With Week 7 of the 2011 NFL season officially in the books, here’s a look at the 2011 NFL Power Rankings for Week 8–with the team’s previous rank listed in parenthesis.
1. (1) Green Bay Packers (7-0): Another week, another impressive performance by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers after last year’s Super Bowl MVP threw for 335 yards to go along with three touchdowns. The Vikings looked like they were going to make this an interesting game at halftime until Rodgers blew up in the second half. This team will continue to roll as long as Rodgers stays healthy and it’s hard to believe they could be just a few wins away from already clinching a playoff spot.
2. (2) New England Patriots (5-1): Coming off of a bye, the Patriots will certainly be heavily tested over the next three weeks with key games against the Steelers, Giants, and Jets. This team looks like a strong contender with the league’s top offense, but their last-ranked defense is still a reason to be concerned after the Cowboys proved in Week 6 that it’s possible to contain Tom Brady and company.
3. (6) New Orleans Saints (5-2): How good was Drew Brees in Week 7? Put it this way–how many times has a quarterback recorded more touchdown passes than incomplete passes during a football game? Even if it was against a winless Colts’ squad, the Saints put on one heck of a performance on Sunday night in a game that was over in the third quarter. New Orleans shattered their previous franchise record after scoring 62 points on Indianapolis and took over sole possession of first place in the process thanks to Tampa Bay losing in London.
4. (8) Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2): After a shaky 2-2 start, the Steelers finally look like the defending AFC Champions again after winning three-straight games–with their latest win coming on Sunday over the Cardinals. Not only has Ben Roethlisberger looked phenomenal over the last three weeks, but the defense has looked sharp as well–allowing just 50 points over the last three games. With a favorable schedule from here on out, Pittsburgh should have no problem reaching the playoffs for the eighth time in 11 seasons.
5. (4) San Francisco 49ers 5-1: No team seems to have an easier path to the playoffs than the 49ers considering they are coming off the bye with a three-game lead over the Seahawks in the division. San Francisco has been one of the biggest surprises so far this season with a stellar defense, but the offense needs to play better if this team has any chance of competing with the best–especially when it comes to Alex Smith and the passing game. On the bright side, at least Frank Gore–who has broken the 100-yard mark in each of his last three games–is finally living up to his contract.
6. (3) Baltimore Ravens (4-2): There are no words to describe the Ravens’ loss to the Jaguars on Monday Night Football other than pathetic. For a team that looked like a strong contender in the AFC over the last few weeks, Baltimore looked like they should have been considered the underdogs in Week 7. Jacksonville deserves credit for how they played on defense, but 16 yards on offense in the first half for Baltimore is nothing but embarrassing and don’t be surprised if Joe Flacco receives plenty of criticism after this loss.
7. (7) Buffalo Bills 4-2: Arguably one of the biggest surprises so far this season and it should be interesting to see how this team responds coming off the bye with two key home games against the Redskins and Jets the next two weeks. Just like the Patriots, the Bills are certainly talented enough to make a strong run at the playoffs consider both of their losses have been by three points, but the defense is still a reason for concern. How far this team will go lies on the shoulders of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson.
8. (5) Detroit Lions 5-2: Don’t look now–but these Lions have proven over the last two weeks they may not be as dominant after all. There’s no reason to hit the panic button yet considering both of their losses have come against two very talented teams in the 49ers and Falcons, but it’s also not a good sign that both losses came at Ford Field. On a different note, the Lions should consider themselves lucky that Matthew Stafford’s ankle injury is only minor because it’s difficult to see this team reach the playoffs without their star quarterback.
9. (15) Houston Texans 4-3: The Texans didn’t just beat the Titans–they absolutely destroyed them in what was a huge statement win to move back into first place in the division. What a game for Arian Foster after finding the end zone three times to go along with 234 yards from the line of scrimmage. Not a bad win for a team playing without Andre Johnson and Mario Williams, but Houston needs to figure out a way to play at this high level on a weekly basis. If they can do that, the AFC South is there’s to lose.
10. (18) New York Jets 4-3: Plaxico Burress caught three touchdown passes from Mark Sanchez. Shonn Greene finished with 112 rushing yards. The defense shutout the Chargers in the second half. What’s not to love about this win for the Jets? For a team under fire the last couple of weeks after dropping three straight following a 2-0 start, Rex Ryan has made his troops look like contenders again. However, this team will need to be on top of their game after the bye with two critical division matchups against the Bills and Patriots.
11. (9) San Diego Chargers 4-3: At halftime, it seemed like the Chargers were on their way to picking up their fifth win of the season. Unfortunately, that was far from the case as this team just fell apart in the second half and couldn’t seem to get anything going on offense. It was good to see Antonio Gates–who recorded his first touchdown catch of the season against the Jets–back in the lineup, but this team still has too many concerns in numerous areas to be considered a strong contender in the AFC–even if they are in first place in the division.
12. (12) New York Giants 4-2: For a division where teams have struggled to live up to their full potential, the Giants are in good shape coming off the bye and will look to pick up their fifth win of the season against the 0-6 Dolphins in Week 8. However, the real tests will come in Weeks 9 and 10 as New York faces two tough challenges on the road at New England and San Francisco. After missing out against the Seahawks in Week 5, this team knows every game is important from here on out to stay on top of the division.
13. (17) Chicago Bears 4-3: Why the Bears are hesitating to give Matt Forte the type of long-term deal he deserves is unknown–but it’s becoming a bit ridiculous. Forte put on quite the show for fans in London after rushing for 145 yards with one touchdown and Chicago is finally beginning to look like the team everybody expected them to be after winning the NFC North last division. After winning three of their last four games, the Bears will certainly be tested once they return from the bye with key games against the Eagles, Lions, and Chargers.
14. (13) Cincinnati Bengals 4-2: Nobody could have predicted the Bengals to be at 4-2 coming off a bye after the type of season they had in 2010. Not only has Andy Dalton exceeded all expectations as a rookie, but Cincinnati contains one of the top defenses in the NFL. However, they had a favorable schedule to start the season and still haven’t played Baltimore or Pittsburgh at all this season–so this team still has plenty to prove before determining whether or not they are contenders.
15. (11) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-3: The Buccaneers are one of those teams that just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to the injury bug after losing Earnest Graham–who was filling in for LeGarrette Blount–for the season after he tore his Achilles’ tendon against the Bears on Sunday. Despite the injury to Graham, it’s difficult for a team to win football games when their quarterback throws four interceptions. This team will go as far as Josh Freeman will take them and so far–he’s failed to perform at the level he’s capable of.
16. (19) Atlanta Falcons 4-3: Atlanta got off to a shaky 1-2 start, but they’ve managed to win three of their last four games to keep close with New Orleans in the NFC South. Sunday’s win on the road over the Lions was a huge statement that this team can compete with the contenders in the NFC, but they’re still nowhere near the level they were playing at in 2010. Even though it’s still a few weeks away, the Falcons game against the Saints on November 13 will show how much of a contender this team really is.
17. (10) Oakland Raiders 4-3: Give it a few more weeks before deciding whether or not the Raiders made the right move to bring in Carson Palmer since nobody should be expected to have an immediate impact on a new team with just a few days of practice. Still, this team was embarrassed by their division rivals as Palmer and Kyle Boller combined for six interceptions. For a team that was seen as one of the hottest teams in football over the first six weeks, this was a game to forget for the Raiders.
18. (20) Dallas Cowboys 3-3: Even if it was against the Rams, the Cowboys still have to be pleased with their win in Week 7 and the surprise emergence of DeMarco Murray–who set a franchise record with 253 rushing yards. Dallas is another one of those teams that seem to be better than their record indicates considering they were in position to win in each of their three losses. Sunday’s game against the Eagles should be considered a must-win for the Cowboys as the NFC East is still up for grabs at this point.
19. (14) Tennessee Titans 3-3: In a crucial game that would decide which team would be on top of the AFC South heading into Week 8–the Titans just simply didn’t show up on Sunday against the Texans. This team has pulled off some impressive wins in 2011, but Tennessee has been embarrassed over the last two weeks against teams that are considered strong contenders in the AFC–which says a lot about them. Glad to see Chris Johnson (18 rushing yards on 10 attempts) is living up to that hefty contract he received before the start of the season.
20. (16) Washington Redskins 3-3: After an impressive 3-1 start and a few weeks on top of the NFC East, the Redskins have lost two-straight games to two opponents with losing records. As if Sunday’s loss to Carolina wasn’t already enough to deal with, Washington has to play the rest of the season without starting running back Tim Hightower–who tore his ACL in Week 7. Not to mention Santana Moss is expected to miss five to seven weeks while recovering from a broken hand.
21. (23) Kansas City Chiefs 3-3: It’s hard to believe this team was 0-3 a few weeks ago and Todd Haley appeared to be on his way to unemployment. Now, the Chiefs look like one of the hottest teams in football after picking up their third-straight win thanks to an impressive outing on the road against the Raiders in Week 7. Even if Oakland played most of the game without star running back Darren McFadden, Kansas City’s defense deserves credit for the six interceptions they recorded in the shutout.
22. (25) Cleveland Browns 3-3: Who would have thought six points would be enough for the Browns to beat the Seahawks in Week 7? It was a sloppy win, but the defense deserves most of the credit for this one after holding Seattle to just three points while applying plenty of pressure on Charlie Whitehurst the entire game. Despite their 3-3 record, the Browns have been held to 17 points or less in five of their six games this season–which is a major reason for this team to be concerned.
23. (21) Philadelphia Eagles 2-4: No team was more of a disappointment over their first six games of the 2011 season than the Eagles. For a team loaded with talented on both sides of the ball, it was pathetic to see them lose four-straight games after a Week 1 win over the Rams–especially when considering three of those four losses resulted from blown double-digit leads in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia should be well rested after their bye, but every game is a “must-win” from here on out for the so-called Dream Team.
24. (24) Carolina Panthers 2-5: Cam Newton and Steve Smith have displayed some impressive performances throughout the 2011 season, but this was one of the more meaningful ones considering they picked up the win in the process. Carolina is much better than their record indicates and Newton continues to make a strong case for Rookie of the Year after completing 18 of 23 passes for 256 yards to go along with 59 rushing yards and two combined touchdowns. The fact that this team has already matched last year’s win total after just seven games is a great sign for the future.
25. (28) Jacksonville Jaguars 2-5: The Jaguars were considered a long shot by just about everybody who watches football in Week 7 and pulled off a huge upset against the Ravens in the national spotlight. Jacksonville’s defense looked phenomenal all game, but the offense continues to be a concern for this team as they still haven’t scored more than 20 points this season. Still, this was a great win for the Jaguars and should be a huge confidence booster for Blaine Gabbert. Give Josh Scobee credit too for drilling three field goals from beyond 50 yards.
26. (22) Seattle Seahawks 2-4: It has to be depressing for a team to hold their opponent to just six points and go on to lose the game–but it shows why Seattle contains the NFL’s 31st ranked offense. The Seahawks have to be one of the most difficult teams to figure out this season considering they scored 64 points combined against the Falcons and Giants only to record one field goal against the Browns in Week 7. Sadly, this team remains in second place in the NFC West–even though they’re three games behind the division-leading 49ers.
27. (27) Denver Broncos 2-4: What’s with all of the hype surrounding Tim Tebow’s first start of the 2011 season? Obviously, it was impressive that he helped the Broncos overcome a 15-0 deficit in the final minutes of the fourth quarter against the Dolphins before winning in overtime, but what about the first three and a half quarters where Tebow completed just 4 of 14 passes for 40 yards? This type of play won’t work every week for Denver and there’s still plenty of reason to be concerned about Tebow at quarterback.
28. (26) Arizona Cardinals 1-5: The Cardinals found themselves trailing early against the Steelers and they just couldn’t find a way to get back into the game as they suffered their fifth-straight loss. Remember all of that guaranteed money Arizona gave Kevin Kolb when they acquired him from Philadelphia? So far, Kolb is nowhere close to living up to that value as he continues to stay consistent in the passing game. The fact that Ken Whisenhunt hinted at a possible change at quarterback if Kolb continues to struggle over the next few weeks is just one of many examples as to how bad 2011 has been for the Cardinals so far.
29. (29) Minnesota Vikings 1-6: If there’s anything to take away from Sunday’s loss to the Packers, it’s Christian Ponder showed enormous potential for the Vikings in his first career start. Still, one lousy third quarter prevented Minnesota from pulling off what would have been a huge confidence boost for a team that is one of the biggest disappointments so far this season. They gave Green Bay a scare in the first half, but that fear quickly vanished after they were outscored 20-0 in the third quarter by the defending Super Bowl champions.
30. (31) Miami Dolphins 0-6: Only two words can describe Sunday’s loss to the Broncos–absolutely pathetic. Miami had this game in the bag before letting Tim Tebow and company overcome a 15-0 deficit in the final few minutes of the fourth quarter before losing in overtime. Tony Sparano needed this game more than anything considering how hot his coaching seat has been so far this season and Reggie Bush summed it up best by saying “this team stinks” when talking about the Dolphins.
31. (32) St. Louis Rams 0-6: Expectations weren’t high for the winless Rams against the Cowboys in Week 7 considering Sam Bradford was out with an ankle sprain. However, nobody expected the league’s worst rushing defense to allow a rookie in DeMarco Murray to set a franchise record for Dallas by finishing with 253 yards on the ground–including a 91-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Of the three teams still looking for their first win, St. Louis is the only team that won’t benefit from the “Suck For Luck” sweepstakes.
32. (32) Indianapolis Colts 0-7: This team was given some credit over the last few weeks considering how well they performed against some very talented teams–but there’s no excuse for what happened on Sunday night. To say the Colts were embarrassed in the national spotlight would be the understatement of the year after allowing the Saints to set a franchise record with 62 points and this game was well over before the fourth quarter even started. Even if Peyton Manning was healthy enough to play, this team wouldn’t be a playoff contender because their problem goes beyond the quarterback position as they seem to struggle at all positions.
Dan Parzych is the Lead NFL Content Editor for RantSports.com/NFL, where he writes and edits NFL content for RantSports.com.
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