As the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs should not be denied the top spot in any objective power ranking. After holding off the Houston Texans, the Chiefs have more than tripled their 2012 win total and hold first place alone in the AFC West.
The team isn’t scoring 42.5 points per game like the Broncos, but they just keep winning. That’s something Denver couldn’t do on Sunday night in Indianapolis.
With the Chiefs starting the rankings off, here’s a look at the post-Monday Night Football power rankings heading into Week 8. The focus for this list is teams with a legit chance to hold the No. 1 spot and/or advance to the Super Bowl.
The Real Contenders
1. Kansas City Chiefs 7-0
The Chiefs will occupy this spot until a team puts a loss on their record.
2. Seattle Seahawks 6-1
Seattle is still the most complete team in the NFL. It hasn’t put together its best performance just yet, but Pete Carroll’s bunch has also been playing without one of its key weapons. Seattle acquired Percy Harvin in the offseason to bolster their attack, but he hasn’t played this season.
That could change shortly, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the multi-talented receiver has returned to practice. Look out, it may not be long before Seattle claims the top spot.
3. Denver Broncos 6-1
It wasn’t just the loss on Sunday night that dropped the Broncos to third in the rankings. It was also the near-miss against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5. Tony Romo’s egregious interception didn’t hide the fact that before the timely miscue, the Cowboys quarterback had run roughshod all over the Broncos pass defense.
Romo threw for 506 yards and five touchdowns that game. On Sunday night, Andre Luck and the Colts went for 39 points against the Broncos.
Denver’s offense is one of the best you’ll see, but its defense is putting the team in position to have to score a mound of points every week to win.
That could derail them in the long run.
4. New Orleans Saints 5-1
As far as complete teams are concerned, the Saints are very close to the Seahawks. New Orleans not only has Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham to power an effective offense that is averaging 26.8 points per game, but they now possess a defensive unit that is allowing just 17.2 points per game.
Only the Chiefs and Carolina Panthers have allowed fewer points this season. After losing to the New England Patriots on the road in Week 6, the Saints had a bye in Week 7. The team hosts Buffalo in Week 9 in what should be a win.
5. San Francisco 49ers 5-2
After a little bit of a slow start in the first three weeks of the season, the Niners seem to have found themselves. San Francisco has won four games in a row and only one of their opponents has stayed within 12 points.
In that span, the defense has held their foes to just 12.75 points per game. There doesn’t appear to be a stoppage in sight. The Niners take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Sunday followed by a bye week.
This is a truly dangerous team heading into the second half of the season.
6. Indianapolis Colts 5-2
Some may see this as a bit of disrespect for the Colts considering they just beat the team ranked third on this list. However, one win doesn’t substantiate vaulting Indy into the top three.
This is also the team that lost at home to the Miami Dolphins, only edged the Oakland Raiders by four and lost to the San Diego Chargers by 10.
Yes, the Colts handed two of the top three teams their only loss, but their inconsistency against lower-level squads makes it hard to call them a top-three team—at least for now.
Not Quite Considered Elite
7. New England Patriots 5-2
It helps that Tom Brady has his stud tight end Rob Gronkowski back on the field, but in Gronk’s return, the Pats couldn’t beat their offensively challenged division rivals, the New York Jets.
There are still some consistency issues this team needs to iron out before it can be considered a contender.
8. Green Bay Packers 4-2
As the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears falter, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers politely slid into the top spot in the NFC North.
The Pack have won three in a row, most recently an impressive 31-13 win over the defensive-minded Cleveland Browns on Sunday. With games coming up against the Minnesota Vikings and a banged-up Bears team, the Packers could be set to create some distance between themselves and the rest of the division.
9. Cincinnati Bengals 5-2
Which team has the best chance to become elite?
Andy Dalton has looked great as of late. He’s thrown for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games. His play will dictate just how far the Bengals can go this season.
If he can continue to play at this level, Cincinnati has a chance to make some noise in the AFC playoffs.
10. San Diego Chargers 4-3
The Chargers had an active bye week in Week 7; otherwise known as a game against the Jaguars. Even still, the Chargers have been a surprise with wins over the Cowboys and Colts this season.
This isn’t a legit contender, but they’re no pushover either.
11. Dallas Cowboys 4-3
Romo and Co. could easily be 5-2 with a win over the Broncos. Where would that put them in the rankings?
We could speculate all we want, but the fact of the matter is the Cowboys are still struggling to find a viable pass defense. Dallas came in ranked 30th against teams' aerial attacks in the NFL.
The team did hold the Eagles to three points on Sunday, but it’ll face a big test when the team travels to Motown to take on Calvin Johnson and the Lions.
The Upper-Middle Class
12. Detroit Lions 4-3
Detroit blew an opportunity to hold sole possession of first place in the NFC North on Sunday. It couldn’t defeat the Bengals at Ford Field, thus the team stayed even with the Chicago Bears and lost ground to the Packers.
It was a head-scratching loss considering the Lions won the time-of-possession battle and gained more total yards. In the end, the defense couldn't make the stops it needed and the Bengals won on a last-second field goal by Mike Nugent.
13. Chicago Bears 4-3
Josh McCown looked good in his stead. He threw for 204 yards and a score in just over a half of playing time. Still, there are major questions as to whether he can sustain that level of play.
Moreover, the Bears defense gave up 45 points and continues to give up tons of yardage to its opponents. Chicago is 27th in the NFL in pass defense.
14. New York Jets 4-3
It’s never pretty, but the Jets keep finding ways to win. On Sunday, the team knocked off the New England Patriots. The penalty Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe called "critical" may get the bulk of the credit for the Jets’ win, but this team has been good on defense all year.
New York’s pass and run defense rank in the top 10 in the NFL.
15. Carolina Panthers 3-3
Riding a running game that ranks seventh in the league and a defense that is in the top five against the run and pass, the Panthers are a dangerous team. Though they haven’t played the toughest schedule, the Panthers have only allowed 20 or more points twice this season.
That is a recipe for staying in every game at the very least.
Fighting for Respectability
16. Cleveland Browns 3-4
It would be nice to see how good the Browns could be with a respectable passing game. The defense is ranked in the top 10 against the run and the pass, but third-down efficiency has been a big problem for the offense.
Cleveland is just 12-of-32 on third down over the last two weeks; both games have been losses.
17. Baltimore Ravens 3-4
The defending champions are fading fast. Two close losses in a row makes the bye week coming in Week 8 a welcomed sight. Baltimore lost the last two games by a combined three points. The defense allowed only 19 points in both games, but the offense is still struggling.
It is hard to imagine a team with Ray Rice in the backfield ranked 28th in the NFL in rushing, but that is the reality. Until the Ravens establish a consistent running game, they will continue to slip.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers 2-4
Even after a win over the Ravens—its second straight overall—the Steelers aren’t quite ready to move higher in the rankings. The team has successfully revived itself from an 0-4 start, but the offense is still a work in progress.
Pittsburgh still hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher, though Bell was close with 93 against the Ravens on Sunday. The more Bell becomes a part of the offense, the better the Steelers offense will be and the wins could continue to mount.
19. Buffalo Bills 3-4
After rebounding from a two-game losing streak with a win over the Dolphins on Sunday, the Bills face a tough stretch of games. In Week 8, Buffalo travels to the Big Easy to take on the Saints. The following weeks E.J. Manuel and Co. will see the Chiefs and Steelers.
Each of those teams is ranked in the top 10 against the pass. If Buffalo can somehow come out of those three games with two wins, it will have made a statement about where the team stands in the league.
20. Philadelphia Eagles 3-4
Though the Eagles were held to just three points on Sunday, the offense isn’t really a major concern. Before the division battle with the Cowboys, the Ealges had only been held under 20 points once this season.
The pass defense continues to be the biggest problem. Philly is ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass. That deficiency is the biggest reason the team can’t quite get over the hump against higher-level opponents.
21. Tennessee Titans 3-4
It is hard to believe the Titans began the season 3-1. Once Jake Locker went down, the team has fallen apart. Truth be told, the current three-game losing streak may have been inevitable.
Over the last three games, the Titans have fallen to the Chiefs, Seahawks and Niners. Needless to say, they’ll be happy to see the bye week before they take on the St. Louis Rams in Week 9.
22. Arizona Cardinals 3-4
Turnovers have prevented the Cardinals from having a stronger start. Carson Palmer’s 13 interceptions are second only to Eli Manning’s 15 this season.
Per Sporting Charts, opponents have scored 62 points off the team’s turnovers this season. That’s the fourth-highest total in the NFL. If the Cards want to climb in the rankings, they have to start taking better care of the ball.
23. Atlanta Falcons 2-4
When the season began, the Falcons looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Through six games, the running game is among the worst in the NFL, ranked 30th overall. The passing defense is ranked 23rd and the team simply hasn’t been able to pull out close games.
The inability to stop the pass is a big reason Atlanta has lost close games. Geno Smith and the Jets shined on a key fourth-quarter drive in Week 5, as did Brees and the Saints in Week 1.
The Falcons’ four losses have come by a combined 19 points. If the team hopes to turn things around, the pass defense has to start making plays with the game on the line.
24. Washington Redskins 2-4
Defensively, the Skins looked bad against the Bears on Sunday. Though they won the game, Mike Shanahan’s defense still gave up 41 points. On the bright side, Robert Griffin III and Co. put up 45 and the team is in a lackluster division.
Even at two games under .500, the Skins are very much in the division title picture.
25. St. Louis Rams 3-4
The Rams were already ranked just 18th in passing and 29th in rushing. Losing their starting quarterback will only make scoring points more difficult.
Look for the Rams to plummet in the second half of the season.
26. Miami Dolphins 3-3
The lack of defensive support, quality offensive line play and a dependable running game is putting a lot of pressure on Ryan Tannehill. The second-year quarterback has had a solid season thus far, but his passing defense and running game are ranked 25th in the NFL. He’s also been sacked 26 times in six games.
He needs help if the Dolphins hope to snap their current three-game losing streak.
27. Oakland Raiders 2-4
Almost every loss the Raiders have this season is a respectable one. They lost at Indy, Denver, Kansas City and at home against the Redskins.
Coming off the bye week, the team will face a resurgent Steelers team in a game that will help determine which team is serious about challenging for a wild-card spot.
28. Houston Texans 2-5
Things haven’t been this bad in Houston since David Carr was running for his life on every down. The Texans have lost five games in a row heading into the bye week after getting off to a 2-0 start.
They will be faced with a crossroads game in Week 9 against the Colts. If they come out on the short end, the team can almost forget about making the playoffs.
They’ll be 2-6 and down a head-to-head game against the division’s front-runner.
The Really Bad Teams
29. New York Giants 1-6
The prize for winning its first game of the season is the top spot amongst all the really bad teams in the NFL. For the first time this season, Eli Manning didn’t throw an interception and magically, the team came out on top against the Minnesota Vikings.
30. Minnesota Vikings 1-5
Josh Freeman was putrid at quarterback for the Vikings in his first start. He threw 50 passes against the Giants on Monday night, but failed to throw for 200 yards or a touchdown.
The Vikes need to print up Teddy Bridgewater or Tajh Boyd jerseys immediately.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-6
Is it bad when the combined record of the teams Freeman has played for is 1-11? I’d say so. However, the Bucs can’t blame Freeman entirely for their issues. The team hasn’t won a game since it released him.
Tampa Bay is ranked 29th in the league in passing yards per game. The Bucs' inability to move the ball through the air is wasting the efforts of a decent defense. The defense is ranked fifth against the run and 18th against the pass.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars 0-7
By the time the season is over, there will likely be studies and analysis on whether the Jags are the worst team in history. A lot will depend on if the team can actually win a game this season.
As of now, the numbers would at least support the Jags’ inclusion in the conversation. Jacksonville is dead last in rushing yards, opponent’s rushing yards and 22nd in passing yards per game. The offense is scoring just 10.9 points per game.
The two remaining games against the Texans in Week 12 and Week 14 may be their most realistic chance to win a game.
Stats per Pro-Football-Reference.com
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