NFL Power Rankings: Week 6
The NFL seems to have more parody than it ever has. Many teams have been winning games they have no business winning. Other teams have been losing against teams they should have no problem handling. 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: 2) – The Vikings are the lone undefeated team in the NFL. That’s why they sit atop these rankings. Sam Bradford is playing the best football in his career and the Vikes’ defense is scary good right now. They may have surpassed the Broncos for the title of “NFL’s best defense”. They’re so good on every level. Their pass rush is fearsome and their secondary has been excellent in coverage. I feel bad for every quarterback that has to face this team at some point this season. Fortunately for the rest of the NFL, no one has to play them next week as they are on bye.
2. New England Patriots 4-1 (last week’s ranking: 4) – Well, Tom Brady is back and the Patriots are dominant yet again. Shocker. As long as Brady and Bill Belichick are there in New England, they will be perennial contenders to win a championship. Not only is this Brady’s best surrounding offense in some time, but this is also the best the Patriots have been defensively in years. They’ll host the struggling Bengals next week.
3. Denver Broncos 4-1 (last week’s ranking: 1) – The Broncos suffered their first loss in some time on Sunday, losing to the red hot Atlanta Falcons. Defensively, the Broncos were still great, but they may have seen their biggest weakness exploited. The Broncos’ linebackers aren’t the best in space without Danny Trevathan. They struggled to stop the run as well as cover the backs out of the backfield. This is just a minor flaw in their defense, but when facing a team like the Falcons, it certainly hurt them. Also, without Trevor Siemian offensively, they struggled a bit. Paxton Lynch was not great in his first start. It’ll be interesting to see if Siemian can return for their Thursday night game in San Diego.
4. Seattle Seahawks 3-1 (last week’s ranking: 3) – The Seahawks were on bye this week, but they move down because the Patriots returned to dominance. Next week, they host the Falcons, in what should be a great test for the Seattle defense.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers 4-1 (last week’s ranking: 5) – While they continue to dominate, I just can’t put the Steelers ahead of the Seahawks just yet. Pittsburgh’s offense is still among the NFL’s best. Ben Roethlisberger has been excellent this season and with Le’Veon Bell back and rolling, the Steelers are nearly unstoppable. Defensively, however, the Steelers have plenty of weaknesses. They should get an easy win next week in Miami.
6. Atlanta Falcons 4-1 (last week’s ranking: 11) – The Atlanta Falcons are for real. They just knocked off the Broncos in what may be their most impressive win of the season. Not only did they go into Denver and put up a decent amount of points (23), but they were very good defensively as well. The Falcons are no longer a two-man offense anymore. It used to be just Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. While they can still tear it up, Ryan has plenty of other weapons as well as a great offensive line. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were the real MVP’s on Sunday, making the Broncos’ linebackers look outmatched. In the last two weeks, the Falcons have done a great job of exploiting their opponents’ weaknesses. We’ll see if they can do it again next week in Seattle.
7. Green Bay Packers 3-1 (last week’s ranking: 6) – Coming off their bye week, the Packers didn’t look as fresh as I would’ve anticipated in their game against the Giants Sunday night. They won the game and still look like one of the NFL’s better teams, but Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been his usual self. Offensively, the Packers have so much talent and they should be one of the league’s top offenses. They haven’t really played like it. On defense, the Packers have been solid this year and they have a rather talented unit. They’ll face a tough test next week when they take on the Cowboys.
8. Oakland Raiders 4-1 (last week’s ranking: 9) – No team has won more close games than the Raiders. In recent years, they’ve been on the losing side of such games, but this season, they’ve been coming out on top. Derek Carr has evolved into one of the better quarterbacks in football and, behind a talented offensive line, he’s helped this offense become one of the more exciting and high powered groups in the league. Defensively, the Raiders don’t have all the pieces to be one of the NFL’s better units, but with the offense they have, it’s good enough to win. One player that needs to step up is Khalil Mack. He’s one of the NFL’s best defenders, but he hasn’t played like it this year. If (or I should say when) he turns it around, look out. Next week’s game against the division rival Chiefs will be another test for this young Raiders team.
9. Dallas Cowboys 4-1 (last week’s ranking: 13) – For the first time this season, I’m convinced the Cowboys are legit. The ‘Boys dominated the Bengals and held a 28-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter. They used their excellent run game, behind rookie stud Ezekiel Elliott and their incredible offensive line, to control the game. The Cowboys have done an excellent job setting up rookie quarterback Dak Prescott for success. Their style of offense has allowed them to keep their defense off the field. They’re not great on defense, but if one player has stood out, it’s Morris Claiborne. He has been labeled a bust for most of his career, but he seems to be really turning it around. If the Cowboys can beat the Packers next week, they’ll have to be taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders.
10. Philadelphia Eagles 3-1 (last week’s ranking: 7) – And just like that, the hot start for the Eagles is over. Their impressive win over the Steelers feels like it was a long time ago. I was never really sold on the Eagles, mainly because their first two wins game against the NFL’s bottom feeders. Coming off a bye week, a loss to the Lions is inexcusable. Carson Wentz still played well and he’s certainly a good quarterback. It’s way too early to call him great, though. He didn’t do what he needed to do to get his team a win against an inferior team. The Eagles still have a great front seven, but the back end of their defense isn’t that good. Offensively, they lack a true identity. They don’t have a great run game and Wentz isn’t the type of quarterback who can carry an offense on his arm. I think the Eagles have a ways to go to prove themselves as legitimate contenders and a win against the Redskins next week would be a good start.
11. Kansas City Chiefs 2-2 (last week’s ranking: 10) – Despite being a bye this week, the Chiefs move down a spot, simply because of how good the Cowboys looked. Next week, they’ve got a tough game against the Raiders. Fortunately for them, they’ve had plenty of time to prepare.
12. Cincinnati Bengals 2-3 (last week’s ranking: 8) – It seems like things never change in Cincy. In Marvin Lewis’ tenure as head coach, the Bengals have not been able to beat teams with winning records. That trend continued on Sunday as the Bengals lost to the Cowboys. The Bengals were never in this game as they were down 28-0 heading into the fourth quarter. They have plenty of talent, but there are just not enough impact players on this team. They were much worse on offense this week as they couldn’t run the ball at all and Andy Dalton struggled until tossing a pair of touchdowns in the final frame. It doesn’t get any easier for this team as they have to travel to Foxborough to face the Pats.
13. Buffalo Bills 3-2 (last week’s ranking: 14) – The Bills have done an excellent job turning around their season. After the first two games, they looked poised to be one of the most disappointing teams in football. Since then, they’ve won three straight games, including impressive wins against the Cardinals and Patriots. Now, after a win against the surprisingly tough Rams, the Bills are looking like a potential playoff contender. They’ve got an excellent run game with LeSean McCoy and when quarterback Tyrod Taylor plays well, this team can beat anyone. The Bills’ strength is their defense. Their pass rush is among the league’s best and they have an excellent, young secondary. They should have no problem handling the 49ers next week.
14. Arizona Cardinals 2-3 (last week’s ranking: 18) – While beating the 49ers isn’t impressive, the Cardinals did it easily and without starting quarterback Carson Palmer. With Drew Stanton throwing the ball, the Cards’ offense stalled in the first half, scoring just seven points. They would go on to score 24 points in the second half on the back of star running back David Johnson. Their defense was excellent as well, registering seven sacks and forcing three turnovers. No one has questioned the Cardinals talent, they just need to start playing better as a team. I certainly anticipate that happening and it should continue next week against the Jets on Monday Night Football.
15. Houston Texans 3-2 (last week’s ranking: 12) – Early in the season, the Texans were looking like true contenders. Their offense was great with all their new weapons and their defense was as good as it has been in recent years. In the last few weeks, however, the Texans have looked like frauds. Brock Osweiler has not been good, and the Texans’ offensive line has been terrible, limiting their run game. They’re still solid defensively, but they simply won’t be the same without J.J. Watt. Next Sunday night, they have a pivotal matchup against the Colts.
16. Los Angeles Rams 3-2 (last week’s ranking: 15) – The Rams are another team I’ve never really believed in. This recent loss to the Bills proves they aren’t a great team. They have a very good defense and they may have the NFL’s best defensive line, but the back end is still very vulnerable and it could be even worse if Trumaine Johnson misses any time. The Rams’ offense is awful and I have no idea why they haven’t put in first overall pick Jared Goff yet. Either way, this offense isn’t scaring anyone. They play the Lions next week.
17. Baltimore Ravens 3-2 (last week’s ranking: 16) – Another team I’ve always been skeptical of, the Ravens lost another close game, this time to the Redskins. The Redskins aren’t a great team, so losing to them is not a good look for a Ravens team that has playoff hopes. The Ravens have taken advantage of their easy schedule so far this season. Now, they’ve lost two in a row and their offense has been so bad, they fired their offensive coordinator, Marc Trestman. Their defense has still been pretty good, especially the front seven, but until their offense plays better, this team can expect to keep losing. Next week, they’ll take on the Giants.
18. New York Giants 2-3 (last week’s ranking: 17) – The good news? Odell Beckham made up with the kicking net. The bad news? The Giants dropped their third straight game. Beckham has been a real distraction this season with his antics on the sideline and he hasn’t played his best football on the field either. The Giants’ offense has struggled mightily this season and this time, it’s not because of their offensive line. Their line has been one of the best units in the league to this point, but Eli Manning has been playing some of the worst football of his career (outside of the 2013 season). Defensively, the G-Men have yet to gel as a unit, but there’s plenty of talent there, outside of the linebacker position. The Giants better figure out their offensive woes before the Ravens come into town next week.
19. Washington Redskins 3-2 (last week’s ranking: 21) – Similarly to the Bills, the Redskins have won three games in a row after an 0-2 start. The main thing keeping the Redskins down on the list is the fact that they haven’t beaten any really good teams. Another problem is that the Redskins just don’t have that much talent. They’re just a couple plays away from being a 1-4 team right now. Their passing game is effective, but only when Kirk Cousins plays well, which isn’t all the time. They have no run game and their defense is not great either. I still wouldn’t be surprised if they beat the rival Eagles next week.
20. Indianapolis Colts 2-3 (last week’s ranking: 22) – It has become pretty clear that the Colts are a one man show. While they sit at just 2-3, they’ve been in every game they’ve played this year and, more often than not, have been let down by their defense. Andrew Luck has single-handedly carried this team and he’s been doing it since he was drafted in 2012. Despite the win, the Colts are in serious trouble. They allowed Luck to get sacked five times, bringing the total to 20 so far this season and 11 in the last two games. They’ve been able to run the ball, but they tend to abandon the run early in games. The defense has been terrible. There’s been no pass rush and the run defense hasn’t been there either. They’ve been undisciplined, committing too many penalties and missing tackles. Yet, somehow, they’re playing for first place next Sunday night against the Texans.
21. Carolina Panthers 1-4 (last week’s ranking: 19) – Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Having gone from the NFC Champion to last place in a weak division, the Panthers have been a major let down. Cam Newton didn’t play on Monday night and it was clearly a problem for the Panthers. Not that his replacement, Derek Anderson, played really bad, he’s just not as good as Cam. Greg Olsen has been as dominant as ever, but Kelvin Benjamin and the other receivers need to make more of an impact. Defensively, the Panthers have still been pretty good, but their inexperience in the secondary is hurting them and the front seven hasn’t played as well as it did last season. If they lose in New Orleans next week, their season may be over.
22. New York Jets 1-4 (last week’s ranking: 20) – What a disappointing start for the Jets. To be fair, their schedule has been incredibly tough, but it’s not like they’ve been keeping games close. The Jets’ offense has struggled, as Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown just five touchdowns to ten interceptions so far this year. They’ve had no real semblance of a running game either. Defensively, the Jets have one of the best defensive lines in football, but the rest of the defense hasn’t played well. The secondary is a major problem with Revis being injured and not playing well when healthy. The aforementioned tough schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Jets travel to Arizona on Monday night.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars 1-3 (last week’s ranking: 23) – The Jags had their bye this week after playing in London, so they don’t go anywhere. They’ve got a relatively easy matchup with the Bears next week.
24. Tennessee Titans 2-3 (last week’s ranking: 28) – This young Titans team has actually been rather decent this year. They’re certainly not the push-over they were last season. Marcus Mariota is a solid quarterback and if he play well, this offense can be tough to stop. They have an excellent, young offensive line protecting their young quarterback. Defensively, their pass rush looks much improved from last season and they have been much better in the secondary as well. This team is still a work in progress and they probably won’t contend for the playoffs, but they’re not as far off as most people think. They’ve got a very winnable game at home against the Browns next week.
25. Detroit Lions 2-3 (last week’s ranking: 27) – The Lions should be thanking cornerback Darius Slay for that win. On the Eagles’ last two possessions, Slay forced a fumble on Ryan Mathews, allowing the Lions to take the lead with a field goal. Then, on the ensuing Eagles’ possession, he picked off Carson Wentz to seal the game. The Lions have been an inconsistent team. They’ve gotten into shootouts as well as low scoring games. It seems like when their offense does well, the defense struggles and when the defense does well, the offense struggles. They have the pieces on both sides of the ball to win games; they just can’t seem to all play well as a team at the same time. Next week’s matchup with the Rams will be an interesting one.
26. New Orleans Saints 1-3 (last week’s ranking: 24) – After getting their first win of the season, the Saints had their bye week this week. Next week, they’ll host the division rival Panthers.
27. San Diego Chargers 1-4 (last week’s ranking: 25) – Philip Rivers put it best on the sideline Sunday when he said, “We’re the Bad News Bears, man.” The Chargers could not be a more unlucky team and I feel bad for Rivers and head coach Mike McCoy. They’ve essentially fumbled away the last three games. They’ve also been hit by the injury bug more than any other team. They’ve kept all their games close, but they haven’t been able to come away with victories. We’ll see how they fare Thursday night against the Broncos.
28. Chicago Bears 1-4 (last week’s ranking: 30) – Is it possible that the Bears are actually better with Brian Hoyer under center? It looks like it. Jay Cutler has been a disappointment for the Bears since he signed that massive contract a few years ago. He just seems to have a negative effect on this team. Either way, the Bears don’t have much talent. A couple bright spots recently have been rookie running back Jordan Howard and receiver Cameron Meredith. On defense, they managed to rack up five sacks, but outside of those sacks, they only hit Luck twice, meaning there wasn’t consistent pressure. Next week’s they’ll host the Jags.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-3 (last week’s ranking: 29) – Playing on Monday Night Football, against the Cam Newton-less Panthers, the Bucs narrowly escaped with a victory. The Bucs have remained committed to running the football this season, but they haven’t been effective. On the season, the team is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. Jameis Winston is certainly a talented, young quarterback, but he needs to cut back on mistakes and become more consistent. When he plays well, this offense is dangerous. Defensively, the Bucs aren’t terrible, but there isn’t anything they do particularly well either. They’re off on bye next week.
30. Miami Dolphins 1-4 (last week’s ranking: 26) – The Dolphins were just flat out terrible on Sunday. Their offensive line was pitiful, allowing Ryan Tannehill to be sacked seven times. For the second straight week, they managed just one offensive touchdown. They were also terrible defensively, as they couldn’t stop Mariota and DeMarco Murray. The Dolphins are an absolute mess and they’re currently one of the worst teams in football. They don’t stand a chance against the Steelers next week.
31. San Francisco 49ers 1-4 (last week’s ranking: 31) – Let’s be honest here, the 49ers are a wreck. They’ve looked horrendous on both sides of the ball this season. They can’t stop the run like they used to (especially with Navarro Bowman out for the year) and outside of rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson, there simply aren’t any bright spots in the secondary. Offensively, Blaine Gabbert has been awful. The offensive line can’t pass protect and, outside of Jeremy Kerley in recent weeks, no receivers have stepped up and made plays. The only bright spot offensively for the 49ers is Carlos Hyde. He’s a beast, there’s just no talent around him. Colin Kaepernick is now expected to start next week against the Bills. We’ll see how that goes, but it’ll certainly be interesting.
32. Cleveland Browns 0-5 (last week’s ranking: 32) – I hate to be so brash here, but the Browns just flat out suck. They don’t do anything well and their quarterbacks are dropping like flies. I don’t know why they don’t just give Terrelle Pryor a shot to start at quarterback. Maybe it’s because without him, they have no one to catch the ball. Either way, the Browns seem destined for the number one pick in the 2017 draft and hopefully they use it on a quarterback. Even against the Titans next week, the Browns still don’t look like they have a shot at winning.