We’ve been following the league’s drug-induced insanity for the first seven weeks now, and it might be time we start making more definite declarations about some of these football teams. The Week 8 NFL Power Rankings might seem a bit harsh toward your favorite team, but sometimes tough love is necessary for growth.
Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 6 | Unadulteraded Awfulness
Some of the teams in Tier 6 are like a film so bad that you can’t help but watch it. Others are bad but also don’t have any redeeming qualities, so we don’t even want to tune into their games unless we have to.
Congratulations are in order for the Panthers’ win over the reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Carolina’s defense suffocated the Buccaneers’ rushing attack, which has been on a milk carton since Week 1 of the NFL season.
They were particularly tough on third and fourth down. Tampa Bay went 2 of 12 on third down and 1 of 3 on fourth down against this young and talented Carolina defense. PJ Walker had a much better day through the air than a week ago where he only completed one pass past the line of scrimmage.
Additionally, the Panthers’ rushing attack didn’t miss a beat after trading away Christian McCaffrey, averaging 6.4 yards per carry on the day.
In possibly the most shocking turn of events during a season of unrivaled confusion, Chicago looked good on offense against a defense that has been playing lights out over the past few weeks. Chicago even lost both interior blockers, but Justin Fields and the offense had their best game of the season.
Fields had about the same number of designed runs in this game as he had in the first six weeks of the season combined. Add in a few poor decisions and throws by the two Patriots quarterbacks, and we have ourselves a Monday night blowout. Congratulations, Bears fans, you deserve this one!
The Lions are so good at tanking. So often, they look so close to being a decent football team. But in key moments, they pee down their own leg to lose football games. Jamaal Williams fumbled at the Cowboys’ 1-yard line down by four points in the fourth quarter, and Detroit went on to lose the game 24-6.
The final score wasn’t indicative of how close this game was for so long. But once the fumble happened, the floodgates opened. Dallas scored on the ensuing drive, and then their unbelievable pass rush teed off on Jared Goff, ending the game in a flash.
There might not be a more predictable football team in the entire NFL. Houston will keep things close or lead games through three periods and then forget that they’re not playing hockey, losing the game in the fourth.
The Texans led once again going into the fourth quarter against the Raiders before letting it slip through their fingers. And as it slipped through their fingers, they lost their footing on the spilled liquid, which led them tumbling down the stairs like Peter Griffin in an episode of Family Guy.
Lovie Smith has to find answers for Houston’s pathetic fourth-quarter performance.
Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 5 | We’re Not Mad, We’re Just… Disappointed
Far too many of the teams in Tier 5 have grossly disappointed so far in 2022. We even thought a few of the teams in this tier would be three or four teams ahead of their current situation. Many of the teams here could still make a playoff push, but they first need to remove their foot from their hindquarters.
Things are still pretty ugly in Arizona, but they were able to get the job done against the New Orleans Saints, who can’t seem to buy a good performance by both offensive and defensive units in a single week.
Getting DeAndre Hopkins back was a massive shot in the arm to the Cardinals’ passing attack. He was targeted 14 times in his season debut, catching 10 passes for 103 yards. The Cardinals’ defense is still incredibly suspect, but two pick-sixes masked their massive issues in coverage on the night.
The Cardinals are a flawed team. And until we see more consistent play from them on both sides of the ball, they won’t be able to climb the rankings.
The Atlanta Falcons have been betting darlings all season, but their run of covering point spreads ended against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. What Arthur Smith has done with this team so far in 2022 has been nothing short of remarkable. They are a team deep in the depths of a rebuild, and yet, they’ve been competitive in every game they’ve played until Week 7.
That said, there is absolutely no excuse for Kyle Pitts to be off the field for nearly 40% of the team’s offensive snaps. That alone is a fireable offense. You don’t use the fourth-overall pick on Pitts to not find a way to get him on the field as much as humanly possible.
The Falcons’ defense didn’t have an answer for the Bengals’ offense, which averaged 10.2 net yards per passing play. We should have seen that coming, considering how Dean Pees attacks offenses compared to the strengths of the Bengals’ passing attack.
With two games in the next three weeks against the Panthers, Atlanta could still be 5-5 through 10 games, which would be considered a win.
The Browns are disappointing because of their defense. We knew the interior of that defensive line would struggle given their lack of talent at DT, but the secondary is supposed to have a ton of talent. However, the problem is assuming individual talent can overcome a lack of communication and responsibility.
The Browns have gotten better-than-expected play from Jacoby Brissett and have the best runner in the league in Nick Chubb. The offense’s production should have been enough to keep them afloat until Deshaun Watson returned against the Texans in Week 13. Now, it looks like he’ll return to a similar situation to what he left in Houston.
The Broncos are now 2-5, and all hope for their season feels lost, considering how things are starting to shape up in the AFC. Their defense is still performing very well, which should keep some sort of positivity going in the locker room. But how long can that defense cling on for dear life as they get no help offensively?
A win against the Jaguars next week before hitting their bye week could go a long way. Denver needs to take that week off to focus on a few things to change on the offensive side of the ball to try and find a spark. There’s too much wrong for wholesale changes, but a few minor adjustments could go a long way considering the defense they’re playing.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are broken. More specifically, their offense is pathetic. They were spotted a pick-six against the Commanders and still couldn’t muster any offensive firepower until the bitter end. Washington’s defense came into the game ranked in the bottom half of the league in both dropback EPA and passing DVOA.
There is no hope on the horizon. Davante Adams isn’t walking back through that door. The league’s reigning, back-to-back MVP is a shell of himself without that security blanket. His receivers are slow and inconsistent, particularly without Randall Cobb and Christian Watson.
Matt Ryan doesn’t stand a chance. Make no mistake, Ryan needs to be put out on the clothesline, but like Rodgers in Green Bay, he has quite a bit working against him. The Colts’ offensive line has disintegrated over the past few years, and Chris Ballard’s penny-pinching nature has affected the roster greatly.
MORE: NFL Standings Week 7
Tennessee has their number. Indianapolis has now lost five straight against Tennessee and is now in quite a hole in the AFC South. With an unkind schedule ahead, things don’t look good for their division title hopes.
No team in Tier 5 fits the “not mad, just disappointed” moniker better than the Jaguars. They rank highly on offense and defense, yet they sit at 2-5 and toward the bottom of the AFC.
Jacksonville played an evenly-matched game against the now 6-1 Giants but tripped and fell over themselves twice in the red zone during the game, turning the ball over on downs. The Jaguars averaged seven yards per play on offense, and there’s an argument to be made that they outplayed New York.
But that has been the story of Jacksonville’s season. They look like a good team on paper that doesn’t get the job done on game day.
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans can’t do anything right. One week, their offense moves the ball up and down the field but can’t finish in the red zone. The next week, they score in bunches, but the defense busts coverages and misses tackles, so they lose in a shootout. Then, their quarterback throws multiple pick-sixes to let a bad football team beat them.
Dennis Allen is one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL. I understand why the Saints made him the head coach, but making him head honcho takes much of his focus off that unit, which over the past five seasons, had been the most consistent defense in football.
Coaches overuse the term “complementary football,” but the Saints are a good example of when that is the truth.
The Steelers’ offense is a mess. They haven’t thrown the ball well this season despite having their offensive line pass protect at a higher level than expected this season. It took a last-minute offensive drive to finally find a passing play of greater than 13 yards for Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh receivers.
Mike Tomlin is one of the best coaches of our generation, but he cannot go into 2023 with Matt Canada as the team’s offensive coordinator. Pittsburgh’s continuity is legendary. The Steelers don’t often relieve coaches of their duties, and they often replace from within when they do. But with an underwhelming passing attack and a terrible run game, Tomlin is out of options.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What in the Cinnamon Toast Crunch is going on here? Losing to the Steelers and Panthers in consecutive weeks is unforgivable. The Buccaneers’ offense is broken. They couldn’t run the football if their lives and paychecks depended on it, and the passing attack was as pedestrian against Carolina as it’s been since Tom Brady first donned a Bucs uniform.
Kicking a field goal down by 14 points in the fourth quarter was the death blow. Todd Bowles decided right then and there that it was more important to avoid the shutout than to try and win the football game. The Panthers scored a touchdown on the next drive to make it a 21-3 game, and the lead became insurmountable.
For as ugly as things have been for Washington off the field, and at times on the field in 2022, they sit at 3-4 and just beat Aaron Rodgers with backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke. Now, Heinicke isn’t going to remain the starter. While he made some gritty plays to secure the victory for Washington, Heinicke’s skill set isn’t enough to be a consistent starter at the NFL level.
It’s been nice to see Washington’s defense start turning things around, albeit against a few subpar offenses. They’ll get another chance to show improvement next week against Indianapolis, whose offensive line would struggle to stop me from getting pressure on Matt Ryan.
Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 4 | It Could Be Better
It hasn’t been a complete disaster for the teams in Tier 4, but a few of the teams here have underwhelmed so far in 2022.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have problems that probably can’t be solved completely in 2022. However, the hope is that they can adjust things offensively during their bye week to combat an underwhelming offensive line and a quarterback with a propensity to heat-check his way into trouble far too often.
LA is 3-3, but their offense has been legitimately terrible. They rank 25th in DVOA and 31st in EPA per play through six games. That should improve as the season progresses. They faced the Bills, 49ers, Cowboys, and Panthers defenses so far in 2022, which has undoubtedly factored into their offensive equation.
But if the Rams want to be a factor in January, they must find a way to solve their offensive issues.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Texans did exactly what they’ve done all season. They looked like a real football team for three quarters before running out of fuel in the air, and then crashing and burning. The Las Vegas defense is still very questionable, but the offense through seven weeks has shown it can move the ball on the ground consistently. And when they pass protect sufficiently, they have enough weapons to be a problem.
But more about that defense. The Raiders came into Week 7 ranked first in rush EPA and 31st in dropback EPA. They have a new defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham, and their defensive personnel doesn’t necessarily mesh with what he wants to do in coverage. Rock Ya-Sin has been good in coverage, but safety play has been a massive issue for Las Vegas thus far.
Los Angeles Chargers
I wrote about the Chargers’ biggest issue on offense this week, and then spent another week again watching their lack of speed hinder their offensive firepower. We’ve seen Joe Douglas and the Jets’ front office practically hold Denzel Mims hostage now for multiple years, so I doubt the Chargers could put anything together to rip him away from New York, but they need to look somewhere.
Brandon Staley came to Los Angeles as a defensive guru, but his defenses have been more underwhelming than beans on toast. Despite investing heavily in their defensive front, they still can’t stop the run.
The Miami Dolphins have been through quite a lot at the quarterback position over the past few weeks. Getting Tua Tagovailoa back is a huge sigh of relief, but his absence is not the team’s only issue.
Miami is hopelessly injured in the secondary. They snuck past the Steelers on Sunday Night Football, but the secondary won’t hold up the same way against better passing attacks, given the defense’s aggressiveness in coverage.
The Dolphins’ offense was moving in the first half, and they started off with a nice drive in the second half before turning it over on downs. After that, however, things got stale, and neither team scored a point in the second half.
New England Patriots
The Patriots aren’t often out-coached, but it’s hard to come away from their Monday Night Football loss thinking anything else. Starting Mac Jones was probably a poor decision in hindsight.
I had previously stated that Bailey Zappe looked great, but we hadn’t seen him in any negative game script. Well, we saw it on Monday night, and it was ugly. After two scoring drives, he and the entire Patriots offense struggled in the second half.
Their defense also struggled to keep Fields grounded in the pocket. Far too often, he was able to skate free and pick up yards with his legs.
San Francisco 49ers
The question of whether elite offense or elite defense prevails was answered emphatically in Week 7. The Chiefs did whatever they wanted to on the offensive side of the ball against what was widely regarded as one of the league’s top three defenses.
The Chiefs’ offense averaged over 10 yards per play before Patrick Mahomes took his place on the bench with the team up by 21 with four minutes left in the game. They amassed over 500 yards of offense, averaging over six yards per rush and 11 yards per dropback.
We can chalk this up to a bad game, but whether it be injury or underperformance, this is the second straight week the 49ers’ defense has come up short.
The Seahawks jumped on top of the Los Angeles Chargers early and never let their foot off the gas. No matter who is getting the carries for Seattle, there seems to be holes the size of a Mack Truck to run through, and Geno Smith is playing some of the best football in the league at quarterback.
The Seahawks’ defense has been their Achilles heel, but they made enough plays against the Chargers to keep Seattle in the driver’s seat for the entire second half. Before the season started, we would have been crazy to assume the Seahawks would be contending in the NFC West. Through seven weeks they’re leading it, and it might stay that way if San Francisco’s defense can’t round back into form.
Tennessee is sitting pretty in the AFC South after beginning the season winless through two weeks of play. Their offense still lacks an explosive element, but they’ve done a good job keeping offenses out of the end zone outside of their Week 2 shellacking against the formidable Buffalo Bills. Still, it’s difficult to consistently win games in the NFL if you’re unable to score 30 points, which Tennessee has been unable to do yet in 2022.
Much like their performance last season, the Titans’ success on paper doesn’t make much sense. They rank well into the 20s in both offensive and defensive EPA. They rank 18th in defensive DVOA and 20th in offensive DVOA. But who cares as long as they’re winning football games, right?
NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Tier 3 | Good, But Can it Last?
It might not be sustainable, but it’s been a fun ride so far!
The Ravens are more fun than the other three teams in Tier 3, but they’re also the most unsettling in a way. Baltimore’s offense has sputtered since Week 3, and they seem to keep finding unique ways to blow leads in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens edge out the Vikings, Giants, and Jets in net points per drive but trail all three in net-drive success rate. Part of Baltimore’s issue has been their schedule, which Football Outsiders ranks as the third-most difficult through six weeks. The Ravens’ future schedule ranks 26th, which means we could see this team start to show us that they are a dominant team.
The Vikings lost to the only good team they’ve faced all season, and each of their last four games have been one-score wins against bad football teams. However, in a season that’s shown any team can win on any given day, simply taking care of business and winning games you should, no matter how ugly, is an impressive feat.
Minnesota’s offense feels boring, but they rank 13th in points per drive and 11th in drive success rate, which is indicative of how ugly things have been for NFL offenses in 2022. That is, aside from the Bills and Chiefs.
Minnesota could conceivably run away and hide with the NFC North. The Bears and Lions are basement dwellers and the Packers look seriously lost on offense.
New York Giants
For a while, the Giants’ winning nature didn’t make sense. They aren’t a particularly impressive team on paper from a roster construction standpoint, and their production was average at best.
But New York is avoiding mistakes and are incredibly well-coached. They’ve beaten Tennessee, Green Bay, Baltimore, and Jacksonville. The Giants’ offense seemingly improves on a weekly basis, and their run game has been solid since Week 1. Their schedule sets them up nicely for a playoff run, and if they can turn things around a bit defensively, they’ll be a legitimate contender.
New York Jets
If you flip the Jets and the Giants, you get the same team. If the Jets’ offense can continue to improve, they have a real shot at contending. Joe Douglas has done a good job stockpiling talent, and that talent has shined so far in 2022. Robert Saleh has the defense playing like a top-10 unit, and the special-teams unit has been a huge boost to the team as well.
Losing Breece Hall is a tough blow, but the team has so much offensive talent that as long as Zach Wilson can take care of the ball the offense should find some consistent efficiency. They’ve improved on the offensive line and have been conceptually sound with Mike LaFleur calling plays.
Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 2 | Good and Makes Sense
It’s a bit surprising to see the Bengals and Cowboys here, considering how they looked after three weeks of the season. Nevertheless, both teams have turned things around and are performing closer to expected now.
The Bengals are back. The offense has shifted its focus over the past few weeks in the passing attack, which has helped Joe Burrow out immensely from an efficiency perspective. Cincinnati had a good matchup against the Falcons’ secondary, and they took full advantage of it.
The Bengals averaged 10.2 net passing yards, and Burrow finished 34 of 42 for 481 yards and three TDs. Those are video game numbers, and far more reminiscent of the big games we saw him have last season with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. It doesn’t hurt that the offensive line has worked out their protection issues, either.
Dak Prescott looked rusty at times in his first action since injuring his thumb in Week 1, but the Cowboys’ rushing attack with Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott helped keep drives going for Dallas.
The Cowboys’ offense is still a question mark. Dallas needs to find some explosiveness in their passing attack, which they’ve struggled with in their dropback game since Prescott injured his calf a season ago.
However, the Cowboys’ defense is legitimately good. While their run defense can be exploited at times, there might not be a better coverage unit in the NFL. And if Dallas gets a lead, they’ll be very hard to beat, because their pass rush can end a game in a flash, like it did against Detroit on Sunday.
NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Tier 1 | The Elite Teams
These are the best teams in the NFL and the ones we’d circle in for each conference’s championship games.
Buffalo got to sit back and relax after a massive win against Kansas City the week prior. They’re currently in an incredibly unique position. Before Kansas City decided to use the 49ers’ defense as a punching bag in Week 7, the Bills ranked first in offensive and defensive EPA.
That’s a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 2003. That will almost surely not last, but what probably will last is Buffalo’s overall lead in DVOA, which they also held a season ago. Remaining healthy should be the top goal for them now because they know they have a special team to compete in January.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs weren’t losing two in a row. Their offense made sure they didn’t. When the Chiefs’ offense gets rolling, “well-oiled machine” seems like a slight against them. They’re Thanos with all six of the infinity stones. The offense is unstoppable.
Kansas City scored touchdowns on six of seven drives at one point in this game. Their seventh drive was a missed field goal right before halftime. And they did all that against a defense that ranked inside the top five of DVOA and EPA. When Kansas City gets going like that, there’s no stopping them, because they have no weakness, and the rules facilitate their success offensively.
The Chiefs have a top tier quarterback with a top tier offensive mind with a great offensive line and a group of receivers that fit well into their respective roles.
We missed out on three teams with a combined record of 16-2 because of bye weeks, with the Eagles boasting the league’s only undefeated record. Before Week 7, they ranked inside the top five in offensive and defensive EPA and DVOA. They also rank inside the top 10 in every drive efficiency stat outside of defensive drive success rate.
They are a complete football team. From top to bottom, Howie Roseman has built a juggernaut in 2022. And with the league’s easiest schedule ahead of them, Philadelphia is primed to strongly contend for the NFC’s top playoff seed.