NFL Power Rankings Week 9: Most Intimidating Factor for Each Team

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28:  Tim Jennings #26 of the Chicago Bears celebrates scoring a touchdown on an interception against the Carolina Panthers on October 28, 2012 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bears defeated the Panthers 23-22. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
John Gress/Getty Images

Intimidation can come in many forms: players, stadiums, defenses and offenses. All of these things can force NFL teams to break out in a cold sweat on Sundays.

A few teams have separated themselves this season, with many others dwelling in NFL purgatory. Even so, every squad has something that other teams fear. It may not make the difference in a game, but it's something to pay attention to each time the team takes the field.

Let's power rank the NFL teams through eight weeks of play and focus on a few intimidating factors.


1. Atlanta Falcons

Combine a 7-0 record with the league's seventh-ranked scoring offense, and most teams are probably worried about playing you at this point.


2. Houston Texans

J.J. Watt has an NFL-leading 9.5 sacks, reads quarterbacks better than most defensive backs and openly associates opposing running backs with the foods he's eaten. Yeah, he's scary.


3. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers' defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in four of its last five games. Aggressive play, consistent tackling and sound schemes are the culprit. 

4. New England Patriots

Tom Brady is still Tom Brady, but he has help. Stevan Ridley is leading the NFL's No. 5 rushing attack, complementing the Patriots' seventh-ranked run defense.


5. Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers has very little help, but he has this team as winners of three straight. This isn't the Packers from a year ago, but Rodgers' 21-4 touchdown-interception ratio will keep this team around until the bitter end.


6. Chicago Bears

The Bears still feature a devastating defense. They lead the NFL in interceptions as a team and have forced four fumbles.

Tim Jennings leads the NFL in interceptions with six. Major Wright has three, and Lance Briggs has two. Julius Peppers' 5.5 sacks aid the cause, and Charles Tillman is still one of the most underrated defenders in the league.

Chicago's offense is better this season with Brandon Marshall on the outside, but the defense still leads the way. As long as its playing well, this team has a chance to stay in the Super Bowl hunt until very late in the playoffs.

Trusting Jay Cutler is still difficult, but the Bears are a hard-nosed group. This defense hasn't regressed, and they're always capable of delivering a big game.


7. New York Giants

Eli Manning is having an excellent season, and he has plenty of weapons to work with. Not only does Victor Cruz give him a dangerous option on the outside, but Ahmad Bradshaw is providing steady production in the backfield.


8. Denver Broncos

Come on, really? Peyton Manning had a few hiccups to start the season, but he's assassinated opponents since then.

In his last three games, Manning has eight touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards. He hasn't thrown an interception in that span, adding to the notion that he's some sort of football robot.

Any of Manning's detractors should eat their words by now. He's not necessarily the same guy, but he's close enough to his former self that it doesn't matter. He's still capable of winning any game, and putting the ball in his hands in the second half is enough to make any defensive coordinator tremble.

As long as he's healthy, this team will be very dangerous.


9. Baltimore Ravens

A weakish defense by the Ravens' standards shouldn't scare you, but a bruising run game and underrated passing attack should.


10. Pittsburgh Steelers

This team should intimidate you based on reputation alone. If Pittsburgh is in it, it can win it. Ben Roethlisberger is playing the best football of his career, and the defense is quietly one of this year's best units once again.


11. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins boast a dominant run defense and a surprising rookie quarterback. The latter isn't intimidating just yet, but he's encouraging to say the least.


12. Minnesota Vikings

I get scared watching Adrian Peterson run from my couch. He's violent, big and exceedingly talented. That's why he leads the league in rushing yards one year after ACL surgery.


13. Seattle Seahawks

CenturyLink Field plays home to things called "The Legion of Boom" and "Beast Mode." Both of those monikers just sound scary and deservedly so.

Not only is Seattle's home venue one of the loudest in the league, but it takes advantage of it. The Seahawks are 3-0 at home including wins over New England and Green Bay (I guess).

For me, this team always has upset potential. It struggles on the road, but if you play the Seahawks game you could lose. Grinding it out on the ground and playing punishing defense isn't for everyone, but these guys make it work to perfection.

Walking into CenturyLink Field is enough to make any visiting team's ears ring. If the Seahawks come to play, some bells will be ringing too.


14. Detroit Lions

Ndamukong Suh can do this:

That's pretty scary, but the Lions have been tame this year.


15. Washington Redskins

I've got two words and a Roman numeral for you: Robert Griffin III. The rookie has established himself as the league's most exciting player, transforming the Redskins into dangerous underdogs at the same time.


16. Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton has struggled in recent games, but A.J. Green is still arguably the league's best receiver this year. He's someone teams must always pay attention too.


17. St. Louis Rams

Robert Quinn is incredibly dangerous this year off the edge, racking up seven sacks so far. St. Louis' offense isn't great, but Jeff Fisher has this squad playing scrappy, aggressive defense.


18. Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck's knack for keeping his team in close games is dangerous, especially because they don't have much to lose.


19. Philadelphia Eagles

This team isn't necessarily intimidating, but they should be approached with caution. In terms of talent, they have a lot. However, a lack of focus from the front office down to the players won't allow this group to get anything done.


20. New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees is the be all and end all for this team. Whether the Saints win or not, his aerial attack is enough to worry even the best secondary.


21. Arizona Cardinals

Whether it is Patrick Peterson's three interceptions or the cautious approach teams must take when kicking to him, he's this team's most-skilled player. 

22. Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Ware has been the answer here since 2005, and it's worse this year. The league's No. 3 pass defense ensures quarterbacks will have to sit in the pocket and wait for a receiver to come open, allowing Ware to feast.


23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

An improving offense combines with one of the league's top run defense to create a very interesting team. When Josh Freeman is on, the Buccaneers can give anyone a game.


24. Tennessee Titans

Akeem Ayers and Jordan Babineaux are two of the league's top tacklers, and both will lower the boom if you come across the middle.


25. Buffalo Bills

Most facets of this team are dreadful, especially defensively, but the league's No. 4 rushing offense gives hope. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are an extremely dangerous duo.


26. Oakland Raiders

Don't look now but the Raiders have won two straight. With the league's 10th-rated pass offense and an above-average run defense, all hope is not lost for Oakland.


27. Cleveland Browns

This team struggles, but they are improving. With 10 team interceptions, the secondary is adept at giving its offense an extra possession.


28. San Diego Chargers

The Chargers just aren't very good, as losers of three straight, but the league's No. 2 run defense is still difficult to deal with.


29. New York Jets

Antonio Cromartie is playing very good football in Darrelle Revis' absence. With 11 passes defensed and three picks, he's playing like a No. 1 corner should.


30. Carolina Panthers

Inconsistent or not, Cam Newton is all this team has to offer. He's been awful at times this year, but he's still a threat at all times.


31. Jacksonville Jaguars

This team is so bad that I have to resort to Bryan Anger. His 48.3 net-punt average leads the NFL, so if deep kicks scare you, beware of the Jags.


32. Kansas City Chiefs

Intimidating and the Chiefs go together like oil and water. If I have to pick, outside linebacker Justin Houston has six sacks on the season. Other than that, it's ugly in Arrowhead.


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