Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks and Cowboys Making Moves in the NFC
While the Kansas City Chiefs put on a dominant display against the San Francisco 49ers last week, it wasn’t enough to knock the idle Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles from the top two spots in our power rankings heading into Week 8. But just because there’s no change at the very top doesn’t mean there isn’t movement, and the rest of the NFL continues to fluctuate week to week. The Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, and Las Vegas Raiders all jumped up at least four spots this week, while the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue a slow and steady descent to the depths of mediocrity.
The Best of the Best
1. Buffalo Bills (5-1, last week’s ranking: 1)
Much has been made of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs dominating the 49ers in Week 7 and laying claim to the top offense in the NFL, but none of that changes the Bills’ no. 1 ranking on this list as they return from their bye. Josh Allen is still the favorite to win MVP and Buffalo is still the favorite to win the Super Bowl, and rightfully so on both counts.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (6-0, last week: 2)
Like Buffalo, nothing changed for the Eagles during the bye week, and their status as the NFC’s top team remains secure. They’re a clear betting favorite to win the conference, at +200; no other team has better odds than +650, according to FanDuel. While Jalen Hurts hasn’t been perfect in recent weeks, he doesn’t have to be with how complementary the team is playing on both sides of the ball.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (5-2, last week: 3)
The Chiefs entered their Week 7 matchup against the 49ers and DeMeco Ryans’s top-ranked defense with the league lead in offensive expected points added (EPA) per drive (1.14). Then they hung 44 points on the Niners on the road and improved that figure to 1.38, putting an even larger gap between themselves and other NFL offenses. Mahomes’s EPA per dropback when kept clean is 0.59, which is 0.20 points better than any other quarterback in the NFL.
Deep Postseason Contenders
4. Baltimore Ravens (4-3, last week: 5)
The Ravens have led by double digits in every game this season, including their Week 7 win over the Browns, but they’ve been a mess in late-game situations. It nearly happened again Sunday with a fourth-quarter Justice Hill fumble. This time the Ravens survived, and while they’ve proven they can put up points and get out to leads early, the first- and second-half splits remain a significant concern.
Baltimore is tied for third in first-half point differential (45) but just 24th in the second half (-25). Lamar Jackson’s EPA per dropback average drops from seventh in the league in the first half (0.20) to 29th in the second half (-0.22). Opposing teams are adjusting to slow down Jackson and the offense in the second halves of games, turning two-score blowouts into nail-biters every single week. The result has been just two wins with two-score leads and three too many one-score losses.
5. Minnesota Vikings (5-1, last week: 4)
With Green Bay losing again in Week 7 while Minnesota was on bye, the Vikings’ odds to win the NFC North shifted from -290 to -550, according to FanDuel. Do I have any increased trust in Kirk Cousins being the guy in a prime time spot? No. But the road to the playoffs is getting easier.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (4-3, last week: 7)
The Bengals offense is evolving: They are now running the ball less on early downs and pivoting to a shotgun-heavy, light personnel offense, and it’s working. After dropping two straight against the Steelers and Cowboys to start the season, Cincinnati ranks third in offensive EPA per drive (0.82) and second in EPA per dropback (0.27) since Week 3. No quarterback has been more efficient over the last two weeks than Joe Burrow, and his top-flight receiving corps is finally living up to the hype, as Tyler Boyd (155) and Ja’Marr Chase (130) finished Week 7 first and second in total receiving yards. This is a Bengals offense fit for a return to the postseason.
7. Miami Dolphins (4-3, last week: 8)
Tua Tagovailoa’s return to the starting lineup was hot and cold. He still managed to finish the week 12th in EPA per dropback (0.08) after Miami’s Sunday night win over the Steelers, but was saved by multiple dropped interceptions that could have swung the game the other way. His confidence and overall command of the offense didn’t skip a beat, however—a good sign that he and Mike McDaniel will be able to correct mistakes moving forward and return to the type of offense we saw in September, when they led the NFL in offensive EPA per drive (1.14) through the first three weeks.
8. Dallas Cowboys (5-2, last week: 12)
Dak Prescott answered plenty of questions on Sunday in his return from the thumb injury he suffered in Week 1, completing 19 of 25 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. He finished the week ranked sixth among QBs in EPA per dropback (0.14) and fifth in completion percentage (76 percent). Notably, he showed accuracy and touch on multiple downfield throws and improved as the game progressed, completing 10 of 11 throws for 103 yards and a touchdown in the second half. With a healthy Prescott under center and a defense that ranks second in yards per play allowed (4.70), Dallas could be primed for a deep postseason run in an NFC bereft of consistency.
Flawed Postseason Contenders
9. New York Giants (6-1, last week: 10)
It isn’t pretty, but it doesn’t have to be. Every single one of the Giants’ wins this season has been by eight points or less, and the team ranks 24th in point differential in the first three quarters of games at -16. They’ve led going into the fourth quarter just once in seven games. But the Giants keep finding ways to turn it on in the final 15 minutes; only the Jets have a higher point differential than the G-Men (36) in the fourth quarter.
Daniel Jones is at the center of a lot of the Giants’ success, as he ranks 12th in EPA per dropback this season (0.06) and fourth in just the last four weeks (0.26). But Saquon Barkley, who is the favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year (-200) and the league’s second-leading rusher behind Nick Chubb entering Week 8, is also playing like a man possessed. According to Pro Football Focus, Barkley ranks seventh in yards after contact per attempt (3.40) and forced missed tackles (24). He also ranks third in total runs of 10-plus yards (17) behind Chubb and Josh Jacobs.
10. Los Angeles Chargers (4-3, last week: 6)
Joe Lombardi’s offense is failing to create open throws downfield for Justin Herbert. Brandon Staley’s defense still can’t stop the run. Cornerback J.C. Jackson suffered a season-ending injury against Seattle, and top wideout Mike Williams is expected to miss “weeks” with an ankle injury. Yet the Chargers are still 4-3 and priced at -150 to make the playoffs through Sunday’s games, per FanDuel.
Lombardi, Staley, Herbert, everyone else involved needs to perform better if they’re going to live up to the preseason hype, and some of the errors are fixable. Herbert is a top-10 quarterback in EPA per attempt on throws of 10 or more air yards; Lombardi and the offense needs to get more creative, specifically on early downs. No offense has played more third downs than the Chargers through Week 7 (106), and Herbert’s average depth of target on early downs is the lowest in the league (5.17).
11. San Francisco 49ers (3-4, last week: 11)
As good as DeMeco Ryans and the 49ers’ defense has been all season, this league is run by the top quarterbacks—Jimmy Garoppolo is not among them. He lost a fumble on a strip-sack, took a safety, and threw one of the worst red-zone interceptions of the season, all before being benched for Brock Purdy in garbage time against Kansas City. The 49ers are still the favorites to win the NFC West (+130) and currently priced at -180 to make the playoffs, according to FanDuel, but Jimmy G represents a hard ceiling on the offense and therefore the team’s potential postseason success.
12. Los Angeles Rams (3-3, last week: 13)
Los Angeles’ offense has been one of the five least efficient offenses in the NFL to start the season, but the pieces are still in place for Sean McVay, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp to turn things around after the bye. An extra week to get healthy and prepare for their Week 8 matchup with the 49ers gives the Rams a significant edge as the team sits second in the NFC West behind the Seahawks at 3-3.
13. New York Jets (5-2, last week: 16)
Among the seven teams with five or more wins this season, the Jets have the worst odds to make the playoffs (+144), according to FanDuel. The team with the second-worst odds is the Giants at -270. That price is largely because the Jets play in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL with a runaway favorite to win (Bills), but season-ending injuries to RB Breece Hall and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker are also contributing factors. All of that combined with inefficient quarterback play casts doubt over the Jets’ postseason aspirations in 2022.
Zach Wilson has had highlight-reel flashes in his four starts this season, but the down-to-down consistency is worrisome. Only Carson Wentz has a lower EPA per dropback than Wilson (-0.16) since Week 4, and Wilson’s 57.4 completion percentage is the second-lowest—just ahead of Cooper Rush.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4, last week: 9)
The Buccaneers offense is in absolute shambles. After finishing the 2021 regular season third in offensive EPA per drive (0.63), Tampa Bay ranks 23rd in the same statistic in 2022. The team is also tied for just 25th in total points scored (124).
Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is under fire every single week because Tom Brady doesn’t look like Tom Brady and the offense just isn’t scoring points. But conservative play calling isn’t the issue. Leftwich and Brady just can’t find consistent success on third downs and in the red zone, and the run game is nonexistent. Tampa Bay ranks 26th in third-down conversion percentage (35.1 percent) and is tied for 27th in touchdown percentage in the red zone (47.4 percent). And no team ranks lower in yards per rush (3.05) and EPA per rush (-0.19).
On the Bubble
15. Seattle Seahawks (4-3, last week: 20)
Geno Smith is at the helm of the most electric offense in football right now. No team has a higher explosive play rate than the Seahawks (14.5 percent) entering Week 8. Smith is the league leader in EPA per attempt on throws of 15-plus air yards (1.09), and the rushing attack is tied for second in total runs of 15-plus yards (17). Seattle can beat anybody—even with one of the league’s worst defenses—if Smith and Co. continue to light up the scoreboard with reckless abandon.
16. Green Bay Packers (3-4, last week: 14)
Both of these things can be true: Aaron Rodgers’s supporting cast, including coach Matt LaFleur, isn’t performing at its best right now, and neither is Rodgers himself. Rodgers’s EPA per attempt (0.08) and yards per attempt average (7.30) on throws made beyond the line of scrimmage are his lowest since 2015. The only qualifying quarterbacks ranked lower in EPA per dropback through seven weeks are Carson Wentz, Joe Flacco, Davis Mills, Mitchell Trubisky and Baker Mayfield—not the sort of company Rodgers is used to keeping. In a league where Daniel Jones is one of the most efficient passers with a practice squad receiving corps, there are no excuses for Rodgers. He has to play better for Green Bay to bounce back from its three-game losing streak to make the playoffs.
17. Tennessee Titans (4-2, last week: 21)
After back-to-back losses to start the season, the Titans have won four straight—including a sweep of the Colts—and now sit atop the AFC South at 4-2. The offense ranks just 18th in offensive EPA per drive (-0.13) in that five-week stretch (including their Week 6 bye), and the defense ranks 21st in yards per play allowed (5.75), but the Titans are winning because they’ve found success in critical areas like third downs and the red zone. Since Week 3, the Titans offense ranks first in touchdown percentage in the red zone (81.8 percent), while the defense ranks first in opponent third-down conversion percentage (26.5 percent).
18. Arizona Cardinals (3-4, last week: 22)
DeAndre Hopkins’s return to the starting lineup was exactly what an ailing Cardinals offense needed last week. Hauling in 10 receptions for 103 yards on 14 targets in his 2022 debut, Hopkins had 48.3 percent of the Cardinals’ targets—the most of any pass catcher with at least 20 routes in Week 7—and finished fourth in yards per route run (3.55). With Marquise Brown expected to miss at least a month with a foot injury, quarterback Kyler Murray and the Cardinals will need Hopkins to repeat that success in future weeks, especially on deep throws, as Brown led the team with seven receptions 15 or more yards downfield in the team’s first six games. Hopkins already picked up three such catches in his first game back in action.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (2-4, last week: 27)
Coming off two wins in their last three games, the Raiders are primed for a successful run entering Week 8. All four of Las Vegas’ losses have been by six points or less, and their next four opponents (Saints, Jaguars, Colts, and Broncos) each have three or fewer wins on the season. The defense remains an Achilles heel, but Derek Carr and the offense are among the league’s best—they are currently sandwiched between the Chiefs and Bills in the top three offenses in EPA per drive. Carr is seventh in EPA per dropback (0.11), and running back Josh Jacobs has rushed for over 140 yards in three consecutive games. Jacobs ranks first in total rushing yards (441) and fourth in yards per carry (6.39) since Week 4.
20. Denver Broncos (2-5, last week: 15)
It’s easy to be negative about the Broncos every week. Russell Wilson has drastically underperformed and now he’s hurt; backup Brett Rypien similarly struggled in Wilson’s stead in Week 7; Nathaniel Hackett’s game management has been questionable at best. Nothing is going right… on offense.
But let’s tip the proverbial cap for first-year defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. The Broncos defense isn’t without high-caliber starters (e.g. Bradley Chubb, Patrick Surtain II), but Evero is still maximizing the star talent and the supporting players around them. Denver’s defense leads the NFL in yards per play allowed (4.52) and yards per pass attempt allowed (5.46), and also rank top-five in total points allowed (115) and quarterback pressure rate (36.7 percent).
21. New England Patriots (3-4, last week: 23)
Mac Jones returned to the starting lineup in Week 7 after missing three games with an ankle injury, but he didn’t last long. He completed just three passes for 13 yards and threw an interception before Bailey Zappe replaced him in the second quarter. Zappe, who was 2-0 as a starter while Jones was sidelined, immediately led back-to-back drives for touchdowns, but the Patriots didn’t score another point in their Monday night loss to the Bears. The spark Zappe brought off the bench faded quickly. He completed just nine passes for 76 yards and two interceptions in the second half.
The unfortunate reality for New England is they don’t have an obvious answer at quarterback. Zappe ranked fourth in EPA per dropback in the two-week stretch he was the starter, but had his fair share of struggles against Chicago. Additionally, Jones had a slow start to the season, suffered a painful ankle injury, and was benched on Monday Night Football. The path to the postseason starts and ends with the Patriots figuring out their quarterback situation.
Long-Shot Playoff Hopefuls
22. Atlanta Falcons (3-4, last week: 17)
No. 1 cornerback A.J. Terrell left the game with a hamstring injury in the first quarter in Week 7, after which an already bad Falcons defense completely collapsed. The Falcons allowed season highs in points (35), total yards (537) and yards per play (8.14) Sunday against the Bengals. Now, Atlanta ranks 30th in yards per game allowed (406.9) and 31st in yards per play allowed (6.22) on the season. With an offense predicated on running the ball and controlling the clock, the Falcons just aren’t built to come back if they continue to fall into deep early holes like they did last week.
23. Chicago Bears (3-4, last week: 30)
Justin Fields is playing a lot better in Chicago of late. After closing out Week 3 as the 28th-ranked quarterback in EPA per dropback (-0.14), Fields ranks 12th in the same statistic (0.03) over his last four games. He now leads the league in total yards on scrambles (285), and the offense is starting to lean on his legs even more. According to Next Gen Stats, Fields totaled 63 yards on 12 designed runs in the Bears’ win over the Patriots in Week 7. He had just 83 yards on 38 total designed runs in his first 18 career games prior.
24. Indianapolis Colts (3-3-1, last week: 18)
The Colts deciding to bench veteran QB Matt Ryan for Sam Ehlinger after seven games should be a relief for Matt Ryan, but it doesn’t solve the Colts’ problems. Ryan has been under duress all season and has struggled because of it, ranking 31st in EPA per dropback when pressured (-0.67). But he’s been the 10th-ranked quarterback in the same statistic on the limited dropbacks he’s been kept clean (0.28).
The Colts’ offensive line, not Ryan, is the catalyst for nearly all of their struggles. With or without RB Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis can’t create consistent push up front. The team ranks 31st in EPA per rush (-0.17) and 30th in yards before first contact per attempt (0.89). The offensive line also ranks 22nd in pressure rate allowed (33.7 percent) and tied for 29th in total sacks allowed (24).
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5, last week: 19)
Jacksonville has the worst record of the 14 teams with a positive point differential this season after losing four straight one-score games to the Eagles, Texans, Colts and Giants. In that four-week stretch, Trevor Lawrence and the offense have been middle-of-the-pack in efficiency, but the defense has fallen off a cliff. Through the first three weeks of the season, the Jaguars ranked fifth in defensive EPA per play (0.15); since then, the unit ranks 26th by the same measure (-0.09).
26. Washington Commanders (3-4, last week: 29)
After getting off to a slow start that included an ugly pick-six to Packers LB De’Vondre Campbell, Washington QB Taylor Heinicke put together a resurgent second half to captain a comeback over the Packers. Heinicke, making his first start of the season in place of an injured Carson Wentz, took just one sack and completed 13 of 16 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown in the second half against Green Bay. Only Patrick Mahomes was better in the second half of a Week 7 game, as measured by EPA per dropback in the third and fourth quarters (0.62). If Heinicke can carry such momentum into future starts across all four quarters, he’ll likely keep Wentz sidelined even when he returns from IR.
27. New Orleans Saints (2-5, last week: 24)
Let’s start here: Andy Dalton isn’t the problem in New Orleans. His three interceptions against the Cardinals, including two pick-sixes, put the Saints in too big of a hole to overcome, but he’s still been a significant improvement over Jameis Winston, who remains sidelined with a back injury. Since taking over as the starter in Week 4, Dalton ranks 10th in EPA per dropback (0.05) and 11th in yards per attempt (7.22).
The bigger concern is the defense. No team has allowed more points (200), and the pass rush is nonexistent. New Orleans ranks 32nd in quarterback pressure rate at 21.2 percent, and no team has had a lower pressure rate through the first seven weeks of the season in the last three years, according to TruMedia.
28. Cleveland Browns (2-5, last week: 25)
Jacoby Brissett and the Browns offense have more than exceeded expectations to start the season, as the team enters Week 8 ranked fourth in offensive EPA per drive (0.44). The problem for the Browns is the defense isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Cleveand ranks 32nd in defensive EPA per rush (-0.15) and 27th in success rate against the run (57.4 percent). And even though Myles Garrett and Co. are creating pressure at the third-highest rate in the league (38.2 percent), the Browns pass defense ranks 26th in yards per attempt allowed (7.55).
29. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5, last week: 26)
The offense had nowhere to go but up when rookie Kenny Pickett replaced Mitchell Trubisky in Week 4, and while some things have improved with Pickett’s presence, neither quarterback has proven they can truly elevate the offense. Both Pickett and Trubisky rank bottom-10 in EPA per dropback through Week 7, and the Najee-Harris-led rushing attack ranks 27th in success rate (38.9 percent). With one of the league’s least-efficient offenses and a defense ranked 28th in yards allowed per game (394.3), Mike Tomlin and the Steelers are on a runaway train for the franchise’s first losing record since 2003.
Bottom of the Barrel
30. Detroit Lions (1-5, last week: 28)
After starting the season off hot with the fifth-ranked offense in EPA per drive (0.74) through the first four weeks, the Lions have crashed back down to earth in recent weeks. Detroit ranks 32nd in the same statistic (-1.82) since Week 5; the offense has scored just six points in the past two games. Injuries to running back D’Andre Swift and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown have obviously contributed to the inefficiency, but the recent offensive woes start with QB Jared Goff. He ranks last in EPA per dropback (-0.33) among the 27 quarterbacks with 60 or more dropbacks since Week 5.
31. Carolina Panthers (2-5, last week: 32)
Two games into the post-Matt-Rhule era, and the Panthers finally look competent. Even with Robbie Anderson and Christian McCaffrey traded away and QB Baker Mayfield injured, Carolina pulled off an impressive 21-3 win over the Buccaneers in Week 7.
Quarterback P.J. Walker, making his second start of the season in Week 7, showed significant improvement from last week. He completed five passes that traveled 10 or more yards downfield, including his two touchdowns, which was five more than he had in his season debut in Week 6. Star wideout D.J. Moore also finished with single-game season highs in receptions (7) and receiving yards (69) against Tampa Bay.
32. Houston Texans (1-4-1, last week: 31)
Dameon Pierce is the lone highlight in Houston right now. The fourth-round rookie RB ranks fifth in yards after contact per attempt (3.96) and second in forced missed tackles (38), according to PFF. He is second behind Kenneth Walker III in Offensive Rookie of the Year odds (+300) and one of a select few pieces that should survive the next phase of the Texans’ rebuild.
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