Halfway through the 2013 NFL season, we have one undefeated team, the 8-0 Chiefs, and two winless teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In between, it's anyone's guess as to how the teams stack up.
The Chiefs have gotten off to an improbable start under Andy Reid, and as the league's lone perfect team, their path to the playoffs is an easy one. They just need to win two more games and they're all but guaranteed a spot.
For the winless teams, the rest of the season will be about evaluating the coaches and players on hand. The other 29 teams are in the middle of their own fights for playoff positioning and next-season evaluation.
How do the teams rank at the midway point?
This Week's Rank: 32
Last Week's Rank: 32
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have changed quarterbacks in an attempt to spark something on offense, but they continue to play terrible football. The result is an 0-7 record and a head coach firmly on the hot seat. Greg Schiano isn't coaching to save his job; he's coaching to make sure he can get another job after this one.
The former Rutgers head coach hasn't fared well in his transition to the NFL, and that's putting it nicely. The Bucs are now 1-12 over the last 13 games, and they're playing this poorly despite having top-tier talent at running back and wide receiver, on the offensive line, at linebacker and in the NFL's most talented secondary.
This just goes to show how important the coach is. And in Tampa, a new one is needed.
This Week's Rank: 31
Last Week's Rank: 31
A winless record is disappointing, no matter how much this season is a wash for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even if each loss gets the team closer to a chance at drafting Teddy Bridgewater, that doesn't offer much hope for the players currently on the roster.
The 2013 season may be a throwaway year in Jacksonville, but that doesn't excuse how poorly the team is playing. Losing 42-10 to the San Francisco 49ers is embarrassing, no matter who you're getting in position to draft.
The goal over the next eight games will be to find players who can stay and be built around. Cecil Shorts is one of them. Johnathan Cyprien and Dwayne Gratz are too. Who else, though? Leaders must emerge for this young team.
This Week's Rank: 30
Last Week's Rank: 30
It really doesn't matter who plays quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings; they still can't put together four solid quarters of football.
Even with rookie Cordarrelle Patterson taking the opening kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown, the Vikings still struggled to stay ahead of the Green Bay Packers. The Sunday night game is evidence of the gap between the Vikings roster and the roster of a playoff contender.
At 1-6, the Vikings season isn't completely over yet, but they're two losses away from a best possible record of 8-8. And if you think this team can go 7-2 the rest of the way, please share whatever it is you're drinking.
This Week's Rank: 29
Last Week's Rank: 28
A new quarterback, but the same result for the Cleveland Browns. Whether it's Brandon Weeden or Jason Campbell, the Browns can't find a win unless Brian Hoyer starts the game under center. And he's out for the year.
The Browns defense has been great, and in Week 8, it was again tough playing in the hostile Arrowhead Stadium. Even in a game in which Campbell threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns, the offense couldn't do enough to beat the Chiefs. An encouraging outing, but still a loss.
It's too soon to say the coaching staff should be worried, but the front office has to help the new staff out this offseason with a major overhaul of the roster.
This Week's Rank: 28
Last Week's Rank: 27
Two losses in three weeks kick Washington down in the rankings, but a late-game injury to Robert Griffin III is the bigger concern. Even with the world's most famous surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, telling the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that Griffin is "OK," it's still a concern.
Without Griffin, the team can win, but it must play with a different game plan. Kirk Cousins showed last year that he can move the ball, but the offensive line and receivers must adjust their assignments if he's the quarterback. Of course, Griffin may indeed be fine and could be back next week.
No matter who is playing quarterback, they have to start winning. They are still alive in a wide-open NFC East, but they won't be for long if the losing continues.
This Week's Rank: 27
Last Week's Rank: 29
Two straight games without an Eli Manning interception. Two straight wins for the New York Giants. It doesn't take rocket science to see the connections here.
When Manning is on, the Giants are able to overcome some of their weaknesses and win ballgames. On the flip side of that, you have to credit the defense and offense for playing better the last two weeks to give Manning the support he was lacking in the first six weeks of the season.
Newcomers like Jon Beason and rookie Justin Pugh deserve major credit for their play. Now Tom Coughlin has to keep the streak alive. If he can, the Giants are still alive in the NFC East.
This Week's Rank: 26
Last Week's Rank: 26
The bye week comes at a good time for the Houston Texans, and because of it, there is no movement for them this week. Next week, with quarterback Case Keenum having more time to develop, this could be a team to watch.
There is enough supporting talent in Houston for the team to be challenging, if not consistently good. Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins are dangerous at wide receiver, and the strong run game means that Keenum just has to get the ball out to his playmakers. Doing that will be an upgrade from what we've seen thus far in Houston.
Gary Kubiak has to know that a losing season could result in him losing his job. Expect to see the Texans rise up and fight over the next nine games.
This Week's Rank: 25
Last Week's Rank: 23
Recent history is a hard thing for sportswriters to ignore. It's the reason why the Atlanta Falcons have been overrated by most (myself included) all season long. Those days are over, and the hard reality is that the 2013 Falcons just aren't very good.
You can point to injuries as the reason, and they definitely miss Julio Jones and Roddy White, but the offseason moves made are the bigger issue. Adding Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora looked good in print but hasn't panned out on the field. Ignoring a need at defensive end has crushed the team's defense and put pressure on a young secondary.
On offense, Matt Ryan is forcing throws under pressure and throwing to his third and fourth options at wide receiver with the two stars sidelined. There will be many excuses for the poor showing this season, but the bottom line is that these Falcons will be limping to the finish line.
This Week's Rank: 24
Last Week's Rank: 22
It's official: The Pittsburgh Steelers are not very good.
Losing to the Oakland Raiders really sealed the deal, but the evidence was there after losing to the Minnesota Vikings. Dropping to 2-5 on the year, it's time to start thinking of this team in a different light.
It's easy to see why the Steelers are struggling. They can't get any consistency on the offensive line, and the offensive play-calling doesn't support the personnel on the field. Not that anyone expected Todd Haley to become an offensive genius overnight, but this is pretty bad.
Whoever is calling plays as offensive coordinator next season will inherit good talent and an offensive line with a few workable parts. But the front office and Mike Tomlin must spend the offseason fixing the line and retooling an aging defense.
This Week's Rank: 23
Last Week's Rank: 19
Playing with your third-string quarterback against a division rival is not ideal, but the Philadelphia Eagles at least kept things interesting. A 15-7 loss shows us that the Philadelphia defense is stepping up. Now if the offense could get hot at the same time...
Playing with Matt Barkley, whom the team drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, isn't what Chip Kelly wanted for the upcoming season. Barkley was supposed to sit behind Michael Vick and Nick Foles, but with both of them sidelined, Barkley had to once again step in and play in relief. This time around, it was much better than his three-interception performance from a week ago.
The 2013 season will be a learning experience for Kelly, but more and more each week, you can see the pieces coming together for this team. It might be 2014 before they're ready to compete, but they're on their way.
This Week's Rank: 22
Last Week's Rank: 20
The 2013 Buffalo Bills aren't ready to compete for the AFC East, but they're a lot closer than expected.
Considering Thad Lewis is playing quarterback after starting the season on the practice squad, you have to be impressed with the job Doug Marrone has done in his first year as head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
And with the way Lewis is playing, you have to wonder if the Bills wish they had spent their first-round pick on someone other than quarterback EJ Manuel. Lewis may prove to be a flash in the pan, but he's done just as well as Manuel under more dire circumstances.
The future is bright in Buffalo, even if the 2013 season ends with a sub-.500 record. Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley are quickly building a complete team that can contend in the East.
This Week's Rank: 21
Last Week's Rank: 25
Terrelle Pryor has to be one of the most impressive players of the 2013 season thus far. On Sunday, he put an exclamation point on his first year under center with a 93-yard touchdown run, the longest ever for a quarterback. When Pryor is cooking, the Raiders are eating.
The talent around Pryor isn't great, but Reggie McKenzie has done a good job as general manager to add talent with a terrible salary cap situation. The Raiders don't have a great depth chart yet, but they have building blocks.
The bottom line is that the Raiders finally have a quarterback they can grow with and build around. After suffering through Rick Mirer, Kerry Collins, Marques Tuiasosopo, Andrew Walter, Aaron Brooks, Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper, JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye, Jason Campbell, Carson Palmer, Kyle Boller and Matt Flynn, the team finally has a franchise quarterback.
This Week's Rank: 20
Last Week's Rank: 24
Very quietly, the Arizona Cardinals have moved to 4-4 and are remaining alive in the NFC wild-card race. It hasn't been pretty, but a win is a win.
Week 8 saw the emergence of Andre Ellington, a rookie running back from Clemson. The sixth-round pick went off for 154 yards on just 15 carries. That's a credit to the Cardinals offensive line—a group that had been struggling—and an indictment of the Atlanta Falcons run defense. Either way, expect to see more of Ellington moving forward.
Strong running and a stout defense is the right recipe for the Cardinals roster, but head coach Bruce Arians loves to throw the football. Whether or not the team can stick to this winning mix remains to be seen.
This Week's Rank: 19
Last Week's Rank: 16
Sunday was not a good day for the Miami Dolphins.
Not only did the team lose by 10 points to the division-rival New England Patriots, but All-Pro-caliber center Mike Pouncey was also issued a grand jury subpoena in connection with the Aaron Hernandez case, according to Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated. Sunday will be a forgettable day for many Dolphins fans.
Keeping it to strictly football matters, the Dolphins did a good job of frustrating Tom Brady and slowing down the Patriots passing game, but they couldn't stop the ground game and didn't have an answer for the Patriots defense. Even with New England missing key defenders due to injury, the team was still able to pick off Ryan Tannehill twice and sack him six times.
The problems on offense continue for the Dolphins, and the lack of protection from the offensive line is keeping them from producing.
This Week's Rank: 18
Last Week's Rank: 18
You have to give the St. Louis Rams credit for playing the Seattle Seahawks down to the final seconds, even in a losing effort. The play of the defense was solid all night, and even on offense there were glimmers of hope. But the end result wasn't quite enough.
Blame Kellen Clemens, who just isn't very good at quarterback. Blame offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and his play-calling. Why anyone would choose a fade route against Brandon Browner—who is 6'4"—is beyond questionable.
The Rams have talent, and the Robert Quinn-led defense will keep things interesting, but this team is going nowhere fast without better quarterback play.
This Week's Rank: 17
Last Week's Rank: 17
Coming off a loss to the San Francisco 49ers—their third in a row—the Tennessee Titans needed the bye week to re-evaluate their personnel, game plans and goals moving forward. Finding the team that started 3-1 and erasing the team that's gone 0-3 since is the plan.
A healthy Jake Locker will help, as the team's losses all came as a result of his hip injury. Locker was clearly hobbling still against the 49ers in Week 7, but with time to heal and rehab, he should be back and ready to go against the St. Louis Rams in Week 9.
The Titans aren't out of the playoff race yet, and if they can get back to playing like they did early in the year, a wild-card berth isn't out of the question.
This Week's Rank: 16
Last Week's Rank: 21
Cam Newton's arrival as a truly top-tier quarterback has been fun to watch. And if you didn't know already, Newton has emerged as one of the game's most dangerous quarterbacks.
He might not be the most consistent yet, but the groundwork has been laid. Newton is being used to his full potential in Mike Shula's offense, and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey, who already has chemistry with Newton from predraft workouts, has been a quiet blessing for the staff. Now Newton is producing both through the air and on the ground.
The result has been a 4-1 record and three straight wins over the last five games. With a young defense on the rise and Newton's brilliance, the 4-3 Panthers must be taken seriously.
This Week's Rank: 15
Last Week's Rank: 15
There is no move for the Baltimore Ravens in a bye week, but looking ahead, things could be tough.
Two straight losses before the bye week give the Ravens plenty to think about heading into Week 9 against the Cleveland Browns. That's a game that will be much tougher than you'd imagine.
The Ravens' two losses—Week 6 to Green Bay and Week 7 to Pittsburgh—were by a combined five points, but what's lost in those numbers is that the offense played very poorly in the two outings. This is an offense ranked No. 21 in the league in scoring headed into Week 8. Against a Cleveland defense that's been stout all year, the Ravens must find an offensive identity and stick with it.
This Week's Rank: 14
Last Week's Rank: 14
Young teams will struggle. Young quarterbacks will struggle. The New York Jets did struggle in a 49-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8. That's one week after beating their rivals, the New England Patriots. All chalked up to the ups and downs of a young team.
The Jets must get focused in a hurry, though. They host the New Orleans Saints in Week 9 and then travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills. With a split record against the Patriots, the Jets can't afford to lose games in the division. Winning in Buffalo will put them closer to overtaking the Patriots if they struggle.
Rex Ryan can be frustrated after his team's loss this week, but he's as good as anyone in the NFL at getting the team to bounce back next week. I'd expect a strong showing from the Jets.
This Week's Rank: 13
Last Week's Rank: 13
The San Diego Chargers won two straight games heading into their Week 8 bye. Moving forward, they'll look to fight for playoff positioning in a crowded AFC West.
The Chargers passing game is one of the league's best. Philip Rivers and Co. are producing the No. 6-ranked passing offense as youngsters like Keenan Allen emerge as go-to threats. Rivers is back to playing well, thanks to an offensive line and offensive system that protect him.
On defense, the team is doing enough to win. The talent in the front seven is impressive, but it's been tested by injury. As the schedule gets tougher—still four games remaining against the Broncos and Chiefs—the Chargers secondary must step up. If they can, a wild-card berth is possible.
This Week's Rank: 12
Last Week's Rank: 10
Just when the Dallas Cowboys started to look like a contender in the NFC East, things go dark. Dez Bryant has a meltdown on the sideline. The formerly strong defense surrenders 31 points with DeMarcus Ware injured. Everyone on both sides of the ball is accountable for the Week 8 loss. And it was an ugly one.
By allowing Calvin Johnson to record the second-most receiving yards in NFL history on the day, the Dallas defense was torn apart. And then, Bryant and Jason Witten decided to take their frustrations out on one another instead of on the Lions defense. On a day when the game could have gone either way, the distractions would prove costly.
The Cowboys have the talent to win the East, but whether they have the discipline to remain competitive for another eight weeks is up in the air.
This Week's Rank: 11
Last Week's Rank: 11
One week after losing Jay Cutler to injury, a bye week was exactly what the Chicago Bears needed. Now they have a chance to get healthy on both sides of the ball and time to formulate a plan for life without Cutler under center.
The season doesn't get easier without Cutler, who is expected to miss another three to five weeks. The Bears travel to Green Bay and host Detroit and then Baltimore in the next three games. With Josh McCown taking snaps, it's conceivable that the Bears could be 4-6 when Cutler returns—and that's if he returns as soon as possible.
It's the same story for Bears fans. A promising season cut short by an injury to Cutler.
This Week's Rank: 10
Last Week's Rank: 12
Before the Detroit Lions met the Dallas Cowboys in Week 8, Jerry Jones said he was more worried about Reggie Bush than Calvin Johnson. The wide receiver they call "Megatron" responded by going off for the second-most receiving yards ever in a single game. Oops.
The Lions were dominant on offense in Week 8, aided by Johnson's 329 yards receiving, but the porous secondary made it a much closer game. A one-point win moves the Lions up in the win column, but this game showed that they still have issues.
The Lions are dangerous enough to win shootouts or dog fights, but until the secondary can lock down and prevent teams from scoring big points, I can't see this team going far.
This Week's Rank: 9
Last Week's Rank: 9
The Green Bay Packers get a big win inside the NFC North, but they do so in a week in which every team ranked ahead of them either won or was on a bye. For the Packers, it's a move up in wins but no move in the power rankings.
With the NFC North still wide open, that's good enough for Green Bay. We've come to expect greatness from Aaron Rodgers on a weekly basis, but what he's done in 2013 is remarkable. Rodgers hasn't missed a beat playing with rookie David Bakhtiari at left tackle, rookie Eddie Lacy at running back, Jarrett Boykin and Myles White at wide receiver and Andrew Quarless at tight end.
The Packers will be tested by elite teams, but as the weeks go on, we're seeing a balanced attack on offense and defense. That's what makes this team dangerous as the weather at Lambeau gets colder.
This Week's Rank: 8
Last Week's Rank: 8
Somehow, the New England Patriots find a way to win. In Week 8, that meant the defense helping out with points to keep the Patriots from dropping two straight in the division. The end result is all that matters, though, and a 27-17 win over the Miami Dolphins was the result.
Still, this was an ugly game for Tom Brady and the offense. Brady was just 13-of-22 for 116 yards on the day—good for one of the worst outings of his career. Brady was plagued by dropped passes and poor pass protection, but the Patriots run game came through, and the defense helped with two interceptions of Ryan Tannehill.
That was good enough to win, but not good enough for a move up in the rankings this week.
This Week's Rank: 7
Last Week's Rank: 7
If you needed a definitive win from the Cincinnati Bengals, you got one in the Week 8 beatdown of the New York Jets. And while that may seem like a joke, the Jets just beat the New England Patriots, and they have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. And yet, the Bengals had no trouble handling them in a 49-9 win.
Each week, we see the Bengals playing better and better. Quarterback Andy Dalton has shaken off some early-season struggles and is playing fantastic. He's getting the ball out to A.J. Green while finding secondary targets like Marvin Jones, who had four touchdowns on Sunday.
While other top-tier teams have struggled in the middle of the season, the Bengals are heating up.
This Week's Rank: 6
Last Week's Rank: 6
The New Orleans Saints are now one win away from matching last year's win total. To have done this well in the first eight weeks is a testament to Sean Payton, the hiring of Rob Ryan and the play of Drew Brees.
Brees is playing some of his best football, and that's scary considering just how great he's been in his career. With weapons all around him and young guys like Kenny Stills developing, the Saints offense is truly a threat to score each time the team has the ball.
When the defense is getting big plays from Cameron Jordan and Kenny Vaccaro, they're a terrifying opponent.
This Week's Rank: 5
Last Week's Rank: 5
The San Francisco 49ers lost two games in September to the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts. Since then, they've been perfect. Five straight wins and five straight games scoring more than 30 points have the 49ers back in the elite tier of NFL teams.
What's most remarkable about the team's winning streak is that they're doing so without great play in the passing game. Colin Kaepernick is doing enough to keep defenses honest, but the backbone of the team's wins has been the offensive line and the run game. Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and even fullback Bruce Miller have all been incredible down the stretch.
The NFC's hottest team will only get better once Tank Carradine, Mario Manningham, Eric Wright and Michael Crabtree return. Aldon Smith's status this year is still up in the air.
This Week's Rank: 4
Last Week's Rank: 4
A close win over the St. Louis Rams would normally move the Seattle Seahawks down this week, but their head-to-head win over the San Francisco 49ers keeps them in the No. 4 spot for now.
The Seahawks are clearly struggling with two backup offensive tackles in the lineup, and that's something that could haunt them down the stretch. In a tight NFC West race, any loss by Seattle could mean losing home-field advantage. Playing the next month without Russell Okung at left tackle could be the difference in an NFC championship or an early playoff exit.
But for now, this is still the best team in the NFC. And as they get healthier, that gap could widen.
This Week's Rank: 3
Last Week's Rank: 3
Peyton Manning struggled for a second straight week, but the Denver Broncos defense stepped up in Week 8. That was enough for them to secure a win over Washington, even if the start was a little rough.
It's obvious that the Broncos are banged up. Manning, Ryan Clady, Champ Bailey and others are either playing through pain or not playing at all. It's starting to show on the field with decreased individual performances, but the team has been able to overcome.
A 7-1 record is good for second best in the league, but it would result in Denver being the No. 5 seed in the playoffs if the season ended today. Broncos fans need to hope for a Kansas City Chiefs loss and more wins from Manning and Co.
This Week's Rank: 2
Last Week's Rank: 2
Another week, another Kansas City Chiefs win. Make it eight in a row.
Many of you chimed in last week that the Chiefs should be ranked No. 1 overall as the league's only undefeated team. My reply is that these are not standings or rankings based on schedule, but a look at which teams are currently playing the best, have the best wins and, in a very objective manner, which teams look to be the best moving forward.
The Kansas City Chiefs are playing damn good football, but until they play and beat a team with a winning record, I can't move them ahead of the Indianapolis Colts—a team that took down three teams ranked in the top five and who were all ranked No. 1 at some point this season.
Keep winning and you'll be No. 1, Kansas City. Guaranteed.
This Week's Rank: 1
Last Week's Rank: 1
A general rule in these power rankings is that teams do not move in a bye week. The Indianapolis Colts' win over the Denver Broncos may have been a week ago, but it's not diminished just because they didn't play in Week 8.
The Colts' signature wins over the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Broncos become even more impressive over time. As those three teams continue to play well and stay in the top of the rankings, the Colts' resume becomes stronger.
We will find out soon enough if the Colts can remain in the top spot, but until they have a chance to win or lose, they're staying steady at No. 1.