Week 9 NFL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, plus a ray of hope for every team


While it doesn’t always seem like it, we believe the NFL Power Rankings should look at the bright side of each team. That’s what we’re doing this week, as every NFL Nation writer picks a point of optimism for the team they cover. Whether it’s a player, coach, statistical trend or position group, each team has something for its fans to look forward to (yes, even the Jets).

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: 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

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

Week 8 ranking: 1

Reason for optimism: Ability to win ugly

The Steelers are 7-0, matching the best start in franchise history, and they’re winning games without dominating opponents. The Steelers trailed by 10 in the first half to the Ravens and, a week earlier, nearly gave up a 20-point lead to the Titans in the second half. But the important thing is the Steelers are finding ways to keep a perfect record — thanks in large part to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a defense capable of making adjustments on the fly. — Brooke Pryor



Dan Orlovsky details how Patrick Mahomes could wind up walking away with another MVP award.

Week 8 ranking: 2

Reason for optimism: Top five in scoring offense and defense

The Chiefs are ranked higher in scoring defense (third) than they are in points scored (fourth). They lead the league in average scoring differential at 12.6 points per game. If that trend continues against a second-half schedule that includes games against five teams currently in the top 14 in scoring, they’ll wind up as the AFC’s No. 1 seed and a strong favorite to make a repeat appearance in the Super Bowl. — Adam Teicher

Week 8 ranking: 3

Reason for optimism: Russell Wilson and the offense

No need to overthink this one. Wilson is the MVP front-runner with an NFL-best 26 touchdown passes in only seven games. He is leading the league’s highest-scoring offense and has the best collection of skill players he has ever had, including two No. 1 wide receivers in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. The Seahawks have had to continually win shootouts with their defense struggling at a historic rate, but that group showed signs of improvement on Sunday and should benefit from All-Pro safety Jamal Adams‘ return as well as the addition of pass-rusher Carlos Dunlap. If not, Wilson and the offense have shown they can pick up the slack. — Brady Henderson

Week 8 ranking: 7

Reason for optimism: QB Tom Brady

Just as the Patriots are missing Brady more and more each week, the Bucs continue to thank their lucky stars that he is theirs. Since his two-interception performance in Week 1 at New Orleans, Brady has compiled an 18-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, second best in the league during that span behind only Patrick Mahomes. And Brady has led the Bucs to the top spot in the NFC South. He also became the first Buccaneers player to be named NFL Offensive Player of the Month. Even with injuries to many of his receiving targets, Brady is making things work and will soon be getting more help in the form of Antonio Brown. — Jenna Laine



Ryan Clark breaks down why Lamar Jackson cannot seem to put things together and win the “big games” after the Ravens’ loss to the Steelers.

Week 8 ranking: 4

Reason for optimism: The rushing attack

The Ravens lead the NFL in rushing with 178.7 yards per game, and Baltimore is tough to beat when its dominant ground game is clicking. Since John Harbaugh became coach in 2008, Baltimore is 75-19 (.797) when rushing for more than 120 yards in a game. Even with Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram sidelined with an ankle injury on Sunday, the Ravens were able to produce 265 yards rushing against the Steelers, the NFL’s No. 2 run defense. Baltimore is banking on quarterback Lamar Jackson and the emergence of rookie running back J.K. Dobbins to reach the playoffs for a third consecutive season. — Jamison Hensley

Week 8 ranking: 5

Reason for optimism: The return of Aaron Jones and Allen Lazard

OK, those are two reasons, but they’re connected. As quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after Sunday’s loss to the Vikings: “We’re a better team when we’re at full strength, and having 33 and 13 back would be big jumps,” referring to Jones and Lazard by their jersey numbers. Jones had seven touchdowns in the first five games before a calf injury knocked him out of the past two; Lazard had a breakout performance (eight catches for 146 yards and a touchdown) in Week 3 against the Saints, but he hasn’t played since because of core muscle surgery. Both could be back this week. — Rob Demovsky

Week 8 ranking: 8

Reason for optimism: Improved offense

Even though the Bills have recently cooled off following their hot start to the season, Buffalo’s 2020 offense is drastically improved from the 2019 version, which finished 24th in the NFL in yards per game and 23rd in points per game. The Bills currently rank 13th in terms of yards, thanks in large part to a passing attack finally capable of effectively moving the ball when it needs to. Sunday’s 190-yard rushing performance is a good sign that the run game is catching up, and this team could still close the season with a top-10 offense in the league. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Week 8 ranking: 9

Reason for optimism: Healing offense

Wide receiver Michael Thomas should finally return soon after being sidelined since Week 1 because of ankle and hamstring troubles and a team disciplinary issue. Fellow wideout Emmanuel Sanders also should be back soon from the reserve/COVID-19 list. In the meantime, the rest of the Saints’ offense has shown its resiliency during four straight come-from-behind wins (all of which included a two-minute-drill TD before halftime). Alvin Kamara has been the biggest key, leading the NFL with 987 yards from scrimmage in just seven games. — Mike Triplett

Week 8 ranking: 6

Reason for optimism: RB Derrick Henry

Henry continues to be a consistent bright spot for the Titans, leading the NFL with 775 rushing yards. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is able to turn to Henry whenever the Titans need to impose their will and take momentum in games. Take his 94-yard touchdown run against the Houston Texans in Week 6, for example. Henry is the engine to Tennessee’s offense. Even when he isn’t rushing for 200 yards, he is still a factor because he dictates how defenses play the Titans and opens things up in the play-action passing game. — Turron Davenport

Week 8 ranking: 11

Reason for optimism: The offensive line

Last season, Kyler Murray was sacked 48 times, 23 coming in the first seven games. This season, he is down to nine through seven games, an improvement that can be credited to the offensive line as much as to him. The Cardinals also have excelled at run blocking. Last season, they set a franchise record of 5.03 yards per carry. They’ve bettered that thus far this campaign with a rate of 5.21 yards per carry, the second-best clip in the league. The offensive line has figured out how to both pass block and run block in Kliff Kingsbury’s up-tempo scheme, which might end up being the difference between the playoffs and watching from home in January. — Josh Weinfuss

Week 8 ranking: 13

Reason for optimism: Matt Eberflus’ defense

The defensive unit, led by linebacker Darius Leonard and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, has been the foundation of the Colts this season. Eberflus’ D is third in total yards allowed per game (293.4), second in rushing yards allowed (79.9) and fifth in points allowed (19.4) to go with a league-high 11 interceptions, helping key the Colts’ fast start. — Mike Wells

Week 8 ranking: 10

Reason for optimism: The defense

The Rams’ D, led by two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, is allowing an average of 19 points per game, which ranks third in the league. Under first-year coordinator Brandon Staley, the Rams have sharply improved their run and pass defense, allowing an average of 94.8 rushing yards and 197.1 passing yards per game, which together ranks them among the top four defenses. Donald, who is tied for first in the league with nine sacks, continues to command attention up front, while Ramsey has demonstrated versatility lining up on the outside, in the slot and as a hybrid linebacker. — Lindsey Thiry

Week 8 ranking: 12

Reason for optimism: K Cairo Santos

Santos single-handedly solved Chicago’s kicker crisis. Signed in late summer after Eddy Pineiro suffered a groin injury, Santos has been the Bears’ best offensive weapon through eight games. The veteran kicker is an impressive 14-of-16 on field goal attempts on the season. Santos went 3-for-3 in Sunday’s loss to the Saints, including a 51-yarder at the end of regulation that sent the game to overtime. Santos kicked for five different teams (including the Bears) from 2017 to 2019, but he might have found a permanent home in Chicago. — Jeff Dickerson

Week 8 ranking: 16

Reason for optimism: QB Derek Carr

Expectations were high for the Raiders quarterback entering the season, given that he would, for the first time in his seven-year career, be playing in the same system for the third straight season. He has not disappointed. Perhaps pushed by the presence of $7.5 million backup Marcus Mariota or perhaps just comfortable in the scheme, Carr is running more to extend plays and is on pace for 4,201 passing yards, 32 TD passes and just five interceptions while completing 71.1% of his throws and directing a dominant, ball-control offense. — Paul Gutierrez



Jeff Saturday and Ryan Clark react to George Kittle (broken bone in his foot) and Jimmy Garoppolo (high ankle sprain) being ruled out for multiple weeks — and what this means for the 49ers.

Week 8 ranking: 15

Reason for optimism: Coaching and rest

The biggest point of optimism for the Niners should be that they’re bound to have better injury luck at some point, but based on how it’s going, that can’t be counted on. What can be is a coaching staff that has found ways to cover up for many of the warts that the injuries have exposed. That’s not always the case, as Sunday’s ugly loss to Seattle would attest, but it’s been enough to keep the Niners in the mix. They also will get a mini-bye after a Thursday night game this week, and their actual bye is just a few weeks off. That rest is much-needed as the Niners eagerly await reinforcements. — Nick Wagoner

Week 8 ranking: 14

Reason for optimism: Coach Kevin Stefanski

No team has cycled through coaches in recent years like the Browns. The Browns appear to have a keeper at last. Stefanski has Cleveland on pace to finally snap the league’s longest playoff drought. He has brought consistency to the locker room, creativity to the offense and — Browns fans hope, at least — continuity to the franchise. He and general manager Andrew Berry seem to be on the same page as well, suggesting that the Browns have a chance to be in good hands — from the coaching staff to the front office — for years to come. — Jake Trotter

Week 8 ranking: 19

Reason for optimism: Brian Flores’ defense

The Dolphins have the NFL’s top-ranked scoring defense (18.6 points per game allowed). Yes, those Miami Dolphins. Flores’ defense is confusing and pressuring offenses in a way that is making teams respect the Dolphins. After an 0-7 start to the Flores era, the Dolphins have gone 9-7 (including 4-3 in 2020). Dolphins fans, it seems you’ve got the right coach. — Cameron Wolfe

Week 8 ranking: 17

Reason for optimism: Defensive coordinator Phil Snow

The first-year NFL defensive coordinator has dealt with losing his Pro Bowl tackle and his starting end, safety and cornerback. Snow started six rookies in Thursday’s game against Atlanta. And yet the defense has played well enough to give the Panthers a chance to win almost every week. The credit goes to Snow, whose ability to adjust and use of multiple formations in a bend-but-not-break attack has made the Panthers more competitive than many expected through the first eight games. He has by far made a bigger impact than offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who came in as the hot coaching candidate. — David Newton



Stephen A. Smith contends that if Donovan McNabb had a stretch of games like Carson Wentz is having, Eagles fans would have called for the team to get rid of him.

Week 8 ranking: 21

Reason for optimism: WR Travis Fulgham

He was called up from the practice squad out of sheer necessity prior to Week 4. All he has done since is post the most receiving yards in the NFL (435) over the ensuing five weeks while hauling in four touchdowns. Cut from three teams since being drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2019, Fulgham has been a revelation for the Eagles and has quickly earned the trust of quarterback Carson Wentz. Philadelphia suddenly has an intriguing group of young wideouts in Fulgham, Jalen Reagor and John Hightower. — Tim McManus

Week 8 ranking: 18

Reason for optimism: G Mike Onwenu

The 6-foot-3, 350-pound Onwenu has started at three different positions on the offensive line, in addition to playing jumbo tight end, and accounted well for himself. He looks like a find after entering last week’s action ranked sixth in the NFL in ESPN’s pass block win rate for guards. There’s just something about the Patriots and sixth-round picks from Michigan that seems to be a fit. — Mike Reiss



Rex Ryan contends that the Patriots’ playoff hopes for the 2020 season are over after their loss to the Bills.

Week 8 ranking: 24

Reason for optimism: RB Dalvin Cook

The type of heroic performance Cook turned in against Green Bay is the reason the Vikings paid him this offseason. The running back has shown he is unstoppable when healthy, and if Minnesota wants to string together victories and get back into contention, it needs to commit to running its offense through Cook. It did so in Week 8, with Cook scoring a touchdown on each of the Vikings’ first four possessions, the first time a player has achieved that feat since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Keep feeding Cook and those accolades will continue and likely translate to wins. — Courtney Cronin

Week 8 ranking: 23

Reason for optimism: RB Phillip Lindsay

The Broncos have seen both sides of the Lindsay riddle this season. When he is on the field and they’re willing to give him the ball, their offense is better — as in much better. But how many carries is too many carries is always a question given that Lindsay has missed three games and the second half of two others this season. But he leads all NFL running backs in yards per carry at 6.4. But with the Broncos having signed Melvin Gordon to a $16 million deal this offseason, Gordon’s snap count seems forced at times, to the detriment of Lindsay. — Jeff Legwold

Week 8 ranking: 20

Reason for optimism: QB Justin Herbert

Herbert is the only reason for optimism even though he threw two picks versus Denver. He still passed for 278 yards and three touchdowns, and he has an arm that made him the No. 6 overall pick. He has now thrown for 1,820 yards and 15 touchdowns, with the latter tying Deshaun Watson for the most for a rookie over his first six starts. — Shelley Smith

Week 8 ranking: 22

Reason for optimism: P Jack Fox

The offense is inconsistent. The defense can’t do much against any team with a winning record. The coaching has been suspect — and has moved away from things that work, like a group of offensive linemen that appeared to coalesce prior to Sunday’s demolition by Indianapolis. But hey, have you seen the punting? Fox leads the NFL with 53.2 yards per punt, best in the league by 2.8 yards. His 47.6-yard net punting average also leads the NFL. And Detroit’s special-teams coverage, led by coordinator Brayden Coombs, has been good. So not all is troublesome in Detroit. — Michael Rothstein

Week 8 ranking: 27

Reason for optimism: QB Joe Burrow

Let’s not overthink things here. Burrow has been remarkably impressive as a rookie and lived up to the hype, which is saying something considering he was the top overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Heading into the final games of Week 8, Burrow ranked second in completion rate above expectation at plus-5.7%, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, which trails only Seattle’s Russell Wilson. It’s also a considerable accomplishment given how often he is throwing the ball: Burrow leads the league in pass attempts and completions and is third in total yards. He is building a strong case to be the NFL’s Rookie of the Year. — Ben Baby

Week 8 ranking: 26

Reason for optimism: QB Deshaun Watson

The Texans are 1-6, but one of the few points of optimism for the future is that they have a franchise quarterback under a long-term contract. Even without his former No. 1 target, DeAndre Hopkins, Watson has thrown for at least 300 yards in his past four games and has 11 touchdowns in that span. — Sarah Barshop

Week 8 ranking: 29

Reason for optimism: RB Todd Gurley

Flipping coasts has been a good thing for Gurley, who is on pace for 1,062 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. (He has rushed for at least one TD in six of eight games.) He is a key part of a Falcons offense averaging 401 yards and 26.1 points per game, both of which rank in the top 15. — Mike DiRocco

Week 8 ranking: 28

Reason for optimism: Young defensive ends

You could say it’s the entire line, but the ends have a chance to be real good for a long time. And it isn’t just Chase Young, the No. 2 pick in the spring, who has stood out. It’s also second-year player Montez Sweat. Both play the run well and can rush the passer; both have good length and physical presence. They should be valuable bookends for years. Sweat leads Washington with five sacks while Young has 2.5. But Young is the one usually getting doubled or chipped and is the one offensive lines often will slide toward — leading to better situations for others. As Young matures, he could become a star. Sweat is 24; Young is 21. Washington is set for a while. — John Keim

Week 8 ranking: 25

Reason for optimism: CB Trevon Diggs

With two picks of Carson Wentz on Sunday, Diggs became the first Cowboys rookie defensive back with multiple interceptions in the same game since Terence Newman in 2003. He became the first rookie defender with multiple picks in a game since Sean Lee in 2010. Diggs has given up too many big plays, and his eyes are not always in the right spot, but he is at least showing promise, which can’t be said for a lot of defenders. “He’s as good a young player that I have ever seen when the ball’s in the air,” Dallas coach Mike McCarthy said. — Todd Archer

Week 8 ranking: 30

Reason for optimism: RB James Robinson

Robinson has been the Jaguars’ best offensive player, which certainly validates the franchise’s decision to cut Leonard Fournette less than two weeks before the season began. Robinson, an undrafted free agent from Illinois State, is on pace to rush for 1,099 yards, which would make him just the fourth player in franchise history to surpass 1,000 yards in a season. (Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew and Fournette are the others.) That also would be the second-highest rushing total by a rookie in franchise history. — Mike DiRocco

Week 8 ranking: 31

Reason for optimism: C Nick Gates

There is not a lot to work with here, but Gates has become progressively better as the season has gone on. Remember, he never played center in a game prior to this season. Now, it looks as though the Giants might have found their starter at the position, not only for this season but for years to come. For an organization that has struggled so badly to put together a competent offensive line, you take what you can get. — Jordan Raanan

Week 8 ranking: 32

Reason for optimism: OT Mekhi Becton

Let’s face it, there’s not a lot of good around the Jets these days, but Becton deserves recognition because he has exceeded expectations, which is hard to do when you’re the 11th overall pick. Showing no growing pains, the massive left tackle has demonstrated the skill, technique and demeanor of a potential great. He is a violent blocker with the ability to toss 300-pound defenders. The only negative is that he missed two games with a shoulder injury, but he has recovered. There aren’t many bright spots for the winless Jets; Becton is the brightest. — Rich Cimini

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