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The Unbiased NFL Power Rankings, Week 8: Titans Surge, Jets Slip, Falcons Lead NFC

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The NFL is a week-to-week league. One week you're down by 21 in the first half and the next week you're up by 21. If you're not careful, the emotion could cloud your judgment. This is where the Unbiased Power Rankings come in. We wipe away the knee-jerk reactions, prohibit jumping to conclusions and bring a sense of calm to your hectic NFL world.

In the highest scoring weekend the NFL has seen since 1983, it makes sense that the number one team in the Unbiased Power Rankings is known for it's defense. Through seven weeks of play, the Pittsburgh Steelers' resume is unmatched and they sit atop our latest power rankings. The AFC continues to dominate these rankings as well with the top seven teams all hailing from la Conferencia Americana.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who head coach Raheem Morris called the best team in the NFC, were the biggest mover in this week's rankings rising nine spots to 15th. The Kansas City Chiefs (+6) and Cleveland Browns (5) also made their way up the ladder. A classic example of why the Unbiased Power Rankings are the calm in the storm are the New Orleans Saints. Last week many experts had them as the number one team in the NFC while we had them at No. 7. After their loss to the Browns, the pundits will drop them down but for the emotion-free rankings, they are who we thought they were.

The biggest losers this week were the Jacksonville Jaguars (-7), the San Diego Chargers (-5) and, despite not even playing, the New York Jets, who dropped five spots to sixth. The Jets suffered because their strength of schedule took a hit when the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos (four of the Jets' five wins) all lost. The Kansas City Chiefs, Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers are all ranked significantly lower in these rankings than they currently in the NFL standings. Though they all have winning records, they've combined to beat only one team with more wins than losses.


Tier I
Rank
Team
Rating
1
Pittsburgh Steelers
125.0
2
Tennessee Titans
108.5
Tier II
Rank
Team
Rating
3
Baltimore Ravens
98.5
3
Indianapolis Colts
98.5
5
Houston Texans
98.0
6
New England Patriots
90.0
6
New York Jets
90.0
8
Atlanta Falcons
89.5
9
Washington Redskins
88.7
10
New York Giants
84.5
Tier III
Rank
Team
Rating
11
Philadelphia Eagles
74.3
12
Seattle Seahawks
72.5
13
Arizona Cardinals
68.7
14
St. Louis Rams
67.8
15
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
64.5
16
Kansas City Chiefs
64.0
17
New Orleans Saints
63.3
18
Chicago Bears
59.3
19
Denver Broncos
59.0
20
Green Bay Packers
58.7
21
Oakland Raiders
53.3
Tier IV
Rank
Team
Rating
22
Miami Dolphins
50.0
23
Jacksonville Jaguars
48.8
24
Cleveland Browns
44.6
25
Cincinnati Bengals
44.0
26
San Diego Chargers
43.8
27
Dallas Cowboys
30.0
Tier V
Rank
Team
Rating
28
Minnesota Vikings
24.0
29
Detroit Lions
23.8
30
San Francisco 49ers
23.7
31
Carolina Panthers
13.8
32
Buffalo Bills
4.2


The Best of the Best

The Steelers are the Creme de la Creme of the NFL. They have four wins against teams with winning records and their lone loss was to the five-win Ravens. They are the best team in the league and it's not close. However, if it was close, the Titans would be the team in the conversation. The Titans have only two losses - one to Pittsburgh - and have beaten a five-win team (Giants) and a four-win team (Eagles). There's another group of teams in the second tier but through seven weeks, it's the Steelers and Titans as the clear frontrunners.

The aforementioned second tier is home to five more AFC teams and three NFC participants. The Ravens, Colts, Texans, Patriots and Jets all have power ratings over 90. The Falcons, Redskins and Giants are the only NFC teams among the first two tiers.

NFC Contenders

We mentioned that many experts had the Saints as the best team in the NFC last week even though we tried to warn them the Saints were being overvalued. They've still only beaten one team with a winning record and are 17th in overall rankings (9th in the NFC). The class of the NFC is still the Falcons with the Redskins and Giants following close behind.

Among the preseason favorites, only the Eagles are close to expectations. The Saints, Packers, Cowboys and Vikings are all underperforming. Could a championship game between the Falcons and Donovan McNabb happen again? It's beginning to look like a strong possibility.

NFC South

Contrary to Morris' comments, the Buccaneers are not the best team in the NFC. They are not even the best team in the NFC South. That mantle belongs to the Falcons. The Buccaneers are the second-best though, ahead of the Saints. The Panthers finally won their first game of the year but they remain the worst team in the NFC.

I know it's only seven weeks and there's a lot of football left to play but if I may direct your attention to my preseason NFC South predictions. In that piece, I predicted an order of finish that is exactly as the NFC South stands today. Falcons as division winner, Buccaneers in second with the Saints and Panthers coming in at third and fourth. It's a gift and I only want to share it.

Unbiased Playoff Picture

Regardless of a team's current record, this is how we see the playoffs shaping up as of Week 8.

AFC
NFC
Seed
Team
Seed
Team
1
Pittsburgh Steelers
1
Atlanta Falcons
2
Tennessee Titans
2
Washington Redskins
3
New England Patriots
3
Seattle Seahawks
4
Kansas City Chiefs
4
Chicago Bears
5
Baltimore Ravens
5
New York Giants
6
Indianapolis Colts
6
Philadelphia Eagles

 

Disclaimer: The Texans could shake up the AFC playoff picture when they play the Colts on Monday Night. The Jets are tied with the Patriots so either one could win that division. In the NFC, the Cardinals and Rams could still challenge the Seahawks in the West and the Buccaneers and Saints are still in the mix for the Southern division or a wild card berth.

AFC Breakdown

First round AFC matchups would include the Colts at the Patriots. Wow. A wild card game worthy of a championship game. The Ravens in Kansas City to play the Chiefs. This would be a tough game for the young Chiefs.

The second round shakes out with the Colts at the Steelers. Offense vs. Defense personified. The Ravens and Titans would get a rematch of their 2009 playoff game won 13-10 by the Ravens.

The AFC championship would come down to two teams who have a bitter history, the Steelers and Titans. A third Super Bowl in six seasons looks like a strong possibility for the Steelers.

NFC Breakdown

Eagles at the Seahawks on Wild Card weekend. I wonder how many would have imagined the Seahawks hosting a home playoff game when the season started? The Giants would get another crack at the offensive line-challenged, Bears.

The second round: The Falcons would welcome a rematch with the Eagles but this time in the Georgia Dome and possibly with Michael Vick. The Giants would renew NFC East rivalries with the Redskins.

NFC Championship: The Redskins would play the NFC championship game on the road in Atlanta against the Falcons. A return to the Super Bowl after an 11-year absence? Who knew the Week 1 game between the Falcons and Steelers would be a potential Super Bowl preview? Hold your breathe Falcons fans, the Unbiased Power Rankings love the chances of a rematch.

Methodology: The Unbiased Power Rankings are exactly that, unbiased. We take into account a team's wins, losses and a strength of schedule component to arrive at a truly unbiased rating. We have no preseason polls, no preset baselines. Only the performance on the field - this season - matters. Emotion is not welcome here. Still interested? Here's the ingredients we use to make this delicious stew of math-based power rankings.

Each team is awarded five points for a win and five points for every game a defeated opponent wins. To measure a loss, the total number of opponent wins is divided by the number of the ranked team's losses.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.