Welcome back to the futile exercise of ranking the 32 NFL teams. There are new faces at the top and the bottom after an eventful Week 8. As always, these will be updated weekly, so be sure to watch out as teams move up and down. If teams continue to win, they will rise. If teams continue to lose, they will fall. Similarly, a loss does not necessarily equate to a team being ranked lower than their opponent.
Numbers in parentheses refer to last week’s rankings.
No.32: Detroit Lions (+0)
The Lions are now 0-8. Philadelphia came to town and walloped the unfortunate souls at Ford Field. Jared Goff had yet another uninspiring performance. While the Lions did scratch a handful of points across late, they lost 44-6 in one of the most egregious performances of 2021. Nothing is working in Detroit, and there are many stages left in the rebuild. If there is one bright side, the 12 people that started Jermar Jefferson in fantasy football cashed in on the garbage-time touchdown.
No.31: Miami Dolphins (-4)
While the Dolphins did keep it close in Orchard Park, much of that stemmed from Buffalo’s ineptitude rather than the Dolphins being a relevant NFL team. Tua Tagovailoa had a rough day at the office, and the offense as a whole was putrid. The Dolphins had the chance to take the lead before the half, but a botched snap cost them free points. Defensively, the Dolphins folded in the second half, allowing 23 points to a brain-dead Buffalo offense. Overall, everything related to the Dolphins failed this week.
No.30: Washington Football Team (-1)
Members of the Football Team seemed to have made bets on themselves to lose. Despite Denver gifting the Football Team dozens of opportunities, Taylor Heinicke and company decided to take a “nah, I don’t feel like it” approach to winning at football. The Football Team has slumped to a pitiful 2-6 record, and they are playing at a level comparable to a soccer team playing American football. For a team that was supposed to have an elite defense, this team is a disgrace.
No.29: Jacksonville Jaguars (-3)
After moving in the right direction in recent weeks, the Jaguars floundered in Seattle. Trevor Lawrence took several steps backward, and Geno Smith turned the defense into the 2014 Dolphins. (In Week 17 of 2014, Smith posted a perfect passer rating against Miami). Jacksonville now has three consecutive games against halfway decent opponents, so they are staring at 1-9, if not worse. Firing Urban Meyer might be the next victory for the Jaguars.
No.28: Houston Texans (+2)
The Texans did get blasted on Sunday, but they should have the services of Tyrod Taylor this week. Without Taylor, the Texans would be ranked No.31, but Taylor has been a competent quarterback in 2021. Davis Mills, on the other hand, has been poor. He did have three big-time throws on Sunday, but most of the game was a blowout. The Texans trailed by 38 for a part of the game before going on an absurd 22-0 run to break the hearts of bettors. With Taylor at the helm, the Texans should be less terrible.
No.27: New York Jets (+4)
The Jets stunned Cincinnati with a 34-31 victory. Mike White made his first NFL start count, posting over 400 passing yards and a trio of touchdowns. He led the Jets on a critical 11-point comeback down the stretch, perhaps the best sequence by a Jets quarterback in franchise history. To put context on how long it had been since the Jets had a 400-yard passer, they last did so before Tom Brady became an NFL starter. Since then, Brady has terrorized the Jets and won seven Super Bowls.
No.26: Atlanta Falcons (-6)
What was that? After weeks of looking like a real NFL team, the Falcons remembered they are objectively one of the worst franchises in the history of sports. Matt Ryan came out flat, and Kyle Pitts had a critical drop on the rare great throw from Ryan. To compound matters, Younghoe Koo missed his first kick of the season and the Falcons fell in a divisional matchup. There are ugly losses, but Atlanta took it to another level in Week 8. Sam Darnold was in the mother of all tailspins, but he righted the ship to torch the Falcons.
No.25: Denver Broncos (-1)
Many Bronco players likely had money on Washington this week (besides Justin Simmons). The late-game shenanigans pulled by the Broncos were the equivalent of a child switching teams in Madden to get the ball back because he/she was losing. The play calling at the end of the game bordered on cowardice. It was as if the Broncos coaching staff were actually fans dressed up as coaches in honor of Halloween. This team is pitiful, and their 4-4 record is misleading.
No.24: Carolina Panthers (+1)
Unlike the aforementioned Broncos, the Panthers competed on Sunday. Darnold graded out among the best quarterbacks in the league, and the defense held the Falcons to just 13 points. Even without Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers currently reside in a playoff spot. (This is likely due to how top-heavy the conference is, but congratulations to Panthers fans. You need something to cheer about when No.14 drops back to pass).
No.23: Philadelphia Eagles (+5)
Sure, the Eagles played the worst team in the NFL. The point is that they took care of business in a league of teams that could lose to bye weeks if there was a scheduled game. Jalen Hurts was a competent quarterback, and the Eagles’ rushing attack (except Kenneth Gainwell) was explosive. Boston Scott and Jordan Howard had throwback games, and the Eagles turned Ford Field into their second home. Are the Eagles legit? No, but they at least can take care of the trash.
No.22: Chicago Bears (+1)
This ranking does not matter. The Bears’ 3-5 record does not matter. What matters is that Justin Fields is, in fact, the second coming of Jesus Christ. He posted the best PFF grade of his young career, and he had one run in particular that he juked out the entire 49er fanbase. Did Fields have a subpar passing performance against a banged-up 49er defense? Maybe, but who cares? Fields ran for more yards than any other player in the week besides Elijah Mitchell. The Bears may (or may not) have their future!
No.21: New York Giants (+1)
The Giants fell at Arrowhead on Monday Night Football, but all is not lost. They appeared to be the superior team for most of the game, but late-game penalties undermined their efforts. The Giants have the pieces to be a competent team, but they often fail to put the puzzle together in the right manner. Defensively, the Giants turned Travis Kelce into a nonfactor. Overall, it was a solid effort from a team in a difficult situation on the road in primetime.
No.20: Seattle Seahawks (+1)
Russell Wilson has yet to be cleared, but he could be back as soon as Week 10. The Seahawks will be enjoying their bye during Week 9, so a Wilson return could push them to the top of this next pile of teams. In Week 8, Smith was one of the best quarterbacks of the week, leading all passers with four big-time throws. The Seahawks, like the Eagles, took care of business against one of the worst teams in the NFL. While they were expected to win, the Seahawks left no stone unturned on Sunday afternoon.
No.19: Indianapolis Colts (-4)
Through six weeks, Carson Wentz had just one turnover-worthy play. In the last two weeks, he has seven. For Week 7’s Sunday Night Football, one could complain about the weather, but what about the weather for Week 8? Wentz braved the harsh conditions of Lucas Oil Stadium (a dome), putting the ball in harm’s way four separate times. The most egregious of the plays was from the end zone. Wentz put the ball up for grabs, and Elijah Molden came down with the interception on the goal line, leaned forward, and had himself a pick-six.
No.18: New Orleans Saints (-5)
With Jameis Winston at the helm, the Saints would be in the top 10, but Winston tore his ACL on Sunday. He will miss the remainder of the season. Taysom Hill, the likely starter now, is still nursing a concussion, so the Saints might roll with Trevor Siemian. While Siemian did lead the Saints on a comeback drive to upset the Buccaneers, he is historically a terrible passer. His best season, all the way back in 2016, earned him a 56.3 passing grade. Winston’s worst season passing grade is exactly 10 points higher. Ouch.
No.17: Cleveland Browns (-6)
Baker Mayfield played. Jarvis Landry played. Odell Beckham Jr. played. Nick Chubb played. All four players were healthy for the first time all season, just in time for Pittsburgh’s Halloween costume (being a good football team) to become reality. The Browns are now stuck at the bottom of the division through eight weeks. They have five more divisional games plus games against the Packers, Raiders, and Patriots coming up on the schedule. Using this power ranking as a guide, the Browns could end at 5-12 (beating the Lions).
No.16: Pittsburgh Steelers (+3)
Chris Boswell‘s quarterback costume failed spectacularly, but it did not matter. Much to the delight of Yinzers across Pennsylvania, the Steelers beat the Browns without the services of their kicker for the second half. Ben Roethlisberger and the offense were as sluggish as ever, but a key forced fumble on Jarvis Landry ended any hope in Cleveland. The offensive line played better than expected led by a heroic effort from Trai Turner. The Steelers are back in the playoff picture.
No.15: San Francisco 49ers (+3)
Jimmy Garoppolo‘s Michael Vick costume was a massive success. Garoppolo did not throw a touchdown, but he added a pair on the ground. Through the air, he was much more composed than usual, and he tacked on his second big-time throw of the season. Mitchell had a massive day on the ground, leading all Week 8 rushers in yardage. Nick Bosa continued to wreak havoc on the edge, and the 49ers came away with a hard-fought win.
No.14: Kansas City Chiefs (+2)
The Chiefs staved off a plucky Giants team to get to 4-4. Patrick Mahomes had one of his least efficient games as a professional, but the team did just enough to prevent disaster. However, the rest of your Chiefs bingo card went to plan. Tyreek Hill scored a touchdown. Check. Daniel Sorensen was the worst player in the NFL. Double check. Mahomes had a fluky interception. Check. Mahomes passed the ball to a Giant, but the Chiefs maintained possession. Check. Much to the chagrin of bettors, the Chiefs are 1-7 against the spread.
No.13: Minnesota Vikings (-1)
With Danielle Hunter out for the season now, the Vikings could be a few spots lower, but the team is just strange. Kirk Cousins was phenomenal week-in and week-out, but Week 8 was one of his worst games of the season. The Vikings were unable to get much of anything going on offense, and they conceded a massive day to Cooper Rush, not Dak Prescott. Losing to Prescott is understandable, but losing to Rush is inconceivable. The Vikings remain one of the worst organizations in professional sports.
No.12: Los Angeles Chargers (-2)
Speaking of strange, the Chargers seemed to have left all of their football talent on the plane they took to Baltimore. In the last three weeks, the Chargers’ best week of football was a bye week; at least they were not able to lose. They had one of the worst games of the season by any team in Baltimore, and they returned home to produce a stinker in Week 8. Justin Herbert‘s MVP candidacy has officially gone off the rails, and the Chargers are now just 0.5 games up on the Chiefs.
No.11: New England Patriots (+6)
Mac Jones did not have his finest performance, but it was another in a streak of good performances. In the last three weeks, Jones has six big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays, and the Patriots are winning (or at least taking the Cowboys to overtime). Beyond Jones, the Patriots received a superhuman effort from Adrian Phillips in a revenge game. Damien Harris also had a productive day on the ground with 80 yards and a touchdown. For more consolation, Jakobi Meyers now has a touchdown worth of successful two-point conversions.
No.10: Tennessee Titans (-2)
Losing Derrick Henry could be catastrophic, but the Titans have nearly clinched a playoff spot. They hold a three-game lead over the Colts, and the Titans have already beaten the Colts twice, so the lead functions as four games rather than three. The Titans have several likely losses including a trip to face the Rams next week, but as long as they take care of business against the Texans (twice) and the Jaguars, nine wins could be enough to hold off the Colts.
No.9: Las Vegas Raiders (+5)
With the chaos above the Raiders, the spot that the Raiders occupied is now higher. Think of this spot as an ELO rating for football teams. The teams ranked from No.8 to No.13 (excluding the next team) all fell while the Raiders enjoyed their bye week. The Raiders are second in the AFC, and they lead the AFC West by a game over the Chargers. Derek Carr is playing at a near-MVP level, and he could join the serious conversation with several key games in a row.
No.8: Baltimore Ravens (+1)
Like the Raiders, the Ravens benefit from the chaos above them. The bye week came at a crucial time for the Ravens, and they will get several pieces back into the fray. Sammy Watkins and Latavius Murray could be available for Week 9, and Nick Boyle would be a welcome addition to the run-blocking unit. Defensively, Derek Wolfe could return to help the run game. Right tackle Patrick Mekari‘s status is up in the air, but the Ravens are slowly getting healthier.
No.7: Cincinnati Bengals (-2)
The Bengals lost to the Jets. Usually, that is a catastrophe. While they will have an unnecessary setback hanging over their heads for the remainder of the season, it does serve as a reminder that every NFL team can win on any given day (aside from the Lions). Joe Burrow did not play poorly, but one of his final passes was tipped in the air and caught by a Jet. New York scored, and pushed the lead to three, but Cincinnati could not score on their final drive. There was a questionable penalty call that iced the game, but the Bengals do not need to be in that situation in the first place.
No.6: Buffalo Bills (+0)
The Bills now have three of the worst blowout wins of the season. Sure, the final score looks convincing, but the Bills stumbled to a two-score win more than they played well. They do have a pair of electric dominations over the Football Team and the Chiefs, but those teams look worse and worse with each passing game. Josh Allen is a de-facto MVP candidate based on his counting stats and 5-2 record, but he has taken a step back from his 2020 play.
No.5: Dallas Cowboys (+2)
Had the Cowboys lost on Sunday Night Football, it would have been understandable. However, the secondary stars played incredibly well, and the Cowboys advanced to 6-1. Randy Gregory is playing his way into All-Pro consideration, and Amari Cooper was one of the best receivers of the week. All told, the Cowboys were able to walk into hostile territory without one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and win in prime-time. If anything, this could be material against Prescott because they won without him. However, he should be back in Week 9, ready to guide the Cowboys to more wins.
No.4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2)
The Buccaneers have lost all three regular-season games they have played against the Saints in the Brady era. With the context of the Saints missing Winston for much of the day, this appears to be an ugly loss. However, it is far from it. The Buccaneers responded to adversity throughout the game, and they ended up having a chance to win it in the end. P.J. Williams made a superhuman play on a deep Brady pass, and he returned it for six. Game-winning drives are far from guaranteed, but the Buccaneers did have a chance.
No.3: Arizona Cardinals (-2)
Kyler Murray‘s status for the next few weeks is up in the air. There is a chance he could play in Week 9. There is also a chance he misses the next three weeks. The Cardinals suffered their first defeat of the 2021 season as A.J. Green retired halfway through a route, and Rasul Douglas was left to intercept Murray. J.J. Watt will miss the rest of the season, so that will hurt the defense, but the likes of Jordan Hicks stepped up in his absence.
No.2: Green Bay Packers (+1)
The Packers walked into Glendale and came away with an impressive win over the last remaining unbeaten team. The Packers were without their top three pass-catchers, but Randall Cobb and company kept the unit afloat. De’Vondre Campbell and Rashan Gary continued their Pro Bowl-caliber seasons, and Aaron Rodgers is beginning to enter the MVP race once again. The Packers presently hold the NFC’s best record, and they control their destiny.
No.1: Los Angeles Rams (+3)
The Rams would have come in the top spot with or without Von Miller, but now they have one of the NFL’s premier pass-rushers. The offense is humming. Matthew Stafford could win the MVP, and Cooper Kupp is sprinting away with Offensive Player of the Year at the moment. Defensively, Miller joins a unit that already is full of superstars. Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey would likely be All-Pros if the season ended today. The Rams should be the Super Bowl favorites.
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