After a week marred by on-field fights and the continuation of the back-and-forth over Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and anthem protests, the NFL regular season is starting to take a solid shape. However, the fickle nature of the sport was seen when the devastating news came out that rookie superstar Deshaun Watson had torn his ACL, essentially dooming what had been an exciting Texans’ season. His season-ending injury along with the slump of Kareem Hunt has opened the door for someone else to steal the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, and the recent hot play of Leonard Fournette and Alvin Kamara further convolute the situation. Meanwhile, Carson Wentz has continued to be terrific, and the Eagles are flying high in this week’s edition of the Power Rankings.
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-1, 1st NFC East): Last week: 1
Carson Wentz and Co. lit up one of the league’s best defenses in Week 9, dominating the Broncos 51-23 in Philadelphia. The Eagles have quietly assembled a formidable rushing attack, as Jay Ajayi averaged nearly 10 yards per carry while scoring a touchdown in his first game as an Eagle. Corey Clement hit paydirt three times against Denver.
- Los Angeles Rams (6-2, 1st NFC West): Last week: 4
The owners of the league’s best point differential, the Rams are looking like a legitimate contender as of late. In sole possession of first place in the division, Jared Goff threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns on just 14 completions in a 51-17 rout of the Giants.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2, 1st AFC North): Last week: 2
- New England Patriots (6-2, 1st AFC East): Last week: 5
- Minnesota Vikings (6-2, 1st NFC North): Last week: 7
- Dallas Cowboys (5-3, 2nd NFC East): Last week: 11
Having won three games in a row, the Cowboys are starting to look like the contender they were expected to be at the start of the season. Dallas took on a tough opponent in Kansas City and won 28-17 behind a nine reception, 141 yard performance from often-overlooked wideout Terrance Williams.
- Kansas City Chiefs (6-3, 1st AFC West): Last week: 3
The Chiefs have lost three of their last four games and appear to be in dire straits. Kareem Hunt has slowed down significantly, as the rookie sensation hasn’t reached the end zone since Week 3. However, the rest of their schedule isn’t difficult, and the Raiders and Chargers haven’t shown the ability to threaten Kansas City.
- New Orleans Saints (6-2, 1st NFC South): Last week: 9
While the Saints may not have any big wins over quality competition, they have won six games in a row. Alvin Kamara powered the Saints to a 30-10 home win over the Buccaneers and could supplant Mark Ingram for the starting job sooner rather than later. Shockingly, their defense has been stingy this year, allowing the seventh-least points to opponents.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3, T-1st AFC South): Last week: 12
Despite having Blake Bortles at quarterback, the Jaguars are in the driver’s seat of the AFC South race after Deshaun Watson’s injury. The Jags benched Leonard Fournette for violating team rules last week but still cruised past the Bengals 23-7. Jacksonville’s defense has been on another level this season, as they’ve held opponents to single digits five times so far.
- Carolina Panthers (6-3, 2nd NFC South): Last week: 13
While failing to impress for most of this season, the Panthers have been able to stick in the playoff picture. Escaping with a tight 20-17 win over the Falcons at home, Cam Newton showed off his rushing chops, carrying the ball nine times for 86 yards and a fantastic leaping touchdown.
- Washington Redskins (4-4, 3rd NFC East): Last week: 18
Behind a late Robert Kelley touchdown, Washington scored a 17-14 road win over the Seahawks in one of the NFL’s harshest environments for visiting teams. The Redskins gained just 51 yards on the ground despite rushing the ball 23 times, a number that needs to improve going forward.
- Seattle Seahawks (5-3, 2nd NFC West): Last week: 6
After needing a miracle drive to beat the Texans in a shootout two weeks ago and losing a grind-it-out game to the Redskins in Week 9, the Seahawks’ famed home field advantage may not be as potent as it has been in the past. The Seahawks could be in danger of missing the playoffs, as they face just one team with a losing record for the rest of the season.
- Tennessee Titans (5-3, T-1st AFC South): Last week: 16
The Titans escaped at home with a 23-20 win over an unimpressive Baltimore squad. While they are still tied with Jacksonville for the division lead, Tennessee has not played a team with a winning record since Week 3. However, their schedule is still quite easy the rest of the way.
- Detroit Lions (4-4, T-2nd NFC North): Last week: 17
Aaron Rodgers’ injury allowed the Lions to go into Lambeau Field and grab a rare win, as Detroit topped Green Bay 30-17 on Monday Night Football. Matthew Stafford threw for 361 yards and two scores en route to a 132.4 passer rating, while Golden Tate and Marvin Jones both had over 100 yards receiving.
- Buffalo Bills (5-3, 2nd AFC East): Last week: 8
When the Bills leave Buffalo, they become an entirely different team. Sporting a 4-0 record at home and coming off a rout of Oakland, the Bills went into New York on Thursday Night Football and lowered their road record to 1-3 with a 34-21 loss to the Jets. The Jets have had one of the worst rush defenses in the league, but LeSean McCoy managed only 25 yards on 12 carries.
- Atlanta Falcons (4-4, 3rd NFC South): Last week: 14
While many are quick to place the blame for Atlanta’s Super Bowl hangover on defending MVP Matt Ryan, the problem may be the running game. The two-headed monster of DeVonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman was a big reason for Atlanta’s success last year, and the duo has been stuck in second gear all season.
- Oakland Raiders (4-5, 2nd AFC West): Last week: 22
The Silver and Black cling to their hopes of a playoff return by the ends of the fingers, as they eked out a 27-24 win over the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday night. However, with games against the Patriots, Chiefs, Cowboys and Eagles still looming, it is a long shot for Jack Del Rio’s squad.
- New York Jets (4-5, 4th AFC East): Last week: 20
Josh McCown may be well-deserving of the Comeback Player of the Year Award. The 37-year-old career backup has put his body on the line numerous times for the Jets this season, and his efforts have earned him three rushing touchdowns and hope for the Jets franchise.
- Los Angeles Chargers (3-5, 3rd AFC West): Last week: 19
- Arizona Cardinals (4-4, 3rd NFC West): Last week: 28
With Adrian Peterson nearing 33 years old, common sense would dictate that limiting the future HOFer’s workload would be a good choice. However, Bruce Arians has taken a different approach, feeding Peterson the rock 37 times in the Cardinals’ 20-10 road win over lowly San Francisco.
- Baltimore Ravens (4-5, 2nd AFC North): Last week: 15
Joe Flacco threw the ball 52 times in the Ravens’ 23-20 loss in Tennessee, a surprising vote of confidence in their embattled quarterback. While they haven’t shown much promise this year, the Ravens could be a sneaky playoff contender as their last three games will come against Cleveland, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
- Miami Dolphins (4-4, 3rd AFC East): Last week: 23
Despite receiving Jay Cutler’s best game in recent memory, the Dolphins fell to the Raiders at home. The veteran threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns without turning the ball over, and with Miami still somehow sitting at .500, the playoffs can’t be ruled out just yet.
- Green Bay Packers (4-4, T-2nd NFC North): Last week: 21
Brett Hundley relied more on his legs than his arms as the Packers lost again in Aaron Rodgers’ absence, with the young quarterback gaining 5.5 yards per carry and scoring a rushing touchdown but failing to score in the air. The Pack has lost three in a row since Rodgers got hurt, and face an uphill battle to January football.
- Chicago Bears (3-5, 4th NFC North): Last week: 25
- Indianapolis Colts (3-6, 4th AFC South): Last week: 29
Jacoby Brissett and the Colts took advantage of a Texans team reeling from the loss of their stud rookie quarterback in a 20-14 win in Houston. With Andrew Luck shut down for the season, Brissett carved up the embattled Texans secondary to the tune of 308 yards and two scores.
- Houston Texans (3-5, 3rd AFC South): Last week: 9
Without Deshaun Watson, the Texans fell to pieces. Though Tom Savage had the chance to give the Texans the win at the last second, he repeatedly made mistakes, including getting strip-sacked on the last play of the game. After racking up point totals of 36, 57, 34, 33 and 38 in the last five weeks, the offense scored just one touchdown against a bad Indy defense.
- Cincinnati Bengals (3-5, 3rd AFC North): Last week: 27
The latest victim of the Jaguars defense, the Bengals stood no chance in Jacksonville. Andy Dalton threw for just 136 yards while failing to throw for a touchdown. Additionally, the Bengals could only muster an embarrassing 29 rushing yards.
- Denver Broncos (3-6, 4th AFC West): Last week: 24
The Broncos have fallen off about as hard as any team in the league, effectively raising the white flag on the season by starting Brock Osweiler at quarterback. The Eagles didn’t take it easy on them, putting up 51 points on Denver’s star-studded yet tired defense.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6, 4th NFC South): Last week: 26
With Jameis Winston shut down for the coming few weeks, it is time to officially write off Tampa Bay as contenders in 2017. While they started with such promise, the Buccaneers are clearly a number of pieces away from assembling a playoff puzzle.
- New York Giants (1-7, 4th NFC East): Last week: 30
After losing 51-17 to the Rams in New York, there is little good to say about the Giants. Rookie tight end Evan Engram has caught a touchdown in his last three games, but he’s about the only bright spot in the Big Apple. Maybe it is time for Davis Webb to replace Eli Manning.
- San Francisco 49ers (0-9, 4th NFC West): Last week: 31
It came out this week that 49ers GM John Lynch asked the Patriots for Tom Brady in trade talks, which would have been the most interesting trade in NFL history. Understandably, the Patriots said no, but seeing Tom Brady take the field for a winless 49ers team would be a weird sight.
- Cleveland Browns (0-8, 4th AFC North): Last week: 32