NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 10?

Sean Tomlinson@@SeanGTomlinsonNFL AnalystNovember 9, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 10?

0 of 32

    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    For the first time in NFL history, three teams are 8-0. Beyond them, however, there's still a muddled mess after Week 9.

    The still-perfect Carolina Panthers lead the NFC. But then there are four six-win teams currently occupying playoff spots, and they're all headed in different directions. On one end there's the Minnesota Vikings—a rising team that's won four straight. On the other? The Green Bay Packers after losing two straight.

    The unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots lead the AFC, with the 7-1 Denver Broncos not far behind. Then five teams with either four or five losses follow.

    Eventually there will be separation, and contending teams will rise. But for now we're left with a common theme throughout the NFL in recent years: parity.

    Let's turn to the weekly power rankings, then, and try to make sense of all that and more.

    These rankings aren't the standings, and instead what follows is an analysis of how each team stacks up based on performance, regardless of what its record says. It's subjective, sure, but agreeing on everything (or anything) isn't fun, right?

    And remember, I probably hate your favorite team.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)

1 of 32

    Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    Last Week: 27

    This Week: 32

    Change: -5

    Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson continue to be impressive core building blocks for a franchise desperately in need of them. They both finished with 120-plus receiving yards during a loss to the New York Jets Sunday.

    And Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles continues to be maddening. He averaged 9.5 yards per attempt while connecting deep with those two, and his 30-yard touchdown pass to Hurns was a perfectly lofted throw between the cornerback and sideline, with Bortles hitting his receiver in stride.

    But in his 22nd career regular-season game, he threw interceptions No. 26 and No. 27, with the final one killing any chance Jacksonville had at a game-winning drive in the final minute while trailing 28-23.

    Bortles is progressing, but he's doing it while still making far too many mistakes.

31. Detroit Lions (1-7)

2 of 32

    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Last Week: 31

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    Somehow Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell wasn't told to close the door and have a seat during the team's Week 9 bye. He still holds his title even after the Lions made their general manager and team president start searching for other meaningful football employment.

    Still with only one win this season and plenty of offensive talent being wasted, it's not hard to see a near-future with Caldwell unemployed, too. Directly after the Lions' Thanksgiving Day game is the next-possible firing window, as then a partial bye week begins with nine days off.

30. San Francisco 49ers (3-6)

3 of 32

    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Last Week: 32

    This Week: 30

    Change: +2

    It's easy to look at our football gods bizarrely creative work Sunday afternoon in San Francisco and say the 49ers' 17-16 win was less a product of their own doing and more so a reflection of the Atlanta Falcons' free fall.

    There's some truth to that, but Blaine Gabbert's strangeness can't be ignored. He actually looked like an NFL quarterback, which makes me want to prepare for our planet's expiration.

    The 49ers had scored 12 points over their past two games, and overall they came into Week 9 having scored in the single digits during four of their six losses. So of course Gabbert, who replaced the benched Colin Kaepernick, led them to 17 points in just the second quarter alone.

    Of course, they didn't score in any other quarter, but let's not ask too much of a Gabbert-piloted offense here. He did well enough to throw two touchdown passes during that one quarter, which is more than his total over the past two seasons.

29. Houston Texans (3-5)

4 of 32

    Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 29

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    A Houston Texans team that's two games below .500 will check back in after a Week 9 bye to see that, yes, life in the AFC South is still a glorious steaming-hot mess.

    Even after the Indianapolis Colts won and upset the Denver Broncos, the Texans are still only a half-game back of the division leaders. The AFC South should play its football on Jupiter.

28. San Diego Chargers (2-7)

5 of 32

    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Last Week: 28

    This Week: 28

    Change: None

    The San Diego Chargers offense basically consists of quarterback Philip Rivers dodging, darting and buying enough time for running back Danny Woodhead to get open. Then Rivers frantically shovels a short pass Woodhead's way, and everyone involved hopes yards pile up after that.

    The Chargers have been reduced to finger crossing because of a season-ending injury to wide receiver Keenan Allen. The absence of tight end Ladarius Green Monday night during a loss to the Chicago Bears didn't exactly help matters, and neither did Malcom Floyd leaving with a shoulder injury.

    It was a close lose, and of course, close only counts for milk expiration dates. The Chargers' lack of punch offensively in a 22-19 game was especially glaring during the fourth quarter. They couldn't respond with firepower of their own when the Bears scored 15 points.

    A running back (yes, Woodhead) led all Chargers pass-catchers with 78 receiving yards.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)

6 of 32

    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

    Last Week: 25

    This Week: 27

    Change: -2

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to settle for four field goals during a game in which they trailed by only two points midway through the fourth quarter. They can thank wide receiver Mike Evans and his banana hands.

    Evans entered Week 9 with five dropped passes this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That's not great, though drops should always be measured next to a receiver's targets, and Evans saw 54 footballs thrown his way over only six games.

    So some drops are tolerated when a receiver's target volume is that high. But not five in one game.

    That's how many balls Evans turfed during a loss to the New York Giants. It tied him for the most drops in a game over the past decade, according to ESPN Stats & Info, with his slippery fingers often robbing the Bucs of opportunities to prolong drives.

26. Dallas Cowboys (2-6)

7 of 32

    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Last Week: 22

    This Week: 26

    Change: -4

    Mark it down. Shortly after midnight Eastern time and minutes into the ninth day of November, the Dallas Cowboys' 2015 season ended.

    Officially, the Cowboys still need to play eight more games. But unofficially, the end seems like it arrived when Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews busted free after running a slant Sunday night and scored his 41-yard game-winning touchdown in overtime.

    The Cowboys have now lost six straight games. The mountain they have to climb is a jagged one, with the hole likely far too deep for when quarterback Tony Romo is due to return in Week 11. Even in the muddled NFC East, leaping over three teams while making up 2.5 games in lost ground is an exceedingly tall order, especially with at least one more Romo-less game coming.

25. Cleveland Browns (2-7)

8 of 32

    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 24

    This Week: 25

    Change: -1

    Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel still showed the flaws we all know well by now Thursday night during a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals when he replaced an injured Josh McCown. He still missed open reads, and he still couldn't fight the instinct to flee from the pocket at the slightest hint of pressure.

    But Manziel also made strides and had one of his best games as a professional quarterback. He leaned on his athleticism to make throws on the run and rifled several of them through tight windows. A second-quarter touchdown drive when the former first-round pick completed four of his five pass attempts for 70 yards highlighted his night.

    He did more than enough to earn extended time as the starter. That is why head coach Mike Pettine's hesitancy to keep moving forward with the Manziel experiment is a little baffling.

    Pettine wouldn't name Manziel the Week 10 starter during his Friday press conference (via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal). He has an out, of course, which is essentially stalling on a decision by saying McCown isn't healthy enough to play yet.

    That might actually be true for Week 10. But McCown's health shouldn't matter, because a 2-7 team has nothing to gain from trotting out the 36-year-old journeyman again.

    Manziel might be the future at quarterback in Cleveland. Or he might be a flameout draft bust. But he took some baby steps Thursday, so a competent franchise would let him build on that during what's otherwise become another lost season. 

24. Tennessee Titans (2-6)

9 of 32

    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 30

    This Week: 24

    Change: +6

    The Tennessee titans play their football in the AFC South, which means that even after firing their head coach and losing six straight games, their season still won't be in full toilet mode for quite some time.

    That is good, because a healthy Marcus Mariota is fueling hope for a sudden turnaround.

    Mariota became the first rookie quarterback in league history to throw four touchdown passes, no interceptions and 350-plus passing yards (he finished with 371 yards), doing all that during an overtime win over the New Orleans Saints. That's according to ESPN Stats & Info, which also notes Mariota became just the third rookie to record two games with four-plus passing TDs.

    The Titans still have four division games left, and they're 1.5 games back of the division-leading Indianapolis Colts. Remarkably, their season is long from over if Mariota can stay healthy.

23. Baltimore Ravens (2-6)

10 of 32

    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Last Week: 23

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    Watching the Baltimore Ravens is about to get hard. It could be on the same level as watching 10 hours of nothing.

    Wide receiver Steve Smith tore his Achilles during a Week 8 win over the San Diego Chargers. Now after a Week 9 bye to collect the pieces of their broken season that's featured four losses by five or fewer points, the Ravens will move on without a small ball of fury who recorded three 150-plus-yard games in 2015.

    They still won't have rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman's services, and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs isn't about to magically heal from his own torn Achilles. A hard-luck year will get uglier, fast.

22. Chicago Bears (3-5)

11 of 32

    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Last Week: 26

    This Week: 22

    Change: +4

    It feels like every offseason we go through the annual ritual of wondering if the Chicago Bears will trade Jay Cutler. He draws criticism because throwing interceptions by the dozen is generally a frowned upon habit. Cutler threw 18 of them last year, and has peaked at 26 single-season interceptions during his time with the Bears (2009).

    But often this season he's reminded us of what it looks like when a strong-armed quarterback stops teasing with his potential. And he did it again Monday night.

    Cutler led two long touchdown drives during a second half when Chicago outscored the San Diego Chargers 15-3. The first was a methodical 16-play drive that covered 93 yards, and the second stretched 80 yards before Cutler connected with tight end Zach Miller, who made an acrobatic one-handed touchdown catch. Over those two drives alone Cutler threw for 153 yards, which was nearly half of his total yardage (345 yards).

    Incredibly, the Bears played their fifth straight game that was decided by three points or less. They've won three during that stretch, and always stand a much better chance of coming out on top when the dart-throwing Cutler shows up. 

21. Miami Dolphins (3-5)

12 of 32

    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Last Week: 21

    This Week: 21

    Change: None

    Remember when Miami Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell was the greatest leader of our time? For two weeks when he first replaced the fired Joe Philbin, it seemed like Campbell could lead the fine citizens of Sparta into battle.

    Now? The shine has worn off Campbell after two straight losses—the latest of which came against the Buffalo Bills and their power-running offense that torched Miami for 266 rushing yards. The Dolphins defense was generous with its gushing and also allowed 168 receiving yards to Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

    Three Bills offensive skill players finished with 110-plus yards from scrimmage (Watkins and running backs LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams), while quarterback Tyrod Taylor averaged 15.1 yards per pass attempt. Yes, that's a real number and a real thing that happened.

20. Kansas City Chiefs (3-5)

13 of 32

    Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

    Last Week: 20

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    Life without running back Jamaal Chargles was supposed to be a depressing existence for the Kansas City Chiefs.

    That darkness could close in eventually after the NFL's best all-purpose runner tore his ACL in Week 5. But in the two games since the injury, his replacement, Charcandrick West, has piled up 251 yards from scrimmage.

    The result, predictably, has been two wins for a team that had lost five straight. So suddenly it feels like the Chiefs have a dash of hope as they emerge from a Week 9 bye. Then you look at the schedule and see they're traveling to play the Denver Broncos next.

    That darkness might not be far off after all.

19. Washington Redskins (3-5)

14 of 32

    Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 19

    This Week: 19

    Change: None

    The Washington Redskins should probably drop further, so consider this a mercy ranking.

    The New England Patriots will lose eventually, but that day wasn't coming Sunday against a turnover-prone Redskins offense and a defense still vulnerable in the secondary. The league's giant offensive juggernaut swallowed the Redskins whole, and absolutely no one was surprised by that outcome.

    An actual football game would have taken place if Redskins pass-catchers could be trusted. But instead they dropped two balls over the Redskins' first four plays, and quarterback Kirk Cousins' first pass attempt was an interception.

    His pick extended the Redskins' consecutive games with at least one turnover to 19—the league's longest such streak.

18. Oakland Raiders (4-4)

15 of 32

    Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 16

    This Week: 18

    Change: -2

    Offensively we saw much of the same from the Oakland Raiders in Week 9. Quarterback Derek Carr continued to look like a franchise cornerstone while throwing for 301 yards and four touchdowns, while running back Latavius Murray led a rushing attack that averaged 5.6 yards per carry.

    But defensively the Raiders were a smoldering wreck during a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They allowed two Steelers playerswide receiver Antonio Brown and running back DeAngelo Williamsto combine for 531 yards from scrimmage. 

17. Atlanta Falcons (6-3)

16 of 32

    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 10

    This Week: 17

    Change: -7

    If the season ended today, the Atlanta Falcons would still be playing January football. They're clinging to the sixth seed, and the NFC's final playoff ticket, which is quite the fall into a pit of despair for a team that seemed poised to trade punches with the Carolina Panthers atop the NFC South not long ago.

    It's a distant memory now, but the Falcons were among the NFL's unbeaten teams after five weeks. Then they slowly started to become unhinged.

    First, Atlanta lost to the New Orleans Saints—a team that was 1-4 at the time. That could be shrugged off, because even during times of struggle, the Saints still call Drew Brees their quarterback.

    But then the Falcons had to claw for a three-point win over the Tennessee Titans. Yes, the same Tennessee Titans who called Zach Mettenberger their quarterback during that game, with Marcus Mariota injured.

    The following week they dropped a game to the Jameis Winston-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers and met a rocky bottom in Week 9 with a loss to (big gulp) Blaine Gabbert in his first start for the San Francisco 49ers.

    Reminder: Gabbert has a career completion percentage of 53.4.

16. St. Louis Rams (4-4)

17 of 32

    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 12

    This Week: 16

    Change: -4

    We found out what the St. Louis Rams offense looks like when running back Todd Gurley is functioning at a less-than-superhuman level. Mostly, it's an offense that makes you reach for the television remote.

    Gurley was going to slow eventually, and he went thud in Week 9, at least by his standards. After 130-plus rushing yards in three of his first four NFL starts, Gurley finished with 89 yards during an overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings. His longest run went for 16 yards, and the 21-year-old's previous four games each featured at least one run for 45-plus yards.

    During that sizzling streak, the Rams won three games, outscoring opponents 75-34 in those wins. With Gurley contained they could only muster 18 points and just one touchdown, though that was still enough to force overtime.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)

18 of 32

    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 17

    This Week: 15

    Change: +2

    You only need one number to know we watched a bare-knuckle fight Sunday night between two teams trying to avoid the death of their seasons. That number? Four.

    The Philadelphia Eagles needed four go-ahead scores during the fourth quarter and overtime to finally beat the Dallas Cowboys. That's some serious punch-trading over roughly 19 minutes of football.

    Running back DeMarco Murray, who finished with 161 yards from scrimmage, powered the Eagles. His per-game average prior to Week 9 was 73.2 yards.

14. New Orleans Saints (4-5)

19 of 32

    Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 9

    This Week: 14

    Change: -5

    The New Orleans Saints had started to emerge as a comeback favorite this season before Week 9. They were a team set to rise from the ashes after starting out 0-3 and gallop forward on perhaps one last great ride led by quarterback Drew Brees.

    The problem with that narrative, of course, is that their defense seriously lacks bite. New Orleans now has the league's 31st-ranked defense, giving up an average of 414.8 yards per game.

    The latest throttling came from a Tennessee Titans offense that's also taken up a basement residency (ranked 28th). That didn't stop the Saints from allowing 7.2 yards per play.

13. Buffalo Bills (4-4)

20 of 32

    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 14

    This Week: 13

    Change: +1

    Something jumps through your computer screen when you look over the box score from the Buffalo Bills' 33-17 win over the Miami Dolphins.

    First, you're greeted by wide receiver Sammy Watkins' 168 receiving yards, which was easily a career single-game high. He was on the other end of an perfectly placed 44-yard touchdown heave from quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Earlier in the game, Watkins also bobbled and then secured another bomb from Taylor that gained 63 yards.

    Watkins' brilliance after returning from injury is what you notice first while watching the game. But then upon further review something is missing: any contribution from a wide receiver not named Sammy Watkins.

    Taylor finished with 181 passing yards, meaning 92.8 percent of that went to Watkins. All other Bills wideouts combined for zero yards and zero catches.

12. Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

21 of 32

    Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 18

    This Week: 12

    Change: +6

    The Indianapolis Colts leading any team by 17 points in the second quarter didn't seem possible a few weeks ago when they were in the middle of losing three straight games. But the scoreboard read 17-0 at one point Sunday night against the Denver Broncos.

    The Colts' eventually coughed up the lead, but it was still clear the real Andrew Luck had returned. That became obvious when the Colts quarterback connected on two 25-plus-yard passes to get the early lead and again later during a fourth-quarter drive when he threw for 38 yards and set up the eventual game-winning field goal.

    Something seemed to click with Luck near the end of a Week 8 loss to the Carolina Panthers when his offense scored 17 fourth-quarter points. Maybe the Luck we've come to know throughout his NFL career is here to stay now.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4)

22 of 32

    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Last Week: 15

    This Week: 11

    Change: +4

    Prior to Sunday there were nine players since 1960 who had recorded 280-plus receiving yards in a game. Now there's 10.

    Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown lit up the Oakland Raiders for 284 yards on 17 receptions. He had 79 yards in just the first quarter and 180 by halftime.

    Running back DeAngelo Williams also exploded for 225 total yards. The Steelers were the first team in league history to have one player finish with 300-plus yards from scrimmage (Brown had 306) and another post 200-plus yards, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

    Brown has now averaged 10.4 catches and 153.4 yards during quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's five starts and just 4.2 receptions for 58.7 yards throughout the four games Big Ben has missed, per Draft Kings analyst Adam Levitan.

    That is concerning, because life without Roethlisberger will resume for the Steelers, but not for nearly as long this time. In the fourth quarter of Pittsburgh's win, he limped off and couldn't put any pressure on his left foot.

    For the second time this season, he needed the assistance of a cart to leave a game. However, even though the outlook seemed bleak at first, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Roethlisberger will miss only one to two weeks.

    That means the Steelers have finally caught a injury break—sort of at least. They're set to face the 2-7 Cleveland Browns at home in Week 10 before a Week 11 bye, and then hopefully Roethlisberger's return will follow.

10. New York Giants (5-4)

23 of 32

    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 13

    This Week: 10

    Change: +3

    The New York Giants weren't seeking style points during their win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That much was clear when the Bucs were allowed to hang around and to pull to within two points in the fourth quarter.

    But quarterback Jameis Winston's 10-yard scramble stood as Tampa's only touchdown, with three other long drives ending in chip-shot field goals from 21, 25 and 28 yards.

    Bending without breaking is how the Giants remained the leading candidate to string together a few wins, and separate atop the NFC East. That approach will end in so many tears when the New England Patriots come to MetLife Stadium in Week 10.

9. New York Jets (5-3)

24 of 32

    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 11

    This Week: 9

    Change: +2

    The New York Jets won a slop-filled game, beating the Jaguars 28-23. Those who enjoy pleasant thoughts will focus on wide receiver Brandon Marshall's game-winning touchdown grab with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter. But those who dabble in Jets realism will look at another name: Chris Ivory.

    The running back scored twice, but he finished with only 26 yards on 23 carries. Ivory has been hobbled recently by a hamstring injury, and that may be contributing to his sudden descent into nothingness. Over his last three games, he's averaged a meager 1.5 yards per carry.

8. Seattle Seahawks (4-4)

25 of 32

    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Last Week: 8

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    The Seattle Seahawks are still allowing their quarterback to get whacked repeatedly. Russell Wilson had to absorb the punishment of 31 sacks entering his team's Week 9 bye, which puts him on pace to take 62 this season.

    That could result in a wasted year, and it still might. But for now the Seahawks are only two games back of the Arizona Cardinals, which is also the number of times they still have to play the NFC South division leaders.

7. Green Bay Packers (6-2)

26 of 32

    Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    Last Week: 5

    This Week: 7

    Change: -2

    When exactly is it time to mash panic buttons in Green Bay? Not yet, because we all know Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers preaches the value of relaxation and finding your deep inner peace.

    But if Rodgers goes through another game where he's subjected to a pocket that barely exists, you have permission to remove at least several hairs.

    The Carolina Panthers bombarded Rodgers during a loss Sunday—the Packers' second straight defeat. The Panthers sacked him five times, setting a new high for Rodgers this season. The constant pressure also contributed to Rodgers' 52.1 completion percentage, which is dramatically lower than his overall completion percentage in 2015 of 64.7. 

6. Arizona Cardinals (6-2)

27 of 32

    David Richard/Associated Press

    Last Week: 6

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    The NFC South-leading Arizona Cardinals face a challenge coming out of their Week 10 bye that could define their season. Teed up immediately is a trip to CenturyLink Field, where road wins go to die. That's the first of two remaining games against the Seattle Seahawks, the Cardinals' closest division rival.

    The Seahawks sit two games back and could quickly erase that deficit by winning in Week 10 and then catching the Cardinals in Week 11 if they struggle with the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals.

5. Minnesota Vikings (6-2)

28 of 32

    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    Last Week: 7

    This Week: 5

    Change: +2

    It appears Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs is capable of having a merely normal week. The St. Louis Rams held him to 42 receiving yards and were clearly aware of his explosive downfield speed. Diggs had totaled 419 yards over just the first four games of his rookie season.

    But that didn't matter, because the Vikings still pay running back Adrian Peterson to hammer away. Peterson has now accumulated 362 yards from scrimmage over his last three games, 143 of which came Sunday during the Vikings' fourth straight win.

4. Denver Broncos (7-1)

29 of 32

    Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3

    This Week: 4

    Change: -1

    The Denver Broncos defense looked vulnerable for the first time this season, which was a jarring sight. 

    Overall, the Broncos are allowing only 274.1 yards per game and 17.4 points. Both are numbers that reflect a swarming unit. But Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was at ease for much of Sunday afternoon, leading an offense that sailed well past the Broncos' per-game defensive averages while scoring 27 points on 365 yards.

    Instead, the dominance on that side of the ball was reversed, with the Colts intercepting Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning twice. One pick led to a touchdown, and the other gave Indianapolis possession late in the fourth quarter with a lead.

    They held on, handing Denver its first loss.

3. Carolina Panthers (8-0)

30 of 32

    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4

    This Week: 3

    Change: +1

    All season concerns about the support around quarterback Cam Newton have lingered, and they're not going away even with the Carolina Panthers' still-flawless record. That makes it truly staggering to see how much Newton is turning the pieces around him into stars each week—past production be damned.

    Take Sunday's statement win over the Green Bay Packers, for example. By the 8:00 mark of the second quarter, Newton needed only nine pass attempts to throw for 154 yards, most of which came on two 50-plus yard bombs to Jerricho Cotchery and Devin FunchessPrior to Week 9 Cotchery and Funchess had combined for 198 receiving yards all season. So of course they went off for 153 yards Sunday.

    Newton's completion percentage suffered because he was often attacking deep downfield, but his yards per attempt ballooned to 9.9. He also had his 15th career game with a rushing touchdown and multiple passing touchdowns, which puts him behind only Steve Young and Fran Tarkenton, according to Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith.

    He's quickly putting together an MVP-caliber season for the rising Panthers.

2. Cincinnati Bengals (8-0)

31 of 32

    Andrew Weber/Getty Images

    Last Week: 2

    This Week: 2

    Change: None

    We all keep waiting for Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to show some sign that his annual face-plant is coming. The calendar has been flipped to November now, and traditionally January disagrees with Dalton. Winter is coming indeed.

    But as we wait and watch games through our fingers, Dalton keeps turning in consistently steady performances. The latest came Thursday night during Cincinnati's win over the Cleveland Browns. It was the Bengals' eighth straight victory and Dalton's fifth interception-free game of the season.

    In 2014 Dalton threw an interception on 3.5 percent of his throws. Now that percentage has fallen to 1.6, and his 18 touchdown passes are also just one short of his total a year ago.

1. New England Patriots (8-0)

32 of 32

    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Last Week: 1

    This Week: 1

    Change: None

    By the 4:33 mark of the first quarter during the New England Patriots' latest leisurely Sunday stroll to a win, they had run 24 plays. How many plays had the Washington Redskins run? One.

    Yes, just one, and that's how the beatdown began. When it ended the Patriots had won 27-10—their fourth win by at least two touchdowns. But much more incredibly, they had also scored in 31 consecutive quarters this season, which is every quarter except for the very first one on their schedule. 


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.