Evan’s guide to all things NFL: Week 10 NFL power rankings

Analysis: Week 10 of the NFL season sees the best teams get better and the worst teams get worse


Photo: Maria Sallee

The Denver Broncos face the then St. Loius Rams before their move to Los Angeles at Raymond Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Biggest Jump: Packers, 7 spots

Biggest Fall: Cowboys, 7 spots


1. Eagles (8-1, no change from last week)

Every team ranked second to fifth make good bids for a number one overall ranking while the Eagles were on bye, but it’s simply impossible to knock the Eagles down at all until they lose again. Let’s look ahead to the rest of the regular season for Philadelphia: they’ll likely handle the Cowboys, who will be without Tyron Smith, Sean Lee and Ezekiel Elliott, get an easy win over the Bears, face consecutive tests against the Seahawks and Rams and then likely cruise to three easy wins in a row to close out the regular season. It’s difficult to imagine this team winning fewer than 14 games.


2. Rams (7-2, no change)

Jared Goff’s explosion this season is contributing to the reality that the 2016 class of rookie QBs is the best of all time. Dak Prescott was clearly the steal of the draft, but the one-two punch of Jared Goff and Carson Wentz has drastically affected the NFL. Both are playing unbelievably well, with Wentz leading the MVP race, but Goff’s improvement is the more surprising story. He looked so awful last season, but now he’s the reason the Rams are Super Bowl contenders. A strong draft in 2018 would put the Rams in prime position to lead the Super Bowl race next season.


3. Saints (7-2, no change)

As if we needed more evidence that the Saints have the best offense the NFL has seen in years, New Orleans throttled the Bills on Sunday, posting 47 points against the mediocre Bills. Mark Ingram absolutely dominated the Bills’ run defense, scoring three times and adding 131 rushing yards. And Alvin Kamara is seriously contesting Kareem Hunt for rookie of the year. Especially with Deshaun Watson out of the picture, Kamara probably has the best shot to win that honor – his playmaking ability is almost unmatched among young players, which leads me to declare that the Saints have, by far, the best backfield in the NFL.


4. Patriots (7-2, no change)

The Patriots round out the top four in the exact same order it was last week. It just didn’t make sense to move any of the teams around and the Patriots’ win over the Broncos is the least impressive of any of the top-ten teams’ wins this weekend. As I’ve said before, I give the edge to the Patriots rather than the Saints because the Saints have shown real improvement on the defensive side of the football, while the Patriots are mostly getting wins because of their high-powered offense and relatively easy schedule.


5. Vikings (7-2, up 1 spot)

You’ve probably observed this if you’ve paid any attention to the NFL this season, but the Vikings have been quite the surprise. The long-anticipated return of Teddy Bridgewater has been met with great relief from Vikings fans, but Case Keenum’s play as the starter has been more than satisfactory and it’s perfectly reasonable that the Vikings’ coaching staff is allowing him to retain the starting role until he slips up. Minnesota has the best chance to win the NFC North and they could make a deep playoff run if the QB situation is stable when the postseason arrives. Clearly, Teddy Bridgewater is starting-caliber, but it makes sense to ride Case Keenum’s hot hand until his hand is hot no more.


6. Steelers (7-2, down 1 spot)

The Steelers drop down one spot for a couple of reasons. One is that the other teams at the top of the rankings all performed incredibly well in Week 10, so it made sense to let them jump as needed and the other is that the Steelers nearly lost to the Colts. After going down 14 points, it took everything this team had to snatch a win from the jaws of defeat. The Steelers have the potential to be a Super Bowl-caliber team on one drive and then look absolutely putrid on the next. We’ll see where in the playoff picture they end up when the regular season concludes.


7. Panthers (7-3, up 3 spots)

The Panthers looked like their old selves, with Cam Newton playing at his MVP level and making very few mistakes. This team is defensive-minded, but there’s still plenty to be said for this offense, which looks rather mediocre on paper. Christian McCaffrey has stepped up his game in recent weeks, which perfectly complements Cam Newton’s elevated level of play. It’s obvious the Panthers can be bad at times, but when they get in rhythm, there’s no stopping them. You heard it here first: the Panthers are the sleeper team in their conference to dethrone the four NFC teams who sit above them in the rankings.


8. Jaguars (6-3, no change)

You might argue that the Jaguars don’t deserve to stay at eighth after they nearly lost to the Chargers, but like it or not, they pulled out the win and that takes talent. When a team is playing the clock management game for a last-gasp field goal to send the game to overtime and somehow manages to win in the overtime period, you have to recognize the intangibles that helped propel them to victory. The Jaguars seem to have hit their stride, which is huge. On paper, not everything is perfect, but they’re finding ways to win.


9. Chiefs (6-3, no change)

The Chiefs are in a state of limbo until they play another game. They’ve looked pretty bad in the past four games, only winning one of those and rookie standout Kareem Hunt has severely slowed down. The Chiefs are still very much in control of the inexplicably weak AFC West, but they’ll need to pick up the pace after they’ve had the bye week to rest. Alex Smith’s less-than-perfect play in recent weeks has moved him down in the MVP race, but he still has the chance to rebound.


10. Seahawks (6-3, up 1 spot)

When the Seahawks get the little victories, they also sustain setbacks. The acquisition of offensive lineman Duane Brown provided a boost to pass protection, but the defense just lost a gem in Richard Sherman. Sherman’s ruptured achilles will keep him out for the rest of the season, which severely wounds the Seahawks’ hopes at a deep playoff run. The “Legion of Boom” (the combination of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas) plays extremely good defense when they’re all on the field together, but when one or more of them is sidelined (Thomas is currently dealing with an injury as well), the Seahawks don’t play great defense.


11. Titans (6-3, up 1 spot)

The Titans forced me to rank them eleventh because of their 6-3 record, but if a few things had gone differently earlier, the record could easily be flipped to 3-6. They barely escaped a field goal shootout with the Browns (how can you only score 12 points against the Browns?), only won by a field goal against the mediocre Ravens and needed all 60 minutes to finish off the hapless Bengals. Tennessee clearly has the potential to be good, but they’re not realizing that potential yet.


12. Falcons (5-4, up 4 spots)

The Falcons lucked out with this ranking. Two other teams who share their 5-4 record were also in contention for this slot, but the Falcons beat them both. They made a statement with the win over the Cowboys on Sunday and Adrian Clayborn put on a clinic, recording six sacks. But that’s more of a poor reflection on the Cowboys than it is a positive reflection on the Falcons. The loss of Tyron Smith showed for the Cowboys and allowed the Falcons to dominate. With a difficult schedule remaining, the Falcons certainly don’t look like the favorite to come out of the NFC South, and if they miraculously make the playoffs as a wild card team, they’ll probably be forced out of the playoffs very quickly.


13. Lions (5-4, up 2 spots)

As is evident, the NFL has shaped itself into a three-tier entity. There is a clear and (arguably) indisputable top ten, there is a clear and (arguably) indisputable bottom ten and then there’s a dozens teams in the middle who might be playoff material, but also might be lucky to have won between three and five games. The Lions are the heart of this middle ground. There’s plenty going right for Detroit, but plenty going wrong. They’re not winning every game they have the ability to win and they’re making careless mistakes that are costing them.


14. Cowboys (5-4, down 7 spots)

Sunday’s loss to the Falcons was a learning curve for the Cowboys. It showed (a) how dreadfully important Ezekiel Elliott is to the offense’s efficiency, (b) how much of a difference maker Tyron Smith is at left tackle and (c) how much Dallas needs Sean Lee to “quarterback” the defense. Dak Prescott is a very good quarterback, but he needs help if the Cowboys want a real chance to succeed. The Cowboys are already too far behind the Eagles to try to win the NFC East and a wild card berth seems less and less likely as the season goes on.


15. Packers (5-4, up 7 spots)

The Packers are knocking on the door of catching up to the Lions in the NFC North race after an important win against the Bears in Week 10. Brett Hundley looked more comfortable than he has in any of his starts and Davante Adams carried the team as the clear number one receiver. The Packers’ already unstable backfield took a couple of hits, with rookie Aaron Jones going down with an MCL injury. Jones has looked great so far and he’s probably making every other team regret not drafting him. Furthermore, Ty Montgomery aggravated his rib injury and his status for the next few games is up in the air. That puts a lot of pressure on Jamaal Williams, but if he handles it well, the Packers’ season isn’t over yet.


16. Raiders (4-5, up 2 spots)

The Raiders didn’t do anything impressive in Week 10 because they had a bye and their season has been thoroughly unimpressive overall. But they still find themselves right in the middle of the rankings, because there aren’t many teams who have proven themselves to be much better than mediocre. The road to the playoffs for the Raiders is long and difficult, but it’s not entirely out of the question, especially if the Chiefs continue to falter.


17. Bills (5-4, down 3 spots)

The Bills have proven once again how terribly things can go on any given week. Tyrod Taylor was benched, which is a clear indication that the Bills don’t trust him as their QB. He’s been relatively stable as the starter, but it’s time for the Bills to move on. This week, they finally decided to do just that – Nathan Peterman will make his first start after Taylor’s horrendous performance against the Saints. It may finally be time to tank for the Bills, or perhaps they’ll find their franchise QB in Peterman.


18. Ravens (4-5, down 1 spot)

And so the up-and-down season for the Ravens continues. There’s not much to comment on after their bye week, but the main takeaway so far is that the Ravens have some great weeks and some horrible weaks. They have a few pieces in place to succeed, but not nearly enough. The end of the regular season will likely be very telling in regards to how they will approach their future, as will the next offseason and specifically the draft.


19. Redskins (4-5, down 6 spots)

The Redskins have so far missed out on their opportunities to contend in the NFC East, which is getting harder and harder to do as the Eagles continue to dominate. But with the Giants at their worst and the Cowboys struggling as they’re missing key players, the Redskins have an opportunity to sneak back into second place in the division and make a late-season playoff push. The situation that needs to be most closely monitored with this team, however, is Kirk Cousins’ possible departure in free agency.


20. Cardinals (4-5, up 1 spot)

The Cardinals are presented with a very interesting situation for the remainder of the season. With Carson Palmer unlikely to return, they’ll continue to look to Drew Stanton, unless his sprained knee continues to bother him. If that’s the case, third-string QB and notorious draft bust Blaine Gabbert would start. This presents an interesting situation: Gabbert is not starting-quality, which means the Cards would likely rely more heavily than ever on Adrian Peterson to control the offense, which would further his case to remain the starter for the rest of the regular season, even if David Johnson is healthy enough to play. Peterson’s future in Arizona could be decided by how well he plays during the rest of this season.


21. Chargers (3-6, down 1 spot)

For a team with high expectations going into the season, this has been a disappointing effort for the Chargers. Philip Rivers is far beyond his prime and likely near the end of his career, Melvin Gordon’s use and production is more of an indication that the passing game is regressing than it is an indication that Gordon is the future of the Bolts. Not to be over dramatic, but Austin Ekeler has shown more promise in limited usage than Melvin Gordon has in workhorse-level usage. Gordon can get yards and find the end zone, but his development seems stagnant.


22. Jets (4-6, down 3 spots)

I’ll continue to praise the Jets for winning four out of their first ten games – for most teams, it wouldn’t be worth batting an eye, but as I’ve said, this team wasn’t supposed to win more than one or two games. There are enough pieces that have fallen into place at this point that the Jets will be in a great position to win games next season. Sophomore wideout Robby Anderson has proven to be the obvious number one receiver, veteran Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a red zone target machine and both Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire have passing-down value as running backs. With a young, talented QB, the Jets will be the next team up in the AFC East.


23. Texans (3-6, no change)

This ranking almost seems too generous for a team that is absolutely nothing without its star QB. The offense can get nothing going, and the defense is mostly worthless without JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus. It may sound ridiculous, but I think there’s a chance the Texans don’t win another game this season. If they lose out, they’ll get a fresh start next season and a 3-13 record would guarantee them a very good draft pick they could use to select the perfect star to complement Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller.


24. Bengals (3-6, up 2 spots)

Somehow the Bengals lose and still manage to move up in the rankings. The reasoning is that they played the Titans closely and didn’t lose until Tennessee’s final drive. The Bengals are clearly a lost cause of a team, but I understand that they’re playing for pride. It’s worth noting that Marvin Lewis is as much on the hot seat as he’s ever been – he hasn’t led the Bengals to any major accomplishments in recent years and he took a jab at the Bengals’ first round draft pick John Ross when he said he’s letting his teammates down. There’s just no reason for him to be the head coach this year.


25. Dolphins (4-5, down 1 spot)

The Dolphins have been the talk of the NFL in recent weeks as they’ve been blown out in primetime three weeks in a row. It was an extremely questionable decision to give the tanking Dolphins three primetime games to begin with, but the fact that there have been three primetime matchups (one on Thursday, one on Sunday, and one on Monday) in a row is beyond my comprehension. The Dolphins continue to prove to the football world that they’re an extreme disappointment with no future.


26. Bears (3-6, down 1 spot)

The Bears were in a great spot to make their season salvageable when they faced the flailing Packers, but they dropped the ball and let Brett Hundley and the running-back committee shred the theoretically good defense. The status of the Bears still looks like it’s up in the air with a lot left to figure out. Mitch Trubisky has shown some improvemen, but not enough to reassure the organization that he was the correct player to pick second overall. The NFC North isn’t a closed race yet, but the Bears are certainly the least likely team to win the division.


27. Buccaneers (3-6, up 2 spots)

Tampa got a much-needed win over the Jets, but it wasn’t exactly pretty. The offense looked weak even with Jameis Winston healthy, so the downgrade to Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t helping to boost it. The Bucs have been a grave disappointment this year, and their season is going nowhere. With the NFC South emerging as the powerhouse division of the NFL with two, maybe three NFC contenders (if I’m being generous to the Falcons), the Bucs are being suffocated by the dominance of the teams in their division and by the teams they’ve faced this season.


28. Colts (3-7, down 1 spot)

The Colts blew a lead they should have kept against the Steelers, which is a good indication of how their season has gone so far. There’s been little hope of success and a lot of letdowns. Clearly, the Colts are looking ahead to next season, and the big question will be about the QB situation. Jacoby Brissett proved in two starts as a Patriot that he can become an NFL starter, and his performance as a Colt shows that he’s well on his way to accomplishing that. He would be a fine option if the Colts wanted to explore trade options for injury-prone Andrew Luck, especially with a QB draft class that is relatively unpredictable.


29. Broncos (3-6, down 1 spot)

Head Coach Vance Joseph has been non-committal on Paxton Lynch’s availability for the end of the season, but even if his shoulder injury is limiting him, the Broncos need to start Lynch as soon as possible. Even if Lynch can’t throw deep passes, he’d still immediately be a more efficient QB than Brock Osweiler. The Broncos’ backfield isn’t extremely good, but there are three players who on the fringe of being good enough to take pressure off Lynch. Between CJ Anderson, Jamaal Charles, and Devontae Booker, surely the Broncos’ offense can utilize short passes and Lynch’s scrambling ability to keep the offense moving.


30. 49ers (1-9, up 1 spot)

The 49ers controlled their own destiny for the #2 overall pick going into Sunday’s game against the Giants and played well enough to put themselves at the #3 overall pick instead. Now, the Giants win the tiebreaker for the higher draft pick because they lost the head-to-head matchup against the 49ers, and neither of these teams look capable of winning any more games. The 49ers simply have to get Jimmy Garoppolo on the field before the end of the season. Getting to see him in game action against other regular season teams will play a huge role in determining if he is the future of the franchise, and based on how well he does, San Francisco will know what position to target in the draft. Garoppolo should be the starter after the Niners’ Week 11 bye.


31. Giants (1-8, down 1 spot)

The Giants did the smart thing by losing to the 49ers on Sunday, if it was intentional. They understand the logistics of the league – if they lose, even if the 49ers lose out as well, the Giants have the tiebreaker for the #2 pick thanks to the loss. And knowing the Browns, the Giants understand that every season, the Browns play every game like it’s a Super Bowl, and their goal is to win a game no matter what. If the Browns manage two wins, the Giants will have the #1 pick as long as they keep tanking.


32. Browns (0-9, no change)

As I said, the Browns are likely going to do everything in their power to win a game this season, even if it means moving down a spot or two in the draft. They will face off against the Chargers in Week 13, a rematch of last year’s game in which the Browns won their only game of the season. This is good motivation and a good opportunity to win. The Browns also take on the Bears in Week 16, which is clearly the most winnable game left on the schedule. The Browns’ situation has become comical, but what would the NFL be without them?