As promised, it’s time for the halfway power rankings. These are not simple standings, and they take into account recent performance as well as overall performance on the season.
Better Luck Next Year
- Cleveland Browns (0-8)
- San Francisco 49ers (0-9)
- New York Giants (1-7)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6)
They’re going nowhere, and they’re not even getting there fast. These four teams have been abysmal all season. They all have talented players on their team, but no clue how to put them into positions to succeed. The Giants were a playoff team last year. The Bucs were a trendy pick as an NFC contender this season. Bad coaching, injuries, and immaturity have plagued both, to some degree. The Niners and Browns were expected to be bad, but they’ve probably been even worse than most thought.
Without A Rudder
- Denver Broncos (3-5)
- Houston Texans (3-5)
Both teams started the season with playoff hopes based on their strong defenses. The Broncos opened the season with a bang, starting 2-0 behind stellar D and what we’ve learned was uncharacteristically good play from Trevor Siemian. Siemian has sucked since the second game, and was benched a week ago. The Texans played horribly before quickly handing the reigns to Deshaun Watson, who reinvigorated the team. Houston’s defensive playmakers started getting hurt one by one, but Watson was a revelation. The defense, in crumbles, was being held up by a suddenly prolific offense, only to see Watson suffer a non-contact knee injury in practice about 10 days ago. With their offensive identity sidelined, and their entire defense hurt, they fall here.
- Miami Dolphins (4-4)
- Baltimore Ravens (4-5)
- Cincinnati Bengals (3-5)
- Los Angeles Chargers (3-5)
- Arizona Cardinals (4-5)
- Green Bay Packers (4-4)
Nothing special in this bunch, just mediocre teams having mediocre seasons. The Dolphins and Ravens, who are inexplicably hovering around a .500 winning percentage, are, in my opinion, two of the least inspired teams in the league. The Pack, like the Texans, lost their most important player. They have, so far, been unable to do anything without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet.
Feisty, But Not Threatening
- Indianapolis Colts (3-6)
- New York Jets (4-5)
- Chicago Bears (3-5)
All three here have already outperformed most of their expectations. I’ve talked a lot about Jacoby Brissett, the Colts QB, this season, and it’s not going to stop. He’s playing very well and keeping his team competitive on a week-to-week basis. The Jets defense and Bears running game are very good, and the Bears defense is bordering on great.
Talented, In the Mix, but Fatally Flawed
- Oakland Raiders (4-5)
- Washington Redskins (4-4)
- Detroit Lions (4-4)
They aren’t out of it, but they need to step up their game. All three are just lacking that X-Factor that most playoff teams rely on in close games. I won’t be surprised when if one of them makes a run, but I’ll be equally unsurprised if they all continue to play roughly .500 football.
- Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
It’s hard to put the defending NFC champs any higher. They haven’t had catastrophic injuries, and they kept almost every piece from their team last year, in fact adding some extra pieces, but they just can’t keep anything going. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian deserves a lion’s share of the blame, in my opinion.
- Buffalo Bills (5-3)
They’re not really contenders, but they’re in the hunt, above .500, and solid on both sides of the ball. Maybe they are contenders?
Right Where They Belong
- Tennessee Titans (5-3)
They haven’t played great, but they haven’t played poorly. They’re in the hunt, where everyone seemed to think they’d be. They haven’t put it all together yet, as the running game, their supposed biggest strength, has been less than dominant. Nonetheless, they’re a solid team with a solid record and room to build.
The Usual Suspects
- Dallas Cowboys (5-3)
- Seattle Seahawks (6-3)
- Carolina Panthers (6-3)
Might as well be 9a, 9b, and 9c. There isn’t much distinction here. Perennial NFC playoff contenders, playing winning football, and maybe, just maybe, with more than they’ve shown so far. In fact, I’m quite sure all three have another gear that they haven’t found yet. If they do, watch out.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
- Los Angeles Rams (6-2)
Defense wins championships, boys and girls. The Jags and Vikings are proving that adage every week. Their shoddy quarterback situations are not enviable, but their making the best out of what they’ve got. The Rams may very well be making The Leap, but you never know if it’s that or just a dream season.
Proven QBs, But not Without Qs
- New Orleans Saints (6-2)
Is their defense for real? If it is, legit contender, but I’m still not buying it all the way.
- Kansas City Chiefs (6-3)
How much of a concern is their 1-3 stretch over their last four games after the 5-0 start? It’s a veteran squad in a shockingly weak division, so they should be fine, but you have to wonder.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
Where’s the ram-it-down-your-throat offense? Bell and Brown are still great players, but Ben Roethlisberger has looked old so far this season and hasn’t been able to get the ball to his two all-world playmakers efficiently.
- New England Patriots (6-2)
Can the defense hold up? It looked like a sieve for the first few weeks of the season, and, even though they’ve played better recently, they’re going to have to hold down the fort so that Tom Terrific and the offense aren’t playing from behind come January.
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-1)
I always call the top one or two teams the favorites in my Power Rankings, even though it’s difficult to really call someone a favorite halfway through the season, unless they are utterly dominant. The Eagles are a very, very good football team, but dominant may still be a stretch. Adding Jay Ajayi makes this offense look very good for the stretch run, and the defense was never the concern.
I’ll keep most of these short and sweet since I went into detail above. Without further adieu, the picks!
Minnesota Vikings (6-2) at Washington Redskins (4-4)
Line: WAS +1.5
I feel like Minnesota is due for a car crash game. You can’t expect to go forever without your top running back and top two quarterbacks in the NFL. Washington’s offense is good enough to pressure Minny’s D. I feel like the line should be higher in Minnesota’s favor, but I’m still calling it an upset special. Redskins 27 – Minnesota 13
Green Bay Packers (4-4) at Chicago Bears (3-5)
Line: CHI -5.5
The Bears defense is good and the Pack’s offense has been nonexistent since Rodgers went down. Bears 24 – Packers 16
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) at Indianapolis Colts (3-6)
Line: IND +10
My friend is a Colts fan and is so afraid of Pittsburgh that he thinks this will be over by the end of the first quarter. Recent history would suggest that the Steelers love playing against the Colts, but the Steelers have looked a little lost on offense this season. Is this the break out game? Just for his amusement, let’s assume it is. Steelers 41 – Colts 24
Los Angeles Chargers (3-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3)
Line: JAX -3.5
Philip Rivers against a heavy pressure, ball hawking defense? No thanks. Jags 37 – Chargers 21
New York Jets (4-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6)
Line: TB +2.5
Jameis Winston is so immature. I’ve never liked him, but he hasn’t grown up seemingly at all. You need some maturity in your quarterback. He’s the one that started the fight which led to his top receiver’s suspension for this game. Eating Ws may be the only way Jameis gets another one this season. Jets 23 – Bucs 17
Cincinnati Bengals (3-5) at Tennessee Titans (5-3)
Line: TEN -4.5
I’m still trying to incite a quarterback controversy in Cincy. It isn’t working. Titans 27 – Bengals 20
New Orleans Saints (6-2) at Buffalo Bills (5-3)
Line: BUF +3
The Saints have won six straight after opening the season 0-2. The only other teams to do that were the 1993 Cowboys and 2007 Giants. Both won the Super Bowl. Draw your own conclusions. Saints 30 – Bills 21
Cleveland Browns (0-8) at Detroit Lions (4-4)
Line: DET -11
I think that Hue Jackson is a decent football coach and that he deserves another year in Cleveland to try to turn this thing around. New-wave rock band Sashi Brown and the Front Office Experiment? Not so much. Lions 23 – Browns 14
Houston Texans (3-5) at Los Angeles Rams (6-2)
Line: LAR -12
The Texans were just as good as I thought they’d be last week with Tom Savage back at the helm. That is to say, they were not good. Rams 38 – Texans 19
Dallas Cowboys (5-3) at Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
Line: ATL -3
Weird line. Dallas has the momentum, but lost Zeke Elliott (again). Atlanta has been playing uninspired to bad football recently, but they’re favored over the team with a better record. It’s time for Mr. Prescott to step up to the plate and show us what he’s got. Cowboys 33 – Falcons 28
New York Giants (1-7) at San Francisco 49ers (0-9)
Line: SF +2.5
Aye-yai-yai. Giants 21 – Niners 19
New England Patriots (6-2) at Denver Broncos (3-5)
Line: DEN +7.5
Thank Goodell for flex scheduling. The original Sunday Night game was the previous matchup. Not that this is really that much better, regardless of who Denver starts at quarterback. Patriots 45 – Broncos 20
Miami Dolphins (4-4) at Carolina Panthers (6-3)
Line: CAR -9
Is Carolina a better team than Miami? Yes. Can they beat them by 9 or more? Yes. Will they? Anybody’s guess. Panthers 31 – Dolphins 20
Last Week ML: 10-3
Last Week ATS: 7-5-1