Down
enlarge
SI's NFL Power Rankings: Week 9
2:16 | NFL
SI's NFL Power Rankings: Week 9
Wednesday November 4th, 2015

A twist on this week's Power Rankings in honor of the NFL hitting its regular-season midpoint. The actual rankings themselves are the same as ever, based on how teams are currently performing, but we're adding in a midseason grading scale.

How that works, rather unscientifically: Each team's first-half performance was measured against its expectations for the season. The resulting grade reflects how each team has played on a scale of how we thought they would do in 2015. So, you'll notice that the grades fluctuate on the way down the list—merely being top five does not guarantee an A; sitting near the bottom does not bring an automatic F (though it doesn't help).

Hope that helps. Here we go:

NFL Week 9 Power Rankings
 
  • 1
    1New England Patriots
     
    last week: 1
    record: 7–0
    What else can they be expected to do, really? Tom Brady is steamrolling toward the MVP award, leading the NFL's most potent scoring offense. Dion Lewis has emerged as a potential superstar at running back, even as the Patriots try to settle their offensive line. And the versatile defense is thriving, thanks in no small part to Malcolm Butler's turn from Super Bowl hero into every-down cornerback. They've barely broken a sweat en route to 7–0.
     

    MIDSEASON GRADE: A

    • FARRAR: SI's 2015 NFL Midseason All-Overrated Team


  • 2
    2Cincinnati Bengals
     
    last week: 3
    record: 7–0
    This already stands as the greatest start in franchise history (7–0) and another five wins would match the best Bengals regular-season ever. The defense has been steady as usual, but it's the Andy Dalton-led offense that has been the bigger story. Tyler Eifert's emergence plus Dalton's willingness to look at someone other than A.J. Green has paid huge dividends. The one negative: The Bengals have had to storm back late in three games after falling behind. But they've done it.
     

    GRADE: A-minus


  • 3
    3Denver Broncos
     
    last week: 5
    record: 7–0
    Almost need separate grades for the pre- and post-bye week Broncos. The former featured a potentially all-time great defense and an offense that couldn't establish much consistency, on the ground or through the air. The latter pasted the Packers, as that defense somehow reached even greater heights and the offense—specifically, the run game—awoke.
     

    GRADE: B-plus


  • 4
    4Carolina Panthers
     
    last week: 4
    record: 7–0
    There was a time not all that long ago when Ron Rivera was on the hot seat, which should tell us all we need to know about the NFL's impatient nature. Now, the staff continues to do an incredible job, most noticeably in turning discarded players like Kurt Coleman and Ted Ginn into key contributors. Cam may be an MVP contender, but there's no question Rivera is in the Coach of the Year hunt.
     

    GRADE: A

    • The Bud Bowl: The idea that forever changed Super Bowl commercials


  • 5
    5Green Bay Packers
     
    last week: 2
    record: 6–1
    It was stunning, really, to see Aaron Rodgers struggle the way that he did in Denver. His receivers' inability to get open is a problem that's not going away without more creative play calling. The defense has allowed 1,048 yards over its past two games, too, so there are causes for concern. And yet, the Packers are one of the clear NFC favorites to make a Super Bowl run.
     

    GRADE: B-plus


  • 6
    6Minnesota Vikings
     
    last week: 6
    record: 5–2
    Count the Vikings as a legitimate playoff contender, and possibly as a true NFC North threat—they're just a game back of the Packers, whom they have yet to play. This is an old-school team, to some extent, with Adrian Peterson punishing opponents on the ground and a young defense coming of age in a hurry. The passing game, from the blocking to QB Teddy Bridgewater, must progress.
     

    GRADE: A-minus


  • 7
    7St. Louis Rams
     
    last week: 10
    record: 4–3
    General preseason consensus dropped the Rams in third in the NFC West, behind an Arizona-Seattle dogfight. Todd Gurley's arrival has flipped the script, and the Rams are thinking playoffs because of it. Their story, though, is similar to that of the team above them: great running back, imposing defense and a crap shoot when they throw the ball.
     

    GRADE: A-minus

    • BEDARD: Gurley on his way to becoming one of NFL's elite RBs


  • 8
    8Arizona Cardinals
     
    last week: 8
    record: 6–2
    Their team's placement behind St. Louis here makes Cardinals fans Most Likely to Be Mad at This Week's Power Rankings. They could have a point. Arizona ranks top 10 on offense and defense, and hit the halfway point at 6–2. But the Cardinals also have looked vulnerable four of the past five weeks; they've coughed the ball up 11 times in that stretch.
     

    GRADE: B


  • 9
    9Seattle Seahawks
     
    last week: 11
    record: 4–4
    The reasoning for keeping Seattle this high is akin, I assume, to the college football playoff committee's love for Alabama—the record isn't ideal, but it's tough to declare that the teams ranked below are better. For the Seahawks to justify this spot and make a playoff push, they have to start blocking. The offense has yet to hit 400 total yards in a game, hence a 4–4 start that easily could be 2–6.
     

    GRADE: C


  • 10
    10Oakland Raiders
     
    last week: 15
    record: 4–3
    Even if the Raiders tumble to a finish of, say, 6–10, it will be impossible to ignore the progress they have shown. For starters, the Derek Carr-to-Amari Cooper connection could be an NFL standard for years to come. That duo has been the headliner so far for the league's biggest surprise.
     

    GRADE: A

    • FANTASY FOOTBALL: Complete player rankings for Week 9


  • 11
    11New York Jets
     
    last week: 7
    record: 4–3
    Did the Jets realize their game vs. Oakland counted? They had a solid season grade going, then forgot to fill out the last page of their test. That outing delivered a hit to New York's record, as well as to its defensive stats. There is still a lot to like here, beginning with the defensive front and a bevy of offensive playmakers. Consistency is the key now.
     

    GRADE: B


  • 12
    12Atlanta Falcons
     
    last week: 9
    record: 6–2
    That sound you may be hearing is a chorus of "I told you so" from the skeptics who did not buy in to Atlanta's 5–0 start. Since then, the Falcons have lost to the Saints and Buccaneers and barely avoided a Tennessee upset. A word of advice: Don't ignore the positives. Devonta Freeman (and maybe Tevin Coleman) give the offense a balance it's been lacking.
     

    GRADE: B-plus


  • 13
    13New Orleans Saints
     
    last week: 18
    record: 4–4
    They took the scenic route in Weeks 1–8, but this is about where most people had New Orleans pegged—a middle-of-the-road team with a chance to push for the playoffs. A resurgent Drew Brees has the offense looking like the Saints of old. Unfortunately, the defense too often still resembles its troublesome recent self.
     

    GRADE: C


  • 14
    14Pittsburgh Steelers
     
    last week: 12
    record: 4–4
    Their 4–4 record is underwhelming, and Pittsburgh is all but buried (along with Baltimore and Cleveland) in the AFC North. On the other hand, the Steelers survived several weeks without Ben Roethlisberger and even looked solid early with Le'Veon Bell suspended. Now that Bell's done for the year because of a knee injury, Roethlisberger and an unexpectedly stout defense must lead the way.
     

    GRADE: B-minus


  • 15
    15New York Giants
     
    last week: 14
    record: 4–4
    The NFC East frontrunners just coughed up 608 yards and 52 points last Sunday, which tells us all we need to know right now about that division. How far can Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. carry this team? The noteworthy performances have been few and far between otherwise.
     

    GRADE: C-plus


  • 16
    16Washington Redskins
     
    last week: 16
    record: 3–4
    A pair of late rallies against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay have helped keep Washington in the East race. They also helped grow the Legend of Screamin' Kirk Cousins, which makes the whole first half of the season worthwhile. Washington might be slightly overachieving, but just about everything about this team—save for maybe its moxie—is average or worse.
     

    GRADE: B-minus


  • 17
    17Philadelphia Eagles
     
    last week: 17
    record: 3–4
    After the Humpty Dumpty of off-seasons, Chip Kelly is still trying to fit all the Eagles' pieces back together again. The defense is actually ahead of the offense, where Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray and Jordan Matthews all have been letdowns thus far. The effort through seven games isn't cutting it.
     

    GRADE: D


  • 18
    18Miami Dolphins
     
    last week: 13
    record: 3–4
    For fear of him ripping my throat out with his bare hands if I say otherwise, Dan Campbell has to get at least a B for his work as interim coach. A blowout loss to New England stung, but Campbell restored hope that the Dolphins could play meaningful December games this season. Unfortunately, that Week 8 setback plus the no-shows in Weeks 2 through 4 that led to Joe Philbin's dismissal greatly hinder the report card.
     

    GRADE: D


  • 19
    19Kansas City Chiefs
     
    last week: 26
    record: 3–5
    A team that expects to make the playoffs simply cannot have a five-game losing streak, as Kansas City did earlier this year. Take out a London rout of Detroit and the offense hadn't scored more than 28 points in any game. Good news: The defense is perking up now that it's had a full complement of players for a few games. The second half should be better. For now, though ... 
     

    GRADE: C-minus

    • BURKE: Benching Kaepernick a new low for tumbling 49ers


  • 20
    20Indianapolis Colts
     
    last week: 19
    record: 3–5
    The Colts canned offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after their offense struggled to find traction during yet another disappointing loss. The AFC South favorites (and still co-leaders, believe it or not) have flopped across the board, with Andrew Luck among the worst offenders.
     

    GRADE: D-minus


  • 21
    21Buffalo Bills
     
    last week: 21
    record: 3–4
    Remember when Rex Ryan first took the Bills' job? He was supposed to be a savior of sorts for the suffering franchise. Remember? They even gave him a giant pizza with icing on it, for some reason. Fast-forward to October and Ryan had players questioning his defensive scheme, while EJ Manuel filled in at quarterback. No one is challenging New England in the AFC East this year. Buffalo was supposed to be on the verge of doing so.
     

    GRADE: D


  • 22
    22Baltimore Ravens
     
    last week: 27
    record: 2–6
    Who knows where this team would be if not for kicker Justin Tucker. Probably 0–8. In an odd development for GM Ozzie Newsome, most of his off-season moves have backfired, from letting Torrey Smith walk to bringing in Marc Trestman as offensive coordinator. Losing Terrell Suggs to a season-ending injury sure didn't help, either.
     

    GRADE: F

    • FARRAR: Why Steve Smith won't go out quietly


  • 23
    23Dallas Cowboys
     
    last week: 22
    record: 2–5
    Only the NFC East's overall stench has prevented the Cowboys from throwing in the towel on 2015. Sure, they've competed hard in QB Tony Romo's absence, but the offense has proved incapable of winning without him. It's a shame, because the defense definitely is good enough to push Dallas over the top in the division. We'll grade 'em on an injury curve.
     

    GRADE: C-minus


  • 24
    24Cleveland Browns
     
    last week: 20
    record: 2–6
    Internal optimism crafted a rosier outlook than this for the 2015 season. Externally, the Browns' 2–6 isn't that far from where they were pegged. A couple of unexpected breakthroughs have helped—Gary Barnidge chief among them. Yet, the defense remains a pushover, especially against the run. That's unacceptable with Mike Pettine in charge.
     

    GRADE: D-plus


  • 25
    25Tampa Bay Buccaneers
     
    last week: 28
    record: 3–4
    The Saints are in the playoff mix after a win over the Giants moved them to 4–4. Tampa Bay could hit the same mark this Sunday when New York visits. While Jameis Winston has committed too many turnovers (something that was on his scouting report out of Florida State, too), the Bucs have to be thrilled with his rookie showing. It helps that Doug Martin has emerged as a Comeback Player of the Year candidate.
     

    GRADE: C-plus


  • 26
    26Chicago Bears
     
    last week: 24
    record: 2–5
    Will Jay Cutler be back next season? What about Matt Forte or Alshon Jeffery? The offense has shown signs of grasping Adam Gase's offense in full, so it might behoove Chicago to keep it all together. The Bears already have begun dismantling their defensive personnel, a trend that should continue into the off-season. Their 5–11 record from a year ago feels about right for 2015, as well.
     

    GRADE: C-minus


  • 27
    27Houston Texans
     
    last week: 29
    record: 3–5
    The Texans are 3–5 and tied for first place. That is a real, factual sentence. Houston cannot shake its inconsistent ways—at quarterback (at least Ryan Mallett's no longer a distraction), in the backfield or, more confusingly, on defense. The Texans have held two opponents to fewer than 10 points; they have coughed up 44 or more twice.
     

    GRADE: C-minus


  • 28
    28San Diego Chargers
     
    last week: 23
    record: 2–6
    Injuries have destroyed the 2015 Chargers, despite Philip Rivers' best efforts. They'll keep playing hard, but it's not too difficult to see this spiraling into a 10- or 11-loss season. Melvin Gordon has not had near the impact fellow rookie Todd Gurley has, due at least somewhat to his offensive line's issues. And the defense isn't helping pick up the Chargers very often.
     

    GRADE: F


  • 29
    29Jacksonville Jaguars
     
    last week: 30
    record: 2–5
    Tennessee just fired Ken Whisenhunt 1.5 years into his tenure, with a rookie quarterback—an approach emblematic of the NFL's general impatience. So, the Jaguars' (very) slow-and-steady approach swims upstream. It also may be starting to work, at least on offense, where Blake Bortles has made significant strides from 2014. Elsewhere, Gus Bradley is in the same boat as Mike Pettine: When will his influence start showing on the defense?
     

    GRADE: C-minus


  • 30
    30San Francisco 49ers
     
    last week: 25
    record: 2–6
    Take out the Week 1 win over Minnesota and this season mostly has been the abomination it shaped up to be. The 49ers even reached for the Blaine Gabbert contingency this week, benching starting QB Colin Kaepernick. The offense is dead last in the league and the defense, aside from perhaps Aaron Lynch, has done little to impress.
     

    GRADE: F


  • 31
    31Tennessee Titans
     
    last week: 31
    record: 1–6
    The Titans may never face a more important hire than their next one. They must find a head coach capable of bringing Marcus Mariota along, although it would help if that new coach also could do a better job than Ken Whisenhunt of putting his players in appropriate schemes. The first half was forgettable, up to and including Mariota's injury.
     

    GRADE: F


  • 32
    32Detroit Lions
     
    last week: 32
    record: 1–7
    Both Jim Caldwell and Matthew Stafford said this week that the Detroit media was too negative. A couple of notes there: First, don't move to Philadelphia or New York, fellas; and second, what sort of response were you expecting to a 1–7 start? The Lions are not headed toward a total tear down, per se, but Caldwell and GM Martin Mayhew are on very thin ice. At this time last year, the Lions were 6–2 and leading the NFC North. Now, they're well on their way toward the No. 1 pick.
     

    GRADE: Millen-plus (or, F)

    • BURKE: After 1–7 start, seven questions about the Lions


SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.