NFL Power Rankings Week 6: Underperforming Teams Guaranteed to Rise
More than a third of the NFL season will be complete after Week 6. For teams that haven't lived up to expectations, it's time to start turning things around or risk getting lost in the shuffle as the race for playoff spots begins to take shape.
As with every season, there have been a handful of surprising teams and just as many disappointing ones. The three underperforming teams that stand out, however, are the Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints.
Here's a look at where all 32 teams stand after five weeks, with a deeper focus on why those three squads have what it takes to bounce back in the coming weeks.
1. Houston Texans (5-0)
Featuring a dominant defense, a game-changing running back in Arian Foster and a reliable quarterback in Matt Schaub, it's easy to see why the Texans have raced to the top in the AFC.
2. Atlanta Falcons (5-0)
The combination of Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez is virtually impossible to stop. Atlanta's run defense needs to improve in order to take the top spot, though.
3. San Francisco 49ers (4-1)
San Francisco has outscored its last two opponents 79-3, proving the combination of a strong running game and an elite defense can still win a lot of games in the NFL.
4. Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
I would have liked to see the Ravens crush inferior opponents like the Browns and Chiefs, but they figured out a way to win and that's all that really matters in the end.
5. Chicago Bears (4-1)
The Bears' defense has been a playmaking machine so far, paving the way to the team's strong start. If the offense improves—and it should—the Bears will be a serious NFC threat.
6. New England Patriots (3-2)
Returning Wes Welker to a full-time role has allowed the New England passing attack to thrive. Slowing down opposing aerial attacks is still a major concern, however.
Are the Giants Super Bowl contenders?
7. New York Giants (3-2)
Typical Giants. They are plodding along, winning the games they're supposed to, and history tells us they will round into form right around playoff time.
8. San Diego Chargers (3-2)
San Diego still hasn't beaten a contending team, leaving some question marks about its true ability. A lot will depend on Philip Rivers' ability to find his 2010 form.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
Even though the Steelers haven't been on the same level fans have come accustomed to, they are still a strong bet to make some noise when the postseason arrives.
10. Minnesota Vikings (4-1)
Christian Ponder's improvement from his rookie struggles has been borderline amazing, and has been the driving force behind Minnesota's unexpected hot start.
11. Arizona Cardinals (4-1)
Losing both main running backs (Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams) to injury will test Arizona's offensive depth. It will be interesting to see how Kevin Kolb handles the added pressure.
12. Seattle Seahawks (3-2)
Having already knocked off the Packers, the Seahawks have another statement game on Sunday against the Patriots. We'll have a much better read on them by next week.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)
The Bengals are going to rue dropping a home game against the Dolphins. With a brutal schedule down the stretch, that was a game they really needed to win with the playoffs in mind.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
Michael Vick is a high-risk, high-reward quarterback. All the Eagles can do is hope he has enough positive performances for them to sneak into the postseason.
15. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Coming off a bye, Dallas has to focus on getting DeMarco Murray going on the ground. The offense has been far too one-dimensional and it's led to yet another shaky start.
16. Green Bay Packers (2-3)
The Packers are still in good shape despite already tripling their loss total from last season. Losses to the Seahawks and Colts were unexpected, but winning on the road in Seattle is a tough task and Indianapolis rallied around their ailing coach and came up with a huge performance.
Green Bay's schedule gets much easier after a trip to Houston on Sunday night. That, and a passing attack that's surely going to improve once Greg Jennings returns, should be enough to get the team back in a promising position by its Week 10 bye.
The defense actually ranks in the middle of the pack, which is actually a positive sign. Once Aaron Rodgers and Co. get back on track, the possibility of a long winning streak is high. They should find a way to make the playoffs.
17. St. Louis Rams (3-2)
While the Rams' defense has played better than its ranking (14th in yards allowed) would indicate, the Sam Bradford-led offense must improve for St. Louis to remain in the mix.
18. Denver Broncos (2-3)
All anybody wanted to talk about heading into the season was Peyton Manning. From his ability to stay healthy to predicting how he would play, it was all Manning all the time. It turns out he should have been the least of Denver's worries.
While Manning has played up to his usual high standards, the rest of the Broncos have struggled to keep up. The skill position players on offense, most notably Demaryius Thomas, are fumbling too much, and the defense has been brutal aside for one game against Oakland.
Luckily for the Broncos, there's enough talent on the defensive side to get things turned around and Manning will ensure the offense is running like a well-oiled machine by crunch time. They are still a wise pick in the AFC west.
19. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)
Andrew Luck has had no problem living up to the massive amount of hype he had coming out of college. The rest of the team still isn't up to par, though.
20. New York Jets (2-3)
21. Washington Redskins (2-3)
Like Luck, Robert Griffin III has started his career in tremendous form, but his concussion last week is concerning. Let's hope he learned a lesson and starts trying to avoid those big hits.
22. Miami Dolphins (2-3)
The Dolphins lead the league in rush defense, but a lackluster secondary basically offsets that advantage. They are a team on the rise, but aren't ready to contend yet.
23. Detroit Lions (1-3)
Opponents have been doing a much better job of stopping Detroit's passing game from making big plays. That, along with a defense unable to make big stops, has led to a disappointing start.
24. New Orleans Saints (1-4)
It appears the offseason turmoil had a bigger impact on the Saints than most people expected. Getting their first win of the season, against a solid Chargers team no less, should help them regroup during the bye week and come back out strong.
Even though New Orleans' remaining schedule isn't easy by any means, it's certainly navigable. There are enough winnable games available for the Saints to make a charge back into the playoff race if they start playing up to their potential.
The two biggest keys are finding more balance on offense and forcing more turnovers on defense. The Saints have enough skill at running back to accomplish the first task. The second one will be a little tougher, but they have the playmakers to get it done.
25. Buffalo Bills (2-3)
Buffalo was a popular choice to make the playoffs heading into the season, but the team's overhauled defense has struggled mightily as has quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
The Buccaneers' offense isn't good enough to make up for the glaring holes in the defensive secondary, which limits the team's upside for the rest of the season.
What's your opinion of the Raiders?
27. Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Darren McFadden hasn't been his usual explosive self this season, which has caused the Raiders' offense to struggle. And Oakland's defense isn't good enough to pick up the slack.
28. Kansas City Chiefs (1-4)
Brady Quinn isn't likely to solve Kansas City's quarterback problem, but Chiefs fans should be happy Jamaal Charles looks as dynamic as ever in his return from injury.
29. Carolina Panthers (1-4)
The Panthers are too reliant on Cam Newton, who's enduring the dreaded sophomore slump, to make plays. There are simply too many weaknesses on both sides of the ball to win consistently.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
Jacksonville has a tough schedule after its Week 6 bye, which means it's likely to be a rough finish for a team that's still firmly in rebuilding mode.
31. Tennessee Titans (1-4)
Chris Johnson's fall from grace has been tough to watch. The offensive line has certainly contributed to his struggles, but he hasn't shown the same first-cut burst, either.
32. Cleveland Browns (0-5)
The Browns have enough talent to win a couple games, but it won't be long before the winless season talk starts if they don't pick up a victory soon.
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