The Power Rankings have a new No. 1.
And also some questions — 32 questions to be precise, one for each team. Some of these are big questions that affect the long-term future of the teams, and some are more specific. Either way, we’re hoping the final 11 weeks of the season will give us some answers.
As for our new No. 1, they’ll feel pretty familiar.
(Last week: 5)
Sunday: Beat Los Angeles Chargers 31-17
One question: Is the defense for real?
Kansas City won the Super Bowl last season with a defense that ranked 14th in success rate (58.3 percent). This year’s group ranks fifth (61.6). The offense seems fully engaged now. Travis Kelce caught 12 passes for 179 yards Sunday, and Patrick Mahomes had his fifth career game with 400-plus yards and four or more touchdowns. Plus, Mahomes and Kelce connected for their 50th career touchdown, the fourth-most by a quarterback-tight end duo in NFL history. If this defense is for real, the Chiefs will stay in this spot for a while.
Up next: at Denver Broncos, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
The lessons Patrick Mahomes learned as a high school safety that helped him become an elite QB
(Last week: 4)
Sunday: Beat Miami Dolphins 31-17
One question: Should the Tush Push be outlawed?
The Eagles converted two fourth-and-1 plays on their decisive drive against Miami on Sunday night using their signature scrum play. There’s a growing sentiment that the NFL’s competition committee is going to ban the play in the offseason, but why? What is more of a football play than your big guys pushing their big guys back a yard, or two or three in the Eagles’ case? There should be a benefit to getting to third- and fourth-and-short plays. In case it’s not clear, our answer to this question is, “No!”
Up next: at Washington Commanders, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
(Last week: 12)
Sunday: Beat Detroit Lions 38-6
One question: Can we give Lamar Jackson his due?
The Ravens quarterback won his 50th career game in his 68th career start Sunday. Only Ken Stabler, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Roger Staubach got to 50 wins in fewer starts. And Jackson did it in style, becoming the fourth player in league history to have at least 350 passing yards, three touchdown passes, one rushing touchdown and a passer rating above 150 in a game. After seven games in new coordinator Todd Monken’s offense, Jackson is third in the league in passer rating (101.9) and fifth in yards per game (281.9), according to TruMedia.
Up next: at Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
4. Miami Dolphins (5-2)
(Last week: 1)
Sunday: Lost to Philadelphia Eagles 31-17
One question: Are the Dolphins for real?
This is the point where some of the devoted Power Rankings commenters can (and probably will) say, “We told you so.” The five teams Miami has beaten are a combined 8-25. None of them is even within two games of .500. Yes, Miami’s offensive line injuries are piling up, but the two winning teams the Dolphins have played have beaten them by an average of 21 points. We may not have an answer to this question for a while. They play only one team with a winning record (the Chiefs) between now and their game against the Cowboys on Christmas Eve.
Up next: vs. New England Patriots, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
(Last week: 2)
Monday: Lost to Minnesota Vikings 22-17
One question: Just how valuable is Trent Williams?
Say what you will about Deebo Samuel being sidelined, but the 49ers’ biggest absence (literally and figuratively) Monday night was left tackle Trent Williams. With the 6-foot-5, 320-pounder on the sideline because of an ankle injury, San Francisco rushed for a season-low 65 yards and had a season-worst minus-4.95 in rush EPA, according to TruMedia. Williams was limited for much of last week’s game against Cleveland by the injury, and the Browns had a pressure percentage of 50 percent.
Up next: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
(Last week: 3)
Sunday: Lost to Baltimore Ravens 38-6
One question: How will they bounce back?
After being the league’s feel-good story through the first third of the season, Detroit got pummeled Sunday. Baltimore had 503 yards and averaged 9.1 yards per play, the most by any team not named the Dolphins in a game this season. Jared Goff had a quarterback rating of 68.4. The Lions were third in the league in yards (383.7) and fourth in points (28) through six weeks but fell behind 35-0 Sunday. Coach Dan Campbell said he thinks the game will “re-center” his team, but they don’t have a lot of institutional confidence to fall back on.
Up next: vs. Las Vegas Raiders, Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
(Last week: 7)
Sunday: Beat Indianapolis Colts 39-38
One question: What’s the deal with Deshaun Watson?
After missing Weeks 4, 5 and 6 with a bruised shoulder, Watson returned Sunday but threw only five passes (completing one to each team) before leaving after a big hit. He cleared an in-game concussion evaluation but did not return to the game, which continues a pattern of the Browns saying Watson is uninjured but not playing him. Coach Kevin Stefanski said after the game that Watson will start this week against Seattle, but is that good news or not? Since joining the team in Week 13 last year, he has a passer rating of 81.3, which ranks 36th among qualifying quarterbacks in that time, according to TruMedia.
Up next: at Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
(Last week: 8)
Thursday: Beat New Orleans Saints 31-24
One question: Is Trevor Lawrence elite?
The Jaguars’ third-year quarterback has been good. He’s 11th in the league in passer rating (92.8), and he was a just-fine 20-for-29 for 204 yards and one touchdown (and led Jacksonville in rushing with 59 yards) in beating the Saints this week, but Lawrence was drafted No. 1 in 2021 because he was supposed to be great. Granted, he’s the only thing saving a 2021 quarterback class that also included Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones in the first 15 picks, but he still misses throws and makes reckless decisions. If Lawrence can be one of the true dudes in the league, it changes Jacksonville’s outlook this year and into the future.
Up next: at Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
9. Dallas Cowboys (4-2)
(Last week: 9)
One question: Where are we on Dak Prescott?
In the last two weeks, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and star edge rusher Micah Parsons have felt the need to come to the defense of their eighth-year quarterback. It feels like a lot of angst about a quarterback who is 14th in the league in passer rating (91) and leading a team in the top 10 of these rankings. Are there quibbles? Sure. Prescott’s yards per attempt (7) are the second-lowest of his career, his air yards per attempt (6.9) are the lowest, and he’s throwing to wide receivers at the lowest rate of his career (58.1 percent). But that all seems like a product of Mike McCarthy’s offense, not Prescott’s play.
Up next: vs. Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
(Last week: 6)
Sunday: Lost to New England Patriots 29-25
One question: Where do they fit in the AFC East?
Buffalo has now beaten division leader Miami and lost to bottom dwellers New York and New England. The Bills have totaled 10 points in their last three first halves and have lost two of those games. They have the seventh-hardest remaining schedule in the league, according to Tankathon. This team is still fourth in the league in yards per play (5.9) so it’s probably fine, but it can’t afford to give away games to bad teams like it did Sunday.
Up next: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET
(Last week: 10)
One question: Is the running game OK?
Joe Burrow seems fixed. Now about that run game. The division-winning Bengals teams of the last two seasons didn’t lean on the run, but they could run the ball. Cincinnati was eighth in the league in rushing success rate in 2022 (41.1 percent) and 23rd in 2021 (37.3). This year, the Bengals sit 30th at 30.9 percent, and Joe Mixon is the only back with more than five carries this season.
Up next: at San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
12. Seattle Seahawks (4-2)
(Last week: 11)
Sunday: Beat Arizona Cardinals 20-10
One question: Is Devon Witherspoon going to hurt somebody?
The Seahawks rookie cornerback already is one of the most exciting players in the league. He doesn’t have a gaudy stat line — he had an interception and a sack wiped out by penalty Sunday — but he’s been one of the impactful defenders in the league already. And he’s one of the feistiest. He knocked Arizona’s Rondale Moore for a loop Sunday.
Up next: vs. Cleveland Browns, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
Hello, Devon Witherspoon pic.twitter.com/lKSlDdtFo7
— Dugar, Michael-Shawn (@MikeDugar) October 22, 2023
(Last week: 13)
Sunday: Beat Los Angeles Rams 24-17
One question: Who will win defensive player of the year?
We ask this question in the Steelers section because T.J. Watt is at or near the top of the list. Watt still is on pace to break his own single-season sacks record of 22 1/2 despite not having a sack for the first time Sunday. He did grab his first interception of the season, though, to keep the Steelers in the game. Watt is tied for fifth in the league with 22 defensive splash plays, according to TruMedia, which is three more than Cleveland’s Myles Garrett, Watt’s main competition.
Up next: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
(Last week: 14)
One question: Could Aaron Rodgers return?
As soon as Rodgers was seen throwing a football, albeit gingerly, last week before the Jets’ game, earnest speculation began about whether he could return this season from Achilles surgery. Coach Robert Saleh says Rodgers is “manifesting” himself toward a speedy recovery and hasn’t counted out his starting quarterback’s return. Marty Jaramillo, described by CBS Sports HQ as an “injury expert,” says Rodgers is “moving almost three times as fast” as a normal player through the recovery process. If Rodgers can return, these Jets become a real contender. The only certain thing, though, is that Rodgers is going to play out the drama on this question as long as he can.
Up next: at New York Giants, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
(Last week: 23)
Sunday: Beat Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-13
One question: Will Desmond Ridder keep his job?
Probably, but the second-year quarterback has turned the ball over six times in the last two weeks. Ridder fumbled three times inside the Tampa Bay 11-yard line Sunday, including twice at the 1. His final fumble came just as he was about to score a rushing touchdown that likely would have put the game away. Instead, Atlanta needed a 51-yard field goal from Younghoe Koo at the buzzer. The Falcons are in first place in the NFC South after the win, and Ridder has the support of coach Arthur Smith at least for now, but until he cleans up the turnovers, this question will remain.
Up next: at Tennessee Titans, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
16. Minnesota Vikings (3-4)
(Last week: 26)
Monday: Beat San Francisco 49ers 22-17
One question: Who designs the Vikings’ turnover celebrations?
Whoever it is should get a raise. Minnesota forced three turnovers Monday night against the 49ers but got to do four celebrations because one was called back when Brock Purdy was ruled down by contact. On the first, the Vikings defenders did a limbo line using 198-pound cornerback Akayleb Evans as the limbo pole. On the second, the defenders all sat in a circle in the end zone and played duck, duck, goose. On the third one, Camryn Bynum and teammates did the worm in the end zone. On the fourth, Bynum and friends celebrated finishing off the upset.
Up next: at Green Bay Packers, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
limbo limbo limbo pic.twitter.com/oilKoJ4S1f
— NFL (@NFL) October 24, 2023
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3)
(Last week: 15)
Sunday: Lost to Atlanta Falcons 16-13
One question: Is this the real Tampa Bay?
After a surprising 2-0 start, the Buccaneers are 1-3 in their last four games, averaging 14 points per game in that span. Baker Mayfield is 23rd in the league in passer rating (81.5), his off-target percentage (15.4) is the fourth-worst in that stretch, according to TruMedia, and the running game is not helping him. Tampa Bay is last in the league, averaging 3.4 yards per carry, and has only five rushing touchdowns, the fewest in the league.
Up next: at Buffalo Bills, Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET
(Last week: 16)
Sunday: Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers 24-17
One question: Can Puka Nacua lead the NFL in catches?
The Rams rookie receiver has gone well past feel-good story. He still fits that description with the most catches by any player in his first seven NFL games (58), but it’s time to start looking at him as a really good player. Nacua, who had eight catches Sunday, leads the NFL in receptions and is on pace to have the fourth-most catches in a single season in league history. His 752 receiving yards trail only Tyreek Hill.
Up next: at Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
(Last week: 17)
One question: Is this a playoff team?
The Texans are one game back in the AFC South (with a win against division leader Jacksonville) and have the 30th-toughest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon. Houston’s .500 record is not smoke and mirrors. The Texans are 11th in offensive EPA and 21st in defensive EPA, according to TruMedia, and rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud looks the part. Stroud is fourth in the league in passing yards per game (276.7) and has the 10th-best passer rating (96.4).
Up next: at Carolina Panthers, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
(Last week: 18)
Sunday: Lost to Cleveland Browns 39-38
One question: Should Shane Steichen be coach of the year?
He won’t win the award because this team probably will finish with a losing record, but he deserves some recognition. In his first season as Colts head coach, Steichen has had to juggle quarterbacks Anthony Richardson and Gardner Minshew because of Richardson’s injuries, which have now ended the promising rookie’s season. Plus, the Colts didn’t have running back Jonathan Taylor for the first month of the season, and they just put up 38 points on a Browns defense that held the 49ers to 17 a week earlier.
Up next: vs. New Orleans Saints, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
21. New Orleans Saints (3-4)
(Last week: 19)
Thursday: Lost to Jacksonville Jaguars 34-21
One question: When is the reboot coming?
New Orleans is a projected $83.7 million over the 2024 salary cap (that’s twice as much as any other team), according to Over the Cap, and for what? The Saints’ only wins this year have come against the Titans, Panthers and Patriots, and the $60 million they guaranteed to quarterback Derek Carr in the offseason is looking like a bad investment. Carr is 27th in the league in yards per attempt (6.3) and 20th in passer rating (82.8) and seems to be blaming everyone but himself on the sideline. The Saints might be stuck with him through next season because it would be $52 million in dead money to cut him before June 1, 2024, and $35.7 million after June 1.
Up next: at Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
22. Tennessee Titans (2-4)
(Last week: 20)
One question: What’s the plan at quarterback?
Eleven-year veteran Ryan Tannehill has the lowest winning percentage (.333), passer rating (71.9, 31st in NFL) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (2-6) of his career. Malik Willis, the Titans’ 2022 third-round pick, hasn’t looked like the answer in limited fill-in duty, and Will Levis, the 2023 second-round pick, can’t even get on the field. Tennessee looks like it will be bad enough to draft the No. 3 quarterback in this upcoming class (whoever that turns out to be), but how much capital do the Titans have to invest to get the position figured out?
Up next: vs. Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
(Last week: 21)
Sunday: Lost to Kansas City Chiefs 31-17
One question: Are the Chargers really a bad team?
Hear us out. The Chargers have lost to only one team with a losing record. Three of their four losses came against the Dolphins, Cowboys and Chiefs, and only Sunday’s loss came by more than three points. Justin Herbert is getting a lot of heat lately, but he’s ninth in the league in passer rating (97.1) and sixth in yards per attempt (7.5). We haven’t given up on the Chargers just yet.
Up next: vs. Chicago Bears, Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
(Last week: 24)
Sunday: Lost to Chicago Bears 30-12
One question: Why is Josh McDaniels still the coach?
Maybe “Why was he ever?” is the real question. McDaniels was 11-17 in two years as Denver’s coach. He’s now 9-15 in Las Vegas after losing Sunday to a Bears team led by backup quarterback Tyson Bagent, a rookie out of Division II. McDaniels’ offense is fine. The Raiders are eighth in the league in points per drive (2.17), but the defense is 22nd in points per drive allowed (2.22), according to TruMedia. It might be that McDaniels is better suited to be an offensive coordinator.
Up next: at Detroit Lions, Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
(Last week: 22)
Sunday: Lost to New York Giants 14-7
One question: Is this team in the chase for a top-two pick?
The Commanders would be picking 14th if the season ended right now, so they’ve got work to do, but there’s plenty of time. Washington has the fourth-toughest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon, and it needs a quarterback. Sam Howell had a rating of 60.5 and was sacked six more times on Sunday. Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen has clearly had enough (see below). You know new owner Josh Harris would love a shot to draft Caleb Williams or Drake Maye.
Up next: vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Jonathan Allen expressed his frustration with his team’s lack of success in recent years following a 14-7 loss to the Giants on Sunday….@BenStandig shares details ⤵️https://t.co/RxqvqoS7PK pic.twitter.com/eKl1BkVADq
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) October 22, 2023
26. Denver Broncos (2-5)
(Last week: 31)
Sunday: Beat Green Bay Packers 19-17
One question: How many points will the Chiefs score?
The Broncos defense is not good despite the Packers only scoring 17 points against them Sunday. Denver is giving up the most rushing yards (167.3) and the third-most passing yards (257.4) this season. Meanwhile, the Chiefs, who visit Denver on Sunday, are starting to click on all cylinders. On a positive note, Russell Wilson is seventh in the NFL in passer rating (99) and has 13 touchdown passes versus four interceptions.
Up next: vs. Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
27. Green Bay Packers (2-4)
(Last week: 25)
Sunday: Lost to Denver Broncos 19-17
One question: What happened to Jordan Love?
The Packers quarterback looked like he was growing into the starting job early in the season, but since Week 3, he is 33rd in the league in passer rating (64.9) and completion percentage (58.2). Nobody has thrown more than Love’s seven interceptions in that time period, and his 14.2 percent off-target percentage is the fifth highest. On Sunday, Love was 21-for-31 for 180 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against a Denver defense that is last in the league, giving up 424.7 yards per game.
Up next: vs. Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
28. New York Giants (2-5)
(Last week: 30)
Sunday: Beat Washington Commanders 14-7
This year he is. Taylor, who has started the last two weeks, has a passer rating of 95.4 this season. Jones has a passer rating of 71.7, and after Sunday they have the same amount of wins as New York’s starter. This is your weekly reminder that Jones signed a four-year contract in the offseason with $81 million of guaranteed money. Jones missed Sunday’s game because of a neck injury, and the Giants may let him take his time rehabbing it.
Up next: vs. New York Jets, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
29. New England Patriots (2-5)
(Last week: 28)
Sunday: Beat the Buffalo Bills 29-25
One question: Will Bill Belichick catch Don Shula?
Belichick, whom NFL Network reported on Sunday signed a multiyear extension in the offseason, became the third coach in NFL history with 300 regular-season wins, joining Don Shula and George Halas. Belichick is up to 331 wins, including the playoffs, leaving him 16 short of tying Shula for the all-time record of 347. That doesn’t seem like a big deficit, but at the pace the Patriots are on this season, it could take a while, and Belichick is 71 years old.
Up next: at Miami Dolphins, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
30. Chicago Bears (2-5)
(Last week: 29)
Sunday: Beat the Las Vegas Raiders 30-12
One question: Who is Tyson Bagent?
Bagent completed 21 of 29 passes for 162 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in a win Sunday. In his previous start, he threw for 165 yards for Shepherd University in a 44-13 loss to the Colorado School of Mines in the Division II playoffs. The Bears added him as an undrafted free agent after this year’s draft, and he won the backup job in the preseason. He now has as many wins for the Bears as Justin Fields in the last calendar year.
Up next: at Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
31. Arizona Cardinals (1-6)
(Last week: 27)
Sunday: Lost to Seattle Seahawks 20-10
One question: What will they do with Kyler Murray?
The prospect of drafting either Caleb Williams or Drake Maye got even closer Sunday, as the Cardinals would pick second if the season ended today. Arizona opened the window for Murray to return from injured reserve last week, but there’s no firm timetable on when or even if he’ll return. The quarterback, who tore his ACL in December, has an up-and-down history with the organization. Murray’s talent is undeniable, and the word is he’s getting along OK with the new coaching staff, but committing to Murray and the five years and $182 million he has left on his deal might not be a good move for a franchise that could turn the page with a coveted quarterback on a rookie deal.
Up next: vs. Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
32. Carolina Panthers (0-6)
(Last week: 32)
One question: Is Bryce Young a bust?
You’re right, Panthers fans, this is not a fair question in Week 8 of Young’s rookie year, but it has to be asked. Young’s 5.3 yards per attempt are on pace to be the 10th-lowest total in the NFL since at least 2000. His passer rating (78.7) ranks 29th in the league. Carolina, which traded receiver DJ Moore, two first-round picks and two second-round picks to Chicago for the right to the first pick in the draft, is going to be patient with Young. It has to be, but Panthers fans have to be worried.
Up next: vs. Houston Texans, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
(Top photo of Patrick Mahomes: Jamie Squire / Getty Images)