1. San Francisco 49ers (9-1) ←
After their second win over Arizona in three weeks, the Niners stay on top of our power rankings as the joint-best ranked team in terms of record. This week, they play the Packers in a monumental Monday Night Football game between arguably the NFC’s top two teams. So far, the only ‘giant’ San Fran have played is the Seahawks, who they duly lost to, so a trip to Lambeau will be a huge test.
2. New England Patriots (9-1) ←
A ‘quiet’ win against the Eagles this week means my top two remain unchanged. As I have said before, the Patriots have yet to blow me away this season but as long as they keep racking up these wins and take a top-two AFC seed, you can bet they will be a playoff force.
3. Baltimore Ravens (8-2) ↑
The Ravens break into the top three this week after an absolutely dominant display against the playoff contenders from Houston. Lamar Jackson looks better every single week, the defense appears to have come on leaps and bounds since Week 1 and this team only seems to be improving. In my eyes, they have the biggest upside in the league.
4. Green Bay Packers (8-2) ↓
The Pack moves down to fourth due to the fact they were on their bye week while John Harbaugh’s Baltimore team hammered the Texans. A good result in Monday’s pivotal game against the 49ers could easily see Green Bay move back into the top three.
5. New Orleans Saints (8-2) ↓
New Orleans got back to winning ways (as I knew they would) against the Buccaneers this week but like Green Bay, the Saints slip more due to Baltimore’s brilliance than their own culpability. The defense once again dominated and Michael Thomas furthered his case as the best wide receiver in the NFL. Drew Brees’ arm strength remains a slight concern as the Saints seem to struggle to stretch the field, and this could limit them against the league’s best sides.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) ←
A win, albeit an unconvincing one, against divisional rivals the Chargers is enough to keep the Chiefs at number six. I still have huge faith in the star players and coaching staff in this team and their abilities to carry Kansas deep into the playoffs, which is why I continue to rank them higher than teams with better records. Once Mahomes returns to form, football fans will realise that he is still the best QB in the league on his day. Don’t @ me.
7. Seattle Seahawks (8-2) ←
Not much new to report after their bye week. Another big NFC match-up against the Eagles coming up this week – let’s see if star QB Russell Wilson can manufacture Seattle another big win.
8. Minnesota Vikings (8-3) ←
What an incredible comeback from the Vikings against Denver! To put it in perspective, the all-time record for teams leading by 20 points or more at half time is 400-13. Despite this, part of me wanted to rank Minnesota lower this week solely due to the fact that they went 20 points behind in the first place, but I felt that was a little harsh. They remain an excellent team and I would be surprised to see them miss the playoffs at this point.
9. Dallas Cowboys (6-4) ←
Another solid performance from QB Dak Prescott led the Cowboys to a steady win over the Detroit Lions this week. The result in particular hasn’t really adjusted my take on the Cowboys, but Head Coach Jason Garrett’s press conference comments (where he recognised his mistakes in the teams’ loss to the Vikings, particularly regarding his conservative playing style) have reassured me that Dallas can kick on and become a strong contender in the NFC.
10. Los Angeles Rams (6-4) ↑
The Rams continue their frustratingly shaky season with a narrow win over the Chicago Bears, in one of the slower-paced SNF games so far this season. The defense is still strong and can hold out against some excellent teams, but the offense stuttered again in Chicago on Monday. Despite this, if it wasn’t for their stacked NFC-West conference, I would remain fairly confident that this is still a playoff team – as it stands, I am a little unsure…
11. Houston Texans (6-4) ↓
After being put to the sword by Lamar Jackson, I had no choice but to drop the Texans down a spot in the rankings. QB Deshaun Watson, who has been nigh-on unstoppable for some games this season, was completely nullified and the whole Houston offense seemed to stall. Fans will hope this doesn’t develop into a longer term problem as the Texans are still well in the race for the AFC South title.
12. Indianapolis Colts (6-4) ↑
The Colts secured an easy 33-13 win over the Jaguars, with Jacoby Brissett returning to the fold after a knee injury. He could afford to take it easy and rely on the ground game (264 yards rushing was the Colts’ best tally for 15 years), a rock-solid defense and the foot of Adam Vinatieri but tougher divisional match-ups lie in wait. In fact, this Thursday’s showdown with co-leaders the Texans could yet shape the destiny of the AFC South.
13. Philadelphia Eagles (5-5) ←
A half-hearted 17-10 loss to the Patriots should have pushed the Eagles down my rankings this week, but the lack of offensive weapons for Carson Wentz – no DeSean Jackson or Alshon Jeffery, for instance – should be seen as a mitigating factor. Plus the Pats are just ruthlessly efficient, like a German car or a Swiss watch. Wentz and the gang face the Seahawks next so it’s not going to get easier any time soon.
14. Oakland Raiders (6-4) ↑
They say you can only beat what’s in front of you and that’s what the Raiders did in their 17-10 win over the lacklustre Bengals. QB Derek Carr completed 25-of-29 passes for 292 yards, one yard shy of his season’s high, threw a TD pass and rushed for another score. But he had to share the limelight with DE Maxx Crosby, a fourth-round pick who sacked Ryan Finley four times, and Offensive Rookie of the Year shoe-in Josh Jacobs, who rushed for over 100 yards yet again. There’s another favorable match-up next Sunday in the form of the Jets so I expect the Raiders to remain well and truly in the playoff hunt.
15. Carolina Panthers (5-5) ↓
Without Cam Newton pulling the strings, the Panthers clearly aren’t firing on all cylinders. Stand-in Kyle Allen showed his limitations in a 29-3 home defeat to the lowly Falcons with four interceptions, and he was sacked five times. With three games against divisional rivals to come, there’s a chance Carolina – with the mighty Christian McCaffrey racking up the yards every week – could yet steady the ship but they’ll have to start in New Orleans on Sunday.
16. Buffalo Bills (7-3) ↑
A road victory against an AFC East rival, even if it was the dreadful Dolphins, was just what the doctor ordered for Buffalo. Scoring on six of their first eight possessions, the Bills cruised to 424 total yards in a solid 37-20 win. They’ll need to keep the pedal to the metal this week at home to the Broncos, who gave the Vikes some yikes last weekend.
17. Cleveland Browns (4-6) ↑
The Browns’ unexpected 21-7 win over their AFC North foes from Pittsburgh should have been about the first 59 minutes. But its legacy will forever be Myles Garrett seeing red and bopping Steelers QB Mason Rudolph on the bonce with his own helmet with seconds of the game left. The defensive end is arguably Cleveland’s best player so his indefinite suspension could yet derail any faint hopes they still harbour for a Wild Card place. For now though, the headline-grabbing victory lifts them above their opponents in these rankings.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) ↓
The Steelers’ defeat to the Browns will rankle for a while. Not only did they leave Cleveland without the W, but Mason Rudolph had a four-interception nightmare and they lost offensive weapons in James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson to injury. Center Maurkice Pouncey also got a three-game suspension for his role in the brawl so the hangover from this one could seriously affect their run-in. Luckily, it’s the winless Bengals up next so all is not lost.
19. Los Angeles Chargers (4-7) ↓
Talking of ‘four interception nightmares’, Philip Rivers had one in the Chargers’ 24-17 reverse to the Chiefs in Mexico City. The last one – a final-minute, game-deciding pick-six – all but scuttles the Bolts’ playoff hopes. Even if they turn things around, they’ll probably need other results elsewhere to go their way too. Maybe a bye week may be just what they need to regroup…
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6) ←
Another four-win team, the Jags, failed to push on after Nick Foles threw a TD pass to DJ Chark on their first drive against the Colts. As the offense fizzled out, the run defense did too and Indy ran in three scores. Sunday’s trip to the Titans could be make or break for Jacksonville.
21. Tennessee Titans (5-5) ←
The Titans are my lowest-ranked five-win team, but they didn’t have the opportunity to push up the ladder due to their bye. They return to action against the only divisional rivals below them: the Jaguars. That said, they are only one win behind the Colts and Texans so there’s still plenty to play for.
22. Atlanta Falcons (3-7) ↑
At 1-7, the Falcons looked like they may be tanking but wins over the Saints and Panthers (with no TDs conceded) have propelled Atlanta up the rankings. Matt Ryan is looking proficient if not flashy, the defense are racking up sacks and interceptions like there’s no tomorrow and it’s the buckling Buccaneers next. Head Coach Dan Quinn may just have hit on the right formula at last.
23. Chicago Bears (4-6) ↓
The Bears continue to look like a winter hibernation is in the offing. The under-performing Mitchell Trubisky injured his hip against the Rams, possibly saving Head Coach Matt Nagy from benching him in favour of (the equally uninspiring) Chase Daniel. We’ll have to see who suits up this week but with the playoffs looking increasingly unlikely, the visit of the Giants could be Chicago’s last-chance saloon.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7) ↓
Jameis Winston was yet another QB to throw four interceptions this weekend in Tampa’s loss to the Saints. That’s 18 for the season and 98 in his four-and-a-half year career, making him a bona fide turnover machine. Winston’s situation is increasingly precarious, with any number of better options out of contract at the end of the season and a decent rookie class lying in wait. The 3-7 Falcons are next on the fixture list but even they aren’t the pushovers they were two weeks ago, so something needs to click for the Bucs – and soon.
25. Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1) ↑
The Cardiac Cards may have lost to the 49ers this week but they still get an uptick from me, simply for the manner of that defeat. They led by three points with half a minute left and their defense still tried to blitz Jimmy G to seal the W. Alas, Garoppolo threw a game-winning TD but hats off to Kliff Kingsbury and his staff for giving it a darn good go. Despite the result, the signs are that Kyler Murray and company are on the up and could continue to climb the ranking when they return from their bye.
26. Denver Broncos (3-7) ↓
Oh, the highs and lows of an NFL game… the Broncos raced to a 20-point half-time lead against the Vikings: so far, so good. Then they promptly blew it in the second half, finally losing 27-23. Not so good. The offense fizzled out after the break and the defense were mere spectators as Cap’n Kirk Cousin led Minnesota on four touchdown drives. Can Denver deliver over a full 60 minutes against the Bills this week or will we have another rollercoaster ride on our hands?
27. Detroit Lions (3-6-1) ↓
Even without Matt Stafford and with Jeff Driskel (much-maligned when he was at Cincinnati), the Lions can still deliver a decent offensive effort. But in their 35-27 defeat to Dallas, it was their defense that let them down yet again – they got burned by Dak Prescott all over the field and slip down the rankings as a result. Detroit go from shooting it out with the Cowboys to fighting the Redskins so expect to see an upward arrow again next week.
28. New York Jets (3-7) ←
Hold the front page: the Jets won again! OK, so it was only against Washington (hence the lack of movement in the rankings) but still, there were positives on both sides of the ball, from Sam Darnold’s four TD passes to Jamal Adams’ three sacks. With this week’s confirmation that Head Coach Adam Gase is going nowhere, it seems like the remainder of the season could be pergatory for New York fans – unless Darnold et al can back these wins with more of the same, starting with the visit of the Raiders.
29. New York Giants (2-8) ←
The Giants stay put at #29 after their bye week, but only because the three teams below them are putting the ‘rank’ in power rankings. Maybe the week off will have had a restorative effect on Saquon Barkley, who’s clearly still out of sorts after his injury layoff.
30. Miami Dolphins (2-8) ←
The ‘Fins reverted to type in a 37-20 loss to the Bills but luckily, everyone around them on this list is equally poor so they stay 30th. The porous Miami defense made Josh Allen (256 yards and three TDs in the air, 56 yards and a TD rushing) look like Lamar Jackson. Their non-existent ground game was also weakened this week when RB Mark Walton was cut after his fourth arrest this year. With troubles on and off the field, it was fate that decided they should face a dust-up with the Browns this weekend.
31. Washington Redskins (1-9) ←
In Washington, TDs are like buses: you wait 16 quarters (a franchise record) for one and then two come along at once! What else was good in their 34-17 loss to the Jets? Mmm… hang on… bear with me… no, that’s about it. They were trailing by 31 points by the time they finally hit pay dirt, they can’t run the ball for toffee (54 yards total rushing on Sunday) and rookie QB Dwayne Haskins took six sacks. No wonder he had it out with his O-line on the touchline. The sub-par Lions are next on the schedule but even they should be too strong for the ‘Skins.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-10) ←
They’re days away from their worst start in franchise history and six games shy of a winless season so where else did you expect to find the Bengals? Despite a decent defensive effort against Oakland, Cincy’s 17-10 loss saw Ryan Finley get sacked five times and fail to throw a TD. AJ Green, John Ross and now Auden Tate are missing from the receiving core and the O-line is still woeful. Unless there’s a phoenix-like (Atlanta-esque?) revival, starting against their old foes the Steelers, I’m expecting two things to happen in the off-season: a major roster overhaul and Joe Burrow to go house-hunting in the greater Cincinnati area…