by Brandon Burnett
Cold Hard Football Facts' Heavyweight Champion of Power Rankings
The top spot in the Cold, Hard Football Facts Power Rankings belongs to the Houston Texans, as usual.
Sunday night, however, could change everything.
A trip to the Windy City to take on the Bears (lurking from the No. 4 spot) in Week 10 has the potential to put Houston's three-week reign of the top spot in jeopardy. Whatever happens, expect Soldier Field to be a no-fly zone from 8:20 p.m. to sometime after 11 p.m. on Sunday night.
The Bears are No. 1 in Defensive Passer Rating by an enormous margin, and Houston sits at No. 3. Both squads are in the top five of Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt as well.
Chicago's Charles Tillman and his nine forced turnovers squaring off against the beast that is J.J. Watt on Sunday Night Football?
My guess is that neither Matt Schaub nor Jay Cutler have been sleeping well this week.
1. Houston Texans (7-1) - One reason expecting a defensive slugfest on Sunday night might make you (and me) look foolish: the Texans are No. 2 in Scoreability, and Chicago is No. 1. Probably best to leave the expectations out of this.
2. San Francisco 49ers (6-2) - San Fran is the only team in the top four of the Power Rankings that hasn't spent some time at No. 1. In Week 10, they'll host a fast-fading Rams' squad with one road win in their last 11 tries. Sounds like as good a time as any.
3. Atlanta Falcons (8-0) - Atlanta's eight wins have come against teams with a combined record of 24-41. Only one of their final eight opponents, the New York Giants, currently have a winning record. Does that make the Falcons a lock for a first-round bye? Pretty damn close.
4. Chicago Bears (7-1) - The Bears have been impressive, but they've got only one quality win under their belt this season. Their next six opponents have a combined record of 34-18, though, with three of them residing in the top five of these rankings. Time to see what these bruins are made of.
5. Green Bay Packers (6-3) - Losing Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson hasn't slowed this passing game a bit. Randall Cobb has five TDs in three games and James Jones' eight scores are already a career high.
6. Denver Broncos (5-3) - Attention Aaron Rodgers: the sheriff wants his MVP back. Peyton Manning's completion percentage of 69.5 is currently the best of his career, and the four-time NFL MVP has three TD passes (and a passer rating over 100) in each of Denver's last five games.
7. Seattle Seahawks (5-4) - Seattle's secondary may have saved its season on Sunday. The 'Hawks held Minnesota's Christian Ponder to 63 yards on 11 of 22 passing, which adds up to a season-worst 2.86 yards per attempt. As a result, they jump six spots to No. 4 in Defensive Passer Rating.
8. New York Giants (6-3) - Forget 9-7. The defending champs could finish 7-9 and clinch the NFC East this year. What's to say about the Giants' No. 11 ranking in Passer Rating Differential, though? Only three of the 72 NFL Champions since 1940 finished outside the top 10 in PRD.
9. Baltimore Ravens (6-2) - The Ravens returned from a bye to squash the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday. They'll also get to feast on the lowly Raiders in Week 10 just before two matchups with the Steelers in a 15-day span.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) - Through eight games, rookie RB Doug Martin is on pace to finish the season with 1,588 yards and 14 TDs on the ground and 40 catches and 490 yards through the air. Get this: Martin's 251-yard, four-TD day against Oakland Sunday came just a week after Tampa lost All-Pro guard Carl Nicks for the season.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) - The Steelers came up with a huge comeback win over the Giants in Week 9, which now puts them just a game back of the Ravens for the AFC North lead.
12. New England Patriots (5-3) - The Pats have finished each of their last two seasons on eight-game winnings streaks. In other words, Belichick's boys are still completely capable of being a 12 or 13-win team in 2012.
13. Miami Dolphins (4-4) - The 23-20 road loss against Indy in Week 9 will be tough to swallow. Luckily, Miami's next three opponents (vs. Tennessee, At Buffalo and vs. Seattle) are not exactly formidable foes. The Dolphins are No. 3 in Bendability and Defensive Hog Index.
14. Arizona Cardinals (4-5) - The Cardinals may have already dug too deep a hole to escape now. A bye week is next, but a trip to play the currently undefeated Falcons follows that. Arizona will also travel to Seattle and San Francisco before hosting the Bears and Lions late in the season.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) - Philly's injury-prone offensive line has been taking steps to rival Arizona's O-line for the worst unit in the NFL. Michael Vick was sacked seven times in the Eagles' 28-13 loss Monday Night. These birds are heading south in a hurry.
16. New York Jets (3-5) - The Jets are desperate for a win, but CenturyLink Field is about the worst place to go searching for one. That'd be the home of the Seahawks, where they boast a 4-0 record in 2012. The Jets are No. 29 in Real Quarterback Rating.
17. Carolina Panthers (2-6) - Carolina is a surprise at No. 17 given its 2-6 record, but five of its six losses have come by less than a touchdown. Before their Week 9 win, they were down at No. 23 in the overall rankings.
18. Detroit Lions (4-4) - Detroit picked a perfect time to start playing solid football. Seven of the Lions' final eight opponents currently have winning records. The Lions are now up to No. 4 in our Offensive Hog Index.
19a. San Diego Chargers (4-4) - San Diego destroyed Kansas City in Week 9, sparking a five-spot jump in the Power Rankings. Then again, who hasn't used the Chiefs as a springboard this year?
19b. Washington Redskins (3-6) - Robert Griffin III's last two performances haven't been as spectacular as usual, but the Redskins' D still hasn't found a way to hold an opponent to under 20 points once this season.
21. Minnesota Vikings (5-4) - The validity of the Vikings surprising start is now being questioned more than ever before after consecutive losses. With Green Bay twice, Chicago twice and a battle with the Houston on the remaining schedule, Minnesota will be tested every week from here on out.
22. Dallas Cowboys (3-5) - It's been tough sledding for the 'Boys so far, having faced six quality opponents in eight games. They've only beat one of them, but currently sit at No. 10 in The Relativity Index.
23. St. Louis Rams (3-5) - The Rams' trip to San Fran will serve as their third straight game against a team in the top six of Offensive Passer Rating. St. Louis is also No. 27 in Scoreability with the Niners coming in at No. 2 in Bendability.
24. New Orleans Saints (3-5) - Brees is locked in and the Saints have won three of their last four. The bad news, however, is New Orleans' next five opponents have a combined record of 31-10, with two of those games coming against the undefeated Falcons.
25. Cincinnati Bengals (3-5) - The Bengals are now in total free fall. Cincy's dropped to No. 28 in Bendability and Defensive Passer Rating.
26. Cleveland Browns (2-7) - The Browns haven't scored a touchdown in their last seven quarters of football. Cleveland has lost 11 straight road games and four of its final seven are away from home.
27. Oakland Raiders (3-5) - Oakland has two reasons to feel good about its 42-32 loss to the Bucs in Week 9. One, Carson Palmer threw a season-high four TD passes (though it took him 61 attempts). Two, the Raiders shouldn't have to deal with Doug Martin for another four years.
28. Indianapolis Colts (5-3) - Nothing against Andrew Luck and the fact that he's on pace for 4,808 yards passing in 2012, but keep in mind he's completing just 56.5 percent of his passes and the Colts are No. 29 in Scoreability.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) - The Jags are the not-so-proud owners of the NFL's most anemic offense, averaging 14.6 PPG. This year's No. 5 overall pick, WR Justin Blackmon, is last in the NFL in catch percentage (44.2) for receivers with 50 targets or more.
30. Buffalo Bills (3-5) - The Bills dropped four spots from Week 8 to land here at No. 30. With a trip to New England on tap, they could be a dark horse candidate to end the Chiefs four-week stay in the Power Rankings cellar.
31. Tennessee Titans (3-6) - Giving up 34.2 PPG in 2012, the Titans are currently on pace to unseat the 1981 Baltimore Colts for most points allowed in a season.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-7) - If the Chiefs hadn't beat the Saints in overtime back in Week 3, they could be making a solid case for an 0-16 season. Five of KC's seven losses have been by 16 points or more.