NFL Power Rankings: Analyzing Every Team Going into Week 7
Coming into Week 7, we may be in the midst of the least predictable season in NFL history.
Parity has reigned supreme thus far, as just two teams in the entire AFC have records above .500 and upsets have become something of the norm. In fact, favorites are a paltry 32-58-1 against the spread in 2012.
Nevertheless, with the state of the league in flux, we still have enough of a sample size to not only evaluate teams' performances so far, but also look forward on the slate.
With that in mind, here is a look at the latest power rankings as we head into Week 7 action.
1. Houston Texans
Simply put, one loss, no matter how embarrassing, is not enough to make me move off my evaluation of Houston.
Barring injury, this is the most complete team in football. Matt Schaub and Arian Foster lead a strong, well-balanced attack on offense, and J.J. Watt is unquestionably the Defensive Player of the Year through six weeks.
For now, let's just chalk up their loss last week as an anomaly.
2. Atlanta Falcons
While you have to give the Falcons credit for being the last team undefeated, it's hard to think of a less intimidating 6-0 team in recent memory.
After three straight victories against bottom-half teams, the bye week could not have come at a better time for Mike Smith's squad.
3. Chicago Bears
Nonetheless, there is seemingly nothing this team does poorly, and with a weak schedule in the next three weeks, they should be 7-1 when we head into Week 8.
The only real issues plaguing Chicago are ones of health and Jay Cutler's ability to avoid imploding at the worst moment possible.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and the Ravens offense has been fantastic this season and shows no signs of slowing down.
It just seems unlikely that the team can contend for a Super Bowl after losing both Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb—especially considering Baltimore was already flailing defensively.
5. New York Giants
As far as statement wins go, the Giants were essentially blown off the front page by Green Bay's evisceration of the Texans on Sunday night.
For those who are into inane motivational theories, that's "just the way Tom Coughlin wants it."
More likely, though, the Giants present a difficult matchup for the 49ers' style and exploited the opposition the same way they did in the NFC Championship game.
Yep, let's go with that.
6. San Francisco 49ers
By now, we know the blueprint to beating the 49ers: Get up early, force Alex Smith to pass the ball 30-plus times and profit when he makes mistakes.
It's not quantum physics, but San Francisco's roster is so talented and the team is so well-coached by Jim Harbaugh that it takes a special breed of team to pull it off.
The 49ers are still Super Bowl contenders, but certainly aren't the world-beaters that we saw in Weeks 4 and 5.
7. New England Patriots
Each of New England's three losses came by a combined four points and in games where the Patriots outplayed the opposition in nearly every facet.
8. Green Bay Packers
Following the way this team seemed cursed from the outset, it seemed like the Packers could be on the verge of a lost season.
Sunday's domination of Houston could have changed that destiny or simply be a one-week blip on the radar. For now, we're going with the former.
9. Denver Broncos
Speaking of teams with a seemingly changed destiny, Denver's all-time great comeback on Monday Night Football changed the landscape of the AFC West and Peyton Manning's 2012 season.
Now an MVP candidate, the good times should keep rolling with the Broncos, as the schedule is far weaker from here on out.
10. Minnesota Vikings
Quite frankly, it seemed like Robert Griffin III could not have been beaten last week, regardless of the opponent.
I'm still not sold on this team long-term, but the Vikings get no downtick from me just yet.
11. Seattle Seahawks
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, the NFL allots for just eight games to be played at CenturyLink Field every season.
Nevertheless, the possibility that the Seahawks put things together on the road is enough to land them a solid ranking.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Perhaps I'm a sucker, but I still see some salvageable aspects on this Eagles team.
13. San Diego Chargers
As always, there is talent here, but not enough to overtake the Broncos in the AFC West.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Either this is a massive coincidence or I've grouped all of the teams with questionable head coaches and frustrating quarterbacks into one large group because, at any moment, they could catch fire and become a top-tier team.
Spoiler alert: It's the latter.
15. Arizona Cardinals
It was a nice run while it lasted, but the abhorrent quarterback situation was bound to come back and bite the Cardinals eventually.
16. Washington Redskins
The future is extremely bright in Washington, but until Jim Haslett fixes the secondary woes, the results will be inconsistent at best in the win-loss column.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Though losses to Tennessee and Oakland are bad, the Steelers are still 2-3 with two winnable games against Cincinnati and Washington upcoming.
If Pittsburgh can win both contests, the team will be in a solid playoff position in what looks to be a very mediocre AFC.
18. Buffalo Bills
The Bills are little more than 2012's team that beats up on lower-tier squads and loses against the big boys.
On another note, C.J. Spiller is fantastic and has been grossly underused by Chan Gailey since Fred Jackson returned.
19. New Orleans Saints
Call me crazy, but I still believe in the Saints this season. Having an early bye should give them breathing room and allow them to recuperate after a 1-4 start.
The true litmus test of my belief will come on Sunday against a Buccaneers team that ranks 31st in the NFL against the pass.
If New Orleans cannot win that game, it's time to officially write 2012 off.
20. Miami Dolphins
Reggie Bush has been nothing short of a revelation since coming to Miami, and the defense is among the NFL's best against the run.
By starting Tannehill, head coach Joe Philbin limited his team's short-term potential. However, don't be surprised if the Dolphins pull off more than a few upsets down the stretch.
21. St. Louis Rams
Until the offense finds some semblance of firepower to match the team's ascent defensively, the Rams will continue to lose when teams score 20-plus points.
22. New York Jets
New York is 3-3 and tied for its lead in the division, but the sideshow atmosphere is something that's been present all season and is unlikely to go away.
That can work when there's abundant talent on the roster. But the offense and defense have been decimated by injuries and ineffectiveness, leaving the 2012 season as little more than a countdown to when things blow up.
23. Detroit Lions
Though dominant all of last season through the air, the Lions' offensive success last season was always a bit of an anomaly.
Opposing teams can deploy a bend-but-not-break defensive strategy against Matthew Stafford without fear of the team breaking out even a mediocre running game.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are possibly the best young quarterback-wide receiver duo in the league, but the rest of the team is still very much a work in progress.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Equal parts frustratingly inconsistent and promising, it seems like this Buccaneers team could be something special down the line.
However, with Aqib Talib suspended for four games, the pass defense seems destined to flail even worse than it already had this season.
That should all but end any talk of Tampa Bay being the surprise team in the second half of the season.
26. Carolina Panthers
Expected to continue his ascent and become a truly elite passer, Newton has floundered in the pocket all season while being left to carry the rushing offense due to the ineffectiveness of the Panthers' high-priced running backs.
Couple that with a struggling defense and Ron Rivera's, well, Ron Riveraness, and you have a recipe for possibly the most disappointing team of 2012.
27. Indianapolis Colts
What Andrew Luck has done with limited resources is nothing short of fantastic, but it's those talent deficiencies that continue to hold this team back from truly taking a leap forward.
28. Oakland Raiders
He has thrown for 1,434 yards with six touchdowns against three interceptions and has rarely put the Raiders in a position to lose ballgames.
It just seems like every other unit on both sides of the ball has markedly regressed to the point of no return.
29. Kansas City Chiefs
Massive quarterback problems in Kansas City have overshadowed an amazing comeback season from running back Jamaal Charles.
Through six weeks, Charles looks every bit like the runner he was before his knee injury last season and leads the NFL with 591 rushing yards.
Unfortunately, the surrounding cast has mostly been dreadful, and Peyton Manning will likely take away his Comeback Player of the Year buzz.
30. Tennessee Titans
The Titans may be 2-3 coming into Week 7, but both wins were flimsy to say the least.
Massive holes on just about every facet of the roster exist, and quarterback Jake Locker's shoulder injury is preventing the team from making a true evaluation of his status as a franchise player.
31. Cleveland Browns
With the franchise seemingly cleaning house once again, you have to wonder what effect that will have on this young roster and coaching staff for the rest of the season.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Other than Maurice Jones-Drew, who continues to excel despite untenable circumstances, there are few good takeaways from the Jaguars' 2012 campaign so far.
A high draft pick looms, so you have to wonder whether Blaine Gabbert will be playing for his job in the second half of the season.
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