NFL power ranking: chaos after a strange week
If you were a big favorite against an injured team, chances are you lost on Sunday.
It was the theme of a weird weekend in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys – highly regarded in these power charts – fell to the Denver Broncos. The Los Angeles Rams couldn’t beat the Titans without Derrick Henry. The 49ers, who haven’t won a game at Levi’s Stadium since the ’90s (that’s a joke), were hit by the Cardinals under Colt McCoy.
Even the Buffalo Bills lost to Urban Meyers fighters in Jacksonville. And the Raiders lost to the New Jersey Giants. Nothing made sense, so we’ll try to make sense of it all here.
Let’s rank the NFL teams, mightily!
1. Arizona Cardinals 8-1 (last week: # 4)
Even if the 49ers have a tire fire of a season, winning without your quarterback MVP candidate, the top two receivers and the future Hall of Famer defensive end count for a lot, especially on the road. So the Cardinals took back the top spot this week for the way they beat San Francisco in Santa Clara. They are the only team to lose in the NFL and also the best team in the league overall. Football Outsiders DVOA Metric. They are the second-most scoring team in the league as their defense is ranked third among their opponents’ scorers, and they have some impressive wins on their schedule to back it all up.
2. Green Bay Packers 7-2 (# 2)
The Packers are immune to the drop in rankings despite their loss to Kansas City on Sunday. The waking crowd continues to believe in Aaron Rodgers, who will eventually return from the COVID-19 roster, after helping beat the Cardinals on the road less than two weeks ago. We will continue to take a homeopathic approach to classifying these teams. I submitted a 500-page column to my editors explaining exactly how these rankings work. Hope it gets approved. Joe Rogan reread it.
3. Tennessee Titans 7-2 (# 9)
We rank these Titans on a similar curve to the Cardinals, who traveled to Los Angeles on Sunday night and beat the Rams without Henry, the league’s leading non-quarterback MVP contender. They are the only team with seven wins in the conference, making them the current No.1 seed. It’s crazy to think about it. Keeping the Rams at 16 points and winning by 12 despite winning 347-194 could be a complete anomaly. But it’s not a ranking of teams in order of confidence that they will win the Super Bowl, it’s about their jobs.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-2 (# 6)
They remained undefeated after their pass last season on their way to winning the Super Bowl. They just had their goodbye last week. So we won’t be surprised if they run away. None of their next four opponents has a winning record.
5. Buffalo Bills 5-3 (No. 3)
We’re just going to pretend that the loss in Jacksonville never happened. OK? Great.
6. Dallas Cowboys 6-2 (# 1)
The Cowboys clearly took their collective foot off the gas pedal last week after we placed them first in this space. We even had the nerve to point out how easy their remaining schedule was and then they lost to a 10-point underdog on their home turf. If the league’s top-ranked offense doesn’t come out against the Falcons next week, they’ll have some serious bulletin board material from the revitalized print edition of Sacramento Bee.
7. Baltimore Ravens 6-2 (# 7)
The Ravens stay in one spot after needing extra hours to deal with the Vikings on their turf. While that in itself isn’t that impressive, they gained 500 yards on offense with 36 first downs. Mark them as one of the most intriguing destinations for Odell Beckham Jr.
8. Los Angeles Rams 7-2 (No. 5)
They add Von Miller to a defense that allowed the second-fewest passing touchdowns in the NFL. He will likely make his Monday Night Football debut against the 49ers. Their two losses touched good teams (Tennessee and Arizona), so they still deserve to be considered one of the best teams in the conference. They get their leave after the 49ers game, then travel to Green Bay to face Rodgers for a chance to boost their playoff hopes.
9. Los Angeles Chargers 5-3 (No.10)
They of course corrected Sunday in Philadelphia after losing back-to-back games to Baltimore and New England. Their running defense ranks last in the NFL. But if you’re going to have a weak spot, this might be it. Especially when Justin Herbert can throw 356 yards while completing 84% of his passes, like he did on Sunday.
10. New England Patriots 5-4 (No. 15)
Mac Jones didn’t have to try and sprain my ankle to put his team in the top 10. Their back-to-back road wins, thanks in large part to a defense that ranks No.5 in DVOA, are mainly responsible. The typical senior level of AFC teams has been lacking this season, giving the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick a chance to make a statement in the second half of the season.
11. Kansas City Chiefs 5-4 (# 13)
Those brave underdog Chiefs are back at over 0.500 after beating the Packers at home on Sunday. That didn’t include a great performance from Patrick Mahomes, who threw just 166 yards. It marked the second less he has thrown early in his career. But a win is a win, and we’re confident the Chiefs will regain their elite status at some point this season.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers 5-3 (No. 14)
Bears rusher Cassius Marsh played for the Steelers last season and was released in the Final Cups in August. So when he sacked Ben Roethlisberger at a key moment at the end of Monday night’s game, he was entitled to watch the Steelers from the side. But, because the NFL can’t stand personality, he was flagged 15 yards for taunting through eye contact. But kudos to Pittsburgh for securing the victory as they sit in the No.6 seed in the AFC playoff table.
13. New Orleans Saints 5-3 (No. 11)
They lost two spots after falling home in Atlanta, although they still have a grip on a wild cart spot at the moment. It will be difficult to maintain given their situation as a quarterback. But if there’s one coach to trust in rough waters, it’s Sean Payton. In addition, the defense is still very good.
14. Las Vegas Raiders 5-3 (# 12)
Derek Carr will deserve great credit if he can coach this team to the playoffs given everything they’ve been through this season. But losing to the Giants, like they did on Sunday, doesn’t bode well.
15. Cleveland Browns 5-4 (No. 18)
The Browns appeared to have removed their frustration from Beckham’s predicament against the Bengals in their big 41-16 road win. They are currently away to watch the playoff race, but they have the defensive talent to carry Baker Mayfield and his left shoulder glued to his chest.
16. Cincinnati Bengals 5-4 (# 8)
They’ve fallen more than any team this week because they lost a lot of equity losing to the Jets and backup quarterback Mike White last month. It’s still a friendly space for Joe Burrow, but Cincy has to prove he can handle the hype before he earns fairness as a real contender for the conference.
17. Denver Broncos 5-4 (# 20)
They won three times in a row to start the year. Then they lost four in a row. Now they’ve won their last two games, including Sunday’s against the Cowboys at Jerry World.
18. Atlanta Falcons 4-4 (No. 23)
There is very little about the Falcons that says they are a good team. But they’re currently the No. 7 seed in the NFC playoff standings. That’s what happens when you add a seventh playoff team to every conference.
19. Seattle Seahawks 3-5 (No. 21)
No one is better at performance injury recovery than Russell Wilson, who put in this stirring the contents to announce that he is coming back from his surgically repaired fractured finger. He will adjust for this weekend’s game against the Packers. The Seahawks’ lineup stinks mostly outside their receivers, but they are moving up the standings this week because Wilson is the best quarterback in the table.
20. Indianapolis Colts 4-5 (No. 19)
Remember when they jumped to a 42-10 on the Jets in the third quarter of last Thursday night’s game? Neither do I. I had to search. But allowing three straight touchdowns in the Josh Johnson-led offense adds a bit of salt to that icing.
21. Minnesota Vikings 3-5 (# 22)
Hanging out with the Ravens on the road is worth picking up some spots as we get to the thin end of this ranking. Unfortunately, the Vikings often play at the level of their competition, they rarely win.
22. San Francisco 49ers 3-5 (No.17)
It’s a nightmare season for Kyle Shanahan, who neither wins nor develops Trey Lance. Luckily for him, the NFC is extremely not great as a conference and San Francisco is only one game away from the last wild card spot. The bad news: The Rams arrive at Levi’s Stadium on Monday angry after getting angry at home.
23. Carolina Panthers 4-5 (No. 16)
Sam Darnold would fractured his scapula, which is bad news on several fronts. First, Carolina could do without its starting quarterback. Second, Darnold was their starting quarterback.
24. Chicago Bears 3-6 (No. 25)
The Bears lost in Pittsburgh on Monday night, but Justin Fields put on another strong performance and continues to improve. Apparently playing rookie quarterbacks helps them get better (Kyle Shanahan was callous the last time I made that joke).
25. Philadelphia Eagles 3-6 (No. 24)
Jalen Hurts has performed better over the past two weeks. It happened as the team relied more on the running backs. Here’s the thing though, it’s not a good sign for your quarterback when he needs to lean on his running backs.
26. New York Giants 3-6 (No. 28)
The Giants have won their last two home games. But after their bye, three of their next four are on the road.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-6 (No. 31)
Don’t look now, but the Trent Baalke team is rolling!
28. Washington Soccer Team 2-6 (# 26)
When you’re that bad, you lose two spots on your week off to the Giants and Jags.
29. Miami Dolphins 2-7 (# 29)
Rumors say the Dolphins faced the Texans on Sunday. We sent our best people to find evidence.
30. New York Jets 2-6 (No. 27)
A team with Robert Saleh on their coaching staff has had to use their third quarterback, or equivalent, in four of the past five years, dating back to his time as the 49ers’ defense coordinator.
31. Houston Texans 1-8 (# 30)
This Week 1 triumph over the Jaguars seems so long ago.
32. Detroit Lions 0-8 (No. 32)
Hope someone made the hilarious undefeated Lions joke during their bye!