The playoff picture is starting sort itself out, and the contenders are distancing themselves from the pretenders. A surprise team playing old school football finds themselves atop “America’s division” at the moment, setting up a wild second half of the year in the NFC East. Here is where everyone stands through eight weeks of NFL action:
1. Los Angeles Rams (8-0; won 29-27 vs GB) (- No change from last week)
The Rams should have lost this game. This was the worst game they played this season. Jared Goff had trouble hitting his targets, Todd Gurley was bottled up until a few late chunk plays and the offensive line could not handle the Green Bay pass rush. Winning ugly is still winning, though, and the Rams still are perfect on the year.
2. New England Patriots (6-2; won 25-6 vs BUF) (-)
The Patriots offense did not have their best game, but they eventually got the job done in Buffalo. It was another less-than-stellar win for a top team this week, but winning ugly is still winning.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-1; won 30-23 vs DEN) (-)
This team is really good and everyone is really athletic. The defense has issues but Dee Ford and the pass rushers are great. Sammy Watkins is showing signs of life. They are still very good.
4. New Orleans Saints (6-1; won 30-20 vs MIN) (-)
New Orleans won a statement game this week. They rolled into US Bank stadium and convincingly beat a good Vikings teams. Drew Brees did not have to do much, only throwing 23 times for 120 yards. The defense was able to create turnovers and take over this game early in the second half.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (5-2; BYE) (-)
The Chargers were on a bye week after their late win against the Titans. A huge showdown in Seattle is on the cards as this team tries to keep pace with the Chiefs in the AFC West.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2-1; won 33-18 vs CLE) (+2)
The Steelers do this every year. Locker room drama and social media spats dominated the headlines around this team as they struggled to start the year. They have turned things around and taken over the AFC North once again, though. This team is packed with talent and they are still competitors in the AFC.
7. Washington (5-2; won 20-13 vs NYG) (+3)
The Adrian Peterson renaissance has Washington riding high. It took him a while to get going but he busted a long run late to put the game away. The team is a surprise leader in the NFC East and their style of strong, power running combined with good defense has them thinking playoffs.
8. Green Bay Packers (3-3-1; lost 29-27 vs LAR) (+1)
Green Bay was probably a fumbled kickoff return away from knocking off the unbeaten Rams. Their defense put together a masterclass performance. Rookie corner Jaire Alexander was all over the field making plays. Linebacker Blake Martinez announced himself to the league as the elite talent that he is. The offense could have been better, but I’ll never doubt a unit led by Aaron Rodgers.
9. Minnesota Vikings (4-3-1; lost 30-20 vs NO) (-3)
Minnesota was the better team in the first half but a fumble by Adam Thielen late in the second quarter turned the game around for good. Both Thielen and Stefon Diggs disappeared in the second half and the team looked lifeless. An NFC North match up against the Lions looms as this team yet again is under pressure.
10. Carolina Panthers (5-2; won 36-21 vs BAL) (+2)
Cam Newton has quietly been having another MVP level season. The quarterback has been on tear both through the air and on the ground. D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey stepped up as well as the Panthers offense steam rolled a good Ravens defense.
11. Seattle Seahawks (4-3; won 28-14 vs DET) (+3)
This team is a legitimate threat in the NFC. They have now won four of their last five and they are only getting better. The defense has over performed their preseason expectations. Chris Carson is an elite running back. The offensive line is not a tire fire. Oh, and they have Russell Wilson. This team is good.
12. Chicago Bears (4-3; won 24-10 vs NYJ) (+1)
Mitchell Trubisky is still really bad but the Bears are managing to win despite him. The defense strangled the Jets offense and the offense did enough. Nothing about this team was impressive, but they took care of business and got a win.
13. Baltimore Ravens (4-4; lost 36-21 vs CAR) (-6)
Baltimore’s offense has stagnated and it is hard for a defense to carry a team in today’s NFL. Alex Collins is struggling. Always inconsistent Joe Flacco is on a down once again and John Brown is starting to cool off. The defense is a little banged up as well. Their last two losses came against two of the league's best teams, but they have to find a fix on offense if they want to keep pace with the Steelers.
14. Houston Texans (5-3; won 42-23 vs MIA) (+5)
The Texans are finally starting to look like the 2017 team that took the league by storm. Now almost a year removed from the knee injury that ended his rookie season, Deshaun Watson is returning to form. The rest of the team’s stars are showing up as well, with Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins also having huge games. Will Fuller missing the rest of the year with a knee injury may be a huge loss, though.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4; won 24-18 vs JAX) (+3)
It was not the prettiest performance for the defending champs but the Eagles pulled out a victory on foreign soil against the Jaguars. Carson Wentz has found his MVP form from 2017. Josh Adams is looking like a great replacement for the injured Jay Ajayi. This team still has flaws but they are looking better every week.
16. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3; won 37-34 vs TB) (-5)
The Bengals defense is officially a problem. While they did win, they let Ryan Fitzpatrick lead a 18-point comeback in the second half to tie the game late. The offense is still great—Tyler Boyd’s turnaround has been one of my favorite stories this year—but I’m not too confident in Andy Dalton going forward. I have never moved a team down this many spots for winning before.
17. Detroit Lions (3-4; lost 28-14 vs SEA) (-2)
Detroit was served a slice of humble pie in their own stadium on Sunday. A team that looked like it was on the upswing was dominated in every phase of the game as they were smashed by the Seahawks. The run game could not get going and the secondary is terrible. This is a deeply flawed team that is still depending on their quarterback to drag them to success.
18. Dallas Cowboys (3-4; BYE) (-1)
The Cowboys were off this week. They will return to action on Monday night against the Tennessee Titans in a game that will probably end the loser’s season.
19. Miami Dolphins (4-4; lost 42-23 vs HOU) (-3)
Miami is a shell of the 3-0 powerhouse they looked like a month ago. The team is beat up and the defense that was supposed to carry this team has faltered. Miami still has a chance at a wild card spot but they are spiraling out of control.
20. Denver Broncos (3-5; lost 30-23 vs KC) (+3)
They got swept by the Chiefs but both games were close. Denver is the only team that has gone to Arrowhead Stadium and not gotten absolutely buzz-sawed so that’s a positive.
21. Tennessee Titans (3-4; BYE) (-)
Titans get a week off after losing to the Chargers is London last week. A huge prime time matchup with the Dallas Cowboys looms.
22. Atlanta Falcons (3-4; BYE) (-)
Atlanta was off this week. They get extra time to prepare for a red-hot Washington team.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5; lost 24-18 vs PHI) (-3)
This is probably a lost season for Jacksonville. They lost their yearly London game against the Eagles as their anemic offense failed them once again. Jacksonville’s defense still has not lived up to expectations, as it seems that the whole team is coming apart at its seams.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4; lost 37-34 vs CIN) (-)
Putting Jameis Winston back into his starting role was one of the worst coaching decisions made this season. Winston should not be an NFL quarterback, for both on and off the field reasons. Ryan Fitzpatrick took over under center in the second half after Winston threw four interceptions in the first. The veteran led the team on an 18-point comeback to tie it up late. The terrible defense allowed the Bengals to strike right back, but this should be Fitzpatrick’s team going forward.
25. Indianapolis Colts (3-5; won 42-28 vs OAK) (+2)
Marlon Mack is an elite running back, and I will never back off from this take. The second-year player went off, again, running for 125 yards and two scores. He is the centerpiece of the offense and carried the team to yet another win. Darius Leonard is a stud on defense and is in the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation. It was only the Raiders and Bills, but two back-to-back wins have this team on a high.
26. New York Jets (3-5; lost 24-10 vs CHI) (-1)
The Jets are still a banged up team and a match up with a tough Bears defense was always going to be a challenge. Sam Darnold is still growing. This team is already looking forward to draft season.
27. Cleveland Browns (2-5-1; lost 33-18 vs PIT) (-1)
Cleveland lost to the Steelers and things have returned to normal. The spat between Hue Jackson and Todd Haley led to both being fired on Monday and this garbage fire of a franchise is once again in the midst of a lost season.
28. New York Giants (1-7; lost 20-13 vs WAS) (-)
The defense did not get run over this week so that is some improvement. An offense with Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard has no excuse to not score points.
29. Buffalo Bills (2-6; lost 25-6 vs NE) (-)
They got their first of two losses against the Patriots this season. I am very impressed with how good Bills fans are at sneaking phallic objects into NFL stadiums, though, so props to them.
30. Arizona Cardinals (2-6; won 18-15 vs SF) (+2)
The Cardinals are only capable of beating the 49ers, I guess. Josh Rosen had a decent game and put together a great game-winning drive to win late. Rosen and fellow rookie Christian Kirk both look like they are finding their footing in the NFL.
31. Oakland Raiders (1-6; lost 42-28 vs IND) (-)
Derek Carr played an incredible game but it just was not enough. The defense got absolutely ran over, and Carr and the offense just could not keep up. This team is already looking towards Year 2 of the Gruden era.
32. San Francisco (1-7; lost 18-16 vs ARI) (-2)
Side note: Thursday Night Football this week features the 49ers against the Raiders. A matchup between the two lowest ranked teams in the NFL on prime time.