- PHILADELPHIA (7-1) Last week: 1 **
Carson Wentz has the league buzzing, but the Eagles are far more than him; they have rushed for 1,034 yards through eight games, nearly twice as many as their opponents (563).
2. NEW ENGLAND (6-2) Last week: 2
Dont'a Hightower's season-ending torn pectoral muscle could catch up with the Patriots at some point, but for now the proof is in the pudding of four consecutive games in which New England's defense has allowed 17 or fewer points.
3. PITTSBURGH (6-2) Last week: 3
Ben Roethlisberger's passer rating of 82.7 is still middling, but the rest of the Steelers' attack on both sides of the football is humming along nicely.
- KANSAS CITY (6-2) Last week: 4 **
In two of their last three games, the Chiefs have been held to one offensive touchdown, but that probably says more about the quality of the defenses they faced in Pittsburgh and Denver than anything that is askew with Kansas City's attack.
5. MINNESOTA (6-2) Last week: 6
Another week, another game in which the Vikings held a foe to fewer than 20 points, something they've done seven times this season.
6. L.A. RAMS (5-2) Last week: 5
This week's cross-country trek to New York to face the Giants is a must-win, as the Rams' schedule gets tricky from that point forward. Their schedule from Weeks 10-16 includes games with the Texans, Vikings, Saints, Eagles, Seahawks and Titans. Only a Week 13 game at Arizona looks reasonably comfortable. We'll find out from that stretch whether this ranking is justified or a mirage.
7. NEW ORLEANS (5-2) Last week: 7
The Saints didn't have their 'A' game against Chicago, but they had enough to get by. A win this week would give them their longest winning streak since the 2011 season, when they finished the regular season on an eight-game streak.
8. SEATTLE (5-2) Last week: 8
Not every quarterback can discombobulate the Seahawks the way Deshaun Watson did, but last week's game marked the second time in the last five contests that they given up at least 33 points. In their other games this season, the Seahawks haven't allowed more than 18.
- BUFFALO (5-2) Last week: 9 **
Forcing turnovers is crucial to the Bills' success, and they did so again last Sunday against Oakland, notching four takeaways without a giveaway of their own.
10. CAROLINA (5-3) Last week: 11
Five of their next six games are against teams with winning records.
11. DALLAS (4-3) Last week: 17
Since the Broncos held them to 17 points, the Cowboys have averaged 32.4 points per game and haven't scored fewer than 28.
12. JACKSONVILLE (4-3) Last week: 16
The Jaguars' defense leads the league in net points allowed per possession; if they can figure out how to avoid the one-week-on, one-week-off routine, this looks like a potential division champion.
13. HOUSTON (3-4) Last week: 10
Deshaun Watson and the offense have put up fireworks, but the defense is at the cusp of collapse.
14. ATLANTA (4-3) Last week: 15
After a trip to Carolina this weekend, four of the Falcons' following five games are at home, but is that a good thing? They looked out of sorts in their previous two home games, which they lost to Buffalo and Miami.
15. BALTIMORE (4-4) Last week: 23
A big-time bounce from a romp over Miami gives them a boost in a muddled middle.
16. DETROIT (3-4) Last week: 18
Too many lost opportunities felled them against the Steelers, as they settled for five Matt Prater field goals. Detroit has squandered its chances for statement home wins against the Falcons, Panthers and Steelers this season.
17. TENNESSEE (4-3) Last week: 20
Moving up by standing still during their bye.
- DENVER (3-4) Last week: 14 **
Denver's defense leads the league in net yards and first downs allowed per possession and has held opponents without a first down on a league-leading 43.9 percent of their series this season.
But it's all about turnovers, of course, which have given the Broncos the league's second-worst turnover margin. That has helped allow opponents to start 15 drives in Broncos territory this season; those possessions account for 36.5 percent of the points allowed by the defense. Opponents have also scored four times on field goals without even gaining a first down; the Chiefs did so twice Monday night.
19. WASHINGTON (3-4) Last week: 12
A rigorous schedule seems to have caught up with Washington, which now has three losses to their primary NFC East rivals from Philadelphia and Dallas.
20. GREEN BAY (4-3) Last week: 19
They need to trust their two-and-a-half-year investment in Brett Hundley's development, take off the training wheels and let him take advantage of the Packers' myriad formations while utilizing his mobility to create run-pass options that can force one defender to spy on him. That should create exploitable matchups in downfield coverage that Hundley can exploit.
21. CINCINNATI (3-4) Last week: 26
The Bengals have quietly put together an effective defense; they rank in the NFL's top 10 in net points (10th), net yards (seventh) and first downs allowed (eighth) per possession.
22. MIAMI (4-3) Last week: 13
After another shutout in which the Ravens' defense outscored the Dolphins' offense by two touchdowns, Miami is dead last in net yards and net points per possession.
- CHICAGO (3-5) Last week: 22 **
Mitchell Trubisky had more attempts in New Orleans last Sunday (32) than in his previous two starts combined (23), and while that offers a chance for him to grow for the future, the Bears' success equation for the present doesn't involve him carrying the offense on his arm.
24. L.A. CHARGERS (3-5) Last week: 21
A win against the Patriots was a possibility, but you can't win in Foxborough by gift-wrapping points like Travis Benjamin did by doubling back too far into the end zone for a safety, giving New England a free two points.
25. OAKLAND (3-5) Last week: 24
With games against the Patriots, Chiefs, Cowboys and Eagles among their first six games after their Week 10 bye, Sunday night's game at Miami shapes up as the do-or-die moment in their season.
26. N.Y. JETS (3-5) Last week: 25
They're 2-2 in games decided by five or fewer points, and they're probably right about where they should be.
27. TAMPA BAY (2-5) Last week: 27
The galleon is capsizing.
- ARIZONA (3-4) Last week: 28 **
Arizona has allowed at least 33 points in three consecutive games, and the offense no longer has enough firepower to consistently provide the output it needs to compensate for a defense that is beyond its breaking point.
29. N.Y. GIANTS (1-6) Last week: 29
With the Giants on a bye, I have nothing to say except that when I covered Super Bowl XXXV, which the Giants lost 34-7 to the Ravens, I sat in the auxiliary press area, one row behind the late "60 Minutes" essayist Andy Rooney, best known for his "Did ya ever notice" monologues. The lifelong Giants fan was not amused at watching his team's offense look only slightly more lively than the typewriter on his desk. Or maybe he just got annoyed at my comments as I took notes; I'm not really sure which.
30. INDIANAPOLIS (2-6) Last week: 30
The wins over the Browns and 49ers save them from the bottom, because they help their winning percentage, but the Colts actually have a worse per-game point differential and overall offensive and defensive efficiency numbers.
31. CLEVELAND (0-8) Last week: 31
A curious timeout called in a goal-to-go situation one play before they scored a touchdown allowed the Vikings enough time to march to a field goal just before halftime. This is the sort of game-management gaffe that an analytics-intensive team should never make.
32. SAN FRANCISCO (0-8) Last week: 32
Home games against the Cardinals and Giants offer the potential for short-term relief; the trade for Jimmy Garoppolo could offer long-term hope if he proves to be the answer.