Welcome to Election Day 2020. I know this is an NFL Power Rankings article, but that is definitely not the most important thing going on in the U.S. today. And if you are about to spout off about how sports aren’t political, you clearly have not been paying attention.
While much fanfare will be made of who wins the presidential election, I encourage you not to overlook campaign races in the Senate and House of Representatives. These are the people who confirm Supreme Court justice appointments, design stimulus packages and decide where our nation’s money is spent. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that those who serve in the United States Congress hold an enormous amount of power over our lives.
The bottom line is, please vote. I won’t tell you to lean one way or the other. By now, you have likely made your decision. Simply, show up, and make your voice heard. Be part of the process that our country quite literally fought a war to establish and has fought many more since to protect.
Of course, I will also be praying for everyone’s safety on this day. There is the obvious threat in the form of the coronavirus to everyone’s health, but reports of potential riots and retaliations regarding the outcome of the presidential race have circulated in the media. I truly hope that we can all wake up on Wednesday morning unscathed.
Believe it or not, voting and football go hand in hand this year. The NFL has made a huge push to have its players and coaches vote. So with that semi-reasonable transition, let’s get to the football.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 28-24 at Baltimore
Are the ’72 Dolphins sweating yet? They really shouldn’t be given how much time is left in the season, but the Steelers passed their biggest test of the year so far on Sunday. It was a gritty AFC North showdown. Pittsburgh’s defense gave up a shocking 265 yards rushing, but came up with a big play when it mattered. Minkah Fitzpatrick broke up Lamar Jackson’s potential game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone to seal the win. Despite its struggles against the run, Pittsburgh still had success on defense, forcing four turnovers, including a pick-six. T.J. Watt and company also racked up four sacks. With a two-game lead in the division, Mike Tomlin has to be loving life right now.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: 7-1 (Last Week: 3)
Won 35-9 vs. New York
One week after leaning heavily into the running game, Patrick Mahomes balled out against the Jets. The 2018 MVP tossed five touchdown passes and added 416 yards through the air. While shutting down New York’s offense is far from impressive, Kansas City took care of business convincingly, holding the Jets to 221 yards of offense. The defending champs are proving to be versatile and adaptive to whatever it takes to get the job done. That is a scary prospect for the rest of the league.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-2 (Last Week: 2)
Won 25-23 at New York
This was not the blowout many people expected. To say the Buccaneers struggled to get past the Giants would be an understatement. Tampa struggled to establish the run and the defense nearly blew the game, but Daniel Jones’ ineptitude saved them. New York had a surprising amount of success running the ball against this usually stout defense. Part of that might have been by design though as Todd Bowles just blitzed Jones all night. The tactic earned his team two crucial interceptions. Maybe this was just a trap game with the Bucs looking ahead to next week’s showdown with the Saints. Either way, Tampa Bay was lucky to collect a win.
4. Seattle Seahawks: 6-1 (Last Week: 6)
Won 37-27 vs. San Francisco
Seattle bounced back in a big way, battling through injuries at key positions to take care of the 49ers. This game was even more lopsided than the final scoreline might indicate. The Seahawks led 30-7 in the fourth quarter before Nick Mullens came in to spark a late push. Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf look close to unstoppable at this point, connecting 12 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns. DeeJay Dallas played incredibly well in relief of Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde, scoring a pair of touchdowns. As of now, the road to a Super Bowl runs through Seattle. If the Seahawks can avoid the mistakes they made against the Cardinals, it is likely to stay that way.
5. Baltimore Ravens: 5-2 (Last Week: 5)
Lost 28-24 vs. Pittsburgh
Baltimore has not looked like the team that dominated the 2019 regular season. While 5-2 is still a fairly impressive start, the losses have come against the top two teams in the conference. On one hand, it shows that the Ravens certainly belong near the top of these power rankings. On the other, it is a bit concerning that they are struggling against the teams they will need to beat to reach the Super Bowl. Lamar Jackson is nowhere his MVP form of a year ago. His four turnovers are the biggest reason why Baltimore lost at home versus Pittsburgh. This team is still incredibly talented, but it seems like something is off right now.
6. Arizona Cardinals: 5-2 (Last Week: 8)
Arizona benefits from Green Bay and Tennessee losing to a pair of previously one-win teams in Week 8. The Cardinals have flashed incredible potential on offense with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins. They also seem to be hitting their stride. Arizona is on a three-game win streak, dominating the hapless Jets and Cowboys before making a statement against the Seahawks. Sustaining this positive start is the next step. Arizona draws Miami, Buffalo and Seattle again in its next three games. If Kyler Murray and company are 8-2 at that point, then it will be time to start talking about a Super Bowl run.
7. Green Bay Packers: 5-2 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 28-22 vs. Minnesota
It was not the same issue as the meltdown in Tampa, but this loss actually feels quite a bit more damaging to the Packers’ long-term chances. It became clear last year that Green Bay could not stop the run. Never was it more evident that problem had not been fixed than on Sunday. Dalvin Cook bulldozed his way for 226 total yards and four trips to the end zone. Kirk Cousins attempted only 14 passes the entire game. It was clear Minnesota was intent on just running the ball down Green Bay’s throat, and the Packers could not stop it. With Kwon Alexander and Avery Williamson both moving at the deadline, the front office missed a chance to bolster it’s biggest need. This is not a good sign going forward.
8. New Orleans Saints: 5-2 (Last Week: 9)
Won 26-23 at Chicago
As the Bears like to say, it’s better to win ugly than to lose pretty. New Orleans beat Chicago at it’s own game, slogging through a multiple-possession overtime game before Wil Lutz finally hit the game-winning field goal. Drew Brees had a solid game despite missing his top two receivers, Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, again. He didn’t actually get much help from his receiving corps, it was just Alvin Kamara putting the offense on his back once again. He didn’t score, but he finished with 67 yards rushing on 12 carries and 96 yards receiving on nine catches. It was a bit concerning to see Chicago rack up 23 points, but the defense did account for five sacks and an interception. Hard to ask for much more than that.
9. Buffalo Bills: 6-2 (Last Week: 11)
Won 24-21 vs. New England
Are they the new kings of the AFC East? While everyone is taking the Patriots to task for losing a fourth-straight game, it is important to remember this was just a three-point win for the Bills. Josh Allen struggled again, completing just 11-of-18 passes for 154 yards and an interception. If not for that costly fumble by Cam Newton, New England was in position to force overtime or even potentially win the game in regulation. It was nice to see the running game show up, both Zack Moss and Devin Singletary racked up 80-plus yards rushing, but Buffalo is not playing its best football right now.
10. Tennessee Titans: 5-2 (Last Week: 7)
Lost 31-20 at Cincinnati
Tennessee allowed one loss to turn into two. After dropping its first game of the season while facing the undefeated Steelers, the Titans slept walked through a bad loss to the Bengals. Cincinnati was fielding a completely make-shift offensive line, yet the Titans could not get to Joe Burrow. No sacks and no turnovers is not good enough from Mike Vrabel’s defense. The Titans offense rumbled for 218 yards on the ground, but managed just 20 points. It really felt like these team was just not focused enough coming off a loss. Tennessee needs to regroup quickly with the Bears, Colts and Ravens up next.
11. Indianapolis Colts: 5-2 (Last Week: 12)
Won 41-21 at Detroit
Lost in the midst of a wild NFL weekend, the Colts quietly dominated the Lions en route to a three-score victory. Philip Rivers put together arguably his best performance of the season to make up for a lackluster running game. Indy as a team averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor was a big part of the team’s struggles, totaling just 22 yards on 11 carries. The secondary continues to look middle of the road, surrendering over 300 yards and three touchdowns to Matthew Stafford, but managing an interception as well. The run defense continues to be one of the best in the league, holding Detroit to just 29 yards on the ground. Suddenly, the Colts are tied atop the AFC South.
12. Miami Dolphins: 4-3 (Last Week: 15)
Won 28-17 vs. Los Angeles
The Tua Tagovailoa era started with a resounding thud for him personally, but the Dolphins picked up the slack on defense and special teams in a gutsy win. Miami made Jared Goff’s life miserable and were rewarded with four turnovers by the former No. 1 pick. One of those was a fumble returned for a touchdown. Jakeem Grant showed off his speed on a punt return touchdown as well. Tagovailoa will need to step up after failing to reach 100 yards passing in his debut as the starter, but it is clear the Dolphins are capable of finding other ways to win.
13. Las Vegas Raiders: 4-3 (Last Week: 13)
Won 16-6 at Cleveland
It wasn’t pretty, but Las Vegas got it done in some awful weather on the road. The defense played so well, holding Cleveland under 250 yards of offense. Josh Jacobs played the role of feature back again with 31 carries for 128 yards. This brand of football is sustainable and effective, especially as the weather gets colder across the country. The biggest thing missing from this being a dominant style of play is a pass rush. Only the Jaguars have registered fewer sacks than the Raiders this season.
14. Los Angeles Rams: 5-3 (Last Week: 10)
Lost 28-17 at Miami
Despite the final score, the Rams defense was spectacular again. Unfortunately, the rest of the team forgot to show up. Jared Goff looked awful, committing four turnovers. He does not deserve all the blame though, as his offensive line had it’s worst game of the season. He might have only been sacked twice, but Goff got hit eight times, including on both of his interceptions and the fumble that was returned for a touchdown. These were the same issues that plagued Los Angeles a year ago. Sean McVay needs to find some consistency for this team.
15. Chicago Bears: 5-3 (Last Week 14)
Lost 26-23 vs. New Orleans
It was a valiant effort from the Bears to force overtime, but once again the lack of offensive fire power showed up when it mattered. Chicago got a chance to win the game in overtime, but Nick Foles was sacked twice and the Bears had to punt it back. The offensive line was an issue all game, allowing five sacks on the afternoon. Chicago played fairly well defensively, but this was a game where it really could have used a turnover to change the momentum and help the offense out. The Bears are still right in the thick of the playoff race following a Packers loss, but this team needs to find something to avoid this losing streak dragging on for too long.
16. San Francisco 49ers: 4-4 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 37-27 at Seattle
San Francisco simply cannot escape injuries. Kyle Shanahan deserves Coach of the Year consideration for keeping this team competitive with all of the players he has been missing so far. Jimmy Garoppolo is set to miss a few weeks and George Kittle is likely out for the rest of the regular season. Tevin Coleman also exited Sunday’s game. The 49ers made a push in garbage time against the Seahawks to make the score look respectable, but they were thoroughly outplayed. Trading away Kwon Alexander shows signs that this team might be thinking about the long-term and understanding success this season might not be in the cards.
17. Cleveland Browns: 5-3 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 16-6 vs. Las Vegas
Turns out the Browns offense was not any better without Odell Beckham Jr. Now the weather definitely played a factor, but Cleveland’s offense looked hapless all day. Baker Mayfield didn’t turn the ball over, but he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and averaged just 4.9 yards per attempt. The windy conditions might have hampered the Browns passing game, but the team did not have as much success running the ball as it probably should have. This offense disappears far too often for the Browns to be considered real threats right now.
18. Carolina Panthers: 3-5 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 25-17 vs. Atlanta
If you had told me at the beginning of the year that Carolina would be 3-5 halfway through the year, I would have been surprised. I didn’t think the Panthers would even be that close to .500 given the overall youth of the team, a new quarterback and a new coaching staff. It is important to remember how impressive a start this still is for the new direction of the franchise. Dropping three straight and seeing the offense struggle against a bad Falcons defense is disappointing, but Carolina is already way more competitive than most expected this season.
19. Denver Broncos: 3-4 (Last Week: 25)
Won 31-30 vs. Los Angeles
What a comeback! I was ready to write off the Broncos after they went down 24-3 in the second quarter. ESPN’s win probability gave the Chargers a 98.7 percent chance of winning at that point. Denver finally completed its comeback on the final play of the game. Drew Lock shook off a slow start to throw three touchdown passes. The Broncos also need to give Phillip Lindsay the rock more. He has been really impressive since returning from injury and has been far more effective than Melvin Gordon. His 55-yard touchdown run energized the offense at a time where it desperately needed a jolt.
20. Atlanta Falcons: 2-6 (Last Week: 24)
Won 25-16 at Carolina
Atlanta likely staved off full-on tank mode for another week. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Takk McKinley are all still on the roster despite trade rumors. I think a loss to the Panthers could have seen at least one of the players on the move. This was the best game the Falcons’ defense has played all year. Atlanta got after Teddy Bridgewater made just enough plays to preserve their second win of the year. It is hard not to dwell on what could have been if the Falcons had held onto some leads this year, but this team is definitely more competitive than its record would indicate.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: 3-4-1 (Last Week: 22)
Won 23-9 vs. Dallas
I wanted to drop the Eagles a bit despite winning, but it is difficult to justify dropping them below some of these other teams. With New England, Detroit, Los Angeles and Carolina all losing, it mitigated their mistake-filled performance in a victory. Philly is winning games while far from full strength. I still don’t think this team is very good, Carson Wentz did have four turnovers, but it will clearly take advantage of mediocre competition. If it gets Miles Sanders and possibly a few of its offensive linemen healthy, Philly should win the NFC East comfortably.
22. New England Patriots: 2-5 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 24-21 at Buffalo
Bill Belichick has his work cut out for him. New England actually played pretty well, but the only play anyone will talk about is Cam Newton’s late-game fumble. This team just does not have depth to close out opponents. Newton’s top receivers are Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd. Ja’Wahun Bentley and John Simon have been thrust into big roles on defense with players opting out. Give the Patriots credit for keeping this game close, but that doesn’t really count for much. On the bright side, it looks like they may have something special in Damien Harris.
23. Detroit Lions: 3-4 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 41-21 vs. Indianapolis
These are the losses that remind everyone why Matt Patricia is on the hot seat. Defensively, the Lions had no answer for Philip Rivers. Matt Stafford tried to drag the offense along without Kenny Golladay. He got no help from his running game though, as Detroit finished with just 29 yards rushing on 2.2 yards per attempt. 10 of those yards came from Stafford himself on one run. With him being asked to do too much, he turned it over twice and could not find a way to pilot a comeback. The Lions are toiling away in mediocrity again.
24. Minnesota Vikings: 2-5 (Last Week: 26)
Won 28-22 at Green Bay
Divisional games are just weird. On paper, Green Bay should have blown out Minnesota. Instead, Dalvin Cook turned into Superman and carried the Vikings to a much-needed victory. The Packers might have one of the worst run defenses in the league, but this was still just a ridiculously impressive showing. The offensive line was creating lanes all game long and Cook hit them with authority. Keeping the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands was vital because the defense struggled to stop him and Davante Adams when he did have it. It wasn’t perfect, but Minnesota has a new outlook on the season.
25. Cincinnati Bengals: 2-5-1 (Last Week: 27)
Won 31-20 vs. Tennessee
This time, the Bengals held onto their big first-half lead. In Week 6, Cincy built a 24-7 lead against Indianapolis, only to lose 31-27. In Week 8, the secondary made life just difficult enough on Ryan Tannehill to secure the win. That proved to be really important because the defense could not stop the run. Tennessee finished with over 200 yards on the ground. On the other side of the ball, the Bengals patchwork offensive line shocking did not allow a sack and overall played fairly well. Joe Burrow made some big plays and Cincinnati picked up a strangely comfortable victory. Heading into a bye week is much easier following a win.
26. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-5 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 31-30 at Denver
Just when we thought the Falcons had a lock on fumbling away leads late in games better than anyone else, the Chargers collapsed again. For the fourth straight week, Los Angeles blew a double-digit lead, although it did still come back to beat Jacksonville in Week 7. After a hot start, Justin Herbert got a little careless with the football and the defense simply could not hold up. After so many weeks of feeling like the Chargers were a good team that just kept coming off short, I’m starting to think this team is just not prepared to close out games. This was always a rebuilding year, so being competitive is a plus, but these losses are starting to pile up.
27. Houston Texans: 1-6 (Last Week: 23)
As the dust settles on Week 8, Houston is now one of just three teams with one win this season. Given the direction this team seems to be headed, this would be the time most fan bases start thinking about the upcoming NFL draft. However, the Texans don’t have a pick until the third round as of right now and did not make any moves at the deadline to reclaim some draft capital. This team seems intent on winning this year. That’s a dangerous approach for a 1-6 team with few ways to improve going forward.
28. Washington: 2-5 (Last Week: 28)
Washington gets a week off to recalibrate after an up-and-down start to the year. The team won it’s season opener in shocking fashion, then went on to bench its former first-round draft pick at quarterback, but somehow sits just 1.5 games out of first place in the division despite having only two wins. It is important to remember that Ron Rivera is committed to rebuilding this team and that was never going to happen in one offseason. Washington certainly has some of the right players in place to be successful one day. Patience is required to see that come to fruition.
29. New York Giants: 1-7 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 25-23 vs. Tampa Bay
It is time to move on from Daniel Jones. Well, I guess right this second. He should probably start the rest of the season, but barring some kind of incredible turnaround, I am not buying any stock in him as the long-term answer at quarterback for the Giants. Jones makes the same mental errors every week. He flashes plenty of the potential that made him a top-10 selection, but his late-game interception that set up Tampa’s go-ahead touchdown and him being inexplicably late getting the ball out on what should have been the game-tying two-point conversion underline why his time should be up. Dion Lewis was wide open and Jones hesitated for way too long. On the bright side, New York is firmly in the running for Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Trey Lance.
30. Dallas Cowboys: 2-6 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 23-9 at Philadelphia
This might be the worst offense in the NFL right now and that is saying something. Mike McCarthy is floundering as the head coach of this team. Sure, he has to contend with some difficult injuries, but he is making terrible in-game decisions and seems to have no idea how to establish any sort of rhythm on offense. Keep in mind that his usually lifeless defense produced four turnovers on Sunday night, which Dallas turned into three field goals. This franchise is at a crossroads right now, and with each depressing loss, the Cowboys move closer to hitting the reset button.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-6 (Last Week: 31)
It looks like the Minshew Magic show may be getting an early curtain. Gardner Minshew is unlikely to be active in Week 9 against the Texans. Jacksonville will turn to rookie quarterback Jake Luton in his place. Already with one of the least talented rosters in the league, this seems like just another step closer to a new quarterback and a new coaching staff next year. It has been a rough season for Jaguars fans, but it will all be worth it if the Jags land a franchise passer and James Robinson turns out to be the answer at running back.
32. New York Jets: 0-8 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 35-9 at Kansas City
The hunt for Trevor Lawrence continues. New York watched several one-win teams pick up a second victory of the season, which inches the Jets closer to the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Before they get there though, Sam Darnold might have grounds to sue the team for reckless endangerment. The third-year quarterback re-aggravated his shoulder injury that kept him out of Weeks 5 and 6. His receiving corps got a slight boost against the Chiefs with Denzel Mims finally making his NFL debut, but he still has one of the worst supporting casts in the league. Not surprisingly, the Jets’ defense made Patrick Mahomes look like … well, Patrick Mahomes I guess. (Not so) fun stat: Mahomes threw for more touchdown passes in this game (five) than the Jets have all season (four). Pretty good sign the team could use a new quarterback and a new coaching staff.
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