NFL Power Rankings: Week 9
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, 7-1 (last week’s ranking: 1) – The top team in the NFL is without a doubt the New England Patriots. After suffering their only loss of the season to the Bills in Week 4, the Patriots redeemed themselves by crushing them in Buffalo. They’re firing on all cylinders right now. Tom Brady is playing lights out. The defense is playing well, too. I don’t know if I see the Patriots losing another game this season. They can’t possibly lose next week, as they have their bye week.
2. Denver Broncos, 6-2 (last week’s ranking: 3) – The best defense in football clearly resides in Denver. The Broncos are so dominant on defense, it’s scary. Their combination of pass rush and coverage is a nightmare for any opposing quarterback. Their offense certainly could be better though. While they have a good running game and talented receivers, Trevor Siemian is holding them back. Just imagine how good this team could be with a good quarterback. They would be unstoppable. The Broncos face a crucial divisional matchup in Oakland next Sunday.
3. Dallas Cowboys, 6-1 (last week’s ranking: 5) – For the first time in his young career, Dak Prescott was put in a situation where he was playing from behind and it was up to him to get his team back in the game and notch a comeback victory. He struggled for the first three quarters of their game Sunday night against the Eagles, but turned it around when his team needed it most, throwing a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime to earn his team a hard-fought victory. It was a good sign for the young signal-caller, who has benefitted from a great offensive line and the league’s best running game for much of his first season. If he can play like that, there’s nothing this offense can’t do. But I will say this: the Cowboys would still be a better team with Tony Romo under center. The Cowboys should have no problem handling the winless Browns next week.
4. Seattle Seahawks, 4-2-1 (last week’s ranking: 2) – The Seahawks suffered a tough loss at the hands of the Saints in the Superdome on Sunday. While that is a very tough place to play, the Seahawks are a much better team and should’ve won anyway. Their problem? The offense. The Seahawks’ offense has been a weakness for much of the season, struggling to put points on the board while their defense has been nothing short of excellent. They managed just 13 points against the Saints’ pathetic defense. This happening just a week after they managed just six points in an overtime tie with the Cardinals. The biggest issues for Seattle offensively are their offensive line and the health of Russell Wilson. Wilson is typically able to overcome poor offensive line play by using his feet to avoid pressure, but with his sprained knee hampering him, he’s not able to do that. Wilson needs to start playing better within the pocket as they face a tough Bills defense on Monday night.
5. Atlanta Falcons, 5-3 (last week’s ranking: 7) – In what was one of the better games of the week, the Falcons topped the Packers 33-32. It was a pretty typical game between these teams, as both offenses were moving up and down the field with ease. This has been the story for the Falcons all season. They boast the NFL’s top offense, but their defense can’t stop a nosebleed. If Matt Ryan can keep up his current level of play, this team can go very far. They play on Thursday night against the Bucs.
6. Kansas City Chiefs, 5-2 (last week’s ranking: 8) – Despite losing Alex Smith on two separate occasions in their game against the Colts, the Chiefs notched a very strong victory. It was a very physical game as several players from both teams left with injuries, but the Chiefs proved to be the more physical, talented, and well coached team. Nick Foles was forced to step in for Smith, and the Chiefs’ offense didn’t miss a beat. Their defense was able to control the game simply by getting after Andrew Luck. They sacked him six times and kept him constantly under pressure. As long as the Chiefs can continue this type of play, they can beat anyone. Next week’s matchup with the Jags should be a piece of cake.
7. Oakland Raiders, 6-2 (last week’s ranking: 9) – What a wild win for the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. It was beginning to look like the NFL was going to have its third tie of the season, but Derek Carr connected with Seth Roberts on a 41-yard touchdown to win the game with just 1:45 remaining in overtime. Carr was incredible in this game, as he has been for much of the season, tossing for 513 yards and four touchdowns. The Raiders’ offense is among the league’s best and as long as they keep playing like this, they’ll have an opportunity to win plenty of games. Their defense has been a problem and it’ll hurt them against better quarterbacks, but the Raiders are a couple years away from becoming one of the league’s top contenders. They have a great opportunity to prove themselves as contenders for this year when they face off against the Broncos next Sunday night.
8. Minnesota Vikings, 5-2 (last week’s ranking: 4) – After such an incredible start, the Vikings have dropped their last two games against the Eagles and the lowly Bears. I think this is more because the Vikings are coming back down to earth, rather than playing below expectations. During their fast start, the Vikes’ offense was playing way better than anyone could’ve anticipated. Sam Bradford was looking like a top quarterback after struggling for most of the last couple years. It was simply too good to be true. While they still have an elite defense, their offense is terrible. Their offensive line has been so bad, even Adrian Peterson would struggle to run behind it if he was healthy. With all the injuries they have offensively, it’s no surprise their struggling. We’ll see if they can turn it around against the Lions next week.
9. Arizona Cardinals, 3-4-1 (last week’s ranking: 6) – The Cardinals were coming off an absolute slugfest in their last game against the Seahawks, then they had to face a Panthers team fresh off their bye week. The Cards fell behind 24-0 and had to play in “comeback mode” for the rest of the game. They were forced to abandon the run and that allowed the Panthers to rush Carson Palmer relentlessly. Palmer, who was sacked a whopping eight times, still managed to turn in a fine game, as many quarterbacks do against the Panthers’ secondary. The Cardinals are still among the league’s most talented teams, they’re just struggling right now. Hopefully they can get their season turned around after their bye week.
10. Green Bay Packers, 4-3 (last week’s ranking: 10) – It’s been a tough season so far for the Packers, as they’ve dealt with several key injuries each week and they’ve also had a very tough schedule to this point. The just narrowly lost to the Falcons in Atlanta. Aaron Rodgers is looking more like his usual self and the Packers’ offense has finally gotten going, despite having no healthy running backs. Their defense has struggled mightily in recent weeks, partially due to health, partially due to lack of talent. They were missing all three of their top cornerbacks in Atlanta as well as Clay Mathews. Overall, the unit just hasn’t been able to generate a consistent pass rush and with an unhealthy secondary, they struggle to hold their own in coverage as well. This team is still good enough to be a playoff team, but they need to get healthy first. They host the Colts next week.
11. Buffalo Bills, 4-4 (last week’s ranking: 11) – The Bills were crushed at the hands of the Patriots on Sunday, losing 41-25. Their defense was no match for the offensive juggernaut that is the Brady-led Patriots, but that’s no surprise. Other than this performance, their defense has been really good this year. Their offense actually had some success in this game, as they have in recent weeks, despite missing their two best playmakers in LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins. The Bills are still an above average team, they just had a tough matchup this week. It won’t get any easier next week, though, as they have to travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks.
12. Houston Texans, 5-3 (last week’s ranking: 15) – Facing the Lions this week, the Texans got the win they needed to remain atop the AFC South. This team may be missing their best player (J.J. Watt), but they’re still immensely talented. Their defense is still really good, especially against opposing quarterbacks. Their secondary is starting to come together and their pass rush has been excellent behind Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney. Where this team needs to start improving is on offense and it’s mainly on Brock Osweiler to get it done. They have plenty of talent around him, starting with DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller, but he has played so poorly that many people are calling him the biggest bust of the offseason. It remains to be seen if he can improve, but he’s going to have to if this team wants to be taken as serious contenders. They’re on bye next week.
13. Philadelphia Eagles, 4-3 (last week’s ranking: 12) – It’s been quite an up-and-down season for the Eagles. They were flying high after a 3-0 start, including a convincing win over the Steelers. Then, after their bye week, they lost two straight games to the Redskins and Lions, only to follow those games up with a win over the unbeaten Vikings. Now, after an overtime loss to the Cowboys, the Eagles are back to looking like they don’t belong among the upper-echelon of NFL squads. Their offense lacks explosiveness. Carson Wentz has become this dink-and-dunk quarterback that never attempts passes further than 15 yards downfield. He managed just 202 yards on a whopping 43 attempts in their game on Sunday night. Their offensive line isn’t what it used to be and their run game has been subpar this season. Defensively, they have a great front seven and a strong pair of safeties, but, as a unit, they’re not good enough to cover for this offense. Next week’s game against the Giants is a crucial one for this team.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers, 4-3 (last week’s ranking: 13) – The Steelers had a much needed bye week this week. They’re battling a few injuries, including one to Ben Roethlisberger. His timetable to return is still unknown, so as long as he remains injured, the Steelers will most likely remain outside the top ten. They’ll take on the rival Ravens next week.
15. Cincinnati Bengals, 3-4-1 (last week’s ranking: 14) – Another tie. I cannot believe it. For the second week in a row, two teams battled it out into overtime and neither failed to come out on top. The Bengals, facing the Redskins, could’ve had a chance to win the game in regulation had Andy Dalton not been picked off in the end zone in the fourth quarter. He also fumbled in overtime when the Bengals were moving into Redskins territory. It seemed like the Bengals were the better team in this game, but they failed to seize it. They’ve been the most consistently average team in the NFL so they’ll most likely continue to hover around the middle of these rankings. They have their bye next week.
16. New York Giants, 4-3 (last week’s ranking: 16) – The Giants were also on bye this week. It came at a good time for them, as it gave them an extra week to prepare for the division rival Eagles next Sunday.
17. Washington Redskins, 4-3-1 (last week’s ranking: 17) – The other team involved in that London tie, the Redskins actually had a legitimate chance to win the game. Their kicker, Dustin Hopkins, missed a 34-yard field goal in overtime. The Redskins would’ve won had he just made that kick. The Skins missed out on being in sole possession of second place in the NFC East. They’ve been a decent team this season, but with how well the Cowboys are playing, it doesn’t look like they’ll repeat as division champs. Kirk Cousins is the key to this team’s success. When he plays well, they look like a playoff team and when he plays poorly, they look like a below average team. They still have a shot at the postseason; it’s just up to Cousins. They have a bye next week.
18. San Diego Chargers, 3-5 (last week’s ranking: 18) – The Chargers never really stood a chance against the Broncos in Denver this Sunday. A late pick-six by Casey Heyward made the score look more respectable, but the Chargers never really had a chance. Philip Rivers looked like a rookie against that vaunted Broncos defense. The Chargers’ defense has actually been much better lately and this game was no different for them. The Broncos may have scored 27 points, but they too had a pick-six and Rivers threw another interception that set up the Broncos at the 10-yard-line which led to another touchdown. Ever since Joey Bosa was activated, the Chargers’ defense has seen much improvement. We’ll see if this trend continues in their matchup against the Titans next Sunday.
19. New Orleans Saints, 3-4 (last week’s ranking: 24) – Pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the week, the Saints beat the Seahawks 25-20. Their offense was good, as usual. That won’t change as long as Brees is around, especially with the weapons he has. The Saints are often let down by their defense, but they held up well this week. They gave up some big plays, but overall, did what they had to do to win. It remains to be seen if the Saints’ defense can actually be decent for once and they’ll likely go back to giving up a ton of points. Although, that probably won’t happen next week as they face the 49ers.
20. Detroit Lions, 4-4 (last week’s ranking: 19) – One of the more inconsistent teams in football, the Lions struggled against the Texans this week. Their defense has been rather steady for much of the season. They have some talent on that side of the ball, but as a unit, they’re just not very good. It’s really up to the offense to decide the fate of this team. When Matt Stafford plays well, this offense is so explosive. They can be among the league’s top offenses when they’re at their best. They had a tough time against the Texans, which was the main reason they lost. It won’t get any easier for their offense either, as they have to travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings next week.
21. Carolina Panthers, 2-5 (last week’s ranking: 25) – Coming off their bye week, the Panthers won in convincing fashion against the Cardinals. The Panthers got back to what made them so successful last season, using their excellent front seven and strong running game to win. While their secondary was still lit up by Carson Palmer, their front seven sacked him eight times as well as shut down David Johnson on the ground. Offensively, Jonathan Stewart ran for 95 yards and a pair of scores. Cam Newton wasn’t great, but against a tough Cardinals defense, he did what his team needed him to do for them to win. If they can keep up this type of play, they’ll rise back up the rankings in no time. They have a good opportunity to continue their ascent against the Rams next week.
22. Los Angeles Rams, 3-4 (last week’s ranking: 21) – The Rams lost three straight games before their bye this week. Now they have to face a Panthers team that looks like they figured out their recipe for success.
23. Baltimore Ravens, 3-4 (last week’s ranking: 22) – Similarly to the Rams, the Ravens got off to a hot start before dropping three straight games prior to their bye this week. Next Sunday they’ll face a Steelers team that may or may not have Ben Roethlisberger.
24. Indianapolis Colts, 3-5 (last week’s ranking: 20) – The Colts were no match for the Chiefs on Sunday, losing by a score of 30-14. Several key players were out with injuries before the game and a few others left the game with injuries. Despite the injuries, the real reason the Colts lost was because Andrew Luck wasn’t at his best. When he doesn’t play well, this team doesn’t stand a chance, especially against the team like the Chiefs. Their young offensive line has been terrible, especially without Jack Mewhort. The defense has been one of the NFL’s worst as they can’t stop the run or get any heat on the quarterback. Their secondary isn’t bad and neither is their defensive line (at least when healthy), but their linebacker core is among the league’s worst and it shows. They essentially need to be carried by Andrew Luck, who has had a great season. Until the team improves around him, this is who they are. Their disappointing season will probably continue against the Packers next week.
25. Tennessee Titans, 4-4 (last week’s ranking: 23) – On Thursday night, the Titans had no problem handling the Jaguars. The game was never close as the Titans led 27-0 at the half. Their run game has been excellent this year and the draft picks they’ve used on the offensive line in recent years is starting to pay off. Once this offense adds some more legitimate playmakers around Marcus Mariota, they’ll be dangerous. Mariota also has to continue to improve, but that’ll happen with time. Their defense has been really good this year too. They’ve been great getting after the quarterback. They’ll be competitive if they can keep up this type of play. They have a decent shot at winning against the Chargers next week.
26. Miami Dolphins, 3-4 (last week’s ranking: 26) – The Dolphins had their bye week this week. Next week’s matchup with the Jets is a big game for both teams.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3-4 (last week’s ranking: 27) – It was a tough, tough loss the Bucs suffered this week at the hand of the Raiders. Losing in overtime is rough, especially when it’s on an inexcusable touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. They allowed Seth Roberts to catch a short pass, break a pair of tackles, and sprint 41 yards for the game-winning score. Their defense was absolutely lit up by Derek Carr as they allowed 513 yards and four touchdowns. They were playing well against quarterbacks in recent weeks, but that should be taken with a grain of salt as they faced Blaine Gabbert, Derek Anderson, and Trevor Siemian. They were able to keep up with the Raiders offensively and their offense has been pretty decent this year. This team is just not talented enough to keep up with good teams consistently. They face the Falcons on Thursday night.
28. New York Jets, 3-5 (last week’s ranking: 28) – I just can’t move the Jets up after a three point win over the Browns. I just can’t do it. That isn’t impressive at all. I’m almost inclined to move them down because it was so close. While their offense played well, that’s no surprise against the Browns’ pathetic defense. The Jets’ defense, however, allowed the Browns to score 28 points. That’s not good. Their offense won’t play that well most weeks, so their defense has to be better than that. Hopefully it will be in their matchup with the Dolphins next week.
29. Chicago Bears, 2-6 (last week’s ranking: 30) – The Bears pulled off the biggest upset of the week, topping the Bears 20-10. Jay Cutler returned for the first time since Week 2 and he actually played rather well. The real reason for their offensive success this week was Jordan Howard. He was an absolute monster, putting up 202 total yards (153 rushing and 49 receiving) and a rushing touchdown. He was incredible against a very tough Vikings defense. The Bears’ defense played very well, too. The held the Vikings to just 10 points and did it by shutting down the run and getting in the face of Sam Bradford. The Bears actually have a pretty good front seven, but their secondary is terrible. If their pass rush can keep playing like this, though, that won’t matter. Overall the Bears aren’t a great team, but I don’t think they’re really that bad either. They have their bye next week.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars, 2-5 (last week’s ranking: 29) – Nobody expected the Jaguars to be a legitimate playoff contender this season, but they weren’t supposed to be this bad. This team is so young and has a ton of upside, but it hasn’t turned into production. Blake Bortles has regressed big time. His numbers looked good in their Thursday night loss to the Titans, but that was only because he tossed a pair of touchdowns late in the fourth quarter when the game was already way out of hand. His regression has hurt the team more than anything else and it may get Gus Bradley fired. Now this team has to go to Kansas City to face the Chiefs.
31. San Francisco 49ers, 1-6 (last week’s ranking: 31) – The 49ers got a week off from losing as they had their bye this week. Next week they host the Saints.
32. Cleveland Browns, 0-8 (last week’s ranking: 32) – It doesn’t get much worse for the Browns. It seems like they’ve had some close losses this season, but most of the time, they don’t have a chance of winning. This may have been their best opportunity. Facing the struggling Jets, at home, was a decent matchup. They kept it close, losing by a score of 31-28, but they just couldn’t come out on top. They may go winless this year and there isn’t much they can do about it. They’ve been rotating through quarterbacks faster than most teams do in a decade. They simply lack talent on both sides of the ball after letting most of their good players leave in free agency this offseason. They’re just not a good team and now they have to host the Cowboys next week.