5-at-10: Great NFL divide starts at QB, NFL power poll, Taylor Swift is everywhere

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes runs the ball against the Chicago Bears during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

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NFL power poll

I've been writing an NFL power poll for more than a decade around these parts.

And in all that time, I can never recall the divide between good teams and bad ones being so, well, polarizing.

First, this caveat. The NFL is designed — by rule — to make everyone to fall into that 7-10 and 10-7 range.

The draft order going from worst to best. Weight schedules. Universal salary caps designed to make sure one team doesn't acquire all the best players.

Sure there have been exceptions through the years, and most of those exceptions center on QBs. When you find a future Hall of Famer, he keeps you competitive for a decade. You know who we're talking about. The one-named guys like Peyton and Brady and Aaron and Brees.

(Side question for the group: I think we all have a crystallized viewpoint on who meant more to the Pats' dynasty, Brady or Belichick, but considering Sean Payton's Broncos are a punchline line right now, should we be having a "Drew Brees more than Payton's offensive guruness" conversation too?)

And that still applies.

The Chiefs will be good as long as Patty Mahomes is healthy.

I believe the same thing with Joe Burrow, who clearly is not healthy currently in Cincinnati, and Josh Allen in Buffalo.

I don't believe that for Lamar Jackson. I think I believe that for Jalen Hurts. I'm starting to believe it for Tua.

And of course there are also scenarios where broken systems waste a Canton-bound QB, because Justin Herbert should be right there in this conversation but the Chargers have found a way to Chargers far too often for me to believe anything close to that.

That's an impressive list of names, and if you fly a Chiefs flag or have Bengals or Bills gear. You are pleased. If you're an Eagles backer or a Dolphins devotee, you are just as hopeful.

But the other end of that spectrum is dreck.

Did you watch the Titans on Sunday? Ryan Tannehill, who was 13-of-24 for 104 yards as Tennessee managed a field goal in 60 minutes in Cleveland, is washed.

Did you watch the Bears on Sunday? Justin Fields is mired in controversy and inconsistency. He completed half of his throws for 99 yards.

Did you watch the Falcons on Sunday? Desmond Ridder was sacked seven times and failed to get his team in the end zone.

And that team picture is bigger than just those three Sunday stinkers.

While the elite teams at the top of the power poll know who their QB is, there are a half-dozen teams with a real QB problem and close to a dozen more who have a monster question mark at the most important positions.

If Daniel Jones or Sam Howell or Baker Mayfield or any of above three are the answer, then teams are asking the wrong questions at the combine.

Now there is help on the way.

The college football QB1 class is loaded. LOW-did. And it's led by Caleb Williams, and friends, Caleb Williams is him. Period.

It's one of the wise things these teams with young QB lottery tickets — CJ Stroud looks the part, as did Anthony Richardson before getting hurt in Indy — and that even includes Ridder and Jordan Love in Green Bay.

You gotta play 'em and see if they can handle it. Will they make mistakes sure, but Yogi told us that potential is a French word that means you ain't done nothing yet.

So this means Tennessee needs to see if Will Levis can do this, because it's becoming pretty clear that Tannehill no longer can.

And standing over looking good in a ball cap and holding a clipboard is great. But you have to know. And when you know you know.

And when you don't you don't.

Because with Williams leading the charge next spring at the draft — I love the draft you know this — there are a slew of cats who carry themselves like QB1s.

Would you rather have Washington's Michael Penix Jr. or Zach Wilson?

Would you rather have Williams or Ridder?

Would you rather have Drake Maye or Jimmy G?

Would you rather have Jordan Travis or Tannehill or Mayfield?

To put a Shawshank spin on the football issues, either get busy winning or get real busy losing, fellas. Because if you get real busy losing, there is a savior at the end of that trail.

The actual power poll

Well, that got long. Sorry, it happens.

As for the monster divide between the good and cruddy teams in the NFL, there's also this little tidbit:

Do not be as scared of the double-digit point spreads as you once were.

No one likes to lay more than 10 in the NFL, because the backdoor cover is always open. I get it.

But Sunday, when the Chiefs visit the Jets and lay double digits is there anyway you could back the Jets?

Same question when the 49ers host the Cardinals?

Like the firemen when the bell rings, let's head to the polls.

1. Philadelphia (3-0). Anyone have any more questions about how good Jalen Carter is? And gang, could we be to the place that the Eagles have put the interchangeable RB prism on their D-line? Philly led the NFL in sacks in 2022 and spent two more first-rounders on elite DLs/pass rushers.

2. Miami (3-0). The Dolphins are electric fast, and speed doesn't slump.

3. San Francisco (3-0). Want to see common thread between these three? Each has fully embraced the needs and style of offensive-minded coaches. Depth at RB. A dude at TE. Complete game-wreckers at WR1 in Samuel, Hill and AJ Brown.

4. Detroit (2-1). Great balance and roster depth make the Lions good. Jared Goff being QB1 make them unpredictable. Head coach Dan-imal Campbell make them must-see TV.

5. Kansas City (2-1). OK, all the "You are what your record says you are" beliefs aside, if you were forced to pick one NFL team between now and lunch on Thursday and bet a significant amount of money for you — for some of us that could be $1,000, for muckety-mucks like BeardDawg that could need another comma — to win the Super Bowl, are you really picking against Andy Reid and Patty Mahomes and Mr. Taylor Swift?


28. and 29. The New Yorks (1-2). I know it's going to break a lot of your hearts, but the sports landscape in the Big Apple is downright awful. For only the third time since the Mets have been in existence, both NYC baseball teams will miss the playoffs. The Jets and the Giants are rotten and play in the two best divisions in football. Yikes.

30. Carolina (0-3). Hey, in-state Panthers fans, good news: College hoops practice started today.

31. Chicago (0-3). So the DC quits. The QB1 holds a news conference and says the coaches are allowing him to play freely then calls another one to clarify his statements and say he doesn't point fingers. The HC backs the QB and announces he'll call the defense and that leads to Chiefs 41, Bears 10. How nasty will Sunday be when the Bears host ... ?

32. Denver (0-3). You give up 70 points and more than 700 yards in roughly 50 minutes of game-action you likely should be placed 64th, but there are only 32 teams. Maybe they could relegate and move Georgia into Denver's spot.

Super Swift

Let's discuss the elephant(s) in the room that include Taylor Swift's emergence off the pop stage into our little corner of the world.

First, not sure how good a singer Taylor is compared to some of the all-time songbirds of the past 20-plus years.

But she's a brilliant songwriter with maybe the best connection to her generation of anyone since a young Dylan.

And she and whoever is around her have marketed her and her brand to a place that she will likely make a $1 billion.

But several stories this week have found my news feed regarding Taylor Swift.

I mean, we're used to the NFL generating a ton of headlines. But this is a whole other kettle of fish.

Check this out:

— Travis Kelce — I like the idea of the Tra-ylor power couple nickname — rented out a whole KC restaurant for the post-game shindig Sunday.

— Swifties have taken to social media and are wondering if Brittany Mahomes is already jealous and trying to one up Taylor.

— Swift's presence in the NFL even got renowned grump Coach Bill Belichick to weigh in. Coach Hoodie, when asked about Tra-ylor, said, "Well, I would say that Travis Kelce has had a lot of big catches in his career. This would be the biggest."

And while we're here, another Swift line item on the major online news feeds was a reported feud brewing between Swift and the Donald Trump campaign.

Here's the backstory debunking the allegations that Trumpers were making that Taylor was bad-mouthing the Donald. In truth, she said very little about Trump and mainly focused on Marsha Blackburn in this video, which is several years old.

Somehow it became a social media thing, and the MAGA crowd came out swinging.

Which begs a couple very interesting questions:

— Who wins the online fight, Swifties or Trumpers?

— Is it smart, if you are looking to win what will assuredly be a nail-biting primary process and then a general election in 14 months for anyone involved in your campaign to pick a fight with someone with almost 250 million social media followers?

This and that

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on Alabama's up-and-down QB situation.

— Braves get back in action tonight, and want to know a fun story line: They could have a big hand in keeping former shortstop Dansby Swanson and the Cubs out of the in these next three games.

— Logistics, smajistics. Brooks Koepka — the only LIV player on either Ryder Cup team — not being the "welcome to Italy" Team U.S. photo has a real awkward vibe to it if you ask me.

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday.

True or false, you've had your fill of Taylor Swift and the NFL stuff.

True or false, you've had your fill of Deion Sanders and Colorado.

True or false, you've had your fill of Megan Rapinoe.

True or false, there's nothing to the Brooks Koepka's absence from the Team U.S. photo.

True or false, you'd still pick the Chiefs to win it all. (Is that because you are a closet Swiftie like Spy?)

True or false, Sean Payton is overrated.

While it's not true or false, I am curious in where your money would go in a social media donnybrook of Swifties v. Trumpers? Discuss.

As for today, Sept. 26, let's review.

Serena is 42 today.

Paul Newman died on this day 15 years ago. What a class dude. We did his Rushmore five years ago today as a matter of fact.

Craig Heyward would have been 57 today. Most called him Ironhead.

Rushmore of best nicknames for NFL running backs. Go.