There’s plenty of exciting topics to talk about after Week 6 of the 2011 NFL season–especially when it comes to the fight that almost broke out between Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz at the end of the 49ers-Lions game. Speaking of San Francisco–how impressive has this team looked over the last couple of weeks and should they be considered strong contenders in the NFC?
Here’s a look at the 2011 NFL Power Rankings for Week 7–with the team’s previous rank listed in parenthesis.
1. (1) Green Bay Packers 6-0: Let’s be honest–was anybody surprised at the result of the Rams game? The Packers had this game in the bag before it even started and Aaron Rodgers continues to make a strong case for MVP after another 300-yard game to go along with three touchdown passes. By the way, how underrated is Jordy Nelson? He picked up his second touchdown of the season from over 80 yards against the Rams–which is pretty impressive.
2. (2) New England Patriots 5-1: Sunday was the perfect example as to why Tom Brady is arguably the most clutch player in all of football. With the Patriots on the verge of having their home-game winning streak being snapped, Brady rallied the troops by driving 80 yards with less than three minutes left in the game before finding Aaron Hernandez in the end zone for the game-winning score with 27 seconds left. However, if there’s anything to take away from this game, it’s the Patriots can be contained on offense and other teams could benefit from Rob Ryan.
3. (6) Baltimore Ravens 4-1: The Ravens continue to find ways to win games despite Joe Flacco struggling and the defense looks like it’s dominant self from a few years ago. It’s never easy to contain Arian Foster and Baltimore’s defense held last year’s rushing champion to just 49 rushing yards. Still, if this team has any chance of making a strong case in the AFC, Anquan Boldin will need to play like he did against Houston (eight catches for 132 yards) on a consistent basis.
4. (7) San Francisco 49ers 5-1: Once again, the 49ers continue to make statements that they are talented enough to be considered contenders in the NFC. This defense shutdown one of the top defenses in football on the road in Week 6 and displayed another strong performance in the ground game led by Frank Gore–who rushed for 141 yards with one touchdown against the Lions. It was good to see Michael Crabtree (nine catches for 77 yards) finally have a good game, but this team still needs a ton of help in the passing game.
5. (4) Detroit Lions 5-1: There’s nothing to be worried about after the Lions first loss of the season considering their game against the 49ers could have gone either way. After scoring 109 points in the second half of games over the first five weeks, Detroit could have used some of that magic against San Francisco after scoring just nine points. Not to mention the Lions had zero answers to stop Frank Gore.
6. (3) New Orleans Saints 4-2: The Saints are never going to win games in which Josh Freeman outperforms Drew Brees–who threw for three interceptions against the Buccaneers. On a positive note–Sean Payton and company continue to looks like geniuses for drafting Jimmy Graham after recording his fourth consecutive 100-yard game against the Buccaneers on Sunday.
7. (5) Buffalo Bills 4-2: Just like the Saints against the Buccaneers, the Bills shouldn’t be too concerned considering their game against the Giants could have gone either way. Still, this loss has to be frustrating for Buffalo after falling to second place in the AFC East behind the New England Patriots. Fred Jackson continues to show why he’s worthy of being the No. 1 running back after recording his fourth 100-yard game of the season.
8. (10) Pittsburgh Steelers 4-2: Even though they were no match for the Jaguars, the Steelers should be relieved their defense is beginning to look like their dominant selves after allowing 17 points or less in four of their last five games. These next few weeks will determine how talented this team really is with matchups against the Patriots, Ravens, and Bengals after their Week 7 game against the Cardinals.
9. (8) San Diego Chargers 4-1: The argument can be made San Diego is the worst team with one loss so far this season and they still have plenty of areas that need work. However, as long as Philip Rivers is healthy–this team is always going to be considered a contender not just in the division, but the entire AFC. A key game against the Jets in Week 7 will be a strong indication of how good this team really is.
10. (11) Oakland Raiders 4-2: The Raiders are one of the hottest teams in football right now, but how they bounce back without Jason Campbell from here on out should be interesting. This team was in position to make a move to try and acquire another quarterback during the offseason–but Campbell’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time with the trade deadline on Tuesday. Oakland heavily relied on Darren McFadden and the ground game plenty of times before and considering neither Kyle Boller or Terrelle Pryor seem to be the answer–this team will have to rely on their running backs even more for the rest of the season.
11. (15) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-2: It’s difficult to think this was the same Buccaneers team that was embarrassed by the 49ers in Week 5–but they’re finally tied for first place in the NFC South after a big win over the Saints in Week 6. Nobody knew what to expect with LeGarrette Blount expected to miss the next few weeks, but if Earnest Graham–who finished with 109 rushing yards–can play each week like he did against New Orleans, Tampa Bay should be just fine on offense.
12. (14) New York Giants 4-2: Give Eli Manning credit considering everybody expected him to struggle against a Bills’ defense that led the league in interceptions heading into Week 6. New York managed to come up on the winning end of a game that kept going back and fourth with scoring and now–they stand alone in first place on top of the NFC East thanks to the Eagles.
13. (17) Cincinnati Bengals 4-2: Arguably one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 season, the Bengals matched their 2010 win total after a key victory over the Colts on Sunday. Andy Dalton continues to exceed all expectations as a rookie after another impressive performance in which he completed 25 of 32 passes for 264 yards with one touchdown. Not to mention Mike Zimmer’s defense ranks in the top five overall through the first six weeks and has held their opponents to 20 points or less in five of six games.
14. (13) Tennessee Titans 3-1: These next two weeks will be important for the Titans with key division games against the Texans and Colts. Tennessee should be well rested after the bye week, but still difficult to determine whether or not this team is for real heading into Week 7. Still, nobody expected the Titans to be in position to be in first place at this point in the season–so at least they have that going for them.
15. (9) Houston Texans 3-3: If the Texans fail to make the playoffs this season–they’ll have nobody to blame but themselves considering this team could easily be 5-1 at this point. Instead, Houston has lost three of their last four games and now sits behind the Titans in the AFC South. This was supposed to finally be the year in which the Texans took over the division, but now–it appears that will be more challenging than it seemed a few weeks ago.
16. (12) Washington Redskins 3-2: The Redskins found themselves in the perfect position to make a huge statement in the NFC East against a struggling Eagles team that had yet to win a game since opening weekend–but four interceptions by Rex Grossman killed that dream. Speaking of Sexy Rexy–it looks like Grossman’s time as the starter could be in jeopardy and the John Beck era may get underway after the former BYU took over at quarterback in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
17. (19) Chicago Bears 3-3: Can someone please explain why teams choose to kick the ball to Devin Hester? If the Bears could play as well as they did against the Vikings on a weekly basis–there’s a good chance they would be considered one of the top teams in the NFC. For once, Jay Cutler felt pretty good about himself after Chicago’s offensive line allowed just one sack against Minnesota.
18. (18) New York Jets 3-3: There isn’t much to brag about after Week 6 considering the Jets should beat the winless Dolphins 99 times out of 100. New York has to feel a sense of relief now that their three-game losing streak has finally come to an end and they can focus on getting back into the AFC East hunt with New England and Buffalo. For the second-straight week, Mark Sanchez didn’t have a turnover–which is huge considering he recorded turnovers in each of his first four games.
19. (20) Atlanta Falcons 3-3: Sunday’s game against the Panthers was a must-win for the Falcons after a disappointing 2-3 start. It was close, but a 17-point fourth quarter helped Atlanta avoid the upset and stay close to Tampa Bay and New Orleans in the NFC South hunt.
20. (16) Dallas Cowboys 2-3: What a heartbreaking loss for the Cowboys. This game seemed to be locked up late in the fourth quarter before Tom Brady drove his team 80 yards down the field for the game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left. Not many teams have what it takes to make Brady struggle and for the second-straight year–Rob Ryan found a way to get inside the future Hall of Famer’s head. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as Dallas let one slip away that would have put them in great shape in the NFC East.
21. (24) Philadelphia Eagles 2-4: Finally–the Eagles won their first game since Week 1 against the Rams. Despite the win, this team still has plenty of areas in need of work and needs to figure out why they’re struggling so much to put up points in the second half. Andy Reid can relax a little bit more after this “Dream Team” ended their four-game losing streak after a big win on the road against the Redskins. As crazy as it sounds–Philadelphia still has a decent shot at winning the division since they’re only two games back of New York with four division games left to play.
22. (21) Seattle Seahawks 2-3: The Seahawks should be well rested after coming off a bye as they prepare for a favorable matchup against the 2-3 Browns in Week 7. Despite winning two of their last three games, it’s still difficult to figure out what to make of Seattle at this point in the season. If they have any chance at catching up to the 49ers in the NFC West, they need to figure out a way to play as well as they did against the Giants in Week 5 on a weekly basis.
23. (22) Kansas City Chiefs 2-3: After the first three weeks of the regular season, Todd Haley appeared to be on his way out of Kansas City. Now, it appears the Chiefs may have finally woken up after back-to-back impressive wins against the Vikings and Colts–even if they are two terrible teams. Sunday’s road test against Oakland will be a good test to see whether or not this team is for real. Despite the Chargers 4-1 start, the AFC West is still up for grabs and with a few key wins against their division rivals–Kansas City could get right back into the race.
24. (25) Carolina Panthers 1-4: Cam Newton continues to shine and it’s safe to say the Panthers are a lot better than their record indicates. Carolina was on the verge of pulling off the upset in Atlanta before falling apart in the fourth quarter and Sunday marked the first time this team lost a game by more than seven points. The Panthers have exceeded all expectations so far in 2011 and will continue to cause problems for numerous teams over the remainder of the season.
25. (23) Cleveland Browns 2-3: The Browns have scored 17 points or less in four of their five games so far this season and their offense may be one of the biggest jokes of the NFL. Colt McCoy continues to make progress, but his performances haven’t been enough to get this team where it should be at this point in the season. Combine that with the disappointing start to Madden Cover star Peyton Hillis–things just aren’t looking good for Cleveland right now and it’s starting to become frustrating.
26. (27) Arizona Cardinals 1-4: Talk about a team that has been nothing but a disappointment so far this season. The acquisition of Kevin Kolb was supposed to give the Cardinals a decent shot at the NFC West this season–but that hope is quickly fading away with the emergence of the 5-1 49ers. With two tough matchups against the Steelers and Ravens over the next two weeks–there’s a good chance this Arizona team will still be at the bottom of these rankings heading into Week 9.
27. (28) Denver Broncos 1-4: It’s finally here–the Tim Tebow era will officially get underway on Sunday when the Broncos travel to Miami to face the Dolphins. Unfortunately, Tebow may struggle without one of his top targets after the team traded Brandon Lloyd to the Rams on Monday. Still, there’s at least something to be excited about in Denver after Tebow provided the offense with a spark in the second half against the Chargers in Week 5 and whether or not he is the answer may be determined against the winless Dolphins.
28. (29) Jacksonville Jaguars 1-5: It’s been six weeks and the Jaguars have yet to score more than 20 points in a single game. Many expected Blaine Gabbert to struggle as the starter, but nobody expected the first-round pick to struggle this much. Jacksonville should be better than their record indicates, but this team just can’t seem to get anything going and appears to be heading towards a top-five pick in April.
29. (26) Minnesota Vikings 1-5: To think this team finally seemed ready to turn things around after a big win over the Cardinals in Week 5–but that idea quickly vanished on Sunday night against the Bears. You know things are bad when Donovan McNabb’s mom leaves the game early because it was that painful to watch and the Vikings may as well let the Christian Ponder era begin earlier since the NFC North already seems out of reach.
30. (30) Indianapolis Colts 0-6: Before knowing about Peyton Manning, who would have thought this team would be the underdogs against the Bengals–who finished 4-12 last season–in Week 6? Indianapolis just can’t seem to catch a break and things don’t get any easier with key games against New Orleans and Tennessee over the next two weeks. Even if Manning was healthy, it’s hard to imagine this team with a few wins at this point considering how bad the defense looks.
31. (31) Miami Dolphins 0-5: How unfair is it that football fans have been forced to watch this terrible team on Monday Night Football twice over the first six weeks of the season? This Dolphins team looks absolutely terrible and each week is one game closer for Tony Sparano losing his job as head coach. It’s pathetic that Miami has failed to win a game at home since Week 10 of last season and this team will most likely have one of the first three picks in April’s draft.
32. (32) St. Louis Rams 0-5: Talk about the biggest mismatch of Week 6 with the winless Rams playing the undefeated and Super Bowl champion Packers. Too bad the Rams have no interest in the “Such For Luck” sweepstakes considering they could be one of the favorites to win at the end of the regular season. While their 0-5 start has been a disappointment, there’s hope the passing game could receive a spark after the acquisition of Brandon Lloyd from the Broncos to provie Sam Bradford with another target in the passing game.