Taking the lead from last week, there’s not much movement in the Week 9 NFL power rankings, as we have a pretty good idea where each team stands after several weeks.
1. New England Patriots (8-0) | Last week: 1
With a forced turnover on three consecutive plays, five sacks, and a defensive touchdown, the Patriots had yet another truly outstanding performance on defense in their Week 8 win over the Browns. If there is one issue with the Patriots, it’s that they’ve looked like they can be run on the last couple of weeks; but you can bet Bill Belichick will get that sorted out by January. Offensively, Tom Brady’s ability to navigate the pocket and get the ball out of his hands is helping make up for any shaky offensive line play—it’ll help if they can get the running game going more consistently.
2. New Orleans Saints (7-1) | Last week: 2
Drew Brees did not look rusty in his return to the lineup after missing the previous five games, picking apart Arizona’s defense while coasting to victory. Unsurprisingly (and as he should considering it’s Drew Brees as the team’s future Hall of Fame starter), the classy Teddy Bridgewater is handling going back to the bench well, which I believe might help team chemistry. Latavius Murray was again a beast while helping pick up the slack with Alvin Kamara (knee/ankle) out, racking up 30 touches and gaining 157 total yards with two touchdowns—it’s pretty funny that some clueless people consider him an “average.” The Saints have a bye before looking to basically knock the Falcons out of any chance of the postseason in a couple of weeks.
3. San Francisco 49ers (7-0) | Last week: 4 (+1)
There has been strong consideration for San Francisco in the No. 2 spot in each of the past two weeks, but they move up just one position to No. 3 for now. Nick Bosa had his best game yet with three sacks and a very athletic interception against the Panthers, and the front four of the 49ers is an absolute nightmare for opposing quarterbacks—fitting, with Halloween coming up tomorrow and the Niners facing the Cardinals on Thursday Night Football. The ultra-dynamic Tevin Coleman scored four touchdowns in the victory, and he was a complete steal for Kyle Shanahan and company during free agency. I like that when Jimmy Garoppolo was asked about not really being the headliner for an undefeated team with a strong running game and defense, he said “I’m all right with being undefeated, yeah.”
4. Green Bay Packers (7-1) | Last week: 3 (-1)
Aaron Jones starred in Green Bay’s entertaining win at Arrowhead, as Kansas City’s linebackers were no match in one-on-one coverage against the speedy running back. Jones has been a major factor as a receiver while Davante Adams has been out with turf toe, and it looks like the Packers could get a boost with Adams potentially returning to the lineup this Sunday. The first half of the first season under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur cannot be going much better than it has after a 7-1 start.
5. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) | Last week: 6 (+1)
Coming off the bye, I am very interested to see how Lamar Jackson performs against Bill Belichick’s suffocating defense. John Harbaugh has been very successful following bye weeks, and a primetime Sunday night game in Baltimore might be the best chance for a team to knock off the Patriots during the regular season.
6. Seattle Seahawks (6-2) | Last week: 7 (+1)
The Seahawks put up 21 second-quarter points in Atlanta, but they were outscored 20-3 in the second half of their 27-20 win, though it didn’t feel like the game was in much question. Still, teams have shown that Seattle’s defense can be thrown on, especially if Jadeveon Clowney and the pass rush cannot consistently get to the passer, putting more pressure on the young secondary. We’ll see what the run-heavy Seahawks offense does this weekend against an incredibly stingy Buccaneers run defense this Sunday, as it might be a game for Russell Wilson to air it out to Tyler Lockett and company—but they’ll have to move forward without center Justin Britt, which is a big loss.
7. Los Angeles Rams (5-3) | Last week: 8 (+1)
People are going to point to Jalen Ramsey’s arrival as the main reason the Rams defense has stepped up in the last couple of weeks (allowing 20 points total), but the entire unit is simply playing better—Ramsey claims he “got bored” when he gave up a 52-yard reception late in the win over the Bengals. The matchups against the Falcons and Bengals were about as good as it gets, but Jared Goff has been feeling it, with 640 yards for four touchdowns and no interceptions over the past two games; the upcoming schedule (at Pittsburgh, vs. Chicago, vs. Baltimore) gets more difficult, but LA now has its bye week before the stretch.
8. Buffalo Bills (5-2) | Last week: 5 (-3)
The rushing attack of the Bills could not get much going against a stout Eagles run defense, making third-down situations more difficult on a windy afternoon in Buffalo—head coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll want a lot more than 12 combined carries for Frank Gore and Devin Singletary in games, but the offense never felt like it got in a rhythm. Defensively, the Bills had some trouble getting off the field, and Philadelphia took it to them on the ground when they built a lead. Buffalo must get in a rhythm on offense and take advantage of their opportunities against a Redskins team that’ll also run the ball and look to keep it away from the opposition.
9. Indianapolis Colts (5-2) | Last week: 9
Adam Vinatieri came up clutch yet again for the Colts, hitting a game-winning field goal to help the team get to 5-2. To start the game-winning drive, Jacoby Brissett made an exceptional play, evading a would-be Von Miller sack near the end zone and hitting T.Y. Hilton on a dime down the sideline while on the run—the numbers weren’t amazing for Brissett, but he continues to play extremely well this season. Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said that he felt running back Marlon Mack also played better than the numbers (76 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries) suggested. The Indy offense will face another tough defense this Sunday when they go to Heinz Field.
10. Minnesota Vikings (6-2) | Last week: 11 (+1)
While Adam Thielen missed last Thursday night with a hamstring issue, the star players on Minnesota’s offense are playing great football right now, as a healthy Dalvin Cook has been on fire all year, and Stefon Diggs has had at least 143 yards in each of the past three games; and Kirk Cousins is second in the league in passer rating (and imperfect stat, but he’s avoided mistakes since he was called out). Even if Patrick Mahomes misses this weekend, I’m interested to see how Mike Zimmer’s defense performs versus the Chiefs, as the unit allowed some completions and was getting run on despite facing an undermanned Redskins team last week.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) | Last week: 10 (-1)
And for the Chiefs, I am anxious to see how the offense does when facing one of the league’s top defenses. Mahomes might miss another game with the knee issue, but the trio of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce were all on the field for the first time since Week 1 last week—and Mecole Hardman showed he might be the fastest player in the league when out in space the other night. Personally, I think Damien Williams, who was a beast when featured down the stretch last season, needs to be playing over LeSean McCoy; but Andy Reid might have a soft spot for the veteran McCoy, despite two costly fumbles this season. Kansas City must be careful with putting linebackers on Dalvin Cook this Sunday.
12. Dallas Cowboys (4-3) | Last week: 12
The Cowboys are coming off the bye, and they are just half a game up in the NFC East after the Eagles were able to get a win at Buffalo. On paper, the upcoming stretch for Dallas is one of the most challenging in the league, and it’ll be huge if they can get a win at East Rutherford this Monday night to improve to 5-3.
13. Houston Texans (5-3) | Last week: 15 (+2)
Deshaun Watson makes sensational plays on a regular basis, and it’s looking safe to say that it is completely nuts that he went No. 12 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft (I thought he was clearly the top player in the class). But Darren Fells deserves a ton of credit, which he seems to be getting none of from the outside, for being on the receiving end of the eye-poke touchdown pass and for then making a clutch one-handed catch to seal the game for Houston. The loss of J.J. Watt, who will land on injured reserve for the third time in four seasons, is crushing for the Texans and the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) | Last week: 17 (+3)
A heavy dose of Jordan Howard (23 carries, 96 yards, one touchdown) keyed a critical Eagles victory against the Bills and potentially helped Philadelphia turn its season around after another tumultuous week filled with questions about locker room issues. The most promising sign from the Week 8 victory was probably the pass rush (including Fletcher Cox: 1.5 sacks) finally making some noise and getting after the quarterback. The Eagles will now host a rematch of last season’s Wild Card Round matchup against the Bears, but this time the game will be in Philadelphia.
15. Oakland Raiders (3-4) | Last week: 13 (-2)
The Raiders were about as close as it gets to picking up a road victory at Houston in Week 8, as Tyrell Williams just barely could not come up with a back-shoulder throw late, and the pass rush just barely missed out on bringing down Deshaun Watson on the go-ahead score; if Darren Fells did not come up with the one-handed grab to seal the game for the Texans, Derek Carr (285 yards, three touchdowns) would have had a good shot to lead his team for a game-tying field goal or a go-ahead touchdown. After a brutal road stretch, the Raiders must take advantage of three consecutive games at home starting this week against the Lions.
16. Detroit Lions (3-3-1) | Last week: 18 (+2)
The Lions had a defensive touchdown on a scoop-and-score along with two deep ball touchdowns from Matthew Stafford (one to Marvin Hall and one to Kenny Golladay) in their 31-26 win against the Giants to get to 3-3-1. Stafford is used to not having a strong running game complimenting his aerial attack, so it’s the type of game that he can play with comfortability—which he might have to do with Kerryon Johnson (knee) out. Matt Patricia can obviously get things turned around, but the pass defense is a concern after allowing four touchdowns with no interception in each of the past two weeks.
17. Carolina Panthers (4-3) | Last week: 14 (-3)
The Panthers cannot let getting demolished mid-season while giving up 50+ points derail things like it did last year when they were blown out by the Steelers. Kyle Allen was going to have an off game and lose at some point, and it’s not surprising that it came against a lethal 49ers defense. The Carolina defense is probably more concerning than the offense, as they allowed five rushing touchdowns and gave open lanes for opposing ball-carriers to run through all afternoon. They’ll need to tighten up quickly with the monstrous Derrick Henry meeting them this Sunday.
18. Chicago Bears (3-4) | Last week: 16 (-2)
Bears head coach Matt Nagy is obviously getting very frustrated with his team’s performance (and the Chicago media) after a third consecutive loss. Things were going great after a 16-6 victory over the Vikings in Week 3, but things have taken a turn after that; the good news is the defense looked a lot better versus the Chargers after getting run all over the previous two weeks. Offensively, the Bears were able to run the ball well themselves, as Nagy promised he would try to do, but Mitchell Trubisky needs to start hitting the throws that are there more consistently.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-4) | Last week: 19
It’s understandable that the Steelers were a little off to start the game last Monday night, as they were coming off their bye week facing a winless Dolphins team. After falling behind 14-0, it was a dominant performance led by James Conner (23 carries, 145 yards, one touchdown) on offense and Minkah Fitzpatrick (two interceptions against his former team) on defense. Also, Mason Rudolph shook off the rust in his first game since getting knocked out three weeks earlier, and he showed off his ability to push the ball down the field to JuJu Smith-Schuster and company. Rudolph stood strong in the pocket, and Pittsburgh is a potent team if the second-year quarterback plays well.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) | Last week: 21 (+1)
He has just one touchdown this season, but Leonard Fournette broke yet another long run (66 yards) early in Jacksonville’s win over the Jets. The Jags have won two consecutive games, and the week before, they played the Saints as well as any team aside from the Rams this season. Because of the pass rush, the defense is still one of the top units in the league, and they’ll look to carry the momentum across the pond when they face the Texans this Sunday (9:30 AM ET). Gardner Minshew and the young receiving corps might be able to take advantage of Houston’s secondary.
21. Tennessee Titans (4-4) | Last week: 22 (+1)
Ryan Tannehill wasn’t asked to do a ton of heavy lifting for the Titans, but he made key throws en route to three touchdowns against the Buccaneers’ No. 32-ranked pass defense to improve to 2-0 as Tennessee’s starting quarterback. And for an offensive line that’s had some struggles this year, it was good to see Derrick Henry (16 carries, 75 yards) was able to get rolling a bit versus the Bucs’ top run defense. Jonnu Smith (six receptions, 78 yards, one touchdown) also made a big impact on offense with Delanie Walker (ankle) out of the lineup, and the Titans defense unsurprisingly forced Jameis Winston turnovers in the victory.
22. Los Angeles Chargers (3-5) | Last week: 23 (+1)
It certainly feels like longtime offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was a scapegoat for the Chargers’ major offensive line issues this season, but we’ll see if Whisenhunt’s firing is able to spark the offense. The bottom line is the offensive line must play better to open holes for Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler so the offense can be more balanced and take play-action shots to Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry. Joey Bosa recorded a couple of sacks on defense for the Chargers, and the return of Melvin Ingram on the other side gave the group a boost.
23. Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1) | Last week: 20 (-3)
Arizona’s three-game winning streak came to a stop against the Saints, and it’s not a surprise that rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and his offense couldn’t get much going in the very difficult Superdome environment. Running backs David Johnson (ankle) and Chase Edmonds (hamstring) are both banged up and uncertain for tomorrow night, so the Cardinals acquired Kenyan Drake from the Dolphins to give the offense another versatile player for Kliff Kingsbury to work with. Tomorrow night versus the Niners will be a tough task, but at least the game is home and the Cardinals are wearing pretty awesome all-black uniforms on Halloween.
24. Cleveland Browns (2-5) | Last week: 26 (+2)
Cleveland came out throwing to start their matchup against the Patriots in Foxboro, but when they went to the run, Nick Chubb had two uncharacteristic fumbles. Aside from the fumbles, Chubb ran the ball very well (20 carries for 131 yards), and that has to be the plan moving forward every week for the Browns. The upcoming schedule is promising on paper, but things could get ugly if the Browns are unable to win this Sunday at Denver.
25. Atlanta Falcons (1-7) | Last week: 24 (-1)
Things already appear to be ugly in Atlanta, as unfortunately it sounds like owner Arthur Blank will be moving on from head coach Dan Quinn after the season. The Falcons are just making too many mistakes this season, but they are at least battling—they fought back to make it a game against the Seahawks even without Matt Ryan, who missed his first game since December 2009, in the lineup. I was surprised to hear that former NFL sack leader Vic Beasley was not even fetching a fifth- or sixth-round pick ahead of the trade deadline (according to FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer), and the lack of a pass rush is killing Atlanta.
26. New York Giants (2-6) | Last week: 27 (+1)
The Giants have lost four consecutive games after picking up wins over Tampa Bay and Washington in Daniel Jones’ first two career starts, but most teams struggle with rookie quarterbacks under center. Jones certainly did his part in the loss to the Lions, throwing four touchdowns and no interceptions. The New York defense is just giving up way too many big plays—two weeks ago, it was on the ground; last week, it was through the air. The Giants need a win this Monday night against the Cowboys to remain close in the NFC East.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) | Last week: 28 (+1)
Who knows what would have happened in the final four minutes of the game, but the Buccaneers have serious beef with the officiating after a fumble recovery on a fake field goal attempt should have been a go-ahead touchdown. However, Tampa Bay might not have been in that situation if it wasn’t for the turnovers; to me, it did not look like Jameis Winston played well, but Bruce Arians said the interceptions were not on his quarterback, which was interesting.
28. Denver Broncos (2-6) | Last week: 25 (-3)
The Broncos were going to remain a few spots higher after bouncing back and playing well against the Colts, but Joe Flacco’s neck injury knocks them down to No. 28 in the power rankings. That said, I’ve thought Brandon Allen could throw the ball around well since his time at Arkansas, and he could surprise with his play. Denver is looking for a home win over Cleveland before facing two tough teams (Minnesota and Buffalo) on the road.
29. New York Jets (1-6) | Last week: 29
Five of the Jets’ next six games are against teams with two or fewer wins, but they were unable to build momentum into their promising stretch after getting routed by the Jaguars in Week 8. Sam Darnold needs to regain his confidence after a rough couple of weeks, and he might get tight end Chris Herndon back in the lineup for a team that did not deal away any offensive players at the deadline. The Jets did trade away former first-round defensive lineman Leonard Williams in a surprising move in what is clearly a full-blown rebuild.
30. Washington Redskins (1-7) | Last week: 30
Trent Williams reported to the Redskins yesterday, but he apparently has no intention of actually playing for the franchise this season. Williams might be the best left tackle in football, and I credit Washington for standing strong in a time where teams have been caving to players more than usual; but it still seems like it would have been a good idea to get a premium pick or two in return for him. Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins has shown he has a long way to go, as the Redskins offense sputtered when Case Keenum exited last Thursday’s loss to the Vikings.
31. Cincinnati Bengals (0-8) | Last week: 31
The team’s starter since 2011, Andy Dalton is headed to the bench after Cincinnati’s Week 9 bye. Dalton has not played great, but there isn’t much he can do behind a struggling offensive line on a bad team. But the Bengals understandably want to see what they have in rookie Ryan Finley ahead of an offseason in which they are likely to own a top-three pick in the draft with the chance to select a quarterback. Hopefully Finley gets a boost with A.J. Green getting closer to his 2019 debut after his ankle injury.
32. Miami Dolphins (0-7) | Last week: 32
Brian Flores got fired up over an overturned first down in Miami’s loss to Pittsburgh, and, while he definitely looked wrong on a play that clearly looked short after replay, it was good to see the first-year head coach show that he has no part in the “tanking” of the front office—as you’d expect, he clearly wants to get a win badly, and no coach wants an 0-16 record on his resume. Flores is getting his team to play hard, but the roster just isn’t very good. This Sunday against the Jets will be one of the Dolphins’ best opportunities for a win this year.