No unbeaten teams remain, so the Rams fall from the top spot in the Week 10 NFL power rankings. Meanwhile, the Raiders fall to No. 32 as their trying season continues.
1. New England Patriots (7-2) | Last week: 2 (+1)
For the first time since Week 2, the Patriots get back up to the top spot in the power rankings. Aside from the obvious of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, there are two big reasons New England should be in the top spot: 1) The defense has played very well the last two weeks, allowing just 23 points combined and just 17 against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, and 2) Josh Gordon looks to be at full comfortability in the offense, with Brady and the coaching staff seemingly having full trust in the former All-Pro to make plays. The Patriots’ upside is huge if those two things keep up.
2. New Orleans Saints (7-1) | Last week: 4 (+2)
The Saints obviously have a legitimate argument for No. 1, as do the other top four teams in the rankings. They’re on a seven-game winning streak after their shocking Week 1 loss to the Buccaneers, and included in that stretch were tough wins at Atlanta, at Minnesota, and at Baltimore before knocking off the Rams a couple days ago. The defense was the first to do a relatively good job of containing Todd Gurley, while the Drew Brees-led offense is clearly tough to stop—particularly in the Superdome, where they are in a nice position to get homefield in the NFC playoffs.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) | Last week: 3
Gregg Williams’ defense wasn’t the toughest challenge in the league, but I was still intrigued to see how the Chiefs fared against them on the road. It looks like it doesn’t matter which defense Kansas City is facing, as Patrick Mahomes is playing too well and has too many weapons around him not to put up big point totals every week. With no defense around the league looking elite, it’s difficult to imagine any team slowing down the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense. And the defense is playing pretty well too, with 23 or less points allowed in five of the last six games.
4. Los Angeles Rams (8-1) | Last week: 1 (-3)
Despite a ton of talent and great coaching, it never really felt like the Rams were going to make a serious push for a perfect season—of course, it’s not something that’s easy to do. They’re always an aggressive team, but the loss probably allows LA to play freely without the thought of going undefeated anywhere in their minds. While the Rams ultimately lost by ten points, they again showed they’re never out of games with that explosive offense (and the game was closer than the 45-35 score indicates), so the squad will never panic when things aren’t going well. However, Marcus Peters’ play is a major concern, as a lack of confidence as a cornerback makes it difficult to play well, and Peters clearly isn’t playing well this season.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (6-2) | Last week: 5
This Chargers team feels different, as they’re not finding ways to lose games and have continued the excellent stretch they had toward the end of last season. In past years, that slightly-deflected pass on Seattle’s final offensive play probably would’ve been caught, and the Chargers probably would’ve gone on to lose in overtime. LA hasn’t lost since they fell to the other LA team back in Week 3, and their other loss was to the Chiefs, so they undoubtedly belong among the top teams in the NFL.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2-1) | Last week: 6
While avenging their Week 4 loss, the Steelers knocked their archrival Ravens on the ropes in the race for the NFC North title. And Cincinnati is banged up, so Pittsburgh looks to be in a great spot to claim another division title. James Conner (706 rushing yards, second in the NFL) is squarely in the mix for a rushing title, as he continues to punish defenses to help create great balance on offense; and, again, the team really doesn’t need Le’Veon Bell right now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the All-Pro running back is a straight-up backup that spells Conner if/when he returns to the team.
7. Carolina Panthers (6-2) | Last week: 8 (+1)
From the moment the 2018 NFL schedule came out, I and a lot of people were excited for this Week 10 Thursday night matchup between the Panthers and Steelers. The Panthers are in some ways the 2018 Chargers of the NFC, as they’re in a division with a great one-loss team, allowing them to fly under the radar a bit. Entering the season, I was slightly concerned with Cam Newton’s first season in Norv Turner’s offense, but the longtime coordinator and former MVP have immediately clicked for Carolina. Newton is completing 67.3% of his passes at the season’s mid-point, as he’s spreading the ball around and not trying to do too much.
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1) | Last week: 9 (+1)
I thought it was risky to put Dalvin Cook back out on the field with the bye week coming up this week, but the Vikings took the risk and it paid off, as the second-year running back looked explosive and did not suffer a setback in the win over the Lions. The performance should give Cook confidence with his hamstring for the rest of the season. Minnesota’s defense had its best game of the year, with a franchise-record ten sacks of Matthew Stafford, and Mike Zimmer’s unit will look to keep the momentum going when they return to face the Bears in a flexed Sunday night game in Week 11.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) | Last week: 10 (+1)
The bye week went well for the Eagles, as both the Redskins and Cowboys lost, and new wide receiver Golden Tate has had time to get up to speed with his new offense. Also, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan returned to practice after missing the first eight games of the season because of offseason surgery for a herniated disc. With the Redskins suffering serious injuries, the outlook of the defending champs in the NFC East looks good as they enter their second half of the season.
10. Atlanta Falcons (4-4) | Last week: 13 (+3)
The Falcons did what they needed to do by getting back to .500 at the halfway point in the season, and they’re now in a good position to make a run and make it three straight seasons in the NFC playoffs. Matt Ryan and the offense are really clicking, and Julio Jones finally got on the board for a touchdown—which might happen more often in the second half, as the other weapons in Atlanta’s offense are going to do damage if Jones keeps getting double- and triple-teamed. The defense is getting better as guys get more comfortable with more playing time, and stud linebacker Deion Jones could be set to return in a couple weeks. Despite dealing with a bunch of injuries, the Falcons are not a team to bet against, so they land back in the top ten.
11. Houston Texans (6-3) | Last week: 15 (+4)
The Texans edged out a close win at Denver to extend their winning streak to six games, and now they enter the bye and will return in Week 11 with at least a one-game lead in the AFC South. Demaryius Thomas was involved with three receptions for 61 yards in his first game as a Texan, and the team should get rookie receiver Keke Coutee back from his hamstring injury after the bye. The defense has been the catalyst for this winning streak, though, as they’ve allowed just 12.7 points per game during that span—and J.J. Watt appears all the way back with another sack, making it nine in nine games for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
12. Washington Redskins (5-3) | Last week: 7 (-5)
The home loss wasn’t good, but injuries are the primary reason the Redskins drop five spots in the power rankings. They’ve lost starting guards Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao, which is incredibly tough to overcome, along with receiver Paul Richardson for the season due to injuries. Both the run and pass protection take a hit with the injuries, especially with star left tackle Trent Williams out more time with a thumb injury. Scherff and Williams are All-Pro-caliber players, so rookies Geron Christian and Casey Dunn have a difficult task filling in. The potent defense must put the Falcons game behind them and keep the Redskins in it moving forward.
13. Chicago Bears (5-3) | Last week: 16 (+3)
Without Kahlil Mack, the Bears still put in a dominant performance against the Bills, recording two defensive touchdowns en route to a 41-9 victory. This is Chicago’s second win of the season by a 30+ point margin, so it’s a great sign they can be dominant like that. The recovery of Mack and wide receiver Allen Robinson II is big with three straight NFC North matchups coming up, but the team shouldn’t rush either of them back with their bye week already passed—a setback could lead to an absence deep into the season.
14. Green Bay Packers (3-4-1) | Last week: 11 (-3)
Winning at Foxboro at any time is a tough task, let alone in a hyped Sunday night matchup. The Packers were right in the game and played well, but they couldn’t contain the Patriots offense for the entire four quarters. Green Bay hasn’t beaten a team over .500 since the epic comeback victory against the Bears in Week 1, which is a concern in a tight division and conference. However, Mike McCarthy’s squad appears to be close to putting it all together, and things could be a lot different right now if the ball bounced their way more through eight games.
15. Baltimore Ravens (4-5) | Last week: 12 (-3)
The great 3-1 start and dominant defense to open the first handful of games this season is a thing of the past right now, as the Ravens have dropped four of their last five games entering their bye week, and the defense hasn’t been nearly as imposing as it was to open the year. Baltimore has taken a pass happy approach lately, but the receivers haven’t gained a ton of separation when Joe Flacco is given time in the pocket. One of the top tasks when the Ravens return from the bye is to get John Brown going after he had an outstanding start to the season but was held to under 30 yards in three of the last four games.
16. Tennessee Titans (4-4) | Last week: 18 (+2)
The two-point attempt in London a couple of weeks ago didn’t work out, but when the game is on the line, the Titans can typically count on Marcus Mariota making a play—with his arm or with his legs—to lead his team to victory. Mariota played great throughout the night and was clutch against a strong Cowboys defense in yesterday’s win, as the Titans get back to .500 after eight games. Even dating back to last year, this team finds a way to win games against similar physical teams—but I’d still like to see them get Derrick Henry going more, especially when the weather gets colder.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) | Last week: 14 (-3)
The toe injury to A.J. Green, who is expected to miss at least a couple of games, drops the Bengals a few spots in the power rankings as they return from their bye week. Without Green, the Bengals should probably focus on feeding Joe Mixon (and Giovani Bernard, if he returns from his knee injury) to take pressure off Andy Dalton and the defense. Hopefully that defense, which was getting torched the last few games before the bye, used the bye to get back on track, especially with Drew Brees and the Saints coming to town.
18. Seattle Seahawks (4-4) | Last week: 17 (-1)
The Seahawks were a slightly-deflected pass away from a chance for a two-point attempt to potentially tie the game against the Chargers, but the comeback effort was still a positive sign against one of the league’s better teams. However, this young Russell Wilson-led group has a tough upcoming schedule on paper, with games at Los Angeles (Rams), versus Green Bay, and at Carolina. If they can pick up two wins in the next three weeks, they’ll be in a great position for the final five games of the regular season.
19. Indianapolis Colts (3-5) | Last week: 21 (+2)
Emerging from the bye at 3-5, the Colts are a team to watch in the second half. Andrew Luck is at quarterback, which gives the team a chance in almost every game; and they are running the ball exceptionally well with Marlon Mack. The turnaround of the offensive line—sparked by No. 6 pick guard Quenton Nelson—has been one of the NFL’s biggest changes in 2018, and it has the future looking bright for the Colts, including the rest of this season. This week against the Jaguars, who are also coming off the bye, is obviously huge.
20. Miami Dolphins (5-4) | Last week: 22 (+2)
While fantasy owners (including myself) might be upset with his usage of Kenyan Drake at times this season, you have to give Adam Gase credit for getting his team to play well without their starting quarterback and other key players. Gase has done a great job since taking the Dolphins job in 2016, but I’m a bit surprised this injured roster is at 5-4 right now. They could be higher in the rankings, but I like the quarterback situations of other teams—like the Seahawks and Colts—better.
21. Dallas Cowboys (3-5) | Last week: 19 (-2)
It looked like the Cowboys were set to roll to a big Monday night victory over the Titans, but they couldn’t get much going offensively after a fast start for the unit and new wide receiver Amari Cooper. The season certainly isn’t over yet, and the Cowboys have two matchups against the Eagles (including this Sunday night) and one more matchup against the division-leading Redskins, but the entire team needs to get this thing figured out or they’ll again be on the outside looking in during the postseason.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) | Last week: 23 (+1)
If the Jaguars are going to turn their season around, it might need to start this week in an AFC South matchup with the Colts. A win could potentially get their swagger back ahead of a game versus a Steelers team they’re confident against after two wins last season. But a loss could send the Jaguars spiraling. Ideally, they’ll have Leonard Fournette back in the lineup at 100% so they can feed him the ball with Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon mixing in, which would take pressure off everyone from Blake Bortles to the defense.
23. Detroit Lions (3-5) | Last week: 20 (-3)
The defense played pretty well against the Vikings, but the offensive line couldn’t protect Matthew Stafford, who probably missed not having Golden Tate as an outlet for the first time since 2013. Tate had never missed a game in his four-plus seasons with the Lions—suddenly not having a top target like that isn’t easy on a quarterback. The upcoming schedule for the Lions is daunting, so they need to get out on the right foot with a win against the Bears, who they’ll also play in a couple weeks on Thanksgiving.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5) | Last week: 25 (+1)
Ryan Fitzpatrick started slow against the Panthers, but he led another near-comeback that the team couldn’t quite complete. If Fitzpatrick puts everything together and avoids turnovers for a full 60 minutes, the loaded offense can be very tough for defenses to stop, as was displayed early in the season. Tampa Bay is likely to need six or seven wins in the last eight games to have a chance at the postseason, so this weekend at home against the Redskins is huge. They face the Giants and Niners after that, so 6-5 is a realistic possibility if they take care of business in Week 10.
25. New York Jets (3-6) | Last week: 24 (-1)
That was a winnable game for the Jets against a Dolphins team that put up 13 points, but Sam Darnold (four interceptions) is going to have those type of games playing with a subpar supporting cast as a young rookie after he struggled with turnovers at USC. The postseason looks like a longshot for Todd Bowles’s squad, but they just need to worry about making progress every day and every week—particularly Darnold.
26. Denver Broncos (3-6) | Last week: 29 (+3)
The record isn’t where John Elway or anyone else in the organization wants it to be, but this season has been much more promising than the 2017 season in my opinion. The defense is stingier than it was last year, and the offense is making some plays to keep games close. If Brandon McManus put through the last-second field goal against the Texans, the Broncos would have put together a 2-2 stretch with the losses coming against the Rams and Chiefs. Denver has their bye this week.
27. Buffalo Bills (2-7) | Last week: 26 (-1)
I feel for Nathan Peterman, as almost everyone loves cracking jokes at his expense after a not-so-great start to his NFL career. However, the situation he’s in is probably the worst in the league for a quarterback, as LeSean McCoy and the running game aren’t getting much going while the receivers are struggling to make big plays. Buffalo’s defense is strong, but the offense might not be good enough to get wins unless Josh Allen returns to the lineup, which might happen soon as he makes progress from his elbow injury.
28. Cleveland Browns (2-6-1) | Last week: 28
The Browns couldn’t put a stop to Kansas City’s offense in Gregg Williams’ first game as interim head coach, but no one has been able to limit the Chiefs this season. The good news is the team played hard throughout the game, and the offense looked good in the first half under new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens. Cleveland has a couple of offensive cornerstones in quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb, so their progress is big for the franchise.
29. New York Giants (1-7) | Last week: 30 (+1)
The Giants had their bye week, and attention now turns to how much longer Eli Manning has left under-center for the franchise he helped lead to two Super Bowl victories. Unless Manning plays outstanding, which is unlikely given the struggles of the offensive line, he’s likely to get benched at some point, as the team needs a look at rookie Kyle Lauletta ahead of the 2019 offseaon and draft. I thought the recently-waived Sam Bradford might be a fit for the Giants because of his history with Pat Shurmur (and the fact that he’s an excellent quarterback when on the field), but they apparently aren’t interested, probably because they’d rather give Lauletta a look before likely addressing the position after the season.
30. Arizona Cardinals (2-6) | Last week: 31 (+1)
I wasn’t sure the Cardinals would move up in the power rankings again this season, but they move up one spot after their bye week. Again, I’m looking for the offense to put a heavy emphasis on getting the ball to David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, and we’ll see if offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich focused on that during the bye. Steve Wilks’ defense has its hands full facing the Chiefs this Sunday.
31. San Francisco 49ers (2-7) | Last week: 32 (+1)
It feels like a while ago because it happened last Thursday, but Nick Mullens was one of the big stories of Week 9. The second-year undrafted quarterback from Southern Mississippi was great in his first NFL action, and there’s a chance he continues as the starter moving forward. However, while he played very well and showed great poise, it was against the No. 32 team in the power rankings, so C.J. Beathard might still be the guy moving forward this season.
32. Oakland Raiders (1-7) | Last week: 27 (-5)
It probably won’t get any lower than this for Jon Gruden with the Raiders. Many have called out the defense for not giving great effort, and I think that’s probably a fair assessment. This season is shocking for me even after the trades of Kahlil Mack and Amari Cooper, as I thought the Raiders were going to compete for a playoff spot in Gruden’s first year back on the sidelines. But clearly, this is going to take some time to turn things around, and it’s going to take a complete overhaul of the roster. When professional athletes aren’t playing hard, that’s an indictment on them, and they’re not the type of players you want on your roster. Gruden knows that.