NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Standings Heading into Week 8

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystOctober 27, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Standings Heading into Week 8

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    The best never rest, and the NFL's top teams continue to roll their opponents. 

    After seven weeks of play, five teams remain undefeated. There may have been a close call here or there for the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots, but each of those organizations is well on its way to a playoff appearance even before we hit the halfway point of the season. 

    According to Randall Liu, the NFL's director of NFC communications, 94 percent of the teams that have started 6-0 since 1990 made the playoffs. 

    But the rest of the picture remains cloudy. The AFC in particular has been bad beyond its top teams, as only five franchises currently own winning records. The NFC isn't much better with six winning programs. 

    Mediocrity reigns supreme: Nine teams around the league are 3-3 or 3-4. 

    To make sense of it all, eight Bleacher Report NFL writers—Gary Davenport, Mike Freeman, Brad Gagnon, Matt Miller, Ty Schalter, Mike Tanier, Sean Tomlinson and yours truly—ranked the teams. 

    To build a consensus for these power rankings, each team's ranking from each writer was added to the others. The lowest totals indicated the best teams, while the highest totals marked the other end of the spectrum. If there was a tie, the club with the single highest vote got the nod as the better squad.

    This week, four different teams elicited at least one tally as the league's worst. And a new franchise found its way to the NFL's basement. 

    Click through the slideshow to find out where all the teams landed in Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Standings.

32. Houston Texans

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    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-5

    Highest Ranking: 27 (Freeman, Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Sobleski, Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: It's really difficult to find a positive after the Miami Dolphins trounced the Houston Texans. The game wasn't even competitive. At the very least, Texans faithful got to watch the continued growth of 2014 No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. The South Carolina product led the team with eight tackles and registered a sack and two tackles for loss. As bad as the Texans have been at points this season, Clowney and J.J. Watt are always enjoyable to watch. 

    What's Bad?: A rift seems to have formed within the organization this week. Of course, it centered around the quarterback position. After missing the team flight to Florida, Ryan Mallett took a separate flight to join his team in Miami for Sunday's contest. According to the Houston Chronicle's Brian T. Smith, head coach Bill O'Brien wanted to cut Mallett on the spot, but general manager Rick Smith vetoed the move. A general manager and head coach need to be on the same page for a team to be successful. The organization, however, did release Mallett on Tuesday, according to the Houston Chronicle's John McClain. Now that the situation has been resolved, it shouldn't fester. But the Texans still don't have an answer at the quarterback position. 

    What's Next?: After losing 44-26 to the Dolphins, Houston desperately needs to bounce back against the 1-5 Tennessee Titans. A loss would officially push the Texans to the basement in the league's weakest division. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 27

31. Detroit Lions

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Current Record: 1-6

    Highest Ranking: 26 (Sobleski)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Davenport)

    What's Good?: The Detroit Lions are finally seeing a return on last year's 10th overall pick, tight end Eric Ebron. The North Carolina product set a new career high Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings with 89 receiving yards. He also tied career highs with five receptions and a touchdown catch. As the Lions attempt to build an identity on offense, Ebron can become a bigger part of the game plan during the second half of the season. 

    What's Bad?: The organization decided it needed an offensive overhaul after Sunday's loss. As a result, the team fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn and assistant offensive line coach Terry Heffernan, per the Detroit News' Josh Katzenstein. Quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter will serve as interim offensive coordinator, while Ron Prince will take over offensive line duties. Any time a change like this occurs midseason, it's never a good situation. 

    What's Next?: Not only did the Lions make midseason changes to the coaching staff, the timing of them was quite odd—Detroit is currently getting ready for a trip to London to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Obviously, this won't be a traditional week of preparation for the team. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 30

30. San Francisco 49ers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-5

    Highest Ranking: 25 (Miller)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (3 voters)

    What's Good?: Injuries derailed the early portion of the season for veteran tight end Vernon Davis. But the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft finally got back on track Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks. Davis led the San Francisco 49ers with four catches for 61 yards. His presence in the lineup will certainly help the offense and, particularly, quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Well, that's if Davis is not traded before the Nov. 3 deadline. 

    What's Bad?: The 49ers offensive line simply cannot protect Kaepernick. The Seahawks sacked San Francisco's quarterback six times Thursday. They also hit Kaepernick nine more times throughout the contest. Kaepernick's 202 pass attempts rank 19th overall. Yet, he's been sacked 25 times, which is tied for second-most in the league. The right side of the 49ers offensive line is playing poorly. Right guard Jordan Devey and right tackle Erik Pears have performed well below expectations. 

    What's Next?: A few extra days of preparation after Thursday's contest should help San Francisco as it continues to concentrate on execution within the scheme instead of wholesale changes. The team will have one goal in mind for its upcoming meeting with the St. Louis Rams: Stop rookie sensation Todd Gurley. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 28

29. Tennessee Titans

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 1-5

    Highest Ranking: 26 (3 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Miller)

    What's Good?: The Tennessee Titans own a top-five defense, yet the team is still 1-5 overall. It falls on the offense to make some plays. The coaching staff might have found its answer in second-year running back Antonio Andrews. The Western Kentucky product didn't receive a big workload Sunday, but he averaged 5.7 yards on 10 carries against an Atlanta Falcons run defense that ranked No. 1 overall entering the contest. Bishop Sankey hasn't lived up to expectations, which means Andrews could take over as the team's lead back. 

    What's Bad?With rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota out of the lineup Sunday against the Falcons, the Titans managed only 256 yards of offense. Zach Mettenberger simply didn't perform well in his first start this season. The second-year pro finished the contest 22-of-35 for 187 yards and a touchdown with a pair of interceptions. The offense was particularly poor on third down, only converting once in nine tries. 

    What's Next?Mariota is expected to return to the starting lineup this weekend against the Houston Texans, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. He should be ready for an important contest as Tennessee tries to stay out of the AFC South basement. The Texans have given up 27 or more points in three of their last four contests. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 31

28. Baltimore Ravens

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Current Record: 1-6

    Highest Ranking: 23 (Miller)

    Lowest Ranking: 30 (Davenport)

    What's Good?: C.J. Mosley was the only Baltimore Ravens defender to make an impact against the Arizona Cardinals. This a major positive for the Pro Bowl linebacker, because the second-year pro hadn't played well in recent weeks. The lights of Monday Night Football brought the best out of the Alabama product. He registered four tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and another quarterback hit. 

    What's Bad?: John Harbaugh needs to worry a little less about whether or not Chris Johnson was down and more about the sinking ship that is the Ravens' season. Issues abound for Baltimore. The team's offense came up small in a big situation again. A once-ferocious defense is currently ranked 25th overall and giving up 385.4 yards per game. And special teams also let the Ravens down when Jeremy Ross fumbled a punt late in the first half. All this equates to a 1-6 start. 

    What's Next?: Two reeling teams will meet Sunday when Baltimore hosts the San Diego Chargers. Both the Ravens and the Chargers have lost three straight contests. Both franchises hope a win will turn into something more after poor starts to the season. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 29

27. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 2-5

    Highest Ranking: 24 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: The Jacksonville Jaguars' Telvin Smith is rarely discussed as one of the league's better young linebackers. The 2014 fifth-round pick became a starter in his fifth game as a professional and finished last season second on the team with 104 tackles. The Florida State product leads the team in tackles this year and came up big against the Buffalo Bills in London on Sunday. Smith amassed nine tackles, two tackles for loss, three deflected passes and a pick-six. This second-year pro has quickly developed into one of Jacksonville's franchise building blocks. 

    What's Bad?: As well as the Jaguars played in the first half against the Bills—when they built a 27-3 lead by the middle of the second quarter—the team nearly gagged away a victory. Jacksonville surrendered 28 straight points before finally going back on top with a late 31-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Bortles to wide receiver Allen Hurns. The Jaguars are a young team, and they can't left off the gas when there is an opportunity to close out a victory. 

    What's Next?: Jacksonville is one of four teams—including the Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins—on a bye during Week 8.

    Last Week's Ranking: 32

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-4

    Highest Ranking: 23 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally awoke the sleeping giant known as Mike Evans. The 6'5" wide receiver dominated at points during his rookie campaign, but he hadn't been a large part of the Buccaneers offense so far this season. All that changed Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Evans caught a season-high eight passes for 164 yards and his first touchdown of the year. His performance was only 10 yards short of his output from the previous four games. It's not a coincidence that rookie quarterback Jameis Winston put together his best effort of the season as well. 

    What's Bad?: Lovie Smith's squad led the Redskins 24-0 with eight minutes remaining in the second quarter and still found a way to lose. Tampa Bay surrendered 21 straight points as Washington pulled within striking distance. After pushing their lead back to six, the Buccaneers played too soft on defense and allowed quarterback Kirk Cousins to march his team to the winning score. While some pressure is now off Cousins in D.C., the heat is being turned up on Smith after such a poor late-game performance. 

    What's Next?: Smith's seat could become scorching hot in the next month based on the team's upcoming schedule. The 6-1 Atlanta Falcons are next followed by three contests against NFC East opponents and then the Indianapolis Colts. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 25

25. Chicago Bears

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Current Record: 2-4

    Highest Ranking: 16 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 30 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: Prior to the Chicago Bears' bye week, the organization attempted to find its identity on defense by purging a couple players, Jared Allen and Jon Bostic, who didn't fit in the team's 3-4 scheme. Rookie nose tackle Eddie Goldman quickly established himself as a key cog. A total of 17 defensive tackles were selected in this year's NFL draft. Not a single one of them can claim he's playing as well as Goldman did through the Bears' first six games. Goldman is part of the reason why Chicago currently claims the NFL's 10th-best defense. 

    What's Bad?: During the bye week, Chicago made another abrupt change by releasing veteran Jeremiah Ratliff. Ratliff started the previous two weeks at left end. He even played over half the snaps in each contest. But tensions rose and boiled over Thursday. ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson reported: "Multiple sources confirmed the Bears asked Ratliff to leave the facility because they felt he was not in the proper condition to work that day. Sources added that Ratliff later returned to the building several times before finally leaving for good. At one point, Ratliff had a heated conversation with general manager Ryan Pace in front of Halas Hall while the rest of the team practiced."

    What's Next?: The Bears had started to get on track by winning two straight before faltering against the Detroit Lions in overtime last week. Another division opponent looms Sunday, when the Bears host the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota continues to trend in the right direction, while Chicago is simply trying to establish exactly what type of team it'll be under head coach John Fox. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 23

24. Cleveland Browns

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 2-5

    Highest Ranking: 16 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Davenport)

    What's Good?: As another Cleveland Browns season starts to go downhill, Gary Barnidge continues to serve as one of the team's lone bright spots. The 30-year-old tight end is having a career year that continued with Sunday's performance against the St. Louis Rams. Barnidge caught six passes for 101 yards. The veteran also got a tooth knocked out, per Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot, which required stitches at halftime. Barnidge is second among all tight ends—behind the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski—with 514 receiving yards. 

    What's Bad?: The Browns simply can't figure out how to stop the run. Against the Rams, Todd Gurley piled up 128 yards on only 19 carries. Cleveland is last in the league, surrendering 151 yards per game on the ground. Just how bad is it? Let SI.com's Kevin Jones explain: "Rather than being assigned specific gaps, Cleveland's defensive linemen play different techniques based on how their offensive counterparts are blocking them. The linebackers, then, are expected to guess what technique their teammates are using, scrape through the resulting mess and make the play." 

    A source told Jones: "It's an entire guessing game. Imagine trying to define mud."

    What's Next?: Cleveland's thrill-a-minute season is heading down a far more difficult path starting this weekend against the Arizona Cardinals. The Browns are reeling from two bad losses, and the Cardinals are a team that can bury their opponent if they're clicking on all cylinders. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 20

23. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-5

    Highest Ranking: 16 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 27 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: The emergence of Charcandrick West was a pleasant surprise. After losing Jamaal Charles to season-ending knee surgery, a very large portion of the offense disappeared. Charles served as the catalyst to the entire offensive scheme. West didn't exactly alleviate concerns in his initial start against the Minnesota Vikings. But against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he broke through for 110 yards on 22 carries. If West continues to perform at a high level, the Chiefs offense shouldn't take a massive step back in the coming weeks. 

    What's Bad?: Jeremy Maclin didn't play Sunday due to lingering symptoms from a concussion he suffered against the Vikings. Even though Maclin was cleared by doctors Friday, head coach Andy Reid noticed something different about his top receiver Saturday. Reid told ESPN.com's Adam Teicher: "We've been around him long enough. He's new here, but we've known him for a while. He just was off. Between the two of them, they kind of worked that out with the docs. Then I had a chance to talk to him, and he wasn't right." Maclin is one of the league's most dangerous receivers when healthy, and the organization will keep a close eye on him this week. 

    What's Next?: The Chiefs are set to make their first trip to London to compete in the final game of this year's international series against the Detroit Lions. Both teams are desperate for a win, but Kansas City has an opportunity to win two straight games for the first time this season. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 26

22. Dallas Cowboys

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 2-4

    Highest Ranking: 16 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 30 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: While the Dallas Cowboys continue to rotate their running backs in an attempt to find a true workhorse, the offensive line remains the organization's lone constant on that side of the ball. But that doesn't mean changes can't be made with the NFL's premier group of blockers. Head coach Jason Garrett made the decision to move undrafted rookie La'el Collins back into the starting lineup during the bye week. Ronald Leary was inactive for Sunday's game against the New York Giants. And Collins performed well. 

    What's Bad?: Two weeks ago, we discussed how good a player Greg Hardy is without getting into what kind of person he is. However, he can negatively affect a locker room if he goes unchecked. Sunday's explosive sideline tirade and Hardy's unwillingness to talk to the media after the game provided a glimpse into his attitude. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones still defended Hardy, though, per the Dallas Morning News' Jon Machota"He's one of the real leaders on this team, and he earns it. That's the kind of thing that inspires."

    What's Next?: After four straight losses, the Cowboys desperately need a win to remain in the NFC East chase. Dallas is already in last place and two games behind the New York Giants in the win column. Getting healthy late in the season might not mean much if the Cowboys can't take care of their business now. It doesn't get any easier with the Seattle Seahawks coming to town. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 17

21. San Diego Chargers

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-5

    Highest Ranking: 13 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 26 (Miller)

    What's Good?: Melvin Gordon is dealing with an injury and managed only seven carries Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Branden Oliver carried the ball nine times for 35 yards. Meanwhile, veteran Danny Woodhead remains the most effective weapon out of the San Diego Chargers backfield. Certainly, most of his damage came once the contest was all but decided, but Philip Rivers trusts the diminutive running back as a blocker and receiver. Woodhead is currently second on the team in both rushing and receiving yardage. 

    What's Bad?: While the Chargers own the league's No. 1-ranked offense, their defense falls on the other side of the spectrum. San Diego can't stop the run; teams average a whopping 5.3 yards per carry against the Chargers. San Diego ranks dead last in that category, and it's one of only two teams to surrender more than five yards every time the ball is handed to a running back. 

    What's Next?: The 2-5 Chargers make their longest trip of the year to face the 1-6 Baltimore Ravens. Usually, West Coast teams don't fare well in these instances, but Rivers has played at a high level all season, and the Ravens rank 28th in pass defense. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 15

20. Washington Redskins

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Current Record: 3-4

    Highest Ranking: 17 (Miller)  

    Lowest Ranking: 30 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: After going down 24 points in the first half to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Washington Redskins engineered a comeback victory. Quarterback Kirk Cousins won't be questioned every step of the way (at least this week) after throwing for 317 yards and three touchdowns while leading his team to the improbable win. Tight end Jordan Reed showed why he's one of the league's most difficult matchups with a pair of touchdown catches. And the Redskins defense stiffened in the second half when it needed to make plays. While a team never wants to get down like this in any contest, Washington will enjoy the biggest comeback victory in the franchise's history. 

    What's Bad?: The score wasn't the only negative in the first half. Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan suffered a broken hand. Kerrigan remains tied for the team lead with 3.5 sacks, but he underwent surgery Monday, according to ESPN.com's John Keim. The 2011 first-round pick plans on returning after the team's bye week, though. Said Kerrigan: "That's the goal. If we were playing Sunday, it would be a stretch to play. But since we have two weeks, if things go according to plan, I'll be able to play."

    What's Next?The Redskins are one of four teams—including the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles—on a bye during Week 8.

    Last Week's Ranking: 24

19. Indianapolis Colts

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 3-4

    Highest Ranking: 10 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 29 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: Despite a sub-.500 record, the Indianapolis Colts still lead the AFC South by a game. This is what happens when you play in the NFL's worst division. The Colts, however, are a far more talented team than their record indicates. Yet, they continue to place themselves in poor positions. Indianapolis trailed 20-0 at halftime against the New Orleans Saints before it mounted a second-half comeback. One positive emerged: Quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton finally got on the same page. Hilton caught four passes for 150 yards—his first 100-yard game of the season. 

    What's Bad?: Luck's regression from one week to the next is alarming. After coming back from shoulder surgery a week ago, the 2012 No. 1 overall pick looked almost like his usual self. In the first half against the Saints, however, Luck was 9-of-19 for 79 yards with a pair of interceptions. While he played much better in the second half, these slow starts have become a trend. As talented as Luck is, he can't simply turn it on and off like a switch. 

    What's Next?: The Colts will need Luck to play his best this weekend against the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Indianapolis' defense also needs to play better; the Panthers have scored 20 or more points in each of their contests this year. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 14

18. Buffalo Bills

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    Stephen Pond/Getty Images

    Current Record: 3-4

    Highest Ranking: 14 (Gagnon, Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 21 (Miller, Sobleski)

    What's Good?: It's hard to find many positives after the Buffalo Bills were almost run out of London by the Jacksonville Jaguars—a team that Bleacher Report's writers ranked as the league's worst just a week ago. The Bills did mount a second-half comeback, though. At the very least, wide receiver Robert Woods re-emerged, catching a season-high nine passes for 84 yards on 13 targets. Prior to Sunday's contest, Woods hadn't caught more than four passes or recorded more than 60 yards in any game. With Percy Harvin's status in question and Sammy Watkins nursing an ankle injury, Woods needs to fill the void.  

    What's Bad?: Buffalo traded veteran Matt Cassel to the Dallas Cowboys because the organization felt former first-round pick EJ Manuel presented more upside. By halftime of Sunday's contest, Bills fans must have wished the trade never happened. Manuel turned the ball over three times in a sequence of six plays. He didn't see dropping linebackers twice, which resulted in interceptions, and he fumbled the ball once, which turned into a Jaguars touchdown. If there were any thoughts that Manuel could develop into a starting quarterback, they were erased with that performance. 

    What's Next?The Bills are one of four teams—including Jacksonville, the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins—on a bye during Week 8.

    Last Week's Ranking: 13

17. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    Current Record: 3-4

    Highest Ranking: 14 (Miller, Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 23 (Sobleski)

    What's Good?: Quarterback Sam Bradford wasn't a likely suspect for this section after the Philadelphia Eagles' 27-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers. After all, he finished the contest 26-of-46 for 205 yards with an interception. Those stats, however, don't reflect the quarterback's play. The Eagles offensive line allowed five sacks, and the team's wide receivers dropped seven passes. It was a case in which the quarterback needed more help from those around him. Head coach Chip Kelly told ESPN.com's Phil Sheridan: "I think our quarterback is playing well. I have been pleased with Samvery pleased with Sam." 

    What's Bad?: Beyond the offense's aforementioned issues against the Panthers, All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters was carted off the field. What originally looked like a leg injury was actually back spasms, according to Philly.com's Zach Berman. Peters will rest during Philadelphia's bye week, and the team hopes to see him return to action the following week. Kelly said he "should be good to go for next Tuesday."

    What's Next?The Eagles are one of four teams—including the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins—on a bye during Week 8.

    Last Week's Ranking: 12

16. Miami Dolphins

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 3-3

    Highest Ranking: 12 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 22 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: Dan Campbell's influence continues to remake the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins absolutely dominated the Houston Texans on Sunday. The biggest difference over the last two weeks? Lamar Miller. The running back is now a much bigger part of the game plan. Miller carried the ball 14 times for 175 yards this weekend. It's the running back's second consecutive 100-yard game since Campbell took over as interim head coach. Said Miller, per the Miami Herald's Walter Villa: "I think it has something to do with it. Every day, [Campbell] preaches, 'Win your one-on-one battles.' I'm just trying to win my battles and make explosive plays."

    What's Bad?: Very little went wrong for the Dolphins during their 44-26 victory. But this year's first-round pick, wide receiver DeVante Parker, hasn't earned a significant role in Miami's offense. In fact, he's only been on the field for 23 snaps since Campbell took over, per Pro Football Focus. With Rishard Matthews and Jarvis Landry playing well and veteran Greg Jennings in the fold, Parker might not see the field much unless an injury occurs. 

    What's Next?: Are the Dolphins for real with Campbell leading the way? Everyone will find out Thursday when the team travels to New England to face the division-leading Patriots. New England remains undefeated, while the Dolphins are looking for their third straight victory. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 22

15. St. Louis Rams

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    Current Record: 3-3

    Highest Ranking: 11 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 23 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: It's easy to talk about running back Todd Gurley or the St. Louis Rams' talented defensive front each and every week. Sometimes, the play of others needs to be highlighted. This weekend, Mark Barron was a force against the Cleveland Browns. Barron transitioned from safety to linebacker to replace the injured Alec Ogletree, and the Alabama product played arguably the best game of his career. As a newly-minted weak-side backer, Barron racked up 19 tackles, two tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hit, per Rams media manager Casey Pearce

    What's Bad?: Despite Gurley's dominance over the past three weeks, the running back's play hasn't opened up St. Louis' passing attack. Since Gurley became a starter, Nick Foles hasn't thrown for more than 171 yards in a contest. It starts with an inability to consistently throw the ball downfield. Most of Foles' passes are short or underneath coverage. Plus, the team's wide receiver corps is built for yards after the catch and not deep passes. 

    What's Next?: The Rams haven't established much consistency. Sunday's contest against the San Francisco 49ers is an opportunity to win two straight for the first time this year. A victory would mark only the second time the team has been over .500 since the start of the 2013 campaign. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 18

14. Oakland Raiders

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    Current Record: 3-3

    Highest Ranking: 12 (Sobleski, Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 21 (Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: While rookie sensation Amari Cooper has already built a strong rapport with second-year quarterback Derek Carr, it's taking a little longer for rookie tight end Clive Walford to earn the same level of trust. But Walford's performance against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday was certainly a step in the right direction. This year's third-round pick caught two passes for 42 yards, including a 23-year touchdown. Walford is an athletic tight end who is a legitimate threat down the seam. As such, his role should grow in the coming weeks. 

    What's Bad?: Like Walford, rookie Neiron Ball was expected to have a bigger role with the Raiders. In fact, Ball started his first game last week against the Denver Broncos. But the young linebacker suffered a knee injury Sunday. The extent of the injury has yet to be determined, but Ball could miss time in the coming weeks as a result. With uncertainty surrounding Ball, veteran Ray-Ray Armstrong will likely return to the starting lineup. 

    What's Next?: With a 3-3 start, the Raiders have already equaled last year's win total. The next step is to become consistently competitive against the league's better teams. The New York Jets, who visit the Black Hole on Sunday, had a chance to knock off the New England Patriots on Sunday. Whichever team wins this contest will continue its ascension toward the top of Bleacher Report's power rankings. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 19

13. New Orleans Saints

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    Current Record: 3-4

    Highest Ranking: 12 (Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 20 (Gagnon, Schalter)

    What's Good?: When Cameron Jordan is on his game, there are very few defenders around the league who are better. The 26-year-old defensive end wrecked the Indianapolis Colts offense Sunday. Jordan registered two sacks, two tackles for loss, two deflected passes and four more quarterback hits. Said New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, per ESPN.com's Mike Triplett: "He's played well. He's playing with good energy. He's got production inside in some of the sub-rush and also outside and also played well in the base."

    What's Bad?: Despite a dominant half of play, the Saints nearly let their 20-0 halftime lead slip away against the Colts. The defense surrendered multiple big plays, particularly to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who finished the contest with four catches for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While Rob Ryan's unit has improved in recent weeks, New Orleans still ranks 30th overall in total defense. 

    What's Next?: The Saints host the NFC East-leading New York Giants this weekend. The Giants have been inconsistent all season, while New Orleans is finally trending in the right direction with three wins in its last four contests. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 21

12. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Current Record: 4-3

    Highest Ranking: 9 (Freeman, Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 21 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: After a few weeks of futility due to Ben Roethlisberger's absence in the Pittsburgh Steelers lineup, Antonio Brown registered his fourth 100-yard game of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. In the previous three weeks with Mike Vick starting, Brown caught only 11 passes for 111 yards. With Landry Jones starting, Brown rebounded with six receptions for 124 yards. 

    What's Bad?: The Steelers rank 24th overall in total defense. Not only is the unit playing poorly, but it's been sloppy as well. Numerous missed tackles plagued Pittsburgh during its 23-13 loss to the Chiefs. This is the same Kansas City squad that started 1-5 and lost franchise running back Jamaal Charles for the season due to a knee injury. In his place, Charcandrick West, who went undrafted out of Abilene Christian, ran for 110 yards on 22 carries in his second start.

    What's Next?: Pittsburgh can't afford to fall another game behind the Cincinnati Bengals. This weekend's meeting between the two teams will determine if the Steelers stay close in the division or fall 3½ games behind the Bengals. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 9

11. Seattle Seahawks

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Current Record: 3-4

    Highest Ranking: 10 (Davenport, Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 19 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: Michael Bennett is an absolute terror in the Seattle Seahawks' defensive scheme. His ability to rush the passer as a base end or situational defensive tackle makes him one of the league's best edge-defenders. His entire repertoire was on display Thursday against the San Francisco 49ers. Bennett terrorized 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The defensive end registered 3.5 sacks and three more quarterback hits. He also add three tackles for loss. It's not often said, but Bennett is one of the game's best defenders. 

    What's Bad?: The offensive line has been an issue all season, and Garry Gilliam dealt with an injured ankle leading up to Thursday's game and couldn't finish the contest. Alvin Bailey stepped in and didn't perform well. The third-year pro can play nearly every position along the line, but he wasn't prepared to face San Francisco's Aaron Lynch. Bailey surrendered a pair of sacks.

    What's Next?: The Seahawks said they finally felt "normal" during their 20-3 victory over the 49ers. They'll need to carry that feeling into this weekend's contest with the Dallas Cowboys to build some positive momentum heading into their bye week. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 16

10. New York Giants

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    William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 4-3

    Highest Ranking: 8 (Davenport)

    Lowest Ranking: 17 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: New York Giants veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is one of the team's most consistent performers. Rodgers-Cromartie provided stifling coverage against the Dallas Cowboys. The cornerback deflected a pair of passes and snatched a pair of interceptions, including one he returned 58 yards for a touchdown. Since the Giants can't manufacture much of a pass rush, the play of Rodgers-Cromartie is absolutely vital to the team's success. 

    What's Bad?: Markus Kuhn registered half a sack Sunday. This is important because it kept New York from being the league's worst in that particular category. The team has only managed nine sacks through seven games. Damontre Moore leads the way with three sacks. But help may be on the way. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul could return in the next week or two. 

    What's Next?: Despite an up and down season, the Giants are still exactly where they want to be: first place in the NFC East. Two road trips are next on the docket before New York hosts the New England Patriots. But the team can't look ahead because this weekend's opponent, the New Orleans Saints, has won three of its last four contests.  

    Last Week's Ranking: 11

9. New York Jets

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Current Record: 4-2

    Highest Ranking: 8 (4 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 11 (Davenport)

    What's Good?: There's no way around it. Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots was hard on the New York Jets. An opportunity existed to stand up to the dominating presence in the AFC East, and the Jets came up short. However, there were some positives. Wide receiver Eric Decker posted his second 90-yard game of the season. The defense played well and held the Patriots to 16 yards on the ground, though New England never really tried to run the ball. New York is one of the league's better teams at this point, and it will have an opportunity to redeem itself later in the season. 

    What's Bad?: A scary sight occurred Sunday when All-Pro center Nick Mangold injured his neck. Jets head coach Todd Bowles revealed Monday that test results were negative, per ESPN.com's Rich Cimini. The team, however, doesn't know exactly when Mangold will return to the lineup. Bowles said: "I don't know the timetable on him getting better. I just know it's not as bad as we thought it was. He's sore, and he has to get treatment and see if it loosens up."

    What's Next?: Everything goes into trying to defeat the Patriots. But New York can't sleep on the Oakland Raiders this weekend. Oakland is one of the NFL's rising team with talent at quarterback, wide receiver and along its defensive front. Plus, this is a West Coast trip. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 8

8. Minnesota Vikings

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    Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 4-2

    Highest Ranking: 5 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 12 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: While the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons seem to be getting luckier and luckier each week, the Minnesota Vikings have quietly won four of five games since their season-opening loss in San Francisco. The lone loss in that stretch came by just three points in Denver, and all four of the wins came by at least six points. They're primed to make a run and deliver on high preseason expectations.

    What's Bad?: The Detroit Lions defensive line dominated the Vikings offensive line. The Lions' defensive front managed four sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater wasn't simply sacked four times, he was hit on 11 more occasions. Good thing Bridgewater is deadly accurate even under pressure. This doesn't excuse the offensive line's poor play, though. Left tackle Matt Kalil, right tackle T.J. Clemmings and left guard Brandon Fusco each surrendered a couple quarterback hurries. 

    What's Next?: The Vikings have an opportunity to start 3-0 in the NFC North. They've already beaten Detroit twice and have this weekend's meeting with the Chicago Bears. A victory would put Minnesota near the top of the division with the Green Bay Packers leading the way. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 10

7. Atlanta Falcons

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 6-1

    Highest Ranking: 5 (Sobleski)

    Lowest Ranking: 9 (Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: Very few players transcend scheme. To get the most out of the majority of players, coaches must place them in a system that accentuates their strengths and downplays their weaknesses. Last year's sixth overall pick, Atlanta Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews, struggled during his rookie campaign. A coaching change after the season brought Kyle Shanahan into the fold as the team's offensive coordinator. Matthews now thrives in Shanahan's zone-heavy scheme. His run blocking in particular has greatly improved as the Texas A&M product has relied more on his athleticism than brute strength. 

    What's Bad?: The Falcons survived with a 10-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, but the offense's goal-line execution was poor. The Titans rebuffed Atlanta twice late in the game (with a little bit of help from the officials). This is somewhat problematic because the Falcons own one of the league's most explosive offenses, yet it failed to score more than 10 points. However, head coach Dan Quinn told ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure that he wouldn't change his strategy: "There was no hesitation on my end to go for it. We thought it could be a two-score game. And, we go for it a lot on fourth down. And I think that's the trust and the belief that we have in our players, No. 1."

    What's Next?: Despite a 6-1 start to the season, Atlanta is 0-1 in the NFC South with a loss to the New Orleans Saints. That could change Sunday, when the Falcons host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This year's No. 1 overall pick, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, is coming off his best performance to date. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 6

6. Arizona Cardinals

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Current Record: 5-2

    Highest Ranking: 4 (Miller)

    Lowest Ranking: 8 (Sobleski)

    What's Good?: The Arizona Cardinals' No Fly Zone is built around the versatility of cornerback/safety Tyrann Mathieu. This was never more apparent than during Monday night's contest against the Baltimore Ravens. Mathieu was all over the field making plays. The Honey Badger finished the evening with seven tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, another quarterback hit and a deflected pass. He is currently the highest-graded cornerback in all of football, according to Pro Football Focus

    What's Bad?: As good as the Cardinals can look, they're also prone to mistakes. Special teams let the team down Monday night. Not only did the punt unit allow a blocked kick, but Chandler Catanzaro also missed a field goal and extra point. While no one can blame him for missing the 55-yard field goal, it was his second miss of the season. The same can be said of the missed extra point. 

    What's Next?: Arizona continues its whirlwind tour against the AFC North. After splitting games versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, the Cleveland Browns are next on the docket. The Browns just suffered an embarrassing loss to the St. Louis Rams and may be forced to start backup quarterback Johnny Manziel this weekend. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 7

5. Denver Broncos

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Current Record: 6-0

    Highest Ranking: 5 (5 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 7 (Schalter)

    What's Good?: The bye week came at the right time for Denver Broncos outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who missed the team's last game with back spasms. Ware was back at practice Monday, according to DenverBroncos.com's Andrew Mason. Ware's return shouldn't overshadow his replacement, though. Shaquil Barrett has played extremely well this season, whether it's been in a reserve or starting role. The Colorado State product is currently third on the team with 3.5 sacks and tied for second with five tackles for loss. He's also proved to be a strong run defender off the edge. Denver doesn't take much of a step back if Ware isn't in the lineup. 

    What's Bad?: The Broncos' offensive line continues to be the team's primary sore spot, but improved health among the blockers could finally get the offense on track. Left tackle, in particular, has been an issue. Rookie Ty Sambrailo is expected to return from shoulder injury. Sambrailo still needs to improve drastically, but his return allows the rest of the offensive linemen to settle into their normal positions. 

    What's Next?: After two shaky victories before the bye, Denver's biggest test of the season comes Sunday night against the undefeated Green Bay Packers. This may be a home game, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers is rarely rattled. While everyone will be concentrating on whether or not Peyton Manning can match Rodgers, the Broncos' No. 1-ranked defense must find a way to slow the Packers' high-octane offense. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 5

4. Carolina Panthers

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 6-0

    Highest Ranking: 4 (7 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 6 (Miller)

    What's Good?: Cam Newton might be in the MVP conversation, but running back Jonathan Stewart is the engine that drives the Carolina Panthers offense. Stewart's production makes everyone else in the offense better and the Panthers far more effective. This was readily evident Sunday when Carolina ran over the Philadelphia Eagles. Stewart carried the ball 24 times for a season-high 125 yards. Last year, the ability to ride Stewart allowed the Panthers to win the NFC South and capture a playoff berth. If Stewart starts to take over again, Carolina will be one of the most complete and dangerous teams in the NFL. 

    What's Bad?: The Panthers surrendered a season-high 177 rushing yards to the Eagles. Carolina is currently ranked 18th in run defense and gave up at least 115 yards on the ground in each of the last three weeks. The group can be stout, but it can't allow breakdowns like it did Sunday night on Ryan Mathews' 63-yard romp. One of the solutions that head coach Ron Rivera suggested Monday, per the Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person, is resting the team's veterans more. 

    What's Next?: After the prime-time meeting with the Eagles, the Panthers are set to take the stage on Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts. Both of these teams currently lead their divisions, but only Carolina looks like one of the league's top teams. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 4

3. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 6-0

    Highest Ranking: 2 (Tanier, Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 3 (6 voters)

    What's Good?: When a conversation starts about the game's best left tackle, Andrew Whitworth's name usually isn't mentioned until after the Cleveland Browns' Joe Thomas, Dallas Cowboys' Tyron Smith, Philadelphia Eagles' Jason Peters and Washington Redskins' Trent Williams. However, none of them has been as consistent on the blind side as Whitworth in recent years. Whitworth currently owns the longest active streak of any left tackle without giving up a sack. The Cincinnati Bengals rewarded their blind-side protector with a one-year, $9 million contract extension in September. 

    What's Bad?: Second-year running back Jeremy Hill just hasn't gotten on track this season after being one of the league's better runners as a rookie. Hill is currently averaging 3.1 yards per game. The LSU product came on strong in the second half of last season, and the Bengals hope the same thing happens after this year's bye week. Cincinnati offensive coordinator Hue Jackson told ESPN.com's Coley Harvey: "I know the player he can be, so I'm going to keep pushing him to get there. I mean, we need him. He's going to be a huge part down the stretch run once we get back here."

    What's Next?: After a 6-0 start, the Bengals have had an extra week to prepare for a trip to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers. This is a particularly important early-season meeting because Cincinnati can extend its division lead to 3½ games with a victory. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 3

2. Green Bay Packers

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Current Record: 6-0

    Highest Ranking: 1 (Schalter, Sobleski)

    Lowest Ranking: 3 (Tanier, Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: Since the Green Bay Packers offense can completely overwhelm opponents, the play of the team's defense is often overlooked. While Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers are most often recognized, the play of Mike Daniels warrants more attention. Daniels has had a tremendous start to the season and leads the Packers with 15 quarterback hurries. According to Pro Football Focus, he's among the league's best 3-4 defensive ends. Daniels is in the last year of his rookie contract, and he's due for a massive pay increase after this season. 

    What's Bad?: The Packers got healthier at multiple positions during their bye week, but inside linebacker wasn't one of them. Sam Barrington isn't set to return this season. That means his replacement, Nate Palmer, must play better over the second half of the season. Palmer is currently second on the team with 35 tackles, but the third-year pro from Illinois State must perform better in all areas. He's clearly the weak spot in Green Bay's talented front seven.  

    What's Next?: At least one current undefeated team will leave this weekend with a loss. Will it be the Packers or the Denver Broncos? A trip to Denver serves as Green Bay's biggest test of the season so far, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be harassed by the Broncos' No. 1-ranked defense. Good thing the Packers had two weeks to prepare for this contest. But so did Denver.

    Last Week's Ranking: 2

1. New England Patriots

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Current Record: 6-0

    Highest Ranking: 1 (6 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 2 (Schalter, Sobleski)

    What's Good?: Tom Brady has already cemented his status as one of the game's greatest quarterbacks. But he's well on his way to being recognized as the greatest quarterback of all time. At 38 years old, Brady's 68.9 completion percentage is tied for a career high, which happened to come in 2007 when he threw for a then-record 50 touchdowns. Brady is currently tied for the league lead with 16 touchdown tosses, and he's only thrown one interception. The 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft continues to play at a nearly incomprehensible level even though he's not receiving much help from those around him. 

    What's Bad?: Imagine how great a season Brady would be having if the Patriots had a consistent run game or wide receivers who didn't drop the ball at an alarming rate. New England receivers dropped six balls, or 11.1 percent of his attempted passes, Sunday against the New York Jets. Not only did Brady still throw for 355 yards against the Jets, he also led the team with 15 rushing yards. Let that sink in a moment: Tom Brady led the Patriots in rushing. The rest of the offense managed one rushing yard. Brady is great, but those around him—other than tight end Rob Gronkowskiare quite lacking. 

    What's Next?: New England's on a short week of preparation for a divisional game against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night. The Dolphins have been on fire since Dan Campbell took over as the team's interim head coach. This will prove to be another litmus test for an organization trying to dethrone the Patriots in the AFC East. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 1

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