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NFL Power Rankings, Week 8: Buccaneers hit top three; Cowboys' fall continues

The Buccaneers crash the top five for the first time this season, adding some much-needed conference balance at the very top of the NFL Power Rankings.

A look at the top 10 reveals an even split: five AFC teams, five NFC teams. The reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs are in the No. 1 spot for the fifth time in seven weeks, while the defending NFC champion 49ers are inching back toward the top 10 in a season filled with turbulence.

As for the NFC East? Three of the teams have now settled into a cocoon of sadness out near Jetsland. Egads.

Don't like where your favorite team sits in the rankings? I'd suggest you reach out to their team headquarters and request they play better. Let's get to it:

Kansas City Chiefs

Previous rank: No. 1

The Chiefs can blow you out even when Patrick Mahomes plays quarterback like a mortal. Mahomes managed just one touchdown pass and 200 yards through the air, but Kansas City still hung a 40-burger on the Broncos because the team made game-changing plays in all phases of the game. Daniel Sorensen had a pick-six. Byron Pringle had a 102-yard kickoff return. Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran through four would-be tacklers on a touchdown jaunt. Playing in frigid conditions, Mahomes failed to record a single third-down conversion, but the Chiefs continue to show they don’t live and die on the arm of their all-world QB. This was the second straight week that weather conditions kept the air attack at bay -- you get the feeling a bombs-away affair is coming. Oh look, there’s the Jets in Week 8.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Previous rank: No. 2

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. The Steelers fell into a funk in the second half against the Titans, but Stephen Gostkowski pushed a game-tying 45-yard field-goal attempt wide right to ensure a 27-24 Steelers win in Nashville. Ben Roethlisberger had an up-and-down day that included three interceptions, but the Pittsburgh offense continues to showcase its depth, with new playmakers stepping up each week. On Sunday, it was Diontae Johnson, who had two first-half touchdown receptions in his return from a back injury. JuJu Smith-Schuster also regained his place in the game plan, finishing with nine catches for 85 yards on a whopping 14 targets. Chase Claypool, the breakout star of recent weeks, was targeted just once and finished with one catch for minus-2 yards. The Steelers are 6-0 for the first time since 1978. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Previous rank: No. 6

We know the Bucs have a championship-caliber defense. But what would happen if you paired that elite unit with peak-level Tom Brady? The G.O.A.T. passed like it was 2007 on Sunday, rolling up 369 yards and four touchdowns in a blowout of the Raiders in Vegas. Speaking of crank-back-the-clock performances, Rob Gronkowski has knocked off the rust and is starting to play a bit like the guy who tore apart the league with Brady back in their New England salad days. And while Gronk partied, the defense made life hell for Derek Carr, who was completely stymied by Devin White and Co. as the Bucs pulled away in the second half. This is the best team in the NFC.

Baltimore Ravens

Previous rank: No. 4

How could you not love the win-now move by Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta, who pulled the trigger on a trade last week to import Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue from the Vikings for a pair of draft picks? Ngakoue gives John Harbaugh a bookend pass rusher to line up opposite Matthew Judon, bringing more ferocity to a defense that entered the Week 7 bye tops in football in points allowed per game (17.3) and tied for second in sacks (22). Ngakoue’s ability to win one-on-one battles and cause havoc adds another dimension to a Baltimore D that typically relies on blitzing to get to the passer. The next five weeks will bring matchups against Ben Roethlisberger (Week 8 and 12), Philip Rivers, Cam Newton and Ryan Tannehill. Baltimore’s defense should be ready for the challenge.

Green Bay Packers

Previous rank: No. 7

When Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams are locked in, there is no more terrifying twosome in football. The All-Pro QB looked to his star receiver early and often on Sunday, turning 16 targets into 13 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout of the Texans. Adams finished with the most receiving yards by a Green Bay player since Jordy Nelson’s 209 in Week 2 of 2014. It also marked Adams’ second day this season with 13-plus catches -- he gathered 14 back in Week 1. A great team performance by the Packers, who put a disappointing Week 6 loss to the Bucs in the rearview.

Seattle Seahawks

Previous rank: No. 5

The Seahawks have relied on their offense to bail them out on a weekly basis, a formula that worked across five straight wins because Russell Wilson played like a demigod. But Sunday night was a reminder Seattle needs to be more well-rounded to make this season special. Wilson and the offense sputtered out in the final quarter and overtime against the Cardinals, and the defense -- unable to rely on the safety net it had enjoyed all year -- failed to rise to the occasion in a 37-34 loss. This one was every bit as painful as the Week 5 prime-time comeback against the Vikings was exhilarating. Kyler Murray wasn’t sacked once as the Cardinals rolled up over 500 yards of offense and wiped out a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes of regulation. Seattle's defense needs serious help.

Tennessee Titans

Previous rank: No. 3

We’ll give Mike Vrabel’s team credit for showing some moxie. The Titans didn’t pack it in after falling behind the Steelers by 20 points in the third quarter, chipping away at the deficit and eventually putting themselves in position for a game-tying field-goal attempt in the final minute. Unfortunately, Bad Stephen Gostkowski returned, and Tennessee’s comeback bid fell short. Gostkowski’s inconsistent performance remains a concern, but this loss should be hung on a defense that couldn’t get enough stops. Pittsburgh converted on 13 of its 18 third downs, keeping the defense on the field and, more importantly, keeping Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry pinned to the bench. The Titans were hammered in the time-of-possession battle, and it cost them.

Buffalo Bills

Previous rank: No. 8

The Jets did indeed prove to be a get-right opponent for the Bills, but an 18-10 win didn’t exactly follow the expected game script. Buffalo fell behind 10 points in the first half and failed to score a touchdown -- instead relying on six Tyler Bass field goals across eight (!) attempts to account for all their scoring. Sunday was about the long-delayed rise of the Bills defense, which dominated the second half to snap a two-game skid. Buffalo’s defense allowed just 4 yards in the second half -- not a typo -- and was led by Jerry Hughes, who wreaked havoc in the backfield and came down with the game-sealing interception on a deflection in the final minutes. 

Los Angeles Rams

Previous rank: No. 9

Jared Goff and the Rams' offense are in a tentative place right now, but Los Angeles continues to stack wins because its defense is doing the job. The Bears couldn't get anything going on Monday night, held to just 279 yards with little hope of success on the rare occasion they entered the red zone. Leonard Floyd, a former first-round pick in Chicago, had two of Los Angeles' four sacks, and Jalen Ramsey came down with the game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter. But if you're looking for a star of the game, check out the punter who might be headed to Canton someday. Johnny Hekker had five punts, each downed inside the 10-yard line. In a low-scoring, field-position-driven game, Hekker was a nuclear weapon.

New Orleans Saints

Previous rank: No. 10

Playing without his top two receivers, Drew Brees led the Saints to their most efficient offensive performance of the season in a 27-24 win over the Panthers. The veteran passer accounted for three touchdowns and threw for 287 yards, connecting with eight different receivers in a classic Brees clinic of efficiency. Reserve wideout Marquez Callaway made the most of his opportunity, finishing with eight catches for 75 yards in an impact performance that should warrant continued playing time, even when Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders return. And what else can be said about Alvin Kamara, who didn’t crack the end zone but now has five straight games with more than 100 yards from scrimmage? He has been the rock for the Saints all season, the team’s unquestioned MVP.

Arizona Cardinals

Previous rank: No. 14

An incredible comeback win for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, who rolled up 519 yards on the Seahawks and became the first team this season to put a dent in Seattle’s previously impervious Let Russ Cook campaign. The Cardinals were gashed for 572 total yards -- including 300 yards of total offense by Russell Wilson in the first half alone -- but they also forced the star QB into three interceptions, including the Isiah Simmons pick in overtime that set up Zane Gonzalez’s game-winner. The defense also forced Seattle into two punts in the drives preceding the Simmons interception, a stand that allowed Arizona to wipe out a 34-24 deficit with less than seven minutes to play in regulation. A thrilling win that raises the bar in the desert.

Cleveland Browns

Previous rank: No. 15

A hugely important performance by Baker Mayfield, who silenced the doubters (temporarily, anyway) in a 37-34 shootout win over the Bengals. After starting the game 0-for-5 with an interception on his first throw, Mayfield completed 22 of his final 23 attempts, posting a perfect passer rating in the final three quarters. Baker’s only incompletion was a clock-killing spike that preceded his game-winning 24-yard touchdown strike to Donovan People-Jones in the final minute. Baker went on his rampage without Odell Beckham, who suffered a knee injury on Mayfield's initial pick that was later diagnosed as a season-ending ACL tear. A crushing blow for Beckham, but Sunday showed us the Browns can still be explosive without their high-profile star.

San Francisco 49ers

Previous rank: No. 17

The 49ers got a jump-start on Halloween by crawling out of their own grave. Left for dead after a 2-3 start to the season with a seemingly impossible stretch of opponents ahead on the schedule, the Niners have righted the ship with back-to-back quality wins. On Sunday, it was a beatdown of the Patriots in Foxborough, a victory that had to be extra rewarding for ex-Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator of the Falcons during their infamous Super Bowl LI collapse. The Niners whipped the Pats by staying true to themselves: According to ESPN, the Niners ran by design or used play-action on 51 of their 63 offensive plays (81%), the highest percentage by any team in a game this season. Shanahan’s scheme works, even when he doesn’t have his best players available.

Indianapolis Colts

Previous rank: No. 16

This stat, from ESPN’s Mike Wells, provides a neat summation of the start of the Philip Rivers era in Indianapolis: In the Colts’ four wins, Rivers has thrown for 992 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. In their two losses, he’s passed for 662 yards with one TD and four picks. If you look at the landscape of veteran QBs who changed teams in 2020, he sits somewhere in the middle: He hasn’t made the impact of Tom Brady in Tampa, but he’s not the liability that Cam Newton has become in New England. He’s ... pretty much the same Phil Rivers. Can Frank Reich help Rivers weed out his everlasting penchant for game-changing turnovers? If not, this Colts season will likely end up like so many of Rivers’ years in San Diego and L.A. High points, low points, ultimately unfulfilled promise.

Las Vegas Raiders

Previous rank: No. 13

The Raiders passed on linebacker Devin White to select Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. You wonder if that was running through the minds of Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock on Sunday as White -- who went to Tampa Bay one pick after Ferrell in that draft -- destroyed the Raiders in a 45-20 Bucs win. White was everywhere, finishing with nine solo tackles, three sacks and one tackle for loss. While we’re here, Ferrell has 11 solo tackles all season and has yet to register a sack or forced fumble. It’s still early ... but it might not be too early to acknowledge the Raiders made a mistake.  

Chicago Bears

Previous rank: No. 11

The Bears had an opportunity on Monday night to show America their fast start wasn’t a fluke. Instead, a 24-10 loss to the Rams reinforced everything the doubters assumed: This is an average team with a very good defense and a deeply mediocre offense. That combination was good enough to get Chicago to 5-1, but all the team’s deficiencies are laid bare when the competition jumps up. Nick Foles was a sitting duck all game, pressured into a series of low-percentage throws and pointless checkdowns. His inability to make plays with his legs jumps out in the modern NFL -- if the Bears can’t scheme anyone open and his receivers don’t win one-on-one, darkness descends. Matt Nagy deserves some flak for an unimaginative attack, as well -- this is just a drab offense. The surging Saints are up next.

Los Angeles Chargers

Previous rank: No. 18

The Justin Herbert Show continues. The rookie quarterback put together another stellar performance against the Jaguars, setting career highs in passing yards (347) and rushing yards (66) in a 39-29 win. Those 66 rushing yards also represented a franchise record. (It’s possible Philip Rivers didn’t have 66 rushing yards total in 16 years with the Bolts.) The Chargers jumped out to an early lead, then fell behind in the third quarter before the Herbert-led attack exploded for 20 points in the final 5:34 of the period. The defense put the clamps on Gardner Minshew after that, and Herbert finally had his first career win. Beat the Broncos in Denver this week, and people are going to start seeing the Chargers as a playoff contender. I’m already there.

New England Patriots

Previous rank: No. 12

It's difficult to find positives for the Patriots as they attempt to regroup from the worst home loss of the Bill Belichick era. New England was blown out on Sunday because the defense made Niners reserve running back Jeff Wilson look like a young Gale Sayers, and Cam Newton remains completely lost at sea since his return from the COVID-19 list. Newton threw three interceptions and managed just 98 passing yards before being benched in favor of Jarrett Stidham early in the fourth quarter. After the game, Belichick said Newton will "absolutely" remain the starter, but that may speak more to the coach's lack of a better option than to a belief that Cam will turn it around. That this is all happening while Tom Brady thrives in Tampa serves as an extra twist of the knife.

Carolina Panthers

Previous rank: No. 19

A classic what-if loss for the Panthers. Teddy Bridgewater took a sack on the team's penultimate play from scrimmage, turning a potential 57-yard game-tying field-goal attempt into a 65-yard would-be record-setting prayer. That prayer was almost answered, too, as Joey Slye's kick was dead center and missed the crossbar by a foot or so. "I have the leg strength to kick further than that," Slye lamented after the 27-24 loss. Frustrating stuff, but Carolina's ability to go punch for punch with the Saints in the Superdome reinforces what we already knew: Matt Rhule's team is well-coached and well-populated with playmakers who can make things happen, even with Christian McCaffrey's lingering absence.  

Miami Dolphins

Previous rank: No. 20

It's Tua Time in Miami. We didn't see it coming, nor did Ryan Fitzpatrick, but you understand why Brian Flores and the braintrust made the switch. At 3-3, the Dolphins are a surprising participant in the playoff race, an underdog squad hoping to play the Cinderella role in January. But what if Tua Tagovailoa is an immediate-impact performer? What if he can give Miami the Herbert Lift? It's a worthy dice roll that lowers the Dolphins' floor but also lifts their ceiling. Flores' challenge is to stick with the decision, even if rookie growing pains end up taking the Fins out of the playoff picture.

Detroit Lions

Previous rank: No. 22

What a relief it must have been for the Lions to be on the winning end of a dramatic finish for once. Todd Gurley's inability to stop his momentum gave the Lions life, and Matthew Stafford potentially saved Detroit's season with a 75-yard touchdown drive that spanned 64 seconds. That the Lions did it without the aid of a timeout made their comeback all the more unlikely. Stafford's winning touchdown pass was completed to T.J. Hockenson, who now has three scores in his last three games and is starting to tap into the promise that made him a first-round pick a year ago. The Lions get the Colts at home before the schedule lightens up. This is their chance to make a move.

Philadelphia Eagles

Previous rank: No. 23

Beware of Post-54 Carson Wentz. If you don't destroy the monster in the first 53 minutes of game time, he will kill your season and haunt your dreams. Just ask the Giants, who let Philadelphia hang on the periphery on Thursday night, to disastrous results. Wentz's stat line over the final two drives: 5-for-7, 121 yards, two touchdowns, 153.3 passer rating. The first of those scoring drives covered 78 yards on four plays; the second, 71 yards on six. Given the Cowboys' retreat into laughingstock status, the Eagles have a wide-open path to an NFC East title and a home playoff game. Just need to find a way to win eight games ... or seven ... OK, maybe six. Yeah, probably five.

Denver Broncos

Previous rank: No. 21

If the Broncos want to be taken seriously in the AFC West, let's start with being mildly competitive against the Chiefs. We're not there yet, as evidenced by the 43-16 thumping at frigid Mile High on Sunday. That's 10 straight losses to Kansas City, turning this one-time rivalry into a one-sided party. The Broncos were blown out despite holding Patrick Mahomes to 200 passing yards and a single touchdown. It spoke to how poorly Denver played in all other phases of the game. A frazzled Drew Lock was part of the problem, and it's not unfair to start wondering if Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway has -- once again -- misjudged his own quarterback room.

Houston Texans

Previous rank: No. 24

The Texans managed some late cosmetic work to make things look respectable, but it was ultimately another one-sided affair in a loss to the Packers on Sunday. It's another example of how far Houston has fallen, and how much work must be done to return this team to contender status. "S--- sucks, honestly," Deshaun Watson said after the game. "I mean, this is new to me, so I'm going through it just like everyone else." Added J.J. Watt: "Frustrated, I'm angry. I mean, it sucks. I don't know what else I'm supposed to feel." Watt is 31 with a long list of injuries: Will he still be around when the Texans get back on track? The only hope is that the presence of Watson will expedite the process.

Atlanta Falcons

Previous rank: No. 25

The Falcons always find a way ... just not in the way their fans would like. Who else but this team could turn a go-ahead touchdown run with 1:04 to play into the opening salvo of another football tragedy? Matthew Stafford needed just 64 seconds to take the Lions 75 yards to a game-winning touchdown after Todd Gurley's accidental score, and Atlanta was again the talk of the league for the worst possible reason. You wonder if Dan Quinn watched the end of this latest collapse. As he sat on his couch with a beer and a bowl of popcorn, did he lament no longer being part of the action? Or was he relieved to be free of the Falcons' enduring pain? Let us know, DQ.

Minnesota Vikings

Previous rank: No. 27

When the Vikings acquired Yannick Ngakoue via trade in late August, it was a clear signal the organization was going all-in on a Super Bowl run. His trade last week tells us management now sees the 2020 Vikings as broken beyond repair, a 1-5 team that's as bad as its last-place record indicates. Regaining draft capital for a veteran on an expiring contract makes sense, even if it puts head coach Mike Zimmer in the difficult position of motivating a locker room that knows the bosses are already looking ahead to 2021 with 10 games to play.

Cincinnati Bengals

Previous rank: No. 28

So close, yet so far. The Bengals continue to hang with most opponents on their schedule, but an inability to close continues to haunt them. Cincinnati was beaten in the final minute by Baker Mayfield and the Browns on Sunday; it was the team's third loss of the season in a game in which it entered the fourth quarter with a lead. The Bengals have made undeniable progress from a competitive standpoint, with super rookie Joe Burrow under center, but the results aren't there for Zac Taylor, who has three wins in 23 games as head coach and a 1-12-1 record in one-score games. He might need to find a way to win a few of these games over the season's final two months to ensure he still has the faith of ownership.

Washington Football Team

Previous rank: No. 30

Washington hit its Week 8 bye on a high note, manhandling the hated Cowboys in a 25-3 win that cast America's Team deeper into the abyss. Outplaying an injury-ravaged and dysfunctional Dallas team is no tall order, but it's how Washington did it that makes you optimistic. Kyle Allen played a steady game that justified Ron Rivera's decision to move away from former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, while Antonio Gibson ran for 128 yards and a touchdown, another sign he could be a long-term answer in the backfield. Functional QB play also allowed Terry McLaurin to get going again, with seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. We know the Washington defense can play -- if the offense can get to average, they have a real chance in the NFC East.

New York Giants

Previous rank: No. 29

You have to wonder if Daniel Jones -- and really, this entire era of Giants football -- will be remembered for the quarterback's would-be breakaway touchdown run ruined by the villainous turf monster. It wasn't Butt Fumble bad, but it was the type of lowlight that can come to define a player. If Jones is lucky, he'll have a long career, and his tumble will be a minor footnote recalled only by diehards and snarky media folk like me. But if Jones doesn't pan out, and the Dave Gettleman regime is swept out in totality, we'll all remember Jones' gallop -- its majestic start and cruel end. Oh, and let's be fair to Danny Dimes: We're not even talking about this if Evan Engram makes that third-down catch late in the fourth quarter. No QB can do it alone.

Dallas Cowboys

Previous rank: No. 26

More embarrassment for the Cowboys on Sunday, this time in the form of a 25-3 loss to a Washington Football Team that shouldn't be blowing anyone out in 2020. Dallas is a complete mess, and it got messier when Andy Dalton was knocked out of action on an illegal hit by Washington linebacker Jon Bostic. After the game, Mike McCarthy called out his own team for not rallying around Dalton or getting after Bostic, who stood pretty much off on his own while Dalton was attended to and eventually carted off the field. The Cowboys are somehow still in the mix in a ridiculously watered-down NFC East, but this feels like a team that's burning down from the inside out.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Previous rank: No. 31

Did you see some of those looks from D.J. Chark as Gardner Minshew missed on downfield throws late in Sunday's 39-29 loss to the Chargers? Frustration is building for the Jaguars, who hit their bye coming off six straight losses after their season-opening win against the Colts. Let's try to stay positive: James Robinson, an undrafted rookie, has been a revelation, outplaying most of the first- and second-year running backs in the league through seven weeks. Robinson scored twice and had a career-high 119 rush yards and 137 scrimmage yards against Los Angeles, another productive day in a season that's been full of them. There's plenty of uncertainty in Jacksonville right now, but Robinson is securing his place in the franchise's future.

New York Jets

Previous rank: No. 32

Adam Gase relinquished play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains on Sunday, but the results were about the same in an 18-10 loss to the Bills. We saw an early spark as the Jets jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, but the offense was shut down completely after halftime in another grim performance. Sam Darnold was sacked six times and threw two interceptions in his return from a shoulder injury, and the Jets managed 4 total yards on 16 plays in the second half. With the Jets barreling toward the No. 1 overall pick, the clock is ticking louder than ever for Darnold. He'll need to be significantly better in the final nine weeks to stay in New York's long-term plans.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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