The NFC is a jumbled mess, but the AFC is starting to come into focus the way we believed it would look prior to the season. The NFL Power Rankings are beginning to make sense, but the middle of the pack remains a mystery.
Week 9 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 6 | Unadulteraded Awfulness
It’s time to start checking out our Mock Draft Simulator. Each team in Tier 6 could compete for the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. No team has more than two wins on the season, and each team will struggle to be favorites in any game they play unless they’re playing one another.
The Panthers simultaneously should have won and should have lost against the Atlanta Falcons. DJ Moore got behind the Falcons’ defense to tie the game and realistically win it with 23 seconds left, but he took his helmet off in celebration and cost the Panthers 15 yards on the extra point.
Eddy Pineiro missed the extra-distance extra point, and the game went to overtime. Then he missed a 33-yard field goal in overtime after a Marcus Mariota interception, and Atlanta drove down the field to kick the game-winner.
It was the most entertaining game of the early slate, and Carolina battled, which is all we can ask for.
Chicago’s offense look to be improved from just a few weeks ago. Allowing Justin Fields to be part of the run game has brought more options to a team that thoroughly lacked them.
The team battled back from an early 14-point deficit twice and made it a five-point game at one point, but ultimately, didn’t have the firepower or defensive talent to keep Dallas out of the end zone.
Yet, the game wasn’t over until a fumble from David Montgomery turned into a wacky touchdown for Micah Parsons. That practically killed their chances to compete.
No team is better at competitively losing than the Lions. Detroit has some weapons and a legitimately good offensive line, but they’re a quarterback away from competing in the NFC.
However, that’s not the only issue. The Lions’ defense continues to come up short. They allowed Miami to chew off 7.4 yards per play on offense, score in each of their three red-zone attempts, and eight of 12 third downs.
This is a team looking to build while losing, and it appears they are.
If Houston isn’t the worst team in the NFL, they’re darned close. They’ve kept a lot of games close through defensive performance through three quarters, but they’ve been a bad fourth-quarter team in 2022, and they were dominated by the one-dimensional Titans on Sunday.
Davis Mills doesn’t look like the future, and there are plenty of questions that need to be answered in the receiving corps heading into 2023.
We’re to the point where it makes no difference what EPA, DVOA, or hell, even the BCS says about the Jaguars. They don’t know how to win football games.
After looking like a potential division winner a few weeks into the season, Jacksonville has stumbled to five straight one-score losses. Since beating the Chargers, they’ve lost to the Texans, Colts, and Broncos. That’s the sign of a bad football team. And it starts with the inconsistent play from their young QB.
Nobody expected the battle for Pennsylvania would go any differently, right? The Philadelphia Eagles are the kings of taking care of business, and they were more talented than Pittsburgh in every single facet of Sunday’s game.
Pittsburgh isn’t just in trouble in the immediate future. The Steelers’ offensive line is underwhelming, they lack a true No. 1 receiver unless George Pickens emerges in the future, their rookie quarterback looks overwhelmed in a bad situation, and their offensive coordinator probably shouldn’t be a professional coordinator.
Mike Tomlin has made a bunch of miracles happen over the past few seasons, but his luck has run out. Pittsburgh needs to really start the rebuild this offseason.
Week 9 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 5 | We’re Not Mad, We’re Just… Disappointed
There are far too many talented teams in Tier 5.
A special-teams turnover cost the Arizona Cardinals dearly on Sunday. Kyler Murray was intercepted twice, but on the first, he was hit as he threw downfield. The second seemed to be a miscommunication between him and Zach Ertz.
It’s amazing how much of a difference DeAndre Hopkins makes in this offense. He makes everything work. It was also nice to see Rondale Moore get involved in the offense.
Arizona continues to have issues getting plays run before the clock runs out, and it cost them two timeouts that they could have used late in the game.
The Cleveland Browns began the season right where they needed to be at 2-2, but then lost three straight games and faced the challenge of hosting a surging Bengals team on Monday Night Football.
However, just when you think you know what’s going to happen, the NFL throws you a curveball. The Browns absolutely dominated the Bengals on Monday, and it came down to their defensive performance against Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ passing attack.
For some reason, Cleveland has Cincinnati’s number. They’ve won eight of their last nine against their state rival.
The Denver Broncos high-stepped their way to their third win of the season in London against the Jaguars. The offense still wasn’t great, but they did enough in the second half to outlast Jacksonville.
The Broncos’ defense is outstanding, particularly in the secondary. They turned Trevor Lawrence over multiple times while allowing just 3.5 net yards through the air. They were also tough defensively in the red zone.
But the most optimistic thing to happen Sunday was Denver’s red-zone offense, which finished on all three trips inside of the 20.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are stumbling with no speed on the outside and about as much talent. Their Hall of Fame QB, coming off back-to-back MVP awards, has been unable to elevate the underwhelming unit, and their future appears grim.
The Packers’ offense moved the ball better than they have for most of the season against the Bills. They ran the ball particularly well against Buffalo but could only manage two scores on the night, with one coming midway through the fourth quarter to cut a 17-point lead to 10.
Even during an off night for Josh Allen (relatively speaking), the Bills were too much for Green Bay, who falls to 3-5 and have a long way to go before catching up to the 6-1 Vikings.
The Colts might officially be a lost cause. They averaged six yards per play against Washington but could only find their way into the end zone after a Taylor Heinicke interception.
After playing well for the entire game, Indianapolis’ defense couldn’t get stops when it mattered most. Washington put together an 82-yard drive that ended in a field goal and an 89-yard drive resulting in a touchdown that ultimately made the difference in this game.
Las Vegas Raiders
Okay, it’s time to officially bury the Raiders. I’d love to say this game was over at halftime, but with the way the Las Vegas offense played, it was actually over after the Saints first touchdown drive.
At one point, I was legitimately concerned for Derek Carr’s health. Every time he dropped back to pass in the second half, the Saints’ defense was swarming him like he’d smacked their wasp hive with a broomstick.
Las Vegas needs to turn things around quickly against the Jaguars, Colts, and Broncos if they want to make this season respectable.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are a lost football team offensively. They entered the game ranked 25th in offensive DVOA and dead last in EPA per play. A weaker offensive line should not make for such a vast difference in the reigning Super Bowl champions, but here we are.
The team’s lack of depth is looming large, and it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The NFC East is surprisingly good and both San Francisco and Seattle look more competitive.
New Orleans Saints
If you told me eight weeks ago that the Saints would score at least 24 points in six of their first eight games but would only be 3-5, I would have called you crazy.
We saw Andy Dalton lose New Orleans the game against Arizona a week ago. Yet, he was still named the starter against the Raiders despite Jameis Winston reportedly being healthy.
Dalton then went out and played an outstanding game against a Las Vegas team that didn’t look like they wanted to be playing football on Sunday.
At 3-5, and with the heads-up advantage over Atlanta, New Orleans is just one win, an Atlanta loss, and another Tampa Bay loss away from being the top team in the NFC South.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Injuries have devastated the Buccaneers’ chances to compete in the NFC. Luckily for them, even at 3-5, they’re barely on the outside looking in at the putrid NFC South crown.
Tom Brady has endured thus far, but on Thursday night against the Ravens, he finally looked like a 45-year-old man, playing just four days after his last outing.
The once-elite Buccaneers’ defense has dissolved due to key injuries at multiple levels. Nevertheless, if the team can buy some help down the stretch, they should still be the division favorite.
Week 9 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 4 | It Could Be Better
There was some movement in and out of this tier in Week 8.
Things got very ugly for the Falcons’ defense late in this game, but they were bailed out by a penalty that cost Carolina 15 yards and caused a missed extra point.
The Falcons are 4-4 and are a game clear of any other team in the NFC South. In a weird NFL season, no single thing has been more interesting than the Falcons competitiveness week in and week out, save for against the Bengals a week ago.
The Bengals’ passing attack will miss Ja’Marr Chase. However, Zac Taylor has changed his stripes. The offense has taken multiple steps forward schematically. They’ve opened up the playbook and are finding different ways to attack defenses.
At least, that’s what I thought. But it was clear on Monday Night Football that the Bengals indeed missed Chase. The passing attack was grounded against Cleveland. Zac Taylor and the Bengals’ offense devolved back into a pumpkin, throwing too many passes around the line of scrimmage.
A tipped pass that ended in an interception on the Bengals’ first drive possibly changed the game. Cincinnati was driving when it happened, and four of their next six drives were three-and-outs. Only one of those drives netted more than 10 yards.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers desperately needed a week off. LA’s injury luck is always terrible, and that hasn’t changed in 2022. The Chargers need speed on the outside to give the offense a downfield element to go with Justin Herbert’s arm.
A trade for Elijah Moore would be ideal, but he’s far from the only name on the market that Los Angeles could look at before the deadline. Additionally, the Chargers need to see improvement in the run defense they invested so heavily in during the offseason.
Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense were absolutely outstanding against the Lions defense on Sunday. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle both went over 100 yards in the same game for the third time this season.
Mike McDaniel’s offense is running at maximum efficiency. Like the San Francisco passing attacks with Jimmy Garoppolo over the years, Miami’s offense is attacking the middle of the field at an incredibly high rate.
The difference is that Tagovailoa isn’t as limited as a passer, and between Hill and Waddle, McDaniel has even more toys to play with than Shanahan has had over the years.
The Dolphins’ defense seems to be the only thing that could hold them back.
New England Patriots
The Patriots beat the Jets for the 13th straight time, and they did it in about the ugliest way possible. Mac Jones seems more out of control than he did as a rookie, and if not for three Zach Wilson interceptions, the Patriots might not have had enough offense to win this game.
It sure helped that Mike LaFleur forgot that he was allowed to run the football. The Jets took a 10-6 lead into halftime and only trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter. However, New York threw the ball 41 times compared to just 15 rushes.
New York Jets
Zach Wilson was terrible against the Patriots, and that should worry the Jets. He threw two of the worst interceptions of the season and looked lost if things weren’t happening for him in rhythm.
The Jets have a lot of talent. Garrett Wilson and Corey Davis are a good receiving duo, New York’s offensive line is way better than we’ve seen it in years, and their defense played well again against New England.
They need their QB to not lose them football games.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers did what the 49ers do against the Los Angeles Rams – win. Kyle Shanahan found some hilarious ways to get Christian McCaffrey involved in the offense this week. In fact, he threw a touchdown, caught a touchdown, and ran for a touchdown.
Jimmy Garoppolo was incredibly efficient against Los Angeles, but there were some scary moments in his four incomplete passes. But the fact is, when he can be that efficient as a passer without Deebo Samuel on the field, it’s scary to think about what this offense might look like when Deebo’s back.
The Seahawks had some ugly moments against New York that kept the game close until near the end, but they outplayed the Giants. New York definitely helped Seattle with two special teams turnovers, but Seattle looked like the better team on Sunday.
However, it wasn’t until the second half that they found ways to consistently sustain drives on offense, which is a departure from what we’ve seen from Seattle so far in 2022.
The Titans did exactly what we thought they might do starting Malik Willis. They simply decided not to throw the football. Derrick Henry put the team in his backpack and carried the offense to victory.
A solid defensive effort was necessary if that game plan was going to work, and that’s what the Titans’ defense delivered against Houston, who couldn’t get anything going on the ground or through the air.
The Commanders are in a tough spot. They’re 4-4 and just outside of the playoff picture looking in, but they’re last in what has hilariously become the best division in the NFL.
Taylor Heinicke and the Washington offense showed up when it absolutely mattered late against a reeling Colts team that gave Sam Ehlinger a chance to start his first career NFL game.
With games against the Vikings and Eagles next, we should be able to gauge just how competitive this team might be going forward.
NFL Power Rankings Week 9: Tier 3 | Good, But Can it Last?
Only one team remains in Tier 3.
New York Giants
The Giants are the most confounding team in the NFL. At 6-2, they have one of the best records in the league, and their offense had seen good results leading up to the Seahawks game.
In fact, neither the Seahawks nor the Giants had seen particularly efficient defensive production so far in 2022. Two special-teams turnovers didn’t help the Giants cause on Sunday, but their one offensive touchdown came off a Tyler Lockett fumble inside the Seahawks’ 10-yard line.
Week 9 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 2 | Good and Makes Sense
The Ravens and Vikings are additions to Tier 2 after both won in Week 8.
The Ravens and Buccaneers met in a battle of attrition on Thursday Night Football. Both teams had a CVS receipt full of names on their injury reports heading into the game.
Baltimore ran the ball incredibly well against Tampa Bay. They averaged seven yards per pop and converted a first down on 92% of their offensive drives that started with a rush, which is an unbelievable stretch.
The Cowboys are on the very cusp of elite status, but their embarrassing Week 1 performance still looms large. If Dallas’ offense continues to resemble what it looked like on Sunday against Chicago, they will battle Philadelphia for the top seed in the NFC by the end of the season. However, they’re two games behind the Eagles and do not own the tie-breaker.
Tony Pollard was outstanding in Ezekiel Elliott’s absence. He will make very good money in the offseason to go be a feature back in his second contract. Cowboys fans might be upset about what the run defense looked like against Chicago, but it’s a run defense that ranked inside the top 10 before the game and was consistently playing with multi-possession leads on Sunday.
The Vikings keep finding ways to win football games, which is more than most of the league can say. They’re now 6-1 and hold the second-best record in the NFL.
Minnesota is not a statistically dominant football team, but there is no denying that they have talent. Against the Cardinals, their defensive line played well against Kyler Murra,y and the offense was efficient on the ground and through the air against an underwhelming Arizona defense.
NFL Power Rankings Week 9: Tier 1 | The Elite Teams
Nothing has changed in Tier 1 just yet following the action in Week 8.
Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles are undefeated. Taking care of business holds weight in the conversation over who the best team in the NFL is. However, Buffalo is completely dominant in a way that I can’t really remember since the magical 2007 Patriots.
They trail only Kansas City in offensive DVOA and are first in defensive DVOA. Their one loss came against Miami in one of the oddest games in some time.
Additionally, Buffalo’s played the sixth-most difficult schedule to start 2022, according to Football Outsiders. They finish playing the 24th-most difficult schedule.
Even in an off game on Sunday night, the game was never really in question for Buffalo. The game was close after Josh Allen threw an interception in the low red zone, and Green Bay went 95 yards for a touchdown to make it a 10-point game.
Kansas City Chiefs
Football is way less fun when the Chiefs aren’t playing. Watching an Andy Reid offense run by Patrick Mahomes is an unbelievable thing. Many believed that Mahomes would struggle a bit without Tyreek Hill, and Hill would struggle without Mahomes. It turns out sometimes amazing football players are just amazing football players.
Steve Spagnuolo is tasked with an incredibly difficult job. The Chiefs’ defense lacks a consistent pass-rushing presence outside of Chris Jones, and the secondary is still a work in progress.
The Eagles once again handled their business against a team they thoroughly outmatched. Pittsburgh just didn’t have the firepower to compete with the team they share a state with.
A.J. Brown played like a man possessed, and Jalen Hurts threw four touchdown passes while delivering some very well-placed passes in the process. In fact, the Eagles handled business so well that most of the offensive starters got to rest with over eight minutes left in the contest.
With the Texans, Commanders, and Colts upcoming, there doesn’t seem to be a loss in sight for the Eagles.