We face the same challenge every week with our power rankings. The elite of the league seem to be pretty well entrenched, the top 10 is holding strong, but, when you get down through teams 11-20 it becomes increasingly complex.
This season, more than any I can remember, it feels like these middling teams are competing to fail, rather than to win. Whenever a team has an opportunity to make a statement, they shrink in the moment rather than seize it (see the recent NFC East commentary).
However, in fairness to the muddled middle there are some teams making waves. Most notably the unbeaten at home Seattle Seahawks and the recently electric Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Coming into the season the Bucs were a trendy sleeper pick to make a run at the playoffs but they came out of the gates a little sluggish and many jumped off the bandwagon as quickly as they got on. Now, with 2 convincing road wins in as many weeks to their credit they may becoming fan friendly again. The Buccaneers are doing it with a renewed attitude of accountability under Greg Schiano (goodbye, Aqib Talib), solid quarterback play from 4th year pro Josh Freeman who is getting contributions from Vincent Jackson both in terms of his production on the targets he receives but also his presence on those that he doesn't which helps out Mike Williams, and, electric running from Doug Martin.
Martin, or 'Muscle Hamster' as many refer to him despite his preference otherwise, has added a new element to the Bucs run game. He, like the team, starter a little slow out of the gate but the rookie rusher began to turn the corner in week 6 against Kansas City. Not coincidentally, his team is 3-1 during his 4 game hot streak and they look to build upon that momentum in the coming weeks.
Following their prime time victory over the Minnesota Vikings on week 8's edition of Thursday Night Football host Rich Eisen referred to the Tampa offense as 'frightening'. No one was willing to buy it. This week, after 250 yards from Martin, a solid performance from Freeman and another week of touchdowns from Jackson and Williams I don't think you can say otherwise. Tampa posted 42 points against the Raiders, and, while their defense allowed 32 the offense did enough to carry the team. The Buccaneer defense yields almost 400 yards per game, good for fourth most in the league, but we have seen teams win with a similar formula and they still rank in the middle of the league in points allowed.
The second half schedule poses some challenges, but, if Tampa's offense continues its frightening pace we may see them continue to vault up the ranks....