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

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystOctober 16, 2017

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

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    The NFL is a wild league. There is so much talent and so much parity among the 32 teams that it's rare to see games go as expected. A contest can easily be decided by a critical call by the officials, a 50-50 jump ball or which team suffers a key injury first.

    This isn't a new trend. Whether it was my 2008 season with the Titans or my 2012 season as an assistant with the Patriots, I could look back on the playoff campaign and see multiple games we could have lost to "lesser" teams.

    If you haven't realized just how unpredictable the NFL is by this point in the season, you finally got it in Week 6. A ludicrous pinball catch by Antonio Brown ended the Chiefs' winning streak, a questionable fumble call may have saved the day for New England, and an injury to Aaron Rodgers may cost the Packers their title hopes.

    Oh, and if you expected the Dolphins to come back from a 17-0 halftime deficit against the Falcons, maybe you should come apply for my job.

    The unpredictable nature of the NFL is the reason we come out with new power rankings each week—and why you'll find a healthy amount of movement in mine. The landscape changes from week to week and game to game. How do I view things heading into Week 7? Let's take a look.


    You can check out last week's power rankings here.

32. Cleveland Browns

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 32

    The big thing with the Browns is they always find ways to produce self-inflicted wounds. The Browns are also facing quarterback issues—I know that's a shock—and that continued in Kevin Hogan's first NFL start.

    Hogan got the Browns off to a bad start against the Texans with early turnovers. The defense allowed some long plays in the pass game and the run game, and Cleveland got behind big early.

    Cleveland isn't built to come from behind or to win shootouts. This is the youngest team in the NFL, and it needs to win by playing sound defense, running the ball and limiting offensive mistakes. If the Browns can keep things close, coach Hue Jackson should be able to dial up enough big plays in the passing game to give the team a chance.

    The problem is Cleveland has rarely been able to keep games close. When the Browns did so against the Jets, red-zone turnovers prevented the team from getting the win. There's no way around the fact that Cleveland is inventing new ways to lose every week.

31. San Francisco 49ers

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    Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 31

    Unlike the Browns, the 49ers continue to battle each week and keep things close. They've now lost five games by three points or fewer, with two of those losses coming in overtime.

    It was the right move to bench Brian Hoyer for rookie C.J. Beathard. He gives the 49ers a more aggressive trigger finger under center, and he holds more upside than Hoyer. At some point, the 49ers were going to have to make the change in order to keep the rest of the team believing in the building process.

    Making the switch in Week 6 was nearly enough to net the 49ers a win.

    The 49ers now need to get the ground game going with more consistency. Coach Kyle Shanahan fields the best play-action offense in the game, and the 49ers need to be able to feed on it.

    Defensively, San Francisco does enough to keep the team in games. The problem is the defense gives up too many easy completions and too much cheap yardage. This was the case again in Week 6, and it's something that needs to change if the 49ers want to start winning games.

    For the second time this season, the 49ers got cheated by a bad offensive pass interference call. That sucks, but the fact is better teams would be able to overcome such mishaps.

30. New York Giants

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 30

    This was the formula we expected from the Giants all year long. In the win over the Broncos, New York was efficient on offense, committed to running the ball and dominant on defense.

    When the defense plays as well as it did in Week 6, it keeps the Giants in games or, like last year, takes over games entirely. Jason Pierre-Paul was fantastic and whooped butt all night. Janoris Jenkins had a pick-six and forced a fumble. As a whole, the defense prevented the Broncos from ever having a chance in the game.

    On offense, the Giants benefited from committing to the run. Eli Manning was smart with the football, and he made a few plays while on the run—which he has been doing more of lately. This helped counter Denver's vaunted pass rush. Evan Engram looks like a legit weapon, which the Giants sorely need with so many injuries in the receiving corps.

    This was one of the better offensive performances we've seen from the Giants in 2017, but it's the defensive effort that stands out. New York needs its defense to dominate games if the team is going to get on a winning streak.

29. Chicago Bears

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 28

    I can't say enough about how impressed I've been with the Bears this season. This is another team that continues to battle week in and week out.

    The Bears defense is solid enough that it allows Chicago's below-average offense to kind of hang around in games. When the defense is playing at a phenomenal level like it was against the Ravens, the offense can do enough to win.

    Defensively, the Bears only surrendered three fields goals. Baltimore's two touchdowns came on special teams. This meant rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the rest of the Bears offense didn't have a ton of work to do.

    This is what the Bears need to do moving forward. They need to play great defense, run the ball with consistency and allow Trubisky to make the occasional game-changing play. The talent is there for the rookie signal-caller, though the stats won't always show it because there isn't talent around him.

    This team is capable enough to steal a few games down the stretch, but among two-win teams, the Bears are at the bottom of the spectrum. Teams like the Chargers and Cowboys may creep back into the playoff conversation, but the lack of receiver and secondary talent leaves Chicago as a long shot.

28. Oakland Raiders

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 21

    The Raiders are concerning. The offense isn't what it was last year, the line isn't dominating at the line of scrimmage and the defense is still a major concern. The secondary is the team's biggest weakness, but the decline of the offensive line may be more cause for worry.

    It doesn't help matters that Amari Cooper has disappeared from the offense. He isn't backing off defenses to help the running game, and he isn't helping the Raiders win shootouts like he did a year ago.

    Oakland is now in a tough spot. The team is sitting at 2-4 and staring down a short week and a matchup with the Chiefs. If the Raiders don't figure out how to make some big adjustments fast, they could be looking at a 2-5 record and a lost season. A return to 2016 form, however, would put the Raiders right back in the AFC West race.

27. Indianapolis Colts

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 26

    The Indianapolis Colts do a lot of things well. So does quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Unfortunately, he is still new to the Colts, and the offensive chemistry on third down isn't there. That doomed Indianapolis against the Tennessee Titans.

    Indianapolis never got the run game going, and as a result, the offense faded in the second half.

    Defensively, the Colts are tough and physical up front. However, they lack that big-time player needed to make a game-changing play. The secondary is below average, and the Colts cannot rush the passer well either. Marcus Mariota had way too much time on Monday night.

    The one bright defensive play against Tennessee was John Simon's pick-six. Other than that, the Titans had their way.

    Indianapolis is going to continue to fight all season, but they cannot expect to win with fourth-quarter magic every week.

26. Los Angeles Chargers

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    Ed Mulholland/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 29

    The Chargers are going to be in a lot of games going forward. This is because Philip Rivers and the passing game are potent enough to put them there.

    The difference in Sunday's win over the Raiders was Melvin Gordon. He was excellent in both the run game and the pass game. He hurt the Raiders defense in multiple ways and kept it off-balance throughout.

    The Chargers defense is a below-average unit, but it is capable of making the occasional big play. Usually, it's pressure brought on by Joey Bosa or Melvin Ingram, but against the Raiders, the big play was an interception deep in Chargers territory.

    This was one of the best defensive showings by the Chargers this season. The run defense was better than it's been lately, and the Chargers were able to contain Derek Carr and the pass game. If L.A. can play defense at this level on a more consistent basis, teams in the AFC will have cause to worry.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 19

    The Buccaneers need Kwon Alexander back, as he's one of their best players on defense. It's this side of the ball that is costing Tampa games, as was the case Sunday.

    A lack of defensive talent and some questionable defensive strategies will lead to losses like this one. The weakness of the Cardinals is the offensive line, but the Buccaneers didn't have enough defensive talent up front to take advantage.

    Offensively, it took too long for the Buccaneers to get going. And moving forward, Jameis Winston's shoulder injury could prove problematic. If he misses time, the 2-3 Buccaneers could soon find themselves in a deep hole.

    To put it bluntly, Tampa is a middle-of-the-pack team with middle-of-the-pack players across most parts of the roster. The Buccaneers will beat some teams this year, but they're not going to be title challengers.

24. Arizona Cardinals

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 25

    Adding Adrian Peterson was a great move for the Cardinals because it prevents the offense from being one-dimensional. Peterson may not be the back he once was, but he runs hard and he's going to keep opposing defenses from solely keying in on Carson Palmer and the passing game.

    The addition of Peterson also opens things up in the play-action game.

    It will be interesting to see how Peterson and the offense perform in the coming weeks because the Buccaneers have a defense that is merely average. What we saw against Tampa was encouraging, though.

    Defensively, the Cardinals have a little bit of everything. They can rush the passer; they have athletic, rangy linebackers; and they have playmakers on the back end. Arizona smothered the Tampa Bay offense early in Week 6, consistently getting the ball back to Palmer and Co.

    Arizona can stay in the NFC West race if it keeps performing like it did Sunday.

23. Baltimore Ravens

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 20

    It was the same old story for the Ravens in Week 6. The defense played solid but was banged up. The offense was atrocious.

    The inability of Baltimore to convert on third downs is glaring. It's causing the defense to spend too much time on the field, which is a problem since the unit is missing some key players. The offense as a whole is inconsistent. At times, the Ravens will show flashes of being able to run the ball, but they're few and far between.

    Listen, we have to recognize that football is a three-phase game. The Ravens are strong in two of those phases. They scored twice on special teams against Chicago, and their defense is competent enough to at least give Baltimore a chance. The issue is the Ravens just can't find any consistency on offense. When it's up to that phase of the game to win contests, Baltimore is at a disadvantage.

    With guys like Brent Urban and Brandon Williams out, the Ravens defense cannot carry games the way it did at the start of the season. Baltimore desperately needs its offense to start pulling its weight.

22. Tennessee Titans

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    James Kenney/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 24

    Week 6 brought a big win for the Titans. I actually believe Marcus Mariota's hamstring injury is a blessing in disguise because it forced him to play entirely from the pocket. The Titans did a good job of dialing up a game plan for him from the pocket. This could be big for his development as a passer. 

    The question all year has been whether Tennessee could pass well enough to win games when the run game isn't dominating. Monday night provided some evidence that the pass game does have the capability to hold things down when needed.

    This was the best Mariota has looked throwing the ball from the pocket in his NFL career. His poise particularly stood out. 

    The Titans did a good job of taking T.Y. Hilton out of the game, but pass defense is still a concern for Tennessee—and the pass rush has been a disappointment. These are issues the Titans will need to address moving forward.

21. Miami Dolphins

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    Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 27

    The Dolphins scored 20 straight points in the second half to come back and beat the Falcons. If you'd have tried telling me that before Sunday, I'd have laughed in your face.

    It was around this time last year when the Dolphins began to get things straightened out. Perhaps Miami is poised to repeat the process. Jay Cutler played well in Week 6, the offensive line was terrific, and the run game finally got going.

    This allowed Miami to keep getting first downs in the second half and to control the clock. This, in turn, kept the defense off the field. The secondary is still Miami's weakness, so this is a formula the Dolphins need to try emulating moving forward.

    The Dolphins were able to keep the Atlanta offense out of a rhythm the entire second half. This gave the offense the opportunity it needed to rally. Miami cannot expect to come back from 17 points down every week, but it has found a blueprint for success.

20. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 23

    The Bengals are one of the teams to watch going forward. They're one of the more balanced teams in the league, and they went into the bye on a two-game winning streak.

    Now that Vontaze Burfict is back on the field, Cincinnati is dangerous on all three levels of the defense. Offensively, the Bengals aren't going to blow anyone out of the water; however, the switch to Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator has brought improvement.

    This is not a great offense in Cincinnati, but it's dangerous enough. If A.J. Green can break loose for a couple of big plays a game and Andy Dalton can take care of the ball, the Bengals will be a tough out.

    With every other divisional opponent losing, the Bengals get a bit of a rankings bump on te bye. Cincinnati is not out of the AFC North race by a long shot.

19. New York Jets

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 22

    The Jets may have been the victims of bad luck in Week 6. They were on the wrong end of one overturned touchdown call. At least to me, the play involving Austin Seferian-Jenkins looked like a touchdown.

    Even before that, the Jets had total control of the game and blew it. They dominated the first half, but a poor decision by quarterback Josh McCown led to a turnover and a Patriots score—which tied the game at the half.

    The Jets deserve a ton of credit for the way they've competed this year, but this isn't a team that can afford game-changing mistakes against teams like New England. New York is going to be a pain in a lot of butts moving forward. The question is whether the Jets can avoid such mistakes and make enough big plays to get over the hump.

18. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 17

    I want to start out by saying I'm glad running back Leonard Fournette escaped Sunday's game with only an ankle sprain. Had he slipped the way he did on artificial turf, the injury could have been much more severe.

    The Jaguars need Fournette the rest of the way if they hope to have a shot at the playoffs. As they proved in their loss to the Rams, the Jaguars need to follow a formula. They need to get off to an early lead, they need to let their defense fly around the field, and they need a strong running game behind Fournette to limit the impact quarterback Blake Bortles has on the game.

    When Bortles has to go out and win the game, Jacksonville is in trouble.

    The Rams got up early, scored two special teams touchdowns and forced the Jaguars to move away from their formula. The other concern from Week 6 is that Jacksonville is too talented to be giving up so many rushing yards. This is the best secondary in football, and the Jaguars should be able to do a better job of stopping the run with the front seven.

    The Jaguars can be dangerous, but they might also be too inconsistent to be a contender.

17. Green Bay Packers

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 5

    Losing Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone is a crushing blow for the Packers. Green Bay is now going to have to find out what kind of team it is. If you've read anything I've written over the last couple of years, you know I believe Rodgers covers for a lot of the Packers' weaknesses.

    The Packers cannot run the same offense they did with Rodgers. They cannot put the ball in Brett Hundley's hands and expect him to win games the way Rodgers did. Green Bay is going to have to rely more on the ground-and-pound in order to keep games close and give the team chances to win.

    Green Bay's defense is good—it created some turnovers against the Minnesota Vikings that kept the Packers in the game—but it isn't great.

    I had concerns with the Packers with Rodgers under center.

16. Seattle Seahawks

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 16

    The offensive line is a mess. This is something that has to be addressed if the Seahawks want to make a deep playoff run. Russell Wilson cannot do everything on his own. He needs better protection and a more consistent rushing attack.

    Uneven play calling hasn't helped matters, and Seattle has no rhyme or reason to its offensive calls. The Seahawks don't run to set up the pass or pass to set up the run. It often feels like offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell closes his eyes and puts his finger to the play-call sheet.

    Defensively, the Seahawks are still elite. They play hard, and their defense can dominate if given an early lead and allowed to cut the pass rush loose.

    Seattle is going to be in the playoff conversation all season because the team resides in the NFC West. They're also going to compete and play hard because that's what Pete Carroll teams do. However, the Seahawks aren't a quality 3-2 team.

    I'm anxious to see them coming out of the bye week and to see what kind of adjustments have been made.

15. Dallas Cowboys

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 14

    The drama surrounding the Ezekiel Elliott suspension has put a cloud over the Cowboys' bye week. That cloud shouldn't hide the fact that Dallas has taken a step back this season. Part of the problem is that Elliott hasn't been the same runner he was a year ago.

    The Cowboys are still above average offensively, and we've seen a lot of growth from quarterback Dak Prescott. He needs to start being in the conversation of the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL. He'd likely be even better if Elliott and the offensive line were playing at the level they were in 2016.

    The decline of Elliott and the offensive line has helped expose a defense that doesn't have a lot of talent. Other than Demarcus Lawrence, there aren't playmakers on that side of the ball. The secondary is below average at best and a liability at worst.

    Dallas has blown late leads in each of the past two games. The Cowboys cannot keep doing this and expect to be in the playoff race. This is why Dallas needs to get the line and the ground attack back on track.

14. Detroit Lions

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 8

    The Lions' pass defense was a concern already. Now that Haloti Ngata is out, we might have to start worrying about Detroit's run defense as well. That's a problem because there's so much on Matthew Stafford's shoulders offensively anyway. The Lions will have glimpses of success running the football, but there's no consistency.

    The Lions aren't balanced, and they aren't a talented enough team to survive five-turnover games like the one against New Orleans.

    Detroit is, however, talented enough to stay in the NFC North race. The Lions needs to pass protect better, they need to run the ball better and they need Kenny Golladay back in the lineup. Without that third receiving option, its easy for opposing defenses to stifle the passing game.

    With questions on defense, the Lions need their offense thriving in order to beat upper-echelon teams moving forward.

13. Buffalo Bills

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 11

    The Bills are going to be in the playoff conversation all year long. They dropped to 3-2 before their Week 6 bye, but they are still a major factor in the AFC East.

    Buffalo has a stout offensive line, which allows the Bills to run the football with consistency. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is capable of making plays on his own too. The one downfall of the Buffalo offense is the team lacks playmakers in the passing game.

    On defense, the Bills are well-coached and strong up front. Unlike last year, Buffalo isn't going to beat itself on defense. The problem there is the Bills cannot trust their cornerbacks to play man to man all game long.

    Buffalo might not be a complete team, but it's a tough one that is going to give opponents headaches. Getting jumped by teams like the Texans and Saints while on bye shouldn't take away from the level of talent Buffalo has.

12. Houston Texans

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 15

    The Texans defense made some big plays, even without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus in Week 6. What I think we're going to continue to see moving forward, though, is the continued development of Deshaun Watson and the offense.

    The Texans are making Watson comfortable by utilizing a lot of college-type schemes. This is allowing him to thrive; in case you weren't aware, he now leads the NFL in touchdown passes. His ability to make plays both with his legs and down the field in the passing game gives Houston's offense a brand-new dynamic.

    It helps that Houston has the two-headed rushing attack of Lamar Miller and D'Onta Foreman.

    Yes, the Texans still have a high-quality defense, but this isn't strictly a defensive team anymore. It wouldn't be too surprising to see Houston take a let's-just-outscore-the-opponent approach the rest of the season.

11. New Orleans Saints

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 18

    We have to start out talking about the Saints defense. It's getting better every week. I know the stats aren't going to look great coming out of the Lions game, but it played well. New Orleans stopped the run, Matthew Stafford had trouble finding time to throw, and the Saints defense scored touchdowns.

    Let's also not forget that two of Detroit's touchdowns came on defense or special teams.

    Because of this improvement—and the running back tandem of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram—New Orleans was able to win without relying completely on Drew Brees. That bodes well for the team moving forward. If the Saints can be a balanced team, it can be a dangerous one.

    With Willie Snead just getting back into the swing of things and Kamara still adapting to the pro game, I don't think New Orleans has even scratched the surface of what it can do offensively.

    The Saints are a team to watch in the NFC.

10. Los Angeles Rams

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 13

    The Rams got themselves an impressive win on the road in Week 6. They started the game with a kick return for a touchdown and added a punt block for a score. This was huge against a tough Jaguars defense. Coach Sean McVay also did some creative things to help move the ball against said defense.

    Am I sold on the Rams as one of the best teams in football? No, not exactly. However, I'll stand by this team as one that has improved and is headed in the right direction.

    All of L.A.'s wins have been impressive, and the Rams' two losses came against quality opponents: Seahawks, Redskins. My big concern is whether the team can trust Jared Goff to avoid mistakes.

9. Atlanta Falcons

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 3

    To blow a 17-0 halftime lead on your home field is concerning. That's not the only problem for Atlanta coming out of Week 6, though. Some of the worries I had about the Falcons coming into the season are coming to the forefront now.

    I wondered if Steve Sarkisian would have enough in his offensive playbook to keep things rolling after four or five weeks when opponents have gotten a read on it. It's feeling like opponents are starting to catch up, and Sarkisian is failing to counter. The Falcons could do nothing in the second half against the Dolphins.

    The defense was on the field too much to begin with, and the inability to move the ball put it there even more in the second half.

    I also worry about the run defense. The Falcons keep eight defenders close to the line of scrimmage similar to the way the Seahawks do. Yet, they're getting gashed on the ground. That's worrisome for a team that may not earn home-field advantage in the playoffs and may be facing run-based attacks in the postseason.

8. Minnesota Vikings

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 12

    The NFC North landscape has changed now that Aaron Rodgers is likely out for the season with a broken collarbone. Minnesota is the team that can come out on top, and having a head-to-head win over the Packers also helps.

    Minnesota controlled almost every aspect of the game against Green Bay, and the final score made it seem closer than it was. Case Keenum threw an interception that led to points for the Packers, as did a Jerick McKinnon fumble.

    The Vikings are still finding their way on offense. There's no Sam Bradford and no Dalvin Cook. There was no Stefon Diggs in Week 6, and Minnesota desperately needs to get him back. He opens up the offense and makes things easier on other receivers and backs.

    Of course, the Vikings don't need a whole lot from their offense to win games. They just need a few big plays each game because the defense is capable of putting the team in position to win by itself.

7. Denver Broncos

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 2

    As I said in the opening, the NFL is wild. I don't care how much better a team is than its opponent, when it misses two field goals and turns the ball over three times, it's going to lose. The Broncos are one of the top teams in football, but they managed to get dominated by the undermanned Giants.

    Coming off the bye may have played a part here. Teams often come out sleepwalking and forgetting the intensity needed to win. That seemed to be the case with Denver. The Broncos' run defense was the worst we've seen this season, Trevor Siemian made two stupid mistakes, and the pass rush didn't create the kind of havoc we've become accustomed to.

    Having said all that, I still believe in the Broncos. I like what I've seen from the offense this season, and the defense is still championship-caliber. The defense had an off night and still only allowed 266 yards of total offense.

    When the offense avoids the kind of missteps it made against New York, the Broncos are as tough to beat as anyone.

6. Washington Redskins

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 10

    The Redskins could have put their game against the 49ers away earlier, but it was still a solid win. Chris Thompson continues to impress as a runner and as a receiver out of the backfield. The defense was again solid, though there were a few times it let the 49ers off the hook.

    Instead of making life miserable on C.J. Beathard, the Redskins allowed him to keep San Francisco in the game. There were far too many big pass plays from a guy seeing his first NFL action for my liking.

    The Redskins' passing game is fantastic, though it would be nice to see Kirk Cousins getting the ball to Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson more. When the run game is clicking to complement the pass, the Washington offense can be lethal.

    Overall, the Redskins are one of the better teams in the NFC.

    It may seem odd for Washington to move up so much after beating the winless 49ers, but San Francisco is a tough opponent that competes hard every week. This is a team that was coming off a bye, that wasn't sharp and was missing its best defender in Josh Norman. It still found a way to win. That's the mark of a playoff contender.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 9

    What a big win for the Steelers. Pittsburgh knocked off the NFL's last undefeated team by playing smothering defense and relying on Le'Veon Bell and the ground game. This is how the team should try to win every game. This is no longer a Ben Roethlisberger-led, pass-centric team.

    The way Bell ran Sunday was reminiscent of the player we saw late last season. Riding him and a stout defense is the type of game plan that can lead to success for the Steelers in December and January. It allowed the Steelers to control the clock and keep the Chiefs' explosive weapons off the field.

    This is exactly the type of team the Steelers will be facing if they reach the postseason.

    This Steelers defense has a little bit of everything, and it's the type that can match up against the top offenses in football. When they play the way they did offensively against the Chiefs to complement that defense, the Steelers are a legit Super Bowl contender.

4. New England Patriots

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 7

    This wasn't the best week for the Patriots, but pulling out the win and staying atop the division was big. Defensive improvements played a key role in that.

    Look, this isn't going to be one of the best defenses in football the way it was last season. What we're going to see is more of a bend-but-don't-break defense, which has worked for New England in the past. Teams may be able to move the ball on the Patriots between the 20s, but can they score touchdowns? If the answer is "no," those teams are going to have trouble winning.

    The Patriots still have an elite offense—and it's a far better unit when Rob Gronkowski is on the field. We saw a boot in the run game against the Jets too, which helped keep the Stephon Gilmore-less defense off the field.

    That defense is only going to continue getting better as the season goes on, and the offense is already pretty damn good.

3. Carolina Panthers

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking:4

    Losing to the Eagles on Thursday night doesn't mean the Panthers aren't still one of the best teams in football.

    The Panthers did, however, make a mistake by trying to run the ball and win the power game early on. The weakness of the Eagles is in the secondary, and the Panthers would have had more success by spreading the defense out and passing. Then they could have gone to the run after that.

    People are going to be critical of Cam Newton for throwing three interceptions, but only one of the picks was his fault. One was a result of bad blocking, and one was a result of Jonathan Stewart dropping a screen pass and having it batted in the air.

    The Panthers still have one of the top defenses in the NFL, and the offense, while not great, is solid. The Panthers just need to find more creative ways to open up the running game.

2. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Last Week's Ranking: 6

    Plain and simple, the Eagles are one of the best teams in football. They're definitely one of the top teams in the NFC.

    We know about quarterback Carson Wentz and his playmaking ability. Now that the Eagles have added a strong downhill running game, the offense is a more balanced and dangerous unit. It would behoove Philadelphia to run the ball even more, but Wentz is a superstar—one of the five best quarterbacks in the game—and this offense is a quality unit.

    Philadelphia's defensive front seven goes from really good to special when Fletcher Cox is in the lineup. As we saw against the Panthers, Cox can take over a game. There are still questions about the secondary, but when the defensive front plays like it did in Carolina, some of the deficiencies can be masked.

    The Eagles are a tough, physical team on both sides of the ball. They don't beat themselves on defense, and they have a balanced offense that can control the tempo and the clock. The Eagles are going to be a factor all season long.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Associated Press

    Last Week's Ranking: 1

    This was the concern I've had with the Chiefs all season. I've been wondering if Kansas City could grind out games on offense when the big, explosive plays weren't there. As was the case in the playoffs last year against Pittsburgh, the answer was "no" more often than not.

    This will be something to watch moving forward. If teams are able to take away the long gains from Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt, can Alex Smith dink and dunk his team down the field consistently? Kansas City had better figure that out because top-tier defenses like Pittsburgh's will be waiting in the postseason.

    Still, it's hard to knock the Chiefs too much for finally losing a game. They still had a shot to win it in the end, and had a pass to Antonio Brown not bounced off two defenders and still ended up in his hands, the end of the game could well have unfolded differently.

    The Chiefs are still the best team in football. They simply didn't play their best game in Week 6. As I mentioned before, the best team doesn't always come out on top.


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