Week 5 Recap: Power Rankings – Fear the Pats
I maintain that I did not fully put my foot in my mouth in the pre-Week 5 power rankings. This league continues to provide surprises, like Antonio Cromartie playing wide receiver for the Jets. I swear they are becoming more like the Cubs, there is something you can’t help but like about this team, but they are a struggle (with some glimmer of hope) in motion. We also had some individual statements made by players to propel teams into the power rankings. Let’s dive in.
1. Houston Texans (5-0, Previous Rank: 1)
This dominant Houston team showed some signs of mortality on Monday night. In fact, it was probably a B or B- performance by this team, but they still got it done. J.J. Watt proved why he is a leading candidate for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. He has a bull rush better than anyone in the league. He just runs over people. He had a sack, three batted down passes, one of which resulted in an interception, and 6 tackles. He was playing home wrecker to the Jets offense. The other take away from this game was that Matt Schaub seems to have settled into his role for this team. In previous years the Texans had asked him to win games, now he’s become more of a manager, with the goal of not losing games late. He’s executed so far.
2. San Francisco 49ers (4-1, Previous Rank: 2)
It’s great to see the Bills were able to go across the country, and really put up a fight in San Fran… I can’t even type that with a straight face. This San Francisco team has been playing pissed off since losing to the Vikings in Week 3. They piled up 621 yards of offense on Sunday, and a mammoth 311 rushing yards. The wildcat look with Colin Kaepernick has grown into an effective attack that teams will have to take a look at. Also, this monstrous defense has only allowed 16 points in the last 3 weeks.
3. Atlanta Falcons (5-0, Previous Rank: 3)
Atlanta moves up a spot after beating RGIII and the Redskins on the road. After an early interception returned for a touchdown, Matt Ryan settled in and finished with 345 passing yards and two touchdowns. This is a complete football team. They can get it done on the ground, and through the air. Although the defense needs to tighten up against the run after allowing Alfred Morris to run for 115 yards on 18 carries, they clamped it down after an early 4th quarter score and left D.C. with a W.
4. New England Patriots (3-2, Previous Rank: 6)
While they let Peyton back in towards the end of this weeks game, the defense forced a late McGahee fumble and they were able to close it out. The reason for the 2 spot jump is simple. They proved the can run the ball against a top 10 rushing defense. It wasn’t just a functional running game, it was a track meet. The Pats piled up 251 rushing yards between Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden. These backs all bring something unique to the game, with Ridley getting the bulk of the carries. There is no more dangerous team in the NFL right now.
5. Baltimore Ravens (4-1, Previous Rank: 4)
I’m not sure if the Ravens had such good BBQ on Saturday night, that they decided to go back for seconds on Sunday morning or what, but this team struggled to move the ball in KC. Flacco wasn’t sharp at all, completing fewer than 50% of his passes, and the defense gave up 140 yards on the ground to Jamaal Charles. I’m going to give Baltimore the benefit of the doubt and write this off as an unrepresentative showing, because I know how good that BBQ is. In the end, Ray Rice got his 100 yards on the ground and a win is a win.
6. Chicago Bears (4-1, Previous Rank: 8)
This team is just piling up points on defense and special teams this year. They would’ve beat Jacksonville 14-3 with just defensive scoring. They made Blaine Gabbert’s day miserable, with two interceptions for touchdowns and a forced fumble. Jay Cutler did his part, and his connection with Brandon Marshall has been re-established ten times over. It actually worries me, since Marshall caught 12 of the teams 23 receptions in this game. Losing Alshon Jeffery to a broken hand doesn’t cripple this team, but they were hoping he could be a complimentary threat to Marshall. Without Jeffery, they really need to establish a second receiver.
7. New York Giants (3-2, Previous Rank: NR)
After spotting the Cleveland Browns 17 points, the Giants stormed back behind the 200 rushing yards of Ahmad Bradshaw to win 41-27. Eli Manning found Victor Cruz for three touchdowns, after the 3rd of which it appeared that Cruz had lost his interest in his salsa dance. I mean… doing any TD dance three times is a bit excessive. It was also great to see the young receivers step up and fill the hole left by Ramses Barden and Hakeem Nicks. Rueben Randle led the team in receiving yards, with Hixon coming in second. While I didn’t love the Giants defensive effort, especially early, they did enough to keep them in command with two picks and a forced fumble.
8. Minnesota Vikings (4-1, Previous Rank: NR)
I’m not sure how people in Minnesota justify winter coming. Seriously, it’s absolutely miserable up there. But the Vikings are doing their best to keep people from going ice fishing on Sundays. Percy Harvin has done his best to throw his name into the MVP race (no, not kidding, he would get votes right now). I’m sure anyone who watched SportsCenter for five minutes saw his amazing touchdown run in which he stopped and started three different times. He has more than two times the receptions and receiving yards as the next Viking. Christian Ponder has been an amazing game manager for them, while building a rapport with Harvin. To top it off, the defense hasn’t allowed more than 13 points in three weeks, even against the likes of San Fran and Detroit.
9. Green Bay Packers (2-3, Previous Rank: 5)
That’s right I have a sub-.500 team in my top ten. I’m not sure what’s happened to Aaron Rodgers. I wonder if it’s all these advertisements he’s been doing. He’s giving the Manning brothers a run at airtime during commercial breaks. While I can’t wait to go to the Giants v. Packers game and yell “Rodgers! Discount Double Check!” at every Packers fan I run into, Rodgers may want to refocus. While they lost to an emotionally fired up Colts team, they gave up one big downfield pass after another late in this game to allow the Colts to take the lead. The biggest hole for this team is the inability to run the football. Cedric Benson may be out for the season with a foot injury, but any game where Rodgers is the leading rusher is not going to end well for the Pack. They have a huge test coming up having to travel to Houston to face the Texans.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2, Previous Rank: 9)
Ball security, ball security, ball security. There is no bigger issue for this talent and speed-blessed team. Michael Vick started out with an early goal line fumble, and ended up fumbling three times, losing two. The offense is just incredibly stagnant, with LeSean McCoy rushing 16 times for only 3.3 yards per carry, and Vick throwing for under 6 yards per pass on Sunday. The defense did their part allowing 17 points, and only one touchdown. But this offense just has to take care of the ball and assert its explosiveness to take it to the next level.
Dropped From Rankings: Arizona Cardinals (7), Denver Broncos (10)