NFL Power Rankings: AFC & NFC Midseason Top 5

This week in the NFL we saw some teams tested. We saw a few teams snap losing streaks, and we saw a few hot teams hit speed bumps.

Before you go any further, realize that these are my rankings based on the eyeball test. I believe records mean something, but not everything.

Charles Tillman has been stellar this year, and the Bears’ turnover-forcing machine of a defense has them quite high in the NFC rankings. (Photo credit: AP Photo via aol.sportingnews.com)

NFC Power Rankings: Top 5

5. New York Giants

The Giants are an enigma; they can impress you for a few weeks in a row, then lay an egg. That’s exactly what happened this week.

Although the Steelers are a good team, the Giants had it going their way into the second half and couldn’t pull out a game-winning drive like we are accustomed to them doing.

Eli Manning threw for only 125 yards and 0 TDs with 1 pick. He completed just over 40% of his passes, and that is just not going to get it done. The rushing attack wasn’t much help, as the G-Men totaled less than 70 yards on the ground.

Look for them to rebound, but for now, they are the 5th best team in the NFC.

4. Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers looks as if he has finally found his groove, despite the fact that Greg Jennings and now Jordy Nelson have been bitten by the injury bug.

Randall Cobb has been a savior of sorts for the Pack, as his speed and versatility have been the highlight of the offense. James Jones also leads the NFL in TD receptions, proving sometimes it’s not quantity, it’s quality.

Dom Capers’ defense is continuing to improve, but the injuries are damaging the chemistry they are attempting to build in the defense. I think the key for the defense is getting after the opposing QB. They have suitable secondary players, but Clay Matthews MUST get to the QB and bring him down or cause chaos within the pocket to force the opposing QB to throw on the run.

James Starks provided a necessary help to the run game this week as Green Bay topped 100 yards rushing. I think they ran the ball too much, but keeping a defense honest with a capable run game is a must.

3. San Francisco 49ers

Not much to say since they were on a bye this week but what has been already said of them: they pound the ball with success, create turnovers, and don’t turn the ball over on their end.

The only reason they are #3 and not in one of the top 2 spots is Alex Smith. He has been good for the most part, but I worry when the 49ers need a big play down the field, he won’t be able to rise to the challenge.

2. Atlanta Falcons

I had no love for the Falcons last week, but after the win over the Cowboys I am a believer. I know what you are thinking, why does it matter? The Cowboys aren’t a great team. I agree, but their defense is vastly improved under Rob Ryan, and Matty Ice showed he can find his Big 3 (Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez) whenever he wants to.

The Falcons defense is also showing they can make plays, and I like Mike Smith’s schemes and overall mindset. He plays it conservative and trusts his defense, instead of panicking and taking unnecessary risks.

The run game concerns me a little bit. Michael Turner is on the wrong side of 30 and hasn’t been consistent this season. He can still find the end zone from short yardage, but he lacks the burst and elusiveness he has had in years past. Jacquizz Rogers is a poor man’s Darren Sproles, which isn’t a bad thing. He can’t carry the load though.

1. Chicago Bears

Alright Bears fans, I hope you can all forgive me for snubbing them last week. The Titans are not a good team, but the Bears did what they were supposed to do: destroy them.

The defense and special teams play for the Bears is stellar, and when Cutler and Marshall are in sync as they were on Sunday, they are unstoppable.

That’s the million dollar question though: can Cutler keep his turnovers down and make good decisions?

AFC Power Rankings: Top 5

5. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens won unimpressively this week over the lowly Browns, an the injuries the Ravens have suffered on defense shows.

The losses of Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis still loom heavy, and Flacco has cooled off. Ray Rice is the key to their success, they go as he goes.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

I think the Steelers are trending upward.

Big Ben is a talented and sometimes forgotten franchise QB among the Bradys, Rodgers, and Brees of the world. However, Ben is special and can extend the play MUCH longer than anyone else, and he has an uncanny ability to make plays on the move.

Additionally, his receiving corps is stacked with targets. Mike Wallace is a speed demon, Heath Miller is a safety blanket, and Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, and even Jericho Cotchery are all great contributors.

Not having Troy Polamalu is a big loss, but Ryan Clark has played well. And although James Harrison is not playing at 100% either, the Steelers defense is still solid.

As great as the passing game is for Pittsburgh, they can line anyone up at RB and get solid production. The offensive line is doing a great job creating holes, and the tailbacks are patiently waiting for the space to open and hitting the seams hard.

3. Denver Broncos

I write this as I sit in the Denver Airport, surrounded by Denver Bronco fans. I see shirts, hats and coats all around me. These people love their football here in the Mile High City, and they have a lot to cheer about.

The Broncos are becoming the team people thought they could be and that is a scary thing for the rest of the AFC.

Peyton Manning has been excellent and has bonded well with the dynamic duo of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. He has also utilized his former teammate in Indianapolis Jacob Tamme, as well as Joel Dreesen.

Willis McGahee has run strong and downhill all season, creating a real threat for play action down the field.

The defense still has some room to improve, but as long as they can keep getting after the opposing QB they will hold up just fine.

2. New England Patriots

It was a real toss-up between the Texans and Pats at #2, but I have to put New England here.

Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, no doubt. Acquiring defensive help in the form of Aqib Talib at the trade deadline was a HUGE move for the Pats as well. It’s just not enough to put them over the top.

The run game has improved vastly and has been fairly consistent, but it’s hard to say their attack is equivocal to the Texans 1-2 punch of Foster and Tate. Brady’s line has been very good, but not great.

The Giants have shown us in the two Super Bowls they have faced the Pats in how to win: pressure Tom Brady.

1. Houston Texans

Arian Foster is a beast. You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him, and most teams can’t even do that. He and Ben Tate make quite a combination, and Matt Schaub also has weapons in Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels if he chooses to go the aerial route.

The defense is tough, fast, and doesn’t give up big plays. The Buffalo Bills hung around probably more than most thought they would on Sunday, but remember that the Bills run the ball a lot. When you run the ball as much as they do, you eat up the time of possession.

You can make a strong argument based on the potent offense of the Pats that they should be #1, but I’m going with the Texans.

*****

What do you think? Are any teams left out? Have a problem with the order of either conference?

It’s Election Day, so cast your votes below!



About Trevor Stewart

Trevor Stewart is 25 years old and works as a corporate journalist, gathering stories and photos for magazines. He is a graduate of BIOLA University in La Mirada, Calif., with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. Originally from Spokane, Wash., he and his wife Abigail currently make their home in Lincoln, Neb.

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