After weeks of ugliness, mudslinging, and poor sportsmanship, it’s finally happened. We are making a change. As if by magic, the New York Jets are no longer in last place in our NFL power rankings! What did you think we were talking about? This week featured a lot of good vs. good and bad vs. bad, and the latest rankings reflect that.
Lines of demarcation are continuing to make themselves clear. After roughly half the season, the league is pretty evenly distributed into thirds: good, average, and bad. Most of our movement will be within those respective thirds, but things can always change. There’s still a lot of football left to be played.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7, Last week: 31)
Jake Luton started at quarterback for the injured Gardner Minshew, and the rookie from Oregon State responded with over 300 passing yards and came within a near-miss of forcing overtime against Houston. D.J. Chark was easily Luton’s favorite target, catching seven of his 12 targets for 146 yards and a score. Josh Lambo missed an extra point in the second quarter, which altered Jacksonville’s scoring strategy for the rest of the game, and they eventually lost by two.
Next week: at Green Bay (6-2)
31. Washington Football Team (2-6, Last week: 25)
Sadly, quarterback Kyle Allen suffered a gruesome injury to his ankle, which will end his season prematurely. His replacement, Alex Smith, knows better than anyone how grueling Allen’s road to recovery will be. Smith and the Washington offense gave the ball up five times against New York, including interceptions on their final two possessions. To close out narrow games in the future, they’ll need to hang on to the football.
Next week: at Detroit (3-5)
30. New York Jets (0-7, Last week: 32)
We have badmouthed the Jets a lot this year, and that punchline is wearing thin. In the spirit of unity and compassion, please allow us to praise your team, Jets fans. “Gang Green” is an awesome nickname. Mekhi Becton could be very good, very soon. At his age, it is incredible that Frank Gore is able to compete at all, let alone enough to lead his team in rushing. And hopefully you can get a real coach after Adam Gase, one who propels his team forward instead of…whatever is happening now. Alright, that last one was mean. Sorry, we’ll try harder next time!
Next week: idle
29. New England Patriots (3-5, Last week: 26)
Even in the midst of their worst season in twenty years, the Patriots can still dispatch a lesser opponent. They did just that on the road against New York Monday night, but it wasn’t easy. This New England team will need a miracle to win the AFC East, and they likely won’t sniff postseason play as a wild card, either. Yet they are still led by the best coach in modern history, and their quarterback is only a few years removed from winning league MVP honors. Losing record or not, the Pats can still be dangerous.
Next week: vs. Baltimore (6-2)
28. Dallas Cowboys (2-7, Last week: 30)
For the third week in a row, the Cowboys trotted out a new starting quarterback on Sunday. Garrett Gilbert actually led Dallas to a 13-0 first half lead and still held a 19-9 lead after three quarters. Unfortunately, Ezekiel Elliott struggled to get going (under three yards per carry), and the Dallas pass rush recorded zero sacks on 45 Pittsburgh pass attempts.
Next week: idle
27. Houston Texans (2-6, Last week: 28)
Deshaun Watson took matters into his own hands on Sunday, leading the Texans in both passing and rushing yards. Watson also avoided turning the ball over, which would have been costly in a close division rivalry game. However, Watson does not play defense, and his defensive cohorts gave up over 400 yards of total offense to a group being led by a sixth-round rookie quarterback in his first career start. They were lucky to get out of Jacksonville with a win.
Next week: at Cleveland (5-3)
26. Los Angeles Chargers (2-6, Last week: 27)
After losing on a last second touchdown last weekend, the Chargers thought they had exorcised those demons with a last second touchdown pass for their own win against Las Vegas. But official review decided that Justin Herbert’s throw to Donald Parham was, in fact, incomplete, and Los Angeles dropped to 2-6. To be a Chargers fan is to know pain, apparently. Unceasing, irreconcilable pain.
Next week: at Miami (5-3)
25. New York Giants (2-7, Last week: 29)
The Giants need to applaud themselves over the 20-3 first half lead they built. They also need to concern themselves with the 23-20 final score. Moving forward, this team needs to funnel more of its first half fireworks into a full 60 minute game. Avoiding the second half collapse is Joe Judge’s next challenge.
Next week: vs. Philadelphia (3-4-1)
24. Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1, Last week: 21)
Can Joe Burrow work more magic down the home stretch? After narrow losses to Indianapolis and Cleveland, Cincinnati toppled Tennessee by 11 before heading into their bye. Next up? The powerhouse Steelers.
Next week: at Pittsburgh (8-0)
23. Carolina Panthers (3-6, Last week: 22)
Carolina did not flinch against the defending champs on the road, yet two missed field goals ultimately doomed them to a two-point loss. The Panthers outgained the Chiefs, did not turn the ball over, and dominated time of possession. But their special teams blunders and 12 penalties are crucial mistakes that upset-minded teams cannot make.
Next week: vs. Tampa Bay (6-3)
22. Detroit Lions (3-5, Last week: 20)
Detroit’s defense has been remarkably consistent in its last two games: after giving up three passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns against Indianapolis, the Lions gave up three passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns to Minnesota. Consistency is noteworthy. Being consistently good, of course, is the actual goal, but consistency is noteworthy all the same.
Next week: vs. Washington (2-6)
21. Denver Broncos (3-5, Last week: 19)
Jerry Jeudy showed why he was Denver’s first-round pick against Atlanta. The rookie receiver’s 14 targets, seven receptions, and 125 yards led the team in each category. Defensively, the Broncos allowed points on the Falcons’ first four possessions, which left too big of a hole to climb out of.
Next week: at Las Vegas (5-3)
20. San Francisco 49ers (4-5, Last week: 18)
The 49ers’ junior varsity squad could not overcome a good Green Bay team, as the list of 49ers out with injury or illness on Thursday was depressingly long. Nick Mullens, Jerick McKinnon, and Richie James led the way in passing, rushing, and receiving, respectively, which should give you some idea how far down the depth chart Kyle Shanahan had to go offensively. Fred Warner racked up 13 total tackles to continue his quietly stellar career as a starting linebacker.
Next week: at New Orleans (6-2)
19. Atlanta Falcons (3-6, Last week: 24)
Olamide Zaccheaus and Foyesade Oluokun are not just a mouthful, but they were also a handful against Denver on Sunday. (*Holds for laughter and applause*). Zaccheaus topped 100 receiving yards on only four catches, one of which was a 51-yard touchdown. Oluokun, on the other hand, led the Falcons’ defense in total tackles, solo tackles, sacks, and quarterback hits. Atlanta nearly squandered a big lead, but they held on for the win, their third in four games.
Next week: idle
18. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1, Last week: 17)
Philadelphia needed a bye to rest and recover as they prepare for their brutal upcoming schedule. After traveling to the Meadowlands to battle the Giants once more, the Eagles will face Cleveland, Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona. All five of those teams could find themselves in the playoffs come January.
Next week: at New York Giants (2-7)
17. Minnesota Vikings (3-5, Last week: 23)
Dalvin Cook is on an absolute tear this year. He has scored 13 touchdowns in eight games, leads the league in rushing yards, and is third on the Vikings in both targets and receptions. As a result, Minnesota stands at 2-1 in NFC North play despite being 3-5 overall. Don’t count out Cook and the gang just yet.
Next week: at Chicago (5-4)
16. Chicago Bears (5-4, Last week: 16)
The Bears’ 5-1 start seems like a distant memory, as offensive struggles have come back to bite Matt Nagy’s group after skating by on razor-thin margins in the first several weeks. Now, on a three-game losing skid, Chicago has to find a way to sustain drives and score touchdowns. Their drive chart against Tennessee reads as follows: turnover on downs, five straight punts, kneeldown to end the half, another punt, and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. They eventually scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, but the game was well in hand by then.
Next week: vs. Minnesota (3-5)
15. Indianapolis Colts (5-3, Last week: 9)
The Colts’ defense played well for the vast majority of their game against Baltimore. By the end, though, they were worn down because their offensive counterparts could not stay on the field to sustain drives and score points. Philip Rivers had a typical Rivers game: mostly good with one costly interception that may have doomed his team.
Next week: at Tennessee (6-2)
14. Cleveland Browns (5-3, Last week: 15)
There may not be a more manageable second-half schedule than Cleveland’s. The Titans, Ravens, and Steelers will be a challenge, but the Browns also take on Houston, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, and both New York teams.
Next week: vs. Houston (2-6)
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3, Last week: 3)
It is far too early in the season to declare a divisional race over, but after being swept by the Saints, the Buccaneers will need some help to clinch the NFC South. Tom Brady threw three interceptions and was sacked three times, while Tampa Bay’s vaunted defense generated only one sack. This team can still make noise in the postseason, to be sure, but they may have to do it as a wild card.
Next week: at Carolina (3-6)
12. Arizona Cardinals (5-3, Last week: 4)
Kyler Murray accounted for nearly 400 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, although a lost fumble and a missed Zane Gonzalez field goal loom large in a three-point loss to Miami. Fortunately for Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco both lost, while the Rams sat idle. The NFC West is still up for the taking, but the Cardinals will need to clean up some sloppy plays if they want to capture the throne.
Next week: vs. Buffalo (7-2)
11. Los Angeles Rams (5-3, Last week: 14)
The Rams are relatively healthy at the midpoint of their schedule, and they’re still very much in the thick of the playoff race. To borrow a sports cliche: if the season ended today, Los Angeles would find itself as the NFC’s seventh seed.
Next week: vs. Seattle (6-2)
10. Las Vegas Raiders (5-3, Last week: 13)
Don’t look now, but Jon Gruden has found his running game. The Raiders attempted more runs (26) than passes (23) against the Chargers, and they put up nearly as many yards (165 passing to 160 rushing). With a manageable second half schedule, Las Vegas is still in contention for the AFC West and should at least be in the running for a wild card berth.
Next week: vs. Denver (3-5)
9. Miami Dolphins (5-3, Last week: 12)
The Dolphins are surging and now look like a legitimate playoff contender. Tua Tagovailoa seemed much more comfortable in his second career start, going toe-to-toe with Kyler Murray in an exciting 34-31 victory. Miami did surrender 442 yards, but they forced the game’s only turnover, which was a fumble returned for a touchdown. Their regular season finale at Buffalo could determine AFC East supremacy.
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Chargers (2-6)
8. Seattle Seahawks (6-2, Last week: 5)
Russell Wilson may be the MVP frontrunner, but unless his defense can step up in the second half of the season, he is unlikely to hoist another Lombardi trophy this year. The Seahawks allowed Buffalo to compile 420 total yards and 27 first downs en route to a 44-34 blowout that was 41-20 in the fourth quarter. Wilson turned the ball over an unacceptable four times, with two picks and two lost fumbles, which put the defense in an even tougher spot.
Next week: at Los Angeles Rams (5-3)
7. Tennessee Titans (6-2, Last week: 11)
Tennessee must be encouraged that they can win a game handily despite poor performances from both Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. Tannehill completed under 50 percent of his pass attempts for only 158 yards, and Henry ran for 68 yards on 21 carries. Desmond King and Jeffery Simmons each recovered a Chicago fumble in the second half, and King returned his for 63 yards and a score, which increased the Titans’ margin to 17-0.
Next week: vs. Indianapolis (5-3)
6. Green Bay Packers (6-2, Last week: 10)
Aaron Rodgers was without several key offensive skill players on Thursday night, but he did have Davante Adams, and that was enough. Rodgers and Adams connected 10 times for 173 yards and a touchdown, which was one of the four that Rodgers threw. Za’Darius Smith sacked Nick Mullens and recovered a fumble, and Raven Greene added an interception to help the Packers roll.
Next week: vs. Jacksonville (1-7)
5. Buffalo Bills (7-2, Last week: 8)
Buffalo has clearly bounced back from its two-game losing streak last month, as Josh Allen tore apart Seattle’s questionable defense to the tune of 415 yards and three touchdowns. Allen was sacked seven times, but he added a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to keep the Bills’ cushion and prevent a miracle comeback. Buffalo will take on three more west coast teams in their next three games, and they could complete a season sweep of the NFC West.
Next week: at Arizona (5-3)
4. New Orleans Saints (7-2, Last week: 7)
Fans and pundits alike have been clamoring for Sean Payton to move on from his stubborn loyalty to Taysom Hill recently. In Tampa on Sunday night, though, his trust paid off. Hill completed both of his passes for 48 yards, ran for 54 yards on seven carries, and even hauled in a reception for 21 yards. Oh yeah, Drew Brees also had four touchdown passes, which helped.
Next week: vs. San Francisco (4-5)
3. Baltimore Ravens (6-2, Last week: 6)
Lamar Jackson completed 19 of 23 pass attempts against Indianapolis’ zone defense, and he ran in the dagger touchdown on a naked bootleg in the fourth quarter. The Ravens were held relatively in check on the ground, but their 38 attempts wore down the Colts, and they possessed the ball for over 13 minutes in the third quarter alone. Chuck Clark kickstarted Baltimore’s victory with a 65-yard fumble return touchdown in the first quarter.
Next week: at New England (3-5)
2. Kansas City (8-1, Last week: 2)
Some will say that Kansas City got lucky against Carolina. Others will argue that they found a way to win against a scrappy underdog. Either way, the Chiefs will have to do better on the ground than 12 carries for 30 yards. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has cooled off in the last few games, failing to break 100 yards on the ground since October 19 against Buffalo.
Next week: idle
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0, Last week: 1)
The Steelers played with fire in Dallas this weekend. This time, they did not get burned. Against future (more talented) opponents, such a sluggish start could be their undoing. Minkah Fitzpatrick was the hero of the game; he recovered a fumble, intercepted a pass, and deflected two other passes. Unless and until they lose a game, Pittsburgh will remain atop our rankings.
Next week: vs. Cincinnati (2-5-1)