Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, plus players who need to step up


As the NFL Power Rankings charge toward midseason, this is a good time for assessment. And this week, it’s about identifying who must pick up the slack over the final 10 weeks of the campaign.

While most of the selections below are individual players, position units and even coaches bear some of this burden.

How we rank in our Power Rankings: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings: 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

Jump to:
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF

Week 7 ranking: 3

Who needs to step up: S Minkah Fitzpatrick

Yes, Fitzpatrick had a pick-six against the Browns. But he needs to make splash plays more consistently. The Steelers traded a first-round pick last season for Fitzpatrick, who delivered almost immediately. He has been much quieter this season. His biggest play against the Titans was a holding call that gave Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry a fresh set of downs on the goal line after a would-be stop. Henry scored on the next play. Fitzpatrick also missed a tackle of AJ Brown that led to Brown’s 73-yard touchdown. For the defense to play at the level it reached last season, Fitzpatrick needs to have a bigger positive impact on the game. — Brooke Pryor

Week 7 ranking: 2

Who needs to step up: K Harrison Butker

Butker has missed five extra points, and his PAT rate of 79.2% is the worst in the NFL. It hasn’t cost the Chiefs yet, but it’s only a matter of time until it does. What’s puzzling about this is that Butker has been so good on field goals (93%). He hit two 58-yarders in a Week 2 overtime win versus the Chargers. — Adam Teicher

Week 7 ranking: 1

Who needs to step up: S Jamal Adams

It’s not that Adams has underperformed when he has been on the field. It’s that he hasn’t been on the field enough, missing the past three games while the Seahawks’ defense has been gashed at a historic rate. Adams was arguably their most impactful defender before he hurt his groin in Week 3. Part of his impact was as a pass-rusher: His two sacks remain tied for the team lead as Seattle has only nine sacks total. All the draft capital the Seahawks gave up for Adams will make it difficult to trade for another impact defender before next week’s deadline. They need their All-Pro safety to get back on the field and start making plays. — Brady Henderson

Week 7 ranking: 4

Who needs to step up: WR Miles Boykin

Boykin has failed to step up into the No. 2 wide receiver role for the Ravens, totaling 11 catches for 122 yards (ranking 104th among NFL wideouts). Boykin has struggled to develop any chemistry with Lamar Jackson and his increasing miscommunication with the quarterback has become a hot topic in Baltimore. With defenses loading up the box to stop the run game, Boykin can make teams pay with some big plays on the outside. The Ravens need a third option because teams are focusing their coverages to stop wide receiver Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews. — Jamison Hensley

Week 7 ranking: 6

Who needs to step up: OLB Preston Smith

Though six games last year, the edge rusher had seven sacks (on his way to a 12-sack season), 12 QB hits and a pass rush win rate of 24.2%. His numbers through six games this year: a half-sack, two QB hits and a PRWR of 15.6%. Smith made a key fourth-down stop on a read-option by Deshaun Watson during Sunday’s game, and the Packers’ defense needs more of that. — Rob Demovsky

Week 7 ranking: 5

Who needs to step up: OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney

Winning the Clowney sweepstakes was supposed to push the Titans’ defense over the top. Clowney has put some pressure on the quarterback, but the Titans have yet to experience the type of game-wrecking performance that compelled them to sign him. Tennessee is last in opponent third-down percentage (60%). A large part of that percentage is due to the Titans’ inability to get pressure on the quarterback. Through six games, the Titans only have six sacks. All of the blame shouldn’t fall on Clowney, but he hasn’t had the impact that was expected when Tennessee reunited him with Mike Vrabel. — Turron Davenport



Max Kellerman finally agrees he was wrong about Tom Brady “falling off a cliff” the past few seasons.

Week 7 ranking: 7

Who needs to step up: TE Rob Gronkowski

I wouldn’t say Gronkowski needs to step up as much as I think he needs to continue doing what he has done over the past two weeks — catching 10 passes for 140 yards and two TDs. He is starting to own the middle of the field and is having success on crossing routes and in the red zone on back-shoulder fades. This is especially important without O.J. Howard (Achilles) and with Mike Evans continuing to recover from an ankle injury. — Jenna Laine

Week 7 ranking: 8

Who needs to step up: LB Tremaine Edmunds

To his credit, Edmunds has played through a shoulder injury that he suffered in Week 1 and caused him to miss the Bills’ following game. But when he has been out there, the third-year linebacker hasn’t looked like the Pro Bowler we saw last season. His reactions seem slower, he has missed tackles and he has difficulty shedding blocks. Buffalo’s defensive struggles represent the team’s biggest surprise this season, and if the Bills are going to turn it around in pursuit of an AFC East title, Edmunds needs to lead the charge. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Week 7 ranking: 9

Who needs to step up: The secondary

It wouldn’t be fair to single out just one player in the Saints’ secondary, since every one of them has taken turns with busted coverages or pass interference penalties — which have become New Orleans’ most nagging problem all season. The Saints have now allowed six passes of 48-plus yards in their past four games. And they have just one interception since Week 1. They need cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins to live up to their potential as one of the league’s best CB duos, and they need a lot more consistency from the talented safety trio of Marcus Williams, Malcolm Jenkins and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. — Mike Triplett

Week 7 ranking: 10

Who needs to step up: K Samuel Sloman

It could be too little, too late for Sloman, a seventh-round pick from Miami (Ohio), after the Rams signed veteran Kai Forbath to the active roster from the Bears’ practice squad ahead of Week 7. Sloman has lacked consistency, especially on PATs and kickoffs, while his field goal range remains somewhat of a mystery because of the Rams’ ability to score touchdowns. A ninth-year pro, Forbath could take over the job at any moment. — Lindsey Thiry

Week 7 ranking: 16

Who needs to step up: RB Chase Edmonds

Even if Kenyan Drake‘s ankle injury isn’t serious, Edmonds will still need to keep playing like he did during Sunday night’s win over the Seahawks. Edmonds gained 145 total yards, had a major impact in overtime and helped kick-start the Cardinals’ run game. He showed, yet again, that he can handle whatever is thrown at him. If the Cardinals want to make a run to the playoffs, Edmonds will need to play a significant role. — Josh Weinfuss

Week 7 ranking: 11

Who needs to step up: QB Nick Foles

Chicago is positioned for a playoff run. The Bears have a championship-caliber defense and a better-than-expected kicker, Cairo Santos, but the offense is suspect. Coach Matt Nagy benched Mitchell Trubisky in favor of Foles to smooth out the rough edges and play a more consistent brand of football. The results have been average. The Bears are winning, but the offense under Foles doesn’t look a ton better than it did when Trubisky ran the show. Foles is under pressure to elevate his game. The season hinges on it. — Jeff Dickerson

Week 7 ranking: 12

Who needs to step up: WR T.Y. Hilton

Hilton is on pace for the least-productive season of his nine-year NFL career. He has 20 receptions for 242 yards and no touchdowns through the first six games. What makes Hilton’s lack of production even worse is that the soon-to-be 31-year-old will be a free agent at the end of the season. — Mike Wells



Marcus Spears details how big of a loss it is for the Browns that Odell Beckham Jr. will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

Week 7 ranking: 13

Who needs to step up: WR Rashard Higgins

With Odell Beckham Jr. out for the season with a torn ACL, the onus will fall on Higgins to replace him in the lineup. Higgins and QB Baker Mayfield, who also are close friends, have enjoyed a rapport on the field going back to Mayfield’s rookie season in 2018. The Browns will need Higgins to be Mayfield’s security blanket alongside new No. 1 WR Jarvis Landry if the Browns are to finally snap the league’s longest playoff drought, which dates to 2002. — Jake Trotter

Week 7 ranking: 17

Who needs to step up: QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Over the past two weeks, the 49ers have gotten back to their formula of running the ball, playing good defense and having Garoppolo steer an efficient play-action passing attack. But the schedule is about to get tougher, and the burden is probably going to fall more on Garoppolo to deliver. That means pushing the ball down the field more consistently and taking advantage when opposing defenses stack the box to stop the run. Garoppolo has done it before, but for the Niners to remain in the NFC playoff hunt, they’ll likely need him to do it again. — Nick Wagoner

Week 7 ranking: 15

Who needs to step up: RT Trent Brown

The enigmatic and highly paid right tackle rarely practiced in training camp due to a cranky calf, played three snaps in the season opener after aggravating the injury and was a force in the Raiders’ upset win at Kansas City on Oct. 11. Then he tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and because he was not wearing his tracker in the team facility, the four other starting offensive linemen had to self-quarantine and miss practice the rest of the week before facing a fearsome Tampa Bay defense. Since signing a four-year, $66 million deal with the Raiders, Brown has played 10-plus snaps in just 11 of 22 games. Las Vegas needs a better return on its investment. — Paul Gutierrez

Week 7 ranking: 18

Who needs to step up: TE Ian Thomas

It would be easy to say the entire defense that just allowed the Saints to convert 12 of 14 third downs and has been horrible on third down all year. But I’m going with Thomas, because in seven games, he has only seven catches for an offense in which he should thrive. Sure, the tight end has been downplayed somewhat in Joe Brady’s scheme. But one reason it has been downplayed is the lack of consistent playmaking ability by Thomas. It makes that position a possible target before the trade deadline. — David Newton



Ryan Clark breaks down why Cam Newton hasn’t turned out to be exactly what the Patriots needed thus far.

Week 7 ranking: 14

Who needs to step up: QB Cam Newton

Would the real Cam Newton please stand up? Is it the QB who electrified New England in the first weeks of the season? Or the struggling QB who hasn’t looked the same over his next three games? The contrast is striking. Fewer interceptions and better accuracy and decision-making are where the improvement starts. — Mike Reiss

Week 7 ranking: 19

Who needs to step up: RB Matt Breida

The Dolphins brought in two veteran running backs this offseason — Breida and Jordan Howard — to upgrade their run game, and both have been outplayed by second-year back Myles Gaskin. Breida was brought in for his speed and big-play ability, but he has yet to break an impact play. Over the past four games, he has 21 carries for 56 yards (2.67 yards per carry). With Tua Tagovailoa as the new starting QB, Breida needs to be more of a playmaker. — Cameron Wolfe

Week 7 ranking: 21

Who needs to step up: The defense

Melvin Ingram is back from IR and is the leader of the group. In his absence, the D gave up 17-point leads to Tampa Bay and New Orleans and lost both games. The defense also was in danger Sunday versus the Jaguars, losing a 16-point lead at one point. Justin Herbert might be all that, but if the defense doesn’t step up, it won’t matter. As Ingram said, “We can’t keep making the same mistakes. We come in, we look at each other in the eye as men and say, ‘It’s got to stop somewhere, so why not today?'” The close losses have to stop, and Herbert can’t do it on his own. — Shelley Smith

Week 7 ranking: 22

Who needs to step up: DT Fletcher Cox

Carson Wentz has picked up his game, so now it’s critical for the primary driver on defense to do the same. Cox has 1.5 sacks through seven games, putting him on pace for 3.5 this season — a far cry from his 10.5-sack campaign in 2018. Cox draws plenty of double-teams and has had his share of impact plays, but big expectations come with an average salary of $17 million and the billing as one of the NFL’s best defensive players. With Hassan Ridgeway lost for the season and Malik Jackson dealing with a quad injury, it’s as important as ever that Cox sets the tone for a defense that’s yielding 28 points per game. — Tim McManus

Week 7 ranking: 23

Who needs to step up: RB Adrian Peterson

While the Lions are seeing better play from rookie D’Andre Swift, they need to get more from the Peterson. The future Hall of Famer’s numbers might not look too bad, but his production is trending down. He has gone from 6.64 yards per carry in Week 1 to 2.64 yards per carry in Week 7. If Detroit is going to give Peterson 10 or 11 carries a contest instead of, say, going to Kerryon Johnson or using Swift more, Peterson needs to be doing more with those opportunities. It’s not all his fault: The playcalling hasn’t always been advantageous to him, often resulting in runs in fairly predictable situations. Some playcall diversification from offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell might help. — Michael Rothstein

Week 7 ranking: 24

Who needs to step up: QB Drew Lock

Broncos coach Vic Fangio is correct when he calls the team’s passing-game struggles “an 11-man operation.” And the Broncos certainly have issues in pass protection (13 sacks combined in Weeks 2 and 3), dropped passes and a propensity for negative plays. Yet Lock is just a 53% passer since returning from a shoulder injury that kept him out of two games. He has looked impatient in the pocket at times, leaving his progressions too early and passing up easier completions to make riskier and unsuccessful throws downfield. He needs help, but he can control how he operates in the pocket and how he handles the way defenses are playing him. — Jeff Legwold

Week 7 ranking: 25

Who needs to step up: QB Kirk Cousins

The Vikings’ QB was brutally honest after throwing three interceptions in the first half of Minnesota’s fifth loss of the season. “The reality is, if the pace I’m on in terms of the interceptions, if that were to continue, I won’t finish the season,” Cousins said. He is tied for the league lead in interceptions (10) after throwing just six last season. If Cousins’ poor play continues, the Vikings will need to make a decision about his future. Yes, it would be financially catastrophic to move on from the QB who has two years (basically guaranteed) left on his contract, but if Minnesota is going to try to rebuild and Cousins continues to play poorly, his status will be debated. — Courtney Cronin



Rex Ryan considers the Cowboys’ failure to extend Dak Prescott to be the reason for the team’s on-field struggles.

Week 7 ranking: 20

Who needs to step up: LB Jaylon Smith

Just one? Well, then it’s Smith. Or DeMarcus Lawrence. But let’s stick with Smith. Don’t be fooled by his tackle stats. He has not made impact plays, and he has been poor in coverage and out of position. He was added to the Pro Bowl last year, but his best season was in 2018. If Smith does not improve, he might be a salary-cap casualty in 2021. He is set to make $7.2 million next season, which becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year. Given how the season has played out, nobody is safe; the Cowboys could move on from Smith if he does not pick up his performance. — Todd Archer

Week 7 ranking: 26

Who needs to step up: RB David Johnson

As interim coach Romeo Crennel said Monday, the Texans “have to establish a running game.” Houston’s running game — Johnson and backup Duke Johnson — has failed to find consistency. David Johnson, acquired in the DeAndre Hopkins trade and making more than $11 million this season, doesn’t have a 100-yard rushing game for Houston and is averaging 3.88 yards per carry. He came close with 96 rushing yards in Week 5 against Jacksonville but otherwise has not been a sufficient replacement for Carlos Hyde, who ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2019. — Sarah Barshop

Week 7 ranking: 27

Who needs to step up: S Vonn Bell

One of the Bengals’ lone healthy additions from free agency has struggled in pass coverage. When Bell is the nearest defender, he has the second-highest total expected points added of any Bengals defender, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. He has had some tough moments early on and will look to improve a pass defense that is one of the worst in the NFL. — Ben Baby



Washington coach Ron Rivera receives an ovation as he walks down the hospital hallway to ring the bell after his final day of cancer treatment.

Week 7 ranking: 29

Who needs to step up: RB Peyton Barber

There are more than a few who belong on this list, and Barber might not be needed as much if rookie Antonio Gibson becomes a consistent back. But for now, Barber keeps getting carries in Washington’s jumbo package and has averaged 2.13 yards on 38 carries. He averages only 0.63 yards after contact. It’s not like he is always getting huge holes, so his lack of production goes to the entire group. But if Washington keeps using him in this role, then the production has to be greater. This team will not win with its pass game and therefore needs to be more effective with Barber in the game. — John Keim

Week 7 ranking: 28

Who needs to step up: Interim coach Raheem Morris

Morris might have lost his chance to be a prime candidate for the Falcons’ permanent coach when they fell to Detroit on Sunday. But what if Morris leads the Falcons to a 10-1 record? The reality is, Morris isn’t just auditioning for Falcons owner Arthur Blank; Morris is essentially auditioning for a coaching position for every team that will have any kind of opening on its staff next season. — Mike Wells

Week 7 ranking: 30

Who needs to step up: DE Josh Allen

When the Jaguars traded Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, they were counting on Allen to be an even better pass-rusher than he was as a rookie (10.5 sacks). Allen has made minimal impact, though, with just two sacks and seven tackles in five games. (He did miss two games with a knee injury.) He is getting more attention from opponents but also isn’t winning as many one-on-one battles with blockers as he should. He has to be better — much better — in the second half of the season. — Mike DiRocco

Week 7 ranking: 31

Who needs to step up: QB Daniel Jones

Jones was expected to make the jump in Year 2. That meant cutting down on the turnovers and proving to the new coaching staff he was the unequivocal quarterback of the future. Instead, Jones has looked much like he did as a rookie — flashes one play, makes a bonehead play the next. He is tied for second in the NFL with 11 turnovers through seven weeks. These final nine games are an opportunity to take that next step in his progression. — Jordan Raanan

Week 7 ranking: 32

Who needs to step up: QB Sam Darnold

In five starts, Darnold is averaging less than 200 passing yards per game, with twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdown passes (three). He might not be back next year if the Jets land the No. 1 overall pick, but they need him to play well to boost his trade value for the offseason if they decide to make a change. The thing is, if he plays well, it could result in a couple of wins, which could cost them Trevor Lawrence. Ah, such a dilemma. — Rich Cimini

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