We’re roughly at the midway point of the NFL season, and in the NFC, the top teams have distinguished themselves from the pack, but the rest of the conference is a cluttered mess. Let’s do our best to rank the NFC teams from 1 to 16 with the week 8 Power Rankings.
1. New Orleans – The Saints have been the most complete team in the NFC this season, playing at a high level on both sides of the ball. Drew Brees looks as good as he’s ever been, and he’s done a great job of spreading the ball around. Meanwhile, Rob Ryan has turned the defense completely around from last year, which makes outplaying the Saints over a period of four quarters an incredibly difficult task for any team.
2. Seattle – The Seahawks probably have a better resume than the Saints, with wins over Carolina, San Francisco, Tennessee, and Arizona, but Seattle has been inconsistent on offense this season and doesn’t have a passing game that’s going to scare too many teams. Following their close call against the Rams on Monday night, the Seahawks are on thin ice with regard to their hold on the two spot in the NFC power rankings, as they had all sorts of problems moving the ball against a below-average defense.
3. San Francisco – We expected the 49ers to be the top team in the NFC this year, but that hasn’t been the case after getting off to a slow start. San Francisco has managed to rattle off five straight wins with relative ease, but much like the Seahawks, they haven’t been impressive throwing the ball and lack dangerous playmakers in the passing game, which keeps them behind the Saints and Seahawks.
4. Green Bay – After a slow start the Packers are now on a roll, winning four straight following their bye week. Aaron Rodgers has looked unfazed by the loss of several key playmakers around him, as he’s on pace to throw for well over 4,000 yards and more than 30 touchdowns. It also helps that Green Bay has gotten consistent production from running back Eddie Lacy, which has given them a more balanced offense than in past seasons. Right now, they are firmly entrenched at the four spot in the NFC, not as close to the top three as they want to be, but well ahead of everybody else.
5. Detroit – It’s still tough to be completely sold on the Lions because their defense doesn’t always show up, but overcoming four turnovers and beating the Cowboys in the manner that they did definitely grabs your attention, as does the fact that they nearly tripled Dallas in total yards. They don’t have the caliber of defense that can put them in the same category as the four teams in front of them, but so far they’ve done enough to prove that they’re the best of the second-tier teams in the NFC.
6. Carolina – It’s getting increasingly hard not to believe in the Panthers after they’ve rattled off three straight wins. Of course, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay aren’t quality teams, but Carolina has looked impressive in those wins, especially Cam Newton, who looks like a brand new quarterback. If they can keep it going this week against Atlanta, they’ll have a showdown in San Francisco the following week to prove that they’re for real.
7. Arizona – The Cardinals are far better than their 4-4 record indicates. Three of those losses have come against New Orleans, San Francisco, and Seattle, while they have wins against Detroit and Carolina, as well as Atlanta, who they dismantled over the weekend. They’ve really struggled to be balanced on offense this season, but they have threatening playmakers in the receiving game and they can stuff the run and make teams one dimensional, so there’s a lot to like about the Cardinals.
8. Dallas – It’s still too hard to believe in the Cowboys after the Lions handed them four turnovers and Dallas failed to capitalize. Remember, the Giants turned the ball over against them six times in week 1 and they barely won that game. On one hand, their four losses have only been by a combined 14 points, but on the other hand, a better team would have found a way to win at least one or two of those games, which is why it’s hard to put them any higher in the power rankings right now.
9. Washington – It’s been a crazy year for the Redskins, but they seem to have weathered the storm and aren’t out of contention despite being 2-5. Washington’s defense is not what it was last year, but the offense has started to get it in gear with two talented running backs and an emerging tight end in Jordan Reed. As long as Robert Griffin III stays relatively healthy the rest of the season, they’re going to be able to score points and at least stay competitive in games.
10. Chicago – All the Bears can hang their hat on is a win over the Bengals in week 1. Since then, they haven’t beaten anybody worthwhile and their defense has become a serious issue for them. The injury to Jay Cutler will hurt a lot, as the schedule they play in November is unforgiving, beginning with a trip to Green Bay on Monday night.
11. Atlanta – The Falcons have played in a lot of close games, and lost most of them. They’ve also been playing short handed, with Julio Jones out for the season and Roddy White playing injured and missing time. Matt Ryan is actually having a real good season, but the support around him from the receiving corps, the running game, and the defense just hasn’t been there, which is why Atlanta is outside the top-10 in the NFC at the midway point of the season.
12. St. Louis – The Rams don’t have it easy playing in the NFC West, and they’ve certainly taken their lumps this season, but against the Seahawks on Monday they showed what they’re capable of, despite not getting the win. St. Louis has a tough schedule the second half of the season, which they’ll be playing with their backup quarterback, but the eye test says that they’re better than the four teams below.
13. Philadelphia – The Eagles may be the most frustratingly inconsistent team in the NFL this season. At times they look unstoppable on offense, but other times they look completely inept, which has been the case the past two weeks. It’s been musical chairs at quarterback the past few weeks because of injuries, and that’s kept the offense from finding their rhythm and moving the ball the way they were earlier in the season.
14. New York Giants – There has been a glimmer of hope for the Giants with wins the past two weeks, keeping them just two games back in the NFC East, but they still don’t look like a team that has too many more wins in them. They still don’t have much of a running game, and they’re not creating big plays in the passing game the way they should be. That being said, the Giants have three straight home games coming out of their bye week, so there is still a glimmer of hope for them if they can keep moving in the right direction.
15. Minnesota – The Vikings played well early in the season, despite losing their first three games, but the wheels have fallen off the past three weeks. They can’t seem to decide on a quarterback, and because their defense can’t stop anybody, the efforts of Adrian Peterson aren’t enough to carry the team, as was the case last season. They are completely buried in the NFC North and a coaching change for next season looks increasingly likely.
16. Tampa Bay – How Greg Schiano remains employed is anybody’s guess. The fans have had it with him and the team isn’t as competitive as they were early in the season, as it seems like they are getting further and not closer to getting their first win. Mike Glennon throwing the ball 51 times like he did last Thursday is not going to be a recipe for winning, and their trip to Seattle this week is not going to be a pleasant one.
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