NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 6?

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystOctober 9, 2017

NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Heading into Week 6?

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has earned a reputation as a meticulous worker and a creature of habit. When I was with the organization, though, I was impressed by what I saw from him when plays didn't go as planned.

    The top teams in the NFL this season all have quarterbacks who possess this ability. They might not do it in the same way—Brady moves within the pocket, while a guy like Cam Newton or Russell Wilson may take off and run—but the best signal-callers find ways to make positive things happen on plays the defense should win.

    There is more to a successful club than just the quarterback, of course, but squads that can find top-tier franchise quarterbacks are undoubtedly in a better position. This was evident in Week 5, when teams like the Packers, Panthers and Eagles saw their quarterbacks keep control in tough spots.

    What else do these three have in common? They've all advanced to 4-1 and have plotted postseason courses. You're going to find them at the top of my power rankings and teams that don't have this type of franchise quarterback—like the Browns and 49ers—near the bottom.

    Here's how I view the league heading into Week 6. Last week's rankings can be found here.

32. Cleveland Browns

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 32

    The first thing you have to think about with the Browns is the quarterbacks the team has passed on over the last couple of years. Cleveland could have Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson or Dak Prescott under center. Instead, they have DeShone Kizer, who was just benched at halftime.

    All of the concerns I had about Kizer coming out of college—like his inaccuracy and inability to process the speed of the NFL this early—are still there. He has shown some promise, but he's inconsistent as a thrower and doesn't make a large variety of throws. By no means has Cleveland figured out its quarterback situation.

    Quarterback isn't the only issue for Cleveland, either. This is a team that doesn't have a lot of talent on offense. The Browns could have stolen Sunday's game against the Jets, but a number of mistakes—like two missed field goals and two red-zone turnovers—cost them.

    It didn't help that head coach Hue Jackson passed on a game-tying field-goal attempt down 10-7 and failed to score. That's just one example of how some of Jackson's decisions have hurt the team this season. It was great to finally see Myles Garrett on the field (two sacks), even if he isn't going to lift this team to success right now.

31. San Francisco 49ers

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 31

    There are positives with the 49ers. They are capable of moving the ball on offense. There just aren't guys who can make the game-changing plays needed to get over the hump and win games.

    The defense, while talented, will have days where it struggles. That was the case against the Colts. The unit was gashed on the ground by running back Marlon Mack, which isn't a good look for a defensive line filled with a number of first-round picks.

    San Francisco's defense did give the team a chance to win in overtime with an interception, but Brian Hoyer and Co. couldn't capitalize.

    In general, San Francisco struggles when it cannot run the ball. Hoyer and the passing game typically isn't strong enough to lift the offense and win games. This is especially true when the defense doesn't play well and the 49ers get into a shootout.

30. New York Giants

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    Steven Ryan/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 28

    It's officially a disaster for the Giants. New York is winless after five weeks and in all likelihood lost Odell Beckham Jr. for the season to a fractured ankle. I've been saying all year that Beckham shouldn't play on on his rookie contract this season, and this is why.

    I'll say this: The Giants had better do right by Beckham when drawing up his contract. They need to do so before next season.

    The offensive line wasn't horrible Sunday. It did open up some holes in the run game, and it provided time for Eli Manning to get a couple of long throws down the field. This just isn't an offense that is going to consistently move the ball down the field. New York relies on the big play, and that's going to be difficult with Beckham now out.

    Defensively, the Giants have been a disappointment. There's talent there, but we have yet to see a game where the defense has dominated. That's why New York is winless and why wins are going to continue to be hard to come by.

    In addition to losing Beckham, the Giants lost Dwayne Harris (fractured foot) for the year and saw Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard go down with injuries. Matching points is going to be difficult.

29. Los Angeles Chargers

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    Steven Ryan/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 30

    Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had another typical game. He made some "wow" throws that few quarterbacks could make, and he also had his usual boneheaded play: an interception in the end zone. Rivers has had consistency issues in the last few seasons, but he's still a quarterback plenty of other teams would like to have.

    Overall, this isn't a talented club. The offensive line isn't good enough to take over games, and the defense lacks playmakers not named Joey Bosa or Melvin Ingram. The passing game is always going to be dangerous, but there isn't balance on offense.

    Bosa and Ingram were everywhere against the Giants, and that's a big reason why L.A. pulled out a win. Of course, injuries to New York's receivers also gave the Chargers an advantage.

    Even with the aforementioned Giants injuries, this was still an impressive win. Traveling across the country and playing at 10 a.m. local time is never easy for a West Coast team. The victory gets L.A. out of the winless club.

28. Chicago Bears

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    Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 25

    Let's just get to the point and talk about Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Yes, the interception at the end of Monday's game was a stupid decision, but it was an impressive debut considering the situation. This was a rookie making his first NFL start in Week 5 with the rest of the guys around him already in mid-season shape.

    The last time Trubisky played a real snap was six weeks ago against a bunch of backups.

    Trubisky showed arm strength, athleticism, ability to throw on the run and good poise. Plus, it's not like he had a lot of receiving weapons around him. What the Bears need to do moving forward is rely on the run game and the offensive line, allowing Trubisky to make a great play from time to time with his legs or his arm.

    Chicago's defense was good up front, though it did allow a few big runs and was late to line up at times. Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd are both scary-good players. The front seven needs to keep dominating in order to protect a questionable secondary. It came up just a couple plays short against a good Minnesota Vikings team.

27. Miami Dolphins

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 27

    The Dolphins were lucky to face a team without its starting quarterback this week. Running the ball has been a struggle, the passing game is average at best and the defensive secondary is still one of the team's biggest liabilities.

    Jay Cutler's play at QB was particularly worrisome against the Titans.

    Miami's big play against Tennessee was a strip-sack of Matt Cassel that was returned for a touchdown. This offense is struggling, and without that play, Miami probably doesn't steal a win. Had Marcus Mariota been under center, Miami likely doesn't get a win.

    By no stretch of the imagination am I feeling any better about the Dolphins.

26. Indianapolis Colts

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 29

    Colts coach Chuck Pagano deserves a lot of credit. The Colts continue to play tough, even knowing Andrew Luck isn't coming into the game. They were able to get a hard-fought win this week thanks in part to a strong running game.

    You also have to give credit to quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Considering the short time he's been with the team and in the system, he's playing well. Yes, he had an ill-advised interception in overtime, but he moved well in the pocket and had some big throws down the field.

    Defensively, the Colts have more talent than some might realize. The secondary isn't anything special, but the Indianapolis defense shut down San Francisco's running game, which was enough to set the Colts up to win.

    After losing big to the Seahawks last Sunday night, it was key for the Colts to come back and win. At 2-3, Indianapolis cannot be counted out in the AFC South race, assuming Luck can return soon.

25. Arizona Cardinals

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 24

    The fact the Cardinals defense let up as many big plays as it did against the Eagles was shocking. That's the strength of this team—the one solid thing about it.

    Not only did Arizona get embarrassed by Philadelphia's passing attack, but it also got pushed around far too often in the run game.

    Offensively, we're seeing the same problems on a week-to-week basis. The offensive line is not steady enough. Period. Quarterback Carson Palmer is not good enough or athletic enough to overcome that bad line play at this point in his career. With David Johnson out, there's no run game to speak of.

    It's a tough offensive situation for Bruce Arians to overcome. When the defense plays like it did Sunday, the Cardinals are going to get smoked.

24. Tennessee Titans

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    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 18

    We knew the run game would have to lead the Tennessee offense because Marcus Mariota was out. Credit Miami for containing the run, but it's disappointing that the Titans offensive line wasn't able to lead the charge.

    The line didn't do a great job of protecting Matt Cassel, either, which leads to my big concern with Tennessee. Even when Mariota returns, I'm not sure this team can lean on the passing game when it needs to. The line can be an issue in pass protection, and there aren't that many weapons with which to attack downfield.

    When the Titans struggle to run the ball, as they did in Miami, it's going to be hard to win. The Tennessee defense isn't horrible, but it isn't the type of unit that is going to make enough game-changing plays to win on its own.

23. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 26

    The Bengals have quietly climbed back to 2-3. While they might night be a Super Bowl contender, the Bengals have far too much talent to say their season is over, even after the rough 0-3 start.

    Cincinnati continues to feature A.J. Green on offense under promoted offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. That has forced opposing defenses to defend down the field and has opened things up for the offense. The offense isn't great, but Cincinnati is competitive on that side of the ball. The Bengals are trying to establish the run and do creative things in the pass game, and Andy Dalton is hanging in there.

    Defensively, the Bengals are legit. The front four is tremendous, and the return of Vontaze Burfict has boosted the front seven as a whole. We'll have to see what happens with injured cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones, but Cincinnati is deep in the secondary.

    The Bengals matched up well with the Bills and got a big win that could send them on a run.

22. New York Jets

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 22

    The Jets continue to show they're better off than people thought—and that tanking isn't a thing in the NFL. What's interesting is the Jets are finding ways to win in a variety of ways. Last week, the run game dominated. This week, the team won with a few timely throws from Josh McCown.

    Playing great defense is the common factor in New York's winning formula. This is going to keep the Jets in games. A few long plays on offense—whether on the ground or through the air—can be enough to lift the team to victory when games are close.

    I'm not going to sit here and try to tell you the Jets are one of the 10 best teams in football, but teams cannot just expect to win when they play them. This defense is tremendous, and there are more offensive weapons than the Jets get credit for.

    New York is tied for first place in the AFC East, which is hard to believe.

21. Oakland Raiders

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 12

    If I'm a Raiders fans, I'm concerned right now. I'd have been concerned before the Derek Carr injury, and I'd be downright worried now.

    The Oakland defense is a liability. We haven't seen all that much from the Ravens offense this year, and Baltimore moved the ball with ease. Oakland needs Gareon Conley to get healthy and start making an impact in the secondary.

    There are too many big pass plays happening in that Raiders secondary. What's also discouraging is the fact Oakland's defensive front—which is the strength of the defense—got pushed around.

    It's also discouraging that the Raiders cannot find Amari Cooper in the offense. Perhaps someone should introduce him to coordinator Todd Downing.

    EJ Manuel wasn't bad, and he did make some plays. However, the Raiders found themselves down 14-0 before they even realized they were in a ballgame. That doesn't set up a winning formula for a team playing with a backup quarterback.

20. Baltimore Ravens

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 23

    This was a huge win for the Ravens. The team has found something in Alex Collins, and he and Javorius Allen could be a quality tandem moving forward. This should help take pressure off quarterback Joe Flacco, who did play better against the Raiders.

    Baltimore is a big, physical football team. Flacco and the passing game got the Ravens off to an early lead, which allowed Baltimore to physically lean on the Raiders the rest of the way. Baltimore is better off when it can rely on its run game and its pass defense.

    The Ravens are going to be a handful for most opponents moving forward, but overcoming all of the injuries the team has already suffered won't be easy. If the inconsistencies on offense we saw in the last couple of weeks crop back up, winning will be even more difficult.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 17

    The Buccaneers are still missing that big landmark win in the Jameis Winston, Dirk Koetter era. Thursday's game against the Patriots had the potential to be that win. The Bucs fought hard, and they hung with the Patriots throughout. However, they failed to finish.

    Three missed field goals were a part of that, as was Koetter's decision to try the onside kick, down two with a timeout and the two-minute warning in his pocket. New England recovered the ball essentially in field-goal range, and it made things harder than they needed to be on the last drive of the game. Because of this, the Bucs got the ball back down five and needing to find the end zone.

    The Buccaneers do deserve a lot of credit for their defensive performance. We know this isn't an elite defense, and it was missing standouts like Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and T.J. Ward. Even with those injuries, Tampa was able to hold Brady and Co. to just 19 points.

    It was great to see the Buccaneers with a pass rush after not seeing one to this point in the season. It was also encouraging to see Doug Martin spark the running game. This is an offense built to feed off the running game and play action.

    Tampa is going in the right direction; however, there are still concerns. The defense, even when healthy, is average. Winston is still inconsistent, and he makes some bad decisions.

18. New Orleans Saints

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    Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 20

    The Saints stand at 2-2 and are coming off two consecutive wins. This should give the team a lot of confidence coming out of the bye week.

    Moving forward, the young Saints secondary should continue to come together and improve. This should also give New Orleans confidence. I only expect the offense to get better as well, with Willie Snead coming back and Alvin Kamara being a bigger part of the game plan.

    Are the Saints a Super Bowl contender? Probably not, but they are going to be a more complete team than we saw at the beginning of the season.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 21

    The Jaguars are incredible when they don't have to rely too heavily on quarterback Blake Bortles. While Bortles isn't a game-changer, there are some scary-good players on the team who can win games by themselves. Guys like Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Fournette and Calais Campbell can change the course of a contest single-handedly.

    As a whole, the Jacksonville defense is special. Not only did it do a tremendous job of slowing down running back Le'Veon Bell, it also picked off Ben Roethlisberger five times. Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns. That's ridiculous.

    Offensively, Jacksonville can lean on Fournette and the ground game. Fournette is a freaking juggernaut on the field, and he can wear down a defense all by himself. He's a ton of fun to watch on film.

    Fournette demoralized the defense.

    The Jaguars have their formula for success. In the team's three wins, the defense played well, the running game took over, and Jacksonville limited the impact Bortles had on the game. When the Jaguars can do this, they're going to be a tough opponent for anyone.

16. Seattle Seahawks

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 19

    It isn't always pretty, but the Seahawks continue to fight and compete the way you'd expect the Pete Carroll-led team to.

    The defense in Seattle is still damn good. It got things going by forcing a fumble into their own end zone, resulting in a touchback. Two second-half interceptions and a fumble recovered in Rams territory were all momentum-shifters. The defense did a nice job of harassing Jared Goff throughout the game, forcing him to make throws that he shouldn't have made.

    Offensively, there is still a lot of work to do. Going to more of a pass-first offense, though, is helping. This needs to be the formula moving forward. Seattle will have a better chance of winning games if it puts the ball in Russell Wilson's hands, spreads the field out and uses that to open up the run.

    The Seahawks are sitting atop the NFC West after beating the Rams, but it's worth noting that the team's wins haven't been all that impressive. The losses have been even worse.

    Seattle doesn't look like a legitimate contender right now. That's why you're going to see some teams with worse records ranked ahead of this group, even though the Seahawks are coming off two wins in a row.

15. Houston Texans

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 16

    The Texans lost their mojo early against the Chiefs when they lost J.J. Watt (leg fracture) and Whitney Mercilus (torn pectoral) to injury on the same drive. You have to respect the way the team was able to recover and keep things close in the second half, but it was a struggle early.

    The defense did a fine job of holding the Chiefs to field goals early, but it couldn't get off the field. By the time the offense got going, it was already 16-0—though it could have been worse.

    Deshaun Watson did some impressive things and had five touchdowns. Once the run game started rolling, the Texans were able to storm back and make things competitive in the second half. Had Watt and Mercilus been in there in the second half, the outcome of the game might have been different.

    Those are going to be tough injuries to overcome, but this is still a quality defense. With Watson under center, the offense is dangerous. Houston is still learning to play with its rookie quarterback, and it just gave the best team in football all it could handle. Watch out.

14. Dallas Cowboys

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 15

    This was a tough loss for the Cowboys. They probably win in Week 5 against any team that doesn't have Aaron Rogers at quarterback.

    Still, the offense was encouraging. Dak Prescott made some huge throws, and the running game looked as solid as it has all season.

    The Dallas defense looked different with David Irving in the game. The Cowboys were able to harass Rodgers all game long, and an improved pass rush should help cover for the lack of talent in the secondary moving forward.

    It wasn't enough to prevent Rodgers from making his usual late-game magic, though. This is a game Dallas is going to look back on and feel sick about. The Cowboys had the game in the bag, but they couldn't put it away.

    Dallas might be 2-3, but the offense is special, and the Cowboys are going to be hard to beat. I'm not counting them out by any means.

13. Los Angeles Rams

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 14

    The Rams suffered a disappointing loss in Week 5, but I still like where the team is. They play tough, they're physical on defense, they get after the quarterback and they can make big plays on both sides of the ball.

    L.A. lost, but it hung in against the team that has been the king of the NFC West the last several years.

    The big problem for the Rams was that Jared Goff was never able to get into a rhythm. He was under pressure a lot, and he made some throws that were questionable at best.

    This shouldn't take away from the growth he's shown under Sean McVay this season. What's important is that he and the rest of the team competed all game long and kept themselves in it throughout.

    Goff had turnovers, and Greg Zuerlein missed a big field goal. Yet L.A. still had a chance to win it at the end.

12. Minnesota Vikings

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 13

    First of all, it was a mistake for the Vikings to start Sam Bradford on Monday night. He was obviously not 100 percent. Minnesota wasted the first half offensively with him struggling to move in the pocket and incapable of making plays.

    The Vikings might need to just move on with Keenum for the time being. He gives the team a legitimate chance to win.

    It was great to see some big plays in the run game from Jerick McKinnon, but the run game is still concerning. Losing Dalvin Cook is huge, and it's hard to be sold on McKinnon or Latavius Murray without a bit more proof.

    The Minnesota defense is special, as it showed on Monday. About the only thing it is missing is a capable backup defensive end other than Brian Robinson who can help keep Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter fresh.

    The Vikings are good enough to allow Bradford to get back to 100 percent while still staying in the playoff race.

11. Buffalo Bills

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    Frank Victores/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 10

    This was a tough game and a tough matchup for the Bills. The Bengals are every bit as talented as Buffalo, which shows why record doesn't mean everything in the NFL.

    This was the type of game that showed the Bills don't have enough weapons in the pass game. When Charles Clay got hurt (knee), the offense lost one of its biggest receiving weapons. Tyrod Taylor struggled to find open pass-catchers after that.

    When the run game struggles, as it did in Cincinnati, it's hard for the aerial attack to compensate. This isn't an offense that is going to beat you with creativity.

    The defense did keep Buffalo in the game. The problem is the Bills don't have man corners. When the defense has to match up in man, it's going to suffer. Buffalo tried keeping a defender on A.J. Green at times, and he ate that defender up when it happened.

    Buffalo is a dangerous team, but there's a specific game plan needed for it to win.

10. Washington Redskins

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 9

    The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for the Redskins, as they suffered a number of injuries in Week 4. It's still going to be a few weeks before star corner Josh Norman can return, but the week off should help the team as a whole.

    This is a strong football team too. The Washington defense can challenge opponents, and the offense can be special. I know the Redskins are just 2-2, but I'd caution the rest of the NFC to look out for Washington moving forward.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 2

    Every week, I keep waiting for Big Ben Roethlisberger to get going. He keeps letting me down. Has he had some bright moments? Sure, but he isn't throwing with consistency, and his decision-making has been questionable.

    What's also concerning is the fact Roethlisberger is the worst downfield thrower in football right now. This hurts the team because the offense is built around Roethlisberger's ability to challenge down the field. When he struggles, so does Pittsburgh.

    The Steelers left a lot of big plays on the field against Jacksonville.

    This is still a special defense. However, the Steelers haven't looked great when the running game cannot get going and they've had to rely on Roethlisberger. After watching him dominate for so many years, that feels weird to even write.

    Still, the Steelers are in position to make a statement in the AFC with a big game against the Chiefs upcoming.

8. Detroit Lions

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    Jose Juarez/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 5

    The Lions are still a great football team, but they need to bring some more creativity to their passing scheme. The secondary is the weakness of the Carolina defense, but the Panthers were able to use simple coverages to help mask the issue.

    The Lions offensive line is better than it was last year, but it isn't dominant. That doesn't help the passing game when it's taking time for receivers to get open.

    Defensively, the Lions are good but not great. The unit wasn't able to create some of the turnovers it has in recent weeks. The front seven continues to impress, though, and it shut down the Carolina run game.

    Overall, the Lions failed to play their best game in Week 5, and it cost them. They're not quite at the point yet where they can beat a great team on an off night.

7. New England Patriots

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 7

    We're finally starting to see some of what we expected from the New England defense. The Patriots simplified things, used simple coverages and made sure they wouldn't be beaten by long passes to Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.

    I'm far less concerned with the blown coverages we saw at the beginning of the season than I am with the serious lack of a pass rush. It's also concerning to see the defensive line getting pushed around in the run game. That's something we didn't see last year and something that seems to be a trend in 2017.

    Tom Brady was a little off early against Tampa, but he played well overall. The problem is that he was again under consistent pressure. The Patriots need to find more balance on offense to stop the beating the 40-year-old quarterback is taking on a weekly basis.

    New England is still one of the best teams in football, but allowing Brady to get beaten up by a subpar pass rush like Tampa's is a major, major concern. The Patriots will always have a chance to win with Brady under center, but that changes if he gets sidelined by injury.

6. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 8

    We need to start putting Carson Wentz in the conversation of the top five or six quarterbacks in the NFL. His ability to improvise, make plays on the run and break arm tackles are all phenomenal. His ability to throw the ball and strike the big play are even better.

    The Eagles' running game has been much improved in recent weeks, and that's making Wentz and the Philadelphia offense even more dangerous. LeGarrette Blount is punishing defenses and opening space in the passing game.

    Defensively, the Eagles are best up front. Even without Fletcher Cox, the defensive line whipped the crap out of the Cardinals offense all four quarters—and I'd argue that Cox is one of the five best defensive players in the game. When the front four plays like it did Sunday, the Eagles can mask their deficiencies in the secondary.

    Philadelphia might not run away with the NFC East, but the Eagles are setting themselves up as playoff contenders.

5. Green Bay Packers

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 6

    I still have concerns about the Packers, specifically on defense. The defense isn't special, and the Cowboys had their way with it. When Aaron Rodgers is able to pull magic out of his butt like he did against Dallas, though, this is a hard team to beat.

    To me, the best thing about Sunday's performance is that Green Bay seems to have found a runner in Aaron Jones. He should be able to take some pressure off Rodgers and the offense moving forward.

    Rodgers, by the way, is the greatest quarterback I've ever seen. He's the greatest one-man show in the history of football, and he's able to lift a team like no one else in the league can. If he can get some help from the run game and the defense moving forward, the Packers are going to be a nightmare for opposing teams.

4. Carolina Panthers

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    Jose Juarez/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 11

    The Panthers are for real, and Cam Newton is officially back. He had an awesome game, and the Panthers needed it against the Lions. Running the ball against Detroit's massive front didn't go so well.

    If Newton can keep playing like he did Sunday, the Panthers are going to be a tough out come December. They've been finding different ways to win games. This is a team built to lean on the run, but it can win with the pass and with efficient defense.

    Is the defense perfect? No. There are still some questions in the secondary. However, it looks a lot more like the 2015 version than last year's. Everyone knows about Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, but it's the front four who really make me say "wow" when I turn on the game film.

    Carolina is one of the best teams in the NFC.

3. Atlanta Falcons

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 4

    The key with the Falcons will be the performance of the Steve Sarkisian offense moving forward. The talent is there, but now that opponents have a month's worth of film, Atlanta is going to have to do some different things to stay ahead.

    There is a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. The offense has playmakers, and the defense is one of the fastest in the game. Expect Atlanta to remain near the top of the NFC all season long. Hopefully, the Week 5 bye helped guys like Julio Jones get back to 100 percent for the midseason stretch.

2. Denver Broncos

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 3

    Watch out for the Broncos. They have a Super Bowl defense, they have some weapons at receiver and they have a quarterback in Trevor Siemian who is more than capable.

    The Broncos also have an offensive line and a running game this year. If Siemian can avoid mistakes and continue to gain experience, Denver can be a legit Super Bowl contender.

    With winnable games against the Giants and Chargers upcoming, the Broncos could be fighting for first place in the AFC West when the team travels to Kansas City in three weeks.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 1

    The Chiefs, plain and simple, are playing a notch above the rest of the NFL.

    The Kansas City offense is unstoppable. It's a unique group, and Andy Reid has concocted a scheme unlike anything we've seen before. It reminds me of some sort of college wishbone run out of the shotgun with pro pass plays. Kudos to Reid for that.

    Alex Smith continues to be a more aggressive quarterback than we've seen in years past. His throwing and his mindset—along with explosive weapons like Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill—are allowing the Chiefs to challenge opposing defenses and pick up chunks of yards.

    The Chiefs aren't too shabby on defense, either. They have just about everything you need on that side of the ball, and the secondary and the defensive line stand out. Tamba Hali and Dee Ford aren't healthy, and the defense is going to be better once they return to boost the pass rush.

    This is a team built to win now and in the postseason.