My goodness that was rough. This past week of NFL action might have been one of the worst ones I can remember. All three primetime games were blowouts. We had a mud bowl shutout in the Washington typically known for politics, not rain. The average margin in these 14 NFL games was 15 points. The closest thing we got to a thrilling finish was a replay-filled, goal line stand between two 2-4 teams in Nashville. In short, the past week of NFL action was brutal.
I know it’s not right to complain because I would beg to watch this slate of games in July, but wow it was so boring. Still, we did learn a lot about the NFL. Week 7 determined the direction of a lot of team’s seasons. The Titans still have hopes of a playoff run while the Chargers seem headed for a top-10 pick. It is clear the Broncos, Jets and Giants are still rebuilding, while the Cheifs, Rams and Cowboys got back on track. Patrick Mahomes’ injury looms over all other NFL headlines, but he should be back on the field relatively soon. Despite a boring week, we have lots of movement in the middle part of the rankings, including a shakeup to the top 10.
1. New England Patriots: 6-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 33-0 at New York
Dominant. That is the only word to describe New England’s play so far this season. The Patriots blanked the Jets on Monday Night Football. The honeymoon is over for the champs though as the schedule finally starts to get a bit tougher from here. The Browns and Ravens stand between the Pats and a bye week. After that, the Eagles, Cowboys and Chiefs all get a shot at knocking off Tom Brady and company. We are going to learn pretty soon if this team is one of the all-time greats, or just another solid Bill Belichick team with championship potential.
2. New Orleans Saints: 6-1 (Last Week: 2)
Won 36-25 at Chicago
New Orleans is making a very compelling case for being the best team in the league. The Saints have routinely faced down good competition and won. On Sunday, it was the defense that stole the show against a Bears team with a renown defense of it’s own. Don’t let the final score fool you, this was a blowout. Chicago could not get anything going offensively while Teddy Bridgewater dealt with the absences of Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook just fine. He might not be as prolific as Drew Brees, but Bridgewater deserves a lot of credit for the job he has done in keeping this team on track to make a deep postseason run again.
3. San Francisco 49ers: 6-0 (Last Week: 3)
Won 9-0 at Washington
The weather certainly helped, but San Francisco earned a shutout. Playing in the pouring rain on a terrible surface, I am throwing out basically all statistical significance in this one and focusing on a few other things. The 49ers are the NFC’s last remaining undefeated team and boast one of the best defenses in the league. On the flip side, Jimmy Garoppolo still does not seem like he has settled in this year. Things are going to get a lot tougher with the Panthers on tap.
4. Green Bay Packers: 6-1 (Last Week: 5)
Won 42-24 vs. Oakland
Aaron Rodgers put together a vintage performance Sunday, the likes of which we have not seen from him in some time. Well, we have not seen Rodgers put up numbers like this ever before, but he hasn’t played at that level in quite a while. On a day where many games turned into defensive slogs, it was refreshing to see. In addition to accounting for six touchdowns, five through the air and one on the ground, Rodgers earned a perfect passer rating. And that was all without top reciever Davante Adams. With Kansas City’s unreliable defense coming up, who knows what Rodgers might do next.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: 4-2 (Last Week: 6)
Won 30-6 at Denver
It is easy to forget Kansas City dominated Denver on Thursday because the attention immediately turned to the health of Patrick Mahomes. He dislocated his knee and his status is unclear for the weeks that lie ahead. The defense picked up the slack with nine sacks, but this is a huge loss for the Chiefs. With games against the Packers and Vikings up next, Andy Reid must find the balance between wanting to win crucial games and prioritizing getting his star quarterback healthy. The last thing anyone wants is for Mahomes to come back too soon and cost himself the season.
6. Baltimore Ravens: 5-2 (Last Week: 10)
Won 30-16 at Seattle
This was arguably Baltimore’s most complete game of the year. The defense came up with big plays, scoring a pair of touchdowns. Lamar Jackson turned in another incredible performance running the ball as well. There is still some room for improvement when it comes to his throwing ability, as Jackson was just 9 of 20 passing. In time, the Ravens will also need to rediscover a pass rush that has failed to show up consistently. It seems like the addition of Marcus Peters is already going to be a good one though as this team continues to pull away in the AFC North.
7. Seattle Seahawks: 5-2 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 30-16 vs. Baltimore
Sunday in Seattle saw the compounding of a lot issues and mistakes resulting in a surprisingly sound defeat. Russell Wilson threw his first interception of the year, which turned out to be a pick six. DK Metcalf inexplicably dropped the ball while running late in the game to seal the Seahawks’ fate, as that was also returned for a touchdown. In between, the defense struggled to contain Lamar Jackson. A lot of these same issues appeared in Seattle’s other loss this year to New Orleans. Taking care of the ball is important, but so is getting home with the pass rush and controlling the clock with the run game.
8. Minnesota Vikings: 5-2 (Last Week: 9)
Won 42-30 at Detroit
Kirk Cousins has gone from hack to hero in a very short time in Minnesota. He probably hasn’t put to bed all of his critics, but it was another stellar showing. He tossed four touchdowns and 337 yards as the Vikings rolled on offense. It wasn’t a perfect showing all around, as Minnesota seemed incapable of stopping Marvin Jones in the red zone. He scored four touchdowns in the contest, becoming just the third receiver in NFL history to accomplish that feat. With Washington up next, I think we might see another strong showing from this new version of Cousins.
9. Buffalo Bills: 5-1 (Last Week: 8)
Won 31-21 vs. Miami
For a while there, it looked like Miami would finally earn its first win of the year with a stunning upset of Buffalo. The Dolphins got out to an early lead and nearly managed an improbable comeback. Josh Allen and the offense got off to a pretty poor start, but tossed two second-half touchdowns to pull out the win. The Bills desperately need an infusion of talent at receiver and it is time to explore the trade market to find one. This team is trending toward the postseason and it’s time to start preparing for that.
10. Los Angeles Rams: 4-3 (Last Week: 12)
Won 37-10 at Atlanta
I had a feeling all the Rams needed was a get-right game and they had exactly that against a paltry Falcons defense. Jared Goff looked a lot more like he did last year en route to a Super Bowl appearance. Aaron Donald and the defense dominated, keeping Atlanta out of the end zone for the first three quarters. However, this running game is still nowhere to be found. Todd Gurley, Darrell Henderson and John Kelly managed 2.5 yards per carry against an unimpressive Falcons defense. Los Angeles does play the worst run defense in the NFL next week in Cincinnati, but that won’t solve everything.
11. Dallas Cowboys: 4-3 (Last Week: 15)
Won 37-10 vs. Philadelphia
Talk about a bounce back. Dallas beat the doors of Philadelphia to take the top spot in the NFC East. Ezekiel Elliott featured heavily, registering 147 yards of total offense on his own. The defense made a number of big plays, forcing three Eagles turnovers and giving Dak Prescott a level of comfort throughout the game. It certainly looks like that loss to the Jets was just a fluke and this team should be ready to defend its division title. There is still certainly room for improvement, but the Cowboys got back on track.
12. Indianapolis Colts: 4-2 (Last Week: 17)
Won 30-23 vs. Houston
Two months ago, I would have laughed at the idea the Colts could be leading the division after seven weeks of action. Here we are though with Indianapolis knocking off Houston to take sole ownership of first place in the AFC South. Jacoby Brissett continues to be clinical, executing without a whole lot of proven talent around him other than T.Y. Hilton. Indy’s success in the red zone has been particularly impressive so far. The Colts went four for four scoring touchdowns on Sunday. Punching the ball in when it gets close to the goal line has Indy eyeing the postseason once again.
13. Houston Texans: 4-3 (Last Week: 7)
Lost 30-23 at Indianapolis
Some of this can be blamed on suspect officiating, but this loss was a missed opportunity for the Texans. Turnovers plagued Houston again and this time the offense could not score enough to overcome them. Jacoby Brissett also picked apart the secondary to the tune of 326 yards and four touchdowns. A late-game safety didn’t help matters either. Houston already acted to improve the back end of the defense, trading for former first round pick Gareon Conley from Oakland. With corner Phillip Gaines out for the season, Conley should help lessen the blow. However, Houston is running dangerously low on draft capital and excuses for why it hasn’t taken control of this division.
14. Carolina Panthers: 4-2 (Last Week: 16)
Carolina is one of the most interesting teams in the NFL nearing the midway point. The Panthers have won four straight with a backup quarterback and now have a legitimate quarterback controversy. Cam Newton is nearing a return, but Kyle Allen is playing just fine. He will start next week against the 49ers, but after that, things might get tricky. I suggested on Monday Carolina should trade Newton to Tennessee, but maybe it is worth giving the former MVP a chance to compete at full health. It wasn’t that long ago he led the Panthers to a Super Bowl after all. Like I said, this is one of the most fascinating conundrums in the league.
15. Detroit Lions: 2-3-1 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 42-30 vs. Minnesota
Detroit might have felt slighted by their controversial loss in Green Bay last week, but it was soundly beaten by Minnesota. Kirk Cousins carved up the secondary for 337 yards and four touchdowns, wasting another strong performance from his Lions counterpart. Matthew Stafford had four touchdown passes of his own, all to Marvin Jones. Jones joined Jerry Rice and Sterling Sharpe as the only players in NFL history with four receiving scores in one game. All of that was for naught though as the Lions fall below .500. With Kerryon Johnson out for some time with a knee injury, Detroit might have to lean even more on Stafford.
16. Philadelphia Eagles: 3-4 (Last Week: 13)
Lost 37-10 at Dallas
Howie Roseman is going to be making a lot of phone calls this week looking to trade for a corner. Philly looked helpless trying to slow down Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Carson Wentz looked pedestrian once again despite some better play from the running game. Costly fumbles by Wentz and Dallas Goedert crushed the Eagles momentum and put the defense in way too many tough situations. At its best, Philadelphia is taking down the Packers. At its worst, the Eagles are losing to the Falcons and getting blown out by the Cowboys. Finding some consistency is going to be key the rest of the way.
17. Chicago Bears: 3-3 (Last Week 14)
Lost 36-25 vs. New Orleans
The Bears are in trouble. Mitchell Trubisky is missing open receivers and throwing into coverage. They cannot establish the run at all. Even this incredible defense cannot find ways to compensate for that. Matt Nagy has to find a way to get Trubisky back in rhythm and take some pressure off him. Starting the game by surrendering a safety doesn’t help that cause. This is a really good Saints team, but given the number of injuries New Orleans is dealing with at key positions, it was a disappointing loss.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars: 3-4 (Last Week: 20)
Won 27-17 at Cincinnati
Cincinnati provided a bit of scare, but Jacksonville survived its first game in the post-Jalen-Ramsey era. Gardner Minshew was not super sharp as he struggled to complete passes against that Bengals secondary, but he made some plays with his legs and handed the ball off to Leonard Fournette well. I joke a little bit about handing the ball off to Fournette, but it happened 29 times. He has already eclipsed his carry total from last year and seems to be fulfilling the potential the Jaguars saw when they drafted him. A strong running game and a talented defense is a combination that can win a lot of games in this league.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers: 2-4 (Last Week: 19)
No team in the NFL needed a bye week more than the Steelers. With Mason Rudolph making his way back from a brutal concussion, James Conner working through some nagging injuries and a banged up defense, Pittsburgh just needed some time to get healthy. The defense has been rounding into form in recent weeks since adding Minkah Fitzpatrick. It is still a long shot the Steelers will make a playoff run with a backup quarterback and an otherwise inexperienced roster, but they will get a chance to ease back into things with a visit from the Dolphins.
20. Tennessee Titans: 3-4 (Last Week: 24)
Won 23-20 vs. Los Angeles
It really wasn’t a sure thing until the very end, but Tennessee picked up a huge win to keep their hopes of challenging in the AFC South alive. The defense came up with a massive turnover on the final drive to preserve a slim victory. Ryan Tannehill was good not great with 312 yards through the air, two touchdowns and an interception. He played at a much higher level than what we had seen from Marcus Mariota in recent weeks, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Potentially lost in the shuffle, 2019 first round pick Jeffrey Simmons made his season debut and did not disappoint. He finished with a pair of tackles for loss and a sack. This team is going to be tricky to beat if it can take care of the football.
21. Oakland Raiders: 3-3 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 42-24 at Green Bay
That was incredibly rough. Oakland was on the wrong end of Aaron Rodgers’ resurgence as one of the great NFL quarterbacks. It was a day to forget for the secondary, which resulted in Gareon Conley being traded to Houston. Some of this loss can be pinned on unfortunate errors, namely Derek Carr fumbling the ball into the end zone for a touch back. That score would have put the Raiders up 17-14. Instead, the Packers drove downfield and made it 21-10 at half. That 14-point swing came at a crucial point in the game and Oakland never recovered. Being .500 is not a terrible thing for the Raiders, but the defense definitely needs to find some quick solutions.
22. Cleveland Browns: 2-4 (Last Week: 22)
This week off came at a very good time for the Browns, who needed some time off to solve their offensive issues. Part of it stems from a porous offensive line, which I think they should fix in the trade market. However, Cleveland only has three really tough games left on the schedule. The Patriots are up next, but then the Browns face the Broncos, Bills, Steelers, Dolphins, Steelers again, Bengals, Cardinals, Ravens and Bengals again. It is definitely not out of the question for Cleveland to win seven of those ten games and sneak into the playoffs at 9-7. Stranger things have happened in the NFL.
23. Arizona Cardinals: 3-3-1 (Last Week: 27)
Won 27-21 at New York
It might be against a weak schedule, the Cardinals have beaten the Giants, Bengals and Falcons, but this is one of the surprise stories of the year. Chase Edmonds powered this Arizona offense in David Johnson’s absence. He posted 126 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Arizona’s defense put together another solid showing in Patrick Peterson’s return. It’s a little early to start buying stock in this young Cardinals team, but it is clear they have greatly improved from a year ago.
24. Denver Broncos: 2-5 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 30-6 vs. Kansas City
If I told you the Broncos knocked Patrick Mahomes out of the game, you might’ve thought they kept it close, or maybe even won. Instead, Denver’s offense flopped against one of the worst defenses in the league. The offensive line looked awful, surrendering nine sacks. It was a long shot for the Broncos to turn the season around, but this loss set them back a ways. Real concerns exists at pretty much every level of this franchise. The year is not over, but there is a steep uphill climb.
25. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-5 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 23-20 at Tennessee
In case you hadn’t heard, Melvin Gordon is back at running back for the Chargers. That hasn’t been a good thing so far. Gordon rushed 16 times for 32 yards in Tennessee. Two yards per carry is not what you are looking for with your season quickly slipping away. Gordon also put the ball on the ground twice Sunday and the latter fumble cost his team the game. This loss does not all fall on Gordon, the defense could not shut down Ryan Tannehill making his first start as a Titan after all, but given the offseason Gordon had, he deserves a lot of criticism.
26. New York Giants: 2-5 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 27-21 vs. Arizona
Remember when Daniel Jones was the greatest thing since sliced bread? That comeback win against the Buccaneers was pretty spectacular, but since then, Jones has been terrible. In his past four games, Jones has thrown for less than 200 yards per contest while tossing four touchdowns compared to seven interceptions. He is a rookie quarterback after all. His offensive line did not help him a ton against Arizona, allowing eight sacks. That being said, Jones needs to work on getting rid of the football faster. He looked like he was playing in slow motion at times Sunday. New York feels very far from competing with the NFL’s elite.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-4 (Last Week: 26)
Tampa got a week off to try to solve it’s offensive woes. The last time we saw this team take the field, Jameis Winston was tossing five picks in London. There is one thing the Bucs do really well that is being overlooked. Tampa has allowed the fewest rushing yards per game so far this year. What might be more impressive is the fact the defense is allowing just 2.9 yards per carry on the season. The closest team to them is the Rams at 3.4. That means that teams trying to run the ball average a half-yard worse per carry than the next best run defense in the league. Tampa is elite at something, but now it is time to make that count.
28. New York Jets: 1-5 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 33-0 vs. New England
Oh, so that’s where the Jets went. Sam Darnold had one of the worst games by a quarterback in NFL history and the offense looked anemic once again. Obviously, it was against an otherworldly defense, but that was pathetic. The Jets offensive line cannot pass block and Darnold struggled to identify where the blitz was coming from. There was very little help from the running game as well. Overpaid corner Tremaine Johnson looks like he didn’t care at all either, getting beat all over the field. This team needs to find an identity on both sides of the ball.
29. Atlanta Falcons: 1-6 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 37-10 vs. Los Angeles
The Falcons’ season is officially out of control. In addition to getting blown out on Sunday, Devonta Freeman was ejected for punching Aaron Donald in the facemask and Matt Ryan left with an ankle injury. Needless to say, Sunday was rough. If there is one bright side, the run defense looked pretty good, holding the Rams to just 2.5 yards per carry. Unfortunately, that is exactly the same average the Falcons mustered with their ground attack. Dan Quinn has a lot of soul searching to do with this group. If Matt Ryan misses time, this already struggling team will only get worse.
30. Washington: 1-6 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 9-0 vs. San Francisco
Some fans will look at the scoreline and think Washington played a competitive game. While it was only a nine-point loss, Washington managed 154 yards of total offense. Some of that was due to the horrible weather in D.C., but a lot of it was due to poor play calling and blocking. Adrian Peterson did his best to carry this team through the mud, but there were just too many mistakes. There is very little to make substantive assessments of given the playing conditions. Bottom line is FedEx field is awful.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: 0-7 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 27-17 vs. Jacksonville
Cincinnati had some moments to be happy with in this game, taking a lead into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, unlike many of their previous games, where they turned it on in the fourth quarter, the Bengals fell apart in the fourth. The defense played decently well, holding Gardner Minshew under a 50 percent completion percentage. Jacksonville did run all over Cincy though. Leonard Fournette led the way as the Jags racked up 216 yards on the ground. The season is over for the Bengals and it is time to move on from a couple of veterans to focus on the future.
32. Miami Dolphins: 0-6 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 31-21 at Buffalo
It finally seems like the Dolphins are turning the corner. Miami led for a good portion of this game and actually made a late comeback bid. That comeback ended after Buffalo returned an onside kick for a touchdown. This was a more complete showing from the Dolphins. The results haven’t changed yet, but the process is improving. This season is long over for Miami, but it is still valuable for Brian Flores to sort out who has a role to play going forward and who the team can move on from this offseason.
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