After week six of the NFL season, the dust is settling and there comes an obvious difference between the best teams in the league and the rest of the bunch. Over the past few weeks, the top five teams have primarily stayed the same. That changed after week six as multiple playoff favorites found themselves tumbling down the rankings after shocking losses. This week we take a moment and review the best in the league. Surprises are likely.
*Rankings show team’s record and movement from last week’s rankings*
Minnesota Vikings (4-2; +5), Carolina Panthers (4-2; +3), Los Angeles Rams (3-3; -5)
The Vikings were impressive in Sunday’s week six home win against the Eagles. Kirk Cousins let loose through the air and used his all-world wide receivers. It took a while. The Panthers continue to win with Kyle Allen. Carolina’s quarterback is not the main reason they are finding victories but he is avoiding major mistakes and allows Christian McCaffrey to do damage. The Rams were soundly beaten by the 49ers. Los Angeles was embarrassed on the field and in the stands as the San Francisco faithful took over the Coliseum. The Rams made a flurry of moves as time is running out.
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No. 10 – Indianapolis Colts (3-2; +1)
The bye week did not stop the Colts from moving up a spot. Consider it a benefit of three teams slipping out of the top-10. Indianapolis has a tough matchup on the weekend against the Texans. It is a battle for first place and a matchup of two teams who have knocked off Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Colts need a solid game out of the defense, a unit likely missing four or five starters on Sunday. Jacoby Brissett and the offense must avoid turnovers as the Houston offense is clicking.
No. 9 – Houston Texans (4-2; +8)
Deshaun Watson is now in the conversation for league MVP. The Texans knocked off the Chiefs on Sunday, in Kansas City. Houston took everything the Chiefs could muster on the day and kept punching. At the end of the first quarter, Houston trailed by 14 points. They then rattled off 20 unanswered points and outscored the Chiefs, 28-7, over the final three quarters. Houston faces the Colts for the top spot in the AFC South on Sunday. Another Texans victory could push them even higher on the list.
No. 8 – Baltimore Ravens (4-2; +6)
Exactly who are the Ravens? This is a team that should have gotten a victory in Kansas City and who fumbled their way to a home loss against the Browns. The Ravens are a good football team and they will win the division. They were the pick before the season started and have benefitted from Lamar Jackson taking a major step forward this season. The defense has been good for most of the season but has shown issues against passing-centric offenses. A trip to Seattle will test how good the Ravens can be.
No. 7 – Buffalo Bills (4-1; +/-)
Buffalo enjoyed the week off in week six. The Bills remain at seven as nothing much has happened in front of them and there are doubts as to whether they could defeat the Chiefs. Buffalo takes on Miami on Sunday, hopeful the offense can get into gear. The defense is good enough to get the Bills into the playoffs but the offense needs to provide help. Josh Allen needs to continue his progression as a passer and cut out the disastrous decision making.
No. 6 – Kansas City Chiefs (4-2; -2)
Tyreek Hill returned and the offense looked better yet the Chiefs lost their second consecutive game. It’s the first time this has happened in Kansas City since the arrival of Andy Reid. Patrick Mahomes has seen his play drop down to demi-god, primarily due to a nagging ankle issue. However, the issue lies with the defense’s inability to slow down opposing ground games. Steve Spagnuolo‘s defense is surrendering 5.2 yards per attempt on the ground this season, tied for 31st in the league. Against the top teams in the NFL, the defense will need to find ways to slow down opposing attacks. If the defensive trends continue, Kansas City could see a battle for playoff seeding.
No. 5 – Seattle Seahawks (5-1; +1)
Seattle continues to climb the power rankings as they’re up one spot after a comeback victory on the road, against the Browns. The Seahawks spotted Cleveland a 14 point lead midway through the second quarter before scoring the next 19 unanswered points. Seattle has Russell Wilson to thank for the great start to the season. The quarterback is the engine that powers the Seattle offense. He is also the transmission, axle, tires, and steering wheel. Without Wilson, Seattle is likely a five or six-win team, at best. With him, the Seahawks are serious contenders in a wide-open NFC.
No. 4 – Green Bay Packers (5-1; +1)
A bad half of football is what prevents the Packers from a perfect record thus far. Forget about the terrible penalties called against the Lions on Monday night. The fact of the matter is that a win occurred and it went to Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers may be on the downswing of his career but he can still make fantastic throws in big situations. Rodgers dropped it in the bucket when he hit Allen Lazard on a 35-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. It brought the Packers to within two with under 10 minutes left to play. Matt LaFleur has his team playing balanced football and has much more room to grow. If the Packers can find consistency on defense, this team will go far.
No. 3 – New Orleans Saints (5-1; +/-)
Teddy Bridgewater deserves an award. No one expected the Saints to lose Drew Brees in the second game of the season, then win four straight with Bridgewater in his stead. That is less a knock on Bridgewater’s ability but rather the schedule which faced the Saints after the loss. Bridgewater’s best ability has been his reliability. The quarterback has avoided major mistakes and led an efficient Saints offense. The New Orleans defense has been instrumental in keeping the ship afloat. New Orleans has been able to find ways to win, whether it comes in the form of a late stop or a crucial first down to keep a drive alive. We need to get an award for Teddy.
No. 2 – New England Patriots (6-0; -1)
So, this could be jarring for some. Rather than use this spot to justify the ascension of the team in California, we’re going to focus on the task at hand. At some point, the Patriots will find themselves in need of a big game on offense. Can they summon the necessary tools around Tom Brady to make it happen? There is only so much that Brady can do without a decent offensive line and more than one receiving option. The Patriots have averaged more than 30 points per game. However, many of those matchups were defensive struggles early, and also against four of the worst teams in the league. New England’s defense is what carries the team. Injuries on offense have stolen the explosiveness on that side of the ball. At the end of the day, is there any real doubt that New England doesn’t end up in another conference title game?
No. 1 – San Francisco 49ers (5-0; +1)
Congratulations Faithful, the NFL is no longer sleeping on the 49ers. Sure, there is a sprinkling of non-believers in the league but as a whole, the NFL views your team as legitimate contenders. That is due to a physically impressive performance against the division rival Rams. San Francisco struggled on defense for the opening drive. From that point on, it was a horror show for Los Angeles. Nick Bosa and the talented defensive line continues to put incredible amounts of pressure with just four rushers. It has allowed the secondary to hound opposing receivers and shortens the stamina needed on any given play. Offensively, the 49ers were efficient in keeping the football away from the Rams. Jimmy Garoppolo had a few poor throws which cost the 49ers 21 points. He will need to clean that up for the 49ers to claim the franchise’s sixth championship. Overall, the 49ers look like the most complete team in the league. The schedule only gets difficult for San Francisco. That is, after a trip to the nation’s capital to face Washington on Sunday.