With nearly two months of the NFL season gone, it’s once again time to try and rank each team from No. 1 to No. 32. These power rankings give a good deal of credence to a team’s on-field record, as well as who they beat and where. In a perfect world, the order would reflect which of two teams would win should they meet on a neutral field right now. The rankings have changed quite a bit since the end of September, and surely will again over the next month. (All stats are from pro-football-reference.com.)
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start, with No. 1.
1. Denver Broncos (6-1)
The Broncos still haven’t lost in regulation yet this season, and have won four straight games headed into a critical AFC showdown in Foxboro. Enjoy Manning versus Brady — we probably won’t see that many more times.
2. Arizona Cardinals (6-1)
Are the Cardinals for real? A big-time win over Philadelphia on Sunday — of the come-from-behind, two-minute-drill variety, no less — has the Cardinals two games clear of the pack in the NFC West. Things don’t get any easier for Bruce Arians’s team with Dallas up next.
3. New England Patriots (6-2)
The reports of the Patriots’ demise appear to have been premature. New England has won its last four games by an average of more than 18 points per contest. Has any team had a better October?
4. Philadelphia Eagles (5-2)
The way the NFC East has played out so far, a pair of meetings between the Eagles and Cowboys in an 18-day span (beginning on Thanksgiving) could very well decide the division crown.
5. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
Dallas was the hottest team in the league (riding a six-game winning streak) until Colt McCoy happened Monday night. There’s a sentence we definitely didn’t expect to type in 2014.
6. Detroit Lions (6-2)
The weakest link on the Detroit Lions has been the field goal kicker, so it was nice to see Matt Prater win a game for Detroit at the horn Sunday in London. Of course, he missed the first attempt and needed a delay-of-game mulligan to pull it off.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1)
A month ago, the Bengals were on top of our power rankings at 3-0. They didn’t win another game until edging Baltimore at home Sunday. Cincinnati needs to get A.J. Green back sooner rather than later.
8. Baltimore Ravens (5-3)
If Baltimore played in the NFC South, they’d be in first place (with a 3-0 record against teams in that division). Instead, the Ravens are looking up at the Bengals in the AFC North standings, and a Cincinnati regular-season sweep could prove critical if a tiebreaker is needed in late December.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
The Steelers scored a total of 49 points in the last three weeks before exploding for 51 in a win over the AFC South-leading Colts. It has to be the bumblebee uniforms, right?
10. Indianapolis Colts (5-3)
Indy had a five-game winning streak snapped Sunday in Pittsburgh. Will the real Colts defense stand up? Indianapolis allowed zero points against the Bengals a week ago, then let the Steelers hang half a hundred.
11. San Diego Chargers (5-3)
The Chargers lost one game in the first 40-plus days of the season, then dropped two more in less than a week. San Diego’s playoff hopes depend on picking up multiple wins in the next three weeks, because the closing stretch is murderous: at Baltimore, New England, Denver, at San Francisco, at Kansas City.
12. San Francisco 49ers (4-3)
In Jim Harbaugh’s first three seasons with the Niners, the team made the NFL’s final four each year and never lost more than four games in a season. After a 25-point loss in Denver last time out, this team doesn’t look like it’s up to that level.
13. Seattle Seahawks (4-3)
The Seahawks came within 47 seconds of a third straight loss before rallying to top Carolina on Sunday. Looks like Seattle is learning firsthand why it’s so hard for defending Super Bowl champs to repeat (or even win a playoff game the following season).
14. Green Bay Packers (5-3)
Green Bay had to be feeling good about itself after a four-game winning streak that pulled the Packers into a tie for first place in the division. After a 21-point loss at New Orleans, we’re guessing those good feelings have mostly evaporated.
15. Buffalo Bills (5-3)
In four games as the Bills’ starting quarterback, EJ Manuel completed 58% of his passes and Buffalo scored 19.8 points per game. In four games as the Bills’ starting quarterback, Kyle Orton has completed 67.4% of his passes and Buffalo has scored 24.5 points per game. Good move, Bills.
16. Kansas City Chiefs (4-3)
The Chiefs struggled early in the year after winning 11 games in 2013, but the last two weeks have been encouraging for Kansas City fans: A surprising road win in San Diego followed by a 34-7 beatdown of St. Louis this past Sunday.
17. Cleveland Browns (4-3)
The Browns have been a pleasant surprise this season, except, it seems, when they’re playing against winless teams. First, Cleveland slipped up at woeful Jacksonville, then the Browns were clinging to a 9-6 fourth-quarter home lead against the Raiders on Sunday before pulling out a 23-13 win. We think that’s called “playing to the level of your competition.”
18. New Orleans Saints (3-4)
The Saints have been alternating wins and losses since September. After an impressive victory over Green Bay on Sunday, that doesn’t bode well for the short-week trip to Carolina.
19. Miami Dolphins (4-3)
The Dolphins weren’t happy with the way they played in a two-touchdown win at Jacksonville on Sunday. For a team that’s missed the playoffs in 11 of the last 12 seasons, nitpicking a double-digit road victory seems like progress, doesn’t it?
20. Carolina Panthers (3-4-1)
The good news for the Carolina Panthers: They’re in first place in their division. The bad news for the Carolina Panthers: They’re under .500. Ron Rivera’s team controls its own destiny with five NFC South dates remaining in the last half of the season, starting with the Saints’ Thursday night visit.
21. Houston Texans (4-4)
Houston has a lot to look forward to: After only two wins a year ago, the Texans are 4-4, a game out of first place, and finally have No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney back on the field.
22. New York Giants (3-4)
New York has come back down to earth with two straight losses to NFC East opponents after a three-game winning streak. The next month should make or break the Giants’ season, with Indianapolis, Seattle (away), San Francisco, and Dallas looming in a 21-day span.
23. Chicago Bears (3-5)
Bears defensive lineman Lamarr Houston tore his ACL Sunday … celebrating a sack … of a backup quarterback … in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss. That sums up the 2014 Bears in a nutshell, doesn’t it? Chicago is currently trending toward its first losing season in a decade.
24. Minnesota Vikings (3-5)
The Vikings didn’t crack 20 points once in the month of October. But, hey, at least the defense is improving? Linebacker Anthony Barr scored the winning points Sunday at Tampa Bay, forcing and returning a fumble in overtime to snap Minnesota’s three-game skid.
25. Washington Redskins (3-5)
The Redskins posted one of the most unexpected victories of the season Monday night, upsetting Dallas in overtime on the road. Making his first start since 2011, Colt McCoy completed 83% of his passes. Now, when will RG3 be back?
26. Atlanta Falcons (2-6)
You’ve heard the saying, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” But did you know it also applies to pro sports owners? It’s safe to say Atlanta’s Arthur Blank ain’t happy after his team blew a 21-0 halftime lead in London on Sunday. “There’s no way you lose that game,” he said to the local newspaper.
27. St. Louis Rams (2-5)
The Rams are falling apart in a hurry. If a fourth loss in five games wasn’t bad enough (this one a 27-point blowout, to boot), St. Louis also found out they lost Jake Long and Brian Quick for the season to injuries.
28. Tennessee Titans (2-6)
The Titans have been held under 80 rushing yards three weeks in a row. That’s no way to win in the National Football League, especially without a proven quarterback under center.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6)
Tampa Bay keeps inventing new ways to lose, especially at home. After Sunday’s OT loss, the Buccaneers are 0-4 in Tampa against a quartet of teams that have combined for a 9-17-1 record against opponents not named the Bucs. In other words, the Bucs can’t beat a bad team at home to save their lives.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7)
In seven losses this year, the Jaguars are averaging less than 14 points per game. So how exactly did this team beat the Browns, who have a winning record, mind you, by a score of 24-6? We’re still scratching our heads over that one.
31. New York Jets (1-7)
The Jets have lost seven games in a row and have a quarterback crisis on their hands. Geno Smith had as bad a quarter as is humanly possible Sunday, and Michael Vick, while not much better, is starting this week. Time to start wondering who will be quarterbacking the Jets in 2015 … and where Rex Ryan will be working then.
32. Oakland Raiders (0-7)
If you’re the only team in the NFL to not win a game, you’re pretty much guaranteed to occupy the cellar in our power rankings. Sorry, Raiders: It’s not personal. But it’s not rocket science, either. Take a look at the remainder of Oakland’s schedule. Let’s just say they’d better hope they beat St. Louis.