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AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

2018 NFL Power Rankings: Week 7

After a top-four power rankings matchup in Week 6, this week starts with a Thursday-nighter between the bottom two teams in the rankings. Where does every team in the NFL stand heading into Week 7?


1. Los Angeles Rams (6-0) | Last week: 1

Ten fourth-quarter points by the Broncos made it relatively close, but the Rams took care of business at Mile High to remain the only unbeaten team in the NFL. Aside from a few flurries, the snow was gone for the game; however, it was still a great sign that a Los Angeles team showed toughness in uncommonly frigid elements early in the season. Also, second-year wide receiver Cooper Kupp showed a lot of individual toughness, returning to the game after being carted off with a knee injury. Kupp is now likely going to miss time with the injury, which is a hit to the offense, but at least it’s not a season-ender.


2. New England Patriots (4-2) | Last week: 3 (+1)

New England’s offense has so many weapons, and they have excellent balance—led by first-round rookie running back Sony Michel—to go along with it. With their thrilling win against the Chiefs, the Patriots became the first team in the Super Bowl era to not punt or get charged with a penalty in an entire game; that’s a scary thought for the rest of the league, as the offense has amazing players led by Tom Brady—good luck beating them if they don’t make mistakes. Speaking of the G.O.A.T., Brady recorded his 200th career regular season victory, and he now has the most victories of all-time for any player, including playoffs (227). The Patriots defense should round into shape these next couple of weeks before facing the Packers in Week 9.


3. Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) | Last week: 3 (-1)

The poise shown by Patrick Mahomes after a couple of interceptions was superb, as the young quarterback led his team back to make it a nail-biter in a tough Foxboro environment. Having so many weapons—including the electric Tyreek Hill—certainly helps; and Mahomes continues to miss a couple of throws along with a couple of interceptions, but that’s to be expected from a second-year quarterback with just seven starts under his belt. All-Pros Eric Berry and Justin Houston would’ve been a big help on Sunday night, so hopefully both those guys are healthy for a potential rematch in January against the Pats.


4. New Orleans Saints (4-1) | Last week: 4

The Saints return from the bye for a very tough matchup versus the Ravens in Baltimore. The Ravens haven’t allowed a second-half touchdown all season, so the halftime adjustments from both sides will be fun to watch. This should be New Orleans’ biggest challenge of the season to this point.


5. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) | Last week: 5

The Browns were a trendy pick to beat the Chargers, but LA sacked Baker Mayfield five times and made it a rout in their favor in Cleveland. It’s hilarious that people used to talk about how “bad” Melvin Gordon is based off his yards per attempt, but he continues to silence all the critics by showing that he’s a true superstar running back for the Chargers. Gordon is basically playing like he did when he starred at Wisconsin as a tank of a runner with exceptional speed, vision, and athleticism. And with Philip Rivers throwing to weapons like Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, and Antonio Gates, this offense is difficult to contain.


6. Baltimore Ravens (4-2) | Last week: 11 (+5)

Again, the Ravens haven’t allowed a second-half touchdown this season. That’s simply dominant. The unit is first in points allowed (12.8 points per game), first in total defense (270.8 yards per game), first in sacks (26), second in pass defense (188.0 yards per game), third in run defense (82.8 yards per game). They’re coming off a franchise-record 11 sacks against the Titans, which is tied for the second most in a game in NFL history. Meanwhile, the offense has played well all season, with the team scoring at least 21 points in every game aside from the 12-9 overtime loss in Week 5.


7. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1) | Last week: 12 (+5)

The longer Le’Veon Bell holds out, the less it looks like the Steelers need him to compete deep in January and into February. James Conner is getting it done for Pittsburgh, running the ball with authority and continuing to show he’s more than capable as a receiver—Ben Roethlisberger has praised the second-year running back’s decisiveness as a route runner. The defense followed up their great outing against the Falcons with another solid game against the Bengals, as they’re getting pressure and not giving up huge plays down the field like they were. Antonio Brown’s game-winner should keep him happy heading into the bye week.


8. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) | Last week: 7 (-1)

On that Antonio Brown game-winner, the Bengals might have serious beef on what looked like an offensive pass interference that got Brown free for the walk-in touchdown. But Cincinnati must move forward quickly as they head to Arrowhead for a matchup with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Ideally, Joe Mixon will get more than the 11 rushing attempts he received against Pittsburgh, especially with Kansas City at times struggling to make tackles this season. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict plays hard, but he always seems to be right on the edge of tough and dirty; fortunately for the Bengals, it appears he will not be suspended.


9. Minnesota Vikings (3-2-1) | Last week: 9

Because a couple of teams jumped up in the rankings, the Vikings remain at the No. 9 spot after their win against the Cardinals. It was good to see the run game finally get going, as Latavius Murray rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown—the team’s first rushing score of the season—in the Week 6 win. I believe Minnesota must run the ball well to reach their full potential, especially later in the season when the weather gets colder. Kirk Cousins will now face a team that reportedly wanted to badly sign the high-priced quarterback during free agency as the Vikings take on the Jets.


10. Green Bay Packers (3-2-1) | Last week: 13 (+3)

Obviously it wasn’t close to a must-win game in the middle of October, but Aaron Rodgers led his team to a huge momentum-building victory over the Niners as the Packers head into the bye week. Hopefully the bye gives Rodgers enough time to rest his knee and get it closer to 100%, especially with a couple of huge matchups at the Los Angeles Rams and at New England to end October and begin November. Green Bay’s defense is a concern, as Kyle Shanahan’s offense attacked them with outside runs and big plays down the field, but the team will look to correct things during the bye.


11. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) | Last week: 14 (+3)

Maybe the Giants are just playing that poorly, but the Eagles’ Thursday night win was a major bounce-back performance after a home loss to the Vikings in Week 5. Philadelphia hadn’t scored 25 points in a game before the 34-point outburst versus East Rutherford, as Carson Wentz tossed three touchdowns—two to Alshon Jeffery—in the victory. While it was a great offensive performance by the team, it’d be good to see Nelson Agholor get more involved by scheming the ball to him, as two of his receptions (for a combined 90 yards) were from him coming back to the ball and working open down the field by breaking off his route; he’s an explosive player that can break games open. The defense will look to get pressure on Cam Newton this Sunday after getting to Eli Manning a few times last week.


12. Washington Redskins (3-2) | Last week: 16 (+4)

Despite no Chris Thompson (rib) or Jamison Crowder (ankle), the Redskins came out strong with 14 first-quarter points to jump ahead on the Panthers and hold on for a 23-17 victory. It was a great bounce-back effort for Washington after they were blown out in New Orleans six days earlier, and they sit atop the NFC East (with one less game played then the 3-3 Eagles and 3-3 Cowboys). The defense is fifth in yards allowed per game, as they are playing tough and physical under defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.


13. Carolina Panthers (3-2) | Last week: 6 (-7)

Too many guys have gotten open down the field against the Panthers, who have allowed 21 receptions of 20+ yards in the first five games of the season. Carolina’s run defense hasn’t been great, either, as they’re giving up 4.6 yards per carry. Falling to the Redskins was disappointing coming off the bye, especially with former Panther Josh Norman forcing a couple of turnovers in the six-point loss. This week against the Eagles, we’ll see if they commit to running the ball more after Christian McCaffrey had just eight carries in Week 6; but in last year’s matchup with Philadelphia, Cam Newton threw 52 passes as the team couldn’t get anything going on the ground.


14. Tennessee Titans (3-3) | Last week: 8 (-6)

Coming into the season, I thought the Titans had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL when at full health, but they struggled mightily against the Ravens on Sunday. Despite a mobile Marcus Mariota at quarterback, Tennessee allowed 11 sacks to Baltimore, as there was quick and constant pressure on seemingly every snap. Also, the offense is struggling to get any push in the run game, which has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. No team is going to go far if they can’t block well, so the Titans must get that fixed up as they travel across the pond to face the Chargers this week.


15. Chicago Bears (3-2) | Last week: 10 (-5)

It was a turnover-filled afternoon with the loss not falling all on the defense, but Vic Fangio’s unit surprisingly had some major lapses in Chicago’s overtime loss to Miami. There’s obviously a ton of talent and great coaching for the Bears defense, so they should get back on track—but they’ll have to do it quickly with the Patriots coming to town this Sunday. It’ll be interesting to see how second-year quarterback Trubisky plays against Bill Belichick’s defense in a big test as the Bears attempt to take first place in the NFC North.


16. Atlanta Falcons (2-4) | Last week: 17 (+1)

This season has been an unlucky one for the Falcons, and it looked like they were going to fall to 1-5 on the final play of the game against the Buccaneers—and they probably would have if Mike Evans’ final lateral to DeSean Jackson was on target. In the last four games, Matt Ryan has thrown for 1,432 yards (358 yards per game), 12 touchdowns, and zero interceptions while attempting to keep the Falcons in games. A win on Monday night against the Giants would be huge heading into the bye week.


17. Miami Dolphins (4-2) | Last week: 18 (+1)

The Dolphins could certainly be a few spots higher in the power rankings, but they’re the lowest-ranked team over .500 because of the uncertainty surrounding starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s shoulder. People are too critical of Brock Osweiler, but the team is probably in much better shape with someone that’s been the team’s quarterback for the last several years. You had to be happy for Kenyan Drake, who clearly cares a lot and nearly cost his team the game with his goal-line fumble in overtime, and it was good to see him respond with a couple of nice gains in overtime to help get Greg Joseph in position for a game-winning field goal. Those are the type of wins that could bring a team closer together.


18. Dallas Cowboys (3-3) | Last week: 24 (+6)

The Cowboys have alternated wins and losses this season, with all three wins coming at home and all three losses coming on the road. Their 40-7 drubbing of the Jaguars was one of the best wins of the year by any team, and it displayed the potential the Cowboys have. When Dak Prescott is given time to throw, he delivers the ball accurately to all areas of the field and gives his guys chances to make plays. The defense is very tough, giving up 17.2 points per game (second in the NFL), 315.2 yards per game (fourth in the NFL), and 3.5 yards per carry (third in the NFL).


19. Seattle Seahawks (3-3) | Last week: 22 (+3)

After an 0-2 start to the season, the Seahawks are 3-1 in their last four games, with the only loss coming in a tight one against the undefeated Rams. The running game powered by Chris Carson continues to help set the tone for the team, and first-round rookie running back Rashaad Penny probably had his best game of the season (11 touches, 70 yards) in the London game win against the Raiders. The young Seattle defense is flying around and making plays, and they should keep getting better each week.


20. Houston Texans (3-3) | Last week: 20

The Texans have won three straight very close games—including two in overtime—that have come down to the end, as they’ve climbed out from their 0-3 hole into a tie for first place atop the AFC South. The offensive line still must do a better job of protecting Deshaun Watson, who turned the ball over three times against the Bills. Houston was blown out both games against Jacksonville last season, so this Sunday’s matchup could be huge for their psyche.


21. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) | Last week: 15 (-6)

An ultra-confident team heading into the season, the Jaguars looks like a totally different team right now. The Cowboys basically bullied the Jags around all game on Sunday, as Jacksonville has given up 70 points in the last two games. Offenses are getting players wide-open in the secondary, as they’ve just been aggressively attacking the Jaguars defense both on the ground and through the air. It could be that this year teams are more focused and prepared against the surprise team of 2017, but we haven’t really seen Leonard Fournette, who helps set the tone for the entire team, on the field this season.


22. Detroit Lions (2-3) | Last week: 19 (-3)

Coming off the bye, the Lions will look to get to .500 as they go on the road looking for their first road win of the year against the Dolphins. Matt Patricia’s defense might not have the benefit of knowing whether it will be Ryan Tannehill or Brock Osweiler under-center for Miami, but the extra week gave the team time to prepare for Adam Gase’s offense. Detroit is 6-3 coming off the bye in Matthew Stafford’s career.


23. New York Jets (3-3) | Last week: 27 (+4)

The Jets have bounced back from three straight losses with two straight victories, putting up point totals of 34 and 42 against the Broncos and Colts. Sam Darnold has six touchdowns and two interceptions in his last three games, and he had his best game on Sunday when he completed 80% of his passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa and safety Marcus Maye both missing time with injuries is a tough blow, but Todd Bowles’ squad has a bright future and should compete every week.


24. Cleveland Browns (2-3-1) | Last week: 21 (-3)

An ankle injury didn’t help, but Baker Mayfield had his worst game as a pro in the Browns’ blowout loss to the Chargers. Statistically, Mayfield isn’t putting up prolific marks like he did with the Sooners, but he’s throwing for yardage and is flashing his great accuracy and touch. Offensively, the Browns look to have a good opportunity in front of them with matchups against the Buccaneers, Steelers, Chiefs, and Falcons coming up before their Week 11 bye. The defense is probably the bigger concern for the Browns right now, as Gregg Williams’ group has given up point totals of 45 and 38 in two of the last three weeks.


25. Buffalo Bills (2-4) | Last week: 25

Josh Allen’s elbow injury is a big blow to the Bills, as he’s been making plays to carry the offense and help keep the team in games. Hopefully the exciting rookie doesn’t miss much time with the injury, but more importantly, hopefully it’s not something that lingers long-term. The good news is the Bills are playing very good defense, which has been giving Allen the opportunity to keep them in games with a subpar supporting cast. I feel for Nathan Peterman, who threw yet another pick-six, which gave the Texans the lead after Buffalo looked to be in control of the game. If Peterman is under-center for the Bills over veteran Derek Anderson, hopefully he’s not pressing too much after his early-career struggles.


26. Oakland Raiders (1-5) | Last week: 23 (-3)

Having no Kelechi Osemele against the Seahawks was not ideal, as the left guard not being in the lineup led to cracks in the offensive line and six sacks by Seattle in the London game. This has obviously not been the start Jon Gruden envisioned when he returned to coaching, and people are taking advantage by hitting the Raiders head coach with criticism. Get your shots in while you can, because Gruden is going to get this thing turned around; it’s just going to take more time than he (and I) expected. Remember, this team wasn’t very good last season, either.


27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) | Last week: 26 (-1)

The situation is dire for Gruden’s old team, as the Buccaneers have made the first big firing of the year, parting ways with defensive coordinator Mike Smith. The Bucs were allowing the most points in the league (34.6 points per game); but the unit was struggling to get any pressure on the quarterback (nine sacks this season) despite making big changes to the defensive line entering the season, so it’s certainly not all on Smith—players must start performing. Tampa Bay might be able to compete if the defense improves, though, as the offense is putting up points and has plenty of weapons.


28. Indianapolis Colts (1-5) | Last week: 28

Andrew Luck and the Colts continue to fight each week, but it’s been a trying season through six games. Overall, the Colts probably have the worst roster in football, and they’ve dealt with injuries including to former league-leading receiver T.Y. Hilton. But Frank Reich and his coaching staff deserve credit for getting their players to go all-out every game. Indy will look to get a win over the Bills this Sunday.


29. San Francisco 49ers (1-5) | Last week: 31 (+2)

C.J. Beathard is playing really well filling in for Jimmy Garoppolo, and he nearly led the Niners to a big upset win in Lambeau Field last night. Kyle Shanahan’s coaching has been a big help for the second-year quarterback, as the offense stays ahead of the sticks and gets guys open. It was good to see Marquise Goodwin healthy and making some huge plays—along with an amazing long-jump celebration after his second touchdown; and it’s also good to see players like Matt Breida toughing out injuries to play for a team that most people count out every week.


30. New York Giants (1-5) | Last week: 29 (-1)

Odell Beckham Jr. just doesn’t get it, and unfortunately it doesn’t look like he ever will. Is his presence on the team more of a negative at this point? It’s hard to say for such a talented, gamebreaking player, but it’s difficult to envision Beckham’s teams going deep into January unless it’s a perfect situation with the team lighting it up offensively and multiple leaders to keep the superstar receiver in check. Saquon Barkley could be one of those guys, as mostly everyone is starting to recognize that he’s a jaw-dropping force at running back—I still don’t understand people saying the Giants made a mistake drafting a generational player and person like him.


31. Denver Broncos (2-4) | Last week: 30 (-1)

The Broncos fighting back to make it a game against the Rams was a good sign for head coach Vance Joseph, but it was not a good sign that his defense gave up a 200-yard rusher for the second straight week. Against a Cardinals team with a rookie quarterback leading the NFL’s worst offense to this point, Denver must get on track defensively on Thursday night.


32. Arizona Cardinals (1-5) | Last week: 32

The situation for Steve Wilks is getting critical too. I obviously think if you hire a head coach, they should be given time to get things turned around; but 1) Arizona has a talented defense but has not been good this season, and 2) if general manager Steve Keim is fired at some point, a new GM might want to bring in his own head coach. The bottom line is that while Broncos-Cardinals looks like by far the worst Thursday game of the year on paper, there is some intrigue with a couple of teams—coaches, players, everyone—that apparently have jobs on the line with house-cleanings looking like a possibility.


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