Each week, national NFL writer Mark Maske ranks the league’s 32 teams. This week, there is consistency at the top with Nos. 1 to 7 maintaining their spots. At the bottom, the Giants drop a spot to No. 31 but the 49ers retain the distinction of being the NFL’s worst team.
1. Los Angeles Rams (7-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 1
The Rams, after their no-worries victory Sunday at San Francisco, return to the competitive portion of their season this weekend when they host Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
2. New Orleans Saints (5-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 2
The Saints won in Baltimore on Justin Tucker’s missed extra point for the Ravens. It’s beginning to feel like one of those seasons when everything just might fall into place for the Saints.
3. New England Patriots (5-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 3
The victory in Chicago came at a cost, with the knee injury suffered by rookie RB Sony Michel. The injury is not considered serious. But for now, it leaves James White and Kenjon Barner as the only healthy running backs on the roster, so the Patriots will have to address that need.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 4
QB Patrick Mahomes and the offense kept doing their thing Sunday night against the Bengals. And the defense, for a change, was quite good. That was probably the most encouraging development of all on a good night for the Chiefs.
5. Minnesota Vikings (4-2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 5
The Vikings have three straight wins and are beginning to resemble the team that everyone expected them to be when they added QB Kirk Cousins. Things will get interesting when they host the Saints this Sunday night. Can they supplant the Saints as the primary challenger to the Rams in the NFC?
6. Los Angeles Chargers (5-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 6
Anyone who dismisses the Chargers as a viable Super Bowl threat in the AFC isn’t paying attention. They’re only a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. And they’re doing this, remember, without their standout pass rusher, Joey Bosa.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 7
The wait for Le’Veon Bell’s return continues, after the star running back did not report to the team Monday. It had been reported that he would rejoin the Steelers and sign his franchise-player deal by this week. But if he waits until after next Tuesday to show up, the NFL’s trading deadline will have come and gone.
8. Green Bay Packers (3-2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 10
Hope that bye was restful, Aaron Rodgers. The Packers return from it to play consecutive road games against the Rams this Sunday and the Patriots a week later.
9. Washington Redskins (4-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 11
The Redskins had some good fortune Sunday against the Cowboys, particularly with the controversial snap-infraction penalty against Dallas before its missed would-be tying FG. But give the Redskins credit for playing well on defense and avoiding turnovers while doing just enough on offense. They certainly can win a less-than-fearsome NFC East, especially given their favorable schedule the rest of the way.
10. Carolina Panthers (4-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 14
The uplifting triumph via the fourth-quarter comeback in Philly keeps the Panthers above .500 and on the heels of the Saints in the NFC South. They face another difficult test this weekend when they host the Ravens.
11. Baltimore Ravens (4-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 9
Kicker Justin Tucker’s first career missed extra point kept the Ravens from tying the Saints late in regulation Sunday. There was no guarantee that the Ravens would have gone on to win the game. But it still was a stunning way to lose, given Tucker’s reliability.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 8
It’s nearly halfway through the season and the defending champs continue to struggle along below .500. The offense has not exactly clicked with Carson Wentz back at QB. The Eagles remain a threat to pull things together and win the division. But it no longer can be assumed that they are a good team playing mediocre football.
13. Houston Texans (4-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 18
The defense and running game led the way Sunday in Jacksonville and now the Texans are 4-0 since their 0-3 start. The quick turnaround for this Thursday night’s game against the Dolphins could be particularly difficult for QB Deshaun Watson as he deals with the chest injury that led to him traveling to and from Jacksonville by bus, due to concerns about the effects of flying.
14. Detroit Lions (3-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 19
The Lions looked dreadful in losing to the Jets and 49ers in Matt Patricia’s first two games as an NFL head coach. They have been far better since, and they host the Seahawks on Sunday with a chance to get above .500.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (4-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 13
The Bengals weren’t able to compete Sunday night with the Chiefs. Their two-game losing streak since a 4-1 start means there are, once again, plenty of reasons not to trust the Bengals.
16. Chicago Bears (3-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 15
The Bears came up a yard shy of a tying TD on the Hail Mary against the Patriots. This was a far less egregious loss than falling to Brock Osweiler and the Dolphins a week earlier. But it was still a loss.
17. Miami Dolphins (4-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 12
Brock Osweiler keeps the starting job at QB for at least another game, with the Dolphins having a short week to prepare for Thursday’s contest at Houston. Osweiler has been surprisingly not-awful so far. In fact, he has actually been pretty good.
18. Dallas Cowboys (3-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 16
The trade Monday for WR Amari Cooper fills a glaring need. But the cost of a first-round draft pick was steep, and it’s debatable whether his addition will be enough to vault the Cowboys into the playoffs. He must learn the system, fit into the offense and get down his timing with QB Dak Prescott and only nine games remain in the regular season for him to make a positive impact.
19. Seattle Seahawks (3-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 20
The long-term future of the franchise is unclear after the death of owner Paul Allen. Fellow NFL owners said last week that the team will remain in Seattle even if it is sold. But in the short term, little to nothing should change in terms of the team’s operations.
20. Atlanta Falcons (3-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 22
It was a struggle for the Falcons on Monday night against the Giants. But they managed to hang on and win, and moved a step closer to putting their broken season back together.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 25
The win over the Browns ended the Bucs’ three-game losing streak and got them back to .500. But it gets tougher from here with back-to-back road games at Cincinnati and Carolina.
22. Denver Broncos (3-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 27
The lopsided victory Thursday night at Arizona was badly needed, ending a four-game losing streak for the Broncos. The defense was back to being dominant with six sacks and two TDs on interception returns. It might be just a little bit more challenging to play that well on defense this Sunday at Kansas City.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 17
Blake Bortles keeps the starting job at QB, but for how long? This has gotten really bad, really quickly. The Jaguars have three straight losses since a 3-1 start. Injured RB Leonard Fournette remains out of the lineup. The defense no longer looks overwhelming. This Sunday’s meeting with the Eagles in London was supposed to be a marquee matchup. Instead, it’s two underachieving teams squaring off as part of their desperate searches for answers.
24. New York Jets (3-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 21
It continues to be a step forward, a step backward for rookie QB Sam Darnold and the Jets. There’s little reason to believe that will change all season, and they could face a difficult decision afterward about whether to make a regime change and bring in an offensive-minded head coach to oversee Darnold’s development.
25. Cleveland Browns (2-4-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 23
That era of good feelings with Baker Mayfield at QB was nice while it lasted, huh? It’s back to the harsh reality of being the Browns, with two straight losses and Coach Hue Jackson vowing to become more involved in overseeing the offense. That comment undoubtedly thrilled offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
26. Tennessee Titans (3-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 26
There was nothing wrong with Coach Mike Vrabel’s decision to go for the two-point conversion and the win against the Chargers in London. But throwing the ball? And then throwing it again after a penalty put the ball at the 1-yard line? That was some curious play-calling, to say the least.
27. Indianapolis Colts (2-5) | Last Week’s Rank: 31
The Colts proved they are decidedly better than a Bills team with zero viable options at QB, which means . . . well, it’s better than losing, at least.
28. Buffalo Bills (2-5) | Last Week’s Rank: 24
Derek Anderson’s performance at QB against the Colts was positively Nathan Peterman-esque, with three interceptions and a passer rating of 39.8.
29. Oakland Raiders (1-5) | Last Week’s Rank: 29
Amari Cooper is gone. Khalil Mack is long gone. The deconstruction of the Raiders, overseen by Coach Jon Gruden, has been swift and it’s close to complete. They possess a trio of first-round picks in next year’s NFL draft. They’d better make the most of them. And it will feel like a long, long time from now until April.
30. Arizona Cardinals (1-6) | Last Week’s Rank: 28
CB Patrick Peterson wants out, reportedly having requested to be traded by next week’s deadline. It’s not at all likely to happen. But it’s another sign of how bleak the outlook has become for this team.
31. New York Giants (1-6) | Last Week’s Rank: 30
The numbers were good for Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. on Monday night in Atlanta. So what. Things just keep getting worse for this team. You can defend the decision to try for the two-point conversion, which is applauded by the analytics crowd. But there’s no defending the clock management at the end of the game.
32. San Francisco 49ers (1-6) | Last Week’s Rank: 32
It’s impossible, with QB Jimmy Garoppolo out, to judge the progress of the rebuilding program under GM John Lynch and Coach Kyle Shanahan. The Niners will enter Year 3 of the Lynch and Shanahan regime next season with no way of knowing whether they will succeed.
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