NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Standings Heading into Week 7
The entire face of the NFL can change with one unexpected outcome.
For example, the league's undefeated ranks lost a member this past week as the Atlanta Falcons fell on Thursday Night Football to the New Orleans Saints.
Atlanta was viewed as a team on the rise, while the Saints were considered one of the league's worst teams just two weeks ago. Everyone learned the Falcons are still talented, but the Saints might not have been as bad as originally believed.
The Denver Broncos, meanwhile, nearly shared the same fate as the Falcons, but Peyton Manning and the team's top-notch defense found a way to win in overtime against the Cleveland Browns.
Both teams are still considered two of the league's best, but they've now fallen a step behind the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and even the Carolina Panthers in this week's power rankings.
To make sense of it all, eight Bleacher Report NFL writers—Gary Davenport, Mike Freeman, Brad Gagnon, Matt Miller, Ty Schalter, Mike Tanier, Sean Tomlinson and myself—determined which teams are the best and the worst after six weeks of play.
In order to build a consensus for Bleacher Report's power rankings, each team's rankings from individual writers were added together. The lowest totals made up the best units, while the highest totals naturally fell on the other end of the spectrum. If a rare tie occurred, the club with the highest single vote got the nod.
Also, a new team found its way to the bottom of this week's rankings once all the numbers were tallied.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Current Record: 1-5
Highest Ranking: 25 (Freeman)
Lowest Ranking: 32 (6 voters)
What's Good? In his second contest with the Jacksonville Jaguars, tight end Julius Thomas looked like the player the organization felt was worth a five-year, $46 million contract in free agency. Thomas caught seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Blake Bortles also targeted his tight end 13 times. With Thomas becoming a much bigger part of the offense, the Pro Bowl pass-catcher should help open up the field for the Jaguars' young wide receiver corps.
What's Bad? While Thomas will certainly be a bigger part of the offense moving forward, Bortles can't home in on the tight end all of the time. The young quarterback showed progress in recent weeks, but he tried to force the ball to Thomas at least one too many times. The result? A poorly thrown interception in the end zone. Bortles ultimately threw three interceptions, but this particular throw took potential points off the board.
What's Next? The Jaguars are trending in the wrong direction. After an impressive win in Week 2, opponents outscored Jacksonville 136-81 during the following four weeks. Sunday's loss to the Houston Texans became the third contest this season that Jacksonville lost by 11 or more points. The team now travels to London to face the Buffalo Bills.
Last Week's Ranking: 28
31. Tennessee Titans
Current Record: 1-4
Highest Ranking: 25 (Tanier)
Lowest Ranking: 31 (5 voters)
What's Good? This year's second-round pick, Dorial Green-Beckham, is slowly working his way into a role within the Tennessee Titans offense. The wide receiver set career highs Sunday with three receptions for 57 yards. Those numbers may not be too impressive, but Green-Beckham is now becoming a legitimate option. His six targets against the Miami Dolphins were only second to tight end Delanie Walker. If DGB continues his progression, he could eventually become the outside threat the Titans lacked in recent years.
What's Bad? Quarterback Marcus Mariota took a pounding against the Dolphins. Miami's defense sacked the rookie signal-caller six times and hit him on at least three more occasions, including Olivier Vernon's now-infamous low blow. As a result, Mariota suffered a sprained MCL, and his status for Sunday's game is currently undetermined.
What's Next? With both Mariota and backup Zach Mettenberger preparing to potentially start this weekend, the 5-1 Atlanta Falcons aren't a welcome sight. Atlanta is coming off its first loss of the season and looking to get back on track against a Titans squad that has lost four straight contests.
Last Week's Ranking: 25
30. Detroit Lions
Current Record: 1-5
Highest Ranking: 22 (Tanier)
Lowest Ranking: 32 (Freeman)
What's Good? The Detroit Lions finally entered the win column Sunday with a 37-34 overtime victory against the Chicago Bears. Quarterback Matthew Stafford played well with a 405-yard, four-touchdown performance. More importantly, Stafford's production coincided with a concerted effort to get Calvin Johnson the ball. Johnson cracked the 100-yard barrier for the first time this season with 166 yards. The league's most intimidating wide receiver caught only his second touchdown pass of the year, too. More Megatron usually leads to better things for the Lions.
What's Bad? As well as the Lions offense played in spurts against the Bears, Detroit's running game remains stagnant. The Lions rank 32nd overall in rushing offense. Running back Ameer Abdullah entered this season with high expectations, and many believed he could become this year's Offensive Rookie of the Year. Yet, the Nebraska product leads the team with only 179 yards, which ranks 44th among the league's running backs.
What's Next? Now that every team in the league has a win, the Lions must build upon their recent success. Detroit will face the Minnesota Vikings for the second time this season after losing to Mike Zimmer's squad 26-16 a month ago. In that game, Adrian Peterson dominated, while the Lions' leading rusher was Stafford with 20 yards.
Last Week's Ranking: 32
29. Baltimore Ravens
Current Record: 1-5
Highest Ranking: 23 (Tomlinson)
Lowest Ranking: 30 (Davenport, Sobleski)
What's Good? The fact Steve Smith Sr. was on the field and able to play against the San Francisco 49ers with multiple fractures in his back is amazing enough. His toughness can never be questioned. His greatness as a player, however, continued to grow with his performance. Yes, Smith dropped a couple of passes, but he also made seven receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown when most players wouldn't even be on the field.
What's Bad? The Baltimore Ravens pass defense is atrocious, and it's getting worse. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who isn't known as one of the league's top passers, completed nearly 60 percent of his attempts Sunday for 340 yards and two touchdowns. The recently signed Shareece Wright didn't help the situation by adding a veteran presence. Instead, Wright surrendered two long touchdowns during his first contest with the Ravens.
What's Next? Back-to-back West Coast trips for the second time this season make the Ravens' 1-5 start even more difficult. After going to Denver and Oakland to open the season, the Ravens will now go from San Francisco to Arizona as a surly Cardinals squad awaits its AFC North opponent.
Last Week's Ranking: 22
28. San Francisco 49ers
Current Record: 2-4
Highest Ranking: 21 (Miller)
Lowest Ranking: 32 (Gagnon)
What's Good? After surrendering 107 points in Weeks 2-4, the San Francisco 49ers have been far more competitive over the last two weekends. The team's 25-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens is a step in the right direction after playing so poorly earlier in the year. For once, the 49ers didn't need to establish the run to set up the entire offense. Colin Kaepernick played well with 340 passing yards and two touchdown tosses. Veteran Anquan Boldin also rose to the occasion with five catches for 102 yards against his old team.
What's Bad? One of the reasons the 49ers didn't run the ball as effectively against the Ravens is the fact Carlos Hyde aggravated a foot injury during the contest. Hyde fully expects to play Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks, but he's clearly not at full health. The 49ers running back currently ranks seventh in the NFL with 430 rushing yards, and his presence is desperately needed in the team's offense.
What's Next? With a victory Thursday night against the rival Seahawks, the 49ers can bury the reigning NFC champions in the NFC West basement. Neither team might be playing well overall, but there is an extra incentive for the 49ers to win this particular contest.
Last Week's Ranking: 30
27. Houston Texans
Current Record: 2-4
Highest Ranking: 24 (Davenport)
Lowest Ranking: 30 (Tanier, Tomlinson)
What's Good? Maybe...just maybe...the Houston Texans' quarterback carousel can finally stop. Week after week, who will start at quarterback is the main question regarding this franchise. Ryan Mallett didn't perform when given the chance to become the team's permanent starter. On the other hand, Brian Hoyer originally won the job before having it quickly snatched away from him. Yet, the veteran responded once his second opportunity to start presented itself. Hoyer completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
What's Bad? Arian Foster still isn't running the ball effectively since returning from injury. While the veteran running back has gotten better each week, he's still only averaging 2.3 yards per carry this season. His best performance came Sunday when the Tennessee product ran the ball 18 times for 53 yards. As a team, the Texans rank 23rd overall in rushing offense.
What's Next? Two teams moving in the right direction will meet Sunday when the Texans face the Miami Dolphins. Both teams are coming off big wins that could turn around their seasons. With the Dolphins and the Tennessee Titans on the schedule before the team's bye week, the Texans have a chance to get to .500 before gearing up for the second half of the season.
Last Week's Ranking: 29
26. Kansas City Chiefs
Current Record: 1-5
Highest Ranking: 20 (Freeman)
Lowest Ranking: 31 (Gagnon)
What's Good? Defensive end Allen Bailey was arguably the best player on the field Sunday during the Kansas City Chiefs' 16-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Bailey registered three tackles for loss and led the charge against running back Adrian Peterson, who averaged only 2.3 yards per carry. With injuries to Dontari Poe and Mike DeVito, Bailey must continue to play at this level for the Chiefs defense to succeed on a weekly basis.
What's Bad? Quarterback Alex Smith can't carry the Chiefs offense. This statement shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Despite being a former No. 1 overall pick, Smith has never shown the ability to be more than a caretaker of an offense. With Jamaal Charles out of the lineup because of a season-ending knee surgery, this is highly problematic for the Chiefs. A late 42-yard touchdown to Albert Wilson accounted for Kansas City's only touchdown. In the first half, Smith and the Chiefs only managed 41 total yards.
What's Next? This season has already become a lost cause for the Chiefs. While the team's schedule was especially difficult to open the campaign, a 1-5 start now has Kansas City five games behind the Denver Broncos and in last place in the AFC South. A game versus Pittsburgh to face a resilient Steelers squad will be problematic.
Last Week's Ranking: 24
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Current Record: 2-3
Highest Ranking: 21 (Tanier)
Lowest Ranking: 29 (Schalter)
What's Good? While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempt to become more consistent after the team's bye week, no such problems plague All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. The 3-tech currently leads his team with 4.5 sacks, which ranks first among interior defenders. His first-step quickness creates havoc play after play even if the rest of the Buccaneers defense can't capitalize. McCoy continues to serve as the team's leader and its rock.
What's Bad? The Buccaneers offensive line still isn't good, but it's slowly getting better. Rookies Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith have gotten better each week. Center Joe Hawley continues to catch up after signing with the team during the season due to an injury to Evan Smith. And Gosder Cherilus hasn't provided the veteran presence the team needed at right tackle. This unit isn't where it needs to be, but it's getting there. Until then, the group will continue to be questioned when it's trying to protect this year's No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Jameis Winston.
What's Next? Two weeks of preparation might be enough for the Buccaneers to win two straight contests for the first time since the middle of the 2013 season. This week's opponent is the Washington Redskins. The Redskins have lost two straight contests and might be embroiled in yet another quarterback controversy.
Last Week's Ranking: 27
24. Washington Redskins
Current Record: 2-4
Highest Ranking: 19 (Tanier)
Lowest Ranking: 30 (Schalter)
What's Good? Don't look now, but Bashaud Breeland is starting to figure it out for the Washington Redskins. The 23-year-old cornerback started 15 games as a rookie last season, but he struggled to put together consecutive positive performances. Over the last three weeks, no cornerback has played better, according to Pro Football Focus. Breeland might still surrender a touchdown here or there—he gave up two against the New York Jets—but he also continues to make plays. The second-year cover corner intercepted a pass, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble against the Jets.
What's Bad? The Redskins have once again reached the point where one has to question whether Robert Griffin III should be given another chance. While head coach Jay Gruden continues to stand in Kirk Cousins' corner, it's difficult to overlook the fact his quarterback has thrown two interceptions in each of the team's four losses. What will it take before Gruden finally pulls the trigger on yet another quarterback change?
What's Next? After losing the previous two games, the Redskins will now face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had two weeks to prepare for this particular game due to last week's bye. Cousins obviously needs to play mistake-free football for Washington to win and keep the critics clamoring for RG3 quiet.
Last Week's Ranking: 21
23. Chicago Bears
Current Record: 2-4
Highest Ranking: 15 (Tanier)
Lowest Ranking: 30 (Freeman)
What's Good? Alshon Jeffery is back, and he's still a bad man. In his first action since the season opener, Jeffery caught eight passes for 147 yards and a touchdown during the Chicago Bears' 37-34 overtime loss to the Detroit Lions. Despite the loss, Jeffery made the Bears offense far more potent and harder to defend. His presence may actually open up things a little bit for the league's leading rusher, Matt Forte.
What's Bad? Despite its claim as the league's sixth-best pass defense, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford shredded the Bears secondary. Stafford threw for a season-high 405 yards and four touchdowns. Prior to the contest, the quarterback hadn't even thrown for 300 yards in a game this season and threw three interceptions in the Lions' previous matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. None of the Bears cornerbacks—Kyle Fuller, Tracy Porter or Sherrick McManis—played particularly well.
What's Next? The Bears are one of four teams—including the Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers—on a bye during Week 7.
Last Week's Ranking: 23
22. Miami Dolphins
Current Record: 2-3
Highest Ranking: 17 (Miller)
Lowest Ranking: 31 (Tanier)
What's Good? First, interim head coach Dan Campbell certainly instilled a new attitude in these Miami Dolphins during the bye week. Maybe a few Oklahoma drills were exactly what the team needed to pull itself out of an early-season rut. The defense, especially, looked like a different animal. Cameron Wake dominated the Tennessee Titans with four sacks and two forced fumbles. The entire team only had one sack before Sunday's contest. The Dolphins' talented defense finally looked aggressive and flew to the football.
What's Bad? While this doesn't exactly fall under bad, DeVante Parker's lack of contribution to the offense can be described as disappointing. This first-round wide receiver only played a handful of snaps against the Titans and didn't catch a pass. According to the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero, the Dolphins coaching staff wants to see more consistency from Parker in practice. As the 14th overall pick in this year's draft, Parker should be making an impact on the field instead of being a practice issue.
What's Next? Overall consistency now becomes the key to the Dolphins season. With a chance to get to .500 this weekend against the Houston Texans, Miami can put itself in position to compete for a playoff spot later in the year.
Last Week's Ranking: 31
21. New Orleans Saints
Current Record: 2-4
Highest Ranking: 13 (Tanier)
Lowest Ranking: 22 (3 voters)
What's Good? Benjamin Watson experienced a career revival last week. Granted, the former first-round pick of the New England Patriots has been in the league since 2004, but he has never been a primary offensive weapon in any previous scheme. That changed Sunday when Watson caught 10 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Both numbers tied or set career highs for the 12-year veteran. Not only were his 127 receiving yards a career high, it was only the third 100-yard game of Watson's career. The bigger question: Was this performance a one-game aberration or an indication of an expanded role for the veteran?
What's Bad? Left tackle has become a major problem area if Terron Armstead can't return this weekend against the Indianapolis Colts. Armstead continues to deal with a knee injury, and Andrus Peat, who was this year's first-round pick, suffered an MCL sprain in Thursday's contest against the Atlanta Falcons, according to NFL Network's Rand Getlin. If neither plays Sunday, Tony Hills will once again man Drew Brees' blind side.
What's Next? Thursday's victory over the Falcons was a huge step in the right direction for the Saints. Speculation on Sean Payton's future was already swirling. Brees was apparently finished after an 0-3 start to the season. But the Saints bounced back. A win against the Colts on Sunday would not only legitimize the Saints as a rapidly improving team but also bring them one game within a .500 record.
Last Week's Ranking: 26
20. Cleveland Browns
Current Record: 2-4
Highest Ranking: 12 (Tanier)
Lowest Ranking: 26 (Miller)
What's Good? The offense continues to roll along despite being a perceived weakness entering this season. Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns offense managed 322 total yards against the undefeated Denver Broncos and the league's No. 2 defense. Travis Benjamin continued his ascension into one of the league's best receivers with nine catches for 117 yards. And tight end Gary Barnidge worked his magic once again with a pair of touchdown receptions.
What's Bad? Let the broken record continue, because the Browns are still the league's worst run defense. In fact, the team is surrendering nearly 150 yards per game on the ground. This year's 12th overall pick, Danny Shelton, hasn't made a bit of difference up front, and he's currently graded as the league's worst rookie defensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus.
What's Next? After a pair of overtime contests, the Browns will travel to St. Louis. The Rams have been inconsistent this season, but rookie running back Todd Gurley, who averages 5.7 yards per carry, might be the last player in the NFL the Browns want to see right now with their porous run defense.
Last Week's Ranking: 20
19. Oakland Raiders
Current Record: 2-3
Highest Ranking: 14 (Tanier)
Lowest Ranking: 25 (Tomlinson)
What's Good? The Oakland Raiders quietly own one of the league's best run defenses. Head coach Jack Del Rio's squad currently ranks fourth overall against opposing ground games. The play of Khalil Mack and Justin Tuck off the edges is a big reason behind the defense's success, but the play of nose tackle Dan Williams often goes unnoticed. Williams is one of the game's best nose tackles and is considered a top-10 performer at his position by Pro Football Focus.
What's Bad? While the Raiders are stout against the run, the defense is poor against the pass (30th overall). But the group should expect some improvement along its back line with the return of the team's top cornerback, T.J. Carrie, to practice last week. Safety remains a concern, though, with Nate Allen not expected to return until Week 9 after being on the injured reserve with a designation to return.
What's Next? With an extra week to prepare due to the team's recent bye, the Raiders stay in divisional play with a contest against the San Diego Chargers. While the 2-4 Chargers have lost a couple of thrillers over the last two weeks, they're not to be overlooked. Philip Rivers is playing as well as any quarterback in the league.
Last Week's Ranking: 17
18. St. Louis Rams
Current Record: 2-3
Highest Ranking: 13 (Gagnon)
Lowest Ranking: 23 (Freeman)
What's Good?: When defensive end Chris Long suffered a knee injury against the Green Bay Packers, the St. Louis Rams must have feared the worst. But the organization received good news last week when medical reports revealed Long only suffered a hyper-extended right knee and didn't experience any ligament damage, per ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner. Since the Rams are coming off a bye week, Long might not miss any time.
What's Bad? Despite a revitalized run game with Todd Gurley in the lineup, the Rams still feature the league's worst offense. While some natural improvement should be expected with the fully healthy Gurley becoming the focal point of the scheme and Tavon Austin finally being implemented more, the rest of any potential improvement falls on the shoulders of quarterback Nick Foles and an inconsistent offensive line. Foles completed only 57.4 percent of his passes through the first five weeks, and he's thrown nearly as many interceptions (five) as touchdown passes (six).
What's Next? The bye week gave the Rams two weeks to prepare for the Cleveland Browns. This particular matchup may be the most lopsided of any contest this weekend. Why? The Browns rank dead last against the run. Gurley, meanwhile, averages 5.7 yards per carry.
Last Week's Ranking: 19
17. Dallas Cowboys
Current Record: 2-3
Highest Ranking: 12 (Miller)
Lowest Ranking: 29 (Tanier)
What's Good? Due to the Dallas Cowboys' offensive struggles and rash of injuries, the team's offensive line doesn't receive the recognition it deserves for playing at a high level during adversity. Not much has changed up front, but the big boys continue to play well. Pro Football Focus ranks Tyron Smith and Zack Martin as top-two performers at their respective positions. Travis Frederick continues to set the tone in the middle. Rookie La'el Collins also made an impact when he's on the field. Doug Free and Ronald Leary haven't performed quite as well, but the unit will benefit once the Cowboys get all of their playmakers on the field.
What's Bad? Changes are coming. They're not necessarily good or bad; they're simply changes to an offense that hasn't experienced much success in recent weeks. Veteran Matt Cassel will take over at quarterback for Brandon Weeden, and Christine Michael is expected to have a bigger role in the team's running back rotation. The Cowboys need more consistency from both positions, and that's why changes were made during the bye week.
What's Next? A vital game looms, and the Cowboys had an extra week to prepare for the New York Giants. At 2-3 overall, Dallas only sits a half-game back from the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants are also 3-3, which means this contest allows one of the teams to potentially keep pace with the Eagles or overtake the division lead.
Last Week's Ranking: 18
16. Seattle Seahawks
Current Record: 2-4
Highest Ranking: 14 (3 voters)
Lowest Ranking: 20 (Miller)
What's Good? Jimmy Graham's up-and-down season continues. The Seattle Seahawks offense is exponentially better when the All-Pro tight end is a prominent part of the game plan. Graham set season highs in catches (eight), targets (12) and receiving yards (140) during Sunday's contest against the Carolina Panthers. When Graham is engaged in the passing game, he also becomes a better overall player. The tight end provided his best blocking effort of the season, too, according to Pro Football Focus.
What's Bad? The Seahawks defense lost its way somewhere after two Super Bowl appearances. While the unit is still ranked fourth overall in total defense, it is falling short of expectations. In each of the team's four losses, Seattle held a fourth-quarter lead only to see it slip away due to a defense that couldn't come up with a big play. Sunday's performance served as a perfect example since Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas weren't on the same page during a crucial moment, which allowed Panthers tight end Greg Olsen to run free for the game-winning touchdown reception.
What's Next? This past weekend's last-minute loss must be quickly forgotten since the Seahawks travel to San Francisco on Thursday night. If the Seahawks lose, the team will own sole possession of last place in the NFC West.
Last Week's Ranking: 10
15. San Diego Chargers
Current Record: 2-4
Highest Ranking: 8 (Freeman)
Lowest Ranking: 23 (Miller)
What's Good? What more can Philip Rivers possibly do to help the San Diego Chargers win games? In the team's 27-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Rivers set new franchise records with 43 completions, 65 attempts and 503 passing yards. The quarterback is playing as well as any other signal-caller in the NFL, but he's not getting enough help from the rest of his team. If the Chargers' record was even at .500 or better, Rivers would deserve to be in the MVP discussion.
What's Bad? Melvin Gordon isn't the instant-impact rookie many expected. The first-round running back's development has likely been slowed by a patchwork offensive line, but his 3.8 yards per carry is still disappointing. When the Chargers are in key situations, Danny Woodhead can usually be found on the field instead of this year's 15th overall pick.
What's Next? The Chargers get their first taste of AFC West play this weekend when they host the Oakland Raiders. As well as Rivers is currently playing, the Raiders defense has had two weeks to prepare for this contest. Derek Carr and wide receiver Amari Cooper have played well enough this season to go toe-to-toe with Rivers and the Chargers' No. 1-ranked offense.
Last Week's Ranking: 15
14. Indianapolis Colts
Current Record: 3-3
Highest Ranking: 11 (3 voters)
Lowest Ranking: 27 (Tanier)
What's Good? Andrew Luck might not be fully healthy, but he played his best game of the season against the New England Patriots. After sitting out two games due to an injured shoulder, Luck appeared far more relaxed in the pocket than he did during his previous three contests. The franchise quarterback completed 30 of 50 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. While he might not have as much zip on his passes as he previously did, the Indianapolis Colts will certainly take the version of Luck that appeared Sunday night.
What's Bad? Everything about this particular section points toward the team's ridiculous fake-punt attempt. The play itself was bad enough, but it directly reflects on the coaching staff and its poor decision-making. Griff Whalen wasn't the player who was supposed to take the snap, according to the Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder. Clayton Geathers was. But Geathers suffered an injury earlier in the contest, and Whalen was forced to step in for the safety. So the coaching staff still decided to run the crazy play even though the one player who regularly practiced it wasn't healthy enough to be on the field.
What's Next? The Colts can't afford a letdown after their loss to the Patriots. The New Orleans Saints are playing much better over the last three weeks. If the Colts don't bring the same energy to Lucas Oil Stadium as they did Sunday, the Saints will steal this game.
Last Week's Ranking: 13
13. Buffalo Bills
Current Record: 3-3
Highest Ranking: 11 (Gagnon)
Lowest Ranking: 16 (Sobleski, Tanier)
What's Good? Running back LeSean McCoy returned from a two-game layoff due to a bad hamstring, and he didn't look like he missed any time at all. McCoy set a season high with 90 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals. This is particularly impressive on two fronts: First, the running back averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Second, the Bengals feature a talented defensive front, and the Buffalo Bills offensive line generally held its own.
What's Bad? The Bills' talented defense hasn't played as well as expected, and the blame game already started. Mario Williams indirectly criticized his usage in the defense after the Bengals contest, per Syracuse.com's Matthew Fairburn. Marcell Dareus followed suit by questioning play calls, per ESPN.com. Rex Ryan's scheme is built around disguising where pressure will come from the defense. But it's fair to ask why some of the league's best defensive players aren't being put in a position to regularly get after the quarterback.
What's Next? Sunday morning's meeting between the Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars in London could cure a lot of the team's defensive problems. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles greatly struggles when he's pressured, and he's already been sacked 17 times this season.
Last Week's Ranking: 11
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Current Record: 3-3
Highest Ranking: 10 (Freeman)
Lowest Ranking: 23 (Tanier)
What's Good? The Philadelphia Eagles' much-maligned offensive line played arguably its best game of the season Monday night against the New York Giants. DeMarco Murray finally broke through with 20 carries for 109 yards. The offense accumulated 155 yards on 37 carries. And quarterback Sam Bradford had time to throw the football. With Matt Tobin at right guard, the big boys up front seem to finally be on the same page.
What's Bad? The Eagles defeated the Giants without quality play from their quarterback. Bradford threw three interceptions, which immediately brought his starting status into question. Head coach Chip Kelly quickly dispelled those thoughts. "Sam's our quarterback," Kelly said Tuesday, per ESPN.com's Phil Sheridan. "We have complete confidence in Sam." With improved play from the offensive line and running backs, Bradford is the last piece of the puzzle yet to fall in place.
What's Next? While the Eagles clearly aren't clicking on all cylinders offensively, the defense played well over the last two weeks. This Sunday, Philadelphia's defense will face a completely different animal in Cam Newton and the 5-0 Carolina Panthers. Newton is the game's premier dual-threat quarterback, and he's playing at an MVP level this season.
Last Week's Ranking: 16
11. New York Giants
Current Record: 3-3
Highest Ranking: 9 (Davenport)
Lowest Ranking: 18 (Gagnon)
What's Good? While the New York Giants defensive line as a whole needs to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, Johnathan Hankins is the one potential difference-maker among the team's front seven. Hankins' stat line from Monday won't impress anyone with three tackles and one pass deflection, but his ability to consistently re-establish the line of scrimmage and collapse the pocket makes him one of the league's best defensive tackles.
What's Bad? Will the real Eli Manning please stand up? After three stellar performances, Manning simply couldn't establish a rhythm Monday. Manning only managed to throw for 189 yards against the Eagles. The quarterback didn't look comfortable when pressured more by the Eagles than he has been all season. As a result, Manning threw a pair of interceptions, including a poor decision that resulted in an 17-yard pick-six.
What's Next? Just when everyone thinks the Giants are ready to take over the NFC East, they laid an egg Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, both the Giants and the Eagles are 3-3 atop the division, but the Dallas Cowboys are looming. This Sunday's contest against the Cowboys will be vital for two teams still trying to establish themselves as the division's best.
Last Week's Ranking: 12
10. Minnesota Vikings
Current Record: 3-2
Highest Ranking: 8 (Gagnon, Sobleski)
Lowest Ranking: 15 (Freeman)
What's Good? Rookie Stefon Diggs continues to emerge as the Minnesota Vikings' No. 1 wide receiver. This year's fifth-round pick is building a rapport with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. So much so, Diggs led the team Sunday with seven receptions on nine targets for 129 yards. The rest of the team combined to make 11 catches for 120 yards. Over the last two weeks, Diggs has caught 13 passes for 216 yards.
What's Bad? Neither of the team's guards played well against the Kansas City Chiefs. Both Brandon Fusco and Michael Harris allowed far too much penetration from the defensive front. As a result, Adrian Peterson only managed 60 yards on 26 carries. The running back's average of 2.3 yards per carry immediately became his worst effort of the young season.
What's Next? Earlier this season, the Vikings claimed a 26-16 victory over the rival Detroit Lions. However, the team Minnesota will face Sunday won't be the same Lions squad. Detroit finally managed its first win of the season last weekend against the Chicago Bears. The team built a little bit of confidence with improved play from its two biggest stars, Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford.
Last Week's Ranking: 9
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
Current Record: 4-2
Highest Ranking: 7 (Gagnon)
Lowest Ranking: 11 (Davenport)
What's Good? Martavis Bryant is back, and the second-year wide receiver remains as dangerous as ever. Even without Ben Roethlisberger behind center, the Pittsburgh Steelers and offensive coordinator Todd Haley found ways to utilize the 6'4" target. Steelers quarterbacks targeted Bryant eight times in his Week 6 debut against the Arizona Cardinals, and he caught six of those passes for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His raw ability and upside is hard to describe, but it was blatantly obvious during his 88-yard touchdown romp against the league's best secondary.
What's Bad? Kelvin Beachum's season is over after tearing an ACL in his left knee Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly. The Steelers aren't strangers to major injuries to the offensive line since center Maurkice Pouncey is already on injured reserve with a designation to return due to an ankle injury he suffered during the preseason. However, Cody Wallace hasn't exactly played well in Pouncey's absence, and there should be an expected drop off at left tackle with Alejandro Villanueva set to take over for Beachum.
What's Next? Villanueva will certainly have his hands full Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs' tenacious pass rush. Whether he's facing Tamba Hali or Justin Houston, whoever is the Steelers' starting quarterback should expect pressure off the edge.
Last Week's Ranking: 14
8. New York Jets
Current Record: 4-1
Highest Ranking: 6 (3 voters)
Lowest Ranking: 11 (Freeman)
What's Good? With Sheldon Richardson's return, one would naturally expect rookie Leonard Williams to take a step back in the defensive line rotation. Instead, Williams played 59 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, which was eight more than Richardson. This year's sixth overall pick continues to reward his team as one of the league's best 3-4 defensive ends. Williams ranks only slightly behind Muhammad Wilkerson as the league's seventh-highest graded player at his position, per PFF. When players like J.J. Watt, Jurrell Casey and Fletcher Cox are some of the few ahead of the rookie, everyone should immediately recognize how well Williams is currently playing.
What's Bad? The tight end position apparently doesn't exist in Chan Gailey's offense. Sure, both Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Davis played Sunday against the Washington Redskins, but neither caught a pass. In fact, the two have combined to make two catches this season for 10 yards (all from Cumberland). Obviously, the tight ends serve as blockers in the New York Jets' system, but their complete non-usage in the passing game remains surprising, especially considering how well quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to deliver the football. Any type of production from the position in the passing game would be a positive.
What's Next? Are the Jets real contenders this season? Everyone will quickly find out with the AFC East's bully, aka the New England Patriots, next on the schedule. If the Jets want to prove they can legitimately compete in the AFC this season, they'll need to go toe-to-toe with the Patriots and potentially pull out a victory in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Last Week's Ranking: 8
7. Arizona Cardinals
Current Record: 4-2
Highest Ranking: 5 (Schalter)
Lowest Ranking: 10 (Sobleski)
What's Good? Wide receiver John Brown is more than just a vertical threat in the Arizona Cardinals offense. Yes, his speed must be accounted for at all times by opposing defenses, but the second-year target is developing into a complete receiver. Brown caught 10 passes for 196 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's become such a reliable target that quarterback Carson Palmer tried to force the ball into him even in obvious double coverage. The result? A game-ending interception.
What's Bad? Mistakes defined the Cardinals' 25-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cardinals dominated most of Sunday's contest, but Bruce Arians' squad couldn't find a way to capitalize on all of its opportunities. Instead, Palmer threw a pair of interceptions. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed a field goal. Brown fumbled the ball once. And the team couldn't tackle Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant as he galloped 88 yards for a touchdown to seal Pittsburgh's victory.
What's Next? The Cardinals return home to face the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens pass defense has been atrocious this season. Palmer should have a field day throwing to Brown, Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
Last Week's Ranking: 6
6. Atlanta Falcons
Current Record: 5-1
Highest Ranking: 5 (Gagnon, Sobleski)
Lowest Ranking: 7 (4 voters)
What's Good? "The temptation here is to drop the Atlanta Falcons a long way because their undefeated bubble burst—but in the Superdome, on prime time, in a rivalry matchup that means the world to the New Orleans Saints, there’s no shame in dropping one. This is as balanced and potent an offense as there is in the NFL, and against most offenses the defense is more than good enough to secure victory. I still think the Falcons are right there with the best teams in the NFC." —Ty Schalter.
What's Bad? Under Dan Quinn's supervision, the Falcons defense is much improved compared to last year's performance. However, the unit is still flawed in certain areas. In the team's 31-21 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees and his offense accumulated 385 total yards. The Falcons' inability to cover tight end Benjamin Watson with their linebackers or safeties was exploited. Watson caught 10 passes for 127 yards.
What's Next? As Schalter mentioned, a loss on the road to a division rival shouldn't be a huge statement about the Falcons. Instead, this weekend's contest against the struggling Tennessee Titans will be a bigger indication of where Atlanta truly stands. Good teams easily bounce back in these situations, particularly against a hobbled quarterback. As Marcus Mariota deals with a sprained MCL, the Falcons shouldn't have too many issues getting back in the win column.
Last Week's Ranking: 4
5. Denver Broncos
Current Record: 6-0
Highest Ranking: 4 (Miller)
Lowest Ranking: 7 (Schalter, Sobleski)
What's Good? The Denver Broncos defense didn't miss a beat with DeMarcus Ware out of the lineup due to a back injury. Ware's replacement, Shaquil Barrett, registered a pair of sacks and added five more quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. The NFL's second-ranked defense held the Cleveland Browns to 298 total yards a week after that same offense posted an impressive 505 yards against the Baltimore Ravens. Plus, the defense found a way to score again with Aqib Talib's 63-yard pick-six.
What's Bad? Quarterback Peyton Manning was downright awful at points Sunday against the Browns. The 39-year-old gunslinger threw three interceptions and failed to recognize a linebacker dropping into space on numerous occasions. Manning has now thrown at least two interceptions in three straight contests. Fortunately, he found wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders streaking down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown to keep the Broncos' undefeated season alive and well.
What's Next? The Broncos are one of four teams—including the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers—on a bye during Week 7.
Last Week's Ranking: 5
4. Carolina Panthers
Current Record: 5-0
Highest Ranking: 4 (7 voters)
Lowest Ranking: 5 (Miller)
What's Good? Cam Newton was as good on his final drive against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field as the quarterback has ever been in his career. Newton was 7-for-7 passing for 89 yards as he led his team to the game-winning score. Along with Newton, tight end Greg Olsen has been as reliable as ever. The veteran is on pace to set career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns. The Carolina Panthers might have issues at wide receiver, but Olsen clearly remains Newton's top option.
What's Bad? Right tackle Mike Remmers really struggled against the Seahawks' talented defensive front. The fourth-year blocker gave up five quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. Sunday's contest was, by far, Remmers' worst outing of the season, but it wasn't the first time he gave up multiple hurries this season. Even though he hasn't been credited with giving up a sack, pressure off the edge can be just as effective and potentially more devastating.
What's Next? A Sunday night affair awaits the Panthers. The team welcomes the Philadelphia Eagles to Bank of America Stadium. While it seems like the other shoe is waiting to drop, the undefeated Panthers continue to find ways to win.
Last Week's Ranking: 7
3. Cincinnati Bengals
Current Record: 6-0
Highest Ranking: 2 (Tanier, Tomlinson)
Lowest Ranking: 3 (6 voters)
What's Good? After making Darqueze Dennard the 24th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals are finally seeing a return from their first-round cornerback. Dennard snagged his first career interception and also played a career-high 48 snaps against the Buffalo Bills, according to Pro Football Focus. As veteran Leon Hall continues to deal with a back injury that limits his opportunities, Dennard will continue to receive playing time as the team's nickel corner.
What's Bad? After a 6-0 start to the season, it's hard to find many things going wrong for the Bengals at this point in the season. The team's special teams, though, could be better. Cincinnati currently ranks 27th overall in kick returns. Plus, kicker Mike Nugent already missed a pair of field goals and an extra point.
What's Next? The Bengals are one of four teams—including the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers—on a bye during Week 7.
Last Week's Ranking: 3
2. Green Bay Packers
Current Record: 6-0
Highest Ranking: 1 (Schalter, Sobleski)
Lowest Ranking: 3 (Tanier, Tomlinson)
What's Good? Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers had four opportunities to put the ball in the end zone from the 3-yard line to tie the game before time expired. Instead, the Green Bay Packers defense didn't bend. And on 4th-and-goal, rookie cornerback Damarious Randall came up with the biggest play of his young career when he deflected Rivers' final pass attempt. Even when Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay's offense aren't clicking on all cylinders, the Packers can still find a way to win.
What's Bad? Running back Eddie Lacy hasn't been right since he injured his ankle during the second week of the season. Since that point, the team's starting running back ran the ball 45 times for 166 yards. Against the Chargers, James Starks actually took the field first, and Lacy only carried the ball four times for three yards. This week's bye comes at the right time for Lacy to rest and finally get back on track.
What's Next? The Packers are one of four teams—including the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos—on a bye during Week 7.
Last Week's Ranking: 2
1. New England Patriots
Current Record: 5-0
Highest Ranking: 1 (6 voters)
Lowest Ranking: 2 (Schalter, Sobleski)
What's Good? While all of the bluster leading into the Indianapolis Colts contest centered on deflated footballs and Tom Brady's revenge, the play of cornerback Malcolm Butler might be a better story at this point in time. While Butler would have gone down in the annals of NFL history as making the greatest play in Super Bowl history, his legacy continues to grow by developing into a legitimate top-flight cornerback. Yes, he's experienced ups and downs this season as he attempts to replace the incomparable Darrelle Revis, but when Butler plays like he did against the Colts, he shows why the New England Patriots are building their defense around his coverage abilities.
What's Bad? Head coach Bill Belichick continues to rotate his offensive linemen despite a season-ending injury to left tackle Nate Solder. Solder's replacement, Marcus Cannon, suffered a toe injury in Sunday's contest against the Indianapolis Colts, which forced Sebastian Vollmer to switch from right to left tackle. Cameron Fleming struggled when placed in the lineup on the strong side. This game of musical chairs along the Patriots offensive line could prove to be problematic if any other blocker misses significant time this season due to injury.
What's Next? After a 5-0 start, the Patriots face arguably their toughest test of the season so far. The 4-1 New York Jets and their No. 1-ranked defense are next on the docket. The Jets have played well above expectations this season, and they're eager to test their mettle against the league's best.
Last Week's Ranking: 1