Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, plus new goals for every team

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Thursday, October 24, 2019

The NFL power rankings are a weekly litmus test of where each team stands. But we're going to go beyond that this week, as we feel that six to seven games is enough of a sample size to reevaluate each team's most realistic path of success going forward.

So that's what our NFL Nation writers did. Based on what they've seen so far, they have recalibrated expectations for their teams for the rest of the season and beyond. Many can stay the course of their preseason expectations, but seven weeks allows for some teams to dream bigger (yay, 49ers) or go the other way (sorry, Falcons). Our power panel -- a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities -- evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings:7 |6 |5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

1. New England Patriots (7-0)

Week 7 ranking: 1

Recalibrated expectation: Super Bowl title

File this one under the "lather, rinse, repeat" category, going on about 20 years now. While the Patriots have shown areas of vulnerability through seven games this season, they are still a top contender -- led by the two old standbys, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. -- Mike Reiss

2. New Orleans Saints (6-1)

Week 7 ranking: 2

Recalibrated expectation: Super Bowl or bust

It took two miracle finishes to knock the Saints out of the playoffs the past two years. And now they have somehow strengthened their case as a top contender by thriving without injured QB Drew Brees the past five weeks. Brees should be back in the next game or two, and the Saints will be very hard to beat if the defense continues to dominate the way it has in his absence. -- Mike Triplett

3. San Francisco 49ers (6-0)

Week 7 ranking: 3

Recalibrated expectation: Winning the NFC West ... at minimum

The shorter-term goal for the division-leading Niners should be winning the division, and if that happens, all doors are open. But when you're undefeated through six games, everything should be on the table, including a trip to the Super Bowl. Obviously, the Niners still have plenty to prove, and the schedule will get tougher in the coming weeks, but with a dominant defense and the forthcoming return of some key injured starters, there's still room for this team to get markedly better, which makes them a legitimate NFC contender. -- Nick Wagoner

4. Green Bay Packers (6-1)

Week 7 ranking: 5

Recalibrated expectation: Winning the NFC, despite what Aaron Rodgers says

Maybe Rodgers was just trying to temper Super Bowl expectations for a little while longer when he said after Sunday's rout of the Raiders: "I think it's a little early at this point." But he admitted, "I think that we're trending in the right direction." And that direction is toward one of the NFC's top postseason seeds. Rodgers has proved he can make do in less-than-ideal circumstances (i.e. Davante Adams' absence and a lack of weapons) this season, and first-year coach Matt LaFleur has captivated the locker room. -- Rob Demovsky

5. Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)

Week 7 ranking: 6

Recalibrated expectation: A Super Bowl title ... still

The injury to Patrick Mahomes is an obstacle the Chiefs weren't counting on, but given that he's going to return well before the playoffs, the Chiefs can still realize their goal of reaching and winning the Super Bowl. That task is going to be more difficult than it otherwise might have been and will depend greatly on how the Chiefs fare until Mahomes is back. But the Chiefs should still win the AFC West, and earning a first-round playoff bye also isn't out of the question. With Mahomes back in their lineup, they'll be a tough out in the postseason. -- Adam Teicher

6. Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

Week 7 ranking: 9

Recalibrated expectation: Contend for an AFC title

The Ravens have a stranglehold on the AFC North with a 2-game lead over the Browns and the Steelers. Baltimore also has the look of a team that can make noise in the postseason, especially after beating the Seahawks on the road. Lamar Jackson is the ultimate equalizer because of his ability to scramble and make tacklers look foolish in the open field. The biggest question mark is the defense, which has been inconsistent and has a tendency to give up big plays. The Ravens are right there with the Patriots as the class of the AFC. -- Jamison Hensley

7. Seattle Seahawks (5-2)

Week 7 ranking: 4

Recalibrated expectation: Win the NFC West

Contending for the playoffs should always be the Seahawks' baseline as long as they have Russell Wilson. With a 5-2 record and enough pieces around him, winning the division is still a realistic goal even with Seattle sitting two games behind the undefeated 49ers in the loss column. How much the Seahawks can do beyond that is hard to gauge given they have only a plus-five point differential, with four of their victories coming by a combined eight points. The 30-16 loss to Baltimore on Sunday was a troubling sign for their ability to win when Wilson isn't playing at an MVP level. -- Brady Henderson

8. Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

Week 7 ranking: 10

Recalibrated expectation: Compete for the NFC North crown

Four weeks ago, frustrations on offense were front and center in Minnesota. Now this unit looks unstoppable in the midst of an insane stretch by Kirk Cousins where he became the first quarterback in NFL history to record at least 300 passing yards and a passer rating of 135 or higher in three consecutive games. With the way this offense looks at the halfway point, anything short of a playoff berth would be considered a major disappointment. It might take more than 10 wins to capture the NFC North crown, but the way the Lions and Bears are regressing can only benefit the Vikings, who are in prime position to battle down the stretch with Green Bay. -- Courtney Cronin

9. Buffalo Bills (5-1)

Week 7 ranking: 8

Recalibrated expectation: Make the playoffs

With their current 5-1 record and one of the NFL's easiest remaining schedules, there's no excuse for the Bills not to make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons -- something that hasn't happened since they made back-to-back postseason appearances in 1998 and 1999. They're only one game back of the AFC East-leading Patriots, but overtaking them for what could end up being the conference's No. 1 seed seems less realistic than capturing a wild-card berth. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

10. Houston Texans (4-3)

Week 7 ranking: 7

Recalibrated expectation: A second straight division title

There was a lot of excitement around the Texans after they beat Mahomes and the Chiefs in Kansas City in Week 6, but Houston came back down to earth with a loss to the Colts the following Sunday. Even though they dropped into second place in the AFC South with the loss, the Texans are still contenders to win the division for the second year in a row. -- Sarah Barshop

11. Los Angeles Rams (4-3)

Week 7 ranking: 11

Recalibrated expectation: Keep their playoff streak alive

The two-time-defending NFC West champions are in third place in the division, three games behind the 49ers in the loss column. There is little to no margin for error through the remainder of their schedule if they want to keep hopes of a third consecutive division title alive. More likely, the Rams are playing for a wild-card berth. The schedule will get tougher after a Week 9 bye, but the offense has another chance at a get-right game coming up against the winless Bengals, while the defense received a boost in Jalen Ramsey. Clay Matthews is expected to return in November too. -- Lindsey Thiry

12. Dallas Cowboys (4-3)

Week 7 ranking: 12

Recalibrated expectation: Win the NFC East

Getting a read on the Cowboys is difficult after they opened with three consecutive wins, then lost three in a row. They were dominant against Philadelphia, but are they a true contender? The remaining schedule is difficult, but this should be a playoff team. If the Cowboys continue to play like they did against the Eagles, then they could be a Super Bowl contender. Until this team can show the ability to handle success and not sniff themselves, as Dak Prescott referenced, it is difficult to write that down in pen. What helps is the NFC East is struggling at the moment, and the Cowboys look to be the best in the division. -- Todd Archer

13. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)

Week 7 ranking: 15

Recalibrated expectation: Make the postseason

The Colts have survived -- so far -- the sudden retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck back in April by having a complete roster instead of one that depends on a player or two. They're in sole possession of first place of the AFC South after back-to-back victories over playoff-caliber teams in Kansas City and Houston. The schedule has shifted in the Colts' favor, as their next four opponents have a combined record of 7-19. Three of those four games are at home. Jacoby Brissett, who replaced Luck as the starter, is third in the NFL in touchdown passes with 14. -- Mike Wells

14. Carolina Panthers (4-2)

Week 7 ranking: 13

Recalibrated expectation: Simply make the playoffs ... for now

Right now the Panthers are a serious playoff contender with a four-game win streak, but the next three games will determine how serious. Carolina goes to undefeated San Francisco, faces the Titans at home and then is at one-loss Green Bay. Win two of those games and playoff contender could change to Super Bowl contender. But there's still the matter of two division games against 6-1 New Orleans, which is 5-0 without Drew Brees. Defensively, the Panthers are legitimate, with a league-best 27 sacks. Offensively, they must figure out the Kyle Allen/Cam Newton quarterback dilemma. Allen is 4-0 this season and 5-0 overall as a starter, but Newton is nearing a return. -- David Newton

15. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)

Week 7 ranking: 14

Recalibrated expectation: Dial it back and win the NFC East

The Eagles entered with expectations of being among the NFC's elite, but at 3-4, the focus needs to be on capturing the division. They are a game back of the Cowboys following a blowout loss in Dallas on Sunday night. As bad as that was, they still have four division games remaining, including a home tilt against the Cowboys in December. The clearest path to the postseason is through a division title in a down NFC East. -- Tim McManus

16. Chicago Bears (3-3)

Week 7 ranking: 16

Recalibrated expectation: To go 8-8

The Bears no longer resemble a playoff team -- not with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Chicago's offense ranks 30th in total yards per game, 30th in yards per play, 28th in passing yards per game and 28th in rushing yards per game. That's not expected to change anytime soon -- even if Matt Nagy eventually pulls the plug on Trubisky in favor of Chase Daniel. -- Jeff Dickerson

17. Detroit Lions (2-3-1)

Week 7 ranking: 17

Recalibrated expectation: Hope for the wild card

The Lions looked like they could be contenders -- and have been competitive in every game -- but at 2-3-1 with a porous run defense, no pressure on opposing quarterbacks and perhaps an injured running back in Kerryon Johnson, reaching the playoffs as a wild-card team would be the best-case scenario for Detroit. But more realistically, hanging around .500 is probably where the Lions will end up this season. -- Michael Rothstein

18. Oakland Raiders (3-3)

Week 7 ranking: 18

Recalibrated expectation: Make a second-half run into the playoffs

At 3-3 and almost finished with their nearly two-month road trip (the Raiders last played in Oakland on Sept. 15 and won't see the Black Hole again until Nov. 3), the Raiders are eyeing a run here shortly. Yes, we're talking playoffs, so pipe down with your incredulous Jim Mora impressions. Especially if they upend the Texans this week before a three-game homestand against the Lions, Chargers and Bengals. "We can put ourselves in a position to make a run with a lot of home games," quarterback Derek Carr said. "We get a lot of home games down the stretch. I'm excited about that. I am tired of traveling, but we'll do it one more time, we'll grit it out and hopefully come back home with a win." -- Paul Gutierrez

19. Cleveland Browns (2-4)

Week 7 ranking: 19

Recalibrated expectation: Break the playoff drought

The Browns are off to a bumpy start, yet their goal of snapping the NFL's longest playoff drought (2002) remains intact. For one, they play in the surprisingly weak AFC North and already have a road win over the division-leading Ravens. Two, they still have the talent. And three, they own one of the NFL's easiest remaining schedules. -- Jake Trotter

20. Tennessee Titans (3-4)

Week 7 ranking: 22

Recalibrated expectation: Grab a wild-card berth

The Titans are in the thick of things for the AFC South title or a wild-card spot. The offense seems to be more in sync with Ryan Tannehill under center, but there's a lot of football left to be played. If they can string together some wins and continue to stay competitive on offense, things will go well given the strength of Tennessee's defense. Fortunately for the Titans, their next game is against the Bucs, which should allow them to keep things rolling on offense. It isn't unreasonable to say the Titans could contend for a wild-card spot. -- Turron Davenport

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4)

Week 7 ranking: 20

Recalibrated expectation: Rebound to grab a wild card

The Steelers haven't lived up to expectations through the first quarter of the season. With the Week 2 season-ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger, some factors contributing to their record have been out of the team's control. Averaging 2.5 takeaways per game, the Steelers' defense is turning into a dominant force, but the No. 28-ranked offense is still a work in progress. The Steelers trail the Ravens in the AFC North by 2 games, but there's still a realistic path to the playoffs if the offense stabilizes. The three-game swing from Week 11 to Week 13 against division opponents will be the defining stretch of the season. -- Brooke Pryor

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4)

Week 7 ranking: 23

Recalibrated expectation: Division title still in play

Nobody is running away with the division, so the Jaguars are still alive and thinking playoffs. The run game is cranking (Leonard Fournette is the AFC's leading rusher), rookie QB Gardner Minshew II has done a good job in place of Nick Foles, and Foles is on track for a Nov. 17 return. Injuries are starting to mount, especially at linebacker, so that's problematic, and the red zone production is not very good either, so there are some major issues to overcome. However, three of the Jaguars' next four games are against division opponents, so the season will be determined in that stretch. -- Mike DiRocco

23. Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1)

Week 7 ranking: 27

Recalibrated expectation: Make a run at .500

After starting 0-3-1, the Cardinals have won three straight. Granted, those wins were against teams that have gone 3-18, but the Cardinals are beating teams they should. Now that Arizona sits at 3-3-1, a six- or seven-win season is not out of the question. If the offense continues to evolve and improve while the defense gets to the quarterback like it did against the Giants, then the Cardinals could be looking at eight or -- dare I say -- nine wins. They'd have to beat some good teams, but Kliff Kingsbury has shown the ability to adapt to coaching in the NFL and be creative offensively while doing it. -- Josh Weinfuss

24. Los Angeles Chargers (2-5)

Week 7 ranking: 21

Recalibrated expectation: Turn it around and make a run

Anthony Lynn appears on his way to his first losing season as head coach of the Chargers. At 2-5, the Chargers have dropped three straight and are dealing with significant injuries on both sides of the ball. And the Bolts still have to play the Chiefs twice, along with NFC North powers Green Bay and Minnesota. Even though his team is struggling, Lynn believes the Bolts can turn things around, pointing to L.A.'s 0-4 record at the start of his tenure in 2017, only to finish 9-7. "I know the character of this team," Lynn said. "We have been through a lot together, and I know all of these men work every single day, so I expect them to bounce back." -- Eric D. Williams

25. Denver Broncos (2-5)

Week 7 ranking: 24

Recalibrated expectation: Match last year's record

With one of their best players already on injured reserve for the remainder of the season (Bradley Chubb), a sputtering offense, a defense that hasn't played its best in most of the important moments and a still-leaky special teams unit, the Broncos have to use every ounce of whatever they have left in the tank to equal last season's 6-10 mark. To do better they will have to show more than they have to this point. Two of their remaining opponents (the Chiefs and Colts) currently lead their divisions while three others (the Vikings, Texans and Bills) are currently second. -- Jeff Legwold

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)

Week 7 ranking: 25

Recalibrated expectation: Not end with a losing record

The playoffs aren't out of the question for the Bucs. While Bruce Arians said it's still too early to call games "must-wins," just 18 of 193 teams (9%) that have started 2-4 have ended up making the playoffs since 1990 (when the playoffs were expanded to 12 teams). The one thing that could help a late-season push? Having five of their final eight games at home after a heavily frontloaded road schedule in which the Bucs spent six of their first eight games on the road, including a "home" game in London. Still, with the erratic play of quarterback Jameis Winston and a very young, inexperienced secondary, it's looking like the best this team can hope for is 8-8. -- Jenna Laine

27. New York Giants (2-5)

Week 7 ranking: 26

Recalibrated expectation: Improvement from last season

The Giants are in an all-too-familiar position near the bottom of the NFC. Their goal this season was to show progress. They went 5-11 last season and were hoping to at least improve in terms of building for the future. Not much has changed. They might not top five wins, but at least they need rookie quarterback Daniel Jones to make noticeable strides in order to provide hope this organization is heading in the right direction, as they seem destined again for a top-10 pick. -- Jordan Raanan

28. New York Jets (1-5)

Week 7 ranking: 28

Recalibrated expectation: Reach predicted also-ran status

Widely projected as an also-ran (7-9 was a popular prediction, and the Jets will be hard-pressed to reach that record), New York has underachieved for a variety of reasons, and, despite having the easiest remaining schedule, will finish with a top-10 pick. The previous regime, fired in the offseason, built a win-now team. This season has proved they're a long way from winning now. -- Rich Cimini

29. Atlanta Falcons (1-6)

Week 7 ranking: 29

Recalibrated expectation: Get a top-five draft pick

With one win in seven games, this season has gotten away from the Falcons with little hope for a turnaround. So a top-five pick in next year's draft looks more realistic, and they need to use that pick to draft an impact pass-rusher. -- Vaughn McClure

30. Washington Redskins (1-6)

Week 7 ranking: 31

Recalibrated expectation: A top-three pick

The Redskins' chances for the top spot probably ended when they beat Miami two weeks ago. With road games left at Minnesota, Buffalo, Carolina, Green Bay and Dallas, there is no turnaround in sight. Not that being at home helps -- they've lost seven in a row at FedEx Field and have been outscored 199-82. The Redskins have fired their coach, so the rest of the season is about reestablishing some sort of identity, one that would entice another coach to take this job. It'll also be, at some point, about rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins' development. The Redskins have been reluctant to play him, but it'll be hard to keep him on the sidelines as losses pile up. Their future is tied to Haskins. -- John Keim

31. Cincinnati Bengals (0-7)

Week 7 ranking: 30

Recalibrated expectation: Get the top pick

Any hopes of a playoff push in coach Zac Taylor's first year disappeared weeks ago. At 0-7, the Bengals appear to be a lock for a top-five pick and could be in contention for the top spot. The Week 16 game against Miami, the other winless team in the league, could be for the No. 1 pick. -- Ben Baby

32. Miami Dolphins (0-6)

Week 7 ranking: 32

Recalibrated expectation: A chance at Tua (or another top QB in the 2020 draft)

The winless Dolphins would love to get off the schneid and secure their first victory, but the organization has bigger goals in mind, like getting the first overall pick. The Dolphins are the overwhelming favorite to land that spot and have their choice of top quarterback prospects to be the face of their rebuild going forward. -- Cameron Wolfe

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