The rankings seem to be solidifying – last week all of our top 6 won and 5 of our bottom 6 lost. This week was a very similar story with all of top 5 winning (with no.6 coming in losing to no.4) and 4 of our bottom 6 coming in lost (with the 2 that won beating other teams in our bottom 6).
The biggest risers this week are Seattle (up 4), Houston and Arizona (both up 3)
The big fallers this week are Baltimore (down 6)
1. Los Angeles Rams (8-0) (last week’s ranking: 1)
The Rams trailed by 10 in the second quarter but eventually got their offense moving and did just about enough on defense to hold off the Packers 29-27 and maintain their unbeaten record. Jared Goff threw for 295 yards in the victory and Todd Gurley had 114 yards rushing with 1 touchdown (receiving) – he now has 15 for the season Next up for the Rams is a tough looking trip to the New Orleans Saints.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) (last week’s ranking: 2)
Patrick Mahomes threw 4 more touchdown passes as the Chiefs beat the tougher than expected Denver Broncos 30-23. Sammy Watkins caught 2 of those touchdowns and had 107 yards receiving as Kansas City moved to 7-1 – they remain, in our view, the top team in the AFC. Next up for Kansas City is a road trip to Cleveland to play the Browns.
3. New England Patriots (6-2) (last week’s ranking: 3)
The Patriots came through a tough outing against the Bills on Monday night and moved their record to 6-2 with a 25-6 victory. It was a game of field goals until the 4th quarter and even after the Patriots first touchdown, the game was only clinched when Devin McCourty picked off Derek Anderson and returned it for an 84-yard touchdown. Tom Brady threw for 324 yards and with the win now has 29 career victories against the Bills (the most for any QB against a single team). The Patriots remain for us the only major challengers to the Chiefs in the AFC. Next up for Tom Brady and the Patriots is a Monday night match-up against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
4. New Orleans Saints (6-1) (last week’s ranking: 4)
It’s difficult to imagine Drew Brees throwing for just 120 yards in a complete game…it’s even more difficult to imagine him doing so and his Saints still winning by 10 points. But that’s exactly what happened as New Orleans defeated the Minnesota Vikings 30-20, in a rematch of the famous “Minneapolis Miracle” game. The Saints who lost their season opener have now won 6 straight and look on course to battle the still unbeaten Rams for the NFC Championship. And lo and behold, it’s the Rams they face in the Superdome this coming week. What a game we have in store.
5. Carolina Panthers (5-2) (last week’s ranking: 5)
The Panthers finally justified their high position in these rankings with a good performance against last week’s no.8 ranked team, the Baltimore Ravens, by a score of 36-21. The Ravens entered the game with the league’s no.1 defense, so for Carolina to put up 36 points was an excellent effort. The Panthers offense kept the Ravens off-balance all day on the legs of Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey, and Newton’s accurate passing. Next up for the Panthers is a home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers week 9 – an intra-divisional match-up they will expect to win.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (5-2) (last week’s ranking: 7)
The Chargers had their bye this past week. Next up for the Chargers is an interesting looking road trip to the suddenly dangerous Seattle Seahawks in week 9.
7. Minnesota Vikings (4-3-1) (last week’s ranking: 6)
Despite a 300-yard day from Kirk Cousins and another 100-yard receiving day from Adam Thielen, the Vikings fell 30-20 to the New Orleans Saints. Thielen, by the way, now has 8 straight 100-yard receiving games, equaling the NFL record held by Calvin Johnson. Two key turnovers by the Vikings offense (a Thielen fumble and a Cousins interception) were the deciding factor in a game in which the Vikings defense held Drew Brees to just 120 yards passing. Next up for the Vikings is a home game against rivals the Detroit Lions.
8. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) (last week’s ranking: 9)
In a much-needed victory, the Eagles overcame the Jaguars in London 24-18 in a tight game – with the win, Philadelphia evens up their record at 4-4. The Eagles overcame two early turnovers to keep themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt in the NFC. After their long trip, the Eagles have their bye this coming week (week 9). In week 10, they host the Cowboys in a key intra-divisional prime time Sunday night game.
9. Washington Redskins (5-2) (last week’s ranking: 10)
Adrian Peterson rushed for 149 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown, as the surprising Washington Redskins move their record to 5-2 with a 20-13 win over the New York Giants. With his effort, Peterson moved into the no.9 slot on the all-time rushing list. The Redskins defense came up strong with 7 sacks and 2 interceptions of Eli Manning and yet again held their opponent’s running game in check. Next up for the Redskins is a home game against the Atlanta Falcons.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2-1) (last week’s ranking: 12)
Coming off their bye week, the Steelers pulled away in the 2nd quarter of their game against the Browns to pull off a comfortable 33-18 win in Cleveland. Leading the way for Pittsburgh was RB James Conner who had 146 yards on the ground – making fans forget about the (still) holding out Le’Veon Bell. No news on Bell, by the way…but the Steelers offense is on a roll without him, having scored 102 points in their last 3 games. Next up for the Steelers is another key intra divisional match-up – this time on the road to the Baltimore Ravens.
11. Houston Texans (5-3) (last week’s ranking: 14)
How best to respond to an 0-3 start? Win the next 5, that’s how. The Texans are now playing like the team we expected them to be when the season started – strong play-off challengers in the AFC. Whether they are a Super Bowl contender is another question, but we shall see how the Texans progress as the season goes on. This week, the Texans overcame the Dolphins 42-23, pulling away in the second half for a relatively easy victory. QB Deshaun Watson threw 5 touchdown passes, Lamar Miller rushed for 133 yards and WR Will Fuller had 124 yards receiving against the Dolphins, including a 73 yarder for a touchdown. But Fuller sadly suffered a season injury torn ACL near the end of the game – he had been on course for a 1,000-yard receiving season. Next up for the Texans is road trip to the Denver Broncos.
12. Green Bay Packers (3-3-1) (last week’s ranking: 11)
Coming off their bye week, the Packers played the unbeaten Rams tough and could have beaten them were it not for a late fumble by Ty Montgomery. However, this is another case of woulda, coulda, shoulda for Green Bay – at some point you must play well in all facets of the game and overcome adversity to beat your play-off rivals…especially if you are to have a chance of playing in the post-season. The Packers defense played perhaps its best game of the season led by Jaire Alexander (7 tackles, 5 passes defensed), Blake Martinez (12 tackles, 1 sack) and Kenny Clark (2 sacks). If there’s any good news on the play-off front it’s that 2 of their 3 divisional rivals (Vikings, Lions) also lost this week. Next up for the Packers is a road Monday night match up against the Patriots in New England. Almost certainly the last regular season meeting of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
13. Chicago Bears (4-3) (last week’s ranking: 13)
Khalil Mack sat out this week’s game against the Jets, but it proved no problem for the Bears as their defense held the Jets to just 207 total yards – en route to an easy 24-10 victory. Mitch Trubisky had another efficient outing with 220 yards passing in a 2 touchdown, no interception performance. With a road trip to the Buffalo Bills next up for the Bears, Chicago will expect to win their second straight next week.
14. Baltimore Ravens (4-4) (last week’s ranking: 8)
The Ravens will be disappointed with their performance against the Panthers in a game which, after the first quarter, they were dominated. The 36-21 loss drops Baltimore to .500 and with the Steelers seemingly on the up, they are in a 3-way fight for the division with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Joe Flacco had probably his worst outing of the season throwing 2 interceptions and posting just a 56.8 passer rating. On the plus side, despite this defeat, Baltimore’s defense remains no.1 in the league. Next up, the Ravens host their bitter rivals; the aforementioned Pittsburgh Steelers – what a critical intra-divisional match-up that is.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) (last week’s ranking: 15)
Cincinnati remain atop of the AFC North with a hard fought 37-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Joe Mixon had 123 yards on the ground and the Cincinnati defense intercepted Jameis Winston 4 times as the Bengals moved their record to 5-3. Cincinnati has their bye this coming week (week 9). In week 10, they host the New Orleans Saints – the Bengals defense will need to be strong in order to compete with the Saints but they’ll be without DE Carl Lawson who was lost for the season this week with a torn ACL.
16. Seattle Seahawks (4-3) (last week’s ranking: 20)
Coming off their bye week, the Seahawks defeated the Lions relatively comfortably 28-14 – in doing so, they moved their record to 4-3 and into contention in the NFC play-off picture. Russell Wilson threw 3 touchdown passes and Chris Carson had 105 yards on the ground for Seattle. Next up for the Seahawks is a home game against the Chargers.
17. Detroit Lions (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 16)
Detroit played probably their worst game since the season opener against the Jets in going down to the Seahawks 28-14. The Lions running game was completely held in check by Seattle – they picked up just 34 yards rushing. Despite the loss, the Lions remain very much in contention in the NFC North…but their schedule now starts to get brutal. Next up for them is an NFC North intra-divisional match-up on the road to the Minnesota Vikings.
18. Tennessee Titans (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 17)
The Titans had their bye this past week. Next up for the Titans is a week 9 Monday night match-up against the Cowboys in Dallas – a game that you feel that Tennessee must have to remain in playoff contention.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) (last week’s ranking: 18)
The Jaguars are almost the reverse of the Houston Texans. The Jags started the season 3-1 and have now lost 3 straight to drop to 3-5...dropping a close game the Eagles this week 24-18. Whilst their season isn’t over yet, it’s clearly in extreme difficulty and two more losses in the last eight games may eliminate them. Jacksonville continues to struggle on offense, and it’s surely only a matter of time before Blake Bortles is benched again – although whether Cody Kessler is the answer is questionable. Not having Leonard Fournette (missing through injury) doesn’t help their cause. The Jaguars have their bye this coming week (week 9). In week 10, they travel to play the Colts in Indianapolis.
20. Miami Dolphins (4-4) (last week’s ranking: 19)
The Dolphins played a strong first half against the Texans this week but were unable to control Deshaun Watson – giving up 5 touchdown passes to the Houston QB – and RB Lamar Miller who had a 100-yard rushing day…eventually falling to a 42-23 defeat. Miami had some bright moments against Houston including a 134-yard receiving day from returning wideout DeVante Parker and a touchdown pass thrown by Danny Amendola but with this loss they fall to 4-4 and in danger of falling out of playoff contention. Next up for the Dolphins is a home game against the New York Jets, which is probably now considered a must-win game. Injured starting QB Ryan Tannehill may be back by next Sunday.
21. Dallas Cowboys (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 21)
The Cowboys had their bye this past week, but during the week they decided to move on without offensive line coach Paul Alexander. Alexander is replaced by Marc Colombo. Is this the first move by Jason Garrett to try and shore up his own position…he’s certainly under fire right now. Next up for the Cowboys is a home week 9 Monday night match-up against the Titans.
22. Atlanta Falcons (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 22)
The Falcons had their bye this past week. Next up for Atlanta is a road trip to the Washington Redskins.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) (last week’s ranking: 23)
Jameis Winston threw 4 interceptions and was pulled in favour of Ryan Fitzpatrick in the 3rd quarter of the Bucs loss to the Bengals. Fitzpatrick entered the game with just 17 minutes remaining and with an 18-point deficit and yet he led his team back to a 34-34 tie before the Bengals won it with a late field goal. Fitzpatrick finished the game with 194 yards passing and 2 touchdowns in little over a quarter – he’ll be starting at QB for the Bucs when they travel to the play the Carolina Panthers this week. WR Desean Jackson reportedly requested a trade from the Bucs – a request which was turned down.
24. Denver Broncos (3-5) (last week’s ranking: 24)
After falling behind by 16 against the Chiefs in the third quarter, the Broncos made the game close but fell to the AFC’s best team 30-23. Denver’s offense rushed for 189 yards but couldn’t keep Kansas City’s pass rush off QB Case Keenum who was sacked 5 times. In trade news, WR Demaryius Thomas was traded to the Texans after 9 seasons with the team. Next up for the Broncos is a tough looking home game against the Houston Texans – the Texans have won 5 straight going into this one.
25. Indianapolis Colts (3-5) (last week’s ranking: 27)
The Colts are beating up on the teams at the bottom end of these rankings. Last week they smashed the Bills 37-5, while this week they beat the Raiders 42-28. The Colts actually trailed 28-21 late in the third quarter but Andrew Luck led his team to 21 unanswered points to secure the victory. Luck had 239 yards passing and 3 touchdowns while Marlon Mack had 132 yards rushing. Luck has 23 touchdown passes already this season. During the game, Adam Vinatieri surpassed Morten Andersen to become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer. The Colts have their bye this coming week (week 9). In week 10, the Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars – a game that will feel that they can win given the state of the Jags.
26. Cleveland Browns (2-5-1) (last week’s ranking: 25)
The Browns put in an anaemic offensive performance and their defense couldn’t stop the Steelers running game, as Cleveland dropped to a disappointing 33-18 loss to Pittsburgh. The loss was Cleveland’s third straight. Baker Mayfield had just 180 passing yards in perhaps his worst performance of his rookie season…although, in fairness he has been coping with an ankle injury. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Cleveland - next up for the suddenly struggling Browns is home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. But they’ll face the Chiefs without head coach Hue Jackson and offensive co-ordinator Todd Haley – both were fired on Monday. Defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams will take on the role as interim head coach, while running backs coach Freddie Kitchens takes over from Haley.
27. New York Jets (3-5) (last week’s ranking: 26)
Talk about offensive impotence – the Jets struggled both through the air and on the ground against the Bears, as they lost 24-10 to Chicago – in a game that wasn’t even as close as the margin might suggest. Sam Darnold completed less than 50% of his passes and the Jets had just 57 rushing yards albeit against one of the league’s best defenses. Darnold is not being helped by the injuries suffered by both of his starting wide receivers. Next up for the Jets is a road game against another team seemingly headed in the wrong direction - the Miami Dolphins.
28. Buffalo Bills (2-6) (last week’s ranking: 30)
Derek Anderson again started at QB in place of the injured Josh Allen and it was the pick-6 that Anderson threw in the fourth quarter that sealed his team’s fate against the Patriots. Buffalo’s 25-6 defeat sees them fall to 2-6 but actually rise in our rankings. The Bills lost star rookie LB Tremaine Edmunds with a concussion during the second quarter – he’s in the concussion protocol - and then late in the game Anderson himself was injured (back injury)…so whether either of them will be available for Buffalo’s game next week at home to the Chicago Bears remains to be seen.
29. Arizona Cardinals (2-6) (last week’s ranking: 32)
Josh Rosen brought his team back from a 12-point deficit, including throwing the winning touchdown pass to Christian Kirk with just 34 seconds remaining, to lead his Cardinals to an 18-15 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Seemingly ageless wideout Larry Fitzgerald came up with his first 100-yard receiving game of the season. With the win, the Cardinals move off the bottom of these rankings. Next up for Arizona is their bye week. In week 10, the Cardinals travel to play the Kansas City Chiefs.
30. San Francisco 49ers (1-7) (last week’s ranking: 28)
The 49ers struggled to move the ball all day against the Cardinals and blew a 12-point lead to fall to an 18-15 defeat at the hands of a poor Arizona team. At 1-7, San Francisco are now prime contenders for the overall no.1 draft pick in 2019. Next up for San Francisco is a game that may decide who has that no.1 pick - a Thursday night home match-up with the Oakland Raiders.
31. New York Giants (1-7) (last week’s ranking: 29)
Despite throwing for 316 yards, Eli Manning is a beleaguered QB in New York – this week he was sacked 7 times and threw 2 interceptions as his Giants lost 20-13 to the Washington Redskins. With yet another loss, the Giants have now won just 4 of their last 25 games. The rumour mill is rife around Manning – not least that is starting position is not secure for the Giants’ next game. In a bit of relief, the Giants have their bye this coming week (week 9). In week 10, they travel to the 49ers for a Monday night match-up – will it be Eli Manning or Kyle Lauletta starting at Quarterback?
32. Oakland Raiders (1-6) (last week’s ranking: 31)
Coming off their bye week, the Raiders played well in the first three quarters against the Colts – leading 14-13 at the half and 28-21 late in the third quarter – but then fell apart in the last 16 minutes to lose to Indianapolis 42-28. On the plus side, Derek Carr had one of his better outings of the season with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions but Oakland’s defense was its usual porous self, giving up 461 yards. Next up for Oakland is a short road trip for a Thursday night game against the San Francisco 49ers – one of the few opportunities that they may have during the rest of the season to pick up another victory. Meanwhile, they drop to the bottom of these rankings again.
Find Peter on twitter here: @The_IT_Hedgehog