NFL Power Rankings : Week 10 – Cards are new No. 1

NFL Power Rankings : Week 10 - Cards are new No. 1

The Daily News NFL power rankings held its own mini playoffs at the top last week with the No. 2 Cardinals at the No. 5 Cowboys and the No. 1 Broncos at the No. 3 Patriots.

1. Arizona Cardinals (7-1) | Previous Rank: 2

No, the Cowboys didn’t have Tony Romo on Sunday. Perhaps beating Brandon Weeden is not all that impressive. But the Cardinals still held DeMarco Murray in check, the first foe to keep him under 100 yards rushing in a game. They still went on the road and beat what was one of the NFC’s better teams in the first half of the season. And they’re lapping the field in a supposedly rugged division, with a two-game lead in the NFC West on the Seahawks and a three-game advantage on the 49ers. Bruce Arians is looking like a runaway choice for coach of the year.

2. New England Patriots (7-2) | Previous Rank: 3

Tom Brady outplayed Peyton Manning on Sunday and improved to 11-5 in their 16 career matchups. More importantly, the Patriots gained the upper hand in the race for the top seed in the AFC playoffs, with a half-game lead on the Broncos plus the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage. New England’s schedule is tough, however. The Patriots have their bye week now but then return to face the Colts, Lions and Packers.

3. Detroit Lions (6-2) | Previous Rank: 4

The Lions have been one of the league’s top teams without two of their most dynamic offensive players, WR Calvin Johnson and RB Reggie Bush returned to practice Monday following the Lions’ bye week. With Johnson and Bush back in the lineup after being hampered by ankle injuries, is it possible that Detroit will emerge as the team to beat in the entire NFC? A Cardinals-Lions matchup in the NFC championship game is a very realistic possibility at this point.

4. Denver Broncos (6-2) | Previous Rank: 1

Peyton Manning is a tough critic of himself, saying his play “stunk” after Sunday’s 438-yard passing performance at New England. Manning wasn’t great. That’s true. But he certainly wasn’t the only culprit. The Broncos got next to nothing out of their running game. The supposedly upgraded Denver defense allowed four TD passes by Tom Brady and had no answers for Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, who had nine catches. The Broncos’ two losses are at Seattle and at New England. There’s certainly no shame in that. But winning the Super Bowl will mean having to beat some good teams along the way. And, thanks to Sunday’s loss, it might mean having to go on the road at some point during the AFC playoffs to do it.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) | Previous Rank: 5

Ben Roethlisberger has become the first QB ever to throw 12 TD passes over a two-game span. He also has totaled 862 passing yards while throwing zero interceptions over the past two games. The emergence of young WRs Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton to complement Antonio Brown has given Roethlisberger additional options in the passing game. LB James Harrison is playing like he’s 26 rather than 36, with four sacks over the last two games. But the Steelers must worry about the injuries suffered Sunday night by S Troy Polamalu and LB Ryan Shazier.

6. Buffalo Bills (5-3) | Previous Rank: 6

It’s a bye week filled with possibilities in Buffalo, with the Bills only a game behind the Patriots in the AFC East and in the thick of the wild-card chase. It will be a time to begin separating contenders from pretenders when the Bills return from their bye. Their next two games are against the Chiefs and Dolphins.

7. Indianapolis Colts (6-3) | Previous Rank: 7

The Colts have a two-game lead in the AFC South but still trail the Patriots, Broncos and Bengals in the chase for the top seeds in the AFC playoffs. They already lost at Denver in the opener and beat Cincinnati handily last month. After a bye week they’ll get their chance against the Patriots, hosting them in Week 11.

8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-2) | Previous Rank: 9

Mark Sanchez takes over at QB after Nick Foles’s injury. Sanchez’s situation is, in some ways, the classic case of the backup QB who has come to be held in higher esteem by not playing, and the question is whether his flaws will be exposed now that he must play. But he played decently in Sunday’s win over the Texans and many observers seem convinced he’ll do just fine in Coach Chip Kelly’s offense with good players around him. The Eagles have a little extra time to get him ready to face the Panthers on Monday night.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) | Previous Rank: 10

They have replaced the fading Chargers as the primary challenger to the Broncos in the AFC West. The Chiefs have won three straight games and now they’re only a game behind first-place Denver. They lost at Denver in Week 2 and the rematch in Kansas City comes Nov. 30.

10. Seattle Seahawks (5-3) | Previous Rank: 11

Maybe this is all that the Seahawks will be this season, a good but far-from-great team that struggles to get by even against poor competition — like the Raiders in Week 9. The expectation has been they will, at some point, return to the level they reached during the most recent postseason, and seemed to be sustaining when this season began. Perhaps that’s simply more than this season’s team can manage.