1. New England Patriots (7-1) defeated Buffalo 41-25. Previously: 1
The Patriots celebrated their revenge beatdown of the Bills by sending Jamie Collins to the Browns for a draft pick. Apparently you can afford to look to the future when you open up a three game lead between yourself and the rest of the division in Week 8. The Patriots can look ahead just one week right now, as their bye this week sets them up for a showdown with the Seahawks.
2. Dallas Cowboys (6-1) defeated Philadelphia 29-23 (OT). Previously: 2
Sean Lee was a one-man wrecking ball for the Dallas defense on a night where the Cowboys needed every play they could get. This wasn’t the Cowboys’ most impressive night, but their resumé is padding out, and they’ve now got a two game lead over the rest of the division.
3. Denver Broncos (6-2) defeated San Diego 27-19. Previously: 5
Even though Wade Phillips was taken to the hospital following a sideline collision or, to use Phillips’ words: “I got run over,” this defense still didn’t hesitate to score seven points of their own and intercept Philip Rivers three times. Rivers had only thrown four picksin the previous seven games this season.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) defeated Indianapolis 30-14. Previously: 7
After a rough day for Alex Smith — checked for a concussion twice and diagnosed with one once — the Chiefs can’t feel in terrible hands with Nick Foles. With the Colts focusing on the run the Chiefs had their best passing day of the season no matter who was at quarterback. The more multifaceted and dangerous the offense looks, the more like a complete contender the Chiefs do.
5. Oakland Raiders (6-2) defeated Tampa Bay 30-24 (OT). Previously: 8
Somehow, trapped inside a game where the Raiders outgained Tampa Bay by almost 400 yards, Derek Carr threw for a franchise-record 513 yards, and they came from behind twice on the road to win in overtime, is 23 penalties for 200 — count ’em —yards. Clean that up, Raiders, because the AFC West doesn’t look to be easy pickings for the NFL’s road warriors.
6. Minnesota Vikings (5-2) lost to Chicago 20-10. Previously: 4
Make that two straight poor performances and some very unnerving problems along the offensive line for Minnesota, who have let 11 sacks of Sam Bradford endanger what looked like their most promising season in years. They’ll be relying on Bradford, who they spent a first-round pick on this offseason, staying healthy.
7. Seattle Seahawks (4-2-1) lost to New Orleans 25-20. Previously: 3
Russell Wilson has gone three straight games without a touchdown pass, his last one coming in Week 4. By the time the Seahawks take the field again, it will have been a month since his last pass found the end zone. Two big plays kept Seattle in this game, but against the Saints defense, this team shouldn’t need Earl Thomas returning fumbles to find a way to score.
8. Atlanta Falcons (5-3) defeated Green Bay 33-32. Previously: 9
Despite a couple losses, the Falcons look to be in the game to stay this season, unlike a year ago, when their first loss led to a shocking streak that unraveled the season. Averaging four points more per game than any other team in the NFL, this offense has to be salivating to face a Tampa Bay defense this Thursday that just allowed Oakland to top the 600-yard mark.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) lost to Dallas 29-23 (OT). Previously: 6
While Doug Pederson spent last week shooting down rumors the Eagles were interested in trading for a wide receiver, it makes a lot of sense. If help isn’t going to come from abroad it needs to start showing up from within. No Eagles receiver has had a 100-yard game since Jordan Matthews did it in the opener against Cleveland.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) bye. Previously: 10
The Steelers leave their bye still with the most wins in the AFC North, thanks to the Bengals overtime tie in London. Now Ben Roethlisberger and maybe even Ladarius Green are back. Which is good, because the offense was exactly what needed help.
11. Green Bay Packers (4-3) lost to Atlanta 33-32. Previously: 11
There’s still no clear answer in the Packers backfield, as their latest “running back” Ty Montgomery couldn’t suit up in Atlanta. They host Indianapolis next week, and need to take the opportunity to role up some wins with the Vikings suddenly vulnerable at the top of the division. With Minnesota playing Detroit, a win will gain the Packers a game on somebody.
12. Buffalo Bills (4-4) lost to New England 41-25. Previously: 12
With LeSean McCoy missing games and Sammy Watkins injured, an unlikely hero is arriving at the skill positions in Buffalo. Percy Harvin came out of retirement to join the Bills this week, just in time for them to face off against the Seahawks, his former team. Harvin hasn’t played since the Bills placed him on injured reserve last season.
13. Houston Texans (5-3) defeated Detroit 20-13. Previously: 19
The Texans maintained their perfect home record Sunday, something at odds with their 0-3 mark on the road that has absolutely nothing to do with those games coming at the likes of Minnesota and Denver. While they avoided disaster, the offense gained just 269 yards. Brock Osweiler is averaging 5.5 yards per pass attempt a year after averaging 7.2 in Denver.
14. Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1) lost to Carolina 30-20. Previously: 13
Arizona, whichhad looked for a few games like it was righting the ship, is doing its best to make sure Seattle feels no pressure at the top of the NFC West.
15. San Diego Chargers (3-5) lost to Denver 27-19. Previously: 14
Despite being a questionable decision for Sunday’s game, Travis Benjamin turned in three catches against the Broncos, one of them a miracle one-handed touchdown grab of a tipped pass. The last thing San Diego needs going forward is to lose another weapon to injury, especially one as important as Benjamin.
16. Detroit Lions (4-4) lost to Houston 20-13. Previously: 15
A lot of attention has been given to Detroit’s defense needing to improve heading into the trade deadline, but Sunday they held the Texans to under 300 yards and got a takeaway, while it was the offense that couldn’t find the end zone more than once despite Theo Riddick’s return to action (not to mention, there’s the once).
17. Washington (4-3-1) tied Cincinnati 27-27. Previously: 17
After Washington and Cincinnati were next to each other in last weeks rankings, and then tied, on a neutral field, this really is a case for 17 and 17A if there’s ever been one. We’ll settle for flipping the order because Washington left England with the better record.
18. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1) tied Washington 27-27. Previously: 16
The AFC North is still there for the taking, but so was this game, and the Bengals couldn’t deliver. It’s hard to place too much blame on an offense that gained 400-plus yards and scored 27, but there was so much more on the table in London on Sunday.
19. New York Giants (4-3) bye. Previously: 18
For some reason, it feels like the Giants’ bye lasted a lot longer than a week. Yet they sit here with a winning record, as many wins as the Eagles and Washington, and will host Philadelphia next week in the game for second place in the division.
20. Miami Dolphins (3-4) bye. Previously: 20
So often the bye week seems perfectly placed to stop the bleeding or give a key player a chance to recover from injury. This was not the case for Miami, fresh off a beatdown of two of the NFL’s better teams this season and finally themselves, healthy.
21. New Orleans Saints (3-4) defeated Seattle 25-20. Previously: 23
The Saints defense provided the ultimate in bend but don’t break on Seattle’s final drive Sunday, but it was enough. Add in Tim Hightower coming out of nowhere for a 100-yard rushing day, and this may have been the most unlikely way we’ll see the Saints win for a long time.
22. Indianapolis Colts (3-5) lost to Kansas City 30-14. Previously: 21
In his first game action since their Week 2 loss to the Broncos, Donte Moncrief caught four passes for 41 yards and a touchdown. Coming with the Colts down 24-7, it was one of the lone bright spots on a day where, like too many, the Indianapolis running game was reduced to Andrew Luck scrambling.
23. Tennessee Titans (4-4) defeated Jacksonville 36-22. Previously: 25
The Titans continued their impressive knack for beating the teams that are worse than they are. While last week’s loss to the Colts keeps them a rung lower in our rankings, it’s the Titans who are within striking distance of the NFL’s worst division after running roughshod over the reeling Jaguars.
24. Carolina Panthers (2-5) defeated Arizona 30-20. Previously: 28
Even if they’ve barely known how to win this season, the Panthers sure know how to beat the Cardinals. The pass defense clearly isn’t fixed (just check out Carson Palmer’s 363 yards, three touchdowns and the Cardinals vaguely getting back into this game) but this game was a big step in the right direction.
25. New York Jets (3-5) defeated Cleveland 31-28. Previously: 22
If the Jets treat this season like they treated the second half against Cleveland, they may not be out of it yet. It’s a long road back from 1-5, but like the Chiefs last season, the Jets schedule was front-loaded. Upcoming: Five of their next six games are against the Dolphins, Rams, Colts and 49ers.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) lost to Oakland 30-24 (OT.) Previously: 24
After allowing 626 yards to Oakland and gaining just 270 of their own, the Buccaneers have precious little time to right the ship before Atlanta comes to town. Unless Tampa wants to fall three wins behind the Falcons in the NFC South, they’ll have to stop the NFL’s No. 1 offense.
27. Baltimore Ravens (3-4) bye. Previously: 26
Hopefully the Ravens spent all bye week staring at tape of Jay Ajayi running the ball on Pittsburgh, and are prepared to let their own running backs do the same for once instead of counting on 50 attempts from Joe Flacco to win the day. It hasn’t worked out for them since Week 3.
28. Los Angeles Rams (3-4) bye. Previously: 27
The Rams can thank the Panthers for keeping them in second place in their division, but it shouldn’t last long beyond the pregame handshakes if they want to stop their own losing skid. It was a rough outing for Case Keenum in Week 7, but there aren’t many better remedies for the passing game in 2016 than the Panthers’ defense.
29. Chicago Bears (2-6) defeated Minnesota 20-10. Previously: 30
It doesn’t have a ton of competition, but that was certainly the premiere Bears performance of the season. Written off as a snoozer in the opposite direction, Chicago made sure Monday Night Football was a conversational topic the next day, even if it wasn’t a great game. Jordan Howard reignited his season with a 200-yard day and Jay Cutler played within himself.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) lost to Tennessee 36-22. Previously: 29
While Gus Bradley is supposedly safe, you have to expect the Jaguars losing streak will be in Week 9 as well, when they head to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs, on fire since their embarrassment against Pittsburgh.
31. San Francisco 49ers (1-6) bye. Previously: 31
It’s hard to believe, but if trade deadline fire sale rumors prove true, it may be an even worse 49ers team that takes the field against the Saints next week. The NFL’s second worst defense against the NFL’s second highest scoring offense. Promising.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-8) lost to New York Jets 31-28. Previously: 32
Cleveland fans, focus on the World Series and the NBA. Even a 20-7 first half lead isn’t safe in the Browns’ hands. They became the fourth team in the league this year not to intercept Ryan Fitzpatrick.