NFL Power Rankings: Week 9 Grades and Analysis
In our Week 9 NFL power rankings, the Atlanta Falcons make Vegas look silly, the New York Giants escape an embarrassing letdown and a handful of top-10 teams get wins in ugly fashion.
Along the way, we'll grade every NFL team for their performance during Week 8's game.
Here's our Week 9 power rankings, based on overall record, strength of schedule and the grade we've assigned for each Week 8 performance:
32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-6, Week 8 Grade: D)
The Brady Quinn experiment crashed and burned when he left in the first quarter after completing just two passes for one yard and an interception. With the season now close to flat-lining, it's time for the Chiefs to get a head start on finding which quarterback will be their top pick next April.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6, B+)
Blaine Gabbert threw for over 300 yards for the first time in his career, and the defense held Aaron Rodgers to under 200 yards for the first time since 2010. The Jaguars played well enough to win in Lambeau Field, but moral victories have to be getting old for this fanbase.
30. Carolina Panthers (1-6, C+)
Hard to excuse blowing the leads Carolina held in the fourth quarter Sunday. This was an ugly game, but one that the Panthers should have won. That tidal wave of change continues creeping closer to the Carolina shore, and Ron Rivera is the first one likely to get wet.
29. Cleveland Browns (2-6, B+)
You're not going to win many football games in this league scoring just seven points, but the Browns pulled it off Sunday. Playing through nicks and bruises, Trent Richardson rushed for an impressive 122 yards and a score. He may just be the offensive talent to start Cleveland's rise out of the NFL's cellar.
28. New Orleans Saints (2-5, F)
Failure all around in Joe Vitt's first head coaching job in Denver. The Saints were outgunned, outplayed and outcoached. Defensively, there's no more doubting who the worst team in football is. The Saints allowed 535 yards (305 passing, 220 rushing) and looked bad doing it.
27. St. Louis Rams (3-5, F)
The exclamation point of the Rams' current three-game losing streak was forcibly placed by the New England Patriots Sunday across the pond. There's no excuses for 45-7, a nasty scoreline no matter which country you're playing in. Jeff Fisher needs to get this team regrouped for the second half.
26. New York Jets (3-5, F)
It's no longer a secret: Rex Ryan's Jets are a soft football team. They talk a big game, but walking it is a much different story. Sunday at home, the Jets were hapless to stop the Dolphins from controlling the game from a physical standpoint. All bark, no bite.
25. Tennessee Titans (3-5, C)
The Titans should really be kicking themselves this week, because the Colts were a team asking to get beat on the road and the Titans weren't up to the task. Getting to 4-4 would have been a season-changer; at 3-5, the Titans have the look of a 7-9 team.
24. San Diego Chargers (3-4, F)
No team in football needs change at the head-coach level quite like the Chargers, who went on the road and scored just six points in Cleveland Sunday. Should fans continuing taking that "chill pill" the Chargers are offering? Instead of lecturing the fans, the franchise should institute some winning change at the top of the organization.
23. Buffalo Bills (3-4, INC)
The Bills had a much-needed bye in Week 8.
22. Oakland Raiders (3-4, B)
Credit Oakland for doing what it had to: Defeat a dying team and backup quarterback, and do it on the road in a tough place to play. At 3-4, and just a game back in the division, anything can really happen.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4, C+)
For all the hooting and hollering about the Eagles' 13-point loss Sunday, keeping perspective that the Falcons are the NFL's last unbeaten team remains important. This was no scrub coming into Philadelphia. That said, a loss to New Orleans Monday night, and Andy Reid has to go to Nick Foles in Week 10.
20. Washington Redskins (3-5, C-)
Robert Griffin III finally looked mortal, throwing for just 177 yards and rushing for eight. But his teammates did him no favors with ridiculous drops and a run game that managed 86 yards, well below its season average. A complete offensive effort was needed to beat the Steelers on the road, and the Redskins didn't get it.
19. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4, INC)
The Bengals had a bye in Week 8.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)
The Bucs finally saw just what Doug Martin (214 yards, two TDs) is capable of as a runner and receiver. He's Ray Rice reloaded. And what about Josh Freeman? Three straight games with three touchdowns is an impressive feat for an evolving quarterback. The Bucs now have a lot of firepower offensively.
17. Detroit Lions (3-4, B)
Now that's the Matthew Stafford (352 yards, four total TDs) we got used to seeing in 2011. If the Lions can also get Calvin Johnson (three catches, 46 yards) back on track, Detroit will be in business. Overall, 3-4 is far from dead at the midway point.
16. Dallas Cowboys (3-4, B)
What a difference an inch can make in the grand scheme of an entire season. If Dez Bryant lands in bounds late, the Cowboys are looking at their 2012 in a much different light Monday morning. Dallas, despite the comeback Sunday, is now looking at the Giants holding three-game gap in the win column with eight games left.
15. Arizona Cardinals (4-4, F)
The Cardinals are fading fast. After winning four in a row, the offense has been exposed and the defense can't always be perfect. Four straight losses have been the result, including Monday night's laugher. Can they get back on track with a trip to Lambeau Field in Week 9?
14. Seattle Seahawks (4-4, C+)
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will want to burn the film from Sunday's loss in Detroit. Despite taking Calvin Johnson out of the game, the Seahawks allowed 415 yards and let Detroit convert 12-of-16 third downs. Russell Wilson (235 yards, two TDs) and the offense were solid, but they won't win many shootouts.
13. Indianapolis Colts (4-3, B+)
VIck Ballard's diving, spinning touchdown in overtime was one of the season's great hustle plays. More importantly, it lifted the Colts to a surprising 4-3 record, which would be good for the No. 6 playoff spot in the AFC if the season ended today. Chuckstrong lives on.
12. Minnesota Vikings (5-3, D)
There aren't many Vikings fans who wouldn't have taken a 5-3 record after eight games at the start of this season. But the start still feels somewhat disappointing, mostly because of the huge steps backwards Christian Ponder has taken in recent weeks. This thing could get away from Minnesota if Ponder doesn't adjust.
11. Miami Dolphins (4-3, A)
Miami didn't do anything flashy this offseason personnel-wise outside of drafting Ryan Tannehill, but Joe Philbin has his new team on a playoff course in his first season. He should be a leading candidate for NFL Coach of the Year. The way his football team made the Jets look like a cellar-dweller at home was an impressive notch on his early-coaching belt.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3, A-)
Love the way the Steelers attacked RG3. Nothing fancy, nothing exotic. Just good ol' Steelers defense. Also, Jonathan Dwyer (second-straight 100-yard game) looks like a back who deserves the majority of carries right now. And I may be in the vast minority, but for just one game, I loved the throwback bumblebee jerseys.
9. Green Bay Packers (5-3, C)
A win is a win, but they don't come uglier for Green Bay than Sunday's 24-15 home victory over the Jags. Maybe, just maybe, this team needs that extra kick in the pants every week to play at its top level. A 16-point line certainly didn't inspire much energy for the Packers entering Sunday.
8. Baltimore Ravens (5-2, INC)
The Ravens had a bye in Week 8.
7. Denver Broncos (4-3, A+)
Quarterback duel between Peyton Manning and Drew Brees? Hardly. Manning threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns for the fourth-straight game, and the defense kept Brees in check as the Broncos rolled during prime time. This is a team whose arrow is pointing directly up.
6. New England Patriots (5-3, A+)
The Brits didn't get a close game, but they got a first-hand account of what a dominant football team looks like. The Patriots did anything they wanted offensively, racking up 473 yards and 45 points on 57 plays. New England's offense set a new NFL record with 17 straight games of 350 or more total yards.
5. Chicago Bears (6-1, B)
The Bears played their ugliest game since a Week 2 loss in Green Bay, but to their credit, Chicago found a way to overcome an inferior opponent and stay in the win column. Good teams find ways to win football games, not lose them, as was the case for Carolina.
4. San Francisco 49ers (6-2, A+)
The 49ers gave us a quick, efficient dismantling of a division rival on the road Monday night. Despite reports to the contrary, it's safe to say the boys from the Bay are still the class of the NFC West.
Who is the best team in the NFL leading into Week 9?
3. New York Giants (6-2, B+)
New York was thisssss close to one of the more embarrassing losses of the Giants-Cowboys series. While methodical in generating a 23-0 lead, the Giants let off the gas and nearly blew what should have been a demoralizing blow to a division rival. Regardless, 6-2 and all alone at the top of the NFC East has to feel good at the halfway point.
2. Houston Texans (6-1, INC)
The Texans had a bye in Week 8.
1. Atlanta Falcons (7-0, A)
Undefeated, but an underdog on the road? The Falcons made the odds makers in Vegas look silly again, rolling over the Eagles in Philadelphia to remain the only NFL team without a blemish in 2012. With three NFC teams with six wins, the Falcons can't afford to take any weeks off.
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