16. Miami Dolphins (3-2) ▼6
It’s a crash back to earth (and reality) for the Dolphins, who lost their second game in six days after starting 3-0. But really, this wasn’t ever going to be a 16-0 team, so what they have to do now is show some character, regroup over the bye week, and get back into the win column. They may have found their leader in Ryan Tannehill, but he still has work to do.
15. Cleveland Browns (3-2) ▲4
I’d actually love to move the Browns up further than this. They play great defense, explosive special teams, and they’re even getting contributions out of Willis McGahee. But Brian Hoyer’s success, however brief, has proven what’s possible with competency at the quarterback position. Brandon Weeden is 0-2 as a starter this year, which should tell you something. The fact that he outplayed Jeff Tuel on Thursday Night is not exactly a mark of pride.
14. Houston Texans (2-3) ▼5
This team has talent in droves, but they’re not going any further than Matt Schaub can deliver them. And right now, all Schaub is delivering is touchdowns to the other team (for the last four games straight, an NFL record). With T.J. Yates finishing the game against San Francisco, there might be a quarterback controversy brewing here, which is never a good sign for a defending division champion.
13. Chicago Bears (3-2) ▼1
It isn’t panic time for the Bears, who are still tied for the lead in the NFC North, but it might be time to regroup just a little after two straight losses. Still, there’s no shame in losing to the Saints, and they have a get-right game against the Giants next week. If they drop that one, then it’s panic time.
12. Detroit Lions (3-2) ▼1
Anyone who thinks Calvin Johnson is overpaid, I implore you to watch game film of the Lions-Packers game from this week. It isn’t just about how many passes he catches. The entire Packers offense lost all respect for the deep ball (maybe the passing game in general) the moment Johnson was declared inactive, and the entire offense collapsed as a result. Credit to the defense for holding the Packers to field goals, keeping the Lions in the game longer than they deserved to be.
11. Baltimore Ravens (3-2) ▲4
The Little Super Bowl Champion That Could keeps chugging along, keeping itself a game on the right side of .500, which is fine for now. That was a big win over the Dolphins, who were undefeated not too long ago, and so they get a move up. But their $120 million quarterback really needs to stop throwing the ball to the other team. Related: Good things tend to happen when Ray Rice gets the ball.
10. Tennessee Titans (3-2) ▼4
Ryan Fitzpatrick played a surprisingly not terrible game against a tough Chiefs defense, even getting them the lead late. It wasn’t enough to get them the win, but it just might be enough to keep them treading water while they wait for Jake Locker to return. It has to be a concern that Fitz also led the team in rushing, though. The schedule doesn’t get any easier with a road trip to Seattle followed by the 49ers at home.
9. Green Bay Packers (2-2) ▲4
And this is why I had a sub-.500 team in the top half of the rankings last week. The Packers certainly aren’t the juggernaut they have been in years past, but it’s still hard to argue against them as the favorites in the NFC North. Even in a game where they struggled to find the end zone, and Aaron Rodgers was on and off his game, they still knocked off the Lions by 13 points.