The Chiefs and Colts are finally making strides up while the Saints and Packers take hits and tumble.
Minimal jumps and falls define the the chasing pack — outside of the Browns’ reeling in of the Ravens with their AFC North win. The Bottom 10 welcomes in the Falcons and welcomes back the Steelers as the Eagles climb out with another in their long line of volatile moves.
Here’s how our analysts see the league after nine weeks, and the cumulative rank (below) that comes of their ballots.
With the votes tallied, here’s how the list looks after Week 9: (last week’s rank and change in rank in parentheses)
THE TOP 10
1. Denver Broncos (1, 0)
Taking a week to watch the action from above, Denver returns in Week 10 for an AFC West matchup against San Diego that will showcase a pair of deadly accurate QBs and serve as a primer for the resting Chiefs.
2. Seattle Seahawks (2, 0)
A scare while hosting Tampa Bay didn’t shake them from the No. 2 spot, but eyes were opened. A two-game run against downward-facing teams is between them and their Week 12 bye that leads into potential playoff previews against the Saints and 49ers.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (5, 2)
The Chiefs finally make a move up… have our guys given in to the all-defense winning ways? Or was it simply a matter of filling the void left by Saints and Packers losses? The KC bye week is here and Denver awaits on the other side.
4. Indianapolis Colts (7, 3)
Roared back with three Luck-to-Hilton scores to set down hopes the Texans had of completing an upset. With big wins already under their belts, the Colts were primed to take advantage of missteps ahead of them in the ranks.
5. New Orleans Saints (3, -2)
A pair of losses in a three-week span has taken the shine off of the Saints who briefly held the rankings’ second spot. Dallas and San Francisco will head to Louisiana looking to be the next teams to take them down.
6. San Francisco 49ers (6, 0)
With reinforcements on the way, San Francisco looks to continue their run back to the top. Will the added tools solve Kaepernick’s passing game struggles and round this team out?
7. New England Patriots (9, 2)
With Gronkowski back in the fold and looking more and more like his old self, the Patriots ran away from Pittsburgh and move up two spots as Cincy holds steady and Green Bay tumbles.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (8, 0)
All trick and no treat in their heart-breaker of a Halloween loss that featured a memorable moment from the rookie Bernard and a rare walk-off safety, but the Bengals aren’t hurt in the rankings. They stay at No. 8 again.
9. Detroit Lions (10, 1)
A week off to heal up and a division foe shoots down past you in the rankings? The Lions will take it and look forward to breaking the North’s three-way tie when they face Chicago next.
10. Green Bay Packers (4, -6)
A primetime division loss and their prized quarterback knocked out with a broken collar bone have faith fleeting. How many key packers remain? A six-spot drop takes them to the edge of the Top 10.
11. Carolina Panthers (14, 3)
Strong teams are supposed to handle lesser opponents and that appears to be what the Panthers have done for the past month. Four games against failing teams produced four wins, each by at least two touchdowns. Now comes the test with San Francisco and New England next in line.
11. Dallas Cowboys (11, 0)
An impressive final drive on a day their running backs could have stayed home kept the Cowboys atop the East. Still at No. 11, but sharing it now with climbing Carolina, Dallas has New Orleans next.
13. Chicago Bears (15, 2)
The revelation that is Josh McCown has the Bears not missing Jay Cutler. A share of the North lead in hand, and their first positive move in the ranks since Week 3, they’ll get the Lions in the other end of the key division matchups next.
14. Miami Dolphins (16, 2)
The Dolphins get back two spots lost last week with their unique overtime win on Thursday Night. No. 14 seems to be a comfortable spot as they’ve been up and down around it for most of the season.
15. San Diego Chargers (12, -3)
Falling in overtime to the Redskins, the Chargers also fall in these ranks for just their second step back of the season. Now 4-4 in the top-heavy AFC West, their sights are set firmly on the wild card race.
16. Tennessee Titans (17, 1)
Got by the Rams to snap a three-game skid and they’ll have a chance to back it up with Jacksonville coming to town in Week 10. Rise one spot to get back one they’ve lost in recent weeks.
17. New York Jets (18, 1)
Moving up for the third straight week, a big win over the Saints has the Jets hoping the bye week holds the cure for their inability to string wins together. Still two games back of New England in the East, but they currently hold the second AFC wild card spot.
18. Baltimore Ravens (13, -5)
Now down 11 spots from where they opened the year in these rankings, the Ravens suffered their third drop of at least four spots with marginal climbs sprinkled in serving only to slow the descent. The loss to Cleveland also sees them slip in the South standings.
19. Cleveland Browns (23, 4)
The Browns make a fast move up the ranks gaining four spots with the division win over Baltimore, pulling the Ravens down a big chunk in the process.
20. Arizona Cardinals (21, 1)
Gaining a spot while on bye, the Cardinals get the reeling but hopeful Texans in Week 10.
21. Houston Texans (22, 1)
With consecutive close losses to a pair of teams now ranked in the Top 5, things don’t seem as bleak in Houston, but the next step is to actually secure a win and end the slide. Arizona, Oakland, and Jacksonville will provide opportunity to do so.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (28, 6)
Nick Foles returned to toss a record seven TDs and get the Eagles flying in the right direction again and the most volatile team in these rankings all year does it again, bumping up six spots to climb from the Bottom 10.
THE BOTTOM 10
23. Pittsburgh Steelers (20, -3)
Hung in with the Patriots for three quarters but watched as Brady & Co. ran away in the end, much of their previous month of work is spoiled and they return to the Bottom 10.
24. Atlanta Falcons (19, -5)
With another loss logged, the Falcons find themselves closer to the bottom-dwelling Bucs than the Panthers and Saints above them in the NFC South and the floor is falling out for them in the rankings too. Down five spots this week as their drop accelerates.
24. Washington Redskins (26, 2)
The ground game got going in Washington’s Week 9 win over San Diego and Pierre Garcon’s performance punctuated a much-needed bounce back after letting Denver off the hook the week before. The Redskins make a move up for the second time in three weeks.
26. Buffalo Bills (24, -2)
Buffalo gave one away in Week 9, gifting the Chiefs a win without making their offense take part. Losing four of five and alone in the East cellar, the Bills fall in the ranks for the second consecutive week.
26. New York Giants (27, 1)
The Giants take back-to-back wins and a get-healthy week away into Oakland for the first of three in a row at home. After five week of moving down to open the year, they’ve not lost a step in the ranks in four weeks.
28. Oakland Raiders (25, -3)
So much for the feel-good defensive turnaround. Blasted by Philly, the Raiders drop back three spots, losing all of the ground they made with the win over Pittsburgh.
29. St. Louis Rams (29, 0)
Continuing to battle with Clemens at the helm, but they fall to Tennessee and collect their third straight ‘L’ to drop to the bottom of the West. The spots below here are cemented in, though, so they don’t move down.
30. Minnesota Vikings (30, 0)
The Vikings pushed Dallas to the final minutes, but even showing positives reminiscent of 2012, their second win was not in the cards.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (31, 0)
So close to getting that win – and what an impressive one it would have been – but the Bucs left the building with only the harsh reality of an eighth loss in as many tries.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (32, 0)
They’ve made it through their midseason bye week with half of an 8-8 record accomplished. Now the real work begins.
Follow Rick on Twitter: @PFF_Rick