I couldn’t let this week’s Power Rankings pass without mentioning the sad passing of one of the Packers’ all-time greatest players - Jim Taylor. When conversations turn to the all-time greatest rushers in Packers history, they invariably begin with Jim Taylor. He was the first of Lombardi’s Packers (at any position) to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, ran for 1,000 yards in 5 consecutive seasons (196-64) and was the only man to deny the great Jim Brown the single season rushing title (1962). The Packers all-time leading rusher until being surpassed by Ahman Green in 2009, Jim remains in second place on that list with 8,207 yards while his 81 rushing touchdowns remains the all-time leading mark for the Packers.
Jim Taylor was one of the best conditioned athletes ever to play the game and he had a running style that could perhaps be best summed up in a few words – tough, ferocious, combative and physical. Why take a hit, when you can be the one doing the hitting? One of his greatest games was a great example of this – the 1962 NFL Championship game against the Giants. Played in freezing conditions in Yankee Stadium, the Packers kept handing the ball to Taylor who just kept going and going, battling for yardage and fought the Giants defense and the elements to lead the Packers to a famous 16-7 victory. Taylor had a Championship Game record 31 carries and the Packers' only touchdown in the game.
He will of course, always be remembered as part of the Hall of Fame backfield that also featured Paul Hornung and Bart Starr and was brilliantly coached by the Packers offensive backfield coach Red Cochran.
In a short article, there is not enough time and space to really do Jim Taylor justice. We’ll have to save the many stories and quotes about Jim for another time. Rest in Peace Jim Taylor. You’ve earned it. Godspeed.
Ok, on with the Power Rankings…
We are down to one unbeaten team (Rams) following the Chiefs’ loss to the Patriots. Despite their loss, the Chiefs remain at no.2 in our rankings, just ahead of the team that defeated them.
This continues to be one of the most unpredictable of seasons, making the Power Rankings volatile from week to week. A great example of this is that last week’s No’s. 2, 4, 6, 7 and 8 all lost…whilst last week’s No’s. 20, 22, 23, 25 and 26 all won.
The biggest risers this week are Cowboys (up 7) and Ravens (up 6). Multiple teams went up in the rankings by 3 spots.
The biggest fallers this week are the Jaguars (down 8), the Titans (down 8) and the Bucs (down 4).
1. Los Angeles Rams (6-0) (last week’s ranking: 1)
Todd Gurley rushed for over 200 yards as the Rams beat the Broncos and moved to a 6-0 start for the first time since 2001 – they are now the last unbeaten team in the NFL. The Rams totalled 270 yards on the ground and despite an average outing from Jared Goff (201 yards passing, 1 interception) they continue to show that they are the team to beat in the NFC. Next up for the Rams, they travel to San Francisco for an intra-divisional game to play the 49ers.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) (last week’s ranking: 2)
Despite a 352-yard effort from Patrick Mahomes (which also included 4 touchdown passes), the Chiefs fell to their first defeat of the season in an exciting Sunday night match-up with the Patriots. Tyreek Hill had 142 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving and Kareem Hunt had 105 yards receiving (plus 80 rushing) as Kansas City, in defeat, proved that they are one of the best teams in the NFL. With a stronger first half performance (touchdowns rather than field goals) the Chiefs surely would have won this one. Despite the defeat, they remain second place in our rankings. Next up for the Chiefs is a Sunday night match-up at home to the Cincinnati Bengals.
3. New England Patriots (4-2) (last week’s ranking: 5)
Tom Brady threw for 340 yards and Sony Michel had a 100-yard rushing day as the Patriots inflicted the Chiefs first defeat of the season by a 43-40 scoreline. The Patriots secured the victory with a 28-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal as time expired. New England has now won 3 straight and look back to their old selves. They haven’t quite moved ahead of the Chiefs in our rankings despite beating them this week – a 3-point home victory is approximately an even game on a neutral field – but the gap is almost too close to call. But they do move up to no.3. Next up for the Patriots is a road game against the Chicago Bears.
4. New Orleans Saints (4-1) (last week’s ranking: 3)
The Saints had a bye this past week, which may have come at the wrong time for them as they were on a bit of roll. Nonetheless, they remain clearly in the top 4 in these rankings. Next up for the Saints is an interesting road match up in Baltimore against the Ravens.
5. Carolina Panthers (3-2) (last week’s ranking: 4)
The Panthers disappointingly (for them) came up short, 23-17, to a Washington Redskins team that going in they would have expected to beat. The Panthers had been getting into the habit of winning close games and perhaps a defeat in a game decided by less than a touchdown was overdue. The Panthers fell behind 17-0 in this week’s game and despite Cam Newton’s comeback attempt, Carolina couldn’t quite pull it off. Next up for the Panthers is a road trip to the Philadelphia Eagles.
6. Minnesota Vikings (3-2-1) (last week’s ranking: 9)
Latavius Murray rushed for 155 yards and Adam Thielen had 123 yards receiving as the Vikings moved away from the Cardinals in the second half to record a hard fought 27-17 victory. Minnesota’s victory keeps them just behind the Chicago Bears in the NFC North. The Vikings defense played tough, albeit against an anaemic Cardinals offense, coming up with 4 sacks and holding Arizona to just 61 yards rushing. Next up for Minnesota is a game that they will be expected to win – a road game against the New York Jets.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) (last week’s ranking: 10)
The Eagles put in a solid performance to easily beat up on the poor New York Giants, as Philadelphia broke a 2-game losing streak and evened up their record at 3-3. Carson Wentz had a good night throwing for 278 yards and 3 touchdowns while the Philadelphia defense had 4 sacks and an interception – which kept the Giants offense in check, despite the best efforts of Saquon Barkley. Next up for the Eagles is a tough looking home game against fellow playoff contenders the Carolina Panthers.
8. Baltimore Ravens (4-2) (last week’s ranking: 14)
The Ravens defense came up with an incredible, franchise record, 11 sacks against the Tennessee Titans whilst also recording a shutout victory. The Ravens set another defensive franchise record in allowing just 51 passing yards. Za’Darius Smith and Patrick Onwuasor led the way with 3 sacks and 2 sacks respectively, whilst 6 other players had a single sack each. The AFC North gets more interesting by the week, with all 4 teams in contention. Next up for the Ravens is a tough looking home game against the New Orleans Saints.
9. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) (last week’s ranking: 12)
Behind the rushing of Melvin Gordon (132 yards and 3 touchdowns) and 2 interceptions by CB Desmond King, the Chargers beat the Cleveland Browns in relatively easy fashion to move their record to 4-2 and remain the closest challengers to the Chiefs in the AFC West. The Chargers racked up a total of 246 yards on the ground and the defense harassed Baker Mayfield all day (5 sacks) meaning that Phillip Rivers needed to be nothing more than efficient to lead San Diego to the win. Next up for the Chargers is a “home” game in London against the Tennessee Titans.
10. Chicago Bears (3-2) (last week’s ranking: 8)
Coming off their bye week the Bears fell to an overtime loss to the Dolphins. It was a game that the Bears had an opportunity to win in the extra period, but a missed field goal gave Miami one last chance which they took. Mitch Trubisky had another good outing – 316 yards passing and 3 touchdowns through the air but the previously highly praised defense gave up well over 500 yards against the previously impotent Dolphins offense. Rather than moving away from their divisional rivals, the Bears lead closed at the top of the NFC North. Next up for the Bears is an excellent looking match-up at home against the New England Patriots. That game will give us a good indication of whether this Chicago Bears team is for real.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) (last week’s ranking: 11)
The Bengals lost a heartbreaker to the Steelers in the last few seconds of the game. Cincinnati played well without ever being explosive against Pittsburgh, but while the Steelers racked up yardage (both in the air and on the ground), the Bengals played keep up with them for most of the game and most still feel confident about their playoff chances in the AFC. The Bengals had to play without TE Tyler Kroft who has a foot injury – this is significant because Cincinnati is already playing without Tyler Eifert (out for the season). Next up for the Bengals is a huge Sunday night road game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
12. Green Bay Packers (3-2-1) (last week’s ranking: 13)
The Packers won. Somehow. Playing a game that was the microcosm of their season, the Packers overcame the 49ers – scoring 10 points in less than 2 minutes at the end of the game – to move their record to 3-2-1. With the win, Green Bay keeps pace with the Minnesota Vikings in second place in the NFC North, just behind the Chicago Bears. Aaron Rodgers had his second straight 400 yard passing day (425 yards) and 2 touchdowns in a game in which he was sometimes red hot and then at other times missed open receivers. One of the biggest criticisms of Rodgers throughout his career is that he holds onto the ball too long and that seemed to raise its ugly head in this game. But there is little doubt that in a game the Packers had to have, Rodgers stepped up and demonstrated his prowess when the game was truly on the line. His receivers also stepped up with Davante Adams (132 yards), Jimmy Graham (104) and Marques Valdez-Scantling (103) all having 100-yard days while Equanimeous St. Brown had a huge 19-yard catch in the last 2 minutes of the game. Defensively the Packers struggled, giving up more than 170 yards on the ground but Kevin King did come up with a huge interception (his first of the season) late in the game. Mason Crosby rebounded from his disaster last week in Detroit by kicking 4 field goals (with no misses) – including the game winner as time expired. Still, although this was a win, it was a game that the Packers would have expected to win going in and probably still asks more questions than it answers. Next up for the Packers is a bye in week 7, before they take on the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots in successive extremely tough road games.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1) (last week’s ranking: 15)
Ben Roethlisberger threw a 31-yard game winning touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with just 10 seconds left in the game to propel the Steelers past the tough Cincinnati Bengals (the 6th straight win for the Steelers against the Bengals in Cincinnati). Roethlisberger had 369 yards passing and James Connor had 111 yards rushing for Pittsburgh as they move their record above .500 and closed in on the Bengals. Next up for the Steelers is a bye, followed by a key intra-divisional match-up at home to the Cleveland Browns in week 8.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) (last week’s ranking: 6)
The Jaguars gave up 40 points to the Cowboys whilst only mustering 7 themselves as Jacksonville fell to 3-3 after starting the season 3-1. The Jags have now lost their last two games by a total of 70-21. Rather than pulling away in the AFC South, Jacksonville is now pulled back into a dogfight with Tennessee and Houston - and next up for the Jags is a home game against those very same Houston Texans.
15. Tennessee Titans (3-3) (last week’s ranking: 7)
Two weeks ago, the Titans were riding high at 3-1 and looked like one of the best teams in the AFC – now following two consecutive defeats we are left wondering exactly who the 2018 Tennessee Titans are. The Titans were shut out this past week by the Baltimore Ravens and gave up 11…yes, count ‘em, 11 – sacks to the Ravens defense…as Tennessee managed a meagre 106 yards of total offense. It doesn’t get too much easier for the Titans as they now face a long road trip to London, to take on the Los Angeles Chargers.
16. Miami Dolphins (4-2) (last week’s ranking: 16)
QB Brock Osweiler breathed life into the Dolphins offense, throwing for 380 yards, as Miami came from behind to beat the Chicago Bears in overtime. Osweiler was only playing because starter Ryan Tannehill was inactive due to an injury to his throwing shoulder. In beating the Bears, the Dolphins broke a 2-game losing streak and kept themselves well in contention in the AFC East. Also starring for the Dolphins offense was Frank Gore (101 yards rushing) and Albert Wilson (155 yards receiving including a 75-yard score). A special mention should also be given to the Dolphins offensive line which held the Bears sackless. DE Cameron Wake missed the game following knee surgery this past week – but he is expected back soon. Next up for the Dolphins is a home game against the Detroit Lions.
17. Washington Redskins (3-2) (last week’s ranking: 18)
Washington jumped out to a 17-0 lead and held on for an excellent 23-17 victory against the Carolina Panthers. Washington’s victory continues to keep them in the mix in the ultra-competitive NFC East. The Redskins defense played particularly well – holding the Panthers to just 81 yards rushing, whilst Josh Norman came up with a key interception. Next up for the Redskins is an intra-division rivalry match-up at home against the Dallas Cowboys.
18. Dallas Cowboys (3-3) (last week’s ranking: 25)
The Cowboys evened up their record at 3-3 by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars in an incredible 40-7 blowout. Dallas put this game away by moving out to 24-0 half-time lead and by outgaining their opponents by nearly 200 yards in the first half. For the game, Dak Prescott had 183 yards passing and 2 touchdowns along with 82 on the ground and another score. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 106 yards and Cole Beasley had 101 yards receiving as Dallas totally dominated. Next up for the Cowboys is a road game against bitter rival the Washington Redskins.
19. Detroit Lions (2-3) (last week’s ranking: 19)
Coming off an excellent win over the Packers, the Lions would probably have liked the opportunity to build on that momentum but rather had their bye this past week. Next up for Detroit is a trip to Miami to play the Dolphins – a game Detroit probably needs to win if they are to be seen as playoff contenders.
20. Seattle Seahawks (3-3) (last week’s ranking: 22)
Russell Wilson threw 3 touchdown passes and the Seattle defense had 6 sacks, as the Seahawks easily defeated the Raiders 27-3 at Wembley Stadium. This was probably as comfortable victory as they come for the Seahawks who have now won 3 of their last 4. Seattle remains 3 games behind the Rams in the NFC West but must be considered as in the hunt for a wild card playoff spot. Next up for Seattle is a bye, followed by an interesting looking road game against the Detroit Lions in week 8.
21. Cleveland Browns (2-3-1) (last week’s ranking: 17)
One week after securing his first win as a starter, Baker Mayfield had one of those tough games that you know a rookie starting QB is going to go through at some point. Mayfield completed less than 50% of his passes, threw 2 interceptions (leaving points out on the field) and was sacked 5 times as his Browns team went down to the Chargers 38-14. The Browns defense didn’t have a great day either giving up nearly 250 yards rushing to Los Angeles. Next up for Cleveland is a road games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
22. Atlanta Falcons (2-4) (last week’s ranking: 20)
Coming off three straight losses, the Falcons finally got back on track with 34-29 victory over Tampa Bay. Matt Ryan threw for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns and Julio Jones had 143 yards receiving (on 10 catches) to lead their team to the win…a win which was a must have, to keep Atlanta just about in contention in the NFC South. Next up for the Falcons is a Monday night home game against the struggling New York Giants.
23. Houston Texans (3-3) (last week’s ranking: 23)
After starting the season 0-3, three weeks later the Texans are 3-3 and tied for the lead in the AFC South – a division that nobody seems to want to win. Houston had just 216 yards of total offense in beating Buffalo 20-13, whilst holding the Bills to just 229 yards of their own. The key play of a tight game was Jonathan Joseph’s interception return for a touchdown late in the game – providing the Texans with their margin of victory. QB Deshaun Watson struggled all day, but according to head coach Bill O’Brien, he is playing through several “niggling injuries”. Next up for Houston is a road game against divisional rivals the Jacksonville Jaguars.
24. New York Jets (3-3) (last week’s ranking: 26)
Sam Darnold completed 24 of 30 for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns as he led his Jets to a 42-34 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. In evening up their record, the Jets win consecutive games for the first time in more than a year. But the real star for the Jets, was kicker Jason Myers who kicked a franchise record 7 field goals. New York remains just a game behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East. Next up for the Jets is a tough looking home assignment against the Minnesota Vikings.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) (last week’s ranking: 21)
Coming off a bye week, Tampa Bay restored Jameis Winston to the starting QB spot, but that wasn’t enough to see off the Falcons as the Bucs fell to a 34-29 loss. Winston threw for 395 yards and 4 touchdowns, but also had 2 interceptions. The Bucs could have won the game on a crazy final play but came up just short. Having opened the season with 2 victories, Tampa Bay has now lost 3 straight - next up for the Bucs is a home game against the Cleveland Browns.
26. Denver Broncos (2-4) (last week’s ranking: 24)
The Broncos defense gave up a 200-yard rusher for the second straight week (and 270 yards rushing in total) and fell to their fourth straight defeat, this time losing a close game to the high-flying Los Angeles Rams. If there was a plus side to another loss, it was the play of rookie Bradley Chubb who had 3 sacks. Case Keenum threw for 322 yards but also his eight interception of the season. Denver is a team whose season is going south rapidly and with a head coach, Vance Joseph, who is under considerable pressure. Next up for the Broncos is a Thursday night road game against the Arizona Cardinals.
27. San Francisco 49ers (1-5) (last week’s ranking: 28)
Only an Aaron Rodgers directed comeback in the last 2 minutes prevented C.J. Beathard leading his San Francisco 49ers to a surprising upset of the Green Bay Packers. Beathard threw for 245 yards and 2 scores, but also had a crucial interception late in the game when any score for the 49ers would probably have sealed the game for them. The 49ers ground game was particularly strong in this one as they shared the load and racked up more than 170 yards. Wideout Marquise Goodwin lead the receiving corps with 126 yards and 2 touchdowns. Unfortunately for San Francisco their schedule doesn’t get any easier as next up they have a home game against divisional rivals, the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams.
28. New York Giants (1-5) (last week’s ranking: 27)
In their Thursday night match-up against the Eagles, the Giants looked like what they are – one of the worst teams in the NFL. This game was over by halftime, as the Giants fell behind 24-6 and didn’t look like they had the weapons to get back into this one – despite a fine 130 yards rushing and 99 yards receiving from rookie Saquon Barkley. Eli Manning continues to struggle (for the third straight season) and despite Barkley’s heroics you must wonder if the Giants front office is second guessing their decision not to take a quarterback in this year’s draft. Next up for New York is a Monday night road game against the Falcons.
29. Indianapolis Colts (1-5) (last week’s ranking: 29)
Andrew Luck had 301 yards passing and 4 touchdowns but also threw 3 interceptions as his Indianapolis Colts came up just short in losing 42-34 to the New York Jets. Luck wasn’t helped by his receivers who dropped at least 6 passes and were responsible for at least 1 of those interceptions. Unfortunately, the Colts offense couldn’t overcome those turnovers (nor an additional one by RB Robert Turbin) and their defense couldn’t stifle the super-efficient play of Jets QB Sam Darnold. This continues to look like a team that will remain in the bottom 5 or so teams for the whole season. Next up for the Colts is a home game against another of those bottom 5 teams - the Buffalo Bills.
30. Buffalo Bills (2-4) (last week’s ranking: 30)
The Bills fell to the Texans 20-13 this week, but just as significantly they lost rookie QB Josh Allen with an elbow injury in the third quarter – an injury from which he did not return. Allen won’t play this coming week and could be out for a few games – further tests are pending at the time of writing. Allen was replaced by the struggling Nathan Peterman who threw the game deciding pick-6 in the last two minutes. The Buffalo defense held the Texans offense to just 216 yards, had 7 sacks and 2 interceptions but still ended up on the losing side of the ledger. The Bills defense is clearly the strength of this team. Next up for Buffalo is a road trip to play the Indianapolis Colts.
31. Arizona Cardinals (1-5) (last week’s ranking: 32)
The Cardinals defense played pretty well against the Vikings – especially in the first half – but eventually the Minnesota running game was enough to condemn the Cardinals to their fifth defeat of the season. But bizarrely, in defeat, they move up a spot in our rankings thanks to the hapless performance of the Raiders. Defensive end Chandler Jones continues to lead the Cardinals front seven – he now has 5.5 sacks for the season. Arizona’s offense continues to struggle – as it has all season long – this week being held to under 250 yards passing and only 61 rushing. But rookie QB Josh Rosen can only be learning through adversity and surely better days are to come. Next up for the Cardinals is a home game on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos.
32. Oakland Raiders (1-5) (last week’s ranking: 31)
The Raiders have dropped to the bottom of our rankings following a dismal performance against the Seattle Seahawks in London. Derek Carr led an offense which just couldn’t get moving, as he was held to just 142 yards passing on 31 attempts and had 2 fumbles. Fortunately, Oakland’s defense played solidly – meaning that the final deficit was only 27-3. Just to add to the Raiders misery, they lost two receivers with concussions during the game – Amari Cooper and Seth Roberts. Next up for Oakland is a bye – which is probably a good thing - followed by a home game against the Indianapolis Colts in week 8.
Find Peter on twitter here: @The_IT_Hedgehog