NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 10
Week 9 featured some games that had a major impact on the pecking order in the NFL.
In New Orleans, the Saints took care of the league's last undefeated team and in doing so staked their claim that they're the NFL's best team.
In New England, a pair of future Hall of Famers locked horns when Aaron Rodgers' Packers battled Tom Brady's Patriots.
It went about like you'd expect.
And in San Francisco, one of the Bay Area's teams left no doubt whatsoever who the NFL's worst team is.
So bad. So, so bad.
As has been the case every week this year, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski have gathered as the dust settles in Week 9 to rank the league's teams from worst to first.
The former is the same as the past few weeks—but there's a new No. 1 entering Week 10.
Long live the king—at least until they lose.
32. Oakland Raiders (1-7)
Last Week: 32
Week 9 Result: Lost at San Francisco, 34-3
This is what rock bottom looks like.
It looks like getting shelled by a one-win 49ers team that was starting an undrafted rookie third-string quarterback.
It looks like a quarterback in Derek Carr who has all but abandoned throwing the ball down the field because his offensive line is a sieve. The Raiders allowed seven sacks of Carr on Thursday (and eight total) to the Niners.
It looks like a defense that can't stop the run. Or defend the pass. Or pursue. Or tackle.
After covering the game for Bleacher Report, Davenport was ready for a stiff drink—and a lobotomy:
"The Raiders are officially a five-alarm dumpster fire. Oakland is paying Jon Gruden $10 million a season to publicly proclaim all is well while the Raiders burn to the ground around him. That he turned around and released the best pass-rusher (Bruce Irvin) for a team that can't rush the passer is a perfect metaphor for this mess. The Raiders haven't even gotten to Vegas yet, and they've already crapped out."
31. Buffalo Bills (2-7)
Last Week: 28
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Chicago, 41-9
We almost feel sorry for the Buffalo Bills.
With both Josh Allen and Derek Anderson on the shelf with injuries in Week 9, the Bills were forced to do something they didn't want to do. Something no NFL team wants to do.
Start Nathan Peterman at quarterback.
Peterman was…predictable in a blowout loss. He predictably looked terrible throwing the ball. He predictably threw three more interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
If there's a worse quarterback in the last 20 years who started multiple games, we'd love to know who it is.
The Buffalo defense played a good game, holding the Bears in check to the tune of less than 200 total yards.
But it will take a lot more than that to overcome the black hole of awful that is Nathan Peterman under center.
Nothing escapes. Not light. Not sound.
When Peterman is playing, no one can hear you scream.
30. New York Giants (1-7)
Last Week: 30
Week 9 Result: Bye Week
Week 9 was arguably the most successful week of the season for the floundering New York Giants.
That it was also the bye tells you everything you need to know about Big Blue in 2018.
To be fair, it hasn't been all bad. Rookie tailback Saquon Barkley has justified being the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft, picking up 4.7 yards a carry and surpassing 1,000 total yards just halfway into his first season.
So far as bright spots though, that's about it in New York this season. The notion that the Giants could get another year or two out of Eli Manning appears to have been a fantasy. New York's defense has been decent at times but ranked just a so-so 18th in the league heading into Week 9.
This is a team that is going to face some hard choices in the offseason—chief among them what to do at the NFL's most important position.
The correct course of action there, sadly, is move on.
29. San Francisco 49ers (2-7)
Last Week: 31
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Oakland, 34-3
On a cool fall evening at Levi's Stadium, a legend was born. A legend that dwarfs the tale of Joe Montana. Scoffs at the saga of Steve Young.
In Week 9, Nick Mullens was unleashed on the Oakland Raiders.
Kidding aside, the undrafted rookie third-string quarterback for the 49ers had one heck of an NFL debut against the Oakland Raiders. Mullens completed 16 of 22 attempts for 262 yards and three scores. It was a remarkable showing from a player most people had never heard of before a few days ago.
Actually, what it was was a testament to just how good of an offensive coach Kyle Shanahan is. While so many other NFL teams bumble around on a weekly basis, Shanahan took a nobody and crafted a game plan around him that accented what he does best.
It may be a miserable season in San Francisco, but fans should be grateful that Shanahan is the head coach.
Sobleski couldn't agree more:
"Kudos to quarterback Nick Mullens and head coach Kyle Shanahan for stellar performances on the national stage. Mullens threw for three touchdowns Thursday and posted a quarterback rating of 151.9—the highest from a quarterback with at least 20 pass attempts in his first start since 1970. His performance showed two things. First, Mullens came prepared and is far more talented than most third-string quarterbacks. Second, Shanahan has a beautiful mind when it comes to designing an offensive game plan. Both will serve the 49ers well in the coming weeks."
28. Arizona Cardinals (2-6)
Last Week: 29
Week 9 Result: Bye Week
It's admittedly been a miserable season for the Arizona Cardinals. The Redbirds offense has ranked at the bottom of the NFC in total offense from the get-go.
However, in Week 8's come-from-behind win over the San Francisco 49ers, that offense took at least a baby step forward under new OC Byron Leftwich. For the first time all season long, the Josh Rosen-led Cardinals offense went over 300 total yards in a game.
The reality is that the second half of Arizona's season will probably only be marginally less unbearable than the first. This is a franchise in the first stages of what amounts to a ground-up rebuild.
But if Arizona can develop Rosen some the rest of way and get the offense going at least a little, it will offer the Cardinals something to build on heading into the offseason.
Just don't win too many games—you'll louse up your draft position.
27. New York Jets (3-5)
Last Week: 26
Week 9 Result: Lost at Miami, 13-6
For those forlorn souls who actually watched this game from start to finish, you have our condolences.
It was a game in which the Jets outgained the Dolphins by a substantial margin. But as has been the case far too many times, turnovers were the team's undoing. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold threw four interceptions against Miami, one of which was returned for the game's only touchdown.
Over the last three weeks, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft has just two touchdowns and seven interceptions. In news that should surprise no one, the Jets lost all three of those games.
Turnovers were the biggest criticism surrounding Darnold when he chose to leave USC after his redshirt sophomore season. If the youngster can't cut down on those substantially, the grumbles are going to begin that he's just one more failed experiment in New York's decades-long quest to find a franchise quarterback.
26. Cleveland Browns (2-6-1)
Last Week: 27
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Kansas City, 37-21
There were some positives for the Cleveland Browns in Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Baker Mayfield had a decent game throwing the ball, piling up 297 yards and two scores with a passer rating of 95.0.
New Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens remembered that tailback Duke Johnson is on the team, and the result was Johnson's best game of the season—10 touches, 86 yards and two scores.
And at least for the first half, the Browns hung with one of the NFL's best teams—no small feat given the turmoil that engulfed the team this past week.
But the NFL is a results-driven business, and since beating the Ravens on October 7, the result has been the same for the Browns every week—a result this team is all too familiar with.
Loss after loss after loss.
25. Indianapolis Colts (3-5)
Last Week: 24
Week 9 Result: Bye Week
The Indianapolis Colts are not an especially good football team.
However, the Colts also might not be as bad as we originally thought. After dropping five of their first six games, the Colts have peeled off two straight decisive wins to add a measure of respectability to their record.
Granted, those wins came against arguably the NFL's two worst teams in the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders. And Indy's issues on defense (a problem that has seemingly dogged the franchise for years) remains evident.
But the biggest question facing the team has been answered. After a bit of a bumpy start, Andrew Luck has turned it up of late. For the season. Luck has passed for 2,187 yards with a 23-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a passer rating of just under 100.
This season may not have gone as well as the Colts had hoped entering the year.
But if Luck can return to Pro Bowl form, that offers the Colts more than a little hope for the future.
24. Denver Broncos (3-6)
Last Week: 22
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Houston, 19-17
The Denver Broncos had a number of opportunities to pull out Sunday's game against the Houston Texans and keep their season from going off the rails.
But as has been the case for much of this season, the Broncos weren't able to take advantage of them—including a 51-yard field-goal try as time expired that sailed wide right.
That's been the story of this team in 2018. The Broncos didn't play badly in Week 9—Denver actually outgained Houston, 348 to 290. But in big moments, the Broncos just couldn't quite seem to come up with that one play they needed.
Of Denver's six losses this year, half have been by four points or fewer.
But whether you lose by four points or 40, it counts the same, and when these Broncos get back from their Week 10 bye, it will be more a matter of playing out the string than anything.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5)
Last Week: 21
Week 9 Result: Lost at Carolina, 42-28
Fitzmagic was back in action Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. And Tampa quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had another big game, throwing four touchdown passes and helping to bring Tampa back from a big deficit to within seven points.
The problem is that Tampa's defense (or lack thereof) once again did the team in.
A Tampa team that entered Week 9 first in the NFL in total offense but 29th in total defense had no answer for Cam Newton and the Panthers. The 407 yards the Buccaneers allowed were actually under their season average, but it's still all kinds of bad.
Once Fitzpatrick got the Buccaneers to within seven, that defense was unable to even slow Carolina down on the ensuing drive. Whether it's been Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston, Buccaneers quarterbacks have spent the entire season in an untenable position—forced to press by a defense that just can't stop anyone.
The NFC South cellar is Tampa's—again.
And head coach Dirk Koetter's days are likely numbered as a result.
22. Miami Dolphins (5-4)
Last Week: 23
Week 9 Result: Won vs. New York Jets, 13-6
Nine weeks into the 2018 season, the Miami Dolphins are winning the battle of Florida. After beating the New York Jets on Sunday, the Dolphins are the only team in the state with a winning record.
Just like exactly no one predicted.
The Dolphins didn't exactly pile up the style points in this one. Brock Osweiler threw for a whopping 139 yards. The Miami ground game peeled off a less-than-robust average. Miami had just 168 total yards and scored the game's only touchdown on an interception return.
Yes, the Miami defense played well in the game. And a winning record is a winning record. But Davenport is having a difficult time taking these Dolphins seriously as any sort of threat to sniff a playoff spot:
"A week from now, this team will be right back at .500. It's possible the Dolphins can get back above that mark after the bye—the Colts and Bills are just the sort of stumbling teams Miami's record has been made by this year. But all a 9-7 record is going to get this mediocre team is a lower draft pick, and even if it does somehow sneak into the playoffs, it'd get clobbered by anything resembling a good team."
21. Dallas Cowboys (3-5)
Last Week: 20
Week 9 Result: Lost 28-14 vs. Tennessee
This was supposed to the game that turned the Cowboys' season around. Dallas was coming off its bye and had dealt its first-round pick in next year's draft to the Oakland Raiders for wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Cooper was going to give the languishing Dallas passing game a boost, the Cowboys were going to beat a Titans team that had dropped three in a row, and with the Redskins getting drilled in Week 9, Dallas would be just a game out of first place in the NFC East.
The problem is its offense looked the same in Week 9 that it did in Week 7. Run, run, pass on 3rd-and-long. The Cowboys were atrocious defensively on third down, stopping the Titans just three of 14 times.
And Jerrah's 'Boys were flat-out outclassed at home by a Titans team that didn't win a game in October.
This doesn't look like a team that can beat the Eagles in Philly on Sunday night. Or a team that will survive five straight games against teams that are .500 or better and emerge with any hopes of making the playoffs.
There's going to be more disappointment in Big D—disappointment that could be followed by big changes.
20. Detroit Lions (3-5)
Last Week: 18
Week 9 Result: Lost at Minnesota, 24-9
The Detroit Lions raised some eyebrows earlier this week when they traded wide receiver Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles. Sure, the Lions were 3-4, but they were hardly out of it in the NFC North.
Perhaps the Lions knew something we didn't. Or were at least able to admit something fans have trouble with.
The Lions just ain't very good.
They certainly didn't look good in getting drilled on the road in Minnesota on Sunday. The Vikings completely put the clamps on a Tate-less Lions offense in Week 9, holding Detroit to just 209 total yards and nine points. Detroit's offensive line apparently stayed behind in Michigan—Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times in the loss.
The defense actually played pretty well, holding the Vikings under 300 total yards. But in a game when they received no help at all on the other side of the ball, the effort went for naught.
Just as another season appears to be in the Motor City, and Gagnon concurs:
"Two weeks ago, I was falling in love with the Lions. What a mistake. After back-to-back one-sided losses to key NFC opponents, Detroit is toast. That defense is coming back to earth as it gets crushed on the ground, and Matthew Stafford continues to lack consistency. The entire team does, actually. And the Golden Tate trade doesn't help."
We forgive you, Brad. It's better to have loved and lost and all that jazz.
19. Tennessee Titans (4-4)
Last Week: 25
Week 9 Result: Won 28-14 at Dallas
Monday night's tilt between the Titans and Cowboys was a do-or-die affair. The winner would get both to .500 and back on track. The loser would fall to 3-5 and be in big trouble so far as making the playoffs.
The Titans had added pressure given a three-game skid and the surging Houston Texans.
Tennessee responded in a big way.
Tennessee's defense has been quietly solid all season, but the offense has been hit-or-miss. That wasn't the case Monday night—Tennessee piled up 344 total yards, held the ball for over 35 minutes and went an eye-popping 11-of-14 on third down.
It was arguably the Titans' most impressive effort of the season when the team most needed a win.
There isn't going to be much time for celebration, however. The Titans fly home to prepare to take on the surging Patriots in Nashville, followed by an AFC South road trip to Indy and then Houston.
The Titans have to come out of that three-game stretch at 6-5.
And that's not going to be easy.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5)
Last Week: 17
Week 9 Result: Bye Week
The Jacksonville Jaguars are at a turning point in their season.
After falling in London to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Jags have gone from 3-1 Super Bowl contender to 3-5 also-ran. Jacksonville's usually stout defense has sprung several leaks. The offense has been error-prone and inconsistent.
Much of the blame for the offensive backslide has been laid at the feet of quarterback Blake Bortles. And as it turns out, the Jaguars turned down a chance at some insurance at the position.
In case you were wondering, the recently signed Landry Jones doesn't count as "insurance."
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Jaguars declined an offer from the New York Jets that would have netted them Teddy Bridgewater for edge-rusher Dante Fowler.
The same Dante Fowler whom Jacksonville just traded to the Rams for a draft pick.
If Jacksonville's death spiral continues over the second half of the season, that trade that wasn't may be the defining moment of a disappointing year.
17. Baltimore Ravens (4-5)
Last Week: 16
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Pittsburgh, 23-16
After four games this season, the Baltimore Ravens were 3-1 and looked ready to once again be a force to contend with in the AFC North.
Yeah. Um, so about that.
Sunday's home loss to the hated Steelers was Baltimore fourth loss in five games. And the reason for that loss was the same problem that has plagued these Ravens over the past few seasons.
The offense isn't good.
The Ravens had just 265 total yards against the Steelers on Sunday. Baltimore was just 4-of-12 on third down, while a usually solid Ravens defense allowed Pittsburgh a conversion rate over 50 percent.
Per Davenport, it's time to address the elephant in the room:
"The Ravens aren't out of it by any stretch in the North. But given where things have been headed for over a month, this team probably isn't making the playoffs—again. If that's the case, the Ravens need to give Lamar Jackson some starts in December. Joe Flacco isn't a terrible quarterback. But he isn't a good one, either. It's time to stop pretending his Super Bowl run wasn't a one-shot deal and hand the reins to someone with potential. Upside. Hope."
16. Seattle Seahawks (4-4)
Last Week: 15
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 25-17
In his six-plus NFL seasons, Russell Wilson has hosted AFC teams in Seattle 13 times. The Seahawks won the first 12.
The Chargers put an end to that streak Sunday.
Wilson gave it everything he had, leading a comeback that literally came up one yard shy of a potential game-tying touchdown. And the Seahawks followed the recipe that had gotten the team back over the .500 mark, rushing for 154 yards on 32 carries.
But the Seahawks made just a few more mistakes in the game. Wilson was sacked four times. Seattle committed the game's lone turnover. And Seattle's defense allowed 7.5 yards per play.
That's rather a lot.
It was a disappointing loss, but Seattle has precious little time to fret about it. The Seahawks' next three games are brutal—at the Rams, home against the Packers and then at Carolina.
It's a stretch that could be the end of any postseason aspirations Seattle may have.
15. Green Bay Packers (3-4-1)
Last Week: 14
Week 9 Result: Lost at New England, 31-17
The scheduling computer didn't do the Green Bay Packers any favors this year.
One week after coming up just short in Los Angeles against the Rams (Thanks for nothing, Ty Montgomery. There's the door), the Pack had to travel to one of the hardest places in the NFL for a visitor to win—Gillette Stadium.
And just like against the Rams, a second-half turnover led to a Packers loss.
This time, it was an Aaron Jones fumble with the game tied and Green Bay driving. The Patriots found the end zone on the ensuing drive, while Green Bay didn't score again.
Davenport thinks it may be time for Packers backers to start freaking out a little:
"This isn't just a matter of the Packers' defensive issues and injuries. The timing of them is brutal. The Packers just lost both games to the Rams and Pats, have to head to Seattle in Week 11 and visit the Vikings the following week. Given how Green Bay's playing, it isn't hard to imagine a 4-6-1 record after the Minnesota game. And in a loaded NFC, that will all but eliminate the team from the playoffs."
14. Washington Redskins (5-3)
Last Week: 8
Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Atlanta, 38-14
The Washington Redskins had been one of the NFL's more pleasant surprises this year—a perceived also-ran that had ridden a stout defense and a solid running game to first place in the NFC East.
That all came crashing down around them in Week 9.
The Redskins were embarrassed at home by the Falcons. That defense allowed almost 500 yards of total offense, 38 points and third-down conversions on 10 of 13 attempts. Atlanta had nearly twice as many rushing yards as the Redskins.
Adrian Peterson carried the ball just nine times for 17 yards. Alex Smith topped 300 passing yards, but much of that was in garbage time after Washington fell way behind.
It's possible it was just one of those weeks—even good teams sometime lay an egg.
Or it could be that we overestimated how good these Redskins really are. That they were exposed by Atlanta.
"Washington wasn't quite ready for the big time," Sobleski said. "Just when it looked like Jay Gruden's squad could really establish itself among the league's upper echelon, the team fell flat on its face with a 38-14 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The NFC East is still wide-open since Washington could pull away from its rivals."
We'll have three weeks to figure out which it is before the Redskins head to Philly for a game whose stakes just got that much higher.
13. Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
Last Week: 19
Week 9 Result: Won at Washington, 38-14
The Atlanta Falcons have a pulse.
After a miserable 1-4 start in which the team was ravaged by injuries (especially on defense), the Falcons have won three in a row. But where wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants could be at least partly chalked up to mediocre opposition, Sunday's victory in Washington was an emphatic win over a first-place team on the road.
What really stood out was the performance of the Atlanta defense. A Falcons D that had offered little opposition to opponents over its first seven games stiffened in a big way in D.C. The stats aren't especially impressive, but time and again, the Falcons made plays when they had to stop Washington drives.
This was a performance that looked a little more familiar to Davenport:
"This was the Atlanta team we expected in 2018. A playoff contender with a buzzsaw offense that makes just enough plays on defense to get the job done. After a 1-4 startb the Falcons were written off. But they're back in the wild-card conversation now and could get linebacker Deion Jones back soon. This is a team no one's going to want to play late in the season, and with a couple of winnable games on tap before a trip to New Orleans, that Week 12 game could be a YUUUGE one."
Gagnon's a bit more skeptical, but even he admits this team is on something of a roll.
"I don't trust the Falcons and I probably never will, but the fact is they haven't lost since Week 5 and Matt Ryan is looking very 2016-like," he said. "I'm starting to think this team has a second-half run in it."
12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)
Last Week: 12
Week 9 Result: Bye Week
The Cincinnati Bengals are a good team. Maybe. We think. At least on offense.
However, in recent weeks, the defense has struggled mightily. In fact, entering Week 9, the Bengals were on pace to break the NFL record for most yardage allowed in a season.
It's the age-old dilemma with the Marvin Lewis/Andy Dalton Bengals. On the surface, the team looks pretty good. This year, the Bengals are two games over .500 halfway through their season.
But there's always, well, a "but," whether it's Cincinnati's dismal playoff record under Lewis and/or a defense that's growing leakier by the week.
Are the Bengals contenders or pretenders?
Cincinnati will have a chance soon enough to convince the panel it's the former; the Bengals face the Saints at home in Week 10.
That could be quite the uphill battle, though, as ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell reported Green could miss time after seeing a specialist for his injured toe.
11. Houston Texans (6-3)
Last Week: 13
Week 9 Result: Won at Denver, 19-17
It's official—by virtue of the Rams' loss in New Orleans, the hottest team in the NFL is now the Houston Texans.
That just sounds weird.
Sure, the Texans scraped by the Broncos by a coat of paint when Brandon McManus' field-goal attempt as time expired sailed wide right, but a win is a win—and that marked Houston's sixth in a row. The Texans have established a firm grip on first place in the AFC South.
Sunday's win was all about quarterback Deshaun Watson. With the running game stuck in neutral, it fell to Watson to carry the offense. He did, throwing for 213 yards and both of Houston's touchdowns.
Defensive end J.J. Watt had himself a day as well, notching his ninth sack of the season and strengthening his case for Comeback Player of the Year honors.
"Houston needed a missed field goal to keep its winning streak intact," Sobleski said. "Now sitting at 6-3 after an 0-3 start, the Texans remain a flawed team. It doesn't seem to matter in the AFC South, though. As long as Houston can keep Deshaun Watson upright, it'll be OK."
Gagnon's not yet ready to bump the Texans too far, though.
10. Chicago Bears (5-3)
Last Week: 10
Week 9 Result: Won at Buffalo, 41-9
The Chicago Bears did not have a good game offensively in Buffalo in Week 9. The team managed just 190 total yards of offense—a tiny number in today's offense-centric NFL. Whether it was quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's 135 passing yards or a running game that averaged just 2.6 yards a carry, the Bears had the sort of offensive effort Sunday that will usually get you beaten.
Unless, of course, you're playing Nathan Peterman and the Buffalo Bills.
The Chicago defense outscored the Bears in the game, scoring on both a fumble and interception return. Chicago forced four turnovers, sacked Peterman four times and completely controlled the game from start to finish.
It's hard to find fault in a 32-point win…but Davenport did anyway.
"The Bears were dominant defensively in Week 9," he said, "an impressive showing given that Khalil Mack was sidelined a second game in a row. But with back-to-back division games next up—including a Week 11 home tilt with the Vikings—the Bears are going to need to figure out what the heck happened on offense in a hurry."
9. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)
Last Week: 11
Week 9 Result: Bye Week
The Philadelphia Eagles got back on track (and back to .500) with a Week 8 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But the team wasn't content to just rest during its off week.
Of all the deals made by NFL teams at the trade deadline, Philly's acquisition of Golden Tate from the Detroit Lions might have the biggest impact on the playoff chase in the NFC. Tate is a proven receiver with over 1,000 yards each of the last two years who is on pace to hit that benchmark a third consecutive season. He should be a fine complement to Alshon Jeffery and provide Carson Wentz with a chain-mover underneath.
It was a move that demonstrates the Eagles believe they are still more than capable of making a deep playoff run and defending their Super Bowl championship.
Given where our panel ranks the Eagles despite four losses, it appears it agrees.
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1)
Last Week: 9
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Detroit, 24-9
The Minnesota Vikings are one of the harder teams in the NFL to get a read on this year.
The Vikings entered this season as a Super Bowl favorite and the No. 1 team in these power rankings. But every time it has appeared the Vikings were going to realize those expectations this season, Minnesota has suffered some sort of setback.
This was a team that got rolled at home...by the Buffalo Bills.
However, against the Detroit Lions in Week 9, the Vikings again looked like one of the better teams in the NFC. This was a game the Vikings controlled throughout and one in which the defense was absolutely dominant.
Not only did the Vikings keep the Lions out of the end zone, but Minnesota held quarterback Matthew Stafford under 200 passing yards and sacked him a jaw-dropping 10 times.
The Vikings are still behind the Bears in the NFC North, but this week at least, they looked like the most balanced team in the division.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (6-2)
Last Week: 6
Week 9 Result: Won 25-17 at Seattle
There really isn't enough being said and written about the Los Angeles Chargers. They are the best team in the AFC no one is really talking about. Good, yet somewhat invisible in the shadow of the Rams in L.A.
Yes, the Chargers had to hang on to beat the Seahawks in Week 9. But this marked the first time in Russell Wilson's career that an AFC team came to the Pacific Northwest and left with a win.
That's pretty impressive.
There's been quite a bit about this Chargers team that's been impressive in 2018. Melvin Gordon is playing as well as any running back in the NFL. Philip Rivers has 19 touchdown passes against just three interceptions and a passer rating of 116.5. And despite not having Joey Bosa for the entire season, the Chargers are playing the best defense in the AFC West.
Sobleski rationalized why they deserve more respect:
"Maybe the Chargers are actually Los Angeles' best team. In a what-have-you-done-lately league, the Chargers are riding a five-game winning streak, while the Rams felt their first sting of defeat. At 6-2, the Chargers are still a half-step behind their city rival, yet the rest of the AFC must acknowledge that Anthony Lynn's squad is as dangerous as anyone in the conference."
6. Carolina Panthers (6-2)
Last Week: 6
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Tampa Bay, 42-28
When the NFC's top Super Bowl contenders are discussed, it's usually the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints who dominate the conversation. Maybe the Minnesota Vikings get mentioned.
It's time to insert the Carolina Panthers into that conversation.
In downing the Buccaneers at home in Week 9, the Panthers won their third straight game and fifth in their last six tries. The Panthers dominated the Buccaneers early and then held off a second-half comeback to keep the pressure on the Saints atop the NFC South.
Carolina's offense is jamming right now. Cam Newton's passer rating in this game was north of 130. The Panthers piled up 179 yards on the ground and averaged over 5.5 yards per carry.
The defense isn't chopped liver, either—Luke Kuechly and Co. held one of the NFL's most prolific offenses to just 301 total yards and tallied three sacks and two takeaways.
The Panthers have a tough road ahead of them—a trip to Pittsburgh on a short week.
But right now, Carolina looks ready to take on just about anyone.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2-1)
Last Week: 5
Week 9 Result: Won at Baltimore, 23-16
The Pittsburgh Steelers are officially humming.
After taking care of the Baltimore Ravens on the road Sunday, the Steelers have now peeled off four straight victories. The dysfunctional and disjointed Steelers of a month ago have been replaced by a team playing excellent football on both sides of the ball.
It's the man who has fans in the Steel City saying, "Le'Veon who?"
Tailback James Conner continued his outstanding play of the past several weeks versus the Ravens. Against one of the better defenses in football, Conner gashed Baltimore to the tune of 163 total yards and a touchdown on 31 touches.
Conner's become the centerpiece of Pittsburgh's offense—a bell-cow back just as capable of taking over a game as Bell.
We'll probably see Bell show up soon—he isn't going to eschew a year's service time and chance at free agency. The question then will become what the Steelers do with him.
Hopefully, they won't start fixing that which is not broken.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-1)
Last Week: 4
Week 9 Result: Won at Cleveland, 37-21
The Kansas City Chiefs make it look so easy sometimes.
Against a Cleveland Browns defense that's actually been pretty good this year, the Chiefs were surgically impressive in Week 9.
Total yards? Try a hair under 500.
Passing yards? Patrick Mahomes had 375 and three touchdowns.
Rushing yards? As a whole, the team had 139, averaging almost six yards a pop. Tailback Kareem Hunt amassed 141 total yards and found the end zone three times.
However, there continues to be a nagging doubt surrounding this team. Kansas City's defense struggled again against the Browns, giving up 388 total yards to a Cleveland offense that has had its share of problems moving the ball in 2018.
The Chiefs are a very good football team. Barring a disaster, this team will make the playoffs. Kansas City will probably be the AFC West champs again this year.
But so long as their defense continues letting teams move up and down the field at will, it will be fair to wonder if this team isn't ripe for a postseason upset.
3. Los Angeles Rams (8-1)
Last Week: 1
Week 9 Result: Lost at New Orleans, 45-35
And then there were none.
The last of the NFL's undefeated teams fell Sunday, as the Rams lost a wildly entertaining affair with the Saints by 10. There's no shame in losing to the Saints in the Superdome—beating Drew Brees in his house is no easy task. And the Rams made a game of it after falling behind early.
But it also wasn't surprising to see them drop this game. In recent weeks, the Rams had been less dominant and more fortunate, winning three of their last four by a field goal or less.
Losing your first game of the season nine weeks in is hardly reason to panic. But Davenport thinks there are cracks in L.A.'s armor that are becoming legitimate cause for concern:
"The offseason acquisitions of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib were supposed to give the Rams one of the NFL's best secondaries. But Talib's hurt, and Peters hasn't played well at all. He was absolutely abused by Drew Brees and Michael Thomas on Sunday to the tune of 12 catches, 211 yards and one nail-in-the-coffin touchdown, and while the Rams are better defensively than the likes of the Chiefs, they aren't the dominant team on that side of the ball we expected to see—at least not of late."
Gagnon further criticized that defense:
"Los Angeles is vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball. Marcus Peters has been one of the worst starting cornerbacks in football and should probably be benched, and there just isn't enough support for Aaron Donald up front. That's hard to believe considering all of the moves they made this offseason, but it's tough to ignore the fact they've now given up 34 points per game in four matchups with potential NFC playoff teams (New Orleans, Green Bay, Seattle, Minnesota) since Week 4."
2. New England Patriots (7-2)
Last Week: 2
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Green Bay, 31-17
There are three constants in life—death, taxes and the New England Patriots hitting the halfway point in the season with a stranglehold on the AFC East.
Sure enough, after downing the Green Bay Packers in Week 9, the Patriots are two up on Miami in the loss column (with a blowout head-to-head win). We appear headed toward another holiday tradition: the Patriots celebrating a division title well before Christmas presents are opened.
That the Pats beat the Packers isn't a huge surprise; they are the toughest of outs at Gillette Stadium. But the Patriots did it without tight end Rob Gronkowski and lead tailback Sony Michel. The Patriots shake off injuries that would derail other teams with a sort of bored indifference.
New England plays just two more teams with a winning record this season—the Vikings at home on December 2 and a trip to Pittsburgh two weeks after that. Even if the Pats were to lose both of those games, it's hard to picture them finishing worse than 12-4.
It's even harder to imagine anyone in the AFC taking them out if the road to the Super Bowl travels through Foxborough again.
1. New Orleans Saints (7-1)
Last Week: 3
Week 9 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Rams, 45-35
Who Dat be that's going to beat them Saints?
Well, except the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1—a game that makes progressively less sense with each passing week.
One week after downing the Vikings in Minnesota, the Saints took on the last undefeated team in the NFL on Sunday.
In beating the Los Angeles Rams pretty convincingly, the Saints showed off a truly frightening offense. Quarterback Drew Brees. Tailback Alvin Kamara. Wide receiver Michael Thomas. All had huge games in the Saints' biggest win of the season.
In Sobleski's opinion, that earned the Saints the top spot in these rankings.
"As the great philosopher Ric Flair said many times, 'To be the man, you gotta beat the man,'" Sobleski said. "The Saints took down the league's only undefeated team in the Los Angeles Rams to claim their spot as the NFL's best. Drew Brees and Co. have won seven straight contests and earned their newfound lofty status."
No one's lining up to argue with him.