Although there is still a lot of football left to be played in this NFL season, we can start narrowing down the legitimate contenders for this year's Super Bowl.
Of course, a lot can change in the second half of the year. Last season, the Houston Texans were one of the favorites to win a championship before fading down the stretch and eventually losing early in the playoffs.
That can certainly happen this year, especially with so many surprise teams near the top of the standings. After seven or eight games, however, there is a solid indication about how good each squad really is.
Here is a look at power rankings for each team through Week 8, or about halfway through the season.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-0)
It remains to be seen how long the Chiefs can stay on top of the rankings, but they deserve to be at No. 1 after starting the first half of the season undefeated.
The defense is truly elite, leading the NFL in points allowed per game while also featuring the best pass rush in the league. This unit is built to slow down even the best quarterbacks, which is something that will be on display in the second half of the year.
While many will question the ability of Alex Smith at quarterback, he is doing what it takes to win games, which mostly includes avoiding mistakes. As long as Jamaal Charles continues to run well, the offense will be just fine.
Kansas City has certainly benefited from an easy schedule, but the truth is that there are no gimmes in the NFL. This team has scrapped together victories, and as a result it is the best team in football.
2. Denver Broncos (7-1)
There is clearly some doubt forming about the Broncos, but they proved in their come-from-behind win against the Washington Redskins that the offense still has the ability to score almost any time it wants. As long as Peyton Manning is in uniform, no deficit is too great.
As the bye week allows the defense to get healthy, this will once again be among the top squads in football going forward.
3. New Orleans Saints (6-1)
Although not many are considering the Saints the best team in the NFC, it is hard to argue against it. They play consistently great offense, and their defense continues to improve every week.
If not for a last-second touchdown throw by Tom Brady, New Orleans would still be undefeated. As the schedule gets tougher, the Saints will prove how good they really are.
4. Seattle Seahawks (7-1)
The Seahawks still look shaky on the road, but they are coming away with wins and are now 4-1 away from home.
Still, the St. Louis Rams might have given teams a blueprint on how to beat Seattle: run the ball, rush the passer and have a slightly better quarterback than Kellen Clemens.
5. Indianapolis Colts (5-2)
If this was the BCS, the Colts would have as good of a resume as anyone with big wins over the Broncos, Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. However, consistency might be an issue in the second half of the season.
Andrew Luck and company have to prove that they can play just as well against weaker opponents and avoid more bad losses.
6. San Francisco 49ers (6-2)
There was definitely cause for concern when the 49ers started 1-2. Not only was the offense completely shut down by both the Seahawks and Colts, but the squad had moved away from the things that it did well over the past two seasons.
However, San Francisco has returned to the run-heavy strategy that took it to the Super Bowl last season.
The 49ers are now the No. 1 rushing team in the NFL at 153 yards per game, and it is taking the pressure off of Colin Kaepernick. This allows the young quarterback to simply relax and make the big plays he is used to providing.
As young players on the defense like Eric Reid and Corey Lemonier continue to improve, this will be one tough team to beat down the stretch.
7. Green Bay Packers (5-2)
Peyton Manning might have the statistics to make him MVP, but Aaron Rodgers is certainly making his case. Despite losing numerous playmakers on offense, the quarterback continues to lead his group to blowout victories with a no-name supporting cast.
It proves that as long as Rodgers is healthy, the team will be just fine.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)
We knew going into the season that the Bengals defense would be solid, but it has been Cincinnati's offense that has carried the team over the past few weeks.
Andy Dalton has 11 touchdowns, only two interceptions and has averaged 345 yards passing in his last three games. He is no longer a "game manager" but instead a quarterback who will win a lot of games for Cincinnati.
9. New England Patriots (6-2)
Something still does not seem right with Tom Brady. Even with Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola healthy last week, he threw for only 116 yards and generally struggled with his accuracy.
This is still the best team in the AFC East, but the Patriots will not run away with the division as expected.
10. Detroit Lions (5-3)
Detroit got a much-needed win over the Dallas Cowboys on a last-second quarterback sneak by Matthew Stafford. This keeps the Lions in line for a playoff spot if the season ended today, but there is still a lot of work left to do.
The key will simply be avoiding the mistakes on both sides of the ball that have doomed them in the past.
11. Carolina Panthers (4-3)
It is amazing how quickly an opinion can change about a player in the NFL. Cam Newton looked awful in a Week 5 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, but he has been quite impressive during the Panthers' recent three-game winning streak.
All of a sudden, he is once again considered a top young quarterback in the league.
However, Carolina's recent success has had less to do with Newton and more to do with the Panthers' excellent defense. The unit has allowed the second-fewest points per game, thanks to an elite defensive line that can both stop the run and get to the opposing quarterback.
As long as Newton can avoid mistakes, the Panthers should keep winning.
12. Chicago Bears (4-3)
With the Packers and Lions coming up on the schedule, the question is not just if the Bears offense can score with Josh McCown at quarterback. The bigger issue is whether the defense can stop anyone, especially after allowing 45 points to the Washington Redskins in Week 7.
If the defense continues to struggle, it will not matter who is under center.
13. Arizona Cardinals (4-4)
It is starting to become more apparent that the Cardinals are better than their record indicates. Their four losses have come against teams with a combined record of 22-9, while they also have quality wins over the Panthers and Lions.
The emergence of running back Andre Ellington gives the offense more balance, which could help the squad contend for a playoff spot in the second half of the year.
14. San Diego Chargers (4-3)
We still do not know how good the Chargers can be, but Philip Rivers is playing some of the best football of his life in keeping the team above .500.
The veteran quarterback is second in the league in quarterback rating behind Peyton Manning and is first with a completion percentage of 73.9. This efficiency keeps the offense on the field, and it has led to enough wins to stay competitive in a tough division.
15. Baltimore Ravens (3-4)
While the story of the offseason was about the defensive losses, the Ravens offense has been the thing holding this team back. Ray Rice cannot get the running game started, which has limited Joe Flacco's effectiveness at quarterback.
Something will have to change in order for Baltimore to get back to the postseason.
16. Dallas Cowboys (4-4)
Whether you blame Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, the coaching staff or anyone else, the truth is that the Cowboys lose a lot of games that they have a chance to win.
Although this should not be an issue against the Minnesota Vikings next week, Dallas has to work on closing out games in order to stay on top of the NFC East.
17. New York Jets (4-4)
The Jets are building a nice core of players to contend in the future. However, The current club simply makes too many mistakes. Last week's blowout loss proved that they are not quite ready and need time to grow.
It will be up to head coach Rex Ryan to keep this squad focused on a weekly basis, especially after poor performances like in Week 8.
18. Oakland Raiders (3-4)
Remember when the season started and everyone though the AFC West was the weakest division in football? Not anymore, as the Oakland Raiders prove that even the bottom of the division is very tough.
Terrelle Pryor is proving to be a complete player instead of a sideshow act, and he has the Raiders' rebuilding project way ahead of schedule.
19. Tennessee Titans (3-4)
After a 3-1 start, the Titans have fallen to 3-4, having run into some tough scheduling. However, the bye week gives Jake Locker more time to get healthy, and with a defense capable of slowing down the pass, Tennessee has a chance to go on a run and sneak into the postseason.
20. St. Louis Rams (3-5)
The season-ending injury to quarterback Sam Bradford is really a disappointing one, since he was playing as well as he ever had before getting hurt. And Zac Stacy was proving to be competent as a starting running back.
Now, not even a great Rams defense can help the team as long as Kellen Clemens, Bradford's replacement, runs the show.
21. Buffalo Bills (3-5)
Although Buffalo has not exactly been a great team this year, there is a lot of fight on this roster. The players go into every game thinking they will win, and they come close more times than not.
Even though logic states the Chiefs will have an easy time against the Bills in Week 9, do not be surprised if quarterback Thad Lewis and his group give the last undefeated team all it can handle.
22. New York Giants (2-6)
It is hard to say a 2-6 team is headed for a playoff spot, but no team in the NFC East has looked better in the past two weeks than the Giants. Then again, that is like getting the best grades at summer school. The standard for the NFC East is that low.
Despite an 0-6 start, the Giants head into the bye in good shape, thanks to a complete transformation of everything that was going wrong.
Eli Manning—who had 15 interceptions in the first six games—has not turned the ball over the last two weeks. Additionally, the offensive line started clearing space for the run game while the defense has remembered how to tackle.
If this solid play can continue in the coming weeks, New York can move into first place in an extremely weak division.
23. Washington Redskins (2-5)
After two straight weeks of using his legs to help the offense, Robert Griffin III was once again bottled up in Week 8. To make matters worse, he was terrible as a passer and sustained a slight injury to his knee.
While he will likely play his team's next game, you have to question his mental state at this point. He has lacked an overall awareness and could once again be scared to run the ball. This will limit the Redskins offensively and slow them down for the rest of the year.
24. Miami Dolphins (3-4)
The Dolphins had a solid start to the year before teams were able to expose the offensive line as one of the worst in the NFL. Ryan Tannehill has now been sacked 32 times this year, which leads the league.
Tannehill this year has looked solid while on his feet, but he is not helping anyone on his back. This will not change anytime soon, and Miami can expect a lot more losses before the season ends.
25. Cleveland Browns (3-5)
Cleveland is doing what it needs to do to help the future, which is find the pieces that will bring the team success. There are a lot of quality players on defense, while Josh Gordon, Joe Thomas and Jordan Cameron are among the best at their positions.
A quality quarterback will make everything much better next season.
26. Atlanta Falcons (2-5)
However, there is no excuse for the defensive performance that has been on display this season. Even if healthy, Atlanta would be looking at a long season.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5)
The Steelers appeared to turn things around with two straight wins heading into Week 8. However, the same problems crept up against the Raiders, including an especially poor effort from the offensive line.
An offense cannot do much without an effective line, and the Steelers will have a lot more trouble as the season continues.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)
Sure, the Eagles have three wins and are only one game away from the division lead. Then again, few people can watch this team over the past couple of weeks and believe many more wins are in the future.
The offense that dazzled fans in Week 1 has been held without a touchdown in the last two games with three different quarterbacks at the helm. The truth is, no matter who is throwing the ball, this is simply not a good team.
29. Houston Texans (2-5)
Based on talent alone, the Texans should be much higher on this list. However, there is no way you trust this team to win a game over anyone ranked above them.
Houston has lost five games in a row and cannot find a quarterback who can hold onto the ball. Case Keenum had an interception-free game in his only start, which has given him another opportunity in Week 9, according to Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports.
Of course, the problems do not end there. Arian Foster is still less than 100 percent, while the defense has struggled to stop the run, giving up 122.1 yards per game on the ground to rank 28th in the league.
A turnaround is possible, but a lot had to have changed during the bye week.
30. Minnesota Vikings (1-6)
The Vikings have three different quarterbacks who are capable of starting, although none of them are the answer heading into next season. In reality, it is starting to seem as though Adrian Peterson is one of few Minnesota players talented enough to start on many other teams around the league.
Last year's playoff run seems like a long time ago at this point.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7)
Greg Schiano might not have much longer as the head coach of the Buccaneers. The fans have turned on him, and it is starting to seem as though the players are quitting on him as well.
Hopefully, Doug Martin can at least get healthy and lead the team to a win or two before the end of the year.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8)
Jacksonville has been ineffective in the United States, but at least we now know that the team cannot win in England either.
It seems as though it is only a matter of time until the Jaguars are on the clock with the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft.
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