1. New England Patriots (8-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 3
The Patriots have had their bye week to stew over the loss to the Ravens. The post-bye schedule is challenging, with meetings with the Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs coming up.
2. Baltimore Ravens (7-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 4
Lamar Jackson has had perfect passer ratings of 158.3 in two games this season. That’s remarkable progress for a second-year QB whose polish as a pocket passer was questioned entering the season.
3. Seattle Seahawks (8-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 5
Russell Wilson made the big play in overtime Monday night, with the long scramble, to set up the winning field goal. But it was the Seattle defense that made the difference during regulation, with three takeaways leading to 21 points. And the Seahawks were fortunate to withstand Wilson’s OT interception.
4. San Francisco 49ers (8-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 2
The 49ers played hard and hung tough Monday night in a terrific game. But there were too many mistakes on offense, and the missed kick in OT was ugly.
5. Green Bay Packers (8-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 8
The Packers stopped Christian McCaffrey just shy of the end zone on his bid for a TD that would have given the Panthers a chance for a tying two-point conversion. It wasn’t a dominant performance, but it was enough to get the Packers back into the win column following the perplexing loss to the Chargers and keep them ahead of the Vikings in the NFC North.
6. Houston Texans (6-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 6
It was a good bye week for the Texans, who are alone in first place in the AFC South after the Colts’ surprising loss to the Dolphins. But now comes a difficult game Sunday at Baltimore.
7. Minnesota Vikings (7-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 14
Kirk Cousins orchestrated a meaningful win in prime time on the road against a good team. So maybe this really is a different version of Cousins and a transformed Vikings team. Or perhaps it was merely a one-night aberration. It will be interesting to find out.
8. New Orleans Saints (7-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 1
Losing at home to the Falcons? Really? Perhaps it can be dismissed as a one-off in a records-don’t-matter matchup with a bitter division rival. But that’s no way to reach the Super Bowl.
9. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 7
Patrick Mahomes threw for 446 yards and three TDs in his return to the lineup after missing two games with a dislocated right kneecap. It still wasn’t enough, as the Chiefs lost to the Titans. That’s an ominous development.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 11
The Eagles’ bye weekend was productive: They moved into a first-place tie in the NFC East, thanks to the Cowboys’ loss. Now it’s up to the Eagles to take care of their own business. That’s not easy this Sunday, with the Patriots visiting Lincoln Financial Field.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 15
The winning streak is at four games, and the Steelers are back in the AFC playoff mix. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has been terrific since the Dolphins traded him to Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin is doing an excellent coaching job to have held things together.
12. Dallas Cowboys (5-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 10
The Cowboys didn’t play poorly Sunday night against the Vikings. They simply were outplayed by another good team. That illustrates how tough it is when NFC playoff contenders square off this season. There are a lot of excellent teams in the conference.
13. Oakland Raiders (5-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 18
Stop debating the merits of last year’s trades of Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Forget about last season’s 4-12 miseries. Put aside the preseason chaos surrounding Antonio Brown. Just give credit to Jon Gruden, who has the Raiders above .500 and in playoff contention in Year 2 of his return to coaching.
14. Tennessee Titans (5-5) | Last Week’s Rank: 21
Ryan Tannehill, savior of the Titans’ season? Who knew?
15. Los Angeles Rams (5-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 9
Hey, didn’t you used to be the Rams? This is getting alarming. It’s becoming a distinct possibility, if not a probability, that the defending NFC champs will miss the playoffs.
16. Buffalo Bills (6-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 12
Losing at Cleveland raises plenty of questions about how good the Bills really are.
17. Carolina Panthers (5-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 13
The Panthers were competitive at Green Bay. But being close isn’t good enough, given how unforgiving the NFC playoff race is.
18. Chicago Bears (4-5) | Last Week’s Rank: 24
Maybe Mitchell Trubisky, after the win over the Lions, will allow the TVs to be turned back on at the Bears’ facility.
19. Cleveland Browns (3-6) | Last Week’s Rank: 25
Beating the Bills was a good way to keep things from getting any worse. But there’s a long way to go.
20. Indianapolis Colts (5-4) | Last Week’s Rank: 16
The Colts really rely so much on QB Jacoby Brissett that they can’t beat the lowly Dolphins without him? That’s a stunning loss to cost the Colts a share of the division lead.
21. Denver Broncos (3-6) | Last Week’s Rank: 19
The Broncos return from their bye minus QB Joe Flacco, now on injured reserve because of his neck injury. It’s Brandon Allen’s show at QB until the Broncos opt to give a look to rookie Drew Lock.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) | Last Week’s Rank: 20
The Jaguars emerge from their bye with Nick Foles back in place as the starter at QB. It’s time for him to do the things he was signed to do when he inked that big contract in free agency.
23. Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) | Last Week’s Rank: 17
The near-miss loss Thursday night at Oakland will make it very tough for the Chargers to climb back into the AFC playoff race. Philip Rivers’s chances to reach the Super Bowl are dwindling, and now he’s not even playing that well.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) | Last Week’s Rank: 26
The Buccaneers were very fortunate against the Cardinals, with a rare replay reversal of pass interference in their favor and then the non-review of pass interference in their favor again on the final play. If that’s what it takes for the Bucs to win a game these days, they won’t be winning too many more.
25. Miami Dolphins (2-7) | Last Week’s Rank: 28
The Dolphins suddenly have put anti-tanking measures into effect. Their two-game winning streak affirms that Coach Brian Flores and his players are doing what they can to succeed. One wonders whether the front office that traded away the team’s best players in alleged pursuit of the top overall selection in the NFL draft is pleased about the victories or not.
26. Detroit Lions (3-5-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 22
QB Matthew Stafford’s string of consecutive starts ended, and the Lions were pushed further into irrelevant status with the loss to the Bears.
27. Atlanta Falcons (2-7) | Last Week’s Rank: 30
The win over the Saints was an absolute stunner. It simply shows that you really just never know in the NFL. How else do you explain a 1-7 team going on the road and beating a 7-1 team?
28. New York Jets (2-7) | Last Week’s Rank: 31
The Jets, by beating the Giants, are the pro football kings of New York City. Such as it is.
29. Arizona Cardinals (3-6-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 23
Yes, the final play of the loss to the Buccaneers should have been reviewed for possible defensive pass interference against the Bucs. But there’s not going to be much of a public outcry when it’s a Cardinals-Bucs game.
30. New York Giants (2-8) | Last Week’s Rank: 27
It can’t get much worse for the Giants, can it? They just lost to the Jets, traditionally their junior varsity in the New York City pro football hierarchy, right after the Jets lost to the then-winless Dolphins. The Giants aren’t known for rash decisions but the travails of GM Dave Gettleman and Coach Pat Shurmur must be putting their patience to the test.
31. Washington Redskins (1-8) | Last Week’s Rank: 29
If anything is going to go right for the Redskins in what’s left of a lost season, it probably will have to be the doing of rookie QB Dwayne Haskins.
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-9) | Last Week’s Rank: 32
The Bengals are this bad and no one is even accusing them of tanking their season. Does that make it better or worse?
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