By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Power Ranker

It’s lonely at the top of this week’s power rankings, where the Packers are a pretty clear No. 1.

But the bottom is shaping up as a fierce two-team race between a pair of squads best known for trading Hall of Fame running backs to each other (twice): the St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts.

Either team would be happy to have the aforementioned Eric Dickerson or Marshall Faulk on their side right now, because without them they are both on pace to challenge the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs as the worst team of the modern era.

How bad are the Rams? Even after the Colts dropped to 0-7 with a 55-point loss, they’re still No. 32 on this list, thanks to a point differential that is historically terrible beyond belief. As it stands now, their average game is a 19.2 point loss. Since the 1970 merger, only 0-14 Tampa in 1976 (-20.5 point differential per game) was worse.

Their excuse? They were an EXPANSION TEAM. The Rams, on the other hand, are a reasonably healthy, normally constructed NFL franchise. It’s pretty shocking stuff.

Despite this, St. Louis is the better bet to wind up earning that coveted No. 31 spot by season’s end (or even No. 30, if Miami can’t break through). The Rams still have home-and-homes with the Seahawks and Cardinals to go, and they will almost certainly be able to win one of those.

The Colts have at least been in games for much of the year, but they are on pace to be outscored by 261 points – good for fifth-worst ever if it holds form. And while the Colts still have home-and-homes with Tennessee and Jacksonville, the AFC South isn’t nearly as weak as the NFC West.

It’d be kind of awesome if Peyton Manning got back into the lineup for Week 17 at Jacksonville, with the Colts at 0-15 and needing a win to stave off a lifetime of shame. Maybe NBC would actually want to run that one.

On to the rankings!

1. GREEN BAY (7-0)

Last week: 33-27 win at Minnesota
Next three weeks: bye, at SD, vs. MIN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: In his last four years with Oakland, Charles Woodson missed 18 games with injury and had six interceptions. In six years with Green Bay, Woodson has missed two games with injury and has 35 interceptions. Didn’t the Raiders used to be on the other end of moves like that?

2. NEW ENGLAND (5-1)

Last week: bye
Next three weeks: at PIT, vs. NYG, at NYJ
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The average offense this year is amassing 367.1 yards and 20.9 first downs a game. The Patriots have been over both marks in each of their six games. They’ve had 25+ offensive first downs each week, something they only did three times with their No. 1 scoring offense a year ago.


Last week: bye
Next three weeks: vs CLE, at WAS, vs. NYG
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The 49ers spent their bye week saying “Holy s---, we’re third in the power rankings?”

4. NEW ORLEANS (5-2)

Last week: 62-7 win vs. Indianapolis
Next three weeks: at STL, vs. TB, at ATL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Drew Brees’ last 16 games including playoffs: 37 touchdowns, 5,167 yards, 650 attempts. At some point, isn’t his shoulder going to fall off?

5. BALTIMORE (4-2)

Last week:12-7 loss at Jacksonville
Next three weeks: vs. AZ, at PIT, at SEA
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Home Ravens: 3-0, +58 points. Road Ravens, 1-2, with losses to Tennessee and Jacksonville. Joe Flacco: ratings of 37.4, 78.5 and 61.0 the last three weeks. Baltimore: an enigma wrapped in a riddle shrouded in mystery.


Last week: 32-20 win at Arizona
Next three weeks: vs. NE, vs. BAL, at CIN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Steelers’ continued inability to force turnovers is a real puzzler. They haven’t had more than one in a game this year; in 2010, they forced 2+ in 12 of 16 regular-season games.

7. BUFFALO (4-2)

Last week: bye
Next three weeks: vs. WAS, vs. NYJ, at DAL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: It’s still a bit unfathomable that the Buffalo offense would be this good. A team that scored no more than 17 points in any of its last six games in 2010 followed it up by going defense/defense with its first two draft picks … and now they’re averaging 31.3 an outing? Gaileymania!

8. DETROIT (5-2)

Last week: 23-16 loss vs. Atlanta
Next three weeks: at DEN, bye, at CHI
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is getting the ball a lot, but not doing a whole lot with it. He’s only got 16 first downs on his 38 catches (42.1 percent), the lowest figure in the league among all non-running backs with 20 catches.

9. DALLAS (3-3)

Last week: 34-7 win vs. St. Louis
Next three weeks: at PHI, vs. SEA, vs. BUF
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Down in and down out, this might be the best team in the league – against a very difficult schedule, they’re averaging 1.5 yards more per play than their opponents, second-best in the NFL behind Pittsburgh (1.6, but against a much softer slate).

10. HOUSTON (4-3)

Last week: 41-7 win at Tennessee
Next three weeks: vs. JAX, vs. CLE, at TB
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: There’s no “Schaub-mania” sweeping the NFL landscape, but with the remainder of the schedule featuring teams currently behind the Texans in our power rankings, this team should be playoff-bound – and Matt Schaub is a big reason. He’s had ratings of 87.2, 92.7, 98.6, 92.0 and 96.8 this year in his five years with Houston, and is deserving of some praise. If only he were a muscle-bound lefty from Florida, he’d even get recognized at Walmart.

11. CINCINNATI (4-2)

Last week: bye
Next three weeks: at SEA, at TEN, vs. PIT
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: And on the seventh week, the Red Rifle rested. Andy Dalton is one of only 32 quarterbacks in history to start the first six games of his rookie season, and his passer rating of 84.3 is the best in that group (Matt Ryan second, 82.9).

12. SAN DIEGO (4-2)

Last week: 27-21 loss at Jets
Next three weeks: at KC, vs. GB, vs. OAK
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Special teams aren’t the problem this year – the Chargers haven’t missed a field goal, Mike Scifres has averaged 47.3 yards a punt and the coverage units have been strong since allowing a season-opening kick return touchdown to Minnesota’s Percy Harvin.


Last week: bye
Next three weeks: vs. MIA, at NE, vs. SF
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Giants have been within 50 total yards of their opponent, positively or negatively, in all six games this year.

14. ATLANTA (4-3)

Last week: 23-16 win at Detroit
Next three weeks: bye, at IND, vs. NO
The Cold, Hard Football Facts:Michael Turner doesn’t get much notice, but over his career in Atlanta he’s got 16-game averages of 1,459 yards, 15 touchdowns and a 4.47 YPC average. Just don’t ask him to run pass patterns – he’s only got 30 catches in 50 games as a Falcon. Bonus observation: Did any team ever have a better running back group than the 2007 Chargers? Peak LT, Turner as a backup, Darren Sproles on third downs as needed and Lorenzo Neal as the fullback. Sick.

15. CHICAGO (4-3)

Last week: 24-18 win vs. Tampa Bay
Next three weeks: bye, at PHI, vs. DET
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Fun fact about Lovie Smith: in 15 years as a pro assistant or head coach, he’s only been with two teams that finished worse than 7-9 and has a personal win-loss record of 145-102. In other news, PAY MATT FORTE!

16. NEW YORK JETS (4-3)

Last week: 27-21 win vs. San Diego
Next three weeks: bye, at BUF, vs. NE
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Darrelle Revis is every bit as good against the pass game as Aaron Rodgers is in the pass game. Opposing passers have a 2.9 rating against him this year, which might be the most amazing stat in the game. Holding Vincent Jackson to one catch for 15 yards Sunday was a masterpiece.

17. OAKLAND (4-3)

Last week: 28-0 loss at Kansas City
Next three weeks: bye, vs. DEN, at SD
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: In 2008, Jason Campbell started all 16 games for the Redskins and threw as many picks (6) as his replacements in Oakland did Sunday vs. Kansas City.


Last week: bye
Next three weeks: vs. DAL, vs. CHI, vs. ARI
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: It’s pretty simple, folks: the Eagles are the league’s biggest disappointment because they’re last in the NFL in turnover differential at minus-8. The problem dated back to last year, when they went minus-six over the last three weeks of the season – did they fix it during the bye?

19. TAMPA BAY (4-3)

Last week: 24-18 loss vs. Chicago
Next three weeks: bye, at NO, vs. HOU
The Cold, Hard Football Facts:Returner Preston Parker is averaging 4.8 yards a return on punts (including fair catches) and 20.2 yards a return on kicks, both in the league’s bottom five. We’re not expecting to get deluged by Preston Parker fans after mentioning this, but you never know.

20. CAROLINA (2-5)

Last week: 33-20 win vs. Washington
Next three weeks: vs. WAS, vs. MIN, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Steve Smith (39 catches for 818 yards) and Wes Welker (51 catches for 785 yards) are the league’s top two receivers right now – not bad for a couple of 5-foot-9 guys in their 30s who both have ACL tears in their past. Science!

­­­21. TENNESSEE (3-3)

Last week: 41-7 loss vs. Houston
Next three weeks: vs. IND, vs. CIN, at CAR
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: According to the search engine, only two teams in the last 40 years have lost a division game by 34 points or more at home and gone on to a winning record (2002 NYJ, 1989 PIT). So maybe those playoff plans should go on ice for awhile.

22. WASHINGTON (3-3)

Last week: 33-20 loss at Carolina
Next three weeks: at BUF, vs. SF, at MIA
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Redskins have yet to win the turnover battle this season, and over their last 14 games, they’re minus-18.

23. CLEVELAND (3-3)

Last week: 6-3 win vs. Seattle
Next three weeks: at SF, at HOU, vs. STL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Hurrah! We’re 3-3! Oh wait, our three wins are against teams that are a combined 2-17. And we still have seven games left with teams in the CHFF Power Rankings Top 10. But we’re 3-3!

24. KANSAS CITY (3-3)

Last week: 28-0 win vs. Oakland
Next three weeks: vs. SD, vs. MIA, vs. DEN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: If a team has ever played as poorly overall in a 28-point win, we’d like the evidence. The Chiefs turned it over twice, averaged 4.3 yards an offensive play and got whistled for 10 penalties at home.

25. DENVER (2-4)

Last week:18-15 win at Miami
Next three weeks: vs. DET, at OAK, at KC
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Most impressive part of the Broncos’ win? Probably that despite not having the remotest threat of a passing game for 55 minutes, they finished with 183 yards rushing and 4.69 yards a crack. TEE-BOW! TEE-BOW! TEE-BOW!


Last week:12-7 win vs. Baltimore
Next three weeks: at HOU, bye, at IND
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Somewhere, Walter Camp is crying; the Jaguars are the only team in the league running more than it passes (52.0 percent).

27. MINNESOTA (1-6)

Last week: 33-27 loss vs. Green Bay
Next three weeks: at CAR, bye, at GB
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Vikings’ opponent has had the game’s top individual receiving yardage leader and passing yardage leader in all seven games this year. This is why the Vikings’ 65.1-yard-per-game rushing edge has added up to 1-6.

28. SEATTLE (2-4)

Last week: 6-3 loss at Cleveland
Next three weeks: vs. CIN, at DAL, vs. BAL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: When you go on the road, block two field goals, allow 3.5 yards a play and six total points, you should probably get the win.

29. ARIZONA (1-5)

Last week: 32-20 loss vs. Pittsburgh
Next three weeks: at BAL, vs. STL, at PHI
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Cardinals are tied with New Orleans for the league lead in positive runs (93.7 percent of all attempts). That, plus 10 straight wins to close the season, will get them in the playoffs.

30. MIAMI (0-6)

Last week:18-15 loss vs. Denver
Next three weeks: at NYG, at KC, vs. WAS
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The last three weeks, kicker Dan Carpenter is 8-for-8 on field goals, with nine touchbacks in 13 kickoffs and no opponent starting a drive off of his boots outside the 25. So yeah, not his fault.


Last week: 63-7 loss at New Orleans
Next three weeks: at TEN, vs. ATL, vs. JAX
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Curtis Painter’s passer rating is 85.2, folks – not world-beating material, but good enough to suggest that this team would be 3-4 at best with Manning out there. They haven’t forced a turnover in four weeks.

32. ST. LOUIS (0-6)

Last week: 34-7 loss at Dallas
Next three weeks: vs. NO, at ARI, at CLE
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The scariest part of this 0-6 start is that turnovers (-2 on the year) have had nothing to do with it. They’re just getting beaten fair and square week in and week out.