NFC takes top four spots in NFL Power Rankings – Cardinals, Rams, Packers, Cowboys are Kings of the Mountain
We're approaching the middle of the 2021 regular season. Technically speaking, with 17 games on each team schedule, that means halftime of Week 9 is the true middle of the season. But let's jump the gun this Monday morning after Week 8 and list our mid-season Power Rankings now.
A drum roll, please. Open the curtain. The show begins.
(1) Arizona Cardinals
At 7-1, with their lone loss to the mighty Packers by 3 points (in a game they probably should have won), the Cardinals remain the NFL's top team by virtue of the league's best point differential (+13 PPG). The Cardinals might run the table in their next four games before a monster showdown in early December versus the Rams that could be for the division title and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
(2) Los Angeles Rams
The Rams rank a razor-thin second in the rankings, with their only loss to Arizona. So, it seems simple to place them here right behind the team they couldn't beat (at home). Beating Tampa Bay certainly places LA in the top-three and we have to wonder if the Rams will be even better as the season progresses.
(3) Green Bay Packers
At 7-1, coming off a huge upset win at Arizona with several key injuries, some will cry that the Packers belong at #1. Maybe so. However, Green Bay has played numerous close games (three wins were by a field goal or less) and that opening-day blowout loss to New Orleans remains an ugly stain. Still the Packers are easily in our top-three.
(4) Dallas Cowboys
At 6-1, with their only loss at Tampa Bay in the NFL kickoff game, Dallas is a surprising 7-0 against-the-spread. They've won each of the last two weeks in the closing seconds on the road. Dallas' defense is vastly improved and the offense is among the league's best when Prescott is healthy. Dallas is for real and has the NFC East title all but locked up now.
(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The defending Super Bowl champions are 6-2, and arguably would be favoured by oddsmakers versus any opponent on a neutral field (which might make the Bucs the #1 team depending on metrics). One senses that Tampa Bay is the best team when they play their best. And the "Brady factor" remains a huge advantage.
(6) Tennessee Titans
Are the Titans the AFC's best team at the moment? Maybe. Tennessee rattled off four straight wins, three as underdogs, beating Buffalo, Kansas City, and Indianapolis. The Titans defense isn't very good, which keeps this team out of the top-five. Credit Tennessee for a gutsy performance but with RB Henry now a concern with a serious injury, we're not sure where the Titans will end up. Right now, we have them #6.
(7) Buffalo Bills
At 6-2, Buffalo is widely perceived at the NFL's most dangerous team overall – feared both as an offense and defense. Like the Bucs in the NFC, the Bills might be favoured over any other team in the conference on a neutral field. Only drawback is the Bills playing a creampuff schedule. We need to see them beat winning teams (and they've lost to two – Steelers and Titans).
(8) Baltimore Ravens
At 5-2, the Ravens regained first-place in the AFC North coming off a bye, but have also struggled at times (two wins were last-second victories versus awful Detroit and at home on MNF versus Indianapolis). Ravens are always dangerous, but also wildly inconsistent. Inconsistency isn't good.
(9) New Orleans Saints
The Saints are a tough team to figure out. The defense appears to be the team's best in years and can shut down any opponent, but the offense remains sluggish, at times. Credit New Orleans for their big win over Tampa Bay in Week #8, but we also see the Saints as just a loss or two away from being an average, middle-of-the-pack team. Much will depend on QB Winston stepping up and being a leader on this team. His fate is the Saints' destiny.
(10) Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders looked like they'd implode and fall into last place only a few weeks ago after losing head coach Jon Gruden and playing terrible in two straight games. However, the Raiders rebounded with a fury since the scandal and are now 5-2 in what some say is the NFL's best division. This offense is underrated and might keep the Raiders in every game they play.
(11) Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are tough to figure out, losing two straight and now at 4-3. The defense, supposedly the Chargers' strength, has collapsed in recent weeks. However, LA has played a tough schedule. We'll learn if this team is for real in the next few weeks, as the Chargers must beat both Philadelphia and Minnesota to stay on pace in the competitive AFC West. We see the potential but we're still not sold on the Chargers.
(12) Cincinnati Bengals
Just when we thought the long-suffering Bengals might step up in class as a top-ten team, Cincinnati shits the bed and surrenders 34 points in a loss to the NY Jets. Enough said. This team still has a long way to go, but let's credit them with being on the inside of the NFL's best dozen – through 8 games. Barely.
(13) New England Patriots
Even though the Pats are 4-4, they could could very well be 7-1 since three losses were in the closing minutes to Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Miami. The Week 8 win at LA Chargers was quite a strong statement, and a sure sign that New England could be a contender in the second half of the season.
(14) Pittsburgh Steelers
Given up for dead a month ago, Pittsburgh won three straight games and are now 4-3. But the Steelers offense is a three-legged dog running in the Triple Crown. This is a deceitful team bordering on collapse. Terrible offensive line, no running game, coaching ineptitude, and aging QB – it's only a matter of time before Pittsburgh gets exposed as a fraud and disintegrates.
(15) Kansas City Chiefs
Everyone's asking – what's wrong the Kansas City? Well, they've been outplayed and outcoached in every phase of play this season. It's been a real team effort. However, let's also agree that at 3-4, the Chiefs have their backs to the wall and could be dangerous the rest of the way. (Note: Tonight's MNF game isn't factored into this discussion)
(16) Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are now 4-4 and barely on the positive side of point differential. It's hard to see how Carolina will factor into any playoff scenario, but credit them for a better season than many predicted.
Note: In Part 2, we'll rank the remaining NFL teams 17-32.