2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 10?

NFL StaffContributor INovember 9, 2021

2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 10?

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    Bleacher Report

    It was inevitable that the NFL would get turned on its head.

    The two-loss Buffalo Bills suffered the biggest jaw-dropper of Week 9, falling on the road to a team that hadn't won a game on U.S. soil since Week 1—of the 2020 season.

    The 6-1 Dallas Cowboys were pounded at home by a .500 Denver Broncos team. A one-loss Green Bay Packers team was forced to field its backup quarterback lost in Kansas City. Despite missing running back Derrick Henry, the Tennessee Titans rolled into Los Angeles and rocked the 7-1 Los Angeles Rams, and the Las Vegas Raiders lost their grip on sole possession of first place in the AFC West with a listless defeat in New York.

    It was the kind of wacky week that gives power rankings like these the old snow-globe treatment. But now that the shaking has subsided, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Brad Gagnon, Brent Sobleski and Gary Davenport have gathered to sift through the chaos and rank the NFL's teams from worst to first.

    The back end features the usual subjects, but the top five looks vastly different than it did one week ago.

32. Detroit Lions (0-8)

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    Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

    Last Week: 32

    Week 9 Result: Bye Week


    The good news for the Detroit Lions is that the team did not lose in Week 9.

    The bad news is that it took the bye week to dodge picking up another loss.

    Detroit's blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8 was the nadir of a season that has been nothing but low spots. It was a performance so atrocious that head coach Dan Campbell told team reporter Dannie Rogers he buried the game tape.

    Literally. In the ground:

    "You said put behind us, it's really bury it. As a matter of fact, that's what A.G. [defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn] did this week. They watched it and then they went outside and literally buried it under the ground. It's a good way to do it. ... It needed to be. It needed to be. So, we learned what we needed to learn from it and we buried it because we can't let that happen again."

    It would be great to say there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the Lions and the wins will start coming soon, but Detroit is 26th in total offense, 25th in total defense, 29th in scoring offense and 31st in scoring defense.

    The Lions are terrible. And they won't be not terrible for a while.

31. Houston Texans (1-8)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Last Week: 30

    Week 9 Result: Lost at Miami 17-9


    If you're the glass-half-full type, the Houston Texans have one positive after another atrocious performance in Miami: There is zero possibility they will lose next week.

    But that's only because they are on a bye in Week 10.

    In a season that has been filled with awful, the Texans hit a new low against the Dolphins. Facing a bottom-five Miami defense, quarterback Tyrod Taylor couldn't generate much offense. The team posted 272 total yards, had 14 first downs and was held out of the end zone.

    "So much for the return of Taylor making the Texans a more competitive team—he was picked off three times by the Dolphins and had a miserable QBR of 13.1," Davenport said. "Houston is a hot mess of a football team with holes galore on both sides of the ball. It'll take more than one year to fix things, even if the team lands a windfall of picks in a Deshaun Watson trade next offseason."

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Last Week: 31

    Week 9 Result: Won vs. Buffalo 9-6


    No result in Week 9 turned more heads than Jacksonville's stunning upset over the Buffalo Bills.

    Looking at the stat sheet, it's hard to pinpoint how the Jags pulled it off. Trevor Lawrence passed for only 118 yards, and a short-handed ground game averaged less than three yards a carry. Jacksonville had just 16 first downs and was outgained by over 80 yards.

    After the game, Lawrence credited a Jaguars defense that forced three turnovers and allowed six third-down conversions in 15 tries for carrying the team to victory.

    "Our defense today, that's one of the best defensive performances I've seen," he said. "It's just fun to watch. Really, they put us on their back."

    One win won't get the Jaguars to the postseason. It also won't remedy the team's numerous flaws.

    But it's a safe bet the Indianapolis Colts (Jacksonville's Week 10 opponent) won't take them as lightly as Buffalo seemingly did.

    "In the most mind-boggling result of the weekend, the once hapless Jaguars somehow managed a 9-6 victory over the Bills," Sobleski said. "Josh Allen—the Jacksonville version—came to play by attacking his Buffalo counterpart. The defensive end led the Jaguars with eight total tackles. He also registered a sack, two tackles for loss, a deflected pass, a recovered fumble and an interception. The Jaguars' season won't be a complete loss if their young players continue to develop and provide long-term promise."

29. Washington Football Team (2-6)

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    Last Week: 28

    Week 9 Result: Bye Week


    Things have not gone according to plan for the Washington Football Team in 2021. One analyst at Bleacher Report predicted the team would win the NFC East thanks to a stifling defense.

    Instead of fielding one of the best defenses in the NFL, it has put forth one of the worst. It ranks 29th in both total defense and scoring defense. After falling to the Broncos in Denver in Week 8, Washington hit the bye five games back of Dallas in the loss column and as losers of four games in a row.

    However, while Washington has stumbled this year, head coach Ron Rivera believes the team is headed in the right direction, per Michael Silver of the club's official website.

    "I know it's about winning—and that's what we're working toward," he said. "People want to see us win, and I get it. When you're not winning, it's hard to sit there and say, 'We're close.' But I have to look at it a different way. There are steps we've made that are positive, and if we keep taking steps, we'll get to where we need to go."

    The question is whether team owner Daniel Snyder agrees with that assessment enough to be patient with Rivera.

28. New York Jets (2-6)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Last Week: 27

    Week 9 Result: Lost at Indianapolis 45-30


    The New York Jets entered Week 9 with something rarer than politeness in the Big Apple in recent years: positive momentum.

    Said momentum didn't make it out of the first quarter of Thursday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

    After a punt on the first drive of the game, quarterback Mike White led the Jets on an eight-play, 75-yard march that culminated in a 19-yard touchdown pass to rookie Elijah Moore that tied the game at 7-7.

    However, White also injured his forearm, and the hero of the Week 8 upset of the Cincinnati Bengals was done for the night.

    His injury might not have been the biggest factor in the loss, though, as New York gave up 260 yards on the ground. The defense also suffered a devastating injury as safety Marcus Maye went down with a torn Achilles tendon.

    This team cannot afford to lose arguably its best defensive player.

    So much for the good times at MetLife Stadium.

27. Miami Dolphins (2-7)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Last Week: 29

    Week 9 Result: Won vs. Houston 17-9


    Good news has been hard to come by in Miami. After a victory in Week 1, it peeled off seven consecutive losses—more than the team had in 2020.

    As if that wasn't bad enough, starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was a late scratch with a finger injury. That forced Jacoby Brissett back into the starting lineup, and the Dolphins struggled to move the ball earlier in the season with the backup under center.

    Miami didn't chew up real estate Sunday against the Texans—the team managed just 262 yards of offense and turned it over five times. But thanks to an opportunistic defense that forced four turnovers and held Houston out of the end zone, the Dolphins were finally able to halt their skid.

    It was the epitome of an ugly win, but head coach Brian Flores made it clear that he'll take a victory any way he can get one.

    "It's good to get a win," he told reporters. "Always good to get a win."

    The fun will likely be short lived. The Dolphins have a quick turnaround as they host the 6-2 Ravens on Thursday night. If they play at the same level as they did against the hapless Texans, things are going to get ugly.

26. Chicago Bears (3-6)

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    Fred Vuich/Associated Press

    Last Week: 25

    Week 9 Result: Lost at Pittsburgh 29-27

    There are no moral victories in the NFL.

    Some will point to Monday's two-point loss in Pittsburgh as a step in the right direction for the Chicago Bears. They trailed 20-6 in the final quarter only to come roaring back and briefly take the lead.

    But, again, there are no moral victories in the NFL.

    Rookie quarterback Justin Fields had easily his best game as a pro, throwing for 291 yards and adding another 45 on the ground. It was a good sign for the young signal-caller, to be sure.

    But there are no moral victories in the NFL.

    There were just too many turnovers, too many blown assignments defensively and way too many penalties. The Bears played well enough to win and then shot themselves in the foot. And at 3-6 entering the bye, Chicago's playoff hopes are already on life support.

    Good teams find a way to win games like this. Bad teams find a way to lose them.

    The Bears are a bad team.

25. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Last Week: 24

    Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Chargers 27-24


    With the Philadelphia Eagles' struggles, there has been grumbling about benching quarterback Jalen Hurts for backup Gardner Minshew.

    The Eagles lost a heartbreaker at home Sunday to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 9 and attempted just 17 passes. But after the game, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni didn't sound like a man who was considering a change under center.

    "[Hurts] was a stud," he told reporters. "He was a big-time stud. I mean, I've got a lot of respect for [Chargers head coach] Brandon Staley, they knew we were moving the ball really well on offense, and he didn't leave anything—I'm pretty confident he didn't leave anything on his call sheet."

    Hurts posted more yards per attempt in this game than Justin Herbert and connected five times with DeVonta Smith for 116 yards and a score. This isn't to say he is the long-term answer under center in Philadelphia. But after 20 starts with the Jacksonville Jaguars, we rather know what Minshew is.

    With just 13 starts, the same can't be said about Hurts.

24. San Francisco 49ers (3-5)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Last Week: 22

    Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Arizona 31-17


    It wasn't supposed to be like this in San Francisco in 2021. After the 2020 season was shredded by injuries, a healthier 49ers squad was going to get back in the mix in the NFC West.

    Um, about that...

    After getting flattened by an Arizona team short of its starting quarterback, No. 1 wide receiver and top running back, the Niners are down four games in the loss column in the NFC West. Head coach Kyle Shanahan didn't hold back when asked by reporters about his team's performance.

    "We didn't play very well today at all," he said. "I was real disappointed. I thought we'd played really well. We had a good week of practice that we'd even improved from the week prior, but obviously, it didn't go that way."

    With the loss, any chance the Niners had of winning the division is gonesville. As they get precariously close to playing for pride, it's fair to wonder when Shanahan will get rookie quarterback Trey Lance more game reps—and whether a head coach who is eight games under .500 in San Francisco could find the seat under him warming up.

23. Carolina Panthers (4-5)

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Last Week: 19

    Week 9 Result: Lost vs. New England 24-6


    Each week, an unpleasant reality is becoming harder to ignore in Carolina.

    Sam Darnold is not the long-term answer for the Panthers.

    On a day when the Panthers saw running back Christian McCaffrey return, the Carolina offense spent most of their loss to the New England Patriots with the offense stuck in neutral. Darnold was mostly terrible: 16 completions in 33 attempts for 172 yards and three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

    That's right. Darnold created more scoring for the Patriots on Sunday than he did for the Panthers.

    He credited New England's defense for disguising coverages.

    "They play man coverage and try to create picks and create confusion up front," he told reporters. "I think that's the biggest thing they do and they do a really good job of it. But I think it comes down to my decision-making. We had guys in places that we wanted and just couldn't get them the ball and I turned it over a few too many times."

    Given Darnold spent his first three seasons in the NFL playing for a team that takes on New England twice a year, the fact that he's still seeing ghosts against the Patriots isn't a good look.

    "The implosion has started," Sobleski said. "After a relatively strong start to the season, Darnold has been atrocious in recent weeks. Carolina has lost five of its last six games after starting 3-0. During that span, Darnold completed 54.8 percent of his passes with a 4-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The quarterback hasn't rushed for a score since Week 4 either. Teammates don't seem thrilled about Darnold's performance."

22. Minnesota Vikings (3-5)

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Last Week: 23

    Week 9 Result: Lost at Baltimore 34-31 (OT)


    For a time Sunday, it appeared the Minnesota Vikings were on their way to a statement win over the Baltimore Ravens that would have lifted them back to .500 and helped them get back into the mix in the NFC North.

    But where 2021 is concerned, no team is better at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory than the Vikings.

    Minnesota held a seven-point halftime lead, and that lead ballooned to 14 points on a kick-return touchdown to start the second half. But from there, the Vikes would be outscored 24-7 before falling by seven or fewer points for the fifth time in 2021.

    "Minnesota's Week 9 loss is a metaphor for the past few seasons in the Twin Cities," Davenport said. "In spurts, the Vikings look like a team that can hang with anyone. But when the going gets tough and the scoreboard tightens up, much more often than not, the Vikings come up short.

    "Blame for that inability to win the close ones doesn't fall solely on quarterback Kirk Cousins or head coach Mike Zimmer. But these Vikings are mired in mediocrity, and unless some big changes are made, that is likely where they will stay."

21. Atlanta Falcons (4-4)

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    Last Week: 26

    Week 9 Result: Won at New Orleans 27-25


    Somehow, the Atlanta Falcons aren't going away.

    They didn't play a balanced game Sunday in New Orleans. The ground game was essentially nonexistent against one of the best run defenses in the league: 34 rushing yards and 1.4 yards a carry.

    But the Falcons have an MVP quarterback to lead the offense, so Matt Ryan put the team on his back, throwing for 343 yards and two scores. Cordarrelle Patterson continued his breakout season as well, piling up 136 total yards on 15 touches.

    It was Atlanta's biggest win of the season, and after peeling off three wins in four games, the Falcons have worked their way into playoff contention. If the season ended today, they would have the seventh and final spot in the NFC playoffs.

    Of course, the season doesn't end for a while yet, and starting with next week's trip to Dallas, the Falcons play three games in four weeks against teams with winning records.

    Keeping that seventh spot (or moving up) won't be easy.

20. New York Giants (3-6)

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Last Week: 21

    Week 9 Result: Won vs. Las Vegas 23-16


    Fans of the New York Giants haven't had a lot to cheer about in 2021. Big Blue entered Sunday's matchup with the AFC West-leading Las Vegas Raiders as a two-win team that had dropped three of its last four games.

    Upsetting the Raiders at home doesn't erase their problems, but it had to feel awfully good to notch another win against a team with a winning record.

    The Giants went the old-school route. Of the team's 54 total plays, 31 were runs. Backup running back Devontae Booker had a solid afternoon, piling up 122 total yards. That total topped the 110 passing yards Daniel Jones had, but New York's young quarterback was efficient, posting a passer rating of 104.2.

    The biggest story for the Giants was the defense. New York gave up plenty of yards—403 of them. But the team made big plays when it needed to, causing three turnovers and scoring on a Xavier McKinney pick-six.

    New York heads into its bye week, and that off week won't be spent lamenting another defeat.

    "I really like this Giants team, even if they continue to take advantage of teams in horrendous shape." Gagnon wrote. "The offense hasn't been good but hasn't been healthy, and the defense has given up just 13.0 points per game the last three weeks."

19. Seattle Seahawks (3-5)

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Last Week: 18

    Week 9 Result: Bye Week


    The bye week in Seattle has been dominated by one story: Russell Wilson watch.

    The Seahawks finally secured a win with Geno Smith under center, blowing out the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8. But that came after three consecutive losses. They are 3-5 in a division with a pair of one-loss teams entering the week, so their margin for error in 2021 has evaporated.

    Seattle needs its star quarterback back for next week's tilt with the Green Bay Packers. It's a fact that Pete Carroll is well aware of, telling reporters in Week 7 that he might not still be a head coach if it wasn't for the superstar signal-caller who dropped into his lap.

    "Think of all the magic that he's created in the years," Carroll said. "He's got numbers and stats, and fourth quarters, this's and that's, and all of that stuff. One of the winningest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. And it will be really fun when he comes back and plays football again for us this year. And we owe a tremendous amount."

    Fortunately for Carroll and the Seahawks, Wilson has been cleared to return and is on track to start in Green Bay on Sunday.

    It's great news for a team that desperately needs to stack some wins.

18. Denver Broncos (5-4)

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Last Week: 20

    Week 9 Result: Won at Dallas 30-16


    The early slate of games in Week 9 had no shortage of surprises. One of the biggest had to be the Denver Broncos' waxing of the one-loss Cowboys in Dallas.

    This game was nowhere as close as the final score indicates—the Broncos scored the game's first 30 points. Denver outgained one of the league's most potent offenses by over 100 yards, held the Cowboys to 290 yards of offense (many of which came with the contest decided), forced two turnovers and sacked Dak Prescott twice.

    It was a great ending to a not-so-great week that saw maybe the best defensive player in franchise history (edge-rusher Von Miller) traded to the Los Angeles Rams. And since the Raiders got stunned by the Giants, the Broncos are back in the conversation in the AFC West ahead of a winnable Week 10 matchup at Mile High with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    "Sunday's big win in Dallas provided a blueprint for how the Broncos can make the playoffs," Davenport said. "Even without Miller, the Broncos are a good defensive team, and when Denver can get after it defensively, run the football and avoid mistakes, this team could threaten for a wild-card berth at least."

17. Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Last Week: 17

    Week 9 Result: Won vs. New York Jets 45-30


    The Indianapolis Colts aren't easy to get a bead on.

    In Week 8, they looked like a deeply flawed team prone to making mistakes in a loss to the Tennessee Titans that dropped them three games back in the AFC South.

    Against the New York Jets in Week 9, the Colts looked like a team that can't be counted out of the AFC playoff picture.

    Thursday's emphatic win was all about the ground game. Running back Jonathan Taylor piled up 200 total yards and two touchdowns, while the Colts ran for the most single-game yardage (260) in the league this season.

    Next week's tilt with the lowly Jaguars offers the Colts an excellent opportunity to get back to .500. But earning even a wild-card spot in the 2021 playoffs won't be easy. After the Jaguars, Indy's last seven games include home dates with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders and trips to face the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals.

16. New Orleans Saints (5-3)

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    Last Week: 11

    Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Atlanta 27-25


    Last week, the New Orleans Saints upset the Tampa Bay Buccaneers despite the loss of starting quarterback Jameis Winston.

    New Orleans wasn't so fortunate in Week 9.

    To be fair, it wasn't Trevor Siemian's fault that the Saints lost to their division rivals. He played well, connecting on 25 of 41 passes for 249 yards and two scores without an interception.

    Surprisingly, the defense was a letdown against the Falcons. New Orleans allowed a big game from Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan even though Atlanta didn't have top wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

    The loss made New Orleans' stay atop the NFC South a short one. It should serve as a reminder that while the Saints are a good team, the loss of Winston and absence of top wideout Michael Thomas leaves New Orleans with little margin for error offensively.

    Things won't get any easier. New Orleans faces the surging Tennessee Titans next week, and home dates with Buffalo and Dallas loom.

15. Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)

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    John Munson/Associated Press

    Last Week: 12

    Week 9 Result: Lost at New York Giants 23-16


    After a tumultuous off week marred by the arrest and release of wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, the Las Vegas Raiders were likely glad to get back to actually playing football.

    But if they were, it didn't show.

    The Raiders played their worst game of the season in falling to a two-win Giants team at MetLife Stadium. There was ugliness all around. On offense, the Raiders turned the ball over three times, converted just four of 12 third downs and were a pitiful 1-of-6 in the red zone. Defensively, the Raiders allowed New York's 26th-ranked rushing attack to pile up 149 yards.

    It was a sloppy loss that did considerable damage to the notion that the Raiders are real contenders in the AFC.

    "Just when you think the Raiders can be taken seriously as a legit contender, the team goes out and lays an egg against a bad Giants team," Davenport said. "It certainly ratchets up the pressure on Vegas ahead of next week's showdown with the Chiefs, after which the Raiders host the Cincinnati Bengals and travel to face the Dallas Cowboys. After what we saw Sunday, confidence that the Raiders will weather that stretch well is shaken—badly."

    "I always figured the Raiders would come back to earth eventually, and it's happening now," Gagnon added. "In their defense, they've been forced to endure a lot of off-field issues, but that doesn't change the fact the roster just isn't deep enough for them to be consistently strong. And now the schedule's about to become a lot more treacherous. They're in big trouble."

    Those off-field issues just won't end. Not even a week after releasing Ruggs, another first-round pick from the 2020 draft was shown the door. The Raiders released Damon Arnette after a video surfaced of the young cornerback brandishing weapons and making threats.

14. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    Last Week: 10

    Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Cleveland 41-16


    Cincinnati's hot start to the 2021 season was one of the NFL's more pleasant surprises, but the bandwagon hit a bump in the road when it was stunned on the road by the Jets.

    Against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, that bandwagon blew a tire and wound up in a ditch.

    The Bengals weren't just beaten by their in-state rivals in Week 9. They were blasted in just about every way imaginable. Joe Burrow struggled against the Browns, failing to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season and tossing a pair of interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown).

    Defensively, Cincinnati had no answer for Cleveland running back Nick Chubb, allowing almost 10 yards a carry and surrendering a 70-yard score.

    After walloping the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7, the Bengals sat in first place in the AFC's toughest division. Just two short weeks later, they are 5-4 and stuck in an all-too familiar spot: last place in the division.

    "Collectively, everyone jumped on the Bengals bandwagon a little too early," Sobleski wrote. "After a Week 7 victory over the Ravens, Cincinnati lost two in a row to the woeful New York Jets and rebounding Cleveland Browns, who endured a week's worth of drama and off-field baggage thanks to Odell Beckham Jr. Yet, Cleveland crushed Cincinnati.

    "The most worrisome part about the performance is the Bengals' offensive effort. Cincinnati's front struggled to protect Burrow. When it did, the team's talented receivers played small."

13. Cleveland Browns (5-4)

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    Emilee Chinn/Associated Press

    Last Week: 16

    Week 9 Result: Won at Cincinnati 41-16


    It was an eventful week in Cleveland, with the Odell Beckham Jr. saga concluding with the mercurial wide receiver's release.

    That Cleveland's first game without Beckham was easily the team's best performance of the season would seem to indicate the team made the right play.

    The Browns scored as many points Sunday in Cincinnati as they did in Weeks 6, 7 and 8 combined. Running back Nick Chubb gashed the Bengals for 137 yards and two touchdowns despite carrying the ball just 14 times. Quarterback Baker Mayfield quietly completed two-thirds of his pass attempts, threw two touchdown passes and finished with a passer rating of 132.6.

    The defense held up its end too. Edge-rusher Myles Garrett continued to bolster his case for Defensive Player of the Year honors, adding 1.5 sacks to his league-leading total. Cleveland forced three turnovers, with cornerback Denzel Ward returning a Joe Burrow interception 99 yards for a touchdown.

    "Why the Browns play better without Beckham than with him is one of life's great mysteries," Davenport said. "But they do. Sunday's blowout win was Cleveland's best effort of the year on both sides of the ball, but things don't get any easier from here. Week 10 brings another tough matchup with considerable playoff ramifications when the Browns head to Foxborough to face the 5-4 Patriots."

    "I'm not quite ready to give up on the Browns, who smartly moved on from Beckham and then lit up an improved division rival on the road," Gagnon added. "Chubb is healthy and killing it again, and I wonder if Mayfield is in for a strong second half for the second year in a row."

12. Kansas City Chiefs (5-4)

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Last Week: 13

    Week 9 Result: Won vs. Green Bay 13-7


    The good news for the Chiefs is that after taking care of an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, Kansas City is above .500 for the first time since starting the season 1-0.

    The bad news is that based on how the Chiefs looked in that game, none of the issues that have led to the team losing twice as many games in seven weeks as they did all of last season have been fixed.

    The offense continues to sputter. Kansas City managed just 237 yards of offense Sunday, and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for just 166 yards, his fewest ever in a full game.

    However, despite that lackluster day, Mahomes insisted to reporters after the game that the Chiefs are getting better.

    "I feel like we're close," he said. "You can see drives here and there where we're the team everybody knows and loves, but you have to consistently do that throughout every single drive in a game. We're just not executing."

    Mahomes had better hope he's right, because from here on out, the schedule is pretty brutal. So brutal, in fact, that the Chiefs don't have a game the rest of the way against a team that presently sports a losing record.

    "Maybe we should accept the fact the Chiefs just aren't very good," Sobleski said. "Obviously, everyone already knew the defense wasn't any good. But the types of plays that historically went Mahomes' way early in his career are now going against him and becoming turnovers. He's forcing things. As a result, the Chiefs offense just seems out of sorts. When the group clicks, it can still be special. It's not consistent enough, though." 

11. New England Patriots (5-4)

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Last Week: 15

    Week 9 Result: Won at Carolina 24-6


    Don't look now, but the New England Patriots might actually be good. 

    Mind you, the Patriots didn't exactly light up the scoreboard Sunday in Charlotte. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones threw for just 139 yards while turning it over twice, and the Pats averaged less than four yards a carry.

    But even at 3.9 yards a pop, the yardage piles up when you run the ball 39 times. That ground game helped keep Carolina's offense off the field. And when the Panthers did get out there, they didn't do much. Carolina gained just 240 total yards and notched only 13 first downs while committing three turnovers (including a pick-six).

    The win was New England's third in a row, and coupled with Buffalo's stunning loss in Jacksonville, the Pats are now just one game back of the Bills with two head-to-head meetings between the two later this season.

    Even if the AFC East does go to the Bills, New England's combination of a strong ground game and stout defense should keep it in the thick of the wild-card hunt.

    "Never count out the Bill Belichicks, who are now just a half-game back of the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills," Gagnon said. "They haven't lost a game in regulation since Week 4, and even then, they put up a hell of a fight against Tom Brady and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Don't forget that this team is a lot better on paper than last year's, and it's just getting acclimated after a lot of offseason changes. The Patriots will make the playoffs, and they might even have a shot at yet another divisional crown." 

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Last Week: 14  

    Week 9 Result: Won vs. Chicago 29-27


    At the end of the day, the only stat that matters in the NFL is the final score. And in the final game of Week 9, the Pittsburgh Steelers ended the game with more points than the Chicago Bears.

    The Steelers have now peeled off four consecutive victories after a 1-3 start and are hot on the heels of the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.

    However, it's understandable if quite a few Pittsburgh fans are a tad uneasy right now.

    This was a game the Steelers led 20-6 in the fourth quarter before allowing three touchdowns in the final period. They struggled (again) to get the ground game going, with rookie running back Najee Harris gaining just 62 yards on 22 carries. A suspect secondary was exposed by a rookie quarterback in Justin Fields who hasn't exactly been lighting it up.

    Those shortcomings didn't matter against a bad Bears team. They probably won't matter next week against an even worse Detroit Lions team. But seven of Pittsburgh's last eight games come against teams that presently sport a winning record.

    And against those teams, those shortcomings could be a real problem.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (5-3)

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Last Week: 9

    Week 9 Result: Won at Philadelphia 27-24


    By the time the Los Angeles Chargers took the field Sunday in Philadelphia, the Bolts knew the Las Vegas Raiders had fallen to the Giants. With a win over the Eagles, the Chargers could get back into a tie for first place in the AFC West.

    The Chargers didn't rack up the style points, but thanks to 356 passing yards and two scores from young quarterback Justin Herbert, Los Angeles did indeed move into that tie for the top spot in the division.

    Herbert's performance drew raves from Chargers head coach Brandon Staley.

    "Justin was patient today, he was extremely accurate, he played with good timing and our offensive line had a lot do with that," he told reporters. "Justin was outstanding."

    "Nine weeks in, it has become apparent that there is no front-runner in the AFC West," Davenport said. "In a battle this close, winning the division could well come down to which team has the best quarterback. It may cause some head-shaking and eye-rolling, but right now, Herbert is outplaying all of his AFC West counterparts—Patrick Mahomes included."

8. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Last Week: 6

    Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Denver 30-16


    Most people expected the Dallas Cowboys to have little trouble dispatching the Denver Broncos in Week 9. After all, the Cowboys hadn't lost since Week 1 and would be getting star quarterback Dak Prescott back after he missed Week 8 with a calf injury.

    Most people were about as wrong as wrong can be.

    Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Cowboys did on Sunday. Offensively, the team was held under 300 total yards, converted just five of 13 third downs and misfired all four times they went for it on fourth down.

    The defense didn't fare much better. Facing a Denver offense that hasn't exactly thrived this season, the Cowboys were gashed for 190 yards on the ground. The Broncos also converted eight of their 15 third-down tries and possessed the ball well over twice as long as the Cowboys.

    Running back Ezekiel Elliott (who was in and out of the lineup on Sunday due to a knee injury) didn't mince words while speaking to reporters after the game.

    "I think we came out and didn't play very well, didn't execute," he said. "We felt ready, we felt prepared going into this game, but at the end of the day, they were more physical than us and we didn't execute good enough."

    The Cowboys' grip on first place in the NFC East remains strong, but their status as a Super Bowl contender wobbled a bit with this disappointing outcome.

7. Green Bay Packers (7-2)

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Last Week: 3

    Week 9 Result: Lost at Kansas City 13-7


    At some point in the not-too-distant future, the torch at quarterback in Green Bay is going to be passed from Aaron Rodgers to Jordan Love.

    Nothing that happened in Kansas City is going to spur the Packers to accelerate that timetable, though.

    With Rodgers sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19, Love made the first start of his NFL career Sunday against the Chiefs. He wasn't terrible, but he wasn't great either: 19 completions in 34 attempts for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Packers scored just seven points against a Chiefs defense that ranks 26th in yards per game allowed and 24th in scoring defense.

    The Chiefs blitzed Love early and often, and head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters after the loss that the blame for Green Bay's struggles against all that pressure rests with him more than his young quarterback.

    "I thought our guys battled," he said. "I thought Jordan, I was really proud of the way he played. He hung in there, he was taking hits and delivering the ball. I thought he did a really good job. But I think that, ultimately, I've got to be better and this one falls squarely on me."

    It could have been worse; two more of the NFC's one-loss teams lost in Week 9, as did the Minnesota Vikings. But it was evident Sunday that Green Bay's status as a Super Bowl contender depends on Rodgers being under center.

6. Buffalo Bills (5-3)

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Last Week: 2

    Week 9 Result: Lost at Jacksonville 9-6


    Not that long ago, the Buffalo Bills were considered by many the front-runners to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LVI. Even after a Week 6 loss to Tennessee, they worked their way into the No. 2 slot in these power rankings, highest of any AFC team.

    After losing to what may be the NFL's worst team, that's no longer the case.

    Facing a Jags team that ranks well outside the top 20 in both total defense and scoring defense, the Bills were able to manage just 301 yards of offense and two field goals. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen had easily his worst game of the season, throwing a pair of interceptions and losing a fumble. Buffalo just didn't play well on either side of the ball.

    Allen didn't hold back when asked by reporters about the team's performance after the game.

    "We played like s--t and it starts with me," he said. "This loss stings, but we will be better because of it."

    It may just have been an off week that the Bills will rebound from in a big way against the Jets. But after two losses in the last three games, their lead in the AFC East is down to a single game in the loss column, and with two of the next three games on the schedule against teams that made the playoffs last year, they need to shake off this exceptionally bad loss quickly.

    "They might still have the second-best scoring margin in the league," Gagnon said, "but a 5-3 record following a loss to the lowly Jaguars is quite concerning. Allen has not been consistent this season, and the Bills are quite prone to duds. They'll be in the mix, but they're likely feeling Belichick's breath on their necks."

5. Baltimore Ravens (6-2)

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Last Week: 8

    Week 9 Result: Won vs. Minnesota 34-31 (OT)


    The Baltimore Ravens appear to enjoy cutting things close. For the third time this season, it took extra time for a game involving them to be decided. And for the second time, it was the Ravens who came away with the victory.

    In many respects, the game was a microcosm of the Ravens as a team. There were good things, whether it was the 386 total yards posted by quarterback Lamar Jackson or the nine passes for 116 yards hauled in by wide receiver Marquise Brown.

    With that said, there was bad as well. Jackson threw two interceptions, and Baltimore had to dig out of a 14-point hole in the second half.

    Head coach John Harbaugh told reporters after the game that he'll take the win, although he'd like to see the team stop making so many preventable mistakes.

    "Take what you can, give away nothing—that's winning football. We've done a lot of giving," he said. "But we've also done a lot of overcoming. I'd like to cut down on the giving, even though it's Thanksgiving coming up. We'll be thankful for the overcoming."

    Still, the NFL is a results-driven business, and nine weeks into the season, Baltimore has a firm grip on first place in the AFC North.

4. Tennessee Titans (7-2)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Last Week: 7

    Week 9 Result: Won at Los Angeles Rams 28-16


    When the Tennessee Titans lost running back Derrick Henry to a serious foot injury, many assumed it was a season-killer and that any chance Tennessee had of a deep playoff run went up in a puff of smoke.

    It would seem that no one told the Titans. Because in their first game without Henry, Tennessee played its best game of the season in knocking off a Rams team that topped these power rankings a week ago.

    This was a game in which the Titans failed to accrue even 200 yards of offense, Without Henry, the team averaged a pitiful 2.7 yards per carry.

    But the Titans defense stepped up in a big way Sunday night, keeping the Rams' prolific offense in check and forcing a pair of turnovers, one of which was returned for a touchdown by safety Kevin Byard.

    "I will freely admit that I thought the Rams would roll here, and I still have my doubts as to whether the Titans can make real noise in the playoffs with an offense that spent most of Sunday night's game stuck in neutral," Davenport said. "But over the past month or so, the Titans have blasted the Chiefs, beaten the Bills and romped on the Rams. I'm not entirely sure how they are doing it, but the Titans keep winning—and keep climbing these rankings."

3. Los Angeles Rams (7-2)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Last Week: 1

    Week 9 Result: Lost vs. Tennessee 28-16


    Just when you think you have the NFL figured out, it throws you a curveball.

    The Los Angeles Rams entered Sunday night's meeting with the Tennessee Titans in excellent shape to move to 8-1 on the season. They were arguably the league's most balanced team, and the Titans were reeling from the loss of star running back Derrick Henry.

    So, of course, the Titans thumped the Rams in a game that wasn't as close as the final score. The Rams dominated most statistical categories, including outgaining the Titans by 153 yards. But Tennessee took full advantage of two Matthew Stafford interceptions, building a 21-3 halftime lead and never looking back.

    The loss drops the Rams a game back of the NFC West-leading Cardinals (with a head-to-head loss to the Redbirds). And with two NFC West games (including a rematch with Arizona) and a trip to Green Bay looming over the next four games, Stafford and Co. need to shake off this loss and tighten things up before the division gets away from them.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Last Week: 4

    Week 9 Result: Bye Week


    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers headed into their bye week in a relatively strange position (at least for them): coming off a loss.

    Mind you, it's hardly time for hand-wringing. At 6-2, the Buccaneers have the same record eight games in this year as last, and that campaign ended pretty well.

    But at this point last year, the Bucs proceeded to drop three of their next four games, which wound up costing the team the NFC South.

    There are reasons for concern for the 2021 Buccaneers over the second half of the season, primarily on defense. Tampa's patchwork secondary ranks in the middle of the league in pass defense, and the Buccaneers just gave up 36 points to a Saints team that was led most of the game by a backup to the backup under center.

    Barring a catastrophe, the Bucs are headed back to the playoffs. The team is loaded on offense, and the run defense remains one of the NFL's best.

    That loss in New Orleans was a reminder that these Buccaneers aren't invincible. But as Sobleski noted, they remain one of the NFC's best teams.

    "The Buccaneers didn't need to do anything to climb back near the top of the rankings. While Tampa Bay sat at home thanks to its bye, the team watched as other top contenders—other than the Arizona Cardinals—fell by the wayside this weekend," he said. "The universe is rectifying itself since the Bucs still own one of the league's most talented and deepest squads. They're going to be in the thick of things throughout the entire process."

1. Arizona Cardinals (8-1)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    Last Week: 5

    Week 9 Result: Won at San Francisco 31-17


    The Arizona Cardinals were hit with a double whammy in Week 8 against the Green Bay Packers. Not only did the team suffer its first loss of the season, but quarterback Kyler Murray also suffered an ankle injury that would prevent him from playing in Week 9 against the San Francisco 49ers.

    Murray wasn't the only prominent Cardinals player who sat out the game. Star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was sidelined by a hamstring injury, and running back Chase Edmonds made it all of one carry into the contest before he was hurt as well.

    None of that mattered even a little. Thanks to an efficient day passing from backup quarterback Colt McCoy and 173 total yards and three touchdowns from running back James Conner, the Cardinals handled the 49ers with relative ease on the way to claiming sole possession of first place in the NFC West.

    "The Cardinals have already had more than a few impressive moments in 2021, but blasting the Niners down their three best players on offense takes the cake," Davenport said. "Arizona still has two games with Seattle and one more tilt with the Los Angeles Rams, but the season sweep of San Francisco is just that much more evidence that Arizona is the team to beat in the NFC West."