NFL Power Rankings, Week 9: Packers, Cowboys soar into top two slots

The top two teams in this week's NFL Power Rankings made their move up the board by showing they can take out a quality opponent even when they're at much less than full strength.

The Packers won without Davante Adams. The Cowboys won without Dak Prescott. If the Titans and Saints are to remain in the realm of the true contenders -- and in the top 10 of the Power Rankings -- they'll have to find a way without Derrick Henry and Jameis Winston, respectively.

The road to the Super Bowl is not dissimilar to your quest for a fantasy title. You can build an incredible roster, but you're going to need some injury luck along the way.

Let's get to it.

Watch the NFL Power Rankings show with Dan and Matt "Money" Smith every Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET on NFL Network.

NOTE: Up/down arrows reflect movement from the Week 8 NFL Power Rankings.

Previous rank: No. 6

We wouldn't go as far as calling it a miracle win, but what Green Bay did on Thursday night in Arizona was special. Down their top two wide receivers and defensive coordinator Joe Barry, the Packers battled for four quarters against the NFL's lone remaining undefeated team and came out on top. Aaron Rodgers was positively glowing during his postgame interview with FOX's Erin Andrews, and you understood why. Rodgers, for all his offseason grumbling about perceived disrespect in the organization, sees the Packers for who they are: a deep, battle-tested, well-coached team. It's the DNA of Super Bowl champions ... and the Pack have it.

(UPDATE: Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 and will not play against the Chiefs on Sunday, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Wednesday.)

Dallas Cowboys

Previous rank: No. 4

No matter what happens from this point forward, Cooper Rush will always have Sunday night. The backup QB stepped in for Dak Prescott and made a series of big throws in a 20-16 win over the Vikings in Minneapolis. Dallas' sixth consecutive victory showed how the Cowboys can survive -- in the short-term, anyway -- without their star quarterback, while providing a showcase for just how much their defense has improved in Dan Quinn's first year at the controls. Dallas made Kirk Cousins miserable all night and all but removed Justin Jefferson from the field. The Cowboys used to be a top-heavy operation comprised of stars and scrubs. Not anymore.

Previous rank: No. 1

Week 8 was a difficult one for the Cardinals: They fell from the ranks of the unbeaten in a frustrating prime-time loss to the shorthanded Packers, then watched their franchise star reportedly exit State Farm Stadium in a walking boot. The longer runway ahead of their next game will obviously help Kyler Murray's chances of being ready for Sunday's key division matchup against the 49ers, but you wonder if Arizona took notice of the more cautious path of the Cowboys, who opted to give Dak Prescott extra time to heal his calf injury. Being careful with Murray in November could be the key to success in January.

Buffalo Bills

Previous rank: No. 3

They had to get through a bye week to do it, but the Bills finally got to put Week 6's painful prime-time loss to the Titans in the rearview, courtesy of a workmanlike 26-11 win over the Dolphins in Orchard Park. Buffalo's defense returned to action in fine form, holding Miami to just 262 total yards. The offense took more time but eventually found its footing: The Bills scored 23 points on their final four possessions, turning a 3-3 nail-biter into the latest comfortable win over a division rival they've owned in recent years. The schedule stays soft with a Week 9 tilt against the 1-7 Jaguars.

Previous rank: No. 2

Is Dennis Allen Tom Brady's kryptonite? Brady has shredded just about every team in the NFC since his arrival in the conference last season, but the Saints continue to give the G.O.A.T. problems. Brady has seven interceptions in his four Bucs games against the Saints -- he's thrown 13 interceptions total in his 24 other games with Tampa Bay. The Bucs hit their bye in good shape at 6-2, but failing to close out a game in which Trevor Siemian logged significant snaps on the other side was not optimal. Said Bruce Arians: "That was an embarrassing display of football."

Los Angeles Rams

Previous rank: No. 5

The Rams are all in. On Monday, the team pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade with the Broncos that brought three-time All-Pro edge rusher Von Miller to a defense that already leads the league in sacks. Miller's play has dropped off some since his Super Bowl MVP heyday, but adding the 32-year-old to a front seven with Aaron Donald could bring out lingering greatness in Miller in the way Matthew Stafford has been revitalized on the other side of the ball. This is the type of move you see from smart teams with a sense of the moment. It's Lombardi-or-bust time in L.A.

Baltimore Ravens

Previous rank: No. 8

The Ravens hit their Week 8 bye as a quality team that has succeeded despite being ravaged by injuries. Their ability to keep their head above water goes back directly to their best and most important player. Lamar Jackson has been excellent through seven games -- you could make the case he's a better quarterback now than he was during his brilliant MVP season of 2019. Jackson has made obvious gains as a passer without losing any of the ground-game excellence that's been his trademark. The 24-year-old is currently on pace to throw for more than 4,700 yards and run for nearly 1,200. He's one of one, and the Ravens will remain in the mix as long as they can keep their QB upright.

Previous rank: No. 12

You have to give it up to the Saints: On a day they lost their starting quarterback to a season-ending knee injury, they summoned everything they had left to hold off a Tom Brady-led rally and register a dramatic win over the defending champs. That right there was a gut-check W. The loss of Jameis Winston is a crushing setback for the team, of course -- Trevor Siemian is the dictionary definition of career backup, while Taysom Hill has yet to establish himself as a true QB. Still, the Saints have impact players on both sides of the ball and one of the best coaching staffs in football. They ain't dead yet.

Tennessee Titans

Previous rank: No. 10

On Sunday, the Titans grinded out an overtime win over the rival Colts that gave them total control of the AFC South. Then ... disaster struck. On Monday morning, it was reported that Derrick Henry will be sidelined 6-10 weeks after foot surgery. Henry's importance to the Titans is incalculable: Everything they do drives through the All-Pro running back, and there are sure to be questions about his extreme usage and how that might have played a role in his injury. Can the Titans still win their division without Henry? Given their cushion and the company they keep, yes. Will they remain a viable Super Bowl contender going forward? Hard to see it.

Las Vegas Raiders

Previous rank: No. 11

The Raiders should make the playoffs this year. Rich Bisaccia’s team leads the AFC West at 5-2, and we’re fresh off a 24-hour period in which the Chargers looked vulnerable in a loss to the Patriots and the Broncos traded away the heart and soul of their defense. The division’s other team, the Chiefs, have problems that have been exhaustively documented over the past month. Vegas comes out of the bye with a winnable game against the Giants before a trio of challenging matchups against the Chiefs, Bengals and Cowboys. These Raiders feel different than the Jon Gruden-led teams that came before them, but the true test is about to begin.

Cincinnati Bengals

Previous rank: No. 7

The Bengals were shredded by Mike White on Sunday, an outcome that only the most emotionally broken of Cincinnati fans could have predicted. White, a backup making his first career start, became the first Jets QB to throw for 400 yards in two decades and carved up the Cincinnati defense for 32 first downs -- New York's most in a game since 1988. The Bengals' offense wasn't innocent here, either, squandering opportunities early and letting the game slip away late following a Joe Burrow interception in the fourth quarter. Cincy blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead against a one-win team -- it's the type of loss that prompts closer examination of who these Bengals really are.

Previous rank: No. 9

We've seen the ceiling of the Chargers' offense this season, and it's quite high. What surprises us is how low the floor is. The Bolts' attack was held in neutral for the second consecutive week on Sunday, a 27-24 loss to the Patriots that raises questions about where Los Angeles truly fits into the AFC pecking order. Justin Herbert threw for just 143 yards before a garbage-time scoring drive in the final minutes, and issues with pass protection and early-down efficiency were glaring. The Chargers' defense had its way with Patriots rookie Mac Jones and repeatedly gave the offense the opportunity to take control of the game, but Herbert and Co. couldn't do it.

Kansas City Chiefs

Previous rank: No. 14

The Chiefs found a way on Monday night, but don't mistake that for reason to think all is well in Kansas City. Andy Reid's team remains bizarrely mistake-riddled on offense, and a slew of penalties kept an inferior Giants team in the game until the end. Kansas City's big-strike attack remains absent, and struggles in the red zone can no longer be seen as an anomaly. Something just seems off with this offense, and the sight of a mortal Patrick Mahomes tentatively feeling his way through games remains a jarring viewing experience. The road ahead is brutal: Kansas City has the toughest schedule in the league the rest of the way, with a marquee matchup against Aaron Rodgers and the surging Packers up next. Buckle up.

Previous rank: No. 17

Playing without their kicker for the final two quarters in a tightly contested and physical AFC North matchup is a recipe for doom, but the Steelers still found a way by relying on some familiar elements: a suffocating defense that wouldn't let the Browns open up their attack, and a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who made big throws at critical junctures behind a gradually improving offensive line. Now over .500 after a grisly 1-3 start, Pittsburgh gets back-to-back favorable matchups against the Bears and Lions. Win those games, and Mike Tomlin's team could end up in first place as we approach Thanksgiving. Funny how this team always seems to find its footing.

Previous rank: No. 18

On a day where Mac Jones struggled to get much going, the Patriots showed that their defense can carry them to wins against quality opponents. The 27-24 triumph over the Chargers was a textbook Classic Pats victory. Keep the game close, make an impact play, then grind out the final minutes with smart and efficient execution. The big moment was Adrian Phillips' pick-six with 10:11 to play, but the game was won on the 14-play, 54-yard drive that chewed up nearly half the fourth quarter and produced the game-icing field goal. Said Bill Belichick: "All in all, we made the plays that we needed to make in the fourth quarter, which is something we hadn't done as well early in the year."

Cleveland Browns

Previous rank: No. 13

The Browns badly needed a playmaker to step up and win a huge game against the Steelers. Baker couldn't do it. Landry couldn't do it. Hooper couldn't do it. Odell? C'mon now; we know Odell wouldn't do it. The Browns have too often looked the part of an ordinary offense this season, and they're especially vulnerable when Nick Chubb gets neutralized like he was by Pittsburgh's stout front seven on Sunday. Mayfield's left shoulder injury might be playing a role in the passing game's general ineffectiveness, but Browns fans weren't looking for excuses this year -- they were expecting their team to become a conference superpower. It hasn't happened. 

Previous rank: No. 19

Where would the 49ers be without Deebo Samuel? With George Kittle sidelined and Brandon Aiyuk stumbling through a sophomore slump, Samuel has been the one consistent on an otherwise inconsistent offense in San Francisco. Frankly, Samuel's greatness feels overlooked when we talk about the best wide receivers in football. Chew on this: Samuel is the only wideout with three 150-yard receiving games this season, and he just passed Jerry Rice to set a franchise record for the most receiving yards (819) in the first seven games of a season. The Niners scored on their final seven possessions on Sunday against the Bears, and Samuel was at the center of everything.

Seattle Seahawks

Previous rank: No. 22

Geno Smith began his Sunday with 14 straight completions and two touchdown passes in an eventual blowout of the lowly Jaguars, but let's not get it twisted. The Seahawks desperately need Russell Wilson back on the field if they want to re-enter the NFC playoff picture in a legitimate manner. Monday brought progress on that front: Wilson revealed via social media that the pin used to stabilize his fractured middle finger has been removed. It's a sign Wilson's recovery is on schedule, and the hope is that the franchise star is back in action when the Seahawks return from their bye in Week 10.

Minnesota Vikings

Previous rank: No. 15

The prime-time stage was set up for the Vikings on Sunday night. Dak Prescott was inactive, and when Kirk Cousins led Minnesota on an immediate touchdown drive, it looked like the start of a four-hour Halloween party at U.S. Bank Stadium. But the Dallas defense took control after that, and the Vikings' defense wilted against Cooper Rush in the final minutes. I'll repeat: The Vikings' defense wilted against Cooper Rush in the final minutes. Mike Zimmer's team had a chance to make a statement and instead came off as an also-ran exposed.

Indianapolis Colts

Previous rank: No. 16

With their chances to win a division seemingly hanging in the balance, Carson Wentz blinked. The Colts quarterback threw a pair of brutal interceptions in the final 7:30 of play in Sunday's overtime loss to the Titans, including a pick-six that will live in infamy. Wentz had thrown just one interception entering Week 8, but his meltdown at an inflection point in the season has to be troubling for Frank Reich and the Indy braintrust. The news of Derrick Henry's foot injury keeps the door slightly ajar in the AFC South, but the Colts have put themselves in a deep hole.

Carolina Panthers

Previous rank: No. 25

The status of Christian McCaffrey is cloudy and perplexing, even if you're not a CMC fantasy owner. Matt Rhule told reporters on Monday that the star running back -- sidelined since September with a hamstring injury -- is scheduled to return to practice this week with the hope that he can play in Week 9 or 10. This is the same hamstring injury that didn't even warrant an immediate trip to injured reserve when McCaffrey was initially hurt back in Week 3, so doubts about the team's ability to properly monitor the situation are fair. The Panthers need McCaffrey to make a playoff run, but they also know one more setback could wipe out a second straight year of the 25-year-old's prime. You can feel the tension of the situation from outer space.

Atlanta Falcons

Previous rank: No. 20

So much for the theory that the Falcons were building momentum on offense. The Arthur Smith-led attack cratered on Sunday against the Panthers, managing just 213 total yards in a 19-13 loss. Playing without top wideout Calvin Ridley -- out of action for the second time in three games as he addresses mental health issues -- Matt Ryan suffered one of his worst games as a pro. The veteran passed for just 146 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions and suffered a gash to his left hand when he was accidentally stepped on in the second quarter. With Ridley's timetable unclear, Atlanta needs to find some contributors on offense beyond Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson.

Denver Broncos

Previous rank: No. 21

An unsightly 17-10 win over the Washington Football Team obviously wasn't enough to convince the Broncos braintrust it had built a contender. Denver traded the longtime face of its defense on Monday, sending Von Miller to the Rams for second- and third-round picks in 2022. It's a fairly modest return for a franchise great, but you understand the decision. Denver is a middling team, and Miller is a 32-year-old outside linebacker making a ton of money. His age means he's unlikely to be part of the next contending Broncos team, but it's still sad to see his often-brilliant tenure with the franchise end with a trade-deadline transaction involving mid-round picks. The Broncos feel adrift.

Chicago Bears

Previous rank: No. 23

Justin Fields couldn't get the Bears a win on Sunday, but the rookie made significant gains in a 33-22 loss to the 49ers. The first-round pick threw a touchdown pass and went over 100 yards rushing for the first time as a pro, the highlight being an incredible 22-yard scoring run on a play that would have left most QBs in a heap 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The defense left much more to be desired. Playing without Khalil Mack, Chicago surrendered seven straight scoring drives to the Niners, including three touchdowns in the second half. Matt Nagy -- who missed Sunday's game due to a COVID-19 designation -- won't make it to January with too many more efforts like that.

New York Giants

Previous rank: No. 24

The Giants are so injury plagued that you start to wonder if Joe Judge broke a mirror while walking under a ladder with a black cat this summer. Big Blue entered a prime-time matchup versus the Chiefs missing Saquon Barkley (ankle) and Kenny Golladay (hip). By the fourth quarter, they were without Sterling Shepard (quad) and Dante Pettis (shoulder). Patrick Graham’s defense kept New York in the game, but you’re not going to beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead -- even this slumping, troubled version of the defending AFC champs -- if you score just 17 points. The Giants will eventually get many of their key players back on the field, but they’ve dug a hole that will be difficult to escape.

Previous rank: No. 26

Finding ways to take pressure off Jalen Hurts should be an every-week goal for the Eagles. Perhaps it already was, but they actually found solutions through the running game in a 44-6 win over the Lions. Eagles running backs rushed 39 times for 165 yards, with Jordan Howard and Boston Scott each scoring twice. The blowout victory was especially important for rookie head coach Nick Sirianni, who would have found himself under extreme scrutiny had Philadelphia faltered against the winless Lions. The Cowboys are running away with the NFC East, but the Eagles can keep themselves in the postseason picture with a win over the slumping Chargers on Sunday.

New York Jets

Previous rank: No. 31

You have to go back years to find the last truly feel-good Jets win. There were a few during the Fitzmagic season of 2015, and it’s been six years of almost relentless darkness since. Which is what made Sunday’s performance by Mike White all the more sweet for beleaguered Gang Green supporters. White carved up the Bengals in a dramatic 34-31 win at MetLife Stadium, throwing for three TDs and becoming the first Jets quarterback in more than 20 years to pass for 400 yards in a game. After the win, Robert Saleh kept the door open for White to continue as starter even after Zach Wilson recovers from a knee injury. Said the coach: "We'll go day-to-day, but anything is possible, right? Anything is possible.”

Previous rank: No. 27

Washington is having a bad season -- and it’s unlikely to get much better. Sunday brought another uninspired effort in a 17-10 setback to the Broncos, the fourth straight loss for Ron Rivera’s team. The defense has been a huge disappointment in Washington, but the struggles of the offense can’t be overlooked. This is especially so in scoring position: Washington has come away with zero points on 10 of its last 13 trips inside the opponents’ 30-yard line. That includes two interceptions, three blocked field goals and five turnovers on downs. It’s near-impossible inefficiency for a team that was expected to contend for the NFC East title. 

Miami Dolphins

Previous rank: No. 29

Seven is an unlucky number for the Dolphins. They're up to seven consecutive losses to the Bills (outscored 258-123 in those games) and seven consecutive losses on the year after a season-opening win in Foxborough that feels like it happened in another dimension. After the latest setback -- which featured a confused, listless performance from the offense -- Brian Flores waited longer than usual before addressing reporters and then acknowledged he had taken extra time to ruminate on a season that has gone horribly awry. "Today, I really just kind of sat there," he said. "It's a tough loss, it's a number of losses in a row, so I just figured we'll let the players go." It's taking a toll.

Previous rank: No. 28

The Jaguars returned from their bye with a blowout loss to the Seahawks in which they made Geno Smith look like Joe Montana. Trevor Lawrence struggled through perhaps his worst game as a pro, but it’s hard to imagine many quarterbacks finding success with the supporting cast that currently surrounds the No. 1 overall pick. Importing some playmakers to help Lawrence has to be a top priority for the Jaguars when they assess the next step for the organization. Is it fair to wonder if Urban Meyer will be around when those decisions get made?

Detroit Lions

Previous rank: No. 30

The Lions are 0-8 for the first time since their infamous winless season of 2008, and their performance in Sunday’s 44-6 loss to the Eagles makes you concerned for all parties involved in Detroit. Dan Campbell’s team failed in all phases against Philadelphia, but pass protection has reached a crisis point with offensive tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow sidelined with injuries. Jared Goff was sacked five times in the loss, including four sacks in the first half alone. Goff is not a nimble man in the pocket, but he has no chance when the Lions are getting worked up front like they were on Sunday.

Houston Texans

Previous rank: No. 32

Another week, another punishing loss for the worst team in football. The biggest story around the Texans remains Deshaun Watson, who, if recent reports are correct, will not be moved ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. Being rid of Watson and all that comes with him would have been a positive development for the Texans, but there will be more time to address the situation again in the months ahead. As for the actual on-field product, Houston is talent poor and outclassed every time it steps on the field. Years of poor draft-capital management and questionable roster moves have left the franchise barren. The upcoming offseason will be the most critical in the organization’s history.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter.

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