Wednesday, February 1 2023

Now, things can finally get interesting.

A shocking upset on Monday night capped another week in what has been an unpredictable season — even by NFL standards. And now that Philadelphia has lost and the 1972 Miami Dolphins can pop their champagne bottles, we can reset and move forward.

It’s that fun time of year when the results of September feel like ancient history, and the playoff picture continues to reshuffle. With that in mind, it’s at least somewhat surprising to see the top of the NFL Power Rankings take a new shape after one of the wackiest games we’ll see all year.

Let’s get into this week’s rankings. 

1. Minnesota Vikings (8-1)

Uh oh, is this happening? Yes, we know that Minnesota’s one loss was to Philadelphia, so how are they ranked above an 8-1 Eagles team? Simple. That 24-7 loss was all the way back in Week 2, and the Vikings have responded with seven straight wins — highlighted by an instant classic against Buffalo on Sunday. Are the Vikings the best team in the NFL? We’ll see. Right now, they’re certainly the hottest.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (8-1)

Let’s not penalize the Eagles too much for finally having a bad night two months into the season. Still, it was disconcerting to see the Philly defense allow Washington scoring drives of 13 plays, 12 plays, 16 plays, eight plays and 14 plays — and that’s on top of a four-turnover night from the offense. Not the end of the world, but not a pretty way to lose the win streak.

Commanders shock Eagles; missed penalty to blame?

Craig Carton and crew break down how much missed penalties, including a glaring face mask, may have influenced the outcome of Philly’s loss to Washington on Monday. Plus, what is the rest of the Eagles’ season going to look like?

3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)

An early kick against the Jaguars is supposed to be boring for this team, and it was. The highlight of a dominant win is that, as expected, the Chiefs offense looks even scarier with WR Kadarius Toney getting involved. The newest Chief finished with 90 all-purpose yards and a touchdown off just six touches. That’s a fun development.

4. Miami Dolphins (7-3)

Talk about firing on all cylinders. Since that clunky win against Pittsburgh in Tua Tagovailoa‘s return from injury, the Dolphins have scored 30-plus points in three straight games. We know the passing offense is explosive, but the decision to trade for Jeff Wilson is looking awfully smart, as he paced Miami’s ground game en route to 195 rushing yards.

5. Buffalo Bills (6-3)

It’s not time to panic, but it’s fair to be concerned about Josh Allen‘s recent form. The guy who looked like he was in cruise control has all of a sudden thrown six picks in three games — not a recipe for success. Buffalo getting healthier on defense will help, but the Bills need their team MVP to play like an NFL MVP.

6. Baltimore Ravens (6-3)

There’s a real opportunity here for the Ravens to make some noise coming out of their bye week. Their next four opponents are a combined 12-26, and there’s only one team on their remaining schedule that currently has a winning record. Time to make some hay.

7. New York Giants (7-2)

The final score was 24-16, but it never felt like the Giants were in danger of losing this game to Houston. Their offensive balance continues to impress, as Daniel Jones paired a mistake-free game with a 152-yard rushing effort from Saquon Barkley.

8. Dallas Cowboys (6-3)

The headlines were always going to be about Aaron Rodgers owning the Cowboys, but don’t sleep on the biggest problem in Dallas. Over the past four weeks, the Cowboys are allowing an average of 175 rushing yards per game. It’s hard to take them seriously as a contender until they get that sorted out.

How bad was the loss for the Cowboys?

The Packers upset the Cowboys 31-28 in OT in their Week 10 matchup. David Helman explains this was a bad loss for the Cowboys because they had so many opportunities to put the Packers away and could not do so.

9. Tennessee Titans (6-3)

If we’re being honest, the Titans just aren’t built to put up a ton of style points on offense. But their defense is nasty enough to hold three of their past four opponents to 10 points, which is plenty impressive in its own right. Slowly but surely, they seem to be putting a stranglehold on the AFC South.

10. New York Jets (6-3)

Take the week off, watch one of your biggest rivals lose in heartbreaking fashion, bumping you into second place in the AFC East. Not a bad bye week for the Jets, who now have a chance to even the season record against New England.

11. San Francisco 49ers (5-4)

Not exactly the fireworks display we were expecting against the Chargers, given all the big names on offense. But that’s OK if your defense is capable of pitching a second-half shutout. If everyone is healthy (which, to be fair, is a big if), this is a team that boasts about a half dozen different ways to win.

Are 49ers holding Jimmy Garoppolo back too much?

The Niners defeated the depleted Chargers 22-16 Sunday night. Jimmy Garoppolo went 19-of-28 for 240 yards and had a rushing touchdown and a 94.3 passer rating. Colin Cowherd explains why the 49ers need to “let Jimmy G rip it” more.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

Given the way their seasons have diverged, it’s astonishing to remember that the Bengals lost their season opener to Pittsburgh. Ja’Marr Chase figures to be out for at least a few more weeks, but the return date against the Steelers this weekend is one the Bengals simply have to win.

13. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)

There was the sluggish start and the costly turnover from Geno Smith. But honestly, the most troubling aspect of the loss in Munich was the way Seattle got run over by a typically anemic Tampa Bay ground game. It’s not cause for too much alarm, as the Seahawks still lead their division, but it’s an issue that needs fixing.

14. New England Patriots (5-4)

It’s interesting how much the Bills’ recent losses have opened up one of the most competitive divisions in the league. For all the focus on the Jets, the Patriots host them this week and are just a win away from seriously making some noise in the playoff picture.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)

Don’t look now, but here come the Bucs. That win in Germany was their second straight, and now they get a week off to rest for the stretch run. Oh, by the way, don’t forget that they seem to have a lock on their division despite a .500 record. Such is the state of the NFC South. It’s too soon to say the Buccaneers are really and truly back, but it was always too soon to write them off.

Are Tom Brady, Bucs contenders again?

Tom Brady and the Buccaneers improved to 5-5 on the season after beating the Seahawks 21-16 in Munich. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe determine how much should teams fear the Bucs in the NFC.

16. Los Angeles Chargers (5-4)

Credit to the Chargers for playing tough despite a list of injuries that’s about a mile long. Still, no one wants to hear excuses, and 238 yards just isn’t good enough for an offense led by Justin Herbert — regardless of who else is missing from the lineup.

17. Washington Commanders (5-5) 

Ultimately, it’s the Commanders coaches who will choose who starts between Taylor Heinicke and Carson Wentz. But having just watched Heinicke take Washington into Philadelphia and take down the unbeaten Eagles, improving his record on the season to 3-1, it doesn’t feel like a difficult choice. This team has had a different energy since Heinicke took over as the signal-caller.

18. Green Bay Packers (4-6)

There they are, the Packers we’ve been waiting to see all season. Led by a dominant ground game, Aaron Rodgers and his young receivers made just enough plays to complement a well-rounded effort, and the Packers stole a win that probably shouldn’t have happened. It looked like it could be the start of something special — or is it too little, too late?

Are Aaron Rodgers, Packers back after defeating Cowboys?

It didn’t look promising, with Aaron Rodgers down 14 against Dak Prescott, but the Packers came from behind to win in overtime. Craig Carton talks the biggest takeaways from the matchup.

19. Cleveland Browns (3-6)

Despite being without their starting quarterback all season, the Browns have rarely lost because of their offense’s inability to score points. Much more often than not, it’s been a shockingly bad effort on defense. Obviously, the Dolphins are one of the best offenses in the league, but allowing 500 yards and 39 points speaks for itself.

20. Arizona Cardinals (4-6)

It’s not as if the Cardinals were noticeably better without Kyler Murray, though they did find a way to get the job done. It’s still hard to figure out this team’s identity, which seems troubling after 10 games. If DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore can consistently produce like they did Sunday when Murray returns, good things could happen.

21. Detroit Lions (3-6) 

The opposition doesn’t matter; win streaks are not to be taken for granted in Detroit. Having beaten the Packers and Bears, the Lions are enjoying their first win streak since 2020. The 31-30 win against Chicago was also the first time they’ve overcome a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter since 1993. Little victories are important when you’re trying to rebuild a culture.

22. Denver Broncos (3-6)

Turns out the bye week isn’t a cure-all. This was more of the same for Denver: a strong defensive performance, completely wasted by an offense that found the end zone just one time against Tennessee. Granted, it’s hard to score points when your offensive line is surrendering six sacks, but no one in Denver wants to hear that after the ineptitude we’ve watched all season.

23. Atlanta Falcons (4-6)

Thursday night football is tough, and it’s even worse on the road in the rain. But that’s no excuse for practically getting run off the field by a bad Carolina team. Throughout the season, the Falcons’ biggest calling card has been that they’re a tough out. That’s why it was shocking that it never truly felt like Atlanta was in this game.

24. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7)

This won’t make anyone wearing teal feel better, but at least this one followed the script. The Jags have spent much of this season losing games that they should have won — or at least had a chance to win. The Chiefs spared them that heartbreak this time around, as this was a beating from beginning to end.

25. Chicago Bears (3-7) 

For the Bears, it’s awful. This team has become so fun to watch in the past month, but they just can’t close out games. Sunday’s collapse against a woeful Detroit team is the most painful of three straight losses. On the bright side for Bears fans, this isn’t a terrible place to be. Justin Fields is emerging as the star we thought he might be, and the team is still maintaining a lofty draft position for next spring. That might not feel good right now, but it could pay dividends in the long run.

26. Indianapolis Colts (4-5-1)

We’ll see what it means in the big picture, but it had to have been a fun night for Jeff Saturday. More important than any coaching change, though, is that Matt Ryan looked more like himself in his return from the bench — and the Colts finally got the Jonathan Taylor we remember from last season.

Jay Glazer reveals backstory of Jeff Saturday hiring

Jay Glazer reveals the Colts’ thought process in hiring Jeff Saturday and the future of Saturday’s status with the team. 

27. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)

Being a rookie quarterback is all about taking lumps, and nothing signifies that more than Kenny Pickett getting hit for six sacks in a winning effort over the Saints. Let’s not call this a pretty win or a good team, but it’s at least nice to be less-bad than someone else. And building up your young QB’s confidence is never a bad thing.

28. Los Angeles Rams (3-6)

You can’t even lean on the excuse that L.A. was without its starting quarterback, because the same can be said for Arizona, which shellacked the Rams with Colt McCoy at the helm. Respectfully, it just kind of feels like this Rams season is over. The offensive line is decimated, the run game is non-existent, and now Cooper Kupp is hurt again. This is a situation where you’d reset the console if you could.

29. New Orleans Saints (3-7)

The Saints’ lowest win total in the past 16 years is seven. So, barring some kind of major turnaround, we’re looking at New Orleans’ worst record since before Sean Payton and Drew Brees got to town. Even with T.J. Watt back in the Pittsburgh lineup, scoring just 10 points against the Steelers feels like a low point.

30. Carolina Panthers (3-7)

Nice job by the Panthers to rebound from one of the most lopsided losses of the NFL season to snag a division win at home. It’s especially cool to see D’Onta Foreman making the most of an opportunity, rushing for 100-plus yards for the third time in four weeks.

31. Houston Texans (1-7-1)

Another week, another recipe for a Texans loss. This team is literally always competitive but just simply not talented enough to hang with most of its opponents for a full four quarters. The Texans are on pace to finish with the league’s worst record, yet their average margin of defeat is just nine points. That’s weirdly impressive in its own right.

32. Las Vegas Raiders (2-7)

Everyone in the league has talent, and easy games are hard to come by. But it’s such a bad look for the Raiders to drop a game to a Colts team that just went through the most unprecedented coaching change in modern memory. Josh McDaniels has been coaching in the NFL for 20 years, he’s been with the Raiders since last winter and he’s had two months to get a finger on the pulse of his team. He just lost to a guy who has never coached above the high school level, who just got to Indianapolis a week ago. Bad, bad look.

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter @davidhelman_.


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