We are at the unofficial midway point of the 2016 season, believe it or not, in what has been quite an eventful first half. We have seen our fair share of ups and downs this season. From great starts by the Vikings, Cowboys and Falcons to the rapid decline in NFL TV ratings and apparent discontent among fans over the quality of play in the League thus far. It's been interesting to say the least.
So lets dish out some power rankings as we look at the League through Week 8.
Top 10 Power Rankings
1) New England Patriots (7-1): When the season started the Patriots were without their future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, who was serving a 4-game suspension for his involvement in Deflategate. The Patriots surprised with wins over the Cardinals and dominated the Dolphins and Texans to open the season with Jimmy Garapolo and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. Once Brady came back the Pats have been on fire. Brady has thrown for 1319 yards, 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. ZERO! New England has also been buoyed by contributions from running back LaGarret Blount, who is putting up Pro Bowl numbers, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. As they enter the bye, the Patriots are poised for the AFC's top seed.
2) Dallas Cowboys (6-1): Anyone remember Tony Romo? No? Didn't think so. With Romo on the shelf as he recovers from a back injury, the Cowboys have become Dak Prescott's team. As has been discussed at nauseam thus far is that the Cowboys should leave Prescott under center when Romo returns. I would agree. The kid has some special magic in him. He's played well under some tough circumstances and isn't making mistakes. Plus the team seems to like him a lot.
In addition, the Cowboys have easily the best young player in the NFL in running back Ezekiel Elliot, who leads the League in rushing with 799 yards. Elliot has shown a tremendous amount of power and speed and is a lock for Rookie of the Year. Also, let us not forget the Cowboys defense has been solid as well this year.
3) Denver Broncos (6-2): A hard sell at number three, but the defending world champions are winning old school style. The Broncos have the best defense in the NFL. They already have 26 sacks as a team and have forced 16 turnovers. Von Miller, the face of the franchise already has 8.5 sacks. That being said, the Bronco offense leaves a lot to be desired. Trevor Siemian has been unspectacular at quarterback, which can be a good thing as long as the team keeps winning. Losing C.J. Anderson to injured reserve hurts badly.
4) Oakland Raiders (6-2): The RRRRRAIDERS are back. The Raiders have been the most exciting team to watch in the League this year. They are 5-0 on the road to start a season for the first time since 1977, and are 6-2 for the first time since 2001. The Raider resurgence is pointed directly at head coach Jack Del Rio, who has infused his personality into this football team. Offensively the Raiders are explosive, ranked fifth in the NFL in total offense. Quarterback Derek Carr is playing at a MVP level, and Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are total beasts. The one issue? The Raider defense is not that great, and Oakland has had to pull a rabbit out of their hats on several occasions this year. They are 5-0 in games decided by seven points or less.
5) Atlanta Falcons (5-3): Like the Raiders, the Falcons are explosive offensively and bad defensively. The Falcons have the NFL's top flight offense with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones both having MVP caliber years. It is hard to believe that a wide receiver has never been named League MVP, but Jones might shatter that glass wall with 859 yards receiving at the midway point.
The one issue for the Dirty Birds? Their defense stinks. They don't rush the passer and don't force many turnovers. They are also ranked 25th in total defense, and 29th in points allowed. This is a problem. If Atlanta wants to win big this year, their D must improve.
6) Seattle Seahawks (4-2-1): Speaking of D, there is the Seattle Seahawks -- the kings of D! Seattle's days of dominating the NFL might be nearing an end, but the Seahawks are still a really good team. I like the way Russell Wilson has played on a hobbled knee. He has shown tremendous leadership and poise in spite of the injury. Seattle's defense is still the best in the NFL, and one should expect the Seahawks to go on a major run for the NFC West title and a top seed.
7) Philadelphia Eagles (4-3): The Eagles have hits a snag in losing three of their last four, but Carson Wentz isn't the reason why they have struggled. The rookie has looked poised all season and played well in Dallas on Sunday. The Eagles just ran out of time on Sunday night, and Dallas scored on its first possession of overtime in a game that was tied at 23. The Eagle defense has been very solid most of the season, collecting 22 sacks and turnover ratio of +6. Philly is still in the thick of the NFC East race and wild card.
8) Kansas City Chiefs (5-2): While the Raiders and Broncos are gobbling up the headlines in the AFC West, the Chiefs are quietly going about their business. They are 5-2 after destroying the Colts 30-14 on Sunday. KC has won three in a row, and dominated the Raiders, Saints and Colts in succession. The Chiefs have done this with a solid ground game led by Spencer Ware, and a suffocating defense that is giving up only 19.6 points per game. The Alex Smith concussion is scary, but the Chiefs hope he is able to play next week.
9) Minnesota Vikings (5-2): The Vikings are sinking in the polls faster than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined. The Vikings were 5-0 and widely considered a top 5 team in the NFL. Now they have lost two in a row, including a Monday Night smackdown to the Chicago Bears. The failures can be attributed to quarterback Sam Bradford being ... well ... Sam Bradford. Not to mention not having Adrian Peterson is starting to hurt the Vikings lackluster offense. The Vikings fall could open the door for Green Bay.
10) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3): Losing two in a row dropped the Steelers out of the top 5 weeks ago, but Pittsburgh is hoping that Ben Roethlisberger returns from knee surgery in time for Week 9 at Baltimore. If he doesn't, then Landry Jones gets the start. Let us not forget this was a team that was on fire earlier in the year. The Steelers are still the favorites to win this division. If Big Ben returns healthy, they can still go on a run.
On the Bubble: Green Bay Packers (4-3); Detroit Lions (4-4); Houston Texans (5-3); N.Y. Giants (4-3); Buffalo Bills (4-4); Tennessee Titans (4-4).
Bottom five: 32) Cleveland Browns (0-8): They suck, what else can I say? 31) San Francisco 49ers (1-6): the Colin Kaepernick's are a miserable mess. 30) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5): Is Gus Bradley fired yet? 29) Chicago Bears (2-6): The Bears + Jay Cutler = losing mentality. 28) N.Y. Jets (3-5): I know they have a better record than the Panthers and Chargers, but these guys almost lost to the Browns, and are the worst of the 3-5 bunch.