2015 NFL Power Rankings Week 9

manning-vs-chiefs-1Are the Denver Broncos good enough to be No. 1 after shutting down the Green Bay Packers? Find out below in our Week 9 NFL power rankings. Also be sure to check out our Week 8 rankings here.

1. New England Patriots (7-0); beat Miami 36-7, same spot – One big reason why the Patriots are undefeated; they’ve only turned the ball over three times – tied for the least through seven games in Super-Bowl era history.

2. Denver Broncos (7-0); beat Green Bay 29-10, up 2 spots – Peyton Manning needs just one more career victory to pass Brett Favre for the most all time (186 wins).

3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-0); beat Pittsburgh 16-10, up 1 spot – It doesn’t seem like Cleveland will offer much resistance; however, the Bengals are just 2-3 in their last five meetings with the Browns.

4. Green Bay Packers (6-1); lost to Denver 29-10, down 2 spots – Aaron Rodgers suffered through the worst game of his career (77 yards passing), so it’s little surprise why the result was so bad.

cam-newton5. Carolina Panthers (7-0); beat Indianapolis 29-26 (OT), same spot – It wasn’t easy, but this is the first time in Panthers’ history that they’ve started 7-0.

6. Arizona Cardinals (6-2); beat Cleveland 34-20, same spot – With his 20 TD passes, Carson Palmer is easily on target to become the Cardinals’ first QB to throw for 30 TDs.

7. Seattle Seahawks (4-4); beat Dallas Cowboys 13-12, up 2 spots – Defensively, Seattle is doing what they must to get back into the postseason chase; they’ve allowed just 15 points in the last two contests.

8. Atlanta Falcons (6-2); lost to Tampa Bay 23-20, down 1 spot – Atlanta only turned the ball over twice in their first four games (4-0). But they’ve had 12 turnovers in their last four games (2-2).

9. Minnesota Vikings (5-2); beat Chicago Bears 23-20, up 1 spot – After a terrible season-opening loss to San Francisco, Minnesota has won 5 out of 6 and is just one game back in the NFC North.

10. St. Louis Rams (4-3); beat San Francisco 27-6, up 3 spots – Todd Gurley is now the NFL’s first-ever rookie to rush for 125 yards in four straight games.

11. New York Jets (4-3); lost to Oakland 34-20, down 3 spots – There’s much uncertainty surrounding the Jets now that Ryan Fitzpatrick has torn ligaments in his hand.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4); lost to Cincinnati 16-10, down 1 spot  – Pittsburgh lost a huge weapon with Le’Veon Bell now out for the season (torn MCL).

khalil-mack-raiders13. Oakland Raiders (4-3); beat NY Jets 34-20, up 5 spots – With only three remaining opponents with above-.500 records, Oakland has a real chance to make the playoffs.

14. New Orleans Saints (4-4); beat NY Giants 52-49, up 1 spot – Drew Brees had seven touchdown passes on Sunday; before this, he hadn’t thrown over 2 TD passes in a single game this year.

15. New York Giants (4-4); lost to New Orleans 52-49, down 3 spots – While New York can score, they’re also allowing a league-worst 427.5 yards per game.

16. Miami Dolphins (3-4); lost to New England 36-7, down 2 spots – Dan Campbell continues running the ball (43% of the time), which is smart considering that Miami leads the league with 5.0 yards per carry.

17. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4); bye week, down 1 spot  – Despite a 23-plus point differential, the Eagles find themselves with a losing record so far.

18. Kansas City Chiefs (3-5); beat Detroit 45-10, up 3 spots – KC has a tough task ahead of them: the Broncos, who have won their last seven meetings against the Chiefs.

miami-dolphins-dan-campbell19. Buffalo Bills (3-4); bye week, up 1 spot – Buffalo dominated the Dolphins in Week 3 by a score of 41-14; how will they fare against new coach Dan Campbell, though?

20. Indianapolis Colts (3-5); lost to Carolina 29-26 (OT), down 3 spots – With Denver and Atlanta up next, it’s very possible that Indy could be 3-7 after Week 11.

21. Houston Texans (3-5); beat Tennessee 20-6, up 6 spots – Despite Brian Hoyer throwing interceptions in five straight games, a franchise record, Houston is tied for the AFC South lead.

22. Washington Redskins (3-4); bye week, same spot – With three straight road losses, the prospects of Washington winning at Foxborough don’t seem great.

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4); beat Atlanta 23-20, up 8 spots – Things are looking up for Jameis Winston (88 Total QBR in last two games), who gets the porous Giants defense next.

24. Dallas Cowboys (2-5); lost to Seattle 13-12, down 4 spots – The Cowboys have dropped seven straight contests in which Tony Romo doesn’t start.

joe-flacco25. Baltimore Ravens (1-6); beat San Diego 29-26, up 4 spots – After going 2-for-12 on throws of 30+ yards, Joe Flacco went 3-for-3 on such throws against San Diego.

26. San Diego Chargers (2-6); lost to Baltimore 29-26, down 3 spots – The defense has greatly contributed to the Chargers’ 2-6 start, giving up 24+ points in every contest this season.

27. Chicago Bears (2-5); lost to Minnesota 23-20, down 3 spots – It’s extra bad for Chicago that they won’t have Matt Forte for a while because he’s led the NFL in yards from scrimmage since 2013 (4,546 yards).

28. Cleveland Browns (2-6); lost to Arizona 34-20, down 3 spots – Johnny Manziel will get another start against coach Marvin Lewis, who called him a “little midget” last season.

29. San Francisco (2-6); lost to St. Louis 27-6, down 3 spots – Coach Jim Tomsula claims the Colin Kaepernick benching is so the QB can “step back” mentally.

30. Detroit Lions (1-7); lost to Kansas City 45-10, down 1 spot – Detroit could allow 30+ points per game for the third time in eight seasons.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5); bye week, down 1 spot – The Jaguars have won twice against the AFC East so far; they can grab a third win if they beat the Jets this week.

32. Tennessee Titans (1-6); lost to Houston 20-6, same spot – With a 3-20 record since taking over, Ken Whisenhunt’s firing seemed pretty justified.

Chris Johnson Era Over in Tennessee

chris-johnson-titans-releasedIn a move that’s been rumored for months, the Tennessee Titans finally released their former starting running back, Chris Johnson. The Titans star was due $8 million in 2014, as part of the four-year, $53.5 million contract extention that he signed in 2011. So Tennessee wanted to dump Johnson before dedicating a large portion of their salary cap to him. Plus, offseason workouts with new head coach Ken Whisenhunt begin on Monday, so it’s likely that they wanted CJ2K gone by then.

Whisenhunt may have foreshadowed Johnson’s impending release back at the NFL Combine. When asked what he thought Johnson had left in the tank, the former Cardinals coach offered this bland response:

I can’t speak about what he has left in the tank, you never know about that, I know I see a player who is there every Sunday. He’s had a lot of success in the league, he has been to Pro Bowls, and you have a lot of respect for that. He practiced every day, from what I’ve seen of the records last year, and he played in a lot of games. He’s been a good football player.

Given his reluctance to say anything alluding to Johnson’s future with the team, you have to figure that Whisenhunt and the organization had other plans for a running back. So why keep Johnson one month after the free agency period started, when his prospects of getting a good deal are now diminished?

chris-johnson-titans-released-1Perhaps the Titans are still bitter about Johnson’s contract holdout before the 2011 season started? Maybe they’re further incensed that they paid him $8 million in 2012 and $9 million in 2013, all along expecting that magical 2009 season to resurface?

Speaking of which, the bar was set high for Johnson after he broke the single-season record for yards from scrimmage, previously held by Marshall Faulk. In the ’09 season, he rushed for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, adding another 503 receiving yards.

To hear fans, broadcasters and fantasy football owners talk afterward, you’d have thought that Johnson completely gave up after setting the scrimmage yards record. But looking at the numbers, he was still a pretty good back for the Titans, never once dipping under 1,000 rushing yards in his six seasons there.

However, he was only an above-average runner over the past three seasons. In 2011, he tallied 1,047 yards and four TD’s on the ground, maintaining a fairly low 4.0 YPC average. 2012 saw Johnson improve after he generated 1,243 rushing yards (4.5 YPC) and six touchdowns. But 2013 was another downer as he turned in 1,077 rushing yards (3.9 YPC) and six TD’s. The 3.9 YPC average and Johnson’s inconsistently is ultimately what made him expendable as the team looks to restart under Whisenhunt.

So where can we expect to see the six-year veteran suiting up next. He’ll no doubt find a prominent role somewhere, given that he still has flashes of the record-setting 4.24 forty speed he showed at the 2008 NFL Combine. Case in point, he busted a 94-yard touchdown run two years ago on Monday Night Football.

chris-johnson-titans-released-2According to a recent CBS New York report, the New York Jets were inquiring about a trade before the Titans released Johnson. NFL insiders still expect the Jets to be pursuing the 28-year-old through free agency. With the oft-injured Chris Ivory as their current feature back, they’d like to add a more durable player like Johnson, who’s only missed one game in his entire career – a rarity for NFL running backs, especially one that weighs 203 pounds.

As CBS NY points out, New York also makes sense because they’re $25 million under the cap and can afford to spend some money on Johnson. Even if he just splits carries with Ivory, this would meet the Jets’ philosophy in 2014, which is to promote competition at every position.

Assuming the Jets and Johnson can’t come to terms, he’ll certainly be an attractive prospect to other NFL teams that are looking to shore up the running back spot.

NFL Coaching Carousel – Kelly to Browns? Lovie to Bills?

With the NFL regular season now over, there have been a flurry of coach firings lately. Some of the moves were expected, while others were a little more surprising given what the coaches had accomplished. A few of these teams have either found a replacement already, or are on the verge of finding a new front man. This being said, let’s look at what teams have axed coaches along with likely candidates to fill the vacant positions.

Arizona Cardinals: Fired Ken Whisenhunt, no Clear Replacement – After finishing with more wins than any other Arizona coach (45) and taking the Cardinals to their lone Super Bowl appearance (2008), Ken Whisenhunt will always hold a special place in franchise history. But Whisenhunt’s past accomplishments couldn’t save his job after Arizona lost 11 out of their last 12 games. Those being interviewed for this position include Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

Buffalo Bills: Fired Chan Gailey, Lovie Smith interviewed – In three seasons with the Bills, Chan Gailey failed to make any sort of impact. Gailey’s record was 16-32, and his best year was just 6-10. Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is the most interesting replacement candidate, and he’s interviewed with the Bills already. Others who are being considered are Horton, Whisenhunt, McCoy and Doug Marrone.

Chicago Bears: Fired Lovie Smith, Several Candidates being considered – Smith had a good run as the Bears’ head coach since he compiled an 81-63 record over nine seasons. He also won three NFC North titles, made two NFC Championship appearances, and guided Chicago to the 2006 Super Bowl; they lost 29-17 to the Colts. But after a 7-1 start this year, the Bears stumbled to 10-6 and missed the playoffs. Potential replacements for Lovie include McCoy, Atlanta special teams coach Keith Armstrong and Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.

Cleveland Browns: Fired Pat Shurmur, Chip Kelly likely Replacement – Pat Shurmur was only given two seasons in Cleveland, which were largely unsuccessful. He compiled a 9-23 record and finished last in the AFC North both years. While nothing is official yet, Oregon Ducks coach Chip Kelly is already being tabbed as Shurmur’s replacement. He went 46-7 at Oregon, and the Browns would be his first NFL job.

Kansas City Chiefs: Fired Romeo Crennel, Andy Reid is New Coach – Before the season, some experts picked the Chiefs to win the AFC West. However, Kansas City suffered through a miserable 2-14 season and were noncompetitive in most games. The team has already found a replacement for Crennel since former Eagles coach Andy Reid has agreed to a deal with Kansas City.

Philadelphia Eagles: Fired Andy Reid, Jon Gruden being considered – Andy Reid is the longest-tenured NFL coach to get the ax this season. He spent 14 years with the Eagles and went 130-93 during this lengthy span. Reid also took Philadelphia to five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl. Unfortunately, he went 12-20 over the past two seasons with top-level talent at most positions. Former Tampa Bay and Oakland coach Jon Gruden is the most interesting replacement candidate, while Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is also being considered.

San Diego Chargers: Fired Norv Turner, no Clear Replacement – Norv Turner got off to a hot start as the Chargers coach when he guided them to the 2007 AFC Championship game in his first season. He followed that up with a couple of AFC Divisional round appearances in 2008 and 2009. But since then, Norv and the Chargers have missed the postseason in three straight years; he departs San Diego with a fairly impressive 56-40 record there. The Chargers’ coaching search has been relatively quiet – though Lovie Smith’s name has come up a few times.