NFL power rankings

By Brian Billick

Brian Billick is an acclaimed NFL game analyst for FOX Sports and a Super Bowl-winning coach.

The Falcons stayed unbeaten, but the Texans, Bears and Giants are coming strong. I’ve got a line on who’s hot and who’s not going into Week 9.

1 Falcons 7-0

Quarterback Matt Ryan was 17 of 20 with three touchdown passes in the first half against the Eagles Sunday, leading the Falcons to their first 7-0 start in team history. The Falcons now have an astounding four-game lead in the NFC South.

2 Texans 6-1

The Texans can’t afford to overlook the Bills this week before traveling to Chicago in Week 10, Houston’s second true challenge of the season.

3 Bears 6-1

Tim Jennings’ 25-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Panthers was the sixth such score for the Bears defense this season. For comparison, the legendary 1985 Bears only had five defensive TDs all season and the NFL’s all-time single-season record for interceptions returned for a TD is nine.

4 Giants 6-2

The positives: The Giants held a 23-point lead on Sunday at Dallas and forced six turnovers in the process. The negatives: The 23-point lead dissipated by the end of the third quarter and they were only able to translate six turnovers into 23 points. The only thing that matters: They won.

5 Packers 5-3

Without his best receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson against the Jaguars, QB Aaron Rodgers totaled just 186 passing yards, his season low and the fewest he has posted in a win since 2010. Nonetheless, the Packers are on a three-game winning streak after starting the season 2-3.

6 49ers 6-2 +1

Alex Smith had just one incompletion Monday night against Arizona . . . one. He was 18 of 19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns, not to mention the defense is only allowing 12.9 points per game and 271.4 yards per game, both NFL bests.

7 Ravens 5-2 -1

The Ravens are coming off a bye and will face the Browns and Raiders over the next two weeks. Isn’t that like having three bye weeks in a row?

8 Patriots 5-3 +1

The Patriots put up 45 unanswered points in London on the way to a 38-point win over the Rams at Wembley Stadium. This was the sixth-largest margin of victory for the Patriots under Bill Belichick and the 17th consecutive game in which they have totaled 350-plus yards, an NFL record.

9 Broncos 4-3 +2

The Broncos outgained the Saints 530 to 252, which is a good thing for two reasons. Peyton Manning is fully living up to expectations, but also this defense is capable of shutting down the best offenses in the NFL. This team is hitting its stride.

10 Steelers 4-3 +2

The Steelers never trailed the Redskins on Sunday and effectively shut down the RG3 Show for a week. Running back Jonathan Dwyer gives this team the physical presence in the running game Pittsburgh hasn’t had since Jerome Bettis.

11 Vikings 5-3 -3

The Vikings lost their first home game of the season and QB Christian Ponder posted yet another shaky game after starting the season on such solid footing. He now has seven interceptions in his last four games after throwing none in his first four.

12 Lions 3-4 +6

Matthew Stafford finally looked like the quarterback he threatened to be after a stellar 2011 campaign, but it was by no help of superstar WR Calvin Johnson. Megatron posted just three receptions in his second straight game.

13 Seahawks 4-4 -3

The Seahawks are just a different team on the road than they are at home, now just 1-4 away from Seattle, with their lone road victory coming against the woeful Panthers.

14 Dolphins 4-3 +7

The Dolphins blocked a punt, blocked a field goal and also recovered an onside kick. Had it not been for a Week 3 Dan Carpenter missed field goal in overtime, the Dolphins would have swept the Jets this year. Either way, they are clearly the second-best team in the AFC East.

15 Cowboys 3-4 -2

One fingertip! Well, that and six turnovers . . .

16 Buccaneers 3-4 +6

The Bucs have now scored 28 or more points in three consecutive games. The 36 points they scored on the Vikings on Thursday night helped them snap a 9-game road losing streak.

17 Redskins 3-5 -3

Robert Griffin came into the game leading the NFL in passing accuracy with the only completion percentage above 70. Sunday at Pittsburgh he completed less than 50 percent of his passes, but 10 of his 18 incompletions were drops.

18 Bengals 3-4 +2

The Bengals took a three-game losing skid into the bye last weekend, but unfortunately for them, they now host the red-hot Broncos and Giants in back-to-back weeks. At least they get both teams at home.

19 Saints 2-5 -3

Plain and simple . . . the Saints are just atrocious on defense.

20 Cardinals 4-4 -1

The Cardinals had just seven yards rushing vs. the 49ers, their lowest in a game since 1953. Additionally, the offensive line gave up another four sacks, making their league-leading total 39 for the season, 11 more than any other team. So you have an O-line that can run block and can’t pass protect . . . not a hot combination.

21 Eagles 3-4 -4

The Eagles lost their first-ever game after a bye week under Andy Reid on Sunday, but their troubles are much greater than that. The buzz was that they will make a QB change, but early reports still have Vick in the lineup.

22 Jets 3-5 -7

The Jets’ special teams units were just horrendous on Sunday . . . giving up a blocked punt, a block field goal, and an onside kick. I’d be scared to sit in Mike Westhoff’s meeting room this week.

23 Colts 4-3 +3

If the season were to end today, the Colts would make the playoffs. That is a heck of an achievement for a team with a rookie head coach, rookie GM and rookie QB.

24 Browns 2-6 +5

Finally the Browns had more rushing attempts than Brandon Weeden did passing attempts against San Diego on Sunday. Not sure why they waited to do it against what was the league’s best rushing defense heading into the game.

25 Raiders 3-4 +6

Despite going just 2 for 12 on third-down conversions on Sunday, the Raiders were able to beat the Chiefs. Perhaps it was because this historically undisciplined team only had two penalties, their lowest in a game since 2010.

26 Chargers 3-4 -3

QB Philip Rivers only accounted for 154 yards, RB Ryan Mathews failed to reach 100 yards and tight end Antonio Gates had just two catches — all just part of the reason the Chargers were only able to put up two field goals in a 7-6 loss to the Browns.

27 Rams 3-5 -2

The Rams scored first on Sunday against New England, but were hanging on for dear life for the rest of the game. The Rams have outplayed their talent for the majority of the first eight games, and that just won’t sustain itself for the duration of an entire season.

28 Bills 3-4 -1

The Bills come off their bye week with trips to Houston and then New England. Not a fun two weeks.

29 Titans 3-5 -5

The Titans gave up their season low in points, but the 19 they allowed was still more than the 13 they scored.

30 Panthers 1-6 -2

The Panthers possessed the ball for 13 more minutes than the Bears but were only able to score one TD in four red-zone attempts. Until they call plays that let Newton use his athleticism outside the pocket, their red-zone struggles will continue.

31 Jaguars 1-6 +1

Blaine Gabbert and Cecil Shorts played their best possible games, and they still lost. This team just isn’t good enough to win games against teams like the Packers, no matter how close it seems throughout the game.

32 Chiefs 1-6 -2

The Chiefs have yet to lead a game in regulation for this entire season. Do you need to hear more?