Another slate of games is in the book, so the NFL power rankings are back with a vengeance. And there is quite a bit of movement in the rankings this week, particularly toward the top of the NFL. There’s a new name inside of the top five.
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32) Carolina Panthers (32)
At 0-6, the Carolina Panthers are the only winless team in the NFL as they enter their week off. They rank 26th in offensive EPA and 28th in defensive EPA. When looking at things through that lens, there are worse teams in the league. But until Carolina gets a tick in the win column, it’s impossible to have them anywhere but the basement.
31) New York Giants (31)
The Giants defense showed up against the Commanders. Despite only securing one takeaway, the Giants saw eight defensive three-and-outs. Additionally, they only allowed one drive of more than one first down before the fourth quarter.
30) Chicago Bears (30)
Tyson Bagent won his first start in the NFL, and he looked impressive against an unimpressive Raiders defense. Although his day was not explosive, all he needed to do was take care of the ball. The rushing attack had a strong day against Las Vegas, going for over 170 yards.
Jaylon Johnson had a pick-six against Brian Hoyer and then had another interception on the very next drive against rookie Aidan O’Connell.
29) New England Patriots (29)
The Patriots offense was horrific for weeks. Mac Jones is still trying to do a little bit too much as a limited athlete, but he played incredibly well against the Bills, remaining in rhythm throughout the game as a passer.
The win against Buffalo likely has more to do with Buffalo than New England, but it was nice to see this unit scratch and claw its way to Bill Belichick’s 300th career regular-season win.
28) Arizona Cardinals (27)
The Cardinals are confounding. They somehow simultaneously kept the game close and lost the game with their sloppy play against the Seahawks. Joshua Dobbs and the passing attack fell apart against the Seahawks secondary, but the Cardinals defense kept the game within seven points until late in the fourth quarter.
Depending on how healthy and effective Kyler Murray can be in this new offense, the Cardinals could play spoiler to a few teams late in the season.
27) Las Vegas Raiders (25)
Josh McDaniels is pretty inarguably the worst game manager in the NFL. The Patriots’ long-time run game architect and offensive coordinator is in his second (or third?) head coaching stint, and he’s not found any success throughout the process.
Although the Raiders are certainly an underwhelming roster, the in-game decisions are becoming more and more comical … if they weren’t so sad.
26) Denver Broncos (28)
The Broncos defense has looked more structurally sound over the past two weeks, and that must continue if they want to win a few more games in 2023. The offense remains underwhelming. Although they boast some explosiveness with Javonte Williams and Russell Wilson’s deep-ball prowess, they are inexplicably irresponsible with pre-snap penalties.
Nevertheless, they came away with their second win of the season against the Packers.
25) Washington Commanders (24)
The Commanders offense really struggled to put drives together against the Giants. In fact, they had as many offensive drives (14) as they did first downs. They managed only five first downs on their first 12 drives while gaining nine on their final two.
Sam Howell is clearly talented – he can really spin the ball. But he also struggles in the pocket and is on pace to shatter the record for sacks taken in a season.
24) Tennessee Titans (22)
The Titans offense is one of the least successful units in the NFL (25th), but they rank 12th in EPA because of their inconsistent ability to create explosive plays. All in all, Tennessee’s offense is underwhelming, and they’ve struggled considerably on defense despite boasting some impressive talent on the roster.
23) Green Bay Packers (20)
It was a slow game against the Broncos, with only nine offensive possessions. It was an ugly first half offensively, and the game finished with an ugly and unnecessary Jordan Love interception. In the end, the young quarterback still has a very long way to go, and having such an inexperienced group of weapons around him is not the best environment.
The Packers defense did a good job keeping the Broncos out of the end zone once they got into the red zone, but Denver still averaged over six yards per play. Denver ran for 145 yards on 25 carries, and Green Bay was unable to take the ball away from Denver offensively.
22) Los Angeles Chargers (15)
Although the Chargers aren’t nearly as bad as their 2-4 record, they aren’t necessarily good, either. Their two wins came against the Vikings and Raiders, and they have a loss to the Titans in which they allowed 27 points to that offense. They’re simply not a great football team, no matter how much talent they have.
21) New York Jets (21)
In August, a 3-3 record heading into the bye week would have been scoffed at by Jets fans, players, and coaches. A 3-3 record less than an hour into Week 1 would have – and should be – considered miraculous.
Despite facing the Bills, Cowboys, Chiefs, and Eagles, the Zach Wilson-led Jets have a 3-3 record, beating the Bills in Week 1 and the Eagles in Week 5. The New York defense doesn’t appear as analytically gifted as a season ago, but they are still the high-flying unit they were in 2023.
20) Minnesota Vikings (26)
The Vikings were already underwhelming in 2023, and losing their best player — arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL — makes the Vikings’ strength, the passing attack, a massive question mark.
But don’t tell Kirk Cousins that. The veteran quarterback was sensational against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. He finished just 22 yards shy of 400 without Justin Jefferson. Jordan Addison had a big two-touchdown game, and T.J. Hockenson stepped up with 11 receptions.
But the Vikings’ defense is much stronger than originally anticipated in 2023. And on Monday, it was Camryn who shut the door on the 49ers.
19) New Orleans Saints (19)
The Saints offense might be broken. Although they eventually ended up with 24 points against Jacksonville, the Saints’ red-zone offense is a mess. Derek Carr plays like he has an extra down to play with, and the miscommunications between receiver and quarterback continue to mount.
However, the New Orleans defense will keep them in a lot of games. In fact, there’s an argument that the Saints actually outplayed the Jaguars, but they could not take advantage of their five red-zone trips.
18) Indianapolis Colts (17)
The Colts battled a poor defensive performance to the very end, but it would have been nice to see them not have to face the zebras. Two very questionable calls at the end of their game against Cleveland may have been the difference between a win and a loss.
Shane Steichen can do everything for the Colts offense except take the snap and throw the ball himself. The Colts’ offensive architecture is sublime. The run game is pristine, and getting a healthy Jonathan Taylor could pay dividends for them as the season goes on if Gardner Minshew II can avoid turnovers.
17) Los Angeles Rams (14)
The Rams simply could not get the job done through the air against an underwhelming Steelers secondary, even with a healthy Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua. Matthew Stafford let Watt bait him into an interception that almost went the other way for a touchdown.
They have run the ball well in 2023 and ran the ball well against Pittsburgh as well. They were even pretty good on third down. But two missed field goals and a defense that collapsed late left the Rams 3-4.
16) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13)
The Buccaneers can’t run the ball. And despite still being relatively impressive on third down, they didn’t have enough juice to score more than a single touchdown against the Falcons defense.
Tampa Bay has always had a bit of a “bend but don’t break” defensive philosophy, but they’ve allowed some big plays so far in 2023.
15) Houston Texans (16)
C.J. Stroud has been outrageous. The anticipation and accuracy he’s playing with are unbelievable compared to where he was coming out of Ohio State. Bobby Slowik’s offense is clicking, and the defense seems to be improving incrementally.
14) Atlanta Falcons (18)
The Falcons are set up perfectly to compete as long as their quarterback is able to make the plays that an NFL starter should be able to make and as long as he takes care of the ball. But Desmond Ridder continues to turn the ball over at an unacceptable level.
He lost three fumbles against the Buccaneers, but with the help of a strong defense, some timely plays the young QB made himself, and his playmakers, Atlanta was able to win the intradivisional game.
13) Pittsburgh Steelers (23)
What are we supposed to do with this football team? The offense still seems disjointed. There’s inconsistent quarterback play and bad offensive line play in abundance. Their offensive coordinator is one of the most hated coaches in the league by the team’s own fans. And yet, Mike Tomlin somehow keeps this team above .500.
T.J. Watt is playing incredible football, even relative to his already outrageous ability on the field. But the Steelers’ defensive backfield is unserious, aside from Minkah Fitzpatrick.
But they’re 4-3 with a win against the Ravens.
12) Seattle Seahawks (12)
The Seahawks game against the Cardinals felt slow. Despite a relatively normal amount of possessions, nearly even time of possession, and about 60 offensive plays on each side, it was a normal game. But something feels just a bit off regarding Seattle’s offense.
However, the Seahawks defense is a lot of fun to watch. They struggled with Dobbs scrambled on Sunday but have been excellent against the run so far in 2023. And it is evident that Devon Witherspoon is a budding superstar at cornerback.
11) Cincinnati Bengals (11)
The Bengals have been banged up all season. While many teams likely want their off week to reside somewhere close to the midway point, Cincinnati players and coaches may be breathing a sigh of relief this week.
A healthy Bengals offense should make for a better complementary unit compared to their impressive defense.
10) Buffalo Bills (7)
What are the Buffalo Bills? Who are the Buffalo Bills? Are they the team that dominated the Dolphins from start to finish, or are they the team that lost to the Jets and Patriots?
We’ve seen this from them over the years. They’re a talented roster that often underwhelms sporadically. But they’ve consistently figured it out as the season progresses. Will that be the case again in 2023?
9) Cleveland Browns (10)
Myles Garrett wrecked the Colts. And although this looked more like a game between Lincoln Riley’s USC and Oklahoma teams (no defense), the Browns’ pass rush at least showed up to the party.
It’s time to start keeping an eye on Deshaun Watson. Despite being cleared from concussion protocol, he did not return to the game after going 1-for-5 for five yards and an interception. His shoulder likely wasn’t ready for action yet, and the massive hit he took made it easy to shut him down for the rest of the game.
Rushing back a shoulder injury has already ruined a Browns QB in the very recent past. And rushing an already struggling and expensive QB back is a very bad long-term play.
8) Detroit Lions (3)
After looking like one of the most consistent teams in the NFL to begin the season, the Lions ran into the Ravens’ buzzsaw. Both teams, at their best, are among the best in the league. However, the Lions clearly did not show up against Baltimore, who got up early and never let off the gas.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
The Jaguars aren’t easy to figure out. Trevor Lawrence is clearly talented, but he is so insanely quick-triggered that the offense lacks much of any explosiveness in the passing attack. He’s getting through reads too quickly at times and has even resorted to being a one-read-and-run player.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars’ defensive performance so far in 2023 might be the real story. While they are receiving some likely unsustainable turnover luck, they have also proven to be one of the most successful defensive units in the league.
6) Dallas Cowboys (6)
The Dallas Cowboys are currently 10th in offensive EPA and fourth in defensive EPA, but it remains hard to trust either side of the ball six games into the season. The offense is far too static, and the defense is without its top cornerback and top linebacker.
5) San Francisco 49ers (2)
Jim Schwartz has Kyle Shanahan’s number, but the 49ers also suffered a rash of untimely injuries against the Browns’ defense a week ago. As they entered a Monday night matchup against the Vikings, they were second in offensive EPA and third in defensive EPA.
But the Vikings loss was another example of how volatile the NFL is. It’s a week-to-week league played by unreliable human beings. But it will be interesting to follow how Brock Purdy bounces back from his last two performances.
4) Miami Dolphins (3)
The Miami Dolphins offense is special. The difference in yards per play between them and second place is greater than the difference between second place and last place. Their offensive EPA and success rate dwarf the rest, and the unit is dominant enough to practically forget about their underwhelming defense.
But when that offense isn’t firing on all eight cylinders, the defense is capable of letting down the opposite side of the roster, as they did against the Eagles on Sunday night. Until the secondary is completely healthy, it’s incredibly difficult to trust that the rest of the unit can keep things afloat against talented offenses.
3) Baltimore Ravens (8)
The Ravens’ defense is arguably only bested by Cleveland’s. However, doing what they did against the Lions’ potent offense was further proof that Mike Macdonald could be looking at head coaching opportunities as soon as this upcoming offseason.
The Ravens’ offensive line also had a strong day against the Lions’ impressive pass rush. They protected Lamar Jackson well, and even when Detroit won a matchup, Jackson was able to create something out of nothing
2) Philadelphia Eagles (5)
The Eagles’ defensive line is still a strength for the team, but the middle of their defense at the second and third levels has let them down so far. They are not nearly as dominant on that side of the ball as last year, and the Dolphins could be a particularly difficult matchup for them.
Despite this, the Eagles came away with a statement win on Sunday Night Football. Philadelphia has struggled with lesser opponents all season, but when it came time to play their first quality opponent, they stepped up in a big way, especially after an ugly loss to the Jets the week prior.
1) Kansas City Chiefs (1)
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense turned back the clock and absolutely took the Chargers defense to task in the first half of their performance. Travis Kelce finished with 12 catches for 179 yards and a TD.
But it’s the Chiefs defense that makes this team different from what we’re used to seeing in Kansas City. Not a single team has scored more than 21 points against them this season.