#1 New England Patriots
After landing the top spot on VAVEL's Power Rankings prior to Week 8, the Patriots (7-0) only furthered their reign of dominance last Thursday night, thumping the Miami Dolphins by a score 36 7 on home soil. With 356 passing yards and four touchdowns in the victory, quarterback Tom Brady, playing with unparalleled motivation following the repealing of his four-game suspension for his perceived involvement in the DeflateGate scandal, now is tied for the league lead in passing touchdowns (20) while sitting at second in the NFL in passing yards with 2,410. His one interception, 115.8 passer rating and 69.8% completion percentage is tops in the league for quarterbacks with at least 100 passing attempts. Brady looks to continue his hot streak as New England hosts the Washington Redskins (3-4) this Sunday.
#2 Denver Broncos
The Broncos are now 7-0 and tied atop the AFC standings. Led by their elite defensive unit, Denver pummeled the previously-undefeated Packers 29-10 in front of a nationally televised audience on Sunday night football. While Peyton Manning and the offense have struggled at times this year, the Broncos are still far ahead in first in the AFC West. Denver will look to improve to 8-0 on Sunday as they host the Indianapolis Colts. If the Broncos keep playing at this level, they will likely be right in the thick of things for the top seed in the AFC.
#3 Cincinnati Bengals
Despite a resounding 7-0 record thus far, the Bengals are considered the dark horses in the race for the AFC's top seed. Even after a closely-contested victory last week against division rivals Pittsburgh. Cincinnati faces another AFC North opponent Thursday night, as they host the Cleveland Browns for a TNF game that shouldn't cause them too much trouble. Andy Dalton's got it all under control.
#4 Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are 7-0 and off to their best start in franchise history. They defeated the Indianapolis Colts 29-26 in overtime on Monday night to improve to 7-0 for the first time in the team’s brief history. Led by Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, and Josh Norman, the Panthers are first place in the NFC South and will look to improve on that when they battle the 6-1 Packers on Sunday afternoon.
#5 Green Bay Packers
Despite a disappointing loss to the Broncos in which Aaron Rodgers threw for just 77 yards, the Pack is 6-1 and while they may be facing undefeated Panthers in Week 9, this Green Bay team surely should be dropped too far in the ranks of the NFL's elite yet this season. With a relatively easy division to be facing, these Packers have all but secured a playoff spot already and still could vouch for being the conference's top team with a win over Carolina this Sunday.
#6 Arizona Cardinals
The Cards will hit their bye week sitting pretty. The NFC West leaders are 6-2 after gaining control of the Browns last Sunday; Carson Palmer remains an elderly wizard as a passer. With rising stars in the form of John Harris and Tyrann Mathieu set to do big things for this team, the future could very well be now for Arizona.
#7 Atlanta Falcons
Inconsistent is the word that can best describe Atlanta. After opening up 5-0 to start the season, the Falcons have dropped two of their last three and the only victory in that three game stretch was a three-point win over the one win Titans. With their division rivals over in Carolina pulling away, the Falcons will need to put some quality work on the board. Especially against divisional opponents, whom they are 0-2 against so far this season.
#8 Minnesota Vikings
Is it safe to say the Vikes are real contenders yet? They sit at 5-2 and are only a game out of the NFC North lead behind Green Bay. But they have yet to have a game where they really stood out. Nevertheless, the Vikings are winners of three straight contests -- this next week will be a big benchmark in telling where the Vikings really are and where Teddy Bridgewater is in his development. Against a stout St. Louis defense, this is the game that can give Minnesota some identity.
#9 Seattle Seahawks
After shutting down Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys in Week 8, the Seahawks’ defense finally appears to be on track. In total, the 'Hawks have held their last two opponents, Dallas and San Francisco, to a combined 15 points. Over those two contests, opposing quarterbacks have thrown for a mere 221 yards total. That may have been a product of sub-par passing (Colin Kaepernick has since been benched while Matt Cassel is Dallas’ backup), but Seattle did what good defenses should, shut down struggling offenses. The Legion of Boom and company will be put to the test in Week 10 when the Seahawks return from the team’s bye week to face Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals. It will be a must-see matchup between an elite defense and a high-powered offense.
#10 St. Louis Rams
The Rams are playing some real fine football. 4-3 is solid for a team that may not have an answer at quarterback. St. Louis has, however, found a great answer at running back with Todd Gurley. Gurley is the reigning VAVEL Rookie of the week, and we fully expect him to be back in the running for the same status this week.
#11 Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have a historic battle approaching on Sunday against the Steelers. The Raiders and the Steelers used to be a big game back in the olden days. Thanks to the new offensive duo in the Bay, Oakland have made a bit of a name for themselves -- Derek Carr and Amari Cooper have given life to a franchise that was dead as of last year. The defense is also impressive, being headlined by the youngster Khalil Mack and walking hourglass Charles Woodson. This defensive group will look to show it's full potential against Pittsburgh.
#12 New York Jets
Was it too goo to be true? The Jets were off to a wonderful start and then Ryan Fitzpatrick got hurt. He's been okayed to play this weekend against the Jaguars though. The thing about the Jaguars is that they are one competitive team and are a very chippy bunch, despite what the records will say about them. Like Fitzpatrick is the heart of the offense, Darrelle Revis is the heart of the defense. Revis is once again showing why he is worthy of every dollar he's earned. He'll look to feast on young Blake Bortles this Sunday.