What a week! From start to finish, it was a wild slate of football games. There were some shocking results. Denver shutdown New England for a surprising victory and Tampa Bay blew the doors off Green Bay. There were some thrilling finishes as well. Tennessee needed overtime to hold off Houston. Washington and Philadelphia came up short after failing to convert two-point attempts. We also finally got some Tua Time!
The Fins shutout the Jets to continue New York’s embarrassing season. Tua Tagovailoa saw his first NFL action late in the game and had a truly wholesome moment after playing football for the first time since he suffered his devastating injury in 2019. Following the win, Tua walked back onto the field, he sat down on the 15-yard line and he FaceTimed his parents. They could not be there to watch him play because of the pandemic. It felt like a really relatable moment for all of us still struggling with the impact of COVID-19.
For the third straight week, the team that I moved atop the rankings lost and opened the door for a new team at No. 1. This week offered a massive shakeup the pecking order. Pittsburgh tries its hand at the top. I have a feeling this type of chaos will not stop any time soon.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-0 (Last Week: 5)
Won 38-7 vs. Cleveland
Beating the Browns, doesn’t get you to be No. 1. Winning by 31 to stay among the NFL’s final three unbeaten teams does. It is hard to find a clear weakness for this team. They are deep at the skill positions, block well and spread the ball around on offense. Defensively, this might be the best unit in the NFL. Only the Ravens are allowing fewer points per game at this point, but the Steelers are allowing way fewer yards per game and forcing more turnovers per game. Pittsburgh now has a huge showdown between undefeated teams with the rescheduled Tennessee game up next. Baltimore is after that.
2. Seattle Seahawks: 5-0 (Last Week: 2)
Without playing Seattle cemented its spot atop the NFC. Green Bay suffered its first loss of the year. Los Angeles falling to San Francisco extends Seattle’s lead atop the NFC West as well. Few teams are playing as well as the Seahawks have so far this season. If the defense can get things together on the bye and even improve to the league average, Seattle will be a Super Bowl contender. That defense is still concerning though. It ranks 32nd in yards allowed per game and 18th in points allowed per game.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: 5-1 (Last Week: 3)
Won 26-17 at Buffalo
Kansas City put its first loss in 11 months behind it with a convincing victory. It wasn’t a dazzling victory, but the Chiefs controlled the clock with a devastating ground game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a big night, finishing with 161 rushing yards. As a team, KC finished with 245 yards running the ball, which was more yards than it did passing. Patrick Mahomes was still his same, lethal self, taking care of the football and tossing a pair of touchdown passes. We will see this team playing late into January at least, barring a slew of injuries.
4. Green Bay Packers: 4-1 (Last Week: 1)
Lost 38-10 at Tampa Bay
Well that was incredibly short lived. The Packers only get one week atop the power rankings before they crash back down. Aaron Rodgers struggled, the running game was abandoned and the defense collapsed. It was honestly just a worst-case scenario on both sides of the ball for Green Bay. This was shades of San Francisco last season. The Packers simply cannot find a way to contend with the league’s elite defenses.
5. Baltimore Ravens: 5-1 (Last Week: 4)
Won 30-28 at Philadelphia
Baltimore looked to have this game all wrapped up. Leading 24-6 on the road, the Ravens took their foot off the gas a bit too soon. The Eagles managed 22 points in the fourth quarter and were a botched two-point conversion away from tying the ball game. In addition to the defense’s inability to really close things out against the most injured offense in the NFL, Lamar Jackson needs some help. He went MVP mode with 108 yards rushing on just nine carries, but Ravens’ running backs managed just 2.7 yards per rush on their 28 attempts. The passing game was also inconsistent. This team needs a go-to playmaker outside of Jackson. So far, no one has stepped up to fill that role.
6. Tennessee Titans: 5-0 (Last Week: 7)
Won 42-36 vs. Houston
Divisional games are always tricky. Tennessee learned that, but just managed to hang on against Houston. Derrick Henry turned in one of the best performances of any running back in the past decade. 264 total yards and two touchdowns is incredibly impressive. Ryan Tannehill balled out as well with four touchdown passes. The Titans can score. It is up to the defense start making some stops. Deshaun Watson carved up the secondary even though the Texans cannot run the ball. Houston also went three for three on fourth down and Tennessee didn’t force a turnover. This was an important win, but there is a lot Mike Vrabel’s squad still needs to focus on.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 4-2 (Last Week: 16)
Won 38-10 vs. Green Bay
After an ugly loss on a Thursday night, Tampa Bay finally looked the part of the Super Bowl contender many expected at the beginning of the season. This defense might just be the best in the NFL, allowing the fewest yards per game through six weeks. Ranking them ahead of the Bears is more about what the Buccaneers look like at full strength. Getting Chris Godwin back helped the offense for sure. Mike Evans also looked a bit healthier. Smacking the previously undefeated Packers by 28 is a huge step in the right direction for Bruce Arians. A really interesting matchup with the Raiders is up next.
8. Las Vegas Raiders: 3-2 (Last Week: 10)
This feels like where there is a clear drop off from the NFL’s elite to whatever you want to label the next tier. That’s not to say the Raiders are locked into this spot. Las Vegas is the only team to beat Kansas City since this past November. That’s a pretty big notch in their belt. However, losses to the Patriots and Bills show there is work to do. The defense still has a long way to go. It ranks 26th in yards per pass and 25th in yards per run allowed. Most teams know they can at least shutdown one facet of the opposing offense. So far, the Raiders have not shown the ability to slow down either. That is going to hold Las Vegas back as the season wears on.
9. New Orleans Saints: 3-2 (Last Week: 11)
New Orleans gets a much needed week off with a chance to get healthy at a few key positions. Michael Thomas should finally return. Deonte Harris should be back returning punts as well and Janoris Jenkins will bolster the secondary. In addition to getting healthy, Sean Payton needs to refocus the team as a whole. The Saints have not felt like a Super Bowl contender up to this point. Even in their wins, New Orleans has not looked convincing. On one hand, being 3-2 without playing their best football is somewhat reassuring, assuming they can flip the switch and start playing much better.
10. Chicago Bears: 5-1 (Last Week 15)
Won 23-16 at Carolina
Give this defense credit. Khalil Mack and company got after Teddy Bridgewater all afternoon. Chicago racked up four sacks and had him scrambling quite a bit. The defense also held Mike Davis, who had been playing really well in Christian McCaffrey’s absence, to just 2.9 yards per carry. This truly feels like a championship caliber defense. Unfortunately, the offense is still suspect. Nick Foles has looked nothing shy of terrible so far. He has one reliable receiver in Allen Robinson. The running game is basically non-existent. The Bears managed 63 yards and 2.5 yards per carry against a defense that was giving up 133 yards per game entering the contest. As Foles said, winning ugly is better than losing pretty, but at some point, it would be nice to see the offense put things together.
11. Buffalo Bills: 4-2 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 26-17 vs. Kansas City
I know I asked it before, but I will ask it again: What happened to the Buffalo defense of 2019? The Bills allowed 103 yards per game last season, good for 9th in the league. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and company ran all over the defense on Monday to the tune of 245 yards. Patrick Mahomes wasn’t quiet either, going 21-for-26 passing with 225 yards and two touchdowns. Buffalo only managed to sack him once. Offensively, it was definitely a lackluster showing. Josh Allen only competed 14 passes and once again the running backs failed to produce much. After a great start, it is important for the Bills to bounce back now and not let this streak get much longer.
12. Los Angeles Rams: 4-2 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 24-16 vs. San Francisco
Will the real Rams offense please stand up? Week 4 saw this team finish with just 17 points. A week ago, L.A. dropped 30 on Washington. Back home against a reeling San Francisco defense, Sean McVay’s group was held to just 16 points. At 4-2, there is no reason to panic, but it would be nice for Jared Goff to stabilize the offense. That 2018 season is starting to feel like a really long time ago.
13. Arizona Cardinals: 4-2 (Last Week: 13)
Won 38-10 at Dallas
Arizona took care of business on Monday Night Football with a convincing performance. Yes, it came against a terrible Cowboys team, but the Cardinals dominated. Kyler Murray struggled a lot throwing the football against possibly the worst secondary in the NFL. He completed just nine passes in the contest despite throwing it 24 times. Murray did make plenty of plays with his legs though and the defense made sure he didn’t need to be perfect. The Cards defense force three turnovers and finished with sacks, even without Chandler Jones. Kliff Kingsbury’s crew is gaining momentum.
14. Indianapolis Colts: 4-2 (Last Week: 14)
Won 31-27 vs. Cincinnati
Indianapolis looked like they might just unraveling following its loss to Cleveland. Cincinnati jumped out to a 21-0 lead. It felt like that was when Philip Rivers and company finally woke up. The Colts were extremely lucky to be facing an inexperienced team like the Bengals. Otherwise, this would have been a blowout. The defense locked down and gave Rivers a chance to lead a comeback. Give him credit for successfully seeing it through, but it is a little concerning that he needed to lead a three-score comeback against a one-win team in the first place.
15. New England Patriots: 2-3 (Last Week: 9)
Lost 18-12 vs. Denver
What in the world was that? If you knew the Patriots kept the Broncos out of the end zone, you would have assumed New England won comfortably. Bill Belichick is the king of bye weeks after all and the team had an extra week to prep. Yet, Cam Newton returned and somehow the offense looked much worse than it did even before the bye week. Newton was successful with his legs, but two interceptions and four sacks taken tanked the passing game. The defense did it’s job, forcing two interceptions and holding Denver to six field goals. Make no mistake, this is a setback for the Patriots. I think they will turn it around, but this was a concerning loss.
16. Miami Dolphins: 3-3 (Last Week: 17)
Won 24-0 vs. New York
Brian Flores can add first shutout of the 2020 season to his resume. There should probably be an asterisk next to it indicating the shutout came against the Joe Flacco-led Jets’ offense. Myles Gaskin had another solid outing as the lead back, which is a great sign for the offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick was his usual gunslinger self, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. We even got a glimpse at the future! Tua Tagovailoa saw a little bit of mop up duty at the end of the contest. Miami is suddenly one game back in the AFC East. Could this team possibly be making a playoff push a year earlier than most expected?
17. San Francisco 49ers: 3-3 (Last Week: 23)
Won 24-16 at Los Angeles
Talk about quieting the doubters. San Francisco bounced back big time with a vital win to staying in the playoff race. The defense made an about face, holding Los Angeles to 16 points. Jimmy Garoppolo reasserted himself as the clear leader of the offense with three touchdowns in the first half and an overall impressive performance. The offensive line deserves recognition as well, not allowing a single sack against a talented front seven. Unfortunately, the injuries keep piling up, as Raheem Mostert heads back to the IR. The 49ers face a motivated Patriots team in Week 7.
18. Cleveland Browns: 4-2 (Last Week: 12)
Lost 38-7 at Pittsburgh
I would not want to be Baker Mayfield right now. He had a terrible performance against Pittsburgh and got hit, a lot. The Steelers tallied eight quarterback hits in the game. The former No. 1 pick also threw two interceptions, including a horrible pick-six. He didn’t get a tremendous amount of help from his running game, but Cleveland essentially had to abandon it after trailing 24-7 at halftime. For the second time, the Browns have come up against the elite teams in the AFC North and have walked away thoroughly embarrassed. This team has a lot of growth to do.
19. Carolina Panthers: 3-3 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 23-16 vs. Chicago
Injuries finally caught up with Carolina. Obviously, Christian McCaffrey is still out. Eli Apple and Curtis Samuel joined him on the sideline. Teddy Bridgewater’s supporting cast totally failed him as a result. He was sacked four times and Mike Davis got stonewalled repeatedly. Bridgewater deserves some criticism as well, tossing two interceptions. Defensively, the Panthers actually took some big steps forward. Holding David Montgomery to just 2.5 yards per carry is not overly impressive, but it was a good sign of growth for a very young unit.
20. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-4 (Last Week: 20)
Los Angeles has quickly become one of the most entertaining rebuilding teams to watch. Justin Herbert has had his fair share of growing pains, but has handling the starting role well. Especially when you consider that he has missed Austin Ekeler and, at times, Keenan Allen, Herbert has been better than advertised. Defensively, the Chargers are close, but not quite there yet. They have some talented edge rushers, but that has not translated to defensive success. However, L.A. gets a very favorable matchup against the Jaguars next.
21. Atlanta Falcons: 1-5 (Last Week: 25)
Won 40-16 at Minnesota
Maybe the Falcons should have cleaned house sooner if this was the response they were going to get. It helped to play a young Vikings defense, but putting up 40 is a great sign for the rest of the season. It might be a bit too late for Atlanta to really make a postseason push, but this team looked a lot more competitive in all three phases. It’s great to see Matt Ryan and Julio Jones go off, but the defense is the real key here. It got key stops on fourth down, picked off Kirk Cousins three times and held Minnesota to just 32 rushing yards. The Falcons have been incapable of stopping any up to this point, so this is a good sign. Now interim coach Raheem Morris needs to find a way to build on it.
22. Houston Texans: 1-5 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 42-36 at Tennessee
Get Deshaun Watson some help! He posted a dominant 93.2 QBR and his team lost in overtime without getting the ball. If that’s not a compelling reason to revisit NFL overtime rules, I don’t know what is. Back to Watson. He played a much smarter game, avoiding the risks he took the week before, but still could not overcome the Texans’ defensive deficiencies. After watching David Johnson run the ball 19 times for just 57 yards, Houston fans probably want to fire Bill O’Brien again. It is going to be a long few seasons while the Texans work to turn the team around.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: 1-4-1 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 30-28 vs. Baltimore
Honestly, you could take most of what I just wrote about Deshaun Watson and apply it to Carson Wentz. No, Wentz is not as good as Watson, but if I am going to criticize Watson’s supporting cast, I need to rip Wentz’s apart. Wentz was sacked six times. His starting wide receivers are Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward and John Hightower. His starting running back became Boston Scott after Miles Sanders exited with an injury. Zach Ertz is out for three-to-four weeks as well. Four of his original five starting offensive lineman were also hurt. Somehow, Wentz staged a massive comeback bid, coming up just a two-point conversion short of forcing overtime. I know every team is battling injuries this season, but it seems like the Eagles are dealing with more than any other team. After several seasons of injuries at key positions, it might be time for the organization to look into why it keeps happening.
24. Detroit Lions: 2-3 (Last Week: 26)
Won 34-16 at Jacksonville
The Lions built an early lead and held onto it! This is some of the best defense Detroit has played all season. It started with shutting down the run game, holding Jacksonville to just 44 yards on the ground. Matt Patricia’s team also came up with two turnovers as well. Even if this is the type of performance we would expect from the Lions facing one of the worst offenses in the league, it is important that they met expectations. That is something they have struggled to do quite a bit this season.
25. Denver Broncos: 2-3 (Last Week: 28)
Won 18-12 at New England
Drew Lock was back in action, but honestly that didn’t really seem to matter. Denver failed to score a touchdown and Lock looked awful. He completed under 50 percent of his passes and threw two frustrating interceptions. He kept offering the Patriots a way back into the game. Thankfully, the defense played lights out. Between the four sacks, three forced turnovers and five tackles for loss, it was one of the best showings we have seen from the Broncos in years. Imagine how good this team could be if the offense got on track.
26. Minnesota Vikings: 1-5 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 40-16 vs. Atlanta
Any optimism I had about this team after a great showing despite the final result against Seattle evaporated on Sunday. Kirk Cousins had a nightmare performance and the ground game shockingly disappeared. Between Cousins’ three interceptions and the Vikings averaging just 2.5 yards per carry, it was rough afternoon. The secondary looked lost as well. Matt Ryan played well, but his receivers were also routinely wide open. On the bright side, Minnesota succeeded in stopping the run. That is little consolation when the scoreline is this lopsided.
27. Dallas Cowboys: 2-4 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 38-10 vs. Arizona
Jerry Jones better open up his checkbook and pay Dak Prescott whatever the hell he wants. Ezekiel Elliott looks rattled, Andy Dalton looks overmatched and the offensive line looks like a revolving door. On the other side of the ball, the Jets might even be able to score 20 points against the Cowboys defense. Somehow, Dallas still holds a playoff spot right now by virtue of leading the NFC East. There is still time for Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore to bring Andy Dalton up to speed. However, the defense needs a jolt. It might be early, but Mike Nolan’s job should be under scrutiny. There is no reason this unit should be as bad as it has been through six games.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-4-1 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 31-27 at Indianapolis
For about 25 minutes, it looked like the Bengals were en route to a big win over a solid AFC opponent. Instead, Cincy blew a 21-0 lead, almost before reaching halftime. Joe Burrow and the offense managed just a field goal in the final 38 minutes of the game. The inability to run the football made it very difficult to protect the lead. 2020 was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Bengals, but that does not mean that blowing massive leads does not sting.
29. New York Giants: 1-5 (Last Week: 31)
Won 20-19 vs. Washington
It almost pains me to move the Giants up after winning. Daniel Jones managed 112 yards passing, but did show out as a running, leading the team with 74 yards. The rest of the offense did not really do much. Devonta Freeman managed three yards per carry. Kaden Smith led the team in catches with just three receptions. Darius Slayton led the team in receiving yards despite leaving in the first half with an injury. Thankfully, this continually improving Giants defense made just enough plays to drag the offense to victory.
30. Washington: 1-5 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 20-19 at New York
No matter how you spin this, Washington looked terrible on Sunday. Kyle Allen played decently well, but still committed two turnovers. The running game was passable. Still, they somehow only managed 19 points and needed a game-winning drive to even have a chance. Defensively, Washington looked good, but that honestly might have been more about how bad New York was playing than how well Ron Rivera’s club was executing. This just has the feel of a lost season for this franchise.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-5 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 34-16 vs. Detroit
After thinking Gardner Minshew may be the answer at quarterback early in the season, I am becoming more convinced Jacksonville just needs to hit the reset button on the franchise. Just clear everyone out. Dave Caldwell should be gone. Doug Marrone and the whole coaching staff needs to go. Maybe Jay Gruden can stay. Overall, this is just a team lacking talent, and it is showing. It makes that Week 1 win over the Colts even more difficult to understand.
32. New York Jets: 0-6 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 24-0 at Miami
The Jets really rank 33rd in overall football power rankings at this point. I am pretty sure Clemson would be able to beat them at this point. New York would have the advantage at a few spots, but most of this Clemson roster is eventually headed to the NFL. There is no question Dabo Swinney is a better coach than Adam Gase. I honestly don’t even need to talk about how the Jets played on Sunday. Look at the scoreline, that should tell you everything you need to know. On the flip side, Clemson just hung 73 on Georgia Tech. There is a real chance the Tigers could beat the Jets if they faced off at a neutral site. I’m just hoping the Clemson-New York connection continues when the Jets use the first overall pick to take Trevor Lawrence. Knowing this franchise, they will find a way to mess it up somehow.
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