NFL power rankings, Week 9: Bills tumble, Saints soar

After Sunday’s action, the Buffalo Bills plummet while the New Orleans Saints rise up the rankings.

Oct 30, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (55) tries to sack Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown (13) during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Jets won 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

32

Cleveland Browns

0-8

Last week: L, 31-28, vs. NYJ
Last rank: 32nd

Hue Jackson’s team plays hard for its head coach but the results remain the same. The Browns are still winless and they are riding an 11-game losing streak dating back to Week 15 of last season. They were certainly game against the visiting New York Jets but once again couldn’t hold a double-digit lead. Josh McCown returned at quarterback and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor continues to be a great story. The latter caught six passes for 101 yards in a losing effort. The Cleveland run defense continues to be a big issue. It allowed the Jets to rush for 171 yards on 35 carries. The long year continues but you can see hints of progress.

Next Week: The Browns are back at home for the second consecutive Sunday. This time they welcome rookies Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the rest of the revitalized Dallas Cowboys. Cleveland’s defense has had its issues stopping the run for any number of years and this will be the supreme test.

Playoff hopes: Try basically non-existent no matter how positive a picture you paint. But at least these Browns keep on fighting despite their inexperienced roster and revolving door at quarterback. That’s a credit to Hue Jackson, who’s doing his best in his second stint as an NFL head coach. But this team can still play spoiler.

October 23, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back DuJuan Harris (32) runs against Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Akeem Spence (97) during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

October 23, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back DuJuan Harris (32) runs against Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Akeem Spence (97) during the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

31

San Francisco 49ers

1-6

Last week: BYE
Last rank: 31st

San Francisco players will be thrilled coming off the bye week because they were finally able to relax and not a million miles an hour every day. The 49ers have been outscored by 75 points, the most in the NFL this season. While they most likely won’t move on from Chip Kelly after one year and search for their fourth coach in as many years, the leash will be short on the former Duck. Kaepernick now has the reigns, and Kelly must prove that he can win with a quarterback who can spread the field around.

Next week: San Francisco hosts the Saints next week for an afternoon game sure to be a blowout. New Orleans scores a lot of points with Drew Brees and Brandin Cooks, and will take full advantage of being on the field more than half of the game. The former Boilermaker will look to cook Chip’s duck in his own house.

Playoff hopes: San Francisco fans are just waiting to see which quarterback Kelly can draft and scheme with. Deshaun Watson seems like the prototypical fit for Kelly’s spread offense, but has seemed to regress at Clemson this year. Kelly wants accurate, smart quarterbacks who get the ball out of their hand fast and efficiently. Can Watson give him that? Time will tell.

Dec 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) passes against the Minnesota Vikings in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) passes against the Minnesota Vikings in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

30

Chicago Bears

1-6

Last week: Mon. night, vs. MIN
Last rank: 30th

The Bears will play Monday night against what should be an angry Vikings team. With Minnesota coming off their first loss of the season thanks to the Eagles, Mike Zimmer certainly shook-up his team this week. This game should be a total blowout considering Jay Cutler is expected to start against the league’s best defense. I would like to know what the Cutler turnover line is so I can bet the over, because Monday Night Football will not look pretty. This game will essentially be a tryout for Cutler and John Fox, who could both be gone after this season.

Next week: Chicago goes on their bye week looking to find a way to make the most of their horrendous season. Coming off the bye week they will travel to Tampa Bay, who will be coming off a long week thanks to Thursday Night Football. Not a good situation for ‘Da Bears.

Playoff hopes: More like second-overall pick hopes. The Bears look to be in a heated battle with the 49ers to see who gets the second-best quarterback in next years class. They’ll have their options of a signal caller, or they could get a stud like Jabrill Peppers or Myles Garrett on defense.

Oct 27, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Tennessee won 36-22. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

29

Jacksonville Jaguars

2-5

Last week: L, 36-22, at TEN
Last rank: 28th

How bad have things gotten for the Jaguars? Seven games into the season and offensive coordinator Greg Olson is now out of a job. Jacksonville’s offense was basically lifeless until far too late in Thursday night’s 36-22 loss at Tennessee. Gus Bradley’s club had a combined 60 total yards and halftime and was down 27-0 to the Titans. The Jaguars finished the game with 370 yards in total offense but the defense gave up 494 yards to the Titans. There were no sacks or takeaways while Tennessee was successful on 60 percent (9-of-15) of their third-down conversion attempts. Frankly, it was an overall sorry effort by the last-place Jaguars.

Next Week: Bradley’s club has a tall task ahead of them as they head to Arrowhead Stadium to face Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs. With the way that the Titans were able to exploit the Jacksonville defense on the ground, it could be another rough outing if the team doesn’t get its act together.

Playoff hopes: The AFC South is extremely bunched up and even at 2-5, the Jaguars aren’t out of the division or postseason conversation. And remember they close the season at Houston, vs. Tennessee and at Indianapolis. If they can keep their head above water, they may have something to say about this race yet.

Oct 23, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Case Keenum (17) of the recovers a fumble and looks downfield to pass against the New York Giants during the second quarter of the game at Twickenham Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 23, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Case Keenum (17) of the recovers a fumble and looks downfield to pass against the New York Giants during the second quarter of the game at Twickenham Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

28

Los Angeles Rams

3-4

Last week: BYE
Last rank: 26th

First-overall pick Jared Goff is reportedly getting an increased amount of practice reps, but his knowledge of an NFL offense is still in question. With games against New York, Miami, and New Orleans approaching, the time to throw Goff into the fire may be approaching. Fans can not continue to watch Case Keenum throw more interceptions than touchdowns. The Rams have been outscored by 34 points, and are looking for answers on offense. With Gurley not running as consistently as he did his rookie season, Jeff Fisher could be looking for an offensive spark.

Next week: Los Angeles comes off their bye week with a hot Panthers team rolling into town. Carolina had a dominant win the Cardinals, and showed their defense can disrupt the quarterback. Case Keenum has been sacked 16 times, a promising stat for the Panthers pass rush. If Ryan Kalil and Shaq Thompson are healthy, the Rams could have issues on both sides of the ball.

Playoff hopes: Los Angeles sits in third place in the NFC West after the Cardinals tie gives Arizona a stronger winning percentage. You can not rule the Rams out of the playoffs just yet, but with questions across the roster, the chances are not great. It would be nice to see the playoffs return to Los Angeles for the first time since 1989.

Oct 2, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. (89) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 2, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. (89) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

27

Baltimore Ravens

3-4

Last week: BYE
Last rank: 25th

Some questioned how good these Ravens after John Harbaugh’s club opened 3-0 with wins over the Bills, Browns and Jaguars. They’ve come back to earth with a thud although each of their four consecutive losses have been by eight points or less. Baltimore’s pass defense is having a somewhat similar season to a year ago. While the team doesn’t necessarily give up a lot of yards through the air, the club has already given up 14 touchdown passes in seven contests. Quarterback Joe Flacco has been ordinary so far this season, throwing five touchdown passes while committing eight turnovers. It’s hard to get a read on these Ravens.

Next Week: The team returns to the field and host the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Black and Gold will also be well rested entering this tilt but will they have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger? Last season, the Ravens finished with a disappointing 5-11 record. But two of those wins came at the expense of Mike Tomlin’s club.

Playoff hopes: The Ravens play four of their next five games at home and have an opportunity to get themselves back above .500 again. Three of those five contests are against each of their AFC North rivals and they already own a road victory over the Browns this season. Despite the recent slump, they’re very much in the playoff picture and can tie the Steelers for first place with a win next week.

Oct 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter talks with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) during the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

26

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

3-4

Last week: L, 30-24, vs. OAK
Last rank: 22nd

While the three other NFC South teams have won their last game, the Buccaneers lost in overtime at home against the Raiders. Despite the Raiders setting an NFL single-game record with 23 penalties, the Buccaneers could not take full advantage of the Oakland miscues. The Bucs are winless at home this year, and Jameis Winston looks like he needs another weapon on offense other than the unreliable Mike Evans. Not having Doug Martin did not help, and Jacquizz Rodgers left with an injury after rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown. A rough day is even worse when you fall in overtime to Oakland.

Next week: A short week for the Buccaneers is on the way with the Falcons flying in. Atlanta has won three games on the road this year, while the Buccaneers have lost all three opportunities at home. Look for Vernon Hargreaves against either Julio Jones or Mohamed Sanu, who had a major game for Atlanta.

Playoff hopes: A motley of tough games are on the way for Tampa Bay, including the Seahawks, Cowboys, Chiefs, Saints (x2) and Panthers. Jameis Winston has shown flashes of improvement, but he does not have the necessary help around him right now. Playoffs are still a tough thing to envision for the Buccaneers.

Oct 30, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers Topcats cheerleader perform during the second half between the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina won 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

25

Carolina Panthers

2-5

Last week: W, 30-20, vs. AZ
Last rank: 29th

Carolina looked like their old selves coming off a bye week in their second win of the season. Despite not blitzing the majority of the game, the defense sacked Carson Palmer eight times and took advantage of a strip-sack touchdown early. Having Jonathan Stewart healthy was another big key, as the running back scored two touchdowns in back-to-back games. The offensive line does have to better protect Cam Newton, who took several hits once again. Newton said after the game he did not feel safe, and would talk to Roger Goodell in the coming days. A much-needed win for the NFC champions that may have revived their season.

Next week: The Panthers travel out to Los Angeles to face the Rams. After Carolina’s defense held David Johnson to 24-yards on the ground, Todd Gurley should be worried. The Panthers look to be back, and it comes at the wrong time for a Rams team being pressured to play Jared Goff.

Playoff hopes: Carolina has dug themselves in a deep hole, and it would take a miracle for them to make the playoffs. In 2013, they won their last four games to make the playoffs at 7-8-1, but needed help from the Saints and Falcons. That season Atlanta and New Orleans combined to lose nine of their last 16 combined games. It’s a stretch, but not entirely impossible.

Oct 30, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Dadi Nicolas (52) tries to elude Indianapolis Colts tackle Joe Haeg (73) as Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) looks for an open receiver at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

24

Indianapolis Colts

3-5

Last week: L, 30-14, vs. KC
Last rank: 20th

It was a miserable day for a team that should have been feeling better about itself following last Sunday’s comeback win at Tennessee. Instead, quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis offense could only manage 277 total yards in a 16-point home loss. Luck had more than half (60) of the team’s 105 rushing yards. He was also sacked six times and his two touchdown passes were offset by a pair of turnovers. On the other hand, the Colts’ struggling defense allowed 422 total yards and allowed Chiefs quarterbacks Alex Smith and Nick Foles to throw for a combined 350 yards and three touchdowns.

Next Week: It could be an offensive explosion by both teams as the Colts travel north to Lambeau Field to battle the always-dangerous Green Bay Packers. You’ll recall the first clash between quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, a stirring 30-27 come-from-behind win for at Indianapolis four years ago.

Playoff hopes: They don’t look very good at the moment. The Colts are a half-game out of last place in the AFC South and now two full games behind the first-place Texans. The defense remains a liability and Andrew Luck has taken a beating to date this season. There’s eight games to go but this team has to start to show some progress quickly.

Oct 30, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles and New York Jets defensive back Antonio Allen (39) smile following an interception against the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Jets won 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

23

New York Jets

3-5

Last week: W, 31-28, at CLE
Last rank: 24th

Baby steps. The Jets made it two straight wins by rallying from a 20-7 deficit in the second quarter for a three-point victory over the struggling Browns. While a lot of blame for New York’s struggles this season have been piled on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, he played turnover-free football on Sunday. However, while he racked up 228 yards and one score in the game, he completed less than half of his throws (16-of-34) against a less-than-imposing Cleveland defense. Browns quarterback Josh McCown rolled up 341 yards through the air and two touchdowns but was picked off twice. It’s a troubling Jets’ defense that many should be more concerned about.

Next Week: New York is back on the road for a second straight Sunday as they travel to South Florida to meet the suddenly-revived Miami Dolphins. The Jets have owned the series as of late, winning three straight and four of the last five encounters. It will be interesting to see if Todd Bowles’ defensive unit can slow down Jay Ajayi.

Playoff hopes: It’s really to eliminate just about anyone in terms of the postseason (with the exception of the Browns) and the Jets are as capable as any team of getting hot. After their visit to Miami in Week 9, Bowles’ club play three consecutive home games. And it’s also worth noting that five of the team’s last eight games are versus AFC East rivals.

Oct 27, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard (59) celebrates after a defensive stop in the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium. The Titans won 36-22. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

22

Tennessee Titans

4-4

Last week: W, 36-22, vs. JAX
Last rank: 27th

Eight games into the season, the Titans have already surpassed their win totals of both 2014 (2) and ’15 (3) thanks to their convincing Thursday night victory over the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars. Quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for a pair of scores, his fourth consecutive game with at least two touchdown passes. Running back DeMarco Murray continued his excellent play, running for 123 yards and a score on 21 carries. Mariota spread the ball around as Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, Rishard Matthews and rookie running back Derrick Henry each caught four passes. Mike Mularkey’s club rolled up 494 yards of total offense in the victory.

Next Week: The Titans hit the road for the first time since Week 5 when they head to San Diego to face the Chargers. They will also have a mini-reunion with former head coach Ken Whisenhunt, once again the offensive coordinator of the Bolts. He lasted just 23 games as Tennessee’s sideline leader from 2014-15 and managed a dismal 3-20 record.

Playoff hopes: Neither the Houston Texans nor Indianapolis Colts have pulled away in the AFC South this season. And the way Mularkey’s team is playing these days, they have a legitimate chance to win a division title for the first time since 2008. The Titans have emerged as one of the more physical teams in the NFL and that ground attack is capable of demoralizing any team in this league.

Oct 30, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) comes into the game during the second half against the New England Patriots at New Era Field. The Patriots beat the Bills 41-25. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

21

Buffalo Bills

4-4

Last week: L, 41-25, vs. NE
Last rank: 17th

Just like last season’s 40-32 home loss to the Patriots in Week 2, Sunday’s 16-poiunt setback wasn’t really as close as the final score may appear. Buffalo’s final eight points of the game came with only 30 seconds remaining in the contest. The Bills’ pass rush sacked Tom Brady four times and he still managed to throw for 315 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Rex Ryan’s squad also allowed New England to convert 69 percent of their third-down attempts (9-of-13). On the other hand, one big positive was the fact that the team managed to run for 167 yards without LeSean McCoy on Sunday.

Next Week: It certainly doesn’t get any easier. The Bills travel cross country to the Pacific Northwest to clash with the Seattle Seahawks. The perennial contenders have already disposed of a pair of AFC East teams this season in the Dolphins and Jets and their defense will provide a stiff challenge for Buffalo’s rejuvenated offense.

Playoff hopes: At 4-4, Ryan’s team is certainly in the hunt. Although the team has dropped two straight, there’s a lot to be positive about here. On the other hand, the Bills are just 1-4 within their own conference and 1-3 vs. their AFC East rivals. Buffalo’s lack of consistency may eventually prove to be their undoing.

Oct 30, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Deone Bucannon (20) tackles Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (28) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina won 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

20

Arizona Cardinals

3-4-1

Last week: L, 30-20, at CAR
Last rank: 11th

A strange strip-sack touchdown in the first quarter seemed to demoralize the Cardinals in route to a 30-20 loss in Carolina. Coming off their bizarre 6-6 tie on Monday Night Football, Arizona desperately needed a win to stay in lock-step with the Seahawks. Ten penalties kept the Cardinals from gaining momentum, and the 88 yards lost were more than any of their offensive weapons recorded on Monday. David Johnson was held in-check by the Panthers defensive line, and Carson Palmer was sacked eight times. Arizona’s defense allowed two rushing touchdowns by Jonathan Stewart, who doubled his season total on Sunday.

Next week: Arizona finally gets a bye week to reset and get healthy. Having John Brown fully recovered from sore hamstrings caused by his recently-discovered sickle-cell trait would be a big gain for the offense. They need to focus on protecting an aging Palmer and taking advantage of their 14 takeaways.

Playoff hopes: Arizona is still in the hunt for the NFC West thanks to the Seahawks loss in New Orleans Sunday. Seattle faces Buffalo and New England next, and the Cardinals will want them to lose at-least one of those games. The two won’t face each other until Christmas Eve, their second-to-last regular season game of the season.

Sep 25, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) looks on from the field before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 25, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) looks on from the field before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

19

Miami Dolphins

3-4

Last week: BYE
Last rank: 21st

After dropping four of their first five games, including a home loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 5, Adam Gase’s club has suddenly reversed its fortunes. Thanks in large part to second-year running back Jay Ajayi and his back-to-back 200-plus yard rushing efforts against Pittsburgh and Buffalo, the Dolphins took a two-game winning streak into their off week. But this is still a team that is underachieving on the defensive side of the ball, especially when it comes to stopping the run. But Miami’s revitalized ground attack is limiting the amount of time that Vance Joseph’s unit stays on the field.

Next Week: It’s back to business for the surging ‘Fins, who will cap off four consecutive home games with a visit from the struggling New York Jets. Miami has had its problems in this series as of late, losing each of the last three meetings in three different locations (South Florida, London and MetLife Stadium).

Playoff hopes: Gase’s team has dug itself quite a hole within the division this season but there’s still a lot of football to be played. Conference wins over the Browns, Steelers and Bills certainly help Miami’s cause, as does the fact that the team is playing better football at the moment. But there’s lots of work to be done.

Oct 30, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (86) pushes off against Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (27) during the fourth quarter at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

18

Washington Redskins

4-3-1

Last week: T, 27-27, at CIN
Last rank: 18th

Sunday’s game in London looked more like a futbol game than a football game. For the second consecutive week there was a tie in the NFL, as the Redskins tied the Bengals with 27 points apiece. The Redskins had 15 penalties and Kirk Cousins threw an interception to George Illoka in the second quarter. Without Matt Jones, Robert Kelly stepped in and gave the offense a shot in the arm. The rookie running back had 87 rushing yards and scored a touchdown on the opening drive. Will Compton had an interception for the defense, but two missed field goals by Dustin Hopkins hurt the final result.

Next week: The Redskins go on their bye week, and will return home to prepare for the Minnesota Vikings. Washington got to see Sam Bradford twice last year in Philadelphia, and has enough tape to find out how to pressure him. Keep a close eye on the Redskins in this game.

Playoff hopes: Washington should not get worried just yet, but their tie in London puts them in a harder position to win the NFC East for a second-consecutive year. After a long week off from football, the Redskins can focus on Kansas City, whom they play on the road after their break.

Oct 30, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) is grabbed by Washington Redskins linebacker Will Compton (51) during the third quarter at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

17

Cincinnati Bengals

3-4-1

Last week: T, 27-27, vs. WSH
Last rank: 17th

The problems continue for Marvin Lewis’ club this season. The Bengals trailed early, took a 20-10 third-quarter lead, couldn’t hold it and settled for a tie with the Redskins in London. It marked the second time in three seasons Cincinnati wound up kissing its sister when facing an NFC foes (vs. Panthers in 2014). The once-proud Bengals defense surrendered a disturbing 546 yards in five quarters as Washington ran off 88 offensive plays in contest. Andy Dalton got big games from A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, both over 100 receiving yards, but it wasn’t enough as Lewis’ team failed to win for the third time in four games.

Next Week: Following their trip to London, the Bengals have some time off. They return to the field in Week 10 when they travel to MetLife Stadium for the second time this season, this time to battle the New York Giants. Cincinnati’s final eight games have them alternating road and home contests the remainder of the year.

Playoff hopes: At 3-4-1, Lewis’ talented squad is within striking distance in the AFC North but the fact remains that the defending divisional champions are struggling, most notably on the defensive side of the ball. There’s a rematch with the Steelers down the road as well as two games remaining with the Baltimore Ravens, so there’s no need for panic.

Oct 30, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates after a win against the Seattle Seahawks in a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Seahawks 25-20. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

16

New Orleans Saints

3-4

Last week: W, 25-20, vs. SEA
Last rank: 23rd

Thanks to some costly penalties by Seattle (including a hugging the ref call) the Saints were able to hold off the Seahawks at home in a 23-20 victory. Drew Brees continues to be an ageless wonder, throwing for 265 yards with no turnovers. Mark Ingram was essentially benched after fumbling, but Tim Hightower came in and rushed for over 100 yards in relief. The rest of the offense came from kicker Wil Lutz, who converted on all four field goals and one extra-point attempt. The undrafted rookie scored 13 points in the victory, and has missed just four field goal attempts all season. No need to trade up in the second round to draft a kicker.

Next week: New Orleans travels to San Francisco, where the offense will be licking their chops against a horrendous 49ers defense. Drew Brees will be on the field for 40 minutes, giving the Saints a great opportunity to win consecutive games and stay in the playoff picture with the Falcons.

Playoff hopes: The Saints are still hanging in after a big win at home against the Seahawks. While the defense can not stay afloat, the offense is throwing a life-vest to keep the season alive. Can a 37-year-old quarterback carry his team through the season and contend for possibly one final playoff run?

Oct 30, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) passes in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

15

San Diego Chargers

3-5

Last week: L, 27-19, at DEN
Last rank: 16th

The Chargers were not only in position to get to the .500 mark but could post their first sweep in this series since 2010. Of course, neither happened as the Denver defense toyed with quarterback Philip Rivers. He was under pressure all afternoon, sacked four times and saw three of his passes picked off. On the plus side, the team got another solid performance from second-year running back Melvin Gordon, who ran for 111 yards and totaled 155 yards from scrimmage. And rookie defensive end Joey Bosa continues to impress, even though he finished the afternoon with only two tackles and zero sacks.

Next Week: It should be an intriguing Week 9 in San Diego as second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota and the improving Tennessee Titans comes to town. Chargers’ offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was the team’s head coach for 23 game from 2014-15 and forged a dismal 3-20 record before being replaced by Mike Mularkey.

Playoff hopes: Despite being the only team in the AFC West with a losing record, there’s still postseason hope for Mike McCoy’s squad. But they need to play much more consistent defense as the other side of the ball has shown well despite plenty of injuries to the pass-catching corps. But time is running out slowly but surely for the Bolts.

Oct 30, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick (25) runs with the ball during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

14

Detroit Lions

4-4

Last week: L, 20-13, at HOU
Last rank: 13th

Detroit could never get going against the Texans, leading to a 20-13 loss on the road after winning three straight games. Matthew Stafford and the offense scored a season-low 13 points, seeing their lone-touchdown scored by Theo Riddick come in the fourth quarter. Penalties and an inability to take advantage of field position were two of the biggest issues for the Lions Sunday, as they fall to an even record. The defense’s inability to cover the tight end haunted them again as they allowed their eighth touchdown to tight ends this year.

Next week: The Lions get a divisional game against the Vikings, who will be coming off a short week thanks to Monday Night Football. The two teams will play their season series within four weeks, with their next game coming on Thanksgiving in Detroit.

Playoff hopes: Thanks to the Packers loss, the Lions are still technically in the playoff race inside the NFC North. Their two games coming up against the Vikings will be critical, as they currently sit two games back of the division lead. Hope is still alive for the Lions at the midway point of the season, and the time is now to take advantage of the schedule.

Nov 8, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews (81) goes in for the game winning touchdown during the overtime of a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Eagles won 33-27. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 8, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews (81) goes in for the game winning touchdown during the overtime of a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Eagles won 33-27. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

13

Philadelphia Eagles

4-3

Last week: L, 29-23 (OT), at DAL
Last rank: 12th

Philadelphia played well for the majority of the game despite some questionable penalties and play-calling. If not for at-least five drops, Carson Wentz was perfect in his debut against Dallas. The rookie quarterback threw for over 200 yards and found Jordan Matthews for his lone passing touchdown of the season. Philly could have had a lot more, but drops by Dorial Green-Beckham, Nelson Agholor, Trey Burton, and Matthews hurt them. A fumble by rookie running back Wendell Smallwood resulted in Dallas kicking a crucial field goal. The Dallas offensive line got away with a lot of holding non-calls, but the defensive was still effective. Elliott was held to less than 100 rushing yards, as was Cole Beasley through the air.

Next week: Philadelphia takes a short drive up the road to the Meadowlands, where the Eagles have won three-straight seasons. The defensive backs will have their hands full with Beckham Jr., Shepard, and Cruz, but they should get help from the linebackers. With no true running threat on the Giants, the Eagles can drop a man back into coverage.

Playoff hopes: All four teams in the NFC East are in contention, and the Eagles are right in the thick of things. With three of their last four games against division opponents at home, the Eagles are in great position to make a late run at a playoff spot with rookie Carson Wentz.

Oct 30, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) looks to the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

12

Houston Texans

5-3

Last week: W, 20-13, vs. DET
Last rank: 16th

The Texans look like a team walking on eggshells. Fortunately, they’ve managed to win more than they have lost. That’s because Bill O’Brien’s club has remained unblemished at home (5-0) and almost inept on the road (0-3). On Sunday against a Lions’ team that had won its previous three games, the Houston defense rose up and limited Detroit to 289 total yards and one touchdown. Lamar Miller continues to be the workhorse while tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz continues to have a bigger role in the offense. Despite the win, quarterback Brock Osweiler continued his streak of ineptitude. He’s turned over the football at least once in all eight games this year.

Next Week: It is vacation time for O’Brien’s team as the Texans are off. They return and begin the tricky part of their schedule with four road games in five weeks. It starts with a trip to division-rival Jacksonville and the following Monday night, they clash with the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City.

Playoff hopes: Since they currently are the only team in the AFC South with a winning record, you would have to think that the Texans’ playoff chances are pretty good. But this failure to come away with a victory away from home is something this club has to shake in a hurry if they’re going to be taken seriously as a contender.

Sep 25, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo talks with New York Giants safety Landon Collins (21) and New York Giants corner back Janoris Jenkins (20) during the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 25, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo talks with New York Giants safety Landon Collins (21) and New York Giants corner back Janoris Jenkins (20) during the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

11

New York Giants

4-3

Last week: BYE
Last rank: 14th

New York had the week off after winning 17-10 across the pond in London. They were aided in their victory by three consecutive interceptions in the fourth quarter by Case Keenum and the Los Angeles Rams. Ben McAdoo and the Giants are now tied for second in the NFC East with the Eagles, while the Redskins took a tie and sit in last. They have had the week off to get healthy and recover from the Josh Brown incident, and will now turn their attention to the Eagles. This will be a big game for both teams when all is said and done in their first meeting of the year.

Next Week: Philadelphia is coming off a tough loss on the road, but have a short drive up the road to East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants will hope to have rookies Eli Apple and Darian Thompson out in the secondary, ready to face an Eagles offense that looked much improved on Sunday night.

Playoff Hopes: All four teams in the NFC East are still in the hunt for a division crown, and possibly a Wild Card game. The Giants have three straight home games coming off the bye to play catch up, but four of their final six are on the road.

Oct 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (81) celebrates his touchdown catch from quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) in the second quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

10

Green Bay Packers

4-3

Last week: L, 33-32, at ATL
Last rank: 7th

Green Bay can no longer relax sitting at 4-3, and you have to think Mike McCarthy is starting to feel his seat warm up. Aaron Rodgers is not to blame for the 33-32 loss to Atlanta after throwing four touchdowns and having no turnovers. The defense did not supply much support against the MVP candidate Matt Ryan, who found Mohamed Sanu in the back of the end zone with 31 seconds remaining. The first five drives of the game saw both teams combine to score 27 points, looking more like a Big 12 game.

Next week: The Packers will face a Colts team that has split their past three games, alternating between a loss and a win. Next week would be a win for the Colts should the pattern continue. This will be the first time since Andrew Luck’s rookie season the two teams have met. Luck had the advantage over Rodgers last time, leading Indianapolis to a 30-27 win on a last-minute touchdown to Reggie Wayne.

Playoff hopes: Green Bay’s playoff hopes are still alive, but they need Minnesota to take another step back. Teams learned how to beat the Vikings last week when they lost to the Eagles, and that’s making Sam Bradford uncomfortable. With injuries to the offensive tackles, Green Bay needs to bring pressure and add to their 17 sacks.

Oct 16, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) looks on in the game against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. The Miami Dolphins defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-15. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 16, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) looks on in the game against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. The Miami Dolphins defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-15. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

9

Pittsburgh Steelers

4-3

Last week: BYE
Last rank: 9th

Mike Tomlin’s club took a two-game losing streak into its off-week. The main culprit was a defensive unit that failed to answer the bell, especially when it came to stopping the run. The Steelers allowed a combined 362 yards rushing to Miami (222) and New England (140). Meanwhile Pittsburgh defenders have managed only eight sacks in seven games. This was a team that totaled 48 quarterback traps a year ago. Among the positives, running back Le’Veon Bell has been impressive since returning from his three-game suspension. He’s amassed 589 total yards from scrimmage in four games, although he’s yet to score a touchdown this season.

Next Week: The Steelers and Baltimore Ravens renew their always-intense rivalry. Last season, Joe Flacco and company went into Pittsburgh and prevailed in overtime. Late in the year, John Harbaugh started Ryan Mallett and the journeyman quarterback and the team surprised the playoff-bound Steelers. These clubs play their share of down-to-the-wire affairs.

Playoff hopes: The Steelers are still atop the AFC North with a 4-3 record, with both the Ravens (3-4) and Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1) breathing down their necks. It’s those losses to the Dolphins and Patriots that could come back to haunt them if they are unable to win a division title. Even minus quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, they look like the AFC North’s best team – at least at the moment.

Oct 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Seth Roberts (10) catches the ball and runs it in for game winning overtime touchdown at Raymond James Stadium. Oakland Raiders defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

8

Oakland Raiders

6-2

Last week: W, 30-24 (OT), at TB
Last rank: 10th

Down 10-0 on the road in the second quarter, the Raiders would wind up coming all the way back in overtime to win away from home for the fifth time this year. Quarterback Derek Carr refused to let his team fall, throwing for a team-record 513 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. The Oakland ground attack chipped in with 128 yards and Jack Del Rio’s club would wind up outgaining the Buccaneers in total offense by a ton (626-270). But it still took some late heroics by Carr and wide receiver Seth Roberts. And let’s not forget the Raiders managed a victory despite an NFL-record 23 penalties (for 200 yards).

Next Week: Del Rio and company welcome the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos next week. It’s a golden opportunity for the Silver and Black, who last season snapped an eight-game losing streak in the series courtesy of a 15-12 win at Denver. But the Raiders have lost five straight at home to their rivals from the Mile High City.

Playoff hopes: There has been no winning season and no postseason appearance since 2002. It’s hard to believe that the former won’t happen this year. But as we have seen, clubs with 10 or more wins have missed the playoffs each of the last four years. That seems like a worst-case scenario for these Raiders. More realistically, this very confident club appears to be in the race for the long haul.

Oct 30, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (89) runs after a catch while defended by New Orleans Saints cornerback Ken Crawley (46) and inside linebacker Nate Stupar (54) in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints won, 25-20. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

7

Seattle Seahawks

4-3-1

Last week: L, 25-20, at NO
Last rank: 3rd

Seattle lost on the road to the Saints in a 25-20 game they could have won. Russell Wilson threw a costly interception that was immediately turned into a Saints touchdown in the second quarter right before the half. No team with 11 penalties, a turnover, and a 33 percent red zone conversion rating will come out on-top. Still without Thomas Rawls, the Seahawks relied on Christine Michael and rookie C.J. Prosise to run the ball against a bad Saints defensive line. Michael had the Seahawks first score of the game, while Prosise averaged 5.8 yards per carry. Jimmy Graham did not have a chance to show up his old team, finishing with only three catches for 34 yards.

Next week: The Seahawks will host the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football in a game they should be heavily favorited. Between the Seattle crowd and the Bills injuries on offense, the Seahawks should go into Sunday night against the Patriots with another win in their pocket.

Playoff hopes: The tie against Arizona really made the NFC West even more strange. All four teams have gone without a win in over two weeks, and three teams are still technically in the chase. Because Arizona has failed to live up to expectations this year, Seattle should be primed to make another exciting playoff run.

Oct 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive guard Chris Chester (65) spikes the ball after running back Devonta Freeman (24) scored a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

6

Atlanta Falcons

5-3

Last week: W, 33-32, vs. GB
Last rank: 8th

Atlanta is able to hold-off the Packers in a 33-32 win at home thanks to the excellent play by quarterback Matt Ryan. The MVP candidate found Mohamed Sanu in the back of the endzone with 31 seconds left to take the lead over Green Bay. The Falcons have gone 5-3 this season and are outscoring their opponents by 31 points. If they are able to get Tevin Coleman back, the offense will be even scarier than before.

Next week: The Falcons travel to Tampa Bay for Thursday Night Football in a major divisional showdown. Despite their dominance this year, Atlanta has still not pulled away with the NFC South. Thursday will be their opportunity to create separation on a short week. It’s hard to see the Buccaneers shutting down Julio Jones after seeing what happened with Amari Cooper this week.

Playoff hopes: The Falcons are still in great position to win the NFC South, sitting two games ahead of Tampa Bay and New Orleans. They have a short week with Thursday Night Football coming in Tampa Bay, followed by a trip to Philadelphia. Winning one of those two games will be crucial for Atlanta moving forward, and could help them gain home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Oct 30, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill (10) goes up over Indianapolis Colts safety T.J. Green (32) to make a catch at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

5

Kansas City Chiefs

5-2

Last week: W, 30-14, at IND
Last rank: 6th

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was hit early in the game and would give way to backup Nick Foles when it was thought that the veteran suffered a concussion. Smith would eventually return and connect for a score but Andy Reid would have to go back to Foles when the starting signal-caller was unable to return. When it was all said and done, the duo combined to complete 25-of-41 throws for 350 yards and three scores (2 by Foles). But the real star was the Kansas City defense, which sacked Colts quarterback Andrew Luck six times and forced him into a pair of turnovers.

Next Week: The Chiefs welcome the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars to Arrowhead Stadium. Of course, all eyes will be on Alex Smith and running back Spencer Ware (both suffering concussions) this week to see whether they will be able to play next Sunday. Obviously, Andy Reid is more than comfortable with Nick Foles and Charcandrick West filling in. Gus Bradley’s club will have their hands full.

Playoff hopes: The Broncos and Raiders sit with identical 76-2 record and Reid’s team is only behind in the win column because they’ve played one less game. Last season, the Chiefs ran the table after a 1-5 start. These days, Kansas City is riding a three-game winning streak and is getting better on a weekly basis.

Oct 30, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby (29) returns a interception for a touchdown in the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

4

Denver Broncos

6-2

Last week: W, 27-19, vs. SD
Last rank: 5th

Recap: It wouldn’t be the 2016 Broncos without falling at some point in the day. Gary Kubiak’s club trailed the Chargers, 7-3, after 15 minutes of play. In eight games this year, the defending Super Bowl champions have been outscored a combined 54-16 in the first quarter. But they’ve still managed to win six of their first eight games thanks to their big-play defense that gave San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers fits on Sunday. The Denver ground attack, now minus C.J. Anderson, totaled only 57 yards on 25 carries but got touchdowns from rookie Devontae Booker and reserve Juwan Thompson. Quarterback Trevor Siemian had two of the team’s three turnovers on the afternoon but the Broncos still managed an important win.

Next Week: Once again, the Broncos will clash with a divisional foe as they head to Oakland to battle the Raiders in a primetime Sunday tilt. Barring a tie (and we’ve had a few the last two weeks), the winner will be alone in first place in the AFC West by the end of next week. It’s worth noting that Denver has won its last five road games in this intense rivalry.

Playoff hopes: There’s no reason to believe that the Broncos won’t be in the postseason chase all year. Their defense is one of the best in the business and their offensive unit has been effective enough. A victory at Oakland would be a big feather in the team’s cap but there’s a lot of season remaining.

Sep 25, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (88) dives for the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 25, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (88) dives for the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

3

Dallas Cowboys

6-1

Last week: W, 29-23 (OT), vs. PHI
Last rank: 4th

Dallas came out of Sunday Night Football lucky to get a W in the win column. They committed 11 penalties and finished just 2-5 in the red zone against Philadelphia. Jason Garrett will need to get his players to focus on the task at hand and reduce the unnecessary penalties. Prescott looked bad in the first half, but some big plays by Bryant and Elliott kept him alive. Missed calls by the officials don’t hurt either. The team will be happy to have pulled this game out in overtime at home, where Alabama once had more wins than them.

Next week: The Cowboys travel to Cleveland to face a Browns team that nearly pulled off their first win of the season. Dallas should not go into this game with a big head, or else they could fall into some trouble. We’ll also have to see who is still in Cleveland after the trade deadline on Tuesday.

Playoff hopes: Dallas sits atop the NFC East, but they are far from comfy in this tight division. Philadelphia, New York, and Washington are all still within striking distance of the Cowboys, and are a serious threat to Dallas late in the season. Late games in the division will decide it all.

Minnesota Vikings, Sam Bradford

Oct 9, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) passes against the Houston Texans in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

2

Minnesota Vikings

5-1

Last week: Mon. night, at CHI
Last rank: 2nd

After losing their first game of the season to the Eagles, Minnesota will look to rebound on Monday Night Football against the Bears. Considering how bad the Bears defense has been, you can expect a big night from Sam Bradford, Stefon Diggs, and Matt Asiata. Chicago has been on two, three game losing streaks this year and could see their fourth straight Monday night. Alshon Jeffery is playing for a new contract, but the Vikings should be able to contain him considering who his quarterback is. If anyone can get the Vikings back on track, it’s Mike Zimmer.

Next week: After a short week, the Vikings host the Detroit Lions for a critical divisional match-up. Minnesota will need to find an answer for Marvin Jones, who is among the league-leaders in receiving yards. With little threat in the running game, Minnesota can focus on closing off Jones and Golden Tate.

Playoff hopes: Minnesota is still in the driver seat in the NFC after taking their first loss of the season. Having only played six games heading into Monday night, they have a slight advantage in the standings. All of that will change as the season goes on. They still have two games against the Lions, as well as one game against the Packers and Bears after Monday.

Oct 30, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to throw a pass during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. The Patriots beat the Bills 41-25. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

1

New England Patriots

7-1

Last week: W, 41-25, at BUF
Last rank: 1st

For the first time this season, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did something he had not done all season. The 17-year hurler threw for 315 yards and four touchdowns in the team’s convincing win at Orchard Park. His scores went to four different players and for the first time in 2016, to a wide receiver. In fact, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman all caught scoring passes from Brady (Rob Gronkowski had the other). The Patriots didn’t run extremely well and allowed five sacks in the contest but still managed a very comfortable victory. The red-hot Brady has now thrown 12 touchdown passes without an interception since returning to the field in Week 5.

Next Week: Owners of the best record in the NFL, the team is off in Week 9. No doubt that head coach Bill Belichick has some fine tuning to do over the next few weeks. There are some areas to address in terms of injuries but all told, this looks like a pretty efficient football team at the moment.

Playoff hopes: Eight weeks into the season and the defending AFC East champions are on course to win a record eighth straight division title. They own a three-game lead over their closest pursuer (Buffalo) and have been playing exceptional for most of 2016. It’s safe to say the Pats have earned their brief vacation.

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