NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Teams Ready to Make Second-Half Surge
The Houston Texans were kind enough to give us a clear answer about which team is the power of the AFC by trouncing the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. They also made me look like a fool for having the Ravens a spot ahead of them in last week's power rankings. Thanks a lot, Houston.
As a form of punishment, or maybe just solid reasoning—I'll let you decide, the Texans will still take a backseat in the rankings to one team.
Check out my power rankings below, with a special emphasis on teams that will make a surge up the power ranking ladder as this season progresses.
Langford's Week 8 NFL Power Rankings
1. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons come off their bye as the league's only undefeated team. This is not to say they have no holes. They need to improve in both running the ball and stopping the run, which could cost them huge in the playoffs. However, they clearly deserve the top spot as they have already shown a knack for winning game in a myriad of ways.
2. Houston Texans
The Texans blew me away with their performance this week. I was not convinced Houston would be able cope with the loss of Brian Cushing like they have with so many injuries in the last year-and-a-half.
I am no longer worried about Cushing's absence derailing this defense.
3. New York Giants
The Giants look every bit the team that won the Super Bowl last season. They are unstoppable in the clutch, and the dominant pass rush, which got off to a slow start, is flexing its muscle once again.
4. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers got back to their ground-and-pound ways last Thursday with a win over Seattle, and that is the style they need play.
While the passing game is improved, they need the run to set up the offense, and they can let their defense handle the rest.
5. Chicago Bears
I'm still not sold on the Bears, but I can't in good faith put them lower than fifth. With their sub-par offensive line, this team will struggle against the better defenses, and this defense will not continue to outscore opponents on their own.
Still, the Bears own defense will keep them in games, and this team will be a factor come playoff time.
6. Baltimore Ravens
So, Joe Flacco is not elite. Flacco was lost against the Texans this season, and there was Ray Rice getting just nine carries.
Part of that was because they fell behind so quickly, but still, this team needs to use their ground game more to prevent offensive meltdowns like they had last week.
7. Green Bay Packers
Injuries are taking a toll on the Packers' improved defense, but the offense is beginning to look like the record-setting unit of a year ago, and that makes them dangerous.
8. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks' run game and defense will keep them in every contest, and you have to expect the pass game to make stride as rookie Russell Wilson matures.
This team will continue to be hurt by poor wide receiver play, but I fully expect them to make the playoffs.
9. Minnesota Vikings
After a fantastic start, quarterback Christian Ponder is cooling off. Luckily for the Vikings, they have a back named Adrian Peterson to pick up the slack, and the defense continues its solid play.
10. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have lost three straight, and they have a huge game with the 49ers looming this week.
Arizona is being hurt by injuries, but they continue to play sound football that will allow them to turn around this losing streak—it just might not happen this week.
11. New England Patriots
The Patriots are being hurt by poor offensive line play. While the offense continue to put up nice numbers, the lack of pass protection is keeping them from reaching their true potential, and the pass defense is still terrible.
12. Denver Broncos
Why This Team Will Surge
The Broncos have been insanely inconsistent, but when they are playing well, they look as good as any team in football.
This team will improve their consistency as the season goes on. They have a lot of new pieces, and a complete philosophy change on offense, to incorporate.
The offense has looked at its best when running the no huddle, and their proficiency and diversity in that offense will increase as these guys get comfortable with each other and the system.
And that will make the defense look better. This is a D that is built to rush the passer, and the better job the offense does at hanging early points, the more opponents will be forced to pass.
Also, the Broncos have had a brutal schedule to begin the year, but that schedule is beginning to ease up.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
Why This Team Will Surge
The Steelers will surge because Ben Roethlisberger won't allow them to do anything else. For my money, Big Ben is the league's MVP at this point.
He is excelling even though little else is going right around him. The offensive line has been horrible, his receivers can't hang on to the ball and the running game has sputtered while dealing with health issues.
This offensive attack will only improve as new offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Roethlisberger continue to work, either friendly or somewhat less so, to optimize this offense with Ben's talents, and at some point, the Steelers' receivers can't keep dropping passes at this rate.
Defensively, this team is not as dominant as it once was, but this is still a solid unit that will keep Pittsburgh in games.
14. Philadelphia Eagles
What to make of the Eagles? They have shown potential to be both excellent and terrible.
So let's cut the difference and put them in the middle. And no, I don't expect the change in defensive coordinator to make any difference. It never does when coordinators are changed mid-season.
15. Washington Redskins
Everything we need to know about the Redskins can be found in last week's narrow loss to the Giants.
This team can score on and hang with anyone, but in the end, its terrible pass defense will doom them.
16. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are explosive and dangerous, but this team cannot seem to get out of its own way.
They continue to make terrible mistakes and baffling decisions when they can least afford them, and there is no sign of that turning that around.
17. New York Jets
Rex Ryan won't get a lot of love for this, but the slimmed-down coach should be a Coach of the Year candidate.
Given the injuries, adversity and aging defense this team has dealt with, it is remarkable they have been as competitive as they have.
18. San Diego Chargers
With an aging and slowing Antonio Gates and one of the league's weaker receiver corps, this passing attack is a shell of its former self.
While the Bolts' defense is vastly improved, they will not make any real noise this season with that offense.
19. Cincinnati Bengals
Losers of three straight, the Bengals are falling apart. The defense is being victimized by the run and pass, and this offense is not built to win shootouts.
20. Indianapolis Colts
I think it is safe to say that the Colts are further along in their rebuilding process than most anticipated, but this is still a flawed team that is inconsistent in the run game on both sides of the ball.
21. Tennessee Titans
Matt Hasselbeck is rolling off wins for the Titans like Walter Jones is watching his blindside.
The Titans have won two straight, and they even had a Chris Johnson sighting last week. Now, I need to see them build on some of that momentum before jumping them further up the rankings.
22. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have played some sound football—far better than I anticipated—but this team is undone by a lack of playmakers at receiver and a poor pass defense.
23. St. Louis Rams
The Rams have made big strides under new coach Jeff Fisher, but they lack all offensive explosiveness.
This team needs low-scoring games if they want a realistic shot at victory, and while the defense has been good, it would need to be great for this team to be a serious playoff threat.
24. Detroit Lions
The Lions are a mess, and it is going to end up costing Jim Schwartz his job—at least it should.
Detroit continues to play sloppy football, and they lack accountability. This is not a complete roster, but they have far more talent than their results suggest.
25. Buffalo Bills
The Bills can run the football and nothing else. This defense is like a second bye week for opposing offenses, and they are showing no signs of improvement.
It should be considered a minor victory that they already have three wins, and there is no way this team will surpass five wins this year.
26. New Orleans Saints
The Saints are kind of like the Bills, in that they do one thing well on offense and that is it. With the Saints, it is their pass game, and it is prolific enough to keep them in every contest.
However, the terrible defense is enough to allow their opponent to stay in every contest and win most of them.
27. Oakland Raiders
Why This Team Will Surge
Look, this is not a playoff team, but they will make steady strides as the season goes on.
The Raiders picked up their second win of the season over the Jaguars this past Sunday, and it was an ugly win, but there was a big sign of hope in that game for the Raiders: their defense.
Yes, the Jaguars' offense is awful and that offense was only made worse after losing Maurice Jones-Drew early. I don't mention Blaine Gabbert's injury in the same sentence because the guy is so terrible his absence cannot adversely effect any offense.
Back to the point, the Raiders held the Jaguars to under 60 yards of offense in the second half, and they continually forced them into negative plays.
In recent memory, Chad Henne and Rashad Jennings would have turned in career days against the Raiders' defense. They have been that bad.
This defense should continue to improve, and they are scheduled to get back both their starting corners, Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer, back from injuries that have essentially kept them out the entire season.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay is making some nice strides. Josh Freeman is getting back on track, and the running game has shown signs of life.
Still, the pass defense continues to struggle, and that will keep this team from far too many victories this year.
29. Carolina Panthers
Panthers fans, it is time to panic. Your franchise QB appears to be having a complete emotional meltdown while he wonders what is wrong with the franchise and his play on the field regresses.
Something needs to change, and I don't mean the just executed GM switch, or the Panthers will soon be spinning completely out of control.
30. Cleveland Browns
The Jaguars need a better quarterback, and Blaine Gabbert is never going be that guy. This team has other holes, but those issues are moot until they address the quarterback situation.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have very little going for them, and fans have very little to look forward to the rest of the season as this franchise will likely embark on a complete overhaul this offseason.
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