The Californian

Rams’ first loss shakes up top of power rankings

Cameron McKeon, Sports Editor

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At the midway point in the season, the playoff picture is starting to emerge.

Games get more important and we find out whether a handful of teams are contenders or pretenders. Questions are answered. Can Patrick Mahomes keep up his historic pace? Who is the king of the NFC North? AFC North? Will the Raiders win another game this season?

Needless to say, there won’t be much excitement around the Bay Area down the stretch. But head down south and the Rams received their first loss of the 2018 campaign. As a result, there’s been a bit of a shake-up in the top five with a usual suspect headlining the rankings.

32. Oakland Raiders (-) If I were able to put Alabama in the rankings, I’d put them a spot ahead of the Raiders. Oakland got blown out by another NFL bottomfeeder in the 49ers, 34-3. To add insult to injury, it was a third-string quarterback starting for San Francisco. The Raiders fell to 1-7.

31. Buffalo Bills (-) It’s a mess in Buffalo. In the midst of getting blown out at home, there came a point where the Bills-Bears game nearly felt like a preseason affair. Fans departed early to the point where there were more Bears supporters at New Era Field. Nathan Peterman threw a trio of interceptions and failed to find the end zone in the embarrassing 41-9 loss.

30. New York Giants (-) It was a bye week for the Giants. They head into San Francisco for Monday Night Football with a golden opportunity at getting back into the win column.

29. New York Jets (-) Poor Sam Darnold. The young QB has no offensive weapons, and it showed as he threw four interceptions in a 13-6 loss to the Dolphins. The USC product has thrown 11 TDs and 14 INTs this season, and is out this week against the Bills. Maybe the Jets can gain some confidence against the Bills this week as they start veteran Josh McCown.

28. Cleveland Browns (-2) The new coaching staff for the Browns had the ultimate task to take on the Chiefs last week, and they were unable to pull off a miracle. Nick Chubb had a solid day running the ball, and his fellow running back in Duke Johnson had a huge receiving day, totaling two touchdowns. Baker Mayfield built on what’s been a relatively strong rookie campaign. One thing is definite: he is definitely the franchise quarterback the Browns have been desperately searching for.

27. Arizona Cardinals (-) It was a bye week for the Cardinals. They head into Kansas City to take on the Chiefs this week.

26. San Francisco 49ers (+2) There’s a new quarterback in town for San Francisco, and his name is not Jimmy Garoppolo and definitely not C.J. Beathard. It’s Nick Mullens, who looked like a young Joe Montana as he led the ‘Niners to a 34-3 win over the Raiders. I don’t have them moved up very much because they played against the equivalent of a varsity high school team, but it gave the Bay Area something besides the Warriors to cheer about.

25. Dallas Cowboys (-7) Amari Cooper caught a touchdown and had a 5 reception, 58 yard night where he was targeted 8 times. Dak Prescott seemed a little too excited to use the new toy at times, though, trying to force too many balls to Cooper, resulting in rough outcomes. The offense hit a barrier at halftime, and was unable to get anything going the final 30 minutes, leading to a 28-14 home loss to the Titans.

24. Miami Dolphins (+1) There’s always that one game that almost makes you want to watch soccer instead. The Dolphins-Jets matchup was that game. The 13-6 Miami win “showcased” a couple dreadful offenses. The Dolphins picked off Sam Darnold four times, and that was the difference maker in this one. Miami improved to 5-4 ahead of this week’s game at Green Bay.

23. Indianapolis Colts (-) It was a bye week for the Colts. They are at home against the Jaguars this week.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (-) It was a bye week for the Jags. They head to Indianapolis to face a Colts team also coming off a bye.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2) The man, the myth, the legend Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four more touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough as the Panthers took down the Bucs 42-28. There’s a lot of issues in Tampa, but Fitzmagic isn’t one of them. The Bucs gave up touchdowns on five consecutive drives at a point in the high-scoring tilt. That’s absurd.

20. Denver Broncos (+1) Brandon McManus missed his second field goal with the clock running out and an opportunity to win the game last Sunday. In a perplexing off-year for kickers around the league, McManus joins the long, dreaded list. In his defense, the Broncos were much too conservative down the stretch and forced the kicker to attempt a 51-yarder, far from automatic. Denver dropped the game to the Texans, 19-17.

19. Tennessee Titans (+5) Kevin Byard had the wits to disrespect the Cowboys star just as Terrell Owens did 18 years ago. The Titans pulled away with the 28-14 win on Monday night as well, spoiling Cooper’s Dallas debut. Marcus Mariota played well with a couple touchdowns under the spotlight, aside from two fumbles. This win was huge for Tennessee to break them out of a long funk.

18. Detroit Lions (-1) Matthew Stafford took the ultimate beating last week against the Vikings. He was sacked, count ‘em, 10 times in the 24-9 loss. Uncomfortable throughout the game, Stafford was unable to put together a single touchdown drive. Kerryon Johnson had a rough day running the ball against an unstoppable Vikings front.

17. Seattle Seahawks (-2) An exhilarating game finished in a dropped pass in the end zone by David Moore. The 25-17 loss to the Chargers was a tough one to swallow for the Seahawks, as they look to better themselves position-wise in the playoff race. Russell Wilson’s lone pick went for six, but other than that he was solid.

16. Atlanta Falcons (+4) The Falcons are back in the race after starting 1-4. Their 38-14 win over the Redskins last week was a huge one, with Matt Ryan putting up big numbers once again and one of his four touchdown passes finally finding Julio Jones. The star wideout caught his first touchdown in nearly a calendar year to go along with his 121 receiving yards.

15. Baltimore Ravens (+1) The Ravens suffered their third loss in a row to fall under .500 for the first time this season. After a promising start to the season, Baltimore has a steep climb in front of them with both the Steelers and Bengals ahead of them in the AFC North.

14. Cincinnati Bengals (-) It was a bye week for the Bengals. They have a dandy of a matchup against the Saints this week.

13. Washington Redskins (-1) The ‘Skins ditched the run game early, and they lost 38-14 as a result. NFL’s most unpredictable team sits at the top of their division with a 5-3 record, but they need more consistency on the ground to hold off the oncoming Eagles.

12. Green Bay Packers (+1) The battle of the GOATs didn’t go Aaron Rodgers’ way. The Packers fell to 3-4-1 after last week’s 31-17 loss to the Patriots. Green Bay let it slip away in the 4th quarter as the visibly better team won, and they’re now in a little bit of trouble in the NFC North. Down to 3rd in their division, luck needs to come into play for the Packers as they look to gain some ground on the Bears and Vikings.

11. Chicago Bears (-) Mitchell Trubisky threw for 135 yards and the Bears won 41-9. That’s just a testament to how great this Chicago defense is. Without Khalil Mack, the troops still managed three interceptions, a forced fumble, four sacks, and two defensive scores. Those are some numbers comparable to the legendary ‘85 Bears. Still holding onto the top spot in the NFC North, the Bears coasted to 5-3.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (-) It was a bye week for the Eagles. They host the Sunday Night game against the Cowboys this week.

9. Houston Texans (-) Demaryius Thomas made a splash early on against his former team and sprinted off the field in celebration after the Texans escaped with a win on the road. Deshaun Watson was 17-24 with 213 and 2 TDs, 105 of those yards going to DeAndre Hopkins. It was barely enough as the Broncos missed a game-winning field goal, but nevertheless its six wins in a row for Houston.

8. Los Angeles Chargers (-) The Chargers’ two losses this year have come to the Chiefs and Rams, arguably the two best teams in the league, so it’s tough to gauge whether Los Angeles should be up in the top five as well. Skeptics don’t believe the 6-2 Chargers are elite, but they have the veteran winner Philip Rivers at QB and the young, explosive Melvin Gordon running over every defense tasked to face him.

7. Carolina Panthers (- 2) The offense was electric for the Panthers in their 42-28 win over the Bucs. Christian McCaffrey provided the spark this time, rushing for a pair of touchdowns as well as gaining 78 receiving yards as he continues to be one of the most dynamic players in the game. Cam Newton was calm and collected as he led the offense down the field time after time. All that changed Thursday night in the Panthers’ 52-21 stomping at the hands of Pittsburgh.

 

6. Minnesota Vikings (+1) 10 sacks! That’s a franchise record for the Vikings. Danielle Hunter led the way with 3.5 of them. Minnesota’s defense won them the game against Detroit, scoring a touchdown in addition to the sack record. Unfortunately, Adam Thielen’s streak met its inevitable end, finishing the game with just 22 receiving yards but still catching a touchdown.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (+1) It’s become clear that the Steelers are the frontrunners in the AFC North. They proved to outperform the division rival Ravens 23-16 to split the season series and their 52-21 destruction of Carolina on Thursday night. Well past the early season shenanigans, this Pittsburgh team has solved all their problems as the Le’Veon Bell issues become less relevant by the day.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (-1) With a fairly consistent defense, this Chiefs team is unstoppable. Patrick Mahomes continues to lead a score-at-will offense, and Kareem Hunt breaks off highlight reel run after highlight reel run. They victimized the Browns last week 37-21, with four receivers collecting 60+ yards.

3. Los Angeles Rams (-2) It’s about time! The final undefeated team is undefeated no more. In an outstanding game, the Rams trailed the Saints big at halftime, but Jared Goff helped LAclimb back into the game. The possible NFC Championship preview exhibited the young vs, the experienced, and it was the ageless Drew Brees who handed the Rams their first loss.

2. New Orleans Saints (+2) Michael Thomas had 211 receiving yards as he stepped his game up a notch against the Rams. If you haven’t already, check out his classic touchdown celebration following his game-sealing 72-yard touchdown reception. Thomas paid tribute to the great Joe Horn and was the cherry on top to a brilliant game between two NFC powerhouses.

1. New England Patriots (+1) It’s another year where the Pats look like a possible Super Bowl contender. This year, the annual, no-name New England overachiever is James White. The offensive playmaker had two rushing touchdowns while catching six passes for 76 yards. Josh Gordon is clearly comfortable in his new home, leading the team with 130 receiving yards in the 31-17 win over the Packers.

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Rams’ first loss shakes up top of power rankings