NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 10?
If you love quarterback play, Week 9 was probably not the best week for you or your fantasy football team.
Due to injuries and blowouts, the list of quarterbacks playing this week is far from impressive. Sure, we had Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, but we also had Mark Sanchez, Matt Simms, Brandon Weeden, Kellen Clemens and Matt Moore getting major reps at quarterback or flat-out starting. Add in regular starters Michael Vick, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Fitzpatrick and this wasn't a good week for quarterbacks.
So, what changes in Week 9 as we look ahead to Week 10? A lot. With the top two teams (Broncos, Patriots) playing each other and teams No. 3 and No. 4 (Arizona, Dallas) facing off, the rankings will be sorted out with a shake-up in the top five.
Who's No. 1 heading into Week 10?
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7)
Last Week: 32
This Week: 32
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost four straight games, and the Week 9 loss to the Cleveland Browns guarantees their spot at the bottom of the rankings for another week.
The Buccaneers started the 2014 preseason as a sleeper playoff contender, but the on-paper moves haven't resulted in on-field results. Add in that coach Lovie Smith has yet to make any impact on the team and it's tough to imagine it improving over the next eight weeks.
The best news for this organization might be that it's in position to have an early Round 1 draft pick.
31. Tennessee Titans (2-6)
Last Week: 31
This Week: 31
The Tennessee Titans headed into the bye week with a 2-6 record and uncertainty all over the roster. With eight games left on the year, the Titans are playing to find out who on the team is worth keeping and building around. There will be a lot of player evaluation and self-scouting from general manager Ruston Webster and head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
The Titans have three rookies on offense worth a closer look—quarterback Zach Mettenberger, running back Bishop Sankey and left tackle Taylor Lewan. The coaches would be smart to roll with the three youngsters as much as possible throughout the remainder of the year. Lewan is getting valuable reps starting for Michael Roos at left tackle and should be a long-term starter there. Mettenberger has replaced Jake Locker, and it would be wise to pair him and Sankey often over the next eight games.
30. New York Jets (1-8)
Last Week: 29
This Week: 30
The end may be near for head coach Rex Ryan in New York. Nothing he has done to switch up the lineup and infuse energy into the roster has worked. Geno Smith, Michael Vick and even Matt Simms at quarterback haven't been able to move the ball behind an immobile offensive line and with skill players the coaches don't know how to use.
Ryan's bread and butter is the defense, but with street free-agent Marcus Williams and converted strong safety Antonio Allen at cornerback, Ryan's favorite unit has been hobbled and handcuffed. With no pass rush, the vaunted front seven has struggled too often as well.
Ryan is a fantastic head coach, but a change of scenery may be the best thing for him and for the New York Jets.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)
Last Week: 30
This Week: 29
The Jacksonville Jaguars are guaranteed to not have a winning record in 2014, as they fell to 1-8. But as I've said in this space every week, this season is about development and maturation. Any wins are secondary.
Let this stat tell you something—the Jaguars have seven starters on offense that are either rookies or second-year players, and two of those second-year players have less than 16 career starts. The offense is being built around quarterback Blake Bortles, running back Denard Robinson, receivers Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, Cecil Shorts and Marqise Lee and with an offensive line that has three starters in their first two seasons.
That will result in losses, but the Jaguars deserve credit for how tough they play each week. Nearly beating the 5-2-1 Cincinnati Bengals in Week 9 is another example of that.
28. Oakland Raiders (0-8)
Last Week: 28
This Week: 28
The Oakland Raiders have not won a football game all season, but that doesn't mean they are the worst team in football.
The Raiders were six points shy of beating the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday and fought hard to outscore the defending champs, 21-6, in the second half after some early mistakes. This is a young team with an interim head coach, so moral victories apply. And this was one.
The Raiders' search for a win won't be easy with Denver, San Diego and Kansas City all coming up on the schedule next, but no team should be overlooking this group.
27. Washington (3-6)
Last Week: 25
This Week: 27
The return of Robert Griffin III was nearly enough to secure a win for Jay Gruden's team, but the Minnesota Vikings proved too much in the second half and pulled out a win. They won't see a major move down this week coming off the loss but still drop slightly.
Griffin was impressive in his return from injury, but a low pass on fourth down with less than 90 seconds to play ended Washington's chances of winning the game. It's unfortunate, but that one play may overshadow an otherwise strong performance from Griffin, as he worked the ball to DeSean Jackson and the rest of the receivers.
The defense did its part in pressuring Teddy Bridgewater consistently, but the Vikings adjusted well and started running the ball with speedy Jerick McKinnon to loosen up the pass rush. From there, it was game over.
26. Atlanta Falcons (2-6)
Last Week: 24
This Week: 26
The midseason bye for the Atlanta Falcons will have little effect on the team's chances over the next eight weeks. There are no injured players coming back to help turn things around. Nothing was done at the trade deadline to shore up the offensive line or pass rush. The Falcons are rolling with whom they have—and that's not been very good.
The countdown for Mike Smith's final days as head coach of the team has started. Barring a shocking second-half turnaround, it has to be expected that owner Arthur Blank will want a change at head coach and maybe even general manager.
25. Chicago Bears (3-5)
Last Week: 23
This Week: 25
In Friday's Scouting Notebook article, I mentioned that opposing coaches feel Marc Trestman has made the Chicago Bears soft. This weekend also brought Jason La Canfora's report that Trestman is on the hot seat in Chicago.
Most teams like to quietly enter the bye week, rehab injuries and enjoy some much-needed down time. The Bears will spend the days coming back from the break answering questions about their head coach and the team's leadership. This can go two ways—it will pull the team apart or it will galvanize it. With a 3-5 record, the playoffs are still possible, but Trestman must find the magic he had last season and lead this team from within.
24. Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
Last Week: 27
This Week: 24
It's time to move the Minnesota Vikings up in the rankings.
A win over Washington has the Vikings at 4-5. Now, with two straight wins, Minnesota is starting to get into a rhythm with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and a good combination of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon at running back. And it should be noted that Bridgewater's three wins as a starter have all been fourth-quarter comebacks.
Head coach Mike Zimmer comes from a defensive background, and that side of the ball is playing well. Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Harrison Smith all look like Pro Bowl players, while Sharrif Floyd is starting to live up to his potential with Zimmer calling the shots.
It may not be a playoff year in Minnesota, but given the horrible play of the offensive line and the loss of Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph, the current results are promising.
23. St. Louis Rams (3-5)
Last Week: 26
This Week: 23
The St. Louis Rams entered Week 9 with two wins, a banged-up roster and a game against the San Francisco 49ers on the docket. Few in the NFL gave the Rams a chance to win this game, even though Jeff Fisher has historically coached well against the NFC West's best teams. Maybe that should have raised more red flags.
The Rams fought, clawed and slugged out a 13-10 win over the 49ers by pressuring quarterback Colin Kaepernick, bottling up the run game and holding the line in the trenches when it mattered most. With eight sacks on the day, it was the front seven on defense leading the way to a win that will reverberate through the NFC West.
The Rams aren't likely to win out and contend for a playoff spot, but that won't keep them from putting up a fight against San Francisco and Seattle along the way. And in doing so, they just might save Jeff Fisher's job.
22. Carolina Panthers (3-5-1)
Last Week: 22
This Week: 22
The Carolina Panthers were a playoff team and the No. 2 team in the NFC last season with a 12-4 record and the bravado of head coach Ron Rivera leading the way. So far in 2014, they've already surpassed that loss total and have the disjointed look many expected when the team was decimated by retirements and free-agent losses in the offseason.
Cam Newton was not good on Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints, but some of that must be attributed to the team around him. Newton has to be more accurate, but dropped passes killed drives and his numbers. The pass rush also got home early and often, forcing Newton off his game. The franchise quarterback has to be better, but few franchise quarterbacks are playing with less talent around them.
The Panthers are still alive in the NFC South, but they have to start winning after dropping their third straight.
21. Houston Texans (4-5)
Last Week: 21
This Week: 21
The Houston Texans lost in Week 9, running their record to 1-4 in the last five weeks. It may be time for head coach Bill O'Brien to look at backup quarterbacks Ryan Mallet or Tom Savage to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick, but it should also be noted that the Texans are playing much better than anyone expected.
Defensively, the front seven is golden. J.J. Watt, Jared Crick and a host of linebackers make this a dangerous group. And they're impressive even without No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney doing anything so far this season. If Clowney and Louis Nix develop as expected, this could be the best front seven in football.
The secondary needs work and the quarterback position looks unsettled at this time, but O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith have the Texans pointed in the right direction.
20. San Francisco 49ers (4-4)
Last Week: 14
This Week: 20
When preseason talk about Jim Harbaugh leaving the San Francisco 49ers surfaced, fans of the team quickly became defensive of their head coach and his loyalty to the 49ers. After falling to a 4-4 record and losing a maddening game to the St. Louis Rams, there will be fans ready to see Harbaugh go in exchange for draft picks—especially if he takes offensive coordinator Greg Roman with him.
Down three points with the ball on the 1-yard line and 19 seconds left in the game, the 49ers rolled out quarterback Colin Kaepernick with no run option and then ran a quarterback sneak that was bobbled at the line and eventually ruled a fumble that the Rams recovered. Noticeably absent were running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde on the final drive as the 49ers once again got too cute in their play-calling and execution.
As of today, the 49ers don't have the look of a playoff team—and that's one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season.
19. New York Giants (3-5)
Last Week: 19
This Week: 19
The New York Giants were embarrassed by the Indianapolis Colts in a marquee game on Monday Night Football. They won't be the last team shut down by the Colts this year, either.
It's tough to move the Giants down even after the big loss because of the play of teams around them. The 49ers, Texans and Panthers all lost, so there's no spot for New York lower in the rankings. And as we've seen already this year, the Giants can quickly bounce back after a bad loss and get a big win.
The bad news is that this loss moves them to three straight defeats with the NFC East slipping away.
18. Cleveland Browns (5-3)
Last Week: 20
This Week: 18
After nine weeks, I'm confident in saying I was wrong about the Cleveland Browns' chances in 2014. Extremely wrong.
A 5-3 record with Brian Hoyer at quarterback, a group of wide receivers most people wouldn't have recognized before the year began and a new coaching staff didn't inspire much confidence in August. But fast-forward nine weeks and the Browns are one of the NFL's toughest teams to play despite the level of talent on paper.
Mike Pettine deserves Coach of the Year credit, and I would vote for Kyle Shanahan as Coordinator of the Year right now. The Browns are winning with gritty football, a creative game plan and a new hero every week. They've quietly gone 4-1 over the last five games and now look ready to contend for a wild-card spot.
17. San Diego Chargers (5-4)
Last Week: 11
This Week: 17
The San Diego Chargers were the NFL's darlings three weeks ago with a win over the Seattle Seahawks and a 5-1 record. Now, with Week 10 looming, they're trying to break a three-game losing streak and fix the issues that have Philip Rivers and the offense regressing.
Injuries have been a problem on both sides of the ball, and in Week 9, it was a total team domination by the Miami Dolphins. You can blame cross-country travel and a 10 a.m. PT game start, but the Chargers handled both well when traveling to play the Buffalo Bills earlier this year. The loss to Miami was more about being out-coached and outplayed.
With the Bills, Chiefs, Dolphins and everyone in the AFC North alive in the playoff hunt, the Chargers can't afford to lose a fourth consecutive game. Now's the time to win.
16. Buffalo Bills (5-3)
Last Week: 16
This Week: 16
The Buffalo Bills, like the Cleveland Browns, sit atop my preseason-misses list. In no way did I ever think this team would enter midseason at 5-3. And yet, here it is.
The Bills are winning with a nice combination of feisty defense, explosive playmakers on offense and ample quarterback play from Kyle Orton to get the job done. Even with the offensive line struggling at the guard position, the tackles are playing well enough to keep the passing game going.
The Bills are tied with Miami at 5-3 and one loss behind the 7-2 Patriots. The AFC East is still open for business, as are the wild-card spots.
15. Miami Dolphins (5-3)
Last Week: 18
This Week: 15
The Miami Dolphins hosted the San Diego Chargers and have the NFL talking about the turnaround job Joe Philbin and general manager Dennis Hickey have done after a disastrous 2013 season.
Three straight wins (and a 4-1 record over the last five games) have the Dolphins looking like one of the NFL's hottest teams. And ever since there were rumors of quarterback Ryan Tannehill being benched early in the year, the third-year quarterback has been on fire in leading the offense.
The Dolphins are getting exceptional play from safety Reshad Jones and cornerback Brent Grimes in the secondary, which is backing up a front four that's consistently generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. And as long as Lamar Miller and Co. keep making plays on offense, the Dolphins have a legitimate claim to one of the AFC's wild-card spots.
14. New Orleans Saints (4-4)
Last Week: 17
This Week: 14
The New Orleans Saints were left for dead two weeks ago with a 2-4 record, but quarterback Drew Brees has found consistency and the defense has stepped up as the group got healthy. Two weeks later, the Saints are 4-4 and leading the NFC South.
The Saints look like a totally different team, but the schedule gets tough here. The good news is that their next three games—against the 49ers, Bengals and Ravens—are at home, where they are a perfect 3-0 so far this season. If they can manage to win these three games and push to 7-4, the lead in the NFC South should be sizeable.
The key for the Saints is to continue developing. Beating Green Bay and Carolina is impressive, but losses to Dallas and Detroit revealed weaknesses that the upcoming opponents could capitalize on.
13. Baltimore Ravens (5-4)
Last Week: 10
This Week: 13
The Baltimore Ravens have looked like a top-tier contender at times this season, but Sunday night was not one of those times.
With Jimmy Smith injured at cornerback, the Ravens secondary struggled to keep pace with an impressive group of wide receivers in Pittsburgh. The Steelers were able to make moves deep, underneath and work in space to pick up yards with ease. Throw in the production of running back Le'Veon Bell and the Steelers were able to march down the field without much trouble at all.
The Ravens must get healthy in the secondary, but they also have to protect Joe Flacco better than they did in Week 9. Flacco wasn't sacked too often, but he was pressured to where his footwork suffered. For a deep-ball thrower, that's a major issue and held the team back.
It's a move down this week, but the Ravens have a chance to rebound quickly if they can get back to winning.
12. Seattle Seahawks (5-3)
Last Week: 13
This Week: 12
Before everyone goes crazy and talks about the Seattle Seahawks being back on track and looking like a Super Bowl contender, let's examine Week 9. And it's important to note that this game was a lot closer than most folks anticipated.
While everyone else was watching New England vs. Denver and San Francisco vs. St. Louis, the Seahawks nearly lost to the Oakland Raiders. The winless Oakland Raiders. While I'm a frequent subscriber to the "a win is a win" theory, this one was ugly. The Seahawks were outscored, 21-6, in the second half and were two Derek Carr interceptions away from losing.
It's tough to get a read on Seattle right now, but stringing together two straight wins and entering the second half of the season at 5-3 does put it in good shape for a wild-card berth if it can keep this up.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)
Last Week: 12
This Week: 11
The Kansas City Chiefs moved into the No. 2 spot in the AFC West on Sunday thanks to a win against the New York Jets and a San Diego Chargers loss. At 5-3 with a 5-1 record over the last six contests, the Chiefs look playoff-caliber.
On Sunday the Chiefs made winning look easy against the Jets as they dominated every aspect of the game. Running back Jamaal Charles had his way with the defense, outside linebacker Justin Houston was once again dominant rushing the passer and even return man De'Anthony Thomas was able to make plays on special teams. Like the 24-10 score indicates, the Chiefs owned the day.
The second half of the year will present many tests, though, the first of which comes when the Chiefs travel to Buffalo for a Sunday-afternoon game that features two 5-3 teams facing off.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)
Last Week: 15
This Week: 10
If it's hard-nosed football you want, the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing it lately. But they're also winning with a high-octane offense fueled by the passing game and speedy wide receivers Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant. Running back Le'Veon Bell has also emerged as a legitimate dual-threat, giving the offense the balance it lacked in the past.
The Pittsburgh secondary is still a bit suspect in certain matchups, but the addition of James Harrison has been a boon for the front seven. And as we've seen throughout the year, a good pass rush can really help mask a questionable secondary. That's working in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers are one of the NFL's hottest teams.
Three straight wins and a crucial one within the division have the Steelers making one of the week's biggest climbs.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1)
Last Week: 9
This Week: 9
The Cincinnati Bengals aren't talked about much nationally, but another win on Sunday pushed them to five wins and just two losses (and one tie, thanks to the Panthers game). With a balanced offense, a solid defense and an experienced coaching staff, the Bengals are a sleeper team in the AFC. But first, they have to win the division.
With every team in the AFC North owning a winning record at the end of Week 9, the Bengals have a tough road ahead of them to take the division. A healthy A.J. Green will help with that, as will Vontaze Burfict once he returns from arthroscopic knee surgery. If Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard can be the one-two punch at running back we all expect, the Bengals are built to win late in the year.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-2)
Last Week: 6
This Week: 8
The Philadelphia Eagles won on Sunday, bringing their record to an NFC East best 6-2. So, why are they ranked behind the Dallas Cowboys?
Contrary to the belief of many commenters, I do not hate your team. I do worry about the offense without Nick Foles, though. Unlike the Tony Romo situation in Dallas, Foles could reasonably be out seven weeks (that's how long Aaron Rodgers was out last year with the same injury). Mark Sanchez may be capable of moving the offense, but until that's more of a concrete evaluation, the Eagles move down with caution this week.
I'm sure this looks very reactionary, but that's what power rankings are. And if the Eagles win in Week 10 against Carolina and Sanchez looks efficient and accurate, they'll make a case to bounce back up the rankings.
7. Dallas Cowboys (6-3)
Last Week: 4
This Week: 7
It was just two weeks ago that the Dallas Cowboys looked like the class of the NFL with a 6-1 record and wins over the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants in their back pocket. And then Tony Romo got hurt in an intense Monday Night Football game against Washington.
With two straight losses and a questionable Romo heading into Week 10, the Cowboys look vulnerable. The run game that had fueled them to the hot start struggled to get going without the threat of Romo under center, and DeMarco Murray was held under 100 yards for the first time all season. Further complicating matters, backup quarterback Brandon Weeden could not connect with wide receivers Dez Bryant or Terrance Williams all day.
The Cowboys are still talented enough to win the NFC East and even the NFC, but a healthy Romo is the key to it all. For now, it's just a three-spot drop, but the longer Romo is out, the more they'll plummet in the rankings.
6. Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
Last Week: 8
This Week: 6
It's tough to be more impressive than the Indianapolis Colts were in taking apart the New York Giants on the road during Monday Night Football. For their effort, the Colts move up two spots and could be in the argument for a top-five ranking. They'll get their chance to move into the top five next week, but they have to feel great about a thorough beating of the Giants in Week 9.
Andrew Luck and Co. are playing excellent football, but they face the New England Patriots next week in a game that could determine the top seed in the AFC come playoff time. The Sunday night game is in Indianapolis, where the Colts have just one loss this year (Week 2 to the Eagles).
With their 51-34 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers firmly in the rearview mirror, the Colts look like one of the NFL's elite teams again.
5. Detroit Lions (6-2)
Last Week: 5
This Week: 5
The bye week coming off a close win over the Atlanta Falcons in London arrived at the perfect time. The Detroit Lions head into Week 10 looking to get healthy for a tough stretch run through the NFC North. And in a close division race between Detroit and Green Bay, every game will count.
The Lions made a nice jump last week for winning without key players Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and others on offense, but they're poised for a considerable move down over the next month if they can't take control of the next four games. Miami comes to town, and then the Lions go to Arizona and New England before hosting Chicago. Winning even two of those games would be considered an accomplishment, but all four will be exceptionally tough.
We will learn a lot about the Lions in November, but heading into Week 10, they're one of the more balanced and consistent teams in the NFL.
4. Green Bay Packers (5-3)
Last Week: 7
This Week: 4
The Green Bay Packers are on a bye in Week 9, and that usually means no movement in the rankings. Not this week.
With the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys losing and Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles going down with injury, the Packers get a surprising boost up the board. Now they must keep the momentum going with a win when Week 10 comes around.
The schedule does heat up, but the Packers have a winnable stretch at home against Chicago in Week 10, Philadelphia and Mark Sanchez in Week 11 and traveling to Minnesota for Week 12. Winning out puts the team at 8-3 before hosting the New England Patriots.
Realistically, the Packers could win seven of their last eight if you factor in a loss to the Patriots. That'd put them at 12-4 with a shot at a home playoff game or two.
3. Denver Broncos (6-2)
Last Week: 1
This Week: 3
The Denver Broncos suffered a devastating loss to the New England Patriots in Week 9, so they slide a few spots in this week's rankings. But more importantly, it looks like the AFC runs through Foxborough and the Patriots. Given Tom Brady and Bill Belichick's excellence at home and Peyton Manning's struggles in cold-weather games, that's bad news for Denver.
There will be many panicking and writing off the Broncos after Week 9, but that's not happening here. This is still a roster and coaching staff good enough to win the AFC and even win a Super Bowl. There are simply matchups that are bad for Denver, and the Seattle Seahawks and Patriots have laid the blueprint for winning. That doesn't mean every team has the big, physical cornerbacks needed to slow down the Denver offense, though.
Getting back on track over the next four weeks will be possible, as the Broncos travel to Oakland and St. Louis, then host the Miami Dolphins before seeing Kansas City on the road at Arrowhead Stadium. That 6-2 record could be 10-2 really quick.
2. Arizona Cardinals (7-1)
Last Week: 3
This Week: 2
Too many excuses have been made about the Arizona Cardinals this year, and I'm guilty of it, too. The simple fact of the matter is that they have the league's best record after nine weeks.
It doesn't matter that the Cardinals beat the Cowboys without Tony Romo, because Arizona beat the 49ers when they had Drew Stanton at quarterback. The team's lone blemish—a 41-20 loss to the Denver Broncos—came on a night that Stanton and Logan Thomas handled quarterback duties and Tyrann Mathieu only played 16 snaps as he was still working back from injury.
The Cardinals are getting excellent coaching, explosive plays on offense and turnovers and pressures on defense from a different cast each week. And as Bruce Arians continues to pad his Coach of the Year resume, the Cardinals keep on trucking to the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
1. New England Patriots (7-2)
Last Week: 2
This Week: 1
When the New England Patriots play host to an AFC team, it's a safe bet Bill Belichick's club will deliver. That was the case again in Week 9 as the Patriots dominated the Denver Broncos on a cold, windy day.
The game plan for the Patriots was a familiar Belichick strategy—use big, aggressive defensive backs to throw off Peyton Manning's timing by pressing at the line of scrimmage. They also got to Manning with edge-rushers Rob Ninkovich and Akeem Ayers while trusting that Denver couldn't beat them with the run. On offense, the Patriots challenged the Denver safeties by attacking the middle of the field and featuring Rob Gronkowski and running back Shane Vereen. And it worked to perfection.
New England may not have the NFL's best record, but a five-game winning streak and a win over last week's No. 1 team gets it the top spot heading into Week 10.