It finally feels like the NFL contenders are beginning to separate themselves. It was a week that saw both undefeated teams emerge with comfortable victories and maybe of the fringe contenders drop a game to cast doubt on their merits of being included in that tier. Six weeks into the NFL season, I think we are starting to see which teams look built for the long haul and which teams might still be a few pieces away from contending. Lombardi trophies are not won in October, but I would say the number of teams I believe have a shot at winning the Super Bowl is down to maybe 12.
We are also headed into a crucial Week 7. The results of this upcoming slate of games will likely greatly impact the NFL landscape for the rest of the year. With the trade deadline looming, it will be time for those middling contenders to decide to stand pat, or make a move to bolster their championship chances. Despite the early successes of the Patriots and 49ers, both have clear needs that could be addressed in the trade market. While a loss for either of those teams would not change course, losses by say the Titans or Broncos or Chargers could have those teams much more willing to trade away a player to a contender. Bottom line is, this week is going to be make or break for a lot of NFL teams’ seasons. There is a massive difference between being 3-4 and 2-5 as you approach the halfway point. Now enough of my trade ramblings for now (I will be doing an article on this later in the week), time for some power rankings.
1. New England Patriots: 6-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 35-14 vs. New York
Who says Tom Brady can’t get it done with his legs? Brady scored a pair of rushing touchdowns as the defense continued to play lights out in a commanding win. There is no question there are still areas for growth on this roster as the receiving core remains banged up. Tight end also feels like a major position of need. However, this defense might honestly be good enough that with no additions, New England could still win the Super Bowl.
2. New Orleans Saints: 5-1 (Last Week: 2)
Won 13-6 at Jacksonville
Who dat gonna score on this defense? New Orleans looked sharp again on that side of the ball, prompting Sean Payton to say he didn’t think Jacksonville would have reached the end zone if they had played eight quarters of football. It was another grind it out type of win for the Saints, but there are no style points in the NFL. The offense has another tough task ahead of it though with a trip to Chicago on the horizon, but if the defense plays at this level, all Teddy Bridgewater might have to do to win is avoid turning the ball over.
3. San Francisco 49ers: 5-0 (Last Week: 6)
Won 20-7 at Los Angeles
No more sleeping on this group. San Francisco’s defense is the real deal. Any group that is capable of shutting down the Rams offense demands respect. Jared Goff looked like an overmatched quarterback trying to figure out where the pressure was coming from next. Now, the offense still seems like a work in progress. Jimmy Garappolo threw a truly head-scratching interception in the end zone. On top of that, despite 41 attempts on the ground, the 49ers only managed 99 yards rushing. This is a brand of football the Niners can certainly win with, but it is going to require a bit more offensive production to be considered a true Super Bowl favorite.
4. Seattle Seahawks: 5-1 (Last Week: 5)
Won 32-28 at Cleveland
Seattle definitely got some help from a hapless group of Cleveland receivers not named Odell Beckham Jr., but this was another quality trip for Russell Wilson and company. The Seahawks relied on their bruising identity by running the ball 38 times. This game was a lot closer than Pete Carroll would have liked it to be, but picking up a road win is hardly something to complain about. Seattle needs a bit more production from the defensive line, which failed to record a sack. That is going to be necessary if a division title is the goal at the end of the year.
5. Green Bay Packers: 5-1 (Last Week: 4)
Won 23-22 vs. Detroit
That was about as tight as it gets. Green Bay never led in this game. At least not while there was any time remaining on the clock. Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal as time expired gave the Packers their first lead of the night. It was a very solid showing from a defense that managed three sacks and held Detroit to just 2.8 yards per rush. It was not a convincing outing in any sense of the word, but a win is a win. Green Bay keeps pace with the rest of the NFC in the win column and maintains that buffer in the division. Now it just has to pray for Davante Adams to return from injury to get back on track offensively.
6. Kansas City Chiefs: 4-2 (Last Week: 3)
Lost 31-24 vs. Houston
This is starting to become a real issue for the Chiefs. One week after being stunned by the Colts at home, the defense had no answer for the Texans and dropped another one at Arrowhead. As prolific as the offense might be, it has to be on the field in order to score. It was on the sideline for the vast majority of this game, with just 20 minutes time of possession. It was the same blueprint from Indy used again and Kansas City had no way to stop it. If this team is serious about making a deep postseason run, it is going to need to make at least one move at the deadline to bolster this struggling defense.
7. Houston Texans: 4-2 (Last Week: 12)
Won 31-24 at Kansas City
Suddenly, the Texans offensive line can pass protect and run block. Houston didn’t allow a sack for the second straight week and produced an impressive 4.7 yards per attempt average. The defense did a good job of pressuring Patrick Mahomes consistently. If Deshaun Watson can avoid interceptions, he had two Sunday, this team is going to be very hard to beat. Give the Colts credit for designing the gameplan, but the Texans still had to execute it. Holding the ball for 40 minutes is definitely the best way to limit the impact of that high-powered Chiefs offense.
8. Buffalo Bills: 4-1 (Last Week: 10)
Buffalo had a week off to rest up and feel pretty good about its standing in the AFC. Technically, just one team in the conference has a better record than the Bills, and that would be the only team to beat the them this season. Buffalo is continuing to develop depth across the offense. Devin Singletary is nearing a return from injury and Josh Allen is continuing to improve as a passer. The Bills will not need to score many points to win games given the level of play of its defense. Thankfully, points shouldn’t be hard to come by with the Dolphins coming up next.
9. Minnesota Vikings: 4-2 (Last Week: 17)
Won 38-20 vs. Philadelphia
This seems like a massive jump for the Vikings, but it was exactly the type of showing Kirk Cousins needed to have. Yes, I understand it was against a really bad secondary, but when you look around the NFL, are there a ton of other teams you feel better about than Minnesota right now? The losses have been rather close, even if they were disheartening, and the Vikings have taken care of all the other teams on the schedule in convincing fashion. All of that will be worthless though if the Vikings offense goes missing again next week against the Lions. A decisive win in Detroit would go a long way to silencing the doubters.
10. Baltimore Ravens: 4-2 (Last Week: 13)
Won 23-17 vs. Cincinnati
Baltimore seems capable of grinding out victories and finding new offensive players to step up pretty much every week. Lamar Jackson completed passes to nine different players. The second-year signal caller also ran for an incredible 152 yards. Give some credit to this defense as well. It bottled up Joe Mixon, holding him to just 10 yards rushing on eight carries. A late drive from Andy Dalton made this look a bit closer than it really was, but the Ravens were in control for most of this one. This group still has a lot of room for improvement, but has to feel good about a two-game lead in the AFC North.
11. Detroit Lions: 2-2-1 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 23-22 at Green Bay
If you ask me, Detroit outplayed Green Bay on Monday night at Lambeau. Close only counts in horseshoes, but there is still a lot of reason for optimism. While it is easy to point at poor officiating as the reason for this unfortunate result from the Lions perspective, a lot of the blame should still fall on the offense. Matt Stafford and company could easily have built a 17 or even 21-point lead in the first half, but settled for field goals way too often. While Matt Prater is great, you aren’t going to beat the Packers by scoring just one touchdown. This goes to show Detroit is capable of hanging with anyone in the division, but there is still lot of room for improvement.
12. Los Angeles Rams: 3-3 (Last Week: 7)
Lost 20-7 vs. San Francisco
Jared Goff is wanted for robbery in Los Angeles after signing a massive $134 million deal a few months back. After managing just 78 passing yards against the 49ers, there is real cause for concern here. There is no question the San Francisco defense is legitimate, but this was the third straight week the offense struggled and consequently lost. It is too early to really panic about a playoff run, which I know I also said last week. The next three games on LA’s schedule are against Atlanta, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. No, the real concern here is regarding this team’s ability to compete with the top tier teams in the conference, something it was expected to do well coming off a Super Bowl appearance.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: 3-3 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 38-20 at Minnesota
That was about as ugly as it gets from this secondary. Philly needs help at corner, and it showed up again and again … and again in Minnesota. After now-former linebacker Zach Brown called out Kirk Cousins, the Vikings quarterback tossed four touchdowns and threw for 333 yards. The Eagles also needed more from a pass rush that managed just one sack and really failed to disrupt the opposing offense much. The defense did contain Dalvin Cook, but that was all for naught as Alexander Mattison proved a steady option in the run game. Philly does have the benefit of being tied for the lead in the NFC East, but these problems that cropped up Sunday show no signs of going away any time soon.
14. Chicago Bears: 3-2 (Last Week 14)
While getting healthy on the bye week is important, so is finding a way to recalibrate the offense. Matt Nagy had a very similar group to this one humming last year, but consistency is a tough thing to find in the NFL these days. Mitchell Trubisky could be back in time for Chicago’s upcoming game against the Saints, but he will need to play at a much higher level to score against a New Orleans defense that is allowing 14 points per game in its past three contests. The Bears boast a talented defense of their own, but they need to find a way to score some points in order to make the most of it.
15. Dallas Cowboys: 3-3 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 24-22 at New York
Many predicted it would take a catastrophe for the Cowboys to lose to the Jets. I will leave it up to you what exactly the catastrophe was in Dallas’ loss, but it clearly overlooked its opponent. With an important divisional battle against the Eagles coming up, that is somewhat understandable, but finding a way to go down 21-6 at halftime to the Jets is not. Yes, Sam Darnold was back, but this was the same offensive line that gave up 10 sacks to Philly a week before. Banged up and facing some real adversity, a loss to the Eagles to cede the division lead midway through the season would see fans call for Jason Garrett to be fired, or just intensify the already existing pleas for action.
16. Carolina Panthers: 4-2 (Last Week: 16)
Won 37-26 at Tampa Bay (London)
Suddenly the Panthers seem to be in a great spot to earn a wild card berth. Keep in mind this team did start 6-2 last year, only to finish 7-9. Christian McCaffrey ran the ball 22 times for 31 yards, not exactly setting the world on fire like he had the previous few weeks. Still, he managed two touchdowns in a winning effort. Kyle Allen seems to be getting more comfortable as the offense finds the best way to use Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore. Carolina’s defense came up with an outrageous six turnovers in London as well. Cam Newton is rumored to be back following the upcoming bye week, but there is some question as to whether or not they should take the offense away from Allen, who has played very well in relief.
17. Indianapolis Colts: 3-2 (Last Week: 15)
Beating the Chiefs is still really impressive, but it looks a lot less impressive after the Texans did it the very next week. Still Indy had a chance to get healthy on a bye week. Injuries to T.Y. Hilton, Darius Leonard and Malik Hooker have made it really difficult for this team to play at its full potential. Assuming the Colts get everyone back on the field, they have a schedule stacked with winable games ahead of them. That starts with a visit from the Texans this week, a potential statement game for Indy.
18. Oakland Raiders: 3-2 (Last Week: 18)
Oakland got to rest up after a trip to London and had to love what it saw. Kansas City dropped its second in a row while Los Angeles failed to beat a banged up Pittsburgh team at home. Suddenly, the Raiders sit just half a game back of the Chiefs for the AFC West lead. While there have been flashes of excellence, we will learn a lot about the Raiders over the next three weeks. Road games in Green Bay and Houston before returning home to face Detroit will likely make or break the season. If Oakland can find a way to win two of those three, there will be a lot of playoff buzz.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers: 2-4 (Last Week: 23)
Won 24-17 at Los Angeles
Don’t look now, but this Steelers defense is rounding into form. While many will choose to focus on the solid ground game, it was really the defense that made the difference in LA. Pittsburgh intercepted two passes and rookie Devin Bush returned a fumble for a touchdown. There is still a bit of a ways to go, but winning a game with your third-string quarterback is always impressive. With a bye week to get healthy, the Steelers then face the Dolphins. Looking at the rest of the schedule, don’t be surprised if they make things interesting in the AFC North before all is said and done.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2-4 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 13-6 vs. New Orleans
That Minshew magic Jacksonville rode to open the year is beginning to fade a bit. The Jags mustered just 226 yards of total offense in this one and failed to reach the end zone. Now, New Orleans has arguably the best defense in the NFC, although San Francisco might take issue with that. The Jaguars defense had about as strong of a showing as you could ask for, but it wasn’t enough. This was essentially a reversal of last week’s performance, where the offense showed up, but the defense faltered. Bottom line is this team needs to find a way to play a complete game if it wants to find a way to stay within reach of the Texans.
21. Denver Broncos: 2-4 (Last Week: 26)
Won 16-0 vs. Tennessee
After a really tough start, Denver has righted the ship and now looks a bit more like the team we expected, at least defensively. The offense still has a lot of work to do. The tandem of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman continues to be the bright spot. Joe Flacco actually played alright, as the interception he threw was 100 percent Noah Fant’s fault. Vic Fangio finally has the defense playing the way he wants them to, if the offense can begin to catch up, maybe the Broncos could turn into a Cinderella story.
22. Cleveland Browns: 2-4 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 32-28 vs. Seattle
This offense is broken. It has been a rotating circuit of who to blame in Cleveland as the losses have piled up. Last week, it was the offensive line and Baker Mayfield. This week, the blame lies almost solely with the receivers. Drops led to turnovers and a lack of rhythm offensively. There is a high ceiling for this group, as we saw in a big win over the Ravens. However, the floor is incredibly low as well. Now two games back in the AFC North heading into a bye week, Freddy Kitchens has to find a way to reset this offense before a matchup with the Patriots.
23. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-4 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 24-17 vs. Steelers
Turns out the Chargers were not ready for a title run this year after all. After a great 2018 season, Los Angeles is floundering. Somehow, it went down 21-0 very quickly to Delvin Hodges making his first NFL start. Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler could not run the ball against the Pittsburgh defensive front, averaging 2.4 yards per carry between them. Injuries have certainly plagued this group, but the issues for the Chargers go well beyond that. Anthony Lynn gets to face another struggling team in the Titans next week, with hopes this team can stop the bleeding. On the bright side, welcome back Hunter Henry!
24. Tennessee Titans: 2-4 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 16-0 at Denver
Tennessee finally pulled the plug on the Marcus Mariota era. After years of inconsistent production, the former Oregon quarterback found himself on the bench halfway through Sunday’s loss to Denver. He threw a pair of interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes. Despite the game-ending interception, Ryan Tannehill looked a lot better in Mariota’s place. Still the Titans were shutout and seem to lack direction on the offensive side of the ball. This team’s starting quarterback for 2020 is likely not on the current roster.
25. New York Giants: 2-4 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 35-14 at New England
Without Saquon Barkley or Wayne Gallman, a lot was asked of Daniel Jones. That didn’t go very well for the Giants facing the best defense in the NFL. Jones struggled, tossing three interceptions and mustering just 161 yards. He got very little help from the run game or the defense. Keep in mind, New York was also missing Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram as well. In better news, Golden Tate seems to be integrating himself well. Once healthy, we should start to see a more competitive Giants team the rest of the way.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-4 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 37-26 vs. Carolina (London)
Tampa Bay’s win over the Rams is looking worse by the week and their own play isn’t helping things either. Jameis Winston had six turnovers in this game. Yes, six. He threw five interceptions and fumbled it once as well. Any time Winston is asked to throw the ball 54 times in the game, things probably aren’t going to go well for the Buccaneers. The ground game completely disappeared once again. On the bright side, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are a great receiving pair. When the offensive line gives up seven sacks though, their impact doesn’t really matter.
27. Arizona Cardinals: 2-3-1 (Last Week: 28)
Won 34-33 vs. Atlanta
It only takes two to start a win steak and that’s exactly what the Cardinals have done. Kyler Murray balled out with 340 yards passing and three touchdowns. The defense played really well through three quarters, but struggled down the stretch again. This secondary needs help in the worst way possible. Both Austin Hooper and Julio Jones went over 100 yards receiving and Matt Ryan had another huge day. In the end, it was another fourth quarter full of questionable play, but Arizona will take the win.
28. New York Jets: 1-4 (Last Week: 31)
Won 24-22 vs. Dallas
Never in a million years would I have thought the Jets would win this game. I had this pegged as a 31-10 win for the Cowboys, no questions asked. Turns out Sam Darnold makes a very big difference, or at least he is a lot better than Luke Falk and Trevor Seimien. Entering the game, New York was averaging 113.5 yards per game through the air. Darnold had 338. Let’s be clear, this does not mean everything is fixed. The offense slowed down significantly in the second half. Dallas was fairly banged up along the offensive line as well. Another tough matchup awaits with the Patriots visiting on Monday night.
29. Atlanta Falcons: 1-5 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 34-33 at Arizona
Oh what could have been. Matt Bryant missed an extra point that would have tied the game at 34. The Cardinals were able to run out the clock on the Falcons’ incredible comeback bid. Atlanta trailed 27-10 in the early stages of the third quarter after all. Instead, this leaves Atlanta with a bitter taste in its mouth. Matt Ryan was masterful again, but it means nothing when the defense fails to show up. It was another defensive meltdown. Atlanta had no answer for Kyler Murray or David Johnson. Rumor has it Dan Quinn is safe, but that won’t be true much longer if the defense keeps it up.
30. Washington: 1-5 (Last Week: 30)
Won 17-16 at Miami
Bill Callahan is undefeated as the head coach in Washington! He might have done it in the least convincing way possible, as Miami came just a failed two-point conversion away from winning this game. Overall, Washington needs more out of the quarterback position, whoever is under center. There were some positives, as the defense came up with five sacks and two interceptions. It did completely wilt in the fourth quarter facing Ryan Fitzpatrick, but that can be a problem for another day. This win is significant insofar this group will not finish the season winless, but at 1-5 with holes all over the roster, the front office should be focused on draft prep and trading Trent Williams.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: 0-6 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 23-17 at Baltimore
Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow. These are all players the Bengals could draft next year in the top five, which is undoubtedly where this team is headed. Cincinnati opened the game with a bang, returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. After that, it was a whole lot of disappointing offensive play with a side of inability to stop Lamar Jackson. It was a spirited comeback attempt, but this offensive line is a mess right now. Joe Mixon managed 1.3 yards per carry on 10 attempts. While the Bengals will likely have a new quarterback by next year, they will also need a new group to protect him.
32. Miami Dolphins: 0-5 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 17-16 vs. Washington
I would say this was the most Dolphins loss ever, but that would imply they had come close before in 2019. Miami managed to score, but went for the win with a two-point conversion attempt. The result was a dropped screen pass as the Dolphins continue to search for their first win. Josh Rosen had a day to forget and Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced him midway through the contest. Coach Brian Flores has already announced Rosen as the starter once again next week. This was the best the Fins did at disguising their tanking this season, so there is something positive to point to in the loss.
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