From the Sidelines

Today’s Pigskin post-Week 8 NFL power rankings

October 23, 2016: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) hands the ball off during a NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)

It isn’t easy to rank the NFL from top-to-bottom on a weekly basis.

Not when we got what we had in Week 8 — when teams we’d all but given up on like the Bears, Panthers and Saints toppled top-ranked opposition like the Vikings, Cardinals and Seahawks.

Be better, NFC.

Of course, those losses all opened the door for one surprising NFC power to earn a spot in the prestigious top two. Hint: They’ve been steadily ascending all year and their running back is always hungry.

As always, there’s plenty of movement in yet another edition of the Today’s Pigskin power rankings. So read on to see where your own team ranks, who rose and who fell.

And, remember, these rankings are intended to inspire discussion, so, whether you agree or disagree, let us hear it in the comments below.

  1. Cleveland Browns (0-8) Last Week: 32

The Browns looked to finally be on the way to an elusive first victory, boasting a double-digit victory at the half during Sunday’s tilt with the Jets. Of course, that was a lead the Browns blew. Cleveland took a big step towards rectifying the win-less problem with the trade for playmaking, young linebacker Jamie Collins. That said, knowing Cleveland’s propensity for bad decisions (and New England’s for good ones) don’t be surprised if Collins somehow flops.

  1. San Francisco 49ers (1-6) Last Week: 31

There’s a lot to like about the 49ers coming out of their bye. For one, they didn’t lose. Kidding aside, Colin Kaepernick and co. will enjoy a home stand against a Saints’ defense that’s been torched all year long. That would seem like a good matchup to get this offense on the right track, but, given how bad it’s been, don’t expect too many fireworks.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) Last Week: 29

The Jaguars continue to play horrid first half football. On Thursday, they trailed the Titans 27-0 going into intermission. After the break, Blake Bortles exploited a cautious Titans defense for a couple hundred yards and three scores. That certainly pleased his fantasy owners, but only strengthened the narrative that his gaudy numbers are inflated by garbage time production.

  1. Chicago Bears (2-6) Last Week: 30

Yes, the Bears had a shockingly strong showing on Halloween night against the Vikings. Jay Cutler and Jordan Howard had standout performances against a top-notch Minnesota defense and Chicago’s own undermanned defense was downright dominant. A tip of the cap to the Bears for that, but until they sustain this level of play it’s hard to think of it as anything more than a primetime aberration.

  1. New York Jets (3-5) Last Week: 27

Yes, the Jets slide even after a win. That’s largely because the teams ahead of them had more impressive performances. Wins, after all, don’t get much less impressive than ones eked out against the winless Browns. Still, New York has winnable games against the Dolphins and Rams over the next two weeks, which means .500 isn’t impossible heading into the bye.

  1. Los Angeles Rams (3-4) Last Week: 25

With the bye, the Rams have now gone a full month without winning a game. With a Carolina team that may just have found its mojo next on tap, that streak could be destined to grow. There are winnable games left on the Rams’ schedule, and they seem to always be good for an upset or two, but this team’s looked too ugly in losses to think they’ve got a second-half surge in them

  1. Indianapolis Colts (3-5) Last Week: 23

Whelp, the roof finally caved in on the Colts. After being competitive all year long they finally had a game where their disparity in talent was exposed. That shouldn’t come as too great a shock. We’ve known that Indy was the Andrew Luck show all year long. Still a 16-point loss to Kansas City’s backups isn’t exactly a glowing endorsement of Indianapolis’ talent level.

  1. Carolina Panthers (2-5) Last Week: 28

After so many ugly losses, the Panthers won’t win their way back into our good graces so easily. Still, it’s hard to color their domination of the Arizona Cardinals as anything other than impressive. It served as a reminder to the league that, when they’re clicking, the Panthers can hang with anyone. It may be a long shot, but it was just last year after all that the Chiefs rallied from a 1-5 start to make the playoffs.

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) Last Week: 21

Losing to the Raiders is certainly excusable, but how Tampa Bay did it is not. Oakland was penalized 23 times for a total of 200 yards. And the Buccaneers still couldn’t beat them. Instead, the Bucs let Derek Carr throw for a franchise record 513 yards. In all, Tampa Bay let up a franchise worst 626 yards. Somewhere, Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and John Lynch are shaking their heads in disgust.

23. Baltimore Ravens (3-4) Last Week: 22

Unbelievably, the Ravens are just one win away from the top spot in the AFC North. With home field in their favor, and how well they typically play Pittsburgh, don’t be surprised if they come out of this weekend in command of the division. Maintaining that grasp, however, is a different matter entirely. If Baltimore didn’t implement whole-sale changes on offense during the bye then don’t be surprised if it flames out in short order.

22. San Diego Chargers (3-5) Last Week: 17

The Chargers never fail to make things interesting. Aside from a blowout win over the Jaguars, San Diego’s yet to win or lose a game by more than one possession. It makes for good television, but not necessarily a good football team. The Chargers show flashes of being good, like in wins over Atlanta and Denver this year, but too frequently shoot themselves in the foot. That was the case this past Sunday when, with a first-and-goal at the two yard line, San Diego eschewed red zone maven Melvin Gordon in favor of having Philip Rivers throw four times. Predictably, not one pass landed.

21. New Orleans Saints (3-4) Last Week: 26

Well, that was impressive. It certainly wasn’t perfect, nor pretty, but New Orleans’ gutty victory against the Seattle Seahawks was undoubtedly impressive. Drew Brees’ Saints scored as many points as anybody has on Seattle all year long and New Orleans’ oft-criticized defense came up with a few big plays and a critical late-game stop. We’ve known New Orleans can score on anybody, but if it can get a few more days like Sunday out of it’s defense than it might be more than the middling team we saw in the first six games.

20. Miami Dolphins (3-4) Last Week: 20

No change for the surging Dolphins as they enjoyed a bye in Week 8. Time will tell if Miami’s two-game win streak was merely an aberration or the start of a mid-season surge. It’s tough to deny that the seemingly soft Dolphins turned into a road-grading, ass-kicking team in the two games before their bye. How they come out of the break, and whether or not they let a brief taste of success get to their heads, will tell the tale of their season.

30.10.2016. Wembley Stadium, London, England. NFL International Series. Cincinnati Bengals versus Washington Redskins.  Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) hands off to running back Chris Thompson (25).  Final score: Washington Redskins 27-27 Cincinnati Bengals after overtime. (Photo by John Kirkpatrick/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire) ****NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY----NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

(Photo by John Kirkpatrick/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire)

19. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1) Last Week: 19

Well that…was…something. It’s tough to evaluate a team after a tie in one because they are (or at least used to be) so rare. Along with that, the game was an instance in which Cincinnati was fortunate to play the Redskins to a draw. If kicker Dustin Hopkins hit the game-winner he had the opportunity at, the Bengals are looking at a 3-5 start and a long road ahead to the postseason. In that sense, only losing half a game hurts. As for our perceptions of a team that’d been near the top of the AFC for the past half-decade, that’s another story.

18. Tennessee Titans (4-4) Last Week: 24

Tennessee’s four wins this season have come against the Lions, Dolphins, Browns and Jaguars. That’s not exactly the cream of the crop in the NFL, but, hey, the Titans are just a game back in the race/chase/reluctant stumble for the AFC South. The schedule gets daunting in the season’s second half, though. Titans fans will have to hope that last Thursday’s decimation of the Jaguars was the tipping-off point for copious wins to follow.

17. Detroit Lions (4-4) Last Week: 14

If the Lions didn’t sleepwalk through half their games (or at least that one against the Bears), they’d be viewed in a totally different light right now. Detroit’s scored 15 points or less in three of it’s four losses. That was the case again on Sunday against the Texans. Of course, even in their four wins the Lions have needed late-game heroics each time. Playing with urgency from opening kick, rather than after going down a score or two, could make a world of difference for the Lions.

16. Buffalo Bills (4-4) Last Week: 13

A loss to the Patriots certainly wasn’t unexpected, but the nature of Buffalo’s loss to New England doesn’t do it any favors in these rankings. Buffalo kept things close for a quarter and change before the Patriots, as they tend to do, pulled away. A litany of injuries at the skill positions certainly didn’t help the Bills any, but one doesn’t get the feel that Percy Harvin will be a cure-all in that regard. This team needs LeSean McCoy and it needs him yesterday.

15. Washington Redskins (4-3-1)

If teams could lose ties then it’d be the Redskins sporting an L. Not only did Washington have chances to win, but it had a lot more to lose. Presuming the Cowboys beat the Browns (bold, I know), then the ‘Skins will be two-and-a-half games back of their long-time rivals. Given how well Dallas has been playing, that’s shaping up to be a pretty steep hill to climb.

14. New York Giants (4-3) Last Week: 16

The Giants enjoy a nice little boost by not playing this week. During the break, they watched as two division rivals made the road to a Wild Card berth a bit easier. Of course, the onus is now on New York to capitalize. Big Blue’s revamped defense has proven good enough to win with this year, but the offense is lagging behind. Now, the run game can only get so much better, but an improved Eli Manning and a more consistent Odell Beckham Jr. would go a long way towards the Giants’ playoff hopes.

13. Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1) Last Week: 12

Are the Cardinals the league’s best bad team or its worst good one? Does it matter? These are the questions that sports writers ask themselves as they puzzle over 3,000-word diatribes. And, at day’s end, the Cardinals are the team I just can’t quit. David Johnson is a machine and Larry Fitzgerald is ageless. The defense, from front-to-back, looks as well-stocked as any in the league. And, yet, in their last three games the Cardinals are 1-1-1. One more tie and I swear I’ll quit on them.

  1. Houston Texans (5-3) Last Week: 18

Just when you’re ready to quit on the Texans they go and notch an impressive win over a Lions team that’s been better than expected this year. As we saw last season, the recipe for success with Brock Osweiler is to not put too much on his shoulders. That’s not what you want out of a $70 million man, but that and a strong defensive effort was enough to get the job done on Sunday. Shutting down a surging Matt Stafford is no small feat and the Texans will need more defensive performances like it if they’re to contend for more than the AFC South.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) Last Week: 6

The Eagles were supposedly shopping around for a wide receiver last week. Unfortunately for Philly, the trade deadline’s now in the rear view and no move was made. Philly’s lack of talent at receiver was startlingly apparent during its Sunday night collapse against the Cowboys. If this feels familiar it should. It was only a few years ago that the Eagles were criticized for asking Donovan McNabb to win with the likes of Todd Pinkston and James Thrash.

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 30: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs in for a two point conversion during an NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons on October 30, 2016, at Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Green Bay Packers 33-32. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)

  1. Green Bay Packers (4-3) Last Week: 11

How good is Aaron Rodgers? Good enough to rack up four touchdowns and keep his team alive against arguably the league’s best offense. And Trevor Davis and Geronimo Allison hauled two of those scores in. Who? Exactly. Look, Rodgers is good enough to keep his teams in games week in and week out. However, this offense needs to get healthy in a hurry if Green Bay is to make some noise in January.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) Last Week: 8

The Steelers are looking a lot better after the bye. They should return Marcus Gilbert, Cam Heyward and perhaps even Ben Roethlisberger for their road trip to Baltimore. Of course, that doesn’t mean their game against the Ravens will be a cakewalk. It never is, not even with Ryan Mallett quarterbacking.

  1. Minnesota Vikings (5-2) Last Week: 2

In two straight games, Minnesota’s offense has been held out of the end zone ’till late in the fourth quarter. The rush attack’s been non-existent and Sam Bradford’s chemistry with a mostly anonymous cast of pass-catchers has waned. Even the defense, which had been so spectacular, sprung leaks against an not so intimidating Chicago attack. It’s not time to panic yet, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to see the Vikings come out and dominate like they did early in the year.

  1. Seattle Seahawks (4-2-1) Last Week: 5

Hey, there’s no shame in losing to a close one to Drew Brees and the Saints. New Orleans may not be a title contender, but it is good enough offensively to give even the best defenses trouble. One can live with surrendering 25 points to the Saints in their house. Putting up just 20 against them, however, is a different story. Seattle’s offense continues to struggle after such an impressive end to last year and, at this point, that doesn’t seem likely to change until Russell Wilson is healthy enough to take off more often.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) Last Week: 9

No Jamaal Charles, no Justin Houston, no Alex Smith? No problem for the Chiefs. Kansas City turned in a dominating effort on both sides of the ball in a 16-point win against the hapless Colts. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is young Dee Ford putting the pass-rushing duties on his back (seven sacks in seven games). If Houston does return this season, the Chiefs will field a fearsome pass-rushing duo.

  1. Oakland Raiders (6-2) Last Week: 10

It’s been over a decade since the Raiders have had a winning season. The last time they were a playoff threat, Tim Tebow and the Broncos wound up representing the AFC West instead. Those who don’t think they’ve turned a corner will point to a leaky defense, a soft schedule and close games as reasons to doubt Oakland. But if you are, as they say, what your record says you are, then it’s getting tougher and tougher to doubt Oakland.

  1. Atlanta Falcons (5-3) Last Week: 4

How’s that for a signature victory? The Falcons made their two-week rough patch little more than a memory with their come-from-behind victory against the Packers. Matt Ryan out-dueling Aaron Rodgers and orchestrating a late-game touchdown drive seemed to affirm that, yes, he’s arrived. Now the onus is on Atlanta to carry that momentum into an-ever dangerous Thursday showdown with a Tampa Bay team that it has lost to once already.

  1. Denver Broncos (6-2) Last Week: 3

There’s something beautiful about the Broncos’ ugly wins. A pick-six is what put Denver in front, but one thrown by Trevor Siemian in the fourth quarter brought San Diego within one score. With time winding down, the Chargers advanced the ball to the Denver two-yard line and had the chance to go out in front. Four Philip Rivers incompletions later and Denver’s defense locked up yet another Broncos W.

  1. Dallas Cowboys (6-1) Last Week: 4

The Cowboys have been impressive all year, but Sunday night may’ve been their best showing yet. Dallas trailed a division rival late and hadn’t gotten its bread-and-butter run game going as it’s accustomed to. None of that mattered late, though, as Dak Prescott and co. rallied back and took a crucial two-game lead in a contentious division that could send two or even three teams to the post season.

  1. New England Patriots (7-1) Last Week: 1

There’s been a lot of turnover at the top this year, but the Patriots are as good a bet as any to really get comfortable here. Since Tom Brady’s return, New England hasn’t won a game by less than 11 points. And, yes, if Brady’s outrageous production keeps up then he’s very much an MVP candidate.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. GJ Tricarico

    November 3, 2016 at 7:30 am

    It might be that we are looking at the SB teams in #1 and #2 on the list. That is if Dallas stays with Dak. Romo’s time is over and I think Dak can take the ‘boys to the SB, don’t know if they could beat the Patriots, but the way Dallas is playing, maybe, but of all the NFC teams Dallas seems the most complete. If NE continues and even gets better as they usually do in the second half, it might be ring 5 for TB12, you know he wants it bad AND he want Goodell to hand him that trophy.

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