Everything is all messed up. The Broncos are no longer the easy pick for the best team in the NFL. How can they be? Three weeks of vulnerability finally ended with a loss to the Colts. That's going to get a team dropped in the weekly ranked assessment of conventional wisdom. Hell, subjecting the world to more typo-ridden, self-righteous tweeting from Jim Irsay gets a team knocked down a peg on its own.
So Denver's not on top anymore. The last undefeated team in the league has taken over. But that team, the 7-0 Chiefs, still has some questions to answer because of their schedule.
And let's not forget the other 30 teams on this list. Last week's power rankings are here.
The Chiefs have beaten one team this season with a winning record. One. That was a 17-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys back in Week 2. There, the record caveat is out of the way. Now we can get down to business and recognize facts: Kansas City is 7-0, the only undefeated team in the NFL. Strength of schedule or not, that's an impressive record in a league known for its parity.
The offense is averaging 24.1 points per game, strictly middle of the road, ranked 13th overall. The defense has been suffocating opponents, a good sign for a schedule that's lacked playoff-caliber teams, to the tune of just 11.6 points per game. No team has scored more than 17 points against the Chiefs.
Clearly the model here is the 2000 Ravens, a team that won the Super Bowl scoring an average of just 20.8 points per game, while allowing only 10.5 points per game during the regular season. The 2008 Steelers, also Super Bowl champs, were the last team that had an offense ranked outside the top 10 in points per game (21.7 PPG, 20th) and held opponents to a league-best 13.9 points per game.
You can look at Seattle's 34-22 win over Arizona in one of two ways. There's the handwringing view: Russell Wilson's offensive line struggled for the second time in three weeks with pressure. However, the Seahawks hadn't won a game in Arizona since 2010. A more positive perspective points to how well Wilson shook off the pressure and thrived. He was 8-for-13 with 128 yards and all three of his passing touchdowns came when pressured, according to Pro Football Focus.
Wilson and Co. have a primetime practice game in St. Louis next week. They could be joined by Percy Harvin.
I don't understand how the Colts lost games to the Chargers and the Dolphins, but walked away with wins against San Francisco, Seattle and dethroned the undefeated Broncos. I'm sure someone somewhere has some hot takes. Apparently, confused identities are a thing this year. Last season, it was Bruce Arians and the seven-step drop of death. This year, it's Pep Hamilton taking the ball out of Andrew Luck's hands to push the power run. But Sunday night they let Luck be Luck again. And, as noted by Bill Barnwell at Grantland, those first half drives that had Luck doing most of the work accounted for 24 points.
However, without Reggie Wayne, the Colts may not have a choice but to try and run more.
I don't really like to drop teams on a bye week, but the three squads above this one had an impressive run this week. Does last week's loss to the Patriots mean more now in the wake of New England's loss to the Jets? No, it just means that Saints fans better hope Sean Payton and his staff spent the downtime reviewing how they handled the last six minutes differently than the Jets did.
That's three underwhelming performances in a row by the Broncos, the last one resulting in their only loss of the season. Indianapolis exploited a banged-up offensive line, sacking Manning four times. That's the same weakness Dallas and Jacksonville exploited, albeit to lesser results. Denver was using guard Louis Vasquez at right tackle in Week 7, his first start at the position. Orlando Franklin, the usual right tackle, will be back, and center J.D. Walton is supposed to rejoin the team at some point too.
On defense, Denver welcomed Von Miller back into the fold after his suspension. But they lost Champ Bailey, whose status is still unknown.
The Bengals last-minute win over the Lions might have been the best game of the week, if not for the wild finish at the Meadowlands and hype-worthy contest in Indianapolis. Obscurity somehow fits the Bengals, who now have a two-game cushion in the AFC North.
A.J. Green and Andy Dalton connected on six passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. It was Green's second game in a row with triple-digit yardage and Dalton's second straight outing with a triple-digit passer rating. Coincidence? Speaking of the oft-maligned Dalton, he's thrown six touchdowns and one interception in his last two and is completing 68 percent of his throws.
The 49ers have two losses, but don't let that fool you. This is still one of the league's best teams. Since those two losses to the Seahawks and Colts, the offense has found its way again and scored an average of 33 points in three straight wins. A Week 11 matchup in New Orleans should give us a good sense about both of those teams.
It's no surprise that the Packers beat the Browns at Lambeau Field last week. What's notable is that they managed to score 31 points against a solid Cleveland defense (ranked 16th prior to this game by Football Outsiders) and did it without the help of James Jones and Randall Cobb. Jarrett Boykin, an undrafted rookie last year, had eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Once again the Patriots have learned a valuable lesson about rules mattering, even the obscure ones. But let's face it, this one didn't just come down to a new wrinkle in the rule book. The Jets defensive front created problems for Tom Brady and clogged up running lanes, as Rex Ryan's unit is wont to do. Prior to this year, you had to go all the way back to Week 17 of the 2009 season for the last time Brady finished a regular season game without a touchdown pass. He's now had two this season, both in the last three weeks against the Bengals and the Jets.
Brady and a drop-prone offense isn't the Pats' biggest problem. A defense without Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Aqib Talib is nothing more than a league-average unit, at best.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas versus Philadelphia had the makings of a shootout. Vegas agreed, assigning that the game the highest O/U last week at 55. They scored a total of 20 points, only two more than the total number of punts we saw in yet another NFC East stinker.
The win gave Dallas a leg up in the division race, and they still look like the easy pick to get the NFC East's default playoff slot. Enjoy it. Next year, the Cowboys are facing a massive cap purge. Adam Schefter reported Jerry Jones' team to be roughly $31 million over the limit for 2014.
A rejuvenated Philip Rivers has been joined by a rejuvenated Ryan Mathews. The 12th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft now has consecutive games with 100-plus rushing yards. He hasn't done that since 2011 and didn't top triple digits in a single game at all last season.
12. Chicago Bears
Marc Trestman has his hands full. Can the bespectacled Bears head coach use the same magic on Josh McCown as he did Jay Cutler? Maybe. The bigger question is whether or not this defense, now missing Lance Briggs for a stretch, has any hope of holding opponents to less than 30 points.
13. Baltimore Ravens
This offense is brutal to watch. With Torrey Smith locked up in coverage, audiences got to see Joe Flacco throw a bunch of meaningless passes. As bad as that was, it was nothing compared to watching Ray Rice stumble through another game averaging 3.0 yards per carry ... his best output in three weeks.
14. Detroit Lions
Detroit stalled out on its last drive. All they needed to do to get to overtime, at that point, was not to screw up the punt. Sam Martin booted it all of 28 yards and out of bounds to give the Bengals the ball on their own 49-yard line, just enough to set up the game-winning field goal.
15. Tennessee Titans
After a fast start to the season, the Titans have now lost three in a row. Sure, Mike Munchak's crew -- the Munch Bunch? -- played Kansas City and Seattle closer, but even close losses add up. Jake Locker probably could have used another week of rest, especially with the bye in Week 8.
16. New York Jets
The jump from Mark Sanchez to Geno Smith must feel like liberation, from a cell block to a Parisian burlesque. And Geno is prone to some up and down play. Last week it was down; this week it was up. He threw for 233 yards and one touchdown. He also added a score on the ground, but he needs to work on that spike.
17. Atlanta Falcons
Beating a confused Buccaneers team was a nice way for the Falcons to come out of a bye week. Atlanta's start to the season is still going to make it next to impossible to catch the Saints in the NFC South, and a wild card spot isn't very realistic either. However, the Falcons should still be a competitive team, just prone to the occasional drubbing.
18. Miami Dolphins
I don't know about mixing Bryant McKinnie back in with the city of Miami. But it would be hard to have pass protection much worse that Miami's right now. At one point it looked like Mario Williams would disembowel Ryan Tannehill on Sunday. He was sacked twice, hit seven and hurried another 14 times. That can't keep happening.
For the first time this season, Chip Kelly's offense did not total at least 400 yards. This week's game also erased whatever dim hopes you had for Nick Foles. The good news is that he did not throw an interception, and that's all the good news. He completed 38 percent of his passes for a stunning 2.76 yards per attempt.
Cam Newton is off to a pretty good start this season. His completion rate is on target for a career-high 63 percent. His touchdown and interception numbers are about where they have been, but his stats were criminally overlooked amid a year of psychoanalysis by cable television last season. Ron Rivera has finally learned to beat the bad teams. He gets Tampa Bay next week for a chance to get .500, before a tougher divisional matchup against the Falcons.
21. Buffalo Bills
The Bills were once so desperate for a second quarterback that they signed Kevin Kolb. And they signed Matt Flynn last week. But there was Thad Lewis all along. In Miami, he kept the ball moving and it kept his team in control of the game, enough for the defense and Dan Carpenter to do the rest of the work. Now they have to do it against the Saints and Chiefs over the next two weeks.
Hey, two wins ... how exciting. This week's win just so happened to come against a Bears team that had been held in pretty high regard. The only highlight for the defense was getting some pressure on Cutler. More importantly, the world finally saw an RGIII much closer to the 2012 version of RGIII. His throws were sharp and decisive, and he added 84 yards with his legs, his best rushing total of the season.
Two games make a streak. That's a technicality, but let's not disparage the good feelings Mike Tomlin has right now. He's on the verge of allowing his players to put sugar in their coffee again. If they beat the Raiders this week, he'll let them have peppermints and other hard candy too. Le'Veon Bell had his best game to date, rushing for 93 yards on 19 carries -- much of that had to do with David DeCastro moving defenders out of the way like a man who has been denied his ping pong table.
24. Cleveland Browns
I really don't understand what there is to consider.
25. Houston Texans
The bye week couldn't come at a better time for the Texans. Case Keenum gets to rest after being sacked five times in a gritty performance against the Chiefs. Arian Foster should be good to go by the time the Colts come to town in Week 9.
Now Carson Palmer has a dubious interception streak in the spotlight. FIve games.
Palmer's thrown more than one interception in five consecutive games now. In his defense, he was sacked seven times. Conventional wisdom says the Cardinals need to draft a quarterback in 2014. GM Steve Keim can't do really do that until he finds an offensive tackle; otherwise, some other GM will be looking for yet another quarterback in a year or two.
27. St. Louis Rams
A year after producing a league-best 52 sacks, the Rams defense is on pace to pull down opposing quarterbacks 41 times. Worse, the secondary is allowing 20 more passing yards per game than it did last year. The defense is on pace to allow 27 passing touchdowns this year, after allowing a total of just 16 last season. And this is the defense that was supposed to be better off under consolation prize coordinator Tim Walton.
28. New York Giants
The Giants won what might have been the worst Monday Night Football game in history. ESPN spent a cool $100 million to broadcast that mess. They probably made three times that on selling 30 second spots that provided a tacky musical accompaniment while we plied our eyeballs out with a butter knife. What, you didn't do that too?
The defense was better, limiting Adrian Peterson to just 28 yards. That's a positive sign for the Giants. Still, at 1-6, they have to think about 2014.
29. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders had a bye last week. They'll need the rest for a game against a slightly resurgent Steelers this week.
That probably wasn't what Josh Freeman or the Vikings wanted to see in his debut. The worst part about it is that, in some small way, Greg Schiano has a tiny ounce of vindication. Freeman overthrew 16 passes, an NFL record. He only completed 20 of 53 passing attempts.
At this point, 0-16 seems inevitable. The players may have been feeling the same way. Gus Bradley called out his team publicly on Monday, expressing his "disappointment" in the lack of effort.
There's lack of talent, like the Jaguars, and then there's a lack of competency, the kind personified by Buccaneers defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. There were literally snaps, more than a few, that had Darrelle Revis on some Falcons receiver not named Harry Douglas ... in zone coverage. Every week, Sheridan's unit gets clowned. People, he wasn't being facetious when he put out a call for help last week. Send him your resume:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
c/o Bill Sheridan
One Buccaneer Place
Tampa, FL 33607
Fax (813) 878-0813