NFL Power Rankings Week 7: Each Team's Place in League's Hierarchy
The NFL is an unpredictable entanglement of endless enjoyment, but that can make power rankings an exercise in futility.
For instance, I—and almost everyone else—had the Indianapolis Colts pegged as one of the AFC's best teams heading into this week. So the Colts responded by losing to the San Diego Chargers in a game where they scored just nine points against a defense that hadn't been able to stop anyone.
Meanwhile, it is hard not to look at the results of this week's games, like the New England Patriots beating the New Orleans Saints, and not think the balance of power is tilted towards the AFC.
At any rate, I'm not going to let the league's unpredictability keep me from telling you where each team ranks.
1. Denver Broncos
The Broncos' pass defense is as poor as the pass offense is amazing. Pass-rushing master Von Miller is set to return after his lengthy suspension, and Denver will need him to be as good as ever.
Despite the defensive shortcomings of this team, the consistent performances of the offense and run defense are enough to keep the Broncos firmly atop the power rankings.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs just keep plugging along with their solid yet unspectacular offense and a pass rush that is enough to bring opposing offensive coordinators to their knees.
With pass-rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston coming off the edge, the Chiefs lead the NFL in sack percentage, and it isn't even close.
It is going to be great to watch that pass rush go against Manning and the Broncos.
3. New England Patriots
The Patriots bounced back from their first loss of the season with a thrilling win over the New Orleans Saints.
In that game, Tom Brady threw for 269 yards and the Pats rushed for 141 as the offense got back on track.
This offense will get better as the season goes on, and Brady, with the help of an improved defense, has led them to a 5-1 record while the team learns along the way. This is a bad sign for the rest of the league.
4. New Orleans Saints
While the improved New Orleans defense has announced the Saints' presence as a serious Super Bowl contender, the Patriots showed the Saints still have a long ways to go in shoring up their run defense.
Still, the loss at New England is just a bump in the road for this quality team.
5. Indianapolis Colts
Speaking of bumps in the road, that is how I'm viewing the Colts' loss to the Chargers on Monday night.
After all, Andrew Luck and the Colts offense had the ball for less than 22 minutes in that game, and there is no shame in picking up a road loss here against a quality offensive attack.
In the end, this loss did not raise enough red flags on the Colts to drop them past our next teams, who they happened to have beaten in the last few weeks.
6. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks' punishing brand of football is going to win them a lot of games. However, this offense needs explosiveness to give this team the needed punch to win the Super Bowl.
Luckily for Seattle, the offense should be getting a lot more explosive in the near future:
7. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have gotten back to being a smash-mouth offense, and not coincidentally, they have won three straight.
I worry that the 49ers will be in a nearly impossible situation should they fall behind, but it is going to be tough for any team to open up a big lead against San Francisco.
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton put out an improved effort this past week as the Bengals beat the Bills 27-24 in overtime. That is a great sign for the Bengals. Not as a good a sign is the fact that the talented defense took a step back after holding the Patriots to just six points the week before.
This team must find some consistency if it wants to contend for the Super Bowl.
9. Green Bay Packers
The defense has also shown signs of improvement over the last couple of weeks. If these two trends continue, the Packers are going to be a load to deal with the rest of the season.
10. Miami Dolphins
After a great start, the Dolphins entered their bye last week as losers of two straight. A poor offensive line and a slipping secondary can be easily identified as the root of the problems.
It is extremely difficult to win in today's NFL with poor play in those two areas.
11. Detroit Lions
After a terrible offensive showing against the Packers in Week 5 while playing without Calvin Johnson, the Lions bounced back nicely by defeating the Cleveland Browns 31-17. Johnson only had three catches for 25 yards in that game, too.
This is a nice sign for the Lions...a team that may finally be maturing.
12. Chicago Bears
The Bears have yet to put together a complete performance this season, yet they are 4-2. If the defense can get healthy and Jay Cutler can avoid interceptions, this team can go a long way. However, those are two big "ifs" at this point.
13. Baltimore Ravens
For all of the talk about the Ravens' losses on defense and in the passing game, it is the offensive line that is dooming this team.
The Ravens are 21st in sacked percentage and getting worse. Joe Flacco was sacked five times last week. The line has also doomed the running game to a paltry 2.7 yards per carry.
If the offensive front five can gain some semblance of decency, this team can contend. If not, this team won't be around in the postseason to defend its title.
14. Tennessee Titans
The Titans proved this past Sunday that they won't be an easy victory for anyone. They had the Seahawks on the ropes in Seattle. That doesn't happen very often.
If the Titans can get Jake Locker back healthy and performing like he was prior to his injury, this team can make a run at the postseason.
15. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are a fun team to watch. They have an explosive pass offense, but a shoddy offensive line that makes every play an adventure. Meanwhile, the Cowboys secondary routinely gives up big plays.
While there is little hope for the offensive line, the secondary is not without talent, and that unit did a decent job while limiting the Redskins to 217 passing yards on Sunday.
16. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers offense is fantastic. Philip Rivers looks rejuvenated, and the emergence of Keenan Allen has kept San Diego's offense rolling despite a rash of injuries to receivers.
The defense remains a liability, but one this offense proved on Monday night that it can carry.
17. St. Louis Rams
The Rams offense has come alive while posting 72 points over the last two games. That has come against the Jacksonville Jaguars and disintegrating Houston Texans, but it is still a great sign for a team that mustered just 18 combined points in the two games leading up to the current win streak.
18. New York Jets
Rex Ryan has the young Jets defense attacking and playing quality football. That unit has helped the Jets overachieve to their current .500 record. However, with the limited offense and a rookie quarterback, it is hard to see New York finishing the season without having more losses than wins.
19. Arizona Cardinals
The attached picture is a good-news, bad-news situation for the Cardinals. The good news is that Carson Palmer got rid of the ball without fumbling or getting sacked. The bad news is there is a good chance that pass was intercepted.
Palmer has thrown 11 picks behind his poor offensive line. While Palmer has been a definite upgrade for the Cards, this team won't succeed until it gets better protection for their turnover-prone quarterback.
20. Cleveland Browns
Brandon Weeden has done the impossible. He is making Browns fans long for the days of Brian Hoyer.
I like the Browns defense, but this offense is not going to succeed until it receives better quarterback play.
21. Buffalo Bills
The Bills have made nice strides this year. The defense is 22nd in passing. Obviously, that's not good, but it's an upgrade. Offensively, the running game remains strong, and the offense is putting up points no matter who they throw out there at quarterback.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Foles looked good running Chip Kelly's offense on Sunday, and all of a sudden the Eagles have won two in a row.
However, those two wins have come against teams (Giants and Buccaneers) that have combined for precisely zero wins this season.
In other words, you don't have to save me a seat on this bandwagon.
23. Carolina Panthers
I've never been a Cam Newton fan. I've never rooted against him either. I've just been neutral. However, I'm rooting for him to keep playing like he did this past Sunday when he had a resurgent game against the Vikings' terrible secondary.
24. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders offensive line is injured and awful. The Chiefs feasted at the sack buffet offered up by that group to the tune of 10 sacks this past Sunday. Terrelle Pryor was sacked on over 20 percent of his dropbacks.
Pryor has sparked life into this team and the defense is improved from last season, but this team will struggle as long as it continues to get dominated in the trenches.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers managed their first win of the season, but the offensive line remains weak and the running game nonexistent.
This team is going to struggle all year and then face some huge questions in the offseason.
26. Atlanta Falcons
I wonder if Tony Gonzalez regrets returning for another season?
27. Washington Redskins
The rightfully maligned Redskins defense has had two decent outings in a row. It limited the Raiders to 298 yards of offense in a 24-17 win and the Cowboys to 213 offensive yards in a 31-16 loss.
If Robert Griffin can start playing at the level he was at in his rookie season, the Redskins have a chance to turn things around.
28. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings' 29th-ranked pass defense is getting worse as the season rolls along. Cam Newton's 242 yards last week don't speak to the ease with which he was able to complete 20-of-26 passes against a secondary that refuses to cover anyone.
29. Houston Texans
It's an impressive feat that the Texans have been able to surpass the Falcons for the season's most disappointing team.
However, this former Super Bowl hopeful has lost four straight and the only one of those that was closer than 21 points was a three-point home loss to the Seahawks where they blew a huge lead. Things appear headed for a disaster and then a reshaping in Houston.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers just keep finding ways to blow games. They will show flashes on both sides of the ball, but can't sustain quality play.
Mike Glennon has done a decent job while taking over the league's worst pass offense, but this team still has far too many holes to put together a serious winning streak.
31. New York Giants
Eli Manning is averaging over two interceptions a game, and the Giants' passing attack is the strength of the team.
The Giants host the Minnesota Vikings and their awful secondary next week. If they don't win that game, it is time to start wondering if they will win one all year.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Justin Blackmon has sparked life into the Jaguars offense. Blackmon played in the last two games for the Jaguars after serving his four-game suspension for violation of the league's substance abuse policy. In those two games, the Jaguars' offense has averaged 362.5 yards. In the previous four, the Jaguars averaged just 224 yards of offense.
At least now Jaguars fans can realistically hope to win a game this season.
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