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NFL Power Rankings: Week 8

Model: Paola (Photo by Double G Media)

Model: Paola (Photo by Double G Media)

 

The more games that have been played this season, the less I feel I know about football. There’s just so much parody in the NFL these days and it has been harder and harder to predict the outcome of games each week. Anything can and will happen and the saying “Any given Sunday” has never been more accurate. As we get further into the season, teams will reveal themselves as either true contenders or frauds. I’ll do my best to rank them. Here we go.

1. New England Patriots, 6-1 (last week’s ranking: 2) – Is there any team scarier than the Patriots right now? I’m not sure any team can stop them. They’re on fire since Tom Brady returned and this offense is looking like the best it’s been since Brady became the Pats’ starter. Rob Gronkowski is the ultimate weapon. The Pats are playing pretty well defensively too, so they are really the most complete team in football right now. They’ve certainly earned the top spot. They have a chance to avenge their lone loss of the season to the Bills next week.

2. Seattle Seahawks, 4-1-1 (last week’s ranking: 3) – I honestly don’t know what to make of that debacle that happened on Sunday night. A 6-6 tie? Yuck! Obviously the Seahawks’ defense was incredibly impressive as it has been for years now. Offensively, they’ve been a pretty good team, but the play of the offensive line, as well as the sprained knee that Russell Wilson is playing through, has been hampering them. What made their game against the Cardinals so crazy was that both teams should’ve won the game. Both kickers missed chip shots in overtime, leading to the tie. If there’s a team that can rival the Patriots as the NFL’s “most complete team”, it’s the Seahawks. They’ll head to New Orleans next week to take on the Saints.

3. Denver Broncos, 5-2 (last week’s ranking: 5) – The Broncos ended their two-game losing streak on Monday night against the Texans, looking more like the team that was so dominant in the first four weeks. Their defense was fantastic, as it has been all season, and their offense was much better in this game than it was in their two losses. Trevor Siemian is at his best when he doesn’t have to do much and that was the situation on Monday, as the Broncos ran the ball down the Texans’ throat and allowed their defense to take over the game. This is what the Broncos want to do when they take on the field. They’ll look to do that and avenge their loss to the Chargers last week when they face them again this week.

4. Minnesota Vikings, 5-1 (last week’s ranking: 1) – The NFL’s lone unbeaten team, the Vikings fell to the Eagles on Sunday. Their flaws were obvious in this game. It’s all on the offense (and in this game, a bit on special teams). Their defense was still fantastic, allowing just one touchdown drive, forcing three turnovers, and keeping plenty of pressure on Carson Wentz. That side of the ball is clearly not the problem. Their special teams unit allowed a kick return touchdown (and also muffed a punt) and the offense was putrid, turning the ball over three times. Without Adrian Peterson, the Vikes have no run game. Their offensive line has been one of the NFL’s worst this season. Sam Bradford was simply a story that was too good to be true. He’s never been anything more than an average quarterback and he came crashing down to earth on Sunday. As long as their defense is lights out, though, they can beat anyone. Next week’s game in Chicago should be no problem.

5. Dallas Cowboys, 5-1 (last week’s ranking: 6) – The Cowboys were on bye this week, but they move up because the Falcons lost to the Chargers. Fresh off they bye, they’ll face a divisional matchup with the Eagles on Sunday night.

6. Arizona Cardinals, 3-3-1 (last week’s ranking: 11) – The team on the other end of the tie, the Cardinals move up significantly. They didn’t move up because of the tie, but they moved up because, to me, they look like the team that people were expecting to see coming into the season. Their defense looks great. Last year, they had a great secondary and were excellent against the run, but they were missing that key pass rusher to get heat on the quarterback. They’ve got him now in Chandler Jones. They certainly have one of the best defenses in football. On offense, they’re still incredibly explosive. David Johnson is a candidate for offensive player of the year. Carson Palmer is struggling a bit, especially with his concussion issues, but he’s still a good quarterback. They’ve got plenty of talented receivers and a good offensive line. This team is has made a sharp turnaround since their 1-3 start. They look good and they’ll take on the struggling Panthers next week.

7. Atlanta Falcons, 4-3 (last week’s ranking: 4) – Falcons fans have all got to be thinking the same thing, “Is this a repeat of 2015?” Last season, the Falcons started off hot, winning their first five games, only to collapse and finish 8-8. This year, they started 4-1, but have dropped their last two games. They were looking like a legit team after beating the Broncos in Denver and narrowly losing to the Seahawks in Seattle. However, after this loss to the Chargers at home, they may not be a legitimate contender after all. Their offense was a dominant as it has been and I’m certainly not questioning their ability on that side of the ball. Defensively, though, they just aren’t good enough to stop good offenses. Philip Rivers tore their defense apart. They’ve been better against the run, but outside of Vic Beasly, they don’t generate enough pass rush to stop opposing quarterbacks. They’ve still done very well with a tough schedule, and it continues next week against the Packers.

8. Kansas City Chiefs, 4-2 (last week’s ranking: 8) – The Chiefs have just been going about their usual business this season. The run the ball as well as anyone, no matter who is in the backfield. Jamaal Charles has hardly played this season, but Spencer Ware has stepped up big time. Alex Smith is his usual “game-managing” self, not turning the ball over and getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers. The Chiefs are playing great defense, too. Their front seven is still great and their secondary has been improving as well. They’ll give up points, but they make big plays too. Against the Saints, they struggled to stop Drew Brees, but the one play they made on him was a pick-six and it ended up being the difference in the game. They’ll hope to continue their strong play against the Colts next week.

9. Oakland Raiders, 5-2 (last week’s ranking: 10) – Another game that didn’t have a surprising outcome, the Raiders smacked the Jaguars, in Jacksonville, on Sunday. Led by the emerging Derek Carr, a talented group of receivers, and a great offensive line, the Raiders tend to live and die by their offense. They scored 33 points in this game so it was no problem. The Raiders simply need a better defense to compliment this high-powered offense. They should have no problem handling the Bucs next week.

10. Green Bay Packers, 4-2 (last week’s ranking: 12) – It wasn’t looking good for the Packers early in the third quarter on Thursday night. Aaron Rodgers just lost a fumble and the Bears recovered for a touchdown, giving them a 10-6 lead. The Packers had been struggling all season, especially on offense, and were now struggling against the Bears. Then, something clicked, and Aaron Rodgers led the runningback-less Packers to 20 straight points to take home a 26-10 victory. Rodgers still has an excellent offense around him so as long as he plays well, they’ll be tough to stop. Rodgers had been playing the worst football of his career, but if he turns it around now, there’s still a chance this Packers team can be serious contenders. They’ll have a shot to prove it against the Falcons next Sunday.

11. Buffalo Bills, 4-3 (last week’s ranking: 9) – What happened there? The Bills were doing just fine. They had a 17-6 lead in the third quarter. They were playing the Dolphins. They had been riding a four game winning streak. It looked like it would be an easy victory. All of a sudden, Rex Ryan’s team collapsed, allowing three straight touchdown drives to a Dolphins’ offense that they had held in check all game. The Bills’ defense is still great, but they clearly have trouble stopping the run, as they allowed Jay Ajayi to rush for 214 yards. With their best offensive player, LeSean McCoy, hampered by a hamstring injury, their offense wasn’t as good as it could have been and if he misses significant time, they could be in trouble. They’ve got a tough matchup next week against the Patriots.

12. Philadelphia Eagles, 4-2 (last week’s ranking: 15) – Is it just me or do the Eagles have a knack for getting big plays against good teams? This was exactly what happened last year when they knocked off the Patriots and it happened again on Sunday when they beat the unbeaten Vikings. On Sunday, the Eagles returned a kickoff for a touchdown, recovered a muffed punt, and also managed to force Sam Bradford into committing three turnovers (one interception, two fumbles). They were all over their former quarterback, sacking him six times. The Eagles certainly matched up well with the Vikings in this aspect, but their offense still struggled, as it has in recent weeks. In my opinion, this team just isn’t as good as their record shows. We’ll see how they fare against the very impressive Cowboys next Sunday night.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers, 4-3 (last week’s ranking: 7) – Without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers just aren’t the same team. When Big Ben is healthy, their offense is one of the best in the league. They have, in my opinion, the NFL’s best running back in Le’Veon Bell as well as the NFL’s best receiver in Antonio Brown. Those two can still be successful with Landry Jones under center, but there isn’t enough around them to give Jones a complete enough offense to succeed. Their offense often covers up the flaws of their defense as well. Their defense can afford to give up 27 points when the offense is scoring 30 or more. This team simply isn’t good enough to survive an extended period of time without Roethlisberger, so hopefully, for their sake, he comes back soon. They have their bye week next week so at least that’s one more week they don’t have to worry about losing without him.

14. Cincinnati Bengals, 3-4 (last week’s ranking: 16) – Surprise, surprise. The Bengals beat the Browns. It was certainly a game that no one needed to watch because everyone knew what was going to happen. The Bengals offense looked really good for the first time in a few weeks, though. A.J. Green was unstoppable and the tandem of Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill killed it on the ground. Hill was especially impressive, racking up 168 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries. Defensively, the Bengals actually didn’t look that great, as they had trouble containing Kevin Hogan, a rookie quarterback who was thrust into the game when Cody Kessler left with an injury. Hogan wasn’t a problem so much throwing the ball as he was running it. He carried the ball seven times for 104 yards and a score. The Bengals just aren’t as good on defense as they used to be and their offense isn’t good enough to support them against better teams. Their game against the Redskins next week should be a decent test for them.

15. Houston Texans, 4-3 (last week’s ranking: 13) – Sheesh. Brock Osweiler looks like he might be the worst free agent signing of the offseason. He only started seven games for the Denver Broncos and the Texans rewarded him with a four-year $72 million deal. He has, in return, given the Texans terrible quarterback play. The only time he has looked impressive was on the Texans’ final three possessions in their big comeback win against the Colts’ soft defense last week. Other than that, he’s been rather awful. The Texans have a pretty good team around him too. Lamar Miller is a great running back. DeAndre Hopkins is one of the league’s top young receivers. They have a great pass rush even without J.J. Watt (although they are certainly missing his stout run defense) and their secondary is very good as well. This team would be a contender with a good quarterback. Too bad that’s not Osweiler. They host the Lions next week.

16. New York Giants, 4-3 (last week’s ranking: 18) – One of the most inconsistent teams in football right now, the G-Men notched a win against the Rams early on Sunday morning. Defensively, the Giants looked great, registering three sacks and four interceptions. They certainly have talent on their defense, especially their defensive line and their secondary. Even with this talent, they’ve been very inconsistent on defense this season, playing well against bad teams like the Rams, but playing poorly against teams like the Packers. The Giants’ offense has been a huge disappointment so far this year. They’ve had absolutely no run game, managing just 117 total rushing yards in their last three games COMBINED. Their offensive line has done an excellent job of pass blocking, but Eli Manning hasn’t taken advantage, as he is having one of his worst seasons. Odell Beckham is the only proven weapon on this offense right now. The G-Men are on bye next week.

17. Washington Redskins, 4-3 (last week’s ranking: 14) – I think the Redskins are one of the league’s biggest frauds. They just don’t look like a legitimate playoff team. Their loss to the Lions proves it. Kirk Cousins couldn’t take advantage of a poor Lions’ pass defense. The Redskins’ run game has been inconsistent at best. Defensively, they stop the run well, but outside of Josh Norman, they don’t have much talent in the secondary. Their pass rush is decent, but Ryan Kerrigan needs help. This team just isn’t that talented. They’ll face the Bengals next week.

18. San Diego Chargers, 3-4 (last week’s ranking: 24) – After back to back impressive wins, the Chargers clearly need to be taken seriously. They’ve been in every game they’ve played this season. They couldn’t get out of their own way in their losses, either fumbling the game away or missing a tying field goal. They don’t have a great defense, but they have a good group of cornerbacks and Joey Bosa is making a huge impact. As long as they can get heat on the quarterback, they can slow down opposing passing games, which is a huge key to winning games in today’s NFL. As long as Philip Rivers is in San Diego, their offense will be good. It’s up to the defense to keep them in games. We’ll see if they can keep up their strong play in Denver next Sunday.

19. Detroit Lions, 4-3 (last week’s ranking: 21) – The Lions seem to have a knack for winning close games this year. The reason? Matt Stafford. He’s been as good as any other quarterback this season not named Tom Brady. He’s also been incredibly clutch, leading comebacks in all four of the Lions’ victories. Their offense around Stafford is the most deep it’s ever been. Once Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah come back from their injuries, their run game will get going, making their offense even more dangerous. Their defense has a lot of work to do, as they’ve had the worst pass defense in the NFL so far this season, but there’s certainly talent there. Their game in Houston next week should be a good one.

20. Indianapolis Colts, 3-4 (last week’s ranking: 22) – For the first time all season, the Colts’ defense made a play when they needed it most. The Colts lead 27-23 with just under two minutes remaining when backup defensive lineman T.Y. McGill sacked Marcus Mariota, knocking the ball out, and Robert Mathis recovered for a touchdown, putting them up 34-23 and putting the game out of reach. The Colts were great offensively, as they’ve been all season, but the defense is clearly lacking talent as well as discipline. Andrew Luck is having his best season yet, but he needs some help. The Colts face a tough matchup against the Chiefs next week.

21. Los Angeles Rams, 3-4 (last week’s ranking 20) – When will we see Jared Goff? Hopefully soon, because it can’t possibly get much worse than Case Keenum. He threw four picks against the Giants. One was a tipped ball but the other three were absolutely ugly. There’s no way Goff could possibly be worse. Goff probably would struggle at first because there just isn’t much talent on the Rams’ offense outside of Todd Gurley (who is struggling anyway), but he needs to get his reps if he’s going to become the future of this franchise. I’ve always thought it was better to just let rookie quarterbacks play. They best way to learn is to learn from experience. The Rams aren’t a playoff bound team, so they might as well let him play. Their defense is good, but unless they can hold teams to under ten points per game, they won’t win much. They’ve got their bye next week.

22. Baltimore Ravens, 3-4 (last week’s ranking: 17) – The Ravens were one of the teams I was never sold on and now it’s looking like I wasn’t wrong. They’ve dropped their last four games, all of which were fairly easy matchups. This recent loss to the Jets is rock bottom. The Ravens have a very good front seven, but that’s about it. They can’t run the ball with any consistency, Joe Flacco hasn’t been good this season, and he doesn’t have great weapons to throw to. All their receivers are guys who stretch the field and they don’t have enough chain-movers. Their secondary has been picked apart in recent weeks and they’ve allowed far too many big plays. After a hot start, this team has cooled off significantly. They’ll have a bye week to stop the bleeding.

23. Tennessee Titans, 3-4 (last week’s ranking: 20) – The Titans continue to look like a decent team this season, but the pieces just aren’t there yet for them to become a true playoff contender. Marcus Mariota has a lot of work to do before he proves himself as a legitimate franchise quarterback. He has simply been too inaccurate at times this season. The Titans have a great offensive line and their run game has been among the league’s best, giving Mariota a great offense to be in, but he has yet to capitalize. The Titans’ defense is solid, but they’ve struggled against good quarterbacks this season. This team could be good in a couple years, but right now, they’re merely average. They’ve got a good shot to win against the reeling Jags on Thursday Night Football.

24. New Orleans Saints, 2-4 (last week’s ranking: 23) – Drew Brees sure is playing some great football. The offense around Brees is the best it’s been in a couple years. The Saints have a top five or seven offense right now. Too bad their defense is among the worst in the league. They’ve been historically bad on the defensive side of the ball in the last couple seasons. This week, they lost a close game to the Chiefs in Kansas City. It’s a tough place to play and it wasn’t a bad loss, but their overall outlook on the season just isn’t very good. They host the Seahawks next week.

25. Carolina Panthers, 1-5 (last week’s ranking: 25) – The Panthers had their bye week this week and they sure needed it. They have got to turn their season around, starting with a win this Sunday against the Cardinals.

26. Miami Dolphins, 3-4 (last week’s ranking: 29) – Once again, the Dolphins have pulled off a huge upset victory. They’ve been getting absolutely carried by Jay Ajayi in the last two games, as he has become just the fourth running back in league history to rush for over 200 yards in back to back games. He ran for 214 against the Bills after going for 204 against the Steelers. The Fins’ offense has been much better the last couple weeks thanks to Ajayi and a healthy offensive line. The run game has helped take pressure off of Ryan Tannehill and he’s done a better job getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers. On the other side of the ball, the Fins’ pass rush has been the backbone of their defense. They were fortunate to face an injured Ben Roethlisberger in Week 6 and a banged up LeSean McCoy in Week 7, allowing their defense to be more aggressive. This team may have notched a nice pair of wins, but they just aren’t that good of a team. They’re on bye this week.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3-3 (last week’s ranking: 27) – The Bucs notched a win against the 49ers. Ho-hum. They looked good in the win, but everyone does against that team. If Jameis Winston can continue to make strides, this offense can be dangerous. They’ve been without Doug Martin for much of the year and they will be without Vincent Jackson for the rest of the season, yet this offense keeps moving. Jacquizz Rodgers has been huge the last two weeks and Mike Evans has been on a tear this season. The defense, however, has a lot of work to do. They’ve got a couple good playmakers like Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy, but that’s about it. They take on the Raiders next week.

28. New York Jets, 2-5 (last week’s ranking: 28) – After deciding to go with Geno Smith at quarterback, the Jets got a win over the Ravens. Only Smith left the game and was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick in the third quarter. Smith now has a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season, forcing the Jets to play the struggling Fitzpatrick at least until Bryce Petty can return from his injury. While the Jets scored 24 points in this game, the offense was still bad. They were set up for ten of those points by the defense and another seven of the points came on a play where Quincy Enunwa caught a short pass and dashed 69 yards for a score. The Jets’ defense was pretty good in this one, forcing a few key turnovers late and holding the Ravens to just 16 points. No one has questioned the talent the Jets have on their defensive line, but their secondary has been a problem this season. This is a performance the Jets can build on, but this game felt more like the Ravens giving it away rather than the Jets taking it. Now the Jets will travel to Cleveland to take on the pathetic Browns.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars, 2-4 (last week’s ranking: 26) – The main storyline in Jacksonville right now is the regression of Blake Bortles. After finished second in the NFL in touchdowns (35) last season, Bortles has struggled to the tune of just nine touchdowns in their six games, while throwing nine picks. His regression has hurt the entire offense, which is an offense that has so much upside. With an extremely talented, young, and deep receiving core, as well as a solid offensive line and a nice pair of running backs, there’s nothing the offense shouldn’t be able to do. The defense is similar to the offense, in the sense that they’re young and very talented. They just haven’t come together as a unit and it’s going to take some time because of how young they are. This was supposed to be the next up-and-coming team. Many compared them to the Raiders. However, with Bortles’ decline in play, they are nothing more than another NFL bottom-feeder. They’ll look to turn around their season against the Titans on Thursday.

30. Chicago Bears, 1-6 (last week’s ranking: 30) – Early in the third quarter, the Bears actually had a lead over the Packers. They were playing well defensively, forcing Aaron Rodgers to look uncomfortable for much of the first half. Leonard Floyd had a breakout game, sacking Rodgers twice while forcing him to fumble and recovering it for a touchdown. Unfortunately the Bears’ offense couldn’t back up their strong defense. Brian Hoyer left the game with a broken forearm and was replaced by Matt Barkley. From that point on, the offense was just ugly. The defense couldn’t keep up their strong play as they allowed 21 unanswered points to close out the game. The Bears will have Jay Cutler back this week, but that doesn’t make them any better. They’re definitely a long shot to upset the Vikings next Sunday night.

31. San Francisco 49ers, 1-6 (last week’s ranking: 31) – It’s been the same story for the last few weeks for the Niners. They score a touchdown on their first drive of the game, and then they completely fall apart and can’t do anything afterward. It’s almost like Chip Kelly uses every play in his arsenal on one drive and once the opposing defense figures it out, he doesn’t know what to do. Colin Kaepernick is clearly not the answer for this team, but they don’t have anyone on the roster who is. It’s certainly time to move on from him and find a new quarterback in next year’s draft. They have a few nice, young pieces on this roster, but they are a ways away from fielding a competent team. They’re off next week so at least they can go one week without losing.

32. Cleveland Browns, 0-7 (last week’s ranking: 32) – Oh, the Browns. Does it get any worse than this? It’s sad, because the Browns have already used six different quarterbacks this season (if you include Terrelle Pryor). Cody Kessler left the game and was replaced by another rookie, Kevin Hogan. Hogan made some nice plays with his legs, but he clearly is not a starting caliber quarterback. No one on this roster is. It feels like this team has been rebuilding for years now. When will they finally figure it out? When will they learn how to draft? No one knows. What I do know is that it is totally possible that they become the second team in NFL history to go winless for an entire season. Next week’s game against the Jets is actually a decent opportunity to avoid that.

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Photo of the Month – September

(Photo by Robert Samuels - Double G Media)

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