1. Denver Broncos (6-1): There’s little doubt that the Broncos are the best team in football right now. But as we’ve found out time and time again this season in the NFL, things change in a hurry. The Broncos head to Foxboro this weekend with the same swagger they owned 11 months ago when they faced the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Denver had just one loss heading into the game, but they left Gillette Stadium with their second defeat of the season. This is a better Broncos team in 2014, but the Patriots also look improved. Another Brady-Manning classic is on tap.
2. Arizona Cardinals (6-1): The Cardinals already had the sparkling record heading into last Sunday’s huge matchup with the then 5-1 Eagles. Now Arizona has that clutch, last minute, signature win against a top team to boast about. The Cards could very well be the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (5-2): Jeremy Maclin was targeted just three times and caught only two passes for 16 yards in the Eagles’ 27-0 win over the Giants in Week 6. Maclin was targeted 16 times, caught 12 balls for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 24-20 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday. You figure it out.
4. New England Patriots (6-2): In our Oct. 1 rankings, the Patriots couldn’t crack the Top 20. Today, they are the hottest team in the NFL outside of the Broncos, who have also won four games in a row. Rob Gronkowski looks to be 100 percent, which is actually scarier than we remembered. In the open field, he looks like Brock Lesnar playing against a secondary of Rey Mysterios.
5. Seattle Seahawks (4-3): Had the Seahawks not won the Super Bowl last season, they would probably be in the 14-17 range in these rankings. Call ’em the Phil Simms’ of power rankings - living off of past accomplishments and consistently stumbling on national TV in 2014.
6. San Diego Chargers (5-3): That home loss to the Chiefs in Week 7 hurt badly. There was little chance that San Diego was going to go into Denver on a short week to upend the red-hot Broncos. The good news for Philip Rivers and Co. is that they have a relatively soft schedule coming up: at Miami, bye week, vs. Raiders, vs. Rams.
7. Green Bay Packers (5-3): We’ve been far too kind on the Packers this year, and this week’s No. 6 ranking keeps that trend alive. The problem is, this is the range where just about every team has major question marks. Obviously, Green Bay’s weakness is its defense, which is giving up 379.2 yards per game this season, good for 22nd in the league.
8. Indianapolis Colts (5-3): Speaking of lousy defensive play, what exactly happened to Indy in Pittsburgh on Sunday? Ben Roethlisberger had the best game of his career, throwing 522 yards and six touchdowns. The 522 yards was nearly double of what Big Ben threw for in the solid game he had against Houston six days earlier. Alarming.
9. San Francisco 49ers (4-3): The 49ers were on their bye last weekend and because no team in this “barely-above-.500” range stepped up, they get the benefit of the doubt. They’ll probably make us look smart, considering they have the Rams, Saints, Giants and Redskins coming up. A 3-1 record in that stretch is more than doable.
10. Dallas Cowboys (6-2): The chickens finally came home to roost, here. The Cowboys could very well be a playoff team, but the rush to make them NFC favorites was quite laughable. And don’t say the loss was mostly because of the Tony Romo injury. Washington was leading, 10-7, in the third quarter when Romo went down.
11. Detroit Lions (6-2): This could very well be the worst 6-2 team of all-time. Yes, they deserve credit for coming back against the Falcons in London, we suppose. But zero points against lowly Atlanta in the first half? These guys are definitely paper tigers … err … lions.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1): We’ll say this: Marvin Lewis appears to be Joe Flacco’s kryptonite. In the past two years, Flacco’s average QB rating against the Bengals’ defense is 55.9. A.J. Green looks as though he’s close to a return, so Cincy may be starting to right the ship after a few blah weeks.
13. Baltimore Ravens (5-3): The Baltimore defense is doing its job. The 16.4 points per game it allows is good for second in the league, just behind the Lions. The offense appears to be a classic bully unit, however, as it beats up on the bad teams but struggles when it’s punched in the mouth.
14. Buffalo Bills (5-3): The win in the Meadowlands last Sunday was about as easy as it gets when it comes to road victories in the NFL as the Jets looked as though they threw the kitchen sink at the Patriots the week before and had zero left for their in-state AFC East rival. The Bills have a bye this week before hosting Kansas City on Nov. 9.
15. New Orleans Saints (3-4): It’s the same old story for New Orleans. Unbeatable at home. Horrid on the road. The Saints are at Carolina this week before they get three straight home dates. Do yourselves a favor, Saints, and take care of business against the reeling Panthers.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3): What a strange year it’s been in the Steel City. Those 51 points they plastered on the Colts came out of absolutely nowhere. Remember, this a team that lost at home to Tampa Bay and barely squeezed by Jacksonville.
17. Kansas City Chiefs (4-3): As kind as we’ve been to the Packers, we may be too harsh on the Chiefs. Aside from their disgusting Week 1 home loss to the Titans, the Chiefs have been solid since. They hung with the Broncos and 49ers on the road and have beaten the Patriots and Chargers.
18. Houston Texans (4-4): The Texans haven’t really beat anyone of note, unless you want to count Buffalo. But have you seen Arian Foster lately? Guy is good.
19. Miami Dolphins (4-3): Maybe we should have thrown the Dolphins a bone and ranked them higher this week, because they probably won’t be over .500 for the rest of the season. Their November schedule: vs. Chargers, at Lions, vs. Bills, at Broncos.
20. Cleveland Browns (4-3): The Browns have average 14.5 points per game in the past two weeks. That’s bad enough in today’s high-flying NFL. When it comes against the Jags and Raiders? That’s a whole different deal.
21. Carolina Panthers (3-4-1): It used to be that when Cam Newton threw for under 200 yards, he at least ran for over 80. He tried to run the ball 12 times against Seattle and came up with just 24 yards on the ground. Meh.
22. Washington Redskins (3-5): Who had Colt McCoy in the “franchise quarterback for the Washington Redskins” pool? McCoy wasn’t great against the Cowboys, as he threw an interception, but he did hit on 25 of his 30 passes.
23. Minnesota Vikings (3-5): Bridgewater vs. Glennon wasn’t exactly Marino vs. Elway this past Sunday, but give the quarterbacks credit for throwing only one combined interception.
24. St. Louis Rams (2-5): Austin Davis can always tell his grandkids he beat the defending Super Bowl champs. When reminiscing on the magical year of 2014, however, he’ll leave out the part where he had a 75.4 QB rating and passed for just 160 yards against the Chiefs.
25. New York Giants (3-4): The over/under on combined losses by the home team (Jets and Giants) at MetLife Stadium this season is 11.
26. Chicago Bears (3-5): It was said last week that Brandon Marshall’s locker room explosion would be a turning point in the Bears season. That sure looks to be the case.
27. New York Jets (1-7): The over/under on combined losses by the home team (Jets and Giants) at MetLife Stadium this season is 11.
28. Tennessee Titans (2-6): Ask your dad if he can name one player on the Titans. Now ask your brother. Now ask your buddy, Jeff … No, Frank Wycheck still isn’t in the league.
29. Atlanta Falcons (2-6): Hey, they were close to winning last Sunday. That should be the goal going forward. Keep it respectable … then fire Mike Smith.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6): Google “2015 NFL mock draft.” More than a few have Marcus Mariota sliding to the Bucs at No. 4.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7): Hopefully – for his sake - a year from now Blake Bortles does not have the same fate as 2014 Geno Smith and 2014 E.J. Manuel.
32. Oakland Raiders (0-7): Oh no. Oh my God. Oh dear. The winless Raiders’ next three games: at Seattle, vs. Denver, at San Diego.