xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

NFL power rankings, Week 10: Stunning losses by Ravens, Buccaneers and Rams shake things up

Lamar Jackson said the Ravens weren't surprised by the Dolphins' Cover Zero defensive scheme.

Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL teams. The rankings will take into account not just weekly performance, but how well each team measures up as Super Bowl contenders, regardless of win-loss record.

Here are the rankings after Week 10:

Advertisement

The contenders

1. Arizona Cardinals (8-2; No. 1 last week)

2. Green Bay Packers (8-2; No. 4)

Advertisement
Advertisement

3. Tennessee Titans (8-2, No. 3)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3; No. 2)

5. Dallas Cowboys (7-2; No. 6)

6. Los Angeles Rams (7-3; No. 7)

Advertisement

Yes, the Cardinals weren’t very competitive in a 34-10 loss to Cam Newton and the Panthers on Sunday, but they were without quarterback Kyler Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the second straight week. That doesn’t excuse the performance of the defense, however, which let Newton score touchdowns on his first two plays in the veteran quarterback’s first game back in the NFL since the end of last season. But after a torrid start under Murray, who was playing at an MVP level before being sidelined by an ankle injury, the Cardinals deserve the benefit of the doubt before losing their top spot.

In the meantime, Arizona will have to hold off several top teams in the NFC. The Packers weren’t dominant in a 17-0 win over the Seahawks on Sunday with Aaron Rodgers looking a bit rusty after his one-week COVID absence, but the defense made life miserable for Russell Wilson and Co. The veteran quarterback threw two interceptions in his return from a fractured finger, and star receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett were held to just five catches for 49 yards. Once Green Bay gets cornerback Jaire Alexander and edge rusher Za’Darius Smith back from injury, this could be the best team in the NFL.

The Titans struggled to put away the Trevor Siemian-led Saints on Sunday, 23-21, but a sixth straight win is worth celebrating. Tennessee might not be as talented as Buffalo, Kansas City or Baltimore in the AFC, especially without star running back Derrick Henry, but the Titans have found a winning formula. The defense is turning the corner and the offense has found a way to score without Henry and wide receiver Julio Jones, who was placed on injured reserve. Mike Vrabel should be in the running for Coach of the Year.

Tampa Bay suffered a strange loss to Washington, 29-19, on Sunday, and coach Bruce Arians hasn’t exactly hidden his frustration by chastising his “very dumb football team.” But the Bucs have been banged up on both sides of the ball and might have lost defensive tackle Vita Vea with a knee injury. When fully healthy, this is still one of the best teams in the league with the best quarterback of all time.

The Rams once looked like the best team in the league with Matthew Stafford playing like the MVP. A stunning 31-10 loss to the 49ers on Monday night has adjusted expectations. According to The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin, Stafford produced minus-24.8 expected points added from the start of Los Angeles’ 28-16 loss to the Titans last week through the first three quarters of Monday night’s game. That won’t cut it in the postseason.

The best of the AFC

7. Baltimore Ravens (6-3; No. 5)

8. Buffalo Bills (6-3; No. 8)

9. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4; No. 9)

10. New England Patriots (6-4; No. 10)

11. Los Angeles Chargers (5-4; No. 11)

"The bottom line is this falls squarely on me as the head coach," said Harbaugh. "We were not prepared the way we need to be prepared."

The Ravens followed the Bills’ inexplicable loss to the Jaguars with one of their own, falling to 22-10 to the Dolphins on Thursday night. A short week of preparation usually leads to some head-scratching results, but the way the Ravens offense short-circuited against the Dolphins’ aggressive blitzes raises some questions about how the team will handle similar pressure against a tough slate of opposing defenses. Thursday’s loss showed the limits of how far Lamar Jackson can carry this team when the offensive line can’t protect him and the defense gives up big plays. The Ravens have played well enough to reach first place in the AFC North while the rest of the division struggles, but they’ll need to be better down the stretch to be considered a top contender in a wide-open conference.

If the season ended today, the Ravens would be looking at a scary playoff matchup. The Patriots have won four straight and five of their last six, rising to the No. 6 spot in the AFC. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones put together his best performance of the season in a 45-7 demolition of the Browns, completing several tight-window throws while finishing 19-for-23 with 198 yards and three touchdowns. New England’s free-agent spending spree has paid off, with former Raven Matthew Judon leading a rejuvenated defense and the receiving corps taking a step forward behind Hunter Henry and Kendrick Bourne. As has been the case for most of coach Bill Belichick’s career, this is a team nobody wants to face in January.

Of course, the Chiefs are still the standard in the AFC until proven otherwise. Kansas City has rebounded from a slow start to climb back on top of the AFC West, punctuating a stretch of three straight wins with a dominant 41-14 victory over the Raiders on Sunday night. Patrick Mahomes looked like his old self, throwing for 406 yards and a season-high five touchdowns. If the defense can hold its own against the high-flying Cowboys this weekend, it might be time to consider the Chiefs the best team in the AFC once again.

The wild cards

12. New Orleans Saints (5-4; No. 16)

13. Minnesota Vikings (4-5; No. 20)

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1; No. 12)

15. Cleveland Browns (5-5; No. 13)

16. Indianapolis Colts (5-5; No. 18)

17. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4; No. 17)

18. Las Vegas Raiders (5-4; No. 14)

19. Carolina Panthers (5-5; No. 23)

The Vikings might be the most confusing team in the league. A loss to Cowboys backup quarterback Cooper Rush was followed by an overtime loss to the Ravens and then a 27-20 win over the Chargers and Justin Herbert. Minnesota is only a half-game behind the Panthers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NFC, and there’s a strong case to be made that the Vikings are better than Carolina and New Orleans given their quarterback situations. This team is talented enough to be a tough out in the postseason.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws a pass during a game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in Inglewood, California.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws a pass during a game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in Inglewood, California. (Kyusung Gong/AP)

How do you sort out the bottom of the AFC playoff race? Twelve teams have a .500 record or better, and outside of the Titans, nobody is pulling away from the pack. A 16-16 tie against the winless Lions with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the COVID list is better than a loss, but the Steelers have played pretty uninspiring football for most of the season. Roethlisberger and coach Mike Tomlin are proven winners, but a brutal finishing stretch could keep Pittsburgh out of the postseason. Next week’s prime-time matchup against the Chargers will say a lot about their status as an AFC contender.

The Browns are also in a tough spot. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is playing through a shoulder injury and hurt his knee Sunday against the Patriots. He deserves credit for trying to gut it out, but he might be costing himself a lucrative new deal. Is Cleveland prepared to part ways with the former No. 1 overall draft pick if he doesn’t show signs of improvement? New contracts for offensive linemen Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio signal their commitment to running the ball regardless of who is taking the snaps. Maybe a cheap rookie quarterback is next for coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry as they try to keep this talented roster intact.

Still hanging around

20. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6; No. 22)

Advertisement

21. San Francisco 49ers (4-6; No. 25)

Advertisement

22. Denver Broncos (5-5; No. 15)

23. Atlanta Falcons (4-5; No. 19)

24. Seattle Seahawks (3-6; No. 21)

25. Washington Football Team (3-6; No. 27)

26. Chicago Bears (3-6; No. 26)

Maybe Jalen Hurts is the quarterback of the future in Philadelphia. The Eagles have three potential top-15 picks to look forward to in the 2022 draft thanks to deals with the Dolphins and Colts, and that gives them plenty of ammunition to trade up for a player they like. But with a lackluster class of quarterbacks coming into the league, this is a chance to rebuild the roster around Hurts. With a strong effort in a 30-13 win over the Broncos, he continues to prove himself.

Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) celebrates after an Antonio Gibson touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in Landover.
Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) celebrates after an Antonio Gibson touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in Landover. (SHABAN ATHUMAN/TIMES-DISPATCH/AP)

Might Taylor Heinicke convince Washington to commit to him, too? If he plays Tom Brady every week, he might have a chance. After his coming-out-party in last season’s wild-card loss to the Buccaneers, Heinicke threw for 256 yards and a touchdown Sunday and helped engineer a game-clinching 19-play, 80-yard drive that took more than 10 minutes off the clock. In a muddled NFC playoff picture, Washington isn’t done yet, even though star pass rusher Chase Young’s season-ending torn ACL is a big blow.

The basement

27. New York Giants (3-6; No. 24)

28. Miami Dolphins (3-7; No. 30)

29. New York Jets (2-7; No. 28)

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7; No. 29)

31. Houston Texans (1-8; No. 31)

32. Detroit Lions (0-8-1; No. 32)

The Mike White Era might have lasted just three games in New York. After a scintillating debut that ended with his jersey in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, White threw four interceptions in the Jets’ 45-17 loss to the Bills on Sunday. Zach Wilson is expected to take over when healthy, but New York is looking for more from its No. 2 overall pick — especially with the way fellow rookies Mac Jones and Justin Fields are playing.

The Lions can take solace in knowing they won’t be the first team to go 0-17. Coach Dan Campbell is still looking for his first win, but Detroit has bigger concerns beyond this season if quarterback Jared Goff is going to play as poorly as he did Sunday. His contract is still an albatross, especially for a rebuilding team. That makes the Lions’ decision at No. 1 overall — if they clinch that pick — very interesting.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement