a running game or a pass rush, they could finish strong.
#27 – Houston Texans – 2-6
How this team has fallen so far is mind-boggling. Despite have the best pass defense in the league and an offense that ranks in the top ten in rushing and total yardage, they can’t win games.
#28 – Atlanta Falcons – 2-6
Injuries have really undone the Atlanta Falcons. Already struggling for answers on defense, the shaky health of Roddy White and loss of Julio Jones has made life unbearable for Matt Ryan. Never mind the fans.
#29 – Pittsburgh Steelers – 2-6
If there were any hopes left, the Patriots put them to bed about the Pittsburgh Steelers. Clearly the defense isn’t what it was and Ben Roethlisberger can’t compensate for it. They need another season to reload.
#30 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 0-8
They may not have a victory but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers deserve credit for not phoning in their games. A scrappy effort in Seattle was just the latest example. This team should be very good once a better coaching staff is in place.
#31 – Minnesota Vikings – 1-7
Having a win doesn’t earn the Minnesota Vikings special treatment. Their defense is atrocious and the frustration at the quarterback position is reaching a boiling point. Somebody needs to come up with a new plan.
#32 – Jacksonville Jaguars – 0-8
Nobody expected much from Gus Bradley in his first season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. They were right not to. The team is clearly lacking talent and chemistry on both sides of the ball. More time is needed for that to change.