It was a week of peculiarity – including last second kicks that would have won/tied games being missed, interesting 2-point conversion coaching decisions and teams moving to the top of their divisions without playing. And yet, when it came to results, this week was probably more predictable than any other so far this season.
Our top 6 teams from last week’s rankings all won, while 5 of our bottom 6 from last week lost (with the bottom 6 team that did win, the Colts, beating one of the other bottom 6 teams). Of the 14 games played, 11 were won by the higher ranked team going into the game.
The biggest risers this week are Houston (up 9), Washington (up 7) and Detroit (up 3)
The biggest fallers this week are Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Cleveland (all down 4 slots)
1. Los Angeles Rams (7-0) (last week’s ranking: 1)
The Rams remain the NFL’s only unbeaten team and secure at the top of our rankings, with a 39-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams last 3 games have all been on the road and yet they have come through that difficult stretch with a ‘0’ still in the L column. This week, the defense came up huge with 2 interceptions and 7 sacks, including 4 by Aaron Donald (Donald now leads the NFL with 8 sacks for the season). The offense was efficient without being explosive (although Todd Gurley did score 3 touchdowns) – but it didn’t need to be. The ever dangerous Gurley leads the league in rushing with 686 yards. The Rams offense is second in the NFL averaging 445.3 yards per game. They return home next for a match-up with the Green Bay Packers.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1) (last week’s ranking: 2)
It’s a passing league and Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes continues to make the most of it – throwing 4 more touchdown passes in his team’s 45-10 blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Mahomes also threw for 358 yards as Kansas City racked up 551 yards of offense and never had to punt the entire game. On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs held Cincinnati to just 174 yards passing and 65 yards rushing. Kansas remains the top AFC team in our rankings, whilst Mahomes leads the league with 22 touchdown passes and is second in passing yards with 2,223. Kareem Hunt leads the AFC in rushing with 542 yards. Next up for the Chiefs is a home game against the Denver Broncos.
3. New England Patriots (5-2) (last week’s ranking: 3)
Two big specials teams plays – a 95-yard kick-off return for a touchdown (by Cordarrelle Patterson) and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown (by Kyle Van Noy) helped the Patriots overcome 3 turnovers to defeat the Bears 38-31 in a closely fought game. Josh Gordon started to repay some of the faith the Patriots had in him when they traded for him a few weeks ago with 4 receptions for 100 yards, including a crucial 55-yarder in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately for New England, their rookie RB Sony Michel was knocked out of the game in the first half with an apparent knee injury and didn’t return. Early reports are that he’s not expected to miss much playing time. TE Rob Gronkowski missed the game with a back problem, but it’s not expected to keep him out for long. Next up for the Patriots is a Monday night road trip to divisional rival Buffalo.
4. New Orleans Saints (5-1) (last week’s ranking: 4)
Thanks to a last second extra point miss, the Saints overcame the tough Baltimore Ravens 24-23 – the Saints moving their record to 5-1 for the season. With the win, New Orleans consolidated their position as the no.2 team in the NFC. The records keep coming for Drew Brees – he has now beaten all 32 NFL teams and during this week’s game, became just the fourth QB with 500 career touchdown passes (the others being Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Tom Brady). During this week, the Saints have bolstered their secondary by trading 4th (2019) and 7th (2020) round draft picks to the Giants for CB Eli Apple. Next up for the Saints is an excellent looking Sunday night game against fellow NFC playoff contenders the Minnesota Vikings, in Minneapolis.
5. Carolina Panthers (4-2) (last week’s ranking: 5)
The Panthers came back from a 17 point 4th quarter deficit to score 21 unanswered points and defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in an incredible comeback. Cam Newton threw for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 4th quarter alone as his team equalled a franchise record comeback victory. The Panthers are earning a reputation for playing in extremely close, nail-biting games with a record that could easily be at .500 or worse. Nonetheless, the ability to win close games is crucial and they remain one of top wild card contenders in the NFC. Next up for the Panthers is a tough looking home game against the Baltimore Ravens.
6. Minnesota Vikings (4-2-1) (last week’s ranking: 6)
Kirk Cousins didn’t need to be anything more than efficient to lead his Vikings past the jets 37-17 and move his team into pole position in the NFC North. Cousins had 2 touchdown passes and 241 yards through the air – 110 yards of which went to Adam Thielen who now has 7 straight games with 100 yards receiving (1 short of Calvin Johnson’s all-time NFL record). Thielen leads the NFL in receptions (67) and receiving yards (822). Minnesota’s defense came up strong against the Dolphins – picking off 3 interceptions and forcing a fumble…DE Danielle Hunter is now tied for second place in the NFL with 7.5 sacks. The Vikings will now be looking to pull away in a division in which they were pre-season favourites, but they have a tough one up next - a classic looking Sunday night match-up at home to the New Orleans Saints.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (5-2) (last week’s ranking: 9)
Phillip Rivers threw for 306 yards and Tyrell Williams had 118 yards receiving (including a 75- yard touchdown) as the Chargers hung on to defeat the Titans 20-19 – moving their record to 5-2 to stay in touch with the Kansas City Chiefs. Chargers RB Melvin Gordon missed the game due to a hamstring injury and consequently Los Angeles failed to get their running game going. Next up for the Chargers is a bye week, followed by a week 9 trip to Seattle.
8. Baltimore Ravens (4-3) (last week’s ranking: 8)
Kicker Justin Tucker missed a game-tying extra point at the end of regulation condemning the Ravens to a 24-23 defeat to the Saints. The unbelievable miss by Tucker was the first extra point miss of the veteran’s career. For Baltimore, Joe Flacco had one of his better days with 279 passing yards and 2 touchdowns (with no interceptions) and John Brown had 134 yards receiving. On the defensive side of the ball, LB C.J. Mosley had 16 tackles. Despite the loss, the Ravens remain one of the top playoff contenders in the AFC and have the no.1 defense in the league giving up just 280.6 yards and 14.4 points per game. Next up for Baltimore is a difficult road test against the Carolina Panthers.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 7)
The Eagles gave up 3 touchdowns in the 4th quarter to blow a 17-point lead over the Panthers and drop below .500 for the season. Philadelphia manged to conspire to lose this game despite a 30-37, 310-yard performance by Carson Wentz and 138 yards receiving by Zach Ertz. In a very tight NFC play-off race, this defeat may be crucial by season’s end both from an overall record and from a tiebreaker standpoint. Next up for the Eagles is a long road trip to London to play the Jacksonville Jaguars – it's a game that you feel that Philadelphia has to win.
10. Washington Redskins (4-2) (last week’s ranking: 17)
The Redskins held on to beat their NFC East Rivals Cowboys 20-17, thanks to a missed field goal as time expired. In an extremely tight game, Adrian Peterson had 99 yards rushing and the Redskins defense had 4 sacks and recovered 2 fumbles to just about see Washington home. The Redskins may just be the most surprising 4-win team in the NFL right now. Next up for Washington is an intra-divisional rivalry game on the road against the New York Giants – a game that, should they win, would really put them in pole position in their division nearly halfway through the season.
11. Green Bay Packers (3-2-1) (last week’s ranking: 12)
Good news: If the playoffs were today, the Packers would be in as the 6th seed in the NFC…still, their bye this past week probably came at a good time. Although they went into it off the back of a win, the extra preparation (and rest) time entering a really tough part of their schedule can only be helpful. It should also help with the recovery from injury for wideouts Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison…although rookie Marques Valdez-Scantling has been excellent in their absence. Next up for the Packers are road trips to the Rams and Patriots in successive weeks. At the time of writing, the Rams are favoured by 8.5 points in the first of those games – ESPN is reporting that this makes the Packers the biggest underdog they have been in any game that Rodgers has started.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1) (last week’s ranking: 13)
The Steelers entered their bye week this past week on a two-game winning streak…and strangely they moved to the top of the AFC North without even playing. There’s no sign yet (at the time of writing) of a return from Le’Veon Bell but it has long been rumoured that he would return around their bye week – so don’t be surprised if he’s back soon. Next up for Pittsburgh is an intra-divisional match-up at home to the Cleveland Browns.
13. Chicago Bears (3-3) (last week’s ranking: 10)
In a thriller against the Patriots, the Bears were 1 yard away from potentially tying the game as Kevin White caught a Mitch Trubisky Hail Mary at the 1-yard line as time expired. White tried to force his way into the end zone but was held up by the Patriots defense. Trubisky actually did much of his work on the ground in this game, rushing for 81 yards. Despite the 38-31 defeat, the Bears showed that they are for real and can play even up with some of the best teams in the league – in fact, were it not for special teams’ mistakes, Chicago may well have won this one. Bizarrely, after playing such a good game, the Bears dropped from top spot in the NFC North to the bottom of the division by day’s end. Next up for the Bears is a home game against the New York Jets – they will be hoping that dominant defensive star Khalil Mack will have recovered from the ankle injury that has slowed him the last couple of weeks.
14. Houston Texans (4-3) (last week’s ranking: 23)
Houston’s defense played another good game – holding the Jags to 259 yards total offense – helping their team to a 20-7 victory. The defense forced 3 turnovers, had 4 sacks (including 2 by Jadeveon Clowney) and for Houston it was their fourth straight win after starting the season 0-3. The Texans also got help from their running game – taking the pressure off ailing QB DeShaun Watson – as Lamar Miller rushed for 100 yards. The Texans have moved to the top of the AFC South by themselves. In a player related good news story, Safety Andre Hal returned to the active roster for the first time following his May diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Next up for Houston is a Thursday night match-up at home to the Miami Dolphins – a game in which the Texans will expect to consolidate their divisional lead.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (4-3) (last week’s ranking: 11)
The Bengals played their worst game of the season, albeit against the Chiefs - probably the AFC’s top team, to go down 45-10. With their second straight loss, Cincinnati dropped out of top spot in the AFC North. The Bengals are struggling badly on defense with each successive game now appearing to be worse than the one that preceded it – this week they gave up 551 yards. Cincinnati has an opportunity to get back on track in their next game – a home match-up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
16. Detroit Lions (3-3) (last week’s ranking: 19)
Coming off their bye week, the Lions beat the Dolphins 32-21 thanks largely to their rushing game which notched up 248 yards – led by rookie Kerryon Johnson who had 158 yards (including a 71-yard run). Defensively, the Lions had 4 sacks and did just enough to keep the Dolphins offense in check. The Lions are now back in the thick of the NFC North divisional race.
Next up for Detroit is a home game against fellow playoff contenders, the Seattle Seahawks.
17. Tennessee Titans (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 15)
Following this week’s defeat to the Chargers in London, the Titans have now lost 3 straight and are a team that is quickly falling down these rankings. It could have been so different for the Titans this week – trailing 20-19 in the last minute, they opted to try for a go-ahead 2-point conversion rather than kicking the tying extra point and a probable overtime. It was a brave, positive, coaching call by Mike Vrabel, but a loss is a loss and this team is now in trouble. They have their bye week this coming week which is probably a good thing and then they travel to the Cowboys in week 9 for Monday night football.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 14)
Blake Bortles lost a fumble on the Jags first drive in both halves (leading to 10 points for the Texans) as Jacksonville lost to Houston 20-7. It was the third straight loss for the Jags who fall to 3-4 and continue to plummet down these rankings. Bortles was benched following his second fumble and replaced by back-up Cody Kessler. On recent showings, Bortles future in Jacksonville is questionable. Looking to boost their running game this past week, the Jags traded a 2019 fifth round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns for RB Carlos Hyde – they are hoping that Hyde can pick up the slack caused by Leonard Fournette’s ongoing injury absence. Next up for the Jags is a home game, in London, against the Philadelphia Eagles – Bortles has been confirmed by coach Doug Marrone as the starter, but for how long?
19. Miami Dolphins (4-3) (last week’s ranking: 16)
Brock Osweiler started his second straight game in place of the injured Ryan Tannehill, but he was unable to repeat last week’s magic - as the Dolphins fell to the Lions 32-21. It’s rumoured that the Dolphins are listening to trade offers for wideout DeVante Parker, but those rumours may be quashed due to the hip injury suffered by Albert Wilson during this game – Wilson is likely to miss some playing time and some reports even suggested that he could be gone for the year. Next up for Miami is a Thursday night road trip to the Houston Texans – on a short week, it’s unlikely that Tannehill will be back so Osweiler should start his third straight game for the Dolphins.
20. Seattle Seahawks (3-3) (last week’s ranking: 20)
Seattle could probably have done without having their bye this past week, as they entered it having won 3 of their last 4. The Seahawks are in playoff contention in the NFC – a position which they will look to consolidate in their next game – a road trip to Detroit.
21. Dallas Cowboys (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 18)
The big news this week isn’t on the field but in rather the first-round draft pick the Cowboys are giving up, to acquire Raiders’ wideout Amari Cooper – a move which gives the Cowboys an outside threat to go along with Cole Beasley in the slot. On the field, the Cowboys’ Brett Maher missed a game tying field goal as time expired as Dallas dropped a crucial 20-17 loss to their bitter divisional rival Washington Redskins. The loss only increases the pressure on already under fire coach Jason Garrett – especially as the Cowboys now enter their bye week…could that tempt Jerry Jones to pull the trigger and move on from Garrett? Following the bye week, the Cowboys have a home Monday night game against the Tennessee Titans.
22. Atlanta Falcons (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 22)
Around the end of the 2nd quarter of their game against the Giants, the Falcons suddenly got their offense moving and in doing so did enough to see off their opponents 23-20…keeping themselves just about in touch with the 5-1 Saints. Matt Ryan threw for 379 yards and Julio Jones had 104 yards receiving for Atlanta, but their star may have been kicker Giorgio Tavecchio who was only signed this week and kicked 3 field goals (including a 56 yarder). Ryan leads the NFL in passing yards with 2,335. The Falcons now head for their bye week, which is followed by a week 9 road trip to the Washington Redskins.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) (last week’s ranking: 25)
Tampa Bay overcame 4 turnovers to defeat the Cleveland Browns in overtime – thanks to the longest field goal (59 yards by Chandler Catanzaro) in NFL overtime history. The Bucs evened up their record to 3-3 and in the process, halted a 3-game losing streak. Jameis Winston threw for 365 yards and ran for a further 55 yards to notch his first win of the season (following an early season suspension). The Bucs defense played a strong game, sacking Baker Mayfield 5 times. Unfortunately for the Bucs, they lost two LB’s - Kwon Alexander and Jack Cichy – to season ending torn ACL injuries. Tampa Bay leads the NFL in total offense (449.5 yards per game) but is 29th in total defense – this probably accounts for why they are only .500. Next up for the Bucs is a road trip to the Cincinnati Bengals.
24. Denver Broncos (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 26)
The Broncos defense came up with 3 interceptions, 6 sacks and forced 3 fumbles (2 recovered) as Denver humbled the Cardinals 45-10. 2 of the interceptions came in the first quarter and both were returned for touchdowns. Wideout Emmanuel Sanders threw a first quarter touchdown pass and had a 64-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Despite the emphatic nature of this victory, the Broncos remain in the bottom third of teams in the NFL, despite the efforts of LB Von Miller who is tied for second in the NFL with 7.5 sacks. As the trade deadline nears, it’s rumoured that Denver have been listening to trade offers for WR Demaryius Thomas. Next up for the Broncos is a tough road trip to the Kansas City Chiefs.
25. Cleveland Browns (2-4-1) (last week’s ranking: 21)
Cleveland played their fourth overtime game of the season (the most one team has played in since 2011) and came up on the short end of such a game for the second time this year – being beaten by a 59-yard field goal. Having traded RB Carlos Hyde to the Jags for a 5th round draft pick during the week, Cleveland featured rookie Nick Chubb in the running game and Chubb had 80 yards on 18 carries, with 1 touchdown. The Browns continue to play tough on defense (generating 4 turnovers this week) and Baker Mayfield, whilst inconsistent, continues to demonstrate that he can be the team leader for the next decade. Next up for the Browns is a road trip to the Pittsburgh Steelers – a key game for Cleveland if they want to stay in contention in the AFC North.
26. New York Jets (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 24)
Sam Darnold played probably his worst game in his rookie season (albeit against the one of the NFL’s top defenses) as he threw 3 interceptions and also lost a fumble, en route to the Jets losing 37-17 to the Vikings. Darnold threw for only 206 yards, but in all honesty, this Jets team seems to go as their running game goes – this week, they couldn’t get moving and the whole team subsequently struggled. Next up for the Jets is a tough looking road trip to the Chicago Bears.
27. Indianapolis Colts (2-5) (last week’s ranking: 29)
Indianapolis blew out Buffalo 37-5 off the back of an efficient, 4 touchdown, day by Andrew Luck (he now has 20 for the season) and a running game that racked up more than 200 yards on the ground. The Colts defense got in on the act giving up less than 300 total yards and picking off Bills QB Derek Anderson 3 times. Next up for the Colts is a road game against the Oakland Raiders – a match-up in which the Colts will be hopeful of getting another W.
28. San Francisco 49ers (1-6) (last week’s ranking: 27)
After nearly beating the Packers last week, the 49ers came back down to earth with a crushing 39-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. This time around,. C.J. Beathard threw 2 interceptions and was sacked 7 times as the San Francisco offense couldn’t cope with the Rams marauding pass rush. Unfortunately, the 49ers lost safety Adrian Colbert with a serious looking leg injury – no further update was available at the time of writing. Next up for San Francisco is a road trip to the Arizona Cardinals.
29. New York Giants (1-6) (last week’s ranking: 28)
Eli Manning threw for 399 yards but was harassed all night by the Falcons pass rush and couldn’t convert crucial red-zone opportunities as the Giants lost to the Falcons 23-20 on Monday night. It looks more and more like time is running out for Eli in New York. For the Giants, OBJ had 143 yards receiving and Sterling Shepherd had 167 but New York’s inability to fully utilise star rookie Saquon Barkley continues to haunt them. Quite where this team is going is anybody’s guess but wherever it is, CB Eli Apple won’t be going with them – the Giants traded him to the Saints this week. Next up for the Giants is a home game against the Washington Redskins.
30. Buffalo Bills (2-5) (last week’s ranking: 30)
Buffalo plummeted to new depths this week, losing 37-5 to a Colts team that entered this game just one place above them in these rankings. Injured rookie QB Josh Allen didn’t play (elbow) and was replaced by 14-year veteran Derek Anderson, who threw 3 interceptions. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Allen is likely to miss another game or two. RB LeSean McCoy was also knocked out of the game with an apparent concussion. Having been poor on offense all season, the Bills defense also seemed to take the week off – giving up 4 touchdown passes to Andrew Luck and a 100-yard rushing day to Marlon Mack. It doesn’t get any easier for Buffalo whose next game is a Monday night match-up against the New England Patriots.
31. Oakland Raiders (1-5) (last week’s ranking: 32)
It was their bye week, but it didn’t stop the Raiders doing business as they traded wideout Amari Cooper to the Cowboys. The first-round pick that Oakland picked up in the trade now gives them three first round picks in 2019 (as well as two in 2020). On the playing side, it was probably a good time for the Raiders to have their bye this past week as they look for improvement across the whole ball club but especially their offense which needs extra work. Oakland is not helped by the groin injury to RB Marshawn Lynch - who was placed on IR this week. In the meantime, the Raiders appear to be in a battle with the Cardinals for the 2019 no.1 draft pick. Up next is a home game against the Indianapolis Colts.
32, Arizona Cardinals (1-6) (last week’s ranking: 31)
The biggest news out of Arizona may be the reported trade request from CB Patrick Peterson – although the Cardinals were immediately adamant that he wasn’t available. We shall see. On the field, the Cardinals were soundly beaten the Broncos in a hapless primetime performance – with their offense struggling badly, that they finally gave up on Offensive Co-Ordinator Mike McCoy and fired him the day after the game. McCoy has been replaced by QB Coach Byron Leftwich. Rookie QB Josh Rosen is having a torrid time (3 interceptions, 6 sacks this past week) and they can’t get their running game going despite having a star in David Johnson. How bad is the Cardinals offense? They currently rank dead last in the league generating just 220.7 yards per game. The defense continues to play hard – giving up just 309 yards this past week but based on the team’s overall performance, the Cardinals drop back to the bottom of the pile. Next up for Arizona is a home game against the 49ers.
Find Peter on twitter here: @The_IT_Hedgehog