If you follow college football or basketball polls, you know the drill. The No. 1 team loses, and it moves down.
Why is that the case? Shouldn’t an entire body of work be considered, and not just what happened most recently?
Moving the New England Patriots down from No. 1 shouldn’t be automatic. They were the best team in the NFL before Sunday night and it wasn’t close. Then they lost a tough matchup on the road to the Baltimore Ravens. It happens. And before Julian Edelman fumbled, everyone was thinking the Patriots were on their way to a comeback win.
The Patriots’ point differential is still plus-172. The 49ers are second in the NFL at plus-133 and before Monday night’s game, no other team was better than plus-76.
A lot is made of the Patriots’ schedule, and some of it is fair. It also ignores that the Patriots blew out a Pittsburgh Steelers team with Ben Roethlisberger in Week 1 (not a bad opponent) and won at the 6-2 Buffalo Bills. Saying they haven’t beaten anyone is being willfully ignorant because you hate the Patriots.
The Patriots still have a phenomenal defense. One game doesn’t change that. Their offense is not a vintage New England offense, but it’s still good. They have played a soft schedule, but they do have a couple good wins and have done what they needed to do against bad teams and blew them completely out. Aside from the 1972 Dolphins, every team in NFL history has had a bad day. The NFL is difficult. The Ravens’ win on Sunday night showed that the Patriots are beatable. It didn’t expose anything or discount their 8-0 start.
The Patriots won’t be moving down in these power rankings as far as you’d like, Patriots hater. If you want to jump the Ravens way up, let’s not forget they lost decisively at Kansas City (that’s fine) and were blown out by the Browns at home (yuck). A case can be made for the undefeated San Francisco 49ers, though I already stated why I prefer the Saints. A tight win against the Arizona Cardinals isn’t enough to move the 49ers up past New Orleans.
The Saints are the new No. 1 here. What they did without Drew Brees, going 5-0, can’t be understated. That’s the sign of a strong, balanced team. Sean Payton had perhaps his best stretch as an NFL head coach. Then Brees returned from thumb surgery in Week 8 and looked great. Their loss came to the Rams when Brees was knocked out in the middle of a game. That’s a very tough situation and shouldn’t be held against them.
The Patriots move down, but only a bit. The Saints take the top spot because of what they have done all season and where they are right now with Brees back. The 49ers are on that same top tier, too. There’s still a lot of season to go. And all of it counts.
Here are the Power Rankings after Week 9 of the NFL season:
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-8, LW: 31)
Miami went with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick because Brian Flores wanted to be competitive and presumably avoid 0-16. The Bengals are turning to Ryan Finley, even though Andy Dalton presumably gives them the best chance to win one game. If Finley struggles badly and the Bengals keep losing, perhaps Zac Taylor will rethink that choice. Nobody wants to be 0-16.
31. New York Jets (1-7, LW: 27)
How many years does Adam Gase get to live off of the 2013 season when Peyton Manning was incredible? Will he still be getting jobs in 2025 due to Manning’s greatness?
30. Miami Dolphins (1-7, Last week: 32)
There could be a desire to tank at the top of an organization. Even the coaching staff could understand that plan. But no player would tank. For all they know, the high draft pick a year from now could take their job. So congratulations to the Dolphins players on the win. None of them wanted to be remembered for being on an 0-16 team.
29. Washington Redskins (1-8, LW: 30)
Dwayne Haskins wasn’t terrible in a tough matchup on Sunday. He wasn’t great either but it seemed there was progress. It wasn’t fair to judge him off a couple relief appearances, and it isn’t fair to judge him after one start. Let’s give Haskins patience.
28. Atlanta Falcons (1-7, LW: 29)
Dan Quinn is shuffling around his coaching staff. Like reassigning three assistants is what will cure the Falcons.
27. New York Giants (2-7, LW: 26)
At least the Giants get the Jets next. They should be able to win that one, though it’s not like they’re flying high going into that game. Let’s all be thankful that one wasn’t set for prime time.
26. Cleveland Browns (2-6, LW: 25)
If you can’t beat the Brandon Allen-led Broncos to save your season, then it’s time for Freddie Kitchens to go. It doesn’t do much good to fire him now, but it’s clear he shouldn’t be back in 2020.
25. Denver Broncos (3-6, LW: 28)
Brandon Allen isn’t the answer; Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant made remarkable plays on Allen’s touchdowns. But it was a nice day for a player who waited a long time to get his first NFL action. It’s an easy story to root for.
24. Arizona Cardinals (3-5-1, LW: 24)
Kenyan Drake played very well (hey, remember when Adam Gase refused to even try Drake in a larger role?) in his first game for the Cardinals. I’m still not sure why they’d trade for a half-season rental when they’re not going to the playoffs, but whatever.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6, LW: 23)
The Buccaneers are becoming like the Chargers, able to find ways to lose games in creative ways. In all six losses, the Buccaneers have either outgained their opponent or lost by seven points or less.
22. Tennessee Titans (4-5, LW: 19)
Dion Lewis hasn’t been good for Tennessee. This season he is averaging 3.7 yards per rush and a paltry 4.8 yards per catch. Derrick Henry is a very good back who the Titans should be riding as hard as they can. On Sunday, Henry had only 16 touches. Why? Because he got 40 snaps to Lewis’ 35 (Lewis had nine touches). In related news, Tennessee lost. The Titans are never going to figure this out, are they?
21. Chicago Bears (3-5, LW: 18)
Not much more can be said about Mitchell Trubisky’s struggles. Yahoo Sports’ Terez Paylor spelled it all out. Trubisky made some strides last season and there was reason to believe he could continue to develop, but his regression has been stunning.
20. Detroit Lions (3-4-1, LW: 17)
It’s shocking how bad the Lions’ defense is. They’re allowing 288.4 passing yards per game, third worst in the NFL after Sunday’s games. Wasn’t Matt Patricia supposed to fix the defense?
19. Los Angeles Chargers (4-5, LW: 22)
Imagine if the Chiefs hadn’t come back to win on Sunday. We’d have an intriguing AFC West race again. Even though the Chargers remain a couple games back, it seems we might be seeing another rally after a slow start to the season.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4, LW: 21)
It’s not like it was a great win, needing an Adam Vinatieri miss to beat Brian Hoyer and the Colts at home. But at 4-4, the Steelers are relevant again in a soft AFC.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5, LW: 16)
The Jaguars have a bye, then a very interesting choice. Nick Foles should be ready to return from a broken clavicle. Gardner Minshew has played much better than expected in his absence, though he struggled Sunday against the Texans. The Jaguars’ next game is against the Colts, and they might need to win that to stay in the AFC South race. This is a tough call for Doug Marrone, who said he hasn’t made his decision yet.
16. Oakland Raiders (4-4, LW: 20)
Derek Carr’s last 18 games: 4,250 yards, 25 touchdowns, six interceptions, 68.8 completion percentage, 100.7 passer rating. And a lot of those games came last season when he was working with a terrible cast of receivers. Carr might be the most underrated player in the NFL, considering everyone decided less than two months into last season that he was a lost cause and haven’t bothered to notice he has been pretty good since then.
15. Indianapolis Colts (5-3, LW: 8)
Brian Hoyer played well, but the Jacoby Brissett injury is a potential problem. I don’t assume Brissett plays through an MCL sprain this weekend, despite the optimistic words Monday. The good news is the Colts get the Dolphins next. The big question is whether Brissett will be ready by Nov. 21 and a huge showdown against the Texans.
14. Carolina Panthers (5-3, LW: 15)
Two of the Panthers’ next three games are at Green Bay and at New Orleans (with a home game against the Falcons in the middle). The NFC wild-card race is going to be highly competitive. The Panthers might need to win one of those two. Maybe both.
13. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4, LW: 14)
The DeSean Jackson injury is a tough one. You have to assume the Eagles regret not holding him out through the bye, which is this week. Jackson is out for perhaps the rest of the season, and the Eagles are going to miss him stretching the defense.
12. Los Angeles Rams (5-3, LW: 12)
The Rams aren’t sure when Brandin Cooks will return, but said his visit with a concussion specialist was positive. Football-wise it’s a big loss, though Josh Reynolds has talent and a big opportunity to fill that gap.
11. Houston Texans (6-3, LW: 13)
I don’t think the Texans are all that great. But Deshaun Watson is a special, transcendent player. Maybe that’s enough to get the Texans to a division title, especially with the Colts now dealing with a Jacoby Brissett injury.
10. Dallas Cowboys (5-3, LW: 11)
It gets pretty tough for the Cowboys over the next seven weeks. That’s why they needed that win over the Giants. It was in doubt for a while, but Dallas ended up handling business.
9. Minnesota Vikings (6-3, LW: 5)
That loss at Kansas City won’t do much to disrupt the “can’t beat good teams” label for the Vikings. They’re talented and look like a championship team against bad opponents. It needs to look like a championship team against better opponents as well.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (6-3, LW: 10)
Perhaps the most impressive play of the week was Tyreek Hill catching up to Damien Williams on Williams’ long touchdown run. We all knew Hill was fast, but wow.
7. Buffalo Bills (6-2, LW: 9)
Usually, Football Outsiders’ DVOA is a telling stat. Before Week 9, it had the Bills ranked 25th. That was by far the lowest ranking among teams with a winning record; the Colts were second-lowest at No. 16. A win over a terrible Redskins team won’t move the needle much for the Bills. If you buy advanced stats, the Bills should be in for regression. Their remaining schedule has so many beatable opponents, so it might not matter.
6. Seattle Seahawks (7-2, LW: 7)
5. Green Bay Packers (7-2, LW: 4)
The Packers didn’t really try to get a running game going. The Chargers got pressure with a four-man rush most of the game. The Packers had 184 yards and 75 came in the fourth quarter with the loss mostly sealed. I’m not sure what to make of the Packers’ offense disappearing on Sunday. It seemed they had moved past the early offensive struggles.
4. Baltimore Ravens (6-2, LW: 6)
Who is the second-best skill position player on the Ravens? Mark Andrews? Mark Ingram? When Lamar Jackson’s MVP candidacy is discussed — and he is clearly in the race — it should also be noted that he doesn’t have a superstar or two around him. He’s carrying this offense.
3. New England Patriots (8-1, LW: 1)
I considered keeping the Patriots at No. 2, and think the margin between them and the 49ers is razor thin. The Patriots are still fantastic. One loss doesn’t change that. If there’s any concern for New England, it’s that the offense may be good but not great. Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu had 20 combined catches for only 170 yards. We’ve seen the Patriots use the short passing game better than anyone, but they need explosion in the passing game. It’s where Josh Gordon will be missed.
2. San Francisco 49ers (8-0, LW: 3)
If Jimmy Garoppolo can play like he did last Thursday, the 49ers’ ceiling moves higher. However, in the playoffs there won’t be a defense nearly as bad as Arizona.
1. New Orleans Saints (7-1, LW: 2)
On Dec. 8, the 49ers play the Saints in the Superdome. That might be the game of the 2019 regular season.
– – – – – – –