News & Analysis

2019 PFF Week 9 NFL Power Rankings

Now through Week 8 of the 2019 NFL season, we at PFF have updated our power rankings using PFFELO.

Like any ELO system, it adjusts the ranking of a team after each game based on what happened in the game and the perceived strengths of the team and its opponent prior to the game. As opposed to most other ELO systems, PFF ELO doesn’t use the final score to update the rankings. Instead, we compute what the final score should have been based on the player grades. Thus the predictive power of our grades carries over to a strong predictive power of our ELO rankings, though we should note that other variables go into our season-long or game-by-game projections.

1. New England Patriots

Last Week: 1st

Though New England ranks just 14th in EPA per play entering Week 9, the team's defense has had an other-worldly start to the 2019 NFL season and carried a struggling Pats offense. Led by one of the NFL's top coverage units, New England leads the league in yards per play allowed (3.4), scoring drive allowed percentage (7.6%) and EPA per play against.

2. New Orleans Saints

Last Week: 2nd

The 5-0 stretch that the Saints rattled off with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm speaks to just how deep and talented their roster is, but the return of Drew Brees in Week 8 against the Cardinals was certainly a welcome sight in New Orleans. In that return, Brees orchestrated the Saints to a league-high passing success rate of 63%. Bridgewater proved himself to be more than capable of running the offense when necessary, but it’s Brees that gives the Saints a real chance of bringing home a Lombardi Trophy.

3. San Francisco 49ers

Last Week: 4th

The Panthers coming off four consecutive wins against the undefeated 49ers was one of the better matchups on paper heading into last week. That paper promptly got ripped to shreds by a 49ers defense that has exceeded all expectations this season. That defensive charge is being led by a number of impressive individuals, perhaps none more so than rookie Nick Bosa. He had three more sacks against the Panthers, and his pass-rush win rate of 23.9% on the season trails only Myles Garrett, J.J. Watt and his brother Joey Bosa. Rookies simply aren’t supposed to have this much success this early.

4. Minnesota Vikings

Last Week: 5th

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Kirk Cousins was coming off an abysmal performance against the Packers in Week 2 – the second-lowest quarterback grade of the season ahead of only Sam Darnold’s performance against the Patriots on Monday Night Football – and people were questioning just how safe his job as the starter was moving forward. Well, since then, Cousins is the highest-graded quarterback in the NFL. He’s doing it with a heavy dose of play-action. Since Week 3, Cousins has used play-action on 37% of his dropbacks (highest in the NFL) and is averaging a massive 12.1 yards per attempt on those plays.

5. Green Bay Packers

Last Week: 8th

Staying inside the NFC North to round out the top five, the Packers handled their business in Arrowhead against backup quarterback Matt Moore and moved to 7-1 on the season. The Aaron Rodgers MVP chatter is beginning to mount, and though he didn’t have his best game of the season against the Chiefs with several turnover-worthy plays, Rodgers has been one of the top quarterbacks in the league this season. His 21 big-time throws trail only Russell Wilson for the year.

6. Baltimore Ravens

Last Week: 6th

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens are off to a hot start offensively. Only the Dallas Cowboys have averaged more EPA per play than Jackson & Co. in Weeks 1-8. Baltimore also ranks third in scoring drive percentage (30.1%). The defense hasn't had the same level of success, however. Baltimore enters Week 9 ranked just 21st in EPA per play against and 26th in yards per play allowed.

7. Los Angeles Rams

Last Week: 7th

After three consecutive losses, the Rams did what they were supposed to over the last two weeks: beat bad teams in the Falcons and the Bengals. Now, they have their bye to regroup and attack the second half of their schedule. They have just the 28th-ranked pass-blocking unit in the NFL through eight weeks, which is especially concerning considering that quarterback Jared Goff has a passer rating of just 62.4 under pressure (20th among qualifying quarterbacks). The talent is certainly still their on their roster, but they’ll have to clean things up to work back into serious contender status in the NFC.

8. Kansas City Chiefs

Last Week: 3rd

Kansas City needs a healthy Patrick Mahomes if they're going to stay inside the top-10 in PFF's ELO rankings. Matt Moore wasn't awful in his start against Green Bay in Week 8, but he is still a significant step back from Mahomes. The Chiefs' offense entered Week 8 ranked inside the top-three in EPA per play and yards per play, and Mahomes' big-play ability was a big part of that.

9. Philadelphia Eagles

Last Week: 16th

The Eagles have bounced around quite a bit in the PFF ELO rankings in recent weeks, falling from 12th to 16th following their loss to the Cowboys and then rising all the way back to ninth for this iteration prior to Week 9. Their performance against the Bills was encouraging all-around, as they posted top-10 marks in both yards per play as an offense – against a stout Buffalo defense it should be noted –  and yards per play allowed as a defense. With big games against the Bears, Patriots and Seahawks on the horizon, they’ll need more performances like that to keep their playoff hopes alive.

10. Dallas Cowboys

Last Week: 10th

The bye week came and went for the Cowboys without any major roster moves despite several rumors surrounding a certain safety from New York. They’ll look to carry over momentum stemming from the big divisional win over the Eagles, and the man leading that charge will be PFF’s second-highest graded quarterback this season, Dak Prescott. The Dallas signal-caller is making a very strong case for a big contract this offseason with his play on the field. His 9.4 passing yards per attempt from a clean pocket are tied for third-most in the NFL this season.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers

Last Week: 12th

Mason Rudolph has had some good moments in relief of Ben Roethlisberger, but his play overall sees him ranked last among his peers in PFF's latest quarterback rankings. So far, he's getting a lot of help from his surrounding cast, as he's only hit three big-time throws compared to eight turnover-worthy plays, while 57.6% of his yards have come after the catch, the highest percentage in the league by a wide margin. The team's secondary, fresh off a two-pick performance against the Dolphins, has really stepped up after losing Big Ben. They currently rank 10th among teams in team coverage grade—a year after ranking 18th in the same metric—and they're currently allowing a league sixth-best -.070 EPA per pass play.

12. Houston Texans

Last Week: 9th

Deshaun Watson continues to make sure his name is heard in MVP discussions and, up to this point, he has led this passing offense to the league's 10th best success rate (50.0%) and the league's sixth-best EPA per pass play (0.166). Losing J.J. Watt is a deafening blow for a Texans team in a position to make a playoff run at 5-3 through Week 8. Houston enters Week 9 ranked 10th in pressure percentage (36.8%), but with Watt sidelined, the Texans are all but guaranteed to drop in the ranks.

13. Indianapolis Colts

Last Week: 11th

Head coach Frank Reich is doing everything in his power to lead this once-written-off Colts a chance in the AFC, and he is one of about ten coaches making the “correct” choice more than half of the time in neutral situations, per PFF's latest study. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett has landed on the conservative/game manager spectrum as he ranks just 32nd in positively graded throws, but he has the ninth-lowest percentage of negatives. While he’s shown flashes of high-end play, Brissett has received plenty of help from his playmakers, as 53.2% of his yards have come after the catch, third-highest in the league this season. Even so, this offense is still putting up 0.113 EPA per pass play, 12th in the league, and they'll need to keep doing so to overcome a defense that ranks 21st in EPA per pass play (0.081).

14. Seattle Seahawks

Last Week: 13th

The buzz may have died down a little in recent weeks, but for our money, Russell Wilson has just as much claim to this year’s MVP title through eight weeks as any other player in the league. He has continued to produce at an absurd level on downfield throws. On passes 20 or more yards downfield this season, Wilson has a league-high 22 completions for 693 passing yards and a passer rating of 135.6, which trails only Kirk Cousins. The Seahawks may not have as strong a roster as several of the teams in the NFC, but Wilson gives them a chance in any matchup.

15. Tennessee Titans

Last Week: 17th

The Tannehill-led Titans rise up the ranks for the second week in a row, thanks in large part to the upgrade at the quarterback position. Tannehill has graded above 72.0 in both of his team's last two games, which is a mark that Mariota failed to reach in six of his eight starts, and over the last two weeks, Tennehill and this passing offense has generated a sixth-ranked 0.283 EPA per pass play, which is worlds away from the -.140 (27th) mark they were generating with Mariota at the helm through the first six weeks.

16. Chicago Bears

Last Week: 15th

The Bears faced off against the Chargers in a battle of two of the bigger disappointments in the NFL this season, and they provided the Chargers – a team that had lost in three consecutive weeks to Joe Flacco, Duck Hodges and Ryan Tannehill – a victory. It is becoming increasingly clear that Mitchell Trubisky is not going to be the quarterback of the future in Chicago. He recorded his highest single-game grade of the season against the Chargers, but even that came in at just 57.9. The Bears still have a top-10 defense, but with bottom-of-the-league play from the quarterback position, it will be difficult to fight back into the playoff picture in a crowded NFC.

17. Carolina Panthers

Last Week: 14th

Perhaps no team got a bigger wake-up call than the Panthers did in Week 8 at the hands of the 49ers. Kyle Allen did everything in his power to convince the Panthers that he was not the answer at quarterback moving forward despite his 4-0 start to the season. His overall grade of 27.7 was easily the worst of any quarterback this week behind four turnover-worthy plays. The Panthers' best option at quarterback is a healthy Cam Newton. If they can get their offense rolling like it was at the beginning of last season once he returns, they’ll become a tough out.

18. Los Angeles Chargers

Last Week: 18th

The Chargers came very close to losing their fourth game on the bounce in Week 8 on the road to the Bisky-led Bears, but quarterback Philip Rivers ultimately did enough to keep from that fate. Through eight weeks, Rivers ranks 10th among signal-callers in overall grade and 15th in passer rating from a clean pocket, and he'll continue to keep this team in reach as long as he's playing up to scratch.

19. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last Week: 22nd

The Jaguars improved their record to 4-4 on the season with a victory over the floundering Jets in Week 8, a game that saw them sack quarterback Sam Darnold a whopping eight times. Along with a defense that ranks in the top-half of the league, rookie phenom Gardner Minshew has shown excellent anticipation, accuracy, and outside-the-pocket playmaking, though he ranks just 19th in PFF grades (compared to 14th in passer rating) due to his poor ball security in the pocket that has led to the third-lowest fumble grade in the league at 25.9.

20. Denver Broncos

Last Week: 20th

The Broncos have been unlucky this season, no doubt, but that doesn't change the fact that this team will be stuck fighting a lost battle for the remainder of the season. With the exception of sophomore receiver Courtland Sutton, quarterback Joe Flacco has had little help from his group of pass-catchers and the offense has put up a success rate of just 43.2% on passing plays, 28th among teams, a figure that's sure to get worse with Flacco on the sidelines.  Perhaps more concerning, though, is the deterioration of this once-formidable pass-rush. Through eight weeks, Von Miller & Co. have earned a team pass-rush grade of just 68.9 that ranks 21st among teams — a far cry from the glory days of 2015.

21. Buffalo Bills

Last Week: 18th

The Bills are off to a 5-2 start to the season thanks to early wins over the Jets, Giants, Bengals, Titans and Dolphins, so it goes without saying, their record doesn't tell the whole story. Quarterback Josh Allen has been far from the big-armed playmaker he was touted to be, as his 27.5 passing grade on 20-plus yard throws is by far the worst in the league. The team's defense, though, has been excellent to this point, earning the NFL's sixth-best team coverage grade and allowing a successful play on just 40.2% of passing plays, third in the league behind the Patriots and 49ers.

22. Cleveland Browns

Last Week: 21st

He's been unlucky with regard to his interception numbers (12 interceptions, only nine turnover-worthy plays, including fumbles), but still, this Baker Mayfield and the offense is a long way from what we saw in 2018. Through eight weeks, the Browns' passing offense is generating -.188 EPA per passing play, which is better than only the Jets and the Dolphins.

23. Oakland Raiders

Last Week: 24th

Derek Carr and the Raiders have played well above expectation offensively, but the team’s defense is still woeful. In Weeks 1-8, Oakland ranked 31st in EPA per play against and scoring drive allowed percentage. The team also ranked 28th in yards per play allowed and 27th in pressure percentage. Carr will need to play even better than he is now if the Raiders are going to chase a playoff spot this season.

24. Detroit Lions

Last Week: 25th

The trade deadline came and gone, and Darius Slay is still a member of the Detroit Lions. Since the start of 2016, Slay ranks eighth among all cornerbacks with 1,000 or more coverage snaps in coverage grade (89.5) and second in forced incompletions (56). The fact that he’s staying in Detroit is a very good sign for their defense. The issue with their defense in 2019 has been a complete inability to rush the passer. The Lions have generated pressure on just 30.4% of opposing quarterback dropbacks (27th in the NFL).

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last Week: 23rd

Chris Godwin has been excellent this season, currently ranking first among all qualifying wide receivers in PFF grade. His teammate Mike Evans isn’t far behind at 11th overall for the position. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston has consistently tried to add a third member – dressed in the uniform of the opposing team – into that picture. Winston’s 20 turnover-worthy plays this season are three more than any other player and six more than the third-place quarterback.

26. Atlanta Falcons

Last Week: 26th

Matt Schaub led the Falcons against the Seahawks in Week 8. Schaub threw for 460 yards in a single game. The Falcons lost their sixth consecutive game. None of those are things that you would have been itching to place a wager on coming into 2019, but that is the state of this Atlanta team, nonetheless. The Falcons' defense continues to be nonexistent, allowing the second-worst EPA per play in the entire league.

27. Arizona Cardinals

Last Week: 27th

Kyler Murray has begun to grow into his role in the Arizona offense in recent weeks, and if you take just his performance over the last four weeks, Murray is a top-10 quarterback in terms of PFF grade (80.6). The Saints did a good job of containing him on the ground, allowing just 13 rushing yards to Murray on two designed runs. He did not record any rushing attempts on scrambles for the first time since Week 1.

28. Washington Redskins

Last Week: 29th

If Dwayne Haskins’ limited NFL action to this point has shown us anything, it has shown us that he isn’t ready yet. Haskins got into the game against the Vikings and went 3-for-5 for 33 yards and an interception while taking two sacks. When you include his performance against the Giants in Week 4, Haskins has a passing grade of 30.6 this season with four interceptions on just 22 pass attempts.

29. New York Jets

Last Week: 28th

With or without mono, Sam Darnold and the New York Jets offense is among the worst in the NFL. The Jets rank 32nd in yards per play (3.2) and EPA per play entering Week 9. And rather than selling top players at the deadline (e.g. Robby Anderson, Jamal Adams), New York stayed put to ride out what will undoubtedly be a poor finish to the 2019 season.

30. New York Giants

Last Week: 30th

Since taking over as the starting quarterback, Daniel Jones has put the ball in harm's way at an alarming pace. His 17 turnover-worthy plays are second-most in the NFL, trailing only the always-generous Jameis Winston (20) and three plays clear of third place. He’s pairing it with big plays as well (12 big-time throws on 135 pass attempts) but not enough of them when he’s giving the defense a golden opportunity at the ball on 7% of his dropbacks. On the bright side, they added Leonard Williams to a position group that already had the three highest-graded players on their defense.

31. Miami Dolphins

Last Week: 31st

The positives are hard to come by in South Beach. Ryan Fitzpatrick is fun to watch his with high-risk approach to the quarterback position, but he still makes more bad plays than good ones starting in place of Josh Rosen. Miami ranks 31st in EPA per play and yards per play heading into Week 9, and the team’s defense isn’t much better. The Dolphins rank 31st in yards per play allowed and 32nd in EPA per play against through eight weeks, and they’ll be without Xavien Howard for the remainder of the year now that he’s been placed on the Injured Reserve.

32. Cincinnati Bengals

Last Week: 32nd

Andy Dalton is out in Cincinnati; rookie Ryan Finley is in. Zac Taylor announced Tuesday that he’s benching Dalton for the fourth-round NC State product, and while that—along with the return of A.J. Green—should provide a spark, not much is going to change in Queen City with the state of their offensive line and defense. Cincinnati enters Week 9 ranks 28th in EPA per play against and 32nd in PFF’s latest offensive line rankings.

Cris Collinsworth

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