2016 NFL Power Rankings Week 9: Los Angeles Rams Look to Bounce Back Following Bye Week
Here’s a look at the 2016 NFL Power Rankings Week 9 with the Los Angeles Rams looking to turn things around following their bye week.
The Los Angeles Rams took a little fall in the 2016 NFL Power Rankings for Week 9, but that doesn’t mean this team can’t turn things around in the second half.
After suffering an embarrassing loss to the New York Giants in London, the Rams spent the bye week with plenty to think about, from what to do at quarterback to figuring out how to improve the receiving corps. Case Keenum has shown potential at times, but the frustration is beginning to pile up over the veteran quarterback after his four-interception performance against the Giants in Week 7.
So does that mean Jared Goff could find his way into the starting lineup in the second half of the season?
At the moment, Goff replacing Keenum seems unlikely as Jeff Fisher may be fighting for his job over the next four games, which means the last thing the head coach wants to do is risk it all on the rookie. But if Keenum continues to struggle, who knows if Fisher will get desperate enough to give the rookie a shot.
Without wasting any more time, let’s take a look at where the Rams compare with the rest of the teams in the 2016 NFL Power Rankings for Week 9.
32. Cleveland Browns 0-8 (32)
Another week, another disappointing loss by the Cleveland Browns as they let Sunday’s game against the New York Jets slip away.
Even when the Browns were up 20-7 at halftime, it seemed like they would eventually find a way to blow the lead, which is exactly what happened as Cleveland remains the only winless team in the league at 0-8. And when looking at their upcoming schedule with big games against the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens, it doesn’t look like the Browns are going to earn their first win any time soon.
So what exactly has gone wrong for Cleveland? For starters, the quarterback position has been nothing but frustrating as Josh McCown made his return while only completing 25 of 49 passes for 341 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Sadly, McCown may be the team’s best option at quarterback if they’re going to have any chance at winning a game or two in 2016, but at least they have a wide receiver with his stock on the rise in Terrelle Pryor Sr. (six catches for 101 yards against the Jets).
If there’s at least one thing Browns fans can cheer about this season, it would be the solid play by Pryor at wide receiver.
31. San Francisco 49ers 1-6 (31)
Remember when the San Francisco 49ers started off the season with an impressive 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams? Unfortunately, that was the last time the 49ers won as Chip Kelly‘s squad has been one of the biggest disappointments from the first half of the 2016 season, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to get better any time soon.
The bye couldn’t have come at a better team for San Francisco as this team currently sits at the bottom of the NFC West after losing six in a row. Not even replacing Blaine Gabbert with Colin Kaepernick was good enough to help this team, as the 49ers’ offense simply just doesn’t have any effective weapons in the passing game.
With upcoming games against the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals, the defense could be facing plenty of trouble over the next two weeks, which means San Francisco’s offense will need to come up big if they’re going to have any chance at ending their losing streak. And with the way the offense has been playing, the chance of the 49ers coming up big is highly unlikely, as their losing streak doesn’t seem like it’s going to end any time soon.
30. Chicago Bears 1-6 (30) (Play Monday Night)
With all due respect to the Chicago Bears, this team will need to play a perfect game if they’re going to have any chance of winning at home against the Minnesota Vikings. Then again, this is a division rivalry game, which means the Bears may be even more motivated to shake things up in the NFC North if they can find a way to win against the Vikings.
Offense has been an issue for Chicago, but hopefully that will change with Jay Cutler returning to the lineup. While Brian Hoyer has been decent for the most part, the veteran doesn’t even compare to making the type of impact Cutler does when healthy in the lineup as Alshon Jeffery will hopefully benefit the most in the passing game.
The fact that Chicago has scored 17 points or less in six of seven games this season shows just how bad this offense has been this season, and as tough as this matchup looks on paper, don’t be surprised if the Bears make Monday’s game an interesting one. Plus, with all of the rumors surrounding Cutler’s future with the team, a strong performance against one of the league’s top defenses would be a way to make a huge statement.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-5 (29)
How bad has this season been for the Jacksonville Jaguars? Well, the fact that Jacksonville was trailing the Tennessee Titans 27-0 at one point on Thursday shows just how rough this year has been, and it looks like the madness is just getting underway.
As if Gus Bradley being on the hot seat wasn’t already enough pressure, the Jaguars made the decision to fire offensive coordinator Greg Olson shortly after the team’s recent loss to the Titans. When looking at all of the weapons Blake Bortles has to work with, there’s really no excuse for a team like Jacksonville to be performing as bad as they have been in the first half of the 2016 season.
Let’s not forget Bortles was the same quarterback that was supposed to reach the next level this season after throwing for 4,428 yards to go along with 35 touchdowns in his second season. Firing the offensive coordinator may have worked for the Buffalo Bills earlier in the season, but the chances of the Jaguars turning their season around seems highly unlikely for this 2-5 team.
Not to mention, the upcoming games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans won’t make things any easier.
28. Baltimore Ravens 3-4 (26)
Even though they started off the season with a 3-0 record, nobody considered the Baltimore Ravens a serious contender in the AFC, especially when considering their first three opponents only had one combined win. When looking at how the last four games have turned out for the Ravens, it’s easy to see why this team wasn’t receiving much respect at the beginning of the season when they were undefeated after three weeks.
It’s amazing how each of Baltimore’s seven games this season has been decided by single digits, but unfortunately they’ve come up on the losing end over the last four to drop this team to 3-4 heading into Week 9. With that being said, the good news for the Ravens is they should still be considered in the hunt for the AFC North, and they could make a major statement next weekend with a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Anything is possible when these two teams meet as the Ravens and Steelers are always considered to be one of the top rivalries in the NFL. What’s even more exciting is these games always seem to go down to the fourth quarter, and when looking at the injuries surrounding Big Ben, this could be the perfect opportunity for Pittsburgh to get back on the winning track.
27. Los Angeles Rams 3-4 (25)
After a 3-1 start, the Los Angeles Rams were considered one of the top teams to keep an eye on in the NFC, especially with key wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. Since then, everything has gone down hill for the Rams as it appears these next four games could determine Jeff Fisher‘s fate as head coach with the team.
Fisher is in the middle of his fifth season with Los Angeles, but the head coach has failed to record a winning record. With the team heading into Week 9 with a 3-4 record, and a three game losing streak, it’s not going to get any easier for the Rams with a matchup against the hungry Carolina Panthers.
While the defense has been dealing with numerous injuries, it’s been the offense holding Los Angeles back from reaching their true potential as Case Keenum is coming off a disastrous performance in London where he threw four interceptions against the New York Giants. Fisher can say all he want when it comes to sticking with the veteran at quarterback, but it will be interesting to see if he gets desperate enough to give Jared Goff a shot as the starter.
26. New York Jets 3-5 (27)
It’s a shame the New York Jets don’t play in the AFC North after two straight wins against the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. Even if these wins did come against teams with losing records, the Jets will take anything they can get at this point when looking at their disappointing start to the season.
After trailing by 13 at halftime, New York found a way to rally thanks to a strong performance by Quincy Enunwa after the wide receiver finished with four catches for 93 yards with a touchdown. The Jets knew losing Eric Decker for the season was a huge loss in the passing game, but Enunwa is turning out to be a solid No. 2 wide receiver playing alongside Brandon Marshall.
Plus, the two rushing touchdowns recorded by Matt Forte ended up being big in the comeback win for the Jets.
When looking at how much the quarterback has struggled this season, any game Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t record a turnover should be seen as a huge accomplishment. Now, the true test becomes whether Fitzpatrick can avoid turnovers moving forward and help New York feel better about all of the money being spent on their quarterback this season.
25. Indianapolis Colts 3-5 (20)
When it comes to the most frustrating teams to figure out, the Indianapolis Colts may rank near the top of the list as they have been one of the most inconsistent teams in football, and it was displayed on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
For the first time in five games, Sunday’s contest for the Colts wasn’t decided by single digits as Andrew Luck and company fell at home 30-14. In what seems to be a consistent pattern, the ground game and defense was a major issue for Indianapolis as they fell to 3-5 on the season.
Nothing against the Chiefs, but it’s no secret their offense has never been anything to brag about, so it says a lot about the Colts’ defense when they surrender 30 points like they did on Sunday. The sad thing is Indianapolis seemed to be on their way to being in good position a few weeks ago when it seemed like they were going to defeat the Houston Texans, only to let a golden opportunity to move up into first place slip away.
As crazy as it sounds, Indianapolis can’t even be ruled out of the division when looking at how bad the AFC South is turning out to be.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-4 (22)
After putting together a nice winning streak over the last two weeks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers missed out on a major opportunity to make a statement win against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
The Buccaneers’ defense was amazing for the most part in the first half against the Raiders before falling apart in the second half and eventually losing 30-24 in overtime. Once again, kicking struggles continued for Roberto Aguayo as a missed extra point ended up making a huge difference in this one.
If Aguayo doesn’t figure out a way to fix his kicking woes soon, it could end up costing the Buccaneers more games down the road.
The fact that Tampa Bay allowed Derek Carr to throw 513 yards with four touchdowns shows just how bad the defense was on Sunday. This was a game the Buccaneers could have easily won, but once again too many mistakes resulted in yet another frustrating loss.
With an important matchup against the Atlanta Falcons next weekend, let’s hope the Buccaneers’ defense plays much better than they did against the Raiders, or the frustrating losses are only going to continue piling up. And with the division still a toss up at this point in the season, that’s the last thing Tampa Bay wants to see happen.
23. Carolina Panthers 2-5 (28)
Apparently, the Carolina Panthers just needed a game against the team they destroyed in the NFC Championship to get back on the winning track following Sunday’s strong performance.
To say the Panthers’ defense dominated Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals would be a major understatement as Ron Rivera‘s squad recorded eight sacks during Sunday’s 30-20 win. For a team that allowed at least 41 points in two of their previous three games prior to Sunday, Carolina desperately needed a game like this on defense as their may be hope after all for the defending NFC champions.
Of course, find a way back in the hunt for the NFC race certainly won’t be easy as the Panthers still have a long way to go with a 2-5 record heading into Week 9. Not to mention Cam Newton still seems far from the MVP level he was playing at last season, although Carolina didn’t really need as much from their quarterback on Sunday.
For the sake of the Panthers and their fans, let’s hope this is a sign of things finally turning around for this team as the NFC South is arguably still up for grabs thanks to the Atlanta Falcons having three losses.
22. Arizona Cardinals 3-4-1 (12)
Just when it seemed like the Arizona Cardinals were starting to turn their disappointing season around, the last two weeks have put this team in a tough position heading into Week 9.
One week after a tough battle against the Seattle Seahawks that resulted in a 6-6 tie, the Cardinals had flashbacks of their embarrassing loss in the NFC Championship after suffering a 30-20 loss against the Carolina Panthers. Don’t be fooled by the final score as the Panthers simply dominated the Cardinals in this one, especially on defense.
Most teams are going to struggle to win games when their quarterback is sacked eight times, and that’s exactly what happened for Carson Palmer on Sunday. For a team that was supposed to be one of the top teams to beat in the NFC at the beginning of the season, Arizona has turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments from the first half of the season.
On a positive note, the Cardinals are still in decent position when it comes to the NFC West since the Seattle Seahawks are coming off a disappointing loss of their own against the New Orleans Saints. It may seem like a long shot with the way this team has been playing, but Arizona shouldn’t hit the panic button just yet.
21. Cincinnati Bengals 3-4-1 (21)
When looking at how this season has gone for the Cincinnati Bengals, losing to the Washington Redskins the way they did in London shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise at this point. However, even at 3-4-1, the Bengals are still in the hunt for the AFC North thanks to the play of the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers over the last few weeks.
Still, there’s no reason why the Bengals should have lost this game as this team had every opportunity in the world to escape with a win against the Redskins. From missed field goals by Mike Nugent to Andy Dalton‘s unfortunate fumble towards the end of overtime, Cincinnati has no one to blame but themselves for missing out on this big opportunity.
For a team that many considered to be one of the top in the AFC at the beginning of the season, the Bengals have been one of the biggest disappointments from the first half of 2016 as they just can’t find ways to win against some of the league’s top contenders. With six playoff appearances over the last seven seasons, Cincinnati has plenty of areas in need of improvement when they return from their bye week if they have any intention of keeping that streak alive.
20. Miami Dolphins 3-4 (19)
The Miami Dolphins have been one of the most difficult teams to figure out when considering they started off the year with a 1-4 record, only to come through with two impressive wins before the bye against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills. So what has been the reason behind Miami’s surprise success over the last two weeks?
Well, one of the biggest surprises has been the emergence of Jay Ajayi as the running back has rushed for more than 200 yards in each of the last two contests, which is amazing since his best performance over the first four games was 42 rushing yards against the Tennessee Titans in Week 5. Obviously, it will be tough for Ajayi to put up these kind of numbers on a weekly basis, but the running back will be a key factor when it comes to the Dolphins continuing this success moving forward.
Adam Gase has always been praised for being an offensive mastermind, and it’s been good to see the head coach turning things around after that disappointing start. Catching the New England Patriots may be too tough of a challenge, but keep an eye on Miami when it comes to competing for a Wild Card spot in the AFC if they continue to stay hot.
19. San Diego Chargers 3-5 (19)
A few weeks ago, the San Diego Chargers handed the defending Super Bowl champions in the Denver Broncos their first loss of the season. Unfortunately, the circumstances were different this time around as the Broncos’ defense caused all sorts of problems for Philip Rivers and company.
Rivers may have thrown two touchdowns against one of the league’s top defenses, but he also threw three costly interceptions as San Diego fell 27-19 to see their two game winning streak come to an end. The Chargers had put together a nice streak following back-to-back wins over the Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, but there were simply just too many mistakes made on Sunday.
With a favorable schedule over the next few weeks with games against the Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins, there’s every reason to believe San Diego can get back on the winning track. Plus, Mike McCoy knows he’s closely being watched by the organization each week as the head coach has seen his hot seat go back and fourth over the last couple of weeks, so he better hope the Chargers bounce back strong.
Otherwise, the head coach could be out of a job as San Diego still has a long way to go when compared to the rest of the teams in the AFC West.
18. Buffalo Bills 4-4 (17)
A couple of weeks ago, the Buffalo Bills were considered one of the hottest teams in football thanks to a surprise 4-2 start to the season. Since then, the Bills have suffered two losses in a row, with the latest one coming on Sunday against the New England Patriots.
Back in Week 4, the Bills pulled off quite the impressive win on the road against the Patriots, but everybody knew that outcome would have been much different with Tom Brady in the lineup. This time around, Brady was on the field against the Bills, and let’s just say Rex Ryan‘s squad saw a completely different outcome this time around.
To say the Bills’ defense underperformed against the Patriots would be the understatement of the year as this team simply had zero answers when it came to stopping Brady. And if losing two in a row wasn’t already frustrating enough for this squad, the next few games certainly aren’t going to be easy for Buffalo with games against the Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals.
As bad as it sounds, fighting for a playoff spot in the AFC is turning out to be tougher for the Bills than originally expected a few weeks ago.
17. Tennessee Titans 4-4 (23)
For a team that tends to struggle at home, the Tennessee Titans have to be thrilled over winning two of three games during their recent homestand. At 4-4, the Titans are only one game back of the Houston Texans in the weak AFC South, but this team still has plenty to prove before they can be labeled as serious contenders.
Once again, Marcus Mariota came up big for Tennessee as the second-year quarterback completed 18 of 22 passes for 270 yards to go along with two touchdowns. However, the best part about Mariota’s performance was the fact that he didn’t record a single turnover, which is amazing when looking at how much they’ve been an issue at times throughout the season.
Mariota was lucky enough to gain experience early on as a rookie, and now that Tennessee has provided him with more effective weapons like DeMarco Murray, it’s good to see the former No. 2 pick taking advantage of the situation. It may seem like a long shot at this point, but keep an eye on the Titans in the AFC during the second half of the season when it comes to teams making a playoff run as the team certainly has the talent.
16. New Orleans Saints 3-4 (24)
How does a struggling team like the New Orleans Saints make a big statement? They go out and defeat one of the league’s best teams in the Seattle Seahawks, that’s how.
Despite struggling to find the end zone after settling for four field goals, the Saints held on for the 25-20 win over the Seahawks to pick up their third win of the season. Defense has been a major issue for New Orleans, so for them to hold Seattle to just 20 points was a huge step in the right direction when considering just how dangerous of a quarterback Russell Wilson can be.
Plus, the argument can be made the Saints were feeling a little more motivated to win this game since Jimmy Graham was returning to the team he spent the first five years of his career with. With three wins in four games, let’s hope this is just what New Orleans needed to finally get the ball rolling as a team.
The talent has certainly been there all along for New Orleans, and Sunday’s win against Seattle is the perfect example of how this team is capable of competing for a playoff spot in the NFC if they can continue this success over the next few weeks.
15. Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins will look back at this game against the Cincinnati Bengals in London and be kicking themselves over how they should have come up on the winning end. Obviously, a tie is much better than a loss, but with the way the NFC East is turning out, a team like the Redskins needs every win they can get at this point as this could have put them in much better shape heading into Week 9.
Not even a big day by Kirk Cousins (38 of 56 for 458 yards with two touchdowns and an interception) was enough to help Washington escape with a win against Cincinnati as this team dropped to 4-3-1 on the season. What’s even more frustrating for the Redskins is Dustin Hopkins was in the perfect opportunity for a game-winning field goal in overtime from 34 yards out, which is no excuse for any kicker.
Hopefully, this game won’t come back to haunt Washington too much as this team has now lost two games in a row in which they held a lead in the fourth quarter. With a bye scheduled for next weekend, let’s hope the extra rest will benefit the Redskins as they prepare for a Week 10 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
14. New York Giants 4-3 (14)
Six of the seven games the New York Giants have played in this season have been decided by single digits, including all four of their wins. Despite the close outcomes, the Giants have to feel confident about their chances in the NFC East with a 4-3 record heading into Week 9.
One of the main reasons behind New York’s Week 7 win against the Los Angeles Rams was due to the stellar play behind the defense, and despite all of the offensive weapons, this could end up being the key factor for this team in the second half. After recording four interceptions against the Rams, the Giants have every reason in the world to feel confident with their defense moving forward, and they’ll certainly need it with the way the division is turning out.
It’s certainly not going to be easy, but there’s no reason to sleep on New York in the NFC East, especially with Eli Manning at quarterback. If history is any indication, Manning has always been the type of quarterback capable of getting hot at any time in the season, which makes the Giants even more dangerous in the NFC heading into next weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles.
13. Detroit Lions 4-4 (13)
After a 1-3 start, the Detroit Lions were written off by many before Matthew Stafford turned things around by leading the team on a three game winning streak. Stafford has always been the type of quarterback that makes the players around him better, but the Lions had a difficult time getting things going against the defense of the Houston Texans in Week 8.
Thanks to constant pressure by the Texans’ defense, Stafford was limited to completing just 27 of 41 passes for 240 yards with one touchdown. To top it off, it took Detroit until the fourth quarter just to score their first touchdown of the game as their rally fell short after going on to lose the game 20-13.
With an upcoming matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, there’s a good chance the Lions’ offense could struggle again in Week 9 when considering Mike Zimmer‘s defense is one of the best in the league. Of course, if Detroit could find a way to come up with a win against their division rivals, it would certainly help their case when it comes to the NFC.
It won’t be easy, but it’s certainly possible as long as Stafford can bounce back from this disappointing performance.
12. Houston Texans 5-3 (16)
Less than a week after the defending Super Bowl champions embarrassed them, the Houston Texans bounced back with a strong performance against the Detroit Lions. And thanks to the Indianapolis Colts suffering another loss, the Texans find themselves in even better position when it comes to the AFC South, that is unless the Tennessee Titans give them problems.
Even in a game where Lamar Miller struggled and only posted 56 rushing yards with a touchdown on 17 carries, the Texans did just enough to get by the Lions to improve to 5-3 on the season. For a quarterback that’s received plenty of criticism over the last week following another disappointing game against the Broncos, Brock Osweiler deserves a little credit for doing just enough after completing 20 of 29 passes for 186 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
With that being said, Osweiler still has a long way to go when it comes to proving he’s worth all of the money Houston gave him in that ridiculous contract. When looking at how bad the AFC South is turning out, the Texans should have a much larger division lead than they currently have.
Then again, as long as Houston ends up winning the division with Osweiler at quarterback, that’s what matters the most.
11. Philadelphia Eagles 4-3 (9)
Take a closer at the box score from Sunday’s game, and it’s easy to understand why Philadelphia Eagles are frustrated over their team’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Eagles had no right to lose this game after allowing the Cowboys to score 16 unanswered points between the fourth quarter and overtime to fall two games back in the NFC East like the New York Giants and Washington Redskins. What’s even more frustrating is Philadelphia’s defense did just about everything right–including holding Ezekiel Elliott to under 100 rushing yards–to keep Dallas contained on offense, and it still wasn’t enough.
Conservative play calling by Doug Pederson needs to change fast if the Eagles are going to have any shot at making a run at the playoffs in the NFC. The fact that Carson Wentz completed 32 passes for only 202 yards shows just how conservative Philadelphia was playing as it’s easier to see why they came up on the losing end.
With a key matchup against the New York Giants scheduled for next weekend, let’s hope Pederson thinks hard about how his team blew a major opportunity to win on the road and decides to call more effective plays on offense to help the Eagles avoid digging a deeper hole in the NFC East.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers 4-3 (11)
The Pittsburgh Steelers knew it would be tough to adjust on offense without Ben Roethlisberger, but this team needs to figure out a way to get back on the winning track with the way the AFC East is shaping out.
At the beginning of the season, the Steelers seemed to have the potential to break numerous records on offense when looking at all of the weapons beyond Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Unfortunately, the absence of Roethlisberger hurts Pittsburgh’s chances of this happening, but with the way Landry Jones played against the New England Patriots in Week 7, the offense should be just fine until Big Ben returns.
The good news for the Steelers is they still control the driver’s seat in the division with the way the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens have been struggling over the last couple of weeks. And with a Week 9 matchup against the Ravens, this is the perfect opportunity for the Steelers to prove they remain on top of the division if they can manage to come on top with the win.
Otherwise, Pittsburgh is only going to dig themselves a deep hole when it comes to finding ways to win until Big Ben’s return.
9. Green Bay Packers 4-3 (7)
In defense of Aaron Rodgers, there’s only so much one player can do on offense when missing so many key players out due to injuries. So to see the Green Bay Packers lose the way they did to the Atlanta Falcons in a key NFC matchup has to hurt for Rodgers, but there’s no reason to hit the panic button just yet.
Most games when Rodgers completes 28 of 38 passes for 246 yards with four touchdowns usually means Green Bay is going to come up on the winning end, but that was far from the case as the defense failed to hold Atlanta in the final minutes. While there’s still plenty of time for the Packers to turn things around, there should be a little concern over the fact that Rodgers led the team in rushing as well with 60 yards.
Hopefully, the Packers can figure out a way to get help for Rodgers in the backfield as there’s only so much the quarterback can do on his own. Otherwise, this team could find themselves fighting for a Wild Card spot instead of the division title once January rolls around with the way the Minnesota Vikings are playing this season.
8. Denver Broncos 6-2 (10)
Once again, it was the defense that carried the Denver Broncos as they held on for the 27-19 win over the San Diego Chargers. After losing to their division rivals two weeks ago, the Broncos realized the last thing they could afford was to be swept by the Chargers, so it was a relief to see the defending Super Bowl champions come through in this one.
In the Broncos first game without C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker struggled to get things going in the ground game as the running back finished with just 54 rushing yards to go along with a touchdown on 19 carries. While Booker deserves some benefit of the doubt for being a rookie, Denver is going to need more from their running back with the way Trevor Siemian has been struggling at quarterback.
The fact that Siemian has thrown multiple touchdowns just once this year with the type of weapons he has to work with in the passing game shows just how much the quarterback has struggled with running the offense. Denver’s defense can continue to carry their weight, but Siemian needs to step it up if this team is going to have any chance of repeating as champions.
7. Seattle Seahawks 4-2-1
Whatever has been going on with the offense of the Seattle Seahawks over the last few games, they better figure out a way to turn things around before it’s too late.
As if last weekend’s 6-6 tie against the Arizona Cardinals wasn’t already frustrating enough, the Seahawks’ offense struggled again on Sunday when facing the Saints after finding the end zone only once. When looking at how much New Orleans has struggled on defense all season, this should have been a game where Seattle’s offense flourished, but that was far from the case.
Despite the loss, the Seahawks are still in good shape in the division when looking at how much the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams have struggled over the last couple of weeks. It’s easy to understand some of the struggles for Seattle’s offense when looking at all of the injuries, but this was quite the frustrating performance against a defense that ranks near the bottom of the league overall.
For the sake of the Seahawks and keeping a comfortable lead in the division, let’s hope this team figures out a way to bounce back before their big matchup against the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football in Week 9.
6. Atlanta Falcons 5-3 (8)
After two tough losses to the Seattle Seahawks and San Diego Chargers, the Atlanta Falcons felt a little pressure heading into their Week 8 matchup against the Green Bay Packers to avoid falling to .500 on the season. Thanks to a late drive led by Matt Ryan, the Falcons came through with the 33-32 win over the visiting Packers to hang on to their lead in the NFC South.
Even when Julio Jones was held to just three catches for 29 yards, it was Mohamed Sanu who stepped up big for Ryan in the passing game after hauling in nine catches for 84 yards to go along with his game-winning touchdown. Sanu entered the 2016 season knowing he would have an advantage with most defenders focusing their attention on Jones, and it certainly paid off on Sunday as the wideout came up big for Atlanta.
With a short week before Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Falcons realize the importance of each game moving forward as the NFC South is still up for grabs. The last thing Atlanta wants to see happen is the defense struggle against Tampa Bay and fall behind their division rivals in the standings.
5. Kansas City Chiefs 5-2 (6)
On a day where Alex Smith was injured, the Kansas City Chiefs have to feel good about the way Nick Foles stepped up big in the quarterback’s absence as they picked up a big win on the road Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
Foles joined the Chiefs shortly after his release from the Los Angeles Rams in the offseason and was simply phenomenal against the Colts after completing 16 of 22 passes for 223 yards to go along with two touchdowns. While Foles received the benefit of the doubt going against a defense like the Colts, Andy Reid realizes how tough it can be to find a reliable backup in the league sometimes, which makes this win even more enjoyable.
Kansas City has always been known as a team that wins with the strong play behind their defense, and while they deserve plenty of credit for keeping Andrew Luck in check, it was the offense that stepped it up in this one. After a 2-2 start, the Chiefs continue to stay hot following their bye week as this team has now won three in a row to keep pace with the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos in the AFC West.
4. Oakland Raiders 6-2 (5)
What’s the most impressive part about the 6-2 start by the Oakland Raiders so far in 2016? How about the fact that five of their six wins have all come on the road?
Just when it seemed like the Raiders were about to lose against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Derek Carr rallied this team in overtime to pull out the thrilling 30-24 win. Not only did Carr manage to complete 40 of 59 passes for 513 yards, but the quarterback found a way to throw four touchdowns in the process, including the game winning 41-yard touchdown to Seth Roberts on a crucial fourth down in overtime.
Most teams find more success playing at home, but for some reason this Oakland team continues to be most dominant while playing on the road. When considering the AFC West is arguably the most competitive division in the NFL, the Raiders are going to need every win they can get early on to keep pace with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.
With six wins heading into Week 9, who would have imagined Oakland would be three wins away from actually having a winning record at this point in the season with their history?
3. Minnesota Vikings 5-1 (2) (Play Monday Night)
In a way, the Minnesota Vikings losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7 may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as this team no longer has to deal with the pressure of playing with an undefeated record. With that being said, there’s every reason to believe this team will get back on track with a Monday night matchup against the Chicago Bears, a team with only one win in 2016.
All of a sudden, there’s concern surrounding the Vikings’ offense when looking at how much they struggled against the Eagles last weekend, even if they are dealing with plenty of injuries. Still, the fact that it took Sam Bradford until the fifth game to throw his first interception of the season shows just how well the quarterback has been doing with running the offense.
However, if Minnesota is going to continue being one of the top teams in the NFC, Bradford will need to take his game to the next level as there’s only so much the defense can do. Hopefully, a matchup the Bears’ defense will help Bradford display the monster performance Vikings fans have been waiting for.
If not, well let’s just say Mike Zimmer‘s squad could be in trouble.
2. Dallas Cowboys
After the Dallas Cowboys found themselves trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, Dak Prescott made sure his team didn’t panic in what may have turned out to be one of the most thrilling endings from Week 8.
Between Prescott finding Dez Bryant for a key 22-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to a wide open Jason Witten for the game winning score in overtime, the Cowboys are feeling more confident than ever following their 29-23 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. It may not have been the best offensive performance over the first three quarters, but this game was the perfect example of why Dallas should be considered the team to beat in the NFC.
Everybody knew just how many weapons this team had on offense, but it’s been the Cowboys’ defense that has stepped it up over the last couple of games when looking how much pressure they applied to Carson Wentz throughout the game. With a two-game lead in the division, Dallas controls their own fate when it comes to winning the NFC East title.
Plus, the fact that Dallas still won when Ezekiel Elliott was held to under 100 rushing yards shows just how talented this team truly is.
1. New England Patriots 7-1 (1)
Could Tom Brady take home MVP honors despite missing the first four games of the season? It may have seemed like a long shot at the beginning of the season, but with the way the future Hall of Fame quarterback has been playing over the last four games, the argument can be made Brady is a strong favorite at this point.
Through four games, Brady still hasn’t thrown an interception compared to 12 touchdowns as the Patriots cruised to a 41-25 over the Buffalo Bills to improve to a league best 7-1 record. Everyone knew Brad would return from suspension with an extra chip on his shoulder, but nobody could have predicted him to be playing this well.
For a quarterback of his age, what Brady is accomplishing at this point in his career is nothing short of amazing.
At this point, it’s tough to imagine any team better than New England as Brady has taken this team to an even higher level over the last four games, and it will be interesting to see how much longer he can go without an interception. Even Chris Hogan (four catches for 91 yards with a touchdown against the Bills) is finding ways to produce consistently on a weekly basis for New England on offense, which shows this team can win with just about any player.
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