Updated: October 28, 2014, 2:55 PM ET
2014 NFL Power Rankings: Week 9
Didn't see Dallas, Arizona and Detroit soaring to first place in 2014? Neither did we.
After eight weeks, these NFC stalwarts have a combined 18-5 record -- yet not one made the top 10 in our initial 2014 hierarchy. Once the season got going, however, ESPN's Power Panel (a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities) was quick to embrace the Cardinals and Cowboys, who have been among the league's steadiest risers.
On the heels of a dramatic Week 8 win over Philadelphia, Arizona now sits at No. 2, its highest mark of the season. Dallas dropped slightly to No. 4, the result of its Monday night loss to Washington.
The Lions' rise to prominence wasn't nearly as meteoric. Last week, they cracked the top 10 for just the second time this season, and Matthew Stafford & Co. now sit at No. 6 -- a considerable jump from their Week 1 spot (No. 18).
Week 9 will keep two of these teams in the spotlight, as Dallas and Arizona meet Sunday (Detroit has a bye). With No. 1 Denver facing a tough test (No. 3 New England), opportunity could be knocking for the Cardinals, who could conceivably vault to the top spot with a victory.
Note: The comments below are provided by ESPN Stats & Information.
• SN: Rank 'Em | How Cardinals have risen | Vegas rankings: Steelers rise | Team Power Rankings charts since 2002
|This should be fun. Peyton's Broncos, fresh off a 35-point performance against the Chargers, head to Foxborough, where Brady's Pats just dropped 51 points on the Bears. Tackling optional.|
|The Cardinals gained 193 yards after the catch Sunday, their most in a game this season and their second most in a game in Stats & Info's dataset (since 2006).|
|Tom Brady finished 20-for-20 Sunday targeting Brandon LaFell and Rob Gronkowski for a combined 273 yards and four touchdowns. October was very friendly to the Patriots (4-0).|
|DeMarco Murray gained an incredible 5.2 yards before contact on his average rush Monday night. Somehow, with Tony Romo injured in an overtime loss, Murray had a season-low 19 rushes.|
|Sunday was a missed opportunity for the Eagles, the kind they should take advantage of now before a Week 13-15 stretch against the Cowboys, Seahawks and Cowboys again.|
|After starting 0-for-5 on throws at least 15 yards downfield in the first half, Matthew Stafford was 3-for-5 during the second-half comeback. All three completions were to Golden Tate.|
|Eddie Lacy had a career-high 182 yards from scrimmage Sunday night, including a career-high 123 receiving yards. The Packers got plenty of yards, just not enough points.|
|Even with Peyton Manning's productive game Thursday night, the Chargers still have allowed only one quarterback (Carson Palmer, 304) to throw for at least 300 yards in a game.|
|The Colts entered Sunday with the league's best third-down defense (26 percent). Then the Steelers converted eight of 13 attempts in Sunday's offensive explosion.|
|Russell Wilson went 4-of-4 for 53 yards and a touchdown on the Seahawks' game-winning drive after completing 57.1 percent of his passes on the Seahawks' first seven drives.|
|Go big or go home for Colin Kaepernick. His QBR in every game this year has either been below 50 (four) or above 80 (three).|
|Cincinnati is in good shape moving forward. The Bengals get the Jaguars, Browns, Saints, Texans and Buccaneers from now to Week 13, a stretch that should produce a few wins.|
|Joe Flacco was 0-for-2 targeting Torrey Smith Sunday, throwing interceptions on both attempts. Flacco has thrown five of his seven picks this year targeting Smith.|
|Ben Roethlisberger finished 40-of-49 for 522 yards and six touchdowns Sunday. He's the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 500 yards in a game twice.|
|Alex Smith is the first starting quarterback since Ryan Tannehill in Week 8 of 2012 to win a game without attempting multiple passes deeper than 10 yards downfield.|
|The Jets blitzed Kyle Orton at the highest rate of Orton's season Sunday, and Orton finished 6-of-8 for 184 yards and three touchdowns against at least five rushers.|
|Even at 3-4, the Saints are tied for first in the NFC South. New Orleans has won 11 straight at home, including 3-0 this year.|
|Does anyone know what to expect from Ryan Tannehill at this point? He has as many games with a QBR above 90 (three) as below 30.|
|Brian Hoyer was blitzed at the second-highest rate of his season Sunday, and finished 9-of-12 for 101 yards and a touchdown when the Raiders sent at least five rushers.|
|Cam Newton was 3-of-10 for 61 yards and an interception on straight dropback passes (no play-action fake), the fewest completions and lowest percentage in his career.|
|J.J. Watt had two sacks Sunday, his 10th game with multiple sacks in the past three seasons, most of any player in the league.|
|This is a brutal stretch for the Giants, facing the Colts, Seahawks, 49ers and Cowboys in the next four weeks. New York must beat good teams for a playoff berth.|
|The Bears allowed 38 points in Sunday's first half, most in a first half in franchise history. Jay Cutler was 3-of-9 for 35 yards and an interception targeting Brandon Marshall.|
|QB controversy! OK, probably not, but Colt McCoy was 6-of-7 for 136 yards targeting DeSean Jackson. McCoy's 7-yard quarterback draw touchdown looked like a Robert Griffin III play call.|
|Cordarrelle Patterson was targeted 10 times Sunday, the second-highest total in a game in his career. When Patterson has at least seven touches, Minnesota is 2-0-1.|
|A fifth straight loss means problems for coach Mike Smith. Not sure what's worse, the 2-6 record or the fact that the Falcons are only two games behind in the NFC South loss column.|
|Austin Davis entered Sunday ranked seventh in completion percentage on throws deeper than 10 yards downfield this season. Davis was a brutal 2-of-7 with an interception on those throws Sunday.|
|Zach Mettenberger posted a 22.7 Total QBR in his first start. Mettenberger was 27-of-41 for 299 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and a free social media lesson from J.J. Watt.|
|The Buccaneers have allowed an 81.2 Total QBR this season (31st in NFL). For context, Peyton Manning's QBR in his record-setting 2013 was 82.9.|
|The quarterback situation is still a mess. Geno Smith and Michael Vick were a combined 1-for-9 for 11 yards and four interceptions on throws deeper than 10 yards downfield Sunday.|
|Blake Bortles threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns Sunday. Bortles is the second quarterback since the start of last season to throw two pick-sixes in a game (Geno Smith).|
|The Raiders are 0-7 and have games coming up against the Seahawks, Broncos and Chargers in the next three weeks. Should Oakland trade or use the first overall pick?|