NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 9
It seems like only yesterday that the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles were kicking off the 2018 NFL season. But here we are, eight weeks in and preparing to turn the calendar to November.
That in two months the Falcons and Eagles have gone from trendy playoff (or even Super Bowl) picks to hanging on for dear life tells you everything you need to know about how wild and wacky the NFL can be.
Consider this, per NFL Research, Entering Week 7, the 3-2 Bears were in sole possession of first place in the NFC North. After losing to the Patriots, they dropped to last place. In last place entering Week 8, the Bears defeated the Jets... and are now back in sole possession of 1st place in the division.
How wild is that?!
That Bears win was just a minor happening in Week 8. We had a playoff rematch in Minneapolis. A potential playoff preview in Los Angeles. And a titanic struggle in Phoenix between two titans of terrible.
That last one may be a touch sarcastic.
As has been the case every week this season, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brent Sobleski, Brad Gagnon and Gary Davenport have gathered as Week 8 winds down to rank the league's teams, from No. 32 to No. 1.
Both bookends are the same as the week before. But there's a ton of moving and shaking in-between—including movement in the top-five.
32. Oakland Raiders (1-6)
Last Week: 32
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Indianapolis, 42-28
The Oakland Raiders are obviously about to embark on a rebuild. The Raiders have already traded a pair of recent first-round picks in Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. This is a one-win football team that needed an assist from the officials to get that lone victory in overtime.
But even by bad-team standards, what the Raiders did (or didn't do) Sunday is mind-boggling.
Against an Indianapolis Colts team that entered Week 8 with just two wins, the Raiders allowed a staggering 461 yards of total offense and 42 points. The Colts were 9-of-13 on third down and averaged over six yards per play.
Besieged quarterback Derek Carr actually had a pretty good game, throwing three touchdowns and posting a passer rating of 136.6. But he had absolutely no help from his defense.
That's this year's Raiders in a nutshell. Helpless. Hopeless.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-7)
Last Week: 30
Week 8 Result: Lost at Arizona, 18-15
There isn't a team in the NFL that's better at losing in 2018 than the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers have found new and exciting ways to get beaten on a weekly basis—usually in close games. Up five against the NFC's worst offense Sunday, it appeared for a second that San Francisco might accidentally win a game in Week 8.
But these 49ers are professionals. They always find a way.
Snark aside, the never-ending nightmare that is 2018 for the Niners has hit a nadir so subterranean that at this point, head coach Kyle Shanahan might as well embrace it. This is a team that has now lost twice to an Arizona squad that hadn't amassed 300 total yards in a game.
Until Week 8, that is.
The playoffs are a fantasy for the 49ers, but the No.1 overall pick in the 2019 draft is very much in play.
So, don't mess around, gentlemen. Do what you do best.
30. New York Giants (1-7)
Last Week: 29
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Washington, 20-13
If the New York Giants 2018 season was a prizefight, this is right about the time that the referee would stop the action.
Because the Giants are being punched in the face repeatedly on a weekly basis.
Sunday's loss to Washington really wasn't as close as the score. From the closing minutes of the first quarter to the final gun, the Redskins led the game throughout. Eli Manning threw for 316 yards, but he also tossed a pair of costly interceptions. Even tailback Saquon Barkley, who had been one of the few bright spots for the G-Men, was held in check—just 38 yards on 13 carries.
It was just the latest miserable chapter in the sorry story that is this year's Giants team. The best thing than can be said about New York is that at least the nightmare is 50 percent completed.
There are going to be a lot of changes coming for Big Blue in the weeks and months to come.
Including, in all likelihood, the end of the Eli Manning era.
29. Arizona Cardinals (2-6)
Last Week: 31
Week 8 Result: Won vs. San Francisco, 18-15
In the grand scheme of things, Arizona's three-point win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday means very little. It was one lousy NFL team beating another. Both of the Cardinals' wins this year are courtesy of the Gold and Red.
But for a Redbirds team looking for any positives to cling to, there were a few in this game.
For the first time this season, the Cardinals topped 300 yards of total offense—a stat that gives us a migraine.
Josh Rosen had a decent game, passing for 252 yards and two touchdowns—including the game-winner to fellow rookie Christian Kirk with less than a minute left.
The Cardinals will head into their bye fresh off their best game of the season. The extra week will give new OC Byron Leftwich more time to work on improving the Arizona offense.
And then two weeks from now, the Cardinals will travel to Kansas City and come crashing back to reality.
Enjoy that good feeling while it lasts, guys.
28. Buffalo Bills (2-6)
Last Week: 29
Week 8 Result: Lost 25-6 vs. New England
It isn't reflected in the final score, but the Bills hung tough with the Patriots for three quarters Sunday. Over the first 45 minutes, an inspired Bills defense kept a Patriots team that had scored at least 38 points in four straight games out of the end zone.
However, NFL games have four quarters and are 60 minutes long—and the Bills are still terrible.
As has been the case most of the season, the Buffalo offense was mostly atrocious in Week 8. Yes, the Bills did manage 333 yards of total offense, but the only time Derek Anderson found the end zone was on a throw to Devin McCourty.
Devin McCourty plays for the Patriots.
As if yet another lopsided loss wasn't bad enough, Anderson was injured when he was walloped by Kyle Van Noy late in the game.
That raises a possibility that strikes terror in the hearts of every member of Bills Mafia.
A possibility of Peterman.
27. Cleveland Browns (2-5-1)
Last Week: 26
Week 8 Result: Lost at Pittsburgh, 33-18
There are reasons for optimism in Cleveland.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield hasn't posted jaw-dropping numbers as a rookie, but he's been arguably the best of the first-year signal-callers so far this season.
Last year's No. 1 overall pick, defensive end Myles Garrett, has already blossomed into one of the better edge-rushers in the league.
Rookie tailback Nick Chubb has shown promise. First-year corner Denzel Ward looks like a star in the making. Safety Damarious Randall, who came to Cleveland in a March trade, appears to have been a steal.
None of that makes the Browns a good team, though.
Playing behind a porous offensive line, Mayfield has taken a beating—Sunday's two sacks allowed brings Cleveland's total to 33 for the season. The team has few weapons in the passing game, and opponents are loading the box to stop Chubb and the rushing attack. And while Ward, Garrett and the defense have been solid, they can't be perfect all the time.
The Browns may be getting better. But they are still pretty bad—bad enough that Sobleski thinks big changes could be in store:
"The Browns are going in the wrong direction, and it seems to be only a matter of time before the Haslam family decides yet another head coach is needed to lead this franchise. That isn't all that surprising. The fact Baker Mayfield has started to regress because of the situation in which he's been placed should frighten Browns fans, though."
26. New York Jets (3-5)
Last Week: 25
Week 8 Result: Lost at Chicago, 24-10
If you're the "glass is half-full" type, you can say this about the New York Jets: The team is better than many expected this year.
However, that just means they're only bad instead of horrible—and that's about the nicest thing you can say after the Jets got blasted at Soldier Field.
The Jets ran the ball 24 times against the Bears…for 57 yards. Sam Darnold attempted 29 passes and completed less than half of them. To be fair, Darnold didn't throw an interception for the second time this season, so at least there's that.
The cold, hard truth is that when the Jets blew out Detroit in Week 1 and went .500 over the first six weeks, they created a false impression that they were further along in the rebuilding process than they actually are.
The last two games have served as a reminder how far Gang Green still has to go.
25. Tennessee Titans (3-4)
Last Week: 24
Week 8 Result: Bye Week
The Tennessee Titans have plenty to think about during their week off.
None of it is good.
There's the three-game losing streak since a Week 4 overtime win against the Philadelphia Eagles that dropped the team under .500—a skid that included a low-scoring loss to the woeful Buffalo Bills.
There's the most recent setback in that streak: a one-point defeat to the Chargers in London in which head coach Mike Vrabel passed on a game-tying extra point to go for two and the win.
It was equal parts gutsy and ill-advised.
And there's the matter of the surging Houston Texans. While the Titans and Jaguars have been in free-fall, the Texans have peeled off five straight victories. Things are getting away from Tennessee in a hurry.
If the team can't find a way to win against the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 5, its chances of a second straight playoff trip are going to be all but gone, especially with the New England Patriots coming to Nashville in Week 10.
24. Indianapolis Colts (3-5)
Last Week: 27
Week 8 Result: Won at Oakland, 42-28
Break up the Colts!
In downing the Raiders in Oakland on Sunday, the Colts peeled off their third win of the season after a 1-5 start. Granted, their modest two-game winning streak has come against the Raiders and Bills (two of the league's worst teams), but suddenly a Colts team that was floundering not too long ago is tied with the Jaguars and just two games out of first place.
The Colts could get back into the mix in the AFC South. Four of Indy's next five games are against teams in the South, and the Colts don't face a team with a winning record until their rematch with the Texans on Dec. 9.
Is it likely the Colts will be in the playoff hunt as December dawns? Not even close—the defense is still a mess. But with Andrew Luck playing well and Marlon Mack keying a suddenly solid running game, the idea can't be entirely dismissed, either.
23. Miami Dolphins (4-4)
Last Week: 23
Week 8 Result: Lost at Houston, 42-23
Once upon a time, the Miami Dolphins were one of the more surprising teams—winners of three straight to begin the year.
That seems like eons ago.
After getting blasted in the second half of Thursday night's game in Houston, the Dolphins have lost four of their last five to fall to .500.
To be fair, Miami's had horrible luck with injuries of late. Wide receivers Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills were both out against the Texans (Wilson's on injured reserve after hurting his hip in Week 7). With quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the shelf, Brock Osweiler made his third start of the year.
Every start has been worse than the last, which does not inspire confidence.
The reality is the Dolphins are who are we thought they were before peeling off that surprising winning streak: a mediocre tea, with significant issues on both sides of the ball.
22. Denver Broncos (3-5)
Last Week: 22
Week 8 Result: Lost at Kansas City, 30-23
The Denver Broncos lead the NFL in moral victories.
Three of the Broncos' five defeats have come against the one-loss Chiefs and the undefeated Rams. Denver was competitive in all three, including Sunday's contest at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Broncos actually outgained the Chiefs, piling up 411 yards of total offense. Rookie tailback Phillip Lindsay continued to impress, rushing for 95 yards and a score on 18 totes. Denver held the Chiefs to just a 30 percent success rate on third down.
However, as Davenport pointed out, the team still got another loss.
"Sunday in Kansas City, the Broncos offered a tease of sorts as to what this team could be capable of," he said. "Had they made just a few more plays, the outcome might have been different. But that's been the problem in far too many of Denver's games this season.
"The Broncos have the potential to be good—maybe even playoffs good. But they keep coming up just short of that potential, and ultimately, your record is all that really matters."
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)
Last Week: 19
Week 8 Result: Lost at Cincinnati, 37-34
The quarterback carousel in Tampa is spinning once again.
After tossing four interceptions Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jameis Winston got the hook in Week 8, And given that veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Buccaneers from 18 points down in the fourth quarter and tied things up with about a minute to go, there will be plenty of folks calling for "Fitzmagic" again next week against the Panthers.
That could be a franchise-defining decision. If the Buccaneers hand the reins back to Fitzpatrick, they are all but saying that the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft isn't the guy. And while Fitzpatrick has had his moments under center in 2018, he's not any kind of long-term answer at the position.
Never mind that given how awful the Tampa defense has been this season, whoever starts at quarterback faces a tall task. Even once Fitzpatrick led the team all the way back Sunday, Tampa couldn't stop Cincinnati from driving for the game-winning kick.
Making big decisions based on short-term gains just isn't wise for this team. They aren't going anywhere.
But Koetter knows as well as well do that another losing season in Tampa will likely be his last.
20. Dallas Cowboys (3-4)
Last Week: 21
Week 8 Result: Bye Week
Let's dispense with the pleasantries and get real.
The Dallas Cowboys are not a bad team. They have one of the NFL's better tailbacks in Ezekiel Elliott, a solid offensive line and a good defense.
However, the Cowboys are not an especially good team. The receiving corps is one of the weakest in the league, and without any weapons to speak of in the passing game, Dak Prescott hasn't exactly been lighting up the box score.
The arrival of Amari Cooper in the trade with the Raiders should help, but he's not a magical cure-all.
With the Washington Redskins playing well of late, the Cowboys find themselves two games back in the NFC East, with a head-to-head loss to Washington to boot.
The odds of winning the division do not look good. In a loaded NFC, the chances of obtaining a wild-card berth may be worse.
It's looking more and more like Dallas is going to miss the postseason for a second consecutive year.
What that means for the future of head coach Jason Garrett will likely be a talking point over the next couple of months.
19. Atlanta Falcons (3-4)
Last Week: 20
Week 8 Result: Bye Week
The first half of the 2018 season hasn't gone according to plan for the Atlanta Falcons.
Frankly, given the injuries that have decimated Atlanta's defense, the team is fortunate to be 3-4. The Falcons headed into their bye week ranked 30th in both total defense (419.4 yards allowed per game) and scoring defense (30.3 points allowed per contest).
The offense hasn't been spared by the injury bug either. Tailback Devonta Freeman landed on injured reserve roughly two weeks ago. With a deep and talented receiving corps at his disposal, quarterback Matt Ryan has been able to overcome that loss.
But that injury-ravaged defense—which is missing linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal, among others—is all but insurmountable. As we saw in Week 7, when the Falcons held on to defeat the New York Giants 23-20, Atlanta can't stop anyone. There's tremendous pressure on Ryan each and every week to put up huge numbers so that the Falcons can try to win shootouts.
That is most assuredly not a recipe for making the playoffs in the loaded NFC.
18. Detroit Lions (3-4)
Last Week: 15
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Seattle, 28-14
Coming out of the bye week, the Detroit Lions appeared to be putting it together. A win over the Seatlle Seattle Seahawks at home would give Detroit four wins in five games and keep them squarely in the mix in the NFC North.
Well, you see, what had happened was…
In Week 8 the Lions looked the part of a team that didn't realize an NFL game was going on until the final quarter. The problem with that is that by then the Seahawks were up three touchdowns and the contest was decided.
The defense was non-existent, getting gouged on the ground by Chris Carson and shredded through the air by Russell Wilson. An error-prone Detroit offense turned the ball over three times.
With divisional matchups coming up with the Bears and Vikings, this was an important game—a chance to get above .500 before the stretch that will define Detroit's season.
Their faceplant doesn't inspire much in the way of confidence, as Gagnon alluded to:
"It's really concerning when teams lay eggs in potential statement games at home. I'm not mad at the Lions, I'm just disappointed in them. And I'm disappointed in myself for believing in them. That dud against the Seahawks indicates their embarrassing Week 1 loss to the Jets wasn't an anomaly. Can't trust this team going forward."
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5)
Last Week: 16
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Philadelphia, 24-18 (London)
The Jacksonville Jaguars have officially reached terminal velocity. The team has been plummeting so long that the speed of their descent has maxed out.
Week 8's trip to London was supposed to be a slump-buster. Quarterback Blake Bortles and the Jaguars had enjoyed considerable success across the Pond in recent years. But when news broke that four Jaguars players had become involved in a brew pub brouhaha regarding a massive bar tab, it was an omen of how the rest of the week was going to go.
Davenport didn't hold back in his assessment of the reeling Jaguars:
"This team is finished. Through. Kaputsville. The Jaguars not only aren't going to the Super Bowl, but they won't even make the playoffs. When the players aren't griping at one another, they're arguing with security at a London bar. After dropping their fourth straight, Jacksonville would have to go at least 6-2 over the second half to have a shot at a wild card. There's zero chance this mess of a team can do that."
Gagnon's not far behind him.
"I really don't know if they're going to survive this losing streak, and in London we got more evidence that it's more than just Blake Bortles' stinkiness," he said. "Better quarterback play might not right this ship. The Jaguars are neither smart nor disciplined, and they might be in trouble in Indianapolis after their bye."
16. Baltimore Ravens (4-4)
Last Week: 10
Week 8 Result: Lost at Carolina, 36-21
After last week's heartbreaking loss to the New Orleans Saints on a missed Justin Tucker extra point, Sunday's trip to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers took on added significance. Win, and the team would shake off that bad beat. Lose, and the Ravens would end the first half of their season at .500 and in third place in the division.
That second one happened.
The Ravens didn't just lose. They got waxed by Carolina. Baltimore was outplayed in just about every area on both sides of the ball. The Ravens were also sloppy, committing nine penalties and three turnovers.
It was a dispiriting performance all around. Whether it was quarterback Joe Flacco (less than 200 passing yards and two interceptions) or tailback Alex Collins, many of the same players who helped the Ravens win four games contributed to the fourth loss at Bank of America Stadium.
There's little time for wound-licking. The Ravens next two games are against the Steelers and Bengals at home—the two teams ahead of them in the AFC North.
15. Seattle Seahawks (4-3)
Last Week: 18
Week 8 Result: Won at Detroit, 28-14
In recent weeks, the Seahawks have turned their floundering season around with a power run game and solid defensive play.
Sunday in Detroit, it all came together in arguably Seattle's most impressive win of the season.
There wasn't a lot that the Seahawks didn't do well against the Lions. Russell Wilson missed on just three passes all game long, threw three touchdown passes and posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Tailback Chris Carson racked up 105 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. Seattle's defense sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford three times and forced an equal number of turnovers.
Barring an epic collapse, the Seahawks aren't catching the Rams in the NFC West. The chances of Seattle making a deep playoff run aren’t particularly good.
But as Sobleski wrote, these Seahawks are at least making things interesting.
"Are the Seahawks good again? Just when everyone thought it was safe to write Seattle off, the team rips off four victories in five games and only lost to the undefeated Rams by two points. Russell Wilson is back to his old tricks. The difference is he's playing behind a much-improved offensive line."
14. Green Bay Packers (3-3-1)
Last Week: 14
Week 8 Result: Lost at Los Angeles Rams, 29-27
The Packers had this one—or at least a chance at it.
Sure, the Los Angeles Rams had just kicked a field goal to go up two Sunday. But with about two minutes left in the game, Aaron Rodgers was going to get a crack at some more late-game heroics. Packers kicker Mason Crosby had already hit a 53-yard field goal in the game.
But then Ty Montgomery, for reasons that will forever be lost to the fog of mystery, decided to bring the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone. Not only did he not make it to the 25-yard line, but Montgomery coughed up the ball, fumbling away any chance of a Packers win.
It was a gut-punch of an ending to a game in which Green Bay played as well defensively as it has in any game this season.
And in a tightly packed NFC North, it's a gaffe that could cost the Packers dearly in the playoff chase.
13. Houston Texans (5-3)
Last Week: 17
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Miami, 42-23
That the Houston Texans weren't ranked inside the top half of the NFL's teams despite winning four in a row heading into Week 8 would seem to indicate a healthy amount of skepticism regarding Houston's viability as a legitimate contender.
That skepticism is understandable. After all, these same Texans opened the season by dropping three in a row.
But after a decisive win on Thursday night against the Dolphins, the Texans sit at 5-3, firmly entrenched in first place in the AFC South.
Davenport's a believer—sort of.
"I'm not yet willing to say that this Houston team is ready to hang with the likes of the Patriots and Chiefs in the AFC," Davenport said. "But after watching Deshaun Watson have more touchdown passes than incompletions and JJ Watt once again wreak havoc in Week 8, I'm also not willing to say they can't. Lamar Miller's running the ball, Watson and Watt appear to be 100 percent and a Texans team that looked dead in the water a month ago now looks like the class of their division."
12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)
Last Week: 13
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Tampa Bay, 37-34
The good news for the Cincinnati Bengals is that after dropping two straight, the team was able to wash off the stink from last week's demolition in Kansas City with a last-second win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The bad news for the Bengals is that it took a field goal as time expired to win the game. This was a contest the Bengals led 27-9 at halftime and 34-16 at the end of the third quarter.
Cincinnati will now head into the bye very much in the hunt in the AFC North, but Sunday's second-half slide had Davenport questioning whether these Bengals are actually paper tigers.
"Back in Week 6," Davenport said, "the Bengals couldn't hold a late lead against the Steelers. Two weeks later it's a repeat against a so-so Buccaneers team. For most of the second half, the Bengals couldn't move the ball against one of the league's worst defenses. The Bengals have quite a bit of work to do during their week off—if they play like this against the Saints and Ravens 5-3 will become 5-5 in a hurry, especially with the Bengals now sporting the NFL's worst defense."
Sobleski gave Cincinnati credit for surviving, though:
"Cincinnati survived a little Fitz-magic thanks to a last-second field goal from kicker Randy Bullock. A victory kept the Bengals atop the AFC North despite recent losses to the Steelers and Chiefs. This team may not be counted among the league's elite, but the Bengals are better than often given credit for."
Gagnon, on the other hand, had some harsh words for the Bengals.
"After losing back-to-back key games," he said, "the Bengals nearly blow a three-score second-half lead at home against a weak opponent and ya'll still have 'em in the top 12? Come on! Cincinnati hasn't won a game in impressive fashion since it beat Baltimore back in Week 2. This team is a big, fat phony."
Tell us how you really feel, Brad.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)
Last Week: 12
Week 8 Result: Won at Jacksonville, 24-18 (London)
Sunday's contest in London was something of a do-or-die affair for a pair of teams that were considered Super Bowl contenders entering the season. A win for the Eagles or Jaguars would get then back to .500 heading into the bye. A loss would drop them to 3-5 and send them into scramble mode over the season's second half.
It was the defending champions who answered the bell, gutting out a six-point win at Wembley Stadium.
It wasn't an especially impressive performance—as is often the case in London neither the Eagles or Jags looked their best. But Philly had one of its better efforts of the year running the ball, with Josh Adams spearheading a ground game that gained 133 yards and averaged 4.8 yards a carry.
One of the Eagles bigger issues this season has been the inability to run the ball with any kind of consistency. If Philadelphia has stumbled across a potential solution to that problem in Adams it could go a long way toward keying a second-half surge by the team.
10. Chicago Bears (4-3)
Last Week: 11
Week 8 Result: Won vs. New York Jets, 24-10
After dropping back-to-back games in heartbreaking fashion to drop from 3-1 to 3-3, Da Bears badly needed a win in Week 8 to get back on track.
Luckily, the Jets were coming to town, as they were quite agreeable to the notion of Chicago plowing them over en route to a 14-point win.
This was a game that was thoroughly dominated by the home team. Total yardage. First downs. Passing yards. Rushing yards. All those categories leaned heavily in favor of the Bears.
The last was the most striking. The Bears piled up 179 rushing yards in the game, averaging better than five yards a carry. Almost half of Chicago's 21 first downs came on the ground.
We know the Bears can play defense. And Mitchell Trubisky has shown flashes under center. Give the youngster this kind of a run game to lean on, and these Bears are going to be hard to beat.
9. Minnesota Vikings (4-3-1)
Last Week: 5
Week 8 Result: Lost vs. New Orleans, 30-20
Turnovers are the kiss of death in the NFL.
That axiom was on vivid display in Sunday night's marquee matchup between the Vikings and New Orleans Saints. Despite dominating statistically, the Vikings fell by double digits thanks to two Minnesota turnovers that both led to touchdowns.
The Vikings outgained the Saints by over 150 yards, held Drew Brees to 120 (!) passing yards—and lost the game. Adam Thielen fumbled in the red zone. Kirk Cousins threw a pick-six.
And Gagnon was left shaking his head:
"I wouldn't usually beat up on anybody for losing to a team like the Saints, but the Vikings also lost to themselves Sunday night. At home against an opponent traveling for the second consecutive week, there's no excuse for that kind of performance. It has me concerned that Minnesota might not have the fortitude for big games. Let's not forget what happened in last year's NFC Championship Game. They don't deserve to be listed with the cream of the crop right now."
8. Washington Redskins (5-2)
Last Week: 9
Week 8 Result: Won at New York Giants, 20-13
At the outset of the 2108 season, there weren't many people who picked the Washington Redskins to win the NFC East.
And by, "not many," we mean no one.
At the halfway point to the regular season, the Redskins aren't just in first place—they've raced out to a sizable lead.
The Redskins didn't exactly pile up the style points in Sunday's win over the hapless Giants. In fact, quarterback Alex Smith came up short of 200 passing yards. But when you run for 182 yards and average over five yards a carry, the quarterback really doesn't have to do a lot.
Propelled by the ageless legs of tailback Adrian Peterson and the best defense in football no one's talking about, the Redskins are a throwback team of sorts—winning games with power and physicality.
And with back-to-back games coming up against teams with losing records and all kinds of problems on defense, the Redskins are in a good position to keep rolling right along.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (5-2)
Last Week: 7
Week 8 Result: Bye Week
The Los Angeles Chargers might be the best team in the NFL that no one's talking about.
Partly, it's a matter of playing in the same division as the Kansas City Chiefs, whose offensive juggernaut has made them one of the league's most talked about teams.
Partly, it's a matter of playing in the same city as the undefeated Rams. To say that the Chargers haven't made a dent in the local market since moving up the California coast is an understatement. This is a team that plays in a soccer stadium in front of fans of their opponent on a weekly basis. This is a team that piped in crowd noise in practices earlier this month in preparation of a home game against the Raiders.
And partly, it's because many just aren't sure how good these Chargers are. They have beaten the teams they are supposed to beat, but LA's two losses are to the aforementioned Chiefs and Rams.
Still, 5-2 is 5-2, and as this ranking shows, the analysts at B/R aren't overlooking this team.
6. Carolina Panthers (5-2)
Last Week: 8
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Baltimore, 36-21
Despite a thrilling comeback over the Eagles last week and a 4-2 record, many folks weren't buying the Panthers as the real deal entering Week 8. Vegas certainly wasn't—they installed the Panthers as home underdogs against the Baltimore Ravens.
Carolina had their way Sunday with one of the NFL's stingiest defenses, racking up 386 total yards and piling up 36 points. Cam Newton had himself a day, passing for two touchdowns and running for another. Tailback Christian McCaffrey got in on the multiple-score act too—rushing for one touchdown and catching another.
The Ravens are a good football team. And the Panthers flattened them in the first half, jumping out to a 24-7 halftime advantage.
Davenport, who ranked Carolina inside the top five, was duly impressed.
’My biggest reservation about the Panthers was consistency," he said. "One week they'd look like gangbusters, only to come out flat the next. But Carolina absolutely carried over the momentum from that Eagles win to the Ravens game. This is a legitimately dangerous football team."
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2-1)
Last Week: 6
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Cleveland, 33-18
Pittsburgh's bye week came and went without any sign of the Steelers' star tailback, who appears to be determined to drag his holdout out until the last possible moment.
But as more and more time passes, something's becoming increasingly clear in the Steel City.
While Bell may indeed be one of the NFL's most talented backs, the Steelers don't necessarily need him to win the AFC North.
Just as he did back in Week 1, young tailback James Conner ran all over the Cleveland Browns in Week 8—146 rushing yards, 66 more yards on five catches and a pair of touchdowns.
Pittsburgh had their way with the Browns, out-gaining the team by upwards of 200 total yards, pummeling Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and controlling every aspect of the game's second half.
It wasn't a flawless effort (Pittsburgh turned it over twice, committed eight penalties and started out slow again.
But the Steelers are figuring it out and starting to look more and more like the best team in the division, and Gagnon thinks maybe even better than that:
"I think a lot of us wanted to believe that somebody else could swoop in and steal the AFC North from the Steelers this season, but while Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland continue to slump, Pittsburgh is getting it done sans Le'Veon Bell. That's back-to-back home blowouts over tough opponents sandwiching a gut-check win over the division-rival Bengals and a bye. The Steelers didn't lose in October. This is a serious contender."
4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-1)
Last Week: 3
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Denver, 30-23
As much as any team not named the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos have given the Kansas City Chiefs all they could handle in two meetings this year.
It's gotten them a fat bag of nothing.
On a day when Kansas City rushed for just 49 yards as a team and speedster Tyreek Hill was held in check, the Chiefs still put up 30 points. Patrick Mahomes had another huge game, topping 300 passing yards and tossing four touchdown passes—including two to Sammy Watkins.
Through the first nine games of his NFL career, Mahomes has thrown a jaw-dropping 26 touchdown passes. No quarterback in NFL history has more over that same span.
Kansas City's defense remains a concern—the Broncos piled up 411 total yards Sunday and made a game of it in the fourth quarter.
But Kansas City's offense has been nothing short of amazing, and the Chiefs just keep piling up victories.
3. New Orleans Saints (6-1)
Last Week: 4
Week 8 Result: Won at Minnesota, 30-20
The general belief heading into Sunday's big NFC tilt between the Vikings and Saints was that a shootout was in the offing. And while 50 total points were scored in the game, things didn't go as we expected for the Saints.
But they won the game.
The Saints were outgained 423 to 270.
But they won the game.
Drew Brees threw for all of 120 yards.
But they won the game.
Spurred by two big turnovers (including a pick-six), the Saints got a measure of revenge for the "Minneapolis Miracle" and a statement win over a team many picked as the NFC's Super Bowl representative before the season.
However, the Saints aren't going to get to enjoy a second straight big road win for very long. The team is in the midst of a brutal scheduling stretch, and Week 9 brings with it an even taller task.
Next Sunday, the undefeated Rams come to the Superdome.
2. New England Patriots (6-2)
Last Week: 2
Week 8 Result: Won 25-6 at Buffalo
For much of Monday night's game in Buffalo, the New England Patriots looked little like the machine that entered Week 8 riding a four-game winning streak with at least 38 points in all four games.
The offense just wasn't the same without rookie tailback Sony Michel, settling repeatedly for field goals. The defense was OK. The Bills have a tendency to make every defense look at least OK. But with linebacker Dont'a Hightower also sidelined, it was off a beat as well.
However, this was a game featuring one of the NFL's best teams against one of the worst. That became reality in the fourth quarter, when a James White touchdown run and a Devin McCourty pick-six blew things open.
It's likely not an effort that Bill Belichick will be pleased with ahead of another prime-time matchup this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
But the Patriots, as they usually do, took care of business—and in doing so locked in a stranglehold on the AFC East.
What a surprise.
1. Los Angeles Rams (8-0)
Last Week: 1
Week 8 Result: Won vs. Green Bay, 29-27
The Los Angeles Rams are still the kings of the mountain—the lone undefeated team in the NFL.
Even if there were more fans of the Green Bay Packers in attendance Sunday at the Coliseum.
Los Angeles is weird.
In many respects, it was business as usual for the Rams. Jared Goff passed for 295 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Todd Gurley piled up 195 total yards and scored his 37th touchdown (approximately) of the year. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald added two more sacks—bringing his league-leading total to 10.
But the Packers gave the Rams all they could handle. It took a special teams turnover late to spare L.A. the possibility of another Aaron Rodgers comeback.
Sobleski broke it down:
"This is as simple as it gets. An undefeated record deserves the top spot, even though the Rams had to squeak past the Packers to reach 8-0. Jared Goff's confidence seems to grow every week—which allowed the young quarterback to top Aaron Rodgers, who tried to pull another rabbit out of his hat late in the contest."