Neil Reynolds' Power Rankings Week 8

There is no change at the very top of my power rankings this week with the Arizona Cardinals holding off the red-hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at least for a few more days. But the dominance lies with the NFC as five of my top six teams are from that side of the NFL. The league is more week-to-week than ever before and the race to Super Bowl 56 promises to be wide open and frantic.

1
Arizona Cardinals
2021 · 7-0-0

The Cardinals have topped 30 points in all but one game this season and last week’s win over Houston was a chance to flex offensive muscle as Kyler Murray distributed the ball to all of his weapons. But the defense is also a story, allowing an NFL-low 16.3 points per game so far this year. The Cards look complete.

2
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2021 · 6-1-0

Tom Brady was off on a lot of his throws last Sunday and rarely looked happy, yet he walked off the field with more than 200 passing yards and four touchdowns to his name in a 38-3 win. The Bucs go so deep on the offensive side of the ball and it helps when Brady has better protection than the crown jewels.

3
1
Los Angeles Rams
2021 · 6-1-0

Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp are locked in and that is very good news for a Rams team that must rely on its star players more than most. It’s also heartening for Sean McVay to see Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey team up to produce a key late turnover against the pesky Detroit Lions. The Rams need their stars.

4
1
Buffalo Bills
2021 · 4-2-0

The Bills are coming off a bye week, but you could argue they are getting another of sorts this weekend as they take on a Miami team that has fallen to six straight losses. The Dolphins have also lost six straight to the Bills and Buffalo have topped 30 points in each of those victories. 5-2 beckons for the talented Bills.

5
1
Dallas Cowboys
2021 · 5-1-0

The Cowboys are also coming off their bye week and the good news is that Dak Prescott looks set to play on Sunday Night Football against Minnesota after shaking off the effects of his calf injury. The Cowboys have a Super Bowl-calibre offense this season, averaging an NFL-high 34.2 points per game.

6
1
Green Bay Packers
2021 · 6-1-0

The Packers have won six straight since losing on opening day and they’ve hardly been remarkable in any of those victories. In fact, the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers currently rank 23rd in total offense. Getting All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari back will help. But do they have another gear against the very top teams?

7
3
Cincinnati Bengals
2021 · 5-2-0

The Bengals were worthy winners in Baltimore and they are deserving of their 5-2 record to start this year. In fact, they could very easily have been 6-1 as they had winning chances against Green Bay earlier this month. Joe Burrow has a swagger and confidence that ripples through a team that is not going away.

8
3
Baltimore Ravens
2021 · 5-2-0

The Ravens had a bad second half against the Bengals, but they also had their moments up to early in the third period. There was constant pressure from the defense and Lamar Jackson coped pretty well with the intense pressure he was under. This team will rise and go again. John Harbaugh will insist upon it.

9
2
Tennessee Titans
2021 · 5-2-0

The Titans have now beaten both finalists in last year’s AFC Championship Game – Buffalo and Kansas City – in the space of six days. The formula is tried and tested and we all know it. Run Derrick Henry or use the threat of Henry to open up the passing game. But the defense – long a problem – is also coming alive.

10
2
Los Angeles Chargers
2021 · 4-2-0

The Chargers are coming off their bye week and need to show us something. We last saw this talented team losing 34-6 on the road to Baltimore. Next up comes another challenge for Justin Herbert in the form of Bill Belichick. New England hammered the Herbert-led Chargers 45-0 in Week 13 of last season.

11
2
Las Vegas Raiders
2021 · 5-2-0

The Raiders are one of four teams who missed the playoffs last season but who currently lead their division, the others being Arizona, Cincinnati and Dallas. The attack is real. With Derek Carr at the helm, Las Vegas have topped 400 total yards in five games in 2021 – tied with Dallas for the most in the NFL.

12
Cleveland Browns
2021 · 4-3-0

The injury list is the major concern in Cleveland right now and I wonder how long this team can stay afloat when missing so many key pieces. But even before injuries struck, there were worries over Baker Mayfield’s form and the lack of Odell Beckham Jr. in the attack. Both have cloudy futures in Cleveland.

13
1
New Orleans Saints
2021 · 4-2-0

Good defense is keeping the Saints in the NFC playoff race at 4-2. New Orleans boasts the third-best scoring D in the league. Jameis Winston has blown very hot and cold at quarterback thus far and needs to produce more points. But it is notable that he has thrown just three interceptions in six outings to date.

14
5
Kansas City Chiefs
2021 · 3-4-0

The line is playing poorly, leading to pressure on Patrick Mahomes, who is not showing the patience required given how much opposing defenses are taking away the big play. Add in a porous defense and KC’s 3-4 start to 2021 is no fluke. They are right where they deserve to be in the middle of the pack.

15
Minnesota Vikings
2021 · 3-3-0

What is clear to me as the Vikings come out of their bye with a 3-3 record is that this team will remain fun to watch as a neutral, while they will also drive their own fans mad. Every win is going to need to come from the offensive side of the ball where the weaponry is making plays for Kirk Cousins every weekend.

16
2
Indianapolis Colts
2021 · 3-4-0

Carson Wentz has led the Colts to victories in three of his last four outings and he has a passer rating of 100+ in four straight games. He did not have a single game with a passer rating of 100 or above in 2020. That said, he still makes some bone-headed plays with the football and I don’t completely trust him.

17
1
Pittsburgh Steelers
2021 · 3-3-0

The Steelers are coming off their bye and will hope that a bit of rest allows 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to at least look… 39! He looked more like a 49-year-old QB in the first four weeks, posting a passer rating of 78.9. But that has leapt up to a rating of 104.8 in his last two games.

18
1
New England Patriots
2021 · 3-4-0

New England are going to need to do something other than beat up on rookie quarterbacks to show me they can get back into the AFC playoff race. Their three wins this year have come against the Zach Wilson-led New York Jets and the Davis Mills-led Houston Texans. That’s not all that impressive.

19
5
Atlanta Falcons
2021 · 3-3-0

The Falcons have won three of their last four after an 0-2 start and they have a great chance to make that four from five as the Carolina Panthers come to town. With Matt Ryan playing well and Kyle Pitts threatening to become a young superstar, Atlanta are scoring well and that’s a must given their shaky D.

20
Seattle Seahawks
2021 · 2-5-0

The Seahawks are 2-5 and I have to wonder if this is the beginning of the end for one of the league’s more consistent teams in recent years. Russell Wilson wanted out last season when Seattle lost just four regular season games. He will definitely want away in January. What do you think the future holds for Pete Carroll when his magic man leaves town?

21
San Francisco 49ers
2021 · 2-4-0

It looks like Trey Lance is going to be back in contention for playing time when the Niners visit Chicago this weekend. And it has to be time to hand the offensive keys over to the rookie. You gave up three first-round draft picks so why not see what the kid has? Accelerate his learning by getting him out there.

22
Denver Broncos
2021 · 3-4-0

The Broncos are sliding with four straight losses after a deceiving 3-0 start to the season. Injuries have played a role, for sure. But so has conservative play-calling and a lack of elite talent at quarterback. It’s hard to see Denver dragging themselves back into contention and that could spell trouble for Vic Fangio.

23
Chicago Bears
2021 · 3-4-0

Justin Fields had some body language issues at the end of Sunday’s 38-3 loss in Tampa, but can we really blame him? His offensive line was terrible. That said, the rookie passer is contributing to his own downfall by taking far too long to read the opposing defense. It is going to be a long year of on-the-job learning.

24
2
Washington Football Team
2021 · 2-5-0

The Football Team have lost three in a row to fall to 2-5 but they put together a spirited effort at Lambeau Field and could have taken down the Packers were it not for some key mistakes at vital times. Taylor Heinicke makes far too many mistakes but at least he fights hard and there are not many alternatives.

25
2
New York Giants
2021 · 2-5-0

There is not much to choose between the Giants and the Eagles as both have two wins on the season. I just think New York are fighting harder for their head coach in Joe Judge. I still think this will wind up being a campaign filled with frustration in the Big Apple, but there is at least some weekly effort there.

26
1
Philadelphia Eagles
2021 · 2-5-0

I can’t say the same about the Eagles. There was not a whole lot of fire in their bellies against the Las Vegas Raiders last weekend and their tame capitulation didn’t seem to anger head coach Nick Sirianni, at least outwardly. There are many issues but Jalen Hurts could be the one to pay the long-term price at QB.

27
10
Carolina Panthers
2021 · 3-4-0

The Sam Darnold we have known since he entered the NFL has shown up in Carolina’s four-game losing streak. He doesn’t seem capable of confidently reading a defense and he turns the ball over with way too much frequency. If this continues, the Panthers are absolutely moving for another QB in the offseason.

28
Jacksonville Jaguars
2021 · 1-5-0

The Jaguars are coming off their bye with the news that star receiver D.J. Chark will be gone with a foot injury for the remainder of the year. That hurts the attack but I do expect Trevor Lawrence to continue to grow. Not enough to stack an impressive total of wins., but enough to offer hope for the future.

29
Miami Dolphins
2021 · 1-6-0

I feel sorry for Tua Tagovailoa as he tries to block out the Deshaun Watson trade talk and end Miami’s six-game losing streak. But the way to truly make that noise go away is to play really well. Tua was up and down again last week and I think he is a dead man walking. The Miami brass have already made up their minds.

30
1
Detroit Lions
2021 · 0-7-0

The Lions are going to be dangerous the rest of the way if they’re going to average two fake punts and an onside kick per game. That’s the quirky, fun way to look at it. The alternative is to say that they stole three possessions off the Los Angeles Rams in that manner and still lost by nine points. 

31
1
New York Jets
2021 · 1-5-0

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Robert Saleh was supposed to offer hope and enthusiasm as the head coach. Zach Wilson was supposed to bring a level of play to the quarterback position not seen in New York for decades. Neither has panned out. The pair can still succeed, but this is going to take quite some time.

32
Houston Texans
2021 · 1-6-0

Professional athletes are prideful and never give up. That’s the narrative we are given when seasons start to unravel. I accept that argument, to a point. But it doesn’t look good for a Texans team that has now lost six in a row. And it’s getting worse. They’ve been outscored 62 points to eight in the last two games. 

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