NFL Power Rankings: Updated League Landscape Prior to Thursday Night's Action

Ethan Grant@DowntownEGAnalyst IOctober 17, 2013

It's never easy fitting all 32 NFL teams into an ordered list based on where they are at that point in the season. 

Injuries, missed calls by officials on the field and last-second losses are popular excuses for fans whose teams aren't where they could be after six weeks of the 2013 season, but we're all quick to point to the win-loss column when it comes to head-to-head debates. 

Sometimes, it just isn't that simple.

And sometimes it is. 

Heading into Week 7, the league layout looks the same at the top as it has for the past few weeks. The Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are the two lone remaining undefeated teams in the league, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers still don't have a win. 

Elsewhere, the Detroit Lions continue to climb up power rankings after a 4-2 start, and the Houston Texans continue to sink after an embarrassing loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. 

We'll break down all 32 teams and put them in order—no easy task, mind you—based on the results of the 2013 campaign so far. 


1. Denver Broncos (6-0)

Denver is the clear choice at No. 1 here, though questions on defense and a lackluster showing—if you dare call it that—against the Jaguars have left the Chiefs nipping at the Broncos' heels. 

Peyton Manning will return to Indianapolis for the first time since leaving his first franchise on Sunday Night Football in a game that should be one of the most emotionally charged atmospheres of the season to date. Anything could happen in Indy, but the Broncos are probably going to score a lot of points. 


2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-0)

It was a rough first half for Kansas City against Oakland, but the defense turned on the jets in the second half as the Chiefs recorded 10 sacks and roughed up Terrelle Pryor in a 24-7 victory. 

It seems like we say this every week, but how about these Chiefs? Andy Reid, Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles and a talented defense have had Arrowhead Stadium rocking during home games this year, and right now, there's no end in sight. 

The Chiefs will host the struggling Texans in Week 7, a matchup all 11 starters on defense have to be looking forward to after watching Houston's game tapes from the first part of the season. 


3. Seattle Seahawks (5-1)

The Seahawks boast one of the NFL's best defenses, but that prowess will be put to test on a short week against the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football

Seattle put up 58 points against the Cards in a rout late last season, but Arizona is in the mix right now in the NFC West and has a chance to make some noise with an upset of Russell Wilson and Co. in a short-week contest. 


4. New Orleans Saints (5-1)

After a heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots in Week 6, the Saints will have a week to regroup and figure out how they managed to let Tom Brady engineer a game-winning drive that culminated with a touchdown pass in the closing seconds. 

As noted by ESPN's Ed Werder, it should also help star tight end Jimmy Graham fully recover from being dinged up against the Pats:

Although Pats fans will grumble about their team landing below the squad it just beat, New England had home-field advantage and won on a last-second play. For now, New Orleans' depth and defensive prowess win out. 


5. New England Patriots (5-1)

Brady was at it again in the fourth quarter against the Saints, and all of a sudden, the Pats once again have a firm grip on the AFC East despite the early-season struggles connected with relying on young players on offense. 

With a matchup against division rival New York on deck in Week 7, New England's offense will once again be tested. Although the Pats are 1-0 against the Jets this year, Rex Ryan's defense yields the fourth-least number of yards per game heading into the contest. 


6. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)

All eyes will be on Manning and his return to Indy, but the Colts have quietly put together another strong start—last week's loss to the San Diego Chargers not withstanding. 

The key to knocking off the Broncos could be found in the production of running back Trent Richardson. The former Browns star has averaged just 3.1 yards per carry through four games with his new team, and Denver is the NFL's best team at stopping the run (69.8 yards per game). 

Something's got to give. 


7. San Francisco 49ers (4-2)

A 1-2 start had doubters in position to gloat, but three weeks later, the 49ers are right back near the top of the NFC West and have plenty of time to make the ultimate jump. 

Colin Kaepernick has slowed down considerably after a feverish start against the Green Bay Packers, but with the defense that San Francisco currently boasts, all he needs to do is avoid the crucial turnover and be a threat with both his arm and his legs to keep the chains moving. 

Don't look now, but the 49ers could very well be in the midst of a long run. Tennessee (3-3), Jacksonville (0-6) and Carolina (2-3) are the next three teams on the schedule before a big-time showdown with Drew Brees and the Saints. 


8. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)

It hasn't always been pretty for the Bengals through six weeks, but a quick peek at the AFC North standings still has Cincinnati with a lead over Cleveland and Baltimore. 

With a road contest with the Detroit Lions on deck in Week 7, we should find out just how far along the Bengals are with respect to their division lead. 

This is a big week for Andy Dalton to prove he's still the quarterback of the future in Cincy. Road games against struggling defenses are the perfect opportunity to get yourself in a rhythm while in a pressure situation. Dalton can't afford to keep throwing interceptions (one in each of his last four games) and expect his franchise to make a deep postseason run. 


9. Green Bay Packers (3-2)

Like the 49ers, the Packers have rebounded from a rough start. 

But unlike what we've seen in the past, it's the defense that has carried Green Bay in wins over Detroit and Baltimore the past two weeks. Despite Randall Cobb and James Jones going down with injuries against the Ravens, Aaron Rodgers was still able to engineer a game-winning play. 

With a home game against the Browns on deck this weekend, there's a good chance the Packers continue their resurgence—especially if the defense follows its recent trend. 


10. Detroit Lions (4-2)

The Lions are sitting pretty as one of three teams in the NFC North with a chance to win the division, but a fierce test awaits on Sunday in the form of the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Maybe the best thing about Detroit's hot start is the idea that different players are stepping up each week. Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Calvin Johnson and now Joseph Fauria have all had their moments, and Matthew Stafford has quietly thrown for at least 242 yards and a touchdown in every game this season. 

With a win over an expected playoff team in Week 7, Detroit might inch toward the top five in next week's rankings. 


11. Chicago Bears (4-2) 

Detroit got the nod in the top 10 because of its head-to-head win with Chicago, but at this point, counting the Bears out of the NFC playoff picture would be an unwise thing to do. 

With a few extra days of rest following their Thursday night victory over the hapless Giants, the Bears will now prepare for a road tilt with the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

With the Bears the third-highest scoring team in the league per game and the Redskins one of the worst at keeping points off the scoreboard, there's no reason to think Chicago won't keep pace with its NFC North brethren. 


12. Baltimore Ravens (3-3)

The defending Super Bowl champions didn't get off to the glamorous start that would have mirrored their Lombardi trophy success, but realistic team pundits have to be happy with a 3-3 record at this point in the season. 

With three straight division games on the schedule in the next three weeks, Baltimore is entering a stretch of play where losses sting twice as much. Anything less than a 2-1 record might be hard to overcome the rest of the way. 


13. Dallas Cowboys (3-3)

Expectations are always high in Dallas, but another 8-8 finish is what the Cowboys are on pace for right now. 

To make matters worse, an already-thin defensive line got thinner with defensive end DeMarcus Ware getting hurt against the Skins and injured defensive tackle Jay Ratliff being released on Wednesday. 

An all-important showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles awaits on Sunday, but the Cowboys are up against real odds if key members of the front seven keep dropping like flies. 


14. San Diego Chargers (3-3)

Philip Rivers for MVP?

ESPN's Dan Graziano has him in the running:

That being said, the Chargers are well behind the eight ball in the division and in the conference. A winnable game with the Jaguars awaits in Week 7, but San Diego won't be a favorite to make the playoffs if Denver and Kansas City continue to dominate. 


15. Tennessee Titans (3-3)

The Titans don't have the record to show for it, but they have been competitive with a number of good teams despite losing QB Jake Locker to injury in a blowout win over the Jets. 

According to ESPN's Stats & Info and ESPN reporter Trey Wingo, this might not be the week to bet on Tennessee to move to 4-3:

While a showdown with the 49ers isn't the easiest of circumstances, you could certainly make the argument that the remainder of the schedule is much easier than the first seven games. 


16. Miami Dolphins (3-2)

Coming off a bye week, Miami can get back on track with a win against AFC East rival Buffalo. Such an outcome would also help the Dolphins break a two-game losing streak.

No. 16 might be a little too low in the rankings for a team with wins over Indianapolis and Atlanta, but Baltimore and New Orleans have reduced Miami to middle-of-the-road status. A win over Buffalo would help Miami get above that line. 


17. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)

Don't look now, but the Eagles are in position to take the NFC East lead on home Sunday against the Cowboys. 

It's been an experiment in Philadelphia with Chip Kelly at the helm. But that said, the offense has come along quite nicely—even with Nick Foles under center. Don't be surprised if Philadelphia switches places with Dallas in the rankings in the event that it takes first place in the division.


18. St. Louis Rams (3-3)

Inconsistent might be a nice word to describe the Rams so far this season. Roller coaster is another apt description, especially if you chart the way St. Louis has performed through six weeks. 

Against the Texans, you might have confused the Rams with Super Bowl contenders. Facing the—also inconsistent—Carolina Panthers this week, it will be interesting to see if the franchise takes two steps forward or five steps back. 


19. Cleveland Browns (3-3)

Spirits were high in Cleveland after a win over the Bills, but expectations have once again been tempered in town with the results of last weekend's showdown with Detroit. 

One thing is for sure: Josh Gordon is a star in the making. The former Baylor star sat out the first two games of the season, but already has 25 receptions, 429 yards and two touchdowns in just four starts in 2013. 

Brandon Weeden has a number of serviceable weapons, but Gordon is the one he'll need to perform in a big way if the Browns want to go on the road and beat the Packers. 


20. Arizona Cardinals (3-3)

If Arizona wants to prove to the rest of the NFL that it is an NFC contender, now would be the time. 

Seattle is coming to town on Thursday Night Football, and the Cardinals can make a statement to both the division and the entire conference by scraping together enough to pull off the upset. QB Carson Palmer (seven touchdowns, 11 interceptions) must protect the ball against a standout Seattle defense. 


21. New York Jets (3-3)

The Jets are among the league leaders in total defense, and the defense is a big reason why they are staring down the barrel of a .500 gun instead of one with less hope for the postseason. 

However, no one said trusting a rookie under center would be easy. 

Geno Smith has been about what many expected him to be coming out of college, and it won't get any easier against the Patriots, Bengals and Saints the next three weeks. New York could be 3-6 after Week 9.


22. Atlanta Falcons (1-4)

The Georgia Dome has been a sinking ship for the Falcons this year, but the sun might rise again in Atlanta if the franchise can pull to an even record before Week 10's playoff rematch with Seattle. 

Tampa Bay, Arizona and Carolina are Atlanta's next three opponents. Though two of those teams are division foes, the Falcons have the guns to turn things around if key players (like running back Steven Jackson) start returning to the lineup. 


23. Carolina Panthers (2-3)

The 2-3 start isn't much of a surprise, but the defense is. 

Through three games, the Panthers have given up an average of less than 300 yards per game in total offense to opponents. That mark is good for third in the NFL. Sam Bradford and the Rams will have to prepare diligently if they expect to beat Carolina in Week 7. 


24. Buffalo Bills (2-4)

Among Thad Lewis, EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel, the quarterback situation in Buffalo has been fluid this year. 

Fortunately, the product on the field has been quite competitive. While the Bills are in danger of losing their third straight game, playing in winnable games is an enviable trait that a number of other franchises would be happy to enjoy. 

Of course, that doesn't make it any easier to stare at a 2-4 record. 


25. Houston Texans (2-4)

Houston has plummeted to No. 25 in the rankings, and after a dismal performance against the Rams last Sunday, the NFL gods have given the Texans a less-than-enviable situation to try to atone for their latest performances. 

On the road. At Arrowhead Stadium. Against one of the NFL's best defenses. 


Kansas City might have its way with Houston from kickoff to final whistle. Things are ugly in Houston, and another loss might jump-start talk of a coaching change. 


26. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4)

Pittsburgh is no longer among the league's winless bunch, and a gritty victory against the Jets reminded us that the Steelers might have life yet. 

It won't be easy to recapture the AFC North title, but beating division rival Baltimore at home and finding a way to go 1-1 against the Raiders and Patriots in the two weeks to follow will make things interesting in the second half of the season. 


27. Oakland Raiders (2-4)

Despite a disappointing performance against Kansas City, Oakland remains committed to Pryor as its starting QB. The NFL's Around the League Twitter account shared that idea on Tuesday:

The Raiders have a bye in Week 7. 


28. Minnesota Vikings (1-4)

Minnesota was demolished by Carolina in Week 6, but with the league's best running back at your disposal, you are always a dangerous team. 

Newly signed Josh Freeman is expected to get the start for the Vikings on Monday night against the Giants, which adds a layer of intrigue to a contest where the teams will have a combined one win at game time. 


29. Washington Redskins (1-4)

The Redskins will return home in Week 7, but unfortunately, the Chicago Bears will be the opponent. As the old saying goes, "when it rains, it pours."

It's pouring right now in Washington, and the Redskins will need to dig deep on both sides of the ball to avoid going 1-5 to start 2013. 


30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-5)

The Bucs have actually played well in stretches this year and have one of the league's most underrated defenses, but this is a franchise in disarray. Atlanta is no juggernaut by any stretch, but oddsmakers likely won't side with Tampa Bay pulling off the upset this week. 


31. New York Giants (0-6)

Things have gone from disturbing to bad to worse in New York, where questions about Tom Coughlin have started to pop up again. 

But the real problem might be Eli Manning—his 15 interceptions lead the league and are four clear of the next closest player. Though the Giants and Vikings are a combined 1-10 right now, someone is going home with a win on Monday night. 


32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6)

If there was ever such a thing as a moral victory, the Jaguars got it against the Broncos by keeping things close through three quarters and making sure the monstrous spread in the game went in their favor.

However, there's no bones about it: Jacksonville is the worst team in the NFL right now. It might be harsh, but based on the 0-6 start, quarterback situation and overall talent, it's fairly simple to deduce. 


Follow B/R's Ethan Grant on Twitter. 


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