Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: No. 1 Cardinals, NFC Teams Rule Top Five As New AFC Challengers Emerge

NFL power rankings entering Week 8 of 2021 season (previous rank in parentheses):

1. Cardinals (1): Don't believe in league's only unbeaten team? Arizona also boasts the NFL's largest point differential (+111), is the toughest team to score on (16.3 points allowed per game), is getting defensive reinforcements off the COVID-19 list (including OLB Chandler Jones) and is already effectively integrating new TE Zach Ertz, the first player to catch a TD pass in successive weeks ... for different teams. Oh yeah – and Kyler Murray.

2. Rams (2): Update, they're now 40-0 under Sean McVay when leading at halftime. That will tick up to 41-0 given the Rams' next stop is Houston.

3. Buccaneers (3): Seems QB Tom Brady, uh, overcame his fourth-down issues from 2020 against Chicago. Next up, he tries to solve New Orleans in regular season after getting decisively swept last year ... before the playoffs anyway.

4. Cowboys (4): After resting his calf strain during bye week, is QB Dak Prescott ready to help set a Dallas record by leading "Dem Boyz" to a fifth consecutive game with at least 35 points?

5. Packers (6): The first team to win six straight after losing the opener by at least 35 points, they head to desert for enticing matchup with Arizona – which will mark the highest combined winning percentage (.929) of opponents in a post-September Thursday night game during Super Bowl era (since 1966). But pandemic is already putting a damper on showdown, All-Pro WR Davante Adams landing on COVID/reserve list Monday.

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6. Titans (7): All-Pro RB Derrick Henry is leading NFL in rushing yards (869) and TDs (10). Yawn. He's a legit MVP candidate because he's also tops in touches (209) and yards from scrimmage (1,023) and already has 18 receptions – one off his career high. And now he's throwing TDs? This could get epic.

7. Bills (8): A bitter loss and bye week in the rear view, Buffalo returns to a three-week murdered row against Miami, Jacksonville and the Jets, who are a combined 3-16 (.158). Great opportunity for Buffalo to create breathing room from AFC pack.

8. Bengals (13): All the chatter about Cincinnati's (current) No. 1 seed and rookie WR Ja'Marr Chase's record-setting start is warranted. But props to TE C.J. Uzomah, who's rebounded from last year's torn Achilles and has already hauled in a career-best five TDs.

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9. Ravens (5): Bye would be good time to reset a defense that's permitted at least 33 points and at least 490 yards three times. No such tinkering required for QB Lamar Jackson, who's besting his career average through the air by more than 100 yards per game.

10. Chargers (9): Last time they hosted Patriots in Los Angeles, New England won 45-0. We'll assume a better outcome this Sunday at SoFi.

11. Raiders (17): They're humming post-Gruden, all the way to top of the AFC West, averaging 33.5 points and 434 yards past two weeks. And with six players already exceeding 300 yards from scrimmage, this crew's on track to be best Las Vegas team in NFL history. Ever.

12. Saints (11): Wasn't pretty, but RB Alvin Kamara and Co. might just be a playoff team without retired QB Drew Brees. Kamara is the fastest player (66 games) to record 3,000 career yards both rushing and receiving.

13. Chiefs (10): Going back to Super Bowl 55, they've been torched for 29.3 points per game while averaging 24.6 and are -12 in turnover differential during that eight-game stretch. Time to get back to fundamentals, fellas.

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14. Browns (12): Don't forget Kevin Stefanski was Case Keenum's quarterback coach in Minnesota in 2017, when the Vikings won the division and reached the NFC title round. This just might work ...

15. Vikings (14): Hope your bye week was restful, gents. A horror show begins Halloween night with a visit from Dallas ... followed by matchups against Baltimore, the Bolts and Green Bay.

16. Steelers (18): Save OLB T.J. Watt, who has seven sacks, no one else on Pittsburgh's previously vaunted defense has more than two. That's gotta improve for Steelers to avoid missing postseason for third time in four seasons.

17. Colts (22): QB Carson Wentz has one INT after hoisting league-high 15 in 2020, and he's also sporting career-best 102.8 passer rating. This whole Frank Reich reunion apparently is just what the doctor ordered.

18. 49ers (20): Their bevy of pass interference penalties Sunday night is indicative of carelessness, San Francisco pacing NFL with 81 penalty yards per game.

19. Bears (16): Rookie QB Justin Fields coughed ball up five times Sunday, the first five-turnover game league-wide in two years and first time a Chicago QB has been guilty of such shenanigans since the immortal Matt Barkley in 2016. It's getting ugly in the Windy City.

20. Broncos (21): Inexplicable that this team ran 14 times in Week 7 loss at Cleveland. If any offense should be 4.5 yards and a cloud of dust, it might be this one.

21. Patriots (23): Before you get overly excited about their 41-point shellacking of the Jets, understand New England is the first team in the Super Bowl era to notch its first three wins against rookie QBs. If the pattern holds, the Pats' next victory will come in Week 17 against Trevor Lawrence's Jags.

22. Seahawks (19): They're 2-5 for first time in Russell Wilson era, and injured QB will miss at least one more game. Already five games out of NFC West lead, midnight might've already struck in Seattle.

23. Eagles (24): No defense is getting targeted more through air than this one ... and that's because Philadelphia allows league-worst 74.4% completion rate.

24. Washington (25): Since start of 2020 season, they have five wins against NFC East teams and four against everybody else. Bummer WFT won't play another divisional game until Week 14.

25. Falcons (26): Appears they've figured out how to leverage Kyle Pitts' estimable talents. After exploding for 282 receiving yards over the past two games, he's on pace for 1,335 over the full season – which would obliterate Hall of Famer Mike Ditka's rookie record for tight ends, 1,076 in 1961.

26. Giants (30): OLB Azeez Ojulari might be the steal of 2021 draft. The 50th overall selection leads all rookies with 5½ sacks.

27. Panthers (15): They've devolved from losing to being non-competitive Sunday against Giants. Crucial five weeks ahead with Arizona the only squad Carolina will face that's currently above .500.

28. Jaguars (28): Lawrence seems to be quietly figuring out pro game, completing 66.3% of his passes and posting 93.8 QB rating over his past three outings. A date with Seattle's secondary should keep the arrow trending up.

29. Dolphins (29): Despite what Chase is doing in Cincy, credit Miami WR Jaylen Waddle, whose 44 receptions are nine more than any other rookie.

30. Lions (32): Another missed opportunity in Week 7, but Sunday brings a feasible opportunity – a home date against the Eagles – to finally shatter prospect of an 0-17 campaign.

31. Jets (27): Now they trade for 2020 QB2 Joe Flacco when they could've just re-signed him to be their Plan B QB, not to mention a steady resource for now-injured rookie Zach Wilson? The faces change here, but the results never seem to.

32. Texans (31): Welp, maybe they're at least about to emerge from Deshaun Watson's very long shadow.

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Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL power rankings Week 8 2021: Cardinals No. 1, new AFC threats rise

Source : https://sports.yahoo.com/week-8-nfl-power-rankings-112724858.html?fr=sycsrp_catchall

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