NFL Power Rankings 8: Cincinnati, Detroit and Carolina are all on the rise
By Simon Veness - View from America columnist. Last Updated: 29/10/13 1:46pm
Top: Lance Moore celebrates New Orleans' impressive win over Buffalo
Another week, another new No. 1 in our weekly - and exclusive - Power Rankings, with New Orleans taking advantage of a completely off-key Seattle performance.
Each week Simon Veness runs the rule over all 32 teams to decide if they are Champions League material, Premier League, Championship quality or down among the Conference dead men, with 'relegation' and 'promotion' between the four divisions.
Cincinnati, Detroit and Carolina are all on the rise while Atlanta and Miami both missed out on a chance for improvement. And Philadelphia continue to plummet like a stone.
Champions League - The Elite Eight
1. New Orleans (up 4): Drew Brees completed 26 passes to TEN different receivers and five of them went for a touchdown. If the Saints ever get a running game going, they could be simply unstoppable.
2. Kansas City (no change): You feel the Chiefs should be putting teams away by now, not allowing the likes of Cleveland to hang around behind a back-up quarterback. Do Andy Reid's men lack the killer instinct?
3. Seattle (down 2): Did the Seahawks install a revolving door where their offensive line usually is at St Louis? Russell Wilson was sacked seven times and the running game managed just 44 yards, while their own defence gave up a whopping 200 on the ground. The Rams' final 96-yard drive came up just ONE yard short of a massive upset, putting a significant dent in Seattle's armour.
4. Denver (down 1): How many times will the Broncos stroll to victory despite four turnovers? You have to think - not often. And certainly not against teams who can protect the football and play a little defence (unlike the increasingly inept Redskins).
5. Indianapolis (down 1): The combined record of the Colts' next nine opponents is a mediocre 23-26, and, while they will still be without the likes of Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen and Ahmad Bradshaw following their bye, they have to be contemplating a division title - and possibly more.
6. San Francisco (no change): After the easiest of wins over the NFL's equivalent of a Junior Varsity team (aka Jacksonville), the 49ers could return from their bye week with the likes of Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Aldon Smith and Eric Wright back in the line-up. Carolina beware!
7. Green Bay (no change): The Packers scored on EVERY possession until Aaron Rodgers took a knee to end the game. OK, so it was only Minnesota, but they also had 42 rushing plays (for 182 yards) against 31 passing (for 282). Does that sound like a balanced attack? You're darn tootin.'
8. Cincinnati (PROMOTED - up 1): Twenty-six passes to chalk up five touchdowns? Hah! The Bengals' Andy Dalton needed only NINETEEN, and threw four of them to a player with only four previous TDs in his two-year career, Marvin Jones. This is a team on cruise control right now.
Premier League - The Play-Off Hopefuls
9. New England (RELEGATED - down 1): How can you relegate a team that just pulled off a tough comeback win? Because they were 17-3 down to the rapidly imploding Dolphins, and because they have already lost to the Bengals, who just dismembered the same Jets team that beat Tom Brady and Co the previous week. Simple, hey?
10. Detroit (up 3): It's time for opposing defences to call in Optimus Prime as that's clearly the only way anyone's going to stop Megatron. Calvin Johnson took 14 catches for a Lions-record 329 yards and made it look like men against boys in the Dallas secondary.
11. San Diego (no change): Philip Rivers became a dad for the seventh time during the Chargers' bye week. He might have a tougher time with nappy duty than against Washington and their 29th-ranked defence this week.
12. Carolina (PROMOTED - up 5): The Panthers are second to only the Chiefs in points per game conceded (13.7 to 12.2), Cam Newton is hitting his 2011 stride and two of their last four games are against New Orleans. Just setting up a potential division-deciding scenario, you know?
13 Chicago (down 1): The big test for first-year head coach Marc Trestman this week - can he prepare back-up quarterback Josh McCown well enough for the offence to have a chance of hanging with the red-hot Packers in the big Monday Night game?
14. Dallas (down 4): The Cowboys' secondary can breathe a huge sigh of relief that they are only facing Greg Jennings (who has just 336 receiving yards for the SEASON, unlike Megatron's 329-yard GAME) and the vertically-challenged Vikings this week.
15. Baltimore (up 1): Ravens head coach John Harbaugh flatly denied rumours of a deadline-day trade this week but one thing's for sure - the reigning champs desperately need help at receiver and tight end and sitting pat at this stage might end their repeat title hopes right there.
16. NY Jets (down 2): By the yo-yo nature of the Jets' season, they are due for a big win against New Orleans this Sunday, when Good Geno will again replace Bad Geno at quarterback. But if Smith adds to his 13 INTs this season, the Saints might score 60.
Championship - Going Nowhere Just Yet
17. Miami (RELEGATED - down 2): Mike Wallace has so far rewarded the Dolphins with just ONE touchdown in seven games for his fat $60million summer free agent contract. That's $2million per CATCH so far. Think there might be some head-scratching in South Florida?
18. Oakland (up 5): The Raiders came out running after their bye week and Pittsburgh were left in Terrelle Pryor's slipstream. With Philly, the Giants and Houston as their next three opponents, Pryor could easily take this team - and the whole AFC West - to major NFL respectability just two years after the division was a laughing stock.
19. Atlanta (down 1): Was that the Falcons' season going into the tank at Arizona or just a one-game meltdown by quarterback Matt Ryan (who more than doubled his season's INT total with four)? Sunday's showdown with Carolina will be under the microscope for signs of life.
20. Tennessee (no change): If Jake Locker is fully fit and raring to go against St Louis on Sunday, the Titans will have had the best bye week of any of their rivals.
21. NY Giants (PROMOTED - up 6): Hard to know if the Giants really have turned the corner or if they are just working their way through the NFL's chaff. But the fact they are only two games out of first place at 2-6 tells you everything you need to know about the putrid NFC East.
22. Arizona (PROMOTED - up 5): For once, Carson Palmer was out-INT'd by the opposing quarterback and Larry Fitzgerald returned from the MIA list. The 30-year-old receiver is also the youngest player in NFL history to chalk up 800 receptions.
23. Pittsburgh (down 2): The Steelers' running game on Sunday - 35 net yards; the Raiders, 197. No running game = no chance, even in this pass-first NFL era.
24. Philadelphia (down 5): You know that slow, sad, squeaky sound a balloon makes with a tiny but irreparable puncture? That's what all of Philadelphia can hear right now.
Conference - The Current No-Hopers
25. Cleveland (no change): Was that a mirage or did Jason Campbell give the Browns some sign of life at QB? He will certainly get another chance to prove it either way, but against another tough D at home to Baltimore.
26. Buffalo (RELEGATED - down 2): Better teams than the Bills will get blown out by the Saints this season while Thad Lewis shook off a shaky spell to offer hope for the future.
27. St Louis (up 2): But for the sake of a yard, the injury-hit Rams would have been celebrating the win of the season at home to Seattle. If they can produce that display of pass-rushing fury again, the year may not be a write-off. But zero rushing TDs so far shows where the real problem lies.
28. Washington (RELEGATED - down 6): At least Mike Shanahan had the sense to take an injured Robert Griffin III out of the game this time. Too bad he couldn't replace a defence that gave up 38 straight points in the second half at Denver.
29. Houston (down 1): If the bye week hasn't cured some of their injury ills, the Texans are heading for a long, lost season - and Gary Kubiak will be looking for a new job next year.
30. Minnesota (no change): Another game, another beatdown for the sorry Vikings. Don't be fooled by the final score; those late 14 points only obscured another feeble offensive display while the Packers dissected their defence every which way.
31. Tampa (no change): It's now officially DEFCON 1 for the Buccaneers. Greg Schiano is on the hottest of seats after his team seemed to mail it in at home to Carolina and they are under siege from every direction. They could now go on to rival the Jags for the 'Most Inept of the Year' title.
32. Jacksonville (no change): There is no truth in the rumour that Jaguars fans would prefer the team to STAY in London but, yikes, there is SO little hope for improvement anytime soon, they could be forgiven for asking 'Is it 2014 yet?'