NFL Power Rankings Week 9: The Bengals Have Arrived

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SLR’s Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: 24-17 Oct 27, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis (28) tackles Buffalo Bills wide receiver T.J. Graham (11) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans defeated Buffalo 35-17. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5) ▲1

They won a couple of games, so it was necessary to ask if they could recover from their slow start. They can’t. It’s not a slow start, it’s a bad season. Super Bowl-caliber Steelers teams do not up 93-yard touchdown runs to quarterbacks. They also don’t lose when holding said quarterbacks to 88 passing yards. Still, some credit is due for a late comeback attempt. At least they’re fighting.

23. Cleveland Browns (3-5) ▼4

They’ve lost three straight, but they haven’t been embarrassed by any means. In fact, they were a possession away from taking down the NFL’s only undefeated team. But that’s “almost.” They “are” 3-5, and in need of more offensive talent, though Jason Campbell played very well.

22. Miami Dolphins (3-4) ▼4

Was this team really 3-0 at one point this season? What happened? The crazy thing is that Ryan Tannehill soundly outplayed Tom Brady, and they still lost by 10. Just exactly how much money will the Dolphins end up eating when they inevitably cut Mike Wallace in a season or two?

21. Buffalo Bills (3-5) NC

They’re going nowhere this season, but they are a ton of fun to watch. They’ve had hard luck at every turn this season, but there is no team that keeps fighting for 60 minutes like this they do. They’re going to be a tough out for every team they play this season, regardless of how it looks on paper. That’s a testament to rookie head coach Doug Marrone, who figures to field a much more dangerous team in 2014.

20. Oakland Raiders  (3-4) ▲4

I’m not sold on Terrelle Pryor as a passer yet, and you need look no further than Colin Kaepernick (or Pryor’s own 10/19, 88 yards stat line) to find out why. But he certainly is putting up a strong start to his career, and the Raiders have something cooking. Or they would, if they didn’t have to play in the shadow of the Chiefs and Broncos all year.

19. St. Louis Rams (3-5) ▲4

This is a team deserving of respect. They lose their franchise quarterback for the season, and instead of coming out with a limp, they punch the mighty Seahawks square in the mouth with an outstanding pass rush led by Chris Long and Robert Quinn. They lost only because they couldn’t convert red zone trips into touchdowns. The Rams could do worse than Kellen Clemens, but they could do a lot better.

18. Baltimore Ravens (3-4) ▼1

The good news is that the Steelers and Browns lost, which means they retain second place in the AFC North. The bad news is that the Bengals are pulling away, and nobody’s likely to catch them. The other bad news is that Joe Flacco is not playing anywhere close to the level of his contract, and now the Ravens are stuck with him.

17. New York Jets (4-4) ▼5

Okay, I give up. I can’t figure out who this team is, aside from young and inconsistent. What’s really concerning is not how they turned the ball over, it’s that Andy Dalton absolutely dominated their defense in a way nobody has all year. Now they get to play New Orleans before licking their wounds over a bye week.