NFL Power Rankings: Outlook for Every Team as Season's Second Half Begins
The first half of the NFL season had a little bit of everything. The Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans established themselves as title contenders. The Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings emerged as playoff hopefuls. And several teams struggled to reach expectations.
No matter where a team currently stands, a lot can change in the second half of the season. Parity has taken the league by storm, which has left a lot of squads in the chase for a postseason berth, meaning the remaining few months should be exciting for fans.
With that in mind, let's take a look at updated power rankings featuring a look at how every team should be feeling in Week 9. There's also a deeper dive into three teams to watch moving forward.
1. Atlanta Falcons (7-0)
The Falcons have been dominant, but not perfect. The team has to place an emphasis on improving its run defense before the playoffs in order to capitalize on its tremendous start.
Which team should be No. 1?
2. Houston Texans (6-1)
Matt Schaub is the key piece. He must find ways to lead the Texans to victories even if the running game is getting shut down. The lack of weapons in the passing game is the only potential weakness.
3. Chicago Bears (6-1)
Any time a defense is playing on the level Chicago's has so far, especially in terms of forcing turnovers, it puts a lot of pressure on opponents from the opening whistle. The Bears offense will improve, too.
4. San Francisco 49ers (6-2)
San Francisco continues to fly under the radar, mostly because it doesn't play an exciting brand of football. But, as long as Alex Smith keeps playing at a high level, the 49ers are a serious threat.
5. New York Giants (6-2)
It's unusual to see the Giants pulling away in the NFC East so quickly. Usually the division goes down to the final week and they use the momentum to propel their playoff run.
6. New England Patriots (5-3)
Trading for Aqib Talib should give the Patriots secondary an immediate boost. They are capable of keeping pace with any team in the league on offense, but the defense must step up.
7. Baltimore Ravens (5-2)
The Ravens have been able to build a winning record despite some lackluster showings from Joe Flacco. If he starts living up to his potential, they will be a dangerous team come playoff time.
8. Denver Broncos (4-3)
Peyton Manning leads the league in quarterback rating, and the defense has starting turning things around after a rough start. The Broncos have just as much upside as any team.
9. Green Bay Packers (5-3)
Remember when the Packers were 2-3 and some fans were actually in panic mode? That seems like months ago now that Green Bay has racked up three straight victories and once again have the look of a Super Bowl contender.
Aaron Rodgers has been fantastic, throwing 18 touchdowns over the last five games and making sure the offense didn't miss a beat despite losing several key pieces to injury. Once they get healthy, the Packers will be unstoppable.
The defense is still a concern, though. Green Bay ranks 12th in run defense and 20th in pass defense. Having Clay Matthews coming off the edge can certainly offset some of that, but the rest of the unit needs to elevate their level of play soon.
10. Minnesota Vikings (5-3)
It's time to start taking the Vikings seriously. Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin give them two game-breaking players, and their schedule puts them on track for around nine wins.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)
The Steelers continue to dominate on defense, and Ben Roethlisberger has been terrific leading the offense. Sorting out the running game, which has been a mess, should be their biggest focus.
12. Miami Dolphins (4-3)
On paper, the Dolphins shouldn't be keeping pace with the Patriots in the AFC East. That said, head coach Joe Philbin has done an outstanding job of getting his team to maximize its talent.
13. Indianapolis Colts (4-3)
Andrew Luck is going to lead the Colts to a lot of great moments in his career, just like his predecessor did. Their ability to stay in the playoff race this season will be decided by the defense, though.
14. San Diego Chargers (4-4)
Different season, same story for the Chargers. They have failed to match expectations, but just when people start counting them out they have a strong showing on national television to change the outlook.
15. Seattle Seahawks (4-4)
The Seahawks have cooled off after a hot start, but have two winnable games before their bye week. Should they win them both, they'll be right back on track toward the postseason.
Fact or Fiction: Dallas will make the playoffs.
16. Dallas Cowboys (3-4)
By now it shouldn't be a surprise, but Dallas is once again the most unpredictable team in the league. Until that changes, it's hard to have any faith in the Cowboys' ability to string wins together.
17. Arizona Cardinals (4-4)
Arizona let a golden opportunity slip away by losing four consecutive games after a 4-0 start, and the level of competition wasn't high, either. Based on the schedule, the slide is likely to continue.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)
Josh Freeman has been showing off the form that made him a breakout sensation two years ago. The Bucs' pass defense must improve for them to get back in the race, though.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)
The Eagles have more than enough talent to not only make the playoffs, but to hold their own if they got there. Yet, a lot like their rivals from Dallas, they just haven't been able to play at a high level for any meaningful period of time.
Yes, Michael Vick deserves his fair share of the blame for Philadelphia's struggles, but he's not the sole reason by any stretch of the imagination. The Eagles have to find more ways to get LeSean McCoy the ball in space so he can make plays.
On defense, it all comes down to getting more timely stops. The Eagles could easily be 5-2 right now if they would have made late stops against the Lions and Steelers. There's still hope for Philadelphia, but things must get turned around in short order.
20. Detroit Lions (3-4)
Calvin Johnson hasn't looked like the receiver that tore opposing defenses to shreds last season, and the running game has struggled mightily. The defense has improved, so at least some progress was made.
21. New Orleans Saints (2-5)
Even though the Saints would have to go on an extended hot streak in order to make the playoffs, it's impossible to count them out given their recent success. They are going to make a run.
22. New York Jets (3-5)
It doesn't really matter who's under center for the Jets. Until they find a more reliable running back, the offense won't be able to put up enough points to keep pace in the AFC.
23. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4)
The Bengals were one of the league's most surprising playoff teams last season, but don't appear on track for a repeat performance. There are too many holes to fill and a tough schedule awaits.
24. Oakland Raiders (3-4)
While the Raiders have some talented players, they don't have enough depth quite yet to compete with the Broncos and Chargers for the AFC West crown.
25. Washington Redskins (3-5)
Robert Griffin III has given Redskins fans plenty to get excited about with his dazzling play in the first half, but he can't do it alone. The foundation is in place, now the Redskins must looking for more pieces.
26. St. Louis Rams (3-5)
The Rams are average or worse in just about every major category, so their sub-.500 record isn't a surprise. They simply aren't good enough to win on a consistent basis right now.
27. Buffalo Bills (3-4)
People were still recovering from celebrating the new millennium when the Bills last appeared in a playoff game. Fans in Buffalo thought this was the season that drought might finally come to an end, but hope is quickly slipping away yet again.
Mario Williams, who was given a monster contract to relocate to Western New York, has been a non-factor in most games and his defensive teammates haven't been much better. From Aaron Williams getting beat with ease to Marcell Dareus' lack of production, it's been ugly.
Things have only been slightly better on offense thanks to the dynamic rushing duo of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Ryan Fitzpatrick's inability to beat defenses deep limits the unit's upside, however. The schedule is very favorable, but it's hard to have much confidence in the Bills.
28. Tennessee Titans (3-5)
Tennessee's defense has been an absolute disaster. Add in Chris Johnson, who still hasn't found his top-notch form, and it's easy to understand why the Titans are fading out of the race.
29. Cleveland Browns (2-6)
Although the Browns have some intriguing young players on offense in Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon, they are still a couple seasons away from becoming a threat.
30. Carolina Panthers (1-6)
Most of the talk has surrounded Cam Newton, but the Panthers have plenty of other concerns to address, as well. The roster needs a significant overhaul around the young quarterback.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)
For whatever reason, the Jaguars have been able to have success against the Colts over the past couple seasons. They haven't been able to replicate it against other opponents as their record show, though.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-7)
Major changes are needed at every level in Kansas City. Whatever the organization is trying to accomplish right now clearly isn't working. A shakeup is desperately needed.
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