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NFL power rankings: The Raiders erased doubts and arrived as a contender

There were reasons to doubt the Raiders, but the 7-2 record now looks like a real reflection of the team.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In the middle of October, fortunes switched for a few NFL teams. The Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, and Denver Broncos all exploded out of the gates with strong defenses and surprisingly functional quarterbacks, but all three have faded since.

It felt like each earned the benefit of the doubt with dominant performances early, so when those three teams began to look less like the killers of September, they didn’t slide much in the power rankings. But it’s clear now that the flaws that held them back are more than just quick patches and aren’t disappearing any time soon.

So the changes are a little more drastic this week.

Teams that looked stellar early, but have waned fell to the middle of the pack. On the other hand, teams that started slow and recently got hot are now on the verge of launching into the upper half of the league.

Deep falls

The Vikings’ defense was just so impossibly good that it was hard to imagine the team going on a skid. But here we are. If there’s a weak link to point to it’s certainly their offensive line, and that’s a problem that doesn’t look like it’ll be fixed any time soon.

Luckily for Minnesota, the Green Bay Packers don’t look like they’ll be surging ahead of the rest of the NFC North right now. Aaron Rodgers and Co. just let the Indianapolis Colts come into their house without paying the price.

The Broncos also dropped a bit after looking overmatched against the Oakland Raiders in a duel for the AFC West lead. The defense looked significantly less intimidating without Aqib Talib. While the Broncos could get him back at some point, they’re still stuck choosing between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch at quarterback, neither of which is a great option at the moment.

Big jumps

Losses to the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs don’t seem so bad for the Raiders now that both those teams have proven to be real contenders. But until the convincing 30-20 win in primetime on Sunday, the Raiders were mostly just picking off wins against weaker competition. After starting the year with some terrible defense, the 7-2 record looks a little more legitimate now.

The New York Giants also made a big jump, but that’s more a product of teams like the Steelers, Vikings, and Broncos falling from grace. Still, three straight wins and an unexpectedly strong defense make the Giants look like a worthy challenger in one of the NFL’s best divisions.

Bottom of the trash heap

Another week and somehow Gus Bradley and Jeff Fisher still have jobs. The Jacksonville Jaguars dominated every aspect of a game against the Chiefs, but couldn’t stop Jaguar-ing their way into defeat, losing the turnover margin by four.

The Los Angeles Rams also probably should’ve earned a win, but instead spoiled their chances as Fisher continues to stubbornly bang his head against a wall with Case Keenum at quarterback. If only they invested in another option during the offseason.

Oh, and don’t forget about the poor Browns. The poor, poor Browns.

Week 10 Team Last week
1 New England Patriots 1
2 Dallas Cowboys 3
3 Atlanta Falcons 5
4 Oakland Raiders 10
5 Seattle Seahawks 7
6 Kansas City Chiefs 6
7 New York Giants 16
8 Denver Broncos 2
9 Washington 11
10 Cincinnati Bengals 12
11 Philadelphia Eagles 9
12 Pittsburgh Steelers 8
13 Minnesota Vikings 4
14 Arizona Cardinals 13
15 Baltimore Ravens 18
16 New Orleans Saints 17
17 Miami Dolphins 19
18 Buffalo Bills 14
19 Detroit Lions 21
20 San Diego Chargers 23
21 Houston Texans 20
22 Green Bay Packers 15
23 Carolina Panthers 25
24 Indianapolis Colts 29
25 Tennessee Titans 22
26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24
27 Chicago Bears 28
28 New York Jets 27
29 Los Angeles Rams 26
30 Jacksonville Jaguars 30
31 San Francisco 49ers 31
32 Cleveland Browns 32