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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2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week 7

What a week! From start to finish, it was a wild slate of football games. There were some shocking results. Denver shutdown New England for a surprising victory and Tampa Bay blew the doors off Green Bay. There were some thrilling finishes as well. Tennessee needed overtime to hold off Houston. Washington and Philadelphia came up short after failing to convert two-point attempts. We also finally got some Tua Time!

The Fins shutout the Jets to continue New York’s embarrassing season. Tua Tagovailoa saw his first NFL action late in the game and had a truly wholesome moment after playing football for the first time since he suffered his devastating injury in 2019. Following the win, Tua walked back onto the field, he sat down on the 15-yard line and he FaceTimed his parents. They could not be there to watch him play because of the pandemic. It felt like a really relatable moment for all of us still struggling with the impact of COVID-19.

For the third straight week, the team that I moved atop the rankings lost and opened the door for a new team at No. 1. This week offered a massive shakeup the pecking order. Pittsburgh tries its hand at the top. I have a feeling this type of chaos will not stop any time soon.

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1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-0 (Last Week: 5)
Won 38-7 vs. Cleveland
Beating the Browns, doesn’t get you to be No. 1. Winning by 31 to stay among the NFL’s final three unbeaten teams does. It is hard to find a clear weakness for this team. They are deep at the skill positions, block well and spread the ball around on offense. Defensively, this might be the best unit in the NFL. Only the Ravens are allowing fewer points per game at this point, but the Steelers are allowing way fewer yards per game and forcing more turnovers per game. Pittsburgh now has a huge showdown between undefeated teams with the rescheduled Tennessee game up next. Baltimore is after that.

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2. Seattle Seahawks: 5-0 (Last Week: 2)
Bye Week
Without playing Seattle cemented its spot atop the NFC. Green Bay suffered its first loss of the year. Los Angeles falling to San Francisco extends Seattle’s lead atop the NFC West as well. Few teams are playing as well as the Seahawks have so far this season. If the defense can get things together on the bye and even improve to the league average, Seattle will be a Super Bowl contender. That defense is still concerning though. It ranks 32nd in yards allowed per game and 18th in points allowed per game.

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3. Kansas City Chiefs: 5-1 (Last Week: 3)
Won 26-17 at Buffalo
Kansas City put its first loss in 11 months behind it with a convincing victory. It wasn’t a dazzling victory, but the Chiefs controlled the clock with a devastating ground game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a big night, finishing with 161 rushing yards. As a team, KC finished with 245 yards running the ball, which was more yards than it did passing. Patrick Mahomes was still his same, lethal self, taking care of the football and tossing a pair of touchdown passes. We will see this team playing late into January at least, barring a slew of injuries.

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4. Green Bay Packers: 4-1 (Last Week: 1)
Lost 38-10 at Tampa Bay
Well that was incredibly short lived. The Packers only get one week atop the power rankings before they crash back down. Aaron Rodgers struggled, the running game was abandoned and the defense collapsed. It was honestly just a worst-case scenario on both sides of the ball for Green Bay. This was shades of San Francisco last season. The Packers simply cannot find a way to contend with the league’s elite defenses.

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5. Baltimore Ravens: 5-1 (Last Week: 4)
Won 30-28 at Philadelphia
Baltimore looked to have this game all wrapped up. Leading 24-6 on the road, the Ravens took their foot off the gas a bit too soon. The Eagles managed 22 points in the fourth quarter and were a botched two-point conversion away from tying the ball game. In addition to the defense’s inability to really close things out against the most injured offense in the NFL, Lamar Jackson needs some help. He went MVP mode with 108 yards rushing on just nine carries, but Ravens’ running backs managed just 2.7 yards per rush on their 28 attempts. The passing game was also inconsistent. This team needs a go-to playmaker outside of Jackson. So far, no one has stepped up to fill that role.

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6. Tennessee Titans: 5-0 (Last Week: 7)
Won 42-36 vs. Houston
Divisional games are always tricky. Tennessee learned that, but just managed to hang on against Houston. Derrick Henry turned in one of the best performances of any running back in the past decade. 264 total yards and two touchdowns is incredibly impressive. Ryan Tannehill balled out as well with four touchdown passes. The Titans can score. It is up to the defense start making some stops. Deshaun Watson carved up the secondary even though the Texans cannot run the ball. Houston also went three for three on fourth down and Tennessee didn’t force a turnover. This was an important win, but there is a lot Mike Vrabel’s squad still needs to focus on.

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7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 4-2 (Last Week: 16)
Won 38-10 vs. Green Bay
After an ugly loss on a Thursday night, Tampa Bay finally looked the part of the Super Bowl contender many expected at the beginning of the season. This defense might just be the best in the NFL, allowing the fewest yards per game through six weeks. Ranking them ahead of the Bears is more about what the Buccaneers look like at full strength. Getting Chris Godwin back helped the offense for sure. Mike Evans also looked a bit healthier. Smacking the previously undefeated Packers by 28 is a huge step in the right direction for Bruce Arians. A really interesting matchup with the Raiders is up next.

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8. Las Vegas Raiders: 3-2 (Last Week: 10)
Bye Week
This feels like where there is a clear drop off from the NFL’s elite to whatever you want to label the next tier. That’s not to say the Raiders are locked into this spot. Las Vegas is the only team to beat Kansas City since this past November. That’s a pretty big notch in their belt. However, losses to the Patriots and Bills show there is work to do. The defense still has a long way to go. It ranks 26th in yards per pass and 25th in yards per run allowed. Most teams know they can at least shutdown one facet of the opposing offense. So far, the Raiders have not shown the ability to slow down either. That is going to hold Las Vegas back as the season wears on.

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9. New Orleans Saints: 3-2 (Last Week: 11)
Bye Week
New Orleans gets a much needed week off with a chance to get healthy at a few key positions. Michael Thomas should finally return. Deonte Harris should be back returning punts as well and Janoris Jenkins will bolster the secondary. In addition to getting healthy, Sean Payton needs to refocus the team as a whole. The Saints have not felt like a Super Bowl contender up to this point. Even in their wins, New Orleans has not looked convincing. On one hand, being 3-2 without playing their best football is somewhat reassuring, assuming they can flip the switch and start playing much better.

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10. Chicago Bears: 5-1 (Last Week 15)
Won 23-16 at Carolina
Give this defense credit. Khalil Mack and company got after Teddy Bridgewater all afternoon. Chicago racked up four sacks and had him scrambling quite a bit. The defense also held Mike Davis, who had been playing really well in Christian McCaffrey’s absence, to just 2.9 yards per carry. This truly feels like a championship caliber defense. Unfortunately, the offense is still suspect. Nick Foles has looked nothing shy of terrible so far. He has one reliable receiver in Allen Robinson. The running game is basically non-existent. The Bears managed 63 yards and 2.5 yards per carry against a defense that was giving up 133 yards per game entering the contest. As Foles said, winning ugly is better than losing pretty, but at some point, it would be nice to see the offense put things together.

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11. Buffalo Bills: 4-2 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 26-17 vs. Kansas City
I know I asked it before, but I will ask it again: What happened to the Buffalo defense of 2019? The Bills allowed 103 yards per game last season, good for 9th in the league. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and company ran all over the defense on Monday to the tune of 245 yards. Patrick Mahomes wasn’t quiet either, going 21-for-26 passing with 225 yards and two touchdowns. Buffalo only managed to sack him once. Offensively, it was definitely a lackluster showing. Josh Allen only competed 14 passes and once again the running backs failed to produce much. After a great start, it is important for the Bills to bounce back now and not let this streak get much longer.

12. Los Angeles Rams: 4-2 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 24-16 vs. San Francisco
Will the real Rams offense please stand up? Week 4 saw this team finish with just 17 points. A week ago, L.A. dropped 30 on Washington. Back home against a reeling San Francisco defense, Sean McVay’s group was held to just 16 points. At 4-2, there is no reason to panic, but it would be nice for Jared Goff to stabilize the offense. That 2018 season is starting to feel like a really long time ago.

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13. Arizona Cardinals: 4-2 (Last Week: 13)
Won 38-10 at Dallas
Arizona took care of business on Monday Night Football with a convincing performance. Yes, it came against a terrible Cowboys team, but the Cardinals dominated. Kyler Murray struggled a lot throwing the football against possibly the worst secondary in the NFL. He completed just nine passes in the contest despite throwing it 24 times. Murray did make plenty of plays with his legs though and the defense made sure he didn’t need to be perfect. The Cards defense force three turnovers and finished with sacks, even without Chandler Jones. Kliff Kingsbury’s crew is gaining momentum.

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14. Indianapolis Colts: 4-2 (Last Week: 14)
Won 31-27 vs. Cincinnati
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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15. New England Patriots: 2-3 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 18-12 vs. Denver
What in the world was that? If you knew the Patriots kept the Broncos out of the end zone, you would have assumed New England won comfortably. Bill Belichick is the king of bye weeks after all and the team had an extra week to prep. Yet, Cam Newton returned and somehow the offense looked much worse than it did even before the bye week. Newton was successful with his legs, but two interceptions and four sacks taken tanked the passing game. The defense did it’s job, forcing two interceptions and holding Denver to six field goals. Make no mistake, this is a setback for the Patriots. I think they will turn it around, but this was a concerning loss.

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16. Miami Dolphins: 3-3 (Last Week: 17)
Won 24-0 vs. New York
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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17. San Francisco 49ers: 3-3 (Last Week: 23)
Won 24-16 at Los Angeles
Talk about quieting the doubters. San Francisco bounced back big time with a vital win to staying in the playoff race. The defense made an about face, holding Los Angeles to 16 points. Jimmy Garoppolo reasserted himself as the clear leader of the offense with three touchdowns in the first half and an overall impressive performance. The offensive line deserves recognition as well, not allowing a single sack against a talented front seven. Unfortunately, the injuries keep piling up, as Raheem Mostert heads back to the IR. The 49ers face a motivated Patriots team in Week 7.

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18. Cleveland Browns: 4-2 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 38-7 at Pittsburgh
I would not want to be Baker Mayfield right now. He had a terrible performance against Pittsburgh and got hit, a lot. The Steelers tallied eight quarterback hits in the game. The former No. 1 pick also threw two interceptions, including a horrible pick-six. He didn’t get a tremendous amount of help from his running game, but Cleveland essentially had to abandon it after trailing 24-7 at halftime. For the second time, the Browns have come up against the elite teams in the AFC North and have walked away thoroughly embarrassed. This team has a lot of growth to do.

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19. Carolina Panthers: 3-3 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 23-16 vs. Chicago
Injuries finally caught up with Carolina. Obviously, Christian McCaffrey is still out. Eli Apple and Curtis Samuel joined him on the sideline. Teddy Bridgewater’s supporting cast totally failed him as a result. He was sacked four times and Mike Davis got stonewalled repeatedly. Bridgewater deserves some criticism as well, tossing two interceptions. Defensively, the Panthers actually took some big steps forward. Holding David Montgomery to just 2.5 yards per carry is not overly impressive, but it was a good sign of growth for a very young unit.

20. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-4 (Last Week: 20)
Bye Week
Los Angeles has quickly become one of the most entertaining rebuilding teams to watch. Justin Herbert has had his fair share of growing pains, but has handling the starting role well. Especially when you consider that he has missed Austin Ekeler and, at times, Keenan Allen, Herbert has been better than advertised. Defensively, the Chargers are close, but not quite there yet. They have some talented edge rushers, but that has not translated to defensive success. However, L.A. gets a very favorable matchup against the Jaguars next.

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21. Atlanta Falcons: 1-5 (Last Week: 25)
Won 40-16 at Minnesota
Maybe the Falcons should have cleaned house sooner if this was the response they were going to get. It helped to play a young Vikings defense, but putting up 40 is a great sign for the rest of the season. It might be a bit too late for Atlanta to really make a postseason push, but this team looked a lot more competitive in all three phases. It’s great to see Matt Ryan and Julio Jones go off, but the defense is the real key here. It got key stops on fourth down, picked off Kirk Cousins three times and held Minnesota to just 32 rushing yards. The Falcons have been incapable of stopping any up to this point, so this is a good sign. Now interim coach Raheem Morris needs to find a way to build on it.

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22. Houston Texans: 1-5 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 42-36 at Tennessee
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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23. Philadelphia Eagles: 1-4-1 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 30-28 vs. Baltimore
Honestly, you could take most of what I just wrote about Deshaun Watson and apply it to Carson Wentz. No, Wentz is not as good as Watson, but if I am going to criticize Watson’s supporting cast, I need to rip Wentz’s apart. Wentz was sacked six times. His starting wide receivers are Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward and John Hightower. His starting running back became Boston Scott after Miles Sanders exited with an injury. Zach Ertz is out for three-to-four weeks as well. Four of his original five starting offensive lineman were also hurt. Somehow, Wentz staged a massive comeback bid, coming up just a two-point conversion short of forcing overtime. I know every team is battling injuries this season, but it seems like the Eagles are dealing with more than any other team. After several seasons of injuries at key positions, it might be time for the organization to look into why it keeps happening.

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24. Detroit Lions: 2-3 (Last Week: 26)
Won 34-16 at Jacksonville
The Lions built an early lead and held onto it! This is some of the best defense Detroit has played all season. It started with shutting down the run game, holding Jacksonville to just 44 yards on the ground. Matt Patricia’s team also came up with two turnovers as well. Even if this is the type of performance we would expect from the Lions facing one of the worst offenses in the league, it is important that they met expectations. That is something they have struggled to do quite a bit this season.

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25. Denver Broncos: 2-3 (Last Week: 28)
Won 18-12 at New England
Drew Lock was back in action, but honestly that didn’t really seem to matter. Denver failed to score a touchdown and Lock looked awful. He completed under 50 percent of his passes and threw two frustrating interceptions. He kept offering the Patriots a way back into the game. Thankfully, the defense played lights out. Between the four sacks, three forced turnovers and five tackles for loss, it was one of the best showings we have seen from the Broncos in years. Imagine how good this team could be if the offense got on track.

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26. Minnesota Vikings: 1-5 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 40-16 vs. Atlanta
Any optimism I had about this team after a great showing despite the final result against Seattle evaporated on Sunday. Kirk Cousins had a nightmare performance and the ground game shockingly disappeared. Between Cousins’ three interceptions and the Vikings averaging just 2.5 yards per carry, it was rough afternoon. The secondary looked lost as well. Matt Ryan played well, but his receivers were also routinely wide open. On the bright side, Minnesota succeeded in stopping the run. That is little consolation when the scoreline is this lopsided.

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27. Dallas Cowboys: 2-4 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 38-10 vs. Arizona
Jerry Jones better open up his checkbook and pay Dak Prescott whatever the hell he wants. Ezekiel Elliott looks rattled, Andy Dalton looks overmatched and the offensive line looks like a revolving door. On the other side of the ball, the Jets might even be able to score 20 points against the Cowboys defense. Somehow, Dallas still holds a playoff spot right now by virtue of leading the NFC East. There is still time for Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore to bring Andy Dalton up to speed. However, the defense needs a jolt. It might be early, but Mike Nolan’s job should be under scrutiny. There is no reason this unit should be as bad as it has been through six games.

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28. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-4-1 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 31-27 at Indianapolis
For about 25 minutes, it looked like the Bengals were en route to a big win over a solid AFC opponent. Instead, Cincy blew a 21-0 lead, almost before reaching halftime. Joe Burrow and the offense managed just a field goal in the final 38 minutes of the game. The inability to run the football made it very difficult to protect the lead. 2020 was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Bengals, but that does not mean that blowing massive leads does not sting.

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29. New York Giants: 1-5 (Last Week: 31)
Won 20-19 vs. Washington
It almost pains me to move the Giants up after winning. Daniel Jones managed 112 yards passing, but did show out as a running, leading the team with 74 yards. The rest of the offense did not really do much. Devonta Freeman managed three yards per carry. Kaden Smith led the team in catches with just three receptions. Darius Slayton led the team in receiving yards despite leaving in the first half with an injury. Thankfully, this continually improving Giants defense made just enough plays to drag the offense to victory.

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30. Washington: 1-5 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 20-19 at New York
No matter how you spin this, Washington looked terrible on Sunday. Kyle Allen played decently well, but still committed two turnovers. The running game was passable. Still, they somehow only managed 19 points and needed a game-winning drive to even have a chance. Defensively, Washington looked good, but that honestly might have been more about how bad New York was playing than how well Ron Rivera’s club was executing. This just has the feel of a lost season for this franchise.

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31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-5 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 34-16 vs. Detroit
After thinking Gardner Minshew may be the answer at quarterback early in the season, I am becoming more convinced Jacksonville just needs to hit the reset button on the franchise. Just clear everyone out. Dave Caldwell should be gone. Doug Marrone and the whole coaching staff needs to go. Maybe Jay Gruden can stay. Overall, this is just a team lacking talent, and it is showing. It makes that Week 1 win over the Colts even more difficult to understand.

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32. New York Jets: 0-6 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 24-0 at Miami
The Jets really rank 33rd in overall football power rankings at this point. I am pretty sure Clemson would be able to beat them at this point. New York would have the advantage at a few spots, but most of this Clemson roster is eventually headed to the NFL. There is no question Dabo Swinney is a better coach than Adam Gase. I honestly don’t even need to talk about how the Jets played on Sunday. Look at the scoreline, that should tell you everything you need to know. On the flip side, Clemson just hung 73 on Georgia Tech. There is a real chance the Tigers could beat the Jets if they faced off at a neutral site. I’m just hoping the Clemson-New York connection continues when the Jets use the first overall pick to take Trevor Lawrence. Knowing this franchise, they will find a way to mess it up somehow.

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NFL Draft Podcast – AFC Free Agency Primer and Draft Implications

After breaking down the NFC last week, it is time to discuss which AFC free agents will impact the 2020 NFL Draft. The Patriots await Tom Brady’s free agent decision while the rest of the division hopes to close the game and patch up their offensive lines. Tennessee’s incredible run came courtesy of a number of players that are not under contract for 2020. Houston, Indianapolis and Jacksonville all enter free agency with at least one major player it needs to bring back. The reigning Super Bowl champs have to figure out what they will do with Chris Jones. Meanwhile, Los Angeles might need to rebuild its whole offense. In the North, the Ravens have some difficult decisions to make regarding Matt Judon and Michael Pierce. The Browns, Bengals and Steelers all need reinforcements in the trenches. Catch up on all the major pending free agents ahead of the scouting combine! Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
https://anchor.fm/theaftermath

Trade a Bell? How the Le’Veon Drama Can (and Should) End

In case you have not heard, Le’Veon Bell has not played an NFL snap this season.

Oh, who am I kidding? If you are a Steelers fan, follow an NFL-related social media account, or made the mistake of drafting him in fantasy and hoping for the best (guilty as charged), you know the whole story. Considered by many as the top running back in the league, Bell put up strong numbers again in 2017, getting over 400 touches and putting up a combined 1,946 years and 11 touchdowns for the playoff-bound Steelers, getting voted first team All-Pro for the second time in the process.

However, for the second straight year, the Steelers put the franchise tag on Bell, refusing to give him the long-term contract he believed he deserved. While I would easily jump at the opportunity to play ball for $14.5 million, the cash-strapped Steelers, who had given Antonio Brown a four-year, $68 million-dollar extension weeks before, decided to balk at giving the same money to Bell. Obviously taking offense, Bell very publicly bashed the franchise and demanded money worth his play. Pittsburgh did eventually make Bell an offer in July, willing to pony up $70 million over five years, but Bell turned down the offer, not wanting to play for less than his tag on an annual basis.

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Bell has told the Steelers he will return during the team’s week 7 bye. (Wikimedia Commons)

Fairly so, might I add – Bell was well within his rights to turn down such a gargantuan payday, because he might be worth more. At 26, Bell is still in his prime and will continue to perform at very high levels before even being considered an old running back. Not to mention that Bell is far more than his position on the depth chart – he has been the engine that makes the Steeler offense run for the last few years. He caught 85 passes last year for over 650 yards. Bell is rare breed. Very few receivers can keep up with those numbers, and definitely not while shouldering almost 1,300 yards rushing on top of it.

One of the few other players capable of putting up numbers like that is Todd Gurley. He has done it just once, in 2017, and luckily it was a contract year for him. The upstart Los Angeles Rams did pay their man, giving Gurley $15 million a year for his services. When healthy, Bell has put up those kinds of numbers ever since he came into the league – he deserves as much if not more than Gurley. Top flight receivers like Mike Evans and Odell Beckham, Jr., have been getting paid recently, too, getting $16.5 and $19 million a year respectively to go along with Antonio Brown’s aforementioned $17 million. For Le’Veon’s talents, he feels his contract should be in that stratosphere to play football.

However, Pittsburgh refuses to pay it, so they turned to the second-year player, cancer survivor and hometown hero from the University of Pittsburgh in James Conner, to take the reins in the backfield. While his hairstyle might be questionable (like a mop glued to the back of his shaven head), his play has been anything but. Project his numbers through five weeks for the entire season, and Conner, currently averaging over four yards a carry and almost 11 yards per catch, would get over 1,800 yards from scrimmage and 16 TDs. Those are the kind of numbers Pittsburgh would be happy to get from Bell, but instead of paying over $15 million for them, they only give Conner $578,000, and they have him under control for another two seasons after this one.

So could Bell play again with the Steelers this season? Maybe. Having both Conner and Bell on the field could give opposing defenses fits in game planning, especially since Bell is capable of lining up out wide and taking screens. The issue is Conner and Bell still play very similar games. Bell might be a bit more explosive, and Conner may pack a bit of a stronger punch at the point of attack, but both have shown that they can be factors in the running and passing games, all the while making defenses adjust and opening holes for Ben Roethlisberger to find the likes of Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster downfield. However, it would be hard to justify paying Bell for the rest of the season when he may not add significant value over just having Conner. Realistically, he should not stay in Pittsburgh.

Likewise, if Bell is going to leave in the offseason when the tag expires and officially become a free agent, the Steelers would be remiss not to get something back for him, and more than the third round compensatory pick Pittsburgh will likely get if he signs elsewhere. The problem about trading Bell this season, however, is the salary cap hit that comes with him. Bell is not officially under contract at the moment, but his franchise tag cap number would be about $10.3 million. There are not a ton of teams that have that much free space right now. The team looking to trade for him would likely need to sign him to a long-term deal to justify the trade as well.

So who can meet Bell’s demands? Here are the teams that could afford him for this season:

Team Salary Cap Remaining Current RBs
San Francisco 49ers $87.6 million Jerick McKinnon*, Matt Breida
Cleveland Browns $54.6 million Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson
Indianapolis Colts $52.5 million Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines
Denver Broncos $34.4 million Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay
Tennessee Titans $23.1 million Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry
Houston Texans $20.7 million Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue
New York Jets $19.1 million Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell
Philadelphia Eagles $11.3 million Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement
Cincinnati Bengals $10.7 million Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard
Buffalo Bills $10.6 million LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory

An interesting crew, to say the least, but unfortunately not too many places make sense. In fact, four of these teams signed new starting running backs this past offseason. The Browns, Titans, and Jets should be pleased with their new additions for now, so consider them out. The 49ers caught a bad break when their new guy, Jerick McKinnon, tore his ACL in the preseason, but Matt Breida has been a suitable replacement, and the 1-4 start would not justify making a brash decision when the division leader is 5-0 right now.

Let’s address the obvious ones, too. There is no way Pittsburgh deals Bell to Cincy. It would be insane to move him within the division. Denver has two rookie running backs it really likes in Freeman and Lindsay. The Bills would be a fascinating place for Bell to land, but that team is way more than just one piece away and likely not interesting in pursuing Bell anyway, especially since they are trying to shop their star running back already.

Philly has been heavily linked with this deal after restructuring Fletcher Cox’s deal to open up more cap room. However, the Eagles are also rumored to be pursuing a reunion with LeSean McCoy. McCoy fits more of what Philadelphia needs, which is a one-year rental that is at least somewhat familiar with the system. The assumption is that at 30 years old, McCoy will cost a lot less for the Eagles to acquire as well.

The Colts and Texans make some interesting suitors. Both live in the AFC South, where the Jaguars and Titans are both tied rather unconvincingly to the division lead at 3-2. At 2-3, the Texans are still very much so in the hunt. However, Deshaun Watson does not look as explosive this season in his return from a knee injury of his own, struggling to keep possession with nine turnovers on the season. Lamar Miller was injured in Week 5 and has been unconvincing in a Texans uniform otherwise. Alfred Blue provided a decent target out of the backfield in his stead, but neither is a kind of bell cow you can hand or dump the ball off to and let the magic happen. $16 million is a large sum to pay when Miller is still on the books through the end of next season, but Bell could add some relief to the Houston offense and open up their playbook a bit.

Andrew Luck
Adding Bell would take a ton of pressure off Andrew Luck. (Wikimedia Commons)

As for Indy, take everything I just said and amplify it. Sure, the Colts are off to a 1-4 start, but they are only two games back with well over half the season to go. The offense may look like its purring, but take deeper look into the stats and you will see there is room for improvement. Andrew Luck is averaging almost 50 pass attempts per game, but has under 1,500 passing yards for the season. His 6.09 yards/attempt ratio is 32nd in the NFL right now, only ahead of the magnanimous crew of Tyrod Taylor, Nick Foles and Sam Bradford, all of whom have since been benched. Meanwhile, not a single Colts running back is averaging more than 35 yards per game. 35!!! Le’Veon Bell could vastly improve the 29th ranked rushing attack in the league, as well as provide a dynamic safety blanket for the oft-pressured Luck. Those two together could single (double?)-handedly carry Indianapolis to the postseason. Maybe them playing defense could help, too, because I doubt it would hurt.

Another interesting tidbit is that the Texans and Colts have the same assets to offer back to Pittsburgh as well. In 2019, both teams are sitting on two second round picks after making moves in last year’s draft. With the Colts getting the Jets’ pick in the Sam Darnold trade, and the Texans shipping Duane Brown to Seattle for their 2nd rounder, the Steelers may be willing to part with their formerly-beloved star in exchange for that pick maybe paired with another player or a lower round pick.

Personally, I think it make a lot of sense for the Colts to go after Bell. They can offer him whatever contract he wants basically with their ample cap space. Their offense is already fairly strong and adding Bell would only make it more threatening. Plus, Bell is an excellent pass blocker, which coupled with his mere presence in the backfield will protect Luck from opposing rushers. Even with two rookie running backs, Indy could add a franchise player for well under his usual trade value. If the Colts think they still have a shot this season, do not be surprised if they make a play for one of the best players in the NFL before the deadline in Week 8.

Until then, I’ll dangle Bell on my own fantasy trading block and hope someone bites.

Could Earl Thomas be the Solution to the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell Problem?

The first and third-most talked about contract disputes (Khalil Mack is safely at number two) in the NFL this year have dragged on into the regular season. If you are a football fan, you no doubt know that Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will not sign his franchise tag tender. You likely also know the Seahawks are locked in a heated dispute with safety Earl Thomas. Both are elite level players responsible for a lot of the success these two teams have had in recent years, but both seem equally intent on playing elsewhere in order to get a bigger paycheck. Speculation about where each could land continues to roll on, but it is possible Seattle and Pittsburgh could solve the other’s problem.

So far this year, Pittsburgh has been burned in the secondary. The Steelers have allowed the fifth most passing yards and are tied with the Saints for the most passing touchdowns given up. For Seattle, this team has stated it would like to get back to running the ball more. Unfortunately, the Seahawks rank 25th in rushing yards and have the third worst yards per carry average in the league. Even with a bevy of options in the backfield, no one has managed to really take control.

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Bell has missed 15 games over the past three seasons with the Steelers. (Wikimedia Commons)

The truth is, the Steelers no longer need Bell. He would still be an upgrade over James Connor, but the second year back from the University of Pittsburgh ranks eight in yards from scrimmage so far this year. The need to patch up the secondary is a big one. Earl Thomas would be a huge upgrade over Sean Davis. Pro Football Focus ranks Davis as the 41st safety in the league. Thomas tops the list.

For Seattle, they have a number of young backs, but the chance to add Le’Veon Bell and potentially reduce the number of hits Russell Wilson takes would be massive. Bell had the second most yards from scrimmage in the league last year. His ability as a pass blocker and pass catcher would take a ton of pressure off Wilson. Even though Seattle has a couple of young running backs, none of them will ever come close to playing at the same level as Bell as he enters his prime.

Financially, there is some interesting movement here. Bell is going to want a massive extension. Todd Gurley set the market in a lot of ways for running backs when he negotiated his extension with the Rams. CBS Sports reported back in July Bell wanted roughly $17 million per year in the deal, turning down a massive five-year $70-million offer from Pittsburgh. Seattle might be willing to go a little higher to land him. Using Spotrac, I put together a contract that pays Le’Veon an average of $15.1 million per year in the form of a 5-year $75.5-million deal. That is still short of his asking price, but it tops the Steelers’ last offer.

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Thomas has 28 career interceptions, including three this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

Thomas wants to be paid as well. Eric Berry is the highest paid safety in the league out in Kansas City. The Steelers already have a Bell-sized opening in their cap number, so absorbing Thomas’ cap hit this season would be no big deal. Signing Thomas to something like a 4-year $48 million contract should appease him. It would put him in the same category as Berry and Tyrann Mathieu in terms of average salary.

These are just some rough numbers I ran, but both seem like realistic contracts for each of them to sign. Bell and Thomas both desperately need a change of scenery. It checks a lot of boxes for both teams, filling a need, sending the player to the opposite conference to avoid playing them again and moving on from a player that clearly no longer wants to be part of the organization.