1-32 poll, plus each team's biggest weakness going forward

The NFL Power Rankings tend to view the league from a positive perspective, but sometimes it is necessary to see the negative side of the game. We are here this week because we asked the NFL Nation writers to choose the most negative aspect of their team over eight weeks.
Some teams have more problems than others and some of these issues can be more costly. While teams like the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and New York City residents had more problems than the minor ones of the NFC's Fab Five (or six if the New Orleans Saints ask), each team still has its own issues. This week's game experience covers everything, from not being capable of rushing the passer to not converting third down to not being in a position to defend onside kicks (Los Angeles Rams supporters know that pain). Here's where your team and all other teams are at mid-season 2021.

How we rank our Power Rankings. Our power panel, which includes more than 80 TV personalities, editors, and writers evaluates how teams perform throughout the season.


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Previous ranking: 4

The red zone is the Achilles heel.

Last season, the Packers were the top red zone team on both sides. The Packers topped the NFL in red-zone offense with touchdowns on 80% (more than half) of their trips within the opponent's 20. They are tied for 20th with 57.6% this season. They were 8th in defense in 2020, allowing opponents touchdowns on 57.7% their red zone possessions. They are now 30th in 78.3% this season. They allowed 15 consecutive touchdowns on possessions in the red zone to their opponent, which was a terrible run. In Week 7, punchless Washington went just 0-for-4. The same problems arose Thursday against the Cardinals who were 3-for-4. Rasul Douglas' crucial interception in the endzone in the final seconds was the game-clinching stop. Rob Demovsky

Previous ranking: 1

Biggest Achilles' heel: Run defense

The world witnessed Thursday night that the Packers ran for 151 yard. This shows that if a team is able to run the clock on the ground, it can make the Cardinals vulnerable. Their run defense has been poor all season. They have allowed an average of 120.1 yards per match (ranking 20th) and 4.88 yards per play (ranking 31st). Arizona has allowed more than 100 yards rushing in five of eight games. Running against Arizona has been a team's best defense against quarterback Kyler Murray, who watches from the sidelines as the teams race for yards and time. -- Josh Weinfuss

Play 1:44 Sam Acho is thrilled to see the Rams’ D with Von Miller Sam Acho explains how LB Von Miller adds to the Rams' already impressive defense.

Previous ranking: 3

Biggest Achilles' heel: Special teams

The Rams are unable to agree on a consistent kick or punt returner. Instead, they rely on Cooper Kupp, a sure-handed receiver. It is difficult to not hold your breath when Cooper Kupp has to perform such duties. The rookies Jake Funk, Tutu Atwell, and Ben Skowronek tried their hand at returning. However, Funk sustained a season-ending injury and neither Atwell or Skowronek proved capable of taking on the full-time job. It's not only the Rams' return game in question. The Rams won Week 7 against the Lions by allowing an onside kick early and then watched as two fake punts turned into first downs. -- Lindsey Thiry

Previous ranking: 2

Biggest Achilles' heel: Penalties

Penalties are the Bucs' Achilles heel last season. This season, the Bucs have 59 penalties. They are just one shy of the league record of 60 set by the Philadelphia Eagles. The league's highest penalty total of 580 yards is also attained by the Bucs. The Bucs' 11 penalties of 99 yards were the key to Sunday's 36-27 defeat to the Saints. They were able to move the ball despite losing Jameis Winston. -- Jenna Laine

Previous ranking: 6

Biggest Achilles' heel

This feels a bit like a nitpick, as the Cowboys' defense has exceeded expectations this season. They can't allow these kinds of mistakes if they play better quarterbacks down this stretch, and possibly in the playoffs. In the seven first games, they allowed 31 plays with at least 20 yards. The same amount was allowed in the seven first games of the season. They are now getting take-outs and making stops this season. This was the focus of the coaches during their bye week. However, the Cowboys allowed four big plays against Vikings. They have not been affected by it yet, but they could in the future. -- Todd Archer

Previous ranking: 5

The Achilles heel of special-teams: Inconsistency

Buffalo is third in the NFL, with 21 punters. However, Matt Haack has been inconsistent when he was needed. He averaged 36.1 yards per punt (second-lowest of any team). Only 28.6% have been intercepted within the 20 yard line. The Bills' kicker Tyler Bass has been solid this season. Defensive back Siran Neal has been a dynamic player in kick coverage. However, returner Isaiah McKenzie muffed a pass vs. Miami Dolphins Week 8 and was rescued by Jake Kumerow. The Bills have been in dangerous situations due to inconsistencies in special teams. -- Alaina Getzenberg

Previous ranking: 8

Biggest Achilles' heel: Tackling

Lamar Jackson is capable of making big plays but can't stop them. Baltimore lost two games to the Ravens, and their pass defense allowed 15 completions of over 20 yards. This is not because the defense is being backed by receivers. Baltimore's inability to get receivers onto the ground is the problem. Poor tackling by the Ravens has resulted in 1,200 yards after the catch, which is the worst in the NFL. John Harbaugh, coach of the Ravens, stated that unless we fix our tackling problem, we will be a very poor defense. -- Jamison Hensley

play 1:04 Rex Titans won't go anywhere without Derrick Henry Rex Ryan, Ryan Clark discuss how important Derrick Henry's injury was to Titans' season.

Previous ranking: 9

Biggest Achilles' heel: Kickoff return

The Titans were eager to see Darrynton Evans as a kick returner when they entered training camp. Evans was injured in his knee and placed on injured reserve. Evans was activated last month and added to the 53 man roster. However, he ended up being placed on injured reserve again, ending his season. All of the following have had a chance to return kicks: Evans, Marcus Johnson and Cameron Batson. The Titans average 17.3 yards per kick return through eight games, which is tied with the Dolphins' worst record in the NFL. Turron Davenport

Previous ranking: 7

Biggest Achilles' heel: Offensive inconsistency

Cincinnati's boom-or bust offense is a problem. The Bengals are 31st in plays per drives and have the second highest three-and-out rate in the league. Yet, Cincinnati still ranks fourth in touchdowns. The inability to sustain drives is a problem. This can be seen in the minus-71 play differential which is the second-highest in the league. If this trend continues, it will place considerable pressure on the defense, leaving that side of the ball tired in December when the Bengals hope to earn their first playoff berth since 2015. -- Ben Baby

Previous ranking: 13

The biggest Achilles' heel: The Passing Game

In the wake Jameis Winston's injury to his knee, Quarterback is an obvious choice. Even though Winston was in good health, the Saints were plagued by a lack of proven targets for WRs and TEs. They are 31st in the NFL for passing yards per games (180.9) and completion percentage (50.8) -- but they rank last in receiving yards by WRs (7.9/game) and receptions from TEs (2.4% per game). They are eagerly awaiting Michael Thomas’ return from his ankle injury. Mike Triplett

Previous ranking: 11

The most important Achilles' heel is the constantly changing offensive line

Derek Carr's personal protectors, LT Kolton Miller (LG John Simpson), C Andre James (RG Alex Leatherwood), RT Brandon Parker, and RG Alex Leatherwood have kept Derek Carr upright and clean sans sacks for the past six quarters. The reshuffled O line is still in flux and an ongoing work in progress. Richie Incognito (a veteran left guard who was injured in a practice with the Rams last Aug. 19) could be back to practice this week. -- Paul Gutierrez

Previous ranking: 10

The Achilles heel of the greatest Achilles: Inconsistency on offense

Never would I have thought to write this. Not with Justin Herbert as QB and the high-ranking receivers the Chargers possess. But they have had their moments, particularly this past Sunday against Patriots. Herbert threw two interceptions in the Patriots game (one of which was returned as a pick-six), giving him six for the year. As a rookie, he had only 10 points. His receivers have not helped him, either through drops (running back Austin Ekeler), or running the wrong routes ("tight end Jared Cook") Worse, the Chargers have found themselves in difficult third-down situations because of inconsistent play on second and first down. Shelley Smith

play 0:55 Ryan Clark is impressed with Mac Jones Ryan Clark breaks down Mac Jones’ play in the Patriots Week-8 win over the Chargers.

Previous ranking: 18

Biggest Achilles' heel: Cornerback

The Patriots are now short at cornerback after trading Stephon Gilmore for top slot Jonathan Jones. J.C. Jackson, Jalen Mills and Shaun Wade are the starting cornerbacks. However, opponents have been known to attack Mills as well -- such was the case on Sunday with the Chargers' late TD touchdown. Practice-squad call-up Myles Britt is the best option for the top slot. Next on the CB depth charts are Shaun Wade and Joejuan Williams. Brandon Staley, Chargers coach, made the observation that Patriots played more zone Sunday than any other team because they were shorthanded. -- Mike Reiss

Previous ranking: 15

The biggest Achilles heel: Vertical passing attack

As their run game improves, the Steelers are gradually becoming a balanced offense. However, their greatest weakness is their vertical passing attack, especially over the middle. Ben Roethlisberger made just three passes that exceeded 20 yards, and one pass between the numbers against the Browns. Each fell incomplete. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Roethlisberger only completed 25.5% of deep passes between 2020 and 2019. This is a decrease from the 30.5% he did in 2016 and 2019. A one-dimensional approach to the game can be created by relying on throws within 10 feet of the line. A well-balanced offensive and run game will draw attention, allowing for more vertical options. This is especially important in crunch time. -- Brooke Pryor

Previous ranking: 14

Biggest Achilles' heel: Pass rush

Heading into Monday's game against Giants, the Chiefs had eight sacks in league and a poor pass rush win rate at 35.2%. It's not hard to see why the Chiefs were facing opposing quarterbacks with a 61.4 QBR. Without these numbers improving, it's hard to believe that defense will see significant improvement. Frank Clark and Chris Jones, who are the Chiefs' highest-paid players, were doing little for them. Clark contributed zero to the Giants' game, while Jones and Clark combined for two sacks. -- Adam Teicher

Previous ranking: 12

The biggest Achilles heel: Passing attack

The Browns' passing attack is on the verge of collapse, and this is not due to injuries. Baker Mayfield is still battling a torn labrum in his non-throwing arm. He hasn't been getting much help from his high-paid star receivers. Jarvis Landry suffered multiple drops in the fourth quarter of the loss to Pittsburgh and also lost a crucial fumble. Odell Beckham Jr. has been a complete nonfactor. The passing game in Cleveland improved over the last season. It seems that it is getting worse this season. Jake Trotter

Previous ranking: 20

The biggest Achilles' heel is the turnover battle

We could talk about many things here but let's just say that the Niners have a minus-6 turnover differential. This is the fourth-worst in the NFL over the first eight weeks. This stat is the best because it points out both the strengths and weaknesses of the team, and it correlates most strongly with winning. The offense has 11 giveaways while the defense has five. And the Niners are only one of seven teams that have seen this stat positive. It's not surprising that San Francisco is currently at 3-4. -- Nick Wagoner

Previous ranking: 21

Biggest Achilles' heel: Offense

The Broncos are currently residing in a neighborhood that is a high-scoring area, where they have lived for six seasons. They are among 10 teams that average less than 20 points per match this season. Of those 10, only the Steelers (4-4) and the Broncos (4-4), have lost records. This is not where any legitimate playoff contender finds themselves. Since 2014, the Broncos haven’t averaged more 21 points per game than they did in four previous years. Jeff Legwold

Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater & Grady Jarrett ESPN

Previous ranking: 17

Biggest Achilles' heel: Offense

Seven games shows that the Vikings offense is not up to the standards of the modern NFL. The offense has failed to score in the second half of five of seven games. Minnesota has come out of the gate swinging, scoring on its first possession. The game plan made quarterback Kirk Cousins a predictable checkdown machine, with an average depth of target of 4.5 yards and a mere 184 yards passing. In a year, this unit transformed from being explosive to boring and conservative and became Minnesota's biggest downfall. Courtney Cronin

Previous ranking: 24

Biggest Achilles' heel: Pass protection

Carolina was able to run block and rush for a record 203 yards in its season-high win at Atlanta. The Falcons didn't have to stack up against the pass like teams had done the past four weeks. They collected 15 sacks during that time against Sam Darnold. The line is still vulnerable because teams will continue to load the box and force Panthers to pass. -- David Newton

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Previous ranking: 23

The biggest Achilles' heel is not having QB Russell Wilson

Geno Smith was at his best since Wilson's finger injury in Week 5. However, Seattle's offense didn't function in the same way as Wilson's. Smith was replaced in that game. Smith and the Seahawks won against the Jaguars one-win, but there are more challenging games ahead. They will be playing at Green Bay after this week's bye, and then at home against Arizona, so the Seahawks must finish stronger than they have been. They might also need Smith as their quarterback, with no guarantee Wilson will be available for the Packers game. -- Brady Henderson

play 2:29 Stephen A. : I'm done Carson Wentz Stephen A. Smith has had enough of Carson Wentz and claims that he is keeping the Colts at bay.

Previous ranking: 16

Biggest Achilles' heel: Pass rush

As good as Colts General Manager Chris Ballard was in selecting talent in the draft -- RB Jonathan Taylor and WR Michael Pittman Jr. -- he has struggled to find pass-rushers. With 17, the Colts rank 16th in NFL in sacks. The Colts hold the league's lead in takeaways, with 18. Mike Wells

Previous ranking: 22

Biggest Achilles' heel: Offense

The Bears' defense gave up in the loss to the 49ers last Sunday, but Chicago's offense was its greatest weakness throughout the season. The Bears are near or at the bottom in almost all major offensive categories, including yards per game and points per game. This is a remarkable feat when 22 points scored by the Bears against San Francisco are considered an offensive explosion. Although the Bears offense performed a bit better in Week 8, it is still not good enough. Jeff Dickerson

Previous ranking: 25

Biggest Achilles' heel: Inexperience

Nick Sirianni, a rookie head coach, is surrounded by some of the most youthful coaching staffs in the NFL. Quarterback Jalenhurts, a 23-year-old quarterback, has played in 12 NFL games. He doesn't have a primary wide receiver older than 23 years. Inconsistency in both performance and game plan is the result. While the Eagles have won two teams by 26+ points, they have been beaten at times and often abused. It's impossible to predict what you might get. Tim McManus

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Previous ranking: 19

Biggest Achilles' heel: Pass rush

While there are many issues with the Falcons right now, the team has seen very little pass rush this season -- especially with Dante Fowler Jr. being on injured reserve. Deion Jones, Fowler and Jacob Tuioti Mariner all have at least two sacks. Even more important, Foyesade Oluokun and Grady Jarrett both have five and six quarterback hits, respectively. Sometimes pressure is worth sending if the players can reach it. That's been a problem in Atlanta but also affects everything the Falcons can or cannot do on defense. -- Michael Rothstein

Previous ranking: 27

Biggest Achilles' heel: Pass rush

Don't forget about sacks. Without a high-end rusher, the Giants' defense is unable to consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the team was 24th in the NFL for pressure rates at 25.2%. This has made it difficult for the Giants to repeat their success last season. -- Jordan Raanan

Previous ranking: 26

Biggest Achilles' heel: Pass coverage

Washington ranks 29th in the NFL for seven passing touchdowns over 20 yards. Most of these are due to secondary reads that were not in synch, leading to missed coverages. It ranks 26th in yards per pass attempt, and last in NFL at 56.5% in third-down conversions. This is largely due to opposing quarterbacks having completed 70% of their passes against Washington on third down. A worse defense has ever allowed this number. This doesn't only affect the secondary. The corners haven't played as well as expected, and the linebackers are losing their fair share of assignments. The pass rush must be more efficient. John Keim

Previous ranking: 30

Biggest Achilles' heel: Quarterback inexperience

This might seem odd considering Mike White's passing for 405 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, it does not change the fact White and Zach Wilson only have seven starts between them in their careers. Inexperience has resulted in the Jets having a league record 13 interceptions. There will be good and bad days depending on how the opponent plays and the defense they use. The Jets cannot change this; they must just ride it out and hope it pays long-term dividends. -- Rich Cimini

Previous ranking: 29

Biggest Achilles' heel: Pass defense

The Jaguars have surrendered more than 300 yards of passing in four games (Teddy Bridgewater and Kyler Murray), and allowed opposing QBs 74% of their passes -- which is the second-highest completion rate in the league. The QBs against Jacksonville average 8.94 yards per attempt (second-highest mark), and have a Total QBR 64.2, which is the highest in the NFL. Mike DiRocco

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Previous ranking: 28

Biggest Achilles' heel: Offensive inefficiency

There are a few different answers to this question, but Miami's problems with offense stand out. The Dolphins are 30th in yards per games, 31st for yards per play, and 28th in scoring. It is almost amazing that Miami attempts the fourth most passes per game, yet ranks 25th in passing yards. The Dolphins' loss to the Bills on Sunday proved that Miami can still play good defense, but they won't win as many games without an offense capable of supporting its weight. Marcel Louis-Jacques

Previous ranking: 31

Biggest Achilles' heel: Running game

For a 1-7 team it's difficult to pick one category. However, the one area where the Texans have had problems all season is running the ball. Houston is at the bottom of Football Outsider's rush average DVOA, with 76.1 rushing yards per match. Houston now has four running backs, including veterans Phillip Lindsay, Rex Burkhead, and Scottie Phillips, who were traded for lead back Mark Ingram II. Ingram was traded and Burkhead led the way in Sunday’s loss to Rams. However, the group was held to 44 yards by 14 carries. -- Sarah Barshop

Previous ranking: 32

Biggest Achilles' heel: Offense

The Lions dropped to 0-8 after a loss of 44-6 to the Eagles on Halloween. This is the first time the Lions have been below 0-16 since that infamous 0-16 season. Coach Dan Campbell admitted that the offense was "very anemic", which has been the case throughout the season. The Lions are near the bottom in almost every offensive category, including offensive efficiency and points earned. Jared Goff's 11 consecutive losses includes the playoffs is the longest streak of any quarterback. Tight end T.J. Hockenson believes that the offense hasn’t been able overcome self-inflicted wounds like penalties and errors in crucial moments. Hockenson stated, "That's the essence of a good offense is to be able keep moving and overcome any mistakes you make." Eric Woodyard