NFL Power Rankings: Teams That Will Continue to Climb After Week 6
We're finally at the point in the season where we can start to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
Five weeks (or, in some cases, four) offers some indication of which teams' early-season losses were flukes and which served as indications that this season isn't going to be sunshine and rainbows, even for some of those squads that we presumed would be dominant.
And in five weeks, we've seen some teams rebound from early losses and dominate, just as we expected them to. These power rankings will focus on those teams, especially the ones facing favorable matchups in Week 6.
1. Houston Texans (5-0)
This week's game against Green Bay may actually present a challenge for the Texans—but it's not as though they won't be able to meet it.
Houston has been one of the very few consistent teams this season, and Green Bay has been anything but. The Packers may have an offense led by one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but that hasn't been translating into wins—and they can't blame it on the refs anymore.
The truth is, the Packers barely look mediocre this year, and the Texans look explosive. They've taken down the Jets and the Broncos on the road, both of which were considered to be serious contenders at some point. Expect Houston to give the Packers the same treatment it gave those teams.
2. Atlanta Falcons (5-0)
For some reason, even though the Falcons join the Texans as one of the only two undefeated teams in the league, they aren't getting the same respect as Houston. Maybe that's because the Falcons haven't really played anybody yet.
And that doesn't change much in Week 6, when they get a visit from 1-3 Oakland. The Raiders have just one win in 2012—against Pittsburgh, of all teams—and are coming off their bye week, before which they fell 37-6 to Denver.
Coming back from the bye to face one of the hottest teams in the league isn't a recipe for success for any 1-3 team, especially when it involves going on the road and a couple time zones away.
And for the record, the Falcons, to their credit, have beaten Denver and San Diego—that's not nobody.
3. San Francisco 49ers (4-1)
This definitely isn't an automatic win for the 49ers, even at home. The Giants haven't been consistent, but once their offense gets going, it's unstoppable.
4. Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
Once upon a time, a game against the Cowboys would've been the type of game you circle on the calendar as a big one. But those days are gone.
Any momentum the Cowboys generated from their big opening-week win over the Giants has been lost. They've endured losses at the hands of Seattle and Chicago, neither of which ranks among the top teams in the league. Tony Romo's offense has been pretty awful, and the defense has been just as bad.
All of which presents the ideal situation for Joe Flacco heading into Week 6. The Ravens' D hasn't been excellent, by any means, but it's better than Dallas', and Flacco has been outplaying Romo for weeks.
5. New England Patriots (3-2)
The Patriots are getting a lot of respect for a team that's barely over .500, but that's what a win over Peyton Manning will do for you. Seattle, however, is a team the Patriots rarely face, and that unfamiliarity could translate into uncharacteristic mistakes in Week 6.
6. Chicago Bears (4-1)
7. New York Giants (3-2)
The jury is still out on New York, just as it always seems to be at this point in the season. A road win over the 49ers, though, will do a lot to establish the Giants' credibility.
8. Minnesota Vikings (4-1)
So apparently, the Vikings are for real. Three straight wins over the 49ers, Lions and Titans will do that for you, and they could easily make it four in a row if Robert Griffin III can't go for the Redskins on Sunday.
9. Arizona Cardinals (4-1)
How will Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals respond to their first taste of adversity? The same way virtually every team responds when faced with the Bills. There could be no better opponent for the Cardinals coming off their first loss of the season.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
Big Thursday night game, big opportunity for the Steelers to push themselves over .500 for the first time all season. The Titans are beatable, to say the least, and Pittsburgh's offense and defense will finally click at the same time.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
I'm not yet sold on the Eagles. They've beaten some great teams and they've been beaten by some great teams. Have their wins been sheer luck, or have their losses been bad luck? A win over Detroit on Sunday could help their case—but then again, the jury is still out on the Lions, too.
12. Green Bay Packers (2-3)
The Packers are certainly the best under-.500 team in the NFL, but they're going to fall even further after a matchup against the league's top team. This is not a good time for them to be taking on Houston.
13. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Similarly, this doesn't bode to be a good week for the up-and-down Cowboys. This offense needs some serious help (talking to you, wide receivers), but it's unlikely that an offensive awakening is going to come against Baltimore.
14. San Diego Chargers (3-2)
Monday Night Football against Peyton Manning doesn't translate into a good night for the Chargers. Especially because the last decent team they faced (Atlanta) destroyed them.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)
This could be a good week for Andy Dalton and the Bengals, as it is for most teams that face Cleveland on any given week.
16. Seattle Seahawks (3-2)
This is going to be a big week for both of these teams. The Seahawks have an excellent defense and one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL, which could present the perfect opportunity for New England's secondary to redeem itself.
17. Denver Broncos (2-3)
This is a good week for Peyton Manning & Co. to get back to .500. In fact, the next several weeks should be pleasant for Denver, now that Atlanta, Houston and New England are all out of the way.
18. St. Louis Rams (3-2)
With Miami next up on the schedule, the Rams have an excellent opportunity to extend their winning streak to three. And garnering that momentum will be crucial with back-to-back games against Green Bay and New England on the horizon.
19. Miami Dolphins (2-3)
And unfortunately, the Dolphins bode to be St. Louis' most recent victim. This offense just can't find a way to get in a rhythm and stay there, and Miami's 27th-ranked pass defense will be a nice treat for St. Louis.
20. Detroit Lions (1-3)
The Lions' record may tell one story, but they definitely stand a chance against the inconsistent Eagles on Sunday. It's just a matter of Matthew Stafford staying in control.
21. Washington Redskins (2-3)
A lot this weekend will depend on Robert Griffin III's health. The Redskins have rarely had a week where all of their key components have been good to go, and they'll need all those components against Minnesota.
22. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)
Meanwhile, that other rookie quarterback could soon become the latest to make Mark Sanchez's side look silly. The Jets have nothing going for them right now, and that could be Indy's gain.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
Coming off the bye week, the Bucs get Kansas City, which could be a nice change of pace from the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins.
24. New Orleans Saints (1-4)
25. New York Jets (2-3)
Could this—finally—be Mark Sanchez's last chance to get the job done? This season, he hasn't been able to complete half of his passes, and you have to figure that at some point, that is going to matter to Rex Ryan.
26. Carolina Panthers (1-4)
27. Buffalo Bills (2-3)
After two consecutive awful losses to New England and San Francisco, the Bills need to generate some momentum. And it probably won't come against a Cardinals team coming off its first loss of the season.
28. Tennessee Titans (1-4)
The Titans' horrific defense isn't going to get any relief against Big Ben and the Steelers. Fortunately, in Week 7, they get Buffalo!
29. Oakland Raiders (1-3)
A 1-3 team isn't likely to beat Matt Ryan and the Falcons on their home turf. Especially a 1-3 team with the league's No. 28 pass defense.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (1-4)
The Chiefs are facing a team in Week 6 that is just a little bit less terrible than they are. That could make this one an actual game.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
32. Cleveland Browns (0-5)
Is that elusive first win going to come in Week 6? No. Probably not against Cincinnati, a team that beat the Browns in Week 2 without playing well at all.
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