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NFL Power Rankings: Week 9
0:58 | NFL
NFL Power Rankings: Week 9
Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

There is a team ranked in the 20s this week (the Giants) currently holding a wild-card spot in the NFC, and another several spots below them (the Rams) just a game back of playoff positioning. That’s how topsy-turvy the first half of the season has been.

A razor-thin margin exists between a top-10 Power Rankings spot and a tumble into the bottom half, because separating the good teams from the bad remains a chore. Maybe everyone, save for the Patriots and Cowboys, is just average. 

But the format here requires a team per spot, 1 through 32. So, here’s how it breaks down near the season’s halfway point.

Midseason Report: The biggest questions facing all 32 teams in the second half

 
 
  • 32
    32Jacksonville Jaguars
     
    last week: 28
    record: 2–5
    The Jaguars fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson following their Week 8 loss because, frankly, someone had to go. Their effort in a 36–22 loss to Tennessee was the worst thing on Thursday night TV since NBC tucked Inside Schwartz behind Friends.​

  • 31
    31San Francisco 49ers
     
    last week: 32
    record: 1–6
    The final nine weeks will be a voyage of discovery for the 49ers. No one expected any miracles in Year One under Chip Kelly, but the grace period won’t extend much beyond Year Two. Kelly will be treating the final two months of the season as an extended training camp, in an effort to figure out which players are worth keeping around next season.    ​

  • 30
    30Cleveland Browns
     
    last week: 31
    record: 0–8
    The draft is an inexact science, and convincing free agents to join a long-suffering franchise can be a tough sell if the money is equal. So, rebuilding a franchise from the ground up requires a swing for the fences from time to time. If Jamie Collins walks after the 2016 season ends, so be it. If he signs long-term and plays to his abilities, the Browns have a centerpiece for their defense.​
     

  • 29
    29Chicago Bears
     
    last week: 30
    record: 2–6
    Leave it to Jay Cutler to turn in a Monday night gem mere hours before the NFL trade deadline. Not that any team was thinking about pulling the trigger for him, but he has a way of showcasing his talent just when you’ve given up on him. Chicago’s upcoming off-season decision on Cutler’s future is a more difficult one than it may seem. If he hits the market, he’ll command at least Osweiler money.​

  • 28
    28Baltimore Ravens
     
    last week: 29
    record: 3–4
    Starting with this Sunday’s showdown against Pittsburgh, the Ravens will host all three of their division rivals over a 21-day span (with a trip to Dallas mixed in). By the time the calendar flips again, the course of their season will be set in stone.​

  • 27
    Los Angeles Rams
     
    last week: 27
    record: 3–4
    Rob Lowe, the actor of recent Parks and Rec fame and the guy who broke Peyton Manning’s retirement four years before it happened, warned the Rams last week that “bad performances” won’t fly in Los Angeles. Oh really, Rob? Then explain to me how Baywatch stayed on the air for a decade. Wait, never mind. Now I remember.​
     

  • 26
    26Indianapolis Colts
     
    last week: 23
    record: 3–5
    Andrew Luck will turn 28 before the start of next season. That’s not ancient for a QB, by any means—there are 16 current starters age 29 or older, and Tom Brady’s still out here sucking defenders’ souls out of their bodies at 39. However, Luck doesn’t have an unlimited window for success, either. Barring an unexpected turnaround, Year Five is going to go down as a near total waste.​

  • 25
    25New York Jets
     
    last week: 26
    record: 3–5
    Given that the Jets required an “explicit” Todd Bowles pep talk to rally from a double-digit deficit against the Browns, can we go ahead and mic up Bowles for, say, the Patriots game on Nov. 27? If he had to drop a flurry of F-bombs to push his team past Cleveland, he’s going to need to unleash hellfire of the damned to pick up any wins against legitimate contenders.​

  • 24
    24Tampa Bay Buccaneers
     
    last week: 18
    record: 3–4
    Robert Aguayo was dubbed “Mr. Perfect” during his brilliant Florida State career, so the Bucs are going to have to revisit using player nicknames as their main draft criteria. Aguayo missed his second extra point of the season Sunday, and his 58.3% field-goal percentage is worst among all kickers with more than two attempts in 2016.​
     

  • 23
    23Arizona Cardinals
     
    last week: 15
    record: 3-4-1
    The way the Cardinals play in East Coast games, you’d think they had been dropped on the moon. It’s still the same game, guys. You’re still in America. Whatever the issue, Bruce Arians had better figure it out in a hurry—the Cardinals still travel to Atlanta and Miami this season, with a Central Time Zone road trip to Minnesota to boot.​

  • 22
    22New York Giants
     
    last week: 20
    record: 4–3
    The Giants’ rushing stats read like someone forgot to input a couple of games. Shane Vereen leads the team with 147 yards on the season—Chicago’s Jordan Howard (153) topped that total Monday night, by himself. They don’t need a 50-50 run-pass split to be successful, but their run game so far has shown all the explosiveness of Michael Myers walking down the street in Halloween.​

  • 21
    21Carolina Panthers
     
    last week: 25
    record: 2–5
    The Panthers sacked Carson Palmer eight times Sunday and led by as much as 23 before cruising home for a win. Does that say more about what Carolina can do in the second half or how much that defense is in Palmer’s head? Maybe a little bit of both.​

  • 20
    20Miami Dolphins
     
    last week: 19
    record: 3–4
    The combined win percentage of the Dolphins’ remaining opponents is .442. Take out Weeks 16 and 17, though, which include a trip to Buffalo and a home game with New England, and that number drops to .356. None of that will mean much if the Dolphins keep ebbing and flowing the way they have for the past, ohhhh, eight years. But the opportunity is there.

  • 19
    19Cincinnati Bengals
     
    last week: 17
    record: 3-4-1
    Cincinnati has not beaten anyone aside from Cleveland since September. If that doesn’t tell you how badly the Bengals needed a W from their London trip, not sure anything will. There just is not any wiggle room left if they want to extend their playoff streak to six seasons.​

  • 18
    18Washington Redskins
     
    last week: 16
    record: 4-3-1
    The Redskins hung 546 yards on Cincinnati, the second-most for a game they failed to win in team history—the 1983 team lost a 48–47 game to Green Bay, despite 552 yards. They would have won Sunday, of course, were it not for Dustin Hopkins’s shanked chip shot in overtime. How critical will that result be down the road in a crowded NFC wild-card race?​
     

  • 17
    17Detroit Lions
     
    last week: 12
    record: 4–4
    Every time it appears that Jim Caldwell has found a little solid footing, he does something to shake the foundation. This time around, he opted against challenging what appeared to be a Houston fumble Sunday, then called for an onside kick with three minutes and all three timeouts left, down by seven. Detroit is right where it belongs, at 4–4.​

  • 16
    16Tennessee Titans
     
    last week: 24
    record: 4–4
    Matt Cassel completed a 10-yard pass on Tennessee’s final possession Thursday—a play I can only assume is listed in the playbook as “Victory Cigar.” This is a flawed team with a difficult second-half schedule. It also might be the most dangerous playoff representative the AFC South can offer because of the Derrick Henry/DeMarco Murray tandem in the backfield.​

  • 15
    15Buffalo Bills
     
    last week: 9
    record: 4–4
    When asked following Sunday’s loss to New England if his 4–4 team still could win the AFC East, Rex Ryan said, “I think it’s unrealistic ...” and “I don’t see that happening.” Which is like yelling at a kid that there’s no Santa Claus. O.K., sure, it’s true, but you don’t say that out loud.​
     


  • 14
    14New Orleans Saints
     
    last week: 22
    record: 3–4
    We’ve already steamrolled past the “Matthew Stafford for MVP” exit, and the “Derek Carr for MVP” off-ramp is approaching in a hurry, so may as well throw Drew Brees’s name out there, too. He provided two TDs in Sunday’s upset of Seattle, and he’s also leading the league with 337.9 yards passing per game. With the Saints suddenly relevant in the NFC South race, let’s put a pin in this one.​

  • 13
    13Houston Texans
     
    last week: 21
    record: 5–3
    The fact that the Texans cannot be beaten at home right now bodes extremely well for a team hosting the Super Bowl. The fact that the Texans have yet to win on the road throws up a huge roadblock en route to that goal. The NFL’s first season of 8–0 at home, 0–8 on the road might be enough for an AFC South title, but it’ll mean at least one away playoff game.​

  • 12
    12San Diego Chargers
     
    last week: 10
    record: 3–5
    If it feels like the Power Rankings have been too kind to San Diego, a team that’s all but buried within the AFC West and 3–5 overall, perhaps this is an explanation why: In a season too often dragged down by lifeless play, the Chargers have been thoroughly entertaining each week. Essentially, the same reason monkeys riding dogs never slips far in the Halftime Show Power Rankings.​

  • 11
    11Pittsburgh Steelers
     
    last week: 14
    record: 4–3
    Ben Roethlisberger has resumed practicing, which is enough for Pittsburgh to reaffirm its spot as the AFC North’s top dog. A win over the Ravens in Baltimore this week (with or without Big Ben), and the Steelers can start to think about putting the division on ice early.​
     

  • 10
    10Minnesota Vikings
     
    last week: 3
    record: 5–2
    Think of the pocket where Sam Bradford resides as the VIP area of the Vikings’ offense. That would make Jake Long and T.J. Clemmings the velvet ropes meant to keep defenders out. They serve a purpose and might work for awhile, but there’s no bouncer to be seen so if someone really wants to get in he’s going to do so.​

  • 9
    9Philadelphia Eagles
     
    last week: 14
    record: 4–3
    If the Eagles fail to win the division (and especially if they fail to make the playoffs), Carson Wentz’s fourth-quarter pass to Darren Sproles for a six-yard loss Sunday will be one of the plays that haunts them. Anything other than a negative play or turnover there, and the Eagles attempt a field goal for a commanding 10-point lead on Dallas.​

  • 8
    8Green Bay Packers
     
    last week: 11
    record: 4–3
    Yes, the Packers lost for the second time in three weeks—they’re now 1–3 against teams above .500. They also scored 32 points with Aaron Rodgers targeting guys like Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, Jeff Janis and Reilly Wagner. I made that last one up, but it sounds like it fits, and that’s the point.​
     

  • 7
    7Seattle Seahawks
     
    last week: 5
    record: 4-2-1
    As of Wednesday’s Power Rankings release, it has been exactly one month since Russell Wilson either ran or threw for a touchdown. The Seahawks are 1-1-1 in that stretch—or, as it’s known in this year’s NFC West, “a decent little run.” Sooner or later, Wilson will have to heat up if Seattle is to make any noise outside its own division.​

  • 6
    6Atlanta Falcons
     
    last week: 13
    record: 5–3
    I admit, a seven-spot jump in the rankings is extreme for the Falcons, considering their defensive game plan, so far as I can tell, consists of Dan Quinn trying to cause incompletions via telepathy. But Atlanta’s also a first-place team with wins over Oakland, Denver and now Green Bay. No matter how those victories happened, they should count for something.​

  • 5
    5Oakland Raiders
     
    last week: 7
    record: 6–2
    He tends to get lost a little bit in all the Derek Carr–Amari Cooper hoopla, but Michael Crabtree and his career revival since his 2013 Achilles tear grows more impressive by the week. Has anyone even noticed that he’s tied for the league lead in touchdown receptions? The 29-year-old WR will join the 500-catch club soon, too—he’s 21 receptions short.​
     

  • 4
    4Kansas City Chiefs
     
    last week: 6
    record: 5–2
    “Nick Foles to the rescue” probably is not an event Chiefs fans figured they’d witness this season. (It’s also the proposed title of an HGTV show that I would definitely watch.) But Foles stepped in with 223 yards and two TDs Sunday to help Kansas City roll past Indianapolis. If the Chiefs’ 29-point Week 4 loss in Pittsburgh turned you off of them as a contender, it’s time to pay attention again.​

  • 3
    3Denver Broncos
     
    last week: 4
    record: 6–2
    The Broncos have not yet played the Raiders—they’ll do so for the first time Sunday night. They have not yet seen the surging Chiefs. They play five of their final eight on the road, with New England, Oakland and Kansas City making up their remaining home schedule. If Denver’s 6–2 start was at all a smoke-and-mirrors act covering up an inconsistent offense, we’ll find out soon.​

  • 2
    2Dallas Cowboys
     
    last week: 2
    record: 6–1
    It took overtime to get there Sunday, but with their win over Philadelphia the Cowboys now have posted 400-plus yards of offense in five consecutive games. You know how many previous times they’ve had a streak of that length in their storied history? Zero. The 2014 and 1976 teams hit the 400-yard mark in four straight outings, but this year’s Cowboys have reached new heights.​

  • 1
    1New England Patriots
     
    last week: 1
    record: 7–1
    Judging any Bill Belichick trade is like playing chess against a grandmaster. It seems strange that he just sacrificed a rook, but he’s sitting there smirking at you because he’s already thinking 10 moves down the line. That said, the Patriots’ 2016 roster is undoubtedly worse after trading away Jamie Collins. Maybe it becomes addition by subtraction on defense, but even a lethargic Collins has talent not many defenders in the league can offer. That Belichick has a long-term plan and that the prohibitive Super Bowl favorites downgraded a bit are not mutually exclusive ideas. This season has been strange, man.

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