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NFL Power Rankings: Top teams starting to separate from the pack


By Paul Cifonelli / Editor-in-Chief

With the NFL season halfway finished for many teams, the playoff picture is beginning to look clear. There are a few teams at the top, with a lot of possible contenders right below them. Here’s how the league looks at the moment.

* all records are prior to the Tampa Bay-New York Giants game on Monday night

1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (7-1): One slip up won’t stop the Chiefs from claiming the top spot. QB Patrick Mahomes has thrown 21 touchdowns to one interception, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been as advertised and RB Le’Veon Bell will join the fold soon. Even the defense has been solid outside the 40-32 loss to Oakland. A Kansas City repeat looks like a good bet at this point.

2. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (6-1): This one may seem odd considering there’s still a team that’s yet to lose, but QB Russell Wilson is playing like he wants another Super Bowl victory. He’s been on an absolute tear and WRs DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have been two of the best in the league. If the shaky defense can get it together, watch out for Seattle.

3. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (7-0): The Steelers sit third on the list because of their schedule. The wins over the Titans and Ravens were nice and the Ravens, Bills, Colts and Browns are the only winning teams left on Pittsburgh’s schedule. They’ll be questioned all season if they continue this run, but the fact the Steelers haven’t lost yet shows a lot about this team’s resolve.

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Bills QB Josh Allen has had a breakthrough in 2020. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. BUFFALO BILLS (6-2): The Bills finally got rid of their demons against New England. Sunday’s victory seemed like a true changing of the guard in the AFC East, as Buffalo’s defense made plays when it needed to. If QB Josh Allen can continue the run he’s on and the defense can get healthy, this team could be staring at a deep playoff run.

5. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-2)*: QB Tom Brady just doesn’t stop winning. Things looked rough in his first few weeks, but that seems excusable for someone who’s played in the same offensive system for as long as he has. The talented offense looks like it’s starting to gel and the defense has been surprisingly good. Brady appears to have the pieces in place for his seventh championship.

6. ARIZONA CARDINALS (5-2): QB Kyle Murray is showing he wasn’t just a one-hit wonder, as evident by his incredible performance in his team’s win against Seattle. WRs DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald, paired with breakout RB Chase Edmonds, form a tough unit to stop. Once Syracuse alum Chandler Jones is healthy, the Cardinals may be a top five team.

7. GREEN BAY PACKERS (5-2): The path to victory for Green Bay every week is clear: score early with a combination of RB Aaron Jones runs and QB Aaron Rodgers picking defenses apart. With Jones hurt, the offense is one-dimensional and the defense’s holes are exposed. The Vikings showed how big those defensive holes are this past Sunday.

8. BALTIMORE RAVENS (5-2): This starts the run of teams that just feel like there’s something not there. QB Lamar Jackson isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but he isn’t dominating every game like he did last year. It doesn’t help that RBs JK Dobbins, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards are all the same player, so stopping the run isn’t as difficult as last year.

9. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (5-2): The Saints have the feel of a .500 team for no apparent reason. QB Drew Brees is throwing the ball downfield less than normal, probably due to the fact that WRs Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have missed time. RB Alvin Kamara hasn’t missed a beat though, leading the team in rushing and receiving.

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Titans RB Derrick Henry is having another good season after leading the NFL in rushing last year. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10. TENESSEE TITANS (5-2): RB Derrick Henry is a beast. Now that that’s out there, this team is coming back to Earth a little. QB Ryan Tannehill isn’t the world-beater he looked like early on and the defense has struggled, but getting CB Desmond King from the Chargers will help that. The best plan is to give the ball to Henry and see how far he can carry them and opposing defenders.

11. LOS ANGELES RAMS (5-3): The Rams’ loss against the Bills perfectly describes their season. In the first half, Los Angeles couldn’t get out of its own way and like it would get rolled. The second half was the polar opposite, as the Rams were one questionable pass interference from making a historic comeback. The Rams are more than capable of figuring it out, which could cause trouble for contenders.

12. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (5-2): The Colts are hard to get a read on because QB Phillip Rivers is so inconsistent. When he’s on, the Colts are hard to beat. When he’s not, they lose to the Jaguars. It feels harsh to pin all of Indianapolis’ problems on him, but his 10 touchdowns and six interceptions seem to say it’s not.

13. CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-3): This is about the time to start talking about whether the Browns are actual contenders. QB Baker Mayfield is still inconsistent, WR Odell Beckham Jr. is hurt again and the defense is allowing nearly 30 points per game. Despite all this, the Browns sit in a good place with five of its last eight games coming against teams with losing records.

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The Raiders’ new stadium, Allegiant Stadium, has hosted three games in its inaugural season. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

14. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (4-3): The Raiders get this recognition for knocking off the Chiefs. They also beat the Saints and Browns, so Las Vegas has quality wins. The problem with this team lies on the offensive side of the ball. If QB Derek Carr and the receivers are on, the Raiders can put up points against anybody. RB Josh Jacobs is the only consistent player and he seems legit.

15. CHICAGO BEARS (5-3): Chicago is the greatest enigma in the NFL at present. QBs Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky are playing well enough to lead the Bears to a winning record, but thats about it. They’ve combined for 16 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions, but RB David Montgomery has bailed them out. This two-game skid likely won’t stop with a trip to Tennessee coming up.

16. MIAMI DOLPHINS (4-3): Dolphins fans got what they wanted, even if QB Tua Tagovailoa’s debut this week was slightly underwhelming. This year’s fifth overall pick kept Miami’s win streak alive, but the move from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was curious. Fitzpatrick turned it over but led some impressive wins, so the pressure on Tagovailoa is greater than what was expected.

17. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (4-4): The 49ers fall to this spot simply because of injuries. QB Jimmy Garoppolo, TE George Kittle, WR Deebo Samuel, RB Raheem Mostert, CB Richard Sherman and DEs Ezekiel Ansah, Dee Ford and Solomon Thomas will all miss this week’s game. DE Nick Bosa is also on the injured reserve list. The 49ers need to get healthy before they can be accurately assessed.

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Broncos QB Drew Lock has missed some time in his first full season as the starting quarterback. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

18. DENVER BRONCOS (3-4): The Broncos’ young offense had propelled the team to three wins in its past four games. WRs Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick and TE Noah Fant have given QB Drew Lock a good stable of playmakers on the outside. Their remaining schedule isn’t easy, so the Broncos know where they are in their rebuild after this season.

19. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-5): The Vikings may not deserve to be this high based on how they’ve played, but with RB Dalvin Cook in the lineup this season could be saved. Cook ran through Green Bay this week and rookie WR Justin Jefferson has been the top dog in the passing game. If QB Kirk Cousins plays like he did down the stretch last year, Minnesota could enter the playoff picture.

20. DETROIT LIONS (3-4): Detroit is a decent running back away from potentially causing trouble in the NFC North. An aging Adrian Peterson doesn’t seem like the answer to that problem. The defense also took another hit this week with DE Trey Flowers going on the injured reserve list. The Lions get three teams below them on this list in the next four weeks, so they could pad their record in the next month.

21. CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-5): The Panthers’ early-season magic has officially worn off, as the offense has fallen flat of late. QB Teddy Bridgewater isn’t playing well enough to overshadow the fact that RB Christian McCaffrey is injured. McCaffrey signed a huge extension in the offseason and has played two games since. Hopefully for Carolina, 2021 will bring better health.

22. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-5): Truthfully, the Patriots probably aren’t as bad as their record says. QB Cam Newton played well in the first few games, tested positive for COVID-19 and has been bad since his return. If Newton can figure it out, New England may be able to salvage something from this season. If not, QB Jarrett Stidham should get used to being a starting quarterback.

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Washington WR Terry McLaurin has been his team’s top receiver for the last two seasons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

23. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (2-5): The first NFC East team to make an appearance isn’t in first place. Washington isn’t committed to a quarterback or running back, but WR Terry McLaurin looks like a mainstay. After drubbing a depleted Cowboys team last week, Washington has one thing no other NFC East team has – momentum.

24. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (2-5): QB Justin Herbert has now officially won the job from QB Tyrod Taylor by putting up impressive numbers in his rookie campaign. The Chargers are just bad in close games, losing by three, five, seven, three and one. They have a -6 score differential despite their record, so all isn’t bleak for the Chargers.

25. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-4-1): Somehow, the Eagles are in line to host a playoff game. They have injuries basically everywhere, QB Carson Wentz has regressed significantly and the defense looks like it can implode at any moment. QB Jalen Hurts may get an extended look if Wentz can’t turn things around.

26. ATLANTA FALCONS (2-6): The Falcons have talent but just keep losing. QB Matt Ryan isn’t bad, RB Todd Gurley is doing well enough and WRs Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones are a scary one-two tandem. Despite all this, Atlanta can’t seem to hold onto a late lead. Falcons fans have had quite a painful year.

27. CINCINNATI BENGALS (2-5-1): QB Joe Burrow has been progressing nicely in his rookie campaign. Burrow has led the offense to 27 points or more in the last three weeks. 2020 is all about progression for the Bengals, which is exactly what they’ve gotten.

28. HOUSTON TEXANS (1-6): On paper, the Texans aren’t this bad. Unfortunately for them, football isn’t played on paper. The defense has been brutally bad and consistently made QB Deshaun Watson play from behind. DE J.J. Watt has had his name brought up in trade talks, although it’s not known how serious that is.

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Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew has had an up-and-down career, which includes being benched for Jacksonville’s next game. (Photo credit: NFL HUNGARY blog)

29. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (1-6): Minshew Mania is over in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars are starting rookie QB Jake Luton this week. Minshew hasn’t necessarily played bad, but he isn’t leading the team to wins. Like Cincinnati, Jacksonville is looking for improvement this season. Unlike Cincinnati, it hasn’t really gotten any.

30. DALLAS COWBOYS (2-6): This ranking may be harsh, but Dallas’ performance Sunday night was brutal. QB Dak Prescott’s injury was an emotional blow, but losing QB Andy Dalton was a killer. The Cowboys’ best offense this weekend came when RB Ezekiel Elliot was taking snaps. The defense hasn’t been any more noteworthy.

31. NEW YORK GIANTS (1-6)*: When RB Saquon Barkley tore his ACL, Giants fans should’ve been able to look forward to the 2021 NFL Draft. However, the miserable NFC East has them within two games of a playoff spot. At least the Giants aren’t the worst team that calls MetLife Stadium home.

32. NEW YORK JETS (0-8): This is about as bad as it gets. QB Sam Darnold has proven he either can’t play in New York or can’t play in the NFL. They’ve released RB Le’Veon Bell and traded LB Avery Williamson, which was rather merciful. Head coach Adam Gase’s time on the sideline is very limited.

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