There’s a lot of shuffling in the 2020 NFL Week 9 power rankings, including a new No. 1 team.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0) | Last week: 2 (+1)
The undefeated Steelers land in the top spot of the power rankings for the first time this season, and they’ve certainly earned it with a 7-0 start that includes wins over the then-unbeaten Titans and the Ravens. Pittsburgh’s stellar defense continues to give Lamar Jackson problems, and that’s something to watch long term in the AFC North. Matchups with the Cowboys, Bengals, and Jaguars are coming up, so the Steelers are heavily favored to get to 10-0.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) | Last week: 1 (-1)
Perhaps the media tired themselves out with how much they hyped him up (or maybe I’m just not paying attention to anything others are saying), but Patrick Mahomes is somewhat quietly having another outstanding season for the Chiefs. Mahomes had his first game of more than two touchdown passes since late September, tossing five against the Jets to bring his season TD/INT ratio to 21:1 at the halfway point. Kansas City will probably get its rushing attack going more this Sunday versus the Panthers.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) | Last week: 3
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins and took a two-point conversion stop to secure the victory and avoid overtime, but the Bucs will take it as they move to 6-2 ahead of a huge showdown with the Saints this Sunday night. Expect All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown to have instant chemistry with Tom Brady, which makes the Tampa Bay offense super scary for the rest of the league; hopefully star receiver Chris Godwin (finger) is also back after missing last week following finger surgery meant to accelerate his return.
4. Seattle Seahawks (6-1) | Last week: 4
The Seahawks blitzed more than they had all season against the 49ers, getting constant pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo and riding an aggressive mindset to a lead while not looking back. After a quiet week a couple of Sundays ago, the connection between Russell Wilson and D.K. Metcalf (12/161/2) got back on track in Seattle’s divisional win. The Seahawks will look to get starting running back Chris Carson (foot) back in the lineup, but rookie DeeJay Dallas did a nice job of filling in with two touchdowns in Week 8.
5. Buffalo Bills (6-2) | Last week: 7 (+2)
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss joined Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt and J.K. Dobbins/Gus Edwards (also last week) as one of three running back duos to hit 80+ rushing yards each in the same game this season. It was a grind-it-out type of game between the Patriots and the Bills, so the play of the running backs helped keep the offense ahead of the sticks and in favorable positions. While the Dolphins are on their heels, it was huge for Buffalo to get a win against the Patriots to push the long-time kings of the division far down in the standings.
6. Las Vegas Raiders (4-3) | Last week: 10 (+4)
No. 6 might seem high for a 4-3 Raiders squad, but their three losses are to the Patriots (when they were playing much better before COVID impacted things), Bills, and Bucs. The Las Vegas defense stepped up and contained Kareem Hunt while completely shutting down Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland passing attack while Jon Gruden’s offense avoided mistakes and made enough plays to win a defensive battle in windy conditions. The Raiders have three consecutive AFC West games starting this Sunday versus the Chargers.
7. New Orleans Saints (5-2) | Last week: 11 (+4)
Drew Brees took advantage on a couple of intermediate in-breaking routes to Jared Cook and Taysom Hill for touchdowns, but for the most part the success of the Saints relies on feeding the ball to Alvin Kamara, often on underneath passes—I would think about doubling the superstar offensive weapon on every snap if I was an opposing defense. The chess match on both sides this Sunday night should be a ton of fun after the first Bucs-Saints game was relatively disappointing in Week 1.
8. Tennessee Titans (5-2) | Last week: 5 (-3)
The Titans have fallen behind in each of the past two weeks and have been unable to dig out of the hole, and I think they might have had a bit of a letdown coming off a tough loss to the Steelers and perhaps thought would roll against a one-win Bengals team. This weekend, Ryan Tannehill doesn’t have an easy task as he looks to get back to his MVP-level of play while facing the Bears. I love the acquisition of former All-Pro defensive back Desmond King, who will instantly improve the middle of the defense and the secondary.
9. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) | Last week: 6 (-3)
I was extremely high on Lamar Jackson coming into the NFL, but there’s no denying he’s had trouble winning some big games, and the questions will only put more pressure on the former MVP quarterback until he can get over the hump. As we’ve seen with other young quarterbacks at times, I believe Jackson is trying too hard (i.e. trying to do too much) in some situations. Baltimore should probably use a heavy dose of J.K. Dobbins as the primary running back moving forward after he became the first player to hit over 100 yards rushing against the Steelers this season.
10. Green Bay Packers (5-2) | Last week: 8 (-2)
The Packers haven’t been consistent this season (over the past three weeks in particular), but they have been consistently bad at stopping the run and containing opposing running backs. Aaron Rodgers always has a chip on his shoulder, especially so against the 49ers; and, despite the struggles in the two matchups last season, he might be more confident this Thursday facing a depleted team. Jacksonville is on deck for Green Bay, so they’ll be in great shape if they can get to 6-2.
11. Los Angeles Rams (5-3) | Last week: 9 (-2)
Coming off a relatively short week and facing an underrated Dolphins defense coming off the bye was a tough spot for the Rams (and we probably should have seen it coming; LA was our only recommended against-the-spread pick to lose this week), but it was hard to predict multiple non-offensive scores for Miami. The bye week comes at a good time for the Rams to regroup, and Sean McVay will have his guys ready to go when they return to face the Seahawks in a couple of Sundays.
12. Arizona Cardinals (5-2) | Last week: 12
Kyler Murray has been running the football a lot this season, and the bye week might have allowed him to refuel and gear up for what’ll likely be a highly competitive final stretch of the regular season. I’m interested to watch how Kliff Kingsbury and Murray play things versus a Dolphins defense with a superb secondary.
13. Indianapolis Colts (5-2) | Last week: 13
It didn’t involve a ton of success for Jonathan Taylor (frustrating fantasy owners), but the Colts rode a balanced offense with big involvement from the running backs to putting up 41 points (21 in the fourth quarter) of their win against the Lions—Indy is at their best when they run the ball. Also, it was great to see a healthier defense led by All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard come off the bye.
14. Miami Dolphins (4-3) | Last week: 18 (+4)
Tua Tagovailoa was not tasked with a ton in his NFL debut (93 yards, one touchdown), but he is very happy to start his career with a win for a Dolphins team in contention this season. Admittedly, I may have been too low on Miami in recent weeks; I am high on Brian Flores as a coach, and the defense has been pretty stingy since the 0-2 start. The Dolphins are 4-1 in their past five games, and the upcoming schedule on paper over the next five is promising.
15. Chicago Bears (5-3) | Last week: 15
Nick Foles is getting a ton of criticism and blame as of late, and he isn’t playing particularly well or close to as well as he can. But I’m not sure people watch or realize the constant pressure he’s under behind an inconsistent offensive line. The Bears struggle to get much of a power running game going, which creates difficult conversion situations and puts a lot on a quarterback playing under constant pressure. Chicago should be in another close one this Sunday against the Titans.
16. Cleveland Browns (5-3) | Last week: 16
Maybe it was because of the extremely windy conditions, but that just felt like a weird game for the Browns over the weekend. Again, can they find a way to beat the better teams in the league—the teams they’ll have to beat in January if they get into the postseason? Cleveland has its bye before hosting Deshaun Watson and Houston in a couple of weeks.
17. San Francisco 49ers (4-4) | Last week: 14 (-3)
They are at 4-4 and still in the playoff picture, but this is turning into a nightmare season for the defending NFC champion 49ers. With no Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel, and Tevin Coleman on offense (not to mention no Nick Bosa and others on defense), this is not close to the roster we expected to see coming into the year. Kyle Shanahan needs to put together an exceptional game plan on a short week, but the good news is he’s had success versus Green Bay.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1) | Last week: 19 (+1)
The Eagles have gotten wins over division rivals over the past two weeks, but it almost feels like they’ve been losing around Philadelphia. Carson Wentz shows major flashes but has been mostly inconsistent and making poor decisions despite the team getting healthier and facing arguably the worst defense in the league last Sunday night. Hopefully the Eagles can keep getting healthier and have Miles Sanders (knee) back after the bye week.
19. New England Patriots (2-5) | Last week: 17 (-2)
Who knows where the Patriots would stand if not for a late-game fumble by Cam Newton to eliminate the chance for at least a game-tying field goal? As stated last week, Newton—despite his struggles—appears to have the right attitude and knows he has to play better if he wants to lead his team to a winning record, but now he needs to translate that to the field. It’s been interesting to hear Bill Belichick and the Patriots talk about how COVID-19 disrupted their season and how the cap and roster situation is not in a good spot—Belichick is simply telling the truth, but now it’s about getting the proud guys they do still have in the locker room to turn this around.
20. Denver Broncos (3-4) | Last week: 23 (+3)
Drew Lock clearly doesn’t let much faze him, and he calmly led the Broncos to a game-winning touchdown drive for a huge victory to move to 3-4. Both a halftime speech by Lock and a 55-yard touchdown run from Phillip Lindsay appeared to turn the tide in Denver’s favor against the Chargers. The Broncos will look to keep the momentum going when they face the Falcons on the road this weekend.
21. Carolina Panthers (3-5) | Last week: 20 (-1)
Teddy Bridgewater has had some surprising accuracy issues on key throws in two of the past three games, but the Panthers are set to get reinforcements on offense in All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey—and they’ll need it this week against the Chiefs. Carolina has played very hard every week, and we’ll see how the defense fares after a mini bye gave a few more days to prepare for Patrick Mahomes and company.
22. Detroit Lions (3-4) | Last week: 21 (-1)
The Lions did not try to establish the run much in their loss to the Colts, giving Adrian Peterson five carries and D’Andre Swift six carries—and the pass-heavy approach was hurt by Kenny Golladay leaving the game with a hip injury. Getting a win over Indy would have been massive, but Detroit has a promising stretch on paper coming up: at Minnesota, vs. Washington, at Carolina, and vs. Houston.
23. Los Angeles Chargers (2-5) | Last week: 22 (-1)
The Chargers just haven’t been able to finish games for years, and they appeared to clearly play like the better team in the tough Week 8 loss to the Broncos. Justin Herbert had gone a couple of games without throwing an interception before throwing two at Denver, so he and the offense will look to get that cleaned up for this Sunday against the Raiders.
24. Atlanta Falcons (2-6) | Last week: 24
It’s fitting that the Chargers and Falcons are now ranked back-to-back in the power rankings, but Atlanta was able to hold on and not find a way to lose last Thursday night at Carolina. Trading Matt Ryan and/or Julio Jones was never realistic, and the two players mean way too much to the franchise to ever get traded in my opinion. Matty Ice and his team have a one-game-at-a-time attitude, and keep in mind that they still have yet to play the Saints or the Bucs this year.
25. Minnesota Vikings (2-5) | Last week: 26 (+1)
The Vikings are a totally different team when a healthy Dalvin Cook is in the lineup, and it takes more off the plate of Kirk Cousins when the rushing attack is racking up yardage (and Cook also gives Cousins an explosive outlet to get the ball to on screens and dump-off passes). Aaron Rodgers said it was crazy talk to consider Mike Zimmer on the hot seat, and Zimmer’s defense exceeded expectations against the worthy opponent and the Packers offense.
26. Washington Football Team (2-5) | Last week: 25 (-1)
Washington drops one spot in the power rankings following the bye, but they could arguably be several positions higher than this—they have a case for the best team in the NFC East. This Sunday against a Giants team that’s been playing in close games will be a good test after Washington won the first matchup.
27. Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) | Last week: 28 (+1)
Zac Taylor’s team appears to be buying in, and their previous two losses before the upset win against the Titans came by a combined seven points. Joe Burrow’s ability to navigate the pocket and make the right play has been a big reason for the recent success, and Jessie Bates III secured a key interception of Ryan Tannehill in the Week 8 victory. Also, team captain Giovani Bernard (two total touchdowns) has been very good stepping in for starter Joe Mixon at running back.
28. Dallas Cowboys (2-6) | Last week: 27 (-1)
I had to share this for those that didn’t see it:
this is the moment of levity I needed this week.
Mike McCarthy’s facial expressions at this exchange are absolutely incredible. the bemused “Jesus” really takes the cake. pic.twitter.com/gnvQVv5LIn
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) October 29, 2020
It’s been a trying season for Dallas, obviously, so seeing a light moment like that is nice. Things have been really tough on Andy Dalton over the past couple of weeks, as he went from having a concussion to now having COVID-19. Whatever quarterback starts for the Cowboys this Sunday will be facing a vaunted Steelers defense.
29. New York Giants (1-7) | Last week: 30 (+1)
As stated for Lamar Jackson, Daniel Jones is another young quarterback probably trying to do too much at times (and Bucs head coach Bruce Arians agrees, giving honest feedback/criticism through reporters after the game). But Jones clearly has the talent, and he just must cut down on the turnovers. The results aren’t there yet, but Joe Judge is having a solid first season as a head coach in getting his guys to play hard. The strong play of New York’s offensive line in particular was a promising development from the Monday night loss.
30. Houston Texans (1-6) | Last week: 29 (-1)
The Texans held on to Will Fuller at the trade deadline, which will help the team remain competitive as they look to right the ship and make this a respectful season following a 1-6 start. Off the bye, I’d like to see Houston’s defense step up and shut down Jacksonville this Sunday.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) | Last week: 31
Gardner Minshew is headed to the bench after he tried to play through a right thumb injury, and sixth-round rookie Jake Luton is set to make his first career start against the Texans. The bye week hopefully gave Luton extra time to prepare and get his mind right for a huge opportunity.
32. New York Jets (0-8) | Last week: 32
Sam Darnold is again banged up, but it sounds like he’s going to play through it. As crazy as it sounds, this Monday night is a game the Jets should have a decent shot to win, as the playing style of the Patriots could potentially lead to a close game—Darnold and the New York offense might need to step up and make some key plays late to finally get in the win column.
Why don’t defenses SHUT DOWN Kamara!? No Michael Thomas just don’t let Kamara beat you.