NFL Power Rankings: Week 12

Mac Jones and the Patriots are now the NFL's hottest team with five straight wins and find themselves in first place in the AFC East

Another week, another set of results that make you question if any NFL team is really elite this season. Not only did the top seed in one conference lose to a team in the running for the No. 1 draft pick but the No. 2 team in the other conference lost at the buzzer to a below .500 squad, and the league’s No. 1 scoring defense got run all over and allowed 41 at home. Make it make sense!

With all that in mind and factoring in everything from overall roster strength, to quarterback play, to the coaching staff, here is the latest edition of NFL power rankings and where every team stacks up from 1 to 32.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 12

1. Arizona Cardinals
Last week: 4

This team has now won games without their starting quarterback (twice) and their head coach on the sidelines on the way to the top seed in the NFC. To say Kliff Kingsbury has locked up Coach of the Year is an understatement but the most impressive part of this season’s turnaround continues to be a defense that has evolved and improved against a variety of opponents.

2. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: 5

Quite the weekend for the Utes, eh? First Utah thumps Oregon on Saturday and then former QB Tyler Huntley gets his first start and leads a game-winning drive to keep the Ravens alive for the top seed in the AFC. John Harbaugh would still like a little more consistency out of his team but a 7-3 mark right now is something he’ll take to the bank with ease.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: 6

Nice bounce-back on Monday night as they dispatched the Giants with ease to remain near the top of the playoff picture. And looking ahead at the schedule, next week’s trip to Indianapolis might be the reigning champs’ toughest until the postseason.

4. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 8

Guess who’s back? While the offense gets all the attention league-wide, the fact that KC’s defense has turned things around in a complete 360 may well be season-saving. The division looks there for the taking now and nobody on the coaching staff is going to be experimenting with that defensive alignment anymore after shutting down the Cowboys to cap quite a run the past few weeks.

5. New England Patriots
Last week: 9

Look who’s suddenly sitting there with the No. 3 seed in the AFC? To say Mac Jones has proven to be a capable rookie QB is an understatement for a team that had some rust early on but has shaken it off and looks dangerous as ever. Even nicer for those around the building than shutting out the Falcons might be seeing all those clips of their historic comeback against them from back in the day.

6. Green Bay Packers
Last week: 3

It may have come in a loss but after a few mediocre (by his standards) outings, we saw Aaron Rodgers load the team on his back to carry them on the road. This group is still just a game behind Arizona for the top seed and may well use the way that game slipped away as motivation going into that playoff preview against the Rams.

7. Dallas Cowboys
Last week: 2

You can cite the number of key players out against the Chiefs but that game felt like an aging quarterback trying to throw his fastball but having no mustard on his throws. That was supposed to be a nice measuring stick type of game against an AFC contender but we’ll have to wait a bit longer for the next opportunity to see if Mike McCarthy’s team is as good as their record really reflects.

8. Los Angeles Rams
Last week: 10

Quiet bye week in LA where Sean McVay was no doubt figuring out how to better replace Robert Woods, integrate OBJ, and get that offense ticking once again. No rest coming off that two-game losing streak either as they’ll make the trip to Lambeau with a lot on the line.

9. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week: 11

The question isn’t just if Justin Herbert is one of the league’s bright young stars but rather how high he’ll climb in the ranks as the next generation of QBs takes over. As critical as he’s been to the team’s success though, it’s on Brandon Staley to figure out a fix for the defense that keeps putting this group in shootouts by their own making.

10. Tennessee Titans
Last week: 1

Can one really be a Super Bowl favorite if you have losses to the Jets and Texans in the same season? No, even if Tennessee remains firmly in the mix for the top seed in the AFC.

11. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 7

At this point it isn’t even a question that this team is susceptible to getting pushed around and bullied, which you wouldn’t think would be the case for a group considered the Lombardi favorites by oddsmakers just a few weeks ago. Now even a division title doesn’t look so assured with a tough run of games upcoming.

12. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week: 12

Joe Mixon looked fantastic on that trip to the desert as he tag-teamed with an ever-efficient Joe Burrow on Sunday to blow out a lifeless Raiders squad. The next three are all at home and could be the critical stretch for the Bengals to show they have what it takes to make it back to the postseason.

13. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: 16

Despite a dreadful string of close losses early on, the Vikings are suddenly the No. 6 seed and the Kirk Cousins-Justin Jefferson combo remains one of the most dangerous in the league. This is by no means a great team but finally winning some of those coin flips as time expires is a welcome change of pace around the Twin Cities.

14. Indianapolis Colts

Last week: 18

We haven’t really seen a running back make a really serious run at the MVP award in recent years but Jonathan Taylor is doing his best to end that line of thinking, becoming just the third player ever to hit the century mark in yards and score a rushing TD in eight straight games. While it looked like “Hard Knocks” picked the wrong team to follow in-season for the first time ever just a few weeks ago, the narrative and on-field performance have both flipped in Indy lately.

15. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 19

Long cross-country flight, early morning game on the body clocks… but none of that mattered to the 49ers as they took control from the jump and never looked back in Jacksonville. That 13:05 opening drive (longest since 1997!) was quite the statement too and could have been from a service academy in college much less an NFL team. Credit to Deebo Samuel for finding an extra gear the past few weeks too. He seems just as dangerous on the ground as he is through the air.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: 13

Incredible comeback came up just short in LA but the more pressing thing the coaching staff will need to examine is how they dug such a deep hole in the first half initially.

17. Cleveland Browns
Last week: 15

This remains one of the most talented rosters in the league but sitting at 6-5 with fans booing the clearly injured starting quarterback is not a place many expected Cleveland to be at approaching Thanksgiving. Clearly Baker Mayfield has to step it up or else these next six games can all turn into L’s.

18. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week: 20

Big Play Slay was at it again and Jalen Hurts, while playing what amounts to an NFL-ized version of the Wing-T it seems, was terrific running around with the football. Bigger picture though, there are a lot of winnable games left on the docket and this group won’t even have to get on a plane until the playoffs roll around.

19. Las Vegas Raiders
Last week: 14

Derek Carr is doing his best to sling the ball around and give this team some life but clearly all the off-field distractions are becoming too much for an organization that has started to spiral.

20. New Orleans Saints
Last week: 17

Three in a row on the wrong side of the win-loss column and you start to wonder if that bizarre Taysom Hill contract extension isn’t a bit of a way for the front office to distract from things between the lines right now in New Orleans.

21. Washington Football Team
Last week: 22

The Ron Rivera-Cam Newton Bowl was worth the price of admission in Charlotte even if the home side didn’t get the end result they wanted. As much as the head coach’s defense has stepped things up in recent weeks though, there still needs to be more production out of the offense trying its best to find Terry McLaurin on every play.

22. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 21

So much for Superman returns home, even if good amounts of the fan base were thrilled to take in that action at Bank of America Stadium. Either way, it remains clear from ownership on down that finding a long-term solution at quarterback will be the most pressing offseason need as a bevy of big names is set to hit the market.

23. Denver Broncos
Last week: 23

Sitting in that zone with seven other teams right in the thick of the playoff chase, we may get a good idea as to if Vic Fangio returns in 2022 with the Broncos coming off a bye and facing two crucial divisional games in the next two weeks.

24. Miami Dolphins
Last week: 26

It was just the lowly Jets but going on the road to nab a third straight victory had to feel good for a team that was rightfully earning an underachiever label. Maybe just as notable as the wins are the attitude this group is playing with right now as a bit of swagger has returned to South Beach.

25. Seattle Seahawks
Last week: 24

The Seahawks are closer in the standings to the Lions than they are to their nearest divisional opponent, which is hard to fathom. Losing at home to Colt McCoy like that underscores that massive changes from Russell Wilson on down are bound to hit the Pacific Northwest this offseason.

26. Chicago Bears
Last week: 25

The one good thing that Bears fans have at the moment is watching Justin Fields get better each week at quarterback. That might be on pause for the moment as he deals with those ribs.

27. Atlanta Falcons
Last week: 27

Smart of the team to realize you can’t have everybody say you blew another lead to the Patriots if you never score in the first place. Some real 3D chess from a team that is wildly inconsistent.

28. Houston Texans
Last week: 32

When all is said and done, that win over the Titans may well be the most shocking result of the season.

29. New York Jets
Last week: 30

Another sloppy effort cost this team down the stretch against Miami but at least the defense picked things up after allowing a few 45-point outbursts in three of their last four games prior. Luckily for the front office, the Seahawks also look like they’re headed for the top-10 pick and can give the franchise some extra ammo way atop the draft next spring.

30. New York Giants
Last week: 28

Thankfully OC Jason Garrett gave us that fat guy touchdown pass by a high-pointing Andrew Thomas on Monday night because otherwise… woof.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: 29

How many Jaguars fans who may have gone to school down the road in Gainesville would feel a lot better about both of their teams if Urban Meyer just returned home to the college game in a place he knows how to win? Probably more than a few…

32. Detroit Lions
Last week: 31

As if another crushing loss wasn’t enough for Lions fans, having to sit and watch Tim Boyle quarterback your team probably only added to the misery they saw on the road in Cleveland.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 11

1. Tennessee Titans
Last week: 4

The NFL's longest winning streak belongs to the Titans, who dispatched the Saints with more ease than that final score would indicate. Sans Derrick Henry it still seems like there’s skepticism of this group making it all the way to the Super Bowl but there’s no denying this group is playing as well as anybody right now.

2. Dallas Cowboys
Last week: 5

It’s only been one week but in more ways than one, it sure seems like that game against Denver was more an aberration than a reality for the ‘Boys. The Falcons certainly got a little extra thrown their way from a motivated Dallas team that seemed determined to send defensive coordinator Dan Quinn home with a special performance.

3. Green Bay Packers
Last week: 7

Something says that won’t be the last of the Aaron Rodgers drama surrounding a variety of subjects but the talk outside the building will be just a little quieter after thumping the Seahawks. Maybe more so than their QB, the way the defense has started to clamp down — five straight games of 21 points allowed or fewer -- gives the Pack a chance every single time out.

4. Arizona Cardinals
Last week: 1

Outside of Chris Streveler’s family and the Arizona QB coach, did anybody know he was in the league or even active on Sunday? It was that kind of game for the Cards without their two superstars.

5. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: 2

The team had been regressing the last few weeks after that big win over the Chargers and seemed bound to get tripped up eventually. Few probably would have pegged a trip to Miami to lay an egg, which was a tough homecoming for Lamar Jackson ahead of a weekend where his number was retired back in Louisville.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: 3

Tom Brady’s press conference lasted all of a minute after that loss to Washington and when he gets outplayed in a game by Taylor Heinicke, who can blame him? This group still has plenty of talent to repeat their Super Bowl run but making sure it’s all out on the field together continues to prove tricky.

7. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 12

The Jets were the perfect opponent for the Bills to rebound from that inexplicable loss to the Jaguars and both sides certainly complied with the expected script on Sunday.

8. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 14

It wasn’t long ago that the team was below .500 and the doom and gloom talk was incessant. My how three weeks can change that storyline as the Chiefs looked like the Chiefs of old in thumping the Raiders and taking back control of the division. We’ll need to keep seeing it to fully buy into KC being back but… yeah it certainly looks like a corner has been turned.

9. New England Patriots
Last week: 13

Four in a row and five of the last six have the Pats back in the running for the AFC East and looking a lot like the playoff contender many expected. Mac Jones continues to look far beyond his years and that ground game remains potent. This Belichick fella must know a thing or two about coaching…

10. Los Angeles Rams
Last week: 6

San Francisco made it five in a row over their division rivals to the south but the more concerning streak for Sean McVay might be the number of interceptions Matthew Stafford has thrown early in games to put his team behind the eight-ball. There are enough signs that this talented but flawed roster is looking a lot like that 2012 Lakers squad.

11. Los Angeles Chargers

Last week: 8

It’s now three losses in four for the Chargers as the team is finding their one-score magic in such games seemingly on the other end. Austin Ekeler had a fun touchdown celebration with an inflatable guitar against the Vikings but that being the lone bright spot in the run game or the passing attack tells you plenty about where this team is struggling.

12. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week: 10

Bye weeks are always great for rest but in Cincy’s case, the ability to have the entire rest of the AFC North take a loss (or tie in Pittsburgh’s case) made it an extra productive weekend at home.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: 11

A number of Steelers said after that monstrosity with the Lions that they were not aware you could just tie in the NFL. Well that lesson has been learned just as much as the front office’s about the future of the QB position.

14. Las Vegas Raiders
Last week: 9

At some point, the cumulative off-field distractions were bound to just hammer this team into a game where nothing could go right. Against the Chiefs with their division hopes on the line, that’s just what transpired on Sunday night as the franchise in flux is forced to go back to the drawing board to regroup from a wild debacle.

15. Cleveland Browns
Last week: 15

Just when you thought things would quiet down by the lake with OBJ’s exit, a blowout loss ramps up the talk surrounding the future of the franchise quarterback. Baker Mayfield may not be healthy but he’s increasingly not looking like the short- or long-term answer for a disappointing Browns squad.

16. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: 20

SoFi felt like a bank of a different name stadium on Sunday with as much purple that was in the stands and the team responded appropriately with a rare win in a one-score game. Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson continue to be a near-unstoppable combination that just keeps giving the Vikings a chance.

17. New Orleans Saints
Last week: 16

Sean Payton lamented the Saints missing too many of the little things in that loss to the Titans and that was certainly accurate as they dropped their second in a row post-Jameis. They’ll have to regroup quickly and look at the silver lining of the weekend being that most of the division lost too.

18. Indianapolis Colts
Last week: 19

Seven straight games for Jonathan Taylor over the century mark and across the goal line but the Colts failed to really put the Jags away when they had a chance. Still, after such a dreadful start to the year, getting back to .500 is a relief in Indy.

19. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 22

Where has that kind of performance been out of Kyle Shanahan’s crew? When the defensive line is getting home like that and the offense is clicking with big plays, this team is a tough out. It’s been an inconsistent start to the season but getting to the postseason isn’t completely out of the picture after thumping the Rams like that.

20. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week: 25

After being unable to run the ball early in the season, the Eagles have truly hit a groove with their ground game. The schedule is beyond manageable down the stretch but Darius Slay is going to need to save one of those scoop-and-scores for a home game so his head coach can finally win at the Linc this month.

21. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 23

Welcome back Cam! Talk about picking up where you didn’t leave off, that was quite the show the new signing put on out in the desert for one of the biggest wins yet under Matt Rhule and company. The Panthers can’t just sit back however and will have to hope they can build upon a season-defining game in many respects.

22. Washington Football Team
Last week: 27

It’s been a slow and steady improvement for the defense but the loss of Chase Young for the season will be felt far beyond next week. Still, holding down the reigning champs like that to notch the win will be a nice confidence boost heading into the Ron Rivera bowl against the Panthers.

23. Denver Broncos
Last week: 17

Whatever goodwill Vic Fangio got with the fan base from the win over Dallas was instantly spoiled by that effort against Philly at home. There was a real chance to seize some momentum with the division race too but the Broncos are instead left with more questions than answers going forward.

24. Seattle Seahawks
Last week: 18

It took 150 games but Russell Wilson was finally shut out to ruin his return from a remarkable recovery. The more pressing question for Pete Carroll however is just how the Seahawks can jump-start this turnaround because their backs are firmly against the wall now.

25. Chicago Bears
Last week: 21

Did the Bears glean anything from the Ravens' loss to Miami or is a fifth loss in a row on the horizon? One thing is clear, Justin Fields keeps getting better and sets up a really fun matchup this Sunday.

26. Miami Dolphins
Last week: 29

After weeks of QB rumors, the front office probably couldn’t have scripted Tua Tagovailoa coming into play conquering hero any better. That said, questions have to be asked of the coaching staff about why he was good enough to come off the bench but not start.

27. Atlanta Falcons
Last week: 24

There was a point in that disaster against Dallas that former head coach Dan Quinn led his old team by a 28-3 score. The Falcons tweeted that they were aware of this, even if the game didn’t go final with that. And wouldn’t you know it, the Patriots are next on the docket for a team that is a real roller-coaster ride.

28. New York Giants
Last week: 26

Saquon Barkley is back at practice this week but you wonder if he’ll be able to get back to the form that he was showcasing pre-injury. The bad news is no matter how he looks, the G-Men will be running into a Bucs squad that will be plenty motivated coming off a loss.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: 28

Urban Meyer doubles as a special teams coach quite often so you just know he is still upset about that early blocked punt — to say nothing of the Jags' run defense against Indy. That said, they had a chance in the fourth quarter and that’s not something the team can say every week.

30. New York Jets
Last week: 30

Robert Saleh knows he has one of the worst rosters in the league but giving up at least 45 points in three of their last four games is a low few could have predicted. The flip side is everybody in the Big Apple understands that the Mike White era is firmly over after a good 10-day run.

31. Detroit Lions
Last week: 32

The Lions have played in some bad football games over the years but that “effort” against the Steelers certainly ranks up there among the more unwatchable ones. At least they didn’t lose but the solace of a potential 0-16-1 season doesn’t mean much.

32. Houston Texans
Last week: 31

A week off from watching the Texans is a welcome one for fans in and around Houston. Of course, if they doubled as fans of the University of Texas, then maybe that wasn’t the case.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 10

1. Arizona Cardinals
Last week: 4

It says a lot about the overall level of talent on this roster that they absorbed the loss of their two biggest star players and didn’t miss much of a beat against a division rival. The injury report is starting to get concerning to all involved however as there are only so many playmakers who can hit the IR and still allow this group to keep winning.

2. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: 7

Lamar Jackson and Mr. Automatic Justin Tucker keep bailing out the Ravens and keeping them afloat at the last minute but you wonder just how sustainable that is over the next two months when the playoff chase is likely to come down to a single win/loss.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: 9

Terrific bye week for the aging Bucs. They got rested and saw the Saints, Rams, Packers and Cowboys all lose.

4. Tennessee Titans
Last week: 13

No Derrick Henry? No problem if the defense is going to step up like that. It’s still hard to fathom this team losing to the Jets and then promptly running off wins over the Bills, Chiefs, Colts and Rams. If they still had their star tailback around, this may just be the new AFC favorite.

5. Dallas Cowboys
Last week: 2

Whatever that was, just toss the game plan in the trash. You would think that Dak Prescott’s return would cause the offense to function a little more efficiently but that wasn’t the case as Dallas needs to regroup a bit. The silver lining is that there’s still a four-game lead in the loss column for the division.

6. Los Angeles Rams
Last week: 1

Outside the building, there will be plenty of external focus on Matthew Stafford’s play. Inside? Sean McVay is most certainly going to be harping on how this team showed barely a lick of physicality in the trenches and got beat up by the Titans.

7. Green Bay Packers
Last week: 3

Needless to say, Jordan Love was put in an impossible situation but he also didn’t exactly play like the guy who the franchise has been upended for the past two years. At least Matt LaFleur can take solace in the defense playing one of its best games all year in holding down the Chiefs to give Love and the offense a chance.

8. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week: 10

Maybe a little tighter than expected but wins on the road are important wins this time of year and you have to be impressed with how Justin Herbert came out and played near flawlessly. What will keep Brandon Staley up at night is the run defense continues to be a problem no matter how good or bad the opponent is.

9. Las Vegas Raiders
Last week: 6

Obviously the team has been distracted but that’s a long trip to and from New York to take a loss like that. If the coaches and players still want to nab that elusive playoff berth — or even the division title — they’ll have to rally in a big way over the next few weeks.

10. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week: 11

That’s back-to-back humbling losses for the Bengals and a particularly bad slide on defense to accompany it. Sure Cincy wasn’t quite the world-beaters we all thought but some big questions looming as this team heads into the bye.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: 12

Things got a little too tight for comfort late against the Bears but the Steelers still came out on the right side of things. Guess the team is used to winning close games this season even if Mike Tomlin would prefer they find that extra gear in the second half and not keep going with this. Luckily that won’t be an issue next week against the Lions, but after that…

12. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 5

Josh Allen is going to see Josh Allen in his sleep for the next few weeks after that outing in Duval. Surely the Bills won’t also double-down and lose to the Jets too, right?

13. New England Patriots
Last week: 14

Undefeated (4-0) on the road, 1-4 at Foxborough is a confounding place for this Pats team to be at but the signs of being a squad you don’t want to play are all there. The Browns offer a much stiffer test than the Panthers do so it's not time to declare the turnaround complete just yet in New England.

14. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 15

Patrick Mahomes… still isn’t that Patrick Mahomes and we’ve played nine weeks this season. That might be as eye-opening as anything about this team as they keep winning ugly to remain alive for a playoff bid.

15. Cleveland Browns
Last week: 16

Incredibly, the Browns were just the fourth team ever to score from 60-plus yards out with a pass, run and on defense in the same game. Now that is how you put all the OBJ headlines and hoopla behind you and take it out on a division rival.

16. New Orleans Saints
Last week: 8

Let’s face it, Trevor Siemian wasn’t the real reason why the Saints inexplicably lost to the Falcons on Sunday. Now they have to hope the defense, among others, rebounds at the Titans or this loss has a chance to snowball quickly.

17. Denver Broncos
Last week: 19

That was a job-saving first three quarters in Dallas out of the Broncos and Vic Fangio. While you might have thought they would be throwing in the towel after trading Von Miller, this group just proved that wasn’t the case and they will remain a pesky out the rest of the way this year.

18. Seattle Seahawks
Last week: 18

Whatever Russell Wilson did to come back from that injury in time for next week’s game, we’ll take two of. The door is still ajar for this team with their QB back in the fold but they have to be better on both sides of the ball for it to matter during the stretch run.

19. Indianapolis Colts
Last week: 22

A lot of fans in Big Ten territory are used to seeing Jonathan Taylor run all over opponents. Now the tailback is doing it at the NFL level consistently with a dash of explosiveness that just seems different.

20. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: 23

This poor fan base keeps getting tortured by the Vikings blowing leads on a weekly basis. The loss to the Ravens could be labeled a new low but that’s been said for much of the past month about a team that is 3-5 but is a few plays away from the top seed in the NFC.

21. Chicago Bears
Last week: 24

That Monday nighter might have been the best Justin Fields has looked… since playing Clemson last season at Ohio State? The ending was literally just short of a win in typical Bears fashion but the improvement out of the QB position has plenty of fans excited about the long-term future.

22. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 17

Nobody denies that injuries have been an issue by the bay but… is it time for the team to start questioning Kyle Shanahan at this point? The record is the record and as much as the Super Bowl run seems like it happened yesterday, the reality is that one good season during his tenure isn’t going to be enough if things don’t get turned around quickly.

23. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 21

If it wasn’t abundantly clear that the Panthers would be searching for another QB this offseason, that's no longer the case following the loss to the Pats. Sam Darnold’s comment about seeing ghosts was not just good fodder for social media jokes but a seemingly accurate assessment of his play.

24. Atlanta Falcons
Last week: 26

After the Braves hoisted a title, anything the Falcons can give Atlanta would be house money. It got wobbly near the end, but Matty Ice and company made it three wins in four to climb back into the conversation amid a bunched-up NFC Wild Card picture.

25. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week: 20

Nick Siriani still hasn’t won at the Linc so far in his tenure and you wonder if that might have been the Eagles’ best shot until late December. The offense remains limited by Jalen Hurts as a passer even if the group is finally starting to figure some things out in the run game.

26. New York Giants
Last week: 28

Daniel Jones had only 110 passing yards, the Giants had no 100-yard rusher and somehow they knocked off a division leader. Xavier McKinney is a good young player but nobody thinks that was anything but a one-off in the Big Apple until this team starts stringing together more consistent performances.

27. Washington Football Team
Last week: 25

It was around this time last year that the WFT started to really turn things around. Nobody is expecting a similar story in 2021 given some of the upcoming opponents and *gestures at everything* what’s going on around the franchise.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: 29

The Jags kept the highest-scoring offense in the league out of the end zone to inexplicably win a game they shouldn’t have. Urban Meyer might be as pleased with that feat as he was seeing his team respond to some of the offensive adversity they faced on a day where the starting QB spent a little time on the sidelines.

29. Miami Dolphins
Last week: 30

Even with that lackluster win over the Texans (helping their draft pick in the process), this seems like a franchise at a crossroads. The talent level isn’t close to being what it should, the coaching staff is rightfully under fire, and the execution is lacking across the board. And despite public insistence that Tua Tagovailoa is the guy at QB, between his play and injury history, that is very much not written in stone.

30. New York Jets
Last week: 27

Getting thumped by the Colts in prime time for all to see at least brought the nation a reminder that Josh Johnson was still in the league — and the backup QB was far from the reason why the Jets were blown out on Thursday.

31. Houston Texans
Last week: 31

Terrible week in Houston all around and the loss to the lowly Dolphins was quite the way to close things out. Tyrod Taylor’s return certainly could have gone much better but it’s inescapable that this is just a bad football team without the draft capital to do much about it anytime soon.

32. Detroit Lions
Last week: 32

If you include the preseason, the Lions are on a 15-game losing streak dating back to a four-point win at the Bears last December. Given the upcoming schedule

NFL Power Rankings: Week 9

1. Los Angeles Rams
Last week:
2

Not sure anybody learned anything from the Rams playing the Texans other than that they need to be better at closing out games and the Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection remains unbreakable. Oh and this franchise is definitely going for it in the wake of the Von Miller trade.

2. Dallas Cowboys
Last week: 4

Cooper Rush? Cooper Rush! Yes, the backup was helped out by Zeke and Amari down the stretch with some incredible plays but hats off to a QB being thrown into the fire and winding up with more than 300 yards and one heck of a story to tell the rest of his life.

3. Green Bay Packers
Last week: 5

Shorthanded to the max, Aaron Rodgers not even playing particularly Aaron Rodgers-like and all the Pack did was go into the desert and help the 1972 Dolphins pop some champagne. Not a bad effort on the short week for a team that will also benefit greatly from playing a ton of divisional games against the Bears, Vikings and Lions to help pad that record.

4. Arizona Cardinals
Last week: 1

The team got A.J. Green to be a veteran playmaker, not make plays a veteran would never do. Even if the wideout had turned around in the end zone, that somewhat lackadaisical team effort against Green Bay was a good reminder that every game needs the Cardinals to bring it at a high level. Maybe not anything to worry about long-term unless Kyler Murray’s injury keeps limiting him.

5. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 8

The 26-11 final score didn’t really convey how much the Bills controlled the game against Miami but another win in the books and now Josh Allen may wind up being the favorite to take home the MVP award.

6. Las Vegas Raiders
Last week: 10

After pretty much everybody in the division looked iffy over the weekend, might the AFC West be the Raiders' to lose? Sure seems like it as the team comes off their bye.

7. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: 11

A number of winnable games await this team as they come off a bye but you wonder just how the locker room will be able to regroup after seeing the news of Malik Harrison getting shot. Thankfully the linebacker is okay but that was a scary bit of news to hear when a team is out of the facility.

8. New Orleans Saints
Last week: 13

You have to feel for Jameis Winston to get his redemption opportunity and seemingly show progress, all for it to end with a season-ending knee injury. The flip side is that Sean Payton sure seems like the front-runner for coach of the year for getting this group to 5-2 and in line to even discuss the postseason.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: 3

Tom Brady had four TDs and 375 yards against the Saints but it was the two turnovers that really kneecapped the Bucs in a game they absolutely should have won on the road given the opposing QB but didn’t. Yes, injuries have been an early storyline for this group but some of the issues that have popped up in these losses are another reminder that repeating a title run is hard.

10. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week: 6

It was bad enough that SoFi felt like Foxborough but the Chargers being unable to notch a win over the Pats despite coming off a bye is a bit of a blow to the trajectory of this squad. Justin Herbert wasn’t his sharpest but that’s often just what happens when young QBs go against Bill Belichick.

11. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week: 9

Talk about a return to earth in the hardest landing possible. Was the cart maybe being put a little ahead of the horse after the Baltimore win? Sure. But losing to the Jets? Well, that just might be a sign that this team still needs to grow a bit more and learn how to handle their first taste of success in a few years.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: 16

This team still hasn’t cracked the 30-point mark but winning games ugly is still winning games — which they have the chance to do some more of given the opponents coming up. Still, after all the discussion about Mike Tomlin and USC, the Steelers sure went out and showed why he’s sticking around town with that upset.

13. Tennessee Titans
Last week: 7

The Titans may have won a battle in OT at Indianapolis but could end up losing the war. Derrick Henry is such a focal point and key to the identity of the team that Mike Vrabel and staff will have a huge task ahead of them. They’re lucky they are in the AFC South and have enough offensive talent to still secure some wins but it will take a big makeover of what this team wants to do on every snap.

14. New England Patriots
Last week: 18

Belichick against rookie head coaches is always a mismatch but that win in LA not only got the Pats back to .500 but showed they’re well prepared to start making a little run now. It’s still going to be frustrating for fans to look back at some of those early home losses but it sure seems like the talent is now getting the production we expected in New England.

15. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 17

Another sloppy, sloppy effort on Monday night against a bad team and the Chiefs still refuse to do the smart thing and run the ball like teams are daring them to. The bottom line remains that the one-time AFC overlords are mediocre at best and a team nobody fears anymore.

16. Cleveland Browns
Last week: 12

Is it maybe, sort of, time to concede the Browns have been among the most disappointing units in the league this season? The talent is certainly there, the execution has not been.

17. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 22

Jimmy G. and (checks notes) Elijah Mitchell helped secure a nice win on the road in Chicago to end this little skid. The problem is that kind of effort will be nowhere near good enough against some of the 49ers' upcoming opponents.

18. Seattle Seahawks
Last week: 25

There was never a doubt about the outcome of that win against the Jags, with Pete Carroll making life difficult for the latest member of the CFB Hall of Famer to NFL head coach club. Even better news for the Seahawks is that Russell Wilson looks to be on the mend.

19. Denver Broncos
Last week: 21

Vic Fangio’s defense bailed out his offense at the very end of the game to preserve a win but the team saved the real gut punch for Monday when they traded face of the franchise Von Miller to the Rams. Interesting move given they’re still only a game back in the division but probably smart to sell early given the end product just isn’t there at Mile High.

20. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week: 24

It turns out the key to running game woes is to just play Detroit. We’ll see if that attitude and focus on actually getting running backs carries remains when the caliber of opponent is a bit better in the next few weeks.

21. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 27

A nice win powered by the run game while Sam Darnold did just enough (before leaving in the fourth quarter because of a concussion) but Matt Rhule is still going to need plenty more out of this roster. Christian McCaffrey’s return looms but it still might be an uphill climb to get everything clicking even if the star tailback is in the lineup.

22. Indianapolis Colts
Last week: 15

Carson Wentz just can’t help himself sometimes and that cost the Colts again just when you thought they were making progress. Maybe that Derrick Henry injury gives the franchise a little hope in the lackluster AFC South but even at 3-5, they would need quite the run to take advantage now.

23. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: 14

The Vikings' fan base is a proud one who supports their team through thick and thin but Sunday night’s effort against the Cowboys may have been the last straw for a few of them. The same could be said of ownership watching on too as it seems like we’re one step closer to a complete reboot in the Twin Cities.

24. Chicago Bears
Last week: 23

Justin Fields played maybe his best game as a starter and the team still lost by double digits. At least everybody got a look at what life after Mike Nagy will be like if they miss on the next head coach hire.

25. Washington Football Team
Last week: 19

As much as the defense has started to look improved over the last few games, the offense has regressed to the point of putridness. Add in the off-field storylines and it’s another dismal year in the nation’s capital for NFL football.

26. Atlanta Falcons
Last week: 20

The Falcons failed to close out a game at home while across town the Braves did the same. The former may not have mattered as much if the baseball game had a different result but now all the city of Atlanta is bracing for will be 28-3 references in Houston over the coming days.

27. New York Jets
Last week: 31

Mike White won’t have to buy any drinks around the Big Apple this week after that incredible showing to upset the Bengals. More than 400 passing yards, three scores, and catching a two-point conversion in your first-ever NFL start is the stuff of legend and takes a lot of heat off the coaching staff after the back pages had a field day.

28. New York Giants
Last week: 26

If you had told Giants fans preseason that they’d play the Chiefs to a field goal game at Arrowhead, you would have gotten some excited looks. Yet the way the team folded in the fourth quarter and kept making mistakes was just a bit too much for a fan base that has seen their team let them down yet again.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: 28

At what point does ownership, setting aside issues with the coaching staff away from the field, start to question if this ship just isn’t going to get turned around with Urban Meyer in charge? Results like that in Seattle and being so uncompetitive in similar situations have to raise such alarms.

30. Miami Dolphins
Last week: 29

There is still some talent on this roster but the way the Dolphins underperform expectations on a weekly basis might mean attention is firmly heating up Brian Flores’ seat to the point where he’s not assured of being back despite showing flashes last year.

31. Houston Texans
Last week: 32

At least the team made the final score against the Rams a little more presentable but let’s be honest, all eyes in Houston were on the baseball team this weekend. Once the Astros wrap up and the trade deadline passes though, the city won’t like to focus on just how bad this roster is.

32. Detroit Lions
Last week: 30

You knew the team was going to be in for a bit of a letdown after investing so much in all those trick plays against the Rams but losing 44-6 to the rebuilding Eagles might just be rock-bottom for this franchise. No team has ever gone 0-17 of course but, well, it might be time to start considering it in Detroit.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 8

1. Arizona Cardinals
Last week:
1

Zach Ertz looked right at home in that throttling of Houston, which may have only been notable for Kyler Murray taking a safety that led a lovely scoreagami final line of 31-5. It's a short week, however, as perhaps the biggest test of the only undefeated team left hosts fellow NFC challenger Green Bay on Thursday.

2. Los Angeles Rams
Last week:
3

Sean McVay couldn’t be thrilled at the way his special teams gave away extra possessions against the lowly Lions but equally happy his team did what was needed to take care of business the rest of the way. And how about Cooper Kupp continuing to light the league on fire and become the first player ever with nine TDs and 800-plus yards after seven games.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week:
4

Tom Brady throwing his 600th career touchdown pass was a nice highlight of that romp over the Bears but credit to the defense for really making what should have been an easy win a straight-up rout for a slight measure of revenge for last year’s meeting.

4. Dallas Cowboys
Last week:
5

The bye comes at a solid enough time for the Cowboys but they can’t rest on their recent performances given some of the tricky games ahead.

5. Green Bay Packers
Last week:
8

You can tell what kind of game it was for the Packers when the biggest storyline coming out of that romp in Lambeau over the WFT was that Aaron Rodgers is no fan of local hotels. Travel questions aside, we’re about to find out just how good this team really is on Thursday as the schedule ramps up quickly to test this group against some of the NFC’s best.

6. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week:
6

The AFC picture continues to get jumbled but the Chargers have the upcoming schedule to take advantage of it. We’ll see if the coaching staff found any solutions to that run defense over the bye because you can bet Bill Belichick will be ready to exploit their issues on Halloween.

7. Tennessee Titans
Last week:
8

Back-to-back wins over two of the heavy favorites to come out of the AFC have to make the Titans one themselves, right? Especially with the way Derrick Henry has been running and the defense has been improving. Alas, it remains hard to get over that Jets game…

8. Buffalo Bills
Last week:
9

The next few weeks offer the perfect opportunity to find some solutions to a few of the Bills' woes and get back on track. One thing is clear, the AFC remains there for the taking.

9. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week:
10

This team has gone into Pittsburgh and handed it to the Steelers and now gone into Baltimore and handed it to the Ravens. That has shifted the story in Cincy from being a nice turnaround into the Bengals being a real contender (well as long as Joe Burrow stays upright). And while QBs always get the favorable odds in Rookie of the Year voting, the top name on everybody’s ballot right now should be Ja’Marr Chase.

10. Las Vegas Raiders
Last week:
12

Derek Carr missed just three throws against the Eagles, which somehow felt spot-on given the way the Raiders moved the ball. It still might be a little too early to draw any conclusions about the coaching change but this is a group that seems to have bounced back on the field after a few tough weeks.

11. Baltimore Ravens
Last week:
2

What a humbling, humbling outcome against a division rival to bring Harbaugh and Co. back down to earth after one of their best wins of the season. Maybe it was a one-off type of lopsided loss but we’ve seen enough out of that defense to know the Ravens still have some tweaks to make.

12. Cleveland Browns
Last week:
13

Case Keenum took care of business in Baker Mayfield’s absence but it feels like D’Ernest Johnson became the real darling in the eyes of the Dawg Pound after that win on Thursday over the Broncos.

13. New Orleans Saints
Last week:
14

The Saints' defense isn’t going to get to play in a rainstorm or against Geno Smith every week but that’s an encouraging effort on Monday night ahead of a showdown with the Bucs.

14. Minnesota Vikings
Last week:
16

This team is 3-3 but you could argue they’ve punched above their weight each week to the point where you can start to talk yourself into this team being better than you think. Big prove it game in prime time against the Cowboys to figure out which direction Minnesota heads.

15. Indianapolis Colts
Last week:
20

Talk about the rain all you want but Carson Wentz came up big with some of those throws against the 49ers when it mattered most. He’s still taking too many hits for Frank Reich’s liking and this team still is playing behind the eight-ball but they’ve firmly gotten in the mix to do some more damage heading into a key division game next week.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week:
22

Few teams needed an early bye more than a veteran team like the Steelers. Will they be able to take advantage of a soft schedule in the next few weeks though? One wouldn’t put it past this group.

17. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 11

The Chiefs are sitting where they are because their issues run wide and run deep. Patrick Mahomes is both one of the problems and the only solution but it remains to be seen if this group can get back to where it once was beyond next week and the only game left you can pencil in a win with any confidence.

18. New England Patriots
Last week:
17

Where the heck has that kind of offensive outburst been out of the Pats? We saw a few flashes before but playing the Jets can’t be the only reason for a 54-13 margin in the NFL.

19. Washington Football Team
Last week: 21

Despite losing by two TDs, you actually saw a few positives in that defensive effort against the Packers for maybe the first time all year. That might be the silver lining of such a game given how the red zone issues on the other side of the ball were even more concerning.

20. Atlanta Falcons
Last week:
26

It does not appear that Arthur Smith forgot how to use Kyle Pitts after crossing back over the Atlantic. The question still needs to be answered if this Falcons' resurgence is the result of the soft schedule or if there’s been real, tangible improvement on the field. It may not matter to some in the Atlanta area either way given the attention in the city on baseball the next week and a half though.

21. Denver Broncos
Last week: 23

Seven LBs on injured reserve is almost as impressive as the way this team has lost four straight in a myriad of ways. They can put that to bed next Sunday at home but there are issues all over with this group for Vic Fangio to deal with.

22. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 15

Blame the elements all you want, there’s no excuse for QB play that bad from Jimmy G. on Sunday night. Maybe more concerning for Kyle Shanahan is how that is far from the only massive issue this team is facing beyond their 2-4 record.

23. Chicago Bears
Last week: 24

The Bears got shellacked by the Bucs in their trip to Florida and now have a COVID outbreak on their hands. That’s certainly one way for a campaign to go from bad to worse in the Windy City for a directionless franchise.

24. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week: 19

Can you figure out one thing this team really does well? Because a defense that allows the opposing QB to put up 7-on-7 stats and an offense that can’t do anything until the score is out of hand is cause for concern. If Nick Sirianni isn’t careful, that trip to Detroit next week is no gimme.

25. Seattle Seahawks
Last week: 25

Another close loss in a game that was certainly winnable with Geno Smith at QB has to be extra frustrating knowing that Russell Wilson could be back sooner rather than later. Somehow it’s even worse knowing that the team is off to their worst start at home since 1992.

26. New York Giants
Last week: 28

Daniel Jones has not put together the greatest of seasons under center but he may have confirmed that he’s the best skill player on the roster this year with that one-handed snag against the Panthers. It was good for the G-Men to get that victory in on Sunday because the schedule does not present much of an opportunity for another until after Thanksgiving.

27. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 18

Four losses in a row and it took just hours after losing to the Giants for ownership to let it out that they were, in fact, in on the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes too. Sam Darnold — and this team’s — struggles can’t be pinned only on the absence of Christian McCaffrey.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week: 31

Talk about a great week in Duval, there were no negative off-the-field headlines and the bye could help refocus the coaching staff on the road ahead the next few weeks.

29. Miami Dolphins
Last week: 29

Brian Flores may still believe in Tua Tagovailoa but it’s clear that franchise decisions are out of his hands after a 1-6 start. Quarterback is the least of the ‘Fins worries but at least the trade talks about Deshaun Watson can obscure how this defense has gone from a quality unit last season to one of the worst in the league in 2021.

30. Detroit Lions
Last week: 32

This isn’t a very good team for sure, but at least they try hard and were entertaining enough with all those early fakes and on-side kick attempts against the Rams. Frustration keeps building in the Motor City though as the red zone woes continue.

31. New York Jets
Last week: 27

Zach Wilson getting hurt and then trading for Joe Flacco makes you feel for the diehard Jets fans out there but could help the franchise when it comes to their draft position. That’s of no solace to Robert Saleh and staff, who are hearing it from the back pages and more after giving up 54 points.

32. Houston Texans
Last week:
30

Fans in Houston seeing J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins do their thing in another jersey was probably more painful to watch than the actual outcome against the Cardinals. At least they may see a resolution to the Deshaun Watson saga soon enough.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 7

1. Arizona Cardinals
Last week:
3

No Kliff? No problem for the Cards, who turned in maybe their most impressive win of the year given the circumstances and earned far more respect across the league than even their undefeated record would indicate.

2. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: 7

Lamar Jackson passed Dan Marino for the most wins by a QB before his 25th birthday, which will certainly be brought up when he goes back to the negotiating table for a contract extension with the front office. Maybe the only thing more impressive was the way the defense had an otherworldly game to hold the Chargers to just six points in their biggest statement yet.

3. Los Angeles Rams
Last week: 4

The toughest stretch of the season is now in the rearview mirror and the rest of October offers a chance to work on the little things while keeping pace with the Cardinals in the NFC West. The Rams can’t be fooled into coasting however, as they have to take hold of the opportunity that beckons to get right against the next three teams and their lackluster records.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week:
5

Another week, another fresh set of injury concerns for the aging Bucs. Despite the medical reports, it sure seems like they were just toying with the Eagles on Thursday night thanks to the ageless Tom Brady making a handful of "wow" throws again.

5. Dallas Cowboys
Last week: 6

Dak, Diggs and CeeDee Lamb bailed out Mike McCarthy’s end-of-game management once again and you can’t help but wonder if the latter is the biggest impediment to this team really breaking through and winning big this season.

6. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week:
1

Their LA compatriots did just fine flying east and playing at 10am on the body clocks so perhaps we’ll chalk that up to just a bad, bad outing against a great team. Brandon Staley has a run defense problem on his hands though and that’s been clear long before losing to Baltimore.

7. Green Bay Packers
Last week:
8

If that was Aaron Rodgers’ final visit to Soldier Field as a member of the Packers, he sure made it count. Even with the victory though, the team still needs to improve in all areas if they want to truly start making that 5-1 mark reverberate around the NFC.

8. Tennessee Titans
Last week: 19

It’s hard to square how this team just beat the Bills like that and just a few weeks ago lost to the Jets. Does. Not. Compute.

9. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 2

Credit to Sean McDermott for wanting to follow up that message sent after beating the Chiefs by trying to send another one in going for it on the final drive against the Titans on Monday night. It didn’t work out and maybe the Bills can use that entire game as fuel against a lackluster next month on the schedule to get back to being the top dog in the AFC again.

10. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week: 10

It wasn’t long ago that the Bengals looked as lifeless as the Lions once did. It wasn’t long ago that Cincinnati would have folded in a spot like that where they should have won convincingly. A good sign of progress under Zac Taylor is that the team did what they needed to in Detroit.

11. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week:
11

Patrick Mahomes looked like his State Farm alter ego for a while there in D.C. before snapping out of it and going back to MVP form down the stretch. You hate to label a game must-win when it’s only mid-October but that was close.

12. Las Vegas Raiders
Last week:
15

After an incredibly turbulent week for the franchise, the team went out and played about as well as they have all year for four quarters on the road against a division rival. Not a bad start for interim head coach Rich Bisaccia’s tenure.

13. Cleveland Browns
Last week:
9

Baker Mayfield’s struggles when having to play from behind have to cast further doubt on any potential big-money extension, but the more concerning thing for Kevin Stefanski was just how out of sorts his defense looked against a team that was without their head coach/play-caller. Plus, that was another measuring-stick game the Browns walked out of the stadium having fallen short.

14. New Orleans Saints
Last week:
12

The amount of players slated to return to the lineup after the Saints’ bye is borderline incredible. It’s good news they’re back too given a long trip to the Pacific Northwest is followed up by a schedule that ramps up quickly.

15. San Francisco 49ers
Last week: 13

A bye week to get healthy and tweak schemes combined with a winnable game after the break could allow for the 49ers to get back on track. If they can’t, things might get a little difficult once division play returns.

16. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: 22

This team just finds new ways to torment its fan base in the closing stages of every game. At least they got the walk-off, helmet-tossing winner in OT down in Carolina to make it worth it this time.

17. New England Patriots
Last week: 16

Somewhat incredible the Pats even managed to make it to OT the way they were largely outplayed throughout against Dallas. The record is reflective of how this team just can’t put a full four quarters together while having a rookie QB but they seem close to turning the corner and the fans are certainly full aboard the next 15 years of Mac Jones at the helm.

18. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 14

Sam Darnold won over a number of Panthers fans with that final drive in regulation to tie it up and force OT even despite some middling play for most of Sunday. That’s good news because the team lost those same fans with the way their defense played in the bonus frame.

19. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week: 18

The Eagles made things a little more interesting in terms of the final score on Thursday night, which helped cover up just how lifeless they were for the first three quarters. All the while, questions remain at pretty much every critical position after such an uneven start.

20. Indianapolis Colts
Last week: 25

A romp over the Texans is a good way to get over what happened on Monday night, even if it still stings. While most of the attention has been on Carson Wentz getting right, don’t discount how much better this team has gotten as Jonathan Taylor has likewise improved.

21. Washington Football Team
Last week: 21

For about a half, it looked like the WFT defense of old had returned. Then a switch seemed to get flipped that was equal parts this team melting down and Patrick Mahomes reverting to MVP form.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: 23

Maybe it’s a good thing for the franchise that T.J. Watt got paid because after games like that, he might be underpaid again.

23. Denver Broncos
Last week:
17

It turns out that playing teams with a pulse have turned the fortunes of this team around quite a bit after that hot 3-0 start. Never a great sign for the coaching staff when fans are streaming toward the exits with over five minutes left to go after getting shellacked by the Raiders.

24. Chicago Bears
Last week:
20

Aaron Rodgers was briefly listed on Wikipedia as the owner of the franchise and… that actually checks out. Matt Nagy’s record against the team’s chief rival is a fireable offense all its own.

25. Seattle Seahawks
Last week:
24

On the road at a place like Pittsburgh with your backup QB, taking the Steelers to OT might be viewed as a moral victory. But Pete Carroll is a coach who doesn’t believe in those and now the franchise is facing a slew of big decisions while sitting at 2-4.

26. Atlanta Falcons
Last week: 26

Suddenly the Falcons have a handful of winnable games coming up and should be fresh coming into them after their bye. Now it’s up to Arthur Smith to continue solidifying that red zone offense.

27. New York Jets
Last week: 28

The Jets got a week off and saw their in-city rivals get taken to the woodshed to own the back pages. If Zach Wilson can use the break to improve, then it was quite a productive bye for Gang Green.

28. New York Giants
Last week:
29

Take a glance at the final score and you might forget the G-Men actually led in the second quarter. That lead felt like last week however as they proceeded to give up 38 points in a row and put even more heat on Joe Judge and the front office.

29. Miami Dolphins
Last week: 27

How the heck did this team beat the Patriots in the opener? Maybe more to the point, does this once-promising rebuild need to be reset (again) after going 1-5? Ownership will not stand pat, that’s for sure.

30. Houston Texans
Last week: 30

Davis Mills continues to show some flashes at QB but that’s largely the result of playing opposite a bad defense and trailing pretty much every game by two scores. It could be a rough next few weeks moving forward in Houston

31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week:
32

They had to travel several thousand miles across an ocean, but the Jaguars’ losing streak is now over. Urban Meyer went from the dunce of the NFL to completely off the back pages in about six days between events in Vegas and win No. 1 in the pros.

32. Detroit Lions
Last week:
31

Just when you thought the Lions were inching closer and closer to getting a victory, they go full Cinderella after midnight and lay a stinker at home against the Bengals. The schedule offers little respite from here and especially with the Jared Goff reunion game in Los Angeles next week.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 6

1. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week:
1

It sure doesn’t reflect too kindly on the Oregon coaching staff that Justin Herbert looks like one of the three best QBs in the NFL just 20 games into his career. The team still seems cursed when it comes to kicking down the stretch in the fourth quarter but at least they have a star under center leading the way.

2. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 2

That’s 35-plus points in four straight and they’ve knocked off their biggest challenge of the season by a considerable amount, shedding a bit of a boogeyman in topping the Chiefs at Arrowhead. You never know with injuries and whatnot but if healthy, this has the look of the top seed in the AFC when all is said and done.

3. Arizona Cardinals
Last week: 3

The last remaining undefeated team made yet another statement thanks to their defense, which came through in the clutch on a day where Kyler Murray and Co. were hauling in some incredible passes but weren’t quite as consistent as they had been offensively. Sporting a 5-0 mark for the first time since 1974 remains an incredible accomplishment no matter what happens the rest of the way down in the desert.

4. Los Angeles Rams
Last week: 4

The toughest stretch of the season is now in the rearview mirror and the rest of October offers a chance to work on the little things while keeping pace with the Cardinals in the NFC West. The Rams can’t be fooled into coasting however, as they have to take hold of the opportunity that beckons to get right against the next three teams and their lackluster records.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week: 5

It’s much easier to deal with a lack of defensive backs on the roster when you’re playing a backup QB and your own signal-caller looks like the fountain of youth while passing for four bills and five scores. Maybe the scariest thing about the win over the Dolphins is that it showed just how good Antonio Brown can be — and he’s perhaps the third option when everybody’s healthy.

6. Dallas Cowboys
Last week:
7

The Cowboys playing defense like this is like when Happy Gilmore learned how to putt. If they take care of business at New England, this is one of the first teams on the list of those you don’t want to play.

7. Baltimore Ravens
Last week: 11

What a Monday night comeback. Lamar Jackson continues to prove the doubters wrong and that game against the Colts might have been his greatest masterpiece yet — certainly as a passer — which is saying something about an MVP like that.

8. Green Bay Packers
Last week:
10

Mason Crosby got the job done in the end but that likely wasn’t the best of plane rides home from Cincinnati. At the same time, as good as Aaron Rodgers et. al. were in sustaining drives, the red zone performance has to start being more than just a pressing concern for the coaching staff.

9. Cleveland Browns
Last week:
6

The good news for the Browns is that they’re playing in some great games. The bad news is that for the franchise to take the next step, they’re going to have to start winning some of these against the top teams in the AFC if they really want to make the leap. The defensive front in particular has to play better.

10. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week:
15

There are not really moral victories in a league so focused on the bottom line but that was still an encouraging checkmark on the progress being made in Cincy. The amount of hits Joe Burrow keeps taking is unsustainable but the dude is the real deal and that chemistry with Ja’Marr Chase remains at another level for a pair who basically spent a year apart from each other and football itself.

11. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 8

The defense is downright bad and that’s three fellow AFC contenders who have come in and handed out losses. Patrick Mahomes remains great but at some point, you have to adjust to the adjustments and so far Andy Reid isn’t yet.

12. New Orleans Saints
Last week:
18

We’re still getting alternating good/bad Jameis Winston but if Alvin Kamara keeps playing like this, it might not matter too much how the signal-caller performs.

13. San Francisco 49ers
Last week:
13

Trey Lance’s first start wasn’t stellar but the team was still in it against the last undefeated team right up until the end. The young rookie still has a long way to go until he lives up to his draft slot but the flashes we’ve seen so far are at least something for 49ers fans to latch onto after this disappointing start to the season.

14. Carolina Panthers
Last week: 14

That was a bit of the old "bad Jets" Sam Darnold against Philly and Panthers fans have to hope this is just a blip that’s the result of the absence of Christian McCaffrey.

15. Las Vegas Raiders
Last week:
9

How badly was the team distracted by the Jon Gruden scandal? Based on how they played the Bears, quite a bit. But that loss has now spiraled into losing their head coach and left a franchise in disarray on and off the field.

16. New England Patriots
Last week:
16

Not a great sign you have to mount a comeback against the lowly Texans but it's understandable in some respects given four starting offensive linemen were out. That might actually enhance what Mac Jones did down the stretch in Houston even if the final score was the tug-your-collar type.

17. Denver Broncos
Last week:
17

Even with Teddy Bridgewater back at QB, the offense is simply waiting too long before the light comes on this year. That cost them against the Steelers and will do so again as the schedule keeps getting more difficult.

18. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week:
22

Nice win on the road for the Nick Siriani/Jalen Hurts combo, who didn’t try to do too much against a defense that’s been tough to put together sustained drives against. Something says Darius Slay will have a bit more difficulty in nabbing two picks against the next quarterback he faces on Thursday.

19. Tennessee Titans
Last week:
21

Not much you can take away from that win over the Jaguars other than it was a good response to what happened in New York. We’ll find out just where the Titans are in the AFC pecking order but they need to find a few more answers to this upcoming four-game slate other than just giving Derrick Henry the ball every other play.

20. Chicago Bears
Last week:
25

Credit to Matt Nagy for actually making the adjustments needed to the game plan and tailoring it to protect his rookie quarterback. Justin Fields wasn’t posting Ohio State numbers or anything but going on the road and beating the Raiders is a great first step for him and Chicago.

21. Washington Football Team
Last week:
19

The collapse of the WFT defense remains one of the biggest WTF’s of the season so far. And don’t think for a minute that things will get any better around the team as the focus from Jon Gruden’s scandal refocuses itself on the franchise that started all that.

22. Minnesota Vikings
Last week: 20

Three one-score losses and now a one-score win against the lowly Lions at the last second. There are serious problems afoot with this group and a rather daunting upcoming slate that could make matters a lot worse.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week: 23

Maybe the Steelers OL read all those bad press clippings and decided to do something about them against Denver because that was a big improvement week over week. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s season-ending injury stings but that might be one position this team could actually afford a hit to their depth.

24. Seattle Seahawks
Last week:
12

No Russell Wilson for an extended amount of time, while playing in the most difficult division in football, and the Seahawks don’t even own their first-round pick in case things really go off the rails. Even the relentlessly optimistic Pete Carroll will have trouble spinning things moving forward if the losses keep mounting.

25. Indianapolis Colts
Last week: 24

ESPN showed that the Colts were 120-0 when leading by 16 points in the fourth quarter. Oooooof. Can’t even blame the kicker for a collapse like that on the road.

26. Atlanta Falcons
Last week:
27

Fans, fantasy owners and draftniks were all waiting for a Kyle Pitts breakout performance and all it took was an eight-hour flight (and no Calvin Ridley) to get one. Arthur Smith and Matt Ryan have to hope this is just the beginning.

27. Miami Dolphins
Last week:
26

Brian Flores saying he is concerned about his defense might be the understatement of the week. This was primed to be one of the better units in the league but instead just got torched by somebody closer to retirement age than some of the fans in the stands during that all-Florida battle with the Bucs.

28. New York Jets
Last week:
29

Blame the jet lag on that forgettable first half against Atlanta but at least there was a rally to make things interesting after the halftime break. The bottom line is the inability to run the ball has an impact on every other facet of this team and that is the priority to get fixed after a return stateside.

29. New York Giants
Last week:
28

Tough sight for the G-Men to have Daniel Jones carted off after a hit like that. Even tougher to realize that he’s just one of way too many starters on the injury report for an already bad football team.

30. Houston Texans
Last week:
31

It’s not often a rookie can throw for that many yards against Bill Belichick and nearly pull off an upset of sizable portions. That was an encouraging outing for Davis Mills too even if the fourth quarter was one to forget for head coach David Culley.

31. Detroit Lions
Last week:
30

It seems like the fan base is actually buying into Dan Campbell the past few weeks but the results just are not there, to the point where every game is bound to end up with some tortured loss. Maybe the worst part is that this group is well positioned to earn a high draft pick but not have any QB worth taking there. There’s cursed, and there’s this franchise.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week:
32

A dreadful week off the field was compounded by the one on it. Losing is one thing, losing badly another but doing things like getting blown back 10 yards on a fourth-down run at the goal line puts the issues this team has up front and center.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 5

1. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week:
6

They’ve knocked off the Chiefs at Arrowhead and locked down the previously undefeated Raiders. Justin Herbert isn’t just playing well for a young QB, he’s been one of the best leaders in the league and can benefit from a defense with talented playmakers all over. If not for a few red zone issues against Dallas, this might be the undisputed top team in the NFL.

2. Buffalo Bills
Last week:
3

That’s 35-plus points in three straight and two shutouts in the first month of the season, marks that a few Super Bowl champions in the past have notched. The Bills didn’t even have their sharpest outing against the Texans but the romp was on from the jump as they tune up for the looming showdown with Kansas City.

3. Arizona Cardinals
Last week:
10

There are statement wins and there are statement wins that make the entire league take notice. The Cardinals thumping the Rams from start to finish — especially with the way their defense played — qualifies as the latter. This isn’t all about Kyler Murray and an offense that has put up 31-plus points every game but an entire team making everybody pay attention to.

4. Los Angeles Rams
Last week:
1

Was the no-show against the Cardinals a case of a letdown after beating the Bucs or just straight-up getting whooped by the better team? A larger sample size will tell but that’s a key home game the team dropped in what figures to be an ultra-competitive NFC West race this year.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week:
2

All the Brady-hoopla surrounding that return to New England has obscured the fact that this team is… very banged up right now. It’s not just that they have to throw in Richard Sherman off the street due to lack of bodies; there are depth issues all around. The winning continues but after avoiding the injury bug last year, that has not been the case in 2021.

6. Cleveland Browns
Last week:
4

Kevin Stefanski will be unhappy with how Baker Mayfield and some of his teammates played against Minnesota but that game might mean more in the long term given how it clamped down on the Vikings' star players and proved it could be one of the better units in the league once again. Still, the easy tests are now over and the next two weeks will really help slot the Browns in the AFC pecking order.

7. Dallas Cowboys
Last week:
8

Ezekiel Elliott has started to look like he used to early in his career with the ability to churn out yards and add even more muscle behind the one-two punch he forms with Tony Pollard. Add in Trevon Diggs’ ability to find the ball and it’s safe to say that this team has gone from one that should win the division in a cakewalk to a real bonafide NFC contender.

8. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week:
9

Brady wasn’t the only one who had a bittersweet return to a place where he has history after Andy Reid headed to Philly to notch win No. 100 with the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill looked like they were back on the same page but the same can’t quite be said about the KC defense just yet.

9. Las Vegas Raiders
Last week:
5

Jon Gruden’s guys lived on the knife’s edge in every game and that seemed to catch up with them in LA against the Chargers. The lack of offensive production after piling up the yards could just be a one-off against a great D or perhaps a sign of issues to come over the course of the next few games.

10. Green Bay Packers
Last week:
7

Aaron Rodgers notched TD pass No. 420 among his three scores in a fairly routine win over the Steelers. The embattled quarterback also produced one of the best moments of the weekend with his interaction with Mike Tomlin on the sideline too.

11. Baltimore Ravens
Last week:
13

It did not delight Vic Fangio but kudos to John Harbaugh for doing what he needed to do in order to extend the 100-yard rushing streak to 43 straight games. This still seems like a high variance team from week-to-week but the wins all count the same.

12. Seattle Seahawks
Last week:
17

Russell Wilson was back to his typical self against the 49ers, using his legs effectively while accurately throwing the ball downfield. There’s no doubt that Seattle benefited from facing a rookie QB thrown into the fire late but the bottom line is that they didn’t fall too far off the pace in the NFC West.

13. San Francisco 49ers
Last week:
12

Maybe not the way the fan base wanted to see Trey Lance get an extended run with the first-team offense but at the same time, you have to think they and 49ers brass have to be more comfortable with Jimmy G. missing time now that the rookie has gotten his feet wet.

14. Carolina Panthers
Last week:
14

Sam Darnold had to do pretty much everything offensively given the lack of a run game and again didn’t look like the same QB that was turning the ball over regularly with the Jets. Not like it mattered after the defense failed to find stops in the second half and leave Matt Rhule frustrated over his return to the Lone Star State.

15. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week:
19

Heck of a second half for Joey Franchise and Zac Taylor, even if Bengals fans would have preferred not falling behind to lowly Jacksonville like that on Thursday night. Not having Joe Mixon around with an ankle sprain isn’t what you want with the Packers coming to town but it seems like there’s real momentum around the franchise for the first time in years.

16. New England Patriots
Last week:
18

Pats fans had to be incredibly conflicted even before that missed field goal against the Bucs. Yes, Brady’s return was unique but folks around New England have to be quite pleased with the way Mac Jones performed with all eyes on him — particularly for a rookie QB with less-than-zero running game to lean on. Still, three home losses by the first week in October is something this group might not be able to overcome when it comes to returning to the postseason.

17. Denver Broncos
Last week:
15

Everybody knew we would get a better look at the Broncos once the schedule ramped up and they didn’t come close to passing their first real test of the season. Add in the loss of Teddy Bridgewater against Baltimore and Vic Fangio has plenty to be upset about after Sunday.

18. New Orleans Saints
Last week:
11

Imagine returning to the Superdome and all the emotions that brings but turning around and giving up 400 yards to Daniel Jones and taking a loss to the Giants? Maybe the silver lining was finding a decent mix of Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill in order to move the ball.

19. Washington Football Team
Last week:
23

J.D. McKissic diving from the four-yard line into the end zone with seconds to spare was a mesmerizing highlight worth watching a dozen times in slow motion, to say nothing of Taylor Heinicke’s late heroics down in Atlanta. The question remains for the coaching staff though: where did last year’s defense go?

20. Minnesota Vikings
Last week:
20

You could make the case that the Vikings are far better than the 1-3 record suggests given the three one-score losses. At the same time, you are what your record is and that gives no relief in the jumbled NFC. At least Justin Jefferson does not appear to be in for any sophomore slump.

21. Tennessee Titans
Last week:
15

Even with Julio Jones and A.J. Brown out, there’s no excuse for a loss at the Jets given what kind of lineup the Titans were still able to trot out. Not a fatal blow considering how lackluster the division is but another red flag that this isn’t the same kind of team that was a tough postseason out the past few years.

22. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week:
24

Did the Eagles defense not become aware of Tyreek Hill until game time or something? Seemed like it based on the game plan against the receiver that obscured a nice day for Jalen Hurts.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week:
21

Big Ben threw his 400th career touchdown pass but it’s clear to everybody in the league that he’s hung the jersey up one season too late. Poor Najee Harris has done his best but the rookie is either hit in the backfield thanks to that leaky offensive line or he’s facing three defenders after catching a check-down.

24. Indianapolis Colts
Last week:
26

Carson Wentz ended his own seven-game losing streak while putting the Colts in the win column for the first time thanks to some steady play and a solid- enough run game behind Jonathan Taylor. Baby steps, but they’ll have to take things to another level for that Monday nighter against Baltimore next.

25. Chicago Bears
Last week:
27

It appears Matt Nagy heard all the noise and adjusted his game plan to suit his quarterback as Justin Fields looked a lot more comfortable behind center. That win over the helpless Lions came at a cost though as David Montgomery’s injury could have short- and long-term ramifications.

26. Miami Dolphins
Last week:
22

The quarterback issues are the biggest talking point and obscured the fact that this defense has taken a step back from last year. Now sitting at 1-3 with two home losses, Brian Flores has the biggest challenge of his young coaching career ahead.

27. Atlanta Falcons
Last week:
25

Nobody snatches a defeat from the jaws of a victory quite like the Falcons and that persists even with a new regime in place.

28. New York Giants
Last week:
29

Given the short list of things you can point to, going into New Orleans and throwing for 400 yards probably qualifies as the best game of Daniel Jones' career. And thankfully for Joe Judge, the G-Men didn’t keep the losing streak going on a day their Big Apple rivals also notched a win.

29. New York Jets
Last week:
32

The Jets celebrated their first win of the year like it was the Super Bowl. Maybe they should given how hard others might be to come by this year. Still, Zach Wilson made some "wow" throws once again to breathe life into the fan base after a rough start.

30. Detroit Lions
Last week:
28

Few things sum up the current state of the Lions better than when Jared Goff couldn’t handle a bad snap and it landed right in the hands of a Bears lineman.

31. Houston Texans
Last week:
30

The worst part about this entire season for Texans fans is that there’s no hot-shot QB prospect to get excited over. That at least made things palatable if you were the Jags or Jets last year or the Bengals the year before. Not the case for Houston in 2021 given how some of the CFB stars have fallen off.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week:
31

Take a step back and ponder why Urban Meyer would even stay back in Ohio after that loss to the Bengals, much less what he was thinking with this latest controversy. You think Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll is doing that? Just add it to the increasingly long list of examples that Meyer does not seem like a fit in the pros.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 4

1. Los Angeles Rams
Last week:
2

The defense is still adjusting to a new coordinator and the offensive line remains a tad limited but it’s still remarkable how good this team is right now and how pretty much every series has a guy running wide open for Matthew Stafford to hit with ease down the field. To the point where that preseason MVP buzz for the signal-caller seems spot on.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week:
1

It’s not going to be too often that Tom Brady throws for 432 yards and the Bucs lose but that effort at the Rams is another good reminder that the secondary still looks to be in preseason form down in Tampa. Perhaps the result will serve as a nice motivator going forward despite the potential blow it could have in the race for that No. 1 seed in the NFC.

3. Buffalo Bills
Last week: 6

That’s the Josh Allen we all expected when there was tons of preseason MVP talk, eh? 358 yards, five total TDs and a boatload of happy fantasy owners sure make you forget that opening loss quickly.

4. Cleveland Browns
Last week:
4

Not sure how much you can really take away from that dominant performance against Chicago but hats off to Myles Garrett for a career day to highlight a strange new normal of the Browns simply taking care of business against an inferior opponent.

5. Las Vegas Raiders
Last week:
7

Two overtimes in three games isn’t exactly the kind of workload you want in the first 17-game season but the wins count all the same for Jon Gruden and company, who have the franchise 3-0 for the first time since 2002. 2002!

6. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week:
13

Hats off to first-year head coach Brandon Staley, who came up with a masterful game plan to knock off the Chiefs and got his guys to execute. While the ending got a little nervy, that victory could well be the one that cements this always-talented roster as a true contender.

7. Green Bay Packers
Last week:
10

Aaron bleepin’ Rodgers. There are still some concerns about the defense being championship-caliber but when you have 12 back there, you always have a chance.

8. Dallas Cowboys
Last week:
11

The Boys are back indeed. Dak and all those offensive weapons get the press but new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn remains worthy of all the pennies that Jerry Jones is paying him. To say this team is the class of the NFC East right now is an understatement.

9. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week: 3

Andy Reid, who is hopefully well for next week, used to be near automatic in September. Now he faces a very real challenge getting this ship turned around after one of the more shocking 1-2 starts in recent league history. It’s not time for full-blown panic but Reid has to get more comfortable running the ball and sticking with it.

10. Arizona Cardinals
Last week:
12

This is one of the more fun teams to watch right now and it’s not just for Kyler Murray playing at an MVP level. About the only drawback there’s been so far in this hot start is that Kliff Kingsbury continues to have several head-scratching coaching decisions every game, as that ill-fated field goal attempt proved.

11. New Orleans Saints
Last week:
19

This group has faced quite a bit of adversity and come out the other side in a pretty solid position. Jameis Winston didn’t even have to do all that much to notch the win on Sunday and how about the Saints showcasing they were a full step faster than the Pats in just about every position when it came to team speed.

12. San Francisco 49ers
Last week:
5

The Bay Area faithful are going to complain about a host of issues in that SNF game but the bottom line is that this defense doesn’t look close to the group that helped lead the team to the Super Bowl not so long ago. The lack of corners you can trust this early in the season is going to keep head coach Kyle Shanahan up far more than those final 37 seconds will.

13. Baltimore Ravens
Last week:
8

Death, taxes, Justin Tucker. Ideally, you would like to not have to rely on the longest field goal in NFL history to beat the Detroit Lions but winning when you’re off your game is still key to making it to the postseason.

14. Carolina Panthers
Last week:
16

The loss of Christian McCaffrey against the Texans had the silver lining in that it seemed to really unleash the offense flowing through Sam Darnold. That may not be sustainable over 17 games but between improvement there and the salty defense, head coach Matt Rhule has righted the ship a bit quicker than some expected.

15. Denver Broncos
Last week:
15

Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos have taken care of business against teams that are currently a combined 0-9. Now the real NFL season starts and we’ll see just how much this start is a mirage and how much it’s for real.

16. Tennessee Titans
Last week:
17

Kind of a strange start to the year for the Titans and the A.J. Brown injury is concerning but given the state of the AFC South, can Mike Vrabel really just look at the first part of the season as a way to work out some issues before trying to push his guys to the next level? Likely.

17. Seattle Seahawks
Last week:
9

Two games in a row where the second half has proved to be a glaring red flag for Pete Carroll in pretty much all three phases. There’s still enough talent to get things to a better place but that NFC West is an unforgiving place to try and work out such kinks.

18. New England Patriots
Last week:
14

The Pats have issues with the offensive line that have to rankle the coaching staff after finally upgrading some of the skill positions but not getting the unit they need to make the whole engine go. And oh look, it’s just the traveling circus that will be Tom Brady’s return to Foxborough up next. Gulp.

19. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week:
25

Still a long way to go but you do have to wonder if that win in Pittsburgh and the manner in which the Bengals won it can be some sort of turning point for the franchise. If nothing else, it doubly confirmed that the Burrow-Chase ticket could win some sort of political office in Cincy this year.

20. Minnesota Vikings
Last week:
26

After two losses that easily could have been wins, you sensed a breakthrough was going to come at some point. It did against Seattle but the question for Mike Zimmer is how to keep things rolling with a difficult Browns team up next.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week:
18

Maybe the shocking thing about the state of the Steelers right now is that the Bengals winning like that at Heinz Field is completely shocking at all. It probably sums up the issues offensively that a rookie like Najee Harris was brought into to be the leading rusher but had the same number of touches as a receiver and led the team through the air.

22. Miami Dolphins
Last week:
22

Forcing OT on the road against what looks to be a good team while using your backup QB is typically the stuff of moral victories for teams like the Dolphins. That is certainly not what head coach Brian Flores thinks nor does he want his team thinking that way either. The schedule is a tad more manageable going forward but plenty of work is needed to get everybody on the same page.

23. Washington Football Team
Last week:
21

Remember when the WFT defense was being touted as not just one of the best units in the league, but the most feared? Say what you want about the QB situation and whatnot, the lack of a backbone where there should be one is Ron Rivera’s most pressing concern.

24. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week:
20

Nick Siriani’s t-shirts and motivational tactics that got attention leading into the Monday nighter can probably be thrown in the trash because those will get old fast if losses like that to Dallas happen again.

25. Atlanta Falcons
Last week:
27

Arthur Smith got his first win as a head coach and it was so unpleasant, not sure anybody will want to watch it again.

26. Indianapolis Colts
Last week:
24

The defense is far more suspect than we expected, Carson Wentz is not the answer and now Quenton Nelson is battling an ankle injury. There’s 0-3 and 0-3 with little hope and it sure feels like the Colts are strongly favoring the latter.

27. Chicago Bears
Last week:
23

Forty. Seven. Yards. Poor Justin Fields is going to see Myles Garrett in his sleep for weeks.

28. Detroit Lions
Last week:
28

Jared Goff talked after the game about the gut punches needing to stop and even factoring in how hard this team is playing right now, this is still the Lions so that’s the business they’re in.

29. New York Giants
Last week:
29

The report of owner John Mara kicking a trash can seemed to be the most inspired play this team has made all season long. It’s also a fitting symbol for the state of the franchise after yet another 0-3 start to the year.

30. Houston Texans
Last week:
30

All things considered, the Texans aren’t as bad as first assumed and that’s even with a rookie at QB for the near future and a running game that is nowhere to be found.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week:
32

Urban Meyer is well known for his emphasis on special teams so that kick-six before the half against Arizona had to feel especially good. Everything else beyond that though? Ehh…

32. New York Jets
Last week
: 31

Of course the Jets are going to take lumps but you wonder just how much Zach Wilson’s confidence is going to be shaken if he has another few outings like that one against Denver. The roster was thin enough to begin win but this looks like yet another loooooong season in the Big Apple.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 3

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week:
1

Quite the position the Bucs are when Tom Brady throws five TD passes and the bigger takeaway among the fan base is that the defense looked much closer to expectations after that romp against Atlanta. Ol’ Father Time behind center is just the fifth QB to throw nine or more TDs in his first two games and it truly looks like he’s barely breaking a sweat doing so. Scary thought.

2. Los Angeles Rams
Last week:
3

A little sloppy on the road in Indianapolis but Matthew Stafford delivers a win again as Cooper Kupp has emerged early on as his new go-to guy. Given how Sean McVay treated the preseason, perhaps this is just how the first few weeks will be for the Rams before they really hit the next gear.

3. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week:
2

Does KC’s defense need to play better than it has based on what we’ve seen so far this year? Absolutely. Do guys like Clyde Edwards-Helaire need to not fumble in those situations? Uh, yeah. But you just had to leave that thrilling loss to the Ravens thinking this group still is the favorite in the AFC and the outcome was little more than an early speed bump that could serve as a powerful motivator going into a key division game.

4. Cleveland Browns
Last week:
5

One wonders how many times watching the tape that Kevin Stefanski muttered a few expletives watching Baker Mayfield get injured early against the Texans. He shook it off and rallied the team though and that’s a nice bit of growth out of the Browns in what could have been a prime letdown spot after Week 1’s result.

5. San Francisco 49ers
Last week:
6

The tail end of an East Coast double-header for San Francisco was never going to be a cakewalk and you have to give a lot of credit to Nick Bosa and the defense for that game plan against Jalen Hurts to more than make up for an offense that never did get into the rhythm Kyle Shanahan wanted.

6. Buffalo Bills
Last week:
7

Knocking out the opposing QB naturally contributed to the lopsided score but a nice response by the Bills defense made this look much more like the trendy Super Bowl representative out of the AFC than last week. Also encouraging is how much more the run game seems to be picking up steam behind Zack Moss and Devin Singletary, who set the tone early with that 46-yard scamper to the end zone.

7. Las Vegas Raiders
Last week:
16

After more than 700 yards in two games plus a pair of thrilling, big-time wins, is it time for Derek Carr to start getting a little more love outside Sin City? Given the two AFC North defenses he just lit up, perhaps so.

8. Baltimore Ravens
Last week:
17

Great exchange at the end of the game with John Harbaugh and Lamar Jackson on the fourth-down call but the fight and resilience the Ravens showed against a team that has largely been their boogeyman is the longer-term takeaway. And that’s not just when it comes to a potential postseason rematch but whenever this group faces some adversity.

9. Seattle Seahawks
Last week:
4

This franchise refuses to play normal NFL games. They refuse to close teams out properly, refuse to even do proper a Hail Marys at the end of the half and surely don’t make life easy in situations like overtime. It’s a hell of a roller-coaster for the fan base but at least makes every game some must-see TV — especially this year with the added downfield passing elements.

10. Green Bay Packers
Last week:
8

Nice cathartic return to a jam-packed Lambeau to beat up on a lowly division opponent like the Lions. Aaron Rodgers almost would have been forgiven if he lifted up his jersey to reveal one of those "Relax" t-shirts.

11. Dallas Cowboys
Last week:
14

Last week it was Dak through the air, this week it was the one-two punch at running back leading the way for the ‘Boys. That flexibility out of OC Kellen Moore was almost as impressive as the inspired effort out of the short-handed defense on the road.

12. Arizona Cardinals
Last week:
12

What a difference a healthy Kyler Murray makes, eh? The young QB looks like the early MVP front-runner after stuffing the stat sheet once again vs. the Vikings. He wasn’t quite as sharp as the opener and that made things a bit closer than expected but 2-0 is not a position the Cards usually find themselves in.

13. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week:
9

Those turnovers that turned a potential 2-0 start into a split was almost as big of a bummer for the Chargers as the crowd to open their first real game at SoFi Stadium with fans that decidedly had a vocal majority in a much different shade of blue. Not the end of the world but another sign of how difficult it is for this franchise to close out games.

14. New England Patriots
Last week:
15

Mac was better than Zach, but the Patriots' defense had a lot to do with that after notching four interceptions. One can’t help but think however these first few games are really just Bill Belichick experimenting with a few things before that Sunday night game against a certain somebody in two weeks.

15. Denver Broncos
Last week:
18

Teddy Bridgewater has been just what the doctor ordered for the Broncos in ticking off all the boxes under center. However, probably can’t make any larger takeaways as far as how much of a real contender this group is until the schedule picks up.

16. Carolina Panthers
Last week:
22

We only caught glimpses in Week 1 but that effort thumping the Saints showed just how far along Matt Rhule’s rebuild is and certainly a net positive showcase for Sam Darnold as he tries to convince the franchise he’s still their guy long term.

17. Tennessee Titans
Last week:
23

A 15-point comeback from an offense not really used to playing from behind like that was almost as impressive as the freight train that was Derrick Henry on Sunday. If Julio Jones keeps making his presence known with each passing quarter too, then maybe this is back to being the AFC South team to beat by a wide margin.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week:
10

Big Ben fell to 2-6 against the Raiders but it was once again the lack of a running game that put the Steelers behind the eight-ball most of the game. T.J. Watt’s injury was just the icing on the cake to a home loss too.

19. New Orleans Saints
Last week:
13

It appears missing a host of coaches on and off the field had almost as big of an impact as Jameis Winston reverting to the mean after throwing those five TDs.

20. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week:
20

Not the kind of performance Nick Sirianni would have liked to have shown the Philly crowd in his home introduction and another reminder that this team likely will experience further growing pains as the staff learns how to adjust in-game when the game plan isn’t working.

21. Washington Football Team
Last week:
21

Dustin Hopkins went from goat to hero in the blink of an eye but that ending might have obscured the fact that the defense has not lived up to the high billing it got in the preseason.

22. Miami Dolphins
Last week:
11

The sight of Tua Tagovailoa getting carted off the field seemed to evoke every scouting report about him coming off that injury in college and what limits he might have on his future. More concerning than the QB position for head coach Brian Flores however is how the last two meetings with Buffalo have gone and how totally uncompetitive the team has been.

23. Chicago Bears
Last week:
24

Bears fans wanted Justin Fields playing meaningful snaps and they got what they wanted… just maybe not quite the actual in-game script they were hoping for. The good news though, the defense helped pick the rookie up with an incredible second-half effort after a ton of whiffs in Week 1.

24. Indianapolis Colts
Last week:
19

There have been plenty of flashes out of the Colts for stretches but the lack of consistency, especially in areas like the red zone, has to drive Frank Reich nuts. Nearly knocking off the Rams is encouraging but losing your first two home games ahead of a difficult road stretch isn’t the most promising sign.

25. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week:
25

There were a ton of questions about Ja’Marr Chase after a lackluster preseason but suddenly the naysayers have quieted after his second straight game with a 40-plus-yard touchdown. He’s still re-learning the chemistry with Joe Burrow (who must get better, obviously, after a three-INT day) but Chase being the second wideout ever to accomplish that does take the sting out of dropping that game to the Bears just a bit.

26. Minnesota Vikings
Last week:
26

There are some position groups that seemingly never can get things right. The Vikings’ kicking room seems like they’re absolutely on that list after yet another blown ending down in the desert to drop to 0-2.

27. Atlanta Falcons
Last week:
27

At one point, the Falcons were within a field goal of the Bucs in the second half. Then Matt Ryan decided to be extra generous to his division rivals and things have gone from bad to even worse in Atlanta.

28. Detroit Lions
Last week:
30

The roster just isn’t in a place where the team can compete for four full quarters, much less against a division favorite in a big national game. But for a half? That is doable and probably a bit of a silver lining in this 0-2 start to another rebuild.

29. New York Giants
Last week:
28

A hint of irony in a special teams mistake doing in Joe Judge during a game the team had to have but the bottom line is that was another missed opportunity to turn the corner as the franchise trends toward yet another reboot just two games into the year.

30. Houston Texans
Last week:
29

You have to feel for Tyrod Taylor, who seems somewhat cursed after leaving that game against the Browns. The Texans did show some fight early on the road but this just isn’t a roster equipped to play four quarters against any team in the top half of the league.

31. New York Jets
Last week:
31

When former Patriots players were tweeting about ghosts as Zach Wilson was throwing one of his many interceptions, it’s probably not your day. All things considered, perhaps the offensive coaches might as well symbolically burn the tape and move onto the next opponent.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week:
32

Urban Meyer lost three games in a row just once in his career (2010 while at Florida). Could he start his NFL career that way? Unless there’s some magic answer for Kyler Murray next Sunday, this reboot with a college coach could get off to an even rougher start.

NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week:
1

A little closer than expected with a few defensive issues to nitpick in the opener against Dallas but raising a banner and notching a win is hard to top for the reigning champs. Maybe the bigger takeaway was that Tom Brady not only looks great (again) for his age at the beginning of his latest campaign but that he’s also got a fastball like the good old days.

2. Kansas City Chiefs
Last week:
2

Death, taxes and Andy Reid in September. The improved offensive line allowed just two sacks against that speedy front seven and Patrick Mahomes was Patrick Mahomes. File that thrilling victory away for later as it could prove to be a crucial tiebreaker in the tight race for the AFC's No. 1 seed.

3. Los Angeles Rams
Last week:
5

Efficiency was the name of the game for the Rams in that waltz over Chicago on Sunday night. Matthew Stafford did indeed showcase more of a downfield threat for Sean McVay and the thought of this group continuing to grow as the year goes on has to be a scary thing for the rest of the NFC.

4. Seattle Seahawks
Last week:
8

The new-look offense looked pretty good, especially if you just limited it to the plays where a near-perfect Russell Wilson was just throwing it deep and letting his (normally wide open) guys come down with it. Seattle has gotten off to fast starts before under Pete Carroll but need to ensure that this is a team that keeps building as the year goes on.

5. Cleveland Browns
Last week:
6

There are not many times you lose games where you average 8.2 yards per play and lose but such is life when playing the Chiefs. Although they’ve yet to get over the hump against KC, the way this team has played them can give Cleveland confidence the rest of the way that they belong in the conversation to be in the AFC elite.

6. San Francisco 49ers
Last week:
7

A Kyle Shanahan team had some trouble closing a game out down the stretch? Why I never… Other than that, the first 58 minutes of the game showed this is a team yet again capable of making a deep postseason run.

7. Buffalo Bills
Last week:
3

Bills mafia had to be extra hyped to see their team with the stands full so that effort against the Steelers had to be extra disappointing for one of the trendy AFC contenders. The defense did look improved when you take a big step back but the team won’t be able to take the next step if they’re allowing opponents to score on four straight drives coming out of the halftime locker room.

8. Green Bay Packers
Last week:
4

There were a lot of Jeopardy jokes flying as the Pack was getting blown out by the Saints based on how Aaron Rodgers played but it was the debut of DC Joe Barry that has to be of peak concern to the Cheeseheads far and wide. Maybe we’ll look back at the trip to Jacksonville as just a bump in the road for a franchise that has really only lost seven times under this coaching staff in the regular season.

9. Los Angeles Chargers
Last week:
13

Justin Herbert was absolute money on third down against one of the best NFC defenses and facing his first real road test with a full crowd in the NFL. Things weren’t quite as crisp as new coach Brandon Staley would have wanted but that first win won’t feel any less sweet.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week:
20

All that attention this offseason on the revamped offense and yet it was the Steelers’ high-priced defense that came through in a big way against the Bills. Add in the special teams additions and that was an impressive all-around job on the road for a team where expectations are all over the place.

11. Miami Dolphins
Last week:
12

Tua Tagovailoa didn’t light the world on fire in terms of stats, but going into Foxborough to notch a win is a great first step in convincing the fan base and the front office that he is the guy under center long term. Brian Flores’ defense once again remains the heartbeat of this team but otherwise some encouraging signs out of the AFC East-leading ‘Fins.

12. Arizona Cardinals
Last week:
17

Among the list of surprising results from Week 1, the Cardinals being in complete control from start to finish against an AFC contender might rank up there. Kyler Murray got plenty of love as he marched up and down the field but the encouraging news for the franchise is the defensive effort. I mean, Chandler Jones pace yourself on those sacks in this new 17-game season!

13. New Orleans Saints
Last week:
22

How many hours of debate were there surrounding who would succeed Drew Brees, only for Jameis Winston to go out there and exceed expectations that even optimistic Saints fans had on Sunday? The yardage wasn’t anything to hang your hat on but five TDs against a team that was in the NFC title game last year is a heck of a start.

14. Dallas Cowboys
Last week:
16

How ‘bout them moral losses? Dak Prescott looked phenomenal and even the defense wasn’t half bad compared to the lifeless shell that there was in Big D last year. It will be interesting to see if the team bypasses their traditional running game like it did against Tampa or if that was more opponent-driven in the opener.

15. New England Patriots
Last week:
9

All in all, a pretty solid debut for Mac Jones in nearly pulling off a win against a tough defense but it was ex-Bama teammate Damien Harris’s fumble that really spoiled the outcome in the end. Still, it’s not hard to see this is an improved bunch in Foxborough even if they’re going into the second weekend a game behind in what looks to be a tight division race.

16. Las Vegas Raiders
Last week:
25

There are easier ways to win a game, but the Raiders taking the long way to a dub on Monday night makes that home opener with fans that much more special. The defense, particularly the pass rush, was a nice bright spot when Jon Gruden’s play-calling sputtered.

17. Baltimore Ravens
Last week:
10

Rough, rough way to lose a game (twice). Still plenty of time to get some issues corrected but Lamar Jackson’s fumbles were the story out of that loss to the Raiders as much as the ending was.

18. Denver Broncos
Last week:
18

This might have been the most ho-hum of games played on the first Sunday of the season, with a methodical Teddy Bridgewater complementing a defense that looks every bit as fast and physical as expected.

19. Indianapolis Colts
Last week:
11

Still a long way to go before making any grand takeaways about Carson Wentz but the bottom line was his offensive line was not good enough on Sunday. The silver lining for that unit? They were at least better than the secondary’s effort.

20. Philadelphia Eagles
Last week:
29

Have a cold one Nick Siriani. That was a marvelous debut on the road for the first-time head coach. Jalen Hurts’ play was a big eye-opener for many because of that with the second-year player looking about as sharp as he ever has been in the league as a passer.

21. Washington Football Team
Last week:
15

The FitzMagic era was over in a seeming instant but the effort against the Chargers is a good reminder that the defense will continue to carry the WFT as far as they possibly can. It wasn’t enough in the opener but it could be plenty against lesser opponents going forward as some solace to having to play yet another backup under center.

22. Carolina Panthers
Last week:
23

Sam Darnold said throughout the week that it wasn’t a revenge game but it felt like one after he beat the Jets, especially given the number of times he seemed to press a bit too much to make something happen. Still, CMC was back to his usual self and the defense looked nasty for long stretches to put a big of pep in Matt Rhule’s step with this 1-0 start.

23. Tennessee Titans
Last week:
14

Where art thou Arthur Smith? As rough as the offense looked, it was the defense — the head coach’s specialty mind you — that stunk up the joint in Nashville. On top of all the scheme issues (and general Kyler Murray-ness one has to account for), it’s pretty clear that years of trying to re-tool that side of the ball have put the Titans even further behind the eight-ball in 2021.

24. Chicago Bears
Last week:
24

Bears fans were so excited to catch a mere glimpse at Justin Fields that they forgot how lackluster the secondary this team has. Such a mistake was quickly corrected in that loss against the Rams.

25. Cincinnati Bengals
Last week:
27

Welcome back Joey B! It says a lot about the franchise quarterback that he not only had the stones to audible on that critical fourth down in overtime but the ice water in his veins to step up and deliver a beautiful ball to C.J. Uzomah to help set up the game-winning field goal. As bad as Cincy had been, learning how to win games like that is a big step.

26. Minnesota Vikings
Last week:
21

Mike Zimmer is already pissed off about all that has been going on around the team, how do you think he feels now after the sloppy mistakes that led to a loss against the Bengals?

27. Atlanta Falcons
Last week:
19

New regime in charge, same old Falcons that couldn’t run the ball and couldn’t get stops on defense. The look on owner Arthur Blank’s face said it all in the second half of that loss to the Eagles.

28. New York Giants
Last week:
26

It’s a long, 17-game season. But with each passing game, it looks more and more like Daniel Jones isn’t the answer at quarterback.

29. Houston Texans
Last week:
32

Your… first-place Houston Texans? The standings don’t lie as few inside or outside their home state expected that kind of performance right out of the gate against the lowly Jaguars. Kudos to David Culley and Tyrod Taylor in notching a victory many around the league were happy to see.

30. Detroit Lions
Last week:
31

The finishing flurry that made the game interesting was nice to see but it was also a bit like putting lipstick on a pig given how lifeless this team looked for about 58 minutes. The bottom line remains something all Lions fans are accustomed to: it will be a long season in the Motor City.

31. New York Jets
Last week:
28

Rough debut for Zach Wilson, who seemingly had a hand in his face on every dropback and was sacked six times. Add in Mekhi Becton’s injury and things could have gone better down in Charlotte. At least the defense seemingly looked better than expected in giving up only 19 points.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last week:
30

Urban Meyer is one of the greatest college coaches ever but he got a rude welcome to the league moment against one of the worst rosters in the NFL. Trevor Lawrence wasn’t flawless but he shouldn’t be throwing it 50-plus times in any game as a rookie either.

NFL Power Rankings: Pre-Week 1 Edition

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While many Super Bowl teams have kept their core together to make another run at a Lombardi, few have managed to keep nearly their entire roster intact like the Bucs have done this offseason. Add in a mix of high-upside rookies and it’s no wonder why Bruce Arians keeps yelping that he’s running things back with Tom Brady and the crew.

2. Kansas City Chiefs
The Vegas favorite to win it all after that Super Bowl setback last season, the Chiefs have significantly addressed their flaws along the offensive line and have gone from putting one of the worst units in front of Patrick Mahomes to one of the best. While they do have a much trickier road to navigate in the AFC than teams like the Buccaneers, there’s little reason to see any drop-off from this contender.

3. Buffalo Bills
Bills Mafia wasn’t around to witness much of their team’s magical run to the AFC title game but luckily they’ll get to witness the bulk of last year’s team back in action again with their sights aimed squarely at a return to the Super Bowl. Josh Allen has firmly worked his way into the MVP conversation after making an incredible leap in Year 3 and now has the big contract extension to match. This is easily the favorite in the AFC East but it will be interesting to see how they handle going from chasing contenders to being the ones chased.

4. Green Bay Packers
Where will Aaron Rodgers play… in 2022? That’s a question that will get asked an awful lot this coming year around Green Bay while conveniently overshadowing the fact that this group is 28-8 under Matt LaFleur and probably should have beaten the Buccaneers in the NFC title game. Could there be a bit of "Last Dance" magic for one final run with the Pack and their superstar QB?

5. Los Angeles Rams
Could a home team win the Super Bowl in their own stadium two years in a row? The Rams hope so and have gone all in with the trade for Matthew Stafford. The loss of RB Cam Akers hurts but such a sting is lessened with the trade for Patriots tailback Sony Michel. This is a team of impact players at key positions but finding depth will be key to making it through the 17-game slate for Sean McVay and company.

6. Cleveland Browns
After years of hype and waiting around for a breakthrough, the Browns delighted their tortured fan base with a thrilling run to the postseason. Now what can Baker Mayfield and others do for an encore? That is particularly pertinent for the signal-caller given that he’s entering a key contract year and expectations have never been higher by the lake. The return of OBJ should provide a nice boost and it looks like rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah — or JOK — is already a fan favorite despite missing much of camp. Add it all up and it seems like the bar is set at a division title and another playoff run.

7. San Francisco 49ers
The debate over Trey Lance vs. Jimmy G. misses the point on this 49ers squad being a legit NFC contender — if they can stay healthy. Kyle Shanahan has become a proven commodity at head coach but will face a challenge in replacing DC Robert Saleh after he left for the Jets. The division is the most competitive in the league but an improved receiving corps could help lift this team to the top and back into contention.

8. Seattle Seahawks
Are you ready for yet another MVP debate about Russell Wilson during the early part of the season? That could be the case if a new offensive approach yields the desired results in the Pacific Northwest. Pete Carroll always has the Seahawks in the mix but will need a number of young players to step up if they want to get back into the postseason given the competition in the division and NFC in general.

9. New England Patriots
Does Bill Belichick dare go with a rookie QB to start the year? Cam Newton may have left him with no other choice. Regardless of who is taking snaps under center early in the year, the roster has seen a number of upgrades across the board and it would shock nobody if we start to see much more of the Patriots we’re used to seeing on the field in 2021.

10. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore just keeps hoping all these bites at the postseason apple will one year pay off. Much will come down to continued evolution of the offense and the development of QB Lamar Jackson. The loss of J.K. Dobbins is a blow no doubt though and the receiving corps and offensive line have both had a few nicks in the preseason too. Getting over the hump in a jumbled AFC remains a tall task but the Ravens still have tons of experience and benefit from top-notch special teams.

11. Indianapolis Colts
Carson Wentz appears to be healthy enough to start but his backups remain questionable and nobody really knows how the former No. 2 overall pick will do when it’s game time for real with his new squad. There are fewer questions about Frank Reich’s team overall but what kind of output the Colts will get out of their quarterback should largely determine both the floor and ceiling in Indy. The loss of mainstay T.Y. Hilton for the first few weeks doesn’t help the cause either.

12. Miami Dolphins
Drama surrounds yet another quarterback position and recent reports that Miami is in the driver’s seat to trade for Deshaun Watson (legal outcomes such as they are). That has to be some sort of insight into how the team truly feels about Tua Tagovailoa after a shaky rookie campaign landed the team just shy of the playoffs. There was progress made with the franchise a year ago, especially defensively, but the numerous first-rounders on the roster still need to step things up in 2021.

13. Los Angeles Chargers
What can Justin Herbert do as a sophomore after lighting the league on fire a season ago? That’s certainly a national storyline going into the year but there’s still plenty of intrigue around LA’s tenant team with a new (young and inexperienced) coaching staff in place. This group has the top-tier talent and a stocked roster to make plenty of noise in the AFC race but might just be a year away from truly contending.

14. Tennessee Titans
The Titans have plenty of question marks coming into the season, especially given their ongoing COVID outbreak that has taken head coach Mike Vrabel out of the building at a key time. The good news is that even despite the loss of OC Arthur Smith, this is a battle-tested group that has won big playoff games before. Still, those miles are adding up on Derrick Henry and the question marks on the defense keep multiplying and not going away. A step back might be in store but luckily Tennessee has one of the easier division paths in the league.

15. Washington Football Team
Everybody knows the defense will be as salty as they come, especially given upgrades like William Jackson III coming in at corner. The ultimate arbiter however will undoubtedly be the play of veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (or Taylor Heinicke or even Kyle Allen). There should be greater consistency under center but whether that allows for a big enough jump beyond just winning the meh NFC East remains up for debate.

16. Dallas Cowboys
Usually you would see a bit of a trendy "Hard Knocks" bump from the team featured on HBO’s showcase but that doesn’t seem to be happening this time around. Dak Prescott’s injury situation is a key driver on limiting the hype but you do have to think even an average campaign from the QB would result in a big jump in the win total. There’s plenty of game-breaking talent in Big D, but folks have been burned too many times by Jerry Jones’ team to really believe this is the year they make a legitimate run.

17. Arizona Cardinals
It feels like ages ago that J.J. Watt was a flashy free-agent signing and the Larry Fitzgerald saga continues to linger in the background as kickoff approaches. That said, going from solid to a playoff team will require much more from young signal-caller Kyler Murray. If there’s not offensive improvement and the turnovers don’t get cut down, Kliff Kingsbury may start feeling the heat from far more than just the Arizona desert.

18. Denver Broncos
Teddy Bridgewater is QB1 in Mile High but how much of a leash will he have with Drew Lock still involved in the QB room? Getting better at that position will determine just what kind of upside the Broncos have given that they have a pretty loaded roster when you start looking up and down that two-deep. The division is tough, which doesn’t help, but this shouldn’t be a team picking in the top 10 of the draft again.

19. Atlanta Falcons
There’s a new regime in place and optimism is running high around Atlanta that this could be a team primed for a turnaround. They have a veteran signal-caller well suited to new HC Arthur Smith’s system and plenty of weapons all around — highlighted by new rookie TE Kyle Pitts. The defense remains iffy but there’s enough to think flirting with a wild-card berth isn’t out of the question.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers
Welcome to Big Ben’s last stand. The venerable quarterback quite literally looks to be on his last legs but seems rejuvenated by the task at hand. Najee Harris should help this group run the ball better but the big boys along the offensive line may still need additional time to gel in 2021 after so many changes. The defense may have to pick up the slack once again if another division title is to get held up at the end of the year.

21. Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins is generating headlines for all the wrong reasons in the run-up to the opener but there’s still enough around him to contend again in the NFC North. Much will be on the shoulders of Dalvin Cook and whether or not the offensive line can make some progress. The defense has the pieces to rebound from a rough outing but Mike Zimmer knows the pressure is on in 2021 to improve far more than in just that area.

22. New Orleans Saints
Is the Big Easy really prepared for the full Jameis Winston experience? We’re about to find out as a new era in Saints football is upon us. A new QB that can push the ball down the field should alter Sean Payton’s offense for the better but may mean a step back in the overall record.

23. Carolina Panthers
Sam Darnold has always had the natural talent but those in Carolina hoping for a magical transformation from his Jets days will need to remain patient. The team continues to make overall progress during this rebuild under Matt Rhule but it’s not a stretch to say success will be dictated largely on what they get in the acquisition under center. Ownership has been pushing for a superstar QB and the Panthers will know quickly whether they have one already or will be getting one next year.

24. Chicago Bears
Justin Fields pandemonium is reaching crazy levels in the Windy City and the coaching staff is doing their best to dampen it by insisting on Andy Dalton starting. The only question is when the rookie will trot out onto the field for the first time though and given the state of the offensive line, waiting might indeed be a wise move.

25. Las Vegas Raiders
We’re only into year four of that mega-deal for Jon Gruden and it already looks like an albatross weighing on the franchise. GM Mike Mayock’s draft picks have been hit-or-miss and there’s real pressure to get over .500 and to the postseason now that fans are back in that spaceship off the strip. No pressure in the rough and tough AFC West…

26. New York Giants
The media capital of the world is determined to break down just about every throw Daniel Jones makes this year and as much as the supposed franchise quarterback is facing pressure, so too is his OC Jason Garrett. There were signs of turning the corner in Joe Judge’s first season but now those tricky expectations creeping in to make the spotlight even brighter on a team that could be much better if healthy.

27. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow appears to be ready to go for 2021 but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that protecting the franchise QB is priority No. 1 for a re-tooled offense. It doesn’t help that the AFC North will be its typically brutal self and that there are still plenty of holes on the roster and plenty of skepticism about Zac Taylor. That said, Burrow is worth the price of admission and the great hope in Cincinnati.

28. New York Jets
The Carl Lawson news was a crippling blow to a defense that needs marquee players like that. New head coach Robert Saleh being in charge should still lead to some improvement but the secondary remains a big blind spot on the roster. Zach Wilson appears to be given free rein to live and learn on the job as a rookie but it’s pretty clear this is very much Year 1 of yet another reset of Gang Green.

29. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have a number of key veteran pieces but otherwise have a gigantic hole at linebacker, lingering issues along the offensive line, a largely unproven quarterback who isn’t set in the job and… oh yeah, a complete unknown at head coach. We’re sure Philly fans will take the year in stride if things don’t pan out in an NFC East race that could come down to the wire.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars
To zero surprise, the chosen one is being handed the keys to the franchise. If there’s one reason to maybe think Trevor Lawrence struggles as a rookie though, much of the blame will likely fall on the offensive line that did not seem to block anybody in the preseason. Urban Meyer still seems like he’s not fully on board with how things are done in the NFL which could be a combination of a lot of losing in Duval before lessons start to take hold.

31. Detroit Lions
Trading away Matthew Stafford pretty much signaled a franchise going through a reboot and even with a veteran like Jared Goff to help smooth things over under center, this could be a(nother) rough season in Detroit. Dan Campbell’s antics will be worth the price of admission even if the football might not given the dearth of playmakers on the roster.

32. Houston Texans
The Deshaun Watson saga will hang over the franchise until it’s resolved but while that is generating the headlines, it has overshadowed the tremendous roster turnover that’s happened under the new front office this offseason. Perhaps they’ll hit on some diamonds in the rough but glancing at that roster is cringe-worthy in some places. Throw in uncertainty at QB, an unknown at head coach and long season might not be the half of it for a team favored to win the No. 1 pick next spring.

Post-Draft 2021 NFL Power Rankings

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Run it back? Bruce Arians promised it after hoisting the trophy and general manager Jason Licht delivered with a masterful offseason working the cap and the draft. Executing a repeat performance and nabbing another Super Bowl is easier said than done but at least ol' Tom Brady has some experience in knowing what to do on that front.

2. Kansas City Chiefs
You can count on one hand the number of losses the Chiefs have suffered with a healthy Patrick Mahomes and all they did this offseason was address his offensive line woes in a big way. Good luck to the rest of the AFC given that and all the motivation this group will take from the way things ended in Tampa.

3. Buffalo Bills
The Bills continue to make progress each year and capturing the division title and making it to the AFC Championship Game was just the latest step. Getting over that final hurdle remains the toughest though and will really come down to continued growth out of their MVP-contending quarterback.

4. Green Bay Packers
This is a ranking largely dependent on Aaron Rodgers and the front office putting their feelings aside and realizing that the best place either have to win a ring will be if the QB is under center in Green Bay this year.

5. Los Angeles Rams
Will the addition of Matthew Stafford under center make up for the fact that several key veterans had to exit the stage for less-heralded replacements? TBD but there's little question that this is a team that has the superstars that can follow in the footsteps of the Bucs and play the Super Bowl at home.

6. Cleveland Browns
Between the draft and free agency, it might be time to come to grips with the fact that this is… the most talented roster in the AFC? The case can certainly be made and now there's some playoff seasoning under the belts of most of this group too.

7. Baltimore Ravens
Ravens fans can get excited over the additions of guys like Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace but the simple fact is that nothing this team does in the regular season will mean much until it translates into the postseason run they're capable of. Everything is aligned for that to happen but it's on Lamar Jackson's shoulders to pull off.

8. San Francisco 49ers
Plenty of spilled ink about the Trey Lance selection and what it means for Jimmy G. but no matter who is taking snaps under center will benefit from a top-notch roster… if they can stay healthy. It wouldn't be shocking to see Trey Sermon have a bigger impact on the offense in 2021 if all really goes according to Kyle Shanahan's plan however.

9. Miami Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa has a new No. 1 receiver in Jaylen Waddle and now the Dolphins' ability to reach the postseason will firmly be in the young QB's hands. The roster continues to be one of the more talented, young groups in the AFC but Miami still needs to have it all come together between the lines for the next step of this impressive turnaround under Brian Flores.

10. Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson did indeed get a little help this offseason but will it be enough to close the gap between them and some of the other Super Bowl contenders? You can't rule out another run at a Lombardi but Pete Carroll and Co. still need some youngsters to emerge if they're to lessen their reliance on Russ doing Russ things every single week.

11. Indianapolis Colts
After one blockbuster trade for an unknown at quarterback, GM Chris Ballard really only addressed a few needs around the periphery of the roster. That could put additional pressure on Carson Wentz to return to form despite the ability for the Colts to fall back on a fairly easy divisional schedule.

12. New England Patriots
Bill Belichick opened up the piggy bank and drafted in ways he's never shown before this offseason. Will it all be enough to reverse course after such an abnormal 2020 campaign? The jury is still out on that front but it's easy to see improvement across the board with this team no matter who winds up being the QB for most of the year.

13. Los Angeles Chargers
What can Justin Herbert do for an encore? Will the young QB be in for a sophomore regression with a new coaching staff or will he take the next step as a budding young superstar in LA? The improved offensive line is making many believe it's the latter.

14. Washington Football Team
Ron Rivera knows he's got a great defense to lean on but how much will he truly embrace the roller-coaster ride that is the FitzMagic experience this season? The veteran is a decent stopgap solution but will have to play consistently if he is to help the WFT win the division again.

15. Dallas Cowboys
How ‘bout them Cowboys? Well, we'll see. Dak Prescott being back under center makes this team much more of a contender of course but it remains to be seen just how much of a boost Dan Quinn can bring to that woeful defense. The personnel has certainly been upgraded but converting progress into the wins needed to nab the division title will be a question mark for Jerry Jones and company.

16. Arizona Cardinals
J.J. Watt's addition might be a little overstated considering how tough a division the NFC West is and how much will ride on Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury finding the right groove over the course of the year. The pair ran out of steam after a number of close losses down the stretch and will have to correct those issues for the team to take the next step.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers
It feels like there's one final run left in this group as Big Ben ages into retirement, the defense turns over and the patchwork offensive line continues to be stitched together. Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth are a pair of quality rookies to lean on but after factoring in a difficult schedule, it could be a lot tougher to repeat last year's start again.

18. Atlanta Falcons
Trade rumors continue to swirl surrounding Julio Jones but at least there does feel like the franchise has experienced some rejuvenation after such a forgettable 2020 run. There's a new regime in charge, Matt Ryan is aiming to prove the doubters wrong and there remains a ton of talented pieces available to perhaps make a run.

19. Tennessee Titans
The Titans have been a consistent playoff threat and double-digit-win team for several years now but could such a run be coming to a close? Todd Downing taking over for Arthur Smith is one concern but so too is a questionable offensive line, the lack of weapons behind A.J. Brown/Derrick Henry and a defense counting on a lot of new names to live up to some high billing.

20. New York Giants
General manager Dave Gettleman had a memorable offseason with some splash signings (Kenny Golladay, Adoree Jackson) and draft picks (Kadarius Toney among them). Will that unlock Daniel Jones and help this team take the next step as an NFC East contender? The bar isn't set super high but the G-Men are aiming to clear it.

21. Denver Broncos
There's been tons of high praise for the Broncos roster amid all the Aaron Rodgers chatter and rightfully so given some of the pieces under Vic Fangio's purview. But as those talks reinforced, this season is going to come down to Drew Lock answering the question as to if he's the long-term answer... or not.

22. Carolina Panthers
Hey (Sam) Darnold. This group punched a little above their weight last season and now if their new QB can come through down the stretch of close games, you can see a corner start to get turned in this Matt Rhule long-term project. Needs were certainly addressed in the offseason, now it comes down to execution.

23. Minnesota Vikings
Fans' patience with Kirk Cousins is starting to wear thin and this shapes up to be a critical season in the Twin Cities for the quarterback and the rest of the roster. What else needs to be said at this point despite the addition of a nice crop of rookies?

24. Chicago Bears
We're about to see if a good defense and Justin Fields is going to be enough for a team that figures to be a coin flip between being good or mediocre. Matt Nagy and the embattled front office certainly delighted the city with the draft haul but it remains to be seen if it can all come together for a quality run in '21.

25. New Orleans Saints
The retirement of a future Hall of Fame QB combined with a roster purge due to salary cap issues will make life tough in the Big Easy. Sean Payton can still help smooth out this team in transition but they might take a few early lumps before finding their footing.

26. Las Vegas Raiders
There was a point last season when it looked like the Raiders were turning the corner under Jon Gruden and in line for a playoff bid. That never materialized and now there are more question marks surrounding this group than ever.

27. Philadelphia Eagles
Staying healthy will be paramount for the Eagles after what they experienced in 2020 but even then, success will come down to how much Jalen Hurts can progress as a passer under Nick Sirianni and OC Shane Steichen.

28. New York Jets
Zach Wilson looks like the starter right away given the depth chart and the combination of a rookie QB and a new (inexperienced) coaching staff typically makes for a long season. The overall roster continues to improve but this is just the latest step in the Big Apple rebuild.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Despite the talent infusion from free agency and the draft, are the fans in Duval a little more hesitant about Urban Meyer in the NFL after the head coach's somewhat bizarre comments about a number of players — to say nothing of inviting the circus that is Tebowmania? Maybe it takes pressure of the chosen one in Trevor Lawrence but perhaps not the smoothest of beginnings to a new era.

30. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow seems like he'll be ready for Week 1 but you would still think the team will be conservative with their franchise QB. Regardless of the timetable, the pressure is on Zac Taylor to show progress between the lines and on the scoreboard in 2021.

31. Detroit Lions
The Lions have enough talent on offense to put up a few points but the question for the Dan Campbell era is going to lie on whether the defense can do enough to turn it into wins. The inexperienced staff combined with a lack of depth is one good reason why Vegas has the team's win total set as one of the lowest in the league.

32. Houston Texans
New GM Nick Caserio has done his best to quickly remake the backend of the Texans roster but the ceiling for this team will continue to be defined by the quarterback situation. One of Tyrod Taylor, rookie Davis Mills or newly signed Jeff Driskel could be in line to start given how things stand with Deshaun Watson.

2021 NFL Power Rankings: Pre-Draft Edition

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The champs are the champs for a reason and they've brought pretty much every key piece back for a run at back-to-back titles. Yes, Tom Brady is another year older but after seeing how he worked his magic once again, everybody will claim to be one of the last to say father time has finally caught up to him.

2. Buffalo Bills
After reaching the AFC title game, the Bills bring pretty much everybody back for another run. Josh Allen had some MVP moments last season and you have to like how they've brought in a number of vets like Emmanuel Sanders to help get that one last push toward the Promised Land. Throw in a quality history in the draft to fill out the roster and Buffalo fans are excited about the season already.

3. Kansas City Chiefs
You can count on one hand the number of regular-season games this group has lost and they still have the most dazzling QB in the NFL in Patrick Mahomes. Yet as that Super Bowl dud showed, the offensive line is still a concern even if they signed Joe Thuney and hopefully get back Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

4. Green Bay Packers
It was good news (Aaron Jones)/bad news (Corey Linsley) for the Packers this offseason but Aaron Rodgers is aging like fine wine and Green Bay returns nearly every starter from a group that is 26-6 in the regular season under Matt LaFleur.

5. Los Angeles Rams
Losing John Johnson III and Troy Hill hurts but the Rams still have two of the best defensive players in the league on the roster and upgraded their QB situation in a big way. It's going to be super exciting to see what that Sean McVay/Matthew Stafford combination can do and why this is likely the NFC West favorite.

6. Cleveland Browns
It remains wild to think that the Browns have had a great offseason even before the draft hits and have one of the most talented rosters in the league at this point. The question remains how far Baker Mayfield will take them but all the pieces are there for a big run after getting that postseason taste in 2020.

7. Baltimore Ravens
Don't discount the addition of Kevin Zeitler to the interior of the line as a savvy free agency pickup since that was an issue in front of Lamar Jackson most of last season. They still don't have that true No. 1 wideout to make defenses pay but this remains a very good squad that has room to grow.

8. Miami Dolphins
It's fully the Tua Tagovailoa show in Miami and as the young QB goes, so too does this team. He should be much better and he'll get reinforcements with all that draft capital. This team really came along in 2020 and should be one to watch moving forward.

9. Seattle Seahawks
The Russell Wilson saga has dominated the headlines, which has helped gloss over the fact that they've lost key players like Shaquill Griffin. You'd like to think that Wilson's level of play and Pete Carroll's coaching staff can figure it all out but the roster isn't in as great a shape as it once was.

10. Indianapolis Colts
Everything revolving around the season for the Colts basically comes down to… can they revive Carson Wentz's career? If he gets back to being just an average QB, this team has a good enough roster to win the division and make plenty of noise. If not, well...

11. San Francisco 49ers
The franchise really turned heads with their aggressive move up in the first round but getting healthy for a full year might be the bigger key to the season for Kyle Shanahan and company. The two-deep remains solid but don't discount the possibility of there being some growing pains with two new coordinators.

12. Washington Football Team
Enter FitzMagic! While the NFC East was on the wrong end of a lot of jokes last year, there's been plenty of progress when it comes to upgrades for all four teams — especially in D.C. Cornerback William Jackson III was a sneaky-good pickup too and there's still the draft to come to keep stocking the roster for Ron Rivera.

13. Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott is back and hopefully healthy, which means the offense should be able to put up plenty of fireworks. That's good news because even the draft and the addition of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn won't be able to fully transform one of the worst defenses in the league last year.

14. New England Patriots
Bill Belichick's shopping list was a lengthy one and few teams went as wild in free agency as the Pats did. It still feels like there's a move or two left to be made but you have to like this team much more than you did at the end of the year even if QB remains a big question mark for another season.

15. Arizona Cardinals
J.J. Watt and A.J. Green are some of the splashiest additions this offseason but trading for center Rodney Hudson might wind up being the most impactful. Kyler Murray must continue to show further development but the real key for the Cards is if Kliff Kingsbury can take the next step as an NFL head coach (especially in close fourth quarters).

16. Los Angeles Chargers
Well Justin Herbert, whatcha got for an encore? The already talented team has made a few solid upgrades and has the draft capital to add a few more. We'll see what it means with a rookie head coach and new staff learning on the job however.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers
That hot start last year was a bit of a mirage that everybody eventually saw right through as the weeks passed. It does seem like Big Ben will have one last hurrah but the salary cap issues necessitated a ton of cuts and will put added pressure on youngsters to step up.

18. Atlanta Falcons
A new regime is in place and that might be cause for optimism in Atlanta more than anything. The offense still looks loaded for new head coach Arthur Smith but it's the defense that should determine whether this team gets back to playoff contention or finds themselves drafting in the top 10 once again.

19. New York Giants
Despite a few injuries, the defense under coordinator Patrick Graham wasn't bad last season and they kept Leonard Williams at a pretty high price tag as a result. Kenny Golladay's addition will be a big help for Daniel Jones, who continues to limit the ceiling of the G-Men until proven otherwise.

20. Tennessee Titans
You kind of wonder if maybe the window is starting to close for the Titans in 2021 after losing a number of key players and coaches. Yes, they did bring in Bud Dupree but he's coming off of a serious injury and at some point all those Derrick Henry carries will add up.

21. New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton still has some talent to work with but you can't lose a Hall of Famer under center and just go about your business. Especially when the lower cap necessitated a ton of cuts to key spots. The Saints will still be entertaining and competitive but not at the level they once were.

22. Denver Broncos
Their division doesn't help them one bit but the Denver roster at full health is still pretty good, which means the onus is on Drew Lock to either prove he's the franchise guy or that it's time to move on in Mile High.

23. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings occupy that strange "no man's land" of not being terrible but not being actually good either. Dalvin Tomlinson's addition should help the defense but Mike Zimmer really needs another top-notch draft class to help contribute moving forward.

24. Carolina Panthers
It's been seemingly every other week that you hear the Panthers are in the mix for making a blockbuster move yet they've still had a fairly quiet offseason in terms of adding true impact playmakers. The roster is slightly better than a year ago but Carolina's growth will come down largely to hitting on this next crop of rookies.

25. Las Vegas Raiders
Jon Gruden must think Gus Bradley is going to be a mastermind defensive wiz because even the additions like Yannick Ngakoue will only go so far in addressing those issues on that side of the ball. The roster, and especially the OL, have regressed and there are plenty more questions about the high-priced head coach as a result.

26. Philadelphia Eagles
A young quarterback plus a first-time head coach typically is not a winning combination, even in the lackluster NFC East. There's still a ton of talent on the team but getting it to gel in the right spots will be a huge challenge.

27. New York Jets
We're still TBD on the quarterback situation but there's no doubt Gang Green has improved with all that money to spend in free agency and a ton of draft capital still to play with. This is still a rebuild with a window a few years down the road however.

28. Chicago Bears
Who is excited for the Andy Dalton era to begin? Judging by the reactions in the Windy City, nobody. There are just a ton of question marks about the entire offense as a whole to outweigh whatever good the defense can do.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Urban Meyer experience is going to be one of the most fascinating parts of the 2021 season even if you separate that from the arrival of the golden-haired chosen one in Trevor Lawrence. Whether it all coalesces into a team that can actually win some games remains to be seen but there's seemingly a much more solid foundation in Duval right now.

30. Cincinnati Bengals
Nobody nibbled around the edges of free agency like the Bengals, which naturally are going to focus heavily on the draft. Joe Burrow's health is the biggest key to the year however and while you think he'll come back better than ever, you won't know until he steps out onto the field.

31. Detroit Lions
A turnover-prone QB behind an iffy line with fewer weapons and a relatively inexperienced coaching staff trying to make do with a mediocre roster... what could go wrong?

32. Houston Texans
This team was bad a year ago and now has massive question marks at QB, with the coaching staff and a roster that has seemingly seen half of it turned over in free agency. Not the best of combinations for a team that will be just two years removed from a playoff appearance.

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.