NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Where Does Every Team Stand?
One week ago, it seemed that we knew for sure who the top teams were in the NFL, and likewise we knew who the bottom-feeders were. Oh, how things change.
Week 7 of the NFL season brought big upsets, big injuries and big changes to our weekly power rankings. Losses by the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins mean we'll see major movement in the top 15. On the other hand, wins by the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers means we're seeing teams in the bottom 10 make a move up.
What's perhaps most surprising is that there are still three winless teams heading into Monday night. The Giants have a chance to cut that number to two, but you should be able to take a good guess at which teams make up the bottom of the rankings.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6)
This Week's Rank: 32
Last Week's Rank: 31
Even when facing an opponent with a gutted offense (the Atlanta Falcons), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers find a way to lose, which is quite the accomplishment.
When you look at the Buccaneers roster, it's tough to imagine them being this bad. And yet they are. The Tampa roster is made up of quality individual talents, but when put together and asked to win a game, they fall apart. But this isn't about the talent as much as it is an indictment of the coaching.
Greg Schiano and friends aren't long for the NFL. Even after a week in which we saw offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan open things up and get production, the overwhelming message is that this team hasn't won a ball game yet.
Heads will roll, and likely before the season ends.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-7)
This Week's Rank: 31
Last Week's Rank: 30
Another week, another double-digit loss. It's a sad state of affairs for the Jacksonville Jaguars. But like I do every week, I'd caution fans to remain patient. Ownership, the front office and the coaches are in place to turn things around. It just takes time.
The current roster may not feature many of the players the Jaguars will eventually win with, but Justin Blackmon, Luke Joeckel, Cecil Shorts and young secondary players Dwayne Gratz and Jonathan Cyprien are all building-block players.
Given time and draft picks, Gus Bradley will take the Jaguars from being a physical, tough football team to a winning, tough, physical team.
30. Minnesota Vikings (1-5)
This Week's Rank: 30
Last Week's Rank: 29
Another new starting quarterback, another loss for the Minnesota Vikings. Some things change; others are staying the same.
The Vikings have talent, which makes their bad play so surprising. Josh Freeman wasn't great at quarterback, or even good, but not much could have been expected from a quarterback making the move from one team to another in the middle of the season and being thrust into an offense he doesn't completely understand yet.
The other players on the team, though, have no excuse. Offensive linemen are missing easy blitz pick-ups. The coverage has been spotty. The pass rush, inconsistent.
Leslie Frazier's job is on the line.
29. New York Giants (1-6)
This Week's Rank: 29
Last Week's Rank: 32
The New York Giants finally get a win, and it just so happens to coincide with Eli Manning not throwing an interception. A recipe for success has been found!
The Giants also found contributions in the running game from an unlikely source—Peyton Hillis. While Hillis didn't dominate with big yards, his tough running and help as a receiver out of the backfield allowed the Giants to open things up on offense. While the Giants offense wasn't explosive and amazing, it was enough.
And in what may be the biggest shock of the year, the one-win Giants are only three games back in the NFC East.
28. Cleveland Browns (3-4)
This Week's Rank: 28
Last Week's Rank: 21
It should be no surprise that with Brandon Weeden under center, the Cleveland Browns go back to looking like the Cleveland Browns. The Brian Hoyer-less Browns, that is.
After winning three straight games, the Browns ran face-first into a beaten-up Green Bay Packers team. That was enough to slow them down, as Weeden played characteristically bad, and the defense struggled to stop Aaron Rodgers. The Browns are back to being a very beatable team with the struggling second-year quarterback under center.
27. Washington Redskins (2-4)
This Week's Rank: 27
Last Week's Rank: 28
Are the Washington Redskins back? Probably not, but beating the Chicago Bears (even without Jay Cutler) is still a win. And they needed one in the worst way.
Week 7 was the team's best showing to date, and in the contest, they brought out the balanced attack we saw work so well in 2012. Robert Griffin III made plays. The run game worked. The defense forced turnovers. That's the type of game Mike Shanahan and Co. will have to win consistently if they want to make the playoffs. Can they keep it up?
If the Redskins are going to put a run together and win a stretch of games, the whole team has to buy in and play like it did in Week 7. That's not going to be easy.
26. Houston Texans (2-5)
This Week's Rank: 26
Last Week's Rank: 27
The Houston Texans deserve credit for their play in Week 7, even if the result was a loss.
Heading into Arrowhead Stadium to face the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs is not an easy task. It's even more difficult when you're relying on a second-year quarterback who was No. 3 on the depth chart last week and had never made an NFL start. But Case Keenum played well, even without Arian Foster and Ben Tate in the backfield due to injury.
Keenum and the offense gave the Chiefs a scare and showed in the process that they may be better than their record would indicate. That said, at 2-5 things are starting to look bleak in Houston. We may see more of Keenum for the rest of the season, and less of Gary Kubiak after it.
25. Oakland Raiders (2-4)
This Week's Rank: 25
Last Week's Rank: 25
A Week 7 bye gives the Oakland Raiders time to heal, evaluate and game-plan for the rest of the season. At 2-4, they're not out of playoff contention, but Terrelle Pryor and the rest of the team must start winning immediately if they hope to make a second-half push.
That may seem impossible given the talent in the AFC West and the lack of skill on the Oakland depth chart, but anything is possible in the NFL. The goal for the Raiders in the second half of the season should be a playoff push and the development of young players. Learning what they have in Pryor and others is huge for their future.
So far, Pryor has earned the right to be the team's long-term quarterback. If the front office agrees, its job becomes much easier, as it can focus on stocking the talent around Pryor instead of trying (again) to replace the starting quarterback.
24. Arizona Cardinals (3-4)
This Week's Rank: 24
Last Week's Rank: 20
The Arizona Cardinals are an interesting team. There is enough talent on the roster, but the offensive game plan doesn't seem to match the talent assembled in any way. With a big, mauling offensive line, Bruce Arians is running a pass-first system that is devoid of screens or play-action passes. Defenses are able to pin their ears back and key on the pass, as they know it's coming.
On defense, the Cardinals are in better position, but they're finding it tough to keep the team in games thanks to short fields and points the offense gives the other team. That's not to say the defense is blameless in the team's four losses, but it's out-playing the offense by leaps and bounds.
Arians is a good coach, but if the Cardinals are going to compete in 2013, he has to step back and evaluate how his scheme and personnel mesh.
23. Atlanta Falcons (2-4)
This Week's Rank: 23
Last Week's Rank: 26
The Atlanta Falcons—minus Roddy White and Julio Jones—won in a shootout. That's the bright side. The down side is that the team was in a shootout with the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But a win is a win, right?
Getting through this season won't be easy thanks to the many injuries the team has run into. Replacing Julio Jones is impossible, but if Harry Douglas can step up like he did in Week 7, Matt Ryan will have an easier job spreading the ball around and making plays. That opens things up for White, once he returns, and Tony Gonzalez at tight end.
The road back to a playoff spot may be long, but Mike Smith's team showed that it's not ready to give up on the season.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4)
This Week's Rank: 22
Last Week's Rank: 24
When I picked the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the AFC North this year, I expected them to play more like the team we saw in Week 7.
Power running. Aggressive defense. Big plays from Antonio Brown and the rest of the receiver corps. Ben Roethlisberger making plays in the pocket. That's Pittsburgh Steeler football, and for the first six weeks, it was largely invisible. But against rival Baltimore, the recipe was found and put to good use.
It's too early to say that the Steelers are back, but their division win should give them confidence and a game plan to execute over the rest of the season.
21. Carolina Panthers (3-3)
This Week's Rank: 21
Last Week's Rank: 23
The Carolina Panthers are a sleeping giant in the NFC South. Sleep on them, and Cam Newton and Co. will rise up and put a beating on your team. That's what happened in Week 7, as the Panthers shocked the St. Louis Rams by playing fast, hard and physical on both sides of the ball.
Newton was brilliant against a talented Rams defense, but it seemed like the Panthers were able to get inside the heads of guys like Chris Long and Janoris Jenkins throughout the contest. That led to mistakes, an ejection and otherwise emotional play from St. Louis that the Panthers were able to capitalize on.
The NFC South may be run by the New Orleans Saints right now, but keep an eye on the Panthers.
20. Buffalo Bills (3-4)
This Week's Rank: 20
Last Week's Rank: 22
The legend of Thad Lewis grows following a Week 7 win over the Miami Dolphins, but the real story here is the Buffalo Bills defense.
Led by well-known players like Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, the Bills defense isn't quite a no-name group. That said, the key playmakers have been rookies Kiko Alonso and Nickell Robey, two players very few people outside the Pac-12 thought of this time last year.
First-year head coach Doug Marrone has done a remarkable job getting this team ready to play each week no matter who the quarterback is or how much experience he has. Marrone is proving himself to be a top-tier game-planner, and the Bills are reaping the benefits.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)
This Week's Rank: 19
Last Week's Rank: 17
The Philadelphia Eagles finished Week 7 with their No. 3 quarterback—rookie fourth-rounder Matt Barkley—under center because of injuries. That alone sums up why they have a 3-4 record heading into the midway point of the season.
Scoring three points, as they did against Dallas, won't get it done on a weekly basis, especially with a defense that's been gouged by the pass each game. Chip Kelly knows that. Without a consistent pass rush, Tony Romo was able to thread the ball downfield for over 300 yards without facing much pressure on his 47 passing attempts.
The NFC East is still wide open, but the Eagles have to learn how to play balanced, consistent football. On a day when the offense is struggling, the defense can't allow 300 passing yards. And the offense, no matter who is at quarterback, must produce as it did in the first six weeks of the season.
18. St. Louis Rams (3-4)
This Week's Rank: 18
Last Week's Rank: 16
UPDATE: Monday, October 21 at 10:38 a.m. EDT
Every NFL team deals with inconsistency at some point. But the St. Louis Rams take the trophy for most maddening on a week-to-week basis.
One week after a definitive victory over the Houston Texans, the Rams were punched in the teeth by the Carolina Panthers. You could say they were beaten at their own game, and you'd be right. The Panthers were more physical than the Rams from the opening drive and never let down.
This looks more like an 8-8 or 9-7 team than the potential NFC West contenders some saw before the season began. The talent is there, but the Rams look to be a year away from truly pushing for a playoff spot. That will take a huge hit if quarterback Sam Bradford is out for an extended time with injury. The former No. 1 overall pick was playing very well in this new offense. Without him, the Rams may not win another game.
17. Tennessee Titans (3-4)
This Week's Rank: 17
Last Week's Rank: 15
With Jake Locker back under center, the Tennessee Titans looked to get their season back on track. That lasted about five minutes into Week 7. Once the San Francisco 49ers got their run game going early, the Titans were helpless.
What now for Tennessee? The division is still fairly wide open, even with the Colts distancing themselves some. A healthy Locker can be dangerous, and it's likely he'll knock more rust off throughout the week. That leads to a better prepared and healthier team after its bye in Week 8.
The Titans are good enough to make noise in the second half of the season. Winning back-to-back games against the St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars after the bye could get the team back on track.
16. Miami Dolphins (3-3)
This Week's Rank: 16
Last Week's Rank: 13
The Miami Dolphins should not be losing games to the Thad Lewis-led Buffalo Bills. They have too much talent to have lost three straight games. A 3-3 record is not good enough, and the season only gets tougher from here.
The 2013 season brought playoff hopes to Miami with an exciting young quarterback, a remade offense and a rejuvenated defense. For those hopes to become reality, the whole team has to play better.
Ryan Tannehill must be more accountable and aware both in the pocket and when throwing the football. The offensive line must do better to pass protect for the second-year passer. The defense must clamp down after allowing more than 20 points in all but one game this season.
The talent is here; the Dolphins just have to use it.
15. Baltimore Ravens (3-4)
This Week's Rank: 15
Last Week's Rank: 12
The defending Super Bowl champions haven't looked very super this year. A Week 7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that previously had won just one game all year, is not a good way to ramp up midseason motivation.
The Ravens are struggling, but anyone with an objective eye knew they would this season. The defense suffered massive turnover, the offense was relying on an aging left tackle with work ethic issues, and the passing game took big hits through trades and injuries.
Now the Ravens are 3-4 and hoping they can jell in the second half of the season as they try to make a playoff push. So far, that doesn't look likely, but no one thought they were a Super Bowl contender last year at this time either.
Last Week's Rank: 19
14. New York Jets (4-3)
This Week's Rank: 14
Last Week's Rank: 19
Any time you beat the New England Patriots, you're going to see a nice move up the rankings. The New York Jets earned this one.
No matter how controversial the overtime penalty was that ultimately gave the Jets the win, they have to be credited for playing the Patriots tough all day. Geno Smith and the offense answered Tom Brady score for score, and the defense clamped down when needed. In all three areas of the game—offense, defense, special teams—the Jets found production in Week 7. That was enough to beat a hated rival.
Will it be enough to keep Rex Ryan in place as head coach of the Jets after this season? It should be. The way this team is playing in comparison with the talent on the roster should make Ryan a candidate for Coach of the Year. The Jets are fortunate to have him.
13. San Diego Chargers (4-3)
This Week's Rank: 13
Last Week's Rank: 18
Beating the Jaguars was to be expected. If the San Diego Chargers had let the winless team hang close, that would have been a surprise. But this Week 7 win keeps the Chargers above .500 on the season and protects their spot in the Power Rankings.
In an increasingly tough AFC West, the Chargers may be looking at an outside shot at a wild-card berth. It's unlikely that they can keep up with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs in the division—unless something crazy happens—but they can keep fighting for the No. 6 seed (the open playoff seed their division mates don't take).
That has to be the focus for the next nine games. The playoffs can be a reality for this team.
12. Detroit Lions (4-3)
This Week's Rank: 12
Last Week's Rank: 11
A shootout loss to the Cincinnati Bengals has the Detroit Lions moving down one spot this week. With the NFC North shaking out in an odd way so far this season, the Lions are still very much alive at 4-3.
There were encouraging signs in Week 7. On offense, Matthew Stafford continues to play well, and targets Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Joseph Fauria are producing as well as advertised. The defense, though, outside of the front four, has been very bad. And that's being nice.
Cornerback Chris Houston was eventually benched for his struggles against A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, and that could make a lasting impression. Houston and the rest of the secondary are a liability on a weekly basis. The Lions have to shore up their coverage to compete with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the division.
11. Chicago Bears (4-3)
This Week's Rank: 11
Last Week's Rank: 10
UPDATE: Monday, October 21 at 6:05 p.m. EDT
According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, Cutler will miss at least four weeks with a tear in his groin.
The Chicago Bears could have reasonably expected to overcome more injuries to their defense. What they couldn't have planned for was a devastating injury to quarterback Jay Cutler. The loss of Cutler kept the Bears from winning against the Redskins in Week 7 more than anything else.
That's not to say they didn't make it interesting. Josh McCown played well in relieving Cutler, while special teams ace Devin Hester did his part by adding a record-tying touchdown of his own on a punt return. The Bears came up just short, but they did so with the deck stacked against them.
Getting Cutler healthy is the first step. Without him, the team is unlikely to make a push for the NFC North title. With him, the No. 11 ranked Bears can get back up the rankings very quickly.
10. Dallas Cowboys (4-3)
This Week's Rank: 10
Last Week's Rank: 14
A big day from Tony Romo and Dez Bryant allowed the Dallas Cowboys to outlast the Philadelphia Eagles in a Week 7 matchup that could determine the NFC East title at the end of the year. It wasn't as easy as the 17-3 score may have made it seem.
Romo and the offense did enough to win, but the real credit goes to Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and the defense for the job they did shutting down Chip Kelly's offense. Whether it was Nick Foles or Matt Barkley taking snaps, the Cowboys clamped down. And they did it without DeMarcus Ware.
If the season ended today, the Cowboys would win the division and be headed to the playoffs. For the next nine games, all they have to do is hold on to that lead.
9. Green Bay Packers (4-2)
This Week's Rank: 9
Last Week's Rank: 9
The Green Bay Packers proved in Week 7 that they don't need huge days from their playmakers to win. By playing a tough, gritty game against the Cleveland Browns, we saw the Packers overcome a seriously underrated defense and still pull out a decisive win.
The more games the Packers win without key players (Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Nick Perry), the more convinced I am that they can win the division and make noise in the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers and the offense are being forced into creativity, and it's allowing guys like Jarrett Boykin to shine and make big plays.
The Packers have bumps and bruises, and they aren't the most dominant team in the league, but they're a tough out every week thanks to their playmakers on both sides of the ball.
8. New England Patriots (5-2)
This Week's Rank: 8
Last Week's Rank: 4
Rivalry games are weird things and prove that anything can happen in the NFL on any given Sunday. In Week 7, the New England Patriots were edged by a Jets team playing much better than it was in Week 2. They won't forget this.
The Patriots were playing short-handed with Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Aqib Talib out, but they welcomed back Rob Gronkowski and still have a very talented offensive line protecting Tom Brady. That should be enough, right?
Wrong. The Patriots allowed the Jets to hang with them score for score and committed a terrible penalty in overtime that cost them the game. At 5-2, they are still leading the AFC East, but there are holes on both sides of the ball that could cost them.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)
This Week's Rank: 7
Last Week's Rank: 6
Don't look now, but the Cincinnati Bengals are establishing themselves as contenders. At 5-2, the Bengals are ahead in the AFC North and cruising thanks to an offense that's scoring big and a defense that's clamping down just enough to secure wins.
How long the team can play close and win remains to be seen, but losing cornerback Leon Hall to an Achilles injury doesn't help. That means we'll see more of Dre Kirkpatrick, and that's not a positive at this point. The pass rush must get better for the Bengals, but they have enough talent there to do serious damage.
The team will be as good as its offense, and if Andy Dalton can keep dealing to A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Co., the Bengals could be playing deep into the playoffs.
6. New Orleans Saints (5-1)
This Week's Rank: 6
Last Week's Rank: 5
A Week 7 bye gives the New Orleans Saints added time to recover from their first loss of the season while also letting them prepare for the upcoming stretch of games. Kicking things off in Week 8 against the Buffalo Bills won't be as easy as it sounds.
The Saints are one of the NFL's most explosive teams, and they rely on that ability to win games. That means a lot of shootouts, close games and plenty of suspense. Against a gritty, young team like the Bills, it should mean a win. The Saints' experience, talent and production should keep them ahead of the middle and bottom-tiered teams in the game right now.
Expectations are high for the Saints, as they should be, but an early bye can test teams. The Saints will be asked to play, and win, for 10 straight weeks before the playoffs.
5. San Francisco 49ers (5-2)
This Week's Rank: 5
Last Week's Rank: 6
Four straight wins have the San Francisco 49ers back near the top of the rankings. The two back-to-back losses are but distant memories for them as they roll through the schedule.
The 49ers' winning streak is more impressive when you look at how they're accomplishing it. Colin Kaepernick hasn't been great in every game. The defense was asked to do without Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith. The run game struggled. But they came out unscathed and are just one game back in the NFC West.
Now the schedule gets easier. The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the docket in Week 8 and then the team gets a bye week. After that they could be welcoming back Smith, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. That's a scary reality for the rest of the NFL.
4. Seattle Seahawks (6-1)
This Week's Rank: 4
Last Week's Rank: 3
The Arizona Cardinals and their pesky defense offered no real opposition to the mighty Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night. The NFC's winningest team comfortably moved to six wins and started to look ahead at Week 8 and their road trip to St. Louis to face the Rams on Monday Night Football.
The Seahawks do not historically play as well on the road, but given a long weekend off and then not playing until Monday will give the team plenty of time to prepare for the Rams without Sam Bradford.
The Seahawks should roll to 7-1 next week as they look to pad their lead in the NFC West and overall in the NFC.
3. Denver Broncos (6-1)
This Week's Rank: 3
Last Week's Rank: 1
The Denver Broncos were thought to be a threat to go undefeated, but then they ran into the Indianapolis Colts and found that a good, balanced team is tough to beat at home. Especially when Andrew Luck is their quarterback.
The Broncos' struggles on Sunday night started with a strip-sack of Peyton Manning in his own end zone. After that play, the veteran quarterback saw his velocity and accuracy slip. Manning was not himself in the final three quarters of the game, and it kept the Broncos offense from taking off completely.
A banged-up offensive line and secondary didn't help matters. The Broncos might have the best skill players in the league on offense, but if Manning can't be protected, that doesn't matter.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (7-0)
This Week's Rank: 2
Last Week's Rank: 2
Winning tough is something every great team must learn to do, as you can't expect to win comfortably each week. The Kansas City Chiefs proved they can win tough games with a one-point win over the Houston Texans in Week 7. That kept them undefeated for one more week before hosting the Cleveland Browns at home.
The Case Keenum-led Texans gave the Chiefs a scare by beating up Kansas City's offensive line and moving the ball well through the air on offense. The Browns won't be able to duplicate the Texans' success on offense, but that defense in Cleveland must be respected. Ray Horton's 3-4 system will pose bigger problems for the Chiefs than you'd expect.
Andy Reid's team won tough in Week 7, and it'll have to do it again in Week 8.
1. Indianapolis Colts (5-2)
This Week's Rank: 1
Last Week's Rank: 8
The Indianapolis Colts don't have the best record in the NFL, but they have the best wins by far.
The Colts have taken down the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. All three teams were ranked No. 1 in these power rankings at some point this season. Their 5-2 record isn't flawless like the Chiefs' 7-0 is, but the quality of wins is much more impressive.
It's important to remember that power rankings are not standings. They're a reflection of who the best team in the NFL is at that moment. Right now, the Colts have earned the top spot based on their three huge wins over the three best teams in the NFL.