NFL Week 9 Power Rankings: Scary trends for all 32 teams

After eight weeks of football, we have a handle on what teams are doing well and what’s still a concern.

The Saints cracked the top 3 of our ESPN NFL Power Rankings for the first time, but the play of their 28th-ranked secondary has been, well, frightening for much of the season. But no team is perfect. In honor of Halloween, we had NFL Nation come up with scary first-half trends for all 32 NFL teams.

How we rank: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluated how teams stack up through the first eight weeks of the season.

1. Los Angeles Rams

Record: 8-0
Week 8 ranking: 1

The Rams are the lone undefeated team in the NFL, but they are convinced that there’s plenty of room to improve. And they’re correct, starting with the defense. The D has come through in the clutch on several occasions, notably in victories over the Chargers and Vikings. But it is the 13th-ranked total defense in the league, and at times it has been susceptible against the run and more recently against the pass. — Lindsey Thiry

2. Kansas City Chiefs

Record: 7-1
Week 8 ranking: 2

The Chiefs have had trouble finishing some of their games. They’ve had to sweat at the end of wins against the Chargers, Steelers, 49ers and Broncos after having big leads. Not all of this is on their defense, which played well down the stretch in some of those games. Mostly, the Chiefs haven’t been good enough at killing the clock. They’ve had the disturbing tendency to go three-and-out when they need to maintain possession. — Adam Teicher

3. New Orleans Saints

Record: 6-1
Week 8 ranking: 4

The Saints’ defense came up big in Sunday night’s win at Minnesota, forcing two game-changing turnovers. But they still rank 28th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, 30th in passing yards per attempt allowed and 30th in opponents’ passer rating. They need to continue their recent improvement — especially with the Rams’ potent offense coming to town in Week 9. — Mike Triplett

4. New England Patriots

Record: 6-2
Week 8 ranking: 3

The Patriots entered their Monday night game against Buffalo having not played a game without a turnover on offense. For a team that traditionally is among the league leaders in turnover differential, it is an area of concern that has been noted weekly by coach Bill Belichick. — Mike Reiss

5. Los Angeles Chargers

Record: 5-2
Week 8 ranking: 5

Can the Chargers be road warriors? With four of their next seven games on the road — including two straight to start — they will have to earn some victories away from L.A. in the second half of the season in order to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Chargers are 9-18 on the road since the start of the 2015 season, which ranks 25th in the NFL. — Eric Williams

6. Carolina Panthers

Record: 5-2
Week 8 ranking: 9

Aside from Sunday’s win against Baltimore, the Panthers have been notorious for slow starts — to both halves. And even against the Ravens, they fell behind 7-0 on the opening series. The two weeks before that, they fell behind 17-0. Although they’re 5-2, they’ve been playing a lot of catchup. — David Newton

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

Record: 4-2-1
Week 8 ranking: 8

The Steelers have been spooked into dropping the football. Pittsburgh’s offense has 11 fumbles through seven games, including five for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and three for running back James Conner. The offense recorded 15 fumbles all of last season. Though many of the fumbles were recovered, coach Mike Tomlin values ball security above nearly all else. — Jeremy Fowler

8. Minnesota Vikings

Record: 4-3-1
Week 8 ranking: 6

The Vikings’ inability to consistently win the turnover battle is becoming a concern. Whether it is Kirk Cousins’ untimely miscues (he leads the league in fumbles and fumbles lost since becoming a starter in 2015) or the barrage of mistakes that occurred in the Vikings’ loss to the Saints, Minnesota is 0-3-1 in games in which they are on the wrong side of the turnover differential. — Courtney Cronin

9. Philadelphia Eagles

Record: 4-4
Week 8 ranking: 10

While offenses are scoring at an all-time clip, Philadelphia’s has gone in reverse. The Eagles rank 21st with an average of 22.2 points per game, a decrease of more than six points from their Super Bowl season (28.6 PPG). They are getting high production out of Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz. The rest of the supporting cast needs to pick up their game if Philly is going to compete with the likes of the Saints and Rams down the stretch. — Tim McManus

10. Baltimore Ravens

Record: 4-4
Week 8 ranking: 7

Joe Flacco has struggled in throwing the ball deep. He has one of the strongest arms in the NFL, but the Ravens can’t stretch the field. Over the past four games, Flacco is 1-of-13 on passes that travel at least 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The lack of explosiveness puts too much pressure on Baltimore to grind out long drives. His 5.89 yards per attempt in October is the worst in the NFL. — Jamison Hensley

11. Green Bay Packers

Record: 3-3-1
Week 8 ranking: 12

The Packers can’t win on the road. They’ve lost at the Redskins, Lions and Rams, and they have three of their next four away from Lambeau Field — at the Patriots, Seahawks and Vikings. “We’re 3-0-1 at home; we know we’re tough to beat at home,” Aaron Rodgers said after losing to the Rams. “Now we know we can play with anybody, if we didn’t know that already, so we’ve got to go to New England and beat a really good football team.” — Rob Demovsky

12. Cincinnati Bengals

Record: 5-3
Week 8 ranking: 11

The Bengals have given up at least 480 yards in the past three games, and they are on pace to break the NFL record for most yards allowed in a season. They continue to say they need to fix the little details and focus on doing their own assignments, but in the past few weeks, they haven’t corrected the problem. That’s going to be an issue with the Saints coming in town in two weeks. — Katherine Terrell

13. Washington Redskins

Record: 5-2
Week 8 ranking: 14

The Redskins have finished with less than 200 yards passing in each of the past three games — all of which they’ve won. It’s the first time in coach Jay Gruden’s four-plus seasons that they’ve thrown for less than that total in three straight games. The Redskins’ run game on both sides of the ball has been fantastic and the primary reason they’re 5-2 and in first place. But at some point, they need the passing game to be more productive. — John Keim

14. Chicago Bears

Record: 4-3
Week 8 ranking: 13

Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is hit or miss. His inconsistency has been a trend almost the entire season — the notable exception being his brilliant six-touchdown performance against the Bucs in late September. When Trubisky is on, he’s really good. When he’s off, he’s really off. – Jeff Dickerson

15. Seattle Seahawks

Record: 4-3
Week 8 ranking: 16

The Seahawks have done plenty of things right while winning four of their past five games, but they have yet to put their penalty problem behind them for good. They’re averaging 7.4 accepted penalties per game, seventh most in the NFL. While that’s an improved pace from last season, when they led the league and set a dubious franchise record with 148 accepted penalties (9.3 per game), it’s still a concern. — Brady Henderson

16. Houston Texans

Record: 5-3
Week 8 ranking: 17

At the midpoint of the season, the Texans’ offensive line has allowed Deshaun Watson to be sacked 26 times. The unit has shown some improvement over the past two weeks, but Houston needs to be able to keep its young quarterback upright if it wants him to recover from injuries to his ribs and lung and stay healthy the rest of the season. — Sarah Barshop

17. Atlanta Falcons

Record: 3-4
Week 8 ranking: 19

Third-down defense could really haunt the Falcons this season if they don’t get it corrected immediately. Right now, they are second to last in the league in allowing opponents to convert 54.1 percent of third downs, including allowing the Steelers to convert 75 percent in a 41-17 loss. In two of the Falcons’ three wins, they’ve limited opponents to under 46 percent on third down. — Vaughn McClure

18. Jacksonville Jaguars

Record: 3-5
Week 8 ranking: 15

It’s hard to pick just one scary trend because the season is turning into a disaster, but the Jaguars’ inability to run the ball (95 yards per game, after leading the NFL in 2017) handcuffs the offense. Injuries to running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring), every spot on the offensive line (they’re on their third-string left tackle) and at tight end are the top reasons. Quarterback Blake Bortles isn’t good enough to carry the offense consistently without that, and his penchant for turning the ball over makes it even worse. — Mike DiRocco

19. Miami Dolphins

Record: 4-4
Week 8 ranking: 18

The Dolphins’ run defense is leaking oil at a rapid pace. Miami is tied for the third-worst run defense, giving up 143.1 rushing yards per game. Teams have begun attacking Miami right up the gut, as Detroit and Houston did over the past two games for a combined 436 rushing yards allowed. The Dolphins have surrendered 10 rushes of 20-plus yards and three rushes of 40-plus yards, both among the worst in the NFL. — Cameron Wolfe

20. Detroit Lions

Record: 3-4
Week 8 ranking: 20

Detroit’s run defense might have added Damon “Snacks” Harrison, but it’s still a work in progress. Detroit allowed Seattle to gain 176 rushing yards (4.2 yards per carry), and the Lions knew the Seahawks were going to pound the ball on the ground. While there’s hope for improvement as the team learns to play off Harrison, the Lions won’t have much time to adjust with strong running backs on their schedule throughout November and early December (Jordan Howard/Tarik Cohen twice, Christian McCaffrey, Todd Gurley II and possibly Dalvin Cook). — Michael Rothstein

21. Dallas Cowboys

Record: 3-4
Week 8 ranking: 22

The Cowboys are winless away from home, and their season could be on the line with back-to-back road games against the Eagles and Falcons on Nov. 11 and 18. The offense has been stifled. The Cowboys have converted just 14 of 52 third-down opportunities and scored just five touchdowns on 47 possessions in the first four road games. In Dak Prescott’s first two years as the starting quarterback, the Cowboys lost just four road games. They have matched that total already in 2018. — Todd Archer

22. Tennessee Titans

Record: 3-4
Week 8 ranking: 21

Opponents are scheming ways to generate explosive plays by getting the Titans’ secondary to bite on underneath routes, which allows a deep route to get open. The Chargers scored two touchdowns using this route combination in Week 7. The Titans’ defensive backs have to be more disciplined and ignore the teaser routes. — Turron Davenport

23. Denver Broncos

Record: 3-5
Week 8 ranking: 23

The Broncos have been right there at times with the league’s elite, losing three games to the Chiefs (twice) and the Rams by a combined 13 points. But they continue to hurt themselves with penalties, turnovers, assignment errors and stubbornness on offense. The Broncos profess to be better than their record, but the more they get beat due to their own mistakes, the more difficult it is for anyone to believe that. — Jeff Legwold

24. Indianapolis Colts

Record: 3-5
Week 8 ranking: 26

It has taken nearly 11 years, but the Colts can finally say they’ve had a 100-yard rusher in back-to-back games again. Second-year running back Marlon Mack followed up his 126-yard performance against Buffalo in Week 7 by rushing for 132 yards against Oakland on Sunday. Joseph Addai was the last Colts running back to accomplish that feat when he topped the 100-yard mark on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, 2007. — Mike Wells

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Record: 3-4
Week 8 ranking: 24

In four games and three starts, Bucs’ fourth-year quarterback Jameis Winston already has turned the ball over 11 times, with 10 interceptions, including four Sunday against the Bengals. For a defense that is giving up an average of 415.3 yards per game, that’s a total nightmare as head coach Dirk Koetter fights for his job. — Jenna Laine

26. Cleveland Browns

Record: 2-5-1
Week 8 ranking: 25

Baker Mayfield has been sacked 19 times in his five starts, a trend that would equate to 61 for a season. Mayfield is taking too many sacks and too many hits. Anything learned about Mayfield this season is a positive, but the Browns also have to worry about his mental well-being for the future. — Pat McManamon

27. New York Jets

Record: 3-5
Week 8 ranking: 27

Isaiah Crowell has become the invisible man since his record-setting 219-yard rushing performance in Week 5. In the past three games, he has only 92 yards on 37 carries, a meager 2.5-yard average. With Crowell struggling, and with running mate Bilal Powell (neck) done for the season, there’s too much pressure on rookie QB Sam Darnold. — Rich Cimini

28. Buffalo Bills

Record: 2-6
Week 8 ranking: 29

There are plenty of spooky stats surrounding the Bills’ inert offense, but the problems start at quarterback, where Josh Allen, Nathan Peterman and Derek Anderson have combined for a 48.8 passer rating this season. Over an entire season, that would be the second lowest the NFL has seen since 1980. Only the Chargers in 1998, when Ryan Leaf and Craig Whelihan combined for a 44.9 rating, have been worse. — Mike Rodak

29. New York Giants

Record: 1-7
Week 8 ranking: 28

Look away from the Giants’ offense. They can’t get in the end zone unless they’re down two scores in the final minutes. They did it again in Sunday’s loss to the Redskins. It was the fifth time this season that they scored one of those late touchdowns. They have only 14 TDs this season. — Jordan Raanan

30. Arizona Cardinals

Record: 2-6
Week 8 ranking: 32

To say the Cardinals’ halftime adjustments aren’t working might be the understatement of the season. Arizona has scored just seven points in the third quarter this season — all in Week 7 against Denver — which is the fewest in the NFL. The Cardinals went scoreless in the third quarter through the first six games, making their already-difficult lives even tougher when it came time for them to come back from deficits. In order for the Cardinals to have any hope of turning their season around, they’ll need to find ways to put up points after halftime. — Josh Weinfuss

31. San Francisco 49ers

Record: 1-7
Week 8 ranking: 30

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more terrifying trend than the Niners’ habit of turning the ball over on offense and not creating takeaways on defense. Through eight games, the Niners are minus-13 in turnover margin, tied for the worst turnover margin in the league. There’s no statistic in the game that’s a better indicator of wins and losses, so it should be no surprise that the Niners are sitting at 1-7 at the halfway point, given their issues in this category. — Nick Wagoner

32. Oakland Raiders

Record: 1-6
Week 8 ranking: 31

Elite pass-rushers are hard to find, just like Jon Gruden said — after trading away Khalil Mack. He also noted that Oakland’s defense was not so hot with Mack last season. Here’s something else that is decidedly not so hot: the Raiders’ league-low seven sacks. That’s 20 fewer than the league-leading Ravens. In fact, seven players have more sacks than the Raiders as a team, and 10 players have at least as many as Oakland. Yikes. — Paul Gutierrez

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