Rant Sports NFL-32: NFL Power Rankings
NFL Power Rankings - Week 6
We all know that 32-team NFL Power Rankings can change quite dramatically, any given week.
Any given Sunday, (or Monday, or Thursday) in the NFL, they say that any team can go toe-to-toe with any other team. Any team can beat any other team at any given time.
Each week, there are upsets that seem to give credence to this thought, and that’s what makes it so difficult to really pin down just how good each and every respective team in the NFL is.
Through five weeks of the 2012 NFL regular season, each team has played at least one quarter of their schedule, and it’s a little bit easier to get a read on who are contenders, and who aren’t.
For Week 6, my NFL Power Rankings will count down from worst to first, from the basement to the penthouse.
Some teams have come roaring out of the gate, while other teams have stumbled. Does team record tell the whole story? In some cases it may, in others, perhaps not so much.
Of course, this is the NFL. A team can fall or rise pretty significantly in the blink of an eye. Teams at the top have to stay on their game, or they risk a tumble.
Any opportunistic underdog can score the upset any time. That parity and unpredictability is what makes the NFL so great.
Who knows? The teams we see as contenders in October may not even be there in January, and vice-versa. Nevertheless, the Week 6 NFL Power Rankings are here.
Which team takes the top spot this week? Which teams are knocking on the door? Who’s the unlucky 32? And where does your team land? Read on to find out.
Feel free to agree or disagree with my rankings, via the comment section below, and on Twitter.
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32. Cleveland Browns (0-5)
The Cleveland Browns have an absolute gem on their hands in rookie running back Trent Richardson (above). However, if they don’t improve across the board, it may not matter how good a player he becomes.
It’s not hard to envision Richardson having a career like Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams. That is, a career as a perennial fantasy football stud who rarely sniffs the postseason through no fault of his own.
Cleveland has talent, especially on the offensive line, and in Richardson and cornerback Joe Haden. But they kick off this list at #32. It’s up to them if they want to change that.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team in transition, to a new ownership, a new color scheme (goodbye teal, hello black) and a new head coach in Mike Mularkey.
They’re also a team with a 1-4 record that’s been outscored by their opponents by 73 points. That’s the second worst point differential in football.
Poor Maurice-Jones Drew (#32, above middle). He deserves better.
30. Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Oakland scored 34 points against Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense in that game, yet they’ve still been outscored by their opponents by 58 points. That’s hard to do in only four games.
However, this is the team that somehow decided it was a good idea to trade two 1st-round picks for Carson Palmer. Seeing him down here at #30 isn’t exactly a surprise.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (1-4)
Cassel has been pretty terrible, but to be fair, he’s not the only one.
The Chiefs have been outscored by their opponents by over 50 points, and aside from Jamaal Charles (above) and Dwayne Bowe, they don’t have much to work with on offense.
At least they’re not the worst team in their own division, though. So there’s that.
28. Tennessee Titans (2-4)
Where, oh where, has Chris Johnson been?
Johnson, (above) the heart and soul of the Tennessee Titans offense, has been grounded so far this season, with a career low 3.3 yards per carry and only one 100-yard rushing game all year.
But the Titans’ defense has been disappointing as well, giving up over 420 yards and 34 points per game. They have the worst point differential in football, at -90. Not exactly a formula for success.
27. Carolina Panthers (1-4)
After a big statistical season as a rookie, some thought that this would be the year that Cam Newton (above) turned the Carolina Panthers into playoff contenders.
Unfortunately, the dreaded sophomore slump may be hitting the electrifying reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the Panthers have been unable to get out of their own way.
Newton can’t do it alone, of course. His teammates and coaches need to help take the pressure off him. Otherwise, things are only going to get uglier in Carolina.
26. Buffalo Bills (2-3)
The Buffalo Bills have beaten two bad teams and been beaten badly in their other three games. They have been outscored by 58 points overall, and their revamped defense has not exactly panned out.
Mario Williams has been invisible, and the Bills became the first team in NFL history to give up 300 passing yards and 300 rushing yards in the same game in their Week 5 loss. Yikes.
There’s still time to fix it, and the Bills are still a team with big play ability, but Western New York fans are unfortunately going to have to wait another year for playoff football.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
Greg Schiano’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gotten more attention for their aggressive blitzing of the victory formation than for their actual play, and that’s a shame.
The upstart Bucs have been right there in every game they’ve played, a 6-point win, a 7-point loss, a 6-point loss and a 2-point loss. They’re right on the cusp of winning these close games.
I think this is a much better team than their record indicates, and I expect them to be a tough matchup week in and week out. This is one team I expect to rise up the rankings from here on out.
24. Detroit Lions (1-3)
Not exactly the start they had hoped for in the Motor City.
After making the playoffs last season, the Detroit Lions find themselves in last place in the NFC North, and it’s hard to make the case that they don’t belong there, quite frankly.
They’ve lost three straight in relatively close games, but the schedule doesn’t get any easier. They still have to play five more division games, and those will be no walk in the park.
23. New Orleans Saints (1-4)
It’s no secret that the New Orleans Saints have struggled in the absence of suspended head coach Sean Payton. New Orleans was brutal in September, starting the season 0-4.
The Saints finally got off the schneid in Week 5 however, and made some history doing it, as Drew Brees broke Johnny Unitas’s record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
However, the Saints have a long way to go to get back into playoff contention, and with a defense giving up a league-worst 456 yards per game, it might be tough to pull that off.
22. St. Louis Rams (3-2)
The St. Louis Rams are the first team with a winning record to show up on my NFL Power Rankings. I simply don’t see their offense being effective enough to sustain their 3-2 start.
Losing Danny Amendola was a killer for their passing game, and Steven Jackson has battled nagging injuries all season long. Luckily, their offense doesn't have to do it alone.
The Rams defense has been pretty good, especially against the pass, with cornerback Cortland Finnegan playing at a Pro Bowl-caliber level in his first season with the team.
Head coach Jeff Fisher has done a nice job so far, changing the culture in an organization that desperately needed it.
21. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)
The Indianapolis Colts have already won as many games as they did last year, and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck looks like the real deal, as advertised.
Veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne has been rejuvenated in his 12th NFL season, helping the Colts come out of their Week 4 bye with an emotional home win in Week 5.
The Colts now head to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Jets, who just narrowly beat them out for the 20th spot in this week’s rankings. That should be a fun game to watch.
20. New York Jets (2-3)
They’ve struggled with injuries, losing their top playmaker on both sides of the ball, among others. However, this is the NFL, and nobody’s going to feel sorry for them.
Rex Ryan’s defense has been uncharacteristically below average, especially against the run, where the Jets are giving up 172.4 yards per game, 2nd-worst in the NFL.
The most positive news for the Jets is that their toughest four-game stretch of the season is behind them, so for their sake, hopefully their best is yet to come.
19. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)
The upstart Cincinnati Bengals look like they’ve struck gold with their first two draft picks last year, as sophomore receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton have been tremendous.
Green may already be one of the top three receivers in the league, and Dalton made the Pro Bowl as a rookie and led the Bengals to the playoffs, and he looks like a keeper.
This year, they haven’t faced the best competition yet, but in the coming weeks, we’ll see exactly what they’re made of.
Until then, I’m placing them here at #19, right behind a team they lost to last week.
18. Miami Dolphins (2-3)
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has shown promise for the Miami Dolphins, but they’ve hung tough thanks to a hard-nosed defense that features the top-ranked run defense, only allowing 61.4 yards per game.
Cameron Wake (above) has proven he can play in any style of defense, and he’s been arguably the best 4-3 defensive end in football this season, especially when it comes to rushing the passer.
Miami has a chance to be a real nuisance for any team they face the rest of the year, and rookie head coach Joe Philbin deserves a lot of credit for the way he’s run his team.
17. Washington Redskins (2-3)
The NFC East is one of the strongest divisions top-to-bottom in the NFL, and it shows, with the last place Washington Redskins just narrowly missing out on the top half of these rankings.
Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has been the perfect fit in Mike Shanahan’s offense, and rookie running back Alfred Morris has been terrific, helping the Redskins to the 4th-ranked rushing offense in the league.
They’ve put up 400 yards per game on offense, but their defense has also allowed over 415 yards per game. That’s not going to help them climb out of the NFC East cellar and into the playoff hunt.
16. San Diego Chargers (3-2)
A first place team, this low in the rankings?
I don’t see the Chargers playing January football.
I don’t see them winning Monday night.
I’ll eat crow if they prove me wrong, but they need to prove it before I rank them any higher. I need to see more.
15. Arizona Cardinals (4-1)
The Arizona Cardinals got off to a rocking 4-0 September start, thanks to a solid defense that has only given up 15.6 points per game over the first five weeks, 5th-best in the NFL.
The offense has been putrid. The Cardinals have struggled blocking, throwing, running, you name it. Yet they’ve beaten some very good teams, and for that, they get ranked at #15 for me.
If they want to be serious contenders, they’ll need that offense to show a pulse. They’ve got a tough stretch of games coming up. It’ll be interesting to see what the Cardinals are made of.
14. Seattle Seahawks (3-2)
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has been a nice find for the Seattle Seahawks. He hasn’t put up gaudy numbers like some other rookies, but he’s done an admirable job nonetheless.
The reason Seattle is ranked so high is because of their defense. Some could argue they have the best defense in the NFL. They’re second in points allowed (14.0) and first in yards allowed (258.6).
They’ve been equally dominant against the pass (192.0 yards per game; 4th in the league) and against the run (66.6 yards per game; 3rd in the league.) They’ve been a fun team to watch.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)
The defense has been solid as usual, 6th in the NFL in yards allowed, while Ben Roethlisberger has been fantastic, helping the Steelers to the 7th-best pass offense at 285.8 yards per game.
There’s plenty of time for them to get back on track, but they need to get the running game going. Otherwise, they might be on the outside looking in come January.
12. Minnesota Vikings (4-1)
The Vikings have been led by a stifling defense, (6th in points allowed, 7th in yards allowed) and a running game that’s helped take the pressure off of sophomore quarterback Christian Ponder.
Ponder, to his credit, has been the most improved passer in the league this year. The Vikings are no fluke. How long they can keep it up remains to be seen, but they’ll be knocking on the door till the end.
11. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
How does a .500 team with a -23 point differential make it into my top 11? Well, let’s just say that the Dallas Cowboys are a team that I believe is far more talented than they’ve shown so far.
I am a Tony Romo fan, and he’s been solid as usual. He’s had to carry the load with a rushing offense that’s 3rd-worst in the league at 67.8 yards per game.
Their defense, much maligned last year, has been solid. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have been just what the doctor ordered, which is why the Cowboys are #1 against the pass.
The Cowboys have had a tough schedule so far, and it won’t get much easier, but they’ve hung around. They’ll be contenders to the very end. Whether they actually get in, well... that’s another story.
10. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
Another NFC East team, another negative point differential.
The Philadelphia Eagles have been outscored by 19 points this year, yet they enter Week 6 in first place in the NFC East. Their defense has been a top ten unit, but their offense has struggled mightily.
Michael Vick has had a ton of trouble with turnovers, and the Eagles are 31st in scoring offense at 16 points per game. They’ve been racking up yardage, but they need to start getting the ball in the end zone.
They’ve found a way to win close games, and they deserve credit for that. But they’ll need to be far more consistent if they want to win the NFC East and make a playoff run.
9. Denver Broncos (2-3)
Is there any doubt that Peyton Manning is back? The Denver Broncos struck gold with the future Hall of Famer, and the Broncos are a top 5 passing offense and a top 10 offense overall.
Their defense has taken a step back so far, but to be fair, they’ve faced some excellent offenses this year. The Broncos have a chance to take over 1st place this week, and I think that they will.
They’ve got the toughest part of their schedule in the rear-view mirror, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the league. I expect Denver to run away with the AFC West. See you in January, Peyton.
8. Green Bay Packers (2-3)
Congratulations! The Green Bay Packers are my highest-ranked team with a losing record. Not exactly the praise Aaron Rodgers and company would prefer, but hey, it’s something, right?
The Packers have been uncharacteristically mediocre on both sides of the ball, which is why they find themselves with a mediocre record. But this is still a dangerous team. There’s no doubt about that.
This week they have another tough test, when they face the Houston Texans on the road. Is a 2-4 start in the cards for the Pack? Could be. But nothing they can’t handle. They’re not going away any time soon.
7. Chicago Bears (4-1)
Well, well, well. The Monsters of the Midway are back. The Chicago Bears have been rather dominant this season, with a 4-1 record and the 2nd-best point differential in football, at +78.
The defense? Same old Bears. 3rd in points allowed, 5th in yards allowed. They’ve held their opponents to just 65.8 yards per game on the ground, good for 2nd in the league.
The offense has been pretty good, but it has the potential for a lot more. The Bears are a bye this week, but they’ll be a force to reckoned with all season long. They’ll be there in January, no doubt.
6. New England Patriots (3-2)
I must say, it’s rather strange to see the New England Patriots showing some level of mortality this early in the season. Nevertheless, they’re in first place, and they’ll roll to yet another division title.
The offense? 1st in points, 1st in yards. But the big surprise is that they’re 3rd in rushing yards, at 165.4 yards per game. Credit offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for restoring a run-pass balance they haven't had in years.
The defense needs to tighten up, but they’re improved from last year when they were downright awful, and the Patriots will still able to overcome it and make it to the Super Bowl.
This year, the AFC looks strong at the top, and New England is my 3rd-highest ranked AFC team on these Power Rankings. Won’t somebody please get rid of them already?
5. New York Giants (3-2)
The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants find themselves firmly in my top 5 this week, and they’ve got their elite quarterback to thank for that.
Eli Manning has been tremendous, leading the Giants to the 2nd-ranked offense in terms of both points and yards per game. Eli is averaging 309 passing yards per game. All in a day’s work.
The defense has been a little shaky, and it’s a bit concerning that they’re 0-2 in their divisional games, especially with such a tough schedule.
But I expect them to win the NFC East when it’s all said and done. They’re the type of team that strikes fear into the hearts of their opponents week in and week out, and for good reason.
4. Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
How good have the Baltimore Ravens been this year? Well, they’re one 1-point road loss away from being 5-0 on the year.
Believe it or not, this year’s Ravens team has been carried by the offense, not the ferocious defense they’ve relied upon for years and years.
The Ravens are in the top 10 in points and yards per game, and they’re even 9th in passing offense. Not exactly the formula you’d expect from this organization.
But it’s been a winning formula, and once that defense gets back to the level of play we’re used to, this is going to be a heck of a team. They will be one of the teams to beat come January.
3. Atlanta Falcons (5-0)
Apologies in advance to the Atlanta Falcons fans who expected more. Your 5-0 record is impressive, but not enough for me to call you the team to beat just yet. Top 3 overall ain’t too shabby though, right?
The Falcons' formula has been all about the passing game. They are 8th in passing offense, and 7th in passing defense, and that’s helped them be a top 10 team in points scored and points allowed.
Matt Ryan is playing like a man hungry for his first playoff win, and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has been just what the doctor ordered. How far can the Falcons go? Only time will tell.
2. Houston Texans (5-0)
The Houston Texans have a perfect record heading into Week 6, but it’s not quite enough to get the top spot in these Power Rankings. They are as complete a team as there is in football, however.
The Texans have a top 5 defense, and perhaps that doesn’t even do them justice. They’ve been dominant, winning by at least 20 points in three of their five wins.
Arian Foster (above) is the best running back in the league, and his offensive line has helped him find plenty of running room along the way.
They are the current favorites in the AFC. Is this the year they finally break through to the Super Bowl? At this point, it’s hard to find a reason why not.
1. San Francisco 49ers (4-1)
The top ranked team on my Power Rankings is the San Francisco 49ers, the best team in the NFL.
Forget that they’ve got a blemish on their record. It’s only made them stronger. They’ve been playing like a team possessed since their Week 3 loss, and they’ve steamrolled everyone in their path.
The 49ers have an NFL-best +81 point differential, and last week they became the first team in NFL history to put up 600 yards of total offense, 300 yards each on the ground and in the air.
They’re averaging over 400 yards a game on offense, including an NFL-best 196.2 yards on the ground, and they’re also the most dominant defense in the league, 1st in points allowed, 2nd in yards.
Just how good is this 49ers team? They have to be presumptive Super Bowl favorites right now, and I don’t see any way that changes from now until February. They are the definition of elite.