Cat Tales’ NFL Power Rankings

Riley Losleben, Senior Staff Reporter

This season for professional football has been, well, different to say the least.

Different in the fact that teams who were riding high expectations have crashed.

Different in the fact that teams who were expected to be in the basement have risen to the top.

Different in the fact that COVID stoppages have shifted everyone’s schedule and brought up the option of an 18th week to the regular season.

Different in the fact that the number of injuries is spiking due to a lack of training camps this August.

So, the only thing we can do in this strange, new, unexpected situation is try to spread some semblance of normalcy. With that said, let’s get some power rankings out there!

1.  Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0)

Nobody can say Pittsburgh hasn’t been the best team in football so far. The Steelers have been able to hold so many teams on defense (338 yards per game, 17.8 points per game), while beating up on winning teams like Cleveland and Tennessee. Big Ben is coming back with a vengeance, sitting at 1628 yards and 15 touchdowns this far into the season. TJ Watt is looking like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and Chase Claypool is a breakout star with over 300 yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns. The Steelers should be the AFC favorite to go to the Super Bowl this year.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (7-1)

The reigning champs have been surprisingly quiet, and people don’t seem to be ready to talk about them making a second straight appearance. The Chiefs’ offense is of course the main focal point, particularly Patrick Mahomes’ 2300 yards through the air and 21 touchdown passes and rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s 572 yard season thus far has been impressive to say the least. The Chiefs have also been averaging 31.6 points per game on offense, allowing them to be the most electrifying teams in football. The Kansas City offense is a lethal weapon.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)

Tampa Tom looks even better than he did last year in New England. The Bucs have a terrifying offense, led by Tom Brady with deep threat WR’s Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, a great possession tight end who is finally coming back to form in Rob Gronkowski, and a future threat in new signee Antonio Brown. With Brady sitting at 20 touchdowns this early into the season, it’s no wonder that the Bucs have stormed through the competition, defusing teams like Green Bay, Vegas, and Carolina. Tampa looks to be on a run to an NFC crown.

4. Seattle Seahawks (6-1)

Of course, Seattle always stands at the top of the NFC, despite the lack of talent, despite the inexperience, despite everything going against them. The Seahawks are good, a phenomenal offensive team who almost never fails to break 30 points, but their absolutely abysmal defensive play keeps even the worst of teams alive. The only two possession wins that the Seahawks have are over a Falcons team that was winless under former coach Dan Quinn and a 49ers team that has over 20 players on their injury report. However, credit where credit is due, Russell Wilson had a great bounce back against the 49ers, putting up 261 yards in the air and four touchdowns after last week’s three-interception performance. The fact that the Seahawks have beaten only one team who currently has a winning record (Miami, 4-3) and even that was incredibly close does not bear well for the rough future playoff run the Hawks will have to make.

5. New Orleans Saints (5-2)

The Saints were the NFC favorite going into the season, per usual, but once again fell a little farther down the totem pole to sit in the shadow of better teams in the conference. However, you can never count the Saints out. League leader in total scrimmage yards Alvin Kamara has been as consistent as ever, and Drew Brees is working with what he has to turn this offense into a top unit. He’s lost a little bit of power on his arm, and without two of their top receivers they’ve definitely struggled against stronger opponents (losing to Green Bay, overtime win against Chicago). The Saints defense also allows too many points to bad teams (24 to Carolina, 29 to Detroit, 27 to the Chargers, 34 to the Raiders), something that they will need to clean up with their rough upcoming schedule.

6. Buffalo Bills (6-2)

The Bills are a bit of an enigma. They’re a surprise team who was expected to finish 9-7 and are on pace to finish 12-4, but they barely beat teams like the Jets and Patriots. Josh Allen looks like an MVP candidate, but then he can get benched against the Tennessee Titans while being stomped by 30 points, or throw for 150 yards and an interception against New England. They seem to play to the level of their opponents, unless their opponent is a top 10 team, in which case they can’t hold a candle to the tougher teams in the league.

7. Tennessee Titans (5-2)

The Titans looked like a top three team early on. The loss to the Steelers didn’t concern me, as Pittsburgh had been dominating all year. The loss to the Bengals, however, does concern me. A loss to the Bengals, looking like that, is not the way to make yourself a contender. They are still the best team in the division. They are still probably a contender for the AFC title. However, if they don’t figure out their defense fast, which is allowing 23 points per game and over 400 yards per game, there are some serious flags to be raised for Tennessee.

8. Green Bay Packers (5-2)

The Packers’ most glaring flaw was exposed on Sunday against the Vikings. They may be the Cheeseheads, but having Swiss cheese for a defense isn’t exactly the way to play football. Dalvin Cook exploited this defense for over 150 yards and three touchdowns, allowing a one win team to beat the NFC leaders going into the day. The most baffling thing is still how this team in the draft traded up for a QB who won’t play for a few years when several phenomenal defensive players were sitting on the draft board. The Packers had it all figured out, but the Vikings, and earlier this season the Bucs, exposed the clear weaknesses that all NFC teams seem to share.

9. Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

The Ravens are a bit of a strange team. They should have been the best team in the AFC. However, I think Lamar Jackson was given too much credit last season. The reigning MVP is looking mediocre to say the least, sitting at 1343 yards and 12 TDs through the air with 411 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. His QBR is 63.8 and he has broken 200 passing yards only three times this season. The Ravens have to play off their defense, which is shutting teams like Washington, Cincinnati, Houston, and Cleveland down. The run game in Baltimore has been the big part, with four players totaling 1200 rushing yards this year. But, with the Steelers riding this momentum, don’t look to the Ravens to be your AFC champion this season.

10. Arizona Cardinals (5-2)

The Cardinals are a threat. They finally found their man in Kyler Murray, their top receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, and their lead back with Kenyan Drake. They can beat teams that nobody thought they could, like the 49ers and Seahawks. However, there is one big glaring flaw in the desert, and that’s how this team plays how their QB plays. In games that Kyler Murray fails to break 75.0 for his QBR, the team is 1-2, and the only win coming in overtime with the help of three INTs thrown by Russell Wilson. If Kyler is consistent, and doesn’t give the opponent opportunities, then they can beat anyone. But, if he plays poorly, then just like with the Lions and Panthers, the Cardinals can lose to anybody.

11. Indianapolis Colts (5-2)

Indy was the early favorite to win the AFC South early on, and for good reason. The team has all the talent they need in theory, but this season has raised some questions for good reasons. The Colts lost to the Jaguars week 1 and the Browns week 5. Quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown for 1860 yards, 10 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Jonathan Taylor is the only real running back on the team with only 389 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. The Colts are 1-1 against teams with a record better than 0.500 as well, the only win coming against Chicago 19-11. The Colts defense has held well, sitting at 310 yards per game and 16.8 points per game, however that could be due to the weaker opponents. Indianapolis is a very strange team to watch for the rest of the year.

12. Cleveland Browns (5-3)

The Browns seem to finally have their playoff push ready. However, the issue arises where it always has. Quarterback Baker Mayfield doesn’t seem ready to make the jump yet. Mayfield has 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions this year, and a 61.4% completion percentage. The young gunslinger isn’t quite ready to win a title yet, as we saw in the Browns 38-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and their 38-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns as a whole look good enough to contend for a playoff spot, but I’m not sure about an AFC title this early on.

13. Las Vegas Raiders (4-3)

The Raiders surprised a lot of people. They kind of had a quiet team with no big stars to light it up, but Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs have worked their way to a 4-3 record over the toughest first seven games of the season. Carr has cleaned up his turnover problem, only having thrown two interceptions the whole season. With wins against Cleveland, Kansas City, and New Orleans but losses to Buffalo, Tampa Bay, and New England, the Raiders have a bit of ground to make up. However, with one of the easiest schedules the rest of the way (the only winning teams are a rematch with KC in Vegas and home games with the Dolphins and Colts), the Raiders should be able to work their way to the playoffs.

14. Los Angeles Rams (5-3)

For a split second, the Rams had everyone fooled into thinking that they were the best team in the NFC West. They were 5-2 and coming off a dominant win over an NFC North-leading Bears team. Then, Miami came out and smacked them 28-17. Goff threw two picks in that loss and they were absolutely manhandled by the Dolphins defense. Turnover after turnover killed the Rams and exposed their glaring flaws, particularly on offense. If they can’t keep control of the ball, it’s lights out for LA. Their losses to the 49ers and Bills exhibit that mentality, too. The Rams become more suspect when you realize that four of their wins come against a NFC East division with a combined record of 8-22-1. This team doesn’t have it yet, but they could figure out a deep playoff run if they work on their weak areas.

15. Chicago Bears (5-3)

The Bears are another suspect team, particularly how they got here. Nobody expected Chicago to switch quarterbacks so early or jump out to this record by any means. Nobody expected them to take a big win against Tampa on national television. Nobody expected them to hold their own with the Saints and take them to overtime. But conversely, nobody expected a then 3-0 Bears team to lose to Indianapolis at home in the fashion they lost. They got styled on in their Monday Night Football bout with the Rams, and the Bears seem to be in a bit of a limbo. Who knows where this Bears team goes in the future, but they have a lot trending in their favor.

16. Miami Dolphins (4-3)

The Dolphins have surprised more than a few people. The fins started 1-2 with the only win coming over a bad Jacksonville team. Then they kept it incredibly close with the Seahawks, beat the 49ers, beat the Jets, and beat the Rams with their new QB Tua Tagovailoa. Miami has a real chance to sneak their way into that last wild card spot in the AFC, especially with the competition of Indianapolis and Las Vegas being the only things standing in the way, and if Tua gets better as the season goes on they may be able to steal some wins from other teams. The real quiet part of the Dolphins that nobody is talking about is how they have the best scoring defense in the league, with only 16.3 points per game allowed. Miami is on track for a really good season.

17. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1)

The Eagles look bad. But that doesn’t matter, as they have a division lead, with no real team standing in their way besides maybe Washington. However, the Eagles have a 3-win team so far. They’ve beaten an out-of-conference opponent, which only Dallas has done. They have a surefire answer at QB, which is more than the rest of the division. And they have a tie to give them an extra boost for tiebreakers. The Eagles also seem to be the most cohesive on offense, while their defense leaves a lot to be desired. They almost stole one against Baltimore when they lost off a missed two point conversion 30-28. The Eagles don’t look great, but they look just mediocre enough for them to squeak into the playoffs.

18. San Francisco 49ers (4-4)

San Fran got hit with the Super Bowl hangover in the worst way possible. Not only have they looked inconsistent at every turn, they also have the most injuries in the league in a year where their entire division seems to have it all together. The Niners are onto Nick Mullens for the third time this season for at least three weeks with Jimmy G going on Injured Reserve, while starting tight end George Kittle will end his season prematurely to injury, just like Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas. However, the 49ers season doesn’t seem to be fully over. They beat the Rams while beaten up, and Mullens brought back a higher QBR in the one quarter he played against Seattle than Russell Wilson had the entire game, and their run game got going, headed by Jerrick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson Jr. And with the overall question mark of the last NFC spot, the 49ers could move in to be a playoff team once more.

19. Carolina Panthers (3-5)

The Panthers are in a bit of a limbo-like state. They look impressive week in and week out, but they also happen to sit in a division with two playoff teams and a conference with four other teams making a wild card push. The Panthers also have a rough schedule the rest of the way, composing teams like Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, and New Orleans. Teddy Bridgewater has been mediocre at QB this season, only throwing nine touchdowns across eight games. Being down top player Christian McCaffery also hurts the Panthers offense, as Mike Davis can do good, but McCaffery can do even better. At the end of the day, the Panthers are a decent team with an impossible road ahead.

20. Detroit Lions (3-4)

The Lions seemed to be trending up, and their 41-21 loss to the Colts didn’t dash anyone’s hopes of it, as that was to be expected against a good team. They beat Arizona before, crushed Jacksonville, and got to see another Atlanta blunder. However, the biggest kicker for the Lions is Matthew Stafford’s placement on the COVID-19 Reserve list, costing the Lions one of their best players. Detroit would be higher if it weren’t for this development. The offense is nothing without Stafford, and the defense hasn’t been too stellar either, giving up 25.8 PPG. The Lions will struggle late as well, as they will have to play a rough schedule with teams like Minnesota, Carolina, Green Bay, Chicago, Tennessee, and Tampa Bay. Detroit might be close, but this year isn’t enough for them.

21. Denver Broncos (3-4)

Denver is an iffy team. They don’t look very good, but they brought it back against the Chargers, they beat the Patriots in a dominant fashion, and they got the easiest win in the NFL by playing the Jets. The Broncos have kept it close with two of the best teams in the AFC this year with Tennessee and Pittsburgh, and their defense has been consistent at least, giving up 22.9 points per game, but their offense has been lackluster to say the least with 21 points per game scored. The Broncos are a rough team to watch, especially when they face a tough opponent like Vegas, KC, or New Orleans. Drew Lock seems to have a bright future however, so Broncos fans have a bright future to look forward to.

22.Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1)

The Bengals have kept it close every game except the loss to Baltimore. The Bengals almost pulled a fast one on Cleveland twice, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia. The Bengals have their QB of the future in potential rookie of the year candidate Joe Burrow, and their offense has done a good job overall, scoring 24.3 points per game, and even pulling a crazy upset against the Titans. Cincinnati is a scary team when it comes to the future, and some clean ups on the defensive end of the ball can turn them into a contender.

23. Washington Football Team (2-5)

The Football Team came into this season in flames: expected to be the worst team in football, a dysfunctional front office, a last-second rebrand, and a division with two potential playoff teams. And now, with Kyle Allen of all quarterbacks, they have a chance to win the division. They are still an absolutely terrible team, and the record shows that much, but the thing is with Washington, they have a great defense, allowing 20.6 points per game and having a player who leads the league in interceptions in Kyle Fuller. Washington could pull up to be a surprise playoff team and win the NFC East.

24. Minnesota Vikings (2-5)

The Vikings should’ve been a better team then they were, and we’ve seen glimpses of this great team with the time they blew up the Packers, choked to the Seahawks, and almost caught the Titans and Falcons. Minnesota is such a strange team, especially with their formerly good quarterback Kirk Cousins throwing the second most interceptions in the league, and their best offensive player having to be Dalvin Cook sitting at 652 yards on the ground this year. The Vikings defense has also been uncharacteristically bad too, allowing 26 points per game and 421 yards per game. This team could go any way, and this offseason will be very telling of the direction the ownership and front office will take Minnesota.

25. Los Angeles Chargers (2-5)

The Chargers are not great, but that’s expected with their bare-bones team. Rookie QB Justin Herbert is looking very good, and the Chargers have something to work with in a division with two other teams who are working to rebuild. If LAC can get it together soon, they could contend for a wild card. The Chargers have miraculously been outsourcing their opponents, 25 PPG to 23 PPG, and they have one of the best edge rushers in Joey Bosa on the team. Giving it a little more time, the Chargers might come back to their former glory.

26. Atlanta Falcons (2-6)

The Falcons suffer heartbreak after heartbreak after heartbreak. Matt Ryan has wasted his career in Atlanta, as his age has seen him close to the end of the line. And this season isn’t a good farewell tour if it is that, as he has seen a blown lead to Seattle, a last-second loss to Dallas, a last-second loss to Chicago, a last-second loss to Carolina, and the worst possible loss to experience against Detroit. The Falcons are a much better team than their record says, and I think that their new interim head coach will run them to about six wins this season before everything is said and done. However, with two games against New Orleans, two games against Tampa, and a game against Kansas City and Las Vegas, the Falcons have one of the roughest second halves of the season to play.

27. New England Patriots (2-5)

Oh how the mighty have fallen. The Pats were on top of the world a couple years ago, and now they’ve fallen to this miserable excuse of a team. And with the only real loss being Tom Brady this offseason, I think we learned that Brady was disguising a mediocre team last season as a division champion. Cam Newton is the opposite of back, and he might not be signed next year after his terrible season of fumbling twice to seal a game, once against Seattle and again versus Buffalo. The Pats defense has been the strongest aspect of this team, giving up only 20.9 points per game across eight contests, and the offense, more particularly Cam Newton, hasn’t pulled its weight in return. Belicheck needs to go back to the drawing board when it comes to the 2021 season.

28. Dallas Cowboys (2-6)

The Cowboys had it. For just a moment, they had the division in their hands. Then, we hit the point where Dak Prescott lost everything he’d worked so hard for, including the contract he was on pace to get. In their win against New York, the Cowboys lost their lead man for the year and their backup to a concussion, leaving them with Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert. The Cowboys also don’t have a great defense to back them up, giving up an astonishing 33 points per game. Dallas doesn’t even have a consistent Ezekiel Elliot to run them to the division title, leading to their inevitable rebuild next season.

29. Houston Texans (1-6)

The Texans are bad, and Bill O’Brien made them this way. They lost all their weapons for future capital, and it showed. JJ Watt is about to bow out, and Deshaun Watson looks all alone on offense. The hodgepodge receiving core of Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, and Brandin Cooks seems to be barely getting the job done on offense to get Watson to 15 touchdowns through the air, with David Johnson doing a mediocre job on the ground with under 400 rushing yards. The Texans almost had so many wins, but choking Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Minnesota shows that there are bits and pieces of a real team still shining in Houston.

30. New York Giants (1-7)

The Giants could’ve been the team to jump ahead in the NFC East, but the Saquon Barkley loss ended that dream in an instant. The Giants can always keep it close, but they can never get over the hump in the fourth quarter, especially with Daniel Jones overthrowing every bad wide receiver that they have on that team. The Giants have been able to hold on defense better than other teams with 24.9 points per game allowed. New York needs a lot of work to get to the next step of their rebuild even, and this next season might be a time to reevaluate the quarterback position once more.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)

Jacksonville started the season by shocking the football world with their win over Indianapolis. They have absolutely collapsed since then, getting blown out by Miami, Houston, Detroit, and the Chargers. Gardner Minshew hasn’t performed awfully, but the second year Washington State product may be in the quarterback hot seat next season. Their defense refuses to hold, giving up 427.6 yards per game to go with 27.5 points per game. The Jags have nothing to work with on the offensive side of the ball, no receivers, no running backs, and a mediocre offensive line. This might be the worst Jacksonville has been in a long time, and that says something.

32. New York Jets (0-8)

The Jets are the worst team in the league, to nobody’s surprise. They haven’t been competitive with any team all season except Buffalo once, and even that was an 8- point loss. The Jets have given up over 20 points in every game except one. There is no talent on this team to be found outside of a couple of defensive players, and Sam Darnold will be mediocre elsewhere in a couple years. Adam Gase needs to be fired as soon as possible, and Trevor Lawrence needs to prepare to hear the Jets call his name with the top pick in the next draft and see his career die in East Rutherford.