Seven weeks down, ten weeks to go.  While we are starting to get a good feel for how good teams are this year, it’s still not a large enough sample to be conclusive.  We’ve also continued to see injuries affect the landscape of the league week after week with more and more quarterbacks being injured.  Carson Palmer and Jay Cutler don’t compare to Aaron Rodgers, but it does still affect those teams and their opponents.

Once again, these ratings are what we expect going forward, not what we have already seen.  I’ve placed all the team into tiers and you should know there isn’t that much difference within tiers.  In fact, seventeen teams all fall within 10% of expected winning percentage so we expect a lot of parity in the league going forward.

Here are the rankings heading into Week 8 of the NFL season.

Tier 1: The Favorites

(1) New England Patriots

(2) Seattle Seahawks

(3) Pittsburgh Steelers

New England has been in our top spot all season long.  While they didn’t look great early on, their defense is starting to come around as they’ve allowed a combined 38 points over their last three games.  They aren’t the dominant team we expected heading into the season, but they are still the favorite.  Seattle’s defense is still dominant, allowing fewer than 20 points in five of their six games this season.  The Seahawks’ schedule gets a little easier with six of their remaining ten games at home.  Maybe it just took Le’Veon Bell a few weeks to get warmed up after his holdout, but the Steelers offense looks back to normal.  Their defense is among the best in the league as well.

Tier 2: Legit Contenders

(4) Kansas City Chiefs

(5) Dallas Cowboys

(6) Philadelphia Eagles

Some were quick to crown the Chiefs as the best team in the league but the last two weeks have shown some flaws for Kansas City’s defense.  Dallas doesn’t have the record of a top five team but the talent is still there.  They have a brutal schedule coming up and are still underdogs to make the playoffs but can’t be overlooked.  The Eagles have the best record in the league and Carson Wentz looks to be one of the lead MVP contenders.

Tier 3: Playoff Hopefuls

(7) Atlanta Falcons

(8) Oakland Raiders

(9) Jacksonville Jaguars

(10) New Orleans Saints

(11) Houston Texans

(12) Minnesota Vikings

(13) Los Angeles Rams

A group of seven teams bunched together that all look very different at this point of the season.  The Falcons and Raiders don’t have the records of playoff teams but still project to be good going forward.  Jacksonville has won games with the simple formula of running and defense, but it’s the Saints defense which has surprised the most.  The one season Drew Brees had a decent defense, they brought a Superbowl trophy to the Big Easy.

Both the Texans and Deshaun Watson are legit and will compete for a playoff spot.  The Vikings will soon have a bunch of quarterbacks to choose from but their defense should keep them in a lot of games no matter who is throwing passes.  The Rams make a big jump in the rankings to 13.  Only Seattle has been able to slow down the Rams offense and we’ll see if Jared Goff continues to make strides under a head coach who isn’t Jeff Fisher.

Tier 4: Middle of the Road

(14) Carolina Panthers

(15) Detroit Lions

(16) Los Angeles Chargers

(17) Buffalo Bills

A few weeks ago, many thought Carolina could be the NFC favorite but the Jekyll-and-Hyde Panthers have shown up.  Cam Newton quickly transforms from NFL MVP to terrible faster than any quarterback in recent memory.  The Lions smoke-and-mirrors games of always pulling out games in the 4th quarter hasn’t gone as well this year, but they are just average enough to give Detroit fans hope.

The Chargers could easily have a better record than 3-4 if a couple of field goals go their way.  Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor looked impressive once again without having many receiving weapons at his disposal.  They are unlikely to dethrone the Patriots as division champions but should challenge for a wildcard spot.

Tier 5: Disappointing

(18) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(19) Tennessee Titans

(20) Baltimore Ravens

(21) Cincinnati Bengals

(22) Washington Redskins

(23) Denver Broncos

Jameis hasn’t made the leap that we’ve seen with other young quarterbacks yet and the Bucs have dug themselves a big hole in the tough NFC South.  The Titans are 4-3 and are at the top of the AFC South standings so it’s tough to call them a disappointment.  Then again, half of their wins are against the two worst teams in the league; the Colts and Browns.

The Ravens’ best win this season was the season opener against Cincinnati.  The Bengals’ best win is a home win against Buffalo.  Neither one of those are exactly inspiring but Baltimore projects to be slightly better going forward.

The Redskins seem like they are better than the 22nd best team in the league but the simulation needs to see more out of Washington before moving them up.  The Broncos offense has averaged just above ten points per game in their last four.  Even if their defense remains one of the best in the league, it won’t matter if they can’t put points on the board.

Tier 6: Record Are Deceiving

(24) New York Giants

(25) Miami Dolphins

This is a good example of how a team’s record can deceive.  The simulation currently has the 1-6 Giants slightly ahead of the 4-2 Miami Dolphins.  Obviously, at the end of the day the goal is to win football games.  But just looking at what a team has done so far can get you into trouble and we don’t see the Dolphins being a very good team going forward.

Tier 7: Better Luck Next Year

(26) Green Bay Packers

(27) Chicago Bears

(28) New York Jets

(29) Arizona Cardinals

It’s hard to tell a team that is 4-3 that their season is over but that is what happens when Aaron Rodgers goes down.  The Bears knew this season was a rebuilding year anyway so they’re just enjoying the ride of being 3-4.  The Jets are also doing a bad job of tanking as they’ve nearly hit their season win total already.  Arizona was already having a disappointing year, and now the dropoff from Carson Palmer to either Stanton or Bortles will make it even worse.

Tier 8: Don’t Look Directly at Them, Your Eyes Will Burn

(30) San Francisco 49ers

(31) Indianapolis Colts

(32) Cleveland Browns

If you are into betting double-digit underdogs, then these are the teams for you.  The best race in the NFL isn’t for a divisional title, it’s between the Browns and Niners to see who can get that first pick of the 2018 NFL draft.

Got a question (or more likely a complaint) about this week’s rankings?  Hit us up on twitter @Bet_Labs.