NFL Power Rankings: Most Overachieving Teams Entering Week 7

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2012

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 14:  Christian Ponder #7 of the Minnesota Vikings throws a pass against the Washington Redskins during the first half at FedExField on October 14, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Most people expected the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers to have successful seasons, but who pegged the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings as 4-2 teams entering Week 7?

If you did, you're a prophet and I'll be calling you to make my picks this week.

This year's NFL season has been wacky. The Redskins are making noise in the NFC East, the NFC West has three teams pushing for playoff spots and the AFC East is filled with bizarre 3-3 squads.

With just over half of the season to go, things aren't going to get any less odd.

Let's take a look at some power rankings entering Week 7, highlighting a few overachievers along the way.

1. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have ridden Matt Ryan to reach their full potential this year. An improved defense has this team looking like legitimate Super Bowl favorites.

2. Baltimore Ravens

Coming into the year, Baltimore was an obvious AFC contender. On the arm of Joe Flacco and the legs of Ray Rice, the team hasn't disappointed, despite a disappointing effort on the defensive side.

3. Houston Texans

The Texans have been right on the brink for a few seasons now. Finally, they've taken the next step. With Matt Schaub at the helm, Arian Foster in the backfield and one of the league's best defenses, this team looks destined for an AFC Championship berth.

4. Chicago Bears

Chicago has underachieved in recent seasons, but this year looks different. Jay Cutler is still turning the ball over, and Matt Forte is still prone to injury, but Brandon Marshall has given this team a dynamic presence on the outside.

5. New York Giants

The Giants couldn't really overachieve, considering their status as reigning Super Bowl champions. Prior to beating the 49ers on Sunday, New York has looked shaky.

A dynamic pass offense and recovering ground game must hide the No. 21 pass defense in the NFL for them to remain successful.

6. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers entered the season as an obvious favorite to win the Super Bowl. At 4-2, they've had a few hiccups, but a devastating run game makes this team tough to stop. Especially when you combine it with a frightening all-around defense.

7. Green Bay Packers

At 3-3, last year's nearly perfect Packers are underachieving. Nonetheless, Aaron Rodgers' six touchdowns Sunday night showed why you can never sleep on this squad.

8. Minnesota Vikings

Now, things get interesting. Maybe you believe that the Vikings severely underachieved last year, but it's the opposite.

Minnesota doesn't play flashy football, instead using the basics to jump out to a 4-2 start this season.

Adrian Peterson is back and healthy. Christian Ponder has taken a gigantic step forward as a second-year quarterback, doing an excellent job of taking care of the ball.

Defensively, the Vikings are 10th against the pass and 11th against the run.

With two games against both Chicago and Green Bay remaining on the schedule, it's hard to see Minnesota maintaining this pace, but anything is possible. After all, this is the Vikings team that knocked off the big, bad 49ers in Week 3.

9. San Diego Chargers

The idea of San Diego overachieving is actually pretty funny. As one of the league's perennial underachievers, the Chargers have not disappointed.

Case in point, the Broncos' epic comeback Monday night.

10. Seattle Seahawks

CenturyLink Field is still one of the league's most intimidating venues, and the Seahawks take advantage of that.

Currently 4-2, both losses have occurred on the road. Regardless, the Seahawks have used their home-field advantage to defeat the Cowboys, Patriots and the Packers (sort of).

Despite the league's 31st passing attack, Seattle still scores points. A powerful run game complements its aggressive defense well, allowing it to possess the ball.

Seattle is a dangerous overachiever because of its defense. "The Legion of Boom" creates problems for even the best passing attacks, and the front seven plays with its ears pinned back at all times.

11. Arizona Cardinals

While we're at it, why not talk about another overachiever out west? The Cardinals, despite losing two straight, have been a pleasant surprise this season.

Arizona started the year 4-0, even going into Foxboro and upending the New England Patriots. Using its tenacious defense, almost solely, the Cardinals have created a dangerous squad.

Offensively, the team still struggles. Larry Fitzgerald is his dynamic self, but he continues to be without a reliable arm that can get him the ball.

Add in a revolving door of running backs, and the Cardinals aren't going to light up your scoreboard any time soon.

However, 4-2 is 4-2. Arizona is dangerous, and no one expected this hot start.

12. New England Patriots

Anything short of a Super Bowl is a disappointment as long as Tom Brady is behind center. The Patriots will stick around, but this year has been a bit of a disappointment so far.

13. Washington Redskins

The Redskins could be pegged as overachievers, but I don't think so. Washington needed a quarterback last season to improve a team that had some talent otherwise.

Now, with Robert Griffin III staking his claim as the league's must-watch player, the Redskins look like a team that could challenge for the NFC East title.

14. Denver Broncos

The Broncos seem to get better with each passing week. Peyton Manning has had his struggles, but Monday night's performance against the Chargers could be a defining moment for this Denver team.

The AFC West is wide open, and it's tough to pick against this team.

15. Philadelphia Eagles

Michael Vick continues to be the most frustrating starting quarterback in the NFL. With so much talent on both sides of the ball, the Eagles should be better than 3-3.

Slip-ups versus the Steelers and Lions have this team's status in question moving forward.

16. Miami Dolphins

Entering the season, Miami was arguably the worst team in the NFL. Now, at 3-3, the Dolphins are a very interesting squad.

Mistaking Ryan Tannehill for Aaron Rodgers isn't going to happen anytime soon, but the rookie has been much better than expected. He doesn't try to do too much, and he's developed a solid rapport with his receiving corps.

Miami makes its money on the ground, both offensively and defensively. Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller complement Tannehill very well, taking a lot of the pressure off the first-year signal-caller.

Defensively, the Dolphins allow just under 80 yards per game.

Miami has some challenges in the second part of its schedule, but the playoffs are not inconceivable at this point.

17. St. Louis Rams

The Rams are doing what they could have done last year had Sam Bradford been healthy. St. Louis doesn't score a ton of points, but Bradford makes good decisions and allows Jeff Fisher's revamped defense to do most of the work.

18. Detroit Lions

Detroit entered this season as an exciting team and a trendy Super Bowl pick, but the Lions have severely disappointed.

Matthew Stafford has taken a step back, leaving the offense with nowhere to turn. Defensively, Detroit still struggles to stop big-time offenses.

19. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys, like usual, cannot get out of their own way. Despite the league's No. 6 passing offense, and No. 1 pass defense, the Cowboys sit at 2-3.

20. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have a big chance to prove themselves this weekend against the Steelers, especially after handing the Browns their first win of the season last Sunday.

Andy Dalton has a ton of weapons to work with on offense, but sketchy play everywhere else has this team on the cusp between success and failure.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers

Underachieving, disappointing or just plain old, whatever you want to call it, the Steelers don't look like the Steelers that the football world is used to.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As long as Josh Freeman remains enigmatic behind center, this team will be extremely inconsistent. The No. 5 rushing defense in the league gives them something to build on moving forward.

23. New York Jets

The Jets are underachievers, or they are playing as well as they should. It's hard to tell.

With very little talent on either side of the ball, Rex Ryan's days with the organization could be numbered. Sooner or later, you have to deliver on the enormous expectations placed on you. Especially if you create those expectations yourself.

24. Buffalo Bills

The league's fifth-best rushing attack is the lone bright spot on a team that can't pass, defend the pass or stop the run.

25. Indianapolis Colts

Every time the Colts stake a claim to be overachievers, they blow it. Beating Green Bay and Minnesota this year looks great, but losing to Jacksonville and the Jets doesn't.

26. Tennessee Titans

Tennessee's best asset, Chris Johnson, doesn't have a touchdown this season. At 2-4, the Titans have many holes to fill.

They should start up front. The worst rushing offense in the league isn't making Jake Locker or Matt Hasselbeck's job any easier.

27. Oakland Raiders

The Raiders sneaked by the Steelers in Week 3, and nearly beat the Falcons on Sunday, but the same woes continue.

Darren McFadden is criminally underused, with the Raiders offense relying on Carson Palmer's aging arm instead.

28. Cleveland Browns

The Brandon Weeden experiment hasn't gone well, with the rookie turning the ball over left and right. On the other hand, Trent Richardson has exploded in his first season.

The NFL's youngest team was expected to take its lumps this year, and it has.

29. New Orleans Saints

You could label the Saints as underachievers, and they probably are, but sooner or later a bad defense was going to catch up to them. Drew Brees could lead an epic turnaround, although that seems unlikely.

30. Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton is facing the hated sophomore slump, and his supporting cast isn't talented enough to pick him up. With Newton behind center, this team will always be exciting, but their woes won't end this season.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

Blaine Gabbert hasn't developed in his second year, partially due to a terrible offensive line in front of him. Don't expect Jacksonville to make any waves this year.

32. Kansas City Chiefs

It's hard to overachieve when you have one win. Kansas City defends the pass well, and has a dynamic run game, but the rest of this squad is a mess.


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