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NFL Midseason Power Rankings Poll: Buccaneers No. 1 After Week 9

Let's see how all 32 teams stack up, and look back at where we had each team heading into Week 1.
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We are nine weeks into the suddenly even-numbered NFL schedule, which means we’ve arrived at the midpoint of the season. You can expect more midseason content at The MMQB all week, starting with this week’s power rankings.

Our writers have been taking turns ranking the weekly powerfulness of each team all season, but we are breaking out the group poll for the first time since the eve of the season.

For added amusement (or, in some cases, potential kudos) we will include our preseason ranking below. That way you can see the teams we were most wrong about (Cardinals, Bengals, 49ers) and the ones we have not wavered in our opinion of in the slightest (Packers, Patriots, Lions).

This week’s MMQB Power Rankings Poll voters:

Albert Breer, Senior NFL Reporter
Mitch Goldich, Editor/Writer
Gary Gramling, Senior Editor
Conor Orr, Staff Writer
Michael Rosenberg, Senior Writer
Jenny Vrentas, Senior Writer

Blurbs by Conor Orr.


1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6–2)

Points in poll: 185
Highest-place vote: 1 (3 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 6 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 3
Last week: Bye
Next week: at Washington

The mechanical nature with which this team can score is frightening. Add in a defense that could jell and get healthier after the bye week, and we’re looking at another potentially deep run into the playoffs for Tom Brady. The NFC playoff race is going to be a heavyweight fight the likes of which we have not seen in a long time. Tampa Bay has the requisite muscle to hang.

2. Green Bay Packers (7–2)

Points in poll: 181
Highest-place vote: 2 (2 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 4 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 2
Last week: Loss at Chiefs, 13–7
Next week: vs. Seahawks

Current quarterback drama aside, the Packers are built for a championship run assuming Aaron Rodgers returns from his stint on the COVID-19 list and maintains his championship caliber play. The complaint of the Packers’ offense so far this year is that it has not looked beautiful, despite the fact that it doesn’t need to. The hallmark of their offense is efficiency, and there aren’t many more efficient offenses in the NFL right now.

3. Los Angeles Rams (7–2)

Points in poll: 180
Highest-place vote: 1 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 5 (2 votes)
Preseason rank: 4
Last week: Loss vs. Titans, 28–16
Next week: at 49ers

The Von Miller trade likely pushes the Rams over the edge. By design, this is a roster meant to win immediately and consistently. The Matt Stafford trade has been every bit the revelation we thought it could be, despite a sloppy, uncharacteristic performance on Sunday against the Titans. We’ll look at this as an outlier for sure and we’ll more than likely see this Rams team hosting a Super Bowl.

4. Arizona Cardinals (8–1)

Points in poll: 179
Highest-place vote: 1 (2 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 6 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 22
Last week: Win at 49ers, 31–17
Next week: vs. Panthers

The NFL’s most surprising and dominant team through the first half of the season just proved it could beat a quality opponent without its two most important players, including a starting quarterback on MVP pace. Kliff Kingsbury’s squad went from situationally dangerous to a legitimate Super Bowl contender in Year 3 of the experiment. Can they keep pace down the stretch?

5. Tennessee Titans (7–2)

Points in poll: 162
Highest-place vote: 4 (3 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 12 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 9
Last week: Win at Rams, 28–16
Next week: vs. Saints

Backbreaking interceptions are not a sustainable, winning game plan but the Titans are finding a way to survive without Derrick Henry in the short term. They should run away with the worst division in football, which would give them a shot at backing into the playoffs as a more complete version of their team with Henry in the backfield.

6. Baltimore Ravens (6–2)

Points in poll: 160
Highest-place vote: 5 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 8 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 7
Last week: Win vs. Vikings, 34–31 (OT)
Next week: at Dolphins

After an unfair flurry of injuries nearly derailed the franchise, Baltimore fell back on what it does best: a difficult to defend offense, an aggressive defense and excellent special teams play. Turns out, when you have Lamar Jackson, that is going to be good enough to make you 6–2 at the theoretical midway point.

7. Buffalo Bills (5–3)

Points in poll: 156
Highest-place vote: 5 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 9 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 5
Last week: Loss at Jaguars, 9–6
Next week: at Jets

Despite some head-scratching moments, the Bills remain arguably the best defense in football and a matchup nightmare offensively. While their loss to the Jaguars may go down as one of the most puzzling regular season defeats in recent NFL history, it shouldn’t make us think for a second this team can’t make the Super Bowl. That said, it should also make us believe that New England is on their heels and shouldn’t be discounted.

8. Cleveland Browns (5–4)

Points in poll: 149
Highest-place vote: 4 (2 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 12 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 6
Last week: Win at Bengals, 41–16
Next week: at Patriots

We will see if the ouster of Odell Beckham Jr. improves the mood in Cleveland. Regardless, the Browns’ recovering health and simplification of their offense could lead to a return of the developing juggernauts we saw at the end of last season. The deeper we get into November and December, the more difficult Cleveland will be to defend against.

9. Dallas Cowboys (6–2)

Points in poll: 141
Highest-place vote: 8 (3 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 15 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 16
Last week: Loss vs. Broncos, 30–16
Next week: vs. Falcons

Despite a knockout loss to the Broncos this week, the Cowboys are so far ahead of the field in the NFC East that they are not worried about getting snagged from behind. Dak Prescott remains a marvel at the quarterback position and has one of the highest play-by-play success rates in the NFL. While their defense is not, at this moment, championship caliber, Dallas will be a difficult draw in a talent-rich NFC playoff field.


10. Kansas City Chiefs (5–4)

Points in poll: 138
Highest-place vote: 6 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 14 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 1
Last week: Win vs. Packers, 13–7
Next week: at Raiders

Every week seems to be an effort to recapture past magic, even though we’re ignoring the more important point: This team can still win games even when it is utterly unspectacular. The Chiefs are one offensive breakthrough away from still winning their division somewhat handily. It’s awfully hard to bet against Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy.

11. New England Patriots (5–4)

Points in poll: 133
Highest-place vote: 8 (2 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 15 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 11
Last week: Win at Panthers, 24–6
Next week: vs. Browns

Quietly ascending, the Patriots have slow played Mac Jones’s development and the payoff has been a gradual improvement alongside a talented, well-coached defense. If there is any club poised to surprise the masses over the second half, why not one of the greatest coaches in NFL history armed with a system quarterback and a handful of talented component pieces?

T-12. Los Angeles Chargers (5–3)

Points in poll: 126
Highest-place vote: 1 (2 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 13 (2 votes)
Preseason rank: 12
Last week: Win at Eagles, 27–24
Next week: vs. Vikings

Arguably the most intriguing team of the second half, Brandon Staley’s Chargers are an aggressive outfit playing above average football in all facets, which, when taking into account their rising star quarterback and talented defense, should make them a playoff factor. While they lack the panache of their cross-town rivals, the Chargers remain one of the better teams in the NFL and an absolute nightmare for opponents week in and week out.

T-12. New Orleans Saints (5–3)

Points in poll: 126
Highest-place vote: 9 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 14 (2 votes)
Preseason rank: 15
Last week: Loss vs. Falcons, 27–25
Next week: at Titans

This was a season in which Sean Payton may have cemented his legacy as one of the game’s great coaches. Despite a slew of injuries and a high-profile quarterback retirement behind him, Payton and New Orleans are surging toward another playoff berth despite a carousel of passers. Dennis Allen’s work on the defensive side of the ball cannot be overstated.

14. Cincinnati Bengals (5–4)

Points in poll: 115
Highest-place vote: 12 (2 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 18 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 29
Last week: Loss vs. Browns, 41–16
Next week: Bye

Shockingly tough, savvy in free agency and the draft, the Bengals are reminiscent of what they were at the height of the Marvin Lewis/Duke Tobin era. Joe Burrow looks as confident and poised as any quarterback in the NFL and Ja’Marr Chase has the pole position for Offensive Rookie of the Year. While they may not be quite ready to compete for the division, the Bengals will make life difficult for all those who aspire to do so, which is much more than we could have said about the Bengals during training camp.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (5–3)

Points in poll: 114
Highest-place vote: 10 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 16 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 14
Last week: Win vs. Bears, 29–26
Next week: vs. Lions

The Steelers may just now be figuring out a way to live with Ben Roethlisberger’s current physical situation. The improvement of their offensive line and the ascent of first-round pick Najee Harris should continue to aid their bid for a possible playoff berth. While the AFC North field may prove to be too crowded for a true run, Pittsburgh will be a thorn in everyone’s side from here on out.

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16. Las Vegas Raiders (5–3)

Points in poll: 99
Highest-place vote: 15 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 19 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 26
Last week: Loss at Giants, 23–16
Next week: vs. Chiefs

The Raiders are a franchise enveloped in chaos. The facts are that they logged some signature wins at the beginning of the season but may be too far into the quicksand to recapture that magic on the back end, with a schedule that still borders on brutal. This is a team with some good component parts that could be a better-than-average starting point for a new head coach and general manager next season.

17. Indianapolis Colts (4–5)

Points in poll: 96
Highest-place vote: 16 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 18 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 13
Last week: Win vs. Jets, 45–30
Next week: vs. Jaguars

Each time we are ready to declare the Carson Wentz experiment a grand success, he makes a handful of boneheaded plays. And while that is not outside the norm (quarterback play has been both spectacular and somewhat disappointing all at once this year), the Colts are punching below their weight class in one of the worst divisions in the NFL.

18. Minnesota Vikings (3–5)

Points in poll: 82
Highest-place vote: 17 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 23 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 20
Last week: Loss at Ravens, 34–31 (OT)
Next week: at Chargers

The Vikings have been the definition of the league’s middle class for almost a decade now. Mike Zimmer’s club is always tough, always talented and always capable of going somewhere near 8–8. Their best days in this regime may be behind them with a long road ahead tasked with overhauling a defense and searching for an upgrade at the quarterback position long-term.

T-19. Denver Broncos (5–4)

Points in poll: 79
Highest-place vote: 16 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 22 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: T-18
Last week: Win at Cowboys, 30–16
Next week: vs. Eagles

Perpetually difficult to figure out, the Broncos can demolish an opponent without one of the best defenders in franchise history, but struggle to hang with some of the other middling opponents on their schedule. Still, a game against the Eagles before the bye will be instructive; Vic Fangio’s defense remains dangerous and a difficult matchup for any team in the NFL. If they’re 6–4 after 10 games with a handful of winnable games remaining after the break, they should be taken seriously.

T-19. Seattle Seahawks (3–5)

Points in poll: 79
Highest-place vote: 14 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 24 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 10
Last week: Bye
Next week: at Packers

Russell Wilson’s return is the great equalizer in the NFC West. Could the perennial MVP candidate lead another improbable comeback? Seattle’s first games upon his return will tell the story. If the Seahawks manage to beat Green Bay in Aaron Rodgers’s return, their pre-Thanksgiving showdown with the Cardinals the following week will be one of the most fascinating and consequential Seahawks regular season games in recent memory. Their behavior on the free-agent market over the coming days will also be telling, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. on the market.

21. San Francisco 49ers (3–5)

Points in poll: 77
Highest-place vote: 18 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 24 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 8
Last week: Loss vs. Cardinals, 31–17
Next week: vs. Rams

Still situationally explosive but puzzlingly underperforming, the 49ers are a bit of a bummer this year. Kyle Shanahan can still out-design any head coach in the NFL, but that talent has been lost in the fold with a team that should be good enough to compete in the crowded NFC West. The 49ers are a top-15 offense and defense in terms of yards accumulated and allowed. They have an offense on par with the Bengals and Titans in terms of efficiency. How on earth do they only have three wins?

22. Atlanta Falcons (4–4)

Points in poll: 69
Highest-place vote: 19 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 24 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: T-24
Last week: Win at Saints, 27–25
Next week: at Cowboys

After a rocky start, the Arthur Smith regime is finding a way to win close games and hoist Matt Ryan back into the league’s upper echelon of quarterbacks. While the team’s individual unit performances are a little concerning (they are Football Outsiders’s composite worst team in the NFL in terms of DVOA rankings), they are beating the teams you’d expect them to beat, hanging with others you wouldn’t think they could and staying competitive with other franchises in their talent corral. It could be better, but as Falcons fans know, it could be far worse.

23. Carolina Panthers (4–5)

Points in poll: 65
Highest-place vote: 19 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 24 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: T-24
Last week: Loss vs. Patriots, 24–6
Next week: at Cardinals

After a white-hot start, the Panthers have found themselves back in a more realistic place. Sam Darnold was not the reclamation project the Panthers had hoped. Their defense, while on a breakneck pace at the beginning of the season, is starting to regress to the mean despite some savvy upgrades. This is not the kind of losing streak that makes us question the Matt Rhule regime, but it is the kind of losing streak that makes us wonder why they did what they did at quarterback to begin with.

24. New York Giants (3–6)

Points in poll: 55
Highest-place vote: 21 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 26 (2 votes)
Preseason rank: 21
Last week: Win vs. Raiders, 23–16
Next week: Bye

Under Joe Judge, the team continues to vacillate between gritty, worthwhile opponent and green, incompetent newcomer. The source of the problem seems to be an uninspiring offense and an understocked defense. Can Dave Gettleman orchestrate a quick fix this offseason, or will he be entrusted to?

25. Philadelphia Eagles (3–6)

Points in poll: 48
Highest-place vote: 23 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 27 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 27
Last week: Loss vs. Chargers, 27–24
Next week: at Broncos

Nick Sirianni’s team has been hard to predict, but generally capable and better than we thought at this point. They are still one of the more capable offenses in the NFL, and Jalen Hurts should finish the season with a puncher’s chance of remaining the starter in Philadelphia beyond 2021. He is playing at roughly a Baker Mayfield level statistically right now, which is not bad for a first-year starter.

26. Chicago Bears (3–6)

Points in poll: 44
Highest-place vote: 24 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 27 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 23
Last week: Loss at Steelers, 29–26
Next week: Bye

The Bears are a slightly more exciting version of what they have been over the last few seasons. Right now, that means the 31st-ranked offense in the NFL and the 21st-ranked defense in the NFL (headed into Monday night). If Justin Fields does not turn into a win-because-of starter over the last few weeks of the year, don’t be surprised if we see a new power structure imported to make that happen.

27. Washington Football Team (2–6)

Points in poll: 40
Highest-place vote: 25 (2 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 27 (4 votes)
Preseason rank: 17
Last week: Bye
Next week: vs. Buccaneers

One of the most disappointing teams of this season, Washington’s potentially mammoth defensive line has been a bust. Washington is 25th in DVOA, 26th in Net Yards per Attempt allowed and 29th in points allowed. While the offense has been just slightly less plodding, the team has a valid excuse due to the loss of its starting quarterback.

28. New York Jets (2–6)

Points in poll: 25
Highest-place vote: 28 (3 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 30 (2 votes)
Preseason rank: 30
Last week: Loss at Colts, 45–30
Next week: vs. Bills

While we seem to want to pile on this roster right now, which is, at best, on par with a second-tier college all-star game, Robert Saleh has the team hanging around in games it has no business hanging around in, and bouncing back from some fairly sizable defeats. Zach Wilson’s eventual return should give us a better glimpse at the immediate future in Florham Park, but it’s far too early to discount Saleh despite a handful of sizable losses.

29. Miami Dolphins (2–7)

Points in poll: 23
Highest-place vote: 28 (2 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 31 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: T-18
Last week: Win vs. Texans, 17–9
Next week: vs. Ravens

Befuddling on all fronts, the Dolphins were supposed to realize the fruits of their rebuild this year, but instead are embroiled in a perpetual quarterback controversy. Their affections for Deshaun Watson were made known before the trade deadline. Now, they must play out the string on this lost season pretending they’re still concerned about developing Tua Tagovailoa.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2–6)

Points in poll: 19
Highest-place vote: 29 (3 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 32 (1 vote)
Preseason rank: 28
Last week: Win vs. Bills, 9–6
Next week: at Colts

Urban Meyer’s series of befuddling decisions made their way through the news cycle largely unexamined thanks to the chaos that has enveloped Oakland, an Odell Beckham Jr. release and an Aaron Rodgers war on modern science. Imagine that. The Jaguars beat the Bills to somewhat validate their process, but this is still a team that should be so much better. Can Meyer convince ownership the team is headed in the right direction?

31. Detroit Lions (0–8)

Points in poll: 14
Highest-place vote: 28 (1 vote)
Lowest-place vote: 32 (2 votes)
Preseason rank: 31
Last week: Bye
Next week: at Steelers

At some point this year, the Lions are going to need proof of process. Dan Campbell’s raw honesty and plucky game plans can carry the water for only so long. This is a bad team, but as the Texans have shown us, anyone can—and should—log a ‘W’ at some point.

32. Houston Texans (1–8)

Points in poll: 9
Highest-place vote: 31 (3 votes)
Lowest-place vote: 32 (3 votes)
Preseason rank: 32
Last week: Loss at Dolphins, 17–9
Next week: Bye

The Texans’ plan to sell their team for scraps was a bit of a wash, as they only made a pair of sales at the trade deadline. Owner Cal McNair is taking a gigantic leap of faith with the future of this franchise, hoping that a Patriots lieutenant and a former team chaplain can guide them into long-term stability. 

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