Every week during the NFL season, Tiebreaker.com will present our conference power rankings. The AFC will be on Tuesday, the NFC on Wednesday.
This week in the AFC, the Patriots are looking invincible and the Dolphins are no longer living in our basement.
1). New England Patriots
There’s really nothing left to say other than the Patriots are the heavy favorite to defend their Super Bowl championship. Their demolition of the Jets was as comprehensive as any victory in recent history. The offense opened the game with an efficient 16-play touchdown drive. The Patriots forced six turnovers. They raced to a 24-0 lead at the half, the first time they’ve done that since 2012. And now they have receiver Mohamed Sanu to help Tom Brady. Will it ever end?
2). Kansas City Chiefs
With each passing day, the prognosis seems to improve for Pat Mahomes. On Monday, Chiefs coach Andy Reid classified the suggestion Mahomes might play against the Packers this weekend as a stretch, which is much better than saying no freaking way. But for now, the quarterback is veteran Matt Moore who has made 30 starts with the Dolphins and Panthers. We’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.
3). Buffalo Bills
The Bills actually trailed the Dolphins by five points at halftime, a shocking development for the team and their fans. But they rallied, uncorking a 98-yard touchdown drive between the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter. And Josh Allen was 11-of-12 for 112 yards in the second half. Things are still looking up for the surprise team in the AFC.
4). Baltimore Ravens
It’s hard to say who was happier after the Ravens win in Seattle, Lamar Jackson or Earl Thomas, the safety who was absolutely basking after gaining a level of revenge against the team he felt disrespected him last season. But it was another great day for Jackson, who became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have at least 100 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown in consecutive games. Baltimore’s new cornerback, Marcus Peters, even returned an interception for a 67-yard score.
5). Indianapolis Colts
Before Sunday’s 30-23 win over Houston, the Colts were considered primarily a running team. But that myth was blown up by quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who completed 26-of-39 for 326 yards and two touchdowns. He even threw nine passes during a 12-play, 95-yard scoring drive capped by a touchdown pass to Zach Pascal, who had 106 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Brissett has 14 touchdown passes in six games. We hope Andrew Luck is enjoying his retirement.
6). Houston Texans
The Texans had a tough game offensively against the Colts. That was best illustrated by failing to convert on a pair fourth-and-1 plays. They also produced only field goals on three trips into the red zone in the first half. Deshaun Watson threw for 308 yards, completing six for 106 yards to DeAndre Hopkins. But he lost a touchdown pass when officials prematurely blew the play dead while he was in the grasp of defenders.
7). Tennessee Titans
It looks as if the switch to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback might be one the best things that’s happened to the team this season. The Titans showed some pep on Sunday against the Chargers as Tannehill completed 23-of-29 for 312 yards and two touchdowns. The offense gained 403 yards against the struggling Chargers defense. Of course, Los Angeles would have won if Melvin Gordon hadn’t fumbled at the goal line in the final 10 seconds. But he did and the Titans will take it.
8). Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars beat the Bengals, so you might want to keep the applause to a minimum. But there were a lot of things worth noting. Gardner Minshew threw for 255 yards and Jacksonville’s secondary, now officially without Jalen Ramsey, intercepted three passes in the fourth quarter with Yannick Ngakoue returning one for a 23-yard touchdown. By the way, no one has a better kicker than Josh Lambo, who made all four attempts and is now 18 for 18 this season.
9). Pittsburgh Steelers
The bye week has paid a big benefit: Quarterback Mason Rudolph has cleared concussion protocol and appears to be ready to return as the Steelers starter. If so, the team offers Devlin “Duck” Hodges some gratitude for navigating the win over the Chargers. The Steelers defense hopes rookie linebacker Devin Bush is on his way after winning the AFC’s defensive player of the week after the Chargers win.
10). Cleveland Browns
Every week there’s drama circulating around this team of knuckleheads. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham, Jr., were both fined by the league, Mayfield for criticizing officials and Beckham for not conforming to the league’s dress code. Really dudes? It doesn’t get any easier this weekend against the Patriots. Do you think Bill Belichick knows Mayfield has either been sacked, thrown an interception or fumbled on 13.76 percent of his snaps this season? We’d bet yes.
11). Oakland Raiders
The Raiders always seem to have problems coming off the bye week. Their loss to the Packers on Sunday was their 14th in 17 tries since 2003. Maybe they aren’t getting enough rest. What is certain is they could not contain Aaron Rodgers, now 37 years old. Rodgers threw five touchdown passes and ran for a sixth. Oakland’s quarterback? Derek Carr ended one drive by fumbling into the end zone.
12). Los Angeles Chargers
It’s going to take time for the Chargers to get over the disappointment of failing to score near the goal line as the game clock was dwindling against the Titans. Say what you will about Gordon, but his fumble seems to be an aberration. He’d had not lost one since Week 5 of the 2016 season, not that it makes this 2-5 team feel any better. However, many props to Philip Rivers, who now has 56,770 passing yards, which is more than Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.
13). Denver Broncos
The Broncos seemed to be headed in a good direction after winning two straight. But those hopes crashed hard at home against the Chiefs last Thursday night. It was bad enough their defense could not taking advantage of the absence of Mahomes; the Chiefs took off on three scoring drive with Moore in the game. But their offense allowed Joe Flacco to be sacked nine times, the most any quarterback in their uniform has fallen since 1983. Oh, did we mention they gained only 71 yards rushing against the porous Kansas City defense?
14). New York Jets
Well, now we know the Dallas Cowboys must have slept their way through their loss to the Jets two weeks ago. The Jets were horrifically bad in their 33-0 loss to the Patriots on Monday. Sam Darnold said he saw a ghost. Yes he did. The Patriots defense scared the crap out of him with its pressure. Darnold was 11-of-32 for 86 yards and threw four interceptions. His quarterback rating (3.6) was indicative of his performance. It might be all downhill from here for the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets!
15). Miami Dolphins
After nearly beating the Redskins and putting a scare into the Bills, the Dolphins have earned a promotion out of the cellar. They actually seem like they still care, which is more than you can say about a few teams in the league. Ryan Fitzpatrick sparked the offense with 282 yards passing, but we have to ask, what’s the point of playing him at the expense of Josh Rosen, unless the team already knows Rosen isn’t very good?
16). Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are 0-7 for the first time in 11 years and very deserving of it. The worst run defense in the league allowed Leonard Fournette to gain 131 of Jacksonville’s 216 yards rushing. On offense, the Bengals netted only 33 yards, all from quarterback Andy Dalton. But he gets no passing grade. His play in the fourth quarter – three interceptions – was embarrassing. You want a bright spot? How about receiver Alex Erickson (eight catches, 137 yards).