Week 9 is in the books, and no surprise, a crazy slate of games has thrown our power rankings into upheaval. The Arizona Cardinals now own the best record in the NFL, have an elite defense, an explosive offense and most importantly, have proven this against several high-quality teams along the way, including the Eagles, Niners, Giants, Chargers and the Cowboys on Sunday. With all that in mind, Arizona shoots to No. 1 for the first time this season.
Leaders of the Pack
Arizona has been getting things done the old-fashioned way this season. That was the case Sunday as it knocked off the Brandon Weeden-led Cowboys by stuffing the Cowboys' greatest strength -- their run game. The Cardinals limited DeMarco Murray to 79 yards on 19 carries when Dallas needed him the most without Tony Romo. It was Murray's first sub-100 yard rushing performance this season.
The Cards have not allowed an opposing running back over the century mark in 18 straight contests, so this is nothing new for Arizona's front seven. On the offensive side of the ball, Carson Palmer is distributing the football to his playmakers and they've come up big when they need to. Arizona runs the ball, stops the run, can throw it deep and has a ballhawking secondary -- and the Cardinals are proving they're the real deal.
Also proving themselves this week were the red-hot Patriots with their dismantling of the Broncos, who until this week looked to be far and away the best team in the NFL. New England is firing on all cylinders right now. Tom Brady is heating up with Rob Gronkowski back in action, the defense is coming up big, and Brandon Browner adds a new dimension of physicality to that secondary.
There may be some argument this week as to which team -- Arizona or New England -- is better, but right now, suffice to say, it's close.
The Broncos showed their first signs of vulnerability in months by losing to the Patriots, but not all is lost. They still have an elite offense and top-flight defense, and when it's Peyton Manning who is dropping back to throw, you can expect a bounce-back game next week. I still believe they have one of the top defenses in the NFL and remain a balanced, dangerous team.
Meanwhile, the Lions convalesced over their bye week and look to get healthy on offense again after missing some of their big-time weapons for a while, including the inimitable Calvin Johnson. Already owners of the best defense in football thus far, if Detroit's offense can get rolling again with Megatron's return, look out.
Brady's Patriots and Manning's Broncos appear to be favorites in the AFC right now, but Ben Roethlisberger's Steelers have been absolutely shellacking (quality) opponents over the past few weeks. As Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton join in on the fun with Antonio Brown, this is looking like one of the most explosive offenses in football.
As we go down the list, we find teams like the Eagles, Packers, Colts, Bengals, Chiefs, Cowboys, Seahawks, Ravens, Dolphins, Bills and Browns, a gaggle of very strong teams either leading their divisions or contending in that race. The Eagles keep finding ways to win. Now they have to do so with Mark Sanchez at the helm over the next month or two. If anyone can facilitate this, it's Chip Kelly. The Packers had their bye week to get Aaron Rodgers nursed back to health and will look to get back on track after losing a little momentum against the Saints in Week 8.
Meanwhile, the Colts got back to their winning ways this week by beating the Giants, and are still the overwhelming favorites in the AFC South. The Bengals got things done against the Jags, the Chiefs against the Jets and the Seahawks against the Raiders.
The Dolphins have again emerged as a potential force in the AFC East by dismantling the Chargers, and quietly move to 5-3. The Browns won again as well, knocking off Tampa Bay at home.
NFL Week 9
Highlights and big takeaways from Sunday
The Arizona Cardinals are for real. New England's defense is seriously underrated. We have reservations about the Eagles, Chargers and the Cowboys. Let's take a look back at Week 9.
NFL Week 9
The Chargers lost their third straight game last Sunday. Philip Rivers appears to have plummeted back to earth after a scorching start to the season. Once considered real threats to the Broncos in the AFC West, they're in a tailspin at the moment. They need to regain control and rattle off a few solid weeks. After a bye week, they get the 0-8 Raiders to start.
The 49ers continue to struggle on offense, and lost a tough game to the Rams at home thanks to a couple of highly questionable calls in the final minute of the game. San Francisco's missed some of its key defenders all season, but the offensive line was a major culprit for the Niners this week as St. Louis sacked Colin Kaepernick eight times. Greg Roman will have to make some adjustments this week to fix that glaring issue.
Carolina continues to fall in the rankings as well. The Panthers are 1-5-1 in their last seven, and with their third straight loss, this time to division rival New Orleans, they've relinquished control of first place in their division. Carolina's defense looks mortal, and the offense has struggled putting points on the board. The Panthers will need to turn things around, and quickly.
Misery loves company
The bottom 11 teams in our rankings either had a bye or lost. The Rams leapfrog from 27 to 20 this week by dispatching the 49ers, and even though it was a very controversial ending, they played that San Francisco offense very tough and gave themselves a chance to win. The Vikings move further out of the cellar with a win over Washington.
|RANK||WEEK 9||SB NATION BLOG|
|1||Arizona Cardinals, 7-1 (Last Week: 2)||Revenge of the Birds|
|2||New England Patriots, 7-2 (Last Week: 3)||Pats Pulpit|
|3||Denver Broncos, 6-2 (Last Week: 1)||Mile High Report|
|4||Detroit Lions, 6-2 (Last Week: 4)||Pride of Detroit|
|5||Pittsburgh Steelers, 6-3 (Last Week: 14)||Behind the Steel Curtain|
|6||Philadelphia Eagles, 6-2 (Last Week: 6)||Bleeding Green Nation|
|7||Green Bay Packers, 5-3 (Last Week: 7)||Acme Packing Company|
|8||Indianapolis Colts, 6-3 (Last Week: 15)||Stampede Blue|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals, 5-2-1 (Last Week: 8)||Cincy Jungle|
|10||Kansas City Chiefs, 5-3 (Last Week: 11)||Arrowhead Pride|
|11||Dallas Cowboys, 6-3 (Last Week: 5)||Blogging the Boys|
|12||Seattle Seahawks, 5-3 (Last Week: 12)||Field Gulls|
|13||Baltimore Ravens, 5-4 (Last Week: 10)||Baltimore Beatdown|
|14||Miami Dolphins, 5-3 (Last Week: 18)||The Phinsider|
|15||Buffalo Bills, 5-3 (Last Week: 16)||Buffalo Rumblings|
|16||Cleveland Browns, 5-3 (Last Week: 17)||Dawgs by Nature|
|17||San Diego Chargers. 5-4 (Last Week: 9)||Bolts from the Blue|
|18||San Francisco 49ers, 4-4 (Last Week: 13)||Niners Nation|
|19||New Orleans Saints, 4-4 (Last Week: 20)||Canal Street Chronicles|
|20||St. Louis Rams, 3-5 (Last Week: 27)||Turf Show Times|
|21||Minnesota Vikings, 4-5 (Last Week: 25)||Daily Norseman|
|22||Houston Texans, 4-5 (Last Week: 19)||Battle Red Blog|
|23||New York Giants, 3-5 (Last Week: 21)||Big Blue View|
|24||Chicago Bears, 3-5 (Last Week: 24)||Windy City Gridiron|
|25||Carolina Panthers, 3-5-1 (Last Week: 23)||Cat Scratch Reader|
|26||Washington, 3-6 (Last Week: 22)||Hogs Haven|
|27||Atlanta Falcons, 2-6 (Last Week: 26)||The Falcoholic|
|28||Tennessee Titans, 2-6 (Last Week: 30)||Music City Miracles|
|29||New York Jets, 1-8 (Last Week: 28)||Gang Green Nation|
|30||Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1-7 (Last Week: 29)||Bucs Nation|
|31||Jacksonville Jaguars, 1-8 (Last Week: 31)||Big Cat Country|
|32||Oakland Raiders, 0-8 (Last Week: 32)||Silver and Black Pride|