Just when we started to feel like we had a good handle on what to expect in the NFL, the league threw us a massive curveball. Pittsburgh was taken the distance by Garrett Gilbert and the hapless Cowboys. Carolina pushed Kansas City to the limit. New Orleans battered Tampa Bay in a shocking 38-3 win. Josh Allen blasted the high-flying Seahawks.
Those were the top four teams in my power rankings last week. They all either won ugly or took tough losses. As a result, the rankings underwent a massive shakeup.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 24-19 at Dallas
It was ugly, but the Steelers stayed perfect. Once again, the defense came up with a pass breakup in the end zone on the final play of the game to seal the victory. Facing the Ravens, that was an acceptable outcoming. Against the Cowboys, who were starting their fourth quarterback of the season, this is a much more concerning outcome. Ben Roethlisberger seems like he is barely hanging on. He spent much of the game limping around, but magicked up three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter. The run game all but disappeared and the defense was not as sharp as recent weeks. Call it a trap game, the Steelers need to bounce back despite the win.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: 8-1 (Last Week: 2)
Won 33-31 vs. Carolina
Patrick Mahomes is looking unstoppable again. 25 touchdowns and just one interception this year is unbelievable. He needed to be at his best against Carolina. The Panthers pushed the Chiefs to the brink. Kansas City’s usually stout defense had no answer for Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday. The running game also disappeared, as the team finished with just 30 yards on 12 carries. Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL, but counting on him to go off like this every week does not feel sustainable. However, winning while not at your best is still important. KC gets the week off next to recharge.
3. Baltimore Ravens: 6-2 (Last Week: 5)
Won 24-10 at Indianapolis
It might not be MVP-mode Lamar Jackson, but he was efficient in a solid win. The defense deserves way more of the credit in the defensive struggle. Chuck Clark returned a fumble for a touchdown as the Ravens continue to lead the league in scoring defense. Baltimore contained Philip Rivers and the passing game, holding them to just 5.2 yards per play. Weirdly enough, the Colts actually had more success per play running the ball. It is clear this team is talented, but it feels like Baltimore is not clicking yet. That could be a good thing if Jackson and the offense can recapture its 2019 form.
4. Green Bay Packers: 6-2 (Last Week: 7)
Won 34-17 at San Francisco
No one ever wants to face Aaron Rodgers, but you really never want to face him coming off a loss. He went off for 305 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Packers to their sixth victory of the year. In a game where the running game was not at full strength due to injuries and COVID-19, Rodgers stepped up and dominated with Davante Adams. He got plenty of help from the defense too. Green Bay led 34-3 before San Francisco punched in two garbage-time touchdowns. The 49ers are the most banged up team in the league, but this was still a great win to get back on track.
5. New Orleans Saints: 6-2 (Last Week: 8)
Won 38-3 at Tampa Bay
Mic drop. People have loved to compare Drew Brees and Tom Brady this year as the two trade the NFL’s all-time touchdown title back and forth. Brees gave himself some breathing room with four scores. The defense made sure he held that lead too, keeping Brady out of the end zone. New Orleans rolled out the perfect plan to shut him down, generating pressure without having to blitz. Brady looked uncomfortable all night long. Maybe the Saints just have the Buccaneers’ number right now, but this was a huge win to show they still deserve to be considered Super Bowl contenders.
6. Buffalo Bills: 7-2 (Last Week: 9)
Won 44-34 vs. Seattle
After two lackluster weeks, Josh Allen and the offense woke up. The former Wyoming star aired it out for 415 yards and scored four total touchdowns. Buffalo’s defense came to play as well with five sacks and four forced turnovers from Russell Wilson. More than halfway through the season now, the Bills seem to be well on their way to a playoff appearance and potentially a division title. Miami is keeping things interest, but Buffalo has to feel really good about the football it is playing right now.
7. Seattle Seahawks: 6-2 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 44-34 at Buffalo
Someone get the Seahawks a defense. Seattle was always likely to give up more points with the team letting Russell Wilson air it out, but this unit might be the worst in the NFL. Surrendering the third most points and most yards per game this season is cause for major concern. The offense had been able to make up for most of that this year, but even Wilson could not cover up the deficiencies against Buffalo. Wilson tossed a pair of interceptions and took five sacks in the game. His counterpart, Josh Allen, threw for 415 yards and three touchdowns. He also added one of the ground. For as good as this Seahawks offense has played this year, Seattle has no chance of wining the Super Bowl with its current defense.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-3 (Last Week: 3)
Lost 38-3 vs. New Orleans
What in the world was that? This was touted as the clear game of the week. Tampa Bay didn’t get the memo. Tom Brady played one of the worst games of his career. He finished with three interceptions, no touchdowns and just 5.5 yards per attempt. The Buccaneers made no effort to establish the run, finishing eight yards on five attempts. One of those was a kneel down by Blaine Gabbert as well. Four called running plays is not going to cut it. Defensively, the Bucs disappointed again. Drew Brees carved them up for four touchdowns. Tampa got away with one against New York the week before. It clearly did not make the necessary adjustments. For as good as they have looked at times, going 0-2 vs. the Saints is a bad sign.
9. Tennessee Titans: 6-2 (Last Week: 10)
Won 24-17 vs. Chicago
This defense finally showed up. It got a bit of a boost in the form of facing the Bears offense, but it was still an impressive performance. Tennessee held Chicago to just 2.8 yards per carry and forced two fumbles. One of those was returned for a touchdown as well. It turns out that it was the defense’s turn to carry the load. The Titans’ offense struggled with less than 250 yards. Ryan Tannehill only completed 10 passes the whole game. Tennessee still doesn’t seem like it is truly back on track, but this was an important win to pick up with the Colts coming to town on Thursday.
10. Miami Dolphins: 5-3 (Last Week: 12)
Won 34-31 at Arizona
Tua Tagovailoa is undefeated as an NFL starter. Now, the sample size is just two games, but the former Alabama quarterback settled in nicely after a rocky debut. He led his team to a shootout victory over a talented Cardinals offense. Miami’s defense did just enough to hang on for the win. It is a huge swing for the Dolphins, who go from being happy to be above .500 to holding a playoff position. There is still room for improvement, but without their top two running backs, this a great sign for things to come.
11. Arizona Cardinals: 5-3 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 34-31 vs. Miami
Kyler Murray is solidly in the MVP conversation after another stellar outing. He should have a shot at winning as well if this is the kind of help he is going to get from his defense. It is hard to argue any one player is more valuable to their team right now than Murray, who scored four touchdowns, completed 21-of-26 passes for 283 yards and racked 106 yards rushing. He did lose one fumble and that really was the difference in the game. Zane Gonzalez’s game-tying field goal fell short at the end of the game as Arizona suffered a biter defeat. There is no doubt this team is heading in the right direction, but the defense still has a lot of growing up to do.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: 5-3 (Last Week: 13)
Won 31-26 at Los Angeles
Las Vegas was lucky to win this one. Los Angeles nearly hauled in the game-winning touchdown on the final play of the game, but it was overturned on a review. Derek Carr had a ho-hum kind of afternoon, finishing with just 165 yards passing but adding two touchdowns. The run game was reliable and effective as the Raiders rumbled for 160 yards on the ground. It wasn’t perfect and the win does not count for any less because it was close. However, Vegas looked like the worse team for much of this game. Jon Gruden has work to do with two more pivotal divisional games coming up.
13. Indianapolis Colts: 5-3 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 24-10 vs. Baltimore
Another failed test for the Philip Rivers-led offense. Baltimore’s defense is one of the best in the league, but 10 points is not good enough for a team with playoff aspirations. There might have been some controversy regarding the late-game interception Rivers threw, but that was not the real issue of the game. Indy cannot lean into the run enough right now to compensate for it’s lackluster passing game. Frank Reich might need to change the approach for the unit heading into an important divisional game.
14. Los Angeles Rams: 5-3 (Last Week: 14)
The identity of the Rams has drastically changed over the past two years. Los Angeles shifted from the high-flying, offensive-minded team that reached the Super Bowl in 2018 to this gritty, lockdown defensive group we have seen in 2020. The defense is allowing the second fewest points per game this year. However, the offense has been hit or miss. Los Angeles has followed just about every impressive showing with a troubling performance. If Sean McVay can find any consistency in the second half, the Rams should be in good shape.
15. Cleveland Browns: 5-3 (Last Week: 17)
Who are the 2020 Cleveland Browns? No, this isn’t an Alex Trebek tribute, although he will be sorely missed, it is a genuine question. Cleveland has a winning record at the midway point and is solidly in the playoff hunt. However, the Browns offense has been anything but reliable and the defense is struggling to contend with injuries. Cleveland has won some close games, but the losses have all been lopsided, especially in terms of offensive performance. It is hard to know exactly what to make of this group at this stage, but they will be one of the most interesting teams to watch in the second half of the year.
16. Chicago Bears: 5-4 (Last Week 15)
Lost 24-17 at Tennessee
Remember when the Bears were 5-1? That feels like a lifetime ago after three straight losses. Each one has shared a similar theme as well. Chicago’s defense does just enough keep things close but the offense cannot pull it out. Nick Foles actually put up some solid numbers. However, he threw the ball 52 times. That is a not a winning recipe for the Bears. Foles needs more than 2.8 yards per carry from his running game and Matt Nagy needs to think about handing the playcalling duties to someone else.
17. Atlanta Falcons: 3-6 (Last Week: 20)
Won 34-27 vs. Denver
Atlanta let Denver climb back into their game on Sunday just enough that you though another collapse was on the horizon, but the Falcons closed it out for their third win in four games. Matt Ryan looked sharp with 284 yards and three touchdown passes. Defensively, the Falcons held the Broncos out of the end zone for the first three quarters of play. Perhaps this truly was just a matter of them taking their foot off the gas. Atlanta is far from one of the league’s elite clubs at this point, but it is proving to be a tough out under Raheem Morris.
18. Philadelphia Eagles: 3-4-1 (Last Week: 21)
Philly took a week off an watched as the rest of the NFC East crumbled around them. Every other team in the division has at least six losses at this point, giving the Eagles a very solid cushion. What’s more is that this team should finally be getting healthy. Alshon Jeffery, Miles Sanders and Lane Johnson are all expected to practice this week with a chance to play against the Giants. If Darius Slay can get back to full strength on the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles will be a much tougher team to deal with than the one we have seen in recent weeks.
19. Carolina Panthers: 3-6 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 33-31 at Kansas City
Close isn’t going to cut it a whole longer in Carolina as the losing streak now hits four. However, taking the defending champs to the wire is an impressive feat. Christian McCaffrey was flying around in his return to action, although he could be back on the sideline with a shoulder injury. Teddy Bridgewater played great, posting three total touchdowns. Unfortunately, this young defense could not slow down Patrick Mahomes. It is easy to feel a lot better about the Panthers this year than last year. This are simply growing pains in the rebuild process.
20. Minnesota Vikings: 3-5 (Last Week: 24)
Won 34-20 vs. Detroit
It is amazing what fresh legs will do for you. Dalvin Cook sat out Week 6 before enjoying his bye week. In his past two games, he has racked up 479 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns. He is now drawing MVP attention and carrying the Vikings back into playoff contention. Minnesota still has a long way to go before it can seriously think about the postseason, but there is no question this team’s outlook feels very different than it did three weeks ago.
21. San Francisco 49ers: 4-5 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 34-17 vs. Green Bay
Injuries caught up with the 49ers again. With Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle both out against the Packers on a short week, the offense laid an egg. San Francisco managed just three points through the first three quarters. Defensively, the 49ers had no answer for Devante Adams, who finished 173 yards and a touchdown. This has been one of the few times this year that this banged up squad has been noncompetitive. That’s a credit to Kyle Shanahan, but it is hard to see how San Francisco turns things around with so many injuries at key positions.
22. Denver Broncos: 3-5 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 34-27 at Atlanta
It was another slow start and this time the Broncos could not overcome it. Denver trailed by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter before finally starting to make things competitive. In fact, Drew Lock actually led three touchdown drives in the final quarter, but Atlanta did just enough to hold on. Denver has shown it has a talented offense and a defense capable of making big plays, but it needs to solve the issues surrounding these massive first-half deficits.
23. New England Patriots: 3-5 (Last Week: 22)
Won 30-27 at New York
That was the opposite of convincing. The Patriots snapped a four-game losing streak but needed a last-second field goal to outlast the winless Jets. Cam Newton struggled to stretch the field all night, missing a few passes downfield. Joe Flacco pulled apart the defense without Stephon Gilmore. Once again, the running game showed up though as Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead each carried the load. It was an important victory for New England to keep its playoff hopes alive, but not one that made you feel better about the direction this team is headed.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: 2-5-1 (Last Week: 25)
Hopefully, Joe Burrow is just spending his bye week in an ice bath. Only Carson Wentz has been sacked more than Burrow has this season. His offensive line has struggled in pass protection all year. However, the offense seems to hitting its stride. A win over the Titans was a showing of the potential this team holds under the former Heisman winner. With Joe Mixon given an extra week to get healthy and his receiving corp looking deep, Burrow should be in a position to put up some big numbers in the second half.
25. Detroit Lions: 3-5 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 34-20 at Minnesota
As you read this, Dalvin Cook is still running past helpless Lions defenders. After quietly climbing back to .500, Detroit has suffered back-to-back losses where it was clear it was outmatched. The absence of Kenny Golladay clearly impacted the offense as Matthew Stafford faltered against a young Vikings secondary before exiting with a concussion. The odds that Matt Patricia is coaching this team next year continue to shrink as Detroit seems headed for another season of mediocrity.
26. Houston Texans: 2-6 (Last Week: 27)
Won 27-25 at Jacksonville
Houston has proven it is capable of beating Jacksonville this year and not much else. To be fair, that’s something the Colts cannot claim at this point, but being 0-6 against the rest of the league is not a great look for the Texans. Deshaun Watson put together another strong performance. It was almost blown by a defense facing a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start. Had the Jaguars converted their two-point conversion, we would have been looking at a tie game with a minute and thirty seconds left to play. All in all, it is hard to feel super confident in the Texans right now.
27. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-6 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 31-26 vs. Las Vegas
Another week, another narrow Chargers loss. Justin Herbert is trying his best to drag this team to a win, but the defense has not cooperated in recent weeks. Los Angeles was gashed on Sunday for 6.2 yards per carry by Las Vegas. The Chargers may have slowed down Derek Carr, but it came at the expense of defending the run. It looked like the streak was final over with a late-game touchdown, but that was overturned. Los Angeles is showing a good amount of fight this season despite long odds, but it would be good to see them win a close game at some point.
28. New York Giants: 2-7 (Last Week: 29)
Won 23-20 at Washington
Don’t look now, but the Giants trail the Eagles by just one game in the win column. A win over Philadelphia in Week 10 would actually breathe life into chances of a potential playoff appearance. New York was a bit lucky to hang on for this one though. Daniel Jones was hounded all day long, taking sacks and fumbling twice, although both were recovered by the Giants. It was another impressive outing for the revamped New York defense. It forced five turnovers on Sunday to seal the victory. The Giants feel much closer to a top-five draft selection than a playoff run, but they are squarely in the mix at this stage.
29. Washington: 2-6 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 23-20 vs. New York
It was a tough loss for Washington. Kyle Allen seems set to miss a large chunk of games, thrusting Alex Smith into the starting role. While he is the feel-good story of the NFL season regardless of how he plays, his takeover in the game went anything but smoothly. Three interceptions marred an otherwise impressive performance. If Smith can return to his reliable ways, at least in his decision making, Washington should still be at least competitive in the second half of the year.
30. Dallas Cowboys: 2-7 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 24-19 vs. Pittsburgh
Garrett Gilbert almost sparked a magical win for the Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott was hampered by a hamstring injury, leaving the offense squarely in the hands of Gilbert. He handled the task about as well as you would want for a recent practice squad member. Dallas is already thinking about the future. This team has been ravaged by injuries this season and it is time to focus on 2021.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-7 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 27-25 vs. Houston
Jake Luton’s NFL debut actually went surprisingly well, even if Jacksonville was unable to finish the job. 300-plus passing yards a touchdown and an interception are pretty solid numbers to open his career. He also added a touchdown on the ground. The Jaguars are lacking in talent, but at least they are competitive at this point. There is a good chance this team will start fresh in the offseason, but these games are still important to figure out which player are worth keeping around.
32. New York Jets: 0-9 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 30-27 vs. New England
Just when you thought the Jets could not find a way to disappoint anyone, they found a way to do it. Joe Flacco turned back the clocks to sometime in 2012 with three touchdowns against an undermanned Patriots’ secondary. New York led by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter, but ran all of four offensive plays as New England staged a massive comeback. The two drives the Jets had in the fourth quarter resulted in an interception and a three-and-out. The misery just continues for this franchise.
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