Week 8 NFL Power Rankings: Taylor's Version

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As we charge ahead into the meaty part of the NFL season, everybody is on Red alert. For football Lovers, we're nearing the time when Reputations are made, where Fearless legends can play their way into gridiron Folklore (i.e. Joe Montana and John Elway in 1989) and Cinderellas try Evermore to ward off their inevitable Midnights. In honor of Taylor Swift releasing a new album last week, here are our Taylor Swift-themed Week 8 NFL Power Rankings. If you have any objections, Speak Now.

1. Philadelphia Eagles, 6-0 (no change from last week)

“I had a marvelous time ruining everything,” —”Last Great American Dynasty,” folklore

More than any other city, Philadelphia sports fans delight in crashing the party; it doesn’t matter if they’re not on the guest list—they’ll scale the telephone poles and have more fun dancing on their own anyways. As such, the still-undefeated Eagles (they were on their bye this week) have forcibly rearranged the balance of power in the NFL, eschewing prevailing trends by storming through the first third of the season without an elite quarterback or a de jour offensive or defensive scheme.

2. Buffalo Bills, 5-1 (no change from last week)

“With you I’d dance in a storm in my best dress, fearless” — “Fearless,” Fearless

It’s impossible not to believe in Josh Allen. While he’s been an elite quarterback for years, he’s leveled up this year, cementing himself as the league’s ballsiest and best signal-caller. Coming off of his bye week, Allen has already outdueled Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson and the Bills look like one of the select few teams that could plausibly win the Super Bowl.

3. Kansas City Chiefs, 5-2 (+2 from last week)

“This is the golden age of something good and right and real” — “State of Grace,” Red

The Kansas City Chiefs have existed for over 60 years, dating back to the AFL’s creation in 1960; the last few seasons have been the best they’ve ever been. Since Patrick Mahomes took the reins in 2018, the Chiefs have gone 55-17, winning Super Bowl LIV and then nearly repeating the next year. Outside of blips against Buffalo and Indianapolis, this year’s Chiefs team looks like it could be their best yet; in Sunday’s 44-23 desecration of the 49ers, the Chiefs ripped off a 37-10 run over the last three quarters. 

4. New York Giants, 6-1 (no change)

“Welcome to New York / Welcome to New York / Welcome to New York / It’s been waiting for you / Welcome to New York / Welcome to New York” — “Welcome to New York,” 1989

The 5-1 New York Giants represent New York City. This is heady, high-level stuff.

5. Minnesota Vikings, 5-1 (-2)

"Your nemeses will defeat themselves before you get the chance to swing." — "long story short," evermore

Although they have a bad habit of letting inferior teams hang around in close games, the Vikings are 5-1 with a commanding lead in an NFC North division that has crumbled around them. The Vikings are certainly a good team and they look even better in comparison to their rivals, who have spent most of the season self-sabotaging in sundry and exotic ways.

6. New York Jets, 5-2 (+1)

"I could build a castle out of all the bricks they threw at me" – "New Romantics," 1989

Building castles, keeping receipts. Same difference.

7. Dallas Cowboys, 5-2 (+2)

“I come back stronger than a 90s trend” — "willow," evermore

Or at least that’s the hope! In Dak Prescott’s return from a month-long stint on the IR, the ‘Boys flexed their muscles, showing the true breadth of their talents in a 24-6 ass-kicking of the Detroit Lions. Prescott was surgical, completing 19 of 25 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown; the defense was magnificent, as they’ve been all season. If the Cowboys are ever going to revive the spirits of their 90s dynasty teams and break their 26 year title drought, this is their best shot in a long time.

8. Baltimore Ravens, 4-3 (-2)

“And baby, I get mystified by how this city screams your name/ and baby, I’m so terrified of if you ever walk away” – "Cornelia Street," Lover

Lamar Jackson is the best quarterback the Ravens have ever had. He's a marvel of athletic charisma and chutzpah, capable of sustaining a high-level offense simply by being on the field; even when he’s off his game as he was on Sunday (9 of 16 passing for a measly 120 yards), he can conjure up enough juice to pull out a 23-20 win over a divisional rival. This year, he’s thrown for more touchdowns than Tom Brady and run for more yards than Jonathan Taylor. This offseason, he’s set to hit free agency and has shown no urgency to negotiate an extension with the Ravens. If he stays in Baltimore, he’s an epoch-defining superstar. If he leaves, Ravens fans will never be able to walk Eutaw Street again.

9. Cincinnati Bengals, 4-3 (+1)

“I’m just gonna shake, shake it off” — “Shake It Off,” 1989 

Winners of four of their last five, the Bengals have shaken off a sluggish 0-2 start to vault themselves back into the playoff picture. Against the Falcons, Joe Burrow had his best game of the season, fileting Atlanta’s secondary to the tune of 482 yards and three touchdowns. 

10. Los Angeles Chargers, 4-3 (-2)

“They told me all of my cages were mental / So I got wasted like all my potential” — “this is me trying,” folklore

For just about the dozenth straight year, the Chargers' roster is stacked. Justin Herbert, Joey Bosa, Derwin James, JC Jackson, Khalil Mack, Rashawn Slater, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams: all among the absolute best of the best at their respective positions. And yet, after losing 37-23 to Seattle, the Chargers have a bottom-ten point differential in the NFL (to be fair, their 4-3 record paints a rosier picture). Unsurprisingly, the Chargers are doing their usual thing, struggling to squirm free from under the weight of injuries and their sheer Chargers-iness. Boy-genius head coach Brandon Staley has such powerful intellect that each Sunday he gets lost in a sparsely decorated mind palace that he spends the whole week building.

11. Miami Dolphins, 4-3 (+9)

"No one wanted to play with me as a little kid / So I've been scheming like a criminal ever since" – "Mastermind" from Midnights

The closest analogue for Dolphins head honcho Mike McDaniel is probably Syndrome from the Incredibles; he was spurned by the establishment, so he built a machine that would destroy it. McDaniel hardly looks like a Football Guy, but he’s one of the league’s most creative offensive thinkers and has mostly kicked the Fins’ attack into higher gear. Playing on Sunday for the first time since suffering a grisly concussion last month, Tua Tagovailoa reacclimated himself fairly easily, throwing for 261 yards and a score in Miami’s 16-10 win over the Steelers. While Tagovailoa isn’t exactly a world-beater, his accuracy and quick release unlock dangerous aspects of McDaniel’s scheme; tellingly, the Dolphins are 4-0 when Tagovailoa plays more than half his team’s snaps and 0-3 when he doesn’t.

12. Tennessee Titans, 4-2 (+1)

"I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22" — "22," Red

Derrick Henry wears #22. Sneakily, the Titans have won four straight and if you add the two twos in #22 together, you get four. There are levels to this.

13. Seattle Seahawks, 4-3 (+6)

"We are never, ever, ever getting back together" — "We Are Never Getting Back Together," Red

The Seahawks are in first place in their division, having poked their head above .500 with a Sunday win against the Chargers. Quarterback Geno Smith has been a revelation, posting the fourth-best QBR and third-best passer rating of any quarterback. And best of all, the Seahawks didn’t have to lavish him with five year, $245 million mega contract that doesn’t even start until after, gulp, the 2025 Super Bowl. Needless to say, the Seahawks are perfectly happy that their old guy is now the old guy. 

14. San Francisco 49ers, 3-4 (-3)

“I’m sorry But the old Taylor can't come to the phone right now/ Why? Oh, 'cause she's dead” – “Look What You Made Me Do,” Reputation

Kyle Shanahan, son of Mike, is largely responsible for the resurgence of the so-called “Shanahan” offense that’s defined the last half-decade of the NFL. As the Falcons offensive coordinator and 49ers head coach, Shanahan (and Rams coach Sean McVay, who comes from the same coaching tree) became the face of the running the basic wide-zone run scheme and play-action-heavy passing attack that the rest of the league has rushed to imitate. But by trading for Christian McCaffrey, Shanahan has signaled that he’s moved beyond it, instead committing to the variegated formations and concepts that he began to work in last year during the 9ers’ run to the NFC title game. Between McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle, Shanahan has three of the most dangerous players in football. Just as Taylor Swift evolved from a twangy teeny-bopper to our nation’s greatest living popstar, Shanahan has ventured into exciting, unknown territory. Although Sunday’s soft launch against the Chiefs was a bust, the 9ers are the dangerous sub-.500 team you’ll ever see. 

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3-4 (-1)

“So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames” — “Blank Space,” 1989

Somewhere, Tom Brady is eating a small, precisely measured pile of legumes and solemnly nodding.

16. Los Angeles Rams, 3-3 (no change)

“And if I get burned, at least we were electrified” — “Dress,” Reputation 

If last year’s Super Bowl winning Rams were the party, this year feels like the beginning of the long hangover. By dint of wantonly trading draft picks for superstars, the Rams have amassed a dazzling array of in-their-prime talent; Aaron Donald is the best defensive player since Lawrence Taylor and Jalen Ramsey is the best cornerback in the NFL and Cooper Kupp is in the midst of the greatest 23 game stretch a receiver has ever had. Still, the bill is coming due—quarterback Matthew Stafford has lost his fastball; the offensive line is made of rayon; they have no running backs. Their talent is better than their record, but their on-field play is worse than it—even after a 24-10 win against the Panthers on Sunday, their point differential is squarely in the red at -22. 

17. Green Bay Packers, 3-4 (-4)

“You need to calm down/ You're being too loud” —”You Need to Calm Down,” Lover

Aaron Rodgers, the podcast guest/quarterback, is unhappy. Despite grousing about being in Green Bay for the better part of the last two years, Rodgers extended his deal with the Packers last offseason. Even more curiously, the Packers rewarded Rodgers’ loyalty by jettisoning All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, leaving Rodgers with a threadbare receiving corps. As such, the Packers offense has been unable to achieve lift off this year, falling from the 10th best scoring offense last season to the 23rd ranked one this year. More troubling, the Packers have dropped three straight games, including a 23-21 Week 7 debacle against a bad Commanders team. At the risk of going full Boomer, maybe Rodgers should practice more and podcast less.

18. Indianapolis Colts, 3-3-1 (-3)

"Time won't fly, it's like I'm paralyzed by it / I'd like to be my old self again, but I'm still trying to find it / After plaid shirt days and nights when you made me your own / Now you mail back my things and I walk home alone" – —“All Too Well,” Red

A close reading, as it pertains to Matt Ryan: Time won’t fly, it’s like I’m paralyzed by it (this is why Matt Ryan gets sacked all the time). I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still trying to find it (Matt Ryan used to be good, but now he’s crud) “After plaid shirt days and nights when you made me your own” (I bet Matt Ryan owns so many plaid shirts). Now you mail back my things (The Colts are starting some guy named Sam Ehlinger now, so Matt Ryan isn't really needed around anymore) and I walk home alone (Matt Ryan is lonely and needs a new Sunday afternoon activity).

19. Atlanta Falcons, 3-4 (-1)

“Every time I don’t, I almost do” — “I Almost Do,” Red 

Initially pegged as a candidate to tank, the Falcons have been shockingly competitive. In fact, five of their first seven games have been decided by less than seven points and their point differential sits at just -8; their 35-17 drubbing at the hands of the Bengals is their only truly lopsided result so far. Too good to be bad, too bad to be good, the Falcons are in the liminal space of doing something and doing nothing.

20. Chicago Bears, 3-4 (+9)

“And you wanna scream, ‘don't call me kid, don't call me baby / Look at this godforsaken mess that you made me’” — “illicit affairs,” folklore 

Like the Falcons, the Bears are better than they have any right to be—and are probably better than they even want to be. While Justin Fields has started nearly 20 games for the Bears since he was drafted in 2021, two years in the industrial wasteland that is Chicago’s offense has made it difficult to get a bead on his progress. Is he missing throws because he’s inaccurate or because he’s constantly under pressure? Is it possible to be a bust if you're never given the chance to succeed? Encouragingly, the Bears have gotten Fields more involved the last two weeks with designed runs and trounced the Patriots 33-14 on Monday Night Football.

21. Arizona Cardinals, 3-4 (+6)

“You held your pride like you should’ve held me” – “The Story of Us,” Speak Now

Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray should’ve been such natural allies—they’ve been close since 2012 when Kliff Kingsbury was Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator and recruited Kyler Murray, who was just a sophomore in high school. Outside of being handsome and knowing Sean McVay, Kingsbury was hired because he was hailed as the perfect new age offensive thinker; Murray was drafted #1 in 2019 because he was hailed as the perfect new age quarterback. Yet, in Arizona, Kingsbury has struggled to unlock Murray during their time together, serving as the sole playcaller for an offense that’s ranked in the top half of the league in net yards per attempt just once in four seasons. During the Cards’ 42-34 win over the Saints on Thursday, the Kingsbury-Murray marriage reached its public nadir, with the two getting in a screaming match on the sidelines. Murray is good enough to overcome it, but it’s increasingly clear that Kingsbury is more of a hindrance than a help.

22. New England Patriots, 3-4, (-5)

"You can plan for a change in weather and time / But I never planned on you changing your mind" – "Last Kiss," Speak Now

The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, McCorkle Jones was supposed to be Tom Brady’s successor, the bridge from one Pats’ dynasty to another. But what if the real heir to the Brady throne is Bailey Zappe, an unassuming late-round pick who steals the starting role from a higher-profile quarterback? When Bill Belichick subbed in Zappe to relieve a clearly still-hobbled Jones on Monday Night Football, he set the NFL’s weirdest quarterback competition ablaze. If you have two starting quarterbacks, do you really have any?

23. Washington Commanders, 3-4 (+5)

“So watch me strike a match on all my wasted time/As far as I'm concerned, you're just another picture to burn” – “Picture to Burn,” Taylor Swift

Following Taylor Heinicke’s upset of the Packers, it’s hard to picture Carson Wentz reclaiming the starting job once he’s healthy. As recently as last summer, Wentz was seen as a potential savior, but now he’s just another addition to the ignominious list of the 14 starting quarterbacks to flame out in Washington in the post-Kirk Cousins era.

24. Las Vegas Raiders, 2-4 (no change)

“You're not my homeland anymore / So what am I defending now?” — “Exile,” folklore 

Go back to Oakland! That’s your home!

25. Jacksonville Jaguars, 2-5 (-4)

"Band-aids don't fix bullet holes" — “Bad Blood,” 1989

The worst team in the NFL for the last two years, the Jaguars splurged in free agency last winter, spending $259.5 million on seven players. Even if the outlay of cash seemed over-the-top, you could imagine a world where adding steady veteran presences up and down the roster would give the team a sense of seriousness and catalyze improvement from the younger players. The results are murkier—franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence does look much improved in his second season, but that’s partially because he finally has real coaches. Having dropped their last four games, Jacksonville is no longer the trendy sleeper pick they were a few weeks ago, squashing the idea that they could engineer a historic single-season turnaround.

26. Denver Broncos, 2-5 (+6)

"It's me / Hi / I'm the problem, it's me" – "Anti-Hero," "Midnights"

[*stares at Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett so intensely that their slack-jawed visages become seared into my retinas*] This works doubly well because, like a sexy baby, Russell Wilson is cute and small.

27. Cleveland Browns, 2-5 (-1)

“My reputation's never been worse/ so you must like me for me” —Delicate, Reputation

The Browns are 2-5, riding a four game losing streak and gave the biggest guaranteed contract in NFL history to a serial sexual abuser. Say what you will about the Browns, but Browns fans are certainly loyal.

28. Carolina Panthers, 2-5 (+3)

"There'll be happiness after you, but there was happiness because of you. Both of these things can be true." —"happiness," evermore

A Ewing Theory win over the Buccaneers is a good start to the post-Christian McCaffrey era, but there’s always an emotional toll whenever a franchise legend is traded.

29 & 30. New Orleans Saints & Pittsburgh Steelers

"My castle crumbled overnight / I brought a knife to a gunfight / They took the crown but it's alright" – "Call It What You Want," Reputation

From 2009-2020, the Saints made the playoffs eight times; the Steelers made it seven times. These two teams were models of consistency and continuity, each anchored by an iconic quarterback-head coach batter (Drew Brees-Sean Payton in New Orleans; Ben Roethlisberger-Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh). Now, though, both are adrift—I double dog dare you to name each team’s passing yardage leader this season. More damning than the fact that both teams are 2-5 is the fact that neither team’s record is especially surprising.

31. Houston Texans, 1-4-1 (-5)

“I forgot that you existed” — “I Forgot That You Existed,” Lover

I forgot that they existed.

32. Detroit Lions, 1-5 (-2)

“In my defense, I have none” —the 1, folklore

In just six games, the Lions have allowed an NFL-high 194 points. Surrendering 32.3 points per game, the Lions are on pace to be the second-worst defense of the 21st-century, sandwiched between the 2020 Lions and the 2008 Lions.

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