The NFL Power Rankings aren’t going to see a ton of movement this week, but there are a few teams that took significant blows to their status heading into Week 9. There are a lot of really bad football teams out there this year, and there are some good teams losing to awful ones on the regular. Football is very weird. Remember that.
NFL Power Rankings Week 9 | Tier 4: Hope you have your first-round picks
The season for these teams is over. The rest of the year should be about building for the future and trying to progress young players. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a number of these teams selling before the trade deadline.
32) Houston Texans
This is the team we all thought we were getting from Houston when the season began. They surprised us in Week 1 with their win over the Jaguars, but things have spiraled in pathetic proportions since Tyrod Taylor’s injury. The offense may as well not even exist at this point, as they can’t get anything going in any aspect.
Their defense is similarly outmatched against about every non-Lions offense in the NFL, too. Houston’s defense is just a mess of names, and it doesn’t appear the Texans can compete with NFL offenses. Still, Kansas City’s defense is somehow worse, analytically speaking. However, after the Texans’ performance against LA, I expect that to change.
31) Detroit Lions
The Lions have competed in a lot of games this year, including against the Ravens, Vikings, and Rams. Unfortunately, after throwing the entire kitchen sink at Los Angeles last week, it appears they went back to Ford Field with an empty tank and didn’t refill it before they took the field against the Eagles.
We already knew that Jared Goff wasn’t the best quarterback in the NFL. Heck, some of us have thought he’s kind of bad for a while now. But I’m not sure anybody realized just how ugly it would be for him in Detroit. It goes to show just how imperative situation is for a quarterback. The former No. 1 overall pick is probably seeing his last action as a starter in 2021.
30) Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins aren’t the worst team in the NFL, but they’re easily the most disappointing one. Sure, the Chiefs are struggling, but their offense has always made up for their defense. The Dolphins were supposed to have a solid defense and the weapons to move the ball offensively.
They’ve lost all of their juice from just one year ago when it looked like the franchise’s fortunes had turned in its favor. Miami could only muster 4.1 net yards per play against a good Bills defense this week. Although their defense held up for most of the game, it wasn’t enough in the end.
29) Jacksonville Jaguars
The only thing keeping me from putting the Jaguars at 30th in the NFL Power Rankings after getting molly whopped by the Seattle Seahawks without Mr. Unlimited is the fact that they beat the 30th-ranked team just two weeks ago. Flip a coin for who is actually worse. Both have … interesting … coaching dynamics. They each have a little offensive firepower from a personnel perspective, but only one is getting the results they want on that side of the ball.
Defensively, the Jags are an absolute mess. Only the Lions have worse results defending the pass according to EPA (expected points added), but DVOA — Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric — has them ranked as the worst unit in the league by a significant margin. Getting dominated by Geno Smith can’t be a good sign for things to come.
28) New York Jets
Congratulations are in order. It makes no sense that the Jets would beat the Bengals today with Mike White at QB, but they did. White was up and down, but this team battled their tails off, which could signify that Robert Saleh’s culture is building in New York.
The offense picked up 32 first downs against the Bengals and gained 511 yards on 78 offensive plays. They controlled the game. This was not a fluke contention like the Lions have had in a few games this season. The Jets actually played better than the Bengals. Let’s hope they can continue to build the culture and the fanbase stays level-headed in its discourse regarding White and Zach Wilson.
27) Washington Football Team
Washington’s offense has absolutely no juice. The quarterback is a problem, and once again, both their offense and defense struggled on third down. At some point, this team has to find a spark, and although that spark probably is not Kyle Allen, it certainly doesn’t seem to be Taylor Heinicke.
The defense simply couldn’t get stops in crucial moments. They sacked Teddy Bridgewater 4 times, but they couldn’t stack stops on top of one another. The Broncos’ coverage gaffes were the biggest reason the Football Team still had a chance to tie the game late.
26) New York Giants
Daniel Jones has played some of the best football of his career so far in 2021, but it doesn’t matter a lick because his defense has grossly underperformed. Additionally, he’s carrying the anchor of OC Jason Garrett onto the field with him. Oh, and let’s not forget the offensive line that might as well be a mirage because they hardly even slow down opposing pass rushers. The Giants’ weapons are a lot of fun, even in Kenny Golladay’s absence. Kadarius Toney has been a treat to watch, and the rest of the cast can play as well.
Defensively, they’ve underachieved. New York’s linebacker play is a massive issue, and their safety play has been underwhelming. Still, they’ve been better against the pass than they have the run, which is disappointing given the mass of assets they’ve spent on the interior of that defensive line over the years.
The Giants didn’t run near the number of plays the Chiefs did, and this game came down to Kansas City giving themselves more opportunities to score in the end. New York’s defense looked good against a Chiefs offense that, despite struggling, is still one of the most dominant units in the NFL. The Giants are a struggling franchise that must make big changes to turn their fortunes around in the offseason.
25) Chicago Bears
The Bears’ offense, and more specifically Justin Fields, looked far better without head coach Matt Nagy calling the plays. Fields took matters into his own hands often this week, scrambling away from pressure allowed by a ghostly offensive line.
He rushed the ball 10 times for 103 yards and made some fantastic clutch plays to pick up first downs along the way. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough in the end. Yet, he completed over 70% of his passes despite a 9.7-yard aDOT (average depth of target). If Fields has any time at all, he can make plays. RB Khalil Herbert has the juice as well, but today, the defense let them down.
24) Philadelphia Eagles
This game felt like it was going to be a blowout, but with the way the Lions had performed against the likes of Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Baltimore, I caved and predicted a 24-17 win for Philadelphia.
Instead, the Eagles handled the Lions like they handled the Falcons in Week 1. Philadelphia is the quintessential “not bad but not good” team. They have a talented defense, and when the offense is firing on all cylinders, they can move the ball. Having your QB throw 14 times for an entire football game in 2021 probably isn’t sustainable, but with the way their offensive line dominated against Detroit, it didn’t matter.
23) Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons allowed Carolina to convert 10 of their 17 third downs. That is pretty much the story of this game. Well, that and the Falcons’ offense deciding not to show up. Matt Ryan passed for 154 yards on 27 attempts. That’s a fantastic game for a bell-cow running back, but it’s a pathetic line for a quarterback who completed 20 of those attempts.
Personally, I don’t care that he was only 2-for-6 targeting Kyle Pitts. Get that man in the intermediate area of the field and throw it up to where only he can come down with it. It’s probably the best course of action for an offense that is struggling in Arthur Smith’s first season as head coach and play-caller.
22) Seattle Seahawks
Geno Smith wasn’t perfect, and it was against a horrific Jacksonville pass defense, but he played well on Sunday afternoon. It turns out getting Tyler Lockett involved as early and as often as possible is a good offensive game plan.
Lockett had an absolutely massive day catching the football after a disappearance that’s lasted weeks prior to their game against the Jaguars. All of this comes as the Seahawks struggled to run the ball, making the performance from Smith and Co. all the more imperative. The Seahawks head to the bye week, and then they must deal with the Packers and Cardinals.
21) Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are a talented football team anchored by their offseason decision-making. I can’t promise they’d be better with Justin Fields than Sam Darnold. Carolina’s offensive line isn’t as bad as the Bears, but it’s also not much better. At least if they were doing this with Fields, it could be billed as building for the future with their franchise quarterback. Now, they’ll be searching once again for the answer under center. It’ll be the third QB in three seasons for Matt Rhule.
The defense suffocated the Falcons’ offense. Carolina held Atlanta to just 3 conversions on 10 third downs, and the Falcons’ passing attack couldn’t breathe. Carolina’s defense continues to be a strength, but they can’t score points for the offense. However, their effort was enough for a win in Week 7.
20) Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are one of the more confusing teams in the league. I think they have a lot of talent. They are a bit boom or bust on defense, simply because they are not consistently assignment sound and are incredibly aggressive. Nevertheless, they do have quite a few playmakers. But the pass rush, or lack thereof, cripples their defensive unit overall.
Against the Titans, the offense was good in the red zone and on third downs. However, they lacked consistency overall, and it was their quarterback’s mental mistakes that eventually led to their demise against their division rival. Now, Indianapolis has a massive uphill battle to make the playoffs after looking like a possible division contender for most of the game.
NFL Power Rankings Week 9 | Tier 3: Fringe playoff teams
We don’t really know what to expect from these teams going forward, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see any one of these five in the playoffs come January. Some of them could even be buyers at the trade deadline.
19) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are still a bad team, and Ben Roethlisberger might be the worst non-rookie quarterback in the NFL. Yet, because Pittsburgh is dipped in blue-collar gold, they’re 4-3 and squarely in the Wild Card hunt, despite looking like a team that should struggle to compete.
Their defensive line is keeping their season alive. The Steelers get pressure with the best of them, and they dominated again today. Offensively, they got a big play from Diontae Johnson and a heroic touchdown catch from Pat Freiermuth to make the difference in the game. Like last season, even at 4-4, this team is a paper tiger.
18) Denver Broncos
The Broncos are a boring football team. Their offense is unimaginative. And with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm, it is reminiscent of how the Patriots normally look to attack. Denver wants to grind games out and use the rushing attack to slow things down. However, Bridgewater got back into a bit of a groove as a passer today. He was efficient and had a good day. He completed nearly 80% of his passes and had a positive CPOE (completion percentage over expectation) once again.
The defense, and in particular the secondary, finally showed up when they absolutely needed to. However, Denver’s big test will come next week against what looks to be a healthy Dak Prescott.
17) San Francisco 49ers
This isn’t a great football team, but the 49ers have some incredible individual players that can make up for their other inadequacies. Deebo Samuel is a bonafide superstar, and when healthy, the safety duo of Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt make up for a lot of defensive flaws.
I have no idea what is going to happen at QB going forward for this team. Their long-term answer is Trey Lance, but Jimmy Garoppolo probably gives them the best chance to win games in the present. With what could be a wide-open Wild Card situation in the NFC, we probably see Garoppolo until he either gives Kyle Shanahan a reason to sit him or the 49ers are eliminated from playoff contention.
16) New England Patriots
The Patriots are a playoff team. I’m still incredibly skeptical of their ability to score points, given their inability to produce explosive plays. I called a win for New England against the Chargers because of the matchup problems for Los Angeles. The Patriots’ offensive line is solid, and they can run the ball well. Still, they averaged only 4.7 net yards per play. New England’s defense and some bad play from the Chargers pass catchers won them this football game.
This wasn’t Mac Jones’ most efficient game, but he’s showing more ability to create with his legs than we anticipated. If he can continue to lean on his two tight ends, they can pick up enough first downs to keep games close.
15) Minnesota Vikings
This is still quite possibly the most confusing team in the NFL. The Vikings exclusively play in one-score games aside from their contest against the Seahawks which they won 30-16. Minnesota finished 1-for-13 on third down in Week 8 against the Cowboys.
The Vikings only mustered 4.6 yards per play. They even won the turnover battle. Dallas was simply the better team, even while playing with a backup quarterback that had 3 career attempts entering the matchup. Minnesota seems to just play down to their opponents. Football is endlessly complicated, and few teams are more complicated than the Vikings.
14) Cleveland Browns
The Browns’ offense doesn’t have it right now. Simply put, Baker Mayfield isn’t playing well enough right now. Sure, there are external factors that hamper his ability, but he’s been consistently inconsistent this season. His shoulder injury is not an excuse for his poor processing ability and mismanagement of pressure. A torn non-throwing shoulder can explain away the lackluster accuracy, but the mental side of things shouldn’t be so ugly.
Cleveland’s defense has and continues to do enough to win football games, but the offense has let them down. What looked like a team ready to compete for a championship now looks like a one-week wonder in the playoffs.
13) Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are in a tough spot. Patrick Mahomes has to deal with his Tik Toking brother and wife while trying to eat dinner every day. All the while, Kansas City’s defense is so pathetic that it’s forced Mahomes to play a perfect brand of football, something that’s completely unsustainable — even for him.
Anthony Hitchens and Tyrann Mathieu, the latter of whom is no stranger to social media conflicts, took to Twitter to express their displeasure in the fanbase. I understand where they’re coming from, but the toxic folks in any fanbase aren’t the reasonable chaps you can persuade to — as Mathieu once eloquently replied on Twitter — “shut up.”
Mahomes didn’t play well against the Giants on Monday Night Football. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket for most of the contest. His feet are a mess, but they’ve never been traditionally sturdy in the pocket, to begin with. He still flashed some of the incredible playmaking ability he’s known for, but it was the Chiefs’ defense that won them the game.