NFL Week 7 Power Rankings: The list of true contenders is a very short one

NFL Power Rankings: Week 7

Each week this season, it has grown tougher and tougher to pick teams worthy of a top-10 spot in the Power Rankings but easier and easier to fill out the bottom spots. The bloated number of teams that are mediocre-at-best is likely a huge part of why the NFL's TV ratings are falling this season. 

The AFC has it worse than the NFC through six weeks, with 15 of 16 teams in the former already saddled by at least two losses. The playoffs are still well off in the distance, but the current list of true contenders is short.

Here’s how everyone falls after Week 6, and we'll start it from the bottom this time:

  • 32
    32San Francisco 49ers
    last week: 32
    record: 1–5
    Not since 1972 had the 49ers allowed an opponent to rush for 300 yards until the Bills rolled up 312 on Sunday. While that LeSean McCoy-led performance skewed the overall numbers a bit, it’s entirely possible that this goes down as the worst run defense in 49ers history when all is said and done.

    31Cleveland Browns
    last week: 31
    record: 0–6
    Can’t imagine many people this May or June believing that the Browns’ offense of the future could be formed around a Cody Kessler–Terrelle Pryor combo. The jury’s still out on Kessler, who has been impressive so far. Pryor is starting to look like a legit No. 1 wide receiver. 


    30Chicago Bears
    last week: 29
    record: 1–5
    Thank goodness for that win over the Lions, otherwise the Bears would be staring at an 0–8 start headed into their bye—they play at Green Bay this Thursday, then at Minnesota on Halloween. When not being winless is what you’re hanging your hat on, the season is going poorly. 

    29Indianapolis Colts
    last week: 25
    record: 2–4
    “I’m encouraged,” Chuck Pagano said Monday, via the Indianapolis Star, less than 24 hours after his team collapsed in a loss to Houston. “You guys probably think I’m crazy, but I’m encouraged.” He paused for a moment, then continued, “Now, I was up late drawing up our new game plan and in the process believe that I’ve discovered proof of a race of mole people living under Indianapolis. Let me explain...”


    28New York Jets
    last week: 28
    record: 1–5
    It's safe to say at this point that if Ryan Fitzpatrick is sitting without a gig again next August, it won’t be his call this time. The Jets are sticking with him for now, but if they keep piling on losses, the benefits of starting a 33-year-old QB on a one-year deal will be nil.​

    27Miami Dolphins
    last week: 30
    record: 2–4
    Counting Sunday’s upset of Pittsburgh, the Dolphins now have won their past six games when they’ve scored exactly 30 points, dating back to the 2002 season. In fact, Miami is 26–5 all-time as a franchise when hitting that number on the nose. You have your goal for each game, Ryan Tannehill.​


    26Carolina Panthers
    last week: 24
    record: 1–5
    The Panthers are suffering through the worst post-success hangover since Coach Taylor took, then abruptly quit, that job at Texas Methodist after winning the state title in Friday Night Lights. NFC South opponents have 1,409 yards of offense in three games against Carolina this season.​

    25Jacksonville Jaguars
    last week: 27
    record: 2–3
    With their season on the brink, the Jaguars managed to scrap together 17 fourth-quarter points to rally past Chicago. The big play Jacksonville has searched for most of the season for came when Blake Bortles threw the ball into the year 2011, where ex-Buc Arrelious Benn—almost out of the league for the past three seasons—caught it and raced in for a TD.​


    24Baltimore Ravens
    last week: 19
    record: 3–3
    The Ravens allowed three long scoring drives plus two Odell Beckham Jr. home runs Sunday. The stats suggest that rough day was an anomaly for the defense—even with those outbursts, it’s giving up fewer yards per drive (21.3) than any other D. The up-and-down offense is harder to explain away.​


    23Los angeles Rams
    last week: 16
    record: 3–3
    Case Keenum threw for 321 yards and accounted for four touchdowns Sunday. And the Rams lost. That’s like having your number hit in roulette, then taking your winnings and accidentally flushing them down the casino toilet.​


    22Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    last week: 22
    record: 2–3
    Along with the miserable Jets, the Buccaneers are one of the two teams yet to hit the 100-point mark on the season. (The Jets have played six games, Tampa Bay five.) Somehow, the offense with Dirk Koetter as coach has been even worse than the offense with Lovie Smith as coach and Dirk Koetter as coordinator and, ohhhh, I see the connection now.​


    21New York Giants
    last week: 26
    record: 3–3
    Said Eli Manning this week of Odell Beckham Jr.’s in-game antics: “You can get real sick of it if he’s not going out there and making plays, but when he has a couple huge catches ... you accept it a little easier.” Winning makes everything better.


    20New Orleans Saints
    last week: 20
    record: 2–3
    The NFL tends to be hesitant about big, sweeping changes, but if there ever was a team in league history that should consider an “All Onside Kicks All the Time” strategy, this is the one. The offense keeps lighting it up. What’s more likely: That the Saints’ defense gets three or four stops per week? Or that the special teams can recover 20% of its onside kicks?​


    19Cincinnati Bengals
    last week: 13
    record: 2–4
    With 10 games left to play, the Bengals have already matched their loss total from the 2015 season. The tide can turn quickly, especially with a game against Cleveland next on the schedule, but Cincinnati’s run of five straight postseason trips is in serious jeopardy already. This team just isn’t very good right now​.


    18Tennessee Titans
    last week: 21
    record: 3–3
    Two weeks from now, after they host Indianapolis and then Jacksonville (in what feels like an annual Thursday night matchup), the Titans could have a grasp on the AFC South lead. That division is terrible, but Tennessee is ... well, not. After a combined five wins from 2014–15, being a contender in any form is a relief.​


    17Houston Texans
    last week: 17
    record: 4–2
    Idea for a Houston-area brewery: A Brocktoberfest six-pack, in honor of the Texans’ QB, where each bottle is totally different so you never know what you’re going to get. One can be just straight-up terrible; another that’s bland but has like 13% alcohol so it sneaks up on you later; a really tasty brew that comes with a pickle juice chaser so you don’t like it too much. Oh, and the six-pack should cost $18 million.​

    16San Diego Chargers
    last week: 23
    record: 2–4
    Mike McCoy looked like he was about to vomit or pass out (or both at the same time, college dorm-style) after the Broncos scored and then immediately recovered an onside kick late in Thursday night’s game, but his team finally was able to finish out a game in the fourth quarter and win. While the Chargers may wind up 5–11 or 6–10, absolutely no one on their schedule will be itching to play them.​


    15Philadelphia Eagles
    last week: 10
    record: 3–2
    Ryan Mathews’s late fumble in Detroit and Lane Johnson’s suspension have combined to flip Philadelphia’s season. And the fork in the road has appeared. Four of the Eagles’ next five games are against first-place teams, starting with a visit from Minnesota on Sunday.​


    14Detroit Lions
    last week: 19
    record: 3–3
    Matthew Stafford isn’t necessarily better without Calvin Johnson, but he has had to be a different quarterback post-Megatron. He’s also now playing in a scheme that limits the amount of gunslinger-esque chances he needs to take downfield. A wild-card berth is a very real possibility if Stafford can maintain this performance level the rest of the way.​


    13Green Bay Packers
    last week: 8
    record: 3–2
    We’re well past the point of the movie script where the real Aaron Rodgers is supposed to come running onto the field in a ripped t-shirt and boxers, point at Green Bay’s quarterback and yell, “That man is an imposter!” So, we have to assume that’s actually Rodgers out there. Unless ... well, maybe it’s one of those plots where the lead gets amnesia and forgets who he is. Or where an alien takes over a human body. Or a Johnny Depp movie. Those are always weird.​

    12Arizona Cardinals
    last week: 15
    record: 3–3
    The Cardinals’ offense is undergoing a transition akin to a dad teaching his son how to drive a car. It starts with the dad giving directions from the passenger seat while the son takes a spin in an empty parking lot, and ends with the son speeding off while the dad stands wistful in the driveway. So, hey Carson Palmer, just give David Johnson the keys already.​


    11Oakland Raiders
    last week: 9
    record: 4–2
    “Don’t worry, we’ll rally in the fourth quarter” turned out not to be a sustainable plan, which means it’s back to the drawing board for the Raiders after they dropped to 4–2. Of course, the coach of the previous regime, Dennis Allen, would have sawed his own pinkie off with a piece of cardboard paper for the chance to start 4–2, so this current situation isn’t half bad.​


    10Washington Redskins
    last week: 14
    record: 4–2
    Want to talk about a balanced attack? Washington has four players with between 283 and 333 yards receiving this season (Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed). Kirk Cousins can send them each a fruit basket when he signs a $15 million-per-year contract next off-season.​


    9Pittsburgh Steelers
    last week: 4
    record: 4–2
    Ben Roethlisberger’s injury only added to the misery of Pittsburgh falling victim to the trappiest trap game that ever trapped. Big Ben’s continued issues on the road are problematic, too—he threw five TDs to nine INTs away from home last year; his QB rating is almost 40 points lower outside Pittsburgh this year.​

    8Denver Broncos
    last week: 5
    record: 4–2
    Turns out there is no good answer to the question, “Would you rather play Trevor Siemian with one good arm or Paxton Lynch with two?” Although, to be fair, Thursday night games barely should count in the standings let alone be used to form any conclusions about personnel.​


    7Kansas City Chiefs
    last week: 12
    record: 3–2
    Sunday’s win over Oakland improved Andy Reid’s career record to 16–2 after a bye week, which is great news for whenever the Chiefs return from their time off in 2017 but doesn’t do much more to help them in 2016. The schedule’s friendly enough, though: Kansas City does not play another team currently above .500 until Week 12 (Denver).​


    6Buffalo Bills
    last week: 11
    record: 4–2
    Ever since the Bills faked their own death back in Week 2, they’ve been playing about as well as any team in football. With its blowout win over San Francisco, Buffalo now boasts the NFL’s best point differential (59), one better than the first-place Patriots.​


    5Atlanta Falcons
    last week: 3
    record: 4–2
    Levine Toilolo finished last season with 44 yards receiving. He picked up 46 on a touchdown catch alone on Sunday in Seattle, making him the sixth Falcon this year to produce a reception of 35 yards or more. The Seahawks’ defense held on for dear life against this impressive group in Week 6.​


    4Seattle Seahawks
    last week: 7
    record: 4–1
    A win in Arizona this week would all but lock up the NFC West for the Seahawks in October, so they’re not going to panic over anything yet. But their run game still needs help. They’re currently on pace for 1,420 yards rushing this season, which would be the fifth-lowest total in team history.​


    3Dallas Cowboys
    last week: 6
    record: 5–1
    Rod Marinelli may look like he spends his mornings watching Andy Griffith reruns and dunking donuts into a cup of coffee, but he has been every bit as important in Dallas’s 5–1 start as Ezekiel Elliott or Dak Prescott. He dared Aaron Rodgers to beat him Sunday. The result: four Green Bay turnovers and an easy Cowboys win.

    2New England Patriots
    last week: 2
    record: 5–1
    Tom Brady’s QB rating through two games is 135.5, a good 13 points higher than the best single-season rating ever posted (122.5 by Aaron Rodgers in 2011). A couple more performances like he had against Cleveland and Cincinnati and Brady will make a belated leap into the MVP conversation, despite missing Weeks 1 through 4.


    2Minnesota Vikings
    last week: 1
    record: 5–0
    Of the seven previous Vikings squads to start a season 5–0, two made it to the Super Bowl and three others reached the NFC Championship Game. (We won’t talk about that Mike Tice 2003 team that finished 9–7 and missed the playoffs). The expectations for this year’s team, the league’s last undefeated in 2016, now sit at similar sky-high levels.​

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