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NFL Power Rankings: Week 7

Model: Paola (Photo by Double G Media)

Model: Paola (Photo by Double G Media)

 

The NFL seems to have more parody than it ever has. Many teams have been winning games that they have no business winning. Other teams have been losing against teams that they should have no problem against. Each game has to be taken with a grain of salt, but as we get further into the season, that becomes less true. Some teams have gotten off to surprisingly good starts while others have started slow. There are still plenty of games to play, however, and as we get further into the season, we’ll know more and more about each team. For now, this is how the league is shaking out:

1. Minnesota Vikings 5-0 (last week’s ranking: 1st) – The Vikes remain in the top spot this week. Even though they had their bye week, they are still undefeated. Not only are they undefeated, but all five of their wins have been quite impressive. Until they lose a game, they’re the best team in football. They’ll visit the struggling Eagles next week.

2. New England Patriots 5-1 (last week’s ranking: 2nd) – The Patriots sure are making their case for the NFL’s top team, but I just can’t put them there as long as the Vikings remain perfect. Tom Brady returned last week and the Pats have had back to back blowout victories. Brady has the best group of weapons he’s had possibly in his whole career. Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett are the best tight end duo in the league, by far. The offensive line has been excellent, which has allowed their running game to excel. This team still thrives because of the play calling/designs of Bill Bellichick. The Patriots’ offense is scary good right now and they’ve been pretty solid defensively as well. Next week they face the Steelers, which would be a good game, but Ben Roethlisberger has been ruled out already, so it should be another big win for the Pats.

3. Seattle Seahawks 4-1 (last week’s ranking: 4th) – Seattle may have gotten away with a missed pass interference call on Sunday afternoon, but a win is a win. They hosted a tough Falcons team and narrowly came out on top, 26-24. Offensively, they’ve done what they do best in recent weeks. Christine Michael has become their workhorse running back and he’s been playing great football. This has allowed Russell Wilson to do what he does best and throw off of play-action. The Hawks’ offense is lethal as long as their offensive line holds up in pass protection. On defense, this is still one of the best and most complete units in football. Their secondary had a bit of trouble containing Julio Jones in the second half, but that was primarily due to a couple miscommunications. They head into Arizona for a great divisional matchup against the Cardinals Sunday night.

4. Atlanta Falcons 4-2 (last week’s ranking: 6th) – Despite the loss, the Falcons move up these rankings, mainly because of how close the game was as well as who they lost to. Playing in Seattle is incredibly difficult and the Falcons were a bad call away from possibly leaving with a victory. The Falcons’ schedule has been very tough so far, but they’ve gone 4-2 to this point and were nearly 5-1. This may be the best offensive team in football. Matt Ryan is in the middle of the best season of his career. He and Julio Jones have been unstoppable. The Falcons also have one of the best offensive lines in football and their run game is excellent with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Defensively, they aren’t great, but they have some good pieces and they’ve been playing better in recent weeks than they did in the first couple games. We’ll see how they do against the Chargers next week.

5. Denver Broncos 4-2 (last week’s ranking: 3rd) – On Thursday night the Broncos lost in a stunner against the Chargers. The Broncos are still one of the league’s better teams, but the last couple weeks, they haven’t played well, particularly on offense. Their defense still may be the best in the NFL. The Chargers managed 21 points, but 12 of those points came from field goals inside the red zone. The Broncos’ offense has struggled in recent weeks, managing just 13 points in the last two games, both losses. It seems that having Trevor Siemian as their starting quarterback may be catching up to them. He’s simply not a very good quarterback and while the Broncos have a strong group of receivers, the overall offense around him isn’t great. The offensive line is average and their run game has struggled. The Broncos will look to turn around their recent slump against the Texans on Monday Night Football.

6. Dallas Cowboys 5-1 (last week’s ranking: 9th) – The Dallas Cowboys have something really special going on right now. I honestly didn’t think this team had a chance without Tony Romo, but they have had an excellent start to their season. The key to this team’s success has been their offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott is currently leading the league in rushing and he’s doing it behind the best line in football. Their dominance on the ground has made Dak Prescott’s life much easier. Their excellent pass protection helps too. Defensively, the ‘Boys don’t have a ton of talent, but they’ve played well as a unit. A lot of that has to do with their ability to control the ball offensively, keeping their defense off the field and well rested. They’ll have a tough decision to make when Romo comes back. Prescott is playing very well, but Romo is still a great quarterback when healthy. They have their bye next week, giving them two weeks to think about it.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers 4-2 (last week’s ranking: 5th) – The Steelers loss to the Dolphins was ugly in so many ways. First of all, losing 30-15 against a bad team is not pretty. The Steelers’ defense was pathetic, as it has been at times this season. They weren’t able to stop the run, allowing Jay Ajayi to run for over 200 yards. They also have had no pass rush this year and it won’t get any easier with their best rusher, Cameron Heyward out for the next few weeks. Another ugly part to this loss was the injury to Ben Roethlisberger. Without Big Ben, this offense is in the hands of Landry Jones. They still have two elite weapons in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, but without Roethlisberger, this offense may struggle a bit. Considering the offense is the strength of this team, they may start to slip and there’s no timetable for Roethlisberger’s return. It’s already a very tough time for the Steelers and now they host the Patriots next week.

8. Kansas City Chiefs 3-2 (last week’s ranking: 11th) – Andy Reid was 15-2 coming off bye weeks in his coaching career coming into this game and that trend did not change. The Chiefs were fairly dominant against the Raiders on Sunday, especially on defense. The held the high powered Raiders offense to just 10 points. The Chiefs also did what they do best and ran the ball all over Oakland. Spencer Ware was fantastic, getting most of the carries while Jamaal Charles is still working his way back from a torn ACL. Alex Smith was also efficient, completing 19 of his 22 pass attempts. This is what the Chiefs want to do. They want to run the football and play great defense. As long as they stick to this formula, they’ll continue to win games. We’ll see if it works against the Saints next week.

9. Buffalo Bills 4-2 (last week’s ranking: 13th) – After a slow start, the Bills really have something going right now. They’re one of the hottest teams in football, winning four straight games and doing it in impressive fashion. They slaughtered the 49ers this week, using their dominant defense and running game to cruise to a 45-16 victory. The Bills were expected to have an excellent defense, but after their loss in Week 2 to the Jets, they looked like a unit poised to disappoint. Since that game, they’ve been nothing short of dominant. They have one of the best secondaries in football and a strong pass rush. Offensively, they’ve been led by LeSean McCoy, who is on his way to his best season in years. They’ve also gotten decent play from Tyrod Taylor, despite missing their top receiver, Sammy Watkins. As long as Taylor plays well, this team is very dangerous. It shouldn’t be too hard for them to win in Miami next Sunday.

10. Oakland Raiders 4-2 (last week’s ranking: 8th) – The Raiders suffered a bad looking loss to the Chiefs, but this team is still one of the better teams in football right now. They’ve done a great job finding ways to win close games. Derek Carr has still been one of the best quarterbacks in football this season, despite the Raiders’ lack of run game. Their offense has a great offensive line and a strong duo of receivers, giving them one of the best passing attacks in the NFL. Defensively, the Raiders aren’t great. They haven’t stopped the run well this season and their pass rush hasn’t been up to snuff. Khalil Mack has been a major disappointment, but if he can turn his season around, it would be huge for the Raiders. Next week, they’ll take on the Jaguars in what should be a great matchup between two exciting offenses.

11. Arizona Cardinals 3-3 (last week’s ranking: 14th) – Here come the Arizona Cardinals. The Cards got off to a rough start this season, but they’ve won two straight games in dominant fashion. Their defense appears to have turned it around, as they’ve been getting after the quarterback and forcing turnovers. Offensively, they’re riding the back of David Johnson, who has been excellent so far this season, leading the NFL in all-purpose yards and touchdowns. Carson Palmer hasn’t been great this season and the Cardinals’ passing attack has been relatively disappointing because of that, but they still have the ability to strike at any time. The Cardinals may have discovered their new winning formula, going from a team that uses a downfield aerial attack to a team that uses a ground and pound offense. This team is certainly more dangerous than their record shows and they’ll face a tough test against the Seahawks next week.

12. Green Bay Packers 3-2 (last week’s ranking: 7th) – What is wrong with Aaron Rodgers? I’ve personally never seen him play so poorly. He’s been making bad decisions, missing throws, and not looking like his usual self. Rodgers is the heart of this Packers team and if he isn’t playing well, they aren’t Super Bowl contenders. The Packers’ offense around Rodgers hasn’t been the problem either. Their offensive line is excellent and they have a great group of weapons. Their run game has been strong too, at least when Eddie Lacy has been in the game. Unfortunately for the Packers, Lacy may be out several weeks with an ankle injury and their only backup, James Starks, is out for a month, so the team had to trade for Knile Davis. Defensively, the Packers have been pretty good this year. Their run defense was excellent until their loss this Sunday to the Cowboys. Their secondary has been good, but they took a hit when they placed Sam Shields on injured reserve. This team still has the talent to contend for a title, but it’s up to Aaron Rodgers to turn his season around. I certainly wouldn’t doubt him, though. They have a short turnaround as they play the Bears on Thursday Night Football.

13. Houston Texans 4-2 (last week’s ranking: 15th) – What a comeback for the Texans on Sunday night. Many of their fans left as they trailed 23-9 late in the fourth quarter, but they should’ve stuck around, as they came back to tie the game and win in overtime. Their offense struggled for most of the game, outside of Lamar Miller. Brock Osweiler was terrible for most of the game and his receivers were struggling to get open against the Colts’ secondary. However, Osweiler picked it up late in the game, tossing a pair of touchdowns to tie it up. On defense, despite missing J.J. Watt, the Texans have been pretty good. They weren’t great against the run, but they stopped it when it mattered. Their pass defense has been great and they were able to get pressure on Andrew Luck as well as hold their own in coverage. Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus appear to be reaching their full potential as a pass rushing duo. This team looked poised for a tumble down the rankings, but their epic comeback now moves them up a few spots. Next week’s matchup with the Broncos should be a tough one, though.

14. Washington Redskins 4-2 (last week’s ranking: 19th) – Similarly to the Bills, the Redskins have been hot lately, winning four straight games. I may have underestimated this team. Their offense has been pretty good lately as Kirk Cousins has stepped his game up. They do have a great group of receivers and an excellent tight end in Jordan Reed. Recently they’ve had their running game going as well. This offense is certainly tough to stop. As for the defense, they’ve played well as a unit, but they were especially good on Sunday, not allowing a single touchdown to the Eagles’ offense. They have a decent pass rush and they’ve been strong against the run. Their secondary is led by Josh Norman, who has been excellent this season. This team hasn’t had a tough schedule so far this year, but they’ve shown they can at least beat middle and lower tier teams. They should fare well against the Lions next week, although the Lions have been rather unpredictable this year.

15. Philadelphia Eagles 3-2 (last week’s ranking: 10th) – The hype train is really starting to slow down now. Entering their bye week, the Eagles were getting overhyped because of a victory over the Steelers and the fact that they were 3-0. It’s become clear that that win was a fluke. Since their week off, the Eagles have dropped their last two games and they haven’t looked good in the process. Offensively, they’ve struggled to score points and Carson Wentz has seen his play decline. They simply don’t have the talent to support a rookie quarterback. Outside of their lone big win over Pittsburgh, the Eagles have beaten the Browns and Bears, which is not very impressive, and lost to the Lions and Redskins, which is also not impressive. So looking at their season as a whole, they’ve had just one impressive game. Now they have to host the undefeated Vikings.

16. Cincinnati Bengals 2-4 (last week’s ranking: 12th) – It’s pretty crazy how things still haven’t changed for the Bengals. They still have no problem winning against teams with losing records (Jets and Dolphins), but they always lose to teams with winning records (Steelers, Broncos, Cowboys, and Patriots). This has been a trend for years now, so the Bengals’ success tends to be based on their strength of schedule. Unfortunately for them, their schedule has been very tough so far this season. The Bengals are still a solid team, but it seems as though that’s all they’ll ever be. Based on their trend to beat teams with losing records, they should have no problem handling the winless Browns next week.

17. Baltimore Ravens 3-3 (last week’s ranking: 17th) – Another team I was skeptical of after a 3-0 start, the Ravens have now dropped their last three games. Sure, they’ve all been close games, but losses are losses. The Ravens certainly have an excellent front seven. They can get after the quarterback and they are excellent against the run. Their problems lie in the secondary. They were burned twice by Odell Beckham on Sunday and the overall play of their secondary this season has been weak. Offensively, there just isn’t much to get excited about. They can run the ball at times, but for the most part, their ground game has been inconsistent. Joe Flacco is simply an average quarterback and his play has been inconsistent as well. Their passing game just doesn’t have much going for it right now. The Ravens’ hot start to their season feels like it was a long time ago. Now, they’ll head to the Meadowlands to face the Jets.

18. New York Giants 3-3 (last week’s ranking: 18th) – Where would the G-Men be without Odell Beckham? If it wasn’t for his two huge touchdowns in the fourth quarter, they’d be sitting at 2-4 right now. He is the only true playmaker this team has. Eli Manning is not having a good season and the Giants haven’t been able to run the ball effectively since Week 1. Defensively, the pieces are there for the Giants, but it hasn’t quite come together just yet. They certainly aren’t as bad on that side of the ball as they were last season, but there’s still plenty of work to do. Their next game will be in London against the Rams.

19. Los Angeles Rams 3-3 (last week’s ranking: 16th) – The Rams are yet another team I’ve never been sold on. They’ve now lost back to back games and they haven’t looked good in either of them. The Rams seem to be that team that always plays to the level of their competition. They played very well against good teams like the Seahawks and Cardinals, but played poorly against teams like the Bucs, Lions, and 49ers. Their offense is awful. They have Todd Gurley, who is an incredible talent, and yet that haven’t been able to get him going this season. Their offensive line is not very good. Case Keenum is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league right now. They don’t have good receivers either. They’ve had a couple nice games offensively, but this team wins on the strength of their defense. They have a great front seven, especially the defensive line. Their secondary is decent. As a unit, they’re pretty good. Next week, they play the Giants in London.

20. Tennessee Titans 3-3 (last week’s ranking: 24th) – The Titans are not the same push-over team that they have been the last couple years. They’ve already matched their win total from last season. They’ve been running the ball as well as anyone, with DeMarco Murray having a resurgent season. Their offensive line has been one of the best in football, giving Murray plenty of holes to run through, like he had in Dallas back in 2014. They’ve also done a great job protecting Marcus Mariota. He’s having a decent season and is a threat to make a great play with his legs or his arm at any time. Defensively, the Titans have actually been pretty good. They’ve been getting after the quarterback, notching a whopping 13 sacks in the last two games. Their secondary is decent as is their run defense, and as long as their pass rush can keep this up, they’ll continue to have success defensively. They’ll host the struggling Colts next week.

21. Detroit Lions 3-3 (last week’s ranking: 25th) – It’s been an up-and-down season for the Lions so far. They’ve had a couple close losses, but they’ve also had three narrow victories as well. One thing that’s clear about the Lions is that their offense is explosive. Matt Stafford is playing great football this year, despite not having Calvin Johnson, who was his go-to guy for his whole career to this point. With Johnson retired, the Lions signed Marvin Jones and he has been fantastic. He’s currently seventh in the NFL in receiving yards and he’s caught four touchdowns. The Lions haven’t really been able to run the ball this season, but Stafford has been leading the charge offensively. The Lions’ defense hasn’t been great. They’ve been terrible against the pass this season. They have a solid pass rush, but they don’t have much else going for them. They’ve got a tough game with the Redskins next week.

22. Indianapolis Colts 2-4 (last week’s ranking: 20th) – For roughly 53 minutes, the Colts were looking like they would be sitting in first place in the AFC South. While that isn’t impressive, considering the other teams in the division, it would’ve been a good sign for the Colts, considering their disappointing start. However, the Colts choked the game away over the final seven minutes or so and ended up losing in overtime. They were actually cruising to a victory, until their defense fell apart and allowed the Texans to score a pair of touchdowns in the final three minutes. It’s been a very disappointing season for the Colts, but this loss is rock bottom. This was a game they should’ve had. Their offense was good, as it’s been all year. Led by Andrew Luck, this team can score with the best of them. Their defense is their Achilles heel, especially at the linebacker position. Their outside linebackers generate no pass rush and the inside linebackers can’t stop the run or cover anybody. They still have plenty of time to turn their season around and starting playing better. Defeating the Titans next week would be a good start.

23. New Orleans Saints 2-3 (last week’s ranking: 26th) – Let’s just get this out of the way: the Saints’ defense is terrible. They are bad on every level of the defense. However, this team can win games simply because they have Drew Brees. Brees doesn’t even need good players around him; he’ll just make it work. He may be getting up there in age, but he’s still one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. They’ve got a decent offense around him too. The offensive line is playing well. Mark Ingram is a beast in the backfield. Brandin Cooks, Coby Fleener, and Michael Thomas have been great too. As long as Brees is around, this team will compete, at least a little bit. They’ve got an exciting matchup against the Chiefs next Sunday.

24. San Diego Chargers 2-4 (last week’s ranking: 27th) – The Chargers pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the week, knocking off the defending champion Broncos on Thursday night. Wins have been hard to come by for this team, but it isn’t because they don’t have enough talent, it’s because they tend to choke in the fourth quarter. This time, they had a commanding enough lead late in the game that they couldn’t choke. Their offense has been pretty good this season, with Philip Rivers leading the charge. They even played well against this vaunted Broncos defense. While they only got into the end zone once, they did a good job getting into the red zone and they kicked four field goals. Their defense was pretty good in this game, too, holding Denver to just 13 points. The Chargers don’t stop the run well, but they have a pretty good secondary and a solid, young linebacker core. They’re certainly a team that can compete and win any game; it’s just a matter of not choking. We’ll see how they do against a tough Falcons team next week.

25. Carolina Panthers 1-5 (last week’s ranking: 21st) – Oh, the Panthers. No team has been more disappointing than this one. Going from the reigning NFC champs to last place in their division, the Panthers have gotten off to a worse start than anyone could have imagined. Cam Newton has not been at the MVP level he played at last season, despite getting back one of his top targets (Kelvin Benjamin). He also missed a game with a concussion that he suffered against the Falcons; a concussion that could’ve easily been avoided. Offensively the Panthers have struggled, but they looked good, albeit against the Saints, this week. Defensively, the Panthers have a huge problem: their secondary. They’ve been getting burned left and right. This defense is not nearly as formidable as it was last year. They still have a talented front seven, but without Josh Norman in the secondary, they can’t contain any receivers. It’ll be a tough climb to get back to the playoffs for the Panthers, but they still have plenty of time to do so. They’ll have a chance to clear their heads this week while they’re on bye.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-3 (last week’s ranking: 23rd) – Coming off their bye week, the Jags notched their second win of the season. The Bears still aren’t a great team, but with Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback, they aren’t quite the pushover they were with Jay Cutler starting. The Jags just barely edged them out with a 17-16 victory. The Jaguars are one of the teams that has potential, but they’re still very young and inexperienced. This team is brimming with talent; it’s just going to take some time for them to put it together. The Jags will see what the future of this team looks like when the take on the Raiders next week.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-3 (last week’s ranking: 29th) – The Bucs had a bye week this week, but they move up a couple spots because the Jets and Bears both moved below them. Next Sunday, the Bucs will play the 49ers in what should be a very winnable game for them.

28. New York Jets 1-5 (last week’s ranking: 22nd) – Wait, did I say the Panthers were the league’s biggest disappointment? My bad. That’s actually the Jets. Not only do the Jets have an equally bad record, but they’ve looked horrible on their way to it. It seems like since their win over the Bills in Week 2 (which feels like it was ages ago), the Jets have been consistently getting blown out. Granted, they’ve had a tough schedule, but this team was at least supposed to be able to compete. Instead, it’s been incredibly difficult to find any bright spots for this team outside of their trio of defensive lineman: Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Leonard Williams. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been god awful and now he’s being benched for Geno Smith. That’s how you know things are bad. We’ll see if the quarterback switch pays off next week when the Jets host the Ravens. I wouldn’t count on it, though.

29. Miami Dolphins 2-4 (last week’s ranking: 30th) – In the “What Just Happened” game of the week, the Dolphins smoked the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-15. For one thing, the Dolphins’ defense really showed up in this one. Other than one bad play, where they allowed Darrius Heyward-Bey to take an end around 60 yards for a score, they did an excelling job containing the Steelers high-powered offense. However, on the season, the Dolphins have been terrible defensively, so this game screams, “fluke”. The Fins’ offense was pretty good against the Steelers too, and they certainly have some exciting, young playmakers, but it was also a bit of a fluky performance. Jay Ajayi came out of nowhere with 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns. I wouldn’t anticipate a repeat performance. Also, Ryan Tannehill is one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the league right now. Even the coaches aren’t sure if he is a franchise quarterback. It would be surprising if they won against the Bills next week.

30. Chicago Bears 1-5 (last week’s ranking: 28th) – The Bears may be 1-5, but they’ve had a few close losses. They aren’t a very good team, but they’re not really awful either. Since Brian Hoyer has taken over at quarterback, their offense has been decent. Hoyer has been limiting turnovers and he’s done an excelling job getting the ball in the hands of his receivers. With Kevin White and Jeremy Langford both out for extended periods of time, Cameron Meredith and Jordan Howard have stepped up big in their place. Their offensive line has played well, too. Defensively, they have a pretty good group of linebackers, but their defensive line has struggled to control the line of the scrimmage. Their secondary isn’t very good either. They’ll face the struggling Packers on Thursday Night Football.

31. San Francisco 49ers 1-5 (last week’s ranking: 31st) – The Niners were once again blown out on Sunday, getting crushed by the Bills 45-16. They decided to insert Colin Kaepernick into their starting lineup over Blaine Gabbert and it didn’t really help. While Gabbert wasn’t good, he at least managed the offense well. Kaepernick is one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the NFL. He makes easy throws look difficult, but sometimes makes difficult throws look easy. Kaepernick is clearly not the solution for this offense and they simply don’t have the playmakers to succeed. The Niners’ defense doesn’t have much to get excited about either. They have a few good, young players like DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Rashard Robinson, but it’s an otherwise pathetic defense. They may be able to notch a win this week against the Bucs, though.

32. Cleveland Browns 0-6 (last week’s ranking: 32nd) – Nothing more can be said about the Browns that hasn’t already been said. It’s the same story every week. There’s nothing that this team does well on a consistent basis. They’ve already gone through more quarterbacks this season than some teams have gone through in the last decade. They had a chance against the Titans this week, and they lost by just two points. That may be the closest they come to winning all season. It’s going to be a long season for the Browns and it won’t get any easier as they face the Bengals this week.

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Photo of the Month – November

(Photo by Brandon Koodish - Double G Media)

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