2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 6?

NFL StaffContributor IOctober 12, 2021

2021 B/R NFL Power Rankings: Where Does Every Team Stand Entering Week 6?

0 of 32

    Bleacher Report

    It's Week 6 of the 2021 NFL season, and things are officially off the chain.

    The Buffalo Bills staked their claim to the title of the AFC's best team Sunday night, pounding the Chiefs on the road. Kansas City doesn't even look like the best team in its own division after the Los Angeles Chargers won a shootout with the Cleveland Browns.

    The Cowboys are rolling after waxing the Giants in Dallas. The Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders have all followed up 3-0 starts with back-to-back losses.

    And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

    After yet another week of blowouts, upsets and the wildest overtime game you're apt to ever see in Cincinnati, Bleacher Report NFL Analysts Brent Sobleski, Gary Davenport and Brad Gagnon have gotten together to once again rank the NFL's teams from No. 32 to No. 1.

    Those two slots are occupied by the same squads as a week ago. But plenty changed in between.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5)

1 of 32

    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Last Week: 32

    Week 5 Result: Lost vs. Tennessee 37-19

    The post-merger record for consecutive losses is 26, set by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the franchise's first two years of existence.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars haven't quite reached those depths yet. But after getting blown out by the rival Titans at home in Week 5, the Jags have now gone down in 20 consecutive games dating back to last season.

    While speaking to reporters after the game, embattled Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer tried to put some sort of positive spin on an admittedly dismal situation.

    "I see a group of warriors. I see a group of players that I love to death," Meyer told reporters. "I see a group of players that are spilling it on the field and we're not getting it. We're not closing it out."

    The problem is that's hardly accurate. The Jaguars fumbled on the third play of the game, missed an extra point, dropped what should have been an easy interception and missed a 52-yard field goal.

    That sort of sloppiness will do in even good teams.

    And the Jaguars are light-years from being a good football team.

31. Detroit Lions (0-5)

2 of 32

    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Last Week: 31

    Week 5 Result: Lost at Minnesota 19-17

    You almost feel sorry for the Detroit Lions.

    For the second time in three weeks, the Lions fought, scratched and clawed their way to a late lead, only to see the game slip away in the final seconds on a long field goal. Sunday's defeat wasn't quite as soul-crushing as the Week 3 loss to the Ravens in which Justin Tucker hit an NFL-record 66-yarder. But watching Greg Joseph blast a 54-yarder as the clock hit zero was a punch in the gut nonetheless.

    That may well be the theme for the 2021 Lions.

    It's not that the Lions aren't playing hard. But offensively, they haven't put up more than 17 points in a game since Week 1. Defensively, the Lions came into Week 5 allowing the 10th-most yards per game in the league.

    A tearful Dan Campbell admitted to reporters after the game that this was a painful loss.

    "When you see your players give all that they have and you lose that way, it's tough. You don't want that for them, but we'll be better for it," the head coach said. "Ultimately, we didn't do enough to win, but I was proud of them, and I loved the fight they had in them, and I loved the grit."

30. Houston Texans (1-4)

3 of 32

    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Last Week: 30

    Week 5 Result: Lost vs. New England 25-22

    For just over two quarters Sunday, it appeared we were watching the coming-out party for Houston quarterback Davis Mills.

    In fact, while Houston wasn't able to hold on to a 22-9 lead and fell to 1-4 on the season, it can be argued that the Texans still leave Week 5 with something to look forward to.

    The rookie third-round pick had the best game of his NFL career and then some, throwing for 312 yards and three scores without an interception. Mind you, this comes after Mills had an absolutely horrendous four-interception effort in a blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills.

    As Aaron Wilson wrote for Texans Daily, offensive coordinator Tim Kelly was noncommittal before the game when asked who would start for Houston once veteran Tyrod Taylor returns from injured reserve.

    "Whatever is going to be best for our team, whatever is going to put us in the best position to win," Kelly said. "It's been pretty evident as an organization that's what we're trying to do here. We're not going to treat that decision any differently."

    Mills' performance Sunday won't make the decision any easier.

29. New York Jets (1-4)

4 of 32

    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Last Week: 29

    Week 5 Result: Lost vs. Atlanta 27-20 (London)

    In last week's surprising win over the Tennessee Titans, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and the Jets offense finally showed some signs of life.

    Those were very short-lived.

    The New York offense spent most of Sunday's trip to London looking jet-lagged. The team posted just 230 yards of offense, managed just 64 rushing yards and averaged a meager 4.4 yards per play.

    Wilson went right back to sleep as well. The second overall pick in the 2021 draft completed just 19 of 32 passes for 192 yards with an interception—and many of those passing yards came late with the Jets playing catch-up.

    "The Jets have two weeks now to think about the fact that they just aren't a good football team," Davenport said. "The offense is atrocious. The defense isn't a whole lot better. And it's going to take quite a bit of work on both sides of the ball to fix Gang Green(ous).

28. New York Giants (1-4)

5 of 32

    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    Last Week: 26

    Week 5 Result: Lost at Dallas 44-20

    The New York Giants need a hug.

    It's bad enough they were shelled on the road by their most hated rivals, but the team was also blasted by injuries. Quarterback Daniel Jones suffered a nasty-looking concussion. Top wide receiver Kenny Golladay (one of the few Giants receivers still standing) hyperextended his knee. And running back Saquon Barkley suffered a sprained ankle that will likely sideline the star runner multiple games.

    Head coach Joe Judge told reporters after the game that there's not much else to do but move forward.

    "Our guys are going to keep playing, that's not going to be a question," Giants coach Joe Judge said. "In terms of next man up mentality, there were a lot of good examples today on guys stepping up, playing different roles and making plays."

    The future doesn't look any less bleak than the present. Next week the Giants host the red-hot Rams, followed by the 3-2 Carolina Panthers and a trip to Arrowhead to meet the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Win No. 2 may not be coming for a good long while.

27. Atlanta Falcons (2-3)

6 of 32

    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Last Week: 28

    Week 5 Result: Won vs. New York Jets 27-20 (London)

    When the Atlanta Falcons drafted Kyle Pitts fourth overall in 2021, the hope was that the Florida star would be a difference-maker at the tight end position.

    All it took was a trip to the UK to make it happen.

    With Atlanta's top two wide receivers sidelined Sunday, it fell to Pitts to carry the Falcons passing attack against the New York Jets. Carry it he did, piling up 119 yards and his first career touchdown on nine catches. Cordarrelle Patterson continued his breakout season as well, amassing 114 total yards on 21 touches.

    The Falcons aren't an especially good team, and beating the lowly Jets isn't an especially difficult achievement. But after a 0-2 start that that included two 20-plus-point losses, the Falcons have quietly won two of three, and when they travel to face the Miami Dolphins after the bye, Atlanta will have a legitimate shot of getting back to .500.

    "Atlanta won two of their last three games," Sobleski said. "Granted, those victories came against the league's struggling New York franchises. Still, the Falcons overcame significant absences at wide receiver Sunday, and Matt Ryan still threw for 342 yards. Pitts is the truth. The Falcons' season may take a turn for the worse in the coming weeks, but watching Pitts will be a true joy for the rest of the season and beyond."

26. Washington Football Team (2-3)

7 of 32

    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Last Week: 21

    Week 5 Result: Lost vs. New Orleans 33-22

    Before the season began, there were more than a few pundits who expected the Washington Football Team to field one of the best defenses in the NFL. Maybe the best.

    Five weeks into the season, it is abundantly clear that is not the case. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    Entering Week 5, Washington ranked 29th in yards allowed and dead last in the NFC in points allowed. After surrendering 33 points to the Saints in Week 5, Washington has given up at least 30 points in four straight contests.

    While speaking to reporters after the game, Washington head coach Ron Rivera admitted he's at a loss as to why the team is struggling so badly on defense.

    "I think we lack a little bit of confidence right now," Rivera said. "I'm very frustrated. We have too many good football players. Your record tells everybody what you are. We're a 2-3 football team."

    With a desperate Kansas City Chiefs team up next, Washington had better figure something out quickly. Otherwise, given how well the Cowboys are playing, any chance the WFT might have in the NFC East could be gone before Halloween.

25. Miami Dolphins (1-4)

8 of 32

    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Last Week: 20

    Week 5 Result: Lost at Tampa Bay 45-17

    The good news for the Miami Dolphins is that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is tentatively expected to be back for the team's Week 6 game in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    The bad news for the Dolphins is that it's probably not going to matter.

    After getting waylaid by the Buccaneers in Week 5, the Dolphins are 1-4 and roommates with the New York Jets in the basement of the AFC East. The Dolphins allowed a staggering 558 yards of offense against the Bucs while barely cracking 300 themselves. Miami has now dropped four straight and has scored more than 17 points all of once this year. The run game is nonexistent—39 yards on nine carries against Tampa.

    "It's hard to imagine that this team won 10 games last year," Davenport said. "The offense is laughably one-dimensional. The offensive line is atrocious. The defense has regressed badly. This is a team that could easily lose to Jacksonville in Week 6—and losing to the Jags is just about the most damning thing that can happen to an NFL team."

    "I really expected Miami to have more fight in it this week," Gagnon continued. "The team's back was against the wall, and it has always battled for Brian Flores. I believe in Flores and the rebuild in Miami, but this just isn't it. If they don't go on a three-game winning streak that culminates in a road victory over the Bills on Halloween, they're toast."

24. Indianapolis Colts (1-4)

9 of 32

    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Last Week: 23

    Week 5 Result: Lost 31-25 at Baltimore (OT)

    The Indianapolis Colts are done. Finished, Toast.

    For a minute, it appeared that wouldn't be the case. The Colts put up a fight against the Baltimore Ravens and held a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter. Carson Wentz had his best game under center in forever, passing for 402 yards and two scores.

    Indy was going to salvage the season and escape Charm City just one back of the Titans in the AFC South.

    But a beat up and clearly exhausted Colts defense couldn't slow the Ravens down in the fourth quarter—let alone stop them. The Ravens drove 70-plus yards on successive drives in the fourth quarter and capped those drives with two-point conversions to tie things up. The game was all but over as soon as Wentz got the overtime coin toss wrong.

    Wentz's play was a good sign for the Colts moving forward. A sign of optimism.

    At least until you look at the team's record and see just one win after five games.

    Again…done. Finished. Toast.

23. Minnesota Vikings (2-3)

10 of 32

    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Last Week: 24

    Week 5 Result: Won vs. Detroit 19-17

    At the end of the day, the Minnesota Vikings will take a win any way they can get one—Sunday's two-point victory over the winless Lions included.

    But look past the final score, and there's more than a little reason to be uneasy.

    Playing against one of the NFL's worst defenses, the Vikings racked up 384 yards of offense. But for all that moving the ball, Minnesota tallied just one touchdown. The Vikings also turned the ball over twice, including a critical late fumble that allowed Detroit to take a late lead.

    It marks the second straight week that a Minnesota offense that has no shortage of skill-position talent has failed to amass 20 points. Being shut down by the stout Cleveland Browns is one thing. Struggling to move the ball against the Lions is another.

    Those offensive issues don't bode well for Minnesota moving forward, The Vikings are headed into a brutal stretch on the schedule. Starting next week in Carolina, the Vikings face five consecutive teams that currently sport a winning record.

22. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)

11 of 32

    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Last Week: 25

    Week 5 Result: Won at Carolina 21-18

    For most of Sunday afternoon's tilt with the Panthers, it looked like the Philadelphia Eagles were headed toward a fourth consecutive defeat. The offense just couldn't get anything going against Carolina's stout defense.

    However, the Eagles defense kept the team in the game, quarterback Jalen Hurts found the end zone twice on the ground, and at the end of the day, Philly squeaked out a three-point win to halt its losing streak.

    Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni lauded his team's resilience while speaking to reporters after the game.

    "It was the definition of a team win," Sirianni said. "It's the definition of what we talk about with 'Dawg Mentality' because the offense wasn't going good for a long time of that game. But when they needed to make plays at the end and it was still tight, they made the plays that we needed to make there."

    It was an admittedly gutsy victory that puts the Eagles within a game of .500. But getting their record evened out isn't going to be easy. Philly's next game comes on a short week against the defending Super Bowl champions.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)

12 of 32

    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Last Week: 27

    Week 5 Result: Won vs. Denver 27-19

    There may not be a team in the NFL who needed a win more in Week 5 than the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations, downed the Buffalo Bills in Week 1...and then promptly lost three straight games in ugly fashion.

    Beating the Broncos in Week 5 doesn't fix all of Pittsburgh's problems. Or even most of them. New ones were created as well. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder) and linebacker Devin Bush (groin) both left the game with injuries, with the former expected to be sidelined the rest of the season.

    However, there was one really good sign for the Steelers. After struggling mightily to run the ball (again) in 2021, Pittsburgh finally got the ground game going. Rookie running back Najee Harris rumbled for 122 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

    The win gives Pittsburgh some momentum heading into next week's matchup with Seattle, after which the Steelers get a week off before a huge AFC North matchup in Cleveland on Halloween.

20. Chicago Bears (3-2)

13 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Last Week: 22

    Week 5 Result: Won at Las Vegas 20-9

    The Chicago Bears have taken their share of flak over the past few weeks. Justin Fields' pro debut at quarterback was a disaster. And the offense has struggled mightily to move the ball.

    The Bears didn't blow it up yardage-wise Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders—just 252 yards of total offense. But Chicago made plays when it needed to, Fields gutted through a hyperextended knee, and the Bears defense put the clamps on the Raiders.

    Don't look now, but the Bears are quietly 3-2 and can pull into a first-place tie in the NFC North with a win over the rival Packers at Soldier Field in Week 6.

    "The Bears are starting to find their way with rookie quarterback Justin Fields leading the squad," Sobleski said. "To be clear, Fields didn't play great Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Bears defense shut down Derek Carr and his supporting cast. Right now, the Bears are all about growth potential and how the new-look offense can play complementary football to their top-10 defense. Fields is only going to get better, which will make Chicago more dangerous with each passing week."

19. Seattle Seahawks (2-3)

14 of 32

    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    Last Week: 12

    Week 5 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Rams 26-17

    The Seattle Seahawks have problems. Plural.

    The first isn't hard to figure out. After losing to the Rams at home, the Seahawks are under .500 five games into the season and sit two back of the Rams with a head-to-head loss.

    But the Seahawks lost much more than just a game Thursday. In the third quarter, quarterback Russell Wilson suffered a finger injury that has thrown the Seattle offense into chaos. Per ESPN's Brady Henderson, Wilson's finger required surgery that will sideline him four to eight weeks.

    Calling that a massive blow is an even more massive understatement.

    Seattle has a problem that could actually be even bigger than Wilson's absence. After surrendering 476 yards to the Rams in Week 5, the Seahawks are giving up a whopping 450.8 yards per game, most in the NFL.

    In fact, the Seahawks are on pace to allow the most yards in NFL history, and that leaky defense led at least one Bleacher Report analyst to write Seattle off as a legitimate contender in its division before the severity of Wilson's injury was even known.

    Things are bad. And seemingly getting worse by the day.

    "Turn out the lights on the 2021 Seahawks," Gagnon said. "I'm not sure any team in football is as reliant on their quarterback as this one, and now Russell Wilson is set to miss extended time for the first time in his career. Even if it turns out to be just a few weeks, it'll be too late for a flawed Seattle team in an extremely strong division."

18. Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)

15 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Last Week: 11

    Week 5 Result: Lost vs. Chicago 20-9

    Remember when we thought the Raiders might actually be good?

    Those were good times.

    Kidding aside, Sunday's loss to the Chicago Bears isn't the end of the world for the Silver and Black. But it was easily the team's worst effort of the year. Vegas managed just 259 yards of offense, converted only five of 14 third downs and harkened back to past years with 10 penalties.

    Gagnon thinks the Raiders were exposed for what they are: mediocre.

    "There they are! The real Raiders we all know and love (to mock)," he said. "Since starting 3-0, they've scored 23 total points in what felt like back-to-back home games because of the crowd in Los Angeles. This team isn't horrible, but it's not good. They're in trouble this week in Denver."

    "Trouble" may be the understatement of the year. After a New York Times report revealed that head coach Jon Gruden had sent numerous emails that contained racist, sexist and anti-gay language, Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reported that Gruden had stepped down as the team's head coach.

    It's a bombshell that has left the entire organization in chaos.

17. San Francisco 49ers (2-3)

16 of 32

    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    Last Week: 16

    Week 5 Result: Lost at Arizona 17-10

    The San Francisco 49ers have work to do as the team enters its bye week.

    Like their rivals in Seattle, the 49ers leave Week 5 a game under .500 and stuck in last place in the NFC West. Also like the Seahawks, the 49ers have injury issues under center, with rookie Trey Lance making his first career start in place of Jimmy Garoppolo against the Cardinals on Sunday.

    Lance led the 49ers in rushing Sunday, but his passing numbers left something to be desired: 15 completions in 29 attempts for 192 yards with an interception. After the game, head coach Kyle Shanahan insisted to reporters that re-inserting Garoppolo under center as soon as he's healthy is still the plan.

    "Nothing has changed," Shanahan said. "That was just one game. That was a tough loss right there, and I'll talk to our whole team tomorrow and think about how we can get our whole team better coming back from the bye."

    The Niners had better figure something out quick. San Fran is already three games (and a head-to-head) loss back of Arizona in the division, and three of the team's next four games are against squads with winning records, including a November 7 rematch with the Cardinals.

16. New England Patriots (2-3)

17 of 32

    Justin Rex/Associated Press

    Last Week: 17

    Week 5 Result: Won at Houston 25-22

    In the early going Sunday against the Houston Texans, the New England Patriots appeared to be experiencing quite the hangover from last week's narrow loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The offense struggled to move the ball, and opposing rookie quarterback Davis Mills carved up the defense. Early in the third quarter, the Texans led 22-9.

    That the Pats were able to storm back with 16 unanswered points and escape Houston with a three-point win speaks well to New England's resilience. That New England was ever in that position to begin with speaks to the issues the team has, especially on the defensive side of the ball after allowing Mills to throw for 312 yards.

    Bill Belichick had better get to work on those defensive deficiencies quickly. If Mills can light that secondary up for 312 yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys (whom the Patriots host in Week 6) will probably throw for 512.

15. Denver Broncos (3-2)

18 of 32

    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Last Week: 15

    Week 5 Result: Lost at Pittsburgh 27-19

    The Denver Broncos peeled off three straight wins to open the 2021 season, but those victories came against teams who are a combined 2-13. These past two weeks, the level of competition the Broncos have faced has gone up.

    And in back-to-back games, the Broncos have gone down.

    Denver didn't necessarily play badly against the Steelers. The yardage totals were nearly even, and Teddy Bridgewater had a solid outing with 288 yards and two scores. But it was Pittsburgh who made big plays when it mattered, and the Broncos just couldn't shut down Najee Harris and the Steelers ground game.

    "The Broncos aren't a bad team," Davenport said, "but as we've learned these past two weeks, they aren't an especially good one either. Denver may well get past a Las Vegas Raiders team that has been similarly exposed of late next week at home, and Denver has the talent to hang around in the wild-card hunt. But this team is a clear tier below the Chargers and Chiefs in the AFC West."

    "Watching the Broncos' offensive approach for three-and-a-half quarters against the Pittsburgh Steelers was one of the most mind-numbing experiences of my career," Sobleski added. "The game plan was an embarrassment to modern NFL offenses. Run-run-pass isn't how football works anymore. Eventually, a lopsided score forced coordinator Pat Shurmur to open up the offense, and Teddy Bridgewater and Co. found a modicum of success to mount a mini-comeback. Maybe take that approach in future weeks."

14. New Orleans Saints (3-2)

19 of 32

    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Last Week: 19

    Week 5 Result: Won at Washington 33-22

    For the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Jameis Winston, Week 5 was a microcosm of the season as a whole so far.

    In the early going, "Bad Jameis" was large and in charge. There was a badly thrown interception on the team's first drive and a lost fumble on the third one that landed the Saints in a 13-7 hole.

    However, from there "Good Jameis" took over, and while Winston completed only 50 percent of his passes, he threw for 279 yards and four scores in a double-digit win over Washington that moved the Saints to 3-2.

    The win did come at a cost though. Backup quarterback/Swiss Army knife Taysom Hill was carted from the field after suffering a concussion on a scary-looking hit. If he misses time, it will have a sizable impact on an offense already short on skill-position talent not named Alvin Kamara, but fortunately, the Saints are off in Week 6 before traveling to Seattle and hosting the Buccaneers.

    That last game could be a big one.

    "I still can't buy the Saints as a threat to Tampa in the NFC South," Davenport said. "Sunday's win over Washington was a perfect example as to why—the early mistakes that Winston made didn't cost them against a mediocre WFT, but spot Tom Brady two free possessions and you're gonna get got."

    "Beating Washington on the road is worth props, but Winston still completed only half of his passes, and I'm not ready to buy into him just yet," Gagnon agreed. "Same for the team in general. This year, they've gone impressive win, bad loss, impressive win, bad loss, impressive win. String something together, and then we'll talk."

13. Tennessee Titans (3-2)

20 of 32

    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Last Week: 18

    Week 5 Result: Won at Jacksonville 37-19

    After getting embarrassed last week by the hapless Jets, the Tennessee Titans badly needed to get back on track in Week 5.

    Luckily, the Titans faced the Jacksonville Jaguars, an opponent that will fix most of what ails you.

    As has been the case just about every week this year, running back Derrick Henry was dominant against the Jaguars, rumbling for 130 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. Defensively, the team sacked Trevor Lawrence twice and forced two turnovers. It was a solid all-around effort that insures the Titans will remain all alone in first place in the AFC South.

    Still, at least one of the analysts here at Bleacher Report remains skeptical of the Titans as a legitimate contender in the AFC.

    "Derrick Henry is admittedly a force to be reckoned with," Davenport said. "But the Titans are going to run him into the ground giving him 30 carries a week, and Tennessee's passing game has struggled to get going. Add in a defense that is flat-out not good, and while the Titans may win the league's worst division, this isn't a team that can hang with the AFC's best."

12. Carolina Panthers (3-2)

21 of 32

    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Last Week: 13

    Week 5 Result: Lost vs. Philadelphia 21-18

    Due largely to excellent play from quarterback Sam Darnold, the Carolina Panthers started the 2021 season 3-0.

    The Darnold we saw Sunday in Charlotte looked a lot more like the player who struggled for three seasons with the New York Jets, and as a result, the Panthers have now dropped two straight.

    Frankly, Darnold did not play well against the Philadelphia Eagles—at all. He completed 21 of 37 passes for just 177 yards with a single touchdown and three interceptions, as many as he threw in the first four games combined.

    Two of those first three picks came in a Week 4 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, giving him five interceptions versus three passing scores in those two losses. In Carolina's three wins, Darnold threw three touchdown passes and just one pick.

    It's almost as if there's a correlation there.

    Carolina's next three games are against teams who are a combined 5-10 this season, so there's a chance here for the Panthers to turn things around.

    But to do so, Darnold has to cut out the mistakes that have cost the team so dearly the past two weeks.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)

22 of 32

    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    Last Week: 14

    Week 5 Result: Lost vs. Green Bay 25-22 (OT)

    That the Cincinnati Bengals squandered an opportunity for a true statement win Sunday against the Green Bay Packers was surely a major disappointment for the team. However, not long after the final gun sounded, something happened that made the team forget all about that.

    Something terrifying.

    Per ESPN's Ben Baby, quarterback Joe Burrow, who passed for 281 yards and two scores in the loss, was transported to a Cincinnati hospital after the game to receive treatment for a possible throat contusion. Burrow was knocked around a bit in the game, getting sacked three times and hit on eight other occasions.

    "That the Bengals came into Week 5 sitting at 3-1 has to be encouraging for Cincy's long-suffering fans," Davenport said. "So should the Bengals going blow-for-blow with one of the league's best teams Sunday. But none of that will matter if Burrow goes down, and as was the case last year, the team's offensive line just isn't doing a good enough job of protecting the franchise signal-caller."

10. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3)

23 of 32

    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Last Week: 6

    Week 5 Result: Lost vs. Buffalo 38-20

    OK, so maybe it's time to start worrying a little bit about the Kansas City Chiefs.

    It seems an odd thing to say about the two-time defending AFC champions. But the 2021 Chiefs aren't the team that started the 2019 season 4-0 on the way to a victory in Super Bowl LIV. Or the team that lost just three games last season if you include the loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl LV.

    No, these Chiefs are under .500 five games in after getting pounded at home by the Bills. The team's defense is atrocious. Patrick Mahomes looks visibly flustered. And given Kansas City's home loss to the Chargers in Week 3, the Chiefs are effectively three back in the division and sit all alone in the AFC West basement.

    "The Kansas City Chiefs aren't a good football team at the moment," Sobleski wrote. "Yes, they have all kinds of offensive talent, and they can score on anyone. The problem lies in the fact the defense is horrifically bad—as in, dead last in scoring. Furthermore, Mahomes is having his first real crisis of faith. Kansas City will be in the mix because the Chiefs are too good not to be. However, they're not a real Super Bowl challenger at the moment."

9. Cleveland Browns (3-2)

24 of 32

    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Last Week: 7

    Week 5 Result: Lost at Los Angeles Chargers 47-42

    Will the real Cleveland Browns defense please stand up?

    Over the first two weeks of the 2021 season, the Browns struggled to make stops against the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, especially on third down. Then the Browns absolutely stymied the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, giving up just 13 points in two games combined.

    The Browns surrendered twice as many points in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss in Los Angeles, giving up four touchdowns in as many drives.

    Injuries played a part in those struggles to be sure; the Cleveland secondary in particular is all kinds of banged up. But the Browns offered no resistance to Justin Herbert and the Bolts on Sunday, surrendering 47 points and 493 total yards.

    "The Browns are a good team to be sure," Davenport said "But the injury-ravaged defense is a real problem, especially ahead of a home date with Kyler Murray and the undefeated Cardinals. If Cleveland can't iron out the kinks on both sides of the ball quickly, it's going to be same old sad story by the shores of Lake Erie: a season that starts with promise but ends with bitter disappointment."

8. Green Bay Packers (4-1)

25 of 32

    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Last Week: 9

    Week 5 Result: Won at Cincinnati 25-22 (OT)

    There wasn't a wilder game in Week 5 than the overtime tilt between the Packers and Bengals in Cincinnati. It was a back-and-forth affair that featured five missed field goals after the start of the fourth quarter.

    Three of those misses came off the foot of Green Bay's Mason Crosby, who finally put through the game-winner with 1:55 left in overtime.

    Bad kicking aside, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense was impressive again. Rodgers threw for 344 yards and two scores, moving into fifth place all-time in scoring passes. Aaron Jones ran for 103 yards and averaged 7.4 yards a carry. Davante Adams had a monster game, hauling in 11 passes for a gaudy 206 yards and a touchdown.

    Since getting blown out by the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, the Packers have peeled off four straight wins and established themselves as the clear No. 1 team in the NFC North.

    And with a trip to Chicago to face the second-place Bears next on the docket, the Packers can blow the division wide open with a win in Week 6.

7. Baltimore Ravens (4-1)

26 of 32

    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    Last Week: 8

    Week 5 Result: Won 31-25 vs, Indianapolis (OT)

    For much of Monday night's tilt with the Indianapolis Colts, it looked like the Ravens were headed for a defeat at the hands of the team that used to call Baltimore home.

    Then Lamar Jackson put on his cape and took over.

    Jackson taking over a football game isn't that surprising, but what was is that Jackson did so with his arm instead of his legs. Jackson did gain 62 yards on the ground, but it was his 442 passing yards and four scores through the air that won the day for the Ravens and lifted the team into sole possession of first place in the AFC North at 4-1.

    "The Ravens have issues on defense—Baltimore allowed 513 yards of offense to a Colts team that hasn't exactly been lighting it up," Davenport said. "The run game is also uncharacteristically pedestrian. But the Ravens still found a way to rally back from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit and notch a win. That's what good teams do. And that's why the Ravens remain my favorite in the division."

6. Dallas Cowboys (4-1)

27 of 32

    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Last Week: 10

    Week 5 Result: Won vs. New York Giants 44-20 

    The Dallas Cowboys are rolling.

    Granted, beating the New York Giants isn't the tallest of tasks, especially when said Giants are down quarterback Daniel Jones, running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Kenny Golladay.

    But the Cowboys are still rolling on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Cowboys registered 201 rushing yards and 314 passing yards against the Giants. Defensively, Dallas kept the Giants in check most of the game and allowed just four third-down conversions in 13 attempts.

    Dallas has gone from maybe being the favorites in the NFC East to a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the eyes of one of our analysts.

    'We knew that the Dallas offense would be good in 2021," Davenport said. "But the defense led by DPOY front-runner Trevon Diggs and rookie Micah Parsons has been a revelation. The Cowboys have worked their way into the conversation as one of the NFC's best teams, and with just one game against a team with a winning record over the next month, Dallas has a real chance of running away with the division by Thanksgiving."

5. Los Angeles Chargers (4-1)

28 of 32

    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Last Week: 5

    Week 5 Result: Won vs. Cleveland 47-42

    Sunday's wildest shootout took place in Los Angeles, where the Cleveland Browns and the Chargers spent the afternoon trading touchdowns in a game that featured 52 first downs and over 1,000 yards of offense.

    It was the home team that had the last laugh, with Justin Herbert throwing four touchdown passes and topping 300 passing yards for the 11th time in his career. After the game, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley talked up his signal-caller.

    "To win a game like this, one that turns into a track meet, you have to have a superstar quarterback to win it. That's what he is," Staley told reporters. "Like I told the team in there, the reason why he's being able to play how he's capable of playing is because he has a really good team around him."

    Gagnon, on the other hand, talked up the Chargers as a team.

    "It's time we start talking about the Chargers as a great team, rather than a great team of the future," he said. "A 47-point performance to beat the talented Browns? There's a decent chance they'd be unbeaten if not for a 56-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal in Week 2. I can't wait to see what Herbert and Co. have in store for the short-rested Baltimore Ravens in Week 6."

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-1)

29 of 32

    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Last Week: 3

    Week 5 Result: Won vs. Miami 45-17

    Here's some hard-hitting breaking news:

    Tom Brady is good at football.

    The greatest quarterback in NFL history put on a show Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, passing for 411 yards and five touchdowns with a passer rating of 144.4 in a blowout win.

    Just about every Buccaneer got in on the act in Week 5. Wide receiver Antonio Brown scored two touchdowns and racked up 124 receiving yards. Mike Evans also topped 100 yards and found the end zone twice. Running back Leonard Fournette amassed 110 total yards and got a touchdown of his own. It was quite the offensive onslaught.

    However, not everything went according to plan for the Buccaneers. A Tampa team that has already been blasted by injuries on defense sustained another major blow when veteran linebacker Lavonte David suffered an ankle injury.

    If the 10th-year veteran is sidelined for any length of time, it's an absence that will be sorely felt by a defense that is already held together with duct tape and positive thinking.

3. Buffalo Bills (4-1)

30 of 32

    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Last Week: 4

    Week 5 Result: Won at Kansas City 38-20

    The term "statement win" gets thrown around a lot in the NFL.

    But Sunday night in Kansas City, the Buffalo Bills absolutely earned one. After falling to the Chiefs at Arrowhead in last year's AFC Championship Game, the Bills exacted some revenge, blasting the Chiefs on their own field in a game that wasn't as close as the final score.

    This was a dominant performance. Josh Allen scorched the Chiefs defense for 315 yards and three scores through the air and led the team with 59 yards and a score on the ground. Defensively, the Bills harassed Patrick Mahomes all night long, picking him off twice and returning one for a score.

    "The Bills are one step closer to claiming the title of the AFC's best squad and arguably the NFL's best overall," Sobleski said. "After a surprising Week 1 letdown, Buffalo won its next four contests by a combined score of 156-41. However, Sunday's performance against the Kansas City Chiefs finally showed what Sean McDermott's squad can really do after beating up on inferior competition during the previous three weeks. The Bills will further earn their place at the top with each outstanding performance."

2. Los Angeles Rams (4-1)

31 of 32

    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Last Week: 2

    Week 5 Result: Won at Seattle 26-17

    It seems a little foolish to call a Week 5 matchup for a one-loss team a "must-win" game. But after suffering their first loss of the season the week before at the hands of the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals, the stakes were pretty high for quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Rams. Lose to the rival Seahawks in Seattle, and suddenly the team could be looking at a two-game gap in the division.

    The Rams answered the bell, riding big games from Stafford and wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods to a nine-point win. Like his counterpart on the Seahawks, Stafford suffered a finger injury in the win, and Rams head coach Sean McVay lauded his quarterback's toughness while speaking to reporters after the game.

    "Matthew continued to battle through," McVay said. "He's so tough, he won't tell you what's going on. He just says 'I'm fine.'"

    There's been no news to indicate that Stafford's injury is a real concern for the Rams, and with three straight contests coming up against teams with losing records, the Rams are well-positioned to keep the heat on the Cardinals in the NFL's toughest division.

1. Arizona Cardinals (5-0)

32 of 32

    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    Last Week: 1

    Week 5 Result: Won vs. San Francisco 17-10

    Sometimes, NFL teams have to gut out a win when they aren't playing at their best.

    That was the case Sunday in the Valley of the Sun. One week after drilling the Rams in Los Angeles, the Arizona Cardinals weren't as sharp at home against the San Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals rushing attack was held to just 94 yards on 27 carries. Arizona managed to convert only three of 10 third downs and was actually outgained by rookie quarterback Trey Lance and the Niners in total yards.

    After the game, Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury didn't make any apologies for a victory that was short on style points.

    "I take them any way we can get them," Kingsbury told reporters. "Especially division wins. [San Francisco's] a great team, great culture, they play so hard and play together and have great energy. So if you can beat them, that's a great Sunday."

    "Arizona passed a test of sorts Sunday," Davenport said, "in that it won a hard-fought game without playing its best. As the league's lone unbeaten team, the Cardinals hold the top spot in my rankings entering Week 6, but another tough test awaits Sunday in Cleveland against the Browns."


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.