NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Cardinals take first loss of season

The Los Angeles Rams take the top spot.

Wide Receiver (2) Robert Woods of the Los Angeles Rams runs the ball for a touchdown and celebrates with teammates against the Houston Texans in an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Houston, Texas. The Rams won 38-22. (AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)

Welcome to Week 8′s NFL Power Rankings. After Monday night’s game each week, I’ll be evaluating the week’s games and ranking the top 10 teams in the NFL.

Before we begin, here are a few things to keep in mind that I take into consideration when making my choices:

1. I do take a team’s record into account; the games have to matter to some degree. However, a team with a good record will not always land in my top 10, and vice versa. Remember, these are power rankings.

2. One team beating another team does not automatically mean they are the better team in my eyes. For example, Pittsburgh beat Buffalo in Week 1, but I don’t believe for a second that they’re the better team right now.

3. The direction that teams are trending is a factor. A team that started slow but has been hot for the last couple of weeks will be evaluated more favorably than one that won their first few games and has cooled off since.

So, let’s begin!

1. Los Angeles Rams (↑2), 7-1, W 38-22 @ Houston Texans in Week 8

The Rams were already going to land in the top spot of this week’s rankings after their win on Sunday, but Monday’s news of their acquisition of eight-time pro bowl linebacker Von Miller solidified their No.1 status. Their defense and pass rush was already formidable, and Miller will elevate the Los Angeles front seven into the NFL’s elite tier.

Los Angeles knows it’s time to go all in on a Super Bowl run. The Rams haven’t had a first round pick since they used the No. 1 overall pick on Jared Goff in 2016. Los Angeles has now traded away first, second, third, fourth and sixth round picks in next year’s draft. As a result, they have no weak units and seem to rack up wins easily. Beating the Lions and the Texans in the last two weeks isn’t exactly impressive, but the Rams’ only loss is to the Cardinals, and they’re one of the few teams in the league that does everything well. I have no reason to believe this isn’t the best team in the league.

2. Green Bay Packers (↑5), 7-1, W 24-21 @ Arizona Cardinals in Week 8

The Packers take a big jump in the rankings for beating their first competitive opponent of the season, knocking off the undefeated Cardinals Thursday night on the road. The most impressive part is the Packers’ were missing Davante Adams, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdez-Scantling, leaving Aaron Rodgers very few weapons to work with. On the other side of the ball, Green Bay is still without its most important defensive player: shutdown cornerback Jaire Alexander. Still, Rodgers did what he does best, and the defense came to play.

The Packers are contenders in the NFC, and outside of a Week 1 loss against New Orleans following a turbulent offseason, they’ve given me no reason to doubt them. Green Bay’s defense is underrated at worst, and having Aaron Rodgers running your offense gives you a chance to win any game. The Packers are well coached, and if they can stay healthy, they’ll be a tough team to beat.

3. Dallas Cowboys (↑3), 6-1, W 20-16 @ Minnesota Vikings in Week 8

Much like the Rams, the Cowboys do pretty much everything well. Sunday night, on the road in primetime, Dallas earned a solid team win without quarterback Dak Prescott. Offensively, the team was also missing both starting tackles for most of the game as well as wide receiver Michael Gallup. Nevertheless, backup quarterback Cooper Rush led the Cowboys to victory, including a game-winning drive ending with a last-minute Amari Cooper touchdown in the corner of the end zone.

What was most impressive about this win was the defensive effort from the Cowboys. They held Minnesota to 16 points, and the Vikings converted on just one of their 13 third downs. Rookie linebacker Micah Parsons racked up 11 tackles (four for loss), and Randy Gregory had a strong game as well. Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson, who averaged 90 receiving yards per game in the Vikings first six games, caught just two passes for 21 yards. The Cowboys’ defense continues to improve each week, which could be scary with Demarcus Lawrence rejoining the pass rush soon. They also have the most productive offense in the NFL at 455 YPG.

4. Buffalo Bills (↔), 5-2, W 26-11 vs. Miami Dolphins in Week 8

The Bills still have the league’s best defense, leading the NFL in yards and points allowed per game. They’ve only given up five touchdowns all year and have also allowed the fewest first downs. Buffalo is a running back away from being the clear cut favorites in my eyes. The Bills run the ball well enough, but being able to dominate time of possession, especially in the second halves of games, would really make closing games easier for this team behind its stellar defense. Luckily, that hasn’t proved to be much of a problem, as Buffalo has the league’s best scoring margin (+17.1) as well.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (↔), 6-2, L 36-27 @ New Orleans Saints in Week 8

Tampa Bay was the hardest team for me to place this week, mostly because of how strange their loss to the Saints seemed. Quarterback Tom Brady uncharacteristically turned the ball over three times, allowing New Orleans to keep the game even, when it likely shouldn’t have been. Defensively, Tampa Bay got torched by backup quarterback Trevor Siemian after Jameis Winston went down, which also shouldn’t happen. Still, I haven’t lost faith in the Bucs, and we should all know not to count out Brady. The Saints tend to give the Bucs problems, sweeping this divisional rivalry last year, but ultimately they were not a problem for Tampa Bay in the playoffs. I expect this year will be much of the same.

6. Arizona Cardinals (↓5), 7-1, L 24-21 vs. Green Bay Packers in Week 8

The Cardinals finally fall out of the top spot, after showing a few weaknesses in recent weeks. I don’t think the impact of J.J. Watt’s season-ending shoulder injury can be overstated. In the current NFL, you have to have a pass rush to be a contender. They still have Chandler Jones, but Watt’s absence was certainly felt on Thursday, as Aaron Rodgers was able to pick them apart while missing three of his top receivers. Their descent in these rankings is less about the loss to Green Bay and more about offensive vulnerabilities that have become apparent in their last few games. It feels like the 49ers figured out how to crack the Cardinals’ offensive scheme, completely containing Kyler Murray on the ground in Week 5. Similarly, Thursday, Murray had just 21 rushing yards and zero touchdowns through the air as well.

7. Baltimore Ravens (↓5), 5-2, BYE in Week 8

Just after I came around on the Ravens in the Week 6 power rankings, they went and lost by 24 to Cincinnati in Week 7. No disrespect to Cincinnati — they almost made these rankings — but I had to bring the Ravens down a few spots. Lamar Jackson completed just 48% of his passes against a sub- par defense, reigniting my original concerns about the Ravens and their ability to throw the ball. The Ravens are still a playoff team and possibly a contender, but they aren’t a better or more complete team than the NFC’s strongest teams.

8. Las Vegas Raiders (unranked), 5-2, BYE in Week 8

The Raiders have quietly emerged at the top of their division and deserve the amount of attention that has gone to their AFC West rivals, the Chargers, despite the Chargers beating them in Week 4. Las Vegas ranks second in passing yards per game and fared fine without their best player, tight end Darren Waller, in Week 7. Defensively the Raiders are also underrated, with one of the stronger pass rushes in the NFL this season. I wanted to give this spot to the New Orleans Saints, but I just don’t believe in Trevor Siemian or Taysom Hill, the remaining options at quarterback in New Orleans.

9. New England Patriots (unranked), 4-4, W 27-24 @ Los Angeles Chargers

The Patriots are only 4-4, but they narrowly lost to the Cowboys, and a Damien Harris fumble cost them a Week 1 loss to the Dolphins. The NFL is a coach’s league, and the Pats have the best head coach, something that’s very apparent every time they play. Bill Belichick has done a great job with Mac Jones development, given he doesn’t have the best weapons to work with, and defensively, the Patriots are disciplined as always. New England is a tough opponent to beat, and they’ve played like a top-ten team in recent weeks.

10. Tennessee Titans (↓2), 6-2, W 34-31 @ Indianapolis Colts in Week 8

The Titans, much like the Saints, would also be ranked a bit higher, but questions about Derrick Henry’s health are very serious for Tennessee. It’s unusual for a team’s most important player to be a running back, but I just don’t see the Titans being the same team or a threat for anyone in the playoffs should Henry miss the rest of the season. Because their division is weak, it’s possible they still make the playoffs, and they’ll remain in the top ten until Henry is officially ruled out, but the Titans probably aren’t a top ten team for much longer.

Dropped from Rankings: Kansas City Chiefs (10), Los Angeles Chargers (9)