2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week 8

And then there was one. With the Titans and Seahawks losing in Week 7, the Steelers are now the only team yet to suffer a loss this season. Unsurprisingly, they find themselves at the top of this week’s power rankings.

It was a wild week of action. From late-game heroics by Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Matthew Stafford to back-breaking miscues by Russell Wilson, Stephen Gostowski and the comedy group known as the Atlanta Falcons. Week 7 was definitely not short on entertainment.

The chaos resulted in a massive shake up in these rankings. Teams like the Buccaneers and Cardinals saw big jumps following their impressive victories while teams like the Raiders and Bears dropped significantly after disappointing performances. Here is how everything shakes out heading into the league’s midway point.

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1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 27-24 at Tennessee
Unlike last week, Steelers fans had to sweat this game out. Pittsburgh almost blew a 17-point halftime lead and only won the game in regulation because Stephen Gostkowski missed the potential game-tying field goal. Ben Roethlisberger still could have won the game, but momentum was definitely swinging in Tennessee’s direction at that point. Not to mention, Big Ben threw interceptions in the game. As it stands, the Steelers are now the only perfect team left in the NFL. Pittsburgh has been battled tested up to this point, but it faces its biggest challenge yet with a trip to Baltimore up next.

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2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5-2 (Last Week: 7)
Won 45-20 at Las Vegas
So, that was not a one-time showing. The Buccaneers blew the doors off the Raiders just one week after demolishing the Packers. There is no question this team is playing the best football of any team in the NFC, if not the whole league. Tom Brady is looking like the Hall of Famer we saw for so many years in New England. Defensively, this team has playmakers at all three levels. Tampa has the stingiest run defense in the league right now, allowing just 66 yards per game. If the Bucs can keep this form up, they are going to be nearly impossible to stop.

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3. Kansas City Chiefs: 6-1 (Last Week: 3)
Won 43-16 at Denver
Patrick Mahomes loves the snow. You would never know it was adverse weather conditions with how well the Chiefs’ offense operated on Sunday. Mahomes looked sharp, even if he didn’t have to do too much. Le’Veon Bell showed some flashes as well in his Kansas City debut. Defensively, this Chiefs’ secondary continues to impress. Daniel Sorensen came up with a pick-six and Tyrann Mathieu also intercepted Drew Lock. KC also forced four fumbles, recovering two of them. There might not be as much chatter about the Chiefs right now because the Steelers are still unbeaten, but make no mistake, this team is playing some great football. Now, Andy Reid’s squad gets a bye week … I mean plays the Jets in Week 8.

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4. Green Bay Packers: 5-1 (Last Week: 4)
Won 35-20 at Houston
Green Bay did not dwell on it’s loss to Tampa Bay, instead taking care of Houston in convincing fashion. Aaron Rodgers was on fire, targeting Davante Adams early and often. Jamal Williams had a strong showing as well in place of the injured Aaron Jones. Defensively, the Packers did the one thing they have struggled to do for the past two years by stopping the Texans’ running game. Houston easily own the worst rushing attack in the league, but even then, Green Bay held it below its season average. With a loss by the Bears, the Packers are back on top in the NFC North. They now face a divisional foe in the Vikings coming off a bye week.

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5. Baltimore Ravens: 5-1 (Last Week: 5)
Bye Week
Baltimore got a well-earned bye week at a great time. No, the Ravens are not currently contending with a number of injuries at key positions, but instead they got a chance to rest up ahead of a showdown with the Steelers. Baltimore has a chance to essentially eliminate Pittsburgh’s undefeated start. A win for the Ravens would vault them atop the AFC North. It should be a great game, as it almost always is between these two teams, and one that carries major playoff implications.

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6. Seattle Seahawks: 5-1 (Last Week: 2)
Lost 37-34 at Arizona
It was an uncharacterisitcally turnover prone night from Russell Wislon. He threw three interceptions, including one that sunk Seattle’s chances in overtime and set up Arizona’s game-winning field goal. The Seahawks were definitely a little shorthanded. Jamal Adams was out and Chris Carson left during the game. Still, Seattle had every chance to close this game out. Arizona scored 10 points in the final 2:28 to force overtime. Wilson had two chances to lead a game-winning drive in overtime, both came up empty. The lack of a pass rush proved to really costly again, as the defense could not bring down Kyler Murray all night. A three-point loss to a division rival is not a major red flag, but this game highlighted Seattle’s biggest Achilles heal.

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7. Tennessee Titans: 5-1 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 27-24 vs. Pittsburgh
Tennessee made a valiant comeback bid, but it proved to be too little, too late. Stephen Gostkowski missed a potential game-tying field goal in the final minute of play that sealed the Titans’ fate. The defense made plays, including three interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger, but could not find a way to get off the field on third down. Mike Vrabel’s team ranks dead last in defensive third-down conversion rate. Pittsburgh dominated time of possession to take a 24-7 lead at halftime. The fact that Tennessee found a way to climb back into this game was impressive. Don’t write the Titans off for losing a close game. This team has shown it can hang with the best of the best.

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8. Arizona Cardinals: 5-2 (Last Week: 13)
Won 37-34 vs. Seattle
Up to this point, it seemed like the Cardinals were mostly feasting on cupcakes or teams struggling with injuries. What Arizona managed to accomplish in the fourth quarter and overtime of this game shows it has the ability to hang with the top dogs as well. Kyler Murray continues to put up video game-like numbers. DeAndre Hopkins looks close to unguardable. The defense … looks very porous. It also made just enough plays to pull out the win. Russell Wilson had three interceptions coming into the game. He threw that many on Sunday night. Arizona is a serious playoff contender this season.

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9. New Orleans Saints: 4-2 (Last Week: 9)
Won 27-24 vs. Carolina
Even without its top two receivers, Drew Brees looked sharp in an important win. Carolina challenged New Orleans’ defense consistently, but the unit did just enough to hold on. With the possibility of getting both Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Thomas back next week, this offense could look even better going forward. Unfortunately, there are no reinforcements coming for a defense that struggled to prevent big plays again. With how good the Buccaneers have looked in recent weeks, the Saints could be in trouble if they don’t step it up.

10. Los Angeles Rams: 5-2 (Last Week: 12)
Won 24-10 vs. Chicago
This defense looked incredible on Monday night. The Rams did not allow an offensive touchdown in a drubbing of the Bears. Los Angeles racked four sacks and two interceptions, proving every Chicago critic right, at least for one week. Jared Goff and the offense did more than enough to get the win, even if it was not a spectacular showing. Outside of a Robert Woods fumble, it took care of the football. It would be nice to see the Rams pick up some bigger plays and just look a bit sharper on offense, but this is a win the organization can be proud of.

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11. Buffalo Bills: 5-2 (Last Week: 11)
Won 18-10 at New York
Boy, was that ugly. Buffalo pulled a Denver, kicking six field goals without scoring a touchdown to beat an AFC East team. While the Bills’ defense looked sharp against a terrible Jets’ offense, the offense was incredibly sloppy. Josh Allen lost a fumble and the team finished 3-for-11 on third-down conversions. Zack Moss did look pretty sharp in his return from injury though, picking up 72 yards on 10 total targets. Buffalo now gets to face a reeling New England squad. A win would truly signify the end of the Patriots’ reign, seeing as the Bills have not beaten the Pats since 2016.

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12. Indianapolis Colts: 4-2 (Last Week: 14)
Bye Week
Indianapolis looked like they might just unraveling following its loss to Cleveland. Cincinnati jumped out to a 21-0 lead. It felt like that was when Philip Rivers and company finally woke up. The Colts were extremely lucky to be facing an inexperienced team like the Bengals. Otherwise, this would have been a blowout. The defense locked down and gave Rivers a chance to lead a comeback. Give him credit for successfully seeing it through, but it is a little concerning that he needed to lead a three-score comeback against a one-win team in the first place.

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13. Las Vegas Raiders: 3-3 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 45-20 vs. Tampa Bay
That win over the Chiefs is starting to look like a fluke. Las Vegas got shelled by Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. He tossed four touchdown passes and racked up 369 yards. The Raiders were powerless to stop him, failing to come up with a turnover or a sack in the contest. For the offense, it was a brutal game for Josh Jacobs. He managed just 17 yards on 10 carries as Tampa shut down the running game. Derek Carr deserves some praise for his performance, but it is hard to feel good about anything that happens in a 25-point loss.

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14. Chicago Bears: 5-2 (Last Week 10)
Lost 24-10 at Los Angeles
Looks like everyone who doubted the Bears as a legitimate contender was right. Chicago’s offense was lifeless on Monday night, posting three points. The Bears’ lone touchdown came on the defensive side, well after the game had been decided. Nick Foles fell apart in the red zone all night, David Montgomery struggled and the offensive line did not do much blocking. Chicago is one of three teams with a winning record, but a negative point differential. This team might need to make some adjustments to personnel or scheme or something, because the Bears currently rank 27th in scoring.

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15. Miami Dolphins: 3-3 (Last Week: 16)
Bye Week
Brian Flores can add first shutout of the 2020 season to his resume. There should probably be an asterisk next to it indicating the shutout came against the Joe Flacco-led Jets’ offense. Myles Gaskin had another solid outing as the lead back, which is a great sign for the offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick was his usual gunslinger self, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. We even got a glimpse at the future! Tua Tagovailoa saw a little bit of mop up duty at the end of the contest. Miami is suddenly one game back in the AFC East. Could this team possibly be making a playoff push a year earlier than most expected?

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16. San Francisco 49ers: 4-3 (Last Week: 17)
Won 33-6 at New England
San Francisco has firmly put that blowout loss to Miami in its rearview mirror. Back-to-back impressive wins over the Rams and Patriots got this team back on track. Kyle Shannahan’s offense ran all over the Pats’ defense, nearly finishing with 200 yards. Unfortunately, Jeff Wilson, who accounted for 112 rushing yards and three touchdowns, exited with injury and will be out for a few weeks. Defensively, this team looked like it rediscovered its 2019 form with four interceptions. New England barely managed 250 yards of offense and failed to find the end zone. There are still some red flags despite the lopsided scoreline. Jimmy Garoppolo only threw five incompletions on Sunday, but two of them were interceptions. He must take care of the football in the second half of the season.

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17. Cleveland Browns: 5-2 (Last Week: 18)
Won 37-34 at Cincinnati
This was a costly loss for the Browns. Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season. It marred what was an impressive bounce back performance from Baker Mayfield. He almost carried over the same issues that plagued him in Pittsburgh when his first pass went to the wrong team. Instead, he settled down and threw for five touchdowns, including the game-winning score with 11 seconds remaining. Cleveland’s defense had mixed results. It forced two turnovers and picked up four sacks, but surrendered over 400 yards to Joe Burrow. With five wins, the Browns can certainly think about the postseason, but they still have a lot to work on.

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18. Carolina Panthers: 3-4 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 27-24 at New Orleans
Teddy Bridgewater played way better, but it was still another loss for Carolina. The ground game disappeared as the Panthers finished with just 37 yards rushing. At 2.6 yards per carry, this was a rough outing for the offense. DJ Moore did stretch the field for a 74-yard score though to make the numbers look a bit more respectable. The defense did not fare much better, allowing Drew Brees to have a great game. This team is incredibly young, so you expect growing pains. Carolina is close, it just isn’t playing complete games right now.

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19. New England Patriots: 2-4 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 33-6 vs. San Francisco
Ouch. The Patriots got punched in the mouth on Sunday and had absolutely no response. Cam Newton tossed three interceptions. Jarrett Stidham threw another one in relief. San Francisco also ran over the defense, racking up 197 yards and averaging 5.3 yards per carry. The team that looked like it was ready to compete for another AFC East title over the first few weeks of the season is nowhere to be found right now. A crucial matchup with Bills is up next. This team genuinely might just like the talent to compete right now.

20. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-4 (Last Week: 20)
Won 39-29 vs. Jacksonville
Justin Herbert is a beast! Ok, maybe the Jaguars defense makes every opposing quarterback look incredible, but this was a great showing from the Chargers’ rookie. He aired it out for 347 yards, led the team in rushing with 66 yards and scored four total touchdowns. His connection with Keenan Allen was on full display as well. This team is not ready to contend for the division title yet, but it certainly feels like Los Angeles is headed in the right direction.

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21. Detroit Lions: 3-3 (Last Week: 24)
Won 23-22 at Atlanta
Detroit has quietly gotten back to .500 with back-to-back wins over reeling teams. However, that win over Arizona is looking better and better. Matthew Stafford came up clutch with a game-winning touchdown pass on the final play of the contest. He got some help from poor clock management on the side of the Falcons, but it was still an impressive drive. The Lions get a chance to prove themselves in Week 8 against the Colts.

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22. Philadelphia Eagles: 2-4-1 (Last Week: 23)
Won 22-21 vs. New York
Welcome back atop the NFC East! Philadelphia picked up a scrappy win over New York on Thursday Night Football. Let’s be honest, this team is not very good right now. The Eagles are struggling to win games against the worst teams in the league. However, these wins are important right now given all the injuries. If Philly can get a couple more starters back along the offensive line, this team might be close to the middle of the pack than it has show in recent weeks.

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23. Houston Texans: 1-6 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 35-20 vs. Green Bay
Get Deshaun Watson some help! He posted a dominant 93.2 QBR and his team lost in overtime without getting the ball. If that’s not a compelling reason to revisit NFL overtime rules, I don’t know what is. Back to Watson. He played a much smarter game, avoiding the risks he took the week before, but still could not overcome the Texans’ defensive deficiencies. After watching David Johnson run the ball 19 times for just 57 yards, Houston fans probably want to fire Bill O’Brien again. It is going to be a long few seasons while the Texans work to turn the team around.

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24. Atlanta Falcons: 1-6 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 23-22 vs. Detroit
How do the Falcons keep doing this? Atlanta found yet another way to blow another game, but they deserve style points for this one. Todd Gurley attempted to keep himself out of the end zone in order to let the Falcons run the clock more, but could not stop himself from scoring. As a result, Detroit drove the length of the field and scored on the final play to stun Atlanta yet again. This team could very easily be 4-3 with some better clock management and knowing how to recover onsides kicks. The talent is there, at least on offense. This team is heading for a very interesting offseason.

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25. Denver Broncos: 2-4 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 43-16 vs. Kansas City
Denver didn’t really need a ton of offense to take down New England. Beating the defending champs requires a lot more offense. Drew Lock struggled again, tossing a pick-six. He got plenty of help from the running game with 177 yards on the ground, but Melvin Gordon coughed it up twice. Overall, this was a clear reminder that the Broncos are still building up this young core. Competing with the Chiefs just is not possible for this group right now.

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26. Minnesota Vikings: 1-5 (Last Week: 26)
Bye Week
Minnesota got a much-needed week off to refocus and hopefully fix some of the many problems it has had this year. Kirk Cousins has been a turnover machine through his first six games. The secondary is also one of the worst in the league due to injuries and inexperience. Thankfully, Dalvin Cook should be back after sitting out Week 6’s contest. The playoffs feel very far away for the Vikings, who are already cutting ties with veterans like Yannick Ngakoue, who they traded for in September.

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27. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-5-1 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 37-34 vs. Cleveland
Cincinnai opened the game defensively with an interception of Baker Mayfield. Someone clearly forgot to inform them that the game would keep going. Mayfield torched the secondary for five touchdowns, all of them coming after Odell Beckham Jr. had left with an injury. On the offensive side, Joe Burrow continued to do his best Superman impression despite his pathetic offensive line and lackluster running game. Joe Mixon’s absence was apparent as the Bengals never really got into a rhythm running the ball. With one win in seven games, the outcomes don’t really matter from here on out. Cincinnati just needs to determine who is worth keeping around Joe Burrow and if Zac Taylor really is the best person to coach him.

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28. Washington: 2-5 (Last Week: 30)
Won 25-3 vs. Dallas
Don’t look now, but Washington is a half-game back of the division lead and a playoff spot. Given that the team has played three quarterbacks so far this season and allowed the third most sacks in the league, that is truly remarkable. It helps to play in the NFC East, especially against a Cowboys team playing Ben DiNucci after Jon Bostic made a blatantly illegal hit to knock Andy Dalton out of the game. Antonio Gibson had a nice day while Kyle Allen continues to settle into the starting quarterback role. Ron Rivera is definitely reshaping this organization and has so far lead a talent-deprived roster to two divisional wins.

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29. Dallas Cowboys: 2-5 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 25-3 at Washington
Losing Andy Dalton to a horrific hit definitely shifts the blame somewhat for the three points managed in this game, but Dallas still disappointed even with Dalton on the field. The former Bengals quarterback averaged 3.9 yards per attempt and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes before he left. The banged up offensive line continues to be an issue as well. Ezekiel Elliott did not have much running room and Cowboys quarterbacks were sacked six times. Dallas is entering fire sale mode now, despite the fact it is only a half-game back of the division lead. Planning for the future is definitely the move for this franchise given where it stands right now.

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30. New York Giants: 1-6 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 22-21 at Philadelphia
This game pretty much summed up the Giants entire season up to this point. The team lost its starting running back due to injury, the offense slept walked through most of the game and the defense played better than expected to keep things competitive. To top it all off, Daniel Jones became a GIF when he tripped over absolutely nothing to rob himself of a nearly 90-yard touchdown run. Giants fans can take solace in knowing their team was close to pulling off a win that would have moved them atop the NFC East, but instead, they can keep looking at mock drafts.

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31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-6 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 39-29 at Los Angeles
Once again, Jacksonville’s defense made the opposing quarterback look like the league MVP. The Jaguars defense is allowing the third most yards and fifth most points per game in the league. The poor defensive performance wiped out a sensational effort from James Robinson, who accounted for 137 total yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line failed to protect Gardner Minshew once again as this team continues to get dominated in the trenches. Doug Marrone and his coaching staff are definitely on thin ice.

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32. New York Jets: 0-7 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 18-10 vs. Buffalo
Even when the Jets do things well, they still mess it up. New York held Buffalo without a touchdown but still managed to lose by eight thanks to a pitiful offensive performance. Sam Darnold struggled in his return from injury, throwing for a meager 120 yards and tossing a pair of interceptions. Adam Gase even passed off the play-calling duties, which clearly had almost no effect on the offense. There is some silver lining here. For the second straight week, the defense stepped up well on third down. The Bills and Dolphins combined to go 4-for-22 on third down over the past two weeks. This team is still headed for Trevor Lawrence, but it is nice to find a positive for how it is playing right now.

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Why Matthew Stafford doesn’t cut it

There is a lot of pressure when it comes to making the right choice with the first pick in the NFL draft. We have seen our fair share of Hall of Famers, (Peyton Manning, John Elway, Lee Roy Selmon, Earl Campbell) and we’ve seen some hilarious busts (JaMarcus Russell, Courtney Brown, Ricky Bell, Ki-Jana Carter). It really can be hit or miss sometimes.

Matt_Stafford_2009_croppedMatthew Stafford is one of those first overall picks, from the 2009 edition of the draft. Stafford is by no means a bust. He has put up 21,000 yards and 131 touchdowns in his career. However, Stafford really doesn’t cut it for me. He is not number one overall material in terms of what his value turned out to be. He has been an average NFL quarterback, nothing more nothing less.

There are a lot of reasons I’m not too high on Stafford as a starting NFL quarterback. It starts with his over-inflated passing stats. Stafford consistently throws for 4,500 yards in a season, including over 5,000 in 2011. Those numbers look great but Stafford also throws an enormous amount of passes. His career average yards per attempt sits at 7.01. Stafford has never ranked in the top ten for yards per attempt in a single season. He came close in 2012 finishing 11th. He has finished twice outside the top 20 though, including this past season. Among active starters, Stafford is tied with Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton for yards per attempt in their career at 15th. That is underwhelming for sure. That isn’t all on Stafford because his receivers are responsible for picking up yards after the catch as well. However, part of the explanation comes in the next fault in his game.

Matthew_Stafford_(cropped)59.6 percent. That is Stafford’s career completion percentage. His receivers cannot pick up yards for him if Stafford cannot get them the ball. That number ranks Stafford 19th among active quarterbacks. That is below what would even be considered average. Stafford has only managed to rise above 60 percent twice in his four full years as the starter. This stat can be a little misleading because drops and throwaways can play a roll in driving a quarterback’s completion percentage down. Keep in mind though that Stafford doesn’t really need to be totally accurate when throwing to Calvin Johnson due to his insane catch radius. I think that balances any other factors.

You would think too that with guys like Johnson and nowadays Golden Tate at his disposal, Stafford would have a ridiculous number of touchdowns. Over the last four years, Stafford has tossed on average 28 touchdowns per year, which is pretty darn good. Unfortunately, when you look at the last three seasons though, ignoring his 41 touchdown anomaly in 2011, that number drops to 23.7. That second number is a lot more middle of the pack. Over the past three years as well, Stafford has been all up and down, finishing t-20th, 6th and 14th in touchdown passes. That range brings us to the next point.

Matthew_Stafford_2014Stafford lacks consistency, which is something teams desperately crave in a quarterback. Looking at this past year, Stafford toss multiple touchdowns in half of his games. At the same time, he also had four games where he failed to throw a touchdown pass. He also had five games where he threw for 300+ yards. That was juxtaposed to the three games though where Stafford failed to top 185 yards. And while you should dominate bad teams, none of Stafford’s 300+ yard days where against teams that finished in the top half of the league in pass defense and three of the teams were among the bottom five.

All quarterbacks should beat up on bad teams. However, good quarterbacks need to performance against good teams as well. That is something Stafford has really struggled with. Against teams that finish the season with a winning record, Stafford is a mediocre 3-24 in the last four years. That is downright pathetic. And this has to fall mostly on Stafford’s shoulders if he really wants to be an elite quarterback. He can’t blame a sub par defense or a shoddy running game. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers won Super Bowls with average defenses and mostly non-existent running games. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Stafford has zero playoff wins, one Pro Bowl selection (after four other quarterbacks dropped out) and is still riding the one year where he put up Pro Bowl caliber numbers, and still failed to make it. And if all of this has failed to convince you that Stafford is simply an average quarterback, maybe this will. ESPN uses the statistic Total QBR to measure a quarterback’s¬†overall contribution to a game and weights the performance based on the number of plays and the scenario in which certain events occur. It is measured on a scale of 1-100 with 50 being average. In his six total NFL seasons, Stafford has finished each year with a rating below 61, including this season when he posted a 53.5. That was worse than Jay Cutler rated. The same guy who was benched toward the end of the season due to his poor play.

Plain and simple, he just isn’t that good. The Lions are never winning a Super Bowl with Stafford under center. He does not step up in big games and displays incredible inconsistency. He might have a few dazzling games here or there but on the whole, he is a largely average quarterback who has a durable enough arm to throw the ball 600 times a season. On the whole, Stafford just doesn’t cut it.