And then there were three. With the Broncos' loss in Indianapolis, the Patriots, Bengals and Panthers are the only remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, all sitting at 8-0 and atop our Power Rankings.
All three look pretty unstoppable at this point, and they all boast excellent balance in all three phases. New England is motoring along, nonchalantly dispatching opponents with businesslike efficiency and a cold, robotic affect. This week it was Washington in their path, and Kirk Cousins and company presented little opposition for the Patriots juggernaut. New England switched things up this week with a more balanced approach, rushing the ball 37 times (mainly with LaGarrette Blount) to go with Tom Brady's 299 yards passing. They lost Dion Lewis for the season to an ACL injury, which might actually be the biggest piece of adversity they've faced thus far. I'm guessing they'll respond by finding some new random dude to light it up in their offense.
The Bengals also took care of business against Cleveland this week, sticking to their formula while simply playing better longer than the Browns. Tyler Eifert looks like a true super star in the making -- not that this is necessarily news to you -- but it's been cool to see him really emerge as an unguardable puzzle for opposing coordinators lose sleep over. Andy Dalton is on cruise control and added another three touchdowns while completing 77 percent of his passes and throwing no picks. I'm not sure The Red Rifle has broken a sweat yet this year while setting the pace for a 4,400-yard, 36-touchdown to eight-interception season. The facade Dalton has projected this season is that of a player with ice coursing through his veins, and the way he's consistently played has started to make me believe it's no facade at all.
In Carolina, Cam Newton and the Panthers continued to prove that they're the class of the NFC, running out to a big lead on the Packers before outlasting a late-game comeback attempt. The Carolina defense still somehow doesn't get talked about enough -- Luke Kuechly is having another legit Defensive-Player-of-the-Year-caliber season, Thomas Davis is playing lights out, and Josh Norman continues to shut things down on the outside. The Panthers have won 12 straight regular season games and if you take a quick peek at their final eight games this season, you could make a pretty strong argument that they could make it 20 straight, en route to a perfect record.
In fact, the same could be said for all of these undefeateds. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. There's a lot of season left, and the league has a way of shaking things up week-to-week. That's what happened in our rankings as well.
SB Nation presents: Tom Brady somehow prevents a touchdown against Washington
Moving on up:
The Vikings survived a very big test by beating the Rams at home in overtime, even without starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the final 13-plus minutes. Adrian Peterson out-rushed rookie sensation Todd Gurley, amassing 125 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. Mike Zimmer called out Gregg Williams and the Rams as "cheap" after the game for the late hit on Teddy Bridgewater that sent him to the locker room, but the good news is that it looks like Bridgewater won't be out long. Minnesota is playing with confidence and swagger, and at 6-2, share the lead in the NFC North. They've got two big games with the Packers still to play.
Meanwhile, in the AFC, the Jets and Steelers bounced back with big wins of their own. It wasn't pretty, and Jacksonville shot themselves in the foot a few different times, but New York held off the Jags at home to improve to 5-3 and get that much-needed "W". They're still in good shape in the AFC Wild Card hunt.
The Steelers are too, with their win over the Raiders, putting them a half-game ahead of Oakland in the Wild Card race while also giving them a key tiebreaker they may need down the road. The win didn't come cheap though, and Ben Roethlisberger will miss at least one game, maybe more, with a foot injury.
Still in the hunt
The Bills bounced back with an important win over the Dolphins, moving them to 4-4 after finally getting a little bit healthy on the offensive side of the ball. Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins returned to the field and connected on eight passes for 168 yards and a touchdown, while Karlos Williams was back in the fold and rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns. The spark that Buffalo got from their offense was more than enough.
The Eagles, meantime, won an important game against the Cowboys in Dallas, moving themselves back to .500. Sam Bradford completed 25 of 36 passes for 295 yards and hooked up with Jordan Matthews for the game-winning touchdown in overtime, a redemption of a play for two players who have been under a lot of heat of late. DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews combined for 173 yards rushing. The game came at a cost for the Eagles though, who lost Jordan Hicks with a torn pectoral muscle.
The Broncos slip in the rankings after falling to the Colts on the road. Their previously dominant defense gave up 252 yards passing and two touchdowns to Andrew Luck and, once again, the offense had their troubles. Peyton Manning was picked off two times and the Broncos could only manage 35 yards rushing on the night as they were forced to turn to the passing game to put together a comeback. In the end, the Broncos made it a game (with the help of a huge punt return touchdown just before the half) after falling behind 17-0, but Denver's defense allowed the Colts to hold the ball for the final six minutes and a couple of dumb, costly penalties contributed to that. Aqib Talib's decision to poke Dwayne Allen in the eye likely cost the Broncos a chance to win the game.
The Falcons continue dropping with another tough loss -- their third in four games -- this time to Blaine Gabbert and the struggling 49ers. In the last month, after starting out 6-0, Atlanta has lost to the Saints, Buccaneers and 49ers and narrowly beat the Titans, so the early season shine is starting to wear off. Hell, it might be completely gone.
The Dolphins shine, acquired by winning two games in a row immediately after the firing of Joe Philbin, is wearing off as well. Miami dropped another road division game and didn't look particularly impressive in doing so, and fall to 3-5 and last in the AFC East. The Dan Campbell honeymoon is over, but he still has a chance to right the ship.
Jockeying for that first pick:
The Lions had a bye so they retain their last-place spot, but the Cowboys, Browns and Jaguars all lost and figure they'll give Detroit a run for their money. The Ravens aren't far off, of course, and a win for the Titans doesn't mean the season is saved. Right now, the battle for the top overall pick is still very up in the air.
|1||New England Patriots, 8-0 (Last Week: 1)||Pats Pulpit|
|2||Cincinnati Bengals, 8-0 (Last Week: 2)||Cincy Jungle|
|3||Carolina Panthers, 8-0 (Last Week: 4)||Cat Scratch Reader|
|4||Arizona Cardinals, 6-2 (Last Week: 5)||Revenge of the Birds|
|5||Minnesota Vikings, 6-2 (Last Week: 7)||Daily Norseman|
|6||Denver Broncos, 7-1 (Last Week: 3)||Mile High Report|
|7||Green Bay Packers, 6-2 (Last Week: 6)||Acme Packing Company|
|8||New York Jets, 5-3 (Last Week: 12)||Gang Green Nation|
|9||Pittsburgh Steelers, 5-4 (Last Week: 13)||Behind the Steel Curtain|
|10||Seattle Seahawks, 4-4 (Last Week: 10)||Field Gulls|
|11||St. Louis Rams, 4-4 (Last Week: 9)||Turf Show Times|
|12||Atlanta Falcons, 6-3 (Last Week: 8)||The Falcoholic|
|13||Oakland Raiders, 4-4 (Last Week: 11)||Silver and Black Pride|
|14||New York Giants, 5-4 (Last Week: 15)||Big Blue View|
|15||Philadelphia Eagles, 4-4 (Last Week: 16)||Bleeding Green Nation|
|16||Buffalo Bills, 4-4 (Last Week: 17)||Buffalo Rumblings|
|17||Indianapolis Colts, 4-5 (Last Week: 20)||Stampede Blue|
|18||New Orleans Saints, 4-5 (Last Week: 14)||Canal Street Chronicles|
|19||Kansas City Chiefs, 3-5 (Last Week: 23)||Arrowhead Pride|
|20||Miami Dolphins, 3-5 (Last Week: 19)||The Phinsider|
|21||Washington, 3-5 (Last Week: 21)||Hogs Haven|
|22||Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3-5 (Last Week: 22)||Bucs Nation|
|23||San Francisco 49ers, 3-6 (Last Week: 30)||Niners Nation|
|24||Houston Texans, 3-5 (Last Week: 25)||Battle Red Blog|
|25||Chicago Bears, 3-5 (Last Week: 29)||Windy City Gridiron|
|26||Baltimore Ravens, 2-6 (Last Week: 26)||Baltimore Beatdown|
|27||San Diego Chargers, 2-7 (Last Week: 24)||Bolts from the Blue|
|28||Tennessee Titans, 2-6 (Last Week: 31)||Music City Miracles|
|29||Cleveland Browns, 2-7 (Last Week: 23)||Dawgs by Nature|
|30||Dallas Cowboys, 2-6 (Last Week: 28)||Blogging the Boys|
|31||Jacksonville Jaguars, 2-6 (Last Week: 27)||Big Cat Country|
|32||Detroit Lions, 1-6 (Last Week: 32)||Pride of Detroit|