NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Buccaneers and 3 Teams That Look Like Pretenders
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Week 7 saw some surprising upsets. Even top contenders like the Detroit Lions and the Baltimore Ravens were victims. All told, five teams favored to win lost in Week 7.
As a result of this and lots of other upsets this year, many NFL teams are hovering around .500. This creates a convoluted playoff picture for a league that seems increasingly average. Entering Week 8, 22 teams have a winning percentage of .500 or better.
Several of these "contender" teams now face serious questions after losses in Week 7. Through seven weeks of the season, they look more like pretenders. Although it's way too early to count them out, their once-great playoff chances do not look so great now.
Time will tell if they can turn things around. For now, they need to make some adjustments and get back to winning.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs' second trip to London was quite a disaster. They looked awful in a 24-18 loss to the Chicago Bears that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicates. This loss drops the Buccaneers from first in the NFC South to being tied with the Atlanta Falcons for second.
Throughout 2011, the Buccaneers have had the look of an underachiever.
Their surprise 2010 season had many people expecting them to take the leap and become a top NFC team this season. Well they haven't yet, partially due to injuries at running back and a defense that has disappointed.
Who will win the NFC South?
Their road ahead is uphill, as they figure to be in a tough three-way race for the NFC South title. Although they have beat both teams once already, the New Orleans Saints and the Falcons have looked better overall.
To contend this year, the Buccaneers will need Josh Freeman to stop regressing and instead play like he did in his breakout season last year.
San Diego Chargers
It comes as no surprise that these classic underachievers are being described as pretenders.
Every season, the Chargers start out slow. Then they come storming back at the end of the season, only to promptly lose in the playoffs.
This year's Chargers are different in that they have a winning record thus far. However, their wins have mostly been against weak teams, and their losses have been to the NFL's good teams. Case in point, last week where they lost to the New York Jets 27-21.
In past seasons, the Chargers could afford to start slow and still win a weak AFC West. Not so this year when both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders are right behind them.
If they can't beat good teams, the Chargers could miss out on the playoffs for a second straight year.
Oh, how so much can change in two weeks.
Over the last two weeks, the Redskins have lost to two bad teams, seen their starting quarterback will his way to the bench and lost most of their key offensive players to injuries.
After losing to the Carolina Panthers 33-20, the Redskins have dropped from first to third in the NFC East.
It's going to be difficult to replace offensive playmakers like Chris Cooley and Tim Hightower. Likely for the Redskins to get back in contention, they're going to have to run the ball a lot as they ease John Beck into the role of starting quarterback.
It's important for them to play mistake-free football since their defense is better than their offense.
They are not helped out by the fact that the NFC East is looking quite competitive. All other three teams have a shot at winning the division at this point. With a difficult schedule looming, the Redskins need to start winning before they find themselves back in last place again.
It's easy to get the feeling that the 2011 Tennessee Titans have already peaked. Their surprise 3-1 start seems so long ago after two demoralizing losses to better teams. This past week, though, was absolutely killer, as they were thrashed by the division-rival Houston Texans 41-7.
The loss to the Texans looms so large because they are the Titans' only serious threat for the AFC South title. Before the game, it was thought the Titans and Texans would duke it out pretty equally. Now, it is so obvious that the Titans are nowhere near as good as the Texans.
The Titans appear to be an average team in just about every aspect except the running game. They rank dead last in running thanks to Chris Johnson, who has gotten an expensive contract and promptly decided to not show up on Sundays.
It will be interesting to see if the Titans can adapt to succeeding without him, or if they truly need him at 100-percent to make a playoff run.
James Reagan's Week 8 Power Rankings
1. Green Bay Packers (7-0) LW: 1.
2. San Francisco 49ers (5-1) LW: 2.
3. New England Patriots (5-1) LW: 4.
4. Detroit Lions (5-2) LW: 3.
5. New Orleans Saints (5-2) LW: 13.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) LW: 11.
7. Baltimore Ravens (4-2) LW: 5.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) LW: 9.
9. New York Giants (4-2) LW: 8.
10. Buffalo Bills (4-2) LW: 10.
11. San Diego Chargers (4-2) LW: 6.
12. Chicago Bears (4-3) LW: 17.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3) LW: 7.
14. Atlanta Falcons (4-3) LW: 19.
15. Oakland Raiders (4-3) LW: 12.
16. Houston Texans (4-3) LW: 16.
17. New York Jets (4-3) LW: 18.
18. Dallas Cowboys (3-3) LW: 20.
19. Tennessee Titans (3-3) LW: 14.
20. Washington Redskins (3-3) LW: 15.
21. Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) LW: 22.
22. Cleveland Browns (3-3) LW: 23.
23. Seattle Seahawks (2-4) LW: 21.
24. Denver Broncos (2-4) LW: 25.
25. Philadelphia Eagles (2-4) LW: 24.
26. Carolina Panthers (2-5) LW: 28.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) LW: 29.
28. Arizona Cardinals (1-5) LW: 26.
29. Minnesota Vikings (1-6) LW: 27.
30. St. Louis Rams (0-6) LW: 31.
31. Miami Dolphins (0-6) LW: 30.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-7) LW: 32
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