By Eric Schmidt

With 10 weeks of the NFL regular season nearly in the books, teams are starting to separate themselves as pretenders and contenders in the push towards the playoffs. While other sites will do weekly Power Rankings every week of the year, in and out of when NFL teams are playing, I like to allow some football play out before ranking teams. There are some surprising names making the first power rankings list this season.

  1. New Orleans Saints– These aren’t your typical Saints. They are winning games with a very balanced attack and an opportunistic defense. After starting the season 0-2, the Saints have reeled off 7 straight wins. In two games New Orleans has dropped over 40 points on an opponent, QB Drew Brees has less than 200 yards passing. The duo of running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have been eating up yards while controlling the clock. Brees is throwing more to backs and underneath routes than in years prior. I am ranking the Saints over the Philadelphia Eagles because of the experience at the quarterback position.
  2. New England Patriots– Another team streaking in the win column, now with five straight after a 2-2 start. Most pundits were wringing hands and writing stories about how the Patriots season was in jeopardy back in September after a slow start. New England has tightened up a leaky defense in recent weeks and just acquired TE Martellus Bennett to the arsenal of offensive weapons. Bennett was on the roster last season for the Patriots’ championship season.
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers– A rough outing for the Steelers on Sunday as Pittsburgh was able to squeak out a road win against a poor Indianapolis team. Pittsburgh holds a commanding 3-game lead in the AFC North. With veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger has struggled in games up to this point, but the Steelers offense appears to be coming online with WR Antiono Brown RB Le’Veon Bell and rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster. Pittsburgh has only two teams on the remaining schedule with a winning record and the defense is only allowing 16.4 points per game. CB Joe Haden suffered a fractured fibula and is expected to miss 5-6 weeks, so he should be ready to return for the playoffs.
  4. Philadelphia Eagles– The Eagles sit atop the NFC with an 8-1 record. Second-year QB Carson Wentz has improved by leaps and bounds this season. Wentz has already tossed 23 touchdowns and the Eagles pulled off a surprising trade for veteran RB Jay Ajayi at the deadline. Philadelphia is currently the second highest scoring team in the league, averaging 31.4 ppg.
  5. Los Angeles Rams– The Rams are one of the biggest surprises of the 2017 NFL season. QB Jared Goff has really thrived under rookie head coach Sean McVay. The Rams offense leads the NFL, averaging 32.4 ppg. RB Todd Gurley has returned to his rookie season form after a down year in 2016. WR Cooper Kupp has been a great acquisition out of the slot while veteran free agent Robert Woods is really starting to flourish in this offense. This is a team with a solid defense but the schedule will now determine where the Rams are at moving towards the playoffs. Upcoming is a contest with the Saints along with three road games against the Vikings, Cardinals and Seahawks.
  6. Jacksonville Jaguars– This Jaguars defense is no joke. Allowing the league’s least 134 points against, the unit keeps this team in every game. Rookie RB Leonard Fournette has emerged as the best running back of the crowded draft class. The defense can carry this team to the playoffs but quarterback play is highly suspect.
  7. Minnesota Vikings– Another team with a solid defense but quarterback questions. After losing QB Sam Bradford and rookie RB Dalvin Cook, the Vikings have responded with journeyman QB Case Keenum under center. Wideouts Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are enjoying solid seasons. QB Teddy Bridgewater was active for the first time Sunday since a horrific leg injury and there is chatter about him moving under center, placing Keenum. I think this move might be a serious mistake. Minnesota sits atop the NFC North, don’t upset the chemistry.
  8. Tennessee Titans– Winners of four straight games, the Titans are off to their best start since 2008. QB Marcus Mariota is back under center and healthy. A favorable schedule is looming with a Week 17 matchup against the Jaguars which might determine who wins the AFC South.
  9. Carolina Panthers– One game behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South but this team just doesn’t seem to have the push they have had in recent years. Third in the league on defense, only allowing 17.7 ppg but only scoring 18.7 ppg on offense. In a surprising move, the Panthers traded away WR Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills at the trade deadline. Veteran TE Greg Olsen is set to return from injury very soon and rookie RB Christian McCaffrey is coming on in recent weeks.
  10. Seattle Seahawks– The Seahawks are just one game behind the Rams in the NFC West but this team has health issues. The once vaunted Seattle offensive line and running attack has disappeared. There is no more Beast Mode in Century Link Field. Defensive leader Richard Sherman has now been lost for the rest of the season with an Achilles injury and that hurts. Games are looming on the road against Jacksonville and Dallas while they host Atlanta, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Rams.
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Filed under: AFC, AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFC, NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, NFC West, NFL, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans

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