Four teams that entered Sunday in the top 10 of the Power Rankings fell in Week 8, opening the door for the Cardinals to crack that elite club for the first time all season. Not a bad result from a bye week.
Week 9 will give us three showdowns between top-10 teams in this week's Power Rankings: Seahawks vs. Bills, Ravens vs. Colts and Saints vs. Buccaneers. I'd like to say this will bring some level of clarity to the NFL landscape, but I get the feeling it will lean closer to chaos.
We like chaos here at the Power Rankings. We thrive on it.
Previous rank: No. 1
A Week 8 home date against the winless Jets profiled as an ideal get-right game for Patrick Mahomes' stat sheet. The contest played out as expected: Mahomes was casually dominant in a 35-9 win, throwing for 416 yards and five touchdowns without a turnover. This game will be remembered as the return of Mahomes in the role of mad bomber: He completed five passes of at least 25 yards to four different pass-catchers. Four of those completions resulted in touchdowns. The Chiefs didn't rely much on Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Le'Veon Bell because Mahomes could attack the Jets however he wished. Sometimes it's best not to overthink things when you have the best quarterback in the world.
Previous rank: No. 2
Another impressive performance by the Steelers, who rattled Lamar Jackson into four turnovers and got their mojo back on offense in a 28-24 win. The defense surrendered 265 yards on the ground to Baltimore, but it made huge plays to swing another one-score game between the two rivals. Robert Spillane set the tone with a pick-six in the first quarter, the front seven swallowed up Jackson on a fourth-and-short draw deep in Steelers territory with two minutes to play, and Minkah Fitzpatrick broke up Jackson's end-zone pass on the final play of the game to clinch the victory. Pittsburgh's a talented, well-coached team that knows how to close. That'll play every week.
Previous rank: No. 3
We watched the Bucs win pretty in Weeks 6 and 7. On Monday, it was winnin' ugly night at the Meadowlands. Tampa Bay's vaunted defense allowed Daniel Jones to march 70 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes, but Antoine Winfield Jr. batted away the two-point conversion attempt to lock down a 25-23 victory. On paper, this game looked like a blowout in the making, but the Giants' defense gave Tom Brady problems all night (where have we heard that before?) and New York likely wins this game outright if Jones doesn't throw two picks and miss an army of open receivers. It's a game Bruce Arians won't be thrilled about, but a win is a win. A huge division showdown against the Saints looms on Sunday night.
Previous rank: No. 6
A beautiful bounce-back effort from the Seahawks, who rode dominant performances from Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf and a solid showing from their shorthanded defense to a 37-27 win over the rival 49ers. "The 'Russ for MVP' train is back on the tracks," Metcalf said afterwards. Wilson is up to 26 touchdown passes this season, one shy of Tom Brady's record from 2007 for the most through seven games. Metcalf, meanwhile, is a human cheat code, using his combination of power, size and speed to make defenders look silly. Metcalf had two touchdowns and finished with 12 catches for 161 yards on 15 targets, all career highs. If the "Let Russ Cook" campaign ends with an MVP award for the QB, he'll have won it knowing Metcalf's arrival allowed him to unlock the next level of his game.
Previous rank: No. 4
The Ravens are not having a good week. On Sunday, they blew a 10-point lead at home in a loss to the rival Steelers, while Lamar Jackson threw a pick-six and accounted for four turnovers in another lackluster performance. Standout left tackle Ronnie Stanley suffered a serious lower-leg injury in that game that ended his season. Hollywood Brown got Mad Online. On Monday, All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey announced he tested positive for the coronavirus, one day after he played every defensive snap against the Steelers. The Humphrey situation warrants team-wide monitoring, for obvious reasons. The Ravens remain in good position for a playoff return, but the road is far rockier than a year ago.
Previous rank: No. 10
Alvin Kamara continues to carry the Saints on offense. The do-it-all running back had 163 scrimmage yards in Sunday's overtime win over the Bears, his third game with 150-plus scrimmage yards this season. Kamara's abilities as a pass-catcher are especially vital for a shorthanded offense that was without Michael Thomas, Marquez Callaway and Emmanuel Sanders. Playing in his first game outdoors this season, Drew Brees struggled to complete downfield throws with his cast of replacement receivers. Brees' arm strength has been a subject of obsession in the first half of this season -- questions will persist after Sunday's performance in Chicago. Brees and the offense will have a huge test Sunday night against the stacked Buccaneers.
Previous rank: No. 5
The Packers were bounced out of the playoffs last season because their defense wasn't competitive against the 49ers in the NFC title game. How confident should we be that Mike Pettine's unit is any less susceptible midway through 2020? Dalvin Cook scored touchdowns on each of the Vikings' first four possessions on Sunday at Lambeau, a display of running back dominance that summoned unkind memories of Raheem Mostert's destruction of Green Bay last January. Angry Packers fans were calling for Pettine's head on Twitter during the 28-22 loss, but don't forget that GM Brian Gutekunst selected a backup quarterback with his first pick in this year's draft and took just one defensive player in the first six rounds (fifth-round linebacker Kamal Martin). The Packers are tripping over the problem they swept under the rug.
Previous rank: No. 8
The Bills beat the Patriots at home for the first time in nine years, as sure a sign as any that the power balance in the AFC East has finally shifted after two decades of New England dominance. Defensive tackle Justin Zimmer played the hero, forcing a Cam Newton fumble deep in Buffalo territory in the final minute to save the day. Josh Allen and the passing game struggled to get going in blustery conditions, but Devin Singletary and Zack Moss combined for 167 yards on 28 carries, with two Moss scores. That's back-to-back season-high rushing performances for the Bills, who entered Sunday 29th in the league in rushing. If Allen can't get back on track next week against the lowly Seahawks defense, we'll know something is wrong.
Previous rank: No. 14
Welcome back, Darius Leonard. The Lions were driving with a chance to take the lead late in the third quarter on Sunday when Leonard, who'd been out since Week 4 with a groin injury, got to Matthew Stafford for a strip-sack that changed the game. Philip Rivers and the Colts' offense leveraged that turnover into a quick touchdown, and Kenny Moore put the game to bed with a pick-six on the ensuing Lions possession. From 20-14 to 35-14 in less than four minutes of game time. Rivers delivered another efficient performance, and the Indy pass rush came to life with five sacks and seven hits on Stafford. The win, coupled with a second consecutive Titans loss, moves the Colts into a first-place tie in the AFC South, with two games against Tennessee on tap in the next four weeks. Buckle up.
Previous rank: No. 11
The rapid franchise turnaround has been impressive. Two years ago, the Cardinals were 3-13 with a struggling rookie first-round pick in Josh Rosen and an overmatched head coach in Steve Wilks. It wasn't working, but it took guts for the Cards to pivot as quickly as they did. Wilks was one-and-done, replaced by Kliff Kingsbury. Rosen was shipped out of town to make way for 2019 No. 1 pick Kyler Murray. General manager Steve Keim pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade for All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins and assembled an offensive line that's been one of the league's best. From the worst record in the league to an NFC contender in two seasons. Other downtrodden teams would do well to study the Cardinals' blueprint.
Previous rank: No. 7
The Titans started 5-0 because their offense was able to cover up the blemishes on the other side of the ball. On Sunday, we saw what happens when the Tennessee attack isn't its efficient self. Mike Vrabel's defense was a mess against Cincinnati, unable to get to Joe Burrow and incapable of getting off the field on third and fourth down, a common thread this season. The Bengals played without four of their five starting offensive linemen, but the Titans managed just two QB hits and zero sacks. They'll need offseason acquisitions Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney to make a play at some point (zero combined sacks), and the secondary must improve. Reinforcements arrived Monday in the form of cornerback Desmond King, acquired from the Chargers in exchange for a late-round pick.
(UPDATE: The Titans announced Tuesday that they've informed Beasley he'll be released on Wednesday.)
Previous rank: No. 9
I find it hard to believe Sean McVay went to sleep on Sunday night. There are frustrating losses, and then there are the games that can drive you close to insanity. I put the Rams' 28-17 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday in the second category. Los Angeles outgained Miami 471-145 in total yards, yet found themselves getting blown out in the second quarter due to turnovers and special teams meltdowns. The Dolphins' minus-326 total yards difference in the game was the third-lowest by a winning team since 2000. The Rams gained 23 more first downs than the Dolphins (31-8). And yet, the Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa coasted to their third straight victory. Sometimes, football doesn't make sense.
Previous rank: No. 15
The Raiders were tougher than the Browns on Sunday. Jon Gruden's team ran the ball with authority and hit hard on defense in a 16-6 win in wind-swept and rain-soaked Cleveland. Josh Jacobs led the way, rushing for 128 yards on 31 carries, the most totes for a Raiders running back since 2007. The play of the game was delivered by slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, who laid a clean and punishing end-zone hit on Jarvis Landry to save a touchdown in the final minutes. Finally, Derek Carr's pedestrian final numbers would look better if the review had come back differently on a shoulda-been touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs III.
Previous rank: No. 12
The Browns reach the season's midpoint on pace for their first winning campaign since 2007, but this team is far too inconsistent to be viewed as a serious AFC contender right now. Cleveland struggled to get anything going in miserable weather conditions on Sunday, managing just two field goals and 223 yards of offense in a 16-6 loss to the Raiders. The Browns dropped five Baker Mayfield passes (rain, sleet and wind played a role here), and Myles Garrett was hampered by an ankle issue that kept him off the field in non-passing situations. The bye comes at a good juncture: Garrett, Mayfield, and Jarvis Landry are all battling injuries, while Austin Hooper and Nick Chubb continue to miss time.
Previous rank: No. 16
The Bears nearly did it again on Sunday, rallying back from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime against the Saints. But the offense stalled in its one possession in the extra period, and the defense couldn't make a final stand in a 26-23 loss. Nick Foles delivered another uninspired performance, prompting FOX announcer Troy Aikman at one point to utter the line, "This is where the Bears miss Mitch Trubisky." Hard to say that's true, but it's become increasingly clear that the Foles playing in Chicago isn't the same guy who torched Bill Belichick in Super Bowl LII. Could the younger, more athletic Trubisky ultimately be the better option for the 5-3 Bears? It reminds us of the ancient football adage: If you have two quarterbacks, you really have none.
Previous rank: No. 20
The starting debut of Tua Tagovailoa was supposed to be the story of the day for the Dolphins on Sunday, but the first-round pick ended up taking a backseat to a defense and special teams that buried the Rams with impact plays. The Miami D forced four Jared Goff turnovers in the first half, and the Dolphins scored on defense and special teams, coasting to a 28-17 win despite being outgained in total yardage to a laughable degree (471-145). Setting aside the high yardage total, Goff and the Rams' offense struggled to handle a pass rush that consistently brought pressure. The Dolphins will put their three-game winning streak on the line this Sunday in Arizona. Measuring Stick Game.
Previous rank: No. 13
A devastating Sunday for the manic 49ers, who were blown out by the rival Seahawks and lost both Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle to injuries. Garoppolo suffered a high ankle sprain and Kittle has a small fracture in his foot -- both stars are expected to miss multiple weeks. A hobbled Garoppolo was off his game before exiting on Sunday, unable to move the ball consistently against an undermanned Seattle defense that entered action allowing close to 500 yards per game. A short week is a worst-case scenario for San Francisco, which will not be close to full strength for a difficult Thursday Night Football matchup against the Packers.
Previous rank: No. 23
Through three quarters on Sunday, the Broncos' offense had managed 10 points on 156 yards of total offense. The Chargers' lead ballooned to three touchdowns, and fans at Empower Field booed Drew Lock and Co. off the field. But everything changed in the final 15 minutes, as the Broncos reeled off 21 points and nearly 200 yards of offense in a stunning 31-30 victory. Lock went 14-of-18 passing for 155 yards with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, punctuated by a 14-play, 81-yard drive in the final minutes to steal one from the Bolts. It was the type of performance that can win over an entire fanbase -- let's see if Lock can build off this effort this Sunday in Atlanta.
Previous rank: No. 17
You can change the city, switch the uniforms and overhaul the roster, but one indisputable truth shall remain: Chargers gonna Charger. On Sunday, the Bolts blew a 24-3 second-half lead in an excruciating 31-30 last-second loss to the Broncos. Afterward, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn dismissed the notion of making significant roster changes in an effort to start closing out games his team should win. "This is what we have, and we got to figure this s--- out right now." Lynn revealed himself to be an enormously likable personality and genuine leader of men during his star turn on Hard Knocks this summer, but Los Angeles is 3-14 (.176) in games decided by eight or fewer points since last season. The Chargers' inability to close is a reflection of their coaching.
Previous rank: No. 26
Dalvin Cook was an absolute monster on Sunday at Lambeau Field, accounting for 226 yards of offense and all four of the Vikings' touchdowns in a 28-22 upset win over the Packers. Cook put on a clinic, gaining 111 of his 163 rushing yards after contact. It allowed the Vikings to effectively hide Kirk Cousins, who entered Sunday on pace to potentially join Jameis Winston in the 30/30 Club for touchdowns and interceptions. Cousins' longest pass of the game covered 8 air yards. With Cousins effectively muzzled, Mike Zimmer's defense closed the game out with a crushing hit on Aaron Rodgers on the game's final play that resulted in a fumble recovery. A win that brought some good spirit to a locker room in need.
Previous rank: No. 22
In this passage, we will focus on Sunday night's win over the Cowboys, and then never speak of that hideous game ever again. Deal? OK, so the Eagles are very lucky to be in first place after a comically uneven performance against their division rival. Facing a historically inept Dallas defense, Carson Wentz had three turnovers in a grisly first half. Patrick Daugherty of Rotoworld put it beautifully a few weeks back when he wrote that Wentz has become an "even more demented" version of Ryan Fitzpatrick. This can make Wentz an intriguing watch on Sundays, but it's not pretty, and it's occasionally quite grim. He needs to be more consistent and make far fewer mistakes before we start to take the Eagles seriously.
Previous rank: No. 18
Sunday felt significant in the history of the AFC East. The Patriots have dominated the division in a way the league has never seen -- 11 straight division titles and 17 in 19 years -- but that all looks to be in the past now. Cam Newton's red-zone fumble in the final minute ensured an agonizing loss on Sunday against the Bills, who beat the Pats in Orchard Park for the first time in nine years. The Patriots have lost four straight, and roster deficiencies, injuries and opt-outs have made this team look mediocre in a way we haven't seen in literally decades. Would Tom Brady have been able to make the difference with this roster? It's a shame decision-makers in New England didn't have the good sense to give him the shot.
Previous rank: No. 25
For a while there during Thursday's matchup against the Panthers, it felt like we were getting to watch the mechanics of a Falcons collapse in real time. There were curious coaching decisions, red-zone failures, a missed PAT, another Todd Gurley mental catastrophe, a third-and-long breakdown, even the obligatory Arthur Blank Sideline Shot Of Doom. But give Raheem Morris' team credit: Atlanta's blitz-heavy defense kept Teddy Bridgewater uncomfortable and forced the Carolina QB into the game-deciding interception with less than a minute to play, sealing a 25-17 win. The Falcons laid all the breadcrumbs for another meltdown ... then sucked them up with a Dustbuster.
Previous rank: No. 19
The feel-good vibes of the Panthers' three-game winning streak are history, replaced by the frustration of a three-game skid. Teddy Bridgewater seemed well set up for a prime-time breakout performance, replete with a charming postgame interview with Colleen Wolfe. Instead, the quarterback looked uncomfortable in the face of a blitz-drunk Falcons defense and dealt with physical issues after an illegal hit left him with a sore neck in the second half. Bridgewater has been a nice story this season, as have Matt Rhule's Panthers as a whole, but it's time for Christian McCaffrey to return and reclaim the starring role of this offense.
Previous rank: No. 27
We wrote last week that the Bengals might need to see tangible progress in the form of wins for Zac Taylor to keep the faith of the organization beyond 2020. Well, consider Sunday a certified Keep The Faith performance. The Bengals outplayed the Titans in all phases of a 31-20 victory, moving to 2-5-1 on a day Cincy was missing four of its five starting offensive linemen from the previous week. Joe Burrow bolstered his Offensive Rookie of the Year credentials with another strong performance in difficult weather conditions. Burrow threw for 249 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, displaying promising chemistry with young wideouts Auden Tate and Tee Higgins. Burrow has been even better than advertised -- the Bengals are on their way.
Previous rank: No. 24
The season is lost, the head coach is already history and the Texans find themselves in an unenviable place -- as a team set up for neither the present nor the future. A 1-6 record typically brings a silver lining in the form of a likely top-10 draft pick to come, but Houston sent that consolation prize to the Dolphins as part of the Laremy Tunsil mega-trade in 2019. (If you dare to look, Miami is currently set up to pick fourth overall in Houston's spot.) Tunsil is a great talent who brought stability to left tackle, but the cost is steep when you combine the draft assets surrendered with Tunsil's top-of-the-market price tag.
Previous rank: No. 21
The Lions are now 0-3 at home after a 41-21 loss to the Colts that wiped away any goodwill accrued from back-to-back wins. They had a chance to put themselves into excellent playoff position entering the season's second half, but instead melted down with two turnovers that produced 15 Colts points at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth. Detroit also lost star wideout Kenny Golladay, who'll likely miss time after sustaining a hip injury. The Lions face three losing teams over the next three weeks -- if they clean up their play, they could still find themselves in the thick of the playoff race come December. But can you trust this team? That's what I thought.
UPDATE: On Wednesday the Lions placed quarterback Matthew Stafford on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Previous rank: No. 28
The Football Team hit the Week 8 bye in a nice place. A lopsided win over the hated Cowboys is always cause for celebration, and Ron Rivera ringing the bell to signal the conclusion of his cancer treatment was a thing of beauty. Entering Halloween with just two wins is usually a death sentence, but the NFC East doesn't look like it will put any team in position to play out the string. And if that's the case, why not just take the damn division? Washington has a strong defense -- ranked fifth in DVOA by Football Outsiders -- and has improved on offense with Kyle Allen and, especially, running back Antonio Gibson in the front of the mix. This is no Super Bowl contender, but why can't Washington be the NFC East team hosting a playoff game in January?
Previous rank: No. 29
We'll start with a positive: Daniel Jones deserves credit for the Giants' final scoring drive against the Bucs, a 70-yard march that put the team in position to tie the game and included a pair of fourth-down conversions and a beautiful end zone strike to Golden Tate. But ultimately, Jones was the reason New York missed out on an upset win on Monday night. The second-year quarterback was haunted by errant passes, poor field vision and bad decision-making. His two second-half interceptions galvanized a Bucs team that looked ready to sleepwalk its way to a loss. Jones had opportunity after opportunity to bury an elite opponent, but he just didn't have it in him. He'll be playing for his Giants future in the final eight weeks of the regular season.
Previous rank: No. 30
You're not gonna believe it, but Ben DiNucci did not provide the spark to save the Cowboys' season. The third-string quarterback played like ... well ... a third-string quarterback against the Eagles, completing 21-of-40 passes for 180 yards and losing two fumbles, one of which was returned for a score in a 23-9 defeat. DiNucci wasn't good, but neither was Andy Dalton before he went out with a concussion in Week 7. Just imagine being Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup -- three star-level wide receivers who suddenly find themselves trapped in the least efficient offense in football not being run by Adam Gase. If Dalton can return in Week 9, there's still hope this offense can stabilize into something resembling a competitive unit. It's good to have goals.
Previous rank: No. 31
Forget Minshewmania -- it's time for Lutonity. (OK, we'll workshop that one.) Gardner Minshew has a small break and a strained ligament in this right thumb, injuries that provide Doug Marrone cover to move away from his starter, whose numbers have been better than his actual performance this season. Sixth-round rookie Jake Luton is essentially Minshew Pt. II -- an intriguing late-round draft pick coming off a spunky college career. This is like when Dirk Diggler was replaced by Johnny Doe in Boogie Nights.
Previous rank: No. 32
"I'm doing this job to win, not to go out there and get my face stomped in, just like all the rest of these guys in the locker room." Adam Gase, folks. You know things are terrible when the opposing quarterback throws for 400 yards and five touchdowns, and you come out of the game thinking it could have gone worse. Sam Darnold, meanwhile, is sitting on three touchdown passes at the season's halfway point. Darnold has a hundred different things working against him, but he has undeniably regressed in his third season. As the Jets free-fall toward the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, it's looking more and more likely the team starts over at quarterback. Again.