NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 7?

Sean Tomlinson@@SeanGTomlinsonNFL AnalystOctober 19, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Rank Heading into Week 7?

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    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

    Making assumptions about the NFL is a good way to be humbled. We're reminded of that every week, but the sixth Sunday this season came with two especially heavy slices of humble pie.

    First, there was the Carolina Panthers traveling to CenturyLink Field, a place where the Seattle Seahawks have lost only twice during the regular season since 2012. After benefiting from an easy schedule, it was hard to resist thinking the Panthers would crumble during that trip, losing their unbeaten record.

    But it was the Seahawks who did the crumbling, blowing a fourth-quarter lead for the second straight week. In fact, Seattle is now one heroic play by safety Kam Chancellor away from three straight blown late leads.

    Assuming the Denver Broncos would cruise by the Cleveland Browns felt safe too, even on the road. Yet, the Broncos needed overtime and a gifted interception from Browns quarterback Josh McCown to stay perfect.

    Let's try to make sense of all that lunacy and more with power rankings. These rankings aren't the standings, and instead what follows is an analysis of how each team stacks up based on performance, regardless of what its record says. It's subjective, sure, but agreeing on everything (or anything) isn't fun, right?

    And remember, I probably hate your favorite team.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5)

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Last Week: 29

    This Week: 32

    Change: -3

    In 2014 the Jacksonville Jaguars started with six straight losses. So hey, at least they've won a game after six weeks now, right?

    Another new head coach isn't the answer in Jacksonville, because everyone involved there knows the rebuild ahead was always going to be a long and painful process. But Gus Bradley still needs some wins really soon if he wants his rear-end's temperature to decrease.

31. Tennessee Titans (1-4)

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 24

    This Week: 31

    Change: -7

    Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was sacked five times during a loss to the Miami Dolphins Sunday. It was already the second time in his young career he's taken five-plus sacks in a game.

    Exposing a young quarterback to that kind of punishment will shatter him mentally and physically. The latter is already beginning, as Mariota was hobbled by a low hit from Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon. He finished the game, but will undergo an MRI Monday, according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio.

30. Houston Texans (2-4)

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Last Week: 32

    This Week: 30

    Change: +2

    It's a damn shame DeAndre Hopkins' talents will be wasted this season on a team that might get to .500 if we're being optimistic. He's now recorded an unfathomable 474 receiving yards over his last three games.

    He tasted sweet victory this week instead of having his booming production lost in another defeat, so that's something.

29. Detroit Lions (1-5)

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    Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 30

    This Week: 29

    Change: +1

    The Detroit Lions avoided their second winless season in relatively recent memory. And they did it in familiar fashion by leaning on the long ball.

    Or at least it used to be familiar, as the Lions' high-octane offense from Sunday was once a weekly staple. For one afternoon quarterback Matthew Stafford didn't look like a man fighting for his career. He threw for 405 yards, breezing past his average of only 241 yards per game prior to Week 6.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 28

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rested this week on their bye, which meant running back Doug Martin had to put his world-domination efforts on hold. Martin has totaled 301 yards from scrimmage over the past two weeks while scoring four times.

27. San Francisco 49ers (2-4)

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Last Week: 31

    This Week: 27

    Change: +4

    If the San Francisco 49ers passing offense we saw Sunday shows up even sporadically, their season could turn around fast.

    That won't happen, but it's nice to think about because the NFL has a much-better product when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is launching balls deep downfield. He connected on three 50-plus yard passes during a win over the Baltimore Ravens and incredibly averaged 12.6 yards per attempt.

26. Washington Redskins (2-4)

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    Gary Hershorn/Associated Press

    Last Week: 22

    This Week: 26

    Change: -4

    When the Washington Redskins win they have to do it by riding a quality rushing offense. Because when that's absent and they're forced to lean on quarterback Kirk Cousins, awfulness is inevitably coming.

    Redskins running backs were stuffed repeatedly during a loss to the New York Jets, with Alfred Morris and Chris Thompson often hit in the backfield. That resulted in an average of only two yards per carry, which put the game in Cousins' hands.

    That's never a safe place for any meaningful football game. For the fourth time in six starts this season Cousins threw two interceptions.

25. Oakland Raiders (2-3)

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Last Week: 25

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    The Oakland Raiders entered their Week 6 bye after early-season results that were pretty easy to predict. A promising but still-young-and-growing team started out 2-1 and then dropped two straight games; though one of those losses came by less than a touchdown to the Denver Broncos.

    Their next test? Containing San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who lit up the Green Bay Packers for 503 passing yards Sunday.

24. Chicago Bears (2-4)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Last Week: 26

    This Week: 24

    Change: +2

    Even after an overtime loss the Chicago Bears still rise, because for what it's worth (very little), they're suddenly looking like a semi-competent football team.

    Quarterback Jay Cutler has recorded only two interceptions over his last three games, despite being asked to throw 129 times. And now wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has returned, doing it in style with eight receptions for 147 yards against the Detroit Lions.

    The Bears just might climb from their bottom-feeding burial soon enough, which is about as far as they'll get this season.

23. Baltimore Ravens (1-5)

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Last Week: 23

    This Week: 23

    Change: None

    The Baltimore Ravens have now lost five games by a combined 22 points. Or put another more depressing way for Ravens fans whose hearts are being stomped on: The average margin of victory in those losses has been 4.4 points.

    Football still isn't fair.

22. Miami Dolphins (2-3)

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    James Kenney/Associated Press

    Last Week: 27

    This Week: 22

    Change: +5

    You're probably about to shrug off the Miami Dolphins' win Sunday, noting they pummeled the basement-dwelling Tennessee Titans. That is when I'll remind you about that time way back in Week 2 when Miami lost to the also-awful Jacksonville Jaguars.

    The caliber of opponent mattered little for the Dolphins under former head coach Joe Philbin. And now in Dan Campbell's debut, something miraculous took place: The Dolphins ran, and they ran well.

    Prior to Week 6 Dolphins running back Lamar Miller was averaging only 32.8 rushing yards per game. In a win over the Titans Sunday, he sailed by that mark, finishing with 113 yards while move along at 5.9 yards per carry.

    If Miller has been freed, there just might be reason to entertain happy thoughts again in Miami.

21. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Last Week: 21

    This Week: 21

    Change: None

    The Kansas City Chiefs should probably fall further. Despite better records elsewhere, there's just a whole lot of hot mess at this point in our weekly rundown of ranked power, and eventually the Chiefs will spiral deeper into that abyss.

    While they made a loss to the Minnesota Vikings somewhat interesting, going three quarters without scoring a single point usually ends in tears.

20. Cleveland Browns (2-4)

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    Andrew Weber/Getty Images

    Last Week: 18

    This Week: 20

    Change: -2

    Gary Barnidge, your favorite Cleveland Browns tight end superhero who still definitely doesn't work in human resources at your office, tallied two more touchdowns Sunday. Somehow he's now scored five times over his last four games.

    But the Browns still lost, and they fell in a particularly devastating way to the Denver Broncos.

    Browns quarterback Josh McCown resumed being, well, Josh McCown when he made two brutal decisions, each leading to interceptions. The second was his most glaring and poorly timed. With the game tied and under a minute remaining, the Browns were on Denver's 46-yard line. They were potentially one completion away form field-goal range when McCown found himself in a defender's grasp, yet he still decided arcing a pop fly skyward was wise.

    The easy interception ended Cleveland's opportunity for a massive upset.

19. Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

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    Mike Stone/Getty Images

    Last Week: 19

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    The Dallas Cowboys had their bye this week, which means they couldn't lose another game while waiting for quarterback Tony Romo to return and play hero. For now both of those titles (quarterback and maybe hero?) fall to Matt Cassel, who will replace Brandon Weeden in Week 7.

    Cassel is proof that even experience with being awful is still experience, and he'll give Dallas another source of game-managing hope. But please recall that in 2014 with the Minnesota Vikings he completed only 57.7 percent of his pass attempts.

18. San Diego Chargers (2-4)

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Last Week: 16

    This Week: 18

    Change: -2

    The San Diego Chargers came within three yards and one fourth-down completion from sending a game at Lambeau Field to overtime. That alone deserves loser points, if such a thing existed. Losing a game always stings, but the hurt is deeper after wide receiver Keenan Allen's 157-yard effort was wasted.

    The Chargers still drop in these rankings, though, and it's not because of what happened during their loss to the Green Bay Packers, but rather what didn't happen. Quarterback Philip Rivers had to throw 65 times because he received little support from a backfield that averaged 2.9 yards per carry.

    Rookie running back Melvin Gordon was drafted to solve that longstanding problem for the Chargers after they ranked 30th in rushing during the 2014 season. But he's now fumbled four times over just his first six NFL games, and his slippery hands led to a benching Sunday.

17. St. Louis Rams (2-3)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Last Week: 17

    This Week: N/A

    Change: N/A

    Remember when there were thoughts of St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley being eased in once he was healthy enough to play? Losing can change plans in a real hurry.

    Gurley received his first start in Week 4, and in only two games he's turned 51 touches into 320 total yards. He's also averaging an absurd 5.7 yards per carry.

    After the Rams' Week 6 bye he gets to tee off on the Cleveland Browns and their 32nd-ranked run defense.

16. New York Giants (3-2)

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Last Week: 14

    This Week: 16

    Change: -2

    Everything was flowing smoothly for the New York Giants during their first drive Monday night. Quarterback Eli Manning was in rhythm against the Philadelphia Eagles, connecting with four different receivers. He threw for 59 yards on an opening drive that culminated with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

    The problem, of course, was the other 55 minutes of an eventual 27-7 drubbing. That touchdown stood as the Giants' only points during an evening when any offense whatsoever felt impossible.

    After that opening drive Manning threw for only 130 more yards, and overall he averaged only five yards per attempt. He was constantly under siege while coping with a poor offensive line. As a result his longest completion went for only 17 yards.

    The NFC East will be won by a team that can at least do one thing (offense or defense, pick one), and do it well. The Giants did nothing Monday, and received the outcome they deserved.

15. New Orleans Saints (2-4)

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    Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 20

    This Week: 15

    Change: +5

    Thursday night New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson gave you plenty of reasons to never, ever bet on football again.

    Watson has been a perfectly fine and reliable pass-catcher throughout his career. But he's now basically football's equivalent of that static-filled TV you've moved from the living room to the workshop. It still gets the job done, sure, though sometimes you forget that old picture box is even out there.

    Watson resembled a certain former Saints tight end while hauling 10 receptions for 127 yards, a career high. The true comedy comes when you put that production next to his 2014 totals (totals!): 20 receptions for 136 yards.

14. Seattle Seahawks (2-4)

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Last Week: 12

    This Week: 14

    Change: -2

    When Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor was missing games during his contract holdout, it seemed like a pretty logical assumption that upon his return the Legion of Boom would start hammering opposing tight ends again.

    That assumption felt so safe I cited it as a reason why the Seahawks should take a big gulp, swallow some pride and get Chancellor back on the field promptly.

    The Seahawks' secondary is no doubt much better with Chancellor than without him. But they're continually getting roasted by tight ends, showing there's a deep-rooted problem even Chancellor can't fix.

    The Bengals' Tyler Eifert and the Panthers' Greg Olsen have now combined for 221 receiving yards and three touchdowns against Seattle over the past two weeks. Worse, Olsen beat coverage deep Sunday for a game-winning 26-yard TD.

    Suddenly the Seahawks defense is looking vulnerable, and a team that lost only four games in 2014 has already equaled that number six weeks into 2015.

13. Indianapolis Colts (3-3)

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Last Week: 9

    This Week: 13

    Change: -4

    The Indianapolis Colts were pretty creative while throwing away a football game Sunday night. What happened with the New England Patriots ahead by six points in the third quarter was just bizarre.

    The ball was mistakenly snapped with the Colts intentionally misaligned while trying to draw an offsides penalty on 4th-and-3. Then with possession on Indianapolis' 37-yard line, the Patriots quickly turned that short field into seven points in a game eventually won by...seven points.

    It was either creative or uniquely dumb. I'll go with the latter.

12. Buffalo Bills (3-3)

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    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    Last Week: 7

    This Week: 12

    Change: -5

    The Buffalo Bills offense was expected to struggle with quarterback and savior Tyrod Taylor dealing with an MCL sprain. The tumble from him to backup EJ Manuel is a treacherous one.

    Briefly Manuel fueled hope when he took the opening kickoff and led an 80-yard touchdown drive against the Cincinnati Bengals. Then mostly nothingness followed: The Bills went three-and-out on three of their next four possessions, and the only deviation from that failure was an interception by Manuel.

    He lost a training-camp battle and is the backup for a reason. The Bills need Taylor's playmaking ability back fast, especially after a Manuel-led offense had its top three wide receivers combine for 126 receiving yards.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 15

    This Week: 11

    Change: +4

    Somehow the Philadelphia Eagles lead the NFC East, even after generously giving up four turnovers Monday night, one coming from quarterback Sam Bradford when he threw a drive-killing interception into the opposing end zone.

    That's not to say the Eagles didn't deserve to beat the New York Giants. They did, and it was a win mostly powered by their suddenly awake rushing offense. Eagles running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews combined for 149 yards on the ground, all while averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

    The running game resurgence Monday night was a return to Eagles football, and the true Chip Kelly offense. But for the Eagles to start piling up wins they need to cut down on the slop, because leading the league in fumbles lost (5) while also throwing the third-most interceptions (9) isn't exactly a formula for sustained success.

10. Minnesota Vikings (3-2)

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    Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    Last Week: 13

    This Week: 10

    Change: +3

    You might be scrolling through your fantasy waiver wire as money signs pop up, and you'll say aloud to no one, "Hey, who's this Stefon Diggs guy?"

    He's a fifth-round pick in 2015 who's quickly losing his anonymous status. The Minnesota Vikings receiver was given a larger role Sunday with fellow wideout Charles Johnson injured, and he churned out 129 yards on seven receptions during a win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

    After two game appearances he's averaging 18.6 yards per catch as another speed option for coordinator Norv Tunrer to play with in his vertical-based offense. 

9. Arizona Cardinals (4-2)

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    Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 6

    This Week: 9

    Change: -3

    The Arizona Cardinals will be a team that makes your brain hurt.

    Sure, they've beaten up on some bad teams. But that's what good teams are supposed to do against substandard competition. The Cardinals have wins against the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints, all by a mountainous combined score of 168-66. That's simply not supposed to happen in the NFL regardless of the opponent.

    But their unbeaten start ended with a home loss to the St. Louis Rams, and Sunday the Cardinals lost to a Pittsburgh Steelers team that plugged away with two backup quarterbacks. Adding to the confusion, an Arizona offense that was averaging 38 points per game prior to Week 6 mustered only 12 Sunday, even while wide receiver John Brown went off for 196 receiving yards.

    The real Cardinals will stand up eventually. And they'll probably do it while still atop the NFC West, too. 

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Last Week: 11

    This Week: 8

    Change: +3

    The Pittsburgh Steelers pulled one of Week 6's neatest and strangest tricks. They won a game even after getting out-gained offensively 149-10 after the first quarter.

    Oh, and they also beat the Arizona Cardinals—previously a one-loss team—even when starting quarterback Michael Vick finished with six passing yards on eight attempts. It's generally bad when a quarterback's total passing yards are two ticks lower than his failed attempts.

    Landry Jones replaced Vick, who left with a hamstring injury. His first six pass attempts were just a bit better (37 yards), and Jones' second throw was a touchdown pass to wide receiver Martavis Bryant.

    Overall, the Steelers scored 19 points with Jones under center. That included two touchdown passes from a quarterback who played only the second half, which is all the time he needed to match Vick's TD total over two starts.

    Vick has little mental grasp of the Steelers' offense and no accuracy. If regular starter Ben Roethlisberger misses another game in Week 7, then Pittsburgh should be more than content to coast with Jones for one week, especially after the chemistry he showed while throwing to Bryant.

7. Atlanta Falcons (5-1)

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    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    Last Week: 5

    This Week: 7

    Change: -2

    Thursday night we were reminded that, as impressive as they've been, the Atlanta Falcons still have work to be done. Specifically, they need to generate a pass rush. Any pass rush at all would be nice, and that's now head coach Dan Quinn's next project.

    Through six games the Falcons have logged only seven sacks, and Thursday they didn't even hit New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees once during a 31-21 loss.

6. New York Jets (4-1)

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 8

    This Week: 6

    Change: +2

    The New York Jets will win with defense. They've made that clear by fielding the NFL's top-ranked defense so far and allowing a league-low 269.2 yards per game.

    But Sunday they showed that, when needed, a grinding defensive team can score in bunches.

    The Jets entered Week 6 having scored a modest 11 touchdowns over four games, an average of 2.75 each week. Then they piled it on against the Washington Redskins, scoring three TDs in the second half alone, and four total.

    The Jets' fourth win was powered by a 17-point third quarter, and by running back Chris Ivory, who's logged a whopping 312 rushing yards over his last two games.

5. Denver Broncos (6-0)

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Last Week: 5

    This Week: 5

    Change: None

    The Denver Broncos can accept an aging and fading Peyton Manning. They can accept the reality that their Hall of Fame-bound quarterback doesn't have the same arm strength anymore, and his deep accuracy is declining.

    But a quarterback who can no longer be trusted with the football at critical moments because of his declining physical skills is difficult to stomach.

    Manning threw three interceptions during a narrow 26-23 win over the lowly Cleveland Browns Sunday, two of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime. He's thrown 10 picks now after six games, and in 2014 at the same point the 39-year-old had chucked three interceptions.

    He's a noodle-armed mid-tier quarterback now, and the Broncos are a team in transition winning games with defense. So far that's working, but can it continue?

4. Carolina Panthers (5-0)

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Last Week: 10

    This Week: 4

    Change: +6

    The Carolina Panthers have benefited from an easy schedule. I've written that here repeatedly, and you've likely also read the same on the many "pretenders" lists populating the Internet. A game at CenturyLink Field—where the Seattle Seahawks have famously lost only twice during the regular season since Russell Wilson took over as quarterback in 2012—was the Panthers' first true test.

    Midway through the fourth quarter, everything was moving along as expected, with Carolina trailing by nine points. So of course quarterback Cam Newton then led two 80-yard touchdown drives, heaving a game-winning 26-yard pass to tight end Greg Olsen.

    The Panthers can only beat who they play. Sunday they played a premier defense on its home field and won while making a loud statement.

3. Green Bay Packers (6-0)

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Last Week: 3

    This Week: 3

    Change: None

    As a football-ism the expression "bending without breakout" refers to a defense that allows yards and points, but does enough to preserve the chance to win.

    Sunday the Green Bay Packers defense bent so much its collective back will ache for weeks.

    San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who set franchise single-game records for passing yards (503) and completions (43), torched the unit. Yet, he still played for the losing side, and the Packers are still one of five undefeated teams after Week 6.

2. Cincinnati Bengals (6-0)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Last Week: 2

    This Week: 2

    Change: None

    For only the third time in franchise history, the Cincinnati Bengals are 6-0 to start a season. And the 2015 version of undefeated football in Cincy feels different.

    Yes, I know you've heard that before, and right now you're either laughing or preemptively crying. But consider this: Of quarterback Andy Dalton's 14 touchdown passes (tied for second behind only the Packers' Aaron Rodgers), just three have ended up in the hands of all-world receiver A.J. Green after six games.

    The offense around Dalton is scary-deep, enough so that five pass-catchers have scored, and tight end Tyler Eifert leads his position with six touchdowns.

1. New England Patriots (5-0)

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 1

    This Week: 1

    Change: None

    Once again there's no movement at the top, because once again the New England Patriots knocked off the Indianapolis Colts.

    The score was close this time, and all balls were properly inflated. But the victory checklist was a typical one: run hard and limit deep passing.

    The Patriots finished with 116 rushing yards, which was just a wee bit short of their 177 yards during the AFC Championship Game, but it was still a fine evening of pounding away. And although Colts quarterback Andrew Luck tossed three touchdown passes, he averaged only 6.2 yards per attempt.

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