Steelers fans have become increasingly annoyed that their favorite team is not No. 1 in the Power Rankings.
Please understand that I understand your frustration. I get it. Typically, when a team begins its season with nine consecutive wins, and they’re the only team in the league to carry an undefeated mark this deep into a season, that team will be rewarded with the top spot in an exercise like this. Who knows, maybe they sit at No. 1 on other, less reputable, Power Rankings write-ups on the internet? I’m sure they do.
But you want it all. You want the big chalupa. NFL dot com. Problem is, I just can’t do that for you right now.
It’s not you, it’s me. Well, actually … it’s Patrick Mahomes.
Onto the rankings …
Previous rank: No. 1
Three games in, and it doesn’t appear that Le’Veon Bell is a thing in the Chiefs offense. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has seen his snap count drop in the past weeks corresponding with Bell’s arrival, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Blowouts in two games led to CEH getting a breather, and it was Darrel Williams who ate into the rookie’s playing time in Week 9’s 33-31 victory over the Panthers. Curiously, Edwards-Helaire played only 40 percent of the offensive snaps in that win, which makes you wonder what this backfield will look like when Kansas City returns from its bye. But don’t assume Bell carves out a significant role — he’s looked a step slow in his limited work, like the same guy who struggled with the Jets.
Previous rank: No. 2
Ben Roethlisberger didn’t practice last week after being moved to the COVID-19 list on a close-contact designation. It’s unknown how much of the practice field he would have seen anyway, after sustaining injuries to both knees in last week’s win over the Cowboys. Then, Sunday rolled around, and Roethlisberger did his same ol’ Big Ben routine. The veteran quarterback carved up a depleted Bengals secondary for 333 yards and four touchdowns in a 36-10 win to move the Steelers to 9-0, with the lowly Jaguars on deck. This version of Big Ben — combined with an array of playmakers and a top defense — makes the Steelers easily the No. 1 threat to a Chiefs repeat.
Previous rank: No. 3
The Saints got three more Alvin Kamara touchdowns in a 27-13 win over the 49ers on Sunday, but the big concern after the game surrounded Drew Brees, who missed the second half after getting rocked on a clean (but still absurdly penalized) hit by San Francisco defensive end Kentavius Street. On Monday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Brees entered Week 10 with at least one cracked rib, and suffered multiple broken ribs and a lung issue during the game. The Saints hope Brees will avoid IR, but we now take tentative steps into a world where Jameis Winston is at the reins of one of the best teams in football. It’s about to get weird.
Previous rank: No. 7
After a breathlessly reported misadventure on the tarmac in Tampa, the Bucs touched down in Charlotte and lit up the Panthers’ defense on Sunday for 544 yards and 46 points. The crazy thing? The damage could’ve been even more extensive if not for some red-zone struggles and three Tom Brady misses on downfield throws. It tells you something when you’re imperfect in your execution and still obliterate the opponent. Let’s give some credit to Bruce Arians, who could have stuck Ronald Jones in the dog house after a first-quarter fumble set up Carolina’s opening score. Instead, Arians kept his running back in, and Jones responded with a game-altering 98-yard touchdown run in the third-quarter.
Previous rank: No. 5
The combination of chemistry and skill between Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams is incredible to watch. We saw it in the most important play on Sunday, when Rodgers fooled the Jaguars’ defensive line with a gorgeous play-action fake, and Adams lulled rookie cornerback C.J. Henderson to sleep before exploding to the outside to high-point Rodgers’ pass for a 6-yard touchdown. They were the deciding points in a 24-20 win over the surprisingly stubborn Jaguars. Adams didn’t go it alone in this one: Marquez Valdes-Scantling had four catches for 149 yards, including a 78-yard score to put Green Bay on the board. The Packers need more balance in their passing attack, and it was on MVS to provide on Sunday. He got it done.
Previous rank: No. 4
The book is out on the Ravens. They are a very good — sometimes great — team that doesn’t know how to dig itself out of a hole. This is not a trait usually attached to a champion. Lamar Jackson fell to 0-6 (including playoffs) when trailing by 10 or more points at any point in a game, the position Baltimore found itself on Sunday night in rainy Foxborough. Playing without Calais Campbell and several other starters, the defense was run over, while the offense produced two quality touchdown drives and little else. Now three games behind the undefeated Steelers, the Ravens’ chances of repeating as division champions appear remote. More distressingly, they are one of six 6-3 teams in the AFC, which puts them in a dogfight for a playoff spot. Hold on tight.
Previous rank: No. 6
“That’s why you here!” That was the excited message from Isaiah McKenzie after the wide receiver greeted Stefon Diggs in the end zone on Sunday in Glendale. Diggs had just beaten Patrick Peterson for a touchdown on a beautifully thrown pass from Josh Allen to put the Bills ahead of the Cardinals with 34 seconds to play. Everything was in place for the biggest win of the year — Buffalo just needed to keep Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins out of the end zone. They couldn’t do it. The Hail Murray was a display of spectacular athleticism by the opponent, and the Bills found themselves on the wrong side of the cruelest finish of the season. It’s the type of stomach-punch loss that creates a fork in the road for the Bills: Where do they go from here?
Previous rank: No. 10
The Raiders are getting pretty good at being the bully. Josh Jacobs played the role of the kid who dominates recess, clearing 100 yards rushing and scoring two touchdowns before the end of the third quarter on Sunday. Drew Lock looked like the child sulking over his stolen lunch money after a four-interception meltdown. The Raiders have beaten three straight AFC West rivals and will try to make it four when the Chiefs come to town on Sunday. It’s a huge measuring-stick game for Las Vegas, which can announce itself as a legit AFC contender with a season sweep of the defending champs. The bully is about to meet the big man on campus. Flagpole. 3 o’clock.
Previous rank: No. 11
Steve Keim owes Bill O’Brien a care package of immense generosity. There’s no way Kyler Murray and his Cardinals teammates were celebrating Sunday’s miracle win over the Bills if DeAndre Hopkins weren’t waiting on the other end of that rainbow pass. Murray’s athleticism — his ability to evade pressure, shake free of a near-certain sack, then uncork a perfect spiral as he was being chased out of bounds — was breathtaking. But Hopkins’ feat was equally incredible: He used his rare combination of size, strength and leaping ability to high-point Murray’s pass and bring it down while surrounded by the enemy. It was the play of the year in the NFL, and probably the greatest play in Cardinals history since Larry Fitzgerald’s go-ahead touchdown late in Super Bowl XLIII. Thanks, BOB.
Previous rank: No. 12
We’ve reached the point where the Dolphins are getting a huge impact play on defense or special teams every week. Is that sustainable? Probably not! But hey, sports are weird sometimes, and the Dolphins — along with a fanbase starving for relevancy — should just enjoy this magic carpet ride as long as it lasts. Miami got a blocked punt to set up an early touchdown on Sunday, and Tua Tagovailoa delivered another efficient performance in a 29-21 win over the Chargers. The Dolphins have run their winning streak to five games — 3-0 with Tua under center — and are tied in the loss column with the Bills in the AFC East with seven games to play. Brian Flores is the leader in any Coach of the Year discussion, and I won’t hear any other argument!
Previous rank: No. 14
The Colts own the Titans. They’ve now won 20 of the last 24 games against their division rivals, and Thursday night’s 34-17 conquest painted Indianapolis as the more balanced, better team. The game will be remembered for the Titans’ special teams explosion (or was it a Colts implosion?): three huge plays — shanked punt, blocked punt for touchdown, missed field-goal try — which turned a nail-biter into a laugher in the span of 30 minutes. The Colts got a hugely encouraging performance from running back Nyheim Hines, who had 115 yards from scrimmage with two touchdowns. Marlon Mack‘s season-ending injury and the struggles of rookie Jonathan Taylor left a significant void in this offense — perhaps Hines can become the answer in the backfield.
Previous rank: No. 8
The Seahawks don’t look like a team playing with a lot of confidence right now. That starts at the top of the food chain with Russell Wilson, who’s piled up seven turnovers in the past two weeks, a major reason why Seattle now sits in a three-way tie atop the NFC West. On Sunday in Los Angeles, Wilson threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on a low shotgun snap. He also made a costly and uncharacteristic clock-management error late in the game when he failed to get out of bounds on a scramble. Pete Carroll’s beleaguered defense finally delivered a performance that didn’t demand the quarterback be perfect to ensure a win. Wilson simply wasn’t good enough.
Previous rank: No. 9
Let’s play the ‘What if …’ game for a moment, shall we? Thursday night. First quarter. Titans already ahead of the Colts, 7-0. On third down, Ryan Tannehill spots A.J. Brown streaking down the sideline and cuts it loose. The ball travels 40 yards in the air, hits Brown right in his hands — there’s no Colts defender in front of him. He drops it. The game was different from that point on. The special teams meltdown was a more obvious headline, to which we’ll say this: Any further costly missed kicks from here on out are as much on Mike Vrabel as they are on Stephen Gostkowski. Patriot loyalty has to have its limits.
Previous rank: No. 15
You can blame all the Todd Gurley shaming a few weeks back for Nick Chubb costing you a fantasy win (and maybe your house?) by going out of bounds at the 1-yard line on Sunday, but let’s keep our eyes on the bigger picture: The Browns are 6-3, and Chubb’s return from injury was a huge lift. Heavy rain and wind in Cleveland played a significant factor in Baker Mayfield‘s low yardage total against Houston, but we’re also getting to the place where it’s fair to wonder if the Browns quarterback will ever be a true impact player. We know Chubb is, and his pairing with Kareem Hunt produced 230 yards on the ground against the Texans. Add in the all-world game-wrecker on the other side in Myles Garrett, and there’s reason to believe in, um, Believeland.
Previous rank: No. 16
It took 10 tries, but Kirk Cousins finally won a start on Monday Night Football. Perhaps that’s why we saw the Vikings quarterback in such an excited state after his fourth-quarter completion to Kyle Rudolph helped seal the 19-13 win over the Bears. These guys don’t live their lives in a bubble, and it’s one less narrative that Cousins — ever the lightning rod — has to hear about. Mike Zimmer wasn’t happy with his special teams converge unit on Monday, but he has to be feeling pretty good about just about everything else. The Vikings have won three straight and find themselves back in the NFC playoff race. Their 1-5 start feels like ancient history now.
Previous rank: No. 21
A narrow victory over the Jets on Monday Night Football followed by an impressive upset win over the Ravens at soggy Gillette Stadium has revitalized the Patriots’ season. The latest conquest was a total team effort: Cam Newton was smart and efficient in terrible conditions, Damien Harris led a rushing attack that bullied Baltimore’s injury-depleted front seven, and the defense never let Lamar Jackson make impact plays to swing the game. The Patriots are a team with a ceiling — they’re not special like they once were — but at 4-5, you get the feeling they just might hang around in the AFC playoff picture. This is a team with a brilliant head coach, savvy veteran quarterback and elite offensive line — teams have won with less.
Previous rank: No. 19
Todd Gurley is having an odd season. He remains one of the best “closers” in the league when it comes to finding the end zone — scoring nine touchdowns in as many games. But the TDs provide cover for the hard truth that Gurley is nowhere close to the player he was at his peak in Los Angeles. When you factor in his yards per carry (3.7), Pro Football Focus ranking (55th out of 57 running backs heading into Week 10) and — of course — the boneheaded decisions against the Lions and Panthers in back-to-back weeks that cost Atlanta one win and nearly another, and, yeah, it’s fair to ask how much value he’s bringing to Atlanta. Playing on a one-year deal, Gurley’s future is murky.
Previous rank: No. 18
Justin Herbert was due a pedestrian performance. It finally happened Sunday at Miami in a 29-21 loss to the Dolphins that dropped the Chargers to 2-7 and all but out of AFC playoff contention with nearly half the season to play. Herbert managed just 187 passing yards against Brian Flores’ stingy defense, 77 fewer yards than the 264 yards he put up against the Saints in his previous lowest output. The showdown with fellow first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa didn’t quite live up to the hype, though Tua did enjoy the better day. The bright side for the Bolts? At least they didn’t lose in crushing fashion this time around.
Previous rank: No. 27
Listen, we don’t know how the Lions are 4-5, either. It snuck up on all of us, so let’s all just try to remain calm and see where this thing goes. Matt Prater’s 59-yard field goal as time expired was the difference on Sunday in a 30-27 win over the Washington Football Team. It snapped a seven-game home losing streak for the Lions at Ford Field, a stretch that covered more than a calendar year. Did they blow a 21-point lead to one of pro football’s least inspiring offenses? Yes. Have the Lions under Matt Patricia demonstrated repeatedly that they are allergic to extended success? Sure. But Detroit won’t play another team that currently has a winning record until the middle of December. A path to relevance is there. Will they take it?
Previous rank: No. 20
The 49ers played a nearly perfect first quarter on Sunday at the Superdome, holding the ball for 13 of the 15 minutes and taking a 10-0 lead four seconds into the second period. But Kyle Shanahan’s injury-depleted team made too many mistakes — including two muffed punts and a pair of Nick Mullens interceptions — in a 27-13 loss to the Saints. Those unforced errors were the difference on a day in which the Niners’ defense knocked Drew Brees out of the game and held the New Orleans offense to just 237 yards, the team’s lowest total in a win in 22 years. A bye week should allow San Francisco to get some players back for the homestretch — winning out might be the only path back to the playoffs.
Previous rank: No. 28
Don’t look now, but the Giants have morphed into the best team in their division over the past five weeks. Sure, that’s not saying much when you’re talking about the NFC East, but Big Blue is making undeniable progress in all phases under first-year coach Joe Judge. We saw it on display during Sunday’s crisp 27-17 win over the Eagles, a victory that draws New York even in the win column with Philadelphia. Daniel Jones scored on a long TD run and didn’t commit a turnover for the second consecutive game. The once-dormant running game exploded for 151 yards, and the defense is slowly turning into the team’s strength, holding Carson Wentz without a touchdown while not allowing the Eagles to convert a single third down in nine tries.
Previous rank: No. 17
Nick Foles looked dejected and hopeless as he was carted off the field late in Monday night’s loss to the Vikings. It was a sad image that neatly summed up the entire Bears experience after a fourth consecutive loss, this time a 19-13 setback against Minnesota. This latest defeat was especially frustrating, as Chicago got an especially strong performance out of its defense and more special teams mastery from Cordarrelle Patterson, but still couldn’t get a win because the offense is completely overmatched. The Bears managed just six points and 149 yards of total offense in Bill Lazor’s debut as play-caller. As for Foles, Matt Nagy said after the game that the quarterback suffered a leg or hip injury. Turning this offense over to Tyler Bray is the stuff of nightmares.
Previous rank: No. 24
Things started well for the Panthers. They had an early lead on the Buccaneers as Teddy Bridgewater completed his first 12 passes, including two for touchdowns. But the Carolina offense began to sputter, the defense imploded and Bridgewater exited the game in the final minutes with a knee injury in a 46-23 loss. The Panthers remain a fun and competitive team most weeks, but you can’t ignore a losing streak that has now stretched to five games. Third-down defense continues to be a huge problem: Tom Brady converted on six of seven third downs in the first half; in the third quarter, Carolina allowed a checkdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate to go for a first down on third-and-19. Ugly stuff.
Previous rank: No. 23
It is not too early to be worried about Drew Lock. The second-year quarterback’s hot-and-cold sophomore season hit a nadir on Sunday with a four-interception meltdown against the rival Raiders in a 37-12 loss. Lock has thrown 10 interceptions in seven starts this year and continues to play recklessly with the football — a cowboy style of football that doesn’t quite sync up with his skill level. Lock is very young and still relatively inexperienced — his game has clear mechanical flaws and his play could improve with good coaching and better decision-making. But will John Elway and the Broncos have the patience to live with the growing pains? Lock might need a strong finish in the final seven weeks to keep the faith.
Previous rank: No. 22
Doug Pederson can’t run from it now. The Eagles are broken on offense, and time’s running out to get it fixed. Philly’s attack hit another low point on Sunday in a 27-17 loss to the Giants, going the entire game without converting a single third down (0-for-9). The Eagles hadn’t “achieved” that feat in 16 years — they’re the first team to end a game without a single third-down conversion this season. This latest ignominy came despite the return of Miles Sanders, who shared the field with first-round pick Jalen Reagor, breakout wide receiver Travis Fulgham and tight end Dallas Goedert. Carson Wentz had most of his weapons, and the Giants weren’t exactly sending Lawrence Taylor his way. The problem, it turns out, is that the Eagles can’t get out of their own way.
Previous rank: No. 25
The Bengals were Little Mac stepping into the ring against Mike Tyson on Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger carved up an injury-depleted Cincinnati secondary for 333 yards and four touchdowns, and Joe Burrow looked out of sorts playing against Pittsburgh’s elite defense in a 36-10 loss. Through nine games, the Bengals have told us who they are: They can hang with, and occasionally defeat, middling opponents at or near their level … but they are not in the same weight class as the top teams. To wit: The Steelers and Ravens have beaten the Bengals by a combined score of 63-13. Burrow has imported hope to Cincinnati, but the real work has just begun.
Previous rank: No. 26
At least Texans fans still get to watch Deshaun Watson do magical things every Sunday. Well, except this past Sunday, when driving rain and fierce winds in Cleveland grounded the passing games of both the Texans and Browns in a 10-7 Houston loss. Watson’s streak of six straight games with a 100-plus passer rating came to an end, while Will Fuller’s six-game run with a receiving touchdown also wrapped. At 2-7, the Texans are on pace for their worst finish since they went 4-12 in 2017. So at least Watson will get some top-pedigree help in the draft, right? Wrong. The Dolphins own the Texans’ top two picks next spring. This has been a depressing blurb.
Washington Football Team
Previous rank: No. 29
Alex Smith is more than just a feel-good story now; he’s back to being a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL, and he nearly had his Disney ending on Sunday in Detroit. Smith set career highs in completions (38) and passing yards (390), leading Washington back from a 21-point deficit in the second half. Matt Prater’s 59-yard field goal at the gun stopped the screenplay in its tracks, but Smith has brought stability to the quarterback position for Ron Rivera. Don’t expect to hear Dwayne Haskins’ name uttered again this season unless Smith goes down with an injury. Even then, don’t be so sure Haskins finds a way out of the dog house.
Previous rank: No. 30
Here’s the path back to respectability for the Cowboys: Keep Andy Dalton upright and get him comfortable in this offense. Dalton struggled mightily in his initial starts following the shocking Dak Prescott injury, then disappeared down a grim concussion and COVID-19 wormhole. When he returns to the field, he’ll be the quarterback of an offense that includes Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb. You’d think Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore have been in dialogue with Dalton about plays and concepts that were successful for him during his Bengals salad days. Given the firepower of this offense, Dalton should be able to lead this team to competence on offense, at the very least. If he can’t, that’s on the coaching staff as much as the quarterback.
Previous rank: No. 31
Give Doug Marrone credit: There’s very little chance the coach will be around in Jacksonville beyond the 2020 season, but his players continue to fight. On Sunday, the Jaguars went back and forth with the Packers at Lambeau, even managing to take a lead in the fourth quarter. The Jags’ defense was unable to hold, and Jake Luton couldn’t provide a dramatic finish to save the day. James Robinson, meanwhile, wonders what could have been: He went over 100 yards from scrimmage for the fifth time this season, but he’ll remember the two touchdowns wiped away by penalties. That’s eight straight losses for the Jags, with the undefeated Steelers on deck.
Previous rank: No. 32
The Jets finally had their full complement of wide receivers on the field against the Patriots in Week 9, and it turns out a starting trio of Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder and rookie Denzel Mims is pretty solid! Now that we’ve seen geriatric Joe Flacco throw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a narrow 30-27 loss, it gives you hope Sam Darnold could have similar success once he returns. Of course, with the Jets, there’s always a catch. Adam Gase announced Monday that Darnold’s lingering right shoulder injury will keep him off the field when the Jets return from their bye on Sunday against the Chargers. And on it goes …