1. New England Patriots (8-0; Last Week- No. 1)
This has been too easy for the Patriots, through half of their schedule.
2. Cincinnati Bengals (8-0; Last Week- No. 3)
Andy Dalton is only behind Tom Brady in QB rating at 111.0. He’s thrown 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions, while ranking second in the NFL in yards per pass attempt (8.63).
Compare that to Dalton’s 2014 season: 19 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, an 83.5 QB rating, and 7.06 yards per pass attempt.
It’s hard to think of a more improved player in the NFL this season. Dalton now has a Bengals team that had been perceived as as a solid team, looking like a championship-contending team.
3. Carolina Panthers (8-0; Last Week- No. 5)
Okay, okay. You have our full attention, Panthers.
The undefeated Panthers now have a two-game lead for best record in the NFC, and are essentially up three games on the 6-2 Packers now due to the head-to-head tiebreaker. They also have a favorable schedule over the remaining eight games, so it’s looking like the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC is going to go through Charlotte.
4. Denver Broncos (7-1; Last Week- No. 2)
The Broncos followed up an outstanding performance and victory over the Packers in Week 8, with an ugly performance and first loss of their season to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9. The defense looked very average for really the first time all year, and the offensive issues showed again, as Peyton Manning threw two more interceptions and the offense ran for just 35 yards on 14 carries.
Making matters more concerning on the defensive side of the ball for the Broncos, is losing pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware (back) for two-to-four weeks and cornerback Aqib Talib for one game due to suspension (after poking Dwayne Allen in the eye like a moron).
Regardless, the Broncos only have one loss and are in great shape with a three-game lead in the AFC West.
5. Green Bay Packers (6-2; Last Week- No. 4)
Straight-up beaten in consecutive games, although against two of the teams ranked in our top-four, on the road.
Eddie Lacy has been benched for James Starks after running for just 3.7 yards per carry and two touchdowns on the season. Lacy’s longest carry in 83 attempts was for 16 yards in Week 1.
6. Arizona Cardinals (6-2; Last Week- No. 6)
Coming off the Bye Week to prepare for a huge game against the Seahawks in Seattle. This is a huge opportunity for the Cardinals to make a statement, and of more importance, be in full control of the NFC West.
7. Seattle Seahawks (4-4; Last Week- No. 7)
This is basically a must-win for the Seahawks at home on Sunday Night Football against the Cardinals. A win and they’re just one game back of the Cardinals for the NFC West lead, while a loss would put them three games back and pretty much knock them out of the division race. The Seahawks may not have much room for error to even get a Wild Card spot either.
8. Minnesota Vikings (6-2; Last Week- No. 8)
Four straight wins has the Vikings tied with the Packers for the NFC North lead.
Minnesota also got good news on Wednesday in regards to Teddy Bridgewater, as the quarterback was cleared to practice after suffering a concussion in the Vikings’ 21-18 win over the Rams.
9. New York Jets (5-3; Last Week- No. 12)
Credit Ryan Fitzpatrick for playing through torn ligaments in his left thumb in the Jets’ victory over the Jaguars. He will do the same on Thursday night against the Bills, before getting surgery on the thumb the following day.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4; Last Week- No. 14)
Could the Steelers just have a single week where their superstars make it out of the game healthy? Hopefully Big Ben (sprained foot) misses just Week 10, which is a winnable game for Pittsburgh against the Browns anyway.
11. St. Louis Rams (4-4; Last Week- No. 9)
Todd Gurley is amazing, but eventually Nick Foles (7 TD/5 INT/79.7 QB Rating) is going to have to make more plays. In the Rams’ last four games — and also in their four losses — Foles has just two touchdown passes and five interceptions.
12. Oakland Raiders (4-4; Last Week- No. 10)
Even in a losing effort, Derek Carr continued to impress. In fact, the second-year quarterback tied was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded quarterback of the week, and is their No. 5 quarterback on the season.
13. Atlanta Falcons (6-3; Last Week- No. 11)
The Falcons have lost three of their last four games, with all of the losses coming against teams with losing records. And the one win was by the score of 10-7 against a Marcus Mariota-less Titans team.
>Atlanta’s most recent loss came to a 49ers team starting Blaine Gabbert at quarterback and off-the-street players at running back.
The Falcons are doing their best to solve the “Contender/Pretender” debate for us, after the team started 5-0.
14. New York Giants (5-4; Last Week- No. 15)
Can they pull off another stunner over the Patriots?
15. Buffalo Bills (4-4; Last Week- No. 18)
The Bills are 4-2 with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. Taylor’s 108.8 QB rating ranks fourth in the NFL, ahead of Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
Taylor may find even more success going forward, with Sammy Watkins finally healthy and looking like the wide receiver the Bills expected to have when they took the Clemson product with the fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft. Watkins reeled in all eight passes Taylor threw his way against the Dolphins, for 168 yards and a touchdown.
16. Indianapolis Colts (4-5; Last Week- No. 21; Biggest Riser)
This weird season for the Colts continues to only get weirder. Out of nowhere they play a terrific game to stun the Broncos, and then after the win, it’s revealed Andrew Luck is expected to miss at least a month due to a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal
17. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4; Last Week- No. 17)
The Eagles have a nice to go on a nice run, as they should be favored in all of their next three games: vs Miami, vs Tampa Bay, at Lions.
18. New Orleans Saints (4-5; Last Week- No. 13; Biggest Faller)
Drew Brees and the offense are getting it done, but the defense is not. The Saints’ defense ranks 31st in the NFL in yards per game, at 414.8.
19. Miami Dolphins (3-5; Last Week- No. 16)
It looked like Dan Campbell had this group headed in the right direction, but not so much anymore. The Dolphins have been outscored 69-24 over the last two weeks.
20. Chicago Bears (3-5; Last Week- No. 24)
Jay Cutler is playing maybe the best football of his career, and in doing so, is helping the stock of Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase in terms of a head coaching job.
The 37-year-old Gase interviewed for head coaching vacancies over the offseason, and getting Cutler to play so well — while the Bears have had several key injuries on offense — has to be helping Gase’s chances of finally landing one of those jobs this upcoming offseason. The Bears certainly hope he sticks around though.
21. Kansas City Chiefs (3-5; Last Week- No. 20)
The Chiefs come out of their Bye Week looking for a third straight win, but that will be difficult to get in Denver against a 7-1 Broncos team that should come out focused after a bad loss in Indianapolis.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5: Last Week- No. 19)
That was a terrific win for the Buccaneers on the road over the Falcons. At three wins, Tampa Bay has already topped their win total (2) of 2014!
Jameis Winston is making impressive strides. After looking very much like a rookie and throwing four interceptions against the Panthers in Week 4, the No. 1 overall pick has not thrown an interception over the last three games.
23. Washington Redskins (3-5; Last Week- No. 22)
Kirk Cousins is so inconsistent and just generally bad.
And the run game is very bad; Alfred Morris looks done. Over 29 carries in the last four games, Morris’ longest carry is for six yards.
24. Dallas Cowboys (2-6; Last Week- No. 23)
That’s now six straight losses without Tony Romo. They’re still alive in a bad NFC East, but they’d have to go 6-2 to get to even 8-8 at this point. That’s putting a ton of pressure on Romo when he likely returns in Week 11.
25. Baltimore Ravens (2-6; Last Week- No. 25)
While the record is bad, the Ravens have not lost a game by more than eight points on the season. They some winnable games coming up, beginning with the Jaguars at home in Week 10. So perhaps some of these close games will start turning into wins for the Ravens in their second half of the season.
26. Tennessee Titans (2-6; Last Week- No. 30)
Marcus Mariota looks like the real deal and came away with a big road win over the Saints in Week 9. The rookie’s QB rating of 101.5 ranks ninth in the NFL.
27. San Diego Chargers (2-7; Last Week- No. 26)
Just way too many injuries to overcome for the Chargers.
28. Houston Texans (3-5; Last Week- No. 27)
Their three wins: vs the Buccaneers, vs the Jaguars, and vs the Titans.
It could get ugly for them on Monday night against the Bengals in Cincinnati.
29. Cleveland Browns (2-7; Last Week- No. 28)
At this point, might as well just play Johnny Manziel.
30. San Francisco 49ers (3-6; Last Week- No. 32)
Blaine Gabbert got a win! It’s doubtful we’ll be saying the same thing after the 49ers’ next two games: at Seattle and vs Arizona.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6; Last Week- No. 29)
2-6, with a -65 point differential, and still just one game out in the loss column of the AFC South.
But seriously, they may really have a shot at the AFC South crown, especially with Andrew Luck going down.
32. Detroit Lions (1-7; Last Week- No. 31)
A 1-7 team having to play an angry Packers team at Lambeau Field? Oh dear.