Week 7 felt like a changing of the guard. Cincinnati and Tennessee pulled off two massive wins that shake up the outlook of the AFC. Elsewhere, bad weather took the spotlight in primetime, the Jets reached a new level of ineptitude against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady set a new milestone with his 600th career touchdown pass.
Needless to say, the power rankings look very different this week once again as it feels like the tier of elite teams shrinks even further. Arizona remains at the top as it continues to delay the popping of champagne bottles in South Beach. With the NFL trade deadline approaching, it will be interesting to see what moves could be coming as we draw closer to the midway point.
1. Arizona Cardinals: 7-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 31-5 vs. Houston
Smoking the Texans does not make you a contender, but it does send a clear message that this team is focused. It would have been easy to play sloppy against an inferior team. Arizona looked to be headed that way following a safety and a field goal to go down 5-0. Far from an insurmountable hole, but not an ideal start. Instead, the Cardinals rattled off 31 unanswered points. Zach Ertz is already paying dividends and Kliff Kingsbury’s commitment to running the ball makes life easier on everyone.
2. Los Angeles Rams: 6-1 (Last Week: 2)
Won 28-19 vs. Detroit
Perhaps it was the emotions of having to go up against a former team for Matthew Stafford or a former quarterback for the Rams, but this was not the type of performance we expected. The Lions have challenged a number of talented teams this year, so maybe we just write this off as a down week. Los Angeles still got the win and Stafford posted incredible numbers. The only red flag would be the lack of a running game, as the Rams finished with just 47 yards on the ground.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-1 (Last Week: 3)
Won 38-3 vs. Chicago
Talk about all out domination. Tampa beat the brakes off Chicago on both sides of the ball. The defense put the offense in good positions to succeed and Tom Brady was efficient. This game was over by halftime, with the Buccaneers leading 35-3. Four sacks and five forced turnovers highlights just how well the defense played. Justin Fields had absolutely no chance. A very productive run game is also a really good sign. Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn each averaged more than five yards per carry. Establishing that ground attack will only make this offense better and take the pressure off the defense.
4. Dallas Cowboys: 5-1 (Last Week: 5)
It is good to be atop the NFC East. Washington and Philadelphia lost again, which now means the entire division is at 2-5 behind Dallas. Being four games up in the loss column in late October is pretty impressive. Hopefully, with a week off, Dak Prescott is back to 100 percent after suffering a calf injury in Week 6. There is also a chance that Michael Gallup returns to action in Week 8. A road game in Minnesota won’t be easy, but Dallas also has some cushion even if they stumble.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: 5-2 (Last Week: 8)
Won 41-17 at Baltimore
Welcome to the contender conversation Cincinnati. Joe Burrow put himself on the MVP shortlist as well with a statement game. His 416 passing yards set a new career high as he found his favorite college target early and often. Ja’Marr Chase went over 200 yards as he continues to run away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Perhaps even more impressive was the defense. Baltimore could not run the ball outside of Lamar Jackson. The Bengals sacked Jackson five times as well and recorded eight tackles for loss. This team looks to be more well-rounded than initially expected and are a legitimate challenger for the AFC North crown.
6. Buffalo Bills: 4-2 (Last Week: 6)
So the loss to Tennessee looks a bit better following the Titans’ dismantling of the Chiefs. Still, Buffalo needs to recapture the defensive form we saw over the first five weeks of the season. The Bills allowed just 12.8 points per game heading into that matchup before surrendering 34 points. On the bright side, Sean McDermott and company get to ease back into things against the reeling Dolphins in the midst of quarterback trade talks. I don’t know if we should expect another shutout, but I think the Bills will be heavy favorites.
7. Green Bay Packers: 6-1 (Last Week: 7)
Won 24-10 vs. Washington
One of the most underrated storylines of the NFL season has been the development of the Packers defense. Green Bay ranks in the top 10 in yards per game, points per game and forced turnovers. Following the Week 1 blowout, the Packers have allowed more than 22 points just once and have won five straight. If you are looking for a concern with this team, it might be the lack of production from Aaron Jones. He has just two touchdowns since his four-score outburst in Week 2. Sunday was also the fourth game in which he averaged less than four yards per carry. That feels like the only missing piece for Green Bay at the moment.
8. Tennessee Titans: 5-2 (Last Week: 14)
Won 27-3 vs. Kansas City
How on Earth did this team lose to the Jets? Tennessee sweeps through the two participants in last season’s AFC Championship Game. Beating the Bills was a clear sign of the Titans’ potential, but thrashing the Chiefs was a reminder that this team is capable of winning without relying solely on Derrick Henry. The reigning Offensive Player of the Year still played well on a heavy workload, but Ryan Tannehill threw for a pair of touchdowns and the defense balled out. They sacked Patrick Mahomes four times and forced three turnovers. Tennessee appears to be rolling heading into a divisional showdown with Indianapolis.
9. Baltimore Ravens: 5-2 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 41-17 vs. Cincinnati
For the first time all season, Baltimore looked like a team leading the league in players on the injured reserve list. Joe Burrow absolutely shredded the secondary, eclipsing 400 yards passing and tossing three touchdowns. The Ravens also had no answer for Ja’Marr Chase. The bottom line right now is that Lamar Jackson needs more help. He was sacked five times and rushed for 74 yards more than anyone else on the team. This is a really good time for a bye week.
10. Los Angeles Chargers: 4-2 (Last Week: 9)
Time for some revenge. 2020 was clearly a rebuilding season in Los Angeles with a rookie quarterback taking over and adjusting to the NFL. Still, anytime you lose 45-0, that sticks with you. That’s what New England did to this team a year ago. Justin Herbert and the offense has made some major strides since then and the Chargers defense is much healthier. I am eager to see if L.A. has a little extra juice in Week 8.
11. Cleveland Browns 4-3 (Last Week: 11)
Won 17-14 vs. Denver
This was a gutsy win for the Browns. Without Baker Mayfield, Jack Conklin, Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt, the defense stepped up big time and shut down the Broncos. Cleveland held Denver’s ground game to 41 yards on 2.9 yards per carry. Give D’Ernest Johnson credit for showing out as well with 146 yards and a score on the ground in relief of Chubb and Hunt. Hopefully, the Browns can use the extra days of rest to heal up ahead of a matchup with the Steelers.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: 5-2 (Last Week: 13)
Won 33-22 vs. Philadelphia
Quietly, the Raiders move atop the AFC West with this win. Derek Carr played well, completing an outrageous 31-of-34 passes, and the defense came up with a pair of key fumble recoveries. The post Jon Gruden era has gotten off to a good start, even if the two wins came against lower quality competition. As long as Josh Jacobs’ injury is not serious, Las Vegas should feel pretty good about where it stands nearing the midseason point.
13. New Orleans Saints: 4-2 (Last Week: 12)
Won 13-10 at Seattle
Well that was ugly. New Orleans emerged from Seattle with a scrappy three-point win that featured very little offense. Thankfully, Alvin Kamara was ready to work. He didn’t do much as a rusher, finishing with 51 yards on 20 carries. However, he racked up 128 yards through the air on 10 catches with the team’s lone touchdown. On the other side of the ball, the Saints surrendered one big play on D.K. Metcalf’s 82-yard touchdown. After that, they were close to lights out. New Orleans benefitted from a pair of missed field goals though. This offense needs to be more productive.
14. Kansas City Chiefs: 3-4 (Last Week: 10)
Lost 27-3 at Tennessee
Steve Spagnuolo’s seat is only getting hotter. However, the offensive struggles took centerstage this week. The last time Kansas City scored three points or fewer was Week 15 in 2012 when it was shut out by the then Oakland Raiders. Brady Quinn was quarterbacking the team in that game. Tennessee also seems to have Kansas City’s number winning five of the past six matchups. Andy Reid has a really tough task ahead of him as he looks to rejuvenate this offense while figuring out how to hide the clear deficiencies within his defense.
15. Minnesota Vikings: 3-3 (Last Week: 15)
The general consensus on the Vikings right now is that they are better than their record would indicate. Their three losses came against the Bengals, Browns and Cardinals, having been outscored by only 11 points in those three contests. However, they also topped the Lions and Panthers by a combined eight points. Hard to really gauge how good this team truly is at this point. Week 8 offers an opportunity to make a statement, facing the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. A week off should allow Dalvin Cook to get back to full strength after dealing with an ankle injury earlier in the season. That could be a key difference maker in what should be a close game.
16. Indianapolis Colts: 3-4 (Last Week: 22)
Won 30-18 at San Francisco
Suddenly, the Colts don’t feel as far out of the playoff picture. With back-to-back wins, Indianapolis is now just one game under .500 and one game back of the Browns for the final wildcard spot in the AFC. There is still a long way to go, but Carson Wentz should have Colts fans feeling a bit more optimistic. Outside of a terrible interception (or fumble, it’s hard to tell), Wentz played really well. He didn’t have the gaudiest of numbers playing in an atmospheric river, but he tossed two touchdown passes. Thankfully, he also has Jonathan Taylor to hand off to. A tough test against the Titans is up next, but the Colts are trending up.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: 3-3 (Last Week: 19)
Is there a path to the playoffs for the Steelers? It would almost certainly be as a wild card, but this upcoming three-game stretch will go a long way in determining if that is possible. Pittsburgh faces Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit, all winnable games, before finishing the season against the Chargers, Bengals, Ravens, Vikings, Titans, Chiefs, Browns and Ravens. That is a brutal final two months. If Pittsburgh is anything other than 6-3 following Week 10, I don’t think they have any shot of reaching the postseason.
18. San Francisco 49ers: 2-4 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 30-18 vs. Indianapolis
I really wanted to drop San Francisco even lower, but it was hard to figure out who to drop them behind. It was an ugly week for a lot of the NFL’s middle of the road teams. Unfortunately, the 49ers were unable to handle the adverse weather conditions. Four turnovers in the rain is slightly understandable, but both teams have to play in the elements. That turnover battle ended up being crucial in determining the outcome Even in a disappointing loss, there are still some positives. Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel both reached the century mark. Still, being 2-4 is not a good look for a team expected to bounce back following a dismal 2020 season.
19. New England Patriots: 3-4 (Last Week: 23)
Won 54-13 vs. New York
Few things match Bill Belichick’s hatred for the New York Jets. Despite leading 31-7 at halftime and knocking Zach Wilson out of the game, Belichick refused to call off the dogs, as the Patriots scored 23 more points in the second half, including 20 in the fourth quarter. Mac Jones took care of the football and Damien Harris had a big day. Make no mistake, New England isn’t good, their only wins are against the Jets and Texans, but the Patriots are still more than capable of blowing out a hapless opponent.
20. Chicago Bears: 3-4 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 38-3 at Tampa Bay
Beating the Bucs always felt like a longshot, but it would have been nice if the Bears had been even remotely competitive. Justin Fields continues to struggle behind an overmatched offensive line, accounting for five of Chicago’s six turnovers. The defense did not offer much resistance either, allowing five touchdowns in the first half. On the bright side, Khalil Herbert continues to look like a quality find in the draft with his second straight game of at least 97 yards rushing.
21. Carolina Panthers: 3-4 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 25-3 at New York
That was rough. Sam Darnold got pulled in the midst of a horrible outing and the quarterback play somehow got worse. Darnold and P.J. Walker combined for 19-of-39 passing for 144 yards passing and an interception. Carolina could not run the ball either, finishing with 56 yards on 3.3 yards per carry. The defense played decent, but could not make enough plays to make up for such a dud offensively. Trade rumors involving Deshaun Watson to the Panthers are certainly going to intensify.
22. Denver Broncos: 3-4 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 17-14 at Cleveland
This was an embarrassing loss for the Broncos. The Browns were about as shorthanded offensively as we’ve seen with Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and more sidelined. Another disappointing showing from Teddy Bridgewater and the offense made that obsolete. In the midst of this four-game losing streak, Denver is averaging just 16 points per game. The Broncos have beaten three teams with a combined four wins. The heat is definitely rising on both Vic Fangio and Bridgewater.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: 2-5 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 33-22 at Las Vegas
Philadelphia suffered another loss in which the offense went MIA for much of the game. After scoring a touchdown just four minutes into the first quarter, the Eagles did not put points on the board again until the fourth. Jalen Hurts continues to struggle with accuracy, finishing just 18-of-34 passing. He made some plays with his legs, but the ground game was not as effective after Miles Sanders left with an injury. Nick Sirianni needs to make some progress with this offense. At least the Dolphins lost again.
24. Atlanta Falcons: 3-3 (Last Week: 26)
Won 30-28 at Miami
If we are going to bash the Broncos for beating up on the league’s basement dwellers, we have to do the same to the Falcons. Wins over the Giants, Jets and now Dolphins, all by one possession, are far from impressive. A last-second field goal from Younghoe Koo delivered this latest victory. On the bright side, Kyle Pitts had the best game of his young career so far, totaling 163 yards receiving. Still, Atlanta has done little to inspire confidence in its ability to hang with the better teams in the league.
25. New York Giants: 2-5 (Last Week: 27)
Won 25-3 vs. Carolina
What in the world just happened? The Giants turned things around big time following last week’s 34-11 drubbing by the Rams. For the first time all season, the defense that inspired so much confidence in this team’s future down the stretch finally showed up. Carolina had a horrible day offensively, which was at least in some part due to a very disruptive front seven. New York tallied seven tackles for loss and six sacks, destroying Joe Brady’s offensive game plan for the week. This is a massive step in the right direction for Joe Judge and company.
26. Seattle Seahawks: 2-5 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 13-10 vs. New Orleans
Seattle really misses Russell Wilson and Chris Carson. Outside of an 84-yard catch-and-run by D.K. Metcalf, the Seahawks could do basically nothing offensively. Still, they should have won this game. The defense stepped up and limited the vertical passing game for the Saints. Unfortunately, Jason Myers missed two field goals, which proved to be the difference in the game. Thankfully, the Jaguars are up next.
27. Washington: 2-5 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 24-10 at Green Bay
What happened to the team that legitimately challenged the Buccaneers in the playoffs? Taylor Heinicke looks lost in the offense without anyone other than Terry McLaurin to rely on. The defense showed some signs of its 2020 form, with three sacks and strong showing against the run, but have not replicated the wrecking crew that struck fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks everywhere. Getting healthy will certainly help, with Dyami Brown, Curtis Samuel, Cam Sims, Logan Thomas and Brendan Scherff all out against the Packers. Perhaps a reeling Broncos team will be the cure to what ails Washington.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-5 (Last Week: 28)
Is it possible the Jaguars could win two in a row? Jacksonville still has not won on U.S. soil since Week 1 of 2020. However, the Jags face a banged up Seahawks team that has lost five of its past six games. A week off to reflect on his first six games in the NFL could be good for both Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer. A second straight win would greatly change the outlook of this franchise and this season.
29. Detroit Lions: 0-7 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 28-19 at Los Angeles
For a little while, it looked Detroit was about to pull off the ultimate upset. Had Jared Goff and the Lions managed to beat Matt Stafford and the Rams, social media would have had a field day. Instead, Detroit records another hard-fought loss. L.A. outscored Detroit 11-0 in the fourth quarter as Goff sealed the win for his former team with an interception in the end zone. The Lions feel really close to breaking through. A home game against the Eagles could finally see this losing streak end.
30. Miami Dolphins: 1-6 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 30-28 vs. Atlanta
Another loss is tough to swallow, but Tua Tagovailoa was definitely not the issue. He did have two interceptions, but also tossed four touchdowns while completing 32-of-40 passes for 291 yards. Unfortunately, it was the defense that could not come up with a big play when they needed it. I expect Miami to look better down the stretch, but hopes of a playoff run are officially dead.
31. Houston Texans: 1-5 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 31-5 at Arizona
If you think about it, the Texans actually improved by two points this week from the week before. Yeah, it is hard to find much to be positive about if you are a Texans fan. Well, I’m going to try to find a way regardless. Houston is scoring more points per game than the Jets. Wow, this is harder than I thought. Oh, the team has a first-round pick for the first time since 2017, when the franchise selected Deshaun Watson. More first-round picks could be on the way with a Watson trade rumored to be imminent.
32. New York Jets: 1-5 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 54-13 at New England
I hate supporting this team. Giving up 50-plus points while losing the rookie quarterback is the worst-case scenario for the Jets. Now, Joe Douglas is trading draft picks to acquire a 36-year-old backup because the team never really had a contingency plan for if Zach Wilson got hurt. Oh, and to top that all off, this all happened against the Patriots. Because of course it did. At least the Seahawks lost. Maybe two more top-15 picks will get the Jets to look even remotely competitive. Questions have to be asked of Robert Saleh as well. Coming off a bye week, New York once again looked wholly unprepared for its opponent. That is unacceptable. I know this team is young and the coaching staff is young, but it would be good if we could see they were actually learning something in all of these abysmal losses.