NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Standings Heading into Week 11

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystNovember 18, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Standings Heading into Week 11

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Good teams simply find ways to win. 

    While trailing 26-24 with one minute, 47 seconds remaining against the New York Giants in Week 10, the New England Patriots ensured they'd remain undefeated by driving the ball 44 yards for a last-second game-winning field goal.

    Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, meanwhile, danced their way to a 27-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans. The quarterback's end-zone celebrations can be viewed as an allegory for opponents attempting to upset either the Panthers or Patriots. 

    "I heard somebody say we’re not going to allow you to do that," Newton told reporters after the game. "But I’m a firm believer if you don’t like me to do it, then don’t let me in [the end zone]."

    If opponents are going to slow these teams, someone needs to not allow them to control games. For example, the Houston Texans upset the previously undefeated Cincinnati Bengals with a strong defensive performance on Monday Night Football

    While the league's top two teams are obvious, the rest of the league isn't nearly as clear-cut. Only six AFC teams own winning records. Five in the NFC can say the same. 

    The NFL once prided itself on parity, but it's now top-heavy. Thus, every other team exists in a superfluous mass of mediocrity or worse. Very little separates this lower class. 

    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 squad'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.

    The race for the No. 1 overall pick officially got interesting this week. The Cleveland Browns technically "earned" the rights to the top pick in the proverbial "if the NFL draft were held today" scenario, but Mike Pettine's squad didn't receive the most last-place votes this week. 

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

32. San Francisco 49ers

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 3-6

    Highest Ranking: 26 (Miller)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Freeman, Schalter)

    What's Good?: In the midst of a lost season, the continued high level of play from the San Francisco 49ers left tackle Joe Staley generally goes unnoticed. The 31-year-old blindside protector is already a four-time Pro Bowl performer, but he's well on his way to being honored a fifth time. 

    While the entire organization continues to crumble around him, Staley remains the 49ers' rock. The offensive lineman is currently the highest-graded player on his team, according to Pro Football Focus, and he's still among the best at his position. Many things have gone wrong in San Francisco this year, but Staley's play can't be counted among them. 

    What's Bad?: The 49ers are coming off their bye week after a 17-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, yet the team still slipped to the bottom of Bleacher Report's rankings. Why? Others considered the league's worst, like the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars, escaped this past weekend with narrow victories, and they were rewarded for their play. The 49ers, meanwhile, still aren't viewed favorably, despite owning more wins than six other teams. 

    What's Next?: San Francisco simply needs to prove Bleacher Report's voters wrong. It'll be quite difficult, though, with a trip to CenturyLink Field to face the Seattle Seahawks next on the schedule. These division rivals met less than a month ago, and the Seahawks easily captured a 20-3 victory. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 30

31. Cleveland Browns

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-8

    Highest Ranking: 20 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (4 voters)

    What's Good?: While Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine seemed adverse to the idea for most of the season, Johnny Manziel will be the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback coming out of the team's bye week, according to Andrew Gribble of the team's official website. Even veteran Josh McCown, who opened the year as the team's starter, basically lobbied for Manziel to start, per the Akron Beacon Journal's Nate Ulrich.

    The Heisman Trophy winner finally earned the promotion after a strong performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers, as Manziel was Cleveland's best player on the field Sunday. The second-year signal-caller completed 33 of 45 passes for 372 yards and a touchdown (with another one dropped). More importantly, the dual-threat quarterback played well from the pocket. 

    "The film showed it even more; he showed significant progress," Pettine said, per ESPN.com's Pat McManamon.

    What's Bad?: Discord continues to grow within the Browns' locker room, particularly on defense. Recent comments from veterans Tramon Williams and Paul Kruger certainly don't instill much faith in defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil. Cleveland currently ranks 29th overall in total defense and dead last against the run.

    "We gotta find out what we’re good at and stick with it," Paul Kruger said, via 92.3 The Fan's Dustin Fox.  

    Williams added, "You let a player be a player."

    What's Next?The Browns are one of four teams—including the New Orleans Saints, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers—on a bye during Week 11. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 25

30. Tennessee Titans

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 2-7

    Highest Ranking: 24 (Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Davenport, Miller)

    What's Good?: The Tennessee Titans quietly boast one of the league's top defenses. The unit doesn't receive much help from its offense at times, but Ray Horton's group is currently ranked fifth overall in total defense. Defensive end Jurrell Casey usually dominates up front, while the team's linebacker corps continues to play well.

    Tennessee held the Carolina Panthers' offense to 303 total yards Sunday. Second-year linebacker Avery Williamson registered 14 total tackles, two tackles for loss and a half-sack. Brian Orakpo notched his team-leading sixth sack. Wesley Woodyard and Derrick Morgan contributed 10 tackles and a pair of quarterback hits as well, per Pro Football Focus

    What's Bad?: The Titans placed two key contributors on injured reserve Monday, according to ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky. Wide receiver Justin Hunter, who was third on the team with 264 receiving yards, suffered a fractured ankle Sunday and underwent surgery the following day. Meanwhile, cornerback Jason McCourty couldn't overcome a nagging groin injury. The veteran cover man hadn't played since the team's Week 8 contest against the Houston Texans. 

    What's Next?: As amazing it is, the 2-7 Titans aren't out of the playoff picture. They're only two games behind the division-leading Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans. If Tennesse plans to make a legitimate playoff push, a victory Thursday against the division-rival Jacksonville Jaguars is absolutely necessary. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 29

29. Detroit Lions

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-7

    Highest Ranking: 23 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: The Detroit Lions finally won in Green Bay. After 24 years of futility, the Lions captured a 18-16 victory against the Packers at Lambeau Field. It didn't come easy. Jim Caldwell's squad required a missed Mason Crosby field goal as time expired to improve to 2-7 this season. This year may be considered another lost season in Detroit, but this win can't be taken away from the team. 

    "It is one of the gratifying ones," wide receiver Calvin Johnson told reporters after the win. "One of the most gratifying ones."

    This particular victory is significant for a franchise trying to change its culture under owner Martha Ford. It can only accomplish its stated goal of change by making sure Sunday's performance is not a one-game anomaly. 

    What's Bad?: The Lions' pass defense is already ranked in the league's bottom half—it's currently 23rd overall, to be specific. The situation won't improve after veteran cornerback Josh Wilson suffered a "significant" injury Sunday, according to MLive.com's Justin Rodgers.

    Plus, Nevin Lawson, who started at corner against the Packers, is currently in the team's concussion protocol. Detroit will rely heavily on Darius Slay, rookie Quandre Diggs and the recently signed Crezdon Butler in the coming weeks. 

    What's Next?: A banged-up secondary doesn't bode well with the Oakland Raiders coming to town. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr continues to play at a high level with numerous talented weapons around him. Can Detroit's depleted secondary slow Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Andre Holmes? It's unlikely. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 32

28. Baltimore Ravens

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-7

    Highest Ranking: 24 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Sobleski)

    What's Good?: The Baltimore Ravens simply aren't very good. Any hope of turning around the season is rapidly fading. Plenty of excuses can be used to explain this year's ineptitude, but none of them matter. What matters is how the team moves forward after a devastating 22-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    The first positive step could be to give more reps to the team's young players. For example, second-round pick Maxx Williams caught four passes for 40 yards and his first career touchdown Sunday. With Dennis Pitta's health issues, Williams is the future of the Ravens' tight end position. How he's integrated into the offense moving forward could be a big step in the right direction. 

    What's Bad?: It's hard to imagine a more heartbreaking way to lose a game than by having a facemask penalty called as time expired to set up the game-winning 53-yard field goal. To top it all off, the NFL admitted after the fact the referees missed a false-start penalty against the Jaguars, which would have negated Baltimore's infraction.

    The Ravens never would have been in the position if the team made more plays early in the game, though. Cornerback Jimmy Smith particularly struggled with a dropped interception, and he gave up a long touchdown to wide receiver Allen Hurns. 

    What's Next?: Baltimore lost four of its past five games by a total of 18 points. Each of those games could have easily swung to the Ravens' advantage, but they couldn't find ways to secure a victory. This weekend the team travels to St. Louis to face the Rams and rookie running back Todd Gurley. A new quarterback, Case Keenum, will also be under center for the Rams. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 24

27. Dallas Cowboys

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Current Record: 2-7

    Highest Ranking: 22 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Schalter, Tanier)

    What's Good?: No reason for the Dallas Cowboys to look behind at this point. The team can only move forward with Tony Romo's imminent return. According to NFL Network's Albert Breer, Romo "is playing Sunday." The team hasn't won a game since Romo suffered a broken collarbone after it opened the season 2-0. As poorly as the Cowboys played since the quarterback's injury, they're still only 2.5 games behind the New York Giants in the NFC East with seven games to play. So, we're saying there's a chance

    What's Bad?: Dez Bryant hasn't exactly been stellar since he returned to the lineup. His effort Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was quite poor. The talented receiver dropped passes and didn't make much of an attempt on safety Bradley McDougald's game-clinching interception. Instead of taking ownership of the play, Bryant, instead, claimed a penalty call should have gone his way. 

    "I thought I was going to get it," Bryant said, per ESPN.com's Todd Archer. "It’s unfortunate. Me as a player and the attitude I have, I was so caught up in that little quick moment, of 'I know the ref seen it and know he’s going to call it,' but he didn’t. I’m not trying to make excuses, but it just kind of threw me off my target."

    What's Next?: If the Cowboys are truly going to run the table and make some noise in the NFC East, their trek starts Sunday against the Miami Dolphins and former Cowboys tight end Dan Campbell. The Dolphins are an improved team under their interim head coach and won three of the five contests since Campbell took over after the bye week. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 22

26. San Diego Chargers

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    Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 2-7

    Highest Ranking: 21 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: Cornerback Jason Verrett slid into the latter part of the first round in the 2014 NFL draft, because he lacked ideal size at 5'9" and 179 pounds. In fact, three other cornerbacks were chosen before the San Diego Chargers used the 25th overall pick on the TCU product. What teams generally overlooked at the time was Verrett's tremendously smooth footwork and hips in coverage. The Chargers are now reaping the benefits of the cornerback's play. Verrett isn't very physical due to his size limitations, but he's clearly one of the league's best cover corners, even in his second season. 

    What's Bad?: Injuries beset the Chargers from the start of the season. Veterans such as left guard Orlando Franklin and wide receiver Malcom Floyd may attempt to play this weekend, but neither is 100 percent. Even "veteran leaders Eric Weddle and Antonio Gates question whether younger players truly understand and are willing to play through nagging injuries," according to ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams.

    It might be a trying season in San Diego, but the team can build something positive over the final seven weeks. Game reps of any kind certainly are valuable, particularly for the young players on the roster.  

    What's Next?: The Chargers lost five straight games prior to last week's bye. The time off provided an opportunity for the team to regroup and prepare for the final stretch of games. The Kansas City Chiefs are up next, and they're coming off their most impressive win of the season against the division-leading Denver Broncos. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 28

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 3-6

    Highest Ranking: 19 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 32 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed wide receiver Allen Hurns as an undrafted free agent last year, the organization didn't have a clue what it was getting in the Miami product. After a surprising rookie season, Hurns took his game to another level in year two and developed into one of the league's top-scoring threats.

    The second-year wide receiver caught another touchdown pass Sunday. He's now caught a touchdown pass in seven straight games. His 17 yards per reception is also the highest average of any receiver with 40 or more catches. 

    What's Bad?: Quarterback Blake Bortles eventually "helped" the Jacksonville Jaguars secure an improbable 22-20 victory against the Baltimore Ravens by generously accepting a facemask penalty as time expired, which led to the game-winning field goal. The young signal-caller didn't play well during the contest, though.

    Yes, he threw a pair of touchdown passes, but his ball placement and overall accuracy have been poor in recent weeks. Bortles only completed 48.9 percent of his passes Sunday. It was the second time in three games the quarterback completed less than 50 percent of his throws. 

    What's Next?: If the Jaguars are going to make a legitimate push in the nebulous AFC South this season, Thursday's contest against the Tennessee Titans is absolutely crucial. Jacksonville currently trails the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans by one game. Both of those teams have issues, and the Jaguars could apply pressure on each of them with a victory in prime time.

    Last Week's Ranking: 31

24. Houston Texans

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 4-5

    Highest Ranking: 16 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 28 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: Despite all of the issues the Houston Texans experienced and even rumors of head coach Bill O'Brien's interest in a college coaching position, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk), the team endured and captured its most impressive victory of the season against the previously undefeated Cincinnati Bengals.

    More importantly, the Texans now own the same record as the Indianapolis Colts atop the AFC South. The schedule doesn't exactly lighten up for the Texans in the coming weeks, but the team battled its way back into the playoff conversation even after a 1-4 start. 

    What's Bad?: The one thing this year's Texans haven't moved beyond is the constant quarterback carousel. First, O'Brien named Brian Hoyer the starter to open the season. He lasted a half before Ryan Mallett was inserted into the lineup. Hoyer eventually found his way back into the starting role, and the organization released Mallett.

    O'Brien apologized to the team for pulling Hoyer in the first place, according to the Houston Chronicle's John McClain (via Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk). Hoyer then suffered an apparent concussion during Monday night's game, and backup T.J. Yates helped lead the team to victory. Who starts this weekend will likely depend on Hoyer's health. 

    What's Next?: The victory against the Bengals certainly qualifies as a confidence-builder, but the Texans still have a difficult road ahead. The New York Jets are next. Todd Bowles' squad may have lost three of its last four contests, but the Jets still own a legit top-five defense, including the No. 1 overall run defense. Whoever starts at quarterback for the Texans will need to be highly effective for the team to garner a third straight win. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 27

23. New Orleans Saints

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-6

    Highest Ranking: 17 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 31 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: After a slow start to the season, second-year wide receiver Brandin Cooks became a dangerous weapon for New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in recent weeks. So far in the month of November, the Oregon State product has caught 15 passes for 257 yards and five touchdowns. Cooks was the only member of the Saints to find pay dirt Sunday against the Washington Redskins.  

    What's Bad?: The Saints defense is simply awful, and it cost Rob Ryan his position as the team's defensive coordinator. Ryan worked a miracle when he took over the Saints defense in 2013. However, the team slipped to 31st overall in total defense the following year, and the unit is currently dead last in the same category this season. 

    "I'm disappointed for Rob that it didn't work out," head coach Sean Payton said, per WWL radio (via NOLA.com's Christopher Dabe). "I'll tell you one thing now: He's a fantastic staff guy. He's a guy who's respected greatly, not only in the locker room, but by his peers, and we just had to at some point look closely and begin to at least give this an option because the direction we were going wasn't good."

    Former defensive assistant Dennis Allen will take over the defensive play-calling duties. 

    What's Next?The Saints are one of four teams—including the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers—on a bye during Week 11. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 18

22. Miami Dolphins

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Current Record: 4-5

    Highest Ranking: 14 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 27 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: Due to Odell Beckham Jr.'s breakout season a year ago, his former LSU teammate and closest friend, Jarvis Landry, generally gets overlooked. Landry might not be as fast or as dynamic at times, but the Miami Dolphins' slot receiver has already developed into one of the league's most reliable playmakers.

    Landry caught seven passes for 52 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. The second-year wide receiver is currently on pace to eclipse 100 catches and 1,000 yards this season. He also ranks ninth in punt-return average (9.9 yards per return) and averages 24.7 yards per kick return. Landry might not be featured in national commercials, but his level of play should be appreciated. 

    What's Bad?: A common theme this season is poor play from the Dolphins' guards. Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner combined to play arguably their worst game of the season against a talented Eagles front. The duo was pushed around in the run game and surrendered eight quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. At this point, there isn't much the Dolphins can do about the situation due to the current state of the roster. The young blockers need to develop and become more consistent, though. 

    What's Next?: The Dolphins will host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, but this isn't the same Cowboys squad that lost its last seven games. Quarterback Tony Romo is set to return to the lineup after breaking his collarbone in Week 2. Dan Campbell once played for the Cowboys, but getting to the .500 mark is far more important than the interim head coach beating his old team. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 21

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Current Record: 4-5

    Highest Ranking: 16 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 25 (Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: Linebacker Lavonte David hasn't lived up to expectations this season after signing a five-year, $50.25 million contract extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in August. Granted, David set pretty high standards after three straight 100-tackle seasons and an All-Pro nod after the 2013 campaign.

    After a slow start to this season, David came to play Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. The Nebraska product registered 12 total tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack, another quarterback hit and a deflected pass. This is the level of play the franchise should expect from its top linebacker each week. 

    What's Bad?: Rookie left tackle Donovan Smith put together a few strong efforts this season. Sunday's performance wasn't one of them. The Penn State product was called for three false-start penalties. Smith also surrendered a quarterback hit and two more hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. The first-year blocker isn't the most athletic or technically sound lineman, but his size and length allow him to survive on the blind side. However, he'll also have performances like Sunday when he becomes a liability. 

    What's Next?: Head coach Lovie Smith is still looking for an elusive two-game winning streak since taking over the Buccaneers. He'll have a chance to finally capture two straight wins when his team travels to Philadelphia to face the Eagles. Both teams are currently 4-5, but the game is far more important for Chip Kelly's squad since it only trails the New York Giants by one game in the NFC East. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 23

20. St. Louis Rams

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    Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-5

    Highest Ranking: 13 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 24 (3 voters)

    What's Good?: Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is so good it's scary. Even when the St. Louis Rams defense isn't playing well as a group, Donald continues to dominate. The second-year defender tied for the team lead Sunday with seven total tackles. He also added 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss. There isn't a defensive player in the league playing better than Donald this season. 

    What's Bad?: Head coach Jeff Fisher is making multiple changes throughout the Rams' starting offense. The Nick Foles era seems to be over as quickly as it began. Case Keenum will start Sunday. While Foles remained optimistic throughout his short-lived tenure, his play became a hindrance to the entire team. In fact, Foles completed less than 55 percent of his passes four times this season. His 200 passing yards against the Chicago Bears became his second-highest output of the season. This type of performance simply wasn't good enough.

    Meanwhile, the Rams suffered season-ending injuries to starting right guard Jamon Brown and backup Darrell Williams. One of two rookies, Andrew Donnal or Cody Wichmann, should take over at guard, while this year's supplemental selection, Isaiah Battle, was promoted to the active roster. 

    What's Next?: A two-game road swing against a pair of AFC North opponents, the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals, begins this weekend for the Rams. Baltimore comes first, and it's a vital contest for the Rams. There are currently seven four-win teams in the NFC jockeying to catch the 6-3 Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons for a potential playoff spot. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 15

19. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-5

    Highest Ranking: 16 (Davenport, Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 25 (Miller)

    What's Good?: Veteran tight end Brent Celek finally emerged in the Philadelphia Eagles offense. After catching 32 passes for 340 yards last year, the Cincinnati product only managed seven receptions for 71 yards through the team's first nine games this season. He came alive Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Celek served as a big-play threat when he caught four passes for 134 yards. He became the first tight end this season with two or more 40-yard receptions in the same game, according to ESPN Stats & Info

    What's Bad?: A primary concern regarding quarterback Sam Bradford during his career is a lengthy injury history. He added to his list of previous ailments by injuring his shoulder against the Dolphins. Bradford didn't practice Tuesday, and he's not expected to play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Mark Sanchez, who started eight games last year, will take over the Eagles offense. 

    "I feel very confident in Mark Sanchez," head coach Chip Kelly said Monday, per ESPN.com's Phil Sheridan.

    What's Next?: The Buccaneers continue to improve. After winning only two games last year, Tampa Bay already secured four victories this season. It's a young and inconsistent roster, but it's one the Eagles can't take lightly. This year's No. 1 overall pick, Jameis Winston, has the weapons around him to shred a defense if it's not careful. The Eagles, meanwhile, can potentially tie the idle New York Giants atop the NFC East with a victory. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 16

18. Washington Redskins

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    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    Current Record: 4-5

    Highest Ranking: 14 (Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 22 (Miller)

    What's Good?: Life is good for Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. After throwing eight interceptions in the team's first six games, Jay Gruden's handpicked choice at quarterback is finally starting to resemble a legitimate starter.

    In his past three games, Cousins has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 858 yards and eight touchdowns. Sunday's performance was arguably the best of his career, albeit against the New Orleans Saints' pitiful defense. The fourth-year signal-caller threw for 324 yards and four touchdowns without a turnover. 

    What's Bad?: Very little went wrong for the Redskins during their 47-14 victory over the Saints. However, a couple of breakdowns in coverage occurred that allowed wide receiver Brandin Cooks to score a pair of touchdowns. Three Redskins actually surrounded Cooks during his 60-yard touchdown reception. In the end, it didn't matter, but those touchdowns tied the game early before the Redskins finally took control of the contest. 

    What's Next?: A dominant victory against the Saints and their 32nd-ranked defense didn't really prepare the Redskins for their next opponent, the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Cousins might be playing well, but the Panthers defense might be the best the quarterback faces all season. Plus, quarterback Cam Newton can be a nightmare for opponents to stop. A win, though, will tie the New York Giants atop the NFC East. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 20

17. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    Current Record: 4-5

    Highest Ranking: 12 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 25 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: Don't look now, but the Kansas City Chiefs are primed to make a move in the AFC playoff picture. After a 1-5 start to the season, all appeared lost. Instead, the Chiefs won their last three games, including a dominant effort against the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos.

    The team is winning with strong defensive performances, particularly from outside linebacker Justin Houston and rookie cornerback Marcus Peters. Plus, quarterback Alex Smith hasn't turned the ball over since the Chiefs' Week 3 contest against the Green Bay Packers. An efficient offense and a stingy defense make Kansas City one of the league's most dangerous teams during the final seven weeks of the season. 

    What's Bad?: Almost everything went right for the Chiefs during this past weekend's 29-13 victory. The right side of the offensive line continues to struggle, though. Tackle Jah Reid was called for an unnecessary-roughness penalty, and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif surrendered four quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. Ben Grubbs' status for the rest of the season remains up in the air due to a neck injury. The Chiefs will simply make do with the offensive line as it's currently comprised. 

    What's Next?: A potential fourth straight victory for the Chiefs could come this weekend against the San Diego Chargers. If Kansas City reaches .500 after starting the season 1-5, all bets should be considered off. The Chiefs' schedule over the next seven weeks is quite favorable, which should make them legitimate playoff contenders. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 19

16. Indianapolis Colts

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-5

    Highest Ranking: 12 (Davenport, Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 28 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: Some will argue the Indianapolis Colts' playoff hopes took a hit when news spread that Andrew Luck suffered a lacerated kidney against the Denver Broncos. The team will now rely on the 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck to lead them to a potential division title and possibly into the postseason if Luck misses more than a month.

    In Hasselbeck's two starts this season, he actually outperformed Luck, and the Colts won both contests. The veteran proved to be effective and efficient when on the field. He completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 495 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. At this point in his career, no one expects Hasselbeck to carry the Colts offense, but he can be a key cog for a successful team. 

    What's Bad?: Mike Adams' status for Sunday's contest against the Atlanta Falcons remains undecided. The veteran defensive back didn't practice early this week as he deals with an ankle injury he suffered during the Broncos contest.

    Adams' versatility along the Colts' back line makes him a very valuable contributor. The team is already dealing with the loss of rookie defensive end Henry Anderson, who was arguably the Colts' best defender through the first nine games. Adams remains confident he'll play, though.

    "I’m banged-up a little bit, but I’ll be ready," Adams said on ESPN’s 1070 The Fan on Tuesday during The Dan Dakich Showvia Colts.com's Kevin Bowen

    What's Next?: The push for a division title begins this weekend. The Colts are now tied atop the AFC South after the Houston Texans' upset victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Indianapolis, meanwhile, had two weeks to prepare for Sunday's opponent. Atlanta currently holds the best record of any team on the Colts' remaining schedule. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 14

15. Chicago Bears

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    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 4-5

    Highest Ranking: 11 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 24 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: When discussing the Chicago Bears offense, quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery are the first names to be mentioned. However, offensive coordinator Adam Gase is now getting plenty of production from two unexpected sources.

    Zach Miller, a 31-year-old tight end who didn't appear in a single game from 2012-14, caught seven passes for 130 yards and three touchdowns in the last two weeks. Meanwhile, rookie running back Jeremy Langford is filling in admirably for injured veteran Matt Forte. This year's fourth-round pick burst onto the scene during the past two games with 324 total yards and three touchdowns. An unlikelier duo than Miller and Langford couldn't be found around the league, but they're getting the job done for Chicago. 

    What's Bad?: While Miller and Langford receive bigger roles in the offense, Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett haven't been as prevalent. Jeffery is still dealing with a groin injury and only caught three passes Sunday for 23 yards. Bennett, meanwhile, has had 11 catches for 75 yards since Miller's emergence.

    What's Next?: Head coach John Fox welcomes his old team to Chicago, but the Denver Broncos won't look quite the same this weekend. Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak benched Peyton Manning as the veteran quarterback continues to deal with injuries. The much-improved Bears will, instead, face Brock Osweiler, who will be making his first career start. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 26

14. Oakland Raiders

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Current Record: 4-5

    Highest Ranking: 9 (Gagnon)

    Lowest Ranking: 22 (Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: Derek Carr is developing into a special quarterback. What makes the Oakland Raiders offense so much fun to watch is seeing Carr spread the ball around to all of his targets. Six different receivers have caught at least two touchdown passes.

    The team's top three targets—Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Andre Holmes—each have four or more touchdown catches. Crabtree leads the way with five. Holmes came on strong in recent weeks, though. The Hillsdale product only has seven receptions this season, but he produced three touchdowns in the last three weeks. 

    What's Bad?: Anytime a team plays against Adrian Peterson, the future Hall of Fame running back could explode for a big game. It happened Sunday when Peterson ran for 203 yards, including a game-clinching 80-yard touchdown romp.

    After the performance, the Raiders fell to 22nd overall in run defense. Sunday's performance isn't simply a one-game aberration. Another aging running back, the Pittsburgh Steelers' DeAngelo Williams, ran for 170 yards the previous week. After a strong start to the season, this is a concerning trend. 

    What's Next?: It shouldn't come as any surprise the Raiders lost both games after opposing running backs dominated them. Oakland should get a reprieve this week since the Detroit Lions currently rank dead last in rushing offense. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 13

13. New York Jets

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Current Record: 5-4

    Highest Ranking: 10 (Schalter)

    Lowest Ranking: 22 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: At times this season, New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick became fixated on throwing the ball to wide receiver Brandon Marshall. In fact, Fitzpatrick targeted Marshall 32 more times than another other receiver on the roster, which makes Eric Decker's performance even more impressive.

    Decker still has 42 receptions for 557 yards, despite missing one game and not starting two others. He caught six passes for 85 yards Thursday against the Buffalo Bills. More importantly, the 6'3" target caught a touchdown pass in seven of the eight games he played in this season. Decker is a reliable target who serves as a strong complementary player to Marshall. 

    What's Bad?: There is a very fine line between winning and losing in the NFL. Most times, a loss can be directly linked to a poor decision by a team's head coach. More than one glaring mistake by a head coach puts him directly into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

    Todd Bowles is a rookie head coach, and he looked like one Thursday against Buffalo. Bowles didn't ask his team to attempt a two-point conversion in the third quarter to make the contest a two-score game. Also, the team attempted a pair of failed fourth-down plays in the fourth quarter. 

    "They're mistakes if they don't work, and you're a genius if they do work," Bowles said Friday, per ESPN.com's Rich Cimini. "The ones that don't, I don't look at them as mistakes. I look at them as learning experiences. They don't work out all the time. Sometimes it's not in the cards."

    What's Next?: After a stellar start, the Jets lost three of their last four games, and they'll face a surging Houston Texans squad coming off an upset victory against the previously unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals. A win keeps the Jets firmly in the playoff conversation. A loss could force the season to spiral out of control. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 8

12. Seattle Seahawks

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    Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 4-5

    Highest Ranking: 11 (Miller, Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 15 (Davenport, Freeman)

    What's Good?: Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll built their team around a strong running game and a stellar defense. Conversation about a No. 1 wide receiver generally seemed silly. The team's group of receivers was generally good enough to extend drives and make plays when needed.

    Doug Baldwin actually led the team in receiving last year, and he again proved his value Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. The 27-year-old wide receiver caught seven passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Jimmy Graham might be a disappointment this year, but quarterback Russell Wilson can always rely on Baldwin. 

    What's Bad?: The Seahawks are no longer the NFL's bully. They don't intimidate anyone anymore. It wasn't long ago that arguments were made in the Seahawks' favor as the greatest defense in NFL history. All good things must come to an end, though.

    The Cardinals offense amassed 451 yards Sunday. Quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns. And Arizona didn't back down from targeting cornerback Richard Sherman. Palmer went after the All-Pro cornerback eight times, according to Cardinals Insider's Mike Jurecki. He completed five of those passes for 67 yards, including one of Michael Floyd's touchdowns. 

    What's Next?: No team receives the benefit of the doubt quite like the Seahawks. Despite a mediocre start to this season, they're generally still considered one of the league's top 10 or 12 teams. Two straight Super Bowl appearances tend to do that, even if the team isn't playing well. Sunday's outcome against the San Francisco 49ers should show exactly what type of team the Seahawks are this year. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 10

11. Atlanta Falcons

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Current Record: 6-3

    Highest Ranking: 8 (4 voters)  

    Lowest Ranking: 18 (Gagnon)

    What's Good?: Prior to the Atlanta Falcons' bye week, tight end Jacob Tamme became a much-bigger part of the team's offense. In the team's previous two games, quarterback Matt Ryan targeted the veteran tight end 22 times. Tamme caught 16 of those passes for 164 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones is one of the game's most dominant receivers, but the Falcons need someone else to take pressure off their top target. Tamme appears to be the answer. 

    What's Bad?: The Falcons are better at applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year compared to last season, but it didn't take much to accomplish that feat. The team still ranks dead last with only 10 sacks. To address this problem, the organization chose defensive end Vic Beasley with the eighth overall pick. Beasley is tied for the team lead with two sacks, but even he feels his performance hasn't lived up to expectations. 

    "I give myself a C," Beasley told ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure. "I feel like I should have more production than what I have. And I've hurt the team in a couple areas. Penalty-wise, it's offsides and being on the field wrestling with different players when I should be more focused on the next play."

    What's Next?: After a promising 5-0 start, the Falcons lost three of four games before the off week. In that time, Atlanta fell three games behind the NFC South-leading Carolina Panthers. Dan Quinn and his staff had two weeks to prepare for this week's opponent—the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts. The Falcons likely prepared for Andrew Luck at first before he was ruled out with a lacerated kidney. Atlanta will now face 40-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who gets the ball out of his hand as quickly as possible.  

    Last Week's Ranking: 9

10. Buffalo Bills

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Current Record: 5-4

    Highest Ranking: 8 (3 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 19 (Tanier)

    What's Good?: LeSean McCoy garners most of the attention as the Buffalo Bills' starting running back and one of the game's most productive runners, but Karlos Williams' talent won't be overshadowed. The Florida State product scored seven touchdowns in his first first six games. If he scores a touchdown next week, he'll be the first rookie in NFL history to record a touchdown in his first seven games. 

    "We knew he was tough, big, fast, and loved football," head coach Rex Ryan said, per the team's official Twitter feed. "We didn't know he'd be this impressive."

    What's Bad?: The Bills are patiently waiting for Kyle Williams' return to the lineup. Williams originally injured his knee in a Week 6 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals. Unfortunately, the talented defensive tackle isn't expected to return for next week's Monday night showdown against the New England Patriots. 

    "I don't think there's any chance of it," Ryan said, per ESPN.com's Mike Rodak.

    Corbin Bryant is a solid rotational player behind Williams, but he's been underwhelming in a starting role. 

    What's Next?: The Patriots are clearly the best team in football and own a four-game lead in the AFC East. Monday's contest against the Buffalo Bills won't prove much for Bill Belichick's squad, but it could mean everything for the resurgent Bills. A victory would: (1) help remove Buffalo's inferiority complex, (2) create a three-game winning streak and (3) place the Bills in the driver's seat for a playoff spot. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 17

9. New York Giants

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 5-5

    Highest Ranking: 9 (Freeman, Miller)

    Lowest Ranking: 11 (4 voters)

    What's Good?: A common theme is developing this year: The New York Giants suffered yet another heartbreaking loss. This time, the Giants' ill-advised late-game play-calling provided the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady with just enough time to kick a game-winning field goal.

    Not everything proved to be bad for the Giants, though. Jason Pierre-Paul's presence continues to pay dividends. New York's defense sacked Brady three times Sunday. Prior to the contest, New York only managed nine sacks in nine games.  

    What's Bad?: The bye week comes at the right time for the Giants. Multiple key players were either injured or dealing with issues Sunday. Center Weston Richburg suffered an ankle injury. Guard Justin Pugh was a surprise scratch. And cornerback Prince Amukamara missed the last four games with a partially torn pectoral muscle. The former first-round pick should be ready for the following week's contest, though. 

    "Two more weeks, I think they will give him the green light," head coach Tom Coughlin said, per NJ Advance Media's Jordan Raanan. "At least that's my understanding [Monday]."

    Also, the team officially placed wide receiver Victor Cruz on injured reserve Tuesday, according to the New York Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano.

    What's Next?The Giants are one of four teams—including the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers—on a bye during Week 11. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 12

8. Green Bay Packers

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Current Record: 6-3

    Highest Ranking: 5 (Tanier)

    Lowest Ranking: 9 (3 voters)

    What's Good?: When the Green Bay Packers need a big play, this year's first-round pick, cornerback Damarious Randall, is usually up to the task. The rookie snagged an onside kick Sunday, which provided his team with an opportunity to defeat the Detroit Lions. Mason Crosby might have missed the kick, but the negative play doesn't take away from Randall's positive impact.

    This is the fourth time this season Randall provided a potential game-changing play (including interceptions in back-to-back games and a critical pass breakup against the San Diego Chargers). Not all first-round rookies live up to expectations, but the Packers certainly aren't disappointed in Randall. 

    What's Bad?: Where have you gone James Jones? After a blistering start to the season, the veteran wide receiver caught three passes for 59 yards during the Packers' recent three-game losing streak. Instead, quarterback Aaron Rodgers targeted Davante Adams 21 times Sunday against the Lions. The Packers receivers are struggling to get open, and Rodgers' play has been adversely affected. 

    "If Aaron's really guilty of anything, he's trying to do too much," head coach Mike McCarthy said Monday, per ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky. "And that's something that I think you would expect from your leader and a great quarterback that's done it at such a high level."

    What's Next?: A three-game losing streak wiped away any wiggle room the Packers once had in the NFC North. The team now trails the Minnesota Vikings by a game. Green Bay travels to Minnesota on Sunday to face the Vikings for the right to sit atop the division standings. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 5

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    Current Record: 6-4

    Highest Ranking: 6 (4 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 10 (Miller)

    What's Good?: Even a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger proved too much to handle for the Cleveland Browns. The Pittsburgh quarterback didn't expect to play Sunday due to a sprained foot. However, Landry Jones was hurt early in the first quarter, which forced Roethlisberger back into the lineup.

    All the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback did was set an NFL single-game record for the most passing yards in a game by a quarterback in relief. Roethlisberger torched the Browns for 379 yards. Mobile or statuesque, Big Ben is still Big Ben. 

    What's Bad?: The Pittsburgh Steelers may have only surrendered nine points to Cleveland, but the final score can be misleading. The Steelers defense gave up plenty of yards and was aided by multiple Browns miscues, including a dropped touchdown by wide receiver Travis Benjamin and numerous penalties.

    At one point, the Browns had a first down at Pittsburgh's 1-yard line only to be moved back to the 16-yard line due to successive penalties. The team didn't score on the drive. Even Johnny Manziel in his fifth career start managed 372 passing yards. There's a reason why the Steelers currently rank 22nd overall in total defense, and it's because the unit isn't very good. 

    What's Next?The Steelers are one of four teams—including the Browns, New Orleans Saints and New York Giants—on a bye during Week 11.

    Last Week's Ranking: 11

6. Denver Broncos

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Current Record: 7-2

    Highest Ranking: 5 (Miller)

    Lowest Ranking: 10 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: Two straight losses tend to sour everything after a 7-0 start to the season. The Kansas City Chiefs dominated Sunday's contest. The only time the Broncos showed any real signs of life came after head coach Gary Kubiak benched an injured Peyton Manning for backup Brock Osweiler. In just over a quarter of play, the 6'8" Arizona State product completed 14 of 24 passes for 146 yards as he led the Broncos to two scores.

    Absolutely no one expects Osweiler to perform at previously seen Manning levels, but he's an ideal fit in Kubiak's system, which should allow the Broncos to remain competitive when he's behind center. 

    What's Bad?: While it's already been decided that Osweiler will start this weekend, Manning's future is a little murkier. The 39-year-old became the NFL's all-time leading passer Sunday before being benched. Kubiak said the move was to protect the veteran, who is currently dealing with a rib injury and a partial tear of his plantar fascia in his left foot, according to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold.

    Could these injuries signal the end of Manning's career? It just may depend on how Osweiler plays now that he's been given an opportunity. 

    What's Next?: A few weeks ago, an upcoming contest against the Chicago Bears would be viewed as a positive. The Bears started the season very poorly and dumped multiple veterans along the way. However, this isn't the same Bears team, and they have won their last two games and four of their last six.

    Bears head coach John Fox knows the Broncos as well as anyone, and Denver can't look past an improved 4-6 squad with the New England Patriots looming. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 4

5. Minnesota Vikings

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    Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 7-2

    Highest Ranking: 3 (Gagnon, Tomlinson)

    Lowest Ranking: 6 (Miller, Tanier)

    What's Good?: "The Minnesota Vikings have to be viewed as the best team in football that has a loss," says Brad Gagnon. "The Cincinnati Bengals choked again in prime time and the Pittsburgh Steelers are too banged up, while the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers appear to be sliding in significant fashion.

    "The Vikings aren't sexy and don't have an 'elite' quarterback, but they've now played eight consecutive extremely good football games. Watch out."

    What's Bad?: While Adrian Peterson continues to take the NFL by storm after missing most of last season, the rest of the Vikings' skill positions haven't lived up to their end of the bargain. 

    Teddy Bridgewater has fallen short of expectations so far this season. The quarterback's talent is obvious, but it's not consistently on display. The offensive line remains porous. And the team's leading receiver, rookie Stefon Diggs, is a recent fifth-round pick who currently ranks 38th among all receivers in yardage. Peterson might be running away with another rushing title, but the Vikings' pass offense ranks 31st overall. 

    What's Next?: Due to the Green Bay Packers' three-game losing streak, the Vikings officially moved into first place in the NFC North this week.

    Minnesota hosts the Packers on Sunday with an opportunity to assert control in the division. A victory will give the Vikings a two-game lead with six games left to play. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 7

4. Arizona Cardinals

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Current Record: 7-2

    Highest Ranking: 4 (7 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 5 (Sobleski)

    What's Good?: Each week, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer can pick and choose which receiver he's going to exploit courtesy of defensive mismatches. Some weeks it's Michael Floyd; other weeks, the veteran Larry Fitzgerald leads the way. Speedster John Brown always gets legitimate looks when he's on the field and healthy. Even rookie running back David Johnson has provided a few big plays in the passing game this season.

    This is the strength of the Cardinals: a veteran quarterback playing at a high level with the talent to spread the wealth among his skill positions. In the team's 39-32 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Fitzgerald led the way with 130 receiving yards, but Floyd caught a pair of touchdown passes. 

    What's Bad?: Only two things have really been able to slow the Cardinals offense this year: self-inflicted mistakes and injuries.

    Floyd produced an outstanding performance Sunday, but his status for this weekend's game is in question. Both the wide receiver and starting left guard Mike Iupati are considered day-to-day this week, according to AZCardinals.com's Darren Urban. Brown continues to deal with a sore hamstring as well. Each of these individuals will be needed this weekend for one of the Cardinals' biggest games of the year. 

    What's Next?: Arizona hosts Cincinnati and faces the no-longer undefeated Bengals on Sunday Night Football. This contest essentially boils down to who is the best team with a notch in the loss column.

    The New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers might be undefeated, but the Cardinals and Bengals aren't far behind them in the pecking order. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 6

3. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Current Record: 8-1

    Highest Ranking: 2 (Freeman)

    Lowest Ranking: 5 (Gagnon, Tomlinson)

    What's Good?: The Cincinnati Bengals safeties might not be easily recognizable for a typical NFL fan, but Reggie Nelson and George Iloka are a talented and dependable duo along the team's defensive back line.

    The 32-year-old Nelson, who is a former first-round pick, is a true free safety capable of playing sideline to sideline. The veteran's coverage skills were clearly on display Monday against the Houston Texans. Nelson snagged an interception during a Hail Mary attempt just before halftime. The Florida product also deflected a pair of passes.

    Iloka, meanwhile, led the Bengals with eight total tackles, which included a tackle for loss. 

    What's Bad?: Everyone was waiting, and it finally happened. Quarterback Andy Dalton once again wilted in the spotlight of a prime-time game. MVP conversations will certainly be curtailed after Monday's performance. The Red Rifle (or "Red Ryder BB gun," according to the Texans' J.J. Watt) completed 22 of 38 passes for 197 yards and an interception.

    Of course, the loss doesn't fall squarely on Dalton's shoulders. A.J. Green's fumble and Tyler Eifert's drops were crucial to the Bengals' offensive inefficiency. Even so, Monday's performance will be used as a reason why no one should trust Dalton and the Bengals once the playoffs finally arrive. 

    What's Next?: Life doesn't get any easier for the Bengals after the Texans' upset victory. In fact, the degree of difficulty increases exponentially this week when Marvin Lewis' squad faces the Arizona Cardinals in a Sunday night affair.

    Arizona is one of the league's most talented teams, and head coach Bruce Arians will certainly have his Cardinals ready. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 2

2. Carolina Panthers

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 9-0

    Highest Ranking: 2 (7 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: 3 (Freeman)

    What's Good?: Let the stories be told, they can say what they want. Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers don't care. They're going to let the good times roll. More importantly, they're going to have fun doing it. There are plenty of reasons why the Panthers shouldn't be as good as they are, but none of them matter.

    Ron Rivera's squad continues to win and does so in an impressive fashion. The Panthers haven't been held under 20 points this season. Newton already accounted for 21 total touchdowns, and he's enjoying every second of what is developing into an MVP-caliber season.

    "We see a guy that's been through it all the past couple of years," running back Mike Tolbert said, per ESPN.com's David Newton. "For him to get out there and continue to fight and keep making plays. ... I mean, did you hear the 'MVP' chants at the end of the game? All right." 

    What's Bad?: There is very little that can be viewed negatively after the Panthers' strong start. Even the team's underwhelming wide receiver corps is starting to step up and play at a higher level.

    But the team might be without its starting left guard, Andrew Norwell, for a third straight game. According to the Charlotte Observer's Jonathan Jones, Norwell will be limited this week, and his status for this weekend's contest remains undetermined. Amini Silatolu played well in Norwell's place the last two weeks, but a fully healthy offensive line is certainly preferable.  

    What's Next?: While the Panthers have been one of the league's most consistent teams, this weekend's opponents, the Washington Redskins, fall on the other side of the spectrum.

    The Redskins and quarterback Kirk Cousins looked outstanding Sunday, but it was against the New Orleans Saints' 32nd-ranked defense. The Panthers defense is an entirely different animal. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 3

1. New England Patriots

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    Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

    Current Record: 9-0

    Highest Ranking: 1 (8 voters)

    Lowest Ranking: Unanimous No. 1 overall team

    What's Good?: Special teams are a third of the game, yet they're rarely discussed. Highlighting kicker Stephen Gostkowski might not be sexy, but he's a vital part of the New England Patriots' success. This became obvious with his clutch 54-yard game-winning field goal Sunday against the New York Giants.

    His consistency this season shouldn't be overlooked, though. Gostkowski is the league's only kicker yet to miss a field goal or an extra point. In total, the kicker converted all 55 of his attempts through nine games. He's also 4-for-4 from beyond 50 yards. Quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski warrant the most attention, but Gostkowski is a legitimate weapon for the Patriots, too. 

    What's Bad?: Julian Edelman's loss in the Patriots offense can't be underestimated. Edelman required surgery on his injured foot Monday, according to NFL Network's Albert Breer. Prior to the injury, the receiver led his team with 61 receptions. During the previous two seasons, Edelman caught 197 passes and served as Brady's security blanket.

    It's possible the Kent State product will return this season, especially if the Patriots make a deep playoff run. Until then, Danny Amendola and Keshawn Martin will attempt to fill the void. 

    What's Next?: A nail-biting victory against the Giants certainly made the undefeated Patriots look more vulnerable than they have at any previous point in the season.

    Meanwhile, this weekend's opponents, the Buffalo Bills, are getting healthy and starting to play well at the right time. The Bills will attempt to impose their will with a physical running game, but the Patriots currently own the league's second-best run defense. 

    Last Week's Ranking: 1

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