NFL Power Rankings, Week 8: Cowboys hit top five; Packers' plunge continues into bottom half of league

Week 6 will forever be remembered as the Sunday that broke the NFL Power Rankings. Week 7 was about picking up the pieces.

The Eagles and Bills, each idle, remain the cream of the crop. The Chiefs' resounding victory in San Francisco further entrenched Andy Reid's team among the Big Three. The Cowboys won with Dak Prescott, mercifully stabilizing the top four.

Two more wins by the New York teams grants the Big Apple double real estate in the top 10 for the first time since ... um, 1986? Then there's the reigning AFC champion Bengals, who are as imposing as any offense in the league when Joe Burrow locks in.

Things make a little more sense this week. We're starting to feel safe ... completely oblivious to the horrifying Week 8 monster ready to step out of the shadows with a 10-inch dagger.

It's late October, and the NFL is a scary place.

Don't forget to check out the NFL Power Rankings Podcast with Dan Hanzus and Colleen Wolfe. New episodes every Tuesday all season long.

NOTE: Up/down arrows below reflect team movement from the Week 7 Power Rankings.

Buffalo Bills

Previous rank: No. 1

Josh Allen comes out of the Week 7 bye as a strong contender -- and perhaps the early favorite -- in the NFL MVP race. Allen was once again locked in during Week 6's massive conference showdown with the Chiefs at Arrowhead, throwing for 329 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-20 win. He was the only QB to have three games with 300 yards and at least three passing scores in the season's first six weeks. As has been the case for most of the season, Allen was largely unstoppable when attacking defenses downfield: According to Next Gen Stats, Allen went 9-for-10 with 204 yards, three scores and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 on throws of at least 15 air yards against Kansas City. Dominance against elite competition is the stuff of MVPs.

Previous rank: No. 2

If this Eagles season ends in another Lombardi celebration, it should be the late-summer trade for defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson that earns general manager Howie Roseman the most credit. Gardner-Johnson -- acquired from the Saints on roster cutdown day for a couple Day 3 draft picks -- has been a producer in the Philadelphia secondary and one of the team's vocal and charismatic leaders. Gardner-Johnson picked off Cooper Rush twice in the Week 6 win over the Cowboys that sent Philly into its bye as football's only undefeated team. The Eagles sit at plus-12 in turnover differential, by far the best figure in the league.

Previous rank: No. 3

You are never out of a game when Patrick Mahomes is your quarterback. Mahomes wiped out a double-digit deficit in a 44-23 pasting of the 49ers on Sunday, the latest example of no lead being safe against the Chiefs. From the NFL Media Research Department: Mahomes is 12-5 in games in which he trails by 10 or more points since 2019 (including playoffs). No other QB even has a winning record in those games. A big reason for this statistical anomaly: the team's ability to hit on chunk plays. K.C. has a league-best 22 receptions of 25 or more yards this season, up from 14 such catches over the same span a year ago. The Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill away and got more explosive. Go figure.

Dallas Cowboys

Previous rank: No. 6

These Cowboys feel more dangerous because their success or failure won't solely rely on a high-profile offense being asked to rise to the occasion when it counts. Teams built to win shootouts can be exposed in the postseason -- but a team with a dominant defense? That will travel into January and perhaps beyond. We saw that again on Sunday at Jerrah World, where the Cowboys' D again carried the day with five turnovers that led to 21 points in a 24-6 win over the Lions. The heavy lifting on Dan Quinn's side of the ball allowed Dak Prescott (19 of 25, 207 yards, TD) to gently ease himself back into the mix after missing five weeks with a thumb injury. Prescott will only improve with more reps, making the Cowboys a well-rounded contender on the level of the Eagles.

Previous rank: No. 5

Joe Burrow is cooking now. The third-year QB looks about ready to dip his toe in the MVP discussion after a masterful performance in a blowout win over the Falcons. Burrow passed for 344 yards in the first half alone as the Bengals scored on their first four possessions. When it was over, Burrow had become the first player in NFL history to have five 400-yard passing games in his first three seasons. Cincy has come a long way since the robust struggles that defined the start of its AFC title defense. "Well," Zac Taylor said, "I hope you all listened to me as I got up here at 0-2 and said just be patient." Fair play, coach!

New York Giants

Previous rank: No. 7

The Giants have a knack for winning close games -- a massive attribute in a league where it seems like nearly every team hovers around the same level in terms of talent and potential. Big Blue was in closer mode again on Sunday, getting a stop at the goal line as time expired to outlast the Jaguars. Daniel Jones went over 100 yards on the ground, and Saquon Barkley continued to dominate, putting the Jacksonville defense on skates with 72 of his 110 rushing yards in the final quarter. Weird-stat-in-a-weird-season alert: The Giants are 6-1 despite being the only team in the NFL without a receiver who's surpassed 200 yards on the season.

Previous rank: No. 4

The quiet of a Vikings bye week feels like a good time to examine the historic start to Justin Jefferson's career. The third-year wideout had yet another 100-yard effort in Week 6's win over the Dolphins, and will enter Week 8 averaging the most yards per game for a wide receiver in NFL history. Jefferson averages 94.1 yards per game, which puts him ahead of Julio Jones (91.2) and Calvin Johnson (86.1). Jefferson also has the third-most 100-yard games through three seasons, dating back to at least 1950: Only Randy Moss (19) and Odell Beckham Jr. (19) are ahead of him. Jefferson, of course, has 11 more games to set that record, too. Pretty heady stuff for a 23-year-old.

Previous rank: No. 8

It wasn't a thing of beauty -- and it featured another big scare after Baltimore built a double-digit lead in the second half -- but the Ravens found their way back to the win column with a 23-20 victory over the Browns. Lamar Jackson's recent play continues to profile as a curiosity: The quarterback has looked tentative in the pocket since a blazing-hot start, managing just three touchdown passes against four interceptions in the last four games. Jackson has kept his game afloat thanks to his legs. His 510 rushing yards through seven games top the entirety of the Buccaneers (451) and Rams (423).

Tennessee Titans

Previous rank: No. 14

The 0-2 start feels like a long time ago. The Titans completed a season sweep of the Colts and inadvertently ended the Matt Ryan era in Indianapolis with a 19-10 win at Nissan Stadium. That's four straight wins for Mike Vrabel's team, which has a nice lead in the moribund AFC South. Derrick Henry delivered another 100-yard game, while the Colts' pass rush harassed Ryan for three sacks and the pressure that produced the game-defining pick-six by safety Andrew Adams. The Titans don't bring a lot of sizzle to the proceedings, but they appear engineered for 11 or 12 wins in the current NFL climate.

New York Jets

Previous rank: No. 13

The Jets have won five of their first seven games for the first time in 12 years, but well-earned optimism was tempered by crushing disappointment after a 16-9 win over the Broncos at Mile High. Running back Breece Hall -- edging into the Rookie Sensation category after a 62-yard touchdown run to open the scoring Sunday -- had his hugely promising debut season end in an instant with a torn ACL. A calamitous first half also included a season-ending triceps injury to versatile blocker Alijah Vera-Tucker, another emerging star. The loss of the team's top running back and best offensive lineman significantly amps up the pressure on inconsistent second-year passer Zach Wilson, even if you factor in Monday's trade with the Jaguars for veteran back James Robinson. Long-suffering Jets fans deserve a better fate.

Los Angeles Rams

Previous rank: No. 12

The Rams might have come up short in their pursuit of Christian McCaffrey during the Week 7 bye, but they can find some solace in the possible emergence of Allen Robinson. The veteran wide receiver, invisible for much of the season's first six weeks after a summer of breathless hype, finally made an impact in Week 6's win over the Panthers. Robinson finished that game with six targets, five catches, 63 yards and a touchdown -- all season highs for him. Matthew Stafford's struggle this year stems in some part from an inability to identify playmakers he can trust aside from Cooper Kupp. The emergence of some chemistry between the QB and Robinson could be a game-changer for Sean McVay.

Previous rank: No. 11

The 49ers have a shiny new toy at running back in Christian McCaffrey -- unfortunately, CMC can't be of service to the defense. San Francisco was outclassed by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who rolled up 529 yards at 9.1 yards per play in a 44-23 stomping at Levi's Stadium. An avalanche of injuries helps to explain how the defense has sunk into mediocrity in recent weeks, and it puts more pressure on the offense to pick up the slack. Sunday returns were not good: Too many field goals (along with a crushing red-zone interception by Jimmy Garoppolo) was the recipe for a blowout loss. Expect a settled McCaffrey to have a much larger role in the attack moving forward.

Las Vegas Raiders

Previous rank: No. 16

Josh Jacobs looked like he was soon to be a part of the Raiders' past when the organization declined his fifth-year option in April. Fast-forward to October, and the running back looks like a key piece of the team's future. Jacobs continued his team MVP act on Sunday, rushing for 143 yards and three TDs in a massively important win over the Texans. It's his second multi-score game of the season and third consecutive 100-yard effort on the ground. When the Raiders traded for Davante Adams, Josh McDaniels had the parts to an offense that would do most of its damage through the air. Jacobs' resurrection has flipped the script.

Miami Dolphins

Previous rank: No. 23

Tua Tagovailoa returned, and the Dolphins got back to winning -- but that feels more like a coincidence than cause and effect. Tua played like an extremely rusty quarterback against the Steelers; several near-interceptions would have been turned over if Pittsburgh defenders had better hands. Miami triumphed because its defense put the clamps on Kenny Pickett, forcing the struggling rookie into a pair of fourth-quarter red-zone picks that salted away the victory. A tasty Week 8 matchup against the scuffling Lions' defense could be just what the offense needs.

Seattle Seahawks

Previous rank: No. 20

It was Next Man Up after running back Rashaad Penny went down for the year with a broken leg, and Kenneth Walker III is that Man. The rookie ran all over the Chargers in a 37-23 win, piling up 168 yards on the ground, including the game-clinching 74-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter. It was another banner day for the most surprising offense in the NFL: Geno Smith threw two more touchdown passes as Seattle rolled up 404 total yards. The Seahawks reach Week 8 all alone atop the NFC West. Tell me you predicted it, and I'll tell you you're a liar.

Previous rank: No. 10

The familiar funk of disappointment is encircling the Chargers once again. The Seahawks came to SoFi Stadium and dropped a hammer on the hosts, attacking L.A. on the ground and through the air in a 37-23 blowout. The game was costly from a health standpoint, as well: Mike Williams is facing a multi-week absence after suffering a high ankle sprain, while J.C. Jackson's cursed debut season with the Bolts is over after he suffered a serious knee injury. Throw in some curiously uninspired play from Justin Herbert (4.9 yards per attempt in his past 108 attempts), and Brandon Staley has a lot of work to do during the Week 8 bye.

Previous rank: No. 17

The Patriots got blown out of their own building by the Bears on Monday Night Football, and Bill Belichick might live to regret the can of worms he just opened. The iconic head coach, who entered Week 7 tied with George Halas for second on the all-time wins board, yanked Mac Jones out of the lineup just three possessions into his return from a high ankle sprain. Enter Bailey Zappe, who was greeted with a huge ovation and led New England on two quick touchdown drives before the offense stalled out again. Did Zappe do enough to stay in the lineup, or will Jones get another chance Sunday against the Jets? New England sports talk radio will be louder than usual.

Previous rank: No. 9

Everything is going wrong for the Bucs right now. The offense can't score, the defense can't get a stop, and the losses continue to pile up. That's four in five weeks for Tampa Bay after Sunday's stunning 21-3 defeat to a Panthers team that all but announced it was folding up the tent on the season with its Thursday trade of star running back Christian McCaffrey. The symbolic failure of the day belongs to Mike Evans, a franchise cornerstone and perhaps the most consistent producer in team history, who dropped a wide-open touchdown pass on the third play from scrimmage. The frustration only built from there. The lone positive? The NFC South is a total mess: At 3-4, the Bucs somehow maintain possession of a tie for first place.

Green Bay Packers

Previous rank: No. 15

At a certain point, you are what you are -- and the Packers are a team with an average offense. This seems impossible when back-to-back reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is in the building, but Green Bay continues to be hamstrung by a passing game that’s unable to sustain any level of momentum. It doesn’t help that Matt LaFleur remains allergic to simply driving the attack through his twin engine running backs, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. LaFleur’s decision to call for a pass on a critical fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Commanders tells the story of a play-caller who remains too stubborn in his scheme. Rookie wideout Romeo Doubs dropped the ball ... but so did his head coach.

Arizona Cardinals

Previous rank: No. 26

The Cardinals profile as the type of struggling team that could benefit from a good old-fashioned sideline dustup. They received one on Thursday night, when Kyler Murray got into an animated back-and-forth with head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Both men downplayed the heated exchange after the game, a 42-34 win that brought some calm to the desert. The Arizona offense showed some signs of life, helped significantly by the return of DeAndre Hopkins from suspension. The three-time All-Pro wideout -- who only logged his first practice of the season on Tuesday -- stepped in and immediately delivered a 10-catch, 100-yard effort. Said Kingsbury: “I don't know where he's been or what he's been doing, but it worked.”

New Orleans Saints

Previous rank: No. 19

A season high on promise is suddenly on the brink. The Saints lost for the fifth time in seven tries on Thursday night, an ugly 42-34 setback that included two Andy Dalton pick-sixes and generally uninspired play against a middling Cardinals team. Alvin Kamara spoke in the locker room after the loss, preaching accountability for the avalanche of mistakes that have haunted New Orleans. The Saints have committed the second-highest number of penalties in football, with a league-worst turnover differential. None of this is a good look for head coach Dennis Allen, who is not making anyone forget about Sean Payton.

Atlanta Falcons

Previous rank: No. 18

There is perhaps no team in football less schematically inclined to play from behind than the Atlanta Falcons. Arthur Smith’s bunch trailed by double digits for the final 50 minutes of play on Sunday against the Bengals, but still somehow ended the game with only 13 pass attempts. This is curious and a bit disturbing when you consider the Falcons invested top-10 picks in the past two seasons on wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts. It creates a strange dynamic in which the team’s offensive philosophies (run first, run forever) do not appear to be aligned with the organization’s roster building.

Chicago Bears

Previous rank: No. 29

Justin Fields took a huge step in his development on Monday Night Football. The second-year passer went into a hostile road environment and didn't blink, delivering with his arm and legs in a blowout win over Bill Belichick and the Patriots. The Bears' offense was relentless -- rolling up 243 yards on the ground with 11 third-down conversions, their most in a game since 2015. The defense was equally up to the task, sending an ineffective Mac Jones to the bench after just three possessions before pitching a shutout in the second half. Bears back? Maybe.

Previous rank: No. 22

Mike Tomlin has famously never had a losing season in his 16-year run as head coach of the Steelers, but that historic streak appears destined to end as Pittsburgh rides the ebbs and flows of life with a rookie quarterback. Kenny Pickett struggled to finish drives in Sunday night’s 16-10 loss to the Dolphins, throwing a pair of interceptions in Dolphins territory that buried a Steelers team which needs to maximize every scoring opportunity it has. Putting Pickett back on the bench has to be tempting for Tomlin, especially after Mitch Trubisky came to the rescue in Pittsburgh's Week 6 win over the Buccaneers. Staying with the rookie makes sense in the long term -- but does Tomlin have the stomach for the growing pains that are sure to continue? Stay tuned.

Cleveland Browns

Previous rank: No. 25

For the Browns to return to the playoffs, it was imperative they get out of the first 12 games of the season in decent shape ahead of Deshaun Watson's debut. That's looking increasingly unlikely as Cleveland continues to be on the wrong end of agonizing losses. The latest: a 23-20 setback to the Ravens that featured a go-ahead touchdown pass to Amari Cooper wiped away by penalty and a false start on a game-tying field-goal try that forced Cade York to attempt a 60-yarder (blocked, naturally). The Browns will drag a four-game losing streak into a Monday Night Football matchup with the surging Bengals. Ominous vibes in Cleveland.

Indianapolis Colts

Previous rank: No. 21

Andrew Luck to Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan ... to Sam Ehlinger? In a stunning turn of events, the Colts announced Monday that Ryan will be benched for the duration of the season in favor of Ehlinger, a preseason superstar with zero career starts. Ryan certainly earned a benching with his leaden, turnover-prone play, but parachuting out of the latest expensive-veteran-QB gamble after just seven games begs some very important questions about who is actually running the show in Indy. It goes without saying that both GM Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich stand on very shaky ground.

Denver Broncos

Previous rank: No. 24

Different quarterback, same results. The Broncos find their season slipping away because an elite defense is being let down every week by an unimaginative offense and subpar quarterback play. Brett Rypien -- making the start against the Jets after Russell Wilson was scratched with a partially torn hamstring -- averaged fewer than 5 yards per attempt on 46 throws and was unable to lead Denver on a touchdown drive despite New York's own sputtering attack providing numerous opportunities. If there’s any good news for the rest of us, Rypien’s pedestrian effort will spare everyone talk of a quarterback controversy in Denver. This is Wilson’s ship, sinking though it may be.

UPDATE: On Friday, Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said Russell Wilson will return to the starting lineup, barring a setback, for Sunday's game against the Jaguars in London.

Previous rank: No. 30

How about we dole out some deserved love to the eternally overlooked Terry McLaurin? The fourth-year wide receiver hasn’t been given much of an opportunity to fill up the box score this season, but he stepped up huge in Washington’s 23-21 win over the Packers. McLaurin hauled in Taylor Heinicke's go-ahead touchdown pass in the third quarter before essentially sealing the game with two massive first-down receptions on the Commanders’ final possession. Consecutive victories have put Washington back in the mix, style points be damned. "You can win pretty; you can win ugly," coach Ron Rivera said postgame. "If you're going to win ugly, who cares?"

Previous rank: No. 27

The Travis Etienne Show is officially streaming on all formats. The 2021 first-round pick announced his arrival on Sunday, piling up 114 yards on 8.1 yards per carry and his first career touchdown in a narrow loss to the Giants. Etienne was already in line for a bigger role after his breakout performance, but that became official after NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the Jaguars are trading running back James Robinson to the Jets for a conditional Day 3 draft pick. Robinson, a fan favorite in Jacksonville and source of rich drama due to his lack of playing time under Urban Meyer, averaged 4.2 yards per carry with three touchdowns in seven games (five starts) this season.

Carolina Panthers

Previous rank: No. 32

Life without Christian McCaffrey began with an unexpected treat. The running backs tasked with replacing the superstar piled up 176 yards on the ground in an upset win over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Plenty of credit is due to Steve Wilks, the interim head coach who had his team playing hard even when it's apparent the organization has already flipped the page to 2023. "That definitely wasn't a team out there that was trying to tank it," Wilks said. "These guys right here have come together and they believe in one another. ... There is a lot that we can build on today."

Detroit Lions

Previous rank: No. 28

The Lions returned to competitive football after their pre-bye thumping in Foxborough, but the results remain the same for the Fightin' Campbells. Five second-half turnovers by the offense were too much to overcome in a 24-6 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The cruelest giveaway? A goal-line fumble by Jamaal Williams when Detroit appeared poised to take a lead in the fourth quarter. "I'm frustrated because we're losing, just like I was last year," Campbell said. "But I'm not down, I'm not losing confidence. I'm not going to go hide in a corner." A fact the coach might want to hide under a Honolulu blue rug at team headquarters: The Lions fell to 4-18-1 in his tenure.

Houston Texans

Previous rank: No. 31

Another week, another loss for the Texans, but head coach Lovie Smith can at least point to some positives on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Davis Mills enjoyed his best game of the season, going over 300 yards through the air with a pair of scoring tosses. His outing wasn't perfect -- a late pick-six sealed the game for the Raiders when Houston was still in striking distance -- but Mills put the ball on his receivers throughout the day and improved his accuracy considerably (68 percent completion rate, about six percentage points higher than the mark he'd put together in the previous five games). It's a start.

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