2022 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 10?
When Week 9 began with the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles dispatching the one-win Houston Texans, it looked like a good week for chalk.
Then Sunday happened.
Whether it was the Miami Dolphins in Chicago, the Minnesota Vikings in Washington or the Kansas City Chiefs at home against the Tennessee Titans, multiple favorites were given all they could handle from underdog opponents this week.
Then there were the toss-ups and upsets.
Two NFC West playoff hopefuls were dealt a blow when the Los Angeles Rams were Tom Brady-ed in last-second fashion in Tampa and the Arizona Cardinals were bested at home by the Seattle Seahawks. The Green Bay Packers' already lagging playoff hopes suffered a crippling blow when the Detroit Lions upended them. And the New York Jets served notice that it's a new day for Gang Green by stunning the heavily favored Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium.
The teams at both ends haven't changed. But there's chaos and change galore in between.
32. Houston Texans (1-6-1)
Last Week: 32
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Philadelphia 29-17
For one half, the Houston Texans gave the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles all they could handle Thursday night.
The bad news is that NFL games have two halves.
After heading to intermission tied at 14, the Texans were outclassed after the break. But despite scoring just three points in the second half and losing for the sixth time in seven games, head coach Lovie Smith tried to a positive spin on the effort afterward.
"We knew who we were playing," Smith told reporters. "Some people regard them as the best team in football right now. I thought our guys played hard from start to finish. We didn't always play smart football, and there are some mistakes that we have to eliminate, but I liked the way they fought."
It isn't all doom and gloom in Houston. Rookie running Back Dameon Pierce had another strong effort, gaining a career-high 139 yards on 27 carries.
But with each passing week, it become more evident Davis Mills isn't the Texans' long-term answer at quarterback. Top wideout Brandin Cooks was a healthy scratch against the Eagles after attempts to trade him fell through, too.
The Texans are a mess. But given that they are now in the lead in the race for the No. 1 overall pick in 2023, Thursday's loss was a win in some respects.
31. Carolina Panthers (2-7)
Last Week: 30
Week 9 Result: Lost at Cincinnati 42-21
The quarterback carousel in Carolina keeps spinning. But no matter who starts under center, one thing has stayed the same: The play at the position has been mostly mortifying.
In Week 9, it was P.J. Walker's turn to be terrible. He had only three completions in 10 attempts for a pathetic nine yards against the Bengals before he got pulled for Baker Mayfield. That isn't counting the two interceptions he threw, either.
Walker didn't make any excuses for the team's meltdown while talking to reporters after the game.
"It was flat out there today. It was flat all around. All three phases," Walker said. "We've just got to continue to get better. Don't let this one game define us. This ain't us. This ain't us."
Despite the lousy outing and the activation of 2021 starter Sam Darnold, Wilks told reporters the Panthers are giving Walker another shot Thursday against Atlanta.
"I would say trust the process and trust my decision-making," he said. "We all have bad games. P.J. wasn’t the only one. … We’re going to rally behind P.J. and definitely give him the things that he needs from a game-plan standpoint that he can go out and execute."
What is it that Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?
30. Las Vegas Raiders (2-6)
Last Week: 27
Week 9 Result: Lost at Jacksonville 27-20
The Josh McDaniels era in Las Vegas is off to a disastrous start.
There were five instances from 1960 through 2021 in which the Raiders blew a 17-point lead in a game, according to CBS. After losing to the Jaguars Sunday to fall to 2-6 on the season, the Raiders have blown three 17-point leads this season alone.
Raiders fans are now openly calling for McDaniels' ouster after just eight games. The offense has been inconsistent. The defense has been awful. And it isn't like McDaniels inherited a bad team. The Raiders made the playoffs last year and entered the 2022 season with Super Bowl aspirations, which seems laughable now.
"Stick a fork in the Raiders' playoff hopes. At 2-6, they have flashy names on offense with Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller—who's out with a hamstring injury—and Josh Jacobs, but they lack substance, which impacts their urgency," Moton said. "Through nine weeks, they're already tied for the most blown 17-point leads in a single season, per ESPN’s Field Yates.
"After the Raiders' loss to the Jaguars, Derek Carr hinted that some of the new players must learn to play a full game, which is a concerning takeaway at this point in a season. New general manager Dave Ziegler will have to re-evaluate the roster from the top down in the offseason. That includes Carr, who's part of the team's leadership core.
"Vegas may have a chance to draft a blue-chip quarterback prospect with a top-10 pick."
29. Detroit Lions (2-6)
Last Week: 31
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Green Bay 15-9
In a season that has been filled with close calls and blown leads, the Detroit Lions finally held on for a win Sunday.
It wasn't an especially pretty one. But thanks to three takeaways deep in their own territory, the Lions handed Aaron Rodgers and the reeling Packers a loss and earned their first victory since Week 2.
The Lions defense was the star of the show Sunday. Rookie safety Kerby Joseph and edge-rusher Aidan Hutchinson snared all three of Rodgers' interceptions.
After the game, Hutchinson told reporters that Detroit's young defense is starting to turn a corner.
"I think we're just getting more game experience," Hutchinson said. "That's what happens when you get older and play more games.
Kerby, Josh [Paschal], all the rookies are playing games. I feel like our
trajectory is just going up at this point. With the amount of youth we have,
the more games we get under our belt, I feel like the more meshed we'll be."
One low-scoring win over a mediocre Packers team hardly fixes all that ails the Lions. But when wins come as few and far between as they do in Motown, you take what you can get.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6)
Last Week: 29
Week 9 Result: Bye
These are uncharted waters for Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. The Steelers have never had a losing record during his 16-year tenure, much less been a two-win tomato can with one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the league.
There are myriad reasons for the Steelers' putrid offense. The offensive line isn't good. They've been called for far too many penalties. They can't run the ball (again). Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett has struggled. You name it, it's going badly.
However, Steelers quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan insisted last week that Pickett is making progress, even if the results don't reflect it yet.
"There is going to be a learning curve," Sullivan said, via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "That's a big jump going from college to the NFL. There is no substitute for the reps and the experience and for being put into those moments when you're thrown into the fire. We're pleased with the progress he's making. It's a process. There are no shortcuts."
No matter how the Steelers fare over the rest of the season, they almost certainly won't fire Tomlin. They've had only three head coach in the entire Super Bowl era. They also aren't likely to throw in the towel on Pickett after one season, either.
But the towels aren't the only thing that's terrible in Pittsburgh these days.
27. Indianapolis Colts (3-5-1)
Last Week: 23
Week 9 Result: Lost at New England 26-3
After the Indianapolis Colts put forth one of the worst offensive performances in recent memory against the Patriots, Sobleski wondered aloud who would be the next fall guy for the struggles that have dogged the team on that side of the ball this year.
"Want to play a game? This one is called, 'Who will serve as the Colts' next scapegoat?' Matt Ryan committed too many turnovers and wasn't mobile enough," Sobleski said. "Benched. Offensive coordinator Marcus Brady didn't call a good enough game with Sam Ehlinger behind center or get the offense off the ground. Fired. The changes haven't made any difference."
Well, the Colts are trying another one—and it's a doozy.
Firing head coach Frank Reich was one thing. But Colts CEO Jim Irsay then decided to replace Reich with Jeff Saturday. Saturday is a beloved figure in Indianapolis, but he has no experience in the collegiate or professional ranks as a coach. Or a coordinator. And certainly not as a head coach.
For his part, Saturday told reporters that lack of experience might actually be a positive.
"Here's a great part about my career," he said. "I came in, nobody expects anything. I'm here. Nobody expects anything. Hopefully it'll go extremely well. But I have no preconceived notion that I'm gonna be some spectacular anything."
Now Indy has an inexperienced coach hoping to turn around an inexperienced quarterback who has been dreadful in two starts at the helm of the NFL's worst offense for a team seemingly coming apart at the seams.
What could possibly go wrong?
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6)
Last Week: 28
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Las Vegas 27-20
After a promising 2-1 start, the Jacksonville Jaguars hit a prolonged skid. They had lost five straight games heading into their Week 9 tilt against the Raiders, and a sixth straight defeat appeared to be in the offing when Las Vegas jumped out to a 17-0 lead.
To the Jaguars' credit, they didn't roll over and accept defeat. Instead, propelled by another big game from second-year running back Travis Etienne and a defense that didn't allow a point after halftime, Jacksonville roared back to get the win.
Head coach Doug Pederson told reporters after the game that how the team rallied may have been even more important than the final score.
"You don't want to put too much emphasis on wins and losses, but this is a step in the right direction," Pederson said. "We've been really close. It's great to see our team finish."
This was the Jaguars' first victory in a one-score game in seven tries this season. In five of the previous six such games. Jacksonville was tied or had a lead but couldn't hold it.
One victory over a bad Raiders team isn't going to save Jacksonville's season. But for a team learning how to win, any step in the right direction is cause for at least some optimism.
25. Denver Broncos (3-5)
Last Week: 24
Week 9 Result: Bye
Eight games into the Russell Wilson era, the Denver Broncos are averaging the third-fewest points per game of any NFL team. The Kansas City Chiefs are averaging more points per half than Wilson's Broncos score per game.
The Broncos' decision to edge-rusher Bradly Chubb to Miami last week speaks to how the front office now feels about their 2022 prospects. But first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett told reporters that while he was sorry to see Chubb go, he isn't about to give on 2022—or his embattled offense.
"I've been working trying to find a way to get another first down and get some better third-down plans and red-zone plans to make sure that we're scoring more points," Hackett said when asked about the Chubb trade chatter.
"Bradley has been great. He's a true pro. We love Bradley. He's been somebody that I have loved getting to know. He's had a great year this year. He's been awesome. I can't say enough good things about him and how much he means to me and everybody. When it comes to all the trade stuff, I let George [Paton] handle that stuff because I want to be sure we're getting the best offensive group out there and making sure we're doing a great job.”
Frankly, Hackett is wise to keep his focus on improving Denver's pathetic offense. If the struggles continue, Wilson won't get fired. Neither will wide receiver Courtland Sutton.
Hackett is another story altogether.
24. Green Bay Packers (3-6)
Last Week: 21
Week 9 Result: Lost at Detroit 15-9
In a season filled with lows, the Packers hit a new one Sunday in Detroit. No one knew that better than quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"We can't lose a game like that against that team," Rodgers told reporters after Green Bay lost to the one-win Lions.
Snide remarks about the Lions aside, there were harsh realities galore for the Packers on Sunday. Rodgers threw three interceptions in Lions territory and played one of the worst games of his career. The Packers have lost five straight for the first time since 2008.
After the game, though, Rodgers made it clear that he still believes the Packers can turn their season around.
"I've been counted out many times in my life, as have many of my teammates," he said. "And I hope we just dig deep and find a way. We will truly be underdogs for many games moving forward. Hopefully, we can embrace that. We have two games at home. We’ve got to go win those two games in a week, and then this thing looks a little different."
Davenport isn't buying it.
"There isn't going to be any rebound in Titletown," he said. "No second-half heroics. No late playoff push. These Packers stink. The offense can't score. Rodgers is pressing and making mistakes. The defense can't hold up forever and just lost its best pass-rusher in Rashan Gary to a torn ACL.
"The Packers' belief that they could put together a championship-caliber team while ignoring the wide receiver position was laughably misplaced. And the 2022 season—and perhaps the end of Rodgers' career—is a wash because of it."
23. Chicago Bears (3-6)
Last Week: 26
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Miami 35-32
There are no moral victories in the NFL, and allowing 35 points to the Miami Dolphins in a loss is hardly ideal.
But the Chicago Bears had no bigger goal in 2022 than developing second-year quarterback Justin Fields. And after throwing three touchdown passes and gouging the Dolphins for a regular-season record 178 rushing yards, Fields has strung together strong outings and looks to be a markedly improved player.
Bears safety Eddie Jackson lauded Fields' performance after the game while allowing that he and the Bears defense has to play better.
"You just see what type of player he is," Jackson said. "You just continue to see him grow week-in, week-out. And the offense as a whole, continuing to come out here and get us 30 points. That's something that we've been asking for and we can't continue to let teams come out and score 28 or 35 points on us as a defense."
Moton was equally impressed by what Fields has accomplished of late.
"Even though the Bears have lost three of their last four games, Fields has blossomed in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy's system over the past month," he said. "The Bears have featured more of his running ability, which boosted their scoring since Week 7 to 31.3 points per game.
"The defense, however, has trended in the wrong direction, giving up 10 touchdowns over the past two games, but that's to be expected after the team traded edge-rusher Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith. Nonetheless, new general manager Ryan Poles should feel good about building around Fields. He can add veteran talent on defense with more than $100 million of cap space in 2023."
22. Arizona Cardinals (3-6)
Last Week: 22
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Seattle 31-21
The Arizona Cardinals started each of the last two seasons red-hot, only to falter down the stretch. In 2022, they appear to have decided to get a head start on faltering.
The Cardinals finally scored an opening-drive touchdown Sunday against the Seahawks, but the rest of the game was more of just the same. Poor offensive execution. Lapses on defense. A dozen penalties. Multiple drops. Bad snaps. Far too many unforced errors.
After the game, head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters that he has grown tired of continually watching the Cardinals be their own worst enemy.
"We are hurting ourselves," he said. "We've got to give ourselves a chance. This self-inflicted stuff is killing us."
Quarterback Kyler Murray echoed a similar refrain.
"We are just playing bad football," he said. "It is not winning football and that is the result you are going to get when you are out there doing stuff like that."
The problem is that statements like these aren't new in Arizona. Neither is the sloppy play. Both keep repeating every week.
21. Cleveland Browns (3-5)
Last Week: 25
Week 9 Result: Bye
With the Cleveland Browns sitting at 3-5, there's been some speculation that head coach Kevin Stefanski could be on the hot seat.
Dating back to last year, there have been criticisms of Stefanski's play-calling. But over the Browns' bye week, general manager Andrew Berry came to the defense of his head coach, telling reporters, "Our belief in Kevin is just as strong as the day that we hired him."
"Kevin has shown that he has the ability to both manage the game and call the offense," Berry said. "He's done a nice job under a variety of circumstances as the play caller, and he's organized and bright enough where he can manage the broader aspects of the job. He's acutely aware, as really we all are, that as the head coach it's not just about running the offense or calling the plays; it's about managing the entire team. He takes that responsibility seriously."
The Browns' leaky defense has been a much bigger issue than an offense that ranks fifth in yards per game, third in rushing and seventh in points. Stefanski has had to coach under unique circumstances over the past year-plus, too.
But with road trips to Miami and Buffalo up next, the Browns could be all but out of the playoff race before Deshaun Watson returns in Week 13. If that's the case, Berry's steadfast support for Stefanski may wane.
20. New Orleans Saints (3-6)
Last Week: 19
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Baltimore 27-13
Per ESPN's Katherine Terrell, before Monday's matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, Saints head coach Dennis Allen made it clear that Andy Dalton was the team's quarterback.
"Andy's starting, and if we continue to play like we have on offense—which is what our expectation is—like I said last week, Andy will be the starter moving forward, and I don't think we should get into any hypotheticals or things like that," Allen said. "It's his show to run right now, and we'll see how that goes."
We'll see how steadfast that confidence is after the Saints were rolled at home.
To be fair, it's not Dalton's fault the Saints gained just 48 yards on 15 carries. Or that New Orleans allowed 188 yards on the ground. But it was partly his fault that the Saints just couldn't get going offensively, converting three of 11 third downs and logging just 13 first downs.
The reality is that while these Saints aren't particularly bad, they also aren't particularly good. The offense was stagnant against the Ravens. The defense is inconsistent and suffered another potentially major injury when leading tackler Pete Werner was carted to the locker room with an ankle injury.
The Saints aren't out of the NFC South race. But that says a lot more about how awful that division is than anything good about this team.
19. Washington Commanders (4-5)
Last Week: 18
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Minnesota 20-17
If the Washington Commanders miss the postseason this year, they might look back on Sunday's loss to the Vikings as their missed opportunity.
For most of the game, the Commanders hung with the one-loss NFC North leaders. They even held a 10-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter. But Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw a killer interception late that led to a game-tying touchdown, and the Vikings got a field goal at the end of regulation to eke out a three-point win.
Head coach Ron Rivera told reporters after the game that his team committed far too many unforced errors to get a win.
"We got some opportunities," he said. "We didn't take advantage of the opportunities. Enough mistakes to go around for everybody."
Had the Commanders found a way to win, every team in the NFC East would have had a winning record. But Washington is now 2.5 games behind the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys and a whopping 4.5 games behind the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles.
Being that far below the rest of the NFC East will make a postseason push difficult at best and impossible at worst.
18. Atlanta Falcons (4-5)
Last Week: 17
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Chargers 20-17
The Atlanta Falcons can't decide whether they want to be good or not.
The Falcons entered Week 9 in first place in the NFC South. After a hot start against the Chargers, it appeared they might just be staying there.
But Atlanta couldn't maintain its first-quarter momentum. Its one-dimensional offense stalled, and two costly turnovers turned out to be too much to overcome.
Despite the disappointing outcome, offensive tackle Jake Matthews said the future still remains bright in Atlanta.
"You put in a lot of work all week, you have so much confidence going into it and you just have to give them credit," he said. “They just made more plays than we did at the end. There’s stuff we can fix. Our future is still bright. We’ll clean it up and go from there.”
Davenport isn't so sure.
"The Falcons aren't a bad team," he said. "They may well be better than we expected in 2022. But they can't throw the ball with any consistency. The defense is average on a good day. They just don't have the firepower on either side of the ball to string together wins.
"In some respects, the Falcons are what no team wants to be—too good for a high draft pick, but not good enough to be a serious playoff threat."
17. Los Angeles Rams (3-5)
Last Week: 16
Week 9 Result: Lost at Tampa Bay 16-13
The Los Angeles Rams are in trouble.
To say the Rams floundered offensively against the Buccaneers is offensive to flounders. The Rams managed all of 206 yards and nine first downs.
After the loss, which dropped the Rams 2.5 games behind the NFC West-leading Seahawks, head coach San McVay acknowledged that something has to give.
"Adjustments have to be made," he said. "We can't continue to go on like this. And what that looks like, I don't necessarily have the exact answers right now.
"I'm a big part of this. I have to do better.
"We're gonna stay connected throughout this. But we do have to be able to look inward and figure out what are some of the solutions, changes, adjustments, different things that we have to do to be able to get different results and different production from our offense."
Soul-searching aside, Sobleski doesn't see a bounce back coming any time soon.
"The Rams' Super Bowl hangover has turned into a drunken stupor of a season," he said. "Los Angeles allowed a flawless Tom Brady-led game-winning touchdown drive in the final 44 seconds despite all the issues the Tampa Bay offense had throughout the contest. Meanwhile, the Rams' once-explosive offense can't get out of neutral because the line and running game have been inferior. This team leveraged its future for a championship, won one and now is suffering the aftereffects."
16. New England Patriots (5-4)
Last Week: 15
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Indianapolis 26-3
The New England Patriots are on a roll headed into their bye week.
Not only are the Patriots coming off arguably their most impressive win of the season, but the team is also above .500 for the first time. It is without question the best last-place team in the league, and while the Pats are on the outside of the playoff picture, they aren't far off the pace.
As one might expect of a Bill Belichick-coached team, the Patriots were spurred to victory Sunday by their defense. It tallied nine sacks, with Matthew Judon and Josh Uche notching three apiece. The Patriots held the Colts to 121 yards and zero third-down conversions in 14 attempts.
New England also continued its dominance of young quarterbacks at Gillette Stadium. Since 2003, first- and second-year signal-callers are a staggering 4-43.
"The Patriots aren't the best team in the AFC," Davenport said. "They aren't even the best team in their division. But New England can run the ball and play defense. It's a recipe that will keep the Pats in more games than not. A recipe that makes them a tough out. And a recipe that could get them back into the postseason for a second consecutive year."
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5)
Last Week: 20
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Rams 16-13
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a shell of the team that won the Super Bowl two years ago. The Bucs can't run the ball. The interior offensive line is an issue. The formerly stout run defense has weakened.
However, for all those issues, after squeaking past the equally reeling Rams, the 4-5 Buccaneers are in first place in the NFC South. And as quarterback Tom Brady told reporters, the Buccaneers are hopeful the last-second win could be a springboard to bigger and better things.
"We needed it and we got it. We fought until the end," Brady said. "The defense played great. We made some plays offensively. ... Hopefully this gives us some confidence and we can win again next week and get to 5-5, which would be good for us at the bye week."
Despite the win, however, Moton is unsure this team will be a real player in the NFC as the season's second half unfolds.
"We saw a glimpse of the Tom Brady who used to routinely lead his teams on game-winning drives with less than a minute left in regulation," Moton said. "He worked his magic against the Rams, but don’t be fooled by this performance. Despite extra time to prepare, the Buccaneers still looked clunky on offense with several drops. They converted one of three red-zone trips into touchdowns and lacked offensive balance. Tampa Bay hasn’t eclipsed 75 rushing yards in a game since Week 1.
"Though the defense had a turnaround performance after giving up 27 points and 453 yards to the Ravens in Week 8, the offense is too reliant on Brady, a 45-year-old quarterback who’s thrown for multiple touchdowns once in nine contests."
14. Los Angeles Chargers (5-3)
Last Week: 14
Week 9 Result: Won at Atlanta 20-17
The Los Angeles Chargers have a long history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. And of injuries that have derailed seasons. There has been no shortage of the latter in 2022, but the Bolts avoided the former in gutting out a last-second win Sunday in Atlanta.
While talking to reporters after the win, head coach Brandon Staley said the comeback was proof that these aren't the same old disappointing Chargers.
"Just outside people; there's a focus on what's happened before," he said. "With us, this is just part of the NFL. This isn't exclusive to any team. ... Since I've been the head coach [since 2021] we've played in a bunch of close ones, and we're comfortable in this space. When you have as many people go down as we have this season, and you go on the road, it's not going to be poetic. Maybe it could be if you were full strength and had a full army out there. Maybe like in the first game for us, or part of the second game. But for us, we've just got to be able to fight the fight based on who we have and based on what's happening. I think our guys are really used to that."
The Chargers aren't without issues—the secondary and especially wide receivers have been blasted by those injuries. And the Bolts are still looking up at the Chiefs in the AFC West. The schedule won't do them any favors, either—their next four games are all against teams that made the playoffs in 2021, including a Week 11 rematch with the Chiefs.
But credit where it's due: The Chargers are hanging in there.
13. Tennessee Titans (5-3)
Last Week: 7
Week 9 Result: Lost at Kansas City 20-17, OT
This could have been a statement win in the truest sense for the Tennessee Titans. Despite the absence of quarterback Ryan Tannehill on Sunday night, the Titans gave the Kansas City Chiefs all they could handle. Despite being out-gained by a staggering 270 yards, the Titans had an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Then Patrick Mahomes happened, and the Titans fell in overtime for their first loss since they were hammered by the Bills in Week 2.
After the game, head coach Mike Vrabel expressed both disappointment for his players and pride in them while talking to reporters.
"I'm very disappointed. I feel terrible for the players," Vrabel said. "They compete and put so much into this and play through pain and discomfort and any situation. I'm lucky to coach them. They fight."
However, for Sobleski the loss was indicative of bigger problems: mainly a lack of offensive firepower not named Derrick Henry.
"The Titans are a solid team," he said. "But they're missing the parts to be considered a great squad. Even with the expectation of quarterback Ryan Tannehill's return, the offense lacks the weapons beyond Henry to be considered a legitimate threat. The wide receivers didn't catch a single pass Sunday, and former top target A.J. Brown made fun of their inability to get open on Twitter."
12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)
Last Week: 11
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Carolina 42-21
With wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase out indefinitely with a hip injury and the Bengals coming off a dismal effort against the Browns in Week 8, the team badly needed someone to step up and help get the offense back on track.
Running back Joe Mixon answered the call—and then some.
It's not just that Mixon gashed the Carolina Panthers for 153 yards on 22 carries. Or that he added 58 yards on four catches. But he also became the first player in Bengals history to score five touchdowns in a game. He told reporters after the game that it felt good to help carry the team to a win.
"To come out here today and have a complete game and pass-protect when my number was called, and then deliver for my teammates, [Joe] Burrow and the receivers, and be able to hit the right holes and do all the things to have a complete game, bro, I mean you can't ask for much better," Mixon said.
Mixon wasn't the only person who upped his game. The defense notched three takeaways and allowed just 13 first downs and 228 yards.
It was exactly the sort of rebound performance the Bengals needed. Now they have to try to carry that momentum over and keep pace with the Ravens until Chase returns.
11. New York Jets (6-3)
Last Week: 13
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Buffalo 20-17
When it comes to statement wins in Week 9, none was bigger than what happened at MetLife Stadium. In downing the AFC's No. 1 seed, the New York Jets announced they are more than just a nice story. More than just a group of plucky underachievers.
The Jets are for real.
The Jets won in much the same way that they have all season. The ground game was impressive, piling up 174 yards. The defense held the Bills to their lowest point total of the season and gave up just three points after the break. And while Zach Wilson didn't light the world on fire, the young quarterback also didn't make many mistakes.
It was an impressive rebound from last week's loss to the Patriots. But tight end Tyler Conklin made it clear while speaking to reporters after the game that the team's confidence never waned.
"Everybody outside of this locker room didn't think we had a chance, but it's been the same story all season for us," Conklin said. "Everybody kind of thinks it's going to be the same old Jets, right? Last week was, 'Oh, the same old Jets.' ... Guess what? We're not the same old Jets."
He's right. These are most assuredly not the same old Jets.
"In previous weeks," Moton said, "the defense stifled offenses with backup or struggling quarterbacks. On Sunday, the unit slowed down an MVP favorite in Josh Allen, who threw for just 205 yards with two interceptions. Gang Green sacked him five times.
"Despite the loss of running back Breece Hall [torn ACL] and versatile offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker [triceps], the Jets ran the ball well against the Bills' sixth-ranked run defense. Also, as a featured playmaker in coordinator Mike LaFleur's offense, rookie first-round pick Garrett Wilson has caught 14 passes for 207 yards over the previous two weeks.
"The Jets belong in the top 10 in these power rankings."
10. San Francisco 49ers (4-4)
Last Week: 8
Week 9 Result: Bye
The San Francisco 49ers don't have the best record in the NFL. Or the best record in the NFC. Or the best record in the NFC West.
But after trading for star running back Christian McCaffrey, the 49ers could be one of the best teams in the league. They certainly looked the part in taking apart the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 8.
As head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters, as good as that win was, getting a week off to get healthy might have been even better.
"I think we need this bye week," Shanahan said. "We need to rest up a little bit and, hopefully, get some guys back. Right when we get it going a little bit, it's always tough to take some time off, but I do think we need it just for our health and stuff."
Last week, the Niners were short star wideout Deebo Samuel, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, defensive lineman Arik Armstead and linebacker Dre Greenlaw. The team hopes to have all four back when it faces the Chargers in a primetime tilt Sunday.
Once the Niners are at full strength (or close to it), they will have enough firepower on offense and the league's best defense in terms of yards allowed. And that could make them the biggest threat to the Eagles in the NFC.
9. New York Giants (6-2)
Last Week: 9
Week 9 Result: Bye
It seems odd to say that a 6-2 team is in trouble after its first loss since Week 3. But last week's loss in Seattle raised questions about the Giants.
They had been living dangerously with fourth-quarter comebacks becoming more rule than exception. The Giants rank 24th in total offense and 22nd in scoring offense. And against the Seahawks, the magic that had hlepd the team win dried up. It exposed a reality about these Giants. This isn't a team that can afford to fall behind by double digits. This isn't a team that's going to win a shootout.
First-year general manager Joe Schoen allowed that there is work to be done. But he also told reporters that the team is happy to be on the right side of .500.
"Sitting up here 6-2 after eight games, so I'm excited about that," Schoen said. "I'm pleased with the way things are going internally; the coaching staff, personnel staff, the entire organization just has been on the same page throughout the season this far, which I'm very pleased with. Again, we're 6-2, we've done a lot of good things. I think everybody agrees that there's still some meat on the bone in areas where we can improve. But we've got nine games to go and it's a long way to go, but I'm pleased with where we are right now."
Davenport said: "Brian Daboll deserves a ton of credit for what he's done. And New York does have wins over two first-place teams. But the Giants aren't a good offensive team, and it's hard to imagine New York will win playoff games on the road with Daniel Jones at quarterback. Jones has played just well enough to leave Schoen with a tough decision in the offseason—especially with Saquon Barkley set to hit free agency too. Enjoy this run, Giants fans—because it may actually be hurting the team's long-term prospects."
8. Seattle Seahawks (6-3)
Last Week: 10
Week 9 Result: Won at Arizona 31-21
With each passing week, it's becoming harder and harder to call the Seattle Seahawks anything less than legitimate contenders.
There are skeptics, to be sure. Those who don't believe Geno Smith can play at the pace he set over the first half of the regular season. That the defense can't hold up.
And yet the Seahawks keep on winning. Smith keeps playing well, posting a passer rating of 106.9 with a 275-yard, two-score effort against the Cardinals. Rookie running back Ken Walker III keeps piling up yards, rushing for 109 yards and two scores. The defense keeps making plays, holding the Cardinals to just 262 yards and sacking Kyler Murray five times.
The Seahawks have made a believer of at least one of our analysts.
"They may well be the most surprising team in the NFC," Davenport said. "But they are not a fluke. Smith has consistently been accurate and smart with the football. Walker has been everything the Seahawks hoped he would be when they drafted him. And after a bumpy start, the defense has looked light-years better in recent weeks. The Seahawks may not be the equal of the Eagles or Vikings. They may not look as good as the 49ers on paper. But four straight wins are four straight wins, and the Seahawks are real players in the NFC race."
7. Baltimore Ravens (6-3)
Last Week: 6
Week 9 Result: Won at New Orleans 27-13
The Baltimore Ravens just keep on keeping on.
For the second season in a row, the Baltimore backfield has been ravaged by injuries. J.K. Dobbins is back on injured reserve. Gus Edwards missed Monday's tilt with the New Orleans Saints. So did star tight end Mark Andrews.
But whereas injuries were the undoing of the 2021 Ravens, so far at least the 2022 team keeps rolling—and getting contributions from players stepping up in the absence of others.
Against the Saints, Kenyan Drake carried the mail in the backfield, piling up 93 yards and two scores. Youngster Isaiah Likely found the end zone for a second straight week in relief if Andrews. Veteran edge-rusher Justin Houston went ballistic, logging 2.5 sacks and adding an interception.
Add it all together and you get a lopsided win on the road—one that kept the Ravens a game up on the Bengals in the AFC North.
"Are these Ravens the equal of the Bills and Chiefs in the AFC? Probably not," Davenport said. "But they have done an excellent job of weathering injury after injury. As they get healthier, they are going to get better.
"The trade that brought Roquan Smith to Baltimore could be huge for the defense. And the Ravens have the ultimate wild card in Lamar Jackson. The schedule also sets up really well for the Ravens to go on a roll—Baltimore doesn't play a team that sports a winning record until its regular season finale in Cincinnati. The Ravens are headed for the AFC North title."
6. Miami Dolphins (6-3)
Last Week: 12
Week 9 Result: Won at Chicago 35-32
It's Tua time.
Sunday's game with the Bears in Chicago was a wild affair, but thanks to another big game by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins are just a half-game back of the AFC East-leading Bills. The offense piled up 28 points and 379 yards, and the special teams added a blocked punt-return touchdown.
Simply put, our analysts felt it was time we listed the Dolphins among the top teams in the AFC.
"As long as Tagovailoa starts and finishes a game, Miami has a chance to win. It's 6-0 when he plays an entire contest," Moton said. "On top of that, Tagovailoa has taken well to the new coaching staff led by Mike McDaniel. He's coming off consecutive 300-plus-yard, three-touchdown performances for the first time in his career.
"With a savvy young play-caller in McDaniel and two dynamic wideouts in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, Tagovailoa should continue to put up big numbers in an ascending offense."
Sobleski said: "Typically, the quarterback drives conversation around any franchise. While Tagovailoa receives his fair share of credit and blame, his play this season is worthy of further discussion. As great as Hill and Waddle are working together in McDaniel's scheme, Tagovailoa is running the offense, especially on money downs. In fact, his third-down passer rating is the best ever since the league began tracking such data in 1991, according to the Palm Beach Post's Joe Schad."
5. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
Last Week: 5
Week 9 Result: Bye
Had you told the Dallas Cowboys back when Dak Prescott went down in the opener that the team would hit their Week 9 bye above .500, they would have no doubt been happy. Had you told them they would be 6-2, the Cowboys would have been ecstatic.
However, while the first half of the season went about as well as it possibly could have for the Cowboys, the team still sits two games back of the Eagles in the NFC East. So defensive coordinator Dan Quinn made it clear that this week's break was very much a working vacation.
"The best way to have sustained success is to keep improving and to find these constant improvement spots,'' Quinn said. "Heading into this week, there is some things that do take place. The first half of the first chapter does close, and this, to me, is the bridge that you look for heading into the second.''
The team did hit the break with a head of steam. Micah Parsons and Quinn's defense ranks 10th in yards allowed and third in points allowed. With a healthy Prescott back under center, the Cowboys dropped 49 points on the Chicago Bears in Week 8.
"Frankly, these Cowboys are better than the 2021 iteration that won 12 games and the NFC East," Davenport said. These Cowboys are more balanced, with a defense that's every bit as good as the offense—if not better.
"The Cowboys are absolutely in the mix among the NFC's best teams, and with matchups left at Minnesota and at home against the Eagles, Dallas will have a chance to make its case as the best team in the conference soon enough."
4. Buffalo Bills (6-2)
Last Week: 2
Week 9 Result: Lost at New York Jets 20-17
If you want to know why the Buffalo Bills were stunned Sunday by the New York Jets, just ask quarterback Josh Allen. He made it quite clear to reporters who was to blame for the loss.
"It's tough to win in this league when you're playing a good team, and your quarterback plays like s--t," Allen said. "I made some bad decisions tonight, it really cost our team."
Allen's brutal honesty aside, one loss is hardly the end of the world for the Bills. Buffalo is still in first place in the AFC East and still the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
But there are issues in Buffalo that go beyond one loss. For all the success the Bills have had this season, they are 0-2 in the division. Over the last six quarters, Allen has tossed four interceptions. And now Allen is nursing a sore right elbow, although Allen downplayed the injury after the loss.
“There's some slight pain, but I'll get through it," Allen said.
"Not that long ago, the Bills looked like an unstoppable juggernaut," Davenport said. "And Buffalo may well still be the most balanced and talented team in the league on paper. But Allen's performance the last game and a half and his injured elbow are cause for at least some concern.
"The Bills are just one game up in the loss column over the Jets and Dolphins, both of whom have beaten Buffalo head-to-head. The AFC East just got a lot more interesting. And the Bills' margin for error moving forward has narrowed considerably."
3. Minnesota Vikings (7-1)
Last Week: 4
Week 9 Result: Won at Washington 20-17
Sometimes part of becoming a winning team is learning how to win ugly. How to gut out a victory despite not playing your best.
That's what the Vikings did Sunday in Washington. Despite managing just 2.5 yards per carry on the ground and an uneven effort from Kirk Cousins in his return to the nation's capital, the Vikings made the plays they needed to at the end of the game to eke out a sixth straight victory that strengthened Minnesota's stranglehold on the NFC North.
While speaking to reporters after the game, Cousins applauded the team for doing what it took to get the win.
"We're finding ways to win," Cousins said. "We grind on and keep trying to pull them out in the end here."
"On some level," Davenport said, "having more points than the other guy when the clock hits zero is all that matters. With a huge lead in the division, the Vikings will all but certainly be the NFC North champions and host at least one playoff game.
"But Sunday's 'meh' effort doesn't help assuage doubts as to whether the Vikings are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. However, we won't have to wait long for an answer to that question. In Week 10, the Vikings head to Buffalo for their second big test of the season."
2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2)
Last Week: 3
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Tennessee 20-17 (OT)
Heading into Sunday night's meeting with the Titans, Andy Reid was 20-3 coming out of the bye week. He was, however, just 2-9 against the Titans.
Something had to give.
It didn't come easy. But thanks to 446 passing yards and 63 rushing yards from Patrick Mahomes that included another game-winning drive in overtime, the Chiefs came back to defeat a game Titans squad to move to 6-2 on the season.
After the game, Reid lauded his team for finding a way to win on a night when the Chiefs didn't play their best.
"You have to be able to win a game like that," Reid said, "where everything isn't just perfect, and your emotions are up and down, and you have to fight through. We were so close on so many plays. Step up, and let's go."
However, in victory, there were causes for concern. The Chiefs amassed almost 500 yards of offense in the game but scored just 20 points. The Chiefs also barely cracked 75 yards on the ground.
Against a Titans team led by a rookie backup at quarterback, having an offense that one-dimensional didn't hurt the Chiefs. But we have already seen the Chiefs fall at home to the Bills, and with the Chargers, Rams and Bengals all on the schedule over the next month, Kansas City needs to figure out a way to get the ground game going.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (8-0)
Last Week: 1
Week 9 Result: Won at Houston 29-17
Thursday night in Houston, the Philadelphia Eagles made some history. Never before have the Eagles opened the season with eight straight wins. But after taking care of the Texans in Week 9, that's where the 2022 Eagles find themselves.
However, despite all that success, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts told reporters after the game that as far as he's concerned, Philly hasn't accomplished a thing yet.
"I know it's special for the city of Philadelphia," Hurts said. "I mean, I've been 8-0 before and lost the national championship. Just take it day by day. Take it day by day. We haven't accomplished anything yet. It's a day-by-day thing of us controlling things we can, playing to our standard and trying to grow every day. I think that's truly what it's about."
It's a good attitude to have, but we don't have to be humble about Philly's start. It has been danged impressive. The offense is rolling. The defense is stifling. Hurts is playing at an MVP level.
It may be a little while before the 1972 Dolphins can pop the champagne, too. In Week 10, the Eagles face a Washington Commanders team that has scored 20 points once since Week 3. Then comes a Colts team that ranks last in scoring offense and just fired its head coach.
It's entirely possible that when the Eagles host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 12, Philly will be 10-0, and talk of a perfect season will have started really ramping up.