NFL Power Rankings: Rams had a bad loss, as did just about every other good team
The Los Angeles Rams have a quality win. They looked very good against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3.
So we can't say the Rams haven't beaten anybody. They just haven't beaten anybody else, and the two other good teams the Rams played embarrassed them.
There are plenty of teams we thought were good going into Week 9 that are on notice after laying an egg Sunday. The way the Tennessee Titans handled the Rams on Sunday night, much like the Cardinals handled the Rams in Week 4, leads to a closer look at the Rams' resume. It's not a kind one.
Here are the six other wins the Rams have: Bears, Colts, Seahawks, Giants, Lions and Texans. That's six losing teams with a combined 14-37 record before the Bears kicked off Monday night. As we found out Sunday, beating bad teams in the NFL isn't a given, and give the Rams credit for handling their business. But the 1-2 record against winning teams brings up an oft-cited stat about quarterback Matthew Stafford.
In games Stafford started with the Detroit Lions, they went 8-67 against teams that ended the season with a winning record. Quarterbacks don't singularly win or lose games. Football is a team sport. Detroit was mostly bad around Stafford. But some quarterbacks play their worst against the best competition. Maybe that's Stafford's issue.
Stafford made two bad plays Sunday that flipped the game. One was a wild interception from his own end zone when he was spinning around, about to be sacked. That turned into an easy Titans touchdown one play later. Then Stafford threw a pick six to safety Kevin Byard on the Rams' next play. You aren't going far if your quarterback makes those mistakes on a big stage.
Sunday proved, yet again, that almost every NFL team is going to look bad a few times per season. The league is competitive and even good teams can get beat any week. Parity is not just a buzzword. A terrible loss doesn't mean a team is bad. It just reminds us to never fully trust any NFL team. They're all flawed.
In that way, the Rams' loss isn't a reason for panic. Soft wins or not, the Rams have playmakers on both sides of the ball and a good coach. They're still a Super Bowl contender, just not a better bet than anyone else. When everyone is susceptible to bad losses, that makes the playoffs a random number generator.
The Rams will be fine. They have to prove they can do better against the best competition, but it's not like there aren't questions about the Bills, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Ravens or just about anyone else on the alleged top tier of the NFL. It's hard to trust any of them, and the Rams aren't an exception.
Here are the power rankings following Week 9 of the NFL season:
32. Houston Texans (1-8, Last Week: 32)
The Texans forced five turnovers against a Dolphins team that had lost seven in a row and still couldn't get a win. Again, it's amazing and fortunate the Texans got a win, because we'd already be having plenty of 0-17 discussions about them by now.
31. Detroit Lions (0-8, LW: 31)
The Lions, coming off a bye, get to play the Steelers who are playing on Monday night. In terms of a scheduling spot and rest, it's as advantageous of a situation as you'll find. The Lions can use any edge they can get.
30. Miami Dolphins (2-7, LW: 30)
It's not like Tua Tagovailoa's injuries aren't significant. He has missed time with broken ribs, and missed Sunday's game with a fractured finger. But fair or not, when quarterbacks miss too many games due to injuries, it's a mark against them. Missing games is not helping Tagovailoa's reputation.
29. New York Jets (2-6, LW: 28)
The Jets have been woefully unprepared to start just about every game. Their defense, which was supposed to improve with new coach Robert Saleh, has had some embarrassing days — including last week against the Colts. Saleh might end up being a great coach when the Jets' talent improves, but it's hard to be impressed so far.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6, LW: 29)
Give credit to the Jaguars' defense. They hadn't been good all season, but then put constant pressure on Bills quarterback Josh Allen in a 9-6 win. The Jaguars had 218 yards of offense and didn't score a touchdown but won the game. The entire defense deserves game balls.
27. Washington Football Team (2-6, LW: 26)
It's already worth wondering if Terry McLaurin is on the Allen Robinson career path and won't get a decent quarterback until he's in his late 20s. McLaurin is probably one of the NFL's best receivers but we might never see that level for a while.
26. New York Giants (3-6, LW: 27)
Safety Xavier McKinney, a high second-round pick in the 2020 class, had two interceptions including a key pick-six that led the Giants to a win on a day they had 110 yards passing. McKinney missed most of his rookie season due to injury. Maybe he's breaking out in year two.
25. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6, LW: 25)
Jalen Reagor has played all nine games this season, starting eight. He has 159 yards. He has games of 5, 9, 0, 0 and -6 yards this season. Third-year breakouts happen, but it's looking more and more like the Eagles won't get much out of this 2020 first-round pick.
24. Carolina Panthers (4-5, LW: 20)
Matt Rhule wouldn't make a definitive comment on Sam Darnold continuing to start after Sunday's game, but it's not hard to note his frustration. "We can't have a quarterback throwing the ball up in the air," Rhule said. "He knows that. I know that. Whether we have to get with the coaches and figure out is it the coaching, is it him, what is it? We just can't keep doing this. But I have to see everything before I can probably answer that better tomorrow." At some point soon, the Panthers need to see if P.J. Walker gives them a better chance to win.
23. Chicago Bears (3-6, LW: 23)
Usually when you complain that the officials took a game away from your favorite team, you're exaggerating. I'll allow Bears fans to say it after Monday. That was a miserably officiated game, and the peak was the Cassius Marsh taunting call that gave the Steelers three points. The NFL has no idea how much its customer base hates the emphasis on the taunting calls.
22. Atlanta Falcons (4-4, LW: 24)
The Falcons would be a playoff team in the regular season ended right now. Seriously.
21. San Francisco 49ers (3-5, LW: 16)
If you lose by 14 points at home to a Cardinals team without Kyler Murray, Chase Edmonds and DeAndre Hopkins, you're not going anywhere. The 49ers have a serious question they have to start pondering: Is Kyle Shanahan a good coach?
20. Seattle Seahawks (3-5, LW: 22)
Russell Wilson will be back this week, and hopefully he's fully ready and not rushing back. Considering the 4-4 Falcons are in a wild-card spot, Wilson is returning with more than enough time to make a playoff push.
19. Minnesota Vikings (3-5, LW: 19)
Justin Jefferson had two catches for 57 yards less than a quarter into the game. He also had a run for 11 yards on the Vikings' first drive. In the final four quarters he had one catch for 12 yards. That's inexcusable. Breakdowns like that are a reason the Vikings keep losing close games.
18. Denver Broncos (5-4, LW: 21)
The Broncos didn't have much on their resume before Sunday. Then they absolutely blasted the Cowboys, leading 30-0 with five minutes left. Does that mean the Broncos have taken a step forward? Or was it a random outcome on a crazy Sunday?
17. Indianapolis Colts (4-5, LW: 18)
With Derrick Henry out, is Jonathan Taylor the NFL's best runner? He has 821 yards, 100 yards more than Nick Chubb for second place in the NFL behind Henry. He has a nice shot at a rushing title in his second season.
16. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4, LW: 11)
Losing to the Jets was bad. Was getting blown out by the Browns worse? Maybe. At least the Jets loss could be explained away by having an emotional letdown. There's no excuse for looking as bad as Cincinnati did against the Browns. The offensive line is getting exposed, and the defense that played very well for the first seven weeks might be too.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3, LW: 15)
The Steelers made a great pick with tight end Pat Freiermuth. With more than half of the league struggling to get halfway decent play at tight end, it's a shock he lasted until the second round.
14. Las Vegas Raiders (5-3, LW: 10)
The Raiders cut 2020 first-round pick Damon Arnette after a video surfaced of him allegedly making threats against an unnamed man and holding a firearm. The 2020 Raiders draft class could go down as one of the worst in recent history.
13. Cleveland Browns (5-4, LW: 17)
Worth repeating: Donovan Peoples-Jones, who had a 60-yard touchdown Sunday, has been a better receiver than Odell Beckham Jr. this season. Just getting Beckham off the field so Peoples-Jones can get more snaps will make the offense better, as crazy as that seems.
12. Los Angeles Chargers (5-3, LW: 14)
Brandon Staley isn't just going for it on fourth down to do it. His call to go for it on fourth down in the final two minutes, passing on a possible go-ahead field goal, was the correct analytical decision. That wouldn't have mattered to anyone if Justin Herbert's quarterback sneak was stopped short but Staley is going to coach his way, win or lose.
11. New Orleans Saints (5-3, LW: 9)
I'd like to know why Sean Payton went with Trevor Siemian over Taysom Hill, a player he has forced into games for years. It seems too hard to believe that Payton bought into Siemian after watching the Saints play well and beat the Buccaneers; it's not like Siemian was lights out. He was fine. Then on Sunday the Saints really struggled into the fourth quarter and a rally wasn't enough to overcome it.
10. New England Patriots (5-4, LW: 13)
Matt Judon might be the NFL's defensive player of the year. He has nine sacks, with at least one sack in six of New England's nine games. He has been a great, versatile piece for the Patriots defense. He might end up being the best signing of the 2021 offseason.
9. Kansas City Chiefs (5-4, LW: 12)
Patrick Mahomes was 20-of-37 for 166 yards. Mahomes has averaged fewer than six yards per attempt in four of Kansas City's last five games. If you keep expecting that this is the week the Chiefs explode for 45 points, you might be waiting a while. This is a real slump.
8. Buffalo Bills (5-3, LW: 4)
The Bills' offensive line might be a real problem. The Jaguars couldn't rush the quarterback before Sunday, when they suddenly were in Josh Allen's lap on every play. If that doesn't get fixed, the Bills aren't getting where they want to go this season.
7. Green Bay Packers (7-2, LW: 3)
There has been a lot of defense of Jordan Love's play on Sunday, and he wasn't bad. But he wasn't good either. And when the Packers altered the direction of their franchise to trade up and draft Love in the first round last year, it wasn't to just be not that bad.
6. Baltimore Ravens (6-2, LW: 7)
The Ravens have a nice, young receiver duo in Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman. Brown is having a really good season. Bateman, this year's first-round pick, hasn't had a breakout game but it feels like it's coming.
5. Dallas Cowboys (6-2, LW: 2)
Of all the weird losses on Sunday, the Cowboys' loss seems the flukiest. Maybe it's a sign that the Cowboys are overrated but I highly doubt the offense looks that bad again or Trevon Diggs gets torched for a touchdown by a Tim Patrick-level receiver. Maybe it's a concern the Broncos' physical running game was a problem for Dallas' front seven, but run defense wasn't a big issue before Sunday. It was just an odd result. Hopefully for Cowboys fans, anyway.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2, LW: 6)
Tom Brady might have won NFL MVP in Week 8 by simply not playing when many of the other candidates couldn't get out of their own way.
3. Los Angeles Rams (7-2, LW: 1)
The roughing-the-passer penalty on Aaron Donald wasn't the reason the Rams lost but it was utterly ridiculous. Donald pushed Ryan Tannehill, who went down to the ground. There was no safety issue. The NFL hasn't yet figured out that fans don't tune in to watch penalties.
2. Tennessee Titans (7-2, LW: 8)
You're going to hear a lot about how good the Titans are this week, and a lot of it is deserved. Don't forget this team lost to the Jets though. Everyone in the NFL is susceptible to really, really bad weeks. The Titans' bad week just happened so long ago that we've moved on.
1. Arizona Cardinals (8-1, LW: 5)
The top four teams in last week's power rankings all lost. Seven of the top 11 went down (and one had a bye). I can't remember that happening before. Arizona deserves the top spot simply because they've been the most consistent good team.