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Mason's Power Rankings: The AFC West is best

Posted Nov 1, 2016

Three of the league's top seven teams after eight weeks call the AFC West home.

32. CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-8)

Last week: 32
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 25 - Defense: 27

Half of their losses so far were in one-score games, including Sunday's 31-28 defeat to the Jets. According to pro-football-reference.com, 185 teams since 1940 had a worse point differential after eight games than the Browns' minus-80, which is actually more of what you'd expect from a 2-6 team. So they're not abject. But the worst team they face the rest of the way is the better-than-their-record Chargers, and the Jets game represented their best chance at a win. Going 0-16 still seems unlikely, but it's possible now.

31. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (1-6)

Last week: 31
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 32 - Defense: 18

The 49ers lead the league in games with 300 or fewer total yards; five of their seven games (71 percent) saw them fail to surpass 300.

30. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-5)

Last week: 27
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 16 - Defense: 26

Once again, a late rally made the final score closer than the game would indicate. Half of Jacksonville's last 18 touchdowns -- including all three last Thursday -- came in the second half with a deficit of at least three scores.

29. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (3-5)

Last week: 25
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 9 - Defense: 31

Indianapolis has lost six of its last seven games when held to fewer than 200 net passing yards. Its total against Kansas City last Sunday? 172.

28. NEW YORK JETS (3-5)

Last week: 29
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 23 - Defense: 25

The Jets are the only team with a negative point differential in the first, second, third and fourth quarters. At least they're consistent.

27. LOS ANGELES RAMS (3-4)

Last week: 24
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 31 - Defense: 16

No quarterback who has thrown at least 100 passes -- not even Ryan Fitzpatrick -- has a higher interception percentage than Case Keenum (4.22 percent).

26. CHICAGO BEARS (2-6)

Last week: 30
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 18 - Defense: 20

The Bears needed immunity from discontent and distraction. Jay Cutler provided the vaccine in his return to the starting lineup.

25. MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-4)

Last week: 23
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 28 - Defense: 14

Movement around the Dolphins drops them two spots during their bye.

24. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (3-4)

Last week: 19
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 21 - Defense: 15

Teams that fancy themselves potential contenders for a division crown don't squander an opportunity for a home win against a club that set an NFL record for accepted penalties (23, for 200 yards).

23. TENNESSEE TITANS (4-4)

Last week: 26
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 17 - Defense: 13

Only five teams allow fewer yards and fewer first downs per possession than the Titans, who quietly have pieced together one of the league's most efficient defenses.

22. CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-5)

Last week: 24
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 10 - Defense: 10

Carolina still hasn't put together a turnover-free game.

21. BALTIMORE RAVENS (3-4)

Last week: 22
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 29 - Defense: 2

In some divisions, they'd be focused on the wild card. In the AFC North, they're right in the race with a chance to forge a first-place tie against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

20. DETROIT LIONS (4-4)

Last week: 16
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 4 - Defense: 32

Each of the Lions' eight games this season was a one-score game, and they split them. There's no statistical oddities here; the Lions are right where they should be.

19. BUFFALO BILLS (4-4)

Last week: 18
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 13 - Defense: 17

It's not Sunday's loss to New England that could do in the Bills; it's tossing away winnable games against the Jets and Week 2 and at Miami in Week 7. With trips to Seattle and Cincinnati before they return home Thanksgiving weekend, it seems the Bills might have already tossed away their best chance to end their 16-season postseason drought.

18. CINCINNATI BENGALS (3-4-1)

Last week: 20
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 8 - Defense: 24

Since 2003, six NFL games have ended in ties. Marvin Lewis' Bengals played in half of them.

17. NEW YORK GIANTS (4-3)

Last week: 27
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 22 - Defense: 11

The Giants have had least one turnover in 16 consecutive games.

16. ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-4-1)

Last week: 10
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 20 - Defense: 1

Injuries to OT Jared Veldheer and S Tyrann Mathieu are the latest in a pileup of medical woes that threaten to prevent Arizona from making a postseason push.

15. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (3-4)

Last week: 21
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 3 - Defense: 30

Hope for a second-half surge rests in a defense that held the Chiefs and Seahawks offenses to 33 points and a league-average rate of net points per possession (1.94) the last two games. Frustration rests in allowing two touchdowns on returns by opposing defenses the last two weeks. But the toughest part of their schedule is behind them; the Broncos are the only team with a winning record they face until Week 17.

14. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (3-5)

Last week: 14
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 14 - Defense: 8

They've run out of mulligans in the rugged AFC West, but home games against the Titans and Dolphins the next two weeks offer cause for optimism. They're a better team than their record indicates, and the only team they face in their next five games that is over .500 is Houston.

13. HOUSTON TEXANS (5-3)

Last week: 13
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 28 - Defense: 4

No quarterback with more than 75 attempts has fewer yards per attempt than Brock Osweiler (5.8), and his first-down rate is one every 3.56 pass plays, better than only Tyrod Taylor and Joe Flacco.

12. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (4-3)

Last week: 12
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 12 - Defense: 19

Ben Roethlisberger "could have a chance to play" Sunday against the Ravens, head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. But with a half-game lead over the Bengals and a one-game edge on Baltimore, why chance it?

11. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (4-3-1)

Last week: 11
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 5 - Defense: 28

Saved by Mike Nugent's errant kicks, Washington faces the toughest part of its schedule when it returns from the bye: home games against Minnesota and Green Bay followed by trips to Dallas, Arizona and Philadelphia.

10. GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-3)

Last week: 8
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 6 - Defense: 23

The Packers need to be more explosive on offense to overcome a defense that is in the league's bottom 10 teams in points allowed per possession.

9. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-3)

Last week: 6
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 19 - Defense: 7

The Eagles' home-road splits -- plus-20.3 points per game at home, minus-0.25 points per game on the road -- offer hope that they can avenge their recent defeats to Washington and Dallas and reclaim the NFC East by the end of the season. But they have a trip to MetLife Stadium to face the Giants this week, and won't play an NFC East home game until Dec. 11.

8. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (4-2-1)

Last week: 5
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 26 - Defense: 6

One offensive touchdown in two weeks -- which included a game against the struggling Saints defense -- sounds the alarms for a Seattle offense that is picking up yardage, but not points.

7. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6-2)

Last week: 15
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 11 - Defense: 21

Derek Carr's quarterback rating against the Broncos is just 72.0 -- 15.9 points lower than it is against everybody else.

6. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (5-2)

Last week: 9
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 15 - Defense: 9

With Jacksonville, Carolina and Tampa Bay next, the Chiefs could be 8-2 by the time they visit Denver in Week 12.

5. ATLANTA FALCONS (5-3)

Last week: 7
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 1 - Defense: 29

No one -- not even Tom Brady -- is as effective at moving the chains this season as Matt Ryan. The Falcons get a first down once every 2.47 pass plays; the league average is once every 3.03.

4. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-2)

Last week: 3
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 30 - Defense: 3

Minnesota's offensive production -- or lack thereof -- remains alarming. The Vikings rank 27th in net points per possession, 31st in net yardage per possession and 28th in first downs per possession. Average offense might be enough to make the Vikings title-worthy, but that seems to be a far-off goal.

3. DENVER BRONCOS (6-2)

Last week: 4
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 24 - Defense: 5

Still the worst first-quarter team (minus-38 point differential). Still the best fourth-quarter team (plus-67 point differential).

2. DALLAS COWBOYS (6-1)

Last week: 2
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 2 - Defense: 22

Their next three games are against the AFC North. In recent years, that would mean trouble. But the teams they'll see are a combined 7-15.

1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (7-1)

Last week: 1
Per-possession efficiency rankings -- Offense: 7 - Defense: 12

Since Tom Brady's return, New England has averaged 33.0 offensive points per game. And if rookie LB Elandon Roberts is what the Patriots believe he is, they won't miss Jamie Collins -- and will keep right on rolling.

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