NFL Power Rankings Week 7: Panthers, Jets on the brink

Read as Nick Springer takes us through his weekly NFL Power Rankings, which are uploaded every Tuesday during the NFL season.

  1. Minnesota Vikings (5-0)- Previous rank: 1- The Vikings are the best team in the league heading into their bye, and they’ll have a good test next Sunday on the road against Philly. I feel bad for ever doubting the Vikings and Sam Bradford. If Bradford stays healthy and plays well, what should the Vikings front office do? Teddy Bridgewater was the franchise QB until a week before the regular season.
  2. New England Patriots (5-1)- Previous rank: 5- The Brady to Gronk connection is back and better than ever. Last week it was Martellus Bennett, and this week Gronk got in on Brady’s return party. The running game took a hit, but honestly, I’m not even sure that the Pats need a running back. Overall, another great game for the Patriots, but the Bills might actually challenge for the division this year.
  3. Seattle Seahawks (4-1)- Previous rank: 4- Somehow the Seahawks got the win against Atlanta off a controversial no-call on fourth down with the game on the line. They still got shredded by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, but a win is a win. Seattle is at Arizona next week in what before the season might have been considered a game between two of the league’s best. However, with the way the Cardinals are playing, Seattle should be able to pick a win. Then again, we were thinking the same thing when they traveled to Los Angeles, and look what happened.
  4. Dallas Cowboys (5-1)- Previous rank: 8- Same old story in Dallas: Two rookies taking the league by storm. Dak Prescott finally threw a pick, but the Cowboys marched into Lambeau and ripped the hearts out of the Packers. Thanks to the best offensive line in the league, Zeke Elliot continues to dominate in the rushing game. I don’t care what Jerry Jones says, you can’t pull Prescott when Romo gets healthy. You just can’t. I honestly kind of hope he does just so everyone has another reason to hate him.
  5. Atlanta Falcons (4-2)- Previous rank: 6- Even though Atlanta lost, they still solidified themselves as one of the top teams in the NFC. The Falcons have a pretty tough schedule, and they’ll have to prove themselves on a weekly basis. Right now, they look like the team to beat in the NFC South. As long as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones stay healthy, this team can beat anyone in the league. They got the short end of the stick against Seattle, but I think we might’ve witnessed a possible NFC championship game preview on Sunday.
  6. Green Bay Packers (3-2)- Previous rank: 3- It must be nice to boo your team off the field when they’re 3-2. I’d like for Green Bay fans to put themselves in the shoes of Browns fans for a day, just to see what it’s like to be 0-6. In all fairness, when you’ve got Aaron Rodgers, the standards are a little higher. The Packers don’t look like they’re going to win the division, but a wildcard berth is certainly achievable.
  7. Washington Redskins (4-2)- Previous rank: 12- The Redskins picked up another important divisional win on Sunday, and their running game finally came to life in a big way. Kirk Cousins has his fair share of critics, but I’m in his corner. He took the Redskins to the playoffs last year, and I think he can lead them to the postseason again this year.
  8. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)- Previous rank: 2- The Steelers have quickly become one of the most puzzling teams in the league. Either they come out and annihilate the opposing team, or they get annihilated. This week’s loss to Miami looks particularly bad. Antonio Brown had one (one!) catch for a measly six yards, and oh by the way the Steelers let Jay Ajayi (Jay Ajayi!) rush for over 200 yards against them. Ajayi came into Sunday’s game with just 117 yards on the season! I’m going to let this one slide, but man, this is just too bizarre. Now with Big Ben going down with a torn meniscus, suddenly Pittsburgh’s entire season could be in jeopardy.
  9. Buffalo Bills (4-2)- Previous rank: 16- Remember when Rex Ryan fired Greg Roman and everyone was freaking out? Since then, the Bills have won four straight games pretty convincingly. Shady McCoy has come alive in the past couple weeks, and he went off for 140 yards and three scores against San Francisco. The Bills hit the road against Miami next week, and even though Miami destroyed Pittsburgh, Buffalo should extend their win streak to five games pretty easily.
  10. Denver Broncos (4-2)- Previous rank: 7- Trevor Siemian returned to the lineup and looked off for most of the game. The other problem is the fact that he attempted 50 passes on Thursday night. That’s not who he is. The Broncos as a team looked a little off. Maybe it was Gary Kubiak’s absence, but I expected them to pound San Diego. I still can’t decide if San Diego is actually good, or Denver just had an off game.
  11. Kansas City Chiefs (3-2)- Previous rank: 18- Andy Reid is the best coach in NFL history when coming off of a bye week, and he demonstrated that once again in a sloppy victory over the Oakland Raiders. The Chiefs were far from sloppy, but the field was a completely different story. Spencer Ware rushed for a career high in yards, and Alex Smith was fantastic. This was by far the Kansas City’s most complete performance this season. Dee Ford finally had the impact everyone was hoping for, and the secondary stepped up without Phillip Gaines and Marcus Peters in the second half. Overall, a really great win for KC.
  12. Houston Texans (4-2)- Previous rank: 13- Just like Kirk Cousins, Brock Osweiler also has his share of critics. Say what you will about Brock, but the Texans are first in the AFC South, and Osweiler looked pretty comfortable leading his team back from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime. The signing of Lamar Miller may have been the best free agent move of any team in the NFL this season. The guy’s just an animal.
  13. Oakland Raiders (4-2)- Previous rank: 9- The Raiders would’ve loved to come away with a win on Sunday to take sole possession of first place in the AFC West. Instead, they now find themselves in a tie. Derek Carr looked pedestrian in this game, and the Raiders were unable to take advantage of an inexperienced and banged up KC secondary. This is a tough loss, but Oakland can easily bounce back from it.
  14. New York Giants (3-3)- Previous rank: 11- Odell Beckham’s antics continued, but the Giants won this time, so it’s ok, right? That depends on your view, but the point remains that the Giants are back to .500 after a very important win over Baltimore. Eli looked better, but he still threw two picks. There’s really no reason the Giants should even attempt to run the football at this point. They’re so bad at it, it’s beyond comical.
  15. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)- Previous rank: 10- Well, this loss certainly isn’t Carson Wentz’s fault. He had no pass protection and was pummeled all game. Ryan Matthews broke off a couple of nice runs, but the running game as a whole was pretty inconsistent. The Eagles have wavered the past two weeks, and they’ve got Minnesota coming to town next week. There’s a good chance Philly will be 3-3 after next Sunday following their hot start.
  16. New Orleans Saints (2-3)- Previous rank: 21- Drew Brees continues to do Drew Brees things, and at the age of 37, he isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. 465 yards and four touchdowns is just another day at the office for the veteran QB. What’s even scarier is all the young receivers he can throw the ball to. Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and Michael Thomas are all just beginning their careers. Although, it would be nice if the Saints’ defense decided to show up every once in a while.
  17. Detroit Lions (3-3)- Previous rank: 25- Something not enough people are talking about is the fact that Matthew Stafford has barely missed a beat after losing one of the most dynamic receivers in the history of the NFL. Early on it was Marvin Jones, and this week it was Golden Tate stepping up for Detroit. Stafford might be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league right now, and the Lions have quietly improved to 3-3. I’ll be interested in how they play next week at home against Washington.
  18. Baltimore Ravens- (3-3)- Previous rank: 15- Guess how many passes Joe Flacco threw on Sunday? Was it less than 30? Try 48. Granted, Terrance West carried the ball 23 times for 87 yards and two scores, but I still would like Flacco to throw the ball a lot less. Oh well, no NFL coach has taken my advice in the past, so why would John Harbaugh start now?
  19. Arizona Cardinals (3-3)- Previous rank: 19- Well, Arizona survived a bumpy start to the season and they are sitting at 3-3 through six games thanks in large part to David Johnson. Johnson has singlehandedly carried Arizona to victory the past two weeks. The defense played much better against the Jets, but it’s the Jets. Is this team back? We’ll know for sure where they stand when they host Seattle next week.
  20. Tennessee Titans (3-3)- Previous rank: 20- Marcus Mariota looked very comfortable as he threw for 284 yards and three scores against Cleveland. The Titans won by a slim margin, but they were in control for most of the game. DeMarco Murray was slowed down quite a bit, but it helped Mariota grow in this game. The pass defense has to be better, especially when they play Indianapolis next week.
  21. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)- Previous rank: 22- Well, Jacksonville beat the Bears, but it took a late TD to secure the win. I would’ve liked to see a stronger performance from the Jags. As usual, Blake Bortles could have used some help from his run game. The Jags host Oakland next weekend, which should be a good measuring-stick game.
  22. Los Angeles Rams (3-3)- Previous rank: 14- Case Keenum was 26/28 for over 300 yards and three touchdowns at one point. Then he ruined it with an interception, and the Rams dropped a very winnable game against Detroit. I feel kind of bad for Todd Gurley. The guy was supposed to be a superstar, but he’s been effectively neutralized in pretty much every game this season. The Rams really need him to get it going. LA will welcome in the New York Giants next week for a pivotal matchup between two 3-3 teams.
  23. San Diego Chargers (2-4)- Previous rank: 29- The Chargers tried so hard to lose on Thursday night, but they managed to pull out the victory. The offense played great for three quarters, and Phillip Rivers passed Dan Fouts for the most passing yards in franchise history. I can’t stop thinking about how San Diego could be 6-0 right now. 6-0! It’s almost unfathomable. Instead, they’re 2-4 and in last place in the division. Yeah, that sounds about right. Who knows, maybe the Chargers are going to start playing in the fourth quarter and surprise everyone.
  24. Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)- Previous rank: 17- Oh dear, the Bengals need to regroup quickly. They should have an excellent opportunity to get back on track when they host the Cleveland Browns next week. Although, I might just pick the Browns to pull off the upset right now. Andy Dalton wasn’t bad against New England, but he wasn’t good enough either. The running game has been a bit shaky ever since the Denver game too. Lots of red flags in Cincy right now.
  25. Miami Dolphins (2-4)- Previous rank: 30- Ryan Tannehill finally got the help he desperately needed from the running game. Jay Ajayi exploded for over 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a Steelers defense that isn’t horrible against the run. Tannehill also was not sacked, and he didn’t commit a single turnover. Lots to like from this game, but the question is: can the Dolphins do this consistently? I, for one, have my doubts.
  26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)- Previous rank: 24- The Bucs are 2-3, which is about where I thought they would be through five games. I’ve been pretty hard on Jameis Winston, but needs to start playing some consistent football. Tampa is at San Francisco next week with a pretty good chance to reach .500 through six games. They need to win that one if they want to keep their playoff dreams realistic.
  27. Indianapolis Colts (2-4)- Previous rank: 23- The Colts blew a 14-point lead with 2:37 remaining, and they couldn’t close it out in OT against the Texans. Every team in the AFC South is hard to gauge, but the Colts are especially hard to figure out. They have to start protecting Andrew Luck if they hope to win the division.
  28. Carolina Panthers (1-5)- Previous rank: 26- Welp, even with the return of Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart, Carolina couldn’t get a victory on the road against New Orleans. The bye comes at good time for Carolina, giving them an opportunity to reassess their situation and get things turned around. Remember when this team was a lock to win the NFC South? Yeah, Carolina remembers those days too.
  29. Chicago Bears (1-5)- Previous rank: 27- Brian Hoyer is on fire. There’s no other way to put it. The sad part is the Bears are 1-5. Jordan Howard was completely shut down, and even though Hoyer threw for 300 yards, he didn’t have a touchdown pass against the Jaguars. The combination of Cameron Meredith and Alshon Jeffery seems to be working quite well, but will Jeffery stay in Chicago after this season?
  30. New York Jets (1-5)- Previous rank: 28- Fitzmagic was benched in the 4th quarter for Geno Smith, but Todd Bowles swears he will still be the starter next week. Either way, it’s a bad situation in New York. Throw in that the Jets mustered just 33 yards on the ground against Arizona and you’ve a recipe for a really bad offense. The Jets host Baltimore next week, and if they don’t win that one, they can kiss their playoff dreams goodbye.
  31. San Francisco 49ers (1-5)- Previous rank: 30- Colin Kaepernick’s triumphant return to the starting job was overshadowed by how badly the 49ers D played. They were completely shredded on the ground, and their pass defense wasn’t much better. Kap wasn’t bad, but San Francisco has lost five straight, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to turn it around any time soon.
  32. Cleveland Browns (0-6)- Previous rank: 32- Cody Kessler played fantastic against Tennessee, and Terrelle Pryor continues to be the best player for Cleveland with two more TD receptions. The problem for Cleveland was that they had no run game to support Kessler. 40 yards is not going to cut it, and we’ve seen the Browns be successful on the ground. They just need to be consistent. Keep dreamin’ Cleveland.

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Feature photo courtesy of Parker Anders