As the season heads toward the midway point, the strengths and weaknesses of each team have become pretty clear.
For the Week 7 edition of our NFL power rankings, we'll take a close look at each team, looking at what's good and what's not, and how that will affect the team going forward.
Read on to find out more.
1. Denver Broncos (6-0)
We can talk about Peyton Manning and the offense all day.
The real story, to me, is the defense. Or lack thereof.
The Denver defense has given up 337.7 yards in the air per game, which is the worst in the league. It gives up 26 points per game.
Peyton Manning is going to have to keep up his superhuman numbers if the Broncos want to win it all. Is that possible? I don't know. He's been historically and ridiculously good this year, but relying on him exclusively is what got the Broncos into trouble last season.
Getting Von Miller back will help, and he should lead to an improvement in defensive statistics. But that's one player. The secondary really isn't that good.
So far, it would seem that relying on Manning is not a bad option. But if he has a bad game? Well, then all bets are off.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-0)
The success of the Chiefs is definitely one of the best stories in the NFL. They have an absolutely stifling defense, giving up just under 11 points per game. The trio of Justin Houston, Dontari Poe and Tamba Hali is absolutely dominant when rushing the passer.
The one concern is the same concern that led the San Francisco 49ers to bench Alex Smith. Can he convert those 3rd-and-10 situations with the game on the line? Can he make a throw down the seam when the safeties cheat up?
Smith is a safe quarterback, and that's fine. But I don't think it's a coincidence that the 49ers got to the Super Bowl the season they ditched Smith. He's a good quarterback. But if you want to win it all? You might have to look somewhere else.
3. New England Patriots (5-1)
Tom Brady is a magician. There's no other way around it. With all the injuries on offense, the Patriots should not be 5-1.
But here they are. And they'll eventually get Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola back and healthy and productive. When that happens, the Pats could have the best offense in football.
The defense is pretty good, giving up only 16 points per game. If the defense can keep that up, then the Pats will run away with the AFC East.
It's easy to fawn over Tom Brady. But did you see the end of the game against the New Orleans Saints? Do you see with whom he's playing?
Peyton Manning has the better numbers. But for my money, Brady is having the more impressive season.
4. Seattle Seahawks (6-1)
That was an impressive win over the Arizona Cardinals Thursday night, and it's becoming harder and harder to doubt Russell Wilson as a big-game quarterback.
The defense is pretty fantastic, and it ranks near the top in every statistical category.
There's no real apparent weakness on this roster. The one thing that's on the surface is the team's play on the road. Its one loss, against the Indianapolis Colts, was on the road, and the Seahawks barely survived against Houston at Reliant Stadium. They scored just 12 points on the road against Carolina.
That being said, the 'Hawks dominated the Cardinals on the road, so maybe the previous games were just a fluke. Either way, it's something to keep an eye on.
5. New Orleans Saints (5-1)
That's a tough loss against New England, but then again, they played a good game in a hostile environment.
Drew Brees is fantastic as per usual, and the defense has been surprisingly good. After years of sieve-like defense, the team is giving up just over 17 points per game.
Saints fans should be really concerned about Jimmy Graham. He's been great this season, but he was absolutely shut down by the Patriots. Other teams are going to copy the Patriots' strategy. Double- and triple-teaming Graham can slow him down, and it can slow down the Saints as well.
If they don't find a way to adjust to that, their 5-1 start is going to be for naught.
6. San Francisco 49ers (4-2)
It's nice to see Colin Kaepernick break out of his struggles, and he's put together a few good games in the last three weeks.
The Niners have to be careful with him, though. They can't be too conservative that the offense stagnates, but they can't be too wide-open that he makes too many mistakes. Sticking to Frank Gore and the running game is a smart strategy.
One cause for concern is the rush defense. It gives up 112.8 yards per game on the ground, which is 20th in the league. Given that it's hard to throw on the Niners, they need to shore up the rush defense if they want to go far in the postseason.
7. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)
The Colts have great wins over the 49ers and Seahawks. They have bad losses against the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers.
The trade for Trent Richardson hasn't really paid off yet, as he has only rushed for 191 yards in his Indianapolis tenure.
Andrew Luck is continuing his rise to the top of the quarterback crop, as he's thrown for 1,346 yards.
Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton represent legitimate and potent receiving threats.
But the defense gives up 132 yards on the ground per game, which is 31st in the league, and it looked really sluggish against the Bolts.
So who are the Colts? Are they a team that plays to its competition? Are they a young team still working out the kinks? Tough to say. It would be great if Richardson started to realize his potential, but that's looking more and more unlikely as the weeks go on.
The Colts will make the playoffs, as the AFC South is pretty weak. Can they be a threat? It depends on which team shows up.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)
The win over New England looks even more impressive after the Patriots' performance last week.
Giovani Bernard is a star in the making, and he's becoming a fantasy stud before our eyes.
The defense does not get the love it deserves, but it's fantastic. It's ranked ninth in pass defense and 11th in rush defense.
The biggest concern is the play of Andy Dalton. Dalton has thrown eight touchdowns and eight interceptions, which is an unacceptable ratio. Like the Chiefs, the Bengals can ride their defense only so far. It's up to the quarterback to make plays, and so far Dalton has let the team down.
9. Chicago Bears (4-2)
Jay Cutler has to be loving Marc Trestman, and Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are quickly becoming one of the best receiving duos in the league. That's not to mention Martellus Bennett, who's been a really nice addition.
I'm concerned, surprisingly, with the defense. It's ranked 23rd in pass defense and 12th in rush defense. It gives up nearly 27 points per game. For a team that has prided itself on defense for so long, it's troubling to see it falter a bit. The loss of Brian Urlacher might be more significant than previously thought.
That said, this is a good team that has the inside track toward winning the NFC North. As long as Cutler continues his fine play, the Bears are contenders in the NFC.
10. Detroit Lions (4-2)
You have to be impressed by what the Lions have done this season. The defense, while not great, is holding on, and the addition of Reggie Bush has really diversified the offense.
And while the defense has kept the team in games, the numbers suggest that that might not last much longer. It's ranked 29th in rush defense, giving up 124.8 yards per game, and it's ranked 21st in pass defense, giving up 268.3 yards per game.
Those numbers aren't sustainable, especially when the run game, while improved, isn't dominant. The team only averages 94 yards per game on the ground, and Bush only has one touchdown.
It will be interesting to see when the defense collapses, but I would peg the Lions' game next week against the Dallas Cowboys as a possible contender.
11. Green Bay Packers (3-2)
The team suffered a devastating blow to Randall Cobb, who is one of the most electric receivers in the game.
I've said before that the Packers are better than their record, and I still believe that—to a point. It's one thing to look at the talent on the roster and expect something better; it's quite another to keep waiting for that to happen to no avail.
The defense played well against Tennessee, but that's not really saying much. It's giving up 293.6 passing yards per game, which is ranked 28th in the league. It gave up 412 passing yards to Colin Kaepernick, who needed three subsequent weeks to surpass that number in total yards.
Aaron Rodgers is great, but you can't win with a leaky sieve of a defense.
12. San Diego Chargers (3-3)
I'm higher on the Chargers than most, and they are better than their record indicates.
If they weren't in the loaded AFC West, they would be a lock for the playoffs.
Philip Rivers is experiencing a revival of sorts, and he has plenty of weapons like Antonio Gates, Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen.
The big problem is the defense. It is ranked 17th in rush defense and 25th in pass defense. That needs to improve before the Chargers face the Broncos for the first time in November.
The Chargers still have to face each the Broncos and the Chiefs twice, and that's going to hurt their record. But they are a good team. The defense needs to find a way to create consistent pressure on the quarterback, and the loss of Shaun Phillips has been huge. If the defense can ever match the offense, then they will be legitimate contenders.
13. Baltimore Ravens (3-3)
The Ravens are obviously not the same team that won the Super Bowl last year. They're missing the veteran defensive leadership of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, and they're really missing the reliability of Anquan Boldin.
Ray Rice continues to be a burden. He has just 197 yards all season and is averaging a paltry 2.8 yards per carry.
When a team is missing guys like Boldin and Dennis Pitta, the run game needs to step up to balance things out. It hasn't. I don't know what's happened to Rice. But it has to be terribly concerning for Ravens fans. If he doesn't pick it up, it might be an uphill battle to make the playoffs.
14. Dallas Cowboys (3-3)
Tony Romo is having a great year, and the fact that he's only thrown three picks is impressive.
The defense, on the other hand, is abysmal. It has given up an average of just over 25 points per game, and the secondary allows 308.2 receiving yards per game. Like the Broncos, this team needs to be more well-rounded. It's one thing to have a great quarterback, but playing in more shootouts than at the O.K. Corral is not a recipe for success.
15. Tennessee Titans (3-3)
It's a real shame that Jake Locker got injured, as it looked like the Titans had a legitimate chance to make the postseason.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a disaster at quarterback, and the return of Locker can't come soon enough.
On the bright side, Locker did look like he was reaching his potential, which bodes well for next year. In addition, the defense has been on point all year. It has the 10th-ranked pass defense and the 19th-ranked rush defense. It's a young defense with nowhere to go but up.
It's probably time to look toward next year for the Titans, but there's a lot to like here.
16. Cleveland Browns (3-3)
I still have no idea what to make of the Browns. After trading, arguably, their best offensive player, they win three straight. The Browns clearly know something about Trent Richardson that the rest of us have yet to figure out.
Still, Brandon Weeden is a step down in quarterback quality, and there's simply not enough talent on this team to sustain a winning season. The winning streak gives hope, but the Browns will be in the market for a new signal-caller this offseason.
17. Miami Dolphins (3-2)
After a tremendous 3-0 start, the Dolphins have fallen back to earth. The offensive line is one of the worst in football, the running game is pretty much non-existent, and the defense is nothing to write home about.
I'm guilty of buying into the early-season play a bit too much. Miami's fall from grace shows that this is, most likely, an average team that could go 8-8. Ryan Tannehill is something to build on, but there are simply too many pieces missing.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
Is Nick Foles the starter of the future? He sure looked good last week.
But it won't matter with that mess of a defense. It's hard to win when you give up nearly 30 points per game. The offense is exciting, but it's starting to look like the West Virginia of the NFL—explosive on offense but tremendously awful on defense, so much so that it holds the team back.
19. St. Louis Rams (3-3)
They should be a better team than they are. There are a lot of weapons, namely Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, but those weapons haven't really done much.
Sam Bradford has big numbers, but there's no running game to speak of, and the defense is near the bottom of every major statistical category.
A lot of people, myself included, were high on the Rams entering the season. But the play of Austin and Cook has really brought the team down.
20. New York Jets (3-3)
The Jets are learning what it's like to live with a rookie quarterback. After a fantastic game against the Atlanta Falcons, Geno Smith followed it up with a dud against the previously winless Pittsburgh Steelers.
That's what they're going to get going forward. The defense has been stout all season, but the Jets are going to go as far as Smith takes them.
And right now, it's looks like they're primed for a roller-coaster ride.
21. Carolina Panthers (2-3)
I'm higher on the Panthers than most, and I think they are a few good receivers away from contention.
The running game is great, and Luke Kuechly leads a vastly improved defense.
As Cam Newton takes strides as a passer, the team will improve. But right now, the offense is too one-dimensional to really contend for the postseason.
22. Arizona Cardinals (3-4)
I've said it before, but I think the Cardinals are the definition of a mediocre team. Quick, name one unit that's really good. I'll wait. Name one unit that's really awful. No really, take your time.
My point. The Cardinals are an uninspiring football team and one of the most boring teams to watch. Adding an exciting quarterback—Johnny Manziel, anybody?—would help a lot.
23. Atlanta Falcons (1-4)
Yes, they're 1-4, but we can't evaluate them properly without looking at the injury situation.
Here's a sampling:
- Julio Jones (out for year)
- Steven Jackson (out since Week 3)
- Roddy White (battled hamstring injury all year)
- Akeem Dent (missed game against Jets)
- Sam Baker (missed game against Jets)
That's five starters who have either missed time or have been hampered by injury. If health was on their side, there's no reason why the Falcons wouldn't be closer to the top of this list.
Matt Ryan has put up big numbers, and the team does average 313 passing yards per game, which is second-best in the league.
On the other side of the ball, the defense holds opposing rushing attacks to just 97.4 yards per game, which is seventh-best in the league.
But a team cannot compete when that many important players are out. It's impossible. The Falcons are a much better team than their output on the field shows. Next season, theoretically, should be better.
24. Houston Texans (2-4)
If the rest of the league wasn't so bad, I would put the Texans lower. Quite simply, they're a disaster right now.
Matt Schaub may have been the worst starting quarterback in football before getting hurt, and Case Keenum doesn't exactly represent a long-term option.
The defense isn't as good as it has been, but it does have the best pass defense in the league. The rush defense, however, is not doing too hot, as it's ranked 25th in the league.
But unless the defense was utterly dominant, this team was going to struggle. You cannot win in the NFL with awful quarterback play. If you do have a bad quarterback, the other units need to be nearly perfect.
That's not the case this season. Houston, at this point, is probably better off tanking for Teddy Bridgewater. The Texans need to invest in a quarterback.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4)
They finally break out with a good win against the Jets, but there are still way too many problems on the offensive line. It seems like they haven't had a good offensive line in years, and even the addition of a healthy David DeCastro—last year's first-round pick—hasn't really done much. A stud left tackle is needed, and someone like Taylor Lewan of Michigan or Jake Matthews of Texas A&M would help a lot.
26. Buffalo Bills (2-4)
Thad Lewis has been admirable in relief, but it's a shame that EJ Manuel got hurt. He was showing a lot of promise, and the time off is hurting his development.
The big concern, especially for fantasy owners, is C.J. Spiller. He has just one touchdown and is averaging 4.2 yards per carry. The fact that he's been taken over by Fred Jackson is not a great sign.
Going forward, there's a lot to like, especially if Manuel progresses. Right now, Buffalo looks like a lost cause.
27. Oakland Raiders (2-4)
Man, if only Terrelle Pryor could get some help. The promising quarterback was sacked 10 times last week. You can't win that way.
The defense is actually pretty good. It only gives up 22 points per game, and the rush defense is ranked in the top 10.
And while I'm very pleased with Pryor's performance, he just doesn't have anything resembling an offensive line. The Raiders will probably get a high pick in the draft, and they will be looking very hard at Michigan's Taylor Lewan.
Yet for the first time in a while, the Raiders have a foundation. They have a fine defense and a quarterback with a lot of potential. The combination of Pryor and Darren McFadden as runners is promising.
Once they get the offensive line worked out, watch out.
28. Washington Redskins (1-4)
I don't want to say Robert Griffin III is disappointing, but he hasn't progressed like some of the other second-year quarterbacks. For example, Russell Wilson is markedly better this year than he was last year. That's not the case for RG3.
Yes, injuries play a role, but he is supposed to be healthy. We should be seeing a lot more splash plays from Griffin. It's reasonable to question where they are.
29. Minnesota Vikings (1-4)
I hate to break it to Vikings fans, but Josh Freeman is not the answer. Not when he has a career completion percentage of 58.2 percent.
I think they would've been wiser to play out the season with Matt Cassel and try to win the Teddy Bridgewater sweepstakes. But that's just me.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-5)
So Mike Glennon hasn't been awful, but he hasn't been good either. I'm more concerned that the organization looks like a broken, dysfunctional mess.
It would be shocking if Greg Schiano makes it through the year. Truly shocking.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6)
I'm bumping them up after a decent showing against the Broncos.
Justin Blackmon, if he can stay straight off the field, is turning into an elite NFL receiver. He has 326 receiving yards in just two games, and he's done that with mediocre, at best, quarterback play.
The fact that they lost to the Broncos by just 16 points is, believe it or not, a good thing. They were supposed to be blown out of the water. They ended up being somewhat competitive.
To be sure, there are a lot of holes on this roster, and Blackmon is about the only player to get excited about. But the Jaguars proved they're a competitive team that plays with pride. It could be worse.
32. New York Giants (0-6)
According to ESPN, Eli Manning has thrown an interception on 6.6 percent of his passes, which is better than only Blaine Gabbert.
If anyone had Manning in the same company as Gabbert before the season, then raise your hand. Seems awfully quiet.
It's a huge shock that the Giants have been this bad. It is true that the offensive line has been decimated by injury, as has the secondary, and the Giants have ignored the linebacker position for at least 10 years now.
But 0-6? Worst team in the league? No, that was a stretch. But here we are. Eli Manning has forced way too many passes, and it's led to 15 picks. Hakeem Nicks has largely been a non-factor, and the running game is trying to see what Peyton Hillis has left. That should tell you all you need to know.
The Giants will end up getting a few wins. But this is an old team with a lot of holes and injuries. It's clear that something has to change.
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