NFL Power Rankings: Week Eight

Photo Courtesy: @ESPNNFL

Baby Andy Reid, a Halloween treat
Photo Courtesy: @ESPNNFL

It’s a special Halloween edition of the Power Rankings, and the trick-or-treat theme to this NFL season is a strong one. Starting with the treats: Kansas City is 8-0 after finishing with the league’s worst record last year, the Colts have beat three other teams ranked in the top five of the poll, and the Broncos are on pace to top nearly every offensive record on the books.

Who’s getting tricked? The Steelers must feel that way after being successful pretty much forever, last year’s playoff darlings Washington and Minnesota are tanking, and the Texans and Falcons are the league’s two worst surprises.

There wasn’t much change to the rankings this week because everyone who was supposed to win pretty much did.

Biggest Rise: Oakland +4

Biggest Fall: Philadelphia -4

1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-0, LW: 1): The Stat: 8-0. The Chiefs are going beyond football this week. Kansas City is the first team in North American major sports history (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) to ever start a season 8-0 after finishing with the league’s worst record the previous year.

2. Indianapolis Colts (5-2, LW: 2): The Stat: 43. Colts defensive end Robert Mathis has forced 43 fumbles in his 10+ years in the NFL, the most by any player since he entered the league in 2003. His old bookend Dwight Freeney has 34 in that same span, and longtime rush specialist John Abraham has 36.

3. Denver Broncos (7-1, Last Week: 3): The Stat: 31. The Broncos didn’t put together a complete game against Washington, but they got the job done when needed. With a 31-point 4th Quarter to turn a 21-14 deficit into a 45-21 win, Denver became just the fourth team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to score that many in the final quarter.

45d26-saints4. New Orleans Saints (6-1, LW: 4): The Stat: 5-0. With the comfortable win against Buffalo Sunday, the Saints and Drew Brees have now won five straight games coming off their Bye week. A large part of that is the extremely good passing numbers from Brees in those games. In that stretch, his line is: 365 yd, 4.2 TD, 0.6 INT. He’s had 4+ touchdown passes in all five games. Those numbers compare favorably to his career line: 272 yd, 1.9 TD, 0.97 INT.

7bab9-seahawks5. Seattle Seahawks (7-1, LW: 5): The Stat: 7-6, 11-0. With the Seahawks unconvincing road win Monday night in St. Louis, an unsettling trend continues for Seattle. Since the beginning of last season, the Hawks are 11-0* at home (counting the Fail Mary play) and just 7-6 away from CenturyLink Field. This is big because if the Seahawks get homefield advantage throughout the playoffs they’ll be a definitive favorite to go to the Super Bowl. The question is: which team will actually show up there?

6. San Francisco 49ers (6-2, LW: 6): The Stat: 30. Ever since an early season offensive swoon, the 49ers seem to have found their groove. San Francisco has scored 30-or-more points for five straight games. That’s their best stretch since 1997. In back-to-back losses to the Seahawks and Colts, San Fran combined for just 10 points. Since then, they’ve averaged 34.8.

7. Green Bay Packers (5-2, LW: 7): The Stat: 10-10, 172 yd, 2 TD. That was the impressive passing line for Aaron Rodgers on 3rd Down plays against Minnesota Sunday night. Rodgers led Green Bay to a score on every meaningful drive in the game. The Packers possessed the ball nine times with five touchdowns, three field goals and a kneel down to end the game.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2, LW: 9): The Stat: 4. If you had 2nd year receiver Marvin Jones as the guy to set the team record for touchdown receptions, you might want to head to Vegas and test your luck. Jones entered Sunday’s game against New York with 34 career receptions and 4 touchdowns. He added 8 catches and a Bengals record 4 touchdown grabs against the Jets.

9. New England Patriots (6-2, LW: 8): The Stat: 2004, 2007, 2013. There have only been three times that the Red Sox David Ortiz hit a playoff home run and the Pats Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass on the same day. In 2004 and 2007, the Red Sox won the World Series and the Patriots made the Super Bowl (beat the Eagles, lost to the Giants). With the Red Sox taking home the title in baseball, can New England pull the trifecta on this trend?

10. Detroit Lions (5-3, LW: 12): The Stat: 329. The Lions got the dramatic win, and Calvin Johnson finished with the second best receiving performance in NFL history. His 329 yards came up just seven short of Flipper Anderson, who set the record of 336 in 1989 for the Los Angeles Rams. Anderson’s team won 20-17 that day. His average of 22.4 yards per catch was topped by Johnson’s 23.5.

11. San Diego Chargers (4-3, LW: 11): The Stat: 0-3. If recent history is any indication, it could be a good week for the Redskins to play San Diego. The Chargers have lost the last three times they’ve gone on the road after their Bye week, including the past two years. In that same span, they are 3-1 at home following the week off.

12. Chicago Bears (4-3, LW: 13): The Stat: 0-5. If the Bears are going to break out of their recent slump and get back into the NFC North race, they’ll need to snap a run of five straight losses in Green Bay. In those five games, the Packers won by an average of 25.2-10.4. Prior to this run, the Bears actually won four straight at Lambeau Field.

13. Dallas Cowboys (4-4, LW: 10): The Stat: 4. Dallas didn’t get the win against Detroit, but they did make some history. Terrance Williams, the rookie out of Baylor, set a franchise rookie record with four straight games catching a touchdown pass. Williams made an impressive grab for a 60 yard score that staked Dallas to a 20-10 lead at the time. During his run he has 14 receptions for 313 yards.

14. Baltimore Ravens (3-4, LW: 14): The Stat: 10-4. It’s the grudge match between the new Browns and the old Browns this week in Cleveland. This one means a lot to the fans on the shore of Lake Erie, but the team on the field hasn’t delivered too often against the team that left. The Ravens are 10-4 all-time playing at Cleveland, and they’ve won five straight there. In fact, the Ravens have won 11 straight in this series dating back to 2007 when the Browns swept the season series against an eventual 5-11 Baltimore team.

15. New York Jets (4-4, LW: 15): The Stat: 1988. The Jets allowed Andy Dalton to throw five touchdown passes against them Sunday. The last time that happened against New York: 1988 when Dan Marino did it in a 38-34 Jets win. Needless to say, the outcome was much different this time around. Cincinnati won 49-9.

16. Arizona Cardinals (4-4, LW: 17): The Stat: 30 yrs, 57 days. That was the age of Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald when he caught his 800th career pass Sunday, becoming the youngest player to ever reach that milestone. He beat out the Cowboys’ Jason Witten by 181 days. All-time receptions leader Jerry Rice didn’t catch his 800th pass until he was 34 yrs, 59 days old.

17. Carolina Panthers (4-3, LW: 18): The Stat: -7.5. Looking at the Vegas betting lines on games for this week, one in particular jumped out at me: Atlanta @ Carolina (-7.5). It’s not just the touchdown-plus they’re giving the Panthers. It’s the fact they’re favored at all. It’s been nine match ups (dating back to Week 12 of 2008) since Carolina was favored against its division rival. One positive if you’re a Falcons fan: The Panthers had -7.5 that game as well and lost 45-28.

18. Tennessee Titans (3-4, LW: 16): The Stat: 117-105. It’s been 14 seasons since the St. Louis Rams won one of the best Super Bowls ever played against the Titans in January, 2000. Neither team has really been the same since. Tennessee has gone 117-105 since, a 52.7 winning percentage, with five playoff appearances, and the Rams have won just 41.9% of the time with four trips to the postseason. Tennessee has never won in St. Louis, though they’ve played their just once, 31-27 Rams win in 2005.

19. Cleveland Browns (3-5, LW: 21): The Stat: 364. When the Browns take the field against the Ravens Sunday, it will be 364 days, just one shy of a year, since Cleveland’s last 100-yard rushing performance. Last November 4th, Trent Richardson ran for 105 yards against the same Baltimore team they play in this game.

20. Buffalo Bills (3-5, LW: 20): The Stat: 5-of-7. Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller have both played in seven of the Bills’ eight games this year. Spiller started the season’s first four games. Jackson has started the last four. In the seven they’ve both played, the back up running back has been the leading rusher five times. This isn’t a recent trend either. It happened five out of ten times both players suited up last year.

21. Oakland Raiders (3-4, LW: 25): The Stat: 93. On the first offensive play of the game Sunday against Pittsburgh, Terrelle Pryor ran 93 yards for a Raiders touchdown. Not only did it stake his team to a 7-0 lead, it’s the longest touchdown run by a QB in NFL history. Pryor has excelled on the ground all year. His 391 rushing yards are the same as Maurice Jones-Drew, and his 7.4 yds/carry is the best in football. The 93-yard run also topped Bo Jackson’s team record by a single yard.

22. Miami Dolphins (3-4, LW: 22): The Stat: 7. Ryan Tannehill’s stats have declined since the team’s 3-0 start, but he has at least one touchdown pass in all seven Dolphins games this season. His longest previous streak was a three-game stretch toward the end of last year. That run along with this season gives him touchdown passes in ten of his last 11 games, and a total of 16 in that time frame.

23. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5, LW: 19): The Stat: 10. The Eagles have somehow lost 10 straight home games. Most teams struggle on the road. This one is just the opposite. It’s the longest streak in the NFL since the Rams lost 14 straight at home from 2008-2010. Philadelphia is just 4-5 away from home during that same stretch.

24. Atlanta Falcons (2-5, LW: 23): The Stat: 1982. The Falcons sit 2-5 with a point differential of -18 right now. That negative number obviously doesn’t indicate good things, but just how bad is it? Atlanta hasn’t finished with a winning record AND negative point differential since the strike shortened 1982 season. The Falcons went 5-4 that year and lost a Wild Card game. Prior to that, they went 9-7 in 1978 with a -50 differential.

25. St. Louis Rams (3-5, LW: 27): The Stat: 50%. It’s well documented that the Rams haven’t scored a rushing touchdown yet this season. It’s also well documented in this ranking that St. Louis has gone to the pass inside the opponents’ 20-yard line twice as often as they attempt to run. If trends are any indication, that rushing TD should be on its way. After running 20 times compared to 38 passes in the red zone with Sam Bradford on the field, St. Louis had five of each type of play against Seattle Monday night. The Rams gained 18 yards on their five red zone carries, and went 1-5 for a single yard through the air. All they got out of it was three field goals.

26. Washington Redskins (2-5, LW: 24): The Stat: 0-7. Robert Griffin III was 0-7 Sunday against Denver on throws 15+ yds downfield. That’s been a point of emphasis in the Redskins’ offensive woes this year. He’s only completed 33% of those throws this season compared to 56% a year ago. You have to assume as he gets his legs back under him more and more that number will start to rise.

27. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5, LW: 26): The Stat: 10. The Steelers have been known for decades for having an air tight defense. They also are well known to be particularly adept at causing turnovers. Not this year, though. Pittsburgh has struggled to create turnovers, and when they do the offense isn’t turning it into points. Against Oakland Sunday, the Steelers offense scored 10 points off turnovers. Those are the first such points the entire season.

28. New York Giants (2-6, LW: 29): The Stat: 33,694. In the Giants win over Philadelphia, Eli Manning became the team’s all-time passing leader, pushing aside Phil Simms in the process. Eli’s 33,694 yds in 9+ seasons now tops Simms’ 33,462 yds in the course of 15 years. Manning needs nine more interceptions to be the franchise leader in that category as well. He already has the team touchdown mark.

29. Houston Texans (2-5, LW: 28): The Stat: 3/5. In the Texans five-game losing streak, the offense has scored just three touchdowns. Even worse: opposing defenses and special teams have reached the end zone five times. Houston better hope they had a productive Bye week because if the season isn’t lost yet, it soon will be.

30. Minnesota Vikings (1-6, LW: 30): The Stat: 145. The Vikings, behind reigning MVP Adrian Peterson, haven’t topped 145 rushing yards in a single game yet this season. Compare that to last year when Minnesota reached that mark 11 times in 17 games. Peterson has 571 yards so far. Last year at this time he had 652 yards, so AD could still catch fire at any time.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7, LW: 31): The Stat: 21.5. The Buccaneers, with Doug Martin lost to injury, ran the ball just 14 times in 65 plays last week, 21.5% of the time. The last time they approached that number was Week 7 of 2011, 32 games ago, when they ran just 17.5% of the time and lost to the Bears 24-18.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8, LW: 32): The Stat: 10. Not only are they losing. They’re doing it by double digits, every time. The Jaguars became the first team since 1984 (and the 4th ever) to start the season 0-8 and lose all eight games by double digits. They only lost to Oakland by 10 in Week Two, but their average margin of defeat is 22 points.

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