NFL Power Rankings Week 6 | Tier 2: Still feeling these teams out
I’m struggling to understand what these teams are. One week they’ll look great, the next they won’t show up.
15) Tennessee Titans
A week after an embarrassing loss to the New York Jets, the Titans got a gift — facing Jacksonville after the Jaguars went through a controversial 10 days or so.
Something about this Titans offense still feels off. They didn’t have to put the ball in the air often against Jacksonville, but they’ve struggled to do so through five games. Tannehill has played closer to a bottom-10 than a top-10 QB, and both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones have missed time.
Luckily for the Titans, they play in the worst division in the NFL. Their AFC South competition includes two bottom-tier teams and a struggling Colts squad that faces an uphill battle due to injuries and their own poor QB play.
Luckily, Derrick Henry is still virtually unstoppable with the ball in his hands, which could come in handy in a bad-weather playoff game.
14) Las Vegas Raiders
I’m not sure what to think about this team anymore. Derek Carr and the offense struggled against the Chicago Bears. They looked flat. All this after Carr appeared to be playing the best football of his career.
After the late-week report about Gruden’s racist comments, it’s easy to wonder if the team simply wasn’t ready to go this week. The defense did a fine job, holding the Chicago Bears to well under the league average for yards per play.
Speaking purely from a W-L standpoint, what happens next is important. How do things progress this next week? The Raiders face a Broncos team that is struggling offensively. Then, they have the Eagles and Giants over the next two weeks. Realistically, they should win all three of those games. However, even if they lose, the organization has much bigger things to worry about moving forward.
13) Cincinnati Bengals
I feel bad for Bengals fans. Joe Burrow is an absolute warrior, but he needs to learn to slide and live to see another down. Ja’Marr Chase is a surefire NFL star in the making, and it makes this team a ton of fun to watch.
Zac Taylor made a cowardly call to kick the field goal that ended up just missing wide left. With all of the unbelievable kicking woes in that game alone, he should have put the ball in the hands of his quarterback to pick up the first down.
This is a fun team, and their offseason additions on defense have proved important. With the Lions, Ravens, Jets, and Browns upcoming before the bye, it looks like Cincinnati should have a winning record at the season’s halfway point.
12) New Orleans Saints
I still have no clue what this team is. The defense is outstanding. New Orleans is complex and well-coached, which makes them difficult to beat. Their only weakness is in those few miscommunications when they allow big chunk plays to occur.
Alvin Kamara matters, especially because it doesn’t appear Sean Payton has any trust whatsoever in Jameis Winston. I don’t blame Payton for trying to hide his QB against Washington’s pass rush, especially given how much Winston struggles against pressure. But this has been happening all year.
Hopefully, the passing attack becomes more consistent when Michael Thomas returns. It’s undeniable that Winston brings explosiveness to the passing attack, but he needs to be more efficient if the Saints are to compete for the playoffs.
11) San Francisco 49ers
Trey Lance certainly needs to improve as a passer at the NFL level, but that will come with reps. He led the 49ers in rushes with 16, and while that’s not sustainable in the long run, it can work while he progresses as a passer.
San Francisco’s defense stepped up against a Cardinals offense that hadn’t been held to fewer than 31 points this year. If the 49ers can continue to perform at a high level defensively, they could keep games close while Lance figures out the speed of the NFL game.
This feels like a team that could have ebbs and flows throughout the season in our NFL Power Rankings.
10) Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday night was an uncharacteristically bad night for Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid on offense. The Buffalo Bills defense that came in boasting a record-breaking efficiency pace proved, at least for one more week, that it’s as good as advertised.
Defensively, it was largely the same sorry story for Kansas City. They allowed nearly 10 net yards per play to the Bills through almost the entire first three quarters. Somehow, big play after big play was allowed by the secondary, and they had no answer for Josh Allen’s legs.
Under their current form, I can’t see this team returning to the Super Bowl in 2021. The defense must drastically improve closer to average to have a shot at it.
NFL Power Rankings Week 6 | Tier 1: Teams that are good
As of today, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these teams eventually lifts the Lombardi Trophy.
9) Baltimore Ravens
Depending on what analytical models you prefer, you could make a case that the Ravens have a top-10 offense and a top-10 defense. However, the reality is that they probably haven’t been quite that good through four games. Still, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, given they’ve played the Raiders, Chiefs, and Broncos this year.
More important than any statistical measure, they’ve somehow found a way to win three of their first four games. Baltimore played with their food too long on Monday night against the Colts. Much like the Lions game, they played down to their competition.
Eventually, the Ravens will be beaten by a team that is inferior. Late in the game, the Colts’ defense struggled to get stops. Lamar Jackson had his most efficient day ever as a passer, finishing 37-of-43 for 442 yards and 4 touchdowns.
8) Cleveland Browns
This is a darned good football team. I don’t think we talk about game flow enough. Cleveland’s defense is better than the 47 points they allowed on Sunday, but that’s how things go sometimes. We saw the Chargers and Cowboys play in a 20-17 game, and both those teams have a better offense and worse defense than that final score indicated.
Aside from the loss, we should view this game as a positive for the Browns. Baker Mayfield had one of the worst outings of his career in Week 4, but he came back in a big way in Week 5. Along with the two-headed monster of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, Cleveland’s offense should be one of the most well-rounded in the league.
If they had finished in the red zone against the Chargers, they would have flipped spots with them. But the Browns finished 3-for-6 inside the 20.
7) Los Angeles Chargers
Man, I’m struggling to find a team that is genuinely more exciting to watch play football. Justin Herbert is the realest of deals. He’s still young and growing mentally, but his physical skill set is rivaled only by the Alien in Kansas City, whom he beat just a few weeks ago.
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams getting to play with Herbert is borderline unfair. LA’s head coach is aggressive, and the defensive scheme is cutting edge (even if they gave up 41 points today). The Chargers are not a fluke, and they absolutely have a shot to win the AFC West.
6) Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys didn’t play particularly well in the first half against the Giants, but they were still able to run away and hide with this game in the fourth quarter. Losing Daniel Jones was the catalyst in the unraveling of the Giants’ offense.
Dak Prescott got things going after he struggled to start the game. He looked amped up early on in what was the anniversary of his ankle injury against this same Giants team. The Cowboys are still able to run whenever they want to, and if Prescott plays anything like he did in the second half, Dallas will be tough to beat.
The real question is, when will Trevon Diggs stop intercepting passes? And how high could the Cowboys climb in our NFL Power Rankings given their seemingly lenient schedule?
5) Green Bay Packers
It’s difficult to win football games while fighting injuries across your entire offensive line. It’s even more difficult when your kicker misses 3 field goals, including two very late in the game. Still, the Packers didn’t have too many issues moving the football. But they were awful in the red zone, going just 2-for-5 on the day.
When Green Bay gets healthy up front, this offense will be difficult to slow down. If the defense can step up to average, the Packers could be a Super Bowl favorite come playoff time.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are back on track after two ugly performances in a row. At this rate, Tom Brady will be averaging 350+ passing yards at age 50. Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin are an unfair trio, and Tampa Bay’s offensive line is outstanding.
The injuries in the Bucs’ secondary are troubling, but it shouldn’t hurt them unless they face another quality opponent, which may not be until the tail end of the season. Tampa Bay may very well be 11-1 when they head into their Week 14 game against the Bills. If that happens, it may be tough for any team to top them in NFL Power Rankings unless the Cardinals are somehow still undefeated.
The Buccaneers barely showed up in Philadelphia, and they still walked away rather boringly to a 28-22 win. At one point late in the third quarter, they were up 28-7. They allowed the Eagles to run the ball up and down the field for a drive, then failed to convert on a fourth down, which gave Philadelphia possession and great field position.
3) Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are a good football team, but they’re far more flawed than we may have believed after watching them trounce the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3. Matthew Stafford is who he always has been — a talented, mostly accurate player who sometimes struggles with ball placement.
LA’s offense can still be a well-oiled machine, and the defense has Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald. However, this defense lost Troy Hill, John Johnson III, and the media’s darling, Brandon Staley over the offseason. Those losses are significant, and the defensive regression has hit like a freight train.
Nevertheless, with the Giants, Lions, and Texans coming up, look for the narrative to flip to “the defense has figured it out.” The reality is they’re scheduled to face some bad quarterbacks after battling some of the best signal-callers in the league. There’s a good chance this team rolls into the bye week 9-1.
2) Buffalo Bills
The Bills proved for one more week that defense can prevail in the NFL. Their historic pace didn’t slow down much, even against the likes of Mahomes and the Chiefs. Their pass rush kept Mahomes uncomfortable, and their secondary remained in peak form for the duration of the game.
Offensively, Josh Allen is proving to be a unique weapon that, even when his passing is a bit off, can succeed on the ground with his legs. Buffalo’s offense isn’t afraid to use him as a power runner when they need to, either.
This looks like the best team in the NFL, but that pesky Week 1 loss keeps them out of the top spot in our NFL Power Rankings … for now.
1) Arizona Cardinals
Arizona’s offense had a down day against the 49ers, but I wouldn’t expect that to be a trend. The fewest points they had scored prior to Sunday was 31, and that’s the kind of games they’ll play in for most of the season.
Still, they’re 5-0 and the only undefeated team in the league. Although I don’t personally believe them to be the best team in the NFL, Arizona has the most impressive résumé to date. Until they lose, the top spot in our NFL Power Rankings belongs to the Cardinals.