NFL Power Rankings: Gauging Each Team's Legitimacy After Week 8

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NFL Power Rankings: Gauging Each Team's Legitimacy After Week 8
(Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

Week 8 of the 2013 NFL regular season is officially in the books. Only one undefeated team remains, but countless squads are in hot pursuit of postseason berths as division champions and wild-card race winners.

While every team may have its own form of title aspirations, only a select few have emerged as true contenders. With nine weeks remaining, however, much could change.

Until then, there's only one question to ask: How legitimate is each team in the NFL?

 

32. Jacksonville Jaguars

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Record: 0-8

Week 8: 10-42 loss vs. San Francisco 49ers

Week 9: Bye

Some people have been trying to label a team other than the Jacksonville Jaguars as the worst in the NFL. Those people are either attempting to go against the grain or value Jacksonville's future over its present day.

Not only is Jacksonville this year's true bottom feeder, but it's one of the worst teams in NFL history.

The margins of Jacksonville's eight losses: 26, 10, 28, 34, 14, 16, 18 and 32.

The Jaguars were chosen to play at Wembley Stadium in London, England and proceeded to lose 42-10 to the San Francisco 49ers. Jacksonville's promising receiving corps continued to shine, and the run game generated 90 yards, but going 0-of-2 in the red zone tells the whole story.

At least Jaguars fans can imagine how good Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts III and Mike Brown will be with a competent quarterback.

 

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record: 0-7

Week 8: 13-31 loss vs. Carolina Panthers

Week 9: at Seattle Seahawks

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are No. 8 in opponent rushing yards. Before I get into why this is the worst team the NFC has to offer—it really isn't close—let that strong number sink in and remind you that this defense is a strong unit.

Now, to reality.

Tampa Bay fell to 0-7 during Week 8, losing a one-sided 31-13 affair to the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football. It was a rare moment in which Tampa Bay was blown out, but when it comes to making the right calls at the right time, the Bucs aren't provided with that luxury.

Mike Glennon played well, but rushing a third-round draft pick into the starting role is going as you'd imagine it would.

Glennon was 30-of-51 for 275 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, spreading the ball around to 10 different receivers. That's a strong outing, but his red-zone efficiency was limited, and the running game was granted just 14 attempts for 48 yards.

Glennon has potential, but it'll take time before Tampa Bay starts winning games.

 

30. Minnesota Vikings

Record: 1-6

Week 8: 31-44 loss vs. Green Bay Packers

Week 9: at Dallas Cowboys

The Minnesota Vikings have undeniable upside at their skill positions, but it's becoming painful to watch the quarterback position. Leslie Frazier is doing as much as he can at head coach, Adrian Peterson is still elite at running back, and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson is explosive, but Minnesota has no upside.

It's one thing to have a game manager at quarterback, but it's another thing entirely to be without a reliable source of offense under center.

On a day in which Aaron Rodgers was virtually flawless, Christian Ponder went 14-of-21 for 145 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions during Minnesota's 44-31 Week 8 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Peterson and Ponder both ran for scores, and Patterson returned a kickoff for a touchdown, but it wasn't enough.

Up next is a battle with another quarterback who can spread the field: Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys.

As the trade deadline approaches, Minnesota should be looking for ways to trade Peterson. He's an incredibly popular player, but he's also 28 and unlikely to win a Super Bowl if he remains with the Vikings for the remainder of his career.

He'll be 29 by the time Minnesota reaches the 2014 NFL draft, and at this point, the best thing for Peterson would be an opportunity to win.

 

29. St. Louis Rams

Record: 3-5

Week 8: 9-14 loss vs. Seattle Seahawks

Week 9: vs. Tennessee Titans

The St. Louis Rams have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. Unfortunately, the Rams also have a backup quarterback at the top of the depth chart.

Both of those traits were on full display during Week 8 as the Rams fell 14-9 to the Seattle Seahawks.

Star defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn both registered three sacks, and Williams Hayes added another. Those seven sacks added up to the Rams being in the game until the final seconds, when the offense had a chance to win it on the goal line.

Instead, quarterback Kellen Clemens sailed a fourth-down passing attempt as the clock expired.

Clemens was 15-of-31 for 158 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions but did make quality throws. The bright spot for St. Louis was that Zac Stacy had 26 carries for 134 yards, and Chris Givens caught four passes for 59 yards.

Unfortunately, the Rams haven't run for a single touchdown this season.

 

28. Atlanta Falcons

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Record: 2-5

Week 8: 13-27 loss at Arizona Cardinals

Week 9: at Carolina Panthers

The Atlanta Falcons have been the single most disappointing team of the 2013 regular season. Despite finishing the 2012 campaign with the best record in the NFL and coming within a second-half collapse of reaching the Super Bowl, Atlanta is currently 2-5.

Injuries have been an issue, but the Falcons' collapse began before Julio Jones went down.

During the Falcons' 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8, Atlanta allowed 201 yards on the ground to a team that ranks No. 22 in rushing offense. It was yet another display of Atlanta's defense failing to come through when it was needed.

Most concerning of all, the Falcons offense was absolutely putrid.

The rushing attack managed 27 yards on 14 carries, with Steven Jackson running for six on 11 attempts. This forced Matt Ryan to throw the ball an obscene 61 times, thus resulting in one touchdown to four interceptions.

Atlanta has a heavy reliance upon the pass, and with both Jones and Roddy White battling injuries, that paints a grim picture for future games.

 

27. Cleveland Browns

Record: 3-5

Week 8: 17-23 loss at Kansas City Chiefs

Week 9: vs. Baltimore Ravens

During Week 8, the Cleveland Browns had the unfortunate task of going on the road to play the Kansas City Chiefs. Cleveland played well, but in the end, the absence of a featured running back prevented Cleveland from winning.

A six-point loss may be encouraging, but the key part of that phrase is "loss."

Jason Campbell was very strong in Brandon Weeden's absence, going 22-of-36 for 293 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Cleveland ran for a total of 57 yards on 15 carries, with Willis McGahee picking up a team-high 28 on nine attempts.

Rising stars Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron continued their spectacular seasons, but Cleveland made just one red-zone appearance and paid the price for it.

Defensively, Cleveland came up with an astonishing six sacks but failed to force a single turnover. The ferocious pass rush deserves to be praised, especially after rookie Barkevious Mingo registered a sack, but it's unacceptable to go a full game without registering a takeaway.

It's hard to fault the Browns for losing in Kansas City, but 3-5 is a bad place to be.

 

26. Pittsburgh Steelers

Record: 2-5

Week 8: 18-21 loss at Oakland Raiders

Week 9: at New England Patriots

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Week 8 with a three-game winning streak and the opportunity to move to one game below .500. The Steelers scored 15 consecutive points during the second half, but it was too little, too late, as Mike Tomlin's team fell 21-18 to the Oakland Raiders.

Now, Pittsburgh is 2-5 and searching for answers.

The Steelers failed to score a single touchdown until the fourth quarter when Ben Roethlisberger linked up with Emmanuel Sanders for one and Le'Veon Bell rushed for another. Unfortunately, Bell also had 24 yards on 13 carries, as Pittsburgh continued to fail in establishing balance.

A Week 9 clash with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots is the last thing the Steelers need.

Defensively, the Steelers registered two sacks and two interceptions, with Troy Polamalu registering one of each. Cortez Allen had the other pick, and Brett Keisel tallied a sack and a fumble recovery for Pittsburgh's improving defense.

Unfortunately, a defense is only as effective as its offense permits. 

 

25. Houston Texans

Record: 2-5

Week 8: Bye

Week 9: vs. Indianapolis Colts

The Houston Texans had a long-awaited bye during Week 8 of the regular season. Houston has lost five consecutive games to fall to 2-5 overall and will play the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts in Week 9.

Not only is this a must-win scenario, but it's a golden opportunity for Houston to make a run at the division crown.

 

24. Washington Redskins

Record: 2-5

Week 8: 21-45 loss at Denver Broncos

Week 9: vs. San Diego Chargers

With 7:49 remaining in the third quarter, the Washington Redskins owned a 21-7 lead over the Denver Broncos. Over the next 22:48, the Redskins allowed 31 unanswered points and eventually lost 45-21 at Mile High Stadium.

That's a great way to redefine the term "collapse."

The defense played better than the scoreboard suggests, but even during the sloppiest game that we've seen from the Broncos, Washington couldn't do enough to win. The Redskins allowed five offensive touchdowns and 446 yards of total offense, which overshadowed three interceptions, a fumble recovery and a pick-six.

Two-and-a-half quarters of greatness doesn't work against a team as dangerous as Denver.

Robert Griffin III continued to struggle with his accuracy, going 15-of-30 for 132 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also fumbled the ball twice and lost one, which summarizes the boom-or-bust nature of Griffin III's sophomore campaign.

No one will debate RG3's ability, but he's made critical mental mistakes in every one of Washington's five losses. That needs to change if the Redskins are going to salvage this season.

 

23. Philadelphia Eagles

Record: 3-5

Week 8: 7-15 loss vs. New York Giants

Week 9: at Oakland Raiders

The Philadelphia Eagles were once a team that used a single half of football to convince the world that their offense is unstoppable. Since the first half of Week 1, however, the Eagles have been exposed as a team with crippling inconsistency.

Over the past two weeks, Philadelphia's vaunted offense has scored 10 total points. Worst of all, the Eagles were dominated at home. Again.

That's one of the worst streaks you'll ever read about.

The Eagles didn't score a single offensive touchdown during their 15-7 loss to the New York Giants in Week 8. Philadelphia also failed to find the end zone on offense during its 17-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7.

Until Philadelphia solves its quarterback issues, points will continue to be tough to come by.

 

22. New York Giants

Record: 2-6

Week 8: 15-7 win at Philadelphia Eagles

Week 9: Bye Week

The New York Giants have gone from 0-6 to 2-6 with back-to-back victories over teams with high-powered rushing attacks. After defeating the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in Week 7, the Giants beat the rival Eagles 15-7 during Week 8.

The offense may not be flourishing, but the defense has finally come to life.

New York came up with two interceptions and four sacks against the Eagles, holding the vaunted rushing offense to 48 yards on 19 carries. The cause for concern is that New York committed 11 penalties to Philadelphia's four, but in the end, the win was secured.

During a season that's been as poor as 2013 has been for New York, every win counts.

Offensively, Eli Manning was 25-of-39 for no touchdowns and an ever-important zero interceptions. New York was 0-of-2 in the red zone, but Peyton Hillis ran for 70 yards, and kicker Josh Brown converted a career-high five field goals to get the win.

Somehow, New York enters its bye just two games back of the first-place Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.

 

21. Miami Dolphins

Record: 3-4

Week 8: 17-27 loss at New England Patriots

Week 9: vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Entering halftime, the Miami Dolphins owned a 17-3 lead over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. From that point on, the Dolphins were shut out and allowed 24 consecutive points en route to a 27-17 loss.

Miami has now lost four in a row.

Ryan Tannehill has flashed elite upside, but he now has nine interceptions and eight fumbles in seven appearances. Tannehill did throw two touchdowns against the Patriots, and Miami ran for 156 yards, but turnovers destroyed the Dolphins in the second half.

It was the third consecutive game in which Tannehill completed less than 52.5 percent of his throws.

Defensively, Jared Odrick came up with two sacks, Olivier Vernon registered one, and Olivier Vernon came up with an interception. Miami's attack faltered during the final two quarters, allowing New England to run the ball at virtual will on a day in which Tom Brady was ineffective.

This was a golden opportunity for Miami to move to within .5 games of the division lead, and it lost it because of sloppy play.

 

20. Buffalo Bills

Record: 3-5

Week 8: 17-35 loss at New Orleans Saints

Week 9: vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The Buffalo Bills are struggling to get through a very difficult stretch of their schedule. Since starting at 2-2, Buffalo has lost three of four and will now face the Kansas City Chiefs during Week 9.

In Week 8, Buffalo fell 35-17 to the New Orleans Saints.

Buffalo owned a 10-7 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the second quarter, but New Orleans posted two touchdowns in that short span of time. The Bills offense played well, and the defense wasn't terrible, but quality play isn't enough against New Orleans' explosive offense.

Buffalo learned that the hard way.

Thad Lewis was 22-of-39 for 234 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and Fred Jackson ran for a score. Both Steve Johnson and Scott Chandler caught seven passes for 72 yards, with Stevie finding the back of the end zone.

With three turnovers as a team, however, the Bills couldn't survive at New Orleans.

 

19. Tennessee Titans

Record: 3-4

Week 8: Bye

Week 9: at St. Louis Rams

The Tennessee Titans were on bye during Week 8 of the regular season. Tennessee is currently 3-4 with a Week 9 game against the St. Louis Rams on the horizon.

A healthy Jake Locker could lead this team to a postseason berth.

 

18. Oakland Raiders

Record: 3-4

Week 8: 21-18 win vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 9: vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The Oakland Raiders continue to pull out victories that few expect them to achieve. This time around, Pryor led the Raiders to a 21-18 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers to move to 3-4 on the season.

Individually, Pryor set a record with the longest run by any quarterback in NFL history.

Explosive, promising, exhilarating—whichever word you think fits best is likely accurate.

Pryor was 10-of-19 for 88 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, but he also ran the ball for 106 yards. Darren McFadden added 73 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and the defense came up with five sacks and two interceptions.

Rookie Sio Moore had two of those sacks, and Oakland now moves to 3-4 with a slate of promising young stars in the making. Up next is a battle with the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9.

Who thought .500 would be a realistic possibility for Oakland this late in the season?

 

17. Baltimore Ravens

Record: 3-4

Week 8: Bye

Week 9: at Cleveland Browns

To put it simply, the Baltimore Ravens haven't played well during the 2013 regular season. Not only are the defending Super Bowl champions just 3-4, but they've lost two consecutive games and three of their past four outings.

The Ravens were on bye during Week 8 but will return for a road game against the Cleveland Browns in Week 9.

 

16. New York Jets

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Record: 4-4

Week 8: 9-49 loss at Cincinnati Bengals

Week 9: vs. New Orleans Saints

The New York Jets were absolutely atrocious against the Cincinnati Bengals during Week 8 of the regular season. Both offensively and defensively, the Jets fell apart, losing 49-9 against a team that it could end up competing with come the postseason.

New York now enters a Week 9 clash with the New Orleans Saints at 4-4.

Geno Smith was an efficient 20-of-30 but tallied 159 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions on a day in which Andy Dalton lit up the scoreboard. The Jets had 93 yards on the ground, but it came on 24 rushes and slowed things down when New York needed to attack.

For as poor as New York's offense was, the defense is the focus here.

New York has been dominant against the run, but there's no way around the fact that the Jets missed Darrelle Revis in this game. Smith threw two pick-sixes, but New York allowed five passing touchdowns and 402 yards of total offense.

The Jets will now look to avoid falling below .500 during Week 9.

 

15. Arizona Cardinals

Record: 4-4

Week 8: 27-13 win vs. Atlanta Falcons

Week 9: Bye

The Arizona Cardinals entered Week 8 in danger of a letdown game against a rebounding Falcons team. Rather than faltering, Arizona held down its home-field advantage and dominated Atlanta by a score of 27-13.

This one was all about the defense.

Going up against Matt Ryan, one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Arizona came up with four interceptions and four sacks. Tyrann Mathieu continued his marvelous rookie season, and the Cardinals held Atlanta to 27 rushing yards on 14 attempts.

Offensively, it was an awakening.

Carson Palmer was precise with the football, going 13-of-18 for 172 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd both caught touchdown passes, and Andre Ellington ran for a career-high 154 yards and a touchdown.

Arizona enters its bye week with reason for confidence at 4-4.

 

14. Dallas Cowboys

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Record: 4-4

Week 8: 30-31 loss at Detroit Lions

Week 9: vs. Minnesota Vikings

One stop at the goal line and the Dallas Cowboys would be a 5-3 football team with full control over the NFC East. Instead, the Cowboys are 4-4 with control over the NFC East.

Dallas still has reason to be confident, but Week 8 was a punch in the gut.

Dallas seemed to have the Detroit Lions defeated, but Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson led a final-minute drive that led to a 31-30 Cowboys loss. It was the fourth time this season that Dallas was in a position to win late and faltered, and it was the third time it lost by three points or less.

If this team learns to close out, it'll be a Super Bowl contender. Until then, it isn't.

Tony Romo was just 14-of-30, but tallied 206 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The run game was very poor, tallying 62 yards on 26 carries, but the Cowboys flashed their potential without both DeMarco Murray and DeMarcus Ware.

Dallas' Week 9 meeting with the Minnesota Vikings is critical for the trajectory of the Cowboys' season.

 

13. Chicago Bears

Record: 4-3

Week 8: Bye

Week 9: at Green Bay Packers

The Chicago Bears were on bye during Week 8 of the regular season. Marc Trestman's crew is 4-3 and will face the Green Bay Packers during Week 9 in a game that could determine the leader in the NFC North.

Jay Cutler's availability could determine the outcome of Chicago versus Green Bay.

 

12. Carolina Panthers

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Record: 4-3

Week 8: 31-13 win at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 9: vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Carolina Panthers have used outstanding defense and a rapidly maturing offense to reach 4-3 after eight weeks. During Week 8, Carolina reached new heights of dominance by defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-13 on the road.

An 18-point win against a division opponent is tough to come by, and that's what Carolina earned.

Cam Newton was a surgical 23-of-32 for 221 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, 50 rushing yards and one running score. DeAngelo Williams added a rushing touchdown of his own, and both Greg Olsen and Mike Tolbert found the end zone as receivers.

From there, it was all about the Panthers defense continuing to dominate.

Charles Johnson registered 2.0 sacks, Greg Hardy had one and Colin Jones recovered a fumble. Carolina held Tampa Bay to 48 rushing yards on 14 attempts and, despite facing 51 pass attempts, limited the Bucs to less than 300 yards through the air.

This is an elite defensive unit with a star-caliber quarterback and a balanced run game. That sounds like a contender to me.

 

11. San Diego Chargers

Record: 4-3

Week 8: Bye

Week 9: at Washington Redskins

The San Diego Chargers were on bye during Week 8 of the 2013 regular season. This comes after San Diego earned back-to-back double-digit wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively.

San Diego will hit the road to face the Washington Redskins in Week 9.

 

10. Detroit Lions

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Record: 5-3

Week 8: 31-30 win vs. Dallas Cowboys

Week 9: Bye

The Detroit Lions have started the season with three victories coming by eight points or less. That's a key development for the Lions, as they've finally discovered how to close out games strong and pick up big wins over quality teams.

Detroit now enters its bye week at 5-3.

During Week 8, the Lions defeated the Cowboys 31-30 after quarterback Matthew Stafford ran for a touchdown with 12 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Stafford added 488 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

The star of the game, however, was the record-setting Calvin Johnson.

If Johnson keeps playing at this level, he will enter the "Greatest of All Time" conversation.

Reggie Bush added 122 yards of total offense and a rushing touchdown, and Joique Bell found the back of the end zone on a one-yard run. It was a continued sign of Detroit's development of offensive balance as well as a display of its furious run defense.

Detroit could be a scary team come the postseason.

 

9. New England Patriots

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Record: 6-2

Week 8: 27-17 win vs. Miami Dolphins

Week 9: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The New England Patriots continue to be one of few established Super Bowl contenders in 2013. There have been many attempts to criticize the Patriots for the way they've been winning, but in the face of adversity, New England continues to respond and win games.

Injuries are concerning, but if Week 8 didn't convince you of this team's resiliency, what will?

The Patriots trailed 17-3 at the half but came back to win 27-17 over the rival Miami Dolphins. Tom Brady struggled, but found Aaron Dobson for the rally-starting touchdown, and both Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley ran for game-deciding touchdowns.

As a team, New England returned to its original identity by running the ball 37 times for 152 yards and two scores.

Defensively, the Patriots came up with six sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery against Miami. Dont'a Hightower picked up his first sack of the year, Logan Ryan picked up two while blitzing as a cornerback, and the Pats came back for a critical win.

If Tom Brady's quality of play is this team's biggest question mark, the upside is extraordinary.

 

8. Green Bay Packers

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Record: 5-2

Week 8: 44-31 win vs. Minnesota Vikings

Week 9: vs. Chicago Bears

The Green Bay Packers started the season with a difficult three-game stretch. In turn, the Packers fell to 1-2 with two one-possession road losses to Super Bowl contenders.

Since its Week 4 bye, Green Bay has won four straight games to reach 5-2.

In Week 8, the Packers defeated the Vikings 44-31 behind a dangerously balanced offensive attack. Aaron Rodgers was an exceptional 24-of-29 for 285 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and the Packers ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns as a team.

For the first time in the Rodgers era, the Packers have an elite rushing attack. The rest of the NFC should take notice.

It wasn't a great day for the defense, but Mike Daniels had two sacks and Jamari Lattimore registered his second in as many games. By holding Minnesota to 2-of-8 on third-down conversions, the Packers sealed a huge division win.

Green Bay now controls its own destiny.

 

7. Cincinnati Bengals

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Record: 6-2

Week 8: 49-9 win vs. New York Jets

Week 9: at Miami Dolphins

Entering Week 8, the Cincinnati Bengals had won five of their previous six games by seven points or less. During Week 8, the Bengals erupted and began to display just how dangerous a team they can be with an established No. 2 receiver.

Cincinnati dominated the New York Jets 49-9, and Marvin Jones established himself as No. 2 on the depth chart and No. 1 in franchise history.

A monstrous performance, to say the least.

Jones caught eight passes for 122 yards and four touchdowns, and A.J. Green pulled in three receptions for 115 yards. Jermaine Gresham added a receiving score, and the offense performed at its greatest level yet.

Most importantly, Andy Dalton was 19-of-30 for 325 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Dalton has now topped 300 passing yards and three touchdowns in three consecutive games.

If that doesn't impress you, I haven't even touched on Cincinnati's four sacks and two defensive touchdowns.

 

6. San Francisco 49ers

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Record: 6-2

Week 8: 42-10 win vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 9: Bye

The San Francisco 49ers were once a 1-2 football team that had suffered two consecutive losses by at least 20 points. Since then, the Niners have won five straight games by double-digit margins.

In Week 8, it was a 42-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Colin Kaepernick was 10-of-16 for 164 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, 54 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Frank Gore added two rushing scores, Kendall Hunter ran for 84 yards, and Vernon Davis caught a pass in the end zone.

San Francisco tallied 221 rushing yards as a team and went 5-of-5 in the red zone to establish the return of its explosive offense.

Defensively, it wasn't a spectacular performance by the Niners, but they kept Jacksonville out of the end zone. Both on third downs and in the red zone, the 49ers stepped up to make plays to limit the impact of long drives.

To think, San Francisco is still playing without its top two receivers from a year ago.

 

5. Indianapolis Colts

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Record: 5-2

Week 8: Bye

Week 9: at Houston Texans

The Indianapolis Colts are the single most difficult team to evaluate in the NFL. Indianapolis is currently 5-2 with wins over the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks but is preparing to do something it hasn't done since 2001: play without Reggie Wayne.

Don't overlook the importance of his absence:

Fortunately, Indianapolis had a bye week to evaluate a crop of receivers that includes T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Coby Fleener.

 

4. New Orleans Saints

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Record: 6-1

Week 8: 35-17 win vs. Buffalo Bills

Week 9: at New York Jets

The New Orleans Saints have one of the most high-octane offensive units in the NFL. It was yet another display of the Saints' potency on offense as well as the the dramatically improved defense that New Orleans possesses.

This time around, it was a 35-17 win against the Buffalo Bills.

Drew Brees was 26-of-34 for 332 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions against a Bills defense that has displayed signs of dominance. Both Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills had two receiving touchdowns, and Lance Moore hauled in one, as Pierre Thomas paced the team with 94 yards from scrimmage.

New Orleans is now 6-1.

The Saints recorded four sacks as a team, Keenan Lewis registered an interception, and two players recovered fumbles. Cameron Jordan continued his red-hot season with his sixth sack and a fumble recovery against Buffalo.

The Saints will face the New York Jets in Week 9.

 

3. Seattle Seahawks

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Record: 7-1

Week 8: 14-9 win at St. Louis Rams

Week 9: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Seattle Seahawks survived a scare on Monday Night Football with a 14-9 victory over the St. Louis Rams. It took a fourth-quarter stand on the goal line in order for the Seahawks to win, but it was a testament to the resiliency this team possesses.

But can Seattle consistently win on the road?

The Seahawks are 4-1 on the road in 2013 with an average margin of victory at 6.3 points per contest.

Russell Wilson was 10-of-18 for 139 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Golden Tate caught five passes for 93 yards and two scores. The Seahawks ran the ball 15 times for 44 yards, but the defense was strong enough to overcome a weak performance by the offensive line.

Richard Sherman and Bruce Irvin both had interceptions for the Seahawks, and three separate players had sacks. In the end, the Seahawks overcame an offensive dud of a performance and moved to 7-1 on the season.

Seattle will face Tampa Bay in Week 9.

 

2. Denver Broncos

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Record: 7-1

Week 8: 45-21 win vs. Washington Redskins

Week 9: Bye

The Denver Broncos played very poorly during Week 8 of the 2013 regular season. Peyton Manning threw three interceptions and lost a fumble, the Broncos averaged 3.1 yards per rushing attempt as a team, and the run defense allowed 112 yards.

Even still, Denver defeated the Washington Redskins 45-21. How scary is that?

Even in its worst performance of the season, Denver managed to score 45 points and defeat an opponent by a 24-point margin. After scoring just seven points through two-and-a-half quarters, Denver scored 38 points in a span of 22 minutes and 48 seconds.

The Broncos are now 7-1 after a game that most teams would have lost.

Manning ended up completing passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns, and Montee Ball ran for his first career touchdown. Eight players had receptions, four found the end zone, and Knowshon Moreno had 133 yards of total offense and a score.

The Broncos enter Week 9 as the most dominant team in football.

 

1. Kansas City Chiefs

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Record: 8-0

Week 8: 23-17 win vs. Cleveland Browns

Week 9: at Buffalo Bills

During Week 8, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Cleveland Browns in a hard-fought 23-17 battle. In turn, many have offered up criticism, claiming that Kansas City's record is a product of the lackluster quality of opponents that it has faced.

Since when are we penalizing teams for winning games?

Alex Smith was 24-of-36 for 225 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and 40 rushing yards. Jamaal Charles added 120 yards of total offense, and Dexter McCluster had seven receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown.

Anthony Sherman added a receiving touchdown, and Kansas City continued to display dangerous balance on offense.

Defensively, Justin Houston added his 11th sack of the season, and Frank Zombo recovered a fumble. The pass rush wasn't its normally dominant self, but the defense did limit Cleveland to 57 yards of rushing offense.

Derrick Johnson added a team-high 12 tackles, and Kansas City continued its undefeated season.

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