NFL power rankings: What to make of top contenders after devastating injuries

Detroit Free Press

Week 8 was a brutal one in the NFL as two playoff contenders suffered significant injuries that threw their seasons — and these power rankings — into a tizzy.

The Tennessee Titans lost leading rusher Derrick Henry to a season-ending foot injury, and the New Orleans Saints will be without quarterback Jameis Winston for the rest of the year because of a torn ACL.

Henry was a legitimate MVP candidate, or as much of an MVP candidate as a non-quarterback can be these days. The Titans have a comfortable three game-lead in their division and are the only six-win team in the AFC, so their playoff hopes do not appear to be in immediate jeopardy.

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But Henry’s injury dropped them to No. 8 in this week’s power rankings, behind two other AFC teams, and frankly that feels a little high for a team so dependent on him for offense.

The Saints are a surprising 5-2 after beating Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the weekend, but they check in even lower — at No. 13 — after losing Winston.

New Orleans already has wins over the Bucs and Green Bay Packers, the new No. 1 team in my power rankings. And Sean Payton has done a masterful job coaching in his first season without Drew Brees.

Still, playing a backup quarterback for the final 10 games will make for tough sledding, even for a team with one of the weakest remaining strength of schedules in the NFL. I still think the Saints are better than other NFC playoff contenders like the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers, but until I see more of Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian, I have them behind a team I have zero faith in, the turnover-prone, defensively-challenged Kansas City Chiefs.

As for the Lions, well, you already know where they fall as the only winless team left in the NFL. And they’re on bye, so they’ll bring up the rear for at least one more week.

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On to this week’s power rankings:

1. Green Bay Packers (7-1)

2. Arizona Cardinals (7-1)

3. Los Angeles Rams (7-1)

4. Dallas Cowboys (6-1)

5. Buffalo Bills (5-2)

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)

7. Las Vegas Raiders (5-2)

8. Tennessee Titans (6-2)

9. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)

10. Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

11. Los Angeles Chargers (4-3)

12. Kansas City Chiefs (4-4)

13. New Orleans Saints (5-2)

14. Indianapolis Colts (3-5)

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)

16. San Francisco 49ers (3-4)

17. New England Patriots (4-4)

18. Cleveland Browns (4-4)

19. Minnesota Vikings (3-4)

20. Denver Broncos (4-4)

21. Seattle Seahawks (3-5)

22. Carolina Panthers (4-4)

23. Chicago Bears (3-5)

24. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)

25. Washington Football Team (2-6)

26. Atlanta Falcons (3-4)

27. New York Jets (2-5)

28. New York Giants (2-6)

29. Miami Dolphins (1-7)

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)

31. Houston Texans (1-7)

32. Detroit Lions (0-8)

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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