NFL Power Rankings, Week 8: Bears crack top three; Lions slide

Different approach to the Power Rankings for Week 8. Oh, don't worry -- the usual suspects lurk around the bottom of the order. And, of course, there are plenty of slots you won't agree with ...

This week, with midseason approaching, we're going to try to provide some basis as to why teams are where they are and, to cite a Parcells-ism, are what they are. The only thing worse than trying to rank 32 clubs when over half of them are either 3-4, 3-3 or 4-3 is retyping a 2,500-word article after your Mac decided to AutoSave the wrong thing and AutoRecovery acted like it never happened. Yep, the old computer went all Warren Report on its owner.

In a similar vein, whatever report former Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney gave owner Jerry Richardson wasn't enough to hide the fact that 1-5 does -- and has -- happened. You'll find the Panthers safely occupying the No. 28 spot below.

As for the top of the charts, the Atlanta Falcons might not be approaching any of Purple Rain)'s records, but they have top billing for the second straight week. If you have a problem with the ATL, or the CAR, let's hear it. @Harrison_NFL is the dropbox.

And per the norm, don't tap the brakes on the dissension.

(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)

PREVIOUS: Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

Considering they were on a bye, how could the Atlanta Falcons not stay No. 1? Two big reasons Atlanta is top dog:

1) Mike Smith's team has committed the fewest penalties in the NFL.

2) The Falcons provide opponents with the worst starting field position in the league.

The Houston Texans stay in the two-hole because they are a Punch-and-Judy hitter with no power, but they can run the bases or lay down a sacrifice bunt. OK, not really. But J.J. Watt's penchant for sacrificing a late pass rush to leap and swat the ball has led to four interceptions for coordinator Wade Phillips' defense. What a butt-kicking at Reliant on Sunday.

The Chicago Bears are nipping at Houston's heels for the No. 2 spot. When you consider that the Bears' only loss was at Lambeau Field in Week 2, you get a feel for how good this team might be. I wonder who picked Bears over Texans in the Super Bowl ...

The New York Giants are hitting cleanup, something they did in a postseason run last year when they got hot late, winning seven of their last eight games. That one loss came to the Washington Redskins at home, and that's almost what happened Sunday. Once again, Eli Manning made sure it didn't. The 77-yard pitch-and-catch to Victor Cruz might have been the biggest play of Week 7.

The San Francisco 49ers reside at No. 5 because of a) the blowout loss to the Giants (No. 4) in Week 6; b) their win over the Packers (6) in Week 1; and c) the fact that they're just one of seven teams with two losses or less. Paul Tagliabue loved his parity pie, and now you do, too.

Despite destroying everything in their path the last couple of weeks, the Green Bay Packers are sixth because of their three losses and the Charles Woodson injury. The future Hall of Famer gets credit for a lot of things, but his versatility and ability to play safety was a true luxury for Green Bay. Well, luxury lost.

Power Rankings side note: Over the last two weeks, Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 680 yards, nine touchdowns and zero picks, completing over 70 percent of his passes and posting a 140.8 passer rating. Dude.

Pete Carroll's Little Ballclub That Could is seventh because it deserves to be. The Seattle Seahawks have played better than the Baltimore Ravens as of late, have a far better defense, a more reliable running game and not as many guys injured. Moreover, Seattle just gave the Niners all they could handle last Thursday. The Seahawks rushed for 136 yards on San Francisco (no small feat against that D) and lead the NFL in run-to-pass ratio at 54.6 percent. Pretty incredible in this era of NERF football.

Baltimore takes a dip, and the blame can't all be laid at offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's feet, per the usual. The Ravens can't stop anybody right now, which is why they fall below Seattle in our Power Rankings. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees' outfit has allowed 214, 227 and 181 yards on the ground over the last three weeks.

The Patriots survived the Jets -- that's the best way to put it. Among the NFL's best teams, they are the weakest -- making them the perfect nine-hole hitter. Did you know Kevin Elster once knocked in 99 runs from the ninth spot in the Texas Rangers' order? The Pats share something with those little Texas Rangers in that they both let a championship slip right through their fingers last season. Let's hope the 2012 incarnation of New England doesn't falter as badly as Texas did this season. With the Rams in London, then the Bills and Colts at home, there's no reason the Patriots can't be 7-3 before they face the Jets again.

Who would've thought the Minnesota Vikings would be 5-2? They stay at 10 after beating a pretty beatable Arizona Cardinals team with fresh starters at quarterback ( John Skelton) and tailback ( LaRod Stephens-Howling). The game's biggest play? Rookie starter Harrison Smith's pick-six, on his first career interception, no less. We've pumped up the young safety in this space before, but that was a game-decider.

Bye week in Denver, so the Broncos stay put at 11, just a tick ahead of Pittsburgh, their first victim of the season. Word is Eric Decker spent the weekend with some imaginary friends. Good deal, because the imaginary crowd he was hanging around before was really tripping him up.

The Pittsburgh Steelers jump ahead to 12 with all of the losses in the midsection of the Power Rankings. Yes, they're 3-3, but the Steelers are better than almost any other .500 team in football. And they're playing without a healthy offensive line, without a healthy backfield and without Troy Polamalu. Before we forget, way to go north-south, Jonathan Dwyer. Seventeen totes for 122 yards is pretty solid in a pinch.

The Arizona Cardinals stay at 13 by sheer happenstance, and the fact that, at 4-3, they're in the thick of the wild-card race. All but one club from Nos. 10-20 in last week's rankings lost or had a bye during Week 7, which meant that only Ken Whisenhunt's former employers were able to leapfrog the Cards.

The Philadelphia Eagles are your 14th-best team in football, firmly positioned behind an Arizona team that manhandled them 27-6 a few weeks ago. New defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has his work cut out for him with the high-powered offenses of the Falcons and Saints next on the docket. New Orleans is third in scoring, Atlanta sixth. Andy Reid's high-powered attack? 30th. Good thing defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was let go. Now that offense will really explode.

The Dallas Cowboys rank 15th -- and deserve some credit -- by virtue of already having played four road games and already having faced four teams in the top 10 of our rankings. Still, team discipline remains a big issue. Dez Bryant catches punts over his head inside the 10 (and drops sure touchdowns). The defense gets caught with about 23 men on the field when Carolina doesn't even change its personnel on a fourth-and-2 attempt. It was so bad, Bill Bates was running around out there. Then there's right tackle Doug Free, who leads the NFL with six false starts. And teammate Tyron Smith is gunning for that top spot, with five of his own.

The Miami Dolphins earn the rare distinction of moving up two spots despite being on a bye. That's because so many teams ahead of them in last week's pseudo-BCS lost. The Dolphins' run defense had been absolutely superb until the Rams ran all over them in Week 6. Expect them to right the ship against the Jets. However, drops aside, the Jets' passing attack wasn't bad in New England on Sunday. Mark Sanchez threw for 328 yards -- and don't forget his 306-yard day and OT rally in Miami earlier this year.

We held serve on the St. Louis Rams for long enough. After two straight losses and subpar secondary play versus the Packers on Sunday (at home, no less), St. Louis plummets. At 3-4, the Rams might be as good as Arizona (they did beat them in Week 5), but are falling back in the early wild-card race. Danny Amendola's injury really hurt this team. Sam Bradford's so-so play does, too. His lone interception on Sunday came on a woefully underthrown ball and ultimately allowed Green Bay to take a commanding 20-6 lead.

The New York Jets drop just one spot after hanging with The Belichicks on their home turf. The Stephen Hill drop on third-and-3 late in the fourth quarter was a killer. The Jets trailed by three points and had a chance to go up by four, on the road, versus their biggest rivals. Man, as a rookie, Hill must have felt the weight of the world on his shoulders on that drive. At least he didn't have to carry the weight of the football.

The Cincinnati Bengals stay put because of the mediocrity that surrounds them, and by virtue of having beaten the Redskins at FedExField in Week 3. It sure would be nice to see Red Dalton take more shots down the field, though, especially considering Pittsburgh was playing Will Allen and Ryan Mundy in place of Troy Polamalu at safety Sunday night. He's hit some big plays this season, but seemed to check down a bit too often against the Steelers. In case you missed it: The Bengals are 1-3 in the AFC North.

The Washington Redskins are perched at 20 after a gut-wrenching road loss to the Giants in New York. So, what about Bob? Osi Umenyiora made some headlines when he said "Bob" Griffin was the best quarterback Big Blue has played this season, a statement made even more interesting when you consider the fact that Tony Romo almost single-handedly beat the Giants on opening night (307 yards, three TDs and a 129.5 passer rating). And Osi and crew face Romo again this weekend. So ... "What About Bob?" Never saw it. Worth a rent?

The San Diego Chargers stick to a spot in the early 20s following a bye week ...

Yes, the Indianapolis Colts are 3-3, which is a slightly better record than both the Bengals and Redskins have. But they've been outscored by 41 points this season and nearly got beat by the Browns in Indy. This is not to say the Colts are a bad football team, but we need to see more. The fact that they have a league-low three takeaways after six games drives the point home further. That's three fewer forced turnovers than any other club.

Wow, what a recovery by the Tennessee Titans! Worthy of a sizable jump in the rankings. Sure, the latest win came against the Bills, but it was on the road and Chris Johnson looked more electric than eclectic for a change. You know what really looked better? The much-maligned offensive line, which has turned it around as much as any unit in pro football. CJ2K had some serious running lanes Sunday.

Precipitous slide for the boys in Honolulu Blue. Forget the 13-7 score -- the Lions looked sucky for most of the contest Monday night. They gained 340 yards, but 143 of those came on the final two possessions, when the Bears were content to let them drive away (and burn the clock). Don't forget: Detroit beat St. Louis in Week 1 with some questionable clock tactics at Ford Field and needed a monster comeback for their second win in Week 6. The offense sleepwalked through the early part of that latter win over the Eagles, much like it did at Soldier Field on Monday night. The offside stuff by that front four must be maddening for Lions fans to watch. It's kind of like being a fan of the Cowboys and their lackluster offensive line. Symmetry.

New Orleans is 2-4 and, well, climbing -- albeit slowly. Despite the two-game win streak, the secondary is still getting beat regularly. Opponents are averaging 6.59 yards per offensive play, more than a yard over the league average. You can't blame Vincent Jackson for all of that.

We can't close out the Saints blurb without commenting on the fantastic goal-line stand in the second half at Tampa. Struggling or not, that was clutch.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers descend three spots, and deservedly so. The Bucs can't afford to blow a game at home to a 1-4 football team, period. Not if they're going to make something out of this season and erase the memory of the 4-12 debacle of 2011. Putting that aside for a moment ... damn, those uniforms looked sweet.

The Buffalo Bills reside at 27 after losing at home to the previous No. 27 team, the Tennessee Titans. Fans in Buffalo must have hurled their Labatt Blues into their HDMI-connected, wall-mounted, 52-inch plasma TVs after seeing Ryan Fitzpatrick throw a pick to set up the Titans' game-winning drive. Whether Fitz was trying to fit the pass into a small window between the corner and safety or he just threw the back-shoulder fade too far inside, we'll never know. But it was a terrible throw from a guy who made several big plays in a painful loss.

At 1-5, the 28-hole is just that: a hole. One that former general manager Marty Hurney couldn't crawl out of with owner Jerry Richardson, especially with $46.2 million in guaranteed money already paid out to the uninspiring backfield triumvirate of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. Against Dallas, they collaborated on 15 carries for 48 yards. The game before, they combined for 25 yards on 11 carries. Forty-six million bucks guaranteed, and nearly $90 million worth of contracts overall. Think about that.

The Cleveland Browns tread water at 29, even after a loss. The game was there for the taking at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Browns clearly can be competitive, but a loss is a loss. Don't sleep on Brandon Weeden, though: The rookie produced a 92.7 passer rating against the Bengals in Week 6 and 96.0 versus the Colts. #justsayin

The Oakland Raiders swap places with the Jacksonville Jaguars by virtue of beating them in overtime on Sunday. The Raiders still looked sloppy, as usual. But I'm not going to pile on a struggling team that won, irrespective of the opponent. However, this guy certainly will ...

The Jaguars are 31st because if it weren't for Kansas City, they'd be the worst team in football. There are reports that Blaine Gabbert might have suffered a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. However, coach Mike Mularkey indicated on Monday that Gabbert likely would be ready to go for Week 8. Regardless, Maurice Jones-Drew is out. Rashad Jennings, it's your deal now, much like it was in the preseason. Good luck jump-starting this offense. The Jags have been outscored 164-88 and now have to travel to Lambeau Field to face Aaron Rodgers. This is gonna be like Tecmo Super Bowl, when I would play as the Phoenix Cardinals and try to stop Video Bo.

No drop in the rankings with the bye, and another week of Brady Quinn football. Good news all around. Except not at all.

Elliot Harrison is an analyst on NFL Network's NFL Fantasy Live show, weekdays at 1 p.m. ET and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content