Week 9 NFL Power Rankings

     Just when you thought this year couldn’t get more confusing, the Cowboys fell at home to the Redskins and the Colts defense allowed 51 to the Steelers.  Luckily, I was able to win this fantasy week despite the Indy D’s poor play.  The Saints continued to show that they only win at home, and England got to see what might be the best NFL game ever in Wembley Stadium.  Much has changed since the release of the week 6 power rankings, so it’s time to see where we are at the season’s midway point.

     Just to clarify, this list will probably be a LOT different from your personal list or any other lists you read, just because how difficult it is to rank teams this year.  Honestly, any team can beat any team as we’ve clearly seen this year.  I’m just trying to sort through the outliers and figure out are consistently. the best teams.
     32) Raiders (0-7) (Week 6 Rank: 31): I feel really bad for Derek Carr.  So far, he’s been the NFL’s best rookie QB, but he gets no help at all.  With games against the Seahawks and Broncos next, the Raiders should be begging for mercy.  Don’t expect them to move up anytime soon.
     31) Jaguars (1-7) (32): Congrats on getting your first win, Jags!  Unfortunately, in won’t be enough to move you up more than one spot, or get you a good quarterback, or stop the NFL from begging London to take you as its NFL franchise.  But keep trying.
     30) Jets (1-7) (30): The Jets haven’t gone anywhere in the rankings, and that’s because they’ve been awful.  They now have not one, but two horrible QBs.  Michael Vick will become the temporary starter after fumbling four times last week and still outperforming Geno Smith.  Man, Geno’s bad.  Percy Harvin hasn’t done much to help yet either.
     29) Buccaneers (1-6) (28): Losing to the Vikings at home really doesn’t help your cause when you’re trying to get out of the division cellar.  However, somehow the Bucs are still legitimately in their division race, since the NFC South is quite possibly the worst division ever.  That’s right.  EVER.  The Panthers lead currently at 3-4-1, and trust me, they’ve looked worse than the record suggests.
     28) Titans (2-6) (29): Man, these bottom five teams really suck.  I mean, no offense, but this is really atrocious.  Let’s think about this for a second.  The Titans are moving up due to a two point home win over the Jaguars, which was followed up by losses against the Redskins and Texans.  If that’s not sad, I don’t know what is.  But on a positive note, Zach Mettenberger had a decent first career start besides the whole selfie thing.
     27) Falcons (2-6) (20): A huge drop for the Falcons this week is well warranted.  They blew a 21 point lead in London and had HORRIBLE clock management down the stretch in that game, which they really should’ve won.  They just generally don’t look like the same team they had a few years back, which is a shame.
     26) Bears (3-5) (21): Can someone please inform me as to what they heck has happened to the Bears?  The last two weeks have simply been ugly, and while this team looked inconsistent at the beginning of the year, now they look plain bad.  Matt Forte is a huge bright spot, but one lamp isn’t enough to light up a house, if you can bear with the horribly analogy and even worse pun that followed.
     25) Rams (2-5) (26): They beat the Seahawks!  And then they got destroyed by the Chiefs…but overall, I am really impressed with the job Austin Davis has done taking over this team this year.  However, they can’t go any higher until they start picking up Ws.
     24) Vikings (3-5) (25): Teddy Bridgewater has not played like a winning quarterback.  However, the defense has stepped it up, and they managed to win on the road against the Bucs.  No matter who you play, winning on the road isn’t easy.  In addition, they were only a few seconds away from beating the Bills.  So good for them.
     23) Panthers (3-4-1) (18): That’s right, here we have a division leading team ranked in the bottom ten of the power rankings.  Laughable as it might be, this is a fair reflection of just how horrible the NFC South has been.  What ever happened to Superman Cam?  That’s a question the Panthers need to find an answer to.  Luke Kuechly has kept the defense solid, but there is no O.
     22) Redskins (3-5) (27): Props to the Redskins for actually playing some good football.  They won against the Titans, and then pulled off the upset of the week and took down the previously 6-1 Cowboys.  And who gets the credit for these victories?  It has to be Colt McCoy, who has stepped in and really played well.  Well enough, in my opinion, to have earned the starting role.  It may be finally time to trade Kirk Cousins.
     21) Saints (3-4) (24): What is there to say about the Saints?  They win at home, and lose on the road.  That’s it.  I expect them to go 8-8 with an 8-0 home record.  Additionally, it should be enough to win the division.  Somehow.
      20) Browns (4-3) (23): The Browns were due for their big jump in the rankings, potentially into the top fifteen.  They had an incredible statement win against the Steelers, winning 31-10.  This is somehow the same Steelers team that dropped 51 points on what seemed like a good Colts defense.  However, they followed it up by giving the Jaguars their first win.  Ugh.  Even worse, it wasn’t close. They lost 24-6.  Luckily and thankfully, they managed to beat the Raiders to avoid giving them their first win as well.  However, a negative points differential against the Jags and Raiders can’t move you up too much, even with their strong performance against Pittsburgh.
     19) Giants (3-4) (20): The loss of Victor Cruz really killed the Giants emotionally.  However, they had a decent bounce back game against the Cowboys even though they lost that game.  The issue with the Giants is that they play their four hardest games next and end with five winnable games.  This means they could be looking at 3-8 and be out of the playoffs and still finish around .500.  It’ll be interesting to see how they come together these next few difficult weeks.
     18) Texans (4-4) (16): How is it that through eight weeks the NFL has only one 4-4 team?  As unlikely as it may be, that’s the situation the Texans find themselves in.  The Texans are better than their record suggests, but making a playoff run will be difficult because of how many 4-3 and 5-3 teams there are in the east.  It seems the wins the Raiders, Jets, and Jags don’t have ended up evenly distributed across a conference with a mind-numbing number of 4-3 and 5-3 teams (eight).

     Time for a quick break.  We’re roughly halfway through the rankings.  It’s time to draw a line.
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     You see that line?  Good.  It represents a big change.  The teams ranked 32-17 were for the most part not incredibly difficult to rank.  I would say the Raiders and Jaguars are in their own group.  Teams 30-27 are also very bad but in a tier of their own slightly better than the Raiders and Jaguars.  Next comes 26-22, composed of teams who have beat a good team or two, but overall still on the weak side of the spectrum.  There was a little difficulty sorting within this group, but not too much.  Then came 21-17, full of by most standards average teams who have a chance to make a playoff push.
     As you can see, overall these teams fit into a few distinct groups, and are probably in basically the same place in most rankings.  Here’s where that line I made comes into play.  Besides the clear #1 in my mind (the Broncos) teams 2-16 are largely up to personal interpretation, as each have had their fair share of good wins and all deserve to be ranked highly.  Obviously some are stronger than others, but as a whole there aren’t clearly defined tiers like there are with the bottom half of the list, which can make for interesting rankings.
     I just wanted to clear that up before I go throwing teams all over the place.  Got it?  Good.
   
     17) Dolphins (4-3) (22): I’m not sure how much credit I should give the Dolphins for wins over the Bears and Jaguars, but I did see a lot of good from them in their close loss to a very good Packers team.  Overall, it’s a well deserved boost from the Dolphins, and enough to keep them in the mess of a conference we call the AFC.  Let’s not forget they have beaten the Patriots.
     16) 49ers (4-3) (10): Here come the first of many controversial rankings.  Everyone is just too close to call!  Strictly based off their last few weeks, they won a game against the Rams that they should have, but then got killed in Denver, like they should have.  If they made that game a little closer than 25 points, they might be higher.  Yes, they have beat the Eagles, but that Bears loss just looks worse and worse as the weeks go by.
     15) Bills (5-3) (19): I’m giving the Bills a lot more credit than they’ve been getting from most people.  I don’t know why they’re good.  They don’t seem great on paper.  However, there’s been a noticeable change (at least for me) since Kyle Orton took over as starter.  The team looks much better offensively, and defensively they’ve been smooth all year long.  They’re currently sitting in the huge wild card mess, and I like them to remain in it for the remainder of the year.  They deserve it.
     14) Bengals (4-2-1) (4): It’s a huge drop for Cincinnati, and it’s not hard to see why.  Since starting 3-0, they have seriously taken a step down in their game.  They tied the Panthers (man saying tie just doesn’t seem right), and were shut out by the Colts.  They did manage to capture a much needed win against the Ravens at home, even if it was by the skin of their teeth.  Their defining stat for me is that they’ve actually allowed more points than they’ve scored this year.  At 4-2-1, that’s alarming.
     13) Chiefs (4-3) (15): Again, I feel they should be higher.  Beating the Chargers is no easy task, and after some early season struggles, the Chiefs look right back in the playoff hunt.  They have a mean rushing game, which is always a good sign, and an easy game against the Jets next.  After that it will be interesting though, as they face the Bills on the road and the Seahawks in two huge potential statement games.
     12) Ravens (5-3) (9): Two losses against the Bengals is a tiebreak killer.  To be perfectly fair, their win agains the Steelers is really the only quality win they have on the season, which makes it tough to place them much higher than 12.  I know Joe Flacco is playing great recently and everything, but ultimately a lot of QBs look really good when playing the Bucs and Falcons.
     11) Colts (5-3) (6): They had an incredible shutout against the Bengals, so I won’t knock them for that.  However, Ben Roethlisberger nearly set the NFL record for passing yards in a game while putting up 51 points on the Colts, and it never even looked difficult.  It might be just one bad performance, but that’s a really scary sign for a team who is supposed to challenge for the AFC championship this late in the season.
     10) Steelers (5-3) (17): Speaking of the Steelers, they get a strong boost into the top ten this week.  Yes the loss to the Browns was unfortunate, and shouldn’t’ve happened, but it was on the road, making it a little better.  Then the Steelers won a must-win against the Texans and followed it up with a massive 51-34 victory over the Colts which left us all scratching our heads.  I know I hate judging by one week, but that alone gave them mostly of their jump.  All of a sudden their division looks more winnable (despite every team being over .500), and their offense is firing like it hasn’t fired in a while.
     9) Packers (5-3) (8): It isn’t all that surprising that they lost to the Saints on the road.  Basically everyone does.  However, if Aaron Rodgers has to miss any time for his hamstring injury, Green Bay won’t be able to R-E-L-A-X any longer.  They have a great offense, and Eddie Lacy played superbly in New Orleans, but the defense isn’t cutting it for a Super Bowl contender for me, especially if Aaron Rodgers isn’t fully 100%.  What a lucky time for a bye week.
     8) Seahawks (4-3) (1): I’ve finally decided to give in.  What a difference three weeks makes.  In the week 6 rankings, the Seahawks took the top spot.  However, I considered putting them as low as 12 this time around, and as high as six.  They got dominated on special teams in their game against the Rams.  They lost at home to the Cowboys, which is especially worrying considering they have issues on the road and bank on going undefeated at home.  Speaking of playing on the road, Russell Wilson was lucky to escape with a 13-9 win against the Panthers.  That game was a must-win, and if they fell, they wouldn’t be near the top ten right now.
     7) Chargers (5-3) (3): Man, it’s tough being the Chargers.  They are a very good team with an incredible defense and a rebooted offense.  Philip Rivers has been great, and Branden Oliver has proven himself worthy of a starting running back role.  However, they are in a TOUGH division, and losing against both the Chiefs and Broncos could come back to hurt them in the future, even though neither is a bad loss.
     6) Lions (6-2) (14): They’ve been down 21-0 at halftime two weeks in a row and have pulled out both games.  If that isn’t resilience, I don’t know what is.  Their second half display in England against the Falcons was truly impressive.  Stafford has been shaky, but that’s more because all his weapons are hurt than him being a poor QB, which he definitely isn’t.  The defense is still playing fantastic, which has the Lions on top of the NFC North.
     5) Cowboys (6-2) (11): It’s official.  I don’t know what universe we’re living in, but apparently it’s one that warrants a six spot increase into the top five for a team that lost at home to the Redskins.  However, simply because of how jumbled everyone is and the lack of “great” teams, this spot is warranted.  DeMarco Murray is the best back in the league this year, and it isn’t that close (for me Matt Forte is second, but there’s definitely debate over that).  This ranking is more based on their huge win IN SEATTLE, becoming only the second team to do that in the last three years.  The defense is millions of times better than it was expected to be, and ultimately the Cowboys are a really good team.
     4) Eagles (5-2) (5): Despite how good the Cowboys have been, it just isn’t enough to claim the spot of top NFC East team.  No more NFC least.  The Eagles fell in a very close game against the Cardinals last week, and had a shot at the end that they just couldn’t pull out.  Despite that, they still have an incredible special teams, and you have to love them if LeSean McCoy can return to form.
     3) Patriots (6-2) (12): Officially, this is the jump of the week, since the Patriots went up nine spots.  I remember clearly the beginning of the year, when the Patriots looked like a defeated team and a done dynasty.  Perhaps we said this too soon, however.  Rob Gronkowski has played very well, and Brandon Lafell has given Tom Brady a much needed target, but by far the biggest adjustment has been with Tom Brady himself.  Say what you want about him, but the numbers don’t lie, and Tom had 14 touchdowns without throwing a pick this October.
     2) Cardinals (6-1) (7): John Brown’s game winning touchdown gave the Cardinals a crucial win, but really only solidified what we’ve known this whole year: the Cardinals are a force to be reckoned with.  The aggressive defensive play calling worked perfectly against the ultra fast and aggressive Eagles, leaving us to wonder just how far the Cardinals can go.
     1) Broncos (6-1) (2): By far, the Broncos are the best team in this league.  We all know how good the offense is.  It’s scary good.  Like, we didn’t know it was possible to be this good.  No matter who they play, they put up points and seem to blow by them.  They beat the Cardinals by 21, and they’re #2 on this list.  Chargers?  No problem.  49ers?  Easy.  Chiefs?  Sure thing.  The Broncos’ only loss was in overtime in Seattle, which is easily excused.  Peyton Manning’s team is easily the Super Bowl favorite at this stage in the year.

Thanks for reading,
Connor
   
   

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