There was notable movement around the NFL yesterday in terms of trades, and there’s also big movement in the Week 7 power rankings.
1. New England Patriots (6-0) | Last week: 1
Last Thursday night was a prime example of the Patriots being the clear best team in football, as they were excellent in all three phases, scoring three touchdowns on offense, one on defense, and one on special teams in their 35-14 win over the Giants. The injuries are a slight concern—wide receivers Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett are banged up, while New England placed its second fullback (Jakob Johnson) on injured reserve this season—but they’ll overcome them, as usual. It should be a matter of time before the Patriots release Michael Bennett, who is unsurprisingly causing issues because of a lack of playing time.
2. Seattle Seahawks (5-1) | Last week: 2
Russell Wilson had another fantastic performance in Seattle’s close win at Cleveland, and he’s undoubtedly played the best of any quarterback in the league through six weeks. Wilson has 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions this season, and running back Chris Carson had his third consecutive 100-yard performance, putting his fumbling issues in the past—the balanced offense is tough to stop and leads to efficiency. On defense, the young unit was able to force three interceptions of Baker Mayfield to help key the Week 6 victory.
3. San Francisco 49ers (5-0) | Last week: 7 (+4)
The offensive line of the Rams is one of the worst in the league, so that helped in the 49ers’ Week 6 win to improve to 5-0; but San Francisco’s defense undeniably looks like a top-tier group and arguably the best in the NFC (even better than the Bears). The Niners are allowing just 13.0 points per game and 237.4 yards per game, both second in the league behind the Patriots. He’s not playing amazing this season (and is coming off a torn ACL), but Jimmy Garoppolo is 11-2 as the starting quarterback for the Niners.
4. New Orleans Saints (5-1) | Last week: 5 (+1)
The offense was not spectacular, but Teddy Bridgewater again came up clutch with a fourth-quarter touchdown to Jared Cook in the only touchdown of New Orleans’ defensive battle victory at Jacksonville. The Saints defense, paired with Bridgewater’s smart and mistake-free play, has helped the team remain one of the NFL’s best without Drew Brees in the lineup. Alvin Kamara was clearly less than 100% while dealing with an ankle injury, so the Saints should give the more-than-capable Latavius Murray more work to ensure Kamara is healthy toward the end of the season.
5. Buffalo Bills (4-1) | Last week: 6 (+1)
The Bills had a bye week, but they emerge as one of two teams with one loss or fewer in the AFC this season, and the other team (the Patriots) is who they lost to. The next six games ahead of Buffalo’s Thanksgiving matchup at Dallas look promising on paper: vs. Miami, vs. Philadelphia, vs. Washington, @ Cleveland, and @ Miami.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (4-2) | Last week: 3 (-3)
After going 25 straight games with 25+ points, the Chiefs have been held under the mark in each of the past two games. It’s definitely not some huge issue with the offense in my opinion, as other teams are simply taking advantage of Kansas City’s below average defense and playing keep-away from Patrick Mahomes and company. Wherever the blame lies, dropping two straight games at Arrowhead is obviously not a good sign, and it puts the Chiefs two games back of the Patriots for the top seed in the conference.
7. Green Bay Packers (5-1) | Last week: 8 (+1)
It’s no fun when a game ends the way Green Bay’s Monday night win over Detroit ended, but the Packers will certainly take it as they take first place in the NFC North. Aaron Jones struggled a bit after his four-touchdown performance a couple of weeks ago, but Jamaal Williams returned from his concussion suffered in Week 4 to help pick up the slack in a balanced offense. Also, while the offense is still missing Davante Adams (toe), Allen Lazard came up big at the end of the divisional win.
8. Los Angeles Rams (3-3) | Last week: 4 (-4)
This 3-3 start has been surprising, but the Rams feel they are still Super Bowl contenders after making a few big moves yesterday—headlined by trading away cornerback Marcus Peters to the Ravens for linebacker Kenny Young and then adding cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a trade from Jacksonville. Giving up two first-round picks is a massive price to pay, so we’ll see if the move works out. The more important trade for this season might actually be the acquisition of guard Austin Corbett from Cleveland, as Los Angeles is not going to win anything this season if they cannot protect Jared Goff. Corbett could not even get on the field for the Browns, but he was just selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
9. Indianapolis Colts (3-2) | Last week: 9
The Colts were hoping to be in first place in the AFC South during their bye week, but Houston’s upset win at Kansas City has them in second heading into Week 7. Indy will get a chance to reclaim first this week when they face the Texans, and they’ll be confident after convincingly beating them in the playoffs last season.
10. Oakland Raiders (3-2) | Last week: 11 (+1)
The Raiders are also coming off their bye week, and they’re just a half game behind the Chiefs for a tie for first in the AFC West. During the bye, Jon Gruden started trying to get his new toy on offense—former second-round receiver Zay Jones, acquired from the Bills—up to speed. The time off helped the team recharge, but Oakland’s tough road trip continues this Sunday with a trip to Lambeau Field.
11. Houston Texans (4-2) | Last week: 15 (+4)
The victory at Arrowhead wasn’t a perfect showing, but Deshaun Watson has shown dating back to college that he knows how to make plays and find a way to win critical games—now he’ll look to figure out an Indy defense that had him looking unlike himself in the postseason last January. It had to feel good for Carlos Hyde to run for 116 yards and a touchdown against the team that had him playing late in preseason games during the summer before trading him, and his addition—which was laughed at by some people—was one of the most undervalued moves made by any team this year. Houston’s defense has forced a turnover in 19 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.
12. Baltimore Ravens (4-2) | Last week: 16 (+4)
There was talk of Baltimore looking to acquire a cornerback, and they made a surprising move by acquiring Marcus Peters from the Rams yesterday. With Peters joining Earl Thomas, there are certainly some personalities in the Ravens secondary—we’ll see how it works out, especially considering Peters’ playing style has led to him getting ran past a lot throughout his career. Currently, the Ravens are giving up the eighth most passing yards in the league. But the offense led by dynamic dual-threat Lamar Jackson is putting up over 450 yards per game, which is the most in the league.
13. Minnesota Vikings (4-2) | Last week: 17 (+4)
The “You Like That!” moment was probably Kirk Cousins’ most memorable event with the Redskins, and while it was half joking, it showed that he has an edge that isn’t shown often. After all the criticism from his own receivers, and then from a former teammate in Washington (linebacker Zach Brown), Cousins appears to have had a spark lit and maybe be playing with that edge again. He’s thrown for 639 yards and six touchdowns (one interception) in the past two weeks despite seemingly not communicating much with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs on the sideline and after scores. With a top rushing attack and defense, if Cousins keeps playing like this against tougher opponents—this week at Detroit should be a good test—Minnesota will be squarely in the mix for a division title.
14. Detroit Lions (2-2-1) | Last week: 14
The game wasn’t completely over if the calls were not made, but the Lions have serious beef with the officiating in Monday night’s loss at Green Bay. Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari looked like it absolutely flopped by tilting his head back while Trey Flowers’ hand was close to it, and the poor calls arguably sent the Lions from a 3-1-1 record and first place in the NFC North to 2-2-1 and last place in perhaps the NFL’s best division. The Lions must quickly put the disappointment behind them and play another complete game this Sunday against the Vikings, while finishing drives in the red zone with touchdowns instead of field goals.
15. Chicago Bears (3-2) | Last week: 12 (-3)
The bye week came at the right time for the Bears, as they had an opportunity to regroup after their London game loss to the Raiders, and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is now expected to be healthy and ready to go after missing that game with a left shoulder injury. We should see an angry defense this week against the Saints after the way they played a couple of weeks ago.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) | Last week: 10 (-6)
Heading into the season, there was all this misguided talk about how deep the Eagles were at cornerback and how they simply had to trade one or two guys because they were all too good not to be playing. After six weeks and some injuries, Philadelphia has arguably had the worst cornerback play in football—and it doesn’t help that the pass rush has been underwhelming. Pounding the ball with Jordan Howard with Miles Sanders mixing in might help take pressure off the struggling defense, and you would think that’s the tone Doug Pederson wants to set after saying his team is going to go down to Dallas and get a win this Sunday night.
17. Carolina Panthers (4-2) | Last week: 19 (+2)
The Panthers capped their four-game winning streak before the bye with a huge London win over the Buccaneers, as that ugly 0-2 start feels like a distant memory. Cam Newton reportedly might be healthy after the bye week, but it’s probably not a good idea to bench Kyle Allen with the way this team is rolling. However, a former league MVP getting benched would create an interesting situation that Carolina would have to hope does not become a distraction that gets them off track.
18. Dallas Cowboys (3-3) | Last week: 13 (-5)
The offense was not sharp for the third consecutive game, but it’s the defense that’s been more concerning during this three-game losing streak for the Cowboys. The unit always plays hard, but they simply are not playing well overall right now, and falling behind is unideal for the other side of the ball. Now, Amari Cooper’s availability for Sunday night’s huge game against an Eagles team he torched last season is in question because of a quad injury.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4) | Last week: 22 (+3)
A superb defensive showing and a powerful offense led by James Conner and Benny Snell behind an offensive line that looked the best it’s looked all season gives the Steelers a promising outlook when they return from their bye week for three consecutive home games. If the offensive line blocks like that, Pittsburgh is going to remain competitive all season; and it helps to have an unselfish No. 1 receiver like JuJu Smith-Schuster leading the receiving corps, as the numbers for those guys might not be where they like individually, but JuJu wants to do what’s best for the team.
20. Denver Broncos (2-4) | Last week: 26 (+6)
I stated a couple of weeks ago that the Broncos were playing much better than their 0-4 record, and this season just felt better than the last few years. Over the past two games, they’ve played outstanding defense under new head coach Vic Fangio, including a shutout home victory over the Titans. Denver will remain home and host the Chiefs on a short week with an opportunity to get to within one game of first place in the AFC West.
21. Los Angeles Chargers (2-4) | Last week: 20 (-1)
The team needs to block it out, but it’s flat-out embarrassing that the “home” games in Los Angeles offer no homefield advantage whatsoever and become home games for opposing teams with loyal fanbases. Anyway, the offensive line of the Chargers—the same issue for the other LA team—is the main problem for the team, though it does not help that the defense is not playing well right now. Melvin Gordon says he needs more touches to get into a rhythm, and I concur—the Chargers have been at their best when they’ve been balanced on offense.
22. Arizona Cardinals (2-3-1) | Last week: 28 (+6)
I admittedly was not sure about Kliff Kingsbury in the NFL, but at least the Cardinals offense has had a complete turnaround from last season—and the play of Kyler Murray is also a key reason for that. Now, star cornerback Patrick Peterson returns from his six-game suspension to boost a defense that’s surpassed expectations this season.
23. Atlanta Falcons (1-5) | Last week: 21 (-2)
With injuries, subpar pass protection, a subpar pass rush and brutal losses like that missed PAT that likely would have sent the game to overtime, the Falcons have simply been in a funk the past couple of seasons. At 1-5 with a difficult upcoming schedule, they’re in a tough hole to climb out of, but I still believe they have the talent to make a push for the postseason (they were my pick in the NFC, so perhaps I am biased). Matt Ryan is certainly doing his part after tossing four touchdowns and no interceptions in another exceptional performance, but it’s hard to be much better than 1-5 when you have just five sacks and four forced turnovers on defense through six games.
24. New York Giants (2-4) | Last week: 24
The Giants are set to get Saquon Barkley back from a high-ankle sprain this week after missing the last three games, and it comes at the team looks to make a run in the NFC East. If New York is able to get a win over Arizona on Sunday, they’ll be tied for second and just one game behind the winner of the Philadelphia-Dallas primetime matchup. While the final score last Thursday night didn’t look good, the fight that the Giants showed at Foxboro on a short week is a promising sign for Pat Shurmur’s squad. Keep an eye on them as a team that’s probably being counted out already by many people.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) | Last week: 25
The Jalen Ramsey trade rids the Jaguars of a headache (considering Ramsey is healthy and did not want to play for them), and I won’t be surprised if the defense, which is still very talented, comes out fired up this Sunday against a struggling Bengals team to show Ramsey that he left the wrong team. Jacksonville now has two more first-round picks in the next two drafts to add to a roster that’s hit on talent including Josh Allen and D.J. Chark under Tom Coughlin. There’s an opportunity to get to 4-4 with games versus the Bengals and Jets coming up.
26. New York Jets (1-4) | Last week: 29 (+3)
The Jets unsurprisingly look like a totally different team with Sam Darnold under center, and the second-year quarterback appeared extremely confident and comfortable while lighting up the Cowboys defense in his return from mono. And defensively, you can see how much the Jets players want to do their job and play hard for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Being in a division with New England and Buffalo makes things tricky, but the Jets would be in an interesting position if they can get a win over the Pats this Monday night.
27. Cleveland Browns (2-4) | Last week: 27
The Browns remain in the No. 27 spot after a close home loss to the Seahawks. While the blindside block call against Jarvis Landry was costly, Cleveland cannot just place blame on the referees after turning the ball over four times (three interceptions) against a good team. The Browns now have their bye week, and perhaps the offense will come out efficient and firing on all cylinders after taking a step back in a season that came with unordinary high expectations.
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) | Last week: 23 (-5)
You’re not going to win when you turn the ball over seven times, and the Buccaneers are always going to have inconsistency and games with a bunch of turnovers as long as Jameis Winston is at quarterback. Winston simply has not shown that he can take care of the football, and it was so predictable that on the first play of the game last week he was going to try to force the ball to Mike Evans, which led to and interception and set the tone in London. Winston said they need to get Evans the ball to win games, but forcing it to him—especially when Chris Godwin has been the team’s best player by far—is not going to lead to victories.
29. Tennessee Titans (2-4) | Last week: 18 (-11)
It seems Marcus Mariota is the scapegoat for a team that simply isn’t very good because of an offensive line that’s underperforming—the fact that Mike Vrabel said he talked to general manager Jon Robinson about the quarterback decision feels a little strange. If it wasn’t for Mariota’s play, the Titans likely would have been near the bottom of the standings drafting at the top of drafts like they were before Mariota arrived in 2015, and the former No. 2 overall pick will have a very bright future with another team. Tennessee has a strong defense, but I’m not optimistic about a team with some players that clearly believed in Mariota as their leader.
30. Washington Redskins (1-5) | Last week: 31 (+1)
As promised leading up to the game, the Redskins fed Adrian Peterson the workload (23 carries, two receptions) the future Hall of Fame running back loves to receive, which helped the team get a close win over an NFL-worst Dolphins team. Landon Collins had a nice game on defense, receiving NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Collins and company will need to keep that play up to help take pressure off their offense when they face three of the league’s best defenses over the next three weeks.
31. Cincinnati Bengals (0-6) | Last week: 30 (-1)
They made it a one-possession game at the end, but the Bengals were clearly outmatched against the Ravens while falling to 0-6. Defensively, the unit is decimated by injuries to the secondary, but at least they’ve been playing hard in a trying season. The good news is star receiver A.J. Green looks to be nearing a return from his ankle injury suffered on the first day of training camp.
32. Miami Dolphins (0-5) | Last week: 32
Credit to Dolphins head coach Brian Flores for going with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback over Josh Rosen, as it appears the first-year head coach is taking an anti-tanking stance and just trying to win a game while the front office might rather see Rosen hit the field and up his trade value. Fitzpatrick gives them more of a puncher’s chance to get in the win column.