Super Bowl hopefuls Philadelphia and Jacksonville both fall in the power rankings after losses, but there isn’t much of a shift in this week’s NFL power rankings.
1. Los Angeles Rams (7-0) | Last week: 1
Aaron Donald (career-high four sacks) and the Rams defense was dominant against the Niners as the team improved to 7-0. The next four games (Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle, Kansas City) is probably the toughest stretch of the regular season for the Rams, but three of those games are at home (the Saints game is on the road). Hopefully wide receiver Cooper Kupp is back on the field soon, as they could use him in some potential upcoming shootouts as they look to keep their undefeated season going.
2. New England Patriots (5-2) | Last week: 2
New England’s defense has allowed 400+ yards in each of the last three games, with point totals of 24, 40, and 31 given up in those contests. But they’ve gone 3-0 in that stretch, as Tom Brady and the offense—with former All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon getting more comfortable by the week—lighting it up. Special teams came up big in Sunday’s win in Chicago, as they had both a blocked punt for a touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown by the explosive Cordarrelle Patterson. Star rookie running back Sony Michel thankfully escaped structural damage to his knee, and the Patriots need him for the great balance on offense they’ve shown since he took over as the lead runner in Week 4.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1) | Last week: 3
After his 358-yard, four-touchdown performance in Sunday night’s rout of the Bengals, Patrick Mahomes has four-plus touchdown passes in four of his seven starts this season; and it’s scary because it felt like Kareem Hunt (three touchdowns) was the star of the offense against Cincinnati. Andy Reid continues to reign in his young gunslinger, as Mahomes’ interception in the primetime win came on a rare underthrow of Tyreek Hill—something he probably won’t let happen again given his arm strength. Kansas City didn’t even punt in the game. Also, the much-maligned Chiefs defense made adjustments and took away A.J. Green in the second half; the unit can cause issues for opposing offenses, especially at home.
4. New Orleans Saints (5-1) | Last week: 4
Drew Brees is underrated for how great he is, and the future Hall of Famer’s poise late in games might be the most underappreciated asset about his play. On the road against the league’s No. 1 defense, Brees led the Saints to 17 fourth-quarter points in their 24-23 victory over the Ravens. Brees also joined Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with 500 touchdown passes in a career. Defensively, the secondary must play better, and John Brown getting wide-open for a touchdown that would’ve tied the game with an extra point can’t happen. Perhaps former first-round pick Eli Apple, who was acquired from the Giants in a trade, will find his footing and help the backend.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (5-2) | Last week: 5
Despite being down an elite weapon on offense (Melvin Gordon) and playing about halfway across the world in London, the Chargers came away with another win to improve to 5-2 this season. Philip Rivers and the offense rode a couple of long touchdown passes (Tyrell Williams for 75 yards and Mike Williams for 55 yards) and some key defensive stops (a red-zone interception and the two-point conversion stop at the end of the game) en route to the victory. The Chargers are carrying over their success toward the end of last season, and they’re clearly one of the best teams in the league. Remember, star pass rusher Joey hasn’t even played this season, but he could return after the team’s Week 8 bye.
6. Baltimore Ravens (4-3) | Last week: 6
For a while, Baltimore’s defense won the battle against New Orleans’ offense, allowing just seven points through three quarters. But they finally gave up their first second-half touchdowns of the season (which is remarkable they hadn’t given up any through six games), allowing 17 points in the Week 7 loss. Joe Flacco and the offense drove down field for a potential game-tying touchdown, but the stunning miss by Justin Tucker robbed everyone of an overtime period. Credit to Tucker for being a stand-up teammate and taking full responsibility for the miss, but I think the wind was a major factor; and that was going to happen sometime after the all-time great kicker was 222-for-222 in extra points in his career. Also, the miss is another example of why moving back the extra point was a bad move by the NFL—a great touchdown drive like that in a seven-point game should be more of a chip-shot for the point-after.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1) | Last week: 7
Now back from their bye week, there’s still no sign of Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh. It’s probably going to be an awkward situation if/when Bell returns to the team, but it’s tough not being able to trade the All-Pro without him signing his franchise tender—which is why people believe Bell, who apparently doesn’t want to be traded, isn’t showing up until after the October 30 trade deadline. Anyway, James Conner has been exceptional and is the team’s top running back, and this week against the Browns isn’t going to be the last time he makes a big impact—no matter what Bell does. This game at Heinz Field is the Steelers’ first crack at No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, so there’ll be a lot of energy for the AFC North matchup.
8. Washington Redskins (4-2) | Last week: 12 (+4)
With a big win over the Cowboys and a loss by the Eagles, the Redskins are in a good position in the NFC East right now. While Alex Smith isn’t playing great, he’s winning games just like he did in Kansas City and at the end of his time in San Francisco; Washington should feel very good about him quarterbacking the team. Also, Adrian Peterson has 96+ yards rushing in four of his six games this season, which is leading to a balanced offensive attack. The defense is very tough, but the secondary must get more consistent moving forward. The Redskins, who were without Chris Thompson, Jamison Crowder, and Paul Richardson in the win over the Cowboys, will look to get healthier for an NFC East showdown with the Giants this Sunday.
9. Minnesota Vikings (4-2-1) | Last week: 9
That defensive performance against rookie quarterback Sam Darnold and the Jets was more like it for a Vikings unit that hasn’t been dominant this season. Kirk Cousins has been playing very well, but Minnesota is probably at its best when they run the ball instead of just slinging it around the field. Dalvin Cook continues to deal with hamstring issues that have limited him to just three games this season, but Latavius Murray is a legit No. 1 option at running back and is helping deliver balance on offense. Not enough good things can be said about Adam Thielen, who has worked his way into a near-unstoppable receiver and has 100 yards receiving in every game this season.
10. Green Bay Packers (3-2-1) | Last week: 10
Hopefully the bye week allowed Aaron Rodgers’ knee to get in better shape, and wide receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison should also be closer to full strength and could return to the lineup this Sunday for a potential shootout with the Rams. Additionally, Green Bay could use cornerback Jaire Alexander, who should be set to return from his groin injury, to matchup with Sean McVay’s offense. Knocking off the NFL’s last unbeaten team would be a huge momentum builder for the Packers, who probably have the toughest two-game stretch of any team in the league as face the Patriots in Foxoboro after this matchup in LA.
11. Carolina Panthers (4-2) | Last week: 13 (+2)
For most of the game, the Panthers looked like the inferior team against the defending champs in Philadelphia, but Cam Newton and company stormed back for 17 unanswered points and the defense came up with a key stop to seal the win. Eric Reid needs to tone it down a bit, as bringing his beef with Malcolm Jenkins over the national anthem onto the field right before a game is selfish and not the way to handle things—just as Tony Dungy said on NBC Sunday night. Does Reid want every player to be a radical and/or kneel for the anthem? The Players Coalition, with Jenkins as a member, got the NFL to donate nearly $100 million to social justice organizations—that’s actually getting something done. Nevertheless, Carolina will look to carry the momentum from their win to a potential slugfest with the Ravens this weekend.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (4-3) | Last week: 8 (-4)
Facing the Chiefs in Arrowhead is no easy task, but that was a pretty bad loss for the Bengals. The team’s primetime woes are legit, as they’re now 1-9 on Sunday Night Football in Marvin Lewis’ tenure. The good news is the Bengals don’t have any more primetime games this season (unless another game is flexed into Sunday night), and they’re still right there with the Steelers and Ravens near the top of the AFC North. Cincinnati should have a much better showing this week as they return home to face Tampa Bay.
13. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) | Last week: 11 (-2)
Carson Wentz had one of the best games of his career throwing the football, but the Eagles were only able to put up 17 points in a close loss to the Panthers. It’s almost unbelievable the team gave up 14 points with under five minutes remaining considering how well they’ve played defensively in Philadelphia the last few seasons. This Sunday against the Jaguars in London could be the running point in the season—one way or another—for the defending Super Bowl champions.
14. Atlanta Falcons (3-4) | Last week: 16 (+2)
The start to the season for the Falcons obviously wasn’t what they expected, but it’s not surprising the team has stayed together and battled back for a 3-4 record with time to regroup during their bye week. Atlanta has been among the NFC’s elite, and there’s no reason to panic with a former league MVP with a great group of skill players leading the way. NFL teams cannot look ahead on the schedule, but things look promising for the Falcons moving forward. They get the bye to prepare for the Redskins, and then they face Cleveland on the road and Dallas at home. Play-action passes were again the key for the team in last night’s win against the Giants, so hopefully the offensive line can get some things worked out before they return to the field so Matt Ryan can hit those plays down the field.
15. Chicago Bears (3-3) | Last week: 15
Mitchell Trubisky got away with some mistakes (and threw two interceptions) against the Patriots, but he led his team to 31 points in a close loss to one of the league’s best teams. Despite it not being a perfect performance, it might be a momentum-builder for the second-year quarterback. Their loss to New England was at home, but the Bears still play three of the next four at Soldier Field. The talented defense needs to play better than they have the last two weeks, and maybe the team will run the ball more to take pressure off them.
16. Houston Texans (4-3) | Last week: 20 (+4)
Quite honestly, I thought the Texans looked bad in Week 1 against the Patriots, and then they lost two more games after that. But they haven’t lost in over a month, going from 0-3 and last in the division to 4-3 and division leaders. Deshaun Watson is awesome, but it’s been the defense that’s been the difference for Houston, as they’ve allowed point totals of 16, 13, and 7 the last three games. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is getting the entire unit to play well, and they’ll look to keep it going on Thursday night against the Dolphins.
17. Tennessee Titans (3-4) | Last week: 14 (-3)
Of course some people have strongly criticized Mike Vrabel for his decision to go for two at the end of the London game against the Chargers because it didn’t work, but it’s hard to blame him for the decision. The Titans might have just two wins this season if he didn’t make a similar decision to go for a win in overtime against the Eagles back in Week 4. The actual play call on the conversion attempt maybe could have been better, though. And while it didn’t end in a victory for his team, but Marcus Mariota again showed how cold-blooded he is with the game on the line. With a Week 8 bye, the Titans have plenty of time to prepare for their Monday night matchup with the Cowboys in a couple of weeks.
18. Detroit Lions (3-3) | Last week: 22 (+4)
After a shaky start the first two games of the season, the Lions keep playing hard for new head coach Matt Patricia, which is a promising sign for a talented roster that can compete this season. It was great to see the Lions commit to handing rookie Kerryon Johnson the ball a career-high 19 times, and he turned it into 158 yards including a 71-yard run. After not having a 100-yard rusher since Thanksgiving 2013, the second-round rookie has done it twice in six games this season—clearly, that draft choice looks like a major hit for Detroit. Matthew Stafford has one of the league’s best supporting casts around him with Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Kenny Golladay, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., and second-year tight end Michael Roberts (two touchdowns on Sunday).
19. Seattle Seahawks (3-3) | Last week: 19
The Seahawks are tasked with stopping all those Lions weapons this week, but they had the bye week for extra time to prepare. However, the bye week might have come at a bad time, as Seattle was on-fire in their 27-3 win over the Raiders in London, so they’ll look to keep it going after a long layoff. The young defense has major potential, and Seattle has one of the best quarterbacks in the league, paired with what looks like the strongest running game he’s had for a while, leading the offense.
20. Dallas Cowboys (3-4) | Last week: 18 (-2)
I wonder if he Cowboys would have made the trade for Amari Cooper if they had won against the Redskins the day before. The wide receivers might have had their best game for Dallas in the tough three-point loss to a division rival, but adding Cooper certainly strengthens what was the team’s biggest weakness to this point. The price the Cowboys paid for the former No. 4 pick in the draft indicates they expect him to be a huge part of the offense this season and beyond, and I think Cooper’s style will mesh well with Dak Prescott. The Cowboys will look to get on a roll when they return from their bye week.
21. Miami Dolphins (4-3) | Last week: 17 (-4)
The Dolphins have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league this season, and now they’ve been hit with a couple more injuries, with wide receivers Albert Wilson (likely done for the season) and Kenny Stills out Thursday night against the Texans. It’ll be interesting to see Brock Osweiler go up against his former team, as the two sides did not have a good relationship in their time together. We could see a lot of trash talk to open Week 8. However, the other matchup—Miami’s defense against Houston’s offense—or big plays on special teams might be the key to a Dolphins win.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4) | Last week: 21 (-1)
I thought the Jaguars would take a step back this season, but the play of their defense has been surprising. The defense simply isn’t playing well right now, and the unit doesn’t threaten any offense it goes up against. Many want to pin everything on Blake Bortles, who clearly isn’t playing well, but the defense is just as much to blame for this losing skid. It sounds like Bortles is going to have a short leash after he was benched in the loss to Houston, and I think Cody Kessler could step in and do a really good job if given an opportunity. Somehow, the Jags need to get their swagger back in a matchup with a similar high-energy team, the Eagles, in London this weekend.
23. New York Jets (3-4) | Last week: 23
Sam Darnold had a tough task going up against Minnesota’s defense, which hadn’t consistently played up to its standards yet this season, and he struggled with turnovers. There’s been some talk about the rookie quarterback not handling the cold well, but I think he’ll be fine despite going to Southern Cal. There’ll be ups and downs, but the Jets have the right coaching staff in place to compete every week and get this thing turned around. Injuries in the secondary are a problem, but look for Todd Bowles’ defense to play a better game this week against the Bears.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) | Last week: 27 (+3)
The Buccaneers badly needed that win against the Browns to end their three-game losing streak and get back to .500. Jameis Winston threw the ball around for 365 yards, but he was careless with more turnovers, which is unfortunately something that it doesn’t look like he’ll ever grow out of. But Winston did make plays with his legs, rushing ten times for 55 yards and a touchdown in the overtime victory. Defensively, Tampa Bay was able to get pressure on Baker Mayfield, but they suffered a tough loss with linebacker Kwon Alexander out of the season with a torn ACL—it was in a contract year for Alexander, which you just hate for the player. At least Carl Nassib had to feel good getting a couple of sacks against a Browns team that cut him during HBO’s Hard Knocks.
25. Indianapolis Colts (2-5) | Last week: 28 (+3)
A healthy Marlon Mack ran well the week before, but he exploded for 159 yards and two touchdowns in Indy’s Week 7 rout of the Bills. The second-year running back looks like he was the missing element for Frank Reich’s offense, as he’s running the ball hard and obviously has exceptional speed and acceleration. T.Y. Hilton’s return to the lineup was also a major bonus for the Colts, as he and Andrew Luck connected for two short touchdowns in the win. Luck is on pace for over 40 touchdowns this season, and his teams always have a chance when he’s in the lineup. The Colts defense continues to play hard, so this is a team to keep an eye on.
26. Oakland Raiders (1-5) | Last week: 26
I thought the Raiders would immediately compete for a playoff spot (which could still happen just six games in), so this start to the season has been disappointing. But I love what owner Mark Davis has done, allowing Jon Gruden full control over the team to make moves and shape the roster as he sees fit. A first-round pick is a great return for Amari Cooper, who has shown major flashes but has been inconsistent through three-plus seasons. Now the Raiders have five first-round picks in the next two drafts to re-shape this roster. The head coach has security, and I believe the franchise is building the right way, despite all the negativity in the media—including talk of a “fractured relationship” between quarterback Derek Carr and his teammates, which Carr responded to on Twitter. Gruden is largely disliked in the media for some reason, and the Raiders are going to have to deal with a media onslaught as he rebuilds the franchise, and it might not even end when he starts winning games.
27. Cleveland Browns (2-4-1) | Last week: 24 (-3)
Hue Jackson apparently wants to “help” out a bit more on offense, which I can’t see offensive coordinator Todd Haley being too happy about. Jackson is fighting for his job after getting a third season despite a 1-31 start to his tenure in Cleveland (with a talented roster), though, so it’s difficult to blame him for wanting more control after a 2-4-1 start. Falling behind two games in the AFC North with a loss to the Steelers this weekend—which would basically be three games with the Steelers owning the tiebreaker—might be tough to climb out of, especially with Baltimore and Cincinnati both ahead in the standings.
28. Buffalo Bills (2-5) | Last week: 25 (-3)
The elbow injury to Josh Allen is going to be tough for the Bills to overcome, as they have a subpar supporting cast around the quarterback, and Allen was making a lot of plays to keep drives alive. Derek Anderson hasn’t been with the team for long, so he doesn’t have the chemistry with his receivers or the scrambling ability like Allen to elevate the offense. Sean McDermott’s defense will have to keep Monday night’s game against the Patriots close.
29. Denver Broncos (3-4) | Last week: 31 (+2)
A loss might have led to a next-day firing of head coach Vance Joseph, so it was great to see the players respond with an excellent performance last Thursday night against the Cardinals. Remember, this team has some proud players that just won a Super Bowl a few years ago, so they probably didn’t like the talk of this being another lost season for them. We’ll see if they can somehow limit the Chiefs and get back to .500 at the mid-way point.
30. New York Giants (1-6) | Last week: 30
The Giants moved the ball on the Falcons, but red-zone issues led to another loss and a 1-6 start to the season. It’s bad that it’s come to this qualifying as such, but the good news is Odell Beckham Jr. stayed under control despite another loss for his team. If there was ever a must-win for a team this early in the season, it’s this week against the NFC East leading Redskins.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-6) | Last week: 29 (-2)
The Niners are still looking for their first win without Jimmy Garoppolo this season, and this week against the Cardinals, who they lost against earlier this month, might be their best shot at getting a win. There obviously will and should be patience with Kyle Shanahan, but it’s safe to say the previous two head coaches with short leashes (Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly) weren’t the issue in San Francisco.
32. Arizona Cardinals (1-6) | Last week: 32
I thought Arizona’s offense was predictable and not creative under offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, but his firing feels like another scapegoat move—the second after the team benched Sam Bradford earlier this season. Steve Wilks’ defense, despite having talented players like Patrick Paterson, Chandler Jones, Haason Reddick, and Deone Bucannon—simply isn’t good, which doesn’t reflect well on a defensive coach. And Peterson requesting a trade isn’t a good look for the new head coach, the organization, or the franchise quarterback for that matter, as the All-Pro cornerback probably doesn’t see things getting turned around even in 2019.