1. Los Angeles Rams: 8-0 (Last Week: 1)
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Rams earned another win. Still the league’s only undefeated team, Los Angeles faced some adversity early on in its contest with Green Bay. Jared Goff looked a bit off in the first half and the ground game was bottled up. The second half fared a lot better for the offense. If not for an untimely fumble by Ty Montgomery, this could be a very different story. LA will need to play better against the Saints.
2. New England Patriots: 6-2 (Last Week: 2)
The Patriots offense managed just one touchdown up in Buffalo. New England still managed an impressive victory with a bunch of field goals and a pick-six. The Bills have done this a few times this season, so credit to the Pats for escaping with a comfortable win. This team will likely look better once it gets Sony Michel back from injury.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: 7-1 (Last Week: 3)
The Chiefs were tested again against the Broncos, but the final score is all that matters. Kansas City failed to score in the fourth quarter, which allowed Denver to close the gap slightly. Overall, it was a solid win. The defense came up with five sacks. Biggest issue has to be the lack of a running game, accounting for just 49 yards in the contest. No one has come close to stopping the aerial attack in KC, but the lack of a running game is a rising concern.
4. New Orleans Saints: 6-1 (Last Week: 4)
Revenge achieved in Minneapolis. That loss to the Buccaneers feels like a decade ago as the Saints cruised to its sixth straight win. It was not the typical game from New Orleans. Drew Brees only threw for 120 yards. In fact, the offense only picked up 260 yards of offense. The defense stepped up with two crucial turnovers, one interception for a touchdown and one fumble recovery to set up a short-field score. This sets up a showdown with the Rams next week in which defense might be at a premium.
5. Carolina Panthers: 5-2 (Last Week: 9)
In a lot of ways, the Panthers have flown under the radar. None of their games have been in primetime yet, but Carolina is looking good. This team has some great wins over the Bengals, Eagles and now Ravens, but also it lost to the Atlanta and Washington. The offense is weird but the defense is good. Watch out for Carolina in the second half.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: 5-2 (Last Week: 6)
A week off for the Chargers lets Melvin Gordon get healthy and the offense reset after some rough outings. Los Angeles seems well positioned to take a wild card spot in the AFC and still have a shot at the Chiefs, just one game behind Kansas City. A trip to Seattle awaits, where we will see what the Chargers are made of.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers: 4-2-1 (Last Week: 8)
It might be the Browns, but given how the last matchup with them went, this was a massive positive for the Steelers. James Connor had another incredible showing with 146 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh’s defense looked solid. Don’t look now, but the Steelers are leading the AFC North and picking up some steam. The Ravens are next on the schedule, so get ready for another edition of the best rivalry this league has to offer.
8. Minnesota Vikings: 4-3-1 (Last Week 5)
On paper, it seemed like the Vikings should have won this game. Minnesota outgained New Orleans by almost 200 yards and intercepted Drew Brees for the first time all season. Two turnovers cost the Vikings the game. Tough pill to swallow for the Vikings, especially as the Bears win to take control of the NFC North.
9. Philadelphia Eagles: 4-4 (Last Week: 10)
For most teams, playing in London means a neutral site game, but when playing the Jaguars that is undoubtedly a road game. It didn’t seem to matter as the Eagles handled the crowd, the trip and a resurgent Blake Bortles. The running defense was phenomenal and the passing offense continues to click, which is important considering the number of running back injuries Philly has suffered. The champs are .500 at the halfway mark, but it would be foolish to rule them out quite yet.
10. Washington: 5-2 (Last Week: 11)
Adrian Peterson turned back the clocks and dominated the Giants defense. The defense held the relatively anemic New York offense in check no problem. However, there is a lot to be desired as Washington only mustered 20 points. The record looks great, but Alex Smith and the passing offense still leaves a lot to be desired.
11. Chicago Bears: 4-3 (Last Week: 12)
No problems handling the Jets and with losses by the Vikings and Packers, the Bears currently top the NFC North. Matt Nagy is utilizing Tarik Cohen well and the offense will get better when Allen Robinson is back on the field. Turns out the defense is still pretty solid even without Khalil Mack. The tour of the AFC East continues as Chicago travels to Buffalo next.
12. Houston Texans: 5-3 (Last Week: 18)
Remember when the Texans were 0-3. The New York Giants do, as it was the only win Big Blue picked up this season. Since then, Houston has locked in offensively and found a way to utilize some dynamic offensive targets. Lamar Miller continues to impress after disappearing for a few weeks. Oh and Deshaun Watson seems to be all the way back with five touchdown passes on just 20 attempts. With the rest of the AFC South floundering, Houston looks to be in really good shape.
13. Baltimore Ravens: 4-4 (Last Week: 7)
This is a bad look for the Ravens. After a hot 3-1 start, Baltimore has dropped three of four to fall to .500. The Steelers are getting back on track and the Bengals continue to win tough games. The season is far from over, but a two-touchdown loss against Carolina raises a lot of doubts about Baltimore’s ability to make the playoffs.
14. Cincinnati Bengals: 5-3 (Last Week: 15)
Maybe a little closer than Marvin Lewis would have liked, but it was a much-needed win. It is great the Bengals intercepted Jameis Winston four times. It is troubling that ended in just a three-point victory on a game-winning field goal. This defense is a mess across the board right now. It could not get off the field on third down. That is going to be crucial for Cincinnati to solve on its bye week.
15. Seattle Seahawks: 4-3 (Last Week: 17)
This was a quality win for Seattle. Going on the road against a fellow wild card contender and winning is big. Russell Wilson posted a perfect passer rating and the ground game produced 176 yards on a whopping 42 carries. The Seahawks already have three road wins this season. With a home-loaded back half, Russell Wilson and company seem poised to make a legitimate run at the playoffs.
16. Atlanta Falcons: 3-4 (Last Week: 16)
There is no one in the NFL who needed a week off more than the Falcons. Atlanta has been ravaged by injuries on both sides of the ball. Considering that, 3-4 is not terrible for Dan Quinn’s crew. The offense is heating up and if the defense can get some key contributors back on the field, Atlanta could definitely run the table.
17. Green Bay Packers: 3-3-1 (Last Week: 14)
It is totally fair to be bitter after watching the Packers spoil a perfect start in LA. It was very reminiscent of Green Bay’s collapse against the Seahawks in the 2015 NFC Championship game. The defense made all the right plays and the offense just couldn’t get into a rhythm and capitalize. A two-point loss to the best team in football is nothing to be ashamed of, but it the Packers still seem a step behind the truly elite teams this season. Next test, a trip to Foxborough.
18. Detroit Lions: 3-4 (Last Week: 13)
Maybe I was a little premature on the coronation of Kerryon Johnson as the running back of the future for Detroit. The Lions ran the ball for just 34 yards with a 2.6 yards per carry rate. It only took 17 throws from Russell Wilson to put up 28 points on the defense. Three turnovers against the Seahawks is never going to be a recipe for success. Matt Stafford continues to struggle in big games.
19. Denver Broncos: 3-5 (Last Week: 20)
This is a young Broncos team continuing to grow. The rookie running backs are looking good as a pair. The passing offense is pedestrian though and the defense that crushed the Cardinals found out the Chiefs are just a bit better offensively. Patience is required, and this was a positive showing, but Denver is just not good enough this season to compete against Kansas City and Los Angeles.
20. Dallas Cowboys: 3-4 (Last Week: 22)
This was the right time for a week off in Dallas. The Cowboys had a chance to integrate Amari Cooper into the offense. It should lead to better results from everyone else on the offense just by virtue of his presence. It is an uphill battle after Washington picked up its fifth win of the season, but the Cowboys feel a lot more prepared for the challenge after the bye.
21. Miami Dolphins: 4-4 (Last Week: 21)
The cupcake schedule is over for the Dolphins, and it is proving to be a bit too tough so far. Miami’s secondary had some legendary blown coverages lead to touchdowns in Houston. On the bright side, DeVante Parker showed up with a massive six-catch 134-yard performance. A rematch with the Jets offers a chance to get back on track, but the ‘Fins will need a much better showing back home to stay in the postseason hunt.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars: 3-5 (Last Week: 19)
How is this the same team that beat the Patriots? Jacksonville continues to struggle offensively, putting up just 18 points in London. Perhaps having four players detained in a nightclub incident was a distraction, but the Jaguars look bad. They now sit in the AFC South cellar with a fifth loss in six games. Leonard Fournette cannot return soon enough.
23. Tennessee Titans: 3-4 (Last Week: 23)
Tennessee was on a bye this week, which hopefully gave the coaching staff time to figure out how to jump start the offense. Marcus Mariota has been mediocre at quarterback. The running game hasn’t been good enough. Ranking 30th in yards and points per game is not going to be good enough to reach the playoffs.
24. Indianapolis Colts: 3-5 (Last Week: 27)
The Colts head into the bye week with back-to-back wins. While it might have been against two tanking teams, winning those games is still important. Indianapolis is out of the basement in the division and now in the mix. The offense is rolling and Andrew Luck looks in sync. The Colts might have something Marlon Mack as well.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3-4 (Last Week: 24)
FitzMagic is back! Well maybe. Kinda. Jameis Winston imploded to the tune of four interceptions. Ryan Fitzpatrick took his place and tied the game up in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers still have the worst defense in the NFL. Quarterback drama and a terrible defense usually leads to a coaching change.
26. Cleveland Browns: 2-5-1 (Last Week: 25)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Browns have fired their head coach midway through the season. Hue Jackson failed consistently in Cleveland and after a promising start, this team has fallen off completely in recent weeks. Baker Mayfield seems to be regressing and the run game is disappearing. This was always going to be a long project, but this signals the end of the Browns 2018 campaign.
27. New York Jets: 3-5 (Last Week: 26)
It was a sloppy loss for the Jets. Tons of penalties and absolutely no running game to speak of. New York averaged 2.4 yards per rush. Sam Darnold had another rough outing, completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes in the process. Todd Bowles is running out of time to fix these underlying mistakes continuing to plague the Jets. Before too long, he could be following suit of Hue Jackson unless the team’s play improves.
28. New York Giants: 1-7 (Last Week: 28)
I have to think any outside general manager would clean house in New York. Coach, offensive line, quarterback, skill players. The only three offensive players likely to make the cut are Odell Beckham Jr., Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley. The Giants are well on their way to a top-five draft pick. The trade deadline is very soon and there could be a few more players out the door.
29. Buffalo Bills: 2-6 (Last Week: 29)
The Bills played a great first half on defense and honestly a good second half as well. Turns out that bringing Derek Anderson out of retirement is not the best strategy to win football games, especially against the Patriots. It appears Buffalo is back to being a basement team in the AFC, at least for the near future.
30. Arizona Cardinals: 2-6 (Last Week: 31)
The Cardinals are capable of grinding out games against other bottom teams. If only Arizona could play San Francisco every week. The Cards are 2-0 against the 49ers and 0-6 against anyone else. It is hard to evaluate this performance, but the offense looked a bit more balanced. The defense harassed C.J. Beathard. There are some good pieces in place, but Arizona needs a lot more to build a team on.
31. Oakland Raiders: 1-6 (Last Week: 30)
Even without Amari Cooper the Raiders offense had no problem scoring points. The defense was totally MIA though, allowing 200 yards rushing, three passing touchdowns and failing to register a sack. Oakland is certainly rebuilding and has the draft capital to do so, but it is going to take patience that fans may not have.
32. San Francisco 49ers: 1-7 (Last Week: 32)
Losing Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerrick McKinnon to season-ending injuries might just be a blessing in disguise for the 49ers long term. San Francisco seems destined for a top pick and will be able to add some quality players to a solid returning core. If the 2018 season has shown anything, there a lot of holes left to fill on this team.